© 2002 Jess Mercer

The Godson

One phone call ends my peaceful and quiet life.

"Don? I hate to bother you, but Pat and I are at our wit's end."

"What's up, Mac?" I haven't heard from my long time pal in some time now.

"Your godson!" Mac explodes. "Damn it, Don, I'd send that kid to a military school, but I know none of them will take him with his handicap! Those overpriced private reform schools would, but he swears he'll run away and we'll never see him again. He'd do it, too."

I nod in silent agreement. Patrick McQuaid Whitman IV would do exactly that. He inherited every bit of his father's and grandfather's stubbornness. From one would be enough, but genetics cursed him with the double share.

"Look," Mac continues, "you got through to him when no one else could after the accident. We hate to ask this, but would you take him for a few weeks and see if you can straighten him out?"

"He's always welcome, Mac. You know I love that kid. Besides, I've only got one job going just now and it's in the finishing stages, so I'll have more time to give him. But what about school?"

"We could have him transferred to your district for one six-week grading period, if you can stand him that long without wringing his neck. We'll bring him down Saturday."

"Don't. Let me make a surprise visit for the weekend and see how the lay of the land goes. If you and Pat drag him down here his rebellion will be all the stronger."

I hear a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Don. I don't know how the hell you relate to him so much better than anyone else."

I laugh. "Age, you old fart."

He moans loudly and mockingly. "Damn smart-ass kid. You haven't changed a bit."

"Just for that, I want a perfectly grilled filet for dinner when I get there Friday night."

"You do something with Mac four and I'll buy you a freezer full of 'em. Oh, yeah, that reminds me, you can draw Mac's expenses from his account. Just send me the receipts occasionally."

"We'll talk about that this weekend. See you then, and my love to Pat."

"Thanks, Don. You may save our sanity if not his life, cause we're ready to kill him. Friday night then, you young punk."

I hang up and grin. I'm going to love having Whit here. His parents are in their late 40's and both successful professionals, no wonder they have trouble remembering back to when they were Whit's age. I happen to know neither one of them were the angels they expect him to be. I saw enough of them when they were newlyweds and babysitting me because Mac's first job was with my dad. Pat was in her last year of college then. She laughed at my mother and said I was her on-the-job-training for when they had a child of their own.

They got one, but I never expected to be a Godfather at the tender age of 10. Their priest frowned on it but didn't forbid it with my own church being in full fellowship with theirs. He let up some because I was already in catechism class and could rip off from memory the things a Godfather's supposed to teach his Godchild.

My grades in school indicate I'm not retarded, but I liked nothing better in my early teen years than lying flat on the floor playing with a kid half my age. Even then his stubborn streak was showing, but it took only a few seconds of tickling to break it.

I was in my sophomore year in college when I get a call from Mac senior that sends me driving home at speeds beyond the limits. Mac four (Whit being the name he wants me to call him when we're together) was playing with some other kids at the city park and cut his foot badly on some equipment a worker had left around. Rather than healing, his right foot became infected to the extent it was amputated mid-calf. The suit brought Whit enough that, invested, it yields a minimally basic security for the kid.

Whit was screaming and cursing when I walked in his hospital room. When he started cursing me, I walked over to his bed and slapped him hard. He stared at me in shock then began to cry. I grabbed him up in a hug and waved everyone else out of the room. After he cried himself out, I lowered the head of his bed and held his hand until he went to sleep.

I arrive before either Mac or Pat are home, so I let myself in as always and yell for Whit. When there's no answer, I go up to his room and knock on his closed door. With no response, I open the door and look in. Whit is sitting in front of his computer. I can see he's looking at the picture of a well-endowed young male nude and fondling himself. I clear my throat.

"Oh, shit!" He yells and hits the power on his computer. The screen goes black.

"Sorry, Whit. I did knock."

Seeing it's me, he looks relieved for a moment then scowls. "Guess you're here cause the old man called you to straighten me out," he says in a snide voice.

I walk over and put my hand on his shoulder, but he shrugs it off. Now I'm pissed. "Whatever happened to 'Hi, Don, I'm glad to see you'?"

He shrugs sullenly. That does it. I grab him, haul him upright, and start tickling him without mercy. He screams in agony and when he almost falls, I drag him over to his bed and dump him on it.

He wipes his streaming eyes and growls, "Shit, Don."

"Shit, indeed! That's precisely what you're being." I grab him in a hug and get hugged back.

"God, I wish I lived with you." He whispers.

"I don't," I snap back. "I only like pleasant guys around me, not snarling punks."

To my dismay, Whit's hair is short, spiked and tipped, detracting from the beauty of his features. Worse, the bleach use to tip his hair has turned the intense black to bright orange.

"Damn, Whit! Your hair looks like hell. I've seen better looking alley cats."

He snickers. "You should have heard the old man."

"I can imagine." I hit him on top of his head. "He shouldn't use language like that in front of a kid."

Whit laughs out loud. I hug him again. "That's my guy."

"Go get ready for dinner. I'm making your old man feed us steak." I swat him on the butt and he grins as he hops across to his desk and grabs his crutches. "Where the hell's your foot?" I ask. I've never let him know how much I love looking at him on crutches with his jeans leg rolled up to the tip of his stump.

"Hate it," he retorts, disappearing into his bath.

On my way out of his room, I look in the bath. He's stripped to his briefs and is about to wash his face. I give him a wolf-whistle; he blushes. "And no jeans and T-shirt at dinner," I remind him. "And no more 'shits' in your language."

"You sound like my old man," he fires back.

"You're begging for it," I reply and move on because I've heard his parents coming in.

"Well?" Mac asks when I hold out my hand for a drink.

I shrug. "Hey, we've only said hi. I'm not a magician."

"Bull! We heard him screaming out in the drive."

I grin. "I can't help it if he's ticklish."

Mac shakes his head and fixes our drinks. I follow him out to the patio where he fires up the gas grill. "Got you that filet, guy, now you gotta tame that hellion."

"My pleasure, but follow my lead and don't jump the gun."

Mac and Pat both look astonished when Whit comes to the table using his foot and dressed in neat slacks and sports shirt, the spikes of hair are combed flat. I smile and high-five him.

"How handsome you look, Mac," his mother says.

"You're gonna be beating the girls off with a stick," his dad adds.

I see Whit's face darken when he hears 'girls.' Instantly, I put that with what I saw earlier and know what part of the problem is.

"Okay, guy, what's going down tomorrow?" I ask him.

"I dunno."

"I damn well didn't come to see you to just twiddle my thumbs."

