Castle Roland

Three Finger Cove - Charles
Book III

by Chowhound

In Progress

Chapter 1

Posted: 25 Aug 16

Three Finger Cove - Charles

Copyright © 2016 by Chowhound
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday evening, Judy Turner called Mr. Ken and they talked about the hiring of the new Three Finger Cove Household Manager, Chis Dominions, and how Robert got to meet all the candidates before their interviews. Their conversation then turned to how the upcoming 4th of July Picnic was panning out and all the coordination the Cove's owner needed to do. They talked about a number of other things but it was those 'other' things that Mr. Ken felt were uncharacteristic for Ms. Judy. Mr. Ken got nervous about them and that made him want to ask her what was she hinting at.

He initially thought the Child Protective Service Director was hinting that Robert might be taken away and that was truly something he didn't want to hear, especially now that he and the lad had made so many great strides together. He inwardly began to worry and thought he better ask the woman what it was that all about and before they hung up. As Ken Thomas began to form in his mind what he was going to ask, Ms. Judy asked him outright if he was interested in taking on another boy. That question took Mr. Ken totally off guard and he sat there dumbfounded and didn't know what to say.

Judy Turner continued and explained that, twelve year old, Charles 'Charlie' James Lewis might be in need of a new foster home, but she explained she wasn't totally sure, just yet, but would know better tomorrow. The Director of CPS explained the boy had gone through three foster homes, since Christmas, and she just didn't know what to do with him since he was considered a disruptive preteen twelve year old. Judy told Ken that the boy had complained of being made to play sex games by some older boys in one of his previous foster homes, but that hadn't been proven nor had an investigation been initiated by the Case Worker.

Judy explained she didn't know too much about the older boys Charlie complained about, as she doesn't get involved with individual placements. It was when his current Case Worker brought the foster home problem to her she decide she'd check into the lad's history. She told Mr. Ken she learned that the Case Worker, before her, was Robert's case worker, the one who they both now knew didn't do her job as she was supposed to. Unfortunately, she was the one who also had dropped the ball, on this current foster child. Judy said she suspected that when they fixed Robert's need for a new foster home Charlie fell through the cracks because she didn't know about the boy, back then.

Ken Thomas remembered their conversation the two had, about six months before, and knew he didn't need to blame Judy because, as the Director, she didn't deal with individual cases. She only got involved when there was a problem, like Robert's. And now, it was evident, since she learned of another problem, she, at least, was trying to fix it.

"Ken, this poor boy did get moved at the same time Robert was brought to you. Remember, I told you I changed the case worker and the new one didn't believe the boy's story for some reason, and she didn't get him any professional help, either," clarified Judy. The boy complained to his new foster parents but after a while they got tired of his constant complaining, and not participating in family events, so they asked us to move him. The child did get moved, but this time … he was sent to be with that same family which is very religious. I think they tried the same thing as they did with Robert, but Charlie objected, to all the bible reading, and church going, and he said they blamed him for his being sexually involved and needed to repent.

"Ken, I have to move this poor kid. I do have a family in mind, but I won't know until after lunch, tomorrow, if they will be willing to accept Charlie. Then, I thought of you but …well, I wasn't sure if you would be willing to take on another preteen boy, so soon, after taking in Robert. So, what do you say, Ken, would you be willing to be my fallback position if the first family won't accept Charlie. I personally think it is an age thing for them, as they normally take a child no older than ten?"

When he hung up, that evening, Mr. Ken wasn't sure what he should tell his 'son'. He didn't want to burden the lad with thinking about having to deal with someone new in the house, but, at the same time, he didn't fully know anything more about that possibility, due to what Ms. Judy just told him and she, herself, wasn't too sure about it, either. The man also didn't want to hold it back from his 'son' because it would directly affect him. Ken Thomas decided to sleep on it, and went to bed a very concerned man.

The next morning, the boys, Robert, along with Collin, who was staying at The Cove for the 4th of July Picnic, could tell Mr. Ken had something very big on his mind. The man participated in their morning breakfast conversation, but they could tell he wasn't really concentrating on what they were talking about. When the lads left the Kitchen Nook, Mr. Ken reminded them not to get in the carnival owner's way and went back to thinking about what Ms. Judy told him the night before. But Robert and Collin didn't heed Mr. Ken's request. Instead they sought out the carnival owner as he promised them he'd let them 'test' the rides that morning.

