{Beneath The Mask is pure fiction. As I am writing this story, I am above the age of 21. If you want a story with lots of sex, look elsewhere. This is a love story. Seeing as it is a love story, sex is in there, but it's in realistic balance in the characters' lives.

Any similarity to any real events, names, or life events is purely accidental. If you are underage, (according to your state laws as a minor), if this literature is offensive to you or to anyone around your viewing area, or it is illegal for you to view such content where you are reading it, stop reading the story.

This story can't be distributed in anyway, shape or form without the author's expressed, written consent.}

Written by J.P.G.

Chapter 31

A morning filled with meetings, Al felt his head swirling with so much information. Still he has one more meeting before lunch, the meeting that he has been waiting for since Tuesday morning. Hoping that once he walks out of this meeting, the issues of Alex's old life will be finally behind Alex and Al's family!

The only problem Al sees is that this is the first time he is going to sit down with the new District Attorney. Mr. Anderson is now in Austin and has been sworn in as the Governor's State Attorney General. Before he left, Mr. Anderson did talk with Al and ensured him that the incoming District Attorney will work with him with what needs to be done.

It bothers Al that he is sitting down in a room full of people that he can't just order to get things done. Those attending the meeting besides him and the District Attorney will be the police chief, police commanders of the Westside and Northeast side of town and those that are in charge of the detention facilities here in El Paso, which includes the juvenile and the county jail. That means that this room is going to be filled with those that don't like to be told what to do or how to do their job.

Still Al decided to walk into his conference room and lay down the law. He doesn't care if he steps on toes; he just wants to get things dealt with where he doesn't have to worry about who might be lurking in the shadows. Alex's family and his family wouldn't be in this mess if the police didn't drop the ball in the first place.

The minute that Shirley settled everyone in the conference room, she went straight to Al's office. After letting Al know that everyone he is waiting for his arrival, she went to get what they wanted to drink. Al got up, straightened his tie and headed down the hall to the conference room. When he walked in, everyone stopped talking and looked at Al.

"Let me thank you all for coming, I know you are just as busy as I am. Shirley is getting you what you asked to drink. Once we settle in, we can get right down to business. There is a lot to discuss and I would like it when this meeting is over we have found a solution for many of the problems that we are facing."

Shirley walked in and handed everyone their drinks. Before leaving, she set out pastries for them to eat. Al thanked her as he filled his cup with coffee. He looked around the conference table and didn't see a familiar face in the bunch.

"Mr. Serna we all see where you are coming from, but there is nothing much more we can do past what we are already doing." Al looked across the table to the police chief stuffing his face with a donut. "I authorized plain clothes officer to watch Mr. Alejandro Garcia when I wasn't obligated to. With that said, I can't keep those officers on this young man indefinitely. There is no way I can sell it to the tax payers. It's not as though he doesn't deserve what is happening to him right now anyway."

Al slammed his fist on the table, grabbing everyone's attention. "Everyone at this table is elected by the people of this city with the exception of the precinct commanders. Don't you EVER come in here and tell me what you just told me! If you do I will make sure you won't win your next election! I will throw every red cent I have in to make sure you are unseated, which I know I won't have to once the voters hear how you refuse to do your jobs. All of you are sworn to PROTECT and serve.

We would not be here if you guys didn't drop the ball. Where were you guys when they tried to kill Alejandro Garcia in the hospital? I tell you where you were. You were stuffing your faces with donuts." The police chief put the donut down. "Then one of your own went to the gangs and leaked information to them. How would the people of this city react when they hear that their own police officers are working for the criminals?"

Mr. Dickerman couldn't believe that Al actually told off the Police Chief. Everyone at this table knows that the Chief can actually make peoples' lives a living hell if he wants to. To name a few things he can do is order patrol cars to follow Al and his family to ticket them whenever they make a mistake. He can also send out inspectors over and over again to every business Al owns and that's just a couple things the Police Chief can do. Al needs to watch himself, Mr. Dickerson thought, because if he doesn't, well he just doesn't want to anger the Police Chief. The real question comes down to predicting the outcome of a pissing match. Just who would end up with the wet, yellow sneakers?

"Okay why don't we all just take a deep breath and start over." Mr. Dickerman, the new District Attorney said softly. "There has to be a solution to this problem. All we have to do is find that solution before things get carried away."

Al opened a folder and went through what they have done in the past. As Al read off the list, they talked about the pros and cons of doing it again. Plus they talked about why it didn't work in the first place. When Al reached the middle of the list, everyone started to get antsy in their seats. So Al went ahead and called for a break.

Mr. Dickerman formally introduced himself to Al. During their conversation he informed Al that before taking office he did talk with Mr. Anderson about who he should pay a little more attention to. By the time they headed back to the conference room, Al knew one thing for sure about the new District Attorney. Al knows for certain that he has no plans to stop at that office. By the sounds of it he has his eyes on a district court judge seat.

Once everyone settled back in, Al went back to the list. Line by line Al threw out ideas on how to solve the problem. Two thirds down the list, Al came to a realization that no one at this table really wants to fix the problem once and for all. It seems that they like the status quo and don't want to change it.

"It appears we are wasting our time here. I should just pick up the phone and call my boss, the Governor, and tell him they you guys have lost control of your city. You have given up and handed the keys over to the criminals. That way the Governor can come in with state police and assets to fix what you seem unwilling to fix."

"Wait a minute here, we are not unwilling to fix things or have given up. It's just the ideas you have thrown out haven't worked in the past. So what makes you think it will work now? Until they go after Mr. Garcia and get caught, there is nothing we really can do. That's what I will tell the Governor when he calls me up after you talk to him."

"You guys are forgetting one thing here and that is the Governor's kids attend the same school that Mr. Garcia attends. That is the real reason you folded and placed a detail on Alex. The Governor won't stand by and let you guys sit on your butts and wait for the gang to strike first.

So let's get down to business and come up with real solutions to the problem. What I think will work is if you guys go out and do another gang sweep but this time make sure you get everyone in the gang and lock them up. Once you lock them up, you separate them from each other. Keep them from communicating to each other. I really believe if you start there and move into other phases, you will break them."

Explaining what he meant by other phases, Al walked everyone through step by step. Destroy their drug trade, keep them from talking between facilities, gather all leaders of the gang and put them in solitary and keeping the heat on them if they make bail. Take away the things they need. They will pull their attention off of Alex and work to find ways to get the other things back and working again.

