Castle Roland


by Joe Writer Man


Chapter 16

Published: 04 Dec 14


Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Joe Writerman and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Omaha, Nebraska

Centennial LogoAfter returning home from an intense 16 month tour of duty inside of an already war torn country, Ken Shaw spent many nights with very little sleep, and when he did lie down, it was restless. Tonight was one of those nights he would see daybreak sitting at the kitchen window looking out, drinking coffee; all the while wondering about those little children that were left behind when he, his son Kaydyn and their special ops team received orders to disengage despite deep headway into guerrilla territory.

Many, many, many little boys and girls clung to them as they slowly made their exit. Many, many more pushed ahead, putting themselves in danger, as if they already knew what was about to happen. Seventeen children died; many were injured, some grievously, others not so much. Those are physical injuries; the psychological damage was way beyond their comprehension, way past what any child should have to endure in 40 lifetimes.

One-hundred-seventy-nine guerillas were taken out. Seventeen children, despite all orders not to do so, from high up the chain, were rescued from the area by his guys. Fuck the orders. And double fuck the prick that ordered their withdrawal.

Word from very reliable sources said that Ashwood himself ordered the withdrawal of all ground troops from that section, all in preparation for what was to come: Operation Extermination.

Ken bowed his head and stared at the table. Dark memories came flooding back. His eyes watered and his shoulders shook as visions of that barren countryside caused by the massive invasion ordered by none other than the Commander in Chief, at the time.

The man got up, walked to the kitchen sink, reached for the roll of paper towels, tore off two, then wiped his eyes and blew his nose. Slowly, he opened his eyes to mere slits as another picture filled his mind, brought on by a memory of being called to Ashwood's office, and seeing him look into his eyes - stone-faced, absolutely devoid of emotion… while talking about his campaign and how he wanted his military to find trash and dirt on Mr. Bryce.

Ken's response was not exactly what he wanted to do, but, right then and there, despite not following proper protocols – resigned his commission. Despite Ashwood's orders to do otherwise, he left the office, swearing that someday, somehow, Humpty Dumpty was going to fall as were the loyalist dickheads working for the piece of shit. He only hoped he could be the one that took the weasel out. A powerful weasel at that, but his demented thinking would ultimately be his downfall.

Despite his loyalists, he hadn't taken into account the basic fundamental heartbeat of the American people, and even those from far and abroad. America would prevail.

Hearing movement, Ken looked up to see Kaydyn, his 24 year old son, holding his 5 year old daughter Maria. In his other arm he was holding Joaquin, his adopted 9 year old son. Both of these children, truly blessed and very lucky to be alive, had been rescued from their native land. Both were casualties of the War. Both kids were malnourished, although their heights and weights were coming along nicely.

Both kids clambered down from their daddy's arms and launched toward Ken. He barely had time to brace himself before they hit full force and climbed up on his lap and kissed his cheeks as only two little ones can do.

Kaydyn smiled at the interactions his babies were giving to his father. He knew that Ken was perfect Grandpa material for those kids. His heart warmed at remembering his own childhood where there was plenty of love to go all around.

Ken, after the kids expended some of their seemingly endless energy and settled down into his lap, looked to Kaydyn. He could see that something was very wrong, even though his son had a smile on his face.

Shelly, Kaydyn's wife, and Ashley their 3 year old natural born daughter, came up the hallway and stood by their husband and daddy. Ashley clambered down and joined the melee of grandchildren on Ken's lap, making sure to give him her share of hugs and kisses, which he returned in Spades.

Shelly rounded up the kids and took them off to return to bed. It was way too early to be up and around. They, of course, stopped in Tomas' room as it was on their way. The little ones loved their uncle with all of their hearts, but they were sad, too, because Tomas was slow to warm up to them, often being aloof and, seemingly, uncaring. But he did care. He just didn't know how to show them, based solely from his limited knowledge about relationships in general.

Ken got up, walked to Kaydyn. Kaydyn said, "Dad, we need to talk. Mike called. I'll tell you what's up after the kids are in bed."

Ken nodded. They walked to Tomas' room. The little ones were helping Nadine 'arrange' their uncle's bedding.

Kaydyn said, "Come on kids, let's leave Grandpa and Tomas alone for a little while, besides it is time for you to get back to bed."

After one more round of hugs and kisses, the little ones were herded to their bedrooms by Nadine, Shelly and Kaydyn, leaving Ken with Tomas.

Ken sat down on the side of Tomas' bed and finished pulling the sheet up to his son's neck.

Although Tomas was 15 years old last June, he appeared to be about the same size as an older 12 year old. Tomas, too, was gaining weight, but not on the same plane as the younger children. The placement social workers had told Ken that the child would probably never bond with anyone. They also said to let him proceed at his own pace and not push him for fear that he would be lost forever.

Ken, more than Nadine, had told those doctors 'Bullshit'.

Child Protective Services was about to remove Tomas from Ken's home, but before they did, Ken asked them to give it some more time.

CPS scoffed, but relented when Ken and Nadine told the caseworkers just how important it would be for them to not quit, to provide the boy with stability, and to get him on his feet.

Little progress was made over the next 3 months. They took one last opportunity before Tomas' removal.

A doctor's name was given to them by a close family friend, another family who'd taken in a special needs child from the War. Dr. Choi is a psychiatrist in private practice. He's not associated with any university, and refuses to be a part of the CPS system, other than to render professional opinions, but only when asked to do so by a family.

The first consultation, a few months ago, went horribly wrong. More correctly, by the time Tomas arrived at Dr. Choi's office, the child was in an episode of full blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

The 1.5 hour initial consultation morphed into 3.0 hours.

Normally Dr. Choi does not permit parents inside of his office during sessions, rather parents have a separate session at some later time, or beforehand, but made an exception for the first visit in Tomas' case.

Tomas had to be physically restrained by the use of his soon-to-be parents loving arms and words; words of encouragement; words of Tomas' strengths; and their commitment.

Doctor Choi had sat across from the family, doing his magic. What magic?

The magic: Patience and understanding, words, gentle persistence, reinforcing positive things in Tomas' life, and the reassurance that he would never again be sent back from whence he came. Doctor Choi did not, in any way, lead him into the war zone. Rather he spent a lot of time asking Tomas to find qualities that he could take to the bank. When Tomas calmed, the doctor professionally and ethically assisted the boy into hypnosis – not for Tomas to remember his past, but, instead to calm his mind.

Back to the present.

Tomas, calm but detached, scooted his thin frail body closer to the wall, giving unspoken permission for Ken to sit on his bed.

Nadine stepped out and closed the door behind her, knowing her husband had the best magic to get inside of the child they adopted. Tomas had resisted her approaches, even though she is an exceptionally kind and loving person who does not give up.

"Did you have a bad dream, Tomas?" Ken asked softly.

Ken knew the boy had recollections, but went ahead and asked the question to get him talking. He was the only one in the house who had an idea of all Tomas had been through in his short 15 years of life on the planet, mostly in poverty that, unless you were actually there to see it first hand, could not be imagined.

"I had another of my bad dreams, too, Tomas. I understand."

Tomas nodded. Ken had told the boy only pieces of the bad dreams, leaving out the worst of them. At the same time, Ken did indeed disclose general details of what he himself had seen and experienced while on duty. He did this to let the child know he was not the only one to suffer catastrophic events. Once the child identified, Ken was quick to point out how some of those children recovered and went on to live life as best they could, many times on their own, or with minimal assistance.

Tomas would listen with rapt interest as Ken told of the success stories.

Ken reached across to gently push aside strands of hair from Tomas' eyelashes. He then leant down to say, "I love you," while pushing the envelope by very gently kissing Tomas' forehead.

Tomas nodded, then held up 3 fingers. One finger indicated nearly no pain. Five indicated excruciating pain. Three was somewhere in the middle.

Ken retrieved a lone key from his pants pocket, inserted it into a lock in the bedside table, turned it, and reached inside to get a unit dose of Morphine, and made sure it was the correct dose for Tomas' level of discomfort and weight.

The doctors had inserted a venous catheter into Tomas' neck. It went directly into the right side of his heart, so that he was not subjected to repeated muscle injections.

Expertly, Ken injected the medicine then watched Tomas' eyes close and his face relax from pain relief. Just before he went into deep sleep, Tomas laid his hand on Ken's wrist. His breathing then became deep, rhythmical and regular.

Ken stood there observing his newest son sleeping. At the head of the bed were Tomas' prosthetic legs leaning against the wall, used only one time. Tomas had lost all interest in them when he'd fallen in physical therapy. Other than for a minor bruise on his right elbow he hadn't injured himself, but the emotional damage was high because it shattered the little bit of self-confidence he'd had at the time.

Ken left the bedroom door open so that if the boy needed anything he could hear Tomas calling him or Nadine.

Next, he headed for the room where the two newest charges slept. Despite their ages, they were permitted to sleep together. After all the unrest and terror they'd experienced in their short lives, they had bonded almost immediately. In fact, they doted on one another as though they were biological siblings. But, they weren't biological siblings… unless they were the one in hundreds of millions possibilities that exactly match DNA.

Nadine exited the bedroom she and Ken shared, walked to her husband, and accepted his outstretched arms. "They're beautiful children, Ken. It's so hard to believe that they've been through so much, but I see it in their eyes."

"Yes, but their eyes are coming to life, Honey. We've watched and continue to see it happen a little bit each and every day."

Nadine nodded then asked, "How's Tomas?"

"He held up three fingers. I gave him some Morphine. He went right to sleep. We're not going to quit on him. He'll come around."

"No we're not going to give up. I have high hopes for him." She added while patting Ken's back, "Kaydyn wants to speak with you."

Ken nodded.

As if queued, Kaydyn opened the door at the end of the hallway and looked at his parents with their arms wrapped around one another. He smiled, remembering how much love there was in his childhood home, and how much he himself was showering on his own children and wife.

Ken and Nadine parted after one display of affection.

Nadine entered Tomas' room, walked to the child's bed, sat on the floor, took his hand in hers and squeezed lightly. She laid her head down on the super soft mattress and fell fast asleep. Completely unaware of what his sleeping body was doing, his fingers lightly clasped hers.

Ken and Kaydyn entered a bedroom that had been converted to an office, closed the door and took seats next to one another at the corner desk in the room.

The younger Shaw securely logged into the U.N.I.T. computer system using specially encrypted connections, opened up the folder containing each of the subject children's pictures and a brief history that he'd put together while speaking with Mike Reynolds the Vice-President Elect, about a mission they were about to undertake. This was a special mission, one that would not be dismissed. It was personal. He knew his dad would be all over it, too.

One by one, Kaydyn displayed a child's picture, biography and known history.

Ken maintained all the way through until Eric's information was brought up. He set his jaw, grinded his teeth and snorted. He could not even imagine anyone would do such a thing to a child. At this point, the mission became personal.

The last child was Lawrence Ashwood. Kaydyn saved it for last so that his father's attitude was not swayed because of his personal feelings toward the elder Ashwood. Ken looked to Kaydyn because he could not quite correlate Lawrence with the other kids' histories.

Kaydyn explained, "Lawrence was taken into custody, groomed by Fred Phillips himself, and then sent out to make the elder Ashwood a shit load of money through, what amounts to high paying prostitution. His last owner hurt him so grievously that he required two major surgeries to save his life. He has been and is currently in the custody of a loving family. He's safe, as are all of the children I've shown to you."

After pausing a moment for effect, Kaydyn intently looked into his father's eyes, "Dad, our assignment, if we choose to accept it, is to extract and detain Phillips and bring him to justice. Adam Casey wants him. Jack Bryce wants him tried in the judicial system. Of course, if the fuckwit gives us any problems…" Kaydyn left the statement hanging, knowing that his father knew exactly what that meant.

Ken squared his shoulders. "He's a real piece of art. You do realize that if he so much as farts he's a dead man."

"He's 81 years old… if he's lucky, he'll have a heart attack."

"Or we'll give him one." The elder Shaw hissed between clenched teeth, then continued, "He's got family involved in his empire as well. Are there other known cells?"

"They're working on finding them. Nobody believes there are only two in existence."

Ken nodded his understanding.

The men parted ways, going to their rooms to load up with enough weaponry to do the job effectively, efficiently, and fatally if need be. Both men silently hoped their target would fart.

Within the hour, both men armed for bear, turned off the Interstate and headed south to Kansas City using back roads.

***Tulsa, Oklahoma,
Flying J Truck Stop

The last few miles before the rendezvous point seemed to take an eternity. Although well-trained in staying awake at all odd hours, John periodically yawned widely as the miles ticked off. When they were over the next rise, he saw a sign that indicated their exit was two miles away.

John reached upward to the panel that controlled the lights in the main cabin. He flicked them on to get the boys awakened. He knew they would be hungry, and probably needed restrooms as well.

He was proud the boys were taking this trip like troopers. There were no complaints, whining or bitching. And, despite their being totally uprooted without any prior warning, their attitudes were overall surprisingly positive.

Michael, sleeping on the outside corner of the mattress awakened first. The change in speed jostled his sense of wellbeing and the light shining directly into his eyes was the last straw. He bounded off the bed and fell onto his hands and knees, nearly striking his nose on the tiled floor. Instead of trying to walk in the swaying vehicle, he half-crawled half-scooted his way up front then made it into the front passenger seat and securely fastened the seatbelt. John smiled to the boy, but Michael didn't see it, for he was paying attention to where they were turning.

Luke and Jordan, the next ones to awaken, curious as to where they were and why they'd slowed down, bounded up and out of bed and did a pretty good job staying on their feet until John made a sharp left turn which sent them into the seats on the right side of the rig.

Dog followed them. She waited expectantly for the rig to stop, and to hopefully be permitted to hit a grassy area. At the same time, she was watching and waiting for anyone to even try to bring harm to all of the kids, especially Luke and Jordan. Jordan scratched the back of her neck and ruffled her coat. That earned Jordan a thorough face and neck lapping.

Dalton, sleeping by himself on one of the free from human habitation benches, wasn't so fortunate. As he awakened, and as the motorhome turned, he rolled out onto the floor off of the bench, sending a thud through the cabin as he hit. The good thing is that his head banged into Dog. He, too, receiving a thorough face washing that fully awakened him and caused him to belly laugh. In her eyes, Dalton was just as important as Jordan and Luke. She knew he needed her love. So she paid special attention to him, more so than the others.

Jared, Matthew and Eric disentangled and waited for the motorhome to stop before heading forward to see where they were stopping.

Lawrence and Aaron were barely awake when the rig stopped. Of everyone on the trip, their stress levels were the highest, simply because they knew their presence was and always would be a high profile target. They pulled on jeans, shirts and shoes and headed up front, following Jared.

Michael unlatched the seatbelt, took in a deep breath then waited for the other guys to disembark. He giggled at seeing Dog pushing past them and making a beeline to the grassy area just past the parking lot and driving lanes. She quickly squatted.

John said, "Potty breaks. Then we'll get something to eat."

Michael held back. When everyone except for John was out of the motorhome, he asked, "Dad, we're okay, right? I mean this is going to work out?"

John, knowing Michael needed reassurances, said, softly, "Right now, we're on a journey into the unknown. It can be a scary place to be, not knowing what is to come. Life has a tendency to be this way. When you become an adult, you will better understand what change is all about. For right now, because I'm your Daddy, just trust me. If you get afraid and it won't go away, know that I'm always here for you."

Michael, not one of the more demonstrative children, hugged his dad tight. As John turned Michael's face enough to kiss his cheek, their lips briefly met. The boy smiled then went on his way, lighter in his feet, and with many of his fears abated for the time being.

John put on his coat then went outside and began filling the tanks with fuel.

Inside, the bathroom trough was lined up with the boys doing their business, even going so far as to playfully fight one another with their streams interacting. Their energy was high due to being cooped up for so long. They finished at about the same time then there was some play fighting at the two sinks. All of the boys ended up with some extra water on their clothes.

Jordan and Dalton held back when the other guys exited. Jordan could tell that Dalton needed to talk to somebody.

The restroom was empty, but in case someone came along they went to the end stall and closed the door. Jordan latched the handle then turned to Dalton, "What's up?"

Dalton hesitated before saying, sadly, "Do you think anybody will want me?"

That was the last question Jordan expected. Readily he replied, "Absolutely. No doubt."

"I'm deformed, Jordan." Dalton countered, wiping away a tear threatening to fall.

"You'll be just fine. Besides, if someone wants you just for your dick then keep looking. A dick doesn't define us. Our personality takes care of everything. Loved and be loved is our motto."

"You make it sound so easy."

