Charter Schools and Brazilians in Paradise
"Oh!" Josh exclaimed.
"Are you ok, Josh?"
"Sure, sure, Mr. VanWinkle, I was expecting a call from the aviation service in Asheville, so I'm surprised is all."
"How are things going in North Carolina?"
"Absolutely wonderful. I wish I didn't have to leave, but I've got to fly to Charleston tomorrow to meet with a customer. Then Shane Everette and I are meeting some folks in Raleigh about re-opening Boys' Camp. Mr. Jordan VanWinkle is arranging that."
Mr. VanWinkle laughed, "Be careful with my uncle. You may end up speaking to the governor. They are old Asheville school and golfing buddies. Well, I really called to let you know you just became a bit richer today and I want to spend some of it to hire a very special skip tracer. I know you've hired them in the past, but they are used to chasing not-too-smart people who skip out on bonds. You need someone who specializes in people who want to get lost. Called a guy who used to work for me. He's in his mid-seventies like me, but still has his wits. Also has a son working with him who he says is almost as good as he is. They wanted a thousand a week plus expenses so I told them to go ahead and I'd pay the first week if you weren't interested."
"You have my authority to pay them for the first month in advance and tell them there's a five thousand dollar bonus if they locate Alex."
"I'll call the old man tonight. He still keeps weird hours he developed over the years following and looking for people. By the way, I hope you do reopen Boys' Camp. Jordan says it was a great place and could be even better. Good luck with the customer."
Josh had barely hung up when the phone rang again. This time it was the aviation service. They would have a plane waiting for him. Since they had already ascertained he could fly a twin-engine turbo, the lady said she wasn't sure whether it would be twin- or single-engine and he told her either was fine. When he stepped back outside, he told Shane he could sleep an extra hour since they would leave at eight, not seven. "Ever been to Charleston?"
"Been a lot of places, but never Charleston."
"How about you, Louise?"
"Only for a forestry conference once. Only had a short time we were not in sessions."
"If you're interested, you could do a tour while I take care of the Blankenship customer."
"Sounds good," Shane said. "You up to it, Louise?"
The flight was smooth and they made good time. On the way into town from the airport, Josh gave the two some pocket money and a credit card to use for a tour and lunch. They were back to where cell phones were usable and Josh told Shane to get a prepaid phone and give him a call as soon as he had the number and to leave a voice mail if he didn't answer. "Enjoy yourselves and get a taste of Charleston while I placate an unhappy customer."
The customer just needed assurance that the control modules he needed would be there when he needed them. Seems there had been a recent period when shipments weren't there as scheduled and he had to shut down a production line until they arrived. Josh was furious, but managed not to show it until he was ready to head back to the airport. He took the customer to lunch and over lunch told him what had happened after the Old Man's death and assured him Blankenship was back in good and responsible hands. After lunch, on the way back to the customer's office, Josh checked and had a voice mail from Shane and entered the number into his phone and called and told him to meet him at the airport.
It was two when they met at the airport. Shane called Jordan VanWinkle as soon as he could and found they had appointments with the deputies of both the Superintendent of Education and Director of Social Services. Turns out starting a private charter school was mostly a matter of paperwork while getting Boys' Camp involved in DSS looked like something no sane person would want. Sure, DSS could refer boys to them, but they wanted to micromanage the program, mostly to cover their asses. When Shane had mentioned Josh's talking with DSS to the deputy from the Department of Education, he did a "you never heard it from me" speech and said they should avoid DSS at all costs and work through juvenile justice. He gave Shane the name of a person to contact.
Josh was very discouraged when he, Louise and Shane got in the plane and headed for Asheville, but Shane told him they needed to speak with the contact he was given. It lifted Josh's spirits a bit. They would have had to stay in Asheville had the Sentinel Mountain airstrip not been lit.
Louise had left a Jeep at the strip and drove Josh to his place, then headed toward Shane's. Josh wondered if that was a matter of convenience, friendship or maybe more. Well, that was none of his business. Janie had gone to a church meeting and left his supper in the fridge: a salad and a plate to be nuked. It was still good.
