Mistaken Identity

by Winter

Chris slumped back in his chair and sighed. It was good to be at work with the door closed and no distractions. He felt terrible for feeling this way but yesterday afternoon and last night had been a trial. Yesterday had not been a good day for Vin. Bad days for Vin usually meant bad days for JD as well. JD still mimicked his friend’s emotions, so when Vin was upset JD was as well. Vin had a bad day at school but it took JD to tell the grown ups about it. The Montessori school they attended rarely gave tests that would be scored but they did have to meet state standards. So every once in awhile the boys took test that were graded. Chris closed his eyes for just a minute...


“I’m sorry, Chris, I don’t know what’s bothering the boys,” Gloria said as she grabbed her keys from the table. “Vin’s hiding up in the castle. Wouldn’t say anything to me. JD’s in his room.”

“OK, Gloria, don’t worry about it,” Chris assured her. “We’ll see what’s wrong.”

Chris walked Gloria Potter, the boy’s babysitter, to the door. He watched as she got in her car and drove away. Chris shut the door and leaned back against it.

“Come on, Pard, it’s not that bad,” Buck said. “We’ll just go ask JD what’s up.”

Chris smiled as he followed his friend to the room the boys shared. JD always seemed to know what was bothering Vin. So he was the logical one to start with. They opened the door to find JD lying on the floor bashing some of his cars together.

“Hey, Little bit, what ya doin’?” Buck asked as he joined JD on the floor.

“Nothing,” JD said without looking up.

“Gotta be doing something,” Buck said. Chris let his friend talk to JD while he took a seat at Vin’s desk.

“Just playing,” JD finally admitted to Buck.

“Why are you playing alone?” Buck asked.

“Vin’s upset,” JD said as he continued to knock his cars together.

“Do you know why?” Buck asked.

“Maybe,” JD said looking at Buck.

“Can you tell me or did Vin ask you not to?” Buck said. “Because if he did then you don’t have to tell.”

“No he didn’t say,” JD answered. “I just know.”

“So do you want to tell us,” Buck coaxed.

“Ya see we got the grade for the big spelling test back,” JD said as he got all excited. “I gots a hundred!”

“That’s great, JD,” Buck said patting him on the back. “Ain’t that great Chris?”

“That’s wonderful JD,” Chris said. “How did Vin do?”

“He wouldn’t tell me,” JD admitted. “But I don’t think he did so good.”

“Is the test here in his bag?” Chris asked as he picked up Vin’s backpack.

“No they didn’t hand the papers out,” JD said. “They just told us when we came up to the desk. But Vin wasn’t happy when Mr. Beidler told him his grade.”

“I see,” Chris said. “Has Vin been hiding in the castle since you got home.”

“Yeah,” JD said. “He came to get Cat then went up to the tree house. Figured he wanted to be alone so I came in here to play.”

“That’s was nice of you JD,” Buck said.

“I think Vin was mad at me anyway,” JD said hanging his head.

“Why do you say that?” Chris asked.

“Cause I was excited about my grade and told everyone,” JD said quietly. “Asked what Vin got and he got angry at me.”

“I don’t think he was angry a you, JD,” Chris assured him. “I just think he was mad at himself.”

“Cause Vin tries too hard?” JD asked. “Then gets mad when he don’t so good?”

“Yeah that’s it,” Chris said.

Just then the phone rang and Chris went to answer it. He wasn’t surprised that it was Mr. Beidler. The teacher explained that Vin hadn’t done well on the test. He said that all of the words had some of the letter backwards but that 75% of them had been spelled wrong. Chris sighed as he listened to the teacher. He asked if Vin could take the test again. Mr. Beidler want to do just that but said he would wait a few days to let Vin understand that it was okay to get things wrong. Chris thanked him and hung up. He was glad they had put the boys in this school. If Vin had been in public school his low test scores and withdrawn behavior would soon have him far behind his classmates.

“Who was on the phone?” Buck asked as he came into the kitchen.

“The boys teacher,” Chris said.

“Vin did that bad huh,” Buck said.

“Seems Vin panicked,” Chris said. “You know how they like to give tests to small groups of kids?”


