"Hello ... Uncle Andy," said Collin, when the man answered his private line.
"Collin, my boy, it is so good to hear your voice. What brings you to call me? There isn't anything wrong down there, is there?" asked a now concerned Andrew Marshall.
"Oh, no, Uncle Andy, I ... I just called to ask you a few questions, if I can?" spoke Collin.
"Collin, I'd do anything for you, and you know it. So, tell me, son, what is it that has you calling me on a Saturday?" asked Uncle Andy.
"Well, Uncle Andy, we ah ... were talking about the men who are investigating and ... well, what I mean is we were talking about how expensive it is for Mr. Ken, you know, to be paying all that money to find out who those men were who were watching me and the Cove. Uncle Andy, did you know that Mr. Ken is paying for all this? Then, I learned he is also paying for my car insurance. Well ... I just don't think that it's right for him to do that. I told him I have money, now, and that I should be paying my share of things now," explained Collin.
"Collin, is Mr. Ken wanting you to start paying for those things?" asked a slightly miffed Andrew Marshall thinking the worse about Ken Thomas.
"No, nothing like that, Uncle Andy, it's just ... well, that when I mentioned it to him he said something like, 'I shouldn't worry about such things and that I have the rest of my life to begin worrying about money and stuff like that'. I just think ... well, it isn't fair for him to be spending his money, on me, especially, as what he is doing is protecting me. Uncle Andy ... don't you think that ... well that Wilkinson Enterprises should be at least paying for some, if not all, of that?" seriously asked the teenager.
"Collin, yes, I have to agree, that if what Mr. Ken is doing is protecting you, then that is something Wilkinson should be paying for, or, at least, help paying its share. Collin, my boy, I want you to remember ... Mr. Ken is doing this because ... well, you know, he cares a whole lot about you and ... well you also know he 'loves' you, don't you? Anyway, he is treating you like you are his 'little brother' and by him protecting you, he is also protecting Three Finger Cove, and all the other people he cares, very deeply, for. My boy ... this may be a hard sell, but I'll call him later and see what he says. How does that sound to you?" finished Uncle Andy.
"Okay, I guess, if that's all you can do. ... Oh, if he balks, remind him that he allowed Wilkinson to pay for the damage to Three Finger Cove after the attack. That should make it easier, I hope. I really do appreciate what he has done for me, Uncle Andy. He has given me a life and have you noticed how much I've grown, since I came to live here? He also gave me friends and I now have a future and I need to do something to pay him back. I hope I never have to leave here ... well, that is, until I go off to college, but, even then, I know I can come home here to the Cove," expressed Collin to his uncle.
"I know what you mean, Collin. Mr. Ken has given you what you sorely missed but need I remind you ... your grandmother is still out there ... somewhere. Collin, please keep in mind, that if she ever decides to appear, you may have to leave Three Finger Cove, and Mr. Ken and Chief, and go live with her," said Uncle Andy, sort of putting a damper on Collin's need to remain at the Cove.
"I hope she never appears, Uncle Andy. I hardly know her and if I have to leave here, I ... I, I may use my own money to fight her," said Collin in a much louder voice than he wanted.
"Collin, don't say or do anything rash, my boy. Let's agree to sit down and discuss this when and IF she does appear one day, OK? You need to remember your parents thought enough of her that they both said, in their Last Wills; they wanted her to finish raising you. The courts ... well, enough of that, for now. I'll call Ken later and talk to him. In the meantime, you enjoy being sixteen, and I hope all your candidates win. Take care my boy, and please call me any time even if it's just to say hello," finished up Collin's uncle.
"Okay, Uncle Andy, I'll enjoy being a kid ,still. Love you! Bye!" said Collin.
"Love you, too, Collin, Bye!" said Uncle Andy and that ended their conversation.
Collin closed his cell phone and returned back to the Study. As he entered, the room went quiet and he saw they were all looking at him.