Finally, after two hours, they had a plan in place that everyone agreed on and is willing to enact when the time comes! As they meeting ended, Al went to each person individually and thanked them for coming and working towards a solution. Even when Al walked up to the Police Chief, they talked as if they hadn't butted heads. When the Police Chief left, Al gave him the leftover pastries as a joke.

Just when Al started to eat his lunch, Shirley called him to let him know that Ron would like to speak with him. At first Al was going to tell Shirley to tell Ron that he is in a meeting, but decided against it. Instead he told her to go ahead and send him back to his office and not interrupt them.

When Ron walked in, Al offered him something to eat, but Ron politely declined. As he took his seat, Al could see that something is really bothering him. Whatever it is, Al is hoping that it won't cause him anymore work than he already has.

"Al, I went to see my doctor this morning before coming into work. After running the normal battery of tests, he found almost everything about me is out of whack. Ever since I started working again, none of my tests have come back where they should be. This morning's tests were worse than the rest and my doctor didn't like it. He made it clear to me if I don't stop working, I will work myself to the grave very soon."

"Wait a minute, I know things are hard setting up a business, but I didn't know it was putting that much strain on you Ron. Your health is more important than any damn job! If you doctor feels that you need to stay retired, then I agree with that. I am pretty sure when you tell Alex and Matt, they will understand as well."

"That's the problem, I don't think they will. I had a run-in with Alex yesterday and now I come at them with this. They will think that I am quitting because of the run-in, not because of my health. Plus I don't want to leave them hanging. They both go to school and can't take over the day shift."

Ron told Al what happened on Tuesday evening between him and Alex. After explaining what had happened, Ron did agree that he messed up with the way he handled the whole thing. Al explained that they are all human and as humans we make mistakes. If we beat ourselves up each time we make the mistakes, we won't make out of our teen years. That made the mood in the office a little less serious.

"Look, you need to do what is best for you. Let the boys know the truth and give them enough time to find someone to run the day shift. In the mean time, you take it easy. Only work the day shift and the minute Alex and Matt arrive, you go home. You said it yourself, they are ready, so let them run things."

They talked a little longer, but Al had to cut it short because he has another scheduled meeting to get to. When Ron left, they agreed that Ron will tell the boys this evening. That way they can start looking for someone to take over the day shift on Thursday. The sooner they get Ron replaced, the sooner Ron can go back to retirement.

Once the auditorium quieted down, Mr. Galey explained to everyone that they can't applaud like this in the future. No matter if they like what one side does, they have to just sit there and watch the proceedings. Before Mr. Galey could finish his little speech, the bell rang and the kids headed out.

Alex and Matt quickly collected their stuff and ran out as well. They lost track of time and weren't ready when the bell rang. That means they will wind up waiting in a long line and by the time they sit down, the others will have already finished eating their lunch. That would leave Alex and Matt to quickly finish theirs if they don't want to hold up the guys!

When Alex and Matt made it to the cafeteria, they were surprised that the line is actually short. They quickly got through the line and headed over to the table to find that they are not the last ones to arrive. David and Tom were not there yet either and that let Alex breathe a little more comfortably.

After eating the guys headed out to the stadium until lunch is over. Alex spotted Shane and his friends on the other side of the stadium looking at him. At first Alex ignored them, but when they kept looking and pointing at him, he knew there are planning something. There goes the idea that Shane is willing to just let it go. Alex figures until Shane gets his revenge, he's not going to let it go.

A few minutes before the bell rang; Alex pulled Carlos to the side to let him know what he is seeing. Carlos confirmed to Alex that he saw the same thing. They talked it out and came to a conclusion that they are in a planning stage. So for now they are going to sit tight and wait to see what they come up with.

Not to keep Matt in the dark, Alex told him what he and Carlos talked about as they walked to their locker. Matt agreed on the way they decided to handle Shane and his friends. Let them make the first move and get into trouble, either with the school or the law. One way or another when they do decide to take action they will be the ones to get into trouble.

The only class during the afternoon that dragged on for Alex, was his fifth period. There have been times that Alex wish that he loved ROTC like Jacob, but he doesn't. Not only does he hate this class, he hates it with the passion. If he had any other choice to get his PE credit than this class, he would take it in a flash.

So when the end of the day finally came for Alex, he dreaded going home, instead of going to work. He knows that for at least five hours, he will be alone without Matt. At first he enjoyed it, but now, the evenings have dragged on for him. He splits his time between playing with his little brothers and spending time with Jeremy.

The very minute when Matt walked into the print shop, Ron asked to speak with him in his office. Matt thought that maybe Ron is still upset about what had happened the day before and needed to talk about it. But when Ron delivered the news that he had delivered to Al earlier in the day, it threw Matt off his feet.

Ron did explain everything to Matt, just like he did with Al, in detail. Matt tried to talk with Ron out of quitting, but Ron had his mind made up. No matter what Matt offered him, he declined. Over and over again, Ron used his doctor as the reason he can't continue working no matter what they offer as far as hours and lessening his duties.

Out of respect to Ron, Matt not only accepted his two-week notice, he also told Ron that he no longer needs to stay after they arrive. In the meantime, while he is here, all he has to do is work the day shift. All the responsibilities as far as running the shop Matt and Alex will take on their shoulders where it belongs.

Ron walked out feeling worse than he has ever felt in his life. When he took this job, Alex and Matt asked him if he could do it, and he said yes. Now here he is telling them his health isn't holding up and he has to leave pretty much leaving them twisting in the wind to find someone else to run the day shift as fast as they can!

Matt picked up the phone and called home to let Alex know about the situation with Ron. After delivering the bad news to Alex, he could tell that Alex didn't take the news too well. Just like him, he has the same concerns. Not only they have to find someone fast, but someone that knows the print shop business. It's not like they can train them because they are barely learning themselves. Even now they don't know how to run many of the machines on the floor.

Alex hung up with Matt and just sat there in the chair starring into space. He didn't even hear Jacob walk in. At first when Jacob started talking, he sounded far a way. Little by little Jacob's voice got louder and louder until Alex could hear him clearly. So when Jacob asked Alex for the third time what is wrong, he heard him.

"Where do I even start Jacob? First I am stuck here unable to go into work when I am needed the most. And secondly Ron, our shop manager, just informed Matt that he has to quit because of health issues." Alex got up from the chair and started walking back and forth. "Damn it! That was the very first thing we asked him; can he handle the strain this job is going to put on him. He told us `yes', but here he is giving us his two week notice."

