The two teens came down to breakfast, around 10:30 AM, and both had the giggles. They went directly to Momma Maria and each gave her a big hug, for fixing their favorite breakfast foods, and then went and sat down at the kitchen table, along with Mr. Ken.
"Morning, boys, I take it last night's date was a resounding suck-sess," said their 'Big Bro' with a big smile, with an emphasis on the word 'suck'.
The boys immediately went pale, and choked a little, when they heard their greeting from their Bro.
"What do you mean by that, Bro?" asked Ryan.
"Oh, nothing, really, except the night was particularly quiet coming from two teenaged couples. I am sure there were exchanges of, what shall we say, some kisses which also included body fluids. I remember when I was your age, and dated. Those were the days, for sure," teased Mr. Ken.
"Yeah right, seven, or was that eight, years ago, was the 'good old days'. Weren't they Col?" spoke up Ryan.
The two boys laughed and continued eating the Mexican breakfast Momma had created for them.
The three ate quietly, while Chief was at their heels, begging for a few scraps, when Mr. Ken, still reading the morning newspaper and holding it in front of his face, said, "I sure am glad I had those new outside cameras installed, when they fixed up the outside, after the shootout. With those new infrared cameras installed, now, I could see every hair on a baby's butt, if I wanted too."
Mr. Ken left that innocuous statement hanging in the air, as he kept the paper up, while he pretended to read. The two teens, upon hearing about the infrared cameras, choked out what was in their mouths onto their plates.
Hearing their distress, their Big Bro put down the paper and asked them if they were okay. The two were still trying to clear their throats after their spasms from hearing there were now infrared cameras watching the outside areas.
"Yyyooouuu know?" stammered Collin, as he wiped the last dredges of his food off his mouth.
"Know what?" asked Mr. Ken, back, with a smile.
The boys looked back and forth at one another and then at their Bro and then again at each other, trying to gauge what to say or do next.
"Guys, the candidates will be here at 1 o'clock for a meeting, and aren't you guys meeting with your team, too? I suggest you finish up and get cleaned up," announced Mr. Ken.
The two boys got up and began to shovel the rest of their uneaten breakfast into Chief's bowl when they heard, "And don't give Chief all that greasy food. She'll get sick. Some will be okay for her. Throw the rest away if you would, please."
The boys did as they were told, and then said they were going to get cleaned up, and off they went.
"Do ... do you think he knows what we did out on the dock last night, Col?" asked Ryan in a very scared voice.
"Ry, we can't be too sure what he knows, but he knows something, for sure, and it's best we just leave it, until he decides to talk to us. You know he will; if he is mad or wants to make a point. Come on, let's get our shower and get dressed and downstairs before anyone shows," answered Collin.
Some of the candidates began showing up around 12:45 and the two teenagers were there to answer the door and invite them in. Their 'team', as Mr. Ken called them, also began arriving and headed to the Great Room. By 1:15, everyone was there and the individual meetings began.
"I am glad everyone could be here, today," said Mr. Ken, to the six people he was supporting for election to the School Board and Hospital District Board.
"I am sure by now, you all know what was said at the press conference this past Monday. It has begun to turn the tide, well in our favor, but we cannot rest on that," began Mr. Ken. "We have to be careful of what we say, and to whom we say it. Those incumbents still have lots of followers, and connections, and they will pounce quickly to make up for those damning audio recordings."
Down in the Great Room, the teenagers were discussing what they should do next, to help their candidates get elected.
"Should we deliver more leaflets?" asked Tabatha
"How about we get copies of the transcripts of those recordings and pass those out to the residents?" asked Jenny
"Is there much more we can do?" said Daniel. "We've done a lot, so far, all over the county. The only thing we haven't done is protest," added Daniel.
Hearing the word 'protest' got Collin to think how that would work; and how they could do it, and where. For the next few minutes, they discussed what to put on the signs and how and where they would setup, if that idea was accepted.
"I like that idea, but we have to ask Mr. Ken, and the candidates, if that's what they want. Mr. Ken is very happy about the turn of events and we don't want to screw things up. I know Bro is extremely happy, with everything we've done, and if we win on Election Day, I would expect a nice party for us for doing all that hard work. Let me go up to the Study and ask if a Protest would be a good thing," finished Collin.
