Jamie was again inundated with questions from his friends about the trial the day before and he answered their questions. Over the weekend he and Josh got together at Josh's house on Saturday. Eric left them alone. He knew about them and they were both grateful that he accepted them for being gay and that he allowed them to be together.
School was school, nothing really going on there. On Wednesday they got a call from Hal Jackson. Victor Mendes had been convicted on all counts for the attempted murder. Since this was his third strike he would probably get twenty five to life for each count when he was sentenced in a few weeks under the three strikes law. He also told them that Enrique took a plea deal for three counts of Felony Assault with a Deadly Weapon instead of Attempted Murder. He was sentenced to a total of six years in the California Youth Authority. He would be eligible for release on good behavior in three or four years. All drug related charges from the raid on the Treces hangout were dropped against Enrique, but Victor still had that trial to go through.
That was good news for Jamie. By the end of the week Hal called to tell them that Alma's trial had been pushed back because the prosecution wanted more time to gather more charges. She had been released on bail until the trial was to start. She had put up her house as bond. Hal told him that more than likely he would not have to appear in her trial. So Jamie was done with testifying. He was glad of that and could now concentrate on his school work and spending time with his boyfriend.
For the first time in the last several weeks it was like they got to be normal teenagers. They had school, homework time with their families and with their boyfriends. They were still not officially out to any of the parents except for those that had either caught them or knew outright like Josh's uncle. They were being careful about it. They were careful at school to not show much affection, but they wanted to so much. Sean had done research on the high school that they were going to next year, Tahquitz and found that they had a GSA club, so they decided that when they started as Freshmen in the fall, they would be out from the beginning.
Many times they talked about telling their parents and there was a lot of back and forth discussion on the subject. What had happened with Josh was on their minds, but he would also point out that his uncle knew and had no problem and he had spent twenty years in the army. Josh also pointed out the differences between the other guy's parents and his dad. All of their parents were much more involved than his dad had been. He told them that he was glad his uncle knew, because he felt more relaxed about it, even with what happened with his dad. All of this led to them deciding to have a big barbecue and swim party at Josh's house and invite all the families during Spring Break. Eric thought it was a great idea and he was surprised that none of the parents had met yet, since their sons were good friends, but he understood that it was so hard sometimes these days to get families that were not related together due to busy work schedules and family schedules. He had gotten to know all of the boys and found them to be great kids and he looked forward to meeting their parents. He wanted to have some friends other than the other cops on the force as friends. The boys decided that the party would be when they would officially announce that they were gay and boyfriends.
Sean in the meantime had continued with his research. The thought that he and his friends might have been part of some experiment was still pretty farfetched, but he thought that there were way too many coincidences to not look into it. The biggest points were they all had gifts, he was certain Josh's had just not manifested yet, of some kind and they all had the exact same birthday. It didn't occur to any of them to ask their parents about whether they knew each other or if they had been part of an experiment.
Sean's biggest issue was that he just didn't know exactly what to look for, so he was trying different things, starting with some of the same psychic sites he had looked at earlier. It took weeks of research in those areas until he figured he wasn't getting anywhere with those sites. So he lay off it for a several days, frustrated with his total lack of success. He tried using his talent to see if it would lead him somewhere but it didn't help. He really wished he could do like those guys in that Shadowrun game his dad had told him about could do, just put a computer jack in his head and attach directly to the computer and travel that matrix like he had read on the websites he found about it.
One day he and Dakota were at Dakota's house after finishing up their homework and they were just lounging next to each other on the couch as they channel surfed looking for something to watch. Dakota had stopped on one of the history channels and they were watching something about the Indian nations in the 1800s. The show ended and a graphic on the bottom of the screen listed what was going to be on next, 'Government Secret Psychic Programs'. Sean sat up. Dakota had just changed the channel.
"Dakota, go back."
"The channel we were watching."
