“Christopher James Larabee! What are you doing down here?” Ben yelled when he spotted his three-year-old by the docks.
“Papa? Me and Blair are runnin’ away.” Chris said with bravado.
“Cause the others said we was too little to play.” Chris sniffed.
Ben looked at his watch and then at his baby son. “Where’s Blair? Isn’t it naptime for you boys?”
“Miss Casey sended us to bed ‘cause the bigger kids ‘minded her it was naptime.” Chris pouted.
“Then you should be taking a nap?” Ben looked around the dock area. “Son? Where’s Blair?”
“Can’t tell ya papa. It’s a secret.”
“Son, I’m losing my patience. You need to tell me where Blair is.”
“No papa.” Chris set down his backpack, put his fists on his little hips and tried to glare.
Ben noticed ‘Doggie’ sticking out of Chris’ backpack so he snatched up the bag.
“That’s mine Papa!” Chris yelled.
“I’m well aware of that Christopher, but you and ‘Doggie’ are going home. Please get into the Jeep." Ben tossed ‘Doggie’ into the back seat and turned to Chris as he radioed Jim.
“Yeah Ben, what’s up?” Jim responded.
“I just found Chris down here at the docks and he said he and Blair were running away.”
“What? I’ll be right there.”
“Okay.” Ben turned back to Chris who was crying but hadn’t moved. “Get into the Jeep son. Mr. Jim will find Blair.”
“NO Papa!” Chris stomped.
Ben quickly snatched up Chris and added several swats to his bottom as he put him into the Jeep and buckled him in. “You do not tell me ‘no’ Christopher.” Chris cried harder.
“Where’s Blair Chris?” Ben asked again, but Chris just shook his head. Ben sighed, “we’ll talk about this at home.”
Jim arrived moments later. “Did you find Blair?”
“No.” Ben said with a shake of his head. “Chris refuses to tell me, but with your sentinel senses you shouldn’t have a problem.”
“Shouldn’t even need them.” Jim turned away from Ben and yelled. “BLAIR JACOB ELLISON! Come out NOW!” A few minutes passed then a small figure emerged from a stack of boxes. Jim went to his quietly crying son and hugged him close.
“I’m sorry Papa.” Blair whispered.
“We’ll talk at home Blair.” Jim turned to Ben and smiled as Blair snuggled onto Jim’s shoulder and promptly fell asleep.
Before Ben could comment, his radio cracked again. “Ben?”
“Blair and Chris are missing. I put them down for a nap and checked and…”
Ben could tell she was upset. “I found them Casey. I’ll be home directly.”
“Oh thank God!”
Ben looked at Jim. “Take Blair home Jim, and I’ll see you later.”
“Thanks Ben. We’ll see you at supper.”
“Good. I’ll call if you’re needed for anything.” Ben got into the Jeep and headed home.
Ben drove into the garage and parked. He carefully extracted his baby boy, who finally fell asleep on the way home. Carrying Chris on his shoulder, he entered the house and was instantly ‘attacked’ by Amanda and Casey.
“Is he okay?” Amanda asked.
“He’s good.” Ben stated as he carried Chris up to the nursery. He settled Chris into his bed and tucked him in. Amanda kissed him and asked as they exited the room.
“Did he say why he was running away?”
“He said the others wouldn’t let him or Blair play with them. I plan on having a long talk with our other children.”
“I have a few things to say to them also.” Amanda said.
Ben and Amanda decided to call the boys in early from playing. When the train whistle blew, it only took 10 minutes to assemble six boys. They all entered the house and were directed to the den by Amanda.
“Have a seat boys.” Ben said as they entered. When they were all seated, Ben asked, “What happened with Chris and Blair this afternoon?”
When no one spoke up, Ben crossed his arms and started at the oldest. “JD?”
JD sighed in relief. “I don’t know dad. I was hanging out with Jason Porter. I only arrived at the playground as Casey was carrying Chris and Blair away for a nap.”
“I was reading when Chris asked me to make the others let him and Blair play. I don’t know what was being played, but they didn’t listen to me.”
“Buck, Josiah, Vin and Ezra I think.”
“I certainly was not involved. I was all for letting Chris and Blair play. Ezra protested.
“Vin?” Ben asked.
“We were playing musketeers and we already had three like in the book.”
“So you, Buck, Ezra and Josiah?” Ben asked.
“No, Josiah was playing with his trucks in the sand.” Ezra added.
“So you had three musketeers and didn’t want to let your brother or Blair play? Correct?”
“Yes sir.” Vin answered.
“What have I told you is the rule with your little brothers?”
“Never play something they can’t join.” JD piped in. Vin and Buck scowled.
“But you can’t have more than three musketeers.” Buck protested.
“Son?” Amanda spoke. “We haven’t finished reading the book, but there were an army of musketeers, so you could have let the boys play.”
“I suppose.” Vin said quietly.
“Boys, you not only didn’t let those two boys play but you set Casey onto the fact it was naptime, making her the bad guy. That was worse.”
“Your actions hurt those two boys enough to force them to run away. Security found them by the docks.” Amanda added.
“What?” JD was shocked.
“Yes.” Ben finished. “Then he cried himself to sleep.”
“We’re sorry dad.” Vin and Buck said.
“I’m sorry they were that upset but I was all for letting them join us.”
“Is that true Vin? Buck?”
“Yes sir.” Buck answered.
“And I’m the one who reminded Casey about naptime.” Vin added.
“Very well. Dinner is almost ready so go get washed up. Vin and Buck you need to stay here.” After the room cleared out, Ben continued. “Boys? You will apologize to Chris and Blair.” The doorbell rang at that moment. “That should be Jim and Blair. Afterwards you are both grounded to the house for a week. If this happens again, you will be grounded longer and I will spank you. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir.” Both boys answered.
“Good. Go make your apology’s and wash up for supper.” Both boys headed out to do as asked as Jim entered the den and smiled at Ben.
“Everything okay with Blair?” Ben asked.
“Yeah. He slept for an hour and then told me the whole story. He promised he would never leave without me again.” Jim smiled. “Forever was his exact word. I wonder if he will still feel that way when he’s 16.”
“Don’t talk like that.” Ben laughed.
“Dad? Sorry to interrupt but mom says dinner is ready.”
“Thanks JD. Shall we?”
Jim and Ben joined the family as everyone was getting settled.