Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chapter 39

"I swear; these babies are the smartest little things!"  Carmie cooed.  "Did you just hear the sound she made?  I say she's trying to talk!  Aren't you, you little darlin' you?" she burbled to the three-week old baby in her arms.


Olivia smiled and drooled on her aunt's hand.  Carmie wiped the moisture gently with a spit up cloth and kissed the baby, telling her again what a smart and pretty little girl she was.


Terri, in seventh heaven with little Mara bundled in her arms was doing much the same, marveling over every little sound and smile.


"Sure. You get the smiling babies with the clean diapers, I get the cranky, stinky one."  Gabe groused jokingly, as he changed Nathan's diaper for what seemed to be the tenth time that hour. The baby, for his part fussed, making the lalalalalala sound that seemed to be his trademark from the day he was born.  Even the doctors were astounded that he could make an identifiable sound at such a young age.


"Oh!  Bethie told me to sing to him when he does that. Calms him right down."  Terri said, clicking her fingers and then gently smacking her head.  "I was so caught up with little Olivia here it slipped my mind.  Apparently all the babies love music but Nathan quiets right down when you sing to him."


"When are they getting back?" Carmie asked, unconsciously snuggling Mara closer.


It was the third day of the trial and Beth and Dante had wanted to be there for at least one. "Bethie said she'd try her hardest to get back before the babies needed to be fed." Gabe said thoughtfully, “She left bottles here in case they couldn't wait that long, but she said she'd bring her pump along and use the ladies room if..."


"Gabriele!  Men shouldn't talk about things like that!"  Carmie scolded.  "It's inappropriate!"


"But..."  Gabe tried to defend himself. "But Bethie said..."


"But nothing, young man!" Terri said.  “That's private for a woman and not to be discussed by men any more than any other... feminine thing... should be!" she said with a blush.


"But...!"


"Shush!  That's final!"  Carmie scolded.


Gabe scowled, finished changing his nephew, readjusted the baby's clothes and put the spit cloth back in place before settling his nephew back into his arms.


"Lalalalalalalalalala."  Nathan demanded.


Gabe, despite what he thought was his sister's prissy attitudes, smiled down at his brilliant little nephew and began to sing, 

"Frog went a' courtin' and he did ride,
Rop-strop-by-mister-gammble
With a sword and a pistol buckled at his side,
Rop-strop-by-mister-gammble.


Hee mo hi mo keemo kimo
Rowdy rowdy ray, oh rop strop,
Pennywinkle flannel doodle yellowbug
Rop-strop by mister gammble.


He rode right up to Mouse's house,
Rop-strop-by-mister-gammble
Saying, "Please won't you marry me Miss Mouse?"
Rop-strop-by-mister-gammble."


"Gabie!  That poor little mite isn't going to know whether he's coming or going with you singing that gibberish at him!  Honestly!"  Carmie scolded again.


"Now you hush!"  Gabe scolded back.  "He loves it!"  he said, gesturing to the wide, wet smile on the baby's face, "And he doesn't understand a word of it just yet so what does it matter if I sing to him in gibberish or... "


"Lalalalalalalalalala!" Nathan protested, little hands and feet waving to get his uncle's attention.


"That's ok little Nate, the big mean ol' ladies just don't understand us menfolk."  he cooed, gently chucking the infant under the chin before continuing to sing the rest of the song.


"Rop stropa... goodness!"  Terri complained with a smile.  It made her feel good to hear the songs and rhymes she'd told her little brothers and sisters being passed down to a new generation, but it also made her feel old at the same time, and she wondered why she hadn't said yes two years ago when Connor had asked her to marry him.  These could have been her babies, she thought, then shook her head.  No sense worrying about it now, she thought.





Things in the courthouse were in full swing.  It seemed as though everyone in town had turned up for the spectacle.  Even though normally it would have been a very quiet affair except that friends and families had shown up to offer support, and the local reporter as well had insisted he be allowed in to cover the story and update folks on the outcome.


