Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be
Note: New AU, not sure where it's going, open to all. Betaed by Phyllis.
Supreme Court Judge Orin Travis looked up from his desk at Francis O'Toole.
"Doctor O'Toole, please come in." Orin turned away from his computer.
O'Toole was a nondescript man, in a grey suit, his wiry grey hair receding fast; he could have been anywhere between forty and sixty. The only thing that spoiled the image of him as a dusty old professor was the laptop case he was carrying. O'Toole was meant to be the best genealogist in Washington, possibly the best in the country.
"Your e-mail said you had something?"
O'Toole nodded. "Indeed. In fact this investigation has been one of the most intriguing cases I have had in years, if not the most interesting ever." He placed the state of the art, ultra slim, wide screen laptop on the desk and booted it up. "You asked me to look into your wife's maternal ancestors."
Orin nodded, he glanced at the picture on his desk, Eve, his wife of twenty four years and Steven - their son, their only child.
"What I found was most interesting." O'Toole began.
He showed Orin a complicated family tree in which numerous names we highlighted in red.
"In any extended family you expect to discover a few sudden deaths, you even find the odd suicide, of course the further back you go the less likely they are." Before Orin could ask why, O'Toole explained. "Suicide was seen as a sin, even a crime, so it was rarely recorded, but if you know what to look for you can find them." He looked up. "It really is quite hard to fatally shoot yourself while cleaning your gun."
"What are you trying to say?" Orin asked.
"That young men in your wife's maternal family are up to 600% more likely to die violently in their late teens or twenties than in the average family."
Orin stared at the man, trying to take in what he had said. "600%?"
"At least, suicide, murder, killed in battle, in fights, in accidents. Even in times of war, they died in much higher numbers than you would expect. Likewise, a much higher proportion than you'd expect didn't marry, had no offspring, made no..." He searched for a word. "mark?"
"Made no mark?"
"I found no records for them after their birth, no death certificates, no marriages, never listed as anyone's father, no professional qualifications. It's as if they were born and then vanished."
"And this is just the men?"
"Oh yes. If it was a disease I was tracking I'd say it was carried by the woman and passed from mothers to sons, like haemophilia." O'Toole sat back and looked at his screen. "It really is fascinating. Of course, some mental conditions, such as bi-polar disorder, can be inherited, but I've never know it to be so specific or widespread." Finally he looked up at his illustrious client. "Why did you want me to investigate in the first place?"
"My son killed himself," Orin responded flatly.
"Oh," O'Toole blanched. "Don't I feel like about an inch high. I am so, so sorry."
Steven would have been nineteen in two months, if he hadn't taken his own life. He'd been away at collage, Harvard Law School, his first semester; three weeks from Thanksgiving, he committed suicide. Steven Travis, an outstanding scholarship student, drove out into the countryside, took a full bottle of sleeping pills, drank a bottle of vodka, lay down in the middle of a corn field, and drifted way forever.
It had been a devastating blow; one from which he thought his wife might not recover. She had collapsed when told the news. Suffering from a total nervous breakdown, she spent a total of three months in a private clinic. Steven had sent an e-mail suicide note, but fate stepped in and it wasn't delivered to his father's inbox for two days. In those two days everyone searched for motives. Orin began to believe it was his fault. He'd pushed Steven into the law, desperate for him to follow in the family tradition and be the fifth generation of Travises to be lawyers. Eve blamed herself, though she wouldn't or couldn't say why. By the time the note was found, Eve was in no state to be told anything. Those words, his son's words, describing a life of secret torment, had driven Orin to employ O'Toole and set him the task he had just completed.
Orin realised that O'Toole was still sitting in mortified silence.
"Don't be. Not your fault. Please show me this family tree."
+ + + + + + +
Josiah Sanchez tried to listen to what Brother Ross was saying, but it was hard. The words were sincere enough, but he knew they were hollow; Ross was bored, he looked like he believed it; he was saying all the right things, but he was bored. Josiah had joined the Monastery as a postulant, believing it would offer him a sanctuary, a refuge from the emotions of others.
But he was wrong, monks were no less devoid of the swirling, ever shifting emotions than everyone else and they were as insincere and deceitful as others were too. Josiah wasn't a naturally solitary person. He didn't enjoy being alone, but he was finding it increasingly difficult to deal with other people. There were times when he could 'tune out' the emotions of others, but he had no control over it, he couldn't do it on demand. He suddenly realised now was one of those times. He'd zoned out Ross, who's boredom must have turned to anger, because that anger, directed at him, suddenly hit Josiah.
"What?" he asked aggressively.
"I asked, are you listening to me?"
"No, you're not interested in what I have to say or in helping me, why should I listen?" With that Josiah turned and walked away.
"I beg your pardon! Come back here!" Ross demanded.
But Josiah didn't stop, he continued on his way, seeking some solitary corner of the grounds. He had hoped he could learn to control it, learn to 'zone out' on demand and if he did that, he'd be able to use his 'gift' to help others. He did believe in God, he did want to help others, but he if he couldn't get some control he was going to end up living like a hermit, either that or go crazy.
Father Luke came to sit beside Josiah on the old bench he'd found in the corner of the vegetable garden. "You upset Brother Ross," he stated quietly.
"He was bored, he was pretending to be interested, but he wasn't, why should I listen to him?" Josiah looked at his confessor and shrugged.