After he had eaten, he realized it was only four in San Francisco so he called Luc and they talked about how soon he could move to Sentinel Mountain. Luc had, until this point, been thinking in terms of a year and got pretty nervous when Josh had talked of six months or less. Josh could detect a new confidence in his voice when Josh said he though he should be ready to turn it all over to Luc in two months max. Luc raised no objections.
Luc also told him Mrs. Blankenship asked that he call her. Josh debated doing so, but finally did. As she talked, he realized it had taken some fancy footwork by very expensive lawyers, but Kelly got off with two to five years. He also got a reprieve to spend three months in rehab which counted toward his sentence. Mrs. Blankenship wanted to say Kelly had been treated unfairly because he was wealthy, but Josh had no patience with that and politely set her straight. Of course, since he had kept her out of the poorhouse, she should have been grateful, but actually resented it as often happens when someone wants someone to blame.
After he hung up the phone, Josh made up a to-do list. He had rented the small plane to fly from Asheville to Sentinel Mountain. As part of his high flying act, Kelly had purchased a six-seat turbo-prop, and the company had kept the small one as well. The company never used the turbo and needed the money, so Josh had bought it at a bargain. He'd talk to Rob about getting a real landing strip that could handle it. He also needed to think about another pilot.
There was also the communication problem. He realized there was so much he needed to be doing/learning about Sentinel Mountain and he would be all the way across the country. Blankenship was doing okay and he could always be on call. In fact, his being on the east coast could take a load off the San Francisco office like his trip to Charleston. Then there was the question of an internet connection. Dial-up was simply inadequate. He really needed to be here and until he got here, he needed quick communication with the Sentinel Mountain family. The more he thought about it, the more he realized the first priority had to be the communication problem. Josh called Mr. Sun, Mr. T'an's nephew, and explained the problem. "Know anyone you could recommend to work on the problem? By the way," he quickly added, "this is a personal project, not a Blankenship one."
Mr. Sun asked if he could take it on as a side project. Josh asked him if he had time and he said he did as the department was practically running itself. "You had a fine, well-tuned staff thanks to Mr. Soares. All it needed was someone in charge and occasional hand-holding. I could work on my time and if there is no problem with my using Blankenship's facilities, I think I could come up with something. There's a half dozen or so in the department who would probably like to join a team since we get together to solve imaginary problems Wednesday evening anyway. Kind of geek poker night. A real problem would add spice to the game."
"Sounds good. Check with the other guys and see if they're interested and I'll see you in a couple days."
Next morning, Josh found Rob and asked about lengthening the runway and upgrading it to take the turboprop. They drove out to the strip and took a careful look. "It is in the mountains and I wouldn't trust just any pilot to land here, but I see no problem if the length of the runway could be doubled and paved."
"I see no problem with that," Rob said. "I know a man who could rock a baby to sleep on a 'dozer blade. I know we're talking more than paving a driveway, so I'll need specifications."
"I'll have them to you in a day or two," Josh replied. "By the way, until we get something better, I'll order fax machines for you, Jake, Shane, Bob and Janie."
"Janie will have nothing to do with it. Put one in your office, but if you need to contact Janie other than by phone, fax me." Josh nodded.
The next morning he, reluctantly, said goodbye to his new family and flew to Asheville where he spent an hour with Jordan VanWinkle discussing the paper jungle they would have to slash through to get Boys' Camp ready. He had called earlier to have new lines run into the valley and get fax machines installed. They were being delivered as he talked to Rob. He had asked a friend he knew at the FAA about the runway and got that squared away, and the first fax Rob got was the specifications for the new runway. He also chose a community bank and arranged a line of credit before driving to the airport. He had a noon flight to Atlanta and a flight out for San Francisco an hour and a half later. He worked on his laptop, consolidating his thinking about Sentinel Mountain. He had a very good feeling about his time there and his future on the mountain -- even though he'd be living in the valley. With pleasant thoughts he drifted off to sleep.
