Chapter 3


Chapter 3
Rita paced between her kitchen and the front door. With each pass, she recalculated how much longer she should wait before slipping into full-fledged worrying. Fifteen minutes driving, fifteen minutes – or less – in confrontation and fifteen minutes driving back. Gavin should have been home twenty or thirty minutes ago.
Maybe he stopped in at Bobbi’s. Maybe that’s what was taking so long. No. He’d leave them to discuss things privately. She took the cell phone from her pocket one more time, and ran her thumb across the back as if she could massage a ring from it.
She opened her phone and stared at the keypad. What about a text message? Gavin kept his phone set to vibrate, so it wouldn’t interrupt. He could ignore it if it was a bad time, right? She quickly punched in “so?” and send. No reply.
She stuffed the phone back in her jeans pocket and strode to the window, peering up the empty street. Then she saw headlights. “Please,” she whispered. The car slowed as it approached the house, turning in their driveway at the last minute. “Finally.”
She backed away from the window and counted what should have been enough steps for Gavin to get to the porch, and then she swung the front door open. “What happened?”
“Not much. She’s a very evasive woman.”
Rita pulled Gavin to the living room so they could sit. “Is the boy Chuck’s?”
“She wouldn’t say,” he answered, dropping onto the small sofa. “Chuck’s going to have to take her to court, and make her give proof.”
“But you think he is Chuck’s son?”
Gavin slowly lifted his head and looked in her eyes. “She wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t.”
Rita slumped against the back of the sofa. An illegitimate son. Now what? “If Chuck takes her to court, is he going to try to get joint custody?”
“That’s the plan.” Gavin slipped his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. “I just don’t know.”
“I don’t know if that’s the best thing, especially for Bobbi.”
“Does he understand what this will do to her? He promised he would never hurt her again. He has to stand by that.”
“He thinks he is.”
“Tracy doesn’t want any money from him, and she certainly doesn’t want any help raising her son. It might be better for everybody if Chuck just left her alone.”
Rita’s eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped. “Gavin, I’m stunned. We agree for a change.”
“You’ll make me second-guess myself,” he said with a smile, but then he looked away and that smile faded. “I knew something was up with him when he was cheating on Bobbi, and I didn’t say anything.”
“You can’t blame yourself for that.”
“Maybe not, but I owe it to Bobbi to talk some sense into him before this goes much further.”
“That clock couldn’t move any slower without going backwards,” Bobbi muttered as she looked out the front window again. The last time Chuck saw Tracy was the last night he was with her maybe the night this boy was conceived. What if he was still attracted to her?
That woman had the perfect set-up now. She could call their house, call Chuck’s office, or call his cell phone for ostensibly legitimate reasons. How long would it be before she wore him down this time? Chuck. He couldn’t withstand her tactics indefinitely.  
Then what? How much more humiliating would it be the second time around? Their marriage would not recover from adultery again.
“Be sensible,” she chided. “Chuck loves you. You trust him. He is not going to cheat on you with that woman ever again, no matter how many kids she turns up with.”
She checked the clock again. Why didn’t he call? What if Tracy was the unstable type Ann warned them about? What if her plan was to get rid of Chuck in some psychotic murder-suicide? And she sent Gavin right into the middle of that.
Glancing up, she saw Chuck’s car in the driveway. No time for relief though. She quickly dropped into the easy chair, picked up the nearest magazine. He wanted calm and rational – that’s exactly what she would give him.
She heard the deadbolt click as he turned it, but he lingered in the entry hall. A bad sign. He had bad news and he didn’t want to tell her. Great. “In here,” she called, prodding him to get it over with.
He shuffled into the living room and smiled at her. He’d spent the day in crisis mode, and now emotional exhaustion pulled his shoulders down. “You’ve been pacing the whole time, haven’t you?” he asked.
“I have not. Don’t be silly.”
He gently pulled the magazine from her hand, and dropped it on the floor. “I’ve never known you to have an interest in Labor Law Journal.”
“I read it all the time. I belong to a union, you know. It’s very relevant.”
He slumped onto the sofa and leaned his head back. “I couldn’t get a straight answer out of her.”
Of course not. If Tracy told him everything tonight, there’d be no reason for him to come back.
“I’ll have to get a court order to get her to supply proof I’m Jack’s father.”
