Logan's Living

Chapter 12

By Wayne Telfer

Reed immediately reached up with his free hand and checked for a pulse. When he looked up, Margaret was already on her phone calling for help. "He's got a strong pulse and he's breathing," he told her. The only other sound in the place at that point was Ben's monologue about the transformation of the space. Every other person in the place was shocked into immobility...all but family, who gathered around, worry clearly written on all their faces.

Oscar immediately rushed over and knelt beside his son and pried open one of Peter's eyelids and also checked his pulse.

"Margaret, it's all right, we won't need the paramedics. Peter's fine."

She got a perplexed look on her face, but told the operator that it was a false alarm, that there was a doctor present, and apologized. Then she snapped her cell phone closed and looked at Oscar with a world of questions in her eyes.

"Peter has a mild form of epilepsy," he said in answer to her unasked question. "I haven't seen any evidence of it before now, but it was in his mother's medical files that she had it. It's not serious. In fact, he may have had a seizure at the residence, but we never noticed."

Just then Peter's eyes opened and looked up in confusion. "What's the matter? What happened?"

Oscar smiled down at the boy. "Nothing serious, my boy. You just faded out for a moment."

Peter got a thoughtful look on his face. "Like mom used to?"

"Yes, Peter, just like your mom used to. It's nothing to worry about, though. There's a bit of medicine I can prescribe for you that will keep these things from happening."

"Really?" he asked as he forced Reed to loosen his hold and sat up. "Mommy never got any medicine."

"She might not have been able to afford it, Peter. I know she didn't have a lot of money."

Peter began to cry softly. "Nobody's going to want me now." He buried his face in Reed's shoulder.

Reed looked into this father's eyes, who in turned looked up into Phillip's. It was clear that they were all thinking the same thing. This was confirmed by a slight nod from both boys. Oscar nodded back at Reed.

"Peter, Peter," said Reed softly. "Shh. Can you calm down and listen for a minute?" He felt the child stiffen in his grasp as he tried to get control of himself. "You listening now?" He felt the nod against his shoulder. "You're wrong about nobody wanting you, you know."

"Nobody wants to have a sick boy."

"You're wrong, Peter. I know three nobodies that would love to have you live with them."

Young as he was and as distraught as he was, little Peter immediately grasped the implications of that statement. He pushed himself away from Reed and looked up into those caring, compassionate eyes.

"Come live with us, Peter...permanently," he whispered. "Our dad will make sure you have the best medical care."

Peter looked up at Phillip who was standing just behind Reed.

Phillip knelt down to look Peter in the eyes and placed a gentle hand on his cheek. "Come live with us, little brother."

Peter felt a hand on his back and turned to find Oscar nearly nose to nose with him. Oscar leaned in that last inch or so and gently kissed Peter's nose.

"Stay with us, Peter. Be a part of our family."

Well, Peter didn't have to think about this for any longer than it took for him to throw his arms around Oscar's neck and begin crying. "Yes, yes, please!" he croaked.

The entire room burst into applause as Oscar rose to his feet with the weeping boy in his arms. Ralph was the closest of the guests, so was the first to step up and whisper into the boy's ear.

"Congratulations, Peter." Peter looked up into his eyes. "I'm happy for me too, little man. This means I'll always have access to my ambassador."

That brought out the boy's radiant little smile. He turned his head when he felt another tap on his shoulder. Arthur was standing there with his arms held out to him. Peter didn't hesitate a moment. He released Oscar and nearly jumped into his new uncle's arms; arms that immediately folded themselves about his tiny body.

"See there, little man? Good things happen to good people," said Arthur as he inhaled the fresh scent of newly washed little boy hair. "Now there is no doubt about us being family, is there?"

Peter leaned slightly back and than stabbed forward and quickly kissed Arthur on the lips. "I love you, Uncle Arthur."

The family laughed at the stunned look on Arthur's face. It was clear that he was not used to such open displays of affection. Every other member of the family had limited themselves to kissing his cheeks in public. In fact, the only members to kiss him fully had been Reed and Logan, and then only in strict privacy.

That stunned look changed with lightning quickness as his eyes clouded slightly with unshed tears and he smiled at the small bundle of love in his arms. "Thank you, Peter. I love you too." Reluctant as he was, Arthur set the boy down so that he could receive congratulations from everyone else. He got a very pleasant surprise about fifteen minutes later as he was chatting with Charles about the work he'd done and he felt a little hand slip into his.

He was startled by this and immediately looked down...into the radiant smile of little Peter. He squeezed the tiny hand and realized with that gesture that it was going to be a very hard thing to release that hand later.

This having a family was becoming increasingly more difficult to work into his life. Or...perhaps...it was becoming more and more difficult to work his old life around his new responsibilities. He was becoming ever more irritated at the time that was being taken from what he'd like to be doing with his family. The problem was that his expertise was vital to things happening around the world. He'd made himself into a crucial link between many disparate groups. Or, more accurately, he'd been accepted by those groups as a proven impartial negotiator.

These organizations had seen him as a means to further their own agendas, but he always managed to turn these interactions into a means of furthering his own goal; that of promoting and accomplishing yet another step towards universal peace. It was a monumental goal that occupied him completely for most of his life.

A half hour later, Arthur found himself off in the sitting area, relaxing with his new nephew firmly planted in his lap. The celebration continued around him, but did not include him, which, oddly enough, didn't displease him in the slightest. His was a tiny little microcosm that included just two, and their thoughts were not involved in anything more complicated than enjoying each others' presence.

"You all right, Arthur?" whispered Oscar. He'd stepped up behind the two and noticed the surprising ease and contentment of his long time friend.

Arthur glanced down at the drowsing little boy and felt something totally foreign. His throat tightened and his vision blurred.

"Damn, Oscar," he whispered in return. "I don't think I've ever felt this happy before."

Oscar stepped around the sofa and looked down at the two of them...and smiled. "Why don't you see if he'll be content sleeping on the sofa so you and I can step out and talk a bit?"

Arthur frowned at that suggestion, which only caused Oscar to chuckle all the more.

"He's not going anywhere, Arthur. He'll still be here when we get back." He then stepped away as Arthur stood and laid the little man down. In a burst of inspiration, he then took off his jacket and laid it on the little body and then, a little self-consciously, he leaned over and kissed the boy's cheek. When he rose, Ben was standing beside him.

