Him Who Made The Seven Stars
By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 50

"But, good my brother, do not, as some ungracious pastors do. Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven whilst like a puffed and reckless libertine himself the primrose path of dalliance treads and wrecks not his own." ~ Billy Bob Shakespeare ~ Stratford upon the Guadalupe
It was getting late and Billy didn't want to wear out his welcome by staying too long. They established a firm foundation of trust and interest in each other and what they might exchange with their families. Etienne becoming Billy Daniels slave bound them together as family – not quite like a marriage, but in many ways an even more solid bond. Billy told Etienne to remain with his family, but for them to come for Saturday afternoon barbecue and hoe-down and to be sure to bring his squeeze-box. The Boudreaux offered Billy Coo-zone Veed's home-brew fiddle, but he graciously declined. Billy told them it was fine where it was, and he hoped one day soon, Stan Breedlove would reclaim it for his own. Billy also warned the family, if they came for the Saturday festivities they were not to say anything about Stan Breedlove to his granddad or older brother. They assured Billy they wouldn't. They understood Billy was hoping to surprise Oatie and Elmer.    

It was hard for Maw-Maw Boudreaux and the Howlers to say goodbye to Randy and Billy. Little Dashaway cried when Randy hugged and kissed her on her forehead. She made him promise three times he would come with Mr. Daniels the next time he came to Erna. Billy reassured her he wouldn't think of coming to Erna without his little brother. He also made arrangements for one of his watchers to come to the Boudreaux's back door a couple of times a week to feed Dashaway more milk until her condition was more stable. He would also have to check her blood once a month for a year.

Etienne and the Boudreaux family invited Ray to spend some time with them, but he noticed they didn't seem to have a lot of room. He explained to his buddy he was anxious to see Master Billy's ranch and get started with his new life. He promised to return when Master Billy and his men came again. The cowboys and beasties climbed into the big ranch van and left Erna to return to the Daniels' ranch. Billy asked Clyde to drive so he could sit and talk with his family on the way back. He held Randy in his lap. Billy was particularly proud of his little brother and liked having him around. He always felt a twinge of regret in his heart every time they parted to go their separate ways in life, but it always seemed to make reuniting all the more wonderful for them. The men talked of many things and about when they would plan a trip to the hinterlands of Northern Oregon to pay a visit to Coo-zone Veed and his ugly husband Coo-zone Cleet.

Bubba and Jack brought up the subject of Bubba and Earl's old Army buddy Erin Mascaro. Bubba explained his buddy was as nice and pleasant a man as you could wish to have for a friend, but one drink of alcohol would turn him in to an unpleasant, foul mouthed, paranoid, mean spirited monster he never seemed to be able to control. It got him in a lot of trouble and eventually landed him in prison on a fifteen year sentence for armed robbery. They told Billy how Womack was blackmailing Earl to get him to do what he wanted to find out personal information on Bubba and Billy, if he could.

"Our problem is, we want to talk with Erin ourselves, but we don't have anyway to know if he's telling us the truth if he denies he told Clarence he would retract his confession and put the finger on Earl as his accomplice. It would just be hearsay, his word against Womack's," Jack lamented.

"Not necessarily," Nick said, "Billy has contacts on both major worlds who have been keeping video watches on Clarence since he came to Mason several years ago. Our staff was able to score a video of Orville Higginbothem's conversation with his job foreman about killing Enoch Redbone which helped convict him. Billy can have his staff put in a request for videos of any visits to your friend made by Womack. It might confirm what he said, or if it don't, you'll know he's a liar trying to manipulate anyone he can to extort money or a better position for himself," Nick said.

"Would you want your buddy for a slave?" Billy asked.

"No. It wouldn't work for me. Jack asked me the same question about Earl and I told him no. I would allow my feelings to get in the way. However, I would buy both if you would accept them as punishment slaves," Bubba replied.

"Keep your money, Cowboy, if you think your buddy is worthy enough to become one of my slaves, let me know, and I'll have my staff get in charge with the prison immediately. Same applies with whatever comes of Earl's hearing," Billy said, "I'll have my staff contact our uncles' staff on Retikki Prime as soon as we return for the other information you need on Womack and your buddy," Billy said.

When they arrived back at the ranch the family was just sitting down to have dessert and Billy's crew was right on time to join them. Billy introduced his new slave, Ray Escobar, to the family. Ray was impressed he was treated like any other member of Master Daniels' family. Slaves and freemen sat down together to enjoy a sweet treat with coffee and good conversation. While they were conversing, they were joined by Billy's staff. Aunt Helen had a DVD in a plastic case she handed to Billy across the table.

"What's this, Aunt Helen?" Billy asked.

"It seems some off world helpers have provided you, my nephew, and Mr. McCormack with some delicate information regarding Clarence Womack," Helen replied.

"Have you reviewed it?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, your entire staff and most of the family here watched it. It was too good not to share. It seems they caught Clarence Womack in flagrante delicto," Helen replied and giggled.

"So what? I don't bathe ever' day myself," Bubba declared.

"Tell us something we don't know, Bubba," Tron said drolly, and everyone laughed.

"No, no, Bubba. It's a Latin legal term. In flagrante delicto means they caught Womack red-handed breaking the law, lying about something, or caught in the act of illicit sexual intercourse," Jack explained.

"Oh, well, never mind. Ain't that why I pay you the big bucks, Brother, to get my foot out of my mouth?" Bubba asked Jack and laughed.

"Yes, but that extraction was particularly expensive. I had to hire a twenty-mule team plus driver," Jack shot back and laughed. The whole family broke up.

"Anyone think them Ancients is try'n to tell us something?" Billy tossed out to his family.

"Yeah, they want to see Clarence Womack get his comeuppance, and they're handing you the key," Tron Garrett said.  

"Hear! Hear!" agreed Nathan.

"Steady, Randy.  Easy, Buddy," Billy said, putting his arm around his little brother, and laughed.

"I can't wait to see what's on that disk. Think we could take a peek before we leave, Master Billy?" Jack asked.

"Don't see why not. Let's go into the parlor. We got the big screen set-up in there," Billy replied.

"Uh, Billy, since we don't know what's on the disk do you think we should exclude our youngest member," Nathan asked.

"Good point, Uncle Nate. I'll ask him. Do you know about them birds and them bees, little Brother?" Billy asked Randy.

"Of course I know. I'm enhanced, big Brother. I know how to use a search engine on the Internet. I seen all them pitchers and videos. I know women are different from men between their legs and men fit into women like lego blocks snap together. They ride each other until it feels so good they explode. That's only one more thing I won't be able to do until pooh-bear-tea," Randy lamented and sighed, "Rory and Cal showed me their books on human reproduction and explained it to me. Where? Out behind the barn – where else?" Randy made a joke and everyone laughed. He continued, "Questions they couldn't answer, their daddy done a good job of explaining to us. They's lucky to have Mr. McMartin for a dad, and I'm equally lucky they don't mind sharing him with me. Tom told us women produce eggs like a hen, but they don't lay them in a nest. But I'm told they do get broody. They sort of slow cook them inside their bodies like my sister's Easy Bake oven until they's done and ready to shoot out like them pop'n fresh dough-boys. They can't make a baby alone. It takes their husband to fertilize them like a bull does a heifer. I also understand sex ain't only for procreation. It can be for recreation as well. I know cowboys are frequently, secretly fond of each other," Randy added and laughed at the look on Billy's face.

"You's shit'n me, Cowboy!" Bubba exclaimed. "I never knew that! You mean that's were I come from – my momma's body done give birth to me like a cow gives birth to a calf?" the big cowboy asked like he was shocked. Bubba sounded so surprised and serious nobody could tell if he was kidding or not.

"I hate to break it to you, Bubba, but rumor has it your momma found you in the garden under a cabbage leaf," Tron replied and everyone laughed.  

"I knew it. What a relief. I never knew my momma, but I'm sure she was a saint. She would never do nothing like that," he said, winked at Randy, and they laughed together.

"Any one else have any questions for Bossman Randy?" Billy asked. No one spoke up. "So does this mean we don't need to have us no man to man chat about them birds and them bees a buzz'n in the trees on that big rock candy mountain, and the nasty things they do to one another?" Billy asked.

"Not unless you ain't clear about something, big Brother, then I'll be happy to explain it to you," Randy replied and grinned. Everyone laughed.

"Like what?" Billy asked before he thought. Every adult sitting around the table sucked in air through their teeth and pulled back in anticipation of Bossman Randy's reply.

"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps what wine goes best with cunnilingus and which is better with cock-sucking," Randy replied and leveled the room. They almost lost Zelma Redbone from her attack of laughter.

"Randy!?" Billy exclaimed like he was shocked.

"Leave the boy alone!" Nathan jumped Billy.

"You just had to ask!" Kate exclaimed. It was like handing the boy a loaded gun and asking him to shoot you," she added and laughed again.

"'At's what I like about you, Cowboy, I can always count on my little buddy to shoot straight wiff' me," Billy said, gave Randy a hug, and stole a kiss. Randy giggled.

The men and several of the women joined Billy and his posse in the parlor and they started the video. The first part was Clarence Womack talking with Erin Mascaro, Bubba and Earl's combat buddy in the Middle East. After introductions, Womack told him he was there because one of the members of his church, Earl Hickson, mentioned Erin's name as a good buddy from his days in the Army in Afghanistan. Womack came to visit Erin to see if there was anything he could do for him.

"No, I can't think of anything," he replied.

"How is it for you here in Huntsville?" Clarence asked.

"Not real good. I have a funny sounding last name. My family immigrated to the U.S. from Tuscany in Italy. After the early religious wars before the middle ages, many of the soldiers from the Middle East, Arabs, stayed and married into the the population. My name, Mascaro, in Arabic, al mu'askare, actually meant 'soldier' in the Catalan language. Here, in the joint, I'm a little too dark skinned to fit into the Aryan Brotherhood and too light skinned to fit in with the Hispanics. I speak several languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Cajun, and a little Arabic. I'm mostly protected by the Aryan Brotherhood because I don't rat on them nor do I have anything to do with the blacks or Hispanics. I pretty much keep to myself. My cell mate is an associate but not an actual member of the Brotherhood, but I've never been asked to join. If they can use you, they keep you alive. I interpret for them and help with legal matters. It ain't ideal, but so far, somehow, I've managed to survive," Erin replied.

Womack told Mascaro he knew men in high places, and if he cooperated with him he could possibly get his sentence reduced, perhaps even his time already served if Erin put the finger on Earl as having been an accomplice to the robbery of the drive through liquor store in Killeen. Clarence told him he found out about it when he urged Earl to confess his sins to him in secret so he could forgive him in the name of Jesus; but, according to Womack, it didn't matter if he, God, and/or Jesus forgave him or not, Earl was still guilty and should do time according to the laws of man. If it was a shared heist, Erin shouldn't have to bear the burden of doing all the time himself. If Mascaro would only sign an affidavit Womack typed up before he came, in which he swore Earl Hickson was his accomplice, he would take it to his attorneys and have them submit the information to law enforcement and the courts.

There was a hushed silence in the room as the man sat looking at Clarence and down at the paper he was trying to get Erin to sign. "What kind of monster are you, Preacher? You tell a man you'll save his soul and forgive him his trespasses in the name of Jesus, only to use the information to either blackmail him or send him to prison? You ain't no preacher. You're a two bit con-man. I wouldn't even call you a con-artist because there ain't no art to your machinations. It's just downright dirty pool. You're nothing but a self-righteous disgusting piece of shit! Yes, my buddy Earl Hickson drove his car through the liquor store, but I held my gun on him and forced him. He knew better than to fuck with me when I'm drinking because I would have killed him if he didn't do what I told him. Alcohol turns me into monster, but not one nearly as bad as you. At least when I sobered up, I realized what I done weren't right, and I tried to make amends for my stupidity.