There was a car waiting for him at the airport and he was soon back in his apartment. It was only eight in San Francisco and he had slept on the plane, but he was still tired. He undressed, showered, slipped on a robe and was looking over what he had written on the plane when there was a quiet knock on the door. He was surprised when he opened the door and saw Luc and Cāndido standing outside, Luc carrying a tray. "Hello," Luc said, "we are your new neighbors. Moved in this week. Surely you are not ready for bed, but if so, we'll go. We thought we'd welcome you back with some wine, good bread and cheese."
"Come in! I definitely needed a shower, so I just put on a robe since I wasn't going out. Come in."
Luc sat the tray on the coffee table, poured three glasses of wine and asked, "How did you find your wilderness? I suppose conditions are primitive."
Josh laughed and said, "Wait until you see the photos." He plugged his computer into the large flat screen on the wall and said, "You are about to see more of Sentinel Mountain than you want, I suspect."
Josh had organized his photos while on the plane and the opening one was stunning. When he had walked out on Sentinel Rock and sat down, Jake had picked up Josh's camera and made a photo of him. "The Lord looks over his domain," he laughed.
"That's yours?" Luc asked, his voice going up an octave.
"All of it to the top of the ridge you see in the distance and you can't see the ends of the valley. Primitive? Well, aside from the communication system, it is very up-to-date. I talked to Mr. Sun and he and a bunch of his buddies who play engineering games instead of poker on Wednesday nights are taking that on as a project. As soon as the airstrip is extended and paved so it can handle the turboprop, I'll see about their getting a couple days off and fly them out to really see what they are up against."
"When do we get to see the place?" Cāndido asked.
"I plan to fly back at the end of the month. If you can pry your husband away from the job, I'd be delighted to have you fly with me. It is beautiful and the people are wonderful."
"How do they make a living? Looks to me like it's all wilderness," Luc said.
"Like people don't live very well in the wilderness," Cāndido said. "How a Brazilian savage got hooked up with this soft-bellied city boy I'll never figure out," he laughed.
"Actually, they are all employees, kinda, of Sentinel Mountain. I say kinda because they consider the place theirs and care for it as such. They're like an extended family. As a matter of fact, in the short time I was there, they became my family, the only family I have." The photos was still going on as they talked and when a picture of the house came up, Josh said, "That's where I live."
"It's huge!" Luc said.
"Yeah, I was thinking about company meetings and think we should meet there. Second floor has three suites -- each with two bedrooms -- and another six bedrooms, for a total of twelve, so it can house a lot of people. Oh, that's where the foreman/manager lives. He and his wife have two children. The son, Randy, is a sophomore in college and wants to be a vet and Jan, their daughter, finishes high school this year. I think she's doing two years in the community college while Randy finishes. At least for the present, she plans to be a teacher."
Luc and Cāndido were really captivated by the photos and asked a million questions before the last one appeared on the screen. Then they started asking about what Josh planned to do with the station -- he had explained why it was called a station. He told them about the cattle operation and all and how he planned to get Boys' Camp open again.
It was just after midnight when Luc and Cāndido took their leave and Josh was in bed and asleep ten minutes later.
When he arrived at the office the next morning, everyone was full of questions. He decided he'd do a culling job on the photos and set up lunch for all interested in the conference room the next day so all could see the pictures and ask questions so he didn't have to say the same thing over and over and could get some work done.
Actually, there was very little work to be done. He had picked a good team and it was doing what it was supposed to be doing, so there was little left for him to do. He did have a note to call one of the suppliers he had visited a couple weeks ago and found that his competition was offering more than Blankenship was paying. "Of course I'll honor our contract," he had said, "but it's up for renewal in two months. Thought you'd been a good customer, so I'd give you a head's up." Josh thanked him and hung up. On a hunch, he decided to check the state of the supplier's company and found it was cash short and he suspected needed a boost in prices to stay afloat. He checked with other suppliers and discovered they were all in a bind. They had signed contracts for a fixed price for the component they made for Blankenship and one of the main raw materials had tripled in price during the life of the contract. The raw material was in limited supply, not because it was rare, but because it was controlled by a small country whose dictator was both power and money hungry. Josh called Mr. T'an and asked about other sources of supply.
"While the country in question controls the major source, there are other sources. They need developing and couldn't supply the world, but I know one in Asia and one in Peru which could supply what we need."
