Friday night was very hectic at Three Finger Cove. All six candidates, Mr. Thomas supported, were in attendance for one last update, on their campaign issues, before they tackled the weekend radio talk shows and newspapers interviews. All six candidates were enthusiastic about their chances of winning, in the upcoming Elections. They all knew a slight misstep now could easily derail their long-shot chance at winning, and thus, they needed to be briefed on the latest polling data and recent miscues made by their opponents. They all knew they needed to be better informed about the issues that got them this far, so they eagerly arrived on time and got down to business.
Collin and Ryan and their friends also attended the briefings, as they were the 'foot-soldiers' during this entire election cycle, and their inclusion made them feel more a part of the team. All the high school students, in attendance, had block walked, delivering handbills for their candidates and addressed thousands of campaign literature brochures to the local constituents. The students were a big part of the success of the campaign, so far, and all the candidates appreciated their hard work and support.
"I want to personally thank each and every one of you high school students for taking so much of your personal time to help all of us in this MOST important election. I know that it was, in part, by your hard work, in delivering the pamphlets and addressing the mailings, that got us the name recognition going into this Election Day fight," stated Kevin Yeager – a School Board candidate.
Then Marion Griffiths – a Hospital Board candidate – got up and said "I want to second Mr. Yeager's remarks. All of you kids deserve a medal for sticking it out with us, during this long and tiring process. Many of the people I've met on the campaign trail have said that my teams of young workers are the hardest working they had ever seen and that it made them take more notice in this election than ever before. ... Kids ... it IS YOU who have made this election something worthwhile for everyone!
"Seeing you out there helping with the campaigns have made the people realize that if you young men and women were this dedicated to seeing a change, in the School Board and Hospital Board, then it was worthwhile for them to vote for that change. We owe every one of you a debt of gratitude for all that you have done for us. Win or lose, you all are Winners. I hope that you will continue staying involved, in the years to come."
With that last speech, everyone applauded and the meeting broke up.
"Collin," spoke up Mr. Ken, "are you and the gang going to The Mall, or are you guys going to hang around here for a while?"
"I think were all going to go to The Mall, Bro. That's where most of our other friends are, and we'd rather be there than here with a bunch of old folks," teased the sixteen year old.
"Old, am I?" teased back Mr. Ken, "Remember, I'm not too many years older than you and Ryan, there, so give me some slack. Are you going to drive? Remember, you can't have anyone in the vehicle with you, yet."
"Dang, I forgot about that. This is so not fair! I have a driver's license but I can't take anyone with me. I may as well not have the darn thing," lamented Collin.
"Trust me, Collin, when you need to get something, you really need, and you won't need to ask me or your 'mom' for a ride. Sure, for right now, you can't take anyone, but by the start of school, I think you'll have met the requirements and should be able to, then," replied Mr. Ken. "Do I need to drive you over there and will I need to pick you up?"
The two boys looked at one another, but never said a word to each other, before Ryan said, "If you take us over there, I'll get mom to bring us back. How does that sound, Bro?"
"That's okay with me; I just hope Mary will go along with that," answered their Big Bro with a smile.
"Yeah, I think she'll be okay with that. You've taken me everywhere numerous times, so I'll use a 'guilt trip' on her," laughed Ryan.
After everyone left, the Cove became a very quiet place. Ken Thomas sat at his desk in his Study and began thinking back to that fateful October day when a naked and bleeding youngish looking boy arrived at his footstep. He sat there thinking back through all that had transpired, in the past eight months, and how Collin's arrival had changed, not only Three Finger Cove, but him, as well.
Ken didn't know how long he had sat reminiscing when his phone rang.
_"I'll bet it is the boy needs a ride back," _Ken thought to himself. Picking up the phone he answered it by saying, "So, your mom didn't go for that guilt trip did she?" Then Mr. Ken laughed.
"Ah, Mr. Thomas, this is Jules Diamond. I have some information about those men who were watching your house," Ken heard the man say.
"Oh, I'm sorry Jules, I thought the boys were calling for me to give them a ride," replied Mr. Ken.
"Yeah, I can relate to that, Mr. Thomas. I have two teenagers, a girl and a boy, who, it seems, always need a ride somewhere, or other. But, I do have some more info about those men. Would you like me to come over there and brief you or would over the phone be okay?" asked Mr. Diamond.
"Do you have a name for me?" asked the now very interested Three Finger Cove owner.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Thomas, I do not. I only have what appears to be an interesting development that, I do believe, one day soon will lead us to the person or persons who had you, and probably the boy, watched," answered Jules.