Collin and Ryan, like two peas in a pod, went up to the Study to ask the question.
"Did you see how those two are like twins and can't be separated from each other," spoke up Abby, as she and the rest of the teens went over to the refreshments table.
"Yeah, they are everywhere together," added Christy.
"Ladies," said Derrick, "those two have changed 'our world', this year, and I, for one, don't care if they even sleep together. The one thing about Collin is that he may be rich, but he never flaunts it and, as for, Ryan, he now has settled down and isn't that weird guy we all used to know. Ryan has become the best friend Collin never had, from what I heard. So, ladies, I'd back away from saying anything about those two, especially if it is even in jest!"
The rest of the teens continued to talk about what was just said, as they got some finger foods and soft drinks off the tables.
"Bro," said Collin, as he knocked lightly on the slightly open Study door.
"Yes, Collin, how can I help you," replied the man.
Collin then briefed the group on what the teens had been talking about. After some questions and discussion, the candidates all agreed, that would be an 'ace in the hole', if their opponents began anything more against them. The boys thanked them for their time and went back down to the Great Room, to tell the others.
After getting something to eat and drink, themselves, Collin asked Ryan to tell their 'team' what they got from the candidates.
"Collin and I briefed them and they asked a few questions and then they discussed it amongst themselves. They said it would be their 'ace in the hole' if the incumbents started anything underhanded again, or worse. They all agree, they have the momentum right now, and they don't want to jinx it by beating on their opponents, while they are down. They did ask us to develop some low-level plans; we could break out in a day or two. I think what we discussed is good, but we are a team and we need to do this as a team. Let's break up into two or three groups, and develop stuff, and then come together and discuss it, and then decide what we'll do," briefed Ryan.
Up in the Study, and down in the Great Room, the two groups put their collective minds together and each worked on their own agendas. By 4 o'clock, the groups began to break up, as people left to do other things, that Saturday night. By 5 PM, the only ones left at the Cove were Mr. Ken, Collin and Ryan, up in the study.
"Boys, I couldn't be prouder of the way you two, and your friends, have come together to help with this election. Win or Lose, I will definitely host a party for all of you to show my appreciation.
"Thanks Bro" began Ryan, "because Collin had already promised them a party, when we win." Ryan then laughed out loud.
"That was good thinking, Collin. Thanks for taking the initiative there. A good leader always finds a way to reward those who work or help him get things done," spoke up their Big Bro.
The three, along with Chief, sat back thinking and enjoying their drinks. Then Mr. Ken cleared his throat to get the boys' attention.
"Fella's, about last night," started Mr. Ken, "I want to apologize for what I saw. Please believe me that it wasn't on purpose ... that I saw what I did, but those infrared cameras are new and their settings are set to ... well, I need to learn more about them. Anyway, what I want to say is, I am sorry I was able to see what you were all doing down at the dock. Once I recognized what was happening, I turned off the cameras, and after you all came inside, I went to the electronics room and erased everything any of the cameras caught."
The two teems looked at one another and breathed a sigh of relief, but what Mr. Ken had to say wasn't over.
"Boys, we had the discussion about sex. Did you both have a condom with you last night?" he asked.
Collin spoke right up and said he had.
Ryan sat there with his head down and said in a weak voice, "No"
"I had you covered Ry," said Collin. "I had two with me, for some reason, even I don't remember why."
"The point I want to make here is that when ever there is a chance you might have sex, you always have to have a condom with you. Never, and I stress, NEVER trust a woman to say she is on the pill or is 'safe' right now. Especially you, Collin, Shelley is a very attractive and lovely girl, but is she the woman you want to have your children with, and for that matter, is NOW, the time you want to start your family?
"Guys, I may sound like I am mad at you, but I am more disappointed that Ryan didn't have that simple device, that could help prevent unwanted pregnancies. You and your girlfriends are becoming more and more acquainted with your bodies, and I know that one night, you will have that chance at a 'Home Run', and if you are not prepared ... it could ruin a wonderful night," added their Bro.
Ryan, in trying to deflect the attention off him, said, "But, he's already had his Home Run. Tell him Col. Tell him about Kattie!"
If looks could kill, Ryan would have been killed by Collin, as soon as he said that. Collin never told his Big Bro, he did the dirty deed, and he was pissed Ryan was using that to get Bro off his back. It got very quiet in the Study, right then, and even Chief got up and looked around at three people in the room.