While the attorneys for the defense did their job and did their best to defend their clients, there was no doubt in of their minds that Frederick Charles Argus and Brice Timothy Crighton were guilty, all that remained was to hear the testimonies of the people involved, the decision of the jury and the sentence from the Judge.  Both sets of lawyers had discussed the case with the Di Marco's and the Rossi's and had requested that the boys, both still actually just shy of eighteen, not be charged as adults despite the viciousness of their attack.


Angelo and Amadeo's parents had thought long and hard about it when the lawyers had brought the idea up.  If the situation had been reversed would they want their sons in prison with hardened criminals.  They'd agreed that while the boys needed to be held accountable for what they'd done, they were still boys, and had agreed that they should be tried as minors.


Twice during the trial, members of Brice's family had to be told to quiet down.  The first time his mother had stood up, crying and trying to get the judge to understand that he was just a boy, he didn't mean it, it was just boyish antics and he hadn't meant for it to go so far.  The Argus's sat quietly, tears running down Mrs. Argus' face while Mr. Argus sat by stoically, holding his wife's hand.


At first Mrs. Di Marco and Mrs. Rossi both felt for Mrs. Crighton, until she accused Amadeo and Angelo of making it up and causing their own injuries.   Then Mr. Crighton had gotten up and accused Mr. Cobrane, Mr. Barnes and Officer Delaney of leading the unidentified boy's testimonies when they'd 'met in private to collaborate and rehearse their stories', and that it was the fault of 'them Damn Yankees who didn't have enough sense to pound sand into a rathole' who were to fault.  He then demanded to be informed of the identities of the other boy so that he could question them himself.


Before the Crighton clan could go any further with disrupting the court, Judge Thornton, who was hearing the case, thudded down his gavel and demanded order until everyone settled down.


"I'd like to ask the Honorable Judge Byron L. Thompson to please stand up and be sworn in."  He ordered.


Judge Thompson, impressive his black pinstriped suit, stood up and was sworn in by the deputy, and then relayed his experiences the night that the boys had gone to Cobrane's house to give their testimony.


Mr. Crighton then accused the judge of entrapment, as he was sure his lawyers were unaware of the fact that he'd been there listening.  The lawyers for the defense, and prosecution, acknowledged that they had been aware of Judge Thompson's presence and had agreed to have him nearby so that there could be no question that Misters Cobrane and Barnes, or Officer Delaney had in any way led the witnesses' statements.


Judge Thompson then looked at the irate father and asked if he wanted to question the veracity of a highly regarded district court Judge and set his word against his son's.  Mr. Crighton gave his son an outright dirty look at which his son blushed deep red, and then sat down, assuring Judge Thompson that he didn't care to do so.


Evidence was presented, testimonies given.  The other six boy's testimonies had been read, as agreed, by their attorneys although they were in the hallway in the event that the Judge wanted to talk to them.  Amadeo and Angelo, as the victims, had to get up on the witness stand and give their own statements.


Dr. Mendoza and Ms. Greer were asked to testify.  Dr. Mendoza brought along a thick stack of evidence, the x-rays of Amadeo's arm and head.  Photographs of the damage done to both him and Angelo, the wound beneath Amadeo's eye which was now only a thin scar but which at the time had been a deep and swollen gouge.  He testified that there had been some question as to whether the boy would lose the eye or not.


Amadeo gulped.  He hadn't been aware of that fact and absent mindedly ran a finger along the constant reminder of that day.  He leaned briefly into his father's warm hand, gently squeezing his shoulder through the material of his suit jacket.


Ms. Greer testified to the fact that she had been there as Amadeo relayed what he could remember of his story, and that the words she'd written down were his as he had spoken them and witnessed by Dr. Mendoza.  Officer Delaney testified as the first responding officer, as witness to the proceedings at Mr. Cobranes' house and also regarding his conversations with Amadeo and Angelo when they'd been released from the hospital.


Next came the testimonies of Amadeo and Angelo, during which Mr. Crighton had to be removed from the courtroom for hurling obscenities at the two boys, questioning not only their legitimacy but also their right to be in the United States at all.


The jury was out for about forty-five minutes, which Attorneys Selby and Holt assured the nervous boys was a good thing, though privately they'd hoped for a much quicker outcome.


The jury filed back out and seated themselves, awaiting the Judge's next question.  "Mr. Foreman. Gentlemen of the jury, how do you find?"