"That's because it is. Luke and my getting together is not something either of us planned. We didn't know one another from Adam, but the moment we saw each other – well, it was like magic. Don't get me wrong, neither of us knew or accepted that we're gay… until it just happened. Magic, I tell ya. And besides, take it from me, a gay guy – your penis is hot!"

Dalton half-heartedly smiled at Jordan's encouragement and assurance. "I guess. Uhmm, Jordan, why weren't you cut like me?" Then he shook his head, "No… you don't have to answer… sorry."

Jordan, realizing he was about to answer Dalton's question with a question, stopped and replied, "I don't know. From what Lawrence had told me, he and Aaron were uncircumcised. Eric, too."

Dalton nodded. "I had my skin but they cut it away. But why? I mean I kept it clean and stuff."

"That, my friend, I cannot answer because I don't have a clue. They're sick fuckers."

Dalton tilted his head toward Jordan after hearing his choice of words. Not used to swearing or cussing, he acknowledged, "I don't usually cuss, but I have to agree with you one-hundred percent."

Jordan put his one hand on Dalton's shoulder and reached for the door lock with the other, saying, "You'll know when the time is right, so don't worry about it. Okay, tell me this: have you been exercising your meat like the good doctor suggested?"

Dalton's skin turned crimson red. Despite heat emanating from every pore, he nodded and smiled wanly, feeling comfortable with Jordan because he talked to him like a person, not an object, or that he was unimportant.

They bumped knuckles then exited the restroom and walked into the restaurant in companionable silence. John intercepted them as they walked through a corridor heading for the restaurant. "Go ahead, order your meals, I'll be there shortly. Did you wash your hands?"

"Yup." Both boys said while holding up their hands.

John noted Dalton's skin to be quite flushed. He wondered if the trip and everything was too much for the boy, for after all, it was just yesterday that he was rescued and his life saved from hypothermia. Jordan, seeing that John appeared to want to talk to Dalton, took off for the restaurant and the table where everyone was gathered.

Concerned, John asked, softly, "Are you feeling okay. Your skin's a bit flushed."

Dalton shrugged his shoulders, not knowing where John was going with his question and statement.

Seeing the boy's confusion, John continued, "Tell you what, go ahead and order whatever you want to eat. Order me the same thing. We'll go out to the coach so that just you and I can talk, so that we can have some time alone, just you and me?"

"Really? You'd do that for me?"

"Of course. I spend alone time with all of my children and or their friends. I'd like to get to know you better. You are a person, Dalton. Parents need to listen to their children, not just talk at them."

Dalton shrugged his shoulders then gave John a contented smile and took off toward the table where everyone was sitting and talking. The waitress walked over just as soon as Dalton sat down by Matthew. Dalton was uncomfortable with so many people sitting around talking about this and that. He sat there patiently waiting for the waitress to take his order. Luke shoved the menu toward him. He chose two Reuben sandwiches, two Cokes and two orders of fries, and said that they were 'to go'.

John returned. Matthew got up. His dad sat down and pulled his son onto his lap. The boy was quick to point out that he'd finished his entire meal. John gave him reassurance, saying he was a good boy for doing that.

Dalton looked on, carefully observing their interaction. He looked across the table to observe that Aaron was also paying attention to him. Their eyes met and Aaron nodded.

Ten minutes later, his and John's food arrived in a white paper bag. John sat Matthew on his chair and whispered, "I'm going to spend some time with your new brother, Dalton. Keep everybody in line, Little Buddy."

Matthew beamed.

John picked up the drinks while Dalton carried the bags to the rig parked in the parking lot. The boy patiently waited for John to unlock the door so that they could get in and out of the cold air. He was shivering, and was glad he wasn't carrying the pop.

Once inside, John put down the drinks. "I'm going to get the heater started. There's a blanket in the top shelf. I want you to wrap up in it. You're not entirely out of the woods. In fact, right now, you are more susceptible to cold than other people."

Dalton reached up into the cabinet, retrieved the blanket and waited for John to return.

Meanwhile, John fired up the self-contained heating system, wondering why he hadn't left it on in the first place. Dismissing the notion, he returned to Dalton and covered him with the blanket.

Dalton waited for John to indicate he could dig in. He was hungry, but he'd seen the other guys wait for John's approval. John looked at Dalton with questions. The boy responded, quietly, "I'm waiting for you, Sir."

"Do you normally pray before eating?"

Dalton immediately recalled being made to pray on the Holy Board before he was permitted to eat a few bites of slop not fit for human consumption. He thought it had tasted like dog food, but was hungry enough to eat it. He trembled from fear, and quickly took a glance around to see if there was something he could kneel on to become worthy of partaking.

John interrupted the boy's thoughts by putting his hand around Dalton's neck and squeezed very lightly, "Dear Father, thank you for giving us safe passage on our trip, for the meal we are about to share, for bringing Dalton into our lives, and for our good health. Amen."


Although sauerkraut is not on John's top 50 list of favorite foods, he ate like it was right up there on the top 5, not wanting to disappoint the child.

Inwardly he smiled at seeing Dalton eat like just about any other 12 year old boy, and taking care that he didn't drip the Thousand Island dressing onto his clothes. Once the initial onslaught to satiate the hunger pains passed, they ate at a more leisurely pace, engaging in small talk conversation. John also noticed the boy was looking very carefully at his food as he raised it to his mouth. Dalton noticed he was being watched. When he looked up, John smiled warmly.

At the same time, John noted the child's eyes were 'lazy' and didn't really work well together due to the closeness they were to one another.

Nonchalantly, he got up, walked to the cabinet and grabbed napkins for them to use. On the way back, he noticed the boy's eyes were working together much better. Intuitively, once John was sat back down, he mentioned, "Do you wear glasses?"

"Yes, Sir. They took them. That man – he took them and smashed them into the concrete."

John winced at the anger emanating from this boy, though he controlled it well. Dalton, surprised with his outburst apologized, "I'm sorry for being angry, Sir."

"I took no offense. You know, when I get angry, sometimes the best thing I can do is calm myself and talk to someone about it. I can certainly understand your frustration about losing your glasses."

"Yes, Sir. I can't see very well. I had an operation a few years ago, when I was a little kid, to help make them work together better."

"Then getting your glasses will be one of the first things we do. Can't have a kid with eyeballs that don't work too well, now can we?" John stated with levity in his voice.

Dalton observed John's smile. He sighed contentedly and then took the last bite of the sandwich, chewed it good then took a swig of Coke. Five seconds later, a spontaneous belch escaped his throat. He looked to John for his reaction, expecting the worst.

John chuckled, "You're fitting right into our family. For your information, when we chew food and swallow, air goes down, too. It has to go somewhere. Sometimes it comes out as a belch, other times as a fart, and sometimes both. It's no big deal. Except the farts!" John chuckled loudly and patted Dalton's shoulder as he got up and walked to the sink.

Dalton grinned then got up and gathered up the plates, empty wax cups and plastic utensils and tossed them into the trash. The bag was full so he tied it securely and headed to the door intent upon taking it to the dumpster beside the rig. Before John could remind him to put on his coat, the boy was outside. Two minutes later, Dalton returned, shivering again.

John sat down in the recliner and urged Dalton to bring the blanket and join him. The boy looked at John and wondered where he'd sit, until the man motioned for him to sit on his lap. Dalton hesitated. John said, "It is okay. If you'd rather we sit at the table… it is your decision."

After another moment's hesitation, Dalton climbed into John's lap, leant back and permitted, welcomed John to put the blanket around his shoulders. John tempted fate by wrapping his arms protectively around the boy. When Dalton didn't flinch or make any movement to push away, he tightened his hold and felt the boy relax.

John decided to go slowly and to not immediately talk about something stressful. "You'll probably notice that your body will get cold more often and to a stronger degree. This is quite normal for people who have experienced hypothermia like you and Aaron did. It's important to be dressed properly for cold weather. That means a warm coat, stocking cap and gloves. As you grow older and do not experience the cold like that again, your body will acclimate much better than it is now."

"Yes, Sir. I'm cold all of the time. I was sure nice and warm when we were all sleeping in the middle of the bed back there."


"Yeah. It felt good. Sir, did you really mean that I fit into your family? I mean, well…"

When Dalton didn't continue his statement, John picked up, "I did say that – because it is true." John felt Dalton's head slightly nod as though he wanted to believe it but wasn't all of the way convinced. John knew this. Even his own sons sometimes wondered about such a question, even though those thoughts were unwarranted, and they knew it. They were fleeting and didn't stick around for more than a few seconds.

"Relax, Dalton. You're safe. I'll do everything in my power to keep you this way. You can help me out, though."

"How's that, Sir?"

"Well, it's pretty simple actually. Be observant. If you feel something isn't right, then say so. If you meet someone that gives you the creeps then just say so. Nobody should force you to do anything that you do not feel is right."

John felt Dalton shudder. "What's up? Talk to me."

Dalton sighed heavily and tightly scrunched closed his eyes. "They… they did things that hurt… and I couldn't stop them… and there wasn't anybody to tell."

"I'm sure you were very afraid." John stated, open-endedly.

"Yes, Sir. It was terrible." Dalton whispered, quietly. The boy rapidly turned onto his side and buried face into John's chest.

John could see that this was a very frightened little boy lying on his belly and chest. With some exertion, he rearranged Dalton so that he could hold him properly to provide him with safety and security. He rubbed Dalton's forehead and kissed it tenderly. He felt the tension releasing.

"I'm sorry. I'm just being a baby." Dalton whispered then got up and sat down at the kitchenette table.

"Dalton, just for your information, holding you in my arms was good for me, too. I like holding my sons, and they like being held. Even Jared has his moments when he needs his dad's arms around him. Don't tell him I told you this, but he gets scared, too."

"He does? Really?"

"Yes and really."

"Okay. It must work, because I don't feel afraid. Not right now."

"When you get afraid, I'll be here."

Dalton nodded then reached up into the cabinet over the small stove, retrieved his tube of antibiotic and pain relief cream then looked to John for approval. John gestured for the boy to come to him. Without delay, Dalton approached and held out the tube. At the same time, he lowered his pants and underwear and lifted his penis for inspection.

John noted some light red fluid stains on Dalton's briefs. He said, "That's quite normal. Injured tissues leak fluids. It's a healing potion the body naturally secretes to ward off infection." John squeezed an adequate amount of cream onto his fingers then spread the medicine evenly and appropriately. Dalton's penis slightly responded to the touch. He stopped and reiterated, "I don't imagine you remember me telling you yesterday that when I fixed your cut, I applied a tiny amount of electrical energy to the nerves. Your penis responded perfectly."

Dalton inquired, "Did it shoot?"

"No. That would have taken your choices away, Dalton. I will never ever do that to or for you. But it is important for you to have erections on a regular basis. It helps to prevent scarring."

"Eric told me the same thing. He said that you told him to do it at least 2 or 3 times a day."

"That's correct. If you don't feel right about stimulating yourself, just leave it for night time. Your body will continue to have erections, whether or not you want them."

Dalton, surprised that Jon would use street language to describe something that happened to him all of the time, felt better at knowing John knew what he was talking about, and projected no shame. He said, though, "It really hurts, but I've been doing it anyway."

"Good. Keep it up. Do you have any more questions? Or do you have something else on your mind?"

"No, that's all. Thank you, Sir." Dalton replied while pulling up his briefs and pants.

Once he had himself together, he handed John a cleaning and disinfecting tissue and took one for himself. Once they were finished wiping away remaining cream, Dalton went to the trash to throw it away but found the receptacle didn't have a bag. He got one, put it in, and tossed in the used tissues. He returned to John and stood in front of him with question marks in his expression.

John extended his arms. Instead of accepting those arms, he looked into John's eyes with a questioning expression.

Dalton replied, "Nothing. It's nothing."

"Dalton, what did we just talk about?" John asked while sitting down. He reached out his arms. Dalton accepted a place on the man's lap. John wrapped his arms around the boy and said, "Go ahead. Talk to me. You are in no trouble. When you do something I do not approve of, I will call you out, but I will not ever hit you for any reason. Promise."

Dalton nodded and whispered, "I believe you. But I was a bad kid. I did rotten things."

"Like what?"

"Uhmm, well… I stole stuff. But I only stole stuff to eat. I stole stuff from a pharmacy once… I'd cut my leg and we didn't have any medicine or bandages."

Dalton tensed up, expecting the shoe to drop, but John rubbed his chest and whispered for him to continue, that surely there was a reason why he felt he had to do that.

"My mom works as a waitress. She doesn't have anything to bring home. She gets weird. It's like she's not even there when she's there."

"Does your mom drink or do drugs?"

"Yeah, she does. It's sickening. Jordan says his mom did them. Things were really messed up for him. It's sad."

"Drugs and alcohol will cause people to do some things that they would never do while sober and or clean."

"She was always messed up. Anyway, I learned to do things on my own. Like, Sir, this is weird for me sitting on your lap with your arms around me… but I like it. I really do. Don't you need to be there for your kids? I don't want to take up your time."

"Well, son, think of it like this: I am taking up your time. Somehow, we're on the same wavelength, don't you think?"

Dalton raised up and looked into John's eyes searching for truth. The boy smiled as he hadn't ever thought of it that way. "But I'm just a kid."

"You're not just any kid. You are Dalton. I see a very caring and sensitive person inside of you. Don't lose sight as these are tremendous attributes… they come naturally. The people that hurt you do not have either one of these good qualities… just remember this for as long as you live."

Luke and Jordan, Michael and Eric, Jared, Stephen, Matthew and Christian looked up to see John and Dalton walking toward them. Jordan pulled out a chair for Dalton, while John walked to and sat down at the table with the adults.

Introductions were made at both tables. Dalton, feeling much better about his situation, cautiously joined the conversation with the other kids.

Adam, now assured that Wayne was doing okay despite the prolonged seizure, exited the rig and returned to the restaurant.

As he walked through the foyer, his eyes glanced around. His nerves were fraying a bit more with each step until they peaked when he saw his brother, John, sitting at the table conversing with the other adults.

John happened to look toward the door after seeing movement. Despite all outward appearances, John was more than a bit paranoid about new people's coming and going in strange places. His chest felt heavy. The boys witnessed the change. They all turned their attention to where John was looking. None of the boys had ever met Adam, their Uncle, but Jared recognized the likeness between the two men. He asked, "Is that Uncle Adam?"

"Yes. I'll be right back." John replied and then got up and walked toward the estranged man, his brother.

The two men regarded one another for about 30 seconds before their eyes filled with unshed tears. Ten seconds later the men silently embraced, relishing their return to one another after so many years.

"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, Adam." John said, his voice gravely and thick.

"Me, too, John. It takes two to create and support an estrangement for as long as ours was."

Both men used their fingers as squeegees to brush away a few of those unshed tears that had leaked down their cheeks.

Somewhat recovered, they separated and looked deeply into each other's eyes. "Come meet my family." John said, tenderly.

"John?" Adam asked softly, concernedly.

"Uhmm hmm." John replied then cleared his throat.

"I'm taking care of a boy who has had a rough time in life. He came to me after he went to one of those cult places following a lengthy stay in a rehab facility for brain damage from oxygen deprivation." Adam said, softly. He noted the change in John's demeanor. He noted the man's eyes were intense telling him he was listening very closely. Continuing, "He's had seizures. And, they're becoming more often and are more severe."

Adam shared additional medical details in response to more pointed questions from his brother, a physician.

"Let me tell the rest then we'll check in on him. What's his name?"

"Oh, he's not my son. Though, I've given quite a bit of thought to going ahead with an adoption. Let's get settled in and then go from there. His name is Wayne McDonald. He's 16."

John regarded Adam for a moment before slowly nodding. Adam's pulse rate increased a few points.

John said, "I want to introduce us as brothers to the rest of the group. It's been a very long time… and, well, my kids definitely need to meet their uncle. I love you… I hope some things have changed in you over the years." Without waiting for any response, John turned and headed to the tables where everyone was gathered.

Adam hesitated for a moment. His pulse rate increased before dismissing his concerns until they could talk in a more private setting.

After introductions were made and questions answered, the two men excused themselves and went through the cold wind and light snow to Adam's motorhome, entered and saw Wayne, buck naked, standing at the kitchenette sink with a glass of water in his hand.

John found it a bit odd that a 16 year old would display himself as he was doing, seemingly without a care in the world, as though he did it all of the time. And, he wondered why Adam didn't tell him to go get dressed that they have company – a strange man that he didn't know, at that.

Adam made introductions, telling Wayne that John Finnegan is a doctor and that he wanted some questions answered.

