Oggie spoke up. "Hey, let him go. Now!"

The guy looked up. "Mind your own business. This is between me and my son."

Oggie shook his head no. "Not any more it isn't. Turn him loose, now. If he's your son, then why aren't you treating him with the love of a father? Now I won't ask again. Turn him loose."

"Fuck you! Mind your own business."

Oggie stepped closer and grabbed the man's arm with one hand while drawing back with the other. He landed a single punch to the guy's jaw and he went down, releasing Michael in the process. Oggie pushed Michael to the side and stepped between him and his father. Cory moved in on Michael, cradling his face with both hands and kissing him before hugging him as Michael sobbed.

Michael's father felt his jaw with one hand and looked up at Oggie. "You'll hear from my lawyer!"

"Yeah, well I hope he's a criminal attorney because you're gonna need one." Oggie said, pulling his cell phone out.

Karen appeared by his side, closing his phone with her hand as she grasped his elbow with her other. "Oggie, wait. Let's not rush into things. Mr. VanGordon has had a shock, let's talk a bit first. I mean, there is plenty of time to make the call. Michael is safe and the situation is somewhat defused." She turned towards Michael's father. "I think Mr. VanGordon has calmed down enough to act civilly. I'm sure he doesn't need a scandal." She looked pointedly at the man on the floor still holding his jaw. At the word 'scandal' she could see his anger withering. "Let's go into the drawing room, just the three of us. Oggie, you weren't in a hurry to leave, were you?"

Oggie extended a hand to the man on the floor, an offer to help him up. A look of anger rose again on his face as he turned and rose on his own, squaring off, an angry scowl on his face. "Lucky shot, won't happen next time."

Oggie straightened up and stared calmly at him. "You're right. I was looking to break your nose. You were lucky. I think you'll find that I don't whimper and kowtow. You're pretty brave against a fourteen year old. I'd be willing to bet your wife has some bruises too."

"This way boys!" Karen said to Michael's father and Oggie. "Cory, you take Michael in the kitchen for a bit. Everything's going to be alright." She stopped, allowing the men to pass. She winked and smirked at Cory before closing the door. "Perhaps a drink gentlemen?" Karen said, pouring herself a brandy and looking at the two lions in an unbreakable stare.

She walked calmly over to them, "Frank, you lost this round. Back off and calm down or I'll make the call myself and there are enough witnesses that you will be sleeping with the drunks and other wife beaters until Monday. And all I have to do is make a simple phone call and the network will know what an ass you are."

Frank turned to her, "I don't have to take this shit from a stupid bitch like you. Call whoever you want. And I'm not afraid of your pet gorilla either."

"Oh excuse me. I didn't mean to be rude." Karen said, smiling and taking Oggie by the arm and holding his bicep. "Frank VanGordon, please meet Ogden Castle."

Oggie did not extend his hand. Frank's face showed that something registered. Karen went on.

"You may recognize the name Castle from the Superior Court. The Honorable Judge Castle. Now, it has been years since I studied, but your act today rolls out something like this. Assault and battery against a minor, possibly criminal trespass, a whole slew of civil suits, as I am sure the one hundred and fifty or so guest I have here will suddenly be traumatized and . . . oh!" She paused for dramatic effect. "Two more things just occurred to me. He is a family member, so a domestic violence charge will be mandatory." Grinning, she walked over to the bar and picked up the glass she poured him and turned back to him. "And last, but certainly not least, is the fact that you did it because he is gay." His eyes snapped to hers as his anger rose to the surface and he blasted back.

"Don't say that! Don't you ever say that, you fucking bitch. He is not!" She continued to stroll towards him.

"And seeing as though he is gay and you chose to act upon it, that puts it in the category of a hate crime and exacerbates all the charges, Frank. Now, I'm not sure, because my major was in business law, but conservatively, you should get out in a mere ten to twelve. By then, your wife will have divorced you and taken you to the cleaners and your business will be sold as part of the settlement. When you get out, you will be ten years older and certainly less desirable, if that is at all possible."


