All My Children

by Thea Zara and Deref

Chapter 13: Expanding Horizons



Ten minutes?

Jake looked nervously at his watch. I guess it could take ten minutes, he thought. He looked over at the bushes by the side of the road and tried to work out what they might be. Didn't the leaf shape have something to do with what they were called? He seemed to remember that it did. He reached down and fiddled with the radio dial again. Still nothing. He opened the glove compartment and took out the car's owner's manual, thumbing through it in case something interesting had inserted itself in the five minutes since he'd last looked. Nothing. He put the manual back and closed the glove compartment. Then he opened it and closed it again, listening to the satisfying 'click'. He glanced at his watch again. Eleven minutes. Damn. Eleven minutes was plenty. He opened the door and got out, peering over the roof of the car to the bushes.

"Helen?" he called quietly.

Nothing.

A little louder. "Helen? Are you okay?"

Just the sound of the breeze in the trees.

Jake's heart beat a little faster as he walked around the car and across the road.

"Helen?"

This was where she'd gone, wasn't it? He hadn't really paid any attention, but he thought she'd gone this way.

"HELEN!"

Dammit! He should have paid more attention! He looked around to see if there were any footprints. Nothing. He thought about how it would be in the movies.

"See that broken twig? Three men came by two days ago. One had a limp and was wearing a red shirt. One of them was carrying a heavy bag over his right shoulder. The other one was six feet tall and had a scar on his right cheek."

"HELEEEEEEEN!"

Now he was starting to worry. She should have been able to hear that. He cupped his hands around his mouth, breathed in and clenched his stomach muscles so that he could yell as loudly as he could. "HHHEEEELLLLLEEEEEEENNNNNNN".

He held his breath to make sure that he'd hear any faint reply. If only he could hold his heartbeat. Whatever a trip hammer was, it must go damn fast!

"HELEEEN".

Wait - had she gone over this side of the road? He really hadn't taken any notice. Damn! She must have gone over to the other side! He ran across to the other side of the road where the car was parked.

He called again.

The horn. Of course. He ran back to the driver's side, reached in through the window and pushed the horn ring. Nothing. What the...? Damn! Maybe the horn only worked if the keys were in the ignition. She'd taken them with her. Stupid.

He pushed the horn ring again. Harder. Nothing.

Eleven minutes? What had he been thinking! If he'd started calling after five minutes she would have heard him!

"HEELLEEN".

Breathing fast and shallow now, Jake realised that she wasn't going to answer. He looked around again for signs - footprints, broken twigs, anything. But he was sure she'd gone  to the other side. He ran across again, looking desperately for something - anything.  Was that a broken leaf? He looked more closely. Yes!  He  parted the  bushes. Nothing. No clearing, just more of the same. He was sweating now, and he looked down for more signs that she'd come this way.

Panic started to set in. He started to run. The branches tore at his clothes and his face and hands. He looked around. Nothing. There was no sign that anyone had been here. He stopped. Yelling was no good. If she could hear him - or if she could answer - she would have.

"Helen....? Please..." he croaked,  his voice starting to crack.

"Please?"

Things started to spin, and he sunk to his knees.

"Please...Helen...."

"So this is what you call looking after someone, is it?"

Jake spun around.

"Mr. Barksdale?"

"'I'll look after her,' you said. 'Count on it', you said."

Jake stood up, trembling, tears running down his cheeks.

"Mr. Barksdale - I...."

"Well? Where is she, Jake?"

"I....I don't know...she..."

"You were looking after her - WHERE THE HELL IS SHE?"

"I...I..."

"Didn't you HEAR her? Didn't you HEAR her calling for you?"

"Helen..." he whispered.

"If you'd been a MINUTE earlier...but oh no! You had to wait!"

He fell forward, sobbing.

"Jake?"

He lifted his face from the ground to look where Helen's father had been standing.

...oh no...oh no...

"Jake? Why didn't you come?"

Jake strained to get the word out.

"I was so scared, Jake. Why didn't you come?"

"A...A..." She was heartbreakingly beautiful, her hair falling over her face in the moonlight, just like it had that night. Jake felt as if his heart was about to burst from his chest and his tears burned like fire....

"I thought you loved me."

"A...Amanda...I...."

"Goddam pissant. Couldn't find your own ass with both hands, could you, boy?"

Jake froze. He looked around to see where she'd gone...

"What's the matter, boy?" Mad Dog was grinning.

Jake felt the bile of fury rise up in him. "What have you done with her? WHERE IS SHE?" he screamed.

"You think that a pissant like you could ever deserve a woman like her?" Mad Dog Morgendorffer threw his head back and laughed.

He turned to see Helen's father standing there.

"She trusted you. I think she loved you."

"Loved you?" said Mad Dog. "You? She loved you? Fat chance that'll ever happen again, boy!"

His head snapped back around to where Mad Dog stood, but he'd gone.

"Jake? Please Jake..."

"Pissant!"

"YOUR FAULT!"

"Please..."



Amanda looked around the apartment with a small sense of pride. They'd been in New York City for just a little more than three weeks and she'd managed to turn it into a liveable, if still slightly barren, home. Some ratty furniture had come with it. When combined with the odds and ends they used on the road, she'd only had to do a little junk store combing to find the rest of their basic needs. From time to time she found herself slipping into comparison with the place in San Francisco. It had been airy and full of light, where the New York apartment was dingy and dark, and a little musty, so she stopped herself whenever it happened. New York hadn't been the bastion of culture she'd hoped for... at least not yet. It was hot, smelly, and just plain loud. For Wind's sake she was glad that it was a temporary arrangement, though she didn't mind putting up with it herself. Getting around was hard since she was getting round, and she hadn't had a chance to get out and see the galleries yet. But it was home. And every night Vincent would come back from his day's schmoozing and they'd sit and talk about the people he'd met, and they'd play with Wind, and share a meal, and laugh, and life was good.

With a sigh of contentment she wiggled her way off the couch and waddled to the sink for a glass of water. The pipes shook and rattled, and finally she got a glass of rust coloured sludge which she stared at for a minute but couldn't quite bring herself to drink. With a sigh, she poured out the water and set the glass on the sink where yet another surprise awaited. Her shrieks shook the thin walls on either side and brought a sleeping Vincent quickly to his feet. He surveyed the scene and stifled a laugh as he washed the two-inch roach down the sink and helped Amanda back over to the couch as she plastered a smile on her face in a valiant attempt not to burst into tears.

"So what's on the schedule tomorrow?" she asked, a faint tremor in her voice.

"Oh, I don't know," he said, pouring her a glass of juice from the refrigerator. "I thought...maybe...the Guggenheim, or perhaps the Met."

