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Chapter 14: Scene 50: It's payback time!



On Monday the sun's shining again, but the trail's still wet and muddy from the hard rains that blew in Saturday night and Sunday morning. I bring up the rear, breathing in the sweet smell of wet cedar chips we'd spread the week before. The crew's all loaded down with shovels and the rest of our gear, and we slip and slide our way up the fresh cut we made through the brush last week.

       Randy plays crew leader for all it's worth. He snarls at me, herds Neil around like a pet billy goat and leaves Dan to corral everybody else. I can see this will be a long morning. Before long, though, we're hacking and chopping away at the underbrush, making some progress for a change.

       Neil finally gets away from Randy, slides down the trail and stops next to me. "When I get out of here, I'm gonna bring my family and show them the trail I built. I bet thousands of people will hike it."

       I interrupt his kiddie story time. "It's almost the time Randy said they'd take a hike. Does he still think you're going with him?"

       "Yeah." He juts his chin out. "You think I'm gonna tip him off by telling him I'm not going? How about you? You still got a plan?"

       "There's twenty reasons why I shouldn't." I don't tell Neil the one reason I will. It's payback time for all the grief Randy's given me. And this is my one chance to get back at him without getting myself in trouble. They'll think I'm a hero, even. "OK. Let's do it."

       "Great. What're we gonna do?"

       "We'll fix it so he'll never know what happened to him." I take Neil over to a sharp bend in the path and we look down into a deep gully . I lean out over the edge. "Here's my idea. See that tree growing out of the side down there? It's big enough to hold you. I'll let you down there with this rope I brought up from the bus."

       "How's that going to stop Randy?"

       "He's crew boss, isn't he? Dan'll make sure he helps."

       "And what if he doesn't?"

ThinkLink: Have you ever put yourself in danger just to avoid something? Did your plan work? Tell about it.

       "Randy can't make you go with him if you're down in a gully . So you're safe either way. Here's how it works. I yell for everybody to come. You yell 'Help! Help!' When they get here, you tell them you fell down the hillside."

       "Me? How about you going down there? I could fall all the way."

       We both stare down the gully , fifty or sixty feet to the bottom. The maple tree leans out over the brush, about fifteen feet below us, growing almost sideways to the slope. "I'm too heavy for you to hold with a rope, but I can hold you."

       He glares at me out from under his eyebrows. "Sounds like I'd be better off going with Randy."

       "You serious? When you're on the run, you can never go home. They'd be watching for you there. That what you want?" Neil shakes his head, but he looks more than a little scared. I better get this over quick. "All you have to do is straddle that tree down there like it was a horse. And then hang on tight. You won't fall. Just don't look down."

       "Easy for you to say, Cowboy."

       "It'll work." I drag up the coil of rope. "See? I'm making a loop." I slip it over his arms and head and down around his chest. "You ready? We gotta do this now, before Randy takes off."

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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