The Patty Duke Show

Ross, the Good Samaritan

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This is a follow-up to the third season episode Ross, the Peacemaker, where Ross tried to help Patty patch up an argument with Richard and everything went wrong. I miss the background characters and locations of the first two seasons and feel that the third season was lacking something without them, so I'm bringing in the shake shop (instead of Louie's, which was the place in the third season) as well as three of my favorite background characters to play supporting roles: Luke, played by John C. Attle in the episode Patty and the Cut-Rate Casanova, George Tutwiler, played by Jeff Siggins in The Perfect Hostess, and Alfred, played by Jeff Siggins in assorted episodes. George and Alfred are depicted here as twin brothers. Thanks to Kaze for plot help and the idea of where Ross ended up!

Somehow Cathy knew when she walked in the house that something had gone wrong. The feel of tension was in the air, although no one seemed to be in the living room or anywhere else visible.

"Hello?" she called, advancing into the parlor and glancing up the stairs. "Is anyone here?"

The door to her and Patty's room opened and Patty hurried into the upstairs hall. "Oh! Cathy! How was your date?" she called.

"It was fine," Cathy said. "But what happened here? Is something wrong?"

"Wrong?" Patty repeated. "Whatever gave you that idea?"

"I don't know," Cathy said. She started to head up the stairs. "You seem upset, Patty."

"Upset? Me?" Patty turned to go back in their room. "I sure am. And you wanna know why?"

"Yes," Cathy frowned.

Patty turned back, leaning on the doorframe. "Ross hid Richard's notebook so we wouldn't be able to find it when Richard came over to get it," she said.

Cathy blinked. "Why would Ross do such a thing?"

"Because he offered to, to help me," Patty said.

"To help you?" Cathy repeated. "I'm sorry, Patty, I'm afraid I don't understand."

Patty pushed away from the doorframe and began pacing the room. "Well, if Richard couldn't find his notebook, it'd give us time to talk and make up without it looking like that's what I wanted," she said. "But Ross just had to hide it in the laundry bag and Poppo just had to put the wash in and . . ."

"Oh no," Cathy exclaimed, her eyes widening. "You don't mean to say that . . ."

"It's probably the cleanest notebook in Brooklyn Heights right now," Patty said wryly. "And when Ross and Eddie were drying it out, guess what?"

"What?" Cathy asked, wondering how the situation could possibly get worse.

"I found pictures of Cynthia Howard!" Patty cried. "Richard had them in his notebook. He tried to say she gave them to him at the library, just wanting him to pick which one he liked best, but that can't be true. His notebook was here when he was at the library with Cynthia! And that means they've met up other times!"

"Did Richard have an explanation?" Cathy queried, stunned.

"I didn't let him get one in," Patty said. "That rat's been lying to me about Cynthia. How would I know he wouldn't do it some more?" She crossed her arms in frustration. "This is all Ross's fault."

"How is this Ross's fault?" Cathy frowned. "Especially if he was helping you?"

"Richard and I could've made up if I hadn't found those pictures, and I wouldn't have found them if Ross hadn't put the notebook in the laundry bag!" Patty threw up her hands. "But Ross just had to go and interfere in my love life."

Cathy set her purse on her dresser. "Really, Patty, is that being fair to Ross?" she said. "I've seen how he's wanted to help you the last few days. All of us have. And if you wanted him to hide Richard's notebook, then you're just as responsible as Ross. Anyway, would you have really not wanted to find those pictures?"

Patty's shoulders slumped. "I guess not," she said. "And I guess it was nice of Ross to want to try to help all on his own." She sighed. "Maybe I should talk to him."

"I think that would be a very good idea," Cathy said. "Is he here?"

Patty shook her head. "He escaped with Eddie after I yelled at him," she said.

"Well," Cathy said, trying to steer herself away from commenting on that, "it's getting late. He should be home soon."

xxxx

"Boy, I've never seen Patty so mad. I swear, that's the last time I try to do anything for her."

