Two guys are all set to go to college.
But problems intervene and they start a website to pay the bills.
Things don’t work out quite the way they expected.
Now what are they going to do?
On Tuesday morning, September 23, 2008, as Dr. Bradley W. Todd, known to his intimates as Zip, was settling in to grade some freshman compositions, he received a phone call from Mario Sanchez, asking whether he would be available during the lunch hour. Zip readily agreed, sensing that Mario had something of importance to relay. Mario had been a student of Zip’s, and was now a teacher at Baltimore High. He obtained someone to cover for him at school, and set out to take his latest concern to the man he thought of as his mentor in so many ways. He arrived at Todd House a few minutes after noon, and agreed to sandwiches and milk in the library, as Zip knew he had limited time away from his duties, and needed privacy for whatever was on his mind.
In the library, with the door closed, Mario accessed a site on Zip’s computer. Somehow, it was no surprise that it was a gay male site featuring two very nice looking young men. One was a well-developed blond boy with blue eyes, apparently standing about six foot, with extremely well developed chest, arm, and stomach muscles. The other was an Hispanic youth, about four inches shorter, with golden tan skin coloring, brown hair and eyes, and equally well developed musculature. It was immediately apparent that both guys were very well endowed in the genital category as well, with the Hispanic slightly larger than the Nordic type. They apparently were very much into each other, the kissing, caressing, nibbling, as well as the looks which passed between them, bearing evidence. Interestingly to Zip, both also grinned and laughed quite a bit as they pleasured each other. The full video lasted about twenty minutes, although Mario had fast-forwarded to save time.
When he exited the site, Mario had a troubled look on his face. He turned to Zip. “I know one of those boys, and Doug knows the other. We’re concerned.” Doug was Mario’s partner.
“Tell me about it,” Zip invited.
“The boy who is called Pancho on the video is named Oscar Paul Villas. He was a student in my class several times over the past few years, including last year. He graduated in May. With, I might add, high honors. His family are among the successful Hispanic families in town, with his father being in the construction business, quite successful in putting up shopping centers and apartment houses. I knew he was gay. He came to me about it. It seems his family was quite hostile and unaccepting, and threatened him with all kinds of consequences if he came out, including a military school. On one occasion, he even told me they threatened him with one of those reorientation camps, which, as you know, are little more than brainwashing and torture centers. There was little I could do, as he was then a minor. I counseled him, and sent him to Joe Smith.” Rev. Joseph D. Smith was the priest charged with ministry to the gay community by the Diocese of Clifton, as well as a faculty member at the high school. Mario continued, “I also offered him a refuge if he were physically abused. Evidently, it never came to that. He was good in my classes, but I think he was more interested in the sciences. Maybe Nate Bennington could tell you something more.
“The other guy, who calls himself Cisco, has the impressive moniker Douglas Winslow Castleman. He is some kind of cousin to my Doug. Doug says he graduated from Prep in May, but obviously we have less direct information on him. Doug did say his parents were extremely rigid and demanding, unlike most in their social class. The boy’s father is a very successful corporate lawyer, and they belong to Madison Country Club.
“I’m concerned because this site I showed you is one of those pay-per-view types. I was able to get in because … well … because Doug and I like a little entertainment as warm up sometimes, so we paid for a membership. The two are, as you saw, very attractive, and so are most of the other models on the site. We were attracted to these two before we fully recognized them, for one thing, because they did not have tattoos all over themselves, like so many of the others. Anyway, as soon as we really got into the site, we recognized the two young men. I don’t know why they’re doing this, but I’m concerned that it may indicate a serious problem. I’m leaving you this dossier, which Doug and I put together last evening. It’s got all the information we currently have available, and some suggestion of others you might contact who could be useful. If they’re just being teenagers, and doing this to rile their parents, I guess there’s nothing to be done, but if this is some kind of sign of serious problems, Doug and I want to help. Will you use your legendary investigative powers to check into this?”
