As the days passed, it was clear to Ethan that there was something wrong in his and Scotty's relationship, but Scotty kept denying it. A week after he returned from the beach, Ethan asked Scotty to go with him to the pond. When they reached the pond, Ethan spread a blanket and the two sat down. "You know this is where it started," he said to Scotty, "and I wonder if this is where it ends. I know things are not right between us, Scotty, and I don't know what or why, but I intend to find out. I can't go on like this." Scotty sat silently, staring at his feet. He finally looked up and said, "Yeah, Ethan, all is not right between us. I needed to get away and have some time to think. I said I'd never come between you and Jamie and Sally Ann. I said it and I meant it. I needed time to think about how I was allowing your love and care of them to come between us because I resented it. It didn't take me long to realize that the two were a part of you, the you I loved. But there's another child looming on the horizon and I know it will take more of your time and energy, time and energy which I think should be devoted to us. I'm struggling with that."
"I don't know what I can do about that, Scotty. Looking back, I realized I should have waited until you were really okay with my going ahead knowing I would be a part of my child's life. I made a mistake, but I have made a commitment to my child before it was conceived. I don't know how, in good conscience, I could go back on that if I wanted to and, frankly, I don't want to. I hope it is something we can work out because you are the love of my life---even if you have to share---and I hope I am the love of your life."
"Yeah, Ethan." Scotty fell silent again. "You are, Ethan, you are, but maybe you won't think so after I make a confession, a confession about something that is eating me alive." Scotty looked up, looked in Ethan's eyes and said, with a sigh, "Ethan. I kinda cheated on you." Ethan looked as if he had been kicked in the belly by a mule and finally said in a whisper, "Scotty, how do you kinda cheat on someone?" as tears appeared in his eyes. "Just how do you kinda cheat on somebody Scotty? Seems to me that like saying someone is kinda pregnant." It was obvious to Ethan that Scotty was getting his back up. Well, too bad!
"Ethan," Scotty said in a chilly voice, "I don't ever recall us making a commitment to be monogamous. Besides, I didn't fuck anybody and nobody fucked me."
"Scotty, we may never have said we would be monogamous, but I sure as hell would never have thought it had to be said. So what happened?" Scotty then told of a week of drinking and smoking weed. "We all were pretty drunk and/or stoned most of the time. I knew it was wrong. I knew I was fucking up, but I told myself I was just letting off steam and hurting no-one. I knew I was lying to myself and it would hurt you if you knew. The last night I was there, I started thinking about you and the kids and future kid and got really, really sorry for myself and angry at you. Jason, a friend of my cousin, had been flirting with me all week. That night we both were stoned out of our mind, I got morose and crying on his shoulder. He started kissing me and playing with my cock through my board shorts and I liked it. When he pulled my shorts down and started sucking my cock, I let him, I liked it, I wanted it. Next morning I woke up in more ways than one, realizing what I had done. Ethan, I broke your trust and there is no way I can tell you how sorry I am and how I am hurting. I hope you can forgive me and allow me to restore your trust in you. I don't blame you if you can't, but I want that more than anything in the world."
"Right now, Scotty, I hurt so bad I can't think, much less promise anything. I feel so hurt and betrayed only because I love you so much, but we've got a lot of work ahead of us if we're going to make this work."
"I'm willing to work hard, do anything you want. I want us to work out," Scotty said.
"So do I, but Scotty, right now I think sex will work against that. To me, sex involves a level of trust that I don't have."
"What are you saying?"
"To be blunt, I'm saying separate beds."
"Baby, you can't mean that. I mean we don't have to fuck but ..."
"Sorry, Scotty, I'm afraid we'd end up fucking and convincing ourselves everything was as it had been. We know it isn't."
The two went home and Scotty moved into the guest room. Sally Ann and Jamie, of course, noticed the change and agreed Scotty, somehow, had fucked up while he was at the beach, but said nothing to Ethan or Scotty.
Ethan and Scotty agreed to spend time every day working on their relationship. Scotty was, frankly, courting Ethan and Ethan was responding. By the time the semester was over, they were sleeping together and once again making love. Things seemed to be almost back where they had been before Scotty went to the beach, but while it was never expressed, Scotty knew there would never be another 'Get out of jail free' card.
James Roberts, an officer at the bank called Ethan the last day of March and asked him if he knew Jamie had just drawn a cashier's check for seventy-five thousand dollars against his account. Ethan did not and thanked Mr. Roberts for calling him, but was in a quandary as to what to do. After all, the money was Jamie's and Ethan didn't think he would do something completely foolish. In fact, his brother had spent very little of the just over half a million that was his share from helping bring down the Grant crime operations. Ethan decided he'd say nothing to Jamie until he had a chance to speak to Randy. He was pretty sure Jamie wouldn't do anything involving so much money without talking to Randy. He had just reached that decision when the phone rang again.
