Open Arms

Chapter 5




An annoying and persistent buzzing noise woke Brian from his peaceful sleep.  He unfurled himself from around Justin to attend to it.



“Gus, what’s wrong?  What time is it?”

“Nothing’s wrong and it’s late, I mean early.  That doesn’t matter.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be on a plane?”

“We’re boarding soon.  Listen, you have an appointment this afternoon precisely at noon.”

“An appointment?”

“Yes, precisely at noon.”

“Okay; with whom?”


“Hudson?  Lady Whatsit’s Hudson?”

“Yes, Lady Monica Rutledge’s Hudson.  Raymond’s texting you the details now.  Be there at 12.  You know how Hudson has a thing about punctuality.”

“Yeah, I remember.  Gus, what’s this all about?”

“Ted told me about the house.”


“Yes, the London house.”

“Oh, that house.  What about it?”

“He asked me my opinion.”


“We think it’s a great idea and we want in.”

“Excuse me?”

“Sheesh, Dad, get with the program.  A London house makes a lot of sense.  Going to Isles or Rose isn’t like going to North or Perspectives.  You can’t just hop on a plane and go.  It takes planning.  But if we have a residence there that’s one less reservation to make.  And London makes a good home base for Rose and the rest of Europe.  But Raymond and I would like to shoulder some of the financial responsibility.  London houses aren’t cheap.  This will take some research; Raymond has already started on it.”

“Of course he has, hence my appointment with Hudson?”

“Yes, 12 noon on the dot.”

“I get it, Sonny Boy.  And what makes Raymond think that he’ll have the time for all this research?”

“Considering the amount of work Mama Mel has done over the summer, Ray says she didn’t leave that much for him to do.  He’s looking forward to getting back to his real estate roots.”

“Uh huh.”

“Pop, I have to go, we’re ready to board.  Did you get the text?”

“Yeah, I got it.  You have a good flight; we’ll see you soon.”

“Give Hudson our apologies; we might not land in time to join you.”

“Understood.  Love you, Gus.”

“Me too, Pop.  And remember, noon.”


Brian snapped his phone closed then hid it within a drawer of the bedside table.

“Everything okay,” Justin sleepily asked as he rolled toward Brian.

“Yeah, just wondering when I lost total control over my life,” Brian muttered.

“That’s good,” murmured Justin as he snuggled deeper into Brian’s arms.

Good?  Brian gazed down at his spouse, the one man that was supposed to be on his side.  “Love you,” Brian heard Justin mumble which made his crazy-assed world instantly fall back into place.  Brian cuddled closer and fell back to sleep.




“Move it, Sunshine, we can’t be late,” Brian growled.

“Brian, we have plenty of time,” Justin said with strained patience as the car pulled up in front of the familiar townhouse.

“I wonder if we’ll finally meet Lady Whosit,” Brian questioned as they approached the front door.  The brass knocker gleamed in the noontime sun.  He quickly grabbed Justin’s wrist to verify the time before reaching up to use the knocker.  Within moments the heavy door opened.

“Mr. Kinney, Mr. Taylor, thank you for accepting our invitation, on time, with a minute to spare, I see,” Hudson greeted them.

“I value punctuality,” Brian replied as Hudson showed them into the main hall.  Justin rolled his eyes.

“Cook has prepared luncheon, I have readied the dining room or if you prefer, Cook has offered his kitchen table,” Hudson stated with a twinkle in her eyes.

“We would be honored to accept Cook’s offer,” Brian stated formally. 

The boys followed Hudson through the labyrinth of hallways and doors until they reached the massive kitchen.  The solid wooden table was set with dainty sandwiches on fine China platters as well as savory and sweet treats.  Cook was currently wielding a very large cleaver chopping vegetables.  The boys sat where indicated by Hudson and were invited to help themselves.  Hudson poured out some tea for Justin while Cook held up a carafe of coffee for Brian.  Brian smiled, happily accepting the coffee.  Hudson sat while Cook went back to his vegetables.

“You’re not joining us?” Justin asked.

“Cook and I had our elevenses.  That will hold us until teatime,” Hudson replied.  However, she did help herself to a cup of tea.  Hudson waited until Brian helped himself to a variety of sandwiches while Justin went for the egg.  Brian caught Cook’s eye; Cook could see concern in the hazel eyes.  Cook smiled with reassurance.

“Mr. Kinney,” Hudson began.



“Thank you.  Before we get to the purpose of this meeting, we would like to express how saddened we all were when we heard about the fire at the gallery.  You may not be aware but her ladyship is a patron of the gallery.  The Rutledges are not only supporters but have many of their own collection on permanent loan to the gallery,” Hudson explained.

