Patient John Doe

Chapter 21

If you are just joining this story, please note the DEDICATION of it, stated on the disclaimer page..

I again want to thank my good friend Miguel Sanchez for his extensive help in developing this chapter, along with work we are doing on future ones. (Julio, of course, is now the mature Doctor Jay Sanchez in this story). (Also, sorry about screwing up his address before!)

After giving what seemed to be my new alarm clock permission to have a morning swim, now including Steven, I stumbled out of bed. 'Well, a wet dog kiss and group hug from a bunch of semi-nude boys is better than the buzzing beast!' I told myself as I rushed to the bathroom.

Mary and Cindy had already arrived, and were in the kitchen when I staggered out of my bedroom toward the coffee pot. "You look bad, real bad," Cindy told me as her greeting.

"Yes, the fruit of the Cactus plant is not for Gringos (Tex-Mex slang for white people), especially those that abuse it," Mary said, her normally slight Hispanic accent much thicker than usual. "It is not good for the furniture either," she added as she sat my coffee cup in front of me, then glared at the coffee table in the family room, and the freshly washed shot glasses draining on the kitchen drainboard.

I considered countering that we had been up working late, then tried to think of a better explanation, but just grunted as my reply. Even half asleep I realized there wasn't going to be much pleasant wake up conversation around the breakfast bar this morning, so I downed most of my caffeine fix and excused myself to get dressed. 'Oops,' I thought as I looked at my almost new, expensive coffee table and the several circular stains in its finish. 'Oh shit, I wonder about my desk?' I resisted the urge to go look, deciding to wait until Mary wasn't around.

The boys and Ronnie were just starting breakfast when I came back out of my room, our guest didn't look much better than I felt. The boys were elated when we informed them Jay was arriving this afternoon. I was pleased that, when I told Johnny Jay wanted to examine him while he was here, he perked up somewhat, giving us a wide grin complete with about half a slice of bacon between his teeth.

The boys hinted about Steve going to school with them, even going so far as to say he could wear one of Junior's uniforms (and I am sure hinting that Cornerstone wouldn't notice a spare kid following Ronnie around), but Mary cut them off, saying Steve was 'Welcome' to stay at the ranch; her grand motherly eyes informing all the boys he would, don't bother to argue.

I was synching my laptop when the boys rushed into my study, giving me a group hug and announcing they had to catch their bus. As they darted toward the front door, I heard Mary caution Johnny and Steven to come right back to the house after they saw the other boys off, but paid no mind. I took a minute to fill Cindy and Mary in on the real reason for Jay's visit, telling Mary I would call her when I knew a time and location, before giving them a disk containing the video showing Johnny's arm. We all joked about how 'shy' his arm was, how careful we had to be not to draw attention to its progress, before I left.

Cornerstone's van was pulling away from my gate as I started down the driveway. I expected to see Johnny and Steven walking back up the drive toward the house, but after a couple of seconds I started to panic as I realized they were nowhere to be found. 'If Steven stowed away again, and took Johnny with him, I'm going to kill ALL of them I'll tell God and the Sanchez' they died later!' I told the steering wheel.

I slowed down and scanned the pastures on each side of the drive, no boys, just several of the horses trotting back from the road. 'Brats,' I cursed. I was about to turn back to the house when I noticed the legs of what appeared to be a light colored colt in the middle of the herd, all I could see of it was its legs beneath the other animals bellies. It took a second look to realize the colt was wearing white socks and gym shoes, high-tops on its back hoofs and ankle highs on its front. 'No more Tequila, time to cut back on the beer,' I told the gate as I waited for it to open.

My head was beginning to clear as I neared town. I snickered to myself as I drove, on this trip, probably the only time I had driven the speed limit going to and from the ranch since I moved there, I passed two radar cops. 'God protects hippies and fools I guess,' I told the steering wheel as I exited the freeway.

I was reviewing my charts, about to start my morning rounds, when I saw John step off the elevator. We grabbed a cup of coffee in the Physician's Lounge and I filled him in on Johnny's unexpected progress, along with Jay's request. "Doctor Ebestein is in the hospital, I know he would want to help," was his response as he reached for the hospital phone.

