My Flock

Chapter 17

I found myself wishing for a Prozac, or at the very least a thick joint, to calm me as what seemed like a movie scene that only group of screen writers gone mad could have created.

Roberts seemed to recover from our bike ride, and took off running toward his patients ignoring the cops orders to stop and drop to the ground. Well, for a rich-bitch he's got guts! I thought when he looked back and I know he saw the officer drawing his gun and yelled, "Medical Doctor! I have code patients!" and kept running.

I pulled Adam's satchel up and was about to say something as the cop turned his attention back to me when his walkie-talkie crackled, "Life Flight Four to the DPS Trooper below. Clear those horses from our landing zone!"

Oh shit! I groaned when I glanced down toward the pasture and saw both of the helicopters orbiting above our kids, and what had to be most of Adam's herd galloping toward the fence.

"Miller! I need you, stat!, , , That means NOW!" Roberts voice thundered above the confusion.

I risked a glance a the cop, or better put where his gun was pointed, and sprinted toward Dad and Mary. I was twenty or so feet way from them when a group of youngsters cut in front of me carrying a couple of what looked like fishing tackle boxes and a couple of long thin containers. What? I wondered when two young teens followed the others wrestling a car tire.

"We retrieved all we could from the rear bonnet, Doutor," a thin faced, good looking dark haired young teen proudly proclaimed with a thick Spanish accent. "Alfredo and Enrique are removing the caixas eletrôônicas, they are fastened down."

"Use your English!" a high pitched voice barked. When I looked it was coming from a good looking, but somewhat older boy than its prepubescent pitch suggested. "They will bring your electronics soon, it is hard to remove," he told Roberts. I glanced up toward Adam's Jaguar and saw a pair of teen bubble butts protruding from its trunk as the teen chastised, "And he is a Doctor in America! NOT Doutor!" he barked, his voice rising several notes higher.

"Treat Mary! Is she okay?" Dad interrupted.

"I'm okay Sam, just my stomach is, , , upset," she moaned. I ignored some boys stacking what looked like a car jack and tool bag next to the other medical equipment when she let out a long belch that seemed to echo off the nearby hills, even over the noise of the helicopters.

"Here Sir, we retrieved everything! This is what you need I hope Doctor!" a thirteen or fourteen-year-old youngster interrupted. No, not, I groaned as he sat a metal box labeled 'Alpine 20 X CD Changer', and what I was sure was an audio amplifier next to the medical equipment and tire. Oh God, I thought when another boy sat down an electronic component labeled 'Bendix Anti-lock Brake Controller'.

"They aren't in any danger Christian, go help him," Roberts ordered, pointing at the pasture.

The corset tight knot in my stomach tightened even further when I followed his finger. The trooper was standing at the pasture gate waving his arms over his head at the herd of kid mounted horses that were almost bucking their way toward the fence, clearly confused and frightened by the dust and noise the helicopters above them were creating.

What the hell am I going to do? Just don't buck the boys off and hurt them! I prayed to the horses as I dropped Adam's medicine satchel and ran toward the pasture. Dude, I hope you know what you are doing, I'm not sure I can help you! I thought as I watched the big cop burst through the pasture gate and run into the mayhem.

Junior, then Johnny and Ronnie dove off their horses and raced through the still open gate a second later, the other boys seemingly convincing their steeds to follow. I didn't snap at first when I had to wait for Ginger, then a couple of more horses, follow their riders through the gate before I could fit through it.

Oh shit! I moaned when I saw the cop running directly toward Carl's mount still waving his arms frantically over his head. Everything seemed to go into slow motion as I watched Carl's big mare swing around and her thick, muscular neck slammed the trooper's chest, sending him flying across the pasture like a tennis ball. I watched in horror as he bounced head over heels a couple of times and landed in a crumpled heap. When I risked a glance, Carl and his steed had gone though the gate and were galloping toward Dad and Mary.

All of the first aid courses I had taken over the years seemed lock away in some memory chip of my brain as I looked the cop over. He was knocked out like a light, but he was breathing, and he seemed to have a pulse, although as fast as my heart was racing I wasn't sure if I was feeling his heart beating or mine.

Thankfully Adam dove off of Zeus a couple of minutes later and joined me. When I leaned back it took me a few seconds to snap that the pandemonium from the helicopters and silenced, and soon we were joined by a couple of paramedics wearing helmets and Nomex jumpsuits.

"How is he doing?" Roberts voice rang from behind.

"He's stable, but I don't do trauma. Some minor chest bruising, but he's all yours," Adam answered.

"What about Dad? And Mary?" I asked. "Why aren't you treating them?"

"They're going to be fine," Roberts answered as he evaluated his new patient. "The other Life Flight crew ran EKG's on both of them, they are in no danger." He paused for a minute or so listening to the trooper's chest with his stethoscope before adding, "They could have a low grade episode of food poisoning, or moderate Gastritis."

He gave the paramedics several orders I didn't understand about the trooper, then turned toward Adam and I. "They consumed a gallon of raw oysters last night before bed, I suspect Gastritis," he grinned.