"Okay I can see why you are so upset, but you need to see it from his perspective. Yes, when you guys asked him that, he thought he could. He answered honestly as he could. None of us really can know how our body is going to handle the strain a job puts on us. Also, he might have thought it was going to be like it was when he was in the military, everything running smoothly. But for the moment the doors opened, he ran around like a chicken with his head cut off setting everything up. That's something he probably didn't even think of when he took your offer to run the shop."

"I do understand all that, but now Matt and I not only have to find someone to run the day shift; someone that knows how to run a print shop. We barely know what we are doing, and that doesn't say much. We thought that we had Ron for at least a little longer than this. There are still things that we don't even know about the business yet."

Jacob remembered something and jumped out of his seat. He headed over to the study, but remembered that the study is no longer where he is going. He quickly turned around, running right into Alex. Both them laughed about the collusion as they walked over to where the study is now.

On the way Alex asked Jacob what he is thinking, but Jacob didn't explain anything to Alex. He just walked over to the desk, grabbed his book of numbers and turned to a page as he picked up the phone. Alex just sat down as Jacob talked to whoever is on the other end of the line. Finally when Jacob hung up the phone he explained what is on his mind.

"Okay I needed to put all my ducks in a row before I mentioned anything to you. Now that I have, I can tell you what I am thinking." Alex leaned forward in his chair to hear Jacob out. "You know where the machines came from, but what you don't know is that the teacher that ran the program isn't happy with where the school system put him.

I ran into him several weeks ago and he told me that Tech High reassigned him to teach some kind of English class to female students that got pregnant while still in high school. Anyways, he doesn't like teaching that class and he asked me if I could use him. Of course I told him no because I wasn't running the shop.

Alex, this guy knows every single machine inside and out. He also knows how to meet deadlines even with students that didn't take the class seriously. I know if you give him a chance to run the shop, he can get production up more than it is already now that he would be working with people that want and need their jobs."

"If this is the guy that ran the print shop before you bought the machines from the school district, I don't see why we can't do it again. The only thing is he needs to understand it isn't part of the school district. He won't be teaching anymore. Instead he will be working in a private company and his teacher's degree won't matter much except to train new employees to do their jobs."

"You and Matt can sit down and explain all that to him. There is no doubt that he knows what he will be walking in to if you guys decide to hire him." Jacob stood up and walked over to the door of the study. "Since time is a factor, I set up an interview with him this evening at your office. That way if you and Matt like him, you can hire him on the spot. Then he could come in and sit with Ron and find out how he set everything up."

Since the instructor only knows Jacob, Jacob had to go down to the office with Alex and make the introductions. All the way downtown, Alex kept asking Jacob about the gentleman he is about to meet. All that Jacob could tell him about the instructor is the little he knew about him through their meetings when he turned in the newsletter. Alex didn't really like the idea going into the meeting blind, but there's no other choice.

When they pulled up to the building, Jacob spotted the instructor waiting at the front door. That is when it hit him that the building is locked down. Before parking, Jacob pulled up to the curb to ask the instructor not to leave.

Instead of going into the print shop through the rear, Jacob and Alex walked to the front in order to meet the instructor. Jacob introduced Alex to Sergio Ceniceros as he unlocked the door and turned the alarm off. After that Alex led the way to his office in the print shop. On the way, Alex called Matt over.

Once again Jacob did the introductions and just stepped back to let Alex, Matt and Sergio get to know each other. At first they just went through simple questions, nothing major. Anyone could tell that Alex and Matt were not comfortable interviewing. It might be because they feel like they are betraying a friend by doing this interview.

"Jacob told me that you know about these machines on our floor. That is one of the things we are looking for in the person we hire for the open position. We need somebody that knows their way around these machines because, as yet, we don't. The person we have working the day shift is the one that knows everything about the machines."

"Before Jacob bought these machines, they were my babies. I know how hard you can run them and when you need to give them a break for maintenance. Just like you, Jacob explained what I will be looking at if we come to an agreement that I am the right guy for the job."

"The only reason we are looking for someone is because the person you are going to replace has to leave this job due to health reasons. He set this plant up when the machines were delivered. He is the one that got us up and running. He is the one that has been teaching us the ins and outs of the business.

With that said, we know the paperwork part of the business. What we would need from you is to teach us everything about these machines. Ron has been doing that since day one, but there is a lot to learn. We have just run out of time since he has to leave his job due to health reasons."

For the next forty minutes, Alex and Matt talked with Sergio about what the job he is interviewing for consists of. He would be running the day shift, and sometimes staying over to teach them about machines! He would be a salaried manager, which means there is no overtime pay for any hours that he works past forty. They went through all the other responsibilities, one by one and answered any questions Sergio had.

By the time they finished talking they agreed upon everything and scheduled Sergio to start working tomorrow night with Matt. The only reason for that is because Sergio wants to give his two-week notice with the school district. Just in case the print shop doesn't work out he can actually go back to teaching if he chooses having left with proper, professional notice.

Sergio and Jacob walked out together, leaving Alex and Matt alone. Alex took this opportunity to talk with Matt about coming back to work, but Matt didn't like it. After hearing Alex out, he realized that neither of them had a choice in the matter with Ron leaving and Sergio coming in. They both want to get to know the man that they just hired before they send him up to the day shift by himself.

Moments after the guards called lights out, the dorm door slammed open and the lights were turned back on. Before Ashton or any of his gang members could react, they were pulled out of their bunks and taken into the dayroom. If any of them talked back, they were slammed face first into the floor.

Ashton just stood there quietly trying to figure out if this is a shake down or something worse than that. When he saw the guards not tearing apart their bunks, he knew it was something worse. So he looked around for the guards that they have on their payroll, but he didn't find any of them. In fact he saw several new guards and none of the guards that normally do whatever he needs to have done.

All of a sudden, state troopers walked into the dorm surprising Ashton. Now he knows for sure something is most definitely wrong! Never before has outside police force walked in for a shake down. Even when there has been a stabbing or a killing, they let the staff here deal with the investigation.

One of the state troopers got on the table as he pounded his night stick against it. "You little shits fucked with the wrong person! You all think you are bad asses because you are part of some gang! Well, we'll see how big of a bad ass you are when we put you in real prison, not this little resort camp that lets you do whatever you want to do.

Every one of you is going to be transferred to a high security detention facility. This facility was originally a brain washing camp on the outskirts of town, but now it is going to house little pricks like you that think the world is yours to have. What you have here is heaven compared to where you are going!"

