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2


A Plan Comes Together

The boys and I had a good ride. Edwardo said he would brush Apollo then see
to it he had food and water. I talked with the boys a little longer when I
saw Miguel motioning for me to join him. He turned and went inside the
house.

I headed back to the deck while pop chatted briefly with our guests then
came and sat beside me. He told me about Jay being in Receife with a kid
whom he had to operate on for a badly damaged nerve in his shoulder and arm
along with some facial nerve damage too.

He filled me in about the locals along with the fact that Judge Javier said
the police could handle the situation.

I listened for about 15 minutes then began to ask questions. "How many
locals are there and do they come near the hospital? Also, can the police
post some men around the building for security purposes?" I waited for Pop
to answer when I came out with my final two questions. "Do you still have
your old house? What are the ground rules as far as the locals are concerned
or can I use my own ideas?"

Miguel almost spit his drink out when he heard my last question. After he
regained his composure he said. "Look Marco, I don't want you to start an
international incident. We need to be able to continue to work with the
people there." I was about to interrupt at this point but he continued
speaking and I couldn't get the chance. "I don't want anyone hurt,
especially the boy or Jay, but I won't have the locals trying to think they
can run all over my family. Look, just do only what you need to do get Jay
and the boy, Tito, back to my home safe then ready to return back home."

I let all of what he said sink into my head for a few minutes. While I was
thinking, I finished my beer and Miguel went and brought me another. He
handed it to me and I decided to ask one more question. Little did I know
that this would be a question that would both haunt me and bring me joy?
"Pop, who is this boy Tito you keep talking about?"

Miguel took a sip of his drink and set it down on the table and composed
his thoughts. "Well Marco, Tito is like you, Jay and the others from
Receife, a street child who was assaulted and injured. I know you were never
injured but as you know, Jay was. Tito is a small child for his age. He's
not yet five feet tall, barely weighs 60 pounds and has a flailed chest. A
waiter assaulted him causing severe nerve damage in his face, shoulder and
arm. Jay has operated on his face and repaired that damage and is ready to
work on his arm and shoulder when he got wind that the locals started making
threats against the child."

When I heard this, I started seeing red. I hated what the locals did to the
kids there and I was determined now, more that ever, to get Jay and Tito
back to Miguel's house and then here where he would be safe. I sat there
drinking my beer and mulling all this information over in my head when I
heard what sounded like a stampede or else we were about to get a storm move
in but there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

The noise level quickly died down when I heard another sound that made me
smile. That was the sound of children. Seven very vocal boys very quickly
surrounded Miguel and me. "Grande, Grande, Grande," they were all saying. I
noticed Edwardo and Ruben around Miguel but the others; I hadn't a clue as
to which all these boys were. It looked like this place was a local
orphanage until Ronnie came out. Then the boys started splitting up into
groups of twos and threes and Ronnie and Miguel huddled them together for an
introduction. I had two boys near by cautiously looking me over. I'm not
sure if it was because I favored Edwardo and Ruben or if it was because I
was so tall. Either way, I was watched very closely.

Miguel stepped forward and began to speak. "Boys, this is a very good
friend of mine and my sons. In fact, he is as much of a son to me as is Jay,
Ronnie and Steven. I'd like you to meet Marco Cortez. You will be seeing a
lot of him, as he will be working at the boy's ranch. Marco, may I introduce
Ronnie and Mark Owens, they live at the ranch next to ours. Next to them are
their friends Carl Jr. and his brother Pieter. The red head hiding behind
Ronnie is Johnny Owens. He's Mark and Ronnie's brother also. You already
know my grandsons Edwardo and Ruben Sanchez but there is one more I'd like
you to meet."

Miguel was just about to say something when I interrupted him. "Don't tell
me." I said but I know who this must be. I kneeled down in front of the
cutest child I had ever seen. "This has to be Steven's son. He is the
spitting image of him." I reached under his arms and picked him up into my
arms and then rested him on my hip.

Ronnie looked at his nephew and said. "Yes Marco it is. That's Steven Jr."

I put Stevie back on his feet and the boys began asking Ronnie and Miguel
if it was all right if they could all stay at the Owens' ranch for the
night. Miguel and Ronnie were caught in a diplomacy nightmare and all I
could do was giggle under my breath. Ronnie took the lead telling his two
boys it was all right but they had to be home for breakfast and Carl and his
brother Pieter would have to talk with their mother. I sat down and took a
mouthful of beer when I saw Steven Jr. standing right in front of me.

