Don Hanratty
My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:16

Any similarity between the characters in this story and any actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


The Roman Catholic church in Seaside was right where Carl Emrick had said it would be, a few blocks off Highway 1.  The parish was in the throes of a building campaign, and Mass was being held in what would eventually be the gymnasium of the new school when it was finished.  A new church would be the last to be built on the site, as was usually the case.

Cam dropped Kevin off at the front doors of the gym/church, and then parked his precious Camaro on the outskirts of the huge parking lot so nobody would bang it with a car door.  He made his way inside the building, found Kevin, and slid into a folding chair beside him.  He had just finished his personal prayers when the opening hymn started, and a middle aged priest appeared and approached the temporary altar with a couple of servers.  The official party reverenced the altar and went to the side.  There was no pipe organ, of course, so two women playing guitars and a man playing bass were carrying the music.  They weren't bad, but not many people in the sizable congregation sang, including Cam and Kevin.

The musicians played and sang the Kyrie after the people had been formally greeted by the priest and he had said the opening acclamations and the collect for the day.  Following that, everybody sat for the first and second scriptural readings and stood for the Gospel reading.

There was no homily.  The priest read a pastoral letter from the Bishop of Monterey lauding the selection of the new Pope, condemning the overall California lifestyle for its casual ungodliness, and upholding the Church's teaching on abortion, divorce and homosexuality.   The words of the late John Paul II were quoted in which he called homosexuals "intrinsically disordered."

Cam looked at Kevin, and although they mostly tuned out what they were hearing, especially with respect to homosexuality, Cam was annoyed enough about what was being said that he reached over and held Kevin's hand during the part on gays.  The people sitting around them either smirked or frowned about that, depending on their age, with the older parishioners doing most of the frowning  Cam finally turned loose of his partner's hand when they stood to say the Nicene Creed.  Both of the boys remembered Carl and Dan aloud in their prayers during the Prayers of the People.

The rest of the Mass continued as usual, and when it was over, the congregation streamed out of the church into the parking lot.  One kid who had been sitting near Cam and Kevin in church and had seen the hand holding smiled and gave them a thumbs up as he walked by them.  Carl's anti-gay friend Tony, whom Cam and Kevin had met at the beach, walked up behind them as they were exiting the church.  He either hadn't seen them hold hands during the reading of the Pastoral Letter, or he elected to say nothing about it.

"Hey," Tony said.

"Hey," the boys said.

"You hear what Carl's dad did to him?" Tony asked.

"Yeah," Cam said.

"I've been trying to call him, but I don't get any answer at the house."

Cam debated with himself how much he should tell the kid.  "He's in San Francisco," he finally said.  "With friends."

"Oh."  The kid paused.  "How do you know where he is?"

"I just do, that's all," Cam said.

"Is Dan with him?"


Tony looked at the ground.  "All right.  If you talk to him, tell him I'm sorry about what happened, OK?"

"Yep," Cam said.

Tony walked off without another word as Cam headed for his car, leaving Kevin standing near the front door to be picked up.

"Did you feel uplifted by church this morning?" Cam asked after he had put Kevin in the car, and they were heading back toward Highway 1.

"Oh, yeah," Kevin said.  "I thought it was a nice touch when you grabbed my hand during Mass," Kevin said, grinning.

"What was it Shakespeare said?" Cam asked.  "'They do not love who do not show their love.'"

"You're goin' highbrow on me," Kevin suggested with a smirk.  "How do you remember that shit?"

"Sleeping with you has improved my mind."

"Yeah, well, we're lucky Tony didn't see us holding hands in church, or he might have stoned us right then and there in the parking lot."

"Well, there's getting stoned and there's getting stoned."

"I'm talking about the Old Testament kind of stoning," Kevin said.  "You know, the kind where projectiles bounce off that cute little cranium of yours."


"Yeah, 'Ow!'"

"That would be harsh," Cam said.

"You think?!!!"

"Well, I like holding all your various body parts, including your hands," Cam said.  "I can't help myself."

"Show some self-control, pilgrim!" Kevin suggested.  "That way I won't have to," he added as he reached over and put a hand in Cam's crotch, gently squeezing his package with his fingers.

"Keep that up, and we're gonna have to detour into the nearest motel."

"I'd wear your ass out!" Kevin predicted.

"You made a good start on that at the cabin.  But hold that thought for later tonight."

"OK," Kevin agreed, retrieving his hand.  "Y'know, I miss our mommy, dude," he added.

"I miss Catherine, too, come to think about it.  But we'll see her soon.  And hopefully, we'll have a new puppy to show her."

"Yeah, man."  Kevin rubbed his hands together.  "I'm starting to get excited about this dog thing."

"Me, too."

"You want a boy puppy or a girl puppy?"

"I don't know," Cam said.  "Let's pick one based on personality.  Isn't that a revolutionary idea?"

"All your ideas are revolutionary."  Kevin paused.  "Well, a lot of them are."  He paused again.  "Um, well, some of them are."  He stopped.  "Er, a few of them are."  He paused again and looked at Cam.  "Well, I remember you had one once."

"I remember that one," Cam said, laughing.  "It was when I let you get in bed with me the first time you seduced me."