The state trooper got off the table and pulled Ashton up from the floor. He tossed him against the wall and made him strip all his clothes off. After he was completely naked, the state trooper made him shake out his hair, open his mouth, spread his butt cheeks and move his dick and nut sack around. Once they checked him for weapons, they threw him outside of the dorm, naked as the day he was born.

One by one they did the same thing to the other gang members. Once they cleared out the dorm, they walked out and handed each of them a white jump suit, white boxers and socks. As they got dressed, the state troopers tossed out all the shoes in the middle of the hall. On the way out of the facility, they grabbed their shoes and put them on.

On the way to the new facility, no one talked. If they tried to talk to each other, a state trooper would go over to the ones talking and shut them up. The only way they could communicate is mouthing the words, which was hard for them to read the other since they have never had to communicate this way.

When they finally reached the new facility, everyone was asleep. The same state trooper that talked to them before they left got on the bus and started slamming his night stick against the gate of the bus, waking everyone up. He unlocked the gate and started pulling everyone off of the bus. No matter how much the state trooper yelled at them to hurry, they couldn't due to the fact they are shackled together and handcuffed.

Ashton looked around as he got off the bus and noticed four other busses unloading. He looked around to see a very old building that looks like a mental hospital. Ashton couldn't help thinking how does the state trooper think this place is worse than the place they were just at? In fact this place looks even better than the place he was at.

Then Ashton noticed that everyone being taken off the bus belongs to the gang he belongs to. It looks like they have every single gang member from all the facilities and brought them here. Ashton has no idea what they are thinking, but whatever it is, it can't be smart. In his mind it isn't smart to turn to have entire facility for one gang.

"Look around gentleman at your knew home. Don't think this place is a country club, because it isn't. From this moment on, your asses are mine! You will now be living in hell where you belong. Each of you will be assigned a room in which you will be spending each and every day. You will eat, sleep, shower and shit in the room that you are assigned.

If you don't get into any trouble, you will be able to have one hour yard time each day, but nothing more than that. There will be no TV's, radios, coffee pots or anything else that helps pass the time. All you get is the four walls, paper, a pen and a book to pass the time. If we find more than one pen, book, or tablet of paper in your room, you will be sent to solitary which is a lot worse then the rooms you are going to be assigned.

This building was built by a group of people that made sure those that were in housed here couldn't talk with each other. The walls are thick and the vents have been sealed off. The only way your neighbor can hear you is if you yell. If you do that, WE will hear you and we will pull you out and send you to solitary. If you haven't got the hint yet, you are not allowed to talk to each other while you are our guest.

And finally, this facility is run by the State. No rent-a-cops or county jailers are going to be on duty here. Those you see in front of you are going to be your babysitters. We don't want this assignment, and because of that we are going to make your lives a living hell. You screwed up and made an enemy out of the Governor of this state. That is something you shouldn't have done. He is now coming after all gangs and shutting you down."

As soon as the state trooper stopped talking, they got escorted into the building, down a long hallway into another hallway that has nothing but doors on the right hand side. A state trooper went down the line counting down to a certain number. Once he got there, they opened the door and pulled those into another hallway. In this hallway are doors on each side, with little windows on them.

Ashton stood in front of one of the doors scared out of his mind. Once he got into the place he realized it isn't anything like it appears from the outside. It is old, cold and you could feel this place is evil. Ashton couldn't help thinking to himself, whatever this place was before, it had to be bad. He doesn't believe in ghosts, but this place could change his mind on that belief in a heart beat.

A state trooper walked up to Ashton and took off the chains, handcuffs and opened the door to his cell. He walked in to find a bed on one side of the wall, toilet with a sink in the far right hand corner of the room and a table and chair on the far left hand corner of the room. Other than that there is nothing else in this room. Ashton looked for an electric socket, but didn't find one anywhere in the room.

Standing in the middle of the room, Ashton reached across the room. A few more inches on each side Ashton would be able to touch each wall. He sat down on the bed, looking around the very small room thinking about what the state trooper said outside. If they do what he said, there is no way he is going to make it in here. There is not doubt a year or so of this will drive him insane.

The front page of the newspaper the next day informed the public of not only the transfer of all confirmed gang members to a locked down facility but another round up of anyone that has ties to the gangs no matter how small the tie is. The article had quotes from the DA and the Chief of Police that they are going to once and for all, break the backs of the gangs in this city. They will no longer be a threat to anyone.

Al smiled as he folded the newspaper and handed it to Alex. Alex looked at the same article and knew who was really behind this. After reading it, he handed it to his mother to read. She has been worried ever since the police came the other night to inform them of the gang knowing where he lives. At least for now, the way Alex sees it, the threat is gone. He will worry a little more should they get out.

While Alex consoles his mother, Matt's mind wandered. He couldn't believe that there is only two days left of the week. He can't wait until Saturday so he and Alex can relax and have fun at the pool party that Jacob is throwing. At least for those few hours all the outside world won't matter. The only thing that will matter is being with Alex and having fun with family and friends.

After eating breakfast at school, Alex pulled Matt to the library instead of going outside with the others. There are a couple of things that Alex needed to look up before third period. He wants to go over what he can object to and what he can't. Hopefully the student that is playing the judge knows the difference as well. If he doesn't, Alex hopes one of the teachers will correct him if he rules wrong.

Jotting down notes, Alex didn't pay any attention to who was around him and Matt. He heard a girls voice start talking to him, but he didn't recognize the voice. Alex looked to see Loraine and several other girls standing in front him. He doesn't know Loraine by name, but he knows that she is the one causing Jacob a lot of trouble.

"You tell your friend that it isn't over yet. When he least expects me getting my revenge, I will have it. Jacob has done me wrong and there is no way now he can fix it. Tell him that and tell him he needs to be looking over his shoulders."

"If you have a message for my friend, you tell him yourself. The only reason you are telling me to pass on this message is because you are afraid of him. So stop being a little bitch and just leave it alone. Damn it, it is just a class in high school and you are making a big thing out of it. It isn't worth screwing up your life over it."

The look on Loraine's face is more than hatred. This girl really wants to get Jacob over a class in high school that really doesn't mean much in the real world. Just as Alex was about to tell her to take a hike, she and her friends walked off. Alex waited to see if she is going to turn around and say something else, but she didn't.

Already being nervous about the mock trial, Alex didn't like be jumped by Donald with question after question when he walked into third period. All morning long Alex worked on what to ask the witnesses and when Donald made it sound to Alex that he doesn't care, it angered Alex. Alex thought if only the dumb shit knew how much he has been working on this mock trial that really won't tilt his grade one way or another.

