Saturday morning at breakfast, Mr. Ken asked Collin if he was interested in going with him to look for Christmas decorations for his new home. Collin asked if Ryan could go along, and getting permission, he called his friend to see if he was available. At noon the three of them went out to various warehouse operations and large department stores looking for a suitable large artificial Christmas tree for the Great Room. Ken wanted something at least 20 feet high and not too skinny. He also needed huge amounts of everything, including lights, wreaths, poinsettias and anything else they thought was needed to make the house a very festive home for the holidays.
They started at Sam's Warehouse, but the largest Christmas tree that store had, had been a sixteen foot tree. They then went to COSTCO and they didn't have any 'industrial' sized Christmas trees there at all. Next they stopped by Home Depot and then Lowe's which brought similar results. Ryan decided to call his mom, an interior decorator, to see if she knew anyone who had such large artificial Christmas trees or whoever else could help.
Mary Taylor told Mr. Ken that for such a large home as he had, he should use a professional holiday decorator, but they were expensive in the long run. Ken thought about it and with it already being the beginning of December, he knew with his arm in a sling from the shooting he could never get any of the large stuff done, even with the two boys' help. It was 'only money' he thought to himself, so he decided to go with a professional decorator as it would be easier in the long run and also he was pressed for time.
Once home, the three young men went directly to the Study where Collin and Ryan signed onto the internet to see who advertised locally as Professional Lighting Decorators. Mr. Ken did it the old fashioned way and went to the Yellow Pages and did his walking with his fingers. The boys struck pay dirt first, as it didn't take long to search. They had over 2500 hits for Christmas Decorators and Professional Home Decorators but could only find 14 local businesses listed that did large holiday style decorating. Mr. Thomas found about the same number of local businesses and was about to begin calling when Ryan said they should look at what each business offered, first, using the Net then call the ones they liked best.
Ryan explained, that way it would reduce the lag time in getting people over for ideas and estimates. Ken agreed it was the best idea so the three of them surfed the Internet for the next two hours looking at the fourteen different operations and what they could offer. In the end there were only two who had ever done as large an estate such as his and he needed a business that could do his entire house, inside and out. Ken called those two companies and set one appointment for that night and one for early Sunday afternoon.
About 5 PM, a nicely dressed young man came to the door and introduced himself as Wayne Mitchell from Central Texas Decorating. He handed Mr. Thomas his card and asked to see the areas that needed to be decorated. Mr. Ken was immediately impressed with the young man's professionalism. Entering the Entrance Foyer and seeing the Great Room through the glass banister Wayne's eyes went wide open. Ken led him over to the railing and said he'd like a large enough Christmas tree to fit in front of those windows and not look small in comparison to the room. He pointed out the stairs and the elevator and then turned Wayne around to show him the "MRS" (pronounced misses) area and then began to laugh. Mr. Ken explained it was the Meeting-Reading-Sitting portion of the entry and he had dubbed it the 'misses' room, thus that's where the 'MRS' came from and that it was to be done as well. Wayne was now wondering what he was getting into.
Mr. Thomas and the boys then showed Mr. Mitchell the remainder of the living floor of rooms and then led him down to the Great Room for more surprises. Two hours later Wayne had seen everything inside the home and as well as out front and out back that he was to bid on. Mr. Thomas asked him for the bid to represent them supplying the decorations and to install and remove and possibly store, if Mr. Thomas decided to purchase them. Wayne thanked him for the call and asked if Monday about noon was too late for the estimate. They agreed to that and then it was time for dinner.
Saturday night is a good night for pizza, so Ken took the two lads out to find a good pizza place. Ryan told Mr. Thomas that part of the problem where they lived was everything was so far away. They drove for 45 minutes before finding a pizza parlor and went inside. The place was kind of dingy and it was mostly a beer joint, rather than a family place for pizza, so they immediately turned around and went looking some more. Along the way, Ryan asked why Mr. Ken didn't build a pizza place nearby and some other stuff like an arcade with games for the kids and maybe a G0-Kart track.
That question got them into a discussion over what kind of foods and where to locate it and which type of gaming arcade and then lots of other ideas kept coming out. Ken had to finally put an end to the discussion as it was getting out of hand, but he did promise they could discuss it at dinner. He also told the two would be entrepreneurs that maybe tonight when they got home they could put it all down on paper to better study the 'business plan' as Mr. Ken called it.
A franchise pizza restaurant, Mr. Gatti's, came into view and they decided to go there. None of them had ever been there before, so it was new to all of them. When they got inside Ken found it was a one-price buffet and the cost was determined by the individuals' age. Lucky for Mr. Ken the lads were 15, otherwise he would have had to pay for three adults; not like it would have dented his bank account.
The restaurant offered 15 different pizza combinations, along with soft drinks and they had a spaghetti bar with three different sauces and a salad bar, too. The most unique thing about this restaurant was that in the back area there was an amusement arcade. The players used a credit card like pay system for each game. They put money into an ATM like device that gave them cards with the amount of money they entered. Most of the games gave Coupons and the higher the scores, the more coupons one got that could be saved to eventually be exchanged for prizes. The lads had a blast and Mr. Thomas saw that as a unique business idea to investigate and maybe use if he built something near his home.
