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Note: Thanks to Tim for feedback on the draft chapters.  I owe special thanks to Robb and Rock for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.

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Finding Family

by Jeff Allen





Preseason practice for the sports teams started the first week of August.  That meant TJ was back as my official roommate.  I say "official" roommate because I spent most nights making love with Brian upstairs in his apartment.  We had the place pretty much to ourselves since Brian's roommate that year was another guy in the MBA program who spent most of his nights at his girlfriend's apartment.  Jonathan and Wes were back living in the apartment on the top floor of the house.

We had practices in the morning and afternoon and sometimes team meetings in the evening.  The soccer team only had those evening meetings once a week, but the guys on the football team...Josh and Wes...had meetings almost every night.

Preseason was always tough.  No matter how careful you were about trying to stay in shape over the summer, the first couple of weeks of practice were difficult.  To make matters worse the weather that year was particularly hot and humid.  So much for the pleasant, cool summer days of the North Carolina Mountains.  Hello, Global Warming.

Freshman Move-In Day brought Parker and the rest of Coach's Cubs to campus because Ryan was starting school.  Those of us already in town met Ryan, Parker, and the rest of the cubs at the dorm and had `ole Ryan moved in quickly.  Then it was time to help some of the other freshmen tote their earthly belongings up the stairs into their new campus homes.  They all looked young and confused.  Were we ever like that?

Late the next afternoon Brandon was at work and everyone else was gathered in the living room of our apartment shooting the breeze and catching up with Isaac and Bart who'd arrived back the night before.  I looked out the window in time to see Doc and Matt step out of Doc's 4Runner just as a State Police cruiser pulled into the parking area.  The commanding presence of Trooper DeShaun McMillan climbed out of the gray and black Crown Victoria.  They all headed over toward Josh and Brandon's apartment above the Williams' garage.

"Josh, something's up.  Doc, Matt, and Trooper McMillan are headed over to your place."

Josh got a puzzled look on his face and went over to stand just outside the door to our apartment.

The three visitors saw him and made their way over to our place.

McMillan started, "Josh, I've got some news for you.  Do you want to go somewhere more private?"

Josh looked around the room.  "These are my brothers, my family.  This is fine right here."

Trooper McMillan smiled and nodded at all of us.  "Okay.  We've arrested two suspects in your mother's murder."

Josh's expression went blank for a second.  Then he went over and sat down in a chair.  TJ sat on the arm of the chair and put his arm around Josh's big shoulders.

Josh finally looked up at Trooper McMillan.  "Who are they?"

"Sampson Dial and Robeson Jones."

"Sam Dial?  He and Mom dated for a while when I was in junior high.  Is it the same guy?  Is he a sheriff's deputy?"

"Unfortunately, yes.  Both of them are...I mean...were on the force.  We've got solid evidence that Dial and Jones were part of a ring that was helping move marihuana and cocaine through Robeson County.  It looks like your mother found out about it and was about to turn them in when they killed her."

"I can't believe this!  Sam Dial used to play catch with me.  I think he was a deacon in his church."

"And he was a 'dirty' cop."

"Why did it take so long to figure this out?"  Josh's voice had a hard edge.  "Mom was killed more than a year and a half ago."

"We didn't have many clues to go on after your mother was killed.  Frankly, we were starting to think that we'd never solve her murder.  At the same time, we've had an undercover operative on the Robeson County Sheriff's Patrol for a couple of years.  We've been concerned about the drug activity down there, and we've suspected some law enforcement involvement in the activity for some time.  Our undercover guy finally managed to get the goods on several of the deputies down there.  The story's going to break in the papers tomorrow morning.  We were about to move a couple of weeks ago, but Dial said something to our operative that allowed us to link him with your mom's murder.  We kept the drug trafficking case open in order to get more evidence on your mom's murder.  I think we've got them dead to rights.  I'm sorry it took so long, but it was necessary to get the evidence we needed."

Matt sat down on the other chair arm and hugged Josh.  "I know this has to be like living your mother's death all over again.  We just want you to know that we're here if you need us.  Dee asked Gary and me to come along with him to be sure you had some support.  It looks like you've got plenty of that." 