Ross was sprawled on the floor in Eddie's room, eating a cookie from a plate they had brought up. Eddie was leaning against the bed, munching on another.

"You're telling me," he said. "Talk about ingratitude. What are you going to do?"

Ross glanced at the clock. "I don't feel like going home yet," he said. "She's probably still steamed."

"Well . . ." Eddie looked towards the door. "We could ask Mom if you could stay here tonight."

"I'm not sure I'll feel any different in the morning," Ross said. "Do you think twenty-five would be too long to wait?"

"Twenty-five hours?" Eddie asked.

"No—my twenty-fifth birthday," Ross said.

"Don't you think your folks would come looking for you before then?" Eddie said.

Ross let out a big sigh. "Yeah, I guess you're right." He started to push himself off the floor. "I'd better stop putting off my execution."

Eddie stood as well. "I'll see you tomorrow," he said.

"If Patty doesn't kill me when I get home," Ross muttered.

"I'm sure your parents would stop her," Eddie quipped.

"Thanks," Ross said dryly as he headed to the door. "You're a real comfort. I bet you'll be a counselor someday."

"I try," Eddie said.

xxxx

Richard's evening was not going much better. He trudged into the shake shop, the offending notebook clutched in his right hand. He did not even notice Luke until the other boy was calling out to him.

"Hey, what happened to you?" Luke greeted. "You look terrible." He blinked in surprise. "And your notebook isn't looking too great, either."

Richard went over and pulled up a chair at the table where Luke was sitting with George and Alfred Tutwiler. He dropped the notebook onto the surface in disgust. "This has been one of the craziest, most frustrating nights of my life," he declared.

"Are you and Patty still on the outs?" Alfred asked, crossing his arms on the table as he leaned forward.

"Boy, are we," Richard retorted. "I just thought things were getting better and then everything blew up in my face!"

Luke looked at him in concern. "What happened?"

"Cynthia Howard happened," Richard said. "Again. I still had those pictures in my notebook from when she wanted me to pick which one I liked best."

"And Patty found those?" Alfred deduced. "No wonder you're in trouble."

"Well, she wouldn't have found them if Ross hadn't hid my notebook," Richard grumbled. "Now Patty doesn't believe me because my notebook was at her house when she saw me and Cynthia at the library." He threw up his hands. "Cynthia gave me the pictures a different time. When Patty saw us, Cynthia was asking me if I'd had the time to make a decision about them yet. But I never even got the chance to explain that far before Patty threw me out of the house." Richard glowered at the table. "She'll never listen to me again."

"No kidding." George frowned. "Isn't there something you could do? Maybe if you talked to Cathy, she could . . ."

"Ohh no," Richard interrupted. "I'm not getting anyone else mixed up in this. Not after everything that went wrong when Ross got mixed up in it."

Luke was confused. "Wasn't Ross just playing a prank?"

"No. He finally confessed that he'd offered to hide the notebook for Patty so that we could have time to make up without it looking like that's what Patty wanted." Richard glared at the crinkled cover. "But it didn't work. All because of those stupid pictures."

"I'd be happy to take them off your hands," Alfred said with a big grin.

"You can have them," Richard retorted. "I never want to see Cynthia Howard again."

"Do you really think this is the end between you and Patty?" George queried. "I mean, you've come through some tough spots before. And this is all a big misunderstanding. It's not like you dumped Patty to see Cynthia. Even if that's what Patty thinks," he mumbled.

"I don't know what to think," Richard said. "Patty's got the temper of a wild cat!"

"I say give her till tomorrow to cool off, then try again to explain," Luke said. "You need to try to fix this before a lot of time goes by."

"I know that. I want to try to fix it," Richard said. He slumped back. "This is such a big mess."

"Try eating something," Alfred suggested. "That should make you feel better."

"I don't even have an appetite," Richard said.

"This is an emergency," Alfred declared.

"You're telling me," Richard mumbled.

xxxx

Patty was pacing the room again, her nervousness reminding Cathy of a caged animal.

