Patient John Doe

Chapter 19

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!)

My alarm clock hatefully announced it was morning. It continued to buzz its hateful assault into my ears, ignoring my hopes it would go away, until I delivered what I was sure was a fatal blow to its snooze button. 'Take that, asshole!' I thought as I glared at the beast for a second before rolling back into my warm blankets.

"Yeah, I know, but at least the only thing I have to do this morning is get the kids off to school and meet Cindy for breakfast. No patients until this afternoon," I answered when the covers groaned at me. 'Did I really talk to blanket, a piece of dead sheep's fur?' I asked myself. 'Maybe you should find a Shrink's Shrink, you are losing it!' I was still building up the nerve to begin a reality check, when the blanket squirmed somewhat, pushing its warmth against my body.

After a couple of tries I convinced one of my eyes to reopen slightly, and after pausing again I lifted the covers, finding a crop of strawberry blond hair, snuggled tightly against a mess of golden blond fur and nylon straps pushed against him. "Hi Dad," Mark muttered in a sleepy voice. "We don't gotta get up already, do we?" he added as he reached across Johnny and cupped my ribs with one hand.

'God, I wish!' I thought as I lowered the covers and wrapped my arm around his bony shoulder. "You guys are suppose to be in your own beds, remember the rule about school nights?" I replied. "Come on son, you guys promised," I added, trying to ignore his and Johnny's snuggle and make a valid attempt at being a responsible parent. I think I gave myself away when I unknowingly began rubbing Mark's thin back and neck.

"Well, but Johnny was scared and stuff, he, well, he is scared about today, Sir," Mark answered, his voice getting clearer and higher as he spoke. 'Yeah well, I'll chew them out NEXT time they do it,' I decided.

All too soon the beast began its rude assault again. Reluctantly I pulled the covers back and leaned around, slapping the snooze button again. Mark yawned a wide silver yawn before he sat up in bed. He quickly reached down to Johnny, pulling his brother's thumb from his sleeping mouth before glancing at me, his face clearly hoping I didn't see.

"Wake him, then go wake the others, if you hurry you have time for a quick swim," I suggested. I had to snicker when Johnny instantly rolled over in the bed giving me a wide eyed smile. "Well, I know how to wake you up!" I teased as I kissed him, then Mark on their foreheads. "Go get Ronnie and Junior up, I'll start some breakfast.

I stopped for a quick pit stop in my bathroom and started into the kitchen still just wearing just my briefs, but grabbed a pair of gym shorts, not bothering to put them on until after I poured a cup of coffee. I had just straightened back up when I heard a covey of kids rush through the family room, and glanced out the window as they dove into the pool, still clad only in their briefs. 'What the hell, an advantage of living in the country, no one to bother you, 'I thought as I watched them frolic.

I had just put a pound of bacon into the microwave and begun scrambling some eggs when I heard the front door open. 'Where are they going?' I asked myself. 'They're not going to the pasture in their underwear, no shoes,' I hoped as I put the bowl down and rushed toward the door to stop them.

"Good morning, Adam!" Mary bubbled as she stepped out of the foyer, scaring the crap out of me. "Oh, the house smells wonderful, I'm surprised it hasn't woken the boys!" she added.

I was about to reply when I realized I was standing shirtless, wearing only skimpy gym shorts in front of a distinguished lady older than my mother. I could feel my face blush red as I crossed my arms in front of my chest. "Ah, good morning, excuse me for a second," I groaned as I made my way to my bedroom. 'Oh shit, the boys!' I thought as I jerked a shirt from the closet. 'Fuck, what to do?' After thinking for a minute I grabbed four towels from my bathroom and went to the door from my bedroom onto the patio. After several tries I got Junior's attention, gesturing him to me. "Mary is here, you guys wrap yourselves before you come inside," I half whispered, half growled to him.

My heart sank as I went back into the kitchen and saw Mary staring out the window toward the pool. "They look so cute, so carefree," she commented making me blush again. "But I'm surprised they don't swim nude!" she added, turning my blush from red to crimson. "You're the last person I expected to be bashful," she added when she saw my face. "What's the difference between seeing you shirtless in the pool and in the kitchen?" she asked with a knowing smile. "Should I make wheat or white toast?"

