Patient John Doe

Chapter 16

The horses dominated the conversation for the next few minutes as we snacked and relaxed. When the Ronnie and Steven returned to the deck after a private viewing of the photos on the laptop, I sent them back to bring it onto the patio, and guided my kids as they used the videos I had shot for St. Paul's and for Johnny to give a 'virtual tour' of the ranch.

"Wow, you get to wake up and wave at your horse from your window every morning, Cool!" Angela hooted.

"You get to ride just whenever you want? You don't have to go with your mom and dad?" Steven asked. I had to snicker as Ronnie rather skillfully worked his way through the files on my computer and brought up a picture of him riding Zeus.

"We can ride anyone but him whenever we wanta!" he announced. "I mean want to. That's Dad's horse, we only get to ride him when Mrs. Stewart or Pop says we can."

I snickered as Johnny almost frantically dug through his pictures before holding one up to everyone. "That's me on Zeus! I even get to race him!" he proudly proclaimed.

We talked about the horses and ranch a few more minutes; none to my surprise the Sanchez children asking a couple of the standard questions non-Texans always ask, the same questions I had been asked so many times while attending schools out of state like 'how many oil wells do you own', and 'do you ride your horses to school'. My hip grunted when Steven asked 'Do you wear guns all the time?'

After a few minutes they drifted into other conversations and away from the adults. When Ronnie took my laptop back inside I ignored his dirty look as I put my fingers in front of my mouth, silently ordering he and his brother to put their headgears back on, but Mark dutifully followed his brother inside.

"Those are beautiful animals," Steven Senior commented. "From the pictures your stud is most impressive; is the Cinnamon foal his first? Which was the mare, it is rare to get another color offspring from two same color animals, especially in Arabians."

I'm sure my face gave me away as I wondered how he knew so much about breeding horses, bringing up something I didn't know as a budding breeder. "Steven is a veterinarian." Jay informed me.

I blushed a little before explaining how I acquired Ginger, and that she was an undersized filly, older than she appeared. He listened intently as I explained the hormone treatment my vet had ordered for her. "I have a colleague you might want to contact when you return to Texas," Steven replied. "He teaches at A & M (Texas A & M University), but has done extensive research into growth deficiencies as you are describing. I have his number in the car, I'll get it for you later."

"Fantastic!" I replied. "I earned my Bachelor's at A & M."

"That is what's wrong with you!" Jay injected. "An Aggie, no wonder you ended up as a shrink!"

"Be kind, my son," Miguel almost scolded his adult son. "As a young man, I considered applying to A & M." He let his statement soak in for a few seconds before adding, "But then I woke up, got a haircut, and came to my senses!"

"And I had always heard Yankees were such formal, cultivated hosts!" I mumbled to the ocean, knowing I was outnumbered and would face defeat. "The beach seems to be getting shorter, is the tide coming in?" I tried, hoping to rescue some dignity.

Thankfully the kids reappearing on the deck rescued me as they darted toward the pool. I started to yell at my sons about their braces, but both Ronnie and Mark were already underwater before I could. 'Well, I hope those damn things are waterproof,' I groaned.

Their body guards were as efficient and casual as they had been earlier. Chad stood at the edge of the pool, taunting his fellow sailors as the other two played in the pool with the children, I think I was the only one that noticed he was also holding his mate's fanny packs as he kept a watchful eye on everyone. He joined the Sanchez adults and I as we chatted for the next few minutes, everyone glancing back at the barbeque pit as Ronnie's huge roast seduced our noses.

My stomach was trying to convince my body to attack the pit when Angelina appeared with two more trays of snacks. I just had time to taste one when Ronnie appeared by the pit, wearing again a pair of swim trunks and a tall white Chef's hat. As I saw the other hats tucked under his arm I smiled, knowing what he was up to.

