This is my first story where I've combined Little Britches with Little Ezra. I do hope you all like it.
In this story, JD's 5, Vin's 7 and Ezra's 8, almost 9. Buck is raising his son John Dunn Wilmington, JD for short, on his own after his girlfriend died in a car accident. Chris was granted custody of his God son, Vincent James Tanner, when the boy's mother died of cancer. Nathan's married to Rain and they have a two year old boy, Sawyer Malcolm Jackson. Josiah adopted Ezra Patrick Standish.
"One of these days, Buck, that man is going to slip up," Captain Chris Larabee said as he threw his Kevlar vest into the trunk of his and Buck's squad car.
"We'll catch Rodriguez Chris," Buck assured Chris as he laid a hand on Chris' shoulder.
"You know, we're going to catch hell for this fuck up."
"Yeah, I know," Buck sighed. "Hey, have you heard anything about who won the Sheriff job?"
Chris shook his head. "No I haven't."
"The suspense is killing me," Buck said.
Chris smiled at his best friend and partner. "You'd think it was you who was running, not me."
"I kinda am if ya think about it. I mean, I hope when you're elected, you take me with you."
Chris nodded his head and smiled. "You know I will."
"And the best part, we won't have to wear these uniforms." Buck smiled over at his partner when they got into the squad car.
"There is that. Although, Sarah liked them." Chris smiled at the memory of their first meeting when he pulled her over for a speeding ticket.
Buck laughed. "She sure did."
Down at the station, Officer Adrianne Hope, Adie to her friends, was putting up Halloween decorations when Buck and Chris came in through the doors.
"Hey Chris, Buck. What do you think?" Adie asked the two men, referring to the decorations.
"Looks really nice," Buck said, taking in the waiting area.
Chris just shook his head and went back to the offices.
"Hey, at least I waited for October," Adie yelled after Chris.
"Barely," Chris yelled back.
Buck waited till Chris was out of ear shot and it was just him and Adie. "Has the results come in yet?"
Adie smiled. "Maybe." Adie lead Buck behind the front desk and showed him what she had hid. "Do you think you could distract him long enough so the guys and I can set up in the break room?"
Buck grinned from ear to ear when he looked under the desk and saw a large sheet cake. "Oh, you know I can."
"I hope he's taking me with the two of you. I sure as heck don't want to stay here. Josiah should be here any minute with Vin and JD. Nathan and Rain are on their way with little Sawyer. Just keep him out of the break room for thirty to forty five minutes."
Buck laughed on his way to the back offices to distract Chris. "You got it, Darlin'."
+ + + + + + +
Dr. Josiah Sanchez walked down the hallway of Four Corners Elementary school to pick up Vin and JD. Both boys knew not to leave the school until Josiah picked them up. His face lit up when he saw the two boys sitting on the bench outside the Principal's office.
"There's 'Siah, Vin," JD yelled out when he saw Josiah.
Vin looked up from his homework he was doing and smiled.
Vin was putting away his homework and JD was putting his game boy away when Josiah stopped in front of them. "You ready?"
JD and Vin indicated they were when the door to the Principal's office opened and a dark auburn haired boy came through it with the Vice Principal behind him. Josiah watched the boy walk away favoring his right leg and or ankle.
"Is he okay?" Josiah asked.
"No, but he says he is," the Vice Principal answered. He looked to Josiah and sighed. "There's nothing we can do when the boy won't tell us anything. He's a good kid and it breaks my heart to see him hurting like he is. I know the only meals he gets are the ones here at school."
"What about the days when he's not here at school?" A concerned Josiah asked.
The Vice Principal shrugged his shoulders and went back inside the office.
Josiah sighed as he lead the boys out to his Ford Taurus. The boys seat belted themselves in as Josiah started the car. Josiah noticed the auburn haired boy walking in the same direction Josiah was headed.
Josiah stopped the car and rolled down his window. "Hey? You need a ride?"
The boy stopped and looked around before he looked at Josiah. "Pardon?"
Josiah smiled at the boy's southern accent. "I said, do you need a ride?"
"That is very kind of you, but seeing I haven't far to go, no thank you. Have a good day, sir," the Boy said and continued on his way.
Josiah felt for the boy but he couldn't force the boy to except the ride so he drove on to the police station.
Buck kept Chris away from the break room for nearly an hour. All of their friends were there to celebrate Chris' new job as Sheriff. The retiring Sheriff was there to present Chris with his new badge.
"Thanks for picking up the boys from school," Chris and Buck said.
"Not a problem," Josiah sighed.
Chris and Buck looked to one another then back at Josiah.
"What's wrong?" Chris asked.
"Nothing for you to worry about Chris. Or you Buck," Josiah said when he saw Buck was about to ask. "I'll see you boys tomorrow," Josiah left two bewildered men behind when he left.
Chris looked down at his son. "Do you know what's wrong with Josiah?"
"Yeah," Vin sighed. "There was this boy at school that hurt his ankle and had to walk home from school. 'Siah stopped and asked ''em ifin' he wanted a ride, but the boy said he's almost home and didn't need one."
"Yeah, he's always gettin' hurt. Some of the bigger kids tease him about how he talks," JD added.
Vin nodded his head. "Today at recess, I seen his right little finger was swelled up and I told the Nurse. He didn't come back out."
Chris sighed. "You did the right thing, Vin."
Chris sighed as he looked over at Buck. Both men knew about Josiah's abusive childhood. How Josiah's step-father use to beat him and his half sister Hannah. When it came to child abuse, Josiah showed no mercy toward the abuser. Josiah still has some of the scars from the belt buckle when his step-father would use his belt. Knowing Josiah like they did, Chris and Buck knew how hard it was for Josiah to drive away from the boy.
"Do you know the boy's name, Vin?" Buck asked.
"I know his first name is Ezra," Vin answered.
Buck looked up at Chris. "There can't be too many kids with that name."
Chris nodded. "Yeah. Any way, it's a start. Come on Vin, let's head home."
"See ya in the morning Chris," Buck said when Chris and Vin left to go home. Buck and JD stayed long enough to help clean up the break room after the party then went home themselves.
+ + + + + + +
The next day, when Josiah drove Vin and JD to school, he kept an eye out for the boy who walked home yesterday but didn't see him.
"Yeah Uncle 'Siah?" Vin answered.
"That boy from yesterday, do you know his name?"
"Just his first name, Ezra," Vin said.
"Why do ya want to know?" JD asked.
"No reason JD. Um, could you find out what his last name is for me and where he lives?"
"I can try, but sometimes he don't come to school," Vin answered.
Josiah nodded his head in understanding. "Thanks. Now you better get on inside before you're late for class."
Vin and JD said their goodbyes and see you later when they got out of the car. Josiah watched the two boys enter the school before he left the parking lot and headed for his office in the historic part of Four Corners.
+ + + + + + +
Vin and JD met up at the cafeteria at lunch time. After they filled their treys, they found Ezra sitting alone at a table in a corner and sat down to join him.
"Hi," JD greeted. "You're Ezra right?"
Ezra looked up at the two boys. "Hello and that's what it says on my birth certificate."
"What's yer last name?" Vin asked then took a bite of mac and cheese.
Vin shrugged his shoulders. "Just wanted ta know. I'm Vin Tanner and this is JD Wilmington."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance," Ezra said and went back to his book.
Vin noticed the half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich, jell-o, and a snack baggie of raisins and a bottle of water, and thought it wasn't much of a lunch.
"How old are you?" JD asked after he took a drink of his milk.
Ezra looked up at the boy and sighed. "I'm almost nine."
"When will ya be nine?" JD asked and took a bite of his sloppy joe.
Ezra wrinkled his brow and placed his hand over his stomach at the sight of JD eating the dripping, greasy sandwich. "The twelfth."
"Cool, that's next week," JD said.
"Yes it is," Ezra said and then took another bite of his sandwich.
"There's a skating park not to far from here, know of it?" Vin asked. Ezra indicted he did. "Well, on Saturday JD and me are going there with our dads and Uncles to celebrate."
"What are you celebrating may I ask?"
"A year ago, my Godfather came all the way to Texas to get me and bring me back here to live with him on his ranch."
"Vin's and my moms are up in heaven with the angels."
"Where are your fathers?"
"Mine died before I was born. He was a Texas ranger. JD lives with his dad."