“You know I will, Mario,” Zip replied. “I love a problem or puzzle like this, and right now I could use a distraction from less satisfying concerns. I know you have to get back to school, so I won’t keep you by asking for what I suspect is in this dossier. You’ve been very complete in the past. I’ll let you know when and if I come up with anything.”
“Thanks. We knew we could count on you. Like I said, it might be nothing, but just in case, we’d appreciate the effort.”
“And I appreciate the confidence in my ‘legendary investigative powers.’ You and Doug have proven yourselves over and over. I’m proud of you, and always ready to give a helping hand,” Zip said.
Mario blushed at the compliments, but then took his leave, having to return to his duties as history teacher at Baltimore High.
As Zip expected, the URL and password for the internet site Mario had accessed was contained in the dossier he left behind. Zip accessed the site once again, and sought out any clue as to the location of the boys. From what Mario supplied, neither was available at their parents’ addresses. Mario’s terse comment was, “Phone slammed down,” at the Villas home, and, “Angry cut off,” at the Castleman home. There was nothing giving a physical location on the site, which would have been completely unexpected in any case.
The dossier supplied by Mario contained a complete record of the Villas boy’s four years at Baltimore High. He had an excellent academic record, as Mario said, graduating with honors. He had been a National Merit finalist. He had an academic scholarship to the University, and attractive offers from several other institutions. Oscar had participated in a number of extra-curricular activities, including four years of soccer and the academic team, as well as membership in a club interested in science. There were letters of recommendation and commendation from several members of the faculty.
The information on Doug Castleman was less comprehensive. Neither Mario nor Doug Winslow had access to the files at Clifton Prep. So, Zip used his special knowledge to access those files himself, at least those which were computerized. There would be no copies of handwritten letters, of course. Doug Castleman’s file indicated that he, too, was an excellent scholar and active in extra-curricular activities. Like Oscar, he was a soccer player, which may be a clue as to how they connected. Zip also noted an interesting activity with a club devoted to sailing. Unlike Oscar, Doug was evidently more interested in history and literature than in science. So, Zip deduced, both boys were intelligent, but it was not an academic interest which brought them together. He did note with interest a notation that at least one of his teachers, Emily Johnson, was concerned about his tendency of late to withdraw and avoid social interaction with fellow students.
Zip accessed information on the families of the two young men. As Mario indicated, both were well off. The Castleman family was that of Douglas Bell Castleman and Frances Antonia Winslow, both leading elite names in Clifton, with a home in an exclusive neighborhood. There was a younger brother, named John Francis Castleman, who was now sixteen years old. The Castleman net worth was quite impressive, consisting of inherited wealth, investments, and income from the elder Castleman’s legal practice. The Villas family was less well off, but still among the small number of families of Hispanic origin who had done quite well economically. Oscar’s father, Daniel Primo Villas, was the president and sole owner of Villas Construction Company, which was doing very well. The company had recently completed a multi-million-dollar shopping mall in the eastern part of the County, and an apartment complex in the southwestern area which had government backing. The family belonged to the Clifton Regatta Boat Club, a much less exclusive private club than Madison, but the connection to boating on the river may have served as another connection between the two young men of interest.
Having gathered what he could without hacking into banking or governmental files, Zip decided to contact various individuals who might be able to give him more information. He e-mailed a whole bevy of individuals who might have known one or both of the young men, including teachers at both high schools and classmates.
In the afternoon, Zip sent a legion of helpers to the various post offices in the Madison County area. If the two were still in the local area, they probably were receiving mail, and might have used their real names. The stage names, Cisco and Pancho, were also given his helpers, in the event they were using those names for mail delivery, although he had few hopes in this area, as he had no family names to go along with them. As it turned out, this was the most helpful information. At a post office in a neighborhood in the western part of town, the team of Dorsey Gilbert and Cass Martinez discovered an address in the name of Pancho Villas and Cisco Torres. They only were given this information because the postal employee happened to be an older man who remembered the old Cisco Kid episodes on black and white television, and thought the combination interesting, so when they came asking, he remembered. The address was in a depressed part of town, inhabited by poor blacks and Hispanics primarily. Dorsey and Cass drove by the address, noting that it was a poorly kept apartment complex.
