Dallas, Texas


Retired Ranger C.D. Parker stood behind the counter. Rangers Cordell Walker, his partner James Trivette, and Sydney Cooke sat on bar stools along with Walker’s fiancé ADA Alex Cahill.

“Gage’s birthday is a month,” C.D. said. “Any ideas on what he wants?”

“He wants a new brown leather jacket, a new watch, a Texas Rangers baseball cap, some new tennis shoes, and a copy of Tom Sawyer,” Sydney replied promptly.

“That’s it?” Trivette said in surprise.

“That’s it,” Sydney said.

“Anything he wants but doesn’t have?” C.D. asked.

“Well, he would like a copy of his parents’ wedding picture.”

“He doesn’t have a copy?” Trivette gasped. That was unthinkable, somebody not having a copy of their parent’s wedding picture.

Sydney hesitated before answering. “He used to have a copy but it uh got destroyed.”

“How did it get destroyed?” Trivette asked.

“One of his foster fathers tore it up,” C.D. explained for their benefits. After Gage’s parents had been killed in a car accident he and his older sister, Julie Gage, had been put in foster care.

“Oh,” Trivette said and lapsed into silence.

“I’m not going to ask,” Walker said.

“Probably a good idea,” Sydney told him. “But I know that is one thing I know he would like.”

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” C.D. said. “Jimmy, your job is to find a copy of that.”

“Me?” Trivette gaped at C.D.

“Yes you. I’ll go in with you on that.”

“I’ll go in to,” Alex offered and Walker and Sydney said they would help get it too.

“We’ll divide up the other presents and have the party here,” C.D. said thoughtfully.

“Is there a special kind of cake or something that he would like?” Alex asked.

“When he was little he said his mother used to make him a special kind of cake. I forgot what it was called but he said it was his absolute favorite. I think he still has the recipe somewhere in his house,” Sydney said thoughtfully.

“You find the recipe and I’ll make it,” Alex offered. “That is if C.D. doesn’t mind me cooking in his kitchen.”

“Not at all,” C.D. said and everyone stared at him. C.D. normally didn’t like people using his kitchen. “Hey, I’ll do whatever it takes for Gage to have a good birthday. It’s on the tenth of May right?”

“Right,” Sydney confirmed. “He’ll be turning thirty-two.”

“I’ll get on the phone and call some of his best friends,” C.D. said. “They might want to come down.”

“Don’t count on Julie coming down,” Sydney warned. Gage and Julie did not get along at all.

“Surely she’ll come down for her own brother’s birthday,” C.D. said.

“Julie won’t come,” were the first words out of C.D.’s mouth when they entered the Bar & Grill the next night.

“I used to wonder why she and Gage never got along and now I’m beginning to understand why,” Walker said with a sigh.

“Poor boy,” C.D. murmured and Walker and Trivette had to stifle smiles. It was kind of funny to hear Gage referred to as a boy since he was anything but a boy.

“Any luck on the picture, Jimmy?” C.D. asked.

Trivette shook his head. “Not yet. I managed to get a list of the people who attended and I’ve been calling them and asking if they have a copy of the wedding picture. Negative so far but I’ve got ten people left to try.”

“I got the recipe,” Sydney gasped as she collapsed at the counter, waving a white index card above her head.

Alex grabbed the card and her eyes bugged out as she looked at the recipe.

“Leave in freezer ten hours, cook on 550 degrees, sprinkle on plenty of basil?” she stared at the card.

“Basil?” Trivette repeated. “Remind me not to eat any of it.”

“Jimmy, you’re going to eat and you’re not going to complain,” C.D. said empathetically.

“Are we discussing chili?” they turned around to see Francis Gage standing behind them. Alex slipped the card into her pocket.

“As a matter of fact we were,” C.D. said. “I was telling Jimmy about a new chili recipe I found and I was trying to get him to eat it.”

“I’ll eat it,” Gage offered. “I like your chili.”

“I’m glad somebody appreciates my cooking,” C.D. said as he plopped a bowl of chili in front of Gage. Immediately the young Ranger dug in and Trivette made a face.

“How can you eat that stuff?” he asked.

“Hey, compared to some stuff I’ve eaten this is excellent.”

“I’d hate to taste the stuff that tasted worse,” Trivette muttered.

“It was my cooking,” Gage said.

“Remind me to never accept an invitation to dinner form you.”

“Trivette, if I did invite to eat dinner with me it would be at a restaurant.”

“That’s a relief,” Trivette said and Gage made a face at him.

Dallas, Texas

One Month Later


“Is everything ready?” Walker asked.

“Let’s see. Balloons are blown up; we’ve got cards, presents, cake, and guests. The only thing we’re missing is Gage,” C.D. said.

“Do you have the special present?” Walker asked.

