Oni started to explain, but then Hannah found her voice. “I couldn’t have children, and we wanted children. I had stage 1 cervical cancer. We caught it early. At first, they said I might live only five year, but here I am almost twelve years later. After I was cancer free for five years, we decided to adopt.”
“But why couldn’t you adopt through normal channels?” Molly asked.
“We couldn’t pass the home study, because I’m a registered sex offender,” Oni voice wavered. I was convicted of statutory rape. In Georgia, that’s a misdemeanor, but you must register as a sex offender. It wasn’t rape, but Hannah and I were both under 16 at the time. Paying $10,000 to obtain a baby with no background check seemed the only way.”
“That’s a lot of money,” Molly said. “What do you do for a living, Mr. Jones?”
“I own a small chain of dry cleaners,” Oni answered. “We have done well. We saved the money to adopt.”
“Did you know that Olivia had kidnapped the baby from a friend in Texas?”
“No,” answered Oni. “We never knew the woman’s name. She insisted on cash. We didn’t know she committed suicide. Frankly, we didn’t ask too many questions. We just wanted a healthy baby.”
“She also murdered the mother when she kidnapped the baby,” Molly said.
“Oh, my God,” Hannah said. “Of course, we didn’t know.”
Molly decided to change tactics. “Tell me about Cleo.”
“Oh my gosh,” Hannah said. “She a beautiful child. So smart. So happy.” Oni sat quietly as Hannah went on, bragging about Cleo. Finally, he interrupted Hannah. “Ms. Lovelace. I have a lawyer. We will fight to keep Cleo. We love her and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.”
“Mr. Jones, I think you need a lawyer,” Molly replied. “He’ll advise …”
“She,” Oni corrected Molly.
“Whatever,” Molly said. “She’ll be the best person to advise you in this matter. But allow me to state the facts for you. What you did is illegal. You cannot buy a baby. You’re a registered sex offender. A judge would not look kindly on you adopting a child. If Anna goes to the police, you could be charged as accessories after the fact.”
“Accessories to what exactly?” Hannah asked.
“To murder,” Molly answered. “I’m also guessing that you made up a birth certificate that doesn’t list Houston as the place of birth.” Oni nodded his head. “That’s falsifying a legal document.”
Hannah started to cry again. “But we didn’t know,” Oni said. “Is it possible we could settle out of court? We have money.”
Molly shook her head. “Anna has been looking for her granddaughter continuously for six years. As she said, she won’t quit come hell or high water. I doubt she’ll settle for money. I think the best thing to do is meet with Anna Opeyemi along with your lawyer. Can we meet at my office?”
Oni glanced at his wife. She nodded her head. “Okay,” Oni said.
“Look,” Molly said. “Obviously, you’ve been great parents. Anna will recognize that. Maybe you can work out a compromise. If not, Anna will take Cleo back to Houston, and you’ll never see her again.”
Oni and Hannah sat quietly. Finally, Oni said, “It looks as if Ms. Opeyemi has the advantage. Why would she compromise?”
“Consider this; you’ve been good parents for Cleo, the only parents she has ever known. This is her home. The only home she has ever known. Her school is here. Her friends are here. Moving to Houston would be a traumatic experience for any child. Also, let’s face it; Anna is no spring chicken.”
Molly let that sink in. “You have a lot to offer and Anna is a very nice person. She only wants what’s best for the child, and so do you. I think we can work something out. Is tomorrow at 10 am okay?”
“Tomorrow’s Sunday,” answered Oni. “We usually go to church. Can we make it more like 2 pm? I’m sure my lawyer can make it.”
“Sure,” Molly said as she handed Oni her card. “Please bring Cleo and if you have some photo albums, I’m sure Anna would love to see them.” Molly pulled out a test kit for DNA from her purse.
If I could, I’d like to get a saliva sample from Cleo so I can confirm the Cleo is Anna’s granddaughter.”
Oni shook his head. “I don’t think so. Not without my lawyer’s consent.”
Molly put the kit away. “Okay, I understand. See you tomorrow.”
The next day the Jones showed up on time at Molly’s office on time. Oni was wearing a suit and Hannah wore a nice dress. Molly guessed they worn their church clothes. A professional looking woman caring a briefcase introduced herself as Shelby Skinner. “Call me Shelly,” she said.