George Martin and his partner Mike live a comfortable life in Jacksonville with their Irish setter, but something's missing. Maybe George, a captain in the sheriff's office, has just been working too hard again. There's been a rash of break-ins in the area, and the homes targeted all seem to belong to older gay men.
Then when the time finally comes for George and Mike to take their vacation, they pack up and head to their mountain cabin for two weeks-only to find a small boy living in their generator shed. Robbie, who bonds with George right away, has witnessed an unspeakable tragedy, but that is just the beginning of the trouble.
Alone in the world apart from a very ill maternal grandmother, Robbie stands the very real risk of becoming a ward of the state if George and Mike can't convince a bigoted judge to change his mind. Meanwhile, George still has a job to do: solve the break-ins-and a murder -- and track down who's responsible.
By mid-December I was looking forward to Christmas in the mountains. It would be an extra-special Christmas this year, given that it would be our first Christmas with a six-year-old in the house. I pulled my department car into our driveway one afternoon, noting that Mike’s car was already there. I was home a little early, and so, it seemed, was he. I let myself in the backdoor and had barely turned the lock when I was attacked from behind.
“Sit,” I said to Thor, our Irish setter, who had reared up and placed his front paws on my shoulders, more or less pinning me to the door. Thor sat just as Robbie came running up to the door.
“Hi, Dad,” he said.
“Hi, yourself,” I said, picking him up for a hug and kiss. “How was school?”
“It was great,” he said. “We’ve got a new boy in class.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yes, sir. He transferred from a ‘piscopal school on the other side of town.”
“Robbie,” I said, “the word is E-piscopal. Give it a try.”
“Sure,” he said. “Piscopal.”
I chuckled and said, “Well try it again later. What’s the new boy’s name?”
“Sandy,” he said, “and you know what?”
“What?” I said.
“He has a hyphellated name and two daddies just like me.”
“Really,” I said, choosing to ignore his mangling of the word hyphenated.
That’s interesting, I thought. “Where’s Mike?”
“In the kitchen.”
“Okay, big guy. Give me a minute to change clothes, and I’ll join you and Mike in the kitchen.”
I went to the master bedroom, pulled off my clothes, and selected khakis and a long-sleeved shirt. Thor and Robbie sat on the bed watching me intently, both waiting for attention. In the kitchen, I gave Mike a hug and a brief kiss, and Thor a treat.
“I just heard the latest news,” I said.
“New kid at school, two daddies, hyphellated name.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said, “that news.”
“I really don’t know much more than Robbie does. A kid transferred over from St. Andrew’s. I didn’t meet him or his parents.”
“Shit,” I said. “You’re no help.”
“You said a bad word,” a voice said from behind me.
“I’m a grown-up,” I said. “It’s allowed once in a while.”
Mike set the kitchen table, and we sat down to eat. Robbie was babbling nonstop about the events of the day.
“Do you have any homework tonight?” I said when he finally ran down.
“I have to read ten pages in my book.”
“Okay,” I said. “That’s what we’ll do as soon as we finish dinner.”
After dinner we settled down in the den and patiently listened to Robbie reading the requisite ten pages. “Very good,” I said when he’d finished.
“Okay,” Mike said, “now you have to take care of that Christmas card you picked out for your granny.”
We set the card on the desk and waited while Robbie laboriously printed “Love, Robbie” on the card for his grandmother.
“Good,” I said. “I’ll address it right now, and we’ll put it in the mailbox tomorrow.”
“When will Granny get it?”
“In two or three days,” I said. “When you see her at Christmas you can ask her about it.”
“Can I take my keyboard and play for her?”
“You bet. Maybe you should go practice right now.”
As it was a school night, the deadline for bath and bed arrived early, and we got Robbie tucked in with his two favorite stuffed animals, Andy the alleged Panda (alleged because he was too old and bedraggled to positively identify his species) and Raff the Giraffe.
In the den, I said, “Now, what do you know about the new kid?”
“Not a thing. All I know is that a new kid transferred in, and Robbie somehow managed to find out that he had two daddies. That’s it.”
“That’s it?” I said.
“Babe,” Mike said, “unlike yourself, I’m not a trained investigator.”
“Perhaps,” I said, “but surely you can find an excuse tomorrow to pump the teacher for details.”
“I’ll give it the old college try. If anybody has the scoop, it ought to be Mrs. Green.”
“One can only hope.”