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Cow Pies and Country Cousins

by Charles Well and Sam The Ham

Chapter 4


Jimmy was still angry by the time he finally made his way back to the swimming hole. He waded into the cold water a little to eliminate any remaining swelling down there. After a few minutes, he felt a little more relaxed and looked around. The football game was still going on. One team had put on shirts while the other was skins. He looked over towards the little kids. To his surprise, he saw Jason there along with an older boy. They were waist-deep in the water and both had a kid on their shoulders. The small boys were trying to push each other off and every so often there was a splash as one succeeded.

Jimmy had decided he wanted Jason as a friend, but he felt that if he went over, he might get roped into whatever they were doing. With most of the other kids playing football, that only left a few other options and right now Jimmy just didn't feel like it. He made his way back to the rocks and sprawled out to dry off. Even though he felt very tired, he wasn't sleepy. With some annoyance, he saw the twins making their way over to the football game with Damien. He imagined his brother trying to get into the game and getting smashed. It seemed they were just interested in watching though. Fred didn't look for him and instead went over to join Jason.

Pulling his knees up, Jimmy rested his head and noticed his dick getting hard again. It was just hormones, he consoled himself. Seeing someone sucking for the first time had been exciting. There was nothing wrong about wanting to see how you measured up against other guys. That's all it had been. He wasn't gay. He was going to be successful. He had to be successful. He would be better than Damien.

Then a weird thought occurred to him. Maybe his little brother was gay? The kid had done something with another boy. He wondered who that could be. Probably that Brian kid from school. Brian was one of Damien's few friends. The kid went to their school only because he was smart. Freakishly smart. He was one of the scholarship kids they let into West Village Community School (WVCS) in New York because of donations by some old students. But the scholarship kids were not well liked. Most parents paid about $50,000 a year to send their kid to WVCS, but the scholarship freeloaders got it for nothing. And besides, they showed the other kids up by getting better grades. Brian was even in Jimmy's math class, a full year ahead of where he should be. And although Jimmy gave Brian a run for his money, the kid always managed to get maybe one or two points higher in every quiz or test they ever took. And worse, at eleven Brian was as tall as him and good-looking enough that some of the girls in his grade secretly talked about the kid. No, the guy was a problem and had to go. And Jimmy had made the perfect plan.

Brian started coming home with Damien every Friday, sleeping over sometimes. Jimmy thought of slipping a few video games into the boy's bag. It was a solid plan. He would wait for a little while before mentioning to his parents that he couldn't find some games and then reluctantly mention he had seen Brian looking at them earlier. And the whole scheme would have worked perfectly if he hadn't waited so long. Brian must have started his homework as soon as he got home. He rang Damien immediately and said that he had found some games of theirs in his bag and didn't know how they got there. Jimmy denied knowing anything about it of course. But somehow his mom put the pieces together and that was when his dad had mentioned the threat of military school for the first time. Yeah, he bet it was Brian, that Damien had been doing stuff with.

"Jimmy, you look miserable," said Tom, appearing out of nowhere.

Jimmy looked up, temporarily blinded by the sunlight. He shielded his eyes before he could see the older boy clearly.

"I'm fine," the twelve-year-old responded.

The teen came a little closer. "I am heading back early today. You want to come with me?"

Jimmy looked over at the swimming hole. He had to admit he had some fun, but he didn't want to be there. "Sure."

He followed the older boy to the unofficial parking lot and walked towards the UTV before Tom stopped him.

"We'll take one of the four wheelers back. Junior can drive the UTV. The two little ones can sit in the front."

Jimmy put on one of the helmets before climbing aboard. He was a little hesitant at first, but after a few seconds, he reached around and interlocked his fingers around the waist of the older boy. He could feel the taut stomach muscles against his arms.

"I won't go too fast," Tom said, as he gunned the engine and eliminated the chance of any further conversation.

The ride back wasn't bad. The ATV was loud, but it wasn't too rough. Jimmy loosened his grip a little and enjoyed the trip. He had to admit this was fun.

When they got back to the Sullivan farm, Tom drove out to a building Jimmy hadn't noticed before. It was a metal shed with one large door and a lot of equipment inside. They came to a stop in front and Jimmy immediately started to get off.

"Wait up. I'm beginning to think you don't like me, the way you always try to run away," Tom said as he got off the four-wheeler. "You want a crash course in how to drive one of these? You get a few hours practice and we'll let you drive out to the swimming hole with us. It's not that hard. Think of it as a pre-driving lesson for your future car."

An intrigued city boy considered the suggestion. "Alright."

Like Tom said, it wasn't that complicated. Jimmy listened to the explanation of everything and repeated it back. He became a little nervous though when it came time to start the ATV. It was different being on it by yourself. However, with Tom's encouragement, he gave it a little gas and it crawled forward. So he gave it a little more, and it took on a life of its own. For a second, Jimmy thought he would fall backwards. But after several attempts, driving started feeling much more natural and he drove to the tree line and back. He knew he was going about a fifth as fast as Tom. Still, you had to start somewhere and this was definitely fun. He took a few more turns around the large field, but before long the older boy was calling him back. Jimmy returned to the machine shed and shut off the ATV he'd been driving.

"That was fun. Thanks for letting me try it," he said.

"No problem, you're a natural. We'll have you racing the others in no time," Tom said as he pushed the four-wheeler into the garage. "We really need to take a shower though. The swimming hole is nice, but it's not exactly a pool."

"I always shower after the pool. The chlorine makes my skin itch," Jimmy said.

"Well let's hit the showers. We probably have an hour or two before the rest of the pack comes back and then it becomes a bit of a madhouse in there." Tom said as he secured both helmets on large hooks jutting from the wall.