“Jack? He’s Jack now?”
“She calls him Jack.” He raised his head and looked at her. “He, uh, he does look like Joel.”
“You met him, then?”
“Not really. He said goodnight on his way up to bed.”
“So what purpose did this trip serve?” she asked, throwing her hands up. “You don’t know any more now than you did before.”
“I know you don’t trust me.”
“That’s ridiculous.” She rolled her eyes. “How can you suggest—”
“That’s not what I mean. You don’t trust my judgment. You don’t have any confidence in my ability to handle this.”
“Oh, no.” She wagged a finger. “You are not going to throw this back on me.”
“I need you to believe in me. I need to know that you’re behind me. I don’t think I can deal with this otherwise.”
She had her doubts he could face this even with her support. “All right then. Let me ask you something.” Bobbi straightened her back and squared her shoulders to face him. “What was it like? Seeing her again?” She watched him for even the slightest twitch.
He patted the sofa. “Come over here.” As soon as she slipped over beside him, he took her hands, and looked deeply into her eyes. “You are the love of my life. I couldn’t look at her without remembering how much I hurt you.”
“No little flicker even?”
“Not the slightest.” Bobbi watched his eyes for several moments, and then she relaxed, nestling against him as he eased back into the corner of the sofa, and stretched his legs out. “I’m glad you asked,” he said, kissing her gently.
“I’m glad that was the answer.” But what about Tracy? How did she feel seeing Chuck again? “So what happens when you get your proof?”
“I don’t know. Sue for visitation, then custody, I guess.”
“Custody?” Bobbi snapped up and faced him. “You’re not serious.”
“Maybe, I don’t know. I haven’t had much time to think everything through.”
She raised an eyebrow, but when he didn’t launch into a defense, she settled against his shoulder once again. He was lying. He always came back with this "maybe, I don’t know" deal when she didn’t agree with him. The boy was his, and he wanted custody. However, if he thought she would fall in step with him on this, he was in for a rude awakening.
Friday, August 3
After getting Shannon’s breakfast, Bobbi settled in the study with her Bible and her morning coffee. The idea of regular contact with Tracy Ravenna, of planning the holidays around her, made Bobbi’s stomach churn, robbing her of any sleep. Chuck hadn’t slept either. He got up before daylight, and kissed her goodbye before her alarm went off.
Dear God, what are we supposed to do about this boy? You know my heart, my concerns. You know this woman… God, are You really going to make us go through this?
 She sighed and opened her Bible to a topical index, searching for anything she could find on illegitimate children. The first reference drew her to the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Abraham and Sarah knew that God made a covenant promise to give them a heritage, but Sarah remained childless. She urged her husband to have a child with their slave, Hagar, in order to ensure the fulfillment of the promise. However, years later, when God miraculously gave Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac, Sarah no longer wanted Hagar’s son around. “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son,” Sarah told her husband.
Cast them out. Bobbi could go along with that. Abraham was distressed about how to proceed because Hagar’s son was his son as much as Isaac was. God, however, told Abraham to go along with his wife.
Listen to your wife, God said. Perfect. When Chuck got home this evening, she would present her own case. They didn’t have to do anything for his illegitimate son. Chuck couldn’t argue with Scripture.
Chuck adjusted his glasses so he could see his computer screen without raising his chin, and began shifting items on his schedule, freeing the rest of his day. After a night of watching the clock as Thursday slipped into Friday, he gave up trying to sleep, got dressed and came in to work.
Lord, what are you up to? I always thought Shannon meant You forgave me, but then this boy shows up. You wouldn’t have allowed him to come back here, if You didn’t want me to do something, right? Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?
All night Bobbi’s words rung in his ears. “Custody? You’re not serious.” He didn’t have the guts to tell her right then that, yes, he was one hundred percent serious. That little boy who zipped up the stairs in front of him, that was his son. He had an obligation to make sure the boy understood the things of God, just like Brad, Joel and Shannon. He was accountable. If he would someday answer to God for how Jack was raised, then he was going to make sure it was done correctly. That meant getting custody of Jack.
Dear God, help Bobbi see. Help her understand why I have to do this. She’s an incredibly strong woman, more than capable of handling whatever Tracy throws at us. And it’s ‘us’, not just her. I’m having a little emotional upheaval of my own. I need some reassurance, Lord. 
