The story below is a work of fiction. It may contain erotic or sexually explicit behavior between males. If you find this offensive or are too young, please exit now.

The author reserves copyright privileges. This work may not be reproduced, except for personal use without the permission of the author.

Dedications: To Ry and Don. I’d like to thank my editor Bill H. and my favorite reader Dan (wink), as well as the other authors and readers who have been so supportive.

If you’d like to comment or say Hi, I’m at  John Tucker                


Chapter Forty-Eight

Robert stepped up to Margaret’s desk when it was just after 10 o’clock. The young office ‘go-fer’ had not seen Ron since their return from the cruise.

“Margaret,” Robert began, “Is Ron available?”

“Not now, I’m afraid,” she answered. He just got in about an hour ago and he has a pile of papers on his desk 6 inches deep. Is it important?”

“No, it’s personal and it can wait,” Robert replied as he started to turn away. “Sorry to bo…’

“Hi Robert” Ron interrupted, as he stepped into Margaret’s office. “What brings you here?”

“Well,” Robert said with hesitation, “I came to see if you were busy. I can come back later.”

“Nonsense,” Ron said smiling, “I always have time for you. Just give me a minute with Margaret.”

“Sure Ron,” the youth replied.

“Margaret, here are the papers on the Crescent Electronics proposal, all reviewed, signed, sealed, and now delivered.”

“Thanks Ron,” Margaret said in response. ”I’ll get these to Jeff Davis and Phil Thompson right away. I know they wanted to deliver them personally.”

“Good,” Ron said as he turned to Robert and with a flourish of his arm motioned toward his office door. “Come on in Robert.”

As the men disappeared through the doorway and it clicked shut, Margaret muttered as she grinned, “What do I know?”

“Have a seat Robert,” Ron said, motioning to the seating area sofa. “Would you like a cup of coffee or a soft drink?”

“Sure! A Coke would be fine, thanks,” Robert answered as he walked to the sofa but remained standing until Ron arrived from the small office bar. Seconds later Ron approached with a can of Coke and a cup of coffee for himself.

Seating himself in a chair, Ron placed the can and the cup on the coffee table as Robert sat down. “What can I do to for you my friend?”

“Well, I know you’re busy and all, and I don’t want to be a nuisance, but, well… uh… you know that Jeffery and I… well… we got to be real close on the cruise,” Robert said stammering.

Ron grinned at the youth’s obvious discomfort.

“Yes?” Ron answered as he played along. He knew suddenly why Robert was there.

“Well, ya know how we kinda like talked a little bit about maybe…uh… there might be some way that we could…uh... visit or maybe…uh… even be together? Have you thought any more about it? I mean, I’m not pushing or anything, but I thought maybe…”

“Yes, I have been giving it some thought,” Ron broke in with sudden inspiration. “Do you think that Jeffery might be willing to move to Las Vegas?”

A huge smile appeared across Robert’s face.

“Well, sure, I guess, I’m sure.” He said excitedly. “But what would he do?”

“Matt and I were talking about it only this past weekend. It seems that we have a transportation problem. I really need someone as a driver who can also take care of my personal cars. We have so many people coming and going from my house all the time that it’s becoming a real burden just to get them to where they need to go. We have out of town company guests too. I thought that I would buy a limo and an SUV for that purpose. Also, Matt needs a car. We were going to buy one for him this week. Someone needs to be a driver when necessary, take care of the vehicles, making sure they are maintained, are clean and have gas in them and all that. I also have a houseboat on Lake Mead that needs to be cared for. I don’t use it much, but it still needs to be looked after, you know the engines run up and all that, even in the winter. Think he might be interested?”

“I sure hope so,” Robert said. “I can call and ask him if you’d like. I talk to him about every other day. He would have to find a place to live too.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Ron commented. “We have a chauffeur’s apartment as part of our garage at home.”

“Wow that’s cool! How big is your garage?”

 “In addition to the apartment, the garage has a storage/work area and room for six cars. Of course we only have two in there now.”

“Uh, can I tell him how much it pays?” Robert asked.

