Kisses in Church
Everyone showed up for breakfast at seven. Bob and Sandra had returned last evening and arrived just as the others were sitting down in the dining room. When Luc saw the table, he asked, "How many will this table seat?"
"Thirty," Janie answered. "The wall next to the living room folds back and the table extends into the living room. Haven't had that many since Elijah died, but I can remember when I was young, there were some huge dinner parties on the Mountain. The men from Elijah's troop used to get together every couple years among others."
"I wonder how many of them are still living?" Josh asked. "I'm pretty sure most of the staff are no longer among us as they were in their thirties and forties when they were here and would be in their nineties or more now, but the troops were a decade or so younger. As a matter of fact, Mr. VanWinkle commented on the youngest stopping the only fight among them. He was eighteen. Need to check into that."
After breakfast, Rob drove the three men to the cattle station. Cândido knew something about raising cattle, but it was all new to Luc. When he finished, he drove them to Boys' Camp. On the way, Josh saw the garage looked complete and said, "I see the garage is coming along."
"Yeah, we plan to have it ready for the equipment by the end of the month."
"Let me know when you want delivery to start. Winston made his list, placed the orders and is waiting for the go-ahead. Sorry to have to tell you Luc, but you're losing Winston. He's moving here and opening a garage to take care of our equipment, but also for the public as there is no place to get a car worked on in miles. They will be moving soon. They will stay at my place until we can get them a house.
"And Winston and Susan are willing to be uprooted again?" Luc asked.
"As much as the family loves the house and neighborhood, they will never see it as home, I think. All are country people. Winston has done the job at Blankenship. Purchasing has been cleaned up and has a good man in charge. In fact, Winston is working two mornings a week now and complaining he has nothing to do. The garage is doing well and had the owner actually turned it over to Winston and Susan, as was the original agreement, they might have settled in, but he sees Winston as a retarded man who has never grown beyond being a child and never will, and treats him as such. Since Susan is married to a retarded man, he assumes she is not too bright. Winston shrugs it off as he has done all his life, but Susan is ready to strangle him. No, the Masons will be happy to leave Oakland."
"Winston and Susan will be on the payroll here. When Boys' Camp is up and running, he will have apprentices working with him, but I suspect he will support himself and his family with the garage. The station will pay him for the work he does and their housing will be provided by Boys' Camp."
When they arrived at Boys' Camp, Rob said he would leave them as he had to check on some things at the cattle station. "I'll see you later."
While they were walking into the center of the compound to meet Shane, Josh said, "I'll probably fly Susan and the boys out, but Winston will be coming with the horses."
"You've never mentioned horses," Luc said.
"I bought Prince, a black American Mustang when I was still in middle school. That's how I met Alex. He owned one as well and we met while out riding. When his mother took him away, he took Princess. Later, Jack Kennedy, from whom we bought our horses and who captures, raises and trains Mustangs, found her for sale. She was in pitiful shape, but he took care of her. Then she had twins by Prince and I bought them.
"Winston's boys fell in love with two ponies and I bought them from Jack. People who love Mustangs, love Mustangs, so Prince, who is a rare black, fetches a high stud fee. My grandfather's ranch is run by Sally Wilkerson and her partner. They capture, breed and train Mustangs as well and I have pick of up to half their herd which, last time I knew, numbered about twenty. I'll probably take six or eight for here. I plan to use what's in the stud fee account to pick up ponies. My Portuguese teacher is also a horse person and rides a Mangalarga Marchador, a magnificent animal, and has others. I would like to raise some as well. Rob will have the crew building stables and pasture beyond Boys' Camp, at the opposite end of the valley from the cattle operation, starting very soon. When it is completed, we will move the horses.
"I know it's none of my business, but I recall you saying you were 'half a millionaire' when you first told me me about your inheritance. You have spent a lot of that already. Again, it's none of my business, but I'd sure hate to see you go belly up and all this go down the drain."
