Arkadelphia Plantation

by Sequoyah


Chapter Fifteen

Albert was waiting for his family at the Taylors’. He grabbed LaLisa and Samuel in a hug and asked, “What’s going on?” LaLisa, in a surprisingly calm manner, told him about the ‘visit’ by the sheet-covered hoodlums. Albert was livid.

“Let’s get everyone settled,” Ethan said, “then we’ll talk. Albert, you and LaLisa take the guest room. Claire Bell, take the other downstairs bedroom.”

Samuel, who had debated between his two heroes, Ethan and Jamie, had finally chosen Jamie who was holding him in his arms. “I’m going with Shamie,” he announced and that was that.

“Ethan, it’s foolish for me to stay here when I have a perfectly good place at the house. Albert, take me there.”

“Claire Bell, Albert can take you after we have supper.” Claire Bell nodded agreement and joined Sally Ann in the kitchen.

Everyone assigned a place to sleep, Ethan called Rich and told him of the episode. “Rich, I think it’s all beginning to make sense.” Rich agreed. Ethan invited him to come for supper and afterward talk with LaLisa. Rich said he’d never turn down a meal he didn’t have to fix.

Before he had hung up the phone, Ethan called the sheriff and asked him to come out. The sheriff asked if it was an emergency and when Ethan told him it was not, the sheriff said he was pretty tied up, but would be out as soon as he was free.

Sally Ann had prepared a large pot of spaghetti sauce, expecting to freeze most of it for later meals, so there was plenty for the unexpected guests. She put on a large pot of water to boil for the spaghetti and fixed a large salad while Claire Bell made garlic bread. Rich came in just as Sally Ann dropped the pasta in the boiling water.

After they had finished supper, Claire Bell said she did not want coffee and dessert and asked Albert to take her to the house. When he came back he said he had reluctantly left his mother since Davis and Molly had not returned from their dinner party, but she had insisted.

Sally Ann had just served coffee and dessert when Davis burst in, obviously as mad as a wet hornet. “Pardon my French ladies, but how in the hell are people riding around in white sheets in the twenty-first century? I thought that nonsense was over years ago.”

“I don’t think it’s the same,” Albert said. “This is about money and an illegal racket, not race.”

“How can men in white sheets terrorizing black women and children not be about race? Maybe it’s a profit-making racket, but anytime someone dresses up like a cowardly Klan member it’s because of the history of the Klan regarding race.” Davis was on a tear and the best thing to do was let him run down. “My granddaddy was a Klansman,” Davis said. “Because of that, there was some bad blood between him and my dad. I learned disgust for the Klan from the time I could walk. Now it seems at least the image of the old Klan is alive and well and doing what it has always done, terrorizing and intimidating.” He was running down—but not there yet.

“Agreed,” Rich said, “and if they can be caught, they will be charged with that, but Albert is also right if I have puzzled this out correctly. Ethan deserves credit for starting my thinking on this. How do you see this now, Ethan?” The sheriff walked in as Rich spoke, nodded to everyone, but remained quiet.

Ethan said, “Starting with what Eli told us about frightened people leaving jobs they had had for years, and what we have learned from the undocumented men, it seems pretty clear. Someone or someones are smuggling men from Mexico into Bragg County, maybe other places as well. Regardless of the method, they make it clear that workers on plantations leave or suffer serious consequences. Once the workers have been gone long enough, the smugglers appear as temporary labor providers. Desperate, the plantation owners pay dearly for workers, the providers pocket most of that money and pay the workers practically nothing. Given the laws both workers and owners have broken, both remain silent.”

“Exactly,” Rich agreed. “Now Albert appears and works toward throwing a monkey wrench into the smoothly running machine and he has to be frightened into silence. Perfectly logical conclusion drawn from the facts, but without a main ingredient. We don’t know who’s behind this.”

