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© Miguel Sanchez 2003 - 2004
A Plan Comes Together
Well we chatted for another minute or two then I looked at the boys asking for their approval to let these steeds loose. Both nodded their heads so I told Apollo, "OK big boy, let's go." With that he took off and I had the others right on his heels. I could see our destination up ahead in the distance so it was next stop the river. Our ride lasted just over forty-five minutes when we saw the back gate to the homestead.
The boys and I had a
good ride. Eduardo said he would brush Apollo then see to it he had food and
water. I talked with the boys a little longer when I saw Miguel motioning for me
to join him. He turned and went inside the house.
I headed back to the deck while Pop chatted briefly with our guests then came and sat beside me. He told me about Jay being in Recife with a kid whom he had to operate on for a badly damaged nerve in his shoulder and arm along with some facial nerve damage too. He also filled me in about the locals along with the fact that Judge Javier Cortez said the police could handle the situation.
I listened for about 15 minutes then began to ask questions. "How many locals are there and do they come near the hospital? Also, can the police post some men around the building for security purposes?" I waited for Pop to answer when I came out with my final two questions. "Do you still have your old house? What are the ground rules as far as the locals are concerned or can I be left my own devices?"
Miguel almost spit his drink out when he heard my last question. After he regained his composure he said. "Look Marco, I don't want you to start an international incident. We need to be able to continue to work with the people there." I was about to interrupt at this point but he continued speaking so I couldn't get the chance. "I don't want anyone hurt, especially the boy or Jay, but I won't have the locals trying to think they can run all over my family. Look, just do only what you need to do get Jay and the boy, Tito, back to my home safe then ready to return back home."
I let all of what he said sink into my head for a few minutes. While I was thinking, I finished my beer and Miguel went and brought me another. He handed it to me and I decided to ask one more question. Little did I know that this would be a question that would both haunt me and bring me joy? "Pop, who is this boy Tito you keep talking about?"
Miguel took a sip of his drink and set it down on the table and composed his thoughts. "Well Marco, Tito is like you, Jay and the others from Recife, a street child who was assaulted and injured. I remember how badly you were injured and as you know, Jay was too. Tito is a small child for his age. He's not yet five feet tall, barely weighs 60 pounds and has a flailed chest. A waiter assaulted him causing severe nerve damage to his face, shoulder and arm. Jay has operated on his face, repairing that damage and is ready to work on his arm and shoulder when he got wind that the locals started making threats against the child."
When I heard this, I started seeing red. I hated what the locals did to the kids there and I was determined now, more that ever, to get Jay and Tito back to Miguel's house and then here where he would be safe. I sat there drinking my beer and mulling all this information over in my head when I heard what sounded like a stampede or else we were about to get a storm move in but there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
The noise level quickly died down when I heard another sound that made me smile. That was the sound of children. Seven very vocal boys very quickly surrounded Miguel and me. "Grande, Grande, Grande," they were all saying. I noticed Eduardo and Ruben around Miguel but the others; I hadn't a clue as to who all these boys were. It looked like this place was a local orphanage until Ronnie came out. Then the boys started splitting up into groups of twos and threes and Ronnie and Miguel huddled them together for an introduction. I had two boys near by cautiously looking me over. I'm not sure if it was because I favored Eduardo and Ruben or if it was because I was so tall. Either way, I was watched very closely.
Miguel stepped forward and began to speak. "Boys, this is a very good friend of mine and my sons. In fact, he is as much of a son to me as is Jay, Ronnie and Steven. I'd like you to meet Marco Cortez. You will be seeing a lot of him, as he will be working at the boy's ranch. Marco, may I introduce Ronnie and Mark Owens, they live at the ranch next to ours. Next to them are their friends Carl Jr. and his brother Pieter. The red head hiding behind Ronnie is Johnny Owens. He's Mark and Ronnie's brother also. You already know my grandsons Eduardo and Ruben Sanchez but there is one more I'd like you to meet."
Miguel was just about to say something when I interrupted him. "Don't tell me but I know who this must be." I knelt down in front of the cutest child I had ever seen. "This has to be Steven's son. He is the spitting image of him." I reached under his arms and picked him up into my arms and then rested him on my hip.
Ronnie looked at his nephew and said. "Yes Marco it is. That's Steven Jr."
I put Stevie back on his feet as the boys began asking Ronnie and Miguel if it was all right if they could all stay at the Owens' ranch for the night. Miguel and Ronnie were caught in a diplomacy nightmare and all I could do was giggle under my breath. Ronnie took the lead telling his two boys it was all right but they had to be home for breakfast and Carl and his brother Pieter would have to talk with their mother. I sat down and took a mouthful of beer when I saw Steven Jr. standing right in front of me.
