It Comes Back At You


  Chapter 2



Peter Belden stepped into the kitchen at Crabapple Farm.  He inhaled deeply, savoring the tantalizing aromas from his wife’s cooking.  Helen was standing at the sink, looking absent-mindedly out over the garden.  Peter walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, planting a quick kiss on her neck.

“What’s wrong?” he asked gently.

Helen shook her head, clearing her mind.  “I’m being silly.  It’s just so quiet here tonight.  Bobby is eating at the Lynches’, Mart and Trixie stayed after school for something and didn’t expect to be home for dinner, and with Brian gone…”  She shrugged her shoulders.  “I just feel like they don’t need me.”

The lost tone in her voice bothered Peter.  He tightened his grip on her.  “They still need you plenty, but they are growing up, and what they need from you is changing.  Besides, I definitely still need you.”  He grinned suggestively at her.  “Just think of all the time we have to spend together.”

Helen laughed, and turned in his arms.  “I suppose there are advantages to having no children around,” she grinned slyly.  “Of course, you had to go and schedule a poker night with the guys tonight.”

Peter started – he had forgotten about his plans for the evening.  “Damn.”

Just then the phone rang.  Thinking about changing his plans in order to have a night alone with his wife, he answered distractedly.  “Belden residence.”

John Epperly’s voice greeted him.  “Hey, Pete.  We still on for tonight?”

Peter groaned internally.  He wanted to say no.  He should just say no.  “Of course, John.  Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”  Helen laughed, and he made a face at her.

“Good.  I’m quite certain you want to hear my version of your daughter’s exploits for the day,” Coach Epperly stated, waiting to see what kind of reaction that would bring from his old friend.

Peter groaned loudly and hung his head.  “Don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know.  Wait, yes, I do.  No, I don’t.  I just want to know if it involved the police.”

John laughed heartily.  “Calm down, Pete.  This had nothing to do with a mystery, or criminals, or danger.  You would actually be proud of this one.  The whole town will be talking about it by Monday.”

Peter furrowed his brow in confusion.  “Trixie did something the whole town will be talking about, that I should be proud of?  Wait, that didn’t come out right.  She’s always doing things to make us proud.  Oh, stop laughing, and put me out of my misery.  The suspense is killing me!”

Helen had moved over to stand next to him.  She was watching him closely, trying to judge whether she should be worried.

Gaining control of himself, John sighed and said, “I knew it was going to be an interesting day when Trixie came into the gym after school.  And she didn’t disappoint me.”  He grinned.  “You remember the co-ed two-on-two tournament I run every year, right?”

Peter nodded, then realized John couldn’t see him.  “Of course I do.  It’s a great recruitment tactic.  But what does that have to do with Trixie?”

John wanted to drag this out a little; he was enjoying his friend’s confusion.  “Well… my top four teams today were quite interesting.  In fourth place I had two boys from my varsity team, Jake and Sam.  In third place, I had two boys who are not in my program.  You might be vaguely familiar with them:  Dan Mangan and Mart Belden.”

Peter exclaimed in surprise, “I didn’t even know Mart was going to sign up for the tournament.  He came in third?  That’s great!”  He smiled proudly.

John interrupted his exultations.  “Now for the really interesting part.  The second place team was made up of the co-captains of my varsity squad, Chris Zack and Paul Andrews.”

Peter chuckled.  “Your varsity captains only made second place?  Who the heck actually beat them?”  As he contemplated this question, he remembered that this story was supposed to be about Trixie.  She couldn’t have!  Could she?

John was too excited to beat around the bush any more.  “The first place team was amazing!  And get this: for the first time in the 15 years I’ve been running a co-ed tournament, it was an all-girl team.  Merrissa Parkman and Trixie Belden wiped the floor with all my varsity boys.  They were great!”

Peter could hardly believe his ears.  Helen had leaned in, and John had gotten loud, so she had heard the last bit quite clearly.  They looked at each other in astonishment.  “I didn’t know she had it in her,” Peter said lamely.