When Ethan answered it, Dek said, "Ethan, I just got a call from James Roberts at the bank. Seems Andy drew a cashier's check ..."
"For seventy-five thousand dollars," Ethan finished Dek's sentence. "Got a similar call myself. Jamie has done the same thing." Ethan then told Dek what he had decided to do and Dek said he'd also wait until they could talk to Randy.
At supper, all seemed perfectly normal with Jamie and he and Andy headed off to Braggton. Unfortunately, Randy and Ginger had gone to her mother's and would be gone for the next couple of days so Ethan couldn't check with him about what was going on with Jamie.
The next morning, Jamie was up early and told Sally Ann he needed to leave for school early. He only had a first-period art class at the high school since he started joint enrollment spring semester. Kathryn called just before time for the first bell and asked if Jamie was sick. "No. So far as I know, he was at school."
Kathryn said, "He told me last night he and Andy might had things to do on the plantation since Randy was out of town. I have tried to call both and neither answered their phone and, in fact, calls went straight to voicemail."
"Kathryn, I don't know what's up. Ethan was not surprised, but began to worry, when he got a recorded announcement from the school, 'Your student---then Jamie's voice---Jamie Taylor is not in school.' Ethan didn't know what to do. He kept reminding himself that Jamie was a sensible and mature young man, but then he'd remember he and Andy were together and walking around with a hundred fifty thousand dollars between them. At 11:00, Ethan had been pacing half an hour and had just decided to call Sheriff Jackson when Jamie came roaring down the plantation drive. He skidded to a halt and he and Andy hopped out of the truck yelling and waving sheets of paper in the air. Jamie walked up to Ethan, grabbed him and swung him around and said, "Brother, meet the newest plantation owners in Bragg county!"
"So calm down and tell me what's going on."
"Andy and I have been talking about buying some land together, but we couldn't find what we wanted. Last week we were talking about what we'd like and Andy said, 'You know, that property the meth lab was on would be ideal. Actually, the more we've talked about it, the more it seemed ideal. Most of it is in pines which we wouldn't have to bother with except for negotiating the selling price. There'd be no rush about that since they would just keep growing. I remembered the sign being posted the day after the raid which said it would be sold at absolute auction today and Andy and I decided we'd bid on it. We decided we would each put seventy-five thousand in the pot. Frankly, we expected it to go for a couple million, but we decided we had nothing to lose.
"When the bidding started, I kinda freaked out some bidders. When the bid hit thirty-five thousand, I acted like I was dropping out and let some people overhear me make some comments about the property being contaminated and what it would cost to clean it up. Several people actually left. Andy bid forty thousand and I laughed and kept pointing at him and laughing. A fellow bid forty-five thousand and I was rolling on the ground laughing. Andy gave me an evil look and bid fifty thousand. I was surprised that the folks fell for our act, but that was the last bid. Andy and I each have twenty-five thousand invested in our plantation of eleven hundred acres."
"Damn!" was all Ethan could say. Davis was thunderstruck when he learned what the two had pulled off, but reminded everyone Randy had said earlier Jamie was a master at auctions.
"And you named it Philos?" Davis asked.
"Yeah," Andy said. ‟When we were talking about buying land together, Jamie said Fr. Mason had preached on love one Sunday and said the Greeks had different words for love. One of those was Philos, brotherly love, love between friends. We decided when we got our land we would name it Philos Plantation."
"We have to see a lawyer to get everything legal. Andy called Clyde Shepherd and he said he'd be happy to have us as a client. We have an appointment with him at 2:00. We're going to the school and see about doing our art class as an independent study so we won't have to go to the high school every day."
"Sounds good," Ethan said. As they left, Ethan looked at Davis and said, "There's two who will be doing little at Arkadelphia, Ash will be more and more restricted. Davis, we're short-handed."
"You're right. We need to be looking."
Andy and Jamie approached their art teacher about making the balance of the class an independent study and not being in class. After they told her why, she said she'd make it happen. That meant they were really tied down only Tuesday and Thursday afternoons when they had classes at the university. As they were driving to Clyde's office, Andy said, "Had a brilliant idea. I'll do an exhibition of photographs of Philos. Get the art project down and see Philos at the same time."
"Good idea," Jamie agreed. "Think I'll do plans for a house."