He shrugged and changed the channel back. It was on a commercial so he looked at Sean, puzzled as to why he wanted to watch a commercial.
"Just wait, I want to see a little of the next program."
Dakota put the remote down. A couple of minutes later the show started. A narrator came on.
"Did the US government do secret research on psychic abilities during the cold war? Are they still doing that research? Let's find out together."
The show started. They talked about what was considered almost a myth for many years concerning the Soviet Union doing research for years in the area of psychic abilities. After the downfall of the Soviet Union so much information that had previously been closely guarded came out that they really had done extensive research into those abilities. The show told about the US government looking into it as well to see if it could be used to counter what the Soviets were rumored to be doing. There were interviews with Russians and Americans who had been involved with the programs that dated back to the cold war era. The show gave Sean an idea and after the program was over he told Dakota that he was going to head home. He gave him a quick kiss goodbye and was soon on his way home.
When he got home he started looking into Government Pyschic Research. He found several references to something called the Stargate program that officially ended in 1995, which was before they were all born. However, it appeared that it, or a similar program, was in operation as part of the National Security Agency (NSA). There was little clear information. He found papers and some interviews with people who said there were absolutely no "Psychic spies" working for the US Government. There was also a lot of confusing information as well. There was a lot to read through and some was very dry or confusing. A couple of times he thought about using his gift to try to hack into NSA or CIA, but he was afraid that if there was someone like him on that end, he might be caught. He was sure their computer security would be extremely powerful and probably backed by government computer hackers whose job was to watch for cyber-attacks and if he tried to hack into their systems, he might be caught. So he figured that was probably a bad idea to try that.
While Sean was doing his research, Jamie heard from Hal once again. He told him that Victor Mendes and several of his associates that were caught in the drug raid, had been convicted on several drug and weapons charges and would be going to prison for many years. The bust put a big hole in the Hemet Trece organization because several of the leaders of the gang were arrested in the bust and it was a coup for local law enforcement.
The investigation into Alma's wrongdoing had progressed to the point where they were ready to go to trial against her. Hal told them that they had been able to find several of her former young people that she had stolen from. They also found some that she had set up with drugs so that they could be sent to jail and she could steal from them. The BI was working on getting the specific charges against the people that she had been involved with as their caseworker, cleared of those charges that had been levied against them when she set them up. She was going to be charged with several charges: Child Endangerment, Conspiracy to Defraud, Possession for Sale for the drugs, Theft and Embezzlement, Forgery and several varieties of fraud. Her conspirator at the bank was getting a reduced sentence for testifying against her and turning over proof of her activities that she had kept over the years just in case something happened. The case against Alma was very strong and she was probably going to spend many years behind bars if she was convicted in all the counts against her.
The party for the families was set to be the Saturday after Easter which was March 31st this year, so that would mean it would be April 6th. Eric talked to several of the parents and he was coordinating with them what food and/or drinks to bring. On Easter afternoon Sean was once again working on his research. He wanted to do a little search for some data so Dakota was lying on the bed with his head toward the foot playing a video game waiting until he was done. Sean found an obscure article from a year or two before they were born about using functional MRI equipment to study the brains of psychic's while they were exercising their gift. He found it to be fairly dry. He noted that the author was a fairly young guy named Brett MacLeod. He wondered if there was anything else by the guy and did a further search. He found some other links to articles in scientific journals concerning brain research and finding cures for Alzheimer's. For some reason, he continued looking through the articles by Brett MacLeod. He found most of them boring. He was listed as having worked at Hunt Laboratory.
The man known as Hlander to Sean had just returned from a two week trip to see some old friends back east. He greeted some of the men that were in the compound as he made his way to his house. He dropped his briefcase off in his office and took his other bags up to his room. Up there he changed into some jeans and a flannel shirt. He went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. He made a sandwich as well. When the coffee was ready he filled a mug and took the coffee and sandwich to his office. He sat at the desk and took some things out of his case and started going through them while he ate the sandwich. When he finished his sandwich, he picked up his mug and went over to his large multi monitor computer workstation. He sat down and keyed in a command, entered his password. He went through his email, answering those that he needed to be answered and deleting the others. He cleared his junk mail folder and then entered some other commands into the computer before getting up to refill his mug.
