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Second Chance Series 5: Prodigal

Second Chance Series 5: Prodigal

Автор Paul Green

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Second Chance Series 5: Prodigal

Автор Paul Green

779 страниц
7 часов
23 июл. 2011 г.


Adventure. Intrigue. Mysteries, puzzles and clues. Join our companions on a global quest in the desperate search for a missing prodigal child and a lost ancient artifact. And finally learn Kiyoko's incredible story in a rich and powerful saga set in postwar Japan during the U.S. occupation. Fun, exhilarating and moving at breakneck speed, return once again to the world of the Second Chance.

23 июл. 2011 г.

Об авторе

Winner of the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Paul Green (1894-1981) taught philosophy and drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a native of Harnett County, North Carolina.

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Second Chance Series 5 - Paul Green

Second Chance Series • Book Five


paul green

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Second Chance Series

Reader Recommendation



Cover Page

From the author . . .

~ Prologue ~

~ Journey's Beginning ~

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

~ Far and Away ~

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

~ Assassin ~

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

~ Runes ~

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

~ Atonements ~

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

~ The River ~

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

~ Decisions ~

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

~ Journey's End ~

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

~ Epilogue ~

~ Notes to the Reader ~

Preview of Book Six: AVALON - Part 1

Second Chance Series

Tales From Camelot Series

About the Author . . .

Copyright Notice

Second Chance Series


Copyright copyright 2011 by Paul Green. All Rights Reserved.

First Printing: March 2011

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.

For further information, contact info@paulgreenauthor.com


Second Chance Series

Part One




Part Two



Book 6: AVALON - Part 1

Book 6: AVALON - Part 2

Part Three

Book 7: TRIBE

Book 8: SEED




Beginning 2013

Prophet Chronicles series

For further information contact info@paulgreenauthor.com

Reader Recommendation

Due to the unique subject matter, this series will appeal to a very broad audience: teen to elderly, male and female alike.

Although some parts may be considered to be too intense for pre-teen or younger readers. Ages 13 and up recommended.


Special thanks to all my reviewers. Your input has been invaluable.

Thank you to my son Christopher for his help in designing the covers.

And extra special thanks to the One who gave me the desire to write.


Dedicated to . . .

The People of Japan


The Armed Forces of the United States of America

From the author . . .

Wow … did this book turn out different!

After the fun but somewhat heart-rendering story of Book 4 (sorry, but I had to set the stage!), I really wanted to give the reader a big ‘ole break in this book. I had intended it be a light-hearted and zany adventure - including turning Ben into an Indiana Jones wanna-be (which I didn’t end up having room for, I’m sad to say). It was also supposed to a very short book - along the lines of Book 1. Instead, it turned out to the second largest book of them all, so far - nearly as big as Book 3: PROPHET.

And it would have remained short and sweet, had it not been for Kiyoko’s background story, which ballooned into an unexpectedly powerful and gripping sort of mini-saga. I’m not boasting in myself - it is the true historical facts by themselves that tell her story. Just so you know? The picture on the rear cover of the book is a young Kiyoko in Japan, shortly after the atomic bombings of her people. She is on her way to kill the much-hated American soldiers encamped near her village; one of whom is her future husband, Frank Dawson. I highly recommend re-reading Chapter 1 of Book Two: AWAKENING beforehand as a quick refresher; especially as it relates to Frank and Kiyoko. What had started out as an intriguing love story, turned out to be a whole lot more.

To make room for the larger Japan story, I had to cut back on several plotlines and hold off on character development for one character in particular: Jean Luc. But don’t worry, those parts have all been moved to Book 6, where it turns out to be a much better fit, anyway.

There is still an awful lot of fun in this book - more so than in Book 4: REVENANT, along with plenty of surprises, twists and turns - even from the first page! Not to mention a couple of moments towards the end that should give you chills (in a good way!). By the way, when you finally reach the last section entitled Journey’s End, hold on to your hats - it’s gonna be a roller coaster ride! I think you will have a blast reading this one.

Oh, and one last thing. For you ungodly heathens who would dare to commit the unpardonable sin of peeking at the end before reading the book, know this: I already included the end at the beginning. SO THERE!!! This time it’s about how you get there. May God have mercy on your wretched souls.