Wayne held out his hand to John. They shook hands. The doctor could and did tell that the patient's grip was strong and steady.

A knock on the door interrupted their greeting. John, closest to the door, opened it. Bea was standing there out in the cold. She was welcomed inside.

John noted that Wayne had no inhibitions, in fact he freely and lazily scratched his testicles which earned him a visual admonishment from Adam. The boy removed his hand then returned to the sink.

Other than for having a very long surgical scar from his neck to his full pubic bush, and a tracheotomy scar, he appeared healthy and his gait was normal.

Bea sat down in an offered chair. She looked to Adam. Adam retrieved a small folder from the table and offered them to John for perusal.

John skimmed the papers, taking special note of the diagnosis and prognosis given by Doctor June Mauer in Chicago.

Satisfied with the paperwork, John turned to Wayne and asked, "Wayne, why do you think that I'm here to see you?"

"Adam tells me that I've had several seizures today."

Bea offered, "That's absolutely correct. Doctor, I am a pediatric PNP. I observed his seizure today. It was significant in that he was blanked out to all stimuli around him. At the same time, he had no real clonic activity, but did lose control of his bladder and bowels." She knew this was not unusual, but wanted to give the physician all observations.

"Do you have any memory of your seizure and anything afterward?" John asked, professionally.

"No, Sir. I just wake up."

"Do you know when you're going to fade out?"

"No, Sir. I just wake up when it is over."

John nodded then turned to the notes again. Seeing that Wayne had a strong history of illicit drug use and indiscriminate sex, he asked if he was still doing those risky behaviors. The boy answered that no he wasn't doing either.

Adam piped up and told John of the incident at the rehab center as well as the pool boy.

Satisfied that he had an adequate history, John took Wayne to the bedroom where he gave the boy a complete physical examination.

Wayne willingly submitted to the examination. The results were not troubling to the experienced physician. He found circumferential anal scarring, as well as scars on the inside of the boy's arms, likely from IV drug injections – both prescribed medicines and illicit drugs. His right side was weaker than the left. A small groin hernia was present. He was circumcised, and it appeared to have been performed years ago, and done well. Vital signs were normal. His cranial nerves appeared to be functioning properly.

John and Wayne returned to the cabin. Wayne sat down on the sofa, spread his legs open wide and began toying with his penis, causing it to rise. John noted this behavior to be quite abnormal.

The physician gave Adam and Bea a general report of his examination while observing Adam and Wayne's interaction, particularly Adam's refusal to intercede in Wayne's infatuation with his fully extended erection.

Disregarding Wayne's activities, John told Wayne, "Well, here's what I think: from all indications, I feel that your medication to control your seizures needs adjusting to account for height and weight changes. I do not see anything alarming on your physical. I'm going to increase the dosages which should better control your seizures. The increased dosages will make you sleepy until you get used to them."

John could tell that Wayne was zoning out. The boy began to purposefully masturbate. Adam responded by approaching the boy and pulling his hand from his organ. John said, "He's in a seizure. He's not aware of what he's doing. Let's lay him down so that he doesn't fall."

Once Wayne was laid down on the sofa, John took off for his motorhome, rifled through the boxes of medicines, retrieved the added doses of anti-seizure medication and returned to Adam's rig. Wayne took the pills without incident. They then got the boy dressed and observed him for a while longer. John decided that traveling would be of no danger to his patient.

Jordan's Viewpoint

Everybody was getting anxious to continue the trip. Dale said we had about 4 hours more to go before arriving at the destination. Although he wasn't exact, he did say that we would be located somewhere deep within the Missouri Ozarks.

He gave us the option to ride with him the rest of the way, or we could continue on with Adam. We jumped at the opportunity to ride with him. Christian was anxious to go with us.

Luke and I went to get Dog. She was lying close to the front door of the restaurant and jumped up and ran to us when we exited. Dog was none too happy when we told her that we were riding in Dale's rig. Despite what is sometimes said, a canine is pretty darned smart. Jared, Eric and Michael approached. Dog would not obey their orders until I walked her to Adam's motorhome and led her inside. She then stood there waiting in the off chance that I changed my mind. She laid down at Matthew's feet, gave me the 'look' then went to sleep.

Luke and Christian were inside the truck, waiting. Although I didn't need it, Dale gave me a boost to the first step then he went around to the driver's side, climbed up and sat in the driver's seat breathing heavily. I realized that had to have been hard for him. He appeared tired, too. He asked us if it would be okay if Christian rode shotgun up front so that they could talk.

My boyfriend and I readily entered the sleeper section, turned on the stereo to a low setting and got comfortable facing one another. He leant over and lightly kissed my lips. Once we were on the road we starting doing some things which in turn, led to other things which in turn, led to my eyes closing and falling asleep cuddled up against the love of my life, Luke.

Christian's Viewpoint

Although Dale's rig is older than she who calls me son's is, his was nicer. In addition, I found Dale's demeanor to be more welcoming and friendly. I felt like I was in the way when she talked to me. I'm not used to that. Where I come from, where I was raised, the Elders teach me respect, and they give it as well, even when we go against their teachings. Not so much me, but when the others got out of line, I sensed strictness so I was careful to follow their advice and rules.

While in the restroom I had noted several red and itchy areas on my body, where the clothing was the tightest. Although I know no shame about my body, I noticed other guys and one girl, and especially the adults appeared to be ashamed of theirs. Jared told me that they'd gone to a naturist beach as though it was something special. I listened but wondered what the big deal was… it was as though they were telling me that being undressed in 'public' was a thrill of some kind.

Even though Lawrence, Aaron and Eric had been subjected to horrific treatment, I was most concerned about Dalton. When we were sitting together at the restaurant with our shoulders, elbows and hips touching, I felt hot scalding liquids flowing within his being, very similar to the very hot sun shining down during the summertime where I lived life as I knew it then. I vowed to get to know him more. I vowed to instill senses of hope and provide healing into him.

"Christian?" Dale's voice said, interrupting my trains of thoughts and feelings.

I looked to him. His eyes, soft and gentle, compelled me to answer what I'd heard Jordan and Luke say in their greetings of adults, "Yes, Sir."

He sighed, "Honestly, I didn't know about you. I'm sorry… I really didn't. I hope to make it up to you for as long as you're with me. And then, if you choose to go back, I'll still be with you as much as possible. I just want you to know that you're very much loved."

The tone in his voice and his glancing over and looking into my eyes, I knew that his words were sincere, that he was speaking from his heart. I relate. "Thank you. I have been okay. I've not wanted. My needs have been met in every way. I didn't even realize I had needs until I heard the other guys mentioning them, and feeling it in their beings. After seeing you interacting with the others, I didn't realize, until she pulled me away from home, that there is evil in the world. After seeing what happened to my soul mates, and listening to and feeling their experiences, I really didn't know it existed. I have to thank you for protecting me even though I didn't feel protection was necessary… so… thank you."

I saw Dale's throat constricting and relaxing. He reached up and wiped his eyes. I was compelled to say, "I think I can help. I have certain abilities to feel what others are feeling. I need to tell you that you owe me no apologies. You are a good man. I trust you. When the sun comes up, a new day dawns."

"I've found that to be true as well, especially over the past few weeks. When we were in Hawaii for a vacation, our last night there, we went to a very special place to see the sun set, to experience the beauty of nature, to feel our togetherness, to experience peace and serenity, and to begin the healing process as life drastically changed. Somehow, even in the middle of the unrest, I felt that everything was going to be okay."

"That's really good. I feel the same way. I have to say that I'm afraid. I'm not familiar with what's happening. Things are so much different in the world. I've never ever felt the hatred that people have toward other human beings. It doesn't feel good – I'm afraid of this more than anything."

Dale thought for several minutes before adding, "Me too. Me too. I anticipate things changing. I look for better times coming for all of us."

"That's just it, Sir. Nothing changes all by itself. If I feel bad then I have to do something to change the way I see things. There are times when I just have to close my eyes, feel the warm sunshine on my back and to experience the wind blowing through and against my hair and across my chest. I open my eyes only to see that my difficulties look different."

"I feel what you are saying. I experienced that, too, on that butte looking over the ocean. I closed my eyes and just let it happen."

A vision, a feeling crowded into my mind. I smiled, "Those dolphins had fun with you."

Dale's neck rapidly swiveled toward me. Our eyes locked. I smiled when he asked, dumbfounded, "How did you know?"

I chuckled, "I didn't. You were thinking it, though, weren't you?"

"As a matter of fact… yes, I was. That was quite the experience." Dale said, smiling, taking his eyes off the road for a couple of seconds to look into my eyes then returned his attention when a wind gust blew hard against us causing the truck to sway somewhat violently. We were quick to recover.

From my observations of seeing how the guys interact together, a thought came to mind, "Lawrence is going to someday prosper and flower. He is a gentle soul. Although he has experienced much grief on this journey, he will someday find himself. He's very strong. I see him leading many, many people out of their despair. I have good feelings for him. And, I see Aaron standing by his side. They will have many children from their union."

Dale thought about that for a few moments before saying, "I see his strength as well. He will go places in this lifetime. And yes, I see him as a leader. I feel, also, that Jordan and Luke will do well."

"Yes. And they will lead and guide many children, some of them their own. They have a great amount of inner strength as well. They look up to you."

"We'll see. I've let them down in so many ways…"

I loosened my pants and pushed them down just enough so they weren't chaffing my inner legs. I reached inside briefs to rearrange my nature so it wasn't being strangled within the tight confines. My flesh arose. I covered it with my hand, squeezing lightly as it filled with need. To carry on our conversation, I said, "You haven't let them down. As badly as they were treated their healing will become their greatest strength. They are in a unique position to share themselves with others, to bring healing to the Less Fortunate."

"How do you heal them of their sufferings?"

"You don't. They do. They will have to find their own answers to their questions. Nobody can do it for them. They're strong. I have faith. We're stronger because of our experiences. My Elders taught me to look within myself and to just go with it. That's what I'm doing right now. That's what I will help them to do."

Although he didn't reply, I sensed him thinking very hard, and looking very deep within himself to find his own truth.

"Get some sleep, Son. It's going to be a long day." My father said, softly, but over the drone of the powerful engine.

I gave my organ a purposeful squeeze, closed my eyes, returned to memories of my native land and fell asleep.

Simultaneously, John's, Dale's, Jeremy's and Adam's phones rang about 75 miles into Missouri. After hellos were given and received, Jim Blake added, "Hold just a minute. I'm connecting with Peter Granger." Click.

"Peter Granger here. Let me add Tony Lorenzo. Hold please."

"Hi Guys. Tony here."

Peter continued, "We have good news and we have not so good developments. First the good news. The good news is that you are on target. Despite the inclement weather you are making good time and right on track. You are about 2 hours from the destination. We're just about ready for your arrival. A few security concerns over the past few hours is requiring us to bump up protocol. More in a few. Jim."

"Hi guys. I hope your travels are going well. A very recent incident, which I cannot discuss at this time, requires increased security protocols for your group at the targeted location. One of two protocols includes usage of an individual card key for entry to and exit from any locked area in the compound. As of now, all units are considered 'locked'. The second tier is retina identification. You gentlemen and all children will be scanned upon arrival. This technology is installed and operational. Remember, Sirs, the weakest link in any security protocol is the end user."

Peter added, "That is correct. We have the technology. It was upgraded and thoroughly tested in September. Personnel carry the greatest threats to any secure facility. The children should not be alarmed. Rather, I believe these protocols will provide them with an opportunity to feel safe, and to know us adults are doing our jobs to maintain their safety."

Dale looked to Christian sleeping in the passenger seat with his seat belt securely fastened, and thinking of his sons, Jeremy, Bradley and Christian. Also very high on the priority list - his grandson, Carlin, and Carlin's boyfriend Robbie. There were two other very important boys, kids that he had to, no, he wanted to include with his family, that is - if they so desired to be a part of it. "No brainer, I'm in. Anything to keep the kids safe… let's go for it."

"Same here." Jeremy copied.

"Good here." Adam added.

"The kids need to understand the consequences of breaking the link. What are you suggesting for consequences?" John asked.

"The first 12 hours is the most critical learning curve. I suggest breaches receive quick and decisive disciplinary action. One suggestion is confinement to quarters. One or more of our staff will counsel the parent or guardian and the child. On the second offense, I suggest we remove privileges such as canteen, exercise room, the pool. On the third offense, the child must be escorted by a staff member and parent or guardian." Peter explained calmly and professionally.

"That's reasonable. Thank you." John replied.

Peter continued, "Since we are all on the line, Tony would you take over."

"Thank you, Peter. I have received additional information since the call between Lawrence and his father. Investigators are on their way to gather facts directly from the children. They will also take statements from their parents or guardians. The children will also receive complete physical examinations from a government sanctioned physician."

John added, professionally, "Thanks. Interviewing close friends and siblings is also very important to get a good picture. We did this all the time, whenever possible, for our patients who were abused. Sometimes the best information is gleaned from siblings as they often say things that they will not say to adults, even their parents."

"Thanks, John. That is so right."

"What kind of timetable are we looking at? When do you expect them to arrive?" Dale asked.

"They will be here Sunday at the latest." Tony replied.

"Should we tell the kids?" Jeremy inquired, concerned about what he should tell the children.

"I recommend we wait until the investigators arrive on site. The children are quite unsettled as it is. They've been uprooted from their homes, have taken this trip to an unknown area, and are more than likely tense from seeing Lawrence and Aaron's reactions and feelings to their phone call with Mr. Ashwood." John continued, sounding like a father concerned about his children, and the rest, too.

"You might want to have parent and child discussions about complete honesty. Please understand that I am not inferring any of the children are dishonest. As a parent myself, they need occasional reminders using examples as teaching tools." Tony added, sounding like a parent, too.

Everybody agreed on all points. John agreed to continue discussions with Tony once the others were off of the call. The group agreed to reopen communications for a status update in one hour.

John's Viewpoint

Jim asked Tony and me to remain on the line then he disconnected Dale, Peter and Jeremy. Jim said, "Gentlemen, the connection will continue, however I am going to bow out to give you complete privacy. When your conversation is complete, simply enter 4865 on your phones then press SEND. You will be disconnected. You're about 1.5 hours from the end destination. And, the weather will dramatically improve about 40 miles from your current location. Be safe."

"Jim, you mentioned an incident. Can you be more specific? If there's something we need to be more mindful of then we have a need to know, and should be told."

"Sir, I understand your concern. At this time I am not at liberty to disclose the nature of the incident. But, please, understand it has the attention at a very high level. It will not be shoved to the wayside. As soon as I can release information… trust me – your group will be the first to know."

I wasn't satisfied with his answer, "Jim, are our children in imminent danger?"

"The facility you are going to is secure. Remain mindful, and you should impress on the children and adults, too, that the weakest link is those who come and go in any secure facility."

I still wasn't convinced. "Jim, I respect your position, however if our children are in danger then you have an obligation to say so."

"I have children of my own. I would expect… no, I would demand answers to verify the same questions you are asking. My answer to your question is: no. I will qualify this by repeating that the weakest links are those who access a secure facility. I hope this answers your questions." Jim replied with a sense of warmth and confidence that I found reassuring."

"That's acceptable. I press onward simply because these boys have been through enough troubles in their young lives. Our goal is to bring to them security and a sense of confidence that adults are on their side and are working to the best of our ability to do just that."

"I have two boys who are amputees. I have boys who have experienced spiritual, physical and sexual abuse. I understand; truly I do. Know this, too, all of their perpetrators have received their day in the manmade courts, although at least one of them met their maker." Jim replied, seriously using a very deep voice to make his point.

Okay, I was now convinced our best welfare was first and foremost, "Thank you, Jim. We'll look to hear from you about any late developments. Relocating into an unknown due to circumstances beyond our control is – difficult at best."



Tony said, "John, not a day goes by that I do not worry about my son, Seth. He's shacked up with a man who is into hardcore bondage and pain. I suspect he's doing drugs, too. He's 16 years old. According to state statutes he is free to do whatever he wants, as far as his sexuality is concerned. It's tough to be a parent who's powerless over such situations."

I wanted to say that I would go to any lengths to protect my children, even if it included doing something illegal.

"Do you know what's going on, Tony? Why all the secrecy?"

"I don't know either. I wish I did. I'll dig around."

"I accept that. Keep me informed."

"Absolutely." Tony sighed before continuing, "Whatever it is… I wonder if Ashwood has raised the stakes. About our business… I have transmitted to the DOJ and Missouri Supreme Court the documents that Ashwood signed concerning the matter of Lawrence's pending adoption. At this time, I do not recommend that the boys go to the media – under any circumstance. Not now."