He looks at me quizzically. "You came to see mom and dad."

I pick an olive out of my salad and with my spoon flip it across the table hitting him on the forehead. "I do not spend my time with old folks unless it's business, you twit."

"Don, act your age!" Pat says, outraged at my behavior.

Whit grins and picks the olive up from the tablecloth, popping it in his mouth.

"Mac, I told you it was a mistake making Don our son's Godfather. All these years and he still hasn't grown up." She says half jokingly and, unknowingly, helping my cause.

After dinner Whit asks to be excused and asks me to pardon him because he has some homework and wants to get it out of the way. I tell him that's fine and I'll visit with his folks tonight.

"What do you think, Don?" Pat asks after we're settled in the den with coffee.

"Give me some time, Pat. I think I have an idea but I'm not jumping to any conclusions."

"Mac was better behaved tonight than you. I'm surprised he didn't start a food fight when you hit him with that olive." She shrugs. "I suppose I should be happy that he was at least civil and not as mouthy as he's been."

"It's been that bad?"

"Absolutely," Mac says. "He comes home from school, goes to his room and slams the door. He won't answer half the time and the other half he's swearing at us and worse. His grades were all failing for the last period. I took him to the doctor, but his health is fine. If you can't find out what's going on, then I suppose we'll have to commit him to a sanitarium for help. I took him to a psychiatrist and he spit on him and walked out before he even spoke."

"Then I'm going with your wish, Mac. Whit will come home with me for several weeks."

"But his school…" Pat starts to say.

"I'll be here until Monday. You and I will go to his school and arrange a transfer to the one in my district. He will go to school and he will do his work, otherwise his tail will be back here so fast you won't realize he's been gone. I'll tell him tomorrow. Now, how are things otherwise?"

We fill the evening with pleasant conversation and reminiscences then I go up to the bedroom next to Whit's. I've stripped to my briefs and finished in the bath when the door opens and Whit slips in quietly.

"I thought you were asleep, guy," I say.

"Naa, been in a chat room with some guys I know."

I pat the bed and he sits down next to me, saying, "I guess you heard all the bitchin' 'bout me."

"A little, but I think some of it's shit."

He grins. "You told me not to say that."

"Damn right I did. I don't care if it is becoming more acceptable, you're too young to be using language like that, and I don't like hearing it."

"But …"

I put my arm around his shoulders. "You can yell at me when I use it just like I'm going to yell at you when you do. Deal?"

"Yeah. You're cool, Don."

"For an old man?"

He grins again. "Something like that."

I swat him on the butt. "Put that cute ass in bed before I paddle it."

He gives me a goodnight kiss and slips into his own room. I can sense now that he feels stifled because of the overprotectiveness of his mother. It's going to be hard to explain to Pat that she's a big part of the problem. She and Mac wanted kids so badly, but it was several years before Whit was conceived and he was the one and only. After the loss of Whit's foot, she became worse, refusing to let him engage in sports or ride in a car with older kids. I should have seen what was happening, but at that time I was busy finishing school and trying to set up a practice in residential architecture, so my visits were infrequent and Whit was never allowed to ride the bus for a weekend visit to me as he could easily have done, poor kid. I hope I can make it up to him in some way.

We spend Saturday morning together at the mall, Whit's as happy looking in bookstores as I am. After we grab some lunch I take him to a nearby town to a huge discounter's where I want to look for a couple of out-of-print books. I all but have to drag him out three hours later. The kid actually found more books to buy than I. He's thrilled when, on the back road I've taken towards Statesboro instead of the interstate, I let him drive my one indulgence in luxury, a Jag XKE. I'm surprised at how competently he uses the foot to drive smoothly. As we near the city I have him pull off into a rest stop so I can take over before it gets dark.

"Thanks, Don. That was super. Wish I could drive it in town."

"When you have more experience in traffic. Have you finished driver's ed?"

"Last semester. Got an A, too."

"Good for you. You can drive when you come to see me, traffic in Midway's not that bad."

"I wish I lived with you, Don."

I hand him some change. "Go get us a drink from the machine. I've got some things to talk to you about."

His face falls, but he goes. It won't hurt him to worry for a few moments. He comes back and hands me a ginger ale; he has a Coke.

"Whit, are you serious about wanting to live with me for a while?"

His face breaks into a smile. "Cool, man!"

"Not so cool. You've got some problems we're going to work on and you're going to school and bring those lousy grades up to A's if I have to sit on your ass every night and make you study. I don't have a maid either, so you're going to get a lot of things to do around the house. You're also going to be helping me with my work so you're not going to have a lot of time. If you want to play a sport at school or make some new friends that's what I want you to do, but I want to meet them before you go out with them. And, yes, I have a computer you can use if you do what I ask without handing me a ration of shit."

"Make it tough for a guy," he says with a downcast expression.

I put my arm around him. "Look, Whit, I love you and I'm your friend as well as your Godfather. You might not think I'm your friend just now, but you're headed into trouble and it'll be over my dead body. If I have to chain your ass to the bed, then that's what I'll do." I hug him. "If I didn't love you so damn much I wouldn't give you the time of day, cause this is disrupting my life more than it is yours."

Whit throws both arms around me and kisses me on the cheek. "Love you too, Don. I …"

"Wanta share that beauty?" A well-built handsome man looking to be a few years older than I interrupts us.

I push Whit away and jump out of my car. "What the hell do you mean? What Whit and I do is none of your business and you interrupted a private conversation." I can feel my face getting redder and redder.

"Hey, can't blame a guy for asking. He's a damn cute kid. What's he go for?"

It dawns on me what he means. "Why you sorry fucking pervert! Get the hell away from here. Whit run see if there's a cop around." I'm ready to go for this asshole even if he is bigger than I.

He backs away and reaches in his pocket, then holds out a small leather case. I see a badge. "I am a cop. Let me see some identification."

"Let me see your ID first."

"Badge is enough."

"Bullshit! Get 'em in any pawn shop. Go find a cop, Whit."

Whit takes off and by luck, I see him grab the arm of a state highway patrolman who is coming out of the restroom and pull him toward us. All this time the man in front of me has been trying to show me something I don't look at while telling him repeatedly to shut up. I'm surprised he hasn't tried to make a run for it.

The state trooper comes up with Whit. "Alright now, what's going on?" It's then he takes a look at the big guy and bursts out in roaring laughter. When he calms enough, he gasps out, "Got the wrong man and trapped yourself, didn't you?"

"Shit! It was a classic case." The big guy says, his face devoid of humor. "And keep your damn mouth shut."

