I wrote this years ago and wanted Squeakypeep's permission to use her character Rorie. I love the character and thought it would be nice for her to have a cousin. Someone she can get into trouble with. This little girl was inspired by two little girls, one of them being Rorie, the other, my youngest granddaughter. I would appreciate any feed back and I hope Squeekypeep is pleased with the story.
Vin knocked on Chris's office door and entered when Chris told him to. Vin sat in one of the chairs that sat in front of Chris's desk. "I got a registered letter from the parole board in Amarillo, Texas." And he handed the letter to Chris.
The letter stated Vin's presence was needed for the prisoner, Ex-police officer, Lt. Franklin Rolland. Vin told Chris he needed time off to attend the hearing in three weeks. Chris in turn, contacted Orin Travis, who gave the whole team the time off. After which the team had better be prepared for some hard work and long hours. Ezra thought it would be good for Rorie to visit the state of Texas.
Vin wanted to show the guys and Rorie where he grew up. He called the parole board that he would be there. Rorie wanted to see the children's home where Vin grew up so Vin called the home and asked permission to stop by and was given the ok. He told Rorie about one of his favorite places to visit when he was a kid. And that was the Amarillo City Zoo. Rorie thought it would be a good idea if they could take some of the kids at the home with them to the zoo. Vin and Ezra informed the others of this and wanted to know what they thought. Josiah and JD were all for it. Buck thought it would be nice, but only if they could limit how many went. Nathan was okay with it as long as he had a list of allergies and medical concerns on each child. Chris just went with the flow. So Vin called the home again and told the woman in charge, Miss Sheila West, what they had planed and she said it would be great and the fact that there was going to be someone with a medical background was even better.
+ + + + + + +
Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport
"Who is this guy again?" Buck asked.
"A dirty cop I testified against ten years ago," Vin answered as they waited for their luggage. "I was undercover when I met the guy. He was giving the bad guys protection. When ever they needed police protection, they just call Rolland and he'd handle it."
Chris shook his head as he reached for his luggage. "Guys like that should not bed allowed to be in law enforcement. Period."
"I agree with Chris. What I want to know is, how did you find out about what Rolland was doing?" JD asked.
"One of the cops Rolland recruited came and told me. He knew who I was and got me in good with Rolland. Then he helped to bring Rolland down. But not before he got shot by Rolland himself," Vin said as he lead them to their waiting vehicles.
There were three vehicles waiting for them. Vin and Ezra took one with a car seat already in it. Chris, Buck and JD took another, which left Josiah and Nathan the third one. JD wanted to ride with Vin so he could ask more questions about Rolland. When they arrived at the hotel, the three rooms were divided up the same way as were the cars. After they checked in, they all met in Vin and Ezra's room.
"I maybe should go to the court house now," Vin said when he looked down at his watch.
While Chris and Vin went to the court house, the others went to the pool and arcade. Rorie was so excited about going to the zoo in the morning.
"What time we going Daddy?" Rorie asked for what seemed the millionth time.
Ezra sighed. "After breakfast. Uncle Josiah will be leaving here soon for the church bus that will be taking us to the children's home and from there to the zoo."
"That's a long time to wait," Rorie said, dejectedly.
"I know it may seem that way, but in reality, it isn't." Ezra smiled at his daughter.
Josiah walked over to Ezra and Rorie. "How about you go with me to the church to get the bus. If that's alright with your dad," Josiah asked Rorie.
"Yes you may. But first, you need to change out of your bathing suit and into something more fitting for an outing with your Uncle," Ezra said, then started to get up from the metal and mesh patio chair.
Josiah laid a hand on Ezra's shoulder to stop him from getting up. "I'll handle it, Ez.
Ezra looked up at Josiah, and handed him the room key card, "Thank you."
Nathan chuckled. "She's been quite a hand full lately?"
"You have no idea, Nathan," Ezra said and closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "She has been counting the days off on the calendar. Vin and I have been bombarded with questions, some of which we could not answer. To say Rorie has been looking forward to this trip would be a severe understatement."
Nathan could imagine the last three weeks Vin and Ezra had with Rorie. "Well, come tomorrow morning, it'll be over with. Who knows, maybe she'll make a friend and want to spend the day together and you won't have to answer so many why questions." Nathan smiled.
Ezra smiled at the thought. "Yes. That would be nice, but on the other hand, Mr. Jackson, I can only shudder at the long distance phone bill I would be receiving with said friendship, let alone the begging and pleading to visit the friend. You forget, Aurora is, after all, a true Standish."
"Yeah, I know," Nathan chuckled.
Ezra glared at Nathan, which made Nathan laugh even more.
+ + + + + + +
Rorie finally fell asleep around midnight, and was up at the crack of dawn. She wanted to go and have breakfast but Ezra told her breakfast wasn't till seven am. Vin told her the zoo wouldn't open up until nine-thirty. At seven, true to his word, Ezra, Vin and Rorie met the others in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. It was just past eight when they left the restaurant to go to the home.
When they arrived, Ezra told Rorie she had to stay on the bus with her Uncles while he, Uncle Chris and Uncle Vin went inside.
"But I want to see the kids," Rorie whined.
"Aurora," Ezra warned.