They took their seats at the defense table and Alex tried to answer all the questions Donald started throwing at him. Finally Alex had enough, he told Donald to shut up and just sit in his seat. Making it as clear as he could, Alex told Donald this constant bickering isn't helping any of them. Alex tried to put it across to Donald that they are a team and if one fails they all fail. That's something Alex isn't willing to do.

Mr. Galey summed up the opening statements to the other classes once the final bell rang. He bent the truth that the prosecution did their job before starting up the mock trial. Alex leaned back looking at Mr. Galey thinking he is willing to do what he can to win the bet he has going on with his teacher. Now the gloves are off and Alex is going to clean the floor with the prosecution team.

The first witness the prosecution put on the stand was supposed to begin putting Donald at the scene of the crime. It was obvious to everyone that they rehearsed the testimony. The lead prosecutor kept leading the witness, and Alex objected. Several of his objections were overruled, but he kept objecting when he felt he was right. When it was his turn, Alex stood up and walked to the middle of the stage.

"Let me first start out by asking how much time have you and the prosecution spent with each other." The witness looked confused on what Alex asked. "Let me rephrase the question. Did the prosecution take you step by step over what they were going to ask you on the stand and how you should answer the questions?"

"Um, yes they did, but it was part of the class. I got a ditto with the questions and what the answers should be."

"Okay, we all know this is a class project. We also know that you were giving a ditto of what the witness saw in the day in question. So I hope you read your part and got familiar with every aspect of what you saw." The witness nodded his head in the positive.

"Moments ago you testified that you were in the store when my client walked in and you saw his face. Then you testified that you were in row C, where the canned foods are at." Alex pulled up the store map the prosecution had put up. "The row you were in is way to the right of the front door as we can see by this map. How could you see from where you were standing to the front door?"

"I am tall and I was able to see over other customers."

Alex walked over to the witness stand and asked the witness to stand up. "You stand around five six am I correct?" The witness nodded his head as he sat back down. "Okay if you stand five six, you had to be jumping up and down in order to see who was walking in and out of the store."

"Objection your honor, does the defense have a question in there somewhere?"

"Objection sustained, ask a question or sit down to let the prosecution call their next witness." The student acting as judge looked waved Alex towards his seat.

"I have several more questions your honor." Alex moved the store map closer to the witness. "We have already covered that you must have been jumping up and down while you shopped. Let's move on to another issue I have with your testimony. What are these things I am pointing to here?"

"Um they look like several rows in front of the row I was in."

"Yes, in this store there are two rows going down the front of rows A through D. These rows stand at least six feet tall. Let me ask you since you stand five six, and the rows are six feet tall and were directly in front of you. How could you see over these two rows, the customers and over to the front door to get a clear view of my client?"

"I just could, I can't explain it. I saw your client as clearly as I see him here today. He is the one that walked into the store, robbed it and took off with the money."

"Don't you think it is more believable that you didn't actually see anyone that walked in the store that day, more so my client? Come on, tell us the truth, you didn't see anyone. You hit the ground; just like everyone else did when you heard the guns go off."

"No sir, I did see your client walking into the store that day. He not only robbed the store he killed people as he tried to get away."

"I want you to look at the jury and see what I am seeing. Do you see that they don't believe a word you are saying? You need to tell us the truth here so a innocent person doesn't get put to death for a crime they didn't commit."

"Objection your honor, the defense council is badgering the witness."

"Never mind, ignore the last question I asked you. The jury already knows the truth and there is no need for him to say anything else. I am done with this witness your honor."

Alex walked over to his chair as the prosecution objected again. The judge warned Alex not to be making a mockery of the proceedings as he excused the witness. Alex promised he would stay on point with the future witnesses, but he didn't.

Every witness the prosecution put on the stand, Alex tore apart like he did the first one. Nothing the prosecution said or did all period helped their case. At one point during the period Alex could see that he hit a nerve. The prosecution team kept objecting every chance they could to try to knock Alex out of rhythm, but again they didn't succeed.

Five minutes before the bell, Mr. Galey stopped the proceedings. He explained that the mock trial isn't going to be held tomorrow due to testing and other things that the other teachers needed to do with their students. The trial will pick right back up on Monday where they left off here today. Just he finished, the bell rang clearing the room out faster than a fire.

Donald walked out with Alex and Matt poking holes at what Alex did. He felt that Alex angered the jury by acting like a know-it-all. The way it looks to him and what he read on the faces of the jury, Alex pushed too hard on the witnesses. Donald tried to sell to Alex on Monday he needs to be gentle with the witnesses and win back the jury, but Alex didn't buy a word that Donald is saying.

"Look Donald, before class you were complaining that I wasn't working hard enough on this project. Now you are saying I am pushing too hard and for me to take it easy on Monday. That I won't do because I didn't see what you saw on the faces of the jury. I saw as I knocked the witnesses off one by one, they believed our side. So stop complaining and help. If you don't want to do that, just shut up and let Matt and me run the case."

Lost for words, Donald shook his head and walked to his locker. Alex felt bad on the way he talked to the guy, but he has to learn to take it easy. Alex knows that Donald only has school in his life and no friends, but the way he just acted is why he doesn't have any friends. To put a simpler way, he knocks away every hand that gets extended to him in friendship by the way he talks to people.

After they finished eating lunch, Alex spotted Donald sitting alone in the corner of the cafeteria. He tossed his trash and walked over to the table that Donald is sitting at. Clearing his throat, Alex sat down opposite of Donald, with Matt joining him.

"If you promise not to talk about classes, you can hang with me and my friends." Donald started to smile as he closed his book. "Let me warn you, the minute you talk about classes, the trial, or anything really that deals with school, you are gone. Whenever we are not in class, we don't talk about class."

Crossing his chest, Donald promised not to talk about school. Alex looked at Matt and smiled. He held back on not laughing at what Donald just did. No one in high school crosses their chest and promises, only kids like Lorenzo and Ismail age do that. Now that they are in high school, childish things like that are no longer done. It ranks up there with picking your nose or not showering for days; it's just not done.

Every now and then Donald almost lipped up, but caught himself. For the first time in his life he sees a chance that he can be part of a group of friends. Not once in his past has he had more than one friend at a time. Even when he had one friend to hang around with, it didn't last long. He always managed to screw it up.

As they headed back to the main building, Alex invited Donald to the pool party on Saturday. All excited that he got invited; Donald didn't ask for the address or phone number. He accepted and walked off to his locker. Alex figured that he will give Donald directions to the house tomorrow during third period.