“Were her paintings damaged?” asked Justin.

“No, they are in another wing,” said Hudson.  Justin was visibly relieved.  “Now, with your permission,” Hudson began, indicating their meeting was about to begin.  “We received a call from young master Raymond the other day.  Without betraying any confidences, he mentioned that you are interested in setting up a permanent residence here in London.  He asked our advice regarding estate and employment agencies.  He briefed us on the type of dwelling you’re interested in and your requirements for staff.  We’ve taken the liberty of assembling a small portfolio of homes that may fulfill your requirements.” 

Hudson handed Brian a folder containing almost a dozen homes all situated within an easy distance from Isles.  Brian reverently took the folder, slowly opening it to peruse its contents.  He noted that each picture was attached to a brief description of the house, its land, history, and square footage.  There were also neatly handwritten notes listing the pros and cons of each home.  Brian scanned through each page then passed the folder to Justin.

“This is amazing,” Justin stated.

“How?” asked Brian.

“To put it simply, housekeepers talk as do cooks,” Hudson replied as she glanced toward Cook.  Cook smiled as he nodded.  “Discreetly, of course.  Especially when old estates and their families are involved.  You might call it networking.”

There were several minutes of silence as Brian leaned closer to Justin to share the folder.  Cook took the opportunity to refill Brian’s cup.

“Sir,” Cook ventured, “may we speak freely.”

“Of course,” Justin answered.  Cook placed another sandwich on Justin’s plate.  Then sat down at the table.

“Lord and Lady Rutledge have recently sold their home to retire to the South of France,” Cook revealed.

“This house?” Brian asked.

“Yes, it will soon be on the market but there is a reason why we haven’t included it,” Hudson quickly chimed in.  “This is a listed building.  Even if you were interested in purchasing this house, you would not be able to renovate it to suit your purposes,” she explained.  Brian nodded with understanding.

“I don’t understand,” said Justin.

“This building is protected like the theater in Pittsburgh.  I imagine you can’t even change the paint color without approval,” Brian said.  Hudson nodded with confirmation.

“So, no Smurf blue walls,” Justin teased.

“Not a one,” Brian said as he beamed at Justin.  “Wait, what about you two.  Are you both going to France?”

“No,” Hudson said, shaking her head.  “My Lady will take her personal assistant, my Lord, only his valet.  The rest of us will stay on until the house is officially closed.  Besides, I don’t want to leave London, it’s my home.  And Cook has family here and in Ireland.  We have no intention of leaving.”

“Does that mean you will be looking for a new job,” Justin asked with concern.  Brian stayed silent.

“Eventually.  Cook and I have been with the family for over twenty years.  We’re entitled to some holiday time before our next posting.  Our Lord and Lady have been most generous.”

“Work for me,” Brian blurted out.  “Take as much vacation time as you see fit but when you’re ready to go back to work, work for me; I want fulltime, live-in staff. I had planned on consulting you both in any eventuality, but Raymond beat me to it.  Once we buy the right house, I’d like you both to move in even if you’re still on vacation.  It will be your home as well as ours.”

“That is very kind of you, sir,” said Cook with a wide grin.

“About this networking of yours,” Brian said as he held up one of the photos and pointed to the handwritten note.  “Is this your work,” Brian asked, looking at Hudson.  She smirked but shook her head.  Brian turned his eyes toward the large man whose grin became wider.  Brian stared for a second then burst out laughing.

“I get it; you’re much more like your cousin than you let on,” Brian stated.  “May we have copies of these?” he asked holding up the folder.

“Those are yours to take,” Hudson assured him.

As Brian and Justin prepared to leave, Brian expressed apologies from the boys.  “They wanted to be here but the timing was off.  I’m sure you’ll be seeing them soon,” said Brian.

“They have an open invitation to lunch,” Hudson quipped.

“Will we be seeing you at the reopening of the gallery,” Justin asked.

“Regretfully, those tickets were long sold out.  And my Lady’s health would not permit a trip back to London,” Hudson divulged.  At Justin’s inquisitive look, Hudson explained further.  “You are acquainted with Mrs. Sarah Kingsley,” she asked.  The boys nodded.

“My sister is married to her grandson,” said Justin.

“Ah, well then you are well acquainted with the family.  Lady Monica is her contemporary,” Hudson gently stated.  Justin understood her meaning. 

“Please be my guests at the opening.  I’ll make sure you both are on the list,” Justin stated with conviction.

“We would be honored,” Hudson said with a nod.

“Sunshine, I think that’s a hint to amscray,” Brian teased as the boys stood to leave.  “This was indeed a working lunch, and a very informative one,” Brian said as he picked up the folder.  He held out his hand to Cook for a hearty handshake.

