Peek A Boo, I See You

Chapter Three

I said, "Excuse me?" and he replied that his dad didn't want him seen outside, let alone outside their yard where everyone could see him, could see how he had come home in disgrace and damaged. I almost lost it then, instead, telling Chuck that was a load of bullshit, that what had happened to him was an accident, a bad accident that had cost him his foot and now he was going to learn how to get around on his new foot and lower leg, just as he used to be able to do, like thousands, if not millions, of people did all the time and if he thought he had it bad then someday I would personally take him to the Shriner's Hospital in Springfield and let him see how little kids learn how to use a new leg, or an arm, and sometimes both. Their fathers certainly were not afraid for their children to be seen by others, they were not "damaged". They might be disadvantaged at first, but you should see how they soon learned and adapted to their new circumstances, to overcome what had been thrown at them. If he wouldn't walk on the roadside, I told him to start walking the length of the driveway, back and forth, ten times today.

I sat and watched him and by the 4th trek he had definitely found his balance and stride. He was actually grinning as he walked back to me, where I was, I admit, lost in my thoughts. I told Chuck that we still had about an hour left in my time today, but I had a quick errand to run and I would be right back to finish his day's therapy. I left in my car and returned to a silent home and ran up to the old nursery on the third floor. When I stayed here with Beth and Jeff just before Zach was born, I had brought a baby monitor with me that was actually a nanny monitor too. Once cued into a computer it became a video and audio recorder, turning on when sound was detected or movement in its range set it running to record. I cued it to my backup laptop, and after making sure the batteries on both were fully charged I took both to the Cooper's house and set the laptop in the carcass of the old car which was on the side of the house and less than twenty feet from Chuck's bedroom. I then went inside and told Chuck I had finished my errand and we could continue with his therapy. While he was again working with the big elastic strips to work out his left leg and thigh I slipped the monitor onto the bookcase facing his bed and made sure it wasn't noticeable, but that it still had an unobstructed view of the room. I was realigning his books as I did this, so Chuck wouldn't be curious about what I was doing.

At home again, before picking the boys up from preschool, I worried that I was being too suspicious about what I felt was going on in that house, but my training and my instincts told me I was right. I think Dad Chris thought so, too, and that was why he had asked me to take on what would normally be a very mundane nursing/therapy assignment.

I went to Miss Loretta's to pick up my boys a bit early and when I walked into the preschool I was inundated with kids, hugging my legs and wanting me to see what they were doing. Of course, I knew almost every child there as most were nieces or nephews, but of course two of them were most important to me, Zach and Tyler, who when they saw me moaned that they didn't want to leave yet, they said that they had just gotten there and hadn't had time to learn how to go to school yet! Loretta and I laughed at that and we told all the kids it was almost time to leave as it was getting late in the afternoon, so it was time to pick up and get their hands washed before other parents began to come to pick them up. The children had all been here since 9 AM and it was now 3 PM. I gathered Tyler and Zach as soon as they had washed the finger paint off their hands and they showed me the masterpieces they had created, which when given a chance to dry, would make colorful additions to our fridge at home.

Once secured in their car seats they both contributed to telling me about their day as I drove us to the riding center where they would have their first formal riding lesson with either Terry or one of her staff. I was squeamish about watching the boys on other than their own ponies and being schooled by someone else, but they thought it great fun and couldn't wait to get home and teach what they were learning to Puss and Boots, the names they had given to the pair of ponies they mostly rode. I was going to tell them about Puss and Boots at the time, but Jeff told me to just go along with them, we'd hold it against them when they were older. So, to occupy my time while their lesson proceeded I wandered into Terry's office and asked if she had any suggestions for John's replacement when he started back full time at the University in a week.

She told me that she and John had discussed it and if I was still wanting him to work for us he was willing to continue to do so, attending to the horses and the ponies and mucking out the barn, before and after classes and for the same amount of money. I was surprised as he hadn't said much to me about any of this, but I was pleased he wanted to stay on with us. After the boys were through with their lesson and we were once again at home we went to the barn, so the boys could explain their lessons to Puss and Boots and I could talk to John. I thanked him for wanting to stay on with us and told him that if it became too much to just let us know and he told me he liked working for us and that he knew around exam times he might be pushing it, but he'd cope, with maybe a little help from me. I hugged my nephew and told him I was glad to help anytime.

