Jeff bounced into the den of the condo after work, trailed by a cute, sweet-faced blonde, about 5'9", with a nice tan and a voluptuous figure.
Stan Rosinski and Linda Kosco were sitting on the couch, holding hands and watching television. Stan, like the gentleman he was becoming under Linda's tutelage, stood up to greet Jeff's companion.
"Hi, guys," Jeff said. "I want you to meet Andie Parker. She lifeguards with me at Oak Street Beach. Andie, this is Stan Rosinski and his fiancée', Linda Kosco. They're keeping me company while my brothers are out of town."
"Hi, Andie," Stan said. He snapped off the TV with the remote and pulled a chair up to the coffee table for her. "It's nice to meet you."
"Same here," Andie said with a killer smile. "It's really nice of you guys to stay with Jeff. He needs a little guidance from time to time."
"All these boys need guidance from time to time," she said, kissing Stan's cheek. "It's part of their socialization process. They end up almost human."
"Oh, man, it's started already," Jeff groaned. "We hafta let them live with their delusions, I s'pose," he said, looking at Stan for confirmation.
"Yep," Stan said. "'It's 'yes, dear,' 'no, dear,' and let's not forget 'of course you're right, dear.' Those are the only words you'll ever need to maintain domestic harmony. Aren't cha proud of me for knowing that already, Lin?"
"I'm always proud of you, sweetheart," Linda answered with a smile.
"What are you guys up to?" Stan asked.
"Well, I thought if you were gonna have supper here, we could order some pizza or something," Jeff said.
"I have a chicken roasting, Jeff, and there's plenty for all of us," Linda said. "Why don't you and Andie eat with us?"
Jeff looked at Andie inquiringly.
"That would be really nice, Linda. Thanks," Andie said. "Is that OK with you, Jeff?"
"Hmmm. Yeah!! Real food! Linda's a great cook. Stan'll have a gut in 5 years tops if he doesn't watch it!" Jeff said. "A big gut!"
"You're prolly right about that!" Stan agreed. "I gotta start getting more exercise, fer sure!"
"I'll go make some salad, and the dumplings are already cooking," Linda said. "You want anything else, guys?"
"Nope," Jeff said. "Maybe ice cream and cookies for dessert, huh?"
"Sounds good to me," Stan said.
"I'll help you, Linda," Andie said.
"And why don't we eat in the dining room?" Jeff said as the ladies stood. "I'll set the table if you really, really want me to." He looked at Andie with big brown, puppy dog eyes
"No, we can do it," Andie said with a grin. "But you're pathetic, Jeff, you know that?"
"Yes, dear," he monotoned.
Stan laughed. "You've learned fast." Stan idly studied Andie's backside as she left the room. "Nice girl, dude. You been dating her long?"
"About a month. She's great! I really like her."
"She in school?"
"Yeah," Jeff said. "She'll be a junior at Northwestern this fall. Her parents live in Wilmette."
"Hmmm. The family must have some bucks."
"Yeah. She's on a full boat academic scholarship, though, and she's majoring in physics, for gosh sakes. She's really smart!"
"I can tell. And she's got your number, fer sure, bro!" Stan said.
"'Fraid so," Jeff laughed. Pause. "Uh, can I ask ya something?"
"Would be all right if I asked Andie to stay here tonight?"
Stan contemplated Jeff with a smile.
"Hey, man, I'm not the sex police, and we're not keeping tabs on ya for Mike. We're just here to keep ya company. Let me ask you one thing, though. What would Mike say if he were sitting here and you were asking him that question?"
"Hmmm. Well, he'd want to know if I really care about this girl and whether it looks like it's gonna be a long-term relationship."
"Well?" Stan asked.
"Um, yeah, well, I care about her. A lot, even though we've only known each other for a month. On the long-term thing, I honestly don't know. I'm going back to school in Pennsylvania when the summer's over, so..."
"I'm sure a good lookin' guy like you has seen plenty of action up to this point, so you know the drill. But you've kind of answered your own question, haven't cha?" Stan asked.
"Yeah, you're right. Shit! But I enjoy being a mindless fucking-machine."
"I hear that, dude! From puberty on, I had all the pussy I could handle and despised anybody who didn't, until your brothers kinda opened my eyes about the way I was living my life. In many respects. And then I met Linda. Now, I'm not saying I don't think about it when I see a good looking woman walk by, you understand, but I'm taking a different approach these days. I'm not preaching atcha, though, or at least I don't mean to be. With my history, I don't have any room to talk."
"No, I hear ya. I guess you're right. But I'll prolly kick myself for this tonight when I climb into bed alone."
"Maybe, maybe not." Stan looked down at the floor thoughtfully, and then back up at Jeff. "Do you know how I came to be friends with your brothers?" he asked.
"You all used to work at the Hospice, that's all I know."
"There's a little more to it than that. If you had known me when I first met Matt and Mike, you'd have thought I was the biggest asshole in the world, and you would've been right. I'd been abused by my stepfather until I was old enough to move out and live with the family of a friend, and I was totally wack. I was passing on all the shit I'd had to take all those years to anybody within range. I was the classic bully. Anybody who was smaller, weaker or a little different was fair game for me. If you were a guy and couldn't beat me in a fight, you were a fag as far as I was concerned. I was the next best thing to a Nazi skinhead. I hated everything and despised everybody who wasn't white, heterosexual and stronger than I was. I look at the way I treated people back then, and I'm really ashamed. I sure didn't have anybody at Hospice I could call a friend.
"One day in the cafeteria after Matt and Mike had joined the staff, I had just bought some lunch and was on my way to sit down," Stan continued. "I walked by this kid, another aide, a nice kid, who was just minding his own business and eating some soup, and 'accidentally' bumped into him and spilled his soup all over him. Accidentally on purpose.
"Matt was eating not too far from the kid, and helped the kid clean up and such. Then Matt just continued eating lunch. When he was finished, he put his dishes on the conveyor and came over and sat down across from me and told me how he hated to see anybody make of fool of himself the way I just had. I got in his face and told him he was probably a fag, but that didn't faze him a bit. I wasn't sure I could take him, either--I'm a little taller, but he's built, y'know. So fortunately I just got outta there. I didn't know then that he was a championship wrestler.