"I ate four or five of those oysters before bed and I feel fine. If it was food poisoning it would have hit me too," Adam declared. "They ate the whole can? That was more than a gallon!" he exclaimed.

Roberts turned away for a second while the helicopter crew loaded the cop into a basket stretcher. "I was going to take them in via ground transport for blood tests, but if you feel okay, I'm sure it's just Gastritis. Let's send blood samples in with this crew," he said toward Adam. He didn't wait for an answer and opened his cell phone.

"Wait! I think my Dad should go to a hospital, at least for a checkup!" I protested. "He's, , ,"

"We are sure your father, and my nanny, are not in ANY danger," Adam cut me off. "They ate too much of a, , , very rich food, that upset their digestive tracts. It began to produce more, , , gas than it could handle."

"We are doing blood tests to be sure, and they might pass, well pass a little more gas than normal for a few hours, but they will be fine," Roberts took over.

I glanced between the two physicians several times as I tried to digest their statements. "You're telling me that my almost eighty-year-old father, and his, well, senior citizen girl, ah lady friend OD'd on oysters before going to bed together, and all this was over a gas attack?" I stammered.

"Well, sort of, well, yes." Adam chuckled. "Let's go see them, they're going to be fine," he suggested as he stood up. "I wonder if the rumor about oysters is true?" he tittered.

"You ask them, I'll be damned before I will!" I snickered. What was that movie, Raising Da, , ," I began. "Shit!" I yelled as I stepped into something soft and felt something warm ooze over my flip-flop.

"That's exactly what it is!" Roberts chuckled as we looked down at the huge horse turd I had stepped in.

"My God, look at this mess! Who left the gate open?" Adam exclaimed.

Who, me? I silently groaned as I looked around the compound. Probably twenty horses were pacing around in small groups near where Dad and Mary were being treated earlier. A trail of horse manure dotted the grounds from there to the pasture gate, along with several large wet spots on the grass. Zeus, Diablo, Zoe and several other horses were on the other side of the grounds, pawing the ground and shaking their heads at the two helicopters they were clearly guarding. Oops! I thought, as Zeus dropped another pile on the neatly trimmed grass.

I felt somewhat reassured as we approached the group of people surrounding Dad and Mary. They were both sitting in lawn chairs smiling. Johnny and Mark were pushed up against their nanny's arms rubbing her shoulders and cuddling her. Carl and the twins were hanging off of Dad's shoulders, and Erbert was perched on his lap. Damn ham, I thought was I watched the little rat wag his tail and greet the other boys like he was part of a Royal reception line as they filed by the two seniors, offering a hug or a handshake as they did.

"What the hell?" Adam's wail made me turn toward him. He was holding the CD Changer in one hand and the brake computer in the other. "My car! My Jaguar! No!" he moaned. "What happed to my car?" he asked the sky above as he toed the spare tire with his boot.

"It's, it's probably my fault," Roberts groaned. "I needed your medical equipment, so I told them to get everything out of the trunk. Maybe they got a little carried away,"

"A little?" Adam snapped. He stared at the components in his hands for a second, then at the still open trunk lid of his almost new sixty-thousand dollar car.

"They were just doing what they had learned in the past," Tim's deep voice interrupted. When I turned he had all four of the boys that had emptied Adam's trunk tucked under his big arms, even the other boy that had assisted Roberts tightly grasping his waist. The youngsters pushed even more tightly into Tim's arms when he added, "We just talked about it, and where they used to live, they learned to strip cars for money. They were just doing what they thought Doctor Roberts asked."

"Whatever," Adam mumbled and shuffled away toward his wounded cat.

Roberts face was somewhere between confused and doubting as he glanced a couple of times between his friend and Tim.

"I didn't mean to interfere, but they looked frightened, I was concerned about them," Tim said. The boy on Tim's right hip tucked himself protectively behind the big man much like Johnny and Carl had done so many times with me, the two youngsters to his left pushed further into their nestle.

"You are not in any trouble," Roberts began. "Come here boys, you are not," he continued as he extended his arms, causing the youngsters to tuck more into Tim's hug.

I started to make a comment about Tim not being able to instill trust in kids when Roberts glanced at me, but I think my eyes said it for me. "Let's get this mess cleaned up, will you guys take everything back to Doctor Pop's car?" he asked. "Mister Young, ah Tim, I think my wife would like to speak to you, please give her a minute of her time." Roberts smiled.

Tim looked down at his charges and started to say something, but the ruckus of the helicopters preparing to takeoff kept me from hearing what he told them. Oh shit! I thought when I turned toward the birds and saw Diablo Zoe and Zeus, despite the dust and wind being stirred up, were charging toward the choppers, but the pilots managed to get airborne before the big animals could attack.

Although I was beginning to think 'normal' was only a relative term out there, everything seemed to be returning to it shortly after the helicopters took off. Once Dad and Mary finished greeting their reception line of young teens and started walking around, the boys herded almost all of the horses back into the pasture. Another State Police car arrived with a DPS trooper and a sergeant, but thankfully were only interested in what had happened to the brother trooper and retrieving his car.

