Kidnapped

June 2, 2011
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It had started out as a normal day, or as normal a day could get in the life of Willow Hendrix. Her day had started with her stumbling down the stairs, grabbing a doughnut for breakfast, arguing with her mom again about her father. Willow got so angry at her mom sometimes. She always was going on about what a bad person Willow’s dad was (Willow’s parents were divorced) and Willow thought if she thought her dad was such a bad person she should look at herself. Then she stomped back upstairs to get ready for school.
She pulled on her jeans and her favorite white button-down blouse. Her blonde curls pulled back into a casual ponytail, she had grabbed her backpack and raced out the door to the bus stop.
School had been terribly boring like it was every day at Charlston Elementary School where Willow attended school. Charlston was an old building that had been used as a school for the longest time. All the teachers were the same and Willow didn’t like her teachers that much because every day all her teachers spent time talking about things no one cared about and giving the students piles of homework. Then, it wasn’t until lunch that day that things began to stray from the ordinary. Willow sat staring out the window while she sat at a table by herself, (all of her friends were in the other lunch period.) Scanning the hills surrounding the school she thought she saw a man watching her. She blinked rapidly, shaking her head. No, her eyes weren’t lying, there was a man outside, and he was staring right at her. The man had dusty looking blonde hair, and was wearing a ripped red flannel shirt and tattered jeans. They both stared at each other for another moment and then he was gone! Then the bell rang to signal the end of lunch period. Willow shook her head and tried to put the strange man out of her mind.

She went to her history class, got yelled at for falling asleep, and by the end of the day she was in a bad mood. She began walking home muttering under her breath about stupid teachers and stupid school. She paused in her muttering, thinking she heard footsteps behind her. She turned to look but no one was there. She shrugged and continued walking. Suddenly, she felt a stabbing pain on the back of her head. She fell to the ground unconscious. The man in the red flannel shirt stepped out from behind a nearby tree.

“Sweet dreams,” he whispered in a gravelly voice. He cackled, and picking Willow and dumping her in the back of his dusty red pickup truck. Pausing only to slip a note under the door of Willow’s house, he drove off, leaving behind only a cloud of dust and the fading smell of beer…





*****



Lily couldn’t find Willow. She sighed. “That child,” she thought to herself. Willow tended to go home with other friends without telling people because she and her mother didn’t get along very well. Lily called Willow’s friend Abby to see if Willow had gone home with her. Abby’s mom told Lily that they hadn’t seen Willow. Lily began to feel panic rising within her. Where was her cousin? She jumped on her bike and began pedaling furiously towards Gale’s house. They had been friends for years, and Willow loved his little sister Lucy. Maybe he could help…





*****


Gale laughed as he easily dribbled around James and made an amazing basket.

“What’s up with you James?” he asked. “You don’t usually let me by that easy.”

“Just…tired…” puffed James, sitting down on the cement driveway heavily. “Plus it doesn’t help that you’re the star of the high school basketball team,” he panted. Gale shrugged and sat down next to him.

“Let’s call it quits and go get snacks and watch TV,” said Gale.

“Good idea,” said James. “I’m beat.”
Looking up Gale saw Lily pedaling towards them. “Hey Lily,” called James.
“Hey James,” replied Lily, sounding distressed. “Can you two help me? I can’t find Willow anywhere. She’s not at any of her friend’s houses, I’ve already checked. I just don’t know where she could be,” she said pushing her long red hair out of her eyes.
“Well, she’s not here,” said Gale. “Let me change out of these sweaty clothes and then James, Lucy and I will come help you look for her.”
“Thanks,” said Lily.




