|Warning:||Some violence, some strong language|
|Description:||Kyle disappears after a fight with Tess. She needs to find him and get him back before anything happens to him. At the same time, most of the gang are in the Crashdown Café, being held hostage by a desperate armed couple.|
“See anything you like?”
The chill in Tess’ voice made Kyle wince. He hadn’t meant to stand outside the shower waiting for the blonde girl to come out. When he’d realized the bathroom was occupied, he had intended to leave quietly. After all, it was a natural mistake to make. She must have turned off the shower just before he walked in. He hadn’t heard anything. But when felt the scent of her shampoo or whatever it was, he’d just been frozen to the spot.
“I didn’t look, honestly. When I heard you, I was going to leave.”
“Yeah? Then why didn’t you? If there’s anything I can’t stand it’s guys like you, staring and drooling. Did it ever occur to you that I have feelings too? Hello. Wake up, Kyle. I’m not just this body you can’t get enough of. There’s a lot more inside than you’re prepared for.”
“Your body isn’t all I – I mean, I know there’s more to you than that. I’m sorry. If you really want Max Evans, I’m not going to stand in your way.”
That stung. Tess wasn’t nearly as sure about wanting Max as she was supposed to. She had been brought up to see herself as Max’ bride, but when she finally met him face to face, she had realized that feelings couldn’t be commanded like her powers. It was easy to focus her power on an object and blast it into little pieces, or alter the object on a molecular level.
She could make people see things that weren’t there, and she could, though not very well, shapeshift a little. What she couldn’t do, apparently, was make herself feel the slightest bit of attraction towards Max. And that really bugged her. Especially since Kyle, despite his drooling and staring and his sexist remarks when he thought she wasn’t listening, was the one she wanted. Nothing in the world would make her admit that, so it seemed safer to feign indifference.
Right now, though, her temper got away with her and it was the easiest thing in the world to pick a fight with the boy who had made her welcome in his home.
“Thank you. As if anything you could do in that area would make the slightest difference to me. Why don’t you say something? Is it your new age crap preventing you? Come on, tell me what you think.”
It was hard to provoke a reaction out of Kyle, especially nowadays. But Tess was determined to try.
“No. Though it is bad for karma. Losing one’s temper, I mean. It’s just my old-fashioned upbringing. Don’t raise your voice to a lady.”
“Don’t let me stop you.”
Her attitude was finally having an effect. Why was she so cold? What had he ever done to her, except tried to be a good friend? It wasn’t his fault that he loved her, desperately, hopelessly. Most girls didn’t take that as an insult the last time he checked.
“Maybe you’re not a lady. Forget it. I’m out of here.”
“Don’t you dare walk out on me. I’m not done with you yet.”
“Tough. I’m going.”
“What are you going to do? Shoot a few hoops? Run a mile or two? That’s your typical primitive neanderthal male reaction. All you jocks are the same.”
“You know what I’m thinking, Tess?”
“You? Thinking? Wow, this must be a special day. Don’t overexert that braincell of yours.”
With an effort, Kyle controlled himself enough for a sharp retort.
“I’m thinking you want me as much as I want you. Why else would you be going on like this?”
“Because you’re being a pain in the ass?”
“Always so cold, so perfect. Under that exterior, I’m betting there’s as much passion as there is in Maria.”
“How come you’re such an expert when it comes to girls? You couldn’t hold on to Liz. Maybe you should try it with guys instead. They should be closer to your intellectual level.”
That was a cheap shot and Tess almost regretted it as soon as the words had left her mouth. Kyle’s face turned a vivid red. Now she’d done it. Of course, she had nothing to fear from a mere human. If she wanted to she could kill him as easily as he could step on a bug, if he did anything that blood-thirsty these days. She could tell that she had hurt him. But it was too late to take her words back.
“I don’t care what you think. Leave me alone.”
The boy turned and ran out of the room and out of the house. He needed to be alone. How could she say something like that? She had to know that she was the only one on his mind. Apparently, Tess was as cruel as she was beautiful. Kyle ran blindly away from the house and towards the stadium. Shit. He was doing exactly what she expected him to. Was he really that predictable?
When he stumbled and twisted his ankle, he stopped and tried to collect himself. This wasn’t doing him any good. It would be better to return to the house and get the car. Going for a drive might cheer him up. Of course he could go out for a couple of beers with the guys, but that too, would be what Tess expected him to do.
He wasn’t that simple. Besides, ever since he’d been let into the aliens’ circle of friends, Kyle had lost interest in his old friends. For a second he even considered calling Max and the other guys. But Max wasn’t the person he wanted to see right now. The way things looked, he had now lost two girls to that Evans guy.
Kyle sneaked back to the house, half hoping Tess wouldn’t notice, half hoping she would. She might have sensed his approach, but right now, Tess was lying on the bed, Kyle’s bed, her face buried in the pillow, shaking with angry sobs. So he got away, without anyone paying attention.
Tess didn’t even notice that Kyle didn’t return to the house that night. If sheriff Valenti hadn’t been working an extra shift over at the station, he would certainly had worried, but as it was no one knew. It wasn’t until Tess was going to school the next morning, that she found Kyle hadn’t spent the night at the house. The car was missing, and now she would be late for school.
Oh, to hell with it. She might as well stay at home. What use was getting an education when your life had already been predestined long before you were even born? On second thought, she called the Evans’ house, only to find that Isabel and Max and left already. Again she considered cutting classes today, but then she shrugged and called Maria’s house instead. Just as she suspected. The headstrong girl was still at home.
