My Flock

Chapter 16

The suspense that hung over the pasture was all but suffocating as I tried to calm down and evaluate the sincerity of Roberts' offering. Even if his offer of an apology was in earnest, I had to wonder about his attitude, how much of a bigot he was. Are you really stupid enough to go to work for someone like this? I asked myself.

Erbert squirming against my neck distracted me slightly, and my eyes drifted to the Platinum haired youngster I knew Roberts' had brought here from South America and adopted that was so tightly clinging to my side, his beautiful baby face buried in my stomach. As I stroked the back of the lad's thin head I glanced away to clear my eyes and was zapped with the worried faces of a pasture full of youngsters, probably seventy to eighty percent clearly of Hispanic decent. I knew most of them had been rescued from the same streets Pieter had been, and wondered how much, or maybe how many million dollars Roberts had contributed helping them.

"Can we talk, will you give me that?" Roberts asked.

"You guys go finish your ride, let Mister Miller and Doctor Roberts talk," Cindy suggested as I accepted the cedar twig from her husband.

"Let's go guys, it's almost curfew," Adam ordered toward the pasture. "Everyone!" he barked toward our kids.

After a series of quick hugs our boys turned and shuffled toward their horses. Erbert dug his claws into my chest when I tried to hand him back to Johnny, but reluctantly allowed his young master to put him back into his fanny pack.

"Horses too!" Adam snarled.

When I glanced around Diablo was standing between me and the pasture gate, a shadow of what I was sure was Ginger trying to hide behind her. Zoe and her colt were standing next to Zeus, I would have sworn the big mare was trying to look nonchalant.

"Everyone! Ginger, Diablo!" Adam barked.

Ginger let out a loud snort and galloped toward the boys, but Diablo stood motionless. I was distracted by some commotion and turned to watch Zoe nudge Hijo toward the other mares with foals and turn back to stand next to her stallion. I closed my eyes and slowly shook my head as she and Adam engaged in a brief staring contest, but she let out an even angrier snort than Ginger and trotted away.

A big crimson neck leaning over my shoulder from behind made me jump, but didn't stop Diablo from tucking my shoulder into one of her snout snuggles. Either my snicker or the slight head nod I gave Adam told him she could stay, and he mounted Zeus and rode away toward Cindy.

"I mis-spoke earlier and I am sorry," Roberts began.

I considered his comment and statement for a second. One side of me said to accept his apology, or at least hear him out. I looked over the army of youngsters mounting their horses and riding away. With his education he's not ignorant enough to be that prejudiced, I thought. How much of his personal fortune has he dumped into saving them?

But, would you be able to work for someone with his hypocritical, or at the very least red neck attitude? the more realistic side of my brain injected. I still wondered how good it would feel to punch him out. This isn't going to work, cut your losses and run, before you screw up anymore.

"Apology accepted, Doctor," I mumbled and turned to the gate. "But, this isn't going to work." I told his symbolic Olive Branch. "I don't think I could work for a bigot." came out before I realized it. I started toward the gate but Diablo cut me off, planting her thousand pound frame squarely in front of the opening.

"Christian, I'm not a bigot!" he exclaimed. "I'm not a bigot, I'm a, a frightened old mother hen! Please, hear me out!" I took a deep breath, and turned back to face him. "I'm just trying to protect my son, all of our kids!"

I'm not sure if something in his face, or the quick calculation that told me my middle-aged backside was too wide to fit between the fence rails, and that Diablo wasn't going to let me out the gate made me nod my head at him. I started to walk back over to him, but as close to the edge of letting my temper think for me as I was, I knew better, and stayed far enough away that I was out of range to punch him out.

"I know you have been told of my son Pieter's history, or at least part of it," he began. He turned and stared for a second or so at the dust cloud made by the herd of horses riding away, and took a deep breath as he turned back to me. "Most of the boys here are from similar backgrounds, nothing like Pieter's but horror stories that until a year, maybe six months ago I thought only existed in the twisted minds of B grade shock-thriller movie authors. If you knew what all has been done to him, or them, you'd, , ," he drifted off.

"What you can't know is how horribly these atrocities affect the child, the children. I know Carl, and Mike and Bobby have been abused, but, well, you have no idea."

He took another deep breath and looked away. I considered responding, even revealing some of my boys past, but he seemed to recover a little before I could.