"I agree. I have no expectation that the adoptions are going to be pieces of cake or a walk in the park."

"I do not share your concerns in that regard. We have proof positive of Ashwood's malfeasance which includes the point A to point B line that aligns Ashwood to Fred Phillips and his funding of camps for quote wayward unquote children. Lawrence's testimony will be key crucial. Here's what I anticipate the investigators will do: they will first interview each parent or guardian to see what they know and if they are somehow involved in the abuse. Secondly, the children will be interviewed and photographed. Medical testimony will be requested – this is where you come in as you have treated a number of the children."

"I have photographs that depict the nature of Lawrence's, Aaron's, Eric's and Dalton's injuries. I have performed physical examinations on each child brought into my care and custody."

"Do you have them available for inspection?"

"I have those documents on my laptop or I can get them from the hospital's database. Everything is recorded for documentation. Additionally, my practice nurse, Sally, was tasked with culling hospital records for non-reported or suspected pediatric patient abuses. Perhaps Jim can and will provide a connection to talk with her and to receive the documentation, if any, she has found."

"Perfect. On a more positive note, I have been assured the adoptions will go through, and soon. It's possible the investigators will provide their blessings before they return to the capital. I'm sure the Supreme Court will take the case and make it happen. If not immediately then I am admitted to practice before the Court. My opinion is that the matter is a no-brainer."

"I hope so. They, the kids deserve a break. Speaking of which, and please tell me if it's none of my business… how are the issues with Robbie's parents coming along?"

"I'm sorry but I cannot disclose that information – client attorney privilege. I can say this: things are expeditiously moving along."

"I understand. Although I do not practice the practice specialty of psychiatry or psychology, I can and do say, officially if need be, that Robbie is seriously distressed about his parents' absence. I hear it in his voice, and I see his expressions of grief with my own eyes."

"Then say so when the investigators make their visit. You are a physician. Your professional opinion carries weight and depth that none of the rest of us are qualified to render. I don't think this will be necessary. What was done to his parents has no legal basis since Ashwood's Executive Orders concerning such matters was deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. There is no legal reason for them to be in custody."

"True that. But, still, I will be more than happy to render a professional opinion."

"Then, just do it. It can only help."

At a remote location near the Lakes of the Cherokee's, east of Oklahoma City and south of Tulsa, Oklahoma – Tony's Viewpoint

Awake all night. Working on hot issues for the betterment of all the children and their parents, I was wasted tired. I went into the bathroom, disrobed, got the water temperature just right, entered and put my head under the faucet. The glorious water began to relax my aching muscles and weary mind. For 15 minutes, I just stood there relishing the peace and quiet other than for the water exiting the spigot. Music to my ears. Sugar to the soul. Each time a thought about what I may have missed passed through, I pushed it away into the darkness of night. Twenty minutes later, I exited after having enjoyed the luxury of quiet time to do exactly what I wanted to do – which was nothing at all. I love my work. I love helping families and children come together under tough situations and circumstances. It's my calling. I'm good at it. I also know that I need down time to rejuvenate, to renew the energies that are required to make things happen.

Without putting on any clothes, I walked around the house, locked the doors, grabbed me a single shot of Cuervo, chased it down with a glass of water and then headed to my bedroom, got comfortable, and gave vigorous but loving attention to that which designates me male. In the afterglow, I heard something coming from the other end of the house. I figured it came from the house settling into its ways; it does that sometimes, especially when a storm front blows through.

The same noise repeated itself. I rolled over onto my side and buried my head beneath the pillows. It was peaceful and quiet, but still those noises hadn't sounded like any other house-settling noise. My eyes, wide awake despite my body screaming for sleep, opened wide. I closed them and demanded my brain to cease running around in circles.

Ten minutes later, I came up and out of the fog, tossed off the pillow, listened very carefully for any further evidence of the grand home we'd built and essentially lived in for the past six years. All was quiet, yet my brain, still going ninety to nothing, would not stop. I wasn't thinking about anything specific. I didn't feel anxiety from having dealt with one of the most evil men on the face of the earth.

I looked at the clock on the nightstand. It read 5:40AM. I was due to return for the update call in 20 minutes. There was no use in even trying to fall asleep.

The coffee pot timer was set for 6:00AM. I could catch a power nap. Nah, I'd feel worse than if I didn't go to sleep at all.

With that knowledge firmly embedded, I got up, tossed on a pair of sweatpants, a hoodie and a pair of socks. In the kitchen, I overrode the timer on the coffee pot then walked to the dining room table where my laptop lay with its lid up and at the ready. I brought it up and out of sleep-mode to the email application. There were no new messages.

Next, I changed screens to see if there were any new faxes only to find there were none.

The coffee pot began to make those gurgling sounds indicating it was just about ready.

The sliding glass door faced east. I like to watch the sun come up while drinking my coffee and reading the news gathered during the night from the internet. I got up, walked to the door and pulled aside the blinds to see the early morning light just beginning.

The peace, quiet and beginnings of relaxations shattered at seeing a bare forearm and a pair of knee caps resting against the lower part of the door. My heart screamed. Although faint, I caught a glimpse of a face – my son. My Seth.

As though it was greased lightning, I pulled open the sliding and screen doors, leant down to see my completely naked son lying in a ball. His eyes, while open, appeared vacant. Without hesitation, I put my arms beneath his knees and behind his back, easily lifted him up and carried him into the house. I laid him down on the sofa that separates the dining room from the living area. I ran back and closed the door then returned to my boy.

His temperature was cold. He mumbled, almost incoherently, "Help me, Dad. I'm dying."

"I'm here, Son. What we're going to do right now is I'm going to take you and put you into a warm bath. You're so cold."

I covered him with a throw blanket, ran into the master bathroom where I got warm water running into the tub. Watching the water run does nothing to make it fill the tub faster. I returned to my boy and sat down on the sofa and began running my hands up and down his arms and legs in an effort to get the blood running faster so that he would warm up.

"I'm sorry, Daddy." Seth groaned very quietly.

"The important thing is that you're here. I'm going to take good care of you. The first thing is to get you warmed up."

"I was wrong."

"That's right. So long as you're alive, which you are, then we'll work it out. I'm going to carry you into the bathroom and get you in the tub."

Seth nodded approvingly. "I can help. Just give me a minute."

"You've got to get warmed, Son. Let's go."

As soon as we got him to a standing position, he collapsed. I was ready for that to happen. I laid him to the floor, then got in position, lifted him into my arms and carried him to the tub then gently put him down in the warm water.

Seeing the strap marks on his wrists and ankles, his penis swollen to twice its normal width, scarred cuts between his left nipple and the absent right one, and rope abrasions around his neck, all highlighted by his chocolate colored skin, caused my heart to ache for him.

I wasted no time. Using a soapy washcloth I bathed my son from head to toe and all points between. When he turned over, I saw deep purple bruised belt buckle marks from the top of his buttocks to the overhang. His anus, caked and crusted with blood and excrement took some time to soften and remove. Beneath the substances was excoriated skin to the point of being raw and extremely tender. He cried as I worked oh so gently. After two changes of bathwater, I pronounced him as clean as he could get. The important thing to note here is that his skin was warmer by the time his bathing was complete.

My phone in my bedroom began ringing. That was not my top priority. It could wait. I had no additional information to share. But then again, there was John, a physician who could perhaps direct me on what to do next.

"I'll be right back. Just soak. Relax. I'm just going to answer the phone."

With that said, I went into my room and answered the phone on the 12th ring. "Gentlemen, I'm afraid I'm tied up at the moment. My son is home. He's in really bad shape. John, would you help me? We're about an hour or more from a hospital, even by ambulance."

John and I rang off. Jim connected just the two of us. I went back into the bathroom. Seth was sitting up using the sides of the tub for support. He looked up and at me when I entered.

John guided me through a series of questions. I provided him answers. He assured me the excoriated areas would heal so long as they were kept dry. I had available steroidal creams. On John's direction, I checked Seth's arms looking for any other abnormalities. There were multiple pock marks up and down the insides of his forearms and outer skin of his hands. John advised those were telltale signs of intravenous drug injections. My heart sank even though I had figured he'd been doing it all along.

John asked me to inquire, "Seth, when was the last time you used drugs?"

"Two weeks ago until last night. I was trying to get off of them, Dad. Honest I was."

Replying to John, "Two weeks ago until last night."

"What was he using?"

"What were you using? What did you inject?"

"Meth. I didn't want to use it. He tied me up. I didn't have a choice."

I kissed his forehead. I believed him.

"Methamphetamines. Meth." I transferred to John.

"He should have withdrawals that are not life-threatening, Tony. Jittery. And he'll probably want to sleep a lot, which is okay. I don't think he is in need of emergent medical care. My advice is to put him to bed. Make sure he drinks at least a large tumbler of water every hour. It will help to flush his system. I'm licensed to practice in Oklahoma. I'll call in three prescriptions. The first is for methadone. The second is an antibiotic. Lastly, we'll get him a tube of prescription strength antibiotic and steroid cream to apply three times a day to those excoriated areas. Where should I call it into?"

"Locust Grove is the closest town. Walmart."

"I'll call the prescriptions in just a few minutes. Relax, Tony. He's in no danger. If he had continued using then we would have had to worry about withdrawals."

"Thanks, John. I owe you big time."

"No. You owe me nothing. Just take care of your son. Stay in touch. If there are any complications, just call."

Then it happened.

The sliding glass doors shattered. All sense of being left right then and there. The sound of gunshots split the air. I grabbed Seth and half carried half drug him into his bedroom and into the closet and closed the doors as gunshots continued to shatter the stillness. "Don't move. Don't go anywhere." I told my son very quietly.

Without waiting for a response, I closed the door then stealthily crawled to my room, grabbed my 12 gauge shotgun, loaded it and tripped the safety.

I heard crunching sounds coming through the kitchen toward the back of our house. Closer and closer and closer and closer they came. Standing slightly behind my bedroom door, I said, "Right here."

He swiveled on the balls of his feet. I prayed to God in heaven that Seth stayed in his closet, but there was no time. I stepped out and pulled both triggers. The sound blasted throughout the room. Fire exited the barrels. The man fell to the floor and lay unmoving.

I loaded up. If he so much as twitched, I was going to blow away the rest of any brains that were left. He involuntarily breathed a couple of times and then took a deep breath and died. The entire right side of his face and head were blown free of his torso.

I ran into Seth's bedroom, opened the closet door. He was sitting with his eyes filled with terror, but he was alive and unharmed. This was all that mattered to me. I leant in, kissed his cheek and said, "I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere. Just stay here. I'm going to close the door. Tell me this: did you or your boyfriend have anyone else who would want to harm you?"

He shook his head, "No."

"Okay, I'll be right back."

With the shotgun fully reloaded, I closed the door then stealthily walked through the house at the ready in case any other assholes tried to hurt and harm us. My boy was home. I'd go to any lengths to protect him from malevolence. When I adopted him a number of years ago, I, then promised that I'd protect and care for him no matter what, no matter when. It was time.

The house was clear, although the sliding glass doors and the kitchen were completely destroyed. Frigid air was blowing through the shredded curtains that were used to cover the doors.

I took in a deep breath, slowly exhaled and made a decision that would affect our lives from then on until whenever. Life had changed before our very eyes. In a nanosecond, life as we knew it was forever changed.

The phone. I'd laid it on my dresser, or did I leave it on Seth's nightstand, or did it fall somewhere between my room and Seth's? I had no clue.

I stopped caring where it was.

Urgently, I went into Seth's room, opened the closet door. "Can you walk?"

"I think so."

"Come on."

While getting Seth ready to go, I found the phone lying beneath his bed by kicking it with my foot.

John and all of our group was on the call. All were frantic to hear from us, although they'd heard our voices though far away in the background. Meanwhile, Jim had called all law enforcement within 50 miles. They were enroute Code 3. ETA 40 minutes.

Decision time.

"We're coming. I'll call you when we're on the road."

Thirty-four minutes later, after getting Seth dressed in warm clothing, after loading up as many clothes as we could fit into suitcases, and after I had to go back for the laptop… we were on the road.

Cops, lots of them, EMS, fire and rescue passed us the moment we got onto the highway. We kept going. There was no time to stop. Seth was an emotional mess. He was being uprooted once again. He came home to familiarity and his Daddy. Yes, he's 16 years old, but he was calling me 'Daddy.'

Uncharacteristic for him, and much to my dismay simply because he disobeyed the rules of having seatbelts securely fastened, he unbuckled, scooted around, laid his head on my lap and fell into a deep, deep sleep.

I had missed hearing his snoring. I missed feeling his arms around me. I missed his bright eyes looking into mine. I so much missed hugging him.

Tears began freely flowing from my eyes. I choked back sobs. I started counting my blessings. I vowed to stop taking people and what we had for granted.

Briefly I thought of my daughter living with her mother. We've grown distant over the past few months. She always had something going on, all made possible by the $3,500.00 per month child support – she said so. And she wanted more. As did her mother. The blessing from our failed marriage was the adoption of our African-American son.

Seth and my daughter fought like cats and dogs. It wasn't pretty. She called him every despicable name in the book for his being gay, and for his trust in her to tell her the truth about himself and who he really is.

I did some research and found that they were both, my wife and daughter, had joined none other than Burroughs West Baptist Church.

When Peter called to request my services, and after I learned why, I vowed with all of my being and legal expertise to go after that motherfucker named Fred Phillips, also known as The Patriarch, or in more appropriate terms – The Fuckwit.

John, Adam, Dale, Jeremy and Steve, the drivers of the caravan, found that the further east they traveled, the better the weather. The temperature was rising. It had gone from 18 degrees Fahrenheit to 51 in the space of about 60 miles.

While Katy was gone, Jose made his way into the sleeper section and turned on a small lamp affixed to the rear wall to check on the strong stinging sensations coming from his flesh. Without delay, he lowered his pants and briefs to see what was causing the discomfort.

A small clump of downy soft pubes was loose. He picked them off his groin and tossed them into the small trash can next to a small table. The area in his groin was red and chafed. He noted a small tear across the loose skin covering the glans. Although the tear was small and superficial it shot stinging pain up through his groin and into his belly.

There were several tape marks. A small piece of tape was attached to the opposite side of his penis. He tried to remove it but the pain was just too much so he left it alone, but it responded to touch. He watched it rise and debated taking it on a full journey, however a slight thud against the fuel tank derailed his idea of testing it. Quickly, he put himself together and jumped up into the driver's seat. He opened the door to see Katy looking up. He scrambled down the steps as only a 14 year old can do. Katy handed over the bag filled with hamburgers and fries.

Jose tossed the bag up into the seat and gave Katy a boost to the first step. He then ran around to the passenger seat only to find it securely locked.

Katy clicked the FOB object to unlock the door. Jose bounded into the seat and reached for the burger Katy was handing to him. When they finished eating, Jose gathered up the trash, and pointed to a large trash receptacle sitting on the side of the building. "I'm going to take the trash over there so that it doesn't stink."

Katy, taken aback the kid would tell her what he was going to do, barked and glared into his eyes, "Don't forget that I tell you what to do and when."

"I'm sorry, Ma'am. You're right." Jose stated apologetically, genuinely, then waited for her to continue.

"Of course I'm right. I'm always right. And don't you forget it." Katy chided the youngster. Jose winced at hearing the anger in her voice.

"Yes, Ma'am. I'm trying to be helpful to you. Do you want me to put it in the trash can in the sleeper?"

"As long as you fully understand that I am in charge here, you may dump the trash in the dumpster. Come right back. Don't waste time. We need to get on the road."

"Yes, Ma'am. I'll be right back. Is it okay to go now?"

"You may."

Exuberant to please the woman, Jose immediately opened the door and jumped down with the bags securely tucked into his side. Upon landing, much to his surprise, a severe need to relieve himself struck. And the need was not to be denied. He ran to the dumpster, tossed the bag in, turned back to the truck, pointed to his backside then without receiving any kind of acknowledgment ran into the quick stop and headed for the men's room. He barely made it before his needs released.

Katy, furious beyond belief, enraged even, in a rare move opened the door and more or less jumped to the pavement landing on her feet and then rolled forward onto her face, sending shards of pain throughout her body, and further enraging her. But she was down. Then, adding insult to injury she felt warm liquid exit her urinary bladder. "God damn it to fucking hell. Son of a bitch."

