"We missed you at dinner last night, my boy. I do hope you got a good night's sleep, last night! You know … it will take time for you to heal from your loss," said Uncle Andy, when Collin entered the dining room the next morning, for breakfast.
"I … yes, I understand all that, Uncle Andy. I've been dreading what I had to do yesterday, and I think I got it all out, Uncle Andy. At least, I think I did. I know it will take time … but yesterday … yesterday was the first time I ever got to say my goodbyes. It was just too much for me, and I had to … well, you know," answered the sixteen year old.
"I'm sorry if I messed up any of your plans, last night, Grammy. Please forgive me!" apologized Collin, as he went to his grandmother to give her a hug.
"Colley, as your Uncle Andy said … it will take time for you to finally deal with your loss. I hope that my insisting that you come here this weekend will help you begin that healing process. And don't worry yourself over last night. I hadn't planned anything other than all of us sitting around and getting to know one another, again. Now, since you didn't eat last night, please have a good breakfast and then you can show Mr. Ken around some.
With that said, Miss Vickey rang a small bell and two ladies, dressed as maids and pushing serving carts, entered the dining room and began to set many different breakfast items on the dining room table. The group of four took what they wanted to eat and, as they ate, they began the talk they didn't get to do the previous evening.
After breakfast, Collin and Mr. Ken freshened up and then the two were off to see the sights around the Wilkinson Estate. Since, Mr. Ken didn't know his way around, he insisted Collin drive. The teen smiled as this would be the first time he got to drive around his old neighborhood.
About three hours later, Mr. Ken and Collin returned to the Wilkinson Estate. They were just in time, as lunch was being served.
"So, where did you guys wind up driving around, Collin? I saw you were the driver, so it is my guess you showed him everything," said Uncle Andy, as the two strode into the dining room.
"Yes, Uncle Andy, I took Mr. Ken by my old high school, our local mall, to show him the big difference between what we have here and back around the Cove. I also took him to the marina and showed him the boat my dad had. He was impressed and said he couldn't understand why my dad hardly ever used it. He told me if he had it, he would surely go out more. But, when I asked him why he didn't use the Commander more often, he didn't really have an answer. I suspect it has to be a status thing, if you have something and then hardly ever use it."
Collin continued, during lunch, to tell them about the things, all over the area, that he showed his mentor.
"So, Mr. Ken, how do you like our humble area?" asked Miss Vickey.
"I truly enjoyed finally seeing the things Collin has told me about, during these past months. But to be honest, I love Three Finger Cove, and to me it would be very hard for me to ever find anything so … so perfect for me. I am sure this area is wonderful, and if I had not found a great spot to build my home, I, too, would be very happy to live here. But alas, I don't think I'll move here," replied Ken Thomas, as he laughed at his last statement.
Then, going in another direction with their conversation, Grammy spoke up and told her guests, "Colley, remember when I told you to bring your suit and that we've have a special get together tonight?"
"Yes, Grammy," replied Collin.
"Well, tonight, beginning at 6:30, there will be several … how should I put this? Several well placed individuals will be stopping by. They worked with your mother and father on several fund raisers, and on other organizations. They all want to welcome you back and, of course, offer their condolences for your loss. These were all important contacts for your father in his business operations, and it might be good for you to begin to get to know them, when, in time, you take over Wilkinson Enterprises," explained Grammy Frankenberg.
"C.M.E., Inc.," corrected Collin.
"Oh, yes, you did tell me that you intend to change the name. I'm sure it will take me some time to remember that. I hope you'll forgive me, Colley," offered Grammy, with a slight sneer to his face.
Collin looked over to Mr. Ken, after his Grammy finished, and all he got was a 'not now' look from the man. He then tried to get more information about the people, who would be visiting later that night, but Grammy wasn't giving much. Even Uncle Andy was quiet about the evening's happenings.
When lunch was finished, the four retired to the study where, again, Collin tried to get more information about the people coming over that night.