"You'll get to see 'em, Pumpkin," Vin said then tweaked one of Rorie's braid.
The three men exited the bus. There was a young girl that looked to be in her early teens waiting for them when they stepped off the bus.
"Hi. I'm Kathy. Miss West sent me to wait for ya and I was to show ya where ta go," Kathy said then lead them to the office.
Vin smiled at the old banister he remembered sliding down when he was a little kid living here. The walls had been painted a nice sunny yellow and the floor was now hardwood instead of the old linoleum. The home felt a lot more kid friendly than when he was living here. He wondered how much the play ground had changed.
Miss West greeted her guests with a smile. "Good morning Gentlemen."
They all shook her hand before taking seats across from her.
"I am so glad you want to take the children on a trip to the zoo. We don't get to many people who are willing to take so many of them. 3, 4 or maybe 5 if were lucky, but when you called, you told me there were going to be seven men and one little girl. Has that changed any?"
The men could see the hopefulness in Miss West's eyes. "No ma'am, it's still 7 men and one little girl." Vin smiled.
"Good. Is one of the men still the medic?"
"Yes. That would be Mr. Jackson. Do you have the list of the children who will be attending and their medical concerns?" Ezra asked.
"Yes I do." Miss West handed Ezra the list.
"I'll take it to Nathan," Chris said.
The teen that brought the three men to the office stepped in. "I'll do that. Which one is Nathan?"
Ezra handed the list to the teen. "He's the African-American."
Kathy smiled, then looked down at the list, then back at Miss West. "CJ's on the list." Then she ran out of the office and out the front double doors to the bus.
"Is Kathy on the list?" Ezra asked after he watched the young girl hurried off.
"No," Miss West smiled. "She's been hoping for CJ to be able to go."
"Why wouldn't CJ be able ta?" Vin asked.
"CJ's a special case. Her mother was able to hold on to life just long enough for the emergency surgical physician to do a c-section. The woman was only 27 weeks along when she was shot. She was carrying twins. CJ lived, but her twin didn't."
"How did it happen?" Chris asked.
"It was a convenience store hold up. The clerk said the woman and him did everything the guy said, but he still shot the woman. The clerk said it was funny, because the guy said, just before he shot her, 'I'm sorry, but I have to do this.' Then he shot her."
"Did they catch the guy?" Vin asked.
Miss West nodded. "Yes they did. Dead."
"Good. He got what he deserved." Chris felt no remorse for the guy.
Just then a little girl came running in. "Miss West, Miss West. They're at it again."
Miss West sighed. "Tell Ted and Ben to meet me out there."
"Kay." Then the little girl left.
"Excuse me, Gentlemen. I have a fight to break up. And she was doing so good," Miss West sighed and shook her head.
"Would you like any help?" Vin asked.
"I wont turn it down."
Ezra, Vin and Chris followed the woman out to the play ground. They got there in time to see an Orderly lift a little girl up off, a rather large boy, who had his arms over his face blocking the little girl's blows.
"What happened?" Miss West demanded.
"I didn't do nothin'. She went loco for no reason," the boy said when he stood up.
"No I didn't. You was teasing again," the kicking and squirming little girl spat.
"I was just playing a joke, CC," the boy mocked.
"Well, you're an imbecilic, Neanderthal, Delimeat!"
Vin and Chris looked to Ezra. "I swear to you Gentlemen, I have never had the privilege of educating the small female child."
"Hey! Mrs. Manitoe said you ain't to call me delimeat," the boy yelled.
"You ain't suspose ta call me charity case."
"I didn't. I called you CC."
"Enough!" Chris said, loudly.
Both combatants turned to face him as did everyone else.
"Thank you Mr. Larabee," Miss West said, after she stood when a little girl whispered something in her ear. "Delbert, are you sure you were not teasing, CJ? You know how I feel about bullying."
"Isn't here. I am. Now apologize to CJ or no trip to the zoo," Miss West said, arms crossed.
"I'm sorry," Delbert said, reluctantly.
"CJ, you too," Miss West said when she turned to the little girl, who had stopped her kicking and squirming when Chris spoke.
"I'm sorry Delbert."
"Good. Now I want the two of you to promise me you will be good for these men and their friends."
"I will if he will," CJ promised.
CJ looked up at the man holding her. "You can put me down now Ben. I'll be good."
Ben put the little girl down and brushed the dirt off of her.
"Tammy, take CJ up to the bathroom and clean her up. Ted, please do the same for Delbert." Miss West looked around the play ground. "The bus is waiting out front for those who are going to the zoo. I suggest you go and get on it before I change my mind."
All the children that were to go ran to the double doors and out of the play ground.
Tammy and Ted did as they were asked. The three men followed Miss West back into her office. Miss West dropped into her desk chair and sighed heavily. "Delbert enjoys picking on CJ."
"Why did he call her CC?" Vin asked.
"When CJ was born, there wasn't enough funds for the life saving surgery needed to save her. So, the Nurses at the hospital took up a collection to pay for it, themselves, but they fell short. The Surgeon and his surgical team performed it any way at a considerable loss. The media got wind of it, and baby Joy Doe, became Charity Joy Doe. Then when she was sent to us, she had a case number." Miss West stood up and went over to a filing cabinet that stood in a corner. She opened the top drawer and pulled out a file and handed it to Vin. "This is her case file. Go ahead and take it with you if you want to know more about her."