"Well, you know how persistent Matt is. From then on, he made a point of sitting down across from me at lunch every damn day and just talking to me. Nobody at Hospice ever talked to me unless they had to. He's not someone you can ignore, so we talked about a lot of things. I even started to open up a little bit about my background and some of the things I'd been through when I was growing up. One of the last times we talked while he was still there, he told me that he and Mike were partners. I didn't know whether to believe him or not. He said that most people are struggling just to get through every day with the gifts they've been given to work with, and the least we can do, if we can't help 'em, is not to hurt 'em. That stuck with me after he and Mike left to go back to school, and I started to change my ways a little, although I was still kind of a dick, even then. Changing the way you look at things is usually a slo-o-w process."
"Then when Mike came back to town," Stan continued, "he used to come over to Hospice and get on my case about going to back to school and being a real leader among the aides. He told me that he would pay my tuition and books if I took some courses at a community college while I continued working, and that if I got an associate's degree, that he would pay all my expenses, full freight, at any 4 year university I wanted to attend to finish up. Long story short, I did, starting with a psychology course that kind of opened my eyes about a lot of things, including my own behavior. I just finished up my associate degree in finance, thinking about hospital administration, which I may or may not pursue. I may go straight business, I don't know. Anyway, I start at Loyola this fall for the rest of my undergrad work."
"Man, that's great! Congratulations!" Jeff said. They bumped fists. "No wonder Matt and Mike are proud of you."
"Thanks. Oh, and I should mention Mike made me get some counseling about being abused as a kid and some other shit. So, thanks to your brothers, I'm almost a human being today. I don't know how I'll ever pay them back for what they've done for me."
"That's just so excellent, man!" Jeff said. "You must feel good about what you've accomplished."
"I do, I admit it. And I know that I wouldn't have stood a chance in hell of getting Linda to go out with me and eventually agree to marry me if I hadn't had some help changing my ways."
"Uh, if you don't wanna answer this, don't, but how do you feel about Matt and Mike being gay?" Jeff asked.
Stan paused before he answered.
"Well, I don't claim to understand how or why people are gay. I don't know anybody who would deliberately choose that orientation because of all the shit you hafta take about it along the way. I'll tell ya, though, if I were gay, I'd have to go some to find anybody better or better looking than either of them." Stan laughed. "Hey, I don't hafta understand being gay to know they love each other the way I love Linda. I know them. I know they're good people, exceptionally good people. You must have one hell of a fine family, Jeff, to have produced you and your brothers. Am I supposed to be a prick about the fact Matt and Mike love each other and make love to each other? Am I their judge? I don't think so. Hell, I love 'em." Stan laughed again. "So to answer your question, I finally grew up, and I'm cool with them and their partnership."
Just then Linda called them to eat.
They gathered in the dining room, and on impulse Jeff asked everyone to hold hands as he offered thanks for their food and asked God's help for Matt. He wondered with quick astonishment as he finished if he were somehow turning into his parents and his brothers when it came to religion. He seated Andie as Stan seated Linda, and they began eating.
They all enjoyed a great meal together. After the men cleaned up the dining room and kitchen, they all went up to the roof to swim in the pool and sit in the hot tub for awhile. Andie used her Park District lifeguard swimsuit because she didn't have her 'civvies' with her. Jeff kept begging her to "save me," to which she kept replying that he was "too far gone."
* * *
Andrew Metzlaar stared down imperiously at his inquisitor, Peter Bell, from the witness stand as Matt stole a quick look behind him at his dad and brother. Mike gave Matt a quick thumbs-up.
"Colonel Metzlaar, please tell the court how long you've been commander of the Connecticut State Police?" Peter Bell asked.
"Who appointed you to your present position?"
"William Bradford, when he was elected state governor."
"And your previous position was?"
"I was director of operations for the State Police."
"So, the Governor is your direct supervisor?"
"No, I report to the director of the Department of Public Safety. I'm a deputy director of Public Safety."
"Where is the state governor in the chain of command of the Connecticut State Police?" Bell asked.
"The governor isn't in the chain of command, technically."
"So he doesn't give you orders directly, is that correct?"
"Yes, that's correct." Metzlaar said.
"Colonel, do you have a private telephone line in your office?"
"Who answers that line when it rings?"
"I do. My secretary does if I'm not there or I don't pick up right away."
"No one else?"
"Why did the Governor call you on the date the defendant was arrested?"
"I don't recall that he did."
"Your honor, I ask the court's permission to refer to Defense Exhibit 1, which shows that the private line assigned to Andrew Metzlaar received a call from the governor's mansion at 12:30 p.m. on the day the defendant was arrested."
Bell brought over the exhibit and had Metzlaar read from it.
"Can you confirm that the two telephone numbers you just read from the certified telephone company records are your private number and a telephone at the governor's mansion?" Bell asked.
"Yes," Metzlaar said grudgingly.
"Let me repeat my question, then," Bell said. "What did you and the governor talk about on the date and time in question?"
"I don't recall."
"Your honor, request permission to treat the witness as hostile," Bell said.
"The Governor gave you some instructions, instructions which you initially protested, isn't that correct?" Bell asked. "I remind you that you're under oath, Mr. Metzlaar."
"Objection, your honor," Ms. Gossett said.
"Overruled," Judge Jackson said. "The witness will answer the question."
"I don't recall," Metzlaar answered again, glaring at Bell.
"Governor Bradford told you to send one of your men to the Hilton Hartford to search the room of Matthew J. Broman, Jr., didn't he?"
"And he told you that the search better turn up something illegal if you wanted to keep your job, isn't that right?" Bell bore down on the witness.
"Absolutely not, counselor. Those would have been illegal and improper instructions from an elected official to a sworn officer," Metzlaar countered.
"I'm glad you recognize that, sir. Once again referring to the telephone records, you placed a call to Lt. Wolf shortly after you received the call from the Governor, did you not? And followed up with a call to Dispatch, for their records, to have Lt. Wolf sent to the Hilton Hartford?"
"I don't recall doing so, no."
"Mr. Metzlaar, are the telephone records detailing these calls all a horrible, technological error? Are the computers conspiring against you?"
"I don't know." Metzlaar didn't look quite as sure of himself as when he'd taken the stand.
"We have sworn testimony from Diane Campbell of your own dispatch unit that you called her and specified that Lt. Wolf was to be sent to the Hilton Hartford. Did you do so?"
"I suppose so."
"You suppose so! Is that a 'yes' or a 'no?'" Bell demanded.
"Yes!" Metzlaar admitted reluctantly.
