But that’s not what he finds when he looks outside.
Friday morning at breakfast, I reminded Adam that Eric was arriving this afternoon.
“What time will he get here?”
“He gets off school at about the same time as you, and it will take him about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic, to drive here.”
“Will we eat at home or go out?”
“I was planning to go out. Since Eric is half Chinese, he likes to eat Chinese food when he comes to visit.”
“Do you have a favorite Chinese restaurant?” Adam asked.
“Yes, Yan’s China Bistro. It’s here in Walnut Creek.”
“Does Eric like it, too?”
“Yes, it’s Eric’s favorite Chinese restaurant.”
“I like Chinese food. Do I get a vote?” Adam asked, with just a hint of a smirk.
“Do you have a favorite Chinese restaurant?”
“Sorry, then your vote won’t count.”
I laughed. “What’s that mean?”
“Foo is sort of the same thing as saying ‘heck.’ You say that sometimes, right?”
“Did you know that ‘heck’ is a euphemistic alliteration of the word ‘hell’? It’s typically used instead of saying the word ‘hell’ in a sentence like ‘what the heck are you doing?’ Do you understand?” I asked him.
“I guess so. Maybe. I’ll have to look up ‘euphemistic alliteration’ and see what that means first.”
“Good. Then my job here is finished.” I brushed my hands against each other, looked at Adam, and grinned.
“Foo!” Adam exclaimed, then he laughed. I laughed, too, then I checked the time.
“There’s one other item, a reminder. The hearing to approve my non-related legal guardianship application for you is set for Monday at four p.m. I’ll need to pick you up as close to three o’clock as possible. Is that going to be a problem?”
“Nope. That should be fine. I’ll let Coach Green know.” He pulled out his phone and entered a reminder.
“Time for you to brush your teeth then for me to get you to school.”
After I dropped Adam at school, I headed to the Pleasant Hill CPS office. I hoped there would be some result from the search for June Rios. I probably wouldn’t hear until the middle of the afternoon, so I thought about it for a while. The options were complicated.
First, if June Rios had been found, there were several options. If she was alive, I had to come up with a way to tell Adam. If she’s okay there were more choices. She might want Adam to move in with her and reassume responsibility for him. In this case, Ted Loaming was another issue that would need a resolution. If June Rios turned out okay, then she’d have to be told that Adam and Brian were boyfriends. Adam had said he wanted to stay with me. I wanted that, too. That made it more complicated for both of us.
Second, if June Rios were found and didn’t want to be responsible for Adam, there would be things that had to be taken care of, including going to court. I wanted Adam to live with me, so adopting him was a definite possibility.
Third, if June Rios had died it I might be able to have a fast-track adoption because Adam would be an NKR kid: one with No Known Relatives.
Fourth, Adam and Brian were boyfriends, and there were issues that relationship created. I thought it was fine, and Jared and Joyce did as well. However, we’d have to meet and plan what kind of restrictions on sexual activity would be reasonable for the boys and acceptable to both sets of parents. Parenting, even foster parenting, was complicated because they were boyfriends.
Working for CPS didn’t make it any easier for me. It was more complicated because Jared and I knew the rules and regulations. If June Rios turned out okay, then she’d have to be told that Adam and Brian were boyfriends.
Also, Eric was arriving today to sit down with me and go over the problems he was having with his AP Psychology instructor. I wondered if there was something else, but Eric had ignored the bit of digging I did when we were on the phone. I wanted him and Adam to like each other. I thought they would, but that wasn’t guaranteed, no matter how much I might want it.
When I checked my voicemail messages, there was a call from Sargent Ashley Allisonn. I returned her call immediately and was connected after several minutes.
“Rick, you’ve been transferred to my satphone. I’m in the field on my way to the search site. They found June Rios’ body in the Feather River. I don’t know anything else at the moment, other than she was deceased.”
“I’m sorry to hear that she died. As soon as I have more information, I’ll have to talk to her son, Adam. When do you think you’ll arrive at the location where her body was located?”
