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Grandmaster awgcoleman
A. W. G. Coleman

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Legacy of War - Part 1 Chapter 2: Suburban Secrets - Part 1 Chapter 3: Legacy of War - Part 2 Chapter 4: Suburban Secrets - Part 2 Chapter 5: Legacy of War - Part 3 Chapter 6: Suburban Secrets - Part 3 Chapter 7: Suburban Secrets - Part 4 Chapter 8: Legacy of War - Part 4 Chapter 9: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 1 Chapter 10: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 2 Chapter 11: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 1 Chapter 12: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 2 Chapter 13: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 3 Chapter 14: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 4 Chapter 15: The Displacement - Part 1 Chapter 16: The Displacement - Part 2 Chapter 17: The Displacement - Part 3 Chapter 18: The Displacement - Part 4 Chapter 19: The Displacement - Part 5 Chapter 20: The Displacement - Part 6 Chapter 21: The Displacement - Part 7 Chapter 22: The Displacement - Part 8 Chapter 23: The Quickener Prodigy - Part 1 Chapter 24: A Mother’s Mission - Part 1 Chapter 25: Search for the Summoner - Part 1 Chapter 26: A Mother’s Mission - Part 2 Chapter 27: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 1 Chapter 28: Into the Desert - Part 1 Chapter 29: Search for the Summoner - Part 2 Chapter 30: Search for the Summoner - Part 3 Chapter 31: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 2 Chapter 32: Search for the Summoner – Part 4 Chapter 33: A Mother’s Mission – Part 3 Chapter 34: Into the Desert – Part 2 Chapter 35: The Quickener Prodigy – Part 2 Chapter 36: The Weather Master - Part 1 Chapter 37: Search for the Summoner – Part 5 Chapter 38: The Weather Master – Part 2 Chapter 39: Into the Desert - Part 3 Chapter 40: Into the Desert – Part 4 Chapter 41: Late Night Revelations – Part 1 Chapter 42: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 3 Chapter 43: The Weather Master – Part 3 Chapter 44: Late Night Revelations - Part 2

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Chapter 6: Suburban Secrets - Part 3

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Chapter 6

 

* Greengale, USA *

Though some of the teens in A&A became members because they were friends of Jandor or Wayne, others were recruited by Jandor’s father or Calvin Eastman for one reason or another. The parents encouraged all of them to hang out together outside of school and work as a way for them to be a more cohesive group. This was one of the reasons they went on a yearly summer trip and how a party became a tradition just after the end of the school year.

Several hours after their meeting, the teens congregated at the Eastman house and Calvin ordered them pizza before he headed out. Ace’s mom and younger sister had already gone out of town for a spa weekend, so the A&A teens had the run of the large manor. Even though the underlying purpose of the party was to foster group unity, the laidback atmosphere and lack of structure meant that the teens would inevitably split into smaller subgroups and cliques.

Some of the more athletic teens went outside to play basketball on the backyard court; another group was in the large rec room where there were various options including pool, board games and video games; and a few of the girls went to the third-floor den to hang out and talk.

Of course, these groups were far from static, and the teens would swap activities as time went on. Alyson Silvers was doing just that as she entered the large kitchen from the Eastman’s backyard. She’d started the evening out on the basketball court, playing a couple of games of two-on-two, and even winning one, but as it got later, she went back inside. She planned on joining some of the others in the rec room for a late-night video game marathon, but first, she wanted to see what the girls on the third floor were up to.

She ran a towel over her short blonde hair with one hand as she grabbed one of the remaining slices of pizza off the kitchen table with the other. Munching happily as she headed for the stairs, Alyson reflected on how different her life was now in comparison to a few years ago when she’d first moved to the small town.

Though Greengale was her mother’s hometown, Alyson was born and spent her first eleven years in San Diego. When her parents divorced, her mother returned to Greengale with Alyson, much to the young child’s dismay. She hated the slow, suburban life and wanted to be with her father in Australia. Angry and frustrated, Alyson started lashing out by bullying other kids at school. This all came to a head when she met Jandor.

