Authors Note: I couldnít get this idea out of my head so here it is, another AU. The setting is a school for troubled boys. This place is completely fictional since there are no schools that condone corporal punishment in the real world here in the USA. I also donít use offensive language so I represented it with symbols. Use your imagination. This story has no real plot, itís just to set up the characters and give you a feel for the AU. Itís also a crossover with many different shows. This AU is open if anyone wants to play, just let me know so I can link it from our website.
Warnings: Corporal punishment of children.
"Ms. Nettie? Did you like working in this kind of setting before?" Orrin Travis asked of the lady before him. He liked what he saw and heard from her references and was ready to offer her the job.
"Yes sir. I worked as a housekeeper in a military academy for fifteen years. Before that I was in the military police. Iím also a second degree black belt."
Orrin smiled. "Yes maíam, all of that is on your resume, but what I want to know is can you handle this setting? We arenít like other schools. We believe in teaching the boys consequences to actions as well as the academic."
"Sounds like the military." Nettie said with a smile.
"The cottage in need of a housekeeper is my toughest cottage. Iím looking for a special person who doesnít scare easy and wonít be afraid to take charge if needed."
"Doesnít scare easy?"
"Four Corners has had 15 housekeepers in the last year alone. The last woman passed all the checks and took the job, to be scared away in less than two weeks."
Nettie smiled. "I donít scare easy Mr. Travis and I can take charge if you give me the chance."
Orrin saw her resolve and then smiled back. "Very well. Let me show you around and if you want the job, itís yours."
"Thank you." Orrin stood and led Nettie out of the office. He let the secretary know he had his radio and then headed for the school. "The school building is the center of the complex with all seven cottages surrounding the main building. We employ teachers, counselors, social workers, and probation officers. We also have our own security force."
They walked outside and headed for the school. Orrin unlocked the door and ushered Nettie in. "Youíll be issued keys and a radio by tomorrow. We keep everything locked down because some of the boys are flight risks."
"What of the Four Corners? Are they flight risks?"
"Every last one of them. However, they usually only Ďescapeí in order to cause mischief, they never go very far."
They approached the office and saw JD standing over one of his young charges with a scowl. Orrin sighed. "JD?"
"What gave you that idea?" JD responded sarcastically.
"Mr. Wilmington?" Orrin asked with authority. "What happened?"
Buck had instantly cringed as the head master had appeared. He wasnít in the mood to talk though. "Nothiní."
"Nothing!" JD yelled. "What you said to Miss Caroline was totally inappropriate."
"Whatever." Buck said.
"Not Ďwhateverí Buck. Iím very disappointed in your behavior and when Josiah gets out here you may find out just how upset I am."
"JD?" Orrin asked. "I want to introduce you to Nettie Wells. Sheís the new housekeeper for Four Corners. Nettie? JD Dunne. And this young man is 15 year-old Bucklin Wilmington."
"Nice to meet you gentlemen." Nettie said.
"Nice to meet you maíam." JD turned to Buck and swatted his arm lightly. "Buck?"
He sighed. "Pleased Iím sure."
"Donít mind him Ms. Nettie, heís having a bad day."
Josiah Sanchez exited the office. He smiled when he saw Orrin. "Orrin! You heard about Buck already?"
Orrin smiled at his second in charge. "No, we just happened along Josiah. Iíd like to introduce you to your new housekeeper, Nettie Wells."
"Maíam, welcome. I do hope you last longer than our last housekeeper."
"I plan to Mr. Sanchez."
"Please call me Josiah."
JD turned back to Buck who was sitting with his arms crossed, scowling. "Josiah? Is Chris still in the Timeout room?"
"Yes. Stubborn boy is having a bad morning." Josiah put his hand on the back of Buckís neck and applied firm pressure. "Do you need timeout Buck?"
Buck received his message loud and clear. "No sir. Iíd like to go back to class now please."
"Fine. Go back to class with JD and behave. We will discuss your inappropriate behavior after school in my office."
"Yes sir." Buck sighed. Buck stood and started back to class with JD right behind him.