Kevin laughed.  "I seduced you?  You were thinking with your dick at the time, stud.  Good decision, though."

"I'd be disappointed if you didn't think so."

They continued one-upping each other verbally as Cam followed the signs off Highway 1 for the kennel, and soon they pulled up and parked at Davidson's.  There were a few cars around, so the boys were pretty sure the place must be open.  They got out of the car, and Cam stuck with Kevin as the latter crutched his way along to a door marked "Office," and rang the bell.

A younger version of Mary Carson came to the door, and smiling, let them in.

"'Morning, guys," she said.  "What can I do for you?"

"Mrs. Carson from San Francisco recommended we stop here and look for a dog like Alice," Kevin said.

"You must be Cam and Kevin," the lady said.  "I'm Karen Davidson, Mary's sister.  She told me about you.  I was hoping you'd come by."

"I'm Kevin, he's Cam," Kevin said, pointing at his partner.

"I'm glad to meet you," Karen Davidson said, shaking hands with the boys.  "You know, you guys are heroes to Mary and her family for finding Alice.  That dog's like one of the children."

"It's nice to meet you," Cam said.  "We really fell for Alice.  I can understand why the family was so happy to get her back.  We want one just like her."

"You want a bitch, then?" Karen asked.
  "And if so, do you plan to breed her or show her?"

Cam looked at Kevin.  "Well, we're just getting ready to go to college this next year, and we're gonna be pretty busy," he said.  "So I doubt if we'll get into breeding or showing.  Kev and I kinda decided we'd be satisfied with either a male or female, just as long as he or she has a good personality."

"I think I have just the dog for you," Karen said.  "Let's go back to the kennels."

Mrs. Davidson led the way through a labyrinth of cages and runs until she came to a cage with a border collie sleeping by her water dish.  The dog stood up as they approached, wagging her tail and trying to stick her nose through the wire of the cage.  She was a little smaller than Alice, but with very similar markings.

"This is Sam, short for Samantha," Karen said.  "She's a pure bred, of good lineage.  In fact, she's Alice's grand niece.  But she has some superficial flaws that make her inappropriate for breeding or for showing.  What a personality, though!  Everybody here just loves her."  Karen reached down and opened the latch on the cage, and Sam came bounding out, excitedly sniffing Karen and the boys as she circled around them.  But she didn't jump up on them, the guys noticed.

"She's not jumping on us," Kevin commented.  "Has she had some training?"

"The staff and my husband, Cliff, and I have been working with her, yes.  She doesn't jump on people, and she's housebroken.  Cliff and I take her home with us pretty much every night, and she's very smart and very docile.  She's great with our kids.  I think you'd really like her."

"Uh, how much does she cost?" Cam asked.  "Can we pay you with a credit card?"

"She won't cost you anything," Karen said.

"What?!" Cam said.  "Of course we have to pay for her."

"It's all been taken care of, Cam," Karen said.  "
Mary told me you and Kevin wouldn't take any reward for finding Alice, so Sam's a gift to you both from her and Ian."

The two boys stood there looking at each other, astounded.

"I don't know what to say," Cam said.

"Say you'll take her," Karen said.  "I know she'll have a good home with you, and that's what we want for all our dogs, including the show dogs we sell."

"Well...whaddaya say, Kev?" Cam asked.

"I say, 'Thank you,'" Kevin said to Karen.  "We hope to see the Carsons on the way home this afternoon.  We'd like to thank them personally."

Cam knelt down and Sam came to him and gave him a lick on the nose.  "Hey, babe!" he said.  "You're going home with us!"

"Why don't we go to the office," Karen said.  "I'll sign your copy of her kennel club papers and give you her vet records, and she's all yours.  I'll give you a collar, a leash, and lend you a cage for transporting her home.  If you're ever down this way again, you can drop the cage back off to us."

"Thank you so much, Mrs. Davidson," Kevin said.  "We're going to treasure this dog and take good care of her."

They retraced their steps toward the office, with Sam, all excited, "dogging" their heels.

Karen signed the papers and handed them over to the boys.

"You're going into the city, you said, right?" Karen asked.

"Yes," Cam said.

"Well, why don't you walk Sam alongside our parking lot fence and let her take care of business before you leave," Karen suggested.  "Then you can put her in her cage for the trip.  If you ever have any problems with her down the line or have any questions, just give me a call."

Cam was so happy, impulsively he gave Karen Davidson a hug.  "We're really grateful to you," he said.

"Thanks, hon," Karen said.  "I'm so glad to meet you both.  I meant what I said about giving us a call if you need to."

"We will," Kevin promised.

Karen put a collar on Sam and snapped the leash on to it, handing the leash to Cam.  Saying good-bye, the boys took Sam out to the parking lot, and Cam walked the dog in the grass alongside the fence, as Karen had suggested.

Cam pulled out his cell, and consulting the list of phone number that Mary Carson had given him, he dialed the Carsons in San Francisco.

"Hello," Mary Carson said.

"Mrs. Carson, this is Cam MacKenzie.  How are you?"

"Good, Cam.  Thanks for everything you and Kevin did for Carl and Dan."

"We didn't do much," Cam protested.  "Mr. Carson was phenomenal, though, the way he handled things."