He blasted through his email inbox, forwarding the ones requiring action to Chad Mitchell. He’d make it up to Chad later. Three messages shy of an empty inbox, his cell phone rang. Relieved to see his pastor’s name on the caller ID, he flipped the phone open.
“Glen, I should have called you last night.”
“No, you and Bobbi needed some time, but I gotta tell you, I’m climbing the walls wondering what happened.”
“She wouldn’t give me a straight answer about anything.”
“So you don’t know if the boy’s yours?”
“He is. I just don’t have legal proof.”
“What are you gonna do now?”
“Go to court, establish paternity, and then go from there.”
“Can you get joint custody, or is that even a possibility after this long?”
No sense lying to Glen, too. Chuck leaned back in his chair, and swiveled it around to face the wall, just in case anyone was around to read lips. “I want him, Glen. I thought about him all night. I want to raise him. She may be a good mother, but I’m just as responsible for bringing him in the world, so I have to make sure how he’s going to leave it. I have to make sure he’s raised right, you know?” He braced himself, ready for Glen to try to talk him out of it.
“Oh, absolutely. You can’t let that heathen woman raise your boy!” Glen drawled, and Chuck smiled. “In all seriousness, I don’t blame you a bit. She’s kept you away from your son for six years. You fight for him.”
Chuck leaned back in his chair and took a long, slow breath. Lord, that was quick. Thanks. “The thing is, if I fight for my son, I’ll be fighting against my wife.”
“I kinda gathered that after yesterday, but Bobbi’ll get a handle on this real soon. I have no doubts. Listen, I won’t keep you. You’re probably headed to work.”
“Actually, I’m already at the office.”
“Mercy, it’s not even eight o’clock yet!”
“Yeah, I’ve got a busy day.”
“Even more reason to let you go. We’ll keep praying.”
“Thanks.” Glen understood. With the pastor on his side, he could bring Gavin over, and then Bobbi would let go of her misgivings.
With renewed purpose, he finished reading his emails, and then signed the stack of papers Christine left for him. Finally, his desk was clean and after a quick message to Christine to hold all his calls, his schedule was clear.
He pulled his pen from his shirt pocket, grabbed a notebook and slid his chair over to his bookshelves. Yanking out several huge volumes that he hoped held the information he needed, he rolled his chair back over to his desk and began his research.
By noon, he’d buried his desk in a mountain of opened law books, but he had a plan, a list of what he needed to file with whom. His stomach growled so he pushed back from his desk, stood and stretched. He slipped back to the staff room and grabbed a Diet Coke and a bag of chips from the vending machines.
“Mr. Molinsky!” Christine called to him before he could sneak back in his office. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“Not really. Thanks anyway.”
“That’s not much of a lunch,” she said, pointing to his chips. “Do you want me to order something for you?”
Chuck shook his head. “I’m fine, I promise. I just have a lot to do.”
“I know,” she said with a teasing smile. “You’ve worn your glasses all morning.”
Chuck pointed at her in a good-natured reprimand and ducked back in his office. He tossed the chips on his desk, and then rolled his shirtsleeves up. First order of business – get Jack’s official birth certificate for reference. He crammed another handful of chips in his mouth, wiped the excess salt on his pants, and then typed Jack’s name in the county’s public record search engine.
There was no record of Jack’s birth in the whole state of Missouri. Anything to make this more complicated. He ran searches in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas with no luck. “This is ridiculous,” Chuck muttered, as he started searching states increasingly farther away.
Finally, in Hampden County, Massachusetts, he found a record, but not a birth certificate. Teresa Reynolds filed a petition to change her son’s name from Jackson Charles Reynolds to Jackson Charles Ravenna.
While waiting for a copy of the record to print, Chuck scribbled in his notebook. Who is Teresa Reynolds? Jack – Adopted?
“Where is Hampden County, anyway?” Chuck ran another quick search. Springfield. What was the connection to Springfield? 
He held his pen between his teeth while he typed Jackson Charles Reynolds and hit “search.” A birth record with a matching birth date from Hamilton County, Ohio topped the list. Hamilton County meant Cincinnati. The mother listed was Teresa Reynolds, and the father was Kelly Reynolds, deceased.
“What is going on?” Chuck whispered.