Josh looked around the room.  His eyes were sort of misted over.  "I do have a lot of support...from you and Doc as well as from everyone else in this room.  It would have been easy to have given up or lost my way after Mom's murder, but you guys were there for me and kept me grounded.  Thank you, all of you.  You're my family."

I don't think there was a dry eye in the entire room.


It's amazing how fast the school year went!  It seemed like we were just coming back in the early fall, and suddenly it was the middle of May.  Our football team had another good year getting to our division's national semifinals before being defeated by one point.  Wes Dawson and Josh were solid starters, and we were starting to hear rumors about pro possibilities for both of them.  The soccer team didn't do as well as we had the year before.  We lost some real talent when Stephen Ngyuen and Brian graduated, and we really didn't have much of a sophomore class.  Some of the freshmen were good and had real promise, but the juniors like me, TJ, and Jonathan had the major responsibility for the team, and we just couldn't carry it off. 

What happened with all the guys that year? 

Well, Parker and Karl remained solid as a rock.  Karl started taking on more responsibility for running Henson's Hardware, especially after his dad had a mild heart attack just after Christmas.  He recovered quickly, but he and Karl's mom were talking about retirement.  That would mean even more responsibilities for Karl.

TJ and Donnie continued to alternate weekends between Carterville and Adams.  Since I had almost completely moved in with Brian in the apartment upstairs, TJ and Donnie were able to enjoy some quality alone time in the bedroom when Donnie came to visit.  Donnie brought Grant and Micah with him about half the time.  They usually stayed in the upstairs apartment with Brian and me because Brian's roommate was always over at his girlfriends.  Gary Williams, our ten-year-old neighbor was over a lot also and especially when Grant and Micah were in residence. 

Isaac and Bart occupied the second bedroom in the downstairs apartment...the one I was supposed to be living in.  Bart had to wait until the second semester to start classes at Adams State because of an out-of-state tuition problem.  He took some classes at the local community college in the fall and found a new job at the sporting goods store in town owned by Jamal Phillips, who was the partner of Matt Stevenson's brother.

Jonathan and Wes had a rough time in their relationship in early January, but they got it smoothed over.  Jonathan never told me the exact reason for their problem, but I gathered it had something to do with Wes becoming a little too friendly, in Jonathan's opinion, with a guy named Eric.  Like I said, whatever the problem was, they managed to work it out because Eric was over at Jonathan and Wes' place a couple of times in the late spring.

To the surprise of everyone, including themselves, Ahmed and Jorge remained boyfriends when Ahmed came back to Adams State.  Ahmed caught rides back to Carterville with TJ on the weekends he went home.  Other times Jorge hitched a ride with Donnie when he came to Adams to see TJ.  In Carterville they were able to stay at Parker and Karl's and had the privacy of Jorge's bedroom.  That didn't always happen when they were together in Adams.  Sometimes they stayed in Brian's spare bedroom when Grant and Micah weren't there.  At other times they stayed over at Ahmed's house, and there they had to stay in separate bedrooms.  Ahmed's parents were a little odd.  They had to know that Ahmed and Jorge were having sex, and they seemed to be okay with it as long as it wasn't under their roof.  I think Ahmed and Jorge's relationship started out first as a sexual thing, but grew into a real friendship.  On the outside they seemed mismatched.  Ahmed was a certified math genius and had started college two years ahead of everyone else at sixteen.  His parents were both college professors.  Jorge had come from poverty.  He was a lot quicker mentally than folks gave him credit for at first meeting, but he wasn't in Ahmed's intellectual category.  None of us were.  Despite their differences they clearly adored each other.  They were always laughing and smiling when they were together.

Ryan had a fantastic first year of college.  Dean's list, intramural soccer championship, and a steady girlfriend.  Ryan had always changed girlfriends like most guys change underwear.  In high school I don't think he ever went out with the same girl for more than a month or two.  He started the same routine at Adams State, but by Christmas he was settled in with a beautiful young lady who was a junior at Adams high School.  Her name was Heather Williams.  That's right, our landlords' daughter.

