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Cow Pies and Country Cousins

by Charles Well

Chapter 15

A New Life

"A day late and a dollar short." That was an idiom Jimmy had looked up once for a school project. Its roots were probably in the Great Depression, but meant having too little, and what little you had, always came too late to be of any use. It was funny how he thought of that. The police sirens were very loud now and only minutes away, but they'd arrive only for the cleanup. The killing had already been done.

Jimmy looked around the front yard of the Sullivan farm. They were all alive. He had trouble believing that, but it was true. Some were perhaps a little banged-up, but he and Damien, and all the Sullivan adults and children had survived their ordeal with the Colombian drug gang. Aunt Kate was sitting on the ground, and had regained consciousness, but she looked about wildly as if unsure where she was, or whether the bad guys were around. Tom had tears in his eyes, but he was holding his mother and whispering soothingly as he cradled her head. Uncle Jack was fumbling about, trying to ease the stiffness in his limbs. Jimmy had no doubt that both of them would live. The other Sullivan children crowded around in concern, the love and distress clearly evident on every face. As for the long-term impact of the day's events, he refused to think about that for now. He was certain his brain wasn't firing on all six cylinders after all that had happened.

They had been told to remain outside. Tom explained how the last of the Colombian drug enforcers had set up booby-traps in the house to kill innocent people. Two hand grenades had been seen, but they worried there could be more.

When they heard this, several of the boys thought of going over and kicking what was left of the man who was last to leave the house. Unfortunately, there weren't sufficient remains to do that. The sirens were now at the outer gate to the farm and would be here in seconds.

"Go wash the dogs," Uncle Jack yelled as he took over from Tom as the main care-giver for his wife. "Your mother needs space to breathe," he said urging his sons to stand back.

Damien, the twins, and Fred were all needed to drag the four animals away from their prey. The dogs put up some resistance at first, until Damien grabbed pack-leader Peter by the head and stared into his eyes. He said nothing, but that was enough to get all the animals moving. They were taken outback to the hand-pumps near the bunkhouse for a quick wash.

"A good idea," Jimmy said to Tom as he watched them leave. He was leaning against the wrecked and abandon SUV used by the thugs.

"Those dogs were something out of a horror movie. The hounds from hell or something. They saved my butt, still.. I…," Jimmy never finished the thought. He had got a much closer view of the action than he ever wanted and was standing right next to the man when the animals attacked. Fortunately, he had been cut loose moments before, and the man dropped the grip on his shoulder when the first dog bit deep. He managed to crawl away, fearing they might go after him next, but they simply ignored him. He must have been one of the good guys to the dogs, even though he never had that much to do with them. Still, he wasn't sure he wanted to test that theory. He had been pretty much covered in blood, head to toe, as the man was pulled apart, limb by limb, and horribly mutilated. The less he had to do with those animals the better.

The first of the cavalry to arrive was Sheriff Riley and half a dozen deputies. According to Junior, that had to be the entire police force of Harrison County.

The seven men and one woman got out of the patrol cars carefully, as if expecting an ambush any minute. They were loaded for bear with shotguns, hand-guns, and assault rifles. The leader strode in front of the others, saw the Sullivan family, the bodies on the ground, the awful mess near the trees, and looked around, not sure where to start. Sheriff Sam Riley was a solid 55-year-old white man who had long ago lost the physical physique he once had in his high school football days. Back then, he had a promising college and possibly even pro career ahead until a knee injury in his senior year put paid to all of that. As a result, he never got to college, but an uncle had secured him a job with the sheriff's department out of high school. That never held him back as too much "book learn'n" in a deputy was never considered a requirement back in the day. He rose slowly through the ranks and achieved the position of sheriff about 7 years ago, more through seniority than fitness for the position. But he was reasonably well liked, treated citizens of all races fairly, and adopted a pragmatic approach to police work. He only prosecuted a local when the seriousness of the crime left him no alternative. He wore the standard county police uniform - dark green trousers, a khaki shirt with lawman star, shoulder flashes, a walkie-talkie unit attached to his right shoulder epaulet, a thick belt and holster and a pouch on his left side with a pair of handcuffs. On his head was a black Low Rider Style Western felt hat.

"Deputy Peterson is over there near the patrol car. Sorry, he's dead," Fred explained. "The guy near him is a Colombian drug cartel enforcer."

"His name was Mateo. I killed him," said Harry who had walked around from the back. "He killed Peterson with his AK47 and was about to kill Bill and Damien, so I shot him with Junior's crossbow."

"That's right," said Damien who had also come around from the back with four very wet animals still shaking themselves dry. It had been a very hasty wash. "And that mess over by the trees was the boss. We don't know his real name. He called himself Viper. The dogs got him."

"There's two more bodies in the dam," Jimmy added. "The one on the track to the swimming hole and caves. You know, the big dam fed by water from the Runaway Creek."

The sheriff and all the deputies stood there stunned. A bunch of very young boys just admitted killing four people. In addition, their own colleague, Eric Peterson, was dead. They could see his uniformed body near the patrol car. Things like this didn't happen in Harrison County.

The sheriff looked over at Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan.

"Hi Jack, hello Kate," said Riley. "All that true? You're both looking a little worse for wear. You two alright?"

"Yep, I guess so. If the boys say that's what happened, then it did. Kate and I were held prisoner and beaten by the thugs. There were four of them. They arrived in two SUVs around 1:30 PM. They came here looking for the Bukland brothers – Jimmy and Damien over there. Kate and I didn't see much because we were both tied up inside the house most of the afternoon. But there are still hand grenade booby traps the assholes left in the house. You need to get a bomb disposal unit here. And my wife needs medical attention."

Sheriff Riley appeared bewildered. "Bomb disposal unit?" He turned towards the house. Where would he find a bomb squad? They had never needed one before. Then he looked over at the boys.

"You are telling me these kids killed four hitmen from a South American drug cartel that came to kidnap two of them? Are any of the children injured or hurt in any way?"

"No Sam, the boys say they're all fine. But get someone to check them out. And yes, all the bad guys are dead," answered Jack Sullivan. "In the meantime, I'm taking Kate over to the bunkhouse, so she can lie down. That Viper guy hit her pretty hard."

A perplexed Sheriff Riley turned back to the youngsters. Several were covered in blood, but he couldn't see any obvious physical injuries.

Uncle Jack and Junior helped Aunt Kate to her feet and assisted as she walked around the back towards the bunkhouse.

Just then, five pickup trucks full with rifle totting men started coming up the drive. Everyone looked in that direction. That would be Uncle Jonas's re-enactor buddies, Jimmy thought. He had met Uncle Jonas half-a-dozen times during his stay at the farm.

The sight was sufficient to provoke Riley into action.

"We need to secure the scene. You boys stay here until we get statements from you all. Jackson and Phelps, go back and block the entrance. Nobody gets in without my permission. Call me on the radio if you're unsure. Turn those men around. Tell them everything is under control and they should go home. Move!"

He turned to the female deputy. "Jones, check that ambulances are on the way. We'll need the coroner and the meat wagon here. Make the call to Doc Simons. Better also call in the forensics crew from the state capital. They'll be hours getting here, but we need them rolling ASAP. Also ask if they have a bomb squad."

The sheriff then turned to a fourth deputy. "Harrison, I'm going up to the house to look around. Don't worry, I'm not going in. But I need you to check on Eric Peterson. Make sure he is really dead. Don't move the body. Just stand guard there for now. And keep an eye on the boys, so they don't wander off. Got it?"

"Okay Sheriff."