*****


Willow slowly opened her eyes. She felt groggy. She felt the lump on the back of her head where the bat had hit her. She closed her eyes again, wishing she could open them and find herself back home. “Where am I,” she muttered to herself. She looked around more closely. She seemed to be in some sort of basement, with concrete floors and a single light bulb in the corner. She was sitting on a hard steel bed with a mattress that was about as soft as the concrete floor, and that smelled like it had been in the basement for the past hundred years. She fought against the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. She didn’t know what to do. No one was going to look for her. Her mom hated her and didn’t care enough about her to tell her father, who lived miles away anyway. The only other person she could think of was Lily, and she was just a teenager, and probably couldn’t do anything about it.
Then the door squeaked open, revealing the man who had captured her. “Well, you’re finally awake,” he growled. “I expect you have quite the headache.” He smiled, but there was no warmth in the smile, only cold hate. “Here’s some food. I’m going now but I’m gonna leave you here. With luck I’ll have some buddies for you by tomorrow.”
“Buddies? What buddies? Who are you and where have you taken me to?” Willow cried in a demanding voice. “What do you want?”
“You get to go see the boss soon,” he replied with that same cold smile. “Now, shut up and go back to sleep.”
“Make me,” said Willow, sticking her tongue out.
“Why, you want another bump on the back of your head?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. She shook her head quickly. “No? Good. Now I suggest you go to sleep after you eat. I’ll be back.”
Willow sighed and took a look at the food. It was a glass of water, some old looking fruit, and a grayish piece of bread. Willow made a face and then she ate the fruit and drank the water, but left the bread. She laid back down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. “Why did this happen to me?” she grumbled.






*****

A few minutes later the four were walking towards Willow’s house. “Uppy, uppy!” said six-year old Lucy, bouncing on her tippy-toes. Gale leaned down to pick her up. She laid her head on his shoulder and put her thumb in her mouth. “Lucy, don’t put your fingers in your mouth, that’s disgusting,” chided Gale. “We’re going to go look for Willow,” he said.
“Yay! Can we stay and play?” asked Lucy.
“Maybe,” said Gale.

They began walking in silence. A few minutes later the four arrived at Willow’s house, ready to begin the search.






*****


Gale, James and Lily combed through the house looking in every nook and cranny for Willow, but after two hours of careful searching, they were forced to conclude she was not in the house. “Aughhhhhhhhh, this is all my fault,” groaned Lily.

“No it’s not,” said Gale firmly. “We just need to look somewhere else.”
Lily sighed. “I have absolutely no idea where we could look she said,” blowing her nose loudly on a tissue. Gale put his arm around her shoulder.

“I promise you we’ll keep helping you search until we find her, won’t we James?” said Gale, giving James a sharp kick under the table.

“Yeah, we’ll find her,” said James, rubbing his leg and glaring at Gale.

“Thank you,” said Lily, smiling through her tears.

Just then Lucy ran into the room yelling, “Look what I found!” She had a small piece of paper in her hands. Lily took the note and quickly read it. Her face paled. “Read it,” she said hoarsely to James. James scanned the note with Gale reading over his shoulder.

“Well, that settles it I guess,” said Gale looking up. “She’s been kidnapped and is being taken somewhere.”

“Well, now there’s nothing left for me to do except go after her,” said Lily. “Thanks a lot for your help guys.”

“Dude, Lily you can’t just go racing off by yourself,” James pointed out.

“Who else has she got?” snapped Lily. “Her dad lives miles away and her mother doesn’t care about her. I have to be the one to go and find her, because my parents are both out of town.”

“We’ll come with you then,” said James.

“No,” said Lily. “That’s very kind of you James but you don’t want to do that. You have to help Gale watch Lucy. I have to go alone.”

“Absolutely not,” said Gale. “You know, there’s this thing called a babysitter, and they watch kids, so the adults don’t have to.”

“Are you sure,” Lily asked uncertainly.
“Of course,” Gale replied. “I’ll go call our usual babysitter.”

Lily and James sat together in silence for a long time. A few minutes later Gale walked back into the kitchen. “The babysitter said she’ll be at my house in 10 minutes,” he said.

The four started walking back towards Gale’s house in silence. “Lucy, you get to play with Brylee,” said Gale.

“NO!” Lucy stomped her foot. “I wanna go with you to find Willow. Not Brylee.”

“Don’t worry,” said Gale. “You can play for a while and then mom will be home.”






*****
A few minutes later they arrived at Gale’s house, and not two seconds later the babysitter drove up. “Thanks for babysitting on such a short notice,” said Gale.

“No problem,” Brylee replied with a smile. They all walked inside. “Bye Lucy, behave yourself,” called Gale as he walked out the door. Lucy pressed her nose against the window and watched Gale, Lily, and James walk back towards Lily’s house. Where was her big brother going?