E-mails began to come in from several additional sources. Nate Bennington and Joe Smith, teachers at Baltimore, expressed concern about Oscar. He was a promising student, but very private, approaching anti-social. Nate, like Mario earlier, reported that he had promised to remain in touch when he graduated, but had not done so. Joe, the priest, could not reveal what he had been told in confidence, but said he thought the boy vulnerable. He had come to Joe for advice twice over the past two years, but had withdrawn entirely before the Christmas holidays. Among the Prep faculty, John Luke Lansing replied cautiously that he had encountered Doug during the past year, his first year teaching, and though him very bright, but “conflicted.” As he did not know Zip well, he was not more forthcoming. Emily Johnson, however, expressed herself at length, saying she was worried about her former student. She, too, thought him intelligent, but extremely withdrawn of late, and with impossible parents who were more concerned with their social status than anything else. A fellow student, Brad Williams, e-mailed that he knew Oscar, but the boy kept pretty much to himself, and seemed bothered by something by the time they both graduated in May.
As the transcripts of both boys indicated they had copies sent to the University of Clifton as well as other schools, Zip then accessed the computer files at the University. There, he found that both had been accepted, and in fact were registered for the fall semester, but were taking only two classes each. Doug was in a History class being taught by Josh Barnett, while Oscar was in one of Ben Harrison’s Biology classes. Consequently, Zip made it a point to speak to both of those colleagues the next day. Neither had anything interesting to report. The students in question were doing good work, but had done nothing to bring themselves to the attention of their instructors. The University records had the same mailing address as had been discovered by Dorsey and Cass, but also included e-mail addresses through the University.
Another person checked was Gary Jaeger, a somewhat undesirable type but well acquainted with the porn industry. Gary assured Zip, with just a hint of regret, that he had no connection with the web site involved. He explained that the participant, or someone in his or her name, contacts the site and agrees to pay a stated amount for the access, then hopes to collect enough through the pay-per-view arrangement to pay the access fee and make a profit. The source of the site was most likely in a major city somewhere on one of the coasts or in Chicago.
After a good deal of thought, Zip decided to compose an e-mail to the two young men. He gave it a good deal of thought, and edited his composition several times before sending it. In it, he addressed them as Cisco and Pancho, introduced himself, then mentioned that his friends Mario Sanchez and Doug Winslow were concerned for them after viewing their site. He gave his office location on campus as well as his e-mail address and his phone number, and said that he was available should they wish to contact him about anything.
It was over a week later, and Zip had almost given up hope of establishing contact, when he received an e-mail. It simply said, “If you will be available tomorrow, I’d like to talk,” and was signed, “Pancho.” Tomorrow would be Saturday, October 4, the first day of fall break and Zip had no commitments. He immediately responded that any time on Saturday would be fine, and gave his home address. That evening he informed his wife, Sandy, of this latest development in the problem given him by Mario.
On Saturday morning Zip worked out at Mike’s gym. He remembered that the boy Doug, or Cisco, was especially well developed, and thought he must work out somewhere. Perhaps at the University Fitness Center. Over breakfast, he informed the handyman, Tom Luckett, that he was expecting one, perhaps two, University students later in the day, but had no idea what time they might arrive. Zip then spent some time on the third floor cavorting with his grandchildren, then retreated to the library, where he worked on his lectures and his presentation for the meeting of the Midwest Modern Language Association in Minneapolis next month. Several hours passed, and it occurred to Zip that his correspondent might not show up. However, at a couple of minutes after eleven, Tom knocked and said a student was there to see him.
As he entered, Zip observed the young man. This was Oscar Villas, the eighteen-year-old graduate of Baltimore. He was definitely the good looking young man on the video, but he looked tired and kind of rumpled.