"Nettie? Josiah is Assistant Head Master and Resident Director of Four Corners. He can give you a more complete run down of the boys later, but there are currently 8 boys with room for 2 more. Most of the Four Corners staff lives on campus. It helps give the boys a sense of home."
"Itís also easier to detect trouble before it becomes a major incident." Josiah added. "My boys are thick as thieves. They almost border on being a gang theyíre so tight. The only difference is they protect against bullies and are very efficient as a group."
"Most of the time."
"True. There have been times when they gang up and cause havoc, but since Four Corners has better than a 2 to 1 ratio right now, they donít get away with much for long."
"Josiah?" Jean the school secretary called.
"Chris isnít calming down."
Josiah sighed. "Iíll be right in."
"Need any help Josiah?" Orrin asked.
"No sir. Heís having a bad day but I can handle it." Josiah turned to Nettie. "Maíam, again welcome."
"Iím glad to be here Josiah, thank you."
Josiah nodded and headed back into the office.
"Nettie? Would you like to observe one of the classrooms?"
"Sure. Does Chris live at Four Corners?"
"Yes. Heís our oldest at 16 years old and has a major attitude. Heís also the undisputed leader of Four Corners." Orrin lead Nettie toward an observation booth but she kept looking back toward the office.
"GET AWAY FROM ME!"
"Chris, calm down or Iíll call Josiah." Rafe said from the doorway of the timeout room. Each timeout room was simply a ten by ten foot room with no windows or furniture and padding on all four walls.
"I donít give a &*$# what you do! Leave me alone!" Chris screamed as he slammed the wall with his fists.
Josiah entered the room. "Christopher! I donít want to hear that kind of language from your mouth. Now calm down."
"NO! And @#$% you!" Chris rushed Josiah, who caught both fists in his own larger hands. He firmly shook Chris.
"I said calm down!" Josiah saw Rafe had closed the door and was waiting outside. "Would you like to tell me whatís going on in that head of yours?"
"NO! Why do you care?" Chris struggled wildly against Josiahís hold. Josiah realized Chris was beyond listening and he needed to get the young manís attention before they could talk calmly. Josiah turned Chris toward the wall and pinned him with one arm. His other arm was free to apply a little pressure to Chrisí backside. The first swat caused Chris to yelp. The second and third brought language that would make a sailor blush. Josiah increased the force of the swats until Chris stopped cursing and started pleading. The pleading soon turned to heart wrenching sobs, as Chris stopped fighting. Josiah felt the change and immediately stopped the spanking. He gathered Chris into his arms and let him cry out his pain.
"Shh. Calm down now. Youíre okay."
Chris started to calm down and hiccupped a "sorry Josiah" as he sagged into Josiahís arms.
A few moments passed and Josiah asked, "You calm enough to tell me what got you so riled up?" He settled them both on the floor as he continued to hold on to Chris. Chris hissed as his sore backside hit the floor but soon settled against Josiahís side.
"Mom and dad are getting a divorce." Chris said between gasps. The tears were still flowing freely down his face.
"Iím sorry Chris. Was that your dad on the phone last night?" Chris nodded. "You do know that itís not because of you."
Chris startled and turned to look at Josiah. How did he know what I was thinking? Josiah laughed at the look of surprise. "I know how teenage boys think son. Sometimes adults have to be separate to be better people. But they both still love you."
"Iím not so sure about dad, Josiah."
"I know he may not say it, but he does. All fatherís love their sons." Josiah hugged Chris close. "And even if he didnít, I do."
"Thanks Josiah. For everything."
"Everything?" Josiah asked with a chuckle.
"Well, not for the spanking." Chris soaked up the attention knowing he would have to be tough again outside the timeout room. Josiah let him.
After a good amount of time on the floor both their backsides needed to move. "Well, young man. Letís get off this floor and get you back to class."
"Do I have to go back to class?"
"Yes Christopher." Josiah helped Chris up. "I know what your father told you will take some time to work through, but I want you to get right back into the routine we have established here. That means school."
"Okay, but I donít have to like it."
"Thatís true. ButÖ"
"Thereís always a but with you Josiah." Chris grumbled.
