We all settled into a routine, not changed much, but just a little different. Different in that we had one more resident in the house, chores were adjusted since we had groups of twos now for all the chores that six boys could be expected to do around the house. The twins were responsible for making sure their room was picked up and neat at all times, as well as their bathroom. Their dirty clothes hamper in their bathroom was to be emptied as soon as it reached its fullness, not when they had shoved the dirty clothes down in it to cram more in, all they had to do was to tell an older boy who would take it down to the laundry room where it would be sorted into a "white or light" pile or a dark pile to be added to the multiple loads of wash Cal or Sam or I did every week. They would also help rinse dirty dishes from the table after a meal and help an older boy load the dishwasher.
Julian and Richie would set the table for whatever meal we were eating, keep their rooms neat and picked up as they also did with their bathrooms and their clothes hampers, but being older, they were supposed to keep their bathroom clean as well, they were told it wasn't Cal's job to wipe out their showers or their sinks or toilets. The two older boys, Alo and Aidan were also responsible for their own room and bathroom, as well as helping the younger ones when needed and also supervising and helping to clean up after a meal.
The boys all received a generous allowance in addition to their lunches at school. When the high school added an additional Driver's Ed Teacher and classes were opened to those 15 and a half and up, we let Alo and Aidan sign up and they took to those after-school classes like ducks do to water. At sixteen they were allowed to take their learners permit exam and they both passed. They couldn't drive on their own yet, but they were eligible to take the driving portion of the class then to get some real on the road experience.
Our boys were growing up and we knew they wouldn't always be at home, so we also instilled some manners in them, and gave them some practical experience by practicing what we preached, and it showed. When we went to parent/teacher conferences the first things we usually heard was how polite and courteous our boys all were. Of course, we knew they were, but it was nice to hear others saw it and appreciated them also.
That April we heard from Stu and Rico that they too had started a family, a female dachshund named Patches had been added to the household. She was a brindle, with dark and gray blotches all over and the pictures of her they had attached to their e-mail were adorable. They were hoping to find a male brindle for her mate, but nothing had shown up there as yet. We informed them how cute we all thought Patches was and we informed them our newly increased in size family would be down for the entire month of June.
On April 17th we heard from the local animal shelter that two brindle dachshunds had been dropped off at their center and since we had specifically asked for one, we were invited in to see if either of the two would suit us. We asked if one was an unneutered male and we were told that the younger one was, the older male was "fixed". We drove right over and found the young male very friendly and affectionate, so we adopted him, paying extra for them not to insist on his being "fixed" before we took him home with us. We now had a six-month anniversary present for Rico and Stu, and a "welcome to the family" one for Patches.
The boys all had so much fun with Butch, as they named the young stud, that we had to promise them one from the first litter, whenever that should occur. We took John with us when we went, of course, and surprisingly it was Julian and John who came to us and told Sam and me that they thought one more bed could fit in their room in Key West and they wanted Rickie to share their room with them. Julian said to us that if he and John needed some alone time, they could just tell Richie to find something to do for an hour, so they could have their privacy. We discussed this with Richie and he thought it was a great idea and a nice thing for Julian to do for him. We told him that if things became uncomfortable for him all he had to do was to say something to either Sam or me and we would make other sleeping arrangements for him.
Brian had an excellent first year in college and Sean graduated with honors from high school the last week of May, just before we left for our vacation. Cal also graduated again, finishing up his two year Master's Program in only one year, we were all proud of him and his achievements, especially as he had a house to maintain for us all and double the "distractions" at home to deal with, but he told us that Sean and Brian always made sure his assignments were complete, as he did with them, before any "fun time" occurred. We asked him what we could do for him as a graduation present, and he asked us to make his position in our house a full time one, he wanted to be our house manager. He would oversee a weekly cleaning with two cleaners he would hire, he would be responsible for all meals, grocery shopping, car maintenance, the kids' doctors' appointments, basically be an "at home dad" for the whole family. I asked if forty thousand a year with free rent would cover everything and without hesitation, he said yes, he found taking care of us was much more his style than a corporate job could ever be.