“Sure! It plays $12 an hour, plus room and board. That’s figuring a 40-hour workweek, though the schedule will vary depending on our needs. We could probably work his schedule around a bit too, in case he wants to go to school.”

“Wow, that’s super!” Robert said enthusiastically. “When could he start?”

“I think that the week before Christmas would be fine. That’s in just over two weeks. Let’s say tentatively the 20th. There is a possibility that Tim will be going to Florida at Christmas time to be with Hans, so he could come then.”

“Oh, man. I can’t wait to ask him.”

“There’s the phone,” Ron said smiling and indicating his desk. “Help yourself. I need to step outside for a moment anyway.”

They both rose and Robert sat at Ron’s desk and reached for the phone. Ron stepped into Margaret’s office and closed the door as he passed through the doorway.

“Margaret, please put on my agenda for the lunch staff meeting that I want to buy a limo and an SUV. I’ll have Jan arrange for it and, oh, we’ll have a new employee too. It’s all personal stuff for Matt and me, but we’ll handle the transactions through the company.”

“Does this have anything to do with Robert?” she asked with a grin, looking at the lighted line indicator on her phone set. “Yes, indirectly.” Ron answered smiling. “I think I’ll stop down to see Will for a minute. If Robert finishes his call, ask him to wait.”

“Sure, Boss,” she said smiling as he walked down the hall, “Ya pussycat,” she added as he got out of hearing range.

        *        *        *

They had just finished a light lunch and Ron began the staff meeting.

“I’ll start off by discussing my New York trip and the possible purchase of the Construction Leasing building.” Ron said. He continued, providing both Jan and Will with an 8 page summary of all the relevant facts and figures. He indicated the uses of the building that he intended for Turner Consulting, the Friendship Trust and possibly Aztec- Turner Security.  The last page indicated the changes and improved return with those occupancies. He then produced a purchase agreement for their review.

“We need to have this proposal reviewed by legal, and the numbers checked by our financial analysts. Tomorrow would be fine for the results of that work. This could be a coup for our company, increasing our paper net worth by over $100 million, and result in additional cash flow. It could be a real moneymaker too if we can secure more tenants or even open additional Turner operations there. It wouldn’t be beyond consideration that Turner Investments might want a small office there to be near the capital markets. Our place on the stock market with our Brokers License would allow us to enter that market for others as well as for only ourselves as we do now. The deal is a win-win situation.  Construction Leasing intends to use the money to acquire their biggest competitor. The increased value of their stock alone would make the deal attractive even if the building only broke even. At any rate, please review the information and let me know your recommendations tomorrow.”

Will then gave his regular verbal report of the companies’ earnings and net worth as Ron scanned the figures. When Will had concluded the financial portion of his agenda, the three top executives discussed several operational problems and some opportunities for expansion. Ron had noted with pleasure the operational progress being made within his companies and saw during the review that his personal net worth now exceeded a billion dollars and that both his and his companies’ cash positions were excellent.

When Will concluded his presentation, Ron asked. “Have you worked on the numbers for Tyler’s share of our father’s estate?”  

“Yes, we just finished that report.” Will replied as he pulled some documents from the small pile of papers in front of him. “ His share, based on the criteria you gave us, is worth, $43,642,000. The value of his share of The Turner Charitable Fund is $31,426,000. Here is a breakdown of his assets including partial ownership of Aztec-Turner Security. With your approval I will FedEx this report to him for his review.”

Ron reviewed the numbers and initialed each page, handing the document back to Will.

“Instead of sending it Will, I’d prefer to give it to him myself. Matt and I are going over to see him on Friday.”

“That’s even better,” Will said smiling. “I’ll have a copy delivered to your office after we’ve finished our meeting.”

“Now for the next item,” Will continued, ” While we were preparing Tyler’s financial information, I took the liberty of preparing a similar document for ownership of assets for Matt. As you can see it’s exactly half of Tyler’s figures. The assets are listed and are similar to Tyler’s, except that there are other investments in place of Tyler’s large chunk of Aztec-Turner. About half of his assets are ownership stock in the Turner Companies and the other half is a small percentage of your own investments outside the company. The capital in the Charitable Trust is also half of Tyler’s and is identically invested like Tyler’s except that it is for half the amount. All of these funds can be moved, reinvested or liquidated as you move yours or can be handled independently.”  