That night, Ryan got permission to stay over and the three of them went to the Study and got out pen and paper and the computer and began to brainstorm an idea for a close by restaurant and arcade place, plus a race track. Ryan was the lead purveyor of ideas for the new business model and everyone was making notes while Ryan was using the computer to track inputs. Ryan was really getting into it. He'd lived in that area all his life and when he and his mom wanted to do anything, it was always a long drive.
Even with all the families moving into that section near the lake, Ken Thomas was amazed no one had built a good restaurant and quality shopping center. Mr. Ken took notice of all the good and unique ideas Ryan was throwing out. Mr. Ken had only lived there for the past six months or so and was surprised at the way Ryan was looking at the problem and coming up with ideas.
The boys asked if they could watch a movie and of course their Big Bro said "Sure." As soon as they heard that, they ran like competitors and Ken had to yell at them, "Don't Run!" He was too late as he knew they were half way down the stairs by then. Ken followed them a bit later after he made his own notes from their discussion and jotted on a yellow sticky for him to call his lawyer first thing Monday.
Ken knew he had to stop relying on Bill Jackson for everything, and soon hire an assistant of some kind to work on specific tasks such as real estate purchases and business licenses, etc. He'd been only dabbling as an entrepreneur a short while and this would be his first business venture if it worked out.
Sunday morning, the lads wanted to go out for breakfast, but with the other decorator coming at noon, they settled for Mr. Ken's cooking as it was Momma Maria's weekend off. Ken made bacon and eggs and offered bagels and cream cheese along with 2% milk and/or O.J. or coffee. The boys remarked he didn't burn anything but then Ryan had to remind Collin that 'Bro' didn't have to boil any water and with that they all had a big laugh. About noon, the doorbell rang and the three, along with Chief, went to see if it was the holiday decorator.
Mr. Thomas opened the door and Rachael Tenley introduced herself and she quickly walked inside. She immediately began to wonder about and looked around and began commenting how this or that area of the house could look, decorated. When shown the Great Room from above, she said that a twelve foot tree would do wonders for the room and not take up too much space. Ken began to take her down the stairs but she wanted to use the elevator instead, saying she had a rough night last night and her feet were tired. The boys decided to walk down and both had frowns on their faces as they really didn't like her at all.
The four of them met near the large Bar located under the upstairs Entry and MRS room. When Rachael saw there were large Men's and Women's Restrooms located under the upper MRS area, too, she went on as to how she could make this place into a nice Single's party room. She even said that with the holidays, Mr. Thomas could make a lot of money if he turned this room into a Holiday cruising place for rich singles. Mr. Thomas ignored her comment about that and took her outside. He explained he wanted four or five large animated figures that could be seen from the lake as well as from inside the house.
Mister Ken also explained how he wanted the dock and beach areas lighted with lots of colorful lights. She told him it would be a waste of time and money because no one would ever get that close to see what he was showing. They finished looking at the front of the enormous house and Mr. Thomas wanted the whole front lit up. Her comment was "Less is more and that it would look much better if it weren't cluttered up with too many lights. And besides, no one can see the front of the house from the street anyways." Then she said she'd send her estimate and plan in about two weeks as she was swamped with other homes. And then she was gone.
Mr. Thomas and the lads had their mouths open wide as the so-called lady drove out past the presently unmanned Guard Shack. They turned to face each other and they all burst out laughing. Even Chief, who had faithfully followed them the entire time, began to bark a happy bark now that the so-called sales woman was gone. They talked about the lady who had to be not much older than 26 or 28 as being a total jerk. They compared her with Wayne and, of course, Wayne was the clear winner. But Ken told them he hadn't seen his proposal and cost, so it could be they just got a few things from Wal-Mart and that would be that. After hearing Mr. Ken say that, they all had another good hard laugh.
Ken knew Collin needed new clothes, and badly. The teen had been wearing Ryan's hand-me-downs the past seven or eight weeks, and Ken decided he was going to take the teenager and start getting him decked out at least for the holidays. Ken called Mary and asked if he could bring Ryan back home later after he helped with Collin's new wardrobe. Getting her resounding permission the three guys were soon off to the nearest mall to begin buying Collin's new wardrobe of clothes for knock around and for school and, of course, the upcoming Holidays.
After returning from the long day of shopping, Collin and Ken went directly to the Theater Room to relax and unwind. Once there, they went to Ken's favorite Theater chair where Collin got himself settled on Ken's right side and placed his head resting on the man's chest. Now settled and relaxed, the two talked about the past eight weeks and discussed everything that happened ever since Collin came to Three Finger Cove. It was really a one sided talk as Collin asked more questions than he actually commented on about the past events.