Jandor was the one who helped her channel her energy into more constructive activities. Much like her father, Jandor was always doing something exciting or adrenaline inducing. She also took an interest in learning how to fight, both kickboxing and with the Mason’s collection of weapons, and she became a regular sparring partner with Jandor over the years. She was one of the first people to become a part of A&A, joining his team in the first year, and through that, she’d developed many friendships that she valued greatly.

By the time Alyson made her way to the third floor, she’d finished the slice of pizza. She wiped her hands unceremoniously on her white tank-top before pushing her way into the den to find Becky, Stephanie, Ashley, Terri, and Tabatha all sitting in a circle on the floor.

“What’s up ladies?” Alyson said brashly, still toweling sweat from her forehead.

“What’s up is you stink,” Stephanie said as Alyson plopped down between her and Becky.

“Well sorry, Miss Prissy,” Alyson teased. “I just got off the basketball court. Anyway, I’m here now. What’d I miss?”

“We’re classifying the A&A guys,” Tabatha explained. “Current categories are coolest, funniest, and hottest.”

“Easy!” Alyson pulled a nearby bowl of popcorn toward her. “Ace, Ace again, and Jandor of course, but Ace is a close second,” she said quickly before tossing a piece of popcorn in her mouth.

Tabatha raised an eyebrow at this, but the other girls giggled, clearly approving.

Alyson didn’t miss Tabatha’s sharp stare and grinned mischievously. “Speaking of Ace; Tabatha, what’s this I hear about you moving in here with him?”

“Oh? I hadn’t heard that.” Stephanie’s green eyes lit up with excitement.

Tabatha’s face turned as red as her hair as the girls began to focus on her. “Geez, that boy can’t keep his mouth shut.”

“Best friend, remember?” Alyson boasted with a wink.

Ace and Alyson had a friendship that predated him meeting Tabatha. Though she hated to admit it, Alyson always had a problem turning her male friendships into anything more because she was often seen as “one of the guys.” She’d had a crush on Ace in the past, but he’d fallen for Tabatha. Even still, the two remained close friends and the fact that it irked Tabatha wasn’t lost on Alyson. Though she never crossed a line, she still found a bit of pleasure in the fact that Tabatha actually saw her as a potential threat.

Tabatha rolled her eyes but decided not to comment. Instead, she turned to her cousin. “Sorry Sunshine; I’m sure you’ll miss me, but I’m tired of bunking in your room. They just have more space here.”

Ashley shrugged, clearly unphased.

“Yeah, you’d rather bunk with Ace, right?” Alyson sniggered.

“Ace isn’t even going to be here; he’s leaving for college soon,” Tabatha said, a bit of a squeal in her voice.

Thinking that she’d teased her enough, Alyson decided to steer the conversation to a new topic, or perhaps a new target. “So Becky, I bet I can guess who you picked as the hottest guy, as if I really need to ask.”

“Jandor!” Stephanie, Ashley, and Terri all said in full sing-song unison.

“Kill me now.” Becky rolled her eyes, but a red blush appeared on her cheeks.

“It’s not like you’re the only one that thinks Jandor’s hot,” Alyson said cavalierly. “I mean, he’s freakin’ hot.”

“Yeah, but we all know Becky’s got a squishy soft spot for Jandor,” Tabatha said. “How long you been trying’ to get him to bite? Three years? Four?”

 “Could you just shut it,” Becky said in an exasperated tone though there was a hint of sadness in her hazel eyes.

“You know how Jandor is. It’s not you,” Terri said soothingly. “He’s just too focused on the next big adventure. But I know one day he’s going to come to his senses and go for you. You two are a perfect match.”

“Yeah, just adorable,” Alyson said with a fake yawn, “I just hope you don’t mind if I take him for a spin first,” she teased.

“Yeah right.” Becky playfully threw a piece of popcorn at her.

Unlike with Ace, Alyson never had a serious crush on Jandor. Though she was attracted to him like most of the other girls, she regarded him more as an older brother. Also, there was an unspoken understanding among the A&A girls that Becky had the right to be the first to try for a relationship with their leader.