Jose always had a sensitive stomach. He wasn't all that surprised at the urgency he'd experienced. As the cramps subsided, his nerves began to really make themselves known to him, knowing he'd disobeyed her. Finally feeling finished, he quickly put himself together, washed and dried his hands and then ran toward the exit door, hearing but not paying any attention to the clerk ordering him to stop running through the store.

The boy ran across the parking lot. About halfway across he noted Katy lying on the pavement on the driver's side of the rig. An excellent runner, Jose sprinted toward her, arriving in record time. "Are you okay? Shall I get help?" The boy inquired, passionately, not knowing what else he could do.

"No, I'm not okay. Give me a hand." Katy grumbled, having controlled the anger that had just moments ago coursed through her veins.

Jose, using all strength contained in his young adolescent body, grunted and groaned as Katy slowly made her way to a standing position. The boy immediately noted her wet sweatpants and stepped back when he thought she was going to take a swing toward his head. His father had done this to him. He was always faster. His father was teaching him well to ward off such an attack.

But she wasn't attempting to strike out at all. Instead a wave of dizziness arrived and quickly passed. She was reaching for him to steady her. Instead of falling, she leant against the fuel tank, wiggled her head and looked at Jose trying to get her whereabouts and wits.

Jose attended to her by putting his hand on her shoulder and patted it very lightly.

With the wind removed from her sails, she calmly asked, "Jose, there's a small carry on satchel in the sleeper. Get it and bring it to me."

Once again, with his energy completely channeled into being helpful, returned with the bag within 30 seconds.

"Jose, I'm putting you on notice to use your best behavior. I need to attend to personal needs. You are to get up into the rig and stay there. Do not leave for any reason. We will talk about this when I return."

"I'm sorry, Ma'am. I really am. If I would not have went to the restroom, I would have been a baby by messing my pants. I'm sorry."

Katy regarded the boy with a watchful eye, searching for any sign of untruth. Seeing none, she waddled her large lobular structure toward the building and disappeared inside. Jose, mindful of her fall, watched her go. When she was inside, he ascended the steps with youthful vigor, plopped into the passenger seat and watched and waited for her return.

She exited the building. Jose, seeing her slowly waddle toward the rig, bounded down to the pavement and sprinted toward her and offered her his assistance. Katy, initially pissed that he'd disobey her demand to stay inside, quickly deflated and accepted. She noted Jose was very strong and did indeed, give her a helping hand to get up into the cab in the driver's seat.

Despite his disobeying her orders, she gave him complete latitude for he really did help her and did not make fun of her weakness.

When they were seated and buckled in and the powerful engine started, she turned to the boy, "Thank you. You really are a good kid."

Her words sounded good and created an opportunity for Jose to flash her a toothy smile, her motives were quite different in that her determination was now to get him to her Patriarch in a last ditch effort to enter unto his graces.

Almost in the same breath, she realized he'd moved very, very fast, with no apparent distress. She glared into his eyes. His smile quickly left at realizing he'd been busted, maybe. "Yes, Ma'am?" He asked, contritely, not knowing if he was just being paranoid, or had she figured out that he'd removed the tape from his most sensitive place.

Ignoring his question, Katy turned her attention to moving the rig out of the parking lot. As they passed onto the onramp to the highway, barking the right rear wheels against the curb, causing the rig to shift to the left, she quipped, "Thank you for helping me back there. I'm not even going to ask how you did it." Katy giggled then paid full attention to driving.

Jose didn't understand what she was talking about. He faced forward and gave it no further thought.

Little did Katy realize that, by sharply barking the curb, a chain of events was started and could not and would not cease.

Inside the cargo hold, several bottles of liquid touched one another sending sounds of glass breaking throughout the immediate area. This was not, could not have been heard up front as the trailer and cab were widely separated. When the wheels returned to flat ground with a thud, two of the bottles cracked, permitting several drops of fluid to escape into the heavy cardboard container, disintegrating a corner of it, leaving behind a light puff of heated smoke arose then settled down.

Jose fell off to sleep with his hands in his lap, nursing the soreness.

Hours later, the driver took the northbound I-335 exit. She ramped up the speed as the roads were now clear sailing.

Within the hour the rig was fast approaching the Gage Street exit. Expertly, Katy slowed the rig so as to safely make the turn, a product of a tight cloverleaf. The second trailer, despite her best efforts, bumped the right outer rear tire against a sharp edge, once again listing the vehicle to the left.

White hot molten drops of toxic substance continued eating away at the heavy cardboard container materials, creating a smoke screen within the confines of the trailer.

Jose awakened and quickly looked around first to his left to make sure Katy was awake then seeing that she was, he looked to the right and cringed when the curb caught the truck's wheels, and then back to Katy after she'd barked it. Remembering how his uncle drove, he couldn't help but to think he was the better driver of the two drivers. While looking out of the passenger window, he couldn't help but to smile wanly.

Having been to the Patriarch's kingdom three other times, she knew that the tabernacle was located off of Southwest Huntoon Street. More in control, now, she carefully negotiated the city streets.

The turn onto Huntoon Street was an entirely different story. Not only did she bark the curb, she cut it so sharp that the second trailer struck a traffic signal pole causing the rig to grind to a halt.

Sixteen bottles, containing cinnamon oil, as per the bill of lading, fractured their necks, spilling their contents within the hard cardboard container, leaking out of the large hole created when the chain of events first began, adding to the hot acrid smoke already within.

"Do you want me to spot you, Ma'am?" Jose asked as he quickly adjusted that which designates him as male inside of its tight confines, sending stinging sensations up and into his lower belly.

"Do you…" Katy started to ask but stopped when she realized the boy knew rigs very well. Changing tracks, "Yes, we need to make this corner. I know of no other way to get into this residential area."

"Are we about there, Ma'am?"

"Yes, we're close."

Jose pointed forward to a long area where they could parallel park then stated, innocently, "We could park up there, Ma'am."

Katy looked to where the kid was pointing then quickly dismissed his suggestion, "Spot me."

Jose quickly nodded his agreement and happiness that he'd been asked to do something he loved to do. Boyishly he stated, just before closing the passenger door, "I've got to pee. Don't look." He giggled then dropped to the pavement, crowded in close to the front rear wheels, whipped it out and drained his can. He then ran to the rear, surveyed the curb situation, and then began coughing violently. The air, he felt, was heavy. He recovered quickly then after checking all directions ran into the street to observe the position of the trailer to the turn.

He ran to the cab, climbed up, and said to Katy, "Back up. All you have to do is to make a very wide turn. We can get her in there. Just you wait and see. Okay? I'll spot."

His exuberance was palpable. Katy agreed to his assessment.

His methods worked. When the truck was positioned properly, the boy ran around to the passenger side and climbed up and pointed his fingers to go forward.

The left hand turn onto Southwest Cambridge was easier. Using her newly acquired skills at right turns, the turn onto Southwest Churchill was made successfully. The same street curved sharply to the left. Within short minutes, she parallel parked the truck on the right side across the street from the Compound. She shut down the engine, set the powerful air brakes, purging air from the system.

"We're here, Ma'am?"

"Yes, we're here. Grab your bag. We'll meet your Patriarch. Jose, you've been a big help to me – thank you. And thank you for spotting me. I'm surprised I did silly things like hitting curbs and that damn pole. Now, here's what I want you to do: First and foremost, be on your best behavior. Second, the man you meet will be our Patriarch. He is to be treated with the utmost of respect."

Jose nodded, readily.

Continuing, "Secondly, obey all orders. Do not question. Do not do anything on your own. If you do, then do not be surprised at being punished. Depending on the infraction, the punishment could be severe."

Jose nodded, somewhat worriedly. He wondered why she would think he would sabotage his efforts to be a good boy, one who his parents would be proud of. This is his only goal, he thought. "I will be on my best behavior, Ma'am. I know how to give respect, even to those who do not respect me."

There was something about this boy that was unlike any of the others she had brought to her Patriarch. He was automatically respectful. Maybe his retraining would be quick and painless, yet the incident at the truck stop troubled her at the same time. He's spontaneous, spunky, bright, smart, intelligent, respectful… but still, the boy needed discipline to keep his sexuality from being an issue in the future.

In any event, this wasn't about him, she thought. With this thought firmly etched in her mind, she repeated, "Get your bag."

Jose bounded into the sleeper, anxious to meet the Patriarch who would remove his sinful ways and thoughts, fetched his bag of clothes, returned to the cab and held his object up to Katy for inspection. She nodded.

"Go ahead and jump down. Wait for me. Go ahead." Katy instructed, patiently.

Katy opened her door and looked down to size up the situation. Jose noting her hesitation quickly dropped down and ran around to the driver's door anxious to be of assistance to the obese lady who'd given him the needed ride so that he could be a good boy to his parents, to make them proud.

Katy, nervousness dripping from her voice, stated, "Don't stand below me in case I make a not-so-graceful exit."

Jose stepped away, but always kept her in sight.

As it were, Katy made it down the steps without a whole lot of difficulty. Jose, meanwhile, got an eyeful of ass cheeks. That was way more than he'd ever bargained for. For a moment, he argued with himself about a possible attraction to boys his own age, maybe a little younger, maybe a little older.

The boy, slightly taller than Katy, put his arm around Katy's ample girth.

She said, "You're a real sweetheart. Thanks." She put her arm around his shoulders. Together they walked onto the concrete porch. A large glass paned door stood before them.

Katy swallowed hard. This was the moment of truth. Would he accept her offering? Would he trust her once again? Would the beauty of this child mitigate the loss of his previous Prized One?

With those thoughts rapidly swirling through her mind, she walked forward and put her finger onto the doorbell button. She looked to Jose. He could see beads of sweat on her forehead. "It's okay. Thank you for bringing me here. I will be good. My parents will be proud of me. So will you." He nodded.

Katy pushed the bell which sent a chorus of church organ music inside the house.

They then waited for 2 to 3 minutes for the door to be answered.

They heard heavy footsteps approaching. A curtain covering one of the windows was pushed aside then the door opened. A tall, muscular elderly man opened the door. His eyes immediately trained on the boy, a beautiful, stunning boy whose eyes captivated him. His energy, innocence and masculinity completely enthralled and clouded his judgment, if only for a moment.

He reached out his hand and said, "Come in. Come in. To what great pleasure brings you to me, Young Initiate?"

Confused with the man's choice of words, Jose looked to Katy, hoping for clarification.

She looked away, dismissing his question.

Patriarch reached out his hand to cup Jose's cheek. Jose flinched at the contact. The man noted the defiance, however offered, pleasantly, "I'm pleased to meet you, Young Initiate. What brings you here to me?"

A boy walked to the door and stepped onto the porch and stood in front of Jose. He smiled widely. "Hi, I'm Edmond. What's your name?"

Jose, mesmerized by Patriarch's gaze, slowly turned his head toward this new person, "Jose."

Katy took in a deep breath. The boy had just turned his side to her Patriarch. There would be hell to pay. She looked to Patriarch to see his eyes squint at the child's disrespect. She barked, "Jose, look at your Patriarch. He asked you two questions. You disrespected him by not answering, and you turned your body away from him. Always face your Patriarch, his Holiness."

"That's okay, Katy. He will learn." Turning to Jose, "Well, Jose. We can help you. Welcome." Patriarch faced Edmond, "Show him our accommodations."

"Yes, Patriarch." Edmond said, completely changing his demeanor from warm and welcoming to obediently stiff and starched. He then received a nod from his Patriarch, dropped to his knees and kissed the man's bare feet. He stood, faced Jose, and said, "Come with me."

Jose's expression changed from disbelief to one of puzzlement. He looked to the man. Patriarch stated, "Follow his example. Go ahead."

"Yes, Sir." Jose offered respectfully then went to his knees and emulated Edmond's respectful and honorable gesture.

Patriarch gave a glint of smile. Edmond noted his Patriarch's approval.

Although Edmond had practiced many times, his innermost-self rejoiced at finally being tasked with the real thing – indoctrinating a New Initiate. Not only was he rejoicing over his Patriarch's trust, but he found Jose extremely attractive in every way. His flesh responded. As he entered the house, with Jose leading the way, out of Patriarch's view, he reached down to make an adjustment to that which resided in the lower middle of his body as his flesh, too, responded.

Rex Masters, Peter Granger's employee commissioned for this mission, and Kaydyn's buddy from the military days, arrived first. He was sitting in his vehicle across the street from the Burroughs West Baptist Church Compound, and in front of a rainbow colored house when Ken and Kaydyn drove up and parked around the corner. He quickly donned his Flak jacket and armed himself with a pair of P266 9mm weapons, his favorites.

The stakes increased exponentially as Kaydyn, Ken and Rex observed the interaction between those standing on the porch. They raised even higher when the new boy entered the residence. Without a word said, Ken and Kaydyn donned their Flak jackets and armed themselves with small but very powerful weapons from the arsenal they'd brought and placed in a satchel.

At once, after Edmond entered the house with their new Initiate, Patriarch faced Katy, "You really are a wretched soul. You are being spared a one-way trip to the Gates of Hell for you have brought me a gentle soul to bring into the Fold. Go Daughter of Satan. Be gone. Never again set foot on this property!"

With that said, the man reared back his hand. Before Katy could veer away, Patriarch struck the side of her face with his closed fist, stunning her, but not enough to knock away her footing. Without delay and before Patriarch could strike again, she stumbled down the stairs holding her head, obviously in great pain. Quickly, she headed to her rig, ascended the steps without apparent difficulty, fired up the powerful engine, released the airbrakes, and put it into the lowest gear and took off, clipping the bumper of a car that had parked too close in front of the truck.

She wound herself out of the neighborhood by turning west on SW 12th street and then hooked a right on Gage Boulevard, heading north. When she got to State Highway 24 she turned right on her way to Kansas City to make the drop.

"Do you want something to drink?" Edmond asked the new boy.

"Uhmm, yes, please." Jose responded, respectfully, cautiously.

Four men and a 14 year old boy ogled and oogled behind a computer terminal watching the new arrival drink down a large glass of apple juice. Jeffrey Phillips, the 14 year old, carefully observed the new kid. His loins responded hungrily causing him to reach down and adjust that which designates him male.

Jeffrey clucked his tongue and immediately walked to the very large bathing chamber to prepare it for the new boy, an Initiate he was not expecting. He reached in and turned on the spigots, adjusting the temperature to very warm, almost hot.

Without wasting any time, the boy removed and neatly folded his clothing and sat them on a dresser in the corner of the room. His staff, fully extended, did not go unnoticed. He then walked to a small table next to the bathtub where he retrieved a bottle of body soap. He sat it on the edge of the tub then walked to a 12 by 14 inch warming oven, retrieved 7 small glass containers of special oils and placed them next to the soap. Seeing that everything was in order, he walked into the bathroom, stood in front of the stool where he emptied his bladder, taking great care to not touch his fully extended flesh for fear that it would prematurely empty his life giving fluids.

Finished, the boy returned to the room, went to the 4 men sitting at the terminal adjusting all settings so that nothing was missed. They too were enthralled by the beauty of their new arrival.

A man in a room located to the left of the stairway prepared the new arrival's sleeping quarters, consisting of a large metal table in the center. Beside the bed on a table were leather restraints that would be used to make the new child's abode more comfortable and accommodating.

A middle-aged woman in a room to the right of the stairway prepared a tray of 10 surgical instruments – in case they were needed for the new boy.

Edmond knew those preparations were underway. To buy time, he took Jose to the master bathroom so that Jose, if needed, could relieve any bodily needs. Jose nodded. Edmond permitted him to close the door since there was no way out of the room. And, there was no lock on the door knob.

Jose, sitting on the throne, reached down and attempted to remove the small piece of tape, however the stinging sensation was just too much to take so he abandoned the effort, put himself together, walked to the sink and washed his hands.

Edmond, anxious to get Jose's initiation in progress, and bored from waiting… walked to the main living area, glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece and noted the hands showed 9:40. The door to the restroom opened. He quickly returned to greet Jose. Knowing preparations took approximately 15 minutes, he led the new boy into his own room.

Jose noted the flushed appearance and the somewhat urgent demeanor of his host. Their eyes locked. For the very first time, despite having protected his gay friends, he found himself intensely attracted to the guy standing in front of him. Breaking the silence, and putting his needs in check, Edmond asked, "So what sports do you play? It looks like you work out a lot."

"I play right end on our school's football team. But, no, I don't work out, other than what we do for practice. I guess I run a lot… the position requires quickness and agility." Jose responded as a matter of interest.

Jose, noting his host's lean strong body, inquired, "Do you play?"

"I don't play football, but I'm on a soccer team. I'm a goalie. So, Jose, why, exactly did you come to us for help? Why are you troubled?"