Just then two FBI black suburbans came rolling up the drive. Someone in the lead car spoke to Jackson and Phelps, showed their credentials, and continued on up the road. The two deputies were too busy arguing with Uncle Jonas and his men to put up too much of a road block for the FBI.

"What now?" said Riley as he took off his hat and wiped his brow. He went over to stop the new arrivals before they completely blocked the road.

Jimmy and the boys moved out of the way and sat down near the now wrecked black SUV driven by the Colombians.

To add to the circus atmosphere, a minute later, two ambulances with paramedics arrived.

"In the bunkhouse," said Tom taking the first crew of EMTs to the correct building. They rushed around the back with medical bags and a stretcher.

The remaining two men from the second ambulance ran over to Jimmy. He appeared the most seriously hurt.

"I'm fine," he said. "It's not my blood. "It's his."

The paramedics looked over to where the boy pointed, and saw the pile of ripped and raw flesh that had once been Diego Martinez, the leader of the Colombian team sent to kidnap the Bukland brothers. They stared back at Jimmy like he was some sort of vampire. He guessed what they were thinking and shrugged, "The dogs got him."

Undeterred, the men turned their attention to Damien, Bill, and Harry who also had blood on their clothes. "They're okay too. Blood from when they pulled the dogs off," said Jimmy. "The injured people are inside the bunkhouse. But there's dead people over there."

The two confused paramedics made their way over to where they saw bodies on the ground. "We still need to check you guys out, so don't go anywhere."

The sheriff and two of the FBI agents started walking towards the bunkhouse, but stopped when they saw the boys.

"I'm Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond and this is Agent Lizzie Myers," said the tall man, about his Dad's age, dressed in a dark suit and blue tie. To Jimmy, he looked like the G-man from central casting. He was tall at something over 6 foot 3 (191 cm), and must have weighed in at least 200 lbs (90 kg) of solid muscle. He had black hair, was clean shaven and had an air of authority about him. The woman was much younger and was also professionally dressed. Not the clothes for messing around on a farm Jimmy thought.

"We are from the FBI and we'll be taking the lead on the investigation of the events that happened here today," said the man. "According to Sheriff Riley, we all have a lot to talk about." The man spoke with a Brooklyn accent. "Which of you are James and Damien Bukland?"

The two boys raised their hands like they would for a teacher in school.

Agent Richmond looked them up and down. "Good, you're both safe." Then he turned to the woman, "Myers, call the third car and bring them in." He turned back to Jimmy and Damien. "Boys, your parents are safe and will be here in a few minutes." Then he turned to the others and was about to say something, but Junior cut him off.

"We know. Don't go anywhere."

Sam Richmond laughed and followed Sheriff Riley around to the bunkhouse to talk to Uncle Jack. The other six FBI agents took off in different directions with large rolls of yellow tape. Agent Myers came over to speak to the boys.

"My name's Lizzie. Forget all that agent stuff for now. Would one of you gentlemen tell me what happened here?" She was an attractive slim blond woman in her mid-twenties. To the boys, she hardly seemed old enough to be an agent in the FBI. But Junior and Fred were immediately smitten by her looks and both started talking at once.

"You first," she said pointing at Junior. "Tell me your name and age and then what you know." Fred looked at his brother in disgust. The older boy was always more popular with the girls.

Junior started telling the story, but before he could get into too much detail, a third black suburban made its way down the drive. All the boys turned and faced that direction. Two more agents got out of the front seat, and other adults emerged from the back. Jimmy immediately recognized them. It was his own mom and dad.

He took off running towards them. He needed to check for himself they were real, and he desperately needed a hug. Damien was only a few steps behind and both boys launched themselves at their mother and father in turn. The hugs turned to tears of joy all too soon. For both brothers, the terror of the day's events merged with the joy at seeing the people that represented everything good with their world – unconditional love and affection, stability, and security. If asked, Jimmy would have sworn it was the happiest moment of his life. All four embraced as hard as they dared because no one wanted to be first to break the connection. It was pure raw emotion that nobody could doubt. When they managed to wipe away the tears and come up for air, the brothers looked around. Deputies, FBI agents, paramedics, and the Sullivan cousins were all stopped in their tracks and watching them. At any other time, Jimmy would have been mortified to show such an open display of affection, but he looked at Damien. Both boys just shrugged and pulled their parents in for another hug.

When they did eventually separate, Jimmy looked at his parents. They were different somehow. They were not dressed in their usual trendy attire, but both wore sweatshirts and tracksuit pants. His Dad had dark rings under his eyes, like he hadn't slept properly for weeks. He also appeared to have lost that arrogant "down his nose" stare that had been a regular feature of his facial expression. It was the face of a man brought low. His mom had changed too. She had lost weight, and although she had never been heavy, her face now appeared more pinched and drawn than he could remember. There was something else though, Jimmy sensed rather than saw. It was a flicker in their eyes as Mr. and Mrs. Bukland stood back and examined their sons. Pride!

"Are you boys okay? Agent Shaw told us you were unhurt. You both look amazingly fit and healthy," said their dad with a doubtful expression as he examined the blood-covered clothes of his two sons.

"We're fine Dad," said Jimmy answering for both of them. We just need a shower and a change of clothes."

"And haircuts." Their mom came up and tousled their hair.

The comment made them all laugh.

Everyone looked around when the EMTs brought Aunt Kate out strapped onto a stretcher. Uncle Jack and Tom were with her, but she was complaining bitterly.

"Put me down! This isn't necessary," she insisted. "I'm perfectly fine. Jack, tell them to put me down." But everyone ignored her.

"Excuse me boys, but I need to go over and offer my apologies," said Jimmy's Mom. "Adrian!"

At the mention of his name, their father looked back at his two sons. "She's right boys. I need to do a lot of explaining and apologizing. Would you walk with me?"

The brothers fell into step on each side of their dad as he walked towards the front forty.

When they were far enough away from the others not to be overheard, their father spoke.

"Boys, I've got things to tell you and I'd be grateful if you let me finish before asking questions. But you have the right to know the truth, and you should hear it from me first. I put the lives of both you and your mother at risk and I need to face what I did. As a father, disappointing your children is the hardest thing of all to face. But the fact is I did some very bad things, criminal acts, for the sake of money and success. And because of my actions, the course of your lives have been changed forever. Unfortunately, I will never be able to repay that debt."

The man looked like he was about to cry, but pulled himself together and continued.

"You met Michael Giordano. He runs the Giordano crime family. That's a criminal organization involved in the sale and distribution of drugs and a lot of other illegal stuff. Giordano first came into my life about 15 years ago. I had just set up my legal practice, but business was slow. I was barely making enough money to buy food. Then one day a man named Anthony Salvatore came into my office and asked me to prepare a few leases. Standard legal work, nothing criminal, and I did so. He paid in cash. A bit unusual, but I thought nothing of it. He came back a week later with more work. This time he had me setting up shell corporations and off-shore accounts. The first few Limited Liability Companies (LLC's) I set up for Giordano I brought in homeless men from the street, paid them $20 and got them to sign the papers. You see LLCs need directors. If not outright criminal, it would be enough to get me disbarred. I justified it by saying we needed the money, which we definitely did. But the first time I really crossed the legal line was just a few days later. Salvatore was back needing more LLCs and more off-shore accounts. This time I didn't bother with the homeless men. I just used fake names and addresses on all the paperwork. Things went downhill from there. By the end, I was more or less running all the money laundering operations of the Giordano crime family. That means I was getting the money from the drug sales and other crimes and passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers and commercial transactions, so it came back to Michael Giordano as legitimate business earnings."

The man looked at his two sons who appeared totally confused.

"What that means is that I was breaking the law big time. I was in the drug business as much as Michael Giordano."