"He's phenomenal, all right," Mary laughed.  "He makes me tell him that at least three times a day."

Cam laughed.  "Mrs. Carson, do you think Kevin and I could stop at your house on the way to San Rafael and see Carl and Dan for a minute?  We won't take long."

"Absolutely.  And you can stay as long as you want.  We just kind of laze around on Sunday after church.  Ian and all the boys are in our little gym working out."

"Great!  We'll have another guest with us," Cam said.  "We stopped at the kennels, and your sister gave us your gift.  Alice's niece, Samantha, to be precise."

"Oh, good!  That makes me so happy!  I hope you boys are."

"We're very happy and very grateful," Cam confirmed.  "Thank you so much!  So, can I have your address?"

Cam got a pen out the glove box of the car and wrote down the address on a piece of paper as Mary Carson gave it to him.  Then he opened the door of the new cage, unsnapped the leash, and Sam went right in, and turning around once, lay down.  Cam shut the cage door and put Sam into the back seat of the Camaro.  Cam and Kevin got in the car, and away they went.

Soon they were back on Highway 1 and headed north.

"Cam, if you see a souvenir shop along the way that doesn't look tacky, let's stop for a minute," Kevin said.  "I wanna get something for Catherine."

"She'd like that.  Whaddaya have in mind?"

"Maybe a necklace or bracelet or something," Kevin said.  "Something nice, but not too expensive."

"Good plan, dude.  I'll go in on it with ya."

"What if I don't want you to?" Kevin asked, throwing out the bait.

"That's immaterial," Cam said, smirking, taking the bait.

"You know I'm her best son.  The gift will mean more to her coming from me."

"You're the best son in what way?" Cam asked.

"I'm more obedient, more respectful, more affectionate, more helpful around the house, more neat and clean, and less trouble," Kevin said.  "I'm certainly more attentive to the Lord, and I pray better than you do when we say grace at meals.  That's just a few things.  There are more.  It's no contest.  I'm her favorite."

"Even if that were all true, which it isn't, there's one thing that wipes it all out," Cam said.

"What's that?"

"You're the biggest bullshitter, and Mommy hates bullshit.  More than anything in this world.  That makes me her favorite.  Isn't that right, Sam?"  Cam turned his head for a quick look at the cage and back to the road.  Hearing her name, Sam yipped.  Just once.

Cam laughed.  "That was a 'yes' from Sam.  She already knows ya, Kevin.  I told ya these border collies are smart."

"That was a 'no,' you dufus.  You have a lot to learn about dog language."

They continued arguing about nothing until Cam spotted a nice looking souvenir shop that included "jewelry" on its sign, and he pulled in.  The parking lot had quite a few cars in it. 

They cracked the car windows for Sam, and Cam helped Kevin get out.  They went in and headed for the jewelry counter.  Kevin spotted something he liked right away:  a "gold" necklace, the strands of which linked dark green "emeralds."

"Look at that one.  It'd be perfect with that lime green suit she looks so good in, doncha think?" Kevin asked.

"It's nice," Cam agreed.

A young lady behind the counter came over and asked if they needed help.

"Yes," Kevin said, pointing at the necklace.  "Can we look at that one?"

"Sure," the girl said, bringing it out.  Kevin picked it up, and it felt substantial in his hand.

"This is the one as far as I'm concerned," he said to Cam.  "You want to look at anything else?"

"Nope.  How much is it?" Cam asked the girl.

"Let me see," she said, looking at the tag.  "It's $75."

"It won't turn my mother's neck green, will it?" Kevin asked the girl, smiling.

"No, this is a nice piece for the money," she said, flirting with him a little.  "Your mom will like it."

"OK, we'll take it," Kevin said, removing his wallet from his pocket and handing her a credit card.  She walked off a few feet to the cash register and started to ring it up.  Cam pulled out some cash and began to count out a few twenties for Kevin.

"Keep it," Kevin said with a crooked grin.  "I'll take it out in trade."

Cam shoved his money back in his pocket, smiling bigtime.

"Deal!" he said.  "I'll look forward to that."

They went back out to the car, Sam woofed at them once, and they were off.  They followed Highway 1 for awhile, and then got on I-280 to go into the city.  They were downtown in just a few minutes, and Cam found the building the Carsons lived in without any trouble.

"Hmmm," Cam said.  "I thought they lived in a house," he said.  "From the looks of the building, though, their apartment won't be any shack."

They parked on the street, again cracking the windows for Sam, and went into the lobby.

"Gentlemen," a very professional doorman, formally dressed, greeted them.  "What can I do for you?"

"We're here to see Mr. and Mrs. Carson," Cam said.

"Are they expecting you?" the man asked.

"Yes, they are," Cam said.

"Dial '24' on this phone," the doorman instructed, and Cam did so.  Mrs. Carson answered, and buzzed them in after telling Cam to hit the button for the Penthouse once they were in the elevator.  Mary and Ian Carson and Alice greeted them in front of the elevator door after they were whisked upstairs.  Ian shook hands with them, and Mary hugged them.  The boys bent down and petted Alice.

"Where did you park, and where's your dog?" Mary Carson asked.

"She's in the car, and the car's on the street."

