Castle Roland

Ten Steps Down

by Owen Hudson


Chapter 11

Posted: N/A

James began howling with grief when he heard that Mom was dead. I stood in shock, unable to move. I couldn't imagine life without Mom. She was our strength and our solace. I looked up and saw Dad running from one of the barns when he heard James.

"What in the hell is going on here?" Dad yelled at the police office as he took James into his arms to console him.

"He said that Mom is dead," James managed to say between sobs. I was still in shock and unable to speak.

"She is not," Dad said. "She's in the house. What in the hell are you doing upsetting my boys?"

"I'm so sorry, I thought he was Craig," the officer said pointing at me.

"He is Craig," Dad said.

"We found Sharon Phillips dead and the neighbors said that her son lived here with you," the officer said.

"I'm no longer her son," I finally composed myself enough to say.

"Come inside and you can tell us what happened," Dad said.

James now seemed to understand that it wasn't Mom that was dead, but was still clinging to Dad. Once we were inside, Dad explained to Mom what he knew and then let the officer take over.

"I'm Mike Goodrich," the officer began. "We discovered Mrs. Phillips' body after she didn't show up for work for two days and we had to break in. We had been putting pressure on her to provide information about her boyfriend. We're sure that he was responsible for setting Margaret Cochran's house on fire. We think he may have killed Sharon when he heard that there was a warrant for his arrest. He probably thought it was for the fire and that she provided information to us. However, the warrant was for an unpaid traffic violation."

"Do you have any idea where he might be?" Mom asked.

"He has relatives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa," Mike said. "The police there are on the lookout for him. Incidentally, we did find Mrs. Cochran's TV inside Sharon's house. Craig, do you want to make funeral arrangements for your mother?"

"She was no longer my mother," I said. I suddenly realized that I felt no emotion - neither sad nor relieved that she was dead. It was almost as if a casual acquaintance had died.

"Are there any other relatives we should contact who would want to decide funeral arrangements?" Mike asked.

"Not to my knowledge," I admitted. "Dan may know."

"Is Dan your dad?" Mike asked.

"Dan was my dad until he abandoned me when I was eight," I said.

"Do you have his phone number?" Mike asked.

"I'll get it for you," Mom offered. "Would you like for me to call and ask if he knows?"

"If you don't mind," Mike said.

Mom excused herself and left the room. When Mom returned a few minutes later she said, "Dan said that he knows of no other relatives. Sharon was an only child and her parents were killed in an auto accident when Craig was about two."

"Do you have any suggestions about funeral arrangements?" Mike asked.

"What do you think?" I asked Mom and Dad.

"I think it is something that needs to be decided," Dad said, looking straight at me.

"Tell them to do a cremation with no services," I finally said.

"I'll call the funeral home and tell them to send me the bill," Dad said.

"No Dad, it isn't your responsibility," I argued.

"You're my son and that makes it my responsibility," Dad said.

"Are you glad that your birth mom is dead?" James asked me on the way to school the next day.

"I'm not glad, but I'm not all that sad either," I honestly admitted. "She had become a stranger to me anyway."

"I would be glad if my birth mom was dead," James said without emotion. "People like her and your birth mom shouldn't have kids, and if they do they should just give them to people like Mom and Dad."

"How did you get to be so wise?" I asked, ruffling his hair.

"I have a wise big brother that I learned from," James said as he looked at me and smiled.

The day at school was much like most school days for me. Most of the kids didn't realize that the murder victim, Sharon Phillips, was my birth mother. Those that did didn't mention the murder.

"Your dad has already started doing the chores," Mom said when James and I arrived home from school several days later. "Dan and Nicole will be here and Don wanted to get things done early. Dan said that he wanted to talk to you about something."

"Did he say what?" I asked.

"No Honey," Mom said.

Before James and I could change out of our school clothes to go help Dad, he came in from the barns and announced that everything was done. "I wanted to get it done since we had company coming," he said.

Dan and Nicole arrived about an hour before dinner, but he didn't mention his reason for the visit. During dinner Dan said, "While we're all together, I'd like to discuss something with Craig. Since you're all family I think you should all be here."

I had no idea what Dan wanted to ask me, but I was glad that he included my family. This included Grandma, who had been invited to dinner.

"Craig, you are Sharon's only blood relative," Dan continued. "I checked and Sharon had not left a will. It appears that you will inherit the house."