“Dr. Todd? I’m … well, that kind of depends,” the young man said, offering his hand.
Zip shook hands. “This is entirely unofficial, not directly related to University business at all, so why don’t we stick to nicknames. My family call me Zip, and you, I take it, are Pancho.”
The boy grinned. “At least some of the time.”
Zip offered him a seat and a drink, noting that it was after eleven. “I usually have Bourbon. Am I stereotyping if I offer you Tequila?”
Pancho grinned again. “If you don’t mind, I’ll have Bourbon as well,” he said.
After handing the boy his drink and taking his own seat, Zip began. “Nearly two weeks ago, Mario Sanchez came to me asking for help in contacting you. I’ve known Mario since he was 16, and we’ve shared a number of adventures. He’s concerned that someone with your abilities seems to have just disappeared. He asked me to try to find out whether there was anything he or his partner could do to help if there were a problem.”
Pancho grinned again. He looked very attractive when he grinned. “You managed to get quite a bit across in a few words. Okay, I’m gay, as I always suspected Mr. Sanchez was, and yes, there are problems. How much do you know about my partner and our background?”
“I know your partner, called Cisco - I don’t want to get distracted now, but some time I want to tell you how I first located you - is named Douglas Winslow Castleman, and he graduated from Prep at the same time you graduated from Baltimore. Both of you had very promising records and offers of scholarships. I know both of you are attending the University here only part-time. And I know about your web site.”
At that, Pancho blushed. “How did you…?”
“Mario brought it to my attention. Not my usual fare. Pretty well done compared with some of the others, however,” Zip commented.
“Thanks,” Pancho said, obviously pleased, “I did the set up myself. I’m pretty good with computers and technology.”
“To further answer your earlier question,” Zip continued, “from what Mario tells me neither your family nor your partner’s is very accepting.” Zip reached for the file left by Mario, and checked his notes. “Mario says when he tried to call your home, the phone was slammed down in his ear, and he did not have much more success at the Castleman residence.”
“That’s the core of whatever problem Doug and I have,” Pancho said, dropping the nickname for his partner. “I think I can trust you. You’re Chris Todd’s father, aren’t you?”
Zip grinned. “He’s the youngest of five. More and more I find myself identified as Chris’s father. He has made more waves at the University in the past two years than I did on the faculty since 1988.”
“Yeah. Once you encounter Chris, you don’t forget him. He’s one big reason I decided to respond to your e-mail.”
“Well, I would have him over to help us this morning, but he’s out at the Farm practicing for the next horse show,” Zip said, “so I guess we’re on our own.”
“Have him over?” Pancho queried.
“Oh, Chris lives across the street with his partner Brandon. They had a commitment ceremony after he turned eighteen in December of ‘06, and he is very independent these days,” his father reported.
“Wow! Okay, I am about as jealous of Chris as can be. But, as you indicated, it’s a lot different with me and Doug. Basically, we’ve been cut off completely by both our families. That has caused some problems, financial and otherwise.”
“I thought you had scholarships …” Zip began.
“Those scholarships look very impressive on one’s resumé, but they are not very remunerative in terms of cash. Hence the part-time status at the university, and, frankly, hence the web cam pay-per-view. We both come from fairly affluent families. Neither of us ever held a summer job or anything, so we had no funds of our own when things blew up. Jobs are scarce. We do what we can to make ends meet,” Pancho explained.
“I see. I think we can help along those lines.”
“I wish I had the gumption to say no thanks, but, frankly, it hasn’t been easy.” With another of his grins, he added, “We’ve kind of learned to swallow our pride.”
“Nothing I propose will be humiliating, I promise. But before we get to that, how about lunch? I see it’s just about noon,” Zip suggested.
“I’d like that. Thanks,” Pancho agreed. He paused. then asked, “Will others be around?”
“Yes. My wife and her grandmother, to begin. Then, our housekeeper and handyman. You met Tom when you got here. And probably one or two more. I never know for sure,” Zip replied.