The state patrolman laughs even harder. "I can't wait to get back to the station. The guys are going to love this."

"Shit! You're a worse gossip than my grandmother, Rafe."

"What the hell is going on?" I ask. Poor Whit looks totally confused.

The big guy holds out a laminated ID. It's real and he is a cop. Now I feel embarrassed. I hand it back with my driver's license and registration. "Sorry, officer."

"Who's the kid, Mr. Prentice?" The patrolman asks.

"My Godson. We've been to the Book Barn in Parksville. I'm visiting him and his parents for the weekend."

"Any proof of that?"

"Hey, Don don't lie ever," Whit yells.

"Like 'im, huh?"

"Damn right. When he goes home I'm going with him."

The cop in regular clothing frowns. "Aren't you in school, sonny?"

"So what? I'll be going to school in Midway." Whit whips out his cell phone. "If ya don't believe it, fast dial 1 and talk to my old man, Asshole."

"Whit, watch your language. I don't know what's going on, but this officer, I assume, is doing some type of stake-out."

The cop finally grins. "I guess you got me fair and square. The guys I'm after sure wouldn't send the kid for a cop." He holds out his hand to me. "Tim Stanford, Mr. Prentice."

"Why did you pick us to check, Tim?"

He leans against the side of my car. "When I saw this good looking kid kissing you, I was sure you was up to no good. This is a prime place for seducing kids, even in daylight. Maybe you don't have much problem with kids in Midway, but recently there's been a bunch of older guys getting acquainted with kids on the internet then meeting them and bringing them to out of the way places like this. See that path over there? It goes back in the woods a ways to a clearing. We've hauled more than one poor kid out of there after he's been raped or beaten up. Just a matter of time 'til we find one dead."

"You're kidding?"

"Wish I were." He shakes his head. "There's some weird people out there nowadays."

"I'm glad they have you out here then. You sure don't look like a cop."

"A big advantage when you work undercover most of the time. Nice to meet ya, Don. Hope to see ya again. Y'all have a good day now."

"What an asshole," Whit mumbles as he gets back in the car.

"No, buddy, he's anything but. He's got a lousy job, but hopefully he's gonna save a lot of kids from getting hurt and maybe killed. That's why it worries me that you're spending so much time in a chat room."

"Hey, they're a nice bunch of guys and mostly my age, too."

"What makes you so sure?"

"They tell me and they like the same things I do. Some of 'em post their pics."

"You have a good time with me today?"

"Yeah, great. Why?"

"So if you didn't know me and I was to talk to you in the chat room you'd think I was about your age?"

"Yeah. That's why you're so cool, Don."

"Think, Whit! If you had never seen me before, but we'd talked in the chat room and I told you I'd take you to the Book Barn or somewhere you wanted to go and told you, you could drive my Jag, would you meet me somewhere?"

"Sure."

"It doesn't dawn on you that I could be one of those perverts likes to rape young guys like you? I'm bigger and stronger than you, so you couldn't get away. You heard what Tim said." I see comprehension growing in his eyes. "Now do you see why I would want to check out anyone you meet on the net before I let you go off with them?"

"Yeah," he says slowly.

I give him a one-armed hug and start to turn the ignition, but he stops me. "Don?"

"Yeah?"

"I gotta tell you something, but you can't tell the old man or mom."

"I don't tell them much of anything we talk about."

"I know. Don, if I can't get to be with guys I meet in the chat room, how'm I ever gonna find a guy like me?"

I grab his hand and hold it. "You're gay, aren't you?"

"Yeah," he mumbles, tears starting down his face. "Don't hate me or nothin'."

I hug him as tightly as I can, nearly emasculating myself on the gear selector. "I love you, Whit. Nothing's gonna change that. If it helps, I'm gay, too. Your parents have known ever since I was about your age."

He pulls away and wipes his tears on a tissue. "For real? And they don't hate you?"

"Yes, they know and, no, they don't hate me. Your dad said he was glad they asked me to be your Godfather and it didn't make any difference to them if I'm gay so long as I didn't force you into anything, which I'd never do."

He grins happily. "You mean we can get it on?"

I shake my head. "No way. You're too young and I won't do anything to make your parents keep from trusting me with you."

"Even if I want to?"

"Not ever. I'll do anything to help make it easier for you but I'll never touch you in a sexual way. That's how much I love you, Whit. You're beautiful and I love to see you without your foot on, but you'll never get anything beyond a hug and maybe a kiss from me. Okay?"

He leans over and kisses me. "I'm still gonna kiss you if I want to, but I'd sure love to sleep with you."

"You can do that."

"I can?" He yelps in surprise.

"Yes. Sleep, that's all. A cuddle feels good when you're tired."

"Well, if that's all I can get I guess it'll have to do."

"You'll have a lot more fun with a guy your own age. Maybe you'll find one when we get home."

Because of our talk and the cop interrupting us, we're almost late for dinner.

"Where on earth have you been?" Pat demands as soon as we walk in the door.

Whit grins and launches into the story. "Don let me drive his Jag. It's rad! He come close to getting' busted by the fuzz when we stopped for a drink."

"Arrested? What the hell for?" Mac yells.

"I …" I get interrupted.

"He thought Don was gonna rape my ass." Whit cracks up with laughter.

"Dear God!" Pat shrieks.

Mac catches Whit's humor. "I think you owe me an explanation, Don."

"Fix me a drink and I'll tell you. I need one bad." I reach over and swat Whit on the butt. "Go get ready for dinner."

"Can we order pizza?" Whit asks.

Pat holds out her hands, palms up. "Why not. I had no idea when you two would be back. It will take only a minute to fix a salad. Go call then wash up."

Whit takes off up the stairs and I settle in to tell Mac and Pat about our day.

"I'm certainly glad to know they've put a cop at that rest stop. It was getting a bad reputation and no one from this area would stop there if they could avoid it." Mac says.

"His approach was definitely different. I was convinced he was a pedophile hot for a great looking kid like Whit."

"That doesn't worry me half as much as what he's finding on the net. I hear so much about the things that go on."

"I expect there's more good than bad. It's just that the bad gets all the attention. I've met some very fine professional people that way and become very good friends with one. He's been down for a weekend or two and we have a grand time together. But don't worry, the cop and I told Whit what happens at times and I think we got through to him. Anyway, so long as he's with me, he won't be going out with anyone I don't know."

Pat shakes her head. "I don't know how you do it, Don. Mac's an entirely different person since you've been here."

"I'll tell you sometime. Let's get the other problems solved first."