She looked at him, puzzled.

"I'm having a day off. And so are you." He handed her the juice, then scooped up Wind and sat him on his knee. "My son and I going to spend a day together and you're going to take a cab to..."

"THE MET!" she squealed.

"The Met," Vincent echoed. "And you and me," he said, looking at Wind, "might just go for a walk in the park. How does that sound?"

"Da," said Wind.



Jake woke with a start and sat up, gulping in a lungful of air and sighing with relief. But as he turned to tell Helen about it, he froze. Helen wasn't there. The car was parked exactly where it had been in his dream. The bushes by the side of the road...the time of day...the bend up ahead...identical. He reached down to pinch himself and broke out in a cold sweat with the realisation that this was no dream. He snapped his head around to face across the road. The same bushes.

He tried to suck in another breath but his diaphragm refused to co-operate. Straining with every ounce of his will, Jake finally filled his lungs with air, then released it all in a scream of sheer terror.

"HHHEEEELLLLLEEEEEEENNNNNNNN!"

"Jake?"

He turned. Helen opened the driver's side door and climbed in, looking Jake cautiously in the eye.

"What's the matter?"

Jake stared.

"Jake? What's wrong?"

"Thank God you're alright!" he breathed, throwing his arms around her neck.

"Why shouldn't I be all right?" Helen grunted, thinking that it would have been nice if it hadn't been so...weird. "Jake! What the hell's the..." and she realised he was trembling.

"I...it was..."

"You were dreaming. You've been asleep for the last thirty miles."

He looked up and stared into her eyes. "I promised your father I'd look after you, Helen. I'm going to! I'm not going to let anything happen to you!"

Helen pulled back from his embrace, scowling. "You listen to me, Jake Morgendorffer! My father thinks that that's why I let you come along on this trip, but if you think for one minute that that's why I let you come then you've got another damn think coming, buster!"

Jake looked puzzled. "Then why did you let me come?"

Damn, she thought, I walked into that one. "Just you remember that I'm quite capable of looking after myself."

"Yeah, well, I'm not taking any chances," he said as Helen started the car and pulled back onto the road.



Car horns blared a fanfare as a Yellow Cab pulled back into the traffic, leaving a weary and footsore Amanda on a hot New York sidewalk. Wearing a beatific smile on her face, she tightly clutched a white paper bag and a catalogue with the words Metropolitan Museum of Art printed in simple black on white. The hazy, early afternoon sun beat down as she glanced left towards The Rose Café, right towards the apartment block, up to the sun which was still high in the sky, and made her decision.

The café was still full of lunchtime stragglers as Amanda made her way down the aisle to the only table that had a spare seat, a small round one occupied by an early twenty-something, casually dressed man reading a copy of the New York Times and thoughtfully sipping a coffee. Amanda rested her hand on her stomach to emphasise her condition, and smiled charmingly.

"Do you mind?"

The man looked up over his paper. "Oh, please! Let me help," he said, dropping his newspaper as he stood and walked around to the other side o the table to hold Amanda's chair out for her.

"Thanks," she said, smiling back at him as she slid into the seat. "My feet are killing me!"

He looked down at the booklet in her hand. "Oh - the Met!"

"Uh huh. It was incredible!"

"First visit?" he asked as he sat back down opposite her.

Amanda nodded.

He grinned. "The first time I went I spent a whole hour just staring at one work. It..."

"The usual, Hon?"

Amanda looked round to the waitress. "No, I'd like a big, cold, Coke, please Maria."

"Sure. Extra ice. Comin' up."

"Sorry," she said. " - you're kidding...?"

"No! Never," he enthused. "I think it was the first time that I knew I'd come face to face with genius. It was almost a physical sensation of awe." He smiled. "I guess it's hard to believe, but..."

"No! No - that's the thing! Exactly the same thing happened to me today! I was...lost in it I guess you'd say."

"May I ask what...?"

Amanda reached into the paper bag, pulled out a postcard, and handed it to him. He took it, looked down at it, and looked back up at Amanda with wide eyes. Leonardo's Head of the Virgin.

She nodded again. "I've wanted to see it since I was at school, but I never guessed what it'd be like, seeing the real thing. Do you know it?"

He looked up at her. "Intimately. I spent an hour staring at her."

"If you're gonna sit there with your mouth open, Hon, you'd better put one of these straws in it." Maria put a tall glass of Coke and ice in front of Amanda, who turned to her and laughed, then turned back to the man across the table.

"Seriously? You mean that was the thing that...?"

"Seriously. It's incredible isn't it? I kept thinking that if I could walk around to the back of the picture I'd see it extending in three dimensions." He Picked up the postcard and stared at it. "Even the best reproductions don't come anywhere near it, do they? Just to be there in front of it - I don't know..."

Three cokes, two cups of coffee, a large slice of coconut cream pie each, two trips to the bathroom, and an hour and a half later, he'd introduced himself as Paul Katz; Amanda had reciprocated, they'd realised that they'd seen each other in the diner from time to time, and they'd delighted in each other's love of art, before the conversation turned to music and the theatre.

"John and I are going to a poetry reading tonight. I've been looking forward to it for weeks," he said.

Amanda looked up. "John?"

Paul blushed. "My boyfr...my friend." He looked up to see the look on her face, and he felt like kicking himself.  They'd been getting along so well, he had let his guard down, and now she'd either take off, or cause a scene -  maybe the whole "sinner" thing or, worse yet. the "you're a freak" one.

While Paul was mentally kicking himself Amanda was attempting to process the new information. After nearly a minute of silence between them she finally reconnected her brain to her mouth.  "So, what's he like?"

Paul smiled, feeling a flicker of relief.  "A bit older than me.  He works at a publishing house as a junior editor."

"He reads a lot then?"

"Not as much as you'd think.  He does more fact checking than actual editing,  but he's up for a promotion next month."

 "So," she started cautiously, "you two, you're...um... together?"

Paul mentally crossed his fingers before answering.  "Yes."

"Neat," Amanda replied, then returned the conversation to the theatre as Paul breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Vincent, meanwhile, trudged up the stairs, back from the park with Wind fast asleep in a papoose on his back. As he turned the key in the lock he heard the door behind him open.

"Aw, look at the little guy, fast asleep."

He turned and smiled at Mrs McGillicuddy, their matronly neighbour. "Big day in the park."

"Here - let me help you off with that," she said, lifting Wind out of the papoose and holding him gently while Vincent shrugged out of the shoulder straps. "Is Amanda in? I just wanted to see if she had any vanilla - the grandkids are coming over tomorrow so I'm baking a cake and I'm clean out."