Clyde had heard through the grapevine what the two had pulled off and was ready for them. "First thing is to get you two organized as a Limited Liability Partnership, an LLP. I'm ready to file it as soon as you give me your full legal names and the name of the partnership."
They gave him their full names and Andy said, "Can the partnership be called Philos Plantation?"
"No problem. I'll include the registration fee in my bill." He buzzed his secretary and he took the forms to file. "Now, you need to open a bank account for Philos Plantation and require both your signatures on checks. I know you trust each other, but in business, you need to remove any source of trouble you can. Finally, if you have any idea for your house sites, you need to deed to each other so you each have a clear title to your house site. Given the number of acres you have, I'd advise ten-acre house sites. When you pick out your sites, call J.D. Thomas, he's the man I call when I need land surveyed and he can survey your house sites so I can draw up deeds," he said and wrote the surveyor's number on a card for us.
The two went to the bank and opened an account, each putting fifty thousand dollars in it, what they did not spend on Philos. They left the bank and drove to Audubon to an ATV dealer and Jamie went into negotiating mode. Andy was figuratively shaking his head as he watched Jamie work an experienced salesman. Finally, Jamie said, "You've got to do better than that---rejecting the salesman's latest price. We're buying two and paying cash and you're not the only game in town."
"May not be the only game in town, but I'm the best and that's it. I can't go lower."
"But that does include delivering them to Philos Plantation, right?'
"Where the hell is Philos Plantation? Never heard of it."
"You will. It's fifteen miles west of Braggton. Delivered by 8:00 tomorrow morning."
"You got a deal." Since they couldn't draw checks on the Philos account yet, they would each pay for one of the ATVs. When the salesman saw the two writing checks he said, "Hey, hold on. Not sure I can take a check from a teenager."
"Call the bank," Andy said. He did and was happy to take a check.
They had discussed buying trucks and thought it would be a good idea to have Davis introduce them to the dealer he bought from so they didn't bother to look at trucks.
On the way home, Jamie remembered they had not called Joe and left him a voicemail. When he called back ten minutes later, Jamie told him about Philos. "I'll give it a look after tomorrow," Joe said.
"Should have ATVs available after 8:00 tomorrow. They'll be in the large building at the end of the road into Philos. Combination lock. The combination is my date of birth. You have that? It's on my registration for my independent study. ATV keys will be in the machines."
Back at Arkadelphia, Davis insisted they call Ethan, load Arkadelphia's two ATVs on the flatbed and head for the new plantation. They doubled up on the machines and rode over to Philos. Davis and Ethan asked questions and listened to the two teenagers discussing what they wanted to do with the plantation which was now theirs.
Davis insisted the Arkadelphia ATVs be left at Philos so "you two and your girls can have a look around. Andy told him their own ATVs would be delivered tomorrow morning. Ethan reminded them they would have only the morning the next day because they had classes at the university in the afternoon and evening.
Andy and Jamie were at Philos at 7:30 the next morning waiting for the ATVs. They arrived at 7:45 and the two took off exploring five minutes after they signed the delivery receipt. When they took off for home and lunch, they had both fallen in love with two house sites: Jamie's on the river and Andy's on the high point of the plantation, quarter of a mile from Jamie's place. They had stuck a stick in the 'living room' and tied their T-shirts to them to indicate to J.D. where the house would be. Jamie called J.D. and told him the house sites were marked and where to find them. He told J.D. to make his site a square with the river one border. Andy told him to put his house site 'smack in the middle of the ten acres.' He said he'd have the survey done in a day or two. Clyde called Friday and left a message that J.D. had completed the surveys and the deeds were ready.
Ethan wasn't surprised when Kathryn and A'isha---she and Andy had gotten back together---joined the two men after they got out of school. Jamie, Kathryn and Andy climbed on ATVs and waited for A'isha to get on the fourth one. "I'm not getting on that thing," A'isha said.
Andy got a disgusted look on his face and said, "Ride with me." She did, but that didn't mean she didn't bitch. She did.
"Is Kathryn happy with you becoming a south Georgia plantation owner?" Ethan asked when Jamie came home.
"She's more than happy. I hadn't told her where I had selected for the house and when we approached it she said, 'Jamie, you want to build your house right here!' and started talking about what it should look like. Ethan, made me want to start a house tomorrow! Poor Andy wasn't so lucky or maybe he was."
"While we were looking over the house site, A'isha said, 'Andy, I suppose you have picked a site jammed up against this one.' He told her he hadn't and we drove to where he had selected, about a quarter of a mile away on the highest spot on the plantation. A'isha had very little to say about the site, but it was clear that being the wife of a south Georgia plantation owner was not her plans for the future. I think Andy finally saw she wasn't committed to a relationship." Ethan was surprised where they had picked out sites for their houses. He, like A'isha, would have expected them to choose adjoining plots.