"Why did you send the area commander to search a hotel room?"
"I wanted to make certain there were no mistakes made in getting the job done," Metzlaar said.
"The job? What led you to believe that there was something to be found in that particular hotel room?"
"I had word from a confidential informant that there might be contraband."
"Who is that informant?" Bell asked.
"I can't divulge the identity of my informant."
"Your honor, I ask that the witness be required to answer."
"Colonel, the defendant has a right to confront his accuser," Judge Jackson said firmly. "You will answer the question."
"I respectfully decline to do so, your honor."
"You will answer the question, Colonel, or I will hold you in contempt of this court," Judge Jackson said.
"Conference in your chambers, your honor?" Ms. Gossett asked.
"Granted. We'll be in recess for 10 minutes." Judge Jackson tapped his gavel and left the bench as everyone rose to their feet. The lawyers followed the judge into his chambers.
"This better be good, Ms. Gossett," the judge warned the prosecutor as he hung up his robe and sat down behind his desk.
"Your honor, given the senior position of the officer being questioned and the importance of confidential informants to police work, I ask that Colonel Metzlaar not be required to reveal the identity of his informant."
Peter Bell was about to speak, but the judge held up his hand to stop him.
"Ms. Gossett, you know better than to test my patience this way. You've brought the defendant before the bar on charges which are far from proven by the evidence thus far, and you don't want the jury to know who provided the information leading to his arrest? I don't think so."
"Judge, what if we bring Colonel Metzlaar into chambers and let him reveal the informant to you, and then you decide whether or not he will have to reveal the name of the informant in open court?" the prosecutor proposed.
"Do you know who the informant is?" Judge Jackson asked.
"No, sir," Ms. Gossett said.
"Mr. Bell, any objection?"
"No, Judge," Bell said.
"All right," the judge sighed. "Bring Colonel Metzlaar into chambers," he instructed the bailiff.
Colonel Metzlaar strode into chambers. The judge did not offer him a chair.
"Colonel, the prosecutor has proposed that you reveal the identity of the informant to me and allow me to decide whether the identity of that person needs to go into the record. The defense has agreed."
Metzlaar stared at the floor, saying nothing.
"Colonel, who was your informant?" Judge Jackson asked.
After a long silence, Metzlaar looked at the judge.
"Governor William Bradford," he said.
Peter Bell hid a smile.
Judge Jackson leaned back in his chair thoughtfully, staring at Metzlaar.
"Does the governor provide you a lot of tips on people allegedly carrying contraband, Colonel?"
"Well, then, inasmuch as there is no danger in compromising his future usefulness to the police as an informant, my ruling is that you will reveal your informant for the record in open court," the judge said. "Let's get back in there."
Back in court, the judge restated his ruling for the record, and invited Mr. Bell to repeat his question.
"Mr. Metzlaar, who informed you that the defendant allegedly had drugs in his possession at the Hilton Hartford?"
"Governor William Bradford," Metzlaar said grimly.
Court spectators began murmuring, and several reporters jumped up and left the courtroom.
Judge Jackson rapped his gavel smartly, and the hubbub died.
"What did the Governor say to you?" Bell asked.
"He told me to have the room of Matthew J. Broman, Jr., at the Hilton Hartford, searched."
"Was that all he said?"
"He told me the search should continue until something was found.," Metzlaar admitted reluctantly.
"What did you understand the Governor to mean by the word, 'something?'"
"I assumed he meant something incriminating."
"Objection, your honor," Ms. Gossett said. "Speculation."
"Normally, Ms. Gossett, I would sustain you," the judge said. "But why else would anyone have a policeman sent somewhere to conduct a search? Overruled."
"How did you feel about carrying out this search, Colonel?" Bell asked.
"What do you mean by that?"
"It was outside of our usual operating parameters," Metzlaar said.
"Did you argue with the governor?"
"Yes. I asked him why he thought there was something to be found in Broman's room, and he didn't say. He just told me to get the job done."
"Did the governor threaten you?" Bell asked.
"Well, he asked me if I liked my job."
"So, Colonel Metzlaar, you accepted instructions from an elected official, someone not in the chain of command of your organization, to conduct a search for something unknown, based on that official's word only, without probable cause, is that correct?"
"Yes. Although I thought at the time that even an unspecific tip from the state's governor would constitute cause."
"Would you respond today as you did then?" Bell asked.
"No, probably not," he said quietly.
"I have no more questions of this witness, your honor."
"Ms. Gossett?" the judge inquired.
"Colonel Metzlaar, did you have any reason to doubt at the time that the governor's tip wasn't based in real knowledge on his part that something was amiss in Room 823 at the Hilton Hartford?" the prosecutor asked.
"No more questions, your honor," Ms Gossett said.
"Mr. Bell, call your next witness," Judge Jackson instructed.
"Call William Bradford," Bell said.
"William Bradford," the bailiff repeated loudly.
Matt's erstwhile father-in-law, dressed in a dark blue Armani suit and red power tie, stepped forward and was sworn. He took the stand and glared down at Peter Bell.
From his vantage point behind the defense table, Justice Broman studied the governor's patrician face carefully as he took the stand. He wondered if the man had slipped a cog mentally to fabricate such an outrageous story and have Matt arrested. He well understood that there were people who, for a variety of reasons, held nothing but hatred and contempt for gay people. What he couldn't understand was how an educated and heretofore dedicated public servant like William Bradford could forswear his oath of office and heap contempt on the laws by which they were all supposed to live, by manufacturing such an injurious story about his son--about the young man once married to his daughter and the father of his grandchildren. To do such a thing just wasn't consistent with the governor's record of service to the country and to his state. He wanted to believe that Bradford was ill, not morally bankrupt. Those who said that the people of the United States, as a whole, had completely lost their moral compass were full of crap, in his opinion. But he knew that when it came to the elite, the leadership of the country, well, unfortunately that was sometimes a whole other story.
"Sir, will you state your name for the record?" Bell asked.
"And the office you hold?"
"Governor of the state of Connecticut."
"I ask you to recall the day that the defendant, your former son-in-law, was arrested at your home," Bell began.
"Yes." The governor's voice was resonant and authoritative sounding.
"Mr. Broman joined you for lunch that day, is that correct?"
"Was anyone else present at lunch?" Bell asked.
"Yes. My wife, Mary and my grandson, Kyle."
