I sat there stunned. I had no idea how a shirt of mine could have ended up at JT's house. Wait a second, he said it had my name on it. I don't put my name on my clothes, not even my underwear. I've never had a reason to.
I leaned forward to meet the detective's gaze. "How do you know it's my shirt?"
"Like I said, it has your name on it," Fleming said smugly.
I guess Judy understood what I was getting at or maybe she was used to this sort of thing, but she seemed to protectively and gently push me back away from the detective. "Just because you found some random shirt, somewhere on the property that anyone could have written Mr. Collins' name on it, doesn't prove that this shirt is, in fact, his, nor does it prove that Mr. Collins has ever been on the property. I know you haven't had the time to have a DNA profile done on the shirt, especially since been a mere four days after the crime. This isn't CSI Miami, detective. Get back with us when you have your ducks in a row. As for now, this interview is over. Good day gentlemen."
"I don't think so, counselor. I'm not finished." Fleming's face flushed red with anger...
"Oh yes, you are. Either arrest my client, or leave. He isn't answering another question from you. You walked in here with an attitude, and you had one last night at my client's home. You bring up a shirt from who knows where and claim that it belongs to my client just because his name is written on it. With that logic anytime a murder is committed by someone wearing a Micheal Jordan jersey, Michael Jordan is guilty of the crime. If you continue to try and question my client, I'll have your badge."
"Thank you, Andy, for your time today. Good day everyone." Detective Jones stood, looked at Fleming, and motioned towards the door, ending the interview over the objection of the humiliated Detective Fleming.
"Well, that was interesting." Judy chuckled.
"Is it just me or does Detective Fleming seem to have something against me?" I asked no one in particular. I guess I was just thinking out loud.
"No Andy, it appeared that way to me as well. Fleming seemed to have some negative reaction towards you. However, upon reflection, I may have an answer, but I need to make a phone call first." Dad said, stood up, walked to his desk, and pushed the intercom. "Margie, please get me Judge-Executive Wayne Rutherford of Pike County on the phone for me."
"One moment, judge."
Dad sat down and turned to Mr. Reed, Judy, and me, "I'm being considered as a possible candidate for governor. Some influential men want to meet with me to gauge my interest and get a feel of my stance on some issues. It's possible that someone within that group doesn't like the idea of a Governor Collins and has pushed Detective Fleming at me and my family." Narrowing his eyes at me, "I'm sorry, son. All this might have been about me and the consideration being given to have me run for office. I get the feeling that someone might be using you to get at me."
"It's okay, dad." I smiled. "You would make an awesome governor." I was so proud of my dad. Finally, others are beginning to see what I've always known about my father and the type of man he is.
One other thing I hadn't missed, he didn't even need to ask if I had anything to do with this. He knew. He had faith in me. Faith. A word that had become very important to me.
"Wayne, yes, it's Sam," Dad said, turning his attention back to the call. "I have a situation here and I need to ask you some questions concerning the gentlemen who you said wanted to meet with me. I have my son, Mr. Reed our business attorney, and Miss Williamson, my son's defense attorney, here with me. With your permission, I'd like to put this call on speaker phone because this may very well affect us all." Dad may have been speaking softly on the phone, but Judge Rutherford almost seemed to be shouting into the phone. We could all hear every word even without the speakerphone.
"Sam, I have no problem with that."
"Okay Wayne, we're on speaker now."
"Hi everyone, I hope I can be helpful."
"As do I Wayne." Dad sighed, and then quickly switched to his judge voice. "Wayne, is it possible that one or more of these men you asked me to meet with are against the idea of me running for either of the offices you mentioned?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. The purpose of the meeting from our point of view wasn't only to get an idea of where you were coming from on several issues, but also some of us intended to use this meeting to persuade Nelson Freeman to back you for governor and not his brother-in-law, Edward Fleming, owner of Ed's Cadillac, in Lexington."
"Edward Fleming, son of Jeremiah Fleming and brother of Hank Fleming from here in Pine Hills?"
"Yes. That would be the man." Judge Rutherford said with his disgust showing in his voice.
"Son-of-a..." Dad started, looked at me, and then continued. "Sorry, I think you have just answered my question for me. My son is being investigated for murder by none other than Detective Hank Fleming."
"Are you talking about the double homicide I read about in the papers?"
"Yes. There seems to be some shirt with Andy's name on it that has Fleming going after my son hard."
