The Fourth Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Directed by: Amy Baldwin

Created, Produced, and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Three: Callings

"I caught it! I caught it!" Christian exclaims, jumping up and down, his fist clenched in victory. "Aunt Kels!"

Kels nods and pats his head. "I saw, Christian! Way to go!"

"I saw it coming and I reached out and I caught it and Papa didn’t and so I won!"

That’s a mouthful. Robie is smiling benignly at his son, proud of the boy of catching the doubloon. It’s a silver one. Fortunately, I already have a silver one so I’m not tempted to steal it from my nephew. Kels wouldn’t understand.

I am a bit hampered this year in catching the little trinkets being tossed. Collin is nestled against me in his snuggle pack. I am very aware of his little form in front of me. Kels is wearing a similar rig with Brennan. I think she gave me Collin so I’d be extra cautious. Neither of us are still quite over the scare he gave us that first few minutes of life. Nevertheless, his pack is covered with beads and I do have two doubloons.

In order to keep the competition fair, we made Robie carry Kelly in the same manner. Rene is carrying Clark on her hip, holding Christian’s hand most of time. My God, we are a walking ad for pampers and Sesame Street products. Was it only five years ago that Robie and I stumbled around here, blind drunk, and giving women beads to show us their breasts?

My, my, how things change.

I lean over and kiss Kels.

She caresses my cheek and smiles. "What was that for?"

"Being here." It’s not a long answer, but it covers just about everything.

The next float in the parade comes by and Christian is struggling to see it. "Daddy! Pick me up!"

Robie looks down. "Son, I can’t. I’m holding Kelly."

"Daddy!" he pouts, stamping his foot. His little sister is important, but not more so than our competition.

Suddenly, Christian finds himself scooped up into the air and settled down on strong shoulders. He grabs the head he’s above and tilts it back, trying to see who has him. "Grandpa!"

"That’s right," Papa assures him, holding tightly onto strong, kicking legs. "I got you. Let’s show your Papa and Tante Harper how to win this thing!"

Is there no one on my side?


* * *


"Pass the jambalaya, Harper," Lucien requests.

I watch Harper. She’s trying to decide whether to take a big scoop of it before she passes it to him, or to be polite. I decide to help her dilemma, I take the bowl and pass it along. "There’s always more," I whisper.

She blushes, having been caught. I kiss her cheek and nuzzle her for a moment. Long enough in this family to earn a couple cat calls.

"Get a room!" Robie says from across the table. He starts to fling a green bean our way, but Mama’s glare stops him.

Sunday dinner during Mardi Gras is a big deal here. We’ve all been out at the various parades. We’ve caught beads and doubloons. We’ve listened to jazz. We’ve walked for hours. Now, we’re home. Family.

What a family it is too. Since this time last year, we have five new additions. Jake and Stevie, Brennan and Collin, and Kelly are all new to the madness known as the Kingsleys. They are also all distributed among the family. I have Kelly, Katherine has Brennan, Mama has Collin, Papa has Stevie, and Elaine has Jake. The other eleven grandchildren are also sprinkled around the table.

The eldest, Joseph, is seated by his father and unconsciously imitating all of his habits. While he looks more like his mother in coloring, his mannerisms are all Gerrard. He also takes the same responsibility for the grandkids as his father does for the siblings. These two men were born to lead. I wasn’t teasing Gerrard when I told him I expected him to be a Supreme Court justice one day. We’d be a darn sight better off for it, too.

I so love being here.

It wasn’t hard, or even necessary, to convince Harper to come down for the Mardi Gras weekend. Have plane, will travel. We left Friday night and fly back in a couple hours.

"So what is everyone giving up for Lent?" Mama asks.

Suddenly, the table becomes silent. As a confirmed agnostic, I never did the whole Lent thing. I would always laugh at my friends in college who would give up premarital sex for Lent. Funny, I thought that was wrong all the time. I also don’t see how not eating Hershey’s or Häagen Dazs for a month will make me understand God any better. Though it would put me in touch with my inner bitch during PMS.