I had to snicker as the boys finished breakfast. As Mary and I finished preparing the meal I sent everyone upstairs to get dressed. Junior, Mark and Ronnie soon afterward appeared at the breakfast bar in their school shorts and uniform shirts, Johnny right behind wearing Hill Country gym shorts and tee-shirt. After they ate and the boys carried their plates to the sink, Mary followed them with her eyes. "Johnny, we have a busy day today. Please go upstairs and change into a pair of pants or walking shorts, and a shirt with a collar," she said. "And, please wear socks and shoes, and be sure to tuck your shirt in." 'This might be good,' I though as she looked at her watch and added, "Please hurry, we have to begin in twenty minutes. We will start everyday promptly at eight o'clock."

'She don't mess around,' I thought as I turned onto the expressway a few minutes later. Mary had already planned their day, actually the next several, even providing me with a written schedule. She was to give Johnny a series of tests this morning while she set up appointments with Cornerstone and Hill Country. After a half hour lunch break his afternoon would be occupied with a combination of lesson related evaluations, exactly what I would have ordered for a work up of a suspected learning disabled patient. Her schedule was actually a full hour longer than Mark and Ronnie's school day. 'Now I almost wish I had installed surveillance cameras, just to watch the show,' I thought as I wondered how Mary would get along with Ginger in her new role.

"She is going to be a God-send," Cindy commented as I filled her in on my morning. "By the way, I used the information from Johnny's custody petition to prepare the incorporation paperwork for her as a PC. I am going to have a friend of mine who does corporate law review it, and I would like to bring it out for her to sign this afternoon.

After we ordered our breakfasts I filled her in about my discussions with Jay and his mate, along with their father. Without wanting to I found myself dodging direct references to their sexuality, referring to them as brothers living together instead of partners. She listened intently, then looked away as if in deep thought as I finished up. When she looked back at me her face told me I was screwing up.

"Are they single step brothers, or a gay couple?" she asked, as calmly as if asking the time. "All the rumors are true, all attorneys are crocked as snakes, but trust your lawyer." She took a bite of her meal, and sipped some juice almost as if giving me a little time to think. "What about you? Are you gay or straight?" she asked. "I've often wondered. You're a very eligible, a six figure eligible bachelor, that dates his horses and raises kids for a hobby. You are either gay, or a boy lover."

I was trying to decide how to answer her question, both to myself and publically, and if I should tell her to fuck off and die for being so intrusive when she added, "I don't really care, you are the best thing that has ever happened to three, well four little guys including mine. Are they fit parents? Can they help troubled kids; do what you are doing? From what you said they are, and that it would help their emotional health to fill that need. Are you willing to certify that as a professional opinion?" After I nodded my head she cupped my hand and offered a personable smile.

"I don't know much about family law in Virginia, but from school I do remember not only did the Pilgrims land in New England, but their Puritan crap was carved into stone as are their ancient laws. If Waco is the heart of the Bible belt, those folks are the lock of the Chastity Belt! I know some colleagues I can call, I'll let you know something tonight or tomorrow." I started to feel a little relieved, that she was letting me off the hook, when she added, "You never answered my question! Let's talk this afternoon."

Considering I was away all weekend, and had not been in my practice since Friday, everything was surprisingly calm at my practice. The resident that had taken care of my hospital rounds did a perfect job, and my nurse was so kind as to schedule a light afternoon for me. Mary hadn't wasted any time either, and about mid-afternoon Hill Country called, asking me to stop by and sign Johnny's final release paperwork. 'Damn, I might get home before the kids!' I thought as I turned onto the freeway after completing my afternoon rounds.

Zoe and Hera were waiting by the gate when I turned into the ranch, but just gave the car a fleeting glance and turned their attention back to the road, I'm sure looking for Cornerstone's bus. As I stopped in front of the house, Ginger appeared at the pasture fence, gave me what was clearly a dirty look, and turned going back toward the rear of the house. 'Wow, I wonder what I did to deserve that?' I thought as I walked to the front door.

The house was surprisingly quiet when I walked in, no Johnny bouncing up to give me a hello hug as he always did. I got a bit of a start when I went to put my laptop in my study, he was sitting at a table on one side of the room, concentrating on some papers before him. "Hi Pumpkin!' I exclaimed, bending down and kissing the top of his head.