"Why would I want to do something like that to Earl? Any preacher who would do such an underhanded thing to a member of his congregation would never gain my trust with empty promises to reduce my sentence. You's a clown and a charlatan, little man. Earl Hickson is twice the man you'll ever be. He crawled across a hot area some fifty yards or more to grab me by my collar and drag me back behind enemy lines so the field medics could patch me up and load me onto an ambulance to get me back to base. He saved my life. You think I would rat out a buddy who would risk his own gotdamn life to save my worthless butt? Not in your happiest dreams, fuck head!" Erin Mascaro got up, turned, and told the guard he never wanted to see Womack's face again. Take him back to his cell.      

Billy paused the video. There was a heavy silence in the room. Bubba wasn't crying, as such, but tears were running down his cheeks. "I gotta' do some'um for Erin," he said softly not addressing anyone in particular.

"I couldn't agree more, Brother," Billy replied quietly, "We'll talk later," he added.

The rest of the disk was five videos of close encounters of Clarence Womack with five different married women in his congregation. Billy just allowed his family to read the captions of who and what each video was about without watching much of the action. What little they saw, they agreed Clarence was a pig; a disgusting and uncompassionate sex partner. The folks gathered in the room knew the ladies well who were Womack's partners in the videos and remarked they were the church women who ignored and acted holier than them. Here they were on a big screen, in living color, in surround-sound, giving themselves to a man who claimed to be a representative of God Almighty while sounding like a pig in a wallow getting himself a fine piece of pork.

"Only a sow would lay down with a pig," Nathan said with disgust.

"Some women will prostitute themselves to be close to power whether it's real or fake," Zelma Redbone observed, and the other ladies agreed with her.

The very last video was a shocker for the men, and a couple of the ladies. It was Clarence fucking the wife of one of the biggest, orneriest, meanest, root'n-toot'n, buckaroos in the county, Kit Crocker. At least he was at one time, until his wife dragged him kicking and screaming to one of Womack's hell fire and damnation revival meetings in the dead of summer. In a weak moment, the big cowboy agreed he would attend to keep peace in his family. Unfortunately for him, Kit Crocker caught a near terminal case of revealitus – better known as dat' ol' time religion. As Crocker sat listening to Womack rant and rave about his soul burning forever and ever in a lake of fire, he could feel the fires of hell coming up through the bottom of his cowboy boots from the ground in the great tent which was set up to hold large crowds. That evening, at the altar-call, as the congregation quietly sang, "Silently, tenderly, Jesus is calling; calling for you and for me –" Kit Crocker answered the call and gave his'self to Jesus, God, and Clarence Womack. (It was a package deal. A cowboy's ticket to heaven with easy low monthly payments. No refund if you take a wrong turn and death bed confessions don't count.) Crocker became Womack's personal body guard, holy bully, and right hand apostle while Crocker's wife was elevated to a higher status in the church as Clarence's secretary.

Kit Crocker was a loud mouthed bully and looked like a living copy of Yosemite Sam complete with long strawberry-blonde hair, full beard, and handlebar mustache, a huge hat what made him look like the western version of the flying nun. The big cowboy loved to stroll around the town square with his two six guns around his waist and strapped to his legs like he was a real gunslinger from the turn of the century. He'd wear his spurs and put his boots down heavy when he walked to sound impressive. His complete appearance said he was a mean-ass hombre, with whom you did not want to fuck. He weren't afraid of nothing or nobody – well, almost. There was one man in the county Kit Crocker would back down from, and he was known as the bull of the hill country.

At a cowboy gathering, Crocker mentioned in passing as a cutting slur, he didn't care how great an athlete Oatie Breedlove was, Elmer's grandson was a filthy sodomite, and his son, Pete, was highly suspect of falling between the cracks. Crocker went on to say, it was too damn bad the great bull couldn't produce a line of real men or maybe he weren't one his'self. When the smoke cleared, and they pulled Elmer off Crocker, there were only a couple of bones in his body which weren't broke. Several said if they didn't stop Elmer, he would have killed the nasty, foul mouthed poor excuse for a cowboy.

Elmer said as one last vicious parting shot, "You finally done went and shot your fucking mouth off one too many times, Crocker. All these years I promised to keep your real name a secret; the name yore' crazy momma done give you and put on your birth certificate, but no more! You done stepped over the line of common decency when you called my grandson a sodomite. It ain't the cowboy way, but then, how would you know? You ain't never had no daddy or a man what cared enough about you to teach you about it. You's born out of wedlock to a crazy woman what was a psychopathic collector of cute little critters she found on the Internet.

"What we got here, is a clown what features his'self the last of the real, honest-to-God, red blooded American cowboys who knows a homo from a real man when he sees one, but still gets hot and bothered when he's around a good look'n ewe. H'it ain't no wonder. A man's name often defines who or what he is. You thought a boy named Sue was bad? His momma unwittingly give him the right name to create such an uncharitable asshole. You men wanna' know what H. K. Crocker really stands for? You wanna' know what his momma named him? – Wait for it! – H. K. stands for Hello Kitty Crocker!" Elmer exclaimed at the top of his voice and bellowed with laughter. "I shit you not! 'At ain't no cowboy bull, neither! It's writ large on his gotdamned burf-certificate: Hello Kitty Crocker!" Elmer shouted for all to hear and roared with laughter.

The big defeated cowboy shed tears which mixed with his blood and other unmentionable body fluids. His secret was out – one he fiercely protected for many years. Crocker never forgave Elmer for exposing his secret, but he made damn sure he never challenged the bull of the hill country again. From that day on, when Kit Crocker came around Elmer Breedlove, it was with his hat in his hand. The pity was, like the closeted homophobe, Bryan Fischer, Kit Crocker was frequently, secretly fond of other cowboys. He would look and feel lust in his heart, but never let his urges get the better of his inner man – well, almost never. There was that one time, years ago when they were young cowboys together on a two week round-up, in a weak moment, he agreed to lay beneath the bull of the hill country and recalled the experience with fond memories.  

* * * * * * *
"My God in heaven!" Nathan said almost in a whisper. "We gotta' show this to Elmer, Son," he said to Billy.

"Agreed, Uncle," Billy replied.

"I wonder how Master Bull will react?" Randy asked.

"With compassion and empathy for the big cowboy," Billy replied, "Once't he's had his say, I ain't never know'd that big man to hold a grudge," he added.

"Hosanna?" Randy asked softly.

"In the highest, Bossman," Bubba replied.

* * * * * * *
It was getting late and Bubba needed to get Jack and Brute home. They planned a trip to Huntsville the next morning to visit Erin Mascaro.

"You shouldn't go cold, Bubba," Billy said.

"What do you mean by 'cold'?" Bubba asked.

"I think he means unannounced. Arriving without giving the prison staff notice. We don't even know if we can visit tomorrow. They may have only one or two days a week between certain hours," Jack explained.

"Makes sense," Bubba said.

"Let Aunt Helen stay with us this evening, and we'll get our staff on it first thing in the morning. You men come for breakfast, and we'll have more information for you at that time," Billy promised.

"I guess I should start considering decorating my bedroom at your place, Bubba. When we gonna' make a trip to Brady to buy me a bed?" Jack asked and grinned.

"As soon as we take care of this project, Brother. If we keep going at this pace, I may need a bed at your place as well," Bubba allowed.

"Plenty of room. Pick it, and it's yorn', Brother – or you could bunk it in with Satan and Matilda. They keep asking when you's coming back with another love offering for them. I think they's done gone sweet on you," Jack said and laughed.

"Ain't no doubt I'd be the safest hombre on the ranch," Bubba said, and they laughed.

Jack explained his guard geese to the family, and they shared a good laugh. Everyone had their own guard geese tale to tell.

Bubba, Jack, and Brute said their farewells and left. They promised to be be back by seven A.M.

* * * * * * *
"You tired, baby Buckaroo?" Billy asked Randy.

"I'm a mite tuckered, big Brother," Randy replied.

"Where you wanna' spend the night, Cowboy?" Billy asked.

"With you!" exclaimed the rest of Billy's family for Randy, and laughed.

"Silly question, weren't it, Buckaroo?" Billy asked.

"Naw, I understand the line-cabin is your sanctum sanctorum," Randy said.

"My what!" Billy asked and fell over laughing. The cowboys were laughing, too.

"You know – it's Latin for holy of holies or a place of inviolable privacy you don't like to share with others; a place where you can be yourself without pretense," Randy explained.

"And you don't think I should share it with my little brother?" Billy asked.

"I understand you need your privacy, Brother," Randy said unconvincingly.   

"Yes, that's true and you're right about getting away from everything down to the line-cabin, but that don't mean I can't share an evening wiff' my little brother and have him stay with us; especially after he done such an excellent job help'n his big brother with little Dashaway Howler this e'nin," Billy declared.

"Really?" Randy asked with his hopes rising.

"Cowboy's code of honor, little Brother," Billy swore, "Say 'goodnight' to all them good folks what love you, and we'll take the cowboy-angel flight down south a ways, Pod'na!" Billy said firmly.

"Yes, sir, Master Billy," Randy said and proceeded to run from person to person for a hug, a quick kiss, to wish them a good evening.

Billy gathered his immediate family and transported to the line-cabin. Boomer and the twins were particularly pleased to have Bossman Randy with them. They did their usual routines getting ready for the evening. Poly and Cass took Boomer off to the showers, and brought him back to groom him. Billy and Nick stripped for the evening and invited Randy to join them. He couldn't get his clothes off fast enough. Billy and Randy pitched in to lend a hand grooming Boomer like it was what a family did who had an unusual family member to groom. While they were working, there came a knock at the barn door. Billy went and opened it to see who was there, and there stood Samson and Maybell waiting to come into their stalls. Billy let them in and everyone stopped for a minute to welcome them.

They were out grazing in the lower pasture and didn't feel like walking all the way back to the barn near the ranch house in the dark. Maybell was with foal and Samson worried about her stepping on a rattlesnake. Billy fed and watered them, and he and Randy got busy brushing them down while the twins finished up with Boomer. Randy never felt more at home. He loved his mom, his grandmother, and sisters, but Randy's heart was either in the foreman's house on his ranch with his watcher and Irin Ramrod or in the line-cabin with his big brother. Nick went off to the showers and when he returned Billy invited Randy to join him. Billy had reservations about taking a kid as young as Randy to bathe him, but several of his family encouraged him.

"Think back about the things you miss about your granddad, Son," Nathan urged him, "It used to be the highlight of your day to share a shower with our old man. He taught you good hygiene and how to be around a mature male without feeling self-conscious or shy. Randy needs it as much as you did. I remember when me and my brother were his age, Daws would get us both in the shower. He'd take care of us, and we'd take care of him. Family grooming can be one of the tightest bonds known to man. All you have to do is watch one of them National Geographic specials on the great apes, our first cousins, and see the great amount of time they spend grooming each other. It becomes an essential part of family life, and it will create a solid bond between you and Randy," Nathan explained.

Boomer offered Randy some milk before he and his brothers went off to the loft to bed down for the night. Randy readily accepted and drank his fill. When he finished he gave Boomer a big hug and kissed him on his cheek. Boomer and the twins said 'goodnight' and went off to the loft in the barn. Randy crawled up into his big brother's massive arms and proceeded to fall asleep. Nick and Billy sat quietly finishing a cup of coffee Nick made them.  

<< It feels so right having him tag along after me and you, Tonto >> Billy sent to his pa.