"This is about your gift again?"
The only person who knew about his gift was Father Luke, and it had been revealed under the protection of confession.
"I know you think I'm inventing it or exaggerating or even delusional, but it is real, I know what emotions people are feeling as clearly as if they had a flashing sign above their head, broadcasting it to the world."
"What about me, right now?"
Josiah looked at the kindly old man. "You? Youre concerned, worried and frustrated."
Luke had to admit that was true, but then you didn't need a special gift to have worked that out.
"Yes, well that it true, I don't know how to help you and I'm beginning to realise that this may not be the best place for you. You came here looking for a refuge but you haven't found it have you?"
Father Luke was that rare thing, a genuinely spiritual man. Whenever Josiah was in his presence, he felt something, an emotion he didn't feel with others, a sort of soothing balm. If any of the others had claimed to have his best interests at heart he wouldn't have believed them, but Luke was different. Josiah shook his head.
"Yet I do not want you to be alone out there in a world you don't seem to be able to cope with."
Josiah looked deeply into the elderly man's pale blue eyes. "I can make this work, I just need more time."
"Well we'll talk about it some more later. In the meantime, the reason I came to see you was to tell you have a visitor. A very eminent one."
"Me?" Josiah asked. "Who?"
"Orin Travis, no less."
"Am I meant to know who that is?"
"He was a Supreme Court Judge, a good one too. He quit about three months ago."
"Why did he leave?"
"Family problems apparently."
"How do you know all this?"
"Well I do read the newspapers, my son."
+ + + + + + +
Orin fidgeted, something he hadn't done in years, but there was something about being in the office of the Father Abbot made him feel like a schoolboy in the principal's office, and he wasn't even a catholic. The elderly Father Luke returned with a large, imposing young monk, with close cropped, light brown, wiry hair. Aside from his imposing physical presence, the first thing Orin noticed were the bright, pale blue eyes. Despite the name, Josiah Sanchez, if that's who this was, didn't look the least bit Hispanic.
"Judge Travis, this is Josiah," Father Luke introduced.
The two men regarded each other.
"Your honour," Josiah finally greeted hesitantly.
"Well I'm not a Brother yet."
"I'm not a judge anymore." Orin smiled. "Why don't we sit down?"
Father Luke decided his young charge was in no danger and withdrew quietly.
Josiah regarded the man before him. Travis appeared to be in his mid fifties, his hair was turning grey, but had once been dark, he had clearly been a very good looking man in his youth and was now what women called distinguished. He was also very nervous. There were other emotions, including grief, and trepidation, but mostly he was nervous.
Him and me both. "What can I do for you?" he asked the former judge.
"Well, first I have to explain that you are related to my wife, Eve."
"Your great, great, great, great, grandmother was the sister of my wife's great, great, grandmother."
"Sounds pretty distant."
"It is, but it's very important." Travis went on to explain what he'd found out and how he'd taken what O'Toole had discovered and given it to a top firm of private investigators. They had tracked down five young men and boys, related to Eve though the female line. O'Toole had traced this female line back to a woman called Elizabeth, all that was known about her was that she was born in 1799. O'Toole, fascinated by the case, was continuing to work on the family line. In the meantime Eve and Orin Travis had taken it upon themselves to track down other boys who might have the same 'affliction' as Steven, in the hope that they could be helped before it was too late. He'd been a successful lawyer and judge, earning good money; he'd inherited money and property from his father, who had also been a judge. Evie had also inherited money and property. This large financial cushion meant Orin and Evie knew they could offer these boys a secure and comfortable future. They had identified five boys, of which Josiah, at nineteen was the oldest. He, and the youngest, had been the easiest to track down.
The young man opposite was looking at him doubtfully
"What do you think?" he asked Josiah.
Josiah sat back. Apart from his confessor, Josiah had never admitted his ability to anyone. As a boy he assumed for years that everyone had this ability. By the time he worked out it was just him who could feel how others felt, it was too late to tell his family. By then his sister's autism had been diagnosed and she had been sent away to live in a home, his father's drinking was getting out of hand and his mother was addicted to Valium. He could feel that the offer to come and live in Virginia with the Travises and other boys who might be like him was genuine. He felt no duplicity, no feelings that indicated anything dangerous.
"I can feel your emotions," he admitted softly.
Travis tensed. "Really?"
Josiah nodded. "You're nervous, concerned and hopeful and excited."
"That's true, but you could look at me and tell that."
"I can tell when people are lying too."
"I haven't lied to you."
"Will you come?"
What did he have to lose? The monastery wasn't working. He still wanted to use his 'gift' to help others, but he needed to get some control. Travis was offering him the chance to meet others like him, relatives. And possibly some help.
"What happened to your son?" Josiah asked, bracing himself for the emotional reaction - grief, regret, fear. Fear he hadn't been expecting.
"I told you, he killed himself."
"Now you are lying, or at least hiding something."
Orin kicked himself. He should have been totally honest with Josiah. If he really wanted to help, he needed to be totally open about what had happened. Pulling an envelope from his pocket he passed it to the young monk before him. It was a printout of Steven's suicide note.