Even if Alyson had been serious about trying to take a shot at Jandor, she knew Terri would never allow it. She was fiercely protective of her brother and only wanted Becky to end up with him. Alyson thought Terri’s obsession with this was a bit strange, but knew better than to bring it up, even in jest. Instead, she switched topics again.

“Stephanie, Ace also told me you play the flute now. When did this happen?”

Stephanie smiled. “Yeah, I just started learning and I’m getting really good. I was practicing this morning and I swear three birds just came out of nowhere and sat on my windowsill the entire time until I was done. It was cool.”

“Really?” Alyson scoffed playfully. “Chalk up yet another talent for Miss Perfect.”

“Okay seriously,” Stephanie said sharply. “I’m not prissy, and I’m not perfect.”

“Oh yeah, sure,” Alyson said in a jovial yet mocking tone. “Just a straight-A cheerleader and part-time model, who apparently has time to master the flute, and—did I miss anything? Do you also fight crime?”

“Way to exaggerate. I only modeled in two clothing magazines. Besides, if I was prissy, would I go hiking through the woods in ripped jeans and boots?” She flipped her long mane of golden-brown hair as if to emphasize her statement, but it only seemed to reinforce Alyson’s previous point.

“And yet somehow you never get dirty,” Alyson said giving her a light, playful punch.

At that moment, the door opened and a short, pale-skinned boy with black, slicked-back hair peered into the room.

“Hey Henry, came to join girls’ night?” Alyson chuckled.

“Uh, no,” Henry said flatly, clearly caught off guard by the question. “Ashley, do you know where Wayne is?”

Ashley gave him a bewildered look. “Why are you asking me? What do I look like, Wayne’s keeper?”

“Yeah, actually,” Tabatha answered for him. “You two are usually joined at the hip. It’s creepy.”

“No it isn’t—I mean, no we’re not!” Ashley said in an unintentionally shrill voice.

“She’s not wrong; you two are pretty inseparable,” Alyson agreed as she tossed another piece of popcorn in her mouth.

“He’s my best friend; it’s not like that. I’ve known him almost my whole life.” It was Ashley’s turn to go red in the face. “Besides, you should talk; you’re always with the guys.”

Alyson couldn’t deny that. She did tend to get along great with most of the males of A&A, but it came at the cost of none of them really seeing her as a girl they could date. Ashley’s comment had actually hit a nerve, but she played it off with a quick retort.

“True, but I don’t follow them around like a little puppy.”

“I don’t follow Wayne!” Ashley’s voice became even more shrill.

“Do you know at night,” Tabatha said, “sometimes she’ll call him, like it’ll be after midnight even—she thinks I’m asleep—and she just calls him just to talk to him. Like she can’t even go a whole night without hearing his voice.”

There was a collective “oooo” from the girls.

Ashley buried her head in shame.

Henry was feeling a little awkward being privy to the girl-talk. “I just thought you might know,” he said tentatively. “He’s not answering his phone, and we were going to play Mutant Mayhem.

“He went back home to get something,” Ashley said through her hands.

“Thanks,” Henry said before popping out.

“Geez Sunshine, lighten up,” Tabatha said, leaning over Terri to shake her. “We’re just teasing you.”

“Yeah, everyone’s getting a turn on the hotseat tonight,” Alyson said. “Becky for Jandor, Tabatha for Ace, Stephanie for being freakin’ perfect.”

“Alyson for being a tomboy tease,” Becky added with a wicked grin.

“Oh, I like that.” Alyson laughed.

“What about Terri?” Tabatha asked.

“What about me?” Terri said a bit defensively.

“What’s your thing?” Alyson gave her a pensive look.

“I don’t have a thing. I’m just me,” Terri said.

The girls sat in silence for a moment, all of them thinking of what they could tease Terri about.

“Yeah, I got nothing,” Alyson said finally. “Terri, you’re dull. You need to work on that.”

Terri burst out laughing. “I’ll get right on it.”

The other girls joined in laughing but then a sudden thought hit Alyson. “Wait, we’re missing someone. Where’s Amber?”

 

***

 

“This is so stupid,” Amber said as she and Wayne walked down the empty sidewalk illuminated by streetlights. “I’m sure none of them even noticed I wasn’t there.”