*****


Willow began pacing around the basement. After all, she had nothing better to do. As far as she could figure out, she has been in this basement for three days. Her watch had been broken for a while, so she had no way to tell the difference between night and day, as there were no windows in the basement. “I have to find a way out of here,” she thought to herself. “Before he gets back, which means at best I’ve got one day.” Thinking hard, Willow began searching around the cellar for anything that could aid her in her escape…






*****

Gale, Lily, and James arrived at Lily’s house. “Were gonna need clothes, food, and something we can use as a shelter,” said Lily.
“You go get your clothes, and Gale and I will look for something to use as shelter,” said James.
“Ok, you two give me your clothes and I’ll pack them. (They had already stopped at James’ and Gale’s houses to get supplies.) James and Gale ran upstairs and began searching.

“It’s a shame we don’t have a tent,” said James with a sigh.

“We’ll just have to make the best of it,” said Gale.

“Gale, are you sure we’re doing the right thing going with Lily? I mean, were just teenagers! What can we possibly do to help Willow?”

Gale gave James a rather cold look. “You don’t have to come James,” he said rather angrily. “I’m going to help Lily. You can come or you can stay. It’s your choice.”

James mumbled something about not meaning he didn’t want to help.
“I’m sorry James,” said Gale. “I’m just worried because we don’t have that many supplies. But I just can’t say no to Lily.
“Only ‘cause you like her,” said James slyly.

“No I don’t, we’re just friends,” Gale said.

“Your blushing.”

“Am not!”

“Yes you are.”

“OH FORGET IT!”
*****
Lily closed the door to her room. She didn’t know what to do. No matter what she said to Gale, she knew they had very little chance of success. She shook her head, and pushed those thoughts out of her head. She grabbed a bag and began stuffing clothes
in it. Soon, she had all of their clothes packed, and she walked down stairs to begin packing food.

As she opened the pantry door, James and Gale walked in holding some old poles left over from a tent they used to have that had been ripped to shreds when it was left outside in a thunderstorm, and two large tarps, one green and one blue. “Where did you guys find those tarps?” asked Lily. “I don’t remember us having those.”

“We found them in that closet across the hall from the bathroom,” said Gale.

“Huh,” said Lily. “I guess mom and dad just forgot about them. We don’t use that closet much.”

“That’s not the point. The point is that we have something to use as a shelter,” interrupted James.

“Ok. So, I have the clothes packed, but we need to find a way to pack food that won’t spoil too quickly, because we can’t afford to eat out all the time while we’re away and we don’t even know if there will be a place to buy food where we’re going,” Lily said, sticking her head in the pantry once more.

“Anything in boxes that doesn’t need to stay cold will be good,” said Gale. The three friends searched through Lily’s house from top to bottom for provisions. “I think we’ve pretty much cleared the house out,” James grunted, hoisting the three heavy bags full of food. “Now that we’re packed, what do we do?” asked Gale.

“We search for clues leading to whichever direction the kidnapper took.” replied Lily.

“Let’s go then,” said Gale. “James and I will get the bags. C’mon James.”

“How about I sit down first?” said James.

“James Oliver get your lazy butt over here and help me carry these bags,” called Gale. “Or we’ll make you carry all of them for the rest of the day.”

“Oh gosh, I’m coming!” yelped James. “No sir, I sure don’t wanna carry those bags the whole time.”

Gale and Lily started laughing. The three grabbed their bags and began walking to Willow’s house to see if they could figure out the direction the kidnapper went…






*****


Willow looked down on her finds with a look of satisfaction on her face. She had found a rag, a metal bar, a small bundle of wires, a screwdriver, and best, a long coil of iron hard rope. “Never thought I’d use the stuff I learned from that lock picking class,” Willow mumbled under her breath. Smiling to herself, she set about cleaning the wires and the lock with the rag. She knew she had to hurry. She only had about six hours left…






*****

Gale, Lily, and James arrived at Willow’s house. Scouring the front yard, they looked for footprints, tire tracks, or anything that might give a clue as to which direction they had gone. Finally, after an hour of searching, James called, “Look over here. I think I found something!” Gale and Lily rushed over.

“Well, we know which way they went now,” said Gale. “The tracks point due north, towards The Woods.” The Woods was a place near Willow’s school with a bad reputation. There were stories of kids going to The Woods to go camping and never being seen again. All the young children believed it was haunted by a group of evil ghosts.