"Okay, there is no need to come here for that. Why don't you email what you have to me, and if I have any questions, I'll email them back to you. How does that sound?" replied Mr. Ken.
"Yes, that will work out fine. I have to write up the report, anyway, so when I am finished, I'll just copy and paste it into an email and get it to you. You should have it late tonight or first thing in the morning. This has been an interesting assignment, if I do say so, Mr. Thomas. Even though the men we are following are from all over, the common thread is leading us to Phoenix. I'll let you go and I'll get this report out as quickly as I can," explained Mr. Diamond.
"That sounds good, Jules. Thank you for all your hard work and that of your men. I look forward to reading what you have to say." With that last comment, Mr. Ken hung up the phone and as soon as he did, it rang once again.
"Did you forget something?" asked Mr. Ken as he answered the phone call.
"Bro?" he heard from the other end.
"Oh, hi Ryan, I just got off the phone, with someone else, and I thought he was calling back with some more information he was getting for me. What can I do for you, young man?" finished Mr. Ken.
"Oh, ah mom wants to know if it is okay for Collin to spend the night. She said to tell you her other 'son' doesn't spend enough time with her, and she wants to enjoy him before he leaves for college. The thing is ... she didn't say anything about me ever leaving for college. Hmm ... I wonder if she is trying to tell me something, Bro?" replied Ryan, before laughing at what he just said.
Mr. Ken was also laughing as he told Ryan it was okay for Collin to sleep over. The two said their good nights and then Collin got on the phone and said his, too, and then asked if Chief was there so he could do the same for her. A loud "Woof" was heard as Chief heard her master's voice.
"I guess it is just us, tonight, girl," said Mr. Ken.
"Woof, woof" replied Chief, as she walked up to Mr. Ken waiting for some ear scratches that everyone knew she loved so well.
That night, Chief spent half of it sleeping in her master's bedroom, and then came downstairs to spend the remainder with the man who was really her first master.
Saturday morning, when Mr. Thomas picked up his morning paper, he couldn't help but read the headline:
TUESDAY - LAST DAY FOR EARLY VOTING
Challengers in a close race
Ken Thomas had to laugh at that, as he knew that of his 6 candidates, the lowest poll percentage had them with a 63% lead in the most recent polls. He figured the newspaper was trying to sell papers and also give their candidates one last push to get the electorate out to vote.
Mr. Ken also read with interest, in the Business Section, that a major amusement park conglomerate was still having financial troubles. At first, he made a mental note to make some calls Monday morning to see how he might be able to buy into the company, and gain a foothold, and possibly owning it all, one day. He continued to read the rest of the paper, but by the time he got to the Sports Section, he had second thoughts about the amusement company. So, to make sure he didn't miss a golden opportunity, he made a large written note, he couldn't miss, come Monday morning. Then the phone rang.
"Hello," he answered. ... "Yes, that sounds good to me. What time should I meet you?" ... "Okay, give me an hour and we'll meet in front of the IHOP, for breakfast. I bet those two hollow legs can't wait to get there." ... "Oh, they did, did they? I'm going to have to teach them how to cook, so when they are off to college, they won't starve." ... "Okay tell them. I'll see you all in about an hour."
Later, at the IHOP, "So, I hear you guys don't like my cooking. You two really haven't eaten much of anything I've cooked," Mr. Ken started the conversation.
"Well, I have," said Ryan.
"What did I ever cook for you, Ryan?" asked Mr. Ken.
"You remember, when I first started spending the night, you'd cook breakfast," replied Ryan.
"I didn't cook that stuff. It was what you picked out at the H.E.B. grocery store and all I did was heat it. I warned you about buying that junk. It looks good on the TV commercials and the store package, but once you reheat that stuff, it can be too salty or just plain awful," responded Mr. Ken.
"I was sure you made that stuff," continued Ryan.
"Ryan, if I made breakfast I'd have made something simple that I'd have eaten when I was in college. Which reminds me, one of these days, I'm going to start showing you two what you can buy on the cheap, so you can feed yourselves when you are off at college," answered Mr. Ken.
"Mr. Ken, Bro ... ah ... why'd you eat so cheap if you had all that money?" asked Collin.
"Ah, the thing is ... well, I thought the money in my account was put there by mistake," explained Collin's guardian. "When the bank manager told me the money was indeed mine, I was so used to eating on the cheap, that I just naturally did that. I also did it so the others wouldn't start hitting me up for cash. Up until then, I was known as the 'cheap one' because I rarely had any money, so I kept up that appearance.
