Max Belle was going to face charges, but he had to get well enough to go to trial first. He was a rich man and could easily leave the hospital or even the country and the police knew that. They posted guards at the door of his hospital room, which once he recovered enough he would be arraigned. Once that was done, he’d be transferred to the little part of the hospital they had for criminals. It was a week or so after Sasha had been discharged when he had to appear before a judge to determine what would be done. The judge thought he was a flight risk and refused bail and Belle was remanded to custody.
It was a right for a man to have a speedy trial and once he was before the judge, there was little deliberation. The accident and what happened was all on CD thanks to the webcams on highways now.
“All rise.” The bailiff called and everyone stood as the judge came to her bench and all did, except Mr. Belle who was still in a wheelchair.
The judge sighed as she shook her head. “Mr. Belle, you have been found guilty of reckless vehicular homicide of your wife, Constance Belle and vehicular assault on Mr. Mckenzie and Mr. Ledebev. There is no doubt as it was seen by all on video. You are hereby sentenced to seventeen years in the Federal Corrections Institution in Bennettsville, South Carolina. Upon your release from the hospital you will surrender to custody and begin you sentence then. It is so ordered.” She said hitting her desk with the gavel.
“I had no choice!” Belle said in a wail. “Connie was drunk!”
“As you were, Mr. Belle.” The judge said sadly. “But now she’s dead. Did it not occur to you that taking the wheel was a bad idea?”
“How were we to get home?” Belle asked.
“You could have called a taxi.” The judge said calmly.
This idea was so foreign to Belle. “It was New Year’s Day. They would take hours to get there!”
The judge nodded. “But you would have been home. Now, you won’t be going home.” The judge rose and walked out as guards came to wheel him back to return the hospital.
I was not happy, but justice was being done. David was wanting more, but nodded. “That’s what it should be.”
We hired a lawyer. Hans Dunkirk. He was known for being a very sharp man and would be the one bringing the suit against Belle. David was right, the man did some very criminal things and as a result someone died, Sasha nearly died and I was hurt. I was feeling better about suing Belle now.
I did return to work. I felt so guilty about all the time I’d missed being out, but Alan didn’t want to hear it.
“You’re a very good manager.” Alan said. “And the employees trust you. I trust you. The time you take is earned. The time you spent in the hospital wasn’t your choice. Don’t worry about it.”
Then Alik was turning seven. Because Sasha was still in casts, I made arrangements for Alik’s party at the condo, inviting Alik’s new friends over for his birthday party. And there was the cake and presents and a condo full of noisy children from four to ten years old. Mrs. Cummings was a godsend. She was Russian and spoke Russian fluently and her children spoke enough to understand Alik, but were teaching Alik English better than a teacher. We hired a teacher though, Alik would be attending school the next year, but Sasha didn’t want Alik to lose time because of change in languages.
The law suit was coming, but we were looking March or April after Belle’s trial on the incident. Our lawyer was getting things together.
“There isn’t going to be much of a trial, not even a trial like he was sentenced. We’ll simply use the footage used.” Dunkirk said in our living room to Sasha, me, Tony and David. “It’s a pretty done deal. Open and shut.” He smiled. “Modern technology is marvelous. It’s documented.”
Sasha frowned. “Documented?”
“You didn’t see it, but there are traffic cams that recorded the whole thing.” Dunkirk nodded. “We have footage of the car heading down the wrong side of the highway and hitting you two.” He shrugged. “That and he was pulled from the wreckage on the driver’s side, the lab results on his blood alcohol levels. It’s a slam dunk.” He grinned. “And that’s evidence we’ll have to the Civil suit. And he doesn’t want a jury trial.”
I nodded. “Because of the publicity?”
“Exactly.” Dunkirk answered.
I didn’t think about what Tony and I had talked about much that day shortly after I’d gotten home from the hospital. Now it was about to be the end of February when Tony came home whistling. We’d been married a while now and there were signs that he was up to something. First, it was my day off and he usually takes time away to spend with me, but he’d said he’d be back and left a few hours. I knew he was up to something, but I let him have…whatever up his sleeve remain known to just him for now. Tony came in and plopped down beside me on the sofa kissing me energetically, barely containing himself. “Hi! Are you doing anything for this evening?”
I grinned at him knowing he was about to spring something on me. “Well, I was going to make dinner in a few minutes, but nothing scheduled. Why?”
Tony stood up and held his hand out. “Well, dinner will be out, but there are a couple of things I want you to see. You may want to get a coat. It’s a little cool out.”
I looked down at what I had on. “I’m in jeans. I have on a casual shirt…should I change?”
“Nope.” Tony said kissing me again. “You’re perfect.” He pulled me after him and grabbed my coat from the entrance way closet, handing it to me.
