March 9th 2008
“What’s wrong?” Mason asked after I had completed the conversation with Jessie.
I quickly explained the situation concerning Coy saying he was going to kill Mark and that we would be meeting with Jessie in town. “We have a meeting with Mark’s social worker, Wanda Beamer, today too. She is supposed to be bringing Mark’s birth certificate. I think we should keep Mark out of school today. Besides, we need to buy him some new clothes.”
“Should Mark be there when we meet with Jessie and then Wanda?” Mason asked with concern.
“You’re right, but what can we do with him while we meet with them?”
“I have an idea.” Mason dialed the phone and then said, “Hi Mom, how would you like to babysit your grandson?”
Needless to say neither Mason nor I slept very well from worry. It seemed as though we had just gone to sleep when the alarm sounded. After making and drinking our first cups of coffee we became a little more alert.
“Why don’t you go wake Mark while I start breakfast?” I asked. I scrambled some eggs, fried some bacon and sausage when Mason brought Mark to the kitchen.
“Would you like some orange juice?” Mason asked Mark as he opened the refrigerator door.
“Yeah,” Mark quietly answered.
“Have a seat there Mark and have some breakfast,” I said. “Would you like bacon, sausage or both with your eggs?”
“Both,” Mark said.
“Both it is,” I said.
“This is really good,” Mark said as he hungrily ate.
“Who cooked your breakfast before?” Mason asked.
“I ate at school,” Mark said.
“And when you were out of school?” Mason asked.
“I ate cereal or whatever was in the house,” Mark said as he finished off the last of his eggs.
“Mark why don’t you go take your bath and then we’ll get you dressed in your new clothes,” Mason said. “Do you need help with your bath?”
Mark gave Mason this, ‘Do I look like a baby?’ look. “I can take my own bath,” he said.
“Okay,” Mason laughed. “How about if you take your bath and then I come in and help you wash your hair? I’ll show you where the towels are.”
“Okay,” Mark agreed.
While Mason helped Mark I cleaned the kitchen before shaving and getting dressed. Mason had Mark dressed and ready to go by then. “Where are we going?” Mark asked.
“Mason and I have some business to take care of,” I said. “We’re going to take you to stay with Mason’s mom while we do that. Then when we’re finished we’re going to pick you up and take you shopping for some new clothes.”
“I got new clothes yesterday,” Mark said.
“You need more clothes than that,” Mason said. “I think we need to take you to get a haircut too.”
“We’re here,” Mason said as he pulled into Steve and Susan’s driveway.
“Do I got to stay here?” Mark asked. He was obviously nervous about being separated from us.
“You don’t have to stay unless you want too,” Mason assured him. “Why don’t we go inside and let you meet my mom, and then you can decide.”
“Okay,” Mark agreed.
“Mom, this is Mark,” Mason said when Susan opened the door.
“Hello there Mark,” Susan said in a friendly voice. “I think you met my husband at the hospital yesterday. He’s in the kitchen having coffee. Come in and say hello to him.”
“Hello Mark,” Steve said as soon as he saw Mark.
“Hi,” Mark shyly said.
“If Mark is interested, I thought we might bake some cookies today,” Susan said.
“I’ve never seen anybody bake cookies,” Mark said.
“What is your favorite?” Susan asked.
“Chocolate chip,” Mark said. “I also like peanut butter.”
“We could make some of both,” Susan said.
“Really?” Mark asked. He then turned to me and asked, “Can I stay?”
“Of course you may,” I said. “We’ll be back later this morning to sample some of your cookies.”
“What a great kid,” Mason said as he backed out of the driveway.
“He sure is,” I agreed. “We need to find a good pediatrician for him and get him up to his normal weight.”
“I’ll bet he has never been to a dentist,” Mason said. “I had to show him how to brush his teeth this morning.”
Mason seemed to know where he was going and drove right to Wanda Beamer’s office building. After a few minutes wait, Wanda greeted me and then looked at Mason with a puzzled looked.
“Ms. Beamer, this is my partner, Mason Box,” I said.
“Partner as in domestic partner?” Wanda asked.
“Yes, is that going to be a problem?” I asked.
“Not for me,” Wanda said with a smile. “Look, just between us I’m family if you know what I mean. Now, let me tell you what I know about Mark.”