"I don't want the house," I said. "I would never go back there to live."

"I know you life there wasn't pleasant," Dan said. "But, I had a happy childhood there. I gave up the house in the divorce settlement with Sharon. I would like to buy the house from you."

"Like I said, I don't want the house," I reiterated.

"When the house officially becomes yours we'll get it appraised and I'll pay you the appraised value," Dan said.

"That sounds like a reasonable offer," Dad said.

"Would you rent it out?" Grandma asked Dan.

"No, Nicole and I would live there," Dan said.

"What about your job in Junction City?" Mom asked.

"I work from home now," Dan said. "I schedule the drivers and they let me do that from home so that I can be home with Nicole. The company already said that I could work from here."

"Can Craig legally sell the house since he is a minor?" Dad asked.

"I already called Jason and asked about that," Dan said. "He said he would do some research, but he thinks so. He thinks a judge would have to approve it and would probably insist that the money go into a trust fund until he is eighteen. Jason said that since there was no will it will probably be several months before the house legally becomes Craig's."

"Then you wouldn't get to move here for several months," Mom said.

"Jason said that I could probably rent the house and the rent would go into an escrow account," Dan said. "Jason expected that the probate judge would have to approve the rental agreement."

While we talked about the property and the probate, James and Nicole became bored and went to the den to watch TV. During the discussion James came rushing into the room and excitedly said, "Mom, Dad, they captured Neal. It was just on TV."

"Where did they capture him?" Grandma asked.

"In Iowa," James said. "That police officer said that he might go there and he was right."

"Craig, would you get that?" Mom asked when the phone rang during the chatter about Neal's capture.

"Did you hear the news about Neal?" Uncle Jason asked when I answered the phone.

"Yes, we were just now discussing it," I said.

"The other reason I called is to tell you that Dan called about your house."

"Yes, he is here now and said that he talked to you. But, from what I understand, it isn't my house."

"It will be, Craig. Anyway, I did some checking and Ryan and I will be there tomorrow and I'll discuss things with you, Dan, Don, and Libby."

"That was Uncle Jason," I said after saying goodbye to him. "He and Uncle Ryan will be here tomorrow."

"What did Jason have to say?" Mom asked.

"He will be here tomorrow to talk to us about the house," I said.

"Nicole and I will go back home so that you have room," Dan said.

"Us includes you," I said. "Uncle Jason wants to talk to all of us."

"Dan you know that we have plenty of room here," Mom argued. "You and Nicole stay for the weekend. We all enjoy having Nicole."

"I guess I know where I stand," Dan laughed.

"Dan, that's not what I meant," Mom said somewhat embarrassed. "The boys enjoy having a little sister around and she enjoys having big brothers."

"Good recovery, Mom," I teased.

"They will get to spend a lot of time with each other when we move here," Dan said.

Uncle Jason and Uncle Ryan arrived mid morning the next day. James was in the barns showing Nicole the new baby pigs. With Jake and Jade leading the way, both Nicole and James came running when they saw that our uncles had arrived. James, Nicole and I all got hugs from our uncles. The dogs also got a petting.

After James and I took our uncles' bags to their bedroom we all gathered in the den for a little family meeting. "Craig, I've checked and since there was no will and you're Sharon's only living relative it is very likely that it will be yours," Uncle Jason began. "I've already sent a letter to the probate court on your behalf. Dan, I've also petitioned the court to allow you to rent the house while it is in probate."

"How long will that take?" Dan asked.

"I called the clerk and she thought about a month or two," Uncle Jason said. "Probate could take a year. I asked Les Meyer to go by and give a rough estimate of the house's value. Les is a local real estate appraiser. Anyway, Les said that it would be worth about $85,000, more or less. He would have to go inside the house to give a more accurate appraisal."

"I thought it would be worth at least $100,000,"Dad said.

"It would have until the housing market went downhill," Uncle Jason said. "Les said that the house has been neglected too."

"Wow Craig, you're going to have a lot of money," James said.

"Well James, you're going to have a decent sum of money yourself," Uncle Jason said.

"That will be Craig's money," James said.

"No, this will be your money from the car wreck," Uncle Jason said. "The insurance finally agreed on $11,000. They first offered $6,500, but I knew we could get more."

"Wow, I can buy a car now," James exclaimed.