<< I couldn't agree more, Kemosabe. It's been a long time since I had anything to do with children. He's reawakened a part of me which once wanted to have kids, but I knew I had to put the idea aside because of being sterile. Now, there are other possibilities before us and best of all, the potential of time to accomplish some of those dreams. I'm looking forward to becoming Granddad Nick to Billy Junior, >> Nick returned.

They talked some more about many things until they were almost nodding off themselves. Billy carefully picked up Randy and put him in the middle of their huge bed. Randy was an equal opportunity sleep partner. Half the night he slept clinging to Billy and the other half in Nick's arms. They went to sleep as a family and woke up the next morning as a family.

* * * * * * *     
After everyone was awake, they let Samson and Maybell out and transported back to the ranch house. The household was awake and busy getting breakfast ready. It was too early for Aunt Helen to get any information from the prison in Huntsville. Their administrative hours were from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Bubba and Jack arrived just before 7:00 A.M. They had a long leisurely breakfast and talked about many things. Billy was excited about the possibility of getting in touch with Stan Breedlove and his mate Cletus Abernathy. He wanted to know if Bubba and Jack would be interested in transporting to their place as a couple of extra sets of wings to help correct whatever was wrong with the big Cajun man.

"I'd love to travel with you, Master Billy," Jack said, "I ain't got much going with my practice right now, and it would be a good distraction for me. I don't know what I'd do if it weren't for your family and Bubba in my life. It's like I got me a whole new reason for living dropped in my lap. I can't wait to see what's over the next hill or around the next corner," he added.

"Me, too! Count me in, Master Billy. You need a stand-in for Master Bull, and while I don't claim to be near the stud Mr. Breedlove is, I feel comfortable fill'n in for him in a pinch," Bubba said.

"I got me a feel'n after Orville's grand opening, there won't be a cowboy what will doubt your claim to be one of Master Bull's finest young apprentice bulls," Billy said.

"Hear! Hear!" said several of the older cowboys.

About eight-thirty Aunt Helen came into the kitchen with Dorcas and Dociean and a couple more of her staff. "I'm afraid we don't have much good news to report, Master Billy. I'm certain my nephew will be disturbed by what we discovered," she said and continued without waiting for a comment, "Visitation is usually on weekends and must be prearranged at least a week in advance, but information about visiting Mr. Mascaro is a moot point after what we learned. He unwittingly came upon a knife fight between his cell mate and an Hispanic man and got stabbed pretty bad. He's in the prison infirmary not expected to live. They said they did what they could for him and have him stabilized for the moment, but it would cost them too much to invest the money in needed surgery, medications, and nursing care to save him. They didn't say as much, but they made it clear, it simply wouldn't be profitable for the new corporate owned prison system. They plan to let him die. I asked if he could have any visitors, and they said only if they were immediate family. I asked about purchasing him as a slave, and they said the process would probably take longer than he had left to live," Helen explained, "I'm sorry, Master Billy. I'm sorry, Bubba," she said quietly.    

"Did you tell them he was a war hero and has three purple hearts and a bronze star?" Bubba asked.

"No, I didn't have that information, Bubba. I don't know if it would have made much difference. Mammon is their God. They have no compassion," Helen replied.

Bubba got up from the table, threw his napkin on his plate, turned and walked into the front hallway. "Go with him, Jack. He don't need to be alone right now. Give us a minute to talk among ourselves," Billy said, and Jack was up and away to see to his buddy.

"Jesus H. Christ!" Randy exclaimed in a disgusted voice. Everyone looked at him with surprise, "I don't care what the man did to get his'self thrown in prison. From what I'm hearing, he was accidentally injured and not because he was trying to break out or hurt somebody else. I certainly don't like the idea he's a Veteran who risked his life for his country, was recognized as a hero, and they plan to let him die because it would cost them too much money to fix him up? I don't think so! I won't stand for it! Not on this cowboy's watch! I don't need to talk or hear nobody else's opinions. Ain't no time for talk no ways. While we talk the man's dying. My mind's made up. It's time we done some'um. Lemme' borrow your cell phone, Brother?" Randy demanded and held out his small hand expecting Billy to comply. Billy caught Nathan and Tron's eyes and saw them both nod to him in unison to give the boy his phone. Billy took his cell phone out of his shirt pocket and gave it to Randy.

Randy took it, flipped it open, and punched in a complete set of numbers from memory. He pressed the button to activate the speaker so the rest of the family could hear both sides of the conversation. When he heard the deep male voice on the other end answer he spoke, "Hello, Uncle Tom, this here's Randy calling from the kitchen on the Daniels' ranch. Uncle Tom, we got us a situation here what ain't real good for an old Army buddy of Master Bubba and his brother, Earl Hickson. Just how tight are you with the governor, sir?" Randy asked.

"We play golf every Thursday afternoon together, Cowboy. Why? What's up, Buckaroo? How can I help?" Tom McMartin asked.

Randy went on to tell Tom the situation and didn't leave a thing out including Erin was a highly decorated war veteran. His memory was fool-proof. He also gave Tom a couple of arguing points. "They's a bill coming up before the state legislature next month which will be the first step in getting prisons out of private corporate hands and back into the state's control. Them prison owners ain't got the best reputations for doing the right thing. The public is losing faith in their ability to ride two horses at once. This situation could blow up in their faces and be the pivotal incident whether the public votes one way or t'other," Randy said.

"That's a valid point, Bossman, glad you reminded me. Damn good point! Neither the governor nor the corporate owners of the prison need bad press right now. Tell you what, Cowboy, give me about an hour, and I'll get back to you. Oh, yes, and by the way Bossman, thanks for keeping me in the loop. You done just like I told you, and I'm extra-special proud of you, Son," Tom said and disconnected.

There was a hushed silence in the room you could have cut with a dull knife. Randy slowly closed the cover on Billy's cell phone, smiled, and handed it back to him, "Is that think'n outside the box enough for you, big Brother?" he asked and grinned.

The entire room broke up laughing. Tron and Nathan were laughing the hardest. Billy laughed and grabbed Randy into his arms for a big hug and another kiss. "I gotta' be honest with you, Bossman, I never would a' thought to bring Tom into this, but it makes damn good sense. If Tom can't move the machine, nobody can," Billy said, and yelled, "Hosanna!"

Everyone in the kitchen stood, applauded for Randy and shouted, "Hosanna, in the highest!"

"I'll let you take it from here, big Brother," Randy said quietly.

"Oh, no you don't! Like hell you will! This is your show, Bossman. You see it through to its conclusion no matter what the outcome. Your big brother fumbled, you picked up the ball, now run with it. Show me what you got, Buckaroo," Billy challenged him. Randy just grinned real big and nodded his head he understood.
Bubba and Jack heard the laughter, applause, and more laughter. Their curiosity got the better of them, and they walked back into the kitchen to see what the commotion was about.

"What's going on?" Bubba asked puzzled.

"Nothing much, Brother, except our littlest buckaroo here done come up with an idea I'd bet my boots will have a ninety percent or better chance of working in our favor," Billy said and grinned, "Bossman Randy just may save your buddy's life, and Erin Mascaro might become our slave before the day is out. You know I don't believe in prayer, but if you ever said one, now might be a good time to test it and see if it works," Billy said and winked at the men.

"I'll pray to them Ancients. I got more faith in them than the myths and superstition Womack peddles," Bubba said, "Besides, they's much better looking," Bubba added and everyone laughed.

Billy filled Bubba and Jack in on the details of Randy's plan. Jack said he thought it might work if a little pressure was brought to bear on the warden of the prison who was a notorious corporate hack and a money grubbing son-of-a-bitch. He'd slap his grandmother in a prison cell if he thought it would get him a few more bucks in his pocket. It took Tom a little longer than an hour. It was almost two hours before he called. Randy saw it was from Tom and pressed the button to receive his call. Randy put it on speaker. "Well, the governor thought it sounded like a good idea and contacted the warden. The warden never bothered to read Erin's file and didn't know about the man's Army record. He agreed to talk with me about his release. If an agreement can be reached, he's willing to release the prisoner to either Billy Daniels himself or his representative. I's just about to call him, and I'll keep you on hold so's if I need to consult with you I can," Tom said, "Since you answered, can I assume you'll be the one making the decisions?" Tom asked a little unsure.

Billy spoke up, "He's got our full support, Tom. It was his idea when the rest of us didn't have anything. I told him to run with the ball," Billy confirmed.
"Good enough. I'd say you men made a wise decision. Hold on and I'll get back to you," Tom said and put Randy on hold. No one said anything. Everyone was holding their breath. Finally Tom came back on the line. "Hey, Bossman, he's willing to release Mascaro today, but he wants an additional ten thousand dollars cash in an envelope for himself – for his trouble, as he put it," Tom said sort of hesitantly like he was embarrassed at the warden's blatant greed. Bubba whispered to Randy he would pay the ten thousand and Billy backed him up.

"Hold on a minute, Uncle Tom, while I confer with my family," Randy said and put Tom on hold.

"Do you men trust me or not?" Randy said quietly.

"Yes, absolutely, little Brother, we just wanted you to know the money ain't no problem," Bubba said and Billy agreed.

"If you want to take over, here's the phone. Tell Tom your decision," Randy held out the phone for Bubba. He started to and saw the looks on the rest of the men's faces and hung his head.

"No, little Brother, Master Billy's right. You handle it," Bubba said and turned away.

Randy pressed the hold button again, "Sorry for the delay, Uncle Tom. Tell the sorry money grubbing bastard we will give him five thousand in cash, but if we can't reach a deal within the next thirty minutes, he will have protesters outside his prison within the hour. We already got the VFW in our small town notified, and in one day's time it will grow to become his worst nightmare. It may even cost him his job. Is he really willing to gamble his livelihood on a dying prisoner and possibly lose the vote to control the prison his company owns? Or will he become known as a good man who is granting a compassionate release to a highly decorated war hero to spend his last couple of days with his family and Army buddies. If he agrees to accept our offer, you can tell him he has our word we won't say another word about the incident," Randy said.

There were a few gasps from the folks around the table from Randy's boldness, and Bubba walked out into the hallway.

"It sounds reasonable to me, Bossman, I think he's asking a mite too much myself for what should morally be a compassionate release in the first place. Let me give him your counter offer, and I'll get back to you," Tom said and put Randy on hold. Tom was gone for a few minutes while everyone in the room held their breath. In a few minutes, Tom came back on the line, "I'm sorry, Bossman, I gave him your offer. I carefully explained your situation and even suggested he was not bargaining from good faith but was holding a dying man as a hostage for his personal greed. He didn't like that too much, but he steadfastly refused to consider your offer, saying it was his way or the highway. However, don't despair, give me a few more minutes. I'm suppose to get back to the governor and let him know how it worked out. He has as much political interest or more so in this case than the warden. The warden is just a paid position. He ain't the end-all, say-all final Oompa-loompa dancer in the corporate chain," Tom apologized, and they disconnected.

"I guess Bubba hates me now," Randy said about to cry.

"No he don't. He's disappointed. I know you're disappointed, Buckaroo, but I gotta' give it to you champ, even though they ain't dropped yet, you's gonna' have yore'self one heavy set of balls on you when you reach pooh-bear-tea," Billy said, "Master Bull will be proud of you, young'un," he added.

"What will we do?" Randy asked.

"What do you think we should do, Bossman? Remember, this is still your show. You's call'n the shots, Cowboy," Billy confirmed once again.

"Notify the VFW in Mason County and Austin of a protest and why, and send every available body down there with signs to march around that damn prison in protest," Randy said.

"Then, that's exactly what we'll do," Billy backed him up.