"Did everything come out okay?" teased Ryan.
Collin laughed and then lightly smacked Ryan across his head and then sat down into one of the marvelous leather chairs.
No one said a thing as Collin got settled in his chair. They all continued to look at him. Even Chief didn't come over to him as she normally would have. Then it dawned on Collin that they were all looking at him, and they knew he didn't need to use the restroom.
"What? What did I do? ... Oh, ... okay, so, I was talking to Uncle Andy. Can't a kid talk to his favorite uncle, if he wants to? ... You'd think I did something wrong," quickly said the teenager, as if he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"Nothing, sweetie," began Mary, "we heard you out there in the hallway saying something very loud and we were wondering if there was something wrong?"
"Naw, not really, it's just that ... well Uncle Andy mentioned my grandmother and I ... well ... I didn't want to hear that, right now," responded Collin.
The room got very quiet for a few moments with everyone thinking their own thoughts about what that would mean if Grandmother Wilkinson did appear one day, to take Collin away from the Cove and them.
The next day, Collin, Ryan and Mr. Ken decided to visit Rodney at his rehabilitation home. They had all been so busy, with the election and school and other things, they just didn't have the time to visit him; so, they all agreed today would be the day.
"Hello, Rodney" spoke up Collin, as he and Ryan entered Rodney's room.
"Hi, Collin, hi, Ryan" replied the recovering injured teenager.
The three teens talked about the recent events going on at school and the election and then the boys asked Rodney about how his rehabilitation was going.
"Well, to be honest with you ... I wish it were someone else having to do this," laughed Rodney.
"Anyway, they tell me my arms and leg are now healed, but because I am trying to walk again, they aren't fully strong enough to hold me up. That's where most of my pain comes from, right now. The arms and leg are just plain sore where the breaks were. As for my eye, it is a bit blurry, still, and ... I am afraid I'll have to have more surgery very soon," explained the injured teenager.
"Rod, are you getting ... you know ... getting to do any school work?" asked Collin.
"Yeah, I've been able to get some stuff done but between my eyes not working right and the pain I've been in, I really haven't been too interested in doing it. I talked to my mom and she says I could probably pass my GED right now. She says that is good enough to at least get into the community college."
Collin and Ryan both noticed how hard Rodney had to work to keep the tears from forming when he said what he did about the GED. Then, the teen had to wipe his eyes and he blamed it on his bad eye.
Just then, Mr. Ken walked into the room with a big smile and a hug for the teenager.
"Hello, Rodney," began the man, "I wanted to give the three of you some time together to talk about stuff only horny teenagers want to talk about."
Saying that only got him a pillow thrown his way.
The four spent almost another hour just talking about things in general and lamenting the fact they wouldn't get to meet Rodney's mom that day, as she was now working.
As they began to leave, Mr. Ken asked Rodney to have his mom contact him so they could, together, review how the Fund was doing in paying the bills, and if there were any problems he needed to work on.
The two boys, and the man, all gave Rodney a big hug before they said their Good-Byes.
Once, back at the Cove, the three went to the Study to talk about what they saw when they visited Rodney. They would have done that in the car, but Mr. Ken wanted Collin to pay attention to his driving, so they decided to wait until now.
"Bro," began Collin, "Rodney isn't doing anything about studying ... and trying to graduate from high school. He said something about his mom wanting him to get his GED ... and then going to the local community college. That isn't right, Mr. Ken!"
"Yeah, I agree with my brother," spoke up Ryan.
"I hear what you're both saying, but what can I do? I can't make him study, and I can't tell his mom how to raise her only son," responded their Big Bro.
"But, I bet you could talk to Rodney's mom and explain to her that is not what Rodney wants. He tried not to get tears, in his eyes, when he told us about the GED thing, but ... well, I could just tell he wants to graduate and have a high school diploma," argued Collin.
The room was quiet for a few minutes when Collin said, "Bro, do you think we could get a tutor for Rodney? You know like you did for me to get me ready to go back to school."