Ron reviewed the documents and also signed and dated each page.

“Good work Will.” Ron said with a pleased expression on his face. “Please prepare a set of these documents so that I can give them to Matt.”

“One step ahead of you Ron,” Will said smiling. He handed Ron a second copy of the document that he had just signed.

Jan then began a review of the company’s operations’ staffing, and transportation assets. She reported that in addition to the two aircraft they currently owned, there were three “shared ownership” aircraft that they had available for their peak needs. She continued, discussing the tentative plan for the use of the yacht for a company outing for 7 days in early March. The excursion would be to the Bahamas and would be limited to each of the heads of the various Turner Companies and their partners or spouses. Ron reviewed the list of guests and the itinerary and approved the plan.

“Jan,” Ron interjected,  “I’d like to purchase a limo and a large SUV for my personal use. We may use the limo for company business too, but I’d like it to be housed at Matt’s and my house. I’d like a Mercedes for the Limo and a Cadillac Escalade for the SUV. If you can’t get the Mercedes or SUV in white, silver or gold would be acceptable, but not black. Black is pretty, but it is impractical in the desert. Matt and I will be buying a car for him too, probably this afternoon. I will call from the dealership and you can handle the insurance and the registration.”

“I will also be hiring Jeffery King, one of the crew members from the PT II as a chauffeur and to take care of my personal vehicles. Would you arrange for Dorothy to put him on my household’s payroll? He will start the 20th, right before Christmas at $12 an hour, and live in the chauffeur’s quarters.”

“I’ll take care of it Ron,” Jan said with a smile.

“Thanks, I hope you both know how much I rely on you and appreciate your excellent work. Now, are there any other items we need to discuss?”

“Just one item,” Jan interjected. “The Christmas party will be at the office next Saturday night. It will be similar to last year’s but with a few new people.”

“Great!” Ron said, “I’ll have a few jokes prepared.”

Jan and Will both smiled, secretly hoping that Ron was kidding.

They rose and excused themselves, leaving Ron’s office for their own, to begin work on the tasks discussed. Ron walked to his desk, picked up the receiver and dialed a number.

“Hi Matt,” Ron said into the receiver, “how’s the unpacking going?”  Matt replied that it was going well. “Do you have any plans for later this afternoon?” Matt answered in the negative. “Good! We need to do some shopping. I’ll pick you up at 3 o’clock.” Matt agreed and Ron said, “Love ya, sweet guy. See ya then.” He heard a similar goodbye, and hung up the phone.

            *        *        *

Ron and Matt lay in bed propped up on pillows, talking.

“Gosh, I’m still astounded at my new sports car. Matt gushed. “It’s too great.”

“Yeah, that model of Mercedes is brand new and top of the line.” Ron said smiling. “I like how the top folds into the trunk. Ragtops are nice too, but 90% of the time when the top is up you wish you had a hard top. It looks mean too and that baby is fast as well as luxurious.”

“I never thought I’d ever spend $90,000 for a car. That’s way more than I could make at the hotel in two years. You shouldn’t have spent that much on me.”

“My sweet man, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you if I could. If it makes you happy, it makes me happy. Besides, if you think it’s too much for me to spend, you can buy it yourself.”

“Ha!” I’ll never have that much money.” Matt said laughing.

“You already have. I was so distracted with the car buying and the evening’s festivities, that I forgot to give you this.”

Ron reached into a valise on the nightstand and withdrew three sheets of paper. Handing them to Matt, he watched and smiled as Matt’s eyes grew big in amazement.”

“This… this is unbelievable. Am I right? Does this really say that I’m worth over “$2 million?”