I'M SO SORRY DAD THAT YOU HAVE TO READ THIS, BUT I CAN'T GO ON, I CAN'T LIVE WITH THE LIES. I HEAR THEM IN MY HEAD, THE LIES, WHEN PEOPLE SPEAK I HEAR THEIR LIES. I HEAR THEM SPEAKING IN MY HEAD. THERE ARE SO MANY LIES. PEOPLE LIE ALL THE TIME, EVEN YOU AND MOM. I CAN'T SWICH IT OFF, I CAN'T GET AWAY FROM IT ALL DAY EVERY DAY AND I CAN'T SWICH IT OFF. I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS. I'M SORRY I DIDN'T TELL YOU, MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED YOU? MAYBE YOU WOULD HAVE BELEIVED ME? BUT WHAT COULD YOU HAVE DONE?
I'M SO SORRY DAD I LOVE YOU I LOVE MOM - GOODBYE. STEVEN.
Josiah read it through twice.
"Is, is that how it is for you?" Orin asked.
"Um, no, no I just know how people are feeling, I know if someone is lying, but I don't hear the lies as such. It must have been torment for him." Josiah looked up. "I am so sorry."
"No one knew about Steven, no one helped him. I don't want other young men to suffer like he did."
"You said there are others?"
Orin nodded. "We have found four others, the youngest is only five."
+ + + + + + +
Eve Travis looked up at the group home where John Dunne was currently resident. Located in a nondescript suburb of Chicago it looked like any other large house, standing back from the road in its own enclosed garden, probably built in the 1970's. The only indication it was a children's home was the large number of toys littering the well maintained, if somewhat worn lawn.
An earnest looking young man with a beard opened the door, wearing jeans and tee-shirt.
"Mr Johansson?" Eve asked.
"Yes, please call me Eric. Are you Mrs Travis?"
"Yes, I'm here about John Dunne? We spoke on the phone and I e-mailed you?"
"Of course, do come in. Your attorney and the county authorities have sorted out all the paperwork, so you can take him today. If you're sure?"
By now they were in the main room of the home.
"Why wouldn't I be sure?" Eve asked.
"Well, you've never even met him. JD, that's what he likes to be called, JD he's, well he's "
"He's what? A little five-year-old who has no one in the world but me. We may only be distantly related, but he is my family."
"JD is high maintenance."
For the first time Eve had doubts. When they located John she'd been so happy. He was in a home, he really needed a real home, a family. She hadn't thought about the prospect of raising a five -year-old. She was forty-nine now, could she cope with such a young boy?
"In what way?" she asked.
"He's hyperactive, seems to be very smart and "
"Well he has problems socialising, especially with the other children."
Eve got a sinking feeling, but hid it. "Well I think I should meet him, don't you?"
Eric led her out onto a deck that overlooked the backyard. It was a school day and thus there were no children in the home, except JD. He was sitting on a rug, under the shade of a big awning, playing with some Legos.
"How come he'd not in school?" Eve asked.
"Well he was, as you know, placed with a family last month - that was the fourth family he's been with by the way - and returned here two weeks later. His old school says they dont have room for him anymore. We're still looking for a school that can take him." Johansson smiled apologetically. "JD, you have a visitor."
The little mop of black hair shot up and Eve almost lost her breath, he was just so cute. How could anyone not want this child?
"H'llo," JD greeted with a big smile.
"Hello JD." Eve walked slowly toward JD and eased herself down onto the rug that had been spread on the deck. "It looks like you're building a castle?"
JD beamed as Eve praised his creation and immediately began to explain his castle to her. "Yeah, this is the draw bridge and this is where the princess lives and this is where the horses live."
"Gosh that's impressive. JD?"
Can we talk about something else?"
JD looked up. "Okay."
"Why don't we sit on the swing seat?"
JD reached out his hand toward the small stuffed toy lying beside him on the blanket. His little hand was just an inch from the toy when Eve saw it move of its own accord to meet the outstretched hand. Her natural instinct was to dismiss what she had seen, put it down to imagination, but then she remembered why she was there. The words of Steven's suicide note were open to interpretation; the experts told them Steven had most likely developed schizophrenia. Men, they were told, were most likely to develop the illness in late teens and early twenties; Steven was a textbook case. But while she was still in a residential facility being treated for a total mental breakdown, Orin had travelled to Harvard to collect Steven's possessions, one of which was a diary, a diary neither of them had ever seen or even knew he kept. The most telling entries were those where he detailed lies his parents had told him. He had documented information he couldn't possibly have known unless he really was hearing their lies.
This, coupled with the things Dr O'Toole had discovered, led them to an entirely different explanation for their son's death. As well as the abnormally high violent death rate among young men in Eve's maternal family, there were stories. Young men who were considered odd, eccentric, loners. Some had been confined in institutions for lunatics, one had worked as a medium. It all pointed to some kind of inherited paranormal ability. So she re-evaluated her reaction to what she had seen. Maybe JD could move things with his mind, she knew there was a name for it, but it escaped her as the JD climbed up on to the big swing seat beside her.
"JD I know that your mama had to go away."
JD sighed. "Mama had to go to live with God, 'cause she was too sick to live here," he explained sadly.
JD's mother Rachel had died of breast cancer when he was three.
"I'm so sorry JD. Mr Johansson told me you don't have any other family?"
"'Cept Vin, but I don't know where he went." Johansson had mentioned in his report that JD fantasized about having a cousin called Vin, but they had no record of such a cousin. "Of course dear, but Vin is a boy like you, isn't he?"
"He's bigger than me."
