J.D. moved to another seat and picked up some magazines that sat on the corner table. He grimaced in disgust. All business and travel magazines. He put them back down and resumed looking around the busy foyer of the Holiday Inn while he waited for Buck to visit with his father. Various Halloween decorations were displayed prominently and his keen eyesight picked up a huge bowl of candy in the lower lounge area. Looking around to ensure no one was watching, he stood up and casually moved down the few steps and over to the large table and its enticing bounty. Twirling slowly around to ensure there was still no interest in him, he quickly began stuffing his pockets with candy. When his pockets could take no more he grabbed one last handful and returned to the row of lounge chairs Buck told him to wait in.
He had barely finished his second candy when the elevator doors opened and Buck strode out. J.D. stood quickly and crossed the distance to meet him.
"Everything ok?" he asked worriedly.
"Yeah," Buck replied ambiguously.
"You sure?" J.D. pushed. "Coz you werent up there very long."
"We had long enough," Buck replied. "For now," he added hopefully.
"How did it go then?"
"Different to what I expected," he replied ruefully and seeing J.D. about to launch into more questions he cut him off.
"Come on. Weve got to get going back. Well already be late."
J.D. nodded and accepted the brief explanation. He was curious to know more but decided to wait and see if Buck was any more talkative on the return trip.
Thirty minutes later they were back on the interstate; the traffic moving at speeds only just less than the limit. Buck had remained quiet so J.D. had amused himself surfing radio stations for different songs and slowly eating his cache of candy. Each time he unwrapped one he offered one to Buck and finally the junior queried him.
"Where did you get all the candy from?"
"The hotel lobby," J.D. replied. "They were giving it away," he added defensively.
"Ah huh," Buck smiled.
"Hey I had to get some candy seeing as were NOT going trick or treating!" J.D. complained
Buck laughed aloud and J.D. grinned, happy that he had taken his friends mind off whatever had happened back at the hotel. At least temporarily, and determinedly he set about keeping him distracted so it was not unusual that the conversation eventually came around to football. And with that the usual bantering and teasing over their favorite teams ensued.
"You know if it wasnt so cold, Id let the top down and let the wind take that hat!" Buck teased and laughed at the look of horror that lit up J.Ds face.
+ + + + + + +
As she drove away from the school Beatrice felt her fear grow but she did not let it slow her down. She pulled out her cell phone and called Clint. She began talking almost as soon as he said hello. "Clint, its me. Buck went to see his father. He found the letter from him and went to see him. I just left the school and Chris told me everything. We still dont know if Rick has anything to do with my letters or what happened to Gage. Buck knows I hid something from him. Hes got to be so hurt by that. Ive got to find him, Clint. I have to make sure hes safe."
On the other end of the phone call, Clint could hear that Beatrice was close to losing control. And while he was equally as concerned as she was, he tried to keep his tone level and reassuring. "Beatrice, I want you to come and pick me up and well go together. Do you hear me? Well go together."
In her car Beatrice sighed in relief at Clints offer to go with her. "Ill be right there," she stated.
"Ill be ready," he promised. "And Ill see if I can get a call out to the Louisville Police Department and have them send a patrol to the hotel just to keep an eye on things. Its going to be alright, Beatrice."
She nodded though she knew that he could not see it. "Thanks, Clint," she managed to whisper as she fought back the tears that threatened.
"Ill see you in a bit," the cop told her, wanting to get her off the phone because in her state she did not need any added distractions.
"Okay," was her only response before the line was disconnected.
He was actually waiting for her outside his house when she arrived. He strode quickly over to the drivers door and said, "Let me drive." Seeing that she was about to protest he explained, "Im a cop, Beatrice. If we get stopped that might be able to help speed us through."
Realizing the truth in his words, she nodded and moved over to the passenger seat. As he settled in, adjusting the seat position and mirrors she asked, "You wouldnt also happen to have one of those sirens and lights we could attach to the dashboard, would you?"
"I wish," he answered with a smile. As he threw the car into reverse he said, "Well just have to make do."
She nodded as she buckled her seat belt. But it did not matter how fast Clint went, it still would not be fast enough for her liking.
But Clint did manage to get them into Louisville in record time as they were not stopped once and they managed to find the hotel fairly easily. The entire drive up there, Beatrice had been trying to call Rick, but his cell phone went directly to voicemail and the hotel phone had been placed under do not disturb." All of that had only increased her fears for her son.
She had bolted out of the car as soon as Clint pulled it into a parking spot, but his sharp call of her name stopped her in her tracks. "Lets go easy, Beatrice."
She nodded and again attempted to regain her composure. Together they entered the lobby and made straight for the elevators. When they reached his floor and his hotel room, Clint knocked loudly, but she answered when Ricks voice demanded to know who it was. "Its Beatrice, Rick."
The door flew open and he blinked at her in surprise. "Beatrice? What are you doing here?"
Without preamble she strode into the room. "Im looking for Buck. Where is he?" she demanded.
Rick looked over at Clint before turning back to Beatrice as she looked around his hotel room. "He left over an hour ago." Still at a loss as to why Beatrice was there and who the intimidating man with her was he asked again, "What are you doing here?"
