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Judge Amelia Watkins reviewed the case in front of her. Martha and Jonathan Kent and the baby they'd been caring for the past month were waiting outside – waiting to be called into her office to be told the fate of their new little family.
Watkins knew that several adoption agencies had already turned down the couple's applications to adopt a child, any child – neither Jonathan nor Martha were as young as they might have been and while the farm was able to support the two of them, the Kents would never get rich off their farm. But the most damning thing against them was their convictions - in both senses of the word. The Kent family was well known in the area for its steadfast belief in equality and fair play.
Only three years earlier, Martha and Jonathan Kent had been arrested for getting involved in a civil rights protest that had gone wrong. They had both served their sixty days in jail and only came home to take care of the farm after of the death of Jonathan's father, Eben. They had missed the funeral because they had chosen to stay in jail with the others who had been sentenced with them.
Most people in Smallville didn't understand. Watkins did more than most and she was sure Eben had understood. He was a Kent, after all. His father had helped escaped slaves get to freedom.
Watkins had seen the passion come in to Jonathan's face and voice when he spoke of justice and liberty and equality, all things that made this nation great. She'd seen the anger and grief in Martha's eyes when news came of the four little girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. Watkins had shared their horror at the news of the murder of the three civil rights workers.
She'd also seen the grief in their faces when they had to face the fact that God wasn't going to give them children of their own. Jonathan's elder brother Jerome had died in Korea, leaving Jonathan the last of the Kent line in Smallville although there were several cousins up in Kansas City. The day they'd found the baby was the same day their dreams of having a child of their own to raise had died. Martha was barren and there wasn't a damn thing medical science could do for her. And then an angel arrived wearing diapers.
It was time. She called them into her office.
They were understandably nervous as they sat across from her. The three-and-a-half-month old baby sat on Martha's lap watching everything around him with wide-eyed wonder, his chubby little fist stuffed in his mouth. He was dressed in a blue jumper and had a red blanket wrapped around him. His hair was dark and wavy and his eyes were chocolate brown. A cherub done in earth-tones.
Jonathan's hand was on Martha's knee, a sign of comfort and protection. The baby was seemingly oblivious to the tension in the room although he had refused to go to Watkins when she held out her arms to take him. The two adults looked like they were ready to bolt. Watkins knew they had to be fearing the worst – why else would the district court judge have called them into her office so early in the morning unless it was to tell them they couldn't keep the little angel they'd been caring for the past month?
"You just need to sign these papers to make it official," Watkins told them. She smiled as their eyes widened in surprise. "When that's done, we'll get his new birth certificate." She pushed the papers toward them and Jonathan picked them up to review them.
"You mean the adoption's been okayed?" Martha asked, gray eyes wide behind her glasses.
Watkins nodded. "It took some doing, but yes, the adoption's been okayed. We'll get the new birth certificate going and the old one will be sealed along with these other papers. There won't be anything in there to interest anyone anyway," Watkins assured the couple one more time. Jonathan signed the adoption papers and handed the pen to his wife. In turn, she handed him the baby who cooed at him and settled comfortably on his lap.
"Looks like our little citizen is a happy guy," Watkins commented, watching him.
"He sure seems to be. He doesn't like to be left alone, and he really doesn't like the dark," the man said. "But… I can't believe how much he's changed our lives… I never thought I'd be a daddy. It's like God was listening and sent us an angel to find."
Martha signed the papers in the designated places. Watkins placed her signature in the appropriate places then handed them over to the clerk seated in the corner of the office who notarized the documents. That finished, Watkins smiled over at the Kent's baby boy.
"Well little citizen, it's now official. You are Clark Jerome Kent, son of Jonathan Nathaniel and Martha Mary Clark Kent. Now, that's a name with a fine tradition in these parts, so I expect you to live up to it."
She stood and the couple followed suit, shaking her hand. "Thank you, Judge Watkins," Jonathan said. Watkins noticed that his eyes were bright with unshed tears.