Ezra thought about the invitation to the skating park. "I can not promise I'll be there, but I can promise I will do my best to be at your celebration and thank you for the invitation."
"Yer welcome. We'll be there at noon."
Ezra put the book he was reading in his backpack so he could get to know these two boys. They seemed to really want to be friends with him.
"Josiah can take you home after school if you want. That way you won't have to walk," JD said.
"I do not live that far and I would not want to inconvenience this Josiah."
"You won't. He wanted to take ya home yesterday," Vin said then took the last bite of his mac and cheese.
"Vin's dad is the new Sheriff. The old one retired. My dad is going to be one of his deputies."
"Your dad is the Sheriff?" Ezra asked. 'The word on the street is, the new Sheriff can't be bought or bribed.' Ezra thought. He knew he was going to be at that skating park for sure now.
At recess, Vin and JD had talked Ezra into waiting with them for Josiah to take him home.
Josiah was surprised to see the boy named Ezra sitting with Vin and JD. It looked like he was helping Vin with his home work with JD looking over his shoulder. Neither boy saw Josiah until he stood in front of them.
JD looked up at Josiah and smiled. "Hi 'Siah. This is Ezra."
Ezra stood and put his hand out for Josiah to shake. "Ezra P. Standish. Pleased to meet you Sir."
"Dr. Josiah Sanchez," Josiah said as he shook hands with Ezra.
"Doctor?" Ezra asked as Vin put his home work away.
"Yes. I have a doctorate in psychology," Josiah answered as he watched the three boys pick up their back packs.
"Josiah? JD and me told Ezra you'd give him a ride home. Is that okay?"
Josiah nodded. "Of course."
Josiah took Ezra home and waited for Ezra to enter the house before he left. He took note of the address for later, just in case he needed it. He then went to Buck's apartment and waited for Chris and Buck to get off work.
Ezra entered the two story cottage and sat his backpack on the kitchen counter. He was greeted by a beagle/basset mix. "Good afternoon Duke. You ready for your afternoon walk?" Ezra asked. Duke barked. Ezra took the leash and hooked it Dukes collar and took the dog for a walk. They returned thirty minutes later. Ezra took the note off the refrigerator after he unhooked Duke and hung the leash back up on its peg. He smiled when he read it. He then went into the living room to the chess game that was set up and moved a piece then wrote that he made his move and the time on the pad of paper that sat next to the chess set. On the note, Mrs. McFinley said to wait for her and Mr. McFinley to get home. Since he had to wait for the McFinley's, Ezra took the time to do his homework. He liked dog sitting for the McFinley's after school. He really liked Duke. After his homework was done, Ezra went to the frig and poured himself a glass of milk, then went to the cookie jar and got a few chocolate chip cookies as per the note Mrs. McFinley left for him and went to watch some TV.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and Buck entered Buck's apartment to the smell of spaghetti sauce cooking on the stove and garlic bread being pulled out of the oven.
"Mmm, smells good in here," Buck said when he sniffed the air.
The table was set. The L-shaped bench with storage sat against the dining room wall. There were three kitchen chairs that sat the rest of the way around the table. JD and Vin sat in the long part of the L-shaped bench and Chris sat on the short part of the L-shaped bench seat. Buck sat in the chair at the end of the table and Josiah sat in one of the side chairs. The boys talked about their day. Vin told Chris he invited Ezra to their skating party on Saturday.
"Does he have any skates?" Buck asked then took a bite of garlic toast. "This hits the spot Josiah. Thank you."
"Yeah, that's how he hurt his ankle and dislocated his little finger," Vin answered.
"Ooo, I bet that hurt," Chris winched.
"Yeah, he said he's doin' a jump and landed wrong," JD said around the food in his mouth.
"He does jumps, huh?" Josiah said more than asked. "How old is he?"
"He's almost nine," Vin answered.
"Yeah, his birthday is next week on the twelfth," JD said after he swallowed the food in his mouth.
"It's a little more than a week away, Son," Buck said and ruffled JD's hair.
"It's still next week, Dad," JD huffed.
Chris and Josiah smiled at father and son while Vin snickered.
After dinner and clean up, Vin, Chris and Josiah left to go to their respective homes. Buck let JD choose what movie to watch on NETFLIX. After the movie, JD took a bath and went to bed after Buck read him a story.
+ + + + + + +
Chris looked in the rear view mirror of his bronco to his Godson who was nodding his head to the music coming through the ear buds of his iPod. It's been a year since he was granted custody and brought him back here to his ranch. He wasn't sure he could raise the boy after losing his wife and son three years earlier. If it wasn't for Buck telling him to get his head out of his ass, or more importantly, out of the bottle. Buck told Chris years ago how he was put in the system after his mom was murdered. So when Chloe died, Buck told him that Jake and Chloe Tanner's son needs to come and live with Chris on the ranch, and reminded Chris of his promise to them when he became the boy's Godfather.
Vin looked up to see Chris smile and look back to the road in front of him. Vin took out the ear buds. "Is something wrong, Chris?"
Chris smiled and shook his head no. "We haven't talked about me becoming Sheriff much and I was just wondering what your thoughts were about it."
"I'm okay with it," Vin smiled. He actually liked the idea of Chris being the Sheriff of a small town in the west. "Buck'll be yer Deputy, right?"
"Yep, along with Adie."
"Cool," Vin nodded. "Anyone else going with ya?"
"What about the old Sheriff's Deputies? You keepin' any of um?"
"Don't know yet. Buck and I are going over their files this weekend. Why do you ask?"
"No reason. So, Buck and JD are spending the weekend?"
"Yep, they are." Chris glanced in the rear view mirror to see Vin worrying on his lower lip. "Vin?"
Vin sighed. "Can I ask Ezra to come out for the weekend?"
"Sure, just make sure it's okay with his guardian."
"Thanks Chris, we will." Vin beamed.
The rest of the way home Vin told Chris everything he knew about Ezra. He told him about Ezra's mom, how much Ezra liked horses and the old west just like him. And at almost nine, Ezra can speak French and Spanish and he knows sign language. Chris could tell Vin was impressed with his new friend.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra packed his back pack with all the books he would need for his classes and for the weekend. He then took a second back pack and loaded it with two days worth of clothes and his rollerblades, elbow and knee pads and his helmet. He put the envelope with his money in it in his coat pocket. He had saved enough money for two nights at a cheap motel. This was the first weekend of the month and Cynthia, his current guardian, got paid for taking care of him, and now is planning to party all weekend and he didn't want to be here when all her friends showed up. Her boyfriend in particular. The man scared him. There isn't too many people that can scare Ezra P. Standish to the point he would rather find shelter in an alley in a storm, rather it be a snow storm, thunder storm, or even a hail storm, didn't matter. So knowing the man will be here this weekend, Ezra was going to disappear for the weekend. With both his back packs full of what ever he might need for the weekend, Ezra quietly left the house through the back door and headed for school.
Josiah turned onto the street Ezra lived on.
"There's Ezra," JD said rather loudly.
"I see him JD," Josiah said and pulled up beside Ezra.
Ezra looked over at the car that stopped beside him and smiled as the passenger window rolled down. "Want a ride?"
"That is most kind of you Dr. Sanchez and I accept," Ezra said and got in the back seat with Vin and JD and seat belted himself in.
"What's in the other back pack?" JD asked.
"My rollerblades, pads and helmet as well as clothes for the weekend."
Vin slumped and sighed. "So, ya got plans fer the weekend."
Ezra looked over at Vin. "Nothing that can't be changed. Cynthia has a few friends coming for the weekend and I do not wish to party with them, so I planned to stay at a hotel."
"That's great," Vin said when he heard Ezra's plans. "You can come and stay with JD and me at the ranch. Our dads have some sheriff stuff to do, so Josiah said he'd come and watch us."
"It would allow me to save my money and I would like to see your horses and ponies. Yes I think I will take you up on your offer to spend the weekend with you. Thank you."
"Since I'll be the one picking you up after school, you can leave your over night pack in the car."
"After school, I will need to stop at the McFinley's place to take Duke for his daily walk."
"Is that where I dropped you off yesterday?" Josiah asked.
"Yes sir, it is."
Josiah nodded his head and said his byes to the three boys and left after they entered the school. He thought a visit with the McFinley's just might shed some light on the Standish boy. Josiah didn't like the thought of the boy having to stay at a hotel or motel for a weekend so his guardian could party. And Lord knows what kind of party that would incline, but Josiah had a good idea.