“Evening all,” the sheriff spoke for the first time. “No proof—yet—but from what my deputies and I have heard, Rudy and Jake Ballock, maybe the Braggton Chief of Police as well, are involved. Not at a very high level, since none have brains enough to scheme their way out of a wet paper poke. We need to catch some of the pseudo-Klansmen red-handed. Any suggestions?”

“Sure,” Albert said. “They have given me a warning. I suspect they’ll be back in force if I do not knuckle under. I’ll be bait to lure them into a trap and you spring it on them.”

“Good idea, Albert,” Sheriff Jackson said, “except for the fact that you’re not going to endanger your family.” Albert started to argue, but Rich joined Sheriff Jackson in forbidding it.

Other ideas were tossed around, but everyone kept coming back the fact that the villains had to be lured into a trap. Finally Scotty, who had remained quiet, said, “Look, there are two parts to the idea. Albert shouldn’t be in danger working at the seed and feed. That’s where he is expected to be and there will be people around. All he needs to do is get a bigger mouth and really talk up folks resisting moving. Maybe even post signs for a meeting somewhere. You can be sure the Klan types will strike as they did before, while Albert is away. We need someone to pose as LaLisa and be visible around the house. If the fake LaLisa never goes outside, it should be easy to fool fools. So, LaLisa and Albert make a good display of Albert’s leaving, then she is sneaked out the back. If I remember correctly, there’s a grove of pines very close to the back of the house with a firebreak running through it. She could walk down that and someone pick her up at the highway.

“Before daylight, Sheriff Jackson and Rich could get men hiding in the house and barn. Police cars can drive far enough down the fire breaks to be hidden. A fire break meets the highway about a quarter to half mile on either side of Albert’s place. When the Klansmen come and drive past, the cars come out and block the highway, trapping them. As soon as they do any overt action, the men come out and nab them.”

Everyone was silent, thinking. In a few minutes Rich spoke, “It might work. There is one problem though. Sheriff Jackson is pretty sure he has a spy among his deputies.”

“Have any idea who it is?” Davis asked.

“Fairly sure,” the sheriff replied, “I’m almost positive it is one of three.”

“Could you pull this off without them?” Jamie asked.

“I think so.”

Again, everyone was silent. Then Jamie spoke up, “You’re thinking about setting up road blocks, right? How about you assign five men to road blocks. Put the three suspects on the edges of the county, as far from Albert’s as possible. They won’t have to know that the other two will be less than a mile apart or where they will be. Problem solved.”

Rich grinned and said, “You’re thinking, Jamie.”

“A rare and beautiful thing,” Scotty said in mock seriousness.

“Okay, let’s get this planned,” Ethan said.

“Look, I know the area as well as anybody. I’ll see that LaLisa gets away and comes here,” Ethan said.

“We have the perfect LaLisa except I’m blond, blond and white, white, white, but LaLisa and I are about the same size,” Scotty said.

“Mostly,” Albert laughed and looked pointedly at LaLisa’s bust. She was well endowed.

“I’ll dye my hair,” Scotty said, “and do blackface, sorry if it offends anyone.”

Both Rich and Sheriff Jackson agreed Scotty was the right size, but were much opposed to putting a civilian at risk. Finally Scotty and Ethan both said they were in and refused to budge. “We’re wasting time we should be spending on planning,” Ethan argued. The sheriff and Rich had not given up their opposition, but put it aside and they all devoted themselves to planning. An hour and a half later, they agreed they had the best plan they could come up with and selected the following Friday to carry it out. In the meantime, Albert was to become more vocal in his demand that people resist. Sheriff Jackson would arrange for deputies to post flyers about a resistance meeting all over the county.

The threatening phone calls started Monday afternoon, but stopped when Albert came home. LaLisa didn’t tell him about them. Wednesday there were threatening letters which just about undid LaLisa. When Albert came home Wednesday, LaLisa insisted Samuel be taken to Arkadelphia until it was all over. The Taylors had doted on the child practically since the minute he was born and he adored them, so he was delighted to go. He could also spend time being spoiled by Claire Bell.

