"We JUST had a cancellation," Neely said. "Can you be here by 11?"
Dove looked at his watch. It was nearing 10, and he was still in his jeans. He would have to get home and change into his suit while his staff drafted the paperwork.
"I'll probably be a few minutes late," he warned Neely.
As Dove raced home, it dawned on him that he'd have to make sure Alyssa's court-appointed guardian would be there. And since Marshall would be unable to attend, he wanted the woman who'd done the home study present to attest to the loving atmosphere in the McClain household.
Miraculously, both were available.
Back in Sharon, Tracey McClain hastily pulled on some slacks and a dress shirt. When Danielle came downstairs with Alli still in her pajamas, she told her to go back and change her into a dress.
Dove reached the court building at 11:09. The hearing did not get under way until 11:31.
With his close-cropped flattop haircut, chiseled features and ramrod straight posture, Guyton looks every inch the Marine captain he once was — and Army National Guard lieutenant colonel he still is. But he has a special place in his heart for adoptions.
Taped to the inside rim of his bench is a photo of his 7-year-old daughter, Hannah Grace. Dove represented the Guytons in the adoption.
For the record, Dove noted that Marshall McClain was not present in the courtroom.
"This adoption, though, is something that he wanted," he said. "Is that correct?"
"Yes," Tracey replied as Alyssa let out a yelp. "I believe that's what he's holding on for."
The guardian and other witnesses were quickly called, heard and dismissed. Squirming in a cousin's lap, Alyssa cooed as the small pendulum clock over the judge's left shoulder ticked away the minutes.
Toward the end of the hearing, Dove noticed a serious error in the adoption decree. The couple's name was misspelled "McCalin" throughout.
Breaking with protocol, Guyton allowed Dove to make the corrections by hand.
The hearing ended at 12:05 p.m. Dove wanted to snap a photo of judge and family, but Tracey said she couldn't wait, and hurried to her car.
A couple of miles out of town, she dialed home. Danielle answered.
"Tell your dad we've got her," the mother said. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
Danielle repeated the news to the room. Her sister Amy leaned close to her father's ear and whispered, "She's ours."
McClain's breathing eased. The muscles in his face relaxed.
The clerk's stamp on the final decree reads 12:09 p.m. Marshall McClain's official time of death was 12:17.