Jimmy followed the older boy back towards the bunkhouse. When they were halfway there, Tom cleared his throat.

"I heard about what you saw in the woods. I talked to the twins separately and then to your brother. Everyone says they were just messing around having fun. The twins can be like a tornado at times. They have this way of picking people up and carrying them along. But they seem to like your brother."

"They told you about that? I mean, what they were doing in the woods?" Jimmy asked, genuinely surprised.

"Fred didn't at first, but I looked into it. I understand if you're upset. But it's something all boys do at times. Nobody takes it too seriously."

Jimmy was a little annoyed to hear that. He would have much preferred if it was kept a secret. It limited the people he could use the information against.

"Fine. I was just real surprised to see it. That's all!"

"I can imagine. If you've never done it yourself," Tom said raising his eyebrows questioningly, as they entered the bunkhouse.

Jimmy ignored the insinuation and the fifteen-year-old headed straight for the large communal bathroom, already peeling off his shirt. He stopped and looked back at Jimmy who stood frozen at the door.

"Are you coming?"

But the 12-year-old looked at the older boy in horror. He had just realized there would be no privacy in the shower area. There were no stalls in there apart from the toilets. He would be stark naked in front of this older kid.

"I will wait till you're finished," he said, looking around the room again like a cornered rat.

"Jimmy, it's not practical that you have the room to yourself every time. Besides, don't you shower at school?" Tom asked, leaning up against the wall.

"Well yes, but each kid has his own shower cubicle," Jimmy said honestly.

Tom smiled. "I know trying new things can be a bit uncomfortable at first. You were nervous when you got on the ATV. I could see that. But after you had driven it around a bit I saw you smiling. I'm not going to make fun of you, and really after a few times, you're not even going to think about it."

Jimmy hesitated, very tempted to go along, but instead he smiled coyly. "I'll wait till you're done."

"All right, suit yourself. I shouldn't be too long."

Jimmy watched the older boy disappear into the bathroom and started to look around for the DS again. Finding it, he lost himself in the game. He heard the water shut off and Tom walked back into the room wearing only a towel. Unconsciously his eyes followed the figure around accidentally causing Mario to run into a pool of lava. Tom dropped the towel and Jimmy watched as the older boy reached for his clothing. From this angle, he got a glimpse of Tom's butt, but he also got a glimpse of the boy's penis. It was a rather thick appendage in a nest of dark curly hair. It was quickly covered by a pair of underwear.

"The room is all yours," the oldest Sullivan brother said. "Let me show you where we hang up our swimming trunks."

Jimmy shut the game off before following Tom into the bathroom. He vaguely remembered Bill telling him about the clothesline. There was a large open window on the right-hand side of the room, and immediately outside a long rope with pegs for hanging clothes and wet towels Tom explained.

"You're responsible for putting your stuff there, so it'll dry overnight. Any towel you use also goes there. Mom washes them once a week."

He waited for Tom to leave before getting undressed. At home, he usually took long hot showers, but today he wanted to get this done quick. He took his street clothes into the bathroom with him, so he could change in there. He wouldn't be giving any free show to the older boy. Not today at least.

"Let me show you something," Tom said when Jimmy re-emerged from the bathroom 10-minutes later.

The younger boy followed without complaint. Tom was being decent to him and it's not like he had anything else he needed to do. He followed the kid into the house and into the family room. He had looked in here earlier in the day when Fred was showing him to the toilet.

There was the same well-worn furniture, and the same ancient television. Tom went to a cupboard at the far end of the room and started rummaging around inside. Jimmy took the opportunity to look about himself. His eyes were drawn to the painting. Landscapes were a little out of fashion, according to Mickey Bailey's mom who was an interior decorator with a famous firm in New York. But Jimmy could tell from the raised and uneven surface, this was a painting, not a print, as he had thought earlier. So an original no doubt, but still trash, like everything in the Sullivan house. The people were white trash and the things, just… trash, trash.

"Here it is! Mom must it put it away last night." Tom announced as he carried over an Xbox 360 to the table with the old TV.

"We don't get to use it much. Other than the hand held, this is the only game console in the house. And no Wi-Fi. Sorry!" Tom said as he connected the machine and television. "But I figured you might enjoy it for a bit while you have the house to yourself. I'm going to go see if my dad needs anything. You'll probably have to get off when other people start showing up," Tom explained.


"No problem," he gave his cousin a pat on the shoulder before heading out of the room.

Jimmy once had an Xbox 360, long since replaced by the Xbox One. Come to think of it, he couldn't even remember what had happened to his old system. It had just sort of disappeared.

The Xbox 360 game selection the Sullivan kids had was pitiful. Sports games weren't a favorite and that eliminated about half of the collection. He ended up picking a game he had never heard of, but it was fun. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad here. Tom was nice and the rest of the stuff, he could figure out later.

After a while, his aunt finally came back accompanied by Sue and yet another cousin named Meg. She was 18. Both of the other women had groceries in their arms. The young girl watched him play for a minute before demanding a turn of her own at killing zombies. With his aunt in the kitchen, he didn't want to cause a problem. Of course, that was only the start of it. The rest of the pack came back all at once. The room filled up almost instantly. He quickly gave up on any hope of getting another turn as the controllers were passed from one boy to another before dinner was announced. It was a fine meal. His aunt really wasn't too bad a cook even if it wasn't all he was used to.