Thursday morning there was an effigy hanging from a tree in front of Albert and LaLisa’s house. Attached was a sign which read, “Uppity Nigger, this could be you.” LaLisa was ready to either tear into the Ballocks or leave for the hills. Instead, she waited for Scotty.

Scotty arrived about mid-morning dressed in work clothes, his head covered by a doo rag. Inside, LaLisa got busy with his hair. Scotty had bought black hair dye he had been assured was not permanent. After his hair had been colored, it was not really black, so LaLisa dried it and dyed it again, achieving a passable black. She then cornrowed his longish hair. It was curly enough to work up decently. When she had finished, they both laughed at the black cornrowed hair and pale skin. Even with having been in the sun all summer, albeit with sun screen, it took a stretch of the imagination to say he had tanned, although he had—a tiny bit. Finally, LaLisa got him fitted with a bra filled with polyester stuffing and they started trying to find a dress he could wear. When she finished with him, she examined her handiwork and said, “Scotty, you make a darn good looking woman.”

“Well, don’t expect to see me in drag after tomorrow! This bra is killing me.”

“Be glad you can wear a house dress, otherwise you’d be in heels.” Scotty took off the bra and dress, put the doo rag back in place to hide his now black hair and left after telling LaLisa he’d see her about 4:30 while it was still dark.

Thursday evening, Davis told the others that Scotty and Ethan had appointments and wouldn’t be working Friday. “Dek, Ash, since there are only three of us, we’ll haul posts and drop them off. When we finish, one can operate the post hole digger and the other two drop the posts in place and fill the holes.”

Sally Ann called Ethan and Scotty at 3:30. She had coffee and a huge breakfast ready. “You don’t know when you’ll get to eat,” she said, which was true.

Ethan drove up the fire break and parked directly behind the house. He and Scotty headed through the pines for the house. It took a while since it was still dark, making walking treacherous. There were no lights on in the house when the two reached the edge of the woods and they dashed out into the open, headed for the back door. LaLisa and Albert were waiting for them. Shortly after 5:00, Ethan saw shadowy figures crossing the yard, headed for the barn. About the same time, Sheriff Jackson and Rich came in the back door followed by four other deputies. All were carrying impressive weapons.

LaLisa and Scotty got busy getting him dressed. When he was clothed, LaLisa started applying makeup to his face, arms and hands. Soon his color matched her warm chocolate skin. “Damn, boy, you make a good looking girl,” one of the deputies said.

“Don’t you know better than to call a young man a boy?” Scotty shot back. “And if you’re interested, I’m taken,” he said as he gave a swing of his hips, sashayed over to Ethan and kissed him on the cheek. It was still dark but light enough for everyone to see Ethan’s red face. The men were having to work very hard to keep from laughing out loud.

Ethan suddenly remembered the cross burning had taken place in the later afternoon and whispered Rich, “You know we may be here all day.”

“I don’t think so,” Rich whispered back. “The sheriff’s assignment board has areas for special patrolling and Jug Town Road, here, will have two cars patrolling beginning at noon and ending at 5:30. If anything’s going to happen, it’ll happen before noon.”

It was daylight when Sheriff Jackson whispered, “Show’s on.” Albert and LaLisa walked outside, stopping to exchange a couple of kisses. If anyone was watching there could be no doubt LaLisa was at home. She stood waving as Albert drove away. She came back inside and she and Ethan scooted out the backdoor headed for the truck. They got in the truck and headed toward the highway. “Damn. We made a huge blunder,” Ethan said. “Where is the sheriff’s deputy parked who is supposed to do the road block?”

“In this fire break!” LaLisa said. “We can’t drive out.”

“Well, I don’t think it’ll be wise to just sit here. We’ll move over several rows so we will be pretty well hidden from anyone in the firebreak and head for the highway.” They had walked half an hour and Ethan was pretty sure they would be safe waiting at the end of the row of pines.