Vin opened the file, and read it over. "She's a little girl, not some case number."
"I know, but Mrs. Manitoe keeps a file on every child that ever lived here." Miss West smiled at Vin.
Vin smiled back. "So she still works here."
"Unfortunately. But only on the Board of Directors. She favors Delbert for some reason. Delbert gets away with a lot around here. CJ won't put up with his crap. As you noticed."
"We should be going," Chris said.
The three men saw a bunch of kids standing outside the bus while other kids were getting on the bus and finding seats. Delbert made his way to the front of the line, with his four friends right behind him.
"Come on guys," Delbert said, then started to get on the bus.
Josiah stopped the five kids. "These kids were here first."
Delbert shrugged Josiah's hand off his shoulder and started to go up the bus steps, Buck stood at the top. "You heard the man."
Delbert glared at Buck then started to go up the steps but stopped when Chris called out his name and told him he was to go to the back of the line. When he and his friends got on, they went to the back of the bus.
"That boy's going to be trouble when he gets older," Chris sighed.
Just then the front doors came open and a little girl came bursting through them with her back pack on. She had her hair up in pig tails that hung in ringlets and bounced when she ran. She had a pair of light blue overalls with a red and white stripped long sleeved shirt on, and wearing white sneakers. About half way there, she tripped and fell on the broken up cement walkway. The guys heard Delbert and his friends laughing. Josiah reached up and tapped on the window and glared at them as did Chris.
Vin walked over and helped the girl up. "Are you okay?" Vin asked, brushing her off.
"I's fine. Thank ya fer askin'," CJ said.
Nathan wandered over. "Let me check you over to make sure."
"You the Medic?"
"Yes I am."
CJ took off her back pack and opened it. "I have to give these to you."
CJ handed Nathan a zip lock baggy with pills in it. "What are these for?"
CJ laughed. "Not a what, who. Those are fer me."
Nathan reached into the bag and took out the note and read it. "Oh, okay. I'll make sure you get these when you're suppose to."
CJ smiled up at Nathan. "Thank ya. Can I get on the bus now?"
"After I see to those hands," Nathan said and took her by the wrist and lead her to the back of the bus where he had a first aid kit stored.
Vin shook his head and picked up the back pack.
The men that were outside the bus, were now getting on after they made sure all the kids that were on the list were accounted for. Josiah was the last one on. He sat behind the wheel and waited for the go ahead from Chris. Chris waited for everyone to settle down.
"All eyes this way," Chris said. All the kids and adults except for Delbert and his four friends looked up at Chris who was standing in the aisle between the front seats. "I said, all eyes this way, meaning I want your attention."
Buck turned around, then got up and tapped Delbert on the shoulder. "Hey, Chris said..."
Delbert waved Buck off. "Yeah, yeah, I heard him."
Buck barely got out of the aisle when Chris reached Delbert. Chris took Delbert by the shirt collar and lead him to the front of the bus. The other four kids started to get up and follow but Buck stood and blocked their way. When they started to say something, Chris turned his head and glared at them. Chris sat Delbert in the front seat behind Josiah.
"My name is Chris Larabee. The man in the back is Buck Wilmington. The man with the computer is JD Dunn. The man with long hair is Vin Tanner. The man in the green shirt is Ezra Standish. The African American is Nathan Jackson. The man driving is Josiah Sanchez. Buck, you take two of them and JD, you take the other two and when we get to the zoo, Josiah will take them from there JD. Buck, you are assigned to the two you have." Chris then looked down at Delbert. "I will take Delbert." Chris then looked back at the group. "Ezra, I assume you will have Rorie, so the rest of the kids will be assigned to an adult when we get to the zoo. And who ever you are assigned to, you will stay with that person."
Everyone nodded, said okay or let Chris know they understood the rules. Chris then sat down next to Delbert and gave Josiah the okay to go.
Rorie leaned over to Ezra. "That boy should not have did that."
Ezra smiled. "You are correct. He should not have."
CJ sat next to Vin and they were sitting behind Ezra and Rorie.
Rorie giggled, then looked over the back of the seat. "That was funny."
CJ looked around then back at Rorie. "Are you talking to me?"
"Uh, yeah, I am."
"I didn't say anything."
"Yes you did. I heard you."
"Um, no she didn't Pumpkin."
Rorie turned around and sat down. "I know I heard you," Rorie pouted.
"Rorie? I didn't hear her as well."
"But Dad, I know what I heard," Rorie pouted.
"I didn't say anything," CJ thought.
"Yes you did. You called him Delimeat," Rorie thought to her self after she heard CJ.
"You heard that?"
"Duh, I'm not deaf," Rorie shook her head then her eyes got wide and she hopped up on her knees to look CJ in the face. "You can hear me?"
"Yeah, and you can hear me!"
"Cool!" Both girls shouted.
The girls got everyone's attention.
Ezra tapped Rorie on the shoulder. "Indoor voice and turn around and sit down in the seat."
"Sorry," Rorie apologized and did what her father told her.
Rorie and CJ kept on talking with their mind's. They were enjoying their silent communication.
