Protecting David-Finding Christopher 7
Before I actually opened my eyes my hand brushed against Larry’s knee and somehow without really feeling it I knew what it was. When I opened my eyes he was sitting cross legged on the bed sipping his coffee and staring down at me.
He said softly, “You and Chris gonna be okay by yourselves this morning?”
I grinned and yawned. “Chris’ll protect me.” I shook my head. “No…it’s cool. Besides, Stanner’ll be there and everything has been all arranged. I’m really figuring this’ll be like only an hour or so.” I yawned again. “I thought I’d take Chris to lunch and show him my office downtown, introduce him to Connie, stuff like that. Anyway, could you meet us for lunch?”
“I have no clue, Alex. This is the first meeting with this client and it could be over in thirty minutes or it could go all day. The appointment is for an hour but I saw that Haroldson has got two hours blocked off on his calendar, so who the fuck knows.” At Larry’s firm the new guys rotated around thru the partners so that they can be exposed to all facets of the practice and his current boss was Roger Haroldson.
“Well, if it clears up call me and we can all go.”
He reached over to the nightstand and brought a cup of hot coffee carefully over to me as I sat up to take it. “Thanks.” I took a cautious sip. “We’re not gonna stay in town long though. For one thing, just being there has gotta be scary for him and I want to keep him outta there…at least for awhile. I really think he feels safe here…or at least he’s beginning to and that’s gotta be what he needs.”
Around six o’clock Larry thinks he hears something and we get up and wander into the little dining room off of the kitchen. Chris is fully dressed and being fed by Mrs. Colby who’s hovering over him nervously. When she sees us I can almost hear the sigh of relieve. Even from across the room and without talking to him I can tell that Chris is not expecting this to be a good day.
Larry and I swoop down on him and without having discussed it we’re both trying to overwhelm him, ruffling his hair, rubbing his back, joking with him and to some degree it works but I know it won’t last.
Larry turns on the charm and he’s impossible to resist, he laughs, tells jokes, pokes fun and Chris responds and he seems to forget how afraid he feels and how lost.
Larry’s elbow is on the table and the side of his face rests in his hand, he’s grinning at Chris. “So if this client stops talking, I’ll meet you guys for lunch. What kinda food do ya like for lunch? Crepes Suzette?” It sounds weird and Larry says it with a goofy face. Chris breaks up, refusing to believe that such a thing as that even exists.
Later, ready to leave for his office, Larry is looking like about twenty million tax free bucks in his lawyer costume, dark suit, bright white shirt and burgundy tie. Suddenly Chris gets a sad look on his face throws his arms around him and says something that I miss.
I walk with Larry into the garage to get his car and ask him, “What did Chris say to you, just now?”
There were tears beginning to glisten in his eyes. “He thanked me for punching CC.”
When we pulled up to the shelter a tall heavy guy in a suit walked up to the Suburban and opened the door, almost before we had come to a stop.
As I was stepping out of the car and trying to hold onto Chris to keep him from getting spooked and also to keep him from getting run over or anything, this guy came up and stuck out his hand.
“Hi, I’m Nathan Bartholomew…from Chuck Stanner’s office.” I shook hands with him and returned to making sure that Chris was okay. Chris had his hands shoved deep into his pockets and had a “What me worry?” smile plastered on is face. I was beginning to undertand that that meant he was scared shitless.
I fussed with the collar of his shirt and said, “You okay? There’s nothing to be afraid of. Really, it’ll be okay.” My hand was on his shoulder and he feels like he so thin.
He said in a soft little boy voice, “Will there be cops here, Alex?”
“My understanding is that there will be but like only one. Besides, you don’t have to worry about cops anymore. From now on cops are gonna be your friends.”
He looked down at the ground and then said, “Will you stay with me, Alex. I don’t mean all the time or nothin but just at first.”
I pulled his head to my chest. “I’ll be right there, Chris. I won’t leave you for anything.”
I looked up at Bartholomew. “Stanner’s inside?”
He started to fidget. “Alex, he’s not here. I thought you knew. He had to appear in court this morning, the judge ordered him to appear, a last minute thing. This won’t be anything though. Walk in and walk out. It’s nothing.”
I shrugged. “He said it was all taken care of so this should just be filling out forms. Is anyone else here yet?”
“They just got here like a minute ago and you’re right, there’s only one cop.”