Five minutes later Ebestein walked into the lounge wearing a surgical scrub suit, complete with hair-mask and booties. "I presume this is urgent, I had just finished scrubbing and was about to gowned out for my first procedure. I have a busy day," he snapped, mostly to his associate, but cutting a glare at me as he did. John swallowed his tongue several times as his boss poured a cup of coffee.

I even felt slightly intimidated as I relayed the past day or so to Ebestien, even patting myself on the back for choosing to risk going into a private practice instead of the security of an established one. The elderly doctor didn't seem to thrilled with our impromptu meeting until I played back the video of Johnny from last evening a couple of times on my laptop.

"Prayers never go unanswered, even when they ask the impossible," Ebestein mumbled. "Finish your rounds, then contact Doctor Sanchez immediately. Have the rest of your schedule transferred to other associates, and arrange for any tests Doctor Sanchez request, that is now your sole task until further notice," he told my friend. "Give Doctor Owens your keys to the practice and provide him with an alarm code, collect another for yourself when you return to the office." He watched the video another time before continuing, "I have to go to work, see to it." he started out of the room before turning back toward us. "I must meet Doctor Sanchez, please inform him I would like to."

"Yes sir," John told the empty doorway.

My former roommate was as efficient at completing his tasks as he had been at his studies when we were in school. After my first session my nurse gave me a message to call him, and I had an e-mail from Jay. Jay was going to arrive in San Antonio at about noon, just in time to join our luncheon. John had received a task list from Jay, and asked that I get Johnny to his office ASAP. I called Mary, and she assured me they would be on the way shortly.

I was walking down the hall of my office to my next patient session when my cell phone rang. I almost ignored it, but opened it to glance at the Caller ID. I answered when I saw it was my home phone number. "Pop, ah, Doctor Pop, do I gotta go? Please, my leg and ever'thing, is doing okay now and ever'thing! Doctor Jay is my Doc now, PLEASE!" Johnny cried into my ear.

'Fuck, so much for a good plan,' I thought. "Oh shit, Mary's coming I gotta go or she's gonna kill me, but please!" he whispered.

"DON'T hang up, it's okay, Mary won't get mad I promise!" I almost pleaded. I cut him off as he started to tell me he was suppose to be getting ready to leave with her, instructing him to hand the phone to his Nanny.

It took a couple of tries from Mary and I after Mary turned on the speaker phone, but we finally convinced the boy he was only going to have a few tests, that Doctor Jay had requested, before Jay examined him later. He seemed to relent somewhat, but then countered that 'HIS' Doctor should do the test, the little rat was fairly insistent even.

"Well, if that is what you prefer, I don't want to force you," I answered him. I could almost hear him relax over the phone. "I'll cancel the tests, and you go back to studying. I'm sure Doctor Jay and Doctor John will be disappointed, but they will have to understand." He got 'Thanks P. . .' out before I could continue. "I hope Ginger isn't too disappointed, because we will have to do the tests this evening and tomorrow morning, but we can. If we are lucky you will have at least a little time during the weekend to ride her...I hope."

The phone was so silent I wondered if we had lost the connection, but I pressed on with what I hoped was my coup-de-grace. "I am going to meet Doctor Jay for lunch, probably right after you would have finished your tests with Doctor John, but I know you need to study. I'm sure Mary will make you a sandwich or something."

I knew I hadn't lost the connection as I heard, even over the speaker phone, what I was sure was the sound of a skull vibrating from gears grinding inside it. "Ah, but I don't gotta get surgeried or nothing? I mean I don't have to get surgeried or anything?"

'Good try, your grammar is STARTING to improve,' I silently snickered as I assured him he would not.

"Do I got time to get my arm thing before we go?" I heard him exclaim.

I started to answer he did when Mary cut me off. "He's already upstairs, his leg is certainly healing nicely!" she all but giggled. "I think we have a VERY willing patient!"

'I hope Johnny is ready for this,' I thought as I parked in the upscale resort hotel complex for our luncheon meeting. 'Hang onto him, Mary,' I silently prayed as the valet climbed into my big cat and accelerated it toward the parking area. "You hurt her and I'll castrate you, before I kill you!" I called after him as I heard my car's tires squeal.