At recess, the three boys met up at the monkey bars. Ezra was the last one. When he got there, Vin was hanging upside down from the highest bar. JD was sitting on a bar half way up and the both of them were talking about the weekend.
"I apologize for my tardiness. Mrs. Clark needed to see me."
"What she needed to see ya about?"JD asked.
"There's this contest that I wish to enter, but due to my age, I am unable to do so. I told her I'll be nine on the twelfth of this month, therefore I will be old enough by the time of the contest."
"What kind of contest?" Vin asked, he really wanted know.
"Inline skating. I was practicing my jumps when I landed wrong. I'll be the youngest competitor."
"That's so cool, Ez. I wish I was old enough," Vin said.
"There's the bell," JD sighed and climbed down from the monkey bars.
Vin righted himself then dropped down and landed next to Ezra. The three boys then walked together to the door to stand in the their lines.
The day seemed to drag for the boys. Vin and JD told Ezra about riding on Sundays. Ezra said he would like to go riding very much with them on Sundays. The problem was, he had never been riding before. Vin told him maybe Chris could teach him. Ezra wondered what it would cost him for the riding lessens. He would have to ask and figure it into his monthly expenses.
The three boys were waiting for Josiah outside the Principal's office. Josiah could hear them laughing about something when he entered the building. He liked the sound of it and it made him grin.
"Okay boys, let's go."
All three boys hopped down off the bench with their back packs and ran for the exit. Vin and JD helped Ezra walk Duke. They left after Ezra made his chess move and wrote it down for Mr. McFinley and took the envelope from the frig with his name on it.
"What's in the envelope?" JD asked.
Ezra opened the envelope to reveal five ten dollar bills. "The McFinley's pay me to dog sit Duke. This is two weeks worth of pay. This is how I was able to pay the entry fee for the contest coming up on the nineteenth."
"The nineteenth you say?" Ezra nodded his head. "I'd like to see you compete, if that's okay with you? You know, cheer you on."
Ezra smiled. "I would indeed like that Dr. Sanchez. The competition will be held at the very skating park we are going to tomorrow."
"I want to go and watch him too, Josiah," Vin said.
"Yeah, me too," JD said rather loudly and excitedly.
Josiah chuckled. "We'll ask your dads, but I'm sure they won't mind. As long as you do your chores and not complain about it."
JD groaned. He hated doing his chores, but it would be worth it if he could go and watch his and Vin's new friend skate.
Ezra took out the flyer for the contest and showed it to Vin and JD. Ezra told the boys and Josiah the McGinley's helped him to get signed up for it and if it was possible, they'd be there to cheer him on.
"What's stopping them" Josiah asked.
Ezra took a deep breath and let it out and wiped the lone tear that formed in his eye. "Mr. McFinley has cancer and he's going through chemo right now. That's why I take care of Duke when I can. Mrs. McFinley puts Duke out on his cable because she needs to be with Mr. McFinley. I'm the one who makes sure Duke gets his exercise. I'm going to miss him when he goes."
"When he goes?" Josiah asked.
"Yes. Mr. McFinley isn't responding to his treatments like the doctors were hoping. So he's going to have to go stay at a cancer hospital and research facility in Chicago next week. They're going to have to give up Duke. They want me to take him but I can't."
"Why can't ya?" Vin asked.
"Because where I live, we can't have pets."
"What if someone kept him for you?" Josiah asked.
"Who would do that?" Ezra asked, puzzled why anyone would do something like that for him.
Josiah smiled back at the boy through the rearview mirror. "I would son."
Ezra was shocked and it showed on his face. No one had ever done anything like that for him, not even his own mother. After the shock wore off, Ezra narrowed his eyes. "What's in it for you?"
Josiah shook his head. "Not a thing except for your happiness. You see, what you don't know is, I've been where you are now. For me it was my Step-father. My sister is the reason I became a Psychologist. My specialty is the adolescence mind."
Ezra nodded his head in understanding. "If you do not mind my asking Doctor, what was wrong with your sister?"
"I don't mind at all. When Hannah was an infant, she had colic and my step-father, her father, couldn't handle the constant crying. I remember one time in particular, he took her out of her crib and shook her hard and yelled in her face to shut up and threw her back into the crib." Ezra saw tears in Josiah's eyes. "I was nine at the time. I picked her up and walked as fast as I could to the hospital a mile away. He broke her ribs and gave her a concussion. The cops were called and they called family services. Hannah and I were taken from him and put in my mother's parents' custody. The damage done to my sister, well, let's just say Hannah is unable to take care of herself. In her mind, she'll never be older than a child. My grandparents had her fixed so she can never have children or a period."
"I am so sorry to hear that. Where is she now?" Ezra said and felt real bad for the doctor.
"I had to put her in a home after my grandparents passed. I tried at first to take care of her myself. I had hired nurses but it got to be to much for me. At the home, she gets around the clock care that she so desperately needs that I can't give her."
"Do you go see her?"
"Yes I do and it breaks my heart every time."
Ezra didn't want Dr. Sanchez to feel sad, so he change the subject. "Vin and JD told me you have a horse stabled at the Sheriff's ranch."
Josiah chuckled at the obvious change in subject and silently thank the boy. "Yes I have. Her name is Amazing Grace. I just call her Grace. She's a big grey appaloosa."
"I look forward to meeting her." Ezra smiled at Josiah.
"Well, if ya look over there, ya can see her," Vin said as he pointed out the window.
Ezra looked out the window and saw several horses and ponies in the pasture. "She's beautiful Dr. Sanchez," Ezra sighed. 'They all are.' Ezra thought to himself.
Josiah saw a look in Ezra's eyes that could only be described as wistful and felt a pang in his heart for the boy. He knew right then and there what was missing in his life. What his heart has been searching for. Come Monday, he would see what he could do to become the boy's guardian.
Josiah parked in front of the two story ranch house. Josiah popped the trunk to get his and JD's suit cases while Ezra, Vin and JD climbed out of the car.
Ezra looked around the place and smiled. "This is where you live Vin?"
Vin followed Ezra's eyes around the ranch. "Nice ain't it."
"Nice doesn't begin to describe it."
Vin nodded his head knowing what Ezra meant. He felt the same way when Chris first brought him home to live with him. "Chris owns as far as you can see."
"It's very impressive Vin. I hope to have a place like this when I grow up."
"Come on, I'll show you around when we get your stuff up in my room." Vin smiled at Ezra and lead the way to his room on the second floor.
Ezra sat his pack on the floor next to the dresser. "I like your room Vin. It's nicely decorated."
Vin looked around his room. "Yeah, I like it."
"I see you have a set of bunk beds. Do you have a sibling?"
"Naw, it's just Chris and me. JD spends nights sometimes so Chris got the bunk beds. We have a roll away that you can use."
"Yeah, I used it when I first started sleeping over," JD said.
"Here's your bag JD," Josiah said and sat the small over night suit case on the floor next to the bunk beds. "Gloria has some fruit cut up and in the frig for your after school snack."
"Did she make any cookies?" JD asked.
"Yes she did, but you know the rules about sweets," Josiah reminded.
"Yeah, I know. I just wanted to know if she made any."
"Come on. You can show Ezra the ranch after your snack. Then you'll do your homework. And hopefully by then your dads will be here."
Josiah poured three glasses of milk for the boys to have with their fruit.
"Um, I'm sorry Dr. Sanchez, but I'm lactose intolerant."
"That's okay Ezra. I'm sure Vin or JD will drink it later. There's Kool-aid made up. There's also O.J.."
"What flavor is the Kool-aid?"
"Looks to be grape," Josiah answered when he put the glass of milk in the frig.
"That sounds good, thank you."
"What's lactose in-intol..." JD started.
"Intolerant?" Josiah said more than asked.
JD nodded his head. "Yeah that word."
"It means Ezra can't have milk or food made with milk, like ice cream, cheese and yogurt."
JD looked over at Ezra with a wide eyed expression. "You can't have ice cream?"
"Unfortunately no. I also can not have anything made with tomatoes or citrus fruits."
Josiah sighed. "In other words no high acidity foods."
"Yes sir," Ezra confirmed.
"It's a good thing I didn't give you some orange juice then, isn't it?" Josiah smiled down at Ezra and placed a glass of Kool-aid in front of him.