Right after Dad and Mary waved to their young fans like departing Royalty and were escorted into one of the ranch's vans, a flatbed truck showed up and the driver loaded the corpus of Adam's Jaguar onto it. I know the feeling, dude, I thought as I watched Adam gently wave goodbye to his car, but I resisted the urge to wrap my arm around his shoulder and comfort him.

"Excuse me Christian, but I think you better go talk to your horse," Cindy's voice interrupted my thoughts.

Yeah, quick! I thought when I followed her gaze toward my Hog and saw Tim and the twins standing between my bike and Diablo, who was pawing the ground like a bull about to charge. Ginger and Johnny, and a couple of other kids were just off to the side.

"Pop, Diablo's all scared and stuff!" Johnny exclaimed in a higher than usual voice when I joined them. "She's scared you don't like her anymore that you're not gonna ride her again!" Ginger let out a soft whinny and he added, "Everyone but her got to get rode this morning and everything! Will you ride her home, please?"

Diablo's eyes seemed to soften slightly as she gave me a quick glance, but her eyes and nostrils tightened as she turned back and gave my new bike another nasty glare. "Dad, she's sort of piss, , , well sort of mad at your new bike," Jeff said.

"She's pissed!" Jerry corrected.

"It's okay girl, I'm looking forward to going for a ride," I said as I carefully stoked her thick muscular neck. "The motorcycle isn't your, I still like to ride you too, but you can't go on, well expressways and stuff!" Am I REALLY trying to explain my actions to a horse? I asked myself.

"But, right now all I'm wearing is swim trunks and, sandals, I couldn't sit in your saddle!" I tried, without realizing I was pointing out my bare legs and feet to a dumb animal.

"You can put a towel on the saddle," one of the other boys suggested. When I glanced over it was the older boy that had helped with Mary and Dad, and in stripping Adam's car. "Forgive me Mister Miller, sir. I am Pepe," he added, extending a thin, almost dainty hand toward me. "I am to be your First Boy, your Head Prefect, , , if you will have me, , , sir." he beamed, flashing me a slightly embarrassed smile that to my surprise showed a hint of braces.

His attractiveness, maybe better put beauty stunned me as I accepted his small, hairless hand and got a better look at him. He was about five-foot six or seven inches tall, but his wiry build said he was still growing. The charcoal brown bangs covering his forehead, almost touching his well accented eyebrows, that seemed to be some sort of magnet to his beautiful brown eyes that were at least as many miles deep as Carl's baby blues were. Just the very slightest hint of peach fuzz above his upper lip, an even light splash on his soft cheeks made me wonder how old he was, but the splendidly bright red lips the fuzz crowned stole my heart immediately. I risk another glance at his lithe body and decided he was either a very tall twelve or thirteen-year-old, or maybe a fourteen-year-old late bloomer.

"It's nice to meet you Pepe," I replied, hoping I wouldn't stutter. "Most kids call me Pop though," I risked as I reluctantly released his soft, delicate hand. "And thank you for the suggestion, but, I don't have a towel here." I managed as I tried to recover and continued to soak in his beauty.

He turned and whispered something to one of the younger car strippers standing next to him, who bolted toward one of the buildings at a dead run. "We have many bitch towel you may use sir." he offered.

"BEACH towels!" Johnny giggled. I'm not sure who's face was redder, Johnny's or Pepe's, when I glanced between them.

"I'm sorry sir! Please Mister, I am still learning my English and, , ," Pepe gasped as his face turned so ashen I thought he was going to faint.

"And I'll ride your bike back for you," Tim cut him off as he pulled the youngster against his side, I wasn't sure it to console him or to hold him upright.

My ass you will! It'll be a cold day in hell before you EVER get back on my bike! I thought. Diablo tucked my shoulder into one of her snout snuggles, and the younger lad Pepe had sent away a minute ago skidded to a stop, panting like he was about to die, and held out a big towel before I could answer.

I think I've been had, I silently groaned when Ginger and Johnny pushed their way into my gaze and Diablo began gently petting my beer belly with the bottom of her head. I know I've been had! I decided when Erbert pushed his head out of his pouch and whimpered up at me, his bug-eyes drilling holes in my skull. What the hell, I groaned as I glanced back at Tim and Pepe, and the boy's withering face.

"Pepe, can you show me how to use the towel?" I asked. "I don't want to get a rash or, , ," I cut my request short when Diablo jerked from our snuggle so violently she knocked me off balance.

"Si Senior, I mean yes sir!" Pepe hooted as he bolted from under Tim.

God, what have you gotten me into, THIS time? I asked as I caught my balance and turned around. Diablo was standing in a pose that would have won the honors in 'Horse Breeder's Weekly' magazine's Swim Suit Edition as Pepe and Johnny draped her saddle with the towel, Ginger supervising like a fashion consultant.

"I take it I get to ride your, I mean you want me to take her home? I mean the bike?" Tim whispered in my ear.

I bit my lip, but answered, "If you hurt her, if you do anything but cruise her, I'll kill you!" I grunted. "I'll castrate you, then kill you!" I threatened as he raced toward my Hog.