Cindy and Ronnie were already at the restaurant. They filled me in on their successful morning, the only thing Cindy was lacking to be able to file Jay and Ronnie's residency paperwork was a Texas address.

I wasn't too surprised when Ronnie announced he had been meeting with the hotel management, and was about to buy out the catering lease the eatery had with the hotel (and his sister, via the family's foundation that owned the hotel). I snickered as Ronnie quietly explained that, besides being a promising investment, adding the restaurant to their chain would provide a way to write off travel between Texas and Virginia. Cindy added how being a business owner would add weight to their standing, 'even with the court'. 'Birds of a feather...they both are damn sharp,' I thought as I listened.

My realtor joined us shortly. We spent five minute or so in general conversation as he and Ronnie got to know each other before he began offering his new client folders describing properties he wanted to show this afternoon. "Doctor Owens knows this property," he told Ronnie as he handed him the fifth or so folder.

I leaned toward Ronnie to see what he was talking about, but a high-pitched voice I knew well made me look toward the entrance. Johnny and Steven bounded into the dining room, both of them squirming and grinning as they rushed to join us, clearly trying to contain their excitement in the semi-formal setting of the dining room. I was pleased to see the proud grin on their Nanny as she joined us.

"Hi Dad!" Johnny exclaimed as he pushed against my chair. "I mean Pop," he whispered toward me.

"Hi Pumpkin!" I answered, wrapping my arm around is thin waist. "I sure like Dad better!" I whispered to him. He squirmed against me as his smile widened.

"I did all my tests and stuff, Doctor John said I even passed!" he announced. "I didn't know they were gonna shoot me, but it didn't hurt much or stuff," he added, proudly displaying a band-aide stuck to the inside of his left elbow. "Where's Doctor Jay! He's gonna come, ain't he?" "Ah, isn't he?" he corrected himself.

"He should be in here shortly, he landed a few minutes ago," Ronnie injected. "What tests did you take, are you SURE you passed all of them?" he asked with a grin, extending his arms toward Johnny. We ignored the realtor's glare as Johnny hopped into Ronnie's lap, giving us a blow by blow description of his MRI, which he described as Doctor John's cannon, and his other tests, again holding up his band-aided elbow as if a war trophy.

Thankfully the waiters served us several tray of appetizers, distracting both Johnny and Steve's attention. As they attacked the snacks I wondered if Mary had been starving them all day, but then remembered they had been away from food for at least two hours.

"Doctor Owens, I'm sure you remember this listing, it's adjoining your property to the north," the agent suggested, handing me the folder that the kids appearance had interrupted his selling it to Ronnie. "As with your land, it offers an additional eight-hundred acres as an option of first refusal."

I resisted the urge to push one of the snack trays toward him as I looked at his hungry face. "Yes, a nice piece of property, but very overpriced," I commented as I glanced at the folder. "I'm sure Mister Sanchez might enjoy seeing it, but only if it became open to a reasonable offer. Please, join us," I suggested, seeing his starved look I slid one of the trays toward him. I ignored his glare, and the 'fuck you, traitor' look in his eyes.

"Doctor Jay! Hi Sir!" Johnny howled in a soprano voice a few minutes later. 'I have to get a leash for that boy!' I thought as he darted across the dining area and slammed against his surgeon. Jay seemed completely relaxed as he tucked his young patient into his snuggle and walked him back toward the table, ignoring the glares from the other patrons.

"You look great!" Jay told the boy as he looked him over. "If you get any more suntanned, you're going to look like me!" he quipped, brushing his fingers over Johnny's freckle laden cheeks.

"I took all your tests and stuff, and Doctor John said I passed!" Johnny answered, again displaying his band-aid as if it was a war metal. He blushed bright red when Mary added that he was doing well in his studies, even before I thought to introduce Jay to Mary.

"But, I'm hungry!" Jay announced. "My stomach is still an hour ahead of everyone else!"

Johnny didn't argue as everyone ordered, and after sitting down between Jay and I, devoured his lunch. He and Steven were scraping their dessert bowls for a few minutes when Jay suggested he and Johnny visit Ebestein's clinic, and begin Johnny's evaluation. I instantly had a lapful of kid, but after several assurances that I just had to return to my office to retrieve my laptop (I didn't tell him about the patient session I also was committed to) he followed Jay out of the dining area.