Still back from the highway, he took out his phone and called Davis and told him the situation. Davis said he’d pick him up at the highway. “I’m on my way. Be on the lookout for me,” Davis responded.

“You stay here and I’ll go where I can spot Davis,” Ethan said. Just as he spoke, a shot rang out and a bullet whizzed by them. Ethan shoved LaLisa to the ground. He quickly leaned forward to cover her body with his as a second shot rang out and Ethan fell across LaLisa. LaLisa was afraid to move. She could felt warm blood and knew that Ethan had been shot. She managed to reach Ethan’s phone, dialed 911 and told the dispatcher their situation. The dispatcher said she would contact the sheriff at once. Seconds later, LaLisa heard sirens and then several shots followed by silence.

“Ethan! Ethan!” LaLisa heard Scotty calling.

“Over here!” she shouted back.

Seconds later Scotty and Rich came running through the pines. “Ethan’s been shot,” she said. She was still covered by his body.

“Let me get him,” Rich said. “I’m an EMT.” He gently lifted Ethan off of LaLisa and lay him on the pine needles. “He took a round in his chest. He’s still breathing and while he’s lost a lot of blood, the bullet didn’t sever an artery for which we can be thankful. Scotty, rip me bandages from the skirt of your dress.” Ethan and LaLisa immediately attacked the dress and handed bandages to Rich who expertly applied them to Ethan’s wound. “That probably won’t completely stop the bleeding, but it sure will slow it down. Sheriff Jackson has already called an ambulance and it should be here any minute.” Rich took out his phone and told the sheriff they needed the ambulance in the worst way and was told it was on its way. Less than ten minutes later, Ethan and a deputy who had taken a shot though his thigh were on their way to the hospital.

Scotty was determined to follow the ambulance and, in spite of Rich’s strong suggestion he get cleaned up first, he insisted on going as he was. When they reached the hospital, Scotty, essentially in black face and wearing a torn dress walked into the hospital oblivious to the stares directed his way. A nurse told Rich that Ethan had been taken directly to an operating room and she would let them know something as soon as she could find out anything. She looked at Scotty and said, “I don’t know what you’ve been up to young man ...”

“Ma’am,” Rich said, “you can read all about it in tomorrow’s paper. This young man and the one in surgery are heroes.”

“I’m sorry,” the nurse said. “Perhaps you’d like to get cleaned up. I’ll get you some scrubs. You can use the shower right through that door.”

“Thank you,” Scotty responded.

Scotty got undressed and in the shower. Suddenly he started trembling and shaking and tears poured down his cheeks. He couldn’t stop the groan that started and rose up until it burst from his lips. He heard the door slam open and Rich called, “Scotty, are you all right?” Scotty answered with a loud sob. Rich reached into the shower and grabbed Scotty to himself in a bear hug as he stroked his back. Scotty grabbed him like he was a drowning man.

“What if he dies, Rich? What if Ethan dies?”

“We just have to hope and pray he doesn’t,” Rich responded.

Scotty gradually released Rich and said, “I got you all wet.”

“So I’ll get some scrubs too.”

“I’m okay,” Scotty said and got back in the shower. He scrubbed off the makeup and washed as much dye from his cornrowed hair as he could. He’d have to take it down before he could get it all out. When he had dressed in green scrubs, he went back to the waiting room where LaLisa, Albert, Sheriff Jackson and Davis had now gathered. Rich was not with them. “Heard anything?” he asked.

“Rich’s checking on that right now,” the sheriff said. “The deputy is fine. The shot went in the front of his thigh and out the back without doing major damage. All we have heard about Ethan is that he has been stabilized but, of course, is in critical condition.”

LaLisa brought Scotty a coke, sat down beside him and took his hand. “He’ll make it, how can he do otherwise when such a beautiful creature is waiting for him?” Scotty looked at her, a puzzled look on his face. “Of course I know,” she said and patted his hand.

