Gary and Judy left to rent a truck to bring the things they had shipped and put in storage and to pick up their things at the hotel. When they returned, the four helped Gary bring the boxes up and then left them to put their things away. Josh called the small restaurant down the street and made reservations for the six of them for eight.
By eight, Gary and Judy had most of their things put away and in spite of the fact that the furniture was the same, the apartment looked very different. Josh understood what Alex meant about places saying who lived there.
Walt called just before they left for the restaurant to tell Josh he was taking off for the Mountain at eight the next morning. "So help me it's really his name, Jack Armstrong will be co-pilot to Pueblo and will pick up Syd Cardigan as his co-pilot to the Mountain. I'll fly them to Asheville for commercial flights back to Pueblo and San Francisco." He gave Josh Armstrong's number.
Josh said he'd call him Wednesday night. "We will be leaving Saturday morning unless something changes. Expect to see us on the Mountain sometime Monday or Tuesday. I'll call."
After dinner, Gary and Judy said it was early to bed for them as they had a busy day with the move. They thanked the four guys and went to their apartment. The four went to the apartment next door where Cândido made four cups of Brazilian coffee. The four sat around the dining table talking, first about Gary and Judy. They had clearly won the approval of Luc and Cândido.
A few minutes later, the two Brazilians were both looking at Alex and Josh with small smiles on their faces. "Meu amado irm" Luc said, "I never expected to see you this happy. Josh, I thought you a hopeless romantic at best and an utter fool at the worse because you would never admit Alex was gone from your life forever. Now he sits with us, beautiful, full of life and loving. That he should be so is the result of two miracles. First, that he is here and second, that he is beautiful, loving and full of life after what he had been through. I salute the two of you."
"Josh," Cândido began, "I told you that I could not see the future, and I cannot, but I do sense and feel things others do not. I told you you would be happy on the Mountain, but was not sure it would be with Alex. I always felt Alex's presence with you there, but doubted what I felt. The possibility that you would ever be together was, to my logical and rational mind, so remote as to be impossible. I dared not say otherwise for fear of what it would do to you. Now I can say with absolute confidence, you will be happy there, as will Alex."
Josh leaned over and kissed Alex so very, very softly, but both felt in that soft kiss the bond that had been theirs since they were too young to know what it was.
Monday morning James Davis called before Josh and Alex were out of bed to ask when Josh would like to join him at the columbarium for the interment of Kelly's ashes. "No one has called, so I guess you and I will be it, unless you have changed your mind."
"No, I think it will close a chapter in my life that I want closed. Alex will be with me. Give us an hour to get dressed and get there."
The weather was dreadful. A gray, chilly mist hung over everything. When Alex and Josh arrived, James was waiting with a man Josh did not know. When they walked up, James said, "This is Mr. Morton from the columbarium." Mr. Morton nodded and James said, "You may proceed." Using a tool, he opened the niche and James placed the black plastic box inside and it was closed. That was it, the sad end of a wasted life. Outside the sun was struggling, but losing the battle with the mist and fog.
As they walked back to their cars, James said, "Josh, unless you want me to do something else, as soon as you get Boys' Camp officially registered as a Not for Profit, send me a notarized copy of the document and I'll transfer the monies from the trust account to it. As sole trustee you could designate Boys' Camp as the recipient of the trust, but getting the official status will protect both of us. Good luck on your North Carolina undertaking and best wishes for you and Alex."
He turned to Alex. "Ride herd on Josh to keep him from taking on too much now that he has you." Both Josh and Alex thanked him. They shook hands and went their separate ways.
On the way back to the apartment, Josh said, "I really do have the feeling that a major part of my life is being closed. I came to San Francisco, literally, right out of college and started a remarkable ride called Blankenship Ltd. I saw it almost go down the tubes and Luc and I and the good people Kelly ditched grabbed a handful and pulled it back. It is in better shape than it has ever been. It is making piles of money, our employees are making more than people in similar occupations and it has a bright future. I suspect Luc will stay on a few years, but will quickly bring someone on board to take his place and he and Cândido will go back to Brazil. I know he loves working for Blankenship and they have a good life here, but they love their homeland."
"I wish we could say we love where we grew up," Alex said, "but mostly I feel nothing for it having realized that hating it does me harm and Wellsburg couldn't care less. Mom? I think dwelling on her only allows her control over part of my life and she owns none of me any more."
"Yeah. Same with my grandparents."
Tuesday Josh and Alex spent at Blankenship LLLP. Most of the morning was spent going through things in the Old Man's office, discarding trash, sending stuff to the archives, packing the few things Josh was taking with him, and removing what Luc didn't want. The décor was placed in the lobby with a 'Want it? Take it' sign and it was all gone before the last people in the building left. Wednesday morning, Josh, Alex and Cândido went with Luc to help him move into the Old Man's office.