Of course, I saw right through him, he was hiding out here, hiding from anyone who would remind him of Chuck and what he felt he had lost by finally coming out to him. I was dying to tell him how much Chuck needed him right now, but Dad Chris had made me promise to not tell anyone who my patient was, and I am a man of my word. I did talk with Jeff after the boys were down for the night, without naming names of course. He asked me just how sure I was that there was some form of abuse going on in the house and I told him I was as sure as I had been when I fell in love with him while we were still in high school, long before Beth had "fixed us up". He suggested that I use my laptop and check to see if the monitor I had placed could be accessed from here, or at least try and see if I could remotely connect to the laptop I had left in the old wreck in the yard of the house.

I went up to our bedroom where my laptop was and brought it back to the family room where Jeff and I had been cuddled watching TV. I now am glad I did, but at the moment my stomach was churning and I nervously connected to our Wi-Fi and there it was, a link to the other computers in our network and since the monitor and the other laptop were only a mile away I was able to link with them and what I saw I could only wish I had never seen.

I gave the command for the devices to show me the recordings from earlier in the evening, starting about 5 PM but somehow my command was overridden and what we were seeing was a live feed. And the nightmare must have begun almost as soon as Mr. Cooper came home from work, either drunk or stoned. He was shown on video, and in the simultaneous voice recording, shoving Mrs. Cooper into Chuck's room where he had been repeating his exercises from this morning. He had shoved her so hard she stumbled across the room and slammed into the tall free-standing wardrobe in the corner and she crumpled to the floor as he was yelling abuse at the mother and son for allowing a stranger into the house. The mother still hadn't moved but Mr. Cooper went to her and began kicking her as she lay unmoving on the floor. Chuck began to rise from the edge of the bed where he had been sitting and his father caught the movement and turned his rage on Chuck, belting him across the face and beating him repeatedly, Chuck finally getting the nerve to strike back and he clobbered his father and then reached for a crutch and slammed it into his father's shoulder and then his stomach, leaving his father groaning on the floor.

I turned to Jeff and he was already calling his station as he demanded from me the address of the house we were watching. I told him and that it was Chuck Cooper and his parents we had just seen. And they lived on our road, just about a mile down, number 47 I thought, it was the red ranch. He nodded and relayed that information and then he went and armed himself from the gun safe in the front hall closet and then kissed me and told me to prepare for company, at least one if not two.

After he had driven off in his Chief's Cruiser I went upstairs and made sure that we had at least two spare bedrooms made up and then went back downstairs and began a pot of coffee and put some Danish in the oven, totally on automatic. After 20 minutes I couldn't stand waiting anymore and I called John to see if he'd come over to sit with the kids while I ran an errand. I told him that Jeff had to work late, and I didn't want to leave the kids alone. I assured him they were sleeping, and he promised to get here soon.

 Of course, he arrived from a different direction, so he missed the scene I saw when I drove up the street. There seemed to be every Police Car our little town-owned, an ambulance, and two Fire Trucks in the house's yard when I parked on the verge at the side of the house's yard and I ran up to an officer I knew and asked if everyone was alright, just as the ambulance crew carried a sheet covered gurney out of the house. I gasped and then realized it must be Mrs. Cooper under the sheet as there were bumps in the chest area. The officer told me there had been one fatality and two men beaten, but they were expected to be alright, in time.

Next out the door was Jeff and another officer escorting Mr. Cooper to the ambulance and handcuffing him to the gurney in there. Mrs. Cooper had been placed in the coroner's van and now the ambulance took off, but not as fast as it usually goes after picking someone up. Jeff waved me over to him and raised his eyebrows, and I responded by telling him Jake was with the boys. He then ushered me into the house's kitchen where Chuck was sitting, across from yet another officer. Chuck had a plastic bag full of ice he was holding to his head and when he looked up and saw me he started bawling and held out his arms for me. I went and hugged him, telling him all would be OK now, now that now he had a chance to heal, a chance to be or do whatever he wanted, he'd probably never have to see his father ever again. He said that he wanted to see him fry for what he had done to his mother and I told him that the chances were good that he would, as there were now eyewitnesses who had seen what had been done to him and his mother. He smiled shyly up at me and told me he had seen me put the monitor in his room and that had given him the courage to try and fight back this time. Jeff had a technician collect the monitor and the laptop from out in the old wreck in the side yard and he asked Chuck if he would like to come to our house for a while, until the dust settled, so to speak.