“C’mon, let’s get going,” said Lily.

“Wait, you don’t mean we’re actually going in The Woods, do you?” asked James a quiver of fear in his voice.

“Of course we are,” said Gale.

“Right. Just checking. Let’s hope we don’t get lost and never be seen again…” said James in a small voice.

“Oh, James, you’re such a superstitious fool,” said Gale, grinning. “You know that story is just a lie made up by parents who don’t want kids playing there.”

James shrugged. “When you two have stopped arguing, we might want to start walking since it’s already 5:00. We have to at least make it to The Woods by dark.” said Lily.

“Your right, let’s get going,” sighed James. The three friends began walking into town, towards Charlston Elementary, and towards the woods…






*****

Willow slowly inserted the longest of the wires she had found into the lock and began twisting it back and forth slowly. “Just a little to the left,” she mumbled to herself, closing one eye and biting her tongue. After jiggling the lock and twisting the wire a few more times, the lock opened with a loud “CLICK”. Willow smiled to herself for the first time since she had been kidnapped. Now she just had to find her way to the door and she was home free.






*****

By 6:30, Gale, Lily, and James had arrived at the outskirts of The Woods. “Let’s go in a bit farther and see if we can find a good place to spend the night,” said Gale. They walked in the woods, looking for a clearing, with a few trees. After a few minutes of walking, they found a place to stay. It was a small clearing with two large trees with low hanging branches. The grass wasn’t too tall, just about ankle height. The three set down their bags and began to unpack.

“I’ll set up the “tent”,” volunteered James. He grabbed the green tarp and spread it over a low hanging tree branch, and then he took the blue tarp and spread it on the ground underneath the green tarp. Then, taking the stakes they had packed, he pinned the two tarps together and into the ground. He backed away, looking pleased. It looked like a tent, mostly. It was shaped like a rectangular pyramid like most tents, and looked fairly sturdy.




“Ha,” said James triumphantly. “Best makeshift tent, ever.”

“Um, James, there’s just one problem,” Gale said, trying not to laugh. “There’s no door.”

“Phooey,” said James. “You would find something wrong with my tent Gale.”

“No matter,” said Lily calmly. “We can just pull the tarp up in the front a little and crawl underneath.”

“Thank you Lily, for actually solving the problem rather than moaning like some people,” said James, nudging Gale’s shoulder.

Gale laughed, “C’mon you guys, let’s get something to eat.”







*****

Willow crept silently through the halls, trying to find a way out. Barely daring to breathe, she snuck around a corner, and she gasped. There in front of her was the door, and her way out, the only problem was, there was a huge Rottweiler lying right in front of the door, sleeping. She had to get around the dog without waking it up, because even though it looked harmless, Willow was sure it was trained to guard against escaping prisoners. She began tip-toeing around the dog, trying not to make a sound. One, two, one two, she stepped carefully around the beast’s paws.
She stretched out her fingers and grasped the door handle. Holding her breath, she slowly turned to door handle. The door opened, emitting a small squeak. The Rottweiler snarled, but stayed asleep. Slipping outside into the cool dawn light, Willow silently closed the door. No sooner had she stepped off the porch then she heard the crunching of gravel and saw the man’s red truck pull into the driveway.
Willow gasped. She quickly dove behind a small clump of withered bushes. She sat silently, peering through a gap in the bush. She shuddered feeling the wet dirt squishing between her toes and the small worms and ants crawling over her bare feet (She had lost her shoes at some point while she had been unconscious.) Peering through the bush, she saw the man roughly pull two small children from the back of the truck. They looked about ages six and eight.
“C’mon you,” she heard the man growl. He pulled them inside. Willow began to come out from behind the bush but hesitated. Surely he would take the children straight to the basement, and find that Willow was gone. If she was going to run, she had to go, NOW. But, but she couldn’t just leave those two kids alone. Making a split second decision, Willow crept around to the back of the house. She was going to rescue those kids, as long as she wasn’t caught first…





*****
After they had eaten, Gale started up a fire, and they sat around it watching the night-time shadows growing longer and longer as the sun went down. Finally, James spoke up. “We should probably take watches. The more I think about it, the more I think the person who kidnapped Willow probably stays in these woods. We need to have at least one person awake in case something happens.”
“Your right James,” said Gale. “I’ll take the first watch.”
They sat in silence for a few more minutes. “Well, I’m going to bed,” said James. “Gale, wake me up when it’s time for my watch.”

