Castle Roland

Who Is He

by Eric Aune


Chapter 18

Published: 8 Apr 14

Monday afternoon, Chris was over at Travis' house doing some studying, well mostly studying. Finals were coming up soon and they didn't want to wait until the last minute. They were interrupted by Chris' cell phone going off. He pulled it out and glanced at it before answering.

"Yeah Dad….Sure, we're pretty much done here for now…I'll be right there…bye."

He put the phone away and stood up.

"What'd your dad want?" Travis asked.

Chris shrugged, "He said I needed to come home. The attorney for the case is there and wants to talk to me."

"Did he say what about?" Travis asked.

Chris shook his head, "No."

"I'll come with you," Travis offered.

Chris smiled, "'Kay, cool."

Chris quickly gathered his books and papers and put them back into his pack. Travis gave him a quick kiss before they left the room. Downstairs Travis let his parents know that he was going next door with Chris for a few minutes and would be back in time for dinner. They went out the door and over to Chris'. When they went inside, they saw the attorney sitting in the living room with his Dad. Chris could hear his mom, Tyler and Jessie in the kitchen getting dinner ready. He and Travis came in and sat down after shaking hands with Hank Jefferson.

Once they were all seated Mr. Jefferson started, "Chris, I came by to let you and your family know that the case against those four boys who attacked you is over. The attorneys for the boys contacted me on Friday and asked for a deal. A plea agreement was reached and they have pleaded guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. They were given six months suspended sentence. They have to perform 500 hours of community service. They must stay out of trouble for the six month period of the suspended sentence or they will go to jail to serve out the whole six months. They will have to finish up at a continuation school starting this summer, mainly to catch up with the classes they missed while in jail, and then continuing until they graduate. They will have to attend therapy concerning their attitudes against gays. The restraining order will remain in effect until such time as they no longer are a threat to you. That will depend on what the therapist says. He will make a report every month to the court. Any questions?"

"If they had gone to trial, what could they have gotten?" Chris asked.

"They could have gotten up to three years. The hate crime charge would have been hard to prove. But I think they probably could have gotten at least a year in jail. We made the deal, because we think that it's their attitude that needs changing and spending time in jail wouldn't help that. We believe they can be rehabilitated, so we chose that over jail time. As long as they stay out of trouble, they'll be fine."

Michael nodded, "Okay. Thanks Mr. Jefferson for letting us know."

They stood up and shook hands, "My pleasure, Mr. Hale."

Michael showed him out before he returned to the living room.

"What do you think, Chris?" he asked.

"It sounds okay Dad. Maybe this way they'll be better people."

They heard Heather call them to dinner, so Travis said goodbye and went home.

Wednesday afternoon, when Travis and Chris entered the GSA meeting, they were greeted by applause. Both of them stood at the entrance with surprised looks on their faces. Dave motioned for them to come to the front of the room. The applause died down as they made their way to the front of the room until they were standing beside Dave. He turned to the rest of the club.

"I would like to be the first to congratulate next year's President and Vice President, Travis and Chris."

"But, but…" both of the boys were shocked as they looked at Dave and spluttered; Dave grinned at the looks on their faces.

"Something you need to learn in volunteer organizations, don't miss a meeting when votes are called for. Usually, whoever misses the meeting gets voted into the positions that are being voted on," he said as he clapped them on the shoulder.

"But, we'll be sophomores next year. Shouldn't it be the older members who are the officers?" Chris protested.

"Usually, that may be the case, but you two have shown leadership and character this year with everything that has been going on. You have not shied away when faced with problems. You have supported our club and helped others in need. We don't think we can do wrong with having you two as the leaders of the club, no matter what your age is. Besides, Loren and I will be here for the first half of the school year to help you. Overall, it was unanimous, so congratulations," he explained.

They started to hear the other members of the club chanting.

"Speech! Speech!"

Travis and Chris stood before the club nervously holding hands as they looked at their friends.

"Uh, thanks I guess. But, uh, which of us is which?"

The room erupted in laughter. Dave had an apologetic look and chuckled. "Yeah, I guess that might be important information. Travis was elected President and Chris as Vice President. Jackie will be Treasurer and Liz as Secretary."

"Okay, uh thanks. I don't know why you picked us, but I think I can speak for Chris and sat that we will try our best to do a good job….and yeah…"

Travis trailed off as he ran out of what else to say. There were some laughs from the group. Dave stepped forward again.