“Hello. It’s Tess. I was wondering if you could come by and pick me up?”
“Ok. Sure. Why? What happened?”
“I’ll tell you when you get here. We’ll be so late.”
“So what else is new? No problem.”
Maria laughed a little. That strange girl had apparently never been late for a class in her life. Maybe it would do her good to live like the rest of the world. It might even make her a little more human.
She had to pick up Liz first and on the way she told her friend about the change of plans. Liz looked anxiously at her watch, but knew better than to argue with Maria. If she did, they’d be even more late. Outside the Valenti house, Tess was pacing back and forth, looking more worried than annoyed.
“Jump in. I’ll just turn around and then I’ll go straight to school.”
“Now, aren’t you going to tell me what happened?”
“Oh. Kyle isn’t here.”
“What? Yesterday in science class, he never said anything about not coming in today.”
Liz frowned a little. Something was up with Kyle. Something to do with Tess. She wasn’t jealous, and she even found herself warming to the idea of Tess and Kyle together, if it left Max free again. But there was some problem, she could sense it.
“We, well, we – There was a bit of an argument last night.”
“My god, you didn’t kill him, did you?”
Leave it to Maria to always settle on the most dramatic explanation. Tess wouldn’t hurt Kyle, would she? Suddenly, Liz was worried about her ex-boyfriend. What if he was injured?
“Don’t look at me like that. Of course I didn’t kill him. Or hurt him in any way. I mean, not physically.”
“What did you do? Did you do it, or what?”
“I said I didn’t – Oh, you meant it. No. We got into an argument and he stalked off. So typical of a guy. He said the most awful things. And -“
“And I guess I said some pretty terrible things to him too. Ok. I’m sorry.”
By now Tess was almost crying again. What if Kyle really was hurt? He might have done anything, considering the state he was in. Why did she have to strike out like that?
Strangely enough, Liz felt completely calm again. She put her hand on Tess’ shoulder and squeezed it a little. Kyle had this effect on you at times. But no one knew better than Liz how easy it was to hurt his feelings. Despite his tough macho act, or maybe because of it, Kyle was a scared little boy inside.
“It’s ok. He’ll be back, once he’s cooled off a bit.”
“Yeah. Once in elementary school he ran away from home after he’d had a fight in school. He didn’t dare to go home and face his dad. So Valenti found him on the road to the town where his grandmother lived.”
Now Maria’s equilibrium was restored. Naturally, Tess wouldn’t kill anyone except in self defence. And that was different. After all, Maria had done it herself.
But when school was over, and Maria dropped Tess off outside the Valenti house, Kyle still wasn’t back, and Tess realized she had to tell the sheriff about his son’s disappearance. It wasn’t anything she was looking forward to. She looked back at Maria and Liz regretfully. They weren’t her best friends, but right now she’d appreciate their company, as moral support.
“Would you guys come with me and explain to Valenti about Kyle?”
“Ok. We have time, don’t we, Liz?”
“Yes. Our shifts don’t start until 7. Of course we’ll go with you if you want to.”
Having friends was a novelty to Tess, but she was beginning to think she liked it. Now she felt a little better. Not much, but a little. Inside they found that Valenti must have returned some hours earlier. He was fast asleep in his room.
Tess stood uncertainly in the doorway, not knowing if she ought to wake him, or wait until he woke up by himself. That might make his mood better. On the other hand, if he found out how long Kyle had been gone, he might be angry with her. Tess remembered Nasedo’s temper and a shiver went down her spine.
The decision was made for her. Maybe the sheriff felt her gaze on him, or maybe the girls had made a noise when they came inside. He opened his eyes and sat up.
“Tess? Is anything wrong? Where’s Kyle? Isn’t he with you?”
“Oh. I guess he’s got football practice today.”
“No. I mean, maybe he has. But he didn’t go to school today.”
“Was he sick or something?”
By now Tess’ behavior was making the sheriff feel a little uneasy. Was the girl hiding something?
“You’d better tell me everything.”
Not until now did he spot the other girls standing shyly in the living room.
“Ok. I’m listening. Shall we sit down?”
They sat down around the kitchen table. Maria noticed that there were dirty dishes standing around. Her mom wouldn’t stand for anything like that around their house. No matter how tired she was, she’d wash up the dishes before going to bed.
“I don’t know where Kyle is. We had a fight yesterday and he left in a hurry. He didn’t come back. The car is gone too. I’m sorry. I didn’t notice that he didn’t come in last night.”
The blonde girl was so miserable, the sheriff couldn’t bring himself to scold her. Besides, his son’s mood wasn’t entirely her fault. Kyle had been difficult ever since he was a child.
“Ok. The important thing is finding him. And don’t look like that, Tess. I’m sure it was Kyle’s fault just as much as it was yours, this fight.”
It was a relief that the sheriff wasn’t going to yell at her, but Tess wasn’t feeling any better. Valenti’s somber demeanor made her worry about Kyle. He should know better than to go off without letting anyone know where he was. What if something had happened to him?
“If you girls would call some of his friends, I’ll go down to the office and ask my deputy to look for his car. I’m sure he’ll turn up any time now.”
But if the sheriff was so sure of that, why did he go back to the office after working for nearly 24 hours? Tess only knew two of Kyle’s friends apart from Liz, so she turned to the dark-haired girl inquiringly.
“You must know more of his friends than I do.”