Later that evening, Ryan and Eric joined Robert and Collin and Mr. Ken for dinner. As the guys were almost finished eating, the doorbell rang and Mr. Ken said he'd get it and then got up. He told the boys that he was expecting a 'special' package that evening, as he began walking out of the Kitchen Nook. When he answered the door, he knew it would be Ms. Judy. She introduced the young lad she had with her, and the owner of The Cove invited her and the lad into the house and took them to his Study.

The three people, and one dog, all proceeded to Mr. Ken's Study where some very plush and super comfortable leather chairs awaited them so they could discuss the boy's needs.

"Mr. Ken … I would like to introduce you to Charles 'Charlie' James Lewis. Charlie, this is Ken Thomas, and he owns this home," said Judy Turner, as she made the introductions.

"Welcome Charles … Ms. Turner tells me you are looking for a nice foster home to live in and I hope you've come to the right place. As you could see as you drove into the estate grounds, we are getting set up for our annual 4th of July Picnic. If you decide to stay, you'll get to enjoy the rides, the good food, and of course, some awesome fireworks.

Just then Chief gave out a loud "Woof!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Chief. Charles, let me introduce you to Chief. She is our resident dog and she will want to be your friend, that is, if you decide to stay with us. How does that sound, Charles? Have you ever had a dog?" asked Mr. Ken.

As the three talked, Momma Maria, who Mr. Ken had told earlier of Ms. Judy's possible visit, stepped into the Study and offered the three occupants some coffee, or a soda, and some of her sweet cakes. She even brought Chief some of her treats, so she wouldn't feel left out. Then, before she exited, Mr. Ken introduced her and again mentioned to Charles that, if he thought this would be a good place to live, he would get to enjoy more of her special sweets in addition to her wonderful meals.

Charles Lewis just sat there not knowing what was happening. Here he was being taken to a huge mansion and being told he might get to live there. Before, he'd always been taken to a foster home and introduced to the parents and handed off, with no fanfare. But, here was this guy, who he vaguely thought he knew for some reason, sort of saying he would get to decide if he wanted to stay. He wished he knew what their game was.

In order to keep the talk going, Mr. Ken turned slightly to face the lad and, with a twinkle in his eye, said, "So, Charles … as I said before, Ms. Turner, here … she tells me you need a new foster home to stay in. It wasn't too long ago that I helped another lad, Collin, who turned 16 while in my care. I helped him through a very rough part in his life and my guess is Ms. Judy, err, Ms. Turner, feels I might be able to help you, too."

Six months previous, when Robert had been brought to The Cove, and Mr. Ken mentioned Collin's name Chief' ears perked up until she was told 'No" he wasn't coming to visit. Chief, though, knew Collin was sitting in the Kitchen Nook so, this time, she didn't react to his name being mentioned.

"So, Charles, can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your hobbies, sports you like to play, and how you do in school? That way, I can get to know you a little better," asked the owner of The Cove.

Again, Charles just sat there. He was still trying to figure out what that was all about and didn't really hear what the man had asked him. When the boy didn't say anything, Chief walked over to the lad and placed her paws up on his lap and began to lick his face. Ken was pleased that Chief got into the 'conversation' early by giving the lad a chance to calm down. He felt if the lad got to know the dog, he would be responsible for helping take care of, the boy might decide to give The Cove a chance.

"Looks like you've already made a friend there, Charlie," began Ms. Judy. "I've known Chief for three years, now, and she is a great judge of character and I think she is saying she wants you to stay."

Charles began to pet the dog and then looked at Mr. Ken and asked, kind of defiantly, "Can you tell me what kind of game you're playing with me? At all my other foster homes, they … they just dropped me off, and that was that. Then they forgot all about me. Why are you telling me 'If I decide to stay here', or 'if I decide to stay with you?' It sounds like you are telling me I have a choice here, where before, at all the other foster homes, I didn't? Can you tell me why you are doing this for me?"

Judy looked at Ken, who looked back, and then getting the nod, Ken Thomas took that question.

"Charles … what I said, I meant, about you saying if you wanted to stay or not. What good would it do me, and Chief, and the others who visit, here if you feel you are being tricked into staying? If you are miserable because you feel you were somehow conned into staying, then, you could very well make us all very miserable. So, son, there is no trickery involved, here. We have a very nice home here, as you can see, and I've opened it up to other foster children and I am asking you if you'd like to give us a chance.

