Melanie had received a very interesting call on her cell phone while the team was having lunch at a gourmet pizza shop a few blocks from the courthouse. She brought it to Judge Dennis’s attention once court resumed at one o’clock.
“Your honor, there has been a new development in our case. I got a phone call from Delia Johnson, telling me that she discovered some of her sister’s important documents after she had returned home from court earlier. Mrs. Johnson is out in the hallway with the documents, and I’d like to recall her to tell us what she found.”
The judge looked to his bailiff. “Please tell Mrs. Johnson to come back in.”
Delia walked back into the courtroom a few moments later carrying a large manila envelope. She sat down at the witness stand and placed the envelope on the bar in front of her.
“You’re still under oath, Mrs. Johnson,” the judge informed her.
Delia nodded. “Okay.”
“Welcome back, Mrs. Johnson,” Melanie said. “What do you have there with you?”
“After I left the courthouse earlier, I was really emotional, missing Daphne. I remembered saying how I’d taken some of her stuff from Curtis’s house when I went to confront him after her funeral. One of the main things I took was a large decorative storage box, kind of like a small trunk. I really hadn’t looked through it until today. I bought the box for Daphne when she was a teenager as a birthday present. I had one in my room similar to it and she wanted one. I knew she kept special things in hers, like pictures, concert tickets, and other mementos she had collected over the years. I also knew that the box has a false bottom, where you can put more private things underneath. That’s where I found this.”
Delia placed her hand on top the envelope.
“What’s in the envelope?” Melanie asked.
Delia opened it and removed some paperwork. “Daphne’s life insurance policy and her will. ”
“What are the dates on them?”
“The cover letter on the policy is dated June 29, 2015. The will is dated January 14, 2016, just two days before Daphne’s death.”
“I saw that the will is handwritten and signed by Daphne. Do you recognize the handwriting as belonging to your sister?”
“Yes,” Delia confirmed. “I also found her diary in the box. The last entry says that she wrote her new will because she was certain that Curtis was cheating on her. You can match the handwriting using her diary if needed.”
Turner spoke up. “Your honor, I haven’t been given an opportunity to view these documents, so I object to them being used in this trial.”
“I’ve known about them for less than an hour myself. I only had a few minutes to skim through them, but I request that they be admitted into evidence due to the importance of their contents,” Melanie said to the judge. “We can recess to allow opposing counsel to read them.”
“I will allow a fifteen minute recess in order for Mr. Turner to view these documents with his client,” Judge Dennis decided.
Turner and Curtis were permitted the use of a small conference room to look at the insurance policy and will. When they returned fifteen minutes later, both of them looked sick.
Once the judge was back on the bench, he asked Turner if he still objected to the documents being admitted as evidence.
“Yes… yes, I do,” Turner choked out. “For, uh... lack of foundation and irrelevance. Also, the will is not valid, since it doesn’t have any signed witnesses to it.”
“Actually, it is valid,” Al clarified. “An unwitnessed will is valid when it is handwritten by the owner of the will, which this one is. Perhaps Mr. Turner needs to brush up on his Wills and Estates law.”
Turner flashed Al a dirty look.
Judge Dennis asked for the will to be brought to him for inspection.
“Mr. Kurtzman is correct on the validity of a handwritten, unwitnessed will. This one looks perfectly valid to me. Why are these documents important to this case, Ms. Marcus?”
She walked over to Turner and pulled the insurance policy out of his hands, which the man nearly had a death grip on. “Daphne Anderson had a five million dollar life insurance policy that names Justin Cole Taylor as the trustee. The policy payout would double if Daphne were to die as a result of an accident; we know that she died as a result of a car accident, leaving the beneficiary of her policy with ten million dollars. The sole beneficiary of that policy was Daphne’s then-unborn child, which would now be Keegan Mercury Taylor. Her will includes very important sections about her child.”
“I will allow Mrs. Johnson to read the will out loud, and then I will determine if it and the life insurance policy should be admitted into evidence,” the judge said.
Melanie handed the will to Delia for her to read it.
“Last Will and Testament of Daphne Yvette Anderson. I, Daphne Yvette Anderson, now residing in the County of Allegheny, State of Pennsylvania, and being of sound mind and not acting under fraud, duress, or undue influence do hereby declare this to be my Last Will and Testament. I revoke any and all wills that were previously made by me.