"Colley, why is it so important that you know who these people are? You surely won't know any of them, as you've never met any of them that I am aware of," chided the lad's grandmother.
"That's just the point, Grammy," shot out Collin. "I won't know any of them, and since you're doing this, this 'party' at night, then, is it more formal than you are letting on. This should have been more like a Sunday afternoon 'social' so that it would be more informal and there wouldn't be loads of people…"
"That will be enough, young man! The party is TONIGHT and you'll be there, like it OR NOT!" demanded Grammy Frankenberg.
Collin stood up and said, matter-of-factly, "I WILL NOT be there! You hear ME! I knew that this would happen when I came back here. You're making my life an exact copy of how MY father treated me. Remember, Grammy, I own THIS house and what is IN IT and I ALSO OWN WILKINSON ENTERPRISES!"
With that said, Collin rushed out of the study to where, no one knew.
"I really messed this up, didn't I!" lamented Grammy Frankenberg.
Without being asked, if it was he to whom she was asking, Mr. Ken abruptly stood up and offered a resounding "YES!" He, too, then walked out of the study to try and find Collin.
It took Mr. Ken about a half-hour for him to find Collin out in the back of the extensive estate. He could tell that the teenager was very pissed and instead of the lad crying the teen was pacing back and forth talking to himself.
"Mind if I join you?" asked the man.
"That … that woman, I knew she'd try something like this, and all her niceness was a façade, as far as I'm concerned," announced Collin.
"So, what do you want to do? You want to go pack and we start driving back to the Cove?" asked Mr. Ken.
"NO!" forcefully came out of Collin's mouth. Then when he realized what he said and to whom he said it too he said, "Ah, sorry, Bro, I mean, no. That was what I was thinking about when you came up to me. I'm going to be there … but I am NOT going to play her game. I will be the perfect gentleman, and I will be the nicest teenager they ever met. I'll say 'Yes, sir' and 'Yes, ma'am' when appropriate, but I am also going to play the 'dumb kid' and try to get as much information as I can … from all of them.
"I want to know their 'game'. Maybe what my dad was doing, I don't know, was maybe 'wrong'? I sure hope not, but now … I need to know what is going on, here. Why wouldn't Grammy tell me anything about these people? Is she trying to make me a 'puppet' and a 'yes, man' while being on all those Boards my dad and mother were on? I gotta find out. Do you think I'm doing the right thing, Mr. Ken?"
"Well, Collin, I like the way you're thinking. I'd hate to find out your father was doing something … well, unscrupulous. But you know, maybe it isn't that at all, but your Grammy telling them how she'll be able to control what you do, etc... That is just my speculation, but … doing what you are going to do should fool them, for the most part. What I'd suggest you do is carry a pen with you tonight, and ask for their card and write on the back your impressions and other feelings you get. Sure, there won't be much room. but a few words can refresh your memory later that night, when you write more.
"Geez, with me saying all that, I feel like I'm a spy or something, trying to get the bad guys to make a mistake and reveal how they intend to do wrong," finished up a laughing Mr. Ken. Then they both had a good laugh over it and, as they walked back to the house, they discussed more of how Collin was going to act that evening.
When the two arrived back at the main house, they were met by Uncle Andy.
"Guys, can we talk for a few minutes, just the three of us?" inquired Andrew Marshall.
The three found a secluded spot, out and away from the main corridors of the estate house and they began their talk.
"Guys, I do not know what is happening with Vickey. She's been changing daily, as in, one day she is nice as can be, and the next she is a tyrant. Her mood changes have been all over the known world, and her actions today were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. So, now you know what it is like, when you are around her, when she changes like this. If she weren't 84 years old, I'd say she was going through menopause," laughed Uncle Andy.
"But what can it be, Uncle Andy?" asked Collin. "I knew she was old, but not THAT old. Do you know if something is happening to her that can make her act like this? It wasn't like her to invite all these people here tonight, and not want me to know who they were since they were supposedly coming to meet me."