Josiah gave Chris a semi-friendly swat causing the boy to jump. "ButÖ" Josiah paused. "I expect no more problems today. Understood?"
"Yes sir." Chris responded as he rubbed his backside.
"Also, bedtime is an hour earlier for the rest of the week for your poor language choices."
"Or would you prefer I wash that mouth out with soap every night?"
"No sir! Early curfew is fine."
"I thought you might see things my way." Josiah smiled as he led Chris back to class and headed to the other classes to check on the rest of his boys.
Orrin unlocked the front door of Four Corners. "All of the cottages are set-up the same with a few differences here in Four Corners." They entered a large open room with tables and chairs, soft couches, and an entertainment system with TV and DVD. There was also an air hockey and pool table. Several computers were along one wall next to a booth for the telephone in one corner. "This is the common room. The boys can watch TV or play games, puzzles, cards, or work on the computers. Josiah is pretty strict about how much time the boys spend on non-educational pursuits."
"How is that different from the other cottages?" Nettie asked.
"The other cottages have a less structured free time. Josiah only allows a limited amount of TV and computer time and it has to be earned."
"Letís just say, Chris hasnít watched TV in over three months because of his behavior." Orrin smiled as Nettie understood. "The living quarters are divided into two hubs. These two halls lead to the rooms."
"Staff and student together?"
"Yes. Thatís another thing that is different. Josiah and most of the Four Corner staff live here 24/7. Josiah has a private apartment and the others share two to an apartment. In the other cottages, staff are there 24/7 but they work in shifts. The office is there." Orrin pointed toward a room with plexi-glass windows on all sides. "This office acts as security for Four Corners also. Let me show you one of the rooms." They walked down one of the hallways and Orrin unlocked a door. "This room is empty at the moment. We could actually get two more boys in here if we needed, but Josiah has been thinking about converting it into a media room or maybe a single room to be used as a reward." The room had two twin size beds, two desks, two dressers, and two closets. After relocking the room they headed for the rest of the cottage.
"The housekeeper quarters are the apartment near the back doors. You donít have to live on campus if you donít want too. Itís your choice."
"Give me a couple days to think about it?" Nettie asked.
"Really? No one has wanted to stay very long before."
"Well I did say I donít run from a challenge."
"Good to hear." Orrin showed Nettie the dining room and kitchen. "The boys sometimes are assigned punishment chores that involve housekeeping. Youíll supervise in those cases. They all have regular chores that are posted in the office and they all are required to pick up after themselves. They do the cleaning. Your job will mostly be meals when they arenít in school and supervising them doing the cleaning."
"This place is quite neat so they must do a good job." Nettie observed.
"Not too bad. Ezra is the most difficult because he hates to do an kind of work." Orrin was showing her the last of Four Corners when eight boys and their guardians entered through the back door.
"Boys! Get to your homework." Josiah said. Groans and Ďyes sirsí were heard as the boys headed for their rooms to start their homework.
"Orrin! You still here?"
"I just finished giving Nettie the tour. Iíd like to introduce her to the rest of the boys."
"Sure. Theyíre all doing homework, or at least they better be. Why donít I introduce the staff first then the boys."
"That would be fine Josiah." Orrin replied.
Josiah picked up his radio and said, "4C? My office please." Moments later a group of men entered the office and took seats. "Are the boys locked down?" Josiah asked. He received nods from everyone then turned on the security cams connected to each room. There on four screens, were the boys working at their desks. "Good. Guys. I want to introduce our new housekeeper, Nettie Wells." Everyone said hello then Josiah introduced everyone.
"Nathan Jackson is the Academy doctor. He spends an obnoxious amount of time here in Four Corners, but he doesnít live here." Josiah explained. "JD Dunne you met. Heís the probation officer and lives here. Heís in charge of Buck Wilmington, whom you met, and Kevin Tanner."
"Simon Banks is head of security here at Four Corners. He also helps out with discipline and intervention. Heís in charge of Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg and lives here." Josiah paused. "Whereís Jack?"
"Heís with Daniel in Timeout two." JD offered.