"What are acidy foods?" Vin asked.
"Well, tomatoes are very high in acid. He can't have sauces like pizza, barbeque and spaghetti. He can't have oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruits. They're all citrus fruits."
"That's a lot of food," JD said.
"Yes it is JD," Josiah said then turned toward Ezra. "What happens when you eat them?"
Well, tomatoes are the worse. I get really bad stomach cramps and some times, depending on how much I drink or eat, as with tomatoes, I get nauseous. The same with milk products."
Josiah took a deep breath as he thought. "Vin, JD you'll have to show Ezra the ranch later. We're going shopping."
"For what 'Siah?" JD asked.
"For low acid and lactose free foods," Josiah answered and ruffled JD's hair as he passed him.
+ + + + + + +
When Josiah returned with the food, Chris and Buck pulled up behind him.
"You just now getting here Josiah?" Buck asked.
"Naw, we were here before but had to go to the store and get some food Ezra can have," Vin answered.
Chris took a couple of the bags from the trunk. Josiah placed two KFC buckets of chicken on the roof of his car then reached in to the passenger seat and brought out a large KFC bag.
"Alright, barbeque chicken," Buck said rubbing his hands together.
"Only one bucket, Dad. Ezra can't have tomatoes," JD said and shook his head.
"Yeah Buck. He can't have milk or oranges and lemons and limes and pineapples."
"And definitely no jalapenos," Josiah added and handed JD the bag and a bucket to Vin and Ezra.
Buck grabbed a couple of bags. "What can he have?"
"Not much," Chris answered.
"Actually, quite a bit more than you think," Ezra said over his shoulder.
Josiah grabbed the last remaining three bags and shut the trunk lid. "He's right. I phoned Nate and asked him what Ezra could eat. He met us at the store and took us through what he could and couldn't have. I was surprised at what he could have. It's a good thing the boy likes strawberries and bananas. Nate also said to lay off the greasy foods. So, we'll have to pat dry his chicken before we give it to him."
Bags were sat on the kitchen counter. Buck and Chris took care of the groceries while Josiah and the boys sat the dining table. Josiah patted two chicken thighs with paper towel before he gave them to Ezra on a paper plate. He then put the rest of the chicken on two separate platters so the barbeque sauce doesn't get on the regular chicken. Then he sat the baked beans, corn on the cob and biscuits out. Chris brought the gallon of raspberry ice tea in and filled glasses.
"This looks real good, Josiah. Thanks," Buck said as he sat down in a chair.
"Don't thank me. Thank Ezra, he bought it," Josiah said.
Chris and Buck looked over at Ezra with surprised looks on their faces.
"I get five dollars an hour to dog sit for my neighbors, the McFinley's. They have a three year old beagle/basset mix by the name of Duke. Mr. McFinley is a John Wayne fan."
"Well, thank you for supper," Chris said and reached for a barbeque thigh.
"Yeah, thanks," Buck said and then bit into an ear of corn.
Ezra smiled. It felt good to pay for the dinner and have the people truly appreciate it. This beat staying at a hotel or motel, by far.
Vin told Chris about the skating contest Ezra entered and asked if it was okay to go and watch him skate. Chris said it was and maybe if work allowed it, he would like to go and watch himself. Buck agreed it would be fun to watch.
After dinner, Vin and JD showed Ezra the ranch and were allowed to stay up to do their homework.
Chris looked at his watch. "It's past their bed time and their still up."
Buck smiled over at Chris who started to get up out of his chair. "Give 'em a break, they've got a new friend they want to get to know. And it is Friday, so it's not like they have school in the morning."
Josiah chuckled. "You two sound like an old married couple. Sit back down Chris. I'll go check on them since I'm already up."
Chris did as Josiah told him too with a glare.
Josiah was about to knock on Vin's bedroom door but stopped when he heard Ezra talking to Vin and JD and what he had to say broke Josiah's heart even more than it already had.
"What do ya mean yer a mistake?" Vin asked.
"People, strangers really, only want me if they get paid to look after me. My mother leaves me with what ever relative will take me so she can go on her business trips. My father, who ever he is, doesn't want anything to do with me. He only pays the child support, or rather blackmail, so mother doesn't sue him or heaven forbid, tell his wife of their affair. I have often heard my mother refer me to his mistake on the phone when ever he refuses to pay her. She doesn't want me to go with her on her business trips cause I'll just get in the way. So yes, I am a mistake that shouldn't have been born."
Josiah swallowed the lump in his throat and backed away from the door and hurried down the stairs and out the back door.
Buck was in the kitchen pouring himself a cup of coffee when Josiah came through and went out the back door. He could tell at a glance Josiah was upset about something.
Chris joined Buck in the kitchen when he heard the back door slam shut and looked at Buck for an answer. Buck shrugged his shoulder and then left through the back door with Chris right behind him.
Outside on the deck, Josiah's leaning on the deck rail holding back tears that threaten to spill. Buck and Chris come up and stand on either side of him.
Buck pats him the back. "What's wrong Josiah?"
"What kind of mother calls her son a mistake. Blackmails the man into paying child support and abandons him to strangers who will only take him if she pays them." Josiah looked up into Buck's eyes. "Why?"
"I wish I knew Josiah."
Josiah looked over at Chris.
"I don't have the answer either."
"He thinks he's a mistake that shouldn't have been born. He's NOT a mistake." Josiah hastily wiped tears from his eyes and looked over at Chris. "Judge Travis going to be at the party tomorrow?"
"As far as I know and so will Nettie Wells. You thinking what I think you're thinking?"
"If you're thinking I'm going to sue for guardianship of Ezra, damn straight I am. I have a three bedroom house with a full basement sitting on forty acres. I know it ain't much, but it's big enough for a boy and his dog to grow up healthy and hopefully happy on. I have a good career to support him with too." Josiah paced as he spoke to Chris and Buck. "That boy is going to know he is not a mistake that should be wipe off the face of the earth and that he is wanted. He's wanted by me."
"Josiah? You're preaching to the choir," Buck said.
Chris took out his cell from his pocket and speed dialed the Judge. "Hey Orin, you busy this evening? Good. How quickly could you come out to the ranch? Great, see you when you get here." Chris hung up the phone and then dialed up Nettie Wells and asked her the same questions. He hung up with Nettie and looked Josiah in the eyes and smiled. "They'll be here in a half hour."
"Thanks Chris," Josiah said and dropped down in one of the deck chairs to wait for Orin and Nettie.
"I'm going to go and look in on the boys," Buck said. "I'll be back." Buck patted Josiah on the shoulder before he left.
When Nettie and Orin arrived, Josiah told them what he over heard and wanted to know what he could do and what he wanted to do. The Judge said he needed proof of abuse and abandonment and who the father was so he could look into the blackmail. Nettie said she would talk to the neighbor's Ezra was dog sitting for and find out what they know. In the mean time, she would see what she could do to get him at least temporary custody.
By the time Orin and Nettie left, Josiah was feeling good about his decision about taking guardianship of Ezra.
"You staying the night?" Chris asked.
"I'd like to if it's okay with you?"
"Come on," Chris said and lead the way into the house.
+ + + + + + +
It was just past eight in the morning when Buck entered the kitchen, towel drying his hair. He draped the towel over his left shoulder then poured himself a cup of coffee. He then took the box of pastries and his cup of coffee and wondered to the dining room table.
"Good morning Deputy Wilmington."
Buck just about jumped out of his skin when he heard Ezra speak. "You do know this is Saturday, right?"
Buck nodded his head and sat down across from Ezra. He took a drink of his coffee then he noticed a container the read non dairy creamer, French vanilla flavored. "Huh, I wonder when Chris started putting this in his coffee," Buck said as he reached for the container.
Ezra flipped the newspaper page so he could see what Buck was referring to. "Oh, that's mine. I like creamer in my morning coffee."
Buck looked up at Ezra and watched him take a bite out of a blue berry Danish and wash it down with some coffee. At least he thought it was coffee. Then Ezra went back to reading the paper.
Chris entered the kitchen from the back door followed by Josiah.
"She's looking real good Chris. Thanks for letting me stable her here. It was costing me an arm and a leg to stable her at Pleasant Meadow."
"Not a problem Josiah. She's no bother," Chris said then stopped to pour himself a cup of coffee.