Collin mainly voiced his concern that eventually he would be taken away and he didn't want to ever stop being as happy as he had been these last months. He called Mr. Ken, his Big Bro, and he told the man he wanted to stay there until he got out of high school. It was then that his emotions of feeling he was loved and safe hit him again. It began to overwhelm him and he hugged Ken tightly as he softly cried and cried.
Monday morning found Collin and the tutor using one of the upstairs bedrooms for a classroom. The internet was hooked up in that room and they had complete privacy after Chief was told to stay downstairs until Collin finished or took a break. Chief was not pleased with that pronouncement and sulked off outside somewhere. Wayne came by with his proposal and said they could begin the decorating by the coming weekend if Mr. Thomas agreed to the estimate. Wayne explained it included the rental of all the decorations, their installation and ultimate removal within two weeks after New Year's Day.
The total rental for a 21 foot Christmas tree in the Great Room, the entire Great Room and first floor area decorated, six animated figures out on the back lawn and lighting all over the dock and beach front as well as six 8 foot lighted wreaths out front and lighting in the lower shrubs and along the driveway was going to cost Mr. Thomas $12,535.00. Wayne then explained to Mr. Thomas that those costs could be highly discounted if the man allowed the company to take pictures of his decorated home and use them in next yearís advertising. Mr. Thomas said he'd have to think about that, but that he was all for the design and cost estimate and for Wayne and his crew to begin this weekend.
That Wednesday, a package came in the mail addresses to Master Collin James Wilkinson. The return address was from County Juvenile Court Judge Adam Richards. Ken had no idea why the judge would send anything directly to the house. That stuff is generally sent to their lawyers of record and thus it should have been sent to Bill Jackson or Stewart Russell. Since it was addressed to Collin, he set is aside and remarked he'd give it to the lad when he broke for lunch.
Right at twelve noon, Collin and Mr. Steven Ashland, his tutor, came down to eat and Ken pulled the lad aside and showed him the envelope. Collin smiled at seeing the rather large envelop and quickly tore into it. In a few seconds Collin had a bunch of papers in his hand, then laughed out loud and explained what it was all about.
"Bro, I called Judge Richards the day after the hearing. I heard you tell Mr. Stewart to get you a hearing, so you could get the Court's permission to take me out of the state and maybe the country. Anyways, Adam, he's the judge, gave me his card that day and told me to call him if I ever needed something. He told me when I called him that he was surprised to hear from me so soon.
"We talked about a half hour. He's cool. I like him now. I didn't that day in his special room, but now that I know him, I wish he could come by sometime. Anyway, I explained that he closed off the hearing without hearing your plea or whatever it was to ask his OK to take me on trips. I told him you'd taken Ryan and his mom sometimes and probably wanted to show me some stuff, too. I guess that's what these papers are Ö you know some sort of permission slips. Here, you read them. You'll probably be able to make out what they are," an overly excited Collin explained and then headed off to eat.
Mr. Thomas reviewed the papers and then called Bill to get his reading. His lawyer, Bill Jackson, had him fax the papers over to him and said he'd get back to him in an hour. Bill observed that if the Judge sent them directly for Collin, then they were probably legit. Ninety minutes later, Bill Jackson called and said the papers were legit and all Ken needed to do now was make sure he had them with him anytime he took Collin out of the state or country. Hearing the papers are legitimate, Ken began planning a trip for the two of them to a fun place; like on a Disneyworld Cruise.
While on the phone with his lawyer, Mr. Ken also asked Mr. Jackson about his luck in contacting the Wilkinson lawyers. What he heard from Bill was not what he expected. Bill told him the primary Wilkinson Corporate Lawyer was eager to get Collin back to where he felt the boy belonged and wanted a meeting as soon as possible. But Bill further explained he filled them in on some of Collin's recent revelations to include the sexual abuse at the hands of his abductors and their initial attempt to kill the lad. He also said they then discussed the attack on Three Finger Cove and the attempt to have him killed again.
Bill said he explained how everything had psychologically affected the lad, but that he had begun to recover under Mr. Ken's guidance and guardianship. Finally, Bill said he was able to put them off until after the holidays, as they both agreed this was not the time to begin protracted dealings over Collin, "since the lad seemed content for now" was how Bill said their lawyer, someone he called Uncle Andy, put it. The two had a good laugh over that.
Before they finished their phone call, Mr. Thomas thanked Mr. Jackson for his help and then asked if they had agreed on a future date to meet with him and Collin. Bill said after hearing all he had told them about what Collin just went through, they felt it was best that Collin remain where he felt safe and secure and that sometime after the 15th of January would be Ok with them. Jackson said he'd make it work and they hung up.
After seeing the contents of the package for Collin and hearing the news from Bill Jackson, Ken Thomas thought things were beginning to look up for him and his new 'foster little brother'. He could now take Collin on trips and knowing the corporate lawyers weren't going to come in and cause additional mayhem, Ken thought to himself, 'he was going to make sure this was thee Best, Merry Christmas that young Collin ever had, no matter what!'
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