"I guess that's it. Let's enjoy our last meeting of the year. It has been a good year. We have some money in our account that will help us start off in good shape next year when school starts. Over the summer I hope to get together with Travis and Chris to talk over with them what we may be able to do for next year. For now, let's give our new officers a round of applause and then enjoy the snacks that Ms. Lyons has brought for us today."

After another round of applause the two boys moved among the crowd as they accepted handshakes and hugs from the members of the club. Chris and Travis made their way over to where Bryce and Cheryl were standing. They were both grinning at them. Once Travis got close he punched Bryce in the arm.

"I know it was you. You nominated us," he accused him.

Bryce rubbed his arm, "Hey. Not fair. And you're wrong, it wasn't me. It was Dave and Alex. It's their fault, not mine. Dave nominated you and Alex nominated Chris."

"Oh, then, sorry, I guess. But you could have at least warned us," Travis said accusingly.

"And miss the look on your faces, not a chance. Besides if they hadn't nominated you, I would have," he admitted.

"Jerk," Travis said with a smile.

"You guys will do great," Bryce stated with conviction.

Travis smiled, "Thanks, Bry."

It was a festive mood for the rest of the afternoon meeting. Soon enough, they broke up as the club members had to head home.

The next week at school was finals week. People were too busy with finals to bother giving Travis and Chris a hard time, except for the occasional scowl or muttered name calling. News about the plea agreement that Jerry and his friends had made, hit the school grapevine and was a source of gossip for a short time before fading off the horizon as the pressure of finals hit everyone.

Finals week was hectic as expected. The only easy time was art class. The class had already turned in their final projects, so it was mostly just a relaxing class. People just sat around, talked, and signed yearbooks. Alex sat down next to Chris and they exchanged yearbooks. Chris flipped through the pages until he found the section with pictures of the school's clubs. He stopped at the page with the GSA picture on it. Instead of signing his name, he drew a small picture in the margin. It was a drawing of a boy with a sketchbook sitting under a tree. When Alex finished signing Chris' book, he saw that Chris was still writing in his book. He put the book down on Chris' desk and moved over so that he could see what he was doing. Chris quickly finished up the drawing and handed the book over to Alex.

Alex looked at the sketch for a few moments before he looked at Chris and smiled, "Thanks Chris. That's pretty cool."

Chris answered his smile with one of his own, "You've been a good friend this year Alex. Thanks for everything."

"You've been just as good a friend. I'm going to have to save this book now. It'll probably be worth a lot after you're a famous artist."

Chris laughed, "Yeah, right."

The bell rang signaling the end of the class. He and Alex bumped fists, gathered their books and backpacks and headed off to their next class. Nothing much happened the rest of finals week, and the guy's fairly eventful freshman year of high school ended with a half day of classes on the following Thursday.

They started their summer vacations as they usually had in the past, Bryce, Chris and Travis spent a lot of afternoons over at Bryce's house in the pool. Many times Cheryl joined them as well. Chris and Travis enjoyed not having to listen to the snide comments when they went anywhere together, like it had been in school where everyone knew that they were a couple. They were still circumspect, because there were plenty of other people who would have been more than happy to voice their personal opinions about others with no hesitation. They double dated with Cheryl and Bryce a couple of times to grab a bite and see a movie.

So, for them, the summer looked to be another pretty good summer. In late June, Bryce invited the Hales and the Graysons over for his fifteenth birthday pool party. The three families were there. Cheryl was there as well, along with other members of Bryce's family. The kids were all having a great time in the pool. At one point Cheryl had just ducked Bryce underwater and when he came up he lifted her up and she put her arms around him and he moved his head forward and gave her a quick kiss. Chris and Travis were sitting on an underwater bench and were leaning back against the coping. They were holding hands underwater and without thinking they glanced at each other and moved their heads together and did the same. It was only when they heard the intake of breath from someone nearby that they remembered where they were and it wasn't just the three families and Cheryl here. They pulled back quickly and turned bright red as they looked around. The person who had made the sound was Bryce's younger sister, Robin. She had just surfaced near them just as they did that, and she was a little shocked, since she'd had a little bit of a crush on Chris for some time now.

"Oh my," she said.