"Uhmm, well, my father is displeased with my weaknesses. I feel like I've failed him."

"Oh? How's that?"

"Nothing I do is ever right." Jose hedged, not really wanting to disclose the true reason for being there.

"A son is to honor his father, at all costs. Honor thy mother and father is a rule Jesus gave to us so that we are good parents when we grow up and father our own children, and so on and so on. Society is failing this commandment."

"I guess. I mean the news is filled with…"

"The news has it all wrong. They do not tell the whole story. They do not write about the true ailments of this world. In fact they support, condone and bless depravity such as homosexuality, bestiality, murder, rape… the list goes on, but you should have a good idea. Our teachings are fundamental. They are the only way to lead an obedient life so that we can possibly have a place in line for eternal salvation. Very few make it. The numbers are limited."

"That's old testament stuff. But, I understand. That's where my father's beliefs rest."

"Sounds like a good man. So, specifically, tell me what displeases him."

Jose regarded the youth with interest, however a sense of dread filled his being when his flesh expanded.

Edmond, noting Jose's distress reached out his arms in invitation. Jose, feeling somewhat lost, yet hopeful, accepted the invitation. They hugged deeply. Edmond whispered in Jose's ear, "So, answer my question. Don't be ashamed. Whatever is on your mind, we'll help you along to a new light."

Jose sighed, deeply. Never before had he experienced another boy's arms around him in this way. The stinging increased. He willed it away, unsuccessfully.

Edmond pulled Jose in and held on firmly. Jose didn't want their hug to end, but his need was growing at an alarming rate. He felt Edmond's needs. He pulled away. They stood in front of one another. Jose, knowing his secret would eventually have to come out in order to change his ways and thinking, disclosed, "I spill my seed."

Edmond nodded at Jose's disclosure. "Me, too. It is normal and natural. It is something we cannot stop. Usually, though, we make it happen. But, masturbation is strictly forbidden and is condemned. Fornication outside of the bonds of matrimony are wrong, just wrong. I am learning the Bible. I cannot exactly quote Scripture, however my Patriarch says it to be true, so it is true."

"That's what my father says as well. The reason I came here is to cast aside those corroding thoughts, and to amend my actions so that I am obedient to my father. That's basically it. It's why I'm here. I have hope."

"Well, you've come to the right place. I must inquire, have you slept with a girl?"

"No. I have not been with anyone."

"A boy?"

"No." Jose replied, nervously.

Edmond picked up on the new guy's nervousness. His senses told him that Jose's desires were similar to his. Without hesitation, Edmond used his thumbs to push his waistband forward causing his fully extended staff member to jut up and out from his body. Jose, having never had such an experience in his life, gasped. Yet he was very, very intrigued.

Edmond giggled, "I see that you are like me. I struggle with my urges day by day. Some days I am chaste and pure, other days, like today, I am not."

"Do you get into trouble?"

"There are times, yes. My grandfather, the Patriarch, collects my offering and submits it for purification. I don't know what he does after that."

Downstairs in the basement, the middle aged woman stood before the computer terminal having three screens and observed her son's interactions with the new boy. Her eyes squinted with disapproval at seeing her son's brazenness. Adjusting the camera she noted the new boy's extended flesh through his pants. Her disapproval lessened at realizing that this new boy was 'capable'.

When the two boys disappeared from that camera angle, she quickly walked into the laboratory and prepared two test tubes then returned to the staircase, anticipating their arrival.

They reappeared to the camera located in the parlor. Patriarch exited the restroom then joined the middle aged woman, his daughter, observing the camera. At first glance, his eyes squinted then and said, "This new child is simply beautiful. I see that Edmond finds him beautiful, too. It is time for my grandson to move forward as a Retrainer for he is beautiful as well."

The boys exited the parlor then made their way to the kitchen where they drank a glass of water. Edmond, once again, drew Jose into his arms. At first, Jose, very uncomfortable with the gestures, gave into his desire to be close to this boy. Edmond, feeling comfortable, lowered his hands down Jose's back and used his fingers to firmly grasp Jose's lower cheeks, sending thrills through both of them.

Patriarch smiled. "They remind me of the boys Jordan and Luke. This is going to be very interesting. Too bad Katherine's, the daughter of Satan is determined."

The boys parted after Edmond more or less forced Jose's hands to cup his own globes which sent chills up and down his spine, and filling his needs to the maximum.

"Come. We'll work together on our not so little problem." Edmond then quickly reached down and quickly squeezed Jose's hardness. While the touch was fleeting, at best, it was a source of confusion for Jose. Jose thought he was here to be taught to suppress those feelings, not have the fires fanned. He quickly pulled away and looked into Edmond's eyes.

The host, noting Jose's reaction, smiled and said, "I meant no harm. Let's go. Follow me."

The men exited their vehicles. Rex, intently watching the front of the house, joined Ken and Kaydyn at their vehicle. Without wasting time for formalities, the men approached the sidewalk leading to the porch where the tall man they'd identified as their Target had taken the boys inside. They were absolutely convinced that time was of the essence, for fear that the new boy, let off by an extremely obese female truck driver, assumed to be Katherine Russello, would meet a similar fate as the other boys they were briefed upon.

Rex led the way to the front entrance of the residence with Kaydyn close behind. Ken then fanned away and quickly walked toward the back of the house to observe any activities there.

Kaydyn stepped off the porch and stood beside a tall evergreen tree, out of sight from the front door. Seeing that Kaydyn was in place, Rex knocked loudly on the door so as to be heard.

The four men who were observing the grounds and interactions between the two boys, had moved away from the terminals. They quickly undressed in a small dressing room behind the computers.

The middle-aged woman returned to her duties, made sure all items were properly arranged, then walked to the tub, reached her hand down to test the water. She looked up in the eyes of her oldest son and wanly smiled at seeing the boy casually touching his bare maleness with anticipation. It was in full bloom. He was growing up. He was very pleasant to the eye. Her cunt twitched even though he was her son.

She felt he was more than ready to fully experience initiating a new boy entrusted them for Cleansing.

Two other men, sitting behind the computer terminals, quickly arose, shed their clothing and donned black gowns then were handed a freshly laundered and pressed white gown for The Patriarch.

The Patriarch approached, ready to begin the retraining process. The men performed their duties, however their Holy One snuffed their attempts to straighten the gown. Patriarch then walked into the main room, approached an altar, reverently genuflected his aging and arthritic body before a likeliness of Christ, and prayed that their efforts would be successful. He then sat on a majestic white throne and patiently waited for the christening to begin.

Before opening the door and descending the stairs, Edmond said, "Come, I will bathe you so that Patriarch is pleased. Do everything you are told. Do not balk. Do not disobey. Punishment is quick, decisive. It is, of course, tailored to the degree of infraction. Do not be afraid."

Jose nodded in understanding.

Edmond heard knocks on the outside door. Knowing of the monitoring arrangement in the initiation room, he ignored them. Jose heard them, too, but Edmond gave him no time to pay any further attention to it. Instead, Edmond took Jose's left hand and held it firmly in his, while his other hand reached for the door knob, turned it, opened the door and stood while Jose moved out of the way lest he get hit.

The stairway was long and curved as though it were a spiral staircase. A spiral staircase it was not. Rather it only appeared to be.

Edmond closed the door behind them and then clicked the deadbolt into position. He smiled.

Rex sensed movement. Intently he looked beyond the white sheer curtains covering the door windows, but did not see anything change from when he'd carefully searched for the 'lay of the land' to establish landmarks.

Ken, looking through the back door's windows, only saw the opening and closing of a door. He'd not seen any life forms. His intuition told him different. He reached for the storm door's handle, but found it securely locked.

Rex knocked again, this time much more forceful. He put his ear to the pane to listen for any movement. He found none. "We've got to move it."

Kaydyn nodded. He pressed a button on a small intercom device in his shirt pocket. "Dad, we're going in."

"Roger. I saw a door open and close, but saw no people. First, secure the upper floor. I'm coming around. I'll be behind you."

"10-4." Rex acknowledged.

Kaydyn nodded his understanding. Without delay, he reached for and retrieved his glass cutting instrument, applied it to the window closest the doorknob enabling him to remove the glass pane. Rex reached his hand inside, grasped the door handle and very quietly and intently pressed the thumb object. It pressed easily. A small click was heard as the locking mechanism gave into the pressure. The door moved. Quickly, after pulling their weapons, they gained entry. Fanning through and securing the foyer, Kaydyn closed the door taking great care to not make a sound.

Methodically, they went from room to room, taking great care to not make a sound. Their shoes with rubber soles made their trek soundless. All of the rooms were secure, as were the closets. A staircase at the end of the hallway led upstairs. Kaydyn stood watch as Rex ascended.

Meanwhile, Ken approached the back door to find it tightly covered with plastic wrapping material, a method to keep a house in the Midwest USA extra insulated during cold winter weather. It made sense to him as this was the north side of a residence.

Seeing that it was secure, he walked around to a corner leading into the front yard and peeked around it. The coast was clear. He approached the front door. Seeing that entry was already made, he pulled his weapon and held it at the ready as he quietly opened the door and stepped inside.

On the second level, Rex quickly went from room to room and found them secure. He quickly made his way back downstairs. He radioed Ken to give him their findings. Ken acknowledged – in person. He walked into the hallway. Hearing 'something', both Kaydyn and Rex readied their weapons by training them on the ceiling. Seeing Ken, they retreated their weapons.

"This house likely has a basement. All of the window wells are obscured by cardboard and heavy tape. All people in this part of the country, if they have any sense whatsoever, have basements where they take cover during some very severe storms, including tornadoes and huge hail."

Both Rex and Kaydyn knew that already. They, too, lived in Tornado Alley, albeit on the northern fringes.

Ken then led them into the kitchen. There, they noted two doors, one on the northwest corner and one next to a set of kitchen cabinets.

Rex covered the door by the cabinets which they thought might lead to a basement, but first they had to secure the other one. Ken and Kaydyn approached. While Kaydyn trained his weapon on the door, ready for anything, Ken quickly opened the door. The small room was a pantry. It was secured.

Rex's blood began pumping faster. He felt blood rushing into his temples. Ken and Kaydyn joined him. Their fluids were likewise on the move.

When they were in position to cover the door, Rex reached down to the door handle and very, very gently tested it. He shook his head in the negative. It was locked.


Edmond, still firmly holding Jose's hand, descended the staircase. The room, while dimly lit, he thought, was welcoming. The aroma was pleasant. The bathing tub had underwater lights which cast off a glow.

They arrived and stood in place for a moment. Using a conversational voice, Edmond said to Jose, "We're here. This is where your journey to freedom begins."

Patriarch ascended from his throne, walked to the staircase then ducked into a dark place that would be out of sight to the two boys.

Jose looked into Edmond's eyes. Then his world seemed to end when a pair of hands firmly touched his shoulders from behind. Startled beyond words, the boy attempted to turn around to see who was touching him, but those hands remained steadfast. A voice said very softly, "Welcome." He recognized the words being said by the Patriarch. He somewhat relaxed.

From dimly lit corners, he saw several adults appear and stand in front of him. They parted enough for Jose to see a boy about his age, naked as the day he was born, approach.

The approaching youth said, "Welcome. My name's Jeffrey. Edmond, prepare yourself."

Edmond disappeared into the room where the four men had donned gowns. Taking care to retain order he took off his shirt, socks, shoes, and jeans. His flesh, now more under control than it was in Jose's presence, further deflated while applying hard, direct pressure. He then dropped his briefs to the floor, walked into the restroom, drained his bladder and then made his entry into the cleansing room just as his grandfather said to Jose,

"Jose, remove your clothing. Prepare for bathing."

Jose's flesh, at seeing Edmond naked, arose. He was nervous, extremely so, but complied with Patriarch's request by removing his shirt, shoes, and socks. Hoping against all hope that his organ would rapidly deflate, he slowly unbuttoned his jeans, then, even slower pushed down the zipper to its resting place.

The middle aged woman took Jose's clothes. Edmond approached Jose and spread the top of the New Initiate's jeans and urged them down until they rested on the floor. Jose then removed them and handed them to the middle aged woman's held out hand.

The camera personnel established communication connections with several locations throughout the globe. They, too, were enamored with this boy's beauty and did not want their clients to miss a single event.

One man, a client, in particular, paid very close attention to his 54 inch screen. Just above a whisper he said, "So, Lawrence, you think you have the upper hand. Well. Well. Well. We shall see."

Edmond, sensing Patriarch's increasing impatience, took hold of Jose's briefs and lowered them to his ankles then urged Jose to kick them loose.

Now standing completely naked and fully erect in front of many adults, Jose blushed fiercely. For a moment, the child felt his head swim, heading toward dizziness, but he reeled himself in when Edmond said, "We're going to get into the cleansing tub. I'll wash you. By the time we're bathed, you'll feel like a million dollars."

Jose quickly covered his ardor, but Edmond pushed his hand away. The cameras honed in on Jose's beauty, panning from his head to his toes, then to his male member where they brought the view into full-screen.

Several men and a woman smiled. The offering price was increasing moment by moment.

Jose, remembering that he was to face Patriarch at all times, quickly turned to see the man eyeing his every move and effort. He said, "You asked why I'm here. At first, I was brought here only because I spill my seed, but now, to be perfectly honest, I am here, now, on my own… I need help with my desires. Please, Patriarch help me." The boy violently shuddered as he looked into Patriarch's eyes, quietly beseeching assistance.

The man, seeing Jose's distress, smiled. He was quite impressed with the child's honesty and forthrightness. He pulled the distressed youth into his arms and held him firmly, whispering, "You will soon find that homosexuality is an abomination to our Lord Jesus Christ, and you will very soon realize that attractions to another male human being create severe consequences. You will find the true meaning of what faggots go through to nurture their depravity. I am very, very impressed at seeing and witnessing your inner strength at finding your truth."

Jose relieved at releasing his secret, complied. Contritely, humbly he stood before the people who would relieve his inner demons, fell to his knees, leant toward Patriarch's feet and kissed them tenderly in thanksgiving for the blessings he was receiving.

Those in the audience took sharp intakes of breaths and smiled seductively at seeing the close in camera shots of his opened cheeks from across the room from where this lad knelt submissively, facing his Patriarch, beseeching his help and assistance.

Jeffrey, the older boy, gently but decisively took hold of Jose's hair and urged him to stand. Then, with Edmond and Jeffrey on either side, they led him to the bubbling bath.

After receiving permission, they entered the cleansing pool, submerging themselves to the armpits.

Patriarch sat on his throne to carefully observe the Cleansing. He paid very careful attention to the work his grandsons were performing, finding it adequate.

Without delay, Edmond approached Jose and put his arms around Jose's neck while Jeffrey approached from the back. Both shared the bottle of body soap and began the initiation process of cleansing each and every pore of their New Initiate. Jeffrey, the older boy, looked toward Patriarch and raised his eyebrows in question.

Patriarch whispered into the middle-aged woman's ear, "Let the party begin."

The man stood.

Two men approached their Lord.

Patriarch nodded. They removed his garment and watched him walk to the pool's entrance. He stood in place then nodded to Jeffrey.

Edmond, very disappointed that he was not chosen, looked at his brother with pure hatred in his eyes. Nevertheless, always the obedient one, he stepped back slightly pulling Jose's face close to his upper stomach and held him in his arms.

Jose, now completely relaxed from the ministrations given him, further relaxed when a pair of hands began trekking his back, scrubbing it lightly in little circles. His eyes opened when he felt those same hands go further south. They opened further at feeling a narrow object, likely a finger, traveling down into that dark valley that was his and only his. He wiggled, and because his body was slick with soap film he was easily able to turn toward Jeffrey. With irritation clearly in his voice, he stated, "Stay out of there."

Edmond said to Jose, "Don't do that. Just go with it. I'm right here."

"But, that's mine." Jose hissed, angrily.

"We are here to help you. Go with it. Do not be afraid, and do not fight our assistance. It is good and just."

Seeing the sincerity in Edmond's eyes, Jose relaxed and asked very softly, "Then you wash me there if I cannot do it for myself."

Patriarch, seeing the delay, obstinacy, blatant disobedience and failure to submit, entered the water and approached the new youth. Without hesitation, the man submerged Jose to the lowest level of the pool until he felt resistance, knowing the child's face was touching the bottom surface.

Rex, with his ear plastered against the door leading downstairs heard voices, though they weren't discernible. Then he heard an adult male voice, though muffled. It sent shivers up and down his spine. Quickly, he turned to Ken then Kaydyn and using his finger, pointed to the door.