"If it is, , , may I ride next to you, with you Sir?" Pepe's voice distracted me. His face was as tense as a board when I turned to look at him. "If it is, , ,"

"I would love for you to!" I cut him off, which instantly rewarded me with a wonderfully bright face and wide smile, as bright as any of my brace faced boys. "Do you want to go change your clothes?" I asked, surveying his gym shorts and sandals.

He whispered something to one of the younger boys with him, stuffed his index and little fingers between his teeth and let out an ear shattering whistle, then bolted toward one of the cottages, his long legs and slim body reminding me of the African Malabo deer I had seen on the Discovery Channel.

The other boys bolted into the pasture and toward what I was sure was their tack room as a good size horse rushed out of the herd and galloped to meet them. Whatever, I snickered when Diablo and Ginger trotted past me toward the gate, Diablo prancing like a show horse clearly showing off her saddle decorations.

"I see you met Pepe," Adam's voice rang from behind. "I had planned to tell you about him, and introduce you two before all the, excitement," he said as we started walking toward the pasture. "He is a very remarkable, and very special boy. He's one of our greatest success stories, get to know him and I'm sure you will be impressed."

"So, are you going to indoctrinate your new Director?" Adam said. It wasn't until I turned to see who he was talking to that I realized Pepe had joined us and was standing a few feet to the side. "Thank you for helping Mary and Colonel Miller," he added as he offered an arm out toward the youngster.

I had to cover my mouth to hide my gasp as I took him in. He was now wearing the skin-tight tee-shirt, Levi jeans and wide leather belt that was clearly uniform riding habit out here, showing off his thin chest and waist almost as well as it did his long, thin legs and almost feminine butt and hips.

"I, I am sorry for injuring your car Doctor," the youngster whimpered, his voice cracking somewhat. He stared at us wide-eyed for an instant, then slowly leaned into Adam's arm.

"My car will be fine, it will be repaired by Monday," Adam replied as he tucked the youngster into a loose hug. "I'm very proud of you guys, and I am NOT mad." earned him a soft giggle and a wide smile from the lad, his dimples sucking so far into his soft cheeks I would have sworn I felt a slight draft in the air currents. "Just be gentle on Pop Miller until we break him in, don't scare him off!" Adam quipped as he pushed the boy toward me. "You guys go ahead, we'll meet you at my house in a few minutes," he told both of us before turning back toward the compound.

Yeah well, I groaned. "No running," I whispered to Diablo, earning me a harsh snort. "Until I can change clothes," earned a high pitched whinny and a valet service stirrup to climb into.

Although it quickly became clear I had been set up, when the other boys took off in a different direction and the adults seemed to disappear toward the buildings, I felt somewhat comfortable, even intrigued with Pepe as we began riding and talking. It was clear that English was his second or even third language, and a fairly new one as he stumbled through casual conversation, but he was indeed not slow or stupid.

After what Adam had told me regarding Prefects being high school seniors or college students I couldn't help but wonder how this youngster, who I was sure was either about to or had just started puberty was suppose to become one, much less the Head Prefect, dumbfounded me.

"How old are you, what grade are you in?" I risked.

"I am six, , , I will become sixteen when summer begins, , , in June, Sir" he answered, his voice as young as Pieter or Mark's. "I am in year eleven at my academy, and year one at my University. After my exams I will have six university credits!" he proclaimed, his eyes beaming with pride as brightly as his braces laden smile reflected it.

I began to wonder how much of his story I should believe as he went on to tell me that he was the University of Texas at San Antonio, not a junior college, and that he would be well into his sophomore year of college when he graduated from high school. Well, he sure can dream! I though when he added, "I will begin Medical School when I am nineteen."

The boys' horses were already at the fence when we approached Adam's house a few minutes later. Adam and the Roberts rode in right behind us from another direction and we all dismounted at the same time.

"May I be excused, sir?" When I turned Pepe was stand bolt upright at what could have been a broomstick thin Marine Corps attention stance. "I wish to see if Mary and Colonel Gramps are well."

Colonel Gramps? I groaned. "Of course you can, you don't need to, yes you may." I answered.

He spun around and took a long step toward the gate, but turned back to me and snapped back to attention. "Thank you for permitting me to ride next to you sir."

I fought off the urge to hug him and answered, "Thank you for allowing me to ride next to you Pepe! It was my honor, let's do it again soon!"

He flashed a wide grin so quickly I would have sworn I saw the air whirlpool as if filled the void caused by his dimples, turned and sprang over the pasture fence like a Gazelle. I couldn't take my eyes off him as I watched him bound up the hill, his long legs stretching his skin tight Levis so harshly I was sure they would tear with each giant step.

"Everything he told you is true," Adam began after I relayed my conversation with Pepe to him and the others. "But, he left a few things out," he said as we started walking toward his house.

"Pepe is a very remarkable young man. When we rescued him, I guess about six months ago, he had been a sex slave at a brothel for we don't know how long and was little more than a wild animal. He spoke no English and, well, we evaluated him as an eighth, maybe borderline ninth grade special ed student, and he was suffering from some major health problems.

