Nothing is as it Seems...


Mart Belden cringed before his brother’s wrath.

“I don’t care what it takes, Mart!” Brian raged.  “I don’t care what you have to do!  Just fix this!”

“I will,” Mart promised.  “I swear, I will!”  With that he turned and fled out the door of his on-campus apartment.

Honey Wheeler glanced around at the friends left in the room.  “Were we too hard on him?”

“Oh hell no!” cried Diana Lynch, Mart’s girlfriend.  “Do you want to have to live with Trixie if she and Jim break up over this?”

Honey didn’t even have to consider her response.  “No!  No, I don’t.”

“And I don’t want to have to live with Jim if they break up,” Brian said fervently.  “Mart and his damned April Fools pranks have just gone too far this time.”

Dan Mangan sat quietly in his favorite chair in the living room of the apartment he shared with Mart.  “Guys, there is something we have to consider.  If Jim and Trixie could break up over something like this, maybe their relationship isn’t as strong as it should be.”

Brian sighed and ran a frustrated hand through his dark, wavy hair.  “I agree.  But I also think friends and family should be nudging them in directions that strengthen their relationship, rather than ripping it apart at the seams.”

Honey nodded, agreeing with her boyfriend.  “They’re both insecure.  They don’t see how much they love each other.  That’s no reason to put a wedge between them.”

Di frowned.  “Actually, I’d like to see them get past this obstacle all on their own.  But Mart deserves to grovel and squirm, and he certainly owes them both a huge apology.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Dan said, getting up and going to the fridge.  “Anyone else want something?”





Trixie Belden sat at the window of the dorm suite she shared with her two best friends, Honey and Di.  She was glad neither girl was home right now, because she preferred to wallow in her misery alone.

She had made such a fool of herself in front of her boyfriend, Jim Frayne.  She had been chatting with her friend Steve, a guy Jim had repeatedly warned her was too interested in her, in the school cafeteria.  Jim had walked into the room, and was immediately greeted with a big hug and kiss by Dawn, a Barbie-doll type who had been after Jim for years.  Trixie had looked up to see Dawn’s greeting, just as Steve wrapped his arm around her shoulder and leaned over to kiss her.

Trixie and Jim, both victims of volatile, hot-heated tempers, had each flown into a jealous rage.  The vicious scene that had proceeded to play out in front of the whole school was one Trixie wished she could forget.

The worst part was that, when she had calmed down and was replaying the scene over and over in her mind, it was just too easy to see what had really happened.  While she and Jim had been raging, and Dawn and Steve had looked guilty, and their many friends had looked shocked, her stupid brother had had a smug smirk on his face.

Mart and his stupid April Fools jokes.  He had victimized her so many times in her life, she should have known better.  Nothing should be taken at face value on April 1st if her brother was anywhere nearby.

But no, she hadn’t stopped to think.  She had simply flown off the handle and acted like a screaming banshee.

Jim must surely hate her by now.  How was she ever going to make this up to him?  Had she finally lost the best thing that had ever happened to her?

When the knock on the door came, she was still deep in her brooding.  She barely roused herself enough to cross the room, let alone stop to wonder who would be knocking on her door at this hour.  Especially since most of the dorm residents were at a mixer in the nearby Rathskeller.

She paid no attention to her surroundings or her footsteps as she crossed the room to open the door.

And no one was around to hear her scream…





The four Bob-Whites looked up in surprise when they heard Mart pounding on the door to his own apartment.

“Dan, open up!  I don’t have my keys!” Mart yelled, sounding frantic.

Dan let his roommate in with a questioning look.  “Dude, what gives?”

Mart rushed over to Brian.  “Brian, you’ve got to come quick!  Something’s happened to Trixie!”

Brian glared at his brother.  “Yeah, you messed with her!”

“No, not that!” Mart cried in frustration.  He scrambled to rein his vast powers of speech into coherent patterns.  “She’s gone, and her dorm is covered in blood!”

“Are you sure?” Di asked in disbelief.

“If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself!” Mart retorted.

