Chapter 20: Take the Strong Way Home

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The next morning, which was Thursday, before the sun had even breached the horizon, Barnard and Audie were eating their hospital breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast. They were glad to see that at least this hospital had very decent food. The door opened and Aunt Jeanie walked in.

"How are you boys feeling today? Better?"

"I don't know about Barnard, Aunt Jeanie, but I feel great! My leg's a bit sore, but not nearly what I thought it would be and not nearly what it would have been if Barnard had actually tried to suck the poison out of it."

"Now, Audie, take it easy on your friend. He did get you here in one piece and saved your life."

"Yeah, Audie, try to remember that the next time you rag on me about quitting scouts. Besides, my head feels like a thousand dwarfs are whistling while they work on it with picks."

"Well, you do have a concussion, Barnard," Jeanie said. "You're going to be here for another couple of days, at least. Your doctor should be in soon to see if we need any more tests. Annnnnd I hear that your mother is on her way as we speak."

"I guess that's the end of my trip, then. Mom didn't want me to do this in the first place," he muttered into his eggs, taking another very large bite. Since Aunt Jeanie was in the room, he chewed it thoroughly and then he spoke again. "How are you going to get back to school before school starts next week, Audie?"

"I don't know. Maybe I can get on a bus today and make it back by Saturday. It's something like 700 miles from here. Not sure how long a bus would take because of all the stops."

"Nonsense, Audie," Aunt Jeanie said. "We'll get you a plane ticket or something. You boys finish up. Somebody else wants to see you and I've got to prepare for some meetings. I just wanted to pop in for a minute and make sure you would be ready." She left quickly and with mouths full of food, the boys couldn't ask who their visitor was. After a few chews, they considered it must be Angel. Barnard was glad because he wanted to thank the guy who really had been his angel. He thought he would probably owe that guy for the rest of his life.

Finishing up their breakfast, they pushed away the rolling tables that hung over their beds. The door opened and a man in a black suit stepped in. Wearing sunglasses. Inside. His hair was very short, but still covered in gel. He looked carefully around the room, only sweeping his vision past Audie and Barnard without actually stopping his gaze to look at them, then moved his head outside the door. They heard him say, "Sir, the area is clear." The man held the door open and a very well-dressed man in a charcoal gray suit with a silvery sheen stepped in. He had dark brown hair with a little gray at his temples. He wore a light purple shirt with a dark gray tie and shoes that shone like they had their own light. He was followed by two young women and it took the boys a few moments to comprehend that the man had been followed into the room by Lydia and Sue Ellen. Barnard's heart beat up into his throat and his breakfast nearly came up simply out of surprise. He was certain that Audie emitted a light, high-pitched whimper, though in days to come he would never admit it.

"I understand you two young men have been through quite a trial this week," the man said. His voice was clear, crisp, and assertive, yet silky smooth. Whoever this man was, both Barnard and Audie knew he had to be far above the echelons of their own camaraderie. They nodded their heads, absolutely sure that they were about to be arrested for kidnapping. At this point, Audie recognized the agent that had stepped in initially as one of the men who had been at the bed and breakfast.

"Well, I think we have some misunderstandings to clear up and then we'll let you get back about your business ... er, whatever that may be." The man said. The young ladies were standing respectfully behind him with their hands clasped in front like debutantes in a receiving line. "In that vein, my daughter and her friend have something they'd like to say." Daughter. Oh. Understanding was making its way even into Barnard's battered brain. No wonder. Daddy's girl had pissed him off and Daddy is a very important person. Important enough to beckon the call of the CIA. Important enough that that cop had recognized the name just from a driver's license. Lydia and Sue Ellen stepped forward, looking at the ceiling or the walls, never at Barnard nor Audie, hands still clasped in front.

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