Chuck asked if we'd really do that for him, after the way he had treated my nephew John, and I told him that I thought he didn't recognize me earlier today when I was bossing him around, and he actually blushed and told me, he couldn't forget me, I was the favorite uncle of the guy he loved.

So, Jeff was sent to get the essentials from Chuck's bedroom, the scene of the crimes. The prosthetic was not involved, nor was the underwear and clothing Jeff took from the bureau, nor the sneakers from inside the closet. It was all cataloged though before we took off for home, leaving poor Jeff and his officers to finish at the house and to then go to the station to write up their reports and the interviews with Chuck and me.

When we pulled into the drive for the house Chuck asked who lived here with me and I explained that Jeff and I were married now, that his wife had died almost six years ago and that we had two boys now, Jeff's son, who I had adopted so we could have equal status as his dads, and another boy that had come to us after his mother had died, which we had both adopted right after our marriage. Chuck was awestruck at this news, as when he left to join the Army it wasn't common knowledge that Jeff and I were even gay. I asked if he was going to be uncomfortable staying with us and he told me that there probably wasn't a better place for him right now. At that point, John had opened the front door and Chuck just stared at him and started weeping, but I heard him mumble, that this definitely was the right place for him.

It didn't take long for John to reach the car and when he did, and he saw who my passenger was, he looked like he was about to faint. I rushed over to him and quietly told him to go easy, Chuck had just seen his father kill his mother, and he got beat up too. As Chuck reached back in the car for his crutches John must have seen the empty pants leg and ran to Chuck and threw himself into Chuck's arms, sobbing to beat the band and more so as Chuck threw his arms around John and the two held each other, both of them in tears and they had me going too in a nanosecond. I did retrieve Chuck's bag and the box with his prosthetic in it and I handed his crutches to him as I passed and told them to take a minute to get it all out and then get in the house, it was getting late and Chuck had some bruising to attend to.

Well, they were out there for a good hour, just sitting on the porch, and talking, Chuck apologizing for the way things between them had ended, and for not being man enough to stand up to his father's abuse, by running away to join the Army instead of sticking around and finding out what those feelings he had been having about John were all about. About believing what his father had always told him, that he was useless, a fairy, a cock sucking queer, a good for nothing, you name it, along with beatings there was a lot of verbal abuse as well. John, bless his heart, was right there telling him how much he was loved, that he was and always would be in love with him.

I finally got them inside by bribing them with food, and as neither had really eaten that night it was easy to do. Once they were eating I made Chuck hold an ice pack to his bruised cheek and jaw, which didn't stop him from eating, the guy must have been starving. I put Chuck in the bedroom farthest from the others, but it did have its own bathroom. I offered John the other bedroom available and he said he'd stay the night. I just knew he wouldn't be in a bedroom by himself. I knew it was too soon for you know what, but they could talk and cuddle and maybe get a couple of hours sleep before the noise in the house as the little ones ran around getting ready for preschool woke them.

Jeff arrived home after the evening news had just finished on TV and there had been no mention of tonight's incidents on it. Jeff explained they were keeping a lid on it until they made sure any, or all, relatives had been notified.