“Then, I guess you’d better introduce me as Oscar. Pancho requires too much explanation.”
“Oh, yeah. I was going to tell you about that. I got your mailing address because a carrier at the post office nearest you was a fan of the Cisco Kid television program back fifty years ago. He thought Cisco and Pancho was really memorable,” Zip related.
“And here we thought no one would make the connection,” Oscar sighed.
“Kids. You are so present oriented. Some of us actually have memories,” Zip responded, as he led Oscar to the breakfast room.
There he introduced him to Sandy and Gran, and later to Helen, Lars, Josie, Tom, and Marc, all of whom just happened to be in search of lunch. They enjoyed a relaxing hour before returning to the library for more serious discussion.
As they resumed their seats, Oscar asked, “What were you doing when I arrived? I hope I’m not keeping you from anything important.”
“No, not at all. I was merely going through a paper I’ll be giving at a conference next month. I generally go through and edit five or six times before I actually present something, or, alternately, before I send something to a journal for publication,” Zip replied. “Even so, unfortunate things still slip through. When I’m reading something, that’s not a problem, but when it’s something to appear in print, a mistake can be embarrassing.”
“You sound like Doug. He always had me read his term papers in school, but he had been over them many times before I ever saw a thing,” Oscar noted.
“I think I would appreciate Doug in one of my classes. Most students seem to think that running something through spell-check once is sufficient,” Zip noted.
Oscar looked guilty, obviously having done that before.
Additional talk elicited grounds for an agreement. Oscar said Doug absolutely refused to simply accept a hand-out, after having heard his father complain about welfare cheats all his life, so simply providing a scholarship would not do. But Zip promised to find something appropriate in return for any financial assistance the boys received through the Todd Educational Foundation. One thing he insisted upon was that the web site be closed down. He explained that he had no objection to sex, whether straight or gay, but he found the commercialization of sex distasteful. Oscar liked that way of putting it. Zip asked that Oscar return on Monday, and bring Doug with him. By then, he would have something specific to propose.
Later that afternoon, Zip called the Hamilton place in Jouett County, and then took a walk down to the Pike. After making these preliminary arrangements, he discussed the matter with Sandy, and told her what he had in mind. She was pleased, as she knew Zip had been concerned not to fail Mario, and for the two guys as well. On Sunday, they took in the fall Bach Society Concert, which always left them feeling better, as though the world actually did make sense.
At 10:30 on the Monday of fall break both Oscar and Doug showed up at Todd House, to be shown in once again by Tom. In the library, Zip was introduced to Doug, and asked about how the boys were getting on. It seems a problem occurred over the weekend, as someone with even more computer skills than Oscar broke into their site and stole the customer information including names, addresses, phone numbers, and most damaging, credit card numbers. Zip was amazed at all the new ways there were to carry out old evils. He then told the boys that he had definite proposals to lay before them, but they would have to bear with him, as he liked to do things his own way. The three of them then walked over to the Pike, and entered Cross Electronics in the Emporium. There, Zip was hailed by Nick Kossakoff.
“Hi, Zip. Which one of these guys is the one you spoke to me about?”
“Nick, let me introduce Oscar Villas and Doug Castleman. Oscar is the one I spoke to you about on Saturday. Guys, this is Nick Kossakoff, the proprietor of this establishment,” Zip made the introductions.
After some handshaking and preliminary talk, Nick took Oscar back to the work station, while Zip and Doug hung out, looking over the products and talking to employee Robb Allen. An hour passed. Zip began to look worried. Then he had an idea. He said to Doug, “Does Oscar tend to lose track of time when he’s involved with computers?”
Doug laughed. “All the time. Sometimes I think he forgets to eat or sleep. There even are times when I’m tempted to be jealous of an inanimate object.”
“Okay, they’ve had enough time. Let’s go pry them loose so we can get back in time for lunch,” Zip decided.