"Both Ms. Judy and I firmly believe you'll totally enjoy staying here. We'd like for you to give us that chance … say, two weeks, and … if after that time you do not want to stay, Ms. Judy will be asked to find you another place to stay. I am very sure you are aware you do need to be placed in a foster home, somewhere, and what better place to be, than Three Finger Cove?"

That was it. Mr. Ken saying Three Finger Cove brought Charles' memory back to where he knew the man from. Even though he was only nine years old, at the time, he remembered the huge storm and his mom pointing out this man, on the television, who lived at Three Finger Cove and his talking about the recovery efforts. She told him that the man had been lauded for taking care of the 'little people' before the big time 'movers and shakers', as his mom called them, were helped.

"You're the man who … who helped all those people, who could least afford it … after that big storm, aren't you?" was the first real thing Charles said, since he entered the Study.

"Why, yes, Charles … I am. You couldn't have been too old back when that all happened," replied Mr. Ken.

"I was nine, when that storm came through," began Charles. "We were lucky, my mom told me. We lived on the second floor, of a three floor apartment building, and ours faced in toward the courtyard so we didn't get a lot of the wind thrown debris was what my mom explained to me. When they would show all the damage, on television, they would then show you talking to the people in the most damaged areas. My mom told me that you were a 'good' guy and you weren't playing favorites, and that I should try to be a person like you, when I grew up."

"I'm flattered that your mom thought that much about me, Charles. I hope I've remained a steady influence on you ever since then," responded Mr. Ken.

"And, that's another thing I'd like to know. Why is it you are always calling me Charles and not Charlie like everyone else, does?" directly asked Charles.

"I remember being asked that same question, not more than a few months ago by someone in your very situation. Wasn't I, Ms. Judy?" replied Ken Thomas.

"And what did you tell him?" quickly asked Charles.

"I told him his question was a perfectly good one to ask, especially, since it directly affected him. And, I told him what I am now going to essentially, tell you. … I feel if you did decide to stay with us, instead of people like your friends and other adults calling you Charlie it would be like … giving you a chance at a new start to your life, and thus a chance at being known with a new name. Up until now, everyone's called you Charlie, and what better way to begin your new 'life' here at Three Finger Cove by being called Charles. I wouldn't think anyone around here knows you, so what better time, and place, to start having people calling you a new, more grownup sounding, name, thus, Charles," answered Mr. Ken.

Charles Lewis sat there pondering what Mr. Ken just told him. He felt the answer was genuine and he liked the idea of starting a new life, but he was confused how he would be able to do that, so he asked.

"You talk about me being able to start a new life if I decided to stay here, but I … I don't know how that could happen. I am who I am, and my mom did what she did that caused me to be put in the foster care system in the first place. So … can you tell me how I can even start this new life?" a hopeful Charles asked.

Ken Thomas considered the question and brought all his thoughts together and replied, "Charles … unless you bump into people from your old neighborhood no one will ever know who you were. Here, at The Cove, you will be offered a new life to live and experience. One experience, you can already see, will be that carnival outside on my estate. This will be the third year I am opening my place up to the surrounding neighbors and treating them to a free carnival, with rides, foods, games and then later at night, an awesome fireworks display.

"Something else we often do here is offer parties. We just had two for the 7th grade Middle School kids. One was to celebrate the end of school and then one to celebrate them all turning thirteen. I also host a total of four Christmas and New Year's Holiday parties and an Easter Egg Roll. On top of that, we also go on trips, all around the United States, and, with my new endeavors, we'll be going to amusement parks all over, too. With just those alone my bet is your life will never be the same, again."

Charles thought about the man's answer but still needed a few more questions answered before he would say yes. So, he asked, "You mentioned Collin. He was the teenager who they tried to kill here, wasn't he? Will I be safe here, you know, will those men ever come back looking for him? I sure don't want to be around with all those bullets flying!"

"Ah, so you know about the shooting that occurred here? Well, all the identified men were convicted and sent to prison, or they were killed here, on the grounds trying to get to Collin. One thing the men didn't know was … that I have 'safe' rooms located throughout the house and if they had ever gotten inside they would have never found him. Once you are here, for a while, and you decide you want to stay, then we'll show those places to you, too. So, because of that I firmly believe you will be safe while living here," replied Mr. Ken, as he tried to fully answer the lad's concerns.