Another hour passed, and it would seem everything was lost. Randy went off by himself. He felt like he let his big brother down, and he started to cry. He was sobbing his little heart out when he felt two huge hands pull him up into two massive arms and Bubba began to steal kiss after kiss from his little brother. "Oh, Bubba, I'm so sorry. I should a done what you and Master Billy told me and let the bastard have his way, but he just pissed me off. I was coming from anger at his greed and lack of compassion; I just wanted to lash out at him. Can you ever forgive me?" Randy asked.

"At first I was a little upset. I wanted it to be over and decided at any price, but I had time to think and talk with them other, more mature cowboys, and they supported your decision completely. They think you done the right thing, and you know what, little Brother? I come to agree with them. You did do the right thing. However, I will admit, I been praying to them Ancient critters non-stop for my Army buddy. I really hope we can help him in time," Bubba said.

"You know, I really should have more faith in them myself, Bubba, and I should have more faith in myself. One way or another, this is gonna' turn out like we want it to, big Brother," Randy said.

"Randy!" Billy hollered from the kitchen door, "You got a phone call from yore' Uncle Tom," he added.

Bubba took Randy in his arms, carried him into the kitchen, and sat him down. Randy took the phone and pressed the speaker button for everyone to hear. "Hello, Uncle Tom," he greeted Tom McMartin.

"Howdy, Bossman. I called the governor and told him everything, including your firm counter offer, and the refusal of the warden to even consider it. I don't know exactly what happened, but the governor told me he'd call me back as soon as he could. He did, and the governor told me he contacted the head of the board for the prison and told him to contact the warden. He did, and the warden just called me a minute ago. Let me be the first to congratulate you, Son, you done got chore'self a deal, Cowboy!" Tom declared strongly and the folks in the kitchen went crazy. They heard Tom laughing on the phone.

"I can't thank you enough, Uncle Tom. You come through for me just like you promised. I can't tell you how grateful I am and how happy you done made a lot of folks," Randy said.

"My thanks, too, Tom!" Bubba said.

"Mine, too, Tom," said Billy, "Hell, we're all so happy we would smother you with brotherly hugs and kisses if you were here, but we promise we'll save 'em up for the weekend," Billy said.

"You take care of that young man for me. One day, I'd be proud to have him sit on one of my board of directors," Tom said and everyone agreed with him.

Tom said 'goodbye', wished everyone well, and said he'd see them over the weekend. The family was all over Randy and Bubba congratulating them and stealing hugs and kisses. Billy threw a set of keys on the table before Bubba. "Here! Them's a set of keys to the big ranch van. Take Clyde and Cowboy Andy with you. Once't you get Mr. Mascaro loaded and out of sight, they can wing up and transport him to our slave processing center, and we'll be waiting for him. We'll fix him up and have him up and around by the time you men drive back. It's about a four and a half to five hour trip from here to Huntsville. Drive safely, but take your time on the way back. Once't we get him here, he'll be fine," Billy said.

Billy's staff got the money together and a receipt for the warden to sign. Jack would act in a legal capacity as Billy's representative. Just before they left Garth and Mack asked if they might be of assistance and go along. They thought with two more cowboy-angels the jump back to the ranch with Mr. Mascaro might be easier on him. Billy agreed and sent them with them. The seats in the large van were removable so it could also be used as a cargo van. They removed all the seats except the one large bench behind the driver and passenger seat. It would hold four medium sized people comfortably, but with large men like Clyde, Andy, Garth, and Mack it was a bit of a squeeze. They didn't complain. Brute sat on a pile of blankets in the back.

It took them a little over five and a half hours to get to the prison and another hour sitting around waiting for the warden to come make the transaction and take them to the prisoner. It was his way of punishing the men for not getting his way. He never apologized for being slow or making them wait. He was the head bull in charge, and he wanted them to know, even if he didn't have as big a dick as the big men representing Billy Daniels, he had more keys on his belt than they did which made him more important than them. Jack was polite and courteous but all business. The warden took them to get Erin Mascaro and what they found was horrible. It looked like some butcher got tired of carving on him and stapled him up like a side of beef to put him back in the cooler until they were ready to cook him. The warden slapped his face pretty hard to wake him up. Bubba almost jumped him, but he caught Jack's eye and allowed the bastard's action to pass.

"Wake up, Mascaro, you're being sent home with these men to die," he said coldly.

"Not if we can help it," Bubba muttered.

"What? You clowns think you can do more for him than we did? Good luck with that. Who do you think you are, some kind of great healers? Angels, perhaps," the warden asked.

"Naw, sir, just enhanced humans," Bubba replied as he began to move the gurney to the door.

"Enhanced? How?" he asked.

"We been trained in advanced bull shit detection," Bubba said flatly and headed for the exit.

Jack remained behind to take care of the paperwork. When he finished and got the warden's signature for the cash, he returned to the van. Bubba and his men had Erin loaded. He came to for a moment. "Bubba, is it really you?" he asked.

"Yeah, Brother, it's your old buddy, Bubba. We's taking you out of this hell hole, and we's gonna' patch you up. You ain't gonna' die on my watch. You'll be good as new before the sun sets. Trust me, Brother," he said.

"I don't think I'm gonna' make it this time, Bubba, but I appreciate you making the effort," he replied.

"Bullshit! Dig down deep, Brother, and hang on. You'll understand in a bit," Bubba said.

They pulled away from the prison and traveled to the outskirts of Huntsville. They found a roadside park and Bubba pulled down behind a stand of Mexican bamboo. They activated the anti-grav gurney and pulled Erin Mascaro out into the sunlight by the side of the van. He was still conscious and watched as the four huge cowboy-angels disappeared and reappeared in a flash. They were fully fledged with their huge awesome wings. His eyes opened wide and he got the biggest grin on his face.

"Are they gonna' take me to heaven, Bubba?" he asked.

"As close as you're gonna' get in this lifetime, Brother. You'll be at the Daniels' ranch in a flash and a team of healers will be waiting for you to fix you up good as new," Bubba replied.

"Other than you, who do I have to thank for this, Bubba?" he asked.

"A little seven year old buckaroo named Bossman Randy Rutherford, Brother. His fast thinking and bad-ass hard-nosed negotiation skills saved your bacon," Bubba said and grinned, "Me and my attorney got to drive back. We'll see you back at the ranch. Have a good flight, Brother," Bubba said. The men raised their wings over Erin Mascaro and in a flash of light they were gone. In less than a couple of seconds, they reappeared in the slave processing room at the Daniels' ranch where another band of angels were waiting for them. Erin was sure he was hallucinating. This had to be the end of the road for him. He wondered how this could be? He was sure he was going to hell, but there was just something different about these angels than he might have imagined; then, he caught sight of another creature. He saw a huge red demon with magnificent horns with the most fantastic body, a ring through his nose and tits, and black leather wings wearing a black leather kilt and a massive black leather harness. Then he understood. It all made sense. The angels were there to prepare him for the devil to take him to his realm of fire and brimstone. But this demon was devilishly attractive. Erin thought, if he had to serve this demon for an eternity he would look forward to each and every day. Erin was confused and his mind raced to gain some sort of reality as he felt himself slipping away.   

* * * * * * *  
Bubba and Jack enjoyed a leisurely drive back to Mason county. They had a great deal to talk about. They stopped a couple of times for food and coffee. Jack drove for a while to give Bubba a break.

"I appreciate you coming along with me, Jack. It's made all the difference in the world," Bubba said.

"I appreciate your kind words, but you don't have to thank me – I'm on the clock, Brother," Jack said and smiled.

"On the clock?" Bubba asked.

"Yeah, it means I'm getting paid by the hour for my services as the Daniels' family attorney," Jack replied and smiled.

"Well, I'll be damned. Congratulations, Brother," Bubba said.  
"They didn't have to. I would have donated my time just to save the man's life, but Billy and his family offered me a deal I couldn't refuse. I never considered them potential clients, but then I asked myself, why not? They need legal advice as much or more than the average man. Who better to fill the slot than a cowboy-angel who knows about their ways and is part of their extended family," Jack said.

"Makes good sense to me, little Brother," Bubba said, "Have you given any more thought to representing Earl?" Bubba asked.

"Some, but I don't know's I'm gonna' have to," Jack said.

"I don't understand, Brother. What do you mean?" Bubba asked.

"You ain't gonna' press charges against your brother, Bubba. I come to know you that well. You done already made up your mind. You just ain't figured out a way to tell me," Jack said and grinned.

They drove along in silence for a good while before Bubba responded, "Damn, Jack – you's downright scary sometimes," the big cowboy said and sighed deeply.

"No, not really. It's just a matter of reasoning, Bubba. You know if Earl gets convicted, it's his last strike, and he's a slave for life. However, there's enough evidence against him the judge just might not be able to cut him some slack and let him off without some kind of punishment. The only good thing about our new government is, they give the lower courts like we got a great deal of leeway when it comes to more creative decisions. Fortunately, Judge LaFleur is one of the more compassionate, people oriented judges. He learned early, he has to live among the folks he presides over," Jack said.  

"You wouldn't hold it against me if I decided not to testify against Earl?" Bubba asked sheepishly.

"Of course not, Bubba. Under the circumstances, if I were in your position, I don't know's I'd testify against him myself," Jack replied.

"In my mind, the most harm Earl done was to his'self and our relationship. He'll always be someone I consider a brother, but I ain't fool'n myself none. I realize we're growing apart. We're going in different directions. I still consider him a friend, but he ain't on the top of my list no more. I'll do what I can to help him and his mom, but I ain't gonna' get sucked into supporting them like before. I'll take care of his ma until he can get on his feet, but if I see he ain't trying, I'll cut him off," Bubba said.

"It's probably the best thing you could do for him. If you keep supporting them, they'll become used to it after a while and begin to consider it their due. While it ain't always true, personal charity can breed dependency, and by that I ain't talking about welfare programs to help the poor and disenfranchised," Jack said, "They both have a part to play in a great nation and strong economy," he added.

The drive back seemed considerably longer than the trip to Huntsville, but the cowboys were in no hurry. Billy was wrong in his guesstimate of time. It was more like five and half to six hour trip. They stopped for gas and filled up the tank at a small mom-and-pop gas station, store, and cafι. The owner was a huge man and related easily with the two big cowboys. After Bubba paid him cash and thanked him, on a whim the big man introduced himself as Ed Griffin but explained everybody called him 'Griff.' Bubba introduced himself and Jack as his close friend and attorney.

"I'm closing down for the day, and my wife just took two Derby pies out of the oven. Would you men like to come inside and have a hot piece of pie and a cup of fresh coffee? My boy Tommy loves his'self some cowboys – the bigger the better. He's been telling me for months about a couple of cowboys who will stop by, and – well, I won't tell you the rest because it's just crazy talk from a young boy with more imagination than's probably healthy for a kid his age," Griff said.

"How old is Tommy, Mr. Griffin?" Jack asked.

"Eight," Griff replied.

Bubba looked at Jack, and he nodded his agreement. "Shore,' Mr. Griffin, we'd be downright pleased and honored, sir. I don't know about my partner, but I love myself some Derby pie. Ain't had me none in a coon's age," Bubba said.

They went into the small cafι area and saw Mrs. Griffin setting two pies on the counter. She was a typical housewife with her hair pulled back and tied with a cowboy bandanna. Sitting next to the counter was a wheel chair with the cutest little boy either cowboy ever saw. He was perfect in every detail except his legs were shriveled, and he couldn't walk. Bubba and Jack took one look and their hearts broke in unison.

"Oh, dear," Jack said softly knowing what must be going through Bubba's mind.

"Hesh up, Brother!" Bubba said nervously and giggled.

"It's them, Dad! You brought them to me. I knew you would. Didn't I tell you? The big one's Bubba Kirk, like Captain Kirk on TV and the others name is Jack Mack, rhymes with Mack Smack like them packets of bubble gum with cards what got pitchers of famous rodeo cowboys on 'um," he hollered and got very excited. "Oh, yes, and they's another big handsome furry beast with them – maybe I shouldn't say nothing about him, though," Tommy added.

