"Good morning, 'dad'" said Matthew, as he entered the Kitchen Nook.
"Good Morning, 'dad'" simultaneously called out the twins as they entered the Nook.
Robert went over to his dad, gave him a hug, and said 'Good Morning' and he was quickly followed by Eric who did the same.
"Good morning, 'dad'" offered Charles. Then, the pre-teen asked if it was absolutely necessary for him to go to the courthouse and see his mom.
"Yes, Charles, it is necessary. If we want Gina to release her parental rights to you, we need to be there. She indicated she wanted to see you. But, if after seeing you, she doesn't relent her rights, the courts can do that instead. Charles, this is the last hurdle to get you available for adoption. I would have figured you'd be happy to go," explained 'dad' Ken.
"Well ... I would be, but ... having to see her isn't on my list of things to do before I die," chuckled the pre-teen Cover. "I mean, I want to be adopted, so ... that way I won't have to worry about where I might be in the future. But ... you know having to see my mom after what she's done to me is not what I wanted to have to do. I guess I'll deal with it and hope she loses her claim to me."
Mr. Ken then told Charles how he and Bill Jackson would come to the school around 8 a.m. and take him to the courthouse. The man further told the pre-teen he wanted him to get credit for being at school and that the hearing could take a few hours.
The Cover boys finished their breakfast, gave Momma hugs for fixing them their meal, and then headed up the slight rise to catch the school bus.
When Billy came down to the Kitchen, he said good morning to everyone and then fixed Chief's fresh water and kibble. The teen then sat down to a Momma Maria breakfast. As the teen ate, Mr. Ken told him he would have to leave soon to pick up Charles from the school and then head over to the courthouse.
The teen's foster dad asked him to stay calm and not fret over his meeting with the School Board later that evening. The man then excused himself and headed out to the garage to get a vehicle to drive to the school, pick up Charles, and then to head over to the courthouse.
Bill Jackson met Ken Thomas just outside Charles' school. The two men walked inside and headed to the Administration Office. As they walked there, Mr. Ken told his lawyer that it would be better if he presented the subpoena to the secretary, as she always put up a roadblock to him having access to his 'boys'.
Bill laughed at hearing that and by then they were at the office door. As the two men walked in, Jane Andrews saw Mr. Ken and immediately said he didn't have an appointment to see the principal. Bill laughed at hearing that.
"Ms. Andrews, I am not here to see the principal. This man is here to see Charles Lewis, my foster son," said a smiling Ken Thomas.
"Well, he doesn't have an appointment either, so you will both have to make one and return at a later time," announced a grouchy Jane Andrews.
Bill then spoke up and told the secretary, "I won't need an appointment, but I will need to see Charles Lewis. I have a subpoena for the boy (The man held up the paper with the front-facing the secretary to show her the official document with Charles Lewis' name on the front.) and he is due in court this morning at 9 a.m. So, if you would please go and get the boy, so we can be on our way."
Jane Andrews just stood there not saying a word. Then, a few moments later she told the lawyer she would have to clear it with the principal.
Bill looked at the time and told the woman she had to go and get Charles, or he would do it himself. It was then that Principal Chadwick came into the office. She asked Mr. Ken why he was there and it was Bill Jackson who spoke up.
Mr. Jackson showed the subpoena with Charles' name on it to the principal and then said, "I have a subpoena for one Charles James Lewis and this woman refuses to get him for me. Time is of the essence, as we are required to be at the courthouse at 9 a.m. Can you help me find where the boy is so we can be on our way?"
"Jane ... go get Charles," directed Principal Chadwick.
"I don't know what these men are doing, but I will not!" steadfastly said the secretary. "These men just want to take the boy out of school and he's already missed way too much of his education with all his supposed doctor appointments!"
"Ms. Andrews," spoke up Bill Jackson, "you have two options. Either you can get Charles Lewis for me, or you will be brought in front of the judge to explain why you deliberately blocked an officer of the court from doing his job. Now, go get Charles Lewis and I mean now!"