"Hi Pop," he answered. He looked up at me briefly, then back at his work for a second. After looking toward the study door briefly he climbed out of his chair and wrapped his arm around me as I pulled him into a hug. "Well, but I gotta finish this, sir," he said an instant later, pulling away from me and rushing back to his seat. 'Damn, he's clean this time of day?' I thought as I noticed his hair neatly combed, his shirt carefully tucked into his shorts.

"Good afternoon, Adam," Mary said from the doorway. "Do you need any help, Johnny?"

"No Ma'am, I only have one page to do still," he replied with a proud grin, but quickly turned his attention back to his project.

Mary handed me my afternoon beer, and nodded her head toward the kitchen as I stepped back into the family room. "I hope you don't mind me allowing him in your study," she began, "But it was the most study conducive area I could think of, and still have him close by."

"Not at all, it seems to work, he worked hard at Hill Country, but I don't think I ever saw him that dedicated! A one second hug, and blowing me off for schoolwork? I'm shocked!"

"Goal completion incentives," she answered with a slightly sinister grin. "His scholastic day ends when he completes his assigned tasks, not when the clock declares it over. Oh, the same with breaks," she added, setting a couple of cupcakes and a glass of milk on the breakfast bar. "The results can be amazing!" 'I wonder if she'd be interesting in proctoring homework sessions for the other two?' I jokingly asked myself.

We talked a couple of more minutes before Johnny came into the kitchen, slipping under my arm and pushing against my side. "I'm done, I mean I'm finished Ma'am," he announced, offering Mary a stack of papers. He glanced up at me with a wide grin, then cast a longing look at the milk and cakes next to us as I stroked his shoulder and gently tucked him into a snuggle.

The boy pushed a little tighter against me as his eyes darted between the snack and Mary, who was inspecting his papers. "Very good!" she commented, giving him a warm smile. "You did an excellent job all day, we even finished ten minutes early, I am very proud of you!" she added as she reached over and tousled his hair.

He blushed slightly and looked up at me with a proud smile, then pulled out from under my arm and leaped onto one of the breakfast bar stools. Mary and I both chuckled as he inhaled both cupcakes and the entire glass of milk in what seemed to be one motion. "Can I go see Ginger now?" me mumbled, his mouth still full from the last of his snack. "Can I go riding, please?"

"As soon as you change clothes," I answered. His face tightened for a brief instant, but then brightened again as he jumped down from his seat and darted upstairs, his limp barely visible even as he climbed the stairs.

Mary started to bring me up to date on her plans, but only had begun when he was back downstairs. "I can't get this thing back on!" he cried as he rushed toward me, his shoulder splint hanging haphazardly on his chest. Despite him anxiously squirming and shuffling his feet like his pants were full of ants or something, I managed to secure his arm fairly quickly, and turned him toward the door, popping him on the butt.

He rushed toward the patio door but abruptly turned and rushed back to me. "Thanks, Pop, I mean Dad!" he exclaimed as me kissed my cheek. "Thanks Mary," he said giving her a brief hug before turning and disappearing outside in a flash. We watched from the kitchen window as he darted toward the pasture gate, where Ginger was bucking her head and kicking her rear hooves up in joy.

I had just slipped into my bedroom to get in a pair of trunks, and hopefully get into the pool when I heard Mark, Ronnie, and only slightly surprisingly, Junior come into the house. I felt a little honored when they actually interrupted their assault on Mary's cupcakes and gave me a group hug as I entered the room. "Mom said to come here, she's gonna come and pick me up," Junior informed me.

I noticed a bit of tightness in Ronnie's face as they resumed their cupcake eradication efforts. He gave me a couple of questioning looks before finally asking, "How come Johnny gets to ride all day and we gotta go to school?"

"I think you should ask Johnny that question," Mary answered before I could. "The answer might surprise you!" she added ignoring his dirty look.

"Hi Guys!" Cindy interrupted, walking into the family room unannounced. "What, Johnny is the only one that likes to ride anymore?" she quipped. "We're not going to be here very long, if you want to ride, go change your clothes and get saddled up," she told her son. The three kids exchanged quick glances before each of them wolfed down another cake and rushed upstairs.

