This story is posted for the exclusive enjoyment of readers of the Nifty Archive. While you are free to make a personal copy, no copy of this manuscript may be published, copied, posted to another web site, or otherwise disseminated without express permission from the author.

The contents of this story are fictional. Any resemblance of characters to living or lived persons is strictly coincidental. Certain characters engage in sexual acts which may or may not be legal in the state or country in which a reader may reside. Any reader with objections to graphic descriptions of sexual encounters between males who may not have reached the legal age of consent, or whose local, regional, state or national jurisprudence prohibits such descriptions, should not read further.

Chapter XXIV

Saturday, July 10, 1993

I remember watching "Close Encounters" when I was a little kid, on Bobby's Big Screen TV. There was a scene in the movie of this empty place in the middle of nowhere where all of a sudden this horde of Army guys and scientists descended and turned the place into a beehive.

That was what it was like, before Boo even got finished telling the story. The Sheriff arrived -- or rather, half the Sheriff's Department, in four big 4x4's, just before Jeremy's Bentley promenaded up the drive, somehow floating over the potholes. The CHP got into the act, with another three panda cars, and there were a bunch of other cars connected to I don't know whom, probably people from Radford who'd heard. Tourists, of a sort, drawn like insipid moths to a flashlight, their lives so uninteresting that they need to feed on others' calamities.

Jeremy and William ran up to us before anybody else, and asked first if we were all right, then what the hell was going on, and Brad told them in as few words as possible. Jeremy gave Brad a hug, and William gave me one, and that helped. Brad and me were hugging each other in our heads all the time, pushing back the pains, holding back the tears. We were both almost shivering from it all, and having to sit in the clothes full of their blood, seeing it all over everybody, didn't help.

William took out a handkerchief from somewhere -- I didn't know people still carried them -- and my eyes and nose got taken care of. I didn't give the handkerchief back to him -- it was kinda full. I noticed Brad did the same with Jeremy's. Ever since, a handkerchief goes in my pocket before the shoes or sandals go on my feet.

The Sheriff came up while I was trying to hide the handkerchief, and told us not to touch anything, to stay out on the porch. Another guy took pictures of us, either a video camera or one of those digital cameras, I think.

Harry tried to keep control of the situation, but the Sheriff, this beefy (well, more McDonaldy, with a big gut and lots of love handle) not-very-sympa guy, just brushed him off. He told us all to stay on the porch until he had a better idea of what needed to be done. We just sat, waited, and watched.

It took a while before anything happened, as the Prides of Law Enforcement milled about, looking at the spots where the blood was already turning black in the hot sun. They were staring at the automatic rifle with the silencer that Hood had used, at our shotguns and Boo's semi-automatic, as if they could will the secrets of the past from them. A couple of the guys looked like they might actually have known what they were doing, taking line-of-sight sight measures from the barn to where Saw's and Munoz' blood spots marked their positions. It couldn't have been more than seventy or eighty feet.

One of the Sheriff's guys had the balls to ask if Boo had a license to carry the elephant gun (demand proof was more like it), but Harry told him to "piss off." When another started asking me questions, William answered for me, saying that I would be glad to give a statement when matters had calmed down. It was a relief to be protected like that.

The Associate Sheriff, or whatever they call themselves, got a little testy, but William just stared him down, and I cooperated by not saying a word. The guy backed off, not real quick, but quick enough. William can be more intimidating to strangers than I thought. I guess knowing somebody like we know him makes it hard to believe what other people see.

We finally got permission to go inside the Cabin to get out of the maelstrom and the heat. There wasn't anything we could do, anyway.

We were allowed to change out of our bloody clothing, but the clothes went into separate clear garbage can liners for evidence. Okay by me. I never wanted to wear them again, anyway. Bertha got a big sweatshirt from me (another of Brad's prized hand-downs) to replace her bloodied white shirt, but there were no pants, so she stayed in her only slightly stained slacks. Don and Mark didn't change, as there was nothing in the Cabin that would fit Don, and Mark was unmarked, somehow.

Bertha cleaned up a little in the bathroom, and Boo made some hot tea for her on the Aga. We got sodas out of the fridge for the rest of us, Harry included (but not the Sheriff), and Brad said something to Boo about the benefits of antique ice coolers. I caught it, but for some reason couldn't respond to the humor.