“Well they wanted the children to get used to taking a test all together,” Chris explained. “So they’d be used to it later on.”

“Makes sense,” Buck said.

“Well Vin only got a 25 on the spelling test,” Chris said. “Also every word had a least one letter backwards.”

“Poor kid,” Buck said.

“Yeah,” Chris said. “I just don’t know what I can say to him.”

“Maybe I better handle it,” Buck said.

“You?” Chris asked surprised.

“Yeah me,” Buck said. “You were always good at school Chris. You can’t relate to Vin like I can.”

“You’re right,” Chris said. “I know Vin has a learning disability but I liked school.”

“Yup you did,” Buck said laughing. “But I hated it. So I can relate to him better. I’ll just go out and have a talk with him.”

“Okay while you're doing that I’ll get dinner ready.”

Buck walk out the back door and headed for the castle. As he made his way up the ramp he heard what he thought was crying. He didn’t want to upset Vin so he started making noise so the boy could get his emotions under control.

“Hey, Vin,” Buck said as he ducked down to fit through the door.

Vin was sitting in a corner with his head down on his knees. Cat was held tightly just under Vin’s chin. Buck walked over and sat down beside him. He didn’t say anything he just sat there. After a few minutes he was rewarded by Vin leaning against him.

“So I hear school wasn’t so good today,” Buck said. Vin didn’t say anything so he continued. “I used to hate getting tests back. You see I wasn’t too good at them either. I never seemed to get done in time. I ended up leaving more spaces blank than I filled in. So of course I got terrible scores. But my mom never got mad. She just told me to try harder next time. So I did and I slowly got better at them.”

“She didn’t yell?” Vin asked with his head still down.

“Nope,” Buck said. “She knew I was doing my best.”

“Was she ashamed of you?”

“No, Vin, she wasn’t ashamed,” Buck said as he put his arms around Vin and squeezed. “Chris used to help me out a lot.”

“Chris was good in school?”

“Yeah he was,” Buck laughed.

“Maybe Chris would want JD instead of me,” Vin said softly.

Buck just sighed at Vin’s words. So that’s what the problem was. Vin thought Chris would be ashamed of him and wouldn’t want him any more.

“Don’t think so,” Buck said. “JD’s a little to rambunctious for Chris. He likes someone more quiet. Like you.”

“Even if I don’t do good on tests?” Vin asked as he looked up for the first time.

“Even then,” Buck said.

He could see tear marks running down Vin’s cheeks and wondered how long Vin had been out here being worried Chris didn’t want him. Buck was surprised as Vin crawled into his lap and just sat there holding Cat. It was rare for Vin to look for comfort and Buck just wrapped his arms around him. They sat there for a few minutes when Vin squirmed around to face him.

“You wasn’t just saying that?” Vin asked.

“Saying what?”

“That you was bad in school,” Vin said. “To make me feel better.”

“No, Vin, I wasn't just saying it,” Buck answered. “I really wasn’t good at school. So I do know how you’re feeling. Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“Not sure,” Vin admitted. “I just couldn’t get the words to come out right.”

“Kinda hard taking a test with everyone ain’t it?”

“Yeah,” Vin said. “It was too quiet. Everyone consent rating and everything.”

“I know,” Buck said. “Its too quiet and you keep thinking to yourself I’m never going to get this right.”

“Yeah,” Vin said in surprise. “So you do know!”

“Yeah, Junior, I know,” Buck laughed.

“You sure Chris ain’t mad?”

“I’m sure,” Buck said. “Think we could go in now? Chris was getting dinner ready.”

“I reckon,” Vin said as he climbed off Buck and headed for the ramp.

Chris watched from the window as Vin came down the ramp followed by Buck. He smiled as he watched Vin take Buck’s hand as they walked back towards the house. Nothing was said about the test at dinner. They talked about what they would do over the weekend. When dinner was finished and the dishes cleaned they sat down to watch TV. The rest of the evening was quiet and finally it was time for bed. Chris knew it would take Vin a few days before he’d want to talk about what happened. The boys went without much of a fight. Once they were in bed Chris went to do some work on the computer while Buck turned on the basketball game. Chris finished the report he was working on and shut down the computer. He walked over and turned off the TV.

