Collin was led into the judge's chambers and he was very scared. He had no idea why the judge wanted to talk to him – alone. When the Bailiff, Mr. James came back with a coke for Collin, the teen asked the man if he was going to stay there so he wouldn't be alone with this strange man.
"Aren't you afraid to be in here alone with me?" asked the bailiff.
"No. You have a gun and I would trust you, since you're a trained policeman. I have no idea what the judge has under that robe. I may be 15 but I am afraid to be left alone with him, right now. I've had too many things happen to me. I wish Mr. Ken could be here!"
"No, son," Bailiff James said, "I won't be in here with you and the judge. He is a sworn officer of the court, as much as I am. Matter of fact, he is the one who puts people away when they hurt kids like you. Believe me, you can trust him. And besides, I will be just outside that door. How's that? Give the man a chance. He can help you, please trust him," the graying man told Collin, in order to calm the lad.
Outside the Judge's Chambers, the bailiff stopped Judge Adam and explained what just happened in his chambers with the lad. Bailiff James explained he felt as if the boy was afraid something would happen between them and he wanted another person for protection. He told Judge Richards the boy wanted Mr. Thomas to be there as if there was a whole lot of trust between those two.
As Judge Richards entered his chambers, the boy jumped and almost spilled the can of coke. Right then and there, Judge Richards knew he had a very fragile teenager and he needed to calm him down fast and gain his trust quickly.
"Hi, there, Collin, my name is Judge Adam Richards, but you can call me Adam when we are alone," spoke the judge as he was taking his robes off to reveal he had on everyday clothes as Collin had on.
"Bailiff James tells me you'd like to have someone else in here along with you. Can I ask why you do not feel safe in here with me?"
"I don't really like being alone in a room, right now, and especially with a man who I also do not know. He could do things to me ... like what happened before!" stated Collin flatly.
"Collin, my job as the judge is to try to figure out what is best for children. I know you are a teenager and have definite ideas of what is best for you, but from what I know, the past two months may not have been the best for you."
"TWO MONTHS?" yelled out Collin. Then with his voice as loud as ever, he said, "What about the three months I was locked up with ... with those men who raped me over and over and then tried to kill me? Where you were you then, and where was CPS and all those lawyers they brought with them today? HUH!? Why wasn't anyone there to HELP ME, then? The only person who has tried everything he can was Mr. Ken. He treated me like ... like I was a human being, and not as a little kid like those assholes out there are. I ... I mean, Mr. Ken always told me about what was happening and he always asked me what I thought about things.
"He never tried to do anything with me, the whole time I lived there. He could have you know! He helped me get my showers until I was strong enough to do it myself. He never came into my room after that. That guy out there, he told me I could trust you but, but you haven't given me anything yet to make me trust you!" barked Collin at the judge, not caring who the man was. He felt trapped and all alone and he was fighting for himself now because he had no one there to help him. He then broke down and began to cry hard.
The judge, seeing the teen cry so hard he got up and went to the door, opened it and told Mr. James to go get Mr. Thomas.
Two minutes later, Mr. Thomas entered the chambers to a crying boy who immediately shot into his arms and cried even harder explaining what he said and how he felt. The judge, hearing it all, now totally understood why the lad was afraid to be alone with him. The judge asked Mr. Thomas to take a few minutes to try to calm the boy and come out to the hall when he was ready.
Ten minutes later Ken went out into the hall to a waiting Judge Richards and the two talked about the boy's situation. Ken suggested he be there for the beginning to see if Collin would begin to see there was nothing going to happen to him. Then the judge could get down to what he really needed to know.
"Collin, Mr. Thomas here, has agreed to be in here for a while with us. Will that be OK with you, young man?"
"Y... yes, Your Honor! Thank you for letting him stay."
The three talked for close to half an hour when Ken looked at Collin and suggested he leave the room now, so the judge could ask him some personal questions. He assured Collin the judge was a good guy like him and he should trust the man and answer his questions honestly and not make any stuff up. He reminded him it is easier to remember and tell the truth over and over than a make up a lie that you couldn't remember exactly what it was. Collin was leery for a bit, but then agreed to let Mr. Ken leave. He gave his mentor a big hug and wiped his tears and Mr. Thomas left the two alone.