Mary's stare, or better put glare, told me she wasn't too pleased regarding releasing her charge, even just for the short trip to the clinic, with Jay following behind. "You can have him back soon," I whispered to her as we walked toward the valet parking booth. "He's your boy too!" I added as we waited for our cars.

I felt a little guilty about cutting my patient session from the fifty minutes I billed for to just slightly over twenty minutes, but my patient was doing well, and had no objection to being released with just a few 'behave yourself' suggestions. My big cat offered no objection as I guided her to cut the ten minute journey from my office to Ebestein's clinic to about four minutes. 'Good Girl!' I told the steering wheel as I pulled into the parking garage.

Mary was pacing the hall of Ebestien's treatment area, and gave me a harshly nasty glare when I joined her. "They've been in there forever!" she complained. "Over twenty minutes!" she snapped at me after glancing at her wrist watch. "I know he is a great surgeon, and helped Johnny, but, but why can't I be in there with my, I mean with Johnny?"

"Relax, Granny, our boy is in good hands," I answered. She didn't offer any resistance as I wrapped my arm around her and hugged her shoulder. "I'd give a year's pay to be in there right now, but remember he is a shy little rat, let Jay do his thing." I ignored her harsh glare as I added, "Remember, his arm is shy too, by his statement it won't work when people are watching. I thought about bringing Ginger here, she's the only one that really dispels his insecurities." She stared toward me, I'm sure wondering if I was serious, for a second or so.

"Doctor Owens, Doctor Sanchez is ready for you now," a nurse interrupted our stares. "This way, please," she asked, opening the door Mary was so carefully guarding. Mary pulled back, but stepped into the room when I ushered her forward.

"Hi Pop, hi Mary!" Johnny hooted as he slammed against us. "I mean Dad!" he exclaimed, pushing his bare chest tightly against me. I enjoyed a few brief seconds of his snuggle before he pulled away and pushed his thin body against Mary. "Doctor Jay said my arm is gonna be all okay! He said you're neat how you helped me and stuff too, I love you ma'am!"

"I'd like to meet with you briefly regarding his treatment," Jay told Mary as he pried his young patient from her. "And, I must meet this Ginger!" he told Johnny. "But, you promised to go get shot again, remember? You go with the nurse, and get your last test, and I'll see you at your ranch later." To my complete surprise Johnny just glanced at Mary and I before following one of Ebestein's technicians out of the room. "Oh, I won't forget, I promise!" he called to the boy.

"You might want to peruse these, but I'm sure you will find them almost unbelievable, I did," Jay told me as he turned to the light board containing several MRI and images. "As you can see, we are showing probably sixty, maybe sixty-five percent regeneration in this nerve bundle, over fifty percent in this one." Although he was way over my head, pointing out areas of the images he had to use a magnifier to display, I tried to look intelligent enough to be following along.

"I just don't understand it," he continued. "I would have been content with seventy percent for final recovery, six months or so from now; to have it this early on is, well, impossible. But, he is living proof!"

"I don't think Johnny knows what the word impossible means," I replied. "He's not even supposed to be alive," I added as my little finger twitched slightly.

"Well, call his school, I damn sure don't want him to learn it right now!" Jay said, turning the light boxes off. "You are his PT?" he asked Mary.

"No Doctor Sanchez, I'm an OT, but I help him with a lot of his PT."

"Mary is also his home school tutor, and nanny," I added.

"I'm Doctor Sanchez in Virginia, on vacation I'm Jay," he told her. "But, please, line out that 'impossible' word in his spelling book. Is Mark still helping with his therapy?"

When we confirmed he was, Jay suggested they wait until Mark was available, then introduce the changes he had planned in Johnny's treatment. "I want to view the results of Johnny's last test, and I promised Doctor Ebestein I would review one of his cases while I was here, then I am looking forward to seeing your land - and your swimming pool," he told us he opened the door.

Johnny was waiting just outside in the door. He glanced anxiously between us for an instant before pushing himself between Mary and I, giving Jay a wide grin. After I made sure Jay was comfortable with the map I had given him to find the ranch, I started to excuse myself, saying I would see everybody when we got home. The lad pushed up against me looking up with a pleading expression.