He stopped in the den and turned on the news for a little while, he did not sit down, but stood there sipping the coffee while he watched for a few minutes. He switched to a few different news channels before dropping the remote on the couch and heading back to his office. He put the cup down and went to his desk to grab a notepad before seating himself in front of the main monitor. He entered a command and took a sip of his coffee as he looked at the monitor. What he saw caused him to choke on the coffee and it put him into a coughing fit as he tried to get the coffee that he had breathed into his lungs out of his lungs. He got his breath back and was looking at the screen with a shocked expression.
Sean had found a newspaper article on line titled 'Hunt Lab Tragedy' and had just started to read it, when Dakota came up behind him and picked him up.
"Enough Sean, I'm feeling rejected here. You can go back to your computer later."
Sean giggled and tried to squirm away, knowing that he would not be able to get away if Dakota didn't let him. Dakota allowed him enough leeway to turn around in his arms before he tightened his hold once again. Sean looked up at the taller boy and put his arms around Dakota and hugged him. They kissed and Sean used the distraction to push against Dakota who fell back onto the bed with Sean on top of him.
Sean giggled and kissed him again. Dakota's hands moved up and down Sean's back. They were both soon breathing heavily. The computer was all but forgotten. Sean had more important things to do right now.
That was all the man said before he quickly entered several commands and hit enter. He watched his program go to work.
Sean and Dakota came up for air. Sean was under Dakota as they smiled at each other. Sean told him that he had to go pee so they got up and Sean went to the bathroom. When he returned he looked at Dakota and smiled for a moment before he glanced at his computer screen.
Sean ran over to the computer and sat in the chair as he was frantically entering commands into the computer, but all he saw was a blue screen with white writing on it. The famous 'Blue Screen of Death'. He pounded on the desktop.
"Damn, damn, damn! Fuck! Shit! Motherfucker!"
Dakota came up behind him and put his hands on his shoulders.
"What's going on Sean?"
Sean gestured angrily at the screen. "The fucking blue screen of death! My computer's fried. Shit! I'm going to go tell my dad, maybe he can do something."
Dakota let him go and he almost stomped out of the room he was so angry. Downstairs he found his dad watching TV. "Dad, can you come up and check my computer. I think I've got the blue screen of death."
"Sure Sean. I'll be right up there."
Sean went back upstairs and told Dakota that his dad was coming up to look at it. He glared at the blue screen on his monitor. Dakota was about to come and comfort him when they heard Sean's dad near the room.
He came in and sat at the desk and started trying a couple of things, but all he got was the blue screen. He turned to Sean and shrugged. "Yep, it looks dead. I'll take it down to the workshop and take a look at it tomorrow to see if we can salvage anything."
"Thanks Dad. I hope you can, I have all my research on there."
"Research, for what, a school project?"
Sean gulped and glanced at Dakota.
"Uh, yeah, it's a project I'm working on."
"Well, I'll see what I can do. Why don't you unhook everything and bring it down to the workbench and I'll look at it tomorrow."
"Okay, thanks Dad."
Once his dad left, he and Dakota started unhooking everything. Once it was done Sean carried it downstairs to the workbench in the garage. Dakota told him he was going to head home. So after a few kisses in the dim garage Sean opened the door and Dakota took his bike and rode off, giving Sean a wave.
The man sat back and took a sip of coffee as he looked at a bunch of data that he had retrieved before going over to his desk. He took some gold colored shiny envelopes out of the desk and went back over to his computers. He loaded the envelopes into the printer and then started a mail merge document. Soon there were seven envelopes with addresses on them. He then wrote several notes and then printed them out. He put a note into each of the seven envelopes and sealed them.