"But he's not a grown up?"
"No, I don't thinks so, not yet."
"Well you see JD, the thing is, my mother and your mother were related."
JD's eyes opened wide in wonder. "Really?"
"Yes, my great, great grandmother was the sister of your great, great, great, great grandmother, that makes you and me cousins."
"Like me and Vin?"
"In a way. Would you like to see a picture of our ancestors?"
JD frowned. "What are anpestors?"
"Ancestors are relatives we had a long, long time ago." Eve pulled out a large folder, containing all the documents about JD. In it was an old black and white picture of two women, dressed in dark Victorian dresses, sitting side by side, gazing sadly at the camera.
"They look sad," JD commented.
"Having your picture taken in those days wasn't much fun."
"Oh. I've got pictures, do you want to see them?"
Before she could say anything the little tyke was off the swing seat and running back into the house. He returned as fast as he went, clutching what looked like a cash box to his chest. On closer inspection it was indeed a cash box, though instead of a keyhole it had a combination lock, with a dial, like a safe. Someone, using nail polish from the look of it, had decorated the outside.
"This is my treasure box, Mama made it for me. See? She made it pretty." He showed Eve the box proudly. "She said it's just for me, I don't have to show anyone what's inside if I don't want to, but I want to show you, 'cause you and me is 'lated."
Eve smiled at him, not trusting herself to speak. JD carefully turned the dial to open the box. Inside were some papers, some objects she didn't have the chance to identify and a plain envelope. JD took out the envelope, closed the box and placed it on the seat beside him. Then he pulled out the contents of the envelope - photographs.
"This is me and my mama." He showed her a picture of a three-year-old JD sitting on a picnic blanket with a rather gaunt looking young woman. "This is me and Mama when I was little." The same young woman, looking much healthier, cradled a baby in her arms. "See this is Vin."
Eve looked at the picture. A boy of about four or five looked into a hospital crib at a newborn baby.
"Is that Vin?" she asked.
"Uh huh, that's me when I was first borned."
"Can I see the picture?" She held out her hand.
"Okay." JD handed over the picture.
On the back was a handwritten note. It simply said 'Vin and JD'.
"Do you have any other pictures of Vin?"
"Only when he was a little baby. Vin had to go aways when I was little, I don't 'member him. What's that?" He suddenly pointed to a folded paper, which had slipped out of her folder.
"Oh that, that's the family tree. Do you want to see it?"
JD nodded emphatically. So they both got back down on the rug and Eve spread the large sheet of paper out. She also placed the picture of their common ancestors on the sheet.
"Now, you remember these two?" JD nodded. "This is Ida." She pointed to one of the sisters. "See here it says Ida." Eve traced her finger along the line. "This is her daughter Lisa and there is Lisa's daughter Olivia, she was my mother." She moved her finger back to the picture. "This is her sister Victoria." Once more she traced the line on the chart. "She had a daughter called Rebecca, her daughter was called Mable and Mable had a daughter called Ruth and she was your grandmother." She looked at JD who was studying the chart with fascination. "See there is her daughter Rach "
"Mama," JD breathed. "Look it's me, John." He pointed to his name on the chart.
JD was now following the line back to his grandmother. "Jane," he read, pointing to Ruth's older sister. He ran his finger along the line to Jane's daughter Claire. "That's Vin's mom," he stated confidently.
Setting aside the issue of just how smart JD really was, Eve looked at the chart. "Are you sure dear?"
"Look." JD turned away and pulled out another picture from his envelope.
It was a picture taken in a hospital, of two older women, one new mother and her newborn baby. Eve turned it over and studied the back. There, printed clearly, it stated 'Mom, Aunt Jane and Claire with Vincent Michael Tanner, 7lb 3oz'. Then there was a date.
Eve found herself all but trembling with excitement, had she found another one? Calm down Evie girl, one boy at a time. She remained herself.
"JD sweetie, seeing as we are related, how would you like to come and live with me and my husband? We have a nice big house in the woods."
JD cocked his head to one side. "Can I really?"
"Oh yes dear, we would love to have you come to our home and join our family."
"Can Vin come? 'Cause he's our anpestor too."
"I tell you what, we'll do our best to find him and if we do and he wants to come, he can come too."
"Yes. It might help me to find him if I could look at the papers in your box later."
JD looked at his box and chewed his bottom lip. "Okay. I want to find Vin."
"Why don't we go and talk to Mr Johansson?" Eve picked up JD's comfort toy that he'd placed next to his treasure box. "Who's this?"
Eve looked down at the toy. She had thought it was a rabbit, but now that she looked at it properly she could see it was kangaroo. "You like Winnie the Pooh?"
JD nodded and reached out his hand for toy. Eve looked down and moved it slightly out of his reach. Sure enough the stuffed toy moved into JD's grasp on its own. It didn't move very far, but it did move.
Telekinesis! That's what its called.
Josiah agreed to join the Travises in West Virginia. Their journey east from California was broken in Kansas, where they went in search of a boy called Nathan Jackson. He and Josiah shared a single ancestor back in the 1830's. A woman called Beth. All they knew about Nathan was that he was thirteen and had an address in Kansas City. The address turned out to be a one-bedroom apartment in a rundown housing project. The man who opened the door was an elderly black man who told them the Jackson's had moved.
"Do you know where they went?" Orin asked.