Butch and Patches made a great pair and Stu and Rico were thrilled at once when we presented the wiggling boy to them. He kissed both of them and when put down on the floor he started sniffing and found Patches in her indoor kennel right away. He was even able to work the latch and they were very happy to meet each other. Rico and Stu each took a dog and they put the "love birds" into the large outdoor kennel.
The rest of our stay, from day one, was a truly wonderful time. We took everyone on a day trip to Fort Jefferson by chartered boat, we all visited Room Escape a couple of times, and even though I went into the rooms with different team configurations each time, my team won each time. Sam and I had plenty of time by ourselves and we discussed a lot about where we wanted to be in five years, our hopes for each of our boys, the young and the old, whether Richie was gay or straight, when would the 8-year-old twins start asking sex questions, you know, the stuff parents worry about. We decided we might be taking advantage of Cal and whatever insecurities he might have about working out in the real world, but he was so incredibly happy that we couldn't just force him out in the job market.
We shopped almost every other day at Fausto's and even visited with Sharon about once a week either at our house or when we went out to eat together. She really was a good friend and showed no favoritism, she said she loved us all. There were days when the boys all spent time at the library, learning crafts and having fun with kids their own ages at the functions there. Richie had a friend who happened to live down the block and he and Mat spent a lot of time in our pool when there was an older teen or Cal or us two oldies to watch over them and act like a lifeguard.
Our vacation was a magical time for all of us, but it was time to return home and our real lives.
Once home we settled into our Summer routines, Cal took over the running of the house and making sure he knew where everyone was during the day. It was not only a safety feature, but it helped him in planning meals for the family. It also let him plan a lot of the kids' activities during the summer months, and would set the guidelines for the Fall scheduling. Julian was always on top of his own schedule, not wanting to miss a lesson with his clarinet teacher and he got to spend more time with John as he was taking an advanced keyboard class in the next classroom at the same times and John's mother or Cal drove the boys and picked them up. It helped also to coordinate the twin's playtime with Clara's younger boys, B&B. With Alo and Aidan also driving now it did help out a lot as they could drive to the store for last minute shopping or to pick up dry cleaning when needed, they couldn't have passengers yet unless an adult was riding with them, but Cal said they sure came in handy when needed and they were happy to help out where they could.
Sam and I were back at work, filling in for others who had filled in for us while we were away on our vacation. Sam had participated in a fire call the second week we were back, and he called me from the scene, "Tom, could you come out to the Adkins farm, we've just about got the fire here under control, but we've already come across two bodies in the barn and the house still has several hot spots, but neither of these bodies is Mr. or Mrs. Adkins, and we believe the bodies we have found were murdered, and the fire started to destroy the bodies, but as I said, we haven't been able to search the house as yet". I told him I'd be right over, and I called the Coroner and the Medical Examiner, and his team and we all met there about 15 minutes later.
The farm was kind of remote, it was really out there in the country, bordering the towns of Belchertown and Granby, about 20 minutes from Chicopee and Springfield. The Adkins farm had been a showplace in its day, round 1975, but it hadn't been updated any since then and it had been on the market and uninhabited for the last 10 years, except for the elderly Adkins couple who lived on the sprawling 200 acre farm alone, since their children had grown and moved on to start their own lives in the cities. There were two daughters and a son. The daughters were married and both in their 30's and their older brother was also married and in his early 40's.
The son was well known in the area as he owned a big furniture discount store in Springfield and advertised on the local TV stations and newspapers. He appeared in his own commercials and was a rather large, overweight man. His sisters, on the other hand, were attractive women, both employed by a college in Chicopee, one as a secretary to the dean and the other as a nurse/instructor in the nursing program offered at the college.
The rumor around town was that the elderly Adkins couple had had several offers on their property, but as I said, it hadn't been modernized in decades and had been beginning to look run down and overgrown even before it had been put on the market 10 years ago. They were a "house proud" couple and had refused many offers below their asking price and had been through several Realtors in the last several years. As I arrived on scene, the others following closely, we encountered several firefighters dowsing the very large farmhouse with water from their hoses and a hydrant on the street, while the pumper truck was still wetting down the smoldering barn behind the house. Sam waved me over to the barn and as I put on my waterproof boots from my trunk, he told me why he had called me in.