"You could, but you're not," Dad said. "You have to wait until you're sixteen. Besides, it would just sit there for two years before you could drive it. Put the money in the bank and draw interest. Anyway, when it comes time your mom and I will pay half."

"I could get a new one then," James said.

"You'll get a good used one just as your brothers did," Dad said with a slight smile.

"Nicole, the insurance agreed to give you $1,500," Uncle Jason said.

"That sounds like a lot of money," Nicole said.

"It is a lot of money for a little girl," Dan said. "We'll put it in the bank to start your car fund."

"My! Look at the time," Mom said. "I'm sure everyone is hungry. We'll have lunch on the patio. We won't have many more of these Indian summer days and we should enjoy them while we can. Craig, you and James come and help me carry things out."

"I'll help too," Nicole offered.

"Thank you, Nicole," Mom said. "You can take the chips and napkins out."

Mom's simple lunches of sandwiches and chips had a way of ending up appearing as a banquet. In addition to the sandwiches and chips, there was a vegetable tray and an impressive assortment of fruit.

"Do you think my check will come today?" James asked Uncle Jason during lunch for about the fifth time.

"It's possible, but not likely," Uncle Jason said. "Besides, the checks will be made payable to your parents."

"I'm going to check the mail," James said as he put his sandwich down.

"You're not going anywhere until you finish your lunch, young man," Mom said.

"Aw, Mom," James said.

"Can it, Son," Dad said. "You'll not win this argument with your mom."

"Now may I go?" James asked after he showed Mom his empty plate.

"I'm going too," Nicole said.

"Your check won't come here," Uncle Jason laughed. "It will go to your house in Junction City."

"I just want to go with James," Nicole said while trying to hide her disappointment.

"Alright, but stay with James," Dan said.

"I will, Daddy," Nicole said as she, James and the two dogs sprinted away.

"Jason, thank you for getting this for Nicole," Dan said. "I wouldn't have thought to pursue it."

"I'm happy to do it for my niece and nephew," Uncle Jason said.

"I'm glad to hear you say that," Dan said. "Nicole thinks of you and Ryan as her uncles too."

"What in the world?" Mom shouted when we suddenly heard the sound of dogs snarling and barking coupled with Nicole and James screaming.

We all rushed toward the mailbox where we found James trying to console Nicole with Jake and Jade nowhere in sight.

"What happened?" Mom asked as she and Dan tried to calm Nicole.

"A guy in a van tried to take Nicole," James said.

"What did the van look like?" Uncle Jason asked as he took out his cell phone.

"It was a blue Dodge," James said. "It had a dent on the driver's side. He went east and Jake and Jade were chasing after him."

Uncle Jason gave the information to the 911 dispatcher and then said, "Here, you talk to my nephew," as he handed the phone to James.

"He had dark brown hair, almost bald, and about...How tall are you Uncle Ryan?" James began.

"I'm five feet ten inches," Uncle Ryan said.

"He was about five feet ten inches," James continued. "I'd say he was about 30 years old and kind of dirty looking. The first part of his license number is JEP 5 and I didn't get the rest of the number."

I was amazed at the information my brother was providing to the dispatcher as he continued, "He'll be bloody too. My dogs attacked him. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, he had tattoos on his arms and neck."

A deputy arrived soon afterwards to take a more complete report from James. "I'm Deputy Carlton," he began. "Can you tell me what happened?" However, there wasn't much more that James could provide and Nicole was too upset to give any information.

"We came to check the mail," James said. "This blue van pulls up and I thought he was going to ask for directions. Instead he just grabbed Nicole and tried to put her in the van. That's when I kicked him in the nuts, sorry Mom. He released her and then the dogs attacked him. They ripped his pants right off of him."

"They ripped them completely off?" Deputy Carlton asked. "Where are they?"

"Over there in those tall weeds," James said as he pointed toward a patch of weeds.

"I found them," Deputy Carlton said as he returned holding up a torn bloody pair of jogging pants. "His wallet is still in here."

"That's some good luck," Dad said.

"It sure is. Is this the guy?" Deputy Carlton asked as he showed the license picture to James.

"That's the guy," James said as Jake and Jade came trotting up the road panting from an apparent long run.

"I'm going to take Nicole up to the house if you need her," Mom said as she took Nicole's hand and walked toward the house.

"We're done here," Deputy Carlton said. "I'll be up as soon as I call in this information."