"Nope, you could ask the super, he might know."
The building superintendent was a portly, balding man named Stan.
"What do you want with them?" he asked suspiciously.
"We need to contact them, Mrs Jackson is a relative of my wife," Orin explained.
The man looking him up and down suspiciously "You sure about that?"
"Yes, I'm looking for Mrs Belle Jackson, married to Obadiah Jackson and their son Nathan?"
"Well that's them, though Mrs Jackson was killed a few years back."
"Do you know where Mr Jackson and the boy went?"
Stan shook his head sadly. Obadiah was poorly, they took him to one of them homes where folk go to die. The boy went into a home."
"Do you have an address for them?"
"I got one for him." He ducked back inside his apartment and returned with a scrap of paper. "You got a pen?"
+ + + + + + +
St Francis Hospice was located just outside the city centre on the edge of a residential district. It was purpose built and stood in pleasant grounds. The hospice accepted all forms of insurance and charged according to the ability to pay. To be eligible patients had to have a life expectancy of less than six months and to have decided they no longer wanted to undergo active treatment to cure them. At St. Francis, patient's symptoms were treated, they were made comfortable, they and their family, could receive counselling - if they wanted it - and help to set their affairs in order, if needed.
Josiah had said he wanted to come, but as they approached the building, he faltered.
"Too much?" Orin asked. Surely the level of emotion in a building full of the dying had to be enormous.
"I'll be okay, I just have to get used to it."
"Well if you need to leave stay in the grounds where I can find you."
"I'll be okay, it's like "
"There's a lot of sadness, regret, frustration, some pain and anger, but it's not as sharp as I thought it to be."
"I expect a lot of the residents are highly medicated."
"Yeah, that might be it."
Josiah took a deep breath. "As I'll ever be."
+ + + + + + +
Obadiah Jackson was dying, you didn't need to be a doctor or even be in a hospice to see that. He was thin and frail, and though his dark skin hid it; the jaundice was all too clear in the whites of his eyes.
"Mr Jackson?" Orin announced his arrival quietly.
"Please sit. They told me I had a visitor. Don't get many." The voice was weak and breathless, despite the cannula providing oxygen.
As they sat, Travis made the introductions.
"What can I do for you sir?" Obadiah asked.
Orin explained his mission. "I know it may sound far-fetched, but I believe it to be true, and meeting Josiah here has strengthened my conviction," he concluded.
"It don't sound far-fetched to me. See that picture?" He pointed to the framed picture of a young African-American boy of about 12 or 13. "That's my Nathan. He's gonna be a doctor one day, you know how I know that? 'Cause God gave him the gift, that's how. My boy knows when folks are sick, he can tell, just by touching them what ails them. I got polycystic kidneys; it spread to my liver, lungs and now my heart. Had it all my life, born with a faulty gene they say. Nathan didn't inherit it, thank the Lord, but he always knew I was sick. When he was just two or three, he'd stroke my back, just over my kidneys and say 'Poor Daddy'."
"He can't cure you?" Orin asked.
"No, he don't have healing hands, he can just tell what's wrong. My wife called it the 'white blood curse'. Guess she was right, from what you say."
"Do you know much of your late wife's family history?"
"I know what you want to know," came the somewhat enigmatic reply.
"Where did all this black blood come into the family of nice respectable white folk."
"Sir I would never "
"Oh don't worry, I know you're okay. She was just as curious, my wife, Belle. It was her great grandmother, Eliza; she was a dancer in a show, some sort of vaudeville act. He was a musician, jazz band. Must have been one hell of a scandal, but she kept her baby. Can't have been easy for either of them. They had to move to Canada. Her daughter, my wife's grandmother came back to the US when she married an American, a black American. She always said the white blood was cursed. She had a cousin, boy called Thomas, he " Obadiah paused and looked up at Orin. "He was like your son, heard voices in his head. Poor boy was killed in a car crash. They called it an accident, but no one could ever explain why he drove into a tree. The doctors told his family he was sick, schizophrenia they said, but his mother and my wife, both said it was the curse. She was so scared when our baby was a boy, at least until we knew what his gift was."
"Mr Jackson, what will happen to Nathan, after "
"After I die?"
"I honestly dont know. He's in a home now, he tells me it's okay, but he's such a good boy he'd never tell me if it wasn't. I'd like to think he'd find a new home, but in all honesty, who's gonna take in a thirteen-year-old black boy, growing like a weed, who'll eat them out of house and home?"
"I would," Orin put in. "I'd like to offer Nathan a home with me and my wife, as well as Josiah here and any other boys we locate who may also have been 'gifted' with special abilities."
Obadiah looked at Travis and the teenage boy who had sat silently beside him. "How do I know you're a safe person, how do I know you don't just have a thing for teenage boys?"
"Because I know he doesnt," Josiah explained. "The Judge told you I can feel others emotions. I know he isn't lying, just as I know you're worried, tired, in pain and very angry and you didn't tell the truth about Nathan, you lied about something."
"About what?" Jackson challenged.
"I don't know, I can't read minds, but you were hiding something."
Obadiah looked at Josiah for a long time. "I'm sure he's not happy at the home," he admitted. "You're sure he's on the level?"
Josiah looked at Orin. "I am, quite sure."
"Nathan will be here soon. They bring him over after school to visit me. We can talk then."