"Well, we want to see her," Karen said.  "Ian, why don't you show the Cam where to park in the building, and then bring the dog up.  I'm so glad Karen gave you Sam," she told the boys.

"Yes, ma'am," Kevin said.  "We can't thank you enough.  She's a great dog!"

"Karen must have liked you," Ian said.  "She wouldn't give that dog to just anyone, believe me.  Come on, Cam, let's move your car and get Alice."

Ian and Cam got back on the elevator and went downstairs while Mary took Kevin to the family room.  Carl, Dan, and the two Carson boys, William and Mark, were watching a baseball game on a giant screen TV.  The San Francisco Giants were playing the Diamondbacks.

"Kev!" Carl said, jumping out of his seat and coming over to Kevin, smiling, high fiving him, and then drawing him into a hug.  "Where's Cam?"

"He's moving his car and getting our new dog," Kevin said when they stepped back.  He studied Carl's face.  "How ya doin', big guy?"

"Good," Carl said, a little unconvincingly.  "Kevin, this is my brother Dan, and this is William Carson and Mark Carson," he said.  Kevin and the three boys dapped one another.

"Make yourself comfortable, Kevin," Mary Carson said, pointing to a chair.  "Would you like something to drink?"

"Some water would be great, thanks," Kevin said.

"William," Mary said, "get Kevin some water.  Anybody else?"

There were no other takers, and William got up and went over to a refrigerator hidden behind a panel on the wall, and grabbed a bottle of water out of it.

"Here ya go, man," he said, taking it over and handing it to Kevin with a smile.

"Thanks," Kevin said, and leaning his crutches against a wall, sat in the chair Mary Carson had pointed out.

*  *  *

Down on the street, Ian folded his tall frame into the Camaro with Cam.

"Did you restore this car?" Ian asked.  "Beautiful job!"

"Thanks.  Yes, I did, with another buddy.  My dad found it in an old barn at a winery, and talked the people who owned it into selling it.  It took a year of work but it was worth it.  I do love this car."

"Rightly so," Ian said, directing Cam into the condo building's garage and opening the garage door with a clicker on his key chain.  Once parked, Cam turned off the ignition and turned to the older man.

"How're Carl and Dan doing?" he asked, looking at his host.

"Dan's OK," Ian said.  "A little bewildered, I think, but OK.  Carl?  Carl has some work to do, but I believe he's going to come out of this all right.  I think I have him talked into staying in town with us, because the help he's going to need is here.  But if Dan won't stay, I'm not sure that Carl will.  Put in a good word for us with Dan, will you, Cam?"

"Yes, sir, I will."  They continued sitting in the car.  "What's going to happen to Mr. Emrick?"

"He's probably out on bail even as we speak," Ian said.  "This case is air tight, though, as long as Carl testifies.  I don't think there's any doubt but what Walter Emrick will do some jail time.  Richard Hanosh, the Assistant Attorney General, may not even agree to plea bargain, so the guy may do some hard time.  And he should!"

"Yes, sir, I agree," Cam said.  "Uh, before we knew for sure that Carl's situation wouldn't be swept under the rug, Kevin and I took some digital pictures of Carl's wounds.  Thanks to what you and your friends did for him, now I guess I can erase the memory stick the pics are on."

"Yes, you can," Ian said.  "That was a good precaution, though.  You think sneaky, like a lawyer," he laughed.  He turned his head and looked at the cage in the back seat.  "All right, let's take this precious cargo you have back there upstairs and introduce her to Alice, if they haven't already met."

Ian opened his car door and got out of the front seat.  Cam came around and hoisted the cage out of the back seat and down onto the garage floor, opening the cage door and snapping the leash on to Sam's collar.  She came out of the cage all happy, wagging her tail and smelling Cam and Ian.

"Good dog," Cam told her.  "Maybe I better walk her outside for a minute before we go upstairs."

"Sounds like a plan," Ian said.

They entered the elevator and went up to the lobby, and Cam and Ian walked Sam outside in the condo yard.  The dog smelled around the yard a little, then peed, and then they went up to the penthouse.

Mary and Alice were waiting for them at the elevator.  The two dogs sniffed each other thoroughly, Alice not seeming to be upset that Sam was there, perhaps still remembering the smell of the kennel that still clung to the new dog.  Mary sat on the floor and gave Sam some love, with Alice trying to horn in for her share.

"What a little sweetheart Sam is," Mary said when she stood up.  "If for any reason things don't work out for her at your house, call me, and we'll take her.  Won't we, Ian."

"Yes, dear," Ian said dutifully.  "Cam, the boys are all in the family room," he said, pointing the way, and he and Mary excused themselves.

"Thanks," Cam said.

The guys were all still watching baseball in the family room when Cam and Samantha went in.  Carl stood up and gave Cam a good hug, and introduced him to Dan, William and Mark.  Kevin was sitting in an overstuffed chair, and Cam really wanted to go over and cram into it with him as they sometimes did to each other at home.  But instead he went over to the couch where Dan Emrick was sitting and joined him.  Sam lay down at Cam's feet.

Cam discreetly checked Dan Emrick out.  The kid might not be an athlete, just as Carl had informed them previously, but he was a good looking boy.  He was slighter of frame and a little taller than Carl, but with the same good complexion, and with blond hair long enough to comb.  If Dan liked girls, he was going to be a babe magnet, and probably already was.

