Doug stuck to Charles Farmer’s heels like a puppy. Chuck was very busy with a lot to do and a short time to do it, so he used it as a teachable moment.
He said, “One of the first lessons the Green Berets taught their noobs was, when you are in Indian country, always have seven different ways out. The obvious escape routes are obvious to the hunters too. There were other lessons too, but first things first.”
Doug asked, “What do you mean by seven ways out?”
Farmer rolled out a city map and said, “You have to plan for contingencies. Think of it as playing chess and think in terms of moves and counter moves.” He pointed at his house and said, “We’re here.” He pointed to another spot on the map some miles away and said, “We need to get here.”
“What’s there?”, Doug asked.
“This is where our ride is. We can’t use my vehicle. If we stole a car from Quinn’s house or anywhere else, it would tip off the hunters. We don’t want them to even be looking for us until they figure out I didn’t buy it in the wreckage. I have a job for you.”
Doug perked up and said, “Name it.”
Farmer pulled out his wallet, removed a one hundred dollar bill and four twenties and said, “Take this home and give the c-note to your Mom. Tell her that one of your friend’s Dads invited you to go to the coast with them, and you won’t be back until Wednesday night.”
“Who should I say I’m going with?”
“This is where you get tricky. Use the first name of someone she knows and the last name of someone she doesn’t. Even after you don’t show Wednesday night, they will waste even more time trying to sort out the confusion. If all goes well, we’ll have a week’s head start.”
Doug got the idea and said, “Cade’s stepfather’s name is Malcolm and, Riley Jenkins and his family just went out west for three weeks. I’m going with Malcolm Jenkins.”
Farmer nodded his approval, retrieved a small duffle and said, “Pack a few things. We are going to need to avoid people as much as possible, but we can risk a quick Walmart stop when we get down the road. Pack some jeans since we’re going to be riding.”
Doug, clearly excited and enthusiastic about the prospects for a new life that didn’t involve cleaning up his alcoholic mother’s puke, hugged Farmer and exited out the back door.
He looked after the boy and thought. Doug was a hair's breadth away from foster care. Did he really have the right to take him? His mother Amber was a train wreck. The scion of a wealthy family, she had gotten pregnant much too young. The first boy was adopted by her parents. She had cleaned up her act a little, married and had Doug. That’s when she really started to slide. Her parents kept her afloat and tried to take care of Doug the best they could from two hours away, but that boy really needed a father. The system would take an injured boy like Doug and chew him up.
Taking Doug wasn’t a decision he could take lightly. He would think it through in the hours of his preparations, but he knew he would do it anyway.
Phillip’s invention of the game BJ tag was a smashing success. It appeared to be going extremely well. Every so often and unlikely pair would disappear for a while and then show back up looking flushed and relaxed. Then it would start all over again.
In the interim, some more kids showed up. Tanner and Britt had finished hanging out with Rodney who was bored silly by having to sit still and wanted to play like any twelve-year-old. His mother had arrived home and given Tanner and Britt a couple of twenties for their consideration.
Adam, Patrick and Bryan reappeared after being in and out most of the day. Much to Ryan’s delight, Sammy showed up with a backpack full of munchies.
Before Casey could get too involved in getting supper started, Phillip told him he had the night off. He would get some carry out pizza and have a late supper. Casey knew just what to do. Using the leftover taco meat and a few other goodies from the pantry, he prepared a couple of platters of nachos for everyone to snack on.
Phillip took Casey and Kelly into his room, gave them the order to get naked and started rummaging in his closet. He found what he was looking for. He started with a pair of boxers for the two boys and turned around to find them both... very excited.
Kelly asked, “Oh, we’re not playing the game?”
Phillip looked at Kelly’s huge erection, raised both eyebrows and said, “Well, I was planning on dressing you for Sunday. My goodness Kelly! What are you feeding that thing?”
Casey chuckled and said, “Mostly Ronny Curtis. They won’t mind. When news of the game spread, we talked about it. They thought it would be fun. Bobby and Johnny Gray just disappeared.”
Phillip shook his head and said, “We’re going to have to do something with those boners of yours. You won’t be able to try anything on. Hold on a minute while I get a mop and bucket.”
Farmer had three rooms in the basement that were off limits to everyone. They had steel doors and automatically locked when they closed. They sat in a row of three against the basements west wall. There was only one point of entry and the walls were steel reinforced cinder blocks.
The first room was his personnel office. It housed his computer with access to the internet via a Hughes satellite dish in his attic under a roofing square of fiberglass topped by fiberglass shingles like the rest of his roof. Installing it by himself, getting the cable run and the antenna aligned had been a bitch, but it was well worth it.
The rest of the house and the computers the boys used had internet access via the cable company. Anyone could monitor that. They could not monitor his net usage as the Hughes account was handled by a wire transfer to an account under one of his several aliases.