"How quickly could both be developed?"
"Three months max. They could be producing some within a month."
"Do you have people you could assign to see if the Asian one can be developed? Be generous with royalties, but see if you can tie it up."
"I'm on it," Mr. T'an said.
Josh called Luc and asked how hard it would be to deal with Peru where the other small source was. Luc said he had some contacts and asked what was up. Josh explained the situation and he assured Josh they could get exclusive rights to the material in Peru.
"How long before it's wrapped up?"
"Probably a week, two weeks max."
Both men were successful and in four weeks, both operations had stockpiles of the raw material ready to ship. Josh contacted the two other suppliers who produced parts for Blankenship which required the raw material, and told them they would be supplied at fifteen percent below the market price of the material and Blankenship would expect a reduction in their prices in return. Supplier and consumer were both pleased with the deal and the excess production from the two operations were sold on the open market and almost immediately added to Blankenship Ltd's bottom line and the living standards of Peru and a small Asian country.
Later in the afternoon, Mr. Sun called and asked about going to Sentinel Mountain over the weekend to check out the communications situation.
"Only problem is getting there," Josh told him. "Getting to Asheville is no problem, but it's a long drive from there. You don't happen to have any pilots in your group do you?"
"I've applied for my American certification," he said, "but it's being held up by some bureaucrat."
"Call the company lawyer and have him get on it. I'll see if Walt will check you out so he can have a co-pilot. How many will be going?"
"Just two of us."
Three weeks after he had been in North Carolina Josh asked Luc and Cāndido if they were ready to go to Sentinel Mountain and they gave him an enthusiastic "Yes" and he asked if they could get off Friday or Monday. Monday was better for both, so Josh suggested he and Luc work late Thursday and come in early Friday so they could leave at noon Friday for the Mountain. They even beat the noon departure time, changing their tickets for a nine o'clock flight which landed in Asheville shortly after six Asheville time. The small single-engine plane Josh had rented was waiting for them and they quickly transferred baggage and headed for the Mountain. When he called Rob to tell him he and two guests would be arriving, Rob said he suspected there would be a surprise waiting for them.
Both Cāndido and Luc found the mountains very beautiful. Josh was flying very low, below the tops of the higher mountains, a sly grin on his face when he started a sudden climb to clear the top of a mountain. As he flew over the peak, he laughed and said, "Below you is Sentinel Rock on the side of Sentinel Mountain and spread out below you is Sentinel Mountain Station, soon, I hope, to be my home." His approach had been different from the first time he flew in, so he had to turn the plane to approach the airstrip. As he did so, he saw the lighted strip except the runway was twice as long as the grass strip had been and it was paved. A smile covered his face.
Rob was waiting for him in the new Jeep and welcomed him with open arms, literally. Josh's arm was still around his shoulders when he introduced him to Luc and Cāndido. "Luc, Cāndido, welcome to the station. Josh, welcome back. I know you are tired from your trip, so let's get moving. Louise has cold beer waiting and Janie has spent the day barbequing. Supper awaits, but you have time to get washed up and have a few minutes to rest. Shane decided you'd want all of us here to meet your friends, so it's party night if you're up to it."
"I think we can handle it," Josh said.
Soon the two visitors had been introduced to Janie and she showed Luc and Cāndido to their room. "Now I don't understand how, but Josh says you two are married -- both husbands he said -- so I figured you'd sleep together. If I got that wrong, there's two bedrooms in the suite ready for guests. No rush as we'll eat when y'all and Josh are ready."
Janie left the two men who embraced and exchanged a kiss, which became more and more passionate. It was Cāndido who finally called a halt and reminded Luc they were expected downstairs. They did decide they had time for a quick shower and changed into jeans and knit shirts. As they were preparing to leave the room, Cāndido said, "Josh said we'd better bring a jacket or sweater so I suspect we need to take one down with us."
"In early summer?" Luc responded.
"If we need them, you have to come get them," Cāndido laughed.
The weather was perfect. The day had been warm, but as soon as the sun slipped behind the mountains, the temperature started dropping. The two stepped onto the patio and noticed the temperature. Cāndido looked at Luc who, with a sheepish grin, turned and went upstairs and returned with jackets for the two.