"How old is Kyle?"
"Two and one-half, going on three."
"What did you and your guest do after lunch?"
"We, along with Mrs. Bradford, went into an adjoining sitting room to talk."
"Was this on your initiative?" Bell asked.
"No. Mr. Broman asked to talk with us."
"Can you summarize the conversation for the court?"
"We talked about our grandchildren and other mundane matters. Suddenly, out of the blue, the defendant stated that he was now in the business of smuggling drugs, and asked if we wanted any."
The courtroom broke into an uproar, and Judge Jackson slammed his gavel down just one time. The room quieted, and the judge told the spectators that the courtroom would be cleared should there be any further disruption. No one doubted him.
"What occurred next?" Bell asked.
"I asked him where he was staying. He told me the Hilton Hartford, and I immediately telephoned the state police with the information he had given us."
"Did you talk to anyone in particular at the state police?"
"Yes. Colonel Metzlaar."
"What did you say to Colonel Metzlaar?"
"I told him that my former son-in-law, Matthew J. Broman, Jr., had just informed me that he was distributing drugs, and I said that the police would do well to search his hotel room at the Hilton Hartford," Bradford said. "And then to get back to me."
"How did you know where Mr. Broman was staying?"
"I asked him, and he told me."
"So, Mr. Bradford, you're asking this court to believe that out of a clear, blue sky, the defendant volunteered to you and your wife that he was a drug smuggler, asked if you wanted any drugs, and then told you where he is staying so that you could inform the state police?"
"Yes, that is correct."
"Was there any other information exchanged during your conversation with the defendant?" Bell asked.
"Other than speaking briefly about my two grandsons, whom he is raising, not that I recall."
"Do you consider the defendant a stupid man?"
"Objection, your honor," Ms. Gossett said. "Calls for an opinion."
"I'll allow it," the judge stated.
"Do you consider the defendant a stupid man?" Bell repeated.
"No, not usually."
"Did the defendant have any reason to believe you or your wife would be interested in procuring drugs?" Bell asked.
"Objection, your honor," the prosecutor said. "Calls for speculation."
"Overruled, Ms. Gossett."
"Did the defendant have any reason to believe you or your wife would be interested in procuring drugs?" Bell asked again.
"No," the governor said.
"So, Mr. Bradford, to summarize, you are asking the court to believe that the defendant, the man raising your two grandchildren, whom you say is not a stupid man, would tell you, the chief elected official of the state of Connecticut, that he is a drug smuggler and offer you and your wife some of his product with no expectation you would be interested, is that correct?" Bell asked.
"You must think the court and this jury are stupid, sir!" Bell said scornfully.
"Withdrawn," Bell said. "I have no more questions of this witness."
"Ms. Gossett?" the judge said.
"No questions, your honor."
"Mr. Bell, call your next witness," the judge instructed.
"Your honor, given that the lunch hour is upon us and that the testimony of my next witness may be lengthy, I would ask that we resume after lunch," Bell said.
"No objection, your honor," the prosecutor said.
"Very well, we stand in recess until 1:30 p.m.," Judge Jackson said, tapping his gavel.
"All rise," the bailiff said as judge left the bench.
Peter Bell spirited Matt, Mike and Justice Broman out yet a different courthouse door, this one in the basement, and into a waiting car. They drove to an out-of-the-way little diner where they were unlikely to be recognized, and enjoyed a very upbeat meal together. Justice Broman congratulated Bell on his interrogatory technique, and said that in his opinion, the governor had come across like the liar he was. Mike could feel his guts begin to relax a bit after seeing first hand that the evidence seemed more and more supportive of an acquittal.
They drove back to the courthouse, and dashed up the front steps before the media could block their way and extract interviews.
Back in the courtroom, the Judge Jackson assumed the bench promptly at 1:30, and asked Bell to call his next witness.
"Call Mary Bradford," the attorney instructed.
"Mary Bradford, step forward and be sworn," the bailiff brayed.
The diminutive first lady came forward, looking more tired and unwell than when Matt had seen her at the mansion the day he was arrested. She was sworn.
"Please state your name for the record," Mr. Bell requested.
"Were you at lunch with your husband, your grandson, and the defendant at the Governor's mansion on the day the defendant was arrested?"
"Yes, I was."
"Did the defendant, during the course of that lunch, ask to talk with you and your husband after the meal was over?" Bell asked.
"Yes, he did."
"Where did the conversation take place?"
"In a sitting room off the family dining room."
"Was anyone present other than you, your husband and the defendant?"
"No," Mrs. Bradford said.
"Please tell us about that conversation," Bell requested.
"Matt thanked us for our support and prayers following the death of his wife, our daughter, Sarah, in childbirth. He said that he wanted to make certain that we always had a place in the lives of the twin boys that Sarah had given birth to. He said that he and his adoptive brother Mike were going to 'partner' in raising the children."
"What did your husband say to that?" Bell asked.
"He wanted to know what 'partnering' meant."
"What did the defendant say?"
"Matt said that he and his adoptive brother, Mike, were in a gay relationship."
The courtroom buzzed momentarily, but quieted as Judge Jackson surveyed the spectators sternly.
Mike felt his stomach tighten, and he stared at the back of Matt's head as the latter sat beside his lawyer at the defense table. Well, bro, he thought to himself, we're outed to the whole world now for sure. The sisters at Hospice, the mayor of Chicago, our professors, Tony Angelo--our relationships with almost everybody we know in Chicago and everywhere else, for that matter, are likely to change, and in some cases, not for the good. We've never been willing to live a lie, though, so we'll face this, and get through what we need to get through. It would have been great if we had been able to reveal ourselves at our own pace, but that wasn't to be. We don't get to choose the times or seasons of our victimization, but victimization is only humiliation if we allow it to be. Together, we will respond to the situation as best we can, just as we always have.
Suddenly Mike's love for his partner suffused him and renewed him, overwhelming all his fears and uncertainties. He took new counsel with himself. His inner voice spoke to him clearly: we have our love for each other, and we have the love of our family. Those who can't accept us for what we are--fuck 'em!
Mike felt a hand on his own. Looking down at the bench between them, he saw that Justice Broman's hand had moved over gently to cover and hold his hand as they sat side by side. That simple act of comfort and support at a time of such tremendous tension almost brought tears to Mike's eyes.
Mary Bradford's testimony continued.
"How did your husband respond to the admission that your former son-in-law is gay?" Bell asked.