"He left? Where was he going?" Beatrice asked as Clint finally stepped into the room, brushing past Rick and closing the door behind him.
"I dont know where he was going, Bea. I thought he was going back home. He said something about having to meet some friends. Now would you please tell me why you had to come down here and who is this man?"
"Im Clint Larabee," the cop stated, automatically offering his hand to the bewildered man. "Im a friend of the family. Beatrice did not know that Buck was coming to see you and when she found out she was worried. We did try calling, but couldnt get through."
Rick shook his hand, like Clint simply following through the motions. "So you drove all the way out here?" He turned back to Beatrice for the answer. "You really didnt want Buck to see me, did you?"
Her eyes widened as she began to imagine how all this looked to Rick. Looking at him, she knew that he had nothing to do with the letters she had been receiving and that he was not a threat to her or Buck. In fact he seemed to be only a shadow of the boy that she had known and loved. "No, Rick, thats not it at all. Its just that theres been so much going on. I I just cant explain it all. Im sorry."
"Well why dont you try explaining it?" Rick demanded. "You drove all the way out here for some reason."
Beatrice looked imploringly at Clint. She wanted to leave, wanted to get back home and find Buck. She needed to hold her son in her arms and feel his reassuring presence once again.
Understanding both Beatrices needs and Ricks as well, Clint came to a compromise. "Beatrice, why dont you wait for me in the car. See if you can get a hold of Buck on the phone. And Ill try and explain to Rick here."
She nodded, once again so very thankful that Clint was such a good man and a true friend. She turned back to Rick and crossed over to stand directly in front of him. "Im sorry we had to meet again like this, Rick. I hope your meeting with Buck did go well."
His gaze dropped to the floor, as he answered, "Not as well as I wanted. But youve raised a fine son, Bea. I think hes willing to give me a chance."
"Im glad to hear that, Rick." And he could see and hear that she truly meant that. "And thank you." With that she gave him a gentle hug of farewell before catching Clints eyes to remind him that they needed to hurry. When she received his nod of understanding she smiled again at Rick and said goodbye before exiting the hotel room. Rick turned to Clint and waited for the explanation.
+ + + + + + +
When the boys finally arrived at Clints house, Chris was surprised that while his dads car was in the driveway, he was not at home. He knew that they were later than they had told him that they would be there, but his dad had said that he was not planning to do anything all night except give out some candy in case he got any trick or treaters. Buck and J.D. had shown up around 6:30. Chris had taken one look at Bucks face and had known that meeting his father had not gone as well as the young man had hoped. As J.D. ran to get the costume for Nathan, Chris had pulled his oldest friend aside and told him that Beatrice had dropped off the costume for Josiah and that he had told her that he had gone to see his father.
Buck had protested at first, but Chris had reminded him that she had seemed pretty worried and that with everything else she had going on, he didnt think it was fair to leave her in the dark. Buck had accepted that. But when Chris had told him to call his mom and let her know that he was home safe, the junior had said that he would when they got to Clints, that he needed some time to figure out what he could say to her. Knowing that it probably was not a good idea to push Buck too hard, Chris had accepted that and had just told him not to forget.
Now though, as he let his friends into his house, Chris moved into the kitchen to see if his dad had left him a note. He had no idea why, but the kitchen had always been their message center. And sure enough there was a note stuck to the refrigerator with the little magnets that his mother had collected. Quickly reading through it, he called for Buck. When his friend joined him, Chris simply handed over the note and motioned for him to read it.
After doing so, Buck looked back at Chris, confusion clearly written on his face. "But why would they drive over there? I mean, I can understand Mom being mad that I went without telling her, but not just driving all the way out there."
Chris shrugged. "I dont know, but you better call her and let her know that youre back home."
Buck nodded and moved to the hallway to pick up the cordless phone. As he dialed his mothers cell phone he walked back into the kitchen and sat down at the table. As he waited for the connection, he looked over at Chris, "I still dont know what to say."
"Its your mom, Buck. I know she didnt tell you about the letter, but you didnt tell her you had found it, either. Youll be alright."
Buck considered his friends words and again nodded. He frowned though, as he got a busy signal. Disconnecting, he tried again only to get the busy signal again. "Shes on the line. Ill try again before we leave."
Chris was about to respond when an outraged southern drawl wafted in from the living room. "Good Lord, Josiah, just what is all this?"
The senior laughed as he and Buck shared a look. "Sounds like Ezras finally gotten a look at his costume."
"Well then, let the fun begin, pard," Buck laughed, glad to be with his friends. After the day that he had, he needed them more than ever.
+ + + + + + +
Clint left the hotel room after briefly explaining everything to Rick. It had taken a bit of will power to stay in control when Rick got a bit upset when he learned that Beatrice was so worried because she thought that Buck could be in some danger from a stalker of hers. He had wanted to point out that seeing how Rick had not had any interest for sixteen years, he certainly could not be judgmental now. But Clint refrained and simply went on to explain about Beatrices boyfriend and how they thought his accident could have been the work of the stalker.