"What's wrong with Buck?" Josiah asked when he saw Buck sitting across from Ezra, staring at Ezra while Ezra read the paper with a blank look on his face.
Chris looked over into the dining room to see what Josiah was referring to. "I have no idea. I've never seen that look before," Chris said and wondered into the dining room. Chris waved his hand in front of Buck's eyes. "Any one home in there?"
"Well?" Josiah asked with concern.
"He looks like he's in shock," Chris answered then noticed what Buck held in his hand. "Where did you get that fake crap?"
"It's his," Buck answered.
Chris took a sip of his coffee. "Mmm, this isn't your usual coffee Buck. This is actually good."
"Thank you, I made it," Ezra said then he set the paper down to take another bite of Danish and drink of coffee.
Chris took a drink of coffee at that moment and spewed over the table and stared at Ezra.
Ezra looked from one adult to another. "Is something wrong?"
Josiah stood behind Buck. "Ezra? Why are you wearing a dress shirt and tie? And why is there styling gel in your hair? I know you aren't appearing in court cause it's Saturday, and unless you're a Seventh-day Adventist, you're not going to church."
Ezra looked down at his clothes then back up at the adults. "Vin told me there will be a Federal Judge at this party as well as a lady from family services."
"Yeah, Judge Orin Travis and Nettie Wells. What do they have to do with what you're wearing?" Chris asked.
"Mother always says when you are in the presence of a Judge, you must make a good impression. Therefore you must dress appropriately. And since family services will be there, I must make a good appearance because I don't want to be placed in the foster care system. I have heard about some of the bad things that can happen in those homes.
Josiah hung his head and sighed.
"I think now is a good time for that talk. What do you think Josiah?" Chris said and took a drink of coffee.
Josiah raised his head and looked across the table at Ezra. "Yeah, I think you're right Chris."
Chris patted Buck on the shoulder. "Come on Buck, let's go see how Vin and JD are doing."
Buck stood and nodded his head and grabbed the box of pastries and followed Chris outside.
Josiah came around the table to sit down next to Ezra.
Ezra swung his self around to face Josiah so their knees were just mere centimeters apart. "What talk was the Sheriff referring to?"
Josiah reached out and took Ezra's small hands that looked even smaller in his hands and looked Ezra in the eyes. "I over heard you last night."
Ezra scrunched brow.
"You are not a mistake. God does not make mistakes. You were put on this earth for a reason. And you are wanted," Josiah sighed. "By me. The Judge and Nettie were here last night and I made my intentions known to them. Whatever it takes, I will become your legal guardian. And when we find your mother, the Judge, Nettie and I will proceed to have her parental rights taken from her. I'll then proceed to adopt you. I don't ever want you to think you are a mistake, understand?"
Ezra nodded his head that he understood. "But why would you want to raise somebody else's child?"
Josiah smiled. "Because I love this child as if he were my own son from the moment he spoke to me when I asked him if he wanted a ride."
Ezra chuckled as tears ran down his cheeks. "No ones ever wanted me without being paid to take me."
"I will not be getting paid to take you and while were out, we will stop and get your dog and get you a cell phone so we can keep in contact with each other. I can have up to four phones on my plan and right now I only have me. So, before the day is out, I'll have your phone on the plan." Josiah patted Ezra on his knees. "That okay with you? And I don't mean just the phone either. I mean are you okay with the whole coming to live with me thing."
Ezra took a deep breath and let it out to calm himself. "Yes, very much so."
"Great. Now for a rule, no more coffee until you're sixteen. You are way to young for drinking coffee." Josiah stood and took the half a cup of coffee with him. "Why didn't you go and help Vin and JD with their chores this morning?" Josiah asked as he poured the coffee down the drain.
Ezra sighed and pulled out an inhaler from his pocket and held it up for Josiah to see.
Josiah had his back to Ezra, so he didn't see the inhaler until he poured a glass of low acid orange juice for Ezra. Josiah looked over into the dining room about to say something when he noticed the inhaler in Ezra's hand. "You're an asthmatic."
"Yes. It's the main reason mother doesn't want me. My hay fever triggers it every time."
Josiah heard and saw the dejection in Ezra as he slumped back in the dining room chair. "See, son, I need to know this so I can take better care of you. I need to know what other allergies you have," Josiah said as he brought Ezra the glass of orange juice.
Ezra looked up at Josiah. "You still want me?"
Josiah sat in the chair he vacated earlier. "Yes, and maybe even more so because you can't do this on your own. You need someone to help you and I want to be that person."
"I keep a list of all my allergies in my back pack."
"Well, go get it." Josiah smiled.
Ezra got up off the chair and ran up the stairs.
Vin, JD, Buck and Chris came through the back door at that moment.
"Where's Ezra running off to?" Chris asked.
"To get his list of allergies. He's an asthmatic." Josiah held up the inhaler as proof.
"That's why he didn't help us do chores?" Vin asked.
JD had a confused look on his face. "He's 'lergic to chores?"
Ezra returned to find the adults and Vin laughing and JD with a scowl on his face and arms crossed. Ezra slowly made his way to Josiah and handed him the list.
Josiah took the list and looked it over. "Um, Chris may I use you copier? I want to get a copy of this."
"Yeah, you might as well make me a copy since he'll probably be spending a lot of time here."
"Yeah, make a copy for me too," Buck added.
Josiah looked down at Ezra. "Does the school have a copy of this?"
"No sir. They never asked for a list of allergies, just wanted to know if I had any," Ezra answered.
"I'll run them a copy to while I'm at it."
"While you're at it, run off a copy for Nettie and Nathan too," Chris said.
"Are you going to have Gloria do house keeping for you? Because she might want a copy and I know she'd want a copy of the food he can and can't eat," Buck stated.
"Why do ya want copies Dad?" JD asked Buck.
Josiah looked up at Chris and Buck. "You didn't tell them?"
"Tell us what?" Vin asked.
"Thought you'd want that privilege." Chris grinned.
Josiah looked down at Vin and JD. "Ezra's coming to live with me and become my son."
"Yeah!" Vin shouted and punched the air with both fists while JD did a little happy dance.
"I think they approve Josiah," Buck laughed.
"I have this too. It's my shot record."
Josiah took the small booklet and opened it. "Looks like a visit to the clinic is in order. You're missing a couple shots and you being an asthmatic, we'll need to get them ASAP. Nathan will want a copy of this for sure."
Josiah left to get copies.
Ezra looked up at Chris and Buck. "Dr. Sanchez told me when my mother is found, the Judge and this Nettie Wells will be taking her parental rights from her."
"Yep, that way he can legally adopt you," Chris said as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
"I may be able to lend a hand in her location. Mind you, my mother moves around a lot, but the last location I have for her is in San Francisco." Ezra handed Chris the post card his mother sent him. "At least, this post card was mailed from there."
Chris sat his coffee cup down on the table and took the folded post card of a San Francisco trolley and unfolded it and looked at the postal information stamp that told him when and where the post card was sent from. "This was sent from San Francisco two months ago," Chris told Buck.
"Is there a return address?" Buck asked.
"Nope, but I know where we can start looking for Ezra's father."
"All we need now is his name."
"Yeah," Chris said as he slapped the post card against the palm of his hand.
"I know that look. What are you thinkin' Chris?" Buck asked.
Chris looked down at Ezra. "Where were you born?"
"Atlanta Georgia," Ezra answered. "Why?"
"I don't know why I didn't think of this before," Chris said as he went to his office and passed Josiah in the hallway.
"What's up Buck?" Josiah asked when Chris passed him.
"Don't know but he has that look in his eyes," Buck said when Josiah looked to him.
"Oh?," Josiah said and backed up a couple of steps before he turned around and followed Chris into his office.
Within minutes, Chris had the phone and fax numbers for the Fulton County Clerks office. It took some talking, but he was able to get Ezra's birth certificate faxed over to him.
Buck smacked himself on the forehead. "I should have thought of that myself."
"Thought of what Dad?"
"Ezra's mother might have put Ezra's daddy's name on his birth certificate. If she did, it could help us find him."
Chris reached behind him when he heard the fax machine kick in. He looked at the fax and smiled. "We got him. He's from San Francisco California. Your mom was born in Virginia." Chris went back to his computer and did some more typing and then wrote a phone number and address on a post it note before he dialed it.
The phone was answered on the fourth ring. "Good morning."