The Carson boys were also good looking, tall like their dad.  William, the older boy, was as tall as Cam, and Mark, the younger, at an  or so shorter, was as tall as Kevin.  They had thin, intelligent faces, black hair, and good physiques on them.  They both worked out, and it showed.  And Cam knew firsthand from seeing him naked what a hottie Carl was.

In fact, every guy in the room was hot.  And the hottest of them all was Kevin, Cam thought to himself, looking over at his boyfriend.  He was cute and sexy as hell, sitting there in his chair with his legs spread wide, jock style, his big, sneaker-clad feet flat on the floor, a grin on his face as he shot the shit with his new friends and watched the game.  Cam's feelings of love for him were palpable in his chest right then, almost overwhelming him as he sat there wishing he could simply go over to Kevin and take him in his arms and hug him tight and kiss his face.  He thought about what a wonderful time they'd had together in bed at the cabin, and then shoved those thoughts away before he had a physical reaction that would be obvious to everyone.

The baseball game ended, with the Diamondbacks on top, and the guys were vociferous in their disgust.

"And what's the skivvy on this little one?" William asked, coming over to Cam and kneeling down to pet Sam.

"This is Alice's great niece, Samantha," Cam said.

"She looks like Alice, all right.  A little smaller, maybe.  These border collies are smart.  Alice is smarter than Mark."

"You're funny, you dumb ass," Mark said, laughing at his older brother and giving him the finger.

"Cam, you want something to drink?" William asked.

"Yeah, thanks.  Some water would be good."

William went to the hidden refrigerator again, and got a bottle of water out of it, tossing it to Cam, who deftly caught it.

"Anybody else?" William asked.  There were no takers.

The guys just sat around grab-assing for awhile.  Cam turned to Dan Emrick.

"So Dan, how you doin', man?" he asked.

"I'm OK, I guess."

"I know this situation is tough," Cam told him quietly as the other boys talked.  "But something had to be done about your situation at home.  I hope you're not too pissed off about it."

Dan studied him.  "Carl says you and Kevin are our friends, and I know we owe you a lot for what you did, getting Mr. Carson involved and all.  No, I'm not pissed off.  But things are pretty fucked up right now.  I don't know what's going to happen to Carl and me, so I'm kinda nervous."

Cam moved closer to him on the couch, speaking quietly.  "I hear that!  But you're in a good place here with the Carsons, I want to tell you.  Carl did a super job protecting you from what your dad was into at home.  Now Carl is gonna need some help because of what your dad did to him, and he can get that help here in San Francisco.  He won't stay here, though, if you won't stay, because he wants to take care of you.  I know you don't know me at all, but I hope you'll give some thought to staying here.  I really hope you will.  The Carsons want you to, and your brother needs it.  I'm not trying to guilt you into this, but I'm telling you the truth."

Dan looked at him.  "All right.  I hear ya.  If I need to stay, I will.  I'm not all that anxious to go back to Seaside and all the questions and comments we'd face from our friends, to tell you the truth."

"Well, I know you probably need to talk to Carl before you make a final decision about what you're gonna do, but I hope it's the right one for both of you."

"Me, too, man.  Thanks for talking to me about it, though.  Really.  Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," Cam said.

"How did you and Kevin and Carl get to be such good friends all of a sudden?  I never even knew that you guys knew each other until this situation came up."

"We didn't," Cam said.  "Kevin and I were at the beach not far from our dad's cabin when Carl and his girlfriend and another couple stopped by after school was over on Friday.  We just talked for awhile, and Carl and I exchanged cell phone numbers.  Then, after your dad did what he did to Carl Friday night, Carl called me up the next day and wanted to stop by the cabin.  He came over and showed us what your dad had done to him, and that's when I thought about calling Mr. Carson.  The rest is history."

"I was just wondering why he trusted you so much, not really knowing you, rather than asking one of his wrestling buddies for help," Dan said.

"I can't answer that question," Cam said.  "I don't know, except that he was ashamed of what had happened, and didn't want to go to his friends in Seaside.  Maybe he'll tell you if you ask him.  But I'm glad he called me, whatever the reason was."

"Me, too," Dan said, and dapped Cam.

Mary Carson walked into the family room at that point.  "Kevin and Cam, can you stay for supper before you leave for home?" she asked.

The two boys looked at each other.

"Well," Cam said, "let me call our mom, and if she says it's all right, then we'd like to.  OK, Kev?"

"Yep," Kevin said, yawning and stretching his arms and legs as he sat in the chair.

Cam pulled out his cell phone and dialed home, where Catherine answered.  "Hi, Mom.  It's me."

"Hi, sweetheart.  Where are you?"

"We're in San Francisco at Mr. and Mrs. Carson's condo."

"Carson?  Who are the Carsons?"

"New friends, long story.  Anyway, they've invited Kev and me to stay for supper with them and their sons and some other new friends.  We'd like to, if it's all right with you."

"It's all right, but don't be too late," Catherine said.  "You have school tomorrow."

"We won't be late.  And we have a surprise for you."

"Oh, Lord.  Do I want to know?"