Rick was surprised then and said that he thought Clint was Beatrices boyfriend. The cop was taken aback by that and said that like he had said, he was a friend of the family, that his son and Buck were close friends. He also explained that he was a police officer and that was why Beatrice had called him. That earned him a reaction that he was far from expecting. Rick had sized him up with new eyes and said, "So youre the reason that he wants to be a cop."
Clint had no idea that Buck was even considering it. He wondered if Beatrice knew and then realized that she had to. He could not think about it too much right now, but he would definitely have to work out how he felt about it at some point. That way he would be ready whenever Buck did tell him.
Clint had not responded to Rick. Instead he had just told him that they would keep him informed of the situation and then left. And as he rode the elevator down to the lobby he wondered what Beatrice had once seen in the man that was Bucks father. He supposed that he had been a much different person when he was younger and full of all the ideals and vigor and youth. But now, even at the relatively young age of thirty-two, he seemed worn down and not at all a match for the vibrant Beatrice. Clint knew it was probably wrong for him to think it, but he figured it was the price the man paid for having made such a bad decision in his youth. The cop decided that Rick was still trying to run from his responsibilities. And Clint again marveled at how Beatrice had never flinched from hers and had raised not only a fine son, but also found fulfillment and happiness in her own life. The Wilmingtons were indeed very special people, and Clint was grateful that they were in his and Chris lives.
+ + + + + + +
Beatrice had stopped in the lobby and gotten a soda from a vending machine. She had bought one for Clint as well and carried them back to the car. As she sat and waited for the cop to come back down, she slipped slowly at the drink and attempted to regain control of her thoughts and emotions. She almost jumped out of her seat when her phone rang. Seeing that the call came from Clints house she quickly answered it with a breathless hello and then was hard pressed to not sob out loud when her sons voice greeted her. As it was, it took her a few seconds to find her voice again.
"Are you alright, Buck?" she asked.
"Im fine, Mom. Im with the guys getting ready to go to that party. Are you alright?"
"I am now, Buck. I am now," she reassured.
"Whyd you drive all the way out there?" he asked. "Is there something I dont know about my father?
"No. No, it has nothing to do with your dad. Look, Buck, were going to have to have a long talk. Theres so much Ive got to tell you."
"You want me to wait here for you?" he asked concerned at the tone in her voice.
"No. You go out with your friends, Buck. Have a good time. We can talk tomorrow after you get out of school, maybe spend the weekend together," she said hopefully.
"Id like that, Mom. It sounds good to me. But you wont get to see me as Elvis. Ive got a date Im meeting at the party tonight, so I wont be coming back with the guys."
"Well you had better," she laughed. "Its a school night, so you have curfew, so you wont be out that late. And you can bring the young lady by before taking her home. I would like to get a chance to meet at least one of the girls youve dated."
"Im not going to win this, am I?" he asked through his laughter.
"No, youre not." Beatrice paused as she was reluctant to bring it up, but felt she had to. "What did you think of your father?"
There was a long silence on the phone as Buck considered his response. "Not what I was expecting. But well talk about it tomorrow."
Beatrice could read the disappointment in her sons voice so she did not press the issue. "Okay. Clints coming back to the car, so well be on our way home. We should be there in about an hour and a half. So Ill be there waiting at Clints until you come by, you hear me?"
Buck laughed, "Yes, I hear you loud and clear. Ill see you later, Mom."
"Very good. And, Buck?"
"I love you so much," Beatrices voice broke on the words despite her best efforts.
"I love you too, Mom," his soft voice matched the depth of her emotions. "Ill see you later." And with that he disconnected the line.
Beatrice placed her fingertips to her lips and closed her eyes as she continued to try and maintain control over her emotions. Her son was safe and the relief that washed over her was overwhelming. When Clint walked over and got into the car, he only needed to look over at Beatrice, still holding her cell phone in her hands with tears of relief in her eyes and a smile on her lips, to know that she had heard from Buck and that he was well.
+ + + + + + +
Buck hung up the phone and walked back into the living room to rejoin his friends. They were quite the interesting bunch. Chris met his eyes first, seeking confirmation that he had spoken with his mother. Buck gave him a nod and that had been enough for the senior, though Buck knew that Chris would probably want to talk about everything as well. And the junior wanted that as well as talking to his mother.
Buck suddenly did a double take at Chris as his eyes finally registered the dark mustache on the blonds face. There was even a thin, verticle line of hair beneath his lower lip. The junior remembered now that Johnny Ringo had that kind of facial hair in the movie. It really did give Chris a sinister appearance. Of course the gun, even though Buck knew it was fake, strapped to his hip also helped with that. And the red sash wrapped tightly around the seniors torso made him look even leaner and meaner. Buck decided that it was the perfect costume for his friend.
Standing next to Chris, Vin looked just as different with the facial hair he now sported. The goatee and mustache were the same color as his hair. But the main thing that was noticeable about Vin was the huge, wide brimmed hat that he wore and the fringed, long coat. But Vin looked comfortable in all that. Almost as if he could jump on a horse and ride back into the age where Pony Express riders were the main means of communication.
