Heart of Destiny

by Phyllis

Alternate Universe "Seven Investigations"

Ezra followed Chris to the master bedroom suite. There they found an antechamber and the last two guards. Taken by surprise, the fight was brief, though intense. The two guards were subdued about the same time Vin and Josiah arrived.

Vin stood in the doorway, his thumbs tucked into his belt. "Ah, you boys need any help?"

Chris turned toward him. The blonde’s left eye was bruised and swelling closed, but he managed a glare. It only caused Tanner to chuckle.

"Why don’t you two go on in and introduce yourselves? Josiah and I will handle these two."

Ezra straightened his clothes as Chris moved toward the inner door and threw it open. Standish quickly followed. The other two gathered up the two guards and dragged them to a closet and locked them in. Vin walked over to the door and watched as Larabee and Standish approached the large bed.

"General Boyd. Allow me to introduce myself."

The man sat propped in the bed, surrounded by machines. They monitored just about every bodily function-blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and various others. "Allow me, Mr. Larabee. I am well aware of each of the members of your small firm. This is Mr. Ezra Standish, an ex-CIA operative of dubious reputation. In the antechamber, I believe I would find Mr. Vin Tanner, a bounty hunter of the highest caliber. And Mr. Josiah Sanchez, a man of undisputable reputation. Please, come in gentlemen."

Chris glanced over his shoulder as the two men entered the room. He turned his attention back to the arrogant man. "You know who we are, we know who you are. What’s your point?"

"Ah, always cut straight to the heart of the subject, correct, Mr. Larabee? Well, then, you know my situation. I am dying. My only hope is a heart transplant, and a relatively quick one. I am a man of considerable power and influence, a man of substance."

Chris’ tensed at the inference.

"I am aware of the history of your small company, the men as well as the business it’s self. I can compensate each of you."

"I think you better stop right there." Tanner’s soft drawl carried a warning of danger.

"Now, Mr. Tanner, let us not interrupt the man. He should be allowed to present his proposal, giving us the opportunity to consider it." Ezra had stepped forward and turned toward Vin and Josiah. His face was composed, but Vin had known the man long enough to see a hint of subterfuge in his features. Turning to Sanchez, Vin read nothing on the man’s passive face. Vin decided that Standish was working an angle and he needed to play along.

"You three do what you want. I’m just an employee. I’ll be outside." Having committed himself to opposing the bargain, Vin spun on his heels and left the room. He hoped that Chris and Ezra had a plan. Chris’ lack of reaction to the idea of Boyd buying his way out of this situation was evidence that there was a plan. He would never go for a deal that hinged on someone dying, but especially if that someone was JD. The boy was too much like a son to both Chris and Buck and they would both die to protect the young man. Tanner decided to hunt down Wilmington and Jackson.

+ + + + + + +

Buck moved out of the room and began opening every door he came to. Nathan followed in his wake. Coming to the end of the hallway, Buck spun around, looking for more doors. Nathan approached and scanned the area also.

At the end of the hall, they found a room setup as a medical office. Buck moved in cautiously. Nathan moved to one side as Buck headed to the other. Nathan examined the papers lying across the desk. By the supplies he found listed on one invoice, the doctor could easily set up a surgical theater. He looked up to tell Buck, but the stance of the other had him quickly moving across the room.

"Buck?" Nathan asked as his eyes turned in the direction Wilmington was looking. In a small alcove, partially hidden behind a screen, a draped body lay on a table. Nathan felt a cold chill run up his spine. The thought that they were too late sprang unbidden to his mind. Patting the arm of the stricken man, the black man moved forward. He steeled himself and pulled the sheet from the body.

He hated his reaction, but he breathed a sigh and turned to Buck, smiling. "It ain't him. It's the woman." He saw Buck stagger slightly before placing his hands on his knees, his head drooping with relief. After a moment, the big man straightened and joined Nathan next to the body.