"My pleasure. One of the perks of this job is being able to put families together sometimes," Watkins assured him, ushering them out of her office. The baby was rubbing his eyes. "I think our little citizen here needs a nap."
"It's been a busy day for him," Jonathan said. "But we'll get him home and down for a nap."
Watkins shut the door behind them and locked it. The side door to her office opened and Sheriff Beatty walked in.
"All done?" he asked.
"All done," Watkins told him. "This isn't gonna' come back and bite me, is it? It got run through awfully fast."
"Jonathan and Martha are good people and they deserve the chance to have a child of their own despite what some paper pusher at some agency in the capitol says. Plus we done our due diligence," Beatty reminded her. "I asked the state police and the FBI if there were any kids matching his description who went missing just before Martha and Jonathan found him. I also checked with the FAA on missing aircraft, experimental or otherwise that could have gone down around here. The day I called, they claimed there wasn't anything missing in that time frame. None of the small airports in the area reported any missing aircraft either. No gliders, nothing.
"It wasn't an airplane that crashed in that field," Beatty said. "I don't know what did come down, a meteorite maybe. Kansas City radar picked up something they thought was a piece of space debris. Something small enough to be hauled off in a truck. But it wasn't an airplane."
"You don't believe those government types either, do you?" Watkins observed. She'd been the District Court Judge for Lowell County for more than five years. In that time she'd come to know Will Beatty quite well, professionally. He was honest, upstanding, and generous to a fault. He had gone to high school with Jonathan Kent, had been best man at his wedding as Kent had been best man at Beatty's wedding.
She also knew he had taken offence when a group of men claiming to be with the FAA blew through town claiming to be looking for a missing aircraft two days after the Kents reported finding an infant abandoned in a field. The man in charge, Newcomb, had demanded full cooperation from the Smallville police and the sheriff's department, but had refused to give out any information. He also refused to listen to the opinions and findings of the local investigators.
There was no question in Watkins mind that the Kents were innocent in the matter and not just because Beatty said so. Despite it being the day of the hundred year anniversary reenactment of the Great Smallville Bank Robbery, there had been few strangers in town and none of them had a child the appropriate age with them.
"You still think maybe the baby was in the debris the feds were looking for?" Watkins asked with a nervous chuckle. "I think you're too much into Amazing Stories, myself."
Beatty shrugged. "Well some other weird things happened that day, too. Remember the abandoned rental car? We found it right by there. There was no sign of the man or woman even though somebody dressed in a mini-skirt would have been noticed. It's like they vanished into thin air. I even checked with New Troy state police since Maisie actually took down the man's driver's license information when they rented the car."
"You forgot to tell me that part," Watkins chided.
"I didn't think you'd believe me. I'm not sure I believe it myself," Beatty responded. "New Troy never issued a license with that number, at least, not yet. The format for the number letter combination is one they've been thinking about going to in a couple years. The address was to a building that is still under construction. And get this, the guy tried to tell Maisie the birth-date and issue dates were typos but according to Maisie, that license was issued in 1993 and his birth-date was February 28, 1966."
"You're right, I'm not sure I believe you," Watkins told him.
"Oh, it gets better," Beatty said pulling a folded sheet of ledger paper from his jacket and handing it to her. "Guess what his name was."
She opened the sheet and skimmed it. "Clark Jerome Kent?" She looked up at Beatty in disbelief.
He nodded and shrugged. "Luckily the cash he paid with was still in the till box."
"Not exactly. Every test I know says it's genuine, except for the serial numbers, the date and name of the Secretary of the Treasury," Beatty said. "A counterfeiter wouldn't make those kinds of mistakes… I figure it'll be good in about twenty-five years."
"You really do read to much Amazing Stories," Watkins said. "Do you think we'll ever find out where that baby really came from?"
"Maybe, maybe not," Beatty said. "But maybe we shouldn't look too closely when prayers are answered and angels are found on earth. And I think that's one damned lucky little angel."