"You shoulda seen Don," Whit says while we're eating. "He told the cop his badge wasn't shit cause he could get one in any pawn shop. The cop looked like he was gonna strangle Don."

"I do wish you'd stop using that awful word, Mac," Pat says.

It dawns on me what he said. "Whit, damn it! What did we agree on?" I snap.

He looks startled for a moment, then chagrined. "Sorry, Don."

"Don't say it to me, say it to your mother."

He drops his head. "Sorry, mom."

"Accepted. But please, don't say it again." She looks at me like I've performed magic.

Whit looks at me and grins. "You kinda liked that cop's looks, didn't ya?"

I nod. "He was very handsome and had a great build. Let's say I wouldn't kick him out of bed if I was ever lucky enough to get him there."

Pat's mouth drops open and Mac's grinning. "Mac, just because your Godfather is gay doesn't mean you can start doing whatever you please. You're too young to be sexually active."

I look at Mac and he knows immediately what I'm thinking. He mouths, 'If you tell him, I'll kill you.' A reference to the first time he made it with a girl then bragged about it to me while he was babysitting me.

Whit catches the idea, if not the fact, immediately and smirks at his father. "But, dad, I'm sixteen. When's old enough?"

"When you get married," Mac answers without thinking.

Whit and I roar with laughter which Pat joins. At last Mac throws up his hands. "I give up. Damn it, Don, you egg that kid on. When he gets back he'll be worse than he is now."

"Where'm I going, dad?" Whit asks with a frightened look.

"Your father and I think you might benefit from staying a few weeks with Don. Maybe he can help you get straightened out." Pat says. "We hadn't intended telling you just yet."

Whit jumps up. "Great! I thought Don was kidding when he told me. He's cool." He looks at me. "When we leaving?"

"Monday. We'll have to go by your school and get a transfer arranged so you can go to school in Midway. I told you, you would be going if you came home with me."

"'Kay." He sits back down and begins to eat his salad.

Sunday we go to church. I have to agree with Whit that their Rector doesn't offer the most inspiring sermons. To my mind the entire service, though quite similar to ours, is dull. With his height and looks, Whit makes a spectacular crucifer as he leads the processional and recessional. It's obvious a few of the young ladies think so, too.

Whit's feelings are expressed quite volubly by the look on his face when, after church, he walks up to me, grabs my hand and pulls. I excuse myself and follow him to my car. Because he begged, we drove in mine while his parents drove Mac's Jeep. I see several girls of Whit's age group standing in the parking lot with their parents. A few guys are looking over my Jag. Because there was so little traffic, I slip Whit my keys.

"For real?" He whispers.

I nod. "Go for it, but be careful."

Never let it be said that a kid with a fake leg can't strut. Whit outdoes himself strutting toward the parking lot with a broad smile. He helps me lower the soft top and gets in, starting the engine and pumping the accelerator a few times to hear the roar of the exhaust, my stock muffler barely meeting state standards. When he's sure everyone is watching, he shifts into reverse and backs out nicely, then drops it in first and gets a squeak out of the tires on takeoff. He shifts gears smoothly and drives sedately after his little exhibition at the church.

"Oh, man! That was fun. Thanks a lot, Don." He says when we're home.

"You drive well, Whit. I'm very pleased, though getting rubber isn't something I care for. The type of tires I use on this are far from cheap and I don't plan on replacing them any time soon."

He grins. "Made the snooty bitches take notice. Got Jim's attention, too. I may be a fag like he says, but he ain't got a Godfather like you nor a car like this."

"Whit, you are not a fag and neither am I. I do not want to hear that word again. Do you understand?" I say sternly.

His grin vanishes. "I didn't mean to piss you off, Don. That's what Jim called me at school until I busted his ass."

"Then I can understand why you hit him. I hope your mother didn't hear about it."

He grins again. "She did and my ass got grounded for a week, even with the detention I got at school. But she told the principal I wasn't no fag and if she heard it again she'd sue his ass."

"I smile. "I hardly think she used those words."

"No, but that's what she meant."

We move to let his parents drive in.

"You drove well, son," Mac says when they get out and join us. "But the takeoff was unnecessarily showy." He winks at Whit. "I think I understand, though."

Whit grins at me, knowing I'm fully aware that Mac thinks he was showing off to the girls.

After a pleasant dinner, Whit and his mother go up to his room to pack his things. As I expect, it's not long before I hear my name being yelled. I stop in the doorway of his room and just stare at the pile.

"Damn, kid, that ain't a transfer truck I'm driving. You won't need half that stuff anyway. Bring the clothes you'll need for school and after, a few dress-up things, and your toilet kit. That'll fill the boot on my car. It's not that big."

"But I gotta have my Playstation and games. And I'll need …"

"Hold it. Playstation and games fine. The rest of the stuff we can come back and get if you need it, which I'm betting you won't."

"Aw, Don."

"I mean it. Be sure you've got your crutches and shoes matching those you plan to wear, too."

A few minutes later and Pat closes two suitcases and I carry them down while Whit follows with his toys. It's from sheer practice that I manage to get the bags in the boot. Whit puts the Playstation in the space behind the seats along with his forearm crutches.

I put my arm around his shoulders and we walk back in the house ready for supper.

Mac and Pat are more emotional when we prepare to leave after lunch on Monday than I expected. Whit seems quite subdued as well. Probably the reality of watching his principal calmly arrange for him to attend the Midway high school for six weeks with no more than a transcript and a letter of permission. The arrangement he has worked out with the principal of the Midway school is for Mac to pay a couple of hundred in tuition. It probably didn't help that when we get back to the house I tried to be funny by giving him an evil look, rubbing my hands together, and growling, "Now your scrawny ass belongs to me, boy. Prepare to meet your doom."

Traffic, especially large tractor-trailers, is so heavy I spend my time concentrating on my driving and talk little. Whit has the radio on to some gawdawful station only a kid could like and doesn't say anything. It's only a two hour drive, so after he dashed into my house to the bath for relief and I've done the same, he comes out and we get his stuff into the bedroom next to mine.

"Get settled in and we'll go out for dinner, okay?"

"'Kay," he says and opens one of his bags.

A little later we move a desk from the room I stored some excess furniture in into his and I help him set up a computer for his games and connection to the net.

"My Playstation hooks to a TV," he tells me.

"I only have one. You may connect it to that, but I reserve the right to watch the news in the evening."

"We could bring the one from my room next time we go."

I hug him. "Whit, I want you to be comfortable and enjoy your time here, but some things come as rewards. Your school work comes first and your attitude adjustment second. Both are going to take a lot of work. Until I'm satisfied with both I'm afraid you will have to live with less freedom to do what you want."