Jackson was already examining the woman. As Buck joined him, he spoke over his shoulder. "Neck's been snapped. Woman was murdered."

Buck just shook his head. "General must be a cold-hearted son of a bitch. Murders a woman who works for him and plans to murder a boy for his heart."

Nathan covered the woman's face again. "Well, we have cause to call the authorities in now. Murder's been committed."

"Yeah, still doesn't answer the question of where's JD? Where could they have him, Nate? I know the kid's here somewhere." Buck fumed, his arms flailing around in his frustration. Jackson reached and placed a hand on the man's arm, hoping to calm him. Wilmington dropped his head until his chin almost touched his chest. Taking a deep breath, he raised his head and looked at the medic intently.

"Okay. We should go question those men downstairs. They probably know something about where the boy is." Nathan spoke quietly.

Buck nodded and the two men set off back the way they had just come. Rounding a corner, the anxious men ran head on into Tanner. All three men reacted and guns were brought to bear.

"Damn, Vin, you need to let a body know you're coming" Nathan chastised as he lowered his weapon. Tanner just shrugged his shoulders.

"JD?" he asked.

"Not yet. We found the woman. Neck was snapped. We're headed back to question those guards." Buck stated.

"I got two tied up at the end of hall. Let's see what they know." Vin spun on his heels and led the way.

It didn't take much persuasion to convince the men to talk. Learning where the surgery had been built, the three headed there.

+ + + + + + +

Boyd studied the men standing in front of him. He would not admit failure when he was so close to his goals. If he could reason with these men, convince them that he could bring a better world forth, then the boy's sacrifice would be a noble one. Boyd knew he was destined to greatness; he had known since he was a child that the powers that be, had him selected for more than the normal life. He need only convince these men.

"Gentlemen, I am sure we can come to an amicable agreement. I am aware of the status the boy holds in your lives. He has yet to develop to his full potential. This, along with his young age, is in itself argument for the continuation of his life. I understand this and realize what I am proposing is contrary to what you would wish for the child, but consider the good I can do in the world if I have ample time."

The three stood passively, offering no resistance to his speech. Bolstered by their demeanor, the General continued. "I have at my disposal a vast army of people and resources which at my command can work to make the great country a place where we can be free of worry from weak, ineffective leaders that we have had to suffer through for the past four decades. We can make this country a feared and respected force throughout the globe. Everyone will benefit. All I need is the time and strength that boy's heart will bestow upon me." Eyeing the three men, the man smiled. "I can give you power, money, whatever you desire. Just give me the boy."

Chris shifted his weight onto one foot as he turned to Ezra. Josiah, standing on the other side of Larabee, peered around him at the southerner, waiting to see what the two planned to do. He would back their play, whatever it might be.

"What do you think, Ezra?"

Standish smiled, though his eyes never left the bed-ridden man. "I believe we have enough evidence to convince anyone of the criminal intent of murder, perhaps even treason." He removed the small recorder from his pocket, holding it high enough for the General to see.

The man sneered at them as if to say he was beyond the criminal system. Larabee started forward, but the sound of a gunshot drew everyone's attention to the open doorway. The ailing man laughed out loud. "Seems that it has become a moot point, gentlemen."

+ + + + + + +

Buck found the door the guards had directed them to. He was reaching for the knob when a hand grabbed his arm. He whirled with a snarl. To Vin's credit, he didn't back away from the larger man.

"Wait. We don't know what is behind this door, only what those two said was. We should go in easy."

Nathan stepped forward. "He's right, Buck. Could be anything in there. And if it is an operating theater, we need to know what is going on."

Wilmington's face seemed to crack; his whole body sagged as he stared at the medic. "What if..?"

"Don't. Let's just deal with it as it comes."