As the chef raised the lid on the cook-pit I could almost see a beam of energy radiate from it and zap the swimming pool, as if something out of a Star Wars movie. All three of my sons, almost immediately followed by Angela and young Steven, broke off from their splashing and frolicking as their eyes zoomed in on the invader, before they darted out of the water and rushed to its source. I had to cough and look away as they lined up in front of the pit, Angela and Steven folding their hands behind their backs and leaning forward as if trying to have a snack from the aroma as my boys looked longingly at Ronnie; without being able to see their faces I was sure drool was forming on their lips.

"Who is going to prepare the potatoes, and who the meat?" big Ronnie asked, dropping chef's hats on Ronnie and Mark. Angela and Steven giggled as their uncle ordained them with the tall hats.

"Let's go butter the potatoes, I know how! Uncle Ronnie taught me!" Steven said, pushing against my Ronnie. "Come on!" he added, pushing his nose toward the pit for a last, long smell before he wrapped his arm around his new friend's waist and started inside.

"I remember how to paint them! I mean paste them!" Mark proudly announced. To everyone's surprise he jumped into the air and grabbed big Ronnie's Chef's hat off the man's head. "I'll show you, it's easy!" he proclaimed as he dropped the hat on Johnny's head.

Everyone on the deck tried to stifle their snickers as the stiffly starched white hat bounced off of Johnny's ears and nose, settling on his neck more as a hood than a cap.

"You BASTE it!" Angela barked, with all the authority any young girl could have possibly expressed. Before anyone could react she pulled Johnny's hood up, perching it on his forehead and ears, before she brushed his bangs out of his eyes. "It's easy, watch," she told the crimson faced boy.

I had to smile as Ronnie stepped between his niece and Mark, subtly cutting Mark off as he tried to get between his brother and Angela. Ronnie ignored Mark's dirty look and handed the lad a basting brush, placing his hands on Mark's bony shoulders and turning him toward the pit.

"Neat!" Angela commented. She sat her brush back in the sauce pan and watched attentively as she assumed supervision the operation. "A little more over there," she added a few seconds later, pointing at the meat. "Great! Is that okay Uncle Ronnie?" she asked.

I think Johnny was a little disappointed when our chef closed the pit's lid, but turned to me with a proud smile. When I extended my hand toward him he darted away from the others, and had taken a couple of steps toward me when his oversized headdress bounced off his ears and again hooded him. His face was bright red with embarrassment as he pulled it back up, cocked it on his forehead and ears and pushed into my arms.

"I don't know, I kind of like it the other way!" I more giggled than said as I dropped the tall hat back over his face.

"POP!" he howled, blindly pushing into my snuggle.

"Excuse me, but I would suggest that we move the party inside," Chad interrupted us. "Very quickly, please," the young sailor politely, but firmly, ordered. His taut face told us to comply. When I looked around he was already hustling Mark and Angela inside. One of his partners was intently studying the beach, the other had disappeared.

The noise of a boat motor from the ocean distracted me for a second, and I noticed one of the fishing boats that had been watching us all afternoon was rushing toward the beach at top speed. To my surprise it crashed into the sand, beaching itself without slowing down. As I watched several fisherman seemed to catapult out of it onto the shore and bounce to their feet.

Miguel's satellite phone rang almost at the same instant as mine. "Yes, let's step inside," Miguel said before turning his attention back to his phone.

"I don't have time to talk, but PLEASE follow Corporal Athens’ instructions, and stay way from outside windows," Banks barked into the earpiece of my phone. "Several people are approaching the Sanchez house as we speak. I know you are armed, please don't take any rash actions, they are federal agents. I am sorry, but I don't have time to talk, please comply with my wishes" he added. Our call was disconnected before I could respond.

'I don't do trauma, or shootings, and God, now I'm about to be in the middle of God knows what?' I asked, I guess of the handgun strapped around my waist, as I reached into the hidden holster of my fanny pack, somewhere between verifying the gun was still there, and rehearsing in case I needed to draw it.

"Pop! Come look, you gotta come!" Johnny's voice demanded as he rushed toward me. "Roger's got a totally AWESOME game! It's TOTALLY bad, you can shoot at submarines and stuff and it works on your puter! Come on, it's BAD!" he howled, almost dragging me by the hand into the Sanchez den.

