Thank you to all who have come along for the journey. This is the final chapter. I hope you like it. Lee Anne
Chapter 65-The End
Returning from the custody hearing, Ranger and Stephanie agreed it would be best to get Julie out of Miami as soon as possible. She didn't need to see her mother and step-father's pictures on every Miami news channel when the TV was on. He contacted pilot with the private plane that he hired for the trip to and from Point Pleasant saying they would be delayed slightly arriving at the airport and have an extra passenger. Tom, the pilot, assured Ranger the Lear jet would be waiting and to take his time.
Mia and Kayla kept Julie busy on the beach searching for the last of the seashells to take home and happy their new big sister was coming with them. Charlotte stopped even on the holiday to check on everything after seeing the news on New Year's Eve and brought a padded box for the beach treasures going to New Jersey. She instructed Stephanie not to worry as she would clean the house after they left and hoped the family would be coming back soon to much happier circumstances. Ranger's wife thanked her for all her hospitality and asked her husband to make sure there was something extra in her pay for all her hard work. He had it already taken care of contacting Horatio, who handled the Miami Rangeman payroll.
Ellen was busy making dinner in the gourmet kitchen and loving every minute of having it at her disposal.
"Despite the way it ended, I did enjoy being here, Ranger. I like your Miami house," Stephanie told him standing on the balcony that evening after all the suitcases were packed and waiting at the front door.
Kissing her left hand, Ranger gently reminded his wife, "Babe, it's our house. I thought maybe selling it, but I decided to keep it. There are seashells here," he chuckled at the ocean product that was a small piece of his everyday life now.
"Mia, Kayla, and Barney had fun," she teased, "finding them."
After breakfast of French toast, bacon, and fresh melon which Ellen prepared one last time in a housewife's dream, Frank and Ranger packed the rented SUV. There would be just enough space left for Julie's bags and cat after the trip to the Martine's.
Before locking the front door, Ranger went through the beach house checking all the doors and windows were secure and turned the key in the front door. Barney's head was out the window with his Mickey Mouse ears waiting to leave and had to lick his master's ear when he slipped behind the wheel.
"Thanks," Ranger told their dog. "Are you ready to go home, too?"
A stop at the guard's gate to say he was leaving and the young man checked Ranger's identity keeping back because of the tri-colored dog barking at him wearing mouse ears.
"He liked it here," Kayla translated for the guard and Ranger nodded as he drove away.
"Tourists," the man told his partner in the entry hut.
It didn't take long even with Miami morning traffic and at 8:50 the black Escalade parked in the driveway behind a Marshall's vehicle of the modest three bedroom ranch house.
Two heavily armed deputies got out and Ranger introduced himself, Julie, and Stephanie. Frank and the little girls were going to walk Barney while they were inside.
"She is only permitted to remove a cat and personal items," one of the men said holding a copy of the judge's order in his hand. "All computer equipment has been tagged as evidence and removed."
'That's all we came for," Ranger said before the padlock on the front door was removed. "I'll get you a new laptop, Julie."
The other agent stepped inside first before Ranger, Stephanie, and Julie could take a step.
"Miss Tickles!" the young girl ran to a furry grey cat sitting on chair just passing the time.
Looking at the fuzzy thing, Ranger thought it looked like its face was a little pushed in, but he didn't know anything about cats.
"Julie, do you have a carrier for your cat?" Stephanie asked.
She pointed to a closet in the entry, "In the bottom."
With a little coaxing, Miss Tickles was in it along with a couple of her catnip mice for the trip.
Ranger placed it near the door when the cat was locked in it. "Let's get your things."
"Twenty-four minutes," the guard by the door alerted them.
Julie started down a hallway with her father and step-mother following.
"There's a nice bunch," Stephanie whispered to her husband.
Ranger gave an eyebrow and nodded. He understood they were doing a job, but could be more courteous because a young girl was involved.
There was a large green cloth suitcase Julie removed from the closet in the hallway and went through her bedroom door which she may never come walking through again. Ranger removed a second one on the chance they needed it and followed his daughter.
"Pack your favorite clothes you wore to school. Where are your panties, Julie?"