"May I?" Bubba asked Griff gesturing toward the boy.

"Sure. He'd love for you to hold him," Griff replied.

Bubba gently picked up the boy from of his chair, held him close, and sat down with him at the table. Mrs. Griffin was busy getting cups, saucers, and slices of pie on the table.

"Tell me about yore' dreams, Buckaroo?" Bubba said and winked at Jack. Griff didn't miss their exchange.

"What about him?" Tommy said pointing to the empty chair.

"We'll talk about that later. One step at a time, Son," Bubba said firmly.

"These huge monsters come to me in my sleep. They're good looking, but not nearly as good looking as – well, you know. They's like Bigfoots only bigger – much bigger. They hold me and tell me stories. They tell me I'm important, and one day they will send two cowboys to me what are really enhanced humans. They's a new breed of men they called cowboy-angels, and they will repair my body so's I can become one of them," Tommy said.

"See what I mean?" Griff asked quietly.

"Tommy – dreams are dreams, Son," Mrs. Griffin said.

"Yes, but this man is named 'Bubba' and the other is named 'Jack.'" Mr. Griffin said in defense of his son, "What are the chances two men stop by for gas at the end of the day, I invite them in for pie and coffee, and their names match Tommy's story. The probability factor is staggering," Griff said. The men watched Doris Griffin's face turn pale. "To be honest, I'm afraid to ask them their last names," Griff added.

"Tommy's right about that, too, Mrs. Griffin, in a manner of speaking. My last name is Kirkendall and Jack's last name is McCormack – Kirk and Mack," Bubba declared.

"Weee dogies! Cowabunga Dude! Close enough!" exclaimed Tommy.  

Bubba took a big forkful of his piece of pie and put it into his mouth. He got a look of pure pleasure on his face and smiled real big when he swallowed, "Best dang Derby pie I ever done tasted Mrs. Griffin. You done got a powerful good scald on your pie ma'am," Bubba declared.

"Why thank you, Bubba, my granddaddy used to tell my grandma that when she made something he particularly liked. She told me it was the greatest compliment a cowboy could give a lady for her cooking," Mrs. Griffin said.

"What do you think about our young cowboy's story, Brother?" Bubba asked Jack and grinned.

"Like we been set up and broadsided," Jack replied as he cut another piece of his pie to eat and took and sip of coffee.

"Did them big monster Bigfoots tell you their names, Tommy?" Bubba asked.

"Yes, sir, they sure did, Bubba. The really big one –" Tommy started.

"Wait! Don't tell me. His name was Gregor. He was about eighteen feet tall, and his bonded mate or partner was a bit smaller at fifteen feet and his name was Albrecht," Bubba said.

"You're right, sir. He knows what I'm talking about, Dad! I knew they would!" Tommy exclaimed and got excited.

"Did they offer you any of their milk?" Bubba asked.

"Yes, sir, but I ain't never told my pa or ma I drank their sweet milk from their teats," Tommy said, "I didn't think they'd understand. My story is crazy enough as it is without adding more crazy on top," Tommy added.

"And what did it taste like, Son?" Bubba asked.

"Like warm vanilla ice cream before it's frozen. The best dang milk I ever tasted in my life. It makes my mouth water just think'n on it," Tommy replied like he was remembering a wonderful treat.

"Well, he knows what watcher milk tastes like," Bubba said to Jack and Griff.

"Have you ever tasted watcher milk, sir?" Tommy asked.

"Oh, yes, many times. I still drink it once't or twice a week – sometimes more if I feel like it. As you know I got me my very own watcher who is also my protector. He's wiff' me ever' where I go," Bubba said.

"Why can't mom and dad see him, Bubba?" Tommy asked.

"I can't see him either right now. Neither can Jack. It's because us humans go through a change when we's about twelve years old. We lose the ability to see them when they's shifted just out of our sight range. You can see my protector, Bubba's Brute, because you're still a bairn. That's what they call children of any species – bairns. All children under the age of eleven or twelve can see them even when adults can't," Bubba explained.

"I know he can make himself seen. He's smiling at me, and he just told me his breasts are filled with his sweet milk for me. Dad! Mom! Would you be scared out of your wits if Bubba's Brute was to show his'self so's you will know we ain't lying to you," Tommy asked.

"Will he harm us?" Griff asked.

"Goodness, no, Dad. They's the most peaceful beasts in the universe and millions of years more advanced than us humans," Tommy replied.

"Does 'watcher' mean they're looking out for us? Like angels?" Griff asked.

"Exactly, Mr. Griffin. Brute's been watching out for me since I was a toddler, and I'll bet my favorite pair of buckaroo boots Tommy's got his own watcher wait'n for him some'ers," Bubba declared, "Angels, is a little different. They's another breed of critter," he added.

"What do you think, Dear?" Griff asked his wife.

"I want to know the truth, and my dad always told me the truth will never hurt you," Doris Griffin replied.

Griff nodded to Bubba. "Show yourself, my handsome beast!" Bubba said firmly and Brute appeared sitting in the empty chair. He opened his huge arms to Tommy and smiled the sweetest smile. Bubba handed the boy to him and Tommy couldn't get his mouth around Brute's tit fast enough. He began to make obscene sucking noises which could best be described as pure pleasure bordering on ecstasy.

"Watcher milk is the best natural food in the universe. It will help Tommy considerably. It will relax him and make him ready for what is to come," Bubba said.
"And that would be – ?" Griff asked.

"You want us to heal your boy, don't you?" Jack asked.

"Are you men angels as in Angel's Underwear?" Griff asked.

"No, real cowboy-angels don't wear no underwear, sir. Tommy knew the minute we walked in the door we were cowboy-angels so you couldn't say he weren't aware," Jack replied and grinned, "However, healing your boy comes at a price," he added.

"What's that?" Doris Griffin asked with fear in her voice.

"You must tell no one about us. We get another piece of pie, and another cup of your fine coffee, Mrs. Griffin," Jack replied and grinned.

"You heal my boy and you can take a pie home with you," she said.

After Tommy drank his fill of watcher milk, he became very sleepy. Bubba asked Mrs. Griffin to prick Tommy's finger with a straight pin, and he tasted Tommy's blood. Tommy never woke up. Bubba carefully explained he needed it to gather Tommy's DNA information to set him right. The cowboys winged up and spent about an hour repairing and enhancing Tommy small frail body. When they were through, they de-winged, and had one final piece of pie and cup of coffee with the Griffins. They gave them their phone numbers to call if they needed further help or advice. They gave Brute a huge piece of pie which he ate in one mouthful and chased it down with his coffee. True to her word, Doris Griffin wrapped the other pie in foil and gave it to the men to take with them.

Brute disappeared to walk to the van but Jack told him to reappear to make sure their beastie was aboard. Jack reached back with his hand and took Brute's huge paw. "Thanks for your help, today. Sometimes I forget you're around. I miss your handsome face when you disappear. Remain visible. I enjoy knowing you're around," Jack said.

"Thanks, Master Jack. You did fine today for an untrained cowboy-angel. You're picking it up fast as you go along. I'm glad to help, sir," Brute replied.

"Call Master Billy, Brother. We's way overdue. I want to know about Erin anyway," Bubba said.

Jack whipped out his cell phone and punched Billy's number. He answered like he was excited to hear from them. "Where you men been? We been trying to call every thirty minutes for the last two hours. Are you okay? We expected you back a couple of hours ago, but Clyde said I was off on my time estimate to Huntsville and it took longer than I thought. What's going on?" he asked.

"We got waylaid by your uncle-in-laws, Master Billy," Jack replied.

"How? Where? Why?" Billy asked.

"We stopped for gas in Hearne, Texas at a small mom and pop place. Their son was in a wheel chair and was waiting for us. It was Bubba's and my first healing by ourselves. With Brute's help we managed to fixed him up and now we're underway again. We should be there in a couple hours. How is Erin?" Jack asked.

"He's fine. He's sitting here in the kitchen having his third – no, make that his fourth help'n of peach cobbler with Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream. He can't wait to see Bubba again," Billy said and laughed.

"We's bringing our own pie Mrs. Griffin gave us for healing her boy. See you in a while, Brother," Jack said and disconnected. "Erin's working on his fourth help'n of peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream on top," Jack related to Bubba.

Bubba laughed. "'At sounds about right. Mascaro always did have a sweet tooth," he said.

"You look tired, Bubba. You wanna' lay down on the long seat back there and let Brute ride up front with me while I drive?" Jack asked.

"Naw, I'm all right for now. Maybe a little later," Bubba replied.

Bubba drove for another hour and let Jack drive the rest of the way while he napped on the long seat. Brute rode next to Jack. It was dark in the Van and nobody could see inside. Jack and Brute talked quite a bit and their soft conversation with each other made Bubba drift off to sleep. He didn't wake up until Jack pulled into the gate and crossed the cattle guard. The guard cattle recognized the van and parted for them. Jack hollered his thanks as they drove by. They drove up to the house and everyone came out to greet them, including Erin Mascaro. He was thrilled to get to meet Jack and to see his old Army buddy under better circumstances.

"I thought the last time I looked on yore' ugly face was the last thing I'd see in this world," Erin said, "What have you fallen into, Brother?" he asked in awe.

"More than you can imagine, Brother," Bubba replied.

"What made you come for me, Bubba?" Erin asked.

"I hear'd tell you weren't doing too well in that hell hole, and I when I heard you was in the infirmary about to kick the bucket, I knew I had to do something. I hope you realize you ain't no freeman yet," Bubba said.

"Yeah, I know. It's all been explained to me and being Master Billy's slave here will be like paradise compared to Huntsville. You's right, it was a hell hole," Erin agreed, "I won't have no problem being Master Billy's slave, working hard for him, and I promise you, on my word of honor as a cowboy, I won't give him no problems. I feel fortunate to be alive, Brother, and I'm grateful," he added.
"Good. I hope you find a home here, Brother, and I'll look forward to seeing you more often," Bubba said.

They took their pie inside and cut it. The ladies never heard of 'Derby' pie and wanted to try a piece. One mouthful and Kate wanted to call the lady and ask for her recipe. She didn't have to. The Griffins called Jack.

"Hey, Griff, we just got back, and the ladies here at the ranch want your wife's recipe for the pie. What's up, Brother," Jack asked.

"It's Tommy. He woke up in great pain, and we can't get him calmed down. He keeps asking for you men and Brute. He says only Brute's milk will stop his pain," Griff said almost in a panic mode.

"I'm gonna' put you on hold for a minute. I'll get right back to you," Jack said and put Griff on hold. He explained to Billy what they did, and he smiled.

"It's normal. His body's readjusting itself. We can transport there and take Brute with us. I can check him out for you if you like. We can stop his pain and let him drink more watcher milk. We can take him a gallon of watcher milk to drink over the next day or so and check in with him again," Billy said.

Jack punched the hold button, "Griff, we're on our way. Tell Tommy we'll be there in a couple of minutes, and we'll bring our master and Brute with us. We'll also bring a gallon of watcher milk for him to drink for the next couple of days to help him adjust," Jack said.

"It's several hours by van from here to the hill country. How you gonna' be here in a few minutes?" Griff asked.

"Angel flight, Griff. Just cover your eyes when you see a bright flash of light in your kitchen," Jack said.

They got everything and everybody together. Billy wanted Nick and Boomer with him and Bubba wanted to go back to make sure he did everything right. Of course, Jack and Brute went along. They arrived in the Griffin's kitchen; four cowboy-angels and two large furry beasts. Jack introduced Billy, Nick, and Boomer to the family. They went into the boy's bedroom where Doris Griffin and Tommy were waiting. Tommy took one look at Billy, Nick, and Boomer and his eyes got real big. "You's Master Billy!" he exclaimed. Your husband's uncle's showed me your face," he said.

