Uncle Andy joined Mr. Ken and Collin at breakfast and the conversation was light and jovial at times. They had a wonderful Mexican breakfast, fixed by Momma Maria who teased Andy as to how lucky he was that she was working that day. They all had a good laugh at that and then teased Mr. Ken about his cooking skills, and that no one ever wanted to eat what he cooked. The odd thing about Mr. Ken's cooking was that he was a very good cook, and had a number of recipes he loved to cook, and did, prior to hiring Momma Maria to cook for the Cove.
The three men went back to their respective bedrooms to get ready for the day. They all met at the Study when they were ready to take on the day. They further discussed Collin's feeling about the 'lesser' indicted men involved with the scheme to take over Wilkinson Enterprises, and how he would like the DA to proceed. After some further questions, and answers, Collin agreed with the DA's assessment to only charge them with conspiracy, et al. Before long, Uncle Andy announced it was time for him to head home, so they all said their goodbyes and Andrew Marshall departed Three Finger Cove.
Observed from the front door, as Andy Marshall was leaving the Cove, Mr. Ken and Collin saw Danny and Todd walking onto the Cove property. They decided to get their coats and go talk to the two teens.
"Hi Danny, hi Todd," yelled Collin, as he approached the two lads digging into a pile of dirt and shoveling it into a wheeled wagon, hooked up to a Kawasaki Mule utility vehicle.
"Hey there, Col," replied Danny.
"Hey, Collin," said Todd.
By then, Mr. Ken and Chief arrived and they all shook hands and greeted one another.
"I see Danny ... you've got yourself a helper," stated Mr. Ken.
"Yep, Todd has been a big help with the project, Mr. Ken. Without him, I'd only be half way through," replied Daniel.
"Danny, what is it that Bro has you doing? I'd seen the piles of dirt and then they were gone and then back again. It never dawned on me to ask him what it was all about," inquired Collin.
"Dang, Col, I'd think that with you living here, and all, you'd know what was happening around here," teased Danny.
"Yeah, you'd think some people would tell other people what was happening around here, too," teased Collin, as he lightly nudged his Big Bro on the shoulder.
"Well, Collin," began Mr. Ken, "after the Holiday Parties, the Police Explorers told me that there were lots of ruts and hidden holes in the ground and they had to be careful where they parked people's cars. Underneath, this entire area is where they dug out and laid the lines for part of my heating and cooling system. It uses the constant temperature of the ground. It's called "Being Green ". Anyway, the ground has settled, in some places, so I hired Danny here to survey the grounds, and then fill the holes in."
"Okay, I can understand that," answered Collin.
"So, Todd," asked Mr. Ken, "have you been helping the entire time? What, you're only thirteen, or so, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir, but I'll be fourteen, soon," quickly replied the youngster who then bowed his head as if he was in trouble. "I'm not in any trouble for helping Danny, am I?"
"No, I don't see why," stated Mr. Ken. "Danny, has Todd pulled his share of the load? Did he come with you, all the time, and was what he did helpful or was his presence, more of a spectator?"
"Well, Mr. Ken, at first, Todd came over to see what I was doing, and all. The second time he came over, I told him I was being paid to do a job, and could not stop and talk so much, and that if he wanted to be here, he had to help. I told him I'd pay him out of my earnings, if he helped me, and helped me good, and not just messed around," answered Danny.
"And, how did it go?" asked Mr. Ken. "Did his help add to the progress, or was he a detriment to the job at hand?"
"Mr. Ken, he really helped a lot. He got just as dirty as I did. He loaded the dirt and he spread it into the low spots. He even drove the Mule at times. I'd say he was an asset to the job, and if it weren't for him, we wouldn't be almost finished. With the two of us working, I'd say it only took me half the time it would have," responded the now sixteen years old."
"That's good to hear, real good to hear, Danny. You used your own initiative, and money, to get the job done that you could easily have worked on, well into the early summer. Now, when you're finished, you'll have to find another job for the summer. You don't mind losing out like that?" inquired Mr. Ken. Then, looking at the younger lad he asked, "How much was he paying you, Todd? Did he ever say?"
"He told me he'd give me thirty percent of whatever he made, but I didn't care about the money, Mr. Ken. I like being around Danny. He's been like a big brother to me, ever since we met at the swim parties. It's been fun hanging with him, at times, and he's helped me with my schoolwork, and even my mom has been happy that I have an older role model," answered Todd.
"I'm very happy to hear that, Todd, and I'm also happy that Danny here has taken you under his wing, and was also willing to share his pay with you. I'm also glad I found this out. Danny, I want you to tell me how many hours Todd has worked with you. I mean actual hours, not counting those he was just here as a friend. You got that, Danny?" expressed Mr. Ken.
"Yes, sir, I can do that. It will be ... well, I'll get it to you when we're finished here. That was what we agreed on. I wanted one big paycheck like we got for helping at the parties. ... Ah, Mr. Ken ... ah, can I ask why you want that information? I'm not in any trouble for letting Todd here help me, am I?" a now concerned teenager asked.