Both boys understood that and looked at their feet.

"But you didn't sell the drugs, right?" Jimmy asked.

"No, I didn't do that. But what I did was worse in many ways. I helped make the drug business profitable and appear legitimate."

Adrian Bukland waited for his sons to absorb the news before continuing. But Jimmy and Damien weren't sure what to say. Kids are supposed to get yelled at and grounded when they do something bad. But what do you do when it's your dad who has done the wrong thing?

"Are you going to jail?" Jimmy asked.

"I certainly deserve it. But no. I'm not going to jail. Let me finish the story and you'll understand."

"I was involved in the Giordano money laundering business for about the last 8 years. It kept getting bigger and more profitable all the time. That's where we got the money for holidays in Europe, new cars, maids, and private school for you guys."

Jimmy wanted to say he didn't need to go to private school, but a look from his Dad told him to remain quiet. And just then their Mom walked up and joined them. The boys hadn't seen her approaching, but she held up a hand indicating her husband should continue. The ambulance with Aunt Kate in the back went roaring off down the road with sirens blaring.

"Everything appeared to be going fine until a few weeks before we left New York. A Colombian woman I'd never seen before approached me and asked if I wanted money – a whole lot of money. She told me she worked for a Colombian man, Angel Ramirez. He ran one of the biggest drug cartels in South America out of Bogota, Colombia and wanted to expand north. He needed information on the money laundering operations of my main client. She said,

"There is about to be a "hostile takeover'" of the Giordano crime family. You want to be on the winning side, don't you?"

"I told her to go to hell, but she just smiled and said,

"Mr. Bukland, we have a saying in my country. You can take the silver or the lead. The choice is yours."

"She meant I could take money from her boss and switch sides, or I'd get a bullet in the head. I thought of speaking directly to Michael Giordano, but she said they had already infiltrated his organization. She told me things only someone deep inside the business would know. Then she mentioned that you boys and your mother would be in danger if I spoke to anyone about this. I knew we had to do something, but I had no idea what. I could hardly go to the police.

"A day later you told your mother about the men taking your photos. I spoke to Bill, the doorman, and he confirmed the men were Hispanic. Colombians no doubt, working for Ramirez."

"It was your mother's idea to bring you to the farm. We thought you boys would be safe here. As you know, the Sullivans are your cousins and we've never had much to do with them before. With the different names, a direct connection would be difficult to trace."

"Anyway, your mother dropped you off here. Your Aunt Kate and Uncle Jack were brilliant and we owe them so much. I am truly sorry that my actions nearly led to their deaths today. Another debt I can never repay."

"I met up with your mom in Boston. We left my car at the airport, hoping everyone would think we left the country. I posted pictures on our various Facebook pages that indicated we were having a family holiday in Europe."

Jimmy thought of saying he already knew about that, but again decided to remain quiet. Had his email to Mickey Bailey been what gave them away? Since learning of the arrival of the thugs, he feared it had. It was guilt that had driven many of his actions that day. He decided to come clean if anyone asked about it.

"Then your mother and I got in the rented car and started driving to California. We wanted to get as far away from you boys as possible to protect you both. It was a slow trip because we couldn't use our credit cards and had to stay in caravan parks or in very cheap hotels that didn't ask too many questions as long as you paid cash. But we only got as far as Denver, Colorado when the FBI arrested me. That's another long story. I was charged with dozens of counts of money laundering and wire-fraud offenses."

He paused to wait for a reaction from the two boys, but they said nothing. The truth was neither really understood what money laundering or wire-fraud was.

"But the somewhat good news is that they agreed to drop all charges in return for me turning state's evidence against the Giordano family and the Colombian drug cartel. Before I came along, not even the DEA knew that Angel Ramirez was the man behind "La Oscuridad" cartel."

"Why did you say 'somewhat good news?" Damien asked. "Isn't that great news? It means you don't have to go to jail." After what had happened at the Sullivan farm today, Jimmy had already guessed why "somewhat" was more than appropriate.

"Well, testifying will make a lot of very bad people, very angry. They'll be out for revenge, and that means they could not only take it out on me, but they might go after your mother and you boys as well."

"Is that why the Colombians came to the farm today?" Damien asked.

"The FBI are still investigating that. But it has to be connected to me. The truth is, the FBI believe they planned to use you boys to make me tell what I knew about the Giordano operations."

"What this all means is that our family will be placed in the Federal Marshall's witness protection program. We won't be going back to New York, or your old friends. We'll be given new names and identities. I'm very sorry for putting you through all this. Can you ever forgive me?"

Nobody said anything for some time. Jimmy stooped over as his face got puffy and his eyes appeared red. Tears started running down his cheeks.

"I'm sorry son. What I did was unforgivable. I…"

"But that's it, isn't it Dad. I'm not really your son. I know I'm adopted."

"James Adrian Bukland, how dare you suggest for one second that you're not our son," said his Mom, as she pulled his head up and looked directly into his eyes. "It's true that I didn't give birth to you. You didn't come into our lives until after you were born. But you've been part of our family since, and you are every bit our son as anyone could be. It was me who changed your diapers, fed you at night, sat with you and worried when you got sick. I taught you to crawl and later to walk. The first word you spoke was "Momma" and the second was "Dada." I applied band-aides when you scraped your knees, and held your hand the first day you went off to pre-school. You'll find out soon enough, if you don't know already, having a baby is the easy part of parenthood. Any two fools can do that. But being a parent has nothing to do with giving birth. Raising a child is the real skill that requires years of patience, selflessness, and putting your child's needs and desires first. Okay, we weren't always perfect with that, but both your father and I tried our best. So don't think for one minute you're not our son. You are by law. You were legally adopted, but also by the fact that we have taken responsibility for you for the last 12 years."

The tears flowed in torrents and Jimmy buried his face in his mother's arms. He just wanted to be held there, safe forever. It took minutes for the sobs to die away and nobody spoke. Even Damien held his tongue; he felt genuine sympathy for his brother. They had never got along, but empathy was part of his nature.

"Sorry Jimmy. It's another thing I fucked up," said Mr. Bukland after it was clear his son was starting to pull himself together.

The boy looked up at his father. The man didn't use the F word. Not ever, that Jimmy could remember.

"Your mother and I both intended to tell you when you were old enough. However, we could never agree on what "old enough" meant. Then you started acting up over the past year, things at work started falling apart, and we just never got around to it. I'm truly sorry for that. But I hope you never believed for one minute that we loved you any less because you were adopted. No, you and Damien are both our sons - always. That will never change."

The man paused for a moment before continuing.

"Boys, as you grow up, you'll learn that adults are older, bigger, have more money, and are often a pain in the neck, but they are perfectly capable of messing things up as much as any child. The consequences for them are different than for kids. Jail is a possibility, but the worst part of adults messing up is, it affects others - their wives and children. That's what I did and it nearly killed you and your cousins today. I can never repay that debt to you or to them, even if they sent me to jail for a hundred years. I can't take back the past. No one can. All I can do is promise to try my best to be better in the future."

"Dad," said Jimmy looking up at his parents. He rubbed the last traces of tears away with the sleeve of his shirt. "I did some pretty stupid stuff too. Like to Damien and some of his friends. Maybe not as bad as what you did." He looked up smiling now until he got a genuine grin from every face. "But I did some real mean stuff. But Damien has forgiven me. Maybe a new life will give us a chance for a reset. Maybe?"

Damien, who had also looked teary eyed for several minutes said, "I never really liked New York all that much. I only ever had one real friend there. I like the farm and want to stay here. I love animals."

