12-14-2012, 03:50 PM
Harold Webber couldn't believe it. Here he was, on trial for his life, and his attorney takes a dive wtihout cross-examining Dimitra! He just quit, right then and there! No furthur questions, Your Honor. What the hell was he thinking? Webber turned to his lawyer.
"How could you just throw in the towel like that?'' he demanded. "I'm looking at twenty years here! What the hell am I paying you for, anyway?"
"You haven't paid me anything in months, Hal." his attorney replied. "I've been covering your fat ass without so much as a single dime from you for years now. Besides, that evidence is incontrovertable against you. I've got kids of my own, you know, and you've been screwing these kids, and others, for too long."
"You swore an oath that you'd defend your client regardless of guilt or innocence, remember?"
"Not if he hasn't paid me."
"You are a crook, Abercrombie. You are a thieving crook!"
Abercrombie just shrugged. "Takes one to know one, Hal."
The Honorable William Barris stepped up to the bench as all in the courtroom rose respectfully. He ordered them to be seated, then turned to the jury, who had just reconvened to deliver the verdict. The foreperson handed the bailiff a slip of paper containing Webber's fate. The bailiff handed the slip to the judge, who read it to himself for a moment, then to the court.
"Harold Webber, please rise for the verdict." the judge intoned.
Webber rose on shaky feet, sweating heavily. He braced himself on the table to keep from falling.
"Harold Webber, you have been found guilty on all counts by a jury of your peers. Do you have anything to say before sentencing?"
Harold Webber's mouth flapped open like a landed fish as he struggled to speak. "I...I don't know what to say. I...I'm in shock."
"Try saying you're sorry!" Criss shouted from the rear. His mother tried to hush him.
The judge rapped his gavel in disapproval of this outburst. "If the defendant has nothing to say, then sentencing will proceed. Mr. Webber, exploitation of innocent children for personal profit is reprehensible. Indeed, your avarice had cost the life of a helpless infant. Was that tiny life worth thrity-two thousand dollars a month? The way you made those children live in such squalid conditions was an outrage to human decency and morality. It was no wonder your own defense counsel abandoned you. And then you tried to pin the blame on the one person who provided more care and nurturing to those unfortunate children in one day than you ever did during the tenure of your guardianship, who went above and beyond the call of duty to supply even their basic needs out of her own funds. She did all that with no compensation from you, but of her own free will."
Criss squeezed his mother's shoulder affectionatly. The judge continued. "If any good can come of this, it will be a more rigorous screening of potential foster care parents and tighter control of living conditions for them. Also, more accountability for funding spent. It is my fervent hope that the lasting damage you inflicted upon those children who were unfortunate enough to be under your supervision will be minimal, and they will find better families with whom they can live.
"Harold Webber, this court sentences you to a minimum of fifteen years in state prison, not to exceed twenty years. It is a small price to pay, as you have sentenced a dozen children to a lifetime of psychological trauma. Also, you are to pay compensation to Mrs. Sarantakos, totalling six thousand dollars, plus court costs. This sentence will take effect the first of December. Meanwhile you will be held in the County Detention Center. Case dismissed."
A final rap of the gavel, and all was done. The jury filed out, relieved their term of service was mercifully brief. Criss helped his mother into her winter coat. "I thought I taught you better manners than that," she chided him.
"What?" Criss shrugged. "He should have apologized to you."
"All the same, you should have shown more restraint."
The left the courtroom together. The media pounced upon the star magician and his mother for statements. Criss waved them off. It was a struggle to get to the car. Dimitra just wanted to go home and take a nap. She was relieved it was over. She had been proven innocent, and Mr. Webber was going to prison where he belonged. Still, she had worries over the children. What would be their fate? She could only pray for them.
Christmas Day was a particularly joyful occasion that year at the Sarantakos house. Not only did it welcome the newest member of the family, Cousin George's new wife, Angela, but that it was the Christmas both Criss and Dimitra almost didn't see, in more ways than one. But this was not a time to bring up the horrors of the past, but to celebrate the present and look confidently toward the future. Not only that, a new season of MindFreak was in the works. There was also rumors of another Phenomenon in October of the New Year.
There were gifts galore, food aplenty, and lots of hugs and kisses all around, with a few tears of joy and gratitiude. Angela had never had such a happier holiday as this one; her Christmases past had been suffering the criticisms of her overbearing sister, Bianca, or at the shelter, where she was appreciated more, if only as someone's meal ticket. Now, she was part of a real family, who loved and accepted her as one of their own, even if she wasn't Greek.
As the holiday euphoria simmered down, Criss noticed his mother staring tearfully out the window. He approached with concern. "Mom? You okay?" he asked gently.
Dimitra looked up at her son. "I'll be fine," she replied, smiling bravely. "I was just thinking of the children I cared for last summer. Where are they now? Are they happy? Are they well? I'm afraid I'll never see them again."
"Mom, you gave those kids the best care they ever got up to that point. I'm sure Social Services will find better homes for them all."
He was momentarily distracted by a knock on the front door, but Angela rushed to answer it. He turned back to his mother. "Have you thought of doing more volunteer work?" he asked.
His mother shook her head. "No, I'm too tired," she said. "Maybe someday."
Criss hedged a little before speaking. "Did it help you to forget...you know, what happened in Vegas?"
"You mean the Bomber, the man who kidnapped me? It haunts me still, but not as much as before. At least I don't hide behind the furniture anymore." She gave a depreciating little laugh.
"Auntie?" Angela called. "You have company."
Dimitra made her way to the front door, wondering who could be calling on her. Angela opened the front door wide enough for her to see. Dimitra's eyes and mouth opened wide as well when she saw Heather, Roland, Buddy, China, Buck, Aaron, Austin, Brandy, Jamal, Derek, Chris and little Kira standing outside, wearing the winter gear Dimitra had bought for them from GoodWill. Roland held a large beribboned box in his gangly arms. "Merry Christmas, Mrs. S.!" they chorused.
Dimitra could hardly believe her eyes. She had just been thinking about them and here they were! She looked at her own son, Christopher, wondering what sort of magic he had used to conjure up this miracle. She quickly invited them all in to get out of the cold, for Heaven's sake, and called the rest of the family to meet them.
It was mass confusion introducing so many to so many others, but it didn't matter. Cookies were brought in for the kids. They practically ate the plate; such a treat was so rare in their lives. Roland handed Dimitra the gift box. "This is for you, Mrs. S.. from all of us." he said.
"Oh! Thank you, Roland," Dimitra gushed as she untied the ribbon, pulled off the lid, and removed the tissue paper inside. Her eyes grew large as she lifted a large porcelain statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus.
"We got that 'cause you was like a mom to us," Derek explained. "You like it?"
"Oh! Darlings! It's beautiful!" She wiped away tears of joy, embracing her former charges for the third time that day. Even China was more receptive than usual. "I'll think of all of you every time I look at it." she sniffled.
All her children, biological and foster, gathered around her. More valuable than rubies, they knew she strove to do good and not evil in her life. She stretched out her hands to the poor and needy, clothed in strength and honor, opening her mouth with wisdom, her tongue the law of kindness. Her children shall rise and call her blessed, and shall rejoice in the time to come.