He explained that as soon as they had the pumper's hoses trained on the barn, he and two other firefighters had gone inside to make sure there weren't still any animals inside, or a person who would have felt trapped. In one of the empty stalls they came across the two bodies, a woman and a man, both shot in the head, both around 30 years old, nicely dressed, and largely unburned because a large water barrel had overturned and had wet the straw on the floor near the entrance to the stall. They had had to spray water on the surrounding beams and straw to try to keep the bodies intact. The barrel had tipped because the wood box it had been sitting on had caught fire and had burned until the barrel had tipped and spilled the water out, extinguishing the fire around that area.
The fire appeared to have spread to the nearby house by way of the long grasses leading to the big side porch and then to the house itself, which was how anyone knew the fire was there on the property. There were no smoke or fire detectors in the barn, but there were in the house and that was what had triggered the alarm to the fire station.
One of the firemen came up to Sam and told him they were ready to enter the house, so Sam replaced his helmet on his head and I told him to please be careful as I kissed his cheek. They had their respirators on as the team of 4 entered the house, searching the first floor in two teams of two and in the farm office off the kitchen they encountered the first body, Mr. Adkins, shot in the head, and the body of Mrs. Adkins in the laundry room, apparently shot in the back of the head as she folded clothes from the dryer, as she was found prone in front of that machine and the door of it was open with clothing inside and folded stacks of clothing on its top.
The first floor had been burnt, but not as bad as the barn had, that was going to be a complete loss, but the big side porch, the kitchen and the adjacent dining room had been practically gutted by the fire and all the water had made quite a mess out of what was left. Sam had had me escorted inside and I called out to the medical examiner and told them we had two more bodies in the house and I needed a crime scene evidence kit and a photographer in here right away. He came in with two others and the grubby job of collecting evidence at a fire scene started. I needed the open appointment book and the three ledgers on the desktop, and I asked one of the evidence collectors to bag them for me and any hand-written notes on the desk and near the wall phone in the kitchen, as I had noticed handwriting on the pad near that phone. I could begin my investigation, alongside the state arson investigator, with those items as long as the ink hadn't run too bad from all the dripping water.
I eventually returned to the barn and had a chance to look through the contents from the man's pockets and the woman's purse. They were Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Novack, from Chicopee and Mrs. Novack had been one of the Adkins' daughters. Once that was done, I removed my plastic gloves and looked around
the grounds between the house and the barn, about an area thirty feet by thirty feet and worked my way from what was left of the porch to the barn, going back and forth, never lifting my eyes, and didn't find anything, but as I stopped by a bush at the front corner off the house, standing on the very wide driveway, I noticed something shiny under the bush, and an omelet sized mound of vomit just under the bush, some still dripping off one of the lower branches of the bush. I called over one of the evidence gatherers and pointed both the vomit and the gun out to her and she dutifully bagged and tagged the evidence.
Once the fire department was assured there would be no more flare-ups, a small tanker truck and two firemen were left at the property for the rest of the afternoon as a precaution and the drive was roped off at the street and a patrol car and two officers were stationed there, mainly to keep the curious out, but essentially to preserve the crime scenes. Sam and his crew left to return to their station, taking the full sized equipment with them, the coroner left with the four bodies, bagged and tagged, and I contacted the Chief to assure myself that the Novack's next of kin had been notified, and that they were indeed childless so no one had to go gather kids at their house, but the Chicopee police did check to verify that and when assured the adults were the only occupants of their home the house was sealed until a crime scene crew could go over there later this afternoon and go through it, I would have to accompany them.
Again, there were notes on the pad by their phone and once that was gathered and bagged, we combed through their comfortable ranch style home for anything that might be considered evidence as to why they were both at her parent's farm today, and why they were shot dead. We did determine that this was the sister that was a secretary to the college's dean, and in an address book, I found the number for the remaining sister and the brother. While still at the Chicopee house a car pulled in the drive and out of it an attractive woman in her 30's ran up to the front door, to be greeted by an evidence tech and was asked to wait for me on the front porch. The tech called for me and I approached him, and he told me the sister was on the front porch.