Ron laughed. “ Make that 21 million and change. Ya gotta learn to count the zeros, lover,” Ron said with a giggle,” Also there’s around $16 million in your charity account in case you feel like being generous. Please note that even though your checking account balance is not too large, there is $600,000 in a money market account. If you overdraw, the bank will simply cover the overdraft from the money market account the
next day.”

“Wow. I’m dumbfounded. When can I count it?” Matt kidded.

“Hey Babe, when you have that much, you hire somebody else to do the counting. You could count the money in your checking account if you really want to. As I said, the amount is not too large.”

I would hardly call $100,000 in a checking account ‘not too large’.” Matt said, still in wonder.

“Well, it’s not too large if you’re on a buying binge at the Mercedes store,” Ron said laughing. “I was just kidding about you paying me back for it, sweet guy. I wanted to give you something nice.”

“You don’t know how much I appreciate it all,” Matt said with a tear appearing in the corner of his eye. “But, I’d give back every penny that you’ve just shown me in a second if you needed the money for anything. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. I already have what I want, and that’s you.”

“I feel the same, Love,” Ron said as he touched Matt’s handsome, youthful face. “I’d be happy just to be with you, without all this frosting that surrounds us.”

“I don’t know about the frosting stuff, but I’ve got some cream that I’m anxious to share, if you’re interested,” Matt replied with a hungry look in his beautiful blue eyes.

“Mmmm, I love cream, where are you hidin’ it?”

“Look down, my love. It’s under the flagpole.” Matt said softly as he grinned, then leaned over to kiss his lover’s lips.

        *         *        *

The week passed quickly. Between the furious pace of business, and the looming holidays, both Matt and Ron were up to their ears in activity. Matt had taken over many of the things that would keep Ron from his business duties. Matt fussed over Mabel and her offspring, making sure that they were adjusting to school. Petey returned home one afternoon with a blackened eye and Matt asked about it with concern. “Nothin’ I couldn’ handle,” Petey said grinning. “Don’t think thet feller is gonna mess with ole Petey agin.” Matt decided to let the matter pass, unless the school called. He was not pleased with the scuffle, but he was pleased at how the whole family’s grammar was improving day by day.

The new SUV arrived just in time. Matt used it to take Mabel and her boys, as well as Tim on numerous Christmas shopping trips. He and Mabel also bought a small tree, lights and ornaments for the guesthouse so her family could have their own Christmas celebration, even though they knew that they were invited to be part of his and Ron’s.

Parker, the houseboys, and Mabel’s boys all helped to decorate the house and put up the large Christmas tree in the living room. Matt made sure that each of the boys was rewarded monetarily, most of which he saw spent on gifts. Mabel made sure that the boys helped keep the guesthouse clean and tidy. They received a small allowance for their efforts from their mother, who was now receiving a salary for helping Dorothy manage the household.

At the office Ron’s week was a bustle of activity. Besides the normal catching up that needed to be done as a result of his absence from the office, he conferred with Tony’s attorney, Steve Bartholomew, on the progress of defense preparation for the pending trial. He kept in close contact with Jack, Alan and Richard Adams in New York and spoke twice with Tyler in Los Angeles. On Thursday afternoon, he received a call from Bryan who was responding to a call that Ron had placed earlier in the week.

“Hi, Ron” Bryan said. “Sorry I haven’t called sooner. It’s been crazy here.”

“Hi Bry. I was wondering,” Ron replied. ”I was just calling to see how you guys are and how the preparations for the ring celebration are coming along.”

“I’m beginning to believe that Alan is trying to torpedo the party. He’s kept me so busy that I haven’t had time to think. Even when we have some time away from work he’s dragged me out shopping and doing so many other things that I haven’t gotten anything done except get the music for some songs that I want to be a part of the ceremony. I was about to give up completely in frustration, but last night Rich and Brandt dragged me away from the house over Alan’s protests. They told him that they needed some help with some Christmas shopping. He finally agreed that I could be gone but asked me to keep it to as close to an hour as I could. Those scamps! They’ve taken over all the party planning. They got me away from the house so they could tell me about it and told me to not worry, that they ‘had it handled.’ You can’t believe how relieved I am. Those guys are the greatest. Today is the first time I’ve been able to think straight since you left.”