"We have a new dog," Cam said.

"All right," Catherine said, unflappable.  "Should I go buy some dog food?"

"That would be nice, but you don't have to.  Kev and I can stop at the market and pick some up on the way home."

"I'll do it.  Is it a puppy?"

"A little older than a puppy, but not full grown.  In dog years, she's a young woman like yourself."

Catherine laughed.  "You have your father's gift of gab, kid!"

"I know."  Cam grinned.  "The good news is that the dog's already housebroken.  Anyway, we'll see you soon.  We've missed you, Mommy.  Love ya."

"Love you guys, too.  Bye."

Cam snapped his phone shut and looked at Kevin.

"What did she say?" Kevin asked Cam.

"She wanted to know if I was bringing you home, or whether I left you in a ditch somewhere in the Big Sur."

"Liar.  Come over here so I can slap you upside the head."

"No way!  Mrs. Carson, we'd like to stay for supper," Cam said.  "Thank you."

"We'll eat in about a half hour," Mary Carson said.  "I hope you all like Tacos and refried beans and salad."

"Love 'em," Kevin said.

Cam and the other boys nodded in agreement.

"All right, I'll call you when we're ready," Mary said, and left the boys to their own devices.

The six boys sat around talking about their schools and sports, and Cam and Kevin shared their plans to move to L.A. at some point after graduation in order to attend UCLA.  Carl was noticeably silent about his own plans for UCLA, given what had just happened to his family.  He didn't know if he'd have the money for college now.

"Kevin, what happened to your arm and leg, man?" William Carson inquired at one point.  "Did you smart off to Cam, or what?"

"Smarting off to Cam is an everyday occurrence," Kevin said.  "It's required, and he's too weak to retaliate.  No, I had a little difference of opinion with some guys who were carrying baseball bats.  And it was kind of a near thing, actually.   I almost didn't make it, but I did, thanks to Cam and our mom."

"You call her 'our mom,' but you have different last names," William said.  "Are you half-brothers or something?"

"My mom is Kevin's guardian," Cam said.  "And believe me, the experience has aged her twenty years," he added.  "But Kev will always be my brother, there's no escape from that."

Carl, who knew exactly what Kevin and Cam were to each other, just sat there smiling, saying nothing.

"Is your dad around, Cam?" Dan Emrick asked.

"Yeah, he lives in L.A.," Cam said.  "Kev and I are going to live with him our first year at UCLA."

"He wouldn't be Alex MacKenzie, the movie director, would he?" Dan, a movie buff, asked, just taking a shot in the dark.

"The one and only," Kevin said proudly.

"Holy shit!" Carl said to Cam and Kevin.  "You didn't tell me that!"

Eyes got big as the boys contemplated Cam and Kevin, now celebrities by default.

Mary came in to call them for supper.

"Mom!!" Mark Carson said excitedly.  "Did you know that Cam and Kevin's dad is Alex MacKenzie, the movie director?!"

"Yes, I did.  How many times do I have to tell you and your brother that I know everything!"

"Yeah, right!" William said sarcastically.

"I also know that supper's ready," Mary said.  "Wash up, you guys."

Cam went over to Kevin and pulled him up out of his chair, giving him his crutches.  The six boys lined up in front of the little bathroom off the family room, going in two by two to relieve themselves if they had to, and to wash their hands.  Then they headed for the kitchen, where Yolanda Vega and Ian and Mary were putting steaming platters of food on the table.

Everything necessary for constructing tacos was laid out on the kitchen table so that individual plates of food could then be taken into the dining room.  The family was eating there in order to accommodate the larger than usual number of diners.

Before they began to pile food on to their plates, Ian said, "The Lord be with you."

"And also with you," they responded, all holding hands with one another and bowing their heads for prayer.

"Let us pray," Ian said.  "Heavenly Father, we thank you for this opportunity to gather together around our table this evening with new friends.  You have blessed us greatly in the company we have with us this evening.  We ask that your healing grace may be upon us all as we face the challenges this life has to offer.   Bind us together in the ties of love and concern for one another that you have bidden us to form, so that we may become a new family under your guiding hand.  We ask your special care for Cameron and Kevin in their journey home this evening.  Lord, bless this food to our use and us to your service, making us always aware of the needs of those around us.  We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord."


"I wish you could pray like that," Kevin whispered to Cam, who just shook his head as if there were no hope of that ever happening.

Mary told the boys to go ahead and serve themselves first, and she and Yolanda and Ian stood by watching as the boys went through the serving dishes like locusts on a grain field as they fixed their plates.  Then the boys adjourned to the dining room.  The kids were talking a mile a minute in about three different conversations.  Cam fixed two plates, one for himself and one for Kevin.  Mrs. Vega followed the kids into the dining room to pour water, milk, tea and soft drinks for them, depending on what they wanted.  By the time Ian and Mary followed the boys in, William's and Carl's plates were empty, and they were already on their feet to go back to the kitchen for seconds.  Cam wasn't far behind with his and Kevin's empty dishes.

After they had all eaten their fill, there wasn't a morsel of food to be found on the serving dishes in the kitchen.  The two Carson boys scraped their plates clean in the sink and put them into the dishwasher to help out Yolanda, and the other guys followed their example.  Then William and Mark gave the boys a tour of the condo, with Alice and Sam following at their heels.