"Well, that doesn't make any sense. When I met your son at the Christmas party last year, he was a bright, intelligent boy who wouldn't be stupid enough to kill someone, take off his bloody shirt, and leave it at the crime scene." I smiled at Judge Rutherford's comment. "Is this Detective Fleming heading up the investigation?"
"No, Detective Jones appears to be," Judy spoke up. "I had the feeling that Jones was allowing Fleming enough rope to hang himself."
"I think Judy's right." Dad began and then switched topics. "Back on point, it looks like someone is trying to persuade me not to meet with you and your friends."
"I can certainly understand, given the situation with your son..." Judge Rutherford started before I interrupted him.
"Dad, you can't let this stop you from doing what's right and best for everyone. I didn't do anything and in the end, that will come out. Like you said this morning, I don't say this enough, but I feel it and know it in every bone in my body. You're a good man and I'm very proud you're my father."
"He's right Sam and so was I," Rutherford said. "He's a very bright young man. There's no way that Craft boy is going to present that shirt as key evidence to a grand jury. I'd put my money down on it, he won't even question your son."
"Wayne, you're right, but we don't know what else Fleming thinks he has, nor do we know how far his brother will go to keep me from hearing your gentlemen out concerning a campaign. I want to meet with this group as soon as possible. How soon can you set it up?"
"How about tomorrow night? We had been thinking about doing it this weekend, but with a game already afoot, I'm with you, the sooner the better. Can we meet at your house, say... seven pm?"
"That's fine Wayne, but I have a condition, I want Mr. Reed and Miss Williamson present."
"That's your call, Sam. Andy, good luck young man. Okay folks, until tomorrow night."
"Good-bye Wayne," Dad said, before disconnecting the call.
Joey had his first appointment that afternoon, with Doctor Larry Stevens, who will try and help him deal with his past. Joey wasn't looking to follow to it. He preferred to keep the past in the past, but he also realized that if he didn't confront his demons, they would affect his relationship with Andy. In fact, Joey already knew his past was affecting his relationship. He knew he had hurt Andy when he refused, or stopped his advances while they were camping the previous weekend. It wasn't that he was saving himself for marriage. Like any two boys could ever be married in Kentucky. No, it was the words of his father that caused him to panic and stop Andy's lovemaking.
When he walked into Doctor Stevens' office, he had no idea what to expect. Yes, his father was a minister, but Joey had never sat in on a counseling session, nor had he ever been counseled. This was new territory for him.
"Come in, come in. Have a seat anywhere you feel comfortable." Doctor Stevens greeted him.
As Joey nervously sat on the couch, he looked around the room. The room was painted a sky blue, paintings of birds in flight hung on three of the walls, and on the wall behind the desk hung framed college degrees. Warm sunshine filled the room from the windows that faced Pine Mountain. Immediately, Joey was at ease.
The young man who greeted him was in his early thirties. A happy man, as it was clearly written on his face by the huge smile it bore and the twinkle in his eyes. He projected an aura of confidence, happiness, friendliness, and... joy! That's what had been missing from Joey's life. Joy.
"I'm Doctor Stevens, but you may call me Larry, Doc, or Doc Stevens. Whichever you're more comfortable with. I'm not here to fix anything, for there's nothing wrong with you. I'm here to listen and help guide you. Would you like to talk about why you're here?"
And that's all it took. He related everything he had bottled up, all the things his dad had said to him, done to him, how his mom stood by and did nothing to protect him, He shared how much he loved Andy, wanted to be with him in every way, how every time him and Andy became sexual, his dad's words would ring in his ears, Everything came rushing out, making Joey feel better than he had in a long time, and before he realized it, the hour was up.
"Joey," Doctor Stevens placed a reassuring hand on Joey's shoulder. "You are a remarkable young man. You have a reservoir of forgiveness that seems limitless and that is exceptional for someone your age. You're a kind hearted soul that looks out for the welfare of others before yourself. You also have a firm grasp of what's holding you back from having an amazing relationship with someone you love," he paused, and made sure Joey made eye contact with him before he continued. "Son, you know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. You know deep inside that the things your father said were untrue. You know you have a good relationship with your God. You just need to let those truths guide your actions. Now," he sat beside Joey on the couch, "just because everything feels right and the time seems right, doesn't mean you're ready for sex. You're fifteen years old and have plenty of time to discover your sexual being. However, nothing your father or others have said to you concerning homosexuality means it's wrong or that you aren't ready. Follow your heart and think it through. Whenever you're ready, make it special so when you're as old as I am, you'll remember it fondly."