John sobered a bit.  “Oh, but there is more to tell.  This is the part that should really concern you.”

Peter’s shoulders sagged.  “Now what?”

“I witnessed the most interesting conversation after the last game,” John said.  “You may want to keep very alert from here on out.  Life in your house is about to get very complicated.”

This did not sound good at all. 

John continued, “Well, Paul Andrews and Merrissa Parkman have always practiced twice a week at the Community Center, playing two-on-two against Chris Zack and Cathy Parisi.  And as you know, Cathy graduated last year and went away to college on a basketball scholarship.”

Peter was afraid to ask, but had to know.  “What does that have to do with Trixie?”

“Trixie was impressive today,” John said.  “So impressive, in fact, that Chris Zack asked her to be his practice partner.  His regular practice partner.  Every Tuesday and Thursday after school, for the entire year.”

Peter had been out of high school for a long time.  He had ceased playing that youthful level of social games years ago.  But even he knew the significance of the handsome senior, captain of the varsity basketball team and dream of every cheerleader, asking his 15-year-old daughter to spend that much time with him.  His stomach clenched.  His hand gripped the phone so tightly his knuckles were white.  “Please tell me she said no,” he begged.

John laughed.  “Your daughter is far too intelligent to have done that.  She said yes, of course.  And when she said yes, she smiled at him.  You know the one.  Helen’s smile…the one you fell in love with.  Chris melted.  He will be putty in her hands.”

Peter slumped into the nearest chair.  Could this get any worse?

“Of course,” John continued, “that’s only if he lives long enough.  Because Mart watched the entire thing, and I think he may try and kill Chris.”

Peter held his head in his hands.  Chris, of course, had done nothing to deserve such treatment from Mart.  Yet.


“Yeah, Pete?”

“Be sure you bring something stronger than beer tonight.  And I’m going to need you to drive.”



Nearly everyone from school was at Wimpy’s, and they had all heard about the tournament.  Trixie did not handle compliments well at any time, and the steady stream was beginning to get wearying.  Then, of course, there were the people who had not complimented her.  It was painfully obvious from the many stares she got from around the room that she was the topic of conversation at every table.  And it was loud.  Her head hurt.

Dan leaned closer so he could be heard without yelling.  “Are you okay, Trix?” he asked, concern evident in his deep, dark eyes.

Trixie smiled wanly.  “I just want to go home.”

Dan glanced over at Mart and Di, who were lost in their own world.  Honey had wandered over to another table, where she was deep in conversation with a couple of classmates.  The Bob-Whites had planned to see a movie tonight, but Trixie really didn’t look up to it.  He looked at his watch.  He could make it out to Glen Road and back before it was time to leave for the movie.

“Would you like me to drive you home, Trix?”

Trixie looked up at him gratefully.  “Would you do that?  I would really appreciate it.”

Dan grinned.  How could he resist helping her?  Especially when his reward was a smile like the one that melted Chris earlier.  There were guys who would kill for one of her smiles.  And she had no idea, which just made her all the more adorable.

He grabbed her hand.  “Come on.  Let’s get you out of here.”

As they reached the front door, a couple of guys wearing jackets from nearby Croton High were coming in.  One of them bumped into Trixie, deliberately, nearly knocking her over.  She would have fallen if Dan had not caught her.  The Croton boy leered at her and snarled, “Watch it, you clumsy oaf!”

As he passed them, Dan’s face got red.  Trixie grabbed his hand.  “Please, Dan, just get me out of here!” she begged.  She did not want him to confront the larger boy.  The other boy seemed to begging for a confrontation, and Trixie did not want Dan to get hurt or in trouble on her account.

Dan saw the pleading look in Trixie’s eyes.  He forced himself to relax, and escorted her out the door.  He would drive her home, then when he came back for the others, he and Mart would take care of the jerk together.





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