"He was furious, and stated that he would take the twins away from Matt and we would raise them ourselves."
"What did you do?"
"I tried to calm my husband down," Mrs. Bradford said.
"Did the defendant respond?"
"Matt said there was no way that he was giving up the twins, or words to that effect."
"What happened then?" Bell asked.
"Bill asked Matt where he was staying. Then he called Colonel Metzlaar, and instructed him to have Matt's room at the Hilton Hartford searched for contraband, and not to stop searching until something was found."
"Was there any further exchange between your husband the Colonel Metzlaar on the telephone?" Bell asked.
"Yes, my husband asked whether or not the Colonel liked his job. Mr. Metzlaar must not have wanted to do what he had been told."
"Did any discussion about drugs take place?"
"Was the word 'drug' ever mentioned?"
"What happened after your husband talked with Colonel Metzlaar?"
"The governor called the young trooper on duty in the executive mansion, and told him to 'detain' Matt, by chaining him to a radiator if necessary, until he gave further instructions."
"Was anything further said by the defendant or your husband?" Bell asked.
"Matt told Bill that his career in public life was over. That's when I left the room."
"Is your husband homophobic, Mrs. Bradford?"
"I've never been conscious of it until recently, but yes, I think so now."
"Do you think his homophobia explains his actions?"
"Yes, I do," Mary Bradford said sadly.
"I have no more questions for this witness, your honor," Bell said, and went back to the defense table.
Before Judge Jackson could invite Ms. Gossett to cross examine the witness, State's Attorney Al Shaffer rose from his seat toward the back of the room and came to the gate leading to the well of the courtroom.
"Your honor, may I approach?"
Judge Jackson looked up in surprise, and beckoned Shaffer and the other two lawyers to come to the bench.
"Your honor," Shaffer said, "I'm requesting the court's permission to join Ms. Gossett for the prosecution at this time."
"This is unusual, Mr. Shaffer, but inasmuch as all prosecutions within this jurisdiction are your responsibility, your request is granted." Cynthia Gossett looked at her boss in surprise.
"Thank you, your honor. May I presume upon the good nature of the court to ask that I be given time to confer with Ms. Gossett before we proceed? I request a recess until tomorrow."
"Mr. Bell?" the judge asked.
"No objection, your honor," Bell said.
"Court is in recess until 9 a.m. tomorrow," Judge Jackson said, and tapped his gavel. Everyone stood. Delighted at the early release, the jury filed out after hearing the judge's usual admonition not to discuss, view TV reports, or read about the case.
* * *
Cynthia Gossett and Al Shaffer walked together back to Shaffer's office. Shaffer sat down behind his desk and looked inquiringly at his subordinate.
"What do you think?" he inquired, eyebrows raised.
"You mean, are we winning? I don't think so," Ms. Gossett said. "I have that sinking feeling."
"You've just restored some of my confidence in your judgment," Shaffer said. "Do you think the guy's guilty?"
The woman looked at her boss thoughtfully for a moment.
"I'm not sure anymore," she said.
"Well, I'm sure--that this case is an unmitigated disaster!!" Shaffer said forcefully. "There's obviously been a conspiracy to put this kid away away because he's gay and Bradford doesn't want him raising the grandkids with his boyfriend or brother or whoever the hell the other guy is."
"We might still have a shot," Cynthia Gossett said. "Maybe I can get Mary Bradford to change her story."
"Bullshit! You know she didn't put her husband's career at risk and probably send her marriage down the tubes by getting up there and lying on the stand! I think she told it just the way it went down. If you ever wanted to see 'statements against interest,' look at her testimony! The bottom line is, this office looks stupid as hell, and I don't like that!"
The young woman started to respond, but then just closed her mouth and looked at her boss. Their eyes locked, and the State's Attorney made a decision.
"All right, Cynthia, here's what's gonna happen." Shaffer gave his associate her instructions, and Cynthia Gossett sighed.
"Got it," she said. "God damn it, anyway!"
"My sentiments exactly."
* * *
The next morning Judge Jackson assumed the bench promptly at 9 a.m., and began proceedings.
"Mr. Bell, call your next witness," he said.
"Your honor, the defense rests."
"Very well. I'll hear motions at this time," the judge said.
"Your honor," Bell said, "the defense moves for a directed verdict of acquittal on the grounds that the state has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt."
"Mr. Shaffer, Ms. Gossett?"
Cynthia Gossett rose from the prosecution table.
"Your honor, the people have no objection," she said.
The judge allowed himself a tiny smile.
"The court grants the motion of the defense for a directed verdict of acquittal on the grounds that the case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is free to go. The jury is discharged with the thanks of the court. Mr. Shaffer, I trust that your office will be examining the testimony of certain witnesses at this trial for possible charges of perjury and conspiracy."
"Yes, your honor," Shaffer said.
"Court is adjourned," Judge Jackson said. As he left the bench, he sent a quick smile in Matt Broman's direction.
The courtroom erupted into sound and motion. Matt stood and shook hands with Peter Bell, and then pulled him into an embrace.
"Thank you, thank you," Matt said in his ear. "Great job! I'm really thankful!"
"You were innocent, Matt. That's the way it's supposed to work for innocent people," Bell responded with a grin.
Justice Broman and Mike came through the gate into the well of the courtroom and held Matt in a long, three-way hug.
"You see, the system does work!" Matt's dad said to him. "Congratulations, Matt!"
"Thank you, Dad. And thank you for your support!" Matt said. "I wouldn't have made it without you and Mike and the family."
"I love you, Matt," Mike whispered. "That's all I can say right now. I'll show you just how much later."
"Counselor, I stand in awe," Justice Broman said to Peter Bell. "The word 'masterful' comes to mind when I look at the case you presented."
"Matthew, the facts spoke for themselves, really," Bell said. "Every now and again we defense attorneys get to defend an innocent man, and this was one of those times. You've raised two great sons here, and I'm pleased to have played some small part in vindicating Matt."
"You're too modest, Peter," the justice said. "I'm very grateful to you. Money alone won't convey my thanks, but yours is one bill I'm going to be happy to pay."
Matt searched the courtroom with his eyes until he saw Mary Bradford standing to leave the courtroom alone. Excusing himself, he made a beeline for her. He walked up to her and gave her a hug and kiss. She felt small and frail in his arms. Her eyes teared up.
