Both Scott and Joey looked down at their legs. Both of Scott’s legs were fine, but Joey’s left leg was bleeding. A bit of the laser burned a line through her pants and a bit of her leg. Ethan finished with the electrical box and the fourth and sixth laser grids disappeared. He and Bradley then ran over to Joey and Scott. Scott stood up and pulled Joey to a clear area.
“Are you alright, Sweetheart?” Ethan asked as he, Scott, and Bradley knelt down next to her.
“Does it look like I am alright?” Joey said looking at her injury.
“Can you walk?” Bradley asked concerned.
“Maybe,” Joey replied.
The boys helped Joey to her feet and she winced under the pain in her left leg.
“Alright, then, stay here,” Ethan said, “The rest of us are going on.”
“Like heck you will,” Joey said.
“You’re hurt,” Scott said pointing to her leg.
“You’re stupid, but that doesn’t stop you, now does it?”
“Fine, you’re coming,” Ethan said. He nodded to Scott and he nodded back.
Scott took Joey’s left arm and put it around his shoulder. They all went over to the fifth laser grid.
“We’re so close, but so far away,” Scott said with a groan.
“Hey, look over there, that hole’s big enough for all of us to walk through,” Bradley said pointing to the right hand side of the laser grid.
“I don’t know guys. It could be a trap,” Joey said.
“Then my shoe will go first,” Ethan said taking off one of his shoes. He threw it through the hole and it landed next to the platform the statue was on.
“It’s safe,” Ethan said looking at the others.
They all walked through and stood around the statue.
“So who thinks this is too easy?” Scott asked looking around at the other three.
“I do,” Joey agreed.
“We’ve got this thing in the bag from here on out,” Ethan said with a smile.
“Says you,” Bradley said to Ethan.
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Tracey Wright was on her way home after a long day at work. She hadn’t seen her husband and daughter for the past two days because they were at a relative’s house. Today they were coming home and she couldn’t wait to see them.
She knew she had to be careful though, the roads were extremely icy due to all the snow they’ve been getting. Then a semi came out of nowhere behind her. The man behind the wheel had black hair and actually almost looked like Logan Connors. Wait that is Logan Connors, what is he doing? That semi went to pass her on a two-way street with a car coming the other way. The semi veered into Tracey’s car at the very last second to avoid the other car and she went spinning out of control right into a concrete lamp post. The car hit the lamp post on the driver’s side making the window shatter and pinning her to the seat.
The driver in the other car stopped and called for an ambulance. She was rushed to the hospital. Zander and Emma were already there waiting for the ambulance. The paramedics had called them right away and Zander knew because of his spy connections.
“What happened? Is she going to be okay?” Zander asked in a panic following the paramedics.
“We found her unconscious at the scene. We’re not sure if she’s going to be okay. It was an awful crash,” said one of the paramedics.
A doctor came running up to them. “This way,” he said.
“Is she going to be okay?” Zander asked again.
“Don’t worry we’re going to do the best we can to save her,” the doctor told Zander.
The doctor, the nurses, and Tracey went into the emergency room. Zander fell to his knees and buried his face in his hands. Emma knelt down beside him and started crying into his shoulder.
“Mom’s going to be okay, dad. She’s a strong person,” she cried. Whoever did this to my mom is going to be asking for it. Me, Dad, or Joey will find this guy and hopefully kill him for this, she thought to herself.
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Ethan picked up the statue and examined it. “Told you,” he said.
Then all at once all the laser grids that were gone came back and the holes that the group went through covered up.
“No, Collins, I told you. Did I not say this was a trap?” Joey said.
“Now what are we going to do?” asked Bradley.
“I don’t know,” Ethan said.
“Well that’s a first,” Scott said.
“Would you shut up?” Ethan yelled.
Joey looked everywhere; left, right, down, and up. “Guys, I have an idea,” she said.
“Well let’s hear it, because I’m fresh out of them,” Ethan said.
“Put it this way, the only way out is up,” Joey said pointing to the ceiling. They all looked up.
“What are we looking at?” Scott asked.
“Don’t you get it, the ceiling has panels. If we get up there and remove one, we could use it as a tunnel to get back to Mr. Smith,” Joey explained.
“I get it,” Bradley said climbing onto the platform the statue was just on. He went on his tiptoes and removed one of the panels, “Ethan, get up here and go first.”
“I call the shots and I say you go first,” Ethan argued.
“Don’t argue just go,” Joey said rolling her eyes at them.
Bradley climbed up and started down the tunnel. Then Ethan went up with the statue. Scott helped Joey up and then he went up.
“Wright, how far do we go?” called Bradley.
“Keep going a bit farther,” Joey replied, “I think.”