He looks up, a tear or two slide down his face. "You really do love me, don't you, Don?"

I crush him in a hug. "More than anyone else. I know you think I'm being mean, but I want to see what I know you're capable of." I put my finger under his chin and hold his gaze steady. "I told you I wouldn't give you the time of day unless I loved you and I meant it. We can work through your problems as friends or you can go back home, but I hope you're man enough to stay and straighten things out."

We go to a favorite restaurant of mine for our dinner. Whit is quieter than usual, but eats heartily and with manners and dignity. He plays a few games while I'm looking over some notes I'll need when I meet with my clients tomorrow at their new house. We hit the bed early.

I'm not used to getting up at 6:30, so the clock gets hit hard accompanied by a few choice words before I realize I've got a kid to get off to school. I wake Whit and, after washing up, fix a breakfast I'd not consider under normal conditions.

Fortunately the principal is fully aware of Whit's arrival and it takes only a few moments before Whit's off to class and I'm on my way to inspect the house being finished.

"How was it?" I ask Whit when I pick him up at school.

"Not like I thought. I'm ahead in three of my classes and only a little behind in physics."

"Great. I can help you in physics. Architects know a lot of it."

"Where we going?"

"I've got to see the contractor about a change the owner wants made. It's not very big, but it has to be done now or not at all. You can see what I do for a living."

"I thought you just drew house plans."

"That's only a little of it. I have to arrange for a contractor to build the place and see that he follows my design precisely. I check his work for quality and make sure he's using the materials I specified. If the owner wants changes, I have to make them on the plans then tell the contractor what to do. Some times I have to build a model if the people don't know what they want or can't tell from a drawing."

"But dad didn't use an architect when he bought our house."

"He and I talked about it and I looked the place over while it was under construction, but it was a planned house so he didn't need me professionally."

"Oh. Can I look around when we get there?"

"As long as you don't get in anyone's way. It'll be more fun if I give you the tour instead of you just wandering around."

I couldn't ask for more pleasant and attentive company than Whit accords me. When we get home, he goes immediately to change clothes and start on his homework, while I fix dinner.

After we eat, I help him with a few problems in physics, showing him a short-cut I was taught in college. While he's finishing, I bake up a batch of chocolate chip cookies from frozen dough from the market. The smell brings him downstairs as fast as he can hop from step to step, holding the banister for balance. He's got the jeans leg rolled up to the tip of his stump, so I know he's happy with me.

"For me?" He says grabbing a cookie from the plate.

"It's in your hand so I guess it is."

He hugs me. "Thanks, Don."

"You're welcome. Today you've been a guy I'm proud to know."

"I had fun. Thanks for showing me how to work those problems, too. I wish you were our teacher."

I grin. "Then you would hate me for sure. All done with your work?"

"Yeah."

"Then go watch TV or play games if you want. There's milk and drinks in the fridge when you want them. But don't eat all the cookies tonight. I'm not baking again this week."

"'Kay."

I plan on giving Whit a week to settle in and become accustomed to my home and the school before I begin talking to him about his problems unless I see some problem. On Thursday he comes in from school and goes to do his work. In a few minutes I hear my mower start and see Mike, a kid from church, begin to cut the grass. Mike's been doing my yard work for a couple of years now and I don't want to change things for just the short time Whit will be here, so I continue with my reading of the latest architectural journal.

A few minutes later I see Whit at the door. "Don?"

"What's up?"

"Who's the guy mowing your grass?"

"That's Mike. He's been doing it for a couple of years now."

"I saw him in my classes."

"I thought he was your age. He's a nice kid." I smile. "You'll get to see him in church."

Our pastor is young and loves ritual so Mike is our crucifer when pastor pulls a high Mass. At the same time, he appeals strongly to young people and our youth group is outstanding. I plan to get Whit involved and his knowing Mike will help a lot.

"He's a good looking stud."

I'm surprised Whit is so open in expressing his thoughts to me, but that's a gain I hadn't anticipated yet.

"He looks hot. I'm going to get him a Coke."

"That's kind of you, Whit. Mike drinks Pepsi. You might ask if he'd like one. Some cookies, too."

"Yeah!"

A few minutes later Whit goes back upstairs and I hear the mower start again. When Mike comes to the door for his pay, he says, "I sure like Whit, Mr. Prentice. It'll be nice having him in my classes and at church."

"I'm sure he'll enjoy knowing you, too, Mike."

"You mind if I come by to see him some?"

"Please do. Whit doesn't know anyone yet and he needs some friends his age."

"Cool. See ya later."

In so far as Mike is concerned, my gaydar fails utterly. I'm hoping he's gay for Whit's sake, but I'd not place any money on it. But within a couple of days I'm thinking of them as the Velcro boys, because where one is the other is too. Whit always tells me if he's going over to Mike's house and I encourage Mike to visit him here. The kid's a great influence and keeps Whit entertained. Mike is also dutiful about his school work, so home work is the first thing on the agenda no matter at whose home they are. Twice a week, Mike has swimming practice; he's on the school team. I'm surprised when Whit tells me the coach has asked him to swim with them as unknown competition.

After the first swim, Whit can't wait to tell me that Mike drools as badly as I when he uses his crutches and rolls the jeans leg up. Devotee or not, I'm delighted that Mike didn't freak out.

Things progress so smoothly Whit's problems at home don't cross my mind until Mac calls and asks for a progress report. His first words are: "Have you killed your Godson yet?"

"Far from it. His behavior is perfect, he's made some fine friends, and I never have to say a word to him."

"Don, if I didn't know you so well I'd swear that's a damn lie."

"Honest Injun, Mac. In fact, I flat out forgot the entire issue of problems. I'll talk with him this weekend, but as much as I hate to say it, I think the problem is at your end."

"How? I mean we give the kid everything and consider him ahead of ourselves. That's mostly Pat, but you know how she is."

"Mac, if what I think is true, I'm going to have to talk to you and Pat in a way I'd give anything not to, and you're going to be furious with me. I only hope it doesn't ruin our friendship because I love you guys, but I love Whit more. So prepare yourself and Pat, if you can."

By sheer luck Mike's parents are going to visit his grandparents for the weekend so I will have Whit alone. Saturday afternoon when I hear him getting a drink, I ask him to bring me one.

"Sit, buddy, it's time we talked about things."

"Like what, Don?"

"What was going on with you at home. First of all, Mac and Pat have no idea you're gay, do they?"

"No way! I mean I'm not sure how it would go over now. Like you said they know you're gay and they don't care."