Gerrard smiles charmingly. He’s been asked this question the longest in the family. "Our family," meaning himself, Katherine and their four kids, "will be doing to Mass on Wednesday morning as well."

Mama seems pleased with that answer.

I must admire it too. All it requires is seven hours in Mass. No promises of good behavior or character change. Smart.

Jean is next. "We’ve decided to help several of the eldery couples in our neighborhood. I’ll be cutting their grass, with a little help from Charles, and Elaine and the other kids will help around the house." He lifts Geoffrey, his youngest, onto his lap. "Though this one might be there more for entertainment."

Mama nods, pleased with the response. "Lucien?"

He looks rather proud of himself. "Jake and Stevie really want to get some new toys for the children still in their previous group home. So we’re going to be talking to lots of businesses to see about donating things for the kids."

That works for Mama. "Robie?"

"We’re giving up chocolate."

Mama arches an eyebrow in disapproval. "And?"

Rene rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "Mama, we’re also going to be attending Mass on Wednesdays. We decided to go with Gerrard and Katherine, so we could do it together as a family.

That worked.


Oh, boy. This should be interesting.

"Yes, Mama?"

Robie sing-songs, "Someone’s in trouble."

Harper tosses a roll at him.

"How are we supposed to teach the kids not to do that, when you do?" Luc asks. The question is asked in a humorous tone, but the look in Mama’s eyes is not amused.

"Sorry, Mama," my spouses murmurs. The only person to ever make her cower is her mama.

"So, mon Coeur?"

I decide to be nice and save her. "Mama, Harper has decided to give up swearing for Lent."

"Tres bien!"

Outraged blue eyes turn to look at me. "Kels," she growls.

"It’ll be cheaper this way, sweetheart."


* * *


There are advantages to being woken in the middle of the night to take care of the little ones. Since I had a nice nap this afternoon during our flight back to New York, I was more than content to get up with them and let Harper sleep. Now, however, I have two problems. The first is, I’m wide-awake, and the second is Harper is sound asleep.

Lucky for Harper, I know how to fix that little problem. Wonder if she’ll remember this in the morning?

Slipping back into bed and curling up next to her, I find her all warm and naked. Yeah, this is good. She has her back to me at the moment. I’ll be able to tell how well my plans are going to be received in a minute or two.

Reaching around, I wrap my arm over her waist and tenderly rub her stomach with the palm of my hand, placing very soft kisses to her shoulder. She hums softly and scoots back into me.

I smile. Message received and accepted. She rolls over onto her back and smiles, never opening her eyes or making any other movement. Hmm, I love it when she simply surrenders.


* * *

"I’ve got you under my skin," I croon. "I’ve got you, deep in the heart of me. So deep in my heart, you’re truly a part of me." I bounce my babies in my arms, doing a slow twirl. "I’ve got you under my skin."

Collin laughs and bangs Brennan’s nose with his fist. Brennan squawks in protest, then chews on her fingers, injury forgotten.

"I’d sacrifice anything, come what may, for the sake of having you near …" The lyric chokes me up and I can’t sing any more. I sniff, and swallow the lump in my throat. I kiss Fuzzy’s hair, and then Brennan’s, and tell myself not to cry. They are here, in my arms, safe, sound, happy.

And at least one of them is in need of a change.

"Mais poo poo!" I start heading for the stairs and run into Kels in the laundry room. We do several loads a day since the birth of our two angels. Kels hears us coming, not a hard thing to do with both babies vocalizing their little hearts out, and intercepts us.

"Harper," she removes Brennan from my arms, "you know it makes me nervous when you walk around with both of them like that."

I frown. My wife worries too much. These two were perfectly safe in my arms. They will be for life. "It’s okay, chér. Papa dropped me a few times, and I turned out okay."

Kels raises her eyebrow. "For the most part."