We rode down in the elevator, but as we got to the garage he covered my eyes as we exited the elevator.
“No peeking.” Tony warned.
“You didn’t.” I said suspecting what he’d done as he guided me around. Had he bought me a car? We were in the garage, what else could it be?
“You’ll see.” He chuckled as we got to where we were to be. Then he removed his hands. “Ta da!”
I gasped! Before me was a Ford Bronco! It looked showroom new! Red! Well, it was red on red, red bumpers, red paint and a red interior. It shone like new! I walked forward, stunned! But on the front was a personal plate that read Bubba Junior.
“It’s not brand new, of course. I got it from the Bronco Graveyard, can you believe they even have one?” Tony chuckled. “It’s four by four, but has the cruise control, am and fm stereo and cd player. It has all those…” he waved at the Bronco. “…things you need as a country boy. It has only 12,000 miles on it, bought be a man bought it brand new and died a few months later. His wife sold it to the Bronco Graveyard and I bought it for you!” Tony said proudly. “I did have some customizing, engine tuned, got it cleaned and fresh coat of paint, and I added the personal plate…”
I grabbed Tony kissing him passionately and then walked toward the truck. “Tony, I was kidding about…”
“Isn’t this what you want?” Tony asked concerned. “I asked you…”
“I never thought you’d get one!” I grinned to him as I waved at the truck. “I should know now to never underestimate you. How did you find it?”
“Internet.” Tony shrugged. “It took a little searching, but here it is.” Then he looked at me hopefully. “Do you like it?”
“I LOVE IT!!!” I said touching the exterior gently and then turned to Tony. “I’m driving it!”
Tony chuckled holding some keys up and jingling them. “I knew you would.”
As I got in, I smiled even more. It even smelled new! I started him up. And it was a him, not a her as men referred to ships, planes and other things. The engine roared making me smile bigger.
“So, is this he-man enough for you?” Tony chuckled as he got in the passenger side.
I thumped my chest and gave a growl. “We’ll see.” I grinned and looked at the gears. It was a clutch! You shifted gears in him. “Oh, this is just GREAT!!” I smiled as I put it in gear. “When I was learning to drive, Dad and Granddad both said, if you’re going to drive, drive. None of this girly automatic stuff. Drive like a man!” I patted the dashboard. “Now, let’s see if you’re the he-man truck I dreamed of.”
Getting used to a new vehicle took a few minutes, but soon we were zooming down the road. We were turning heads! Not women’s heads, but men’s heads! Nothing touched a man’s testosterone like a good truck and Bubba Junior was just that truck!
Tony sat a while and then looked at me. “Let’s go to Boden’s Island.”
I hadn’t thought of it, but… “Sure! If it gets muddy we’ll get it washed!” But as I headed out, Tony directed me to another street and now I have to explain. If you know about this part of the world and the many islands along the coast. There were several right around Charleston. One was James Island and Johns Island. Boden’s Island was a small island between James Island and Folly Beach, which was a barrier island. Before we got too far down Folly Road, Tony had me go along what was considered the back part of James Island. There was stretch of road that ran along this part, but on the opposite side that faced Charleston and the harbor. From this road you could see Johns Island across an expanse of marsh. This was an isolated portion of road.
“Turn up here.” Tony said. “To the right.”
I looked puzzled. There was a dirt road I could barely see off to the right and I took it. “Go down this road?”
The road went a little further and left James Island to a little wooden bridge that connected with another island. I say island, but it was surrounded by marsh, not water, but at high tide would be surrounded by water. The island was not huge. Maybe five to seven acres, but wooded with a road in the middle. Someone had lived here? Then I saw a house, but it wasn’t pretty at all. I looked at Tony. “We’re here because why?”
Tony gave me a tolerant smile. “Let’s go outside.” He said opening the door.
In the marsh, there were waterways occasionally and one came right by the property. It wasn’t a deep water access, but the waterway connected with another and then later the Intercostal Waterway some ways off. I saw that whoever had lived here had a pier that stretched to the little waterway near us, but was dilapidated. Tony reached out for my hand and brought me to the house, which really was nothing to look at. But it had a back porch Tony led me to. He pushed me forward a little.
“What do you see?” Tony asked.
I looked around. From this angle, you saw James Island and Johns Island but no houses. Before me was all this marsh and the Stono River waterway in the distance. I knew Folly Beach was beyond both the other islands. “I see a lot of marsh and trees. I see some wild life. Some white egrets.”
Tony nodded. “And what do you hear?”
I listened a moment. “Wind?”
“Nothing else?” Tony asked.
“Am I supposed to?” I was getting why he brought me out here, but I looked at the house. I thought I knew, but…. “You want to buy this?”