"Oh, no, Danny, I just want to offer Todd a fair wage for working with you. It isn't fair for you to pay the hired help, that's my job," responded the man. "Todd, I am going to pay you two dollars less an hour than I am paying Daniel, here. Is that ok with you, young man?"
"You're going to pay me, for, for helping when I ... I never asked to be paid, Mr. Ken? The money would be nice, but I didn't ... you don't have to do that," a confused Todd replied.
"Yes, Todd, it isn't fair to you to do the same work as Danny, but only get paid three dollars an hour. I'm going to pay you eight dollars an hour, which is less than Danny here, but he is the supervisor, and they get paid more than their underlings. Will that be acceptable, young Todd?" asked Mr. Ken.
"You will ... you are ... I am ..." stuttered Todd. "Boy thanks, Mr. Ken. You don't know how much that money will come in handy, for this summer, and stuff. My mom will also be happy that I got paid for all the time I spent here, too."
Tears were streaming down Todd's face, but they were happy tears and with that he went to the man and gave him a great big hug.
"Mr. Ken," started Danny.
"Maybe I should have said something before this, but ... it really didn't ... well at the time it seemed okay, and Todd and I were busy, so I didn't pay much attention to it then," began Danny.
"Okay, Danny, what is it that has you perplexed that you are saying something today?" a curious Mr. Ken asked.
"Well, when you and Collin were gone, during spring break, Todd and I were working every day when ... when these men came to the dock and asked us some questions. You know, stuff about the house and who lives here and all. They looked like fishermen who were new to the lake and were just curious," began Danny.
Todd then began and added, "but yesterday, we saw those same men, but ... well they were all dressed up. You know in suits and stuff. They cruised close in to the side bank and dock and they were taking pictures. I don't think they noticed us as we were taking a break, and were behind the Mule. We could see them, but I don't think they could see us."
"Yeah, that is what is so strange about it, Mr. Ken. We've seen the same boat, many times, now, ever since spring break, but this was the first time since then, they got this close. But them wearing suits is what made us take a second look. It was then we saw they had not just a regular camera but they had a zoom lens, and everything, like Ryan has. ... Mr. Ken, I think they are up to something. We didn't say anything to you yesterday, as we knew you had a lot of people over and then Collin's Uncle Andy came by, so we decided we'd tell you today. I hope you're not mad at us, Mr. Ken?" a hesitant teen explained.
"No, Danny, I am not. I am glad you did say something, though. Are the men out there again today? Have you seen them?" the now anxious man asked.
Todd spoke up saying, "You see that boat out about the middle of the lake? That's them. They're dressed again in fishing outfits, but I recognize the boat because the name of the boat is sort of stupid if you ask me. They call it the Kay-Tee eSs like it is someone's initials, you know, a 'K', a 'T', and an 'S'. Plus, look at those colors, green and purple, yuk!" finished up Todd, with his finger in his mouth.
"Thanks, guys," began Mr. Ken, "go ahead and continue with what you're doing. Eric will be very happy that you're almost finished. He asked if his soccer team could use the open field to practice, but I had to say no, knowing how bad it was with all those holes."
Looking at Collin he said, "Collin, let's go back in and check the video and see if we can get some good pictures of the men and the boat registration."
As the two began walking around to the front of the house, they heard a car horn, as a car came rushing through the Cove's main gate. There, behind the wheel sat Ryan driving, with his mom sitting in the right passenger seat. The car came to a quick halt, not, too, far from them, and Ryan turned off the engine and quickly got out of the vehicle and ran to his best friend.
"Collin ...," started Ryan, "I am so very sorry for what I did to you last night. I was very immature and wrong to do that but ... I needed to get away, so I could think about what I did, and all. I hope ... no ... no, I am asking for you to PLEASE forgive me for being such an ass to you. Mom and I had a long heart-to-heart talk, last night, and she made me see ... well she explained things to me and she made me realize how much you mean to me as a friend.
"Our little talk made me realize that I could never live with myself, if we ever stopped being best friends. So, Col, do you think you have it in that great big heart of yours to take me back, as your friend? And, if you do, then maybe ... well maybe I can earn the distinction of being your best friend, again. ... What do you say, Col? Please say yes, please!"
By that time Mary had walked up next to Mr. Ken and the two watched the two teenagers, as one talked and the other listened. They could see Collin was taking his time forming an answer, and the longer he took, the antsier Ryan became.
After about three long tense minutes, Collin finally said, "Yeah, I forgive you, you dumb shit! And don't ever let that happen between us, again!"
Ryan jumped into Collin's arms and he had tears in his eyes. He was afraid that his once best friend wouldn't want him back, ever again, for what he done to him the previous evening.