Once that was done he pushed a button on an intercom system. "Gabe do you copy?"
"Would you come to my office?"
"On my way."
A few minutes later he heard the sound of a vehicle nearing the house. Moments later Gabe came walking into his office.
He held out the envelopes to him.
"Please see that these are delivered. The top one I want to have you deliver personally early tomorrow morning, you know why. The others I want them delivered tonight quietly. Slip them under the door, or if your men can get in, put them in a conspicuous place where they won't be missed by the occupants. Just be careful, especially these two locations." He pointed at a couple of the envelopes. "I don't want any of your men detected."
"Yes, sir. I'll get on it."
He looked through the stack of envelopes before looking back at his boss.
"So it's time."
"Yep, if I had been gone a day longer, it may have been too late. Luckily I got back in time."
Gabe gave him a slight salute with the envelopes and left the office. He pulled his walkie out and started putting a call out to the men to gather in the conference room. Gabe got to the conference room and waited for the others to arrive. He split them into two man teams and explained what he wanted them to do before he handed out the envelopes, tucking one of them in his jacket pocket. He pulled aside two of the teams and told them that they needed to be in and out as fast as they possibly could. They could not linger at all. If all they could do was slip the envelope under the door, then that is what they needed to do.
Soon several SUVs left the compound and headed down the mountain. An hour later, at the location of several houses, a pair of black clad men were breaking in. They crept quietly into each house and left the gold colored envelopes in the middle of a kitchen or dining room table. They left the houses as silently as they entered, making sure that everything was locked back up and if an alarm system was in place the alarm was reactivated. Each team reported to Gabe their success and he dismissed them for now, but to be ready. He lay down in the motel room he had taken to get a few hours' sleep before he had to meet with his assignment.
The next morning Josh was awakened by the doorbell ringing. He started to get up and then he heard his uncle leaving his room and grumbling.
"Someone better be fucking dying to be waking me this early on my day off or they're going to wish that they were." He stomped down the stairs and unlocked the front door wrenching it open. "There better be a fucking war going on…holy fuck!"
He looked at the older man standing in his doorway.
"Hey, Master Sergeant, how they hanging?"
"Straight fucking down! Gabe, where the hell did you come from? Come on in!"
He stepped aside and closed the door behind them. He led them to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee. "How long has it been?"
"About ten years."
"What have you been doing since you got out?"
"Some private security work, you know bodyguard stuff, advising companies or individuals on their security arrangements, that sort of thing."
"You like it?"
"Yeah, pays the bills. If you ever want to quit being a cop, I could probably find you a position in the industry, even if you are Green Beanie."
"Hah, better'n bein' a Squid."
Eric poured them some coffee and sat down at the table across from his friend. "So why the fuck are you here this early on Easter morning for Christ's sake?"
Both men looked over and saw Josh in a pair of shorts and t-shirt. Eric grinned and motioned for him to join them. "Josh, come on over and meet an old friend of mine, Gabe Patterson. He and I worked together a couple of times over in Afghanistan about ten years ago."
Josh walked over and held out his hand, "Nice to meet you, Mister Patterson."
Gabe shook his hand, "Just Gabe, Josh."
Josh went and got some juice and sat down next to his uncle.
Eric looked over at Gabe. "So like I was saying, what the f….heck brings you here and at this ungodly hour?"
"I'm delivering a letter."
"Oh, to who?"
"You," Gabe reached into his jacket and pulled out the gold envelope and handed it to Eric.
Eric took it, and he and Josh looked at it. On the front was Eric's name. He looked at Gabe. "Fancy looking, what is it?"
"Just open it."
Eric noticed that Gabe's demeanor became serious and Eric narrowed his eyes as he looked at Gabe before nodding and opening it. He pulled out the folded note and began to read.