"What the fuck is going on?" I whispered to Miguel as he joined us.

"We have visitors, but not to worry," he answered, subtly brushing my hand away from my weapon. "This problem might end very soon!" he added.

Chris, our third Marine guard, slipped into the house a minute or so later. He gave Chad a couple of hand signs before looking back out the door, scanning the deck and beach intently. I felt a knot form in my stomach as I glanced between the young sailors, the innocent, youthful gleam in their eyes had been replaced with the cold, hard glare of seasoned, hardened warriors. 'God, this cannot be real!' I thought as I turned my gaze to the kids, all of them enthralled in whatever their guard had loaded onto my laptop.

The tension among the adults mounted, until it was almost thick enough to cut with a knife, over the next few minutes, as we listened and waited. We had heard a few muffled voices from outside the house, but nothing else. 'I should be sitting on my patio, my worst worry how to be sure the kids did all their homework by Sunday night' I told myself, as I verified the position of Miguel's Beretta on my hip for the tenth or so time. 'Fuck, I could be relaxing before taking them back to St. Paul's for the week, and thinking about what would be fun to do as a carefree, kid-free, bachelor all week!'

"God, I'm so sorry I got you into all this," I whispered to Jay and Miguel.

"I am glad you did, I am glad we could help," Miguel answered. As I tried to digest his statement I looked over at him. His facial expression, as he studied the pile of kids stacked against one another, cheering whoever were the current contestants in the computer game completed his answer for me.

'Well, if this was Hollywood, and I could do a rewrite, I might leave out the man-eating horses, I wonder what that's going to cost?' I asked myself, as we both watched the kids enjoying themselves and each other. 'Miguel is no dummy,' I thought as I watched Johnny and Mark, along with Ronnie and younger Steven interact.

A noise made me jerk to the side, just in time to see it was an almost silent clicking sound Chad was making with his mouth. As I watched he made several hand-signals almost like the signs I had seen gang members make. Roger quickly slipped away from the kids and positioned himself at the corner of a wall bordering the front entry foyer. At the same time, Chris backed away from the deck door, closer to the kids but clearly surveying the deck as Chad stepped into the foyer.

Chad glanced around the room one more time before disappearing toward the front entry door. I almost unthinkingly slipped my hand into my fanny pack, grasping the grips of my weapon as I saw the young sailors do the same.

"Good afternoon, sir," I heard Chad softly say, followed by a couple of more clicking sounds from the foyer, causing Roger and Chris to visibly relax. The young sailor appeared from the foyer a second later. "Special Agent Banks and two of his agents are here to see you, sirs," he announced. Although his manner was as polite as a professional butler's, his eyes made it clear he was preparing us, verifying no one had a drawn weapon.

Banks gestured toward the deck with his hand as he came into the room. "I have mostly good news," he began as Jay, Miguel and I followed him outside. "We arrested four members of the group we are concerned about a few minutes ago, and, with the help of América Segura, it seems there is only one suspected member of the cartel at large, we think in Mexico or Columbia. They are a unique organization, we are in their debt," he added, giving Miguel a wily glance.

"We are going to maintain a surveillance around your home overnight, but I feel comfortable the threat is over for the child, for all of you. I think it's safe to remove the Marine guards even, they will be returning to their regular duties shortly." he concluded.

"What about Texas, the ranch?" I asked.

"We are continuing a surveillance of your property, and your attorney and her family, just as a precaution," he answered. "But," his face stiffened somewhat as if to keep from laughing. "But, everything considered, both your horses and I will assure you it is safe in Texas."

"DAD! ! !" Ronnie's alto voice rang out as he burst through the door onto the deck. Mark and Johnny were right behind as they all rushed to me.

"Chad and Roger said they gotta go home! Please, we told them they could stay here, we were gonna have a sleepover! Why do they gotta go now?" Mark cried as he pushed against me.

"Well, we still want them to stay, and see, we asked first! Please, can they still stay? Sir?" Ronnie almost groaned, giving his little brother a death stare.

