Copyright 2005-2006 Ted Louis

Joel Book I is available in paperback as Joel - Escape from Abuse. To purchase a copy, follow the link to my website below or go to your favorite online bookstore.

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

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

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Make a difference in a foster child's life, become a CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate). To locate your local organization or for more information, visit the National CASA website at

Joel III

Chapter 31

When I got to my room, the first thing that I did was to place a telephone call home. I wanted to tell Hildy that we had gotten here safely and I also wanted to talk to my sons. Even though I had only been gone since the early afternoon, I still missed them. I talked to each of them and made sure that each one had completed any homework that they had assigned. I got the same reaction from each of them: "Dad, you don't have homework over Christmas vacation." I told them that I loved them before I hung up.

I watched the TV news as I was preparing for bed. Houston news is different from San Antonio news. Its stories are usually what I would call 'meatier'. In San Antonio, every house fire is a big news story. Any time the Catholic Church has an event, no matter how trivial, it's the headline story. When I first moved back to SA after college, I was convinced that the Catholic Church owned all the TV stations. None of the Protestant churches received any news coverage unless it involved a scandal.

The alarm went off at 6 AM. I had decided to use the hotel pool to swim some laps. The pool was deserted when I got there. I swam for about half an hour. By that time, my out of condition body was screaming for me to stop. I climbed out of the pool, dried off and headed for my room.

I knocked on Marie's door at the appointed time. She opened the door with Ricky in her arms. "Hi, Munchkin, are you ready for some breakfast?" I asked.

He reached out his arms for me and nearly lunged out of Marie's arms. "Uh huh," he said, as I gave him a hug.

I held Ricky on my hip as we went through the breakfast buffet line. He wanted everything that he saw. Our tray was full by the time we reached the end of the serving line. I motioned for one of the busboys to assist us by carrying the tray to our table. For a three year-old, he could really eat. He had a waffle, two sausages and some scrambled eggs, besides a glass of orange juice. I laughed at how well he would fit in with the eating machines at my house.

It was a few minutes after 8:30, almost time to leave for the doctor's office before we had checked out of our rooms. As I signed the credit card receipt, I asked that my rental car be brought around front. All this time Marie was trying to corral Ricky as he crutched around the lobby as fast as he could go. When she finally caught him, she threatened to take his crutches away unless he stayed beside her. I, again, wondered what that boy would get into once he didn't have to depend on crutches, although crutches didn't seem to slow him down any.

The bellhop helped stow our luggage into the trunk of the car. I tipped him and climbed into the driver's seat. I always hated driving in Houston traffic. This morning was no different. The Medical Center area traffic is always bad, but rush hour traffic is a nightmare. It's not helped a bit by the constant road construction. I think that the same streets were torn up as when Joel was in the hospital here. That was over six months ago.

We finally made it to the parking garage attached to the orthopedic wing of the hospital where Dr. Alverez had his office. There were two people in his waiting room when we arrived. I told the receptionist who we were. Naturally she told us to take a seat, that Dr. Alverez would be with us shortly.

Surprisingly, it was only about ten minutes before Marie and Ricky were ushered into the examination room. I told them that I had a few phone calls to make and that I would be back in about an hour. The nurse heard me say that and told me that they would be with Dr. Alverez or one of his associates for at least two hours. I thanked her and then indicated to Marie I'd be back in two hours. Marie looked lost as she and Ricky disappeared from my sight. I waited until the nurse reappeared and signaled to her that I wanted to talk to her.

"Under no circumstances is there to be any hesitation to provide the best possible service to Ricky due to cost. I know that much of what he will receive is part of an investigational trial, but I also know that there will be some expense involved. Don't let that be a factor in his treatment," I said.

"Thank you, Mr. Johnson, I'll let the staff know," she said, and turned to go.

I walked outside to a nearby park where I took out my cell phone and began to make calls. The weather was cool, but the sun was shining brightly and there was very little wind to make it feel colder.

The first call was to Gerald Cousins, my accountant. We discussed several financial matters including a large purchase that I wanted him to check out. I also wanted to make sure that all my bills were being paid and that all the right taxes had been paid to the government. The last thing I wanted was an IRS audit. Gerald assured me that everything was being taken care of and that he would fax me an accounting of the past year and an estimate of the income taxes that I would owe. He said it would only be an estimate because he hadn't received all of the necessary forms from my investments.

