By Andrew Todd
“Where are they?” Mattie said as he rushed into Jesse’s room Monday morning.
Jesse and Dylan were lying on the bed. Jesse nodded towards the corner where a tired Kaya was laying with her pups.
Mattie sat on the corner of the bed. “How many?”
“Eight,” Jesse answered.
“Eight…so, Brandon wants one, not sure about Erik…what are we doing with the rest?”
“Well, we promised one to my brother Cole,” Jesse said. “By the time they’re ready to go back to Florida the puppies should be ok to go with him.”
“What about the rest?”
“It shouldn’t be a problem,” Dylan said. “With the number of people who come here and know Kaya and Cesar.”
“Are we keeping any?” Mattie asked.
“Well, if we do they’ll be yours and Diego’s,” Jesse said.
“Might as well tell him, Jess,” Dylan said.
“Tell me what?!”
Jesse sighed. “We were gonna try to tell everyone together. Dylan and I have been offered places at a private school in New Hampshire, the Lexington Academy, and we decided to go.”
“So you’re leaving?” Mattie frowned.
“Well, we’re going to go away for school, but this will still be home,” Jesse replied.
“I’m happy that you guys are getting a chance like this, but I’m not happy that you won’t be around as much. I know it’s selfish but I’m gonna miss you guys.”
“It’s not selfish,” Dylan said. “It just means you love us like we love you. We’ll miss everyone, but we talked about this, a lot, and we couldn’t miss the chance to do this.”
Mattie smiled. “Then I am really happy for you two; nobody deserves a chance like this more than you guys.”
Dylan and Jesse both crawled across the bed and jumped on Mattie and the three rolled to the floor in an embrace.
“What the Hell are you guys doing?!?” Spin called from the door.
The three on the floor looked up, laughing.
“Having a threesome,” Mattie answered. “Wanna join in?”
“Sure,” Spin shrugged as he started to pull off his shorts.
“Well, don’t make promises you’re not gonna keep.”
“You dip,” Mattie laughed.
“So, what’s going on, besides the spawn of the beasts over there?”
Jesse and Mattie jumped up and each grabbed one of Spin’s arms and pushed him against the wall.
“What was that?” Dylan asked standing behind the two older boys.
“I was just asking about the sweet little puppies,” Spin grinned.
“I take it you won’t be wanting one?” Jesse asked.
Spin shook his head vigorously. “Hell, no!! I can deal with them around here, but no thanks.”
“What are you gonna do when you and Mattie can finally live together?” Dylan asked.
“Maybe I’ll make him choose,” Spin said defiantly.
Mattie looked at him grimly. “And maybe you don’t want to do that,” he said with a smirk.
“Fine,” Spin sighed. “I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
“Wait, what are you guys gonna do with Kaya when you leave?” Mattie asked.
“Leave? Who’s leaving?” Spin asked.
Dylan and Jesse explained about the Lexington Academy.
“Shit. I don’t want you guys to go.”
“We’ll still be around on holidays and breaks and I’m sure we’ll come back for a weekend here and there,” Dylan said.
“I know, but it feels like you’re breaking up the ‘band’,” Spin pouted.
Mattie wrapped his arm around Spin’s shoulders. “Spin, it’s gonna happen a lot over the next couple of years. Ace, Zak, TJ and Devon are all seniors next year; chances are they’re not all going to stay here permanently.”
“I don’t want to think about this,” Spin said defiantly.
“Well, we’re not leaving for a few months, so we don’t have to think about it right now,” Jesse said.
“So, back to my question…Kaya?” Mattie repeated.
“She’s gonna stay here,” Jesse replied. “She’s gotten better about other people and she watches over Idgie all the time, so between you, Diego, Danny and CJ she should be fine.”
“Are you guys keeping any of the puppies?” Spin asked.
“Not unless Diego wants one,” Mattie answered.
“I don’t know if he will or not,” Jesse said. “He’s usually got his hands full with the horses.”
“Well, we’ve got a while before they’ll be weaned anyways,” Mattie said.