“Yes. I suppose so. But I know Kyle isn’t hanging out with any of those j-guys anymore. I think we should call Alex and Max, just in case. No, wait, they’d have told us, if Kyle was over at one of their houses, wouldn’t they?”
“Maybe not. What if Kyle was really pissed at you and wanted to stay at someone else’s place? Then Alex or Max might have kept that to himself, right?”
Maria knew exactly how a guy’s mind worked.
“That’s right. Anyway, the others could help us look. Tess, would you like me to call Alex?”
The call didn’t take long. Alex was just about to leave for band practice, but he promised to come by afterwards.
Now there was no putting it off any longer. Tess knew she had to call Max. And something told her he wouldn’t have heard anything from Kyle either. She was right. Neither Max or Isabel had any news about Kyle, but both of them promised to be over right away. They would bring Michael too, just in case he’d know anything.
When the three aliens arrived, it was obvious that Michael had no idea about where Kyle could be either. But for once when they were all together, there was no anger, and no tension. Everyone seemed worried and subdued.When Maria and Liz had to leave for their shifts at the Crashdown Cafe, the aliens promised to call as soon as they heard anything.
It didn’t come as a surprise when the girls finished their shifts without hearing anything from Tess or the others. Liz called the Valenti house just in case, but nothing new had come up. Valenti was now treating Kyle’s disappearance as an official missing person case.
All kids spent a miserable night, hardly getting any sleep at all. The Sheriff didn’t even return to the house, and spent the night going over reports, and driving out to various locations where people claimed to have seen a car parked where it had no business to be. He came up with nothing. It seemed as if Kyle had vanished off the face of the earth.
Next day, no one felt inclined to concentrate on school. Despite that, they all showed up and put in an appearance, before meeting over at the Valenti house. There was no sign of Kyle having been there. Tess hadn’t slept a wink, and all through the night she had listened for sounds that might indicate that Kyle was sneaking back into the house. Now everyone began to suspect possible skin involvement.
“Did you try dreamwalking tonight?”
“Yes, I tried. But I couldn’t really sleep, so I didn’t get much. He’s alive though, and he’s somewhere not too far away.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’d say not outside the state.”
“Didn’t you get anything from his mind? Like how he ended up wherever he is. Or where that is.”
“No. I’m just guessing here, but I think someone’s taken him. He’s not staying away of his own free will, or lying injured somewhere.”
“Keep trying. Tonight -“
“Yes, of course I will.”
“And I’ll go down to the UFO center and see if there are any unusual readings. I know, it’s a long shot, but I need to do something too.”
“I have to go. My shift begins about now. Unless we can find some replacement, Liz?”
“No, that’s ok, Michael. If you don’t mind?”
“Even if Kyle’s missing, I still need to pay the bills.”
“I’m going with you.”
“Thanks, Alex. You guys will call, won’t you? If you hear anything or if you need me.”
“Of course we will.”
Before Michael had time to disappear, Maria caught him in a tight embrace. He didn’t resist her, and it seemed as if he took some comfort in it too.
“I’ll join the other guys at the café after I’m done at the UFO center. Will you girls be ok here on your own?”
“Of course we will. Unless you want me to go with you?
Max considered Liz’ offer. He’d love to have her come along, but it might be better if the girls stayed and kept Tess company. The blonde girl seemed more upset than he had expected. Their relationship wasn’t working out as it was supposed to. He couldn’t forget Liz, and now he was beginning to think there was something going on between Tess and Kyle. It was alright with him. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. But if they felt that way about each other, why had they had this falling out? Was there something Tess wasn’t telling him?
After the guys had left, the girls began to walk around restlessly. It didn’t take Isabel long to lose her patience. She got up, and declared her intention of going back home to talk to her mother.
“It looks like we’re going to be here for some time. I might as well get some stuff. That is if you want me to spend the night here, Tess?”
“Yes, please. I’d feel a little better if you were here with me.”
“Ok. I’ll be right back.”
She hurried outside, eager to at least be doing something, even if it didn’t bring Kyle back.
About ten minutes later, Valenti called. Tess reluctantly listened to what he had to say, and it was immediately obvious to the other girls, that nothing new had come to light.
“Are you sure you’re telling me everything you know?”
“You think I killed him, don’t you? Why does everyone assume I’d do something like that? I’m not Nasedo. I’m as human as Isabel, Max and Michael.”
“Of course I don’t think so. Calm down. But if there’s anything you can tell me, anything at all that might shed some light on this mysterious disappearance, you have to tell me.”
“I understand, but there isn’t anything else to tell. We had a fight, he walked out and that’s the last I saw or heard of him. I’m sorry.”
“That’s ok. Are you alone in the house?”
“No, the other girls are here.”
“That’s good. If you need me, you know where to find me.”
As she replaced the receiver, the blonde girl’s face assumed a look of determination. It was her fault Kyle was missing, she was the one who had to find him and make things well again.
“There’s something I haven’t tried yet. Nasedo taught me to trace a person’s aura, or I don’t know, something. He didn’t have a word for it. When a person walks by, he or she leaves a trail, that can be detected, if you know how to pick it up.”
“Ok. Where do we go?”
For a second it didn’t seem as if Tess was going to reply. Maria and Liz thought she was going to shut them out again. But they were wrong. It just took the blonde girl a while to tune back in to them.
“Just outside. He walked out through the back door, I know that. That’s where I’ll start.”