“Great, she thinks,” Bradley said.
Joey just rolled her eyes at him even though it was quite dark.
Bradley and the others went a bit farther and Bradley removed another panel. Below were the class and Mr. Smith. Bradley jumped down and Ethan threw him the statue and he caught it. Then Ethan jumped down, followed by Joey who was caught by Ethan, so she wouldn’t aggravate her injury further. And Scott was the last one out. They all were breathing hard, but managed to do their team motto.
“We learn together,” Scott said sticking his hand out.
“We live together,” Bradley said putting his hand on top of Scott’s.
“We work together,” Ethan said putting his hand on top of Bradley’s.
“And we fight together,” Joey finished putting her hand on top of all of theirs.
“Piece of cake,” Bradley said as they broke apart and handed Mr. Smith the statue.
“Very good job,” replied Mr. Smith.
“The only real problem we ran into was Joey’s leg,” Scott said putting her arm back around his shoulder.
“You all have passed. Now taker her to the hospital wing and you are free until the start of the new semester,” Mr. Smith said.
As the four of them left for the hospital wing, they glanced at Doug and Kara and they all raised their eyebrows. They walked into the hospital wing and Ethan called out, “Hey, Brittany. We’ve got a live one here!”
“Let’s hope so,” said a young lady with long black hair and brown eyes. She was skinny and wearing scrubs, “I don’t want dead ones. So what do we have here?”
“She got burned,” Ethan said pointing to Joey’s leg.
“Oh dear, lay down child,” Brittany said pointing to a bed.
Joey lay down on the bed she was pointing at and Brittany rolled up Joey’s pant leg. It was the ugliest thing Joey had ever seen. It was a bloody, burned flesh line going across her left ankle.
“I have to clean it out with some rubbing alcohol and wrap it up,” Brittany said talking into Joey’s leg as she examined the wound.
“Rubbing alcohol? Are you crazy? That stuff burns,” Joey said as her eyes widened.
“But I have to do it.”
“I rather get burned by that laser right now than you putting that junk on my boo-boo.”
“You still say boo-boo?” Scott asked.
“Apparently you do too,” replied Joey glaring at Scott.
Brittany got the rubbing alcohol and bandages and sat back down at Joey’s leg. “Since you don’t like this, why don’t you hold on to something,” Brittany said.
Ethan walked up to Joey and stuck out his hand. Reluctantly, Joey grabbed his hand and looked his way. Brittany dabbed rubbing alcohol on Joey’s wound and Joey dug her nails into Ethan’s hand, he didn’t flinch.
“This is freaking ridiculous,” she said through clenched teeth.
Brittany finished with the rubbing alcohol and bandaged her leg. “I want you to try and stay off that leg,” she said to Joey, “What’s your name?”
“Joey Wright,” Joey replied, “Why?”
“I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you four more than I want to,” replied Brittany.
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
A couple of hours after Tracey was brought in; her doctor came out and headed to Zander and Emma. They both stood up.
“So?” Zander asked.
“She’s in a coma,” the doctor said, “And the only thing right now that’s keeping her alive are machines. There’s some brain damage from when her head hit the side window.”
Zander sank back into his chair and put his head in his hands and started crying. Emma just stood there staring at the doctor. “Do something! Wake her up!” she cried.
“We have done all we can. The rest is up to her,” the doctor said, “I have to fill out some paper work. You both may see her, just follow the nurse.”
Zander just sat there, why? Why is this happening? How did this happen? Who did this? “Doc, wait,” he said. The doctor turned around, “How did she crash?”
“The cops and the witness say a man in a semi purposely slammed into her,” the doctor answered.
“Why would they do that?” Emma asked walking back to her father.
“That is a mystery to me.”
“Who was the man?” Zander asked.
“I don’t know and neither do the cops. The only person who probably knows is your wife.”
The doctor walked away and Zander and Emma followed a nurse to Tracey’s room. When they walked in, they could barely recognize her. Half her face was scrapped up and there were wires everywhere. The nurse left and Zander and Emma sat on either side of Tracey. Zander grabbed her hand and held it tight. Emma just stared at her parents in complete shock. I don’t get it. Why would any one want to hurt my mom?
“Dad?” she said. He looked up at her. “Do you know anyone who would want to hurt mom?”
“No,” he replied sadly.
A man about six feet tall with short black hair and brown eyes with a strong build to him that looked to be in his mid-twenties, walked into a bar and sat down in a dark booth in the corner. He was drumming his fingers on the table when another man about the same height and same looks walked up to him.
“So did you do it?” he asked quietly.
“You bet I did,” the first man said with an impish smile.
“Did anyone see you, Logan?”