"Thanks. Probably," Vincent said, "I sent her off to the Met while I looked after Wind. She's sure to be back by now. Come on in."

"Ooh - she's been lookin' forward to that," she said, following Vincent into the apartment.

"Honey?" He poked his head into the bedroom to see if she was lying down. "I guess she's not back yet," he said, hiding an expression of concern.

"Oh, okay," Mrs. McGillicuddy replied, thinking what a bad job he'd done of trying to hid the fact that he was a little worried. "Would you mind asking..."

"Oh - no problem - I bet we've got some - I'll look." He rummaged around in the kitchen and produced a small bottle of brown liquid which he handed to her.

She took it, smiling. "Thank you, Hon. Say - why don't you go down to the Rose and get yourself a coffee? You look like you could use it. I'll look after Wind."

"Yeah? Really? That'd be great!" he said. "Thanks Mrs. McGillicuddy. I won't be long."

"Take your time, hon. Wind and me'll be just fine."

"Okay - if he wakes up..."

"If he wakes up I'll give him a drink of milk or a peanut butter sandwich. Or a hamburger. Go on with you now!"

He laughed and, knowing that Amanda had been happy to leave Wind with the genial grandmother from time to time, left them to the apartment. As he rode the creaking antique elevator down three floors, Vincent told himself that Amanda wasn't really late, she'd only been gone five - well, nearly six - hours. She could spend days - weeks - at the Met. But the rational part of him knew that, being nearly seven months pregnant, she'd get tired after half an hour on her feet, and that he'd expected that she'd be back a couple of hours ago at the most. The worried human brain is that most exquisite of torturers, infinitely inventive and possessed of a subtle knowledge of its own weaknesses. And Vincent, for the first but not the last time, felt its exploratory probings.




"Jake!"

"Uh uh! I'm not letting you out of my sight. No way!"

"I know what my father said, Jake!"

"It's a dangerous world, Helen. Besides, it's not just that I promised your Dad."

"I don't care what your intentions are, Jake. You can't come into the ladies' bathroom!"

"Ooookay, then," Jake said uncertainly. "I'll go to the men's bathroom and I'll see you back in the restaurant. Okay?"

"Fine!" snapped Helen, and she stormed off as Jake turned and walked away, looking back over his shoulder as Helen threw the bathroom door open and walked in.

A few minutes later as she came out and turned towards the restaurant, but was stopped by a short man with greasy brown hair, wearing a checked shirt and faded jeans. "'Scuse me, honey," he mumbled, taking her by the elbow. "Wouldja be able t' help me with some directions?"

Helen turned. "Sorry - I'm just passing through. I don't know this area," she said and turned to go, but he strengthened his grip.

"Maybe y' could just come out t' my car - I've got a map..."

"I'm sorry - I'm sure someone local could help you," she said, starting to get annoyed.

"I got a nice car, honey, I bet you'd like t' take a ride."

"Look," she said, "I can't help you, and I'm not interested in cars." She shook her elbow free of him and walked off toward the restaurant. He scowled and reached out to grab her again but stopped, feeling a hand on his shoulder.

Jake's face was red. "Try it."

He stopped, turned, scowled again, and walked out into the parking lot.

Helen had turned, hearing his voice, and she stomped over to where he was standing watching the man leave. "Get a grip, Jake! He was just asking directions!"

"How do you know that was all he wanted, Helen?"

"BECAUSE HE WAS ASKING ME DIRECTIONS," she railed, "That's how! Now listen to me, you male chauvinist PIG! Stop this nonsense, for God's sake!"

"Come on - I found us a table by the window," Jake muttered, sagging and leading her over to the south side of the room. As she sat down a beaten up green Pontiac screeched out of the parking lot outside, narrowly missing a small boy walking past.

"Idiot," Helen muttered, recognising the driver as the man who'd asked her for directions, and picked up the menu.

"What?"

"Nothing," she said. "Hmm. Hash browns I think. And coffee."





The first thing Vincent noticed when he walked into the diner was Amanda, leaning over a table full of glasses, plates, and coffee cups, towards a strange man as they pored over a book. His train of thought barrelled straight  from relief - passing, but not stopping at, annoyance - and reaching the end of the line at the hitherto unexplored station of jealousy.

Amanda and Paul both looked up, startled, as Vincent pulled out and sat down in a chair between them, putting a glass of iced tea down in front of him.

"Oh - Vincent - uh..."

"Hello Amanda." His voice was cold, mistaking Amanda's surprise for guilt, not thinking for a second that the last place Amanda would choose to do anything underhanded - if she would - would be here. The green-eyed monster is blind as well as dumb.

"Vincent," Paul smiled, sensing Amanda's discomfort and Vincent's hostility. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Paul."

"Pleased to meet you," Vincent lied.

"Amanda was just showing me the catalogue she picked up at The Met."

"Yes. I'm sure."

Amanda's gaze flicked back and forth with the play of conversation, like a spectator at a tennis match, as she slowly realised what was happening. Vincent was jealous. Her eyes widened momentarily, and a thought crept into her mind: Time to get even for Dino and Sam, my Dear. She turned to him and did her best impression of a puppy dog. "Paul's such an interesting person! The time's just flown by," and, turning back to Paul and winking so slightly that she thought he may not have seen it, "Hasn't it, Paul?"

Vincent sizzled.

Paul caught the wink and felt decidedly uncomfortable seeing the effect that Amanda's game was having on Vincent. But he decided to play along up to a point, and see what she was getting at.

"Oh yes!" he said, staring into her eyes. "It's been so...stimulating!" He breathed the word, and immediately felt guilty.

Amanda felt a twinge of guilt too at the look on Vincent's face, but the memory of Vegas firmed her resolve.  "Paul was talking about going out, weren't you Paul?"  She reached across the table and took his hand in hers.  "It should be fun."

Vincent's face darkened even more and he 'accidentally' knocked their hands apart as he reached for the sugar for his iced tea. "Amanda, could you move over a little? There's just not enough leg room here."  When she moved over, just out of hand-holding range, Vincent turned and stretched his legs out.

Paul's eyes widened
as he reached out a hand and stroked the arm of Vincent's coat.  "That's nice, did you get it around here?" At that moment he realized someone was standing over their table.

"John," he said, his face turning red. "Uh, this is my friend Amanda, and her friend Vincent."

 John seated himself across from Vincent and grunted, shooting Vincent an irritated look. At first glance Amanda took him to be middle aged, but she soon realised that he was in his mid-twenties, but prematurely balding, his thinning black hair surrounding a shiny bald pate like a monk's tonsure..