“Wake up, Buck,” Chris said.


“Go to bed.”

“You woke me up just to tell me to go to bed?”

“Yup,” Chris said smiling.

Chris listened to his friend grumble as they made their way to their rooms.


Buck felt someone poking him. He rolled over and tried to ignore them. After a few minutes the poking started again. As he slowly started to wake up he heard a sniffle. He quickly came awake to find Vin standing next to the bed holding Cat. Buck blinked his eyes thinking he was dreaming. Then he realized if Vin was here crying then there was something wrong with JD.

“Vin is something wrong with JD?” Vin shook his head no and Buck was even more confused. “So what’s wrong Junior?”

“I’m too dumb to be Chris’s boy,” Vin cried. “Will you take me?”

“Oh, Vin,” Buck said as he pulled the distraught youngster into his arms.

Buck could see just how upset Vin was when he felt no resistance to being held. He just patted Vin’s back and waited for him to quiet down. Buck wasn’t sure what happened to make Vin so upset.

“Vin did you have a bad dream?” Vin nodded. “Can you tell me about it?”

“Bad men said dumb little boys never get picked,” Vin sniffed.

Buck knew exactly what bad men Vin was talking about. For a short time Vin had been in a state facility but it was long enough for Vin to be told things. Like dumb little boys never got picked.

“Vin, now you know that’s not right,” Buck said. “Chris picked you.”

“But he didn’t’ know how dumb I was,” Vin sniffed.

“You’re not dumb, Vin.”

Buck looked to the door to see Chris standing there. He wasn’t surprised Chris was awake. Chris was a light sleeper and would have heard them talking. He also seemed to know when the boys were awake.

“Am too!” Vin declared. “They told me I was.”

“They were wrong,” Chris said as he stepped into the room.

“But I got all the spelling words wrong, “ Vin said. “So they was right.”

“That was one test Vin,” Chris reasoned. “And it doesn’t matter to me?”

“It don’t?” Vin said wiping his runny nose along his sleeve.

“No it doesn’t,” Chris said as he came closer to the bed. “I picked you because of who you are. Not because you could do good on tests.”

“Not ashamed of me?”

“Never,” Chris said holding out his hands. Vin climbed into Chris’s arms and they hugged. “Now let's go back to bed.”

“Can’t I stay with you?” Vin asked.

“Alright,” Chris said. They didn’t make this a habit but Vin seemed to need the reassurance so Chris allowed it.

Buck watched as Chris left his room and closed the door. He didn’t go back to sleep right away because he knew he would get another visitor. A few minutes later the door was nudged open and a three-foot shadow stood waiting.

“Come on, JD,” Buck said.

“Vin was crying,” JD announced as he walked in.

“I know,” Buck said as he pulled back the covers. “But everything alright.”

“That’s okay then,” JD said as he cuddled up to Buck.


Chris was jerked awake by the knock on his door. Buck walked in carrying two mugs of coffee.

“Figured you could use this,” Buck said as he placed it on the desk.

“Yeah I’m beat,” Chris admitted.

“So how many times did he wake up?”

“About three more,” Chris said.

“Same dream?”

“Yeah,” Chris said rubbing his face. “Crying out that he’d do better. How was your night?”

“Oh peachy,” Buck said as he dropped in the chair across from Chris’s desk. “If you don’t mind being kicked or rolled over.”

“I just hope today is a better day at school,” Chris said.

“Me too,” Buck agreed. “Don’t think I can handle another night sleeping with JD.”


The morning had been torture getting the boys ready for school. Vin had pleaded not to go which started JD off saying that he wanted to go. Vin wanted to go to work with Chris but Chris had said he had to go to school. Chris knew Vin was upset when Cat had joined them in the car. As they pulled up to the school Buck decided to go inside to warn the teachers about what happened. Chris was surprised when he turned around to see Vin was crying. He never even heard him and JD hadn’t said anything. Buck wiped Vin’s tears and told him everything would be okay. Vin reluctantly left Cat in the car and went with Buck. It just about broke Chris’s heart when Vin looked back one last time to see if Chris would change his mind. Mr. Beidler had been surprised to see Buck walk the boys in. When he explained Vin was having a hard time with the score he got that Vin might not participate too much today. Mr. Beildler assured Buck they’d take care of everything and sent him on his way.