"After all that I, well my family went through with Pieter I swore I'd never allow him anywhere near anyone that could hurt him, or even intimidate him. I vowed the same regarding the other boys we have taken in, if I had my way we'd seal them in a perfect world bubble until they grew up, far away from anyone that could harm, or even frighten them."

This is an MD? Cut the shit, where are you going? Or are you going anywhere or just rambling? I groaned.

"Your friend Mister Young frightens me, I can't imagine how badly he'd intimidate Pieter, or the other boys we are caring for." I opened my mouth to cut him off, but he continued before I could.

"I know you used to ride motorcycles with those gangs and such, Carl Junior even has a couple of pictures your twins gave him of you when you were young."

They what? I all but gasped.

"Considering your job and everything, and how the boys worship you I know you're not really one of them anymore, but, well, Tim, Mister Young, , , I don't care what his credentials show, he belongs in one of the motorcycle gangs, riding one of those noisy things.

"Look at him, his size, his eyes frighten adults, his voice belongs to a gang boss not one of our social workers! He scares me every time I encounter him!"

Is this dude real? I wondered. Is he that caring, or that easily, , , "Let's go for a walk Doctor," I snarled before I realized it. I turned to walk down the pasture fence to the front side of Adam's house, but Diablo stepped in front of me, presenting her saddle stirrup. She let out a snort and an instant later Roberts horse was standing next to him.

"Well, maybe a ride," I quipped. She damn sure knows how to break the tension! I thought as I swung into her saddle. I made a mental note to kiss Adam before I went home when I noticed his saddlebags, condensation dripping off of them on Roberts horse. I couldn't help but wonder how calculated Diablo's and Adam's actions were as I felt a little of the tightness in my neck muscles relax, and let the tactful side of me I had learned dealing with assholes at work slip into my thoughts.

"Let me be sure I understand you Doctor," I began as Diablo ignored my prod and strolled ever so slowly down the fence line. "Are you are judging Tim based on his leathery complection, his piercing eyes, or his deep voice? He's six-four, does that make him too intimidating to be compassionate? That outweighs all of his accomplishments?"

"Christian, that is not what I meant, I, , ," he started to answer.

"Let's apply your criteria here," I cut him off. "By those standards, a quick look at Mike and Bobby's shaved heads tells me they are both Skin Heads, or White Supremists. Adam, with his long hair has to be a dope dealer and radical protester type, maybe even a activist, a terrorist!" His face told me I had his complete attention.

"As far as the Banditos you are incorrect, I am still one, once you join you are one for life, just like your college fraternities. Neither Tim or I are active anymore, but we are Banditos." I had to pause and wonder about Diablo's timing as we rounded the corner of the house and Dad's van, then Adam's Jaguar came into site.

"Have you ever heard of Roland Jenkins?" I asked. I let him ponder the question for a second or so before continuing, "I'm sure your wife has, he is Dean of the Law School at Saint Mary's University, he is also the current President of the local Banditos chapter.

"As far as being a Biker, I guess I haven't grown up as much as Tim has," I declared. "See that thing parked next to Adam's status symbol?" I asked, pointing to my new motorcycle. "I bought it earlier today. Tim drives a Ford pickup, and a station wagon, but the last I heard Professor Jenkins rides one very similar to mine."

I had to fight back the urge to punch him off his mount when he all but gasped, "At your age you still can ride that thing?" You're next bitch! I thought when Diablo let out a whinny that I would have sworn was a chuckle.

"Let me explain myself, please hear me out," he begged. He looked back toward Adam's house, then back at the vehicles parked in front of us for a second or so. "Let me tell you a little about myself, where I'm coming from. And please allow me to finish.

"This world, with abused children, unthinkable horrors that they have been subjected to is really new to me, something I never could have dreamed existed until I met Adam, and Johnny and my new son. Both of my parents were very successful physicians and business people, the first time I set foot into anything but very exclusive private schooling was when I began my residency, and that was at the Mayo Clinic. I thought I had reached the poverty level when Cindy and I had to borrow the money to build our first house, and that was from my parents."

He took a deep breath and glanced at me, then back to the back of his steed's head. "Ann Richards, our former Governor, once said George Bush was born with a silver foot in his mouth, I guess I was too. Actually, she also made some TV ads, as Governor, sitting on one of those things," he tittered, pointing at my Hog.

