Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Two Hundred and Fifty : Need to make decisions

Chapter Two Hundred and Fifty

Need to make decisions

Sunday morning — 10:22 a.m.

“What’s wrong?” Megan, Jill’s eldest sister, whispered to Jill as they walked into the waiting area of the medical offices near Valerie and Mike’s apartment. Jill glanced at her and followed the doctor to the other treatment room. All of the friends and family involved made for a large gathering.

Camilla, the midwife, and Jill’s obstetrician argued over Jill’s birthing plan almost the entire time. MJ, an Army trained medic, was able to keep Camilla calm while encouraging the doctor to follow the plan. Jacob and Blane kept everything moving and organized. While Steve, Jill’s brother and Honey’s nurse, seemed to be silently-absorbing what was said.

Megan grabbed Jill’s arm and kept her from following the rest of them into the next room.

“What’s going on?” Megan asked again.

Jill shrugged. Megan raised her eyebrows with expectation. Jill felt the-biggest-sister-eyebrow-pressure like a weight on her heart. She looked at Megan.

“Don’t you think it was easier the last time?” Jill whispered.

“When you went into labor at work and kept working until the last moment?” Megan whispered. “Is this a question?”

As if she was twelve, Jill rolled her eyes and moved to leave. Megan held her in place. Jill didn’t look at her sister for fear of the biggest-sister-eyebrow treatment.

“What?” Megan’s fierce whisper made Jill look at her.

“All of this is really amazing,” Jill said. “Wonderful, fabulous, even. I get to have my babies at home with my daughter and husband and family around me. I’m healthy. The boys are healthy. If anything goes wrong, MJ will be there to monitor for problems and the doctor is on call. Worst case, we’re rushed off to St. Joe’s and I have the babies in one of the best maternity hospitals in the country.”

“Exactly,” Megan nodded. “So what’s the problem?”

Jill shrugged.

“You don’t know?” Megan asked.

Jill gave a slight nod.

“Do you think it’s a . . . you know?” Megan whispered.

“Premonition?” Jill shook her head. “I think it’s a sense that all of this preparation will go for nothing. Something else is coming.”

“Any ideas what?” Megan’s hand went instinctively to her heart.

“Nothing more than what I said,” Jill shook her head. “Just that all of this won’t happen. When the time comes, it will be me and the boys — our journey.”

“I will come,” Megan hugged her. “No matter what or when. I have my pager on all the time.”

“So does Jacob. So does almost the entire city and county of Denver,” Jill smiled. “Blane is going to have a bone marrow transplant with the boys’ cord blood when we’re all done. It may save his life once and for all.”

“You seem so sure,” Megan said. “I can hear it in your voice.”

“I guess I am,” Jill nodded.

“What can I do?” Megan asked.

“I don’t know, sis,” Jill shrugged. “I wish I did.”

Megan hugged her again.

“Jill? We need you to make some decisions,” the doctor called her into the treatment room. Jill gave Megan another squeeze and joined the others.


Sunday mid-day — 12:22 a.m.

Wanda’s mother opened the door and Wanda hobbled on her crutches into the small conference room at the downtown Denver Police station. Charlie and Tink looked up and smiled at her when she came in. Tink waved her over to their side of the table. Charlie got up to help her into a seat and brought a chair for her to prop her leg up. She sat next to Ivy and looked around the room.

Wanda’s mom, Edith, was saying hello to Tink’s new mom, Heather. Ivy’s aunts, Delphie and Gracie were talking to each other near a corner of the room. Sitting next to Charlie, Sandy leaned back to talk to Heather, who was sitting next to Tink.

Wanda leaned forward to talk to Tink, but Tink was gazing at Charlie.

“You can’t talk to her,” Ivy said in a low conspiratorial voice. “She’s all into Pan.”

“I guess so,” Wanda said.

Ivy nodded.

“You know why we’re here?” Wanda asked.

“No, but no one tells me anything ‘cuz I’m just a kid,” Ivy shrugged. “How are you feeling?”

“My leg hurts,” Wanda said. “They’re going to have to do surgery on my knee when my bone heals.”

“Sucks,” Ivy nodded.

“I just hope I can still run,” Wanda said.

Ivy’s eyes scanned Wanda’s face and flicked to her body. Sure Ivy was judging her, Wanda looked away. Ivy touched her arm.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Ivy said.

“Why?” Wanda asked.

“It’s nice to not be the only weirdo here,” Ivy said.