“Ok,” said Gale.


“I think I’m gonna try and get some sleep too,” said Lily.
“’Night Gale,” said James with a yawn.
“Night,” Gale replied staring at the burning fire.
James and Lily crawled inside the tent. Soon, James was fast asleep and snoring. Lily lied there awake, listening to James’ snores and trying to find a comfortable position. She looked at James’ watch. It read 11:18. Lily sighed and got out of her sleeping bag. Maybe a walk outside would help make her sleepy. She slipped outside the tent and saw Gale standing at the edge of their camp, staring up at the moon and stars. Lily walked over to him. He glanced at her.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked. Lily shook her head.
“Cause James keeps snoring?”
“Yeah,” Lily replied with a smile.
Gale returned the smile, but then stopped, looking up again.
“Hey, you ok?” asked Lily, looking concernedly at his face.
“Mmmm, oh yeah I’m fine,” he replied distractedly.
“You’re lying.”
“No I’m not”
“Yes you are. There’s something bothering you. I can tell.”
Gale sighed and turned away. “I, I just don’t know.”
“Know what?” Lily asked.
“I’m worried that by the time we get to Willow it will be to late. And I’m worried that something is going to happen.”
“To you? Or to Willow?”
“No. I mean, I don’t want anything to happen to Willow. But I’m worried something’s going to happen to you.”
“Why me?” Lily asked, blushing.
Gale turned and looked at her. “You don’t know?”
“No… yeah, I do know.”
Gale turned away again. “I have a feeling we’re going to find Willow, but there’s something else that’s going to happen.”
Lily sighed. “Gale, I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen or why. We just have to go with what happens and try to find Willow.”
Lily slid her hand in his. “C’mon, let’s go sit by the fire or we’ll get cold.”
They both walked over to the fire and sat down. They didn’t speak. Lily watched the flames of the fire dance along the logs. She felt her eyes drooping and she let her head rest against Gale’s shoulder. She felt her eyes close as the flames went on dancing, dancing….dancing……….





*****
Willow crept around to the back of the house. There had to be some way into the basement from outside. She kept looking while listening for approaching footsteps. Then, finally she found a small sliding panel in the side of the house. She opened it and found a small concrete chute. Next to the chute was a long rope. Willow grabbed the rope and tied it to a water spout just outside the panel. Then going feet first, she pushed herself down the chute. She plunged into darkness, unable to see where the chute was leading…





*****
The man grunted while he fumbled for his keys while trying to keep hold of the two kids. “I want to go home,” cried the younger child.
“Shut up,” he growled, shoving the key in the lock.
“Hey, don’t talk to my sister like that,” said the older boy, with a quivering voice.
“I’ll talk to your sister how I want,” he snarled. “In here,” he said shoving them in the basement. “Hey girlie, I brought you some friends,” he called out as he opened the door. Then glancing around the basement, he realized Willow was gone. “NO!” He let out a scream of fury. “You stay here,” he growled at the kids. He quickly locked the doors. He was going to find that kid if it was the last thing he did.





*****
The next morning, Lily woke up with her head still resting on Gale’s shoulder with a blanket wrapped around her legs. She sat up and stretched. James walked over. “You two looked fine where you were so I didn’t wake you up,” he said, smiling slightly.
“Thanks James,” said Gale, standing up and yawning.
James grinned and gave Gale a knowing look. Gale made a face at him. Pretending not to notice, Lily said, “Come on you guys. We better eat, pack up camp, and get going.” Gale and James agreed. Soon they had eaten breakfast and packed up the camp, so they continued following the faint tracks, leading into the heart of the woods.