I lift Collin up and sniff his diaper. He’s clean. I smile smugly at Kels. She picked the wrong one. "Come on, little man, let’s go read a book."

"I’ll remember this, Harper Lee."

I chuckle and keep on walking.


* * *


I drum my fingers on my desk. In the VCR is running a piece that Jac produced. It’s horrible. I am trying to resist the urge to go down to her office and pour coffee into her until she sobers up slightly. Which actually wouldn’t give me anything but a wide-awake drunk. But even sober, I doubt if she’s very talented. It’ll take a lot of talent to salvage this piece.

Great. A late night. For me and for Dana. A good editor is a wonderful thing. Especially one who is straight, happily married, and not even slightly interested in a walk on the wild side.

Making matters worse, I still don’t have a great story in the works. There’s the usual springtime NCAA sports scandals, more Oscar fluff pieces than you can shake a stick at, and we’re bombing Iraq again, but nothing seems to stand out. Langston might stroke out if I don’t produce something soon.

My phone rings and I cringe. The hate calls have tapered down, but aren’t quite over. I’m really getting tired of it. I also made the mistake of doing a search of mine and Kels’ names on Google. That led me to a message board. And then I made an even worse mistake of reading the load of crap that was on there. My God, couldn’t people smell what they were shoveling? Some psycho even offered up an analysis of our marriage and pronounced us on the brink of a divorce. Didn’t matter that we had never met. People are assholes sometimes.

"Kingsley," I manage to sound civil despite my sudden sour mood. Dealing with idiots always makes me unhappy. You would think people would have something better to do with their lives than spend it criticizing us. Apparently not.


I recognize the voice, but don’t immediately place it. "Yes."

"It’s Cora."

Guilt washes over me. I should have contacted her and Shadow long ago. "It’s great to hear from you! Kels and I think of all of you daily. Our babies snuggle under the blankets we received from your family. So do Kelsey and I, for that matter."

"It sounds very warm," Cora teases.

She doesn’t know the half of it, but I refrain from providing too much information. "It is. How are Johnny and the boys?"

"Growing like weeds, all of them. Though Johnny seems to be growing wider and not taller." She laughs at her own statement, but quickly sobers. "You need to come visit, Harper."

More guilt. "I know. I want to bring the babies out to meet everyone soon …"

Cora interrupts me, surprising me. "It’s not that, Harper. You need to come visit."

Okay, I’m guessing that there’s something wrong and she’s not going to tell me over the phone. "How urgent?"

"I hate to ask, Harper, but you are the only person I know we can trust. What are you doing tomorrow?"

Missing my wife and kids, I think. I hate to leave them, but I don’t think I can get them to come with me, not with Kels supposed to be back on the desk this week. We now have around-the-clock security, so I know I can leave them without worry. I tap my fingers on my desk again, knowing I need to answer quickly. Last time I went down there, we got a great story too. Langston would love me for that right now. Plus, I joined Cora’s tribe when I was last there. Damn, I don’t think there’s any graceful way to sidestep this request. "I’ll see you then. Probably be mid-afternoon before I reach the reservation."

"We’ll have coffee waiting."


* * *


"You have to trust her Richard," I tell Langston, our Executive Producer, even as Brian and I finish putting things away in my new office. It’s amazing what the network was willing to pony up to keep me onboard for the time being. I hope my numbers are good when I go back on the air.

"I do trust her, Kelsey, that’s not the point. The point is she can’t pick up and leave like this every time she gets a bug up her ass." He jams his hands in his trouser pockets as he leans against the doorframe.

"That’s gonna cost you," Brian mumbles as he takes a diaper bag into the second inner office that has been converted in to a small nursery for the babies. They are very happily napping in there at the moment, giving Brian and I much need break.

I see the dirty look the E.P. gives Brian. That’s gonna cost him too.

"Actually, she can, and she will. You’ve known her long enough to know that." I try to find my address book in the mound of crap piled on my desk waiting to be put away.

He blows a frustrated breath and then takes a seat on my couch. "Damn it, Stanton, don’t you have any control over her at all!"