Rashod Roberts finished high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts and was accepted at the Eastman School of Music.  He had his professional debut in March when he performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Opus 47 with the Winston-Salem Symphony.  We all went to the performance.  I don't know a whole lot about classical music, but it sounded darn good to me, and the audience applauded long and loud when it was over.  Rashod was walking on air the rest of the evening.

Doc Griffith turned forty that May.  Forty!  Jeez!  Matt threw him a huge birthday bash out at their house.  There were lots of people...faculty colleagues, students, former students, and friends.  He took a lot of good-natured ribbing about him being "over the hill."  I told him not to worry about it because he didn't look a day over thirty-nine.  He grabbed me in a head lock and rubbed his knuckles on my scalp.  Actually, Doc didn't look all that much older than Matt who was in his early thirties.  They made a hot looking couple.  For two older guys, I mean.

Brandon continued his killer schedule taking a full load of classes and working most nights at Cantana's Restaurant.  Josh was really good for him.  Brandon had been fairly reserved when we'd first met him.  I know he was dealing with a number of personal issues that made him keep himself a little apart from other people, but Josh had been able to reach through the defenses and bring out the real Brandon.  They were a devoted couple.  Josh always waited up for Brandon to get back from the restaurant no matter how late that was.  I know that had to have been rough during the fall when Josh had to be up bright and early for football weight training.

The trial of Sampson Dial and Robeson Jones for the murder of Josh's mother started the week after our spring exams were over.  It lasted two weeks, and Josh and Brandon stayed down in Lumberton, the county seat of Robeson County, through the entire trial.  Brandon asked his boss for the time off promising to work every evening after the trial was over.  They didn't know how long the trial would last, and they were concerned that the food and hotel bills would eat into their savings, but two nights before they left for Lumberton Mr. Cantana pulled Brandon aside and gave him a list of restaurants where Mr. Cantana had contacted the owners and made arrangements for Brandon and Josh to eat for free or at a greatly reduced cost.  While Brandon was thanking him for that, Mr. Cantana pressed an envelope containing $3,000 into Brandon's hand and told him it was a gift from him and all the employees to help toward the cost of living in Lumberton during the trial.  Brandon was almost overcome.

Josh and Brandon were never alone at the trial.  Doc and Matt or Parker and Karl or some of Coach's Cubs were always there.  We took turns being down there for a day or two to give support to Josh.  When the trial was over and the jury returned the guilty verdict the trial moved into the sentencing phase where the jury had to decide whether Dial and Jones would get the death penalty, or life in prison.  The prosecutor of course was pushing for the death penalty.  Josh made a statement to the court asking for life instead of the death penalty.  He told the judge and jury that he didn't believe in the death penalty, that he believed killing even if sanctioned by the court and the laws of the State of North Carolina was wrong, and that while he would always hurt from the loss of his mother he would try to move to the point where he could forgive Sam Dial and Robeson Jones for their crime if the time ever came that they asked for his forgiveness. 

Brian and I were down in Lumberton as the support group for Josh and Brandon that day.  His address to the court had Brian, me, and almost everyone else in the courtroom in tears.  Even the judge took off his glasses and wiped at the corners of his eyes.  When Josh came back to his seat, I gave him  a hug right there in the courtroom and told him how proud I was of him and how glad I was that he had become a part of our family.

The jury, I think based largely on the power and emotion of Josh's statement, ended up recommending life in prison without parole.

As for Brian and me, we were solid.  We loved each other more each day.  We never suspected that it would end, but that's another story.

The End

AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you've enjoyed this story, and I assume that you have since you've read through 42 chapters, watch for my next story, "Construction Job."  The first chapter should be posted in about two weeks.

Many of the characters who played parts in this story were previously introduced in either "When Love Comes" (last posted in the College section on Sept. 6, 2001) or "Love of a Lifetime" (last posted in the College section on May 19, 2003). While not necessary, readers may find it useful to read the two earlier stories posted on this site.  All three of the Adams State/Carterville stories and my other stories posted at

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