“Yes, please do,” Mason said.
“He has a six year old half sister that now lives with her father in Harrison,” she began. “The neighbors said that Mark was pretty much the one that took care of his sister.”
“Where is his mother?” I asked.
“Frankly she is a worthless piece of shit,” Wanda said. “Excuse my language, but that’s how I feel. The neighbor said that she often left the children at home alone. She was either in a bar or out on the street corner. The step-father sometimes worked construction and condoned her working the street since it brought money to support their drinking and drug habits. Lisa, his mom, receives food stamps and welfare on Mark.”
“Is she married to Coy?” I asked.
“She isn’t going to get married and loose her welfare and food stamps,” Wanda said. “Now, you will get a check from the state to pay for Mark’s care. The state will pay for his medical care also.
“We don’t care about the money,” I said. “Could we just put it in an account for his college education?”
“Legally no, you have to spend the money on him,” she said. “However, what you do with your money is your business, if you know what I mean. Open a special account in your name.”
“We’ll do that,” Mason said.
“Is Mark in school today?” Wanda asked.
“No, he’s with my mom,” Mason said. “After Coy threatened to kill Mark and then shot the police officer, we thought it best not to send him to school until we can make sure he is safe.”
“What!” Wanda exclaimed.
We explained about call from Jessie and that we would decide what to do about school after we talked to Jessie.
Wanda gave us Mark’s birth certificate and his card for state covered medical care and we were on our way to see Jessie.
“We still haven’t located Coy,” Jessie said. “Lisa is missing too, so we think he went to wherever she was working.”
“We’re concerned about Mark’s safety,” I said.
“We’ll do everything we can to protect him,” Jessie said. “Where is Mark now?”
“He’s with my mom,” Mason said.
“You live out between here and Elkins, don’t you?” Jessie asked.
“Yes, why do you ask,” I asked her.
“You may want to consider transferring Mark to school in Elkins,” She said. “He would never think to look there.”
“Good idea, but it would be difficult for us to pick him up from school there,” I said.
“I’ll bet mom would do it,” Mason said. “You saw how she took to him.”
“I’ll bet Grandpa would do it too,” I offered.
“Yeah, I know he would,” Mason said.
“You may want to somewhat limit how much time Mark is in public until Coy is captured,” Jessie said. “What are your plans for today?”
“We were going to get Mark a haircut and then go shopping for some school clothes,” I said.
“I think you will be safe,” Jessie said. “They will likely be keeping a low profile for a few days anyway. Make sure you always have your cell phone and call 911 if you need us.”
When we got back to Steve and Susan’s to pick up Mark, the house smelled of fresh baked cookies. “Look what we made,” Mark said as he pointed out several racks of cooling cookies.
“And you’re taking these home with you,” Susan said. “Sit down guys and I’ll make us a sandwich for lunch.”
“This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had,” Mark said as he ate his smoked turkey sandwich.
After eating our sandwiches, we decided it was time for Mark’s haircut and shopping. “I’ve never been to a barber shop before,” Mark said.
“Who has been cutting your hair?” Susan asked.
“My mom used to, but our neighbor has been doing it,” Mark said. “She moved and I haven’t had my hair cut in a long time.”
“Here is $50, you guys take him to a style shop and get him a nice style,” Susan said.
“Susan, we have it covered,” I protested.
“We’re not going to argue about this,” Susan said. “You’re going to let me do this for Mark. Mark gets to keep the change.”
Mark’s style looked great and he was beaming when he saw how the stylist had cut his hair and spiked it. He did look cute. We next went to Dillards to purchase some school clothes. After purchasing several pairs of jeans and some shirts we went to the Foot Locker to buy some shoes.
A smiling young teenage boy greeted us, and asked, “Jeff, how are you?”
I must have had a confused looked on face when he said, “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“I’m David,” He said. “You helped me when I got adopted.”
“Oh my goodness, David,” I said in surprise. “You’ve certainly turned into a handsome young man.”
“Thank you,” David said as he blushed.
“David, do you remember Mason?” I asked.
“I sure do,” he said. “How are you doing, Mason?”
“I’m good,” Mason said. “How are you?”
“I’m doing great,” He said. “I’m still happily adopted, and working here while I’m in college.”