“That’s not true. I noticed; that’s why I came back to get you. I’m pretty sure others did too. Besides even if you’re right, that’s more reason to go,” Wayne said. “You need to make yourself known. They want to get to know you, but you have to give them a chance. You’ve been working with A&A for almost a year now and you still don’t hang out with anyone except me.”

“I shouldn’t even be doing A&A. I don’t belong with those guys. I’m not into the whole extreme sports thing or martial arts or whatever they like. The only reason Jandor let me in is because you made him.”

“Whoa,” Wayne put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “I don’t know where you got that from but it’s not true. First of all, I can’t make Jandor do anything. Yeah, I did recommend you, but so did Mr. E. He said he saw potential in you. Secondly, you’ve been a real asset. Your urban survival courses and the city field trips have been a real hit with the younger crowd. Kids love it; learning how to use the subway, how to spot knockoffs, all that stuff. They eat it up.”

Amber didn’t have a response to this, so she let the accusation go with a shrug. She actually enjoyed working in A&A, despite not wanting to get too involved with the other members.

“What’s really bugging you?” Wayne asked. “Ever since you moved to Greengale you’ve been really cold and standoffish. I don’t get it. I know it takes time to warm up to people, but you’ve even been guarded around me, and we’re practically family.”

“Yeah, well it’s been a rough few years.”

“Still, you need to let your guard down,” Wayne insisted.

Amber wheeled around to face him. “You know what, I’ve let my guard down before and what happened? First my brother dies, then my mother. I’m done letting my guard down!”

“Neither of those things were your fault,” Wayne said. “Your mom’s death was a freak accident and Ryan—”

“And Ryan what!” She prodded him angrily in the chest as she shouted. “Tell me about my brother, Wayne! Tell me how that wasn’t my fault!”

Despite her aggressive stance, Wayne wrapped his arms around her, and the small-framed girl fell into him and started crying.

Before moving to Greengale, Amber’s family lived in the nearby city of Urbis, but unlike the peaceful suburban town, the neighborhood the Young family lived in was experiencing a steady rise in crime. One fateful day, Amber and her younger brother Ryan were walking home from school and instead of staying with his sister, Ryan ran ahead of her and into a nearby corner store because he wanted to buy candy. Unfortunately, there was a robbery taking place and the startled gunman shot the boy as soon as he burst through the door.

“I was supposed to look after him,” Amber sobbed as the memories came flooding back. “I knew how dangerous it was. I should’ve been holding his hand so he couldn’t run off.”

Wayne remained quiet, knowing that nothing he could say would console her. If anything, he understood why she felt so guilty.

After about a minute, she pulled away and tried to hastily compose herself. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Wayne said. “I get it.”

She quickly wiped tears from her amber eyes. “See, this is why I don’t like to open up. I don’t want them seeing me like this and feeling sorry for me.”

“I get it,” Wayne said again as they started forward. “I just think you could really make some good friends if you give them a chance.”

“I’ve got you. I don’t need any more friends,” she retorted.

 “Aw, I feel special.” Wayne tousled her sleek black hair playfully.

Amber slapped his hand away. “I’m not a dog; stop being such a dork.”

“You wouldn’t have to deal with this dork if you made other friends,” he teased, “but don’t worry, I’ll always be here for you. After all, big brothers have to take care of their little sisters.”

“Ugh, I hate you sometimes.” Though her words were harsh, Amber grinned despite herself. She wouldn’t admit it, but she liked that Wayne always treated her like a younger sister, even before she was adopted into his family.

They’d known each other for years, long before she moved to Greengale, because their mothers were friends. Annabelle Young had lived in Greengale previously but moved after her husband committed suicide when Amber was only four. Veda Guardman would visit the Young family often while they lived in Urbis, and Wayne would come with her. As a result, Wayne, Amber, and Ryan spent a lot of time together and developed a pseudo-sibling relationship.

Amber’s family moved back to Greengale after Ryan’s death, and the trauma of the event left her fairly closed off. After her mother died in the accident, Amber was adopted by Veda Guardman. Despite the pain of losing her entire family before the age of fifteen, she was grateful for her surrogate family.