“If anyone saw me I wouldn’t be sitting here,” Logan said raising his eyebrows, “Just calm down, Michael.”
“If you brought the cops, I will kill you myself,” Michael threatened.
“I didn’t. Zander’s probably a wreck right about now. He’ll be easy.”
“We’re not going to kill him…yet. Let’s break him down a bit more,” Michael said.
“Shouldn’t we space this out so no one will get suspicious?” Logan asked.
“Yes, that’s exactly what we are going to do.”
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Joey and Ethan were sitting on her bed playing games on her computer when her cell phone rang. “Hello?” she said.
“Joe, its Emma.”
“What’s up?” Joey asked.
“Mom’s in the hospital,” Emma replied choking up a bit.
“What? How? Why?”
“Some guy in a semi ran into her car and she crashed into a concrete lamp post. And now the only thing that’s keeping her alive are stupid machines and Dad’s a total wreck,” Emma said in a rush.
“Em, clam down, when did this happen?” Joey asked concerned. Ethan had stopped playing his video game and stared at Joey who was now sitting on the edge of her bed.
“It happened this afternoon. Joey, what are we going to do?” Emma cried.
“Do they know the guy that did it?”
“I can’t go anywhere right now, but I guess the only thing we can do is pray,” Joey said.
“Thank you, Joey. I’ll talk to you later,” Emma said.
“Bye and tell Zander I’ll call him later.” And they hung up.
Joey started limping around the room thinking.
“What’s going on?” Ethan asked as he watched her walk past him.
“Tracey, my sister-in-law, is in the hospital. Some guy in a semi ran into her car and now she’s living off machines,” Joey answered as she stopped in front of him.
“How’s your brother holding up?”
“Emma said he’s a wreck. If Tracey dies my brother might just lose it. He loves her like there’s no tomorrow. And Emma, she loves her mom. There’s got to be a way for me to go see them.”
“Where do they live?” Ethan asked.
“Here in Washington,” Joey answered.
“I have an idea. Since we don’t have classes anymore we could leave tonight and see them.”
“We can’t do that,” Joey said.
“Because we’re out of our rooms, taking a car, and driving four hours away from here. Someone’s gonna notice,” Joey explained.
“Do you want to see your brother or not? And besides, it’s my car we’re taking.”
Joey starred at him for a while and then disappeared into her closet. When she came out she had her backpack ready and she was changed.
“How are we going to do this?” she asked putting her bag on the bed.
“We go to bed like normal and around midnight we meet each other by my car. If one of us gets caught we page the other by giving them a quick call,” Ethan said.
Joey lay on her back on the bed and covered her face with her hands. Ethan just watched her for a while. Then he said, “Everything’s going to be fine.”
Joey looked over at him, “I sure hope so.”
“How’s your leg?”
“Hurts, but I can live with it. What are we going to do with Scott and Bradley?”
“You can tell them if you want. But only you and I can go. I don’t want all of us into too much trouble. It’s also less noticeable with two gone rather than four.”
“Alright, I’ll tell them now,” Joey said.
“How do you know where they are?” Ethan asked.
“They’re in Scott’s room. I can hear them through my closet wall,” Joey replied as she went to her door.
“I’ll see you at dinner,” Ethan said as he and Joey left her room.
Ethan went into his room and Joey knocked on Scott’s door and he opened it. Joey explained everything to the boys and they met Ethan in the cafeteria.
“Good luck,” Scott said once they all sat down.
“You’re going to need it,” Bradley said.
Joey was silently poking at her food. I knew more than one thing would happen today. First it’s freakin’ freezing outside. Then my leg gets burned off and now Tracey’s in the hospital, she thought, life pretty much sucks today.
“Sweetheart, you need to eat something,” Ethan said looking over at her.
“Why do you call me Sweetheart all the time?” she blurted out.
“I don’t know, but you’ve never said anything about it before,” Ethan replied feeling hurt.
“Yeah, well, don’t call me that anymore.”
Tears were beginning to roll down her face and she ran out of the cafeteria. The boys just stared after her. I always called her that why is she freaking out now? Ethan thought.
Joey ran to her room and started crying into her pillow. About an hour later someone knocked on her door.
“It’s unlocked,” she said rolling over.
Bradley walked into her room and shut the door behind him. Joey looked up at him with puffy, red eyes.
“What?” she asked.
“Why did you freak out at Ethan?” Bradley asked walking toward her bed and sitting down next to her.
“I don’t know. I just want to leave here,” Joey replied.
“No, you don’t.”
“How would you know?”
“You’re queen of the castle. And the three of us guys know how much you love ordering us around.”