After dinner, or supper as they called it here, the TV was taken over by the adults and a couple of his cousins joined them. Suddenly feeling a bit crowded, Jimmy made his way back outside where the twins and Damien were playing a game of catch. His kid-brother noticed him staring, but the twins ignored him. By then, the mosquitoes were coming out, and he retreated into the bunkhouse only to find that the DS was gone. Having nothing else to do, he went back into the house and luckily found out that the TV was playing some detective show. He didn't recognize it, but that was fine.

At nine o'clock, Jimmy's uncle turned off the TV.

"It's bedtime. I'll see you all in the morning," the man said, rising from what Jimmy had learned was his chair. For a second, he thought of turning the TV back on. With no school the next day, he usually stayed up to about 11 PM., but Tom was one of the boys still in the room, and he got up without a word. Jimmy had the vague idea that staying on his good side would be better for him, so he followed the older boy to the bunkhouse.

Jimmy noticed his two little cousins were already asleep along with one of the twins. The other one was reading while Damien looked like he was trying to doze off. Again, Tom changed right out in the open as did Fred. Jimmy simply slipped into the bathroom after grabbing his own pajamas. Junior was in there brushing his teeth and the other boy gave him a look. Jimmy wasn't sure how to interpret that. In the back of his head, he realized he'd messed up. He seemed to be on pretty good terms with Tom, but he hadn't talked to Junior at all. So, he decided he would fix that tomorrow. He lost his temper at the swimming hole and with the information he had on his brother, the twins, and Fred, he should have done better. He wasn't sure what Fred thought of him, and they hadn't spoken all night.

Going back into the main room, Jimmy noticed that Luke had left the DS on the floor next to his bed. He looked around briefly, and moved over to pick it up. He climbed into his bed and turned it on. The summer reading books his mom had packed awaited, and he felt guilty about that. But he was lazy tonight. No doubt the heat, he guessed.

"Jimmy," Tom said in a quiet tone. "Don't stay up too late. We get up early in the morning around here," he warned.

Jimmy acknowledged this with a nod, but gave it no more thought. The boys around him drifted off to sleep, but it wasn't until the battery was flashing low that Jimmy decided maybe he should try to get some down time himself. But that was easier said than done. He wasn't sure how late it was, but it was dark outside now. Without the distraction of the game, he started to notice things. The noises were different to back home. The steady hum of the alpacas, the hooting of an owl in the distance, the sound of a dog howling which was quickly picked up by a few others. At least Jimmy thought they were dogs. Were there wolves in South Carolina? He didn't really know. On top of all the sounds, his bed was hot and uncomfortable. He wriggled around trying to find a cooler spot. The mattress was smaller and thinner than what he was used to, and he couldn't sprawl out as he liked. Eventually, sleep did come, but it felt fractured. He remembered waking up a few times. He had never been a particularly deep sleeper.

At one point in the middle of the night, Jimmy had this weird dream. He felt somebody shaking him. "Time to get up," said a voice that sounded like Tom.

Still, mostly asleep, he rolled away. The voice said something else, but by then, Jimmy was already back asleep, buried under the covers. Then he felt a sharp pain. Something was poking him hard enough that it was difficult to ignore. He opened his eyes and heard, "Fire!"

Again, two small objects impacted, and Jimmy propped himself up on his elbow trying to force his eyes to focus. He felt something hit him in the knee, and he finally recognized them as Nerf darts.

"Stevie, he's awake you can stop shooting," Junior said.

"What the hell," Jimmy croaked. Luke and Stevie were standing there with Nerf guns. Junior stood off to the side a little.

"It's time to get up. And watch your language," the fourteen-year-old said, not hiding his amusement.

Now propped up on one elbow Jimmy looked around at the rest of the room. Everyone else was gathered in the little kitchen area drinking something.

"Coffee or hot chocolate Jimmy. What's your poison?" Tom asked.

"I don't like it hot. It burns my tongue." Stevie announced.

Tom took another sip from his coffee cup. "Alright coffee, hot chocolate, or lukewarm chocolate?"

"What time is it?" Jimmy demanded.

"A little after 5:30. Now get up or face the firing squad," Fred said.

A couple of his cousins laughed at that and Jimmy was annoyed. Who gets up at 5:30? There had been a couple of times he hadn't even gone to bed by that time. He looked over at his two youngest cousins who were still eager to use him for human target practice. Reluctantly, Jimmy swung his feet onto the floor.

"Why do I have to get up?" he whined.

"Because you have chores to do, just like everyone else. Your mom actually insisted on it," Tom said.

"What exactly do we have to do?" Damien asked, sounding almost eager.

There was always plenty to do. The Sullivan family ran a mixed farm that included raising livestock and growing crops. The property was called O'Reilly Farms, and it was an amalgamation of several smaller properties and named after the original family owners. Their main product was poultry, called broilers in the South. These were chickens raised to 9-12 weeks of age and sold for their meat. Broiler chickens could put meat on your table quicker and with less effort than raising any other livestock. But Uncle Jack was also moving with the times. This was the first farm in the county to produce alpaca fiber. It was similar to sheep's wool, but much more expensive and highly sought after in the fashion industry. They had 350 of the beasts. And then there were dairy cows. Because these needed milking twice a day at 6, morning and evening, and they required a lot of other maintenance to keep them in the best shape, Uncle Jack had been reducing their numbers over recent years as the alpaca herd grew. They only had 26 dairy cows left. As for crops they had vegetable gardens which were mainly for family use, and they planted corn in season, but this was used as feed. The O'Reilly Farms free-range and grain fed broilers were famous in the large organic food markets in the big cities in both the east and west coast.

