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Chapter 14: Scene 49: A quiet trip to town


ThinkLink: Has a friend ever told you about something bad that he/she was mixed up in?

       The trip into town's quieter than usual, and I know why. Instead of trading insults up and down the aisle of the old school bus like they usually do, Randy and his guys are talking real low in the back seat. I stare out the window, trying not to think about what a mess of rotten eggs they're hatching. The storm's passed over -- no clouds in the sky and sunshine so bright it hurts my eyes. Like home, blue sky and sunshine.

       "Listen up, you guys," Dan tells us as he pulls the bus in at the back of the supermarket parking lot in the little beach town. "You remember the drill. You've got one hour here along Main Street. We'll go into the store so you can buy chips or pop and then we'll walk down to the Arcade and you can play some video games. I'm right here with you, so watch your step. We head back at four o'clock sharp. Got it?"

       I squirm around, impatient to get off, jingling the quarters in my pocket. But the kids in the back charge down the aisle and elbow their way out the door first. When I finally make it down the steps, Randy's pushed his way into the phone booth in front of the store. I see him shut the door and put his hand over his mouth while he talks. Real cop-show stuff. He didn't need to go to the trouble. All I can hear is traffic noise and kids behind me arguing about their place in line for the phone. Dan stands off to the side, taking it all in, watching to see the guys don't get too rough. Finally, Randy comes out, a sly smile on his face. His guys crowd around him, anxious to find out if their plot's thickening .

       Finally, I get my turn at the phone. It rings and rings. I can't figure it out. I give it up to the next kid and walk along behind Dan to the Arcade , planning to try again at the pay phone there. Sure, Red and Pete have probably gone to town, but Mom ought to be there. She knows I call on Saturdays. I kick the sidewalk hard enough to hurt my foot. Dan looks around and then goes on. Likely Mom took the kids somewhere with Norman. I know I'm feeling sorry for myself, but what the hell. Who deserves it more?

       For a whole hour, one guy after another uses the phone at the Arcade . When I get another turn it's almost time to go. No matter. No one answers.

       I ignore Neil when he calls me, so he pulls on the arm of my jean jacket. "Walk with me, easy, like we was out sightseeing." While we walk back down the street to the bus, me not sure what a sightseer's supposed to look like. Neil looks over his shoulder. "Got to talk to you. This is what Randy plans to do..."

       I stop him. "All you have to do, Neil, is stay away from them on Monday. Keep me out of it."

       "He'll get me into it somehow. I know too much to leave behind."

       "Yeah. Know too much. This isn't a James Bond movie ."

       "I do too know too much." He sulks as we line up by ourselves at the bus. Everyone else is still down the street.

       "So what're they going to do?"

       "It's all set for Monday. This guy he knows is borrowing a car. He'll pick them up on the road right at lunch time. That's when you'll all be going down your side of the hill to get your lunches. They'll be out of sight long enough to get down and catch their ride before Dan misses 'em. Pretty slick, huh?"

       "It could work for the first few miles, but what're they gonna do then? They haven't got much money and no food. They're even planning to leave before lunch. Dumb."

       Neil kind of bristles , like he's obliged to stand up for the them, more or less being part of the plan. "They say they're gonna make it."

       "Wait a minute. You're not thinking of going with them are you? Supposing you did get away? They'd catch you sooner or later. Then back to Fire Oak. Or suppose Dan and Corrie figure out what you're all up to and stop it. The very least, it could wreck your home visits. You want to get outta here for good, don't you?"

       Neil bobs his head up and down. "No way am I going to miss a home visit."

       Part of me wants no part in this. But the rest of me is really tempted and it's not all revenge. It's about time somebody stops Randy cold. Tony said to stand up to him. It's the only thing he understands.

       Neil is still pestering . "You've got to help."

       "You can count me in."

       "Really? You mean it?"

       "Remember that place where you slipped and almost fell down the hill on Friday? It's close to where we'll be working Monday. We'll figure out something to do there that'll stop them, at least for that one day."

       "What good'll that do?"

       "If they miss their ride, the guy with the car won't be back, at least until they can call him again. By then you'll be home, and maybe I'll be on my way back to the ranch ."

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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