Things were actually quite calm once school started, which has not always been the case in the past. This may have something to do with the fact that Jesse is the only one still in the local school district, other than Joshie. Jesse is a junior this year, but isn’t involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities. He does belong to the Gay-Straight Alliance, but hasn’t shown any interest in assuming a leadership position, like some of his brothers had done. It might be a smart decision on his part since he doesn’t have any siblings to look out for him, as the others had. I wouldn’t stop him, if he wanted to take a active role, but I’m also fine with the fact he has decided not to.
The first weekend after the local school district had started classes, Jake, Jesse and I went to Andrew’s college for Parents’ Weekend. We had done this before with Andrew, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it did give me a chance to talk to him, since I hadn’t been home when he left to return to campus.
Andrew was very excited to see us and I apologized to him for not being there when he left. He assured me it was no big deal and we spent the next couple of hours with him. He introduced us to his new roommate and a few of his friends, but we skipped attending the football game this year.
After dinner, we attended the social functions the college had arranged for the occasion and Andrew introduced us to a few more of his friends and classmates. We actually had a fairly good time and then Andrew decided to stay with us at the motel that night. Of course, Jesse and he shared a room.
The next morning we attended services at the campus chapel and then took Andrew out for brunch. After we finished eating, we took him back to his dorm room and said good-bye to him, before making the trip back home.
Joshie enthusiastically greeted us when we returned and wanted to know when we were going to our next football game. You see, one of the things we do is to go to the high school football games together, and there are several reasons for this. First, I feel it is important to maintain contact with the district, support the sports teams and attend some of the other functions as well. Besides, it’s one way I get to keep in touch with many of my friends and former colleagues again. Second, Jesse likes to go, so he can hang out with his friends, which I don’t mind either, as long as he isn’t getting in trouble. I feel it is important for him to have others he can relate to and be close with, since his brothers aren’t around.
Finally, Jake and I think it is important for us to take Joshie with us too, because he has shown a definite interest in sports. We love to watch his reaction to the plays and how excited he gets during the games. Joshie has shown a passion for sports, unlike his fathers, and since Dion and Trey probably wouldn’t encourage him in this pursuit, Jake and I have taken it upon ourselves to do it instead. Dion and Trey don’t seem to mind, as long as they don’t have to go unless Joshie is playing. That is fine with us and we enjoy this time alone with our grandson.
At five years old, Joshie already understands more about the game than many of the football wives I’ve met in the past. He loves the excitement of the game, especially the deep passes, long runs and big hits. I have a feeling I’ll be toting him around to practices and his own games before much longer.
The month of September and the first week of October seemed to fly by. I spent a great deal of my time teaching Joshie about football and had a blast doing it. He would continually beg me to go outside so we could toss around the junior-sized football I’d bought for him, and I was happy to comply. Joshie was determined to learn how to throw a perfect spiral and equally determined to catch my return passes. We spent many hours playing catch, so he could master these skills, and I am impressed by how he’s continued to improve. It doesn’t seem to matter to Joshie how hard he has to work or how long it takes to accomplish whatever task he has set out to master. He only has one thing on his mind and that is achieving his goal. I have no doubt he will succeed in this effort.
Even though it is uncommonly cold for this time of the year, Joshie still drags me outdoors with him every afternoon. He will only forgo our daily outing if it is pouring outside. If the rain is merely coming down as a mild drizzle, Joshie insists we go out anyway. After I do this with him, I make certain that he takes some precautions afterward. Once we come back inside, I make Joshie take a nice warm shower, which will hopefully prevent him from getting sick.
During this time, we are also making plans to hold our annual Haunted House. Jesse and his friends decided they wanted to continue this tradition, but they are primarily doing this for Joshie and the other boys’ younger brothers’ benefit. I am fine with them doing this and I’m also allowing them take care of most of the planning. I only offer my assistance when they ask me to do something or if they come to me for help to correct a problem they are having. I am always glad to assist the boys in any way I can and their plans are progressing quite nicely.
Things have also been going quite smoothly on the home front – at least until the morning I received a totally unexpected phone call. I knew immediately that what we decided to do here was going to have a major impact on our lives and determine what direction we’d be going for quite some time to come. However, I think you should get Danny’s perspective about what took place and learn how he became involved in this situation.