She paused again, proffering the glass, "You sure you don't want a drink? If we don't come to an understanding here quickly, it may be your last for a very long time." He blanched and reached for the glass, turning it up and making a face as the burning liquid made its way down his throat. She poured him another and handed it to him, "Have a seat Frank. Let's talk. I'll be back in a minute." She stepped through the door pulling it closed behind her.


Frank glanced at Oggie and Oggie just stood there, his left hand clasping his right. His feet were a shoulders length apart and looked like somebody's pet gorilla. He was in a high state of alert and Frank knew it. Frank looked down at his empty glass and avoiding Oggie's eyes, decanted himself another glass, filling it nearly to the top. He set the crystal decanter back on the table and drank another big gulp, turning the glass up far enough to get another glance at the gorilla. He was hoping his gaze was affixed to something else. It wasn't. The liquid that minutes ago made him wince at the burning, now just seemed to help remove his pain. He studied the man as he sat, gazing down at the clear, brown, pain reliever. Oggie didn't know if he should pity him or hate him.


Karen motioned for Chuck to come over and she whispered, "Get the address from Michael and go get his mom. Don't take no for an answer. When you get her, bring her here, but take her to the pool house. I don't want the idiot to see her. Now hurry, I don't know how long we can hold this asshole."


She stepped back in, "I checked on the boys, they're going to be alright. Can I freshen that up?" she asked, noticing the top laying to the side and a lot less of her expensive brandy in the decanter. Smiling, she poured his glass full and then returned the decanter to the table next to him.

"So, Frank," she continued. "As I see it, here are your choices. You can voluntarily check yourself in for some serious anger management and sensitivity training, get off your kids back for being himself, instead of who you want him to be and stop beating your family, or you can go to jail, right now, for a very long time and lose everything."

He glared at her, "Who the fuck are you to threaten me! You're nothing more than a cunt with money and . . .!" But Oggie interrupted his tirade with a right cross. Grabbing him off the floor by his shirt, Oggie pulled him to his feet. Now in his drunken stupor, he took an inept swing at Oggie and Oggie deflected it, giving him the broken nose he intended to give him earlier. He grabbed him once again and pulled him to his feet, blood gushing from his nose.

"Guess you weren't so lucky this time."

Karen stood up and walked over to him and pitched her drink in his face. "Frank, you're a pathetic excuse for a man, get out of my house. You can expect a visit from some of San Diego's finest." She opened the door for him to leave.

He staggered out the door and made for the entrance. The alcohol stinging the broken skin on his face brought him to a brief sobriety as he opened the door and started to step through. He hesitated, "You can tell the little faggot not to show his face around my home ever again. If he does, I'll kill the little bastard. I'll be burning everything he used to own as soon as I get there." He slammed the door and started down the steps.

Karen pulled out her phone, saying out loud, "No, Frank. I don't think you're making it home, at least not tonight. Hello nine-one-one? Give me the Sherriff's department please. Hello, I want to report an assault on a minor by Frank VanGordon. He just left here drunker than a skunk. Yes, this is Karen Sandberg. He threatened to kill his son earlier because his son came out to him as being gay. The type of vehicle? I'm not sure, but he should be weaving down PCH by Murphy's Surf shop and heading back into the city any time now. Be careful, he has a real temper. I mean, he assaulted his thirteen year old boy in front of a hundred and fifty witnesses. One of my guests, I'm not sure which one it was, made him break his grip on the boy and ushered him away. I've sent my driver to get his wife; I don't think she's safe. His son is here, obviously. Certainly, we'll be here." She hung up the phone. Karen paced for a moment or two, then she turned to Oggie.

"Thanks Oggie, the guy is a real work of art. The sheriff's a friend of mine. He'll be going to jail tonight, I am sure. But look, I know this guy. He isn't done. What would you say to Claude coming to your place and stay for the three weeks and perhaps sending Michael and Cory up in the mountains for that same time and have Claude work with all three? I'll cover all the expenses. You have a large place, way out in the toolies someplace, right?"

Oggie smiled, seeing what she was doing. "Yeah, sure. What about Michael's mom?"

"Hmm, good question. I don't know how she is right now. She should be arriving any minute. At least, I think. Shit, I better call Chuck." She flipped open her phone and pushed the speed dial and held it to her ear.