My next call was to the office to talk to Darcie. Carol answered the phone. She said that Darcie was interviewing a prospective recipient of our support. We chatted for a while with her bringing me up to date on what had been going on at the office while I had been vacationing with the boys.

After Carol and I finished talking, I called my broker, Roger Burton. I wanted to talk to him about some investment changes I wanted to make in my portfolio. I discussed several stocks that I thought had potential for growth. Most were startup companies that specialized in services or products for the fast growing Internet. Even though I was no longer involved in an intimate way with cutting edge technology, I still tried to keep abreast of what was going on. He agreed with me on four out of the five stocks I was interested in buying. I decided to take his advice and only moved $12 million into the four on which we agreed. He said he would fax me a statement of the value of my investments as of year end. He said he would also provide the same for the trust accounts for the boys. I thanked him and hung up. My cell phone batteries were beginning to fade.

I went to the car, plugged my cell phone charger into the cigarette lighter plug and headed to the coffee shop in the hospital. After pouring myself a cup, paying for it and finding a free table, I took a sip. I'm sorry that I did. It was probably the worst cup of coffee that I had ever drunk. I still had about an hour to kill before Ricky would be finished with the first part of his doctor visit.

Knowing that I couldn't sit there for an hour looking at an undrinkable cup of coffee, I decided to go find a book store or newsstand. I found a gift shop on the ground floor of the hospital and went in to browse. I bought a couple of news and business magazines. As I was about to leave the shop I noticed a rack of coloring books that Ricky might enjoy. I bought a couple of those along with a small box of crayons.

I headed back to Dr. Alverez's office to wait for Ricky to be finished. His waiting room was more crowded when I returned, but there were still a few seats available. I sat down and began reading the magazines that I had bought. I had read the first one and was beginning on the second when the door to the examination area open. I looked up hoping that it would be Marie and Ricky. It wasn't. It was a young man who looked to be about Bran's age, around 15 or 16, who walked out with a noticeable limp.

"Hi," he said as he sat down in the chair next to me. "Are you one of Dr. Alverez's patients?"

"No," I said, smiling. "A friend of mine has a son who is."

"How old is he?"

"He's three. How old are you?" I asked.

"I'll be sixteen next month. I hope I can get my driver's license then. I'll bet I saw your friend's little boy. He's talking to everyone back there in therapy. Cute kid, how'd he lose his leg?"

"Birth defect. How did you lose yours?"

"Cancer," he said sadly.


"Thanks, they said they think they got it all this time."

"This time? You mean you've had surgery more than once?" I asked, not wanting to ask if it was multiple amputations.

"Yeah, the first time it was in my ankle. They said that was kinda rare and that time they took it off below my knee. The second time it was in my knee. This time they left me with a four inch stump. At least I have enough to get a leg fitted. This is the first I've been back to get my new leg since the last operation, except when they made a cast of my stump. They told me I had to wear my leg for an hour and then they would look at it again to see how it fit."

"You seem to have adjusted very well to the loss of your leg," I said.

"Well, it ain't coming back, so I might as well get used to it. I used to feel sorry for myself. Some of my friends did, too. Then I decided that I could either mope around and be miserable or I could get on with my life. I chose to get on with my life."

"That's an admirable way of looking at it. By the way, my name is Crane Johnson, what's yours?"

"Timothy Bartholomew Edward Buffet IV, but my friends call me Tim," he said grinning.

"I'm very glad to meet you, Tim," I said, holding out my hand to shake his.

"Same here," he responded. Then he looked up as a very well dressed woman entered the office. He struggled to his feet and gave the woman a hug. "Mom, I'd like you to meet Crane Johnson."

After the introductions had been made and pleasantries exchanged, she turned to her son, "Did they tell you how much the new leg was going to be?"

"Yeah, I asked the nurse. She said it was around $25,000."

"Well, I suppose I had better write them a check," she said and headed to the receptionist's desk.

From the casual way she referred to that amount of money, I assumed that they had no need for charity.

It wasn't long before Marie and Ricky were escorted into the waiting room. Ricky was still on his crutches. I glanced at Marie with a questioning look.

"They took all the measurements. He'll get the peg leg right after lunch," she said.