"Bro," began Collin, "I wanted to tell you ..." was all he got out before being interrupted by Mr. Ken.
"Collin, you don't have to explain anything about what happened on the cruise," offered Mr. Ken. "I knew you were keeping a condom on yourself, as I checked your wallet when you took your showers. Sorry, for that, but I saw how Kattie latched onto you, and I heard your friend Jerry make some crude remarks. I wanted to make sure you had some protection with you, at all times.
"As for you, Ryan ... that was one of the lowest things a friend could ever do, to tell something so personal about someone. ... I hope Collin can forgive you!"
Ryan was now sitting there scared he messed up big time. He looked back and forth between his best friend and his own mentor and, as he did so, the tears began to trickle down his face. Then, thinking how much he just screwed up, he pulled his hands to his face and began to cry out loud, and very hard. That was the first time, in the more than three years that he'd known Mr. Ken, that the man had ever chastised him that strongly. He knew right then, and there, he did wrong, but he not only hurt his best friend, he also disappointed his Big Brother, even more. The more he thought about it the harder he cried.
Mr. Ken and Collin both reached the crying teenager at the same time. They each took one side of the lad and attempted to console him, but he wasn't having any of it.
"Come on, Ryan, it wasn't all that bad," said Collin to his best friend as he also rubbed the boy's shoulder and back.
Mr. Ken just stood there also rubbing the teen's back and head, but wasn't saying a thing. He decided, in order to make this work out, it had to be between the two best friends to deal with it and come to some sort of understanding and forgiveness.
"No, Collin, I messed up real big, just then. I tried to get Bro off my back, by having him get mad at you. I ... I don't deserve to be your friend. ... I need to call my mom and have her come get me," announced Ryan.
"Ryan, there is no need to call 'mom'," said Collin. "She'll just want to know everything that happened and then she'll find out about the dock and everything else. Don't call her, Ry! What you did doesn't matter to me. You ARE my Best Friend and I don't care what you said."
"NO! I was selfish ... and mean spirited by trying to deflect my troubles onto you, instead of being man enough and ... and learn from our Big Bro. I don't deserve to be your friend.
Then, picking up his cell phone, he speed dialed his mom's number. "Hello, mom, can you come to get me at the Cove? ... Yeah, I have. ... No, nothing like that it's that ... I messed up, mom, and I don't deserve to be here. Please come and get me!"
As soon as he said that last sentence, Ryan let out a loud cry and broke down again, letting the still open cell phone fall to the floor. Collin went back to trying to console his friend, while Mr. Ken picked up the phone and began talking to Mary Taylor.
"Hello, Mary? ... Yes, Ryan is. ... He made a mistake and I called him on it and it was then he realized how serious it was. ... Yes, it was between the two boys. ... I would rather they worked it out together. They are old enough, and they need to know how to. ... Yes, I'll tell him. Bye," was all the boys heard as their Bro talked to their 'mom'.
"Ryan, your mom said she will be right over," a somewhat tired Mr. Ken told the teen.
Ryan may or may not have heard the man, as he was still crying and had his hands to his face. He didn't want to look at the young man, who used to be his best friend, because of what he tried to do to him.
After a few minutes, Ryan stood up, sniffled some, then said he was going to get his coat and that there was no reason for them to help him, as he knew where it was. He thanked them for being his friend and, as he walked out of the Study, they could hear him begin to cry some more. Chief did go with the teen and tried to get him to give her some ear scratches but she wasn't succeeding.
"Bro, what did I do to make him be this way?" asked Collin.
"Collin, it wasn't anything you did. I called him on his childish method of deflecting his being caught, onto you, by announcing what you did on the cruise. He didn't hear me say that I suspected, as much from, what Jerry said in passing," replied Mr. Ken.
"Bro, I don't want to lose him as my friend ... my Best Friend. My dad never allowed me to get to know anyone, as I have with Ry, and I know I will be lost without him. Mr. Ken, please help me work this out," pleaded Collin and as he finished saying what he did he too began to cry.
Collin's mentor immediately went to him and pulled him close and just stood there with the teen and let him cry out the pain and hurt he was now feeling over what his best friend just did.
