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.

Dedication: This chapter is dedicated to Gerry. What he lacks in sight, he make up for with insight.  HUGs Babe.

If you would like to drop me an e-mail, my address is J


Chapter Nine

“What’s wrong buddy?” Matt asked as he spoke into the phone.

“We were just leaving for your place,” Pete said through his tears. We went outside and somebody had slashed all the tires on my pick-up and spray painted ‘death to fags’ all down both sides of it. I had to call to tell you we’re not going to make it. Would you tell the boys?”

“I’ll do better than that. We’ll be there shortly. We’ll bring some stuff to get the paint off and take care of the tire problem too.  Give me your address.”  

Pete sputtered out the address as Matt wrote it down.

“OK. Now don’t worry. We’ll be there soon. Bye.”

Matt heard the word “bye” as he pressed the button ending the call.

“What’s up babe?” Ron asked.

“Pete’s pick-up was vandalized with spray paint and the tires slashed. I told him we’d be there to help him.”  

“Let me call Wes,” Tyler, who had arrived from California, suggested. “He’s on standby duty tonight.  We’ll take two cars too; that way we have some flexibility.”

“On standby duty?” Ron asked.

“Yep. I have three men here who act as your ‘shadow’. They are very discreet, so you never know they’re around. It’s been that way ever since the ‘Fat Charlie’ incident.”

“I had no idea,” Ron commented.

“Yeah well, they normally don’t work on the weekends that I’m here, but one is always on standby. It’s not what I’d call a close order security detail, but they are here if you ever really need them.”

“I think we’d better discuss this more later,” Ron said. “Tyler, take the Escalade and the three boys. Matt and I will take Jeffery.  Here’s the address. I’ve sketched out the directions in case you lose us. You can call on the cell phone too, if you get lost. We’ll gather Jeffery and meet you in the garage. Come on Babe, let’s change into some grubbies, in case we need to get dirty. We’ll call Jeff’s apartment from the bedroom.”

Everyone moved into action and eight minutes later the group gathered in the garage.

“I put some rags, paint remover stuff, a small hydraulic jack along with 4 jack stands in the back of the Escalade,” Ron said as Tyler appeared with the three boys. “I called Jan Bounett who takes care of our company vehicles too. She’s having the tire repair place that we contract with send out a truck. We may not need this stuff, but we’ll have it, just in case. Let’s hit the road.”

The two-car caravan was quickly loaded with occupants and on their way. When they arrived, they saw Pete and Cody standing in the parking lot talking to a young man beside a tire service vehicle.

Joining the man and the youths, Ron, Matt and Tyler heard the repairman say. “I’m sorry, but there’s not much we can do tonight. Our place closes at 9 and I’ll be on overtime by the time I get back as it is. Our manager doesn’t like overtime.”

“My name is Ron Turner,” Ron said interrupting. “Would you get the manager on the phone?” Ron asked.

“Nice to meet you sir. I’m David Simms. I’m very sorry sir, but I have my orders,” the youth replied, refusing to make the call.

“Have it your own way,” Ron said smiling. “Please tell your manager when you get back that Ron Turner is canceling the contract for service of our vehicles, all 27 of them; oh, and also tell him to send back the eight high speed tires, at $400 apiece, that just arrived for my two Mercedes. I’ll buy them somewhere else.”

“Let me call the manager,” the young repairman said. He began pressing buttons on his phone and stepped away, talking in a hushed voice.

“Wow,” Pete said. “You were terrific. I loved how you smiled as you cut ‘em off at the knees.”

“Well, it’s not over yet.” Ron replied. “The manager has to give the orders. There are idiots everywhere, so we’ll see what happens.”

Moments later the repairman returned with a frown on his face.

“The manager had left, sir, and the assistant manager told me to return to the store. The assistant manager wouldn’t call the manager. I’d do the fix myself anyway sir, but I can’t disobey my supervisor.”

“That’s ok young man,” Ron said smiling. “You tried. Wanna bet there’s a new assistant manager in the morning? Tyler, take this young man over to the 7/11 and buy him a soft drink. My crystal ball tells me that things will change by the time he gets back.”

As the two men turned and walked to the front of the parking lot, Ron dialed Jan’s number on his cell phone. In a few minutes, the repairman returned with Tyler and loaded the tires into his truck saying that his manager had called and instructed him to make the repairs. He promised to return as soon as he had new tires mounted.

