Kendall began reading the contents of the Padd and Alan watched warily as his face darkened more and more by the minute at whatever it was that he saw.
When he finally set it down the expression on his face boded ill for whoever had caused what he had read to be present.
"You need to read that, even though I wish you didn't." He said softly, with pain in his voice.
As Alan reached out to pick up the Padd, Kendall added, "I don't understand people Alan, I just don't understand people," in a sad voice, filled with weariness, which gave Alan pause as he sat back with the Padd in his hand.
"I have been on the bench for 15 years, and I will never get used to what people can do to children." Kendall said, as he sat back and closed his eyes, despair seemingly present in his every movement now.
There didn't seem to be anything to say to that, so I picked up the Padd and began reading.
I don't think I had gone through an entire paragraph before I sat back and said, "Oh my God!!" at what I saw.
My shock and disbelief only increased, the further along I read, which made Kendall's attitude much more understandable in light of this.
Those boys had been subjected to so much that it was impossible to describe it all.
What Jamie and Jacob had described didn't begin to adequately tell the story of what these two boys had been through for six years of pure hell.
God had nothing whatsoever to do with the life they had led; only the devil could take purview over their lives as it was most certainly his domain in which the boys had been residing.
How could anyone believe that such as was done to these boys could have anything to do with God and the bible, as these creatures calling themselves parents proclaimed?
My stomach roiled the more I read, but I kept at it, going through the six years of the boys' lives, as well as the man who had been their supposed father.
The things he had accused Mike of, paled in comparison to what he had actually done to these boys, all in the name of the Lord, even justifying their rape with scripture, supposedly.
How someone could turn a book of laws and beliefs, whose central tenet was love and to love, into hate, as people continually did was something that in all my years I never could understand.
As I continued to read what was before me, I couldn't help but wonder what Mike would think when he found this out, and I couldn't help but think this knowledge might very well destroy him, for I knew I would never be the same.
"No it's not" Sammy said angrily to me, causing me to look up at him, shocked at his tone.
"You don't understand Sam, they...." I started to say but he quickly interrupted me by saying
"Was there anything you could have done to keep them?"
"Then it's not your fault." He said.
I didn't answer him, he just didn't understand, and I couldn't explain it to him, but he wouldn't let it go.
"Dad, it's not your fault, and you can't keep blaming yourself for this." He said, the anger still in his voice.
"Sammy, look at them, they were so different but now..." I said, trailing off as he said,
"I saw dad, and their life sucked, but not because of you." He told me, grabbing onto me with his eyes, and not letting me drop my gaze this time, as he looked deep into them, and held me with his.
"You did everything you could, but it was their parents who did that to them." He told me.
I just looked at him as Randy said, "He's right Uncle Mike, you wouldn't have left them if you had any choice."
"We remember how you were Uncle Mike, you really loved them." Randy said.
"Thanks guys." Was all I could say, as I smiled at them. Then they wrapped me in a hug; squishing poor Alexei who only giggled a bit.
I think he liked it.
"Well guys, it looks like we have a bit of a break for now, so relax and I'll yell when it starts again." I told them.
I got a chorus of "okay's" from them as they filed out, and Sammy made one last comment before leaving
"It's going to be okay Dad." Then he walked out, leaving me there with Samantha and Natasha who were both watching me intently.
"They're right you know, Mike." Samantha stated to me.
"I am beginning to see that." I replied.
"You should listen to them more, Mikhail; they know what they are talking about." Natasha informed me, as I smiled and told her,
"They usually do."
"Da, they are smart ones." She said.
"Very smart," Samantha added, chuckling a little.
"Yes, smarter than us adults at times, it seems." I told them.
"Da" was Natasha's reply which, just by the way she said it, made me laugh. "Too smart" I said.
Then she got serious, "No, I don't think so. I think we could learn much from them." She said, and I knew she was right.
"Yes, I know I have." I told her, thinking on everything four small children had taught me, over the last few years, and the new ones as well, even though they had been with me for only a short time.