“Permission to hug,” Justin asked of Hudson.  A little taken aback, Hudson granted permission then showed the boys to the door.

“We’re about to be employed by an unusual family,” Cook stated with his heavy brogue when Hudson returned to the kitchen.

“Indeed, most unusual.  I’m looking forward to it,” said Hudson.  Cook smiled as he resumed chopping his vegetables.




“Mr. Anderson, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to stop by,” Mrs. Wilson, vice principal of Bree’s high school, stated.

“No, problem, I was in the area.  We’re working on several projects in the neighborhood.  Besides, I’m acting as loco parentis for Bree for a few more days.  Her dads should be home soon, and it’s John,” John explained.

“Still giving back to the community,” Mrs. Wilson commented.  John shrugged his shoulder as he gave her a coy smile.  Mrs. Wilson just smiled.  “As I said in my message, neither Briana nor Peter are in any trouble.  Just the opposite, if it were in my power to give the three of them a medal, I would.  By the way, I already spoke to Mrs. St. John; she’s aware of what I’m about to tell you.” 

John nodded.

“A couple of days ago, it was brought to my attention that a possible bullying situation had taken place at the smaller track field during a free period.  That’s the field we keep open for the kids at lunchtime or to use during their free time when they want a little exercise.  Or just to sit on the bleachers when the weather is nice.  It’s also the field that we open early and close late for community use,” Mrs. Wilson explained.

“If this incident occurred a couple of days ago, why am I hearing about it now?” John asked.

“Frankly, we needed time to analyze what I’m about to show you.  At your suggestion the school district approved the expansion of our CCTV.  These days, we’re doing our best to keep our children safe,” said Mrs. Wilson.  John required no further explanation; he nodded in agreement. “We have school aides and teachers to supervise that field when kids are using it and of course, the CCTV.  We review the footage if a complaint is made, or as needed.  Several of us reviewed this particular footage and I even had our security company review it to verify what we saw.  Here, let me show you,” Mrs. Wilson offered.

She clicked a few links then invited John to relocate his chair so that they could both view her monitor.  She fast forwarded to the correct time stamp then hit play.  John could see Bree, Peter, and Ashley walk into the field enclosure then go toward the bleachers.  They sat and chatted for a few minutes.  John noted how Bree held up her face toward the sun just like Brian did when he was about to work in the garden.  Bree then pointed to a soccer ball that was not being used.  Peter and Ashley waved their hands, encouraging Bree to go play.  They laughed knowing that Bree never could resist the call of a soccer ball.

“She’ll probably qualify for an athletic scholarship to college, you know,” Mrs. Wilson interjected.

“I know.  Brian does too although he’s currently in denial.  He’s finding it hard to believe that his little girl will be old enough for college in a couple of years,” John laughed. 

“And how is Patrick?” Mrs. Wilson asked, keeping a straight face.  John made a wound to his heart gesture.

“He’s doing well so far but it’s still early in the semester,” John replied.

“I’m sure he will excel in whatever he decides to pursue,” Mrs. Wilson said with confidence.

Mrs. Wilson pointed back to the screen.  They watched Bree run through some practice maneuvers then she stopped and stared toward the track for a few minutes.  The camera angle changed toward the direction that Bree was looking.  They saw a young teen, small, thin, and lanky on the track stretching.  The first camera went back to Bree while the second camera kept the young man in view.  Bree was bouncing her ball on her knees when she looked up again.  Camera three caught a group of older boys, obviously very athletic and heavily muscled, walking onto the track.  One of them pointed to the younger boy then the group began to laugh.The group started walking toward the kid and easily surrounded him.  At that point Bree kicked her ball seemingly toward the goal net but somehow directed it in between the older boys toward the younger kid who automatically picked it up.  Bree nonchalantly jogged over, brightly smiled at the “jocks” while thanking the kid for catching her ball.  She tucked the ball under her arm then with her other hand grabbed the kid’s arm, casually engaging him in conversation as she safely led him out of the pack of jocks.  All the while Bree innocently smiled at the jocks as she batted her violet blue eyes.

John sighed, looked upward for guidance then in a very Brian-like way, closed his eyes as he pinched the bridge of his nose.  “Those Taylor eyes,” he murmured.

“Pardon me?”

“She batted her eyes at the boys.  Most males of any age find those eyes hard to resist.  A very annoying but persuasive habit she learned from her daddy Justin.  It works almost all the time.  The men in our family have been on the receiving end of those eyes for years.” 

Mrs. Wilson gallantly fought the urge to laugh.  “What puzzled all of us was how Briana knew what was going to happen.”