"There's always a lot to do around a farm," said Tom, answering Damien's question. "You're going to help the twins. They'll fill you in on the details. You can help feed the dogs and take care of the house-hens. There are worst jobs than that. Me and the older boys will be milking the cows. But there's only an hour of chores before breakfast. Then we get a 45 minute break. Unfortunately, there's more stuff to do after that. But the good news is that dad always gives us the afternoons off during the summer break, and we can go swimming, caving, ride around on the ATVs, or even go hunting if you like. Junior saw raccoon tracks around the chicken tractors yesterday. That's where the market birds spend the night, and we're gonna need to hunt them varmints down before they do any damage."

Jimmy blinked wondering when they'd leave him alone. He needed to get back to sleep.

"Working with Sue is the worst job," Luke piped up. "She's bossy." Some of the older boys found that amusing, though nobody disagreed with the statement.

"Well if you like I could put you on manure shoveling in the barn. Would you prefer that job Luke?" Tom asked, taking another sip from his cup.

The younger boy made a face as Tom continued.

"The other two jobs are to let out the alpacas and collect some eggs for breakfast from the house hens. The rest of us, and that includes you Jimmy, will be milking the cows. With two extra helpers, I want to see if I can't rotate some things around a bit more. So, you and your brother are going to be swapping jobs tomorrow," said Tom, directing his attention towards Damien.

"We really don't need more help with the milking," Junior complained. "Give Jimmy to the twins."

Tom remained silent for a second considering the idea and then said, "If we get another hand on the milking machines, maybe we can take turns sleeping in a bit. Well Junior and Fred can. I'm too much of a morning person."

Junior grunted and dropped the subject.

"Who's cleaning the barn?" Harry asked.

"Well, since nobody has gotten in trouble, I believe it's Juniors call. Who do you want to draft?"

Junior deliberated on that, enjoying the brief exercise of power. "The twins, I guess. The rest of you can deal with the birds and the alpacas."

"Thank you, big brother," Bill said sarcastically. "Is Dib sticking with us all morning?"

"Yes, could I stay with the twins?" Damien asked.

"Sure, I'll just be a supervisor today," Junior said with a smile. "People don't usually volunteer, but I'll be happy to have you." He raised his coffee cup as if he was toasting the offer.

"Well, that's settled," Tom said. "The weather prediction is for rain in the afternoon, possible thunderstorms. So swimming is probably a no-go today. Anyone else got ideas?"

"Why can't we go swimming? We're just going to get wet anyway." Bill complained.

"It's not the rain, you're old enough to know that. It's the lightning that's the danger," Junior supplied. "Maybe a party instead?" he added in a way that "party" seemed to indicate something else.

"No!" Luke shouted. "When you guys do that, you kick us out and that means we're with Sue."

"Yeah!" Stevie seconded.

"It'll just be for a bit then we can play Clue afterward," Tom offered as a peace offering.

"I'll read to you tonight. You guys can even pick the book," Harry suggested.

The idea appeared to mollify the two youngest boys.

"Why don't we take the cousins to the caves?" Bill suggested. "They haven't seen them yet."

"Yep," Luke agreed. They're real cool Damien and you could walk around in there forever. You've got to bring lanterns and flashlights though, but most of the caves are high enough to stand up in, even for Tom."

Yippee!" yelled Stevie. There's a big place in there we made a fort. Indians used to go in there, like a thousand years ago," explained the 7-year-old excitedly.

"And there's secret stuff in there," Harry said, winking conspiratorially to his twin.

"Yeah! Let's take them," Bill begged his older brother.

Jimmy listened the entire time to all the back and forth, trying not to wake up completely. He had picked up that they were expecting him to do chores. But considering he was a guest, that didn't seem right. Besides, he'd never done chores before and didn't see a reason to start now. His job was to do well at school, and he was very good at that. He thought about how he should explain that fact to his cousins, or whether he should even bother. There was no way his parents would be expecting him to do physical labor. That was below his station in life. He would be a successful lawyer like his father. If Damien wanted to run around in the dirt and play farmer that wasn't his problem. Slowly he lay back down on his bed.

"Jimmy, you're going the wrong way. You have to get up!" Tom said, now with an edge to his voice.

"I don't do chores. Ask your dad," Jimmy growled and rolled over so his back was to everyone else.

There were a few seconds of silence before Junior broke it. "Firing squad, empty your clips."

"Don't," Tom said raising his voice. "Let it be for now guys. I will deal with it later."

"Why are you letting him be lazy?" Fred demanded.

"Everyone gets a break when they're sick."

"He's not sick!" Junior said jumping into the argument.

"He's homesick," Tom replied.

Jimmy smiled as he pulled the covers over his head. Tom was a good guy. The perfect ally in fact. He would need to do something to cement that relationship he knew. Jimmy understood how these things worked. There were a few more complaints exchanged by the other boys, but by then he was happily nodding off.

Although the Sullivan farm was a mobile phone dead-zone, the family were still able to communicate through a network of wallkie talkies that each kid picked up from the charging station before they left the bunkhouse each morning. They could communicate with each other and with Uncle Jack, by switching to the appropriate channel. Uncle Jack was on channel 1, Meg on 2, Tom on 3 and so forth. The base station for major emergencies, channel 20, was a larger more powerful radio, located in the main house, and monitored by Aunt Kate. The little wallkie-talkies were lightweight, compact and durable radios that had about a 25-mile range. By turning to channel 11 there was even a real-time weather conditions report and alert system. But there were no radios for the Bukland brothers, as they were not expected to be visiting for long, and it was assumed they would remain in the company of the other children at all times.

Once outside, the boys split up and each headed to their assigned tasks. The first job for the twins was to go to the large freezer in the barn and chop scraps of meat for the dogs. Damien joined them today and couldn't have been happier. He loved all animals and secretly always wanted a dog of his own, but knew his parents would never agree.