They all crowded into the small kitchen and watched Tess intently. What was she going to do? How did that thing work? Liz was especially fascinated. There had to be a scientific explanation, if only she could figure it out.
Maria had heard only one word of Tess’ explanation, the word aura. What an interesting concept. So there really was such a thing. She would have to find a way of telling her mother.
At first Tess merely stood in the doorway as if listening for something. Her eyes were closed and her entire body tensed up. After a while, she got down on her hands and knees, to the astonishment of the other girls. She put one hand on the ground right outside the threshold and let it remain there for quite some time.
It seemed as if she’d found Kyle’s trail now, because she began to crawl along the path leading to the woods and down to the stadium over by the school. But after only a couple of yards, she veered off in the direction of the garage. So Kyle had come back for his car. Of course.
“Now what? You can’t trace the car, can you?”
“Not the same way. And not as well.”
Tess frowned in concentration. She didn’t think she could do this. Nasedo would have been able to. But she simply didn’t have his powers and he had never had time to finish her training.
“If we took the jeep we could follow in the direction he must have gone. It’s not the same, but I can sort of feel the imprint of the car as well. I don’t know if that’s enough, but we have to try.”
“Ok. Let’s go.”
To their surprise Tess was able to follow Kyle’s trail for much longer than they had expected, even Tess herself. They came to an intersection and Tess called out to Maria to stop.
“What? I can’t see anything. There’s no trace of an accident, right?”
“No. Wait a minute.”
Tess got out of the car. She froze and again she seemed to turn her concentration inwards. If she really focused she could see – Yes. Three cars had ambushed Kyle, and forced him to skid to a stop. If she looked closely she could even see the tire marks on the road.
“He was kidnapped. Three cars, at least six people. Hm. Nicholas doesn’t seem to have that kind of manpower anymore. Hold on.”
Again, Tess got down on all fours, rooting around on the road surface. Maria fervently hoped that no other cars would drive by. What would they think if they saw this girl crawling around on the road? That she’d lost a contact lens?
“Yes. They forced him into one of the other cars and one of them got into his and followed the others.”
Tess was pointing due east, away from Roswell, and basically right out into the desert.
“Hang on a second. I have a road map somewhere. There’s nothing out there, is there? Liz?”
“Well – Isn’t there -“
“I got it. Look. Morley Inc. What’s that?”
“It’s a biotech company. Don’t you remember? I tried to get a job there last summer, but they didn’t even reply.”
“Biotech? That’s genetic engineering, isn’t it? What would they want with Kyle? No offense, Tess, but Kyle is as much of a moron as I am when it comes to science.”
Tess didn’t reply. She was deep in concentration. It was Liz who finally found the solution.
“What if they’re really after Tess and they got one of her friends instead? To get her to come out there? Or maybe they were hoping to get Kyle to give them information about her. What do you think, Tess?”
For a moment Liz didn’t think she was going to get a reply, but then the blonde girl seemed to come alive again.
“I think we have to go out there right now and get him back. What if they’re doing experiments on him?”
“Calm down. They wouldn’t. It’s you they’re after. So maybe it isn’t such a good idea for you to go out there.”
“They can’t do anything to me.”
“Ok. Hold it right there. We should go back to Roswell and get Michael and the others. This isn’t a good idea for us to do on our own. And what about Valenti? He’ll want to know what we’ve found.”
Tess stared at Maria with something of the old hostility. Maria stared back, unintimidated. The blonde girl didn’t frighten her, even though she’d seen the power at her disposal. In the end, Tess was the one who broke eye contact.
“Please. We’re losing time. I want to get him back as soon as possible. There’s no telling what they’re doing to him. Maybe they’re torturing him to give information, or drugging him or something. I can’t stand to think of him in that situation.”
Maria was outraged at this betrayal. Was she siding with Tess now? Her best friend.
“I guess we could go and check things out on our own. We can always call Valenti and the others on the cell phone if we need help. You’ve seen the powers Tess can command. I think we’ll be ok.”
“Oh, ok. These are just humans. After all, I finished one of the skins on my very own not so long ago. Who’s afraid of a bunch of science nerds? Oops, sorry, Liz.”
If Liz even heard her friend, she didn’t take offence. Maria wasn’t the only one to use that expression. The girls got into the car and drove off in the direction of the biotech company.
Max didn’t find anything at the UFO center. Not that he had expected to. It just felt so frustrating not being able to do something. He had known Kyle a long time, but in the past year or so, he’d come to see the boy in an entirely new light. Today, he wouldn’t hesitate to name Kyle as one of his closest friends.
When he walked into the Crashdown, he saw Alex sitting at the bar, apparently talking to Michael. There weren’t that many customers and that wasn’t unusual at this time of the evening on an ordinary Thursday night in Roswell. After all, this wasn’t the tourist season.
“Max. Did you find anything? I guess not.”
“No. I have no idea what’s wrong. Oh, hi, Michael.”
“Can I get you anything, Maxwell?”
“What? Oh, no thanks.”
The guys just sat in front of the counter, not having much to say. Valenti knew where to reach them if anything came up and so did the girls. Right now, there wasn’t anything they could do. Nothing except hope and possibly pray.
Closing time approached and the waitresses cleared up and left. Michael told them he’d close up. Not that Liz usually let him take that responsibility, but the other girls knew that Michael was a friend, and they were only too grateful to get away.