"Good, then let's go get something to eat," I said. I grabbed Ricky and picked him up crutches and all.

He let out one of his characteristic giggles and said, "I'm hungry. I wanna hamburger."

"A hamburger it is," I told him as we headed out the door.

We drove to a burger place I knew that was not far from the Medical Center. It was kid friendly with a play area for them while they waited for their meals. While Ricky played, Marie and I discussed what had happened at the doctor's office. She described everything from the measurements that they took of Ricky's stump to the cast that they made. She said Ricky was good through it all even though he didn't understand what all the fuss was about. The staff kept him entertained and Ricky responded with his usual charm.

Ricky ate about half of his hamburger. I thought that was pretty good, since I had a hard time eating all of mine. We had about 45 minutes to waste before they had to be back to the doctor's office when we finished with lunch. Since it was a fairly nice day, I decided to take Ricky to the park for a little bit before we had to be back at the doctor's office. We didn't have long for him to play, but as my mom used to say, it was long enough 'to blow the stink off him'.

We made it back to the doctor's office just in time for Ricky to be taken back to the therapy and fitting area. I was told that it would be at least an hour and a half to two hours before he would be ready to go. I retrieved my cell phone from the car where it had been charging and started making calls.

Gerald had some news for me when I called. "The price is way too high for what you would be getting. They're asking $6.5 million. I don't think it's worth a penny over 5."

"Do you think they're willing to negotiate?" I asked.

"I'm sure they will. I would offer $4.5 million. Maybe you can get it for under 5," he answered.

"Do it. I'll be back in town around eight tonight. I'll give you a call tomorrow morning if I don't hear from you before. Thanks, Gerald, I'd like to get this done as soon as possible."

When I finished talking to Gerald, I made several calls to friends and former co-workers I knew were in the Houston area. I made it back to the doctor's office about an hour and a half after I had dropped off Marie and Ricky. They still weren't finished, so I decided to settle down in the waiting room.

I noticed that Tim's mother was also in the waiting room. There was a chair next to her so I sat down in it and spoke to her. "How's Tim's new prosthesis working out?"

She looked at me for a second before she said, "Oh, sorry, I didn't recognize you for a moment. I'm sure it'll be fine." A tear formed in the corner of her eye and rolled down her cheek.

"Is there something wrong?" I asked.

"Forgive me," she said after a moment. "It's just so hopeless."

"What's so hopeless?"

"Tim. We got the news from his latest tests. The cancer is back."

"I'm so sorry. Tim seems like a fine young man. Does he know?"

"Not yet, we got the results this morning while he was here. His father and I will tell him this evening. Please don't let on that you know, if you see him. I'm not sure why I told you. I guess I needed to share it with someone."

"If there is anything that I can do, please let me know," I offered.

"Thank you, that's very kind of you. His father and I will see that he has everything he needs for as long..." She trailed off, staring at the ceiling.

I took her hand in mine and gave it a squeeze. I didn't know what else to do. We sat there for another five minutes before the door to the treatment area opened and Ricky walked out on his new peg leg. He was walking a little wobbly, but he was walking without his crutches.

"Look, Mr. Crane, I got a leg," he said, as he made his way to me.

"Wow! That's neat. How do you like it?"

"Fine," he said, as he crawled up on my lap and pulled up his pant leg. "See!"

"Did they teach you how to walk?" I asked.

"Uh huh."

"Are they finished with him?" I asked Marie.

"Yes, they won't need to see him for another month unless he has problems."

"Okay then, let's go. I want to see you walk," I told Ricky.

He slipped off my lap, grabbed my hand and we headed for the door. Marie followed carrying his crutches.

As usual the trip to the Intercontinental Airport on the north side of Houston was a nightmare. Rush hour traffic on I-45 was bumper to bumper all the way. It was a good thing that we had plenty of time before our flight was due for departure. We returned the rental car and caught the shuttle to the terminal.

After we checked in, we headed for the VIP lounge. Before we got there, we had to stop and get Ricky something to eat. He was hungry. I was too, for that matter. We stopped at one of those Pizza Huts that are springing up in airports, got three of the mini-pizzas, and took them with us to the VIP lounge.

