Previous Chapter

Chapter 80 – Welcome Home, Farm-Boy


After ending my chat with Max and dropping the phone on the bed, I continued to lay there for a couple of minutes, just pondering the content of the astounding wake-up call I’d just received.  I was ecstatic at hearing Logan was safe and sound at home.  I also marveled at his ingenuity and cunning in getting from Dexter all the way back there, and most especially his good fortune at doing so in one piece.  I was trying to figure out how he’d managed to slip away from Troy’s when Dylan had been watching the front of the house and I’d been keeping eyes on the back, but I was no closer to solving that riddle than I had been when I crawled into bed just a few short hours ago.  Without realizing the effects my mental gymnastics were having on me, I was surprised to feel the bed shift and Dylan’s hand grasp my shoulder.


“You okay, boss?  That wasn’t the locals on the phone with bad news, was it?”


I jerked at the touch and finally opened my eyes to find Dylan glaring down at me with serious concern.  “What?” I croaked.  “No, man, I’m great,” I lied.


“Ya sure coulda fooled me, what with your whimperin’ and all over here.”


“Really, I’m happier than hell right now.  Logan’s back home with Max,” I blubbered.


“How the fuck did he do that!?” Dylan asked in surprise.


“Not a freakin’ clue.  Can’t say I really care how he accomplished it, just glad he did.”


“Jesus, I’m gonna bust his butt for makin’ us worry like we have.”


“Get in line, man.  Right now, we need to call the locals, let them know Logan’s been found safe and they can call off their search.  Then we need to pack our shit and hit the road.”


“Hit the road!?  It’s half past two in the blessed AM!” Dylan howled in protest.


“Yeah, I’m well aware of that, but Max wants me back home asap so we can get busy with protectin’ Logan first thing in the mornin’.”


“I s’pose he’s got a point there,” Dylan acquiesced.  “You call the cop shop and I’ll start gettin’ our shit put together.”


We both got movin’ and after I ended my call with Captain McCord of the Dexter police department, we tossed our things in the trunk, climbed in the Hellcat and aimed ourselves towards Interstate 55 and points north.  When we reached Sikeston, I felt my stomach grumble and suggested we find food before too much time passed. Dylan agreed with me wholeheartedly and our search began.  Of course, locating a place that was open in the middle of the night in this part of the state was impossible.  We finally found an open Flying J truck stop at Pevely, about two and half hours from Dexter.  Of course, with Dylan at the wheel, it didn’t’ take near that long to reach our stop.  By the time we’d parked in the lot, we were both in desperate need of a caffeine kick and some serious food intake.


As we dug into our very early breakfast, Dylan said, “So, you’ve been pretty damn quiet since we left Dexter.  Tell me, what all McCord had to say?”


“First, he was glad to hear Logan’s safe, though he’s stumped as hell on how he got away without bein’ spotted by somebody.  Second, he’s pretty sure there will be some charges against him for his attack on Troy.  He can’t say what they’ll be at the moment since they’re still investigating what happened.  It’ll all depend on the evidence they find.”


“Well, that sucks,” Dylan lamented.


“Yeah, it does, but ya gotta admit, castratin’ the son-of-a-bitch is a touch extreme.  I’m not sayin’ he didn’t deserve it, mind you, just that it might be a bit over the top.”


“Sounds like our Logan, though, doesn’t it?” Dylan mused.


“That it does.  I still can’t figure out how the hell the little brat got back home.  He obviously got help from somebody, or even several different somebodies, but who’d be crazy enough to take a kid Logan’s age across state lines?  That’s grounds for kidnapping charges.”


“Well, yeah, it is.  Providing, of course, someone wants to press those charges.  Whoever it was, though, they deserve a medal for makin’ it happen,” Dylan retorted.


“If they don’t spend the next twenty years in prison, I’ll see they get one,” I laughed.


“Um, you aren’t gonna really bust his butt are ya’?” Dylan queried quietly.


“Not a chance.  I am tempted to get a harness and leash for him, though,” I chuckled.


Dylan laughed heartily at my joke before adding, “Ooh, wait, what about one of those invisible fences and a shock collar?  You know, he gets too close and zzzt, zzzt, he gets zapped.”


“Wait, I got one even better,” I laughed.  “He’s a farm kid, right?  We’ll just put a hot wire around the property.  That might keep the little bugger corralled.”


We were both laughing our asses off and attracting attention from the few other diners in the restaurant.  After the useless week we’d had with no laughs to speak of to break the monotony or stress, it felt really good to enjoy some humor for once.  Of course, we both knew our ideas would never see the light of day, but we were still giggling about them as I paid our bill.  With that done, Dylan pulled up to the gas pumps to top off the tank before we hit the road one more time. Next stop, home.



My alarm went off bright and early Friday morning and I forced my tired ass out of bed.  I was halfway through allowing my bladder to drain when I suddenly remembered Logan was back home and in bed with the twins.  Once I flushed the toilet, I washed my face and hands to help myself wake up, then headed across the house.  Though I knew Ron would be waking the boys soon, I wanted to be there and see their faces when Joey and Alex realized who was in bed with them.  I quietly opened the door, stepped into their bedroom and found the three rascals twisted in their trademark pretzel, as usual.  I moved closer to the bed and gently pushed the hair out of Logan’s eyes before shaking his shoulder to wake him up.  His eyes fluttered open and he stared at me for a moment before comprehension set in.


“I’m really home, ain’t I, Dad?” he quietly asked.


“Yep, you sure are, buddy,” I agreed with a wide grin.


“Thank god,” he sighed with relief.  “I was dreamin’ it was all just some cruel nightmare and I was gonna wake up in that shitty basement again.”


“No basement here, Logan, so you’re safe on that account.  You wanna wake up the twins and let ‘em know you’re back home?”


“You bet,” he replied with an evil smirk.  He carefully untangled himself from the other two to avoid waking them up before he was ready for it, then started tapping lightly on their foreheads, slowly increasing the force and frequency of the fingertips prodding their brains to life.  “C’mon ya turds!” Logan fairly yelled.  “Time to wakey, wakey!”


Alex was the first to react to the incessant pecking when he slapped the annoying hand away from his face and grunted, “Cut it out, buttwipe, I’m tryin’ to get some sleep here,” before rolling away in a weak attempt to avoid the continued thrumming on his cranium.  That reaction only served to increase the pressure of the finger driving into his skull.


Joey finally responded to the human woodpecker by muttering, “Stab me in the head one more time, ya hillbilly, and I’m gonna kick your skinny little farm-boy ass up ‘tween your ears.”  On that comment, the twins opened their eyes wide with surprise as full comprehension finally dawned on them.  To say absolute bedlam ensued would be the understatement of the year.


“Logan, you’re back!” Alex screamed.


“How the hell’d you get here!?” Joey yelled.


“Yep, and I hitched,” Logan grinned madly just before the two mugged him.


While the three rolled around on the bed in sheer giddiness, I moved on to wake the other three munchkins so they could join in the celebration. 


I nudged T.J. first and after waking up, the first question out of his mouth was, “What the hell those two lunatics yellin’ ‘bout down there?”


“Why don’t you go find out for yourself?” I asked with a hint of mystery.


“What about Mike and Andy?”


“I’ll get them moving, don’t worry.  Now, scoot.”  That was all it took, and T.J. darted from the room to find the reason for the ruckus at the other end of the hallway.  Not five seconds later, I could hear his cheer of joy join the others.  I quickly woke Mike and Andy and since neither was willing to move on their own accord, I scooped them into my arms and carried them to join the fray.  Needless to say, once they saw Logan being smothered by the other three, they leapt from my arms and squirmed their way amidst the melee.  By the time I left the room again, all six were jumping on the bed, arms tightly wrapped around each other’s shoulders.  I realized much later than I needed to that I should have borrowed Tom’s ear protectors before I woke up the little rascals.


As I stepped into the hallway, I bumped into Ron heading into the room and he asked, “What the devil’s goin’ on in there?”


“Look for yourself, Ron,” I replied with a laugh as I headed for the kitchen.  He’d barely stepped into the room when I heard ‘Skinny!’ emanate from within and Ron yelled ‘Farm boy!’ right back at the rugrat.  I continued my trek across the house, laughing all the way, and was soon brewing the coffee I knew I was going to need to keep me going today.  As I waited for the incessant dripping to end, the drive sensor let me know somebody was coming in.  I hustled to the front door and watched out the window until an ominous looking black car rolled smoothly to stop at the base of the steps leading to the front porch.  Not recognizing the car and unable to see inside due to the heavily tinted windows, I’d just decided I needed to find some shorts when the passenger door popped open and Tom stepped out of the gleaming machine.


I threw the door open and yelled, “Get your ass in here!  You’re missin’ it!”


“Missin’ what?” Tom grunted as he mounted the steps to the porch and Dylan climbed from the car.


“The party in Joey, Alex and Logan’s room,” I grinned.


“Let ‘em party without me,” he grumbled as I pulled him into a hug.


“You okay, hon?  You don’t seem too happy,” I added as we separated.


“We just spent four hours on the freakin’ road in the middle of the goddam night thanks to some little brat who apparently doesn’t know how to use a phone anymore,” Tom grumbled.  “And that was after gettin only ‘bout two hours of sleep.  Forgive me for not bein’ too thrilled right now,” he deadpanned.


“I’m sorry, hon.  I’m glad you’re back home, though.”  Dylan had joined us on the porch and I greeted him with, “Mornin’, Dylan.  How was the trip?”