A few minutes later, Chief came back into the Study in a way that sort of announced that Ryan was no longer in the home. She nudged herself in between the two standing men and got them to reach down and pet her some. Then, Collin sniffled some and wiped his nose on the back of his hands and then knelt down and began to scratch Chief behind her ears, as she loved. Ken Thomas also bent down and began to scratch Chief's back. The dog was in seventh heaven at that point, because she was getting not only her ears scratched but also her back, and it felt so awesome to her.
As the young man, and the adult, kept rewarding their dog, Collin looked up into his mentor's eyes and asked, "Bro ... will we be able to work this out?"
Mr. Ken saw the pleading in the teen's eyes and knew he had to reassure the lad, so he replied, "Collin, give Ryan some time. Let Mary and him talk. Let his mom give him some good motherly advice and see how it works out. OK?"
"But ... what if it doesn't work out? I can't lose him, Bro! We've shared so much together. It's like we are twins. I've never been happier now having someone who understands me and what about our girls? There is just too much to lose, by not having him as my best friend," lamented the distraught teenager.
Just then, they heard the door bell ring and Chief got out from between them and went to the door.
"I bet that is your Uncle Andy. Things happened so quickly, today, I forgot he was coming today, to talk to us. Let's go answer the door," explained Mr. Ken.
Collin opened the door, hoping it was Ryan, but when he saw who it was he beamed and said, "Uncle Andy," and then grabbed the older man into a big hug. "Bro just told me you were coming to talk to us. Sorry for not waiting for you here at the door."
"Not to worry, Collin, I told Mr. Ken, here that I wasn't sure when I'd arrive. I knew you both had meetings today, and I didn't want to disrupt those proceedings. ... Damn, how every day you are looking so much more like James, your father," replied Andrew Marshall.
"Let me take that from you, Andy," said Mr. Ken. "We'll take it to your room later. Can I get you a drink, hot coffee maybe or a cold drink or maybe a glass of wine? Dinner is almost ready."
"You know a glass of wine sounds good, but I'll only have one, if you'll join me, Ken," replied Uncle Andy.
As Ken went to get two glasses of a red wine, Uncle Andy and Collin walked back to the Study and then sat down in those wonderfully soft leather chairs.
"Uncle Andy, Mr. Ken says you have something to tell us," spoke up Collin.
"Yes, my boy, I do have some good news for you two, but you, especially, but alas, I also have some disturbing news, to tell you, both. What say we wait until your guardian gets back, with some refreshments, before I tell you what I learned this past week," answered the lad's unofficial uncle.
"Here we are, Unc ... err, I mean Andy, a nice glass of wine for us both and a coke for you, Collin. I even brought a few treats for Chief. You can give them to her, Collin," said Mr. Ken, as he entered the Study.
The three of them sat back and enjoyed their refreshments, for a few moments, before Collin spoke up and said, "Okay, we're all here, Uncle Andy, come on and tell us what you've learned. What is this good news you brought, and what bad happened?"
Just as Uncle Andy was going to tell the two why he was there, Momma Maria came into the Study and announced that dinner was ready and she asked them to get cleaned up, and come into the kitchen nook, since dinner was going to be very informal that night.
The hour and a half delay, to finding out why his Uncle Andy came to visit them, really bothered Collin. It only added to his already upset feelings, with what occurred with Ryan, just before Uncle Andy arrived. Collin didn't let it show, too much, but Mr. Ken could tell the delay was bothering his charge, quite a bit, and even he tried to move dinner along. Soon the three of them were back in the Study.
Before they were even seated, Collin abruptly spoke up. "Uncle Andy, please tell us why you're here!"
Both men looked at the teen with a "what's that all about" look.
"Okay, maybe I am a bit anxious, but it isn't often you come, just to tell us something that you could have told us over the phone; so, this has to be big, Uncle Andy. Come on tell us, please," exhorted the teenager.
"My, my, someone is in such a hurry," responded Uncle Andy, who then laughed. "Ken, do you still have any of that wine left? I'm afraid my mouth might get parched while I tell what I came here to tell you both."
"Yes, Andy, what is it that brings you all this way besides Momma Maria's good cooking?" teased Mr. Ken, as he got up and filled two glasses with some red wine.
"Okay, let me whet my whistle, and I'll begin," declared the older man who then took a slow sip of the red wine he was just offered and began to tell his story.
