Donald and Sonny waited patiently outside the judge's chambers early Monday morning. They were there to let the judge know that Donald had joined the case, but also to try and convince the man to let the boys out of jail until the trial. Sonny admitted that there was little hope of that, but Donald said they had to at least try. What he didn't tell Sonny was that if extra bail money was needed, he was planning to post it himself. This family needed to be together now, and Donald was going to see that happen one way or another.
"His honor will see you now," the receptionist announced. Donald was shocked by the cold attitude of the woman. It was clear to him that certain members of the local establishment would already have their minds made up about this case. He only hoped the judge wasn't one of them. If so, he was prepared to demand a mistrial and also push for a relocation of the trial, but he really didn't want it to come to that since it would only delay the boys' freedom.
"So you're the big shot city slicker down here to rescue the poor unfortunate boys in County lockup?" Judge Warren Diehl said as Donald walked into the room. "I already know what you're here for, so don't sit down and waste both our time. The boys were previously arrested on corruption of minor charges and now have been charged with having sex with another minor. There will be no suspension of the bail policies for these two, even if they were the best two swimmers on the college team. Athletes do not get special privilege in my courtroom."
"That's good to know, your honor," Donald agreed. "I don't allow for any public figures to have special treatment in my courtroom, either."
"You're a judge, as well, huh?" Diehl snorted. "Well, the rumor mill missed that one. I guess my secretary isn't as infallible a source as she thinks she is." He turned toward the closed door and said slightly louder, "Did you get that, Mabel?"
"I ain't listening to you," the woman's voice answered with a huff.
"Now she won't listen," the judge said with a tiny hint of a smile. "At least for a minute or two."
"Your honor, as I was saying, I have no intention of asking for special privileges for these boys," Donald began again.
"That's fine then, because I'm rather proud of the nickname I've got around town," Judge Diehl replied. "I know perfectly well that I'm referred to as No Deal Diehl. I've worked hard to earn that name, and I don't intend to break my rules now. However, if you're interested, the boys are available for bail once again. Naturally, the amount has increased since they are repeat offenders and the previous bail money is forfeited, of course." The last was said with a deliberate look at Sonny. It was obvious the whole town knew that he had mortgaged his home to get his son and his gay lover out of jail the week before.
"How much is it going to take this time?" Sonny asked somewhat fearfully.
"Certainly more than you get for your home on a second mortgage, Sonny," the judge answered. "I am sorry about that, I really am. I'm a father too, you know, and I know that I would do anything I could if I were in your position, Sonny. I hate to see your family lose your home. Please don't risk that. Your boys' are safe in lockup. I have seen to it that they are kept separate from the general population."
"Thank you, your honor," Sonny acknowledged.
"Sonny, why don't you go on over to see the boys and I can go through all the credentials stuff that I'm sure he'll want to check on me," Donald suggested.
"How will you get around if I take the car?" Sonny asked.
"Oh, don't worry about me," Donald dismissed his concerns. "I can just walk around for a bit. I'll have my cell if I need a lift anywhere."
"All right, then," Sonny agreed hesitantly. He knew something was up, but he didn't want to embarrass himself or Donald right there and then.
"Just how much is that new bail amount, Judge Diehl?" Donald asked as soon as Sonny was out of the room.
"Already keeping secrets from your co-counsel?" the judge asked with a lifted eyebrow. "Well, I can't say as I blame you on this one. I'm going to go out on a really big limb here, Judge. Of course this is all strictly off the record, but I know perfectly well that those boys haven't done a thing wrong. I just have a gut feeling about them. My guts don't mean diddly when I'm on the bench, though. You have a hard row to hoe, friend. There is a lot of evidence against those boys right now. My feelings outside the courtroom have no bearing whatsoever on the fact that once I'm seated at the front of that room, you have to prove to me beyond any shadow of a doubt that your clients are innocent. Their word against the word of a respected law enforcement officer will not sway my judgment, even if I'm not one of the people in this county that respect said law enforcement officer. After all, how many guilty men have you seen that claim innocence?"
"Point taken, Judge Diehl," Donald agreed.
"Now as I said, the first time their bail was set at $150,000 and was met by Sonny mortgaging his home out the wazoo," the local man continued. "Unfortunately, my hands are tied as far as these things are concerned. I have no choice but to set the minimum amount the law requires under the circumstances. Bail is set at one million dollars, five hundred thousand for each boy."
"That is more than fair, given the situation, I'm sure," Donald returned. "I can have a cashier's check wired here within an hour."
"That will be acceptable," Judge Diehl said. "Those boys should be at home with their folks before trial starts. Who knows when they might get to see one another afterwards?"