"Matt, I'm so very sorry this happened to you. I wish I could make it up to you somehow."
"Put that thought out of your mind. Will you join my father and brother and me for a cup of coffee as soon as we get out of here? Mike and I really want to talk to you."
"I'm surprised you can even look at me after what Bill did," she said.
"That was the governor, not you. You told the truth, and it was tough to do under the circumstances. You'll always be family to me, Mom."
"You're a sweetheart, Matt. Sarah was a lucky woman. Well, all right. Shall I meet you somewhere for coffee?"
"If you can hang on here while we deal with the press, we can all leave together, OK?"
Hand in hand they walked to the front of the courtroom and joined Peter Bell, Justice Broman and Mike. Matthew Broman, Sr., without a word, enfolded the frail woman in his arms and kissed her cheek.
"Stars in your crown, Mary Bradford," he said to her quietly as he held her. Her only response was a modest shake of her head.
"Well, let's go face the ravening wolves of the fourth estate," Peter Bell said. They all moved to the front steps of the courthouse, by now radiating mid-morning waves of heat in the late summer sun.
The cameras began rolling, and Peter Bell read a short, prepared statement to the assembled crowd in front of a bank of microphones.
"Matthew J. Broman, Jr., and his family are gratified at the outcome of this trial, in which highly placed conspirators attempted to have him convicted of a crime he did not commit in order to take his two children away from him. Although the trial should not have been necessary at all, Judge Jackson conducted the case in a completely fair and impartial manner. We believe that the directed verdict of acquittal from the judge was required by the evidence, or more precisely, the lack of evidence against Mr. Broman, and we are grateful to the State's Attorney's office in not objecting to our motion for that verdict. We will now entertain a few questions."
Bell stepped back from the microphones as the reporters began to jostle for attention.
"Justice Broman, what do you think of your two gay sons raising your grandchildren?"
"There's only one story that's worth reporting here today: trumped up charges against my son Matthew have been shown to be the lies they always have been," the jurist said. "I'm gratified that once again our American system of justice has triumphed, and that now our family's life can get back to normal."
"Matt," shouted another reporter, "do you think Governor Bradford, Colonel Metzlaar and Lt. Wolf should go to jail?"
"That will be up to the prosecutor and the courts. I have no opinion on that."
"Mrs. Bradford, how do you feel about the lies your husband told on the witness stand?"
Mary Bradford looked stunned by the question, and recoiled from the crowd of reporters.
"Mrs. Bradford has no comment at this time," Peter Bell said into the microphones. Matt put his arm around her.
"Michael Broman, how do you feel about what's transpired here in Connecticut?" another reporter probed.
"Resentful, if you want to know the truth," Mike said. "This trial never should have happened. But I'm gratified that the public knows now what his family has known all along, that Matt is not a criminal. In fact, he's one of the finest human beings I have ever been privileged to know. Print that, why don't you!"
"Ladies and gentlemen, that will be all the questions we'll take at this time," Peter Bell said. "Thank you for being here."
He stepped back from the bank of microphones and led Justice Broman, Matt, Mike and Mary Bradford down the steps and into a big black limousine at the curb as reporters and photographers snapped at their heels. Once inside the car, they all breathed a sigh of relief and looked at one another silently, a little shell-shocked. As the car rolled away, Bell gave the driver his office address, and was dropped off there, taking with him the sincere and repeated thanks of the Bromans.
Justice Broman sat in the back seat beside Mary Bradford, with Matt and Mike facing them in the car's middle seat, holding hands.
"Matt, call your mom," Justice Broman suggested.
Matt pulled out his cell phone, turned it on, dialed, and gave his very happy mother the good news. Then he handed the phone to his dad and then to Mike for a few words, and then they hung up and sat in silence.
"Dad, I wanna get home and see the kids," Matt said finally. "The sooner the better. But we need to stop somewhere for brunch so Mike and I can talk to Mary."
"All right," Justice Broman said. "Do you need some privacy?"
"No. We don't have any secrets from you. In fact, I don't think we have any secrets from anybody anymore," Matt said a little bitterly.
Mike squeezed Matt's hand. They looked into one another's eyes, seeing the relief there that the trial was over at last. But they both felt wounded by it all.
The limo driver reported that there didn't appear to be any reporters following them, so they stopped at a truck stop on the outskirts of Hartford, went in and took a booth. Their food ordered, Matt looked over at Mary Bradford.
"Mary, are you feeling all right? You look a little tired," Matt said.
"Well, I don't want to spoil your celebration..." Mary said. "This is a time to feel happy."
"Come on, what's going on?" Matt pressed her.
"I have cancer," Mary said briskly. "The breast cancer I had about 5 years ago has recurred, and by the time we caught it, it had spread. The doctors give me about a year to live."
The three men looked at her uncomprehendingly, in shock.
"Oh, Mary. I am so sorry," Justice Broman finally said quietly.
Matt took her hand and held it as Mike looked at her sympathetically.
"The doctors, or should I say 'we' doctors, have been wrong before, Mary," Mike said. "Maybe we're wrong this time."
"Anything's possible, Mike," Mary said, "but I don't think so."
"I'd like to have a specialist I know in Chicago take a look at your records and x-rays, if you'd allow it," Mike said.
"I'll be happy to have you do that, Mike," Mary said. "But I'm not expecting any miracles at this point."
"Now I'm reluctant to bring up what we wanted to talk to you about, Mom," Matt said.
"No, Matt, let's talk while we have the chance," Mary said a little grimly.
Matt studied the table for a moment, and then looked up.
"Mom, Mike and I would like to adopt and raise Kyle with the twins. He's a wonderful boy, and I think both he and our boys would benefit from growing up together. If that possibility sits all right with you, I need your help to persuade Jamie, and Kyle's mother, that this is the way to go.
"But even if that doesn't work out," Matt continued, "Mike and I would like to have you come and live with us in Chicago. We have all the room in the world. I'm not pressing you for an answer right now because I know you and the governor have a lot of talking to do. But I want you to know this is an option for you unless you feel you need to stay in the Hartford area."
Mary Bradford looked at Matt, astonished.
"You'd take me into your home after all that's happened? I'm flabbergasted. You've really floored me, Matt."
"The boys need to get to know their other grandma," Mike said. "This is the perfect way to let that happen."