Chris looked back at Vin. Vin just shrugged his shoulders.
They finally arrived at the zoo. Since Chris, Buck and Josiah already knew who they had, they unloaded the necessary things, while Nathan assigned the rest of the children to the remaining team members. Ezra took 2 girls, which gave him 3 kids, including Rorie. Vin took CJ and 2 other girls. Chris had Delbert, Josiah had 2 boys, Buck had a girl and a boy, JD had 2 girls and a boy, Nathan had 3 boys, After the guys took the children that were assigned to them, they paired up. Ezra and Vin paired together, Buck and JD paired, (Buck, Josiah, and Chris felt it was a good idea to keep Delbert and his friends apart.) Josiah and Nathan paired. Chris left by himself with Delbert.
Vin had his camera and was taking a lot of pictures. The first exhibit Vin and Ezra went to was the birds of prey. Vin had CJ, Kari, and Heather. Ezra had Rorie, Penny and Lisa.
"Hey, CJ," Heather said, "Show Mr. Tanner and Mr. Standish what you can do."
CJ shrugged her shoulder, took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Then she opened her mouth and let out a screech that sounded like a hawk.
"Ain't that cool," Penny said. "She can copy other animal sounds too."
"Yeah, Delbert tries to but he can't do it as good as CJ," Lisa added.
"I like watching animal planet. I learn stuff about all kinds of animals and the sounds they make," CJ said in way of explaining her copying animal sounds.
Next they went to see the wolves. CJ howled and a wolf howled back. Rorie thought her new friend was awesome.
Rorie told CJ and the other girls about London and what she did there.
"I've never been anywhere but Texas," CJ said. "It must have been a lot of fun.
The other girls agreed with CJ. Buck and his two kids, Becky and Will, over heard Rorie telling the girls about what happened in London.
"You didn't do any of that stuff," Becky scoffed.
"I did too," Rorie said, hands on her hips.
CJ stepped up in front of Rorie and faced Becky, with her head lowered, slightly, and hands on her hips, before the four adults could say anything. "You don't know nothin', Becky. You wasn't there."
Becky made a move toward CJ, but Will grabbed her arm and then whispered into her ear. Becky nodded and backed away, smiling.
Vin narrowed his eyes a bit when Buck took his two and walked away. As did CJ. Rorie nodded her head and they went on to the next exhibit, the petting zoo.
Josiah and his two, Eddy and Timmy, were already there when Vin and Ezra arrived with their six girls. CJ immediately went to the cats and kittens and sat down next to them. Vin took the picture of Rorie and CJ with the kittens.
Rorie cocked her head to one side. "How are you doing that?"
CJ shrugged her shoulders. "I don't really know how I do it. I just picture the animal in my head and make their sound. Holding the kittens, I don't have to picture them, I just purr like they do."
Ezra watched Rorie and CJ together. Then he started to notice a few things about CJ. Like the way she narrowed her eyes earlier and other facial expressions. Ezra made a mental note to take a closer look at the child's file.
"You have a pony!" CJ exclaimed. "I have never been near a pony except here at the zoo. I would love to have my own pony," CJ sighed. "I don't get to do much of anything."
"That's because you're too little," Timmy teased.
"Yeah, like a little baby," Eddy said and then he and Timmy laughed.
Vin was about to say something when CJ stood and faced her tormenters. "Yeah? Well at least I don't suck my thumb like you Timmy or need a night light on to sleep at night like you Eddy, so who's the babies?"
Josiah grabbed onto the back of Timmy's and Eddy's collars and lead them away before they started something that he, Nathan, Vin and Ezra had to settle.
Next, they went to the reptile exhibit, where they met up with Chris and Delbert. Chris was keeping his distance from the snakes and looking at the tortoises and turtles.
"Mr. Standish, I'm thirsty," Penny said.
CJ took her back pack off and unzipped the main part. "I have some bottled water if you want some, Penny. I even have some trail mix, if anyone wants any."
"Yeah, that'll be great, CJ, thanks," Penny said and took one of the small bottles of water and a handful of trail mix. Soon, CJ was surrounded by the other kids.
"I was wondering why that back pack was so heavy," Vin stated.
"I like her. She comes prepared," Chris said to Ezra and Vin.
"Where's mine, CC?" Delbert demanded.
Chris over heard Delbert and was about to take Delbert and leave with him. But before he could, CJ put Delbert in his place.
"If you ask me nicely, you may or may not get any. You're lucky I'm even thinkin' about lettin' you have any."
Ezra had to smile at the little imp, standing there, hip shot, holding a bottle of water in front of her and the bag of trail mix in the other hand. When he looked over at Vin who was videoing the scene on his cell phone.
Any one could tell Delbert didn't want to ask nicely. He crossed his arms and said. "Just give it to me."
CJ knew if she didn't give Delbert what he wanted, she was going to pay for it later. "You know what Delbert? No. You can't have any." CJ put the water and bag of trail mix back in her back pack.
"Delbert, let's go," Chris said. When Delbert didn't move, Chris took Delbert by his shirt collar and led him in the direction of the exit.