The place was huge, with six bedrooms, not counting Mrs. Vega's little apartment, and beautifully furnished.  Cam and Kevin were impressed with the gym, which was fully equipped and put the little gym Kevin had in the corner of his bedroom to shame.

"I've been trying to get Cam into some serious lifting, but he does just enough to keep me off his back," Kevin said.  "He's such a wimp."

Cam looked thoughtful as he scoped out the weight lifting equipment.

"Y'know, guys," he said,  "ya gotta be careful with this lifting.  It's kind of a double edged sword."

"Whaddaya mean?" Mark Carson asked.

"Well, maybe you guys didn't read about it.  This kid in, uh, I think it was Atlanta, was kind of a fanatic about lifting.  Like Kevin, only more so.  Anyway, he went from being buff, like he wanted, to being an addict about lifting, and got to be muscle bound.  He couldn't stop himself, though, he just kept lifting and lifting and lifting until he was so muscle bound that when he needed to take a leak, he couldn't get his dick out of his pants.  He had to have somebody fish it out for him.  It was OK if his girlfriend was around, y'know, but when she wasn't, he had to ask a family member to do it.  As you might suspect, that wasn't popular with them.  And of course, when nobody was around, he just had to wet himself.

"So," Cam concluded, "I just want you guys to be a little restrained about how much time you spend in the gym.  Like I am."

The guys burst into laughter, including Kevin, getting red in the face they laughed so hard.

"You got game, MacKenzie," William Carson said, still laughing.  "I like that."

Then Kevin, undeterred by Cam's story, started talking with William and Mark and Carl about how much weight they were each pressing and what their regimen was.  In a little while they all moved on to check out another area of the condo.

When the tour was over, Cam glanced at his watch.  7:15.  He looked at Kevin, and tapped his watch.  "We gotta boogie, dude," he told him.

"I know.  Does this mean our mini-vacation is nearly over?"

"'Fraid so," Cam said.  "But listen, guys, let's not lose touch," he told the boys.  "Why don't you all plan to come up to God's country in San Rafael and stay with us some weekend before school's out?  It's Marin.  We'll do something liberal."

"Sounds like a winner to me," William said, chuckling and looking at his brother and the Emricks, who all nodded.  "How about two weeks?" William asked.

"Cool" Cam said.  "I'll check with Mom, and call you.  But that should be fine.  Maybe Kev will be walking without crutches by then."

The guys all murmured approval, and dapped Kevin.

Ian and Mary Carson came out to the hallway with all the boys to say good-bye to Cam and Kevin at the elevator.  The two boys thanked Ian and Mary Carson several times for their hospitality, and for Sam, and hugged them.

"You did a good thing for Carl and Dan," Ian said into Cam's ear as he was holding him.  "Thank you.  It'll come back to you ten-fold, you know."

"I can't believe you're thanking me," Cam said.  "You did all the work."

Ian shook his head 'no,' and once good-byes were said to everyone, Cam and Kevin and Sam got on the elevator with Carl, who wanted to see them off at the car.  They stopped off on the first floor on the way down to walk the dog on the lawn for a minute, and
then proceeded to the garage.

They walked together to where the Camaro was parked.

"Carl, Kev and I saw your wrestling buddy Tony at church in Seaside this morning," Cam said.  "He wanted me to tell you that he's sorry about what happened to you."

"Thanks," Carl said.  "Maybe I'll call him."  He paused.  "I saw you having a little conversation with Dan upstairs," he said to Cam.

"Yeah, I just tried to point out some of the advantages you two guys have if you stay in San Francisco, like Mr. Carson wants.  Dan promised he'd think about it, and I think he will."

"Well, thanks," Carl said.  "Thanks to both of you.  I don't know what would have happened to me and Dan if it hadn't been for you.  I..."  He stopped talking and suddenly there were tears in his eyes, and he put his head down.

Kevin crutched up to him and gave him a long hug, and when he stepped back, he touched Carl's face and wiped away the boy's tears, saying nothing.  For a rough and tough high school jock, Kevin was full of surprises, full of compassion when it was needed.

"You two are lucky to have each other," Carl told them.  "Really lucky."

"I know it," Cam said, taking Kevin's place and pulling Carl into a hug.  "Don't take this wrong..." he added, kissing Carl's cheek.

"You're our brother now," Cam continued, "and we're gonna be tight from now on.  You just heal up and get your ass up to our house in a couple of weeks with Dan and the Carson boys so we can see how you're doing, OK?"

"Yep," Carl said, looking a little brighter.  "We'll get there one way or another."

"Cool, then," Kevin said.

Cam brought the dog cage out of the Camaro and put Sam into it, then stowed her in the back seat.  He helped Kevin into the front seat, and put his crutches on the floor in back, closing the door.

Cam got in the car and started it up as Carl walked toward the elevator, looking back at the Camaro as it pulled away.  When the car neared the garage door, it crossed a laser beam, and the door opened.  And then they were gone, leaving Carl feeling lonely in the pit of his stomach.

But he was beginning to understand now that there was a family who cared about him and his brother waiting for him upstairs.