It was twenty minutes before Rich came back. “First, Ethan. He has been stabilized, the bleeding essentially stopped. He lost a lot of blood and they are cross-matching blood now for a transfusion. The problem is that the bullet did not exit and is lodged near the spine. The surgeon, Dr. Bryant, said it had to come out, but he did not feel he was qualified to do it. He also feels Ethan does not need to be moved, should not be moved. He said the best surgeon he knew for the job was an Army doctor at Fort Benning, but of course he wasn’t available. When I asked why he answered, ‘I said he’s in the Army.’ I asked his name, got on the phone to my boss and told him we needed the doctor here in Audubon immediately if not sooner.

“I really like my new boss. He didn’t ask why, just said for me to sit tight. He called back a few minutes ago and told me the doctor was in the air on his way here. He should be here in half an hour. After he gave me the news he said, ‘Rich, this better be worth it. I left a row of ruffled feathers as far as the eye can see.’ He then told me how one self-important blowhard had to have a kick in the ass to make things happen. ‘Took the Attorney General to finally make it happen, but it’s happening.’ Lord, deliver me from self-important people!”

Forty-five minutes later, a nurse came out and told us Maj. Stamper was scrubbing up. “He has looked over the x-rays and talked with Dr. Bryant who has been attending Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor is in the operating room being prepped for surgery. I’ll let you know when there are new developments.”

Sheriff Jackson, LaLisa and Albert left, saying they would check back later. Davis had gone back to Arkadelphia to let the folks there know what had happened and to bring back Sally Ann and Jamie. He didn’t want Jamie driving after being told his brother had been shot. Rich walked to the information desk, presented his ID and asked about a private place where he could make a report. After a lot of foot dragging, the hospital administrator came down and Rich very carefully explained he needed to make a report to the Department of Justice. “I have a secure phone, but I need privacy. I also need to be with the young man sitting in waiting room. He and his partner were in a Department of Justice operation today and his partner was shot, near fatally. He is in the operating room as we speak. A surgeon was flown in from Fort Benning to handle his surgery so, I think, you can see the level at which we are operating. I would hate to have to have the Attorney General intervene again, but I will.”

The administrator finally realized he had lost the pissing contest and said, “That won’t be necessary, Agent Long. You can use the conference room off my office.”

“Could you have the nurse call me if there is news about Mr. Taylor?”

“Surely, no problem.”

Rich took Scotty with him to the conference room where he dictated his report of the day’s operation. Scotty learned that eleven men who had attempted to storm the house had been arrested. The sheriff had been wrong about the spy among his deputies. One he had trusted had the road block at the end of the firebreak and had shot Ethan. When he saw the officers closing in on him, he panicked and started firing on the officers and was shot. He had died instantly. Three of those arrested had started talking as soon as offered a chance. “We have enough violations to send all to prison for a good stay,” Rich dictated.

When he finished, he told Scotty he thought the back of the human smuggling racket had been broken, but he wasn’t sure human beings were the only thing being smuggled. Neither Jake nor Rudy had been involved in the attempt to shut up Albert.

“I’m sure they are a level or two above the felons we jailed today,” he added. “I think Jamie has a keen eye and when he says Jake has moved up the drug trade chain, he is not just guessing.” The phone in the conference room rang and Rich answered it. When he hung up he said, “We need to go down. Jamie and Sally Ann have arrived.”

After a three-way hug, Scotty told the new arrivals an Army doctor from Fort Benning had been flown in and was in surgery with Ethan. “He’s the best, so we hope all will be well.” Then it was wait, wait, wait.

After sitting for half an hour, Scotty had to move. He and Jamie were walking up and down the hall when Scotty noticed a chapel. He went in and Jamie went in with him. Scotty knelt and simply let his heart cry out. Jamie knelt beside him as large tears ran down his cheeks. Scotty put an arm around Jamie’s shoulders and Jamie put his arms around Scotty’s waist. The two boys stayed in the chapel for fifteen minutes.