The boys looked at each other, "Oops."

The two boys started looking around at the reactions of the others, and there was a mix of reaction. The younger boys in the group had a, "eww, yuck," kind of look, the kind they would have had, if their mom had kissed them in front of their friends. There was no real negative looks, although Tyler was a bit surprised, but Jessie wasn't.

"It's about time," she said.

"Wh..what?" Chris stammered.

Jessie rolled her eyes, "What, you think I didn't know? I'm not stupid you know?"

Chris continued to stutter, "But…"

Jessie continued, "How did I know? I've seen Travis kiss you goodbye a few times when you didn't think anyone saw you."

Chris continued to be dumbfounded, "But…but."

Chris' spluttering caused the tension to be released and others started laughing. Robin turned around to head toward the steps and Chris barely heard what she muttered, "This sucks."

For some reason, it caused him to let out a giggle. She turned around, saw that he was looking at her and she blushed, she turned back around and hit him in the arm.

"Ow! Hey, what was that for?" he asked.

"For laughing at me," she complained.

"Hey Robin, I'm sorry, it just slipped out before I could stop myself when I heard what you said," he apologized.

She stood there looking at him with her arms crossed before she gave in. "I accept your apology. But it still sucks."

Chris smiled at her, "Why?"

She just glared at him, "Never mind."

She turned and went up the steps. When she got out, Travis leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Dude, I think you just ruined her fantasy. She had a crush on you."

Chris nodded in understanding, "Ooooohhhh."

Travis smiled at him, "I, of course understand, since I think you're hot too. Too bad for her that you're already taken."

Travis gave him a quick kiss. When they turned back to the pool, they saw Tyler standing in the pool next to them.

"Isn't that yucky?" he asked curiously.

They both laughed, "No, not to us. To some people, but not us, we like it."

Tyler shrugged, "Oh, okay I guess."

Tyler returned to playing with some of the other kids, "Well I guess that's that."

Soon everyone was called out of the pool for food. The kids gathered together on their towels in the shade of a couple of trees, leaving the patio furniture for the adults. While they were eating, Chris and Travis had questions directed at them; asking them about how long they had been together and all that. What surprised them most was how casual everyone was about it.

"Can I ask you guys why you're not freaked about Travis and me?" Chris asked them.

Mark, an older cousin of Bryce, smiled, "Probably because of me. I'm gay too, and everyone's known about it for years. I think Robin was the only who was real surprised."

Another cousin, Alicia who was thirteen like Robin laughed. "Yeah, anytime we get together, she was always talking about how dreamy you were Chris. She thought Travis was nice too, but we mostly heard about you Chris."

Robin protested, "Shut up, that's not funny."

Alicia smiled at her, "But you should have seen the look on your face when you saw them kiss." She started giggling again.

Robin threw a chip at her. Before Alicia could retaliate, Mark stopped her. "C'mon no food fights," he said.

"Okay, okay." Alicia said.

Mark looked at the two boys, "Anyway, has it been hard in school for you guys."

They then launched into a story about the attack on Chris at the dance and what happened then. They did leave out that they knew who had protected Chris, but other than that

they told them what had happened. Mark sympathized with them.

"There's always going to as…uh, jerks like that. Just ignore them, and they usually go away when they see that you don't rise to the bait," he advised them.

Travis nodded, "That's what we do and it's been okay. No real problems since then."

Chris nodded, "Since everyone knew how much trouble those guys got into for jumping me, they probably figure it's not worth it to push it too much."

Mark smiled at them with approval, "Good for you."

They finished their food and helped clean up before returning to the pool. Chris and Mark were glad that they didn't have to hide who they were to their family.

A week later was the annual, combined family, 4th of July party. This year it was at the Hale home. This was a tradition that started after the three boys started playing Little League baseball together, and had become a tradition to spend 4th of July together and go in together on a huge box of fireworks to enjoy in the evening. The difference this year was that Cheryl was invited as Bryce's guest to join them.

After the fireworks, the adults got everyone's attention. Mr. Hale stood up to make a toast. Everyone held up their glass, the adults with wine and the kids with their coke cans.

"To our families, for another good year together. Cheers."

Everyone cheered and took a drink.