They certainly did have a lot we could learn from them, and even more importantly was what I realized I had already learned.
"Do you think it will go badly with the children?" Natasha asked of me.
I nodded my head and replied, "Yes, I'm afraid it will. They have been brainwashed for six years, and there's no way to combat that."
"Well, we can hope that your solicitor is able to do something to remedy the situation." She replied.
"One way or the other, Mike, it will work out." Samantha said.
"Yes, I know, it's just I didn't want to have to leave my home." I told her, sadly.
"I know that, and I am sorry." she replied.
"But you will do what is necessary." Natasha said, and it wasn't a question, neither was my response.
"Yes, I will."
"So tell me how you have come to have so many sons, Mikhail?" Natasha asked, as Samantha laughed.
"Well, the Trinity aren't technically my sons." I said, as Samantha snorted.
"I said technically," I replied, smiling as she laughed.
"They might as well be, but they have a wonderful father, who stayed behind. Sammy is mine, and just recently I added Peter and Brian to the mix. I also seem to have adopted Chris and Derek, unofficially" I told her, smiling at the memory.
"Don't let them hear you say that," Samantha said, chuckling.
"You seem to have amassed quite the collection." Natasha said, with humor plainly evident in her voice.
"Yes, it just keeps getting bigger." I said, in not such an amused tone.
"Oh, Mike you know you love it." Samantha said.
"Yes, but my God, eight of them, and four in the just the last couple of days." I said.
"I think it is safe to say you may have added more this day" Natasha said smiling at me
I just put my head into my hands and moaned, as she said, "Somehow, your theatrics aside, I do not think it troubles you greatly."
I lifted my head and looked up at her, to find her looking back at me with that same enigmatic smile on her face, as she asked, "Does it?"
"No, surprisingly, it doesn't." I answered, completely serious now.
She simply nodded her head as if she had known the answer before asking, and said,"You are one for whom children are the love of your life, and you will love them whether there are four or fourteen."
"Please don't say that," I said, only half jokingly, with visions of that woman running through my head. I wondered if she was on medication yet.
This just caused her to chuckle a bit before saying, "You light up when they are around, and have a great deal of love in you to give to them, which they very much are in need of." she told me, and I nodded.
There is not much I could say to that, because I knew she was right. These children needed a lot of love, more so than most, and I certainly didn't have any problem giving it to them.
"What do you plan with my boys?" She asked me, surprising me with her bluntness.
"I don't know, I haven't thought much about it." I said honestly.
"Will you take them with you to America ?" She asked me.
I shrugged my shoulders and said,"I couldn't take them away from their home, and you."
"This is no longer their home, and hasn't been since Stefan die. As to me, I appreciate your concern, but I think they would be better off with you, Mikhail. They are alive again and that is something I haven't seen in too long." She told me, with sadness lacing her voice.
"Natasha, they love you, and even if what you say is true about their home, I couldn't take them away from you." I said sincerely.
"Do not worry about me, Mikhail, I will be fine. They need you, and I believe if you are willing, they should go with you and become your sons." She said.
I sat there stunned, but before I could answer Samantha spoke up, "Mike, you know you could use someone to take care of the children while you are at work, especially now, with me going back to work soon."
I was at a loss, and looked quickly to her to find her smiling a satisfied little smile, and I knew she was right. With her taking a job with the department, someone the boys liked would be very welcome, and this might allow us the best of both worlds for the Russian children. This way they wouldn't have to leave their babushka behind.
"Natasha, I don't honestly know what's going to happen with the trial, and it may be that I will be remaining here in Russia for the rest of my life, in which case, it would become academic, but if I do return to the states, I would like you to come along as well. They still will need you, and I could use someone to help me out with them." I told her.
She gave me a considering look for a moment, before saying, "I think it has been decided already, but I will allow you your illusions, and I will consider your offer." smiling at me gently.
I had a feeling that she was right, it seemed as if they decided everything, and here we were supposed to be the adults in this.
Then Alexei' came running back into the room and crawled up in my lap, and I didn't care anymore, as I held him to me.