"He has a truly photographic memory, and an ability to learn like I have never seen. Since he's been here, I guess about four months, he has learned English, and through equivalency exams gone from eighth grade to the upper end of grade thirteen. He is working on the level of a student that would be entering his second year of college soon. If it wasn't for some antiquated state laws he'd be a full time college student now."

"And he has undergone three surgical procedures since he arrived here," Roberts added.

We walked in silence for a couple of seconds as I digested their comments. "Is he healthy now? What was so wrong with him?" I asked. Their faces as they exchanged glances made me wonder if I wanted to know.

"Did you notice the slight scarring around his throat?" Roberts began. "When he was recovered he had a steel collar riveted around his neck, and we had to perform skin grafts to repair the damage it caused."

I felt a flash of anger as I thought back to the night we found Mike, Bobby and the other boy locked in a farm house wearing slave collars, but relaxed a little as I realized that three surgeries to complete plastic surgery was not unusual.

My consolation was short lived when Roberts continued, "You might have noticed his Orthodontic appliances? The dentists are performing some minor corrections on his bite, but," he glanced at his colleague and took a deep breath before adding, "His captors pulled all of his front teeth to, well improve his, , , job performance. We had to install twelve dental implants, and the braces are there to keep them stable until he finishes growing."

I only had time to gasp for breath before Adam continued, "There is something else you should know about Pepe, that is a bit, revolting."

"Nothing can be more revolting than what you have already told me," I groaned. Their facial expressions told me I could be wrong.

"His captors also, , , cut him." He took a deep breath then said, "They castrated him."

I'm not sure if my spinning head or my stomach ricocheting off my knees made me stumble. It wasn't until I recovered my balance a couple of wobbly steps later that I realized we were walking across Adam's patio.

"Here, I thought you might want this," Cindy said, stuffing a beer in my hand.

I downed about half the can, not sure if it was going into my belly or my lungs, as Roberts informed me, "We have started him on hormonal therapy, we have just begun to induce puberty. It's a five year course of intense monitoring and treatment, but we are fairly sure he will reach a healthy maturity. A few years later than most boys, but will be able to lead a relatively normal life, not the morbidity most eunuchs face."

I had closed my eyes and taken a couple of deep breaths, trying to fight off the urge to vomit, when the patio door bursting open and the sound of a gaggle of giggling kids distracted me. As I looked up Junior, Timmy and the twins squeezed through the narrow opening at the same time, followed by all four of my Musketeers, then the rest of our boys, Pepe's tall thin frame in the middle of them.

"Gramps has the poots, BAD!" Jerry hooted as they half staggered, half ran across the patio, all of them laughing uncontrollably.

"And they are Pe-U!" Carl proclaimed, holding his nose with one hand and his stomach with the other.

"You better run!" Dad's voice roared from inside the door. "I'm going to have someone's ass!" he barked in his most threatening military command voice, making all the boys giggle harder as they raced across the patio and down toward the pasture like the hounds of hell were after them.

"And they are YOUR sons!" Dad's snarl made me look back toward. He was standing bolt upright, his command posture filling the door. "Teach them to close the God damn door!" he thundered before slamming the patio door so hard the upstairs windows rattled.

"I think your dad is feeling a little better," Adam tittered as we watched the boys dive between the fence rails and onto their steeds, Pepe now at the head of the pack.

"Yeah, I hope he's back up to full steam soon," I couldn't resist teasing.

Adam started inside, but almost collided with Tim in the doorway. That's a dumb question! I snickered when Adam told Tim he was getting everyone a fresh beer, and asked if he wanted one.

"They are in there cooking their little hearts out," Adam chuckled as he and Tim passed out fresh cans to everyone. ""The bottle of Tums on the breakfast bar as a backdrop would have made the picture of the century, but I knew better," he grinned.

I was about to ask about my bike, but Tim cut me off. "They're both belching and, , , and rubbing their stomachs, but having a good time! Judy's keeping an eye on them, but they are too happy to be too sick."

"I just hope they stay out of the oysters," Roberts quipped.

All of us exchanged cagy glances, I'm sure everyone was biting their tongues as harshly as I was to keep for making the suggestive comments each of us was thinking when Tim interrupted my thoughts.

"Sam said you guys are moving next weekend, that quick?" he asked as he sat down in the lounger next to mine.

We are? I don't think so! I silently reacted.

"Tim, may I have a minute of your time?" Cindy asked before I could answer. "Bring your beer," she suggested as she picked up her can and the notebook she had been referring to during our earlier meeting. Tim flashed me a curious look, but followed her across the patio.

"I think you are being paged Christian," Adam's snickering voice distracted me. When I followed his gaze a huge burnt brown mare was staring at me bucking her head up and down as she pawed the ground.

"I did promise her a ride," I groaned. Diablo's menacing glare made me add, "I think I better go change."

I felt relieved when I stepped into the house and saw Dad and Mary bouncing around the kitchen like a couple of teenagers, Judy seemingly serving as an assistant, and decided to quietly slip upstairs and not disturb them.