“College!” I exclaimed. “That doesn’t seem possible. David, this young man is Mark. He is going to be living with Mason and me. He is in need of a couple of pairs of shoes. Do you think you could fix him up?”
“I’ll bet we can,” David said. “Is his situation like mine was?” David asked.
“Yes, it is,” Mason said.
While David rang up or items he said, “You know Jeff, I’ve thought about you often. My parents said that you probably made the difference in them getting to adopt me. If I can ever do anything to help you with Mark, just call me. There may be a time when you have to be and work or something, and then I could stay with him.”
“Thank you David,” I said. “Write down your phone number and we may call on you. Here’s my card, please keep in contact with us regardless.”
While we were exiting the parking area of the mall, Mason’s cell phone rang. Rather than answer while driving, he handed me the phone. “Hello,” I said.
“Oh hello Jeff, I thought I was calling Mason’s number,” Susan said.
“You did,” I said. “He’s driving so I answered for him.”
“I was calling to invite you guys to dinner,” She said. “I wanted to invite the rest of the family over to meet that wonderful boy.”
“That sounds great,” I said. “Mason and I want to talk to you about something anyway.”
Susan greeted Mark as though she hadn’t seen him in months when we arrived. “Let’s get you a few cookies and some milk to hold you over until dinner,” She said.
“Mark, bring your snack and you and I will go into the den and see what’s on TV while Jeff talks to Mom,” Mason said.
“Is something wrong, Jeff?” Susan asked with concern.
“Mason explained to you that Mark’s stepdad threatened to kill Mark?”
“Yes, and I’d love to get my hands on that man and rip his balls off and feed them to him.”
Susan and I both broke into laughter and I then said, “Susan, Mason and I need to ask something of you.”
“Sure honey, what is it?”
“Jessie thinks it might be safer for Mark if we took him out of school here in Fayetteville and sent him to school in Elkins.”
“I think she has a good point.”
“The problem is, Mark would be getting out of school before we got off work.”
“Sure, I’d be more than happy to pick him up.”
“I hadn’t even asked you yet.”
“You don’t need too. That boy has been through too much already. He told me that his mom was never home when he got home from school.”
“We were going to ask Grandpa and Jake to let us put them on the list of those that would be allowed to pick Mark up from school.”
“That’s a good idea. Now get out of here and let me get dinner started.”
George arrived first and was delighted to meet his “great grandson.” He of course agreed to pick Mark up at school when necessary.
Jake and Jason arrived next, yes Jason. Jake and Jason were now living together as a couple and in their last year of law school. Both agreed that they would love to pick up Mark when needed.
Mark was the center of attention during the evening and he loved it. Roy promised Mark a ride in his airplane soon. Of course Mark was excited about that.
Steve and Roy told me to take the remainder of the week off from work. They thought it was important that I get Mark settled in school, and that my classes could easily be handled by someone else or rescheduled.
I don’t think Mark was very happy about changing schools when I told him that he would be going to school in Elkins. I didn’t want him to know the real reason for changing schools and told him that we were in the Elkins school district. That part was true, but he could have finished the school year at his old school had I thought he would be safe.
Mason and I decided that he would stay with Mark and get his breakfast while I took my custody documents to Marks old school and get his records. I would then take Mark to Elkins and enroll him in school there.
After getting Mark’s school records, I went back to the house to pick him up. He looked very handsome in his new clothes and spiked hair. I could tell that Mark was nervous about his new school as we drove to Elkins. “It’s okay to be a little scared,” I said. “I think you’ll like school here, but if you don’t like it by the end of the week we’ll let you go back to your old school.”
Mark smiled and said, “Cool.”
I got Mark enrolled and then walked with him to his classroom and met his teacher, Ms. Marshall. She was a plump, but pleasant woman who appeared to be in her mid thirties. She welcomed Mark and asked his classmates to make him feel welcome. I could see that Mark was beginning to relax.
I asked Ms. Marshall for a list of school supplies that Mark would need, hugged Mark goodbye and told him that I’d pick him up after school. I went back to the office to talk to the principal and let him know of Mark’s situation and gave him the list of people allowed to pick Mark up.