Before Charles could ask another questions, Mr. Ken continued by saying, "I'm telling you all this because, as a member of Three Finger Cove, you'll be a part of everything that we do here, at The Cove, and out in the community. You'll also attend the local school and, of course, you will be expected to do well in class. I won't expect you to be an "A" student or even an "A-B" student. But, what I will expect you to do is your BEST … always. Being the new kid will also bring you loads of 'wanna be' friends because of where you'll be living.

"I just had five new skateboard ramps built that the local kids are falling over one another to get invites over here to try them out. Those will be available to you, and your friends to play on, but with one minor restriction, that isn't too bad. The rule just limits the number of kids that can be on the ramps at any one time. And yes, you'll be allowed to bring them here, to your new home, here at The Cove, and even have sleep-overs and swim parties. That is, after I get to know who these boys and girls are.

"You also might feel a bit intimidated with this big house, but my bet would be that you'll be able to learn your way around, in no time. I want you to keep in mind, that if you decide to stay with us, you'll be responsible for helping with Chief, here. She is a very important member of Three Finger Cove and you'll be one of her 'masters', of sorts. You'll be responsible to help feed, bathe and, comb her, which she really likes, by-the-way, and anything else she may need including you playing with her, and being her friend.

"Do you have any questions for me or Ms. Turner, since I've been doing all the talking, so far?" asked Mr. Ken.

"Do you really mean it? That I can choose NOT to live here after two weeks and she'll … and she'll take me to someplace else, to live?" asked Charles.

"Yes, Charles," answered Ms. Judy. "The last boy to come here asked that same question and Mr. Ken means that if you do not want to live here, after two weeks, I'll find another home for you, to live in."

"Dang, what I don't understand is why now? Why wasn't' I given the chance to do that all those other times?" Charles honestly wanted to know.

"Charles," began Mr. Ken, "it's because I'm the only one who believes in giving the child that option. A good number of the people, who open their homes to foster children, do it to add an income stream to their household. I do not have a problem when it comes to money. I truly believe that when you've been here two weeks you're really not going to want to go anywhere else. I only ask you to give me that chance to prove it to you."

Ms. Judy then added, "Charles, I've known Mr. Ken, ever since that huge storm, and what he says is his word. What say you give the man, and Chief, a chance and see if you'd really like to live here … and maybe even forever?"

"I guess I don't have anywhere else I can go tonight, anyways, is there?" somberly asked the lad.

Mr. Ken quickly answered by saying, "Charles, it is getting late and it would be very difficult for Ms. Turner to find a place, for you to stay tonight. What say you give me and Chief those two weeks? I think you'll truly love it here … especially, once you get into a routine. … So … is it a deal that you'll stay with me and Chief? … Wouldn't you like to, at least, give us a chance and stay and see whether or not you'd like to live in the lap of luxury?" teased Mr. Ken.

Charles smiled at Mr. Ken's teasing remark and then very seriously asked, "Before I say yes to staying, can I ask whatever happened to that last boy you talked about? Did he only stay two weeks and then … and then did he leave? Can you tell me about what happened to him? And, you … you really mean it? That I can say that I don't want to live here anymore after a couple of weeks?"

Hearing that question gave Mr. Ken an idea but he needed the lad and Ms. Judy to remain in his Study until he talked to Robert.

"Charles, I'm going to ask you to remain in my Study with Ms. Turner, for a few minutes and when I come back I will be able to answer those questions for you? Do you think you can wait until I return?" asked Mr. Ken, as he was getting up.

As the two visitors in Ken's Study talked, Mr. Ken sought out his 'son' and found him in the theater, with the other guys, watching a movie.

"Robert …" called out Mr. Ken. "Could I see you for a few minutes, please?"

The two walked out into the Great Room and sat down, together, in one of the sofas. The man didn't know how he was going to tell the lad about the 'special' package he eluded to earlier, and what Ms. Judy was doing in his Study. He figured it would be best to just tell the boy, out right, and get it over with.

"Robert … when that doorbell rang … earlier … ahh … it was … Ms. Judy. She and I talked about you … ahh … earlier this week, and she asked me … ahh, well, it concerned you, but I didn't want to say anything until … ahh, until I knew for sure what ahh… what was going to happen," poorly explained Ken Thomas.

With the little Robert heard from his 'dad', he became afraid that what the man was going to tell him was he was being moved to, yet, another foster home. Thinking that, he started to cry. 'Dad' Ken, saw the tears begin to fall, and pulled him close to him and hugged him tight. They sat that way for a few moments, hugging one another, then Mr. Ken asked Robert to follow him, up to his Study, where Ms. Judy waited for them both.