Joey nodded. "Thank you, Doc. What you've said makes a lot of sense. I guess it's the same thing I've been telling myself. I think I just needed to hear it from someone else to confirm I was right."
"Joey," the doctor handed him a card. "That's my card with my phone number and e-mail address. If you ever need to talk, call me anytime, night or day. Personally and professionally, I don't think we need to meet again formally like this. You have your act together, but sometimes things from our past try to work their way back into the present. If for any reason you feel you're having trouble, call me and we'll work our way through it, okay?"
Joey quickly hugged him. "Thank you, Doc. You've helped a lot more than you may think."
Hugging Joey back he said, "That's what I'm here for."
It was after three when the meeting at Dad's office ended, and I was beat. It seemed like I didn't have any energy anymore. Dad took me home and I went straight to my room and threw in a Declan Galbraith CD. I really loved his voice and the songs he sings, because they usually relax me. After that jerk Fleming's questioning, I needed to relax some. The first song that played was Tears in Heaven.
The next thing I knew, Joey was waking me with a sweet kiss. I opened my eyes as he broke the kiss and pulled back to look at me. He seemed different, I wasn't for sure what it was, but he seemed... more confident.
I reached up and touched his cheek. "Hi babe."
"Hi Andy. How are you feeling?"
"Much better, now you're here." I winked.
A million watt smile spread across his face showing off his perfect white teeth. "You say the nicest things, Andy."
"You deserve them, Joey."
He leaned in and gave me another sweet kiss and finished with a soft kiss to the bridge of my nose.
I laughed, "What was that for?"
"Everything about you is sweet. I'm so lucky that you like me and put up with me." He said, and quickly looked away.
"Joey," I paused until he looked back at me, and my gaze held his with every ounce of willpower I had. "You're my world. When you're near me, you make my heart go knock knock, just like in Justin Bieber's One Time song."
"Andy Collins, you listen to Justin Bieber?"
The way he asked it soon had us both laughing. When it subsided his face became serious. He sat back a bit and cocked his head. "Not to change the subject, but how did your meeting go today at the courthouse?"
I turned off the CD giving me time to gather my thoughts. "Strange really. We feel that my involvement has more to do with politics than anything else." I went on to explain what we found out from the Pike County Judge and that my Dad may run for Governor.
"Wow! Governor? That's awesome. He'd make a great Governor. You must be so proud of your Dad."
"Yeah, I am, but not because others want him to be governor. I'm proud of him because he's an awesome dad."
Joey smiled and hugged me. He spoke gently into my ear. "Things like that is one of the many reasons I love you and I think I'm getting to where you and I can be more... uhm... we can be closer." I felt a nervous tremor in Joey, but he continued. "What I mean is, I had a really good chat with Doctor Stevens today," he leaned back so we could look at each other.
"That doctor they wanted you to see?"
"Yeah, a shrink, I guess. Anyway, he really didn't say a lot until the end."
"They usually don't. The good ones don't anyway. They want you to figure out what's wrong and walk you down the right path to fix whatever it is."
"Yes, exactly. That's what he did. The thing is, I realized that I've been allowing my dad's words to affect our relationship. I think... I hope... I'm determined to be past all of that now. He was wrong and I won't let him control my life anymore."
I hugged him tighter. "Babe, we'll still go at your pace. Nothing is more important than our long-term relationship. I'm in this for the long haul. I feel close to you right now just hugging you. I'm sor..."
He put a finger to my lips and shook his head. He was nervous, but determined to have his say.
"Don't. Soon, I want to give myself to you. Roger and I have been searching the Internet for info concerning chemo treatments for leukemia. And if you have leukemia, there's going to be times you won't feel too good. Probably won't be up for anything sexy." Joey's cheeks reddened.
"No Joey. I don't want you to do anything like that because I may be sick."
"But you ARE sick, Andy."
I sighed. "Yes, but something as special as what you're proposing shouldn't be given away because the other person wants it or because they're sick. I... I need you to want it to for the right reasons. Don't get me wrong. I love you and I want you. I want to do naughty things with you. But, for it to be really special, we both have to want it. I understand that now and it was wrong of me to push it when we were camping."
"That's just it, Andy." He smiled brightly. "I do want it. I've always wanted it. I just had this mental block that I'm passed now."
"Well then, we'll just have to see what we can do about it then."
"Hey guys. What's up?" Roger asked as he entered my room.
Judge Collins was back at his office going over a file concerning a drug bust that was set for trial the following day, but probably would be plea bargained without actually making it to trial.