“Long and boring as hell.  We’re both glad it’s over.”


“C’mon in.  Join us for a cup of coffee?” I offered.


“Don’t mind if I do,” he agreed.  “God knows we could use an infusion of caffeine.”


I led Dylan towards the kitchen and a mug of hot java while Tom headed down the hall and into the room filled with the sounds of abundant joy from six still squealing boys.  Ron was leaving the noisy crew and he gave Tom a quick hug to welcome him back home before joining Dylan and me in the kitchen.



“Pops!  You’re back,” I yelled when he came in our bedroom.  I left my brothers jumping on the bed as I hopped into Pops’ widespread arms.  I’d never felt safer in my whole life than when he wrapped those arms around me and held me so tightly I could barely breathe.


“Yeah, I am.  You mind tellin’ me why the hell you didn’t call to let us know where you were?  We were worried sick about you,” Pops grunted with displeasure.


“The battery on the phone Dad gave me died and I didn’t have no way to charge it back up.”


“You ever hear of a pay phone, ya rugrat?”


“Yeah, right,” I snorted.  “You ever try to find one of those things these days, Pops?  They don’t exist no more,” I giggled.


“No, I guess not, what with everyone havin’ cell phones.”  Pops lowered his voice and whispered in my ear, “I’m really glad you’re back where you belong, kiddo.  We’ve missed you.”


“Not no more than I missed you guys,” I whispered back.


Pops finally set me back down on the floor and with a very serious tone of voice, said, “We’re gonna have to talk about what you did to your uncle and the disappearing act you pulled, young man.”


“Yeah, I know,” I replied glumly.  “But that bastard deserved it.”


“I’m not sayin’ he didn’t, but I’m pretty sure the cops in Dexter will want to talk to you to get your side of the story.”


“Be s’prised if they didn’t,” I giggled.  “But that’s okay, we can just send ‘em the videos I recorded all week.  That should be plenty to prove ol’ Uncle Dirtbag got ‘zactly what he deserved.”


“We’ll see, I guess.  Why don’t you give me the phone so we can get it charged back up and see what you recorded?”


“You bet, one sec.”  I grabbed my bag off the floor where I’d dropped it last night, then dug through the dirty clothes to pull out the phone and charger.  Handing it to Pops, I said, “Here ya go.”


“Thanks, buddy.  See y’all soon for breakfast.”  On that note, Pops left and I rejoined my five brothers and the trampoline party still taking place in the middle of our bed.



“Here’s Logan’s phone,” Tom said as he joined Ron, Dylan and me in the kitchen.  “He says it needs charged.”


“Then let’s get it plugged in,” I offered.  “I’d like to see what he’s got.”  I took care of that small task and then turned back to Tom and asked, “Coffee, hon?”


“I thought you’d never ask.  Better make it a double.”  After filling an extra-large mug with Tom’s steaming wakeup shot, I handed it to him and he took his first sip before claiming a stool at the bar counter.  “So, you hear anything from the Dexter cops?” he asked.


“Not a peep,” I answered.  “You think we’re going to?”


“No doubt about it.  I woke up Captain McCord when I called him this morning to let him know Logan had been located and was safe.  He flat told me the kid was lookin’ at charges of some type for castratin’ Troy.”


“I figured as much.  I’ll call Clarence as soon as I can and get him prepared to represent Logan going forward.  Then, let’s see what Logan recorded on the phone this week and we can send it all to this McCord guy, see what he thinks after he’s seen that.”


“That works for me,” Tom agreed.  He then turned to Ron and asked, “What’s for breakfast?”


“How do pancakes or waffles sound to ya?”


“Waffles sound great, bud.  Better get crackin’ so the boys can have some before they have to catch the bus.”


“What’re you talkin’ about, Tom?” I asked.  “There’s no school today, or next week for that matter.”


“Why the hell not?” the confused man queried.


“Well, today’s Good Friday, Sunday is Easter and next week is spring break.  Have you forgotten all that?”


“Obviously so,” Tom replied.  “I’ve been so worried about Logan and what might happen with Troy that it completely slipped my mind.  Probably a good thing there’s no school today ‘cause I’m sure the kiddos wouldn’t want to go, not with Logan bein’ back home.”


“Probably not.”  I turned to Dylan and asked, “So, you stayin’ for breakfast?”


“You bet, waffles sound great.”


“Sounds like I better get busy, then,” Ron chuckled.  Dylan, Tom and I leaned back on our barstools as Ron got busy whipping up our breakfast.


Just as Ron was pouring sugar into the pan to start making the syrup, the herd rounded the corner from the dining room and Logan called out, “Yo, Skinny, what’s for breakfast?” amid much laughter from all the boys.


“Waffles, Farm-Boy, that okay with you?” Ron retorted.


“I s’pose,” Logan answered with a pout.  “Since all I’ve had to eat since Sunday are cold five-year-old beans and corn, I was really hopin’ for that steak an’ eggs we asked for your first day here.  But if waffles is the best you can do, guess I’ll just have to live with it.”


“Come here, dude,” Ron said as he knelt to Logan’s level.  When Logan was standing in front of Ron, he placed his hands on Logan’s shoulders and said, “I’m glad you’re back, munchkin, and if I’d known you were gonna be here for breakfast this morning, I’d have planned better.  Tell you what, if you can stomach my waffles today, I’ll make up for it tomorrow morning.  Deal, buddy?”


“Deal, Skinny, but I’m gonna hold ya to that.”


“I’ll make sure I get everything I need when I go shopping this afternoon,” Ron replied with a smile.  “Now, get your skinny little butt outta my kitchen so I can get back to work.”


“Ya ain’t gotta tell me twice,” Logan laughed before turning to the other five and saying, “C’mon, let’s go watch some TV while whatshisname whips up our breakfast.”  On that final note, the sensational six-pack disappeared into the theater.


After they were gone, I turned to Tom and Dylan and said, “Okay, what all did you find out about Troy while you were gone?”


“Damn little,” Dylan grunted.


“You’re kiddin’ me?” I asked in surprise.


“I wish we were,” Tom agreed.  “Surprisingly, he doesn’t have a police record, so Arlene apparently never called the cops on ‘im for abusin’ her or their sons.”


“And despite hearing numerous wild tales of his alleged illegal exploits in the surrounding area, nothin’ ever stuck to him.  The man must be coated in Teflon,” Dylan chuckled.


“Well, that sucks,” I groaned in defeat.  “How are we gonna prove to a judge anywhere that he shouldn’t be responsible for and raise Logan?”


“Can’t answer that at the moment, babe,” Tom answered.  “Let’s see what he recorded on the phone and then decide the next step.”


“Yeah, I guess,” I muttered flatly.


“So, while it’s just the four of us, you wanna shed some light on how the little stinker managed to get here last night?” Tom asked.


“Oh yeah, that,” I chuckled.  Despite a few holes in the overall story, I relayed the information Larry and Wendy had shared with me this morning after I put Logan to bed.  Those details covered most everything from the time some guy named Henry picked Logan up on the east side of Dexter to arriving back home.  We still wanted to find out what had happened between the time Logan escaped from Troy’s house and Henry, whoever the hell he was, had picked him up.


“Jesus,” Tom breathed.  “You said the little bugger was resourceful, you weren’t kiddin’, were you?”


“Nope.  Larry and Wendy both said he poured on the charm at Lambert’s and suckered them right in.  Then, when he fessed up to the whole truth at the rest stop, they knew they were doing the right thing bringing him here.”


“Well, he sure got lucky with them,” Dylan commented.


“Yeah, he did,” I agreed.


“So, what are you going to do about his legal problems,” Ron asked while starting another waffle and adding the one that just finished baking to the others already in the oven to keep them warm.


“Logan’s going to have to hire an attorney to represent him,” I replied.  “I’ll call Clarence and take care of that right after we eat.”


“Speakin’ of eatin’, you wanna get the little rascals back out here?” Ron asked.  “I think I’ve got enough waffles done we can get started.”


A quick page over the phone was all it took for the herd to rumble back into the kitchen and get busy with setting the table and pouring milk and orange juice for everyone.  With the preparations completed, we took our places at the table and dug in, Ron keeping a steady supply of fresh waffles going.  During the meal, Logan told us about everything that had happened in Dexter.  To hear the lengths Troy went to in order to get his greedy hands on Logan’s inheritance only served to further anger all of us.  By the time Logan was done telling his story, we all agreed Troy fully deserved the punishment meted out by Logan.


With the tale of horror completed, I changed subjects when I asked, “So, T.J., now that Logan’s back home, what are you thinking about doing for your birthday next week?”


“Oh, geez, I’d forgotten all ‘bout that,” T.J. muttered.  “But, hey, since we’re out of school all next week, could we have the party on Wednesday ‘stead of Saturday?”


“I don’t see why not.  Get us a list of the friends you want to invite and we’ll take care of it.  What do you want to have for lunch?”


“Burgers and dogs’d be cool.  Everyone likes them and they can pick what they want.”


“Consider it done.  I’ll call Justine and have them ready to go.  Do you want to eat or swim first?”


“We should probably swim, then eat,” T.J. replied.  “That way we don’t have to wait after eatin’ to get in the pool.”


“So, start the swim about noon and eat around two or so?  And will the swimming be skinny-dipping?”


“Well, duh!!” T.J. laughed.  “ ‘Course it will.  Ain’t none of us six gonna wear a stitch all day.  And if my friends don’t want to strip off, they don’t hafta.”