“About forty-five minutes, I hope. I’ll call you when I have more detailed information you can use when you talk to June Rios’ son. Maybe an hour, hour and a quarter from now.”
“Okay. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll be waiting for your call.”
I got up and went to Jared’s office. He was on the phone and shook his head to let me know he couldn’t be interrupted. I pointed to myself and mouthed ‘important.’ He nodded to let me know he understood. I went back to my office and listened to my voicemail messages and scanned my text messages amd email.
I checked my watch. It was a quarter to nine.
I received an email message from Gail Leaf, the attorney for Lauren and George Rodriguez in the Ricardo Arragon abuse case. She wanted to settle the case and avoid going to court. Her terms allowed Ricardo Arragon to be removed, but the Rodriguez’s fostering license would not be terminated and they’d continue to foster the two girls. I emailed Jared and attached Gail Leaf’s email. I wrote that I opposed the settlement terms and agreed with him that the fostering license should be terminated.
I continued to go through email until Jared walked into my office. He sat down and waited for me.
“June Rios body has been found,” I said. “I’m waiting for Sargent Allisonn of the Paradise police department to call me. She’s on the way to the scene and said it would take her about forty-five minutes to get there. That was about fifteen minutes ago.”
Jared took a deep breath and let it out. “What are you going to do about Adam?”
“I’m going to wait until I hear from Sargent Allisonn’s call, then decide what to do. Probably pull Adam out of school. The problem I have is that my nephew Eric is coming to visit starting this evening. He has a problem, and he asked me to help him solve it.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I’m not sure. He said it was a problem with one of his teachers. I think it’s personal.”
“Maybe it will be good to have Eric visit you. That way, Adam won’t sit by himself and brood.”
“Thanks, that’s a good point. Eric is a kid who has a lot of empathy, so I think he will be a good companion for Adam.
“New Subject. Did you get the email I sent you with Gail Leaf’s email attached?”
“Yes, and I agree with you. I don’t see any benefit for CPS to enter into this proposed plea bargain. If she wants to take it to court, my position is to let her take it to court. We have strong evidence that the fostering license should be terminated, and the two girls should be removed to another foster home where they won’t be in fear of abuse. I’ll reply to her and copy you. I’ll also tell her that I’m the primary contact on this case.”
“I think she’ll be careful about a plea bargain when she realizes that it’s in the hands of the CPS legal department.”
“I agree. Does Jennifer know of a foster family who can take the girls?”
“No, she doesn’t,” I said. “We’ll have to review available foster families. The girls are identical twin sisters, so they can’t be separated. Because of their age, it would be a bad idea to move them to a foster facility.”
“How old are they?” Jared asked.
“They just turned ten.”
“What’s their relationship with the Rodriguez family?”
I shook my head. “It’s not close. They’ve only been there for about four months. George Rodriguez made sure they know that they are ‘just’ foster kids. As far as Jennifer knows, there haven’t been any problems like there were with Ricardo. The girls seem to have had a very close relationship with Ricardo. What would be perfect would be to move all three kids to one foster family.” I took a deep breath. “That’s not going to be easy to find.”
“I’ve sent out a request to the other caseworkers in both Contra Costa and Solano counties to see if there is a family that isn’t fostering yet and that would be willing to start with a largish family,” Jared said.
“Largish?” I laughed. “Huge-ish is a better definition.”
“Come on, Rick. Three kids in a family are just about standard. These three kids aren’t going to be a problem because they are around the same ages, ten and twelve. They already know each other, and they are close, just as if they were a brother and sisters. Taking care of them would be much simpler than having one infant.”
“Okay, I’ll send Donna Joiner an email and ask her if there are any applicants who are looking to foster a ready-made family. I’ll also send her the links to all of the kids’ files and copy you on the email.”
“Good idea. Keep me updated on any change in their status.”