*****
Willow slid down to the edge of the chute. Feeling her way around in the dark, she felt a handle on something. Since she didn’t know what else she could do, she pulled the handle. She tumbled out through a small trap door. “Back again,” she thought to herself, looking around the basement. She then spotted the two children. The younger girl had light brown, wavy, medium length hair and green-blue eyes. The older boy, presumably her older brother, had shaggy brown hair and pale blue-grey eyes. “Come on. I’m going to help you get out of here,” said Willow quietly.
“Who are you?” whispered the little girl.
“I’m Willow,” replied Willow.
“How do we know you’re not working for the man who captured us?” the boy asked suspiciously, putting his arm around his younger sister.
“It’s ok Stephen,” said the girl calmly. “I think we can trust her.”
“Morgan,” began Stephen.
“You have to hurry!” said Willow urgently. “We don’t have much time left.”
The two children looked at each other, and then Stephen nodded at Willow. “Ok, we’re ready,” he said.





*****
“Phew,” panted James. “Is it time for lunch yet?”
“James, it’s only 10:30,” sad Lily exasperatedly.
“James, you are a stomach on legs,” said Gale.
“Why thank you.” James replied. Then they all looked at each other and busted out laughing.
Finally after catching their breath, they started walking again. After walking for another two hours or so, they came to a stop by a small creek full of fresh, clear, water. They set down their packs and pulled out lunch…





*****
Willow grabbed the rope. “Can you guys climb?” she asked hurriedly.
“Sure,” said Stephen. “You go first, then Morgan, and I’ll go up last.”
“Ok,” said Willow.
The three kids began their slow ascent towards the top of the chute. After what seemed like ages, Willow reached the top of the chute and saw daylight streaming into the hole usually concealed by the panel. She reached out her arms and helped Morgan outside. Then she grabbed one of Stephen’s hands and helped him up. They slipped outside and Willow slid the panel back in place. Then they heard wailing alarms from inside the house. “He must have alarms around the house,” yelled Stephen. “Come on, let’s get out of here,” said Willow. Then the three children sprinted through the unkempt lawn and into the woods, leaving the alarms wailing behind them.





*****
The man, who was called Mask, was heading back towards the house when he heard the sirens go off and he saw the three good for nothing kids running into the woods. He quickly ran to his truck and grabbed a shotgun from the trunk. Then he sprinted into the woods following after the kids.
Willow heard a crashing noise behind them. Turning to look behind them, she saw something that made her stomach twist in fear. The man was following them. And he was gaining on them.





*****
Gale, Lily, and James sat by the creek, splashing their feet in the cool water and talking. “Hey James, look at that squirrel over there,” said Gale.
“Where?” said James, looking around.
“Right….THERE!” yelled Gale dumping a cup of water in James’ face.
“NOT COOL GALE!” yelled James, emptying a bottle of water on his friends head. Pretty soon the three friends had a huge water fight going.
James scooped up a cup of water and was about to fling it at Lily when he paused. “Do you guys hear that?” he asked.
“Nice try James,” said Lily. “Not gonna fall for it.”
“No, seriously, I’m not kidding,” said James.
“Wait a minute, I hear it too,” said Gale looking puzzled. “It sounds like someone’s running towards us, and in a hurry.”
Just then, Willow, Stephen and Morgan burst out of the nearby bushes.
“Willow!” cried Lily joyfully.
“No, no,” panted Willow. “Kidnapper…chasing…right behind…need to go…”
“Calm down Willow,” said Gale. “Who are the other kids?”
“NO WE HAVE TO GO! MY KIDNAPPER IS RIGHT BEHIND US!” Willow yelled.
Then Mask burst out of the bushes. James jumped to his feet and pulled out his hunting knife. Mask quickly aimed his shotgun at Willow. “Put that knife down, or she dies,” he gasped. James didn’t move. “NOW!”
“NO!” cried Stephen and he tackled the Mask from behind, and pandemonium ensued.
All at the same time, Stephen knocked the gun out of Mask’s hands, James rushed forward to tackle Mask, and Gale began throwing things out of their bags, trying to find a rope. Bodies and objects were flying everywhere and Lily couldn’t see where Willow had gone. Then she turned and saw the barrel of Mask’s gun pointed straight at her chest.
James was lying on the ground nearby holding a bloody nose, and Stephen was sprawled out on the ground. He appeared to be knocked out. “Don’t move,” said Mask menacingly. “You know, I have a certain way of dealing with people who cause problems for me. And you, my dear, are causing problems for me.” He put his finger to the trigger and squeezed.