"If I keep hanging around with you I'm going to get fat!" Cindy snickered as she got a beer from behind the bar. "I have mostly good news," she added as we sat down in the family room. "Sign these," she instructed Mary handing her several documents. "Read them later, you have copies, but you'll be a PC by the end of business tomorrow if you do. Also, you guys can bill the state for Mary's services regarding Johnny's recovery, up to six hours a day at industry standard rates."

"But, OT Clinics bill at fifty-five an hour! That cannot be legal!" Mary somewhere between mumbled and gasped.

"I'm sorry, but the State of Texas will only pay fifty-three-fifty." Cindy countered. "But it's a done deal, as long as you become a PC and Adam writes a prescription for the care. If that happens today, you get paid starting today." She ignored Mary's shocked face and told me, "Oh, don't answer calls from CPS accounting, they are PISSED! But it's good for them," she said, the grin on her face reminding me of Carl's copper wire joke.

"Excuse me, do you have a bill for me, how much do I owe you for all of this?" Mary asked with a fair amount of apprehension in her voice. Mary shifted nervously when Cindy said she did and rifled through her purse.

"I think this would be a fair trade, no rush, whenever you get the time," Cindy said, handing Mary a folded sheet of paper. The recent retiree's face tightened, as if praying for her savings account's future, as she paused, then slowly opened the bill. "The top one is the Fried Spanish Rice you served the other weekend, it's invaluable - I'm in love with it," Cindy told her. "The other two are one's Carl Junior is driving me up the walls to cook after he had them out here."

"But, I couldn't accept this, I have been told by friends what attorney fees were when they opened their clinics. I have some savings, I could, , ,"

"I'm a soccer mom that happens to be a member of the bar," Cindy cut her off. "Besides, you are taking care of my second most favorite little guy. Or, is he my favorite?" she tittered, melodramatically looking toward the wall as if for guidance. "Besides, the way you take care of my son when he's here, I'm going to be owing you soon!" Mary stared at Cindy for a second before moving her lips slightly as a reply and hurried into the kitchen.

"I've some information, I'm not sure how helpful, regarding the other matter we discussed this morning," she told me. She paused, her lawyer eyes cutting into me as if asking if she should proceed. When I nodded she continued, "My colleagues confirmed what I had said. In Virginia, there is almost no hope of a single male getting custody of anything but a, well really a next-of-kin child, even those end up in sometimes nasty court hearing and investigations. If your friends tried to adopt, or even want to foster a teen or pre-teen, the Virgin State would probably fight it until the kid was a voting adult."

'Yeah well,' I thought. "Cindy, they could help some kids, some troubled kids, and they want to, they need to!" I answered.

"You hinted that they are, , , financially, comfortable?" she asked. "My New England friends and I had an idea, but it wouldn't be cheap for them." She paused, seeming to wait for some reaction from me. I shrugged my shoulders slightly, wondering what she was getting me into now.

"If they established a residency in another state, let's say Texas, JUST for the sake of discussion, they would then have the right to petition prayers to that state's court system, and under that State's laws and precedents. Do you get my drift?"

I leaned forward slightly as I tried to digest her suggestion. "I think I understand the drift of your suggestion, but, they have well established lives, and a beautiful home on the east coast, they are not going to move over this. It would cost Jay his practice, a second generation shop!" Mary startled me setting a fresh beer next to me, then Cindy, cupping Cindy's shoulder for an instant before walking away.

"I didn't suggest they move here, but establish residency here; if you will a dual residency, like a lot of politicians do. Basically, they would need to buy a piece of property in, let's say Texas, that has a dwelling on it suitable for raising a child. I'm not their attorney so I cannot offer any advice, but an ideal location might be in the Judicial Court District 249, JUST as an example, of course! Provided they are at their 'southern' residence from time to time, by law they can reside anywhere in the US the rest of the time! The same thing we both did in school, I know you attended school in other states like I did. "

"But we were college kids living in dumps, not potential parents," I countered.

"That is what lawyers are for. Provided there is nothing in their pasts that could jeopardize their approval, this in all likelihood can happen. I used to clerk for a this guy, when he was a Federal Judge," she said, handing me a name and address. "He's retired now but is involved with a firm in Richmond, as Emeritus Senior Partner, a firm that MIGHT even deal with some of the Sanchez family business. Of course he can't disclose any relationships because of privilege, but I would bet your friends know his name." From the glimmer in her eye I could tell she knew much more than she was saying about the relationship than she was offering. "Have them give him a call, he and I are on the same wavelength.