"You're right, Buckaroo. And this big watcher is my husband and nephew to them big watchers you met. His name is Boomer and this cowboy-angel with a ring through his nose is my surrogate pa, Nick Samuels. I never had me no dad when I's growing up so I chose Mr. Samuels to be my pa," Billy explained. "We hear you ain't feeling so good. Can I check you out, Cowboy?" Billy asked.

"Sure. I hurt all over, Master Billy," Tommy replied.

"I'm gonna' need a drop of your blood, Tommy. You got a straight pin, Mrs. Griffin?" Billy asked. She got the same pin she used before and serialized it again.

Billy quickly pricked Tommy's finger, got a good drop of blood on his tongue, and healed the pin prick instantly. Tommy's DNA rushed through his system. Billy and his posse raised their wings and gathered the essence of the life force in the universe and focused it on Tommy. Billy didn't find anything out of place or wrong with him. The only thing he could deduce was Bubba and Jack didn't quite know how best to focus their healing rays to complete the job. Perhaps they stopped just a mite too soon. Tommy would have eventually grown and exercised enough to grow into to their changes, but Billy made sure they were complete. He put the period at the end of the sentence, and showed Bubba and Jack what he was doing. Once they understood, they knew they would know better how to complete the next job with a little greater length of time. When they finished, Tommy felt no more pain.

The cowboys and beasts sat around the table conversing with the Griffin family while Tommy gorged himself on Brute's sweet milk until he could hold no more and became very sleepy again. Billy gave the Griffin's the gallon of watcher milk for Tommy. They said their 'goodbyes' and transported back to the Daniels' ranch.

When they were gone, Mr. Griffin looked at his wife. "Our lives will never be the same again, Doris," he said without nuance.

"I know, Dear," she replied, "at least they stand behind their work. When was the last time you ever heard of a doctor making a house call? They made a house call all the way from the hill country. Now, that's what I call dedication. Do you think there's a chance we'll become a part of their world?" she asked.

"I suppose. Indirectly. We have to believe what Tommy's been telling us is true. I think he has a part to play in their world, so I guess we might assume we will be included, too. Are you afraid?" Griff asked his wife.

"Apprehensive, but not afraid. I don't get any bad feelings from them or their beasts. Tommy is in love with them," she said.

"Who wouldn't love them? I got to admit I'm pretty damn fond of them myself for healing our boy," he said.

 * * * * * * *
Erin Mascaro remembered what Bubba told him about Bossman Randy and became as enchanted by the young boy as anyone else who met him and got to know him. He could ask Randy anything and get an honest, intelligent, straight-forward answer. Billy put in a call to Randy's mother and talked with her. He told her what a hero Randy was earlier in the day and could he stay over another evening. Ruth told him to keep him through the weekend, and they would take him back with them after Sunday dinner.

"You tell him his ramrod and his watcher's got long faces without him; especially, poor Ludo," Ruth said and laughed, "He looks like he lost his best friend. I had to bake him and Ram a batch of cookies to get a smile out of them," she added and laughed.

"I know how they feel. I feel the same way ever' time I watch him go home," Billy said and laughed with her.

Randy was thrilled to get to stay with his hero a while longer, and they stayed together again in the line-cabin as family.

* * * * * * *
The rest of the week was spent getting to know their new slave and getting him placed. After talking with Erin Mascaro and having his family sit in on their conversations, including Bossman Randy, Billy came to the conclusion, the man saw enough horror in Huntsville and knew the unsettling and emotionally crippling effect of breaking one's spirit from constantly having to be on guard for your life. From Erin's own lurid descriptions of his having to accept forced rape several times at the whim of larger and stronger inmates made any rules about sexual expectations and conduct as Master Billy's slave sound like boy's camp. Billy decided Erin wouldn't need a break-in period like he assigned for Orville's handlers. Erin already knew the ropes and easily accepted what would be required of him. The mere fact he would have his own, shared but considerably more private, cubical for his personal belongings and sleeping brought tears to his eyes. There were no bars on anything. In a way, it reminded him of his days in the Army, and when he looked back on the past, it was the only time he was ever truly happy with himself or his life; except when he became the bonded mate of a huge convict for several years.

Bubba's words kept echoing in the back of his mind – 'I hope you find a home here with us.' Because of his mixed heritage and darker than average skin, it was always difficult for him to fit in and adapt to living in close quarters with other men, until he met his soul mate in prison, but he lost him almost two years before. He didn't foresee it being any problem at the Daniels' ranch. Erin's most astounding discovery was the freedom from the mind numbing drudgery of the same old routine day after day. At the ranch, there was always something new and interesting around every corner, and work didn't seem like work when everyone was pitching in to accomplish a shared goal. He was even more astounded when he found out Billy only worked his slaves until noon on Fridays, and the rest of the day was 'free-time' for relaxation and to get ready for the weekend. He could only wonder what the weekends were like. He didn't dare tell anyone he thought living and working at the ranch was more like boy's camp compared to the hell he lived in for eight years.

* * * * * * *
Friday morning arrived early at the line cabin. Billy opened one eye and found Bossman Randy grinning at him. "Is that coffee I smell?" Billy asked.

"Yes, big Brother, I got up to take a leak, and when I came out of the bathroom, there were two angels in your kitchen with their arms full of boxes. They set them down on the counter and opened one to show me. They's full of Hosanna cakes. I gave them each a big hug and a kiss, and thanked them. I done already had one while I's making coffee. It was dang good, too – fresh and still warm, like it just come out of the ovens. Made me walk outside and shout 'Hosanna' it did," Randy said and giggled.

Billy grabbed Randy and tickled him. He fell over laughing, and they heard Nick groan.

"Beds are for sleeping," he growled in his best big daddy voice.

"I'll remind you of that the next time..." Billy began but didn't get to finish.

"I'm up! Did somebody say 'Hosanna Cakes'?" he asked and got Randy and Billy laughing

"Yes, and we got Bossman Randy to thank for our coffee this morning," Billy replied.
"Every buckaroo should know how to make a good pot of coffee," Nick declared, got up, and walked to the head to relieve himself.

As far as Billy was concerned, Friday mornings were the beginning of his and his family's weekend. There usually wasn't anything of an emergent nature planned for Friday mornings. Everything was running smoothly with the Highland Shire project and, aside from Jethro lending a hand to help heal and restore Erin Mascaro, Billy was satisfied he had everything under control. Billy was going to give Erin a week to adjust to his new surrounding and get settled in, but he asked if he could get to work immediately. He felt fully restored and hadn't got such a good night's sleep in ages; he wanted to get started with his new life. Billy assigned him to scullery crew every slave has to man one week out of the month for his particular bunkhouse. They had several crew leaders who were permanently assigned their jobs, and they scheduled the meals, worked with Hank and Buck to procure food, and acted as chief cooks and dietitians for their people. They were really only responsible for two meals a day – breakfast and supper. For lunch everyone ate slave chow and a nutrient biscuit.

* * * * * * *
Saturday, shortly before noon the rest of the family started arriving. By popular demand, the Tate's arrived early with their winged canine family. The pups were growing by leaps and bounds and each week they found some new mischief to get into. They ran poor Miranda ragged. She was constantly after one or the other. When Bubba introduced is old buddy to Miranda and she talked, he almost shit his Wranglers. He started laughing and couldn't stop. Bubba apologized to Miranda for his rudeness. "That's all right, Master Bubba, we get that a lot," she replied. Everybody wanted one of the pups. Several of the bunkhouse foremen asked if Master Billy might consider a couple for bunkhouse mascots. To their surprise, Billy thought it might be a great idea, and he agreed to take it up with the sheriff.

The Cajun contingency from Erna arrived in three cars and one large van. It was pandemonium for a while with Coo-zone this and Coo-zone that and lots of loving Cajun greetings passed back and forth. Billy double-checked and made sure Etienne brought his squeeze-box along. He told him after supper they always played music for their slaves and cows. Etienne knew what he was talking about, but his family didn't have a clue. They would learn. Billy asked how much time he would like to spend with his family. "I'm here to stay, Master Billy, as of today, sir. I would appreciate a brief visit from time to time. Truth is, they just don't have the room, and to be honest, I'm anxious to get started with my life here with you and my new family," he replied.

"Welcome home, Etienne, my brother," Billy said and opened his arms.

Etienne went to him and returned his hug, "It's good to be home, Master Billy," he replied.

"Did you have a chance to contact Stan this week?" Billy asked.

"I did, and I talked with him for almost an hour. I told him I was calling from my parents home in Erna. I was back in Texas to stay, and I was going to go to work for you and live on your ranch. He said he had fond memories of you and your family. I was hesitant to tell him about my story of being abducted and living on another planet for the period I was gone, but I told him due to classified information I wasn't at liberty to disclose my whereabouts during those years over the phone; however, I would be happy to share everything with him when I see him again. I talked with him about his husband and his condition. From what I gather, Cletus is wasting away more from a broken heart because of his inability to walk, get around, and do for himself. He's almost willed himself to die so he don't have to be a burden to David. Poor David is almost as distraught as his husband. I asked if I might come to visit. He seem hesitant, but Cletus was listening on the speaker phone. He bellowed for me to come, bring my squeeze-box, and we would play duets. I never met the man, but I felt like it was my big brother yelling at me. My heart went out to both. When do you think we can get away to transport up there and help them, Master Billy?" Etienne asked.

"Soon, I hope. This coming week is the hearing for Earl Hickson and Clarence Womack. I'm sure by now you've heard the gossip. Earl will probably just have a hearing and allow the judge to pronounce sentence. I think Bubba has talked Jack McCormack into representing Earl at his hearing, but Womack's lawyers mysteriously abandoned him. They told him to either get another attorney, have the court assign him a public defender, or do like Earl is going to do by throwing himself on the mercy of the court and have the judge decide. Either way, they both will have a hearing next Wednesday. Earl's will be in the morning at nine and Womack's will start at one o'clock. Depending on how they go and how much we're required to participate, I'm hoping it will be settled by next Friday. Then we can aim for the first of the next week," Billy said.

"Do you think Womack will opt for a jury trial, sir?" Etienne asked.

"I think it will depend a lot on who he gets for an attorney. Rumor has it, he has such a bad reputation his wife can't get anyone to take his case, and we have some pretty damaging videos of him at his nefarious machinations. It's in our family attorney's possession, and he's require by law to surrender any and all information he has pertaining to his client and Womack. He can't hold anything back.  

* * * * * * *
The afternoon and evening was a success. Billy wasn't sure if, under the circumstances, the LaFleur family would come for the day, but they surprised him. Jack explained to Billy the judge had his life to live and no matter what was on his docket for the next week, he could keep his private life separate from his public life. Beside, he didn't have to express any opinions or listen to any talk about either man in custody or the circumstances that caused them to be incarcerated in the first place. The LaFleur family seemed to be socializing freely and enjoying themselves.