I straighten from behind my desk and level a stare at him. "I have influence, Richard. Not control. I have no desire to control Harper. Anybody with brain stem activity would know that to try to control Harper Kingsley would be like trying to harness a tornado."

"No kidding," he mumbles staring at his hands. Finally, he looks up and me and I can tell it’s coming. "Are you going to quit?"

Finally! To the point of this little visit. "I’m considering it."

"You have other offers?"

"Actually, yes. Lots of them." It’s no lie. When to word hit the street that I might be retiring, I started getting offers from some of the most unexpected places. Some of them would be very lucrative and still allow me to do pretty much what I want, when I want.

"Anything we can do to keep you onboard? The network is behind you a hundred and ten percent here. They really don’t care that you and Harper were… umm… well…" he stammers not quite sure how to finish.

"Outed? Is that the word you’re looking for? Brought out of the closet to be seen by all the world as a lesbian couple?"

"Right," he says, red-faced. "They figure at this point, what the hell? You do your jobs and you do them well."

"Sure, they say that now. What happens if my numbers drop below dismal when I go back on the air and people don’t want to watch the dyke reporter?"

"They don’t think that’s going to happen. They conducted some polls and it didn’t seem to be a big issue." He gives me a little grin. "Besides, you don’t look like a dyke."

"You speak from experience? How many have you known up close and personal?"

He chews on the inside of his lip. "All right, you got me." He gets up and stretches. "Do me a favor, and don’t do anything rash or stupid. We’ll accommodate you as much as we can."

I sigh and rub my eyes. "I promise to do what is best for my family, me and Exposure. I won’t promise more than that."

"That’s exactly what I expected you to promise. I wouldn’t have expected less from you."

"I appreciate that. It means a lot to me. You know I won’t leave you or the show in the lurch."

"That’s what I like about you, Kelsey. You are the consummate professional." He shakes his head as he gets to his feet. "I don’t know how you do it."

"It’s not as easy as it looks."

"I’m sure of it." He stops on his way out and gives me a final look. "No matter what you decide to do, I’m behind you and I respect you. Both."


* * *


New Mexico looks the same. I suppose it has since the dawn of time, give or take a glacier or two cutting through the desert. I roll down the window and breathe in the chilled air. It smells different than in New York. In New York, I find a prevalent smell to be dog urine. Kam adds his fair share on any given day. I miss my dog.

I sigh and glance at Jeff, my bodyguard. He just smiles back and returns his attention to the book he’s been reading. He’s a nice enough guy, but not a great conversationalist.

They say Montana is big sky country, but New Mexico is a clear rival. Even as we make our way higher up in elevation, which in New Mexico means more trees, there is still no lack of clear blue sky above us. The drive out of Albuquerque was a bit slow due to far too much construction on the highway, but I am grateful for the seventy-five mile an hour speed limit. No way New York is getting that anytime soon.

As I pass yet another casino on reservation land, I wonder why my adopted family doesn’t have one. Whatever one thinks about gambling, it has certainly been a lucrative venture for many tribes. Although there are many horror stories of troubles arising out of the distribution – or non-distribution – of that income. It seems we never manage to do right by the First Peoples. I know the distribution is handled internally, but we put them in the situation of having to depend on casino income in the first place. It’s all shameful.


* * *


I pull up to the Navajo Cultural Center and I am struck by a sense of déjà vu. Cora Bingil, my adopted sister, is leaning against the railing. She’s dressed in nearly the identical outfit as I first saw her in – jeans, flannel shirt and leather jacket. It strikes me as slightly ironic that she wears cowboy boots. Despite the winter, her face and hands are tan. She uses one to brush her glossy black braid back over her shoulder. Then she waves at me.