Thirty minutes after he left a fancy new, white, Chevy pick-up pulled into the parking lot. A man in his early forties stepped out of the cab and approached the group of men and youth rubbing on Pete’s pickup with cloths.  The smaller pick-up was sitting up on jack stands and braced so as not to move as it was worked on by the group.

“Could you direct me to Ron Turner?” the man asked Cody who was working closest to the newcomer’s pickup.

“Sure,” Cody replied. “He’s the guy closest the front of the pickup. The one with the red rag in his hand.” He pointed at Ron who was wiping off paint from the front fender.

“Thanks,” the man replied and stepped toward the indicated figure.

“Mr. Turner?”  The man asked. Ron turned toward the voice that had spoken his name.

“I’m Ron Turner.”

“Uh, Mr. Turner, my name is Ken Friday. I own Friday’s tire service. I came out personally to apologize for the discourtesy of my service man.”

“That was very thoughtful of you Mr. Friday. The service man was very polite actually. It was only that the assistant manager refused him permission to work overtime to take care of our problem. I guess that changed, ‘cause he’s taken the tires back to the shop for repair.

“When Ms. Bounett called, I was shocked. I’m truly sorry sir. It’s my fault. I gave orders last week that overtime was really hurting our bottom line and that no new service calls would be taken after 15 minutes before closing. I guess both the manager and his assistant took me too literally.”

“Far be it from me to tell you how to run your business, sir,” Ron stated, “but the reason we chose your firm over some attractive offers from national companies, was the friendly personal service we received when we needed help. I suggest that you make each manager personally responsible for his own bottom line, within the constraints of the fixed costs that he’s faced with, providing appropriate rewards for good performance from his store. He should have the freedom to promote good personal relations too. You may already do that, I don’t know, but I do know that horses run best when no one is jerking on the reins. That freedom should also include the pursuit of new business from companies such as mine.”

“Thanks for the suggestion,” Mr. Friday responded. “I’ll certainly look again at our operations.”

“If we can help, please feel free to call. We have a couple of very good business analysts at Turner Consulting. They’re not cheap, but I’ve seen them catapult several businesses forward with some reasonably simple operational changes.”

“Consultants cost too much money.” Friday responded.

“It might seem so on the surface. Certainly it would be several thousand dollars. If that’s stopping you, we’ll perform the service at no initial cost. Just pay us half the net increase in profit from the existing stores and 10 % of the net from any new store you open for the next year.”

“You seem mighty confident in your people,” commented Friday.

“I didn’t become a billionaire working with fools,” Ron answered back.

“I think I’d rather pay for the services,” the man concluded.

Ron smiled. “I knew you were no dummy, sir. You just proved it.”

“Well, first we need to take care of your problem.  I think I’ll drive over to the shop and see if I can’t help my service man. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve repaired a tire, but that’s how I started. Maybe it would speed you on your way.”

“That would be more than a kindness,” Ron replied. “Please charge the tires to Turner Construction and be sure to add the overtime for the extra service.”  

“Actually, you’ve been such good customers, I’d planned not to charge you at all,” Mr. Friday offered.

“That’s a very kind gesture, Mr. Friday, but I prefer to pay for good service. If you want to reward us as a customer, I ask that when you have jobs available for young guys you let us know. We are starting up a facility for homeless gay youth, and I’m sure that several of the older ones will be looking for jobs as they finish school.”

A strange look came over the man’s face, almost as if in shock.

“Uh, Mr. Turner, could I speak with you privately?” Friday said softly.

“Sure! Let’s walk over to the 7/11 and get some soft drinks for the work crew here. We can talk on the way.”

Ron quickly took orders for drinks and the two men began walking slowly down the drive.

“I don’t quite know how to tell you this, Mr. Turner,” Mr. Friday said slowly.

“Unless you’re about tell me that you’re homophobic, why don’t we drop the ‘Mister’? My name is Ron.”

“Thanks, Ron. Please call me Ken. No, I’m not homophobic, at least not now. When I was a bit younger I was and I’ve paid for it.”

 “One day my only son Kenny outed himself to me. I came unglued, yelling and screaming. I couldn’t believe it. I verbally beat him to a pulp, then sent him to his room. That night he ran away. At first I was almost glad, then I thought of what he meant to me. And my wife was a basket case. She told me she loved him, no matter what, and that I had no right to cause him to leave. She was right. I could see it almost at once, but the damage had been done. We called all his friends and checked all his favorite hangouts. He was nowhere to be found. We called the police and filed a missing person report. Weeks passed and we didn’t hear a thing, then months.  