Nathan and J.D. looked equally comfortable in their costumes. Nathan was even getting into character and brandishing his purple lightsaber. The bald cap did not look bad on Nathan and Buck figured that he was actually one of those guys, like Samuel L. Jackson, who could pull off that look. And J.D. was simply the perfect Harry Potter, right down to the dark bangs in his eyes that all but hid the lightning bolt scar that Buck had to help him put on earlier. Ezra had found everything for J.D.s costume, from the robes, to the glasses and long red and yellow scarf to a Quidditch broom that J.D. carried around happily.
As for Josiah, there was no way to tell how the senior felt about his costume; he was completely covered in thick black hair. The costume had even come complete with hairy feet for Josiah to wear and fortunately whoever the costume had been made for had the same size of big feet as Josiah did. Buck decided that Josiah could not be that uncomfortable considering that the big guy was lounging on the couch watching television. The junior figured seeing that image would insure that he would never have nightmares about Bigfoot stalking him again.
Buck looked around for Ezra but caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. It would take a while for him to get used to seeing himself with the long sideburns and with his hair swept into a pompadour, but he was still his handsome self. And he had to admit that he did like the way he looked in the open chested, white jumpsuit, even with all the sequins and ornamentation. Oh yeah, he liked his costume. After all, Elvis had made the girls swoon. And Buck was no slouch when it came to that department.
"Alright, Ezra, were ready to go!" Chris called.
The door to one of the bedrooms opened and Ezra reluctantly stepped out. Buck thought that each and every one of them did a double take. But then they all got a good look at the unimpressed pale green eyes and knew for sure that it was their Ezra who stood in front of them. Whoever Josiah had gotten to do the costume had done an incredible job. From the chest plate that extended down to his belt, that gave the slender teenager the illusion of a muscular chest and ripped abs to the silver shin guards that extended over his silver boots and ended in circular knee guards, everything looked just as Buck remembered of Gambit. They had even added the dark blue collar and the gloves with the index and little fingers cut out. And over all that, Ezra wore the long, brown trench coat.
"I feel ridiculous," the southerner complained.
Chris started to respond, but Vin elbowed him to keep him silent. It would be easier to get Ezra going if Chris did not start teasing early. Vin knew that they would not make it through the whole night without any incident between the two, but he could try and delay it as long as possible.
Josiah stood up and regarded Ezra from behind his mask. "You look fine, Ez."
"Oh yes, that is exactly what I want. Reassurance on my appearance from a walking shag carpet," the southerner snorted. But he regarded himself in the mirror one more time and decided that if he closed the trench coat a bit, he did at least have a mysterious air. All in all, it was not as bad as he feared it could be. And at least he had a few decks of cards on him. If anything he could start up a card game at the party. He believe that someone had mentioned that Gambit was also good at poker, so he would not be out of character. So with a dimpled grin, he turned back to his friends and surprised them with a Cajun accent, "Well, mes amis, lets go on to de party."
+ + + + + + +
Leaving the Larabee house the boys piled into the two cars. J.D. headed straight for the Mustang and seeing the other four head for Josiahs Chevy, Nathan slipped easily in the back seat of Bucks car. J.D. chatted excitedly and it proved contagious as Buck began singing a chorus of a famous Elvis song. Nathan laughed so hard he had to readjust his bald cap back into place. As he joined J.D. in teasing Buck, Nathan fully relaxed. It was going to be a fun night.
Vin and Ezra automatically took the back seat of Josiahs large Chevy while Chris slid into the front passenger seat. As Josiah put the vehicle into reverse and looked over his shoulder as he steered, Chris had to shake his head slightly at the surreal image of Bigfoot driving them to the party. His roommate definitely looked impressive in his big hairy outfit and obviously others thought so as well. As they stopped at the first traffic light and a family pulled alongside them Chris smiled as all three sets of childrens eyes lit up in amazement at the sight. Josiah waved casually as they called to him and they all giggled. It was shortly after that their own children began to get restless in the back seat.
"Let me look at it."
"No its mine."
"I know its yours. I just want to have a look at it."
"Josiah had it made for me. So tonight its mine. However, if you like, we could negotiate some terms in order for you to borrow it later."
Vin made a grab for the bo staff but Ezra anticipated the move. Chris sighed and Josiah chuckled, the sound slightly muffled in his suit. That sound erupted into laughter when Chris got struck in the back of the head when the staff extended to its full length. Chris turned around and glared.
"He did it!" they both chorused.
"Dont make me confiscate it," he growled at Ezra.
The sophomore frowned and held it possessively. "Its mine!"
They all arrived together at the Halloween party house. It was a large two-story house and a lot of effort had gone into decorating it. The roomy garage had been cleared to make way for tables, chairs, food and a small dance floor. A verandah completely enclosed the house and indoors and outdoors was populated with small groups of teenagers in Halloween costume. Outside speakers ensured the music was heard both indoors and outdoors.
Bucks date, Libby, was watching for his arrival and as soon as they entered the house, she made her way toward him.
"Buck," she called happily as she approached.
Buck turned and grinned as Libby stopped in front of him. He took his time surveying her costume. She hadnt told him what she was wearing wanting to surprise him and now she eagerly awaited his response.
