By the end of the week, I had the rooms outfitted, and it was up to Geno and Roberto to assign the rooms. I had my guest room back.
I took the boys with me to Rome. I had to make arrangements there as well, which resulted in renting a new apartment. I think someone was looking out for us as the rental agency said that a large apartment just opened in the same building. The previous occupant was being called back to the States, so I could switch apartments if I desired. I did, which gave me two extra bedrooms which the boys would use, and the nice surprise was the previous occupant would leave his furniture for a small price. No bunk beds this time, queen-size beds, which the boys would have to share when we were in town.
I hired a companion for the boys when I was away on business. He was a young student from the local university. It worked better than I hoped, now the boys were interested in school.
It was Angelo who made the comment that changed my life again. “Thomas, these boys that you are now taking responsibility for, why don’t you just adopted them. You know, in today’s world, people look at things differently. There was a time that the village assumed responsibility for a child without parents. Today they are afraid since so many have been accused of profiting from such an arrangement. You and I know that you aren’t like that, but adopt them to remove any suspicion. You are paying all of their expenses now anyway; make it legal.”
I thought about what Angelo said. Why not? I’m paying for all of their expenses. I’m sure Geno would go for it. That night at dinner, “Geno, what do you think about us adopting all of your friends. They would be your brothers.”
“Really, we could do that?”
“Yes, but we’ll need a lawyer, and he’d have to do an investigation to be sure their parents aren’t alive, and they have no relatives that would accept them as their responsibility. Let’s not say anything to them until we finish our research.”
I didn’t want someone to come out of the woodwork and claim them with the intent of asking for money to release them for adoption. I was new to this, but not naive.
Over the next few weeks, I contacted a lawyer, gave him the boys’ names, and let him do the investigation. He was instructed to provide me with feedback as soon as any boy was cleared for adoption.
It was in the middle of the following month when my lawyer called and said he was finished. All of the boys would be able to be adopted, but one. He had an uncle who now wanted to step forward and assume his responsibility unless he was paid 25,000 lire.
I met with the lawyer, “Is this not in effect selling the boy?” The lawyer thought this was an interesting thought. “Draft an agreement for him to sign, make sure he understands that I must approve it before it becomes legal.”
The next week, my lawyer called and said he had the signed agreement. The uncle wanted to know how soon he could have the money. Now I had him, “Tell him as soon as the court decides it to be a legal document, he’ll have his money.” That statement still didn’t register with the uncle. I took the document to the police and told them that this man, who hasn’t seen his nephew for a long time, would sell him to me for 50,000 lire. The police didn’t believe me, so my lawyer suggested that we do an American line up.
I got all of the boys together and told them that a man claims to be an uncle to one of them. He forgot what the boy looked like, so we’re going to do an American line up. Then I had to explain what that meant.
The lawyer added his two boys to my boys, and the police chief added his two boys. They were lined up along a wall. The uncle came to pick out his nephew. He asked for their name. Each boy gave a false name. Eventually, he picked out one of the smaller boys, thinking that he would be close to his nephew’s age. He swore that was his nephew, and to the side, whispered to my lawyer when could he get paid.
All the boys left except my boys. My lawyer told him he made a mistake, and the boy he picked out was the grandson of the police chief. He looked at my boys and said he made a mistake, and that boy was his nephew. Too bad he picked Geno. “Sir, I’m not your nephew. I am the son of this man.”
Now the game was up; the police arrested him for selling a child, which was the last we heard from him. Somehow the newspapers got wind of a possible story, and an article appeared in the paper with his photograph the next day.