“Hey, why don’t we call everyone over here for breakfast so we can tell everyone at once about the school?” Jesse suggested. “That way we can get it all over with and not have to tell it over and over.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Dylan replied. “I’ll call Ace, you call Zak and Dusty. I’m sure Erik and Brandon are already over there.”
Chris opened the front door and was surprised to see Carter standing there.
“Hey, Carter, what’s up?” Chris tried to hide his surprise.
“Not too much, we’re heading over to the amusement park at Maple Lake and I thought I’d see if you wanted to go. I was gonna call, but I don’t have a number for you.”
“Sure, Maple Lake sounds like fun, I haven’t been there in a while,” Chris said. “Let me just call Maddy.”
Carter shook his head. “Nope, guys’ day only,” he laughed. “After this weekend I need a girl-free day.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Oh, yeah. I mean, the sex is great and she’s damn near insatiable, but the whining and nagging sometimes doesn’t make it worth it.”
Chris nodded. “I know what you mean. Let me just run upstairs and get my wallet and my phone and I’ll be ready to go.”
“Cool. We’ll be in the car.”
Chris shut the door. He peered out the window and watched Carter walk back to his SUV. There were two other boys in the car. One was probably Sam, but he didn’t recognize the other one.
He quickly ran up to his room. He grabbed his phone and hit the speed dial for Maddy.
She answered right away.
“Chris, what’s going on?”
“Carter just showed up here. He wants to go to Maple Lake, no girls.”
“Ok. Make sure you have your earbud in and your panic button on you. Chances are they’re not going to do anything with you around yet; this is probably a chance for them to vet you and test you. Don’t take your gun. There’ll be too many people there for them to try anything. I’ll call Sarge and have him send a team over there to shadow you. I’ll make sure it’s guys they don’t know.”
Chris exhaled. “Alright.”
“Chris, you’ll be fine. We want them to trust you and open up to you and this is the way in.”
“I know. I just never considered them showing up at my house. I’m just glad my parents are at work.”
“We may have to consider moving you into the apartment if this goes on for a while. We can always say we decided to move in together since you’re eighteen.”
“If we have to, we can try,” Chris shrugged. “I just haven’t told my parents about any of this: I don’t want them to worry.”
“I know, but if it means keeping you safer, then we might have to tell them and move you,” Maddy replied. “But let’s cross that bridge when we get there.”
“Ok. I’d better get going so they don’t get suspicious.”
“Ace or I will be listening and I’m calling Sarge right now. Don’t worry; we’ve got your back.”
After breakfast, everyone gathered in the living room.
Ace had left in the middle of breakfast after getting a call from his father.
CJ and Danny stood in the doorway; they wanted Dylan and Jesse to be able to give their news on their own.
Zak, Dusty, Mattie and Spin were seated together on one couch, while Diego, Luka, Brandon and Erik had the other. Devon and TJ were seated together in one of the recliners and Tony sat in another.
“Ok, well, a few of you already know, including Ace, but we wanted to tell everyone together so that we only had to go through this once,” Jesse began. “When we were in Florida, Trevor, my father, made Dylan and I an offer. A friend of his is the headmaster at the Lexington Academy, a private boys’ school in New Hampshire. They’re starting a riding team and he was asking Trevor if he knew of anyone who might be interested. Trevor sent him some footage of Dylan and I and he offered us admission to the school. He also offered to work with us to put Dylan in an accelerated program so that we can graduate together.”
Dylan took over. “It wasn’t an easy decision. We spent a lot of time talking about it. What we wanted everyone to know is that Trevor did not put any pressure on us. He simply relayed the offer. We made the decision. We told my parents and Danny and CJ last night that we have decided to go. We leave mid-August. Tony’s going with us, too. He’s going to be the new riding instructor and coach there.”
The room was silent for moment as everyone absorbed the news.
Zak stood up and walked out of the room.
Dusty started to stand up, but Dylan waved him off. “I’ll talk to him,” he said as he followed Zak.
“Well, anyone else?” Jesse said to try to lighten the mood.