Joe spent hours going over the plantation. He called and left a message saying he'd be over to talk to them Saturday morning unless he heard otherwise. When he arrived, Sally Ann had coffee and a coffee cake ready, and served both. Jamie had asked Ethan to join Andy, Kathryn and him. A'isha had told Andy she had a hair appointment.
Joe spread three large maps on the table, an aerial map, a topographical one and a plot plan with the plantation and house site boundaries marked. It was on a transparent sheet which could be laid over either of the two other maps.
"I spent hours driving over your plantation and discovered a great deal. For one thing, eleven hundred acres is a lot of ground---I knew that, but trying to cover it all underscores the fact. I checked on the history of the place. Had a time running it down, but I think what I have is pretty accurate and is a tale of human indifference to people and the land.
"The family who first owned the plantation got it the same year the Edwards got Arkadelphia. Within a few years, all had died of yellow fever. There were no known relations---this was back in the wilderness, remember---so it just lay there until it was sold for back taxes. A fellow picked it up for practically nothing and started clearing and planting cotton. He was very successful and left his son a decent plantation and a number of slaves. The son was a sadistic bastard and the slaves were terribly mistreated even for slaves. After the Civil War, he continued his behavior and was found hanging from a tree outside his burned-out house. No-one knows what happened to his family or the ex-slaves. The plantation was sold at auction to pay his debts and was, as all plantations in the area, devastated by King Cotton.
"The family who owned it was hanging on by their fingernails when the 1929 crash came along. They lost it to Grant of Grant, Grant and Sherman's grandfather who was a great supporter of Roosevelt and particularly of the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. You probably have never heard of them, but one of their main jobs was dealing with soil erosion in the South. Their memorial is the kudzu which covers the South. It was planted to stop soil erosion and it did, and then decided to cover everything. Anyway, the old man's son went off to Macon and made a mint as a lawyer. He had no interest in this place and just let it go. The present Grant didn't even know of the plantation's existence until he spotted a legal notice it was being sold for some pittance in back taxes. He quickly paid the back taxes and when he needed a place for his illegal operation, what better than a forgotten plantation in a thinly populated area. He lost it to a couple of teenagers who helped bring down his crime empire and here we are."
"Yeah, here we are," Andy said.
"You have a wonderful place with some fantastic resources. One resource you may not recognize now is your proximity to Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove. Three plantations can afford things a single one cannot. Anyway, if you look at the aerial view you can see what you know to be true: a straight line from the end of the new road connecting Arkadelphia Plantation to Pleasant Grove Plantation comes out at the office door of Philos Plantation. My suggestion is to talk to Ethan and Davis and make that your first project.
"You have a great resource in the river. If you look at the aerial view again, you see it cuts a diagonal from the northeast corner of Philos to the southwest one, providing essentially a water main from one end of your property to the other. Have it tested, but I suspect since it comes out of a hunting preserve you'll find it is clean water.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty. You have eleven hundred acres here. You have over half of that planted in pines, I'd guess between seven and eight hundred acres. You have about ten acres tied up in the former compound, an insignificant amount, so we're looking at about four hundred acres that were farmed and for some reason, not planted in pines. My guess is about fifty acres around the house sites and a bit more around your site Andy, for some reason, was abandoned almost a hundred years ago. You both picked, not original growth, but old growth forest as the setting for your homes. My advice? Leave it be for the foreseeable future. Andy, you may want to clear an area around your house for a lawn, but no more.
"The CCC planted longleaf pines about sixty years ago. If you are not planning on building within six months ..."
"I am in no rush," Andy said. "I don't like the idea of living by myself and Dad and I get along fine. He's a good man."
"I agree with you on that,' Joe said.
"Well, I do want to build as soon as I can," Jamie said, "but I can wait."
"If you're in no rush, I'd suggest you contact the fellow who logs with mules and custom cuts lumber that cut the trees for the road between Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove. I'll get a hold of the forestry guy again and have him select trees in the CCC longleaf forest to cut for lumber for your houses. He can also select oak for the floors. You have that building where the pot was stored, store the lumber there to air dry. There are huge fans in the building where the women were kept. Place those in the pot building and you'll have forced air drying. I'll have the forestry guy be on the lookout for other trees in the forest surrounding the house sites you could use for cabinets and things or you could trade for the logging. In any event, even if you have to pay the sawmill, you would have absolutely top grade, air-dried lumber, to build your houses for very little.