"Judge, Carl Bennett on line two for you."
"Thank you, Margie."
"Good afternoon counselor, what can I do for you?"
"Sir, it appears to me that we will need to find someone else to represent JT McCray. I'm not a criminal defense attorney and I feel the Commonwealth Attorney will be bringing the boy before the grand jury, in the near future."
"Carl, I didn't think it would get this far. Surely, Dwayne Craft won't try to indict that boy."
"I'm afraid so, judge. They have been checking JT's story and found the cave in which he claims to have been held. They found a machete in the cave that had the victims blood on it and only JT's fingerprints. JT told them he knows nothing about a machete and that his family, as far as he knows, has never owned one. Judge, I know I told you I would be happy to take on this case, and even though I would love to take on my old classmate, I truly believe this boy is innocent and deserves better counsel than myself."
"Thank you, Carl, for calling and for what you feel is an honest opinion. I'm not sure I concur with the self-analysis of your abilities; however, let me ask you this. Did they give you any indication that they intend to try and indict my son?"
"No sir, quite the opposite. There was a tee-shirt found at the crime scene with his name on it, but that has been dismissed as JT trying to implicate Andy in the crime. But I should tell you, that from what I hear, it was over Detective Fleming's objections."
"That doesn't surprise me any at all. I've been informed that Fleming actions are probably politically motivated." The judge paused, and decided that Mr. Bennett didn't need to know more and shifted gears back to JT. "Back to your client, I may have a solution. Let me make a couple of phone calls and I'll get back to you."
"Thank you, Judge. Good-bye."
Roger's timing sucked, but it was good to see him anyway. There would be plenty of time for Joey and me to be intimate. I filled Roger in on my interview/interrogation and how Fleming acted and what the attorneys thought about it. Roger filled me in on what I missed at school; nothing, except the gang, sent their good wishes, thinking I was sick.
I guess sooner or later, I would have to let them know about the leukemia. It wasn't something I was looking forward to. I figured I would find out for sure first, and I wouldn't know that until next week, after the bone marrow biopsy on Friday. So, if I have it, then I'll tell the gang then.
Joey nudged me, bringing me out of my thoughts. I couldn't help but smile at him. "Yeah?"
"Where did you go?" Roger asked.
"I was just thinking about the gang and when I might tell them about the leukemia."
"Nothing to tell them yet, is there?" He sat down on the bed beside me.
"No, and that's what I decided. To not say anything until I know more." I looked Roger in the eye. "That is, if I tell anyone anything other than family and you two."
"That's your call bro. Joey and I will back you up on anything you decide. You know us."
"That's right." Joey agreed. "We're the three musketeers." He added, grinning.
"Joey, dinner will be ready soon. It's your favorite, meatloaf." Roger stood up.
"Eww, you like meatloaf?" I asked making a sour face.
"Yeah, it was the only thing mom could cook." Joey smiled.
"Whatever. Just don't expect me to eat any of that... stuff." I said, winking.
"Okay, I'm out of here. See ya later Andy." And with that, Roger was gone.
Joey stood and held out his hand to help me up. Once I was standing, he leaned in and kissed me. I'm was beginning to like Joey's aggressive side.
Breaking the kiss, he smiled. "We'll get back to the subject we were talking about before Roger showed up in the near future."
"Sounds like a plan to me." I leaned in for one more kiss before he followed Roger. It seemed like at least one part of my life was looking up.
I turned the Declan CD back on and just as my head hit my pillow, "Andy?"
"Son, I'm going to fix you dinner in a minute, but I'm going to meet someone for dinner, if you'll be alright alone tonight." I could see that dad really wanted to go, but was concerned about me. I also had a guess who he would be meeting,
"Uhm, I'm not sure dad." A slight frown crossed his face, but he quickly recovered. I don't think anyone else would have noticed it. I decide to play just a little bit more.
"Who were you planning on meeting? I hope it's not some woman." I said, and added a frown on my own.
"Well, son, as matter of fact..."
I busted out laughing. "Miss Williamson?" He nodded. "She's a pretty lady, uh?" He nodded again. "You won't be out past curfew?"
He chuckled. "I can't make any promises." Oh my God, I think he blushed. I had never seen him blush before!
"Dad, seriously, I like Judy and I think... Never mind what I think. Go have a good time. I'll be fine. If I need anything, I'll call Joey and Roger." I was happy for my dad. He deserves to be happy too.
