Judges Chambers Mobile Command Center-
The sky was still a dull gray when they arrived where the Marshals were set up next to the clinic. He hadn’t known what to expect but the circle of huge matching gray and black mobile homes and trailers was a surprise. Several tents were also set up and he could clearly hear the groan of generators.
They’d formed a wide perimeter with a chain link fence that had only one gate he could see. Good idea, fancy mobile homes like that were too tempting a target.
“Wow.” Eric said, looking at the clinic to their left. “You can tell a bomb went off here.”
“Yeah.” Siah nodded. “It looks awful. I haven’t been here since the bombing. That first grenade did a lot of damage. I can only imagine what the interior looks like.”
She was right. The building looked awful. The window was blown out, the frame and what he could see inside the building was blackened and there were shrapnel holes all over the room. Even part of the roof looked ready to collapse.
“I can see Thompson from here. I’ll go talk to him. You three wait here.”
She jogged up to the gate where the bulldog looking man was going from one trailer to another. She waved at him but he didn’t seem to recognize her. Siah had to shout at him and he jerked his head to her twice, his eyes going wide.
“Dr. Villalobos?” he shouted. “Is that you?”
He and Eric shared an amused glance as Siah smiled as he walked up to him. He wondered how long that smile would last after she told him why she was here. She’d warned them that today would only be to get the ball rolling, to talk to the judge, get his recommendation for her to adopt them and get a lead on a good lawyer. The adoption process could take three -six months, maybe longer because of their lack of paperwork.
He had a good view of the Marshalls face as Siah spoke to him through the fence. Even from this distance, he could see the man’s eyes widen as his head reared back in shock. He smirked. That’s right jerk; someone wanted the, “street kids”.
Siah’s back was to him so he couldn’t see her face but her stance was relaxed, certain. He remembered when he’d first seen that stance, out in the street, when they’d first met just a few blocks from here. He and Eric had both drawn guns on her. Eric had had his right in her face. She’d had her hands up- but the way she had held herself- the way she had looked back at them… now he knew what she was capable of. They’d been holding the guns, but she’d been the one in charge. He should probably apologize for that.
They talked for a while before he unlocked the gate. Siah jerked her head for them to come. Thompson glanced from her to them, then back to her.
Nathan reminded himself to breathe as they followed the Marshall into a large mobile home. He had them wait at a booth while he went into a separate room at the end of the trailer.
A few minutes later he came out and called Siah. The judge would see her now.
Nathan looked over her shoulder as Siah went into the small back office. He saw a plain looking white man, with a ring of gray hair and wire rimmed glasses behind a desk. That was the judge? He’d expected flowing black robes. This guy was wearing a dress shirt. He met the guys pale eyes before Siah shut the door behind her. The man didn’t flinch at him, but he couldn’t tell what he was thinking either.
Siah had told them he’d likely want to talk to each of them alone so this was expected. He went over what she had told them yesterday and this morning.
“’Try and pretend to be upset over killing Holsun, like it bothered you. Offer no elaboration unless specifically asked. Whatever you do, do NOT tell them you’ve ever killed anyone before.”’ She’d repeated that to them over and over.
His dream vision was coming true. They were prepared. They could handle this. So why did he feel so nervous?
Eric rubbed his head over his face. Siah had warned them what to expect. He could still hardly believe they were doing this. This was real. This was happening. Someone wanted them. Someone wanted them.
But a lot could still go wrong. They had no last name, no paperwork. The judge might deny her application. He remembered what Siah had told them last night after she’d cut her hair. “No matter what happens, no matter what anyone says, we are family and no piece of paper will ever change that.”
He couldn’t believe how much his heart was pounding. He couldn’t believe Nathans dream vision was coming true. He turned and met Nathan’s eyes. He knew in that moment his brother was thinking the same thing.
Siah came out with the judge right behind her. He asked to speak with him privately. This was expected. They were prepared for it. They could handle it.
At least that’s what he told himself.
The Judge asked to speak to each of them separately, even Sharlie; Siah was able to go in with her. He wasn’t sure what Sharlie was saying exactly, but he could hear her high-pitched giggle through the door. He and Eric smirked at each other.
Siah came out a few minutes later looking kind of embarrassed as she handed Sharlie to them.
“Sweeties, just wait here together. I have to go talk to the judge again.”
They nodded and both watched as Siah walked back in to talk to the guy. When the judge shut the door behind her, he wished he knew how to pray like Siah.
When the boys had been taken in to speak to Judge Abercrombie, Siah had prayed like never before. There was absolutely nothing she could do in this situation; It was completely in Gods hands now. Despite her fear and anxiety, she felt a genuine calm. The Holy Spirit; better than Vicodin.
The judge’s interview with Sharlie had gone well. It hadn’t taken much prompting from the judge to get her to talk- at all.
Lord Jesus, you’ve put adopting the boys on my heart.
Please let the judge follow through on your will.
Judge Ian Abercrombie relaxed against his desk as the young doctor sat down in the chair her daughter had occupied a minute earlier. Everything indicated the little girl was happy, healthy and thrilled with the idea of having two big brothers.