"And their Captain said they still could! They called him he said they could! He promised!" Johnny chimed in. "Please Pop!" he added, pushing against me even harder.

"I thought you were going to ask first?" I snapped. 'Yeah, ask everyone but me first,' I thought.

"Excuse me, but I would enjoy having your friends spend the night, provided your father approves," Jay injected, looking more toward me than the boys. I flashed Jay a dirty look as I accepted Johnny's then Ronnie's hug.

"Haven't we talked about asking BEFORE committing?" I asked, the growl I had wanted to project into my voice totally failing. A pair of heads pushing under my neck was too much. "Yes, they can still stay overnight, but, well, you ask first, I mean it!" It didn't take long to realize I had said that poorly as I had a third kid in the middle of my lap, my thighs creaking like over stressed bridge supports as they sagged under the weight of all three of my Turkeys. "I mean it boys, last warning!" I added, praying my legs didn't break.

Thankfully, after another group hug they climbed down from my lap. I wondered if I had been too harsh on them as they shuffled toward the house, almost as if they were puppies with their tails tucked between their legs. I was about to call them back and apologize as they started inside. 'So much for that!' I thought as I watched them dart toward the den, squealing as they announced their victory.

"You are very fortunate, Adam. Much more than I think you know," Jay said. When I looked over he was talking more toward the patio door than me. "Very fortunate indeed," he repeated as he rushed toward the far end of the deck.

I blocked Miguel as he started after his son. Banks caught the hint quickly as I looked over at him, and excused himself. "You make sure my kids are okay, I'll make sure yours are, I whispered. Miguel gave me a nasty look, but turned back to show Banks out as I turned and followed Jay.

I took a deep breath, and walked into his bedroom unannounced. "What's wrong, are you alright?" I asked. "I know it has been a crazy weekend, and I'm sorry to put you through it." he glared at me for a brief second before looking away and sitting on the edge of his bed.

"Remember, Doctor, I am not only a shrink, but a Texan! All Texan's hunt wetbacks with a vengeance, almost as harshly as they do hippies!" I added, "Que pass'o" (What is wrong in Tex-Mex)

"Nothing, please leave me alone for a while," he asked the carpet.

"Of course, please forgive me for intruding," I answered. I started out the door back onto the deck before I asked, "Is it the kids being here that upset you, or knowing they are leaving soon?"

Failing a response I started to slide his door closed when he said, "You are very a perceptive individual. Frighteningly perceptive. " His face seemed to invite me back into the room.

"It goes with the territory, how do you think I stayed alive this long in Redneckville, USA!" I replied as I stepped back into the room. "I suppose my residency training helped a little too. The boys are getting to you, aren't they?" I asked as I sat down in a chair near the bed. "If I can risk an illiterate opinion, they are bringing to the surface a void in your life. I think in your mate's too."

"Children have always held a special place in my heart, I think that is more why I chose my vocation, even more than wanting to follow in my father's footsteps. It feels so wonderful every time I can help one of them," he told the ocean outside the deck door. "Ronnie and I have for a long time felt Steven and Angelina, well perhaps their family, has not only been very fortunate, but that our niece and nephew have filled a void, I think the only void, I what we think is a perfect relationship Ronnie and I have."

I was trying to formulate a response, as well of trying to shift gears from being a protective parent, even now equipped with a side-arm, to a Psychiatrist, when he continued. "I apologize. But yes, your family, the love that radiates between each of you has, well, gotten to me," he said, turning not to look at me but more the wall behind me.

"I picked that up Friday morning," I answered. "I was only somewhat bantering when I teased you two about giving you the boys. But, you two would make perfect parents, especially for children that need someone that understands their sexuality."

"But that is a moot topic," he countered.

"Well, the pregnancy would damn sure be interesting!" I quipped. His face flared briefly until he finally looked at my face and realized I was joking.

It worked better than I expected as his face melted into a slight grin. "But it would be fun!" he snickered.

"Hey, Amigo, I was eleven-years-old when Ronnie was born! I just wish I could remember the fun!"

