Previously in Picket Fences:

Bruce and Angela made up after their quarrel over her past. Payton had gone to meet up with Xavier at a mysterious mobile home when they were interrupted by unwelcome guests.

With Payton in the closet, Xavier heads to the back of the trailer and squeezes under the built-in bunk bed.

The two boys hear the men enter the trailer. Payton grips the cupcake in his hands, trying not to breathe loudly. Xavier looks out from under the old broken siding of the bed and can see three sets of feet. Payton hears one the men say, “This bastard better show up.” And then an older man’s voice, “Don’t worry he has to, he has no choice.” Another car pulls up outside, and a fourth man enters the trailer. “What’s the plan?” asks the fourth man. “We’re going to do it at the event …the F.A.C.T. fundraiser. That’s what she promised us,” says the older voice, “So that gives about a week?”  Payton, stunned by what he’s hearing, lets out a gasp and claps his hand over his mouth, knowing he might have just given himself away. “What was that?” says the elderly voice, abruptly. Unbeknownst to the boys, the fourth man draws his gun, saying, “You said it was just us.” Xavier sees the men head toward the sound and go into the room where Payton is trying desperately to be silent. To get the men’s attention away from Payton, Xavier quickly takes off his watch and throws it into the front room. The gold watch hits the wall heater and makes a loud clang. All the men turn to follow the noise. Knowing they have only seconds, Xavier swiftly comes out from under the bed to grab Payton. “You okay?” Xavier whispers “Yeah …yeah I’m good,” Payton replies. The two boys silently move to the back of the trailer and slip out of the window. “I want you to run to your car and get the hell out of here,” says Xavier. “What about you?” Payton asks with a tremble of fear in his voice. “I’ll be fine. Look, I’ll call you when I’m safe, okay?” Xavier says. The four men, having exited the front of the mobile home in their search and finding nothing, ambled back inside while the two boys put Xavier’s plan into action. Payton runs to his car and Xavier runs to his truck and the two-escape unseen by the four men. The fourth man steps into the trailer and notices the gold Rolex watch on the floor. He reads the inscription on the back, “To my loving son.” He grips it in his fist, the watch confirming his supposition that they were not alone.

Back at the Wingate home…

Angela and Bruce stand around the kitchen island, snacking on overdone steak and enjoying each other’s company. Bruce leans in for a kiss and then takes his plate to the sink. Just then, Angela receives a text from Connie. With a sickening feeling, Angela is reminded of what she is facing and is jolted back to reality. Bruce comes from behind and puts his arms around her. ‘I’m going to take a shower,” he says. Still reading the text message, Angela says, “Yeah, I’ll be up in a minute.”

Outside, Payton pulls into the driveway. Still waiting for the call from Xavier, he sits for a while until the phone finally rings. “I’m good …I’m home. Are you okay? …Are you home?” Xavier asks. “I just pulled into the driveway and I’m good,” says Payton. They each breathe a sigh of relief. Payton asks, “Who’s trailer were we in?” “It’s one of my dad’s old properties,” Xavier answers. “I’ll meet you tomorrow at lunch. We need to figure out what to do next,” Payton says, getting out of the car and hurrying into the house. He is spotted by Hank Walker, Madalyn’s husband, who is busy putting out the trash. “Hi, Payton,” Hank says, but his words fall on deaf ears as Payton rushes into the house.

Hank puts the can on the curb, pulls the phone out of his pocket, and begins scrolling through the text history. Not finding the text thread he wants to see, he dials a number. “I tried to see you tonight, but you won’t answer my calls. Please call back.” Hank hangs up the phone and heads into the house, closing the door behind him.

To be continued…