Paul decided that enough was enough, reached out for John's hand, and said quietly "Amanda, Vincent, this is my...boyfriend, John." He blushed a little, not only at the effort and the risk, but also at having to use such a ridiculous word to describe their relationship and wishing there was something more dignified.

John turned to Paul, the look on his face posing the obvious question.

Amanda, sensing that John had just played a very dangerous card, immediately reached out for Vincent's hand. "My husband, actually." She pulled his hand close to her and looked into his eyes with unmistakable adoration.

Vincent, meanwhile, tried furiously to cope with the last few seconds of information. Paul? John? Boyfriend? What the... Amanda...?

John looked back and forth between Paul and Vincent, wondering whether there was going to be an explosion of invective or whether Paul knew these people well enough...

"It's great to meet you, John. Paul's told me all about you," Amanda offered, hoping to move things in the direction she wanted, and to buy Vincent a few seconds, confident about how he was going to react but knowing that he'd need a second or two.  She saw John relax a little and she squeezed Vincent's hand. Vincent had had enough time to interpret a little of the situation and, feeling Amanda's squeeze, decided to go along, knowing that explanations could wait. He held his hand out to John and smiled.

"A pleasure, John. Vincent Lane. "




The bedroom was never really dark, thanks to the glow from the neon sign above the deli across the street. Vincent turned over and glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Two-fifteen. In the lulls between the traffic noise that seeped through the window, cracked open to let in whatever breeze there might be on a hot summer night, he could hear Amanda breathing. He closed his eyes, and opened them again thirty seconds later, the thoughts buzzing around in his head like angry hornets made it useless to try getting back to sleep. He slipped silently out from under the single sheet that covered them, and padded the two steps over to the chair where he'd carelessly tossed yesterday's clothes, looking back to see that she hadn't stirred. Wind lay sprawled across his cot in a position that would have been impossibly uncomfortable for an adult. None of them bothered with nightclothes in this weather and, picking up the underpants he'd worn yesterday he considered whether it was worth risking opening the drawer to get out a clean pair, but he decided against it. The drawer always stuck and it was sure to wake her up. He gently picked up the jeans and t-shirt, bent down to get the socks and sneakers from the floor, and walked silently out into the next room, quietly pulling the door closed behind him.

He dropped the clothes on a chair and walked over to the fridge (the light had burned out a week ago and he hadn't got round to replacing it yet), took out the half-full gallon of milk and poured himself a glass. He took a deep breath after he finished it, put the glass down quietly on the sink before returning the milk to the darkened fridge, and went back to put the rest of his clothes.

A stinging bead of sweat ran down his brow and into his eye. He wiped it away, closed the door and decided to take the stairs down three flights to the front door of the brownstone apartment block. The street was quiet for New York, but not deserted. A dark (blue? it was hard to tell in the dim monochromatic light) Chevy cruised slowly down the street and Vincent glanced at the driver and his female passenger. Friend? Daughter? Paid company? he wondered idly, and turned  in the direction that the car had gone.

The year replayed itself in his mind as he walked aimlessly through the New York night. More had happened in that one year than in the last 20, and he thought of the chance encounter that had led to the sleeping woman and child he'd left behind, and the new life in her belly. The encounter with Paul had rattled him more than he cared to admit - to himself, let alone to Amanda. He realised that, at least in Amanda's mind, he'd probably deserved what she'd dished out, and perhaps he had. But that twisting, angry sensation was a feeling that wasn't just unpleasant, it struck at the roots of who he was. The worst thing about it was that, somewhere, deep down, he must still be insecure about Amanda, not completely confident, afraid...

He turned right towards the Hudson River, surprised to hear the faint sounds of a banjo from the apartment block he was walking past and he smiled mirthlessly, thinking how pleased the banjo player's neighbours must be to be serenaded with Turkey in the Straw at this time of the morning.

The brownstone apartments gave way to warehouses as he neared the river, and he looked across to the lights on the Jersey shore, thinking about the diner. Amanda's embarrassed admission that she'd been trying to get even for the Dino and Sammy thing (even though he'd done nothing--hadn't thought for a second that she wouldn't have recognised them); John's even more embarrassed admission that he'd thought that Paul was coming on to him; his own furious attempts to take in what had been happening. He smiled again and shook his head. Amanda had a talent for hooking up with interesting people. He thought of the way she'd looked at him, at the love in those blue eyes, and scolded himself for doubting her.

He turned round to head back as a car horn sounded a few streets away. It was going to be a late night. They'd accepted the offer to go with Paul and John to the poetry reading at their favourite bar, and it didn't start until eleven.

He quietly opened the bedroom door. Amanda hadn't moved. Wind had turned over and looked a little more comfortable. He left his clothes where they fell and climbed slowly into the bed. Amanda grunted and turned over, opening one eye.

"What's up?" she muttered, half asleep.

"Sorry," he whispered. "Couldn't sleep. Went out for a walk."

She opened the other eye. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah. Everything's just fine." He smiled, and shuffled closer to her and kissed her on the forehead. "Go back to sleep".

She smiled back. "What's the time?"

He cocked an eye towards the clock. "Nearly four."

"Mmmm, c'mere..." she said, snuggling close.

* * *

The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was a shabby dive. If it hadn't been for Paul and John's enthusiastic greeting as they'd walked up behind them, they probably would have turned around and left. Paul led them through the main bar into a smoky back room, filled with an extraordinary mix of people - students, businessmen, young people, older people - all chatting, drinking, and generally enjoying themselves. Some were dancing on the small dance floor to the music from the jukebox in the corner. The only thing that distinguished it from any other bar was that some of the couples dancing were both men. Some were men and women and, Amanda noticed with not a little confusion, some were both women.

John led them to a free table and sat them down. "The usual, honey?" he asked. Paul smiled and nodded. "Amanda, Vincent?"

"Beer, thanks," Vincent responded enthusiastically and Amanda, patting her stomach, ordered a lemonade.

"Paul, sweety!"

They looked up to see a tall, elegantly dressed and, Vincent and Amanda both thought, absolutely stunning, red-headed woman bend down and plant a friendly kiss on Paul's lips.

"Carlotta!" Paul grinned. "These are our friends Amanda and Vincent. Amanda, Vincent, this is Carlotta."

"Oooh - delighted to meet you," Carlotta said. "Amanda? You lucky thing! Where did you meet this gorgeous hunk?"

Vincent blushed as Amanda, perhaps a little too quickly, grabbed Vincent's hand. "It's a long story," she said, "But he is, isn't he?"

"I  hope you'll tell me the story one day," Carlotta said. "Paul, honey, where's that luscious man of yours?"