"Hello Chuck! Where are you? He left about ten minutes ago. I forgot to call because I was on with the sheriff. Are you guys away from there?" She listened for a moment. "Really? Really! That's great! Well, just come in the front then. Leave their things in the car. Just bring her into the drawing room. Good work Chuck, I knew I could count on you. See you in just a couple minutes."

Karen hung up the phone smiling. "They are almost back. Looks like he beat her up pretty good too before he came here. Chuck says she looks bad. The good news is that they saw him kissing the hood on a black and white right down the road by the surf shop. Seems he veered off the road and into a guard rail. They said he had pink pepper spray foam all over his face."

"Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Oggie retorted. "Look, I'd like to check on my boys if that's alright."

She motioned to Hal, "Could you take Oggie up to Cory's room, please. There's no need to stay, just show him the way and then come on back down. Chuck should be here in just a few minutes and I don't really want Michael to see his mom until we can clean her up a bit. But I want to get pictures for court."

"Of course," Hal said with the slightest of nods. "This way, if you please, Mr. Castle."

Oggie followed. "Look Hal, about the Mr. Castle stuff. Please just call me Oggie."

"Certainly, Mr. Castle, Oggie. By the way sir, nice work. I've wanted to see somebody do that to the jerk for some time." They arrived in front of a door at the end of the hall. Oggie knocked, "Hi there, it's Oggie, everything's okay. Can I come in, please?"

The door opened and Ty looked up and grinned, dropping the baseball bat he had armed himself with and hugged Oggie. "I was so worried about you."

"Thanks bud. Can I come in?"

"Oh, yeah. Sorry."

"What are you apologizing for Ty? If anybody needs to apologize, it's me and Frank VanGordon. I just wanted to make sure you guys were all, alright." He walked in and knelt in front of Michael who had his face buried in Cory's neck.

Oggie looked at Nick, who understood what he wanted. He moved over next to Michael and put his hand on his back and rubbed it lightly as he spoke, "Michael, this is my dad, you can call him Oggie." Michael sat up and looked Oggie in the eyes for a moment, Oggie's concern registering in Michael, but then looked to the floor. Michael had one eye swollen where he was hit.

Oggie placed his hand softly on his cheek."Hey Michael, how are you holding up through all this?"

Looking up with only brief glances, "I've had better days, I think."

"I'll bet you have. I wanted to tell you that your dad is in custody and won't be hurting anyone for a long time to come. Your mom is with Chuck and they saw your dad with the police, so she should be here pretty soon." Oggie glanced down this time. "Uh, Michael, I wanted to apologize for hitting your dad. I was just so scared for you and acted. It's generally not my way, but I felt it was something I had to do. You can ask Nick, I know I haven't had to hit another person since I was fighting in the war, it's just not me. So I hope you can forgive me." He glanced up, his eyes watering and Michael's eyes met his. He saw the genuine fatherly concern and launched himself into Oggie's arms, hugging him and sobbing into his shoulder. Oggie picked him up and he wrapped his legs around him. It was like he was ten again, but Oggie was glad he was a small fourteen. Oggie backed up and sat on the bed and rocked him and reassured him until he was cried out.

He sat back and looked at him, "Thanks for saving me and my mom. You have nothing to apologize for."

"I'm sorry it came to that, but some guys just can't sort things properly. Your mom should be here pretty soon."

"Does she know?"

"About your dad? Yeah, I'm sure she knows all about it by now. Chuck picked her up."

"No, does she know about me and Cory?"

Oggie took a breath, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure she does. You see, your dad knocked her around a bit before he came after you."

Michael's eyes locked on Oggie's, "Is she alright? What did he do to her?"

"She's going to be alright. Karen wants to help her clean up a bit before you see her. You know how women are. But look, how would you feel about you and Cory coming up and spending a month at our place? Karen has this French guy, Jean Claude something or another who is going to do a sort of workshop and she wants Ty to work with him too. So I was thinking that if that was alright, we could pick up some stuff from your place tomorrow and then drive to LA where we have to have a meeting for a couple hours and then drive up to the house."

"What about my mom? I mean, I don't even know if she still wants me . . . now that I'm . . . you know, gay."