I had my hand on the back of Chris’s neck, I squeezed it and said, “Well, let’s get this over with and then we can head downtown and I’ll show you my office.”
As we walked into the shelter I kept my hand on Chris’s neck but his hands never came out of his pockets and I could feel the tension in his body. Once we were inside I could look down the main hallway and saw a group of three people standing outside of my office. One, obviously was Ann, another was the uniformed police officer in a black uniform and the third was a short, heavy lady in a beige pants suit and light brown hair that was pulled off her face and rolled in the back, she wasn’t smiling. Ann looked frozen.
I held out my hand to the woman and said, “Hi, I’m Alex Chauvet-Kerry,” and then pulling Chris forward said, “and this is Chris.”
She glanced at me quickly and said woodenly, “I know who you are,” and then turned to Chris. Bartholomew was standing behind us. “My name is Andrea Dunlavy and I’m Chris’s case officer.”
She said to Chris, “It’s nice to meet you Christopher.” She looked around. “No other clothes?”
I laughed and said, “Oh, he’s got a lot but….”
She cut me off. “Well, we’ll have to get those.”
“Whadya mean, “Get those,” Chris is coming back home with me.”
She looked at the cop as if to say, “I told you so,” and then said, “Christopher is coming to my office. He’ll be meeting his new foster parents there and then be going home with them.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I spun around and looked at Bartholomew who was standing there with a shocked look on his face.
I turned back to the woman. “The director has already approved Chris staying with us. My attorney spoke with him over the weekend!” I knew that I had lost, I could taste it in the air.
She bent and dug some papers out of a briefcase sitting at her feet. She held a paper out so that I could see it. “The director signed this this morning. It approves Chris going with the foster parents that we’ve selected.”
Finally Bartholomew jumped forward. “Look lady, this was all set up with your boss! Why don’t you call him before you make a fool outta yourself and your department?”
I could see her digging in her heals and she wasn’t intimidated by Bartholomew. She looked him hard in the eye. “When the director agreed to that he was not aware of your client’s lifestyle. He is now, I can assure you.”
I shoved Bartholomew out of the way. I wanted to kill this woman. “My lifestyle! What are you talking about? What the hell does my lifestyle, whatever the hell that means, have to do with anything?”
The young police officer stepped forward and held out his hands. “You men are gonna wanna calm down.” When the cop stepped forward Chris moved out from under my hand and moved behind me.
Ann stepped forward and said to the woman, “Look, Honey, I can assure you that Alex is one hell of a guy and he and Larry have done more for this shelter and for abused women in Denver than anyone I can think of.”
The woman turned on her. “First of all, my name isn’t Honey and second of all a recommendation from you would hardly help Mr. Chauvet-Kerry’s reputation.”
Then everyone started talking and yelling at the same time and the young cop began looking panicky and I could feel Chris behind me pressed to my back and I knew, I knew that I couldn’t save him and I could have doubled over from the pain.
Then finally Chris was pulling on my arm and I broke away from the melee and put my hands on the side of his face.
He pulled my face down to his mouth and whispered, “Don’t yell any more, Alex, you’re gonna get in trouble and it won’t change anything. Please don’t keep yelling.”
“I’m not gonna get in trouble, Chris and I don’t want you going with this woman!”
Dunlavy pushed Ann out of her face and stepped towards me and spat out the words. “This boy is coming with me to a Christian home and if you try to stop it you will be arrested! Now I can’t make things clearer than that! You have nothing, absolutely nothing to say about what happens here today!”
She turned to the police officer. “Take this boy to my car and if these people try to stop you, do your duty and arrest them!”
The cop started to move towards Chris and I held up my hand. “Please! Please, Officer! Let me say goodbye to the boy….privately….please.”
Dunlavy put a hand on the cop and pushed him back just a bit and I knew it was a mistake. “Officer I don’t want that man to be alone with this boy! Do I have to spell things out for you?”
I looked at the cop and pleaded. “Please, Officer, two minutes, you can come in my office with us. Nobody is running away!”
The officer hooked his thumbs in his belt turned to Dunlavy and then back to me. “Two minutes, with me in the room.” And despite a torrent of yelling from Dunlavy the three of us went into my office and closed the door. Thru the door we could hear Dunlavy, Ann and Bartholomew arguing.