Wanda laughed. She knew she should be offended, but Ivy was right. In this room, she and Ivy were the weirdos.

“They told my dad not to come,” Wanda said. “Even though he was there. Charlie’s new dad and Tink’s new dad aren’t here either. Why do you think that is?”

Ivy shook her head and lifted a shoulder in a shrug.

“Wanda!” Delphie said.

She came over and made a fuss. Wanda didn’t know what was more embarrassing — having Ivy acknowledge her weirdness or having Delphie’s fuss over her. She was glad when her mom came over to talk to Delphie.

“I saw you with that guy when we came in,” Ivy whispered.

“Frankie?” Wanda asked.

“I don’t know his name,” Ivy said. “He was there, that night that . . . you know, with me.”

Wanda felt ashamed and sad all at once. She didn’t know what to say.

“Oh no,” Ivy shook her head. “He was just there. When they left, he gave me money for a cab. He called and waited with me.”

Ivy scanned Wanda’s face again.

“I mean, he could have called the cops or whatever,” Ivy said. “But I remember how scared he looked and . . .”

She shrugged.

“Anyway, I won’t say anything if you want,” Ivy nodded. “He’s pretty cute and he’s obviously into you.”

“You should say whatever happened,” Wanda said. “He made big mistakes. He has to take the consequences.”

Ivy nodded. For a moment, their eyes held.

“I remember him,” Ivy said. “I was lying there hoping I would die and he kind of appeared. I don’t know if I’d have made it if he hadn’t just been nice. I feel stupid because it was so bad, and he really didn’t do anything much — just money for the cab, you know.”

Wanda nodded.

“Kinda made me think that everything was gonna be all right,” Ivy said. “And you know what?”

The door opened and a woman in a bad suit came in the room. She was standing in the doorway when the Homeland Security Agents and the FBI Agent Angie came in behind her.

“Everything’s pretty all right now,” Ivy whispered.

Wanda squeezed Ivy’s hand. Ivy squinted at the woman. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Charlie sit up and lean forward to assess the situation. Tink leaned back and caught Ivy’s eye. They sat back to let Charlie deal with whatever was going to happen. Wanda thought that was a good idea so she sat back too.

The Homeland Security Agent Art Rasmussen sat down across from Wanda and Ivy. He gave them a nice smile. The other Homeland Security Agent Colin Hargreaves sat on the other end of the table across from Heather and Tink. Wanda’s mom sat down between Ivy and Wanda and Ivy’s aunts took the end of the table. Agent Angie had some stern words for the woman in a bad suit before taking a seat next to the Homeland Security agent nearest Wanda.

Ivy squirmed next to Wanda.

“What’s going on?” Charlie sneered.

“Charlie,” Sandy said in a terse whisper.

“They come marching in here and . . .”

“No, he’s right,” Agent Angie said. “We’ve stuffed you in this room and not told you a thing. Art?”

“The problem is that we have a number of problems,” Agent Art said. He gestured to their side of the table. “We’ve been arguing over what to do. We finally agreed to bring the issue to you and let you help us decide.”

He squinted at the woman in a bad suit.

“Could you introduce yourself?” Agent Art asked. “These are children.”

“Oh,” the woman looked surprised. She started talking in a flutter of words. “Right. I’m Collette Lazarian. I’m a Deputy DA. I’m new. There. Um. I’m not trying your case. I’m just here to relay messages and . . . stuff.”

As if to make sure what she’d said made sense, she smiled. Wanda’s mom scowled and Charlie looked like he was going to eat the woman whole. Agent Colin threw a wad a paper at Charlie and smiled. Charlie smirked and sat back.

“Why are we here?” Sandy asked.

“Good question,” Agent Angie gave Sandy a broad smile. “This is a big case, probably one of the biggest cases any of us has seen.”

“Why?” Ivy spouted out.

Agent Angie smiled at her.

“It’s a big case because there are so many children involved,” Agent Angie said. “And because there are so many victims involved.”

Agent Angie looked across the table and smiled at all of the kids.

“It’s also a big case because there’s a lot of media attention and this is such a horrible thing,” Agent Angie said.

“We want to keep that at the forefront,” Agent Art said. “What you each experienced was horrendous. That’s a fact. We don’t want to minimize what you went through.”

“You haven’t answered my question,” Sandy said. Everyone was so surprised that Sandy spoke up that they turned to look at her. “Why are we here? The kids have to go to school tomorrow. They have school work and other activities. We’ve spent an hour sitting in this room while you . . . discuss?”