“Jesse, I’m sure we’re all happy for you guys, but it’s gonna take time to get used to the idea of you guys not being here,” Devon said.
“We know. Like Dyl said, it wasn’t easy for us either. We’re gonna miss all of you and we have to leave Kaya behind, but we’ll be back, this is still our home.”
Diego stood up and walked to Jesse.
“I know what it is like to have to move from everything you know,” he said. “I can only hope and pray that you are as happy and as welcomed in your new surroundings as I have been in mine.” He leaned in and hugged Jesse.
Everyone walked over to offer Jesse their congratulations.
Dylan found Zak sitting in the kitchen.
Zak looked up with tears in his eyes.
Dylan went and sat next to him.
“I’m sorry, Dyl, I know I should be happy for you guys and a part of me is, but you guys are family to me and I don’t do well with change.”
Dylan put his arm around Zak and leaned his head on Zak’s shoulder.
“Zak, I love you so much,” Dylan sighed. “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t even be able to do something like this. When I came here, I was still reeling from Cody and my overdose and everything. You all took me in, but you helped me so much. You’re the reason I have Dodger back and you and Danny are the reason I’m strong enough to move so far away. This is my home and it always will be. Jesse and I will be back as often as we can, but we have to do this.”
“I’m sorry; I’m being selfish.”
“Zak, you’re not being selfish, that’s silly, and you’re one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. How do you think it makes me feel that you’re upset that I’m leaving? That’s what I’ll miss most about being here: how loved I always feel.”
Zak wrapped his arms around Dylan and the two hugged each other.
Chris walked through the amusement park; he was having a really good time and starting to wonder if they were right about Carter.
There were four of them: Chris, Carter, Sam and Sam’s friend, Ethan. Ethan was Sam’s age; he was short and stocky with a shaved head and dull brown eyes.
After they entered the park, Sam and Ethan had gone off on their own and Chris had stuck with Carter.
They had talked about lacrosse and school and girls, but nothing Carter said had set off any alarms for Chris.
“Hey, let’s ride the Cyclone,” Carter suggested heading towards a large wooden roller coaster.
Chris nodded and followed.
They were in the queue for the ride for several minutes when Carter lightly jabbed Chris in the side. Chris looked up and Carter nodded over to his right. Chris looked over and saw two boys about their ages holding hands. Both boys were good-looking and very well built; if they had not been showing outward signs of affection Chris would have never thought they might be gay.
Carter leaned forward and whispered in Chris’ ear.
“Goddamn fags,” he breathed. “So sick of them showing off all the time. Bunch of fuckin’ perverts. Doesn’t it make you sick?”
Chris nodded. “Just like those guys at the ranch,” he said.
“Wish there was a way to just wipe them off the planet,” Chris continued. “Make the place safer for normal people.”
Chris looked like he was going to go on a rant when they reached the end of the queue and were sent to board the coaster.
Afterwards, they found a concession stand and bought some lunch. They found a secluded table and sat down to eat.
“Man, seeing fags like that just turns my stomach,” Carter started again. “We were having such a good time and those homos have to spoil it.”
“Too bad someone doesn’t take care of the like that kid at school,” Chris replied.
Carter looked at Chris curiously and then nodded and grinned. “It’s what they all deserve.” He looked around as if to make sure they were alone. “Can I tell you something?”
“You can’t tell anyone I told you this, especially Sam.”
“Sam’s a little messed up cuz a neighbor of his used to molest him,” Carter said quietly. “The fucking faggot started in when Sam was only eight. He never told his parents. Eventually, the guy died. Sam thought he was over it, but this queer at his school came on to him one night and he punched the kid out. That’s why he had to leave school and move in with us.”
“Doesn’t seem fair, if the guy had it coming,” Chris said sympathetically.
“I know, right. It’s not like he killed anyone, he was just defending himself. But you know how they protect all these homos.”
“Like those guys at the ranch that screwed you over…wouldn’t you like to make them pay?”
“Be careful, Chris,” he heard Maddy’s voice in his earbud. “We need a confession, not to make you an accomplice.”