"I hope you accept Matt's and Mike's invitation if it seems appropriate, Mary. I'll be jealous about how much time you get to spend with the kids, but it's a wonderful opportunity for the twins," Justice Broman said, smiling. My sons! he thought to himself. What a beautiful gift they are to this world!
"Do you have family in the Hartford area that you'd like to stay with or need to stay with, Mary?" Mike asked.
"No," she said quietly. "My sisters have all passed on, and Jamie is a career Navy man, you know, and won't have roots for a long time, if ever. And to be candid, I just don't know at this point what Bill's and my future holds. Other than Bill, there's no one."
"Well, no pressure on this, Mary," Matt said. "Why don't I call you in a week and see how things are looking?"
"Let me call you, Matt," Mrs. Bradford responded. "I should have a better idea whether Bill's going to put me out on the street. And I'll try to get Jamie on the phone by then about Kyle. Write down your number for me, will you."
"Sure. I'm gonna give you Dad's and Mom's number, 'cause we're gonna stay for a visit with them, and our cottage number at the lake in case we get a chance to go up there with the boys, and my cell phone number. Promise me, though, you'll call if you move out of the Governor's Mansion anytime before the week's up. We can be down here to get you in a matter of hours. Do you promise?"
"I promise," she sighed. "I just don't want to be a burden to you and Mike."
"This is no burden, Mary. We'd like to see the best possible outcome for you, that's all," Mike said, "and if that means you'll be with us, we'll be very happy."
The waitress delivered bowls of fresh fruit, English muffins, and pots of hot coffee at that point, and they all started eating.
Breakfast finished, the limo driver dropped Mary Bradford back at the Governor's Mansion. With misgivings, the Bromans were watching her walk toward the front door when Justice Broman stepped out of the car on impulse and called to her.
"Mary, hold up a minute," he said.
She turned and looked at him.
"I'm coming in with you," he said. "Let's just see what the situation is with Bill before we leave."
"Matthew, that's such an imposition..."
"Not at all," he said firmly, and went up to her and offered his arm. They went up the steps and entered together.
The young state trooper, John Baker, was on duty with a pretty, young receptionist just inside the front door.
"Hello, John, Ann," Mrs. Bradford said to them. "This is Justice Matthew Broman. Would you tell the governor that I'm home and would like to see him in the downstairs sitting room at his earliest convenience?"
"Yes, m'am," the receptionist said, and punched the keyboard on her telephone. She put down the telephone and said that the governor would be down directly. The justice and Mrs. Bradford walked down the hall together.
"If Bill seems rational and in control of himself, I'll leave you two alone," Justice Broman said.
They entered the room just as Bill Bradford arrived through another door.
"What the hell are you doing here, Matthew!?" the governor demanded.
"I just accompanied Mary home, Bill."
"This is no longer her home. Mary, you stabbed your own husband in the back after 35 years of marriage. I don't want you anywhere near me."
"You lied under oath, Bill, and tried to frame Matt. I don't even know who you are any more," Mrs. Bradford said. "So this is how it ends?"
"You made your choices. I want you out of here. You're a traitor."
"All right, then. Where's Kyle?"
"Upstairs. You can't have him."
Mary Bradford looked at her husband coolly.
"Either you turn Kyle over to me right now, or I'll be in court within the hour with an emergency petition for custody of Kyle and a restraining order against your coming within 500 feet of either of us. You'll be the one thrown out of here on his tail," Mary said forcefully. "And that'll be great publicity for you when they bring you to trial for perjury and conspiracy, won't it?"
"You bitch!" Bradford moved toward her threateningly, only to have Justice Broman interpose himself between them.
"Bill, listen to her. She knows what she's talking about. You're in trouble. Don't ask for more," the justice said.
"No wonder this country is going down the tubes!" Bradford spat out. "Every value we ever stood for is being pissed away by people like you fag lovers! It's disgusting!"
"Mary, go pack a bag and get the boy," Justice Broman instructed. "Bill, we'll be out of here in a few minutes and leave you to your well-earned misery."
Bill Bradford snorted, but knew he was beaten, at least for the moment. He sat down hard in a chair and glowered at Matthew Broman while his wife left the room to pack. Neither spoke to the other.
Mary returned in a few minutes with little Kyle on one arm, carrying a suitcase.
Bill Bradford glared at her balefully as Matthew Broman said hello to Kyle and took the suitcase from Mrs. Bradford.
"You'll hear from my attorney," Mary told her husband. "And you need to get some professional help, Bill. You've gone around the bend. The man I married would never do the things you've done. I'm sorry for you. I don't wish you any ill, but our life together really is over. Finished. Good-bye, Bill." Tears streamed down her face as she turned and left the room.
Hunched in his chair, the governor just sat silently and watched the three of them leave.
By this time, Matt and Mike were peering anxiously out the window of the limousine. Their dad and Mary and Kyle emerged from the mansion and walked down the steps. Matt and Mike got out of the car and walked toward the three of them. Matt took Mary's bag from his dad and bent down to greet Kyle enthusiastically. The boy appeared to recognize him, and his face brightened momentarily.
"Trouble?" Mike murmured to his father.
"Nothing I couldn't handle," Justice Broman said quietly. "I'll tell you about it later."
They got in the car, and pulled out of the circular drive into traffic.
"Well, folks, what do you want to do about getting home?" the justice asked.
"I vote for driving, Dad," Matt said. "I don't want to go through all the hassle of trying to get reservations to fly, and we can still be home by supper time."
"Mary?" Mr. Broman inquired.
"Driving is fine with me, Matthew," Mary said.
"OK," the justice said. "Driver, please call your dispatcher and see if you can drive us to Pennsylvania. The rental car would be a little tight for all of us and our luggage. We need to go back to the motel and pack, and turn our car in at the airport, and then we need to stop somewhere and get a booster seat for Kyle. Don't we, young fella?"
Kyle looked up at the older man impassively, followed by a faint smile. Then he hugged his grandmother tightly, and buried his face in her bosom.
"Somebody's a little shy," Mike observed. "But that won't last long. Just wait 'til he starts wrestling around with his cousins. Nothing will faze him."
An hour later, all their chores in Hartford completed, the limousine moved majestically and quickly down the highway toward Pennsylvania and the Broman estate.
If I never see Hartford again, Matt thought to himself, it won't be too soon.
* * *
The huge, wrought iron lanterns at the front gate of the Broman's long driveway were gleaming into the dusk by the time they reached the house.