Bradley moved closer to Joey and put his arm around her. She laid her head on his shoulder. They sat there until lights out and Bradley went back to his room. Joey got up, replaced her bandages, got her backpack ready, and got changed. She still wanted to go see Zander and Emma even if it would be uncomfortable now that she yelled at Ethan.
Around midnight, she made hr bed and grabbed her bag and a flashlight. She quietly went into the hall and into the elevator. Once she reached the first floor, she snuck outside and ran across the grass to the garage. When she entered the garage, she found Ethan sitting on the hood of his car.
“I hoped you come,” he said.
“Well, of course,” Joey said as she walked past him and got into the passenger seat.
Ethan jumped off the car and went into the driver’s seat. He glanced over at Joey, who was sitting with her feet on the dashboard and her arms crossed over her chest. Why is she doing this? I didn’t do anything, he thought.
“Are we waiting to get caught or something?” Joey snapped.
Ethan turned on the car silently and they drove away from the school. Four hours later they reached Zander’s house. Ethan turned off the car and he and Joey walked up to the door.
“Is he even home?” Ethan asked.
“No, but I have a key,” Joey replied as she unlocked the front door.
Zander’s house was a white two-story house with an attached garage. When they walked in, Joey put her bag on the couch in the living room, which was on the left. She then went into the kitchen, which was down the hall and opened the fridge.
“What are you doing?” Ethan asked.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” Joey asked grabbing two sodas and giving one to Ethan.
“Joey, what the heck have I done for you to be so angry with me?” Ethan asked starring hard at Joey.
“Nothing, you’ve done nothing,” Joey replied not looking at Ethan.
“Then why are you doing this?”
“Ethan, please stop asking me questions. Just leave me alone.”
Tears started rolling down her cheeks. She turned away and quickly wiped them away. They both sat down and silently drank their sodas. After about an hour, Joey stood up, stretched, and said, “Let’s go see my brother.”
Ethan nodded and followed her back to the car. They drove down to the hospital and they walked up to the front desk.
“How may I help you?” the lady behind the front desk asked.
“I’m looking for Tracey Wright’s room,” Joey replied.
The lady told them what room Tracey was in and they went up to it. When they reached her room, Emma was sitting outside the door with her head on her knees. Joey went to her and knelt down in front of her.
“Em?” she said putting a hand on her shoulder.
Emma looked up and threw herself at Joey and Joey fell backward. Joey returned the hug and they sat back up.
“When did you get here?” Emma asked wiping tears away.
“An hour or so ago,” Joey replied, “This is Ethan.” She pointed to Ethan as he walked up to them.
“Hi,” they said to each other.
“Can I go in there?” Joey asked.
Emma nodded and Joey entered the room and Ethan stayed outside with Emma. Joey walked up quietly behind Zander who was resting his head on Tracey’s hand. She put a hand on his shoulder and he slowly lifted his head up. When he realized that it was Joey, he stood up and hugged her. After a little while he slowly let go of her and sat back down and held Tracey’s hand.
“When did you get here?” he asked quietly.
“An hour or so ago,” Joey replied pulling up a chair next to him.
“Wait a minute, you’re not allowed to leave the school and you’re not even old enough to drive down here. How did you get here?”
“Don’t worry about it, Z. I have a friend with me, Ethan Collins. I’m here because you need me,” Joey said.
“Thanks, kid,” Zander said rubbing his hand on top of her head.
Joey and Zander sat there for a little while in silence until Joey asked, “How did this happen?”
“The cops say a semi drove by a man with black hair purposely ran into her. And she then crashed into a cement light pole. The car is completely destroyed. The doctors say she may never wake up,” Zander replied.
“Will the cops find the guy?”
“I don’t know.”
Joey sat there thinking, if I knew who did this I could get the boys to help me catch this stupid person. But there are a lot of guys with black hair in the world, so there’s no way of finding him. I need more information on this guy to do a real investigation.
“If you need anything I’m here, okay Zander?” Joey said.
Zander nodded, “Where’s Emma and how’s she doing?”
“She’s outside with Ethan. She’s completely distraught.”
“This is hard for all of us, isn’t?”
“Can you tell Emma to come in here? I want me, her, and Tracey to be together for a little while,” Zander said.
Joey got up and went into the hall. “Em, your father wants to see you.”
“Okay,” she said wiping tears off her face.
She went into the room and Joey sat down next to Ethan and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered in his ear.
“For what?” he asked.
“For being there for me and Emma,” Joey replied, “I’m sorry for yelling at you before. It’s just that my parents were killed in a car accident the same way a year ago. Now Tracey may die from a car accident. Wait a minute…”
Joey jumped to her feet and rushed into Tracey’s room with Ethan behind her. Both Zander and Emma looked up as they ran in.