"Collin, I've been asking those same questions. I've done a Google search on mood swings, and depression, and even Alzheimer's and dementia. And she … well, she professes some symptoms of every one of them, at different times. I even looked into sleep apnea, and even into strokes, as at times she seems to be very tired. For now, she is sleeping, so you don't have to worry about running into her.
"And speaking about taking a nap, I'd suggest you do the same. Even if you don't fall asleep, the rest will do you good, as these socials can last and last. That goes for you, too, Ken. I'd recommend for you, Collin, to be dressed and downstairs by 6:15, so you are present and ready to accept your visitors. That should take the edge off what happened after lunch."
"Thanks, Uncle Andy, I still feel a little stressed, no, I feel a LOT stressed over coming back here, and now with Grammy acting like she did, it's only added to that. A nap sounds just about right and a shower before I dress will be nice, too. See you later," said Collin as he lightly hugged his Uncle and headed to his room.
"Ken, I see you have a question in your eyes. You want to sit down a bit and discuss it?" inquired Andrew Marshall.
Ken thought about Andy's question for a bit and then replied, "No, Andy, I think I'll watch what happens tonight, and see how the morning goes, before I make any statements, or ask any questions. I feel as the interloper, here, as I should, but for now, I'll be seen and not heard. A quick nap and a shower also sound good, so I think I will do that as well. I'll see you later Andy."
It was close to 6: 15 when Collin, and Mr. Ken, walked down the stairs and assembled along with Miss Vickey, to await the arrival of their first guests.
"My, my, don't you two look stunning," commented Miss Vickey, with ne'er a hint of what transpired at lunchtime. "I know our guests will be highly impressed with you both. Ken, please make yourself at home, and mingle with our guests. You may find a few of them may be of help some day in your endeavors, in times to come, if you know what I mean."
Ken Thomas just nodded his head and then turned to check on Collin to ensure his tie was on straight and his hair looked combed. He shouldn't have bothered, as Miss Vickey would have made any corrections she deemed necessary, to both of them, had either of them not been appropriately dressed.
The first guest arrived at 6:32 and about every three to four minutes thereafter, another one or two arrived until eighteen out of the twenty invited guests were present.
Collin stayed as close to Mr. Ken as he could, knowing the man knew how to handle distinguished people, or others, who thought they deserved being kowtowed to.
"Ah, Master Collin, my, my how you've grown, since I last saw you. And you, sir, you must be the infamous Mr. Ken. I am very pleased to meet you, sir. Let me introduce myself. I am Karl Whalenberg. A banker by trade, and a member of a number of the same Boards and organizations Collin's father was also a member of."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Wallenberg," responded Ken Thomas, "and how is it that you know me?"
"Thank you, young man, but I'm sorry, the name is pronounced 'whale-n-berg'. I get that mispronunciation all the time, as the name comes from my great grandfather who immigrated to the United States, way back in the early 1880s. Since he was a whaler by trade, then, so they gave him that last name.
"And, yes, who doesn't know who you are, after the Governor himself appoints a very young man to lead such a responsible position, after that horrendous storm of last year. And then, you had the awful attack at your home, and were even injured, I do believe," answered Mr. Whalenberg.
"Yes, I did get many calls from around the nation, asking me how it was that I was chosen to act in the Governor's name," replied Mr. Ken. "And, yes, I was injured during that attack."
Just then Collin spoke up and told the man, "He's a hero! He took that bullet which was meant for me!"
"You don't say! The news media never said anything about that," said Carl Whalenberg. "And why, may I ask, would anyone want to shoot you, Master Collin?"
Collin looked up to Mr. Ken and, getting a nod, told the man what was told to their guests at their Holiday Party, last year. The man was taken aback to hear that the men, who had kidnapped Collin, also wanted to kill him, so that the ring leaders couldn't be identified. This intrigued the man, and he excused himself, but, before taking his leave, asked Mr. Ken if maybe they could talk some more about that later, if he would.