Three and a half months after he left we got a call from the police. He had been found murdered in Los Angeles. We were crushed. I had to identify the body and while I was there I met his friend and roommate. The guy may have been his lover, I don’t know. He told me how the two of them had roamed the streets searching for work, and finally, with no resources, had been forced to sell their bodies. I was devastated. When you told me of your place for homeless gay youth, I thought, ‘Why couldn’t it have been there for Kenny?’ “

“ I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to infer any criticism by that, no matter how it sounds. It’s just that my heart has been empty since he died, and I have blamed myself, over and over. Why couldn’t I have seen that he was still the same boy, still my son? I’ll regret my actions ‘til the day I die. My wife and I have hardly spoken to each other for the last three years. I’ve just buried myself in work.”

“Ken, I need to think about this a minute,” Ron said. “We’re at the store now, so let’s get the drinks and we’ll talk some more on the way back.”

The men entered the store and made their way to the coolers. Selecting the appropriate drinks they made their way to the checkout counter where Ken insisted on paying for the drinks including the extra Coke Ron had picked out for David, the tire repair youth.

As they left the store, Ron asked, “So what’s the status at your home now? Do you have any other children?”

“Yes,” Ken replied. “We have an older daughter who is just finishing college. She knew about Kenny two years before he came out to me. He told her of his plans to out himself and she offered to be there. Kenny refused, saying…. that…. that…. he was so sure of my love that he …that he wanted ….to do it alone.”

Ken began to sob as they turned into the driveway of the apartment building. Ron took the man in his arms and comforted him as a torrent of tears poured from his eyes. After a few moments Ken pulled way.

“Thanks Ron, I’m so ashamed.”

“I hope not for crying or for caring,” said Ron. “You made a mistake. You’re not the first person to do it and you’re not going to be the last. The question is, ‘what are you going to do now?’ “

“I honestly don’t know.  My marriage is in ruins, my wife hates me. My daughter accepts me, grudgingly, but I’ve been in a mental state such that I can only work until I’m exhausted to keep from going crazy. What can I do?”

“Ken, the first thing you have to do is to take care of yourself. I know a very good psychologist who, if you would see her, I believe can help. The other thing is that you have to give.”

“I never thought I’d need a psychologist,” Ken responded, “but I’m willing to try it. I don’t know what I can give though. You want a contribution to your center?  I’m sure I could do that. I don’t’ know what it will accomplish, because I’ll feel like I’m trying to buy my way out of my sin against my own son.”

“No, Ken. I wasn’t thinking that at all. What I’m hoping is that you would accept an appointment to the advisory board of the Thornton Center. I think it could accomplish a number of things, all of which would be helpful both to the center and to you.  You would be helping those that you previously scorned, and you will get a new understanding of the struggles that some gay youth face. It may be painful at first but a fitting, living tribute to your son.  You’re a successful businessman. We can use your skills in helping to organize our center. I believe that your participation will be noticed at home, too. It’s too late to help Kenny, but it’s not too late to help other boys like him. I don’t believe that it’s too late to save your marriage either.”

After a moment of thought Ken said, “I accept. Maybe there’s a chance for me yet.”

“Wonderful,” Ron said with a smile, then changing the subject he pointed, saying, “Look, your truck has returned. Your young man, who’s name, incidentally is David Simms, is a good man.  I hope you properly recognize him.”

“You can be sure I will, Ron, and thanks.”

“You’re welcome Ken. When we’re through here, would you have time to come up to the house for a drink? I’d like you to get to know some of these young men who will be living at the center, and get to know my brother Tyler and the love of my life, Matt.”

Ken again looked surprised, then smiling replied. “Yes Ron, I’d really like that.”

At that moment Darryl, the youngest and the smallest of the boys came running up to the two approaching men.

“Mr. Ron,” he asked, “Can Davey come up to the house? We’ve all talked about askin’ him. We asked Mr. Matt, and he said he thought it would be fine, but to ask you.”  Then in a loud whisper he said, “he’s one of us.”

Ron laughed as he saw the surprised expression on Ken’s face that had turned quickly into a smile. “Davey?” Friday chuckled.

“Sure Darryl, it’s fine with me. I’m certain that it would be fine with Mr. Friday too. Right Ken?”

“That’s a ‘fer sher’, Mr. Ron,” Ken responded with a large grin on his face. Then with a stage whisper to Ron he asked, “Why is it that I suddenly feel outnumbered?”

Ron laughed and introduced Ken to Tyler, Matt and the other guys.