"I'll stay with him, Uncle Arthur," smiled the boy. He then stepped in and hugged the man. "Has anyone mentioned to you how much we're enjoying your frequent visits?"


"Yes, Uncle, really." Ben then chuckled as he released Arthur. "Go on, Oscar is just outside."

Ben smiled to himself as he took a seat at the end of the sofa, at Peter's feet. He could see that his uncle was having some of the same difficulties that he'd had after his rescue from his parents. That first week with Logan and Mom had passed in a sort of daze. Never had he received such attention and such support as he'd gotten from the two of them.

Arthur was getting some of that right now. Each time he, Reed and Logan had hugged their uncle, Ben felt the tension of uncertainty and unfamiliarity. But he'd seen, today, the teared up eyes of his uncle when Peter had hugged and kissed him. The fact that the two of them had been inseparable since then had been amusing and encouraging.

Oscar was smiling at his friend as he exited the building. He pointed toward the shopping district and set off slowly in that direction.

"You're looking like a stunned ox, Arthur."

He sighed. "I'm feeling like one too, Oscar. This whole business of being a part of a family is a lot more intense than I expected it to be."

"We've noticed."


"Benny was the one that noticed your reaction to Peter's attention and brought it to my attention."

Arthur grimaced. I was a bit disconcerting to realize that he'd been so inept at keeping his reactions to himself. That was a skill that had served him well over the years as he negotiated one crisis solution after another.

"These boys are pretty remarkable, Oscar." He paused. "I remember when you took in Phillip. That was one very devastated boy. That was a boy I was certain would have major issues the rest of his life. Now look at him; so confident, so sure of precisely who he is. A son to be proud of."

"Yes he is...and I am."

"From what I gather, Reed was much the same when he came to live with you. I'm sorry I wasn't staying in better touch, Oscar. But from what I hear, you accomplished the same miracle in him. Just look at him today. That's a young man on his way up."

"Arthur, you need to realize that most of what Reed is today is Logan's doing, not mine. Actually, I've been very worried about Reed. He was determined to isolate himself from the outside world after what happened to him with his father and the fallout with the boy that had been involved. The Reed you're seeing today bears very little resemblance to the Reed of two or three months ago."

"I can't say that I'm really surprised. Logan is such a dynamo. I've never come across a young man with his fire before. And such empathy! Look what he's done for Benny...and you say he's done the same for Reed."

Oscar frowned a moment. "But Arthur, those are all qualities you'd appreciate as a successful business man. What's with Peter?"

"I don't know, Oscar. I've never had anyone affect me the way he does."

Oscar chuckled. "It's called love, Arthur. And no, I'm not talking about the intimate sort. This is love of family. The older boys started chipping away at your walls, but little Peter isn't one to chip at anything. When he loves something, he simply charges forward and to hell with all those barriers."

"God, Oscar, I can't get him out of my mind. I want to protect that little guy with all my being."

"He has that affect on people, that's for sure. But you're worried, aren't you? You think this is going to erode your discipline and make you less effective at what you've been doing all these years."

Arthur opened his mouth to protest, but stopped himself. He hadbeen thinking along those lines. "Yes," he whispered, "I am."

"It doesn't have to, Arthur. You just need to reconcile yourself to the fact that you're now two people. You can still be the diplomat and business go to man you always were. But now you have this other side that you can retreat to that you've never had before. That little bit of heaven that includes the lives of others. This new life will include people that accept you for you, not the many times multi-billionaire. To us, you aren't the legend, you're Arthur and Uncle Arthur...nothing more. That's what real love is all about."

"It's all so confusing to me, Oscar. I've lived so isolated for so long...I'm not sure what I'm doing, or if I'm doing the right things."

Oscar put his arm over Arthur's shoulders and pulled him close. "Arthur, you're doing everything just fine. We all love you...the boys most of all. But if you decide to analyze this to death, you're going to lose the wonder of it all. This is something to cherish for what it is right now, not what it may become or what it has been. Now is all you should be concerned with. Where your family is concerned, don't worry about yesterday or tomorrow. Live in the moment."

He patted the man's shoulder and pulled him tighter. "Margaret and I will handle all the issues of raising the boys. You're the beloved Uncle. Your job will be to spoil them. You're also going to be their sounding board for matters of commerce and business. Phillip will be able to advise them on financial matters, and I'll be there if they're wanting to do any investing. You, however, are their best resource for their business ventures."

"As for Peter, Arthur...just let him have his way with you. He'll worm his way deep into your heart and you'll never question the fact of someone loving you."

Arthur smiled. "Gods, no wonder your boys have turned out so well. Thanks, Oscar."

When they got back to the store, it was to find the party breaking up. Nearly half of the guests had already departed and the rest seemed to be ready to, as they slowly inched their way toward the door. Arthur hadn't gotten two steps into the building before a tiny hand slipped into his.

"I thought you were napping, little man," he said, smiling down at this small bundle of joy.

"There was too much noise," piped little Peter. "Where'd you go?"

"Your father wanted to talk to me and we didn't want to wake you."

"Oh...okay." And that was all there was to it. Everything was once again perfect with his little world. He then proceeded to pull his uncle around the store, showing him all the little details that he'd discovered.

It was an amazing thing to experience this event through the eyes of this eight year old child. The little things that so captivated the boy would normally have escaped Arthurs notice. This was a boy in the full flower of childhood. No adult responsibilities. It was all about discovery and fun, something Arthur was finding a great deal of joy in.

When it was finally time for them to leave, it took several minutes for Oscar and Phillip to locate the two of them. It was only as they exited the back room that they noticed the two of them seated on the floor behind the counter playing some incomprehensible game with bits and pieces Peter had pulled from the cabinets. The two of them were laughing quietly.

"You can't do that, Uncle Arthur, it's against the rules," Peter was saying.

"There are rules?"

"There are always rules, Uncle. You can't play a game without rules."

"Peter," chuckled Arthur, "Did it ever occur to you that I might not know the rules?"

"Of course you know the rules," said Peter in exasperation. "You know everything, just like dad."

Arthur reached over and pick up Peter and deposited him in his lap. "I know many things, little man. But I do not know everything. Besides, I haven't played games like this for so long that if I ever knew the rules, I've long since forgotten them."

"Oh, okay. Maybe I should tell you the rules next time."

"I think that would be a very good idea."