But he had his reservations.
While still in Boulder Marshal Dickens had told him how instrumental Dr. Villalobos had been in their operation to take down Holsun and the branch of the Ochoa Cartel he controlled here in Colorado. He had read her file while on the drive up here and had Marshal Thompson give his personal assessment of her. He had been surprised to learn she was a Texas native, which certainly explained a lot. He was also surprised the young female doctor was single, even more so now that he was seeing her face to face.
He had no doubt Dr. Villalobos’ heart was in the right place, but did she really understand what she was getting herself, and her daughter, into?
“Dr. Villalobos, while I have presided over adoptions before, this request is- unique- on a number of levels. Frankly, I have my concerns.”
“While I understand you feel grateful to the boys, protective even, frankly I wonder if your daughter is safe with around them.”
“Sir, what those boys did, they did to defend my daughter. With them around, I never have to worry for her safety.”
He looked down at her, carefully measuring his words. He would be honest with her. She deserved that much.
“Marshal Thompson believes Nathan is the anonymous source who had been feeding them information about Holsun’s operation. If his suspicions are correct, that implies a level of involvement in Holsun’s organization as well as premeditation with regards to his death.
“Sir, until they came to stay with me, no one had ever looked out for them. Eric and Nathan are simply accustomed to doing whatever it takes to survive.”
He looked at her for a moment.
“I asked both boys how they were scarred. They both hedged, but I get the impression Eric killed the man who burned Nathan.”
Dr. Villalobos nodded calmly.
“Could you really blame him if he did sir?”
He looked at her. She held his gaze.
There was no doubt; she knew more than she was saying.
“I read Marshal Thompson’s report on Holsun’s death as well as the report from the forensics team. It states he was dead the minute he set foot into your apartment. You said in your statement that he was banging on the door, shouting and that when he broke through, you and Nathan shot him.”
“That’s correct.” She nodded.
“Yet the forensics report also states the projected trajectory was, ‘inconclusive’. That it was more as if he was shot from a lower angle than the shooting posture the police found you in.”
He paused and just looked at her. She could not have missed the emphasis he had used, yet her posture looked completely calm, completely in control, as if the only thing on her mind was wondering where he was going with this.
“You are a small woman.”
Now Siah knew where he was going with this.
“So either you were crouching, or he was shot by a much taller person from a lower angle, such as from the hip.”
He was going after her height? Really? She was 5’ 1”, she wasn’t that short.
Despite his words, Siah felt remarkably calm. He was looking down at her very intently. Did he expect her to just crack under his stare? This wasn’t Perry Mason.
Father, tell me what to say.
“Sir,” She scooted to the edge of the seat, how had Eric fit in this tiny thing?
“When Holsun was beating down our door, their first thought was to protect Sharlie. The whole truth is that I love those boys and they adore my daughter. The past is in the past and it cannot be changed, only the future can be changed, their future. What concerns me now is who the boys will grow up to become.”
She could see the seed of her logic taking root in his mind.
“The world is filled with orphan’s sir; I am asking you, let me have these.
Let me guide these two.”
The judge just looked at her. Siah prayed.
When Siah came out, she had a serious look on her face.
“Boys," the judge called, "please come in. I’d like to speak to you both.”
They looked to Siah. She nodded for them to go with the judge.
Between the three of them they barely fit into the tiny space. He was still surprised at how the judge wasn’t flinching at him and Eric.
He didn’t even seem intimidated by Eric’s size- and he was way smaller.
He took his seat behind the desk and looked them straight in the eye.
“I’m going to be straight with you boys, and I hope you will grant me the same courtesy. Do you two want to be adopted? Do you want to have a parent, a mother?”
The two boys looked at each other before giving their answer.
He had the boys go back out to the waiting area with the Dr. Villalobos and “Sharlie”. Before today he’d never heard of that abbreviation for Charlotte. Lottie, Sherry or even Charlie, but Sharlie? That was a first.
Normally adoptions took months of background checks and investigation work on all parties involved. But in this case, background checks had already been done. Dr. Villalobos had been thoroughly investigated when she’d begun working for the Marshals service as an informant.
After Holsun’s death the Marshals had done a full investigation of the boys- only to turn up absolutely nothing. It was as if the brothers came from nowhere. Even going on a description of the older boy alone, whose birthmarks were too distinct to mistake, they had turned up nothing. In the years since the Ruin, no one had ever reported them missing, with or without the scars.
That they could find no information on the orphaned teens was not altogether surprising. Despite all the work that had been done in the past three years to get databases for law enforcement up and running, The Ruin had taken its toll. The mass EMP’s had destroyed most electronic databases, the floods, storms, Plague of Poisoned Insects, and the vandalism and looting that had followed had destroyed thousands of public, court and school records- along with countless lives.
Since The Ruin, adoption laws had been streamlined in consideration of how many orphans there were. So with no memory of their real last name (supposedly), no parents and no one having ever reported them missing, Judge Abernathy filed the paperwork via fax for Dr. Villalobos to sign that would allow her to formally adopt Eric and Nathan. He was on the phone with his office in Boulder letting his staff know what was going on and how to proceed.