The cop was shaking his head. “Look…my personal opinion is that she’s dead-ass wrong but I gotta do my job, so say what you gotta say.”
I looked from the cop, who was looking frazzled, to Chris who was trying to smile to make me feel better. Somehow that made it even worse. I’ve never before felt like I’d totally failed anyone but I felt it now and it was like death. Why would this boy believe anyone ever again?
“Chris….we’re going to get you back! I know that you probably don’t believe that but I promise you that we will. I’ll see that you get your clothes but remember your room is still your room and you’re gonna be coming back to it and when you do you and Larry and I are all going to Disney World.” I’m sure it was just crap as far as he was concerned and I knew it, just another fucking lie told to him by another adult who didn’t really give a shit about him.
I dug into my pants pocket and came up with a wad of cash. I glanced at the cop who rolled his eyes and then looked away. “Put this in your pocket Chris and don’t tell anyone that you’ve got it.” I could feel the tears forming in my eyes and forced them away. “We’re gonna get you back, Chris, I promise you that I will move heaven and earth if I have to and you will come back to us. You’re gonna be our kid, Chris! I promise you that but you gotta get through this so you gotta be brave. And…do what they tell you, don’t give em any reasons to give you a hard time.” Chris leaned forward and hugged me…and then he was gone.
I felt stunned, it was like I had been punched in the face and was seeing stars and then it seemed to sink in and I felt like I had to at least catch a glimpse of him before they took him away. I sprinted out of my office with Ann and Bartholomew calling after me and I slammed thru the front doors onto the front sidewalk but they were gone. The cop was standing there just staring in the direction that they had taken.
He turned to me and said, “Sometimes this job really bites.” The sun was very bright and for the first time his uniform looked navy blue instead of black and you could tell it had been worn a lot.
I put my hand out and leaned against his cruiser to steady myself. I was staring down and the curb trying to keep from hurling and I said to him, “Thanks for that. For letting me say goodbye to him.”
I could hear Bartholomew and Ann coming out of the front door and I pushed away from the cruiser and turned to him suddenly angry with him and his firm that I could have killed him. “I’m going to my office. You get me fucking Stanner!”
Charlie Stanner walked into the conference room followed by four other men but when he saw me staring at him he stopped so fast that they almost ran into the back of him. He held out his arms with his palms up and said, “Now just calm down, Alex. This isn’t the thing that you’re thinking.”
I thought I was speaking softly but there must have been some menace in my voice because he seemed to step backwards.
“Tell me Chuck…tell me why I should be happy now! Tell me why I shouldn’t be looking for a new lawyer!”
His shoulders sagged. “Alex, we were double-crossed. This had all been set up with the head of Family Services.” He waved his hand at the conference table. “Can we sit down or are you kicking me out?”
I couldn’t do it alone, I needed Stanner or someone. I ran my fingers thru my hair and sighed at the whole fucking mess. Finally I said, “Okay, okay, let’s all relax. Sit. Tell me what happened.”
They all fanned out around the table with Stanner sitting directly across from me and Connie sitting on my right.
“Like I told you last night, Alex, Cooperman, the head of Family Services, completely agreed to this…with one stipulation and that was that the case worker had to agree and of course, she didn’t. Last night he didn’t have any concerns over it and this morning he won’t take my calls. So I did some checking on this Roxanne Dunlavy and it turns out that her father is Doctor Danny Halander. He’s a local builder and pretty much Denver resident nut case. He’s about as far right, born again, ultra-conservative as you can get and unfortunately he’s got the money to push his agenda. He’s also insanely homophobic.”
I said, “What about the governor, he’s your buddy isn’t he? Can’t we get him to interfere?”
“Yes, Alex, he is my friend but he’s also running for reelection and with the current mood he can’t afford to have these crazies rattling his cage.”
“So we just give up? I won’t accept that!”
“Ordinarily, Alex, I’d tell you to drop a healthy campaign contribution and that’d handle it but right now we’ve gotta be careful. I can’t even approach the governor about this because the last thing I want him telling me is no and that’s what he’d do. I don’t want him closing doors that we may want to walk thru in a couple of months.”
“Fortunately, even though this is more of a political problem than anything else, we do have other things that we can do, we can go to court.”
Stanner turned to one of the other men. “Dave, tell Alex what we’re doing.”