I went home and called my dentist to make a dental appointment for Mark. I had no idea what pediatrician to use so I called Susan. She gave me the name of Mason’s pediatrician when he was young. Having made Mark’s appointments, I went to town and bought the school supplies on the list provided by Mrs. Marshall.
While in town I called Jessie and asked if she would meet me for lunch. Jessie was pleased to know that Mark was going to school in Elkins. She said that she would call the Elkins Police Department and explain the situation with Mark and ask them to be on the lookout for Coy. She thought it would be better to be safe than sorry.
I decided to go by the mall and buy Mark some books and a few video games. I went back home and put his things away and I realized that the room we put Mark in was the one with the twin beds. He may want to keep the extra bed in case he had a friend over for a sleepover, but the room certainly didn’t look like a boy’s room. I decided I would have to do something about that.
I waited outside the school for Mark and when the doors opened a flood young elementary kid came out. Some ran toward the waiting busses and others toward waiting parents. I spotted Mark laughing and chatting with a group of kids. He looked so cute with his new haircut, new clothes, and with his new backpack. The other kids waved goodbye to Mark and then ran to catch their bus or an awaiting parent. Mark looked around and appeared to be somewhat confused. He saw me and came running with a big smile. “How was your first day at your new school?” I asked.
“Awesome,” He said. “Can I stay there?”
“You bet, buddy.”
“I have a new friend.”
“You do? What is your friend’s name?”
“Emma and she’s nice too. She showed me where to go for lunch.”
“Mark, I forgot to give you lunch money.”
“That’s okay; I had the money Mrs. Box gave me.”
“You don’t have to spend your money for lunch. We pay for that.”
Mark was excited by his books and games. I was pleased that he was more excited by the books than the video games.
“I’ve never had my own book before,” He said.
“Mark, I have to go back to work next week and Susan will be picking you up at school. She will be taking you to their house and I’ll pick you up there after work.”
“You have a dental appointment Wednesday, and I’ll pick you up early.”
“Will it hurt?”
“Have you ever been to a dentist?”
“They will take some x-rays to see if you have any cavities, and if you do they will have to put a filling in. The dentist will have to drill out the cavity, but first he will give you something to kill the pain. You may feel some discomfort, but I think you can handle it.”
“Okay,” He said with a nervous smile.
“Do you have homework to do?”
“Why don’t you start on that and I’ll get dinner started. Come in the kitchen and you can get some fruit to snack on to hold you over until dinner. I guess you’ll have to do your homework at the table there until we get a desk for your room.”
“Wow, I get my own desk!” He exclaimed.
“You bet you do. Grab some fruit and I’ll pour you a glass of juice.”
I was busy putting together a meat loaf for dinner when I heard a crash and the sound of glass breaking. Mark had spilled his juice on himself and the glass had fallen to the floor and shattered. I grabbed a towel and rushed to clean the spilled juice. Mark cowered away and began crying and said, “Please don’t hit me.”
“Son, I’d never hit you,” I said as I pulled him into a hug. “It was an accident. Why don’t you get out of those wet clothes and you may as well take your bath and put on your pajamas. I’ll clean this up while you do that. Do you need help shampooing your hair?”
“I can do it.”
“Okay, just be sure and rinse all of the shampoo out.”
While Mark was taking his bath, I called Susan and told her what had happened. “Jeff, he has probably been through hell. Of course you know what that was like. Maybe you should get him into counseling.”
“Susan, that’s why I called you, you seem to know everybody in Northwest Arkansas.”
“Let me make a phone call or two and I’ll call you back.”
Mark finished his homework and went in to watch cartoons while I finished cooking dinner. Mason arrived home carrying his laptop computer. This surprised me since he rarely brought work home; when he did he used his personal laptop. “Where is Mark?” He asked with a huge smile.
“He’s in watching TV.”
“I got a new laptop at work and brought my old one home for Mark.”
“Like you really needed a new laptop.”
“Let me connect him to the wireless router and then we’ll call him in here.”
“Babe, I’m not sure he should be surfing the internet yet.”
“Don’t worry, I already put a parental lock on it.”
“Hey Mark, could you come here please?” He called out after he had connected the computer to the internet.
Mark came into the kitchen and reluctantly allowed Mason to hug him. He still wasn’t used to allowing us show affection.