~ Prologue ~


As the two combatants continued to fight for their lives, they were greatly disappointed to see several more soldiers join in the fray. Appearing on the steps below them, they were outnumbered twenty-to-two.

WHAT IS THEIR PROBLEM!!? exclaimed the seventeen-year-old boy. WHAT DID WE DO!!?

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW!? shouted the fifteen-year-old girl, parrying another thrust. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE WE ARE!

I TOLD YOU THIS WAS A BAD IDEA!!! the boy shouted.



I DON'T THINK SO! The girl laughed, as she spun around with a roundhouse kick and planted her foot in the groin on the first soldier. The soldier looked at her for a moment in shock, then began falling backwards directly into the soldiers behind him. Like bowling pins, the soldiers began knocking each other down the steps.

Now why didn't you do that before!? the boy laughed.

Just waitin' for him to get into the right position. she smirked.

The boy then surprised the girl with a brief kiss.

What was THAT for!? she exclaimed.

I'm sure THAT will be my last one, too. he grinned. I don't see how we're getting' out of here alive! Wherever here is ... looks like we're inside a fortress or something!

The two teens smiled as they watched the soldiers continue falling down the stairs like dominoes. But their smiles were suddenly interrupted when they heard the shout of a woman's voice from above.

Menelaus είστε βλάπτει!?

Raising their swords once more, they spun around to face whatever forces would now be facing them from the top of the stairway. But they didn't see anyone; the voice seemed to come from a nearby landing beyond the top of the stairs.

Wait, that's Greek! said the boy. And she just said...

Suddenly the girl began bounding up the steps.


HIGH GROUND!!! the girl shouted.

The boy looked down once more at the soldiers beginning to clamber to their feet.

IF YOU SAY SO! and he began running up the steps after her. Just before they reached the top, they heard one of the soldiers shout out from below.

Helen! Παρακολουθούμε! Αυτά είναι προέρχονται προς εσάς!

Suddenly the boy stopped in his tracks. No way!!!

The girl spun around again and grabbed his hand. KEEP MOVING, YOU DORK!

Hey, I think I know where we are! Do you realize who that is!!?


But that's...

The girl rolled her eyes and yanked up him up after her onto the top step.


Now on the second floor, they both turned and prepared to run in any direction that they could - anywhere that was away from the squad of armed soldiers behind them on the steps.

Only they couldn't. For as they turned, they now found themselves facing a dozen more swords and shields.

The two teens were forced to stop in place. The only other direction they could run was back down the steps, but the soldiers were now quickly ascending the stairway.

Okay, so now what!?

I ... I ... I don't know!

We're surrounded!

Ya think!!?

The girl thought to herself for a moment, and then finally she sighed. She looked at the swords and spears that were staring them in the face and shrugged. End of the road. she grinned.

It's not funny, Sara!

Better drop your sword, Adrien. she smiled. I think they mean business.


Yeah right.

I don't believe this. he groaned, dropping his sword. As it clanged onto the ground, it was her turn to surprise him with a kiss.

The things I have to do just to get a kiss from you. he grinned.

Είμαι εντάξει, συζύγου. Έχουν συλληφθεί! called out the woman's voice.

Δόξα τω Θεώ! returned the soldier whom she had been addressing.

No way! said Adrien, shaking his head. I just don't freaking believe this!

What, Adrien!? What are they saying!? OUCH!!!

By now the soldiers from below had reached them and were standing directly behind them; a dozen swords now thrust up against them - some of them beginning to draw blood.

The lead soldier barked an order to his men and then quickly pushed past them, as he strode towards the woman's voice ahead of them. It was probably something about capturing them alive, as the soldiers slightly eased up; although they could still feel the points of the swords pressing against their skin.

Suddenly Adrien's eyes widened. He gasped in astonishment and began pointing behind Sara. Turning around, she looked in the direction he was pointing. It was the woman whose voice they heard, as she stepped out from behind her personal guard.

Sara's jaw dropped in surprise and hope, excitement and disappointment, and a multitude of many other conflicting emotions. Dizziness and queasiness began to set in. For the woman was beautiful. Very beautiful. And to Sara, she was the most beautiful woman in the entire world. The woman was small like Sara, with auburn hair and sap­phire blue eyes.