"Are you two about ready to go home?" asked Oscar, thoroughly enjoying the sight.

"Okay," said Peter as he jumped to his feet and started to walk toward his new dad.

"Uh, Peter?" said Arthur.

He turned. "What, Uncle."

"Don't you think it'd be a good idea if we put all of Reed's things back where we found them?"

"Oh yeah," he answered, running over and falling to his knees and began gathering their 'toys'.

To his credit, Peter was very careful about putting everything back exactly as they'd found them.

The ride home was quiet as Peter fell almost instantly asleep in Arthur's lap. The adults were the only ones in this limo, so the quiet was a welcome relief from all the excitement.

The other limo had the three older boys in it and they were excited and animated about all that had happened and what it meant for Reed.

"Did you spend much time on your computer?" Reed asked Ben.

"My computer?"

"You don't for a minute think I know anything about all that CG stuff, do you?" asked Reed with a smile. "I had that one put together so that you could do some animation work for me from time to time. And now that I've seen that morphing video you made, I know I'll be able to include you in some of my projects. This is really going to expand what I can do with my web designs." He then frowned at Ben. "That is, if you'd like to get involved."

"If I'd like?!" Ben yelled as he jumped across the limo and fiercely hugged Reed. "Fuck, Reed, you know I want to."

"Good, little brother, because my mind is already racing with ideas. I'd like you to help me with Taylor's and Logan's websites. Those two are going to be our premier pieces and will set the standard."

"Our. That has a nice sound to it." Ben then frowned slightly. "Uh, how much are you going to pay me?"

"Honestly, Benny, I don't know. I've got to sit down with Phillip and research it a bit. I'll make you an offer in a couple of days. That okay with you?"

Tears welled up in the younger boy's eyes. "I always thought I'd have to do it for free for a while just to prove I could handle it."

"Free?" said Reed, an evil twinkle in his eye. "Okay, free it is."

"Hey! I was joking!"

Reed laughed. "So was I. Give me a couple of days to work up something."

Logan simply sat there and watched the two of them, smiling for all he was worth. It was so great to simply watch these two marvelous guys as they set out on their own paths to success. The fact that they'd be starting out together simply made it all that more satisfying.

When they arrived at the residence, the four younger boys took off for the pool while the adults all gathered in the parlor for a quiet coffee and a conference.

"Oscar, Margaret," began Arthur, "I've purchased a gift for each of the boys that I need to discuss with you."

"Arthur," said Margaret, "You have gotto quit spending so much money on the boys." She smiled to soften the rebuke.

Arthur smiled. "I know. It's just so new to me. I'm enjoying it all." He chuckled a moment and then grew serious. "But this time I've gotten them something practical. I've gotten them each an ankle bracelet."

Oscar and Phillip frowned openly at this. "Isn't that just a bit odd?"

"Yes, I guess it is. But I chose these specifically for that reason. You see, the anklets are much more than mere ornamentation. They have a very practical side."

After several moments of silence Margaret responded.

"All right, Arthur, enough with the theatrics. What are you up to?"

"Protecting the boys, Margaret. The bracelets are something that no one would expect on a boy, so will very likely go unnoticed. You see, each of the bracelets has a GPS tracking device embedded in it. Each one is on its own frequency. If anything should happen to any of the boys, McKensie and his organization will be able to track their location immediately."

"What's to prevent anyone from simply ripping them off?" asked Phillip.

"The fact that they're constructed of titanium and the clasps will be welded shut. The only way to get them off will be with a plasma torch and that's not likely to be something a would-be kidnapper would have readily available. That will give your security people plenty of time to affect a rescue."

"Well," said Margaret, "I can't say that I'm disappointed by this. There's just been too much attention paid to our boys lately. I think I like the idea of a bit of covert protection. Do you intend to explain the purpose of the bracelets to the boys?"

"I don't think I'm going to have any choice, Margaret. They're all going to want to know why they're being permanently attached...even little Peter."

"When do you plan to present them?" asked Oscar.

"Later this afternoon. Reed Armstrong is demonstrating the tracking equipment to McKensie and his people right now. Once they've got a handle on the operation, they'll come by and Reed will attach the bracelets."

Margaret got up and walked over to Arthur and hugged him fiercely. "You're a good uncle, Arthur."

The boys accepted their unusual gifts without any fuss or complaints. It was comforting to know that there would be this added level of protection for them. Besides, the ankle bracelets were handsome and very masculine in their design. There was the added touch that each had been engraved with their own name and Arthur's.

Once the bracelets were in place, McKensie and Armstrong had each boy walk about the residence as they calibrated the unit to ensure each of the bracelets was operating as designed and that the computer was properly programmed to identify which bracelet was attached to which boy.

The rest of that day was spent in comfortable familial closeness. Some of it spent as one large family unit, but most spent in small groups as they shuffled themselves about and spent quality time with each other.

Oscar in particular was taking great joy in the afternoon and evening as his house resounded with the quiet solidification of the bonding between disparate peoples. For the most part it involved the relative quiet of conversation and meals. But they did venture into more raucous behavior when the boys all insisted that the karaoke machine hadn't seen any use in quite some time. That hour or so proved to be the final link needed to meld this group into a single whole as they all relaxed and laughed at each others' attempts.

They all finally retired to the media room to watch the late evening news. Peter had finally given Arthur's lap a reprieve as he sat quietly in Phillip's lap. He wasn't the least interested in the news, so he was spending this time watching the members of his new family.

Ben was sitting with Uncle Arthur, the two of them talking quietly about something that seemed to have nothing to do with the news, since neither of them was paying any attention to the commentator.

Reed and Logan were bracketed on either side of Mom Justice, the three of them holding hands in her lap, but saying nothing. They seemed quite content to simply bask in their closeness.

But Oscar was sitting all alone in his overstuffed leather chair, looking for all the world as if he were really interested in the news. But it made Peter a bit sad to see the fabulous man sitting there all alone while everyone else had gathered into little groupings. But if he went to Oscar, Phillip would be all alone.

Peter sighed at his conundrum, unable to figure out how to resolve this problem.

"What's the matter, little brother," whispered Phillip.

"Da...Oscar is all alone over there."

"Peter, my dad is now your dad too. You can certainly call him dad if you'd like. I know he'd like that." He hugged Peter tightly. "Now, if you'd like to go keep him company you certainly can."

"But then you'll be all alone."