On the way home after school the guys noticed that Alex and Matt were in a hurry. They had no idea that things are changing at the print shop and the changes have Alex and Matt all worried. They know what they are doing, but they always knew that if they ran into a problem they could always call on Ron to help them out. Now that he is leaving, the safety net they had in place is leaving with Ron.

When they arrived at work, they found Sergio standing in front of the building. Alex introduced Sergio to everyone as they walked in. Before walking in himself, Alex asked Sergio to stand back until he and Matt had a chance to talk with Ron. Alex explained to Sergio that Ron doesn't know yet because they haven't seen him since yesterday.

The boys walked over to Ron's office and found that he has already started packing it up. That surprised both of them, but they also understood. They have gotten to know Ron really good in such a sort period of time. One of the very first things they learned about Ron is that he doesn't like leaving anything to the last minute.

"You may not believe me when I say this, but I am going to say it anyways." Alex and Matt walked into Ron's office. "This place isn't going to be the same without you. You are the one that put this place together and now you are leaving us. I wish you weren't, but I do understand why you have to leave us."

"Boys I wish I could stick around. It's just this old body of mine doesn't have it in it to do what I want it to do. My mind has so much it wants to do, but my body is saying no more. No matter if I like it or not, I have to listen to what my body is saying."

"Well you can believe when I say we would not be where we are if it wasn't for you. Matt and I have no plans to let you out of our lives. Although you are not going to be working here, we will be going down to your place as often as we can."

"You better boys or I will come down and knock you around. I might not be able to pull the long hours anymore, but I still can take you guys on." Ron put up his fist in front of his face and threw a couple punches in mid air. "Seriously though, you guys need to find someone to replace me by the end of the week. You can't afford to wait too long."

Alex took the opportunity to tell Ron that they have already hired someone to take his place. To Alex's surprise Ron didn't take the news the way he thought he might. In fact Ron wanted to know if he would be training the new person that is taking his place. Alex sadly said no and explained why.

"That is okay boys, don't feel bad. I had planned to stay over into your shift for my last couple of weeks with the company. There is so much I still need to show you guys, I am afraid there isn't enough time left to teach you everything. So it is good that he is going to work this shift that way I can kill two birds with one stone."

Alex called Sergio over and introduced him to Ron. Immediately they clicked. Once Ron found out that he was the instructor of the class that used these machines prior then them being here, he felt more comfortable leaving the boys with him in charge. They walked the floor and talked about the differences there is between running the shop from a school set up to a business set up. The major difference Sergio sees is that there is really no room for error when it comes down to making money. This company has to keep the customers and bring in the money; nothing for free.

Seeing that there are several machines in areas could have been elsewhere to get better use out of them, Sergio asked Ron why he had set up the shop the way he did. Ron wondered why Sergio asked, but he explained why. After Ron's explanation he understood and agreed with him. The machines in question are not being used and more than likely won't be used as much as the machines in the front are.

"Are the schools going somewhere else to get their letters, school jackets and everything else dealing with clothes printed? Here is where the company can make a lot of money and not have to spend a lot to make that money."

"To tell you the truth we really haven't looked into that. The first priority for me was to get the shop set up, get a customer base and keep those customers happy. With you coming on board with the knowledge you have about the business here, you can open up new avenues of business. This business now can afford to start looking into things like that. It is out of the red and is now running in the black."

"Before I do anything Ron, I will sit with Alex and Matt. After all they are the owners and the decisions are theirs to make. Decisions that will take away from their money at the end of the month at first, but will bring them a lot more the follow month than they gave up! Just like you, I am just the morning shift floor manager."

When the boys introduced Sergio to Ron, Ron thought that Sergio had the same duties as he does with the company. By the sounds of it, he doesn't. He is going to run the day shift and that is it. All the decisions will be made only by Alex and Matt, but Ron does know the boys will listen to any suggestions and use the ones that will make money.

After spending a couple of hours with Sergio, Ron headed home for the night. The rest of the evening Sergio spent with Alex and Matt on the floor teaching them the best way to get production out of their machines. By the time the shift ended, the boys learned more about their machines than they had since they opened.

On the way home, the SUV was quiet. No one spoke; in fact it looked like everyone is fighting. In the far back seat Tom and David just starred out the window, unusual for them. Then there is Chase and Ethan sitting as far apart from each other as humanly possible with out one of them jumping out of the vehicle. The only ones talking are Ethan's brothers, but only to each other in a whisper.

As soon as they dropped off Ethan, Chase came back from the dead. He started talking as if they just left work. That told Alex that there is a problem between Chase and Ethan and that is weird due to the fact that Chase is the one that introduced Ethan to the group. If there is something he found out about Ethan, good or bad, Alex feels that Chase needs to inform the others so they can decide what to do about it.

Since there is no mock trial tomorrow, Alex didn't have any homework to do since he did it through out the day at school. So after dinner he headed down to hang with his little brothers while Matt did the homework he had. Alex found Lorenzo and Ismail with a couple of friends in the game room. He thought it was late for these kids to be here, but knowing his mother she is keeping track of the time.

Seeing that they were into the game, Alex decided not to bother them. Instead he headed up stairs to Jeremy's room. As always Jeremy is on the floor of his room playing with Cupid. Before entering, Alex knocked on the door and waited to be invited in. Jeremy looked up, smile and invited Alex in.

He started to sign to Alex faster than Alex could read what he is saying. Alex signed back for him to slow down. Reminding Jeremy that he is barely learning and he has to take it easy with him. Jeremy laughed and promised to slow down.

To Alex's surprise he learned Jeremy isn't this shy guy everyone thinks he is. He told Alex several jokes that are actually pretty funny. Alex didn't have to fake laugh when Jeremy reached the punch line like he does with others that think their jokes are funny.

When Alex got up to leave, he could sense that Jeremy got sad. He pulled out a drawing book, his pencils and started drawing. Alex figured out that Jeremy does that because that is the only thing he knows to pass the time. Before leaving the room, Alex patted Jeremy on the shoulder to let him know that they will hang out again tomorrow after work. That put a smile on Jeremy's face that lit up the room.

The next day went by fast, which normally doesn't for the guys because Fridays always seems to drag on. By sixth period, Alex wanted the bell to ring so he could head to work and learn more from Sergio, but this period is dragging on. Their teacher gave them the period free to do whatever they wanted to do. The first half hour Alex did his homework, but after he finished all his homework there was nothing else he could do to pass the time until Carlos started talking to him.

