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I m p r i s o n e d

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Chapter 23

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I woke up the next morning feeling sick to my stomach. Ike walked in through the door and looked at me.
"Are you just now getting up? You better get a move on!" he told me. I smiled, throwing my legs over the side of the bed and making my way to the closet. Hmm, what suit to wear? I picked a plain black suit as it seemed more professional for some reason. Isaac was wearing the same, with a red tie. My tie was blue. I went into my bedroom once more and slipped  first into the pants, then the white button down shirt and jacket. My shoes were under the bed, so I bent down and searched around with my hands until I felt them, then pulled them out and slipped those on as well. Finally, I went to the bathroom to fix my hair. It didn't take long; it rarely ever did for me. I picked up my toothbrush and squeezed a little too much toothpaste on it. Gross. Whiping the excess toothpaste on the sink, I brushed away. I wondered what Heather would look like now. I hadn't seen her in so long, I could barely remember her face at all. My thoughts wondered and I came to the point where I was wondering what Caitlyn looked like. That was her name, right? Yeah, Caitlyn. Ike hadn't stopped talking about her all night last night. I spit in the sink and rinsed out my mouth and toothbrush. Turning the faucets off, I went to meet Ike in the kitchen. He was drinking a Dr. Pepper and eating a bagel. I dug around in the refrigerator for something that sounded better, but ended up just grabbing the same. I slid the two bagel slices into the toaster and pressed down the button. Taking a sip of Dr. Pepper, Ike and me decided to sit in the dining room. No sooner did I get over there then my bagel popped up. I crossed the room once more and took the steaming bagel out of the toaster. I nearly dropped it, it was so hot! I slopped on some cream cheese and returned to sit next to Ike. His half eaten bagel sat there as he read the paper. Hmph, the paper. Almost as bad as the news. I gobbled up the bagel in about 6 bites, gulping down the rest of my Dr. Pepper.
"You ready?" I asked. Ike looked down from the top of the paper.
"Ready as I'll ever be," he mumbled, "Let's go." We walked out and shut the door, twisting the key in to lock it. Taylor was walking down the hall towards us.
"Hey strangers," he joked. Natalie was with him, holding Ezra's hand. He wasn't exactly the best talker, but he sure as hell could walk. Once we got outside, we decided to take the subway. And so, we hopped on.
"Don't miss your stop this time, Taylor." I joked. He was still embarrassed about the time he was with Natalie on the subway and she got off, but he missed the stop. Tay laughed.
"Yeah, yeah..." he whispered, "I won't." The rest of the way to the courthouse was filled with a conversation of Caitlyn, a replay of last night. I felt bad for Ike. I couldn't imagine if I had a child, let alone one that didn't have any idea I existed. When the subway came to a stop, we all trudged off, making sure Taylor was in front. The courthouse was big. I got chills down my spine when I thought of seeing Heather again. We made our way inside and into the courtroom. Ike went up to the front, sitting with his lawyer on the prosecuter side. Taylor, Natalie, Ezra and I sat behind in one of the benches. Court was going to start any minute. I was nervous; there were beads of sweat on my forehead.
"Calm down, man. It's just court." Taylor assured me.
"No, really? I thought it was something else." I snapped sarcastically. He smiled. Suddenly, the judge came into the room and up to the bench.
"All rise for the arrival of Judge Horn. Court is now in session!" the bailiff called out.
"You may be seated!" Judge Horn shouted, "We are here today for the parental and visitation rights of Caitlyn Howard-Hanson, father Clarke Hanson, and mother Heather Howard, your case will now be presented." Ike's lawyer stood, clearing his throat. I spotted Heather from across the room. I knew her face immediately. I could have jumped up right there and strangled her to death, but I knew I couldn't do that.
"Your honor, this case is very simple. My client has been deprived of knowing his own child even exists, and now that he does know, Ms. Howard wants Mr. Hanson to sign the adoption papers over to Ms. Howard's fiance`?" Ike's lawyer stated.