"For a straight, you are a sick man!" he laughed. "Seriously, as much as I envy you, and respect you for taking the boys into your home, I'm afraid it is not an option my partner and I have, not as a same sex couple."

"What about as brothers, sharing a house as they do a business?" I asked.

"Your idea is good, but the ancient, great state of Virginia doesn't agree with either you or my ideas. Even as two confirmed, straight bachelors living as housemates, the pre-revolutionary, puritan standards our Virginia officials adhere to would make us more targets than candidates, I'm sure they would laugh at us."

"I'm sure they would too!" I replied. He gave me a dirty glare before I could add, "What do you think the Great, Bible Belt State of Texas thought of a single hippy, clearly a dope smoker because of the length of his hair, inciting a pair of cute, young boys to come live with him in the country, far away from prying eyes? Especially knowing at least one of them was far less than a virgin."

Jay's eyes studied my face, then my eyes for several seconds very intently. "What do you have. . ." He stopped short as Ronnie entering the room announcing we were about to eat, the kids were setting the table. "Thank you, we will be there shortly," Jay told his partner, his eyes still fixed on mine. The chef's face flashed between concern and interest as he glanced at each of us before slipping back into the hall.

"I'm a board certified Psychiatrist, and my opinion is widely respected. Although I don't have a license to practice in Virginia, I do with MEDCOM, the medical branch of the U.S. Military. That is how we received all of Johnny's tests free, and so quickly. If you are interested in fostering, or adopting kids, I might be able to help."

We stared at each other for the better part of a minute before Steven, then four more young faces appeared at the glass door opening onto the deck. "I'm hungry!!!" young Steven proclaimed as he rushed toward his uncle.

"Yeah, come on, I'm hungry!" Johnny added as his brothers all but lifted me out of my chair and pushed me toward the deck.

Ronnie's diner fare was as elegant as always, but I'm not sure who was more startled, he or his father, as mountains of roast and baked potatoes disappeared down the throats of our five little eating machines, as did what seemed like tons of vegetables and side dishes. I had to smile as I watched Angela and Mark, seated on each side of Johnny, compete over who would help him cut his meat and handle heavy dishes that required two working hands. Mark was polite, but the nasty glare he kept shooting at Angela clearly expressed his jealousy.

Almost as if a scheduled performance written for the cuisine, the sun began making its exit below the horizon, beautifully setting off the ocean's magnificence and the beach's tranquility as we all finished our meal. 'Wow, this view is what you would expect at a five-hundred dollar a day resort,' I thought as I pushed away from the table.

Ronnie's timing made it seem he had coordinated with the sunset, as he and Angelina served dessert, the earth's rotation appeared to be synchronized to our chef's schedule as we enjoyed a bread pudding that was so delicious it could have started another Revolutionary War if the Brits tried to capture its recipe. The sun even parked itself, just peeking above the horizon as the adults enjoyed coffee. 'Well, so much for Texas hospitality,' I thought. 'Barbequed ribs and fried catfish, this ain't!"

"Come on, let's go swimming!" Mark howled, his shrill voice harshly jerking me back from the tranquility I was enjoying.

"Yeah, can we?" his brothers chimed in, as Angelina's kids flashed wanting eyes between their uncles, their mom and dad.

"Not right after you ate, wait until your stomach has settled after supper," Angelina answered before I could. "Help your uncle with the dishes, and walk around a few minutes so you don't get cramps, then you may. If it's alright with Doctor Owens."

`You're good, kid!' I silently snickered as her children, quickly followed by mine cleared the table, rushing the dozens of plates and platters into the kitchen as if trying for a speed record. `Why don't you do that at home?' I silently asked, as I heard the dishwasher start a minute or so later.

Steven Junior was back at his mother's side almost immediately. "Can we go walk on the beach? Please Mom, we promise we wont swim or anything! Ronnie, , , I mean Ronnie and his brothers got to find some sea-shells to take home!"