Wayne had always been there for her, especially after her brother’s death. He’d even saved her life when she stupidly tried to get revenge on the person who killed Ryan. Because of this, no matter how much he teased or annoyed her, she truly enjoyed the sibling bond they shared.

The two continued down the walkway, trading playful barbs with one another, until a familiar figure hailed them from further down the sidewalk.

“Wayne!” Henry Simmons jogged up to meet them. “There you are. Did you bring Mutant Mayhem? A bunch of us want to play; plus, you owe me a rematch. Hi Amber,” he added quickly.

“It’s at Ace’s house in my bag,” Wayne confirmed. “I was headed back, just had to pick something up.” He tousled Amber’s hair again and she slapped his hand away.

Henry missed the interaction. “Great, I need to go home too. I want to pick up some clothes since everyone’s spending the night at Ace’s.”

“Wait, you didn’t say anything about staying the night.” Amber looked up at Wayne, displeasure written on her face, but he ignored her.

“We’ll walk with you,” Wayne said as he and Amber followed Henry down a side street. “So Henry, you’ve been a member of A&A for almost two years now. This is going to be your second trip. Have any tips for the newbie?” he said indicating Amber.

Amber gave him a surreptitious punch in the side, but once again, Henry didn’t notice.

“Um, I don’t know.” Henry shrugged. “It’s still kind of new for me too. I don’t even know why Mr. E. recruited me to be honest. It’s not like I’m the only one who can organize video game tournaments. At least you can do something unique,” he said to Amber.

Amber shrugged, not knowing how to respond.

“I think you’re selling yourself short,” Wayne said. “You’ve been doing a great job. The video game tournaments are one of the most popular events and not every kid is into the super physical activities that Jandor and the others run.”

“I guess; I just…” Henry trailed off, a confused look on his face. “That’s weird.”

Wayne followed Henry’s gaze and saw what had caught his eye. They were approaching Henry’s home and there were several cars parked in the driveway as well as on the street in front of the house.

“Your parent’s throwing a party?” he asked.

Henry shrugged. “I don’t know, but that black car in the driveway belongs to Ace’s dad, right?”

Wayne nodded. “Yeah, and that jeep belongs to Alyson’s mom. I see some others I recognize too, and they’re all parents of A&A members.”

“Why would they be at my house?” Henry asked. “My folks aren’t involved with A&A.”

“Bunch of parents that don’t typically hang out together, all at one house,” Amber said darkly from behind the two  boys. “Sound familiar?”

Wayne gave her a skeptical look. “I’m sure it’s nothing bad.” He adjusted his black hat. “Maybe they’re talking about the trip.”

“Should we check it out?” Henry offered. “The light in the living room is on, so they must be in there. We could sneak in through the garage.”

Wayne hesitated for a moment but then nodded. “Yeah, why not. It can’t hurt, right? Maybe Mr. E.’s got another surprise for us.”

They followed Henry to the side of the house where the garage door was open, allowing them to slip inside and quietly unlock the door that led to the mud room. From there, they only needed to crack the door and the trio could easily overhear the conversation going on down the hall in the living room. Though they could not see the participants, the distinctive voice of Calvin Eastman was easy to recognize, and he was the one speaking as they settled in to listen.

“I highly doubt it was destroyed; I think we’d have sensed that, so the only other option is that it’s been taken by someone.”

“Well, it could have been destroyed at the same time the accident happened last year,” someone else offered. “Maybe Ken actually figured out a way to do it. You may not have even known it happened with everything else that was going on. Besides, isn’t the cave completely sealed off? Who could have taken it?”

“That’s my dad,” Henry whispered.

Wayne nodded. He also recognized Peter Simmons’s voice and wondered if the “Ken” he mentioned was referring to Tabatha’s late father, Kenneth Wright.

“The cave was indeed sealed off when they left the island, but anything could have happened over the years,” came a gruff voice. “As for it being destroyed, that’s impossible. I would definitely be able to tell.”

“Who’s that?” Henry asked, but both Wayne and Amber shrugged. None of them recognized the voice.