"Okay. Well, Jack is discipline and intervention and is in charge of Daniel Jackson, which is a full-time job this week. He also lives here."
Just then Jack stormed in. "That boy!" Jack threw himself into a chair.
"Sorry Josiah. Heís cooling his heals off in Timeout."
"Jack this is Nettie Wells. The new housekeeper."
"Nice to meet you Nettie." Jack replied.
"Next is John Smith, but we all call him Hannibal. Hannibal is the recreation director along with BA Baracus. Hannibal is in charge of Templeton Peck and lives here."
"Which is also a full-time job." Hannibal added.
Josiah smiled. "BA doesnít live here right now. Heís a floater between here and the other cottages. Heís not here right now but heís impossible to miss. Heís a great trouble shooter."
"And a mean looking mud-sucker."
"Murdock!" Josiah warned.
"Sorry Maíam." Murdock said.
"HM Murdock is Four Cornerís councilor and teacher and lives here. Some would say heís a little too crazy to be a psychologist, but maybe itís a pre-requisite." The rest of the staff laughed. "Thatís the staff youíll see around here. Letís get the boys out here."
Men scattered. Simon returned with Jim and Blair. Hannibal had Face by the scruff of his neck and ordered him to sit. Face scowled. JD returned with Buck and Vin. Jack promised to introduce Daniel as soon as the kid calmed down. Josiah was last as he introduced Chris and Ezra.
Nettie was a little overwhelmed. "Donít worry Nettie." Josiah reassured. "Iíll give you a complete rundown of each boy so donít be too concerned with learning it all the first time around."
Before Orrin and Nettie left, Jack brought Daniel out and introduced the red-eyed crying youth.
Nettie said her goodbyes as boys scattered back to their rooms to finish their homework. Josiah directed Daniel into the office with Jack following.
"Okay Daniel. Why did Jack need to paddle your backside?"
"íCause heís a grouch always getting on my case for no reason." Daniel pouted.
Josiah added his own swat. "That is inappropriate Danny and you know it."
"Ow! Okay! Iím sorry. I just had a hard day is all and Jack was constantly there pointing out how wrong I was doing everything."
"I didnít do anything different today, Danny than I do any other day. Why did it bother you so much today?"
Danny sighed. "I donít know."
"Must be the full moon. Chris is having a long, hard day too." Josiah said as he sat down.
"I think an early night may be in order."
"At least for Danny and Chris."
"Why Jack? You already punished me." Danny said as he rubbed his sore backside.
"Jack did not punish you Daniel." Josiah corrected. "He disciplined you."
"Whatís the damn difference? Both are painful." Danny said as he crossed his arms.
"I suggest you watch your language and your tone or we will be discussing the difference between punishment and discipline with your backside."
"I donít want to go to bed early though. Please?" Danny said.
"Weíve tried to teach you about consequences to your actions. Your actions all day caused your sore backside and the early bedtime for tonight."
Josiah held up his hand in warning. Danny instantly shut up. "I think an early bedtime tonight will help your attitude for tomorrow."
"I agree." Jack added. "Go get ready for bed Danny."
"One!" Josiah said.
"This is so not fair." Danny pouted.
"Alright, Iím going." Danny headed out toward his room to get what he needed for his shower. Jack followed.
Josiah went out and told Chris to get ready for bed also. Danny looked like he was about to argue but Chris shook his head. Danny went to bed without complaint.
"What just happened?" Jack asked Josiah quietly.
"My guess?" Jack nodded. "I donít know."
Jack smiled. "Youíre a lot of help."
"What? Iím supposed to know everything? Ask Ezra. He probably knows."
"Heíd never tell though." Jack said his goodnights and went to check on Danny. Two hours after Chris and Danny were sent to bed Josiah tucked in the last of his boys and headed for bed. Four Corners didnít need a night shift because everyone lived right there and the security system was Standish proof.
A few days later, Nettie was looking over the housekeeper quarters and decided it wouldnít hurt to make the move. It would certainly make her duties easier without the commute. She spoke to Travis and they made plans for her to move in over the coming weekend. Travis also gave her the last of the files on the boys of Four Corners.
After and hour of reading, Josiah entered the common area with Ezra.