The second room was a secure storage room and workshop. He was going to hate to leave that. It stores a number of his toys the Army would be alarmed to know he had in his possession and, would make the Feds put him on eight different shit lists.
He pulled out several ‘burner phones’. Secure communications with your team are vital. They had never been used, and he had five of them. They would only use each one for a couple of days and ditch them.
The last room was the smallest, but it held enough firepower to beat the living shit out of the weekend warriors that would be kicking his door soon. That was not how he was going to play it.
What was not on his resume, except as a nondescript six-year stint of working for a big corporation that handled federal contracts, was his time spent working for THE COMPANY in Langley, Virginia. He had been recruited while he was a college student. His military experience and fluency with several languages made him a natural fit. For six years Chuck had been an actual spy.
Summers during college had mostly been spent in training at the beautiful and charming Camp Perry, otherwise known as the Farm, in Virginia’s York County. They took what the Army had taught Farmer and added to it.
Farmer’s CIA time had been tedious. While he had acquired a certain set of skills as Liam Neeson might say, he spent most of his field time in South America and South East Asia gathering political intelligence used by analysts at Langley to figure out how stable or unstable governments and economies in the region actually were. Things would have gotten considerably more interesting had he stayed with THE COMPANY, but he had other plans for his life.
His time in Iraq with the Kurds would haunt him forever. Instead of going one direction, his life had gone another.
Farmer had become a history and civics teacher and coached football. There was no way that Iraq could be undone but, it put him in a position to guide and protect boys. He had done it for years and been pretty good at it until he had made too many compromises.
A text message appeared on his phone from Karl:
Carlos and I are meeting with the guy who took over Seth’s club at Ottima Pizza at 8:30 tonight.
Farmer replied: Why so late?
So, there won’t be a crowd.
Farmer thought and replied: See if you can move it up. I want Richard at that meeting. I want to get a read on who my middle schoolers have fallen in with.
Will do. It’ll be a lot easier since Rich has a car.
Farmer picked up one of his burners, got Richard’s number from his phone and dialed it.
Richard answered, “I don’t need an auto warranty or DirecTV.” He could tell the boy was driving.
“It’s Chuck. I’m not calling from my phone so don’t save the number.”
Richard asked, “What can I do for you?”
“Karl and Carlos are going to meet with the mystery guy who took over Seth’s bunch. I’d like for you to be there and get a read on what he’s like.”
Richard chuckled and said, “I’m almost certain it’s that kid who was on TV... uhhh Phillip Wright. Seth and David follow him around like lovesick puppies.”
Farmer replied, “I hope it is him. From all I’ve heard about him, his heart is in the right place, and he takes good care of the boys. You’re pretty good at reading people. See what you think.”
“You really care about those brats don’t you”, Richard asked incredulously.
“I care about you bigger, rougher brats don’t I?”
Richard replied, “Ouch. Consider me spanked.”
“You would like it too much.”
“True. I’ll do it. I want to get a closer look at him myself.”
It was Farmer’s turn to chuckle. “Down boy. He does have a lot of charisma.”
Richard said, “You haven’t seen him in Speedo.”
Kelly looked in the mirror and said, “Is that really me?”
Phillip nodded. Kelly turned around to get a better look at himself. He was wearing some of Phillip’s old jeans, a light blue button down shirt and some loafers. His hair was pulled back into a pony-tail held by the silver clasp Phillip had picked up for the occasion.
Nothing Phillip could think of other than a jock could conceal Kelly’s ample bulge. They had all been curious to see just how big it was. Phillip had a ruler handy and Kelly was packing a little over eight and a half inches. No wonder Ronny liked it.
Casey came out of the bathroom and said, “How do I look?”
A little shorter and not hung quite as garishly as Kelly, Casey looked damned good. He was wearing a pair of 501 jeans still on the blue side of faded rolled up at the cuff and a white button down shirt. He, too, had his hair back in a pony-tail.
Phillip said, “I think you two should go ask Bobby and Ronny. Remember they have to be home at nine. They have church tomorrow and, so do you two hunks.”
Casey asked incredulously, “You think we look OK?”
Phillip grinned and said, “Go ask the other guys. See what they think.”
Phillip cherished the double take the twins made when Casey and Kelly went downstairs. The Curtis twins were delighted with the way their boyfriends had turned out.
Bobby asked, “Is this what you are going to wear to church tomorrow?”
Casey said, “Do you like it?”
Ronny said, “Like it, I could eat you up right here.”
Phillip asked, “I’m not going to need to mop again am I?”
Witnessing the banter, Seth appeared beside Phillip and said, “I’ve got two pieces of good news. First, I got tagged by Marcus, and he assigned me to you.”
Remembering just how talented Seth was, he began to become erect and asked, “What’s the second piece of good news?”
“Karl called. They want to move up the meeting. All I have to do is text them, and they will be there in twenty minutes.”
Phillip said, “They’re just going to have to wait a few minutes.”