Our alarm clock went off just about the time Jeff and I did. We had been too worn out last night to do anything but drop off to sleep as soon as we hit the bed, but we both woke a tad early and took care of each other, just finishing when the buzz started growling from the alarm clock. We shared a shower and then as he got into a fresh uniform I went and woke the boys before going downstairs to start breakfast. It was while I was cracking eggs into a bowl to begin making scrambled eggs that I remembered our two guests and so I added another half dozen eggs and took out my huge fry pan instead of the regular one I had been about to use. I started adding grated cheese as the eggs started to get solid in the pan and set the first slices of toast down in the toaster and another six of them toasting in the countertop toaster/oven. The regular fry pan now held two packages of little breakfast sausages, sizzling away and Jeff had almost finished setting the table when the boys scampered down the stairs, attracted by the cooking smells I'm sure. We both got good morning kisses from them and then Jeff got them settled at the table. I had a big cookie sheet pan lined with toast and had been using a pastry brush to brush them with melted butter when the two older guys made their appearance. Chuck had put on his new foot but proudly displayed it by wearing shorts, which were appropriate for the mild September weather we were experiencing. John was dressed for the barn, but I encouraged him to eat breakfast with us first and I told him that now that I had my patient here in the house, I could always take a break from my torture of him and go to the barn and finish what he hadn't gotten to before he had to leave for classes later in the morning.

Jeff in the meantime had been introducing Chuck to our boys who were fascinated by Chuck's foot. I interrupted their conversations by serving the now plated food and soon everyone was tucked into their breakfast. Jeff left for his office right after breakfast, but not before ascertaining that there were no longer any living relatives that needed to be notified from Chuck. Chuck and Jeff talked for a few more minutes and then Jeff was off to the station. Chuck and John helped me clean the kitchen and John remarked that he hadn't seen a frying pan that big since he had seen one in his grandfather's' kitchen years ago. I told him I was quite fond of that frying pan, and that is why I snagged it.

He chuckled and asked me if that was the same fry pan that my little brother Bill had first used as a snow sledding saucer and I cracked up, as that is exactly what had happened. The other saucers and sleds and toboggans were all in use and Dad Noah was with all the boys and wanted to be somewhat in control of whatever little Bill was going to be on for his first solo trip down the snowy hill, so he sent Ken back to the house and had him fetch the huge fry pan that spanned two burners on the stove top. Noah felt he could run along beside Bill while he sat in the frying pan and Noah would be able to hold onto the long handle. It sounded good in theory, but as Noah ran alongside Bill, who was laughing the whole time, Noah tripped and slid down the hill on his ass, and arrived in time to catch Bill in the fry pan before he had come to an abrupt stop and tumbled out into the snow.

We brothers, of all ages, were in hysterics and Dad Chris was by that time outside, wondering what Ken needed with a frying pan out in the snow. He too started laughing and Dad Noah just put Bill up on his shoulders and climbed back up the hill, carrying the fry pan with him. It was just one of the thousands of incidents that always made me smile when I was reminded of them, among them was teaching 8-month-old Bill how to play peek a boo.

Chuck was sitting down again at the kitchen table, listening to me tell John the story behind the big frying pan and he had such a mixed bag of emotions showing on his tear-streaked face. John went to him and sat next to him and put his arm around Chuck's big shoulders. Chuck asked me if my fathers had often played with us, and I told him that it didn't matter what time of year, the dads had always found something for us, 10 boys, to do and since they were just overgrown boys themselves, they were right in the thick of things with us.

Chuck said he envied us, as his father had never taken an interest in anything he had ever done, except to berate him or call him names before beating on him. He again thanked me for giving him the courage to stand up to him, and of course, letting him see John again. I told him that had always been my plan, tongue in cheek. As I turned back to the dishes to load the dishwasher I caught John kissing away the tears on Chuck's face, and Chuck responding to this by planting a big one on John's lips, which turned into a real tongue twister competition. By the time the dishwasher was loaded, and the counter wiped down they were again seated next to each other, but now holding hands.

I told the young men to both go upstairs to their room and for Chuck to use the exercise equipment in there and for John to supervise him, I was going to the barn for about two hours after I dropped the young boys off at preschool. I went up and made sure the youngsters were dressed appropriately and then drove them to Miss Loretta's.

By the time I returned to the house about 10 AM John was just getting ready to leave for classes and he hugged me and said he'd see me after his last class, about 4:40 PM and that Chuck was napping, he had had a very good workout.