Yeah, we were making the decisions, right.
We sat there for a while before I got up and headed out to the other room, where I put Alexei down for a moment, to hit the bathroom and grab a Pepsi.
The boys were lounging around the room, but I noticed that Sammy and the Trinity were not present, which got me curious, and I went looking for them, only to find them with Ian and Clint in one of the bedrooms, watching a television set.
It was a satellite feed with an American news station on.
"So Ms. Andrews, can you tell me your opinion as to where the trial is going now?" the commentator asked to a woman in her middle fifties, whom I had never seen before.
"Certainly the trial is a foregone conclusion, and with the evidence plainly present the children will be taken and placed in an appropriate environment away from such as Mr. Reynolds" the woman said.
"So you think there has been enough evidence to warrant the removal of the children?" the commentator asked.
"Most definitely. There is no question of that, and I think it is safe to say that once these children are in a safe and appropriate environment, that we will find out much more about Mr. Reynolds, much more."
"What a bitch." Sammy said, into the silence as the commentator said, "Well, thank you, now to Ms. Roberta McKeen, and your response to these latest developments occurring in the trial today."
Another woman of about the same age appeared on a split screen with the first one, as she began speaking, "I think that so far, nothing has been presented in this trial that shows anything warranting the removal of these children from their current home."
"How can you say that with all the evidence that has been shown in this case?" the first one interrupted loudly.
"That's just it, there hasn't been any evidence presented at all." the woman replied, as I reached out and took the remote and pressed the power button, causing six sets of eyes to turn to me in shock.
"I think that's enough of that." I said to them.
"Dad, they're saying things about us that aren't true." Sammy said, indignantly, with outrage on his face.
"Yeah, they are real good at that kiddo, and you can't let it get to you." I said.
"No buts, they are going to say things like this, and sadly, there isn't anything we can do about it." I told them.
"Mike, you'd better come." Samantha said, sticking her head into the room.
We filed out, and headed back to the conference room, where we took our seats, and I couldn't help but feel that I was heading to the executioner's block, as I sat down.
Peter came over and crawled into my lap, this time, and I noticed that Alexei was sitting with Yuri, watching me intently.
Hell they were all, I noticed, watching me intently.
I sat the Padd down on the desk, and just sat back, stunned and shocked with what I had just read. It was too much to take in, too unbelievable or maybe it was just that I didn't want to believe it.
You know that intellectually this stuff occurs in this world, even if you would like to believe that it doesn't, but sitting here and actually seeing proof of it, and even more, seeing the result of it, was just too much.
After just sitting there for a while staring off into space, I asked Jamie, "What now?"
"Now we get ourselves together, and go out there and set some asses on fire." he said, with no humor at all in his voice.
I looked at him, and saw that he was dead serious, as I asked him, "What are you going to say about...all this?" I finally got out waving my hand out to encompass everything that had happened.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing." he said.
"You'll have to say something." I replied.
"I do?" he asked, before saying,"Remember I'm the judge."
I looked long and hard at him, but again didn't see any humor still, and began to believe him.
He just might go in there and say next to nothing about anything, which was going to piss some people off, big time.
"Let's go on in, and get this over with." he said to me, and I got wearily to my feet, with him, allowing him to lead the way back to what awaited.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Well whatever happens, just remember, I love you." I said to them, as the judge walked into the room, followed by Alan, but strangely, not Jennings or the boys.
We all stood and then sat back down, as the judge took his seat.
Alan walked over and took his seat as well, although he didn't say anything to me, and I made sure that the video and audio links were up on our end, as the judge looked around at everyone.
"I have reached a decision in this case." he said to everyone, as the assistant prosecutor stood up, calling "Objection."
I watched, as the judge simply looked at him for a moment before saying, "Sit down and do not interrupt again," to the now absolutely stunned man who started to say,
"But your honor...."
"Is there something you didn't understand in that?" Kendall asked, scathingly, interrupting whatever else he was going to say.