Vin had quickly gone to the back of the room and sat by himself looking out the window. They left Vin alone while they began to break the student up into groups. After awhile Vin went over to the toys and took down the large floppy dog. He took the dog back to the window and continued his vigil.

“Guess Vin’s pretty upset,” Mrs. R said.

“Buck said the facility where Vin stayed for awhile had him convinced he would never be picked because he was dumb,” Mr. Beidler said. “So last night was spent reassuring Vin when he woke up from a night mare that he was already picked and it didn’t matter if he wasn’t good at school.”

“Have you gone over to see if he wants to join the others?”

“JD tried but Vin just shook his head no.”

“I think I have an idea,” Mrs. R said.

She walked over to the bookshelf and read the spines. When she found the one she was looking for she pulled it out and smiled. She walked to the front of the classroom.

“May I have your attention,” she said. “We’re going to do something different today. We’re going to have story time.”

“But it ain’t Wednesday,” JD said.

“No but I thought you might like to do something different,” she said. “Everyone come over to the reading area.”

She watched as all the children tried for the best positions close to the reading chair. Usually JD pushed right up front but she could see JD was waiting for Vin. When Vin didn’t move from the window Mr. Beidler whispered in JD’s ear and the boy took a seat towards the back.

“Today we’re going to hear the story The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.”

Mr. Beidler kept an eye on Vin while his co-worker read the story. She read louder than normal so Vin could hear as well. Vin turned from the window and made his way closer to hear the story. The floppy white dog was still tucked under his arm. Mr. Beidler was glad Freddy Chaney wasn’t here today or he would have teased Vin about carrying the dog around. Mrs. R continued the story about a small boy who loved his stuffed rabbit. The rabbit was told by the old rocking horse in the room that he would be real if the little boy believe he was. So the Velveteen Rabbit was happy when the little boy said he was real. Then one day he was left in the garden while the boy played. Some live rabbits came up to the toy and teased him because he wasn’t real. The poor Velveteen Rabbit told him them he was to real, except he couldn’t jump like they could because he didn’t have any back legs. So the live rabbits left him and the Velveteen rabbit thought maybe he wasn’t real. The boy came back to get him and Velveteen Rabbit didn’t care the boy loved him said he was real. One day the boy got very sick. Velveteen Rabbit kept the boy company until he was better. Then one night Velveteen Rabbit heard all the toys would be destroy. He wasn’t sure what that meant but wasn’t worried because the boy still loved him. The next morning all the toys from the nursery were gathered up and put in a sack. They were left with the gardener to be destroyed the next day. Mr. Beidler glanced at Vin and he could see the boy wasn’t happy about that

“Don’t worry Vin,” he said.

Vin scowled at him and the teacher smiled. Vin listened to the rest of the story. Velveteen Rabbit was able to wiggle out of the sack but he missed his boy. He knew the boy wasn’t coming back for him and a tear rolled down his check and landed in the grass. As he watched the tear turned into to a flower. The flower opened and a fairy was inside. The fairy lifted the Velveteen Rabbit and brought him to the other rabbits in the forest. She told them to teach him and to watch over him as she placed him in the grass. The other rabbits told him, to come play but he remembered he didn’t have any back legs. But when he went to move he jumped high into the air on his new back legs. Velveteen rabbit was happy to live with his new friends and be a REAL rabbit.

“Did he really turn into a real rabbit,” Suzy asked.

“In the story he did,” Mrs. R said.

“Can we have another?” JD asked.

“No now it's time for some math,” she said.

The children were broken up into groups and lessons were started. Vin joined the group he had math with and quietly sat and did his work. After math was finished Vin wandered to the closet and got a sleeping mat. Mrs. R watched as Vin went to the quiet corner and spread the mat on the floor. The younger children usually had sleep time but all the children were allowed to use the mats if the wanted. The older children rarely used them but she wasn’t surprised Vin needed to take a nap. One of the children asked her for some help with a project. When she was finished she went to check on Vin. She was surprised to see JD curled up with the older boy. Vin had his arm around JD as well as the floppy dog he’d been carrying earlier. She grabbed one of the light blankets from the peg and spread it over them.