“I know exactly how you feel, Bryan.” Ron said in sympathy. “It’s been a madhouse around here too since we got back from New York. Matt and I are going to see Tyler tomorrow in L.A. I’ll be glad. Even a few hours with him, away from this madness will be a relief. Of course it will start up again on our return.”

“I’ll be e-mailing you the details of the party, as soon as the boys let me know the plans,” Bryan promised.

“Ok,” Ron said. “Keep in touch. Hugs, my friend.”

“Hugs to both you and Matt, bye.”

“Bye, Bryan.”  Ron hung up the phone.

        *        *        *

The limo pulled up to the entry of the imposing building in Century City, L.A.’s corporate center. Ron and Matt stepped out onto the broad walk that led to the building housing the Aztec-Turner headquarters.

“Wow, this is pretty impressive,” Matt said looking up at the tall glass structures surrounding the plaza in the center of the circular entry drive.

“Yes it is,” Ron agreed as they approached the multiple entry doors. “It seems almost an anachronism that Jason Parry, who sold us this company is such a down home boy, yet surrounded himself in such elegance.”

They approached the elevator lobby in the center of the ground floor and stepped quickly into an elevator that accessed the 20th floor along with several others. The button was lit for their destination so they stood quietly while the door closed.

Two young men in suits, already in the elevator, were talking. “That Tyler really makes sure he gets his money’s worth,” the first man commented. “No more sneaking away on Fridays to play golf on company time.”

“Yeah,” the second agreed, “he has certainly taken over. I guess the laid-back easy days with Jason are over.”

“I really like Tyler though,” the first continued. “He’s putting back the pride in the company that Jason was letting slip away, I will say that for him. Did you see that incentive plan that was on the e-mail today? Wow! If we make this place hum, we’ll really make some bucks. I was thinking about looking for a job somewhere else, but not now. He is one smart cookie.”

“You can say that again. I hear that the big shot-boss is coming over from Las Vegas today. I’ve never seen the place so perfect. Tyler must be trying to impress the guy. Maybe when the hoopla is over, things will go back to normal.”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” said Ron in a voice that filled the elevator cab, surprising the two men.

The elevator stopped on the twentieth floor, the door opened and Matt and Ron stepped out, followed by the two surprised passengers. They moved to the large oak double-doors beside which the word “ - Turner,” had been recently added to the name of the occupant on the wall. Ron opened the right door and indicated that Matt and the two men should proceed inside. They passed through the doorway and stepped to the reception desk with Ron following. The two men stepped aside to let Ron and Matt speak first to the receptionist.

“May I help you gentlemen?” She asked with a pleasant smile.

“Yes, thank you,” Ron answered. “We’re here to see Mr. Tyler Jacobs. Would you please tell him that the ‘big shot-bosses from Las Vegas’ have arrived?” Ron grinned and winked at the two men who had suddenly gone pale.

“Certainly sir,” the receptionist said nonplussed, “Mr. Turner, Mr. Davidson? He’s expecting you. If you’ll step through that door, I’ll meet you on the other side and escort you to his office.”

        *        *        *

“And it was priceless,” Matt said laughing. “You should have seen those two guys faces when Ron told the receptionists that the ‘big shot-bosses from Las Vegas’ had arrived. I thought they were gonna pass out!”  Ron and Tyler both laughed as Matt described the scene in graphic detail.

“I’m sure that was Phil and Michael.” Tyler said through his laughter. “Those guys have been floating long enough. I’m very glad it all happened. They are both good men, but will take every advantage to goof off. They’ll have a hard time living this down.”

“From what I heard in the elevator,” Ron said, “You’ve got things well in hand. I’m very pleased.”

“Thanks, Ron. I’m really glad to hear you say that. It’s too early to tell how the changes that are being made will work out, though. I’ll have to stay right on top of it for awhile.”

“I’m sure that’s true Tyler, but don’t forget that we all hope you’ll end up in Las Vegas soon, permanently. Speaking of that, do you have plans for Christmas and New Years?”