The next few hours are a blur. Everybody seemed to want to question everybody, the Sheriff was politicking with the CHP about some jurisdictional thing or other, and of course, more people kept arriving. The Sheriff apparently didn't have any "Crime Scene Tape" with him, so he put his men in a semi-circle in the hot sun to keep rubbernecks away. The CHP finally came to his rescue with a roll of the yellow stuff, and the sheriffs made everybody leave that wasn't supposed to be there, putting tape across the drive between a couple of 4x4's, once the tourists had been herded away from the Cabin.

A small chopper came in at about five thirty. It had to land up by the water tank, because the clearing downhill from the cabin was full of cars, cops and cameras. Brad and I went out on the side porch to watch it land.

It was Gutierrez and Throckmorton who stepped out, bending low to duck the blades, even though they were a good ten feet off the ground. I was impressed that Gutierrez was so important that he got his own chopper, but Brad straightened me out on that.

"It's Throckmorton that hired the chopper, I'd guess," he thought to me. "It's private, not city."

Once again, Mr. Perfect was right. The side of the chopper read "Sacramento Air Services," as it took right off in a swirling cloud of dust, even before Thurston and Gutierrez we at the bottom of the steps.

"Cut it out, Loon," he laughed into me. "You'll make me all swell-headed." It was the first laugh we shared after all the strain, and it felt like a cool breeze.

Throckmorton was implacable as he marched up the back steps, ramrod straight and impeccable as always in his lawyer uniform and thick briefcase. I didn't even see any perspiration, and it was still blazing hot. Boo came out behind us.

"Brad, Tim," he said shaking our hands. "I'm relieved like I can't say." He turned to Boo and shook her hand too, very formally. "We owe you an enormous debt of gratitude, Mrs. Holmes. I can't tell you how . . . " He took off his sunglasses and wiped them. HIs eyes were brimming, I could tell. Who'd have thunk it?

For once, Throckmorton seemed at a loss for words.

" . . . well, you certainly seem to have made quite a stir up here." He recovered, talking to the three of us. "Let's go inside."

"Any word on how David and Jorge are doing?" I asked, with Brad's support.

'They're going to pull through," said Gutierrez behind me. "The Forestry Service guys got them to Redding Hospital in plenty of time."

"Who's Hood?" asked Brad.

"Who?" was Throckmorton's response.

"The guy with the ski mask, the one who shot them," said Brad, too quickly, too . . . sharply, almost like he was putting Throckmorton down. I showed him how close he was to making an ass of himself, and he cringed a little inside. He does it for me all the time, and it really helps.

"Thanks!" he said to me. "Sorry," he said aloud before anybody could answer. "I'm a little tense."

"No need," said Throckmorton, glossing it over.

"We don't have a positive ID yet," said Gutierrez, steering us out of the kitchen into the Big Room. It was just us again, plus Bertha. William and Jeremy kept close to us, protectively, and Boo sat next to Bertha, talking softly with her. Boo watched everything like a hawk, all the same.

Once we were in the relative cool of the Big Room, Gutierrez, Throckmorton, Harry and the Sheriff got introductions, and the statements started. Some guy in tan shorts and shirt wrote everything down in shorthand. He looked like a squirrel from the front, buck teeth and black rim glasses..

Gutierrez stressed that he was there strictly as an interested observer. I got the impression that he and Throckmorton had thoroughly discussed the situation. Throckmorton kept close to Gutierrez, and they conferred quietly a couple of times. Occasionally, Throckmorton interrupted the Sheriff, told him a question wasn't appropriate, especially when he was asking Boo questions, like about the length of time she'd been carrying concealed weapons, why she shot Hood twice, that sort of stuff.

The telephone rang around six. It was a telephone company lineman, checking to make sure the phone was working. Somebody found the cut wires and called PacBell, I guess. I never found out how the power was switched back on, a few minutes later. I'm still impressed with how quickly it all was done. Bertha made the first call, to Terry to come get her, after the Sheriff said it was all right for her to leave. Then Gutierrez was on the phone to the Hospital, but they didn't have anything to report.

I looked out the window at one point, not really interested in the interviewing that was going on, and saw a white van, like the one David Saw used. There was a guy taking photographs, another scooping stuff off the ground into plastic baggies. Blood, I guess.

"Who loves ya?" Brad said to me.

"The guy I love," I said, flooding into him.

"We better not," we thought. "They'll notice." So we caressed each other really deeply, not sexually, just tenderly, and I pulled away, gently.

Boo finally got tired of the process, and announced that she was going to make supper, since Brad and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I'd forgot that, and was instantly ravenous. Terry got through the cordon to pick up Bertha, and after hugs all around, especially with Brad, she left, oblivious of the red badges she wore.