"Another thing was ... I still wasn't convinced all that money was really mine. Then, one day, I saw Three Finger Cove, in the Texas Monthly magazine. Well, it wasn't called Three Finger Cove, then, but when I saw this piece of property for sale, I bought it. I figured, once I spent a huge amount of money, the bank would figure out there was a mistake, and I'd be back to where I was."
"Cool," responded Ryan. "I don't remember you telling me that part of the story."
"Ryan, there is a lot I haven't told you, but then, I had to keep some things secret. At least you met some of my secrets at the Christmas party." Then looking at the teens, he laughed out loud.
"What did I miss, there?" asked Mary.
"Mom, you remember. Those two ladies were kinda fighting over our Big Bro, here. He sure was a ladies man, if those two were any indication of his prowess. I do think he had a lady spend the night after the New Year's Eve party. Didn't she, Bro?" teased Ryan.
"You guys know very well I had company that evening, since she was there when we all discussed the new shopping plaza for Four Corners," challenged Mr. Ken.
"Oh, okay, now I remember, Ken. Those two ladies, as Ryan puts them were, how should I say this ..."
But before Mary could finish her thought, Mr. Ken said, "Money grabbers of the highest kind!"
The four of them laughed, as that night came flooding back into everyone's memory, about how those two, Janice and Mary Ann, fought over who Ken was.
"Hey, Bro," began Ryan, "speaking of Four Corners, has anything been started or planned, out there, yet. I sure hope you can get that all finished before I graduate!"
"Well, Ryan, my team is working with the county on planning the road system, right now, and how they want it done. In the meantime, my architect group is working on the building plans, based on the preliminary road plans. The shopping plaza will have about 18 small stores and I am looking for an anchor store. I'd love to have one of those H.E.B. PLUS grocery stores, but I don't think that is going to happen," explained Mr. Ken.
"Why not, Mr. Ken?" asked Collin.
"Well, for one thing, there aren't enough people that live along that roadway, yet. They want a certain percentage of population living within reach of its store boundaries, before they will even consider talking about building," was how Mr. Ken responded to the question.
"But, but, I thought you also planned to build apartments overlooking the road and shopping plaza and amusement stuff?" Collin continued to ask.
"But, they aren't even started, Collin. The H.E.B. property manager told us he'd consider building there, after all the infrastructure is there and the apartments are built and 95% occupied. Since they aren't in a hurry to build, I am hoping to have a different grocery store that will fit the bill, or maybe a health foods store of some kind. I have lots of time for that one, since I am saving a large open space for it," explained their Big Bro.
"Bro ... are you the one paying for all of that? You know the roads and stuff! I heard some the kids at school saying they heard the county didn't have the money to fund that for now," stated Ryan.
Mr. Ken thought for a moment on how he wanted to answer that question. He usually was up front with the boys, but he wasn't sure how much he wanted them to actually know about how those roads and drainage and other infrastructure was being paid for. Then he figured out what he would do, and then began talking.
"Boys ... Mary ... what I am going to tell you ... well, I am going to ask you not to spread it around. It isn't as if it is a secret, but ... well, we just don't want a lot of publicity right now, especially with the election this week.
"The bottom line is that my construction manager, with my approval, talked to the County Roads Supervisor and offered to build the roads and drainage to their specifications, and pay for all the roadway and related infrastructure in exchange for my property taxes being used to offset the cost. The County Commissioners, in Executive Session, agreed to the proposal, and that is how the project is being funded."
"But that sounds so unfair to you, Bro," stated Ryan.
"Maybe, on the surface, it does, Ryan," began Mr. Ken, "but if I want the Four Corners Shopping Center to move forward, I needed to do something. I may be paying for the road, upfront, but look at it from my standpoint. I won't have to pay any property taxes, on the shopping center or Three Finger Cove, for something like ten or more years."
The teenagers just looked at each other, then smiled real big and then bumped fists.
The four of them continued to eat breakfast and enjoy each other's company. Once they were finished, they all headed over to the Cove for some of Momma Maria's special deserts she always had on hand. Today was her day off, so they could eat them without feeling bad about it.
As soon as Collin entered the Foyer of the Cove, Chief jumped up on him as if she hadn't seen him for ages. She did remember him being gone for a whole week, back during spring break and she missed him whenever he was gone over night.