“Not really,” Tyler said. “I’ve been too busy to even think about it. I know we are planning on continuing our office operations with skeleton crew for those two weeks, because of the holidays falling in the middle of the week, and our field operations will be slowed down, but not stopped for the same reason. What do you have in mind?”

“We’re flying to New York on Saturday the 21st in the morning for Alan and Bryan’s ‘ring ceremony’ surprise party. On Monday, we’ll return to Las Vegas for Christmas, and we’re working on the plans for New Years too. We’re not sure of the details yet. We’d like you to join us for the whole two weeks if you can.”

“I’d love to do it, Ron. Thanks guys. Let me look at my schedule and I’ll call you next week to confirm. It will be great to spend the holidays with you. You make me feel like one of the family.”

“That’s ‘cause you are one of the family, brother,” Ron said, “and don’t ever forget it.”

“Thanks, brother,” Tyler said with tears in his eyes. “I never thought I’d feel like this again, after my mother died.

Ron and Matt moved in on Tyler, and embraced him in a group hug.

“I know what you mean,” Ron and Matt both said.

After the emotional moment had passed, and they regained their composure, Tyler said, “Well, I guess we’d better get on with business. We’ve planned a luncheon get-together so that you can meet the team. It should start in just a few minutes. We can come back later and I can brief you this afternoon on our operations, financial condition and changes we’re making.”

“That sounds great Tyler. First I’d like to go over some personal stuff with you if you don’t mind,” Ron requested.

“Sure, we have about 15 minutes. What do you want to talk about?”

“Tyler, we talked about this once before, when we were trying to establish that we really are brothers. I want you to know that I’m so glad that it was true. You’ve filled a very empty part that I’ve always had in my heart because I always wanted a brother. I’m so glad that my real one is you; someone I can respect so much and love. Now the bean counters are done with their work, so I can give you this.”

Ron reached into his briefcase and extracted the papers given to him earlier in the week by Will and laid them on Tyler’s desk. Tyler picked up the documents and began to scan them. His mouth dropped open in shock. Ron and Matt both smiled. It seemed that the guys in the elevator were not the only ones to get a surprise today, but this surprise was a very pleasant one.

        *        *        *

The week was full and going to go fast. Ron was busy, not only with normal business activities but checking up on the preparations for Tony’s trial that was coming up the following day. The charge was still listed as manslaughter, which could have a serious impact on Tony’s life if it resulted in mandatory jail time. Ron had had several conversations with Steve Bartholomew, Tony’s attorney, regarding the case and was convinced that he was as prepared as possible. Steve had held several meetings with not only Tony and his mother, but had met at least twice with the county prosecutor. He felt sure that at worst, Tony would get a light sentence, but Ron felt that even that would be excessive.
Ron’s desk phone rang and he picked it up.

“Yes, Margaret?” Ron said into the mouthpiece.

“Ron, Jack Smith is here to see you. Are you available?”

“Absolutely,” Ron answered, “send him in.”

Ron returned the handset to its cradle and stood up, walking toward the door when it opened and Jack entered the room.

“Welcome Jack,” Ron said with a smile and a warm hug.

“Thanks Ron,” Jack replied, returning the embrace.

As he ushered Jack to a seat in the lounge area of the large office, Ron asked, “How was New York?”

“It’s great! It will take a little ‘getting use to’, living in a big city like that, but every thing is coming together nicely. Work has already started on the minor modifications on the Turner Consulting Offices and the Friendship Trust staff is moving in today. There will be some alterations done for their floor as they hire additional people, but for now the space needs are more than met. Their furniture was installed yesterday, and my offices will be completed by the end of the week.”

“That’s great, when is Lonnie going to join you.”

“He will start next week, and we have hired a receptionist and a secretary who will start then too. I wanted to tell you that we landed the contract with both of the national firms that I met with when you were there, and I have meetings set up for two more. We will have to grow fast to meet our obligations, if we get their work too.”