"Ross should be back by now!" Patty burst out at last. "Just look at the clock. Mom's going to be furious!"

"I'm sure he's fine," Cathy said from her bed, where she was reading a book. "He and Eddie are probably still playing games and have lost track of the time."

Patty stopped pacing. "Yeah, you're right, Cat." She sighed, leaning on the desk. "He'll be back any minute. And then I'll give it to him."

"Now, Patty. You're supposed to apologize to him when he comes," Cathy chided.

"I know." Patty sighed. "But him staying away is getting me upset again."

Again she looked to the clock. "I wonder if Mom's tried calling over there yet," she said. She crossed to the door and opened it. "I think I'll go ask her."

But as she stepped into the hall, the telephone rang. In the next moment Mrs. Lane's voice from the floor below reached her ears. She froze, stunned by what she was hearing.

"Hello? . . . No, he isn't. . . . He left more than half an hour ago? . . . I see. Well, Eddie, he should be along any minute. Goodbye."

Before she had even hung up the phone Patty had come down the stairs and was standing next to her. "What's going on?" Patty demanded.

Mrs. Lane started, looking to her daughter as she dropped the phone into its cradle. "That was Eddie," she said. "He was calling to see if Ross had gotten home yet."

"It doesn't take thirty minutes to walk home from Eddie's house!" Patty exclaimed. She folded her arms. "He's probably staying away on purpose, the little smart-aleck."

"Now, now." Mrs. Lane sighed.

Mr. Lane wandered out of his home office. "Say, what's all the commotion around here?" he frowned. "Isn't Ross back yet?"

"No, he isn't," Mrs. Lane informed him. "Eddie just called to find out if he was home."

"Oh. Well, he'll probably be here soon." Mr. Lane glanced at the clock and his eyes widened. "Is that really the time?"

"Yes," Mrs. Lane said, in a tone that meant she was worried but did not want to talk about it in front of Patty.

"He's probably goofing off somewhere on the way home," Patty said. She turned to head to the kitchen. "Let me know when he comes in."

Once she was through the door, Natalie turned back to Martin. "It isn't like Ross to be gone this late," she said, lowering her voice.

Martin frowned. "Do you think something's happened, Nat?"

"I don't know." Natalie frowned too. "Frankly, Martin, I'm wondering if Ross doesn't want to come home."

"Doesn't want to come home?" Martin cried in disbelief. Natalie shushed him. "Natalie, what are you talking about?" he asked, quieter now.

"Well, I had the feeling that Ross was upset about what happened when he tried to help Patty," Natalie said. "Everything went so wrong and Patty was so angry." She crossed her arms. "Maybe Ross doesn't feel like coming home and facing her yet. He might be wandering all over Brooklyn Heights."

Martin rubbed his chin. "I guess that's possible," he conceded. "Should we go look for him?"

"Let's wait a few more minutes," Natalie said. "But if he doesn't come back, then yes, we should."

xxxx

Ross was indeed wandering around Brooklyn Heights, his hands shoved in his pockets. He had left Eddie's house fully intending to go straight home, yet the more he walked the less he felt like going back. Maybe, he hoped, if he walked for a while he would finally get the courage to face whatever would greet him when he went through the front door. But it was not getting any earlier, and when he finally paid enough attention to see where he was, his stomach began to sink. He was not fully sure where he was, but it did not look like any place near his house.

"Oh great," he muttered in frustration. "Now where am I?"

He glanced at the unfamiliar mansions, seeking an address or street name. Slowly he began to walk again, moving towards the corner. But as he walked past one large house, the front door suddenly flew open and banged against the outside wall.

"Help!" a panic-stricken woman wailed, running out onto the porch.

Ross looked to her and did a double-take. "You're soaking wet!" he exclaimed.

"It's my sink!" the woman said. "Water's going everywhere and I can't make it stop!"

"That's too bad," Ross said. "Can't you call a plumber?"

"At this hour?" The woman gave him a pleading look. "Can you come in and help me?"