The meal was outstanding and the company interesting. They answered questions about the mountains and the station. Josh hadn't noticed at first that Bob and Sandra were absent. When he asked about then, Janie said they had gone to a seminar on grass-fed beef in Raleigh. He noticed that Shane and Louise seemed to be getting along very well and he hoped something was developing there, but said nothing.
After supper, the group dispersed quickly after Janie said, "Folks, Josh and his friends have been traveling all day and need their rest. "You're all expected for breakfast here at the house at seven. You can visit and do whatever then."
Luc and Cāndido had been in a rush when they were in their suite before dinner, but now they had time to really look at it. Cāndido said, "Luc, babe, this suite is as large as our apartment."
"And there are three up here, but what impressed me is the furnishings. The furniture is obviously all handcrafted from such beautiful wood. I recognize the design, but can't recall the designer's name, but Norwegian I'm sure. And just think, all this started because a group of young men were willing to risk their lives to defeat Hitler."
"Elijah was willing to do that even though his family and community shunned him because he loved a man, as was true of several of those in his group. Luc, you and I have been insulted at times, your parents haven't disowned you, though sometimes I think they would like to, but we have had it easy."
"Dido, I've had it easier than you. While your mother's people accept you, your father's people not only have a problem with your being gay, but also with your being a native. Still, we are doing well." Luc gathered Cāndido in his arms and kissed him deeply. The kiss became more and more passionate and when they broke it, Luc said, "Now we are in no rush and no-one's waiting for us." He then began slowly undressing his dark lover while they gazed into each other's eyes. When he had finished undressing Cāndido, Luc fell to his knees and began using his mouth to make love to the thick, dark cock between his lover's legs. He reached up and started toying with his low-hanging balls. In minutes Cāndido's cock was pouring the sweet taste of his precum into Luc's mouth.
Cāndido reached down, put his hands under Luc's armpits and lifted him to his feet. He covered his light-skinned lover's mouth with his and as his hands finished undressing him, both stood, cocks rigid, mouths pressed together and tongues doing battle. The two lovers walked to the bed, lay down and mouths found cocks and soon both were on the edge. Luc threw his legs over Cāndido's shoulders, exposing his rosebud. Anticipating the night, Cāndido had placed a tube of lube on the bedside table. He took it and started working a lubed finger into Luc, then another and finally a third. Luc was whimpering and begging Cāndido to enter him. Cāndido lubed his cock well, pressed it against Luc's rosebud and started entering slowly. Luc grabbed his hips and pulled him inside until his lover's cock was completely buried in him.
Cāndido began long, slow thrusts into Luc then gradually increased them as he also pulled back further until only his head remained inside before thrusting deep. Both were near the edge when Cāndido pushed deep inside and lay still. Luc dropped his legs beside his lover and pulled him atop himself and covered his mouth with his. When they broke the kiss, Luc said, "Dido, what did I ever do to deserve you, my dark beauty?"
Cāndido kissed his eyes and said, "I guess we were just meant to be," and kissed his eyes again. Cāndido rolled over, carrying Luc with him. Once he was on his back, Luc started riding his cock. Soon Cāndido reached the point of no return and exploded inside Luc. Luc, who had been as hard as Cāndido the entire time they had been making love, shot pulse after pulse of hot man's seed over Cāndido's chest and belly without him or his lover touching his cock. They lay together, wrapped in each other's arms and legs until the results of their love-making became cold and uncomfortable between them. Luc rolled off of Cāndido, picked him up and carried him to the very large shower.
After a wonderful night's sleep, the two awoke very early and made love again. In the afterglow of their love-making, Luc said, "Dido, you know in the back of his mind, Josh thinks of this as the place where he and Alex will live together happily. I realized that when he was talking about Sentinel Mountain in his office, I don't think he realizes it yet and I fear what will happen when he does."
Cāndido, who -- Luc had learned shortly after they became lovers -- often saw what others could not see, said, "Luc, I can tell you, Josh will be happy in this place. With Alex? I don't know. Probably not, but he will be happy."
Editors: Jesse and Scott
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