“That’s fine, buddy.  I just want to be able to tell your guests’ parents what to expect so there aren’t any surprises that day.”


“That’s cool, Dad.  Ain’t none of us got nothin’ we ain’t all seen before, anyway.”


“What do you mean by that?  You haven’t been doing things you shouldn’t be at school again, have you?”


“No way, man!  I learned my lesson ‘bout that.  But when all you got in the john is an eight-foot-long trough to pee in, ya can’t help but see who’s packin’ what, can ya?  Not that any of us are really packin, yet,” he added with a giggle.


“Glad to hear you’re behavin’, T.J.” Tom intoned seriously.


“Don’t worry, Pops, I’m bein’ good.”


With our meal completed, the cleanup began as the boys took care of their part and Ron handled the rest.  Tom and Dylan adjourned to their office to take care of what needed to be done there and the boys had decided to return to the theater to watch some TV.  As they turned to disappear down the hallway, I tapped Logan on the shoulder to get his attention.


He turned around and asked, “Yeah, what’s up, Dad?”


“We need to make a phone call, Logan.  Come with me.”  I led the way to my study and after closing the door, I settled in my chair at the desk and Logan climbed in my lap.


“Who we talkin’ to?” he asked.


“You remember talkin’ to my lawyer, Clarence, about changing your dad’s will to have John removed as the executor and your trustee?”


“Yeah, ‘course I do.  That was only a little over a week ago.  Why do I need to talk him again?”


“Well, according to Pops, you’re probably going to have deal with some legal issues in Missouri for what you did to Troy and you’re going to need a lawyer to represent you.  I think Clarence will take good care of you, but if you’d rather have someone else do it, we can do that, too.”


“He takes good care o’ you, don’t he?”


“He certainly does.”


“Well, if he’s good enough for you, then he’s plenty good for me.  Let’s get this over with.”


I put the phone on speaker and dialed the number.  Since it was still a bit early for his regular office hours, Clarence answered the phone with, “Cantrell Law Offices, what is it this time Max?”


“Ya gotta love caller ID, don’t ya?” I asked with a chuckle.


“Yeah, when I saw who was callin’, I almost let it roll over to voicemail,” Clarence laughed.  “But you wouldn’t be callin’ me this time of day unless it was important.”


“You’re right about that.  I have a new client for you.”


“Yeah, who?  Somebody with deep pockets, I hope.”


“Deep enough, I guess.  Do you remember talking to Logan Campbell about his dad’s will?”


“Sure thing.  Still waitin’ to hear from court on the change we requested, though.  I hope that’s not what you’re callin’ about.”


“Unfortunately, no.  Before we go any further, are you licensed to practice in Missouri?”


“Sure am.  I have a few clients from the St. Louis area that have business interests in Illinois, too, so I took care of that issue years ago to handle their work in both states.”


“Good,” I replied.  “Logan, I think I’ll let you take it from there.”


“Wait a sec,” Clarence interrupted.  “I thought Logan was supposed to be in Missouri with his aunt and uncle.  What the heck is he doing back here?”


“He was until yesterday afternoon,” I answered.  “He, uh, escaped and made his way here.  Showed up here about two this morning.”


“Well, this sounds like it’s gonna be a juicy story and I can’t wait to hear it.  Go on, young man.”


“What am I supposed to say?” Logan asked.


“Just tell Clarence you want to retain him as your attorney and then answer all of his questions.”


“Yeah, okay,” he muttered.  He then turned towards the phone and said, “Howdy, Mr. Cantrell.  You ‘member talkin’ to me?”


“I do, what’s going on, Logan?”


“Well, I’m gonna need a lawyer to keep my butt outta jail and I want you to be him.”


“I can do that,” Clarence replied, “but why do you think you need a lawyer?”


“Well, I went home with my uncle Troy Sunday just like I was s’posed to and when we got there, he locked me in their garbage dump of a basement.  He spent part of the next three days tryin’ to make me get my money for him ‘cause he’s ‘bout to lose his orchard.  Then, when he came down to the basement yesterday to try again, he threatened to kill me if I didn’t do what he wanted, then he punched me in the face.  So, after I picked myself back up off the floor, I kicked ‘im in the balls and got the hell outta there.”


“So, why do you need me?” Clarence asked in confusion.  “Sounds like you acted in self-defense to me.”


“That’s not the whole story, Clarence.  Go on, Logan, tell him the rest of it,” I prodded.


“Yeah, okay, Max.  Um, before I took off, I, uh, gelded the bastard, Mr. Cantrell.  Oh, and I also stole fifty bucks from him so I could get back home.”


“’Scuse me!? You what!?”


“I stole fifty bucks,” Logan reiterated.


“No, the part before that,” Clarence clarified.


“Oh, yeah, I gelded him, just like the dirty pig deserved.”


“Would mind explaining to me exactly what happened?  I want to make sure I fully understand what you’re saying.”


“Well, you know how sometimes you have an aggressive and cantankerous critter on a farm?  When you get one like that, sometimes cuttin’ their nuts off will calm them down a little bit and make ‘em easier to handle.  Daddy always told me that the loss of testosterone can change an animal’s temperament.  So, that’s what I did to that animal of an uncle, I cut his nuts off.”


“Holy crap!” the surprised lawyer exclaimed.  “And you want me to defend this kid, Max?”


“We do.  We knew Troy was going to be trouble from the moment we first met him and his actions towards Logan are the proof in the pudding.”


“Do we have any evidence of Logan’s accusations to back up his story.”


“You bet I do, Mr. Cantrell.  I recorded that lowlife all week on the phone Max gave me.”


“Have you seen the videos, Max?”


“Not yet.  The phone’s battery died and it’s being recharged right now.  We plan to see what’s there as soon as we can.  Then, we intend to send them to a Captain McCord of the Dexter, Missouri police department.”


“Don’t you dare do that,” Clarence commanded.  “Those recordings are evidence for the defense in a criminal case and the police and prosecutors will get them only after they request them through discovery.”


“So, you’ll take Logan as a client?” I asked.


“Of course, I will.  As soon as that phone is done recharging, I want you to send me whatever Logan recorded.  Once I’ve seen what’s there, I’ll handle everything with the cops in Missouri.  And should this Captain McCord contact you in an attempt to talk to Logan, you tell him the young man has an attorney and any conversations with Logan will have to go through me.”


“Are you sure that’s the best way to handle this, Clarence?  It seems to me that playing hardball with those guys will only piss them off even more.  I don’t want to antagonize them any more than necessary.”


“Don’t worry, Max.  This is just the way the game is played.  We let Troy shovel his bs story down their throats, get them all hot and bothered to prosecute a kid, and then we drop a bomb in their laps that blows Troy’s story completely out of the water.  Sure, castrating his uncle is certain to be considered a felony and I’m sure there will be some punishment to Logan for doing that, but once they see he was justified in his retaliation, the punishment will be minor, most likely community service and a fine.  Maybe some probation, too, but as long as he keeps his nose clean, he’ll end up with no record to worry about.”


“Well, it sounds like you know what you’re doing, so I’m gonna step back and let you take care of it.  You just let me know when and where we need to be for anything, and I’ll make sure we’re there.  And if we need to go to Dexter for interviews or court, I’ll fly us down on my plane.”


“That works for me, Max.  Sound good to you, Logan?”


“Long as I ain’t gotta go to jail, I’m good,” Logan agreed.


“Good.  Now, can I talk to Max alone?” Clarence asked.


“You bet.  Thanks for helpin’ me out, Mr. Cantrell.  Talk to you later.”  With that, Logan jumped off my lap and scampered off to join the other boys in the theater.


“Okay, he’s gone, Clarence.  What didn’t you want him to hear?”


“Well, I’m guessing if what Logan recorded on the phone matches with his description of the events, him living with his uncle until he’s an adult is out the window.  What do you want to do about his living situation if this all shakes out the way I think it will?”


“Why do you even ask such silly questions?  To steal one of the boys’ phrases, that’s like askin’ a cop if he likes donuts,” I laughed.


“I expected as much,” Clarence replied and joined me in the laugh.  “I’ll draft a motion this morning requesting you be allowed to adopt Logan and have it on Judge Corgan’s desk this afternoon.”


“It’s like you were readin’ my mind.”


“Not too difficult to read through that pile of moldy swiss cheese in your skull, Max,” Clarence chuckled.  “With luck, we can have everything approved and ready to roll for the seventeenth of next month, along with all the others.”


“You pull off that miracle, I’ll kiss you on my wedding day instead of Tom.”


“You’re a good man, Max, but you do that, and we’ll have both Tom and Sarah gunnin’ for us.  Save your kisses for your husband and I’ll save mine for my wife.”


“Deal, shyster.  Don’t forget to bill me for everything.”


“You can be sure of it, Max.  I’ll call you after I’ve seen the videos and let you know what I think.”


“Thanks for all your help, Clarence.  Have a great day.”


I ended the call and enjoyed a smile as I leaned back in my chair.  While it was never my intention for us to adopt Logan when he first moved in, I was more than happy to do so.  All of us loved the cheeky little bugger and after being here for the past month, it seemed to be the natural solution to his problem.  At least he’d never have to worry about Troy again.  I finally decided I needed to let Tom know what I just signed us up for and left the study to do just that.


When I reached their office, Tom was ending a phone call with, “Thanks for calling, Carol.  I’ll pass the word along.  Talk to you later.”