“That’s wonderful! Congratulations,” Ron said enthusiastically. “Don’t forget we have resources here to back you up if you get overwhelmed. How are things going with you and Lonnie?”

“Great! That’s partly what I want to talk to you about. We’re in love!”

“That is so great!” Ron said with a huge smile. “I’m very happy for you.”

“Thanks. I’m going to move in with Lonnie in his apartment, and we’ll begin looking for a house after the first of the year. I do need to get mine here on the market quickly though, ‘cause we’d like to use the money for a down payment. Do you happen to know a good real estate agent?”

“We’ll do better than that, my friend,” Ron said. “See Will about arranging for an appraisal and the company will buy it from you at that price. We’ll take the furniture too. Take what you want and give us a fair price on what you want to leave. We’ll buy it all and replace what you take. That way too you’ll save on the sales commission.”

“Wow, that’s more than generous, Ron. Actually, I won’t plan on taking much but some personal items then. I can either ship them or pull a small trailer, driving my car there next week.”

“Forget driving your car,” Ron offered. “We’ll have someone drive it there for you and fly them back. Your time is far too valuable for us to waste four or five days.”

“Wow, you’re sure making this easy. You don’t know how much we appreciate it.”

“Jack, we’re friends as well as business associates. When we can help each other, we do. I know that you would do the same for me if the shoe were on the other foot. I’ll call Will right now and tell him what we’re doing. Then you can go see him and handle the details.”

“Thanks, Ron, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. Long before Ted died, we talked about how we both felt that way. Since his loss you’ve proved it over and over.”

“I loved you both then and I love you and Lonnie now too. I’m sure that Ted would be pleased with how you’ve picked up the pieces and put together a new life. He loved you so.”

“And I still love him and the wonderful memories we made together, But I agree with you, he would have loved Lonnie, and I’m sure he’s ‘up there’ smiling. I’d better leave you to your work,” Jack said as he stood, “Thanks again, my dear friend.”

“You’re welcome, Jack” Ron responded with a happy tear in his eye.”Please know that you and Lonnie have a standing invitation to our home anytime you would like to come here. Take care now, and give Lonnie a couple of hugs from Matt and me.”

Jack stepped from the office with the sad look of parting, but with a sparkle in his eye about his bright future with Lonnie in New York.  Ron spent a minute on the phone with Will explaining in general what he and Jack had discussed.

Moments later Ron’s phone again rang.

“Yes?” Ron answered.

“Judge Brand is on the line Ron,” Margaret responded.

        *        *        *

“All rise,” The bailiff said in a loud voice. The people in the courtroom stood. The press was only in scant attendance since it was anticipated that the day would be spent in jury selection. The Judge entered the room as the bailiff continued, “Hear ye, hear ye. The 5th District Court of the State of Nevada is now in session, the Honorable Frank Brand presiding.”

“You may be seated,” Judge Brand said as he himself sat. “Read the case and charge,” the judge ordered. The Bailiff read the case name, number and charge. The judge began to speak.

I have asked the attorneys for the State’s case and the Defense to prepare a brief regarding the evidence they plan to present in this case. Further, I have asked the prospective jury members to remain in the lobby until called. Before we begin the jury selection, I’d like to meet with the Prosecutor and the Councilor for the Defense in my chamber. Court is recessed for 15 minutes.”

“All rise,” the bailiff announced. The courtroom all stood as the judge left the room followed by the two attorneys.

“Wonder what that’s all about?” Matt questioned.

“If it’s what I’m hoping it is,” Ron said to both Matt and Mabel, “this trial may be over before it begins.”

“What do ya mean, Ron?” Mabel asked in vastly improved diction.

“I’d rather not get your hopes up, Mabel,” Ron said honestly, “But I spoke with the judge yesterday and he asked me a very strange question.”

“Oh?” Matt asked. “What did he ask you?”

“He said that he’d been following the progress of our new shelter for homeless boys and asked if we needed another laborer to help complete the job.”

“I said that we could always use good help. He then asked if we would pay at least minimum wage for an untrained worker.”

“I said, ‘Yes, of course. More if he or she is a hard worker’.”