“What?” Zander asked.
“Who killed mom and dad?” Joey blurted out once she reached Tracey’s bed.
“Joe, let’s not get started with that,” Zander said looking back at Tracey.
“Answer my question,” Joey said starring hard at Zander.
“I don’t know, Joanne. Can’t you see my wife is dying and you want to talk about our dead parents?”
“It could be that same person!” Joey yelled, “I’m sorry, I’m trying to help you out. But if you don’t want me to, then Ethan and I are going back!”
“Do whatever you want. I never asked you to come here in the first place!” Zander yelled.
Joey stood there for a split second then ran out of the room. Zander went back to Tracey and Ethan followed Joey back to his car. When he reached his car Joey was sitting in the passenger’s seat, crying, and holding her left ankle. Ethan got into his car and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“‘What’s wrong?’ Did you not just see what happened?” Joey yelled looking up at him.
“Not what I meant! What’s wrong with you leg?”
Joey just stared at him. Why are all guys this stupid? “Jerk!”
Ethan turned on the car and they went back to Zander’s house to get their things. One they did they went back o the Academy. When they got there it was around lunchtime. Ethan went to the cafeteria and Joey went to her room and went to bed.
“We thought you wouldn’t be back until later,” Scott said.
“Yeah, well, Joey ran into a few problems,” Ethan said.
“Where is she anyway?” Bradley asked.
“In her room, I guess. She hadn’t slept for a day and a half,” Ethan said, “And neither have I.”
“We should leave her alone for a while,” Scott said.
The boys actually did leave Joey alone until Christmas, unless she wanted to talk to them herself. Christmas morning all three boys woke up early and got changed. Once they were done they grabbed their gifts and met in the hall outside Joey’s room. But when they got there Joey was already waiting for them with her gifts.
“Happy birthday, Bradley,” she said to Bradley handing him a birthday gift.
“Thank you, Joe. It’s nice to see you again,” Bradley said taking his gift from her.
“I’ve been here the whole time, silly,” Joey said with a smile.
“Let’s go into a room before people start starring,” Ethan said.
The four of them went into Bradley’s room and sat on his bed. They exchanged gifts and went to the cafeteria for breakfast. For the rest of the day they hung out in the Practice Room.
“Your leg seems better,” Scott said as he caught her left leg when she did a roundhouse kick at him.
“Duh,” Joey said tripping him with her other leg.
They both fell down and started laughing.
“You two are stupid,” Bradley laughed.
Doug and Kara walked in and Joey, Scott, Bradley, and Ethan stopped laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Doug asked.
“Your face,” Ethan replied.
Doug walked straight up to Ethan and pushed him.
“What the heck?” Joey said standing in between Ethan and Doug.
Doug just glared at the four of them and left with Kara at his heels.
“What the heck was that?” Scott asked.
“I don’t know,” Ethan replied.
For the rest of the winter vacation, the four friends stayed clear of Doug and Kara. On the first day back, Joey, Scott, Bradley, and Ethan went through all their classes with no problems from the Idiot Twins, as they like to call them now.
The rest of the year went on not so well, but it went on. There as a fight with the four friends and the Idiot Twins every other week which landed everyone in detention the week they didn’t fight each other with Mr. Hardass and Jenny. This was not fun, as Scott would point out every time they left detention with either one of their teachers. And Joey hadn’t heard any news from Zander or Emma about Tracey, so she just figured Tracey was still in a coma, which got her mad because she wanted to get the guy who did this to Tracey with every fiber of her being.
On the last day of school, Joey, Scott, and Bradley woke up early and went into Ethan’s room to wake him up.
“Happy birthday!” they yelled.
Ethan fell out of bed, confused. The others started laughing at him. Joey laughed so hard she started crying.
“You guys scared the crap out of me,” Ethan said standing up.
“Happy 19th birthday, Ethan,” Joey said handing him his gift and trying not to laugh anymore.
Ethan opened all his gifts and after he was done, Joey, Scott, Bradley, and Ethan got ready for their last day of classes.
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
“You’re an hour late, Mr. Whillington!” Zander’s boss yelled.
“Sorry, sir, I had to get my daughter to school and check up on my wife,” Zander replied as he sat down at the only chair left at the table.
Zander was late for a meeting, so he was in the Meeting Room with his boss and six other employees. Zander works for a shipping company in a fifteen-story building.
“What was I saying before we were rudely interrupted by Mr. Wright?” asked his boss.
A man that had the same features as the boss, only a bit younger, raised his hand.
“Yes, Logan,” Michael Connors said.