"Well, I can't speak to that, but she is welcome to come along too. Maybe the mountain air would do her some good. And if she needs to stay down here and sort things out, we'll work around it. But Michael, even if she's a little upset, mind you, I don't know at all what she thinks, but the one thing I know for sure is this, no one on the planet will ever love you as much as your mother. So even if she is in shock, give her a little time to adjust. She'll be fine, you'll see. You look like a great kid. I'm pretty sure you didn't get that from your dad, so she must be a pretty great woman."

Michael grinned at that. "You know Oggie, he was never like that before. It's like something happened to him a year or so back. It was like overnight he got mean. Since then, he can be my dad one moment and this monster the next. I just don't know what's wrong with him. I've heard mom try and talk to him about it and he just gets really angry about it, saying there is nothing wrong with him." He leaned back in and quietly nuzzled back into Oggie's neck, thinking.

"So, are you both artists too?" Oggie asked, trying to steer them in another direction.

"Well, I paint a little bit, but nothing like Ty. Man, I'd do anything to have his talent." Ty blushed

"What about you Cory?" Oggie asked.

"Eh, mom says I'm good, it's in my blood. But I really want to be a writer."

"Well, writing is art too. I'll bet you will be a fine writer. What do you want to write, journalism, or books, or poetry? What kind of writing do you want to do?"

"I love to write stories. I like to dream that I am in other lives and write about the people I become." Cory said, dreamily.

Ty rolled his eyes and Oggie tried not to notice, but his grin was creeping through.

"I think that's great. We need more great story tellers. Perhaps if you come out to our place, you can bring some along. Look, I'm going to go downstairs and see how things are. I'll be back in a bit. You guys just hang tight right here, okay?"

"Okay," was the unified response.

Oggie went back downstairs where the party by the pool was still going strong. Oggie suggested they close the doors to the gallery in case the sheriff came by for a statement. He strolled into the drawing room to find Karen sitting next to a very pretty, but very battered, woman in her mid forties. Meeting Karen's eyes, she came to her feet.

"Here is the man of the hour, Mr. Ogden Castle. Let me introduce Mrs. Vivian VanGordon, soon to be Ms Vivian Banks." She started to get up as Oggie stepped closer, "Please don't get up. And just call me Oggie. I'm pleased to meet you. Your son is a remarkable boy. A little scared and a little concerned right now, but I can tell he is a remarkable boy."

"Yes, thank you. Is he alright? I mean, did Frank hurt him badly this time?"

Oggie winced when she added the tag of, 'this time'. "He hit him in the face and his eye is a little swollen, but I stopped him before he could do more. You said 'this time'. Does he do this often?"

She flushed and looked down. "He wasn't always like this. But the last couple years he has just gone wild sometimes. It's been getting worse. He explodes anytime I try and talk to him about it. He changed so sudden. He will go for a while and be fine. Then all of a sudden, this rage shows up and he says things he never would normally. He said he had headaches. I noticed that they show up just before he goes into these spells. At first I thought it was stress and then I thought it was me. But now, I think it is something more. I think he has something medically wrong with him."

"Well, now maybe he can get some help. They are supposed to come and take statements." Karen said, noting Oggie's eyes getting large and he looked a little nervous. "Uh, Oggie, could I speak to you a moment? Vivian, will you excuse me, just a moment?"

They walked into the foyer, "What is it, Oggie?"

"Uh, well, I had them close the doors, uh, you know, I just don't know too many deputies that think fourteen year old naked boys are art," he said with one raised eyebrow and stroking his hair back uncomfortably.

"Oh, you're right. Thanks." She motioned to Hal, "We might have some company who doesn't appreciate art. Could you pull the display and, you know, find a place for it?"

"Certainly ma'am; and the wallpaper?"

She thought for a moment. "Leave it. There's nothing showing that they could be concerned with and well, it's too hot to remove." She chuckled, waving him off as he grabbed displays and ushered them into another room.

"Uh, Michael is really scared. He wants to know how his mom is taking his coming out."

"Well, so far she hasn't said. Melissa wasted no time calling and telling Frank. But she hasn't mentioned her own stand."