The limousine pulled up to the main entrance of the house, and Jane Broman, Martha, Mrs. Brighton and Branford, and half the staff emerged and surrounded the car. As the occupants of the car stepped out, they were surrounded, hugged and kissed. Little Kyle was overwhelmed by all this and held on to his grandmother Bradford's legs, hiding his face.
"Where are the boys," Mike asked.
"Waiting for you both in the front hall in their pajamas," Jane Broman said. "And I have to tell you, they're peeved at you guys!"
Matt and Mike broke away from the crowd and entered the front door. There stood Matthew and Michael in their little PJ's, robes and slippers. They were in identical poses, arms akimbo, with angry little faces.
"All right, Dad, Unk Mike, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!!" Michael shrilled.
"Yeah, JUST WHERE?!!" Matthew echoed.
The twins were promptly scooped up for hugs and kisses, and the pacification process began. Matt and Mike told them the truth, that their dad had had to be in court just as he had told them on the telephone, and that Grandpa and Mike had been there to keep him company, and that they had brought their other grandmother and their cousin Kyle back with them from Hartford. The boys couldn't take it all in right away, and they clung to Matt and Mike as if there were no tomorrow.
Jane Broman went out of her way to welcome Mary Bradford, having been alerted by cell phone to her situation by her husband a few hours back when the limousine had stopped along the interstate to refuel.
Matthew and Michael took to Kyle right away, although Kyle was still a little shy. The three of them were striking in their family resemblance, with their light blond hair, blue eyes, and similar facial features. Watching them interact for the first time, Matt and Mike were more sure than ever they had made the right decision to try to raise them all together.
Everyone trooped into the dining room for a light supper of homemade chicken soup, salad and barbecue sandwiches, topped off by peaches and vanilla ice cream. In asking the blessing, Justice Broman gave thanks for Matt's deliverance and for Mary Bradford and Kyle as they joined the family. Matt and Mike fed the twins, and Mary fed Kyle, and then the adults ate.
They all sat together in the library for a while after supper and filled Jane Broman in on everything that had transpired. Mike could see Matt, at long last, begin to relax a bit.
After a few minutes, Jane went upstairs with Mary Bradford and got her settled in her room. Mary was so tired that she went right to bed. Matthew and Michael and Kyle, by now getting along famously, were allowed to stay up a little later than usual. His uncles discovered that Kyle, stimulated by his cousins' company, could actually talk, and in complete sentences most of the time.
Martha and Kyle had really hit it off. When bedtime for the three little cousins couldn't be postponed any longer, Matt, Mike and Martha carried the kids upstairs, Kyle clinging to Martha's neck all the way. When they reached the boys' room, Matt and Mike saw that Jane Broman had been busy before they arrived. Somehow, with little notice, she'd scared up a third bed to accommodate Kyle. Martha undressed the little guy and put him into a pair of his cousins' pajamas, and then Matt read a bedtime story to them all. The boys' eyes were soon heavy, and when the story was finished, they said their prayers together. After dimming the light and explaining to Kyle that if he needed anything during the night, they were close by in the bedrooms on either side of his, Matt, Mike and Martha kissed the cousins goodnight. Kyle seemed relaxed and content for being in brand new surroundings, and all three little boys were almost asleep by the time their caretakers reached the bedroom door.
Martha and her two brothers went back down to the library and joined their parents to relax and talk some more. Matt was tired from a long day, but exuberant that things had turned out the way things should have with his trial.
Before he and Mike excused themselves to go to bed, Matt looked intently at his family.
"I don't know how to tell you how good it is to be here with you," he said. "Or how grateful I am to you for your support during this whole mess. Dad and Mike, you kept me sane the last few days. Mom, Martha, knowing you were here waiting for me was the greatest gift in the world. I feel so lucky to have a family like you. Thank you for everything."
He hugged and kissed his mom and dad and sister, followed by Mike, and the two young men went upstairs.
After checking on the kids, Matt took his usual pre-bedtime shower while Mike lay on the bed in his boxers watching television. The door to the bathroom was open, and as Matt emerged from the shower and toweled off, Mike watched his partner's beautiful body as it flexed and moved.
Matt was standing at the sink brushing his teeth when Mike did a double take at his partner.
"Matt, commere for a second."
"Just commere," Mike said.
Matt washed off his toothbrush and still in the buff, walked over to his brother.
"Turn around," Mike instructed.
"Just turn around!"
Matt reluctantly turned around so his back was facing his brother.
"Aha! Just as I thought!" Mike said. "You have a pimple on your ass! Do you realize that this is the first time in all the years we've known each other that you've ever had a blemish on your skin? I'm a little relieved, to tell you the truth. I was starting to think you were some kind of robot with artificial skin."
Matt tried to look behind him at his butt, but couldn't see the alleged blemish.
"You're lying," he said.
"No, I swear. Oh, my gosh, maybe I am wrong. This pimple may really be a little alien being that's been sent to try to colonize the planet, starting with your butt! Just a second, I think it's trying to communicate with me, but I can't quite make out what it's saying."
"Well, I can hear it very clearly. It's saying, 'Bite me, Mike!!'"
"'Bite me?' I could do that," Mike said. "I wouldn't mind doing that at all. But it could provoke a serious inter-galactic war, y'know."
"You're a serious inter-galactic dufus, I do know that!" Matt said, lying down on top of Mike and kissing his lips. "Now that you've provoked me, and you're helpless right now, I think it's time for a story. A good story. I don't think I've been keeping you properly entertained lately."
"No-o-o! I sorry I said anything, even if it is the truth! Forget I said anything."
"I can't forget it. Your cruelty about my butt is engraved in my memory forever. So, speaking of body parts...
"Two gay guys are in a San Francisco bathroom using
the urinals. One of the guys checks out the other guy's
penis and notices there's a Nicoderm patch on it. He
turns to the other guy and says,
"'I believe you're supposed to put that patch on your
arm or shoulder, not your penis.'
"The other guy looks at him in surprise.
"'I'll have you know it's working just fine, thank you very
much! I'm down to 2 butts a day.'"
Mike had to laugh, partly because of the story, but mostly out of relief that the long ordeal in Hartford was over and Matt was with him, and even better, lying right on top of him. He had his beautiful lover back permanently, and life was complete again. And it was very, very good.
It got better as Matt stripped Mike of his boxers, and they made sweet,
messy love to one another until they were each spent and exhausted.