"I wouldn't worry about that," Donald said with a twinkle in his eye. "If I can't prove my case on my own, I have some young friends that will throw some weight onto the situation."
"I warn you, sir, I will not tolerate grandstanding publicity stunts in my courtroom," Judge Diehl said sternly.
"Well, I'll just have to tell them to fly in a little slower this time," Donald said with a smile. "Thank you for your time, your honor." He turned then and left the judge's chambers. As he passed the secretary's desk, he asked her, "Could you tell me when the case is scheduled to appear in court?"
"First thing tomorrow morning," she snapped. "You'd better have some kind of powerful shyster lawyer trick up your sleeve if you want to get those perverts off in this town. We don't take kindly to folks that mess with our young'uns."
"Neither do I," Donald returned just as coldly. "That includes busybodies that jump to conclusions without knowing all the facts and then spread their gossip around town, damaging innocent young men's reputations."
"Well, I never," the woman exclaimed angrily.
"Being a gentleman, I will refrain from commenting on that one," Donald sneered as he walked away. Once outside, he walked down the street to the first bank he saw. He walked in and asked for the bank manager.
"I'm sure we can handle any business you have without having to bother Mr. Tadlock," the girl at the counter told him.
"Well, if you think so," Donald said skeptically. "I need to have a cashier's check drawn up for an account in Charleston, South Carolina."
"Oh," the girl said quietly.
"The amount is one million dollars," Donald continued. At this point the girl looked as if she were about to faint.
"Daddy!" she called out rather loudly in the somewhat small bank lobby.
"Barbara Jean, we do not yell in the bank, dear," a man said firmly as he walked up. "You also know better than to call me Daddy at work."
"Yes, Daddy, but," she caught the fierce look from the man's eye and corrected herself. "I mean Mr. Tadlock, but this gentleman needs a cashier's check written for an account from another bank."
"You've handled those before, Barbara Jean," Mr. Tadlock said somewhat impatiently.
"Not for a million dollars, I haven't," the girl snapped just as shortly. Her father spun around instantly plastering a huge fake smile on his face.
"I would be quite happy to take care of that for you, Mr….?" his voice trailed off in an unspoken hint for an introduction.
"Judge Donald Leggette," Donald supplied as he offered his hand to the banker. The fake smile instantly disappeared.
"You're that high falutin' city slicker shyster lawyer come in to try to get those two child molesting perverts out of county lockup, ain't you?" the man snarled.
"No sir, I am the Superior Court judge that has come in to try to rescue two wrongfully arrested, framed, innocent young men," Donald corrected coldly. This town was beginning to get to his last nerve. "I am here to arrange bail for those young men, so that they can be with their families at this time of crisis in their lives."
"Not in my bank you're not," the man sputtered harshly. "I will not have my bank involved in letting those two monsters loose on our streets again. You can tell their father that I am going to be nice about it and give him until Friday to pay off that mortgage on his house before I foreclose on it and send the whole lot of them packing out of our town. We don't need that kind of people here."
"That's the only thing you've said that I can agree with, you pompous pig," Donald snapped. "This town doesn't deserve people as good and wholesome and loving as the Peltiers." With that, Donald turned and stormed out of the building. He saw another bank down the street and started toward it. He was afraid of the reception he would get there as well, but he needed to make this transaction happen.
"Welcome to Monticello Bank, sir," the girl at the reception said pleasantly. "How can we assist you today?"
"I need to have a cashier's check drawn up on an account in South Carolina. I have the legal documents here in my briefcase to verify that I have a durable power of attorney over the account in question."
"Yes sir, we'll need to see those," the girl said politely. The nameplate on her desk said her name was Carolyn. "How much money are we talking about transferring with this transaction, Mr….?"
"I'm terribly sorry," Donald apologized for not introducing himself. "My name is Donald Leggette, and I need the check to be written for one million dollars."
"Gosh, Mr. Leggette, I've never handled a transaction that large," the girl said with a bit of a blush. "I'm afraid I'll have to have our bank manager here for this."
"I was afraid of that," Donald mumbled.
Moments later, a nicely dressed woman walked up to the desk. She glanced at Donald as she got closer, but he couldn't read her expression. She took a note from Carolyn and then turned to face Donald with more interest.
"I'll be happy to handle this transaction for you, Mr. Leggette," the woman said nicely. "We apologize for the inconvenience, but Carolyn here is just a part time clerk, and doesn't have the security clearance as of yet to handle such a large amount on her own."
"As long as the check can be drawn up as quickly as possible, I don't care who does the transaction," Donald answered. "Carolyn was very polite and helpful, however."
"Thank you for saying so, sir," the girl blushed again.