"How did you know who I was?" he asked innocently.
I picked him up and set him on my knees as I answered him. "Son, I know your Daddy. I first met him when he wasn't much older than you. Your Grandpa saved me like he did him and your uncles. I can't ever begin repay him for all he's done for me. Now why don't you get ready to head on over with your friends for your sleep over?"
He smiled at me and before climbing down, gave me something I won't ever soon forget. I received the biggest hug and kiss on the cheek this little guy could muster with those rather small arms. Ronnie told his nephew he had to be back with his boys for breakfast also. Then he hopped down and scampered off with the others back to their horses. Soon I was hearing the same sound I heard before as they first came up but this time it was heading in the other direction.
I stood up and saw Ronnie standing near the kitchen so I entered and finished my beer. I set my can down on the counter just as Miguel reached and set another cold beer beside it. He headed back for the deck so I followed him hoping to find out more details about Tito. As I sat down, I noticed the sun setting in the western sky. It was absolutely breath taking and as the red haze of the sun was disappearing behind the trees and it put off a glow that was impossible to describe.
Miguel came over and took a sip of his drink and asked. "Do you have any more questions? If not, I'd like you to leave tomorrow if you could. Jay is planning the operation on the boy for tomorrow afternoon and said he could really use your help with it so the sooner you get there, the sooner he's at my place."
I took a gulp of my beer and thought for a second before asking, "Is there a vehicle for me to use?" He tossed me a set of keys and on the ignition key was a big letter "H" which told me what to look for when I arrived. Miguel told me his plane would be ready for my trip and all I needed to do was tell the pilot when to be ready to leave for the trip home. He gave me a small cell phone that was just for use between him and his pilot. I thought that could come in handy if I needed to make a very quick departure.
I just sat there and watched the sun finish setting when Ronnie appeared by my side. I had not realized until I saw him, just how much I missed him. I stood up and put my arm around his shoulder like we used to do when we were kids. I saw his head turn and I got a good look into those soft blue eyes as I just leaned my head down to his shoulder. "God bro, I have missed you so much I can't imagine not being around you."
Ronnie kissed me on the cheek. "All we need is Jay and Steven to make this picture complete." We were standing there enjoying this moment we had not shared since we were younger when we heard the door slam as Pop came out onto the deck. His eyes got somewhat big until we both looked at him. I think it was then he realized he misread a lot into what he was seeing.
We hugged once more then separated and sat down. "Ah Pop," I started. "Look, I know Jay and Ronnie are together and I would never do anything to hurt my brother. Heck, when I see him we'll do a lot of hugging too so please don't go and get upset?" He just looked at us and realized everything I just said was true so he decided to go back inside and let us talk alone for a while.
Ronnie and I talked for about thirty minutes or so then I started getting tired. It had been a long day and Miguel wanted me to leave tomorrow to go to Recife to bring Jay and Tito to his house. I really hoped this was going to be an easy task with few problems encountered.
"Hey Bro," I said standing and stretching. "I need to get some sleep. Your Dad wants me to get Jay's rear out of a sling." Ronnie smiled when he heard me describe his lover, then he came over to give me a hug before I went inside to go to bed.
I went to my room and headed for the bathroom so I could empty out the beer my bladder was now holding. Once that was taken care of, I went and pulled out my personal gear and checked it to be sure everything was ready when I had to leave to get Jay and Tito. I pulled the gear out and went over it and checked that everything that ran on batteries was indeed working and that I had spares just in case. OK, I thought, all present and accounted for and in working condition.
I was about to turn the light off when I heard a knock on the door. I opened it and there was Miguel. "Hi Pop," I said. "I was just about to get some sleep. I think you have a pretty full day in store for me."
He stood there for a few seconds before he spoke. "Marco, I know that you would never hurt Jay. I forgot just how long it has been since you all saw each other. It's been over ten years and you four were very close back then. I know you and Ronnie aren't going to go off and fall in love or anything like that. I want you to know that I'm sorry for what I was thinking before son." Then he reached up for me and hugged me like he did when I was a little boy again. I forgot just how good it felt to be held by him again. In my mind I was 12 again, well that's until Ronnie broke that Hallmark moment.
"Hey Marco," Ronnie said causing his father to relax his hug. "Sleep well and I will have breakfast ready for you when you wake up." I felt him kiss my cheek before he went out into the living room. Miguel looked up at me and kissed my other cheek telling me silently, good night and to sleep well.