After about twenty minutes Deputy Carlton came to the house and said, "Good news, they captured the suspect already."

"That was quick," Uncle Ryan said.

"This young man made our job easy," Deputy Carlton said as James beamed. He was only about ten miles from here. They are taking him to the hospital for treatment for dog bites and his bruised private parts. Incidentally, he matches the description of a suspect that tried to abduct a six year old boy in Emporia last week. Fortunately the boy's father saw him and scared him away."

The next morning's paper had a front page article about a young boy who saved an eight year old girl from abduction. James read the article and then said with disappointment, "They didn't even print my name."

"Honey, did you save Nicole to get your name in the paper or did you do it because you care for her?" Mom asked.

"I did it for Nicole, but they could have put my name in the paper," James argued.

"When you say that you wanted your name in the paper it doesn't sound like it," Mom said. "I had a similar conversation with Craig when he complained that none of the other students at school noticed when he got his car. You don't know how proud your dad and I were of you when your name was in the paper for making the honor roll. Making the honor roll was something you worked hard for and earned. Saving Nicole was something you reacted to, and we're very proud of you for doing that too."

"Son, we asked the newspaper not to print your name," Dad said. "Your Uncle Jason didn't think it would be a good idea."

"I'm sorry," James said,

"There is no need to be sorry," Dad said. "We would like to have seen your name in the paper too, but as your Uncle Jason pointed out, we don't know how many crazy people are out there. What if that guy has a crazy relative and they want to get revenge for what you did? We love you too much to take that chance."

"James, Mom is right," I said. "I began to make real friends after she had that talk with me."

"James, Nicole thinks you're a hero," Dan said. "Last night I offered to sleep upstairs in case she was afraid. She said that she wasn't afraid because you were in the next room."

"Yeah, and Jake and Jade were right outside guarding the house too," Nicole said. "I wish I had a dog like them."

"After we move here we'll see about getting you a dog," Dan said.

"I want one just like Jake or Jade," Nicole said.

"Dad, could we give Jade to Nicole?" James asked.

"They're your dogs," Dad said. "If you want Nicole to have Jade it will be your decision."

"Nicole can have the girl dog and I'll keep the boy dog," James reasoned. "Jade really likes Nicole."

"Thank you, James," Nicole said. "I promise I'll take good care of her."

"Yes, thank you," Dan agreed. "But, we don't have a fenced yard in Junction City, would you keep her until we get moved?"

"Sure," James said. "Nicole can come and visit her anytime."

"After we move I'll bring Jade back for visits with Jake," Nicole said.

"Nicole, we should say goodbye and then head home," Dan said.

"Stay for dinner, and then you can go home," Mom insisted. "We'll eat a little early and then you won't be that late getting back. Ryan and Jason, that goes for you, too."

"Please, Daddy," Nicole pleaded.

"I wasn't going to pass up one of your dinners," Uncle Jason said.

"I can't pass up one either," Dan agreed.

"Since the weather is so nice I thought I would have Don grill some steaks," Mom said.

"Could we invite Grandma?" James asked.

"I called her earlier," Mom said. "She will be here soon. She insisted that she would bring dessert."

Dinner was a jovial occasion with our family. Dad had grilled our steaks to perfection. Mom had baked potatoes and tossed a salad. Grandma's dessert was her old fashioned deep dish apple pie.

"I don't know if I have room for dessert," Uncle Ryan said when Grandma passed out generous servings of apple pie.

"You wouldn't like it anyway," James joked as he savored the first bite of pie.

"Maybe I could manage a piece of pie," Uncle Ryan countered.

"This is the best apple pie I've ever had," Dan said.

"I'm pleased that you like it because I made one for you and Nicole to take home with you," Grandma said.

"Thank you, Margaret," Dan said. "Speaking of home, Nicole when you finish your pie we need to get on the road home. You have school tomorrow."

Dan had become part of the family. I couldn't say that I had completely forgiven him for abandoning me with Sharon. However, I was beginning to understand him. I no longer saw him as a parent. Don and Libby Turner were my parents now. I guess one could say that I saw Dan more as an uncle or maybe even an older brother. But, he wasn't a father figure.

Mom had said that it wasn't blood and DNA that made a family, but that it was love. Our family did have love. It was love that let James learn to trust and to also love. Maybe it was even love that let me get past what Dan had done. I came to realize that Dan really did have remorse, but that Sharon never did.