Master Sergeant Eric Barrett,
It is imperative that you and your nephew, Joshua Stuart, pack some clothes for a few days and be ready to be picked up tomorrow morning. It will be necessary for you to arrange some time off from your job, or even quit if necessary. Tell them that it is a family emergency, but it is imperative that you be ready to go tomorrow. It is a matter of life and death. Do not contact anyone and tell them what you are doing. This must remain Top Secret. It is in regards to the GRA.
Eric folded the note and looked at Gabe. He remembered what his sister had told him about the GRA and he became concerned for Josh's safety. His voice hardened a little when he spoke. "What's this about, Gabe?"
"You remember the old need to know. Well, I haven't needed to know. Only that it is important that you heed the information in that note. I don't even know what it says except that I am to pick you up tomorrow and take you to my present employer."
"Who is Mac?"
"That was handed to me by my employer. I can't tell you anymore for security reasons."
"Is Josh in danger?"
"I don't know for sure whether he is or not. I was just asked to deliver this to you and pick you up tomorrow. That's it."
"What is going on Gabe?"
"I can't answer that. Everything will be made clear tomorrow, that's all I can say. Other than, if you don't Josh may be in danger."
Eric sat reading the note again and tapping it against his other hand as he pondered it. There was definitely an ominous feeling to all of this and hearing that the GRA was involved worried him. Gabe sat across from them, saying nothing. Josh looked between Eric and Gabe, wondering what was going on.
"Okay Gabe. We'll be ready. Josh's safety is the most important thing."
"Good, I'll be here early tomorrow to pick you up."
"Where are we going?"
"Not far, you'll see tomorrow. Trust me; I don't screw over my buddies, especially any who have had my back."
"I understand. We'll be ready."
Gabe and Eric stood up. Eric left the note on the table. The two men walked to the door and embraced before Gabe left. Eric watched him drive away before walking back over to the table and sitting down in front of his cup of coffee.
"Uncle Eric? Who was that?"
"Gabe's an old military buddy. We fought together in Afghanistan about ten years ago."
"What was he talking about?"
"Something from a long time ago."
Eric looked at Josh and put an arm around him to hug him. "Let's just wait and find out together."
"Okay, Uncle Eric."
"Let's have some breakfast buddy."
"One thing Josh, if you talk to any of your friends today, especially Jamie, please don't say anything about us going anywhere tomorrow. You can tell him about it after we get back. Agreed?"
"Sure Uncle Eric."
Eric started making some bacon and eggs for the both of them.
In the houses of each of the other boys as the houses woke up, the golden envelopes were found. They said essentially the same thing to each couple. All of them said to take time off from work for a few days, that someone would be by to pick them up early the next day, tell no one, that the GRA was involved, and they were all signed 'Mac'. All of them were shocked to find the envelopes and what they said. All of them were found by one of the parents of the boys, because like most teenage boys, the boys were sleeping in. They all remembered Mac as the one who arranged their new identities. So it made sense that he would be able to contact them. Some of them were even hopeful that Mac's contact with them meant that maybe they could finally come out of hiding and reconnect with their families. Perhaps the GRA was finished. Still, there was mention of their being a danger to their sons that told them that it was most likely not good news.
They kept the contents of the envelopes from their sons. When the boys got up for breakfast, their parents told them to pack some clothes for a few days, because they were going on a short trip. The boys asked where they were going, but they were told it was a surprise. They also asked them not to tell anyone that they were going on a trip, not even to their friends. That last request struck all of them as strange and they questioned their parents about it, but they were asked to trust them, it was important. The boys agreed even though they were puzzled by the request.
Barbara and David wondered whether they should see about Jamie staying with the Woods for a couple of days, but again there was in the note that they were not to tell anyone. So they decided that they had no choice but to bring him along with them and hope that his being with them would not cause any complications with whatever was going on. If something came up and they had to go into hiding again, maybe Hal Jackson and Meredith Lattimer would be able to make it work out for Jamie so that he could live with the Woods again. With Alma discredited, it should be easy to get them recertified as foster parents, besides the two younger boys loved Jamie as their big brother, so that would be a good solution for all of them.