"How did you know who I was?" he asked innocently.

I picked him up and set him on my knees as I answered him. "Son, I know
you're Daddy. I first met him when he wasn't much older than you. Your
Grandpa saved me like he did him and your uncles. I can't repay him for all
he's done for me. Now why don't you get ready to head on over with your
friends for your sleep over?"

He smiled at me and before climbing down gave me something I won't ever
soon forget. I received the biggest hug and kiss on the cheek this little
guy could muster with those rather small arms. Ronnie told his nephew he had
to be back with his boys for breakfast also. Then he hopped down and
scampered off with the others back to their horses. Soon I was hearing the
same sound I heard before as they first came up but this time it was heading
in the other direction.

I stood up and saw Ronnie standing near the kitchen so I entered and
finished my beer. I set my can down on the counter just as Miguel reached
and set another cold beer beside it. He headed back for the deck so I
followed him hoping to find out more details about Tito. As I sat down, I
noticed the sun setting in the western sky. It was absolutely breath taking.
The red haze of the sun was disappearing behind the trees and it put off a
glow that was impossible to describe.

Miguel came over and took a sip of his drink and asked. "Do you have any
more questions? If not, I'd like you to leave tomorrow if you could. Jay is
planning the operation on the boy for tomorrow and said he could really use
your help with it so the sooner you get there, the sooner he's at my place."

I took a gulp of my beer and thought for a second before asking, "Is there
a vehicle for me to use?" He tossed me a set of keys and on the ignition key
was a big letter "H" which told me what to look for when I arrived. Miguel
told me his plane would be ready for my trip and all I needed to do was tell
the pilot when to be ready to leave for the trip home. He gave me a small
cell phone that was just for use between him and his pilot. I thought that
could come in handy if I needed to make a very quick departure.

I just sat there and watched the sun finish setting when Ronnie appeared by
my side. I had not realized until I saw him, just how much I missed him. I
stood up and put my arm around his shoulder like we used to do when we were
kids. I saw his head turn and I got a good look into those soft blue eyes. I
just leaned my head down to his shoulder and then whispered into his ear.
"God bro, I have missed you so much I can't imagine not being around you."

Ronnie said, "All we need is Jay and Steven to make this picture complete."
as he leaned into my body. We were standing there enjoying this moment we
had not shared since we were younger when we heard the door slam as Pop came
out onto the deck. His eyes got somewhat big until we both looked at him. I
think it was then he realized he misread a lot into what he was seeing.

We hugged once more then separated and sat down. "Ah pop," I started.
"Look, I know Jay and Ronnie are together and I would never do anything to
hurt my brother. Heck, when I see him we'll do a lot of hugging too so
please don't go and get upset?" He just looked at us and realized everything
I just said was true so he decided to go back inside and let us talk alone
for a while.

Ronnie and I talked for about thirty minutes or so then I started getting
tired. It had been a long day and Miguel wanted me to leave tomorrow to go
to Receife to bring Jay and Tito to his house. I really hoped this was going
to be an easy task with few problems encountered.

"Hey Bro," I said standing and stretching. "I need to get some sleep. Your
Dad wants me to get Jay's rear out of a sling." Ronnie smiled when he heard
me describe his lover, and he came over to give me a hug before I went
inside to go to bed.

I went to my room and headed for the bathroom so I could empty out the beer
my bladder was now holding. Once that was taken care of, I went and pulled
out my personal gear and checked it to be sure everything was ready when I
had to leave to get Jay and Tito. I pulled the gear out and went over it and
checked that everything that ran on batteries was indeed working and that I
had spares just in case. OK, I thought, all present and accounted for and in
working condition.

I was about to turn the light off when I heard a knock on the door. I
opened it and there was Miguel. "Hi pop," I said. "I was just about to get
some sleep. I think you have a pretty full day in store for me."

He stood there for a few seconds before he spoke. "Marco, I know that you
would never hurt Jay. I forgot just how long it has been since you all saw
each other. It's been over twenty years and you four were very close back
then. I know you and Ronnie aren't going to go off and fall in love or
anything like that. I want you to know that I'm sorry for what I was
thinking before son." ...


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