"Well, if you don't mind, I'll let Carolyn do this one while I supervise her," the bank manager suggested. "I think it's time to expand her responsibilities here at the bank, and this will be an excellent opportunity for training."
"I don't mind at all," Donald agreed. "I'm just glad you're agreeing to do this for me."
"Why wouldn't we?" Carolyn asked curiously. "Monticello Bank is here to serve our customers with any financial need they have."
"Spoken like a true company girl," Donald mused aloud with a grin at the young woman to let her know that he was just teasing her a bit. "The first bank I went to refused my business," he added seriously. "Having said that, I suppose I should give you the opportunity to do the same thing. This check is to pay the bail for Philip Peltier and Ja…."
"Jason Blankenship!!!" Carolyn cried out as she jumped to her feet. "You're their new lawyer, aren't you?"
"Yes I am," Donald told her. Carolyn shocked him by grabbing him in a tight hug.
"I'm so happy to meet you," she said tearfully. "Jason and Philip were on the swim team with my boyfriend. They are some of my closest friends. They never touched those kids, not any of them. I was there at Philip's apartment when those two cute little guys figured out that they liked each other. It was so sweet, I just cried. No one was happier for them than Jason and Philip, and no one was more protective of those two than Jase and Phil, either."
"Carolyn, let Mr. Leggette breathe," the bank manager laughed. "Mr. Leggette, we here at Monticello Bank are happy to assist the path of justice. I am waiving our bank fees for this transaction."
"I can't let you do that," Donald denied. "I'm sure there are costs involved, and I assure there is no problem paying them. I do appreciate the offer more than you know, however. I had begun to think that everyone in this town hated the Peltiers as well as Jason and Philip."
"If I were allowed into that part of the jail, I would have gone by to see them," Carolyn said quickly. "Of course, I also thought about the idea that they might not want me to see them in there. Guys can be pretty stubborn about that male pride thing, even ga... I mean guys like them."
"I think you're right about that, Carolyn," Donald agreed. "I think the boys would be a bit embarrassed if their friends were to see them in jail. I will make sure I tell them that I saw you and that you believe in them. They need the support right now, especially when there are so many people in town that are turning against them."
"Tell the boys and their folks that they do have support," the bank manager told Donald as she continued to type at the computer.
"OH! Mrs. Beasley, I'm sorry," Carolyn exclaimed as she moved back to her desk. "I didn't mean for you to have to take over. I just got so excited."
"It's all right, Carolyn," the banker said with a smile. "It's perfectly understandable, and all I did was the part I would have had to do anyway since your computer access codes weren't adequate for the transaction." To Donald, she added, "This should only take a couple of minutes."
"I really appreciate your time and cooperation," Donald returned. "It is a welcome change from the reception my wife and I have gotten elsewhere in town."
"I don't doubt that," Mrs. Beasley said grimly. "We're a small town in the Old South. The rumor mill is the busiest business in town. It's sad to say, but true."
"That much didn't surprise me, but I was surprised to see so many people ready to practically lynch two boys that two weeks ago were star athletes locally," Donald informed her. "Everyone seems so eager to jump to the wrong conclusions about these boys."
"It's just possible that the boys have more support than you see, but the folks that do believe in them are afraid to show their support," Mrs. Beasley said quietly. "The local establishment is a powerful enemy to make when you have to live in this town. That's where it's fortunate that you aren't from this area. The sheriff's department would hound you for years after you prove their case is false."
"Are you saying that the police force of the area is corrupt?" Donald asked in hushed tones.
"I would never say such a thing," Mrs. Beasley answered as she nodded her head affirmatively. "Our sheriff's department is unequalled." Her eyes cut to the uniformed security guard standing near the door of the bank. When she was sure that he hadn't been paying attention, she seemed to relax a bit. "His brother is one of the deputies," she whispered. "I don't trust him as far as I could throw him, but I have nothing concrete to hold against him. He's mild compared to the brother, though."
"His brother is the one that arrested Jase and Phil," Carolyn whispered to them both. "I heard him talking about it this morning. He seemed to be upset by it, actually."
"Just to be on the safe side, I wouldn't tell him that you are friends with Jason and Philip," Donald advised. "There are details of this case that I can't divulge at this time, but trust me when I say that what happens in that courtroom tomorrow will rattle more than a few chains in this sleepy little town." Mrs. Beasley's eyes widened and her eyebrows raised, but she said nothing. A couple of minutes later, Donald was handed the piece of paper he needed. He left the bank and headed back to the courthouse. Half an hour later, he was standing outside the courthouse building when Sonny's car pulled up to the curb.