Ross stared at her in disbelief. "Me?" he repeated. "I'm not a plumber; I'm just a kid! I don't know how to fix a sink! And I was supposed to be home hours ago!"

"Oh please!" she begged. "You can't do a worse job than I've already done. My entire house is going to be ruined!"

Ross frowned, taking several steps forward. The sound of the gushing water was loud even from here. He sighed, shaking his head.

"Well, I guess you've really got a messed-up sink," he said, abandoning the various dark suspicions he had been harboring. "I could look at it, but I can't promise anything. When our sink goes on the blink, we have to call a plumber. Dad's no good at fixing it."

"Thank you!" the woman exclaimed. "Bless you! Thank you!"

"Yeah, sure," Ross said, embarrassed as he went up the walkway and up the porch steps. "Just remember, I've only got a few minutes." He stepped into the front hall and his shoes sank into the soggy carpet. "You've got a problem," he said flatly.

Through the doorway into the kitchen, water could be seen spurting in all directions—on the walls, ceiling, and furniture as well as the floor. One geyser shot point-blank at Ross.

He groaned inwardly while giving the spring a deadpan look. "You've got a really big problem."

xxxx

By the time another fifteen minutes went by, both Patty and Cathy were downstairs and worried. Martin was putting on his coat.

"This has gone on long enough," he said, glancing to Natalie. "Now I'm going out there and bringing our son back and then we're all going to sit down and have a talk."

"And I'm coming with you!" Natalie declared.

"So are we," Cathy said as she and Patty approached.

Patty nodded. "Boy, I'm really going to give him a piece of my mind when we find him," she said. "Imagine, making you and Mom and Poppo worry!"

Cathy gave her a Look. "Patty. . . ."

Patty's shoulders slumped. "Okay, making me worry too," she said.

Martin looked to them while opening the front door. "I don't think Ross is deliberately trying to make anyone worry," he said pointedly.

Patty looked away. "I know I shouldn't have yelled at him," she mumbled. "He was just trying to help me. I don't know, I guess I've just been so upset about this thing with Richard and I thought it was all going to work out tonight when Ross offered to help. And then it got a million times worse," she flatly finished, crossing her arms.

Martin managed a tired, fond smile. "We all lose our tempers now and then," he said. "The important thing is to learn from those experiences and try to improve ourselves."

"Yeah, I guess," said Patty. She looked up again. "But . . . what if Ross never wants to come home?"

Natalie's heart twisted at how sad and lost Patty sounded. "Oh, don't worry about that," she said, hoping she sounded cheerful.

"Sure," Martin agreed. "If he doesn't want to come back yet, he will when he gets hungry. After all, nobody beats your mother's cooking."

A weak smile made its way onto Patty's features. "Okay," she said, heading to the porch with a new determination. "Let's go bring him home."

"Maybe we should split up so that we can cover more ground," Cathy suggested.

"Good idea," Martin said. "Cat, you and Patty look around in some places you're familiar with. Does Ross ever go to the shake shop you kids hang out at?"

Cathy frowned as she considered it. "I don't think so, Uncle Martin," she said. "Not unless we take him there."

Patty nodded in agreement. "It's mostly for kids our age."

"Well, check anyway," Martin said. "He just might go someplace where he thinks we won't find him."

"Right!" Patty said. "Oh, what will you and Mommo do?"

"We'll go up and down the residential streets," Natalie said. "One way or another, Ross is coming home."

They all stepped onto the porch, Martin pulling the door shut after them. "Let's meet back here in an hour," he said. "Whether or not we find Ross."

Patty hesitated. "Poppo?" she ventured.

He looked to her. "Yeah?"

"What happens if we don't? Find him, I mean." Patty shifted her weight.

Martin hesitated too, exchanging a sober look with Natalie. "Let's not think about that," he said. "We'll find him."

Natalie nodded. What none of them wanted to voice, but surely were all thinking about, was the possibility that Ross could not come home right now. But she pushed it to the farthest corner of her mind. Ross was not hurt. He had not been kidnapped. And they were going to find him in the next hour.

