Mamee and Huey were startled as the television that Pet always watched in the kitchen started emitting warning tones, just as they were walking into the room. They heard Pet start fuming about missing her cooking show and grinned. They were about to tease the woman when they heard the voice of the station announcer.
"Stand by for an Emergency Bulletin from the Department of Internal Security ...... Stand by for an Emergency Bulletin from the Department of Internal Security ....... The Governor of South Carolina has declared a State of Emergency. As of 1:32 P.M., actions of the religious group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Christ in an unprovoked attack on Clan Short of Vulcan have resulted in the State of South Carolina declaring allegiance to Vulcan. Full support of Clan Short of Vulcan by all State agencies is hereby ordered. By a unanimous vote of the House and Senate, as of 1:43 P.M. Vulcan Law has hereby been declared in full force indefinitely. All civilian law enforcement officials and military personnel are to immediately report to the nearest duty station for assignment. Repeating message: ...."
"Mamee, isn't that the...." Huey asked the old lady.
"Yes, honey it is," she replied. "Run out to there and find Dixon and Jessie. I want them back in the house now."
"Yes, ma'am," he replied as he took off out the door at a dead run. He didn't even stop to worry about his mother scolding him for letting the door slam behind him.
"What in the world is going on, Mrs. Amee?" Pet gasped.
"I don't know, but I'll feel better when I see those boys back in the house," Mamee replied. "Where's Melvin?"
"He's out in the garage cleaning the big car," Pet answered quietly. "I'll fetch him in here."
"No, tell him to fire that big thing up," Mrs. Amee announced firmly. "We're all going to take a trip."
"Are you sure this is the time to be going off on some trip?" Annie Mae asked her oldest friend. "Where we gonna go?"
"It's time we went home, Annie Mae," Mrs. Amee said flatly as she walked out of the room. She met the boys in the hallway. Before they could ask her any questions, she told them to start packing. "We're going to the farm, boys, so you don't need anything particularly nice; just make sure you have enough for a few days stay."
"Just pack, boys, and be quick about it," she told them firmly. "We'll listen to the news on the way and talk about what is going on. For now, just do as I ask please."
"Yes, ma'am," the three boys replied.
"We don't have a suitcase, do we?" Jessie whispered to Dixon as they followed Huey upstairs.
"Don't worry," Huey responded. "I've got some old backpacks you guys can use."
"Thanks, Huey," Dixon smiled.
"Just make sure you get everything out of it before you give it back," the older boy returned. "Don't be leaving your empty bottles of lube in there or nothing."
"Ok, we'll just leave our dirty underwear in there," Jessie joked.
"Now that I won't mind," Huey mumbled, not intending for the others to hear. Unfortunately for him, they did.
"I don't know if I would be very comfortable with that," Dixon said cautiously. "I'm glad that everyone around here is ok with Jessie and me, but I don't think I can go that far."
"I was just kidding," Huey told them quickly, but everyone knew he was lying.
"You'll find someone, Huey," Jessie assured the older teen. "When you do, we'll be just as obnoxious about it as you are."
"I am not obnoxious," Huey defended. "I just took a bath this morning."
"He meant...." Dixon began and then noticed the other two looking at him grinning. "Oh, you knew that." The three boys laughed together for a moment before Huey spoke seriously to them.
"Guys, I'm sorry if I get too nosy sometimes," he said quietly. "I guess I'm just jealous, you know? I want someone to look at me the way you two look at each other."
"You'll find that someone, we promise," Dixon vowed. "We'll even help you look."
"Well, first you can help me look for my backpack," Huey said with a laugh as he pulled them to his room.
"Whoa, dude," Jessie said from the doorway. "Did somebody break in here, or was this a tornado?" he asked as he looked around the cluttered room.
"Not a tornado, a hurricane," Dixon grinned. "Hurricane Huey," he giggled.
"Very funny," Huey pouted. "I suppose you little boys keep your room spotless?"
"Jessie does," Dixon said without hesitation. "He's a neat freak."
"I like to know where everything is, that's all," Jessie said a little defensively. "Unlike some people I know," he added looking back at Dixon.
"I know where everything is," Dixon countered. "I heard somebody on television once say that there's a pile for everything and everything has its pile."
"Amen, brother," Huey proclaimed and gave Dixon a high five.
"You guys are hopeless," Jessie moaned.
"I prefer to think of it as another example of how you and I complement each other," Dixon told him with a bit of a blush.
"God, you're cute when you blush," Jessie whispered. The blush of course intensified and the two younger boys moved towards each other.
"Hold up!" Huey interrupted them. "Don't make me hose you two down. I may be horny, but that don't mean I want to see you guys going at it in my.... Well, on second thought, carry on," he grinned mischievously.