Chuck switched back to Hampden County public records and searched for Teresa Reynolds. There was a legal name change petition from twenty-one years ago. Eighteen-year-old Teresa Kathleen Reynolds filed to change her name to Tracy K. Ravenna.
That answered one question – Teresa was Tracy. Who, then, was Kelly Reynolds? Had Tracy been married? Chuck punched Kelly Reynolds’ Social Security number from Jack’s birth certificate and got a match for a death certificate in Baltimore, but it had been filed twenty-eight years ago. Tracy would’ve been eleven then.
He leaned back in his chair, and tried to sort all this out. Glancing back at Kelly Reynolds’ death certificate, he suddenly sat bolt upright. Kelly Reynolds was a woman.
“Now it’s getting weird,” Chuck mumbled.
Another search pulled up a marriage certificate in Baltimore for Kelly Hickman and Edward Reynolds. They were the right age to be Tracy’s parents. If Tracy was listing her long dead mother as the father of her baby then maybe she was the unstable type after all. He couldn’t believe that. Tracy was calculating, even conniving, but she wasn’t crazy.
Chuck got out of public records, and did general internet searches on Kelly Hickman, Kelly Reynolds and Edward Reynolds. He clicked the link for the first match, and pulled up an archived newspaper article from The Baltimore Sun.
Parole denied for Catonsville man
A Maryland parole board denied parole for a third time for Edward Henry Reynolds, 56, who was convicted of second-degree murder twenty-four years ago in the beating death of his wife, Kelly Hickman Reynolds, then 32. However, the board said in view of Reynolds’ progress, they would schedule his next hearing in three years.
Baltimore County Prosecutor, John Dailey disagreed, saying, “Progress! The rage is still there. The desire to terrorize other human beings is still there. If he is released, there is nothing to prevent him from going on another drunken binge and hurting or killing someone else.”
Dailey also cited threats Reynolds made to his daughter, Teresa, who was eleven at the time of the murder. An eyewitness to the crime, she testified at trial that Reynolds promised “to do the same thing to you if you ever say a word.”
Speaking on Teresa Reynolds’ behalf, Dailey said, “She will not attend this hearing, nor will she make a statement out of fear of reprisal from Edward Henry Reynolds. We failed to protect her the first time. We must not fail again.”
Reynolds maintains that while he doesn’t deny responsibility for the crime, he doesn’t remember the assault or the threats made against his daughter. After several disciplinary issues during the first three years of prison, he has since been a model prisoner, completing an alcohol rehabilitation program, an anger management class and regularly attending religious programs at Roxbury Correctional Institution, where he is serving his sentence.
Thank God he was sitting down. Eyewitness to the crime. Tracy watched her father beat her mother to death. She must have been terrified. It made sense, perfect sense, for her to change her name as soon as she was an adult. Who could blame her for leaving the nightmare behind?
But why on earth would she use her given name to file Jack’s birth certificate? Jack’s fraudulent birth certificate, that is. Why would she go to such extremes to hide the fact that he was Jack’s father?
Just then, his phone rang. “It’s after six o’clock, Chuck. What’s going on?”
He could hear the fear in Bobbi’s voice. He hadn’t been late coming home since they reconciled. Now Tracy resurfaced, and he hadn’t talked to his wife all day.
“I was working, and lost track of time. I’ll show you what I found out when I get home.”
“But you cancelled all your appointments today.”
She’d never checked up on him.
“Honey, I haven’t left my office all day. I cancelled everything because I didn’t want to be interrupted, and I didn’t want anybody to catch a glimpse of what I was working on. I’m sorry.”
“You think I’m overreacting.”
“No, you’re not. I’m leaving right now. I’ll see you in a few minutes. I love you, Bobbi.”
“I love you, too,” she said quietly.
Of all the nights to stay too late.He stuffed the papers in a folder and dropped them in his briefcase, and then he shut the computer down. He grabbed his notebook and planner, and caught sight of a note he’d made. “And I forgot to call Brad.”
He quickly dialed and locked his desk while it rang. “Hey Brad, can you run by the house this evening?”
“It’s Friday.”
“You have a date or something?”
“Not exactly, but I kinda had plans.”
“Please, you need to come by after Joel gets home at eight or so.”
“What happened? You never get Joel and me together except when you have bad news.”
“Yeah, well… she’s back.”
“She? Oh… I’ll be there.”
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