Big Bro Ken and 'little' bro Collin watched the man then go systematically to a few other guests, supposedly telling them what he just learned. As he told each person, they instinctively looked in their direction. It got so comical, to the duo, that they had to turn away from the person, so as not to offend them, as they found it very funny, for some reason.
Just then, a very beautiful woman of about 50 years of age approached the two.
"Good evening, Collin, I'm not sure if you'll remember me, but my name is Virginia Robetts. I worked with your father on the Board for the local boys and girls clubs. We are all so very happy that they found you and you are safe and sound, and that you could come back and take over for you late father and mother. I hope you know their contributions to our local community will be sorely missed," announced Ms. Robetts.
"Thank you, Ms. Robetts, but if it weren't for Mr. Ken, here, I wouldn't be back here, at all," replied Collin.
"And why is that, Collin?"
"You see, the night of that big storm last year, my kidnappers, they tried to kill me, and I was blown out into the lake and either swam to or was washed ashore at Mr. Ken's estate. He and his dog, Chief, found me and nursed me back to good health. Mister Ken has been like a big brother to me, ever since," answered Collin.
"You don't say. I don't think any of us here heard any of that kind of story surrounding your disappearance and recovery. Matter of fact, it wasn't until you made that speech at The Mall, that we ever knew you had been found. We were all so very surprised you weren't brought back here to live," explained Ms. Virginia.
Collin began to answer the middle aged woman, but Mr. Ken quickly stepped in and said, "We tried to keep Collin's history a secret, as best we could, to stop the ever constant questions from every newspaper and news media. Since the trial, or trials, isn't even scheduled, yet, we want to keep Collin as far away from them as possible. People here knew Collin went missing, after his parents were killed, but they don't know how or what happened. Collin misspoke just now, so I must ask you not to go spreading around any rumors, or Collin will have to disappear again," calmly, but emphatically he told Ms. Robetts.
"I trust you can keep that information under your hat, unlike Mr. Whalenberg!"
Virginia Robetts replied she would, and slowly walked away and as she did, another person came Collin's and Mr. Ken's way.
"Hello, you two, everyone has been talking about you and especially you, Mr. Thomas, that you are some kind of 'hero'. I just had to come over and find out for myself, that what was being said was true or not!"
"And you are?" asked Mr. Ken.
"Oh, I'm sorry, my name is Patricia Smith. A likely name for sure, but it truly is. Unlike Mr. Whalenberg and Ms. Robetts, my grandparents didn't get a fancy name when they immigrated to the United States." After answering, Miss Patty began to giggle like a young school girl.
"Oh, I'm sorry, that is another bad habit of mine. I giggle too much, too. But, is what some of them are saying Collin; people were out to kill you? And you, Mr. Ken, it was said you were shot, defending Collin, and are some kind of 'hero'?" asked the now curious Ms. Smith.
Collin decided to answer and said, "Ms. Smith, it would seem that the truth is becoming mixed with some exaggerations. It might be better if Mr. Ken and I explained, to the entire group, exactly what happened to me, and my parents. That is, as long as we don't run afoul of the DA and mess up his trial preparations."
A few minutes later, Collin and Mr. Ken, with Miss Vickey standing close by, were standing a few stairs above everyone so they could be seen and heard as they explained to their guests what happened to Collin and his parents.
"The night my parents were killed … I was kidnapped," began Collin. "Right here, in that very front foyer, my parents were gunned down, in front of me, because they fought the men NOT to take me. … The night of that big storm, back in October, those same men, not being able to deliver a ransom note, to anyone from my family, tried to kill me. They … they took me out in a boat, but I fought them, knowing they meant to kill me that night. During that fight, I was blown overboard into those very cold waters.