After we ate, I got a good look at Ricky's new leg. Since he still had his knee and a few inches of stump below it, they had fitted him with what looked like a knee brace. His stump fit into a padded leather cup and the brace attached to his thigh with leather straps. This allowed him to have a somewhat normal leg action. Marie said they told her it would take a while for Ricky to build up the muscles around his knee before he would have a near normal gait. They told her that it was good that he had used his leg by crawling around. There was not much muscle atrophy in the thigh muscles.

The peg looked like it was made of plastic with a rubber tip. I frowned as I examined it. I was doubtful that it would stand up to the rigors of an active boy. Marie assured me that they told her it was made out of a special carbon fiber material that had the strength of steel. I felt better after she told me, but I still had my doubts. I did notice that there was a way to lengthen the peg as Ricky's other leg grew.

It wasn't long before our flight was called and we headed down the ramp to the plane. After we were seated, I took out one of the coloring books that I had bought for Ricky and gave it to him along with the box of crayons. I thought that maybe this would keep him occupied while we flew home.

As soon as the stewardess announced that the captain had turned off the seatbelt sign, Ricky's tray was in front of him and he started to color in his book. His choice of colors for the various pictures of animals and people may not have been the best, nor did he stay within the lines, but the main thing was he was a happy boy all the way to San Antonio. He was a happy camper until the stewardess made him put his tray away and prepare for landing.

It was nearly eight o'clock by the time we got to the car and were on our way home. It had been a long day for Ricky. We weren't in the car five minutes before I noticed in the rearview mirror that he was asleep.

I carried Ricky into the apartment. He didn't even wake up when Marie undid the straps on his new leg as she prepared him for bed. She thanked me profusely for helping Ricky before I left the apartment.

The boys were eating their evening snack when I entered the back door of the house. I was instantly surrounded by five sticky faced boys wanting a hug. Soon the chocolate sundae won out over their dad and they returned to the table. I greeted Hildy and Manfred and asked them how the boys behaved while I was gone. The report was good with the exception that TJ wanted his puppy to sleep in bed with him instead of in the basket beside the bed.

Later as I was tucking the boys into bed, I asked TJ, "Why did you want Bandit to sleep with you last night while I was gone?"

"I was alone. You weren't here to tell me goodnight," he whispered.

"But I talked to you on the phone and told you goodnight."

"But... but you weren't here," he sniffled.

"I'm here now. I love you, little man."

"I'm not little. I'm bigger than most everybody in my class."

"You'll always be my 'little man'. Even when you go off to college, you'll still be my 'little man'," I said, kissing his forehead. "I'll always love you, too."

"I like it when you say you love me," he murmured, now half a sleep.

I kissed his forehead again and then left his room.

Tuesday morning, the dogs and I walked the boys down to the gate to meet their school van. After the usual hugs and admonitions to behave themselves, they hopped onto the van. It took a little coaxing to get the dogs to follow me back to the house. They were intent on looking at the departing van with their boys in it. As soon as the van was out of sight, they reluctantly headed for the house with me.

"I wish this were Marie's day to be here," Hildy said, as I stepped into the kitchen for another cup of coffee before I left for work. "I'm so anxious to see Ricky's new leg."

"They'll be here tomorrow," I said.

"I know, but I love that little rascal and I want to see how he's doing. You can't blame me for that, can you?"

"No, but you might need a lasso to tie him down. If you think he motored on his crutches, wait 'till you see him without them."

I took my coffee and went into my office to make a couple of phone calls before I went to the foundation office. My first call was to my attorney, Carlos Martinez.

"Carlos, I'm glad that you're an early bird. I know I can always get you at your office first thing in the morning."

"Good morning, Crane. To what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call? I know it's not a social call," he snickered.

"What? You mean I can't just call you for no reason?" I retorted.

"Yeah, right, it would be a first."

"You're right, of course. I want you to set up a company for me. I think I want to call it CBJ Properties, if that name is available. How long will it take you to do all the paperwork?"

"Well, I'll need some more information, but unless I run into difficulties, I should be able to have you registered with the Secretary of State by the end of the week. What do you intend to do with the company? I can surmise from the name you have chosen that it will have something to do with real estate, right?"

"Yes, I'm negotiating the purchase of an apartment complex. Gerald can fill you in on the details. I may add other properties in the future. I think that the real estate market is going to take off in San Antonio in the near future and I think I can cash in on it. There is some undeveloped land on the northwest side of town that I think is a prime target if the price is right.