“Well, maybe something will happen, like happened to that kid in school,” Carter said with a faraway look in eyes. After a moment he snapped back. “Well, a guy can at least dream.”
The following Monday, Brandon was waiting for Erik when he drove into the rescue.
Erik had been away for the weekend with his parents.
Brandon ran over to Erik’s car and pulled him out as soon as the door opened.
“C’mon, c’mon!!” Brandon said excitedly.
“What are you doing?” Erik asked.
“Gotsomethingtoshowyou!!” Brandon spit out as he pulled Erik towards the barn.
Erik couldn’t help but laugh as Brandon yanked on him and pulled him across the yard.
Brandon led him through the barn and out to one of the paddocks on the other side.
“Ta-da,” Brandon sang as he waved his arms towards the paddock.
Erik blinked twice as he looked at the horse that stood there.
Other than Rain, it was the most beautiful horse Erik had ever seen. It was a paint horse about fifteen hands. It was mostly white with a brown rump and some black mixed into its mane and tail.
“When did she come in?” Erik asked.
“He came in on Saturday.” Brandon explained. “He was picked up by Animal Control. He was found running loose on the side of the road. Looks like he was just abandoned since no one came forward to claim him. He’s in pretty good shape.”
“Has anyone worked with him yet?”
Brandon shook his head. “Nope. As soon as I saw him, I told Dusty that you and I would work with him. He was a little apprehensive since we usually work with a more experienced partner, but Diego and Luka said they would be our ‘back-up’.”
Erik stepped up to the fence. The horse walked up and sniffed at him. Erik stroked the horse’s nose.
Brandon came up next to Erik and wrapped his arm around Erik’s waist.
“Isn’t he great?” Brandon whispered.
Erik nodded silently.
“I think he’s the one,” Brandon continued. “When I saw him, I just knew he was the one we were waiting for.”
“He’s something, isn’t he?”
Both boys turned to see Dusty and Zak standing there watching them and the gelding.
Erik blushed when he realized that Brandon’s arm was still around him.
Dusty laughed. “Erik, calm down. It’s been pretty clear for the last few weeks that you guys were getting closer. And when Brandon insisted that you work with the paint, we knew.”
“You don’t have to keep secrets from us,” Zak said. “This is your safe place.”
Erik nodded. “I know, it’s just that every time I start to think I’ve found someone something goes wrong and I didn’t want to jinx us.”
“You guys are going to be fine,” Dusty said. “Sometimes we make a few mistakes before we find ‘Mr. Right’.”
Erik smiled and Brandon held him tighter.
“So, you guys need to get started with this guy,” Dusty said. “He’s had a couple days to settle, so you guys can start working with him.”
“We’ll just let him get used to us and then go from there,” Brandon said.
“Sounds like a plan,” Dusty replied. “Are Diego or Luka around if you need them?”
“They’re over at the compound, but they said to call if we needed help.”
“Ok, just be careful,” Dusty warned. “He seems pretty mellow, but we haven’t asked him to do anything yet. I’ll be around, too, if you need me.”
Dylan and Jesse stood on the other side of the gate as the passengers came off the plane.
Both grinned when they saw a small blond boy come streaking off the jetway.
“Jesse!! Dylan!!” Cole yelled as he flew across the waiting area and tackled the two older boys.
Jesse scooped his brother up and hugged and kissed him and then gently tossed him to Dylan who did the same.
“I missed you guys so much,” Cole said as Dylan put him down.
“We missed you too,” Jesse laughed.
“I don’t know,” Julia said as she and Trevor joined the boys. “He’s been going on non-stop about you guys.”
“Well, we’ve got a few days to have fun before the hospital,” Jesse said.
Cole pouted. “Don’t wanna go to the hospital anymore.”
“Cole…” Trevor started before Dylan waved him off.
“Cole, come with me a minute,” he said as he took the little boy’s hand.
Dylan led him to some seats away from the crowd and sat down pulling Cole into his lap.
“Cole, I hate hospitals more than anyone,” Dylan said.
“Not as much as me.”
Dylan nodded. “I bet I do, but you know what?”