Jared left for his office. I located the files on the three kids, Ricardo Arragon and Patricia and Elicia Knox, their foster parents, the Rodriguez family, and the two emails from Gail Leaf, the Rodriguez’ attorney. I sent it to Donna attached to an email where I explained what had been going on with Ricardo and that I, Jennifer Boone, and Jared Wong agreed that the Rodriguez fostering license should be terminated. I also copied what Jennifer had written in her latest report on the three kids and suggested that she contact Jennifer and talk about placing them together.
I checked the time. It was twenty after ten — still no call from Sargent Allisonn. I’d have to wait until she called me.
There was way too much going on. As if I’d created it, my phone rang. It wasn’t Sargent Allisonn. Instead, according to caller ID, it was Mrs. Billingsley.
“Hello, Mrs. Billingsley.”
“Hello, Mr. Decker. Ted Loaming has been wandering around the outside of the Rios house. I already called Lieutenant Jackson at the Walnut Creek police, and he’s on his way here. He said there would be a patrol car with two officers coming as well.”
“I wonder what Ted’s after at the Rios house.”
“I do, too,” she said. “I assume Lieutenant Jackson will call you after they’ve arrested Mr. Loaming. I assume that’s what they are going to do.”
“I hope so. I’d appreciate it if you give me a call and let me know when everyone is gone. If you get my voicemail, you can leave a message with the time they left.”
“I’ll do that. How is Adam doing?”
“Good. He won his wrestling match on Wednesday.”
“Yes, he’d told me about that, but I didn’t understand all of the details he went into.” She chuckled.“Please give him my congratulations for his victory.”
“I’ll do that. I have another call coming in, so I’ll say goodbye now. And Thank you for letting me know about Ted Loaming, Mrs. Billingsley.”
“Alright. Goodbye, Mr. Decker.”
The call was from Donna Joiner.
“Hi, Rick. I wanted to let you know that you are a mind reader extraordinaire.”
I laughed. “And exactly what does that mean?”
“The Elliotts are a couple that lives in Alamo. They are quite well-to-do. They want to have kids but can’t. So they told me they were willing to take two or three kids who are related. The boy and twin girls you sent me the information about will, in my opinion, be perfect for them. The boy isn’t a sibling of the girls, but they’ve been living together, and Jennifer’s report indicates that they act like they are siblings. I’m going to move quickly on this. I have a call to Jennifer to talk to her about meeting the kids. I’ve sent her and cc’d you with a link to the file for the Elliotts. Where are the kids now?”
“I assume they are in one of the family rooms here temporarily. Jennifer will know.”
“Good. Assuming they’re there, I’ll be in my office this afternoon, and I’ll meet with Jennifer and the three kids. Thanks for sending the information to me.”
“You’re welcome. Thanks for having a possible placement for them.”
We ended the call. Now it was ten-forty. I was wondering what was going on with Sargent Allisonn.
I checked my new email messages, deleting about half of them, replied to about a quarter of them, and filed the rest because no reply was needed. Most of those related to CPS cases I was following even though I wasn’t directly involved.
Now it was eleven-thirty and still no call. I started my review of the court procedure for my legal guardianship application for Adam. The hearing was scheduled for Monday at four p.m. at the Family Court in Martinez. Now that we knew that June Rios had died, this hearing would be even more critical for protecting Adam’s assets.
I checked the clock. It was five minutes after twelve, and I was only about half-way through the court procedure documents. I called Jared.
“Hi, Rick. You interested in lunch?”
“Yes, but I’m waiting for a call from Sargent Allisonn, so I don’t want to leave the office. Are you going somewhere that has sandwiches?”
“I’m going to Morucci’s. What would you like?”
“Turkey on sourdough with mayo, lettuce, avocado, and tomato. No mustard. And a bag of plain potato chips.”
“Anything to drink?”
“A large bottle of unsweetened regular iced tea, please.”
“Got it. I’ll be back in about twenty minutes, half an hour, depending on how long the lines are.”
“Perfect. Thanks, Jared.”
While he was gone, I got the call from Sargent Allisonn.