Danny was at work and had just finished treating a young girl who’d been brought into the emergency room. After he finished taking care of her, he moved into the corridor and began walking toward the intake counter, so he could see how many other people were still waiting to be seen and what he could do to help. It had been fairly quiet for a Monday morning, so he wasn’t sure what he might discover. To his surprise, the lady at the intake counter seemed thrilled that he was there.
“Damn, you must be psychic!” she exclaimed.
“Nah, that’s one of my brothers, not me,” he quipped back. Danny was making a cryptic reference to Graham’s unique ability to receive messages from the world beyond, which the rest of us aren’t privy to.
“Why? What’s up?” Danny asked.
“The police just radioed and said they’re bringing in a teenage boy,” the nurse explained. “They said they’d found him outside, hiding in the woods and dressed in just his underwear.”
“What? In this weather?” Danny asked, rhetorically. “It’s been getting really cold after the sun goes down and it’s been raining. The kid could be suffering from hypothermia, if he’s been outside dressed that way for any length of time. What the hell would he be doing outdoors with so little on?”
“I’m not sure, doctor,” she replied, “but they should be here any minute now.”
Danny then moved to the nurses’ station and started giving instructions in preparation for the boy’s arrival. He wanted them to be able to take care of any potential problems quickly, once he arrived.
‘It’s the middle of October and the temperature has been dipping into the forties at night and the weatherman reported it was supposed to drop into the thirties overnight,’ Danny thought. ‘So why would this kid be outside with hardly anything on? Something must have happened to force him outside dressed that way.’
Danny was still contemplating the various possibilities when a squad car pulled in and two officers jumped out. They quickly opened the rear door and helped a youngster inside. The boy was bundled in a blanket, but his bare legs were sticking out below the lower edges of the protective covering.
“Bring him in here!” Danny instructed, and the officers followed him into a treatment room. The kid appeared to be about 5’ 2” tall, and from what Danny could tell, had a slender build. Danny immediately turned to the officers, so he could ask them to leave.
“We’ll take care of him now,” he instructed. “Thank you for getting him here so quickly.”
“Doc, we need to ask this boy a few questions,” one of the officers stated. “He may have witnessed a murder.”
“Well, that will have to wait,” Danny advised them. “First, I’ve got to make sure he’s stabilized and his body temp isn’t in the critical range. If we’re lucky, it hasn’t dropped to dangerous levels yet and we won’t have to worry about his bodily systems shutting down. Any idea about how long he’s been outside dressed this way?”
“Our guess would be maybe twenty or thirty minutes – forty minutes tops,” the officer explained. “We received a call about gunshots at the motel, over by I-76, and arrived at the scene a couple of minutes later. We found a male victim inside one of the rooms, and while searching around for the shooter we noticed the bathroom window was open. We searched the surrounding area and woods for a suspect and evidence from the crime scene, and that’s when we found this kid. We believe he was in the room when the assailants broke in, but was able to escape out the window before they could get to him.”
While Danny had been talking to the policemen, the nurses were taking the boy’s vitals and trying to warm him up. They had taken the kid’s tee shirt off, but left his boxers on, for modesty sake. Next, they applied warm compresses to his neck, chest and groin, before covering him with blankets that had been warmed. This was done to get his body temperature up and keep him from suffering any ill effects from his exposure to the elements.
Once he left the patrolmen, Danny checked with the nurses, to see how the boy was responding to their efforts. They quickly advised Danny that the boy didn’t appear to know where he was and hadn’t answered any of the questions they had asked him.
“What would you like us to do next, doctor?” one of the nurses asked.
“I’ll take care of him for the time being,” Danny told them. “Get everyone else out of here, because they’ll just be in the way. Then, you can tend to your other duties.”
Immediately, the nurses began to comply.
“Doc, wait,” one of the patrolmen stated. “We need to ask the kid some questions.”
“As you can see, he isn’t responsive at the moment,” Danny replied, “and I need to be certain he’s stabilized and out of danger first. I’ll let you know the minute he is capable of answering your queries.”
The officers weren’t happy with his response, but allowed the nurse to guide them out of the area and into the waiting room. They were told they should stay there until they were called.