Bubba hadn't had much time to be alone with Orville in several days, but they made up for lost time on Saturday. They spent most of the weekend together. Jack felt like a third wheel. He found other things to do and people to be with. He spent a good deal of time explaining things to Erin and Etienne about their new home. Since they were both newbies to the Daniels' ranch they seemed to gravitate toward each other. Jack felt an unspoken attraction the two men seemed to have for each other and acted like an old maid aunt supervising two young people who were courting. Erin was a few years older than Etienne with a superbly developed body from working out hard in the yard with the other prisoners. He was hard and streetwise beyond his years; yet, he possessed an almost childlike sensitivity he rarely showed anyone. He was a man of the Earth and saw some pretty rough times in his life – some of his own making, but others he couldn't control. Etienne was a man of the universe. He, too, had seen hard times and frightening situations in which he didn't know if he would make it out alive or not. Together, they seemed to complete the other half each seemed to be missing. Nothing was said to that effect, but they knew they would strive to see more of each other when they could. Etienne and Jack were busy explaining things to Erin he never encountered before.  
After the Irin cowboys ate their evening meal and Billy's guests enjoyed their supper of barbecued brisket, everyone automatically gathered at the back of the barn for the Saturday evening Barnyard Concert Musicale and Hoedown. Billy's slaves made sure everything was set up just like he liked. He introduced his three new slaves, Raymond Escobar, Etienne Boudreaux, and Erin Mascaro. They stood and received a round of applause from the audience. Billy announced they would only play a couple of numbers for the classical portion of their program, and they played a string quartet arrangement by Roz of the first eight variations of Bach's Goldberg Variations. It wouldn't have mattered what they played, they were playing to an audience of enhanced beings who soaked in music, art, work, and play like it was a great banquet set before them. Erin couldn't believe what he was hearing. He was stunned. Young Billy Daniels was a far cry from the warden in the prison from which he was just rescued. While he appeared to be a man of the Earth, he was also a man of great compassion and talent. Erin wondered if he really did die, the ranch was his heaven, or perhaps a front for hell. He remembered the sexy demon who assisted Master Billy in healing him and restoring his body to its former condition. He wondered if he would see more of him.

Erin was surprised when Billy called Etienne to the stage and handed him what looked like a small accordion. Billy let Etienne run with it, and his musicians backed him up. It was like they played as a group all their lives. They transported the entire audience to a lost blue bayou, where the crickets were singing, frogs croaking, 'gators growling, and fireflies lighting up the night. You could almost smell the sweet fragrance of Magnolias and the Ghost Orchids in bloom. It was a get down your fiddle and rosin up the bow, take off your boots and throw 'um on the floor; it was a Louisiana Cajun music Saturday night at the Daniels' ranch and the audience went wild. There is no other music on Earth which stirs such joy and wild abandon as good Cajun music, and Billy's family was listening to the best. Etienne became an instant celebrity on the ranch. They loved him, and they loved his music. They couldn't get enough.

The whole day was one of great success and provided a lot of folks with a sense of togetherness and joy in a time of personal conflicts and confrontations. While everyone genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves, Billy sensed an air of instability and unrest regarding the immediate future. It was like everything was building up to the the final 'smack-down' between Clarence Womack and Earl Hickson. He wondered if his life was going to be one big smack down after another. The big money was on Earl Hickson, but no one knew for sure. It was the uncertainty of the situation which caused a great deal of uneasiness. The Rutherfords came for the Saturday festivities and would be staying the evening in the ranch house. They would be returning to their ranch after Sunday dinner. It was Bossman Randy's last evening with Billy's immediate family, but he wasn't going to let it get him down. He rationalized he had his own ramrod and protector to go home to. He reluctantly admitted to himself he was beginning to miss them.

* * * * * * *
It seemed like the weekend flew by and Billy's family was left to themselves. Aunt Helen went home with Bubba and Jack. She missed her whales, as the two large buildings were becoming known. Jack left to drive back to his ranch. He had an early morning meeting with the judge to tell him Bubba hired him to represent Earl Hickson. With Bubba's consent, Jack went by the jail Sunday evening to talk with Earl. Womack saw Jack as he came through the front office. He rang the bell and one of the night deputies let him in. Womack tried to engage Jack in conversation and demanded Jack stop and talk with him. Jack told him he was there to speak with Earl Hickson.

"I need someone to represent me," Womack said intimating he might want Jack to be his attorney.

"I'm sorry, Clarence, I've been hired to represent Earl Hickson, and I wouldn't consider representing you, even if it weren't a conflict of interest," Jack said.

"My attorneys turned their backs on me. My wife can't get a competent attorney at any price, and the only other lawyer in town is that old crone of a cowboy, Grover Parsnip, and he's practically senile. He talks to himself, farts when he walks, and digs wax out of his ears with a tiny spoon he carries on his key chain. He's a disgusting old man. He dips snuff, he spits on the ground in public, and he smells bad – of horse sweat and cow shit," Womack lamented.

"If I were you, I'd be careful what I said about people in this community, Clarence. Mr. Parsnip is a fine attorney and only appears to be a forgetful old cowboy. He's like a cowboy Columbo. He peals away the layers of bullshit and gets to the heart of the matter. Beneath that sweat-stained hat he's worn every day for the last three decades, is one of the sharpest and gifted legal minds it's ever been my good fortune to know. I consult with Mr. Parsnip regularly on cases I'm not sure about, and he's never given me a wrong piece of advice. You would be lucky if he would even consider taking your case," Jack said.

"Shit!" Womack exclaimed, "Well, I guess he'll have to do. Will you do me a favor, and ask him to come around tomorrow morning to see me?" he asked.

"I'll give him a call this evening when I get home," Jack said and walked back to Earl's cell. The door was open and Jack walked in and sat down. They exchanged greetings. Earl was a little surprised to get a visit from Bubba's attorney. When Jack told Earl Bubba hired him to represent him, he wept. Jack talked with Earl for sometime, and they pretty much laid out the ground work for how they planned to present Earl's case before the judge. Jack and Bubba decided on the way back from Huntsville they wouldn't tell Earl about rescuing Erin Mascaro. When Earl had his hearing, which just might be his trial if he throws himself on the mercy of the court, then Jack would call Erin as a witness. He also submitted a request for another search of Womack's personal files to see if Womack actually created and kept the unsigned document he presented to Erin at the prison. The sheriff and his deputies returned to the Womack's home and found the document. Jack mentioned several times during the weekend, he wondered why Womack's congregation wasn't more vocal and didn't come to the aid, comfort, and support of their preacher?

Jack ran into Grover Parsnip at the market on his way home. He was still the same old Grover, but there was something about him which Jack found remarkable. He was cleaned up, wearing a new set of clothes and a new hat. He shined like a new penny for a man in his early seventies. Jack praised his new look and the old cowboy grinned like a school kid. "Damnation, you look good, Grover! If I didn't know you as well as I do, I'd swear you were in love," Jack declared and grinned.

"Then you don't know me as well as you thought, Son," Grover replied and grinned from ear to ear.

"Wait! Don't tell me, lemme' guess. You done had a visit from some great monsters what look like giant Bigfoots what told you your day of restoration is at hand," Jack said.

The old cowboy's wrinkled leather face went from a ruddy red to pale white. "How'd ju' know, Jack? You been messing around out to that Daniels' ranch, boy?" Grover asked.

"Ever' chance I get. Come to my place for supper Friday evening to start the weekend, and I'll share with you what I know. We'll have the preliminary hearings out of the way, the smoke should have settled, and we can sit down over a good meal and talk. You always been good to give freely of your time and experience with me, and ya' ain't never asked a damn thing in return but my respect and friendship. You live by the cowboy code, and I've always admired you for it. Lord knows, I try, but I won't never be as good a man as you," Jack lamented.

"Shit! You's a fine man, Jack. What time, Son?" Grover asked.

"Six!" Jack said.

"I'll be there. They told me it would be someone I admired and trusted, but I never expected it would be you. You's always been the closest thing I'm ever gonna' have for a son," Grover said.

"Don't, Grover! Please! Not here! A mature cowboy bawling like a lost calf over the produce in the Super-8 market wouldn't be a pretty sight!" Jack admonished him.

"Why not? I cry over it ever' damn time I come to shop. The produce in this gotdamn store is lousy!" Grover declared, "And they ain't never heard of Parsnips," he added, and they shared a laugh.

"Before I forget, I was asked to represent Earl Hickson at his hearing Wednesday morning. I visited him in the jail this evening and Clarence Womack asked me to ask you to drop by the jail for a visit with him. I think he wants to ask you to represent him," Jack said.

"Jesus!" Grover spat out like a curse, and thought for a minute, "Would it matter to you if I take his case?" he asked.

"Not in the least. I know you – you're immune to bullshit. If any man in this community can handle Clarence Womack, my bet would be with you, Pod'na," Jack said like one cowboy to another.  
"Is you a good cook, Cowboy?" Grover asked.

"I'll do my best to get a decent scald on supper, Dad," Jack replied and winked at Grover.

"Looking forward to it. I may drop by the jail on my way home to see what Womack's got on his twisted mind," Grover said as they shook hands and parted.

* * * * * * *
Jack met with Judge LaFleur in his chambers in the court house the next morning. He was surprised to find Grover sitting with him having coffee. They offered Jack some, and he sat down to talk with the men. Jack was amazed Clarence agreed to let Grover represent him after the terrible things he said about the man. They didn't hash out details, except Jack was certain Earl didn't want a jury trial and wanted Judge LaFleur to decide his fate. Jack didn't try to sway Earl either way, but he did mention a jury trial could be messy. Grover said he was sure Clarence wanted a jury trial. Womack seemed to think if Grover could pack the jury with his church members he would get off easy. He also didn't see anything wrong with what he tried to do to Earl Hickson. Grover told him it wouldn't be as easy as Womack thought to 'pack a jury.'

The judge asked Jack about evidence he gathered concerning the case and was surprised when Jack told him the new cowboy slave, Erin Mascaro, he met out at the Daniels' ranch over the weekend would be testifying on Earl's behalf.

"You been going out to the Daniels' place, Judge?" Grover asked like a young boy left out of the group.

"Yes, for several weeks now, Grover. Billy Daniels – how much does Grover know, Son?" the judge asked Jack.

"He's coming for supper Friday night at my place. He had a visitation from them Ancients. I talked with Billy last night. He said it would be all right for Bubba and me to tell Grover everything," Jack replied.

"Grover -- Billy Daniels and his – what would you call them, Jack?" LaFleur asked.

"Cowboy-angels. What else?" Jack said.

"Remember the young boy who Billy Daniels was reported to have saved his life in the parking lot at the Walmart in Fredericksburg a couple of months ago? Well, Billy and his cowboy-angels saved my grandson's life. Since that time, we been out there for food and entertainment almost every weekend," Judge LaFleur said.

Grover sat with a look of disbelief on his face like the men were playing a shared prank on him. "C'moan, my visitors didn't say nothing about no cowboy-angels," he said.

"Do you trust me, Grover?" Jack asked.

"I do. Most certainly I do, but I hope you ain't in cahoots with this old varmint, my legal spar'n partner, to make an older man look like a bigger fool than he already is," Grover said and grinned.

"You ain't no fool, Cowboy, and we wouldn't do that to you. We got too damn much respect for you than to do a despicable thing like that," the judge backed Jack.

"I promise, Bubba Kirkendall and I will tell you everything Friday evening," Jack reconfirmed.

"What kind of crowd you think we're gonna' get, yer' honor?" Grover asked and grinned.

"Hang'n from the rafters! Standing room only!" Judge LaFleur exclaimed.

"Really?" Grover asked surprised.

"You got several groups of folks what are interested in the outcome, and the talk around town has grown faster than a prairie fire out of control. Earl Hickson represents the common man and Womack represents the elite -- don't do as I do, do as I tell you to do -- Jesus ass-kissing corporate ass-lick'n one percent of our society. Tell your friends to get here early and bring their own popcorn and knitting needles. Madame Defarge brand yarn will be provided for the elderly indigent," the judge said and laughed. The men finished their conversations, agreed to the order and procedure of the court, and went their way. Bubba spent the evening with Earl. He called one of the night jailers and told him not to fix Earl any supper, Bubba would be bringing him a belly buster special. They sat and talked and ate together. It took all Bubba had not to tell Earl about Erin Mascaro but he managed. He did tell Earl he believed what he told him about the drive-through robbery in Killeen.   