The Robinson's were invited to the Woods home for Easter dinner so they went over there late in the afternoon. Barbara wondered whether they should broach the subject with Maggie and Tom, but decided to wait and see what happened the next day. Dylan and Jamie played catch with Shane and Mark for a little while, which made the two younger boys happy. When they got home, the boys called their boyfriends to wish them a Happy Easter. They also talked a little about the barbecue next week and the big reveal to their families, but no one mentioned the trip, even though they each were dying to do so.
That night before going to bed, Dylan and Jamie were watching TV in Jamie's room and were talking about the mysterious trip in the morning.
"Mom and Dad are worried about something Jamie."
"I don't have your gift and I can tell that. Can you tell how worried they are?"
"Very, and I think they're scared too."
"If they're scared why are we taking this trip?"
"I'm not sure, but I can also feel a sense of resignation, kinda like they have to do this. That there is no choice. I don't know how else to explain the feeling."
"Well, I guess we'll find out tomorrow."
"Yeah, I hope everything will be okay."
At Ethan's house, he was having a hard time keeping calm himself. He so wanted to call Sean, their researcher, and tell him about a thought he had caught from his parents that they had let slip. It had to do with them worrying whether the others were okay. He so wanted to delve deeper, but it was his parents and it would be uncool to read their minds without their permission. He thought that the others that they were worried about might be his friends. Maybe they were the other boys in the experiment, which he thought might mean his friends. Of all the boys, he was the only one that wasn't worried. He was actually having a hard time getting to sleep that night because he was filled with anticipation and excitement. He thought for sure, that they were going to get some answers tomorrow. It took a long time, but he finally got to sleep.
The next morning an SUV pulled up in front of each house. They weren't ominous looking like you saw in the movies; black colored, dark tinted windows, that sort of thing. They were a mix of colors, so as to more easily blend in. To further disguise them, there were ski racks on top of them with skis and snow boards in the racks. The families were up, had eaten breakfast, and their bags were by the door. When the doorbells rang, they saw before them someone who was tough looking and well built. He was dressed in regular clothes; jeans, hiking boots, some had flannel shirts on, others a t-shirt and jacket. None of them anticipated that it might be cold where they are going, so until the man at the door suggested that they bring warm jackets they hadn't thought of that. After hearing that and seeing the skis in the racks, some asked if they were going up to the mountains. The men said only that they could say only that Mac had sent for them and they would be fine. They were not at liberty to give the location that they were being taken to. They were all worried; you didn't need Dylan's talent to tell that. They wondered if they could really trust these men, but they remembered Mac and what he did for them, so they felt that they had no choice. Their anxiety rubbed off on their boys, Dylan had to filter those feelings out so that the anxiety that Jamie and his parents were feeling didn't multiply with his. They grabbed jackets and their bags and followed the men out to the SUV. Their bags were put in the back of the SUV and they climbed inside. When they got in they saw that another similar man was sitting in the driver seat. The only one that was different was the one that Gabe Patterson was driving, he came alone. Eric got into the front passenger seat while Josh got in the back. Each SUV had two sets of back seats so there was plenty of room for each family. Soon SUV's were on their way toward the mountains.
While they drove, Eric talked with Gabe, but every time he tried to pump him for information, Gabe would give him a look, that said, "You don't need to know, just trust me."
The atmosphere in the others was tense. Many of the adults tried to get information from the guys in the front, with no success. They always got the same answer, 'I'm not at liberty to say'. It was frustrating to say the least. Dylan could detect that the men were very calm, but he felt a feeling of readiness coming from them, but it was directed away from them. Ethan was the calmest of all of them, because he picked up some surface thoughts that sounded reassuring. He detected nothing threatening.