“Sit down and take your computer for a test run,” Mason said.
“My computer?” Mark asked in surprise.
“It isn’t new,” Mason said. “I got a new one at work and I thought you would like to have this one. There is one rule thought. You can’t go on the internet unless Jeff or I are in the room with you.”
“Wow! That’s way cool,” Mark beamed with pride. “Could I use it now?”
“Not now,” I said. “Dinner is ready, but you may use it after dinner.”
Mark ate faster than he normally did and then sat waiting for Mason to finish his dinner. Mason teased him by purposely eating slowly. Finally Mark became impatient and asked, “How much are you going to eat?”
Mason laughed and said, “Okay Buddy, let’s clear the table and I’ll get you started.
While Mason was showing Mark how to use the computer the phone rang. I knew it was probably Susan. I took the phone and went into the living room. “Jeff, Dr. McKee will see Mark tomorrow after school. Dr. McKee is a child psychiatrist. I’ll E-mail you his address so you won’t have to bother writing it down.”
“Thank you, Susan. I don’t know what we would do without you.”
“That’s what grandmothers are for,” Susan said with a laugh. “Is it Monday that I start picking Mark up from school?”
“Yes, except for Wednesday when he has a dental appointment. I’ll pick him up then. Susan, I want to thank you for helping us out with this. I’ll pay you for your time and gas.”
“Jeff, don’t make me come out there and slap you around. I’m doing this for my boys.”
I picked Mark up for his appointment with Dr. McKee and explained to him that he was going to see a ‘special’ doctor who would just talk to him. Dr. McKee wasn’t what I expected. His appearance looked more like someone from the mafia than the medical profession. However, he was a pleasant man and easily put Mark at ease. He first visited with Mark and me together and then with Mark alone. When he finished with Mark he visited with me.
“Mark is a very intelligent boy,” He said. “His life hasn’t been easy; not only has he been neglected and abused by both his stepfather, but by his mother too. He does love living with you and Mason. He does miss his sister. He feels a responsibility for her care.”
“If her father will allow it, I’ll try to arrange for him to see her.”
“That would be good. I know that with the love and care you and Mason are giving him, he will be fine. I would like to see him again a few more times. If this time works for you, I could see him next week.”
“I’ll have him here. Dr. McKee, I’m not sure if Susan said anything to you, but I’ve been through what Mark has been through. I finally ran away from home when I was sixteen and have been on my own since then.”
“Then you’re probably the perfect person to be caring for Mark. You can best understand how he thinks.”
“He was nice, but he sure asks a lot of questions,” Mark said as we drove to Steve and Susan’s for dinner. She had insisted that we come there since Mark had his appointment.
“He wants to see you again next week, is that okay with you?”
“Sure,” He said. “Dad, I mean Jeff... Is it okay if I ride the bus to school with my friends?”
“Mark, you may call me Dad if you want.”
Mark grinned and asked again, “Dad is it okay if I ride the bus to school with my friends?”
“Let’s wait a while before you ride the bus. We have a lot of things going on right now, but maybe later you can start riding the bus.” I didn’t want Mark to know that I was still worried about his safety. I could tell that he was disappointed, but he seemed to accept my decision.
Mason and Steve were there when we arrived for dinner. “Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” Susan said. Steve took Mark away to teach him how to play pool.
“Susan, would you mind if Mark stayed with you while Mason and I go and find a desk for him? I don’t want him out in public more than necessary until Coy is captured.”
“I don’t mind, but why don’t you take the desk from Mason’s old room? It’s serving no purpose now and it is a good solid desk.”
“Why didn’t I think of that,” Mason asked himself more than us. “Come on Jeff; let’s load it in my truck while Dad entertains Mark.”
While Mason and I were carrying the desk to his truck, my cell phone began to ring. By the time we got the desk loaded into his truck the phone had stopped ringing. I saw that the call was from Jessie and immediately returned the call.
“Jeff, it appears that Coy is still in the area. A convenience store in Farmington was robbed at gun point today. The video camera got a good image of the robbers and it was Coy and Mark’s mom.”
“Shit,” I said. “I hope they catch them soon. This has me on my last nerve.”
“We’ll catch him. Have the Elkins police been visible when you take Mark to school and drop him off?”