Chuck came downstairs around noon and we shared a sandwich lunch and then went for a walk outside. I told him that if he wanted we could walk in the road or up and down the paved portion of the lane and the driveway, but he wanted to see the barn, so we slowly walked the uneven unpaved drive to the barn. It was hard packed dirt, and had been used for over 70 years that way. He was pleased it wasn't difficult for him and when we got to the barn he explored, as if he hadn't been in a barn before, but he explained it had been several years since he had been in one, and he wanted to see where John worked for us. I asked if he'd like to go for a ride on one of the horses, and he looked at me like I had three heads, and then I told him about my brother Phil who had a similar prosthesis, and that Phil and Ken (another adopted brother, but you knew that) were raising two boys and not only was Phil an excellent rider, but he also was a terrific diver, on both the low and high boards.

Chuck asked if I thought he was ready for riding yet, and I asked if he had ever had a chance to ride before and he told me that he had been taken by his mother when he was 10 or 11 to classes at Terry's riding school, but not since then. I took my favorite horse out and chose a gentle mare for Chuck and I saddled both, but with a little help from Chuck, as his enthusiasm was growing by the minute. I told him that he could either use a step ladder or mount from the right side, it was up to him, but what Phil liked to do was use the rails of a corral as a ladder and mount from a rail or two up from the ground, thus not putting a lot of strain on the prosthesis in the stirrup as he swung his good leg over the horse's back.

He opted for the reverse mount and went to the right side of the horse and I held the mare's head as he smoothly mounted and was grinning like a fool once seated. I then mounted my horse and we walked them out of the barn to the dirt lane out between the fields. I asked how he felt, and he told me it was just like he felt waking up this morning, knowing he was free from his father and cuddled up to John from behind, it felt wonderful to not have to hide either his emotions or his love for John, because as he told me, he had always loved John. First as a best friend in middle school, and then as they got older and were in high school, but somehow his father found him out and made his life miserable, and he started to believe all the fire and brimstone crap his father spewed and ran away from it all by enlisting right out of high school, where he made the realization that he had loved John for all those years.

After his injury, his father had berated him, especially when it came out that the other men involved in chasing him were doing it to make Chuck's life miserable and probably beat him because they too suspected Chuck was gay, or at least different from them. Chuck's father browbeat him into believing that too. By the time I showed up at their house the other day Chuck was so despondent he was considering taking the entire bottle of pills I had seen on his bedside table, but then he realized who I was, and had taken to heart my rant at him, and then he saw I had placed the monitor in his room, he decided he wasn't going to hide anymore, he was going to get back on his own two feet again(well he did own the prosthesis) and get the hell out of his father's home.

I praised him for his decisions and by that time we were at the fence at the farm road and I gave him the story about how we now had two dogs frolicking around us on the ground. We turned the horses around and with Roscoe and Suriya leading the way we rode back to the barn. Just as we were about to dismount I heard a car pull in the farmyard and when it parked on the far side of the barn I knew it was John, so I told Chuck to ride out and see who it was that had just pulled in. They both came back in grinning like kids and I told Chuck to dismount with his solid leg, but to hold onto the saddle until he had his balance back. I told him that the horse might move slightly or flinch, but as long as he held onto the saddle he'd be upright. It worked a charm, and then John was right there to claim a welcome home from school kiss.

It was pretty close to the time I was to pick the boys up from school and I suggested that the two young men go for an hour to visit John's other uncle  Phil. They both got what I was implying and took off for John's car and I took mine to go fetch the boys from preschool and get them to Terry's for their riding lesson.

The boys wondered if Dad and I were going to adopt Chuck and would he be their big brother? I chuckled and told them, no, but Chuck would make a great older friend for them. I explained that Chuck's mother had died yesterday and that he had been sick but now he was getting better and was going to stay with us for a while, and that he was a good friend of John's. They asked if they were best friends like they were and again I chuckled and told them I thought they were.

That night after dinner it was still light enough for another ride and this time Chuck and John both rode with us. We had a good time and as we rode back to the barn you could see the sun setting behind the mountains, and it was a gorgeous sunset, the perfect ending to a good day.

