It was exactly a half an hour when Mary, looking like she'd spent an hour in the salon, entered the house with a very unhappy, grumpy Judge by her side.
"Judge," Chris greeted, his face almost apologetic for causing him to be up at 2:30 in the morning.
"Where is he?" Mary asked, poking her head into the kitchen.
"Easy, Mary," the Judge ordered.
"Orin, Billings' finds out that I didn't call him...it could be my job!" Mary whispered harshly.
"If you'd done that national search, I never would have had to leave," JD said from the entryway of the living room, wrapped protectively in a blanket. "Why didn't that cost you your job?" he bit out.
"JD," Chris reprimanded.
"J...," Mary said as she turned to where the words had come from.
"Son, you look awful," Orin said with concern.
"I'm fine," JD assured in a strong tone. "So why didn't she lose her job, Judge Travis?"
"She did her job, son. Granted, she didn't conduct a national search; protocol doesn't dictate that a national search be conducted if it's not warranted," the Judge said easily.
"So, the fact that I had no idea who my father was, that didn't warrant a national search?" JD nearly laughed his question.
"You were born in Massachusetts, you never left the state, chances were..." Mary defended her lack of action.
"...my mother made her money by selling herself, and chances are that she got knocked up by some guy just passing through," JD sneered as he walked past the stunned social worker, removing the blanket and laying it on the staircase railing.
"JD," Chris said evenly, his tone one of warning.
"Now you listen here..." Orin growled, pointing a crooked finger in JD's direction.
"Leave it alone, Orin," Mary requested softly, her head hanging so her chin touched her chest.
"Tell me you didn't?" the judge seemed to almost beg.
"She did," JD answered.
"We'll discuss your fondness for numbers and statistics later; right now, I'd like find out why I'm not in bed sleeping and Mary can't ease Seth Billings' mind that his son is okay," Orin sighed.
"Maybe we should sit down," Chris suggested with a heavy sigh, motioning his arm toward the living room. "JD, why don't you help me with the coffee."
Mary and the Judge sat on the large couch, Mary opening her brief case and arranging papers on the coffee table in front of her.
"So, do you want to tell me why Mary dragged me here in the middle of the night? Or are we just going to sit around and drink coffee?" Orin asked impatiently, as Chris set the coffee pot and spoons down on the table, followed by the mugs, sugar bowl and creamer JD brought in.
"Seth Billings isn't JD's father," Chris declared.
"What? How do you know that? There's been no DNA results," Mary reminded.
"Yes, there has," Chris said as he stood and walked to the small table on the hallway wall. He'd sent JD to his room to bring the 'Ace card' down stairs as they waited for Mary and the Judge to arrive.
"Billings got them four days ago. He opened the envelope, then tossed the works in the trash," JD revealed. "I fished them out, and took off," he added as Chris handed the judge the sacred piece of paper.
The corner of the Judge's mouth tugged up into a slight smile as he scanned over the paper that revealed the impossibility of Seth Billings being the boy's father; he'd always liked Chris, and he thought JD complimented Chris and vice versa.
"Why didn't you just ask Mr. Billings for this?" Orin asked as he handed the paper to Mary.
"He didn't want me to find out," JD said, looking away from the inquiring eyes, knowing there'd be more questions as to why Billings wanted to keep the information quiet.
For the next hour, JD divulged to Mary and the judge what his home life was like while in the 'care' of Seth Billings. Mary jotted down notes when JD told them of the living conditions and lack of 'real' meals he was provided with; the Judge added his own thoughts to a yellow legal pad.
Chris had given JD a supportive squeeze to his shoulder when the Judge had asked what it was that he'd done all day if he didn't attend school; the look on the Judge's stern face when JD revealed the information took JD's breath away. His eyes shot to Mary to avoid the intimidating glare of the Judge; seeing the woman's somewhat 'doubtful' look as to his willingness to deliver drugs, pissed him off just enough to muster the gumption to tell his tale.
"So...uhh..." JD disrupted the short silence that had fallen on the room after he related all that had gone on with Billings. "...am I in a lot of trouble, Judge Travis?" JD asked the question that had been nagging at him since he'd talked to Chris.
"Currying drugs and money is a serious charge, JD. You said you did this against your will. Did Mr. Billings follow you?" Mary asked coldly as she flipped back over the notes she'd taken.
"No...but," JD answered, then tried to explain.
"For three weeks you carried drugs and money...against your will," Mary's question was asked like a statement, never looking to JD or Chris.