“They have been. The principal said that they patrol throughout the day, especially during recess.”
“That’s good to hear. I wish I had some better news for you on this end. I’ll keep you posted.”
I briefly told Mason and Susan what Jessie had to say. Susan had a worried look on her face and said, “I’ll take the back streets when I bring Mark here after school. I don’t know what else we can do.”
“I don’t think he would expect to find Mark in a neighborhood like this,” Mason said. He sure wouldn’t expect to find him in Elkins either. Mom, please make sure you always have your cell phone with you when you go to pick him up.”
“I will,” Susan promised.
“Susan, maybe Mason or I should pick him up until Coy is found,” I said. “We’ll be safe and if I think somebody is following us, I’ll call 911.”
“We’ll be safe,” Susan assured me.
“Okay, but promise you will be keep to the back streets.”
Dinner was delicious but there was a nervous tension in the air. Fortunately Mark didn’t seem to notice and ate his dinner with enjoyment. He appeared to have gained a little weight since coming to live with Mason and me.
After Mason and I finished our lovemaking, he took me in his arm and asked, “What’s on the agenda for tomorrow? We can’t keep Mark hidden away every weekend.”
“I’d like to take him to get some kid things for his room, but I don’t want to risk him being seen by Coy.”
“We could take him to Fort Smith. We could make a day of it.”
“You’re so smart, now why didn’t I think of that?”
“That’s because I’m the smart one.”
“If you’re so smart, why didn’t you think about the desk?”
“Shut up and go to sleep.”
In the middle of the night we were awaken by loud screams coming from Mark’s room. Mason and I threw on robes and were at his bedside in seconds. “It’s a bad dream,” I said as I hugged Mark to me.
“He was trying to hit me,” Mark sobbed.
“Nobody is going to hit you now,” Mason assured him. “You’re safe here.”
I wondered just how safe Mark was, but I also assured him that he was safe.
Mason and I both were up several times during the night checking on Mark. Each time he did seem to be sleeping peacefully. When I woke Mason’s spot on the bed was vacant. I heard him talking with Mark.
“Jeff said I could call him dad.”
“That’s good, because he loves you like his son.”
“What about you? Do you love me like a son?”
“Of course I do.”
“Then could I call you dad too?”
“I’d be honored to have you call me dad.”
“I think my mom is a slut. She said that she didn’t know who my dad is.”
“I think we need to start breakfast since we’re going to Fort Smith.” Mason was obviously trying to change the subject.
“We’re going to Fort Smith? I’ve never been there before.”
“That’s why we’re going to Fort Smith,” Mason lied.
At the last minute we decided that it would be good for George to get out and about. When I called he said that he would be delighted to go with us. Mark was filled with excitement as we drove down I-540 toward Fort Smith. “What are we going to do in Fort Smith?” He asked.
“I thought we might get some things for your room,” I said.
“I just got a new desk,” He said.
“That was my old desk,” Mason said. “You need some new thing.”
“It’s new to me,” He countered.
“You still need some poster and kid things,” Mason said.
We discovered a shop that had a good selection of posters and Mark selected a whimsical one of appaloosa horses. He found another nice one of wild horses. It was obvious that he loved horses, but I doubted that he had never been on horse in his life. After paying for Mark’s posters we went looking for a more kid appropriate comforters for his bed. Again he selected one with horses on it.
“I’m buying his comforters,” George insisted. “But, why are we buying two?”
“He has the bedroom with twin beds,” Mason said.
After lunch we decided searched for a kid appropriate movie. There wasn’t much in that category so we settled on Alvin and the Chipmunks. I wasn’t impressed with it, but Mark laughed and seemed to enjoy it. That was good enough for me.
On the way back home I noticed that both George and Mark were snoozing in the back seat. I invited George back to our place for dinner, but he insisted that he be allowed to buy our dinner. He said that we could eat in the cafeteria in his retirement center. To my surprise, the food was very good and the little old ladies made a big fuss over Mark.
On the way home Mason asked Mark, “Did you have a good time today?”
When Mark didn’t answer I turned to see if he had fallen asleep. He had pulled his coat up over his head. “Mark, are you cold?”
“No, that’s Mom and Coy in that red car there,” He whispered as if they might hear them.