No way. Sara sighed, sadly. No way! How did my mom even find me!?

Then the woman threw her arms around the soldier. Menelaus! the woman ex­claimed.

WHAT!? Sara exclaimed, stunned.

Sara, that's not your mom. That's Helen.


Of Troy.


Well at least we know where we are, now. sighed Adrien.

Oops. Sara replied.

~ Journey's Beginning ~

Chapter 1

Four years earlier...

Grandmother? Can I ask you a question?

Certainly, dear.

Would you care to explain to me ... WHAT THIS IS!?

Sara was scowling at Eddi, holding a book in her hands.

Eddi stopped her knitting and smiled. That is a book, dear.

I KNOW it's a book! It's a MATH book! It's a sixth grade MATH book! What's it doing on the shelf!? Next to all the OTHER sixth grade textbooks!!?

It is for school, dear.


In September; when we begin our school lessons.

Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no! This was NOT part of the deal!

And what deal was that, dear?

You guys are supposed to help me find the sword! You never said anything about school!

What do you think all the tapes are for, kid? chuckled George from the other sofa.

What tapes!!?

The video tapes! Kemuel answered, entering the room. We've got everything we need for Grade Six. Got the whole year! Even got a 40% discount for paying for it all up front. Plus a nifty set of Ginsu knifes.

WHAT!? Sara bolted over to the small television set and looked at the stack of video tapes. But I thought... She grabbed the one on top and held it up towards Kemuel. This is 'Raiders of the Lost Ark!' The one underneath is 'Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back!

Certainly! I'm sure I've already told you that Episode Five is the best...

Look underneath those two movies, dear. interrupted Eddi.

Sara pulled out the next tape and gasped in horror. And the next one. And the next one. English Grammar!? World History!? Biology!?

Time to learn about the birds and the bees, cousin. George teased.

I already know about sex! Sara exclaimed, angrily.

Eddi wasn't the only one to raise her eyebrow.

Sara looked at everyone sheepishly. I mean ... my mom and I ... we already ... she's already told me ... never mind. Sara began to turn bright red.

Eddi came to her rescue. We ARE going to help you on your quest, child. Just as we promised. But that does not mean you are going to miss out on your education.


George laughed. There are only three things in life that are certain, cousin. Death, taxes, and the sixth grade."

I think I've got the death part down! Sara scowled. So what's the freakin' point of going to school if...

Now, now, dear. That is enough. scolded Eddi. Watch your language and your tone.

Sara crossed her arms and sulked. It's not a curse word.

You kiss your mother with that mouth!? George teased.

Eddi arched her eyebrow at George.

Sorry, Grandmother.

Kemuel chuckled. Everybody starting to get on edge already!? We've only been to­gether three days and we haven't even left port yet! Ah well ... you know what they say about fish and visitors...

But why do I have to go to school!? That's the LAST thing I thought I would EVER have to...

Your journey is going to take quite some time, dear. said Eddi. As you already know, we do not know the location of the sword.

We only know where to start looking. added George. And even that is based solely on what you've told us, cousin.

It could take months. said Kemuel. Years. Centuries.


Just kidding about the centuries. I think.

I know that ... but ... SCHOOL!?

You still have three weeks before we begin our lessons. said Eddi, returning to her knitting. You have plenty of time to enjoy your freedom before then.

Sara sat on the sofa, pouting. This isn't turning out at all right. I wonder if I can still catch that ocean liner.

The one that left three days ago? Sure, kid. How good of a swimmer are you?

Sara sighed to herself and refused to answer.

Finally after a few quite silent minutes passed, she sighed once again. I'm sorry, Grandmother.

Oh? And what are you sorry for?

I'm sorry for being so rude.

Eddi smiled and rose to her feet. As she sat down next to Sara, she put her arm around her and hugged her. Apology accepted.

I guess I've been kinda cranky lately, haven't I?

I understand, dear. You have a lot on your shoulders. More than any girl of any age should have to bear.

But could you at least tell me why I have to go to school? I'm serious. What's the point if I'm just going to...

My dear, dear child. Do not think we are doing it to punish you.