"First with Johnny, then with Pieter, it took many months, and many thousand heartaches to even get them to trust anyone, much less to love us. That is an ongoing process with all the other boys we have rescued, something that still keeps me up nights.

"Like I said, I would like to do is seal all of them into plastic bubbles, where they only saw the protected world I did. I know I'm acting like a Mother Hen but, well, , ," he dried his eyes with his forearm and turned his face away from me.

"I apologize for prejudging Mister Young, and you. Will you stay onboard? Please give me another chance. I'll go with Cindy and Adam's recommendation regarding Mister Young. Please Christian?" he pleaded, extending his hand.

I took a deep breath, wondering what to do, but his face told me he was sincere. "I will, but if you agree to sit down with Tim and get to know him. Not based on his appearance but his merits, then decide if you want to hire him."

"Thanks," he whispered as I accepted his handshake.

"But, us Bikers have another way of sealing a deal," I added as I reached into his saddle bags and pulled out two beers. Damn! I thought after we clicked our drinks together and he downed what had to be most of the can in one swallow.

Diablo let out a soft snort an instant later and turned slightly sideways, pointing her nose to the ground. A thin stick vibrating in the grass near her frightened me when I followed her gaze, I started to panic thinking it was a snake, until an oversized rat attached to the stick darted away back into the pasture. This CANNOT be real, I'm losing it, shit I HAVE lost it! I groaned as I caught a couple of glimpses of Erbert's bug-eyes. If I haven't I will soon, I groaned when I noticed the posse of mounted horses on top of a ridge the little rat was racing toward.

Welcome to Walmart's Pharmacy! Would you like a free sample of Prozac!?! I silently practiced. They're fast acting, I live on them now!

Shortly we were surrounded with kids and horses. The boys that had joined ours at Lake Skinny Dip were missing, but it was a little hard to tell as our youngsters cheered about what I'm sure Erbert had passed on to them, and then goggling over my bike.

First the twins, then Junior and Timmy dove off their horses, over the top of the fence and raced to have a closer look at my big Hog. After they petted it for a few seconds, Jerry and Jeff began staring at me with identical pleading looks. I didn't notice Junior answering his cell phone until the twins glare snapped away from me to their friend and their faces brightened like new pennies. An instant later they bolted toward the house.

"Supper!" Johnny announced from behind me, causing a stampede toward the back gate.

The feast Dad and Mary had prepared got the boys so involved in their feeding frenzy that the subject of my new bike didn't come up until everyone was almost done eating. Dad's reaction was much mellower than I had expected, he fired me a couple of dirty glances when the kids started bugging me about when they would get to go for a ride on it, but didn't say anything. Adam saved the evening by reminding everyone they would only have time to go for another horse ride or take turns on the motorcycle, the horses quickly won out.

Well, they adapt to schedules well, I snickered after they groomed the horses and returned to the house an hour or so later. Each time I looked from Adam's patio into his family room a different group of boys were hauling blankets and pillows into the room, as what seemed like an Army Division deployment exercise progressed, more and more Levi clad boys were relieved by freshly scrubbed, Speedo clad workers.

Camp Blanket-Nest looked as if it was all but ready for occupancy when Dad and Mary announced they were going to retire for the evening. A minute after they disappeared into the house Adam tapped on my shoulder and pointed toward the patio door. I smiled then wiped tears from my eyes as I followed his gaze inside. Dad was sitting on the couch with Bobby perched half on his lap and half next to him. Erbert was perched in his lap, Buddy snuggling between his knees. Mike hugging the old man's neck from behind as the salty old Army officer hugged and kissed each of the line of boys that were waiting.

Yes sir Colonel , hugs are unmanly, I tittered as I watched him struggle to his knees on the carpet a minute or so later, kiss Erbert's snout and gently stuff the little dog under the covers between some of our angels.

My day began to catch up with me a few minutes after the Roberts left, and I let Adam know I was going to bed. The boys had a corny movie playing on the TV, but were gone to the world. I did get a tail wag from Buddy and Erbert when I tucked everyone in, but could barely find breath sounds from the others. By the time I got upstairs I began to understand why, and I'm sure I was sound asleep before my head hit the pillow.