“Alex, an hour after this happened we had a man in Judge Mulland’s court trying to get this reversed but so far he’s refused to hear it for another three weeks and depending on the election it may be pushed farther out. We could go to a higher court but we risk pissing off everyone. Basically what they’re telling us, without actually telling us, is that we can have what we want but not until after the election.”
I asked, “Dave, how close is the election? Is the governor going to win?”
“It’s tight Alex. That’s why everything is being screwed down. Oddly enough if the governor had no chance this probably wouldn’t be an issue or at least not as much of one. This time he’s easily hurt and this is the perfect weapon for his enemies.”
I groaned and shook my head. “Shit! I promised the boy! Everybody has lied to this kid.”
Chuck stared down at the table and said without looking up, “They’ve done more than lie to him, Alex.” Then he proceeded to tell me basically the same things that Connie had told me but then he turned to one of the other men.
“Frank, tell Alex what you found out about this Charlene woman.”
Frank was a rail thin guy of about forty-five with black hair and hooded eyes. He leaned forward and cleared his throat loudly. His voice was a combination of a street wise cynic and a western gentleman.
“Well see the thing with this Charlene is that she’s completely amoral and has gotten a real collection of losers for boyfriends…plus her taste in men keeps goin down.” He looked up at Connie like he had just seen her and said, “Sorry Ma’am but that’s the way it is. She’s also doin some drugs but so far not the worst stuff, mostly coke and X but only then when she can get some dude to buy it for her. One guy said that she also started to do crystal meth but nobody else said that and she don’t look it, at least not yet.”
“The guy where she used to buy her booze said that she used to come in there with the boy and he seen her slap him so hard that he bounced off the wall and that it wasn’t just that one time. Said he finally had to tell her that if he saw her doin stuff to him again he was callin the cops. Said she just stopped bringin the kid in after that.”
“This same guy is the one that told me he was seenin the boy with guys in suits. Said this guy CC was haulin the kid around and settin him up with guys who got dough. Didn’t have any names though and didn’t seem to know how many. Though he probably wouldn’ta told me anyway. In that neighborhood you keep your mouth shut or somebody shuts it for ya.”
“He said this CC guy took decent care of the kid, you know, food wise, which is more like just taking care of a money making asset but he also seen him wallop the kid a few times although nothing like his sister did him, at least not in public. Said the kid seemed to have someplace to live most of the time although from where you found him I guess we know where that was. This guy really felt bad for this kid, he even told me he thought about taken the kid in but said that nobody around there would dare go against this CC guy. Said it’d been as much as his life was worth to do that.”
I leaned forward and interrupted him. “Where did the boy get the marks on his back? It looks like someone was beating him bad on a regular basis. Was that this CC guy”
Franks’s hands were in front of him on the conference table gripping each other tightly. “I don’t think so. That woulda had to be Charlene or one of her boyfriends. We haven’t had time to get that deep into it though.”
I said, “That’s information that I want.”
Stanner leaned forward and said earnestly, “I hope that you’re not planning some sort of vengeance, Alex. It’s a no win proposition and it won’t even make you feel better, it never does.” I had a strong feeling that he was wrong about that.
“Relax, Chuck, I’d never do anything illegal.” The less he knew about my feelings the better.
Stanner shifted in his seat and propped his chin on his hand. “Even legal vengeance, Alex…just let us handle it.”
Frank held up a finger and we turned back to him.
“Just one other thing about this CC guy. He lives in the neighborhood but he’s also got an office. I followed him there and he don’t take those thugs with him when he goes there either. There aren’t any signs on the door so beats me what’s he’s doin with it but we will find out.”
I said, “That’s interesting. Do you have his name, address and social security number? Oh and on Charlene and that bitch Dunlavy too.”
Frank held up an envelope and said, “Here’s the first two got em from the cops.” He slid the envelope down to me and I passed it to Connie. “I’ll have to try and find Dunlavy’s”
I turned to Stanner. “Two other things; the first is that I want to know who Chris’s foster parents are and I want them checked out. Second, if Charlene wanted custody of Chris, would she get it?”
Stanner made a face. “As it stands now, maybe….perhaps even probably. No one has ever filed a complaint against her so as far as the system is concerned, she’s clean. If she went to court and said that she hadn’t known where he was but now that she did she wanted custody, she’d probably get it, at least if no one came forward. And I’ll tell ya something, that kid’s so scared of her he probably wouldn’t even object.”