I am sure my concerned face gave my fears away regarding security after our long ordeal today. "I don't care if you two go, but I think your friends need to ask their dad," she answered.

"We were thinking of walking our supper off, may we join you?" Chad interrupted.

"That was one of the best meals I've ever had, but I'm stuffed," Chris added, both young sailors ignoring Steven Junior's dirty looks.

I felt a hand touch my knee under the table. 'It's safe,' Miguel lipped.

"Just don't go too far away," I answered. "And stay out of the ocean!" I added, as a muffled series of hoots and 'yeah's rang out from the kitchen. "You three do EXACTLY what, , , Angela and Steven tell you to, they know the beach Not you!" I told the kitchen entryway.

I was enjoying listening to their supposedly silent giggles when a pair of lanky arms wrapped around my shoulder and neck. "Ronnie's right, you're a neat dad! Thanks Doctor!" young Steven exclaimed as he gave me a brief hug before darting into the kitchen.

"Are you sure it's safe for them to be out there, for Johnny to be, especially as close to dark as it is?" I asked Miguel as the adults adjourned onto the deck.

"I still have two men offshore," he answered, pointing to a sailboat near the beach. "And those young Marines know exactly what they are doing," he reassured me. "Let them enjoy themselves."

We had relaxed on the deck, watching the last rays of dusk baste the beach and water for ten minutes or so when Angela appeared at the top of the deck stairs. Her mother picked up on her facial expression better than I did. "What's wrong, babe?" Angelina asked, gesturing her daughter toward her.

"They want to go do boy stuff," the young teen girl whimpered. "They ran off in the dunes. Can I go watch TV?"

"Let's go watch together," Angelina suggested, tucking her daughter under her arm as she walked the girl inside.

"Oops!" I commented, almost dodging Steven Senior's eyes.

"Let them be boys, she's okay," he reassured me as he watched his wife and daughter disappear into the house.

"I think the kids had the right idea, I'm going to go get in my trunks!" I announced, after ignoring Miguel and Jay's questioning looks failed.

We swam for ten minutes or so, then ended up getting engaged in a really brisk game of water polo. Miguel surprised me, despite being old enough to be all our fathers (which he was for everyone but me) he made it clear he was not a Senior Citizen, at least in physical condition. As each of us became winded the others climbed out of the pool, Steven drying and going inside to check on his wife and daughter, Jay and Ronnie climbing back onto the deck and toweling off.

"What did you and Jay talk about?" Miguel asked as he leaned against one of the pool's water jets. "I apologize, I should word that, after you and my son talked, he has been in a world about three galaxies away. May I ask why?"

The underwater pool lights came on, almost as if dramatizing the answer I was clearly expected to provide. "It has indeed been a long weekend, for all of us," I tried. His unemotional face told me it didn't work. "After all the things you have done for me, and my family yesterday and really today, can I say Jay and I had an interesting discussion about his future, his and his partner's?" His face told me I had just tightened my own hanging noose even tighter. "You know my profession, and how limited I am in discussing it," I tried. "I hope that wasn't rude, but. . ." I risked, praying to get onto another topic.

"Not at all my friend! Forgive me for being intrusive, please!" he answered, cutting my statement off. As he leaned back I began to relax, proud I had out foxed the old fox.

"I am embarrassed to solicit you for unpaid guidance, but I am troubled. I have watched two of my sons thrive, and enjoy life very much since your sons have been here, probably more than I have since they were teens moving into what they knew was a safe, happy home.

"I have not seen either Jay or Ronnie so, happy, so excited in many years. They love my grandchildren, but having your boys, and you as a single parent here, has showed them what having children might be like. I'm an old, out of date Pediatrician, how should I react to my sons wanting to continue to enjoy the warmth of your sons, or other kids living here?

"Of course, I am only seeking your advice regarding how I should react with my sons, " he added, his grin saying much more than his words. We stared at each other for the better part of a minute before he added, "What would you advise a parent of adult children, one that is very interested in supporting any guidance you might have offered Jay, and I'm sure Ronnie."