Wanda saw a flash of a smirk across Agent Art’s face. He clearly had said the same thing. No one on the other side of the table said anything. Sandy nodded. She stood up from her seat. Following her lead, Heather popped to her feet.

“I’ve had enough,” Sandy said. “We’re leaving. When we come back, we’ll come back with our lawyers.”

The agents looked at the woman from the DA’s office from the side of their eyes.

“Charlie?” Sandy asked.

“Oh, you can’t leave,” the woman from the DA’s office said.

“Why not?” Sandy asked.

“We . . .”

“Your problems have nothing to do with us,” Sandy said.

“Sandy, please,” Agent Angie said.

“Make it quick,” Sandy looked at the woman from the DA. “You have five minutes.”

The woman swallowed hard.

“Art? Why don’t you . . .?” Agent Angie nodded to him.

“The question one is who to charge. Question two is what charges to file,” Agent Art said. “While the DA has heard from the community that every child should be charged to the maximum allowed by law, and he’s willing to do that, he wondered if it might be too much.”

“For whom?” Sandy asked.

“For the children,” the woman from the DA’s office said.

“Victims,” Agent Angie said.

“Yes, them too,” the woman from the DA’s office said

“Art, why don’t you lay it out?” Agent Colin asked a little too fast.

Agent Art nodded. He got up from his seat and went to a white board.

“We have groups of criminals,” Agent Art said. “We have the boys who purchased the videos. They can be charged with, at the very least, possession of child pornography.”

Agent Art drew a big circle on the board.

“We have another group of criminals who participated in some way in your assaults. This is really two groups. One group of boys didn’t participate. They got high and were bystanders. Some of them drove the boys to and from the assaults. At the very least, they are guilty of not reporting a crime and aiding and abetting criminal activity.”

Agent Art drew a smaller circle.

“Some of those cases,” Agent Art nodded to Wanda, “have already been fast tracked through the system, like Wanda’s friend Frankie. These boys were willing to give evidence to the assaults and pled guilty to their part of it. Now they can still be brought back if we find they were more involved in these crimes. But for now, most of this group is working their way through the system.”

“There is a group of boys who, well, I call them the ‘beaters,’” Agent Art grinned. “Charlie, you’ve interacted with these boys. These boys like to fight. They beat up Wanda. They did the majority of the battery against the girls and women. Charlie, Tink, and Wanda have given us good evidence against these guys. This group, we can get on a hate crime because of what they did to Wanda.”

Agent Art drew a smaller circle on the board.

“There’s another group of boys who I call the ‘rapists,’” Agent Art drew a circle about the size of the last circle. “These are the boys who raped and assaulted the girls and women.”

“And then there’s the leader,” Agent Art drew and “X” on the board. His voice took on a noticeable chill. “He has the contacts to sell the videos to the larger conglomerate. He also sells meth and marijuana mixtures. And he likes . . .”

Agent Art looked at the kids across the table and stopped talking.

“Anyway, he’s not going anywhere very fast,” Agent Art said.

“We’re trying to decide if he should be tried by every juridical agency involved,” Agent Angie said. “Or in Federal Court. We’re leaning Federal, but that’s one of the questions for you.”

“As victims, you have the right to say what you think should happen,” the woman from the DA’s office found her voice. “You can tell us that you want to prosecute everyone or no one. It’s up to you but . . .”

“We’re also asking every victim, so it’s not just you,” Agent Angie talked over the woman from the DA’s office. “The DA’s office wants to be fair, but also realizes . . .”

“This guy,” Agent Art gestured to the “X” on the board. “He’s a big deal. They want to get all of these people to give evidence against him. That way they make sure to catch the big fish.”

“Even the biggest fish isn’t enough food for everyone,” Colin said.

“He means that all of these other boys will go free without consequence if they only prosecute the big fish,” Agent Angie said.

“So the guys who beat me up could go out and beat someone else up?” Wanda asked rose. “They called me a freak. They wanted to kill me.”

Edith put her hand on Wanda’s back.

“That’s the problem,” Agent Art nodded.

“And we’re just supposed to decide that?” Charlie asked. “Right now? No. I’m not deciding something like that because you have some pressure to make a decision.”

He got up. Tink and Ivy hopped to their feet because he did.

“We’ll think about it,” Sandy got up and walked to the door. Agent Colin opened the door for them.

“We need to make these decisions as soon as possible,” the woman from the DA’s office said. “These children are languishing in jail. We have to tell the parent’s something.”