“Then it’s settled. We need to go back and search everywhere. It’ll be easier to clear out the caved-in tunnels if all of us go,” Calvin said. “But we should still stay in pairs or in small groups, just in case we’re not as protected as we think. Peter you should be especially careful and just wait near the translift.”

“That’s fine,” Peter agreed curtly. “You guys just be careful. The last thing we need is a repeat of last year’s incident. I’m done burying my friends.”

“Should we tell the other’s what’s happened?” a female voice asked. “They’re at Adam’s house.”

Wayne recognized this voice. “That’s Alyson’s mom,” he hissed quietly. From context he knew her reference to “Adam” must have meant Ashley’s father.

“Not yet, there’s no need to worry anyone,” Calvin said. “Let’s go and see if we can find out more first. We’ll fill them in after.”

“What about Mrs. Guardman,” came the gruff, unfamiliar voice again. “She should at least know, considering her visions.”

“No,” Calvin said. “I especially don’t want to panic Veda, not until we have some more answers. Let’s just get going.”

They started to file out of the room and Wayne pulled the door to the mudroom shut so they wouldn’t be seen as the parents passed by.

 “It definitely didn’t sound like something for the trip,” Amber said with a hint of smugness in her voice.

“No, it didn’t,” Wayne agreed. They could hear the adults walking through the kitchen.

“It sounds like they’re headed out back,” Henry said.

“Let’s check it out.” Wayne pushed the door open again.

 The others didn’t hesitate to follow. They tiptoed to the kitchen, looking around the corner to make sure no one was there before entering.

Henry walked to the back and peaked outside. “They’re going down to the basement. I don’t know why; there’s nothing down there.” He looked again to make sure they were gone. “Okay, let’s go,” he said, leading them outside to the open basement door.

They walked as softly as possible down the narrow stairwell and as they drew closer to the cracked door at the bottom, they could hear voices again.

“Peter, you did a good job of recreating Ken’s setup,” Calvin was saying now. “This is impressive, especially in such a short time.”

“Fortunately, our ancestors left detailed notes,” Peter said, “but it’s not perfect. I have to use the staff to activate it, and for some reason it has to recharge between uses. I’m not sure how to fix that.”

Wayne, Amber, and Henry were peeking through the crack, unable to see much as the room was dimly lit. They didn’t dare try to open the door more. Many of the adults had their backs to the door but they could see Henry’s father standing in the middle of the group, holding what looked like a large wooden staff, curved in a hook at the top.

“Make sure you’re on the tablet,” Peter said.

Then there was a brief flash, and everyone disappeared. The sudden vanishing act was so jarring that Henry fell forward, causing the door to swing open.

Amber stepped over him, staring in awe. “Whoa, what is all this?”

The basement looked like it was a cave. The walls and ceiling were completely covered in a semi-clear, crystalline rock. There were boxes piled in a corner, and shelves embedded in the rockface. A single lightbulb dangled from the ceiling on a thin electrical wire, but it wasn’t enough light to illuminate the entire room.

 “I don’t see where they went.” Wayne looked around but there were no other doors.

Henry scrambled to his feet. “So, they really just disappeared?”

“It looks like it. Do you know what any of this is?” Wayne asked.

“No clue,” Henry said. “Maybe this was what they meant when they were talking about a cave.”

Amber examined the giant stone tablet that took up much of the floor. “This really isn’t about A&A.”

“Yeah,” Wayne agreed. “This is serious. They’re hiding something huge. We need to get out of here.” He headed for the stairs, beckoning them to follow.

“Why?” Henry asked.

“We just saw your dad and a bunch of the other parents disappear,” Wayne said. “We don’t want to be here when they come back. They’ll catch us.”

“Catch us?” Amber said indignantly, pointing at the cave-like surroundings. “We caught them!”

Wayne sighed in exasperation. “Yeah, but we don’t want them to know that. We need to figure out what’s going on.”

Again, he gestured for them to follow and this time they did, Henry closing the door behind them. “Why don’t we just ask them?” he said as they headed up the stairs.

“Like they’re really going to tell us the truth,” Amber countered.