Buck nodded. Vin pulled him to the side and reached for the knob intending to quietly open the door and peek in. In an instant, the plan fell apart. Vin was standing with his hand poised over the knob when the door opened abruptly. The woman in surgical scrubs gasped as she came face to face with the young bounty hunter. Vin reacted quickly, taking hold of the woman, but not before she drew the attention of everyone in the room with the audible gasp.

Tanner shook his head as Wilmington cursed. The three men entered the room with guns drawn. Inside they discovered five people in various positions around the large room. One man stood next to a cabinet on the back wall of the room. Another was in the middle of the floor, his hand lifting a clear partition of plastic. Beyond the clear wall, stood a man and woman next to a surgical table. JD lay on the table, unconscious. Everyone froze at the sudden sight of the armed men.

The men spread out across the entrance. Nathan moved toward the man at the back of the room, while Vin, still holding the woman, covered the man about to enter the curtained area. Buck felt the blood rush to his feet and then back to his head, boiling, at the sight of his cousin. JD was connected to several different monitors, his chest bare. Thankfully, the procedure had not started yet. Buck moved toward the three people as Vin and Nathan also moved their captives into the same general area.

Pushing the plastic away, Buck stepped into the chilly room, his gun pointed at the people, but his eyes were on his cousin. Several machines were attached to the youth. Among them were a heart monitor, IV's and some that Wilmington didn't recognize. The barrel of the gun shook slightly as the tremors ran through his muscles.

"You! Step back" he ordered the man closest to JD. The man didn't move. He stood at the side of the bed, his hands hidden below the table. Buck glanced to the side as Vin and Nathan escorted the three people through the curtain. When Buck looked back, the man had raised his hands to reveal a syringe poised at the boy's arm. Wilmington's eyes narrowed. "Don't."

"Now, gentlemen, I believe that you are trespassing. If you will please leave."

"Like hell." Buck took a step forward, but stopped as the needle punctured the tender skin of the underside of JD's forearm. He couldn't seem to remove his eyes from the sight. Shaking with fury, fear, terror, he lowered the gun. Tears sprang to his eyes and made the scene shimmer before him. "Please" he whispered.

Hemmings never flinched, never showed any sign of doubt or remorse. He merely stared at the man. Matthew Hemmings was an exceptional physician, but as a human being he was a cold, emotionless shell. This was a surgery he had been looking forward to attempting. It did not matter to him whether it was a success or not, only that he performed the intricate procedure.

"You can't get away with this. Boyd has been removed from the picture. You will not get to do this procedure." Nathan slowly moved forward.

Hemmings tilted his head as he studied the men. "I will not go to jail. Boyd will see to that."

Nathan shook his head. "No one will stand behind the man, not after what he's done. We found the woman's body. Murder, kidnapping, that's just some of the charges that he'll face. The man won't have a friend anywhere."

Hemmings glanced at the two men to his left. They along with the two women had moved away under the watchful eye of Vin Tanner. They were contrite and wanted nothing to do with the doctor at this point.

Nathan and Buck both saw the physician's face change. A smile played at the corners of his mouth, but his eyes were humorless. The medic saw the man's thumb moved as he depressed the plunger. Nathan's arm was already extended and he merely pulled the trigger. The man stood for a moment, blinking and then he crumpled to the ground silently. One of the women screamed, her hands flying to her ears.

Moving to the table, Buck reached down and grabbed the dead man's arms, dragging him away. Nathan was a split second behind Wilmington. He glanced at the monitors as he removed the needle from the boy’s arm. It took a moment before his mind registered the fact that the syringe was full. Nathan shook his head, realizing that the man had tricked him into shooting. He tossed the needle to the floor in anger. A hand on his shoulder pulled his attention back to the job at hand. When he turned, he found himself looking into the concerned blue eyes of Buck.

"Wasn’t anything you could, Nathan. He made you do it. We both saw him. Whatever was in the syringe, he was ready to use it. And he might have, if you hadn’t of shot him."