Alex offered to take out the trash, and Max began to put the chairs in order, while Michael went to lock the door. He looked over to the back door, and saw Alex return. When he turned back towards the door, two people had thrown open the door and run inside. They looked over their shoulders, a wild look in their eyes, and sure enough, there was the sound of police sirens.
“Hey, you can’t come in here. We’re closed.”
Michael broke off uncertainly, when he saw the gun, that the man was shoving into his face. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Not on top of everything else.
“Back off. No sudden moves. That goes for all of you. How many of you are there in here?”
“Just me and my two friends.”
“Three of you? Ok. Sit down. I won’t hurt you, if you don’t make any trouble. Did they see us?”
The last question was aimed at his partner, a woman about his own age.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure about this, Marty. We didn’t get Timmy, and now the cops are after us. I’m scared.”
“Take it easy, Tina. We’ll get through this, I promise. The cops will never dare to go in when we have these kids. I said, sit down. All of you.”
Alex hadn’t moved since he got inside. He had never seen a gun aimed at him or his friends. Max had to put a hand on his arm to propel him towards the nearest chair. Both guys sat down, too stunned to even protest. Michael was still staring right at the man holding the gun. It occurred to Max that his friend might be considering using his powers. He couldn’t let him. There had to be something he could do to prevent that. If something of this kind hit the media, their existence wouldn’t be a secret anymore.
“Michael. Come here.”
“Yeah, you heard your friend. Don’t make me use this.”
But Michael still wasn’t moving. It was as if he hadn’t heard anything anyone had said in the past five minutes.
“Is he deaf or just stupid? Get him to sit down or I will use this thing.”
“Ok. I’ll just go to him and lead him back here.”
“Fine. But you’d better make it quick. The cops are closing in, and I want all three of you where I can cover you. Go on.”
Max got up again, and walked over to his friend. He put his hand on Michael’s shoulder. That finally caught his attention. They made eye contact, and the exchange convinced Michael to give up. He let Max lead him back to the table where Alex was still sitting.
All eyes now turned to the entrance. They could see police cars pulling to a stop within shouting distance of the café. Their captors seemed to snap to attention. The man called Marty gripped the gun harder and stared menacingly at his hostages.
Neither guy had any intention of moving. That gun effectively put a stop to any ideas they might have had about getting away.
Now the cops outside seemed to have brought a megaphone. When they recognized the voice, the guys exchanged looks. Valenti. Would he be able to negotiate them out of this situation?
“This is sheriff Valenti speaking.”
Tina turned towards her boyfriend.
“I told you this wouldn’t work. What are we going to do now? They’re going to kill us.”
“No. Just do as I tell you, and we’ll get through this. Let’s hear what that sheriff has to say. If he has anything reasonable to offer, I’ll let him have one of those guys. Now the sheriff was speaking again.”
“I want you to put down your weapon, Wendell, and come out, your hands over your head. The same goes for you, ms Saunders. No one needs to get hurt.”
“He can do better than that. After all, I’ve got you guys. Relax, Tina. Trust me.”
Less than a minute later the phone rang. Wendell let it ring for a couple of seconds, then pointed the gun at Alex.
“You pick it up. Let’s hear what the sheriff’s got to offer.”
Alex stared uncomprehendingly at the man. All this was getting to be too much for him. First aliens, now he was a hostage. He had never been a man of action and this was just too much. Wendell stared back at him in dismay.
“What is this? Some kind of freak show? You all deaf and dumb, or what? I said pick up the phone. Do you speak English, kid?”
At last the man’s words seemed to get through to Alex and he got up, on shaky legs. He moved over to the phone which was still ringing.
“Alex? Are you ok?”
“Yes. We’re all ok.”
“Good. Has Wendell told you of his demands?”
“I don’t think so. I’ll ask. The sheriff wants to know what your demands are.”
“Now we’re talking. Ok. Let’s see. I want a getaway car and I want the cops to let us go without following us. Ok.”
“Don’t forget we want little Timmy.”
“And we want our kid. Tell the sheriff that, boy.”
Alex repeated Wendell’s demands to Valenti, then waited for the reaction.
“Sorry, Alex. You’ll have to tell him I can’t do that. Ask him if I can speak to him personally.”
“He wants to talk to you personally.”
“No. I deal through you, or not at all.”
“He says no, sir.”
“I was afraid of that. How many guns do see? One?”
“That’s enough for now. Let the sheriff think over my demands. He can call me back.”
“I have to go now. Wendell says to call him back later.”
“Don’t do anything stupid, Alex, and tell the others that too, especially Michael. I’ll get you out of this.”
In response to Wendell’s frantic waving of the gun uncomfortably close to his face, Alex hurriedly put down the phone.
“Go back to the others now. Quickly.”
There didn’t seem much else to do. Valenti really didn’t need to tell them not to do anything stupid. Alex would never dare to do anything but what this man told him to. He was hoping the others felt that way too. Especially Michael, just like Valenti had said.
Outside, Valenti was trying to deal with the new situation. He had to call in all his men, well, actually two of them were women, and just in case, he had put in a request for additional help from neighboring cities.
Who would have thought they’d have a hostage situation in Roswell? This would never have happened in the old man’s time. Just when he thought things couldn’t get much worse, he had to be landed with something like this. And to make things worse, Isabel Evans just walked up to him, demanding answers.
“Is it true?”
“Is what true, Isabel? I’m kind of busy right now, so if you’d be kind enough to wait over behind the cordon -“
“Don’t give me that, sheriff. Is it true that someone’s holding Max and the others hostage inside the Crashdown Cafe?”