"Now, for one final announcement. This year we, the parents, have decided that we are going on vacation together, because we knew that Travis and Chris would be all mopey, if they were separated for too long. So in two weeks, we are all flying to Hawaii…"

The rest of what he was going to say was drowned out by the cheers of the kids. Michael smiled as each set of parents were inundated by hugging kids and teens. Once he got them to settle back down he continued.

"We are going for a couple of weeks. We're going to spend several days on Kauai and then spend two or three days on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii before coming home."

He was again greeted with cheers.

"There is one more thing. Cheryl, Bryce, I'm sorry but…you're not going to be able to share a room when we go. You'll have to sleep in separate rooms."

Cheryl became elated, "You, you mean I get to go too?"

Michael nodded, "Yep, your parents are letting you come along with us. We didn't want Bryce to be all mopey either. Since you're going to be gone, they decided to take a little vacation themselves."

There were some more cheers as Cheryl hugged Bryce and then each of the parents and thanked them. Everyone was excitedly talking about the trip and what to bring, what they were going to do and so on. The party broke up little later. Travis stayed behind because he was spending the night at Chris' house. Michael had talked to the boys about not messing around too much, as they did not want Tyler to see them doing anything more than just kissing, they promised both sets of parents that they would behave, so they were given permission. They kept that promise, mostly. They kept it at just kisses and caresses.

The next couple of weeks were spent in getting prepared for the trip. The night before the trip, the parents had a difficult time getting the kids to settle down and go to sleep, but they finally did. They got up early the next morning, and had breakfast. Troy Grayson came over to get a set of house keys. He was the only member of the three families who was not going, because he had been accepted at the Police Academy and was busy with classes, so he decided it was too late to take a pass on the opportunity to be at the academy to go on the Hawaii trip.

The shuttle van arrived at 8 am and the Hale and Grayson families got in. The next stop was the Sanders family and they were soon on their way to the airport. As usual LAX was busy. They planned to get there about two hours before their flight, so they could get through baggage check-in and security. They boarded the plane forty five minutes later and were soon on their way to Lihue, Hawaii. They had purchased business class seats so they were all pretty comfortable on the flight.

They arrived in Lihue about five hours later. When they left the terminal to go and pick up their rental cars, they noticed the first difference between home and Hawaii, it was real humid in Kauai. At the rental agency, they saw that their parents had rented convertibles, which the kids thought was real cool. Soon all the luggage was stowed and the tops of the cars were down and they were on their way to the north side of the island.

Forty five minutes later the three cars pulled into The Princeville Resort, the place that they would be staying at for the next few days. They had rented four villas at this resort, one for each family. Three of them had two bedrooms and one was a one bedroom. When they got to the four villas, they told the three guys that they would be in the one bedroom, which brought smiles to their faces.

"Okay boys, just because you have your own place, that doesn't mean that you can go wild," Michael warned them. "We're going to trust you not to do anything stupid. Don't let us down. Besides we're right next door and any loud noises coming from the room, we will make some room changes. Is that clear?"

"Yes sir. Thanks Dad." The boys assured him.

Michael smiled and held out their keys, "Okay here are your room keys. Hurry and get unpacked and then we are going to go get some dinner."

The boys went into their room. It was a one bedroom villa with a sofa bed in the living room. Once the boys were unpacked they met up with the others. Robin and Jessie had decided to share a room in with the Sanders'. Tyler had his own room with his parents, and Cheryl got the extra bedroom with the Grayson's. They all had dinner in the restaurant that had an outside patio, where they could look out over Hanalei Bay and see the surfers riding the waves.

Travis pointed down at them, "That looks cool."

Chris nodded, "Yeah, maybe we can try it while we're here."

Travis smiled, "You think we can?"

Chris shrugged, "I don't know. Dad?"

Michael looked over at Chris, "Yeah Chris?"

"Do you think we could try surfing while we're here?" he asked.

"I don't see why not. I'll check around and see what we can do about setting it up."

All the boys smiled, "Cool, thanks Dad," Chris said.

Their dinner was served and as they ate they talked about some of the things they may do. There was talk of snorkeling, swimming, zip lines, boat trips, surfing, shopping and so on. The sun was setting over the mountains behind Hanalei. During the dinner there had been music playing in the background that no one had paid much attention to, since it was background music, but as the sun was going down a song caught Richard Grayson's attention and he chuckled. The others around him looked at him curiously.

"It's the song, just listen for a minute," he said.