Mr. Ken could hear the hope in the teen's voice so he knew he needed to be positive about the request, so he replied by saying, "That's not a bad idea, there, 'little bro'. But ... it would have to be up the Rodney, to want to do that, and it isn't all that long before school is out. Do you think he'd go for that?"
Collin looked over at his best friend and saw he had a big smile on his face, saying he was all for it, so the teen said, "Bro, if you can get Mr. Steve, my old tutor, set up, I'll convince Rodney he could do it, and I'll bet that it would give him a goal to be able to walk across the stage and get his diploma with his classmates, even if he is on crutches. What do you think about that, Mr. Ken?"
First thing Monday morning, Ken Thomas called Steve Ashland, the tutor Collin used to get ready to go back to school, to see if he was available to do some fast and furious tutoring. After explaining what it was all about, Steve agreed to go talk to the teen and his mom and, if they agreed, he would gladly help.
The second thing Ken did that morning was make a few phone calls about that major amusement park conglomerate which was having all those money problems. He made sure to let the 'powers that be' know he was interested in buying into the company, with the possibility of buying the company outright, if need be. After he hung up after the last phone call, Mr. Ken said a silent prayer he could get a foothold into that amusement company, and then crossed his fingers that everything would work in his favor.
The rest of the week practically flew by. Early Voting was over on Tuesday, and now all the candidates could do to further their cause was to continue to appear at venues and continue to convince those who hadn't voted yet to go out on Saturday and vote for them.
Also, Rodney did appreciate the offer of the tutor and started right into a program to get him ready for his high school final tests. He really wanted to walk across that stage on graduation day.
Saturday morning had Collin acting like a small child who couldn't wait for Santa to arrive. He knew that it was Election Day, and he could not wait for the results from the voting. He begged and begged his Mentor to let him go out to the polling places and help there, but Mr. Ken told him he would only get in the way and made him promise he wouldn't stop at any.
The high school students, who worked on the School Board and Hospital Board campaigns, were just as excited as Collin was. They continued to call one another, all day long, with the excitement that only young kids have, when they are going to do something they never did before. They all kept their fingers crossed in the hopes that it would mean all of their candidates got elected.
Collin was out at The Mall when he heard Abbey call out, "Collin, wait up."
"Oh, hi Abby," replied Collin as he turned around to see the good looking girl.
"Collin, did Mr. Ken say what time we could come over tonight?Are you as excited as I am about these Elections?Is there going to be a band there tonight?Is he having the evening catered?I'm rambling on, aren't I?" asked Abbey, as she finally realized she was carrying on as she saw the smile in Collin's face.
By then, a few more people had gathered around and heard Collin's answer. "Yes, Abbey, there will be a band, tonight, just like you see on the TV. And yes, I am as excited over these elections as you are. Bro said the returns aren't likely to begin until after 8, but he said you can all start arriving any time after 7. And YES, the evening is catered, AND, yes you were rambling!"
Abbey blushed at hearing Collin admit to that fact and the others laughing, too. The group then slowly scattered.
"Bro ... is everything ready for tonight," asked Collin, when he first came into the Cove after he returned from the Mall.
"Calm down, Collin, please. You're acting like a little kid who can't wait for the ice cream man to come," replied the boy's guardian. Then smiling, the man continued "Yes, everything is ready. The band will get here about 7 o'clock and begin setting up and will begin playing light music. I have a large TV projection set ready to cast the local station's picture on the Great Room wall. The caterer will also begin setting up at about 7, and the candidates should be here around that time, as well. Now ... I need you to take a quick nap, so you are not falling asleep on me if the election results go into extra innings."
"Mr. Ken, what do you mean about 'extra innings'?" asked the teen.