"I know, Buck. I just don’t like being forced to kill someone." The medic took a deep breath and turned his attention back to the unconscious youth. He reviewed the monitors and then checked vitals manually. "He seems fine, Buck. Eyes are fine. I’d say that we unhook him from the IV and he should start to come around."

Wilmington had moved around to stand at the head of the table. His arms lay on either side of the boy’s face, his weight resting on them, as he leaned over his cousin and softly spoke into his ear. Buck nodded as Nathan gave him an assessment of the boy’s condition.

All three men jumped as the door burst open and Chris and Josiah rushed in. They quickly lowered their guns and moved through the curtained area. Both men stood to the opposite side from Jackson. He nodded and both visibly relaxed. Chris glanced to Buck. Though his partner was a little less tense, he still was not relaxed. Larabee knew the man would continue to worry until the boy was back home and talking.

Buck glanced behind the two and then back, the question in his eyes. Chris answered. "Ezra is with the general." Buck nodded in acknowledgement. A glance from Chris had Josiah moving to Tanner’s side to assist with the remaining medical people. They moved the four people to a large closet and locked them in.

The four gathered around the table. Nathan set about removing all the attachments to JD as they discussed what to do next.

"Ezra has contacts we might be able to use." Josiah offered. "We should consider just leaving, taking JD, leaving the general and his men and just go."

"No!" Buck spat out. "He’s not getting away with this." His eyes blazed at the thought.

Chris laid a hand on the man’s shoulder. "He won’t get away with it, Buck. We have the evidence on tape. We just need to get it to the right people."

""If we just leave here, he will get away. Somehow, he’ll get away."

Chris leaned in close. "Right now the only thing that is important is resting between your hands." And he glanced down. Buck’s eyes followed Larabee’s. His hands still rested on either side of JD's head, his thumbs stroking the lax features.

Buck stood for a moment. Then he leaned over until his head rested lightly on JD’s, his eyes closed. With a deep sigh, he straightened. He had a resigned expression on his face as he looked at his old friend. "Get Ezra and let’s get out of here."

The decision made, the men jumped into action. Nathan grabbed a light blanket and wrapped it around the boy. Josiah headed back to get Standish. Chris and Vin moved out to scout the exit route. Buck gathered his cousin into his arms. He followed in the wake of Larabee and Tanner with Jackson guarding their rear.

+ + + + + + +

The sound of the shot still echoed in Ezra’s ears as Josiah and Chris tore out of the room. The ex-CIA operative turned back to the smirking old man.

"There is no way you gentlemen will leave the grounds, not with the boy. I will not be denied." The old man’s voice was harsh and strained as he spat out the words. "I have a destiny to fulfill."

Ezra's eyes crinkled as he smiled at the man. "You are mistaken, sir. We will leave with young Mr. Dunne. You will not stop us. You will not get the boy’s heart. And you will pay for your arrogance. Your reputation, your power, all will be forfeit once your indiscretions are made known."

"I know your history, Mr. Standish." The old man sat forward in the bed, almost to the point off falling forward. "I can give you anything you ever wanted. Just ask and it will be yours. I only ask to live. I know you are a man who has seen much, done much. A partnership between the two of us would be a most profitable enterprise."

"So, anything. That’s what you can get me?" Ezra crooned.

The arrogant man smiled, his eyes glistening in his lust. "Anything."

Ezra cocked his head to one side, a serious expression on his features. "What I want, what I require, is the respect of the six men that I work with. That is what I want."

The old man seemed to change before Standish’s eyes. He seemed to shrink and age as Ezra watched. Standish had no sympathy for the man. He was, after all, a monstrous human being who thought himself above the law. But he knew the feeling of losing all you had worked for. It was not a feeling he would wish on anyone.

Ezra felt more than heard Josiah enter the room. "Josiah, I hope that you have found our young compatriot?"

"Yes, brother, we have Mr. Wilmington’s charge and are prepared to leave."

"Excellent." Ezra turned to leave. Boyd’s voice caused him to turn back.