"A New York condo is no place for a dog," his father had repeated many times over the years.

But the Sullivans were blessed with furry canine companionship. They had 4 Maremma sheepdogs, named, Peter, Paul, Mary and Wendy. And Mary just had a new litter of 4 that didn't have names yet. At least two of the puppies would be sold when they got old enough. But these were working dogs, not pets. They stayed outdoors with the market chickens all day and night to guard them from all kinds of predators that seem to enjoy a chicken dinner – feral dogs and cats, weasels, foxes, skunks, raccoons, and sometimes coyotes. Once the meat was chopped and put in a large bucket, the three boys got onto one of the ATVs and drove out to the back-forty where the movable pens (called chicken tractors) were located. The chickens here were market birds, as opposed to the house hens around the farm that provided meat and eggs for the family. The boys patted and played with the dogs, made sure their water dishes were full, and did a quick tour around to ensure nothing had got into the chickens overnight.

Luke and Stevie met up with Sue at the back door to the farmhouse as their chores were located in that area. They had to let the house hens out of their enclosure, fill up feeders and waterers and collect any eggs laid overnight. Then they opened up the gate to the alpaca corral and led the animals out into fields in the front-forty. Sue also had responsibility for her pony named Silver.

The older boys, Tom, Junior and Fred were all on milking duty first thing. Although there were only 26 cows, they still needed milking twice a day. The good news for the boys was that their father did the evening milking himself with the aid of the machines.

Jimmy felt the warm steam coil around his body as he walked into the shower room. He could hear the water running and the steam in front of him slowly dispersed. Another naked figure was revealed. Tom was there and he slowly turned around to stare at him.

"Looks like you got over your fear of the shower," the older boy said.

Jimmy smiled. "Well you have been so nice to me, I figured I needed to repay you." He walked forward, until he was just inches away from Tom, and then sunk down to his knees. His hands reached out and took hold of Tom's penis. He stroked it lovingly, holding firmly around the base and slid his other hand over the head. He squeezed, and watched in fascination as it started to enlarge. Then he opened his mouth slowly, looked up at the older boy, gave him a wink, and bent his head towards it.

The sudden absence of a pillow caused Jimmy's head to hit the mattress with a thud and he was pulled violently from his dream. His eyes snapped open and as he rolled over onto his back, he felt his erection pushing against the bed sheet. That information was only secondary to the fact that Fred was staring down at him with a pissed-off look on his face.

"Get up you lazy fuck!" the boy was yelling.

Jimmy quickly opted to hide his erection.

"What's your problem?" the city boy yelled back.

"You. You're the problem. I don't know why Tom is giving you such an easy time, but I'm not going to let you sleep in like a little princess while the rest of us are working. Get up."

Jimmy had a very good reason for not getting up just then. But that problem was diminishing rapidly. Biting back his original response, he tried to smile.

"Listen, I know you guys have chores and that's all part of your lifestyle. But it's not part of mine. I'm an honor-roll student and have a 3.8 GPA from one of the best private schools in New York. I work hard all year and my vacation is a time to rest."

"Tom is an honors student, and so is Bill, but they're out there doing what they're supposed to be doing. Now get off your ass and stop being a freeloader," Fred said, tossing the pillow across the room at him.

"Why are you even doing anything? Why don't you have the twins cover your work? I mean, after what we saw them doing yesterday, you should be having them running around like your servants. Didn't you think of that?" Jimmy asked with a note of triumph in his voice. This was not how he would have preferred to suggest the idea, but life could throw obstacles in your way at times. You rolled with the punches.

"What are you talking about?" Fred said clearly not catching on. Then he got a look on his face like the idea just occurred to him.

"What? When they were jerking off with Damien? Who gives a shit about that?"

Jimmy was hoping for a little more understanding from the kid. Clearly, Fred wasn't going to work out as an ally, and frankly Jimmy didn't want him as one. Time for his big gun.

"Well, I'm sure a few people would be interested to hear what you and Ricky were doing. What would your brothers think? What about your parents?"

Over the years Jimmy had seen a few people look at him with hatred. It was usually a good sign. It meant he had hit a nerve. He smiled, knowing he had Fred on the hook.

However, the other boy, rather than looking petrified, gave a condescending smirk.

"So that's your game, is it? Well, you're barking up the wrong tree 'round here. My brothers would be jealous. Nothing more. Ricky gives the best blowjobs in the county. And my parents would be happy I'm not messing around with a girl. A lot less of a chance to get a boy pregnant you know."

"What exactly are you? Some sort of peeping Tom? How are you and Damien even related? Are you the postman's kid, or just some freak accident?"

Jimmy was the type of boy frequently around trouble, but rarely in it. He was generally good at controlling his temper and his altercations with other boys were always well planned. Other people generally did the dirty work for him, and he usually left the real physical stuff to the bullies he controlled. He had only been in a handful of fights himself. However, he had attended boxing lessons for boys at the YMCA and would defend his honor at all costs. Whether Fred knew it or not, he had pressed the wrong buttons on his cousin this time.

Jimmy jumped up to punch the other boy, but banged his head against the overhead bunk where his kid-brother slept. That just made him angrier. He got to his feet, took his stance on the floor and launched a powerful left-jab at Fred's chin. He knew the jab was more useful than all other punches combined. The jab could punch, push, distract, create openings, and even defend against your opponent's deadliest punches. Fist and chin connected and Fred briefly staggered backwards. The boy hadn't been expecting that, and would now know he faced a real opponent.