He led Doug behind the counter and into the rear work space, where they found Nick and Oscar engaged in some arcane talk about the machine on the table in front of them. Zip simply walked over to Nick, put his hand over the man’s mouth, and turned him towards the door. He said to Doug, “You take control of Oscar.” Both geeks were led back out into the showroom, and only then released.
“Well, Nick, did you see enough to make a decision?’ Zip asked.
“Oh, yeah. Right away. Oscar had a really interesting suggestion about how to fix a problem in the unit we were working on, that’s all.”
“And that took you 65 minutes?” Zip wondered.
“No! It couldn’t have been that long,” Nick protested.
Across the room, Robb snickered. “At least that long,” he asserted.
“So, Oscar, you now have a legitimate job, right?” Zip pressed.
“Well, we never got around to things like salary and hours, but I guess,” Oscar innocently reported.
Zip and Doug laughed. “Oh, small incidentals like that can wait,” Zip agreed. “Now, it’s time to get back home for lunch.”
“I remember lunch. Good idea,” an obviously unrepentant Oscar said.
They returned to Todd House, where Doug was introduced to Sandy, and they were greeted by Mario Sanchez and Doug Winslow. Mario chided Oscar a great deal, first of all for not keeping in touch as he promised, and then for where he eventually was discovered. Oscar was obviously very grateful that Mario cared enough to follow up on his ex-student, but when he began to talk about what he and Nick had been up to, Mario threw up his hands in despair. However, at that time the Todd daughter Helen and her boyfriend Lars entered the room, and Lars not only remembered Oscar from Saturday, but was able to enter into a discussion with him which no one else could follow. Sandy engaged Doug in a discussion of horses, once she was able to pry him away from Zip, who wanted to talk about editing. Doug Winslow also wanted to get in a few words with his cousin, and so there was lively discussion all through lunch.
Lunch completed, Zip and Sandy invited Oscar and Doug to accompany them to the Farm. That is, Todd Farm in Jouett County, about an hour away. Several times on the way, Doug made a comment about Oscar being settled, but he still had no idea what he was to do in return for his Todd Scholarship. Those comments were put aside or ignored. On the Farm, the newcomers were shown about, then invited to ride. While they were considering this, there was a noise vaguely like a whirlwind, and suddenly Chris Todd was there beside them.
“Hi, Oscar. I haven’t seen you in a long time. Who’s your friend?” Chris enquired.
“Oh, uh, hi, Chris,” Oscar managed, attempting to recover from the hurricane. “This is my partner Doug.”
“Hi, Doug. Glad to meet you. It’s about time Oscar found a decent partner. Come on down to the large arena. I’m about to go through my workout,” Chris insisted.
There was no resisting Chris, who affected one much like an elemental force. So, everyone, including his parents, walked down to the large arena, where he was met by his trainer, Trevor Martinez, and, most importantly, by the love of his life, CH Todd’s Beauty. Oh, yeah, and his partner Brandon was also there. Oscar and Doug had both heard Brandon give his talk on what it meant to be gay to their respective high schools, and so recognized him right away. Watching Chris on Beauty was like watching a ballet. But, eventually, everyone had something else to do. Brandon and Sandy took Oscar up to the house to see the curiosities, as Sandy put it, while Zip told Doug to come with him.
They got back in the car, and drove out to the Hamilton place. As they arrived, John Hamilton came across from the nursery.
“Right on time,” John commented.
“We almost didn’t make it,” Zip said. “Chris captured our guests for a while.”
John laughed. “Come inside. I’ve got most things laid out in there.”
On the kitchen table there were several stacks of papers and clippings. John fingered them lovingly. “I don’t think I ever before got everything together at once like this,” he said.
Zip turned to an obviously mystified Doug. “John’s cousin, Jeremy Hamilton, was my advisee at the University a few years back. He went off to defend the country, and died in the process. But, for about seven or eight years, Jeremy wrote. Some of it got published, but most did not. We kind of thought about putting out a collection of his best stories and poems, but an editor is needed. That’s where you come in.”