"Maybe we should hose you down?" Jessie giggled.
"Nah, he might like that too, the old pervert," Dixon teased.
"Do I hear too much talking for any packing to get done?" Pet called out from the hallway.
"We're borrowing a backpack from Huey to pack in," Dixon answered her.
"Well, hurry it up," the woman told them. "Mrs. Amee wants to head out of here in half an hour at the latest."
"I can't pack that fast," Dixon gasped.
"Dixie, we're just going for a few days," Jessie told him. "She didn't say we were moving."
"Clothes queen," Huey observed.
"I am not," Dixon pouted. "I just want to make sure I always look good for Jessie."
"Dixon, Jessie don't care what clothes you wear, cause he'd rather see you out of them anyway," Huey pointed out. Both younger boys blushed. "You know something; you're both cute when you blush. Here, take this duffel bag and get out of here so I can pack my clothes."
The boys just barely made it to the car in the time they had been allowed. Dixon had gone over every piece of clothing at least twice before deciding what he should pack. In the end, it had taken Mrs. Amee going to the room herself to get him moving faster. When she arrived, she found him staring at the portrait of his parents over the mantel of the fireplace in the room. More to the point, he was staring at the urn below their picture.
"Mamee is that what I think it is?" he asked as she walked into the room. This startled her a bit, as he was facing away from the door and hadn't seen who had entered, but she let it slide.
"Yes, Dixon, those are your parents' ashes," she answered. "I have kept them here so that they would be near me. If you want, I can move them to another room when we get back. Of course, now that I have you, I have something much better to remind me of them."
Donald and Sonny were just discussing the fact that they needed to leave the house when their wives announced that the meal was ready. The two men opened the door of Sonny's study and were immediately overwhelmed by the smell of their favorite dishes.
"Donald, the most important case I ever won was when I landed this beautiful bride of mine," Sonny announced.
"I know what you mean," Donald agreed. "I could win a seat on the Supreme Court and it wouldn't mean a thing to me without Margie by my side."
"Flattery will get you everywhere, gentlemen," Libby giggled.
"We've managed to make some of your favorite things with what we had here in the house," Margie grinned at the men. "However, if we plan to eat again, Don, you and I will be going shopping."
"You don't have to do that," Sonny protested.
"Yes, we do," Margie said, cutting him off. "Libby's told me what it's been like every time she's left the house since this whole mess started. I realize we've just met, but I can already tell that she's taking the place of my dearest friend. Susan Wiggins was like a sister to me. I know the pain she went through losing her child. Libby has enough to deal with right now. She doesn't need a bunch of vicious old bats making her feel worse."
"Libby, why didn't you tell me?" Sonny asked his wife, taking her hands in his own.
"For the same reason you haven't told me what it's been like for you," she replied. "I didn't want to worry you."
"I'm sorry love," he told her as he lifted her hands and kissed them softly.
"May I go to the store with you, Aunt Margie?" Priscilla asked.
"Sweetness, are you sure you're up for that?" Libby asked her daughter as the girl walked into the kitchen.
"Well, I sure don't want to hang around here and listen to you two making up with each other," the girl answered pointedly. "It's bad enough when it's Jase and Phil, but you guys are my parents. That's just...eeewww."
"Of course you can go with us," Margie answered as the other three adults laughed. Well, technically two of them were blushing and laughing.
Donald, Margie and Priscilla drove around town in Sonny's car for a little while first. Priscilla showed them the major points of interest, which didn't take long in a small town. Donald was particularly interested in the college and the courthouse.
"I would have thought a college town would be larger than this," Margie mused aloud.
"It's not a very big school," Priscilla explained.
"Well, let's head back to that grocery store and get some grub," Donald announced.
"I'd rather eat food," Margie told her husband as she winked at Priscilla. "I've never cared much for grubs." The girl giggled as Donald groaned.
"All right then, how about some chocolate covered ants," he offered. "Better yet, escargot?" Margie laughed, but Priscilla didn't make a sound.
"Donald, stop that," Margie scolded. "You're making Priscilla sick." She turned to the back seat as she said, "Pay no attention to his sick jokes." When she saw the girl however, she immediately told Donald to stop the car.
Priscilla had brought her knees up to her chin with her feet on the back seat with her. She was in as close to a fetal position as she could get while still wearing the seat belt. Margie tried soothing her, but couldn't make any headway. Donald interrupted his wife.
"Let me try, dear," he suggested. "I think she needs to know that not all men are going to hurt her." He got out of the driver's seat and climbed in back opposite Priscilla. Margie got behind the wheel of the car and made their way to the parking lot of the grocery store.