"True, I have taken on some debt, a lot of debt, to purchase the turbo and will take on more if the company is willing to sell the small plane, but the changes here have been paid for by the station. Rob runs a tight, but happy, ship and it has prospered. Remember, there has been twenty years of profits banked. The only money spent out of the station's income has been to upgrade and maintain. The expense of stables and pastures will be minimal as the lumber comes from here and the pastures will cost only the wire as the posts are cut from locust here and a supply is kept on hand. The sales of a few horses and/or ponies and the cost will be recovered. Rob is anxious to expand the cattle operation. He'd like to bring in another breed and all that would require is time, posts and wire for new pastures and, again, the only cost will be the wire and, of course, the cattle. Likewise, the garage is being built from Mountain lumber and other costs will be be repaid by work Winston does for the station. I'm not worried -- at least not very much!" Josh laughed.
Shane showed them around Boys' Camp and Josh was surprised at how much had been done since he was here before. Most was just a second level of maintenance -- painting the inside, upgrading the kitchens, etc. When they finished, Shane drove them, not to Jake's place, but Louise's. Josh looked at Shane and raised an eyebrow. Shane just grinned. Louise came out of her cottage to meet them and Shane turned around and headed back to Boys' Camp. After introductions Louise said, "Josh, you wanted to climb the tower. It's a beautiful day for that." The four started climbing the steep, winding stairs single file and by the time they reached the top, Cândido was a bit winded. Josh and Luc were little better. "Josh, you'll toughen up when you get here and start doing real work, but I'm afraid you two need to hit the gym."
"I'm afraid you are right," Luc said.
The watch room was small -- eight by eight -- and had a lot of equipment in it, so it was a bit tight for the four, but the climb and the lack of room was small price to pay for the view. "Unlike the west, we generally have plenty of rain and therefore few fires, but when the fire danger is high, someone is on watch. We had a couple of small fires from lightning since I was old enough to take watch duty, but both were allowed to burn out. Occasional burns are nature's way of dealing with forest, we just don't want them to get out of hand."
After they climbed down, Louise told Luc and Cândido about the Mountain's forests and how they were used. She said the furniture and woodwork in the house all came from select logs cut there. "Actually, the wood in all the buildings comes from our forest. We use lumber planed on our own planer for things like sheds and barns as our rough planer is very utilitarian. Finished lumber for building is finished at a custom plane. Special lumber for fine work we re-plane on our own precision planes, but now you get the ultimate Sentinel Mountain treat."
They all climbed back in the Jeep and she drove to Sentinel Rock. Once again the others hung back to allow Josh to walk out to the edge where he sat, in silence for several minutes, then turned as if he suddenly remembered them and said, "Please, join me."
Cândido immediately walked to the edge, joining Josh while Luc hesitated and finally moved closer, but did not come near the edge. "Luc, you are allowing your fear to take from you a beautiful view," Cândido said.
"I can see a beautiful view from here," he said in a quiet voice.
It was lunch time when they returned to the house and Janie fed them well. The three ate alone as she said she had eaten her dinner earlier.
After they had eaten, Luc asked if he could use Josh's office to check with the office and Josh nodded. Josh and Cândido both dozed off in the comfortable living room chairs. When they awoke, Luc had joined them and was still asleep. Josh asked Cândido if he'd like to walk up the mountain. "I have never seen the spring which is the source of our water," Josh said. "Janie tells me it is a nice walk, though steep at times."
Cândido said he would and suggested they let Luc sleep. "He's really been working hard and long hours and seems so relaxed here."
Soon the two were walking up a trail behind the house, headed up the mountain. It had been widened to bring materials to the spring and the two could walk abreast. They walked in silence for a distance, then Cândido said, "You were thinking of him when you were on the Rock, weren't you?"
Before he could answer, a tear rolled down Josh's face. "Not an hour passes that I don't think about him, but some places he seems so near. That is one of them."
"Why have you not moved on? It has been over seven years since you were separated. You were only sixteen...."
"I tried. I hoped I could come to love Kelly. When we first got together, I liked him and the sex was good," Josh smiled, "very good, but I did not grow to love him even before he took the path he did. Now I live like a monk and, frankly, if I cannot find Alex, that will be the way I live my life, the way Elijah lived his."
"Luc knows it but dismisses it, kinda, as primitive, but among my people I am one who has visions. I cannot promise you will ever see Alex again. I do not know anything about your future or his beyond the fact that you will be happy, very happy, in this place."