C.D. nodded and held up a small box covered in blue wrapping paper. “Right here. It arrived yesterday. Sydney, you did manage to get Gage to come right?”

“Right,” Sydney nodded. “I told him I wanted to discuss a case and he said he would come. I bet he thinks I’ve forgotten that it is his birthday,” she said with a giggle. “I managed to get what he wanted out of him by asking him stuff when he wasn’t paying attention.”

C.D. sighed and said affectionately, “When you think that boy isn’t paying attention it’s usually when he’s paying the most attention.”

“I see him,” Alex said. “His car just pulled up outside.”

“Remember to say ‘happy birthday’ when he comes in,” C.D. reminded them and they fell silent.

Gage sat inside his car outside of C.D.’s and sighed. He had been hoping that someone would remember it was his birthday. His sister had called him at ten a.m. to tell happy birthday but he wished someone else had remembered it. If his sister, who was notorious for forgetting about his birthday and other holidays, could remember it couldn’t somebody else remember it? Like Syd or C.D.?

Reluctantly he got out of the car and entered C.D.’s. Absent-mindedly he noticed the balloons but didn’t pay any attention to them. As soon as he reached the counter he heard “Happy Birthday, Gage.” He stopped still and stared at Walker, Alex, Trivette, Sydney, and C.D. who were smiling at him. Then he noticed the ‘HAPPY BITHRDAY’ banner over the bar.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“It’s your birthday that’s what’s going on,” C.D. said.

“I thought you had forgotten that it was my birthday,” Gage stammered.

“Gage, we’ve been planning this for a month,” Walker told him. Gage just looked at him.

“Well don’t just stand there have a seat,” C.D. said and mechanically Gage sat down.

“Does he get presents or cake first?” Trivette asked.

“Presents,” C.D. said firmly.

“I got presents?”

“Do you honestly think we’re going to go to all the trouble to throw you a party and not get you any presents?” C.D. demanded.

“I don’t know,” Gage said. “I’m still in shock.”

“Well you certainly got presents. Six of them as matter of fact.” C.D. pulled out a white package and handed it to Gage.

“Hey Tom Sawyer!” he said delightedly as he tore off the wrapping paper.

“Here’s mine,” Trivette said and handed Gage a small blue box.

Gage opened it and found a blue and silver watch inside. “Thanks, Trivette. My old watch wasn’t working very well.”

Walker handed Gage a box the size of shoebox and Gage found a Texas Rangers baseball cap inside.

“Thank you,” Gage said.

“Here’s my present, Gage,” Alex said and handed him another shoebox sized box which contained a pair of blue and white tennis shoes.

Sydney gave him a brown leather jacket then C.D. reached behind the counter and pulled out a flat blue box.

“And this,” C.D. said with the air of a magician, “is a special present.”

Gage eyed the box warily. “Is it going to explode?”

“No, it’s not going to explode.”

“Catch on fire?”

“No now stop being silly and open it!” C.D. hollered.

“All right, all right. You don’t have to yell, I’m not deaf you know.” Gage tore of the wrapping paper revealing a small flat black box. He pulled the lid off the box and had opened his mouth to say something but when he caught sight of what was in the box he remained silent.

At last he said, “How did you know I wanted this?”

“Sydney told us,” Alex said.

“I hope it was all right,” Sydney suddenly looked worried.

“It’s all right. In fact it’s wonderful,” Gage said as he pulled out what was in the box. They all looked at it for the only one who had seen it was Trivette and that was when he had wrapped it up. A woman who looked like an older copy of Julie Gage stood next to a man who looked just like Gage. Trivette had chosen well in the frame; he had gotten a gold frame for the picture.

“They look very nice,” Alex said.

“They were nice,” Gage agreed.

“And you look just like your dad,” Walker said.

“Thanks,” Gage smiled and Walker got the feeling many people didn’t tell him that.

“Are you ready for cake?” C.D. asked.

“Of course I’m ready for cake. I’m starved,” Gage put the picture back in the box and sat it down on the counter, making sure it was out of harm’s way.

C.D. went into the kitchen and came back out carrying a cake that read Happy Birthday, Gage. He sat the cake down in front of Gage and immediately they all broke into song.

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Gage, happy birthday to you.”

“Thanks,” he said. “And thanks for not saying Francis.”

“You’re welcome,” C.D. said and cut out a generous portion of cake and gave it to Gage.

Gage took a bite and froze.

“This cake tastes like the cake my mom used to make me for my birthday,” he said.

“It should,” Alex said. “It’s the same recipe.”

“I’m not going to ask how you got it,” Gage said.

“You can have the recipe back,” Sydney said and handed Gage the white index card back.

“Thank you, Syd. And thank you all. This is the best birthday I’ve had in a long time.”

“You’re welcome,” they all said.