"Oh, and when you fill out the paperwork make it flexible enough so that I can take on partners if I need to have additional capital."

"How much do you thing you'll need to purchase the land?" Carlos asked.

"I think that one of the ranches is around 10,000 acres and the other is about half that. I wouldn't want to pay more than $2,000 an acre, so that would mean about $30 million. Why, are you looking to spend some of your ill gotten gains?"

"Hey, I'll have you know I stopped chasing ambulances a long time ago," he laughed. "But, to be honest, I have been looking for an investment opportunity. I could probably free up 2, maybe 3 million for the right investment."

"This is all speculation at the moment. Let's get the company set up first. Unless the negotiations are successful on the apartment complex, there may be nothing for your investment. I'll call Gerald and have him get in touch with you. Thanks, Carlos, I'll talk to you later."

I made the call to Gerald, but he didn't have any news for me concerning the status of the negotiations. He told me he would call me as soon as he heard anything.

Before leaving for the office, I checked my fax machine for the information that Roger Burton had promised to send. I forgot to check last night when I got home. The light was flashing indicating that a fax had arrived, but there were no faxes in the tray. I checked for paper and found that there wasn't any. Looking around where I usually kept spare paper, I discovered that I was out. The state of my investments would have to wait until this evening, provided I remembered to get some fax paper before I came home.

Carol and Darcie were in the office when I got there. I met with Darcie for about an hour as she brought me up-to-date on the status of the applications. She had done a great job in my absence. I told her before I left that she was in complete charge and not to wait on my return to make decisions on any applicant that she felt was deserving of the foundations assistance. She said that Paul Coulter had come to the office for a couple of days to look over our operations as I had asked him to do when we formed the foundation. Darcie said that he had nothing but good things to say about the way we were running the place. I was pleased. I didn't want us to become some bureaucratic organization more interested in its own existence than helping people.

At lunch time, Carol said she was going to Office Depot to pick up some office supplies. That reminded me that I needed to get fax paper. Since I was swamped with files to review, I asked her to pick up some for me. I gave her the money and the make and model of my fax machine before she left.

By the time I was ready to leave the office to meet my sons when they came home from school, I was almost caught up on all the accumulated paperwork. Gerald had called to say that the accountants would be here tomorrow to prepare our year-end report to the government. He said that he would stop by in the afternoon to answer any questions that the accountants might have about our operations.

I barely made it home in time to greet the boys. I didn't get home in time to let the dogs out. After giving the boys a hug, they took off for the house to see their dogs. That is except Joel. He held back and walked with me. I figured that he must have something on his mind. I wondered what it might be, but decided to let him bring it up in his own way and time.

"Ah... Dad? The school is starting a golf team for Junior High," he said. "I was wondering if maybe I might... well, you know... If you could get me some clubs... maybe I could try out for the team."

"I think that is a wonderful idea," I said, giving his shoulder a squeeze.

"You do? I mean, that's great," he said. "I signed up hoping you'd let me. I need to get some clubs by next Monday. The coach said we would practice in the gym."

"I hope you're not going to use real golf balls," I laughed.

"No, he showed us some hollow plastic balls with holes in them. He called them 'whiffle balls' or something like that."

"I've got some old clubs that I haven't used in three or four years. I think they are in the storage area of the garage. Why don't you go change your clothes and play with Samson and I will go try and find the clubs. I may even have some of those 'whiffle balls' in the golf bag," I said. "Oh, and don't forget your snack."

"I won't," he giggled, and ran to the house ahead of me.

I headed for the garage storage closets. I thought I remembered in which one I had stored my clubs after the last time I played. I was never a scratch golfer, but I wasn't a slouch either. When I used to play fairly often, I played to an eight handicap. I'd probably be lucky if I could break 90 now. The clubs were where I thought I remembered storing them. I took them out and wiped off the dust. I checked the bag pockets and found a couple sleeves of balls that I had never used. I searched around in the closet and found a package of the practice (whiffle) balls.

The clubs might be a little long for Joel. Although he has grown about 4 inches over the past year, he is still 8 or 9 inches shorter than I am. Maybe I'll get the clubs cut down to fit him. I'll have to think about that. If he gets interested in playing, we can play together and I'll need a set. I leaned the golf bag against the wall outside the back door and then went inside.