She had to keep believing that or she would go crazy with worry.

xxxx

The shake shop was open late that night. As Patty and Cathy reached the building and pushed open the door, the sounds of the latest music hit filled their ears. Some kids were up and dancing, while others were gathered at the counter and still more were sitting at tables.

"It looks like a regular night," Patty said, stepping inside. "The place is hopping."

"Yes, with teenagers," Cathy said. "I don't see Ross."

"We haven't looked everywhere yet!" Patty retorted. "He might be hiding in the back. Come on!" Without waiting for an answer she hurried forward, weaving her way among the assorted dancers and tables. But she was so intent on seeking Ross that she did not notice she was walking too close to someone else—until they bumped into each other.

"I'm sorry!" she started to exclaim. But then she caught sight of the accident victim and her expression darkened. "Oh, it's you," she said in disgust.

Richard immediately went on the defensive. "Is that all you've got to say to me?" he said. "Patty, we still need to have a talk. And we're going to have it now!" he cried, grabbing for her arm.

She jerked away. "I don't have time right now, Richard," she said. "And I wouldn't believe anything you told me anyway."

Now his visage turned pleading. "Come on, Patty," he begged. "I don't want to leave things like they are. You could at least let me explain, even if you won't believe it," he mumbled.

Patty found herself softening. Maybe she should allow him that much. After all, she and Richard had been together so long. The thought that they were calling it quits for good was too depressing, even if she tried to make herself believe she wanted it. She knew she did not.

"Okay," she relented. "But not now, Richard!" she quickly added. "I really don't have time. I'm looking for Ross."

"Ross?" Richard stared at her in disbelief. "What would he be doing here?"

"Probably nothing, but we're checking everywhere," Patty said. "He uh . . . never came home after I yelled at him for what happened."

"Boy, no one's safe when you're mad," Richard said. He stuck his hands in his pockets. "I guess I could help you look for him, if you wanted."

"Thanks, Rich, but . . ." Patty trailed off, the offer fully sinking into her awareness. "Really?" she said. "You'd do that?"

"Sure," Richard said. "Even though he did make things a lot more complicated than they should've been."

"We won't talk about that now," Patty hurriedly said. "Cathy came in here with me to look around and . . . hey, where is she?" She looked around, bewildered. "Cat?" she called, going on tiptoe to try to see beyond the crowds. "Cathy?"

"Right here, Patty."

The sudden voice made her jump a mile. As she whirled to look, she took in the sight of Cathy with the Tutwiler twins and Luke. She stepped back, blinking in surprise.

"Cathy told us what's up," George said. "About looking for Ross and all that. And well . . ." He colored a bit. "We'd be happy to help look."

"Cathy told you . . . ?" Patty repeated, glancing to Cathy with questioning eyes. Had she been telling all about the evening's disaster?

"Oh, we already knew about the problems with you and Richard," Alfred said. "Cathy didn't say anything about that."

Patty frowned. "Then how did you . . ." She looked over at Richard, who tensed and averted his gaze. She glowered at him. "Nevermind," she said. "Sure, fellas, if you want to help us, that'd be great. We'll probably find Ross in no time, though. I bet he'll wonder what all the fuss is about." She shrugged and turned, heading for the door.

"What's eating her?" Alfred said.

Richard stormed past. "Nevermind," he echoed. "Come on, let's spread out and look for Ross."

The others followed.

xxxx

Ross was on his hands and knees in the water, peering under the sink with a wrench and a flashlight. Above him, water was shooting from both the spout and the drain and splashing around the kitchen. Nothing was safe from its wrath, including the stove, the table, and the cupboards.

"I don't know what to do!" he exclaimed. "What did you already try?"

"I turned . . ." The woman bent down to study the pipes. "That bolt, and that one over there. . . ." She pointed to two different locations. "It didn't help at all. One of the pipes starting leaking down there."

Ross hooked the wench over another bolt and tightened it. Instantly a cacophonous boom echoed under the sink. He gasped, backing out from the doorway. Now he was completely drenched. Water swooshed from inside, leaping from the newly burst pipe.