"Mr. Sanchez? What have I done to warrant punishment?"
"Youíre not in trouble Ezra. I pulled you out of class because your mother is here to see you."
"Good grief. Must I entertain her?"
"Yes. And I expect you to be respectful. Understood?" Josiah replied sternly.
"Yes sir." Ezra slouched into a chair as Josiah went to his office and called Orrin to bring Maude in.
"Sit-up straight young man." Nettie said sharply. Ezra complied without looking.
"Sorry maíam. My posture was unbecoming a gentleman."
"Gentleman? Youíre a fourteen year-old scam artist."
"Maíam if I were an artist, I would not have found myself in this place."
"And whose fault is that?" Nettie asked.
"My motherís actually."
"What? Youíre blaming your mother for you being here?"
"Maíam, I know it sounds ridiculous but once you meet her youíll understand."
Nettie was about to respond again when Josiah came out of the office to let Orrin and a fancy dressed woman enter into the common area.
"Ezra, my darling boy. How are you?"
"Wonderful mother." Ezra sneered. "Prison suits me well."
Maudeís face changed for a split second but became sweet again. Nettie almost missed the exchange but Josiah waved off her question before she could comment. They sat across the room from Ezra and Maude to give them an illusion of privacy.
"Maude is the reason heís here Nettie. She got his tangled up in a con and it backfired on Ezra. Maude got away and though the authorities knew she was behind it, they couldnít prove it."
"Ezra didnít tell them?"
"And rat out his own mother? No. She may sacrifice Ezra, but heís got a goodness in him that makes him very loyal to the people he allows into his life."
"A boy with honor." Nettie upped her estimation of Ezra.
"Yes maíam. The judge in the case knew of this Academy and Orrinís belief system so he sentenced Ezra to five years here."
"I wondered why a judge would be so hard on a thirteen year old boy."
"It was done to protect Ezra from his mother. Itís hoped that by the time he graduates, weíll have instilled a new ethic and self-discipline that heíll carry into a good and honest life."
"Wow! So are all of her visits here? Supervised?"
"Yes. That could change in the future but I doubt it. Thereís always the chance that Maude will try to persuade Ezra into doing something to get kicked out. What she doesnít know is that he canít be kicked out. The judge wants him to have this chance. Because of all the special circumstances, thatís why Ezra is in Four Corners and is my personal charge."
"Arenít you also in charge of Chris?" Nettie asked.
"Yes. Chrisí problems are deep so it makes him a very angry young man. Ezra on the other hand, has deep emotional problems. In a way, they are very alike. They just act out differently, Ezra with his vocabulary and indifference and Chris with his aggression. They make great roommates. "
"Theyíre immune to each other. No matter how angry Chris gets, Ezra never shows if it bothers him. Ezra isnít afraid of Chris and Chris respect Ezra. Thatís not to say they donít get on each otherís nerves, but it doesnít usually come to blows."
"Has Chris ever really hurt anyone?"
"Outside, he did. He lost a younger brother in a house fire and snapped. His fatherís a cop and never seemed to be available for Chris. His dad is a very angry person also and his mom suggested this school because of all the trouble Chris was getting into in order to get his fatherís attention."
"It must have been embarrassing for a cop to have a troubled teen."
"Yep. At the time Chris was only fifteen, but he just turned sixteen last month. Heís still a very angry boy but heís responding well here. He loves it when his mom visits but after he sees his dad, itís back to square one for at least a week. That day Orrin introduced us?"
Nettie nodded. "Chris was upset because he parents decided to get a divorce. Chris has been a powder keg all week. Heíd taken a swing at another boy but I never found out what was said."
"Does he lash out often?"
"Not as much as when he first got here. Iíve been trying to teach him how to talk about what is making him angry, but heís had years of stuffing his emotions and lashing out, just like his father."
"Whereís Chris now?"
"School. BAís keeping an ear out, but Chris knows Maudeís visiting and will try to stay out of trouble to support Ezra later. Heís very protective of his boys."
"What about the other boys? I read their files but it doesnít say everything." Nettie asked as they watched Ezra and Maude talking.