"Did you find the clubs, dad?" Joel asked, as I entered the kitchen.

"Yes, I did. When you're done with your snack, I'll show them to you. I think they may be a little long for you. If they are we can get some to fit you. You probably don't need the full set of irons and woods. I know you don't want to lug around that heavy bag."

I went to change clothes. Before I was finished, Joel was at my door wanting to see the golf clubs. I hope he maintained his enthusiasm. Golf can be an extremely frustrating and humbling game.

"Wow! How come you have so many clubs?" Joel asked when we got to the garage.

"Each club has a specific purpose. The irons," I said pointing out the 2 through 9 clubs, "are used to hit different distances. The smaller the number, the longer you can hit the ball. This club is a pitching wedge. It's used when you are close to the hole but not on the green. This one is a sand wedge. You use it when you're in a sand trap. I try to stay out of them, 'cause I'm not good at hitting out of the sand. This is a putter. You use it to roll the ball on the green, hopefully into the hole. The big clubs inside these covers are usually for long distance hitting."

"How do you know which one to hit?"

"It takes practice to see how far you can hit each club. Once you know that, it's easier to make up your mind as to which club to pick," I said. "Let's take this big one, called the driver, and a couple of the irons and go outside. I'll show you how to grip the club and a little of how to swing it. I'll let your coach show you a lot of the basics. I don't want you to be confused by two different methods."

For the next hour, until it started getting dark, I showed Joel some of the basic and let him try to hit a few of the practice balls. He didn't do too badly, but I didn't see a budding Jack Nicklaus or Bobby Jones.

"I didn't think golf was so hard," Joel said. "I thought you just hit the ball and it went where you wanted it to go."

"There are a lot of things you have to concentrate on to be a good golfer. It also helps to be in good physical condition. One thing I want you to remember, it takes a while and a lot of practice to become really good. It's a frustrating game, but it is one that you can play for life. I think we've had enough for this evening. Let's go back inside. It's getting chilly out here."

I put my arm around his shoulder and we walked back to the garage.

Later after supper, as I was loading the new paper into the fax machine, the phone rang. It was Eric. He had a problem and wanted to know if I could help him. It seemed that Bran's placement hearing had been moved up a week and he needed to go to Houston for the hearing on Thursday.

"Could you possibly take care of JR tomorrow night and Thursday after school?" he asked. "We should be back late Thursday evening. At least I hope it's Bran and me and not just me coming back. I don't trust dad to take care of JR by himself."

"Of course he can stay with us. I know the boys would love for him to stay. He'll be no trouble. Do you need someone to look in on your dad while you're gone?"

"I don't think so. Bran and I won't leave until he gets out of school. I'll pick him up at the school and leave from there. Marie and Ricky will be here Thursday, so he won't be alone all that much. I think it would be safe to leave him alone, I just don't think he's capable of taking care of someone else," Eric said. "I'll drop off some clothes for JR in the morning on my way to work."

"What did you think of Ricky's new peg leg?" I asked.

"I thought he was fast on his crutches, but now that boy is a whirling dervish. The only trouble now is that sometimes he gets to going so fast that his peg leg catches and he takes a tumble. He just giggles and gets up and takes off again. God, how can you not love that boy?"

"Well, if I don't see you before you go, good luck at the hearing. I have no doubt that Bran will remain with you."

We said our goodbyes and I went back to loading the paper. As soon as it was loaded, a fax started to print out. It was the statement of my stock portfolio. All the stocks were listed individually, the number of shares owned and the closing price on the last business day of the year. The total value of the stocks was a few dollars over $128.5 million. A very nice rate of return for the year although the tax bite was not going to be nice. The next fax detailed my bond holding, US, corporate bonds and the demand notes I held for Corinthian Academy. The interest from these produced the income that sustained our standard of living. The annual income was just over $550,000. My brokerage account contained $53,491.33 drawing interest at the rate of 6.125%.

The boys' trust accounting was the last fax to print. Their accounts amounted to a little over $4.8 million apiece. I filed the information away and went to check on the boys' progress on their homework.

The next morning as I was walking the boys down the lane to meet their school van, I reminded them to make sure that JR rode home with them.

