Authors: Mackenzie Morgan
“I saw our son’s birth,” Yvonne said, picking up the thread of conversation. “It should be in about seven months, sometime around the middle of March.”
“Congratulations!” Duane said with a big grin. “It’s about time you had an heir, Badec.”
“That’s wonderful news, but why all the secrecy?” Pallor asked as he waved his hand towards the sparkling dome.
“I don’t think that’s all she has to tell us,” Kalen cautioned quietly.
“Kalen’s right,” Yvonne said matter-of-factly. “My son’s birth wasn’t all I saw in that vision. I also saw my own death a few days later.”
The silence was complete. Badec sighed, took Yvonne’s hand, raised it to his lips, and gently kissed it.
Laryn felt like her insides were collapsing and she had trouble getting her breath. Tears began to well in her eyes and a thick knot formed in the back of her throat. It couldn’t be true. Not Yvonne. Not yet. He wasn’t ready. None of them were.
“Are you sure?” Duane asked. “I mean, do your visions always …?”
Yvonne nodded. “Yes, at least they’ve always come true in the past.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Kalen whispered.
Yvonne held up her hand, palm out. “Please,” she whispered. Then she cleared her throat again and said, “We’re not here to talk about my death. I’m not afraid to die, although as I’m sure you can imagine, I’d rather it weren’t going to be quite so soon. But the reason we asked you here is to make arrangements for my son’s future. I need to know that he’ll be all right, that everything is ready for him.”
Badec slipped his arm around Yvonne’s waist. “Since he’ll be my only child, we need to find a foster home where he’ll be safe from my enemies for the next twenty-five years.”
Kalen glanced around the group, his gaze settling on Pallor. “You want to hide him on Earth, don’t you?”
Badec hesitated a moment and then nodded. “There’s no place on Terah where he’d really be safe. As he begins to grow up, if he resembles either one of us … ” Badec shook his head. “We’re too well known. Someone would figure it out.”
“Not to mention that if he’s half as powerful as you are magically … ,” Duane began.
Badec nodded and finished for him. “Any sorcerer anywhere nearby would figure it out before he was six years old.”
Pallor cleared his throat and asked, “But who’s going to raise him? Do you have someone in mind? Do you know someone on Earth?”
Badec shook his head no. “That’s where you come in. You’re the only one who’s lived on Earth lately. I was hoping you might have some thoughts along that line.”
“Right off hand, I have absolutely no idea where to start, but let me think about it,” Pallor said.
“Are you or Laryn planning to visit him on Earth and let him know who he really is?” Duane asked.
“We can’t. It would be too risky,” Badec answered, looking at Laryn.
“No one could follow you to Earth,” Pallor pointed out.
“I feel sure you’re right about that, but that’s not the problem,” Badec answered. “No one from Earth knows that Terah exists. We want to keep it that way. I don’t know what might happen if my son found out he was from another world, much less that his father is a sorcerer.”
“Then he’s not going to know who he is until he returns to Terah?” Kalen asked hesitantly.
Badec shook his head.
“Won’t that cause a lot of problems when it’s time for him to return?” Pallor asked. “What if he’s not willing to leave?”
“He won’t have any choice,” Yvonne said quietly. “It would be best if my son grows up thinking that his foster parents are his real parents, but even if they tell him that he’s not theirs, he can’t know anything about us until he returns to Terah.” Yvonne paused, took a deep breath, and said, “I know what I’m going to say will sound harsh, but even though his foster parents must care enough about him to provide for him and protect him, there needs to be a distance, almost a coldness between them, so that he doesn’t feel torn when the time comes to leave them behind.” She looked directly at Pallor. “You know the kind of man he needs to be as well as we do, and I’m afraid that the burden of making sure he’s ready to handle whatever he has to is going to fall primarily on your shoulders. I know it’s a lot to ask, but you’re the only one who can do it.”
Pallor stared at her for a full minute and then slowly nodded.
Badec said in his mind, and waited for the pegasus to answer.
“I know. A mind link,”
Xantha answered Badec privately.
Xantha nodded, but Badec was the only one who noticed.
Then Badec stood up and said, “I trust the five of you to work out the details for fostering my son. Guard him well. The future of Terah will rest on his shoulders.”