“We were talking about what you wanted to do next with this company, Mr. Connors,” Logan Connors said with a sneer.
“Thank you,” he nodded to Logan, “I may have to lay some people off due to such a big move and Zander if you are late again you will be the first to go,” Michael said glaring at Zander.
“But my wife is dying. I need both her and this job,” Zander said.
“If you need your wife more than this job, I suggest you leave now,” Michael said leaning on the table. Zander didn’t move. “I was also thinking about moving the company to North Dakota.”
One of the female employees raised her hand.
“Yes, Ashley,” Michael said pointing to her.
“Why North Dakota, sir?” she asked.
“Because I like it there and it has high qualities for a big business out there,” replied Michael, “The meeting is over and Zander, if you are late again don’t even bother showing up at all!”
“Yes, sir,” Zander said quietly as he left the Meeting Room.
Everyone left except for Logan and Michael. Then Michael started pacing about the room, he was furious with Logan.
“She’s still alive!” Michael yelled rounding on his brother.
“Apparently,” Logan said, “But I swear she was dead when I ran into her car.”
“How is she still alive?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well find out!”
“Yes, you’re Royal Highness,” Logan said mimicking a bow and then leaving the Meeting Room.
Logan went to the hospital Tracey was staying at and asked the nurse that was sitting at the front desk where Tracey’s room was. The nurse told him and Logan went to Tracey’s room. When he opened the door, he saw Tracey lying there hooked up to all types of machines to keep her alive. There was slight tug at his heart and he looked at her for a while with sadden eyes, but then realized that he had a job to do and ignored any more stupid feelings he had while doing this. He was the only one for the job, even though Michael told him what to do.
Logan walked up to her bed and went to ‘pull the plug’ on Tracey when Zander walked into the room with flowers in his hand.
“What are you doing here?” Zander asked walking up to him.
“What are you doing here? You should be at work,” Logan said trying not to look guilty.
“So should you. I’m on my lunch break,” Zander said, “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see how Tracey was doing,” Logan lied walking to the door, “I should get back to the office.”
Damn it, Logan thought, I was so close to killing her. He went back to work and met Michael in his office.
“So?” Michael asked as Logan walked into the room.
“She’s living off machines,” Logan answered sitting down in a sea in front of Michael’s desk.
“Did you pull the plug on her?”
“I couldn’t, Zander walked in.”
“What? He should be at work.”
“He said he was on his lunch break,” Logan said.
“He’s going to regret leaving here,” Michael said.
“What’s your new master plan?” Logan asked.
For the last day of school, Joey, Scott, Bradley, and Ethan had tests in all their classes including Combat Practice. Most of the tests were hard. Joey’s math, history, and science were the hardest.
When it came to Combat Practice, Joey, Scott, Bradley, and Ethan met each other in the Combat Practice Room. After a few minutes, Mr. Smith walked into the room. He didn’t look like his usually self: mean and ugly. Instead he looked tired and sad and kind of helpless.
“What’s wrong, sir?” asked one of the girls.
“Mind your own business,” Mr. Smith snapped at the girl. The girl started crying. “Don’t cry, I didn’t mean to snap at you.” Mr. Smith’s mood changed so fast that the students were taken back.
“What in the world is that?” Joey whispered to her friends, “What’s up with him?”
“I don’t know,” Bradley whispered.
“He wasn’t acting this way yesterday,” Ethan whispered.
“No, he wasn’t. He was as mean as he always was,” Scott whispered, “I should know, he gave me a detention for putting gum underneath my desk.”
“I wonder what’s up,” Joey whispered. Scott, Bradley, and Ethan all shrugged.
Then Mr. Whillington’s voice came on the loud speaker, “Joanne Wright, please come to my office immediately.”
Joey looked at her friends and gave them a ‘what did I do’ look. The boys just shrugged.
“Wright, you heard the Headmaster. Get going!” Mr. Smith said.
Joey grabbed her stuff and went to Mr. Whillington’s office. One she reached the fifth floor, she knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Mr. Whillington said from inside. Joey opened the door and walked up to his desk. “Please have a seat, Miss Wright.” Joey sat down in a chair in front of the desk. “I have some important news to tell you. Zander had decided to let Tracey go.”
“Really?” Joey said sinking into the chair.
“Yes, I’ve arranged for Mr. Smith to take you to Zander. You will be leaving tonight after dinner. When it’s time to come back is up to Mr. Smith. When he says it’s time to go back, listen to him,” Mr. Whillington said.
“Thank you, sir,” Joey said.
“You may go back to class or go to your room and get ready to go.”
“I’m going to my room. Thank you again, sir,” Joey said leaving Mr. Whillington’s office.