"Well, I have a stop or two to make, I'm sure you would get home sooner if you rode with Mary," I told him. His face answered for him, and I said he could ride with me if he wanted.

He brightened and gave Mary and Jay a quick hug, then slipped under my arm. We had walked several steps when I stopped and turned back toward Jay. "Well, can we wait so I can get my grade?" he whined looking up at me. "On my test, the one I just took," he told us when no one answered.

"I'll give you your score as soon as I get to your house," Jay assured him with a grin. The youngster shrugged his shoulder and turned away, seemingly only slightly disappointed. "On second thought, I think it would be better if I release it to Ginger first," Jay said to our backs.

Johnny jerked around, but his surgeon had already stepped into another room. "Well, it's probably for the better," I told him as I again pointed him toward the exit. "If he told you first, you'd have to go have Ginger to sign it, and bring it back to Doctor Jay." Even from the hand I had on his shoulder I could feel gears grinding in his pixie little head as I guided him onto the elevator.

After we stopped at my favorite meat market, I turned onto the freeway, toward an early start on the weekend. 'Screw it,' I told my the steering wheel as I dialed my cell phone. Ten minutes later Johnny thin neck was swiveling like an owl's as I drove through Cornerstone's spacious campus.

"What are we doing here?" he more risked than asked.

"Oh, I thought your brothers might enjoy getting home a couple of hours early, it's party time,"

"Cool!" he hooted. "Well, but what about my shirt, well my ever'thing! They’re gonna get mad if they know I wear their clothes! Mark said Mister Headmaster kills kids just cause of them!"

I had to digest his comment for a second or so. "I think you mean Headmaster Greenly, Headmaster is a title, like Principle or Dean. I'm sure they won't mind, they probably will be honored you are that interested in their school," I told him, as I parked at the Administration building. I reached over and released his seat belt before climbing out of the car.

After he didn't move for a couple of seconds, I walked around and opened his car door. "Come on Turkey, it's okay," I said, just getting a frightened look as a response. I slipped my arms under his and guided him out of the car seat. "I'll leave the car unlocked, if the Headmaster attacks you hide in the trunk, I don't think he can get to you there." I closed my eyes for an instant as I watched him survey the car, then the trunk lid before he reluctantly allowed me to usher him into the building.

Junior and my two were sitting next to each other, staring sad-faced at the floor when we entered the Dean's office. At first only Mark glanced toward us, his face turning so ashen I thought he might faint when he saw me. Ronnie and Junior followed his gaze, or his gasp, their faces becoming completely mortified.

I walked to them before asking, "Hi guys, what's wrong? Are you okay?"

"We didn't do it Dad, we didn't," Ronnie whispered. "I mean we didn't do anything wrong! Why'd they call you?"

"And Johnny didn't do nothing," Mark softly whimpered. "He didn't know nothing or anything!"

"Good afternoon Doctor Owens," a voice I knew to be the school's Dean of Boys rang from behind me. "It's good to see you again," he continued as I turned and shook his hand. "And this must be John," he said.

"Yes, this is Johnny," I answered, looking down at the small tuft of strawberry hair and square inch or so of forehead showing under my arm. "Johnny, I would like you to meet Doctor Able," I added as I pulled my young son at least partially from behind me, hoping the Dean didn't hear his shoes skidding on the floor.

"I've been monitoring the progress reports from your tutor, we are looking forward to having you join us very soon!" Able said as he smiled at the boy. "You have excellent tastes in clothes, young man!" he added. "Excuse me, but I am late for a meeting," he said to all of us. "I hope you have a great weekend gentlemen," he told the three petrified statues sitting next to us.

"You guys ready to go home?" I asked my young waxed figures. "We have company, I thought you guys wouldn't mind getting out of school early." After a little coaxing Johnny and I managed to get all three of them to their feet and guide them toward the parking lot.

"Guilty conscience? Is there something I should know about?" I asked my three zombies as I started back toward the freeway.

"Well, ah, we thought we were in trouble! If you get called to the office you are," Ronnie offered after a minute.