The group made their way across campus to the girls’ dorm suite.  Just as Mart had said, upon entering the living room they found toppled furniture and pools of blood.  Honey and Di gasped in horror.

“See?” Mart said.  “Something awful has happened to her!”

Dan glared at Mart.  “If this is the next stage of your April Fools plan, you’re a dead man.”

“It’s not!” Mart cried.  “I swear!”

Brian and Honey were examining the mess.  “Actually, it’s not as bad as it looks,” Honey said.  “The lamp and table are knocked over, like someone fell against them.  The glass lamp is broken, but that’s the worst of the damage.”

Brian agreed.  “The blood is concentrated around the lamp.  It looks to me like someone got cut pretty badly on the broken lamp.”

“You know,” Di said thoughtfully, “if I were here alone and fell and cut myself on a broken lamp, I’d just find someone to take me to the emergency room.”

“Dollars to doughnuts,” Dan contributed, “Trixie-the-klutz tripped and hurt herself, and she’s just at the ER getting stitched up.”

Mart stared at them all in shock.  “You guys are kidding, right?  As logical as your argument sounds, we’re talking about Troublesome Trixie here!  How many times has that girl been kidnapped?  How can you not be worried?”

Di looked around at the blood.  “Actually, I’m more grossed out than worried.”

Dan nodded.  “Why don’t we give the girls a hand cleaning this up before we go crazy searching for Trixie?”

Mart growled in frustration.  He stood by, unbelieving, as the others went about cleaning up the broken glass and blood.  They righted the furniture, swept and vacuumed, and scrubbed the blood stains from the rug.  He eventually helped out just to speed them along, but it was still two hours later before the room was done to the girls’ satisfaction.

Brian casually checked his watch.  “Okay, now let’s go find Trixie.”

“Finally!” Mart huffed and stormed out into the hall.

Brian, Honey, Di and Dan looked at each other, trying hard to smother their wicked laughter.  “We are sooo bad,” Dan said with an evil grin.

“Yeah, but he deserved it,” Brian smirked.







Just as Trixie opened the door to her suite, her foot got caught in the electrical cord to the ugly glass table lamp Mart had given her as a “housewarming” gift when she’d moved into the dorms nearly two years before.  Her foot pulled at the lamp, which tumbled off the table.  Trixie’s surprise at seeing Jim negatively impacted her reaction time, so her attempt to catch the falling lamp turned into a tumble onto the crashing lamp.  She screamed in pain as the broken glass cut into her skin in a couple dozen places.

Jim rushed to her side.  “Trixie, are you alright?”

She moaned and tried to roll over, but all that did was cut her in more places.

“Stop moving!” Jim commanded.  He lifted her carefully out of the pile of broken glass, trying not to think about the pool of blood which had already formed.  He then carried her over to the nearest chair.  “Stay there while I get something to clean you up.”

Trixie didn’t need to be told twice.  She tried pulling a particularly large piece of glass out of her arm, but the resulting spurt of blood convinced her to wait for help.  Jim returned with a few towels, one of them soaked in water.  He rested her arm on the towel and tried to swab at the cuts, but one good look told him not to try first aid on his own.  He tried to apply pressure to the spots that were bleeding worst, but he was afraid of pushing the glass in more deeply.

“We’re going to have to get you to the emergency room,” he told her, his expression grim.  Trixie merely nodded and let him help her to his car.

As they drove through the campus and out to the town nearby, Trixie stared uncomfortably out the window and tried to ignore the pain.  She finally broke the silence.  “Not how you expected to spend your evening, huh?”

Jim glanced at her.  “Taking you to the ER?  No.  But I was hoping to spend it with you.”

“Really?”  Trixie turned to him in surprise.  She studied his profile while he concentrated on the road.  Nervously, she asked, “You do know we were set up, right?”

Jim nodded, and anger flashed on his face.  “I may not be the detective, but even I was able to figure that out once I calmed down.  And yes, I have every intention of kicking Mart’s ass.”

“We shouldn’t be surprised,” Trixie mused.  “But I guess the real question is: why did we fall for it so easily?”