Tim and Cindy had rejoined the others when I stepped back into the patio. My friend's face brightened for an instant when he saw me, but quickly sank as he looked at my jeans and shoes. "You're taking your bike out? I wanted to talk to you," he sighed.

A loud, and very clearly indignant snort from the pasture answered before I could. "No, I'm going to take my other ride out," I told Diablo more than Tim.

"You two go for a ride, take my horse, Tim," Roberts offered. "I think she can carry you," he added as Adam offered me his condensation laden saddle bags.

"Swing back by when you guys finish conversing and we'll join you, we need to discuss a few issues," Cindy suggested, almost ordered as Tim and I started toward the pasture gate.

"Cindy said you know about the offer they made me," he began. "Are these people for real? I know their residence facility is top notch, but, , , I'm still trying to believe this"

"They are for real dude," I cut him off. "But, I know of the position they offered you; I don't know the details like salary. But what about CPS, your career?"

"Fuck CPS!" he barked. "That's the bureaucratic sweat shop of the century! All I owe them is forty hours a week, and after each paycheck the pot's right." He surprised me a little when he added, "Cindy offered me better benefits, twelve grand a year more than I'm making and a rent free house! Shit, they're going to build three thousand square feet home for me and send Timmy to Cornerstone Academy, that's higher dollar than I could dream of spending!"

I began wondering where he was going, if he had already made up his mind or was seeking advice. "What about your retirement, your time with CPS. We both know what Timmy wants, but what about Judy, where is she on this?"

"Texas Retirement System totally sucks, I moved all of my money to 401K along time ago, it will roll over, and they offer great matching!"

We entered the pasture and Diablo offered her stirrup like a parking valet opening my car door for me.

"Wow, I haven't rode one of these since I was a kid," Tim tittered. "Which one is mine, can I ride this one?" he asked as he reached out toward Zeus' bridle.

The big stallion answered before I could, cocking back on his rear legs, offering a couple of threatening waves of his huge front hoofs and letting out a angry snort.

"Ah, no, that's Adam's ride." I looked around and found the horse I was fairly sure Roberts had been riding earlier. "Take that one, but be gentle when you approach her."

Thankfully the mare seemed happy that she was going to get to ride someone and stood still as Tim approached her.

"That's my problem," Tim said as he looked the steed over as if trying to figure out what to do first. "I'm afraid Judy will, well, veto the idea. She might not like moving, we've been in that house a long time." his almost sheepish expression caught me off guard. "She listens to you a lot more than me, I was wonder if maybe, you, , ,"

Diablo's loud snort blocked the rest of his statement. She used her nose to rather harshly push me back toward her saddle and let out a very angry neigh as she gave me a dirty look.

"I promised her a ride and I think she is a, a little impatient" I said as I stroked her big neck with one hand and acted like I was adjusting her stirrup with the other. "Let's talk in a minute.

"She likes to run at first, you might want to wait until after we leave to get into your saddle so your horse don't chase after us, we'll catch up in a minute," I suggested as I climbed onto my mount.

Diablo paused for a split second as if letting me settle into her saddle, then blasted off like a rocket across the pasture. I had just secured my death grip on her saddle horn when I heard a loud shriek from behind. I took a deep breath and clamped down on the saddle even tighter before risking a glance behind me.

Oh shit! I groaned when I saw the horse galloping behind me, and Tim's arms and legs flailing about like an oversized rag doll. I tried to slow my steed down but quickly figured out I wasn't driving right now, Diablo was. Hang on dude, she'll get tired, , , sooner or later, I silently offered Tim.

Although it took so long I was beginning to wonder if God had put me on hold I finally managed to slow my steed below warp speed, and what seemed like an eternity later to a walk. Thankfully Tim was still on top of his horse as they raced to keep up, instead of the crunched pile of human remains laying in the pasture I expected.

"Dude! This is totally bad, why'd you stop!" Tim hooted as his horse slowed next to me. "Come on, go!" he hollered as he prodded his mount back into a run and they bolted out in front at a dead gallop, his arms and legs flapping around so much I was sure he'd get tossed off any second.

This guy is so PW'd he wants ME to tell his wife about his job offer, but has the balls to get his jollies galloping around at mach two? He's got a damn death wish! I quipped. "Go on girl," I groaned, and dug my fingernails even deeper into the leather of Diablo's saddle as she launched us back into hyperwarp.

Diablo had just begun to close the distance between her and Tim's horse, and I had just began mentally reviewing my will and the funeral pre-arraignments Sherry and I had set up years ago, when another large black star-ship appeared next to me. Adam flashed me a slight grin and galloped ahead toward Tim. Captain Kirk's image flashed into my head, demanding that Scottie give him Warp thirty as I felt Diablo accelerate to catch up. Yes Ma'am, here at Walmart we offer both Prozac and Thorazine! I rehearsed. Now in the economy size, fifty-five gallon drums if you wish!

"Sorry to intrude," Adam said when the animals finally slowed down. "But, someone decided you two were having too much fun, and didn't give me much choice. Right big fellow?" he chuckled as he stroked Zeus' neck. The stallion stuck his snout in the air and let out a loud snort as an answer.