"I'm just making it worse," he said. "Don't you know anyone who's a plumber?"

"Rob and Rick," she said, wringing her hands. "They're both out of town. And there aren't any plumbing places open; I tried them all."

"I thought Roto-Rooter was open all the time," Ross said.

Behind them, the water continued to fill up the kitchen.

xxxx

As the Lane parents came to the corner of another block without success, Natalie stopped and turned, the fear evident in her eyes.

"He's just not around," she said. "Martin, I'm worried."

Martin was as well, but he tried not to show it. "Patty and Cathy have probably found him by now," he said. "I'm sure he's just fine."

"But what if he isn't?" Natalie looked up at him. "Martin, we know terrible things happen. Someone could have come along and taken him."

Martin flinched. "Let's not think about that yet," he said.

"I haven't stopped thinking about it and neither have you," Natalie said.

Martin sighed in defeat. "Okay, so I've been thinking about it too," he said. "But I wish I wasn't."

"Would Ross really stay away this long, even if he was worried about what Patty would say to him when he got back?" Natalie said.

"I don't know," Martin groaned. "I was hoping so, but . . ."

"It just doesn't sound like him," Natalie finished.

Martin checked his watch. "It's almost been an hour," he said. "We'd better head back. Maybe the girls really have found him."

"We can hope," Natalie said.

"And pray," Martin added.

xxxx

Neither Patty nor Cathy nor any of their friends had had any luck at all. By now they had wandered over most of the business district of Brooklyn Heights and were exhausted and worried.

Cathy sighed as she and George stepped out of another late-night diner. "No luck again," she sighed. "I'm afraid this has been a wild goose chase. Ross must have not come to this part of town."

George let the door shut behind them. "Gee, I hope he's okay," he said. "Maybe someone else found him."

"I hope so," Cathy said. "I don't want anything terrible to happen to Ross. And Patty would never forgive herself."

George glanced to Alfred and Luke, who were across the street and also looked dejected. "Maybe we should all go to your place," he suggested to Cathy. "If Ross has been found, he's probably there."

"You're right," Cathy said. "Our hour is almost up anyway."

George hesitated as they started to walk up the street. Cathy looked to him questioningly, sensing that there was something he wanted to say. "Is there something on your mind, George?" she asked.

"Well . . ." George turned a bit red. "I really am sorry about what's happened here. I wish the circumstances were different, but . . . I'm glad we were able to spend some time together tonight."

Cathy blinked in surprise. George averted his gaze.

"I know, I shouldn't have said that," he said. "It probably sounds unsympathetic and uncaring, all things considered."

"No," Cathy cut in.

She smiled. Ever since the time George had broken a date with her to go out with her and Patty's cousin Betsy he had been different, worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. It made her happy that he truly wanted to do better. She had thought of him as a friend before that incident, and nowadays they had fallen into a comfortable association of study sessions and occasional dates.

"I understand what you mean," she went on. "And . . . I'm glad too."

"Really?" George stared at her. He brightened. "No kidding!"

Cathy was gently amused. "Come on," she said. "Let's catch up with Alfred and Luke and see if we can find Ross at home."

xxxx

Closer to the residential district, Patty and Richard were also without success. By this point, Patty's frayed nerves were just about shot.

"Where could he be?" Patty wailed. "We've looked everywhere!"

"Maybe your parents found him," Richard said. "Or maybe he got back while we've been out looking."

"He probably didn't," Patty said, growing more hysterical with each word. "Some creep could've come and kidnapped him or he might be lying in the road somewhere or . . ."

"Patty, cut it out!" Richard interrupted. "Don't do this to yourself!"

"Well, where is he?" Patty cried.

"I don't know!" Richard said. "None of us know! You've gotta calm down so we can think!"

"What is there to think? Ross is gone because I yelled at him and we'll probably never see him again!" Patty stopped walking and turned away, covering her mouth with a hand to choke back a sob.