She tapped the top drawer in her chest of drawers as she laid pairs of jeans in the open suitcase. "Dad, I want to take my Twilight books," she pointed to the shelves by her desk. Ranger began placing them in the suitcase he had.
"My porcelain mermaid, too." She said noticing her computer was missing from the spot on her desk.
Stephanie tossed Ranger a sweatshirt. "Wrap it in this."
He carefully wrapped the statue placing it between the books. There were photographs of her parents and friends he pulled off.
When the guard said 'Five minutes," Julie was zipping her school backpack placing her MP3 player, some CD's and DVD's in it and picked up the scruffy teddy bear off her twin bed.
There were three suitcases, her cat, backpack which were given the approval to be removed. Ranger was appreciative; the Marshall's didn't say anything when Julie walked through the empty rooms.
"OK, Dad," she told Ranger picking up a frame with a picture of the Martine family. It may be a very along time before they were back together. Julie never let any tears fall until Ranger backed the Escalade out of the driveway and turned back down the street.
"How could Mom and Dad do this to us?" she kept crying.
"I don't know, Julie," was all Ranger could say. He didn't understand it either.
Ranger returned the keys of the SUV to the rental office and Frank commandeered a luggage cart by the entrance of the building to unload everything. Miss Tickles was 'meowing' from the top of the luggage as it was pushed over to stop for the tramcar to take them to the main terminal. Barney kept sniffing the luggage and eyeing up the grey cat.
Walking into the shopping concourse, Stephanie said "Ranger" approaching a sporting goods store with a skier in the window. Julie needed a heavy coat for the cold of New Jersey when the plane landed.
"You're right, Babe." He, Frank, and Barney waited outside with the luggage while the females shopped. It seemed to cheer Julie up a little since they were at the airport. They had time before the television screens would be broadcasting the noon news. A reminder of what her parents were involved wasn't how he wanted his daughter to leave Miami.
Ranger chuckled pushing the luggage to the private plane wing of the airport. Mia and Kayla had on striped hats from the outdoor store with a big pompom on top and ear flaps with long strings to tie with red curls sticking out bouncing along. As they passed people they laughed at the two happy twins bopping.
James, the co-pilot from the airline company, was speaking with a porter as he waited for the Manoso family to arrive.
The worker immediately took the luggage cart after Ranger removed the cat carrier letting it fly with Julie.
"The plane is fueled and ready," he informed Ranger leading all of them out a gate door and down an accordion style walkway. Barney left his scent on the brick wall outside separating the gates so any other animal would know he was here and pranced on his leash in Stephanie's hand to the jet. Looking over her shoulder, waiting passengers were watching the dog show from the terminal windows. In their new hats, Mia and Kayla walked up the steps themselves.
Tom the pilot greeted, "How was Mickey Mouse?"
"We got a picture with him!" the twins replied.
Ranger was the last on the plane. Julie never gave a final glance to Miami. She said 'Hello' to the pilot and went to a leather seat with her cat beside her.
"I'll get us in the air. It's about 25 in Point Pleasant with clear flying," he told Ranger closing the airplane door after shaking the security expert's hand and Ranger went to join his family.
Stephanie had Mia and Kayla buckled of the leather sofa and took her place next to them.
"Hopefully, it will get easier, Julie," he told her kissing her head before taking his place next to Kayla.
"I like this airplane, Daddy," Mia said around her sister.
Giving a 1000 watt smile, "I'll remember that, Mia, for the next time." He even poked the pom poms on both of the hats they were still wearing and he figured would all the way to New Jersey.
In perfect flying weather, clear and sunny, Tom landed the Lear Jet safely in the same spot as when he took off. The blue XL-7 and the white one next to it were covered in a few inches of snow. It was a first for Julie and her new cold weather jacket kept her warm. Frank and Ranger loaded most of the luggage into the SUV Stephanie had purchased, but it was his and hers. There was a stop at the grocery store not only for food, but for cat food, litter, and a litter box. There wasn't much room left for the passengers, but they made it to the beach house.