After letting the teens hug and high-five and hug each other again, for a minute or two, Ken Thomas asked, "Ryan, sorry to interrupt your joyous reunion, and all, but, by chance, do you have your camera equipment with you?"
"Yeah, Bro, I always have it with me ... well most times. Why?" replied Ryan.
"I want you to take some pictures for me, but not make it look like you are taking them of a certain boat out on the lake," answered Mr. Ken.
"Why, Bro?" asked Ryan.
"There's a long story that I'll fill you and your mom in on it, once you get pictures of that boat and the faces of the men in it and the registration number. This is very important, Ryan. Just as important as the pictures you took that night of the men who kidnapped Collin, here. Can you do what I am asking, Ryan?" asked the man in all seriousness.
"Dang, Bro you're scaring me and mom. Yeah, I can do that. I see Danny and Todd over there playing in the dirt, so I'll make it look like I'm getting their pictures, but in reality I'll be getting what you want. Col, you want to stay out here with me?" responded Ryan.
Ken and Mary continued to the front of the house, and went inside, while the two boys went over to Danny and Todd and talked to them, while Ryan took some pictures. About a half-hour later, the two teens came into the house and immediately went to the Study, to join up with Mr. Ken and 'mom'.
"Here are your pictures, Bro. You want me to download them into your computer?" asked Ryan.
Ten minutes later, Mr. Ken opened the pictures and saw he had gotten what he asked for. Ryan had honed his photo taking skills over the years, and there were a slew of very clear pictures of each of the three men from the boat, and an equal number of pictures of the boat's name and registration. After seeing all the pictures, and not being able to ascertain who those men were, or what they were doing, Mr. Ken became more and more concerned. The mystery was far from being solved, and he knew what he had to do, next, so he called Bill Jackson.
"Bill, how is your Sunday?" the three other people heard Mr. Ken say. ... "I think we may have another problem."
For ten minutes, Ken Thomas explained to Bill Jackson, his lawyer, what he thought might be happening, and then he ended their conversation by saying he'd call them.
"Bro, I heard what you told Mr. Jackson, and all, but do you really think they might be out to maybe ... kidnap Collin, again?" asked a very serious Ryan.
"Ryan ... Collin, I really don't know, but what else could it be? Why else would some guys stop by and ask personal questions, and then hang around day after day watching our every move. I am sorry, Collin, but I sure hope I am wrong, here, but I am going to have to do what I think is necessary to protect you. I need to call some people I know who can do some checking around and get some answers for me. I am also going to have them watch over you, little brother, from now on. Well, at least until we know what is going on," explained the owner of the Cove.
Collin sat there stunned. He didn't know what to make of the circumstances that just presented themselves.
"Ken," asked Mary, "will it still be safe for Collin to stay here? I mean, he can stay with Ryan and me, and maybe get him away from those men."
"I would really like to do that, Mary," answered Ken, "but, if they have been watching from the lake, they are probably watching where he goes, and with whom, and when. I bet they know about your house, and I think it would be better if he stayed here. At least here, we have all those hiding spots and bug-out places we can use, if necessary. Ryan knows what I am talking about, and Collin knows some of them, already, too. Also, once I make this phone call, there will be men guarding The Cove 24/7, until we know exactly what is what."
An hour later, four men arrived at the Cove, and Mr. Ken invited them into his Study. He introduced them to Collin and Ryan and Mary, so the men knew who they were. Then, Ken Thomas explained what was happening and what he wanted done. The guy, who acted as the man-in-charge, had written down all the information and took control of the best pictures Ryan had taken. The man then ordered the other three to begin making a full assessment of the grounds, and to begin a guarding action at the main gate, the dock area and the far open field. Then the men all departed.
"Mr. Ken," began Collin, "I sure hope this isn't going to be anything like what happened before. I don't like these men watching the house and us and ... me!"
"Collin, we have to check these men out, first, before we can make any decisions about who they are and what they want. It could be they are just inexperienced fishermen, but, in the meantime, I'm not going to take any chances. Collin ... I know you aren't going to like what I am going to say, right now, but it is for your own protection and, as your guardian, I have to do this," said Collin's mentor.
"What is that, Bro?" spoke up Ryan.
"Collin, beginning tomorrow, and until we know these men's intentions, I am going have someone escort you to and from school, and anywhere else you may go," said Mr. Ken matter-of-factly. "I want someone protecting you when you are outside this house. At school and the Mall and wherever else you go. We can't take the chance that someone, like Frank Hale, is not out trying to finish what Dennis Clarke couldn't do."
"NO!" yelled Collin. "You can't do that to me, Mr. Ken. I don't want to be a captive to people's paranoia. I like having a life here at Three Finger Cove, and I don't want these men ruining it!"
After getting it all out, Collin sat down in one of the leather chairs and tears were forming in his eyes. "Why does everything always happen to me?" the teen lamented and the tears fell ever faster.
Ryan went to his best friend and tried to console him, the best he could. Mary could only watch the two best friends deal with something else to befall them.