She went to her room and threw her school bag n the closet and grabbed her suitcase and started throwing clothes into it. Zander and Emma are going to be devasted, Joey thought, I still think it’s the same guy who killed mom and dad, but no one wants to listen to me. She was sitting on her bed making sure she got everything when she heard the bell ring for the start of the summer vacation. A few minutes later, Joey heard the boys coming down the hall. She got up and opened the door for them and Scott, Bradley, and Ethan danced into the room.
“Summer vacation here we come!” Ethan said throwing his stuff on the floor.
“No more school, no more work, life is now great,” Scott said.
“Not for Zander and Emma,” Joey said quietly.
“What do you mean, Sweetheart?” Ethan asked. “I can call you that, right?” he added quickly.
Joey nodded, “Zander has decided to let Tracey go.” She sat down on her bed.
“Is that why you had to go to Mr. Whillington’s office?” Bradley asked sitting next to her.
“Yeah, Mr. Hardass is taking me to Zander after dinner tonight,” Joey answered.
“Zander has lost so much now hasn’t he?” Ethan asked sitting on her other side.
“We both have,” answered Joey, “And you know what? I think the same person who killed my parents is the same person who did this to Tracey.”
“Do you really think so?” Scott asked sitting at her feet.
“Yes, it has to be. She crashed just like my parents. You guys believe me, don’t you?” Joey said looking at the boys with pleading eyes.
“We believe it if you believe it,” Bradley said combing his hand through her hair.
“Let’s head to dinner, so you can leave early enough,” Ethan said walking to her door.
The four of them went up to the cafeteria and ate their dinner. Actually, the boys ate their dinner while Joey picked at her food. When they finished dinner, Scott, Bradley, and Ethan went to Joey’s room as Joey walked up to Mr. Smith.
“Are you finished with your dinner?” Mr. Smith asked as he looked up at Joey.
“Yes, sir,” Joey answered.
“Go get your things ready to go. I’ll get you from your room. I know you want to say goodbye to your friends,” Mr. Smith said finishing up his dinner.
“Yes, sir.” Joey went back to her room and found Scott, Bradley, and Ethan sitting around the room. “Mr. Smith is letting me say goodbye and to get my things before he comes to get me,” she said to them.
“Everything will be okay, Joey,” Ethan said giving her a hug and a kiss on her cheek.
“Stay strong, Joey,” Scott said giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek as Ethan stepped away.
“Send our love to Zander and Emma for us, okay?” Bradley said giving her a hug and a kiss on her cheek as Scott stepped away.
“I will,” Joey said as someone knocked on her door. She grabbed all her stuff and opened the door to find Mr. Smith standing there.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” Joey said. She waved goodbye to her friends and followed Mr. Smith to the garage.
“We will be taking my personal pickup truck,” Mr. Smith said as they reached a white pickup truck, that was rusting in different areas of the truck. They climbed in and Mr. Smith drove away from the school in silence.
About half way to the hospital, Joey spoke up, “Why are you taking me and not Jenny or one of the other teachers?”
“Because I swore to protect you when you entered the Academy,” Mr. Smith answered without looking at her.
“Is that the real reason?”
“Do you plan on telling me the real reason any time soon?” Joey asked as she stared at him.
“No,” Mr. Smith said calmly, still not looking at her.
“I will find out, you know.”
“Well, then find out.”
They reached the hospital Tracey was at and went straight to her room. When they entered, Zander and Emma were sitting around Tracey’s bed. They looked up and stood to give Joey a hug. First Zander gave her a hug, then Emma. Then something weird happened, Emma gave Mr. Smith a hug and said, “I’m glad you’re here Uncle Jack.”
Mr. Smith patted her on the back and cleared his throat, “Uh, yeah.”
“Uncle Jack?” Joey said shocked at the news. “So that is the real reason. You’re Tracey’s brother?”
“Sort of. I am her stepbrother, but I loved her very much. She was the baby of the family and we were always together,” Mr. Smith said.
“So, I’m technically related to you? Gross,” Joey said.
“Joanne, not now. We’ll talk about this later,” Zander said forcefully. He took both Joey and Emma’s hands and held onto them. “I want to pray before the doctor gets here.”
They all gathered around Tracey’s bed and each said their own little prayer. As they were finishing up, the doctor came in and said, “We’re ready when you are, Mr. Wright.”
“We’re ready,” Zander said nodding to the doctor.
The doctor unhooked all the machines that were attached to Tracey. Within an hour Tracey had stopped breathing. Zander was on his knees, crying. Emma was crying into Mr. Smith’s chest. Mr. Smith was holding onto Emma, he too, was crying. And Joey just stood there, confused by her emotions. She was both angry and sad.