He liked it. Liked it alot. She had chosen an Elvira garb complete with the figure hugging black dress, dark make-up and bright red lips. With her long dark hair left loose she looked gorgeous and he told her so, hugging her to his side when she blushed.
"You remember the boys dont you darlin?" Buck asked her and Libby nodded having met all of them once and Chris and Nathan twice. She said hello to all of them as she looked over their costumes.
"You make a great Mace Windu, Nathan," she complimented.
"Thanks, Libby," Nathan replied generously. "I kinda like it myself."
She stared up at the huge hairy costume standing beside him. "So you must be a Wookie?" she asked and looked confused when everyone began to laugh.
"Hes Bigfoot, Libby," Buck protested.
"Oh sorry," she giggled.
"A Wookie is just fine as well," Josiah reassured her.
"Well I think you all look amazing," she gushed and her eyes rested on J.D. "You look really cute," she added and the freshman ducked his head shyly. "You know my little sister will be by a little later. I can introduce you if you like?"
J.Ds mouth gaped before he glanced up at Buck his eyes narrowing suspiciously, however, the junior just shrugged innocently.
"Maybe," J.D. mumbled eventually and was relieved when Josiah began to propel them all further inside.
They all dispersed a little after that. Libby dragged Buck off to show his outfit off to her friends and J.D. spotted Jeremy and some other freshmen and went and joined them. Nathan stayed with Josiah, Chris, Ezra and Vin for a little while until he recognized someone he knew across the room. Excusing himself, he weaved his way over.
"Tameeka?" he called as he came up behind a striking dark-haired teenager.
"Nathan," the girl replied as she turned, her face lighting up in delight at seeing him. She stepped forward and hugged him a little shyly and he responded just as awkwardly.
"What a surprise to see you here," he smiled.
"Yes," she replied. "Gee how long has it been?"
"More than a year," he admitted. "Remember that dinner party your parents had for your dads birthday?"
"How could I forget. Eight doctors in the house at the one time. I would have been bored out of my mind if you werent there."
Nathan grinned remembering how they eventually snuck away from the adults and played CDs and talked in her room.
"I love your costume," she told him admiringly. "It really suits you."
Nathan grinned happily. His eyes flickered over her attire.
"Who are you supposed to be?" he asked carefully.
"Foxxy Cleopatra," she replied and when he looked blankly, she continued. "From Goldmember. You know yeah baby" she added with the appropriate Austin Powers accent.
He nodded then in recognition. "I know who you mean," he replied. "You look even better though... than Beyonce I mean," he explained bashfully.
"Thanks," she smiled casting her eyes downwards.
He went to ask her what she had been doing since then when the music got turned up louder. She gestured to him to follow her to the door and a few minutes later they were outside.
"I was sorry to hear about your parents," he told her.
She nodded sadly and began walking and he moved into step with her. "Yeah me too," she replied. "But I do get to spend a weekend a month in Chicago with Dad."
"You know I saw you on the news and in the papers," she told him, changing the subject.
He inhaled and breathed out slowly. "It was kind of a wild time," he admitted.
"Id like to hear about it," she hinted with a smile.
He chuckled briefly. "Alright," he agreed as they continued walking.
While Ezra complained about the contents of his drink, Vin scanned the full and noisy party room before his gaze returned to the pretty blond teenage girl he guessed was around the same age as himself. Their eyes met and she smiled coyly before she turned and whispered something to her friend beside her. Both girls looked over towards them invitingly and Vin dragged his gaze away to glance sideways at Ezra. His roommate was unaware of the exchange, his attention focussed on the foreign objects that floated in his plastic cup.
"Ez!" Vin called to get his attention.
"Do you think there is something alternative to drink?" Ezra asked hopefully.
"Lets go and talk to those girls over there," Vin replied, ignoring the comment about beverages.
Ezra followed Vins gaze to where two girls roughly their age stood near the stairs. The blond, slightly taller one was dressed as Xena and the smaller of the two, a pretty brunette, was dressed in a short, strapless green dress, matching slippers and wings.
"I thought Tinkerbell had blond hair?" Ezra queried.
"Xena is supposed to have dark hair but Im not complaining," Vin replied admiring the teenage Xena. "Come on, lets go over," he urged.
Ezra spied the can of Dr. Pepper Tinkerbell was holding as he ran his eyes appreciatively over the petite girl. "Yes, of course. Perhaps we can ask them where they got their drinks," he replied.
Vin shook his head slightly knowing the southerner was probably as nervous as he about walking over to the girls but didnt want him to know that. Making sure Ezra walked with him, Vin weaved his way through the small crowd to where the girls stood.
Chris held the three cans in his hands while he joustled his way back to the others boys. He had got he and Josiah a drink and he brought back an extra can hoping it would stop Ezra from further complaining. A body bumped into him and some drink spilt down the front of Chris shirt. Chris glared as a teenage boy dressed as a green horned demon mumbled an apology before his eyes widened nervously under the intense glare and he hurriedly stepped away.
Finally reaching Josiah, he handed him a can and the fellow senior nodded his thanks before realizing his inability to open the can in his costume.
"Would you mind?" he asked of Chris.