“What’d Carol call about?” I queried.


“Before I answer that, where’s the boys?” Tom answered.


“In the theater turning their brains into mush.”


“Good,” Tom grinned.  “I don’t want them to know about this until it proves to be true.”


“God, you’re killin’ me, just spit it out.”


“She thinks she’s found William.”


“You’re kiddin’ me,” I replied with enthusiasm.  “How the hell’d she pull that off?”


“Seems he’s still in their system since he’s never been adopted.  Turns out the kid has had a pretty rough go of things and is now residing in a juvenile correctional center in Normal.”


“What’d he do to end up there?”


“From what Carol’s been able to discover so far, he’s been picked up several times for shoplifting, vandalizing the school and some other petty issues.  Since the foster parents he was living with didn’t seem too concerned about his actions or inclined to do much to help, he was removed from their home and put in detention about a year ago.”


“Well, that sucks,” I muttered.  “Any idea how old he is?”


“According to Carol’s info, he’s fifteen going on twenty-five.  The caseworker who’s been dealing with him says he’s a cocky little bastard who needs to learn his limits.  I’d like to meet the kid and see if there’s anything we can do to help him out.”


“Uh, you may want to rethink that idea when I tell you about the call I just finished.”


“Oh shit, now what?” Dylan chuckled.


“Logan and I just talked to Clarence and he’s agreed to represent Logan against whatever comes out of Dexter.  He’s also going to draft a motion for us to adopt the rugrat and present it to Judge Corgan this afternoon.”


“No shit?” a stunned Tom muttered.


“No shit, Sherlock.  It’ll all depend on the outcome of his legal issues with Troy, but Clarence believes that shouldn’t be anything major.  What it does do, though, is eliminate any possibility of Logan staying with them until he’s of legal age.  And with his mom and dad both gone, where else is he gonna go?”


“The seventeenth just keeps get busier and busier, doesn’t it, guys,” Dylan asked with a grin.


“Yep, the more the merrier.  We’re definitely gonna have to get moving on the new house.  Now that you’re back home, I’ll call Ryan and set up a new meeting to go over the plans he’s come up with.  He wanted to do it earlier this week, but I put him off until you were here to see it too, hon.”


“Go call him right now.  If he can meet tonight, let’s make it happen.”


“I will.  Why don’t you call Carol and see what hoops we have to jump through to meet William?”


“Consider it done, babe.”


I returned to my study to make my call while Tom took care of his.  I received Ryan’s agreement to come out this evening to review the latest plans and he asked if Eric would be here also so he could see what they’d done with the plans he’d created.  After assuring Ryan I’d make sure he would join us, we ended our conversation.  I was just about to head back across the house to let Tom know about our 5:30 meeting when there was a light rap on the door.


“C’mon in,” I called out.


The door popped open and Logan stepped inside, quietly asking, “Hey, ya got a minute?”


“Always, kiddo.  What’s up?”


Logan walked across the office and stood next to my chair before asking in a trembling voice, “I almost hate to ask this, Dad, but do you know what’s gonna happen to me?”


“What do you mean, Logan?” I asked, unsure of where he was going with his question.


“Well, I obviously can’t live with Uncle Dirtbag no more, not that I ever wanted to in the first place.  And I ain’t got no other family I know ‘bout, so where’m I gonna live now?”


Not wanting to tell Logan about what Clarence was doing today, I answered with, “Well, I’m not real sure.  I guess we need to talk to Carol and see what she thinks.”


“Why can’t I just stay here with you guys?” he begged.


“Gee, I don’t know how well that would work out,” I joked.  “You’ve been nothin’ but trouble since the moment you stepped foot in this house.  Not sure we want to take that risk.”


“Oh, c’mon, man.  I ain’t been that bad.  Have I??” Logan asked seriously.


“No, you really haven’t been any trouble at all.  But until I have a chance to talk to Carol, I can’t really answer your question.”


“Well, call her now.”


“I tried to do that when I finished with Clarence, but she’s not in the office today,” I fibbed.  “We’ll have to wait for her to call back on Monday to see what she thinks.”


“I hope she thinks it’d be cool for me to stay.  I love it here.”


“I’m glad to hear it, Logan.  We like you bein’ here, too.  What are your brothers doing?”


“They were goin’ to our room to play.”


“What, Uno, Mousetrap, or something else?”


“Uh, something else, Dad,” Logan giggled while absentmindedly stroking himself as young boys will often do.  “And I better boogie or I’m gonna miss all the fun.  Talk to you later,” he added as he scooted out the door after giving me a hug.  God, to be so young and innocent again.  I’d almost give up everything to have a chance at a mulligan with my life.  But then if got it, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, about to be married and adopting five, no, make that six boys.  And I wouldn’t trade any of that for all the money in the world.


Before heading across the house to let Tom know of our meeting this evening, I placed one more quick call to Rick, receiving his assurances that his crew would be here so Eric could sit in our meeting with Ryan and they could possibly discuss plans for their new house on the ranch.  That done, I started my trek across the house but as I was leaving my study, I met Ron coming out of our bedroom with an armful of dirty clothes.


“Laundry day, I see,” I commented.


“Yep,” he replied as he fell into step beside me.


“Uh, do yourself a favor and bypass Joey, Alex and Logan’s room for a while,” I suggested.


“Why?  They got dirty clothes that need to be washed, too.”


“That may be, but it’s my understanding all six are in there right now making up for some lost playtime the past couple of weeks.  Don’t want you to feel awkward about interrupting them.”


“Pshh, won’t be the first time I’ve caught them horny little buggers enjoying themselves.  Pretty damn sure it won’t be the last, either,” Ron added with a laugh.


“No, probably not,” I agreed.  “Just wanted to give you a heads up.”


“Bet if I go in there, I get more than just one head up.”


“Uh, I’m not takin’ that bet, Ron.  Don’t say you weren’t warned,” I added as I turned into Tom’s office and Ron continued down the hall to the utility room.  “Okay, Ryan’s going to be here about five-thirty to review the latest plans.  He’s also bringing plans based off the two drawings Eric gave him, so I’ve called Rick and he along with Eric and Josh will be here, too.”


“Sounds good to me,” Tom replied.  “I hope he’s close to bein’ done with them ‘cause I know John’s eager to get started.”


“We’ll see soon enough, I guess,” I commented.  “I didn’t ask Ryan if John should be here, too.  Do you think I should call him?”


“You can if you want, I suppose.  Not sure how much he’d have to add to our meeting, though.”


“I guess you have a point there.  The only thing we need to do before he can get started on construction is pick a site.”


“Well, I haven’t seen enough of the property to have a clue,” Tom replied.  “I’m gonna have to go with wherever you decide.”


“Tell you what, go to Google maps and we can see a satellite view of the whole eighteen acres.  Once we pick a spot, we can get Justin started on the process of clearing trees for the drive and house.”  Tom opened his browser and headed to the site.  The map view was centered on Berlin already and after changing the view to the satellite pictures, it was easy to see where the existing drive, house and storage building were located on the property.  Tom zoomed in the view until our property filled the screen. 


You could easily see the two acres at the northwest corner that had been sold off before I bought the rest, or we’d have an even twenty acres.  Near the northeast corner, the tiny clearing for the cemetery was just barely visible.  Since I wanted to stay as far away from the cemetery as possible, I suggested we extend the driveway past the current turn to the house and add a new turn to the north about 250 to 300 feet deeper into the trees so the new house would be east of the storage building.


“Yeah, that spot looks good to me,” Tom agreed.  “But it’s hard to tell from this view since it’s covered in trees.”


“Well, yeah, that’s kinda the point, numbskull,” I joked.  “Completely hidden from outside view, just like this house is.  Would you rather have the house right up by the road?”


“Not if it’s gonna have as much glass as this one does.  We’d have gawkers drivin’ by 24/7 just to catch a glimpse of the naked freaks at home.”


“My point, exactly.  And from this spot east of the storage building, it would be pretty easy to have a new trail cut through the trees to tie into the drive there.  That would make going to and from this house to the new one super easy, especially if we get some golf carts.”


“Golf carts!?” Dylan laughed.  “Have you lost your freakin’ mind, Max?  Those boys will have one wrapped around a tree in a heartbeat.”


“The boys, hell,” Tom scoffed.  “I’ve ridden with you, partner, and if I hadn’t had my eyes closed for most of the trip, you’d be deaf right now from all the screamin’,” he added with a hearty laugh.


“Hey, I got us here in one piece, so quitcher bitchin’,” Dylan retorted.


“Boys,” I interjected, “play nice or I’ll have to separate you.”  After the two had quieted, I returned to the topic at hand.  “So, you think this location’s gonna be okay?” I asked while pointing to the spot on the screen.


“I don’t see why not,” Tom agreed.  “Where do you think Rick’s house should be?”


“I think north of the storage building.  That gives us a little bit of separation, but still close enough Rick could be here in a hurry if he’s needed.


“Isn’t that gonna put them pretty close to the cemetery?” Dylan queried.


“Not if we go to a spot centered between this house and the storage building, then straight north close to the property line, say right about here,” I replied while pointing to the screen again.  “We can check that spot with Rick tonight and see what he thinks.  Why don’t you print that view to the inkjet, Tom? Then we can show it to Ryan and Rick and see what they think of those locations.”


After the picture was spooled to the print queue, Tom asked, “Are there any hills or anything to contend with at either location that would make building a house difficult?”