The rest of the time went without no trouble from Delbert or his four friends. Each exhibit CJ came to, she made the animal sound for that animal. All the while, Ezra was seeing things that looked so familiar. When they came to a peaceful, shady spot, Vin sat down on one of three park benches and looked across a pond. Ezra watched as CJ climbed up next to Vin and laid her head in his lap and was looking out across the pond as well. Then it hit him why everything CJ did today looked so familiar to him. She was a little female Vin Tanner.
"This is my favorite place to be," CJ said. "The animals treat me like any other kid that comes here."
"It was mine too," Vin said. "I grew up in the same orphanage you are."
CJ rolled over so she could see Vin in the face. "Did you go to a lot of homes too?"
"Yep. And some of 'em weren't very nice," Vin answered.
"Tell me about it," CJ said and sat up. "Some are real bad."
Ezra saw a look come over CJ that had him concerned. "CJ, did anything happen to you in one of these real bad homes?"
CJ just nodded her head.
"Would you like to tell us?" Vin asked.
CJ shook her head no. "Can we just go look at more animals?"
Ezra looked down at his watch. "We could, but then we wouldn't have time to go to McDonalds for dinner."
CJ's face lit up. "McDonalds?"
"Yep. We's to wait here for the others and leave together."
"Can I get what ever I want?" CJ asked.
Vin chuckled. "Yep."
"Why do you ask?" Ezra smiled.
"Well, cause there's a lot I can't have. Like dairy stuff and chocolate. No fries. When ever Dr. Baxter and his wife take me to McDonalds, they make sure the people know to drain the grease off real good. They even pat my burger with paper towels so there won't be any grease."
Ezra and Vin listened to CJ tell of what she can and can not eat.
"Why can't ya eat all that?" Rorie asked.
CJ turned her back toward Rorie. "I had my heart fixed when I was born. You can see the scar," CJ pointed to her back for Rorie to see.
Rorie pulled CJ's collar back and looked. There was a scar just below the left shoulder blade.
"Dr. Baxter did it," CJ said, then sat back against the park bench back. "He lives in Austin. Whenever he or his wife come here, they take me for a couple hours. He's my heart doctor."
"How often do you see him?" Ezra asked.
"At first, it was every two weeks. Now every three months."
"When was the last time you saw him?" Vin wanted know.
"Last week. Him and his wife took me to get some new cloths and shoes," CJ said as she pointed to her shoes. "I like wearing the flag colors."
"Why is that?" Ezra asked.
CJ smiled up at Ezra. "My birthday."
"Yer birthday?" Vin said.
"Yep. A lot of people celebrate it every year."
Ezra thought about what CJ said. When he looked at his daughter, she was smiling and looked as if she had to use the zoo's bathroom privileges.
Vin thought, "Flag colors, birthday, and a lot of people celebrate."
Ezra and Vin came to the same answer at the same time. "July 4th," both men answered at the same time.
"Finally!" Rorie shouted.
Ezra lifted an eye brow at Rorie's out burst.
"What?" Rorie said.
"Hey, you guy's ready" Chris asked when he and the rest of the group met up with Vin and Ezra's group.
"Yep," CJ said and hopped off the bench.
+ + + + + + +
It was a short trip to McDonalds. Each man took his kids and stood in line with them. After each child gave their order, they went to find a seat and wait for their food. They were told after they had eaten they could go and play in the play area. In the play area, the kids had to take their shoes off and put them into the bins. The men thought they would let the kids play for an hour, hour and a half then take them back to the home. During this time, Ezra was happy to see Rorie take such a liking to the little girl CJ. What really amazed him was the connection Rorie and CJ had. It was so much like Vin and Chris's. Ezra thought it to be uncanny the way CJ was so much like Vin.
"Vin?" Ezra said while he looked on the kids playing, specially CJ and Rorie.
"Does CJ remind you of anyone?"
"Ah, no. I don't think so, why?"
Ezra smiled. "No reason."
Chris was watching Delbert. He didn't want any trouble from him. There was a couple of times Chris lost track of him but quickly located him. Buck and Josiah kept an eye on the two they were in charge of. About an hour had passed when Buck saw the girl he was in charge of nod her head toward Delbert with a wicked grin on her face.
"Shoot, something's going down," Buck said to JD.
"How do you know?" JD asked as he looked around the play area.
"I just know. Wait here while I go and tell Chris."
Chris saw Buck get up from where he was sitting and head his way.
"What's up?" Chris asked, not taking his eyes off Delbert.
"Don't know, but the little girl I was assigned just gave a nod to Delbert and I didn't like the look on her face."
Chris sighed. "Let's get the kids together and head out."
"I'll tell the others."
Chris nodded and stood to go and get Delbert.
The men started to gather the kids together and get their shoes on them. Delbert got to his first and started to leave the play area but Chris stopped him and told him he had to put his shoes on before he left. When he looked over at his friends, Chris knew something was up. What, he had no idea, but he soon found out.
CJ had gotten her shoes and went over to Vin and sat down next to him to put her shoes on. When CJ put her shoe on, she felt something gooshy. She pulled her foot out and screamed. This got everyone's attention. CJ started to cry. Delbert and his friends laughed. Chris took Delbert by the collar after he got his shoes on and lead him to the bus as did Buck with his two and Josiah his. Vin took CJ to the bathroom and tried to clean the mustard out of one shoe and ketchup from a sock and the other shoe.