Since they were getting nothing from the men driving them, they tried to relax and watched the scenery go by. One thing Eric noted was that with all this secrecy, they were not being blindfolded, which could mean one of two things. Either it didn't matter because there was nothing to worry about and the person they were going to meet was friendly. Or it didn't matter because they weren't going to be coming back. He thought it would be the former, because Gabe was a friend and he thought that the man that he had fought with in Afghanistan would not be part of something that would cause harm to a kid, but you never knew what could happen in ten years. People could change.
Pretty soon they saw that they were driving on Highway 38, which was the back way up to Big Bear. Some people preferred that direction because it was many times a less crowded drive than the main route most people took, Highway 330. It was also not as steep of a drive as 330. The road wound its way up into the mountains. As they went higher into the mountains, they started to see patches of snow, although it wasn't as thick as it had been a month or so ago, there was still a lot of snow around. The roads were completely clear. They saw Big Bear Lake ahead of them. To the south of them they could see the ski runs of Snow Summit and Bear Mountain Ski Resorts. The runs had snow but there were a lot of brown patches along the side of the runs. It looked like ski season was winding down in the local mountains. At Big Bear City, the drivers turned right and went around to the north shore of Big Bear Lake. The road followed along the lake. They could see boats out on the lake as they drove by. Sometimes, below them, they could see someone sitting on the rocks fishing.
When they got to the town of Fawnskin, the drivers headed north out of Fawnskin and were soon driving higher into the mountain away from the town. They came to a road marked private. By this time, the passengers could see other SUV's around them all heading in the same direction. This caused a lot of curiosity among the passengers and they asked their drivers about it, again getting the same thing they had heard before. Some of them were starting to put two and two together. Ethan was smiling, because he could feel his friend's thoughts nearby, especially his boyfriend, who seemed to be in the SUV in front of them. They eventually saw something that looked kind of like the entrance to a ranch, like you would see in the old westerns.
The SUVs pulled into the property and continued deeper into the pine trees. The SUVs came out into a huge meadow like area within the trees and ahead of them was what looked like a huge log cabin, two stories tall. The house was in the middle of this huge meadow like area with a covered porch in the front. In front of the entrance was a large grassy area; at least that is what they could see between the patches of snow. Around the area were also several buildings and there were a few men moving around. All of the buildings in the area matched the house. Besides the main house, they could see a few buildings that looked like multi car garages around at the fringes of the meadow like area. There was a large barn, near the barn they saw some guys that looked like cowboys riding off on horses. What they also saw was that those cowboys had guns in holsters that they wore on their hips and a rifle sticking out from a scabbard on the saddle. There was another structure that looked like another house, but not quite as fancy as the main house. The SUV's headed to a large paved area near a couple of the multi car garages.
They parked the SUVs and the men looked at their passengers. "Okay, we're here."
They then opened the doors and got out. It was definitely colder outside and the families were glad to have the warmer jackets. Around the parking area, doors were tentatively opened on the part of the adults, but not on the boys, because they had already connected to their partners and they bounded out smiling at each other. As their parents got out, the first thing that happened were several shocked intakes of breath as they looked around and then caught site of each other. The one thing that was a constant was the yells of, 'OH MY GOD!'
The parents stood there looking at each other as they realized who each of them were. Cory McClendon and David Robinson almost ran to each other and hugged, and that seemed to release everyone else. The boys, although in awe of everything they could see, the biggest shock, although somewhere deep down they had expected it was all of the adults coming together. There were hugs and tears and a babble of voices as they tried to understand how this could be that after thirteen years they would meet up again. What was a big surprise to the boys was that their parents were answering to different names than the ones that the boys had grown up hearing. They were all a little puzzled by this until Sean snapped his fingers as he figured something out. They looked at him.
"That makes sense. They were given different names."
His friends looked at him.
