We taxied to meet Peter and to go through customs. I had the passports ready. The customs officer was new. He looked at the boys, checked their passports, and asked us to wait. I saw him make a phone call, but one of the men who knew what was happening came before he was finished. They talked, the officer came back with our passports, “Welcome home.”
Peter had what luggage we had stowed. He opened the back door, the boys climbed in, and Vasily and I sat upfront. Peter drove, Vasily snuggles into my chest as I called Maria. I told her the boys had eaten on the plane, and we’d be home soon. I needed all of the boys to welcome this group. I knew Maria would fall in love with Vasily.
Sure enough, as we drove up the driveway, the boys were gathered on the porch. David and Jon were in front, and when the car stopped, they opened the doors. At that moment, I understood about the Tower of Babel.
Into the house, everyone went, “Peter, join us.”
Maria had hot bran muffins. I didn’t think that this last group would be hungry, wrong. With a muffin and a glass of milk, the boys started to talk. As they talked, they kept looking at me, then nodded their head. At last, one of the boys spoke English, “What they are saying is that you are our new father, and we should call you, Dad, is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s correct, unless you don’t want to call me Dad, you can call me Mr. Jeffries.”
“They said that we won’t have to go with any men, is that true?”
“We don’t have to sleep with you or him, pointing at Peter?”
He then translated everything I said. The other boys looked at me. Some had tears in their eyes. “David, Jon, we need to go shopping.”
This time Maria gave us a shopping list. I looked it over and decided if this is a weekly list, I’ll need to buy a truck.
“Steven, sort out the sleeping arrangements, please.”
David and Jon started to take measurements. I had a five-year-old who clung to me. David indicated they were ready to go, and we left. Same as last time, J. C. Penny for clothes. The manager saw me and smiled. I thought he’ll really smile in an hour. Off we went four carts again. Checking out, the manager opened a cash register for us. This time he took my credit card without any issues.
They nodded their heads, and the 5 of us headed for the burger shack. I shared my meal with Vasily. He ate most of the french fries. I did manage to get him to eat a little of the burger.
Grocery shopping was the same, four carts only this time Vasily helped picking out fruit, mostly bananas. We were loaded again. “Boss, we need to find a better way of getting groceries.”
“Let’s see if we can find a farmers market or a wholesale place where we can buy in bulk.”
Driving home, I thought about wholesale places. I knew there were markets in the city that sold wholesale. I would check them out, and I’d check out a van or truck.
When we arrived at home, the clothes were put on the table, David and Jon sorted them out. The other boys helped to carry the food to the kitchen.
“Steven, does everyone have a bedroom?”
“Yes, Dad, I gave the twins one of the bedrooms on the second floor. I still need to figure out a bed for that young man you are holding.”
I shouldn’t have worried. Jon came to the rescue. “Dad, if we get a small bed, he can sleep in my room. I had a young brother at one time. He can be my young brother.”
I wondered what living hell these boys went through. “Okay, Jon, come with me, and let’s see if we can get him a bed.” Of course, there were three of us.
I drove back to the Penny shopping center. We went into a store that sold bedroom furniture. There were several beds, but Vasily saw one in the shape of a plane, and he wanted that one. I laughed; the wings were folded and acted as a step into the bed. I bought it and arranged for it to be delivered on the same day. Money can get anything done. We had to buy blankets, sheets, and a pillow. Jon told Vasily he could sleep in that tonight.
I knew we’d need to wash the sheets and blankets. He was happy. He was going to sleep on the plane.
I remembered when we were flying over; his bum was sore. That reminded me I should arrange for the boys to have a physical and to see a dentist. I thought I’m going to need an army of doctors and dentists to have this done in a minimum of time.
I called my personal doctor and told him what I wanted done. He said he would arrange for the doctors at the hospital, where he was on the board, to provide the physicals, but he was sure if I made a donation, it might be good publicity. I told him I would make a contribution, but it would have to be anonymous.
A week later, he called and set a date. Now I’d need a bus to bring them all to the hospital.
The dental check-up was a lot easier, I contacted a dental school and promised a sizable contribution, and they were glad to participate.
The boys were concerned, having strangers poking their bodies and mouth. For that, I was glad for the older boys. They explained that it was necessary to make sure they didn’t have any disease from those dirty Russians. That did it, and the older boys volunteered to go first.
I left it up to Maria and Peter to organize the boys. I had to fly to England to review the final draft of the trade agreements. I wanted to take Harry with me. He needed to see the marker, marking his mother’s last resting place.
Before leaving for England, I had Harry’s physical and dental completed. The flight over was routine. I had booked a hotel room for Harry and me, even told Alex I was in town.
The first thing we did in the morning was to go to the church where Harry’s mother slept. Before I left England, I gave the church an endowment to provide fresh flowers on her grave. Now I’ll see if this is being done.
Arriving at the church, I spoke to the minister. He walked with us to the grave, the stone was in place, and there was a vase of beautiful flowers at the base of the stone. Harry looked and started to cry. I put my arms around him and pulled him into my side. I knew what he was feeling, the same feeling I had when I visited my son.