Oggie winced again, running his fingers through his hair again. "Well, maybe we ought to check it out, you know? That boy has been through a lot today."

"You're right. It's time to find out. Come along?"


"Thanks Vivian, we just had a few loose ends to tie up. But now we need to talk a bit. Your son is pretty scared right now, he doesn't know how you are taking this."

"What are you talking about? This what? We've talked about his dad before." She studied Karen's face and then Oggie's. "What? What's happened?"

Oggie held up a finger. "Maybe we should bring Michael down here and let him explain his concerns. Let me go get him."

Oggie escaped from the room and then sprinted up the steps two at a time and down to the door. He knocked, "its Oggie. Can I come in again?"

The door opened, "Hi, um Michael. Your Mom is downstairs. She looks a little battered, but she is going to be fine. But look, we just discovered that she is clueless about you and Cory."

Michael sat up, a look of hope on his face. "Do we have to tell her?"

"Unfortunately, I don't think we have a choice. When they come to take the statements, it's all going to come out. So the question is, wouldn't it be better if she hears it from you?"

Michael's eyes welled with water again. "I'm afraid. What if . . . What if she doesn't want me when she finds out?"

"Let's not borrow trouble Michael. Look, we are all here with you. It will all work out."

Cory went and got the picture that Ty had drawn. "Michael, let's show her the picture. I'll go with you."

Michael looked at Oggie, questioning. Oggie smiled, "They say a picture is worth a thousand words."

The boys traipsed downstairs in a procession behind Michael and Oggie. Oggie had his hand across his shoulders. Michael felt like he was headed for his execution. As they opened the door, Michael saw his mother and gasped as he ran over to her. Cupping her face with his hands he cried, "Oh momma. He's never been this bad before. Are you alright?"

She hugged him. "Yes baby, I'm alright. Are you ok?" she asked, touching his face near the swollen eye.

"Yes momma, I'm alright. Momma, I'm so sorry. It's all my fault."

"What are you talking about baby? What's your fault?"

"Dad getting angry," he said, sheepishly. "He did it because I made him angry."

"Nonsense, he went off because of a phone call. Was that you?"

Michael took a deep breath and exhaled, "No momma, I suspect it was Melissa."

Her face changed, "Michael . . . Is she . . . uh, is she pregnant?"

"No!" Michael shot back. "No. Uh, momma, we've never done anything like that."

"Well, what then?"

Oggie stepped up. "Mrs. VanGordon, I think I can help out here a little, let me introduce my boys. That one is Nick and this one is Ty. Ty is a bit of a human camera." He turned to Ty and motioned for him to bring the picture on the pad. "We were doing an exhibition here and Ty was supposed to walk in the room, look for a moment and then go out and draw what he saw." He handed the pad to her. "Melissa was in the group watching Ty draw when she saw something that upset her." He flipped the cover open on the pad exposing the picture. Mrs. VanGordon studied the picture closely, still puzzled. Then, she moved a little closer, her gaze now obviously on the mirror. She stood up and walked towards the windows and away from Michael and Oggie. Cory moved quickly up behind Michael and wrapped his arms around Michael's waist and rested his chin on his shoulder, whatever was about to happen was just about to. The room was silent as she stood examining the portrait in the light of the window. She hugged the pad to her. Her body shuddered slightly. It looked like she was starting to cry silently. She shook more and with it noises emanated from her. It grew in intensity and it became apparent that she wasn't crying, she was laughing. Her laughter grew almost to hysterics. She doubled over in laughter. When she straightened up, she turned to see the shock and fear on her son's face and she saw Cory's arms around her son. She reached an arm out and walked to her son and she hugged him and Cory together.

"Oh honey, I've always hated that little bitch. I was so afraid she was going to trap you by getting pregnant." She started laughing again, a contagious laugh made even funnier because it was coming from a face that was so swollen from her beating. It was an odd contrast. It was a just a few moments before everyone in the room was laughing with her.

"Oh, I would have given anything to see the look on her face when she saw this."