It was a bit rough at first, just the two of them, but the judge's demeanor never changed and he remained behind his desk so Collin became more at ease. The judge noticed the initial tension was now gone and Collin became more animated and they began to have a good exchange of information and even a few laughs.
"Collin," the judge asked, "Are you happy where you are staying right now?"
"Yes, your honor! I haven't felt part of a family for a long time, as I do at Three Finger Cove. My ... my parents were so busy they would see me around the house and after school and of course at dinner, but they never talked to me about what I was doing or took interest in me. It was as if when I turned thirteen I was old enough to be on my own and that was that," answered the teenager.
"Can you explain that feeling further, Collin?" asked the judge.
"After I was able to walk some, and even before, I'd say, Mr. Ken always talked to me. He let me know about things. He would explain stuff ... and let me say stuff, too. He never pushed me away. When he was working on something, he never made me leave. I ... I could go over and see what he was doing or working on and he'd even try to explain what it was. He'd make sure I was feeling okay and he even had Ryan come over to be my friend. He was always looking out for me. He has been like a big brother to me, you know, like being the older brother I ... I never had. He cares about me ... and has even argued with Agent Campbell over my wellbeing and what I could do around the house."
"What about Miss Turner? Did she ever talk to you, at any time?"
"Yea ... I mean Yes, Sir, she did. Right after Mr. Ken had to attend those Foster Training Classes, she stopped by and we talked for a few minutes. She just asked me how I was feeling and if I was getting enough to eat and if I liked it there. Then on Thanksgiving Day, she was invited to spend Thanksgiving Day with us and I am glad she came. She has a nice son, Eric, who could very well have been, you know, my younger brother.
"That day ... all of us boys were, oh, let me explain, there was myself and Ryan and Eric and a young boy named Alex who came with Doc Powers. We were all talking and then Miss Judy came over and joined in. At first, she just listened but then began asking questions of all of us. I seemed to be getting most of the questions, though, so I figured it was because I was the least known person and everyone wanted to know about me. Later, I figured some of the questions were focused on how Mr. Ken and I got along and about food and school and stuff. I guess she was doing her job in around about way, I suppose."
"Well, what about the food and school?"
"It took me almost three weeks to get to a point where I could walk anywhere without getting too tired. Many of my meals were in my room, because of that, or they wheeled me to the kitchen. The food was great. Momma Maria is an awesome cook. She cooked a lot of everything and she even cooked my favorite for me, spaghetti and meatballs, hmm hmmm, was that good! As for school ... Agent Campbell was against adding people to the list who knew who I am and where I was. I heard him and Mr. Ken argue some over that fact. Mr. Ken did tell me he had to get me back into a school routine, so I wouldn't lose out on a full year's worth of learning. He has a tutor scheduled to begin working with me now."
"What do you want to do, now, Collin? Now that things are somewhat settled down and the men responsible for all that has happened to you are in jail or the hospital. Where do you see for yourself in the next three to six months?" inquired Adam Richards.
"Well ... I'd like to stay with Mr. Thomas, your honor. I know he is not my real brother and ... and not related to me, but I feel real good being around him and ... well his place is ... well I guess I'd have to say 'fun'. I mean he doesn't have lots of games or toys but he makes things fun. He involves me in things, even if I don't understand them. He is trying to ... you know show me stuff. One time, when I asked him about it, he told me that being introduced to things is part of learning. I may not know what it is today, but the next time I see it, I will be able to say I've 'been there' or something like that.
"Plus he has a great sandy beach and a dock and an indoor pool. I didn't even have an indoor pool where I lived and the boats were at the marina and we rarely used those. Ryan told me he'd show me how to sail and water ski. Staying with Mr. Ken will be better than anything for me right now. I'll have friends and they can come over and, and ... you know, I'll be able to be a regular teenager," was how Collin enthusiastically answered the judge's question.
The judge noticed the time and asked Collin if he was hungry and would he go with him to the lunch room and have a bite to eat. Collin's stomach growled when he heard the word 'food' so he readily agreed. The two were a sight in the cafeteria as it was rare that a judge brought someone that young with him for lunch. There they continued their conversation and the more they talked, the more they seemed to form an understanding and by the time lunch was finished, Collin no longer felt any fear for the man.
It was 1:30 PM when Judge Richards called his court back into session to either end or continue the hearing. He asked Collin to take his seat with Mr. Ken. The CPS crowd did not like the sound of that, as it foretold they had lost.
"I am glad to see everyone back here so friendly and chipper. I want you all to know that Mr. Wilkinson here is a very well rounded young man who knows a lot about humanity. For the last five months, or so, he had to endure the dregs of that humanity on one side, whereas on the other side, he found caring and loving and found out that he was someone and not just a pawn or plaything. This young man has endured what many of us could hardly comprehend, let alone live it ourselves.
"He survived his own murder, only to have a bunch of bureaucrats fight over him as if he was a piece of meat. It is apparent that Mr. Thomas has had a tremendous impact on this young man's recovery to this point. Young Collin and I both agree that he needs more help with the long term effects of his ordeal and he has agreed to seek additional professional assistance in that regard.
"As for CPS, I find it despicable the way you went about charging Mr. Thomas with all those so-called allegations. You knew darn well the FBI was involved in the boy's security and subsequent apprehension of the perpetrators of the boy's parent's murderers and his abduction. It is shameful that you only care about numbers and how you look to the higher ups so you can continue to do such a despicable job against good children.
"I am going to continue this hearing until the end of February, approximately three months from now, at which time I will make a final determination as to where the boy will be placed. For now, Collin Wilkinson WILL continue in the Foster Parent custody of Mr. Kenneth Richard Thomas. He will see that Collin finds a suitable professional to help him in his recovery and he will also see to it that the boy is tutored to a point the lad can join his high school classmates after the first of the new year.
"I am also ordering a full and independent investigation of CPS practices and procedures and I want to know who emptied that folder of every piece of paper that should have been in there. The person or persons had best make themselves known to me within the next ten days and they'd best bring with them their lawyers.
"I will not take questions nor hear any comments! Anyone who disagrees with my ruling and expresses such in a manner that brings discredit to this court or Mr. Thomas or Mr. Wilkinson will find themselves in contempt of this court and will be called in to face me. This court is adjourned!" The judge slammed his gavel down and got up and left the court.
Collin jumped up into Ken's arms and hugged him. He knew he was going home with the man for at least the next three months, and soon after he would be sixteen and figured he could choose what he wanted after that. Ken was happy for the boy, as it meant he had some stability in his life once again, and he looked forward to the upcoming holidays with the boy.
It was then that he remembered he needed the court's permission to take Collin out of the State and even the country which he was hoping he could do and soon. He called over to Stewart Russell, the juvenile case trained lawyer, and told him what he wanted him to do and that he needed it quick. The guy didn't give Ken any hope as it was almost December and court dates were not plentiful then. Collin heard the conversation and then felt for the card he had in his pocket. They all went out to celebrate. Ken called Mary and Ryan to meet them as he was buying. It was going to be a very happy crowd that evening.
At the same time, the CPS bosses began to lick their wounds and yell at the lawyers about how poorly they conducted themselves. Miss Turner just sat back and watched. Even though she was just a field agent, she knew a lot more about the department and her supervisor's job then they themselves knew. She also knew who it was that emptied the folder and wondered if that person was going to take the blame, or blame someone else, such as her. She knew to watch her back right now and not to do anything they can use against her.
Out in the hall, the Thomas crowd was waiting for the elevator when Miss Judy came up and waited, too. Collin asked her if she would join them. She begged off but Collin was persistent. She told him she can't be seen with the 'enemy' right now, but asked where they were meeting and she'd be there as soon as she could get away. Mr. Ken heard him ask Judy and didn't say a word. This was Collin's triumph and he wanted him to invite the world if it would make the boy happy. He saw the two talking Thanksgiving day and they seemed to get along very well and he was happy the lad would interact with adults without his prodding.
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