Donald sat across from the girl and reached out to rest his hand on her arm. She shied away at first, but never actually dislodged his hand. Once they were at the store, the girl looked over at the man.
"Hold me?" she asked hoarsely.
"Are you sure?" Donald replied. When the girl nodded, he scooted over and wrapped his arms around her. Priscilla wept for a minute or two as both adults murmured reassurances.
"I'm sorry," Priscilla finally struggled to say. "That was the spot that the police car pulled Jase and Phil over."
"I'm the one who should apologize then," Donald told her. "I should have driven back to the store the way you showed me the first time rather than taking that shortcut."
"You didn't know where he hurt me," Priscilla responded. "I just remembered getting in the back of his car and then waking up hurting." She shuddered and clung tightly to Donald for a moment. "I was so scared. I thought he was going to hurt them."
"Maybe we should go back to your house now, sweetie," Margie suggested.
"No, not yet," Priscilla quickly objected.
"I'll stay back here with you," Donald assured her.
"It's not that," the girl explained. "We haven't been gone long enough. Mom and Dad need more time. They're old so it takes them longer than it does Jase and Phil."
"Priscilla!" Margie gasped with a giggle.
"Okay that was entirely too much information about a man I have to work with," Donald complained melodramatically. "Now before we go in, I have an idea that Priscilla may not want to be recognized by any of these folks. Margie, give me your reading glasses."
"Donald, your glasses are on your face," Margie commented as she opened her purse.
"They're not for me, love," he said simply. He took the glasses from his wife and after promising to buy her a new pair, he proceeded to blacken the lenses with a permanent marker. "Now, Priscilla is our blind daughter from Charleston. Priscilla, you have to make sure that you don't react to your name if someone calls you."
The plan worked perfectly. If anyone did recognize Priscilla, they didn't give any indication of it. Donald, Margie, and Priscilla returned to the house with all of the groceries on the list, plus a few things that Margie and Priscilla knew were needed. They both understood that Libby and Sonny didn't want to burden their guests with the complete shopping list, but Donald and Margie insisted that they be allowed to help out as much as they could. Everyone knew that as soon as word got out that Donald was on the case with Sonny, the Leggette's would be as welcome in town as an outbreak of disease. Their chance to do things in town without meeting the same reactions as the Peltiers was limited.
The Washington's and the Wiggin's were just about to leave when another car pulled into the driveway. Zora was home for fall break from school. At Mrs. Amee's insistence, her things were thrown into the limo along with the rest of the family's and they quickly left the city. Unfortunately as they were going somewhere that Melvin had never been before, his attention was distracted and he didn't notice the beat up old green sedan that was following them. In the back of the limo, the conversation was the distraction.
"Mamee, can you tell us why we suddenly had to leave in such a hurry?" Jessie asked the old woman.
"Let me turn on the news for you and that will explain a bit," she replied. For the next few moments, everyone in the limo sat in shocked silence as the reporters discussed the FCC attack on Clan Short. When the reporters went into a discussion with political analysts over whether this meant that South Carolina had again seceded from the United States, the radio was turned off.
"That announcer said that shots had been fired," Dixon whispered. "Some of our new friends may be hurt or worse."
"I'm afraid that is a strong possibility," Mrs. Amee told him. "I know that your first instinct is to run to help them, but I just couldn't take the chance of losing you again so soon after I've found you again."
"Y'all are both still on the injured list anyhow," Annie Mae added. "Your doctors told you to take it easy until you heal up completely."
"I have to say that I agree with Mamee, Dixie," Jessie said softly. "I don't want to lose you again either. I couldn't bear it. I wish we could help our friends too, but look at my track record for defending myself and you. I almost lost you forever because I couldn't protect you against a woman with a knife. How could either of us stand up against guns?"
"Marc and the guys have a whole state protecting them right now," Dixon announced. "I hate that they need it, and I am worried about them, but my first concern is the people in this car right now. Thank you, Mamee and you too, Grandmomma. I know that coming back here can't be easy for you."
"Boy, you should know that after looking for you all of these years, your Mamee would walk through Hell itself for you," Annie Mae told him quickly. "We all would. We did it for her before we ever met you, but now that we know you for the sweet young man you are, well, you're family to us all now."
"Yeah, you're like a little vanilla cousin," Huey grinned.
"What does that make me then?" Jessie asked the teen.
"Oh, you're just an in-law, you don't count," Huey teased.
"What do you mean he's an in-law?" Zora asked.
"Didn't we tell you they're a couple?" her mother returned.