“Hi, Rick. I hope you didn’t think that I fell down a cliff and broke all of my bones. What happened is that by the time I got there, the body had already been removed by the coroner. There was a rescue helicopter in the area, and they were able to pick it up. So, when I got there, I had to turn around and hike back out. I just returned to my office. I checked with the coroner, and he said it would be another hour, and he’d have some information for me. He suggested that I go to the medical examiner’s facility in Chico so I can view the body and have him explain the cause of death.”
“Okay. When do you think you’ll get there?”
“It takes about a half-hour to drive to Chico, so I’ll leave here at around one forty-five. I should have something for you around two-thirty.”
“Okay, thank you very much, Sargent Allisonn.”
“We’ve been talking about this June Rios case so much it’s time for you to start calling me Ashley. Okay?”
“Okay, Ashley. And thanks for the update. One thing. I have to leave at three o’clock to pick up Adam at school.”
“I’ll make sure to call you with the preliminary information on time and cause of death to you no later than two-thirty.”
“Thank you. I’m looking forward to your call.”
“Talk to you later. So long, Rick.”
I got up and went to Jared’s office. He had just returned from Morucci’s, so I walked in and sat down. “I just got a call from Sargent Ashley Allisonn. By the time she got to the scene where June Rios’ body was found, the coroner had located a helicopter in the area and had it pick up and take the body to Chico, where his facility is located. Ashley is going to call me around two-thirty with the preliminary time and cause of death.”
“Don’t you have to leave to pick up Adam at school at about that time?”
“I’ll leave at three to pick him up. She promised I’d have the information by two-thirty. She had just returned to the Paradise police department and said it would take her under a half hour to drive to Chico. She’s going to leave at one forty-five. That gives her a lot of time to discuss the findings with the medical examiner and the coroner, then to write up her report and have it for me no later than two-thirty.”
“Okay. Fill me in as soon as you learn something. Then you’re going to have to figure out what and how to tell Adam.”
“That’s going to be the most difficult part. I’m not sure what his reaction is going to be now that his mother is deceased.”
“I agree,” Jared said.
“Change of subject. We’re still scheduled for our court hearing on Monday at four o’clock to approve my non-related legal guardianship application for Adam. Has there been any change?”
“Will the death of June Rios be a factor?”
“Yes. I assume we won’t have her death certificate by the time of the hearing. So we’ll advise the judge, and he’ll ask for a registered and certified copies for the hearing and court records.”
“I’d like you to begin gathering information for me to adopt Adam.”
“So, you’re serious about the adoption?”
“Yes, absolutely serious with no reservations.”
“Congratulations. You realize that will make us relatives, sort of in-laws, don’t you?”
“I don’t think it works like that, but you’re our legal guy, so I’ll accede to your point of view on this matter. I think Adam and Brian will both love the idea and find it amusing that you and Joyce and I are sort-of related.”
We both laughed, and Jared handed me a paper bag with my lunch.
“Lunch is on me,” he said.
“Thanks, I’ll get it next time.”
I returned to my office and checked my voicemail. There was a call from Lieutenant Jackson of the Walnut Creek police department. I returned the call.
“This is Lieutenant Brian Jackson.”
“This is Rick Decker returning your call.
“Hi, Rick. Mrs. Billingsley saw Ted Loaming at the Rios’ house and called me. When we arrived, we caught him trying to break in through the back door of the house. When we apprehended him, we found that he was carrying an unlicensed handgun equipped with a silencer. We’ve arrested him for felony attempted burglary and carrying an unlicensed gun equipped with a silencer. He’s in the jail in Martinez on a no-bail felony warrant awaiting his arraignment hearing, which will be on Monday afternoon.”
“You don’t need me there on Monday, do you?”
“No. This call is just an update about the status of Ted Loaming.”
“Brian, did you get the information from Sargent Allisonn of the Paradise police department that June Rios’ body was found this morning in the Feather River, and it has been moved to the Butte County medical examiner’s facility in Chico?”