Out on the bus, Buck is seated near the back of the bus, Josiah is seated behind the steering wheel while Chris is pacing up and down the bus aisle doing his best not to blow up at these five kids. Chris took a deep breath and sighed before he faced Delbert and his minions. "Why? She didn't do a thing to either of you."
Delbert rolled his eyes which got Chris in his face. "You listen, and you listen good. I have had it with all of you," Chris said as he looked from one to the other. "I want to know what is your problem with CJ?"
"Our problem is she gets special treatment," Becky answered.
"What kind of special treatment?" Buck asked.
"Well, she gets special treatment at restaurants all the time. She has to have her food done a special way and if she gets to tired on any of the trips she's on, we all have to go back to the home. Not just her," Delbert said angrily.
"Yeah, it's not fair to the rest of us," Eddy said.
"Do you know why?" Josiah asked.
"Duh, she was born with a heart condition. We've been told a thousand times," Timmy said.
"She shouldn't be with the rest of us if she needs so much special care," Will said.
Chris sighed, one hand on his hip, the other pinching the bridge of his nose, eyes closed. "Jealousy. That's your problem."
"We ain't jealous of that charity case," Delbert yelled as he got up into Chris's face.
Chris glared down at Delbert. "Buck? Take over." Chris then turned on his heal and left the bus.
"Kid, you're damn lucky yer only 9. If you were a grownup, you'd be picking yerself up out of the aisle. Now sit back down and I don't want to hear a word out of any of you," Buck said as he separated them.
Chris found Vin in the men's room trying to get ketchup out of a white sock. "I got most of the ketchup out, but I think her new shoes are ruined."
CJ was sitting on the counter sniffling. Chris patted her on the back. "I didn't do anything to them. Why did they ruin my shoes?"
"I'd like ta know that too," Vin said as he rung out the sock.
"Jealousy," Chris thought.
Vin stopped what he was doing and stared at Chris. "Really? Jealousy?" He shook his head.
Vin stuck the wet sock in one of the shoes then picked CJ up along with the wet shoes and headed for the play area to join the others. The other kids gathered around Chris, Vin, Ezra and CJ. They were all ready to go as was the men. Vin carried CJ out to the bus since her shoes and socks were unable to be worn.
"See, we told ya, special treatment," Delbert mumbled.
"If you and your buddies here hadn't put ketchup and mustard in her shoes, she wouldn't have needed to be carried, now would she," Buck growled.
Miss West was in her office when Vin and Chris walked in with the kids.
"What happened?" Miss West asked when she saw Vin carrying CJ.
Chris explained what happened and why the five kids did what they did.
Miss West sighed. "I'll handle it Gentlemen. Thank you."
Miss West smiled at Vin, holding CJ in his arms. CJ had her head on his shoulder.
Out in the bus.
"I would like to read the file on Miss Case, please."
Nathan shrugged his shoulders. "Sure."
Ezra took the file from Nathan. "Thank you."
As Ezra read the file, he did some quick calculations and grinned.
Josiah watched Ezra through the overhead mirror that let him see everyone on the bus, and wondered what Ezra read that put that grin on his face.
Ezra closed the file and handed it back to Nathan. "Rorie, you are to remain here with your Uncles, I shell return."
Ezra left the bus and went inside to join Chris and Vin.
Vin and Chris were about to leave when Ezra joined them. "We were just leavin' Ez," Vin said.
"That is fine Mr. Tanner, but I would like a moment of Miss West's time."
"Sure, I guess. We'll be waiting on the bus fer ya," Vin said then he and Chris left.
Ezra closed the door. "Miss West, do you have anything of Miss Case's that can be used to determine her parentage?"
"I can get you some hair clippings. Would that do?"
Ezra could see the confusion on the woman's face. "Yes, they would do just fine. Thank you."
Miss West opened a desk drawer and withdrew a pair of scissors. "I'll get a snack baggy from the kitchen." She then left.
Ezra waited for the young woman to return.
Miss West handed Ezra the baggy with CJ's hair clippings. "She needed her bangs trimmed anyway."
Ezra held the baggy up to get a good look at the contents. "These will suffice. Now, I am in need of your phone number here so that I may phone you the results of the paternity test. And if my suspicions are correct," Ezra smiled, "we will be returning soon to collect Miss Case."
Miss West smiled. "Mr. Tanner?"
Ezra nodded and tipped his imaginary hat to her and left the building to join the others.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah dropped the team off at their hotel and left to take the bus back to the church he borrowed it from.
Ezra approached Nathan. "Nathan, May I have a moment in private?"
"Sure Ez. What's up?"
Ezra produced the baggy of hair clippings from his pocket and showed them to Nathan. "How soon could you have these tested for DNA?"
Nathan took the baggy and looked at the contents. "You wanting a paternity test done?"
"That is correct," Ezra nodded.
"I'll need a sample from the second person."
Ezra smiled. "Not a problem."
Nathan looked at Ezra with a furrowed brow. "Who do you have in mind?"
"Our resident sharpshooter."
Nathan glanced a quick look at Vin. "These belong to CJ Case?" Ezra nodded. "That's why you wanted to read the file on her. I'll see what I can do."