I'm not sure how many hours later that what I at first thought was Binki or Bandit's fur brushing my nose each time I inhaled, drew me slightly out of my blissful slumber. As I had done countless times before, I reached up to stroke it a few times and then gently reposition him without really waking up, until my fingers discovered that whichever of my of my pets was tickling my nose had either grown considerably overnight or was having massive swelling of its skull. After several tries I managed to convince one of my eyelids to crack open slightly and quickly snapped a little more awake as my eye began to focus, what had to be Bandit's head had not only grown to three or four times its normal size, but his beautiful white hair had changed to an off-white color, more like white gold or maybe Platinum.

Yeah well, I thought as my one working eye refined its focus and I saw what I was sure was Carl's button nose and facebow protruding from my blanket right next to Bandit, and a tuft of strawberry hair behind my youngest son. Bandit let out a soft whimper when I shifted my head on the pillow to keep from inhaling any more of his fur.

I was instantly all but wide awake when the little dog mumbled, "Hi Pop," and Pieter's angelic face replaced what I had thought was my dog's, and planted a soft kiss on my cheek.

"I thought you guys were sound asleep," I mumbled. "Everyone snuggled in your, nest and everything."

"I had a dream and got scared sir, uh Pop," he whispered.

I was just waking up enough to wonder where my fourth Mouseketeer was when Pieter squirmed a little more tightly against me and I felt something push into my ribs below the covers. A quick probe with one hand told me the headgear laden head crammed between Pieter and I was Mark. How the hell can he breathe down there? I wondered.

"I dreamed I was back in Recife, and I didn't have a, well that you weren't going to be my pop any more," he sobbed. He took a couple of deep breaths before continuing, "I dreamed that my family and, and living in America and, it was all just a dream!"

"It was just a dream Pieter, calm down," I managed to gasp. "You are here, and, , ,"

"Please sir!" he cut me off. "Boys like me aren't allowed to have families and stuff there, and I have gotten a Mom and Dad, and a Doctor Pop, and a Pop, well and now even a Gramps!" he softly cried into my neck. "Doctor Pop told me to make my dreams be real, but I don't want to, ah, for this one to, , ,"

"Was that a dream?" I interrupted him as I kissed the top of his head. I hesitated, trying to believe what this little boy, that looked more like a ten-year-old than a young teen speaking beyond his years was real, and wished all this was a bad dream I was having. "You are here, and have a wonderful family, a Gramps, and extra Pops and everything. I promise it's real.

"I'm not sure what Doctor Owens, , , Doctor Pop said, but I'm sure what he meant was to pursue the dreams you, well want to happen, the good ones," I offered. "We all have bad dreams, but we have to remember those are bad." Good show fool, you blew that one, I chastised myself.

"Are you going to fight my dad still?" he whimpered. I was trying to decide how to answer when he whined, "Please, when men fight they always kill each other!"

All I had the strength to do was hug him for a minute or so. Where are you Adam! I prayed.

"Your dad and I didn't get into a fight, we just disagreed about something," I tried. Kill each other? rang back through my head. Adam!!! "And, your dad and I are still friends, everything is okay, I promise." earned me a soft groan. I tried to reach around and rub his back to relax him, but Carl was so tightly nestled against him I ended up stroking his thin shoulder. After a minute or so I felt him relax even more against me.

"And all your Dad and I were arguing about was what is best for you guys, our kids, did you know that?" All I got for an answer was his soft exhales against my neck. "Sleep good, my little angel, I love you," I whispered as I kissed the top of his head.

"I love you Pop," Carl's voice mumbled a I felt a soft kiss on my forearm.

I reached behind Pieter, but only found a mass of headgear straps instead of my youngest son's soft hair. "I love you, all of you," I whimpered. I started to pull my hand back and wipe the tears from my eyes, but just closed them and enjoyed the brief visit to heaven I had been granted.

What at first sounded like a heavy rainstorm outside interrupted what had been an absolutely wonderful sleep. Oh shit, my new bike, she'll drown! I groaned. I had to blink and cover my eyes as I sat up and saw the bright morning sunlight shining through my bedroom window.

"Come on! PUSH! Harder, let's see if we can fill it!" Johnny's high pitched squeal added to my confusion.

I had just convinced my eyes to focus and adjust to the bright light when I heard a series of giggles followed by a toilet flushing. Just as I sat up in bed all four of my Mouseketeers burst out of my bathroom at the same time, as giddy as a bunch of ten-year-old girls.