'The soccer mom from hell! Shit, remind me not to piss this women off!' I thought. "I see you were about to jump in, would you mind if I had a quick swim before I take my rat home?" she interrupted my thoughts. She was in the bathroom changing before I could respond.

Cindy's suggestion continued to intrigue me, but contacting Jay and Ronnie in Virginia wasn't in the cards for that night. After she and I swam for a few minutes Junior and her left for home, Mary leaving with them before my boys and I sat down to supper. I let the kids relax for a few minutes after we ate before sending them to bathe and get their homework done. When I did Johnny rushed back into my study instead of upstairs along with his brothers, giving me a sheepish grin as he followed behind carrying a wad of paper.

I had just booted my computer to write Jay when my cell rang, one of my patients had screwed up, for the tenth or twelfth time, and I spent the next hour or so telling the police not to release him, and resisting the urge to drive to town and strangle the brats mother as she condemned me to Hell over and over for not rushing to the rescue of her angelic little drug addict from the jaws of all those evil policemen. 'Oh well, life is back to normal,' I thought as I turned back to the computer to e-mail Virginia.

I was settling my fingers on the keyboard's home-keys when a thin body pushed against me, pushing my hand off the keyboard as it leaned into me. "Can you check our homework?" Ronnie asked as I somewhat automatically reached around his thin waist. "Here's mine, and here's Mark's," he informed me, handing me two stacks of paper.

"Where is Mark?" I asked.

"Well, he's helping Johnny finish his, he's got a bunch of it!" Ronnie answered. "Arf, I'm glad she's not my teacher!" As much as it hurt I resisted the urge to ask Ronnie if he found out why Johnny was already riding his horse before Ronnie could, and turned around in my office chair to my desk, and began reviewing their work, Ronnie pushing one hip onto my thigh before I could push under my desk. I had checked most of their work when Ronnie's alto voice interrupted my concentration, asking "You guys are done already?"

Before I could look around Mark, then Johnny, crowded around my chair as Johnny pushed his papers in front of me. "Will you check mine, please, its gotta be right and everthing! I mean everything," he whined.

I was amazed as I read his assignments, he miscalculated one of the forty or so math problems he had solved, and didn't do well at all using 'there', 'their' and 'they're', along with only two spelling errors, in the four pages plus of sentences he had written.

"This is great, I am impressed!" I told him. "You did fantastically today, do you like Mary teaching you?" I risked.

"She's NEAT, she teaches a lot of stuff for me!" he answered. "I mean to me, sir."

"Yeah, and his arm is getting all kinds of better and stuff!" Mark added, beaming with pride.

"Let's go celebrate, anyone ready for ice cream?" I suggested. I silently praised the people that made my carpets as I watched the boys dash across it, the carpet absorbing the skidding from their rapidly accelerating feet's friction without burning.

By mid-morning the next day I was convinced some force from the dark side had sent Murphy to stalk me, lawbook in hand. After solving the tenth or so problem of the morning I finally found time to check my e-mail, but could only quickly respond to a couple of urgent messages before my next patient. What was suppose to be a half-hour of blocked time right before lunch, a time for me to catch up on the administrative duties of my practice, turned into an emergency trip to the hospital to deal with one of my patient's latest suicide attempt.

'Yeah well, I guess I could get up, say two in the morning and write Jay, maybe no one would find me then,' I thought as I fed money into one of the hospital vending machines. 'Wow, I've got a whole ten minutes to get back to my office for my next appointment,' I groaned as I tried to decide on embalmed ham on stale rye, or rotten egg salad on moldy white for my dining pleasure.

I started to open my 'sandwich' as I got in my car, but after looking at it again tossed it in the passenger seat. 'Fuck it, it wont hurt to try, I might catch him,' I told the steering wheel as I dialed Jay's cell phone number. To my surprise he answered on the second ring. After assuring him Johnny and everyone was doing well, that I was calling him on another matter, I relayed a very abbreviated version of Cindy's and my conversation last night, and gave him the name of the Richmond attorney she suggested they contact.