"Howdy, Chief, did you miss me?" asked Collin.
Chief licked the lad's face four or five times before Collin added, "I sure missed you, too, girl. Let's go see if I can find you a special treat for being such a good girl while I was gone. Did Bro even feed you, yet?" Collin smiled as he looked up at his mentor with a questioning look.
"Yes, I did indeed feed her, if you need to know. She's just playing to your guilt for not coming home last night," replied Mr. Ken.
While Collin and Ryan went looking for Chief's special treats, Mary and Ken went into his normal hangout, the Study. Once there, they settled into those plush leather chairs and waited for the boys and constant companion to return.
"Mary, if I may be so bold as to ask a personal question," inquired Ken.
"Sure, as long as it doesn't have to do with my date after the New Year's Eve party," Mary said in reply, and then laughed.
"No, nothing that indiscrete," laughed Ken, as he responded, "I just was curious if there had been any more movement on your suit against the police department and school board."
"Well, to tell you the honest to goodness truth, nothing really. David said he was still putting pressure on the police department, as they are a separate entity and could settle, if they had a mind to, and knew what was good for them. He told me not to lose any sleep over the School Board suit, as he reminded me they said they would address the issue once the election was over. I sure hope this is over long before Ryan goes off to college. All this waiting makes it worse in a way, not ever knowing if anything will come of what they did to my boy," lamented Mary.
Just then the boys returned with cups of coffee and cokes for them and some sweet cakes Momma Maria had left for them.
"Momma Maria left us a note, Bro. It says 'Eat up – I love it when you enjoy the special things I make for you and your friends,'" read Collin. "I know I sure love her cooking." Then he laughed as the others joined in.
"Don't we all!" muffled out Ryan with his mouth full.
The four sat around and just talked about the election and what it might mean. They also talked about all of them attending the Coast Guard Boating Class, two Saturday's from then so they'd all be ready to enjoy the boys Wave Runner birthday presents when the time came. It was then that Mr. Ken remembered he needed to check his email.
"What's all the rush, Bro?" asked Collin.
"Mr. Diamond said he was going to send me some interesting information, as he put it, on those men who were watching the Cove. I forgot all about it when your 'mom' called and asked me out to breakfast. Now, let me get into my account and read what he had to say," explained the lad's mentor and guardian.
Collin, Ryan, and Mary all sat back and watched as Ken turned on his computer and accessed his email. They saw him open an email and read silently to himself.
"Well?" asked an anxious Collin.
"Okay, the gist of the report is that all the men they have under surveillance have called someone down in the Phoenix area. He goes on to say that the phone number was different for each and every one of them, but now they have a place they can focus on. He says they are still monitoring the men's emails, but so far, nothing, but the phones have been used." With that, Mr. Ken closed his email account and joined the other three on the soft leather chairs.
"But how can they do that, you know, monitor their phones and email?" asked Collin in all seriousness.
"Little brother, all I can say is that these guys are professionals in what they do. They have the means and ways we really don't want to know about. They probably pay other people for the info, or they may even tap the phones and net links themselves. Lots of people use cell phones and Wi-Fi and they all can be intercepted and analyzed. The investigative firm I've hired are big enough to have specialized electronics men at their disposal. Now that they have a point of reference, I bet it won't be too long before I have an answer," explained Collin's 'Big Bro'.
"But isn't this costing you a bundle of money?" asked Collin.
"Not to worry, my little brother, it is only money ... as long as it keeps us all safe, well then, it is all worth it in the long run," came back Mr. Ken.
"Bro, one other thing, now that we are talking about money, Ryan tells me his car insurance will be something like $745.00 every six months, when he gets his license. Now that I have my drivers license, who is paying for that? And, now that I have my own money, don't you think I should be paying my share of the costs of things. I really appreciate what you've done for me, Bro, like the cruise and trips and all, but ... well, I feel I should help pay my way, now," said the hopeful but somewhat embarrassed wealthy teenager.
"Collin, I don't want you to think about such things, right now. This is the time of your life that you are supposed to enjoy doing things and learning about life. You will have all the time in the world to be paying for your things as you go on to college and then, one day, start a family." answered Mr. Ken.
Collin sat there for a few moments thinking about what his mentor just said, but, in the end, his conscious said he needed to help out. He listened to the others talk and then he decided to make a call, but he didn't want them to know what he was up to, so he excused himself saying he was going to the 'little boy's room'. Once he was away from the Study, he pulled out his cell phone and then selected a speed dial number.