Sonny walked into his home and was met in the kitchen by his wife. She kissed him passionately as she held him tight. The last few days had been such a strain on her and she wanted to be sure that no one else in her family ever went longer than a few minutes without some reminder of how she felt about them. On that note, she reached around behind her husband and smacked his butt.
"What was that for?" Sonny cried out rubbing his behind as he stepped away from her.
"The kiss or the smack on your well deserving butt?" she asked innocently.
"Which do you think?" Sonny asked with a smile.
"The kiss was because I love you, dear," Libby smiled as she walked back into the living room.
"What did you hit me for?" Sonny persisted as he followed her. He stopped short as he saw two strangers he assumed to be Mr. and Mrs. Leggette
"You shouldn't have scared me like that," Libby responded calmly. She looked at her guests before adding, "Margie, would you believe he called to tell me that you were coming, but he started with the words, 'Are you sitting down?'"
"After everything you've been through this week?" Margie asked her in a shocked voice. She turned to face Sonny. "Shame on you, scaring her like that."
Sonny's mouth dropped open as he looked from his wife to Margie and finally to Donald. "Do you know what I did that was so terrible?" he asked the other man.
"As an experienced attorney and judge, I am well versed in the workings of the judicial system," Donald began. He looked into the faces of the two women as he continued. "Given the evidence presented by your wife, and the testimony of my own......" He was aware of the darkening glares from the two women. "Considering the venue for this case, I plead the fifth. Sonny, my friend, there is no answer that won't get me into just as much trouble with my wife as you are with yours."
"Admitting that you didn't know would have saved a lot of time, Don," Margie sighed as she stood up. "Libby, can I get another cup of your fabulous coffee?"
"Libby makes the best coffee in the state of Arkansas," Sonny bragged with a big smile, full of hope.
"Save it, mister," Libby told him flatly, watching his smile fade. "Don't think you will brag your way out of this one, counselor," she scolded him. She turned to Mrs. Leggette and answered, "Would you mind helping yourself, Margie? I really want to go check on Priscilla."
"Of course, Libby," the other woman assured her. "I understand completely."
"Tell my angel that if she feels up to it, I'll come in and see her after my meeting with Donald," Sonny instructed his wife.
"Sonny, while the boys are in jeopardy every moment they are in that jail, I'm sure we could wait long enough for you to care for Priscilla," Donald insisted.
"Since her attack, Priscilla has been extremely nervous and agitated around men, even Sonny," Libby answered. "We thought it best that he not push her to see him until she's ready."
"That poor girl," Margie mumbled. "Are you sure we shouldn't stay at the hotel down the road?"
"I was hoping Libby would have invited you to stay here," Sonny interjected. "I really would be afraid for your safety once word gets out about why you are here if you were to stay in town."
"Well, I will do my best to stay as silent and as invisible as possible while we are here," Donald promised.
"People can't be invisible." The adults all turned to see Priscilla standing in the doorway of the hall, wearing her pajamas and holding a dilapidated old teddy bear. She suddenly seemed self conscious about the stuffed animal and lowered it from her chest, but didn't let go of it. She looked directly at Sonny as she spoke again. "Mr. Peltier, you shouldn't call me an angel anymore. I can't ever be one again now."
"Don't you say that, in fact, don't even think that," Sonny told her firmly, but with obvious love in his voice. "You will always be my little angel, no matter what happens or has happened to you, just like I will always be your Daddy."
"You still love me?" the girl whimpered. "Even after.... even after......"
"Of course we still love you, angel," Sonny said as he held his hand out to his daughter. The girl ran into his arms, sobbing. He held her as she cried, while Margie and Libby wept. Even Donald was wiping tears at that point.
"Priscilla, my name is Donald, and I'm here to help your big brother out of the mess he's in right now," Donald said when he noticed that the child had finally stopped crying and was staring at him. "That includes getting to the bottom of what happened to you, and making sure that the person responsible pays for it dearly."
"It wasn't Jason or Philip," the girl said emphatically. "I don't care what the police or the doctor or who says. I know they wouldn't hurt me." She grinned slightly as she added, "I'm a girl. Duh! I'm not their type."