"Don't worry dad, I'll take care of it," Joel said

"I know you will," I told him. I gave each of the boys a hug and they each gave their dogs one last hug before they went through the gate to get on the van.

I was walking back up the lane to the house when I heard Marie's VW behind me. I shooed the dogs to one side to allow the car to pass. Marie was gathering up her things an exiting the car as we arrived at the front of the house. I opened the passenger door to get access to Ricky, who was still sitting in his car seat.

"Good morning, munchkin," I said, undoing his seatbelt. "How are you this morning?"

"Fine," he said, launching himself into my arms.

"How's your new leg?"


"A man of few words," I said to Marie.

"Don't worry, he'll get wound up pretty soon and won't shut up the rest of the day. Won't you?" Marie asked, poking him in the ribs, eliciting one of his giggles.

"Come on in, Hildy is dying to see how he's doing on the leg."

I put Ricky down as we entered the front door. He made for the kitchen as soon as he was on his feet. Hildy heard the rhythmic thump of the rubber tipped peg and turned from her food preparations.

"Come here, young man. Let me see you," Hildy said, squatting down to be on his level.

With his arms outstretched, Ricky ran to Hildy. He was engulfed in the large woman's arms. "Hi," he said, kissing Hildy on the cheek.

"I missed you," Hildy said, returning the kiss.

"I missed you, too," he said. "See my new leg."

"I see. Do you like it?" Hildy asked.

"Uh huh," Ricky said, nodding his head. "I can play now."

I decided to take off for work after telling Hildy that Eric should be by shortly to drop off some clothes for JR to spend the night.

Most of my day was spent reviewing more files requesting support. Several appeared to be well worth pursuing. The accountants were busy working with Carol on the report to be submitted to the government to maintain our tax exempt status. I took the files that I had selected and went to Darcie's office to discuss them with her. She smiled when I handed her the folders.

"Those were the same ones that I thought deserved our support. I've all ready sent requests for more information to every one of the families or individuals," she said. "I'm so glad that we have that additional money so that we can help more needy kids. Oh, by the way, thanks for taking JR tonight. Mel and I would have taken him, but we are going to a show at the Majestic Theater. We've had tickets for over a month."

"No problem, the boys were thrilled when I told them he was going to spend the night. I hope things work out for Bran tomorrow."

The boys did have fun when they got home. The six of them surrounded Ricky and whisked him upstairs to the game room. I had to threaten them with no snack if they didn't change out of their school uniforms. That was effective. I noticed that Ricky had little difficulty walking up the stairs, but was less steady coming down them. That was the only thing that slowed him down. If he wasn't on the stairs, he was racing around the house at top speed. As Eric had said, he did take a tumble every once in a while when he forgot to swing his peg leg out and around.

Ricky was having so much fun when it was time to go that he tried to run away from his mother. He was fast, but Marie was faster and caught him after a turn around the family room. All six of the boys had to give Ricky a hug before Joel lifted him into the car and fastened the seatbelts around the squirming three year-old.

Checking six sets of homework took a long time. Making sure that they all took showers, took even longer. Finally, I had them all tucked safely in bed and I could take a look at the proposed contract that Gerald had faxed to me earlier in the evening.

It was a contract for the purchase of the apartment complex I had asked him to negotiate. I spent an hour reading all the fine print trying to make sure that I understood every aspect of it. Gerald had done an excellent job negotiating a good price for the property. Now all I needed to do was arrange for the cash. I took a look at my investments and tried to determine if the anticipated appreciation of the stocks was greater than the interest I would pay on a loan. I decided to wait until I had talked to Gerald tomorrow before I made a decision.

Thursday was hectic getting the six boys ready for school. It seemed that everything took longer. Breakfast took longer. Getting dressed took longer. Even saying goodbye to the dogs when the van came seemed to take longer. Finally they were gone and I could get to work.

Darcie and I spent the morning interviewing a married couple wanting to adopt a 10 year-old girl and a single man wanting to adopt a pair of brothers age 9 and 13. Both interviews went well, now all we needed was the reports on them from Jack Hogan before we approved them for support.

Around one o'clock, I received a phone call. It was Eric calling from Houston.

"The judge took him away from me," Eric said, sounding close to tears.

To be continued.

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