I immediately went to her, expressing my condolences, for the loss of her parents and the losses of her sister and brother in law. She broke down sobbing and a female tech came and sat in on the interview with Mrs. Ingram. When she got herself under control Mrs. Ingram asked how they died, and I explained that all four were shot, her sister and her husband were found in a stall in the barn and her parents were in their house. I asked if she knew why her sister and brother in law were out at the farm today and she said she wasn't sure, but it might have something to do with an offer that had been made on the farm just yesterday, the last time she had talked to any of the four dead people. She told us that both her sister and brother had wanted their parents to accept the offer, but since she didn't have any opinion one way or the other, she didn't get involved.
She told me that she didn't know why they had been so involved with this particular offer, but she had been called by both her sister and her brother to go with them to try and talk their parents into accepting the offer for their farm. She couldn't see any reason for this particular offer to be accepted over any of the others made in the past, other than that her siblings seemed eager to have the place sold and her parents, who had been in good health for their ages, out of there and on their way to a retirement community on the other side of town.
I asked for contact information for her brother, since there was no evidence he had been at the farm that day, and I wondered where the dead sister's car was, it certainly wasn't at the farm, How did the sister and her husband arrive at the farm and how did they expect to leave?, certainly not in body bags in the back of the coroner's SUV. She readily gave me the private cell number for her brother and again I offered my condolences and she then left to be with her husband at their home several blocks away.
I called the brother's private cell number and got his voice mail, then called his home phone number and the call was answered by a woman who identified herself to me as his wife. She told me, after I identified myself, that she hadn't seen him all day and I might want to try him at his office at his main store in Springfield, I asked if she was aware of the deaths of her in laws and she said that someone from the Springfield police department had been to their house in the past hour and had informed her, but again, she reiterated she hasn't seen or heard from her husband all day. She didn't seem worried or upset, but her speech wasn't exactly steady, in fact, she sounded like a drunk trying to sound sober to me. I gave her my cell number and asked her to call me if she heard from or saw her husband. She agreed, and I ended the call.
I really wanted to get back to the office and start going through the paperwork and the ledgers found in the father's office and home, but protocol required that I interview the family members as soon as possible, and that left only the brother. I tried the cell number given to me for him again. This time he answered the call and after I identified myself, he agreed to my driving out to Springfield and talking to him, he gave me directions to his office and I agreed to meet him there in about 15 minutes.
After being shown into his office at the main "Knock Down Adkins "store I asked Mr. Adkins If he had seen his parents or younger sister and her husband that day. He told me that he had talked to his sister and she had asked him to go with her to talk their parents into accepting an offer made on their farm a few days ago. He said he told her it wasn't any of his business and he wanted nothing to do with it. I didn't believe a word he was saying. When I asked if he had any knowledge of the deaths that had occurred at the farm, he denied any knowledge of the deaths, and he didn't seem upset by them either. I excused myself from his office and said we would be in touch if we had any further questions. With the last of the immediate family notified I turned my attention to the brother in law who was shot in the barn with his wife.
The staff in my police station had been researching him since we had learned his identity, so I called in to see what had been discovered about him. It appeared he was a well-respected accountant for a national bank, with offices in the downtown Springfield business district. His secretary was sure he didn't have any living family, so that was more notifications I wouldn't have to make, but she was concerned that no one in the office could get into the computer in his private office, it appeared he had added an encrypted password on his office computer, which was against company policy, especially in instances like this when the operator is no longer available to service the accounts within the computer. They had been asked for our permission to send the computer itself to their main office in New York, so their IT people could try to get to the information inside. I didn't like not having that computer in our hands, especially if there might be information I needed in it, so I told my office that in no way was that computer to leave the state and I would have the state police IT lab go with a search warrant and collect it to have it hacked and the data in it analyzed.
At the office, I barely had started on the ledgers and the notepads from near the farmhouse phones, when I had the urge to find out about the offer for their property the elder Adkins had received. I retrieved my now printed photos from the scene, the ones I had taken on my cell, and there on the tree belt at the front of the driveway was a realtor's "FOR SALE" sign stuck in the ground, it was for a Realty company right down the street from the police station, so I took my notepad and cell and I told the front desk where I was going and walked down the street to the office of the realtor who had the farm listed.