Paul nodded towards the Bar where John was looking back at the table, waving at Carlotta. She blew him a kiss and, to Vincent's obvious pleasure, hitched up her ample bosom. "Why is it that all the good looking ones are taken?"

"I guess they just haven't met you yet," Vincent said, earning a dirty look from Amanda, a chuckle from Paul, and a squeal of delight from Carlotta.

"Sweety," she said, turning to Amanda, "if you ever get tired of him you let me know!"

Before Amanda could react, John arrived back with the drinks and a hug for Carlotta. "What can I get you, Carlotta?" he asked.

"Nothing for me, thanks, honey. I can't afford to waste any more time with you couples if I'm going to find myself a hunk of my own, now can I?"

"Carlotta, you're a dreadful old whore!" John returned, slapping Carlotta on her firm posterior. Amanda's eyes widened, waiting for Carlotta to slap his face in return.

"So true", she sighed, "but less of the 'old' thank you!" She turned to Amanda and Vincent. "Lovely to meet you, folks, I hope we'll see you here some more."

"The pleasure was all mine," Vincent returned.

Carlotta smiled, and walked off quickly, saving Amanda the trouble of thinking of a reply.

"Wow! Ow!" said Vincent, as Amanda kicked his ankle.

John laughed. "Don't worry about Carlotta, she flirts with everyone. She doesn't mean any harm.

"Mm," Amanda replied. "If you say so, but she really is beautiful. I can't believe that she hasn't got a boyfriend."

"Well, it's not so much that," Paul said, "it's more that she has too many, if you know what I mean."

"Wow! Ow!" Vincent repeated. "Hey! Joking!"

Paul laughed. "Amanda - you're jealous!"

Amanda blushed. "Turnabout's fair play," Vincent grumbled, bending down to rub his ankle.

"Well," John added, "it's not as if you have anything to worry about -- unless, that is..."

"Is what?" Amanda asked.

"Um, unless..."

"Unless Vincent swings both ways is what he's trying to say," Paul said.

"Swings?" Vincent said.

"Both ways?" Amanda continued.

John and Paul glanced at each other, then at Amanda and Vincent, then back at each other, and burst out laughing.

"What?" Vincent asked.

"Oh my dears," Paul said. "I'm sorry. We just assumed you'd realised..."

"That this is a bar for the...the..." Amanda blushed again.

"For the camp scene, yes, you told us," Vincent returned.

"Well, yes." Said John.

"Ohmygod," Amanda said, her mouth open. You mean..."

Vincent looked Amanda, his face turning red.

"Let me put it this way, Amanda dear," John said, "if you found yourself in bed with Carlotta you wouldn't be disappointed. Not that you would - or that she would for that matter."

Paul looked daggers at him. "Oh yes? And how would you know?"

"One hears stories." John said, with a butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth expression.

"Mmm. I certainly hope so!" Paul said, winking at Amanda. "But we do owe you both a little background information."

"Uh, yeah," said Vincent.

John pointed to the dance floor. "You see the couple over there? The guy with the black hair dancing with the blond?"

Amanda and Vincent looked to where he was pointing and nodded.

"That's Tony and Felice. Tony's a guy and Felice is a girl."

"Oh my God!" Amanda said. "You mean all the rest are boys?"

John and Paul again exchanged glances and burst out laughing. "No, of course not - the girls dancing with girls are all girls. But I'd say that you two, and Tony and Felice, are the only straights in here tonight."

"What?" Amanda said. "I don't understand?"

"Straights - that's what we call heterosexuals - you know - boys who like girls and vice versa."

"Oh, I got that, but I mean the girls dancing with girls. I thought you were saying that you were all..."

"Homosexuals, dear though we prefer 'gays'," John said.

"I'm confused." Amanda said. "You said they were girls..."

John and Paul looked at each other again, but didn't laugh this time. "Uh, honey, I'm sorry. I'd forgotten." Paul turned to John. "Catholic boarding school," Then, turning back to Amanda, "The girls are lesbians."

Amanda sat for a moment in thought, as she had when Paul had first mentioned John in the diner. "But...but how do they...?"

John leaned over and whispered in her ear.

Amanda turned purple, picked up her glass of lemonade, and drank deeply.



"Here!" Helen fumed, holding Jake at arm's length by the collar. "Do something with him! Mellow him out for GOD's sake, before I KILL him!"

"Uh, sure Lavender," Coyote said, "but, uh, what...?"

Jake looked around, confused. "Uh, Lavender"?

"I always used to call her that. It's a pretty name," Willow  muttered.

Helen ignored her. "Not...one...damn...minute," she said through gritted teeth. "He didn't let me out of his sight for one...goddam...minute!"

"What," said Willow, "even when you were...?"

"If I hadn't physically restrained him he would have!"

"But dammit, Helen, or Lavender," whined Jake. "I was just..."

"Yes. Yes, I know," Helen said resignedly, turning to Willow and Coyote. "He was only trying to look after me. He promised my father..."

"Damn right I did! And not just your father, Helen!"

"I KNOW, Jake, but you just CAN'T..."

"Whoa, Whoa, man!" Said Coyote, gently. "Be cool, be cool! Peace, Jake man! I'm Coyote, and this is Willow...."

"Peace, man," said Willow, holding up her right index and second fingers towards Jake.

"Peace," Jake moaned, returning the symbolic gesture.

"I think what we need here is a little headspace, right?" said Coyote in his most calming voice.

"A little head REMOVAL's what we..."

"Lavender! bad Karma!" said Willow.

"Why don't you two go and check the place out," Coyote offered, putting his arm around Jake's shoulders and gently turning him away from Helen and Willow. "Jakey and me'll get to know each other, maybe smoke a pipe of peace, eh, Jakey?"

"Uh, yeah, sure," Jake said uncertainly, turning back to look at Helen as they walked away.

"It's okay, man, Willow won't let anything uncool happen to her," he said, thinking This guy's tighter than a gnat's ass stretched over a rain barrel. He must be a lot cooler than he seems or Lavender wouldn't have hooked up with him.

Helen stood there, watching him go, feeling as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

"Lavender?" Willow asked, "is he as uncool as that all the time?"

She tore her attention away from Jake and turned to Willow, shaking her head. "No. I mean he's certainly got some hang-ups, but it's weird. He was asleep in the car. I stopped to take a pee and when I got back he was...like this. He just wouldn't let me out of his sight. He said he dreamed about my father..."

"Whoa, babe!" Willow interjected! "A dream? About the Big A?"