"Objection!" Heather's lawyer called out, "Ms. Howard's personal life has no matter in this!"
"Sustained!" Judge Horn called out, "Mr. Johnson, please continue without the personal details, or your client will be removed from the courtroom."
Ike's lawyer nodded, continuing, "My client would like full parental rights of Miss Caitlyn Howard-Hanson. We have evidence to prove that Ms. Howard is a heroine addict and a danger to a child." Gasps surrounded me in the courtroom. Maybe Ike was going to win this after all. I could see Heather's eyes grow wide, bewildered even.
"That is a pretty serious accusation, Mr. Hanson." Judge Horn commented. Ike nodded at her respectfully.
"We would like to call our first witness to the stand," Ike's lawyer added, "Mrs. Natalie Hanson." Natalie handed Ezra to me and walked up to the stand. A bible was placed under her hand.
"Do you sware to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" the bailiff asked. Hmm, I didn't know they actually did that. I thought it was just on TV.
"I do," Natalie replied. Ike's lawyer walked up to Natalie, rubbing his chin.
"Mrs. Hanson, I understand you and Ms. Howard were very close. How did you meet?" he asked.
"We met way back in jr. high." Natalie whispered. Ike's lawyer, Mr. Johnson, nodded once more.
"I see, and did you ever hear of, or see, Ms. Howard using or possessing heroine?" he asked. Natalie closed her eyes.
"Yes." she choked, taking a deep breath and opening her eyes again.
"And when was this, Mrs. Hanson?" the lawyer interrogated.
"A little under two years ago." Nat answered. I could see she was sweating as well. No wonder, I knew I'd be a puddle once I got up there.
"I see, I see. And do you feel Ms. Howard is a danger to this child?" Mr. Johnson wanted to know.
"Yes," Natalie admitted, "I do. She gets really high...and she's violent."
"Exactly what do you mean when you say violent, Mrs. Hanson?" Mr. Johnson looked at her expectantly.
"She would...beat me, sometimes." Natalie cried. Tears now covered her face, and I could see she was going through painful memories.
"No further questions, your honor." Mr Johnson announced.
"Alright, Mr. Pearn, do you care to represent Ms. Howard with this witness?" Judge Horn asked. The man sitting next to Heather shook his head, putting his hand up.
"In that case," Mr Johnson spoke up, "I'd like to call my client, Mr. Clarke Hanson, to the stand." Isaac slowly made his way up to where Natalie had been, as Natalie walked briskly back to where Taylor and me sat, tears still running down her face.
A bible was placed under Isaac's hand as well.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?" the bailiff asked once more. Man, that was one job that would get old fast.
"I do," Ike replied.
"Mr. Hanson, can you tell me when you found out that you had a child?" Mr Johnson asked.
"About 3 days ago." Ike answered. His lawyer nodded. He seemed to do that alot.
"I see...and why do you think you will be a better father to this child? She does not even know you exist." Mr Johnson looked at Ike. I knew he had to nail this question.
"Well, I am most certainly not on drugs. I am responsible and have a nephew already that I have taken care of many times. I know I could love this child more than anyone in the world." Ike breathed. I gulped, looking at the judge. She wrote down something on a clipboard.
"And what do you know about Ms. Howard's addiction, Mr. Hanson?" the lawyer pressed on.
"She called me up and asked me to come over. I didn't want to say anything about all the needles lying around. She had scars all up and down her arms...I was speechless." Ike mumbled.  His lawyer nodded, pacing the floor.
"Thank you, Mr. Hanson. No further questions, your honor." Mr. Johnson walked back to his seat. Heather's lawyer stepped up to where Isaac was.
"Well, Clarke Isaac Hanson. A dream come true, meeting you. You're a member of the pop group Hanson, am I correct?" the lawyer wanted to know.
"You're correct." Ike said politely.