Ty's eyes lit up and he walked over and took the pad and looked at Nick. Nick ran out the door and out to the table by the pool, returning with a couple pencils. Ty took the pencils. Slipping one behind his ear, he laid the pad on a low table and started drawing. In minutes, he had the beginnings of a very pretty, but obviously very snooty looking girl with her arms folded, scowling amidst a group. Behind her, you could see plainly another girl talking behind her hand to another girl who was craning to see. It was a picture Norman Rockwell could easily have laid claim to.

They had all settled into chairs and were discussing the day's events. Little attention was paid to what Ty was doing. He took the pad over and handed it to Mrs. VanGordon who accepted it and looked at it and again broke into howling laughter. The room was soon filled with laughter when Deputy Braddock came in. He saw the swollen faces look up and yet saw the uncontrollable laughter coming from them, his confusion shown clearly on his face.

"Did somebody here call nine-one-one?"


"Oh Pa, thanks for driving back. I know it's longer, but I'll feel a lot better over it."

"No problem son. We would have been hard pressed to catch the plane with all that going on anyways. I'm just glad it all worked out right. Cory and Michael are coming up tomorrow and they are going to see about getting his dad examined in the hospital. I hope they find something they can fix. Michael looks like he's a pretty decent kid who loves the dad he used to have.

"Pa, how are we gonna get the rental car back?"

"Chuck is going to bring a driver out when he drops the boy's off and he'll take it back for us. Now look, we are meeting a lady from the courts in L.A. She wants to know how you are fitting in Ty, so we may not want to let her know that you guys are . . . well, you know. You guys get what I'm saying?"

"You want us to act like we aren't fucking each other like bunnies?" Nick asked, giggling from the back seat.

"Nick! This is important. I'm trying to be serious here. Well yeah, you know, they might not like that sorta thing."

"You mean, they could take him away?"

"Uh, yeah, I think they could."

The two boys got very quiet in the back seat as the reality of what he said sunk in.

"Oggie, do we have to meet her?"

"'Fraid so. Don't worry, it will be alright. Just be normal kids, keep your hands to yourself and be sweet to her. You will be fine. This isn't a meeting to determine if he stays or goes, it's just to see how he is doing with us. But I don't know how she would feel knowing you guys are you know, uh . . . having um, sex. And can we leave out the part about the posters and stuff? I mean, you are fourteen. Not too many people are going to see the beauty of your, um . . . you know, um cute . . . uh buns, you know what I mean?" Oggie asked into the rear view mirror. "Just treat each other like brothers."

"So, you guys ready or what?" Oggie asked, shutting off the rental car outside the Outback Steakhouse.

Ty looked tortured already. He looked at Nick and leaned into him.

"Ty! Don't do that, what if she is standing outside watching for us. Look, you can do this. I'm there with ya, but you have to look like you are flying solo. I want to be able to love you after tonight too." Nick said in exasperation, almost afraid to touch him. They opened the doors and got out. The boys were wearing their good clothes again and Nick straightened Ty's hat on his head as they went forward.

Opening the door, Oggie noticed Sharron sitting on the bench reading some forms. She glanced up, her eyes meeting his. She rose from her seat and walked forward, smiling.

"Oggie! So good to see you again. And Nick! My, look how you have grown. And this must be Tyson." She extended her hand and Ty took it. He had a puzzled look on his face, wondering how she knew Nick and Oggie already, but assumed it had to do with the other inmates. He wondered if she had anything to do with their untimely return.

The hostess led them to a large corner booth. The boys moved in and Sharon sat on the outside as did Oggie. Ty made it so that Nick had to sit next to her. He felt better sitting between the two men who could protect him. After looking at the menu and placing their orders Sharon began with some questions.

"So Nick, high school this year?"

"Yes, ma'am, freshman."

"Are you excited about it?"

"A little nervous I guess, but it'll be okay. It's just new."

"How about you, Ty?"

"Yes ma'am, I think I'll be going into high school, too. I'm a little behind because of being in prison, but Nick's helping me get caught up so I'll be ready."

"So you like living with Oggie and Nick?"

"Yes ma'am. It's better than I have ever lived. I'm not afraid every minute of every day. It was a little scary at first, because of the bears and lions and stuff, but Oggie talked to me about how to live with the animals, so now I'm alright."

"So do you and Nick get along? I mean, I know boys rough house and it must be rough sharing Oggie's attention."