                *        *        *

“We took prints off the pick-up,” Tyler explained to Ken as they were downing their second drink. “Then we took prints of all the boys, in case any of them had touched the truck before that. Any prints that we can’t match will be suspect and we’ll keep them on file. If we can later develop suspects for the vandalism, we will do comparisons to see if there are any matches. The prints, by themselves will not prove anything, but it could narrow the field of suspects quickly.”

“Wow, you guys in the security business are thorough,” remarked Ken. “I was wondering; I have 10 stores here in town. I could use some good advice on the security measures that we take currently. Would you consider doing a security review of my facilities?  We lose quite a bit to theft, so I’d be interested in your expert opinion.”

“We’d love to,” Tyler responded. “We’ll get you a proposal by Tuesday. Fair enough?”

“That would be great,” Ken said, obviously pleased.

“Here is my card Ken,” Tyler said extracting a business card from his wallet. “Please call at your convenience if you have any questions.”

“Thanks Tyler, I will.” Ken answered as he took the card. Then turning to Ron he said, “You know, Ron, I feel like I’m in a different world. I haven’t been this excited or enthusiastic in years.”

“I know what you mean,” Ron responded. “Some nights I can hardly wait get to sleep, so a new day can begin.”

“I wish I’d known that,” Matt said with a wink.

“Hey Babe, I didn’t mean that literally,” Ron said contritely

“I know Love, I was just jerkin’ your chain.”

Ken watched the exchange between the two men with a grin.  “If someone had told me four years ago, that I would feel like celebrating a relationship between two gay men, I’d have said they were crazy. Now I truly regret my actions with my son more than ever, but for a different reason. Before it was because of my own loneliness and because I felt his choice was a dead end. Now, it’s because I tried to interfere with his chance for happiness and fulfillment. You guys have shown me that.”

“It wasn’t his choice to be gay,” Ron said kindly. “He was gay because God made him that way. He accepted it, and he only wanted you to accept him.”

“I know that now,” Ken admitted with tears forming in his eyes.

“Whatever happened to his friend in California?” Ron asked, changing the subject.

“I hate to admit it, but I don’t know,” Ken answered. “He gave me a way to contact him, but I never did.”

“Maybe it’s not too late,” Matt interjected. He had learned Ken’s story from Ron on the trip home but had not revealed his knowledge in the conversation up to this point.

“Is this part of my therapy?” Ken asked Ron.

“Yup,” Ron responded with a kind smile and a wink.

        *        *        *

“The boys sure seem to be having a good time,” Matt said to Ron as they later snuggled in bed.

“Yep. It’s great to have them around. You’d think that with all the hurt they’ve suffered they’d be sullen.”  “Maybe some would,” answered Matt, “but not these guys. Even Darryl, who’s probably the most withdrawn of the bunch, was laughing and having a great time. None of them seemed to mind helping Pete with his truck either. They all pitched in, and all seemed to enjoy working to minimize his pain over the incident. Your offer to have his truck repainted didn’t hurt either.” He smiled at his love, and silently thanked the Lord for his own good fortune in having Ron as a partner.

“It was a small thing,” Ron responded. “He’s a fine young man. I think he has lots of potential.”

“Why do I get the feeling that ‘Mr. Ron’ has a new ‘project’ in mind?” Matt said laughing.

“Who me?” Ron said feigning shock topped with a grin.

“Who else?” Matt said as he kissed Ron’s cheek. “You have no idea how much I love my man,” he said softly with a sincerity that didn’t begin to fully express the extent of his inner feelings.

“I think now would be a good time to show me.” Ron responded with a hunger for his lover evident in his eyes.

“Great minds think alike,” Matt said in positive answer as he pressed his generous, fully erect organ against the nude body of his lover.

            *        *        *

“Mornin’ Mr. Turner,” Ron said smiling at his brother as Tyler joined the lovers in the breakfast room the following morning.

Tyler smiled as he stepped to the table, taking a seat. “You know, it still surprises me when people call me that. I immediately look around for you, then I realize that they mean me.”

“You bring honor to the name,” Ron responded. “Dad would be as proud as I am.”

“You don’t know how your saying that fills my heart with gratitude,” Tyler said.

“Nonsense,” Ron said with feigned surprise. “Now get some coffee and shut up, I’m still trying to get the sleepy out of my system.”

“Hey! You blame Matt for that, not me,” Tyler shot back.

Ron and Matt both looked at each other grinning.

“ ‘Nough said,” Ron concluded. “I’m glad you’re here, Tyler. I want to talk about the security detail.”
“I was afraid this was coming when I told you,” Tyler said glancing at the ceiling.