"Momma, I didn't even get told that he had been found," Zora said pointedly. "I had to hear on the news one night."
"I knew there was somebody we forgot to call, baby," Melvin told his wife.
"I figured you would come home for break anyway and you could find out then," Annie Mae told her granddaughter. "I'm sorry. We should have called to let you know."
"I tell you, you leave for college and it's like your dead to this family," Zora pouted. "Nobody tells me anything."
"Well, here's something I'm telling you," Huey said seriously. "I'm gay too."
"That you didn't need to tell me," Zora replied. "I knew that years ago."
"Did everybody know except me?" Huey asked no one in particular. Everyone in the car either nodded or said something affirmative, and then they all laughed.
"Huey, my room is right next to yours," Zora pointed out. "I could hear you at night when you would play with yourself and call out boy's names."
"No you did not!" Huey exclaimed. "You're lying."
"Oh no I'm not," Zora laughed.
"MOM! Zora's picking on me!"
"ZORA! HUEY! Don't make me come back there!" Pet called out.
"Well, it's official," Jessie suddenly announced. "We really are on a family drive."
"Huh?" Dixon asked him.
"Well, it's not a real family trip until one of the parents in the front seat threatens to come to the back seat and discipline the brats," Jessie explained.
"Who's he calling a brat?" Huey asked loudly.
"I know he did not just go there," Zora humphed. "Scrawny little thing thinks he's funny, don't he? Huey, get your butt over here. We got to plan how we gonna get them back."
"Hey, leave me out of this," Dixon protested. "I didn't do anything. Besides, you two are just jealous that we're more mature than you are and we're younger than you."
"That and you two are getting some, and they ain't," Annie Mae laughed.
"Grandmomma!" the two older teens exclaimed.
"Momma! Don't talk like that in front of children!" Pet snapped.
"It's the truth ain't it?" Melvin countered. "I'm a little jealous myself. If we was that age, we'd be just as busy as they are."
"You just drive old man," Pet told him. At this, the whole car erupted in laughter.
Once Donald, Margie, and Priscilla returned with the groceries, the men left to go talk with Jason and Philip. When they got to the jail, Sonny was told that he had already had his one visit for the day. This didn't sit well with either of the two attorneys.
"I'm their lawyer, you cannot stop me from seeing my clients," Sonny snapped.
"You're a father and we only allow one family visit per day," the guard sneered back.
"Well, you still can't stop me," Donald told the man. "I'm their assistant counsel."
"Fine, you can go in," the man said with obvious attitude. As he walked into the cell block, he announced loudly, "Hey Pansy and Tinkerbelle! Your lawyer's here."
"Dad? Is something wrong?" Philip called out and then saw Donald. "Who are you? Where's my father?"
"Sonny Peltier is my attorney," Jason added.
"So am I, guys," Donald told them. "My name is Donald Leggette, and I have been asked to assist your father with the case."
"How did this happen? Mom and Dad had to take out a second mortgage on the house just to post our bail last time," Philip wondered aloud. "They can't afford to pay you."
"Well, actually I'm doing this pro bono, but even so, your parents didn't retain me," Donald explained. "I'm here at the request of Mrs. Amee Whatley Wiggins."
"Who?" Jason and Philip both asked.
"She is the great grandmother of the boy you know as Dixon Pickhinke," Donald told them. "There is a long story there, but the short version is that now that she and Dixon have been reunited, she wants you two to be taken care of so that Dixon and Jessie can have their whole family together again."
"Wait a minute!" Jason exclaimed. "Have you seen Jessie and Dixon? Where are they? Are they alright?"
"I assure both boys are fine now, although I daresay there will be some emotional scarring for some time to come after what they've been through," Donald said softly.
"I swore nothing would hurt him after that pervert killed our parents," Jason wept. "He must hate me now. I let him down."
"He doesn't hate you. The boys miss you both very much, especially Jessie," Donald assured him. "He doesn't blame you for any of this. He's just worried about you. He is afraid he will never see you again."
"He may not," Jason sobbed. "We're never going to beat this. The whole department is crooked and set against us."
"Yeah, we're going to need divine intervention to get out of this," Philip added.
"Well, if it comes to that, I have some connections there," Donald smiled. "I don't really think we'll have to go that far though; probably just to the nearest Vulcan Clan."
I want to thank Jeff and ACfan for their input into this chapter and the ones to come dealing with AHBL. I also want to thank the other CSU authors for their hard work in bringing us such incredible stories that inspire some of us to write and all of us to think about the plight the children of the world face today. We all know bad things happen to good people, and children are the best examples of good in this world. These stories help us to realize that there is still hope out there. Thank you all again.
Laissez les bon temps roullez!