"I thought I was just seeing things and dismissed them," Nathan confided. "So did Josiah."
"I know, but spending an entire afternoon with the two of them, I am convinced Vin is Miss Case's father."
Nathan smiled at the thought of another niece. "If the test proves Vin is the father, how will you tell him?"
Ezra turned to look at Vin. "Let's have the test done first, then I'll cross that bridge when I get there."
"You think he's ready?" Nathan asked as he too watched Vin.
Ezra looked to Nathan. "Are any of us, Mr. Jackson? I assure you, I was not. With my chosen career, a child never entered the equation and yet I have a daughter."
Nathan had to agree with Ezra.
Vin finished his coffee and was about to throw out the styrofoam cup when Nathan took it and said he would get rid of it since he was going in that direction. Nathan met Josiah in front of the hotel and filled him in what Ezra suspected and the two of them left for the paternity clinic that Nathan found in the phone book. Josiah was excited at the prospect of having another niece.
Chris sat next to Ezra in one of the poolside lounge chairs. "I noticed you and Nathan watching Vin earlier and Nathan took Vin's coffee cup and didn't throw it away. Then he and Josiah left minutes after Josiah returned. What's up?"
Ezra looked up to see where the Texan was before he answered. Vin, JD and Buck were playing with Rorie in the pool. "I am playing a hunch and needed the assistance of Mr. Jackson."
"What hunch?" Chris asked.
"I do not wish to say until I know for sure the out come."
Ezra sighed. "Fine. I had Mr. Jackson take a snack baggy of Miss Case's hair clipping that I obtained from Miss West, and the coffee cup from Vin to a paternity clinic here in town."
Chris chuckled. "You saw it too."
"Yes as did Nathan and Josiah."
"I think Vin's the only one who hasn't. Buck and I was talking about how much CJ was so much like Vin. Even JD noticed a couple of things."
"Before I said a thing, I wanted to get conformation of said hunch."
"Did Nathan say how long it would be?"
"When he called the clinic, they informed him it would be at least 30 minutes."
Chris nodded. "Then we'll know soon."
Ezra smiled when he saw Nathan. "I would say within minutes."
Nathan couldn't wait to tell the others the results of the paternity test. Josiah was grinning from ear to ear when he and Nathan arrived at the hotel. He could hardly hold in his excitement. When he and Nathan entered the pool room, they looked for Ezra and found him sitting next to Chris in a pool side lounge chair. Both Ezra and Chris sat up straight when Nathan and Josiah joined them. Nathan handed Ezra the result papers.
Ezra looked over the papers and then handed them to Chris. "I have a phone call to make."
Ezra called Miss West to inform her of the test results. She said she'd have CJ ready if they wanted to come and pick her up that night. All she needed was to copy the test and put it in CJ's file.
"You can rest assured we will be there."
Chris shook his head. "97.86 percent positive. I have to call AD Travis and let him know."
Buck saw Chris, Ezra, Nathan and Josiah huddle over some papers and decided to join them. "Hey what's up?"
Ezra closed his phone. "Look for yourself Mr. Wilmington." Chris handed him the papers.
Buck looked over the papers. "YEAH!"
Everyone in the pool room looked over at the five men when Buck yelled. JD and Vin joined them with Rorie. "Hey, what's got ya'll so happy?" Vin asked.
JD read the papers in Buck's hands. "Sweet!"
Vin put Rorie down and took the papers from Buck and read them then looked up at the guys. "These are paternity papers."
"Yes they are, Mr. Tanner." Ezra smiled.
"Who's?" Vin asked as he handed them back to Buck.
Chris stood and took the papers from Buck and gave them to Vin. "Congratulations Vin, you have a daughter."
Vin looked from one to the other. They were all smiling at him. Then it hit him. Buck grabbed a chair for Vin to sit in before he ended up on the floor.
Rorie got up into Vin's lap. "You have a little girl Uncle Vin?"
"Yes he does and she is coming home to live with us," Ezra answered.
"Yahoo!" Rorie shouted for everyone to hear. "What's her name?"
"Charity Joy," Ezra answered.
Rorie gasped, "CJ?" Ezra nodded. "Yes!" Rorie gave Vin a big bear hug.
"Come on, Vin. Let's go and get her," Chris said as he patted Vin on the shoulder. "You coming Ez?"
"Of course." Ezra rose from the lounge.
"I want to go to," Rorie pleaded.
Ezra looked down in the face of his daughter. "You will need a change of dry clothing."
"We can wait for a few minutes," Chris said.
+ + + + + + +
Miss West was waiting for the three men with papers for Vin to sign so he could take CJ legally. She also had CJ's belongings bagged and waiting. She didn't say a word to CJ because she wanted it to be a surprise. She knew all CJ ever wished for was a family. Miss West wanted Mr. Tanner to tell her she was going home with him.
"Good evening Miss West," Ezra greeted.
"Good evening Gentlemen. I was so happy to hear from you so soon."
"Hi, I'm Rorie."
"Nice to meet you. CJ told me all about you and how much fun she had. She's in the play yard. I know it's a bit late, but there's plenty of light out there if you want to go and play with her."
"Can I Daddy?"