"Well, you met them all. Who do you want to know about?"
"Whatís Mr. Wilmingtonís story?"
"Buckís father is married to another woman. Buckís mother was a prostitute who wanted a better life for her son after she found out she was pregnant. She changed her lifestyle and tried to raise Buck the best she could, but they lived too close to the gangs and Buck joined up. When he was twelve his mother was violently killed and Buck turned vigilante. Buckís father, who supported him and his mom, decided to take more responsibility for his indiscretion. James StantonÖ"
"Yes. Heís Buckís father. He pulled some strings and got custody of Buck and then got him Ďsentencedí to the Academy. He was a very angry fourteen year-old when he got here and bonded immediately with Chris. Buckís a good kid, he just needs a loving hand to guide him along a better path."
"Away from violence?" Josiah nodded. "Does his father visit?"
"Once in a while, but we donít encourage it right now because Buck resents him so much. He becomes the same spiteful boy he was a year ago when his dadís here. Heís carrying a lot of emotional baggage. He has more good days than bad days now and most of his trouble comes from inappropriate comments to pretty ladies."
Josiah paused to get a couple of drinks from the kitchen. After handing one to Nettie she continued. "What about Kevin?"
Josiah smiled. "Ah. Kevin prefers to be called Vin. Iím sure itís because his dadís name is Kevin."
"Another who doesnít like his father?"
"Vinís dad is a bounty hunter and was never around much. When his mom took sick and died, Vin blamed his father because he wasnít there at the time. Because Mr. Tanner travels so much and has a dangerous job, he placed Vin here to keep him from the neighborhood gangs. Mr. Tanner has a good heart and means well, he just doesnít have the skills to be a parent. He is working on it though, by taking some parenting classes and going through crisis intervention for teens."
"Is Vin a lot of trouble? I didnít see as much trouble in his file."
"Vin? No, he didnít have the opportunity to get into too much trouble before his father brought him here. Heís fourteen now and his biggest problem are his practical jokes. They arenít always harmless and no one is safe. Just last year he managed to coordinate the removal and reconstruction of everything in Orrinís office. They moved it to the quad of the school."
"The entire office?" Nettie was stunned.
"The entire office, right down to the coffee cup still sitting on the desk. We disciplined the entire cottage because no one would confess to the prank."
"No one? Not even after you threatened to punish them all?"
"No maíam. They usually stick together so it didnít surprise us any. The other cottages see these boys as something magnificent."
They both paused again as Ezra rose to get Maude a drink of water. Once they were settled again, Nettie asked, "What of the other four boys?"
"Well, Jim Ellison is fifteen and came to us because his father had him sent here after the boy took a baseball bat to one of his old manís expensive cars. Jim claimed it was his younger brother, but since William Ellison has money and didnít want to bother finding out the truth, Jim was sent here."
"Thatís horrible. Were they ever able to prove his story?"
"No. William didnít even bother. There must have been other reasons too though. When Jim got here, he was having some strange medical problems."
"What kind of problems?" Nettie was intrigued.
"Whacked out senses. Lights were too bright, sounds too loud, touch, and smell were off the charts, and he wasnít eating because the food tasted bad. He spent the first two weeks in the infirmary."
"He looked fine last night. Did you figure out the problem?"
"That was another strange thing. Since Jim was getting worse, we were about to request a full-time nursing facility. Then one of the boys from another cottage snuck in to see Jim. I didnít know it at the time, but Blair had overheard staff talking and thought he could help. The strange thing was, he did. Jim started to get better."
"I donít know, but he was well enough to return to Four Corners. Within twenty-four hours of returning, Jim got sick again. He would get better when Blair was allowed to visit, so since I had room, I had Blair transferred to Four Corners."
"Did that solve the problem?" Nettie was fascinated.
"Mostly. Jim still has trouble once in a while, but Blair just gets him to breathe and heís better."
"What a mystery."
"Not anymore maíam. About a month later, I overheard Blair and Daniel talking about tribal watchmen called ĎSentinelsí. I did my own research and itís my opinion that Jim is a Sentinel."
"How can you be sure?"