"You only get sent there when you're busted," Mark muttered. "And when you came we knew we was dead. Were dead I mean." As I studied their faces in my rear view mirror I wondered what they thought they had been caught doing, it damn sure was not studying too hard.

"Yeah, hi girl!" Johnny hooted as Ginger's head came into view, pushed between the fence rails and glaring toward the car, I was afraid he was going to push his hand through the windshield as he waved at her.

"Come greet our guests, and change clothes," was all I managed to say before all the boys disappeared into the pasture, diving through the fence rails.

"That little horse, Johnny's horse is NOT a normal horse," Mary greeted me, handing me my afternoon beer. "She chewed me out royally when I arrived without her boy. I didn't need to understand her language to know she called me everything but white!"

I could only snicker as a response. 'You are right there!' I thought as I set the packages from the meat market on the kitchen counter. "I'll season these shortly, I'm going to get changed," was all I could think of as an answer.

I climbed into my swim trunks, but hearing the stampede of kids rush upstairs put on a pair of jeans on top of my trunks. "Someone saddle Zeus," I barked as the boys stampeded back through the house. I took a couple of minutes seasoning the rib racks I had purchased earlier, assuring Mary I would cook them as I all but ordered her to stay and enjoy supper with us before I left for the pasture.

Zeus was waiting for me at the gate, glancing back toward his harem and their young riders as he watched for me. "Hi big fellow, let's run," I told him. As soon as I mounted his saddle I released my pony-tail and leaned forward, all the instruction he needed to explode into a full gallop. 'Yeah, this is life,' I thought as I leaned into the wind.

I let him have his head, going where he wanted for at least ten minutes before he seemed to have stretched his legs. After he carried me to the top of one of the higher points on my land he settled into a fast trot, seeming to enjoy our excursion as much as I was. We drifted on the summit for probably five minutes, Zeus and I both enjoying the majestic view below when my stallion abruptly twisted his neck behind us, pushing his huge head against my leg.

"Hi Dad! Wow you were cruisin’!" Mark hollered.

"Yeah, he won't run like that for us!" Ronnie added. "That was TOTALLY BAD!"

Zeus perked his head and ears as if in pride as all the boys joined us. We walked our mounts to what was the highest vista on my land, and my private mountain. Everyone seemed as much in awe as I was as we looked down on our home to one side, and no telling how many miles of God's country to the other. 'Wow, I rode a Greek God to Heaven,' I thought as I looked between the panoramic beauty below me and the wonderful little, horse mounted, angelic creatures next to me. 'That's why God made sunbeams,' I decided as I enjoyed them reflecting off of Mark and Ronnie's golden hair and happy faces, their wide silver grins even more vividly proclaiming their bliss.

What I thought at first was Junior, or his horse's movement, distracted me, making me look toward them more closely. After a second look I noticed a dark piece of cloth waving in the breeze a few yards behind them. 'I wonder,' I asked myself.

"Look! There's Doctor Jay!" Johnny yelled. "Yeah, I gotta go see if I passed!" Before anyone could react he turned Ginger and was flying down the mountain at a full gallop.

"Race you to the gate, loser does ALL the dishes!" Ronnie announced, Zoe bolting away without his prodding.

Zeus accepted the gauntlet before I could react, and was racing to catch up with his mares, clearly not too worried if I was still on board or not. As soon as we were back on flat enough terrain that the horses could stretch into a sprint they all lowered their neck and heads as they raced toward the fence as if trying for the Triple Crown. I leaned forward against my stallions neck as he overtook the other horses, realizing I was just there for ballast, he was going to do what he wanted, there was no way I could control him.

Right when I was sure Zeus was going to jump the fence between the pasture and back yard, he slowed slightly, then planted his hoofs and slid to a stop about three feet from Jay. Ronnie and Zoe were right behind, the big mare skidding so much her feet threw dirt onto our guest.

"Hi Uncle Jay, you want to go riding?" Steven howled as he jumped off his steed and hugged his uncle. "Here, ride Athena, she's BAD!" he exclaimed, stuffing the reins into his uncle's hand.