"Sorry Damien. We can't stay in South Carolina. The cartel will look for us here at the Sullivan place. But a farm is a real possibility," Mrs. Bukland said. "Agent Richmond suggested farming as an option. Your father can't work at anything related to his old job."

Plans and future prospects were discussed for another 10 minutes until one of the FBI agents came over and said his boss needed to speak to the boys.

"We promise to do our best to ensure we stay together as a family. Whatever plans we make, we'll speak to you guys first," Dad said.

What followed next was a whirl-wind of confusion for Jimmy. There was the seemingly endless repetition of his version of the events of that afternoon. A sheriff's deputy, Agent Lizzie Myers, a second FBI agent, whose name he couldn't remember, and eventually the sheriff himself. The thing was, it was difficult to remember everything. The last few hours had been chaotic at best. While the action transpired, his mind was clear. But now… Well, it was just unreal. Kids didn't go around killing people, do they? It didn't help that he suddenly felt sleepy and he struggled to keep his eyes open. "Delayed traumatic stress syndrome," was the medical term the doctor used later.

Eventually, it was Jimmy's turn to be looked at by one of the paramedics. He was given a quick once-over, and except for a little cut on his arm he hadn't noticed, he was declared fit to go.

Aunt Kate had been whisked away earlier to the main hospital in River Falls. Junior had gone with her. Meg, who was only now learning what happened at the farm that day, would meet them there. Uncle Jack refused to go anywhere near the ambulance crew, and insisted that the cows still needed to be milked. Tom would help him with that. The rest of his cousins needed adults to cling to. Fortunately, Uncle Jonas and Aunt Katheryn had left their own children with other relatives, and turned up at the farm with Sue, Luke, and Stevie. They were only reluctantly allowed in by the FBI after all the bodies had been removed, and Sheriff Riley had insisted. However, the main house was still considered a no-go area. It was a crime scene. In addition, there was still the little matter of the unexploded booby traps. An FBI bomb disposal unit was on their way. However, the children needed to wait outside until everything was checked and cleared. Some time in the afternoon, another half-dozen FBI agents had turned up and brought with them a huge trailer they called "a mobile field office." None of the civilians were allowed anywhere near it.

Jimmy was about to head back to his parents when he saw the lead FBI agent approaching.

"Do you remember me?" asked the man. "I introduced myself to you and your brother earlier."

"I remember Sir," the boy answered. "You said you were Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond and that you were "the man" round here today."

Sam laughed at being called "the man."

"That's right. A very good memory. I wanted to say, well done Jimmy. I understand you are quite the hero," said Agent Richmond.

"What?" Jimmy asked. "What do you mean?"

"The other boys tell me you voluntarily put your life on the line. Twice! Once when you did that crazy ride on the ATV, and a second time when they tied you to the tree."

"I'm no hero Sir. I didn't do it for that."

"So why did you risk your own life?"

Jimmy had committed to coming clean if asked. Now was the time. He had to assume the FBI knew pretty much all that had happened over the past month or so. Well hopefully not about the stuff that happened at the swimming hole. That was none of their business. But his visits to the River Falls Library, probably.

"Guilt!" he answered.

"I think the Colombians wanted Damien and me because of my dad's legal work. We went to Michael Giordano's house once. The Sullivans shouldn't get into trouble for that. They're innocent in all this."

"That was your dad's misconduct, not yours Jimmy. The law doesn't hold a son responsible for the misdeeds of his parents. Not in this country."

"I know sir. But there's more. There's always more, I guess. I think the Colombians tracked us down because of something I did. I sent an email to a buddy of mine back in New York and asked him to find out what was happening. The bad guys turned up a few days later."

"So that was you. Thanks for being honest. We weren't sure whether Hilibilly-007 was you or your brother. Yes, we think the email is what drew the attention of the drug cartel. But you shouldn't feel guilty. I've got kids your age. Keeping them off their devices for an afternoon is an impossible task in my house. It was only after we arrived here that I understood how you stayed away so long. No mobile cell signal around here. But you are definitely a hero in my book. Perhaps you should have left the cartel members to the professionals, but the situation wasn't ideal for that, I know. You were very brave though, and your parents should be proud. I've already told them that."

"Thank you, Sir. But four people are dead and Uncle Jack and Aunt Kate were hurt because of what I did."

"Firstly, Jimmy, you have no guilt whatsoever in this. If anyone was at fault, it was your father, and he told me he has already spoken to you and your brother about that. Secondly, don't lose a minute of sleep over the cartel members. They were criminals of the worst kind. We've only been able to identify one of them so far. Fortunately, Damien's dogs left an arm with a hand more or less intact, and we got fingerprints. The guy you knew as Viper was a well-known Colombian drug lord named Diego Martinez. He is suspected in at least a dozen deaths or disappearances, and probably ordered five times that number. He killed men, women, and children. The age of the victim mattered little to him. No, the world is a much safer place with him gone. There were current Federal, State, and even Interpol warrants from 8 countries out for the man. There might even be a possibility that you boys will eventually share in the posted reward for his capture. I have Agent Myers looking into that."

The man stopped and waited for Jimmy to internalized what he'd been told. Then he looked directly into the 12-year-old's eyes.

"That guy wanted to hurt you and your brother. Given what we know, he would have killed you both without a second thought. The only reason he needed you was to get information from your dad. Now I would have preferred him in handcuffs, but I much prefer him in a body bag than you or Damien. Let there be no doubt. That's what would have happened. He was a killer, and he did it for money and power. Don't lose sleep over him. He would never have given you another thought. He doesn't deserve one."

Jimmy knew it wouldn't be that easy to forget. But he smiled to indicate he understood. Then another thought flashed through his mind.

"What about the dogs?" His brother would be devastated if anything happened to them. He loved those animals and they loved him. Jimmy had heard that dogs were destroyed after they attacked people.

The man looked a little amused. "Your brother asked the same question. So did those twins. Actually, I had to ask the sheriff about the local ordinances on the issue." The man grinned. "The Sheriff of Harrison County has officially declared that the dogs were provoked into their actions. They responded to a hostile threat. The sheriff said no one really has any intention of looking into it too deeply. So your brother took them off to guard the broilers. That's where they are now."

The relief Jimmy felt from the news was surprising. He still didn't like the dogs all that much, but they had saved his life. He probably did owe them at least a good pat and tummy rub for that. "Good."

Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond watched the boy closely before continuing.

"Jimmy, the official cover story is going to be that the FBI and deputies from the local sheriff's department were involved in a shootout here when some drug dealers we were chasing sought refuge at the farm and took Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan hostage. Deputy Peterson was killed in that gun battle as were all the drug cartel members. We are doing this to minimize the involvement of you kids in the deaths of the Colombians. Your parents have approved this story, as has Mr. Sullivan. We have no doubt that the leader of the cartel, who resides in Colombia, will seek revenge for the death of his men. Those responsible will have a large target painted onto their backs. It's better they come after us, rather than the Sullivans."

Jimmy nodded. He understood.

With the Sullivan farm being a crime scene, and the house a possible death trap with active explosives inside, the FBI organized an old yellow school bus to take everyone to a motel for the night. Uncle Jack refused to leave of course, but everyone else was pleased to get away from "the scene of the crime" for a while. On the way, they all visited Aunt Kate in the hospital. She was doing well, but because of a suspected concussion, she would be kept overnight. The Buklands shared two adjoining rooms on the second floor and Meg and Tom spread their siblings over three rooms across the hall. But well before midnight, all the Sullivan boys ended up in one room. There were sheriff deputies on guard in the corridor and at the stair well.

Jimmy was pleased his family would be together for the night. He had plans of his own about topics of conversation. And like everything he did, he tried to plan this as well.