"Is this Dr. Dennis Chaney?"
"Yes it is. Who am I speaking with?"
"This is Sheriff Chris Larabee of Four Corners Colorado. Do you know a Maude Standish?"
"Hold on one minute please," The man said, then there was nothing but dead air. A couple of minutes later, the man came back on. "What does that bitch want now? I told her I'd meet with her at the usual place at two o-clock."
This got Chris' attention. "You're meeting with her today, at two?"
"I just said that," Chaney huffed.
Chris put his hand over the mouth piece of his phone. "Buck get Travis on the phone, Josiah call Nettie," Chris ordered then went back to Dr. Chaney. "Dr. Chaney, we've been trying to locate her."
"In what regards?"
"It has to do with her son. My Deputy has a Federal Judge by the name of Orin Travis on the other phone. I would like your permission to give him your name, address and phone number as well as the family service person in charge of her son's case." Chris smiled and winked at Ezra.
"What kind of trouble has she gotten herself into that requires a Federal Judge to contact me?"
"I guess I can tell you since your name is on the boy's birth certificate. The boy was found abandon. And upon examination, he was found to be malnourished and in badly need of medical care. Without the mother's consent, the hospital will be liable if anything goes wrong. So you can understand how dire it is for us to locate her."
"Yes, yes of course I understand and you have my permission to give Judge Travis and family services my name, address and phone number."
Chris slid the post-it note for Buck and Josiah to read and give to Orin and Nettie and did a thumb's up to them.
"Well, I thank you for your cooperation. I'll let family service know they can go ahead and let Dr. Jackson treat the boy. Thank you and you too have a good weekend."
All three men hung up at the same time.
"You lied," Vin said. He couldn't believe Chris lied.
"Come here Vin," Vin went to Chris. Chris picked Vin up and sat him on his lap. "I know it seems like I did, but I didn't. Maude did abandon her son when she left him with a stranger. This post card she sent Ezra two months ago, she wrote she wouldn't be able to come and get him like she promised because of a business opportunity." Chris looked over at Ezra. "Your mother's a con artist isn't she?"
"Unfortunately yes. She wishes for me to join her when I am older. But I got sick."
"But he's not mal...malnur..."
"Malnourished?" Chris finish for Vin.
"Yeah, that word."
"Yes he is Vin," Josiah said. "The Vice Principal said the only meals he gets is what he eats at school and for the medical treatments, he needs to get his shots before he gets sick which can cause him to have an asthma attack and have to stay at the hospital. So Chris didn't lie to Dr. Chaney. He did however exaggerate a bit."
"Thank you Sheriff Larabee."
"Just doing my job Ezra, but you're welcome." Chris sat Vin on his feet and stood up. "We had better get a move on or we won't make the park at noon."
+ + + + + + +
Nathan and his family were at the park waiting for them.
"I thought you said noon," Nathan said when Chris parked his truck and he and Vin got out of it.
"Sorry we're late but we had something that needed taken care of."
Buck pulled up next to Chris. "Yeah, ol' Chris here can sure exaggerate the truth," Buck said as he and JD joined them.
Josiah couldn't find a spot close to Chris, Buck and Nathan but he did find a good spot to park.
"Who's the boy with Josiah?" Nathan asked when Josiah and Ezra got out of the Ford Taurus.
"That's Ezra," JD answered.
"Yeah, Josiah's adoptin' him," Vin added.
"Since when?" Nathan asked.
"Since last night. That's what made us late. We had to locate the boys mother," Chris informed Nathan.
"Yep and we found her, in San Francisco California," Buck grinned.
Nathan was confused. "You went to San Francisco?"
"No Nate, just made phone calls," Josiah said as he and Ezra came to stand with Chris, Buck and Nathan. "Ezra? This is Dr. Nathan Jackson. Nate, this is my soon to be son, Ezra Standish."
Nathan shook hands with Ezra. "Nice to meet you Ezra. My wife Rain and son Sawyer are inside.
"Here, I ran these off for you since you're going to be Ezra's doctor."
Nathan took the papers and looked them over. "Looks like he needs to get his shots up to date."
"Let's go inside and get these boys skating," Buck said and lead the way inside the indoor skating park.
Inside, Josiah introduced Ezra to Rain and Sawyer.
Ezra quickly got his skates and pads on and was waiting for Vin and JD to join him before he put his helmet on.
There were other kids and teens out on the floor.
Chris started recording the three boys as they skated around the floor. Being only five, JD couldn't keep up with Vin and Ezra.
"Hey? What's Ezra doing?" Buck asked.
"Looks like he's picking up speed make that ramp," Chris answered.
"Um, Chris, that ain't the ramp he's headed for," Josiah said in alarm.
Chris shot his head up from the video recorder. "No it's not. He's going for the big kids ramp."
The men and Rain watched as Ezra hit the ramp and shoot up in the air and do a spread eagle and then stick the landing.
Vin and JD were jumping with excitement.
Josiah let out the breath he didn't know he held when Ezra stuck the landing.
"He's good," came a voice neither one of the guys or Rain recognized.
They looked around to see if they could find the person. All they saw was a maintenance man wearing blue coveralls and tennis shoes, walking away from them pushing his cart. His long waist length hair was pulled back in a ponytail.
"Hey? Sir?" Josiah called to the man.
The man stopped and turned toward them. "Yeah?"
"Did you say something?" Josiah asked.
"I said he's good. He's been here enough times, so he should be." The man wiped his hands on his coveralls as he made his way toward the men. "The name's Alan Hutchinson."
"Dr. Josiah Sanchez. These are my friends, Sheriff Chris Larabee, Deputy Buck Wilmington, Dr. Nathan Jackson and his wife Rain and that little guy is their son Sawyer."
Alan shook hands with them all.
"This is a nice place for the kids to come and skate. You do a good job keeping it clean," Nathan said.
"I'm glad who ever bought it put the roof on it so the kids could skate all year long," Josiah said as he watched Ezra do another jump.
"Thank you, both of you. I sank my whole savings into this place." Alan looked around at the kids skating. "And it was worth every dime. The reason I don't charge admittance is for kids like Ezra who don't have the money. Now the concession stand is another thing all together as is the arcade."
The four men looked over at Mr. Hutchinson.
"You own this?" Buck asked
"Yep," Alan answered with pride. "I use to skateboard here before I went to Iraq. When I heard it was being torn down, I had to buy it. Then I thought, if I enclosed it, kids could use it all year long. So, that's what I did."
"Why don't you hire a maintenance crew?" Chris asked.
"There isn't enough money to do that after paying insurance, power bills and food for the concession stand."
"It sounds like a lot of work for one person," Josiah commented.
It can be. Little Ezra there," Alan indicated Ezra. "He may complain about menial labor, but he gets in there and does it. I can't pay him so we have a understanding. If he helps me out here, he can stay and skate till ten during the week."
"What are your hours?" Nathan asked. He thought ten o-clock at night was kinda late to stay open for a small town like Four Corners.
"Monday through Friday, three to eight. Saturday, eight to eight and Sunday, noon to six," Alan answered as he watched the kids on skateboards and inline skates.
"What does his guardian say about him staying out so late?" Josiah asked.
"She could care less," Alan snorted. "That boyfriend of here's is the main reason I allow Ezra to stay that late. He's even spent weekends here. See, I have a small apartment in the basement of this place so I can keep a watch over it. The first time Ezra spent a night here, I didn't know it. He hid somewhere until I finished cleaning and went down to my apartment. I found him asleep on one of the benches the next morning." Alan shook his head at the memory.
"What did you do?" Rain asked.
"He scolded me and sent me on my way," Ezra answered when he, Vin and JD joined the adults.
The boys dropped down on one of the benches.
"Why'd ya'll quit?" Buck asked.
"We's gettin' hungry," Vin answered.
Chris took out his wallet and went to open it to hand Vin some money but Alan laid a hand on it and shook his head.
"Your money is no good here Sheriff," Alan smiled up at Chris. "Ezra, go and get you and your friends some chili dog meals."
"Thank you Mr. Hutchinson," Ezra said and lead Vin and JD to the concession stand.
"You're friends of Ezra's. That boy deserves a break having to put up with Rodriguez every weekend."
This statement brought Chris's head up in snap. "Emilio Rodriguez?"
"Yeah, why?" An alarmed Alan Hutchinson asked.