Jay's mouth stared to move as if he had recovered enough to respond when Ginger skidded to a stop, so close to his face I thought she was going to kiss or bite him. "Yeah, come on, please!" Johnny howled as he dove over Ginger's head and slammed against Jay, his arm wrapping around the man before his feet hit the ground, even pushing Jay against the fence.

"Good God, I thought you had horses, I mean normal horses!" Jay whispered to me as he backed his way toward the gate.

"They are, they are well behaved animals. Your introduction wasn't perfectly timed, but they are." His face clearly answered for him, questioning my sanity and state at the same time.

"You gotta tell Ginger my grades!" Johnny interrupted. Before I could react Ginger had already stuck her snout into Jay's face. "Please sir, did I pass? I tried real hard, I did!" Johnny added. Ginger pushed her long head against the Doctor's chest, her huge eyes staring into his.

"Your, I mean his, tests were even better than I expected," Jay said, I'm not sure if to the horse snuggling him or me. "Your boy is doing fantastically, better than anyone could imagine. Thanks for your help," he clearly told Ginger. The filly let out a soft snort against Jay's stomach before pushing her head to Johnny's chest.

"I don't believe I actually released a patient assessment to a horse!" Jay told me as we watched Johnny and Ginger dance away from us. "What worries me is I think she understood me!"

"Welcome to my world, I'm glad this is a Ranch, because otherwise it would be a Nut Farm!" I answered.

"Have you talked to Ronnie? He has been trying to contact you," Jay asked. 'Oops!' I thought as I scanned the two unanswered messages on my cell phone. 'At least they are both from Ronnie,' I told myself, thankful none of my patients were in danger.

"We are looking at a site I would like your opinion on," Ronnie said almost immediately when he answered. "I have two in mind, but, has Jay arrived, would you have a few minutes? I would like to get your opinion. Did Cindy find you, she should be at you house by now?"

A glance up the hill, and the smoke from my barbeque pit, told me Cindy was here. "Ah, give us a couple of minutes to get things, organized," I asked, thinking about the ribs I wanted to cook. "Jay and I should be there in about ten minutes." I offered. 'Well, the ribs will be good tomorrow.' I silently cursed.

I knew what I was about to see as I turned into the property, exactly what I had several months ago, when I considered buying the same land. Ronnie seemed excited, he had no problem with the rundown, long abandoned house and was much more excited about the land, and the view offered. "It is a good site," I commented as I looked up at the mountain my sons and I had been on a few minutes before. "I think you would like the neighbors."

"They're asking eight-fifty. Paul thinks we could get it for eight, I'm thinking of offering seven-five," Ronnie told us.

"The next time you listen to Paul, wear a condom in your ear. He offered it to me for seven," I answered, cursing my realtor as I did. "It's the property he suggested this morning, as wonderful as it is the owners are WAY too proud of it! Here comes the Weasel!" I added as I saw our hungry agent walking toward us.

"This is coming together much better than anyone could have hoped!" my realtor proclaimed. "I just got off the phone with the owner, he is willing to let the property go for seven ninety, if you will sign and deposit some earnest money tonight, I think we have a deal! "All you have to do is sign here, and here," he told Ronnie as he offered a stack of papers, "and of course cut a check."

"I am getting hungry, as I'm sure my guests, and my kids are. I'm sure Doctor and Mister Sanchez would be interested in your offer, but not on an empty stomach." I ignored Ronnie's glare as I continued, "Can you provide us keys, so we can visit the property tomorrow? We will call you." 'That's your last referral!' I thought as I stared down his glare.

I smiled, then snickered as we entered the house and saw the mountain of blankets and quilts stacked into a mass bed in the family room. "I thought you guys went bar hopping or something!" Cindy proclaimed. "We fed the kids a few minutes ago, they were starting to chew on the furniture and such," she snickered. "It's mostly bones, but I managed to save you guys a little! Carl's on the patio, go on out and I'll bring you guys plates."

"This is what I was talking about," Ronnie told his mate as we sat down. They both stared in awe, studying the sunset as it slipped behind the mountains, casting long vistas across the pasture for what had to be three or four minutes..

"Steve's in heaven," Jay commented, watching his nephew and the other boys ride.

"This is heaven," I said. "When I bought the land, I thought it was going to be the next best thing to heaven. Every time I get to watch my little guys enjoy it, I know I've found heaven on earth," I told the sunset.

