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THIRTY-EIGHT
Zach dove toward the side of the kidnapper to ensure that the monster’s fall would be away from rather than on top of his son. Flying through the air, arms outstretched he saw Mary running towards Brian, fear and furry in her eyes. Though he plainly saw Mary in front of and to his right he heard her voice scream something unintelligible from behind him. Distracted from his prey the kidnapper deftly moved from his path of flight and Zach landed headfirst in the surf as Enrique, Thomas, Jordan and the fourth New Yorker cut off the kidnapper’s escape route up the beach.

“You move one inch and you will never move again!” Enrique screamed at Joseph. “Bryan! Bryan! Get up! Come here,” he added, crouching low and extending both hands to the boy who sat crying in the surf.

“Stop! Stop!” Mary yelled as she ran next to Enrique shaking her head furiously, Bryan held close in her arms. “That’s not my Bryan! And that man is Brian’s father! His mother’s right there!” she added, pointing at Elizabeth. “This is all a huge misunderstanding!” Beth surged into the surf, plucked her wailing son up from the waves and flashed vengeful eyes at the four men who surrounded her and her family. “Beth! Stop! It’s me! Mary! It’s okay! It’s okay!”

Zach rose from the water, faced up shore, saw two of his wife and two of his son and froze. “Oh, Jesus Christ,” he muttered under his breath. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“Mary?” Beth asked, her voice raw but ferocity receding. “What the hell is going on?!”

“I think we are the victims of the most ridiculous set of preposterous coincidences the world has ever seen. Zach? Meet my cousin Beth. Beth, this is Zach and our son Bryan, and you must be Joseph?” she added, shaking her head. “I’ve seen your picture but we haven’t met.”

Joe strode to Beth and wrapped his arms around his wife and child, voiceless sobs causing his chest to visibly sputter. “Brian, Brian, Brian. It’s okay. We’ve got you now. We’ve got you now.”

Enrique turned to his left, threw his hands out palms skyward and asked his friend Thomas, “What in the hell happened here?”

“You told us to run,” Thomas replied, arms folded across his chest, nostrils flaring, “so we ran. Jesus, guys. ‘Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?’”

Joe tilted his head to the side, completely missing Thomas’ Pop-Culture reference. He then turned to Zach and stared at him for three long seconds. “You thought my Bryan was your son?”

“Yes! I’m sorry! They look so much-”

Joseph held his hand next to his face, palm facing Zach. “And you ran after me to save your boy?”

“Yes.”

“I see,” Joe said nodding. “I see,” he repeated as he squeezed his family once more before wading into the ocean, hand outstretched. “My name is Joseph Gunnarson. This is my wife Mary and our son Bryan. It is nice to finally meet you,” he said, shaking hands. Pausing he added, “Your reputation precedes you. Bryan?” he asked, squatting low and motioning with both hands for his wife and son to join them. “These three are your cousins. I do not know who these other men are but apparently they too were willing to take great risks to protect an innocent child from harm so it would honor me to make your acquaintances?”