The others stopped what they were doing and listened for a minute.

Puff the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea

And frolicked in the Autumn mist in the Land called Honah Lee

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff

And brought him strings and sealing wax

And other fancy stuff

Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the sea

And frolicked in the Autumn mist in the Land called Honah Lee

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail

Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail

Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came

Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff called out his name

Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the sea

And frolicked in the Autumn mist in the Land called Honah Lee

A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys

Painted wings and giants' rings make way for other toys

One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more

And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain

Puff no longer went to play, along the cherry lane

Without his lifelong friend Puff could not be brave

So Puff that might dragon sadly slipped into his cave

Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the sea

And frolicked in the Autumn mist in the Land called Honah LeeĀ©

Cheryl and the women wiped their eyes. Some of the guys tried to cover up that they were doing the same thing. Tyler was looking confused; Richard noticed and called him over. He pointed out across the Hanalei Bay.

"There are a lot of stories about the song, one of them is that the group that sang it got some ideas for the song when they were here in Kauai. And if you look at the ridgeline there, behind the town it looks like a giant sleeping dragon. See, just look straight across the bay to the other side. That's where Puff's head is and if you follow the mountains all the way around you can see his back down to his tail."

Tyler looked and he turned back with a grin, "Yeah, I can see him now."

Richard smiled, "See, so that is supposed to be Puff the Magic Dragon and Hanalei Bay is the Land of Honah Lee."

Tyler smiled, "Cool. It really does look like a sleeping dragon."

They finished up dinner with dessert. By the end of dinner, Tyler, Jessie and Robin were starting to show the effects of the long day of travel and all the excitement. So the group quickly made their way back to the rooms and said goodnight.

When the boys got inside, Travis and Chris helped Bryce open up the sofa bed. He looked at them and had a mischievous grin on his face.

"Maybe one of you should sleep out here and I'll sleep in there with one of you, to keep an eye on you. I wouldn't want you to be doing anything you shouldn't be doing."

Travis flipped him off and Bryce laughed as he went off to the bathroom before going to bed. The other two closed the door behind them. They both were blushing as they went to get ready for bed. They stripped down to their underwear and took turns in the bathroom before getting into the bed. They turned towards each other and scooted up close. Chris put his hand on Travis' hip and pulled it back like he was burned. Then he pulled the covers up and looked underneath. Travis was grinning when Chris looked up again.

"You're going to sleep like that?" He asked.

Travis gave him a mischievous grin, "Yep. Wanna join me."

Chris reddened for a moment as he thought about it and then he reached down and soon another pair of boxer briefs joined Travis' on the floor. They cuddled up and kissed for a few minutes as they moved their bodies closer until they were touching from top to bottom, and then suddenly Chris couldn't help himself and yawned in the middle of the kiss. Travis rolled back laughing.

Chris was completely embarrassed, "Oh god, I'm so sorry Travis."

Travis pretended to be hurt and turned his back to Chris, "So I'm boring you?"

Chris continued to apologize, "No, dude. I can't believe I just did that. I'm so embarrassed."

Travis rolled back and kissed him before yawning himself, "No worries. See, me too. Although, I do have a little better timing than you do."

Chris flipped him off, "Up yours."

Travis giggled, "Not tonight honey, I have a headache."

Chris punched him in the arm. They both grinned and after one last kiss, they cuddled up together and soon were asleep.

Leo reached into the pocket of his leather jacket, pulled out his ringing cell phone and glanced at the caller ID before answering it.

"Yeah Randy….yeah…tomorrow…I'll be there…yeah bye."

He closed the phone and returned it to his pocket. He looked over at the other guy that had come to the club with him. He watched as Martin was talking to the college freshman that he had maneuvered away from her other friends. Leo knew what he wanted and he really hated to stop him, but there was no choice. So he walked over to Martin and tapped him on the shoulder. Martin looked around with a scowl at being interrupted. Leo motioned with his head to follow him. Martin looked like he was going to object, but he saw the glare that Leo gave him that conveyed the message "Don't even think about it."

Martin turned back to the girl, "Sorry, Janet, I gotta go."

She was disappointed, "Aw, you sure?"

He glanced over to where Leo was standing with an impatient look on his face.

"Yeah, I'm sure," he nodded.

"Okay, I'll keep an eye for you the next time," she said.