The air over the wall cleared as Badec put his arm around his wife’s shoulders and led her out of the garden.
After they were out of sight, Duane quietly asked, “What do we do now? We can’t very well discuss this out here in the open.”
“Badec probably doesn’t want it discussed around here at all,” Kalen answered.
Laryn swallowed hard. “Maybe we should meet at the Gate House.”
Pallor shook his head. “I need to go back to Earth first. I’ve got a lot of research to do before we can make any plans.” Then he took a four inch silver key out of his pocket and looked at Kalen. “Are you ready to go? I’ll drop you off at the Gate House before I head back to Earth.”
“Wait a minute,” Duane said, putting his hand on Pallor’s arm. “When are we going to meet? How long do you need? A week?”
Pallor shook his head. “I don’t know, but let’s plan to meet in a month. How about four weeks from today? By then I should at least have a better idea what we’re up against.” He held his arm out to Kalen and Kalen put his hand on Pallor’s arm.
Duane and Laryn nodded as the air shimmered and Pallor and Kalen vanished.
Within minutes Pallor was in his office in his house back on Earth. He supported himself by writing fantasy and mystery novels under the name of Paul Stewart. It wasn’t his first pseudonym, and it probably wouldn’t be his last, but he figured he had another twenty or thirty years before he had to come up with a new identity and break into writing all over again.
One of the advantages of being an author was that he could live anywhere he wanted to, which for the past ten years had been about fifteen miles from Seattle. It also provided a perfect excuse for him to ask questions, and he’d cultivated contacts all over the United States, all in the name of research.
Even with all the research he’d done in the past, Pallor had no idea how to go about arranging for an adoption, it had never come up before, so he started pacing and thinking. Surely, among all the people he knew, there was someone who could point him in the right direction.
After a few minutes he paused. He’d call Mike.
Mike Kirkpatrick was a lawyer. He represented Pallor with publishing companies and was the closest thing to a friend that Pallor had ever had on Earth. Mike would know where to begin.
Pallor sat down at his desk and picked up the phone. He tried the office number first, even though it was Saturday afternoon. After the fifth ring, the answering service picked up. He hung up and dialed Mike’s home phone. On the third ring, a familiar voice said, “Hello, you’ve reached the Kirkpatrick residence. Top dog speaking.”
Pallor chuckled. “You’re in a good mood.”
“Yeah, I am,” Mike admitted. “I’ve got a steak thawing, a nice bottle of wine, and there’s a baseball game on television. Life can’t get much better than that. What’re you up to?”
“I’ve got a slight problem, and I wanted to talk to you about it.”
“Not really. Personal.”
“Okay, why don’t you come on over. Katie’s out buying school stuff with the kids this afternoon. Then she’s going to take them for a pizza and a movie, so we’ll have the house to ourselves for a while. I’ll pull another steak out of the freezer.”
“Fine. Be there in half an hour.”
~ ~ ~ ~
During the baseball game, Pallor thought about several different ways he could present his problem to Mike. He finally decided to use the “my friend has a problem” approach, which had the added advantage of being true.
While they were outside grilling the steaks, he said, “Mike, I have a friend who’s pregnant and wants to put her baby up for adoption.”
“That won’t be a problem. There are a lot of people out there who want to adopt an infant. All she’d have to do is get in touch with an adoption agency and they’d handle all the details. I can get you a list of the top agencies if you want me to.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work.”
“She wants me to pick out the parents and keep an eye on things until her son is grown.”
Mike frowned and slowly shook his head. “The birth mother gives up all rights once the adoption is final.”
“She’s not willing to do that.”
Mike concentrated on the steaks and didn’t say anything for a few minutes. Finally he sighed and said, “It’s possible that you might be able to find someone through a private adoption who would agree to your terms, but I doubt it. How much money does your friend want for her baby?”
Pallor shook his head vigorously. “No, it’s not like that, Mike. She doesn’t want any money.”
“Are you sure? Most birth mothers get quite a bit for their babies in private adoptions.”
“I’m positive. No money. She’ll pay her lawyer’s fees and the adoptive parents can pay the agency or lawyer they deal with, but no money comes to her.”
“Well, if they don’t have to pay her, it may be a little easier to find someone who’d agree to her conditions. Let me make a couple of phone calls Monday and see what I can come up with. When do you want to get started on the search?”
“The baby’s not due until March, but she wants this settled. I’d like to be able to have everything set up within a month if possible.”
Mike nodded and then gave Pallor a long, searching look. “Let me ask one question, and remember, I’m your lawyer. Nothing you tell me goes any farther.”
“Are you the baby’s father?”
Pallor’s mouth dropped open. It hadn’t crossed his mind that someone might think that, but it was a logical conclusion. “No. Honest. She’s just a friend. Not a girlfriend.”
“And you’re willing to go through the hassle of meeting with lawyers, interviewing prospective parents, setting up the adoption, and keeping tabs on her child for the next eighteen or twenty years for ‘just a friend’?”
“She’s a very good friend.”
Mike looked at Pallor sideways and mumbled, “She must be.”
~ ~ ~ ~
Monday morning Pallor was seated at his desk trying to concentrate on the plot to a new book when the phone rang. It was Mike.
“I’ve got a lawyer lined up for you. I think you’ll like him, and he’s good.”
“Great. When can I see him?”
“How about 1:30 this afternoon?”
Pallor grabbed a notepad and jotted down the time. “What’s his name?”
“Charles Blalock,” Mike answered. Then he gave Pallor directions to Blalock’s office.
“How much did you tell him?”
“That you had a friend who needed to put her baby up for adoption, that she wanted to pick the parents, and that you were going to be keeping an eye on the child until he’s grown.”
“What was his reaction to that?”
“He said it would make it a little harder for you to find the right couple, but not impossible.” Pallor could hear papers rustling in the background. Then Mike said, “Look, I’ve got a client waiting, I’ve got to go. But one more thing. Take a few minutes this morning and get exactly what you’re looking for and what stipulations you want on the adoption contract outlined in your head. The more information you can give him up front, the better.”
“Got it,” Pallor said. “And thanks. I owe you.”
“Next time you bring the steaks and the wine,” Mike said as he hung up the phone.
~ ~ ~ ~
At 1:00, Pallor parked in the small parking area at the rear of one of the old homes in Seattle that had been transformed into offices. According to Mike, Mr. Blalock’s office was on the second floor, so Pallor got out of his car and made his way around to the front of the house and up to the second floor. When he opened the door to Mr. Blalock’s office, the receptionist looked up from her computer, took off her glasses, and asked, “May I help you?”
“I’m here to see Mr. Charles Blalock.”
“And your name?” she asked as she opened a thick appointment book.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have a Paul Stewart listed for today, sir, and Mr. Blalock is quite busy. Would you like to schedule an appointment?” she asked as she put her glasses back on and picked up a pen.
Pallor frowned. “If you don’t mind, would you check with him? I’m sure he said 1:30 today.”
She grumbled, but she picked up the phone and said, “Mr. Blalock? There’s a man out here who says he has a 1:30 appointment with you. I don’t have his name on the schedule.” A few seconds later she put her hand over the mouthpiece and asked, “What did you say your name was?”
“A Mr. Paul Stewart.” Another pause. “Oh, I see.” She covered the mouthpiece again, smiled at Pallor, and pointed towards one of the doors. “You may go in now, Mr. Stewart.”
As Pallor walked toward the door, he heard her say, “Mr. Blalock, I’ve asked you not to do that. When you make appointments, you never write them down out here, and then I end up scheduling someone else in that same time slot and before you know it, we have an office full of unhappy people.”
Pallor grinned to himself and gently knocked on the door. When he heard a muffled “Come in,” he opened the door and walked inside.
Mr. Blalock motioned Pallor to a seat while he was still holding the phone to his ear. He rolled his eyes and said, “Yes, Marcy. I see your point. We’ll have to talk about it later. Mr. Stewart is here for his appointment.” Mr. Blalock hung up the phone and turned towards Pallor. “Sometimes I wonder who’s the boss around here. Well, what can I do for you? Mr. Kirkpatrick said something about an adoption problem?”
Pallor nodded. “I need to find an adoptive home for a boy who will be born next spring, probably mid-March.”
Mr. Blalock pulled out a legal pad and began making notes. “All right. What can you tell me about the family you’re looking for?”
Pallor frowned. He wasn’t sure what Mr. Blalock meant.
“Do you want the child to have siblings, or would you rather he be an only child?”
“White. Both of his parents are white.”
Mr. Blalock kept writing as he asked, “What about religious preference?”
“Well, they have to be financially secure.”
“What area of the country are you interested in? Around here? I understand you’ll be keeping a check on the child.”
“It really doesn’t matter. I don’t need to live in the same area, just check in on him a couple of times a year.”
Mr. Blalock nodded. “Now, what else can you tell me about them?”
Pallor had put some thought into this, but he still wasn’t sure what to say. “Well, the mother wants him to be well-cared for, but not smothered, so it would probably be better if he were not the center of their lives. She wants him to grow up to be independent and to think for himself, but at the same time to respect other people and their ideas, so they can’t be domineering or intolerant.”
“Are you planning to interview the prospective parents yourself?”
“Good, because I doubt if any of these things are going to show up in background checks or financial statements, but when I hire the private investigator, I’ll clue him in on what to look out for.”
“Does she have any feelings one way or the other about the schools he attends? Would public school be okay? Or is she going to want him to go to private schools?”
“Based on his parents, he should be quite intelligent and she does want to make sure he’s challenged intellectually. It sort of depends on where he’s living and what the schools are like around there, but if he needs private schools, she’ll be happy to pay for them. And she’ll pick up the tab for college.”
Mr. Blalock held out his hand, palm out, as he continued writing. “I’d leave that out for now. Let’s just say that you’ll need access to all medical and school records. Then, later, if you think he needs to go to a private school, you can make arrangements with the adoptive parents. You don’t want to mention that the birth mother would be willing to pay for it up front, or they’ll go on a shopping spree for the most expensive schools they can find, starting with daycare. And if I were you, I’d wait until the child is ready to start applying to colleges before you decide how you want to handle that. You may want to pay the school directly and let him attend on a scholarship-type deal, especially if you have a particular school in mind that you want him to go to.”
“I don’t know how to word this, but it has to be in the contract somewhere that if I think he’s being abused, neglected, or harmed in any way, I’m going to pull him out of that home.”
Mr. Blalock lifted his eyebrows, but he kept on writing. “All right. That may limit your choices a bit, but I’ll see what I can do. Anything else?”
“She doesn’t want him in any kind of spotlight, so no celebrities, no one who’s going to go into politics, or anything like that, and of course, no criminal records.”
Mr. Blalock nodded as he continued making notes. When he finished writing, he looked up at Pallor expectantly.
Pallor shook his head and said, “Something else may come up once I start interviewing, but that’s all I can think of right now.”
“Okay. Now, about my retainer. Who’s going to be paying that?”
“She’s going to pay it, but you’ll get it from me. She doesn’t want anything that’ll lead back to her.”
“She’ll have to sign the adoption papers.”
Pallor shook his head.
“All right. I’ll see what I can work out.” Then he picked up his phone, punched a button, and said, “Marcy, Mr. Stewart is leaving now. Please set up a follow-up appointment for two weeks from today.” After he hung up the phone he said, “I should be able to have some names for you by then. I understand you want to have this settled in about a month?”
“I want to be able to present her with some options in a month. She’ll make the final decision.”
“Of course. Are you going to handle setting up the interviews?”
“Yes. I want to see them in their homes. I want to get a feel for what it would be like if he were to live there.”
Mr. Blalock nodded. “I’m going to make a suggestion. You can take it or not. When you get ready to interview the prospective parents, tell them when you’ll be there rather than ask them when it would be convenient. You want to set yourself up as the dominant one in this arrangement from the beginning. It’s a little thing, but…”
“Thank you. That’s a good suggestion,” Pallor said as he took out his checkbook. “Now, if you’ll tell me how much you need up front…”
~ ~ ~ ~
Two weeks later, on Tuesday, September 2, Pallor walked back into Mr. Blalock’s office. Marcy was typing away, but this time when she looked up at him, she smiled and nodded. “Good afternoon, Mr. Stewart. He’s expecting you in the conference room,” she said as she stood up and led the way to a different door.