I’m very happy to see her. I wish Kels and the babies were here too. Kels refused to fly out without knowing what was going on. She also has too much to do in New York to simply pick up and leave. I hope to hell there’s a good story, or Langston is going to have my head on a platter. I can only imagine what Kels must be putting up with due to my sudden departure. Sorry, sweetie. I’ll make it up to you. I shut down the engine and climb out of the truck, enjoying the satisfying pop my back makes after the long drive.

Cora comes off the steps to greet me. "Harper, it’s so good to see you again. Kelsey couldn’t join you?"

"No, not this time. But I brought a new friend with me." I gesture to Jeff, who is climbing out of the truck.

At the comment, Jeff looks up and smiles. He looks nothing like the World Wrestling Federation guys. He looks like the Marlboro Man, and I’m sure that’s why the agency decided he would be the one to come to New Mexico with me. Of course, the Marlboro Man doesn’t have a shoulder holster with .40 Glock, a six inch knife on his belt and a .380 Bersa in an ankle holster. I don’t even want to know what he has in the small, black duffle bag he carries everywhere.

Cora is bright enough to know that is not quite accurate description, but has the good grace not to mention it. "Nice to have you here as well. I hope you don’t mind a cot to sleep on."

Jeff shakes his head. "No, ma’am. In fact, it might be better than my usual."


* * *


"So what’s all this about?" I ask Cora. We’re in the kitchen, her two boys climbing all over her, I really miss my little ones right now. My arms feel empty without them. At least, it’s not the sharp ache of a couple weeks ago when I wasn’t sure I would ever get to hold them again. My Collin and Brennan are only a plane ride away.

"I don’t want this to become an Indian problem." Cora catches Ben Joseph as he tries to dive for the floor, headfirst. She pats his butt, and sets him down on the kitchen tile. "Careful, son. It hurt last time, remember?" Her voice holds that affectionate exasperated tone that only parents can have. Or dog owners.

"What do you mean?"

"I found out something about a member of our tribe. It needs to get out, to be told, but I don’t want it to be ‘Navajo Man …’ I want it to be ‘Man’ or ‘New Mexican Man does …’ You know what I mean?"

"I do, but, Cora, I have no control over what others will report. Nor can I hide the fact he is Navajo. I can only promise that I will do a balanced story. If you want someone to only report what you like, I’m not the person for that."

She shakes her head. "I don’t want that, Harper. I just don’t want this to be an Indian problem. We don’t need any more of that."

"I can understand wanting to protect family."

"I don’t want to protect him. I want him to go to jail for a long time." Cora reaches down and hands Ben Joseph a cracker to keep him from gnawing on the chair. She shakes her head and hugs John closer for being such a good boy. "There are good people here."

"I know. You’ll take me to the story?"

"Early in the morning. You still wake up early?"

"Are you kidding I have twins now. I barely sleep."


* * *


It’s been a very long day. It doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon. I was about to leave when the most recent script revisions got dropped in my lap. So now Brian has gone in search of sandwiches for us.

Before I begin taking care of company business, I have a little personal business to tend to in the form of my very grumpy son, who is demanding his dinner now. I settle back on the couch and prepare to feed him. I keep a blanket close in case someone should drop in on us. I don’t mind doing this in front of Harper or Brian, but I’d never be able to shake the creepies if Langston were to stop by. Besides, I think a glimpse of a baby nursing would cause his head to explode.

Of course the phone rings the moment we’re both comfortable. "Isn’t that the way it always is, buddy?" My son doesn’t seem fazed by the fact that I have to get up to get the phone. "You just go right ahead, I’ll manage. Don’t worry about old Mom here." I chuckle as we get up, with some difficulty, from the couch and move to my desk. Even as I take a seat in my chair there, I find that my boy never lost his place. I reach out and tap the speaker function.


"Kels? Honey, is everything all right? I was getting worried." Harper sounds a little tense.

"I’m fine, sweetheart. Fuzzy is having his dinner and he refused to let me go long enough to get to the phone. How’s New Mexico?"

"Lonely without you three."

"So do you have a story there?"

"I’m not sure yet."