Martin smiled, "Definitely. See ya."

Leo turned and headed for the door when he saw that Martin was following. Outside in the parking lot Leo was sitting on his bike and had his helmet in his hands as he waited for Martin to join him. Martin unhooked his helmet as he climbed on the back of the bike.

"What's the rush Leo?" Martin said as he frowned.

"Randy called. We gotta get back and we've got a two hour ride."

Martin shrugged as they put their helmets on. Leo cranked the bike up and they sped off into the night. Two hours later they pulled into Zebulon's estate and parked the bikes. Randy met them at the door.

"What's up Randy?" Leo asked.

"Zeb called and said he'd be here tomorrow. He wanted to make sure we were here when he got back. I didn't know where you were so I called," Randy explained.

"You know what he wants?" Leo asked.

Randy shook his head, "Nope, just said to make sure we were here."

Leo nodded, "Alright, see you later."

Leo and Martin went off to their rooms.

Early the next evening Randy and Leo were summoned to the study. Zebulon and Victor were there and sitting with them was large and powerful looking man. The wine glass that he held looked tiny in his hands. He looked up as they entered and he had a feral looking sneer on his face, that made him more sinister as he gazed at the two guys when they entered. Zebulon motioned for them to get a drink and sit down. They went to the bar and once they had their drinks they sat down where Zebulon indicated.

"This is Marius," he indicated the large man. "He is here to discuss some business with me that you two have a part to play. It is time for you two to grab the child and bring him here."

"Yes, sir," Randy nodded.

"How long will it take Randall?" Zebulon asked.

"Shouldn't be long at all. We'll check it out this evening. After that it shouldn't take more than a couple of days and we'll have him," he stated.

Zebulon nodded, "Very good, that is acceptable. Once you have him, get him here immediately. Will the two of you be able to do it yourself or do you need help, in case that Furginson brat is around, since he seems to give you two so much trouble?"

Marius spoke up, "I can have one of my boys go with them if you wish Zeb."

Zebulon nodded at the suggestion, "Perhaps that would be helpful Marius. Thank you for the offer, I think one of your boys would be a great help."

"I'll have one of them here tomorrow," Marius said.

"That will be fine. We'll take good care of him while he's here. Very well, I will expect an update by tomorrow evening at the latest Randall," he ordered.

"Yes, sir."

Zebulon dismissed them with a wave of his hand. Once they were out of the room he turned his attention back to Marius.

"Now, with that business taken care of, let us discuss our business." Zebulon said smiling.

"What's with this kid? What's so important about him?" Marius asked him.

"He's bait to draw the Furginsons out," Zebulon replied

"So the Furginsons will come after this kid you want?" Maris said as he sipped his drink.

Zebuon nodded, "Yes, he is marked by one of them. You know how protective they can be. That will, of course, work to our benefit."

"I'm sure." Marius seemed unconvinced.

"How many can you bring with you?" Zebulon asked him.

Marius thought for a moment, "I can bring myself and thirty others. The rest will need to stay behind and protect the rest of the family. You are certain that…"

Zebulon interrupted him, "I see you've been most prolific. That number should be sufficient for what we need to do. With the twenty that I have available, I believe that we can accomplish our goals with little problem."

Marius chuckled evilly, "Good, I look forward to tangling with Eric. It's time he went down. He's been a thorn in my side for far too long."

Zebulon raised his glass in a toast, "To the end of Furginson and his brood; and of course to the end all of our enemies."

Victor and Marius raised their glasses and joined the toast.

The next evening Randy and Leo scouted the boy's neighborhood. They saw the older son of the Grayson family, Troy go into Chris' house with the mail and come back out after several minutes. They watched him get into one of the cars and drive off. They ran to their motorcycles and followed Troy. Luckily Troy was not driving fast or far. They caught up with him at the Sanders house, where he did the same as he had at the Hale house. Grab the mail and go inside the house, exiting several minutes later. They watched from the nearby shadows. Once Troy left and they saw that he seemed to be heading back to his home, they snuck up to the house and peered inside the house. It seemed to be completely empty. Randy pulled out his cell phone and called the estate.

"Victor, I need to speak to him, it's important……..Sir, they're gone….I mean they are not here….I don't know sir….They may be on vacation….It appears that the kid and his friend's families are all gone….the older brother of his next door neighbor appears to be watching over the houses, getting the mail an…yes sir…right away."