It was obvious that Obadiah was tired, so Orin and Josiah returned to the garden to wait for Nathan. As they left they passed one of the doctors who told them Obadiah had less than a month at best. The cysts in his heart and lungs were growing and multiplying and there was nothing anyone could do for him.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan arrived some forty minutes later. At first he was resistant, but Orin promised he wouldn't have to leave Kansas City until after his father passed and was buried. This, and his father's desire that he should move in with the Travises, eventually won him over.
"What if I stay here too?" Josiah offered. "In Kansas until after " he let the end of the sentence hang, not wanting to say the words.
"I don't think that's such a good idea, this whole situation is emotionally charged," Orin cautioned.
"I'll be fine, I can find a job someplace. There was a gas station we pulled into that was looking for help."
Josiah wasn't a child. He was nineteen, he could make his own decisions, and Orin had the feeling he was going to do this no matter what he said.
"Very well, but youre not working in some gas station. We'll find you a nice motel." He looked over at Nathan who was watching his father sleep, but listening to them nevertheless. "Nathan, how far is the home from here?"
The boy shrugged. "About a ten minute drive down the road."
"Are there any buses, between here and there?"
"Sure I've seen them."
"Fine," Orin turned back to Josiah. "We'll find you somewhere to stay between here and there. I'll leave you some money for food and transportation. It'll take me a few days to sort out the legal papers Mr Jackson needs to sign to give custody to me and Evie. We can introduce you to the people at the children's home."
+ + + + + + +
On the plane back to Washington, JD gave Evie permission to look into his treasure box. There were pictures of JD growing up, some of his early art work, and the usual eclectic collection of objects that only a five-year-old would find precious. There were no other pictures of Vin and no information on him or his mother, whom she presumed to be JD's mother's cousin. JD, exhausted after such a long and eventful day, had fallen asleep in his seat, his head phones still on, Loony Toons cartoons still playing on the little screen in front of him. Eve looked over at him and smiled sadly. She had hoped to at least make contact with his lost cousin. As she began to carefully put back all of JD's treasures, she noticed that the bottom of the cash box had been lined with some paper. On closer inspection it proved to be wall paper, decorated with Winnie the Pooh characters. On a hunch she looked under the paper and there it lay, a post card. The picture was of a lake at sunset, with low-lying hills in the background. Hardly daring to hope she turned it over."Dearest Rachel, I have had to leave, for Vin, I had to get way from the city. We have found ourselves here. They are all native here and Vin is happy at last.
We feel safe here and I even have a job. Thank you for everything. Claire and Vin."
What she could see of the postmark looked like 'Bism k'. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. Orin had hired the best private detectives he knew to help in their search, they were currently on the trail of the other two boys, and hopefully they could also track down Vin.
+ + + + + + +
Orin hadn't been happy about leaving Josiah in Kansas City, but he and Nathan had taken to each other instantly. So having settled Josiah in a respectable small bed and breakfast located on a bus route that connected Nathan's children's home with his father's hospice and with Nathan's custody papers all signed, Orin was all set to return to Washington. That was until he received a phone call from one of the investigators working for him.
"Josiah?" he turned to the tall teen, who was reading in the garden of the B&B.
"What do you know of your cousin Ezra?"
"My cousin? I don't have any cousins, not that I know of."
"What about an Aunt Maude?"
Josiah thought a moment. "Yup, I've heard of her, Mom's older sister. She went off with someone when Mom was still at school. No one talked about her much. I don't think I ever met her."
Orin nodded. That made sense. "Well , it seems she has a child, younger than you. His name is Ezra Standish."
Josiah was suddenly interested. "You know where he is? Can you go get him?"
"Well he's living with his mother, but I certainly intend to visit him. I'll let you know what happens."
+ + + + + + +
What Orin hadn't said was that the detective had found Maude and Ezra because Maude was being prosecuted for tax evasion and fraud and the jury was out. More worryingly, she was also facing charges of child abandonment, child endangerment and corrupting a minor. There was no time to return to Washington. If he was to get there before the verdict, he had to fly to Miami directly from Kansas. He didn't like it, he had wanted to be home to help Eve with little JD and to meet their youngest.
His wife was excited that they had located Ezra and informed her husband about the possibility of a sixth boy, JD's cousin Vin. She sounded disappointed he wasn't going to be meeting them in Washington, but understood the urgency in the situation.
Being a retired Supreme Court Judge had its advantages; one being you could pull a lot of strings in the legal world. This time it meant he had a look at the trial notes and concluded that Maude Standish, aka Myra Stone, aka Mable Simpson, aka Melissa Smith, aka Mary Stapelton, aka Mia Stainburg was as guilty as hell, and she was going to jail, probably for at least twelve to fifteen years. With luck she'd be out in seven, by which time her twelve-year-old son would be a man. It also got him in to see her.
Maude was a fine looking woman in her late forties, with striking blond hair and piercing eyes. Despite being held in the local penitentiary as a flight risk, she looked immaculate as he entered the small interview room.
"My, Judge Orin Travis, late of the Supreme Court, I am honoured," she greeted in a sickly sweet voice, thick with a Louisiana accent.
"I'm sure you are," Orin replied, keeping his tone neutral.
"Are you here to aid my woefully lacking defense?"
She raised an eyebrow. "So what are you here for?"
Maude spluttered. "My son? Ezra?"