Chris and Buck looked to one another then back at Hutchinson. "Every weekend?"
"Yeah. Someone has to look out for the boy. Although I can't protect him twenty four seven, I do what I can. I don't even allow Rodriguez's kids in here."
"Does Ezra know what Rodriguez does?"
"Yes I do. Therefore, I stay away as much as I can. Mr. Hutchinson lets me have run of the place as long as I keep my nose clean."
Buck looked to Chris. "We need a warrant. You know this. There is no way you're getting one today."
"Yeah I know and it's not like he's going to invite us over for coffee," Chris swore and hit the railing with the heals of his hands.
Ezra sat his meal down on the bench he, Vin and JD were sitting on and opened his back pack.
"Since I am no longer allowed to drink coffee, I can not invite you over for coffee. However, I can have you pick up a few things from my room," Ezra said as he held out a set of keys.
Chris took the keys and looked at them then back at Ezra. "Thanks."
"Yeah thanks, but we need to catch him with the goods," Buck sighed.
Ezra smiled. "Look in the shed."
"What reason would we have to look in the shed?" Chris asked.
"That's where I keep my bike so it doesn't get stolen."
Buck smiled. "You want your bike."
"Yes and as I said, I would like to have some more of my things from my room." Ezra showed Chris and Buck what each key unlocked. "You might want to wait till night fall since Cynthia and him will be home for sure."
"And don't let the Sheriff department in on it," Alan said.
Chris scowled at Alan. "You mean the old Sheriff department.'
"Because Sir, there's a new Sheriff in town and his name is Chris Larabee," Buck smiled.
Josiah looked over at Buck. "How long have you been wanting to say that?"
Buck just smiled and wagged his eyebrows.
Judge Travis and his family walked up to the men and Rain with Nettie and her niece, Casey.
"Gentlemen, you'll be glad to hear Maude has been detained," Orin smiled.
"And she no longer has her parental rights. Come Monday when the federal building open's up, we'll have these filed and start adoption proceedings." Nettie gleamed up at Josiah."
"That's great news," Josiah said. He then looked down at Ezra. "After we pick up your dog, you can decide which room you want when we drop him off."
Ezra hadn't felt this good about his situation in months. No more moving from one place to another. No more air mattress on the floor or hiding his money so Cynthia doesn't get it. He won't even have to paddle lock his room or worry if or when he'll eat again. The best part, he was wanted. Someone wanted him.
Chris and Buck let Orin in on the new development with Emilio Rodriguez. Nettie said with this information, she could let Josiah take Ezra tonight instead of waiting for her to file the papers on Monday on the grounds of child endangerment.
Orin smiled at Chris. "Which gives you the authority to remove the boy and retrieve his things."
"Since I'm an agent of the child welfare and family services, I'll have to be with you when you go into the house," Nettie said.
+ + + + + + +
That night, with keys in hand, Chris, Buck and Nettie show up with the papers to remove Ezra and to arrest Cynthia Gold for child endangerment.
They caught Emilio and his kids along with three deputies. All in all, it was a good bust. Buck loaded Ezra's bike and informed Chris of the suspicious crates he found in the shed when he went to get the kid's bike.
When Rodriguez went for the front door, Officer Hope was waiting for him or who ever thought they could escape.
"And here I thought I wasn't sure if I had the right place to help with the removal of a minor in a dangerous situation," Adie said with her police issued Gluck drawn and pointed at Rodriguez.
"You got the right place Officer Hope," Buck grinned.
Everyone in the house were arrested for one reason or another. Gun running and possession of a controlled substance among them. Chris also let the three deputies know they were fired.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah had the boys at his place when Chris called to let him know everything went down as planned and no one got hurt.
"Buck and I are going to get reports done before we leave as our last duty as city police officers. So we'll be late getting home and was wondering if the Vin and JD could spend the night at your place."
"I'm glad to hear it all went okay and of course they can spend the night. I love having them over, you know that."
"Yeah I know that, but it's still rude not to ask and you know how I feel about rudeness."
Josiah hung up the phone and went into Ezra's room.
"Have you decided on what color you want to paint the walls?" Josiah asked.
Ezra, Vin and JD were sitting on the floor when Josiah came into the room. Ezra had the color strips in front of him laid out on the floor. "Green's my favorite color, but I do like this cream color. I can always use green as an accent color."
"Yes you could and that cream color is a neutral color, nice choice." Josiah was pleased Ezra didn't choose an outlandish color. "I have the keys to Buck's truck, so how about we go pick it up as well as a new bed and dresser and anything else you're going to need."
All three boys liked the sound of going into town to shop for Ezra's room. Josiah told Vin and JD they were to spend the night here and their dads would pick them up in the morning. Neither Vin or JD had a problem with that.
+ + + + + + +
The next morning when Chris and Buck came to pick up Vin and JD, Josiah told them the boys were still asleep in Ezra's room.
Chris looked down at his watch. "It's almost ten."
"Sorry, but we were up after midnight putting Ezra's bed together. Vin and JD wanted to sleep in Ezra's room so I let them." Josiah then put a finger to his lips and motioned them to follow him.
At Ezra's bedroom door, Josiah quietly pushed the door open to let Chris and Buck look in on the boys.
Buck took out his cell and took a couple of snapshots. All three boys were in the top bunk. Instead of a bottom bunk, there was a desk with a laptop computer set up on it. The bunk frame looked like an old western frontier fort.
"Now I know why you were up so late," Chris whispered.
The three adults quietly left the bedroom doorway and entered the kitchen.
"You're going to spoil that boy," Buck chuckled.
Josiah smiled as he went to make a pot of coffee. "Vin and JD want to help paint Ezra's room today. I said it was okay as long as they asked you."
Chris nodded his head. "Sure, I don't see why not. What color did Ezra choose?"
Josiah showed Chris and Buck the colors Ezra chose. "And since they'd look nice with the carpet already in the room, I won't have to replace it."
Just then Duke came out of the bedroom and made his way to the sliding glass doors in the dining room and sat down and looked up at Josiah.
"What the hell is that?" Buck asked.
Josiah went over to open the doors and let Duke out. "That's Ezra's dog, Duke. He's a beagle/basset mix. He's well trained too."
Josiah went to the cupboard and got pancake mix down," I told the boys I'd make pancakes, eggs and sausage for breakfast this morning."
Soon the smell of sausage frying floated its way into Ezra's room waking the boys.
"It smells good in here Josiah," Vin said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
"Thank you Vin."
Ezra made his way to the glass doors to let Duke in. "Yes it does and might I add, so does the coffee."
"You can't have any coffee Ezra," Josiah said as he poured himself and the other adults a cup of it.
"I know this Josiah, that does not change the fact that I like the aroma of coffee in the morning."
Josiah looked over at Ezra and smiled. "You called me Josiah not Dr. Sanchez."
"I did?" Ezra asked. Ezra hadn't realized he had called Dr. Sanchez by his given name. "I apologize for..."
"Don't apologize for calling me by my name," Josiah interrupted. "I prefer it to Dr. Sanchez. And maybe some day, you may even call me dad. But for now, I'll accept Josiah."
Ezra nodded his head in understanding.
After breakfast, Chris and Buck helped Josiah to cover the floor and furniture in Ezra's room to prepare it for painting.
Chris and Buck then went to the dining room table because it was getting crowded in the small bedroom with all of them in there. Instead, they decided to go over applicants for the two remaining deputy positions.
After the painting was done, Chris and Buck took their boys and went home leaving Josiah and Ezra to get better acquainted and have some alone time together.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah parked the car in the visitors parking lot and followed the boys into the school. He needed to get Ezra's address changed and inform the Principal of the up and coming adoption. She was pleased to hear of the boy's adoption. Josiah also informed her that Ezra had an appointment with Dr. Jackson to get him caught up on his shots and handed her the list of Ezra's allergies and medical concerns.
"I have sent many notes to Miss Gold for this information since Ezra has been enrolled here at Four Corners Elementary. I'm glad to finally get them," Principal Zane said as she looked over the lists. "I see Ezra's an asthmatic," Principal Zane looked up at Josiah. "Does he have an inhaler?"
"Yes he does," Josiah answered. "He keeps it with him."
"Good, good. Glad to hear it."
"Those are your copies to put in his file."
"Thank you for bringing me these and I'll make a note about Ezra's appointment with his doctor. And I want to congratulate you on the adoption of Ezra."