The adults laughed a bit as Sonny said, "Angel, you are so right." He looked up at Donald as he spoke again. "I'm sorry about that. I know you said that it wasn't a problem for you, but you might not be comfortable with....."
"Without going into any details, let me just say that we understand how you feel about your son and his orientation perfectly," Donald told them with a small smile. "You looked as if you were about to tell us something about the boys, Sonny. Please go ahead. Anything that any of you can tell me that will help me get to know Jason and Philip will be of great help to me."
"I think I know what Sonny was about to say," Libby said with a smile as she sat down next to her husband and daughter. "By the time Philip was twelve, we knew he was a little different than the other boys. He just didn't do the same things in the same way, you know?" she asked. As the Leggette's nodded, she went on. "Once he met Jason, we knew for sure."
"Those two boys spent more time lost in each other's eyes than any other couple I have ever seen," Sonny said with a smile. "Philip never once looked at another boy the way he always has at Jason. I see the same thing in Jason when he looks at Philip. Those boys are really meant for one another, destined to be together every bit as much as any straight couple you could name."
"I'm glad to hear that the boys care so much for one another," Donald mused aloud. "That makes it harder to believe that they would have been involved in anything with the boys Mrs. Amee has in Charleston now."
"You're talking about Jessie and Dixon, aren't you?" Priscilla blurted. "Are they ok? Have you seen them?"
"I haven't seen the boys personally, but I can assure that the only danger they are in now is of being spoiled rotten by a wonderful, loving, little old lady who thinks that the sun rises and sets in those boys eyes," Donald answered. "I guess I should tell you all at once, since you seem to know the boys," he added as he looked around the room. "Daniel Kirby Wiggins, IV was kidnapped as an infant by a woman then known as Paige Lyman. After she left South Carolina with the boy, she changed both their names. She started using Barbara Pickhinke and the boy she called......"
"Dixon was kidnapped?" Priscilla gasped. "She wasn't his real mom?"
"No, Priscilla, she wasn't his mother," Margie answered. "His real mother was one of the sweetest women I ever knew. She was a friend to everyone she met and could charm the bees out of their honey, and a politician out of his money."
"Daniel's, well I should say Dixon's birth parents both died without ever seeing their son again," Donald continued. "Dixon's only living blood relative now has custody of him again, thanks to the fact that he was fingerprinted a few weeks before he was kidnapped. The bungling idiots of the local police force here entered his fingerprints as evidence that he attacked his mother. That triggered a state police computer that was tied to the missing children's network. It's very fortunate for Dixon that all of that happened as quickly as it did. Clan Short just barely got to the boy in time to save his life."
"Everybody around town says that his mother cut his thing off," Priscilla announced.
"Where did you hear that?" Libby gasped.
"Everybody at school knows about it," the girl defended, but she knew she was in trouble for talking about it. One look at the glare on her mother and father's faces confirmed that.
"Nothing like the power of rumor in a small town," Donald mused aloud. "I'm really not comfortable discussing such personal matters for Dixon. I will leave it to him to decide who he tells about his trauma. Suffice it to say that his mother attacked him and he is a very lucky boy to still be alive."
"But he is alive and he is still a boy?" Priscilla asked. She knew she would get more glares and possibly more from her parents, but she wanted to know the truth so that she could tell the other kids that said otherwise. When she explained this, her parents relented and looked to Donald for an answer.
"Yes, he is alive and recovering very well, and is still a boy," Donald confirmed. "Whatever his kidnapper, and you should stress that as well, Priscilla, whatever she did or didn't do to him, wouldn't have changed that in any case thanks to the technologically advanced care he received from the Federation Youth Services Hospital in Charleston."
"Would I be able to see him and Jessie again someday?" This question from the girl was directed at all of the adults.
"If they are willing to see us, I would certainly like to see them again," Sonny told his daughter. "Especially when we bring Jason back to his brother."
"Thank you, Daddy," Priscilla murmured as she hugged the man tightly. "Thank you too, Mister....."