"We get along just fine ma'am. I don't get what you mean, about sharing Oggie's attention. There's a lot of Oggie to go around." He grinned, looking at Oggie.

"Hey, go easy on me. You're just saying that so you can have my leftover steak!"

Ty grinned, "Well Oggie, you know, steak is really fattening. You know, one bite of steak is like a dozen donuts."

Oggie grinned, "Yeah, well maybe I'll hold off of a dozen or two for you."

Sharon smiled. "So you got girlfriends?" She looked at two stunned boys.

Nick started, "Well, when school starts maybe, but I think it's more important right now to work on my grades. There's plenty of time for girls. We sorta live way out, so there aren't too many around."

She looked at Ty, "How about you?"

"Like he said. Right now, the woman in my life is Camille."

"Camille? Tell me about her." Oggie rested his head on his hand, concealing his grin.

"Oh she's beautiful. Soft, brown hair, I love to comb it. She likes that too."

"Is it serious between you two?"

"Of course! I mean, we're still getting to know each other, but there's no other like her."

"Don't you think you're just a little young for a serious relationship?"

"What's age got to do with it? I mean, give her a smile, throw her some oats and brush her hair. She's a happy camper."

Sharon raised an eye when he talked about sowing his oats and raised an eyebrow, then looked at Oggie, then back to Ty. "What's that mean to you, sowing your wild oats Ty?"

"Sewing? I can't even thread a needle. Where did you get sewing? I'm not sure you can even do that."

Oggie was almost in tears. "Sharon," he said, reaching his hands across the table and taking one of hers. "Sharon, uh Camille is one of my horses." She looked at him for a minute, then her gaze shifted back to Ty.

He shrugged, smiling, "She's the only girl in my life Ms Sharon."

Sharon grinned, "Oh, I'm gonna have to watch you aren't I? You really had me going. Okay, so you're settling in alright then, right Ty?"

"Yes ma'am."

"So I read your case report. Uh, I noticed there was some drug involvement. Any issues there, staying clean?"

Ty looked at her. Ms Sharon, I know what the reports say. But I never took any drugs. I wanted too, but I never had the chance. Now I'm glad I never did. If I had done what I wanted, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be part of this family. I was alone then. I wanted it to end; I wanted to follow my mom."

His eyes started to well up as the waiter appeared with the steaks and with the steaks and the sweet smells of food, came recovery and renewed fervor for the task at hand. And when we are talking steaks, Ty was rapidly becoming Olympic quality.

Sharon continued to study Ty as he devoured the seemingly huge steak laid before him. He was focused and went at the task with all the purpose and precision of a herd of third graders on a pack of Skittles.

The meal was finished and Sharon and Oggie sipped coffee while Ty and Nick ate their hot fudge sundaes. Nick picked at his mostly, too full from a huge meal. Ty finished his and glanced nervously at Nick. Nick smiled and slid his over to Ty who grinned, glancing around. Sharon had almost a painful look on her face, knowing he had to be close to bursting.

Oggie looked at her, grinning, "He had a very limited diet where he's been. Steak was something new for him. I think his stomach was designed by Dr. Who."

Ty started for his mouth with one more spoonful and he froze and put the spoon back down.

Oggie smiled, "He's done. He get's this special look on his face and you know there is just no room left."

"He does this a lot?" Sharon asked.

"Not as often as he would like, but yeah. We figure when he gets his fill, he'll slow up a bit."

"So Ty, do you miss living in town?"

"Are you kidding? I don't care if I ever see another city. I love it where I'm at. I never want to leave. You should see it. It's beautiful. There are stars at night that are so bright you can read by 'em. No smelly pollution and nobody trying to kill ya. The hardest part was learning that I could stop looking for the next misery."

"The next misery? What's that mean?"

"Well, when you are small like I am and you live in the city, you hide a lot. And you might escape the gangbanger that just passed by, but you know another one will be along any minute. Well, it's not like that at Oggie's. It took me a long time to figure out I didn't have to be afraid every minute of every day."

"Sounds like you like these guys."

"No ma'am, I don't like them, I love them. I wish I could stay there and never leave."

"Sometimes dreams come true."