Fred sneered. "Is that the best you've got? Try this city boy!" He launched his own left jab at his cousin, exhaling a sharp breath as he did so. Jimmy thwarted the move with the double arm block he had been taught. This effectively moved him into range of his opponent with relative safety, and he smashed home with a rapid series of left and right uppercuts. Unfortunately, Fred had been expecting that move, blocked with his right arm and swung a massive left hook that connected with Jimmy's face. He was temporarily down for the count as the left hook had landed right in the middle of his nose. Any harder might have broken bones. As it was, a steady stream of blood flowed as he slowly staggered to his feet and moved towards the other boy again. Fred shoved the boy away from him this time with enough force that the bunk bed moved as he was pushed into it. Pain shot up Jimmy's back and that combined with the injury to his face, left him hurting real bad. But there was no way he'd let this country bumpkin get the better of him, and he charged at Fred like a wild bull. This time Sullivan had enough time to counter attack and Jimmy felt a punch connect with his jaw. He was staggering now, but with adrenalin pumping in his system the boy from New York made a desperate last charge slamming into Fred with all his remaining energy and pushing him against the wall, destroying a shelf, and scattering game pieces across the floor. But Fred was far from done. He bounced back like a rubber ball and knocked Jimmy to the ground. For deadly seconds, the two boys stared at one-another each trying to catch his breath. Then at some unspoken signal, they charged at each other again. But this time neither really had the energy for more punches, and they wrestled on the floor amid the broken game pieces.

"What the hell is going on here?" Uncle Jack's voice boomed loud enough that Jimmy was snapped out of his anger. Before he could pull away, he found himself being yanked from Fred's grip.

"Separate sides of the room, now!" The man roared.

Jimmy obeyed. With the surging adrenaline ebbing, he started to feel the pain in his back and face as blood continued to flow from his nose. His mind tried to put together a plan to explain, but he was coming up blank. He looked over at Fred, but the man was standing between them.

"Alright which one of you is going to tell me what happened?" Uncle Jack demanded, his tone quieter but no less angry. There were several seconds of silence that seemed to stretch into eternity.

"Don't you three have some place to be?"

Jimmy looked up just in time to see three heads disappear from the window followed by a couple of shouts. "Yes Sir!" He thought he recognized Sue, Luke and Stevie.

"All right, neither of you is going to speak up?" Uncle Jack said and waited a few more seconds. "Fred, I told you what would happen if I caught you fighting again. Let's get this over with."

Jimmy was still trying to figure out what to say when he looked over at Fred. Without a word, the other boy walked over to one of the bunk beds and undid his overalls letting them drop to the ground. Kneeling on the floor, the kid laid his stomach on the bed before pulling his underwear down. Jimmy watched as Uncle Jack marched to stand beside Fred's bare ass. On some level, he knew what was going to happen. But it just didn't seem real. When the large hand walloped the bare skin, it made such a loud sound that even Jimmy jumped. It was quickly followed by another and another. He didn't even try to keep track. The spanking brought him no satisfaction, rather a sense of unease. His dad had never hit him. He would have reported it to a teacher, if not the cops, right away. But as the spanking continued, he had the sinking suspicion that wouldn't fly here in the South. These people were at least 50 years behind the rest of the country.

After who knows how many whacks, Uncle Jack straightened up.

"Go finish your chores and I better see the both of you in the barn today. I don't care which one of you started the fight, you were both going at it."

"Yes sir," Fred said, his voice straining in pain as he pulled his underwear and overalls back up.

"Jimmy, stay for a minute." Uncle Jack said with a heavy sigh. Jimmy's nose had stopped bleeding now, and he wiped the remaining blood from his face with the back of his hand. He felt sore all over, but guessed now was not the time to bring that up. The man walked towards him once Fred had disappeared out the door. Instinctively, Jimmy's hands shot behind his back to cover his butt.

When the man spoke though his voice was much calmer and almost back to normal.

"Listen, the rule around here is that once a boy gets spanked, that's the end of it. You can't hold a grudge against Fred. Now, I don't know how long you're going to be here, but just so you understand, your mom gave me permission to spank you and Damien if it was needed. She told me you've been getting into some trouble lately. This time you get the benefit of the doubt. But it's a one-time deal. Next time…" He didn't need to continue. Jimmy was in no doubt about the message.

He swallowed and nodded. "Yes sir, I understand. I need to change."

'How can something shit so much?' Jimmy wondered for the hundredth time. Cows went to the bathroom a lot and it seemed they all had diarrhea. He had only seen one cow go and it was disgusting. It was like a water fountain. Even from a good fifteen feet away he had heard it hit the cement floor. Of course, Junior who was in charge of the cleanup detail had ordered him to clean that up. Given what had happened he was at least attempting to get along for now. Fred was on the far side of the barn doing the same job at one of the other gutters and shooting death glares his way. Both boys were in pain. Each knew that. The fight had been brutal and neither kid had walked away unscathed. And Fred had the added discomfort of the spanking on top of that. But it was clear, no allowance would be made for what Tom described as, "self-inflicted wounds," as far as chores were concerned.

"All right let's go dump this one," Junior said picking up the wheelbarrow. "Come on. It's the last load until tomorrow."

Jimmy thought about that. The twins, his brother, and Sue were taking care of the calves. He wondered if maybe he could alternate with one of them. That thought was a little depressing. He was already starting to think of settling in. He followed Junior, letting the shovel drag behind him. It was metal and sort of looked like a snow shovel. It fit perfectly in the trough. But it made a scratching sound as he pulled it along.

"Pick up the shovel. You can't be that tired!" Junior snapped.

"I'm not used to this. My hands hurt, my face hurts and my back feels like I was kicked by one of the cows. Besides, it's so damned hot. How is anyone expected to work in this heat?" Jimmy complained, hoping for a little sympathy.