The white-suit that was taking the photos came in and told the Sheriff that they were finished. He said they'd found the car batteries and put them back into the Cherokee and the Pickup once they'd dusted them. Brad thanked him -- at least we had transportation again.

Somehow, the Sheriff managed to get enough information "for now," and left around seven thirty, and we were finally left in peace. Private turmoil might be a better way to put it. It takes a long time to get rid of the jitters after something like this.

Gutierrez and Throckmorton stayed for supper, after calling over to the hotel in Fall River Mills to get rooms, seeing as how Burney was full up. We didn't talk much, and the conversation was more about the weather, the drought, the delicious food Boo whipped up, anything but Hood, Saw and Munoz.

After dinner, Gutierrez tried the Hospital again. Munoz was still in the OR, and Saw was in a Recovery Room in Intensive Care, out. Thurston and Gutierrez left for Fall River around nine or so- - they took the Camaro, bullet holes and all. They wouldn't need to put up the windows, anyway, and none of the holes went through the front end of the car. Throckmorton wisely let Gutierrez drive. He looked out of place in a sporty ragtop. Just a Jaguar kind of guy, I guess. Brad called the hospital a little later, but they wouldn't give out any information to him.

Don and Mark called after the dishes had been done, just to check if we needed anything. Brad told them that we were fine, just a little sore from all the events of the past couple of days, and we agreed to get together soon -- maybe Wednesday -- for lunch at Ed's. (Monday, we were going back down to Sacramento for two funerals -- Bobby that afternoon and Suzie the next day.) They were glad to hear about Munoz and Saw. Don sounded like he was going to weep when he said he was sorry to have been of so little help to "that sweet-looking young man." I guess Saw is kind of nice-looking. Not Brad, but nice-looking.

I think we all went to bed before ten.

Brad and I slept like the dead. We didn't even think about making love, although we merged and caressed before we fell asleep inside each other.

Sunday, July 11, 1993

We had the same dreams -- at least the ones we remembered -- and were still merged when we woke up in the morning, just as the birds got into full concert. It was the first time I woke with him inside my head, and it was good-weird. I woke up a second before him, and I saw his dream like it was mine. I wouldn't kiss me like that, if I was Brad. Way too dangerous.

The smell of freshly-ground coffee beckoned from under our door.

We gradually disengaged, thinking all the while as we did our ablutions, took our dumps, all that.

"Brad, when we're inside each other like that, where are we really? I mean, inside my head or inside your head?"

"I don't know, Loon. Sometimes I feel like I'm inside your head, because when I open my eyes, I'm always looking through yours."

"How come we can do it again up here, but we lost it when we were in Sacramento?" I worried.

"Maybe it has something to do with . . . I don't know, stress or something."

"I'm not so sure," I mused. "When you went into Radford yesterday, we were pretty stressed out, but we didn't lose it."

"But it took a while to lose it, remember?"

"We lost it when we left Reston," I thought aloud. No, I mean I thought that without wanting to think it to him.

"I wondered about that, too," Brad said as he brushed his teeth. "Maybe it has something to do with Reston itself."

"The cabin? Or the land?" Might as well ask two dumb questions about something when you don't have the slightest clue of what it was, could be, or is.

"Maybe it means . . . we can't do this when we're not at Reston," he said as he caressed the inside of my groin and made the slight ache in my shoulder disappear. I got an instant erection, then he goes and makes it go down, just like that.


"Hungry," he said into me.

"Used to be for me," I pouted. He knew it was phony, of course, since he could see inside me. We still enjoyed the joke.

"Always, my Love, for as long as we're alive," he whispered into me. I shivered with pleasure.

We finished dressing and went out to the kitchen, where Boo was already sipping coffee and flipping pancakes on the Aga's big griddle.

"Morning, boys," she said with a grin. "I expect you're a little hungry after all the excitement yesterday."

'We're always hungry, Boo" Brad said, swiping a piece of bacon from the skillet and popping it into his mouth, keeping it between his teeth so it wouldn't burn his tongue or palate. I learned something new.

"Thought you knew that trick!" Brad grinned inside me.

"I'm not that juvenile," I riposted, lamely.

We heard the Camaro coming up the drive. A Z-28 is hard to mistake for anything else, if you love 'Maros. We waited on Throckmorton and Gutierrez before we sat to eat, and Boo pulled another pound of bacon out of the icebox. Brad separated it and arranged it in the skillet, putting the crisp slices on a paper towel and pouring out some of the fat, first, while Boo put the pancakes in the Aga to keep warm while she whipped up another batch.