After the boys had showered and put on clean clothes, Jimmy intended to approach his brother. But like the best laid plans of all mice and men, it didn't happen that way. It was Damien who was the first to speak.

He was sitting on the edge of the console that held the flat screen TV.

"I kind of knew, or I guess I should say, I kinda suspected, you were adopted a while ago."

Jimmy was astounded at the news and sat down on the edge of his bed.

"Why? Because I was always being mean to you?"

Damien shook his head. "No, not that. I put that down to you just being a prick. No, I heard mom talking to one of her friends once. She was saying how good it is to adopt. The way she spoke, it sounded like she had gone through it. That was my first clue. The second clue was the family photos. Remember I had that project last year where I had to show how kids change as they grow older?

Jimmy didn't remember that. It was Damien's school project after all, but he nodded that he did.

"I started going through the family photo albums. There were plenty of pictures of me inside mom, where she's holding you. There were also a lot of just her being pregnant with me. I knew by the dates. But there were no photos of her pregnant with you or even with you after the delivery. I kind of put two and two together." Damien interlaced his fingers.

Jimmy stared at his brother in surprise. The kid got good grades, but not as decent as his. They would probably both be A students in a public school. Plus, Jimmy had to admit that his brother was always more observant, and better with people. Still, he was surprised that Damien had managed to put that together.

"Why didn't you say something?"

Damien look down at the floor. "Because I wasn't sure. Maybe I didn't want to hurt you, if it was true?"

Jimmy nodded. That was typical of his brother. How he could have ever been mean to this kid was crazy.

"I see," he said eventually.

The younger boy began to rub his feet together. It was a nervous habit of his.

"You are my brother. I do love you. I just... Haven't always liked you."

Jimmy nodded.

"I wish we could be like our cousins. We could still fight, but then we can make up."

Jimmy bit his lip. "I'm willing to try to be like them if you are."

Damien nodded. "I would like that."

"I'd love that too."

Both boys were silent a long time. Jimmy felt he should go over and hug his kid-brother. But that might be awkward. He wasn't sure how the gesture would be perceived.

Eventually Damien spoke, "Thanks for putting your life on the line for me. I was mad at you for thinking I was more important than you. You shouldn't have done it, and it's not true. But thanks anyway."

"It was my lame attempt to make up to you for all the times I should have been there to protect you, with the bullies at school, and I didn't step up."

"I guessed as much," Damien responded. "While I was wandering around pissed at you, Peter came up wagging his tail. Somehow, he always seems to know when I'm sad. That's when I thought of the dogs. Me and the twins have been training them. I raced over to the chicken tractors where Paul, Mary, and Wendy were on guard. Well, you know the rest. No way was I gonna let that man take you away."

"Thanks," said a tearful Jimmy.

The two boys did hug this time. It was a long serious embrace that lasted minutes. They only broke apart when it had become too awkward to claim spontaneity any longer. But both of them would remember this, later in life, as the reset moment of their relationship.

After the hug, Jimmy told his brother of his plans for the night. Damien agreed to help.

Later that evening, a whole lot of crying took place in the Bukland rooms.

Mr. Bukland cried because he still felt profound guilt about what he had almost done to his sons. Mrs. Bukland cried because she was so happy to have all her family together once again. She had experienced so many nights of worry about the future. And their oldest son cried because he had his own dark secret to reveal, and dreaded the consequences when he told the truth.

Jimmy had some idea how his father felt confessing all his sins earlier in the day. He even empathized with his dad. Coming out to his parents and admitting he was gay was the hardest thing he'd ever have to do. But he was well prepared. He had thought long and hard about his sexuality since that afternoon in the bunkhouse with Ricky, Dustin, and Alex. The truth was, he had thought of little else. The bulk of his thoughts were erotic of course. He was a normal, almost teenage boy, who thought about sex all the time. Still, there was another part of his mind that turned to more practical issues. How would this decision impact his life, both now and into the future. Like everybody else, he could only ever guess at that, but he knew in his heart of hearts, there was no turning back. Subconsciously, he had known he was gay long before Ricky, Dustin, and Alex came on the scene and he spoke of his hidden nature to others for the first time.

You see, Jimmy Bukland had a little secret he'd never told anyone. About a year ago, when he was only 11, he had skipped school one afternoon. His class was supposed to go on another excursion to the Natural History Museum, but their homeroom teacher had called in sick at the last minute and Jimmy had taken the opportunity to do a little sight-seeing on his own. He took the train from school to the Christopher Street station. When he emerged from the subway, he saw a small triangular plaza to the east along Christopher Street, just east of the 7th Av. S. intersection. The old Stonewall Inn was on the north side. The original bar had long since gone of course, but since 1999 the site had been designated a National Monument. Later, he went to the park, looked at the four statues, and read the plaque. At the time, he couldn't have explained why he went, but he felt drawn to the place. It was in Greenwich Village, only blocks away from where they lived, but he had never been there before.

The Stonewall riots at 51 Christopher Street had occurred fifty-years ago. That was ancient history in his mind, but almost modern times when compared to the Greeks and Romans they studied at school. Attitudes towards homosexuals in the country had changed out of all recognition since then. All the old anti-gay laws had gone, gay marriage was recognized, homosexual couples were adopting kids, and there was even an openly gay presidential candidate. All of that must have seemed impossible to the men and women who stood up to the police back at Stonewall in June 1969. But there it was. Coming out in 2019 was hardly the same as doing so in the sixties.

Jimmy started his prepared speech in a dramatic tone.

"Mom, Dad, while everyone is in a confessing mood, I've also got something to tell you that I've been keeping secret. I'm gay!"

But rather than shock, anger, or dispair, both his parents came over and embraced him.

He quickly realized he had been making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Neither his mother or father were the least bit concerned about having a gay son.

"We don't care about that," said Dad. "All we want for both of you is to be happy. That's what's important to us."

His mother agreed. "You had to know we would support you, however you wish to live your life."

In the end, they all did have a good cry together as a family. Even Damien was part of that. Now there were no more secrets between them.

The next morning Jimmy awoke and turned on the TV. Both he and Damien were shocked to see an aerial view of the farm. "Shootout at Local Farm" was the caption. Jimmy stared at the screen for a long time not listening to the commentary. When he finally did pay attention, he noticed just about everything the reporter said was wrong. The truth was that the FBI hadn't fired a shot, and he didn't think Deputy Peterson, who had almost delivered his brother and cousin to the drug cartel henchmen, should be called a hero. However, Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond had told him about the cover story and he didn't really want to think of the events of yesterday.

The twins knocked on their door around 6:30 to collect Damien. All the Sullivan children were heading down to the private dining room for breakfast. Jimmy turned off the TV and joined them. They hadn't heard anything from the adjoining room, and the Bukland brothers guessed their Mom and Dad were still living on New York time.

The motel was heavily guarded by both sheriff's deputies and the FBI. There were half-a-dozen armed men and women wandering about, but the mood of everyone seemed basically relaxed. Nobody really expected another attack from the drug cartel just then.

"We're here to make sure you kids are safe," one of the guards said.

Agent Lizzie Myers joined the children for the early breakfast. She had some good news for them all. Aunt Kate had recovered well and would soon be released from hospital.

"The concussion wasn't too severe," Myers told them. "She'll have to take it easy for a while, but she'll make a full recovery. The second piece of good news is that the forensics and bomb squads have worked through the night. The bombs are all gone and the place is safe. You will be taken back to the farm sometime this morning."

The Sullivan children all started talking at once. That had to be the best news ever. Tom had spoken to his dad on the land-line earlier. Apparently, he had slept in the bunkhouse, but was heading off to milk the cows. Mr. Sullivan too was counting the minutes until his wife and children returned.