"Mr. Standish" he called. "I will not go down quietly."

Ezra looked at the ex-military man. Smiling, he replied, "I doubt you will be given the choice. Good bye, General Boyd."

The two investigators turned and exited the room to the sounds of the man barking out orders to men who could not answer.

+ + + + + + +

The seven were reunited at the front door of the mansion. Chris and Vin, once again led the way as they exited the house and headed across the grounds. Though they thought all the guards were restrained in the house, they exercised caution as they moved to the front gate. Once outside, they started toward the vehicle they had left parked two miles away.

As much as Buck hated to relinquish his hold on JD, he soon found his arms tiring and passed the bundled form to Josiah. Ezra had volunteered to ran ahead and meet them with the vehicle. Chris wasn’t very keen on splitting the group, but he relented knowing that they needed to leave the area quickly. Though slight, the burden of carrying the boy would soon wear the men down. Larabee wanted them as alert as possible in case of any trouble. Nathan and Buck stayed near Josiah while Chris and Vin moved to each side of the road and shadowed the four from the darkness.

Within twenty minutes of leaving the general’s property, the men were in the van and driving back home. Ezra took a position in the second seat alongside Josiah. Vin rode shotgun to Chris’ driving, while Nathan and Buck sat on the floor in front of the rear seat upon which JD lay. Thirty minutes down the road, Buck sat with his hand gripping his cousin’s shoulder while Nathan had turned and stretched his legs out, his back to the seat. Wilmington scrubbed at his face with his free hand. He rolled his head from side to side to relieve some tension. Thinking that stretching his legs sounded good, he glanced at the young man once more before starting to shift. He froze as it registered that JD’s eyes were open. The boy wore a frown on his face as he slowly blinked and looked around.

"JD?" Buck spoke softly. Nathan turned at the inquiry and studied the boy’s reaction.

Slowly, the hazel eyes moved in Buck’s direction. He blinked several times and opened his mouth to speak. The only sound that came out was a congested squeak.

"Nathan." Ezra called. The medic turned and took the bottled water the southerner held out to him. He gave a quick nod and turned back to the youth.

"Here, ya go, JD. Drink a little of this." Wilmington helped JD sit up and braced him as he tentatively drank. Buck went to lay him back down, but JD grasped the back of the seat and struggled to turn and drop his legs off the cushion. Buck and Nathan moved onto the seat, flanking JD.

The boy cleared his throat as he looked around once again. Finally, he made eye contact with Buck.

Frowning, he asked, "What’s going on?" His words were slightly slurred, causing him to frown more. He brought his hand to his face and weakly wiped at his mouth as if to clear up his speech. Buck glanced at Nathan and received a shake of head in response.

"JD, do you remember anything about what happened?" Nathan asked.

The boy sat wavering between the two men. His eyes would start to slide closed only to be jerked open again. After a few moments, JD shook his head.

"I remember..ah. Did I go to a concert with Casey?" he asked hopefully. The sound of a groan from his cousin had him looking in that direction.

"Casey! I plum forgot about her. She’s gonna be a little perturbed at us."

"Casey’s mad? She mad at me?" JD asked as he slowly slid against Buck.

The big man wrapped an arm around the boy and gently guided him down. JD was out before his head connected with Buck’s leg. Nathan took a quick look at the youth before telling the others that he would be fine.

"The drug is working its way out of his system. He’ll be more alert each time he wakes up." Five heads nodded and the men smiled. For the first time in the last eighteen hours, they were able to relax.

"So, what are we going to tell Gaffney? We were supposed to meet him four hours ago." Vin asked.

Chris shook his head. "I’m not sure. We could tell him the truth. We have the proof on tape."

"I believe the question should be whether or not the police or even a state agency will be able to exact justice in a case of a person with such far reaching connections" Ezra pointed out.