"You can call us Uncle Don and Aunt Margie if you would like, sweetie," Margie told the girl.
"I think I would like that," Priscilla said after only a moment's thought. "I'm still kind of tired, Mom, can I go lay back down for a while?"
"Sure you can, princess," Libby told her. Priscilla slumped against her father suddenly. "Priscilla, are you all right?" Libby asked quickly.
"I remembered something from that night," the girl said quietly. "Jason and Phillip called me princess before they stopped the car. I don't remember anything after they stopped the car except hurting." She began sobbing and Libby rushed to her side. She picked the girl up and carried her from the room, stopping at the door to speak again.
"I'll put her back to bed and give her some more medicine," the woman told the other adults. "Sonny, Donald, I want the bastard that did this to my angel to pay. You see to it legally or I will illegally."
"I don't doubt that for a minute," Donald mused aloud after Libby left. "Nor do I blame her for feeling that way." He turned to look at Sonny. "You sounded pretty positive that the boys will get out of this. Is the case that easy?"
"I only wish it were, Donald," Sonny admitted with a sigh. "The evidence is very damning and it is their word against a respected law enforcement officer. I sounded encouraging for Priscilla's sake, but it looks very bad at this point."
"I think I should meet the boys," Donald said quietly. "Perhaps there's something I'll pick up from their memories of the events that will help us."
"We have to have documentation that you have been retained as their counsel for you to get in to see them," Sonny told his new friend. "That was the only reason I was allowed in this morning."
"Well, I have the agreement Mrs. Amee signed asking me to act on their behalf, but a signature from Libby would probably do more good," Donald explained.
"I'm sure she'll be glad to sign after she has taken care of Priscilla," Margie pointed out. "In the meantime, I'm going to go get that other cup of coffee that was mentioned earlier." She thought for a minute and then added, "Sonny, do you think it would be alright if I started some lunch for us. I can fix whatever is available, but I didn't want to insult Libby by taking over her kitchen."
"Libby wouldn't mind at all," Sonny said with a smile. "Thank you, Margie."
"It's nothing, Sonny," the woman blushed slightly. "I just want to help out."
"It's still appreciated," Sonny told her. As she left, he and Donald began going over the details of the case against Jason and Phillip. Sonny told him everything that he could of what had been happening around town over the last several years as well, which had lead him to contact the State Police about an investigation into the local establishment.
"You're right, it does sound like we have our work cut out for us," Donald sighed later. "This isn't going to be an easy fight."
"Please don't give up on our boys," Libby pleaded from the doorway. "They're good boys. They're innocent, I know they are."
"Don't worry, Libby," Donald assured her. "I'm not giving up, not by a long shot. I want to see these boys reunited with their little brothers in Charleston as much as you do. Besides, if I did give up, I would have to face Mrs. Amee, and that old lady is not a person you want to cross. I learned that in fifth grade when she was my teacher."
"Libby, I'm sorry to bother you," Margie started as she walked up. "I asked Sonny if you would mind my cooking lunch for us all, but I'm having trouble finding some things in the kitchen."
"Margie, I don't mind at all," Libby smiled and hugged the other woman. "I love to share my kitchen, let's leave the men to talk business while we share recipes."
"Sounds wonderful," Margie grinned.
"Libby, could you sign this form for us before you go?" Sonny asked his wife. "This says that you are hiring Donald to help represent Jason and Philip." He indicated the places that needed her signature and smiled at her when she finished. "We're going to beat this thing, Libby. You'll have those boys home for Halloween."
"Don't lie to me, Sonny," Libby said quietly.
"Libby, I swear to you on everything I hold dear, that I will not give up on your boys," Donald told her. "I will fight for them as I would for my own son, and I will not rest until they are home with their families again."
"Be careful, Donald, I'll hold you to that," Libby told him seriously.
"See that you do," he responded just as firmly. "You have my word."
"Thank you, Donald," Libby whispered as she turned from the room wiping tears. "Margie, let's go get ready to feed our men."
Huey walked into the house looking for Mamee. He had an idea to do something different with a currently unused back corner of the garden. He also wanted to thank her one more time for letting him drive that sweet little car the day before. He found her sitting in a chair facing the window in the home office.