"That's not the way it's been for me so far Ms Sharon. Up 'til now, dreams are just what happens before the nightmares start. But Ms Sharon, the nightmares are getting less and less. I don't think the monsters know where to find me anymore." He sat up and leaned into Oggie's shoulder. Oggie smiled and wrapped his arm around Ty as he looked up at Sharon.

"Some more coffee, Sharon?"

"No Oggie, I'm good. And I think I have everything I needed."

"Great, I'll give you a call on Monday, then."

"Oggie, can you let me out, please? I need to go to the restroom."

"I better go too, before we hit the road." Oggie got to his feet as the boys slid around and out. Oggie sat down again and they watched as the boys headed for the bathroom.

"So what do you think?" Oggie asked, looking her in the eyes.

"I think there is a whole lot of hurt yet in that boy. But he is also absolutely trusting in you. I think if you told him to close his eyes and lean forward off a cliff, he would do it, knowing you had a plan. You aren't out of the woods with him yet, I can tell. He has a lot of baggage still inside him. But you guys are the best medicine I think. I'm going to approve it. But Oggie, you need a word of warning here. I've read his file. If you find a lady who you think you may want to have as a wife, be very careful and introduce her into the mix slowly. Right now, he has you all to himself and he may see her as an intruder. So make sure the boys work with her too. Alright?"

"Well, there is someone and they seem to mix pretty well so far. They don't know that I am considering her yet. I've kept it to myself for that very reason. I wanted to see how they all mixed. Things went well, so we will see. There is no hurry on our part."

"Glad to hear that. I'll get the report over to the judge's office on Monday. Good luck!" She stood and taking her purse, excused herself.

"Where'd she go?" Ty asked, coming back.

"She finished and said you guys did very well, but don't go off yet, she might not be gone, if you know what I mean." Oggie paid the bill and they all went back out to the car. "Alright, so we have to get back because we have a picnic over at Cheytan's tomorrow. It's going to be a long drive, so maybe you guys will want to get some Z's. I'm tired already from tomorrow."

"How can you be tired already from something that hasn't happened yet?" Ty asked, smiling.

"Careful planning," Oggie chuckled as he pulled into a gas station, "I guess I should've gone while I was at the restaurant too. Nick, can you pump the gas? Here's my card. I'll be right back."

Oggie went into the store as Nick pumped the gas. Ty got out with him and got the window squeegee and started soaping the windows. He noticed three boys coming up the walk towards the shopette in the gas station. He studied them a minute as they entered, one looked around outside before going in. "Shit!" Ty said, quietly. He looked around and then he had an idea. He saw a Starbucks coffee cup in the trash and grabbed it, pulling the lid off. He dumped its cold contents on the ground. "Nick, quick, put some gas in this."

"What? What are you doing?"

"Nick, trust me! No time, Oggie's in danger." Nick's eyes saw the intensity in Ty's face. He squeezed the handle and filled the cup. Ty put the lid back on. "Get in the car and lock it. Don't step on the brakes or turn on the headlights. And stay put, I know what I am doing."

Nick headed for the car and Ty for the shopette. He could see one watching the teller at the counter and the customer taking his change and heading for the door. They were going to move on the clerk as soon as the customer left and Oggie was going to walk right into the middle of it. Ty pretended to sip his cup as he went in and grabbed a package of Twinkies and walked up to the counter. He never looked at the gang bangers.

The teller, who was behind a glass partition, looked nervously over his shoulder as he asked, "Is that all?" Ty nodded, shoving the Twinkies in the drawer. He glanced at the teller and then at the reflections in the glass. The teller closed the drawer as one of the guys started for the front of the store. Ty watched the reflection. This was the trigger man. He had his hand under his shirt. Ty reached up on the counter and removed a Bic lighter off the counter display and reached over for his coffee cup. He flipped the lid off with his thumb as the gunman pulled his piece, raising it up to Ty's head. Ty was his hostage for the robbery.



Again, let me thank Mark and his beloved for the wonderful relationship, the sacrifice of time and the great editing.

Thanks also to the host for giving me a place to share my craft. Specifically, www.nifty.org , www.IOMFATS.org , www.screeve.org .