"I am hearing that there is a party at your house. Is that true?" Alex looked at Carlos and nodded his head. "Have I done something wrong that you didn't invite me to the party? We have always hung out and crashed any party we heard about. And now you are having a party and didn't invite me."

"Carlos I didn't know you wanted to go. Ever since we got out of the center, you have been in your own little world once we left school and work. I figured you are working through something at home and when you are ready to let me in, you will. Plus this isn't my party, its Jacob's party. But if you want to go, I would love my best friend there."

"Thank you Alex and I would like to go. And you are right about me not letting you in as far as my home life is concerned. My parents finally moved last weekend to this side of town into a large home that fits all of us, including my grandparents. My grandparents can't be on their own anymore and my parents saw that. That is why they bought the home instead of renting an apartment."

"Wow, I didn't know that you parents moved! That's awesome! Maybe now that all of you guys are living in one house, you can keep some of your money that you are working for instead of giving it over to pay the bills."

"Yeah I might be able to keep some of the money, but with my probation fees and fines the money I do get to keep will go there. Until they sell my grandparents house, I need to help my parents with the bills in the new house. The house payment alone is killing them. They need to proceeds from my grandparents house to pay down the new house."

"Look things are getting better for you and I know you are seeing that. Right now you got your parents back and the gang didn't catch on to them moving. And like you said it is going to be rough, but that isn't going to last very long." Alex scooted up closer to Carlos so only he and Carlos could hear what he is about to say. "You know that if you need anything, doesn't matter what it is, you come to me. If I can help you, I will."

"That has never been a question. I know I can always depend on you to help me with anything I might need. We are brothers more than friends and because of that we do what ever we can for each other when the other is hurting.

Now I am really looking forward to the party tomorrow. Tell me what kind of party it is and what I can bring. I hear that Jacob has an inside heated pool. That has to be cool. The whole school is talking about Jacob's house and the fact that the floor opens up in the backyard. The house is some kind of state-of-the art robot house."

Alex laughed and told Carlos about everything that Jacob did to the house from joining four houses into one, to the pool, to the weight room, Alex didn't leave anything out. Causing Carlos jaw to drop to the desk several times as he described the house! At no time Carlos stopped Alex as he described the house.

Right before the bell rang; they agreed that Carlos will bring whatever he is going to wear for the party to work in the morning. When they get off, they will go straight to Alex's house where Carlos will change. After the party Alex will take Carlos home before his anklet goes off.

All evening Friday and all day Saturday Sergio worked side by side with the boys and Ron. He learned the paperwork setup of the business from Ron. When he wasn't learning from Ron, Sergio was teaching the boys what he knows about the machines. Sergio is hoping to have at least a couple of days with Ron on the day shift to meet the employees. That way when he officially takes over the day shift, the employees are not wondering who he is and what had happened to Ron.

Since Ron is still opening, his alarm code hasn't been taken out yet. So when the shift ended Saturday, the crew left and Ron stayed behind to load up several boxes of his personal items in his car. Alex offered to stay behind and help Ron out, but Ron wouldn't hear of it. He already feels bad on bringing Alex back to work a lot sooner than he should have. There is no way he is going to have Alex do any heavy lifting that could cause him to rip out his stitches and end up in the emergency room.

Just as they planned, Carlos went with the guys after work to the house. Before dropping off Ethan's brothers, Alex asked them again to come to the party, but they said no. Before leaving Ethan's house, Ethan ran in to get a pair of shorts and ran back out with his father screaming for him to come back.

Alex watched as Ethan walked over to his father. Anyone can tell that Ethan's father is very concerned about his son. Just the way he is talking to him shows the love he has for his son. He isn't yelling at his son, Ethan's father actually knelt in front of his son as he talked with him. That's something Alex hasn't seen between father and son in a very long time. In fact he has only seen this kind of interaction on TV shows.

Ethan's father felt bad that Ethan didn't have a real pair of swim trunks. So he wants to take Ethan to the store to buy him a pair and then drop him off at Jacob's house. That way he doesn't have to swim in a pair of pants that he cut the night before into shorts.

Ethan said no to his dad because that will take from the little money they have to buy food until they get paid. He explained to his father that he is okay with what he has and there is no need to spend money on something he really doesn't need. Not wanting to agree with his son, Ethan's dad told him to have fun and let him go.

When they drove up, Jacob and his father were in the other driveway unloading the truck. Almost at the same time, Alex, Matt, Ethan and Chase asked where the other guys are at. They took the day off to go to the game and help out Jacob, but they are nowhere to be seen. Even Dewayne isn't around helping Jacob.

As he got down from the truck, Ethan told the others that he will be right back. He headed over to help Jacob and his father unload the truck. Alex and the others went inside to change and get ready for the party. Unable to get out of his mind what he just saw between Ethan and his father, Alex pulled out a pair of brand new swim trunks to give to Ethan when he and Jacob finish moving in Gloria and Andy Sr.

It didn't take long for the party to get on its way. Everyone that got invited to the party had sowed up almost at the same time. Unlike the party they had last week, this one has more of their friends and than adults. The only adults around are those that live in the house. Other than that the pool and the back yard is filled with friends from school.

Carlos ran out of the house and jumped into the pool, causing the girls to scream at him because he got them wet. Not letting the girls get under his skin, Carlos splashed even more water on them as he swam away. The girls didn't like getting wet, but they couldn't do anything about it since it is a pool party after all.

Those that haven't seen Alex and the guys out of pants were surprised on seeing the anklet monitors. They heard that they were wearing them, but again they have never seen them until now. So whenever one of the guys that had the anklet monitor on got in the pool, they got out because they thought they would get electrocuted!

As the day wore on, Alex and the others figured out some of Jacob's, Chase's and the others friends were afraid to be around them in the pool because of the monitors. Trying his best, Alex went around explaining to them that nothing is going to happen. Still a couple of them didn't want to get in the pool no matter what they were told.

Feeling someone tapping him on his shoulder, Alex looked up to see Andy Sr. standing there. They both greeted each other as Andy Sr. sat down next to Alex. He looked out to see what Alex is looking at and aw that he is looking at the guys playing volleyball.

"Too bad you and my son can't get into the pool and have fun with your friends. I know is has to suck sitting here watching the others having fun like that." Andy. Sr. softly traced the outline of Alex's surgical scar. "You know something funny Alex, this opening you have is in the same spot as my sons. In fact it is exactly the same."

Alex pulled his towel to cover the stitches, but it was too late. "Now that I think about it Alex, you went in the hospital at the same time as my son and got out the same time as my son. Putting everything together, I don't understand why you haven't said anything to anyone about being the donor for my son."