I identified myself when I entered and asked for the listing agent for the Adkins' farm and was shown to the office of Mr. Clark, Kent Clark. (His parents had some issues). Mr. Clark was a mid 30's aged man, attractive in a "professor type" way. He rose up to shake my hand, introducing himself, but lost his welcoming smile when I introduced myself as a police detective. I asked him as we sat down if he knew the Adkins family and he said he had been a schoolmate of the younger daughter, so had known the family for about 20 years total now. I asked if he had not seen the noon news on the local TV stations today and he replied he hadn't, so I informed him of the murders that had taken place today at the farm. His reaction was one of disbelief (but I didn't believe him), he seemed so sincere, too sincere and the two little tears were a bit over the top. I asked to see the file on the property.
It was all in there, the history of the farm being on the market, from the first listing sheet 10 years ago to the one printed up by this agent to entice lookers and buyers. Right in front of me was the official listing price of 2 million, and a new offer for 1.1 million, placed by a big home builder in the area, and that wasn't even the lowest offer in the file. It appeared no one had wanted the property for the house, they wanted the land to develop as home sites. There were notes in the file, something I wanted to go through without "the professor" watching me do so. I told him that the file would be returned to him after our investigation was completed and that the entire property of the Adkins' was considered a crime scene until further notice. He started to protest my taking the file, but I told him I could wait right here while I got a court order for it if he preferred, but then I would have to have several police cars stationed out front and a few uniformed officers scattered throughout the office, with one sitting right here in his office with the file in hand.
I left with the file and walked right back to my office relishing his discomfort, I do admit. There was just something about him I didn't like, sort of like the feeling I had gotten being around Mr. Adkins, the older brother. Those two were cut from the same cloth, alligator tears and mock sympathy. For the last hour of my shift, I perused the file, noticing the notes in margins here and there indicating the realtor had something against the younger Adkins daughter, or was it an obsession with her? The more I read of the communications with the parents about the showings of the property and the few offers he had presented to the parents, the more I came to realize he had been carrying some kind of torch for the now dead Adkins daughter. I left all the evidence in my locked desk drawers and started to leave the office, when I took the sales file, the phone pad notes, and the ledgers and boxed it all up and secured it all in the evidence locker which had a guard on it at all times and then signed out for the day.
After dinner that night we were treated to a mini-concert out by the pool. Julian and John had been working with their instructors on several numbers for a Summer recital at the college and they had a mixture of classical, show tunes, pop and theme songs from popular TV shows. That's what they played for us out by the pool, and we soon had several of the neighbors enjoying the free show. It was fun and relaxing, Sam and I were so proud of the boys, as were John's parents. The twins and B&B were dancing around as only the young can, while I spotted Carla and Jason, John's parents, Glenn and Eddie, all dancing on the pool apron, so I took Sam's hand and bowed to him, then we too started a slow waltz, just enjoying the company and the music. We then noticed that the older boys were dancing together in couples, Alo and Aidan, Chris and Damon (Brian's younger brothers), and Carl and Will (B&B's older brothers).
The songs they played were sometimes duets, sometimes solos with the other playing accompaniment. It was a good mix of various speeds and us dancers all had a lot of fun, sometimes switching partners so no one got left out on the slow numbers, and group dancing on the faster ones. We broke for an intermission and so our two performers could get some refreshments, and the rest of us could also, and then they played for another hour. After that night the twins kept pestering us for lessons, so we signed them up for a youth summer day camp that the college ran that let youngsters learn just what instrument they would hopefully do well at playing, and of course, B&B had to go as well. I was so afraid that their instruments would all turn out to be the drums, but so relieved when Jay and Ray both came home with small violins and the sons of Carla and Jason had small keyboards. After their two weeks of music summer camp we signed them all up for lessons and soon we were not wearing the earplugs when they all practiced together in the basement.
During all the summer fun with the family I worked my way through the evidence; the ledgers, which the Forensic Accountant helped a great deal with, the dead brother in law's computer data and the notepads from the two phones in the Adkins' house kitchen and home office. The real estate file proved quite helpful also and with it all combined, after more than two weeks of study and dissection and reassembly, meshing all the evidence from these sources into one cohesive strand of evidence, I had what proved to be the solution to the four murders at the Adkins farm.