“Yes. If you’ll just let me deal with this, I promise you no one will get hurt.”
“And how can you promise me that? What are you doing about it?”
“I understand your concern, but right now I don’t have time to discuss this with you.”
Now mr and mrs Parker were ushered to the sheriff and Valenti turned his back on Isabel. It was obvious she wasn’t going to get any answers here. She would have to take matters into her own hands. Circling round the back, where there weren’t as many cops on guard, she managed to get to the back door.
Belatedly, one of the deputies called out to her to step back. She ignored him. He wouldn’t shoot a civilian, especially not an unarmed young girl. Since she didn’t know what else to do, she knocked on the door. There had better be a response really soon, or else she suspected Valenti’s man would physically drag her away from the door.
“Who’s there? I’ll shoot -“
“Open the door, please. I’m not a cop.”
“Who are you then?”
“You have my brother, my best friend and my boyfriend in there. Let me in.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
The door opened a crack and an eye seemed to study Isabel intently.
“Don’t tell me you’re scared of me.”
She gave him the look that never failed to result in male casualties wherever she went. The man relaxed slightly.
“Who says I’m scared? Ok. You kids seem to be dumber than when I was in school, but fine. In you go.”
Ignoring the exasperated looks from the deputies, Isabel walked inside. Somehow, she never doubted her own ability to deal with this situation. After all, she had other means at her disposal than the sheriff. Not that she intended to use her alien powers. That would put them all at risk.
The cafe looked exactly the same as always. In every way except one. There was now an armed man holding them all captive. Isabel looked around for the guys and found them huddling together in a corner of the room. She knew Max must be feeling completely helpless. Her brother always felt as if he needed to solve every problem. And in a situation like this, he’d be totally out of his depth.
“Isabel? You shouldn’t have come.”
“How could I leave you guys alone in here?”
“Oh, isn’t that sweet. Very touching. Sit down with the others right now.”
Isabel ignored the man with the gun, but sat down next to her brother. She could see that Alex was in a state of apathy she’d never seen before. That made her angry. Who gave these people the right to come in here and treat her loved ones this way? She would show that guy in a minute.
“Are you ok, Max?”
Her brother’s worried frown belied that statement. But she could see for herself that no one was hurt. At least not yet. If she didn’t do something very soon, she was afraid that the hysterical woman, or her desperate boyfriend might do something drastic.
“Yeah, I’m ok.”
Now she turned to Alex, anxiously studying his face. It wasn’t fair. He was just an ordinary boy. Why should he have to endure something like this?
“Alex, how are you holding up? Faced with the girl he loved, Alex forced himself to put on a brave face. He was weak enough in comparison to Isabel and her family. Even his human friends seemed to be tougher than he was.”
“Don’t worry about me.”
But worry she did. His thin face was so pale and pinched she feared he might pass out soon, if this pressure didn’t ease up. She sneaked a look at their captors and found that the woman was again arguing with her boyfriend, and his attention wasn’t anywhere near their hostages for the time being. This might be the time to confer with her brother and Michael.
“We need to get out of here. All of us.”
“You don’t need to tell me that. But how? We can’t use -“
“No, of course not. But there’s just two of them. Is the woman armed?”
“I haven’t seen her holding any gun so far.”
“Let’s hope she hasn’t got one. Michael, maybe you could – I mean don’t use your powers, just physically overpower him. And I’ll get that woman. If they’re not expecting it, they might not be able to stop us.”
“No. What if they start shooting? We should let Valenti deal with it.”
“Valenti? He’s out there and we’re in here. Ok, Isabel. You can count on me. He doesn’t look all that strong. And I’m sure you won’t have any problem with that Tina person. She’s all nerves.”
“I’m not sure about this. Alex has a point. Maybe we should just let the professionals handle it.”
“We could be dead before he makes his move. All we need is -“
“What are you kids up to? I don’t like that whispering. Shut up and move away from each other. Did you hear me? I don’t want you sitting so close together. If you’re planning something, forget it. I don’t want to have to kill you, but I will if you make me.”
For the time being, Isabel decided to keep still. It wouldn’t do to let that guy Wendell get suspicious. At that moment, Isabel fervently wished she had telepathic powers. If only Nasedo had been able to teach her that. She wanted to be able to confer with Michael about distracting Wendell.
It occurred to her that if Wendell’s girlfriend hadn’t been around, she might have been able to use her charm on him. Since it would most likely antagonize the nervous looking girlfriend, Isabel instead decided to use another angle.
“I hope you don’t think I’ll try anything with you? After all, you’re armed.”
“No, little lady. I’m not afraid of you. What is it? You want to use the bathroom? Because if you do, I’ll have Tina take you in there.”
“No, thanks. But I get so nervous sitting like this. Wouldn’t you let me stretch my legs just a little? Please.”
“Alright. But don’t try anything, is that clear?”
“Perfectly. You’re the boss.”
Isabel didn’t think he was impressed with her flirtatious tone, but it was a start. She got up and ostensibly stretched. Then she walked over to Tina, who was staring anxiously out at the flickering lights from the squad cars. When Isabel approached her, the woman jumped. Apparently, she was a bundle of nerves.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“What do you want?”
Tina was even less friendly, apparently. But Isabel didn’t let that discourage her.
“I just wanted to ask you why you’re doing this. You have to admit that it’s only fair, considering the fact that we’re your hostages.”