“He said ‘good’, then said goodbye.

“What do you think it means,” Matt asked.

“Well, I have no way of knowing for sure, but I hope he’s referring to the young man sitting at the defense table, not his nephew or something.” Ron answered. “Either way it can’t hurt us. I just don’t want to get our hopes too high.”

“Ron, what you’re doing for m’ boy, is more than any Momma could ask fer…for.” Mabel said slowly and with a show of effort at improved speech, “no matter what th’ judge decides.”

Ron smiled at her reply and her verbal efforts to please him.

“It’s no more than any good man would do if he could. Tony does not deserve to go to jail for his misfortune of meeting up with Fat Charlie,” Ron answered, “but I thank you, just the same.”

Tony sat patiently at the table, looking at his hands. Finally he turned and looked at his mother and his friends.  They smiled encouragement to the boy who sat at the crossroads of his life. Ron raised his hand and gave him a ‘thumbs up’ sign. Tony smiled weakly, then turned his head toward the bench as the door opened from the judge’s chamber.

“All rise,” the bailiff cried.

The judge took his seat and the attorneys returned to their tables. Steve had a bright look in his eyes, and smiled at his client, then at Ron’s small entourage.

“You may be seated,” Judge Brant said. Looking up, he began speaking.

“The court will entertain a change of the charge from the Prosecution,” he announced.

“Yes, your Honor,” Deputy District Attorney said. “The State would like to change the charge to unintentional manslaughter by reason of self defense.”

“It is so recorded,” the judge announced. “Would the Defense like to enter a change in plea?”

“Yes, your Honor,” Steve said. “If I may have a moment to confer with my client and his mother?”

“Certainly, but please keep it brief,” the Judge requested.

Steve and Tony turned their chairs to the rail separating their table from where Mabel was sitting. Mabel leaned forward and Steve, in a hushed voice, explained what was happening. Matt and Ron remained upright in their chairs. They had not been invited to participate in the explanation. Mabel and Tony nodded their heads at the end of Steve’s words, and they all returned to their previous positions.

“Is the Defense ready with their plea?”

“Yes, your Honor.” Steven said.

“What is your plea?” Judge Brand ordered.

Tony and Steve rose from their chairs, and Tony said clearly, “Guilty, your Honor.”
They returned to their seats.

“The plea of ‘guilty’ has been entered,” the judge announced. “The court finds the defendant ‘guilty’ of the charge of involuntary manslaughter by reason of self defense, in the case before us.” He banged his gavel on the small wood block on the bench. “Will the Marshall please escort the prospective jury members into the aisles of the courtroom before sentencing?” It was not a question, but an order.

The Marshall left the room. A moment later he returned leading nearly 50 people of all descriptions. He directed them to where they should stand.

When they had all entered, the judge said, “Ladies and Gentlemen. The case has been decided. I am grateful for the sacrifice of your time and the inconvenience in being here today. I thank you all for responding to your call to duty as free American citizens. You are dismissed.”

As the people turned and walked back out of the courtroom, it was evident from the expression on their faces, that most of the prospective jury were clearly relieved. After the doors again were closed, the announcement was made for sentencing.

“I have carefully considered this case, and I sentence the defendant to 300 hours of community service, working for Turner Construction on the homeless boys facility known as the Ted Thornton Homeless Shelter for Boys. Since the defendant is the oldest son of a single parent home, I am cognizant that such an obligation poses a financial burden on the family. Therefore I am permitting Turner Construction to pay the defendant not less than minimum wage for his service.” Then looking directly at Tony, he added, “I caution the defendant, however, to provide good and faithful service in serving out this sentence. I trust that I will not see you here again. There being no other items to bring before the court in this matter, the case is closed.”

He brought his gavel down with a bang, smiled, and stood up as the bailiff sang out,” All Rise,” and His Honor, Judge Frank Brand exited the courtroom.

The people in the courtroom began to leave, as a small group near the defense table exchanged hugs, and handshakes. It was going to be a good Christmas.

        *    *    *    *    *