"What in heaven's name to you want with my darlin' boy?"
"You are distantly related to my wife Eve."
"Eve? What was her maiden name?"
"Benson, but that is of little use to you. The connection is some four or five generations back. However, your nephew Josiah is coming to live with us, along with another relative of Evie's, a boy called John."
That would have to be Josiah Sanchez?
Ah yes, what my little sister ever saw in that man Sanchez I dont know. The man is a Neanderthal. She shook her head sadly. But I still fail to understand what you want with my Ezra or, for that matter, Josiah.
Dose it matter? Ive seen the trial notes and the case against you on the other charges, the ones about your care of your darling boy. In my professional opinion you dont have a hope. So what is to become of poor Ezra, while you languish in prison?
Maude glared at Travis but said nothing.
I can give him a fine home. Hell be loved and cared for, hell have a family and a good education. More than that, as the ward of a former Supreme Court Judge, hell have social standing. Orin had done his research, albeit hastily, and he knew what buttons to press to get Maude Standishs attention.
And it was working, she was wavering. Ezra was currently in a juvenile facility in Miami, since like his mother, he was considered a flight risk, at least until her fate was known. If he went to live with the judge, he would indeed have all the advantages Travis had just outlined and it would be an easy place to leave, once she had found a way to extricate herself from these charges. If the judge had permitted Ezra to be in court, it would already be over and she would be free. Whatever her predicament now, she would find a way out of it, but in the meantime, Ezra was too gifted to be wasting away in some children's home.
"What do I have to do?" she asked.
Orin produced the custody papers. "Sign here, to give my wife and I custody."
"And when I get out?"
"By then, Ezra will be an adult."
"In that case you will be able to petition a family court for custody. Make no mistake, whatever happens you are going to lose custody, either to me or to Miami family services. It's up to you to decide where you want him to grow up, in a children's home here, or with my wife and I?"
+ + + + + + +
Ezra carried his meal out of the dining hall to the shaded outside eating area. He headed toward the most desirable table, the one closest to the edge of the outside dining area, but still in the shade and nowhere near a garbage can, with all its accompanying wildlife. He was about to sample, with the usual impending sense of doom, his tuna sandwich, when he was accosted.
"Move it prissy boy!"
Ezra looked up. This was a new arrival, an older boy, with red hair and pimples. Several boys Ezra had seen around, but avoided, accompanied him.
>>Leave, you don't want this table<< Ezra projected. The pimpled red head didn't react.
Well it didn't work on everyone, so Ezra turned to one of the other boys, the hangers on.
>>Itll be better if you sit under the tree<<
"Actually, why don't we sit under the tree? That'll be better," the boy suggested.
The other boys seemed puzzled.
"What's the matter with you, this is the best spot," the red head protested.
>>This table is too small, there's more room under the tree<< Ezra directed his thoughts at another of the gang.
"There's no room here, we can all fit under the tree."
Ezra picked on another member of the gang. >>Go to the tree<<
As this boy headed for the tree, the other two followed. With half his gang deserting him, the red headed leader was forced to capitulate.
+ + + + + + +
"How the hell does he do that?" the rather ernest young man beside Orin asked of no one in particular.
"Do what?" Orin asked.
"Standish, the boy you're here for, over there." He pointed to the table on the edge of the dining area. "The new boy, Perkins - who is going to be trouble, I can just feel it - he and his gang just gave up and walked way. Somehow Standish seems to be able to step or slip out of trouble by just looking at people."
"Looking at them?"
The young man shrugged. "He just gives them this look and they go away. I even saw one boy called Hugo, who must be three times his size, give Standish his dessert. Just handed it over, without being asked."
"Interesting." And it was, Maude had given nothing away when Orin fished for information about any 'special' ability her son might have. The retired judge had, however, already resolved to take Ezra even if he had no special gift, just to get him way from Maude and out of the hands of well meaning social workers, who, as good intentioned as they were, probably were never going to be able to give Ezra the kind of home he needed.
The two men walked over to Ezra. "Standish?"
"Cruz," Ezra responded sullenly.
"That's Mr Cruz to you."
"Then it's Mr Standish to you." Ezra could make Cruz do it. He was as weak minded as many of the boys, but he had no real power and he'd had no luck influencing any of the senior staff, so he didn't consider it worth the effort, besides it was fun to bait the man.
"Standish this is Judge Travis, he's from Washington, he's hear to coll "
"To speak to you," Orin cut in.
Cruz looked from Travis to Ezra and was about to speak.
>>Go and leave us in peace<< Ezra sent to him.
"I'll go now, leave you in peace."
Orin watched Cruz go, then turned back to Ezra. "How did you get him to do that?" he asked.
"Me? It was you cut him off," Ezra protested.
"But you sent him away, just as you did those older boys who were bothering you."
Ezra glanced at Perkins and his gang. "I have no idea to what you are alluding."
"Of course not." Travis smiled, then pulled out some papers from his jacket. "Here, I think you need to read these." He passed the papers to Ezra.
Ezra eyed him suspiciously then took the papers and read them, frowned, read them again. "This says you have been granted permanent custody of me?"
"That's what it says, your mother signed it."
"But she can't have, it's a trick!"