I don't think that. Much.

There are many reasons why we shall be continuing your education.

Name one.

You need a sense of normalcy, child. You need routine. You need to keep your mind occupied. Too much idle time will not be healthy for you. You will need to learn more about your world and your history and the places where we shall travel to. You shall need to learn different languages and cultures. You shall need to...

I just said 'name one'. I didn't need a whole list.

Eddi chuckled. My husband was right. You are a quite an intriguing young lady, Sara Davison.

Sara looked away. Sorry if I've been kinda ...you know ... crabby.

Oh, we're letting you slide a little. said Kemuel. Considering the circumstances.

Thank you, Grandfather.

But just until September. he winked. Then it's gonna be time to straighten up and fly right.

Great. she remarked with a frown.

I am very proud of you, daughter. smiled Eddi.

Sara shrugged.

You miss your family, don't you? asked George.

Sara nodded, with tears suddenly starting to form.

I thought as much. Actually, I can kinda relate, kid.

Sara buried her head into her grandmother.

Wow. George teased. First you're yelling at us. Then five minutes later you're crying again. Then five minutes later you're yelling at us. Then five minutes later you're crying again. It's just been a three day roller coaster ride with you.

I'm sorry, already! I said I'm sorry!

It's okay, kid. I'm just teasing. You've got the right to do that.


You're turning into a woman, believe it or not. George winked. You've got the right to ride that roller coaster all you want.

What!? I'm not a woman! I'm only eleven!

But you may only ride that roller coaster a few days each month. Eddi smiled.

Sara's eyes widened. Oh. That.

Kemuel coughed. I think I'll just ... uh ... go ... check on the freezer. Maybe find me something to freeze.

Dear, did you take your socks out like I asked you to?

Yeah, they should be thawed by now. Kemuel began muttering to himself - loud enough for everyone to hear. Can't believe I'm gonna be stuck on a boat with three women for God knows how long.

Eddi smiled as Kemuel disappeared out the door.

*** *** ***

ATTENTION ALL PASSENGERS! came the voice over the loudspeaker.

George looked at Eddi and rolled her eyes. I tell you, I am just about ready to go up there and rip out the plug on that thing.

Eddi smiled. Let him have his fun, dear. We have a very long journey ahead of us. I am sure he will tire of it, soon enough.

I find that very hard to believe.


George poked her head out the door and yelled. This is a freakin' fishing boat, old man! We don't have sails!

Lord, have mercy. Eddi sighed with her hand over her eyes.

Really!? exclaimed Sara. But it's nighttime! We're leaving!!? Yeah, it's about time!

It would seem that way, child.

Hurray! Finally some action!

George laughed and stuck her head out the door once more. Hey old man! We're still tied to the dock!


I'll take care of it. George chuckled. Hey Sara? Wanna meet me upstairs in the wheel house?

Yippee! she shouted, jumping to her feet.

Don't run, dear. It's dark out and I don't want you to slip and fall overboard.

Yes, Grandmother.

ALL ABOARD! came the voice from the speakers.

George threw her hands up into the air.

*** *** ***

I still can't believe that after all this time you've never driven a boat, before. said Sara.

You don't drive a boat, daughter. You can say 'helm' or 'steer' - but never 'drive'.

George and Sara looked at each other and grinned. What's the difference? George asked, teasing.

There's really no difference. Kemuel answered. It just sounds more nautical.

Hey, cousin? Remember what I said about men the other day?

Sara giggled.

Now, now... Kemuel said absently, as he was looking at the boat's Operating Guide.

You bought a brand new fishing boat and you've never even ... 'helmed' one!? Are you sure you know what you're doing? George asked, somewhat dubiously.

Certainly! What do you think I've been doing for the last three days?

Three days!? exclaimed George. You've had this boat for three months! You only just starting reading the manual three days ago!?

Oh, no. Make no mistake - I am NOT reading the manual. I'm just trying to look up to see what this here thing-a-ma-bober does.

WHAT!!? exclaimed both Sara and George.

It's a reference manual. You only need to look at it for ... reference.

You have GOT to be kidding me, Grandfather.

Who's kidding!? How hard can it be?

Shouldn't you have training first, Grandfather? Sara asked. Like Driver's Ed. or something?