"These things are bad! I didn't know horses were this much fun!" Tim hooted.

"Christian didn't tell me you rode," Adam responded. "But as soon as you start out here we'll have to find you a better horse, she's not used to so much running," he added, stroking Roberts' horse's forehead. "Do you know when that will be?" He reached into my saddle bag and pulled out three beers. "They might be a little shaken up!" he said as he passed them out.

Tim flashed me an uncertain glance and swallowed slowly.

"Yeah, when are you going to talk to Judy?" I asked, earning a very harsh 'You Fucking Traitor!' look from my friend.

I was about to let him off the hook and offer to be available when he talked to his wife when he half groaned, ""Well I guess Timmy has a say in this, maybe I should, well see how he feels first. Do you know where he is? Can we ride over there?"

Adam and I exchanged glances, but both of us quickly broke our eye contact before we burst into laughter. "I'm sure he is, with the other boys, probably riding their horses," Adam declared, his voice much more casual than I could have managed.

"I'm sure he's with the twins, let's call them," I offered, pulling my cell phone from my hip.

Jerry grumbled a little about me disturbing them, but a minute or so later Timmy came on the line and I handed my cell to Tim. "Tell him to meet us at Cactus Gulch, my boys know where it is," Adam told Tim.

A couple of minutes later Tim shook his head and stared at my phone for a second or so before handing it back to me. "He didn't like it, but he's on his way. Crazy kids, they sounded like they were on a playground or something, there was so much squealing and laughing in the background I could hardly hear him, like a kindergarten or something!"

I carefully dodged Adam's face as I passed out another round as my only answer. Five or so minutes later what seemed like the entire Third Cavalry came storming over a nearby ridge toward us.

After they slowed their steeds Timmy slowly rode over to his father and whimpered, "Dad, I didn't do nothing, we were just, , ,"

"You're not in any trouble, I just wanted to talk to you." Tim cut him off as the two horses began walking away from our group. "But, why is your hair wet?" caused such a flood of bright crimson young faces I would have sworn the dry grass and dirt below us turned into the Red Sea.

As hard as I strained they were too far away for me to hear Timmy's answer, but the bright red color of his neck told me what his face looked like.

"Yea! Cool!" Jerry proclaimed a few seconds later.

"Yeah, too cool!" his twin exclaimed.

I shot them a dirty look, and when I glanced back at Tim his son was hanging half off his horse hugging his dad's side. I was about to correct my two identical little psychics for spying but before I could Ginger let out a loud whinny, followed by a series of snorts and neighs from the other animals.

"Yeah, thanks Dad!" Johnny hooted.

Adam flashed the little carrot top a smile as his answer, then his face soured somewhat. "Johnny, where's your dog?" he asked in a stern voice.

"Ah, he's, ah," the youngster groaned. His face paled as his mouth dropped open so far I was almost blinded by the silver reflection. He seemed to recover slightly, and looked down and patted his fanny-pack, then gave us the worst imitation of a surprised look I think I have ever seen.

Tim and Timmy distracted everyone for an instant as they both galloped away toward Adam's house.

"Ah, Erbert, where'd you go?" Johnny called out, his voice a couple of octaves higher than normal. A split second later I noticed a vibrating stick speeding through the pasture grass from where Tim had been talking to his son. A rat-like creature leapt up onto Johnny's shoe, scaled the lad's jeans leg and disappeared into his master's fanny-pack. "Here he is! Sir!" Johnny announced.

Adam's face flashed with anger, but the choking sounds I was making trying to keep from bursting out in laughter seemed to distract him, and he shook his head and closed his eyes.

"Did you ask him, Doctor Pop?" a soft, angelic voice whispered a second or so later. When I turned back to the group Pepe had moved his horse next to Zeus and was staring wide eyed at Adam.

"As I told you, that's your job not mine," Adam answered in a soft voice.

The youngster stared at the back of his mount's ears for a second or so, then risk a short glance in my direction, his dark eyes as wide as they were deep. The pasture seemed to get quieter as without any prodding Diablo slowly moved to stand next to Pepe and his horse. I tried a reassuring smile but the lad's eyes flashed away from mine so quickly I wasn't sure he saw it.

I wanted to reach over and pull the tall, thin little guy under my arm as his lips started to move as if he was going to say something several times but no words came out. After four or four tries he glanced around the pasture, that had fallen frighteningly silent, despite the two dozen or so kids and horses watching us.

"Mister Miller, um, Mister Pop," me managed to say to my beer belly before looking away.

"Just Pop, remember?" I offered, flashing him another reassuring smile.

"Yes sir. Pop, Sir," he whimpered. He glanced away and let out a soft whimper.

"Yes sir, I would be honored to have you be my, First Boy," I tried, hoping to let him off the hook. Pepe's mouth dropped so wide agape his braces reflected the sunlight so far back in his mouth I could see his tonsils as several boys clapped and cheered for an instant. I was about to try and stretch my arm behind my shoulders and pat myself on the back when the pasture fell even quieter than before.