Kaydyn reached for a lock pick, however Rex noted the door lock was non-standard. They looked at one another with disbelief in their expressions.

Approximately 1,100 miles to the east a man sat in his VIP chair paying rapt attention to the activities of his benefactor. Feeling completely confident, the man reached into a drawer of the broad and expensive mahogany desk, retrieved a very expensive cigar, sat back in his chair and lit it and inhaled a shallow breath. He smiled.

The silence in his office was broken by the sound of a replacement personal phone ringing, "Yes."

"I have a very generous offer for you."

"Go on."

"Ten thousand dollars."

"Fuck you and the herd of terrorist camels your fat ass rode in on." Click.

'Fucking cheap idiots. He's got his nerve.' The man said to himself.

Two minutes later, another phone call, "Well, hello, Vladimir. And, how are you this fine day?"

"I be very fine. Thank you for asking. The subject of my dreams is, how do you say it? Spunky? I like spunky. He's a livewire."

"Yes, he is that." The cigar man replied, returning his attention back to the monitor on his desk.

"Three-hundred-twenty-five-thousand. This is my only offer. There is a condition which you must follow if I am to be interested."

"What's that?" The man asked, wincing at conditions, yet the money was more than he could ever have dreamed up on his own. He swallowed hard.

"He must be a virgin. He will be a gift to my son. My son deserves the very best. Don't you agree?"

"Why yes, Sir."

Vladimir then began laughing so hard his belly hurt. The laughing faded then a click ended the conversation.

Dale's Viewpoint

I looked at my watch. It read 6:12AM. I was getting tired, really tired.

My cell phone, sitting on the console, rang. I answered it on the second ring, "Why, good morning – this is your friendly 18 wheel truck driver! What's up?"

Peter, despite the early morning hour… actually today is still yesterday. He grinned, "You sound mighty chipper. How are you doing on your end?"

"Oh, I'm just peachy. Can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing – I'm serious. All's well."

"Let me get Adam, Jeremy and John on the line. Jim?"

"Just a moment." Jim Blake replied.

"Jeremy here."

"John present."

"Adam's on the call. Good morning, everyone."

Peter Granger groaned as he stretched his tired aching muscles. He wasn't about to say that he was just as tired as or perhaps more than the rest of the people going to his facility for safety purposes.

"You are just about to the State Highway 39 turnoff. Head north. The distance between the exit and the facility is 47 miles. Due to incomplete road construction projects, this stretch of road is treacherous at best. The main challenge is the winding and sharp switchback turns, and softness. The roadbed was removed in preparation for a complete rebuild, however funding ran out mid project. Had the area received a lot of snow then I would have directed you to take the only other route. The redirection would have added another 100 or so miles to the trip."

I looked down at the fuel gage to note that I was way past the comfort zone that I keep while traveling. I computed the miles to miles per gallon ratio and relaxed knowing we had enough. Had the other route become required then that would have been a different story.

Adam stated, "I figure I have another 125 miles of fuel. I've never run it this low before. I do not know when phase out will occur."

John added, "I'm on a quarter tank. We'll be just fine. Let's keep going."

Jeremy responded, "Dad, we're in the same situation. This isn't our vehicle so I really do not know how many miles it has left. It, too, is going to be a challenge. Peter, is there any chance of our rigs getting stuck in the muck?"

"No, I do not believe so. The road bed itself is complete. Funds ran out at the time they were ready to lay concrete. Okay, so we know you have enough fuel." Peter said, informatively.

Jeremy upfront added, "Mount Vernon has a travel plaza. Let's pull off there so that nobody gets stranded."

I laughed, "Good idea. With all the coffee I've been drinking… and I'm sure the kids could use a break, too."

It was decided that we'd stop, fuel up and take potty breaks. There would, however, be no time for playing around. We ended the call just as the truck entered the exit ramp, after Peter had given us final instructions to the destination.

I pulled into a fuel station on the outer row. Adam pulled in beside us, and John beside him. Jeremy went to the car station.

Comparatively speaking, the temperature was much warmer here than it was further southwest.

"Are we there yet?" A sleepy voice I recognized as Luke's, asked.

"Just about. Another 50 miles or so. Wake Jordan and Christian and take potty breaks if you need them."

Ah, the joys of youth… those kids were up and into the passenger seat without delay. Luke grinned. Jordan chuckled. Even Christian was in on this, whatever it was.

Jordan opened the passenger seat door and was just about to jump down, but then, simultaneously, three pair of briefs were thrown my way. They jumped down and ran toward the building laughing their asses off, as only prankster kids can do. I chuckled. I couldn't help it.

Two can play that game.

Once the nozzle was placed in the neck of the tank… the game was on.

John, Adam and Jeremy walked over so that we could shoot the breeze while the kids were off doing their thing.

Let's just say we had one helluva laugh.

Steve and Bea approached. Steve didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, but Bea sure did. She didn't think it was all that funny, but did grin and then took off inside the building.

Bradley exited the building. He held the door open for Bea then he sprinted to us men standing around chatting about this and that. I reached out my arms. I needed a Bradley hug. And a Bradley hug I got.

Soon all of the boys, except for Luke and Jordan, were assembled close to the rigs. Matthew, the youngest of our bunch, looked up and pointed, "What are those doing there?"

I walked to him. Everybody was cracking up. I knelt down, put my hand on his back and answered, "We're up to no good. Don't say anything. It's our secret, okay?"

"You're up to no good, but why?"

"I'll tell you what. Just stay with me and don't say anything when they come out. Can you do this for me?"

"Sure, but I don't understand…"

Last, but certainly not least, the three slow poke boys came running out of the building on a dead run, and then Luke and Jordan skidded to a stop. Jordan half screamed, half lamented, "You didn't!"

"Oh, I'd say so. Touché."

Christian, not up to speed glared up to the CB radio antennas, carefully observing Luke and Jordan's reaction, and everyone else laughing their butts off. Even Matthew got into it. The boys started grab-assing with each other, teasing the three hooligans unmercifully. It was all good. By the time they'd expended their pent up energies, Luke and Jordan found the whole situation hilarious. It was really good to see them laughing, and I mean genuinely laughing. They'd experienced so very much during their travels. I vowed that they would have plenty of opportunities to laugh and just be kids.

Luke on the passenger side and Jordan on the driver's side quickly retrieved the clothing that had been left behind.

With our sides hurting, we took our charges to the vehicles and got them loaded up. The boys tried giving me their silent treatment, however I interrupted their feeble attempts by saying, "You asked for it. Don't give me a hard time." And then I broke up laughing, once again, which brought them around. I had one more dig for them, "Go put your underwear on."

Christian stopped laughing. In fact, he glared at me for a moment before complying. I had to grin… if, in the future, he ever needed parental guidance – I had the sure fire method to do it. I had to chuckle.

The boys, now put into their place (ha ha), made their way into the sleeper and the light was turned on. Seconds later, I heard giggling coming from there. I didn't even want to know what they were laughing about. Whatever it was, I was probably at the center.

We took off. About 50 minutes later, after negotiating several hairpin turns, we arrived at the destination.

The boys, filled with piss and vinegar, jumped from the cab to the ground while I took my time.

The group gathered in front of the gate and looked at a sign that read, 'Granger Family and Friends Resort' and below it, in smaller letters, 'A Clothing Optional Resort'.

Carlin and Robbie walked up to me. My grandson put his arm around my waist and said, "Gotcha Grandpa."

Jeremy, Rachel, Bradley and Melissa broke up laughing. In fact, I thought Bradley was going to have a stroke.

Christian, standing alone, asked, innocently, "What does that sign mean?"

I took the two steps, closing the distance between us. I leant down and whispered in his ear, "You're home, Son. The sign says that clothing is 'optional' for those of us who generally wear clothes. For you, no clothing will be mandatory… however, before you get your hopes up, I would just imagine you would experience frostbite with these cold temperatures."

The child looked at me. His expression clearly told me that he had no clue as to what frostbite is. I whispered, "Frozen skin. You know, like hanging skin… that kind of stuff."

Oh God, this kid is learning some bad tricks from Luke and Jordan. He rolled his eyes up. Somewhat indignantly he replied, "Oh, it gets chilly where I'm from. May I…"

"No, not now."


"We've got to get settled into our quarters."


"Yes, quarters… where we'll be sleeping and living… quarters."

"Oh. Okay." The boy replied, once again scratching and rearranging his male parts in anticipation of freedom, I'm sure. I grinned. He smiled and ran to the group with Lawrence, Aaron, Dalton, Luke and Jordan assembled.

"Cool place, huh, Dad?" Bradley said, chuckling.

"Yeah, right. Clothing is optional – meaning we have a choice."

"Right, Dad."

Adam, with Wayne tucked into his side, approached. "Tony and Seth are on their way. They do not anticipate arriving before noon."

"Oh, that's fine. Jim knows they're traveling to our location. Shouldn't be a problem."

John stated, professionally, "Seth will need to lay low for a couple of days to get rested up. He's been through quite an ordeal. He's going to need medical attention."

I nodded, knowingly.

A man arrived on a golf cart. He opened the gate and then approached us adults. The children were off expending yet more energy.

He approached. I stuck out my hand, "Dale Wilson."

Adam, John, Steve and Jeremy obliged the man.

"Cletus Fairchild, Chief Grounds Engineer. I'm pleased to meet you all. Welcome. If you will follow me in your rigs, we'll get you up the hill. Dale, you will need to drop the back trailer. There is a very steep downgrade and a very tight corner to get past before reaching the facility down below the trees."

"I can certainly do that; no problem."

Cletus then turned to Adam and John, "Your rigs should be just fine. We dropped several loads of one inch rock just yesterday. Just use low gear. Go slow. And if your wheels lose traction, simply back up a little ways and start again. If worse comes to worse, we have a very large diesel snow plow that we can hook up and drag you out."

Everybody was in agreement. I was to go first.

The boys, all interested in how to drop a trailer, all came over and watched me put chock blocks in front of and behind the second trailer's wheels, how I unscrewed the mechanisms so that the trailer would rest on stilts, how their wheels locked, etc.

Most of the boys wanted to ride shotgun as I descended to the facility, however I decided that I'd go it alone in case anything bad happened.

Cletus led the way down. My tractor had no difficulties. I backed up to a dock. A dozen Mexican Nationals were present to unload our party. I detached the trailer and parked the tractor in a space at the end of a medium sized parking lot, with plans to go get the second trailer once the other rigs had arrived.

Cletus, riding the golf cart, went after them.

What I did not know at the time, was that Jordan, Luke, Christian, Jared, Michael and Eric had begun walking down the incline. Had I known, they would have been in deep shit. There were a couple of stretches, especially around the tight corner, where the drop off into the ravine below was significant. With the freshly laid rock…

Jordan's Viewpoint

We took off on foot to follow Dale. The ground was a bit wet but our tennis shoes had good traction. Halfway down the incline and into the corner, we found that Cletus was absolutely correct… I was amazed that Dale made the grade, however I also knew he was a very experienced driver.

Jeremy and Steve drove past us on their way down, waving.

We were just past the curve and deep ravine when Adam came rolling down the incline. He stopped. "I want you boys to get inside. These rigs are lethal weapons. If it would get away from us then you guys are sitting ducks."

"Come on guys. Adam's right." Jared said, using his 'big brother' authoritative voice.

Eric, the dare devil of our group, the one who pushed the envelope every now and again, walked to the side of the road and stood on the edge.

Michael, concerned about his boyfriend, quickly grabbed hold of Eric's belt and urged him to not do that. Eric complied. We got into the rig just as John pulled up behind Adam's motorhome.

Adam exited and walked back to John's coach. Soon, they both entered. John was none too happy. He turned to Eric, "Eric." His voice sounded very irritated.

Eric, not having seen John irritated before, stood and knelt down at John's feet and looked up into John's eyes. His filled with tears and leaked down his cheeks.

John regarded Eric very carefully. As did the rest of us.

Dog came walking into Adam's motorhome, saw Eric then she walked next to the boy, looked at John and growled lightly daring John to do anything to this boy.

Luke and I both got up from our seats, walked to Dog, took hold of her collar and urged her to come sit with us. She complied, although not entirely willingly.

John, seeing Eric quaking with fear, gently took hold of Eric's arm and urged him to sit. The boy did so. Sitting side by side, John said loud enough for us to all hear, "Eric, tell me what happened. Do you know why I'm upset?"

Eric shrugged his shoulders then taking a leap of faith, offered, "Sir, I was close to the edge of the road."

"Did Adam tell you to stay away from there and to get into his rig?"

Eric nodded.

John said, "I cannot hear you, Son."

"Yes, Sir." Eric replied, reaching up to his face and used the shirt sleeves to wipe away the tears that were falling from his eyes.

"Do you know why he told you and your brothers to get into this motorhome?"

"Yes, Sir. He said we might fall."

"That's right."

"Eric, we care for you. You and I have had many talks together, and we've made a decision or two, haven't we?"

Eric looked into John's eyes then he started crying with earnest, mumbling something about being sent away and that we hated him because he was bad.

John sternly said, "Don't even go there. Don't even think that. We're a family. Families do not normally give up on their children. This family doesn't. You made a mistake. Mistakes have consequences. It is the way we learn."


"Consequences. As lore has it every action has an opposite and equal reaction."

The boy looked at John, stupefied.

Luke spoke up, out of turn, "Consequences are when the 'rents get onto us for making mistakes… usually a punishment is doled out as a result."

Eric's eyes widened. He was afraid. He stood in front of John then turned around and lifted his shirt, "I was punished. Is this what he means?"

John turned to Luke with a sharp expression on his face.

"I didn't mean that. Eric, stop it." I said while getting up and walking to him. "Nobody will ever, ever, never, ever do that to you again, right John?" I said while pulling Eric's shirt down. I tucked it into his pants. I leant in and kissed his cheek then retook my seat.

John's expression expressed recognition at what Eric was afraid of. But, he was steadfast, saying, "If anybody even tries to hurt you again then they will have me to deal with. We've talked about this. To correct Luke, I do not use the word punishment. There is, however, a consequence for disobeying Adam's orders. Here is the consequence: you will not be permitted to go swimming with the boys this afternoon. You can sit by the side of the pool, but you cannot go into the water. Once your consequence is finished then it is – finished. I will never bring it up to you again. I don't carry grudges."

Eric looked at John like he was a Martian from outer space, "That's all?"

"Yes, that's all. It will be a done deal by the time you go to bed tonight. I will still tuck you and Michael into bed, just like always."

That was all Eric could take. He leant into John's arms and started crying. John pulled Eric into his arms and held him until he regained his composure. John reached for a Kleenex and wiped dry Eric's eyes then reached in and kissed our brother's cheek.

John turned to Jared, "Jared, what you did was irresponsible. You will join Eric. Case closed."

"Not so fast, John. Jordan and I will join them. We were just as irresponsible as well." Luke said, meaningfully.

I nodded in solidarity.

Michael spoke, "Me, too."

None of us would go swimming. The vote was unanimous.

Eric cried, "You'd do that for me?"

In chorus, "YES!"

He put his head down and reached his hand up to his face and started wiping away tears that were blinding him. Even John wiped away a few of his own.

"Group hug!" I hollered.

Group hug.

I felt big strong hands on my back. They traveled up to my neck and held it gently secure. I looked to Luke and Christian. They, too, were being hugged by John's long strong arms.

While Dale went to get the last load, the rest of us were taken through a maze of corridors to a lobby. We milled around as Marie, the supervising manager, said that she'd like to talk to everybody all at once. She led us to a tray of soft drinks, bottled water, juices, and another tray filled with oranges and apples.

Thirty or so minutes later, Dale and Cletus arrived.

Marie got our attention, "Okay boys and girl, ladies and gentlemen… May I have your attention? I'd like to get started."

The room got quiet. Everybody found seats to sit in.

"When Mr. Granger called to inform us that we would have guests, we got really busy and fixed this place up for you. A lot of time and effort was put into getting it ready so that you have the best possible experience in this part of Missouri. While we are not rated as five star, we think of ourselves as a six star resort by the way we treat our guests."

She paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. Being the first to say something is a new one for me. I stood and started clapping my hands.

Everybody followed my lead, which, in a way, was embarrassing, but I kept it up until we figured that was enough – for this time.