"We know Judge Aeolus, he did some legal work for Ronnie's and my company, and a lot of work for Dad before he retired. I'm having one of THOSE weeks," he said, "But I'll ask Ronnie to call him this afternoon." We laughed and sympathized which each other as we stepped on each each saying we had to ring off, he was rushing from his office to the hospital, already fifteen minutes late for a surgery.

"Well, I'm only five minutes late, but five minutes away," I answered, pushing my big cat's accelerator pedal to full throttle. We both laughed when he joked he could have been a Plumber, or a 'Lazy Cook' "You know I'm going blackmail you with that the next time I see your partner," I teased before pushing the end button on my cellular.

'Time to stretch your legs, girl,' I told my Jaguar as I opened her door after finishing my afternoon rounds, over an hour later than usual. I pushed the edge as far as I dared driving to the freeway. 'Damn, I don't like this,' I thought as I tried to call the ranch for the third time in the past hour and not getting an answer. 'Run Kitty run,' I added as entered the expressway and watched the speedometer climb.

I had mixed emotions as I pulled in front of the house very shortly later, having cut the drive time home almost in half. Mary's car was there, but no horses or people in sight. The house was just as empty when I rushed inside, nothing appeared disturbed, but no kids, no Mary. I found myself falling into a defensive mode as I looked around the house, then out the patio door. I could only see one horse, unsaddled, but no other signs of life. 'Not again,' I thought.

I looked back around the family room, almost hoping I had missed something or someone, but I hadn't. I was trying to decide if I should check the rest of the house, go outside for a better look, or get my handgun out of the safe when my cell phone rang, almost making me soil my pants. 'Sorry Dude, but not now," I silently shouted with my eyes as I read 'Ronald Sanchez' on the caller ID.

'Chill, fool,' I told myself, taking a deep breath, then turned back to look outside. My eyes bugged as several horses came into view from behind the barn. 'I don't EVEN believe this shit!' I thought out loud as I rushed into my study. 'You better have at least some charge left!' I threatened my camcorder as I ripped it out of its carry bag.

'Damn, someone has GOT to invent Zoom Audio!' I mumbled to myself as I adjusted the video zoom and began recording. Mary was perched, almost propped on Athena, sitting as stiffly upright as any old drawing I have seen of a tightly corseted lady from Victorian times. Mark, mounted on Hera and Johnny, riding Ginger, were riding on each side of her as Ronnie walked in front, leading Athena by her reins. Zoe was saddled, walking a little sideways as she gave her boy dirty looks. Zeus and the other horses were surrounding the entourage as if they were serving as body guards.

I tried to stifle my snickers, remembering the camera had a microphone, as I zoomed in on Mary. Both of her hands were locked around the saddle in a death grip, her knuckles as white as her face. I only got to shoot for a minute or so before Zeus turned toward the house and loudly snorted, but ducked inside before anyone but he had noticed my presence. 'That made the day, all the bull-shit, worth it,' I snickered as I rushed into my bedroom to change, and to try to look innocent when they returned to the house.

By the time I had changed into a pair of swim trunks, gotten a beer from the bar and stepped onto the patio, everyone had dismounted and started toward the house. I wondered if it was from affection or need of support that Mary had her arms around Ronnie and Johnny's shoulders as they made their way up the hill, but hid my snicker and waved at them.

"Good afternoon, , , Doctor, , , I, I walked down with the boys to see the horses, they are wonderful animals," Mary said, her voice a little shaky. She paused just for an instant before sending the kids inside to wash their hands and get something to drink before asking, "May I have a sip of your rum?" as I followed her inside.

I considered teasing her as she downed a large jigger of rum in one swallow, but I didn't. "Wonderful animals," she repeated before she went to the kitchen, gave the kids a quick hug and excused herself for the evening.

As we ate supper I debated if I should ask the boys about Mary's riding session, and how they convinced her to mount a horse, but curiosity finally got the better of me. 'Yeah, my timid little boy, afraid of his own shadow,' I silently snickered as I listened to Johnny stammering explanation. Johnny, after unsuccessfully asking Mary several times if he could visit Ginger during his breaks, sucked her into offering him a 'bribe'; if he completed all of his day's assignments at least an hour early, she would go down to the pasture and conduct that last hour of his tutelage there.