Ronnie's timing couldn't have been better as he appeared on the deck with pitcher of Margaritas. "I know how much you enjoy these, Adam," he said.

Jay was right behind with a tray of salted glasses. "It's too perfect an evening, if you will excuse us, we are going for a walk on the beach," he announced. 'Gee thanks, thanks for letting me off the hook, NOT!' I thought as they disappeared down the stairs.

"I'd suggest you advise them to keep an adequate stock of Mezcal in the house," I answered, climbing out of the water. I could feel his eyes probing the back of my head as I poured two drinks. He hadn't moved when I turned back around, so I carried both of them back to pool-side and handed him one before climbing back into the pool, sitting against the same water jet again.

"Yes, but the only source here we have is when I go to Brazil," he commented as he sipped his drink. "But, you did not answer my question," he added. I took a second sip of my drink, trying to find a way out of my dilemma. As I looked back him I felt gears grinding in my head. I stared at my drink for a few seconds as I digested his statement, and licked a little extra salt off the rim of my glass, I guess to polish the gears before they stripped.

"I've treated a fair amount of gay teens, and some children that I think are gay," I began. "Unfortunately, as an Adolescent Psychiatrist, I have very little, well hardly any, experience with gay couples." I paused briefly, trying to catch my balance on the tight rope I was walking. 'Fuck it, he's genuinely concerned, and damn sure astute enough to be involved,' I silently decided.

"As a young, single parent, I can emphasize with many of a gay couple's concerns and frustrations regarding involvement with children, much less fostering them. Shit, when I was ten minutes away from getting custody of Mark and Ronnie I thought my world was going to end when one of my turkey's misspoke!" I took a minute to fill him in on Mark's comment at the beginning of his custody hearing. "I went from being the saving saint of a children's home, to being excommunicated by a senior penguin from the Catholic church, because of ten innocent words!" I snickered.

"You have to consider Virginia law, and case law," Miguel responded. "Much of this state's court law was written by the Puritans, and carved on Plymouth Rock."

"Come to Texas, the heart of the Bible Belt!" I countered, tousling my ponytail. "Our laws were written by Mark, Luke and John before the last supper, and we would have to raise them from the dead to change anything! Fuck, or get the tablets re-carved! I think poor Moses is getting a little old to pack them down the mountain again, especially after the Baptists get done with them!" We both took another sip from our drinks as we snickered at my sarcasm.

I let my statements soak in for a few seconds before continuing, "I understand, just from what I have read, that these biases are not so harsh in some other countries, even in Latin America." I paused again before adding, "As a single dad, from what I understand with a male house-mate, did you encounter any of this kind of crap when you adopted your boys? Has much changed since?"

Miguel studied his glass, and I think the ocean behind it, for a second or so before downing almost half his drink. "Thank you Doctor, it's amazing what a new perspective can provide," he told the ocean more than me. He downed the rest of his drink before muttering, "I wonder what Carlos is doing this evening."

"Thank you for protecting my son's confidence and helping an old man," he said as he turned to me. "I salute you!" he added holding up his empty glass. I started to stand up and get us refills when he stopped me. "Allow me!" He disappeared to the deck table, returning quickly with two fresh glasses.

"Again, I salute you!" he said, offering his glass in toast. I clicked his glass and relaxed a little, thinking I had gotten myself off the hook, when he added, "Are you sure you're an Aggie?"

We relaxed in the pool for the better part of an hour as we casually chatted, mainly about medical schools he, Jay and I had attended, even laughing about a few childish pranks we, like students of all ages engaged in while preparing for our noble profession. As the sun's last rays gave way to night, and almost full moon took over, the tide's gentle symphony as it crashed against shore setting an environment I couldn't help being a little jealous of my hosts.

I don't think either of us heard Ronnie and Steven Junior come back onto the deck until they dove into the other end of the pool. "Hi guys, have a good time?" I asked, snapping out of my tranquil semi-trance. Ronnie gave me a wide silver smile, as Steven waved at his grandfather and I. They swam for a few minutes before Ronnie slid up next to me, tucking his thin body under my arm. I snickered as he pushed against me until I moved over enough to let him get some of the benefit of the water jet I was enjoying. Steven was right behind, snuggling up to his granddad.