The man looked around, as if seeking help for a moment, before slowly taking his seat.
"As I was saying, I have reached a decision, after hearing all of the evidence presented before me." Kendall said to the court, before starting again.
"This case...." he had begun, when there was a commotion from the entrance, and all eyes turned towards it to see Millie and the Governor come bursting into the courtroom.
They walked up the aisle in complete silence, until they got to the front, where before they could say anything the judge asked, "What is the meaning of this?" to them.
"Your honor, my name is Millie...." she began, but Kendall interrupted, "I know who you are, why are you interrupting my courtroom?" he asked.
"Your Honor please, I'm Governor Ramirez, and this trial should never have taken place. The Attorney General has been arrested for malfeasance, and I ask that you cease and desist at this time from any further action against Mr. Reynolds." the man said loudly, causing pandemonium to break out in the courtroom.
"ORDER!!! ORDER!!!" Kendall yelled into the courtroom, but it was several minutes before it actually settled down appreciably.
"If you cannot control yourselves, you will be removed from this courtroom before I proceed any further in this matter!" Kendall stated angrily, to the assembled mass. It was clear that he wasn't happy with them, and was making no bones about it.
"Governor Ramirez, I appreciate your coming here, but I am afraid that it is far too late at this juncture, to halt the proceedings." Kendall told him.
"Please, your honor, this should never have taken place. Mr. Reynolds is an innocent party in this matter, who has been persecuted unjustly, I implore you to halt these proceedings." he said, earnestly to the judge.
"I understand your position sir, but unfortunately, this must be resolved." Kendall told him, as the murmurs in the courtroom began to quiet down.
The Governor didn't look pleased, but at Alan's urging, did come over and take a seat, along with Millie, at the defense table.
"I have proceeded over a great many trials in my years on the bench. I have seen an enormous amount of pain and suffering in those trials. I have witnessed children who have been beaten, raped, stabbed, clubbed, and many, many more things, all by parents and others, who were supposed to be taking care of them, and loving them." Kendall told the courtroom, as he looked out at all of them sadly, many of which looked away from his gaze.
"I have seen children who wanted nothing more than to be loved, and watched countless parents, both mothers and fathers, who were incapable of doing it. I have presided over trial after trial where those charged with caring for our children have failed miserably and instead harmed them immeasurably." he said, pausing for breath once again before continuing.
"After all I have seen, it was with some trepidation when I was confronted with the prospect of another caregiver charged with safeguarding not only our children, but children who had suffered more than enough already, being charged with breaching that trust. As I have stated, I have seen it many times before, where teachers, police officers, doctors, coaches and many others, hurt those in their care, and sadly, foster parents as well. I did not look forward to this trial at all. To see another foster parent, who hurt the most vulnerable of our children sickens me, and it is something that I have unfortunately seen time and time again." Kendall told them, as he stopped for a moment.
"When I came into this trial, I was astounded by the allegations being leveled, and while I have seen the like before, it is something that is never easy to see again. So, to say that I did not look forward to presiding over such, again would be an understatement. Not only that; but allegations against a fellow jurist, and the head of the department of social services disturbed me greatly, not to mention being asked to overrule them." he said.
"I want to make clear, that I have no problem whatsoever in doing exactly that." he told them, going silent again as I drew in a shocked breath.
He then straightened himself and in a much louder voice said, "I want to say that from the beginning of this trial, there has been absolutely NO evidence presented, that would make me think for one moment, that Mr. Reynolds is an unfit parent, or has abused any child in his care."
There were loud cries from the courtroom at those words, and I sat up in shock, at his proclamation.
That was not what I had expected to hear.
He didn't say anything else, until the room was once again mostly silent, and then he began. "I want to make clear, that I have heard the testimony of the two children involved, in closed chambers, and nothing in that testimony directly or indirectly implicates Mr. Reynolds. I will not go into detail regarding what the boys testified to, other than to say that unequivocally they have stated clearly, that Mr. Reynolds never in any way molested or abused them, or conducted himself in an inappropriate manner with them or around them."