“No! That’s very interesting. Is Ted Loaming a suspect?”
“It’s too early for that. We’re still waiting for the exact place and cause of death, and I assume the medical examiner will have to do an autopsy to have a certified cause of death.”
“That could take until some time next week. Do you know if the autopsy is scheduled for today or this weekend?”
“Sorry, I don’t know. Sargent Allisonn said she’ll contact me with the preliminary cause of death later today. Then I assume she’s going to contact you, too. I need the details to figure out how I’ll explain her death to Adam Rios. I’m currently fostering him.”
“When you hear the preliminary information, will you please ask Ashley to give me a call?”
We ended the call, and I stuck my head in Jared’s office and told him about Ted Loaming’s arrest. Then I returned to my office and ate my sandwich. Morucci’s has excellent turkey sandwiches. They roast their turkeys at night, so the meat is sliced thick and is juicy and delicious. Adding avocado made it even better.
After eating, I called Jennifer Boone. She answered.
“Hi, Jen. Has Donna arrived to interview the three kids who were being fostered by Lauren and George Rodriguez?”
“Yes. She’s in with them now.”
“How about you and Donna come by my office when she’s finished. I’d like to talk to both of you about the children and the Elliott family.”
“Okay, will do.”
I went back to the material for my court appearance. Receiving the legal guardianship for a child with no known relatives was complicated. I’d have to provide personal financial information. I understood why that was necessary; they didn’t want someone who’d steal from a child’s trust account. So I had no reluctance to provide whatever information was required along with my application. They asked for my employment information, state and federal tax returns from this year, current bank statements, and current investment account statements. I had the tax returns and statements at home and I could make copies to bring with me. But before doing that, I decided that I’d talk to Jared.
I called him and asked him what I’d need to present at the legal guardianship hearing. He said copies of the forms wouldn’t be required on Monday. Instead, I should send them along with my application to the mailing address on the application. The court appearance on Monday was to answer verbal questions of the judge. Once they received the judge’s approval and my documents, they’d send a form to the court, and I’d be approved.
Complicated, but more straightforward than I’d thought a few minutes earlier.
There was a knock at my door. It was Jennifer and Donna.
“Come on in and tell me what you think about Ricardo Arragon and Patricia and Elicia Knox. Are they a fit for the Elliott family?”
Donna nodded. “Absolutely. I think they are going to love these kids, who seemed to be very happy to be out of the clutches of the Rodriguez family, especially George Rodriguez.”
“When are you going to invite the Elliott’s to meet the kids?” I asked.
“Tomorrow, Saturday,” Donna said. “Doing it on the weekend is needed because Ralph Elliott works in the city and often works overtime. He’s in charge of IT for a large distribution company. His wife works from home; she’s a published author. Are you able to come by tomorrow to meet them?”
“No, unfortunately. I’m fostering a boy, Adam Rios, whose mother was missing. Today she was found deceased in the Feather River about thirty miles northeast of Chico. I’m waiting for the medical examiner’s report, the coroner’s report, and the police report so I’ll have accurate information so I can inform Adam. And if that isn’t enough for me to do, my nephew is on his way from Davis to visit me over the weekend to talk about a problem he’s having at school.
“I trust the two of you to do a thorough vetting on the Elliott family. I assume you’ll give them a temporary fostering license, so the three kids won’t have to be moved to a foster facility for an extended period.”
“Yes, that’s our intention,” Jennifer said. “We’ve run a criminal background check, and they are clean. No arrest warrants, no convictions, not even any traffic violations. We also did a financial check. They told us they don’t want the state stipend for fostering the kids. Based on their income, that makes sense because they don’t need it.”
“That’s interesting. It’s an indication that the Elliott’s are serious,” I said.
“We agree,” Jennifer said. “It’s also unusual that we have prospective foster parents who have such a high income. That’s good since they’re looking at fostering all three kids all at once.”“Okay. I think we’re finished for now,” Donna said. “Talk to you later, Rick.”
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