“I’m gonna be in the hospital the same time as you.”
Cole nodded. “I know, Daddy told me,” he said quietly. “He said you’re gonna help me.”
“I’m going to do my best. As much as I hate hospitals, and it’s a lot, I’m going to go so I can help you. I’m gonna suck it up and be brave and you need to do that too.”
“But, I don’t like it.”
“We don’t have to like it, but we have to do it, so that you can get well and not have to go back anymore.” Dylan kissed the little boy’s cheek. “Ok?”
Cole smiled shyly and kissed Dylan’s cheek. “Ok.”
When Dylan and Cole rejoined the others Jesse swept Cole up into his arms.
“Did Dylan tell you the news?” he asked.
Cole nodded. “Daddy already told me, that Dylan’s gonna go into the hospital too so that he can help me.”
Jesse shook his head. “Nope, that’s good news, but that’s not the news I’m talking about.”
Cole shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“Kaya had her puppies a few days ago.”
Cole’s eyes got wide. “I’m gonna get a puppy?!”
“Well, that’s up to your mom and dad, but you can see the puppies when we get to the ranch.”
“YAY!!” Cole cheered as they walked to the baggage claim.
They quickly collected the luggage and went out to the parking garage.
“Jesse, are we all going to fit in your car?” Trevor asked.
Jesse laughed. “No way would we fit in my car. Zak let me borrow his Escape; there’s enough room there.”
They loaded the luggage into the back of the SUV and Jesse headed them back towards the ranch.
Erik slowly approached the paint. He spoke gently and the horse came right up to him and let Erik slip the halter over his head.
Erik looked up at Brandon and grinned.
“He’s definitely been handled before,” he said.
Brandon nodded. “Told ya,” he laughed. “I can’t understand why anyone would just throw him away like that. It’s crazy; you and I want our horses so bad and yet people who have them treat ‘em like shit.”
Erik stroked the gelding’s neck. “Well, he’s with us now. So he’s safe and taken care of.”
“Let’s get him cleaned up and see how he does being groomed,” Brandon suggested.
Erik led the paint to the wash rack and clipped him in. The gelding stood still as Brandon sprayed him with water and Erik began to wash him.
“Hold on,” Brandon said as he ran into the barn. He returned a few minutes later and handed a bottle to Erik. “This stuff is supposed to bring out the white,” he said.
Erik looked at the bottle with bright blue liquid in it. “It’s not gonna bleach him out is it?”
Brandon shook his head. “No, it makes his white really white, but it just cleans his black and brown like regular shampoo.”
The two boys took their time washing the gelding. Erik insisted they apply the special shampoo twice and then they conditioned his mane and tail. By the time they finished, the gelding was shining in the mid-morning sun.
“Wow!!” Zak exclaimed as he walked up. “He looked good before, but now he’s gorgeous.”
Erik beamed. “He is something else, isn’t he,” he said as he stroked the gelding’s neck.
“So have you thought of a name, yet?” Zak asked.
“I hadn’t,” Erik replied.
“Well, you better give it some thought before someone names him ‘Spot’,” Zak laughed.
Erik and Brandon laughed.
“We’ll work on it,” Brandon said.
“Ok,” Zak laughed as he left the two boys with their new charge.
“Do you want to start with some ground work?” Brandon asked Erik.
“Sure. That way we can start him slowly and see what he can do.”
“Here we are,” Jesse said as he led his family into the carriage house.
“Wow! This is beautiful,” Julia said as she took in the great room.
The carriage house was a one-story dwelling. Guests entered into a large great room. There were two bedroom suites off to one side and a kitchen and dining room off to the other.
“We don’t use it too much,” Jesse explained. “We all have rooms in the main house, except for Zak and Dusty--they stay at Dusty’s loft at the rescue.”
“C’mon, Cole, I’ll show you your room,” Dylan said as he took the smaller boy’s hand.
“I think they’re bonding,” Trevor said as he watched the two walk off.
“Dylan hates hospitals,” Jesse said. “He’s had some bad experiences, but he loves Cole and he’s going to do whatever he has to to help him.”