Oh, pish posh.

Let me tell you something else about men, kid... George grinned.

I know, I know. Sara answered, rolling her eyes. They never read the instruc­tions.

Already knew that one, huh? George chuckled.

Duh! My dad! Uncle Michael!

George started laughing.

And you know what else I've learned? They don't like to ask for directions, either. Sara scowled at Kemuel.

That's because we have a great sense of direction, little lady. answered Kemuel.

Yeah, I've heard that one before. Sara replied, shaking her head. Wanna know how times we've gotten lost?

Uh ... Grandfather ... speaking of directions... George reached over and grabbed a navigation map. It's still sealed in plastic!

Oh, pish posh.

You were supposed to be studying these! George scolded.

Kemuel look at Sara and grinned. Okinawa, right? Japan?

Sara nodded, worriedly.

It's that way. Kemuel pointed towards the west.

George rolled her eyes.

I think.

We're going to die. George said, shaking her head. I just know it.

So when are you going to turn it on? asked Sara.

You don't turn a boat on, daughter. You 'start her up'.


Certainly. All boats are female.

They are!?

Same with planes, trains and automobiles.


This should be good. George smirked, crossing her arms.

Kemuel looked at George and grinned. Because they are moody, temperamental and likely to break down without any prior warning.

Oh, you are SO going to get it, old man!

Well, I think this is the one. said Kemuel, ignoring her. This should start her up.

Kemuel flipped the switch.

And all the lights on the entire boat suddenly went out.

It was several moments of quite solitude - sitting in pitch black - before Kemuel began to whistle the theme song from Gilligan's Island.

Somebody shoot me.

Chapter 2

Kiyoko! I just washed that floor! And now look what you've done! You've tracked dirt in all the way from the front door!

I see him Mommy! I see him! He's coming this way!

I know you're excited, baby; but right now I want you to help me clean up the mess you just made.

But, Mommy! He's almost here!

Then it doesn't give us much time, does it?

Oh, all right. Sorry, Mommy.

How many times have I told you to remove your shoes before you coming inside?

A ... hundred?

Nori laughed as she handed a wet towel to her daughter. Hmmm ... let me think ... today you are officially ten years old. So if I have had to remind you every day since you could walk ... that would be a little more than a hundred, don't you think?

Can I go tell Daddy!?

No, you are going to help me wipe up your muddy tracks; that's what you are going to do.


I'll start here, you start at the door.

Okay, Mommy.

And be careful not to bump into your father's sword case, again. You almost tipped it over the last time.

How come Daddy has so many swords, Mommy?

He likes to practice with them; you know that.

By why so many?

I don't know, baby girl. You'll have to ask your father.

Has he ever killed anyone?

KIYOKO! NO! Of course not!

I was just asking.

Why would you ask such a terrible thing!?

I don't know. Because he has so many swords.

Different martial arts forms require different swords. As I said, ask your father what they are all for.

He never uses that one.

Which one is that?

The one on the bottom.

No. He ... he never does.

Why not?

That one is ... different.

Why is it different.

It's not important right now.

I've never seen him practice with it. I've never seen him hold it. I've never even seen him touch it.

It is ... it is not for him to touch.


Never mind, child. Your Grandfather is almost here. Finish up quickly and then go wash your hands.

Okay, Mommy.

*** *** ***

Kiyoko woke up with a start! Instantly she sat up in bed with a gasp.

Kiyoko? What is it? Frank asked, sleepily. What's wrong?

The sword!

What sword?

Sara's sword! The one she is looking for!


Frank! I know where it is!

*** *** ***

Are you sure, Kiyoko? asked Ben. It could've been almost any sword!

Ben! Susan replied. She said it wasn't for him to touch! What else could that pos­sibly mean!?

I know, but ... Japan!? What the heck would it be doing in Japan of all places?

Kiyoko, have you ever mentioned anything about that sword, before? To you know who?

Kiyoko nodded. Yes, many times. Sara has often asked me about that sword on the wall; ever since she was a small child. Even more so in recent months.

Okay, so that's our first solid clue. noted Susan.

You mean that ceremonial sword? Ben asked. Up above the bookshelf? The one in the glass frame?