“Some sleep will do them both good,” Mr. Beidler said.

“I didn’t even see JD go over there.”

“You were busy with Sara,” he said.

“Well I have some things I need to finish before lunch.”


Ezra pulled his Jag into the parking garage and made his way to his designated spot. As he pulled into his space he could see Cuervo sitting on the hood oh Chris’s Ram. As soon as Ezra turned off the ignition the orange tabby jumped down from the Ram and sauntered over to the Jag. As Ezra got out of the car the cat jumped up and stretched out on the warm hood.

“Try not to scratch it,” Ezra scolded.

Cuervo meowed in response to the accusation and Ezra smiled. He left the cat and headed for the elevator. As he passed the Ram he noticed Vin’s beloved Cat sitting on the back seat. It was rare for the toy to be out of Vin’s possession and Ezra figured this would be the perfect opportunity to get the toy cleaned. He saw that Chris had left the window down and the door unlocked. Ezra opened the door and took the toy out.

“I apologize, Cuervo, but I must go out again,” Ezra said.

Cuervo seemed to scowl at Ezra as he jumped down from the Jag. Ezra laughed and said he’d make it up to him. Once the Jag was gone Cuervo went looking for another place to sleep. He noticed the window open on the Ram and jumped inside. The cat found all sorts of things of interest. Half eaten fries, and pieces of cookies were quickly eaten by the cat. After his lunch Cuervo curled up behind the driver’s seat under a nice warm blanket and took a nap.


When Gloria came to pick up the boys from school she was happy to see Vin was once again smiling. She still didn’t’ know what had been wrong the day before but it didn’t matter now, as long as Vin was happy. She took the boy’s home and made them a snack. After they were finished Vin headed to their room while JD grabbed a video and sat down in front of the TV. Gloria came over and helped JD put the video in. JD wasn’t allowed to touch the VCR or the DVD players any more. This was the third one they had to buy since JD was always sticking thing inside that didn’t belong.

“Where’s Vin?” Gloria asked.

“Went to get Cat,” JD said as he stretched out on his stomach to watch Pirates of the Caribbean.

Gloria smiled. So Vin wasn’t quiet over what was bothering him yesterday if he needed the assurance of his favorite toy. When Vin didn’t come back after a few minutes Gloria went to see what he was doing. She found Vin throwing all his toys out of the toy chest and frantically searching everything.

“Vin, honey, what’s wrong?”

“I can’t find him!”

Gloria knew who Vin was talking about and helped the boy search. Unfortunately Cat was nowhere to be found. She asked Vin where the last place he remembered having Cat and he said in Chris’s room. She learned that Vin had slept in Chris’s room the night before. So Chris’s room was the next one they searched. When the toy wasn’t found there Gloria try to get Vin to think of somewhere else the toy might be. Vin couldn’t remember and Gloria could see he was getting upset.

“Can I call Chris,” Vin pleaded.

“Alright, we’ll call Chris,” Gloria agreed. She tried to keep the boys from calling the men at work but this was an emergency

Vin ran out of the room and down the hall to the phone. The number was in speed dial and Vin hit the appropriate buttons. Gloria checked to see if JD was all right before joining Vin. JD was laughing at Johnny Depp and Gloria knew he was completely engrossed in the movie. She went to join Vin knowing that JD would be fine on his own for a few minutes.


Buck was finishing up a report when his phone rang. “Agent Wilmington.”

“Chris! I can’t find him anywhere,” said a distraught little boy on the other end.

“Hold on, Vin,” Buck said. “Who can’t you find?”

“I want to talk to Chris,” Vin said and started crying.

“Hold on, Junior, I’ll get him,” Buck said. “Don’t cry.”

Buck put the phone on hold and jumped up from the desk. He burst into Chris’s office.

“Damn it, Buck,” Chris growled. “Knock!”

“Vin’s on the phone,” Buck said ignoring Chris’s anger. “He’s crying.”

”Vin what’s wrong?” Chris asked as soon as he picked up the phone.