Phillip squeezed the little boy hard. "Ah, Peter, Peter. You are so sweet. Go on, I'll sit here and enjoy watching you sitting with our dad. If I get lonely, I'll go join Benny and Uncle Arthur."

Peter smiled his winning smile and kissed Phillip's cheek and then hopped onto the floor and walked over to Oscar. He startled Oscar when he simply climbed into his lap and kissed his cheek.

"Hi, dad."

Oscar made the move to kiss Peter's forehead, but the boy tilted his head up so that he was forced to kiss the boy on the lips. Peter then snuggled in close and took Oscar's near arm and draped it over his tiny shoulders.

"I love you, dad."

Yes indeed, this little tyke could certainly worm his way into your heart in no time. The undeniable truth of his feelings brought a rush of warmth to Oscar's entire body. "I love you too, son."

Oscar didn't hear another word of the news as he laid his cheek against the top of Peter's head and simply enjoyed this moment of supreme bliss. This was just as much a new experience for Oscar as it was for Arthur. He'd never taken in a boy this young before. All of his other attempts to help boys had involved teens exclusively; usually ones with abuse issues and confusion about their place in life.

But here was a boy whose only issue was the loss of his mother. Oh, there'd been a certain amount of physical abuse from that foster parent, but from what Oscar had been able to glean from talking with Peter, the abuse hadn't been excessive and the boy was putting it behind him easily enough.

His problem was going to be shifting his attention and methods from those he'd used with the other boys to something appropriate for a small child. But...those were matters for another day. Tonight he'd simply sit and enjoy the attention of this small bundle of joy that had insinuated himself into their lives. His last thought before giving in to this little package of love was... 'I have no doubt that I'm looking exactly like Arthur looked at the opening'.

It'd obviously been an exhausting day for little Peter, as evidenced by the fact that he fell fast asleep in Oscar's lap. When the news ended at ten thirty, Oscar lifted the little boy and carried him to his room. He helped the sleepy boy get changed into his pajamas, brush his teeth and then left him to complete his pre-bed needs. Just as he got the boy tucked in, the family began stopping in on their way to their own beds to say goodnight to Peter.

When the last of them headed for their own room, Oscar sat down beside his new son and simply pushed a few stray hairs out of the boys face.

"Tomorrow, Peter, you and I will go shopping."

"What for?"

"For one thing, I was thinking that you don't have nearly enough clothes. But more importantly, this room is still a guest room. There's nothing in here that says a little boy lives here. So, we'll begin in the morning and get all your boxes from the garage and let you put some of your things out where you can see them. Then we'll go and get whatever we need so that there are places for your toys." He leaned in and kissed the cute little nose. "We might even find some toys that are just begging to be brought home with you."

"Could we eat at McDonald's too?"

"I suppose we can, if that's what you'd like."

They shared another hug and kiss. Then Peter snuggled under the covers. Oscar stayed there until the boy's breathing slowed. Yes, this would be a new challenge for them all. But this little bundle of love would improve their lives. Actually, Oscar was beginning to enjoy the thought of a new challenge in his life.

Peter awoke the following morning feeling something totally new and wonderful. He was home. Thiswas where he'd live the rest of his life. Well, at least until he grew up. He missed his mother...a lot. But if he was going to have to go on without her, this was the sort of life that would make that bearable. He had two big brothers that loved him and the best dad in the world. He'd never had a dad before. That prompted a few tears of joy to fall down his cheeks.

There was a light knock on the door. He sat up. "Come in."

Phillip entered and smiled. "Good morning, little brother." Then he noticed the evidence of the little boy's tears, so he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. "How come you're crying, Peter?"

Peter jumped out from under his blanket and hugged Phillip's neck. "I'm happy."

Phillip squeezed Peter to him. "Ah, well that's okay then. So, you want to get up and come have some breakfast?"

"You bet," enthused Peter as he leaned back and sat on his heals, only then becoming aware of the fact that his pajama bottoms were being pushed out. He blushed as he threw his hands over his crotch.

Phillip could have laughed, but didn't. "You don't have to be embarrassed, little brother. All guys have that problem in the morning."


"Yup. I promise it's true." He stood up with a smile. "Now, you and willy go take care of business and then get dressed. We'll be waiting for you in the den."

"You won't tell anyone, will you?"

Phillip sat back down and picked up Peter and deposited him in his lap. "No sir. That is not how we do things in this house. Did you know that Dad used to be a pediatrician...a kid doctor?"

Peter shook his head.

"Well, he was. He's retired now. But he still does doctor things for kids once in a while. But my point is that because he's a doctor, he's taught Reed and me all about how our bodies work. He's also taught us about confidentiality. Do you know what that is?"

"That's keeping secrets, right?"

"Sort of. What it really means is that we don't talk about private things with others. Unless you say something to them, no one will know a thing about our morning chat, or the fact that willy made his presence known this morning."

Peter giggled at the wording of that. "You're silly, Phillip."

Phillip winked at him and ruffled his hair. "So, get a move on, little brother. There are a lot of people waiting to see you this morning."

Phillip got another hug and kiss and then Peter ran off toward his bathroom. Phillip simply chuckled as he left the room. This having a young child around was a new experience, but one that Peter was making into a very pleasant one.

Breakfast was a marvelous affair for Peter. This was the first meal he'd had at home with all the new important people in his life. He sat between Uncle Arthur and Mom Justice for it and had the time of his life. No one ignored him like they had at Mister Roper's. He was asked questions and when he had something to add to the discussion, everyone listened to what he had to say. No one expected him to be seen and not heard.

Shortly after breakfast, everyone that did not live there was gone. As soon as everyone was gone, Phillip and Reed headed for Phillip's computer room to start teaching Reed how to use the new program his older brother had set up for his business. That left Oscar and Peter to get ready for their day.

For his part, Peter was a little apprehensive about the shopping. Certainly, Oscar was more than worthy of his love and affection. But the huge house was such a magnificent place. There was beauty in every corner of it. So much so that Peter was afraid to do more than stand and look at it all. As they climbed into the car, the poor boy was worried that despite the words Oscar had said at bedtime, his room would be more of the same over the top, adult elegance.

As they pulled out of the estate in the back of the limousine that he'd rented for the day, Oscar glanced over and could sense some apprehension from Peter. "What's the matter, son?" He really hoped it wasn't the limousine. He had, after all, rented it simply to give the boy a treat. Oscar actually preferred to drive himself. He enjoyed driving very much and so, hadn't ever bothered with purchasing his own and hiring a full time driver, even if he could afford it.