Chris obliged and watched faintly amused as Josiah attempted to drink from the can through his mask. Reaching into his shirt pocket he offered Josiah a straw. "Thought you might need that," Chris chuckled.
"Thanks," Josiah replied as he took the straw and managed to get one end to his lips.
"Where are Vin and Ezra?" Chris asked after he had opened and sipped his own drink.
"Over there with with Tinkerbell and Xena," Josiah chuckled.
Chris searched the room and found the two teenage couples as they chatted happily amongst themselves as they got to know one another. Whilst he could not hear their conversation, their body language was expressive of mutual liking.
"Oh great!" Chris complained. "Now were chaperones for the evening."
"Speak for yourself, Christopher," Josiah replied as he patted Chris shoulder and moved away to mingle.
+ + + + + + +
Helen Jacobs put all the remaining candy into a smaller bowl and left it on the dining table. She had not minded staying later tonight for her employer and friend, Beatrice Wilmington. She came in three to four times a week as a housekeeper and when Beatrice phoned to say she wouldnt be home until late and would Helen mind staying until 8pm to give out candy to neighborhood children who would come trick or treating, she didnt mind. She had no other plans that night and she had thoroughly enjoyed herself answering Beatrices door and giving out candy to excited children.
After a quick tidy up, she gathered her belongings and coat and a little after eight she opened the front door to travel home. She stopped as a large arrangement of flowers sat on the doorstep. Helen looked up and around but could see not see who had delivered them. The gate had been left open earlier that night so that children could access the Wilmington home so whoever left the flowers did not need to use the intercom system on the gate. Helen bent down and picked up the flowers and brought them into the house. As she positioned them on the kitchen bench she frowned in thought.
Beatrice had been insistent that she report any strange packages or letters to her immediately. Flowers werent a strange delivery especially for Beatrice, however, Helen had noticed how overwrought Beatrice had been in recent weeks. Making a decision she reached for the phone. If it was nothing then she could just inform Beatrice she was heading home now.
Beatrice jumped when her cell rang. She had let herself relax a little after speaking to Buck earlier and taking advantage of Clint driving them home she had almost dozed in her seat. She straightened up and reached for her cell phone in her purse. She shot Clint a look of relief when she recognized her home number.
"Its me Beatrice."
"Hi, Helen," Beatrice replied warmly. "How did everything go?"
"Really well. You still have alot of candy left over so Ive left some on the table for Buck and his friends," Helen replied and Beatrice smiled. The older woman enjoyed spoiling Buck whenever she could.
"Beatrice you got a delivery of flowers," Helen announced.
"Only in the last ten minutes. I know you said to let you know about strange packages so I just thought..."
"Is there a card?"
"Yes, there is. Would you like me to read it?" Helen informed her.
"Yes, please," Beatrice replied only considering the option that Gage had ordered flowers to be delivered to her from his hospital bed.
"Alright. Just a second," Helen continued and Beatrice turned the cell away a little and in response to Clints questioning look, spoke to him.
"I got some flowers delivered to my home," she told him and he nodded.
"Oh dear," Helen breathed back into her ear.
"Helen?" Beatrice questioned sharply and she heard the older woman exhale deeply.
Helen cleared her throat nervously. "It reads, My Dearest Montana," she began and Beatrice went cold. His letters always started with those words.
"Soon you will be free. After tonight there will be no more doubts, no more obstacles. You and I shall be together. Forever. Your beloved, Jake Ballinger."
Beatrice felt the hair on the back of her neck raise as a sickly fear consumed her. She reached out and gripped Clints arm. The cop turned to look at her and frowned in concern as he saw new fear etch her pretty features. He immediately pulled over.
"Beatrice, are you there?" Helen prompted her own voice rising apprehensively.
"Yes, Helen, Im here," Beatrice replied in a broken tone. "Clints here with me. I want you to read him the note alright?"
She handed the cell to Clint watching his face carefully. His look was one of serious determination as he listened then spoke.
"I want you to leave there now Helen. Go straight to your car and drive home. Call us when you arrive," he told the housekeeper and hung up.
"What does it mean?" Beatrice asked, her voice now shaky.
"I dont know," Clint replied. "But I think its safe to assume what happened to Gage was no accident."
"And tonight? What happens tonight?" she asked almost hysterically.
Clint didnt answer, his mind quickly considered all possibilities then he pulled out his own cell. "Ill get the police to send a cruiser around to this party theyre all going to and well head there ourselves."
She nodded emphatically and let out a little sob as Clint pulled back into the traffic and dialed his station house.
+ + + + + + +
He had waited patiently, driving around the block until a parking space became available close to the party house. Parking the stolen van, he donned his Scream mask and pulled on his cloak. Before he left the van he opened the glove compartment and removed a handgun and pocketed it. Then he casually left the van and started walking towards the noisy party house. He walked past the house twice before checking any side entrances. Both side gates were padlocked. Crossing back across the street, he chose a darkened area and began to watch.
