Ken arrived back at the Cove, very late, in the morning. He and Jules discussed what was said at dinner, and what it meant, before Ken boarded his plane, and headed back to Three Finger Cove.
That afternoon, he called Mary and asked her to dinner and wondered if Ryan would be up to going out to dinner with him and Collin, and maybe Judy and Eric. The two talked for a few minutes and then decided when and where, to meet. He then called Judy and asked her the same question, and after she agreed, he gave her the pertinent information.
"Bro … bro … are you in there?" called out Collin, which was almost becoming his standard way of greeting his mentor when he came home after school.
"Yes, COLLIN … I AM in here!" called back Mr. Ken.
"I figured you'd be in here," replied Collin, as he sat down in one of the plush leather chairs.
"'Little Bro' … where do you usually find me?" teasingly asked Ken Thomas.
"Yeah … you always seem to be in here, aren't you!" answered the teen, causing them both to laugh.
"Hey, Collin … so you know and don't mess up your appetite … I made arrangements with Mary and Judy and your brothers to go out to dinner, tonight. I hope that is okay with you!" said Ken.
"That sounds good to me. We haven't eaten out, since …," and remembering what happened last weekend made the teen stop what he was going to say.
Ken got out from behind his huge desk and went to sit down next to his 'little brother'. The next thing Ken knew he had the sixteen year old sitting in his lap, with tears running down his face. The two sat there for a few minutes before Ken began to talk to the teenager.
"Collin … you have to let those things … you have to get past those things, young man … well, at least try to get past them. You've had so much happen to you that … well, I can totally understand why you react this way," said Ken, as he hugged the lad.
"I … I know Bro, it's … it's just that it all hurts when I think about it. But this time it wasn't me. It was my best friend, who got the worst of it. … Will it ever stop, Mr. Ken? Will it?" The tears flowed full force just then and all Ken could do was try to give the teen the support he needed, and deserved.
Dinner reservations were seating for six at seven o'clock, and everyone arrived about ten minutes prior to being seated. The boys gathered into their own group as the adults did the same. Before long, the six were shown to their table, over towards a corner, where the boys' often loud, banter wouldn't disrupt the other diners' meal.
"Bro, why did we have to wear these… these long pants and dress up shirts?" asked Ryan whose, voice was really strange, due to his injury.
"Well, Ryan … do you see what the other diners are wearing? This is a four-star restaurant, and they desire their diner's to be dressed, appropriately. As you see … I am wearing a suit and the ladies are wearing something very formal. Since you guys are still not considered full adults, yet, you can wear what you are wearing. But soon, you will have to wear a suit, and tie, when you dine at such a prestigious place," answered Mr. Ken.
The looks on the lads' faces were precious. Their moms later wished they had brought their cameras along as they knew it wouldn't be long before their boys were those same young adults, Mr. Ken was talking about.
About then, their waiter arrived and took the table's drink orders and provided each diner their own menu. Walter guaranteed he'd be back soon.
"Ryan, I see your face is beginning to change to a lighter color. That means you are healing very well, and fast. So … how does it still feel, if I may ask, since I hadn't seen you for some time now?" inquired Ken Thomas.
"Bro, it feels like my head … like it's going to explode sometimes. It is still quite swollen, up there, and I have to be careful not to blow my nose, yet. I saw my doc yesterday, after school, and he said he was very pleased at how fast things are progressing. He told me by next weekend, most of the swelling will be gone and I will begin to feel normal, that is if teenagers ever feel normal, he teased me," laughed Ryan, as the rest joined in on the doctor's joke.
"He did say it would be another month before all the bruising goes totally away. I can't wait! Every time I look in the mirror, I cringe at what could have been. I am so glad you and mom were there to take care of me right away. I never got the chance to thank you Mr. Ken, for all … well, for what you've done for me," finished up the teary teenager.
The group got quiet after Ryan's revelation. The waiter's arrival with their drinks helped break the awkwardness of the moment.
"Are the ladies ready to place their order?" asked Walter. "Or, do you desire some additional time?"
The table banter kept everyone from looking over the menu so they asked for another five minutes. Walter said he understood, and indicated he would be back shortly.
It was then that Eric began to giggle.
"What is it, son?" asked his mother, Judy. "What is so funny?"
"He said he'd be back shortly," answered Eric.
"Well, what's so funny about that?" asked his mom seriously.
"Like he had a choice of coming back … longly," giggle the youngster, some more.
The whole table laughed at the boy's antics. The two teens then bumped fists with the young boy.
"Boys … don't encourage him!" admonished Mary Taylor, talking to her two 'son's while at the same time laughing at what the youngster said..
Ken just sat there smiling and enjoying what it was like to be around younger lads in such an exotic environment as they were currently in.
Walter soon returned and took their dinner orders and the table's users returned to normal. They all continued small talk as they waited for their dinner's to be served. Although, Ken did participate in some of the discussions, the women both noticed he wasn't his usual outgoing self, that night.
During dinner, Ken, and the ladies, helped the younger ones with dining etiquette. Their most difficult transgression they had to deal with was the boys need to put their elbows on the table.
"But, mom, I can't cut my steak without my elbows on the table. The table is too tall for me," whined Eric.
"Then maybe, next time, I should get you a booster seat," quickly responded Judy, Eric's mom.
As Eric sulked, the rest of the table had a laugh at his expense.