"Ginger said to bet her if we could answer all her questions right, she'd ride. Ginger said she'd like horses and stuff after!" Johnny proclaimed with a bashful smile. I resisted the urge to ask about any ongoing extensions to their bet. 'Call Stewart, ask her to include Mary in tomorrow's riding lesson,' I added to my mental to-do list. 'And stock extra Rum.'

After the boys cleaned the kitchen and went upstairs to bathe and do their homework, I finally found time to climb into the pool and lean against my favorite water-jet. 'There is a God,' I thought as I relaxed the back of my head against the pool's wall and took in a beautiful sunset, enjoying the massage of the pool relaxing my neck. 'This is God's country,' I reassured myself as all of the day's stress floated off into the pool's drain.

"I don't FUCK'N believe it!" I groaned when my cell phone broke my trance. I started to ignore it, leave it to its own devices, but crawled out of the pool to check the caller ID. 'I hope this damn thing won't shock,' I thought as I settled back against the pool's jet and pushed Talk.

"Hi Adam, thank you for you help, especially so quickly! Ronnie and I are on speaker-phone," Jay began.

"I spoke with Judge Aeolus at length earlier, thank you so much. I'm amazed that you connected with him," Ronnie added. "He knows, our family very, very well, and suggested we contact, well actually retain, the attorney you are using, I believe her name is Roberts?"

Before I could answer Jay added, "When we tried the phone number Aeolus gave us, an answering machine answered, with a message more from a private residence than a law firm. We cannot find a listing in your local directories for her law office, her home number is non-published."

From the silence on the line I could tell they were trying to tactfully finish their query. "Cindy is an attorney, and a damn good one," I began. "She is also a full time mom and doesn't have a law practice or office, instead spends her time shuttling kids between school and lessons, the perfect Soccer Mom.

"She also managed to get me custody of Johnny in about three days, so Jay could treat him. She got me custody of my other two in about two weeks," I answered. "When it comes to the law, she is crooked as a snake, when she dies we probably will twist her into the ground like a corkscrew instead of burying her, but if you want a lawyer on your side, I know of none better."

Their pause was briefer than I expected. "Jay is tied up here all weekend, but I would like to meet with her, can you arrange it?" Ronnie asked. "I have booked a flight Thursday evening, and reservations at a local hotel our foundation owns, the Wyatt just north of your airport."

"I'll see what I can do," I answered. "But, your lodging reservations are wrong, I insist you be our guest here on the ranch. No argument, especially if you want my lawyer to try to free some time from her, , , busy schedule!"

"Thank you, but with the short notice and. . ." Ronnie began to counter.

"What time is your flight? Or, I can the boys hang around the airport all evening holding up a sign reading, 'Yankee Fry Cook Report Here' up for all the terminal to see." I interrupted.

"Just have one of them carry a camera!" Jay chuckled. "I want thirty-five copies, one to mail each of our Executive Chefs!" From the smirks I could hear over the phone I found myself wishing video phone.

"Seven-ten your time," Ronnie answered. "But, are you sure I'm not imposing?"

"Where you would impose would be making me explain to the boys why you're NOT staying here, I'd probably have to commit your namesake," I countered. "I don't think I'm going to tell the kids in advance, the surprise will be fun to watch, and I doubt they would get anything done in school if they knew," I said after he gave me his flight number and airline.

"But, please have the sign and a camera!" Jay heckled. I could hear Ronnie mutter something, but couldn't make out what.

"Oh, in case this works out with Mrs. Roberts, do you know a good realtor?" Ronnie added after they made a couple of more laughing comments I couldn't understand.

"I was completely pleased with the agent that found this place for me, I'll give him a call, see if he is available Friday or Saturday. Can I give him an idea what you might be looking for?"

"Yes, and no," Jay answered. "Between us we have been to south Texas about three time. We own a restaurant in Houston, but from the time we have spent in that city we have never had much interest in visiting the rest of your state."

"Except for the pictures you showed of your property. We definitely would like a rural setting, with enough land for our family to have a vacation getaway. Of course Doctor Sanchezstein in interested in something that might offer some return from our investment," Ronnie said.

"A piece of cake," I snickered, "I'm sure my realtor already knows exactly what listing to show you! This guy is pretty good, and let's plan on spending some time riding around, give you a lay of the area."