“Pretty sure there aren’t,” I answered.  “As I remember from getting the trails cut, the whole property is pretty flat, so building at either location shouldn’t present any problems.  Except for clearing out the trees and stumps, of course.”


“Good.  It’ll be interesting to see what everyone thinks tonight.”


“I want to ask about your phone call but hang on a sec.”  I stepped to the office doorway and stuck my head out.  Seeing that the twins’ bedroom door was still closed, I assumed the boys were still keeping themselves entertained, so I turned back to Tom and asked, “What did Carol have to say about meeting with William?”


“She said it wouldn’t be a problem.  She can arrange for him to get a weekend out so he could come down, meet everyone and see what happens.  Her only concern, really, is where he would sleep while he was here.  She knows about Logan being back and that we already have three boys each in two beds and the third is taken by Ron.  I think she’s a little uncomfortable with a fifteen-year-old sharing a bed with anybody here.  Especially since it’s unlikely he’s gay.”


“Well, we could always bring one of the beds back in from the storage building, but that would be a real pain in the ass for just a weekend.”


“You got that right.  Those king-sized mattresses are harder than hell to handle.”


“I’ve got an idea for you guys to try on,” Dylan interjected.  We both stared at Dylan expectantly and he continued after a moment’s pause.  “He could stay at my house.”


“But how could we get him here?” I asked.


“Piece o’ cake,” Dylan replied.  “Malcom can bring him down some Friday night and take him back Sunday night.”


“We can’t ask him to do that,” I protested.


“Why not?  William’s in Normal, right?  And Malcom lives there, too.  It wouldn’t be a problem for the two to connect.  I’m sure Malcom wouldn’t mind a bit.”


“Well, if you think he’s willing to do it, why don’t you check and see if we can work out something for next weekend?”


“You got it.  He’ll be on his way down here this afternoon and I’ll ask him tonight.”


“You’re a great friend, Dylan.  We can’t thank you enough for your help.”


“Happy to do it.”


“Well, I’m going to let you two get back to work.  Guess I’ll do some more writing on the book while everyone else is otherwise occupied.  See ya in a bit for lunch.”



I finally had Max and Tom’s clothes moved to the dryer, so it was time to start working on the boys’ things.  I first grabbed T.J., Mike, and Andy’s clothes from their room since it’s right across the hall from the utility room.  After dropping their stuff on the counter and doing a quick sorting to separate the whites that needed to be bleached, I realized I didn’t have enough of anything to make a full load.  And after a couple weeks of seeing the condition of some of the whites, I completely understood the need for having towels on all the furniture.  What the hell is it with young boys and their inability to properly clean themselves after using the bathroom?  I reluctantly decided to bring it up with Max or Tom and see if maybe they’d talk to the rugrats about the problem.


I poked my head out the door of the utility room and looked down the hallway towards the twins’ room and discovered the door was still closed.  Well, shit, the munchkins must still be in there doing god knows what.  While I knew I should respect their privacy, I really wanted to get the laundry done and over with so I could enjoy a relaxing afternoon.  I carried on with my internal debate a minute or two before I finally decided to bite the bullet and interrupt them.  I stepped into the hallway and turned towards their room, passing Tom and Dylan’s office along the way.


Following the important house rule of always knocking on a closed door, I did just that on reaching the oak slab.  I could hear some serious giggling and muffled moans coming from within and was about to walk away when I heard, “C’mon in.” 


Still unsure whether I should continue or not, I cracked the door just a couple of inches and called out, “Just want to grab your dirty clothes, guys.”


“That’s cool, Ron,” Joey mumbled.


Assuming the coast was clear and I wouldn’t be intruding on anything important, I pushed the door wide open and stepped inside.  The sight that assaulted my eyes and the scents that attacked my nasal passages could only be described as heaven on earth.  The room stank of sweat and sex and I reacted immediately to that alone as my cock began to harden and my brain tried to grasp the scene before me.


Six naked and very horny young lads were all over the bed in a mishmash of sexual frenzy.  Alex was sitting astride Logan’s midsection, rocking slowly to and fro, and it was plainly obvious Logan’s little pecker was buried in Alex’s tight ass.  The blissful look on Logan’s face was all it took to know the boy was truly enjoying himself.  Joey, eyes closed and head pitched back, was standing over Logan in front of Alex and he was force-feeding his young cock into his brother’s mouth.  T.J. had somehow insinuated himself between the twins and he was bobbing his head back and forth on Alex’s stiff boyhood, matching Alex’s movements so the prize never left his mouth.  Mike was curled up behind T.J. and trying like hell to get his hard cocklet inside his brother’s ass.  Unfortunately for Mike, he was in the wrong position and his pecker too short to reach his target, so the most he was accomplishing was to occasionally rake his stiffie across T.J.’s pucker.  As for Andy, he was kneeling behind Mike’s ass, one hand spreading those beautiful mounds of flesh to expose the pinkish rosebud hidden within and he had two fingers working themselves in and out of the snug orifice.  I could see from Mike’s occasional full-body jerks when Andy would bump and prod his prostate.


While I’ve never been attracted to such young boys, the scene before me was so erotic and awe-inspiring, it took every ounce of will power I could muster to not climb on that bed and swallow Andy’s poor neglected hardness.  I just had to trust that one or more of the others involved would do the right thing and see to it that Andy received his fair share of pleasuring when they had otherwise reached their limits.  Though the herd knew I was in the room, they didn’t stop their actions for even one second and the show continued with undiminished fervor and passion as I grabbed the hamper of dirty clothes and Logan’s travel bag from the floor.  With those in my hands, I turned and left them alone, quietly closing the door behind me.


Before heading for the utility room with my load, I carefully maneuvered Logan’s bag in an attempt to mask my throbbing erection as I passed by Tom’s office.  Stepping back into the utility room, I began to sort the new load, mixing them with the piles I had already created.  I had hoped that performing such a mundane task would ease the pain that had developed in my groin, but nothing was wiping the memory of what I’d just witnessed from my synapses.  If anything, I was even more on edge since I’d left the boys’ room.  I somehow managed to get the next pile of clothes in the washer and got it started before admitting to myself that I had to deal with a problem that wasn’t going away on its own.


Returning to my own bedroom, I closed the door and stretched out on my bed before grasping my stiff rod and slowly stroking myself.  I was already dripping freely so I didn’t need to grab the lube from the nightstand drawer.  As I worked myself into a frenzy, I tried to conjure up images of the last guy I’d picked up at the gym.  We’d gone to his apartment where we’d fucked our brains out for several hours.  But my mind kept flashing images of the six hot and horny rugrats who were doing the exact same thing just on the other side of that wall where the TV was hung.  I just couldn’t keep my mind focused on Scott.  I think that was his name, anyway.  The only names I knew were real right now were Joey, Alex, T.J., Mike, Andy and Logan and my mind refused to stray from those six cute young fuckers as I began stroking harder and faster.


I felt the tension building and soon enough, my balls were pulling up tight and blessed release was eminent.  As I sensed the first surge of orgasm slam into me, my brain flashed the image of Logan’s cock buried in Alex’s hot ass and I erupted with a force I’d not felt for a long time.  The first shot landed on my chin and the follow ups proceeded to leave a trail across my nipples, down my chest, flooded my bellybutton and finally petered out on my bare pubic mound as my staff slowly wilted.  Jesus, I’d never been so turned on in my entire life than I’d been by the show in the room next door.  If I couldn’t get a grip on things (no, not those things), I was gonna lose this cushy job.


I grabbed a dirty sock off the floor and wiped most of my mess off me before jumping in the shower to really get cleaned up.  Having made myself presentable to the family again, I headed back out to get lunch started and continue with my laundry while wild visions continued to flood my mind.



I’d made good progress on my writing, completing three more chapters of my cold and lonely existence, when Ron called us all for lunch.  I saved my work and joined the crew in the dining room for a simple lunch of hot dogs and Doritos.  I wasn’t too surprised to see the boys were all sporting goofy grins of complete bliss and satisfaction, knowing where they’d been and what they’d been doing the past couple of hours.  I was glad they’d been able to enjoy themselves and to see smiles on their faces again after a week filled with frowns and sadness due to Logan’s absence.


Ron seemed to be a bit nervous about something as he took a chair between Tom and Dylan, but I wasn’t going ask.  I figured if it was something serious, he’d talk to us about it.


“So, guys, what are your plans for the afternoon?” Tom asked.


“We thought we’d take a walk on that one trail and see if we can find Sammy,” T.J. answered.


“That sounds like fun,” I replied.  “You want us to go with you?”


“Hang on there, Max,” Dylan interjected.  “I already told you I wasn’t gonna be included in any hunt for a ghost.”


“Oh, c’mon, Uncle Dylan,” Alex protested.  “Don’t be such a scaredy cat.”


“No way, kiddos.  Like I told your dads, black people don’t go messin’ ‘round with spooks or spirits.”


“Why’s that,” Logan asked with sincere interest.


“ ‘Cause we know they’re real and we leave ‘em alone.”


“Well, I’m goin’,” Mike chirped.  “I wanna see this dude.”


“I thought you were goin’ to stay inside with Ron and Andy when we took that walk,” I reminded the youngster.


“Eh, changed my mind.  What can I say?”


“What about you, Andy,” Tom asked.


“If Mike’s goin’, I might as well go with y’all, too.  Don’t want them thinkin’ I’m a chicken or nothin’.”


“Nobody would think that, Andy,” I countered.