Cresting 'Beach Drive', Mia and Kayla let out a loud "Our House" seeing the roof peak and the blue which became a complete house. The metal garage was up and complete where the carport once stood. Bobby was carrying a box out to a black SUV.
"Babe, the chickens have flown the coop!"
"Mom, Dad, you're back!" Lester called coming around the deck as Stephanie opened her door. "We're getting the last of our things. Our apartment is finished. The furniture you bought, Bombshell, is great."
Opening the backdoor, Barney was out and jumped up on Lester, then Bobby. Ranger caught their eyes so they wouldn't say anything stupid when Julie got out. He had spoken with Tank and knew he would relay the trouble Rachel and Ron found themselves.
"Hey, Julie," Bobby hugged her first, then Lester, who took the cat carrier from her.
The Rangeman wiggled a finger at Miss Tinkles giving a "Hey, Kitty" and the cat hissed backed.
"See, Santos, the cat knows you're a loon. Where is yours?"
"Tiger loves the apartment."
"Good place for it. We'll bring this stuff, Babe. Get the girls inside."
The coats, gloves, and hats came off and Stephanie hung them up for Mia and Kayla next to Julie's new one on the coat rack.
"Come on, Big Sister," Mia and Kayla each had a hand and were walking through the beach house to show Julie.
Stephanie found them upstairs with Barney in the third bedroom. The dog and cat, who found a soft spot on a bunk bed, were nose to nose getting to know each other. "Julie, I hope this will be OK for now. Your father and I will take down the bunks and get you a regular bed so there is more room in here."
"I kinda like it," she said. The blue bunk beds formed an 'L' on two walls with a small nightstand inside the door with a lamp, a closet with shelving, and a worn chest of drawers.
"We'll get you a TV for up here and a desk if you want. We have the roll top desk in the entryway if you want to do homework until you find something you like."
"Anything you want, Julie," Ranger told her carrying in her suitcases.
She thought for a moment and a sad look passed over her face. "Mom always hated it, but I like doing my homework at the table unless I'm studying for a test."
Stephanie agreed, "That were I did mine. My Mom was always baking in the kitchen."
"You can color with us there, Big Sister," Kayla offered.
That was something that Julie liked because she smiled at the two red headed girls. "Sounds good to me."
"The bathroom is across the hall and we'll put Miss Tickles' litter box in the laundry room downstairs," her step-mother told her before she and Ranger let Julie get settled into her new room.
There was a fire in the fireplace and Ranger was placing bowls around the dining room table when Julie came down with Mia, Kayla, Barney, and Miss Tickles was following. Ella and Luis were settled into their new Rangeman apartment a few miles away. The housekeeper knowing they were coming home, had a big container of homemade chicken noodle soup and banana bread waiting her them. There was also a pan of lasagna in the refrigerator for dinner.
"How's the house, Julie?" Ranger the father asked his older daughter.
She looked around the living room with the fire, the Christmas tree was still up along with the decorations, the older dining room table and chairs, and smelled the soup on the stove. Her Bad-Ass father known for wearing black most of the time he visited her was in old jeans and a long sleeve shirt. It fit him here.
"It's old and funky, Dad, but it's," she was trying to find the right word.
"Comforting," Stephanie said as she placed an old white tureen of soup on the table and ladled some into the bowls.
"Yeah," she agreed taking a place at the table feeling at home even with the chaos she left behind in Miami.
"Daddy! Daddy! Hurry, we got to go find the shells waiting for us!"
Stephanie was zipping up coats and the new hats were on their red curls. Mittens covered the small hands of Mia and Kayla to keep warm against the cold air.
"Babe, the seashells have been waiting all this time for us," Ranger chuckled kissing Stephanie. He was going down on the cold beach for seashells to fill the new garage.
"I'll turn on the dishwasher and be right down," she said to her husband as he trailed behind a dog and three daughters.
Standing on the beach, Carlos Manoso looked up at the house above him. It was old and a little funky. The screened in porch might not be perfectly level, but it was heartening seeing the light in the windows, a little smoke billowing up the chimney on the cold January day, and he was happy here in the new life before them.
"Hey, Mr. Fix-It," gloved hands came around him as Stephanie nuzzled into his jacket back, "you made my dreams come true, Mia and Kayla's, and now Julie's."