Chris listened to Vin explain that he searched his room and Chris’s room but couldn’t find him anywhere. .

“Whoa, cowboy, who can’t you find?” Chris listened as Vin finally told him Cat was missing. “He’s not missing, Vin, you brought him in the car this morning. Yes I’m sure he’s down in the Ram. Do you need him? OK give me half an hour and we’ll come home.”

“All that for Cat?” Buck asked relieved.

“Guess he’s still not over what happened yesterday,” Chris sighed. “Can you be ready to go in half an hour?”

“Hell I’m ready now,” Buck said.

“I still have a few things I needed to do,” Chris said. “Talk with the others and see if they can spare us.”

“I can ask Josiah and Nathan but Ezra’s still not back,” Buck said.

“He’s not?” Chris said glancing at the clock. “I was supposed to be back at two.”

“Don’t worry about him Chris,” Buck said. “Ezra knows what he’s doing.”

“Sometimes I’m not so sure,” Chris scowled and shooed Buck out of his office.

“Is Vin alright?” Nathan asked concerned.

“Just a small crisis,” Buck smiled. “Vin couldn’t find Cat. He forgot he took the toy in the car this morning.”

“Guess Vin still needs sometime to work out his test problem,” Josiah reasoned. “And he needs Cat to do it.”

“Yeah,” Buck said. “Will you boys be alright if we leave early?”

“Vin that upset?” Nathan asked.

“I reckon,” Buck said. “Chris told him we’d come home early.”

“Mind if we stop by?” Josiah asked.

“Sure that would be great,” Buck said. “Maybe it will take Vin’s mind off everything.”

It was decided that the others would show up after dinner with ice cream. Josiah promised to find Ezra and bring him along as well. Finally Chris was ready to go and they left. Twenty minutes later Ezra came in carrying a bag.

“Is Mr. Larabee in his office?” Ezra inquired.

“Slight crisis at home,” Josiah said. “So they left early.

“I hope nothing serious.”

“No Vin just needed Cat,” Nathan explained. “He’s still upset up his tests.”

“I see,” Ezra said. “Chris might have a problem.”

“Why?” Josiah asked.

Ezra pulled a new cleaned and restored Cat out of the bag he’d been carrying.

“We got a problem,” Nathan agreed.


Chris pulled up to the house and parked the car. He grabbed the paper work from the front seat and followed Buck into the house. JD jumped into Buck’s arms as the smaller boy told everything they did at school today. Vin walked over to Chris.

“I’m sorry you had to come home early,” Vin said.

“It’s okay, cowboy,” Chris said. “Cat’s in the back seat where you left him.”

“I’m sorry, Chris,” Gloria said. “He was just so upset I guess he forgot he left the toy in the truck.”

“No harm done,” Chris said. “We didn’t leave that early.”


Chris turned quickly as Vin burst into the house. In his arms was an orange tabby. Chris looked at Buck and could see he was just as surprised a he was.

“Its true! It’s true,” Vin said excitedly. “Just like the story. I knew Cat was real and look!”

“Wow, just like the Belbeteen Rabbit,” JD said in owe.

“Oh my,” Gloria said covering the smile that came to her lips.

“The who?” Buck asked.

Chris listened as the boys explained about the story they heard at school. Both men were still in shock that Cuervo had let Vin even hold him. The tabby rarely let anyone near him except when he wanted to be pet. But Chris could see Cuervo was perfectly content to let Vin carry him around. He was so content Chris could hear him purring loudly.

“But Vin from what you're saying the Velveteen Rabbit when he became real was the same color of the toy,” Buck reasoned. “Cat’s white and this one's red.”

“So,” Vin said shrugging. “He wanted to be this color.”

“Come on let's get him some milk!” JD exclaimed.

Both boys disappeared into the kitchen with the cat. Gloria just laughed as she shook her head.

“You boys are going to have a hard time explaining this one,” Gloria said. “So whose cat is he?”

“that’s Cuervo,” Buck explained. “He’s sorta the federal buildings garage cat. At least that's where he hang out.”

“So he’s a stray,” Gloria asked.