When they left, Scotty thought of Fr. Mason and called him. “I’ll be there in ten minutes,” he said and was. Scotty told him what had happened and broke down as he did so. Fr. Mason held him until he got control of his emotions. He then hugged Jamie and Sally Ann. While Fr. Mason was being introduced to Davis, a nurse came out and asked for Ethan Taylor’s family. The three Taylor children raised a hand. “Ethan is out of surgery. Major Stamper will be out as soon as Ethan is in ICU and he has cleaned up. He has asked that you gather in the conference room in twenty minutes. You’ll find the conference room down the hall on the left.”

They were all in the conference room when Maj. Stamper—a well-built African-American—walked in and said, “I’m Maj. Stamper, an Army surgeon stationed at Fort Benning. I was asked ...” he paused, smiled, and said, “I’m in the Army. I wasn’t exactly asked, but I am glad I was asked to attend to this young man and I’ll say more about that later. Now, how’s he doing? I want to show you what he was up against.” He put an x-ray on a viewer. “You can clearly see his spine and the bullet. The bullet was in a position very close to the spine and was not held in place. It could have moved at any time—anytime. If it moved, it could have damaged nerves with disastrous results. The problem was removing it without damage to the same nerves. You can breathe easy. Here’s the bullet,” he said as he opened a folded gauze. “I can’t say with absolute surety that I did no further damage, but I am 99.99% sure that none was done. I am sure Ethan will recover fully. He will, however, have a long road ahead, not so much from the bullet itself, but from the loss of blood resulting from the shot, but he will be okay, I’m sure.

“Now I want to address Ethan’s bravery and I understand there was another teenager involved.”

“Yes,” Rich said, pointing to Scotty, “Scotty McCarter.”

“Mr. McCarter, I understand you and Mr. Taylor were the main architects of a plan to thwart men who were terrifying African-Americans by dredging up the Ku Klux Klan or pretending to be that organization dedicated to hatred. I don’t think white people realize the level of terror the Klan has burned into our racial memory. You did, however, realize that you were putting your lives on the line for your friends and for those you did not and would never know. You are brave young men and a credit to your family and friends. I would be honored to shake your hand,” then leaned over and shook hands with Scotty. He asked for questions and answered any he was asked. After a few minutes, he said, “Again, I am sure Ethan will be fine. Dr. Anderson will be in charge of his aftercare and I assure you Ethan is in good hands. Dr. Anderson is with Ethan now and will be down to speak to you shortly. Good day and good luck.”

A few minutes later, Dr. Anderson came in and laid out what lay ahead. Basically it boiled down to hospital care for the immediate future and aftercare at home which meant seeing that he ate well, got plenty of rest and sleep and began a serious exercise program. “One of the main jobs you have is to help Ethan avoid frustration and depression. His recovery will be slow. I can’t emphasize that enough. From his body, I assume he is an active young man. It will be a while before he comes close to being as active as he has been so, again, encourage him. He’ll need it.

“Now, for the immediate future. Ethan will be here for five to ten days, possibly longer, maybe a bit less. He will be in ICU for two days, maybe more. While he is there, he will be limited to two visitors at a time for five minutes every half hour. Ordinarily visitors are limited to immediate family only. However, I understand that ‘immediate’ family in this case is more than blood. Accordingly, you decide who is family and who visits. Just remember, there will be only four visitors each hour from 8:00 until 8:00. He is in ICU now and it’s 5:20. Two of you may spend five minutes with him at 5:30. “Father,” he said, turning to Fr. Mason, “As you know, you can see him at anytime. I suggest you go in for a minute or two now.” Fr. Mason and Dr. Anderson had known each other for several years and both knew Fr. Mason could go in at any time. Dr. Anderson was telling him to go see Ethan so he could prepare the two who would go in at 5:30.