"Good morning!" called Throckmorton from the front door as I started the next pot of coffee through the filter. "Anybody awake besides the coffee maker?"

"Coming!" called Jeremy from the back of the cabin. I hadn't noticed they were up, but the shower was running.

Gutierrez and Throckmorton came into the kitchen, bearing a bag of bearclaws, the real ones from the little bake shop in Fall River Mills, not the cardboardy ones from a supermarket. Who cares they have twice the calories? Just eat half as many, you still get triple the pleasure.

Jeremy came in just behind them, and William brought up the rear, looking a little fuzzy around the edges. I wondered if they'd been drinking last night. No, Jeremy was crisp, bright of mind. I suspect Jeremy slept deeply, no impact from the events, and that William had been beset with nightmares and visions, guilt and embarrassment, just because they'd gone to McCloud. Silly. Human. Nice.

"Morning!" we all said.

"How are David and Jorge?" asked someone. Brad, I think. "Anything new?"

"David's okay," said Gutierrez. "Not okay, but he will be. The bullet in the neck missed the arteries as well as the spinal column, and the chest bullet missed everything but the lung. Collapsed it, but no more, and they've patched him up pretty good. His right arm is pretty messed up, because the bullet hit the bone and tumbled out, so he'll be going through a lot of rehab for the next year or so."

"What about Jorge?" I asked softly. I didn't like the way Gutierrez answered.

"Munoz is a strong guy," Gutierrez said. "He lost a lot of blood, and they had to take out part of his intestines where the damage was too great, but the leg wound was superficial."

"What about . . . his face?" Brad asked.

"Oh, that," said Gutierrez. "They'll be able to save everything there, except one tooth that got pulverized. Plastic surgeons are amazing these days. He won't be quite as handsome, but certainly more interesting."

"What else?" I said. Gutierrez was holding something back.

Gutierrez gave me a sharp look, then stared at his lap for a few seconds. "His spine was damaged. We don't know how badly. He may . . . have no use of his lower body."

"Oh, shit," said William. We sat in silence for a few seconds. Brad and I said a prayer back and forth between us.

"And Hood?" I finally asked. I felt awful about Munoz, but I had to know.

"We know," he said softly. "Just about everything."

Everything stopped.

"We got the ID on Harmon Jenkins last night at midnight. Fingerprints are in the NSA," he started.

"It was Jenkins!" Brad thought at me. "We knew it, but didn't trust ourselves!"

"I've got a bad feeling about this, though," I said. "Something . . . doesn't feel right."

Brad looked into me and saw what I meant. "But it was definitely Jenkins that killed Mom and Dad, and it was him tried to kill us."

"He gave a statement," said Throckmorton. "Confessed it all, with a witness."

"He blamed your father for losing his . . . manhood," said Gutierrez. "He wasn't completely rational for parts of the statement, so we're not sure of the truth of what he's said.

"Says your father and Davies were leading a Special Forces unit in . . ." Gutierrez consulted his notebook. "Maykong Delta in Vietnam. Jenkins was an electronics warfare specialist seconded from the Air Force. Thought your Dad and Davies deliberately led him into a nest of 'charlies,' which I presume means the North Vietnamese. When they were evacuated by chopper, Jenkins took a round right through his groin, through his lower abdomen, out his chest under the ribcage. Lost his penis, appendix and five feet of his gut.

"He eventually wound up at Travis, as Chief of Base Security. He got his wife to work for your Dad, then stalked him. Learned everything there was to know about him and Davies. Used an Air Force computer of some sort to track down a lot of information about families, that sort of stuff. Got more and more resentful as your Dad became successful, when you two were grwing up. When Davies was elected, it almost boiled over, but he kept it simmering."

Brad and I looked at each other inside, and we both felt what Gutierrez said was true, but something nagged . . .

"When his son turned out to be epileptic, he went over the edge," said Gutierrez as we sat down at the big table, each of us carrying something from the kitchen.

"Son?" said Brad for us. "I thought he . . . couldn't. I mean, he didn't have . . ."

"The Air force spent a lot to give him an implant," said Gutierrez. "He could, uh, perform, but not make babies at the same time."

It was almost amusing to see him struggle for words. I couldn't tell if he was uncomfortable because Boo was there, or because he thought of us as just kids.

"You mean he could have kids?" I asked, a little incredulously.

"He didn't lose his, uh, he didn't lose everything down there," Gutierrez went on finally. "He could have children by artificial insemination."