"I either swam or was washed ashore at my Big Bro's, ah Mr. Ken Thomas', house and he took care of me and nursed me to good health and protected me from my kidnappers, who were still out to kill me. Last Thanksgiving, actually the day after, they, and many more men, attacked the Cove, Three Finger Cove that is, and tried to kill me … again. It was then that Mr. Ken was shot and took a bullet that was meant for me.
"We kept the information flow to a minimum, and a judge made it so I was allowed to remain with Mr. Ken, in order to completely recover from my ordeals, and attend the high school there, since both my parents were dead, and my grandmother was nowhere to be found. And now, that my Grammy has come forward, she has decided to allow me to decide where I want to live; either with my Big Bro, Mr. Ken, at Three Finger Cove, or, back here, at the Wilkinson Estate. Tonight, she wanted me to meet the many people my parents dealt with, while doing their philanthropy, and give me an opportunity to learn more about what we The Wilkinson's do with our money. Unfortunately, the tax man made sure I wouldn't have too much left."
That last sentence got a big laugh from everyone there that night.
Then, Mr. Thomas said a few words. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you all … for your gracious welcome for both Collin and myself, here, tonight. Collin has come a long way since his kidnapping, all those many months ago. He came to me like the day he was born, and from then on, he has been like a little brother to me and it was he … who has given 'life' to Three Finger Cove. Collin here has grown considerably, not only in physical appearance, as you can plainly see, but mental ability as well, and has beaten those demons that attacked his family, way back when.
"Yes, it is true, that I was shot during the gun battle, at the Cove, the day after last Thanksgiving, but as to whether that bullet was meant for Collin is still up for debate. As for me being a 'hero', that, too, is still up for debate. Since none of Collin's immediately family could be located at the time, Collin was found by me, and my dog, Chief, our County Juvenile Judge appointed me as his guardian.
"But, I want you to know that I was more like his Big Brother and he was more like my 'little brother'." The night of his kidnapping, Collin had to watch both his parents being shot, but he didn't know they didn't survive until a few days after he began recovering from the injuries he received that first night during last October's huge storm.
"I would ask that you try to allow Collin to slowly get involved with all of you, and your endeavor's here. That is, IF, he decides to live back here at the Wilkinson Estate, from now on. He still has two years of high school left, and I hope college and graduate school, before he fully takes over Wilkinson Enterprises."
"C.M.E., Inc.," was heard from Collin.
"Yes, C.M.E., Inc. which is what Collin wants to rename Wilkinson, when he has the opportunity. He says he wants to bring the whole company into the 21st Century and a name change will be the start of him bringing his company into the future.
"I also ask you to please respect Collin's right to privacy, as the trials have yet to be scheduled and the DA has asked us not to divulge more than we have tonight. We already have made these same comments at our New Year's Eve Party this past January 1st. Collin has many things on his mind and, after this weekend, we are planning to visit a number of his companies; so, he can get acquainted with them, and the managers there. Even if Collin decides to remain at the Cove, I know he will be back to the Wilkinson Estate often, with either me, or maybe, with his many friends he's made back where he now resides.
"Thank you all, once again, for your acceptance of me, here, tonight, and for listening to us both tell you our stories."
As Mr. Ken finished, there was a round of applause and then a great big hug from Miss Vickey. The evening wasn't even half over and already the duo had made themselves a big hit onto everyone who attended that evening's 'Welcome Home' for Collin. Many of the attendees, that night, also thanked them for revealing what they did, and they also shook their hands as they left later that evening.
When the evening had ended, and the four, Miss Vickey, Uncle Andy, Mr. Ken, and Collin, retired to the study to have a night cap, as they talked openly of the two speeches that night. When the time came for Mr. Ken and Collin to head off to bed, Miss Vickey graciously thanked them for coming and reiterated her pledge to allow her 'Colley' to decide where he wanted to live from now on. Upon hearing that, Collin gave his Grammy a great big hug and gave his Uncle Andy one, too.