"I am happy here, happier than I have been since we were separated and once I am here permanently, I believe I will be happy, but never very happy. That can only be with my beloved."
When they reached the spring. Josh had expected to see a small stream running from under some rocks and what they found was a cave well above their heads and water rushing out of it and plunging into a pool below. To one edge of the pool was a screen-covered inlet below the water line. The pipes which had been laid atop the ground to provide water for Elijah's troops had long since been buried and the area looked almost as untouched as when it had first been discovered. The spring was, in fact, the head of the stream which ran through the glade. When Cândido suggested a swim, Josh laughed and suggested he test the water first. "Wow, I'm surprised there is not ice along the edge," the Bororo laughed as he pulled his hand from the water.
When they got back to the house, Luc was in the kitchen with Janie, having a cup of coffee. When Josh asked if he had time for some serious talk, they went into the office and talked about Josh's future with Blankenship Ltd. Basically, Josh wanted to leave as soon as possible and Luc went over the situation in great detail and finally said, "I see no reason why you cannot be back here in a month. You'll still be a partner, but I would like for you to remain on the payroll. Of course we could pay you as a consultant on an 'as needed' basis, but I'd like to see you in charge of everything east of the Mississippi. Shouldn't take a great deal of your time. We'd expect to pay your travel as well as a regular salary, which could be applied to the payments on the plane. If Walt is willing to live here, we could keep him on stand-by as we do now. What do you think?"
"I'm willing to try it," Josh responded, "but understand if I do, Sentinel Mountain comes first."
"I'd expect no les...." Luc was interrupted by the phone which Josh picked up since it was the office line.
"Josh, June VanWinkle. I have a bit of news, just a tiny bit. My man was able to find a court record of a name change. After her husband divorced her, Mrs. Bledsoe went to court to change back to her maiden name, Crimshaw. She had an address in Salt Lake, but when Bull -- the tracer's name is Alessio Marino, but he has been called Bull since high school. When we were growing up, there was a radio show called 'Mr. King, Tracer of Lost Persons' which we both loved. Bull swore that was what he would be when he grew up and he has been. His card says, 'Alessio Bull Marino, Tracer of Lost Persons'," Mr. VanWinkle laughed. "Anyway, when Bull checked out the address, he found the building had been an apartment building in a bad section of Salt Lake which was condemned and razed shortly after Miss Crimshaw had given it as her address. "Took some doing, but he checked school records and Alex was never enrolled in a Salt Lake school. Given her attachment to Salt Lake, Bull thinks she stayed, but so far has found no leads."
"Well, that's more than we knew before. Maybe she didn't stay in Salt Lake, Mr. VanWinkle. She really was conservative, actually a fanatic. I think maybe she could have gone off with one of the more fundamentalist Mormon sects."
"Luc and I have just had a serious talk about that. I think we have found a way for me to keep my finger in the pie. Looks as if I'll be able to come here to live within a month or six weeks and anything I need to do, I can do with this as my base. I'll be here and we can get on with getting Boys' Camp ready to open which is the important thing right now."
"Sounds good. Call me next week and we'll have lunch."
At breakfast Sunday morning Janie said, "If any of you want to go to church with me, I'll be happy to have you, but I don't want you to go thinking your lifestyle is accepted there. I have no problems with it, figuring it's your choice and none of my business, but I wanted to issue the invitation and warning." Josh made a mental note to have a talk with Janie later about her thinking being gay was a choice, but now wasn't the time.
"Thank you, Janie," Luc said. "Cândido and I were both raised Roman Catholic, but left the church when it refused to accept our loving each other. We have since found a home in an Anglican parish in Brazil and have been welcomed with open arms in San Francisco's Episcopal diocese."
"Then you might like to hitch a ride with Shane, Hank, Louise and Rob and his family. They go into East Washington."
They decided to make the trip and Josh debated whether or not to go with them. He had never been in any church except Latter Day Saints ones. He called Shane and asked about the three of them going and he said they would be happy to have them. "I'll take the van," he said. "We can all eat dinner after."
Hank was getting out of a car near where Shane had parked and he and a fellow walked over to the Mountain crowd. "Good to see you again, Josh," he said. "I'd like you to meet my partner, Phillip. Phillip, Josh Taylor." The two men shook hands, then Josh introduced Luc and Cândido.