"Thank you, sir," Pepe whined. "But, sir, uh Pop, we were, we are, , ," he paused and seemed to force a breath into his lungs as he glanced toward Adam. His face sunk when the doctor didn't take over and he glanced around the pasture again.

"Thank you sir, I will be a good First Boy," he gasp. After another pleading glance he added, "We are to have a meeting, , , we would like to have a meeting, Sir." his face tightened so tensely I had to grab my saddle to keep from reaching out and reassure him, to cuddle him.

"We are to be allowed to choose a new name for our, I mean your Childrens Home, sir, if we still may. And we are to vote on it at our meeting and please if you would attend? If we are still allowed sir please sir!" he blurted out. Even the gentle South Texas breeze seem to fall silent as he paused. "Will you attend? Sir?"

"I'd love to, thank you for asking me!" I exclaimed, earning an instant, blinding smile from the lad, and a what seemed like a collective sigh from the two dozen or so boys staring at us. I grasp Diablo's saddle horn to keep the air currents his miles deep dimples from sucking me into them before asking, "What time, and, , , what time is the meeting and where, I would be honored to attend."

"May we still use the Director's, , ," he whined toward Adam, but cut himself off and finally looked me directly in the face. "May we use your pool? Sir? We always have our meetings there!" he bubbled. "Is, two-o'clock acceptable?"

I nodded, and before I could answer he planted a kiss on my cheek that I was sure left marks from his braces, and launched his horse into a warp three gallop, hooting something in Spanish or Portuguese I couldn't understand as the other boys galloped away next to him.

"Thanks, Christian. You have a skill, I never would have believed they would have accepted any adult as quickly as they have you," Adam said as we watched the calvary disappear over the hill.

"Yeah, what am I into regarding this, meeting?" I asked. "Maybe you should handle this one, and I'll just listen in." I offered.

"No can do," he answered. He dug two more beers out of my saddle bag and offered me one before continuing, "Except for their Director, usually adults aren't invited to those meetings, you're on your own." "Good luck, but I'm hungry, let's go home." he added and prodded Zeus into a rapid trot before I could respond.

Although I was thrilled to see that Dad and Mary were clearly feeling better, I think Adam groaned as loudly as I did when we were served cold sandwiches and potato chips for lunch. Mary seemed to pick up on our expressions as she set out an unopened jar of pickles.

"Well, the kids called and they are eating at the boys' ranch, there was no one to cook for!" she declared. "We're going to cook something for supper," she announced before disappearing inside.

"No one to cook for! I just own the place! And pay her," Adam groaned as he stuffed a dry chip in his mouth. "I know where I rate!" he drowned in a swallow of beer.

As much as I wanted to find out what was going on regarding Tim and his job offer, even the rumor I had heard regarding Dad wanting to move next weekend, I bounced off of rock walls at every turn. To my surprise Tim and Judy had gone horse riding to 'talk'. Cindy wouldn't release anything but seemingly knowing looks, and Dad all but ignored my objections, declarations that we were not moving until summer and disappeared into Mary's apartment before I could continue.

Adam's advice regarding my meeting was of even less help, 'Wear swim trunks under your jeans, and take your horse not your motorcycle' was all he could offer. He did hand me a freshly filled saddlebag/beer cooler before I started toward the pasture.

"I guess you are my escort?" I quipped when I saw Ginger waiting next to Diablo as I entered the pasture. My guess was accurate, she trotted next to us as I rode wherever they were taking me.

I took a minute to stroke Diablo's, then Ginger's snouts after dismounting. I wish you guys could go with me, you might know what's going on! I silently told them.

I took a deep breath, and held it in for a couple of seconds before opening the gate to the Director's residence back yard. I was glad I had when the two dozen or so boys sitting around the pool jumped up and snapped to a military style attention. It took me a second to realize, or believe, they were all only wearing skin tight Speedos and bright smiles. Next weekend might work! I chuckled as I surveyed the sea of perfect little bodies before me.

To Be Continued…

Notes from the Author:

Yes, it looks like Christian, Gramps and clan, even Tim et al are about to start a new life, which will in a chapter or two begin the (loosely) third part of my trilogy. Although it was going to be entitled 'The Ranch', now Pepe and his charges get to vote on what they want their boys' ranch to be named.

Want to vote, or suggest a name? It has to be a name that: Reflects the freedom of lifestyles (gay and/or bi), and ethnic diversity it offers, as well as the safe haven from abuse and/or ridicule its boys enjoy. Also, a flavor of the southern, Texas relaxed lifestyle and South Texas hospitality it offers. (Gee that sounds easy!)

You are welcome to submit your ideas to this naming contest, I'm looking forward to hearing from you. The winner will receive, well, actually nothing! (I knew that would make you stay up nights thinking about ideas!!!) On the bright side, Ginger has offered to give the winner a slurpie, wet tongue kiss, and Ebert has promised to offer a prize, but I'm not sure if it's a puppy kiss or him hiking his leg on your shoe! (Hey, better than Zeus offering the same!