The next morning was an almost repeat of the previous one but instead of Scrambled Eggs, it was French toast. Jeff and Chuck again had a brief talk before Jeff left for work and Chuck told John and I that they had been trying to track down any living relatives, but had struck out and that indeed, Chuck was without support from family, but John assured him that he now had the Sargent/Major clan behind him. That noon the news broke on the local TV news and several of the clan tracked John down offering their support for Chuck and were pleased the he and Chuck were together and at our house. John did go to the barn and did his chores as Chuck began his exercises to get his therapy out of the way while I drove the young boys to preschool. By the time I returned home John was finishing up in the barn and Chuck was finishing his first round of therapy for the day.

I took care of the household accounts and set a few holiday surprises in motion, although they were a couple of months off. After the financial arrangements were made I did up our weekly shopping list, with two young men and two growing boys in the house we really needed to stock up. The closest big grocery stores were either in South Hadley or Fairview, a part of Chicopee, and that meant a big trip of about six or seven miles to either big grocery. Not that bad you think, but to my boys, it would seem an adventure, since our driving was mostly done around town and now I'd be taking them to another town and shopping for one of their favorite things, food. I picked the boys up at Miss Loretta's and instead of a riding class that day we drove to Fairview and did our big shopping trip for the week. I picked today because their instructor at Terry's had sprained her ankle this morning.

It was certainly a wild experience even if the boys stayed close, either clinging to me or to the cart I was pushing up and down the aisles. The questions flew from the right and left, literally. Add to that there were a bunch of ladies in the store that thought it was absolutely adorable I was trying to shop with two little talking machines with me. I'm sure they had learned their lesson years ago and were inwardly laughing at this foolish man trying to food shop with toddlers, but I was kind of new at having two boys with me to shop and I was actually enjoying their inquisitiveness, and their joy and wonder when they realized that this is where the stuff we ate came from.

The other shoppers recognized the boys as being terminally cute and the boys had to endure cheek pinches and hair ruffling and I gladly took the hundreds of compliments that came my way as we proceeded through the aisles. I was tempted to grab a second cart, but didn't want to appear piggish and I vowed to have either Jeff or one of our older boys with me the next time I tried to shop for food and save money by shopping at such a big grocery store.

On the way home, the boys were offering me options for cooking some of the foods I had purchased, like putting peanut butter on pork chops as they baked or using ice cream instead of milk in their cereal in the morning. It was always enlightening to me to spend time with our boys.

Once home I had a lot of help from all four younger guys putting stuff away and after that Chuck wanted me to take money for his room and board. I thanked him for the offer, but explained we had offered to take him in and it was our pleasure to be able to do so. I also reminded him that a couple of days for two weeks I was being paid for providing his physical therapy and that was money I would take from the government because all my nursing and therapy earnings went into the boys college funds, not that Jeff or I needed the money, but it made me feel good to be able to put money I physically earned into those two accounts.

I asked him then, just to change the subject and to divert the discussion from Jeff's and my finances, what Chuck wanted to do, first about school or for a job or training program, and second, had he thought yet what he wanted done about his parent's home? He told me that he and John had just been talking about those things while I had been taking the boys shopping with me and he really liked being around the boys and he had always been good in school and thought he might just want to be a teacher and John had convinced him to see the VA Counselor at the University to start off with and see if he could start with maybe some online courses until he felt steadier on his feet. As far as his parent's house, he didn't care if he never saw the inside of it ever again. He knew he had some high school mementos there, secreted in his room, but other than that and some paperwork from the Army and the VA in his room he didn't want anything else, but maybe a picture of his mom the way she used to be, when he was himself a little boy. I told him that all that could be arranged, and he was staying with us for the foreseeable future so don't go thinking about going anywhere soon.

Jeff repeated that to him during dinner and Chuck looked really pleased we were offering him a place to restart his life from. Jeff explained, after the boys had settled in to watch a kids program on the TV in the family room and us adults were still at the big kitchen table, that his dad was a raging alcoholic and was in the treatment ward at the county jail and it might be months before he could stand trial for the murder of his wife, but anything he needed or wanted from the house was now available to him, or his representative. Jeff offered himself for that job, but he asked Chuck to write down what and where the items could be found, and he would personally go in and get them for him.

It was another week before Jeff and I went to the Cooper's house to retrieve Chuck's belongings. During that time Mr. Cooper's lawyer had convinced him to take the plea deal offered by the DA, fifty years in prison, or take his chances in court, and he'd be looking at a definite death penalty after the jury was shown the footage of him kicking his wife to death and then beating his son. He took the deal and was sentenced the same day, no trial. For Mr. Cooper, it was a life sentence.