"Mr. Hernandez please don't tell anyone what you figured out. I did what I did because it was the right thing to do. I didn't do it to get any praise or thanks from Jacob or his family." Alex looked into Andy Sr.'s eyes. "I did so much wrong to your son and he still opened his doors to me and my family. When I found out I was a match, I didn't think twice on helping him out. He deserves a lot more than a kidney and I only wish I could give him a lot more."

"No matter what you want, I can't thank you enough for helping out my son when he needed it the most. The gift you gave him is something that can't ever be repaid. As far as my son doing what he has done for you and your family, well that's just Jacob. When he sees good in someone, he will help that person out as much as he can. He saw the good in you, a good that none of us saw in you until now. I see the good Jacob sees and I will always be thankful for what you have done."

"What are you talking about with this guy?" Alex and Andy Sr. looked up to see Gloria starring down at them. "You can't forget who this kid is! He tried to kill our son and then weaseled himself and his family into my son's life."

Gloria talked loud enough to get Franseca's and Al's attention, but no one else's. They walked over to see what is going on and try to stop a scene in the making. Just as Al and Franseca reached Gloria, she went down to pull at Alex. That was it for Franseca; she is going to finish the fight that wasn't finished on Christmas day.



{Welcome back to another filled chapter of "Beneath the Mask". This chapter from beginning to end was filled with so much action; I don't even know where to begin. I hope you are enjoying reading this story as much as I am writing the story.

At the beginning of the chapter we see Al dealing with two different issues. The first issue is the meeting he had with the police chief, his officers and the district attorney. I don't know what it is going to take to get the city of El Paso to realize they have a real problem with gangs. They can't continue turning a blind eye to what is right in front of them. I am glad Al stuck to his guns and got something done.

Al also found out that Ron is leaving the print company. Although he understands why he is leaving, I don't think Al is comfortable that he is leaving. At least with Ron running the day to day operations of the print shop, Al has nothing to worry about. Now that he is walking away, it leave s big void in the leadership that will be hard to fill.

Lucky for Alex and Matt, they can go to Jacob and his grandfather for help. Alex went to Jacob and Jacob had a solution to his problem. Although Sergio isn't like Ron, he can fill Ron's shoes when Ron leaves. He knows the machines top to bottom. He also knows the business and the customers. Because of all that, he brings a lot to the table.

Alex and Matt I believe handled Ron's leaving very well. Remember these guys are teens still in high school. High school students haven't had hard knocks of real life yet. So when this came up, Alex and Matt could have freaked out, but they didn't! They stayed calm, talked it out and hired someone to take over the day shift. The only good that comes from Ron leaving is the fact that Alex and Matt showed they can handle difficult situations when they arise.

There is something going on with Shane and Loraine. First Alex saw Shane starring him down and then Loraine tells him to pass on a warning to Jacob. By the looks of it Shane isn't ready to let things go. The only question that comes to mind is when Shane is going to strike. Oh one more, will his friends join him when he does strike?

The mock trial looks like it is going Alex, Matt and Donald's way. Look at what they did the first day of witness testimony. Remember Donald is charged with robbery and murder because he killed someone as he tried to get away in a high speed chase. Alex started out strong, but he needs to keep doing it through the entire trial.

Carlos has moved back in with his parents we found out in this chapter. They wound up buying a house instead of renting. By doing that the finances in the house are still tight. Carlos doesn't deserve the responsibilities of supporting a household, but it isn't that uncommon now-a-days. Too many households have up to four incomes coming in to make ends meet. Something isn't right with our economy and government when you need that many incomes.

Ethan is appearing in both stories, but he will mainly be in "Jacob Finding His Way". But since he works in the print shop with Alex and the guys, he will appear in this story as well. Each time he appears, we learn more about him and his family. They are struggling to make it. Just look at what Ethan had to do to get swim trunks. We also see the love Ethan's father has for him. For someone having such a big family, I am glad he is able to love each of his kids like he does.

At the end of the chapter there is a cliffhanger, sorry! It looks like the first day that Gloria moves in, she is ready to tear the household apart. I wonder what is going to happen in the next chapter. Who is going to be the one to settle her down? We know from Jacob sixty one, the scene didn't get that big because no one else got involved. I really hope Alex doesn't end up getting hurt in any way.

You are probably wondering where Steve and Robert are. Well they are around and will be back in the forefront in the next chapter. Also we learned that Alex is learning sign language. So expect Jeremy to come into this story a lot more than he has in the past. And finally we will learn more about Franseca, the family and the two young ones.

I know there are so many other open plots out there. Steve and Robert will be back along with Lorenzo and Ismail we will see more and more of them. The love scenes will be there between Alex and Matt and Steve and Robert. So don't worry, the story is just beginning.

I do not want to say too much more and spoil the future chapters to come, so I won't. I warn you though! Do not skip a chapter, or you will be lost. There is a so much to answer in the chapters to come. Keep reading the future chapters, and enjoy! Please email me and let me know how I am doing at jacobmillertex@aol.com, Thanks!}


The Police Chief and his subordinates along with the DA found out Al is not to be trifled with! The DA wondered what retaliation the Police Chief could inflict on Al and his family. Well, it seems that the DA got a dose of real insight that Al is someone he wants in his corner, not as an adversary.

Alex and Matt did handle Ron's reluctant but solid resignation with grace and poise. They are really coming into their own as business owners. I can imagine the fear in their hearts when they realized they had no day manager for the shop and what a hard time they'd have finding someone qualified to do the job. Good ole Jake comes to the rescue! This time it wasn't anything except his knowledge and contacts that provided a solution. It's what we call "networking" today. I'm sure that the former instructor from the school will be a great choice for the business.

The mock trial is fun! I hope we get tons of details and that the team of Alex and Matt waxes the prosecution's butts!

Ethan is going to be an interesting character as he comes into his own with the group. I sense a real depth to his personality and think he's going to provide some interesting contrasts with his background being so different from those in the group. I also like that he's very grounded and has his priorities in line.

Ashton and the other gang members are in a real jam now! It's going to be most interesting to see how things pan out for them in their new surroundings. I sense that there's a whole new existence evolving for the gang members and those associated with them. I'm most interested to see how this all plays out and if the system and authorities can really break the back of the gang.

Dear, dear Gloria...I KNEW she'd backslide. I guess the wicked witch hasn't been totally melted out of her yet! ("Wizard of Oz" is on TV at the moment; that's where that reference came from)

Until next time!

"Daddy" Rick