Richard stopped too, feeling at a loss. What could he really say to her? What she was worrying about actually was a possibility. They were always hearing about kidnappings and hit-and-run accidents on the news. But imagining it happening to someone he knew was too surreal and too horrible.

"See? You know it could be true too!"

Richard started back to the present. "Well, of course it could be true, Patty," he said. "But that doesn't mean it is." He sighed. "Come on, let's go to your house. It's almost been an hour. Maybe we'll find that Ross has been found and he's just fine."

Patty finally nodded. "I guess you're right, Rich." She ran a hand into her hair. "I'm overreacting."

"No, it's understandable," said Richard. "He's been gone for hours and we know awful things happen. But he could be okay and there could be another reason why he hasn't made it back."

"Yeah." Patty sounded far away.

"Rich, was that true?" she said at last. "What you said about Cynthia Howard, I mean."

Richard stared at her, surprised that she was even asking. "It's true, Patty," he said. "She asked me about the pictures, and gave them to me, when I still had my notebook. When you saw me with her, she wanted to know if I'd made a decision yet about which one I liked best."

Patty looked up at him. "So she doesn't mean anything to you?"

"Of course not!" Richard exclaimed. "You're my girl. There's no one else."

Now Patty's face lit up. "Oh Richard!" she cried, throwing her arms around his neck.

Richard was pleasantly stunned. "You believe me!" he said in awe as he held her close.

She nodded. "I should have let you explain before," she lamented. "Then maybe none of this would even be happening." She pulled back. "Do you still have the pictures?"

"I gave them to Alfred," Richard said. "I don't know how I'll tell that to Cynthia, though. Or why they're crinkled and water-logged."

Patty smiled. "Good old Alfred. You'll think of something." She laced her fingers in between his. "Let's go back, Rich. Maybe Ross really will be there." With the burden of their argument lifted, it was somehow easier to have hope. Everything seemed brighter now.

Richard smiled too. "Okay!" He drew an arm around Patty's shoulders as they headed down the street.

xxxx

Ross sloshed through the water that still filled the kitchen and living room, setting the wrench on a chair. Behind him, the woman hurried with an empty bucket—soon to be filled with some of the wayward water.

"I can't thank you enough!" she exclaimed. "Finally, the water's stopped!"

"I didn't really do anything," Ross said, embarrassed. "I shut off all the water in the house. You'll be in trouble if you don't get a plumber."

"I'll call one first thing in the morning," she vowed.

"Okay, great." Ross pulled open the front door. "I'll see you around. My family's probably ready to call the police."

"I'll be happy to help clear up any trouble that comes from you being so late," the woman said. "In fact, why don't you wait here and I'll call a cab?"

"I thought the phone was out," Ross said, glancing back into the living room. The phone jack was completely submerged.

Before she had a chance to reply, a cry from the sidewalk caused Ross to jump a mile.

"Ross!"

A familiar cry.

He whirled around, his eyes widening in shock. He could only stand stock still, staring through the open doorway at an equally shocked Patty and Richard.

"Patty?" he said in disbelief. "What are you doing here?"

Patty was already running toward the porch, Richard trailing after her. "You're soaking wet!" she yelled. "What are you doing at some stranger's house?"

"She came out screaming about her sink being messed up," Ross said. "She wanted me to help her."

"You?" Patty said, incredulous. "You're not a plumber!"

"I know!" Ross retorted. "All I could do was turn off her water."

Then he fully processed the scene before him. "Hey, what are you doing with Richard?" he asked. "I thought you guys still hadn't made up."

"Oh, this is a great time to be asking about me and Richard!" Patty exclaimed. "After you don't come home and worry all of us half to death!"

"Patty," Richard interjected, the warnings in his tone. Ross was cringing from the yelling, looking like he wanted to turn and go back in the house even though it was filled with water.

Patty stiffened, coming back to herself. "I'm sorry, Ross," she said. "I guess I've been doing a lot of yelling tonight."

"Boy, if that isn't an understatement," Ross said.

He sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I'm sorry I didn't come home," he said. "I was heading there, I really was. I would've called, but . . . the phone's out because of the flash flood inside." He jerked a thumb in the direction of the living room. The woman was currently scooping water into the bucket near the telephone, hoping to salvage the jack.

Patty peered around him. "Wow, it is wet in there," she said. "So you were really trying to help her with her sink?"

"Yeah." He shrugged. "What could I do when she came out practically begging me to come fix it?"

"Tell her you're not a plumber," Richard said.

"I did! But she wanted me to try anyway." Ross looked to Patty. "Are you mad, sis?"

Patty found herself beginning to smile fondly. "No," she said. "Not when it's like this." She sighed. "And I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier too. I know you were just trying to help, and I encouraged it in the first place."

Ross stared at her. "You really mean that?"

"Sure." Patty put an arm around his shoulders. "Now come on. We need to get you home and into some dry clothes. And Mom and Poppo and Cat are probably waiting by now."

"That sounds great to me," Ross said. He glanced back into the room. "My sister and her boyfriend are here," he called. "We're going to go."

The woman looked over at him, still occupied with the problem of the water. "Alright!" she said. "Thank you again! You were wonderful!"

Ross pulled the door closed with a wave and started down the steps.

Richard shook his head. "She doesn't even know how to turn off the water?" he said in amazement as they made their way back to the sidewalk.

"She's not a plumber either," Ross said. "She's even less of one than me."

"It sounds like it," Richard proclaimed. "Her husband needs to teach her a few things. My wife's gonna know how to turn off the water."

"I know how to turn off the water!" Patty retorted defensively.

Ross gave a mischievous smirk. "Really, sis?" he said. "I wonder who it was who almost broke the pipes from turning the water on too much."

Patty scowled. But instead of snapping in response, as she would usually do, she decided to forget it.

"Okay, so neither of us are very good," she said. "But that doesn't mean we can't learn and get better. At a time that's not almost midnight!" she added.

"I'll second that," Ross said.

"And I'll third it!" Richard exclaimed. "This has been a really crazy day. But at least it's ending well."

Patty and Ross both concurred with that.

xxxx

It looked like the makings of a party by the time they got back to the house. Not only had Martin and Natalie returned, but Cathy, Luke, and the Tutwiler twins had gathered there too. They were standing around the gate, tense and attempting to make small talk. None of them had noticed the approaching trio yet.

Patty pushed Ross forward. "They're all here because of you," she said. "You should be the one to let them all know you're back."

Ross stared at the group. "All of this because of me?" he repeated in stunned surprise.

"Yeah," Patty said. "Go ahead and make your grand entrance."

Ross suddenly felt awkward. "Uh . . . hi group!" he called, giving a small wave.

Instantly the talking ceased and everyone turned to look. Dead silence reigned for a small moment.

Natalie broke it. "Ross!" she cried, hurrying forward to her son. "Where have you been?"

"Don't you know we've been worried, son?" Martin exclaimed as he followed after his wife.

"Yeah," Ross mumbled. "I'm sorry. I really wasn't trying to get everyone worried. Things just happened that way." Then, to their amazement, he relayed the tale of the sink.

Martin shook his head. "Of all the places I thought you could be, I never once considered this," he said.

"Who could?" Alfred chimed in. "It's too weird. Imagine being hailed by a complete stranger to fix their sink!"

Ross nodded. "I don't really want to do it again," he said.

"Well, I think you did a very wonderful thing, Ross," Cathy said, with the others nodding agreement. "You did your best to try to help her. And I'm sure you would have called if the telephone hadn't been out of order."

"Yeah," Ross said.

"All's well that ends wells," Martin said. "Say, since we're all here, how about we go inside for some ice cream before the party breaks up?"

"No kidding! That sounds great to me, Mr. Lane!" George chirped. Everyone else was in agreement.

"Alright then. Let's go," Martin said, opening the gate. "Once we're inside, though, you boys had better call your parents and tell them where you are."

"I'll second that," Natalie smiled.