But Junior ignored him.

They walked back out into the sun which intensified the cow shit smell. The temperature was in the high 80s and the humidity was even worse. Jimmy would have been sweating just being outside in weather like this. Let alone having to work as well. He wanted to go home. Days like this should be spent inside with the air conditioning running. It sucked! This whole thing really sucked.

"Oh, you poor thing. I'll get you an appointment at your salon," Junior finally responded unsympathetically. "Fred's almost done and there were two of us working on this side. Luke would have been more helpful."

"Well sorry, unlike you, I'm not used to shoveling shit!"

"Well you can certainly spray it."

Junior up ended the wheel barrow dumping most of the load onto the compost heap. Jimmy took a few more steps forward before using the shovel to scrape out the remaining bits. He was going along with the chores the best he could. But his 14-year-old cousin seemed to have it in for him. In the back of his mind, Jimmy wondered if maybe Fred and Junior were particularly close. His own brother was largely an annoyance, but he knew that sometimes brothers could get along.

Getting the last of it, Jimmy put the shovel on the ground. "Are we done now?"

Junior smile without humor. "I am. You can go put the shovel and wheel-barrow back."

"Why do I have to do it? Aren't you supposed to be the one in charge? Isn't that your responsibility?"

He put a little emphasis on the last word using a mocking tone. He may have to accept the need to do chores, but Junior had been treating him like a slave all morning since breakfast.

"You ever used a wheelbarrow before?"

"No. Why does that matter?"

"Because at some point you're going to need to use one, and it would be better if you had some experience before you dump something somewhere by accident."

Jimmy was about to say how hard could it be if Junior could do it, but he bit back the response. He knew he had only just missed out being in Fred's place over that fight business because all the kids had kept their mouths shut. He didn't want to imagine what that evil old Uncle Jack would do if he spotted him arguing with Junior.

"Fine!" said Jimmy grudgingly. After all, how hard could it be?

Walking up to the wheel-barrow, Jimmy reached his arms out and lifted it up before moving forward and taking a little step to the side. He must have done something wrong because the wheel-barrow started to pivot to the left, and almost tipped over. Using his now sore upper arm muscles, he was able to right it before it actually went out of control. But even without looking at Junior, he could sense the other boy was smiling. Determined not to screw up again, he tried to be more careful and this time got it turned around back towards the barn and the tool shed. He hadn't gone two steps before Junior tossed the shovel into the wheel-barrow.

"Don't forget that. No need to make two trips."

Junior was being a pain in the ass, but Jimmy didn't take the bait. He was almost back to the tool shed where they at first collected the wheelbarrow, when he realized there was another turn to make. Being cautious this time, he tried to take the turn more slowly, tilting the wheel-barrow away from the direction it was pointing. That worked, but the shovel that had been haphazardly placed inside started to slide in the opposite direction. He watched in horror as the handle went over the far side and pivoted on the edge and swung in his direction. It was covered in manure, so he dropped the wheel-barrow to prevent the filthy spade slamming into him. It crashed to the ground with a loud bang. He flinched at the noise, which was quickly followed by the sound of another clang as the shovel landed on the concrete floor of the shed.

Jimmy could feel his fingertips digging into his sore palms. He expected to hear curses coming from Junior, but thankfully there was only silence at first.

"I hate this place so much," he muttered out loud in frustration, just as one of the twins came around the corner.

"You okay? I heard a bang," asked the younger boy.

Jimmy couldn't tell which of the twins this one was. Frankly, he didn't care.

"I just dropped something," he answered.

"Right! Well it sounded pretty loud," the boy said before disappearing back around the corner. As the kid vanished from sight, he heard a walkie talkie squelch and the twin said,

"It's okay. Your brother just dropped the poop shovel. He's fine."

Jimmy closed his eyes and wished he could wake up from this nightmare. He wanted to go back home. He wanted nothing more than to hear his mom's car coming down the road to the farm. Then she would say she was here to take them back to New York. It had all been a big mistake and everything was going to be fine. He would sleep in his own bed tonight with the air conditioning running so high he would need to put on an extra blanket.

"It's a shitty job, but at least it's done." Tom's quiet voice came from behind.

For the first time since witnessing the spanking, Jimmy smiled. "Yeah, I'm not sure I'll ever feel clean again."

"You can hit the showers in a bit. I heard about the fight. Are you doing okay?"

Jimmy nodded. "I'm a little sore all over, but I've been through worse." He thought back to the time he broke his arm a few years ago. That was definitely worse. But still, he was hurting now, and couldn't appear weak in front of the kid who had been his only ally.

"That's good to know. So, what was it about? Who threw the first punch?"

Jimmy didn't have the strength to concentrate and lie convincingly. "I don't know, I think he did."

Tom's posture changed slightly. It was barely noticeable. He straightened up a little taller and his eyes narrowed. Jimmy remained quiet and stared back defiantly.

The oldest Sullivan boy waited a few more seconds, letting the silence stretch out.

"Sue and the others saw Fred going into the bunkhouse and they went over to see what was up. Fred took your pillow and you took the first swing. You just lied to me."

Jimmy began to feel his face warm up. It wasn't the first time he had been caught in a lie, but somehow it felt different this time. Tom's voice was just so calm.

"I'm sorry. He called me… He said…" But he couldn't explain about that to this kid he barely knew. Not even his best friends knew about that.

"I'm sure you are sorry," Tom said cutting him off. "I've done my best for you. I went out of my way to be nice. I wanted to make your first few days here easy. You obviously had a lot on your mind. I did all that and you still lied to me."