Despite his uncertainty about the day, Peter couldn't help himself; he smiled. "I really like it when you call me that," he said.

"That makes two of us," laughed Oscar. "So, what are you thinking so hard about?" He reached over and lightly tickled Peter. "You're little forehead was all scrunched up."

Peter laughed. But then he sobered and began fidgeting a bit in uncertainty. "What are we going to buy for my room?"

Oscar smiled. He could see the poor boy's concern. "Peter, my boy, that's going to depend entirely on what you choose for your room."


"You haven't been in your brothers' rooms, have you?" Peter shook his head. "Well, if you had, you'd know that they look nothing like the rest of the house. You see, Peter, our bedrooms are the only rooms in the house that are not public and we are all allowed to decorate them however we choose. We're going to have fun today, son. We're going to be looking at furniture, paint, toys...everything. It'll probably take a week or so to get it all done, but by the time we aredone, you'll have a room that you designed."

Peter's eyes lit up and even teared up a bit. "I...I've never had a room of my own."

"I know, son, I know. And this is all going to be new for you." Oscar's investigation of Peter's life had revealed that he and his mother had lived a very spartan life. They'd had one bedroom with just enough room to have a bed for his mother and a toddler mattress on the floor for her son. But it had been a home filled with love, if not the means. "I think your mother would be very happy for you right now, Peter. There was a lot that she wanted to be able to do for you, but just couldn't afford. I had a very nice talk with her in the hospital that day."

"Was she sad because we didn't have much?"

"Yes she was, Peter. But I made it very clear to her that she'd done very well with what she was able to do. She'd raised a very remarkable little boy. I know that she was very happy about what I told her I planned to do for you. I think she'd be even happier if she knew how things were turning out."

Oscar then remembered something he'd failed to mention to Peter. "By the way, Peter, after your mother died, I had Phillip go to your little apartment with some men and they packed up everything and we've stacked it all in a room in the basement. Do you think you'd like to look through it all and pull some things to put in your room?"

Peter nodded his head. "Mama's quilt...and there was a little statue of two angels."

"Ah yes. Phillip mentioned those two things."

"I wish I had a picture," said Peter quietly.

"But you do, Peter."


"Uh-huh. Phillip told me he came across a couple of photo albums. They are older pictures...when you were very small, but there were plenty of pictures of your mother in them, Phillip said."

Well that brought out the happy-sad tears. But by the time they arrived at the furniture store, Peter was composed once again. Oscar had chosen a store that catered to the needs of children, so they had a marvelous time searching through all the displays. Peter insisted on seeing them all before he made up his mind. Oscar was pleased that the set he chose came in a queen bed size. That was the reason Oscar had chosen this store in particular, because they catered to those with money and those that wanted more than the typical twin and full sized bed furniture at the other stores.

Oscar's cell phone rang as they were on the way to the mall.

"Hi, Oscar, it's McKensie."

Okay, this didn't bode well. Mackey never called Oscar. "Damn, now what?"

"Sorry, but we haven't given up following you around just yet. That's why we know you're being followed."

"Great. Any idea who?"

"Yup, it's that Roper fellow. He and four of his buddies are about a half block behind you. Where are you headed?"

They discussed their plans for five minutes. Then Oscar had the limo driver take a scenic route to the mall that would give the security guys time to get themselves set up. Once in the mall, it was the hardest thing for Oscar to maintain a casual demeanor. He thought he'd been doing a good job, until they entered the third store.

"What's the matter, dad?" asked Peter quietly.

"And just what makes you think something is wrong?"

"Because you're holding my hand awful tight."

Oscar immediately loosened his hold without letting go. But how to answer the boy.

"Is it because Mister Roper is here?"

"You saw him?"

"In the last store we were in. He tried to hide, but I saw him." This time, Peter gripped Oscar's hand hard.

"Okay, Peter, I didn't want to frighten you, but yes, because of Mister Roper. But you know what?"


"We're not alone." Oscar then pulled a shirt from the rack and made a point of showing it to Peter as he knelt beside him. "You remember those men that took him away at the flower shop?"

"Yes, sir. You mean they're here?"

"Yup. And they brought a bunch of their friends."

It was amazing how the boy acted interested in the shirt while continuing their conversation. "Why are they waiting?" His eyes got suddenly very large and he began to shake a bit. "They have to wait until Mister Roper does something, don't they?"

"I'm afraid so, Peter."

"Do you think those men are close?"

At just that moment Oscar's phone rang. When he answered, he listened carefully for a couple of moments, frowning. He did so, however, carefully looking away so that no one but Peter could see the expression. He finally handed the phone to Peter. "It's Phillip, Peter. Listen very carefully and do exactly what he tells you." He then stood and picked a couple of additional shirts from the rack.

Peter listened for several moments, his eyes getting wider as the time passed. "You promise?" he finally asked Phillip. "Okay." He then closed the phone and looked up into the slightly frightened eyes of his father. "It's okay, Dad, I can do this."

"I love you, Peter," said Oscar and then he stepped away and headed for the counter to pay for the shirts.

Peter, on the other hand, moved slowly around the shop, gradually moving closer to the entrance. It was so very hard not to look around at the people. But Phillip had made him promise. Suddenly, someone grabbed his hand and yanked him out of the store.

"You make a sound and I'll kill you right here, boy!" hissed Mister Roper.

Peter didn't have to look at the man, his voice was easy to recognize. But he did begin to shake as the man pulled him down the central corridor, finally turning toward the exit doors. As they made their way, several men moved in around them.

"You sure that's the one?" asked one of the men.

"Of course I'm sure, you ass! Now shut up and keep your eyes open!"

Peter could see a car sitting right outside the doors as they approached with a man sitting behind the wheel, looking straight ahead. Mister Roper slowed as they got closer.

"What's wrong with Slick?" he asked to no one in particular.

"Nothing's wrong, he's right where he supposed to be."

"He looks like he's got a broom stuck up his ass," hissed Roper.