*  *  *

Cam and Kevin's trip home was quick.  They were on the Golden Gate Bridge in fifteen minutes, and from there it was clear sailing.  They were pulling into their driveway in another hour, both of them looking forward to seeing Catherine and introducing her to Sam.  The porch light was on.

Cam clicked his opener for the gate, and then pulled his car into the garage.  Going around to the passenger door, he helped Kevin out of the his seat and gave him his crutches.  Sam was next.  Cam pulled the cage out of the back seat and set it on the floor, opening the little door.  The dog emerged and circled them happily, sniffing their shoes and pants cuffs.  Cam walked her into the back yard, and let her do her thing as she did a quick exploration.  Kevin was making his way toward the back door as Cam pulled their luggage out of the trunk of the Camaro, and trailed by Sam, went inside.

Catherine was sitting in her bathrobe in the kitchen sipping a cup of tea when Sam and the boys came in.  Sam immediately went over to Catherine and greeted her, ready to be friends.  She petted the dog's head and stood up, greeting her sons with a smile.  She'd missed them.

"Mom!" Kevin said, and went over and kissed her and got a hug despite his crutches.

"Mommy!" Cam said, mimicking Kevin's tone of voice perfectly as he hugged her and kissed her.

"How was the Big Sur?" Catherine asked.

"A little cold and wet, but we had a good time," Kevin said, obviously not giving her the details about just how good a time it had been in bed for the two of them.

"Some things happened that we didn't expect," Cam added.


Cam proceeded to tell her the story about finding Alice and meeting Mary Carson, and then about Carl Emrick and what had befallen Carl at the hands of his father, and then how he had called Ian Carson and gotten him involved, and the professional team Carson had brought with him to the Sur from San Francisco and what they'd accomplished.

"Is this the Carson who's a defense lawyer in the city?"
Catherine asked.  "He's frequently mentioned in the newspaper."

"The very same," Kevin said.  "A very persuasive man!  If you were four feet tall and this guy told you that you were seven feet tall, you'd believe him!  You'll know what I mean when you meet him."

"Why would I be meeting him?" Catherine asked.

"Well, the Carsons are the foster family for Carl Emrick and his younger brother Dan, and the Carsons have two sons themselves, and we were going to ask you if Carl and Dan and the two Carson boys could come up here for the weekend in a couple weeks," Cam said.  "Maybe Ian and Mary will drive them up, who knows."

Catherine laughed and shook her head.  "Six of you boys in one house?  Have mercy!"

"It would test your skills as a mother," Kevin said.

"As if you two haven't!" Catherine said.  "Let's talk about it tomorrow night at supper."

"OK," Cam said.  "Now, we brought something for you from the Big Sur."

"If you tell me the dog is a present for me, I respectfully decline," Catherine said.  "What's the dog's name, by the way?"

"Sam, short for Samantha," Kevin said.  "No, the dog is ours, and we're not trying to foist her off on you so you'll take care of her.  We got you something else."  He reached down into the outer pocket of his bag, and brought out a little sack with the necklace in it.  "Here it is."

"What's the occasion?" Catherine asked.

"Just 'cause we were thinking about you," Kevin said.

Catherine took the sack and opened it, pulling out the jewelry case and opening it.  There was the necklace, sparkling as if it had cost a million dollars.

"Oh, how beautiful!" Catherine said, taking it out of the case and holding it in her hand.  "I love it!  Thank you so much, boys.  That was so thoughtful of you.  I'll wear it to St. Francis tomorrow."

"I cannot tell a lie, it was Kevin's idea," Cam said, enjoying his mother's pleasure.

Catherine hugged Kevin again and kissed him, and then Cam.

"You're both sweethearts."

"Yeah, I know," Cam said with a grin.

"By the way, Cam, Teri called while you were gone and wants you to call her about the prom."

"OK, I will."

"Now," Catherine said,  "I have an early day tomorrow, so I need to get to bed.  I'll see you in the morning.  Do you want me to fix your breakfast?"

"No, Mom, I'll do it," Cam said.  "I have to take care of our little Kevin, and he gets surly if what's prepared for him doesn't suit him.  I don't want to subject you to that.  I'm used to dealing with his little tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants."

Kevin slapped his partner on the back of the head.


"Don't lie to Mom," Kevin said.

Ignoring the two miscreants, Catherine pointed at the kitchen counter.  "There's dog food in there, and a plastic dish and a bowl to feed her and give her water.  I bought a bed for her, too, and put it in your room."

"Thanks so much, Mom," Kevin said.  "We appreciate it."

Catherine bid them goodnight, and went upstairs, leaving the two boys staring at each other.

"Did she really mean to say she put the dog bed in our room?" Cam whispered.  "Oh, shit, she can't know, can she?"

"I'm not sure," Kevin said quietly, feeling queasy.  "She's totally a smart woman, though," he said.  "Maybe she's figured it out."

"Oh, fuck!" Cam said, continuing to look at Kevin.

"I bet we will."

© 2005 Don Hanratty

Sincere thanks to ChicagoEric and to Dan for proofing and editing this chapter.

I screwed up my email address last time at the end of Chapter 8, and want to apologize to any readers who tried to contact me and had their emails returned.  The correct address is: