Chapter 1

 

Twilight was falling on a pleasant June evening as a large black SUV pulled to the curb on the busy street.  Its dark-tinted windows didn’t show the occupants cautiously watching the traffic and people passing by.  Suddenly, all four doors opened and seven men stepped out glancing around once more.  Five of the men entered a nearby store as the other two moved quickly down the sidewalk to another business.

 

A few minutes later the duo exited the business carrying two packages.  They moved swiftly back toward their vehicle but ducked into a passage between two buildings and continued to the alley behind the business. 

 

A quick look each way showed no danger or traffic in the alley so they continued briskly to the back door of the business their associates had entered.

 

Each man held their package up in front of the slide of the peephole in the door before they knocked a rhythm on the door.  Knock! Knock-knock!

 

The men heard several sets of footsteps approach the door.  The peephole slid open and a pair of dark brown eyes flashed in the space.

 

“Chess.  Qwat ees de word to pass?”

 

The men in the alley looked at each other, grinned and said in unison, “Candy-gram for Mongo. Candy-gram for Mongo.”

                                                           

“I dunt tink dis ees true,” the voice said.  Eet doz not luke like candy.”

 

Laughter spilled out the peephole.  The peephole slid shut, locks were released, the door swung open and the two men entered the back room.

 

Qwat deed chew bring me?” the dark-skinned, well-groomed man said, opening the first bag.  “Chew brought me poop?  I clothes de chop early on a Tatterday and chew bring me poop?”

 

“We brought the ’poop’ for the kids, man.”

 

The two men laughed and nodded at each other, then said in unison, “Beer-gram for Raoul.  Beer-gram for Raoul.”  The dark one held out another bag.

 

“Chess.  Chess!”  Raoul said taking the bag and reaching inside.  Ahhh, cerveza.  I knew chew Boob-Whites woont deesappoint me.  Come een, come een.  We hab mooch to do.”

 

“Ah yes, the dreaded tuxedo fitting.  Compadres, let us toast this momentous event.  Please raise your beverage of choice…”

 

“Mart, man, it’s tacky to give your own toast.  As the best man, I feel I must say, ‘It’s good to be king’,” Dan said raising his bottle of beer.

 

“To the king!!” the teenagers replied in harmony, tapping their bottles of root beer.

 

Jim glanced around the back room of Bradford’s Menswear.  It had undergone a transformation since their last visit there.  “Raoul, I see you’ve made a few changes.”

 

Weel, my exquriences wit chew taught me dat I took eberyting too seriously.  So I poot in de bideo games and de coouches.  Eet ees mooch beetter,” he said gesturing around the room towards the “man-cave” area, complete with two large leather sofas, big screen TV and the up to date gaming system that the teenagers were already using.

 

“Hey!” Bobby shouted.  “When are we getting pizza?  I’m starrrrrving!”

 

Brian walked over and slapped Bobby across the back of his head.  “Have some manners, or we won’t let you outta your cage again.”

 

“That’s cold, Bri,” Bobby said, rubbing the back of his head.  “I’d expect that from Mart, Dan, or even Trixie.  But man, you swore to do no harm.”

 

“Let us not fight,” Raoul ordered the brothers, waving his index finger in Brian’s face.  “Chew behabe or I vill habe la araña caliente choot chew wit his grande peestolé.”

 

Jim and Brian turned in unison to see Dan muttering under his breath the words Raoul had said over and over.

 

“The hot spider!” he yelled finally, glancing around the room at his amazed friends.

 

“Well, at least Webster didn’t get a cool name,” Mart said smugly.

 

“Yeah, but he was called ‘hot’ and you four weren’t,” Bobby snorted.

 

Four men slapped the back of his head in rapid succession.

 

 

Out on Glen Road…

 

A car rolled to a stop at the end of the driveway to Crabapple Farm.  The occupants stared at the house; waiting and watching to see if anyone was home. 

 

“You think this is the place?” asked the driver, bored with the surroundings.

 

When his companion failed to respond, he snapped his fingers in front of her face.

 

“Answer me,” he demanded, watching her pale eyes focus on his face. 

 

“Yeah,” she replied, hoarsely, licking her lips.  “This is the address.”

 

He turned back to the front and ground the starter on the car before jerking it into gear.  “Then let’s get everything together and get this over with,” he said gruffly, driving back toward their hotel.

 

 

“So, Espiky, I hab talked to cheur lubly bride and che hab selected swatches.  I hab ordered de cumberbund and bow tie in seberal coolors so we can epick de best.  No more…what was eet…deranged boomble bee poor chew.”  Raoul picked up a dozen different styles of tuxedo accessories in various shades of purple.

 

“My sister and her purple,” Terry groaned, rolling his eyes.

 

“At least she has branched out to other colors,” Larry added from where he played a video game against Bobby.  “But I swear if I have to listen to her explain the subtle differences between wild violet and dark orchid one more time, I’ll start drinking.  And it won’t be root beer.”

 

“I sat through that lecture once,” Dan admitted, flicking through the shades of purple on the table.  “I wanted to puncture my own eardrums.”

 

“My dearest love is enamored with the color,” Mart agreed with a smile.  “What is this made of, Raoul?” he asked holding out an iridescent purple tie.

 

Taffeeta,” Raoul answered.

 

Dan and Brian chuckled as they looked at each other.

 

"Taffeta, darling," Dan said using a falsetto voice.


"Taffeta, sweetheart," Brian answered.


"No, the dress, it's taffeta, it wrinkles so easily," Dan replied, and then doubled over laughing along with his friends.

 

Raoul and his assistant looked at the friends as if they had totally lost their minds.  Shaking his head, he shrugged and commented, “Están locos, pero me gustan mucho.”**

 

**They are crazy and I do not understand

them sometimes but I like them very much.

 

“Come along, Boob-Whites, eet ees time to try on cheur tuxedos wit dee berrious cumberbunds,” Raoul instructed.  “Chew, boys, stay here.”

 

 

Woohoo!” Larry crowed a few minutes later.  “Take that, Belden.  I win,” he added, pumping his fist in the air.

 

Bobby stood up from the floor and flipped a finger at his friend.  “It’s just a stupid game.”

 

“Only ‘cause you lost,” Terry replied for his brother.

 

Bobby wandered across the fitting area and plopped down on one of the couches.  Bored, he picked up the candle in a jar and sniffed the scent of vanilla.

 

“Booby,” Raoul barked, returning to the room.  “Put…ze candle…beck,” he ordered.

 

The three young men looked at each other for a single second before they began laughing and rolling on the floor.

 

“What’d we miss?” Mart asked, stepping from the dressing area, tugging the cuffs of his long sleeved shirt.

 

“You had to be here,” Larry answered with a snort.

 

Dan stepped out next with Brian and Jim close behind him.  Dan was carrying a cane with a silver tip which he handed to Raoul.

 

“Hit it, Raoul,” he ordered.

 

Stepping next to Brian, they began strutting across the showroom.

 

“If chur're blue and chew dunt know where to go to,” Raoul sang, sounding like Ricky Ricardo with his accent.  “Why dunt chew go where fashion seets,” he continued.

 

Uttin' on the itz,” Brian cried out with a guttural sound.

 

Terry shook his head in amazement.  “I can’t believe what a bunch of lightweights these guys are.  Give ‘em one beer and they’ve lost it.”

 

Bobby punched his friend on the arm and smiled.  “Well, there is that, but I knew we shouldn’t have let them have that Mel Brooks marathon for Mart’s birthday yesterday.”

 

The three teens went to put on their tuxes so they could join the festivities.

 

 

Helen Belden was doing the dinner dishes when she heard a sharp knocking on the front door.  Now that’s unusual, she thought to herself, most people come straight to the back door.  Must be a solicitor, or some political campaign worker.  Drying her hands on a dish towel, she looked through the front curtain before she opened the door.  On the front porch of the farmhouse was an unfamiliar young woman.  Turning on the front light and opening the door, Helen smiled and said, “Hello, how can I help you?”

 

“Hey, is your son here?” the young woman demanded, snapping her gum and then began to nervously chew on her thumb nail.  She was very thin.  The skimpy tank top hung from her frame stopping inches above her pierced bellybutton.  The girl’s dull, greasy hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail.

 

Normally good manners would have had her welcoming the stranger into the house, but her mother bear instincts kicked in and she blocked the doorway.  “I’m sorry, my boys are out.  How can I help you?” she asked crisply.

 

“Damn!  I so don’t need this.”  The girl was becoming very agitated, moving back and forth on the welcome mat.  She snapped, “When will he be back?”

 

“Excuse me, young lady.  I don’t know you and I don’t know how you know my son.  But I am not prepared to give you any information.  Now if you’d like to leave your name and a way for him to contact you, I will pass it along.”

 

From the end of the driveway someone in a black Ford Escort laid on the horn, causing the young woman to become more frantic.  “Fine!  You want me to leave a message for him, fine.  This is the message,” she broke off and walked down the three steps to the sidewalk, picked something up and came back onto the porch.  She placed whatever it was in the shadows near the railing and turned back to face the ice queen in the doorway.  “Tell him, it’s…it’s a girl.”

 

Helen walked out of the house and stood on the top step, dumbfounded, as she watched the skinny girl run down the driveway and climb into the battered car.  The engine was ground into gear, tires screeched and the car sped away down Glen Road.  “‘It’s a girl?’  What did she mean by that?” she wondered out loud.  “Oh well.” 

 

“Helen, who are you talking to?” Peter asked from the open door.

 

“I have no idea, sweetheart.  Some girl was here and wanted to see our son.”

 

“Which one?” he chuckled, patting his pocket for the matches to light his ‘hooray the week is over’ once-a-week pipe.  He was walking to his pipe-smoking chair near the railing and saw something in the darkness.  “What’s that?”

 

Turning to look at what the girl had put on the porch; Helen reached down expecting to see a box with returned belongings.  “Umm, Peter. Could you come here?”

 

“What is it, Helen?” he asked, crossing the porch.

 

“It’s a baby!”

 

 

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