"That's true. But they just babysat me, I'm not their only son and heir. That will make it harder for them to accept it, Whit, but I'm betting your old man will be easier than your mom."

"That's it. Mom's always gotta have the last word. Like I can't go out with the guys, or swim with them, or just hang out." He looks at me pleadingly. "I know my damn leg's gone, Don, but that don't make me a cripple. I do what I want when she ain't lookin'."

"I thought that was the other problem you were having. But why did you act so badly when they love you?"

"Cause they ain't like you, Don. I mean around here I'm just a regular guy. I wouldn't even feel different if you and Mike didn't like to look at me." He grins. "Mike likes to, oooops, I ain't gonna go there."

"Good. What you and Mike like to do in private is your own business, but I want you to know that you and Mike can come to me if you wish to know something or need anything. If you're having sex, I want you to be safe."

His smile gets broader. "Thanks, Don. We ain't into anything heavy."

"Good. Now, back to your problems. Why did you feel you had to swear at your parents and act like a shit in general?"

He points his finger at me. "You said it. Can I yell at you?"

I shake my head. "No. I said that's what you were acting like, and you were."

He hangs his head. "I know," he mumbles.

"Then why?"

He gets up and comes to sit next to me. I put my arm around his shoulders. He needs to feel accepted right now.

"It was mostly mom like I said. If I tried to tell her how I felt she would tell me not to talk back to her and dad would tell me to stop arguing, you know?"

"I think I do. Is there anything else that pisses you off at home?"

"I hate those fuckers at school calling me fag. If mom wouldn't butt into everything I do at school they wouldn't think I was a momma's boy fag. I'm glad I busted Jim's ass even if I did get grounded."

"If I ask them down to have dinner with us Sunday, do you think you could talk to them along with me? I'll lay all the heavy stuff on your mom cause I can take the heat. If she doesn't like it, and she won't, maybe your dad will help her see things the way they are."

He moves as close to me as he can get. "You gonna send me home?"

"Not until the end of the grading period. Why?"

"I don't wanna go. I like it here, Don, and Mike and me, well …"

I thump him on the head. "It's that serious then?"

"Yeah." He smiles. "I'm in love, Don, and he likes me even better cause of my leg. I never thought I'd get a cool guy like him."

"I'm glad. You deserve a great guy, Whit. But I want you guys to be careful. I doubt the kids at the school here would be any more accepting than the ones at home."

"We hang with the swim team mostly, and they think we're best buddies. Mike and I save our fun until we're alone."

"I'm glad you guys are being so adult and responsible. I hope your love lasts. Mike's a great guy."

"When you gonna find one, Don?"

"I don't know. Not much gay action around here and I don't have time to play around."

"Didn't that cop give you his card? I think he liked you."

"I wouldn't mind knowing him better, but I don't think he's gay."

"I can show you some of the sites on the net if you want."

I hug him. "It's your life we're trying to straighten out, not mine."

"You sure ain't doin' much to change it, yours I mean."

Sunday Whit's parents come and we have a pleasant lunch together, despite Whit's nervousness. With coffee in hand, I ask them to sit with me for a talk.

"Should Whit be here?" Pat asks.

"Absolutely. He's going to explain to you and Mac why his behavior was so bad before I tell you how things have to change."

She doesn't look pleased, but sits back and looks at Whit.

"Mom …" he looks at me and I nod. He gets up and sits next to me again. After my arm is around his shoulder for reassurance, he continues. "Mom, you were just making it too hard to live. I mean like you had to know everything I did, and you wouldn't let me do things with the guys or have any friends to hang with. Then when I decked Jim you had to come to school and get in it. I'm almost seventeen, so I ain't no baby. I mean having friends or playing ball or swimming ain't gonna kill me just cause I ain't got but one leg." He looks at me beseechingly.

"Pat, Whit's told you the basics very plainly. You aren't going to like my analysis but you're getting it because I love you all, but especially Whit. Since he's been here, he's done what any kid his age would do. He's made friends, hangs with them at the mall, swims with the team after school, and spends as much time at Mike's house as he does here. You wouldn't believe what a little freedom has done for this guy, and I'm proud of the adult way he handles things.

"You've smothered this kid to death, Pat. I know why, and in a way I can't blame you, but it reached the breaking point and Whit broke, laying it all on you in the form of unacceptable behavior. The few times Mac tried to encourage Whit to act own his own and accept responsibility for his acts, you threw a tantrum. So it's no wonder Mac gave up rather than challenge you. You have a very dominating personality, Pat. That's nothing to be ashamed of, but it needs to be carefully controlled so as not to get out of hand as it has with Whit.

"If I've hurt your feelings, I'm sorry, because I do love you. And I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. Now I think Whit has one more thing to say then you can have the floor."

Whit grabs my hand and squeezes it tightly. "Mom, dad, I've got a boyfriend. His name's Mike and he's a fantastic guy who likes me for me. Don can tell you he's a good guy."

By now Pat's crying. Mac's trying to console her, but looks at me and winks when Whit says he has a boyfriend. It's apparently no big news to him.

Whit goes over and hugs his mother. "I'm sorry I made you cry, mom. I love you."

She pulls him to her. "Oh, Whit! I'm the one who's sorry. I just love you so much I want to protect you from everything."

She looks up at me. "Don, I would have cheerfully killed you when you started, and I'm not happy about the way you spoke to me, but after I think deeply about what you've said I'm almost certain I'll have to agree."

I get up and pull her to her feet then hug her and Whit together. Mac joins us for another hug.

"Pat, we'd best be glad we've got someone who loves us and Mac four so much he'll talk to us in a way we can't ignore. Mac, we love you, son and we're so proud of how you've behaved here with Don and the grades he says you're making at school. I got one more question."

"What?"

"When do your mother and I get to meet your boyfriend?"

"I'll answer that, Mac. You and Pat come down on my birthday and I'll take you all to dinner."

"Absolutely not! We'll take you. I'm glad you reminded us. Pat and I are going now so we can think about what you've said. I'm saying thanks even if I'm not sure I mean it right now."

"Understandable. I hope you won't let hurt feelings get in the way of understanding what Whit and I have said."

"Ya think mom's pissed because I'm gay?" Whit asks as we watch them drive off.

"Not really. That was a lot to drop on her with everything else, but I think she'll come around. I have a feeling your old man already knew. He was cool with me, so I'm betting he'll be just as cool with you."

"I'm glad. I want 'em to like Mike." He grins up at me. "What ya want for your birthday? Or should I ask who?"