Helen smiled, remembering Willow's expression for her father. "Yeah - I dunno - something happened to me and he saw my father, screaming at him, telling him it was all his fault."

Willow gaped. "You know what I think, man? I think he's had a psychic visitation!"

"Really?" said Helen, a touch of scepticism in her voice.

"Oh yeah! I'll make us some yarrow tea and tell you about it!"



"Oh shit!" Paul said, looking over Amanda's shoulder.

John turned to see what Paul was looking at and his face fell.

"What?" asked Vincent, looking around and not seeing anything more out of the ordinary than he already had.

Paul nodded towards two tall men in suits who were walking slowly among the tables. "Cops. I think we're going to get..."

"Stay where you are, please, everybody. This is Deputy Inspector Seymore Pine of the New York Police. You know the drill."

"...raided."

"Again," John muttered.

Amanda and Vincent watched in stunned silence as a group of half a dozen besuited police walked calmly through the door and started leading people out.

"It's not really much more than theatrics," Paul said.

"It's all so calm!" said Amanda, watching as Carlotta was led out, seemingly happy to chat to the policeman who was leading her away. "Somehow it's not how I imagined a raid."

"Yeah," added Vincent, reaching into a pocket and pulling out a small camera. "What do you mean?"

"Will that work in here, I mean without a flashgun?" asked John, nodding at the camera.

"I might get something. I've got a fast film in it and if I push it in developing..." he said, surreptitiously firing off a couple of shots from table level, "I might get something usable."

Paul continued. "It's complicated. The cops are actually pretty good about it. They're under orders from higher up, and whatever the politics are, they're not really gunning for us." He picked up his beer and finished it. "We're the whipping boys for the religious fanatics and the rednecks..."

"And we're getting damn sick of it," John interjected.

"...but the cops are after bigger fish than us."

"Bigger fish?" Vincent asked, taking another photograph as the police led one of the bar staff out..

"What happened during prohibition?" John asked rhetorically.

"Organised crime took over the distribution of alcohol," said Amanda.

"Exactly. They're opportunists. We're easy targets for every damn idiot looking for a fight, And sometimes..."

"Okay you four, outside," said a bored-sounding policeman coming up behind Amanda and, to her surprise, pulling out the chair for her as she stood up. She turned to thank him but he'd already turned his attention to another group. They stood and joined the people being herded out under the watchful eye of Inspector Pine.

"...for people like Carlotta, it gets..." Paul paused.

"Deadly, " continued John. "You know what happens? No - I 'll bet you don't," he said. "More times than not, they're raped. And that's before they're beaten within an inch of their lives, or past it."

"But..." Amanda started.

"But we're attacked because we're filthy homos. Goddam faggots. Unnatural. Against the laws of God and man. And they rape us." He shook his head in bewilderment. Amanda saw the anger in his face, and she saw Paul reach down to squeeze his hand as he turned back to them. "So we don't - we can't - go to 'normal' bars. And where there's a vacuum..."

"Oh, man! I get it!" said Vincent.

"Yeah. Most of the gay bars are run by the Mafia," John muttered.

"Including this one?" Amanda asked.

"Damned if I know," he answered. "Probably. We don't care. They're the only places where we can be ourselves. The mob doesn't tolerate trouble in their own joints, and that's good enough for us. I don't care who runs the place if I can go and have a good time and feel safe doing it - just like everyone else. I guess the cops get paid off, as usual."

As the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk Vincent could see that the transvestites, bouncers, and bar staff  were being herded into a paddy wagon. But the doors were left open and the wagon was unguarded, so after they'd been unceremoniously shoved in, the cops would go back to get another group, and the previous group would simply get out, to the cheers and applause of the gathering crowd. The odd flashbulb popped as the few members of the press who'd gathered took some shots for tomorrow's morning edition, and Vincent took a few more of his own, out in the open about it now.

"See," said Paul. "Theatrics. Tomorrow's papers'll show us being rounded up in a story about keeping the city safe for decent people. The politicians keep in sweet with the churches, the papers get good shots for people to be disgusted over with their morning coffee. Everybody's happy. And we'll be back tomorrow night as if nothing had happened."

"Except a lot of people are getting plenty pissed about it," John added. "The Negros did, and they're winning. More and more gays are talking about not taking it any more."

They watched as a group of the girls who'd just climbed down out of the paddy wagon lined up in a chorus line and started kicking up their legs and singing:

We are the Stonewall girls
We wear our hair in curls
We wear no underwear
We show out pubic hair...
We wear our dungarees
Above ou
r nelly knees!

As they were laughing, there was a sound of breaking glass, and they looked up to see a second floor window shatter. There was a collective "ooh" from the crowd as another rock flew overhead and another window shattered.  Within a space of moments the mood of the crowd changed palpably.

"Shit," said Paul, turning to Vincent and Amanda. "Time to go. This is gonna get ugly."

Vincent looked around. "No - I'm gonna stay and get some photos." He turned to Amanda. "Honey, get back home - I'll be there soon."

Amanda looked around, then back at Vincent. "No - please. Come with me. This..." She was jostled from behind.

Paul grabbed her arm. "Come on, I'll come back with you. John - you coming or staying?"

"I'll stay with Vincent," he said. "He might need someone who knows the deal."

Vincent clasped Paul's shoulder. "Thanks, man - get her out of here." He kissed Amanda on the cheek. "Get going. We'll see you there.

Paul and Amanda hurried off, leaving Vincent and John to circle around to the back of the crowd, taking photographs of the increasingly angry scene.



"Oh wow. You know what? I think his ka's been damaged," said Willow, after Helen had finished telling her about Jake's relationship with his father.

"His car?" Helen looked puzzled.

"No - his ka," said Willow, sipping her yarrow tea.

"That's what I said," said Helen, who'd decided after the first sip that she didn't really want to drink anything that tasted like insecticide.

"No, you said 'car'. I said 'ka' - kay aye - you know - his spirit - like the Egyptian Book of the Dead?"

"Oh," said Helen uncertainly. "His ka."

"Yeah! The Egyptians really had it sussed. They wrote this book to instruct the spirit about what to do and what it'd meet on its journey to the stars."

"I don't think Jake's Egyptian. I think his grandfather was German."

"No, man, everybody's got a ka. And from what you say, I think Jake's has been damaged." She shook her head. "His old man must be the reincarnation of someone really evil - like maybe Ghengis Khan, or some warmonger like that. He needs spiritual healing!"

"Oh!" said Helen.

"And I have just the thing!" She got up and left the room, then came back a minute later and placed a small object on the table.

"What is it?" Helen asked.

"It's a pyramid of course!"

"Uh, well, I can see that..."