There were all three of his daughters running in the sand dropping seashells into the basket that had carried many before. It was perfect, seashells and all. "It's good to be home, Babe."
Rachel and Ron eventually made bail. It was discovered the owner of 'Miami Investments' would draw in his junior and senior partners into the embezzlement scheme by involving the spouses first. Lavishing them with many business parties and gifts as 'perks'. What Mr. Filch wasn't aware of was Ron had reinvested a lot of the client money which was filtered through Rachel. It was in a company account and he kept detailed records of which client the money came from so it could be returned. He was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation in the deal he arranged with the government. When he was released from jail, Ranger gave him a job with Rangeman doing the customer billing and a company apartment until he was on his feet. He did it more for Julie so she didn't worry about him. Ron was too afraid of Ranger and grateful to mess up; he also regained custody of his two children with Rachel.
Rachel Martine didn't fair as well. Once she made bail, Rachel went to see Sasha and Ajay, but also to recover money she had hidden back in a closet at her parents. She went right to the transit authority buying a bus ticket for Arizona, hoping to make it to Mexico. The authorities stopped the bus before it crossed the state lines. She was returned to jail until her trial. Rachel Martine was sentence to 10 years in prison and 10 years probation. Everything she and Ron had was sold. It only repaid a portion of the $1,467,542.14 which she spent on herself for manicures, a boob job, and a new house. Ron divorced her. It took him the remainder of his life, but he repaid every penny of the balance that Rachel spent of laundered client money. Rachel was released from federal prison after eight years for good behavior, but the manicurist job she obtained through the probation department hardly covered her living expenses, so she also had job cleaning a church a few nights a week.
Julie wrote to her mother in prison, but never visited her. Ranger wouldn't allow it. Even after her release, Julie hardly visited her because of the deep hurt her mother caused. When Rachel was sentenced, he was awarded full custody of his oldest daughter. Once she was settled in the Point Pleasant public school, Julie enrolled back in tap dancing classes. Mia and Kayla joined the young ballerina classes. Ranger and Stephanie sat proudly in the audience for each year-end recital.
Rangeman-Point Pleasant became Ranger's most successful office providing the top-of-line security to many beach communities along the Atlantic Coast and most of the casinos.
Mary Ann and Cliff adopted a toddler named Andy to grow up with Matthew.
There was a double wedding on the beach for Lester, Bobby, and their girlfriends the following summer. Kiera was born right after Lester and Samantha's first wedding anniversary. She was followed a few month's later by Robert Brown Jr, the son of Bobby and Melody. A large beach house a few doors down from Stephanie and Ranger went up for sale two years later and the couples bought turning it into a large duplex. Tiger split his time between his two owners.
Frank and Ellen never missed Trenton. Stephanie's father worked part-time for Rangeman along with the veteran's from the 'Point Pleasant Veteran's and Assisted Living Center'. Mrs. Plum loved her part-time job helping the neighbor with her catering business.
Grandma and Stanley did get married in a big hoopla of a ceremony at 'The Home' and honeymooned in Atlantic City hitting all the casinos.
A big Victorian house off the Boardwalk was purchased by Tank and Lula. She toned down her wardrobe by going to pastel spandex since she was a business owner of 'Ocean's of Romance' selling fine lingerie, bath gels, and those irresistible seashell candles Stephanie and now three girls made. It must have been the quiet seaside life, but Lula discovered she was pregnant shortly after their move. She and Tank had a small wedding at the blue beach house. The Rangeman second in command was a doting husband and father to Charity.
For Stephanie and Ranger, the blue beach house had the addition complete with a few modifications along the way. They celebrated right before their second wedding anniversary the birth of Christopher Simon Manoso. Frank's father's name was Simon and Ranger's grandfather was Simeone.
Most evenings you will find a couple walking hand-in-hand on the beach with two girls with red curls, a tall older daughter, a little boy running in the sand picking up seashells. A pair of Swiss Mountain dogs, Barney and Bonnie, lead the way. They lived in a beach house filled with wonderful memories and they were happy.