"You can apologize by cleaning out the barn for the rest of the week. One of us will supervise, but you're going to be doing that all by yourself. If you want to say that's unfair, just ask my father what he would do," Tom said, without any warmth in his voice. "That's your punishment. Now you agree to that and you and I will be okay. I won't go out of my way to make you any more miserable, but if you want me to be nice to you again, you're going to have to earn that. Above everything else I hate liars. You can never trust a liar. Now, are you going to clean out the barn for the rest of the week?"

Jimmy's eyes were becoming blurry, and he felt small. "I will." He wasn't sure why he had agreed. Maybe it was because he feared being spanked or maybe it was for that other reason. Jimmy's mind was overwhelmed and slow, like it was trudging knee-high through wet cement.

"Good, now we're going to put all this behind us. One last piece of advice though, the bunkhouse runs out of hot water very quickly. I wouldn't wait around until the room is empty." Tom turned and walked away.

The night before – Somewhere in Colombia

Diego Martinez had more bad news for his boss Angel Ramirez, but walked straight into the man's inner sanctum this time.

"Our arrangements to move against the money guy connected to the Giordano family just fell apart. We planned to take the wife and the two kids earlier today as soon as they left their apartment. We had two teams ready to go, one for the wife and another for the sons. But the whole family disappeared last night, as best we can tell, and they haven't been home since. Our tech guy, Alejandro, broke into the building's surveillance video system, and has the wife and kids leaving in what we think was a rented car at 11:33 PM. The lawyer left in his own car about an hour later. None of them have been spotted since."

"So you're saying the Giordanos tipped them off?"

"How could they? The only people who knew what was about to go down were our wet teams on the ground. Unless we have a traitor there? I'll look into that. But, no, I don't think so. I suspect we spooked Bukland. Our insider at the local police precinct tells us that the doorman of the building reported two men taking pictures of a group of kids outside in the street. The cops are treating it as a possible child molestation case and have a squad car driving past the place every hour or so. My guess is that someone on the surveillance team got spotted."

"Find out who is responsible for that fuck up and have them dealt with," demanded Angel Ramirez. "Their families too. We can't allow that level of incompetence to go unrewarded. Stand the two wet teams down for now. In the meantime, find the Buklands. Turn over every single rock and hiding place until you do. Contact all the bankers, lawyers, private investigators, police and FBI contacts we own, until someone turns up with their whereabouts. Get our guy Mason on to their credit cards and finances. Look at every purchase Buklands made in the past 2 years. Get lists of hotels, resorts, and holiday locations. The answers are there. People always run to places they know. And find out where Bukland plays. Look for mistresses, girlfriends, boyfriends, or massage parlors he visits. Everyone has weaknesses. Get Alejandro onto the social media and email accounts for the adults and the kids too. We'll need more resources on this, so hire whatever you need. I need details of those LLCs, the offshore account numbers, and their real and fake tax records. It's our best chance to hit the Giordanos where it hurts."

"I'm already on it, boss."

The same day - Unofficial FBI Field Office in New York

Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond looked up again at the whiteboard with the family tree of the Giordano crime family. The pyramid went down and extended width-wise from an 8 X 10 color picture of Michael Giordano, the Boss of Bosses. Below him was Anthony Salvatore and then all the capos with lines and company names below them. Beneath that were the enforcers and soldiers. He held a smaller picture of Adrian Michael Bukland (41) in his hands, not sure what to do. He could feel the months of work his special task force had done, all going up in smoke. If the latest information was correct, the Bukland family may have been taken out. What had actually happened was still unclear at this stage, but the entire Giordano family were in panic mode. Every one of their soldiers were out pounding the sidewalks, and a few heads as well, looking for any sign of Bukland. But it seemed the man, plus his wife and kids had disappeared off the face of the earth. The Colombians no doubt, he assumed. He was kicking himself for not anticipating that.

Agent Lizzie Myers burst through the door of the bull-pit. That's what they called this space where the real back-office work on the investigation was done. It was located in rented accommodation in Mulberry Street in the heart of Little Italy in New York.

"There's news," she said without any of the usual introductory small-talk. "We've discretely searched the Bukland condo. No signs of blood or a struggle. I'm guessing the Buklands sensed the war between the Italians and the Colombians was getting too close for comfort, and they bugged out themselves. This supposition was confirmed by the maid. We interviewed her an hour ago."

Agent Myers pulled a small notebook from the pocket of the cheap jacket she wore. They were technically working under cover. Name - Consuelo Lopez, 32, Mexican, not Colombian, legal immigration status. She's worked for the Buklands for about three years. She turned up to work yesterday to find a note and two weeks wages. We have the note. It says the family is taking a vacation, and they suggest she does too. The note was signed by Mrs. Bukland. The husband's car is gone and clothes and suitcases are missing according to the maid. She's agreed to help us with further inquiries.

"I see," Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond responded with a curt nod. He sat down in one of the cheap plastic chairs scattered about and intertwined the fingers on both his hands into a pyramid shape, as if praying. Agent Myers had seen her boss do this many times before when he was considering possibilities and turning a dozen different scenarios around in his head.

Exuding calm and focus he looked up at the younger agent and said, "I think we have a real opportunity here. But it's imperative we find the Buklands before either the Giordanos or the Colombians do. How difficult can it be to track a family of four? I want an APB (All Points Bulletin) on the family and the car. Run tracers on the credit cards, bank accounts, social media, and any family or friends we can find. I want everyone working on this until we track the Buklands down. Mr. Michael Bukland, Esq, attorney at law, can talk to us, or either the Giordanos or the Colombians. I'm happy to make him an offer he can't refuse."

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