James never talked about his life before he went into foster care. It was as if he blocked that part of his life out of his mind. The time he was in foster care was better merely because he was no longer physically abused. Maybe there was a reason that I was sent to Mrs. Powell's for that one night. I would never have met James otherwise. James was my brother just as much as Nicole was my sister. I loved them both.

"Craig, didn't you hear me?" Mom asked.

"I'm sorry Mom," I said. "I was just thinking about what a wonderful family this is. What were you saying?"

"You're right Son, this is a wonderful family," Mom said. "But, I was saying that Dan and Nicole were leaving now. Do you want to say goodbye?"

"Sorry Mom, of course I want to say goodbye," I said. I gave Nicole a hug and then I even gave Dan a hug.

"Nicole is such a sweet little girl," Grandma said after Dan and Nicole left.

"She certainly is," Mom said. "You and I will need to be the women in her life."

"Yes we do," Grandma said. "It will be easier after they move here. Oh my, it is getting late and I should get home,"

"We'll see you out," Uncle Ryan said. "We need to go too."

"I understand that you had some excitement at your place this weekend," Rachel said when our usual lunch group met in the cafeteria for lunch.

"Yeah, but how did you know?" I asked.

"It's a small town," Rachel said. "Word gets around really fast in this town."

"What happened?" Seth asked.

"Some pervert tried to abduct Nicole and James kicked him in his gonads," I explained. "Then the dogs attacked him."

"I hope they caught him," Jon said.

"Yeah they did," I said. "The dog had ripped his pants off and the deputy found his wallet, so they already knew his identity."

"The martial arts training has paid off for both you and James," Rachel said. "So far I haven't had to use mine."

"That's because you just look mean," Jon teased. "Nobody would dare attack you."

The first bell rang and ended the conversation, but we all knew that Rachel would have a rebuttal at the next opportunity.

James was surrounded by a group of kids when I went to pick him up at his school. It was apparent that word of his heroic act had spread to the middle school. "A lot of the kids seemed to know what happened this weekend," James said when he entered the car. "I'm glad Dad didn't let the paper print my name. I don't like all of this attention."

"Yeah, Dad is pretty wise," I agreed. "But, don't worry about the attention. All of the kids will be talking about something else in a week or so."

During dinner James admitted how right Mom and Dad had been about avoiding publicity about what he had done. "Now I'm glad my name wasn't in the paper," he said.

"Look what came today," Dad said as he held up an envelope changing the subject.

"My check came!" James exclaimed.

"Actually it is made out to me," Dad teased.

"Dad, I know that," James said.

"We'll go to the bank tomorrow and deposit it into your savings," Dad said.

"Dad, could I keep $1,000 of it?" James surprised us by asking.

"What do you need $1,000 for?" Dad asked.

"Kenny Davenport said that they may have to move," James said. "His dad lost his job with the construction company where he worked. Kenny said that they may have to go live with his grandparents in Hutchinson. They can't pay their rent and I thought I would give them rent money. Kenny also needs some new school clothes. What he is wearing is small for him."

"Son, I admire what you're trying to do," Dad said. "But, a lot of families around here are proud and don't like to take charity."

"Your dad is right, Honey," Mom agreed. "But, maybe we can figure out a way to help this family. First, what size is Kenny?"

"He's a little smaller than I am," James said.

"I was going to get rid of all of your clothes that you've outgrown," Mom said. "I'll call his mom and ask if it would be alright if you gave them to him."

"Dad, do you know of any jobs that Mr. Davenport might get?" James asked.

"I'm sorry son, but there aren't many jobs in this area," Dad said.

"When I was visiting Jon at the feed store I saw a note on the bulletin board about a job at Harold Mulkey's dairy farm," I said. "It even included a free rent house."

"Could I call Kenny and tell him?" James asked.

"Let me call Harold first," Dad said. "I know that Ken Davenport would be a good worker for him."

"When will you call, Dad?" the impatient James asked.

"Would you let me finish my dinner?" Dad asked with a laugh.

As soon as Dad had finished his dinner James looked at him and asked, "Well Dad, are you going to call?"

"Alright, alright," Dad said. "Hand me the phone and the phone directory."

The part of the conversation we heard sounded positive. After saying goodbye to Harold, Dad poured himself a cup of coffee and sat back down without saying anything.