Yes, the one that is out of your reach. teased Michael.

Very funny.

Wait ... you don't think... Alana started to say.

No, no. Ben snorted. That's not Excalibur. Trust me, I know.

Oh. Swords all look alike to me.

Ben, Michael and Frank all rolled their eyes and shook their heads.

It is the only thing I have... Kiyoko said, ...that once belonged to my father.

It was from his prized collection. said Frank. He gave it to us on our wedding.

He gave you a sword as a wedding present? Susan asked in surprise.

And cash. Kiyoko replied, matter-of-factly.

Michael chuckled.

Enough to help us get started on this ranch. Frank said, reverently. If it weren't for Hiro...

Hiro is your father, right? asked Ben.

Kiyoko nodded. His name means 'generous'.

I'll say. agreed Frank. Major understatement.

Mother? Alana asked. What does Grandmother's name mean?

Nori means 'law'.

As in, she laid it down. chuckled Frank.

She really 'laid down the law', huh? Michael grinned.

Where do you think Kiyoko gets it from? Frank laughed. The minute I would walk through the door, Nori would immediately put me to work. Cleaning vegetables ... emptying trash ... repairing the roof ... feeding the horses ... you name it. She would always have a nice, long list waiting for me.

Did you guys ever go back there? asked Susan. After the ... you know...

Yes. Kiyoko replied. We went as soon as we could.

We took the first available flight. said Frank. After the tsunami hit, it was several days before they began letting planes land on the airstrip again. Fortunately the local airport was still intact. Not like...

Not like our village. Kiyoko finished, looking down. There was nothing left.

I'm so sorry, Kiyoko. said Susan. I just can't imagine.

You couldn't even tell where their village was. continued Frank. There was ... nothing. All wiped out. All washed away.

Including Nori and Hiro. said Michael.

Yes. Kiyoko answered, sadly. They were no more.

Everyone remained respectfully quiet for a time.

Until Ben finally broke the silence. And ... including the sword.

Kiyoko looked at Ben and nodded. Yes. Including the sword.

So then it could be anywhere! Who knows where a tidal wave could've ... I mean, it could be at the bottom of the ocean for all we know!

Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

That must be Jean Luc and Adrien. Alana said. I'll get it.

Time to table the discussion. said Michael. I'll go get the kids.

I don't think they're back, yet. said Susan. I didn't hear the horses return.

Still!? It's dinnertime! They knew we were having company!

You know, I hardly ever see them anymore. said Ben. Ever since... Ben was un­able to finish.

It's been two months and Jenny still won't talk about it. Alana said, sadly.

Same with Daniel. said Susan. But I know they really miss her. A lot.

Especially Daniel. Alana said. Sara is his twin sister! Twins have that special bond, you know? I can't begin to imagine how much it must be tearing him apart.

We all miss her. said Jean Luc, entering the room.

Hey Jean Luc. said Ben. Hey Adrien.

Adrien nodded in reply.

This is something else you are not alone in. Jean Luc said, seating himself at the table. Missing Sara, that is.

Susan smiled at him and then rose to her feet. I better finish getting dinner ready.

I will help. said Kiyoko, also rising to her feet.

I'll get the dishes. said Alana, as she followed them into the kitchen.

Jean Luc looked at the disappearing women and sighed.

What's wrong, Jean Luc? Michael chuckled. You walk into a room and all the women leave. What's wrong with this picture?

Jean Luc grinned. It is true. Nothing is as it should be.

What is it, Jean Luc? asked Ben. Something else bothering you?

Where's Daniel and Jenny? asked Adrien.

They haven't returned from their ride. replied Frank. I expect them back any minute.

Can I wait for them outside? asked Adrien. At the corral?

Jean Luc smiled and nodded.

Excuse me. Adrien said politely, rising to his feet.

The other men nodded to him and he disappeared out the back door.

He's still pretty upset, huh? Ben asked.

Oh, yes. Very much so. He rarely talks at all, anymore. To anyone.

I don't remember him talking all that much before, either. said Michael. Good manners, though. he smiled.

Jean Luc chuckled. At least he remembers some things I have tried to teach him.

Has he always been so quiet, Jean Luc? asked Alana, entering the dining room with a stack of plates."