"Mamee, were you watching me work in the gardens again?" he asked in mock seriousness. He immediately regretted his tone when he saw the old woman jerk in surprise. "I'm sorry, Mamee. I didn't know you were taking a nap." He bent to retrieve the piece of paper she had dropped when he had startled her. As he did, he realized that it was a very old photograph. He turned it over and found himself looking into the smiling faces of two boys not that much younger than himself, two very handsome boys. Make that one very handsome boy and one holy-smokes-he's-incredible looking boy.
"The one on the right was my brother, Josiah," Mamee told the teen as he stared at the picture. "The one on the left was his companion. Josey insisted we rename him Doug after Douglas Fairbanks, Jr."
"Who?" Huey asked innocently.
"You just earned yourself an old lady moviefest, young man," she scolded with a smile. The smile faded as she looked back at the picture herself. "To answer your question, Huey, no I was not watching you. If you must know, I was watching Dixon and Jessie."
"Dixon kind of resembles your brother," Huey mused aloud.
"Yes, he does," the old woman agreed. "That's one of the reasons I started thinking about Josey and Doug," she sighed sadly.
"I'm sorry I bothered you, Mamee," Huey told her as he gently handed the photo back to her.
"Huey, darling, you will never be a bother to me," she said gently. "Now, you had some reason to come in here and find me. Sit down here with me and tell me what's on your mind."
"Mamee, I had an idea of what to do with that spot at the back of the garden by the magnolia tree," he began.
"You mean besides hide in it when you're in trouble with your Momma?" Mamee questioned with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
"You knew about that?" Huey gasped.
"I may be as old as dirt, but you'll find there is very little that happens around this place that I don't know about," she informed him. "Now, what was your idea, sweetie?"
"Well, I was thinking that since we can't get any grass to grow there because of the tree anyway, you could have that spot paved over using stepping stones to create a labyrinth," he told her.
"A labyrinth?" Mamee asked. "What on earth gave you an idea like that?"
"It was just an idea," Huey said dejectedly.
"Hold on there," Mamee called out as he tried to leave. "I didn't say I didn't like it. I just wondered what made you think of it."
"Well, I read about one online a while back," he started to explain. "They've been used for hundreds of years as an aid to prayer and contemplation. Like you said, that tree's where I've always gone to do that. After that it was like putting two and two together. I even drew up some rough ideas for the layout, based on some I found online and in books at the school library."
"Well, you have certainly thought this out thoroughly," Mamee mused. "Go ahead, with my blessings, Huey. But if David Bowie shows up in leather hot pants and a spiked wig, send him to my room."
"First of all, EWWWW," Huey complained exaggeratedly. "Second, who is David Bowie?"
"You just added another movie to that festival, boy," Mamee groaned. She grew serious then as she said, "I have one request for your project, though. The old smokehouse is very near to that spot. I want it converted or replaced if it's in too bad shape. I want a small chapel there beside your labyrinth. It doesn't have to be big or elaborate, just big enough for a chair or two and a kneeling pad in front of a little altar where we can light candles from time to time."
"That sounds great, Mamee," the boy agreed. "Don't you worry the memorial garden and chapel will be perfect."
"Memorial garden?" she repeated.
"Yes ma'am," he told her. "I was thinking of my father and grandfather, and you were thinking of your brother and Doug weren't you?"
"When did you get to be so wise, sweetie?" the old woman asked.
"I'm nothing special," the boy denied earning him a quick but too soft swat on the butt. "What was that for?" he asked, rubbing his backside.
"You insulted someone I care about very much," she told him. "Do not degrade yourself in my presence, Langston Hughes Washington. You are a loving, intelligent, and handsome young man. You are also my friend and adopted family. I love you every bit as much as I do Zora, Dixon and Jessie. Don't think for a moment that I won't turn you over my knee and finish that spanking if I ever hear you speaking of yourself in such tones again."
"Yes ma'am," he agreed. "I love you too, Mamee." Huey smiled and hugged the woman tightly.