“Zip says you’re a careful editor. I love what Jeremy wrote, but I’m too close to it, too personal. Besides, I’m just an old Ag major. I couldn’t do it justice,” John said.
Doug sat down at the table, and began to look over the mass of materials. He skimmed a couple of poems, and glanced down a few short stories. “This looks interesting. Just from a quick scan, I can see Jeremy had a creative mind. I think I’d like going over these things in more detail.”
“Yeah, Jeremy was real creative. He had a lot more imagination than I do,” John said.
“How do you want to handle this? Can I take this stuff back to town, or do you want me to work here?” Doug asked.
“How about you take a good handful, then come back for more when you’re through with that? I kind of want to keep some here with me,” John suggested.
“Yeah, that’ll work,” Doug agreed.
And so, about a third of the material was gathered up in a paper sack, while the rest was returned to John’s room. That third returned to Todd Farm with Zip and Doug. Along the way, Doug asked, “Were John and Jeremy lovers?”
“It was an odd situation,” Zip replied. “The short answer is ‘yes.’ I don’t think John ever loved anyone like Jeremy. But he has several children, and both of them had heterosexual dates while at the University. As far as I know, and, like I said, Jeremy was my advisee, so I knew him pretty well, they never had a sexual relationship with any other males. That relationship, though, was the most intense in their lives. When we get back, I want you to talk to a couple of others for background. Maybe not today, as Sandy and Chris will insist on a ride, but before you get too far into the editing. I take it you’re willing to take on the job?”
“Absolutely. I’m intrigued. You seem to have hit on just the right thing for both Oscar and me,” Doug stated.
“Having raised five kids, Chris being the youngest, I learned a few things,” Zip replied.
Zip was, of course, quite correct, so the interrupted plan to go for a ride was resumed as soon as he and Doug arrived back at the house. Zip and Sandy, Doug and Oscar, Chris and Brandon, spent about an hour on horseback. The newcomers admired the Farm. What nature provided in terms of landscape had been augmented by tasteful buildings, so nature and nurture blended perfectly. Seeing that blend on the back of a beautiful creature like one of the Todd Saddlebreds only enhanced the beauty of the whole. They all remained for the evening meal, with Chris insisting on everyone acknowledging his resemblance to Christopher Todd the Founder, the man who settled on what became Todd Farm with a military grant in 1786, and whose portrait graced the front parlor.
Looking at Doug, Sandy supplemented the Todd family background by commenting, “I and my children also have Castleman, Winslow, and Douglas ancestors, so we can consider this a family affair.”
Doug laughed. “A much more agreeable family affair than I’ve had recently.”
Sandy, Chris, and Brandon remained on the Farm another day or so, but Zip took Oscar and Doug back to town. In the library at Todd House, they had a final session for the day. Oscar and Doug agreed to shut down the web site immediately. Oscar would begin working part-time for Cross Electronics on Wednesday, and Doug would begin his editorial duties that same day. In return, they would receive Todd Scholarships, which would allow them to move into a double room on campus, and attend full time beginning with the spring semester. It was too late to do anything about their course load this semester. But the scholarships would begin immediately. As a result, the guys could eat properly, for one thing. For another, they went on Tuesday to see about a dorm room. By mid-term there were rooms vacant, so that posed no difficulty. Usually Todd Scholarship recipients received single rooms, but in this case a double was requested. Zip joked that, if they split up and could not stand each other, alternative arrangements could be made. A few minor adjustments were also made. Zip decided that a really good computer was needed for Doug’s editorial work, so the cheap model cobbled together by Oscar was discarded in favor of the best available at Cross Electronics. The automobile which they shared, originally Oscar’s, as Doug’s had been sold along the way, was taken down to McQuaid Auto Center and given a complete tune-up, so Doug could actually get out to the Hamilton farm and back successfully. And so it went.
The second half of the semester was much more pleasant than the first. Cisco and Pancho went into retirement. Or, perhaps that should be semi-retirement. The boys turned up at the Hallowe’en party dressed as Cisco and Pancho.
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