Stopping for a red light, Jim looked into her deep blue eyes.  “Trixie, do you really think I would ever cheat on you?”

Smiling sadly, Trixie sighed.  “No, not Mr. Honorable.  It’s just that… I wonder every day how long it will be before you find Miss Right and leave me behind.”

The light turned green and he drove on, ruefully making a sound somewhere between a snort and a chuckle.  “You can’t be serious.  You mean the way I wonder each day if today’s the day you meet the guy who won’t lecture you, drive you crazy with his fears and paranoia, and will actually support you in your dreams?”

Trixie’s jaw dropped.  She gaped at him, stunned.  As he turned into the hospital parking lot, she said, “Jim… I already know guys like that.  But I love you.”

Jim whipped the car into the nearest spot and turned to her.  Had he heard her right?  One look into her eyes, though, and he knew he had.  He leaned over and kissed her, a soft, feather-light kiss.  He really had meant to stop there, but when she kissed him back he just couldn’t.  The kisses grew deeper and deeper, burning into his soul.

They might have gone on all night, but when he gathered her in his arms, she winced.  Suddenly remembering where they were and why, Jim pulled back.  “I’m so sorry, Trix.”

She clung to him.  “Please, don’t stop.”

He smiled tenderly, and caressed her cheek.  “I don’t intend to, my love.  Not ever.  But I think we should pause long enough to get you stitched up.”

She smiled and nodded, feeling lighter than air.  Despite the pain in her arm, she’d never felt better in all her life.  Until she walked into the emergency room, that is.

The receptionist, Meg, looked up and grinned.  “Well, well, well.  You managed to make it nearly eight weeks this time, Trixie.  I think that’s a record.”

“Gee, thanks, Meg,” Trixie grumbled.

“You picked a good night, Trix,” Meg continued.  “It’s really slow for a change.  And since I practically have your info memorized, the only thing I need to ask is, what did you do this time?”

Wordlessly, Trixie turned and removed the towel so Meg could see her arm.  Meg’s eyebrows shot skyward.  “Ouch!  Come right on into triage, sweetie.”

As Trixie sat at the triage station, her favorite nurse, Susan, greeted her.  “Eight weeks, Trixie.  You’re improving.”

Trixie rolled her eyes and looked at Jim.  “I swear, I feel like Tim Taylor.”

Jim chuckled, and Susan grinned.  “Don’t you know every ER has their own Tim Taylor?  In fact…”

Susan’s grin became wider and slightly more wicked while she took Trixie’s temperature, pulse and blood pressure.  “Several of us went to a seminar for ER personnel.  We were swapping stories with a bunch of other people, when one of the docs commented that he’d been relieved when his own personal Tim Taylor had gone away to college.  Want to guess where he was from?”

Groaning, Trixie’s shoulders slumped.  “Please don’t say it.”

“Yep.  Sleepyside General.”  Susan laughed.  “Your reputation is everywhere.”

She lifted the towel to survey the damage.  “What a mess you made!”

Trixie snorted.  “You should see my room.  It looks like a murder took place.  I feel bad for anyone who walks in and finds it.”

Without thinking, Jim commented, “It would serve him right if it were Mart.”

Suddenly, Jim and Trixie’s eyes locked in malicious delight.  “That would be horrible,” Trixie said wickedly.

Jim stroked his chin.  “You know, I really should call Brian and let him know where we are… and have him warn the girls about the mess.”

Eyes twinkling, Trixie agreed.  “You really should.”

“Don’t go away,” Jim said.  “Be right back.”





Brian led the way across the quad, heading for his and Jim’s off-campus apartment.  He had told Mart that they could take his car to find Trixie, but when they arrived at the parking lot for the building, Jim’s car was back in its proper place.

“Jim and Trixie are home.  We should go see how her arm is,” Brian said.

Honey, Di and Dan headed for the door to the building, but Mart stopped in his tracks.  “Her arm?  How do you know it’s her arm?”

Brian turned and grinned.  “Revenge is sweet, and paybacks are hell.  She got you good this time, Bro.”






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