“Yes and no,” Chris sighed. “He kinda belongs to everyone at he building. Everyone feeds him and he sticks around.”

“I better go see what those boys are up to,” Buck said as he disappeared into the kitchen.

“I have to head home,” Gloria said as she got her keys.

“But what am I going to do?” Chris asked panicked as the housekeeper got ready to leave.

“It’s certainly not going to be easy,” Gloria admitted. “But you’ll handle it Chris. Just tell Vin the truth. You now that’s the best way with him.”

“You’re right,” Chris sighed. “He’s just had such a bad couple of days. This was the first time he’s smiled.”

“I know,” Gloria said in sympathy. “There is one solution.”


“You can let the cat stay,” Gloria smiled.

“You’re a big help.”

Gloria laughed as she headed for the door. Chris followed her to the door and out to her car. He watched as she pulled up the driveway and turned on to the road. He was just about to step into the house when a familiar Jaguar pulled into the drive. Chris waited on the porch for his undercover agent. Ezra parked the car then climbed out with a bag in his hand.

“I had hope I’m not too late,” Ezra said.

“Late for what?” Chris asked confused.

“You see when I saw Cat in the back of the Ram I took him…”

“You took him?”

“Yes,” Ezra said. “ It was the best opportunity to get him fixed and cleaned since Vin never lets him out of his sight.”

“I see,” Chris said. “Why don’t you come on in the house.”

Chris opened the door and held it so Ezra could proceed inside first. Chris followed and pulled the door closed. They could hear laughter from the kitchen. Ezra gave Chris a quizzical look but he was rewarded with one of Chris’s poker faces. Ezra decided he’d go to the kitchen to see what was going on. AS he headed in that direction Vin came running out the door carrying a familiar feline.

"Look Uncle Ezra Cat came to life!" Vin yelled as he held a purring Cuervo.

"I see," Ezra says raising his eyebrows to Chris. "And how do you know that’s Cat?"

"Cause Mrs. R told us the Story of the Velveteen Rabbit,” Vin explained. “Then I went out to get Cat from the car and this is Cat."

Ezra smiled at his nephew. He knew the story well. One of his Nannies had read that to him and for the next month it was all he demanded.

"Vin there's something I have to show you," Ezra said as he pulled the newly cleaned and restored stuffed Cat out of the bag he was carrying.

Vin looked at his beloved Cat then down at the orange tabby in his arms. Ezra could see Vin was upset and quickly spoke up.

"Vin you know the part in the story where the other rabbits teased the Velveteen rabbit because he wasn't real?" Ezra stopped to see if Vin remembered . When he nodded, Ezra continued. "Remember Velveteen rabbit didn't care if he was real or not. As long as the boy thought he was real then he was. Doesn't matter if he's not real as long as you think he's real then he is."

Vin wrinkled up his face as he thought about what Ezra said. In his heart he knew the toy his Uncle was holding was his Cat. The Cat that Chris had given him. He walked up to Ezra and took the toy in the arm that wasn't holding Cuervo. Vin hugged the toy tight then seriously looked up at Ezra.

"Then Who’s this?" Vin asked.

"AH that is Cuervo," Ezra said.

"Where does he live?" Vin asked.

"He lives at the federal building in the garage," Ezra could see that wasn't what Vin wanted to hear. "It's not what it seems, Vin. Cuervo is well taken care of there. Everyone in the building watches out for him."

“But he ain’t got a family,” Vin said.

“Who don’ts got a family?” JD said as he came out of the kitchen followed by Buck.

“Cat,” Vin said. “I mean Cuervo.”

“Cuervo? Who’s that?” JD asked as he got closer. “Hey Vin you gots two Cats!”

“No this is Cat,” Vin said showing JD Cat.

“Then who’s that?”

Vin just rolled his eyes. “This is Cuervo that cat that lives at the federal building but he’s got no family.”

"Yes Vin he does have a family," Chris said. "Everyone in the building is his family. So you see he has to go back."

“But why," Vin said holding Cuervo tighter. Chris just shook his head as he heard the cat purr louder.

“Yeah why?” JD asked.

"Because everyone will be worried about him," Chris said. "They will miss him."