For the next hour, Andrew Marshall explained to Collin, and his guardian, about the phone calls he received last Saturday, and his meetings early in the week, with a few more of the co-conspirators to the takeover of Wilkinson Enterprises. He explained that more of the men involved wanted to cooperate with the investigation, in exchange for a lighter sentence, and would testify against, not only Dennis Clarke, but Frank Hale, as well. Andy explained those men had incriminating information about Josh Sullivan, the guy who was touted to be the new CEO and COO.
Andy Marshall explained how the men told him how each were going to benefit, from the takeover, and how they would gain much larger salaries, if they supported Dennis Clarke. They also explained how Hale had, in a way, extorted them into being in on the takeover, or, else, they would be out and would be black-balled, throughout the industry. In the end, Andy needed to ask Collin how he felt about letting the men plead to lesser charges, in exchange for their testimony against Clarke, and company.
"But, Uncle Andy, what about my kidnapping and the murder of my parents? Would that mean the men won't be charged with the murder, of my parents, and my kidnapping, too?" asked the lad.
"Collin," began Uncle Andy, "it would be almost impossible to charge them, for either of those, since they didn't take part in the planning and execution of the plots. From what the DA, and I, have ascertained, was those men only were asked to support Clarke for the top position, after he somehow deposed your father from being the CEO. Once he had their support behind him, he was assured he would be given the job, from your father.
"None of them knew what was going to happen, other than your father was going to have to pay a huge sum of money, in order to protect his family. They all thought Dennis had something to hold over your dad's head that would be an embarrassment, if it ever got out. To a one of them, in separate debriefings, mind you, did they ever waver in their story! Most said they weren't aware of the others, until the day after you were kidnapped, when they began to talk amongst themselves and it was then they found out how many people were actually involved, at their level.
"Collin, I want you to think long and hard about this. The DA asked me to come here and brief you, and your guardian, and answer all of your questions. He says it will be towards the middle of the summer, at the earliest, before they even begin to take these men to trial. He told me he is going to try the men, who kidnapped you, first and let those other men stew in jail, some, first," explained Collin's Uncle Andy.
Collin let that all sink in some, and as he was thinking, he enjoyed his drink and fed a few doggie treats to Chief. But, in a few minutes, Collin looked up at his mentor first, then over at his uncle and then started to talk.
"Uncle Andy, what else was there you were going to tell us, tonight? When you first came into the room with me, you said you had something disturbing to tell me, or was it us. Seeing your face, as I asked that, makes me think there it is something terrible that happened, and you are a bit reluctant to tell us," recounted the teen.
Andy took a sip of his wine, and then drank down what remained in his glass. He then held it out to Mr. Ken, indicating he would like a refill, before proceeding. Ken took the glass, from the elder statesman, and, as he exited the room, he drained his, too. A few minutes later, Mr. Ken brought two filled glasses of wine and another bottle of the same stuff. He also managed to bring a few more doggie treats and a glass of ice and another coke for Collin.
Collin sat there waiting; as the two men drank their wine. Neither of them spoke a word, so Collin knew that whatever his Uncle Andy had to tell him was not going to be pretty. He knew that he had to wait until his uncle was ready to tell them what he needed to say.
It was probably a good ten minutes later when Andy Marshall put down his glass and sat forward on his chair and looked at Collin with a very serious face.
"Collin, I've been sitting here trying to determine how best I can tell you what I need to, without going through what happened when I told you about the taxes. In a good way, what I have to tell you will give you some relief as to having to testify, but ... well the reason for it is not so pretty," a very somber Uncle Andy replied.
"Wha ... what happened, Uncle Andy? Please tell us. You don't have to worry about me overreacting, or anything, this time. I know to ask questions, now, and not leave without fully understanding, what I was told. ... Come on, Uncle Andy, tell us!" persisted Collin.
Taking another big drink of wine and then looking over at Collin, then at Mr. Ken, he began to speak. "Collin, you remember Dean ... Dean Fredrick ... one of the men who were charged with your kidnapping, and a few other charges?"
"Yeah, what about him," asked the anxious teen.
"Collin, they ... found him ... hanged in his cell," revealed the families lawyer, who then took another long drink of wine.
Collin shook with the understanding of what happened to the man who sort of befriended him, while he was their captive.