"Well, Collin, sometimes there can be glitches in the counting process; or a precincts ballot box goes missing, or any one of many other reasons that the final numbers ... well the final numbers might not be known until well into the night," began to explain Mr. Ken. "That is why I want you to lie down for a few hours, to recharge. I don't want you getting a stress headache from not only being tired, but from all the stress and tension that Ballot Counting brings."
By eight o'clock, everything was in place. The band was playing and the candidates and a good majority of their supporters were all watching the huge picture being projected onto the Great Room's wall.
The first results came in at about 8:15 PM. These were the 'early-voting ballots' that were cast during the two weeks of Early Voting.
"Hold it down everybody, please," announced Mr. Thomas. "They are getting ready to release the Early Voting Results."
"Good evening everyone, I am Rene Vaughn from KBLY and I am at County Election Headquarters, where they just released the Early Voting Results. It was apparent that many people took advantage of early voting, as indicated by the large numbers of votes cast. Okay, let me give you those results, for now.
"For School Board, where three of the five positions are on the line tonight, and with just the Early Voting Results, the numbers are:
(A separate screen came up on the TV and showed the numbers as Rene read them.)
Benedict Ransberger – incumbent and School Board President3583
John Henry Ostrowski – his opponent3687
Matthew Drucker – the incumbent 3367
Julianna Lambert – his opponent3903
Tobias Jordan – the incumbent3401
Kevin Yeager – his opponent3869
"The voting looks very close for Place 1 where, Benedict Ransberger, the current School Board President, is vying to remain in that seat. He was first elected to the School Board eight years ago and became the Board President four years ago. I am sure he is not happy with the early-voting results. In the other School Board races, the opponents have started out with very nice leads, but only time will tell if they can maintain that margin and win in the end. Right now, we cannot project any of the winners and with all the Precincts yet to be counted this could still be anyone's race to win.
"Now, let's look at the Hospital District Board Election Results, where only three of the seven positions are up for grabs, tonight. Julius Eberhard, the current Hospital Board President, is up for his ninth election victory. He has been on the Hospital Board ever since its conception, sixteen years ago. He hopes he will continue to hold that seat when this election is over. Okay, here are the results for those Hospital Board seats:
(Again a separate screen showed the results as Rene read them.)
Julius Eberhard – the incumbent and Hospital Board President3755
Mary Anne Simpson – his opponent3515
Simon Bloomberg – the incumbent3499
Jason Matthews – his opponent3771
Richard Mason – the incumbent3426
Marion Griffiths – his opponent3844
"The voting looks fairly close in Julius Eberhard's try for reelection with him only holding a slim 240 vote lead, while in the other two races the opponents have a nice lead at this point in the early election results. Again, voting results are pretty close here, too, so we cannot project the eventual winners at this point. As I just said, it does appear though that two of the opponents have a pretty comfortable lead at the moment, which could spell disaster for the incumbents in those races. Julius Eberhard, the current Hospital District Board President has a slim lead at this point, so today's voting will be crucial to determine who will eventually win that seat.
"Again, I am Rene Vaughn from KBLY here at the County Election Headquarters where they just released the Early Voting Results. More from the scene as information becomes available; now, back to the news team covering all the elections."
As Rene announced the results, the people in attendance at Three Finger Cove were in an upbeat mood. Five of the six candidates were now leading in the Polls and the sixth was very close. People milled around outside, as well, as inside as they waited for the final results.
"You seem very pleased," said Mary Taylor, as she walked up to Mr. Ken Thomas.
"Yes, I am very pleased. Even if we lose that one Hospital Board seat, we will have an inside look at what is going on there. That will then be our 'Ace-in-the-Hole' next year when we go for the four seats going up for reelection," responded the man.
"Bro, bro, did you hear that?" both teenagers said simultaneously as they approached their mentor. "We're only down in one race and that one's way too close to call.
"We're so pumped right now," added Ryan.
"I've seen some scenes from the candidate's headquarters on television, but, I never knew it could be anything like this, especially since we have all six candidates in the same spot. I wonder if they'll do any of those shots from here," said Collin, as he and his best friend hurriedly walked away to get with their school friends.