The older boys quickly finished their meal and asked to be excused to use the restroom. Hearing that request got Eric's attention, and he, too then asked if he could go with his 'brothers'.
After the boys were out of earshot, Mary asked Ken, "Ken … you're not yourself tonight. Did something go wrong during your meeting out in Phoenix?"
Ken thought for a minute and then answered, "No, not really. It went … it didn't go as I thought it would."
That left the two women still at a loss as to what was happening to the much younger twenty something man. The two ladies made eye contact and Judy indicated she would ask the next question.
"Ken … you have helped our boys through many a crisis. Won't you please let us help you, if there is crisis, or something wrong, that you can't figure totally out on your own?" asked Judy Turner.
"Ladies … I … I just don't know how or … what to say. … I went out to Phoenix … thinking I was going to straighten out … no settle … ah, ladies … I don't know how or what to tell you. I know you want to help me, and all, but … well, with the things I learned, I … I don't think you'll be able to actually help. At least not yet, that is," stammered out Ken Thomas.
Mary placed her hand on his, somewhat like Vickey did the previous night, and that made Ken look down at what happened. The two women saw Ken went deep in thought at that, so they stayed quiet and waited until he came back from where ever his mind was at the moment.
"Mary … Judy … I have to apologize to you both. I sort of let you believe … well, that I was going out to Phoenix on a business deal. I did sort of go out there on business … but it hadn't anything to do with an actual company or business. … You both know that someone was watching the Cove and me and Collin. … My investigator … Jules Diamond, he ... he found the person responsible," finally revealed the young man.
"So, you went out there to confront them? Are you NUTS?" loudly said Mary, causing several couples nearby to look in her direction.
"Yeah … that's what I thought I was going out there for, but … well … I found something different," explained Ken.
"Please, Mr. Ken, please, you can tell us what happened. You know we'll support you in any way we can!" offered Judy.
Ken had been looking down as he talked to the two women, but as Judy asked her question, he lifted up his head and looked around to see if the boys were headed back. He then told them, "I … I met … Collin's grandmother!"
Both women simultaneously pulled their hands to their mouths. Ken put his head back down and closed his eyes, while a tear fell across his cheek.
Quickly regaining his senses, he told the two ladies, "You can't tell anyone that you know this! … Not a soul … not even your own son's! Promise me! … I need to find the time tonight to talk to Collin … and … I don't know what I am going to say to him. I … I thought about it all the way home, early this morning, and all day long … but I haven't been able to decide how and what I'm going to say to him."
As Ken finished admonishing the two women, the three boys returned to their table. They didn't notice the quiet mood at the table because they had their own agenda they wanted to pursue. After a few looks between them, the one voted to talk began.
"Ah, ah mom, ah … would it, you know, be okay for me ah, err us, to stay with Collin tonight?" finally got out Eric.
Judy sat there like a deer in the headlights. She didn't know what to say. It was Mary who spoke up and said, "Boys … Mr. Ken had a long day in Phoenix, yesterday and … well, I don't think it would be good for you to bother him, tonight."
That wasn't anything like what the three lads had wanted to hear just then. They looked back at one another so now it was Ryan's turn, to try.
"But mom, we won't bother Mr. Ken. He has his own bedroom and … well, we'll be upstairs in Collin's room and he can't hear us from that far away. That is IF we were to be a bit noisy… which we aren't" argued Ryan. Then he continued, "And since we're going to be there anyway, riding the WaveRunner's you guys won't have to get up early to drive us over there."
The women looked longingly at Ken hoping he'd have an answer. He saw their plight and he knew he had to say something.
"Ah, guys … as much as I know you want to spend the night … and most times you know I'd say 'no problem' but this time … well, I must say that tonight it won't work out," tried to explain Ken, but the boys weren't liking what they just heard.
"Ah … I was looking forward to spending the night, since I don't get to stay there as much as my brother Ryan does," cried Eric, while using his best puppy-dog face to try to change Mr. Ken's mind.
Then, after hearing what Eric said, Mary immediately said to her son, Ryan, "DON'T EVEN ASK! Mr. Ken already said it won't work out for tonight!"
"But why?" chimed in Eric and Ryan together.
Mary and Judy saw that look on Ken's face as though he was going to relent or maybe that Ken was going to tell the boys what he told them he didn't want them to know just yet. He fooled them.
"Boys … listen up, okay? You know that someone was watching The Cove, and me, and maybe Collin, right?" started Ken. "Well, if you must know, I found out who that person or persons were, while I was out in Phoenix. I want to talk to Collin, tonight … alone. Since, it concerns him, and I, and he needs to know, and I … I don't want … what I want is for my 'little brother' to be focused on what I am going to talk to him about."
Around the table, it was totally quiet. It seemed as if everyone was looking around at everyone else hoping someone would say something. No one did.
After a few moments, Ken added, "We're going to be riding the Wave Runner's the next three days and you two can spend Saturday and Sunday nights if, that's IF, your mothers allow you to. Now, you two can stop over about noon tomorrow, and my bet is Momma Maria will have a good and nutritious meal ready for you all."
The boys knew by the tone of Mr. Ken's voice, they had lost, so they need not ask again. They 'loved' their Big Bro and they didn't want to get on his bad side, even though they never ever saw one on him.
Walter came over when he saw the boys were back and asked if there was any room for desert. Needless to say the 'hollow legs' of the three boys needed to be topped off so Walter brought the desert cart for them to select from. The three adults only had coffee.