“Yeah we would,” Alex giggled.  After seeing the surly look Andy shot at him, Alex backpedaled with, “I’m just kiddin’, bro.  If you want to stay here with Ron, we’re cool with that.”  Andy received nods of agreement from all the boys after Alex’s statement.


“I’m still gonna go with ya.  If somethin’ happens, I want to see it for myself.”


“That’s settled then,” I agreed.  “Let’s get dressed after we’re done eating and we’ll go for a walk.”


“Have fun, guys,” Tom grunted.


“What?  I thought you might want to go with us since we’ll be close to the site I pointed out for the new house.  This would give us a good chance to look it over.  It’s not too far into the trees from the loop in the trail, so it should be easy to get to.”


“If you insist.  But I’m not much likin’ the ghost hunting idea, though.”


“Bu-u-u-ck, buck, buck, buck, buck,” Joey crowed at the far end of the table, eliciting a round of laughter from all the boys.


“Now listen here, young man …” Tom started while waggling a finger in Joey’s direction.


“I’m just pickin’ on ya, Pops,” Joey retorted with a giggle.  “If you’re that scared o’ Sammy, you just stick close to me and I’ll make sure nothin’ happens to ya.”


“Gee, thanks, buddy.  I feel so much safer now,” Tom grinned.


“You should, Pops,” Alex replied.  “Sammy ain’t gonna hurt none of us.”


“Yeah?  What makes you so sure about that?” Ron asked.


“Um, he told me he wouldn’t,” T.J. muttered.


“Wait, what was that!?” I exclaimed.


“Uh, he told me he wouldn’t hurt us.”


“When did that happen?”


“In the dream I had Tuesday night.”


“You didn’t tell me about that, young man.”


“Well, with everyone bein’ so bummed out ‘bout Logan bein’ gone and all, I just never found a good time to say somethin’ to ya.  I’m sorry, Dad,” T.J. offered as he lowered his head in sadness.


“Don’t worry about it, T.J., I understand.  Well, if you guys are ready, let’s get this show on the road.”


On that note, we helped Ron clean up our lunch mess and headed to our rooms to get some shorts, shirts and shoes pulled on.  While the boys protested wearing anything, after my reminder that it was only about sixty degrees and a bit cloudy, they finally gave in, realizing it might be a touch chilly for a nude walk.  Besides, there would be plenty of opportunity for that this summer.  We regrouped in the living room and were just about to head out when Dylan came in from his office.


“So, we done for the day, boss?” he asked.


“Yeah, I think so,” Tom agreed.  “You sure you don’t want to join us?” he added with a chuckle.


“Uh, thanks for that kind offer, but another day, maybe.  I’m gonna head home and catch some shuteye before Malcom gets here.  I didn’t get much sleep last night and I’m really startin’ to feel it,” Dylan commented while glaring at Logan.


“I’m sorry, Uncle Dylan.  I really didn’t mean to cause no problems for nobody.”


“You didn’t, buddy.  I just get grumpy when I don’t get enough sleep.”


“Well, thanks for helpin’ Pops,” Logan replied as he wrapped the big man in a hug.  When the two finally separated, the rest of the herd moved in to say goodbye and share a quick hug before Dylan headed out the door.  We were just about to follow in his footsteps when I suddenly remembered something I needed to do.


I tapped Tom on the shoulder and whispered, “Be right back.”  Stepping into the kitchen, I grabbed the recharged phone, unlocked it and opened the folder where the videos were stored.  I selected all of them and quickly forwarded them to Clarence.  Even though we’d not had the chance to watch them ourselves, I still wanted to get them in Clarence’s hands as soon as I could.  That done, I rejoined the group at the front door, and we began our walk.  T.J. was leading the way since he was the only one who knew where we were going.  The rest of the boys were following his lead while Tom and I brought up the rear.


“What was that about?” Tom asked quietly.


“I just sent the videos Logan recorded to Clarence.  He needs to see what he’s dealing with.”


“Good thinking,” Tom agreed.  “Have you watched them?”


“Not yet.  We can do that when we get back to the house.”


“Providing me make it back to the house,” Tom chuckled.  “I still can’t believe we’re searching for the ghost of some kid who died in 1892.”


“Stanger things have happened, hon.  I just hope we solve the mystery soon and Sammy will leave T.J. alone.  This connection he’s formed is really bothering me.”


“It’s not doing any wonders for me, either, but what else can we do?”


“I don’t know,” I answered morosely.


The two of us fell silent when we turned off the driveway and onto the trail leading us into the woods along the south side of the property.  The boys kept up their ongoing chatter despite the feeling of gloom cast by the meager shadows of the still leafless trees.  If there were any deer wandering the woods this afternoon, they’d know we were close long before we would see them.  About 300 feet from where we’d entered the trail, T.J. suddenly froze, turned left to peer among the trees and the boys went silent.


“This is it.  This is where I was when Sammy grabbed my wrist and pulled me off the trail.”


“You sure about that?” I asked.


“Like I said, Dad, I’ll never forget that dream.”


“Do you feel or sense anything now?”


“Just a little tug, I’d guess you’d call it, telling me we need to go thataway,” T.J. replied while pointing towards the north.  “It ain’t too far from here.”


“What?” Tom asked with concern.


“Not sure, Pops.”


“No, he’s right,” Alex muttered.


“Yeah, I can feel it, too,” Joey agreed with a shudder.


That said, T.J. stepped off the trail and began picking his way through the underbrush, moving deeper into the woods.  The shadows were much denser and seemingly darker here than they were on the trail and our progress was slow but steady.  Even from our position at the rear of the pack, I could see T.J. was visibly shivering from whatever he was sensing.  We could feel his trepidation as he burrowed deeper and deeper into the unknown, Joey and Alex right behind him.  Five agonizing minutes after turning off the trail, we reached a spot in the woods I hadn’t known existed until this very moment.


We stepped into a small clearing about thirty feet in diameter with a single oak tree growing in the center.  The air felt decidedly cooler in the clearing despite the bright sun peeking through the cloud cover.  Judging by the size of its trunk and the spread of its limbs, this tree had been here long before the land had been settled by David’s ancestors in the mid-1800s.  T.J., Alex and Joey slowly crept closer and closer to the tree, looking all around for any hints of what had drawn them to this spot.  The rest of us stayed back a bit to give them room to do whatever they needed. 


The three adventurers were whispering quietly amongst themselves when T.J. finally looked to us and said, “We’re here.”


“Where’s here?” Tom asked nervously.


“Where Sammy died,” Alex answered flatly.


“Go ahead, T.J.,” Joey said quietly.  “He reached out to you first.”


“I don’t think I wanna do this alone,” T.J. muttered.  “You dudes do it with me.”  While the five of us stood back about ten feet, we watched as T.J., Joey and Alex stepped closer, then reached out and placed their hands on the trunk of the arboreal giant.  On making contact, T.J.’s reaction was immediate and he jerked his hand away, muttering, “Oh, shit.”  After shaking himself, he slowly placed his hand back on the trunk and closed his eyes.


Thirty silent seconds passed when Alex suddenly announced, “You guys need to move.”


“Why?” Logan asked.


“ ‘Cause you’re standing right where he did,” Joey answered.


“Where who stood,” I asked with a shaky voice.


“The guy who killed Sammy,” T.J. grumbled in an ethereal voice.


That was all we needed to know as Andy and Mike immediately jumped away from where we were and all of us moved eight feet to our right.


“Yeah, that’s better,” T.J. commented.  “Now don’t move from there,” he added calmly.  How he knew we had moved since he never opened his eyes was beyond our meager mental talents to comprehend.


The three of them stood around the tree, occasionally moving their hands from place to place.  After several more minutes of unnatural silence, T.J., Alex and Joey peeled their hands away from the tree and formed a tiny huddle, having a silent discussion about whatever had just happened.  A couple of minutes later, they broke their huddle and came over to us.


“Did you guys see him?” T.J. asked.


“We didn’t see anything, just the three of you,” I answered.  “What did you see?”


“Sammy was hanging from that branch right there,” T.J. replied as he pointed to a huge limb about twenty feet up.  “It was a lot closer to the ground back in 1892.  When we first saw Sammy, he was standin’ on a chair with a rope ‘round his neck that went up over that limb and was tied to another one a lot lower.  After the man kicked the chair out from under ‘im, Sammy started thrashing and kicking, tryin’ to get free, but no matter how hard he tried, nothin’ was workin’.  And the bastard who did it stood right where you were, laughin’ his ass off the whole time.  Sammy finally went really still, and we watched as his spirit left his body when he died.  He’s been here ever since, waitin’ for somebody to come along to tell his story to.”


“Did all three of you see this?” I asked.  Solemn nods from Alex and Joey confirmed they had.  “Jesus, I never knew anything about that happening.”


“ ‘Course you didn’t, Dad,” Alex said.  “Sammy said he’d tried to tell you when you’d take your walks, but no matter how hard he worked at it, you just couldn’t hear him.”


“He’s really happy he found us, though,” Joey commented.  “He says he can finally rest now that somebody knows the truth.”


“Why’s that?” Tom asked.


“ ‘Cause his momma and daddy always thought he hung himself,” T.J. answered.  “And they both died a few years later not knowin’ what really happened to him.”


“That’s why Sammy and his parents were the last people buried in the cemetery,” Alex added.


“Yeah, none of the family wanted to live here after three people had died,” Joey commented.  “They all thought the land was cursed.”