At that moment he stopped dead and began to reach behind him, under his jacket. And that's when everything erupted into chaos. Suddenly there was Reed, all over Mister Roper, screaming loud enough for the whole world to hear. As startling as it was, Peter remembered his instructions. He yanked his hand out of the distracted Mister Roper and ran back the way they'd come...straight into the arms of Phillip. Once safely in his big brother's arms he looked back and was absolutely shocked to see Reed tearing into the man like a ninja out of some movie. The man never had a chance. In moments, the man was laying motionless on the floor. The three men that had been with them were already face-down on the floor with huge men kneeling on their backs securing their arms behind them.

"You could have warned me," said a man in a black t-shirt as he approached Reed and the unmoving man.

"You'd have tried to stop me, Jackson" was Reed's very terse reply.

"Oh, I don't know. Remember, I saw you tear into your ole man that day." Jackson knelt down and felt the man's neck. "Well, at least you didn't kill him."

"Damn," said Reed with a wicked smile. "I was hoping..."

Jackson laughed. "Yeah, right. Okay, go join your family. The police have arrived."

Reed nodded and then walked slowly toward Phillip and Peter. He breathed deeply the whole way, trying to calm his nerves. He and Oscar arrived at the same time. But it was Reed that Peter was focused on.

"Wow, Reed, that was awesome," Peter said softly.

"No one tries to kidnap my little brother," Reed replied. "You okay, Peter?"

Peter turned in Phillip's arms and leaned toward Reed with open arms. They made the transfer and Peter squeezed his brother as tightly as he could. "I love you."

Oscar, of course, hadn't been there to see what had happened, but he was seriously confused by Reed's presence and the obviously unconscious Roper. "What...?"

"You didn't really think I'd be able to keep him away, did you? He decided to introduce himself to the erstwhile Mister Roper."

"He...?" asked Oscar, pointing toward Roper, who was now being looked over by paramedics.

"Oh yes," laughed Phillip. "After seeing that, I'm just so happy that I never pissed my little brother off."

They stood off to the side as the police and MacKensie's men conducted their business and simply passed Peter back and forth among them as the little boy finally gave into his fear and wept. Up near the doors stood MacKensie with one of the officers. They were looking at a laptop computer at something Mackie had for the authorities. When they'd completed their viewing, Mackie handed the officer a flash drive and closed up the computer.

When MacKensie reached the family, Oscar was really confused because it was quite clear that the police were leaving...without interviewing the family.

"Where are they going?" he asked.

"No need to interview anyone. We video taped the entire thing...from the moment you entered the mall. We also recorded all the phone conversations." He then turned to Reed. "The Sergeant was blown away by your performance, mister."

Reed simply smiled.

"Well, we won't know how this thing is going to conclude," continued MacKensie, "Until the DA has gone over the video. There's also the matter of investigating exactly what this kidnapping was all about."

"I bet he wanted me to do more shows," said Peter softly, blushing in embarrassment.

Before anyone could say a word, Phillip held up his free hand. "Not here."

"This is importa..." insisted MacKensie.

But Phillip got steely eyed. "I...said...not...here!" He then turned to Oscar. "Dad, go tell the limo driver to take a break in the food court. We're going to discuss this in private." He glared at everyone impartially and they all finally got the message that he meant business.

They marched as a group out to the limo, Phillip cradling his little brother the whole time. The boy was shaking the entire time. Once the driver was convinced to disappear for a while, they gathered in the back and Phillip took control.

"Do you have a camera on that laptop, Mackie?"

In answer, the man immediately opened his computer and started entering commands. He pulled a cam from his pocket, plugged in the USB and snapped it to the screen, pointing it at Phillip and Peter. He then pulled a small microphone out, plugged it in and handed it to Phillip. He entered a few more commands and then nodded at Phillip.

Phillip clipped the microphone to his shirt lapel and then picked up Peter and turned him so that they were looking at one another. MacKensie repositioned himself so that he was recording a profile view of the two of them...this would ensure that everyone could see that it was indeed these two speaking.

"Peter, can you look at me please?" asked Phillip very gently. It took a moment or two, but he finally lifted his head. No one rushed him. "Do you know what I want us to do now?"

"You...you want me to tell you what Mister Roper had me do for him."

"Yes, little brother, I do. Now, do you know why I want us to do this?"

"So...so he can't do it to me again."

"That's part of it, Peter. But it's even more important because we don't ever want him to have the chance to do it to other little boys...do we?"

Peter shook his head.

"Good. So we're going to begin with some simple questions. You understand that I'm having Mister MacKensie record this, right?"

"Yes, Phillip."

"Good boy. Okay, first thing we have to do is introduce you to the people that will be watching this. Tell me about yourself. You know, your full name, how old you are and where you live."

Peter took a deep breath. "My name is Peter Michael Cramer. I'm eight years old and I live with Mister Oscar Stewart. I'm sorry, Phillip, I don't know the address or phone number."

Everyone in the car smiled at this.

"That's okay, it's not important. They can figure that out later. Now, why are you living with Oscar Stewart, Peter?"

"My mommy died of cancer and Oscar is going to adopt me and become my daddy."

"Is this something you want to happen?"

"You know it is, Phillip."

Phillip laughed. "Yes I do. But the people watching the recording don't."

"Oh, right, I forgot. I'm sorry."

"No problem, Peter. Now, we're going to begin talking about what happened to you. You take all the time you need to."

And so began an extended session of question and answer. What came to light is that Roper and several other men had forced the boy to strip and masturbate himself in front of several video cameras while another man took snapshots. He was able to tell them about two other boys and one girl that were in the man's foster care that were forced to do the same thing.

By the time they finished, Peter was, understandably, in tears. While Phillip simply held the distraught boy, MacKensie quickly dismantled his computer set up.

"I've got to get this to the DA right away." MacKensie then leaned over and patted Peter's back. "You've been very brave, Peter."

"You're keeping a copy of these videos, aren't you?" asked Oscar.

"Oh yes, Oscar. These are going in the company safety deposit box today."

Oscar sighed and slumped back into his seat. "Thanks for all your help, Mackie. Make sure you thank your people for me too."

When MacKensie was gone, Oscar turned to Reed. "Could you go get the driver for me, son? I think I want to go home."

"Sure, Dad." Reed then turned to Phillip. "You want me to drive your car home?"

"Yeah, Reed, that'd be great. I seem to have my hands full." He wiggled himself around so he could reach into his pocket and extract his keys.

That brought a quiet Peter back to life. He turned around and looked at Oscar.

"Dad? Can't we keep shopping?"