The foreman, Mr. Hollingberry, stood up, clasped his hands together, looked directly at the judge and said. "Your Honor.  We find the two boys, Frederick Charles Argus, and Brice Timothy Crighton, guilty of all charges."


Mrs. Crighton's wail would have been heartbreaking if everyone in the court hadn't heard her spewing hatred and blame at the two victims only an hour before.


"Mr. Argus.  Mr. Crighton.  You have been found guilty of all charges.  Normally charges of this magnitude would have meant that you were tried as adults and therefore sentenced to an adult facility.  However, your victims have asked for leniency on your behalf, and you have been tried and found guilty as minors."


Freddie and Brice looked over at Angelo and Amadeo with surprise clear on their faces, then looked back at the judge as he continued talking.


"You will be sentenced to the Georgia Boy's Correctional Facility..."


"Nooooooooooo! They're just babies!"  yelled Mrs. Crighton.


"Mrs. Crighton, one more outburst from you and you will be ejected from this courtroom to join your husband.  Do I make myself clear?"  he asked with iron in his voice and ice in his eyes.  A woman next to Freddie's mother, a sister or neighbor perhaps, put a hand on the distraught woman's shoulder and whispered in her ear.  Mrs. Crighton sat quietly, red eyed as the judge finished his verdict.


"You will be sentenced to the Georgia Boy's Correctional Facility where the juvenile justice system will exercise its authority within a 'parens patriae' relationship, in other words, the state will be assuming the role and responsibility of parent or guardian, until you begin to exhibit changes for the better, or until you turn twenty-one.  Do you understand the sentence as it's been pronounced?"


The boys looked stunned and pale.  Their attorneys patted their backs and whispered to them until the boys both answered "Yes, your Honor," in somewhat breathless voices before the guards came to escort them away.


The Argus's had been quiet during the entire proceedings.  They remained silent as they gave their oldest son last, defeated looks, and then turned and walked out of the courtroom without another word or a look in his direction.  Amadeo felt his heart squeeze in sympathy as the larger boy looked silently back as his family left, silent tears coursing down his face, no longer caring who saw or who might laugh.  He looked over at Angelo who had an equally empathetic expression on his face.


They turned their backs on the Crighton's who were glowering at them, and headed outside into the bright, warm early August day.


"I thought for sure that was going to take weeks rather than just days."  Angelo said as the two boys walked slightly ahead of their parents.


"Not with all the witnesses coming forward, the teachers and Dr. Mendoza, the dragon and Officer Delaney.  Judge Thompson.  I wonder what took the jury forty-five minutes to debate on, though.  Ah well, we'll never know for sure, best not to wonder."  'Deo said.


"Mr. Di Marco!  Mr. Rossi!"  a voice called from behind.  Five Mister Di Marco's, including Luke who had come for the weekend to be there for at least two days of the trial if it had lasted that long, five Mr. Rossi's who included Dante who had driven over for the same reason, and three women all looked backward at the person who was calling.


Mr. and Mrs. Argus ran up behind them, a little abashed to have so many people looking at them until Amadeo explained who they all were.  Mr. Argus managed an embarrassed smile and tentatively held out his hand to the Rossi and Di Marco patriarchs, then to Amadeo and Angelo.  His gaze took in the entire group.


"We just wanted to say we're sorry, folks.  Real sorry.  We didn't raise Freddie to be like that, we really didn't.  It's just that, Freddie, he's a little slow and he don't always make the best decisions.  He's not real sociable.  I mean, he wants friends but he don't know how to really talk to folks.  He kinda scares people when he talks cuz he... well he says odd things but he don't mean nothing by em it's just he don't seem to have the sense God gave a turnip sometimes and that Crighton kid was the only one who'd befriend him." he said in a rush.  His wife put a hand on his arm and he took a breath and continued.


"He got too big for us to do anything with when he was about thirteen.  He were too big ta spank and once he got goin you couldn't catch up to him to take a belt to him, so we... well it's our fault, we just kinda let him do whatever he wanted to.  Not... I mean...  Dang, now who ain't got sense?" he asked himself.  "We didn't let him just run wild, or at least we tried not to, but like I said there weren't much we could do 'cept send him off to a hospital, like the doctor told us. But the hospitals are... well they gave my wife nightmares."  Mr. Argus said, pulling a red eyed Mrs. Argus toward him in a comforting hug.