“First, I declare that I am currently married to Curtis Logan Anderson and all references in this will to ‘my husband’ are to him. I further declare that any references in this will to ‘my children’ shall include any child of mine born from this day forward or legally adopted. I am currently pregnant with my first child.
“Second, Executor: I appoint Justin Cole Taylor as executor of this will. If Justin Cole Taylor shall for any reason fail to qualify or cease to act as executor, I appoint Brian Aiden Kinney as executor. I direct my executor to pay out of my estate all of my debts, hospital bills, funeral costs, taxes, and expenses of administering my estate after my death. I direct my executor to create a trust for any minor beneficiaries named in this will. I appoint my executor as trustee of said trust. Any assets bequeathed to a minor beneficiary in this will are to be held in the trust by the trustee until that minor reaches the age of eighteen.
“Third, Property Distribution: I hereby bequeath my property and estate as follows: To my husband, I bequeath our jointly owned property and one dollar.”
Melanie walked over to Curtis and placed a crisp one dollar bill in front of him, which had been paper clipped to the will.
“If my husband and I should die simultaneously, I bequeath our jointly owned property to my children, and said property shall be divided equally among them. I bequeath all monies in bank accounts, stocks, and insurance policies owned in my name to my children, which shall be divided equally. If my children do not survive me, I bequeath the previously mentioned property equally among my three siblings: Delia Yvonne Johnson, Duane Marcus Chanders, and Darius Michael Chanders. I bequeath all artwork gifted to me by Justin Cole Taylor to him, Brian Aiden Kinney, or their children. I bequeath all other personal property, including vehicles, jewelry, family heirlooms, etcetera owned solely by me to Delia Yvonne Johnson. She is then to distribute that property among our family members at her discretion.
“Fourth, Guardianship of My Children: In the event of my death, I direct Justin Cole Taylor to file for sole legal and physical custody of my minor children. If my husband and I should die simultaneously, I appoint Justin Cole Taylor as guardian of my minor children. If he is unable to act as guardian, I appoint Brian Aiden Kinney.”
Multiple sets of eyebrows raised after hearing that part.
“I have signed this will on the fourteenth day of January, 2016. Daphne Yvette Anderson.”
Everyone looked to the judge, who announced, “The insurance policy and will are accepted into evidence over Mr. Turner’s objection.”
Curtis smacked the table top with both hands before he stood up. “‘Not acting under fraud or duress,’ my ass! There is no way-”
“Dr. Anderson!” the judge yelled. “If you do not quiet down immediately, I will hold you in contempt.”
Curtis stood there with his mouth open for a few seconds before he sat down.
Melanie had no other questions for Delia, and Turner had no questions. Delia was permitted to sit in the courtroom with her parents, who had been in court each day.
Debbie was called to the stand as a character witness for Justin and Brian. She had on her “best” wig and a rather conservative black dress, out of respect for the court setting. Being Debbie, she had added a silk rainbow-printed scarf for flair.
“Mrs. Horvath, how you know Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney?” Melanie asked.
“I first met Brian when he was fourteen, after he became friends with my son. He was a handsome, charming young man, but troubled with a bad homelife. I tried to give him all the love that a kid deserves, since he didn’t get any from his own family. There have been many times where he has tested my patience over the years, but I’ve always looked at him like he was my own son and I love him dearly.
“I’ll never forget the day I met my Sunshine,” Debbie said, smiling at Justin before telling the judge, “that’s what I call him. I mean, just look at that kid’s smile. He walked into the diner where I worked, and I thought he was the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen. His smile lit up the room. It was no surprise that Brian had already gone after him. Sunshine came to live with me for a few months before he finished high school, after his homophobic father had thrown him out. Sunshine and Brian went back and forth for years, breaking up and getting back together, but I always knew that they’d work it out someday.”
Melanie smiled and nodded. “Can you tell us about Brian and Justin as a couple, today?”
“They have a very successful advertising agency together - Brian being the brilliant ad man and Sunshine being the talented artist. They have a beautiful life together, a gorgeous home, and apart from this lawsuit going on, I’ve never seen them happier. I am so proud of how much they’ve accomplished and how far they’ve come. You will find no two people who love each other more than they do. Their love is so pure, so perfect. They’re soulmates.”
“How are they with Keegan?”