Inside, had it not been for Shane and Louise, Josh would have been lost most of the time and he was surprised that Luc and Cândido seemed right at home. He was thunderstruck when the minister, the priest, was a woman and called by her first name, Lucy. He was beyond astonished when a person leading prayers said, "We pray for those having anniversaries this week," and among the couples named were Hank and Phillip.
After a prayer by the priest, she raised her hands and said, "The Peace of the Lord be always with you," and the congregation responded, "And also with you." People started greeting each other, some hugging, some clasping hands, others giving their neighbors a handshake. Hank and Phillip were sitting in front of the rest of the Mountain crowd and instead of shaking hands, they embraced and Hank kissed Phillip on the cheek. Josh almost lost it. He had been excommunicated because he would not deny loving a man while here were two men being prayed for on their anniversary and one had kissed the other, albeit on the cheek, in church.
After the service, Josh, Luc and Cândido were introduced to the priest. She welcomed them and when Louise told her Josh had inherited Sentinel Mountain from his great uncle and would be coming there to live soon, she said, "Then I hope to see more of you in the future, Josh."
When they met for dinner, Josh congratulated Hank and Phillip on their anniversary and Luc asked them when and where they had been married. "We haven't been legally married," Phillip said, "but Lucy blessed our union five years ago."
During the meal, Josh asked Luc and Cândido how they were able to follow an American service and Luc said, "Anglicans use the Book of Common Prayer. It may be in a different language and there are some differences, but if you can follow one, you can follow the others. Same can't be said for the ceremony. Some are very formal and others are very relaxed, but the words are essentially the same and in the same order."
"I guess the same is true of Latter Day Saints," Josh said, "but some of their services are only open to members and we'd sure have not seen kissing -- even if you two were man and woman -- in church."
Monday the three flew out of the valley and headed for San Francisco. Because of the three-hour difference, their nine am departure got them there before noon. Luc and Josh had discussed further Josh's moving to the east coast and decided he would make the move the middle or end of the next month.
Tuesday, Josh cleaned up the work that had piled up on his desk -- not much these days -- and left early, headed for Oakland. He sat down with the Masons and discussed the move. "I want to make sure this is something you want to do," he said. "You haven't seen the place and haven't met the people. We can make a quick weekend trip if you like, leave here Friday at four and arriving there around two AM their time, have a look around Saturday afternoon after we get some sleep, have everyone in for supper Saturday night and fly out Sunday noon, getting back here late afternoon."
"Seems like a lot of money and little time to find out a little bit," Winston said. "You've always treated us right and been good to us. You think we'll like the place and all, don't you?"
"I really do. It's a place where the boys can pretty much run free. They'll have their horses. You'll have a garage to run as you please and can do the work you know well and love. The house will be what you decide you want. Mrs. Mason can have her own place if she likes or an apartment attached to your house. You'll like the people, I can assure you of that. I hope you will like having apprentices under you eventually. Someone else will handle the book part of their learning to be mechanics, but you will show them how it's done."
"Then I see no reason for a quick trip," Winston said. Susan and Mrs. Mason agreed.
"Fine. Then plan on my flying Mrs. Mason, Susan and the boys out in three or four weeks. I'll check with Sally and see how many horses we will be transporting and what arrangements we can make for that. I'd like you to accompany them and, if possible, Sally as well. I know we will be taking Prince, Princess and the boys' ponies and I can select up to half the herd she has now. I suspect I'll take six or eight plus four or five ponies and that will be it. From now on, I'll just take the money." What Josh didn't tell the Masons was half of it would now go into the boys' trust fund for college. "Be thinking about what you want in the house and, by the way, you need plan on taking only the furniture you like as any you want will either be in storage or will be built for you. May take six to nine months, but it will be ready by the time the house is, I suspect."
"You sure you have room for all of us for that long?" Mrs. Mason asked.
Josh laughed. "There are three two-bedroom suites upstairs and another six bedrooms. There's a dining room that can seat thirty and... well, there's plenty of room."
When Josh got to the office Prue, called to tell him Luc needed to see him as soon as he was available. He told her to send him up.
Jesse and Scott
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