Principal Chadwick used the school intercom to call Charles' classroom and have him come to the office. Three minutes later the young Cover arrived at the office, and seeing his 'dad' and Mr. Jackson he knew why they were there. The three then departed the school and headed to the courthouse.
But, before he left, Bill Jackson turned back to the secretary and told her to expect a summons to appear in front of the judge. That her refusal to comply with the subpoena, and as such a court order, can result in contempt of court charges, which could be punishable by one year in jail, a one-thousand dollar fine, or both. The man let that hang as he hurried to catch up with Mr. Ken and Charles.
Principal Chadwick knew her secretary was in the wrong there and that this could be the last straw, which causes the woman to be dismissed. The principal knew her secretary was eligible for retirement, so she decided to sit down with Jane Andrews and talk to her about submitting her retirement papers. She decided she would explain how it would be better for her if she could retire at the end of the school year than lose her pension because she was sent to jail.
When Billy arrived at his high school, Gabe and Jamie met him and asked if his foster dad had given him the go ahead about them coming over that weekend. Billy explained what happened early that morning and that Mr. Ken was not focused on anything but Ms. Judy and her son, Eric. Billy told them he should know when he came to school tomorrow.
Billy's friends then asked him about the School Board Meeting later that night. Billy explained how he met with his lawyer last night and they discussed their defense of the appeal of his suspension. The Cover told his friends to come over to the meeting as it was a public forum and they could be there as long as there were enough seats. It was then the first bell rang.
At the courthouse, Charles was escorted into the courtroom. He and Mr. Ken sat in the back of the room to try and not be a distraction until the young Cover was asked to testify, but hopefully wouldn't be.
The judge walked into the courtroom and the bailiff asked everyone to rise. The judge then asked for the prisoner to be brought into the courtroom. As Gina Lewis was brought into the courtroom, Charles realized that was the first time he'd seen his mom since she was arrested, and he was sent into foster care. The boy then looked away.
When she entered the courtroom, Gina Lewis looked around hoping to see her son there. When she spotted Charles, she tried to wave to him, but the shackles, tying her hands and ankles together, weren't loose enough to allow her to even raise her hand. So, she smiled and nodded in her son's direction.
"Did you see that?" 'dad' Ken asked Charles.
"Yes, I saw how she tried to wave to me, but the handcuffs were too tight for her to do so. Why would she ever think I would return her wave?" replied Charles.
Mr. Ken gave the boy a shoulder hug and asked him to keep an open mind. The man told the pre-teen to listen to the proceedings in case he is called to testify.
The judge read aloud why they were there today before starting the proceedings. When asked, Bill Jackson stood up and reiterated their request to have Gina Lewis' parental rights to her son revoked, so the boy could become a ward of the court and eligible for adoption.
Gina Lewis' court-appointed lawyer then stood up and objected to the proceedings. He told the court his client was a fine parent and even though she was in prison she wanted to maintain a parent/child relationship with her son, Charlie, and not have her son adopted and taken away from contact with her forever.
With both sides stating their intentions, the judge told Bill Jackson to present and prove his reasons to terminate Gina Lewis' parental rights. The lawyer quickly went to work.
Mr. Ken's lawyer started by recounting Gina Lewis' criminal history. The man told the court how the woman was a courier for one Lawrence 'Smokey' Mason and was tried and convicted of distribution, dealing, and collection of funds for 'Smokey Mason and was given a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison.
The lawyer added that with her imprisonment it was akin to her abandonment of her child. That since she was sent away three years ago she hasn't had any contact with her son, Charles, and has not provided any financial support for the child for all that time without a good reason.
The lawyer added a second reason, neglect, as a reason for Gina's parental rights to be terminated. Bill offered the mother hadn't properly cared for the child's needs, including providing food, shelter, medical care, education, or any other special care needed for the child when the boy lived with her and ever since she had been in prison.
The public defender argued that, "Yes my client hasn't provided food, shelter, medical care, education, etc. because she was in prison and didn't have the means to do that. But, it didn't mean his client willingly abandoned or neglected her son."
Bill Jackson smiled at the defender's comment and continued. This time the lawyer offered the parent was unfit as a mother. Bill Jackson argued that when the woman lived with her son, she got involved with a local major drug dealer and then got herself hooked on the same drugs she helped deliver and collect the monies due from the distributors.
The lawyer added she practically starved her son, as she didn't care enough about her son to feed him on a regular basis. Bill added that if it weren't for their neighbors Charles wouldn't have had a decent meal every now and then. Mr. Jackson told the court that Gina even failed to provide the child with proper care, guidance, and support. That she even allowed her boyfriend Lawrence 'Smokey' Mason, a drug dealer, to take her son on a motorcycle to points unknown.
The public defender tried to rebuff that argument by saying his client was a victim of circumstances and they were in the process of appealing her conviction. The judge told the defender it was a good try and for Bill Jackson to continue.
Mr. Ken's lawyer told the court that Gina Lewis has made zero attempts to contact her child in the preceding three years. He added that the woman never contacted Children's Protective Services to inquire about her son's well-being, and if they could bring him to her so they could talk.
Bill Jackson told the court that if Charles ever went back to his mother he risked at least physical and emotional injury. The lawyer mentioned how Charles was often left alone at their apartment as his own mother dropped of illegal drugs and collected the monies for Lawrence Mason.
Bill continued to tell the court that when the boy's mother was too stoned to do much of the delivering and collecting herself, she made her son accompany her and had him do the work she was supposedly hired to do. And, that in doing so, she placed Charles in danger with the drug dealers and drug users.
The public defender stood up and tried to reject Bill's thinking. He told the judge that there was no proof that the boy's mother made him do any of what the counselor just alluded to. The public defender also said there was no indication that the boy was in danger or ever would be.
Charles heard what the man said and stood up and yelled, "Yea right! Like 'Smokey' didn't try to kill me himself last year with a knife to my throat!" The Cover then sat down and cried into his 'dad's' shoulder.
That outburst caused the courtroom to erupt in chaos and the judge had to gavel the room to settle down and be quiet.
"Young man, who ARE you?" directed the judge, to the boy in the back of his courtroom.
Mr. Ken told Charles to stand up and address the judge.
"Your honor, I ... I am ... I am Charles Lewis," said the Cover through his tears. "That is my mother ... who needs to have her parental rights terminated, so I can be adopted."
"Young man I ... want you to come up here and answer some questions for me," said the judge.
Charles reluctantly walked to the front of the courtroom and the bailiff had him sit in the witness chair. The bailiff was about to have Charles swear on the bible, but the judge asked the young Cover how old he was. When the judge learned the boy was only twelve, he told the bailiff the swearing-in wasn't necessary.
"Charles," began the judge, "I suppose you heard what Mr. Jackson has said about your mom. So, let me ask you, do you agree with what he said?"
"Well, yea, he talked to me after I began to live with Mr. Ken," replied Charles Lewis.
"Who is this Mr. Ken?" asked the judge.
"He's my current foster dad. I've lived with him since last July 4th," answered Charles.
"You've been in the CPS system for three years, and you've only lived with this Mr. Ken for what ten months. Where did you live before that?" asked the judge.
"I was in three different foster homes, your honor," answered Charles.
"Son, did your mom ... did she ever try to contact you?" asked the judge.
"No sir," succinctly replied Charles.
"I object, your honor," said the public defender as he stood. "The boy has obviously been coached to agree with what Mr. Jackson has to say."
"No, I wasn't your honor," Charles blurted out. "I haven't talked with my 'dad's' lawyer since ... before Christmas and maybe even longer."
"Your dad's lawyer? Who is this man?" demanded the public defender.
Mr. Ken stood up and answered the lawyers by saying, "I am that man," judge.
The judge had Ken Thomas come forward. When the owner of The Cove, and the current foster dad of Charles James Lewis, was at the swinging doors, situated on the rail that separated the public seating area and the working court, the judge asked him to state his name and occupation.
"Your honor, I am Kenneth Richard Thomas. I am an entrepreneur who owns four amusement parks, a restaurant/diner, a Go-Kart Track, miniature golf course and I am presently building a hotel, eight-story office building, and apartments that a third are going to be dedicated for senior citizens," answered Mr. Ken.
"Impressive," commented the judge. "So, tell me ... why does this young boy call you dad?"
"Your honor, Charles is only one of five boys who call me 'dad'," began to answer Mr. Ken before he was interrupted by the judge.
"Five boys? Are you the foster dad for all of the boys?" asked the judge.
"Well, your honor, I am a foster dad to five boys and I adopted one boy last October," began Ken Thomas. "But only four of the foster boys call me 'dad'. They all started out calling me Mr. Ken, but over time they all asked if they could call me 'dad'. And now Robert is my adopted son and he calls me dad, as I actually am his dad now. One teen, who has only been with me for about three weeks, calls me Mr. Ken."
"Mr. Thomas, are you the pied piper of foster kids?" laughed the judge.
"Your Honor ... about five years ago, after that huge October Hundred Years storm, I was asked to be a foster dad to a young man who wound up on my back patio. He watched his parents being killed in front of him prior to them kidnapping him," stared to explain Mr. Ken, before the judge stopped him.
"Thomas, Thomas ... are you the man the governor appointed ... to help an area recover from that storm? And are you ... the man who took a bullet for that same teen you saved from the lake?" directly asked the judge.
"Well, judge ... the jury is still out about me taking a bullet for Collin, but yes ... I am the man you are thinking of," replied Mr. Ken.
"Mr. Thomas ... let me ask you straight out ... what ... what is your interest in this boy and his mother," said the judge.
"Well, your Honor ... I am interested in adopting Charles. He ... he's had a tough life and he needs a forever home. I want to offer him an opportunity to settle down and know where he'll be for the rest of his life.
"The three other foster homes left mental scars in his mind. They treated him like a servant, or made him study the Bible and attend church often. And at least at one foster home he was ... he was sexually abused," replied Ken Thomas.
"And the reason for today's parental rights termination is for what?" asked the judge.
"Your Honor ... my lawyer ... he has been trying for months, since before the Holidays to get Gina Lewis to give up her parental rights. We've offered her incentives to make her prison life more bearable, but ... well she blames Charles for her predicament and refuses to give those rights up," explained Ken Thomas.
"Your Honor," began Bill Jackson, "Gina has told us that since her life was going to be screwed up, she didn't want her son to have any better life than she was having in prison."
"I said no such thing," spoke up Gina Lewis, for the first time today.
"Yes, I'm afraid, you did. Do you want to listen to the tape of our conversations?" said a smiling Bill Jackson.
"Your bluffing!" yelled back Gina.
Bill went over to his table and took out a small recording device. He loaded a microcassette and started to play it for the court. After listening for about thirty seconds of the conversation Gina Lewis told him to stop it. But Bill wouldn't.
The lawyer let the cassette play until the court heard, "... that bastard is the cause of all of my troubles. I know he called the cops on me, and then he testified against me in court. There is no way I am going to give up my parental rights to that son of a bitch. I want his life to be just as screwed up as mine is, and I don't want him to have any better life than I am going to have in prison."
"Your Honor, this is all irregular," spoke up the public defender. "And that cassette ... it hasn't been forensically inspected to certify that the woman on the cassette is actually my client. And everything that Mr. Jackson has said ... nothing of what he said leads to or justifies as to whether or not Gina Lewis is a bad mother and should have her parental rights terminated."
The judge thought about what the two lawyers had to say, but he figured the son knew his mom better than anyone else, so he had the boy, Charles, remain on the witness stand.
"Charles," began the judge, "when you lived with your mom ... did she feed you well?"
"Your Honor, she did ... that is until she started to use drugs," started Charles. "She began using marijuana at first and I still ate well. It was when she began using heroin and cocaine that she lost her job and if the neighbors didn't give me a good meal every now and then I'd probably have starved to death."
"I object your Honor. The boy was probably only nine or ten years old, at the time, and what could he know about good meals and his mom using drugs!" opined the public defender.
"Yes, I would!" loudly spoke up Charles. "I would see her smoke the marijuana and I know when dinner went from a hot one to a cold one. After she got into the harder drugs, she wouldn't even heat up the hot dogs for me. If it weren't for the microwave, I'd have had to eat those things cold and they tasted terrible. They were the cheapest things she could afford for us to eat."
"Then, after she lost her job, because she wasn't taking care of herself, and was high most of the time, she met the man who supplied her drugs. She began to date 'Smokey' and then we had some money, but she never worked. All she did was deliver 'Smokey's' drugs and collect the money from the local drug dealers," added Charles.
"Your Honor, please! The boy wants to be adopted and he would say anything to make that happen. There is no reason for my client to lose her parental rights to her son. I ask that we curtail this court hearing and, in the best interest of all parties concerned, we leave the status quo alone," stated Gina Lewis' public defender.
"Charles ... Mr. Thomas mentioned that you were sexually abused at one of your former foster homes. Can you ... will you ... elaborate on that for the court?" asked the judge
"Mr. Judge, the sexual abuse at the foster homes was nothing compared to what my mom's boyfriend, 'Smokey' Mason and his biker buddies did to me. 'Smokey' had me do sexual things for him, and then one day he raped me and then ... and then he passed me around to his biker, druggie buddies.
"If it weren't for my 'dad', err Mr. Ken, I would still be having nightmares and medical problems with my bowels. My 'dad's' personal doctor, Doctor Rick Powers, did a full physical exam on me and found that I needed surgery on what he called my backside.
"I had severe bleeding inside my intestines and after the surgery I couldn't do anything for a minimum of two weeks. Call Doctor Rick, he'll tell you the truth," finished Charles.
The judge thought about doing just that. He looked at the time and seeing it wasn't past eleven that morning, he called the court into a recess, while he did make that call.
After the judge left the courtroom, Gina asked the guard if her son could come over to her so they could talk. Charles asked his 'dad' if he should. Mr. Ken told the pre-teen it was up to him if he wanted to hear what she had to say.
The guard said it was okay for Charles to talk to his mom, but he had to stay across the table from her and he couldn't touch her. Charles decided to see what his mother wanted to talk to him about, so he stood across the table where his mom was seated.
"Son, you know I love you and ... and I want us to be a family again when I finally get out," softly spoke Gina Lewis.
Charles heard what she said. So, he decided to say, "Mom, they gave you ten to fifteen years in prison. Even if they let you out in seven years, I'll be twenty. What kind of family life could we have? And what type of job could you get to support yourself let alone me? If you let Mr. Ken adopt me, I would have a permanent place to call home, and I wouldn't have to worry about being sent to another foster home where they could abuse me as the other three foster homes have."
"But Charlie," began Gina, before Charles stopped her, and told her he now is called Charles.
"So, your new foster dad had turned you against me, has he?" said an upset Gina Lewis, after hearing how her son wanted her to call him Charles.
"You will always be Charlie to me, son," calmly said a smiling Gina. "I don't understand why you want to be adopted by some stranger, and not be with you mother when I get out of jail?"
"I've known Mr. Thomas ever since last year on the 4th of July," began Charles. "And there, I'd have five other 'brothers' to play and talk with as they are all close to my age. What will I do until you get out of prison, it's not jail, mom?
"And, what if they extend your prison time to the full fifteen years? What do you expect me to do? Just wait around for you? I'll be twenty-five then and will probably have my own family by then. And if that is the case, why would I want them to know a drug user and dealer and convicted criminal?" finished Charles.
"Charlie, why are you being so mean to your mother? You know I love you, son, so why are you treating me like this?" asked Gina Lewis.
"It's Charles, mom, and I am only stating facts mom. And, if you really loved me you wouldn't have gotten involved with serious drugs and 'Smokey' who sexually abused me and passed me around to his friends," replied a calm Charles.
"Smokey did no such thing to you. And, I bet you were responsible for his death, weren't you? I know you called the cops on me, and you even went against your own blood when I was taken to trial.
"I bet you even called the cops on 'Smokey' and had the cops go after him, too. You did, didn't you?" now demanded a scowling Gina. "And, what if what you said about him holding a knife to your throat was true. I am sorry he didn't kill you, you ungrateful bastard!"
What Gina Lewis just said not only shocked Charles, it stunned the other adults nearby, including Mr. Ken, Bill Jackson and the county guard watching over Gina Lewis. Charles walked away from his mom and went to his 'dad'.
"Get back over here you ... you ungrateful prick. I'm not finished talking to you! And remember, if it weren't for me you wouldn't be alive, so get over here, you bastard!" now demanded a loudly yelling Gina Lewis.
Charles ignored her and just hung onto Mr. Ken as he and everyone else waited for the judge to return.
When the bailiff called out to the courtroom, "All stand", everyone knew the judge was returning.
"Please be seated," announced the Judge.
"I did call Doctor Richard Powers as Charles Lewis suggested. The doctor did confirm Charles' story about his rape injury, and the doctor told me much more than what Charles told us. I tend to believe the young man. And, who better to know his mother than her son.
"I think I heard enough this morning to make my decision. Miss Lewis did indeed use and deal drugs while her son was living with her, and was convicted of such while her son lived with her in their apartment. I believe the neighbors did help feed her son during Gina Lewis' use of illegal drugs and her transporting said drugs for her boyfriend.
"On top of all that, with Gina Lewis being incarcerated for ten to fifteen years and her earliest release date wouldn't be until her son is at least twenty years old, I don't see why her parental rights shouldn't be terminated.
"I also believe there is no way the two, mother and son, would ever have contact with one another, since there was no attempt by Gina Lewis to make contact with her son over the past three years," continued the judge.
"Nooooo!" yelled out Gina Lewis. "He's my son and he belongs to meeee! No one else should be allowed to raise my sonnnn."
"Your Honor," began the public defender, "My client was not given adequate notice that this hearing would happen, and as such no ruling should be announced until she has chance to call witnesses to counter Mr. Jackson's biased reasoning to have Gina Lewis' rights to her son terminated."
Bill Jackson stood up and waited to be recognized by the judge. When he was, he told the court that he has every taped conversation he and his associates ever had with the woman. He explained that Gina knew for the past five or six months that they talked about her relinquishing her parental rights, so this hearing would not be needed.
Bill added that, to him, Gina Lewis had adequate time to prepare for this hearing and her counsel should have thought to contact old neighbors and other people who could have vouched for her and rebuffed all the facts he just presented to the court.
The judge looked as if he was considering putting the hearing on hold until Gina Lewis could present witnesses in her defense of losing her parental rights. Then, the judge got everyone's attention.
"As I listed earlier, Gina Lewis has a lot going against her in this hearing. This court's main consideration has to consider what is in the best interests of the child. And, with Miss Lewis' extended stay in the state prison ... I do not see her being reunited with her son anytime soon.
"Therefore, I rule that Miss Gina Lewis' parental rights to Charles James Lewis be terminated as of this date. I also rule that Charles James Lewis is to be made immediately available for adoption at the earliest date. This hearing is adjourned!" announced he judge.
Charles jumped into his 'dads' arms and the two hugged. Gina Lewis had some choice words for her son as the guard took her back to the holding cell until the state prison sent a vehicle to retrieve her.
Mr. Ken, Charles and Bill Jackson celebrated their victory by going out together to a nice executives' lunch.
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