Then agent Myers looked at Jimmy and Damien. "Boys, I just heard. The US Marshall Service people will be arriving sometime tomorrow. You and your parents will be handed into their custody then. You won't be staying here, or going back to New York after that."

With that news, Jimmy lost interest in the rest of the conversation. He sensed Damien was devastated as well. His brother loved the farm, the animals, and the whole rural lifestyle. Both boys retreated back to their room as soon as they were done eating.

At around 9:30 AM the Sullivan children were hurriedly loaded into the same school bus from the day before and taken home. On the way they were to stop at the hospital and collect Aunt Kate, who insisted she couldn't possibly remain lying down another day. The plan to return the Sullivans to the farm had been chaotic and last minute and only occurred after a good deal of yelling by Uncle Jack who had insisted that his "kidnapped" family be released. In the end the FBI were happy to oblige. They had their star witness, Adrian Bukland, and the presence of the other family was just blowing their expense budget. The Bukland family hadn't been included in the plans of course. The following day they were to disappear into witness protection and would stay at the motel another night.

The upshot was neither of the Bukland brothers got the chance to say much of a goodbye. The fact that tomorrow they were leaving here and would never return was another traumatic experience they needed to face. But Jimmy decided he was having none of it. He found his brother crying out by the swimming pool. He had run off after the old yellow school bus had driven down the road and disappeared from sight.

Jimmy put his arm around Damien and said, "Come with me." The two of them marched up to Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond's room and pounded on the door.

"The Federal Marshalls aren't coming until tomorrow, right?" said Jimmy when the startled man opened the door.

"That's right. Around midafternoon, I'm told."

"Then Damien and I want to spend our last day in South Carolina at the farm. Not in some dumb motel. Will you take us there?"

It took a lot of negotiation between the Sullivan and Bukland parents and some arm twisting of the FBI, but in the end, the boys got what they wanted.

As he sat in the back seat of the black suburban with his brother and parents, Jimmy felt weird. Maybe it was the two federal agents in the front, or the three in the chase car behind. That was certainly strange, but it wasn't the reason he felt odd. He was returning to a place he had hated and despised when he came here that first time. He had the choice of hanging around a cheap, but comfortable, motel for the day, and he had chosen the farm. They had all even agreed to do chores. That had been part of the deal they made. "I'm not running a summer camp," Uncle Jack insisted. He and Damien had no problem with that. They had been around the farm long enough to understand what needed to be done. His mom said she would help Aunt Kate, and his dad agreed to "pitch in" where he could. Jimmy was interested to see what that meant.

When they arrived at the Sullivan property, the two boys raced off to the bunkhouse and changed into their work clothes. All signs of what happened here yesterday were gone. The hand grenades, the SUVs, the bodies, and even the blood and gore on the ground near the trees had been cleaned up. Nobody asked who had done it, because everyone was going out of their way to pretend nothing had happened.

Damien and the twins ran off to play with the dogs, collect eggs, and fill water troths. Later they had alpaca poop patrol. Jimmy and Fred were officially on barn cleanup duty. That job hadn't been done yesterday, and the work was literally piling up. It had taken most of the afternoon to set things in order, even when Tom and Junior had come along to help.

Jimmy volunteered to put the stuff away. That allowed everyone else to run off to the showers. He had just finished collecting all the tools when he saw his dad approaching.

"Got the short end of the stick today?" His father gestured to the wheel-barrow and all the rakes and shovels inside.

Jimmy smiled. "No, only one person needs to do this." He pushed the barrow inside and closed the bar on the toolshed door so the wind wouldn't push it open.

"Yeah, I guess." his dad said putting his hands in his pockets. Jimmy was pretty sure you'd never seen the man in blue jeans before. "Jimmy, I'm sorry about everything."

"I know," he said cutting him off. "You don't have to say it again." He understood how one bad decision could lead to another and then another. Part of his mind was working on how he could fix his life back in New York, even when the other part knew he wouldn't be going back there. It was relationships with people he needed to work on.

"I am proud of you. Both you boys. A father couldn't be prouder with sons like you."

That wasn't something his dad normally said. But praise always felt good.

"It really wasn't all bad."

"Really, you like doing chores?" asked the man in a tone that implied he was joking.

Jimmy shrugged and slowly reached out to pull off the hat he wore. He looked at it.

"I hated it when I first came here. I felt like a prisoner on a chain gang or something. But you adjust, and as I said, it's not all that bad really. I'm fitter now than I've ever been, even when I practiced for the swimming and basketball teams in New York. And it was nice getting to know my cousins. Besides, I learned a lot, and not just about farming."

"That's good." His father said with a nod. "Your mother always said we should come here for a week's vacation. Well that was in the first few years we were married. But I always talked her out of it. I'm a city boy. I grew up in Albany, but my dream was always New York. Stupid really. I guess there is something to being out here."

Jimmy put his hat back on. "Well, I probably would have hated staying just a week. The thing is, I stayed long enough to like it here, and discover what's really important in life."

As Jimmy walked off to the bunkhouse to take a shower, he realized this would truly be the last day he'd do any of this. Sure, he knew on an intellectual level they were leaving forever. But understanding precisely what that meant, had only started dawning on him slowly. He was probably never going to see his cousins again. The time when that information would have been joyful news had long passed. It was weird to think how close you could get to people in such a short time. But he had, and couldn't deny it now. He hated the farm, his cousins, and everything about South Carolina when he first came here. But that was a different Jimmy. He had grown and matured since then. He'd heard Mickey Bailey's dad say that people never change. But the man was wrong. He had been transformed and made into something better.

The more he thought about it, the more Jimmy knew he wanted his last night on O'Reilly Farms to be something special. Something he could hold in his memory forever. Something that would make the last day stand out for something other than being the last day. He knew what he wanted that to be.

Later in the afternoon when everyone was cleaned up and after a quick sandwich lunch, the boys planned to go to the swimming hole. However, Jimmy and Damian had been forbidden from leaving the premises. The FBI had been tolerant so far, but they put their foot down on that idea. Senior Special Agent Sam Richmond explained that he couldn't have agents running around the countryside baby-sitting. It was a difficult enough job just securing the farm itself. Everyone else could go of course, as that wasn't his concern. But that wasn't happening. With the New York brothers restricted to base, all the Sullivan kids agreed to spend the day at home. They organized a scratch baseball game, and later Jimmy challenged Fred to a one on one basketball smack-down. This time the New Yorker won, as the others cheered from the sidelines. It was a beautiful day, hot and humid, and as the afternoon dragged on, boys drenched themselves with the garden hose and both Damien and Bill ended up in the alpaca water troughs at one point. It was fun for everybody.

To mark their final day on the farm, the two moms were preparing an evening feast. They had been making preparations all afternoon and a party atmosphere developed in anticipation of the night. Thoughts of what happened the day before were still fresh on everyone's mind, but by some unspoken agreement, nobody mentioned it. The FBI even assisted by confining themselves to the outer perimeter of the property. They even turned away reporters, sightseers, neighborhood sticky-beaks, and even a few relatives. It was easy to pretend nothing had happened.

After finishing the evening milking, Uncle Jack came out of the barn and told the children to get cleaned up for dinner.

Jimmy could sense his opportunities slipping away. There was one final thing he wanted to do before he left this place and he made up his mind to do it. He ran over to speak to Tom.

"Hey Tom, do you have a minute?"

His older cousin answered by coming over to him as everyone else ran past.

"What can I do for you?"

Jimmy wet his lips in nervous anticipation. The fact that Tom had taken his shirt off at some point during the afternoon didn't help to calm the stress he felt.