"Yeah, he’s got a point there. The man has clout." Vin glanced at the stone-faced Larabee as he spoke. He cocked his head to one side as the man driving relaxed and smiled. It was a humorless smile that raised the hairs on the back of Vin’s neck. "What are you thinking, Chris?"

"Ezra has contacts in the government. I think we should make use of them." He looked at the southerner in the mirror. The expression on the man’s face gave away nothing of what he was thinking, but the smile on his face spoke volumes.

"Why, Mr. Larabee, are you proposing that I point the governmental watchdogs in the direction of General Boyd? Perhaps, drop a trail of bread crumbs for them to follow?"

Buck sat listening to the others talk as he rubbed the shoulder of his cousin. "What makes you think they’ll do anything? The man was a general in the army. He’s got friends and money to back him."

Ezra and Josiah both turned in their seats to face the men in the back. "Ah, but you did not hear what the man proposed. Brother Standish was quick witted enough to bring a recording device with him. The man had grand plans. Not only for JD, but the nation, perhaps even the world."

Buck’s face hardened at the words. "I don’t give a hoot in hell what his plans were. I only care that he doesn’t come after JD again." The man glared at the two, his eyes small dark pools of color.

Ezra put on his best face. "Mr. Wilmington, I do not think you have any worries in that area if I know my ex-compatriots at all. They do not respond in a straightforward manner to threats of national security, especially now. General Boyd will trouble no one after they have finished."

Nathan sat silently until then. "Are you saying that they’ll kill that man?"

"No, sir, I am not. I am merely stating that he shall be dealt with. Young JD need not worry."

Buck looked down at his cousin. Looking up again, he addressed the others. "If we can, I’d rather the boy didn’t know what the woman wanted him for. After that incident six months ago, this might be more than he can handle. I could be wrong and not giving him enough credit, but I would rather not find out. If Ezra’s ‘friends’ handle the man in a way that we don’t have to go to court or don’t have to worry about that old man trying this again, there’s really no need for JD to know."

The five men glanced at the each other. Chris was watching in the rear view mirror. "You have a deal, Buck" he called from the drivers seat. They were all agreed that the less JD knew the better.

+ + + + + + +

Three days later, the men were at the agency. Chris and Buck were in their office. JD was tapping away on the computer, trying to trace a man who had disappeared with the company funds. Vin sat at the young man’s shoulder, pointing out different areas they could search in. JD nodded as the more experienced bounty hunter gave him pointers.

Ezra sat at his desk talking on the phone. He spoke quietly, but Tanner was listening with half an ear.

"Yes, well I do appreciate the notification, Charles. Yes, do that. I look forward to seeing you. Good day."

Josiah and Nathan were just coming through the door as Ezra replaced the telephone hand set on the receiver. They watched as he rose and moved across the room to the office. He knocked and disappeared inside. JD was so engrossed in the hunt, he did not notice as the other three also disappeared into the office.

"Vin, why can’t we.." he glanced up as he spoke. Frowning, he looked around. He sat alone in the office. "Well, that’s rude." Getting up, he went to the office and, not knocking, entered. All six men jumped as the door banged open.

"Damn, JD, what are you doing? Trying to knock a hole in the wall?" Buck groused.

"No. I ‘as just wondering how it is that I’m sitting out here all by myself? Ever since that woman was here, ya’ll been acting strange."

"Strange?" Chris asked.

"Yeah. Ya’ll always whispering behind my back, or you’ll suddenly stop talking when I come in. I don’t know what the big secret is. The woman was crazy. Lost her whole family and she snapped. I’m fine and she’s gone away, so what’s all the whispering about?"

Nathan interrupted, "Here we go."

Everyone turned back to the television that JD had failed to notice. A news reporter was standing in a street, a large house in the background.

"Turn it up." Buck demanded.