"Nothing. Having you here to enjoy is a present I never expected. As for who, you won't find anyone like you who's old enough for me."

"Aw, I was hoping maybe you wanted me."

I hug him. "As my Godson." I swat him on the butt. "Now go finish your homework."

I know Whit is up to something because he's being furtive if I happen on him unexpectedly. I notice that Mike seems to be involved, too, but because of a new commission, I'm too busy to snoop.

The night of my birthday, Mac and Pat arrive and hug Whit. He introduces them to Mike and they respond graciously, then say we should leave for the restaurant soon.

"Not yet, dad. Why don't you have a drink first."

Whit fixes drinks for us while Mike gets a Coke for Whit and a Pepsi for himself. They've no sooner hand us our drinks when the doorbell rings. Whit tells me to answer.

I do and almost drop dead. Tim is standing there with a tentative smile and a bottle of wine in his hand.

"Happy birthday, Don. At least Whit said it was when he invited me."

I smile and shake his hand. "This is a real surprise, Tim. It's wonderful to see you. Come in and have a drink before we go out for dinner."

He smiles. "I'm flattered that you'd remember my name."

"How could I forget the guy who tried to bust me as a pedophile."

Whit's expression is that of the cat who got the canary and cream for the same meal. I shake my finger at him and introduce Tim to Mac and Pat.

"Ah, hah. The infamous undercover cop who saved my son from rape," Mac says, shaking his hand.

"Mac! I'm ashamed. This lovely man thought Mac was in danger."

"With good reason. Look at Don. There's a born pedophile if I ever saw one. Do your duty, officer."

Tim grins. "Sorry, sir. I don't work on my own time and this is my day off. I'm hoping to enjoy my evening."

"We'll try to make sure you enjoy it with Don."

Dinner is delightful, especially as Tim is a perfect foil for Mac's wild sense of humor. The boys are mostly interested in any interaction between Tim and me, but as strangers, we don't give them much to speculate on.

We have coffee back at the house and I open my cards and gifts with pleasure. Mac and Pat leave soon after and the boys leave Tim and me to talk alone.

"I'm so glad you came tonight, Tim. I appreciate the wine, but I've enjoyed your company more."

He smiles. "I have one question, Don. Don't freak, cause Whit talked to me a little."

"Then I know I'm in trouble. What did he say?"

"That you're gay and looking. I think he's trying to get us together."

"Since he's opened his big mouth I have to admit it. Yes, I'm gay, but I'm not actively looking at the moment."

Tim looks a little disappointed. Then it dawns on me. "Whit assumed you're gay! My God, I'll kill 'im."

Tim smiles. "Don't. I'm not out except to a very few good friends, but I'm gay." He snickers. "Sounds odd to have a gay cop working sex crime undercover, doesn't it?"

"Not really. Who would know what appeals any better?"

"That's the captain's thinking. He's known me most of my life and he knows I'm gay." He reaches for my hand and holds it. "You're a good looking guy, Don, and I'm attracted to you. What's your take?"

"I shouldn't have said so much to Whit, but I couldn't be happier that he invited you. I'm interested, but not in a quickie. If anything happens, I want it to happen slowly as we get to know each other. I've no use for one-night stands."

"Nor have I. I'm sorry the distance is going to make it hard for us to get together as much as I'd like, but I'd like to know you a lot better." He stands. "I'll be going, but plan on seeing me soon."

"I'll look forward to it." I pull him into a hug and a quick kiss. "Thanks."

Whit punches Mike and grins when I come down for breakfast the next morning.

"He's in love."

"I am not, young man. However, I will thank you and Mike for inviting Tim last evening." I thump Whit on the head. "But why would you invite an asshole to my birthday dinner?"

"He's a cool guy."

"Oh? Why the mind change?"

"Cause of what you said, and Mike showed me one turkey in the chatroom. The guy's passing himself off as eighteen and he's about forty cause Mike set up a date with him, but didn't let him see him."

"Thank you, Mike. How'd you catch on?"

"One of the guys works for my dad helps the cops check out chatrooms for guys like that."

"Excellent. I hope you can make Whit see the danger."

"He's not interested in those losers, he likes the dev chatrooms, but I'll kill 'im if he meets one. I'm all the dev he needs, man, too."

"I've no doubt of that, Mike. I assume your parents have caught on to your relationship."

"Yeah. Mom's okay with it, but the old man's not too happy. He don't say anything, though, and he acts nice to Whit."

"Good. You guys know my offer still stands."

The grading period ends and Whit has A's in every subject as I knew he could. He proudly calls his parents, but I hear him say, "No. I want to stay with Don. I like the school cause nobody calls me a fag and Mike's here. Can't I finish the year? I'll come home for Christmas and all."

He hands me the phone and it takes little argument with Mac to have him agree that Whit can stay.

"Yeah!" Whit screams and hugs me as soon as he hangs up.

I get a couple of welcome commissions, so I'm pleased at the mature way Whit assumes a number of duties around the house and thus requires little attention when I'm working. We enjoy evenings together and with Mike, with Tim becoming a more frequent and welcome addition to our family. He often stays over sleeping with me to Whit's delight. When he looks smug in the morning, Tim and I call him Miss Lonely Hearts.

A week before Thanksgiving, Tim shows up for the weekend and asks to talk to Whit and Mike in my presence.

"Okay, guys, here it is in a nut shell. We know there's a pedophile making contact with teenage boys in a chatroom. He promises them anything they want and how they can make big bucks in movies he makes. When he wins their trust, he uses them to make porn flicks. He's too small time to be dangerous and he's a teacher as well. There's no one on the force comes even close to being attractive to him, so what I'm asking is this. I'd like you guys to chat him up and arrange a meeting at a place I'll tell you. You'll tell him you can drive and won't do more than meet him at the site. We'll have it covered with cops and bust him the minute he tries anything. We have no reason to think you'll be in any danger. You'll just draw him out in the open." He smiles at Whit. "I'm thinking he'll go for you instantly cause he frequents a devotee site. We think he's on the lookout for a beautiful young amputee."

"Jesus, Tim! Are you out of your mind!" I yell.

"Not at all. No harm in asking since Whit's the only teen I know who's beautiful and an amp, too. Given what we know of this guy's proclivities, he'll go for Whit instantly. He'll probably like Mike, too."

"And how will you and the guys know Whit's contacted the right guy?"

"One of his pals rolled on him when he was arrested for distributing porn, so we know his chatroom names. If Whit agrees, we'll equip his computer with a webcam." Tim grins. "Seeing Whit live will have this man in agony, especially if Whit wiggles his stump at the camera."