He returned my smile and nodded. "I'll yell when your dinner is ready."
"Thanks, Dad, I mean it. Have a good time and don't worry about me, okay?"
He gave me the okay sign and left to make dinner. I laid back on my bed and thought of my Dad and Judy being together. I didn't know her that well yet, but I had a feeling I would before everything was said and done and mom would approve.
Thinking of mom made me realize something. I no longer got sad thinking about her. Maybe it was because I knew now she was in heaven and there was no reason to be sad. I also felt, no, not felt, but had faith that one day, we would all be together again.
I woke early and decided to go ahead and start the new day. I did my daily routine, minus exercising "Little Mikey". I wanted to save that until Joey and I could exercise together. Every time I thought about it, I couldn't help but smile. As matter of fact, "Little Mikey" stayed up the whole time and didn't calm down until I rounded the corner to the kitchen and found dad at the table.
"Morning." I mumbled as I walked past him to the cabinet to grab a bowl of cereal for breakfast."
"Good morning, son. You're up early this morning." He replied with a raised eyebrow. Clearly, making it more a question than a statement
"Yeah, I woke up early." Then I remembered his dinner date. Sometimes it takes my mind a while to wake-up in the mornings, but it was fully awake now. "So, what time did you get home last night?" I was unable to control the smile that spread across my face.
"That young man, shall remain my secret. But, suffice it to say, it wasn't a late night. And again, thank you for your understanding. I also need to tell you it wasn't purely a social meeting. We worked out some things that I need to run by you."
"Okay, shoot," I said. taking a seat across the table from him and poured some milk over my cereal.
"Judy has agreed to take JT's case pro bono, without charging JT anything. I've learned that they have stopped looking at you as a suspect and turning all their focus onto JT, at the moment."
I shook my head. "I have no problem with that. He needs a good attorney if Fleming is involved and we know he is. But there's more, isn't there?"
He nodded. "Yes, there is. If you agree, we'll take JT in until a better home can be found for him. He'll be released from the hospital soon and really has nowhere to go. What family he has, doesn't want anything to do with him and the only other choice is juvenile detention. I don't think a place like that would be good for him after what he's been through. Do you?" He closely studied my face for my reaction.
I'm not ashamed to say that I did take some time to think about it. I thought about things from his point of view. Would he feel safe here and welcomed? I decided that we couldn't do any less than to offer to help. Besides, Joey was right next door and they seemed to have become friends. No doubt he needed friends now more than ever.
"Let's do it," I said, as turned to my dad and smiled.
"Good," Dad smiled and patted my shoulder. "I expected you would agree with me, but you deserved to be asked first, before I put anything into motion."
I watched Dad's face cloud over as he studied me. "How are you feeling this morning?"
"I'm okay." I shrugged. "My ribs are better and the bruises are fading. What time do we go in for the bone marrow biopsy on Friday?"
"They want us there by seven in the morning, but the procedure is scheduled for nine-o-clock." Dad paused and took a hard look at me. "You're pretty nervous about it, aren't you?" His eyes softened.
"How can you tell?" I chuckled.
"This is the third time you have asked me what time it was scheduled and I know you have a better memory than that." He stood and moved one of the chairs beside me and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. "I'll be right there with you through everything. No matter what may come our way, you will always be my number one priority. Until you're through college, my main focus will be you."
Placing my spoon down, I turned to face him. "Dad, no. Your happiness is important too. I know I will always have you in my corner and will be there to help me up should I fall, but you have a life too, and your happiness is as important to me as mine is to you. I'm sure we can find a compromise somewhere."
He smiled and ruffled my hair. I rolled my eyes and wondered why do adults have this thing about messing up our hair?
Ed smiled as he drove his wife and their new foster son, Cody, to school.
He caught his wife twisting around to talk with Cody, who sat in the back seat.
"You ready to start a new school today?"
"Yes ma'am. Joey and Andy go to school at Pine Hills and I think it'll be awesome going to the same school."
Ed looked in the rear view mirror and saw Cody smiling for a change with a twinkle in his eyes.
He turned his head to looked back at Cody, "Both of those boys are fine boys. You could do a lot worse than having them as friends."
He took a long look at Cody, as his wife turned all her attention to the boy. They began to banter back and forth about friends. He was already thinking of him as a son. The kid was a bundle of energy and had a zeal for life and he looked forward to tossing a baseball with him in a couple of months. Coming out of his thoughts, he looked up and only had enough time to shout, "Hold on!"