Oscar opened his mouth to refuse, but stopped himself, seeing the look in the little boy's eyes. There was real disappointment there. He waved Peter over to stand in front of him. "This has been a terrible experience, Peter. Wouldn't you rather go home and get away from here?"

Peter shook his head violently. "No, Dad, I want to keep shopping with my new daddy. We were having fun, weren't we?"

Oscar took a deep breath and smiled. Yes indeed, this having a small child around was going to be a challenge. It seemed that this one, at least, was capable of concentrating on the fun and not the negative. "As a matter of fact, we were."

Peter's face lit up as he turned and looked at his new brothers. "Since you're here already, could we go shopping like a family? Please?"

And just how were they supposed to refuse such need. So off they went, after Reed had gone in and retrieved the driver. They spent three hours accumulating purchases from quite a few shops; mostly clothes and toys. Reed and Phillip took turns carting the various purchases out to the limo. They ended in the early afternoon with a light lunch in the food court from the previously requested McDonalds. It was, after all, not all that long until supper would be ready.

By the time they returned to the limo, Peter was exhausted. The three adults sat themselves along the back seat of the car at Peter's request, whereupon he proceeded to stretch himself across the laps of all three and fall instantly asleep, his head in his father's lap.

Although no one said a word all the way home, the three men knew pretty much what each other were thinking, from the identical grins on their faces. They were all agreed that Peter's desire to continue the shopping excursion had been the ideal balm. It hadn't taken any time at all for each of them to get caught up in the little boy's enthusiasm. The one concession Peter had made as a result of the kidnapping attempt, whether it was conscious or not, was that there wasn't a moment during that day when his hand wasn't in one of theirs.

When they arrived at the residence, the four of them remained in the limo while the staff carted all the bags into the house and Peter's room. So it was, that by the time it was necessary for them to wake him and exit the vehicle, Peter had managed to accumulate forty-five minutes of nap time; more than enough for him to be raring to go.

And go they all did...straight to Peter's room, at his insistence. But when he opened the door and looked inside, he could only stand there stunned. All the furniture they'd purchased that morning was already in place. It took several moments for him to recover.

"How did you do this, Dad?"

Oscar laughed as he put his arm over the boy's shoulders. "I paid a bit extra so that they'd deliver everything right away. The store was already loading the delivery truck while we were paying for it all. The staff has been working since it arrived to remake your room. But I must say, Raymond," he said turning to the waiting chief of the house staff, "You've all outdone yourselves."

Peter spun around and ran across the hall, wrapping his arms around Raymond's waist. "Thank you so much."

"Ah, little Peter, it was our pleasure. Everyone pitched in. Even the gardener came in and leant a hand."

"Wow." He then raced back to the door and paused, then deliberately stepped inside hisroom for the first time and began touching everything. It took him several moments to make a complete circuit, the biggest smile on his face. He was standing at the bed, simply running his hands over the unmade mattress when he noticed that the TV that had been there when it was a guest room was still in place.

"I get to have the TV too?" he asked, never taking his eyes off the thing.

Oscar was leaning against the door jam smiling at his new son's pleasure. "Yes, Peter, you can keep the TV. But there will be some rules about its use." He then laughed. "Besides, if you didn't have a TV, where would you hook up and play your Nintendo?"

"Oh," laughed Peter, "I hadn't thought of that. But I thought my Nintendo would be in another part of the house."

"Well, Peter, it will be if you don't follow the rules for your TV and games."

"Yes, sir, I understand."

"I knew you would, Peter."

With that Peter insisted that all three of them had to help him put everything away. There was, after all, an awful lot of stuff. The number of bags filled the bed and even spilled out onto the floor. So, Raymond brought chairs for the adults and the production line began. Peter would bring over a bag for each adult who would then begin carefully removing tags and unboxing toys.

Peter took care of putting his clothes on hangers and placing them in his closet or carefully selecting just the right place for all the folded clothes for his drawers. Then he took great care in deciding which toys would be displayed on shelves and which would go into drawers or toy boxes.

It took a little over an hour to complete it all, with a staff member stopping by from time to time to remove the debris. It all went very smoothly. The very last thing they did was make the bed, with each of them standing at one corner of it.

The four of them were standing in the middle of the room admiring the result when Patricia, the head housekeeper arrived. Under one arm were two photo albums, with a ceramic figurine in that hand. Over the other arm was his mother's cherished quilt. The men moved off to one side as Peter slowly...very slowly, walked toward her. His eyes were locked on the figurine the whole time. His hands were visibly shaking when he reached out and ever so gently took if from her hand.

He held it very carefully for several moments, simply looking at it, which gave everyone the chance to see it. There were two figures actually. One was a female adult angel with wings extended, sitting upon a cloud with one hand extended, as if pointing out some sight. The other figure was a little boy angel with much smaller wings, kneeling, nestled in closely to the woman, her other arm over his shoulders. The only color other than the expected white was the exposed skin of the two.

Without a word Peter walked slowly over to one of the night stands and reverently placed the figurine on it. Once it was in the perfect spot, he leaned over and kissed the female angel. "I love you, mommy."

Well, needless to say, there wasn't a dry eye in the room by this time.

Peter stood there simply staring at the figurine for several moments. Finally, he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and walked back over to Patricia. "What are those?" he asked quietly as he pointed at the books under her arm.

"Those are the photo albums I found when we were packing up all of the stuff at your apartment," answered Phillip.

He held out his hands and Patricia set the albums on them. Peter took the two books and carefully placed them in his bookcase. "I'll look at them later," he said to no one in particular.

When he stood back in front of Patricia, she finally spoke, kneeling down to his height. "I found a couple of spots that needed a little repair, Peter. I took the liberty of doing that. Then we dry cleaned it."

"You did?" asked Peter with distinct disbelief. "How come it still smells like mommy?" And it was perfectly true. It still smelled of her favorite perfume.

"It smells like your mother because I looked for your mother's perfume bottle before we cleaned this. After we were done, I sprayed just a bit onto it."

Instead of jumping at her and flinging his arms around her neck the way Oscar had expected, he very slowly walked the short distance between them, looking her right in the eye, an ear to ear grin on his face. When they were nose to nose, he kissed her ever so gently on the cheek and slowly wrapped his arms around her neck. "Thank you, Miss Patty. Thank you so much."

When he stood back up, he looked critically at the quilt. "It's too small for my bed though."