"But he didn't!" Brad said. "Or at least we thought they didn't. Willa never had kids."

"That was the huge irony of the whole thing," said Throckmorton. "Willa was barren. They couldn't have kids together."

"But you said his son was epileptic," I said between mouthfuls of buttermilk pancakes loaded with syrup. Brad's mouth was stuffed, so I got my word in.

"Bobby was his son," said Throckmorton.

"Bobby? You mean him and Suzie Westley?" Brad said as he swallowed.

"He said she agreed to have his baby as a surrogate," Gutierrez explained. "But when she got pregnant with his sperm by artificial insemination, she decided to keep the baby, not give it to Willa and him. I'd be willing to bet she recognized that Jenkins was a little loopy by then. Apparently, he never got to see the baby. Bobby, I mean."

"Then why did he get upset when he found out Bobby was epileptic?" I asked.

"Not completely clear," said Gutierrez. "It could be his demented mind figured it was more result of him taking the round in Vietnam, or of a curse. Who Knows? However, he said he killed the boy, then Suzie, then went after your Mom and Dad. He was hell-bent on wiping out your Dad's family -- you -- because he blamed your Dad for wiping out his."

"You mean Bobby was killed before Mom and Dad?" I asked. "I thought he died the following week."

"So did we," said Gutierrez. "So did the pathologist. But the forensics guy found evidence that the body had been semi-frozen, probably for a number of days, then defrosted a couple of days before it was found."

"Why would he do that?" Brad asked.

"Keep attention off what was happening, give him the time to track down your parents, who knows? He didn't cover that ground very well."

"What's going to happen to him now?" Brad said, as pensively as we both felt. The man was obviously not completely sane, but he'd killed four people, and almost killed a lot more. I have to admit it - I wanted him hung in public, then drawn and quartered, his head on a spit in front of the house so everyone could see he was no longer a danger to decent people, that he wouldn't spend the next fifty years being coddled in prison.

"That's up to his Maker," said Throckmorton softly.

"What do you mean?" Brad asked, reaching for more bacon.

Gutierrez replied. "Jenkins died about two hours ago. Pulmonary embolism -- his heart stopped from an air pocket or a blood clot, they don't know which yet. He seemed to be okay after they operated last night."

Boo didn't move. Not a muscle, just sat there with the coffee mug halfway down to the table. Everyone fell silent as we digested this information, and I watched Boo.

Her eyes got a little misty, then she suddenly gave a little start and said "excuse me" and got up from the table.

"Should I follow her?" I asked Brad, as she turned towards the back of the cabin.

"Of course," he said to me softly. "She hurts."

I got up and followed her into the kitchen. She stood in front of the sink and stared, unseeing, out the window. I just stood beside her, my hand on her arm, to let her know we cared.

"It's never easy," she said softly after a minute or two. "But you have to choose."

I wasn't sure what she meant. It didn't matter.

She turned into my arms and we hugged and rocked for a few seconds.

"Thanks," she said. "You boys are good people."

Brad merged into me briefly, and we held the three of us.

"We love you," I said for Brad and me. "You saved our lives."

"Only the first part counts in the Lord's Book," she said, and smiled up at me, her eyes glistening.



There were only six of us at Bobby's funeral. Suzie's brother didn't bother to come down, so it was the minister, me and Brad along with Jeremy and William, and Dave and Emily. Julie Throan would have come, but her youngest, Elizabeth, was in the hospital with food poisoning.

Suzie's funeral, the next day, was a little better attended. James Westley was there with his wife, and he fit my mental image perfectly: greasy scumball. Dave and Emily, William and Jeremy, a woman we didn't know who kept to herself, Julie and her husband -- John, I think, plus eight or ten people we knew from from Sacpro. When the service was over, the woman had already left, but everyone else stayed to follow the casket. Oh, yeah. We lost our telephone the day after we left Reston.

The summer slid by. In September, Jeremy was appointed our temporary guardian by the Court, and Thurston was confirmed as Executor and Conservator. We quickly confirmed that it was only at Reston that we were able to connect with our minds -- every time we left for Sacramento, we lost it all within less than two days.

In October, after Loon stayed behind for a lonely month while Brad started at Princeton, Brad was appointed Loon's permanent guardian, with Thurston as Guarantor, and Tim was allowed to move to New Jersey. Brad found a super apartment on the second storey of this wonderful old house just West of Princeton, with separate quarters for Boo, and Tim flew out with Boo on the sixteenth of October, in First Class, yet, because Thurston had a million miles in his frequent flyer account with American.