Tony looked at the house and waved it off. “I don’t want to live here.” He pointed to the house. “But maybe here.” He pointed to the ground. “It’s not the mountains, but it’s away from all the hustled and bustle, yet less than a half an hour’s drive and you’re back in downtown!” He put his arms around me from behind turning me back to the view as he rested his chin on my shoulder as he spoke in my ear. “Yet, we’ll have a porch to look out and see all this.” He kissed my neck. “All this could be our backyard!” He motioned back at the house. “This we’ll tear down and there are things we have to do, like get the bridge fixed so heavier trucks can get out here. We’ll also have to have the city water and sewage put pipes out here. The power company to lay lines…it’ll take a year or more just for that, but I see a house. Not a big house, with really big windows back here so we can look at this view from our great room, bedroom…one of those houses on the stilt things.”
I laughed. “Storm surge pylons? When there’s a flood during a hurricane.”
Tony turned me around. “Yes, whatever. We’ll be elevated with this great view! A nice, comfortable home for just you and me.” He grinned. “Can’t you see it?” He asked with a tone that said I’d be crazy not to see it.
I nodded. “And there’s a Starbucks right over there.” I pointed toward a shopping center I knew where there and knew there was a Starbucks.
“See!?” Tony said excited. “It’s perfect!” Then he held his hand up. “Now traffic can get bad, that’s pretty much everywhere, but not like further down Folly Road. This part of Riverland Drive connects to Folly and exits onto the new James Island Bridge and then a straight shot to the hotel!!” He looked more like a kid presenting the most exciting gift! “What do you think?”
I grinned as I ran my fingers in his hair. “I think we need to break the island in.” I looked at the Bronco. “And the truck!” I looked at the house. “But I’m not doing anything in there.” I pulled him in kissing deeply. “But we’ll have to use cowboy lube again.” I said remembering how that didn’t go well when we tried it once.
Tony smiled a little more shaking his head. He dug in his pocket and pulled four little tubes of lube. He shrugged. “I sort of thought you might want to.”
I chuckled pulling him closer. “I love you, Tony Delveccio.”
He smiled kissing me again in a consuming kiss. “I know. I love you, Mitch McKenzie.”
“I know.” I grinned backing him back to the Bronco. “This time, the back seat folds down. We’ll have a lot of room to maneuver.”
“And no police or visitors. It’s private property.” Tony nodded pulling on my shirt to get it untucked from my jeans. “How late do they serve on Boden’s Island?”
I shook my head. “Who cares? I’m not hungry for seafood right now.” I smiled as I opened the back door a pushed the seats down. “See? Lots of room!”
And Bubba Junior did have a lot of room, but we decided an inflatable mattress would make it positively perfect!
When we got home David, Sasha and Alik were watching TV. Sasha hated the wheelchair and now got the cast off and wore a wrapped bandage, but loved that he could scratch his right leg now. He was still getting physical therapy on his leg and used crutches to get around. His arm was healed, but he was cautioned be gentle with his arm.
“Where’d you two go?” David asked a little irritated. “I get back from taking Sasha to therapy and I see both cars and no Tony or Mitch. I was getting worried!”
“Well,” Tony put his arm around me. “I had to show Mitch the island we’re buying.” He grinned.
“Island!?” Sasha stopped scratching looking surprised. “You’re buying an island?”
I poked Tony in the side making him yelp. “Don’t get it twisted, it’s a small island over there, between James and Johns Island near the Stono River. He wants to build a house there.” But I was grinning.
David looked a little worried. “Oh? What are you doing with this place?”
Tony and I came to sit by them. Tony smiled. “Well, we were keeping it. Either rent it or lease it to you, Sasha.”
“We can live here!?” Alik bounced as he said it in Russian.
“Try it in English, Alik.” Sasha reminded absently, but Sasha’s didn’t understand his status was changing, or he just didn’t fully understand. “I can’t afford this!”
David smirked and shook his head. “Of course you can, Sasha! The civil suit is coming up and he will pay! You’ll have the money. You make enough now to make payments.” He looked at Sasha. “I live here, too. I’ll help soon.” He frowned. “Assuming I graduate and pass the bar exam.”
Sasha looked at the condo. “I suppose.”
I put my hand on David. “It’s going to take a while to build, so we’re not leaving for a while. Don’t worry.’ Then I grinned. “Do you want to meet Bubba Junior?” I looked at Tony. “I think I’ll call him BJ.”
David smiled. “He got you a truck!?”
Even Sasha hobbled down to see it.
David had made dinner that night. Sloppy joes. I was loving it, so did Alik, Sasha and David, but Tony used a knife and fork.