Once the others had gone, Danny continued his examination of the young man. The boy’s temp was rising, so that was a good sign. His pulse and breathing were a little slow, but still adequate. His blood pressure was also a bit on the low side, but wasn’t critical, so Danny began to check the lad over for injuries. Danny examined his fingers and hands first, and that’s when he discovered a problem. The boy’s right wrist was swollen and he winced and tried to pull it away when Danny touched it. Danny concluded from the signs that it was broken, but he’d need it x-rayed to determine how badly. Danny then stepped out into the hallway and asked the nurse to call the radiology department and schedule the procedure.
Danny then went back inside, so he could check the boy over for other injuries. He carefully folded the blankets back, so he could examine the kid’s legs next, and that’s when Danny noticed the boy was still wearing the damp boxers he’d arrived in. Danny ignored it for the moment and continued his examination of the boy’s legs and feet. After failing to discover anything else that looked suspicious, he turned his attention back to the wet underwear.
‘Damn, they should have taken these off the kid. Screw the modesty issue,’ Danny thought to himself, as he quickly slid the garment down the boy’s legs. He then grabbed a towel and very gently wiped the boy’s four inch circumcised penis and budding testicles dry, as well as his hips and buttocks. While doing this, Danny noted the boy was definitely into puberty, but concluded he couldn’t be more than thirteen or fourteen-years old. His body was slender, but he was clearly healthy and not malnourished. This fact was emphasized by the young man’s well-toned abdomen and muscular legs, which suggested he might be some sort of athlete.
Once Danny had finished toweling the boy off, he put a hospital gown on him, in preparation for his trip to the x-ray department. When this was done, Danny finished by covering the boy with the blankets again, to make sure he stayed warm.
While Danny had been doing all of this, one particular observation stood out in his mind. The young man had not reacted or moved the entire time he was being examined. Danny considered this response unnatural and had even anticipated the young man would protest or resist such an intrusive disturbance to his modesty when he removed the boxers, as anyone his age might do. Danny even considered the possibility the boy might struggle or try to fight him off, but nothing like that happened. This made Danny curious about the reason the boy was being so passive and docilely allowing Danny to do whatever he wished.
As he was considering this, Danny was also moving up to check the boy’s pupils and make certain they were responsive. After a few seconds, Danny concluded they were reacting satisfactorily and noticed the boy had stunning blue eyes, even though they seemed blank and unseeing. The young man was definitely good looking, but he lacked any sort of spark to show that he was aware the world was still going on around him.
At this point, Danny reached over and grabbed the towel again, so he could dry the boy’s raven colored hair. As he did this, there was still no reaction on the lad’s part, so Danny thought he’d try to elicit some sort of verbal acknowledgement from him. Carefully, Danny leaned forward and began to talk to the boy, in a very soothing tone.
“Hey, you’re all right now,” Danny told him, while brushing the boy’s hair with his fingers. “Whatever happened out there, it’s over and you’re safe here.”
There was still no response, but Danny stayed by the young man’s side and continued talking soothingly to him until the orderly came to take him to radiology. Once the boy was gone, Danny went out to speak with the policemen.
“When can we question the kid, Doc?” one officer asked, as he jumped up from his chair.
“Right now he’s being x-rayed for a possible broken wrist,” Danny informed him.
“Can we speak with him when he comes back then?” the officer persisted, while looking annoyed.
“You may question him all you want, but I doubt you’ll get any answers,” Danny told him. “The boy is in shock and not communicating at all. He didn’t say a word the entire time the nurses and I were with him – not even when I asked if his wrist hurt or if he had any other injuries. I’m not sure when he’ll snap out of it and be able to give you any useful information.”
“Doc, we need some help here,” the other officer pleaded. “There’s been a murder and the kid’s the only potential witness we have right now. Can’t you do something to help us?”
“I’m sorry, but there’s no miracle drug or magic treatment that will snap him out of it,” Danny explained. “If he witnessed something as traumatic as a murder, it may be some time before he is able to deal with that issue and respond. Do you know anything about him?”
“From the clothing and what some of the other officers found in the motel room,” the first policeman told Danny, “it looks like the kid was traveling with the victim, who we suspect was his father.”
“And that’s all you know?” Danny asked.