Robert was frantic that he was going to be moved, the day before the huge 4th of July Picnic. He had missed the Holiday Parties and now he figured he was going to miss out on all the rides set up out on the grounds, and Eric. That was it, as it came to him. Ms. Judy found out about him and Eric, and she was moving him so they couldn't love one another, anymore. That final thought brought Robert to cry out loud.

'Dad' Ken grabbed the boy and hugged him close. He didn't know what caused the new teen to cry out, but he had to calm him down before they went into the Study.

"Robert … it won't be all that bad," began 'dad' Ken. "Ms. Judy brought someone with her tonight … who will, more than likely, affect you and me, both. I didn't know until the doorbell rang that this would even happen. I think things can work out if we all work together on it."

Robert didn't hear anything his dad had just said. He was so fraught about his leaving that he just blurted out, "But, I don't want to go, 'dad'" cried Robert. "I just got here and everything is going so good for me, now. I have friends, and … and people who love me, and I don't want to be sent away!" The boy then cried even harder.

Ken Thomas just held the distraught lad. He got him calmed down enough to direct him towards his Study. As they walked towards the Study, the man then said to his 'son', "Robert … Ms. Judy and I aren't sending you away."

Robert looked up into the man's eyes to see if he was joking. Mr. Ken saw the question in his 'son's' face but he kept Robert moving to get him into the Study so they could both tell him he wasn't moving, again.

As the two walked up the stairs towards the Study, Mr. Ken calmly said, "Robert … what I've been holding back on telling you was… was something Ms. Judy didn't know could or even would happen. It wasn't until earlier today that the decision was made."

"You mean … you … you're not sending me away? Honestly? I get to stay here with you, 'dad'?" happily cried Robert.

"Yes, Robert … we are not conspiring to send you away. I just didn't know how you'd react when I told you, but since I didn't know this could happened I didn't want to get your hopes up and then it didn't work out," said Mr. Ken, as he again did a miserable job in trying to explain the situation.

Hearing that his 'dad' just say he wasn't going to be sent away, Robert now wondered what was his 'dad' was talking about.

Ken Thomas motioned his 'son' to follow him to his study where he and Ms. Judy would explain everything. Even though he was almost to the top of the staircase, Robert still wondered what their talk was all about, but he figured he'd find out very soon.

As the two arrived at Mr. Ken's Study, Robert was talking to his 'dad' and wasn't looking directly into the room. It wasn't until the lad did turn around and spied a young person sitting in one of the chairs that he heard Mr. Ken say, "Robert … I want you to meet your new brother."

"Charlie!" yelled an excited Robert, who then ran to the lad and pulled the youngster out of the chair. The two boys then hugged one another for all they were worth.

Ken and Judy just stood back and watched as the two boys hugged. It was from what the boys were talking about that they figured out the two boys, not only knew one another, they had been together in Robert's last foster home. It then dawned on them that what Charles said about his being sexually abused did indeed happen. Ken made a mental note to get Doctor Doug quickly involved.

"'Dad', why didn't you tell me Charlie was going to be living here? I could have been at the door, with you, to meet him," excitedly said Robert.

"Come on. Let me introduce you to your other brothers," Robert said to Charles, as he began to drag the boy out of the Study, and, supposedly, to the Theater.

"Hold on there just a minute Robert," called out Mr. Ken. "Let's get him settled to make sure he wants to stay with us."

"Oh, I'm sorry 'dad', I was just so happy to see Charlie…" said Robert, before he was interrupted by his 'dad'.

"Charles!" said 'dad' Ken.

"Charles … what?" asked Robert.

"His name is Charles, Robert, and not Charlie and not Bobby. Do you understand now?" slyly asked Mr. Ken.

"Oh … Oh, OK, I get it. Just like with me you want him to be called Charles and not Charlie," asked Robert.

"Yes, Robert, I want him to decide if he wants to be called Charles, or if he wants to still be called Charlie or Chas even. Your friends call Charles Symons, Chuck, don't they? So, what say we give Charles a few days to decide what he would like us all to call him?" requested Mr. Ken.

"You do want to stay here with us, don't you Charles?" directly asked Mr. Ken.

"Yes, yes I do! I didn't know where they sent Bobby here …" started Charles James Lewis, when Robert stopped him.

"Robert … I go by Robert, now, Charles," corrected Robert.