“It’s not what you think. I don’t really object to it. In fact, I never noticed it to tell the truth. What I have in mind is to use those resources, at least on a temporary basis, to discover who is harassing Pete.”

“I agree,” Matt said nodding. “I think our threat from Fat Charlie was a fluke. We have security at the house anyway, and a security guard at the office. I’d think that would be enough. Besides if anybody needs security, it’s you. You’re the one that busted those guys’ chops.”

“That may be true right now Matt, but one thing you should remember. Great wealth has its price. Part of that price is the need for security. There are a lot of nuts around who will use any means to lay their hands on wealth. It’s sad, but it’s a fact of life.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Ron said with a frown. “Still, I’d like the detail to concentrate on catching the vandals. I have a feeling that somehow they’re tied in with George and Tracy. If you’ll agree, I’ll agree to replacing the security around us when all this is through.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Ron. It’s against my better judgment, but ok.”

“Well, we’ll leave the investigation in your hands, Tyler. You know far better than we how to proceed.”

“I’ll talk to Peter this weekend. I’d like to know if he has anyone else who might bear a grudge against him.”

“It’s all yours, bro.” Ron said in conclusion.

        *        *        *

Tom Clark rolled over in his bed. Opening his eyes he thought about Tracy and his own plans for getting even with those who had caused his brother to become a permanent cripple. ‘The incident the night before with the little fag that had started the whole thing was only the beginning’, he thought as he smiled. He knew that Turner Construction was involved but didn’t think that Ron Turner was the man that Tracy had described.  Ron reportedly was a blond as was his brother’s assailant, but Tracy had described his opponent as a man with a muscular build. Tom had seen pictures of Ron and even though he was far from a weakling, muscular was not a word that fit.  Tom had read in the paper, that Ron had a half-brother who had taken the family name in a recent court appearance. He didn’t remember the man’s first name but if it was close to Taylor, which was the name that Tracy thought he heard, he’d have his man. He got out of bed and walked to his garage where he picked up the stack of recent newspapers he’d placed there. It was time for a little research.

By his third cup of coffee Tracy came across the article that he’d seen. He began reading the headlines: “HEAD OF L.A. COMPANY TAKES FAMILY NAME.” The text began, “Tyler Jacobs, President of Aztec/Turner Security, an L.A based security and private investigation agency, appeared in Family Court today to formally change his name to Turner. It is reported that Mr. Turner was found to be the son of the late Ronald Turner, multimillionaire and owner of several Las Vegas based companies. His brother Ron, the current heir to his father’s fortune, and local entrepreneur, was in attendance at the brief ceremony….” A picture taken outside the courthouse as the men had exited the building accompanied the article. Three men, two blonds who had similar looks, were shown with a third man with dark hair. Several younger men were also scattered around the trio.  Tom looked carefully at the picture. One of the blonds was definitely bulked up. He read the caption below the picture and confirmed that the man in question was indeed named Tyler.  Then looking at his watch he saw that it was only 9 AM. There was plenty of time for him to make it to the hospital during morning visiting hours to show the picture to his brother.  Maybe, with luck, he had found his target.

            *        *        *

Mabel Kendrick placed the platter of eggs, bacon and hash browns on the table in their small home. A stack of buttered toast sat beside the huge platter, as she called the boys to Sunday breakfast.  Tony, Petey and Georgie dragged into the room for their regular Sunday ritual breakfast. Sunday morning seemed to be the only time any more that the family could sit down together without work, school or social activities interfering.

“Mornin’ boys,” Mabel said in greeting. “Let’s ask the blessin’ then you’d better get dressed for church.’

“Oh, maw, do I have to go?” Tony asked in a whining voice. “I’m gittin’ a bit old for that stuff. Besides, Sterling invited me up to Ron’s. We thought we’d go horseback riding.”

“Time enough for that stuff later, son. You know I set a lot of store in givin’ the Lord his due. We’ve been fortunate beyond anythin’ that we deserve,” she responded with a scolding eye. She looked at Tony with a scowl on her face, masking the pride she felt for the son she had found again. “After church you can take the Honda and go up there if ya want.” Petey and Georgie are gonna go visit nearby friends this afternoon anyway. Maybe I can enjoy some peace an’ quiet ‘round here,” she concluded with a smile.