“We also know the deceased’s name was Sean Kennedy and he was from Fox Chapel. That’s a suburb outside of Pittsburgh,” the policeman replied. “We have State Police officers going to the address on his license as we speak, so they can question anyone else living there and canvass the neighbors for other information. Unfortunately, that’s all we have to go on at the moment.”
“Well, I’ll continue taking care of the boy and call you the minute he starts talking,” Danny told them.
“So you’re going to keep him in the hospital then?” the patrolman pushed.
“I think it will be best to keep him under a physician care for the time being,” Danny answered.
The patrolmen weren’t happy about being unable to question the boy, but they finally left anyway. Danny then went to check on some other cases, before returning to see how the boy’s x-ray had turned out.
“You were right,” one of the nurses told him, when he returned. “The boy’s wrist was fractured, so we got an orthopedist down here to set it and put it in a cast.”
“Has he said anything yet?” Danny wondered.
“No, nothing,” she replied. “He only groaned a little when the orthopedist reset the bones.”
“Thanks for taking care of that,” Danny told her, before going back to sit with the young man for a while longer.
About an hour later, the police showed up again, but this time one of them was carrying a backpack and overnight bag.
“Here are the kid’s clothes from the motel,” he said, as he gave the bags to Danny.
“We’ve also discovered a few other details,” the officer continued. “From a picture the State Police found in the house they went to, it appears the victim was in fact the boy’s father. The neighbors told us the kid’s name is Elliot Kennedy and he’s fourteen-years old. His mother died in childbirth and he’s been living alone with his father ever since. No one knows of any other relatives or about a next of kin. We’d still like to speak with him as soon as we can, but we’re willing to wait a while, if we have to. Has he said anything yet?”
“Not a word,” Danny explained, “and I think it might be quite some time before he does. This poor kid is obviously devastated by his father’s murder, and if he actually witnessed it, as you believe, then he’ll probably need psychological counseling before he pulls out of this.”
The policemen appeared flustered by this news and continued to insist they couldn’t wait too long before they would need to speak with Elliot. However, Danny was just as adamant about not letting it happen. He explained that if they tried to force the boy to speak with them, then he might shut down permanently. If that happened, then they’d never be able to learn whatever information he knows about the crime. Danny said the best thing they could do was to be patient until the boy is ready to speak again.
That was the last Danny saw of the police officers, but a few other people came by to inquire about the boy. Over the course of the next few hours, the staff had to turn away a couple of very pushy reporters who’d heard about the case and wanted a scoop. A short time after that, a social worker came by. The police department had notified her office about the boy’s situation and she was there to begin filling out the required paperwork to bring Elliott under DSS’s jurisdiction.
Danny was called to sit down with her, so he could fill her in about the boy’s condition. He also relayed what he had learned from the police, but there was still a great deal of information lacking. Regardless, she processed the boy anyway and Danny inquired what the department was planning to do with him. The social worker replied that they’d have to find a foster home for him, once Danny released him. Danny took in all of this information and then got up to leave the room.
“If you’ll excuse me, there’s something I need to do,” he told the social worker.
“Of course,” she stated. “I’ll be in touch to see how the boy is doing and when you might release him. At that time, I should have more details about what we’ve been able to line up for him.”
After saying goodbye to her, Danny went to the empty doctor’s lounge, shut the door, grabbed the phone and dialed home.
“Dad, I need to ask you a favor,” Danny told me, as soon as I picked up.
“Okay. Ask away,” I replied.
“I’ve got a situation here at the hospital and it’s pretty unusual,” Danny answered. “It’s also the reason I’m calling, because I think we need to get involved.”
“Involved? What exactly does that mean,” I responded.
“It involves a boy who was brought in to the emergency room a few hours ago. He’s fourteen and I just finished filling the social worker in about his case,” Danny replied. “As of yet, he’s been unresponsive and the police suspect he witnessed a murder. The police have confirmed the victim was his father and the kid’s in shock. It’s going to take some time before he snaps out of it, so he’ll need to remain closely monitored and surrounded by caring people.”
I began to suspect where Danny was heading with this.
“Dad, D.S.S. is going to place him in a foster home, once I release him,” he continued. “His name is Elliot and I feel I need to make certain it’s a place where he will feel safe and loved, as well as being able to accommodate his current medical situation. What I’m asking is for your help. Do you think you’re up for this?”
