and Sherry Lynch ended up bringing the four twins and Bobby to Wimpy’s
as well. As they entered the
hamburger joint, Ted called out, “I’m buying!”
Bobby answered. “You’re
the only one that can afford to feed Mart.”
small fry,” Mart countered, “be glad you’re here.
I saw your room this morning.
When you get home, Moms will never let you leave it again.”
Bobby,” Kelly Lynch said. “I
thought only helpless princesses got themselves trapped in prison
Bobby doesn’t live in a fairy tale,” Larry jibed.
“It’s more like a video game.
You can leave the level once you find the passcode.
The problem is, in that room, it could take him ten years to find
everyone continued to laugh and joke around, Trixie quietly stared off
into space. Tad had joined
them and was seated next to her. He
nudged her with his elbow. “I
know what you need. Come with
me to the jukebox.”
shrugged half-heartedly, but she got up and went with him.
They discussed the selections, argued about a few, and kept pouring
coins in. Trixie seemed to
relax after a while, and she and Tad were singing along to some of their
watched the exchange carefully. He
was relieved that his sister seemed more at ease.
He also found their similar taste in music amusing.
His own tastes were a little harder and louder, but Tad seemed to
be right on her wavelength.
came back to the table to eat, and Trixie seemed much more like herself.
Trixie,” Diana said, “you never did tell me what Brian and Jim said
about the current situation.”
choked on the large bite of food in his mouth.
Trixie smirked while he tried to cough it up.
Di,” Trixie said, “I know you want to ditch your boyfriend, but do you
have to administer death-by-choking while he’s eating with the rest of
grinned wickedly. “Well,
it’s more public. Plenty of
witnesses to the accidental nature of his demise.”
groaned. “She’s starting to sound like him!”
this time Mart had recovered and was sipping his drink.
“And what time is our elder sibling scheduled to arrive?”
not,” Trixie replied defiantly.
looked at her in disbelief.
hasn’t heard about the copperhead,” Di supplied helpfully.
rolled her eyes. “Okay,
that may change his mind.”
changed the subject slightly. “I
have a question. Was the
looked at him for a moment, then started to giggle.
The others looked at her like she was crazy.
That only made her laugh harder.
In between laughs, she explained, “Well…it was alive…when it
was…put in the oven…But Moms had preheated it…for the muffins, you
know…and after we found it…we didn’t think to…turn the oven
off…so Sergeant Molinson…found…well-baked copperhead.”
Trix, next question,” Tad finally said.
At Trixie’s nod, he asked, “Why are you so upset?
I mean, I expected you to be upset on Thursday, but you were just
mad. In fact, I hear you told Chris that you were numb to fear
because of the number of times you’d been held at gunpoint. So what’s different today?”
looked at him sharply. When
did Tad and Chris compare notes?
That thought disturbed her more than the stalker.
thought about his question. Looking
off into space, she answered slowly.
“Leaving things outside or at school, well, they’re public
places. And the items were
intended to scare, but they couldn’t hurt anyone.”
Her blue eyes clouded. “But
this was inside my home, a complete invasion of privacy.
And that snake could have hurt someone.
I don’t always look before I stick my hand in the oven, because
it’s so second-nature. And
what if it had been Moms?” She
shuddered at the thought.
she continued with a shrug, “I usually get into these messes because
I’m trying to help someone else. I’m
not used to being the victim.”
front door opened and Trixie glanced in that direction.
Seeing the incoming customers, she drew in a sharp breath and her
face paled. Dan heard her,
and followed her gaze. His
instant flare of anger made his face and neck redden.
The others slowly caught the tension at the table, and discovered
two boys from the previous week had entered, wearing the same Croton
looked around casually, until he spotted Trixie.
Then he moved boldly closer to the table, staring hostilely.
Tad had not seen the two boys before, the reaction of the others left no
doubt in his mind who they were. He
didn't appreciate the look Buck was giving Trixie, either.
you have a problem, buddy?” he asked, standing to face the large, bulky
with that little piece of ass,” Buck sneered.
girls looked nervously at each other, wide blue eyes meeting frightened
violet ones. Dan and Mart
stood to join Tad.
took a step towards Buck. “And
what’s your problem with her?” His
tone was conversational, but his body language was clearly protective of
the little blonde.
just don’t like the way she butts into everyone else’s business.