"Judge Leggette, how can we ever thank you enough?" Philip blurted as Donald got into the car.
"How did you manage to get us bail a second time?" Jason asked.
"Well, boys, actually I didn't pay for it," Donald told them truthfully. "Dixon's great grandmother did that. I was just her agent facilitating the transaction."
"I haven't called the house to tell them yet," Sonny said as his voice wavered with emotion. "I've barely been able to talk at all since the call came through from the courthouse."
"That's true," Phlip laughed. "You've made history, Judge Leggette. You found a way to make Dad speechless. Mom will probably hug you for this."
"There's no probably to it, boys," Sonny laughed, ignoring the jibe at his expense. "When Libby sees you two walk in the door, we'll all be going to bed with cracked ribs tonight."
"Are you sure it will be ok for us to stay there tonight, Dad?" Jason asked. There was still a hesitation before the word dad, but everyone in the car politely ignored it. "I don't want to upset Priscilla."
"Priscilla knows you guys would never hurt her, no matter what the police told her," Sonny assured them. "She has been worried that you were upset by all this."
"That sweet kid," Jason sniffled. "I wish I could get my hands on that…."
"No more talk like that," Donald scolded gently. "I understand why you feel that way. Believe me, I feel the same way. Talk like that does not make our jobs any easier, though."
"I'm sorry," Jason immediately apologized. "I still can't get over all you're doing for us already, Judge Leggette."
"Well, you could start by calling me Don instead of Judge Leggette," Donald told them. "I'm your attorney and your friend, not your judge."
"Yes sir," both young men said with a smile.
"We're here," Sonny announced as he pulled into the driveway. "You boys stay in the garage for a moment. I'll give you a signal to come in."
"You're being naughty, Dad," Jason smiled. The word came easier this time.
"Mom's going to kill you," Philip warned with a grin.
"She may not have to; Margie may do it for her," Donald pointed out. "She's gotten pretty protective of her new friend already."
"It'll be worth it," Sonny assured them.
Moments later the two men walked into the kitchen and greeted their wives. Sonny started right in telling the women how scared the boys looked when he left them. Naturally Libby and Marge started getting upset.
"Libby, you should have seen their faces," Sonny continued. "Actually, let me show them to you now," he said loudly. At that moment, Jason and Philip walked into the room. It's a good thing Marge was standing next to Libby, because Philip watched his mother sag into Marge's arms.
"MOM!!" the young man called out as he rushed to her side. She looked up into his face as tears streamed down her own.
"Philip, you're home?" she mumbled. She looked over at Jason then and motioned for him to closer as well. She stood up and wrapped them both in her arms so tightly they began to fight for breath.
"Libby, let the boys have some air," Sonny called out.
"They can have yours," she snapped as she glared at her husband. "You had me worried sick about these two and you knew all along they were just outside the door."
"That's why we were afraid the last time he saw our faces," Jason told her with a short laugh. "We knew you would kill him for a stunt like this."
"Killing's too good for him and too quick," Libby said icily. "I'm going to make him suffer for a long time for this one." Her voice instantly changed as did her facial expression as she added tearfully, "But first I want him over here for this family hug. I want my whole family in my arms for at least a year, or maybe an hour."
"Does that include me?" Everyone turned to see Priscilla standing in the doorway.
"Of course it means you, sweetie," Libby told her daughter.
"Only if you're okay with it," Philip said hesitantly. "Jason and I don't want to make you uncomfortable or anything."
"Will you shut up and hug Mom," the girl scolded her big brother. "I know you two didn't hurt me. You wouldn't do that if you were straight, but you sure wouldn't mess with me like you are." With those words, the Peltier family clutched together in an embrace they would all remember the rest of their lives.
"I think we're missing two members of the family," Sonny said as he looked over at Donald and Margie, who were in their own hug. "If what you did today doesn't qualify you as a member of the family, nothing does."
"Now the only ones missing are Jessie and Dixon," Jason said quietly as he wiped a tear from his cheek.
"When we get you all back to Charleston, you will quickly discover that your family is a bit bigger than just those two boys," Donald told them. "All I've done today is what Mrs. Amee told me to do when she sent me out here. 'Take care of them' were her instructions. That's what I aim to do."
As the group hug finally broke up, Jason and Philip knelt beside their little sister and asked again if she was doing ok. She thought for a moment in silence before answering. When she did, the adults cracked up.
"I'm fine, but you two losers owe me a pizza and a movie."
Well, it's all beginning to come together for Jesse and Dixon's family. Hopefully it won't be long until everyone is reunited. Before that can happen there remains a little cleaning up to be done in a certain small town. I promise that will happen as soon as possible. Thanks for reading.