"You two going for long rides in the country?" Jay quipped.

""Wait until he meets my cook! It will be love at first sight," I countered. "He might not come back! Or better yet, I'll send my kid's back with him! A special deal, this weekend only!"

"YOU are the evil man, Charlie Brown," Jay teased.

"And I'm hanging up, while I still have some pride!" Ronnie grumbled. "See you Thursday evening."

'Wow, this is happening quick!' I thought as I set my phone on the deck behind me. I relaxed against the pool's wall for a second, enjoying the beautiful orange sliver of the sun still peeking above the mountains as dusk settled onto my paradise. "God, I hope this works, I hope they get the kids they want, that they deserve and can help," I told the sun, as it gave its final wink at me, and the pasture below it as it said its goodnights to us.

'All the world is well,' I thought as I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the deck. A second later a long, warm tongue splashed my face as Buddy rubbed his wet nose against me, whining as he bathed me with his kisses. I reached for him, but he backed away from me toward the house. I was about to call him back when I heard another whimper coming from behind me. 'What now?' I thought as I turned toward the house and saw Johnny pushed against my bedroom door in a fetal position, tears flowing from his eyes like twin waterfalls.

"What's wrong Pumpkin?" I asked as I kneeled next to him, Buddy jumping between us. I took a wad of papers out his hand and leaned against him. I ignored him as he tightened his posture, and lifted him into my lap. He tried to pull away back toward the wall as I added, "It's okay, son, Dad's here, everything is going to be all right, I promise," I tried, kissing his tear soaked cheek.

"But, please, well, we'll be good again and stuff!" he sobbed. "Please don't send us away! We will be good again and stuff! I'll do anything you want, please!"

"Wait, son, I'm not going to send you, or anyone anywhere!" I tried, still trying to realize this was happening, much less what he was talking about. "Oh, shit!" I said before I realized it, as I recalled the joking end to my conversation with Virginia. "Johnny, I was joking when I said that, I was talking to, , , someone you know and like. I love you, I love all of you, can you believe that?"

"But, are you gonna sell us, please Dad, please I'll be good just let Mark and Ronnie stay! Please don't hurt them no more!" he cried as he again squirmed to get out of my hold.

"No one is going anywhere, I was teasing some of our friends, some that you know!" he quit squirming a little. "Can you keep a secret?" I asked. "A good secret, and one you only have to keep for a couple of days. I promise you'll, and your brothers will like it!" he gave me a far less than comfortable look, but shyly nodded his approval.

"Well, but, not here, someone might hear! Buddy is already listening!" I said. I took the papers from his hand again, picked him up and carried him to the pool. He relaxed somewhat and even giggled softly as we went into the water and I soaked him from the neck down. "Listen closely, I have to whisper because Buddy is listening!" I said as I tucked his head next to mine and put my lips next to his ear.

"Wow, and no one knows!" he howled. "Yeah cool! I won't tell no one, but do I getta go? To the airplane place? Ronnie's gonna totally freak!" he added, pushing into a tight hug.

"Not a word, not to anyone," I ordered. "Not even to Buddy!" I teased as our little friend swam into our hug. "You keep quiet too!" I said as I pulled the puppy against me. We snuggled for several minutes before I carried them to the pool's edge.

"Do you think I'm really gonna get to stay here?" Johnny whined as we climbed out of the water. Before I could say anything I guess my smile answered for me and he hugged me again.

"Oh, but, I gotta figure out what this word means, or Mary's gonna totally kill me! And Ginger!" he said as he rushed out of my arms and grasped the papers he had carried onto the deck.

"Let's go inside and try," I suggested as he handed me a now piece of very wet paper pulp. 'IF we can still read it!' I thought. 'Oh well, that gives it the lived in look,' I thought as I opened the door and Buddy rushed inside ahead of us, rolling and squirming as he dried his fur on the carpet.

I waited a few seconds before turning back to see why Johnny had not come inside. He was looking down toward the pasture, seemingly in deep thought. I had just followed his gaze to Ginger when he turned and pushed against me. "Ginger said she won't tell anyone too, sir!" he informed me.

'I still don't believe this, or that animal,' I thought as the filly's and my eyes met.

To Be Continued…