After lunch with Luc, Cândido asked Alex if he had been to the Golden Gate Bridge and he said he had not. "You cannot leave San Francisco until you do that," he said. "We'll take Luc's car and leave yours, Josh, since there are three of us." Cândido drove and Alex was amazed as he watched the bridge disappear in the fog, reappear and disappear again all in a very short time.
As they drove back to the apartment, Josh called Jack Armstrong and made arrangements to leave at seven Thursday morning. That would be eight Pueblo time and the flight would take between one and half and two hours, so they could pick up the truck and trailer and leave for Boulder between ten and eleven. Josh had said they'd make it for a late lunch and he still hoped they could do that.
As they drove back to the apartment, Alex said, "Josh, where are Prince and Princess's children?"
Josh was thunderstruck. With all the horse moving, somehow or other, even when Sally mentioned the twins being ready to breed in a few years, he had forgotten all about them. "Jack still has them, I suppose," he said, "since Sally and Brenda didn't bring them."
"Think he might get them to Boulder? It wasn't planned that way, but you ended up with a four-horse trailer, so we can take them."
Josh immediately called Jack and asked about them. "I wondered if you had forgotten them," he said. "I kinda hoped you had. They are a fine pair."
Josh told him he had, in fact, forgotten them and asked if there was any way they could meet somewhere and transfer the horses. "We could meet you in Cheyenne or if you couldn't make that, Rawlins."
"Josh, I am sorta stuck here. I'd like to help you out, but I can't get away right now."
"Let me call you back."
"Shit! He can't do it and that means a trip to Wellsburg. Shit! Shit! Shit!" There is no way he can be stuck. He had three families living on his ranch. I know damn well if he couldn't get away, one of his cowboys could. There is something fishy going on here."
"Call Sally," Alex said.
Josh did. "Sally and Josh's Mustangs, This is Sally, Josh is not here."
"'Cause I'm here Sally. How are things these days?"
"Pretty good. How are things with you?"
"Very good or were until a few minutes ago, now there is a fly in the ointment."
"Couldn't have anything to do with Jack could it?"
"How did you know?"
"Well, it wasn't a lucky guess. Jack has got religion. He's a stake president and will have nothing to do with us outcasts. We had a major run-in when I brought another family of excommunicated LDS folks to work here. What's the problem?"
"How did you let me forget Prince and Princess's offspring? Alex just asked about them and even though you had mentioned their reaching breeding age in a year or two years, I had let them slip my mind."
"Well, it's not like you didn't have other things on your mind. What's up?"
"I called Jack to see if he'd bring them to meet us Cheyenne or even Rawlins and he said he couldn't get away."
"I hope to hell you can lay hands on proof they are yours," she said, "otherwise I think he might try to keep them."
"If there is anything Alex and I hate worse than a trip to Wellsburg, I can't think what it is. You got a fax?"
"Sure." She gave Josh the number.
"I'll fax an authorization for you to take the horses and I'll get Mark Jenkins on it as well. Call Mark and see what he advises concerning getting them. Assuming you can get them, can you bring them to Cheyenne?"
"No Problem. When?"
"We planned on leaving Boulder Saturday with the Royal Couple. Still would like that, but we'll make final plans after we see what happens with Jack. I guess this means he has been taking stud fees even though they were contaminated by my being excommunicated. Hate to push this off on you, Sally."
"I think Mark and I both would like to stick it to Jack. He has become so self-righteous that underhandedness is ok. I'll call you."
"We plan to be in the air by seven our time, eight yours, in the morning, so I'll call you from the plane after eight your time."
"I'll call Mark tonight and we should have a plan and know what Jack will do by then. Don't worry. Mark is a really wooly bear when someone is trying to pull a fast one."
Josh faxed an authorization to Sally and Mark and told Mark to do what it took to get the horses from Jack. "I hope he's reasonable, but he didn't seem so when I called," he wrote.
Luc was home by five and Cândido had called a caterer to arrange for an early dinner at six thirty. Promptly at six thirty, there was a knock on the door and Luc admitted a chef and two assistants who quickly got food on the table—beef Wellington, with oven-roasted potato rounds and haricot vert. After they had the food served, they left, leaving behind for dessert a baked Alaska. Luc fixed Brazilian coffee and they had the dessert in the living room.
As they settled with dessert, Luc said, "I had the strangest thing happen today. I had complained a bit, well more than a bit, about the fact that I had been moved into the Old Man's office and that I really didn't belong there. Anyway, I was sitting behind the Old Man's desk, kinda in a state of shock, I guess, I mean this little Brazilian boy was sitting behind the CEO's desk, when Prue, Elizabeth and Linda marched in without knocking and Linda planted a sign on my desk which read 'The Old Man.' Prue and Elizabeth were busy putting one on the door. When they finished, the three walked out without having said a word. I was stunned and thought, "Hell, the Old Man is a thirty year old Brazilian dude. So help me, I felt a hand on my shoulder, heard the Old Man's laugh and him say 'Damn right!'"