Excitement coursed through him at the mere thought of advancing his carefully laid plans in one night. Part of him wanted to hold back. To wait further, watch, establish the boys routine then act. But he couldnt ignore the signs. They were all there, urging him on. Every move he planned, every step he took came easily to him. There were no impediments, no delays. His progress was smooth, perfect. He could not be stopped because it was destined to be. Just like the light of revelation that had transfixed him the second he laid eyes on her. And she had known it too. He saw it in her eyes, in the way she smiled at him. Only him. They belonged together. Truly, deeply, forever.
Therefore it came as no surprise to him when the boy appeared at the doorway of the house with the girl only ten minutes later. A sign. Another sign. He moved back across the street.
+ + + + + + +
Buck was enjoying himself immensely. Not only was his Elvis suit a huge hit but the way he showed off his moves and even his impersonations had not only impressed Libby but her friends. And Buck saw that appreciation coupled with happiness shining in her dark brown eyes as she smiled up at him. He took her by the hand and drew her away from another couple who were sitting together on the porch seat.
As they crossed the lawn, a dark clothed man wearing a Scream mask passed them. Buck had a quick look over his shoulder afterwards giving a passing thought to how dated the mask was. They had been popular for a few years after the movie came out but he hadnt seen one for years. Shaking away the thought, he released Libbys hand and brought his arm up around her shoulders tucking her tightly to his side. They never walked far just up a few houses to where Bucks Mustang was parked. Libby shivered.
"Its cold out here," she stated drawing her coat around her tighter.
"I can warm you up," Buck boasted raising his eyebrows.
Libby giggled then looked up at him beneath her lashes. "How?" she asked boldly
Buck swiveled his hips. "Im just a hunk of burning love, baby," he mimicked in his best Elvis voice.
Libby laughed fully then and Buck smiled broadly, pleased he had been able to elicit such a joyful laugh. She caught his look and her laughter faded as she anticipated his next move. She leant into him and Buck snaked an arm around her waist, dipped his head, and brought their lips together. He brushed across her mouth gently before deepening the kiss. Her hands moved up his arms and clasped at the back of his neck. It was a long minute before they drew apart breathlessly.
She smiled dreamily at him and his return smile held a hint of smugness.
"How about we leave and do the Haunted House now? That way we still have time for a ..." he cocked his head with a sexy grin "drive ... before I have to take you home."
She chewed on her bottom lip in excited anticipation and nodded with a smile. Buck grinned back and reached into his pocket for his car keys.
"Oh wait," he said, snapping his fingers. "I have to tell the others Im leaving," he explained. "Well Chris actually," he added with a teasing smile.
"Alright," she agreed. "Ill wait here for you."
"Ill only be a minute," he promised as he started stepping backwards from her. Giving her a long wink he turned and moved quickly back towards the party house.
+ + + + + + +
He watched the boy come towards him. The girl looked the other way and the young couple on the porch moved inside. It was a sign. It was time. He intercepted him, reaching out and grabbing his arm.
"Hey!" the boy protested and began to pull away.
He reached for his gun and pointed it. The boy froze and looked at him in a mixture of defiance and wariness.
"Its very real," he hissed dangerously.
"What do you want?" the boy asked apprehensively.
"I want you to come with me... NOW!" he ordered.
"I aint going anywhere with you!" the boy replied adamantly.
"You will... or your pretty little girlfriend gets hurt," he threatened in a low growl.
The boy wavered glaring at him hostilely then turned back to look at the girl.
"Do you really want to see if I can hit her from this distance?" he threatened menacingly.
The boy shook his head. "No. Just leave her out of this."
"This way, " he ordered as he stuck the gun into the boys side and marched him in the opposite direction from the girl.
"Whats this about?" the boy demanded.
"Shut up and move!"
+ + + + + + +
Libby looked back towards the party house and frowned when she saw Buck talking to someone then move down the other end of the street. Impulsively she followed but stopped when she drew level with the party house. At first she was completely baffled and then hurt. Why was Buck leaving her? And who was the other guy? She watched them get into a van from the passenger side. Buck entered first then the masked man. The van roared to life and then moved down the street away from her.
All possible explanations filled the young girls mind but only one made sense of what she saw. A nauseous panic curled in her stomach demanding that she react. She turned and ran up the stairs to the front door of party house. She searched the room desperately for his friends finding two together. She moved towards them quickly and abruptly interrupted their conversation with two other girls.
"Wheres Chris or Josiah?" she asked urgently.
Vins smile disappeared as he immediately saw how scared Bucks date looked. "Whats wrong?" he asked anxiously.
"Its Buck..." she started then saw behind Vin the big hairy costume with Chris standing beside it. She didnt finish answering the Texan, she made straight for the seniors.
Vin turned and exchanged an intense look with Ezra.
"Yall have to excuse us," he said to the two girls apologetically before moving to follow Libby.
+ + + + + + +
As Chris had listened to Libby it was if only part of him truly heard her. It was not that he was not paying attention, as her words, and what they implied, most certainly had his complete and total attention. No, it was more as if his mind was racing ahead even as it digested the information she was providing. Because there was one thing Chris Larabee was certain of and that was that he was not going to sit idly by and let someone take his oldest friend. And that was the only conclusion that the senior could draw from what Libby was telling him. There was no way that Buck would have left the party willingly with anyone but them or Libby. It was just not in the juniors character to leave a girl in that manner. And while Chris had no intentions of becoming a police officer himself, he did come from a long line of cops, and something just did not feel right to him, in fact his instincts told him that Buck was in trouble. And Chris could not let anything happen to Buck, because the dark haired-boy who was about as troublesome as he was fun to be around was also one of the very best people that Chris had ever known. And the plain and simple truth was that Chris could not, and would not, lose someone else that he cared about.