"I, I wanted to ask you something."

Tom gave a nod of encouragement.

Jimmy knew he just needed to say what was on his mind.

"I want you to be my first. I want you to have sex with me. All the way. I mean put it in my butt!" He could feel his face flush when he realized how he had put it. It had sounded better in his head.

Tom didn't give any sign of surprise. "Jimmy, you know I'm not gay. I mean I like throwing down with the guys, but that's just for fun. I have this feeling you want something more."

Jimmy wasn't positive, but he was pretty sure the only people knew for sure he was gay were his parents and his brother. Well, there was also Dustin, Ricky and Alex of course. Had one of them said something? But this might just be one of those times when Tom had figured it out himself. He didn't care anymore.

"I know you're straight, but I'm not." He waited to get some response from the older boy, but Tom didn't react.

"It's my last day here. I want to make it memorable. And I don't want to be like Dustin and give my butt away to someone who's meaningless to me. I want the first time to be important. I want it to be someone who I care about and who I respect and..."

Tom held up a hand. "Okay, I think I get it. After dinner, okay?"

Jimmy nodded and couldn't resist the urge to hug his cousin. It was not an erotic embrace, but more than a brotherly hug. Perhaps a promise of things to come.

It was a truly fine meal. A long drawn out event and the food better and in greater quantity than the standard evening fare at the Sullivan table. Not that Jimmy could ever complain about Aunt Kate's cooking. She was a wonderful chef and always produced memorable meals with the best ingredients, all literally straight from the farm. He never ate that well in New York, even at the expensive high-class restaurants his father liked. Jimmy wondered if he'd ever eat this well again. However, that night had been something special. His mom, aunt, Meg, and Sue had spent hours in preparation. They had even roped in Luke and Stevie to shell peas, and Damien and the twins to peel apples and potatoes. The dinner started off with a choice of minestrone or pumpkin soup, then roast pork and chicken, accompanied by an amazing selection of fresh vegetables. Dessert was an option of either apple or blueberry pie and homemade vanilla ice cream. His dad even produced two bottles of California red wine from somewhere, and although the Sullivan adults protested that they didn't drink, they did end up sharing several glasses.

Late in the meal, Mr. Bukland made a toast "to the future." Jimmy only had a tumbler of water, but as he and Damien banged their glasses together, they also shared a look. There were tears in his brother's eyes. However much Jimmy would miss this place, it was far worse for his brother. He was losing the twins who had become his best friends, his precious dogs who meant almost as much, and the rural lifestyle. The three combined had enabled his brother to grow and blossom as he never would in New York. The thought of what they were both losing brought tears to his eyes. He covered this embarrassment by asking to be excused.

Jimmy made his way to the bathroom, dried his eyes, and took a quick pee. But before returning to the large trestle tables in the dining area where the feast continued, he felt himself drawn to the family room. He had to see it one more time.

It was the painting in there that drew him. After a few seconds, he walked closer. The muddy path running from the front door of the cabin and the boat-dock and pond to the rear were still there. But this time he noticed something else. In the distance behind the trees, there were mountains. He had dismissed them as sky before, because they had a bluish tinge reflected from the water, but they were definitely mountains. His eyes follow the highlands, but they disappeared into the three-dimensional distant horizon where the sky met the water and everything combined. He also noticed a grove of trees at the base of the foothills for the first time. Funny! He had looked at this picture a hundred times, but never noticed these things. Then it hit him. This was the large pond where the two Colombian drug dealers had died. The painting must be very old. The cabin and boat dock were gone now, but in the distance were the hills where the swimming hole and caves were located. He had traveled to those hills almost every day he'd spent here at the farm, but he just hadn't recognized the scene.

He sighed. He'd been wrong about so many things in the past, and here was one more. It really was a beautiful picture. Like his life, for the first time, the image in the painting was clear.

Jimmy returned to the table and couldn't help give Tom a furtive look. He wondered if his older cousin was as excited about what was to happen later as him. He got his answer with an almost imperceptible wink from the 15-year-old. If not his entire life, at least his path tonight was clear. And he guessed Tom wanted it as much as he did. That was good news.

After all the eating and drinking were done, the four adults disappeared into the parlor for more conversation and the children were left with cleanup duty. Fortunately, Meg took charge and with 11 troops under her command, both the kitchen and dining area were cleaned, dishes washed and put away in less than 40 minutes. Once this final chore of the day was completed, Jimmy waited outside for his cousin. He had already told Damien and Fred of his plans, and they both promised to cover for him. Apparently, they had some fun of their own planned after Luke and Stevie dropped off to sleep.

The last rays of the sun were fast disappearing behind the hills in the distance over in the direction of the swimming hole and caves. It was still mid-summer here in the south and sunset occurred around 8:25 PM. Jimmy had got used to going to bed early on the farm, but he wasn't sleepy now. This night was something special.

When Tom emerged from the bunkhouse with a blanket under his arm, Jimmy smiled and ran over.

Neither boy spoke as they walked, but the younger boy soon recognized where they were heading - alpaca field number three. It was where he had first learned to shoot that old Winchester 94 rifle. The place was isolated, but still he couldn't help look around to ensure no one had followed. It wasn't until Tom tossed the blanket on the ground that both boys laughed and the tension between them evaporated. A bottle of lubricant had been wrapped inside and it flew off into the bushes when the blanket was spread out. They both raced to chase it and banged into one another and ended up sprawled on the ground in fits of giggles. They could see where the small bottle of "Saucy Play Pleasure Gel" had landed. There was a full moon overhead and the heavens were full of stars. They always were here. Jimmy recalled his conversation with Luke that night all those weeks ago. He stared up at the sky as Tom chased the missing lube. And once again he had to agree. He had never seen so many stars before as he did here on the farm. A fitting backdrop for the loss of his virginity, he decided.

"What?" Tom asked a little nervously when he saw the expression on his cousin's face.

"Nothing! Just, it's happening, right?" Jimmy said trying to explain.

"Yeah, are you sure?"

In response to the question, Jimmy kicked off his shoes and stepped onto the blanket to face his cousin. Of course he was sure. He wanted this more than anything else in his life. He slowly started to undress, attempting his best to do a slow seductive strip-tease as he twirled around erotically. The older teenager might be straight, but he was clearly pitching a very large tent in the front of his loose-fitting shorts. Jimmy liked the view and thought of taking matters into his own hands, but decided it was better to run with the script he had rehearsed in his fantasies. He turned around, bent over and slowly pulled down his underwear, exposing his virgin rear end.

Like everyone else, Tom had changed out of his work clothing before showering in preparation for dinner. He was now dressed more like a typical teenager in the summer. He wore dark blue knee-length 5-pocket twill shorts and a crew-neck T-shirt in soft cotton jersey with a blue and white striped design. On his feet were sexy red socks and blue sneakers. He looked like a senior cabin boy on some ancient sailing ship and Jimmy imagined himself the replacement new kid about to learn the more intimate duties of that venerable office. He remembered one time when his New York buddy, Mickey Bailey, recited a totally outrageous Limerick called, "The Good Ship Venus." There were dozens of verses, but Jimmy could only remember one. And it stuck with him still.

The cabin boy was Kipper.
He was a dirty nipper,
He filled his ass with broken glass,
And circumcised the Skipper.

It made him collapse in laughter at the time, but it was funny how he remembered that now.