Why the heck would anyone be that cruel to kill and innocent person? Who would kill someone’s mother, wife, and sister?
Joey sat next to Zander and wrapped her arms around him to comfort him. “I swear to you Zander, I will find out who did this. I will not sit back and watch this.”
Zander didn’t say anything, but he let Joey hold him.
“Same here Zander,” Mr. Smith said wiping his face.
“Me, too, dad,” Emma said letting go of her uncle.
“No you will not, Emma Jean Wright!” Zander shouted, shoving Joey away. “You are way too young. Jack and Joey are working in the Academy. Jack is an official spy. Joey is learning to be one. You are not.”
“Fine, but this is still not fair!”
A few days after Tracey died; Zander had a funeral for her. Tracey was to be buried next to Tom and Marie Wright. That request was from the rest of the Wright family, Zander, Joey, and Emma.
Ethan had driven Scott and Bradley to the cemetery to be with Joey. They each held each other during the funeral.
After the funeral, Zander, Emma, Joey, Mr. Smith, Ethan, Scott, and Bradley went back to Zander’s house for refreshments. They all sat around the big dining room table, in silence.
“Collins? You, Brewer, and Porter need to head back to the Academy as soon as possible,” Mr. Smith said.
“Yes, sir,” Ethan said to Mr. Smith. To Scott and Bradley, he said, “Let’s get going before traffic gets too bad. I also need to get gas in my car so we can make it back home.”
Scott, Bradley, and Ethan stood up and each gave Joey and Emma a kiss on the top of the head. And shook Zander’s hand before leaving.
“When are we going back?” Joey asked Mr. Smith.
“I am going back tomorrow. You will be coming back when Zander decides to take you back,” Mr. Smith replied.
“So I’ll be staying here for the summer?” Joey asked Zander, her face lighting up.
“Well, not exactly,” Zander said not looking at anyone.
“What is that suppose to mean?” Emma shouted.
“We’ll talk about this later,” Zander said still not looking at anyone.
“We’re going to talk about this now!” Joey and Emma yelled as they both jumped to their feet.
“My boss, Michael Connors, and his brother, Logan Connors, want to move the company to North Dakota. And if I don’t move with them, I’ll lose my job,” Zander replied looking up at his daughter and sister, sadly.
“What?” Emma yelled, “We can’t move. I don’t want to move!”
“I have no other choice, Emma!” Zander said forcefully.
“I hate you!” Emma ran from the dining room and to her room.
“Great, first I lose my wife and now my daughter hates me,” Zander said. He looked at Joey. “You hate me now, too, don’t you?”
“No, but was it such a brilliant idea to mention this to us, to her, today?” Joey asked folding her arms across her chest.
“No, but you two would have kept bugging me.”
“I’ll go talk to her if you want me to,” Joey said.
“Could you? Can you try to make her understand why I have to do this?” Zander asked, putting his hands in his lap.
“I guess,” Joey replied.
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Once Emma ran into her room, she lay on her bed and started crying into her pillow. Why? Why is everything happening to me and my family? First my grandparents die, then mom dies, and now I have to move to freakin’ North Dakota, she thought to her self. I want everything back to the way things were. I don’t want to leave grandma. I don’t want to leave grandpa. I don’t want to leave Uncle Jack or Joey. And I really don’t want to leave my mommy.
There was a knock on her door, “Go away!”
“Em, it’s Joey. Let me in, I want to talk to you,” Joey said from the other side of the bedroom door.
Emma got up and opened the door for Joey. “What?”
“Your father has no other choice. He has to move or he will lose his job. He needs it or he won’t be able to pay for anything. I know it’s hard. I know how it feels to lose a parent, shoot, I lost both of mine,” Joey said as they sat down on Emma’s bed.
“Fine, I’ll move, but I won’t be like it,” Emma said.
“I know, and I’ll visit every chance I get. Even Mr. Smith will come and see you,” Joey said wrapping an arm around Emma’s shoulders.
“You mean Uncle Jack?” Emma said with a small smile.
“Yeah, let’s go with that,” Joey laughed.
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
“Three down and a whole lot to go,” Michael said as he smiled to himself.
“What do you mean?” Logan asked his brother. They were sitting in Michael’s office. They had just heard that Tracey had died.
“The end of Zander Wright’s life is what I mean, Logan,” Michael sneered. “Can you guess who our next target will be?”
“I don’t know, Michael,” Logan said, actually he really didn’t care.
“Little Joanne Wright.”
“What? She’s just a kid,” Logan argued.
“What’s your point? I run the show and I say its Joanne’s turn.”
“Am I supposed to kill her?”
All Michael did was smile.
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