“Well, it wasn’t cursed, really, but it was haunted,” T.J. said.  “Until now, anyway.”


“Has Sammy, uh, I don’t know, moved on, I guess?”


“Not quite yet,” T.J. answered.  “He wants us to do something for him.”


“Geez, I can’t believe this,” Tom uttered with disbelief.  “A favor for a freakin’ ghost?  What’s next, a dinner party for the dead?”


“He’s not a ghost, Pops.  It’s just his spirit.”


“Ghost, spirit, what’s the difference?”


“Big difference, believe me.  And Sammy says if we do this, he’ll finally be able to move on and leave us alone.”


“What does he want?” Andy asked.


“He wants ‘Free at Last’ added to his gravestone,” Joey answered.


“I can sure arrange that.  But how you know all this.”


“Well, duh!” T.J. exclaimed.  “He told us, didn’t he, guys?”  Alex and Joey again nodded their assent.


“And when did he do that,” Tom queried.


“Just now, when we were huddled ‘round him.  It’s too bad you guys couldn’t see him.”


“Did he say anything else to you?” Mike asked.


“Well, he knows who killed him and he told us,” Joey answered.  “And he wants us to tell Judge Corgan and his dad when they come out tomorrow.”


“Wait, David hasn’t called about doing that,” I countered.


“Not yet,” Alex giggled.


“Sammy says he will, though,” Joey added.


“Oh, and he told us one more thing,” T.J. interjected.  “We can’t build our new house anywhere close to this place.  He says we’d be better off north of the house we’re in.”


“Really?  He knows we’re building a new house, too?” I asked in wonder.


“Yep, and he thinks it a great idea, just not here,” T.J. replied.  “This is his tree and he doesn’t want it to get cut down or messed with in any way.”


“Well, okay, then.  I guess we’ll be closer to Rick and his boys than we thought.”


“Sweet,” Joey giggled.  “The closer, the better.  For me, anyway,” he added while the others all giggled knowingly.


“Are we ready to head back to the house?” Tom asked.


“Yeah, we’re done here, Pops,” T.J. answered.


Our ghost whisperer, excuse me, spirit whisperer, took the lead again and dove back into the trees, forging a path for the rest of us.  Our return to the trail was a bit easier since most of the gnarly stuff had been cleared out on our way in.  Once back on the trail, the clouds moved away and the temperature seemed to go up about fifteen degrees.  The boys decided it was warm enough for them to lose their clothes and enjoy the sun and wind bathing their bodies with nature.  Still chilled to the bone from our experience in the clearing, Tom and I opted to remain covered until we returned to the house.


Once inside, the boys headed to their rooms to drop their clothes while we headed to our room to do the same.  As we passed the kitchen, I noticed a new piece of paper attached to the refrigerator with a magnetic clip.  It was a note from Ron letting us know he’d headed to town to take care of some shopping he needed to do, including the items necessary to make the steak and eggs breakfast he’d promised the boys.  By the time we left the bedroom and headed back out to rejoin the boys, we found Joey and Alex set up at the bar counter with their notebooks and a different book than the one we were used to seeing.


“What book is that?” Tom asked.


“The sixth-grade math book, Pops,” Alex answered.


“Your done with the fifth-grade one already?  When did you finish it?”


“Wednesday night,” Joey replied.  “We started on this one last night,” he added.


“Good for you guys,” I complimented the pair.  “I’m glad you’re taking this seriously.”


“Trust me Dad, we’d do just about anything if we can skip a few years of this junk at school.”


“Where’re the others,” Tom asked.


“Readin’ their books in the living room,” Alex answered.


“Sounds like a little quiet time then,” I responded.  “I think Pops and I are going to take Logan’s phone to my study so we can watch whatever he recorded.  If you guys need something, come get us.”


“We will, Dads,” the two chimed.


I unplugged the phone from the charger and Tom and I retreated to the study.  While we were anxious to see what had happened in Dexter, we weren’t too sure we wanted the boys to see it.  They were already pissed off after Logan’s description of events during breakfast and lord knows how they’d react if they actually saw Logan being mistreated.  We didn’t want to further stoke the fires of rage that would most certainly come to pass should they see the videos.  Once in the study, Tom closed the door while I connected the phone to my computer so we could watch the videos on the thirty-one-inch screen on the desk instead of the tiny screen on the phone.  Once the device was recognized, I opened File Explorer and browsed to the folder on the phone where the video files were stored.  Once Tom had pulled a chair around the desk and was settled in place, I clicked the first file and the video player filled the screen.


“Howdy and welcome to my new home,” Logan said as he panned the camera from the steps down to the hellhole all the way around the space back to the shelves under the steps.  “Ain’t this just the loveliest shithole ya ever seen?  Believe it or not, it looked even worse when I got locked down here last night.  I spent several hours cleanin’ all the crap outta here so I could at least get rid of the smell.  Hell, I ain’t even got a crapper or shower down here I can use.  I gotta go outside to piss, take a dump or even wash my hands.  Don’t have no bed, neither, so I made a bunk on that bottom shelf over there in the corner with some stinky ol’ sleepin’ bag.  Ain’t great, but it sure beats the hell outta sleepin’ on the floor.


“And now Uncle Dirtbag thinks this is where I’m gonna live for the next nine years.  Well, let me tell ya, he’s wrong ‘bout that ‘cause I ain’t gonna put up with his shit no more than I hafta.  According to the note my cousins gave me on the way down here, he needs my money real bad ‘cause he’s ‘bout to lose his orchard.”  Tom and I stared at each other in astonishment for a moment because Logan hadn’t told either of us about such a note.


“They also said in that note that Unc plans for me to disappear once he’s got my money, but I’m ready for him to try it, and boy is he in for a big surprise.  I done warned him what was I was gonna do if he ever laid a hand on me, but I don’t think he believes I’ll do it.  Guess we’ll find out.  Well, I gotta cut this short cause I ain’t got no way to recharge the phone down here and I wanna make sure I got plenty o’ juice to record when the shithead come down the stairs.  Guess I’ll see y’all later.”


“Holy crap, it’s even worse than we thought,” Tom muttered.


“One tough cookie, though, isn’t he?  We need to ask about that note so I can send it to Clarence.  If his cousins warned him Troy was plannin’ to kill him all along, that could make a big difference in how to handle his defense.”


“Let me go ask him about it now, babe.”  Without waiting for any response from me, Tom disappeared.



I found Logan in the living room, nose buried in the next book of the Ender series, Speaker for the Dead.  I interrupted his reading when I asked, “Logan, can you get me that note your cousins gave you?”


“Oh, yeah, I forgot all ‘bout that, Pops.  Hang on a sec, I’ll be right back.”  Leaving his book on the table, he jumped off the loveseat and hurried down the hallway.  A few seconds later, he yelled, “Where’s my dang bag that had my clothes in it?”


“Ron grabbed it earlier to wash your stuff with ours, ya twit,” Joey yelled back.


“Oh shit!” Logan cried out.  The next thing I saw was the kid sprinting down the hall to the utility room.  A few seconds after hurtling through the door, I heard, “Oh, thank you jesus!”  A visibly relieved Logan soon returned to the living with a folded-up piece of paper in his hand.  “I thought I was gonna hafta kick Skinny in the ass again,” he said as he handed the paper to me.  “If he’da washed this, I’da been pissed.”


“Thanks, buddy.  We’ll keep it safe for you.”


“Thanks, Pops.”


With a disaster narrowly averted, I rejoined Max in his study so we could read the note and then continue watching the rest of Logan’s videos.



Tom returned a few minutes later and we both read the note Daril and Arley had written and given to Logan on their way to Dexter.  We were both surprised at what they’d said but a bit gladdened that they weren’t just like their father.  It was too bad they hadn’t said they’d actually help protect Logan, but when their alternative was to be beaten by Troy, we couldn’t really fault them for that.


“Looks like our suspicions about the asshole were on the money,” Tom commented.  “It’s just sad that Arlene and the boys never stood up to Troy.”


“Yeah, it is, but you said it yourself, victims of abuse rarely do so as they know what can happen if they do.  I’ll get this note sent to Clarence when we’re done watching the videos.”  That said, I clicked the next video and we continued our binge watching.  As it began to play, we heard someone storming down the stairs and assumed it was the sound of Troy descending into the hellhole.  Our assumption proved to be correct when he entered the camera’s field of view.


“Okay, ya little faggot lovin’ piece o’ shit, time for you to cough it up,” Troy started.


“Cough what up, ya dirtbag?” Logan retorted.


“MY money, dumbass.  I need it and you’re gonna get it for me.”


“Like hell I am, Troy.  That’s my money and you ain’t never gonna see a dime of it.”


“Look, kid, I ain’t playin’ no damn games here.”


“That’s a good thing ‘cause you probably don’t understand how to play nothin’, not even somethin’ as simple as Uno.  And any moron can play that game it’s so easy.”


“It’s no secret I don’t like you, punk.  Never did, never will.”


“Good, ‘cause I don’t like you either.”


“Never understood what my brother saw in that bitch you called mommy.”


“Don’t you dare talk ‘bout my momma like that, ya loser!” Logan screamed.  “She was a great woman and Daddy loved her with all his heart.  It tore him up somethin’ awful when she died.”


“She got what she fuckin’ deserved for breakin’ our family up!” Troy roared.  “She always thought we weren’t good ‘nough for her and she forced Charlie to move.”