“The other thing is that I want to set up a trust fund for the boy but I don’t want to make it even more attractive for them to hang onto him.”
Stanner was shaking his head. “Not yet, Alex, wait until we get the boy back.”
I just nodded and stood up but then decided that I needed to make sure that they understood. I leaned forward put my hands on the table and stared at them. “I want you all to understand. We intend to adopt Chris. I already think of him as mine, my son. I want him back and there is nothing in my life more important than that. I don’t care how many investigators you have to hire or how many attorneys have to appear in how many courts or who we have to sue. I want this done!”
As soon as they left the room I turned to Connie. “Call Mr. Tam, I’ve got a feeling that Stanner’s gonna have a tougher time finding out where Chris is going than he seems to think but Mr. Tam will know how to do it. I want Chris watched twenty-four seven and the same for Dunlavy and CC. I want to know where everyone is every minute of the day.
Connie had also been telling me about how her sister had looked at one of Halander’s houses and she brought me the newspaper that had been folded and showed me the ad. It said, “Doctor Danny Halander’s Pleasant Prairie Terrace, fine homes between $190,000 and $250,000. A gated community for people with a Christian lifestyle.” And then there were drawings of different style homes. I was certain that this guy was the real enemy.
I turned to Connie. “How do they enforce that…the whole Christian thing?”
Connie had told me that when her sister was looking for a new house they almost bought one of these. She shrugged. “I’m pretty sure they just blow you off if you don’t look like the type of people they want. My sister never said anything about having to fill out any kind of form or questionnaire.”
“They probably can’t, Connie. I’m not really sure about the law but I imagine that it’d be considered illegal. But check on it…call your sister. And get Richard and Darlene working on this Danny Halander guy. I want to know everything there is to know about him. Tell Richard that I want to know what the guy’s week points are and the best way to attack him. He’ll know what I’m looking for.”
“I’ll check my sister and get R&D working on Halander.” R&D was Connie’s name for our dynamic researching duo.
“Okay, a few more things. We’ll need a few people and I’m not sure of the best way to do what I want done. First call Didier, I want him to set up a Netherlands trust and I want the trust to set up a Boulder, Colorado corporation, charitable corporation, and then I want you to buy up a half dozen or so of this guy’s houses but I don’t want it traceable to us.. Oh and pick units that are in very visible locations.”
“You’re kidding! Why, Alex?”
“Just to be a prick. We’re giving them away. Go to the inner city churches…find the neediest people. The thing is that they gotta stay in the houses for two years.” I shrugged. “Maybe we better pay their taxes for a couple of years. I want Doctor Halander exposed to diversity. It’ll drive him crazy.”
“And then the second thing. A cop really helped me this morning and it reminded me of something. Call the police union and get with the head of it…oh and the firefighters union too. I want to start a fund of some sort, maybe a trust, for cops or firemen and their families, guys that have been killed or injured and their families. I haven’t really thought it thru but get with them and decide the best way. It’s been done elsewhere and it’s something that I was thinking about doing anyway and right now we may need friends. I don’t know how much to start it with, whatever you think, it doesn’t matter.” Staring out at the sun hazy city all I could think of was how I really wanted to sleep, to somehow pretend that this day had never happened. I mumbled, “Call Joan, she’ll know what to do.”
I turned to look at Connie and she smiled. “That’ll make you friends.”
“I’m hoping. But don’t start thinking I’m noble, it’s all tax deductable.” That young cop this morning would never know what he triggered. “Oh, another thing, I want our own lawyer, somebody who works in this office and doesn’t owe allegiance to anyone else, someone smart, someone who can ask Stanner the right questions and push him in the right direction. The trick is gonna be finding someone who isn’t looking to be a partner in a major law firm. Maybe someone teaching law who wouldn’t fit into a law firm. I’ll ask Larry if he knows anyone but you dig around too. Get one of those job search companies, executive search. And finally call the bank and give them what we’ve got on CC. I want to know if they have anything on CC or any of the other people, Charlene, this Dunlavy woman or her father. Then get em to bring us a hundred thousand in twenties and fifties.”
“Why the money?”
“An idea bouncing around in my head. I gotta think about it some more but I want to be ready.” Connie knew when not to ask questions.
Now the hard part, telling Larry about Chris.