"But not just any pyramid. It's a crystal pyramid! It's really powerful!"

"Powerful?"

"Oh yeah! You know about pyramids, don't you? And crystals?"

"Well..."

"Pyramids are soooo cool! They focus cosmic energy! That's why the Ancients built them. The Ancients were Atlanteans you know! People think that the Egyptians built the pyramids, but they didn't. Even with all our technology today it would be impossible for us to build the pyramids. Oh no - it was the Ancients using psychic powers. And they built the pyramids to focus the cosmic energy into one tiny spot below the pyramid. And crystals focus cosmic energy too - you know that the Great Pyramid used to have a quartz capstone - that's crystal!"

"Oh," said Helen.

"So all we have to do is to get Jake to lie down, and we'll put the pyramid over his third eye..."

"Third eye...?"

* * *

"This is pretty cool," Jake said. "Who owns it?"

"No-one owns the land, Jake. We're all just custodians, holding it in sacred trust."

"Oh, yeah...of course..."

Grey Wolf, the
tall, long-haired and suntanned man who Coyote had introduced as one of the nine members of the 'Aquarius Commune', sighed. "Of course not everyone understands that. We have to pay money to the capitalist who thinks he owns it. One day enlightenment will come and peace and brotherhood will rule."

"So how do you - you know - how do you get the money...?"

"We grow stuff. You know - vegetables, herbs. All organic of course. And we sell it. We're completely self sufficient. We've got goats to milk and make cheese and yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, all we need."

As they walked around the back of the farmhouse past some outbuildings, Jake felt something squelch under his foot. He looked down.

"It's cool, man," said Grey Wolf, "it's organic."

As he looked around to find an organic stick to scrape it off, Jake heard a low chanting.

"Ah, the sisters are out here. We've just finished the summer planting and they're asking the  blessing of the spirits of the land. Come and meet them, Jake."

"Sure!" Jake said, relaxing a little and warming to Grey Wolf.

He led them round the corner to where a group of five women were standing in a circle, holding hands. Their eyes were closed and their heads tilted upward towards the sun, which shone hotly down in the early midsummer's afternoon, glistening on beads of sweat.

"Give us your blessing, spirits of the land..." said one.

"Spirits of the earth..." added the next.

"Spirits of the air..."

"Of the sun..."

"Of the rain..."

"We give you thanks." they said together, and slowly dropped hands and opened their eyes, smiling.

"Sisters," said Grey Wolf, "this is Jake, brother of Coyote. Jake and his lady, Helen, are crashing with us for a couple of days.

"Cool! Welcome Jake!" one of them said.

"Jake," said Coyote, "this is Clover, Snowflake, Leaf, Lindesfarne, and Anne."

They all smiled and welcomed Jake, as Helen and Willow rounded the corner. Willow introduced Lavender, adding that the boys were in town getting some supplies as the women left to go back inside.

"Wanna look around the rest of the place?" Grey Wolf asked.

"Later, man," said Coyote. "Right now I wanna let Jake sample some of the local produce. Join us?"

"Sure, man," he said.
"I just need to get the tools back in the shed. I'll catch you inside, huh?" He put his arm around Jake's shoulder and gave him a friendly pat on the back. "Good to have you here, man."

"Uh, thanks," Jake stuttered. "Great to be here."

Grey Wolf picked up some gardening tools and walked off with them towards the toolshed as Jake, Coyote, Willow and Helen walked back towards the house.

"Um," Jake started. "Do they, um..."

"I think what Jake's trying to ask," Helen said, "is do they always go around naked?"

"Oh, when they're invoking the spirits - of course! You have to be close to the land and the air." Willow answered.

"Or when it's hot." Coyote added.



"Hundreds of young men went on a rampage in Greenwich Village yesterday after a force of plain-clothes men raided a bar that the police said was well known for its homosexual clientele. Thirteen persons were arrested and four policemen injured."


Vincent stopped reading and put the New York Times down on the table.

"I'm just glad none of you were hurt." Amanda said, pouring herself another coffee as Wind finished his breakfast bottle.

"Me too. It got ugly pretty quickly once the uniformed cops arrived."

"It's started then." Amanda said, getting up to put the breakfast things in the sink.

"It?"

"The...marches - the fight. Like the Negros did. Paul said it's been brewing for years."

"Yeah. I guess it has," Vincent said, smiling. "If you hadn't met Paul we'd be reading this and wondering what the hell was going on. I'm going to go down to the Village and see if I can get some get some shots of the action."

"Be careful."

"You know it."




"So whaddayasay, Jake, my man? Care to sample a little of the commune's finest?" Coyote asked.

He was sitting on a purple vinyl beanbag. Opposite him, Jake had slumped into a yellow one under a Che Guevara poster while Willow came out of the kitchen carrying a tray with a teapot and cups, followed by Helen with a plate of oatmeal cookies.

"Sure," Jake said enthusiastically. "I could eat."

"Eat?" said Coyote, looking a little puzzled.

"Yeah! You're talking about the stuff they grow, right?"

"Oh! Yeah, but I wasn't thinking about eating it, unless those cookies..." He looked at Willow.

"Straight oatmeal cookies, lover," she said, as Helen put the plate down on the table.

"No, man - I'm talkin' about the kind o' produce that you smoke," he said,  producing a plastic bag half-full of dried dark green herbaceous material and putting it on the table.

Jake stared intently at the bag. Helen and Willow exchanged glances. Coyote pulled a pack of Zig Zag rolling papers out of his shirt pocket.

Suddenly, Jake leapt up out of the beanbag as if he'd been bitten. "Oh no! Drugs!"

Helen and Willow exchanged another glance. Coyote pulled three papers out of the packet. "Well, yeah, man. It's cool. You've never smoked before?"

Jake shook his head, nervously eyeing the bag, and glancing at Helen.

"Jake, m'friend," Coyote said, "I'm gonna be straight with you. Seems to me that you need to mellow out a little. And this," he glanced at the bag, "is the smoothest stone this side o' the bayou. To be honest, I think it'd do you a lot o' good."

Jake backed away, staring at the bag, as Coyote stuck the three papers together and started rolling a joint. On his third step he reached the arm of the sofa where Helen and Willow were sitting and fell backwards, landing across Willow's and Helen's laps, staring up into Helen's face.

"Arrrrrgggg!"

"Jake!"

"But Helen - drugs! What would your father..."

Helen glared down at him. "Smoke it!" she growled.

* * *

Jake reached out and picked up an oatmeal cookie from the tray. He slowly lifted it to his mouth, took a bite, and slowly chewed a couple of times. He froze, and his eyes widening.