I thought about it briefly.
“What sort of commitment are you asking for?” I wanted to know. “Are you merely asking if the boy can stay with us until his relatives are located or until he recovers from the trauma he witnessed? I hope you’re not hinting at our becoming involved in a longer term commitment.”
“Dad, he doesn’t have anyone. So far, the police have been unable to locate any other relatives,” Danny advised me, “so I was thinking maybe this could be the first boy Brandon and I take in. The thing is, due to his current condition and the fact that Brandon and I both work, I also need to know if you’d be willing to help us with this.”
“Danny, if the boy needs our help, then you know I won’t turn him away,” I answered, “but are you certain you’ve thought this through? You and Brandon are just starting your careers and you’ll most likely be focusing all of your attention on being successful for the next year or two. Knowing this will be the case makes me wonder if the timing is right for you to be taking on so much more responsibility.”
“Dad, I know how tough this will be, but I really want to do it,” Danny assured me. “Elliot is going to need a lot of love and understanding – more than most foster homes will be able to give him. That’s why I think it would be best if he lives with us. I’ll just need your help to look after him while Brandon and I are working. We’ve been talking about if for a while and your right – we’re busy with work, but lately we’ve both been feeling the urge to start a family. There’s never going to be a perfect time and there’s always going to be some kind of complication, but Brandon and I both feel the need to share our lives with a child of our own. So what do you say?”
I thought about the idea some more.
“Well, things are pretty much under control here and everyone seems to be doing quite well,” I began. “Jesse doesn’t need much attention from me any longer and Dion and Trey have taken over most of the responsibility for Joshie, so I do have plenty of free time that I can use to give you a hand. Okay, I’ll agree to help you take care of this boy. I will also try to help him work through whatever issues he has, due to the events he’s recently experienced. Is that what you want to hear?”
“It is, Dad, and thanks,” Danny responded. “Now, I can call Aunt Sally and see if I can set this up through her. I’m not sure if this will be a permanent placement or not, because we don’t know enough about Elliot’s background yet. I can’t even give you an idea about how long it will take for him to overcome the effects of whatever he might have witnessed, but I can’t think of anyone better suited to be there for him than you.”
“I appreciate your confidence,” I replied, “no matter how ill placed it might be.”
Danny mumbled something before he hung up, but I wasn’t able to catch what it was. I then sat down and began to think about what I was getting myself into.
Once he finished speaking with me, Danny called Brandon, to share his plans, and then he called his Aunt Sally next. Danny explained the situation to her and got her to commit to assigning temporary placement of Elliot into his and Brandon’s care. She told him she didn’t have a problem doing this, especially since Danny was currently treating him. She then went on to explain that she’d have to temporarily assign the boy into my care, until Brandon and his application to be foster parents had been approved.
Before they finished speaking, Sally told Danny she’d send someone by the house later, so he and Brandon could fill out the necessary forms to start the process. Once they had been formally approved, she’d transfer the boy’s care from my name to theirs, but this way they wouldn’t have to wait before taking him home. Now that all of this had been taken care of, Danny went back to check on Elliot again.
“Feeling better?” he asked, upon entering the cubicle, but there was no response. Danny walked over and sat on a stool, which was located next to the gurney on which Elliot was lying.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Danny told him. “I’m pretty sure you saw something awful happen, so I can understand why you don’t want to talk about it. It’s all right and I want you to know you’re going to be taken care of. You’re being assigned to come live with my partner, Brandon, and me for now, at least until we locate your relatives. My dad will be looking after you while we’re at work, but he’s a great guy and you’ll like him. We’re going to make sure you’re taken care of and we won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
Elliot’s head turned slightly, to look at Danny, and Danny took this as a good sign. Elliot didn’t say anything, but it did seem as if he had acknowledged what Danny had said. Unfortunately, Danny couldn’t afford to stay with him any longer and had to leave Elliot in the nurses’ care.
When Danny’s shift came to an end, he went back to get Elliot and helped him get dressed. Then, he led the boy out to his car, helped him into the passenger seat and buckled him in. Elliot still didn’t react, nor did he look at the scenery. He merely remained perfectly still and didn’t make a sound.