"I'd say they're a bit excited, wouldn't you?" asked Mary.
"That, my lady ... is our future. They have gotten a taste of politics and my bet is that, as they get older, they will continue to be involved. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if they, too, one day, ran for something," replied Mr. Ken.
Unbeknownst to the lads, remote television vans were already outside doing their final checks, in the front drive, as the Early Voting Results were being announced. As soon as their station's reporters, at Election Headquarters, had released the Early Voting Results, all four television stations went to their remote reporters. Everyone in attendance saw the scene, on the projected TV screen, and they all now understood that soon, those reporters will be asking for comments from the candidates, and possibly anyone else associated with their campaigns.
When Mr. Thomas saw what was on the Big Screen, all he said to Mary Taylor as he walked away was, "It has now begun!"
It was past 9 PM when a couple of the first Precincts Election Results were announced by all the TV stations. The 9 PM Election Results showed:
For School Board:
Benedict Ransberger–incumbent and School Board President7679
John Henry Ostrowski his opponent7591
Matthew Drucker–the incumbent 6277
Julianna Lambert–his opponent8993
Tobias Jordan–the incumbent6055
Kevin Yeager–his opponent9215
For the Hospital District Board:
Julius Eberhard–the incumbent and Hospital Board President7710
Mary Anne Simpson–his opponent7560
Simon Bloomberg–the incumbent6213
Jason Matthews–his opponent9057
Richard Mason–the incumbent6036
Marion Griffiths–his opponent9234
After the results were posted, Three Finger Cove went into an uproar. The people saw the trend and they all concluded that four of the six races were apparently won. What they also saw was that two key races were still too close to call. The slight lead that John Henry had, had disappeared. On the other hand, Mary Ann had decreased her opponents lead but both races were still, too close to call.
Outside, the remote TV stations were again getting ready to transmit from the Cove. They had convinced a few of the candidates to appear with them, so as to give their personal accounts of what they were seeing.
At 9:30 PM more Election results were released and the trend, seen after Early Voting and the first Precinct's results were announced, continued. School Board candidates Julianna Lambert and Kevin Yeager both continued to pick up more and more votes and they appeared headed onto victory. Also, Jason Matthews and Marion Griffiths, who were both vying for Hospital District Board seats, continued to gain more and more, over their opponents, and it looked as if they, too, would win their election.
There were now only two election results that the people, in that area of the county, were interested in. The incumbents were strong candidates, and they both had lots of favors to call in, for this election. The thing they didn't have was the heart and soul of the school students, who went house to house campaigning for their opponents. What also didn't help them, at all, were the two highly reported meetings that showed some bias, while the repeated positive coverage about the students helping their opponents had continued to show on the nightly news.
At 10 PM, more results came in. They showed that only 56 votes now separated Benedict Ransberger, the incumbent, from John Henry Ostrowski, his opponent, in the School Board race.
Over at Hansberger's Election Headquarters, his campaign manager talked to the reporters and he indicated that they would indeed ask for a recount if they were to lose this important election, to such few votes.
Over at Julius Eberhard's Election Headquarters, his campaign manager was distraught over their sudden loss of the lead and they now trailed their opponent by 237 votes. They, too, said they would challenge the election results, if they were to lose.
Every television station reporter, stationed at Three Finger Cove, was trying to get all the candidates to make some comments. They even tried to get some of the students to talk to them, but when Mr. Thomas heard they were enticing the high school students, he put an immediate stop to it.
"Geez, Bro, why'd you put a stop to some of us talking to the reporters and getting our face on TV," asked Ryan.
"Ryan," began Mr. Ken, "how many times have you been on TV?"
"Well ... only once" was his wide-eyed reply.
"And, you were scared, very scared that you'd say the wrong thing, weren't you?" further asked the man.