Tom pulled off his T-shirt and revealed a much better defined upper torso than most teenagers his age could boast. Jimmy had seen it all before of course, but he had never ceased to be fascinated with this vision of masculinity since the first time he saw it. He waited until Tom got his shoes and socks off before turning to face him. As soon as his older cousin stepped onto the blanket, Jimmy pulled their bodies together and embraced as hard as he dared. The hug was returned and as their chests slid across in a sweaty dance, he felt Tom's nipples were hard. It was strangely exciting, but better still was the feel of the urgent bulge of Tom's 5½ inch (14 cm) erection pushing into his stomach. Jimmy had seen that too, of course, and even had it between his legs one time. But tonight, it would go where no man had gone before. He smiled and thought of whistling the Star Trek theme song.

Jimmy tilted his head up and Tom moved down so they could meet in the middle and kiss. Their lips move together, parted and tongues sunk deep into expectant mouths. He was letting Tom lead as Jimmy had little experience in kissing, but he was a quick study and within minutes was "Frenching" like he'd been doing it his entire life. He fiddled with the center button on Tom's twill shorts and got it loose. His cousin didn't have a belt. The zipper put up little resistance and a few tugs later, Tom was naked. He wasn't wearing boxers.

Jimmy broke the kiss and looked down at his prize. It seemed bigger than he remembered, but perhaps that was just the knowledge of where it was shortly to go.

He found himself sinking to his knees before realizing why. He needed to feel Tom's cock in his mouth before it went into his butt. He caressed the hard glands across his tongue and knew the soft skin had barely moved. His cousin was harder than he had ever seen him before. Jimmy felt a new level of pride knowing he had such an effect on the teen. He slid his mouth down the shaft as far as it would go, and brought it back up, slow and teasingly. He tasted the sensation of precum on his lips. Without even looking down, he sensed himself leaking as well, ever so slightly. That was definitely a first for him. He hadn't even touched himself, but he was already painfully rock hard and ready to burst.

Jimmy could have sucked on Tom's cock all night. But that wasn't what he wanted right now. Slowly, he began to sink backwards, letting more and more of the length slide from his lips until it popped out completely. He landed on his back and reached behind his knees bringing them up, until he could pull them flat against his chest and slightly apart. It was the way he wanted it. He had dreamed about being fucked by Tom in this position. It was his role as junior cabin boy to take it this way. The flag pole would soon be planted and he needed to look into the eyes of his master, the teen who would own his ass.

Tom fell to his knees and reach for the bottle of lubricant. Jimmy held himself in position and watched as the older boy coated his erection with grease. He wanted that in him, but at the same time, wondered how it might feel. The cock was big. Bigger than his. It was exciting and a little scary all at the same time. But a junior cabin boy got no say on the size of the cock that broke him in. That was part of the job when you took the king's shilling1. He had read a story about it once on a website called Nifty. Still, they needed to hurry as Jimmy knew he could shoot at any minute.

Without speaking, Tom moved his hand away from his erection and Jimmy felt something hard at his entrance. It was an index finger. There was only a little pressure at first, but bit by bit the force increased and the lubricated intruder gained access inside. It moved in and out in repeated thrusts and withdrawals for a good few minutes, until a second digit took up the fray. It felt good to be dominated this way and Jimmy smiled up at his cousin.

But both boys soon grew tired of this teasing and wanted more. Jimmy nodded up to Tom to indicate he was as ready as he'd ever be. He felt the fingers withdraw and then two very greasy hands gripped his hips and raised his bottom higher. There was something big and hard at his entrance, and Jimmy knew his time had come. He wanted to close his eyes and look away as he braced himself for the pain of initial entry. Ricky and Dustin had both warned him of such. However, he couldn't do that. He needed to see the expression on his cousin's face as he planted his flag deep inside and took control of his bottom boy.

For Tom this wasn't a new experience. He had fucked a dozen boys in his 15 years and had been on the receiving end before that. He looked down at the pristine virginal ass in front of him. It was a round, not-yet-teen, boy's ass like he'd seen at the swimming hole sometimes. This one was nicely curved and inviting, and just below the depth of that auspicious crack were the nuts that showed his cousin was growing up. They had lost the little boy smoothness and were a slightly darker color than his buttcheeks, but still hairless. He too would enjoy this, but he saw no need to hurry.

Jimmy had expected a hard, sudden entry, but nothing happened. Tom didn't move. He froze in position and stared. Jimmy soon realized his older cousin was waiting for a final sign of consent. In immense frustration, he yelled the only thing that came to his mind, "Go on. Stick it in!"

Tom laughed and did. Jimmy began to feel pressure at his rear passage. He felt a thick log embedded between his cheeks, forcing them unnaturally apart, and focused on the one little hole, it would now enter.

Ricky had told him what to do.

"Push out like you are trying to take a dump."

Jimmy did, and was stunned when his anal muscle opened and wrapped around the large head of his cousin's cock and seemed to pull it into his bottom. It felt enormous! It was like someone was pushing a baseball bat inside back there. He gritted his teeth against the dull pain that spread through him as the foreign sensation of being stretched open was met with the realization that this was what he wanted. And the cutest boy in South Carolina was doing it. Did life get any better than this?

The cock kept moving deeper and deeper into the anal canal, and before he knew it, Jimmy realized he was fully and completely embedded with dick. He could feel Tom's legs and his pubic hair brush across his bottom. It hurt and it didn't. It was such a strange sensation, but one he knew he could grow to like. If Jimmy had any last reservations about being gay, they were now gone.

Tom pulled his cock backwards, almost all the way out, before he slammed in again, hard and fast. He repeated this action more than a dozen times before Jimmy felt an unexpected rush of pleasure as something deep in his anal canal was continually touched. The young boy couldn't stop or even control what was happening. A warm sensation shot up his erection and he fired a burst of cum onto his own stomach. It wasn't much, but was soon followed by a second and third blast, that shot across his chest and all the way to his chin. The orgasm caused his body to convulse and that strangled Tom's erection, and he paused his thrusting motion. The orgasmic sensation washed over Jimmy leaving him feeling drained. However, he couldn't ignore the cock imbedded deep inside. It felt so very hard.

"You want me to stop?" Tom asked.

"No way! Finish what you started." Jimmy hadn't meant to shout, but controlling his excitement was very difficult at that moment.

Tom began to move back and forth, in and out, again and again. Jimmy lost count of the strokes. His mind was so muddled that he didn't realize he'd let go of one of his legs allowing his foot to rest against Tom's chest moving a little with each thrust. Jimmy's freehand found its way to his cock, and discovered it harder than expected. With a few more squeezes and strokes, it was stone stiff again. He started jerking off in synchronous harmony with his cousin's stabs.

Tom grunted and with one last thrust fired deep into Jimmy's ass. Perhaps it was imagination, but he was sure he could feel the warm liquid coating his insides. He wanted to believe he could. With three more jerks, he achieved a second orgasm of his own.

It took several minutes for the boys to regain their senses. It was a tangle of hot sweaty limbs and bodies that finally emerged as the two lay down next to each other. Jimmy could feel the slimy cooling liquid on his hand, stomach, chest and chin. And then there was the stuff leaking from his butt-cheeks from an entirely different source. He moved closer to Tom and wrapped an arm around him. He lay next to the teenager who had given him so much pleasure and protection over the past many weeks. He understood this wouldn't be the start of a long-term relationship. Tom was straight and always would be. Still, there was no better person he could think of to take his anal virginity and he would carry the secrets of this night with him for the rest of his life. He remembered something he had once read: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." James Adrian Bukland had no regrets as he drifted off to sleep with the trace of a smile on his face and wrapped in the arms of the older cousin he idolized.

1 To "take the king's shilling" meant to agree to serve as a sailor or soldier in the Royal Navy or the British Army. It was a term dating back to the English Civil War of 1642 to 1651.

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