The church’s pastor offered a prayer; I thought that was nice. “Harry, we need to go. We’ll come back again before we leave.” He rubbed his eyes with his fists. I knew he hurt, “Harry, your mom isn’t here, her body is here, but her soul is in heaven watching over you. And I know she’d be proud of you.”
I hugged him. “What do you say we go and get some fish and chips, Pastor, do you want to join us?” He did and led us to one of his parishioner's fish and chip place.
I looked at Harry, he was sad, and he’d always be sad when he remembered his mother. But time and maturity will help him to accept the way of the world.
The fish and chips were good. Harry had another, “Thanks, Dad, I missed this.”
“We need to get Maria to make this for us.” That got a smile.
The next morning I met with the various directors. The agreements were much better. I recommended that they sign them. That finished this project for me. They were grateful for my input. On the way back to the hotel, I thought any of their lawyers could have done what I did. Except, they didn’t trust each other. This way, I’m impartial and 250 thousand dollars richer—such stupidity when you can’t negotiate honestly.
That evening we went to a pub for dinner, joined of course by Alex. He told me his superiors were very happy with the way things turned out. They are setting up another safe place in Scotland.
I wonder if this is ever going to end. As long as perverts live and some men will provide the children, it will continue. It’s people like Alex that hunts them down. “Alex, why don’t you take a vacation and come and see me in the States.”
“It’s funny you said that. I was going to ask when you were planning on flying back home.”
“We are leaving tomorrow afternoon. We need to make another visit to Harry’s mum’s place.” Alex knew what I meant. I wonder if we could get a picture so Harry can see it at home.
There are times when Alex scares me, “I’ll take a picture, Harry, and you can keep it when you are back home. It isn’t the same thing as being here in person, but it can remind you that she is in heaven looking out for you.”
Harry smiled at that. I thought Alex’s sensitivity to these boys was what kept him going. I wondered if that sensitivity came from his childhood. Then I decided I didn’t want to know that. I’ll accept Alex as he is, a good friend.
I booked Alex in the same hotel, we did go to the church in the morning, and Alex took several pictures. I talked to the pastor to make sure the endowment was still sufficient. “Father, if the fund gets low, you can contact me at this address.” I gave him one of my cards.
On the flight home, I listened to Alex and Harry. Alex asked about living with so many brothers. Harry said, “Being an only child, it’s great. We do a lot of things together.”
Jimmy kept my cup of coffee full. He offered coffee to Alex, but I knew he’d want something to eat with his coffee. The man was able to put the food away. I listened as Jimmy handed Harry a cup of hot chocolate, “Thanks, Jimmy.”
I smiled and thought it won’t be long before all of my boys come to know Jimmy as the man who gives them cups of hot chocolate. Jimmy was 28-29 when I hired him. He just retired from the Air Force. I hired him not only as my steward but also as a back-up to my pilots. He learned to fly in the Air Force. I knew on some flights, he sat in the second seat.
Landing I introduced Alex to Peter, “We have about an hour before we’re home. I asked Jimmy to bring us a cup of coffee and sandwiches for you two.” Just as I said that Jimmy tapped on the window, he handed us the cups and placed the bag of sandwiches on the seat. “Thanks, Jimmy.”
The ride home was a continuation of the plane ride, Harry asking questions, Alex responding, and then Alex asked questions and Harry responding. “Alex, I was so lucky when I asked Dad for some money. I hadn’t had anything to eat. When Mom went to the hospital, I pretty much had eaten all of the food we had in the apartment. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I just knew he’d help when I saw Dad. I didn’t think he’d help so much.”
“Your dad is a one of a kind. I wish I had known him sooner, but I’m glad I know him now.”
“Knock it off, guys. I don’t need a bigger head.”
Harry sat on my lap, pretending to measure my head, “Nope, it isn’t bigger, Dad.”
What could I do? I hugged him and then tickled him. I wondered what I was going to do about sleeping arrangements. As it turned out, the boys had already solved that. Maria had told them I was bringing a guest home.
Pulling up in front of the house, the usual contingent of boys were there to greet us. I think they were surprised to see Alex. They mobbed him as he steps out of the car. The boys who have initially been with me, except for Antonio and Chris, didn’t know Alex but Dave took care of that.
I introduced Maria as the glue that holds everything together.
Jon had convinced Maria to order pizza for supper. That was okay with me. I knew the boys liked pizza, wasn’t sure about Alex. It turned out he ate more than the boys. There were no leftovers.
“David, we need to sort out a bedroom for Alex.”
“I took care of that, I’m going to bunk in with Jon. Steven said that some of the boys wanted to share a room, so after we get that squared away, we might have some vacant rooms on the third floor.”
“Those beds aren’t big enough for two boys. What are they doing?”
“They haven’t moved in yet. Steven asked that they wait until you get home.”
The twins wanted to sleep in the same room—that made sense. I was going to give Alex a tour, but Harry did it instead.
“Maria, is the architect still here?”