That word caused the woman to flinch. It seemed she wasn’t happy about the situation. Isabel intended to use that to her advantage.
“It’s – We want our son back. They took him from us, and it isn’t fair. He’s our kid. Those fosterparents can’t love him like we do. Ok, so we had some problems but Timmy needs us. And I need him.”
“Of course you do. How can they take a little boy from his mother? I totally understand how you feel. If you like, I’ll talk to Valenti about it. I’m sure he’ll understand too. Have you tried talking to him?”
“Hey, you, blondie. Don’t screw with my girl’s mind.”
“It’s ok, Marty. She’s kind of nice.”
For a moment, Isabel felt guilty about playing this trick on the poor woman. If Tina had known what Isabel had in mind, she wouldn’t have called her nice, that’s for sure.
“If you talk Marty into giving himself up, I promise I’ll talk to Valenti about you. You probably won’t have to go to jail at all.”
“I don’t know. Marty says -“
“Why don’t you try? I know Valenti will listen to you. He’s a good guy. And he’s got a son too.”
At least Isabel hoped he still did. What could be happening to Kyle while they were stuck in here, helpless?
“I’m really not sure.”
While Isabel was pleading with Tina, Michael was waiting for his cue. And it came a few minutes later. Wendell had had enough of that girl bonding. He probably suspected Tina was his weak link, and anyway, he was the sort of man who didn’t like his girlfriends to have friends.
“That’s enough. This isn’t some bloody beauty parlor. Stop talking to that chick, Tina and get over here. If the cops raid this place -“
All Wendell’s attention was focused on his girlfriend and Isabel, and wasn’t expecting the attack when it came. Michael quietly got to his feet, ignoring Max and Alex. He was sure they didn’t approve, but this was his job, after all. Protection. Looking out for the people he loved. With all his strength he rammed into Marty, trying frantically to reach the gun. Michael was tall and strong, and Marty was taken completely unawares.
That was Isabel’s cue. She grabbed Tina’s arm and tried to push her up against the wall. This was going to be easy. Tina wasn’t very strong, just as Michael had predicted. But suddenly, she had a gun in her hand. With a sinking feeling, Isabel realized she had made a grave error of judgement. Tina was a mess. There was no telling what she’d do.
“Get away from me. I’ll shoot. I swear I will. Back off, now.”
“Ok. I’m walking away. Don’t shoot, please.”
By now, Michael had effectively disarmed Marty, and winded him sufficiently to shut him up for some time. There would be no trouble from him. Now everyone turned towards the woman with the gun. Everything hinged on what she would do in the next couple of seconds.
“What did you do to Marty? Oh, this isn’t happening. Get away from him.”
Michael began to back off from Wendell’s immobile form. But it was too late. They were all frozen to the spot, by the sound of a shot echoing in their ears. It seemed to go on forever. When the sound finally subsided it was replaced by an anguished scream from Isabel.
It didn’t take her too long to reach him, even though it felt like an eternity. That one shot must have hit him square in the chest. A dark stain was spreading rapidly across the white of his shirt. Isabel kneeled beside him, touching his face, which seemed to be drained of all color. He was so cold. What if he died, before she had time to tell him how much he loved him?
Her brother was only one step away. He kneeled at her side, and pressed his hands to the boy’s chest. His face didn’t give anything away, but Isabel had a horrible feeling it was already too late.
While everyone else had been stunned into immobility Michael had managed to take advantage of the sudden stillness in the room, to disarm Tina. The woman didn’t resist. She seemed to be in a state of shock. Michael took the gun and held on to it.
He walked over to his friends. There might not be anything he could do to help, but he would lend Max all the strength he could, as long as it was enough to save Alex. Michael put his hands on Max’ shoulders, focusing on the boy on the floor. How he wished he had been able to do what Max could.
For what seemed like forever, Max remained in that position. Isabel felt tears come to her eyes. She just knew it was too late. Then finally, Max opened his eyes.
By now Valenti’s men were at the door. There was the sound of splintering glass, then two men were standing over Wendell, who was only now coming to. Another two men took Tina away.
Valenti walked over to the four kids. He knew far too well what had just happened. The question was, how would he explain it to his men? This was the second time, something like this had happened in this place. It wouldn’t take a genius to begin putting two and two together.
“How is he?”
“He’s ok. The bullet just touched him. There’s a lot of blood, but the wound is nothing really. Just a scratch.”
Valenti knew Max was only saying that for the benefit of the deputies. What really worried him was what would happen when a doctor took a look at the boy. As if reading his mind, Alex opened his mouth for the first time since the incident.
“I’m fine. I just want to get home. This is nothing. Like Max said. It was just the shock or something.”
“Are you sure, Alex? The ambulance is on its way.”
Valenti was hoping the boy would say no, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“No. I just need to go home. I’ll be fine. Max and Michael can help me.”
“If you can just wait a while, I’ll drive you home myself. I think I need to explain a few things to your mother.”
Max and Michael helped Alex get up, but one glance at Isabel made it clear to the guys that she wanted to be alone with Alex. So they backed off and retreated into the kitchen. The last thing they saw was how Isabel led Alex into the dressing room out back. Max had a pretty good idea how Isabel felt. It wasn’t too long ago, he and Liz –
Alex sounded as if he couldn’t quite believe what had just happened.
Isabel tried to sound reassuring, even though she was in a state of shock herself.
“No, you didn’t. Max made sure of that.”