"Aside from lumber for your house, I'd leave the old forest. It's valuable now, but its value will just increase.
"The more recently planted pines are a more rapidly growing species, loblolly. They are, I'd guess, fifty years old. They are often grown for pulpwood, but you have prime timber for lumber. It is, frankly, worth a small fortune. Right now the housing market is depressed and lumber down. Unless you have an immediate need for ready cash, I'd say hold off on selling the loblolly timber. It'll wait.
"As you see, I have marked the boundaries of the longleaf and loblolly forests, the areas surrounding your house sites and the compound. Here," Joe pointed to an area, running along the western side of the river, "is an area abandoned last and not planted in anything. It has a few scrub pines, all kinds of brambles, kudzu, bushes and such. It's the four hundred acres that you can make into a pasture. I'd start by fencing a hundred acres and start grazing what's there. Won't support a large herd, but you'd be making something. Plow any profit back into fencing. Think you need to go with electric fences. You're not dealing with just keeping things in, but also keeping things out. The rest of that, start clearing and making ready for a proper pasture."
"Sounds good," Jamie said.
"Looks like we have our work cut out for the next year," Andy said.
After Joe left, Jamie and Andy went to Arkadelphia to see if they could talk with Ethan and Davis. Fortunately, both were in Davis's office discussing the work for the coming few weeks.
"Davis, brother," Jamie said, "you two have a few minutes? Andy and I have questions."
"Have a seat," Davis said. "What's on your minds?"
"We spent the morning with Joe. He has spent several afternoons riding over Philos and told us what he found and what he recommended," Andy said. He and Jamie spread the three maps out on the table and Andy explained what the different areas Joe had outlined were.
"What we need to talk to you about is this," Jamie said, pointing to a broad line on the map. "That is an extension of the road from Arkadelphia to Pleasant Grove. Joe pointed out that with three plantations involved, sharing equipment would be wise and save money. The example he gave was the sprigger Ethan rented. He said he knew where there was one rusting in a shed less than fifty miles from here. The price he thought we'd pay for it is less than what you paid in rent, Ethan, when we sprigged in sod in the pasture on Pleasant Grove. Anyway, he suggested the road be extended to Philos. If it is continued in a straight line, it will dead end in the building with the office. We'd like your permission to extend it," Andy concluded.
Both Davis and Ethan were nodding. "Sure," Davis said. "Go ahead."
"Andy and I also talked about our place and our work here. Frankly, you use us a lot fewer hours than you pay for. We'd like to change that. We'd like to be scheduled, with the understanding that we can always be called on when needed. That way, you won't be paying for us when we are doing nothing and we can invest that time in Philos. We have a lot to do."
"Further," Andy said, "we'd like to trade work for machine time. Our first big task is fencing in the area marked 'old fields.' There about four hundred acres which will become our pasture. Joe suggests we start fencing it and putting a small herd on it. It won't support many. We need the post hole auger more than we need the money."
"I see no problem with that since I neither schedule nor keep the books," Davis laughed.
"No problem," Ethan said. "Sounds like a good deal for all of us. So you guys ready for lunch? We leave for ASU in an hour an a half."
"Yeah, Kathryn was fixing lunch at your place. I think it's soup."
"Sounds good," Davis said.
"Grab Molly and join us."
"Will do that if Molly agrees."
Joe did get in touch with the forester and he came out and marked enough Long Leaf to make lumber for two very large houses with twenty percent allowance for waste. He also marked oak for flooring and a lot of cherry and walnut. Andy and Jamie also bought the pecan logs from the replacement of trees in the existing groves at Pleasant Grove.
Jamie contacted the man who logged with mules and had a sawmill and he agreed to cut and saw up the marked trees. As the trees were cut, the logs were hauled to his sawmill and converted into lumber. The green lumber was stacked in the pot building which now had a huge fan at each end, one blowing in, the other an exhaust fan. The spring was very dry and hot and the fans often came on lowering the humidity inside and drying out the lumber. From time to time Joe took samples to check the lumber's moisture to make sure it didn't dry too fast, but was drying. Given the arrangement, he was sure the lumber would reach the proper moisture level before the summer was over.
Looking at both maps, the two decided they needed to draw up an overall plan for the next five years. They hoped the plantation would be providing a decent livelihood sooner, but thought five years was more realistic. Since they would be obligated to spend less time at Arkadelphia, they asked Joe to work with them in working out the plan.
Weekends, Kathryn joined them working at Philos and surprised them one weekend when she presented them with a logo she had designed for Philos. They had decals made for their newly purchased trucks and Kathryn painted a large one for an entrance gate they had built at the highway