"Yes you may go play."
"Just go through the double doors at the end of the hallway," Miss West informed her.
"Thank you," Rorie said and left.
Chris handed Miss West the papers. "Here's the test results you need."
Miss West took them and looked them over before she went to the copy machine. As she went over to the copy machine, a little girl came running in from the play yard yelling. She past Rorie on her way to the office.
Vin caught the little girl when she ran into the office, crying and in hysterics.
"Hey, what's wrong little one?" Vin asked.
"She's hurt real bad!" The little girl cried.
"Who?" Chris asked.
"CJ. Delbert pushed her off the big slide and she isn't moving."
The four adults stopped what they were doing and ran for the double doors. Ezra was on the phone calling 911. Vin burst through the double doors first and picked Rorie up and handed her to Chris who was right behind him. There was a bunch of kids standing around the slide and the fallen child.
"She was suspose to go down the slide not over the side," Delbert wailed.
Chris glared up at the boy. "Get down here. NOW!"
Ezra took a crying Rorie from Chris. "The ambulance is on the way, Vin."
Rorie hid her face in Ezra's shoulder. Ezra was doing his best to sooth her. Vin knelt down beside CJ and checked to see if she had a pulse and sighed with relief when he felt it. "She's alive."
Delbert slowly made his way down from the slide. "I didn't mean for her to fall over the side. Really I didn't."
Chris took the boy off to the side. "Why did you push her?"
"She's four and it's after seven. All the little kids are suspose to be in bed at seven. Mrs. Manitoe said so."
"Delbert, the reason CJ isn't in bed is because that man kneeling next to her is her Father and he came here to take her home with him," Miss West informed the boy.
"I don't care what this Mrs. Manitoe said. You still had no right to push CJ off the slide," Chris scolded the boy.
CJ still hadn't came around when the ambulance got there.
The paramedics came with a stretcher and a child's back board and neck brace.
Chris saw the fear in Vin's eyes. Chris hoped and prayed the new addition to the family would be okay.
+ + + + + + +
Chris followed the ambulance to the hospital. Miss West had to go because she was still CJ's legal gardian and had to sign the papers for treatment. Miss West brought the papers with her for Vin to sign and the paternity results that she got a copy of before the accident.
Chris stepped outside to use his cell phone to call the others. Buck answered, "Hey, what's taking so long?"
Chris sighed, "There's been an accident. CJ was brought to the emergency room by ambulance. Ezra has his hands full with Rorie."
"Oh God. How is Vin?"
Chris looked through the window at his sharpshooter. "Not good, Buck. I've got to get back in there. Get here as soon as you can."
"Will do, Chris."
Miss West walked up to the two men in the waiting room just as Chris joined them. "Vin?"
Vin looked to the woman."
"The hospital staff knows that you're CJ's father and will let you know of her condition. If you sign these now, I'll make sure they're filed at the court house first thing in the morning."
Vin signed the papers and thanked the woman. "Don't ya need to get back to the home?"
"Ben can handle things until I get back. I'm needed here."
"Ya don't have ta stay," Vin said.
"Are you sure? I would like to get back and take care of Delbert's punishment. I know he didn't mean for CJ to get hurt, but as you said earlier Mr. Larabee, he had no right to push her down the slide."
Chris nodded that he understood. Miss West had a responsibility back at the home. The three men promised to keep her informed and said their goodbyes.
Not long after Miss West left, the rest of team seven arrived.
"How is she?" Nathan asked.
"Don't know yet," Chris answered.
Rorie was calm for the moment. She sat on her father's lap. "She's fine. She's got a broken arm and a contusing."
The adults in the room looked to the child. "How do you know this?" Ezra asked her.
Rorie sat up to look Ezra in the face. "She told me."
Ezra looked over at Vin. "Indeed. Another way our Niece is like her father."
Vin smiled at Rorie. "What else did she tell ya."
"She's glad she get's to come home with us."
Just then the doctor came into the waiting room. "Mr. Tanner?"
"Over here Doc," Buck answered.
"We were informed we could tell you Miss Case's condition."
"Tanner," Vin corrected.
The doctor looked up from his chart. "Huh?"
"You can call her Miss Tanner," Vin said.
"On her chart is says..."
"I don't care what that says, she's mine and her name is Charity Joy Tanner."
The Doctor told the group of CJ's injuries and that they were keeping her over night for observations.
"When can we go and see her?" Chris asked.
"She should be in her room right about now. I can give you a few minutes, but then you'll have to leave since it's after visiting hours."
"Right. Like that's going to happen," Buck commented.
Nathan patted the Doctor on the back. "Call Denver Colorado General Hospital. They'll fill you in on us."
Team seven entered the room with Rorie. CJ was awake and waiting for them. Vin sat on the edge of the bed next to CJ. "Hey, you scared us."
"Sorry. Didn't mean to. Is it true, Mr. Tanner? Are you my Daddy?"
Vin looked over at Rorie. "You told her?"
"Sweatpea, Uncle Vin wanted to tell her."
"Oops. Sorry. No one told me."
"When did Rorie tell CJ about Vin and how did CJ tell Rorie about her injuries?" JD asked.
Buck laid an arm across JD's shoulders. "It's like this Kid,..."
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