"Yes," JD answered emphatically.
"What exactly are you implying, Mrs. Travis?" Chris asked protectively, his patience gone at the tone Mary was using. He placed his hands on the edge of the coffee table, his upper body ever so close to invading Mary's 'space'. "I suppose you have some figures and studies that show that teenagers who are ripped from their homes resort to selling drugs willingly for the man who claimed to be their father!"
"I'm merely pointing out that this boy was taken from where he wanted to be and placed with a man that he didn't know and had no desire to know. Whether Mr. Billings was his father or not, he didn't want to be there. I can't believe that if he was currying drugs, as he so claims, he wouldn't have contacted you...much less stay three weeks," Mary stated, as her ice blue eyes locking with Chris' to emphasize her points.
"You bitch," Chris whispered harshly, shaking his head as he sat back in his chair.
JD was shocked. He sat back, slouching in his chair. His leg bouncing up and down trying to dispel the anger that over came him, gnawing on his thumbnail to curb the urge to respond to the woman. His head shaking slightly with sad disbelief as his eyes filled with tears of hurt.
"Son," the Judge said softly; moving himself to the edge of the cushion, deliberately making his body language as non-threatening as possible. "What did Billings do when you refused?"
JD didn't respond right off, his posture remained the same but he ventured his gaze to the judge out of the corner of his eyes. In that quick glance, he saw a Judge that wanted to believe him. JD turned and bowed his head, his elbows resting on the arms of the chair, his fingers picking at each other nervously.
"He hit me," JD responded so quietly, neither the Judge nor Mary heard him.
"What was that, son?" the Judge asked.
"He hit me," JD said a bit stronger, but his posture remained the same as a tear streamed down his nose, landing somewhere in the cushion of the chair he sat in.
"How many times did he strike you?" the Judge asked as he wrote on the legal pad.
"Once," JD answered, his head still bowed.
"Just once?" Mary asked.
"It was enough," JD said, then stood from his chair and turned his back to the two people on the couch.
"Why didn't you call?" Mary asked coldly.
"He'd lock me in my room at night, didn't have a phone in my room," JD said, turning again to face Mary and the Judge. "I was pretty wiped out from running all day, it took me two weeks to figure out that he was wasted by ten o'clock and passed out by 11. By that time I decided to wait for the results of the paternity test; I didn't think he wouldn't tell me. I saw him open the envelope, saw him throw it away, and I just decided to wait till he passed out," JD shrugged through the last part of his statement before sitting back in the chair.
"Judge? I'm in a lot of trouble for currying for this guy, ain't I?"
"You knowingly did this JD," Mary shook her head as she sighed.
"JD," Orin said as he stood then walked behind JD. He put his hands on JD's shoulders, squeezing as he spoke, his eyes settled directly at Mary. "You had some very difficult choices to make. You were faced with a situation and you dealt with it the only way you saw how. I don't think there is a judge in this great country of ours that could hold you responsible for doing what you did."
"What's going to happen to Billings?" Chris asked, his question clearly directed to Mary.
"Nothing," Mary sighed, gathering up the small pile of papers she'd stacked on the small table.
"Nothing?" Chris asked loudly. "What about kidnapping? Child endangerment? Abuse? Neglect? Contributing to the delinquency of a minor? Let's not forget, drug trafficking, possession of illegal substances with intent to sell and distribute, possession of monies gained illegally...should I go on?" Chris asked harshly, unbelieving the woman's attitude.
"There is no way to prove in a court of law, that Seth Billings knew he wasn't JD's father," Mary said evenly, putting her papers back into her briefcase, then snapped the case shut. "Are you ready, Orin?"
"Have you heard...I'm mean really heard, and let sink in, what JD just told you?" Chris asked, beginning to lose what little control he had left.
"I heard every word. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a phone call to make," Mary said.
"You're going to call that scum!? He's a drug dealer and a liar...JD was gone for three days, Mary! Three days! And Billings just called you today! That doesn't strike you as odd?"
Mary looked to the Judge. The Judge offered no escape; the way Orin saw it, she was bringing Chris' wrath on all by herself. Orin loved his daughter-in-law dearly, but there were times...like right now...that he wished Mary could have the strength to admit when she was wrong, that she'd made a mistake; that she would see things weren't always black and white.
"Chris," Mary let out a heavy sigh. "A judge signed those custody papers."
"He was in on it," JD said quietly from the chair he sat in. "I think."
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