My bladder woke me out of a pretty sound sleep then I also got inundated with wonderful smells. I thought about checking out the smells but my bladder told me I better check out the bathroom first, so I decided to make a pit stop before venturing out into the kitchen so I can see exactly what I smelled. I put on a pair of shorts and ventured out and what I saw was nothing short of a five star restaurant. I also saw a hoard of kids standing there drooling as if they hadn't ate in a month.
Ruben came running over and launched himself at me like he was a guided missile. I caught him in mid-air and pulled him into a hug which he quickly returned then surprised me with a kiss on the cheek. "Morning Uncle Marco" he said with a huge bubbling grin on his face.
I returned him to the ground and kissed him on top of the head. I heard Steven whispering to Eduardo then Eduardo replied back I was able to over hear what he said. I took a chance and said, "I don't bite, little one. See Ruben's not afraid. Come here and see."
Steven was still a little reluctant from our first meeting but Eduardo took him by the hand and led him over. I knelt down so I was at his level. "Hi Steven, nice to see you again" I said, extending my hand to him. He looked up at me and saw a smile on my face but before he could move Eduardo came right to me. Well, that was all the encouragement the little guy needed and he tucked in tight and giggled; then I got bowled over by Ruben.
I found myself on the bottom of a pile of three boys all trying to get hugs until Ronnie said the magic word. “Breakfast!" They all scampered over to the table while I regained my composure. I poured a cup of coffee and tried to decide where I was going to sit when Steven said "Here. Sit here please, Uncle Marco."
How could I refuse those eyes? I noticed Ruben on the other side of where I would be sitting so I sat my cup down and went over to fix myself a plate. Once that was done, I joined the kids and was hit with a ton of questions all at the same time.
Steven looked up and asked first. "Are you going to get Uncle Jay?"
His eyes hypnotized me once again. It took me a few minutes to regain my composure, when I decided to answer it so everyone could hear. I choose my words carefully so they would understand. "First, your Uncle Jay is fine and so it Tito. No one is going to hurt them."
Steven spoke asking, "Well, why are you going to get Uncle Jay if he's alright, can't he come home by himself?"
I thought about his question then replied. "Well, your Uncle Jay was never good at directions, so I thought I would help him get to the airport without getting lost. I remember once he got lost going to the bathroom." I was listening to the laughter from the boys and was about to continue ragging on Jay when I heard a voice from the living room. As soon as he uttered his first word, I knew who the mystery voice belonged to.
"Why don't you shut your mouth and stop talking about my brother?" The voice continued. If you don't I will be forced to give you a few reasons why it's not polite to speak about a person who isn't present to defend himself.
While he was talking, I quietly got up and went to the door and waited for him to come inside. His foot came through the door first and as soon as I saw his arm, I quickly grabbed it and swung him around so he was facing me. While this was happening, he clenched his hand into a fist so he could strike the first blow. That was until he saw who it was he was about to punch, then his eyes got big. "Marco, you sorry shit! Why didn't you say something when you heard my voice?" he said as he brought me into a big hug.
"Steven, you ought to know by now I can't resist having fun with you guys. In fact if I didn't, you would think I was mad at you or something."
Steven looked at me then smiled. "So what's the big plan to get Jay and Tito back to Dad's house?" As soon as Steven finished the sentence, the others began to chime in saying the same thing over and over again.
I held my hands up to get the boys quiet then quickly thought of something they would understand and not show the slightest possibility of danger. "Its easy guys, Jay is going to need a hand with the operation and I have done these kinds of operations too. When we're done, we will all go to your Dad's ranch so Tito can get some rest then we'll be on our way home. Is this alright with you boys?"
Heads started turning, eyes got wide and assorted whispers could be heard. After about 5 minutes of this, Ronnie became the spokesperson for the group. "Sure Marco, that sounds good and it's also real easy."
I finished my coffee then went into my room to get my gear so Miguel could drive me to the airport. I was just about to take a step towards the door when Steven came into the room.
He walked over to me and gave me another of his 'Steven hugs.' "Bro, be careful and bring them all back safe."
I looked into his eyes and again my heart skipped a beat as I spoke. "Hey my little brother, nothing is going to happen to Jay or Tito. I'm going to help Jay operate on Tito then we are leaving, plain and simple. No one or nothing is going to stop that from happening. Do you understand?"
Steven thought for a second then just simply nodded his head and gave me a soft kiss on the cheek. "I love you Marco and I'll see you when you get back." was all he could say.
To be continued