"Our parents, the names that we know them by are not the names they were born with. It's like Witness Protection, they got new identities and that's what they have been calling themselves for as long as we knew. Wow. This is big."
One of the parents stood apart, a little overwhelmed by what was going on, it was Eric. He was not a part of this group of friends who had given up everything to keep their son's and families safe.
At one point when Barbara looked at Eric, who was standing next to his friend Gabe looking at everything unfolding before him, something occurred to her and she nodded to herself before walking over to him. "Mister Barrett, I think I just made the connection. You're the brother of Christine who was married to Derrick Stuart, that's why you looked familiar to me when I met you. You resemble your sister. Joshua is their son."
"Yes, Ma'am. Chris was my older sister."
"How did you find them?"
"I didn't, they found me. She needed me a couple of years ago for a bone marrow transplant to fight the cancer she was dealing with at that time, and she took the chance because I was the only hope for her. Sadly, it didn't help, and she died from it anyway."
"Did they tell you about what happened?"
"Yes, and she made me swear I wouldn't tell anyone that they had not died in that fire. She and I argued about that for some time, but I never told anyone, not even our parents before they died."
"I am sorry, but I hope you know that it was necessary. We had to keep our boys safe."
She looked around now to find out that they've been living near each other all this time and their sons had become friends. When she looked at the boys who seemed to be looking in awe at everything going around, but also seemed to be happy about something, she noticed something else. She could see how close the boys seemed to be and she nodded as she noticed some of the boys were holding hands or had their arms across each other's shoulders and were leaning close to each other. She looked over at Jamie who was standing next to Josh, they were one of the couples holding hands and she realized who he was. She went over to him and touched him on the shoulder. He and Josh turned around.
"Jamie. Now I know who you are. You're Kathy and Brett's son. I can now see the resemblance when I think of the picture you have of you and your mom in your bedroom."
"I don't think so. My mom's name was Christine, not Kathy. I never knew my Dad; he died in an accident a long time ago."
Barbara had to blink back tears as she realized that he didn't know his parents and how he must feel alone now. She looked at Josh, at least he had his Uncle to take care of him. She decided that she would make sure that they both would know about their parents. She hugged both boys.
"Everything will be alright boys."
She broke the hug and headed back to her friends. The adults finally got over the initial shock of seeing the friends that they never expected to ever see again. They started looking around for answers and they saw that of the men that had given them rides only one was still standing nearby, that was Gabe standing next to Eric. They headed toward him.
He stood there with a level look. He stood ready to weather the storm surge that was about to hit him. Behind them came their boys.
"Where's Mac? What's going on? Are we in danger? Has the GRA found us?"
Gabe stood there like a solid wall, returning their looks with a steady gaze of his own, except when he glanced to the log cabin for a moment. A voice from the direction of the house interrupted their questions.
"Mac's not here. He's back home. I just got back a few days ago from visiting with him. The GRA has not found you…yet. I'm not sure whether any of you are in danger yet. As for what is going on. Your sons might be better able to answer that."
The group of parents and boys turned toward the log cabin where the voice had emanated from. They watched as a man limped along the stone path that led from the entrance towards them. As he neared them, every mouth on the adults dropped open. The boys looked from their parents to the man and back, not sure what was going on as their parents stood there in complete surprise.
"My god, Brett?"
Jamie caught that name when Dylan's dad said it and looked at the man as he remembered what Barbara had just said to him moments before. She had called him Kathy and Brett's son, but that couldn't be, because his mom's name was Christine and his dad was dead long ago, or was he. Then there was what Sean had said about maybe they had their names changed. He just looked at the man walking towards them. If that was true, then was his mom's real name Kathy and then was this man his dad? The man continued walking toward them. Adults and boys parted before him until he was standing right in front of Jamie. He smiled at the boy and held out his hand. Jamie looked at the hand and then up at the man. The man's eyes glistened a little as he looked at Jamie. Jamie didn't know what to do.