“Good for her.  And daddy, too.  Ain’t nobody should hafta deal with a jackass like you their whole life.”


We watched dumfounded at the exchange when Troy suddenly grabbed Logan by the shoulders and shook him like a rag doll, all while screaming in face, “Get me my goddam money!!”


“I can’t, ya freakin’ dumbass!  It takes two people to sign ‘fore the bank will give me anything.  And the others who can sign won’t do it ‘less I tell ‘em to.  And I ain’t gonna do it.”


“Yeah?  Let’s see how you feel ‘bout that in a few days.  You ain’t goin’ nowhere ‘til I save my orchard.”


“You wanna save it so goddam bad, why don’t you get your lazy ass out there and work for it ‘stead of hangin’ out in the bar all day long?  That’s what daddy did, he worked hard every day of his life and he took good care of momma and me.  You should be more like him.  Maybe if you was, your wife and kids might actually love you!”


“You little prick!” Troy bellowed as he turned red with rage.  “I’d fuckin’ kill you right now if I didn’t need your money so bad.  We’ll see if you’re feeling more generous tomorrow, ya little bastard.”  The image of the enraged Troy left the camera’s view and we could here him stomp on every step as he went back upstairs.


After the door was slammed shut, Logan appeared on camera and he said, “Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?  I swear on momma and daddy’s graves, that fuckin’ loser ain’t gettin’ shit outta me, I don’t care what he says or does.  Guess I just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.  Hey Siri, stop recording.” 


The video ended and Tom and I just stared at each other for a few moments.  I finally broke our shared silence when I muttered, “Jesus, what a fuckin’ asshole.  I’m glad Logan was able to get away from him.”


“Yeah, me, too,” Tom agreed.  “Let’s get through the rest of these so you can get that note scanned and sent.  I want to hear what Clarence thinks about the videos.”


We spent the next couple of hours watching all the videos Logan had recorded, some of just himself and others with Troy endlessly berating the youngster about his desperate need for money.  Logan displayed his firm resolve as he stood toe-to-toe with Troy and gave back as strongly and defiantly as he received the abuse.  When we watched the last video, we were glad that Logan’s castrating of his despicable Uncle Troy was just below the camera’s frame.  Though we could see Logan’s head and upper body, and Troy pounding on his back until he passed out, the actual cutting was out of the frame.


When we’d seen everything there was to see, I looked to Tom and commented, “Remind me to never piss that kid off.  I like my balls and would like to keep them firmly attached to my body.”


“No shit,” Tom agreed.  “I think we’ll be safe as long as we never hit him,” he added with a chuckle.


“I’m surprised Charlie survived as long as he did.”


“He probably wouldn’t have if Logan hadn’t loved him as much as he did.”


The phone interrupted us and on seeing it was Clarence calling, I punched the speaker button so Tom could hear everything.


“Good afternoon, Clarence,” I greeted.  “How goes the battle?”


“Getting better with every passing moment,” Clarence replied happily.  “Have you seen the videos Logan recorded of the interactions between him and his uncle?”


“Just finished watching them,” I answered.  “What do you think?”


“Slam dunk case of self-defense if ever I saw one.  Logan was one smart cookie to record the whole week.  Of course, he knew we needed some proof to be able to change his guardianship, so well done by him.”


“You don’t think that last video will hurt him in any way, do you,” Tom asked.


“Well, if the camera had been aimed just a bit lower and you could actually see that lowlife losing his testicles, maybe.  But after being threatened with death multiple times the previous three days, I’m going to claim Logan snapped when his uncle punched him, and he lost all sense of what’s right and wrong.  Once Troy hit him, Logan was on autopilot and he did what he felt was the prudent thing to do to save his own life.  If anybody thinks any different after watching the whole series, then they’re dumber than Troy.  I can’t wait to hear the reaction from the Dexter cops and prosecutors once they have a chance to see the recordings.  They’re gonna shit themselves.”


Tom and I both laughed aloud at that comment and when we’d calmed back down, I asked, “You got any other good news for us?”


“As a matter of fact, I do.  I just got back to my office from delivering your motion to Judge Corgan.  I also took Logan’s videos with me so he could see them, and he was absolutely appalled at the treatment Logan received while he was in his uncle’s supposed care.  He’s already issued a ruling that Troy’s guardianship has been revoked by the court and there is to be no further contact between the two.”


“That’s the best news I’ve heard since Logan left last Sunday, Clarence.  I can’t thank you enough for dealing with this mess for us.”


“I’m not done yet, Max.  But before I continue, can the boys hear this call?”


“No, we’re in my study,” I replied.


“Good.  Okay, here goes, Judge Corgan also told me he would rule in your favor on your petition to adopt Logan when the time comes.  It may take a few weeks to settle everything down south, but once that’s dealt with, it should be clear sailing for all of you.”


“Don’t know if I’d ever said this to you, Clarence, but you’re a miracle worker.”


“Don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone utter those words for a lawyer, but I thank you for that and humbly accept your compliment.”


“Don’t forget to send me your bill.”


“And don’t you forget to pay it when you see it, after you recover from the sticker shock, that is,” Clarence retorted with a laugh.


“You know I’m good for it.  Besides, you’ve earned every penny.  Thanks for calling and have a great afternoon.”


“I will.  You do the same and have a great weekend.”


After ending the call, both of us leaned back in our chairs and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Hearing Logan was going to be okay for the assault on his uncle was good enough news in and of itself, but hearing Judge Corgan was planning to approve our adoption of Logan with the others was the cherry on top of the sundae.  While we intended to share the news with Logan about him being safe from any severe punishments from the Missouri legal system, we planned to hold back the news of his adoption until after we knew the order had been signed by Judge Corgan.  Remembering I still had to send Daril and Arley’s note to Clarence, I quickly scanned it, attached it to an e-mail and sent it on its way.


We were about to leave the office and see if the boys wanted to go for a swim when the phone rang and kept us anchored to our seats.  With the caller ID showing ‘Private’, we had no clue as to who was calling and almost let it roll over to voicemail.  Tom finally couldn’t stand the ringing any longer and punched the speaker button.


“Tom Wright,” he answered.


“Good afternoon, Tom, it’s David.  How are you today?”


“We’re great, David.  How ‘bout yourself.”


“Still suckin’ air and takin’ sustenance, so that means I must still be alive.  At my age, that’s about all one can ask for.  Is Max close by?  I wanted to talk to both of you for a few minutes.”


“Right here, David,” I answered.


“Good, good.  I don’t know if you’ve talked to your attorney yet …”


“We just got off the phone with him,” Tom interrupted.


“Excellent.  So, I take it you already know about the change in status of Troy Campbell’s guardianship of Logan.”


“We do, David, and we can’t thank you enough for acting so quickly,” I responded.


“Well, after watching only a couple of those videos Logan managed to record, it was a no-brainer, boys.  It was plainly obvious that Mr. Campbell only wanted the guardianship so he could wrest control of Logan’s money for his own use and that just won’t do.  Logan’s a very smart and resourceful young man.  I hope you’ll be able to channel that in the proper direction as he matures.”


“We’ll do our best,” Tom agreed.


“I expected nothing less.  Now that we’ve dispensed with the official business, I like to talk to you about a bit of personal business, if we could.”


“I think I know what you’re going to ask, but go ahead, David,” I said.


“I was wondering if it would be possible for me to bring my father out tomorrow to see our family cemetery.  If you’re not going to be home, we could do it Sunday, also.”


“Yep, that’s exactly what I thought I’d hear.  We’ll be here all day tomorrow and will look forward to seeing you both.”


“How could you possibly know what I was going to ask, Max?” David queried with interest.  “I just talked to Dad this morning to see if he was up for the trip.”


“Well, we’ve had a couple of rather interesting weeks around here.  We’ll tell you all about it when you’re here, though.  Otherwise, you probably won’t believe the story.”


“We’ll look forward to it.  Would two o’clock be okay with you?”


“Perfect, sir,” Tom answered.


“Wonderful, see you guys then.  Have a great evening.”


“Thanks, David, you, too,” I replied before ending the call.  I looked to Tom and commented, “I guess Sammy knows more than we give him credit for.”


“Obviously,” Tom agreed.  “It’ll be interesting to hear if David or his dad know more about Sammy’s story.”


“Well find out soon enough.  You ready for that swim?”


“Let’s go,” Tom agreed cheerily.


We crossed the hall to grab some clean towels, then gathered the herd and headed out for some fun in the pool.  The boys had been in no mood for a swim while Logan was gone and the pent up energy they released during our tomfoolery in the pool was off the charts.  By the time Tom and I begged off and retreated to our quiet and relaxing corner, we were wiped out, but the six rugrats were still going strong.  As we watched them play, we saw Ron return from his shopping trip and he was busily putting everything away.  About the time he finished, we called the boys out of the pool and shuffled them off to the showers with a reminder to pull on some shorts since Ryan would be arriving soon.


After the herd had disappeared into their rooms, we headed in the direction of our own so we could do the same.  As we passed the kitchen, we said hi to Ron and he gave a simple wave of acknowledgement.  It appeared as though he was still upset about something and I hesitated to ask him anything so as not to upset him more than he already was.  But I also had this feeling that we shouldn’t just brush him off since he was an integral part of the family now.


I put a hand on Tom’s shoulder to get him to stop and turned to Ron.  “Okay, Ron, what’s …”


“Max, Tom, we need to talk.  Like, now,” Ron blurted out.


Home Page
Story index
Next chapter