Josh laughed, "Well, at least you told us. I never told anyone when that happened to me. I think everyone had decided I was crazy for getting involved in Blankenship again and sure didn't want to give them proof! But it's true, Luca, you are it and if you will remember you are married to this wonderful man who comes first, you and Blankenship LLLP will do well. I am as sure of that as I am of anything."
Cândido and Alex cleaned up from dessert and brought back tiny cups of espresso, and a bottle of fifty-year-old Hardy Cognac Noces D'or. "I know you need a clear head in the morning, so I thought we could have something that can be enjoyed in small glasses," Cândido said.
"Everything set for the trip?" Luc asked.
"I hope. Somewhere in the midst of everything, my mind slipped a few notches. Prince and Princess have two daughters, twins, who have been with the man from whom we bought the Royal Couple. I had forgotten about them even though Sally had mentioned them. Alex asked about them this afternoon. The fact that we had ended up with a four-horse trailer means we could take them with us. I called Jack, the breeder, and asked about him meeting us in Wyoming so we wouldn't have to go to Wellsburg. He was kind of evasive, so I called Sally. Seems Jack had got religion and is even an LDS stake president these days. She thinks he will try to keep the horses. We'll do most anything to keep from going to Wellsburg and having to deal with those people…"
"But if we have to, we will. I am not willing to leave the horses with an LDS asshole and in that particular hellhole," Alex said.
"Might be good to go and rub their noses in what you have accomplished," Luc said. "After all, you have been the Old Man and outdid the Old Man himself."
"And you could shake the dust of that place from your feet," Cândido added
Josh got a strange look on his face, as though he was somewhere else. His face was suddenly split by a wide grin, "Hell, yes! Barefoot Boy, we will go to Wellsburg for the last time and we will shake all the dust from our feet! He picked up his glass and said, "To the future and to love!" A toast the three gladly joined.
Next morning, Josh called Sally early and she said she had called Jack and said she was authorized to pick up the horses and he said he couldn't release them except to Josh in person. "Mark is working on something, but he thinks things could get messy."
"Can you get witnesses to his saying he would release the horses to me? Take Mark with you and someone else. Some good, solid LDS member if you can. Alex and I are coming to Wellsburg. We will be there Sunday afternoon and we'll go to Jack's early Monday. I think I have a few tricks up my sleeve for Wellsburg."
Josh and Alex had essentially packed for the trip when they moved out of their apartment, so when they got up, they were ready to go as soon as they were dressed. They had coffee with Cândido and Luc, reminded Cândido to work on getting the Mountain State lecture series and reminded them they always had a place at the House. The four hugged each other, shed a few tears and Josh and Alex left. The co-pilot was waiting and they took off a bit early and were at cruising altitude by six forty-five. The flight was smooth and uneventful and they landed quite awhile before Josh had thought they would.
Neither Josh nor Alex was prepared for the truck and trailer. The metallic blue paint, as the dealer had told Winston, appeared so deep you could sink a hand in it and the airbrush artist had done more than justice to Linda's design. "Magnificent!" Alex exclaimed and Josh agreed wholeheartedly. The dealer was obviously pleased that they were satisfied and probably more so when Josh did not object to paying for the airbrush artist.
Josh asked him if he was married or had a girlfriend.
"Actually," he said, "I really would like to get married, but the state won't allow it. We have been together since eighth grade and are as solid or more so than any married couple I know."
"When was the last time you took him on a romantic weekend?"
"Well, it's been awhile. Business has been kinda slow, so there's the money problem and because business is slow, I've been working my tail off. We were doing well and he took off to get his master's and that put a crimp in our style.
"You have been together since eighth grade? Vineland?"
"Then you know Mr. Larson who was a principal or Ms. Granger who was a counselor."
"I know both very well, very well indeed. I'm Liam Larson; Mr. Larson was my father. He died a few years ago now. He was eighty. Mrs. Granger? She is my mother-in-law. She is, of course, retired and moved to southern California to get away from Colorado winters. Did you know them?"
"They probably saved my life," Josh said and told him how the two had come to his rescue when his world first fell apart. "Liam, I have been very successful…"
Liam and Alex both laughed. "I kinda got that idea from the rig you bought, either that or you have damn good credit," Liam said.
"Well, I guess that too. But Alex and I have been together since we were in the ninth grade—well, I guess kind of together before that, huh, Babe, and his mother tore us apart for seven long years. I have him back and I don't want to waste a minute. I know that while I was working to get where I am, had we been together, it would have put a real strain on our relationship. I am going to write you a check for a thousand dollars. It's not a bonus for the damn good job you did on the truck, it's in thanksgiving for your father and your mother-in-law. You and you husband are to take a long, romantic weekend, soon."
"I don't know what to say, how to thank you."
"Love your man and hug you mother-in-law the first chance you get. Now we are off to Boulder."
"Thanks again," Liam said as he watched them drive away.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
As always, I own the copyright, so no use beyond personal copy, without permission. If you are too young or whatever to read literature which may describe explicit sex, don't or take any consequences.
All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.