"Hi Dad!" Carl screeched making my ears ring. Before I could react I was slammed with a four way snuggle and an onslaught of kisses I was sure would leave permanent facebow bruises on my cheeks.

"But, we gotta go! They're already in the pool and stuff!" Johnny proclaimed. Instantly they flew out of my lap and flashed toward my bedroom door like a covey of Quail.

Okay, whatever! I thought as I watched their Speedo clad bubble butts disappear into the hall. I bet I can fill that damn thing! My bladder announced as it demanded my legs rush it into the bathroom.

I had to take a couple of long, slow breaths to absorb all of the wonderful aromas filling the lower story of Adam's house as I descended the stairs. Mary and Dad were rushing around the kitchen like a pair of five-star chefs preparing a State dinner for Royalty, but somehow I managed to dodge them and pour a cup of coffee.

I had to smile when I looked out the patio door to see if Adam was up, and saw the pool filled almost to overflowing with happy kids. I saw Adam relaxing in one of the loungers and started to open the door when my parental alarm went off. Kid missing, two kids missing, it alerted my still half-asleep brain. I quick recheck verified that the mass sleeping nest the boys had made last night was gone.

"Do you know where Mike, and Bobby are?" I asked toward the clatter in the kitchen.

"They're upstairs in my bed," Dad answered. "They appeared early this morning."

I nodded and started out the door. I was about to close it when Mary added, "When we woke up this morning we couldn't wake them up, so we let them sleep in."

I stumbled over my own feet so badly I almost fell as I digested her comment. When WE woke up? Dad, you dirty old man! I didn't know you still had it in you! I quipped.

Adam was a little more business-like than I expected, or was awake enough to handle things when I joined him. "We had to move our board meeting to later this morning, Carl has an emergency surgery scheduled for just before lunch," he began.

"It's also your first formal Board of Directors meeting. Here is a copy of the agenda, you might feel more comfortable if you review it before we began."

Even a long sip of coffee didn't calm the knot forming in my stomach as I glanced over the two page printout he handed me - At work even brief discussion of the number of items they had on the agenda would have been an all day plus meeting, even with working through lunch and supper it would have taken well into the night to wade through all of it.

"Oh, and your Dad called Tim and asked them to join us earlier than we had planned, Roberts would like to chat with him for a few minutes before the board meets. He's item sixteen."

My brain seemed to swell slightly as I considered which of the panic questions I should ask first: Was Tim still in the running? Was I? 'Formal Board of Directors meeting', what should I wear, I don't even have a tie out here! What am I into? I tried to form into one short question.

"Oh, and Mary agreed to take Tim and his wife, and Gramps, I mean Sam, on a tour of your campus while we meet. That will let them see our operation, and give us a few days to make any changes to you and their homes if needed." he interrupted my terror.

"I didn't expect anything this businesslike," I managed to mumble. "I'll have to go change, what would everyone else, what would you suggest I wear?"

He surveyed my faded tee-shirt, swim trunks and bare feet for a second or so. "You look fine like you are Christian," he answered. I could feel his eyes focusing on my beer belly as he chuckled and added, "Just don't take your shirt off during the meeting, Cindy gets excited easily, and it would delay the proceedings."

I responded with a one fingered salute before I realized I had.

A couple of minutes later a flurry of skinny kids darting across the patio distracted both of us. "I think breakfast is ready!" Adam tittered as a wind gust from the door hit both of us.

The boys had just finished clearing the breakfast dishes and were drifting by ones or twos back downstairs after changing into their riding clothes, when Adam's gate bell chimed. Here we go! I thought when I heard Tim's deep voice on the other end of the intercom.

At first I was surprised when Mary escorted Judy inside without her husband. It only took me a second, and a look at her somewhat disgusted expression to realize where Tim was, I think Timmy picked up on it at the same time. I excused myself and followed the flock of kids outside, and as expected my friend was standing next to my bike, his jaw on his chin.

"Yeah Dad isn't it neat!" Timmy hooted as he pushed against his dad's thigh. "It's Pop's! He's gonna take everyone for a ride on it, he promised!" the lad bragged.