Mike slaps Whit on the back hard enough to make me flinch. "Told ya your stump was sexy as hell."

Whit flips him a bird.

Tim sees my hesitation. "Don, I'm part of this family now. There's no way I'd involve Whit in anything dangerous. He'll be covered every second. The only things is that if this works he'll never be able to tell anyone about it. With the freedom of speech involved, we keep a low profile."

"You realize I have no say in this. I don't have legal guardianship of Whit, so only his parents can give you a go ahead."

"I have his father's permission in writing. We've used his firm on occasion to help us track people through the system."

"Then it's up to Whit and Mike."

They both hug Tim and get hugged in return. "We'll do it."

"Great. I'll have our psychologist talk with you guys so you'll know what to expect and I'll put a webcam on your computer next time I come and show you how to use it. You control whether it's on or off and where it points."

The next week is a blur of activity with Tim at the house almost constantly and other cops dropping by, always in civilian clothing and driving what appear to be, from the variety, their personal cars. The boys are getting excited but maintain their usual routine. I'm present with Tim when Whit searches the chatrooms and Tim suddenly points to a name. "That's him. Wait for an opening that interests you and join in."

I watch fascinated as the topics vary, then someone says they won't let their kid read the Harry Potter books because they're promoting witchcraft. Teacher instantly replies the books are good and develop kid's imagination. Whit adds: I'm in high school and I've read all of them. Gotten credit from my teachers for it, too.

Teacher: You attend a good school. Sounds like you have enlightened teachers.

Studboy (Whit): Great school. I like it.

Concerned: What school do you attend? I want to keep my children out of it.

Whit looks at Tim who nods.

Studboy: Midway High.

Teacher: I teach at a school in Statesboro. What are your hobbies, SB?

Whit tells him reading and swimming are the main ones. Teacher asks if he'll send a pic.

Tim types in: Got a webcam. Do you?"

Teacher: No, but I'll send you a pic a friend made of me last week if you'll turn on your webcam. I've never got a pic like that before.

Tim: If we go to your private e-mail. Don't want everybody to see me.

Teacher: I trust you, so okay.

The minute his e-mail address pops up, Tim is on his cell phone to the others to track it through the server.

Tim and I move out of the range of the tiny camera and Whit starts the video program.

Teacher: Who's that with you?"

Studboy: My buddy. He'll aim the camera so you can see all of me.

Whit gets up from the chair and backs away a little. He's on his crutches and wearing shorts. Once Mike has adjusted the camera so Whit appears full length on the screen, he gets down on the floor and presses his cheek against Whit's stump, caressing it slowly.

Teacher suddenly disappears from the chat room, a row of gibberish crosses the screen. Tim chuckles. "I think you guys blew his mind. If I had to guess, I'd bet he's spanking the monkey to death. That was a great performance, guys. Hang loose and let's see if he comes back."

A few minutes later teacher signs back in: Sorry power glitch. Here's the pic I promised you, but I'm nowhere good looking as you studs.

Studboy: Thanks. Going off webcam. Slows my computer.

The picture comes through attached to an e-mail. The guy must be an idiot because Tim howls in laughter and tells us the pic is of a model from GQ. The e-mail asks Studboy if he'd like to meet and go to the Book Barn.

Studboy (at Tim's advice): I'll meet you there. Got my own car.

Teacher: Sure you don't want me to meet you in Midway so you won't have to buy gas.

Studboy: No way. Wish they had gay videos.

Teacher: I have lots. I'll bring you one.

Studboy: Thanx. Fri after school. Out.

Whit backs out of the chatroom.

Tim's still chuckling. "Great job, guys. He's never come on to anyone this fast. I think your stump really got to him."

Mike wraps his arms around Whit. "That asshole may be turned on, but this guy belongs to me, stump and all."

Tim answers his cell phone and takes his leave. "Chief wants me at the station like now. This sting is off the ground thanks to you."

Mike's a few months older than Whit and has his own car, so the boys use that to drive to the Book Barn on Friday. I follow in my Jag since Tim says the more regular people the better so things look normal.

The boys haven't been there long before a thin, balding, bookish looking man with thick glasses approaches Whit and Mike. The boys appear to argue with him

For a few minutes. They follow him outside and I can see on a monitor he's handing Whit a video. They talk a few minutes longer and the man leaves.

A large man comes in and shouts: "Leave everything in place people. This was an opening. He's meeting the boys Sunday."

It appears that everyone in the place with the exception of the regular employees and me are police. I feel better that such precautions have been taken.

We've not been home long when Tim and the large man come in. I have the stiff drink I need, and I've let the boys have a beer to calm them, because both shuddered in revulsion when I mention the man.

"God, he was gross!" Mike says.

"Yeah. He stinks like a sewer busted. He ain't no teacher, no way."

Tim introduces the large man as the chief of police of Statesboro.

"Boys, you are heroes in my book and I wish I could let everyone know what a great job you did."

"You already caught him?" Mike asks.

The chief nods. "We thought we knew where he was making those porn flicks, so we had the road from the Book Barn to Statesboro all staked out. He was so damn hot and bothered he went to his shop after he left you. We caught him with a beautiful little video camera in his coat. He was taking shots of you every time you moved, most of them when you were swinging your stump. It was a great idea rolling up your jeans so the tip showed clearly."

Tim is laughing. "He begged the guys to let him change his shorts before they arrested him, they were soaking wet. In a way I feel sorry for him, cause anybody messes with kids don't last long in prison if it gets out, and it will."

"I'm glad he's out of business," the chief says. He holds out two slender cases. " Patrick Whitman the fourth, Michael Gower, on behalf of the mayor and council of Statesboro and the Department of Police, I present you with these medals for outstanding bravery and service to the city and your fellow man."

He pins the medals on the boy's chests and shakes their hands. "You can't tell anyone what you got these for so you best put them away. But if you ever need help of any kind, you come to me or Officer Stanford." He shakes their hands and mine and turns to leave, then turns back. "Stanford, leave that webcam. I expect young Whitman can find a use for it."

To smooth things and feelings, I invite Mac and Pat to join us for Christmas. Mike and his parents will join us for dinner, and Tim has three days off as a reward for closing the porn shop. Upon reflection, it's my best Christmas ever. I have a committed relationship with Tim with the chief's blessing, and most of his fellow officers accept both it and me. Mac and Pat have agreed to let Whit live with Tim and me permanently. Mike's parents are happy he's found someone like Whit to love and the boys are in and out of both our homes constantly.

I guess Shakespeare said it best: All's well that ends well.


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