"Oh, sorry. Robert. I guess it will take me some time to get used to calling you Robert, now, won't it" laughed Charles.

"Just as easy as it will be for me to call you, Charles," laughed Robert.

"And, did Mr. Ken adopt you, already? I heard you call him dad," asked Charles.

"No, he hasn't … but I sure hope he can, one day," an excited Robert replied. "It is a long story why I call him 'dad' and I'll have to tell you after we get you settled. 'Dad' … can I take Charles down to meet the other guys?"

Ken held up his hand, for them to stop.

Before the boys took off, Judy said, "Charles, I am glad you found a friend here at The Cove. Robert will be able to smooth your transition and help you learn the ropes, so to speak. Robert … take good care of Charles, here. He's had a rough six months that I am sure he will fill you in on everything, whenever he gets the chance. I'll see you two tomorrow."

"Ken, I'll leave Charles' folder, with you" began Ms. Judy. "We can talk about him more tomorrow, if you can ever find the time, otherwise we can talk over the weekend, or Monday, even."

"Sounds, good to me, Judy. I'll let you get going, then. Eric is already here. He came over with Ryan for dinner. We'll try to catch up with you whenever you get here, tomorrow. Drive Safe!" offered Mr. Ken.

Then looking at Charles, Mr. Ken said, "Charles … this is your answer to what happened to that last boy who came here. He's still here and he loves it here. We can talk later."

"'Dad', can I?" asked Robert, wanting to take his old friend down to meet the guys waiting, for him, in the Theater.

"Charles … you better go with Robert before he pulls your arm off," teased Mr. Ken.

"Oh … hold on, there, sport. Let me …" but Mr. Ken never got the chance, to finish.

Robert took over and said, "I can tell him all the stuff he needs to know, later, or you can tell him, tomorrow. I'll show him all the bedrooms he can choose from and show him around the upstairs. Come on, now, 'dad', I want him to meet all of his new 'brothers' down in the Theater," an overly anxious Robert explained.

"Okay, I guess you guys can go. I'll just stay up here … in my Study … all by myself … with no one to talk to," sighed Mr. Ken, trying to lay it on thick, to Robert.

"Come on, Charles, 'dad's' just teasing. He's normally in his Study all the time and usually by himself, anyways. I bet he just wants to talk to you to get to know you better. He can do that later but you need to meet your new 'brothers' first," declared Robert. "Come on!"

The two boys began to run down to the theater when Mr. Ken yelled, "And don't run!" They heard it just as they hit that top step. They did slow down but it wasn't by much.

"Guys, guys … I have a new 'brother', and so do you!" excitedly yelled Robert, as he ran into the Theater.

Ryan, Collin and Eric all looked at Robert like he was crazy, that was until Robert introduced Charles to them. They all then understood what their 'brother' was taking about.

"I have more 'brothers' than just Bobb, err Robert?" an animated Charles got out. "Mr. Ken said he opened his house to other foster kids, but I didn't realize he had this many staying here?"

"No silly," began to explain Robert. "This here is Eric. He's Ms. Judy's son, and my Best Friend. This is Ryan and he's known my 'dad' ever since he began building The Cove. And this, here, is Collin. He was the first boy 'dad' fostered."

"You … you're Collin? The one those men tried to kill?" an eager Charles asked.

"Twice! They tried to kill me twice," qualified Collin. "The first time was the night of that big storm. The second time was the day after Thanksgiving."

Charles just stood there staring at Collin. He had a thousand questions he wanted to ask him but couldn't think of a one, right then, to ask the teenager. Then, he remembered Mr. Ken mentioned the 'secret places' so he said, "Yes, Mr. Ken said he had you in a safe place and he told me there was no way they would have ever found you, even if they had gotten inside the house."

"My 'dad' told you that? I didn't learn about the secret hiding places until Ryan showed me them when 'dad' had to go away for a week," decried Robert.

"Tough, deal with it," laughed Ryan. "He told you why he did it that way and we had a lot of fun then, didn't we? And besides, he didn't tell Charles where they were, he just said there were some."

"Yeah, you're right, but still …" tailed off Robert.

"So, how are all you guys my 'brothers'," inquired Charles.

Eric took that question and explained to Charles how it was that the boy's began calling each other 'big' and 'little' brother and how it was they called Mr. Ken their 'Big Bro'. It sounded confusing to Charles but he asked them to give him a few days until he could understand it. The four 'brothers' then gave Charles the 'nickel' tour.

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