"That's true, Peter," she answered. "Would you like a suggestion about what to do with it?"

"Yes ma'am."

The two of them stood on either side of the bed and spread the length of the twin sized quilt across the width of the queen sized bed. Then she showed him how to fold it in half toward the foot of the bed. "Now it will always be right here so you can pull it up over you if you want." She stood and looked at their handy work critically. "You know, that looks awful pretty there, Peter."

Peter simply stared at the quilt and began to quietly weep. After a couple of moments he leaned over and lay on the quilt, with his feet on the floor. That was the signal for the boys and Patricia to leave, taking the chairs and remaining debris out with them. Oscar assumed a place in the swivel rocker they'd bought for the room...and waited.

Peter wept for several minutes, his eyes closed, gently rubbing the quilt with his hands. When he finally came to the end of his tears, he slowly stood and wiped his eyes and then simply looked slowly around the room.


"Yes, son."

"Could we leave the room this color? I like this."

"It's your choice, Peter." Actually, Oscar was pleased. The room was a medium blue and perfectly suited to a little boy. But he'd have changed it willingly if Peter had wanted to. This decision simply meant that it wasn't going to take the week he'd feared. The room was essentially done. The only thing left was for Reed to come in and hook up Peter's Nintendo game system and new stereo.

Peter let out a long slow breath and then looked over at Oscar, his face lighting up. Oscar automatically leaned forward in the chair and braced himself for the collision as the boy ran toward him. The boy's hug nearly choked him, it was so hard.

"I love you, Daddy."

Oscar chuckled. "And I love you too, Peter. Now, what do you say we go see if supper is about ready?"

"Okay!" But then Peter looked at his hands. "I need to wash first."

Oscar held out his hands for inspection. "Hmm, looks like I could use a bit of a wash too. May I join you?"

Peter giggled. "Of course."

The remainder of the afternoon and evening was surprisingly quiet. Reed helped finish off his little brother's room and then stayed a while and watched the boy play his Nintendo. Phillip spent a little time adding some finishing touches to the database he'd designed for Reed's business, and then quietly read a book he'd been meaning to get to.

Oscar had intended to watch the news and then sit with an unfinished book himself, but those plans flew out the window when he got a call from the District Attorney.

"Doctor Stewart, I simply called to assure you that Roper and his accomplices won't be seeing any freedom for some time to come."

"That's good to hear. I presume from your statement that your initial investigation has born some fruit?"

"Some fruit would be an understatement, Doctor. When the police executed the search warrants for those five men's houses, they uncovered an enormous amount of material. Video, pictures, written records. It's going to take us a month to go through it all."

"Any word on the children my son mentioned?"

"They're already in therapy and have been placed in a group home specifically set up for situations like this. The one you established and are continuing to fund, I believe."


"I really do need to talk with your son in the near future, Doctor. There are a few details I need to clear up."

"Do you think he'll have to testify at a trial?"

"Actually, no. The video recordings of the kidnap attempt are unassailable and the material we've pulled out of those houses is more than enough to put these men away for the rest of their lives. All I need is a written statement filling in those gaps I mentioned. Combined with the video statement he made it should be all we'll need."

"Good. So, could we do this tomorrow?"

"So soon? Wouldn't you rather give him a couple of days to recover?"

Oscar then explained about the shopping and his son's attitude. "I think I'd just as soon get this done right away. That way he can put it all behind him as quickly as possible."

"Would one o'clock be satisfactory."

"Perfectly fine. We'll see you then."

"I'll be arriving with a court reporter, Doctor."

"I assumed you would. We'll be ready."

He'd no sooner hung up the phone than his Skype went off. He didn't have to wonder about whom that would be. Actually, he was surprised it had taken so long to hear from that quarter.

"Good evening, Arthur."

"What do you mean, good evening, Oscar? How's Peter?"

Oscar laughed at the obvious overreaction. That did not particularly please Arthur. He ranted on about not taking this situation seriously for several moments...moments which Oscar used to buzz his staff and ask them to have Peter come join him.

Peter arrived promptly, but stopped cold at the door as he heard Arthur's final blast.

"Damn it, Oscar! How could you have put that precious little boy in such danger?!"

"Uncle Arthur, you quit yelling at Dad!" yelled Peter as he rushed to Oscar's side. When he reached his dad, Peter put an arm protectively over his shoulders. "Daddy never put me in danger. Mister MacKensie and his men were right there the whole time. So was Phillip. And Reed kicked Mister Roper's butt! So you stop being so mean!"

Arthur's reaction to that was priceless. He simply stared at Peter with his mouth slightly open.

"Phillip called me at the store before it all happened, Uncle Arthur. He told me that Mister Roper couldn't be arrested until he actually did something illegal. He then told me exactly what to do and promised nothing bad would happen. And nothing bad did happen either." He then paused and laughed. "You should have seen Reed, Uncle Arthur. He was awesome. I thought he was going to kill Mister Roper."

Arthur continued to stare for another moment, then finally responded...quite intelligently, too. "Oh."

"So, you calmed down now?" asked Oscar to the screen as he hugged his son.

"Uh, yeah."

"Uncle Arthur, you should see my room!" Peter then regaled his uncle with a very detailed description of his room and all they'd purchased. Then he went on about the quilt and angels. By the time he finally wound down Arthur was clearly overwhelmed.

"You going to come visit again soon?" asked Peter in closing.

"Well, if your father will forgive me, I could fly in this weekend."

"Of course he'll forgive you," said Peter in some exasperation. "Daddy doesn't stay mad."

"No, you're right, of course. I can't wait to see your new room, nephew. Now, I'd like to talk to your father in private." He chuckled. "I promise I'll be nice."

Peter smiled. "Okay. Bye Uncle Arthur." He then raced out of the room to resume the game that had been interrupted.

"Okay, I'm sorry Oscar. I should have known better."

"You're forgiven," laughed Oscar. "But believe me, I was a basket case waiting for things to unfold. But Phillip assured me that everything was being very carefully orchestrated."

They then talked about what the DA had told Oscar and made plans for the weekend visit. Oscar also promised to have MacKensie provide copies of the videos to Arthur.

His final act of the night, after Arthur had hung, up was to call the Justice house and fill them in on the events of the day. By the time that was done, Oscar was exhausted and headed off to his room, kissing all of his boys goodnight on the way. Reed could see to getting Peter bedded down.

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