So when the girl finished talking, Chris took absolute control of the situation. He did not want to frighten Libby, but he needed information that only she had and he did not have the time to be gentle or subtle. So he caught her gaze and brought the full force of his intensity down on her, wanting to will her into understanding the seriousness of the situation. Her eyes widened with surprise and some fear as she instinctively drew back from him. "I want you to tell Ezra and Vin everything you can remember about the van Buck got into. Any little detail you tell them," he instructed, his voice flat and emotionless. She nodded, unsure about what was happening but knowing that it would be best to simply do as he instructed.
Vins attention had been split between Libby and Chris, and better than anyone else, the Texan could read the determination that was slowly building up in the blond. And he felt it as well. He did not know what had been going on with Buck lately, but his little trip earlier with J.D. had seemed to help him put some things to rest. Because the Buck who had joined them at Clints and come with them to the party, was the same old Buck they all knew and put up with. So there was no reason why he would have left, especially after the way he had talked about taking Libby to the haunted house as they got into their costumes. No, Buck would never have left her without giving her an explanation. That was simply the kind of guy that he was. Following Chris lead, Vin motioned Libby aside where he and Ezra could get her to tell them as much as possible about the van.
Chris turned to Josiah who had come to stand behind him as Libby spoke to him. The senior removed the Bigfoot mask and regarded his roommate. He could almost see the different ideas and scenarios that the blond was playing out in his mind as he settled on the course of action he would take. "Josiah, call the cops and tell them that Buck was abducted from the party. Have Libby tell them everything she knows. And I want you to call my dad." Chris looked around suddenly aware that he did not have pen or paper to write with. Picking a party-goer at random he simply instructed the kid to go and get him pen and paper and the kid rushed off without question. "Ill give you his cell phone and you keep calling it until you talk to him. He and Bucks mom are on their way back from Louisville, but youve got to let him know what is happening."
By the time he had finished speaking, the kid dressed as Dracula, was back with a pad of paper and a pencil. As Chris wrote the number down, Josiah asked, "What are you going to do, Chris?"
Cool yet intent green eyes looked into Josiahs eyes. "Im gonna go find Buck. Without my dad here, I dont know how seriously the police are going to take this. I cant risk it. Ive got to at least do something, Josiah. I cant just sit here."
His roommate nodded, completely understanding though he might not completely agree with it. Chris could be rash, most especially when his friends were involved and Josiah did not want him to do anything that would endanger him or Buck. But he also knew that it would be pointless to argue with Chris, so he simply asked, "You taking my car?"
The blond shook his head, "No, Ive got a spare set of keys to Bucks Mustang."
Not really liking the idea of Chris driving the far more powerful and faster mustang, but knowing there was nothing he could do to stop him, Josiah nodded. He looked over to where Libby was still speaking with Vin and Ezra. Apparently the two sophomores would be going with Chris, and while Josiah did not want to endanger them, he knew that it would be better for Chris to have people who could look for the vehicle they were after and leave him free to concentrate on his driving. A soft smile touched Josiahs lips as he watched Libby hand over a cell phone to Ezra. The young man might have been reading his thoughts about borrowing a phone so that they could stay in contact. It might indeed be better to have the two go with his roommate. Vin would act as a steadying presence, a voice of reason, if Chris wanted to attempt anything too dangerous.
Chris strode for the front door, motioning for both Ezra and Vin to join him. It never occurred to the senior to ask them to join him. And judging by the serious expressions on both boys faces, it had never occurred to them that they would not go. They only hoped that the limited amount of information that Libby had been able to give them about the van would be enough. They were all too aware that time was of the essence and that every second they remained at the party was that much further away that Buck was taken from them.
But before they could reach the door, J.D. stepped in front of them, his dark eyes wide with concern. Gossip had already spread through the party like wildfire and the freshmen had only heard that something had happened to Buck and had rushed back to join the others. "Stay here with Josiah, J.D.," Chris ordered, not willing to waste any more time trying to explain.
The younger boy boldly stood his ground and shook his head. "No, Im going with you. Bucks my friend, too!"
Chris spared only a second to regard J.D. The freshman had proven himself quite capable under pressure before when he had raced to carry a message from the captive boys to he authorities when Regents had been under siege. And Chris well knew the brotherly relationship that had grown between Buck and J.D. So with a very stern look, Chris nodded, "Alright. But youll do everything I say, when I say it!"
J.D. nodded and turning, threw the door open and let Chris lead the way out, with Ezra and Vin right behind him. With a look to Josiah that promised that they would return with Buck, J.D. followed them out. The senior watched them and immediately whispered a prayer for all of them to be safe as he turned his attention to finding a phone and then finding Nathan.
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