"I assure you it isn't a trick." Orin forced himself to remember that Ezra was only twelve and - as far as anyone could tell - had been travelling and living with his mother for the last four years. He hadn't even been to school in that time, though clearly he was well educated. "Ezra your mother is going to be found guilty, I've seen the trial transcripts, the evidence against her regarding your care is pretty damning as well. She's going to prison for a long time."
Ezra looked at the judge with clear pleading. >>Let me go to court, tell them to let me go<< But it was no good, Travis showed no sign of responding, and in truth Ezra didn't think he would. "Please sir, you are a judge, they will listen to you, I want to be in court for the verdict, please. Even if he couldn't now change the jury's mind, maybe he could influence the sentence?
"I'm sorry son, I'm retired now, besides I don't think having you there would beneficial."
"Not beneficial? Why not?"
Orin was beginning to suspect Ezra did indeed have a gift and what it was. Leaving him in an environment where he could make other boys do what he wanted wasn't healthy. "The decision has been made. We need to get you packed. You have an appointment at four to say goodbye to your mother and we have to be at the airport by seven."
+ + + + + + +
The only part of the journey JD remembered was getting on the plane in Chicago, getting off in Washington and talking to his new guardian in baggage claim, while they waited for their bags. This was where they discussed what he was going to call her. Aunt Evie sounded good to both of them. He's fallen asleep in the taxi and not even woken when the sympathetic driver had carried him into the apartment and placed him on the guest bed. Even having his shoes, socks and jeans pulled off hadn't woken him. He woke just after six, as he always did, but since he was now in DC, it was actually after seven. Excitedly he ran to the window and looked out. What he saw was a stretch of grass with a few rather thin, well spaced trees, beyond that there was a parking lot. It didn't look like a big house in the woods to JD. Aunt Evie had told him he'd be living in a big house in the woods, with a stream and a swimming pool. Better still Evie told him there would be dogs, cats and horses. JD loved all animals and couldn't wait to meet them.
Before he could worry about where he was too much his bladder made its presence felt and he went exploring in search of a bathroom. Outside the bedroom was a corridor, with doors on both sides. For a moment he debated which door to try first, until he saw that one was open slightly and the light was on. This proved to be the bathroom. Unfortunately JD was somewhat on the small side, even for a five-year-old and the lavatory was too high for him. He looked around; at the home there had been a special step for him to stand on, but there was no step and he was getting desperate, so he just did the best he could, and failed. JD stood back and stared in fear as a puddle formed from the liquid running down the underside of the bowl. He jumped, when he heard footsteps approaching him, fear filled eyes turned to face Eve.
Oh dear, didnt you make it in time? she asked sympathetically.
JD just stood there frozen to the spot.
Its okay, it really is, Eve approached slowly, not wanting to spook the small boy. She knelt down beside him and glanced at the puddle. Oh I see, its too high, isnt it?
JD nodded slowly.
Oh baby I am sorry, Id forgotten. Not to worry - let's get this all cleaned up and then you can have a bath before we have some breakfast. It hadnt been so long since she had a small boy to care for that Eve didnt know the way to a small boys heart is through his belly.
Some three hours later, clean, his little tummy full of apple juice, Frosties, toast with honey and chocolate Pop Tart, and having successfully used the bathroom with the aid of the yellow pages, JD was his old self again. Their first call was at Wal-Mart. Eve was a little out of practice with five-year-olds, but the old adage that if you cant buy it in Wal-Mart you probably dont need it' seemed a good place to start. They purchased a booster seat for the car, two bathroom steps and some catches for the cupboards Eve didnt want JD getting into. They returned to the car with these purchases and Eve fitted the booster seat. She wondered why men made such a performance out of fitting the things - she found that so long as she read the instructions carefully it was really very simple to do.
With that done they returned to the store. JD was enjoying himself immensely. He enjoyed riding in the cart and chatting to Eve, or indeed anyone who happened to be around. With summer fast approaching Eve purchased him some more lightweight, easy care clothing, as well as extra sun screen (she could just see that fair skin turning pink at the merest hint of sun) and various other things she thought he needed and didnt have.
Right dear, I think well put all this into the car, then have some lunch, before we do the food shopping, alright?
JD nodded enthusiastically, while still admiring his new Superman electric toothbrush.
Evie's phone rang while they were tucking into pizza and salad. JD had surprised Evie by requesting to accompany her to the salad bar, where he chose cherry tomatoes, raw carrot sticks and cucumber. The call was from Orin, explaining that he had the paperwork for Ezra and was bringing him to Washington that evening.
+ + + + + + +
JD waited eagerly to meet a new member of his family. Evie had assured JD that the apartment was not the big house she had told him of. After Ezra arrived, they would drive out to the big house the next day, which made JD doubly excited.
"Aunt Evie, what car will Mr Travis come in?" JD asked as he watched from the window for them.
"He'll come in a taxi dear. We'll have to decided what you boys are going to call Orin."
JD turned his head. "Who's Orin?"
"Oh, can I call him Uncle Orin?"
Evie thought a moment. "I think we'll wait until he's here and then we can ask him."
"Okay." With that JD went back to watching.
Less than ten minutes later he jumped up. "There's a taxi! I can see it!"
Evie, curious to see this new boy, hurried over to join him at the window, they watched Orin exit the cab and pay the driver, Eve confirmed that this was indeed her husband. They watched as a slight, auburn-haired boy exited the car.
"Is that him? Is he my family?" JD asked excitedly.
"I think so, let's go and meet them."