“They could just tear all that stuff down and we’d never get answers,” Wayne said as they reached the backyard. “Right now, they don’t know that we’ve seen them. I want to keep it that way.”

“Well maybe we could search the house; see if there’s something in there,” Henry offered.

“We don’t know what we’d even be looking for,” Wayne said. “Plus, what happens if they come back while we’re in there?”

Henry threw his hands up in frustration. “Well, we can’t just stand around doing nothing.”

 “We should be smart about this.” Wayne rubbed the brim of his hat pensively for several seconds before coming to a decision. “I think we should tell Jandor and the others.”

He reached into his pocket only to remember that he’d left his phone at Ace’s house. He looked to the others. “Do either of you have your phones?”

Henry shook his head. Like Wayne, he only planned on running home and back, so he didn’t bring anything with him.

“I’ve got mine, but I don’t have any of their numbers,” Amber said sheepishly. It was yet another reminder of how little she cared to interact with the other A&A members.

Wayne swore reflexively. “Well, we’ll just go get them.”

“I don’t get it; why do we even need them?” Henry asked.

“We know your dad, Mr. E., and Alyson’s mom were in there, and we saw cars of other A&A parents out front.”

“Yeah, they also mentioned your mom and Ashley’s dad,” Amber reminded him.

“So, it probably involves all of us,” Wayne concluded. “Maybe someone knows something, or at the very least, we can figure it out together.” In truth, his main goal was to get Jandor and Becky as he believed they would be the most helpful in figuring out what to do next. “We shouldn’t all go though. One of us needs to stay here and keep an eye on the house just in case they come back. We might be able to find out more.”

Amber dug into her jean’s pocket and pulled out a key ring with several keys. “My old house is right across from here.” She pointed across the backyard to where a long fence helped distinguish the property line between Henry’s home and another that sat on a parallel street. “It hasn’t been rented out yet, so we can bring everyone there. The kitchen has a good view of the backyard, so we can keep an eye on the basement and see when they come back.”

“Why do you still have a key to your old house?” Henry asked. “Does it even work?”

“Yeah, Mr. E. bought it after mom died,” Amber revealed. “He said I could have it when I turn eighteen and do whatever I want with it.” She tried desperately to hide her emotions about the topic.

“That’s perfect,” Wayne said. “I’ll stay and watch from Amber’s house. Henry, you go get the others. Amber, I might need you to be my spy if they come back.”

 “Wait, why do I have to go?” Henry asked indignantly. “It’s my house.”

Wayne rolled his eyes. He had many reasons for sending Henry instead of going himself, but the main one was that he thought Henry might do something reckless if he stayed.

Before Wayne could think of a good way to convince him, Amber stepped forward, a menacing look on her face. “Just do what he says.” Though she was smaller than Henry, she looked far more imposing in that moment.

“All right, I’ll go,” Henry said backing down, “but what do I even tell them? It’s not like the others will believe any of this, especially coming from me.”

Wayne thought about this. “Just find Jandor and tell him I said it’s an emergency.”

Henry gave him a confused look, but with a sharp “Hurry up!” from Amber, he took off running.

“Thanks for the assist. I really didn’t feel like going back and forth with him,” Wayne said as he rubbed Amber’s head affectionately.

Amber slapped his hand away. “Get off; I’m not a dog,”

“Well, the way you barked at him was sort of dog-like.” Wayne chuckled.

“Ugh, I hate you sometimes.” Amber pulled a key off the ring and handed it to Wayne. “Here, you can go to my house; I’m going to Ashley’s house.”

“Why?” Wayne asked.

“Because they said that the ‘others’ were there,” Amber reminded him. “It’s probably more of our parents. Maybe we can find out more about what’s going on.”

“Okay, but be careful and don’t stay too long,” Wayne said taking the key.

Amber eyed him curiously. “What, you’re not going to try to stop me?”

“Why would I? You know what you’re doing.”

Amber gave a soft smile at this, but she didn’t let Wayne see it. “All right, I’ll be back soon.”

With that they split and went their separate ways, the gravity of the situation weighing heavily on them. What were their parents hiding?

 


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