"What do you mean You’re not sure yet? Harper, Langston is already pitching a fit about you leaving. You’d better find a story, and a damn good one, or don’t bother coming back to New York because he’ll kill you."

"I’m sorry if he’s been giving you…"

"Harper, don’t worry about me. I’m a big girl, I can handle myself. Besides, the network is falling all over themselves to keep me happy right now."

"Sweetheart, if my trip out here is a bust, then I’ll have you get me an executive pardon. Bill Clinton handed them out like candy on Halloween, so I don’t see why you couldn’t get one or two."

"Very funny, but my party isn’t in the White House right now. Apparently, I gave money to the wrong party and lawyers. So what do you know?"

"I know, whatever it is, Cora doesn’t want it to reflect badly on the Navajo."

I take a deep breath and sigh. I know Harper really feels like part of that world, which concerns me a great deal in some respects. I’m afraid for her ability to do a balanced story when it comes to her adoptive family. "What if it is a Navajo problem? Will you be able to do the story?" I voice my concern.

"What kind of question is that, Kels? Of course, I will."

"Harper," I take another deep breath, "I’m sorry. You know I worry when it comes to Cora and the family. It’s almost as bad as if someone sent you to New Orleans to do a story on corruption in the court system. You wouldn’t be able to do…"

"Spare me, Kels. I’ll be fine, I promise." Her voice softens, making me think she might see my concern for what it is.

"I trust you, Harper."


* * *


Finally getting home a little before eleven, Brian puts the twins in their beds while I make us some tea. It was definitely a long night, but I’m too damn tired to sleep at the moment.

There’s also the Harper factor. The factor of her not being home. I always hate trying to sleep in our bed without her. I’ll probably end up sleeping on the couch.

Settling down, I click on the TV to find my mother is making the news again tonight. Brian groans when he comes in, taking his normal position on the floor between the couch and the coffee table.

"What is super bitch getting face time for tonight?" he asks, sipping his tea and glaring at my mother’s image.

I scratch my forehead. "I’m not exactly sure, to be honest. Some nonsense about her trying to protect her grandchildren from the ills of society."

"Oh, she must mean me."


"Yeah. I carry that gay bug you know," he teases.

"Is that where I caught it? All this time I thought I was a lesbian before I met you."

"Oh, you were. Lesbian cooties and the gay bug are two different things."

I laugh, nearly causing tea to come out my nose. "Excuse me?"

"Sure. Didn’t you know? Lesbian cooties are passed back and forth between you guys when you touch. The gay bug, however, is airborne and we spread it by breathing. That’s why people are more intimidated by gay men than lesbians. You see, she was trying to protect the babies, and especially Collin, from the gay bug."

I reach out and rub his shoulder. "You’re a nut."

"Yeah, well, it’s a dirty job but someone has got to do it. Speaking of dirty jobs, you should have seen the mess your son made earlier." I notice that Brian covertly reaches over and mutes the TV. "He managed to pull a bottle of baby powder down on us when I was getting him ready for bed."

"Is he all right?"

"Oh, he’s fine, but he didn’t like that too much. It made him sneeze. You know he sounds like a mouse when he sneezes."

"He’s three months old. Cut him some slack. He’s got a tiny nose."


* * *


Cora and I drive in her beat up old pickup. I always feel like Pig Pen when I emerge from the cab, red New Mexico dirt clinging to all exposed skin. Did I take a shower only a few minutes ago? We left the reservation a half hour ago, heading north toward Cuba. It’s early morning and we both sip on our cups of coffee. Cora also made breakfast tortillas. These are especially wonderful. I want these every day.

I left Jeff on the reservation. For one thing, Cora wasn’t too keen to have him along. She trusts me with this story, but clearly no one else. Fortunately, I doubt I’ll need him here. These people have far more serious things to worry about than who I’m sleeping with. Besides, it was my family here that first recognized Kels and I as a married couple.