Jeff had wanted to make sure the defense lawyer wouldn't need everything left in position for his own investigator, but with the plea deal struck we felt it was time to go in and retrieve Chuck's personal belongings. I left for the Cooper house after I dropped the boys off at preschool and I met Jeff there. He had a key for the house and when we went to the front door the crime scene seals were still in place. Jeff removed these and we entered. We started to move through the house, Jeff checking to make sure everything was intact, as he told me that as soon as we got to the front door the hairs on the back of his neck began to stand on end. He had his gun drawn as he motioned for me to stay behind him, but I placed my hand on his shoulder mic and motioned for us to go back to the front door, indicating I wanted him to call this into the station and to get another officer out here.

We didn't have to wait long, as I've said, it wasn't that big a town and soon he had backup and the two of them walked around the house, each going in a different direction and meeting in the back of the house as I sat in my car. Soon Jeff came out the front door and motioned for me to come to him. He told me that they had found a point of entry and egress in the back, a bedroom window had been broken and a wooden box had been placed under the window, facilitating someone going in and out. He and his officer had entered through the back door and had checked, and there was no one in the house, but the master bedroom had been searched thoroughly. He had already radioed for a forensic team to come out and search for clues and take fingerprints, but he thought we should still get the things from Chuck's list and get them in my car while they worked on the forced window and Mr. Cooper's bedroom. We knew that Mr. Cooper had used that bedroom and Mrs. Cooper had used the third bedroom, off the kitchen.

Jeff helped me get the items Chuck had indicated he wanted, and the clothing we put in plastic garbage bags, still folded from his drawers, and from the pole in his closet, along with the boxes he indicated from the shelf above the pole there. I went into the mother's bedroom with the officer and looked for a photo album Chuck thought his mother had in there and we found three of them which we put in one of Chuck's boxes. Walking back to Jeff in Chuck's bedroom I looked in Mr. Cooper's bedroom and noticed that even the wall to wall carpet had been pulled up in the corners, but the heat and cooling vents were intact. I guess it came from watching too many crime shows on TV, but I thought if it were me, that would have been the first place I would have searched for something hidden, especially the one up near the ceiling above the window. That one even had scratch marks at one end on the wall, as if the vent cover had been swung down on one side. I mentioned this to Jeff and the officer once we were all together in Chuck's old bedroom, as I gathered up another arm full of boxes to take out to the car.

As I was loading this arm full into my car the forensic team arrived and they greeted me and asked how my honeymoon had gone and I told the wise guys they knew perfectly well I spent my honeymoon adopting, but it was probably the best week I ever had. There were plenty of congratulations from the guys and when I went back in Jeff asked them to please check the heat vent above the window in the master bedroom first thing. As Jeff and I gathered the desktop computer components to take to the car we heard a whoop from the three forensic guys and the other officer who was with them came and told us there was a shitload of cash and "J's" all packaged in zip lock bags. Jeff went to watch the other two document the find by their photographing and filming the process and then he came and gave me a big smooch and told me he ought to have me look at all the crime scenes. He told me it looked like thousands of dollars in the recess in the wall and a notebook where Mr. Cooper had recorded the amounts of marijuana he had purchased and who he bought it off of, and who he had sold the joints to that he had rolled from his bulk purchases.

Jeff thought they would get the state police involved with this new evidence as the people listed were not all from town here as the phone number prefixes showed so he suggested I take the car and Chuck's possessions home and he would stay and get the ball rolling on this further investigation. We shared a brief kiss and he went back inside as I drove up the road to home.

Once at home Chuck and John, who had already gotten home, helped to get everything up to Chuck's room and once that was done I went to pick the boys up from preschool and then to the riding center for their riding lesson. Once there Terry told me that the swim center was going to be adding a preschool swim class on alternating days from the riding lessons, so while I was just up the lane from there I went over and registered the two boys for swimming lessons, thinking that we might just have to add some sort of pool to the property, I certainly didn't want them swimming in the pond where we had found Tyler.

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