"Wow...a celebrity! Tell me, Mr. Hanson, how in the world could you care for a child on tour? There is no way you could take care of her, let alone support her! I mean, we all know Hanson is dead, am I right?" the lawyer laughed. Ouch.
"Objection!" Mr. Johnson yelled. "He is putting words in my client's mouth! If we must leave out Ms. Howard's personal life, I suggest the same for my client!"
"Overruled. Continue, Mr. Pearn." Judge Horn demanded. That seemed incredibly unfair.
"You are not right." Ike told the lawyer, "Hanson is not dead and I would do anything for my child. I would most definitely never put her in danger."
"No further questions, your honor." Mr. Pearn sighed. Things were going good so far.
"Your honor, I'd like to call our third witness to the stand, Mr. Zachary Hanson." Mr. Johnson suggested. My heart nearly stopped. I passed Ike on the way up to the stand. I placed one hand on the bible held out in front of me and the other in the air.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?"
"I do." I was almost shaking I was so nervous. I just couldn't screw this up for Ike.
"Mr. Hanson, I understand you are my client's brother?" Mr. Johnson asked. I nodded.
"Yes." I prayed he wouldn't shoot any tough questions at me.
"I see. And what do you think of your brother, Mr. Hanson?" he asked me. I thought for a second.
"He's the most responsible person I've ever met in my life," I breathed, "He's always there for everyone. I know he would be there for his child in a second. He loves that little girl, before he's ever even met her." I could only hope that answer was good. I was the last witness before Caitlyn. Taylor wasn't going to testify because of his throat.
"I agree, Mr. Hanson. Can you tell me how you met Ms. Howard?" Mr. Johnson looked straight into my eyes.
"Mrs. Natalie Hanson introduced us in Las Vegas." I replied. Maybe I shouldn't have added that it was in Vegas.
"Thank you. No further questions, your honor." Mr. Pearn made his way to the stand and looked at me.
"I have but one question for you, Mr. Hanson. If your brother is as responsible as you say he is, tell me this: why did he knock up my client in vegas and then leave her to raise this child all on her own?" he asked. I took a deep breath. Wow, this was hard.
"It was not like that." I choked, "He loved her, but she wanted nothing to do with him. And now she wants to take away the only thing he has: his own child." I breathed out, hoping that answer was good enough.
"No further questions, your honor." Mr. Pearn smiled. I gulped and practically ran back to my seat next to Taylor.
"Your honor, we would like to call our final witness to the stand: Miss Caitlyn Howard-Hanson." Mr Johnson announced. A small little girl with dusty brown hair in braids made her way to the stand. She was only about as old as Ezra. I wondered what they would possibly ask her.
"Hi, Caitlyn. Can you tell me who your mommy is?" Mr. Johnson asked. The little girl shyly pointed to Heather.
"Ok, and can you tell me who your daddy is?" he asked again. The little girl looked around and pointed to a man sitting behind Heather. I immediately knew it was Heather's fiance`.
"Your honor, I would like to bring to attention the fact that Ms. Howard has convinced this child that that man is her father. She has brainwashed this child and deprived her from knowing her real father." Mr. Johnson stated confidently. The judge looked at him.
"I've heard enough." she sighed. "Mr. Clarke Isaac Hanson and Ms. Heather Diane Howard, please approach the bench." Ike and Heather walked side by side for the first time in a long time up to the judge.
"Mr. Clarke Hanson, you are not granted full custody of Miss Caitlyn Howard-Hanson." Judge Horn announced. My heart sank. How could we lose?
"However," the judge continued, "You are granted visitation rights every weekend. During the week this child will be with her mother. I have seen no proof of a heroine addiction, Mr. Hanson. Perhaps next time you appear in my courtroom, you will be more prepared. You are famous, Mr. Hanson. I don't see how you could possibly take care of this child on your own. Court is dismissed." I could have strangled that judge to death, but there was nothing I could do. I watched as Isaac collected his things and talked with his lawyer, biting his lip, trying to hold back the tears. How could this happen? I thought we had done so good. What was going to happen now?

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