Brad met the plane, and we took a stretch limousine across the Verrazano Bridge, with a spectacular view of the bottom of Manhattan. We were so happy to be together again, we didn't even mind that we couldn't talk to each other on our telephone.

The following Monday, Tim was enrolled at Princeton High. To be honest, we thought most of the students there were over-protected under-challenged and definitely overly hung up on labels. Abercrombie & Fitch was far more important to most of them than Jobs & Gates, except for their money, and they thought it was "kewl" to drink beer with whiskey chasers, smoke low-grade but expensive pot, and brag about "getting laid."

Brad got super grades, top of class in everything but Political Science. Tim got good grades, all "A's" except in PE and American History. Nobody got an A in Tulley's class, anyway. Axiomatic.

Each time we went from Reston to New Jersey, our telephone disappeared in less than a day. We took every chance we got to come back to Reston, but it was hard to get away while Brad was in school. The next summer, we made up for all the lost time, except for the trip to Europe.

Jorge Munoz eventually regained the full use of his legs, but he's a desk cop now. No more marathon running. He and David have made a home together, and seem to be as much in love now as ever. Tim saw them a couple of months ago on a quick trip to Sacramento for a Sacpro board meeting. Jorge's face barely shows the scars from the two bullets that went through his mouth, and he has almost no slur at all, despite losing a quarter of his tongue's motility. He claims that losing a few feet of intestine is the best way to keep from gaining weight as thirty comes and goes. David says it's more likely the six hours a week he spends at the gym ogling the gym bunnies while he works his body over.

David regained most of his right arm strength, but of course that isn't quite enough for an active duty police officer. He left the force and started up his own business, doing contract forensic work for the County, and has made quite a go of it. He's got six employees, and his Dad, of course. He still has a big star-shaped scar on his back where the bullet smashed out the back of his ribcage, separating one rib from the spine. That was quite a scare, but the spinal cord was just bruised -- or whatever the term is, we've forgotten it now -- and David was walking around only a couple of weeks after the attack.

Bud Carter and Greg Haskell were only together for a few months. Bud couldn't handle Greg's need to have sex with any guy who could get a stiff dick in front of him. Just as well -- Bud's got quite a good reputation as an up-and-coming artist, mostly oils and acrylics, and he's been dating a neat asian guy from Vallejo who seems to care only for Bud.

Mark and Don have been fast friends. They really have a beautiful home, with a view over the Lake and forest that just takes away your breath. Mark is going to retire this year. He's got lots, and Civil Engineering is pretty stressful. They keep urging Tim to get out more and maybe even date, but they don't understand, after all.

Jeremy and William have stayed together, more strongly bound together than ever. We still think of William as Marlboro Man, even though that's not politically correct. He's talking about quitting his professorship next year and just writing. He already makes more from publishing than from UC. Jeremy is still on the wagon, if you don't count the two or three bottles of wine that he and William go through each week. He's done quite a lot of script writing, but says he'd like to write children's books instead. Who knows?

Willa Jenkins disappeared, of course. She never showed up in Washington, and there was no result from a police search that went on for months. Gutierrez figured Jenkins killed her, as well, but made a better job of getting rid of the evidence.

The audit of the books of Sacpro confirmed what Dave had been hinting for weeks might be the case. Suzie had embezzled more than $400,000, probably close to $500,000 over the past seven years. There was no trace of the money, as she had no safe deposit boxes or bank accounts that the investigators could find. The money went into a dummy supplier account she set up, then went out in cashier's checks to nonexistent people. The company survived, but only because Dave fought like a bear for more than a year to keep things stitched together until profits started to fill the hole. That's why he owns half the company now. He earned it.

We miss Boo. We pray for her every Sunday.

Much has happened in the years since we fell in love. A lot of it is just boring trivia, going to the flea markets in New Hope together, our trip to Europe just before Brad's sophomore year (and again a year later), Tim's acceptance at Rutgers. The rest of it, to be honest, we don't want to share. Maybe in ten or twenty years, when the sharp edges are softened by the cleansing mists of forgetfulness, when the deep need for privacy is no longer paramount.

Most of all, we thank God for Reston, our ancestors' legacy, without which our Love could not endure.

So ends, gentle reader, the tale of Brad and Loon, from their awakening until their liberation from Harmon Jenkins. I hope it has provided you with some enjoyment during the odd spare hour you might have had to read, and that my machinations have not grated too much on your senses. I would be grateful for any feedback you might wish to give, whether positive or negative. How else can I learn how to improve my new avocation?