"Iím not positive, but usually Four Corners antics are hard to catch because they have advanced notice when weíre on to them. Iím sure Jim can hear us coming a mile away."
"Whatís Blairís story?"
"Blair and Daniel are both thirteen and are actually twin brothers."
"What? But they have different last names."
"Blairís mother is quite a free spirit and she flies through here once or twice a year. She had a fling with an archeologist and had both children. Naomi could barely take care of herself, so she and Ephraim Jackson separated the boys. Danny went with him and Naomi kept Blair."
"How did they both end up here together?"
"That was Ephraimís idea. He kept tabs on Naomi and Blair and found out Blair was being dumped from place to place and was only causing trouble along the way. It appeared that Blair attracted trouble just like Danny does. He confronted Naomi and convinced her to leave Blair here where he could get schooling and discipline. Danny was already here because Ephraim worked out of country and Danny kept causing trouble. He visits both boys every couple of months."
"Do they know theyíre brothers?" Nettie asked.
"Not officially and we arenít allowed to tell them, but I suspect they know. They both formed an instant bond when Blair was transferred."
"Besides Jim can hear through walls." Nettie smiled.
"Nope. I use white noise to keep him from hearing what he isnít suppose to hear, like team meetings."
"And what of Templeton?"
Josiah smiled. "Templeton, ah my other little con artist. They boys call him ĎFaceí because his looks help when heís hustling. Heís an orphan though and the sisters at the orphanage couldnít keep up with his mischief. When Orrin saw the story about Faceís latest con, he called the sisters with an alternative. Face is fourteen years old and has been here for almost eighteen months. He and Ezra are thick as thieves sometimes."
"A handful together?" Nettie chuckled.
"Yes. Usually Vin thinks up a prank and Face and Ezra Ďfindí the resources to make it happen. I could tell you stories for days about these boys and their mischief."
"I bet." Nettie handed all of the files to Josiah and stood. "Iím going to go start dinner. Holler if you need me."
"Will do. Iíll check to see who has the dinner chore and send them in as soon as school work is done." Josiah rose.
"Thanks Josiah." Nettie headed for the kitchen.
As Josiah was exiting his office, Orrin entered the common room. "Mrs. Standish? Your timeís up."
Josiah noticed Ezra sighed in relief and smiled.
"Darling, donít forget what I said." Maude said sweetly.
"Mother." Ezra said with longsuffering. "I will not be able to assist you. Itís because of you that Iím here."
"Well, I never." Maude stood and grabbed her coat. "After all the trouble I went to, to teach you a trade."
"A TRADE!" Ezraís yell brought the attention of Josiah and Orrin. Josiah saw a tantrum starting and wanted to nip it quickly.
"Ezra?" There was a clear warning in Josiahís voice but Ezra wasnít receiving, he was too angry.
"Ezra. Calm down dear."
"No mother. You taught me how to be a crook. Iím thinking of becoming a police officer just to stop people like you. " Ezra was yelling by the time he was finished, practically vibrating with rage.
"Well! Is this what they teach you here? How to be disrespectful to the woman who raised you?"
"Raised me! No more than a dog raises puppies."
"Ezra! Stop it now!" Josiah intercepted Ezra before he could lash out at his mother. Unable to get free of Josiah, Ezra screamed in rage. Josiah held on tighter and motioned for Orrin to remove Maude. Once she was gone, Josiah attempted to calm Ezra down.
Ezra realized Josiah wasnít going to let go and that Maude was gone, so he stilled.
"Thatís right Ezra, calm down."
"Why what Ezra?" Josiah moved them to a couch and sat next to Ezra with his arm over the boysí shoulders."
"Why does she hate me?" Tears streamed down his cheeks.
"Aw, Ez." Josiah gathered the distraught boy into a hug. "She doesnít hate you son, she just doesnít know how to be a proper mother."
"She wanted me to send her money."
"Where were you supposed to get money?"
"She suggested many avenues but none of them were honest. I told her no."
"Iím very proud of you for that Ezra, but you let her actions cause you to lose your cool."
"Iím sorry." Ezra put his head down.