*****
It was only James quick reflexes that saved Lily’s life. As Mask pulled the trigger, he kicked out at his legs and knocked him off balance, causing him to shoot a low hanging tree branch instead of Lily. Unfortunately, the branched cracked and collapsed right on top of Lily. “LILY!” Gale screamed. The Mask rolled over and kicked James towards the water.
“I may not have a gun, but I can still drown you,” he said to James.
“No,” said James. Rolling over onto his knees James grabbed a large rock laying by the edge of the creek and brought it down on the top of Mask’s head. Mask slumped over unconscious. James staggered over to where Gale had dropped the rope to help Lily. He pulled Mask upright against a tree and tied him to it.
While James was busy taking care of Mask, Gale rushed over to see if Lily was ok. Luckily, Lily hadn’t been hit on the head by the branch, but she had been hit pretty hard on the arm.
“I think my arm’s broken,” gasped Lily, her face twisted in pain.
“James, see if that man has a cell phone with him,” called Gale.
“He does,” James replied.
“Good. Call 9-1-1 and get an ambulance and the police to come.”
“Will do.”
Willow walked over to where Morgan was hiding behind a tree.

“It’s ok Morgan, you can come out now,” said Willow kindly. Stephen walked over to them.

“Are you ok Morgan?” he asked.

“Yes. I think so,” she replied rather shakily.
“The police and ambulance are on their way,” said James.
The group of six sat together exchanging stories until the police arrived.
“We better get this one to the hospital,” said one EMT, nodding her head in Lily’s direction.
“I’ll go with Lily,” said Gale. “James, you stay with Willow, Stephen, and Morgan.” Gale climbed into the ambulance and the ambulance rushed off.
James told the police the story of Willow’s kidnapping, aided by Willow and Stephen.
“Well, I’ll be taking this one to jail,” said one of the policemen, handcuffing the mask and pulling him into the backseat of the police car.
“You kids can ride with me,” said the other policeman.
James, Willow, Stephen, and Morgan climbed in the car. Willow sighed. At last, they were all going home…





*****
Two weeks later, everything was back to normal. Stephen and Morgan had been reunited with their parents and Stephen and Morgan were now being enrolled in Charlston Elementary. The High School basketball team had gone to the state conference and Gale had scored the winning basket in the last 30 seconds of the game.
Lily had gotten out of the hospital a few days after the fight, with a broken arm, but other than that, everybody was fine. Lily and Gale had started going out, at which James just shook his head at Gale and said, “Told you so.”
Best of all, Willow’s dad had moved back into town and Willow was moving in with him next week. She was really excited, and happier than anyone had ever seen her.
After Willow had moved in with her dad, she threw a party to celebrate the return to normal life. Stephen, Morgan, Lily, James, and Gale all came. They went swimming in Willow’s brand new backyard swimming pool and had a cookout. While the adults stood around and talked while drinking beer, the kids went inside to watch a movie. Gale and Lily sat next to each other on the couch, James sat in a rocking chair with Morgan on his lap, and Willow and Stephen lay sprawled out on the floor.
“Are you and Gale going out Lily?” asked Morgan.
“Yup,” said Gale putting his arm around Lily’s shoulder.
“Ahhhhh it’s so romantic,” sighed Morgan.
“Do you have a girlfriend James?”
“Um, no,” said James blushing.
“Is it awkward for Lily and Gale to be dating to you then?”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s awkward or not,” said Gale grinning. “He has to put up with it weather he likes it or not.”
“I don’t care, just don’t start kissing in front of me,” said James making a face. “Because that’s just embarrassing.”
“What, you mean like this?” Gale leaned over and kissed Lily.
“Yup, just like that,” said James through gritted teeth.
Everyone started laughing. James just shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder why I’ve put up with you all these long years Gale.” He said exasperatedly.
“Because we’ve been best friends since kindergarten and that’s your job to put up with me,” said Gale, as if that should have been perfectly obvious. James just made a face at Gale and rolled his eyes.
Then they all watched the movie, said their goodbyes, and everybody went home. Watching James’ car pull out of the drive, Willow sighed.
“Is something wrong Willow?” asked her dad. “Do you not feel well?”
“No dad, I feel fine,” Willow replied. “In fact, I feel great.” Because on that night, for Willow Hendrix, life had never been better, and the warm spring air had never smelled sweeter.





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