Awww ... beauty has again returned to brighten the room.

Flatterer. Alana grinned.

Here, let me help you with those. offered Michael, rising to his feet.

Thank you!

Yes, Adrien has always been something of ... an introvert.

Well he certainly didn't get that from his father. smiled Alana.

Susan and Kiyoko then entered with plates of food. Did he get that from his mother? Susan asked.

Can you hear EVERYTHING we're saying from the kitchen!? exclaimed Jean Luc.

Of course. Kiyoko answered. Why do you think Frank made the door hollow?

What!? You said it was because that first door was too heavy!

That too.

Frank chuckled. I'm still learning new things about her every day.

As it should be, Frank. laughed Susan. As it should be.

*** *** ***

To the mystique of women. smiled Jean Luc, holding his glass high. May the mystery never fade. Cheers.

Hear, hear! laughed the other men at the table. Cheers!

After the dinner guests toasted each other and everyone had began eating, Susan looked over at Adrien, who was merely playing with his food. Likewise, Daniel and Jenny didn't seem especially interested in eating their dinner. She wasn't offended, of course, for she knew very well the reason for the loss of appetite - which was unfortu­nately becoming more and more all too frequent. Is the lasagna that bad? she teased. Adrien, if you like, I can whip up some gravy to go with that.

Adrien smiled at Susan for a moment, and then looked back down at his plate.

Jean Luc sighed once more. Getting him to eat these days is no easy task.

I understand, Jean Luc. Susan said, looking at the other two kids. I really do.

No doubt you do.

Susan smiled sadly at Adrien. We all miss her, Adrien. And we won't give up until we find her. I promise.

Adrien quietly nodded.

It was a rather brief dinner, as few people seemed especially hungry. After the three kids excused themselves, the adults remained seated around the table.

Why are they going over to your house? Jean Luc asked, after the door closed.

We have a T.V. Ben answered. Unlike SOME people we know.

Hey, we've never had a reason to get ours fixed. chuckled Frank. No one ever watches it, anyway.

Yes, I suppose I can understand why. smiled Jean Luc. Such a beautiful ranch in such a beautiful land. What child would ever desire to stay indoors?

True. Susan laughed. It's a lot different from where we grew up. Getting them to come INSIDE the house is the hard part. Especially Sara... Susan stopped short as the tears suddenly began to form, and Ben quickly put his arm around her.

After several quiet moments, Jean Luc broke the silence, changing the subject. You were asking me earlier about Adrien, and why he is so quiet.

Susan nodded, wiping her eyes.

Of course you already know that he is something of a bookworm. He much prefers keeping to himself than being with other people. He has always been that way; ever since he was a small child.

Do you think that losing his mother as a baby had anything to do with that? Alana asked.

Who is to say? I used to wonder that myself, but ... sometimes I think it is really more just his inborn personality.

Do you think he got that from Chéri? Susan asked, finally regaining her compo­sure.

No, no. Jean Luc chuckled. Chéri was far more outgoing, I assure you. I am not really sure where he got it from, to be honest.

It's hard seeing this affect the kids so deeply. said Ben.

I understand this only too well. replied Jean Luc. Adrien does not even read any­more.

He doesn't!? What does he does all day? Susan asked. With school not starting for another month...

Jean Luc sighed. He just ... stays in his room. He rarely leaves.

Poor Adrien. Alana said, sadly. At least Daniel and Jenny have each other.

Michael coughed.

Don't start, Michael. I don't want to hear it, right now. I meant as friends.

Michael held up his hands in surrender.

Adrien does spend a lot of time looking through our family scrapbook. A lot more so, as of late. Today he spent the entire day looking through his mother's pictures.

Oh, Jean Luc! exclaimed Alana. I would love to see some pictures of Chéri. Do you think you could bring your scrapbook with you sometime?

Sure! I thought you would never ask.

Alana grinned.

Jean Luc smiled at her for a moment, and then turned to look at Susan.

What, Jean Luc? What is it?

I've ... I've been waiting for the right time.

Right time? Right time for what?

Jean Luc continued looking at Susan for a long time, thinking to himself.

What is it, Jean Luc!?

Finally he nodded as if having come to a

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