“We can’t thank either of you enough,” Julia said.
“You don’t need to. Neither of us is doing this for thanks, we’re doing it so we don’t lose Cole.”
Julia hugged Jesse. “You guys are great. I know Cole loves you both and he’s so happy to have two big brothers.”
Jesse laughed. “Two? Try twelve or so. The guys here ‘adopt’ everyone. They’re all waiting to meet Cole.”
“We sure are,” Ace called from the doorway.
“Hey, Ace.” Jesse grinned at his friend. “Trevor, Julia, this is Ace; his dad, Sarge is the Ranch Manager.”
“Nice to meet you folks,” Ace said in his ‘aw shucks’ manner.
“Nice to meet you, Ace,” Trevor replied. “Jesse and Dylan have spoken very highly of you.”
Ace grinned. “Yeah, I kinda love the little miscreants.”
“Be that way,” Dylan said as he and Cole came back into the great room. “You’ll miss us when we’re at school…oops.” He blushed when he realized what he had said.
Jesse shot a look and laughed. “We were gonna surprise you, but Dylan and I accepted the offer from the Lexington Academy. We start in the fall.”
“Excellent,” Trevor said. “I’m glad you boys are taking advantage of the offer.”
“We are too,” Dylan said. “It’s gonna be hard to leave our friends and family, but we’ll all leave eventually.”
“This will still be your home and your friends and family will still be here,” Julia said.
“That’s what my mom and dad said,” Dylan replied. “My mom’s having a bit of a hard time letting go.”
“I can understand that; we all want what’s best for our children, but we also have a hard time letting go.”
“Not me,” laughed Ace. “I can let these two go anytime I want.”
“Don’t pick on my brothers!” Cole ordered as he angrily stepped in front of Ace.
Ace reached down and picked the small boy up. “And you must be Cole. Don’t worry, little man, these two are my little brothers and I watch out for them. I’m just kidding, I’ll miss them like crazy when they go.”
“How’s Tony doing?” Trevor asked.
“Great,” Jesse answered. “He and Danny are getting on really well. He’s mainly doing intro lessons for Danny to try and sort out the serious students from the others.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I’m sure he was pleased you two are heading to Lexington.”
Dylan nodded. “I’m not sure if he’s happier that we’re going or Grey and Jupe are going.”
“I think he’s glad all four of you are going.”
Everyone turned to see CJ, Danny, Diego, Mattie, Spin, Zak and Dusty standing there.
Jesse handled the introductions.
Cole was the center of attention and enjoying it. After an hour or so of small talk, most of the boys cleared out to give the newcomers some space.
“Are you up for a tour?” Jesse asked.
“I’m sure we’d all love to,” Trevor replied. “But, I think we need a little decompression time.” His eyes moved towards Cole who was half asleep on the couch.
Jesse grinned. “Why don’t we give you guys some time to unwind, unpack and rest a bit. You have my cell number--give us a call when you’re ready. I need to go and see Luka anyways.”
Jesse and Dylan left the gate house. Dylan went to get Grey Wind ready for a training session and Jesse set off to find Luka.
Jesse found Luka in the arena working with Onyx. He watched as Luka and the Friesian completed the program he and Danny had worked out.
“Looking good, Luka,” Jesse called as he hopped the fence and entered the arena.
“Thanks, Jess.” Luka smiled. “I hope you weren’t planning to practice with Onyx. I thought you were with your father’s family.”
“I was; they’re resting and getting settled, but I was actually looking for you.”
“Yeah. I talked to Danny and Zak and they want you to keep working with Onyx since I’m leaving for school.”
“Are you sure?”
Jesse nodded. “Very. They’ve both been telling me how well you’ve been doing with him and from what I’ve just seen they’re right. Danny and I designed that program to challenge me and Onyx and you are hitting all the marks just right. You guys should do really well in the shows.”
Luka slid down from Onyx’s back. “He’s the one doing all the work,” he said humbly. “He seems to be trusting me now. The first few times I had Zak here with me.”