Randy closed his phone and turned to Leo, "Let's get out of here; he wants us to get our asses back there."

They ran back to where the bikes were parked and headed to the estate. As they roared off into the night, two teenagers watched them drive away. The younger one turned to his companion.

"I wonder what the fuck they were doing here?" one of them said.

He shrugged, "No idea, but it can't be good. We should let Robert know."

The first one nodded in agreement, "Yeah, probably. I think I want to make one stop though."

The second gestured toward the car nearby, "Alright let's go."

They walked over to a nearby car and drove to the Hale house. The older one parked a few doors down from the Hale home. The younger of the two got out and headed over to the Hale house. He slipped into the backyard and checked the place out. He could see a stack of mail on the kitchen counter and the house did look empty. He came back out front and looked over at the Grayson home. The lights were on and he could hear the TV. He stood for a moment before he headed over there and went up to the front door to ring the bell. After a few moments Troy opened the door.

"Hi." The teenager at the door grinned,

"Hi, my names Jack, I was looking for Coach Hale, but he doesn't seem to be home. Do you know when he'll be back?"

"They'll be back in about ten days. They went with my family and another family to Hawaii," Troy replied.

Jack smiled in envy, "Oh man, that sounds pretty cool."

Troy grinned and nodded in agreement.

"How come you didn't go with them? Man, I would kill to go to Hawaii for ten days," Jack said.

"Yeah, I would have, but I've got classes at the police academy and I'd already started, so I stayed behind to watch the three houses," he admitted.

"You're going to be a cop huh, cool. Serve the public and all that," Jack said.

"Do you want me to tell Mr. Hale anything? One of my parents will probably call sometime in the next few days to check in," Troy offered.

Jack shook his head, "Naw, it's not that important. I'll talk to him when he gets back. Thanks, sorry to bother you. Hey, good luck at the academy."

Troy grinned, "Sure, no problem, thanks."

Jack smiled and waved as he walked back down the street to the car. Once he got in, they quickly drove off. Jack was on the phone to Robert as soon as they were on their way. They arrived at Robert's estate and hurried inside to meet with him. Robert set down his pen and looked at them.

"So what is going on?" Robert asked as they entered the room.

"I think Marks is up to something. Leo and Randy were snooping around. Chris and his family, plus the families of his friends have gone on vacation together. The older brother of his boyfriend, Travis, is watching over the three houses," Jack reported.

Robert sighed, "Well, it's not much. The Marks are always up to something. What makes you think it's more than what they've been doing for awhile now?"

Jack looked thoughtful for a moment, "It's just a feeling, just something about the two of them. I don't know."

Robert looked at him for a few moments before he nodded, "Fair enough. Let's keep a close eye on the houses while the families are gone. I would especially like the two of you to keep an eye on this young man who is watching the houses. I want you and Patrick to watch him during the night and I'll see if Eric can have a couple of his people watch him during the day. If they have something planned, they may do something to him. Keep me posted."

Jack nodded, "Sure Robert. I'm ready when you are Patrick."

The two of them headed off to begin their vigil over Troy.

At Zebulon's estate, he slammed the phone down after getting the report from Randall. He paced back and forth fuming for a few minutes before he calmed himself down. Victor sat quietly and sipped his drink watching until Zebulon had calmed down.

"What happened Zeb?" Victor asked.

"It appears that our…guest is not at home and appears to be out of town," Zebulon said through clenched teeth.

"Do they know when he'll return?"

Zeb shook his head, "No, but perhaps we can find out. One member of the family that lives next door is watching over the houses. Perhaps he can be persuaded to share what he knows."

Victor chuckled at that, eliciting a small smile from Zebulon.

"Tell Marius' family member, Barrett, what has happened. Tell him that I would like him to stay here until we need his help. I will clear it with Marius. This will set my plans back until they return, but I want to be prepared to go as soon as they return and we have the boy."

Victor drained his glass and stood up, "On my way Zeb."

Victor left the room while Zebulon returned to the desk and picked up the phone to call Marius.

Song Lyrics: "Puff, the Magic Dragon"Recorded by: "Peter, Paul, and Mary"Written by: (Leonard Lipton, Peter Yarrow)Album: "Moving" - 1962

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