Once again there was a mild uproar, and he waited until things quieted down before continuing. "The Governor is correct in his statement that this trial should have never taken place. NEVER! There was absolutely no reason for it. This trial has been made up of insinuation and innuendo, without a single solitary fact, anywhere within a thousand miles of this courtroom. The only thing that has been accomplished is to smear a good man's name, and traumatize his children, who surely didn't need more of that."
I couldn't believe it.
"The people behind this should be ashamed of themselves, utterly and completely ashamed, especially those charged with protecting the children. Mr. Reynolds, I am sorry that this had to happen. It is a shameful blot on our judicial system. You have my deepest apologies, to you and your children. This is not the way it is supposed to work, and I am sorry, especially for the children, that they had to be subjected to it." Kendall told a stunned courtroom that had stopped even making noise.
"There are so many children out there in need of good homes, in need of loving and caring adults, yet when you actually find one, some of you seem determined to find something wrong with that person. I find that shameful. You are so worried about sex that you worry about nothing else that impacts these children's lives. The righteous people of the church, often complain about sex, but will turn a blind eye to members of their congregation who are beating the hell out of some poor kid. I find this reprehensible. "He told them.
"The FCC frankly disgusts me. They are not what God is about, not at all. How any group of people can profess to be doing God's work, and following his way, yet do what these people have done, and are doing is beyond my comprehension, and I hope that a criminal investigation will be launched, regarding their role in this affair." Kendall told them.
"I could spend some time going over things which I find fault with right now, but I won't. I will strongly urge the State to look into the actions of the social services department and prosecutors office, for their conduct in this matter, not to mention the State Police and their criminal conduct as well. I find their actions to be not only reprehensible, but illegal. If you are charged with protecting the welfare of children, then that is what you MUST do, and not allow any personal feelings to interfere with that duty. This should never have happened.
"Mr. Reynolds I find you not guilty, I further find that the lower court's ruling and the determination of the department of social services will stand. I find no evidence of inappropriate behavior, misconduct, abuse or moral unfitness occurring now, or in the past. I wish you and your family well, and frankly sir, am glad that you care enough for children to take them in and provide a truly loving and caring home for them to reside in. I wish more people would do what you have done. The DeMarco children have been placed in protective custody, and the prosecutor is also in custody, this court is adjourned." he finished before standing abruptly and exiting the room, leaving dead silence in his wake for several moments, before pandemonium broke out.
I sat there stunned for a few myself, before the boys' yells brought me back to the here and now, that, and all of them running over to try and jump in my lap.
I couldn't believe it, it was over, and once again, I was free, my family was free.
We could go home.
I was hugging and kissing as many boys as I could, until I went through all of them, still stunned with what had just occurred.
What the hell had happened in there anyway, what had they said? The judge had said the boys didn't say anything against me, how was that possible?
As they settled down, I realized that Eric and Alan were trying to get my attention, and it was then that I realized that the headset had fallen away at some point when I was attacked by my babies.
I quickly put it on and heard Eric calling me.
"I'm here, I'm here" I said to him.
"Mike, you can come home now, you can come home." Eric was saying, and I could see tears in his eyes.
I felt them in my own as well, and could only say, "You better believe it." to him.
"Alan what happened?" I asked.
Alan looked away and then back to me before saying, "The judge heard the testimony and there was nothing in it to implicate you after all." which really didn't tell me anything at all.
"Alan?" I asked
"Mike, the record has been sealed, and that means I can't talk about It." he told me.
"Alan?" I said, more seriously to him now.
"I'm sorry Mike, I can't discuss what went on in those chambers." he told me again.
"What about the boys? Are they alright? What happened to them? Where are they?" I asked in rapid fire succession.
"Mike, all I can tell you is that they are in protective custody and nothing else." he said, by way of response.
"Just what the hell does that mean?" I asked him, my voice going cold.
"It means exactly what I just said." Alan replied, clearly not happy at this point.
"You didn't say anything." I responded.