Jesse nodded. “Same with me. He makes everyone nervous the first time, except Zak and maybe Dusty. But if you treat him right and he knows that Zak’s ok with you, you’re golden. Have you given any thought to a new horse?”
“A little. Diego keeps a lookout whenever new horses come into the rescue, but right now I’ve been busy with Onyx and Danny’s had me working with a few of the boarder’s horses that he’s training.”
“Well, when you’re ready, I’m sure the right one will come along.”
Over the next few weeks, everyone on the ranch settled into their routines.
Dylan made several trips to his doctor to receive injections to prepare him for his marrow to be harvested. Jesse drove him to and from each appointment. The rest of the time, they spent either training with Danny and Tony or entertaining Cole.
The night before the procedures were to take place, Trevor, Julia, Cole, Dylan, Jesse, CJ and Danny as well as Dylan’s parents spent the night at a hotel in the city. Cole and Dylan had to check in early and their rooms were filled with a nervous excitement and cautious optimism.
Chris had continued to make inroads with Carter and his friends. While at first he had been unsure if they were involved with Spin’s attack, it was becoming harder for him to ignore the prejudice and hate speech that the boys spouted more and more freely in his presence.
Maddy was able to occasionally accompany him, when there was a party or gathering, but Chris found himself spending time with Carter by himself more and more.
Finally, Maddy and Ace, with Sarge’s approval had given Chris a small-caliber pistol that he could tuck into the back of his jeans or shorts. Both of his ‘handlers’ advised Chris that the gun was to be used as a last line of defense.
Thursday night, the night before Dylan’s procedure, Chris, Ace and Maddy were in the apartment. They were trying to brainstorm a way to push Carter to show his hand.
Chris’ cell phone rang. It was the one that he used to talk with Carter and his crew.
“Hey, Carter, what’s up?”
“Whatcha doin’, Bud?”
“Hangin’ with Maddy.”
“Can you get away?”
“I guess so.”
“Cool. We’ll be over to pick you up in about ten minutes, we’ve got a surprise for you.”
“Ok. I’ll meet you out in front of the building,” Chris said as he disconnected the call.
“What’s that all about?” Ace asked.
“I don’t know, but he seemed really excited.”
“Did he say where you were going?” Maddy asked.
Chris shook his head. “Not a clue.”
“Ok, well keep your earbud in. Ace, why don’t you go down and get the car so we can follow them.”
“Right,” Ace replied as he left the apartment.
“I know I don’t have to tell you this, but be careful,” Maddy said.
“I will. These guys are starting to scare me.”
Twenty minutes later, Chris was sitting in the back seat of Sam’s car with Chris. Sam was driving and Ethan was riding shotgun.
“So what’s the plan?” Chris asked casually.
Carter grinned. “You’ll see; we have a surprise for you.”
The car stopped in front of a house in a neighborhood Chris had never been to.
“Where are we?” he asked.
“This house used to belong to Ethan’s grandfather,” Carter explained. “He died last year. On paper, it’s Ethan’s but we just come and hang out here sometime.”
The four boys exited the car. Ethan and Sam went to the front door, while Carter held back with Chris.
“So, Chris. I know you’ve been burning to get back at those fags from the ranch,” he said, the malice very apparent in his voice.
“I sure am.”
“Good,” Carter nodded. “C’mon in.”
He directed Chris through the front door and into a side bedroom.
Chris was shocked to see a thin figure of a boy lying on the bed. There was a cloth sack covering the boy’s head. His hands and feet were bound.
“What’s going on?” Chris asked, trying not to show his concern.
Sam laughed, “What’s going on is your initiation.”
“We’ve all been victimized by these fags,” Sam replied. “I know Carter told you what happened to me. Well, it happened to Carter too and Ethan was screwed out of a job by some fags, just like you. We all took care of our problems, striking a blow for normal people. Now it’s your turn.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Well, we’ve softened him up for you,” Carter laughed. “All you have to do it finish him off.”
With a flourish, Carter pulled the hood of the boy.
Chris’ eyes bugged when he saw Luka lying on the bed.