“Maybe you should tell their parents that their sons shouldn’t be rapists?” Heather glared at the woman. “Try that on for size.”

Sandy and Charlie left the room. Heather and Tink followed. It took Wanda minute to get up. Ivy and her aunts left the room.

“You understand don’t you?” the woman from the DA asked Wanda. “You don’t want to ruin these boys’ entire lives just because you want to play dress up, do you?”

“Shut the fuck up,” Agent Angie pushed the woman out of the room. Agent Colin winked at Wanda and followed them.

“Can I help you out?” Agent Art asked.

“We’re all right,” Wanda’s mom said.

“I could use some help,” Wanda’s voice gave away how upset she was.

“Wanda, we . . .”

Agent Art scooped Wanda up off her feet.

“How’s that?” Agent Art asked.

Wanda giggled and gave her mom her crutches. Agent Art acted like he was carrying a princess. He set her down in the lobby and picked up her hand.

“Don’t ever let them get you down,” he said under his breath. He kissed her hand. Nodding to her mom, he left the lobby.

“Well, that was . . . pretty wow,” Wanda’s mom raised her eyebrows and Wanda nodded. “Pizza?”

Wanda nodded and they made their way out to the car.


Sunday mid-afternoon — 3:22 a.m.

Sam waited in his truck at the parking lot to Barr Lake State Park until he saw a white truck with the State Inspector’s seal pull up next to him. He got out and waited until his friend, Barry Radow got out of his truck. He fell in beside the state inspector. They walked in silence along the path around the drought diminished lake. They had gone a ways away from the parking lot before Barry glanced at Sam.

“Your boy’s caused quite a fracas,” Barry said.

Sam nodded.

“I don’t think you get it,” Barry said. “This is a big f-ing deal. If Jake’s right, and he probably is, your company was set up. The new state attorney is looking into whether to file criminal charges.”

Sam grimaced and nodded.

“The whole thing is . . .” Barry shook his head.

“I know,” Sam said.

“He’s really going to do it?” Barry asked.

“Lipson Construction is pulling off of the site,” Sam said. “Period. I’m not going to put my people in harm’s way. If they keep fracking, which they will, and the site keeps building, the ground is going to shake at some point. I want myself, my family, my people to be miles away when that happens.”

Barry sucked in a breath and they walked in silence for a while.

“You think the grounds gonna shake?” Barry asked.

“I know it’s going to,” Sam said.

Barry scowled. They lapsed into silence again.

“You know what the other companies are saying?” Barry asked.

“I don’t really care what they’re saying,” Sam said.

“Good thing,” Barry said.

“What did your department decide?” Sam asked.

“The state’s pulling all of your contracts,” Barry said. “You leave that site, you can say ‘bye-bye’ to state projects, at least for a while.”

“Thought as much,” Sam said.

“For what it’s worth, I think you were set up,” Barry said.

“Of course we were set up,” Sam said. “We’re in the middle of this transition and . . .”

Sam blew out a frustrated breath.

“What are you going to do?” Barry asked.

“We’re going to leave the site,” Sam said. “We’ve met with the employees and they agree.”

“Without all the state projects, you’ll have to lay people off and . . .”

Barry stopped talking when Sam turned to look at him.

“Guess you know that,” Barry said. “Whatcha going to do?”

“We’re going to tighten our belts and move on,” Sam said. “We’ve done it before.”

“You can’t bluff your way out of this one, Sam,” Barry said.

“Why not?” Sam chuckled. Barry smiled.

“I’ve been at this game for a long, long time,” Sam said. “We make our decisions one at a time. Taking on the project was a good decision. Leaving it is also a good decision. I’d guess that, in six months or so, the state will want our help again. It will be up to us to decide if we want the work.”

“And in the meantime?” Barry asked. “Family company. You have a lot of mouths to feed.”

Sam nodded. They continued walking around the lake. At the parking lot, Sam held out his hand for Barry to shake.

“You really want to take this on?” Barry asked.

“You’re kind of a worry wart,” Sam smiled.

“It’s my job,” Barry smiled.

“Whatever happens, we’ll be fine,” Sam said. “It’s change, that’s all. As long as we’re making our own decisions, based on what’s best for us, by our own values, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Barry nodded and got in his truck. Sam went around to his truck and got in the driver’s seat. Barry honked twice and raised a hand in “good-bye.” Sam sat for a moment and then turned his truck toward home.

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