"Please," said the birdlike woman who looked to be no more than five feet even and probably eighty pounds soaking wet.  Her dress looked as though it had been borrowed from a neighbor and hung off of her despite the wide belt she'd used to cinch it tighter around her waist.  "We can only apologize for our own mistakes and thank you for askin the judge to go easy on those boys.  When I heard what he'd done..."  she said, choking up and beginning to cry again.


All of the women swarmed around the distraught mother and wrapped their arms around her, shushing her and offering forgiveness and consolation.


Mr. Argus looked on, his nose and eyes a little red but not giving in to the tears that wanted to erupt.  Men just didn't cry, and if asked he would insist that he was suffering from allergies, though later he was surprised and grateful to find a clean handkerchief that he didn't recognize in his suit jacket.


Mrs. Rossi dug into her pocketbook and pulled out tissues and a little pad of paper and pen on which she wrote her and Mrs. Di Marco's numbers.  "Now you call us, any time, all right?  My name is... well never mind my name," she laughed, "But everyone calls me Natie, and I want you to as well, all right...?"  she paused to let Mrs. Argus tell them her name.


"I'm Freida."  replied the woman gratefully. "Freddie."  she said, choking on tears again.


"And I'm Julia, Freida.  We mean it now.  You call us whenever you feel overwhelmed, or you just need a friend."


Mrs. Argus burst into fresh tears and the women looked helplessly up at her husband, who said "People been so scared a' Freddie.  They tol' their kids not to play with 'im when he was little, and none of the parents'd have anything to do with us neither.  You're all bein so kind." he said, clearing his throat and muttering, "Dang allergies actin up again."


Mr. Di Marco patted Mr. Argus on the back.  "My name is Joshua, and this is Johnny Rossi.  The same goes for us..."  he also paused to allow Mr. Argus to provide a name.


"Vincent.  Vinny."  said Mr. Argus.


"Vinny, then.  You have our numbers now. You call us when you need someone to talk to, or just need to get out of the house. Capire?"


He stifled a laugh at Mr. Argus's confused expression.  "It means, do you understand?  I break into Italian now and again so when it happens just say 'Oh! Giosua!  Make with the English, eh?'"  he said, increasing his New York accent.


Freida and Vinnie laughed, relieved and happy for the first time since the day they'd gotten the calls from the school and the police.  With a final hug for Freida and hands being shaken all around, the families parted.


"I think this calls for a celebration."  said Mr. Rossi.  "I vote we go to..."  he paused, looking at the faces of the younger boys who, dressed in their suits could only think of one place they could go dressed as they were.  "The A&W!"  Pazzo declared.


Angelo and Amadeo let out war whoops, taking off their jackets and ties and wishing they'd brought their grubs with them. 


"They're in the back of the car."  Mr. Rossi said quietly in Amadeo's ear.  "You guys can slip into them in the back seat, just don't BA anyone."


Amadeo and Angelo and Con who had heard the words burst into laughter, leaving the elder members of the group, except Julia and Natie who were in on the joke and grinned, perplexed.


"I'd better get back to the house." Bethie said politely, tugging her husband's hand and leading him toward their car.


"But I wanted a Papa Burger!"  Dante complained.


Mr. Rossi laughed and promised he'd bring home lots of food and they'd have a picnic at the house.


It was a toss-up as to whether Dante or Bethie smiled more gratefully.



When Dante and Bethie walked into the house they were greeted by the strains of the song Buffalo Girls being sung with gusto to their daughters, who, with wide grins and being held by their aunts in such a way that they were directing the music, were accompanied by Nathan who sang his trademark 'Lalalalalala'.


*******

NOTES:

1956, The Egnell SMB breast pump

Information regarding court proceedings for minors was found in Google search engine.

Lyrics for Froggie Went a' Courtin and Buffalo Girls on Mama Lisa's World

Grubs - comfortable clothes


BA - basically mooning passersby, could also be used to denote someone who is 'Bad A**' depending on the context.

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