“Yes, he said he’d stop by tomorrow, check everything over and then fly home.”
“With all of these boys, I’m thinking of building a one-room schoolhouse. I’ll talk to him about that.”
“What are you going to do with the room that we are using now for school?”
I caught the term ‘we’ and smiled, “I think I need some guest quarters without discomforting the boys. How is the food holding out?”
“We are okay for a few days. We need to locate a wholesaler so we can buy in bulk. We have the storage. We should fill it up.”
“I’ll get Peter to go and purchase a small truck or van. Then I’ll go online and see if I can find wholesalers.”
I walked into the living room. Alex was sitting on the floor with the boys all around him, eating pizza. I couldn’t help thinking that Alex knew what these boys were going through from experience. He had the boys laughing. The youngest ones were sitting close to him. Vasily was sitting on his lap.
I looked at Maria, she was smiling, and I knew Alex would always be welcomed in my home. I quietly went to my office, found a small pick-up truck dealer, contacted them, and said I’d be over to check out his trucks. Then I started to check wholesalers. I was surprised that there were so many and not far from where I lived. Next, I needed to check out bunk beds. I earmarked the page, went back to the living room, sat on the sofa, and continued to watch the boys and Alex.
Charlie saw me and made a beeline for me. He crawled on my lap, snuggled in, looking at me with a big smile. I kissed him on his head. He pulled my arms around himself. Then I had two boys on my lap, Alexi joined him. Alex looked at me and smiled.
There was peace in Alex’s eyes that conveyed his love for these boys and that they were safe.
“David, please show Alex to his bedroom. Boys, I think we should get ready for bed, and tomorrow you can show Alex the conservatory.”
As the boys went to their bedrooms, they hugged Alex. I got mine as well. “Alex, I make it a habit to tuck the boys in. Want to come along?”
I don’t think I could keep Alex away. I waited about 20 minutes, stopped at Alex’s room, knocked, and when he opened the door, “Ready”
We started on the third floor. As I went from room to room, I gave each boy a hug and a kiss on their head. Alex followed my lead, tucking them in. Then the second floor, which was different when we went into Charlie and Alexi’s room. The boys were waiting until I approached the bed, then they jumped on me. “Dad, tell us a story?”
“Okay, let us tuck you in, and I’ll tell you the story of the three little pigs.” I remember my mom telling me these stories. They always ended with a tickle and a kiss.
I started the story, “Once upon there were three little pigs named Charlie, Alexi and Alex. They all lived on a farm with other animals. All the animals had their own house. Charlie had a wooden house, Alexi had a house made out of straw, and Alex had a house made of bricks. Now there lived a bad wolf in a cave near the farm. On occasion, he would steal a chicken, but this night he wanted a pig. So he went to Alexi’s house, “Piggy, Piggy, let me in, or I’ll blow your house down” Alexi was scared, so he ran out of the back to Charlie’s house. The wolf blew the house down, but there was no little piggy. So he went to Charlie’s house, “Piggy, Piggy, let me in, or I’ll blow your house down.” Charlie and Alexi were scared, so they went out the back door and ran to Alex’s house. The wolf huffed and puffed and blew Charlie’s house down. The wolf looked and found no piggies, so he ran to Alex’s house. Standing in front of the house, “Piggies, Piggies let me in, or I’ll blow your house down.” Well, the three little piggies didn’t know what to do. They moved all of the heavy furniture in front of the door. The wolf huffed and puffed, nothing happened. He did it again, and nothing happened. The farmer came by and saw the wolf huffing and puffing. He threw a bag over the wolf and took the wolf to a zoo, where he knew the wolf would never get his little piggies.
“Now I have these little piggies, and I’m going to tackle them.”
“Okay, how about a hug, a kiss, and I tuck you in?”
That is what we did. Leaving their room, “I’m going to get a cup of coffee, want one?”
Alex followed me to the kitchen, as I poured us our coffee, he opened the fridge for milk, he saw the pie. “May I?”
I laughed, sitting at the breakfast bar, drinking our coffee, and Alex enjoying his pie.
“Do you do that every night?”
“Tucking them in yes, telling stories no, I just felt in the mood tonight. Alex, may I ask you a personal question?”
“As long as I don’t have to answer.”
“Watching you interact with the boys tonight, I got the feeling that you at one time were one of these boys. Where you?”
I watched Alex’s face. He was confused, should he answer or not, the confusion confirmed my suspicions.
Looking into my eyes, “Yes Carleton, I was a street boy. A kind man found me and took care of me. I said at that time, I’d do whatever I could to save any boy I found. When I saw you in Rome, you were my answer, and the way you reacted to Anthony, I knew I found my man. The man who saved me was one of the men we met at The Hague.”
“Thank you, Alex. I know it must be hard to think back to those days, but you have saved all of these boys, not I.”
He smiled, “Let’s say we did it together.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
Finishing our coffee and his pie, we walked to the second floor and bed.
Laying in bed, I had great admiration for Alex. I wonder if any of my boys would take up the mantle as Alex did. I would hope so.