"But where does he sleep?" Vin asked.

“Yeah where does he sleep?” JD parroted.

“JD,” Buck scolded. “What did we say about repeating what Vin says.”

“I forgots,” JD said smiling at Buck. “But where does he sleep?”

"On the top of my car," Ezra mumbled under his breath

"He sleeps on your car!" Vin said angry.

"Well sometimes," Ezra admitted.

"He ain’t got a bed," Vin said sadly.

"To be honest Vin I didn't know," Chris admitted. "Cuervo likes to wander. He mostly stays by our cars next to the elevator but I don't know where he goes at night."

"Hey Junior what if we got Cuervo a bed," Buck suggested as he tried to help his friends get out of this fix.

"Why can’t he stay here?" Vin asked rubbing his cheek on Cuervo's fur.

“Because Cuervo wouldn't like it here," Buck explained. "He's a city cat. Likes to wander the town. Cheek things out. Guard his territory. Hang with his friends. He'd be lonely here."

"He has friends?" Vin asked.

"Oh sure," Buck smiled. "The other day I saw him with a black cat. They went sauntering over to your Uncle Ezra's car and got comfortable on the hood. Besides Vin all the ladies in the building would miss Cuervo something fierce, They take real good care of him."

"They do?" Vin asked looking at the adults.

"Everyone does Vin," Chris said.

“You sure?” Vin asked.

“I’m sure,” Chris said.

“Ok he can go back," Vin said. "But only if we get him a bed and some dishes of his own. And some food."

They agreed and Vin was satisfied. He also asked if he could go see Cuervo every once in awhile. Chris said that he could see him every time they came to the federal building. When all the negotiations for bringing Cuervo back were settled Vin walked over to Ezra.

"Uncle Ezra can you make me a promise?"

“Any time Vin,” Ezra said.

“Promise me if I get sick you'll never throw Cat away?"

Ezra smiled at his nephew. "You have my most solemn vow."

"Does that mean yes," Vin asked confused.

"I promise," Ezra said smiling.

Vin said, "So when can we go buy his stuff?"


Chris and Buck had made arraignments for the whole team to be at the garage the next morning. The boys wanted them all to see what they got Cuervo. JD still thought that was a silly name but Buck convinced him that Cuervo wouldn’t be happy with another one. Chris pulled the Ram into his usual spot and cut the engine. Josiah was surprised by the look on Chris’s face. He seemed to be angry. Nathan gave Josiah a look and all he could do was shrug. Ezra pulled in right after them and parked the Jag. He walked over to the Ram just as Vin opened the door and handed him Cuervo. Once Vin was out Ezra handed him the cat. Chris walked back to the rear of the truck and put down the tailgate. Josiah was surprised as Chris pulled out a huge cat condo. It had three levels of carpet covered tiers. At the top was an enclosed section with a hole cut out. Now Josiah knew why Chris was not a happy camper.

“Where we gonna put it?” JD asked as he held another bag from Petco.

“Right here next to the elevator,” Nathan said. “I sweep all around so it would be ready for Cuervo’s new house.”

“Yes, “ Josiah said, “But we never expected it to be so big.”

“But he needed something to climb on,” Vin reasoned. “He ain’t got no trees here.”

“That’s true he doesn’t,” Josiah agreed.

“So we picked this one,” JD said happily.

“Somebody want to give me a hand,” Chris growled.

Josiah suppressed a laugh as he helped Chris carry the tree house over to the elevator. Once it was in the place JD set out all the new bowls and toys for Cuervo. Vin put Cuervo on the first tier and backed away.

“I hope you like it,” Vin said.

“Murow,” Cuervo said as he jumped to the second tier and started washing his tail.

“He likes it!” JD crowed in delight.

“OK let’s leave Cuervo to get used to his new home,” Buck suggested.

Vin waved good-bye to Cuervo as the headed for the elevator. The boys talked excitedly with Josiah and Nathan explaining their time at the pet store. They all got into the elevator and waited for the doors to close. Just as the doors were closing Ezra noticed Cuervo sauntering over to his car. Just as the doors closed Cuervo jumped on the hood of the Jag. All Ezra could do was let out a long-suffering sigh.