“If we knew that we’d bottle it,” said John with frustration.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be so flippant.  Let me explain and please keep this confidential,” John requested.  Mrs. Wilson nodded.  John went on to give a brief overview of the events of the past summer including the fire in the National Gallery, Bree’s trip to Toronto, and her involvement with the local and international law enforcement. 

“That’s…incredible,” Mrs. Wilson began.  She sat back in her chair in disbelief.

“Exactly,” John said as he stood to move his chair back in front of Mrs. Wilson’s desk.

“I’m very glad that I called you instead of your brother.  The whole summer must have been extremely stressful.”

“Very.  Justin was needed in London.  Under normal circumstances Brian would have gone with him but with Bree up in Toronto, he didn’t want to be that far away.  We kept Brian and Justin in the dark about the plan to arrest Max until Bree was safely home.  I’m not sure if Brian has forgiven me yet.  But one thing we learned from this experience is how truly perceptive Bree is at reading certain clues.  She knew when Max was, for lack of a better term, bullshitting her, she also had the common sense to immediately go back to the office to tell her brother and Melanie.”

“And the courage to play a part in getting that man arrested,” Mrs. Wilson added.

“Yes, she’s very brave, just like her daddy Justin.  They both see injustice and feel the need to act, sometimes at their own peril.  I know that sounds overly dramatic but it’s true.”

“Mr. Anderson…”

“John, please.”

“Theresa.  I know Justin Taylor’s story and of his bravery.  I was a young teacher in Pittsburgh when I was given the opportunity to apply to the St. James Academy.  They gave me a tour of the school and allowed me to audit a class or two.  At the time there was a certain prestige attached to the academy.  Many of my colleagues encouraged me to accept the position.”

“And did you?”

“No, I didn’t.  My friends thought I had a couple screws loose.  The money alone was very tempting.  But I felt there was something not quite right about the place.  I decided on staying where I was, teaching in a local Pittsburgh public school.  No money, no prestige but knowing I was making a difference and that’s why I became a teacher in the first place.  Not long after that, news of a young man bashed by a fellow student at St. James for being gay was in the papers and on TV.  I will never forget that time.  I followed the news about his miraculous recovery and the trial.  I see where Briana gets her courage from.”

John nodded.  There really wasn’t more to say.

“Last weekend Ashley slept over.  She, Bree, and Peter baked chocolate chip cookies at Debbie’s house.  Debbie, Mrs. Horvath, supervised.  Apparently, the topic of starting a club at school for gay and straight students to hang out, came up.  Debbie let slip that Justin had tried starting a club at St. James called the Gay/Straight Alliance.  He followed the academy’s myriad number of rules on how to propose a club but the school made it as difficult as they could for him.  His mother made allegations of discrimination, so the school gave in.  But eventually, students and faculty made it so uncomfortable for Justin that he disbanded the club.”

“You think Briana wants to propose a similar club here?”

“Yes, I do.  We talked about it and I suggested that she should wait until her fathers come home to discuss it with them.”

“We don’t have a PFLAG chapter here.  Briana could spearhead a chapter or develop a club of her own.  Our rules aren’t as complicated.” 

Mrs. Wilson handed John a sheet of paper with the school’s rules on how to form a club.  It had three simple rules.  What is the club’s purpose?  Do you have at least five interested students?  And will meetings be held during school hours or after?

“Wow,” John exclaimed.

“Keep it simple is our model.  Please give this to Briana.  I’m sure she can come up with five or more interested students and we have plenty of counselors that would be happy to help her focus the purpose of the club.”

“Thank you, I will.  Uh, did you notify Debbie about Peter’s involvement?”

“No, I thought it best to notify you first.  I’d appreciate your advice on how to approach Mrs. Horvath.  She can be a little excitable,” Mrs. Wilson said with a grin.  John coughed.

“I’ll speak with her.  Is it possible to get a copy of the video to show her and the guys when they come home.  It’ll help with the explanation.”

“I thought you might ask,” Mrs. Wilson said as she handed John a thumb drive.

“Thank you; I appreciate it.  Most likely I’ll do show and tell when the boys get home.  It’ll save me from repeating myself and the fallout if someone blurts it out before I tell Brian,” John stated reasonably.

“Good luck.  Please refer them to me if they want to hear the official version.  Let them know that the school has a no tolerance policy regarding bullying and we’ve already taken steps to put an end to it before it begins.”

“That’s good to know.  Let me know if we can help in any way,” John said as he stood to leave.

“I will and as a member of this community, I’d like to personally thank you and your family for all your contributions to our community.”  John blushed as he shook Mrs. Wilson’s hand then left to go back to work.


Return to Open Arms