Tim glanced blurry eyed at his son, then me and back to my Hog, a hint of saliva trying to drop out the corners of his still agape mouth. He blinked a couple of times then ever so slowly reached out and touched her leather seat a couple of times as if checking to see if it was real. He stumbled next to the big machine and gently petted the underside of her gas tank for a second or so.

"You did? Dude, I don't believe it," he mumbled. "Its, well, dude! Can I ride her?" his normally salty, base voice all but begging. "At least start her!" he whined.

When I offered the key he stared at it for an instant, clearly still trying to believe what was happening was real before he accepted it. He recovered quickly and swung onto the bike, grabbed the handle bars, balanced her off her sidestand, and settled onto her seat like he was relaxing into his favorite chair.

"This can't be real," he mumbled as he reached down with one hand and gave her fuel tank's underside a gentle grope almost as if he was petting a puppy. "Yes," he groaned as he fumbled at inserting the key in the ignition switch.

"Take me Dad! Please!" Timmy screeched. "Please, please Please!" he cried, grabbing his dad's forearm.

Tim gave me a slightly dirty look when I held out the helmets I had just retrieved from Dad's mini-van, but accepted one and nodded to his son to get the other. Before I could say anything he used his toe to unfold the kickstarter's pedal and with a hard stroke brought the big bike to life. His face reminded me of the twin's faces Christmas mornings as he dropped her into gear and circled her around the front of Adam and Dad's vehicles and back onto the driveway. Timmy's expression was at least as priceless as he hugged his dad's waist, his facebow and huge grin reflecting out from under his helmet looked almost like the face shields motorcross riders wear, but made of bright stainless steel.

Yeah, I did make a good investment, I thought as I watched my best friend turn and tell his son something I couldn't understand, and Timmy's blinding grin get even bigger as he grasp his dad's mid-section even tighter.

Oh God, NO! I prayed an instant later when Tim opened the throttle and reved the engine a couple of times, released the clutch and launched my brand new bike into a steep wheelstand.

You are dead! Go on and crash her, or when I get a hold of you you are so very, very DEAD! I decided as he shifted into second, then third gear, my brand new front wheel still about three feet off the ground, my factory fresh engine screaming its guts out.

I resisted the urge to mass strangle the other boys as they cheered Tim, and had to bite my lip to keep from exploding at the chorus of horses neighing from the pasture fence. Oh, great! I groaned when I turned to fire the horses a dirty look, and saw Cindy and her husband watching the show from their horses.

Just as I had decided things couldn't get any worse Tim came roaring back up the driveway, again on one wheel. Timmy was standing on the bike's back foot-pegs, his thin butt probably a foot off the seat and hanging onto his dad's belt with one hand and waving his other little over his head.

Should I kill him for abusing my new bike, for endangering his son right now, or wait until he finds out the opportunity he just screwed up? I wondered.

A high pitched screech that sounded like an air raid siren and made my teeth rattle distracted me. Well, maybe I'll get in line to kill him, I groaned. Please Judy, don't let any blood splash on my bike! I silently begged as she charged toward us like an Tiger class she-cat on the attack, her eyes firing what I was sure were poison darts at us as she closed the distance much, much faster than I wanted. Quickly the front yard, I think all of south Texas, fell silent.

I was about to turn and beat a hasty retreat from the charging she-monster when a big pair of hands grabbed my shoulders from behind and began maneuvering me around like a human shield. As close to death as I felt I was a little relieved when I noticed my Hog was sitting quietly on her sidestand, but that relief didn't last long as I was thrust between the big creature behind me and Judy.

"I made him wear a helmet Honey!" Tim whimpered in an almost tenor voice. He shifted his human shield, me, a little more directly between his attacker and himself and added, "And we just rode up the driveway and back!"

Oh God, what a way to die, I groaned as I felt Judy's eyes drill through me.

"Tim! Tim, how could, , ," she snarled. She took a deep breath as her face flashed crimson and the veins in her forehead bulged so far out I was sure they were going to burst. "I'd like to speak with you for a minute, privately," she growled.

Nice knowing you, I thought when my best friend whimpered a soft 'Yes Dear' and slithered behind his wife toward Adam's house, his shoulders slumped over so far he looked about a foot shorter.

I recovered enough to pluck Timmy, who was hiding behind his dad with both hands locked on Tim's belt, away. "I think there is a horse waiting for you," I tried as I turned him toward the pasture fence. Junior, then Jerry and Ronnie surrounded us in a group hug as I did.