* * * * * * *
Wednesday morning came and the Daniels' household was up getting breakfast. They decided to leave an hour before the doors were opened to the courthouse. When they got there they couldn't believe their eyes. The town square was was packed with vehicles of all kinds. One cowboy's family truck was broke down, but they didn't want to miss the trial. He hitched his John Deere tractor to his cattle trailer, filled it with lawn chairs for his family, and hauled them into town. Billy had no idea it would be so packed and several of his family were turned away because they were the last in line. He heard there was more seating in the balcony surrounding the room and his family went up there. It was a little better but not much. Jack told Billy both Earl and Clarence would be present for each other's hearing in case they needed to call on them for information.

Clarence was warned not to lie because there was damaging evidence contrary to his story. He told his part of the story first and lied through his teeth. Grover gave him a chance to come clean. Earl told his story. The young cowboy was straight-forward and truthful about what happened and how. Not only did Jack manage to present a case which proved Clarence was trying to blackmail Earl, he was also trying to get classified, private information he had no business having. Even the judge couldn't believe the hubris and self-serving attitude of Clarence Womack. He asked Earl several questions himself. "Just so I'm clear about a couple of things, Son, you say you knew the Kirkendall barns were off limits for you, and they are under Federal protection?" the judge asked.

"Yes, sir. I didn't know if they was off limits to me personally, 'cause I been in 'um a number of times with Bubba and his uncle. With the death of Bubba's Uncle Brad, I wondered if maybe it didn't apply no more. I actually didn't know at the time I took them pitchers whether it still applied, but to be honest, I was hope'n it did," Earl said.

"You were hoping the federal protection still applied?" Judge LaFleur asked.

"Yes, sir. I done figured if I was gonna' have to spend time in prison for some'um I didn't do because the preacher framed me for it, I was gonna' make damn sure he didn't get off scot-free. I was gonna' take a big bite out of his butt to remember me by. Hell, from the looks of him, he wouldn't miss it none," Earl said and the audience went crazy with laughter and applause for Earl. The judge banged his gavel several times to restore order. He didn't scold the crowd but reminded them this was a court of law and not the Saturday afternoon kiddie matinιe at the Odeon.

"And you have proof the man, a Mister Erin Mascaro, was solely responsible for the robbery of the drive through liquor store in Killeen, Counselor?" the judge asked Jack.

"Yes, sir, the prison video-records every conversation between a prisoner and a visitor. We subpoenaed a copy of the video which clearly shows Mr. Mascaro refused to sign Mr. Womack's affidavit and told him to his face, my client was not responsible for Mr. Mascaro's actions. We also have Mr. Mascaro with us today up there in the far balcony with his new slave owner, Master Billy Daniels, who will be happy to testify on Mr. Hickman's behalf. Furthermore, we searched Mr. Womack's files and found the affidavit he typed up and took to Huntsville with him," Jack declared. There was much whispering and gasps from the audience. The judge banged his gavel again, but didn't say anything.

"Is there anything else pertaining to Mr. Hickson's hearing which might be relevant to the court?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Kirkendall has chosen to drop all charges against Mr. Hickson," Jack said and another rush of whispers and applause broke out in the courtroom.

The judge banged his gavel several times and looked over the rim of his spectacles like an old schoolmarm at an unruly classroom and smiled. "I really hate to be rude, but you folks leave me no choice. May I be so bold to point out to you good people, I'm the judge here, not you; however, the court does recognize and agrees with your approval of the fine job Counselor McCormack is doing to defend his client, and we certainly approve of the more genuine Christian gesture of Mister Bubba Kirkendall to turn his other cheek for his brother's sake. I will entertain another moment of approval from the courtroom, then I expect you to settle down," Judge LaFleur said, and they went crazy yelling, applauding, stomping boots, and whistling for Jack, Bubba, and Earl. The judge banged his gavel again and everyone got quiet.

"I have to admit, while your actions were not within the law, Mr. Hickson, I have to admire your cunning to turn the tables on your blackmailer. How did you come up with your plan, Son?" he asked.

"My daddy always told me: to know how a snake thinks, you sometimes got to get down and crawl on your belly like one to understand how he sees the world and what makes him tick. I done like he told me, and I caught me a big ol' snake in my trap," Earl said proud of himself.

"One last question, Mr. Hickson. Did you ever think of going to your brother with your burden?" the judge asked.

Earl hung his head in shame. "Truth is, your honor, I been a burden to my brother all my life. I done took him and his love for granite. I'm still a burden to him, but I don't want to be. I'd like to become my own man and love my brother for who he is and not for what I can get
out of him," Earl said. There was a deadly silence in the courtroom. Bubba stood up and slowly clapped his hands together. One by one, the other people in the courtroom stood and joined his slow clapping until they were all on their feet applauding for Earl. The judge let them get it out. They sat down and returned to their quiet state.

"I think I've heard enough," the judge proclaimed, "I will make my decision this week, and I will pass judgment next Wednesday morning at the same time. Until then, Mr. Hickson will become a trustee at the jail and assist the sheriff, his deputies, and jailers with whatever tasks they might have for him. He may wear his own clothes, visit with his friends and family, but he must inform the sheriff or his staff where he will be at all times. He must also return to his jail cell every night by seven P.M. for the next week. Since we finished Mr. Hickman's hearing a mite early, Sheriff Tate, you may return Mr. Hickson's civilian clothes to him immediately. You don't have to be here for Mr. Womack's hearing, Son, unless you want to be," the judge instructed Earl.

"Thank you, sir, I'll take it up with my attorney," Earl said.

"Wise man," the judge allowed and got a laugh from the audience. "We will break until one o'clock. If you wish to attend the hearing make sure you're here in your seats at one sharp," he said to those in his courtroom and banged his gavel to clear the court.

The sheriff's deputies took Clarence back across the street to the jail. Many in the community came around to shake Earl's hand and wish him well. Billy and his family along with Erin Mascaro found their way to the bottom floor. Earl broke into tears to see his old Army buddy. They embraced and shed a few more tears together. Billy, Bubba, Jack and Erin took Earl to the jail, got his clothes, and took him to lunch at the Willow Creek. It was packed. There was more applause for Earl in the restaurant. It was the most attention he'd gotten in his life, and for the moment, he was riding the crest of a wave.

Grover saw his client back to the jail and told him he would come for him after he had lunch. He went to the Willow Creek and was hailed by Jack, Bubba, Elmer, and Billy to join them at their table. He was flattered and amused. He sat down right in the middle of them. Earl Hickson and his old Army buddy were sitting directly across from him. Grover knew Earl and met him a couple of times with his dad when Earl was a younger man. He was asked a few questions about how Clarence was handling seeing his world of fantasy and lies come crashing down around him. Naturally, Grover couldn't say too much, but Jack came to his rescue. "Easy, men, Grover has the dubious honor of representing Womack, and he can't say much or he might jeopardize his client/attorney privilege. Let's have a nice lunch. I'm having Grover to my place for supper Friday evening. Bubba and I will be discussing some things with him he needs to know," Jack said, "It seems your uncle-in-laws from Retikki Prime not only visited little Tommy Griffin, they been play'n patty-cakes with my old buddy here," Jack said motioning to Grover.

"Them huge monsters are relatives of your, Mr. Daniels?" Grover asked.

"Call me Billy, sir. Yes, I'm married to their nephew, Boomer. He's my bonded mate. I know it must be a lot to take in, but it will become clear after some things have been explained to you. In the meantime, welcome to our family, Mr. Parsnip," Billy said.

"Thank you, Billy, I have so many questions, I don't know where to begin," he said.

"Don't worry, Jack and Bubba will fill you in on the basics, then you will be ready for full immersion into the greater Daniels experience," Billy said and smiled.

"Lord, you make it sound like our family is some great secret organization like the Masons where they stick safety pins through a man's tits during initiation," Kate said, "Pay him no mind, Grover. You and I went through school together. If you don't understand something you come to me, ya' hear?" she said firmly.

"Yes, 'um, Ms. Kate, and thanks," Grover said and smiled.      

Talk was lively, but nothing more was said about the family or the trial. Elmer commented on the miraculous return of Etienne Boudreaux and what a pleasure it was to get to see them again after so many years. He looked at Billy as he talked as if he was looking for some clue. Billy didn't give him anything. Billy picked up the check for his couple of tables and tipped the waitresses handsomely. They returned to the courthouse and their seats in the balcony. Some older folks got several of their seats, but they didn't say anything. Billy and his men decided to stand and lean on the rail behind the back seats.

The hearing began and Grover reviewed everything from the previous hearing and how it affected his presentation of Clarence Womack's case. Grover had time to discuss Clarence's weak case with him before they went back into the courtroom and asked if he still wanted a jury trial. Grover stressed how blatantly he had been caught lying, and there was a good possibility even his own congregation might turn against a him. Clarence kept insisting for Grover to call some of his chief leaders in his church as witnesses to his good and Christ-like character. Grover tried to reason with him, it was a gamble he didn't think Clarence should take. It could backfire in his face, and he would find himself in an even deeper hole. He reminded Womack of the old cowboy saying, if you find yourself in a hole over your head, stop digging. Like everything else, Womack assured Grover he knew better, and since he was paying Grover's outlandish fees as his attorney, he would do it his way. Grover reluctantly agreed to follow his wishes.

Grover stood and made a call for anyone in the community who would like to bear witness to Clarence Womack's goodness as a human being. One little older lady came forward, gave her name, Emily Hardtack, and said she was a founding member of Pastor Womack's church. She thought Pastor Clarence was a good man. She claimed he was full of the holy spirit and one time healed her tiger cat, 'Mr. Wombly' by putting his hands on him and calling on angels in some unknown tongue. She said she didn't believe a word of what they were accusing him of doing and just wanted everyone to know she thought he was a true man of God. Grover thanked her and she sat down.

Slowly, a big cowboy wearing a floor length brown duster and a huge cowboy hat got up and walked to the front. Clarence looked at Grover, elbowed him, and smiled like this cowboy was one of his main men and would set the others straight. Grover asked the big cowboy to introduce himself.

"My name is Kit Crocker, and I'm here to say a few words about our spiritual leader, Pastor Clarence Womack," he said.

Grover acknowledged him and motioned for him to go on.

"Mrs. Hardtack is a nice lady and is welcome to her opinion, but I can't share her faith in our pastor anymore. As a matter of fact, I know for certain he is a lying, cheating, fornicate'n bastard, and uses his position to sexually prey on other men's wives. I got proof he done slept with my wife, and I'm here to seek my just revenge  like it says in the Bible: an eye for an eye and your life for taking my wife. I guaran-damn-tee-ya, he won't never sleep with another cowboy's woman!" he exclaimed, opened his duster, pulled a Colt .45 from a holster strapped to his leg, and shot Clarence Womack three times in the chest. Clarence tried to stand, but the impact from the bullets knocked him backwards hard into his chair. His body dropped forward and his head hit the solid oak table with a resounding thud. Clarence lay dying, strangling to death in a pool of his own blood. His life flashed before his eyes, but he was blind to his flaws. His anger and internal rage overwhelmed him. He learned nothing from his mistakes. With his last breath, he opened his eyes and saw a fearsome demon with large horns looming over him, smiling down at him like he was ready to take Clarence to dwell with him amid the putrid stench arising from the fiery pits of hell. Clarence secretly gambled there was no such place. He thought a belief in a devil and hell was for suckers who lined his pockets with money from their irrational fears. Could he have been so wrong?

End of Chapter 50 ~ Him Who Made The Seven Stars
Copyright ~ © ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved~
E-mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com
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