"Why thank you for your warmth. I appreciate it. And, I will share your kind thoughts and actions with the staff. It's always nice to be appreciated. With that said, we have a few things to go over. As you may have noticed, our entrance sign indicates that we are a clothing optional facility. This means that you can be just as comfortable as you wish. If you wish to wear clothes – fine. If you chose not to then – fine. A few rules, though. First, the lobby area is not clothing optional. Our rule is that clothing will be worn here in this room. Second, the cafeteria has the same rule. Third, the medical facility, except for patient care is not clothing optional. You must wear something. Shorts are fine. T-shirts are required as is footwear. All other areas are clothing optional. Residences. Common areas in the pods. Outdoors, although it is a bit cold… but do as you wish. When you are inside, towels are to be worn, or carried and sat upon for obvious reasons. Any questions?"

No questions were entertained.

"Breakfast is served from 6:00AM to 9:00AM. Lunch is from noon to 1:30PM. Dinner is from 6:00PM to 7:30PM. Snacks are always available. Canteens are located in each area. These are fully stocked, and there is no charge. So, help yourself."

"Now, about security. Our security has had several protocols instituted. These protocols are for your safety, and ours, too. The first rule of thumb is that you need to always keep in mind the basic tenant of security which says the worst threats are the ones we create. By this I mean: each person is responsible for the safety and security of our campus. You will be issued card keys and you will have your retinas scanned. Card keys can be lost, stolen, misused, and other various and sundry loopholes, however retina tracking is unique to us as human beings. They are a roadmap. They are unique to each of us. Any questions, thus far?"

"What's a retina?" Stephen asked.

Good question.

"The retina is a group of blood vessels and nerves found in our eyes. These blood vessels and nerves all come together in one place within our eye. This enables us to see."

"You scan our eyes? Doesn't that hurt?" Stephen asked, innocently.

"No, not at all. We just shine a fairly bright light into your eye to obtain initial readings. After that, a small red light will scan your eyes for a match to what is in our database. There is a scanner at each inner door, including your rooms. You just put your forehead against it… we'll show you how it is done. Okay?"

"Yes, Ma'am. Thank you." Stephen replied, satisfied with her answers.

John nodded, adding, "Boys, the retina is unique to each human, as are fingerprints. Good question, Stephen, thanks for asking."

"That brings us to the rules concerning scanning. The first one is to not allow or permit anyone to enter or exit on your individual scan. No sharing. It doesn't matter if it is your brother or sister, a parent, a guardian… this is what we call piggybacking. It is not permitted. Doing so is considered a breach. Breaches break security protocols. We take these very seriously. Do you have any questions about security?"

Eric, now having a new word in his vocabulary asked, "Consequences. Are there any of them when the rules get broken, accidentally?"

"Yes, there are. Good question. Thank you for asking. You will receive a form to complete and sign. This form details all of the rules. Your parent or a guardian will be required to countersign the form. Because security is so very important, breaches are handled strictly and quickly. Here is a synopsis of consequences:

The first offense is a verbal warning. We understand that there is a learning curve. We've taken this into account. You and or your parent or guardian will be required to acknowledge the breach. You will be reminded of the rule and sent on your way.

The second offense is treated more strenuously. The consequence is you and your parent or guardian will be required to not only acknowledge the breach, but you will be required to have a staff member permit you access. Your scan will be temporarily suspended until the consequence is paid. The suspension period is 24 hours.

The third offense is handled in the strictest manner. Should you have two breaches within one week, your privileges will be suspended for 3 days. This means you will be required to have a staff escort you to anywhere on the grounds. A staff member may not always be available at the time you want or need. So keep this in mind.

The fourth offense, and this will be spelled out in the form, results in revocation of your privileges. This means that you will be asked to leave our facility. You will not be able to return for one year."

I took in a deep breath. Marie was speaking from her heart. Her expression told us that she never wanted to be put into a position where we were revoked. What would happen to us if we messed things up the rules? A chill ran up and down my spine. I put my arm around Luke's shoulders. He leant in. His body shook slightly. He was having the same reaction, I could just tell.

Unable to stop myself… I stood to address Marie, "Ma'am, most of us have nowhere else but here to go." I took in a deep breath and continued, "I don't intend to break the rules; none of us do. Is there no leeway?" I sat down awaiting her response. The room was silent. I looked to Dale. He had concern in his eyes. I then looked to John. He was concerned as well, as were Adam, Jeremy and Rachel, and Steve and Bea.

I started realizing that something very serious was going on, something that we weren't being told about. I looked to Lawrence and Aaron. Lawrence was wiping his face. Aaron was attending to him.

Another set of chills went up and down my spine. I knew Lawrence, more than Aaron, was so very concerned about his new family being found and punished by his father and his henchmen. With my heart near its breaking point, I got up and walked to Lawrence, leant in and kissed his cheek, saying, "We're going to be okay. Count on it."

Luke joined me. He, too, leant in and kissed Lawrence's cheek. I leant over and kissed Aaron's cheek and said the same thing.

My boyfriend spoke up to the group, "Guys, and gals, too, sorry, Lawrence is nothing like his father. He blames himself for us being here. That's not true. We're here because we're family. We love and respect one another. We can do this. We'll do it. We're going to be okay."

I noted that Marie's eyes were a bit wet. She wiped them away using a Kleenex.

"Jordan," Marie said looking into my eyes, "you make a very good point. I will speak with Mr. Granger and our Director about an appeal process. I believe you are going to be just fine. Those are the bad points which I have to put out there for you to remember at all times."

Marie thought for a moment before continuing, "Now, I have an idea. The Scouts have a hierarchy that works well for them. This command chain has an adult overseeing a group of children. The children are graduated from Eagle Scout to Cub Scout. The Eagles help the younger children during their journey through their time in the organization. Although we are not a scout group, there's no good reason why, with parent or guardian guidance, a representative for the children cannot be elected. This representative would be a go-between the children and adults, and I'm speaking about staff, and the children at large. If policies are made or existing ones changed, then having a child speaking for the children would be a good thing. What do you think?"

Lawrence stood, "Thank you, Ma'am. That's a wonderful idea. I do not anticipate that we will be changing any rules. I only think that we would feel more involved in the process. I believe being a part of the solution would give us purpose and to help allay any fears of change. If I may, since Jared is the oldest, I nominate him to be our representative. Thank you." Lawrence sat down.

Marie spoke, "Do we have a second?"

Jared stood. "Lawrence, thank you for your confidence in me. I love you, Bro. I always will forever and ever amen. But, I cannot accept the nomination, however. I may be the oldest, but I am not the smartest. I've only known you for a short time, but I've grown to love you so much." He leant in and kissed Lawrence's cheek then walked to the podium where Marie stood. She stepped aside. Jared said, "I don't know all about Robert's rules and stuff, but I speak from my heart… I nominate Lawrence to be our leader. Do I have a second?"

I looked to John. His vision was honed in on his oldest son. His eyes were wet, as were mine. Luke beat me to it, "SECOND!"

The room erupted in applause. Even Marie clapped her approval. Lawrence received a standing ovation.

"SPEECH!" John yelled from the back of the room. Soon the room cheered for a speech from our duly elected (railroaded) student leader.

Lawrence stood. He then turned to Aaron, leant down, whispered perhaps even yelled because the room was still loudly cheering, something. Aaron stood. They hugged deeply. Both of their eyes were wet and running freely with tears. They approached the podium.

Lawrence choked and sputtered, but finally the room quieted and everyone sat down. He said, between gulps of air, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't deserve this…"

"BULLSHIT!" I stood up and yelled.

Dale gave me a stern look. I sat down with my tail between my legs. Luke elbowed me in the ribs. But he was smiling.

Lawrence winked at me then smiled and said, "True that… but… here's what I mean – I cannot do it alone. If it is okay with you… Aaron is my love… he's the reason why I'm here… most of you know my story… so I'll not bore you by repeating it… I would like to co-represent with Aaron. We're together in this life."

There was no delay. The room, once again, went wild with cheers and catcalls showing our approvals and understandings.

Lawrence is probably one of the most humble people I've ever met in this lifetime. Surely there would never again be anyone quite like him. I love him so much.

When I sat down, I pulled on Luke's belt so that he would sit with me. I whispered, "Lawrence is going to be The President, someday. He's got it together."

"Maybe we'll be in his cabinet." Luke said, meaningfully.

"No way, Dude. You're mine. We don't share." I said, putting my arm around his waist. Adding, "By the way… do you remember which bags have our stuff in them?"

"Yeah, I put them in the corner of the kitchen in John's motorhome. Why?"

I patted his butt and kissed his temple.

"Is that all you think of?" Luke asked, rolling his eyes up into his head.


"Me, too."

I nodded my approval then we walked to a corner in the room where nobody was standing. "Luke, I so much want to have some time alone with you. They're saying we get our own suite."

Luke replied, quickly kissing my lips and looking into my eyes, "I love you, Jordan. I love you with all of my heart and soul. Tonight. We should be left alone. If not, then we'll head to the ravine."

"No, Sir. No ravine. We know what happens… they're dead serious. John really got into Eric's shit."

"John's right though. It's dangerous as all hell."

"So was hitchhiking on I-10." I replied, sullenly.

Luke grinned, "I don't want to worry about snakes, spiders and monsters. Can't forget poison ivy."

"I've never had that."

"You don't want to. It's wicked. But, if you want to… we could sure have some serious fun putting lotion all over to kill the itching. Seriously… I got it so bad on one of the Scout trips that Dad had to come get me. I was, like… blind for a whole week because it got into my eyes."

"Ugh. We'll just have to put a sign on our door that says stay away because we're busy."

"Dead giveaway." Luke replied, coyly.

"Yeah. I wonder if they have any 'Do Not Disturb' signs."

"We could make our own, if they don't. Here comes Dale."

"Hey guys. They're taking us to get our eyes scanned. I have a serious question to ask you boys… I would like to hear your straight up answer."

I nodded.

Luke replied what I was thinking, "You'll always get a straight answer, Dale. One of the things I do not do is: lie. I'm not going to speak for Jordan. I do know that he has never lied to me."

I looked to Dale, "I lied to my mom all of the time. I had to. I really had no choice in the matter. But, things are different. You have my word. I'll not lie to you."

Dale's expression changed from concerned to soft. "I understand, Jordan. Both of you… have the opportunity to have a new life, which brings me to my question. The staff is preparing paperwork that assigns who to who. I'll understand if you do not want to have me put your names on my family's paperwork, however… I'd like to put your names right alongside Bradley and Christian. If you want to sign up with John's family, I'll perfectly understand."

Luke pondered the question for a moment before replying, "We'll go with you … on one condition." I saw that Luke was trying very, very hard to maintain his composure… like he had something off the cuff to say as his reply.

Dale's expression changed again. This time it changed to perplexed. "Oh?"

"Yeah." Luke turned stone-faced. Oh no. "The condition is that you do not hang our underwear from a mirror again."

"Now just you wait a minute. We're even."

"Everybody saw them."

"And… driving down the interstate does not qualify as everybody?" Dale retorted.


Dale grinned. Then chuckled. Then lost it. When he could speak again, "I'm going to give you guys a few minutes to talk it over. No pressure. John's troop is in line. We're next." He turned and walked away after patting our shoulders.

I felt an arm wrap itself around my waist. Luke and I both looked to see who belonged to those arms. Christian.

"Oh hey. What's going on, Bro." I asked.

"I saw my father speaking to you. I think I know the question. He asked me the same one… are you going to be my brothers?"

I looked to Luke. He looked into my eyes. All I saw in them was total and complete love. Dale's question was the one we were looking for. It was our decision. Memories of how John and his family had taken us in. Memories of our many discussions with Lawrence, and to a lesser extent – Aaron, came flooding back. I also remembered how I'd presented myself to John on that day that now seems so forever ago.

Then I remembered… that… Dale was the first person we tried to call. When things were down and out… we made the calls.

And he answered.

And he calmed us. We were so afraid, yet he gave us hope that things were going to work out for the better. Somehow. Some way.

Luke sent me through our bond, "It's hard, isn't it?"

I sent back, _"Yeah, kind of. I was just thinking back… on everything over the past few weeks… and well… if you are agreeable… then…"


The morbidly obese female truck driver, familiar with the roads leading into and out of Kansas City arrived at the toll booths in Bonner Springs. Several Kansas Highway Patrol officers had the road blocked just before the booths. She stopped the rig as one officer approached.

Katy reached for the clipboard containing the bills of lading, her trip ticket, the log book and the inspection sheet. She was running legal, although she had 30 minutes until she had to get off of the road because of time constraints.

She rolled down the window and looked at the officer and said, "Good morning, Sir."

"Good morning, Ma'am. Do you have any weapons onboard?"

"Yes, Sir, I do. I have an open carry permit issued in Texas. It is loaded." Katy declared.

"Kansas' statutes do not permit open carry." He thought for just a moment before continuing, "Are you passing through?"

"Yes, I am. I'm dropping a load in the River Market area, and I'm dead-heading to Jefferson City to pick one up."

"I should confiscate your weapon. Tell you what… if you unload and conceal it… I'll let it go. This does not mean that Missouri will not have an issue. May I see your license and paperwork?"

"Sure." Katy replied then reached into her purse to retrieve her Commercial Driver's License for inspection. She put it on the clipboard and handed it to the officer who had ascended the steps. He was peering inside as she did so.

After seeing that the paperwork was in order, he handed her the clipboard. "Ma'am, I need your weapon. I will unload and secure it. So long as the gun and ammunition are separated, we'll call it a day."

Katy, knowing the routine, reached down for the weapon. She removed the clip and handed it to the officer then properly transferred the weapon to him. He removed his free hand from his holstered gun. She noted the strap to be unsnapped. The officer dropped to the pavement, holding the gun properly. He checked the chamber. She was surprised when he ejected a shell.

That kid was dead serious about protecting her from those Russian guys at the pickup place… 'Why did he do that?' She wondered.

"Ma'am, you did not disclose to me that the weapon was ready to shoot. I'm sorry. I'm confiscating the weapon and its ammunition. One more question before I release you on your way… the paperwork shows that you are carrying cinnamon… The smell is quite strong. Per Kansas statutes, I am going to inspect your trailer to see if it is leaking onto our highways. If there are leaks then you will have to be detained. Please turn off your engine and hand me the keys, please."

Katy shut down the engine and complied with his request.

The officer walked around, inspecting brake lines, tires, the locks to make sure they weren't broken or damaged or open. He coughed and nearly gagged when inspecting the passenger side, but the smell of cinnamon was powerful. He saw no leaks on the pavement.

"Mrs. Russello, I'm positive your load is damaged. But, I saw nothing leaking on our interstates. Have a safe trip."


The toll booth gate was slid to the side, permitting her passage. The speed limit was still 70 until she reached I-635 when it dropped to 65 and then it dropped to 45 just before reaching the big turn that headed east on I-70.

She'd not dropped a load in the same place, so she was unfamiliar with this precise location. She then recognized Kemper Arena on the right. Katy realized that she'd missed the turn into the Market. There were no further exits to turn around in, so she headed for the east side of the city with plans to turn around at the Grand Street exit.

The Grand Street exit was way on the right. She was in the far outer lane…

Complete and utter destruction met the City of Fountains as though two miles in any direction was an expensive China shop with a bull running rampant and free.

The Federal Courthouse – obliterated.

The Kansas City Newspaper – obliterated.

City Hospital – shattered glass and collapsed support columns reined death and destruction on its patients and staff.

City Hall – collapsed.

Natural gas infrastructure – the city was on fire. Explosions rocked the city. Infrastructure, some dating back into the early 1900's was no match for the catastrophe causing additional long-range destruction.

Spirit Center – a largely glass and girder building – imploded into itself.

The ATT & T phone company headquarters and the Ten Main Center across the street – toppled, sending shards of metal, concrete, plastic, arms, legs, torsos, heads and all other imaginable human tragedy onto the busy city center area.

Children's Hospital, destroyed from natural gas explosions from fractured outdated infrastructure. Scores of innocent children, their parents, grandparents, visitors and staff – dead, or suffering catastrophic injuries.

The steeple from the Cathedral, blasted off its moorings struck and impaled two teenagers, both boys, holding hands while walking down the street, playing hooky from school.

University Hospital, 3.5 miles west of the epicenter, on the Kansas side of the state line, across the Kansas River… the new buildings collapsed onto themselves. They were not built to sustain severe earthquake level impact. Nor is the human body. Scores of dead or critically injured patients, doctors, nurses, visitors, medical students from all disciplines and ancillary personnel lay crushed, most to the point where they were unrecognizable.


Eleven hundred miles to the east of Kansas City, within the Oval Office, sat a man of worldly power, smiling contentedly, all the while paying close attention to a computer screen showing wares for his clientele.

To be continued

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