"Mom's gonna kill Dad!" he cried as Junior took his helmet off for him.

I tried to think of the best way to answer and reassure him everything would be okay, but only managed to mumble, "Maybe not."

I glanced up toward the house, and tried to ignore what I was sure was smoke coming from Judy's ears. "You guys go get the horses saddled," I tried. "Go with Junior," I said as I kissed the top of Timmy's head.

Timmy kept glancing back toward the house as the boys led him away and stuffed him between the fence rails. Zoe and Hijo, then a horse I was fairly sure was the one he had been riding, surrounded the group as soon as they entered the pasture and seemed to distract the youngster as they prodded he and his friends toward the barn.

"Good God, that thing is awesome," Roberts voice rang from behind me. When I turned he and his wife were standing next to my Hog. "I always assumed only stunt motorcycles, like you see on TV were that powerful. You don't ride like that, do you Christian?"

Yeah well, Tim sure screwed this up, I thought. I considered a couple of answers, Tim had blown his chances and probably mine. "Not often," I answered.

He caught me completely off balance when he just mumbled, "Impressive," and started toward the house.

Things were much calmer than I expected when I joined the other adults inside. Tim was still alive and only had a slightly sheepish look on his face. Judy seemed to have calmed down, but her expression told me it still would not be a good time to cross her, or her baby chick. When she asked where Timmy was I earned a somewhat threatening look when I told her he was out riding horses, but I felt a little relieved when I didn't see any claws protrude from the ends of her fingers.

Cindy did a great job of tactfully separating Tim and her husband from the group. The two of them only talked privately for about five minutes, and after a few other adults arrived, to my surprise all on horseback, we all refilled our coffee cups and adjourned to the patio.

Mary's usually nondescript face was precious when Adam suggested she take his Jaguar to drive Dad and the Youngs to the Boys' Ranch for their tour. Is it time for THAT Son Father talk? I asked myself when she bubbled, "You drive, Sam!" and Dad's leathery old face lit up like a new penny.

Despite the many years of fast paced activities at work I was totally unprepared for the flurry of activity that the board meeting involved. I had to shake my head several times to keep my brain from overloading as they flew through item after item on the agenda, approving a hundred-five thousand dollars for what was probably going to be Tim's new house, even authorizing a blank check to get the house built on an accelerated schedule. Ten or so items later, in about that many minutes, they authorized Cindy to 'recruit' Tim, open ended salary, just hire him.

I was still trying to mentally catch up when they voted to put a hundred-thousand dollar limit on the ten new horses and needed tack I was being tasked to buy. "But, , ," I tried.

"If you need more money go ahead with the purchases, we'll approve it. Oh, and here are your cards, they each have a 250 K limit," Cindy interrupted, handing me three credit cards.

"But quality Arabians, and mares only, no stallions. Next item," Adam added.

I was about to try an objection, even come clean that I didn't know a horse from a donkey when a loud whinny rang from the pasture, followed by an equally loud snort. Yes, we need to talk! I groaned as I saw a now saddled Diablo and Zeus staring at me.

"I think we have another yes vote!" Adam tittered toward his mount. "Next item."

We were almost to the end of the program, and had spent more money in about an hour than most ten hour budget meetings I had attended on base, when my cell phone began vibrating. As I had done God only knows how many times during upper level meetings at work I nonchalantly glanced at its caller ID. When I saw Dad on the ID I decided it could wait. An instant later it vibrated again, this time with Tim's name and number appearing on the caller ID. The flashing icon in the corner of the display telling me I had another call, a second one from Dad, frightened me.

"Please excuse me for a second, but this could be urgent," I apologized as I climbed out of my lounger and started into the house. I was about to answer Dad's call when still another call showed up, this one from Jerry.

Dad's ring ended before I could answer so I chose Tim's and pushed talk. "Christian! About time!" Tim exclaimed so harshly I had to pull the instrument away from my ear. "Mary collapsed a couple of minutes ago, and she's just barely breathing!" he yelled into my ear.

I turned back toward the half dozen or so doctors on the patio and called for Adam when Tim added, "Now Sam is turning pale and rubbing his chest, he don't look too well! I tried to call 911, but I have no idea where I am! Get some help, quick!"