"Look Mike, all I can tell you is that they are alright, and safe. They are in protective custody, and that's It." he told me.
"Where?" I asked
"They're safe and that's it Mike, I'm sorry." he said again.
"I want them." I said, without even having to think about it.
Alan had a decidedly unhappy look on his face, and didn't answer me, which caused me to get even more upset with this situation.
"Alan, did you hear me? I want my nephews, and I want them now." I told him.
"Mike, they are safe, and in protective custody, that placement isn't going to change for the time being, please listen to me, they wouldn't be safe with you right now." he said to me.
"Yes they would if I have to keep them out of the country, they'll be safe." I told him flatly.
The boys were looking at me and all had serious expressions on their faces.
"I don't care what you have to do, but I want my nephews, Alan, and I want you to get them for me. I had to leave them once before, and I won't do it again." I said.
"I'll speak to the judge when I can, Mike, but don't count on it right now." he told me.
"Just do it, Alan, I'll have other resources working on it as well, I'll find them one way or another." I told him, and watched as his face paled with my threat. He knew some of what I had at my disposal, and it frightened him.
"Eric, find out what you can, please." I asked of him, and he simply nodded before saying, "I'll do what I can, you know that."
"Yeah, I do." I said.
I didn't like the way Alan was being about this at all, it really wasn't like him to act this way. The judge must have scared the crap out of him or something, for him to be this reticent about things.
"Remember Alan, this is my case, and your my attorney, and you are obligated to fill me in on anything about my case, and those two boys and what happened in there certainly apply to that." I said ,very unhappy with my lawyer at this point.
"I know my responsibility Mike, but I have said all I can, whether you like it or not." he said, as he pulled off his headset and walked away, leaving me stunned by his reaction.
Eric was watching this, and shaking his head, but all he said was, "Mike, I don't think he has a choice in this, so don't be too hard on him."
I sighed but told him, "I guess you're right Eric, but it's just I lost them once, and I don't want to lose them again."
"Mike, have you thought what they must have been through, these past six years, and whether being with you would be the best thing for them? They may hate you now, and living with you may be something they can't cope with." he told me.
I sat there a minute or two, and he remained silent, as I thought about what he had said.
I knew he might be right, but I also knew that I could make it work. They needed me, they were my babies, and I would make it work, I just knew I could. I couldn't let them go again. They were family. They were my first children, and I failed them once. I wouldn't do it again, not again.
"Eric, I can't lose them again, we'll make it work, I just need to be there for them this time." I said pleading with him to understand what I wasn't saying.
He seemed to, as he nodded his head and said, "Alright Mike, I'll check into it."
"Thanks, now why don't I let you have the brats before they kill me." I told him smiling, as I said, "Thanks for everything." and pulled the headset off, turning on the others' microphones.
I left them to it, as I pulled the phone up and dialed a certain number.
"Hi, it's over" I said.
"Yes, so it would appear." I was told.
"What does that mean?" I asked, now worried by the comment.
"I am placing some operatives near the judge, as I don't think he is fully aware of the hornet's nest he has rattled."
"I see, that bad?" I said.
"No, worse, and they will not react kindly to his comments, or his decision." I was informed.
"I wouldn't want to see him harmed." I said.
"Neither would I." was the response.
"You wish to know of the children, I take it?" I was asked.
"Yes, Alan won't tell me anything other than they are in protective custody, and safe." I said...
"Yes, I will look into the matter." was the response.
"Thank you, for everything." I said.
"You are welcome Michael, take care." and then the line went dead.
I looked around and saw that most of the boys were chattering to Eric, while the rest just looked on, so I walked out to the living room where I was met by Samantha.
"Congratulations." she said.
"Thanks." I replied, still thinking of my nephews, and that I wouldn't let them go again, as Samantha said, "We can go home now." to me...
"Yes, we can go home now." I replied, smiling.
Home, we could truly go home, and I would soon have two more boys to join us, after all this time.
My babies would be home with me again, and my family would be complete, for the first time in six long years, ending a pain I didn't know was still there.