"..little is known at this time. The only confirmation we have received is that earlier this week, the body of ex-General Wilson Boyd and a Doctor Matthew Hemmings were found in the river only two miles south of the General’s estate located two hours time north of the city. It appears at this time that there was a blowout that caused the vehicle to veer from the road and into the water. Police are ruling that this was an accident. Live, this is Dave Glaser."

"Well, ain’t that too bad." Buck smirked as he turned away from the TV. He turned and came face to face with a stunned JD.

"Buck, I can’t believe you would act like that. Two men died." JD admonished.

Looking ashamed, the man hung his head. "Sorry, kid. I just wasn’t a fan of the man’s. He didn’t have a good reputation with the men he commanded."

"Yeah, well that’s no excuse to talk ill of the dead."

JD turned and walked out.

"Damn." Buck whispered.

"Don’t worry, Buck, he’ll get over it. Kid never stays mad very long." Vin told him as he walked past. The others followed him out.

Chris leaned against the desk. "He doesn’t know what happened, Buck. It’s for the best."

"I know. I just hate to keep things from him."

Chris straightened and moved next to Buck as he leaned against the doorframe. Clamping a hand on the man’s shoulder, he looked out at the five men. "I know, Buck, I know."

+ + + + + + +


The two men exited the car and strolled over to the graves. They each carried a bouquet of bright flowers.

"Hi, Mama. Happy Mother’s day." JD placed the flowers in the grave.

Buck mimicked his cousin’s movement and placed the flowers in the grave. "Hey, Ma. Happy Mother’s day to ya." He stood looking at the headstone, a wistful expression on his face. He felt guilty about how long it had been since he had been here for a visit, but it was a sad place for him and he never left in a good mood. He jumped as JD patted his arm.

"Ya see, Aunt Rose. I told you I’d get him here. Wait here, Buck." He rushed off to the car as Buck shook his head. The big man turned and looked at his aunt’s grave.

"Aunt Tessa, JD told me about coming here two weeks ago. I told that boy that he was your son, but he had to be sure. I know you didn’t take offense to that. I remember when you brought him home from the hospital and we came over. There’s no way that woman was JD’s ma. The boy is the spitting image of you."

Buck looked back to see JD struggled with something in the back of the car. He turned back to the two graves. "That boy is a handful, but I want to thank both of you for giving ‘im to me. I would truly be lost without ‘im."

Buck laughed as JD stumbled up.

"Well, you could help."

Buck reached out and took the basket from JD’s hands. The boy set about spreading a blanket between the graves and sat down. He kicked off his shoes and held up his hands to take the basket.

Patting the ground, he instructed the man to sit. Buck plopped down next to the younger man. "JD, what are we doing?"

"Well, heck, Buck. What does it look like? We’re having lunch with our mama’s."

The boy’s eyes glistened with excitement. He was not in the least bothered to be sitting in a cemetery eating lunch. Buck had to laugh.

For the next few hours the two sat and talked. They cried and they laughed. They told each other and they told their mothers about feelings and hopes, about their desires and dreams and ended up staying the afternoon. As they prepared to leave, gathering the basket and blanket, Buck turned to JD and wrapped him in a big hug. The young man returned the gesture and when they broke apart, Buck took the basket and threw an arm over the smaller man’s shoulders. They looked once more at the graves.

"Well, we have to go now, but we’ll be back, Mama. You and Aunt Rose don’t get too rowdy now. Love ya. Bye, Aunt Rose. And thanks, for ‘you know who’."

Buck tightened his grip. "See ya soon, ladies. ‘Until then, I’ll keep an eye on the runt here for ya."

They strolled back to the car. After putting the picnic basket in the trunk, they got in the car. Buck started the vehicle.

"What’s say we head over to Chris’ place? Vin and Josiah were going to be there. Ezra said he might show up if Maude cancelled on him."

"Sounds good, Buck." JD said.

"Hey, kid."


"Thanks. I had a great time."

"You’re welcome."

Buck headed the car to Chris’ place. He felt better than he had in a long time.


Comments to: maxbobabe@aol.com