As she watched the boys eat, she remarked to herself at the new enthusiasm Tony displayed after meeting Sterling. She wondered if maybe they were more than just a little interested in each other. She knew that they had met only days ago, yet it seemed that every other word out of Tony’s mouth was ‘Sterling this’, or ‘Sterling that.’ Almost out of mind was Tony’s other friend Johnny, still living in Ohio. He wrote to Johnny every week and had just given her a letter to mail yesterday, so she knew that he had not forgotten his friend. Yet, the distance separating the two boys had dampened the enthusiasm they had displayed in each other’s company.  ‘Outa sight, outa mind,’ Mabel concluded silently.

Three hours later Tony stood beside Sterling looking up at the large horses waiting to be mounted. Gerry was busy checking the saddles, cinching up the straps around the horses’ ribs to the proper tautness to keep the saddles in place. Nearby Jason, Darryl, Pete and Cody waited with impatience matching that of the two other boys. Mary had prepared a picnic lunch for the group and Ron had pointed out a flat rock far in the distance and partway up the mountain, just below the tree line, as a target destination for their adventure.

At last Gerry finished his work. “Ok boys, climb aboard,” he ordered. Each of the riders took the reins into their left hand and reached up for the saddle horn. With their right, they grabbed the back of the saddle after hoisting their left foot into a stirrup. Everyone made the mounting with some strain and grunting, except for Darryl. A small boost from Gerry, and he joined the other boys atop their mounts. “Be careful now,” Gerry ordered. “The horses purty much know the way, so give ‘em their heads unless they’re going the wrong way or you need ‘em to stop. Does somebody have the cell phone?”

Yep, I got it,” Tony said. “I got your number and the number at the house if we need it.”

“Alright boys, have fun,” he said as he slapped the rump of Tony’s horse, the first in line.

Tony’s mount stepped off in a slow amble toward the well-worn path leading to the mountain.

An hour and a half later, all six boys were finishing off the lunch that Mary had made, looking over the large valley below.

“I can’t believe how pretty it is up here,” Sterling said  “The valley below is gorgeous and not much further up I can see patches of snow. I’m really glad we brought jackets.”

“Come on Darryl,” Jason said to his cute companion. “Let’s go take us a little hike. From the looks of things, with these guys holdin’ hands and all, I don’t think they’ll miss us. ‘Sides I could stand a little hand holdin’ myself without these goons lookin’ on.”  He stood and extended his hand to his smaller friend who took it with a smile.

“See you guys in a little while,” Darryl said proudly and they headed up the mountain.”

“K,” Pete said with a wink.

“I think I could use a little stretch myself,” Cody said as he groaned getting to his feet.  

“Damn!  My ass is sore from that saddle. I need to get the kinks out ‘fore we start back. Well are you comin?” Pete asked Cody.

“Sure, just let me get my legs under me,” his partner said trying to get his legs to work. “Yep, I’m ready now. Have fun,” he said to Tony and Sterling. “Come on Babe, let’s go over that way,” he pointed to a clump of trees that descended from the tree line to a spot slightly below their current location.”

“After you, you punkin,” Pete said to his younger friend. “I just wanna follow and watch your cute ass as you walk.”  Cody blushed, but started moving through the brush and rock.  Pete looked at Tony and winked, then followed.

Twenty minutes later, Darryl came running down the mountainside waving his arms and yelling.  “Help! Help!” The youngest of the group screamed as Tony and Sterling jumped to their feet and rushed toward him.

“What’s wrong?” demanded Tony. “Where’s Jason?’

“He’s gone,” Darryl said between gasps as he tried to catch his breath.

“What do you mean he’s gone?  Gone where?” Sterling asked.

“He just… just disappeared,” Darryl said as his eyes filled with tears.

“Calm down,” Tony ordered. “Tell us slowly what happened.”

“Well, we was just hikin’ along. Jason was behind me and I got pretty far ahead ‘cause Jason kept stoppin’ to look at stuff. Pretty soon, I heard Jason say, ‘Hey look at this, I found a hole.’ I looked back and all I saw was his arms in the air as he disappeared. The ground just swallowed him up!  I ran over to the hole and yelled and yelled, but he didn’t answer. I got scared and decided to run back here for help.”

“Let’s go!” Sterling said.

“Wait,” Tony commanded. “Let’s call Ron and Matt first. Then Sterling, I want you to go find Cody and Pete. Wait here with ‘em.  When Ron and Matt get here bring ‘em up to the tree line. I’ll send Darryl back to lead you to us.”

He picked up the cell phone and dialed the house number. He looked at the phone when nothing happened. The screen displayed the words, “no service.”

            *    *    *    *    *

I hate cell phones. LOL.  JET