"Well .... ahh, yeah but this is different ... isn't it?" now asked the somewhat perplexed Ryan.
"Ryan, those reporters are after a good story. You could very well end up on the news, but instead of answering questions, about our candidates, you could very well be the lead story after they have you saying the wrong thing. I want the candidates to answer the questions, and let them deal with any guffaws they make. As you get older, and more experienced, then, and only then, should you talk to the reporters! Does that make any sense, Ryan?" asked Mr. Ken.
Ryan thought about that for a few moments and then replied, "Yeah, it does. I'd better get that word out, then. Thanks, Bro, for everything." Ryan then gave the man a quick hug and hurried off to talk to his friends.
By 11 PM, the election results were beginning to show a pattern and all the TV stations projected School Board candidates Julianna Lambert and Kevin Yeager would both win their elections and that Jason Matthews and Marion Griffiths, who were both vying for Hospital District Board seats, would also win.
The surprise announcement, they all made, were that they now projected Mary Anne Simpson as the apparent winner in the last Hospital District Board seat election. Mary Anne's lead continued to increase, and she was now leading by 532 votes. Hearing that pronouncement, over at Three Finger Cove, sent the entire gathering into high fives and victory dances.
The TV stations were still not projecting the winner of the last School Board seat, because the candidates were in a virtual tie. The reporters all speculated that no matter who won, that night, there would be a suit filed by the loser, contesting the election results, and a recount would certainly determine the results.
Even though five of the candidates were now being declared the winners of their respective election contests, they all remained at Three Finger Cove to give their continued support to their friend, and fellow candidate, John Henry Ostrowski. There were still a few Precincts whose ballot boxes had been late in getting back to the County Election Headquarters, and had yet to be opened and counted. Everyone at the Cove kept their fingers crossed and prayed that, when the last of the ballots were counted, John would be the vote leader going into Monday morning, when the absentee ballots would then be counted.
After the midnight election tally results, some of the candidate's supporters wound up leaving, along with most of the high school kids. A party atmosphere still existed at the Cove, but there were just not as many folks around, as had begun the evening. The band continued to play, but the caterer consolidated the foods into one buffet table and began cleaning up, and only one bartender was left to supply adult beverages.
At 12:30 AM, a reporter at Election Headquarters announced that the last of the ballot boxes had been counted and that the last unofficial election results should be available in about 25 minutes. With that now known, the remaining people began to speculate amongst themselves what would be the final end results. An air of anxiety began to descend on the Cove, as they waited and waited.
Up in the Study, Ken Thomas and John Henry, and a few key supporters, talked about the possibilities if there were still a virtual tie, or if John Henry was behind as the last results were announced.
"John, what do you want to do if there is a tie or you lose by less than 1% of the vote? Did you ever think that it would come down to this?" asked Mr. Thomas.
John Henry, as he was known to be called at times, chuckled when he heard the questions.
"Mr. Ken ... I never thought I'd even get this far, seeing how well entrenched old Ransberger was in his seat. I knew something needed to be done, within the School Board, but I never thought it would be ME as the one who would take on Goliath. Ransberger ran that institution as his own fiefdom, and ... well, we all know what was needed to be done. If it weren't for those kids out there, I don't think I'd even be as close as I am. Yes, my personal supporters did a hell of a lot for me, but those kids ... they were remarkable.
"Anyway, Mr. Thomas, if there is a chance that I can upset that apple cart, and then I want to tuff it out to the end. I know it will cost a bunch of money, but I think I can come up with it. Even if I have to take out a loan, I want to see this through to the end."
"Thank you for that honest answer, and I am glad that you want to take this fight to the end. You do not have to worry about that cost, if it comes to it. I will gladly pay for the privilege of seeing that man squirm. I don't want him thinking he can just walk away with this election. What do say we get out there and wait for those last results in a few minutes," answered the owner of Three Finger Cove, as he placed his arm around John Henry's shoulder, while walking out to the Great Room.