We turn east toward Taos, and wind further up into the mountains. There are small towns nestled along the two lane highway, hardly visible from the road, known only by the church bell towers peeking through the trees. I notice a lot of signs dotting the highway for stores selling pottery and blankets.

It is at one of those signs, we turn. Cora drives about a hundred feet down the road, before she pulls over and kills the engine. It’s an accurate description as the old truck sputters, trying to hang on to life until it finally falls silent. "We need to walk the rest of the way."

I slide off the bench seat and step out. Pressing my hands to my back, I stretch out my muscles. "You going to tell me what’s going on?" I reach back in the truck and grab a small camera, like the ones I used to use on True TV.

"I found this out two days ago. I called you immediately."

That doesn’t sound good. "What’s this, Cora? What is this guy doing?" I ask as we start walking alongside the road. I notice that Cora is careful to stay well out of sight in the trees.

"New Mexico has always had a problem with illegal immigration. Not just from Mexico, but from all of the Latin American countries. They just cross through Mexico. The border in Juarez isn’t very tight, and often people get through."

"This is about illegal aliens?" I have to admit to being disappointed. Immigration is a hot issue, but with Bush and Fox being friends, I have hope that our borders will be more humane going forward.

"Yes, but even more. I came here this week to buy blankets. Peter Nighthorse is a member of our tribe, though he doesn’t live on the reservation. We like to support his business even still. When I stopped by, I didn’t find Peter in the shop. I went looking for him. I opened the door leading to the weaving factory and that’s where I saw them."

"The illegals?"

"They were little children. Girls, mostly."

That’s interesting. "Girls? No parents? No families?"

She shakes her head emphatically. "I saw what I saw."

Around the next bend in the road, we can see the building in front of us. It’s large and L-shaped. The front of the building is used as a showroom/store and the back is where Cora tells me the weavers are located. We stay in the tree line and circle around to the back of the property, so we can approach it without being seen, hopefully. Once there, I pull out the camera and check it. I also check my cell phone – full power, but on roam. Doesn’t matter. If this is true, Langston will happily pay extra fees.

We sneak up to the building, and I am fairly confident we haven’t been seen. I note that the windows are all high, impossible for us to take a look in without climbing up on something. There are a pair of doors at the end, which I note are fastened with a chain. No matter what, Peter is in serious violation of some fire codes. I take a shot of the chain and the door.

We continue around the building, coming up the side. When I notice an empty wood crate a few feet away, I grab it and use it to get me high enough to see through the window.

Cora was right.

I bring the camera up and I use it to complete my visual inspection of the room. At the near end are a series of cots, a sink and a toilet. One that I would never use. At the other end, are a series of weaving machines. I count nineteen girls, and four boys. They are all intent on their jobs, making gorgeous blankets in bold patterns for wealthy tourists. Even Kathie Lee didn’t do this. I film the scene for a few more minutes. I then climb down to find an anxious Cora.


"I’m sure that violates a child labor law or two in there."

"What should we do?"

"Let’s move back into the trees and talk." Quickly and quietly, we go back into the cover of the trees. I pull out my cell phone. Before I can dial any number, my hand freezes when I hear the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being racked.

"Cora. What are you doing here?" a man asks, his voice rough from years of cigarette smoking.

We both turn around slowly, and come face to face with a tall man holding the biggest damn shot gun I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m sure that has something to do with the fact it’s pointed right at my face.


* * *


I roll over and slap at the phone, pulling the receiver to my ear under the blankets. "Hello?" God, what time is it? It feels far too early. Especially since Collin was up half the night sneezing out baby powder and fussing.

I hear muffled voices, but can’t make out a lot of what is being said. I try again. "Hello?"

Becoming more awake now, I look at the caller ID next to the phone. It’s Harper’s cell phone. "Harper?"

Still no answer, just raised, muffled voices. Something is wrong. Something is wrong in a big way. I listen carefully as I get out of bed and reach into my purse for my cell phone.

I hear a man yell ‘Drop it!’, then a gun blast, and then nothing.



To be continued…

<fade out>


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