Debbie placed her hand over her heart. “Oh, they love that baby so much. Keegan looks so much like his daddy, it’s amazing. You can see his mommy in there too, but there’s no doubt that he’s Justin’s son. I call him ‘Little Sunshine’ or ‘Little Sunny,’ like my granddaughter often does. Brian and Sunshine are wonderful parents to him. He lights up when one of them walks into the room. He is a very happy and healthy baby, and the boys have provided a wonderful home for him. Keegan is very, very lucky to have parents like them.”
“You babysit Keegan when Justin is at work, correct?” Melanie asked.
“Yes, I do, along with my husband Carl. Sunshine normally goes to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he brings the baby over to my house. I don’t live very far from Kinnetik, and Sunshine comes over for lunch when he’s not too busy.”
“Is it a hardship on you to take care of an infant?”
“Absolutely not. I’m retired now, so I have nothing but free time. I was the one who first volunteered to watch Keegan, so his daddy could go into the office a couple days a week. Carl is at home watching Keegan right now, and he adores him, too. I consider him to be my grandbaby, since I’ve always looked at Sunshine as one of my sons. I have several honorary sons, and I look at all of their children as my grandbabies. I’ve always been called ‘The Mother of Liberty Avenue.’”
Curtis sat there rolling his eyes as he listened to Debbie talk about Brian and Justin as if they were so wonderful and special.
When Turner was asked if he had any questions for the witness he said no, having heard enough from Curtis about the loudmouthed redhead to know better than to get her riled up.
Melanie had to tap Al back in, since their next witness would be Gus and she didn’t want Turner to have any reason to object to her questioning her own son.
“Could you tell the court who you are, young man?” Al asked the boy, although anyone with eyes could see that he was the seed of Brian.
“Well, that’s kind of complicated,” Gus said with a smile. “My legal name, at the moment, is Gus Peterson-Marcus. I am the biological child of Brian Kinney and Lindsay Peterson, and the legal child of Lindsay Peterson and Melanie Marcus. I consider myself the son of Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, and Melanie Marcus. I am the big brother of Jenny Rebecca Marcus and Keegan Mercury Taylor.”
“Do you think that Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney are good parents?”
Gus looked over at the two men and smiled. “They’re awesome parents.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Kurtzman,” Judge Dennis interrupted, holding up a piece of paper. “Gus wrote me a letter last month, and I would like him to read it for us.”
Gus visibly blushed before he took the letter from the judge and began to read.
“Dear Judge Dennis, I hope that you will allow the man whom I consider to be to be my second father, Justin Taylor, to maintain full and permanent custody of his son and my brother, Keegan Mercury Taylor. Justin and my biological father Brian Kinney have always been wonderful fathers to me. I have been fortunate enough to live with them and my adopted mother Melanie Marcus for the past month, and I hope it will become a permanent arrangement very soon.
“Anytime that I’ve needed help with something, someone to talk to, or just someone to be there, I knew that I could always count on my two fathers, despite the fact that I have lived over three hundred miles away from them for most of my life. Modern technology allowed us to be able to easily communicate every day. They have never told me that they were too busy or had something more important to do. Both of them have always put my needs ahead of theirs and made me a priority in their lives. If I ever do something wrong, their punishments are always fair and appropriate; there are never physical punishments. They always assure me that they will be there for me no matter what, and will always love me unconditionally.
“Please allow Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney to raise my little brother together so that he will always know love and acceptance, as I have from these two wonderful men. There are no better parents in this world than them, and I hope that you will make Keegan the luckiest kid alive by allowing them to raise him. Sincerely, Gus Peterson-Marcus (hopefully soon to be Gus Kinney).”
Gus looked up from his letter and found that Melanie and Justin both had tears streaming down their faces. Debbie, who had stayed after her testimony, was also crying buckets all over Brian’s suit jacket. Brian was just barely maintaining his composure, having to tense up his muscles and breathe slowly to keep the tears at bay. The Chanders family had also joined in with the happy tears.
“Well…” Al said before chuckling. “I guess my job is done. Thank you, Gus.”
Turner had planned to ask Gus a few questions, but he didn’t dare after hearing all of that and seeing the family’s reaction. He wanted to get home to his own children that night in one piece.
After Gus left the witness stand, he received crushing hugs and was drowned in tears and kisses from his parents and grandmother. He took a seat next to his father, who put his arm across his shoulders.
“I love you, Sonny Boy,” Brian whispered in Gus’s ear.
“Love you too, Pop,” Gus replied.