"Oooohhhh maaannn! This is the best damn cookie I've ever had! Helen! You've gotta try one of these!" he said, passing her the plate and taking another for himself.

Helen took one and, like Jake, she took one and was about to burst into raptures when the unmistakable clatter of a Kombi van pulling up outside caught there attention.

"Ah - the guys and the kids are back from town," Willow said, as the door opened and a berry-brown child with curly strawberry blonde hair ran in  and straight up to Jake.

"Hello!" he said with a big grin. "I Sage. Who you?"

"Hi Sage! I'm Jake," he said, grinning back at the agile child with eyes the colour of a desert sunset.

"Dake! Hi Dake! Who you?" he asked, turning to Helen.

"I'm He...Lavender."

"Lav'ner!" he said happily. "Hi Wiwwow, hi 'Yote!"

"Hi Sage, buddy!" said Coyote, holding his arms out and tossing Sage up into his lap as he ran into them. "Sage and his sister, Saffron, are Anne and Michael's kids. And that," he said pointing to the door, is Michael."

Michael was an older version of Sage, average height but muscled, with short, curly sunbleached hair. He carried two full paper bags which he put down on the table.

"Hi guys. You must be Lavender and Jake. I'm Michael - I see you've already met Sage. How was your trip?"

"It's only dope, man," said Coyote, giggling.

"Ah yes," grinned Michael, sniffing the air. "Aquarius Ambrosia. Good stuff, eh?"

"Great," said Jake, staring up at Michael and wondering where he'd seen him before.

"Wonderful," breathed Helen, realising that she was looking at the spitting image of Michelangelo's David.

Michael looked at the four of them, then at the plate of cookies. "Oh - Willow's oatmeal cookies - one left for me. Whaddayasay we share it, buddy?" he said, turning to Sage and breaking the last cookie in half.

"Yeah! Cookie!" said Sage, jumping down from Coyotes lap and taking the half cookie.

"Am I right in assuming that the munchies have set in?" he asked.

"Munchies?" Jake asked, puzzled.

"Oh wow!" said Michael. "Dope virgins! My friends, you're in luck. I just happen to have, though you may not know it, the keys to paradise right here in this bag." He reached into one of the paper bags and pulled out a chocolate bar. Willow and Coyote giggled as he unwrapped it, broke off four large pieces and handed them around, then broke of a smaller piece which he gave to Sage, who took it happily. "Now for the fun," he said, and sat down next to Willow.

Jake grinned a vacuous grin, half his mind trying to work out where he'd seen Michael before, half trying to remember that he was holding a piece of chocolate (which sounded pretty good every time he thought of it) and the other half thinking (if that was the word) that the world was a groovy place to be. He slowly lowered his gaze to the chocolate in his hand and concentrated on raising it to his mouth. He bit off a square, chewed, and felt all three halves of his mind implode.

Michael watched, grinning, watching Helen watching Jake. Willow and Coyote, unable to control themselves, started laughing and Jake, his eyes closed in a paroxysm of ecstasy, heard the laughter, opened his eyes, and caught the laughing bug.

Helen, meanwhile, had cautiously tried the chocolate. The flavour exploded in her mouth and her bloodshot eyes widened in surprise. "Oh my GGGOOOOOOODDDD! " she squealed, prompting another burst of laughter from Willow, Coyote, and Jake.

"There's nothing quite like that first dose of the chocolate munchies. I kind of envy you." said Michel, smiling.

Helen stuffed the rest of the chocolate into her mouth. "Ha' you go' any more?"

"No," Michael said, "but I've got something nearly as good. We don't usually get this crap, but I thought that the dog man might not be able to resist letting you sample the produce, so I made an exception." He reached into another of the paper bags and tossed her a large bag of potato chips.

An hour later they'd moved out onto the porch. The cloying scent of honeysuckle dribbled down over them in the still, cooling, air, deliciously spiced by the fading effects of Aquarius Ambrosia.

Willow and Coyote were sitting on a bench next to Michael and Anne. Helen was sitting on a step
, leaning against a post, totally absorbed in the sunset that was turning the sky orange and green and golden.  Sage's sister, Saffron, a nine month old toddler with hair the colour of pale honey was busy exercising her newly-discovered ability to walk by walking as fast as she could towards the edge of the porch, making Anne jump up and rescue her every time she got too close for comfort. Jake was lying on his back, his knees up in the air making a slide for Sage, both of them laughing and giggling.

Willow rested her head on Coyote's shoulder, chuckling at Saffron's antics. "Little Wind'll be doing that soon."

"I wonder how they are?" he said.

"Fine. I'd know if there was anything wrong," Willow answered dreamily.

"Hey," said Michael, showing Coyote the newspaper that he'd brought back from town. "That creep who they wanted for the Montana thing's been spotted around here."

Coyote took the paper and read.

"Local police are searching for a man wanted in connection with the abduction and rape of a woman in Montana two months ago. A green Pontiac matching the suspect's was seen at the Dew Drop Inn in Springdale, Wednesday. "Women travelling alone should be wary of anyone asking directions and trying to lure them to his car." Sheriff Michael LeFroy said. "This man is extremely dangerous."

"Bastard," Coyote said, folding the paper and dropping it.

Sage climbed up on Jake's knees and, before Jake could reach out to catch him, slid downwards.

"Oooohhh," Jake groaned, sitting up and grimacing in pain.

"I sorry Dake! I hurt you?" Sage said, looking worried.

"No," Jake groaned, "it's okay, partner. But we might play something else for a while I think."

"Okay!" Sage said and ran up to the sitting Jake, throwing his arms around Jake's neck in an affectionate hug. "You a daddy too, Dake?"

"Not yet," Jake said, the pain in his groin overshadowed by a deeper pain, "but I should have been."



Endnotes:
The scene in The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on the evening of June 27, 1969, was as accurate as we could make it. The riot that ensued marked the beginning of the Gay Rights movement in the US.We have no idea what "nelly knees" are - the song that the women sing is as it was reported. The quote that Vincent reads is from the New York Times of June 29 1969, with reference to the time of the raid (3.00am) removed to fit in with the story.


Stay tuned for the next instalment of All My Children.

Disclaimer: All characters are copyright MTV except for Willy and his family who belong to us.

Special thanks: to all our wonderful beta readers: Floopyboo, RLobinske, NMorgendorffer, Gearhead, AhMyGoddess, Steven Galloway, TheBootstrapper; The Angst Guy; Brother Grimace

Quirks: Deref, who typed the words, is an Australian, so he's used Aussie English spellings and grammar conventions. He may also have inadvertently used some Aussie idioms though he's tried to keep in culture.

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