"You need to write your mother an apology. I expect it finished before bed Sunday night."
"But Josiah." Ezra whined.
"If youíd like me to discuss this with your Ďbuttí then keep whining." Josiah warned.
"No sir. The letter will be sufficient."
"I thought youíd see it my way." Josiah smirked.
"May I go to my room?"
"Yes. Iíll call you for dinner."
"You can start your letter." Josiah laughed at the returned groan, as Ezra headed to his room.
Josiah then radioed Jack and asked him to escort Chris back to Four Corners after classes because he was staying with Ezra.
When Chris entered his and Ezraís room later, he set his books down on his desk and walked over to his roommate. "Hey Ez. BA gave me your school work."
Chris smiled as he headed back to his own work. "Howíd your visit go?"
Ezra looked at Chris and saw the concern. "It started okay. We talked about unimportant things. Then she wanted me to hustle and steal so I could send her money."
"What? You told her no right?"
"Of course. But then she insulted the school and I lost my cool. Josiah has me writing an apology due by Sunday night."
"That what yer working on?"
"Yeah. Iíd rather do homework." Ezra put his letter away and opened his schoolbooks.
"So would I brother, so would I."
The boys worked for and hour when Josiah put his head in the door. "Chris?"
"You have dinner chore. Please go help Miz Nettie please."
"Iím almost finished my school work."
Chris looked quickly and estimated what he had left. "Twenty minutes?"
"Okay, but I want you in there helping within the next thirty minutes. Iíll be watching."
"Yes sir." Chris got back to work as Josiah turned to Ezra.
"How are you doing Ezra?"
"Good Josiah. Iím almost done my school work also."
"When youíre done, you may come out and relax until dinner."
Josiah left the boys to finish their work. Thirty minutes later, Ezra was laughing with the others in the common room and Chris was setting the table for dinner.
That evening the boys were eating their dinner and discussing Ďbusinessí. "So guys. What do you think?" Chris asked.
All the boys responded with "stay".
"What about you Chris?" Ezra asked.
"I think sheís a keeper. Sheís not afraid of us, is an awesome cook and still talks to us, not over us. I say stay also."
"Boys." Josiah said as he stood over the boys eating. "Whatís the topic?"
"Nothing interesting Josiah." Chris answered quickly.
"Make sure it stays that way boys."
"Yes sir." The boys chorused.
"So itís agreed." Chris continued after Josiah was far enough away. "Nettieís a keeper."
"Yes." They all said.
"Boys? Howís you dinner?" Nettie asked as she passed their table.
"Tolerable." Ezra answered for everyone as they nodded their agreement.
"Iím glad you approve." Nettie continued toward the staff table and sat down. "Is Ďtolerableí a good thing?" She asked.
"They said that?" Jack asked.
"Wow Nettie. You shouldnít have any problems with our boys. They must have agreed to keep you." Josiah answered.
"After the boys are in bed, Iíll tell you how they have scared away the last fifteen housekeepers."
"Fifteen? Iím not sure I want to hear those stories." The men all laughed.
"Whatís with them?" Chris asked as he looked at Jim.
Jim tilted his head. "They just told Nettie that we chased off the last housekeepers." Jim stopped and blushed.
"What?" Blair asked.
"Josiah just told me to Ďtune outí or find myself in Ďtimeoutí."
"Damn. I knew he knew about your senses." Chris said. "Better do as he said. I donít want to start the weekend with anyone in trouble."
"Agreed." They all said.
The boys spend the rest of the evening in the common room and were allowed to stay up later due to the weekend. Josiah sent them to bed as Nettie was leaving for the last evening. Tomorrow she would be moving in.
As Josiah was tucking in Chris and Ezra, he said, "Thank you boys. I appreciate that youíre going to give Nettie a chance."
"Sheís a much better cook than anyone here." Chris added with a smirk.
"Keep it up boy." Josiah said with a smile. "Go to sleep."
"Goodnight Josiah." Chris and Ezra said.
"Night boys." Josiah turned out the light shut the door and made sure it was locked before he checked on everyone else before going to bed himself. Calm settled over Four Corners, at least until morning.