"It's Soooo neat here!" Ronnie said. "We got some totally bad shells and stuff, and I saw a Jellyfish and a submarine!" `A submarine? Yeah kid, sure,' I thought. 'A Jellyfish!?!' my stomach asked as it tightened into a knot. 'Stay out of the ocean!' I remembered ordering.

"Yeah Grande, Roger showed us the submarine, it was neat!" Steven injected before I could respond to my son. "I've seen them before but I didn't know what they were, I thought they were whales or something! I'm gonna start bringing my telescope now!"

Miguel and I were exchanging dubious looks when Chad's voice rang from behind us. "It was one of the boats from Norfolk," he said. "Depending on the tide conditions I'm sure you see several a year coming on or out of port."

"It was one of the atom ones, it even came from Ohio!" Ronnie proudly spouted.

"Actually, an Ohio class boat, and a NUCLEAR, or ATOMIC submarine," Roger corrected from behind us.

"Of course which boat it was is classified, but they are all impressive to see, something civilians don't very often," Chad added, draping his legs into the pool near us.

"Yeah, Mark was pissed, he was gonna ask if we could take your camera and forgot!" Ronnie said. "I, ah, I mean he was angry sir, sorry," he corrected himself, giving me a little tighter hug as a penitence. Chris and Roger eased into the water just as he said it, and I let him stew in his embarrassment for a few seconds as he blushed at everyone.

"Where is Mark, well and Johnny?" I asked. The sailors and teens exchanged curious looks for a couple of seconds.

"They returned to the house, probably twenty minutes ago," Chad replied. Miguel and I glanced at each other, our faces tightening almost in unison.

"I was, watching them," Roger said. "I kept them in sight until they were only a few meters from the steps." His face paled as he digested his statement, and the glare his team leader was shooting at him. All three of the sailors' stiffened as they looked at Miguel and I.

"Until they were where, Lance Corporal?" Chad barked, the veins in his muscular neck starting to protrude. "Stand to!," he snapped, swinging to his feet. His physical condition showed as he leapt across the deck to the house, grabbing his fanny pack on the way, in probably three steps.

It took a few seconds for me to snap back from the wonderfully tranquil moonlit setting on the Sanchez deck, the three or four drinks Miguel and I had enjoyed, along with the relaxing comfort of my son's snuggle, as Roger and Chris sprang out of the pool. I was just realizing what their concerns were when Chad rushed back onto the deck.

"They are not inside, they have not been inside!" I wasn't sure what he meant, but my ass-hole sucked what felt like half the water out of the pool as he added, "Situation Hotel Sierra, threat-com Charlie, move!" he said both to us and a small pager looking device in his hand.

`No, God, no, don't let this be happening," I silently prayed as I jumped out of the water. "Ronnie, go inside, now please," I ordered as I grabbed the fanny pack Miguel had loaned me.

Miguel was almost next to me, grabbing his towel and unwrapping the Baretta concealed in it. Chad bolted down the stairs as Roger all but jerked the kids out of the pool, hustling them, still dripping, into the house.

Chris stepped in front of me as I ran toward the deck stairs. "Please wait inside, that's an. . ." he started to demand before I body blocked him, slamming him against the wall, clear of the stairs. Miguel was step for step behind me as we descended the stairs, two and three steps at a time.

`Holy shit, this CANNOT be happening,' I thought as I looked around the shadowy, tranquil sand. 'God, not my boys, not my little angels!'

The FBI's satellite phone, hanging on my fanny pack, interrupted my prayer. "Doctor Owens, this is Stan Banks. I am on my way to the site, please go back inside and leave this to the professionals," Banks all but ordered.

"I'll go inside when I have Johnny under one arm Mark under the other. Shit up my kids, asshole!" I snapped before realizing it. "You lost them, I'm GOING TO find them! Got it!"


To Be Continued…