"Uncle Andy, can ... can you tell me any more of what happened?" asked the now slightly tearful boy.
"Collin ... son ... I know you sort of hoped Dean, would be treated better than the rest, since he tried to take care of you while you were their prisoner, but the initial report from the jailer was that ... that after the men of his cell block returned from lunch his cellmate found him ... sort of hanging from the bars in the window. I'm sorry to tell you this Collin, I really am," a sorrowful voice spoke to the lad.
"But ... but he was a ... a tall man. Couldn't he have stood up to save himself?" the still teary eyed teen asked.
"Collin, they are going to do an investigation because ... well, they sort of indicated the same thing. You know, Collin, jailhouse justice can be very severe, especially, when it comes to people ... who hurt children. The DA told me they think that someone strangled Dean enough for him to blackout and then hung him up, using his sheets from the window bars. He was heavy enough that if he didn't wake up, quick enough, he'd ... well he would suffocate and die," was how Uncle Andy explained what he knew about the death of one Dean Fredrick, kidnapper and child rapist.
Collin began to slowly cry and Mr. Ken went over to the boy for the second time that evening to try to console the lad over something that he took very personal. His Uncle Andy also took that moment to drain his glass of wine, and, then, quickly opened the new bottle and refilled his glass and drank half of it. He could tell how the news was affecting the boy, no matter that the man, who had helped kidnap him, was also there when his parents were murdered, and then raped him, while the lad was their prisoner.
Andy, also, knew, from talking with Mr. Ken, that Dean befriended the boy and made Collin's life, while a captive, more bearable, but Andy didn't care about any of that, neither then, or now. Right now, the only thing Andy could see was that Collin was taking the news very hard.
Mr. Ken took Collin to the restroom, just down the hall, and had the lad wash his hands and his face. The cool refreshing water helped, with the lad's reddened eyes, and it allowed the teen some time to recompose himself, before going back into the Study, to continue talking about that unsettling news.
"Uncle Andy, is there anything else I should know?" asked the now refreshed Collin.
"Well, son, because Dean is no longer with us, that is one trial you won't have to testify at. That only leaves Mark Coleman and Dennis Clarke to stand trial, since both Ross Sebastian and Henry Lewis were killed the day of the shoot out. I'm afraid, as it stands, now, you will have to testify at Mark Coleman's trial, especially since you were the only one to see him use his gun to kill your parents," replied Uncle Andy.
At hearing about his parents being killed, Collin again had more tears come to his eyes. He sat there just daydreaming about his mother, and father, as the tears began to roll down his face, again. Chief immediately felt the stress her master was experiencing, so she got up and put her feet upon the lad's lap and began to lick the tears away. Collin continued to sit there, oblivious to Chief's 'mothering', and continued to think about his parents. Then, suddenly, he realized what Chief was doing so he scratched behind her ears, like she loved, and then joined back in the reality of the time and day.
The three talked some more about Andy Marshall's revelations, and got a few more clarifications over the course of the upcoming trials. It was after 10 PM when their little meeting broke up, and the three went their separate ways for bed.
A little past two in the morning, Mr. Ken felt something, or someone, climb into his bed with him. At first, he thought it was Chief climbing onto the bed, as that was what she did when they first moved into Three Finger Cove. Then, he realized that Chief stayed with Collin, ever since the lad had come to the Cove, so he sat up to see who was there, only to find that Collin had crawled into bed with him.
"I hope you're not mad at me, Bro ... for doing this. I know you don't like me to sleep with you, but ... but I just couldn't sleep. Thinking about Dean, and how he died, and then ... then thinking about my parents, I ... I needed to be with someone right now. Ryan would ..." and Collin sniffled some and then continued saying "would normally be there with me, but ... but this time he wasn't there, when I woke up. Please Bro don't send me back upstairs, to my bed. I ... I need someone to be with me, right now!"
Mr. Ken pulled the teenager to him and hugged him tight.
"Collin ... 'little bro' ... it's okay that you're here in bed with me. ... What do you say we see if we can get back to sleep, okay?" lightly spoke his guardian as he gave the teen a quick hug.
All Collin said was "Thanks, Bro" and hugged the man back, and soon he was fast asleep.
Chief decided to make her bed at the entrance to the bedroom, so she could protect her masters.
The three of them slept soundly the rest of the night.