Yes, this was considered fast tracking, but all investigations had already been done, all parties interviewed. “‘…Only the future can be changed, who the boys will grow up to become…’” She was right, that was why he was allowing this. If even half of his suspicions were correct, the world needed those boys to have a rescue parent.
He pulled the last sheet out of the printer his chief of staff had sent him- and prayed he was doing the right thing.
An hour later- Adopted-
To Siah’s complete and utter shock, an hour later she and the boys were signing adoption papers in front of Judge Abercrombie. He was signing off on them with Marshal Thompson and one of his deputies serving as witnesses. This was an act of God! For the first time in the entire exchange, the man smiled.
“Dr. Villalobos, I congratulate you on your new sons.” He held out his hand.
She shook it gratefully.
Judge Abernathy had explained that due to her having been an informant (and therefore having already had an extensive background check) and the boys being older orphans with no background and no one declaring them missing, there was no one to stand in the way of them being adopted.
She suspected there was more to it, but decided not to question a blessing.
“Is that it?”
The Judge smiled as he faxed his signed copy to his main office for official filing.
“Yes Dr. Villalobos, that is it.”
“Boys.” They both jumped to attention as he banged his gavel. “As of now, you are Eric and Nathan Villalobos, the legally adopted sons of Dr. Isaiah Villalobos and older brothers to Charlotte Villalobos.” His voice softened as he continued.
“Many people do not have parents who understand them, but I believe God knew exactly what he intended when you two met your mother. She truly understands you as no one else ever could. Take care of your mother, both of you.”
Siah struggled to look at the papers in her trembling hands. Her tears were blocking her view. She couldn’t believe this. She had geared herself up for a fight to adopt the boys only to have this happen so- quickly, it was almost anticlimactic.
It had happened.
It was real.
It had all worked out- and faster than she could ever have hoped for.
She caught herself sniffling and a strong arm wrapped itself around her shoulders. She looked up at Eric, tears were coming out of his eyes and Nathan was wiping his; the big softies.
She grappled them both as much as she was able to. She just wanted to hold them, just for a minute. She wasn’t counting on how much they would be holding her.
Thompson watched the newly formed family get all teary. The sight was both touching and sobering. He found himself praying. That the boys were even capable of shedding tears said a lot for them. Maybe they weren’t as far gone as he feared- or they were more manipulative than he’d imagined. He hoped Doc knew what she was doing.
Deputy Parshall came up to them just then, his small camera in hand and sheepishly asked if they would like a few photos to commemorate the event. Guess he was trying to make up for cuffing her.
If Doc recognized him, she didn’t let on and eagerly accepted. She had the boys pose on either side of her, the older one, Eric, carrying Sharlie as Parshall took four separate photos, handing one to each of them as they came out of his camera.
Doc and the kid were thrilled with the pictures. The boys silently gazed at the images in hand as if they’d never seen a photo of themselves before- maybe they hadn’t. While Doc was talking to Parshall, he saw the younger boy with the melted face, Nathan, slink back into the judge’s trailer. He could see through the window while he and the judge talked for a bit.
While Siah was distracted, Nathan went back into the Judges Trailer. He was curious about something. He was still sitting behind his desk fiddling with the filing cabinet.
“Excuse me, your Honor?”
He spun his chair around to face him. “Yes?”
“Can I ask you a couple of questions?”
“Are you from Texas?”
He looked surprised. “Why yes I am.”
“Are you a Christian?”
“Yes I am.”
“How do you mean?”
He wasn’t sure how to say it.
“As far as I can remember, everyone always freaks out when they first see me and Eric. Only since I met Siah, I’ve been meeting people who didn’t get scared of us right off. So far all of those people have been Christians from Texas.”
The judge was silent.
“Just something I’ve noticed.”
The judge smiled a bit. “Makes sense.”
“Anyway, thanks for today.” He bowed his head like Siah had taught them.
Nathan startled at his next words.
“You are welcome Mr. Villalobos.”
That’s right, he’d forgotten, he had a new last name now.
Thompson took the large boys’ shoulder.
“S’cuse me Mr. Villalobos, can we talk?”
The huge boy started at the new honorific before looking to his new mom. Doc nodded and the boy walked with him. He was surprised the huge boy would ask permission.
“Looks like Docs.”
“She made it that way.”
She made it? Surprising. When they were a ways off, he stopped to face him. He lowered his voice before he continued.
“I know what you did to that man in the lake.”
The boy clenched his jaw and sent him a stone-faced glare that reminded him of Doc V.
“I also know why. I made sure your prints on the inner gears were smudged.”
He could see the confusion in the kid’s eyes.
“Doc trusts you to carry her name; I trust her judgment. You’re almost a man, but if you listen to her, learn from her, turn out half as good as her, you and your brother will become exceptional young men.”
He held out his hand. The boy looked surprised by the gesture; it took him a moment to awkwardly take his hand. He gave it a decent shake though.
“Take care of your women, boy.”
The boy nodded seriously.
“I will, sir.”