Josiah smiled down at the dark haired woman. "Thank you," Josiah stood and shook hands with the woman and left.
Outside, Josiah noticed the high school students but since it wasn't an uncommon thing to see, he didn't pay them no mind.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra walked up to Mr. Avery's desk. "Mr. Avery?"
Mr. Avery looked up at Ezra. "Yes Ezra?"
"May use the hall pass so that I may use the facilities?"
"Why don't you just say you need to use the bathroom." Mr. Avery handed Ezra the hall pass.
"Because there isn't a bathtub or shower," Ezra answered.
"Just go," Mr. Avery shook his head.
Ezra made his way to the sink to wash his hands after he used the urinal. As he was washing his hands, three teens entered the restroom. Ezra glanced up into the mirror and recognized the teen coming toward him and panicked. He tried to get away but one of the other teens grabbed him. The teen Ezra recognized as one of Rodriguez's kids. Ezra only knew the teen as Scorpion because of the scorpions tattooed on his forearms. Scorpion placed a rag over Ezra's mouth and nose. As Ezra breathed in, he became more and more sleepy until he was out. The third teen acted as look out and when the coast was clear, the three teens left with Ezra.
During the struggle, Ezra dropped the hall pass and his inhaler fell out of his pocket.
Thirty minutes later the bell rang for morning recess and Mr. Avery was furious.
"Principal Zane, may I have a word with you?" Mr. Avery said as he entered Miss Zane's office.
"I hope it's important because why else would you to enter my office without knocking."
"It's that Standish boy again."
Miss Zane sighed. "What did he do this time?"
"This time? You mean again."
"Okay?" Miss Zane said expecting Avery to expound further.
Avery huffed. "Thirty minutes ago, Standish took the hall pass to go use the rest room and he didn't come back."
Miss Zane stood up and ran out of her office and into the closest restroom to Avery's class. When she entered, she noticed the inhaler on the floor and went over to pick it up as well as the hall pass and ran back to her office.
Principal Zane glared at Avery. "Why did you wait so damn long to report this?"
"He's done this before Yvonne," Avery yelled right back.
Principal Zane grabbed up the phone and dialed Josiah's office. "Now I've got to contact his father and let him know his son may have been abducted.
"Since when does Standish have a father?"
"Since Dr. Sanchez applied for adoption."
"Some one actual wants to adopt the kid?"
Principal Zane ignored Avery's comment. "Yes, it's urgent I need to speak with Dr. Sanchez." Principal Zane covered the mouth piece. "You're an idiot Avery. If you didn't have tenure, I'd fire your ass for this."
"Hello Principal Zane. What can I do for you?"
Principal Zane glared at Avery as she told Josiah about Ezra being missing and possible abduction. After she hung up from Josiah, Principal Zane called the sheriff. Deputy Hope took the call.
Ten minutes later, the school had three sheriff cars out front as well as two state police cruisers.
Statements were taken and what evidence there was, was gathered.
Josiah got in Mr. Avery's face for waiting so long in reporting Ezra missing. If it wasn't for Buck and Deputy Earl Gordon, (the only Deputy Chris kept from the former Sheriff's deputies) Josiah would have beaten Avery.
Principal Zane had Josiah in the teacher's lounge doing her best to console the man.
"We'll find him Josiah," Chris vowed.
"He doesn't have his inhaler Chris," Josiah said as he stared at the inhaler in his hands.
Buck motioned for Chris to join him out in the hall.
"Ezra's pack is missing from his locker."
Chris nodded his head and went back into the teacher's lounge to talk to Josiah.
"Josiah, didn't you buy Ezra a phone this weekend?" Chris asked.
"Yes, it's in his back pack, why?"
Chris took a deep breath and let it out. "Is it traceable?"
Josiah slowly turned his head toward Chris as it dawned on him what Chris had in mind. "Yes, yes it is. That way if it got lost or stolen we could get it back."
"Buck!" Chris yelled.
+ + + + + + +
Across town, Scorpion waited for his boss in a cold warehouse with Ezra laid out on the cold concrete floor and Ezra's backpack tossed carelessly in a corner.
"Where is that little snitch?" Scorpion's boss hollered.
"In here Boss," Scorpion hollered.
Scorpion's boss entered the warehouse and walked up to Scorpion and looked down at the boy. "Wake him up."
"Glad to see you made bail Boss. "Scorpion said and snapped his fingers for one of the other kids to wake the boy.
A boy came with a bucket of water and dumped it on Ezra's head. Ezra came awake immediately, sputtering and gasping for air. Ezra reached into his pocket for his inhaler only to find it not there. Ezra tried to control his breathing but found it to be difficult without his inhaler.
"What's he doing?" A kid asked.
Rodriguez squatted down in front of Ezra. "He's looking for his inhaler boys. You see, he's an asthmatic and cold air is one of his triggers. That's why I had you bring him here. Rodriguez sneered down at Ezra. "Do you know what you cost me?"
Ezra did his best to glare up at his tormenter. "You're suppose to be in jail," Ezra wheezed out between breaths.
"I made bail and now you're going to pay for snitching on me." Rodriguez knelt a knee into Ezra's chest and watched as the boy went into a full on asthma attack.
Outside the warehouse, Chris and his deputies along with the state police surround the warehouse.
"Oh shit!" One of Rodriguez's kids yell.
"What's going on?" Rodriguez asked as he stood to face his kids.
"There's cops everywhere out there!"
"How the hell they find this place?" Rodriguez shouted. "I thought we had the Sheriff department on the payroll."
"This is Sheriff Larabee. Throw out your weapons and come out with your hands up."
Rodriguez swung around to face Scorpion. "When the hell did Capt. Larabee become Sheriff Larabee?"
Rodriguez glared at his kids as each one dropped his or her gun and held up his or her hands.
"Since this morning," Chris growled. "You're going back to jail Rodriguez."
Deputy Gordon cuffed Rodriguez and lead him out of the warehouse.
Chris went to Ezra, who was barely breathing and scooped him up in his arms and rushed out of the warehouse to the waiting ambulance and got in with Ezra still in his arms.
"Buck, I got this. You follow Chris and the ambulance," Deputy Hope said and shoved Buck toward Chris' truck.
Adrianne didn't have to shove very hard to get Buck moving.
Josiah was waiting in the emergency waiting area when the ambulance came in with Ezra and Chris in the back. Chris had a hold of the small hand with one of his own while holding the oxygen mask over the small face.
Josiah stood and rushed the emergency doors when the ambulance arrived.
Vin and JD ran to their fathers when they entered the waiting area.
Josiah wanted to follow the EMT's but Nathan stopped him. "Let us do our jobs." Then he disappeared behind the double swinging metal doors that lead into the emergency examination rooms.
A couple of hours later, Nathan came to talk to Josiah.
Josiah, Chris and Buck stood when they saw Nathan.
"How is he Nate?" Josiah asked.
"He's developed a chest cold. With him being an asthmatic, we're keeping him on oxygen right now and elevating his head and chest is helping him to breath easier, so we'll be keeping him over night at least."
"Can I go see him?" Josiah asked, desperate to see his son.
"Sure. I'll have a nurse come and get you when we have him settled in his room." Nathan left his friends and went back to the examining rooms.
Twenty long minutes later a nurse came and got Josiah.
"We'll be right here when you get back Josiah," Buck said.
Josiah looked back at Buck and Chris, each holding his son close to him. Josiah smiled. "You might want to feed those two since they skipped lunch to keep an old man company."
Josiah followed the nurse up to the children's ward and was shown to Ezra's room. Josiah pulled a chair up to Ezra's bedside and sat down in it. Josiah took Ezra's hand in his. When he did, Ezra's eyes opened and looked over at him.
"Hey there son. You breathing any easier?" Ezra nodded his head. "Good. I got worried when they gave me your inhaler at the school."
"Do you think you're making a mistake adopting me? Do you still want me?" Ezra asked through the oxygen tent that covered the upper part of his body.
Josiah raised the small hand and kissed it as tears welled up in his eyes. "No, I am not making a mistake adopting you. And yes I still want you and as I said before, you are not a mistake Ezra. God doesn't make mistakes. He put you on this earth for a reason. Don't ever forget that."
Ezra breathed a sigh of relief then drifted off to sleep with the thought he was still wanted.
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