"Adam!" I screamed.

When I turned he was talking on his cell phone ignoring me. "Doctor Roberts, get that! Stat!" he barked, pointing toward me.

Before I could react Roberts jerked my phone out of my hand, and Adam bulldozed into me, pushing me out of the way as he rushed inside the house. "Prop her into a reclining position and tilt her head back! Extend both of their necks to maintain an airway!" Roberts barked into my phone. "Get me some vitals, , , do you know how to count someone's pulse?" I felt my throat bounce off my rectum when he asked, "Is her chest rising and falling, is she breathing?"

"Stay calm ! All of you guys know CPR, do your ABC's, what we taught you! You can handle it!" Adam screamed into his cell as he burst back onto the patio. "Someone call Life Flight, I want two birds in the air, RIGHT NOW!" he barked at the group on the patio.

"Let's go, I have a jump kit and demand valve ventilator in the car, and a drug kit here," he announced, pointing at a satchel on his shoulder. "Oh shit! My Jag! They have it!" His face flashed ten shades of panic. "Shit, ten minutes on the horses, if I pushed it four or five minutes on the roads!"

Oh Shit, No Shit, that's my dad! I thought. I considered Dad's van, but its high centered cornering ability, zero to sixty in two weeks acceleration rate said not. "I can get one of you there damn quick, probably quicker than your car can!" I offered.

"Go!" Adam ordered, pushing a satchel into Roberts arms. "We'll take the horses and meet you there."

"I'm not getting on that thing!" Roberts declared as Cindy and I guided him toward my Hog.

I threw Adam's drug satchel over my neck and shoulder, and fired up my bike's engine as Cindy helped, or better put stuffed her husband onto the buddy-seat behind me."Hold on tight! Cindy, open that gate!" I demanded before launching us down Adam's long driveway.

I fought off panic when I realized I had reached seventy-miles-an-hour in the driveway and the gate still wasn't open. I was fighting to slow down when it began to slide open, and squeezed through what looked like a frighteningly narrow opening and banked hard onto the road. Good thing there wasn't a car coming! I thought as I righted the bike and dropped the hammer on her throttle.

Damn, you still have it! I congratulated myself as I leaned into the numerous curves on the narrow road and felt the vibration of my ride's foot-pegs grinding against the asphalt. You're doing this in flip-flops? I asked myself as if felt the hot sparks burn my bare feet. Roberts didn't help much, clutching my waist so tightly I could only draw short breaths.

Fuck it! I hope no one's coming! I decided when I saw a stop sign ahead. Sixty-five mile-an-hour, you can do it! I tried to reassure myself when I glanced down at the speedometer. I jerked the clutch lever in, downshifted a couple of gears as I laid her almost on her side and turned the handlebars.

"Yeah Girl!" I hooted when I released the clutch and the big bike snapped upright and bolted ahead like a sprinter.

Oh shit, I groaned a second later when I saw flashing red lights in my rear view mirror. Sorry Dude, but I ain't got the time, I thought as I grabbed another gear and watched the speedometer cross the hundred mile-an-hour mark.

When I back off the throttle and laid us into a power-slide into the boys' ranch driveway I heard Roberts mumbling something, but couldn't tell what. I had slowed down to about fifty by the time I rode into the ranch's main complex. A crowd of people outside the Director's Residence told me where to go. After I killed the engine and dropped her sidestand I tried to dismount, but Roberts death grip on my waist held me on my bike's seat like a seatbelt.

I was about to jerk his hands from around me when I heard him mumble, "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

"Carl! Doctor Roberts, let's go!" I snarled as I pulled his arms apart and climbed off my Hog.

"You prepare a table for me, , ," he continued to chant.

"Roberts, you have to help! You have too help my Dad, and Mary!" I demanded as I all but jerked him off the bike.

The thunder of horses distracted me for an instant. My stomach sank into my knees when I realized it was the kids and not Adam and the other Doctors. It fell to my ankles as I heard a siren wailing and saw a cop car racing toward us.

I took an instant to glance and was relieved to see Dad sitting upright, stroking Mary's forehead.

Here at Walmart, we offer free double doses of Prozac on Saturdays! I offered when the two helicopters hovering over us, and the angry face of a big State Trooper staring at my new bike and I caught my attention.

To Be Continued…