Scotty so wanted to see the love of his life, but deep inside he felt Sally Ann and Jamie should go in. ‘I can wait thirty minutes,’ he thought. Jamie walked over to him and said, “Scotty, you need to go first.”

“Jamie, I appreciate your saying that, but it’s wrong. You and Sally Ann are going in. I can wait. You know I love him with my whole being and he is my world, but to you he is more than a brother. Besides, you will need to support Sally Ann. I know he is alive, I can wait. Go, be with Sally Ann. You are all she has right now.”

When Fr. Mason came back, he called the three to one side. “Have you decided which of you will be going in at 5:30?”

“Certainly,” Scotty said at once, “Jamie and Sally Ann. I will go at 6:00.”

“All of you need to be prepared. Of course Ethan is connected to a plethora of machines and monitors. You probably expected that from watching TV. Ethan has a bandage covering his chest from under his arms to his belly button. I don’t know why since the nurse said the incision was small. He is pale, very pale. Even as dark and tanned as Ethan was, he is shockingly pale. Remember he lost a lot of blood. He has been given two units and may be given more whole blood as well other IV fluids to bring up his blood volume and blood pressure. He is asleep and barely breathing, but he is breathing on his own. All I am saying is he looks like hell, but things are not as bad as they look.”

Promptly at 5:30, Jamie and Sally Ann went into the ICU. Jamie thought he was tough and that he had prepared himself to see his fallen brother. He was not. Strong, handsome, good Ethan looked like a dead man. Jamie had to look hard to see he was breathing. He and Sally Ann stood looking at all the family they had left, tears running down their faces. One of the ICU nurses had walked with them to Ethan’s bed. She put a hand on each of their shoulders and said, “He is young; he is strong; he had an excellent surgeon. He is stable and his vital signs are improving by the minute. He looks like a great guy.”

“He is,” Sally Ann said. “He is all we have left. We can’t lose him.”

“There are no guarantees in this place, but I’m betting you will have him back sooner than we might think.” Over the next two days the ICU nurses became Ethan’s cheer leading squad and friends to Jamie, Sally Ann and Scotty.

Scotty would like to have stayed at the hospital twenty-four/seven, but he was needed at Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove. Ethan slept most of the time and even when awake was so drugged he hardly knew what was going on. Still, Scotty wanted to be there. He did go early, before going to work on the plantation, and Sally Ann packed a lunch so he could go to the hospital, see Ethan for five minutes and get back to work during lunch. He, Jamie and Sally Ann drove in after work. Jamie and Sally Ann did homework between visits. Over his protests, Scotty went in first each time with Sally Ann, then with Jamie.

They seldom saw Dr. Anderson as he came around mid-morning and mid-afternoon while they were at school or work. When Scotty went in before work the Monday after Ethan had been shot, Ethan was awake and more alert than Scotty had seen him and Dr. Anderson was with him. When Ethan saw Scotty a huge smile covered his face and he reached out a hand and pulled Scotty to his bed, placed a hand behind his head and pulled the blond into a kiss.

Dr. Anderson cleared his throat and said, “I guess that confirms it, Ethan is well on his way to recovery. I’m moving him to a regular room today. You can see him anytime between 9:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night. I am going to restrict visitors to three at a time and will add other restrictions if too many show up. Fr. Mason said you two show up at St. Matthew’s so I guess I don’t have to worry about forty people from a prayer group showing up and shaking the halls with their beating on the gates of heaven.”

“Deliver me!” Ethan said.

“I’ll try to, but they can be sneaky,” Dr. Anderson said, and did not smile.

After he had gone, the nurse came over and said, “He’ll be in a regular room by 9:00, 10:00 at the latest if you want to wait.”

“He’s got to go to work,” Ethan said, “and if it’ll embarrass you, you need to turn your head because I am going to kiss him, with tongue.” The nurse blushed and walked away as Ethan did exactly that. Scotty returned it with no less enthusiasm.