Everyone was almost silent, we chatted a little with Cindy and Carl as we ate and watched they boys and horses frolic, disappearing and reappearing into the dusk's shadows.

"Yes, this is wonderland," Jay mumbled as the boys dismounted and led their steeds toward the barn.

Cindy and Carl excused themselves and started toward the pasture, saying they were going to say goodbye to their son, and would see us tomorrow.

"What did you think of the property?" Ronnie asked after they left.

"It's a good piece of property, but overpriced big time," I answered. "I would have bought it when I was shopping, but not at their prices. Can you come up with financing for, say five-fifty, maybe six, firm enough to make an offer? I don't know that it would be accepted, but six is the most I'd pay."

"I can write a check for that tonight, that's not a problem," Ronnie answered without hesitation.

"What were you saying about neighbors?" Jay asked.

"You can only see a little bit of it, especially as dark as it's getting, but see that fence line?" I said, pointing toward the back of my pasture. "That divides my land and the property you are considering."

"Well, I think we know how Steve would vote," he tittered, "Call him, offer him six."

"No, not tonight. As hungry as he looked earlier, let him stew, wait for him to call you tomorrow." I suggested. "I know him, he gets antsy when he isn't sure a deal is going to come through, I saved a little over a hundred thou playing mind games with him. By the way, keep the fact that you are in a position to pay cash as a trump card, that will fuck with his mind badly."

"Are you kin to my dad?" Ronnie snickered.

"Now I understand the term Horse Trader much better," Jay added. "Business isn't generally done that way where we are from, but, when in Rome…" he held up his glass in salute.

They spent a couple of minutes discussing the old house, to restore it or rebuild. After I told them about mine, and that the one they were considering was probably only slightly newer than mine, and was in about the same condition as mine when I bought, they asked if they could meet my engineer, and my contractor.

"He's one and the same. He is a unique experience, I think he has an eighth or ninth grade education, but I wouldn't allow anyone else to touch this place," I told them. At their request I called Billy-Ray and arranged for him to meet us tomorrow morning.

I didn't notice that the boys had joined us until I hung up my cell phone. Steve and my Ronne were standing between Steven's uncles, the other boys listening from behind. "But they're not Texas Levis! They're different!" I heard Steven complain. "And I have my own money, Mom gave me her VISA!"

"We will call your parents tomorrow and ask if it okay with them," Jay said.

"But, please, and I HAVE to go to the mall anyway, we came all the way here, we gotta! I mean have to!" the youngest Sanchez added.

"You've been here one day and you are learning a Texas accent!" Jay snapped. "Speak the Queen's English young man!" I looked away as all four of mine blushed. "Uncle Ronnie and I are going to be very busy tomorrow, so we will see."

All five kids eyeballs bounced like super-balls as the exchanged glances, clearly trying to see who had another approach. Their faces sunk somewhat as they everyone remanded silent.

"Are you gonna buy the haunted house?" Mark asked several seconds later. Jay and his mate looked at each other with lost expressions for a second before looking to me.

"Well, Ginger said you were," Johnny added.

"Is it really haunted Pop? I mean Doctor Pop? I mean Doctor Owen, ah Owens?" Steve exclaimed. "They said there's still bullets from Indian fights and stuff, and even a hanging tree! In the cellar there's even a . . ." he fell silent as my now crimson faced Ronnie pushed against him.

"Ah, well can we go shower, we're all stinky and stuff," Ronnie more suggested then asked. "Come on guys, I feel yuckie!"

'Strange, he wants a last shower instead of a last meal, before I fuck'n kill him?' I thought as we watched the boys dart into the house, all of their shoes smoking as they tried for more traction.

"I presume this contractor you praise so highly does have a Ghost Busters franchise!" Big Ronnie teased. "Your face was priceless, what did they do wrong?"

"They were born," I mumbled as I started into the house for another round of drinks. "And they are strictly forbidden from leaving the ranch. Obedient little shits, aren't they!"

'Yeah, well, I'll kill them tomorrow,' I decided as I looked from behind the bar at the empty mass bed, carefully laid in the family room floor, and listened to their happy giggles from upstairs.

To Be Continued…