She should be taught to mind her own,” Buck sneered
she ever done to you?” Tad asked, taking another step forward.
Dan and Mart moved to flank him.
sent my cousin to jail. She
shouldn’t have done that.”
never sent anyone to jail that didn’t deserve to go there,” Tad stated
looked toward the front entrance. Sergeant
Molinson, in street clothes, was just entering with Spider Webster. She relaxed. She
knew the two officers wouldn’t let this go too far.
what are you saying about my cousin?” Buck challenged.
held his ground. “Just that
he must have done something illegal, so he really sent himself to jail.”
son of a bitch!” Buck yelled, and launched his fist at Tad’s face.
blocked the blow and knocked Buck off balance.
He stumbled and landed on one knee, which only served to enrage
him. He roared and jumped at
Dan. Mart tripped him.
When Buck landed flat on his face, his friend threw up his fists.
guys want a problem?” the boy challenged.
two are the ones with the problem,” Molinson bellowed.
Although not in uniform, both he and Spider had their guns on them
and had them drawn. Spider
held handcuffs in his other hand.
at Buck, Molinson said, “I believe I just witnessed an unprovoked
assault. I think you and I
should head down to the station.”
finally recognized Molinson from the previous week.
Cursing under his breath, he slowly rose with his hands up.
Spider quickly cuffed him.
at Molinson, Spider remarked, “And to think we just wanted a quiet visit
snorted, then winked at Trixie. “Fat
chance. Troublesome Trixie
was already here.”
Buck ahead of them towards the door, the two men stopped by the young
people. “I will talk to you
later,” Molinson promised Trixie.
told Tad, “You handled that well. I’m
proud of you. All of you,”
he added, nodding to Dan and Mart.
the men left, the kids returned to their lunches.
Tad spoke quietly, “Hopefully that’s one problem put to
shook her head. “That hulk couldn’t be the stealthy creature Mart chased
through the woods last Saturday. Could
shook his head. He stared at
his food. He had hoped no one
would think of that.
silence dragged on, until Trixie finally broke it.
“You do realize that we still don’t know who his cousin is,
nodded all around.
the skirmish in Wimpy’s Ted and Sherry Lynch had packed up the younger
kids. They planned to take
Bobby home, and were going to fill Helen and Peter in on the latest
trouble. A short while later
the teenagers headed out of the restaurant.
discussion about whether to go do something else was ended by Trixie’s
assertion, “Guys, I’m really tired.
I just want to go home and take a nap.”
opened the rear door of the station wagon, then screamed and jumped back.
rushed to her side, while the boys rushed to see what was in the station
stood, eyes wide, both hands clamped firmly over her mouth.
She wasn’t sure what she was trying to stifle – a scream or the
urge to throw up. Di threw
her arms around her as Trixie began to tremble.
Her legs turned to rubber and she sank to the ground, leaning
against Tad’s car, which had been parked next to the Bob-White Bus.
She rocked back and forth while tears welled up in her eyes.
on the backseat of the station wagon was a rabbit with a large butcher
knife through its heart. It
had been alive when put there; blood was still gushing from the wound, and
the animal’s body was still twitching.
Attached to the handle of the knife was a note:
whipped a cell phone out of his pocket and pushed the speed dial for his
brother. As soon as Spider
answered, Tad asked, “Are you still with Molinson?”
the affirmative answer, Tad responded, “Then both of you get to
Wimpy’s parking lot NOW!”
sat down next to Trixie. He
pulled her into his lap and held her close.
She buried her face in his neck and cried.
He rested his cheek on her soft curls.
was looking around for any sign of who did this.
He found a bloody smear on a nearby building, as if someone was
trying to wipe off their hand.
Molinson and Webster showed up, Mart glared at them. Still gently rocking his sister like a baby, he hissed,
“You’d better put a stop to this soon.
I don’t know how much more she can take – how much more any
of us can take!”