"DAD," James almost yelled.

"Oh, you want to know what he said," Dad teased.

"Don, don't tease him," Mom said. "We all want to know."

"Harold is going to call Ken," Dad said. "I think he is going to offer Ken the job. He knows Ken, but didn't know that he was out of work."

"Thanks Dad," James said. "And thank you too Craig for remembering the posting."

"I'll call Lisa Davenport and arrange to get your outgrown clothes to Kenny," Mom said.

"Maybe he could just ride here with James and me and then I could drive him home," I offered.

"That's a good idea," Mom said. "I'll suggest that to Lisa when I call."

"Mom will she think it is just us feeling sorry for them?" I asked.

"I don't know, Son," Mom said. "But, I'll try to word it in a way that she might accept the clothes."

Mom looked up the number and then dialed the phone, "Hello Lisa," she began. "The reason I'm call is that James has grown so much that we had to buy all new clothes for him. I asked if there was anyone in his class that was smaller than he and he said that Kenny was. Would you be offended if we gave them to Kenny?"

"Well that's good," Mom continued. "If there are any that Kenny can't wear you can pass them on to your church or anyone you think might need them. I can have Craig take them to your house after school tomorrow and he could give Kenny a ride home then."

"Sure, you would be welcome to come out tonight and pick them up. I'll put on a pot of coffee."

"It sounded as that went well," Dad said when Mom hung up the phone.

"She seemed pleased to get the clothes," Mom said.

I had never met the Davenports before, but they seemed like a very nice family. Kenny was indeed smaller than James, yet he was a cute kid. Apparently he got his size from his mother who was petite and very pretty. Ken Davenport could pass for a lumberjack, nonetheless he was very handsome.

"Libby, I don't know how to thank you for all of these clothes," Lisa said. "Since Ken lost his job we were living on unemployment and just making do."

"It looks like that may be changing," Ken said. "Don, I believe I have you to thank for that. Thank you for recommending me to Harold."

"You're welcome," Dad said. "However, the thanks should go to James and Craig. James said that you were looking for a job and Craig is the one that saw the job posting on the bulletin board at the feed store."

"When will you start your new job?" Dad asked.

"Monday," Ken said. "We'll spend this week getting things ready to move. It would be nice to just hire a mover, but that isn't possible."

"I'll bring my trailer over and help you move," Dad offered. "When do you plan on moving?"

"We have most everything ready to move already since we were planning to move anyway," Ken said. "We were planning to move Saturday so that Kenny wouldn't have to miss school."

"If it is Saturday, James and I can help too," I said.

"Thanks," Ken said. "It would have just been Kenny and me. He is small but strong, but some of that furniture would be a little heavy for him."

"Harold Mulkey came by the feed store and took down the note about needing help on his dairy farm," Jon said during our lunch the next day. "He said that he hired someone."

"Yeah, he hired Ken Davenport," I said. "Dad, James and I are helping them move to the dairy farm Saturday. Ken lost his construction job and can't afford to hire a moving company."

"I'm off work Saturday," Seth said. "I'll help you."

"I can help too," Nick offered.

"Me too," Jon said.

"Ashley and I could go and help his wife put things away," Rachel said.

Saturday morning the Davenport home looked like an invasion when we all showed up. Their rental house was small, but appeared neat and clean in spite of boxes ready for the move. We had everything loaded and ready to go in a short time. The unloading and unpacking at the dairy farm went almost as quickly.

Shortly after noon everything was done and the house now looked like a home. "It is so nice to have all of this room," Lisa said. "Later on I'll buy new bedroom furniture and use the old for the third bedroom. We now have room for a king size bed."

"I got a good buy on mine," Grandma, who had joined us to 'supervise,' said. "As you may know I had to buy all new after the fire."

"I'll contact you when I'm ready and maybe you and Libby could go with me," Lisa said.

"We would be happy to go," Grandma said.

"We sure would," Mom agreed. "But for now I think we need to feed this hungry crew. I brought sandwiches, and Margaret brought her chocolate chip cookies."

Mom must have been a good judge of the appetites of a gang of hungry teenagers. She had prepared what appeared to be enough food to feed an army. However, we with the help of the adults devoured it like a pack of hungry wolves.

It appeared that the Davenport family was becoming family friends. James and Kenny seemed to be on the road to becoming best friends.

Note: Thank you Paul for editing.

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