“I hope this doesn’t mean I will fall in love with him, like Liz did.”
“I sure hope not.”
“Would you be jealous?”
He might be in a state of shock, but it didn’t hurt to ask. Glancing at the blonde girl sideways, Alex tried to read her face.
Isabel didn’t reply in words, she just pulled Alex into her arms and held him for a long time.
This was nice. Exactly what he needed. He just wished – And he didn’t have to wait long.
They had waited long enough. She wasn’t going to waste any more time. Whatever else was going on in their lives, she would allow herself this for her own sake. Naturally, she was the one who had to initiate the kiss. You’d think a guy who was so much in love with her would for once be able to take the initiative himself. But no. So Isabel took matters into her own hands.
What Max had started, she was now able to finish. The healing process continued and soon Alex almost forgot the trauma of moments earlier. It was over. His friends had once again come through for him.
In the meantime, the Tess and the other girls were trying to find a way inside the biotech company building. They circled around the back, and were able to get right up to the wall, without being spotted by any guards. Unless they had already been picked up by some surveillance camera and it was only a matter of time before they were under attack.
Tess stopped and closed her eyes. By now Liz and Maria knew better than to interrupt the alien girl when she was using her powers. They weren’t exactly sure of what she was doing, but since they were dependent on her expertise, they weren’t going to argue.
“You can tell that by just standing there?”
“Is he ok?”
“I don’t know. He seems to be unconscious. We need to hurry. He could be in real danger.”
“Ok. What do we do?”
“Let’s find a way inside. How about that window? I don’t suppose we could break it, without drawing a lot of attention.¨”
“I can’t wait to find a better way inside. Come with me. We’ll go in through the main entrance.”
“What? Just like that?”
Tess stared impatiently at Maria. There were times when that girl could be so tiresome.
“No. Not just like that. It takes a lot of concentration and makes me really tired. But we don’t have time to look for a more discreet entry. Let’s go.”
Liz was looking forward to seeing Tess in action again. There was something really fascinating about being able to create an illusion that could fool anyone watching. Of course, she wouldn’t be seeing what the guards would be seeing. But it would still be really interesting.
Just around the corner from the entrance, Tess stopped and began to build up the illusion. The other girls took great care not to break her concentration. When she was done, Tess began to move forward again. Maria and Liz hurried after her. If they were left too far behind –
Tess pushed open the doors, using her hands, not her powers, Liz noted. They stayed close as she crossed the reception area, passing the desk, where two receptionists were happily chatting away without having a clue as to who was walking right by them. Neither did the two guards who stood facing the entrance. This was really impressive. Liz hoped that Tess also had a fix on Kyle’s location. The place was huge, and if they had no guidance it could be hours before they found him.
But Tess didn’t seem to hesitate at any point. They went up two stairs, walked along a seemingly endless corridor, then went up another flight of stairs, before stopping outside a door, with a combination lock. Since they didn’t meet anyone in all that time, Liz assumed that Tess wasn’t keeping up the illusion anymore.
Now what? That lock seemed about impossible to crack. But Tess had no intention of using the code. Her eyes burned into the plastic contraption, then it blew up, leaving a charred spot on the wall. This would set of the alarm for sure, but Tess ignored that fact. Now all that mattered was getting Kyle out of here, before anything happened to him.
All three girls crowded into the small cubicle. Kyle was lying on what looked like a hospital bed, seemingly unharmed, but apparently out cold. Their entry didn’t produce any reaction in him. Tess rushed to his side and felt for a pulse. She was no expert on that kind of thing, but her powers told her that Kyle wasn’t in any immediate danger.
But they didn’t have much time. Far away in the building, Tess sensed that several people were moving in their direction, and she knew what they were after. This was where the real difficulty lay. If she maintained a new illusion, it most likely wouldn’t work, and in any case she was weakening fast. But if she stayed and tried to defend herself, she might have to kill someone and she wasn’t ready to do that, no matter what Nasedo had taught her. And while she was standing here wasting time, the enemy were approaching.
“Quick. Get Kyle out of here. I’ll deal with the guards.”
“Ok. Which way?”
“I’m not sure. Wait. They’re coming from that direction. Go down the stairs and out the back. I’ll try to follow as soon as possible. Go.”
Liz and Maria dragged Kyle off the bed. He was heavy, but failure wasn’t an option. They were able to get him out into the corridor and round the corner before the guards caught up with Tess. But how could they carry their burden down the stairs? Dropping him didn’t bear thinking about.
“It’s no use. He’s too heavy for us to carry. And down the stairs, we’ll just -“
They put Kyle down on the landing and began to shake him.
“Come on, Kyle. You have to wake up. We can’t get you out of here like this.”
Liz was desperate enough to try a slap to his face. That finally produced an effect. Kyle opened his eyes and looked up into her face. At first there was no recognition, no focus.
“It’s me. Liz. You have to wake up. Please, Kyle. They’re closing in.”
“Ok. I’ll try.”
With the girls’ help, he was able to get down the stairs without falling. He was still only half there, but his help made all the difference. But when they got to the ground floor, their luck ran out. Six guards closed in on them, and there seemed to be no way out. A shout from Tess made the guards turn from the three human kids and face the alien girl.
“It’s me you want. Not them. Let them go.”
Tess was hoping she was right about her guess. If they wanted all of them, this might be more than she could handle. Now she was beginning to wish she had followed Maria’s advice and returned to Roswell for the other three aliens. Their powers would have been useful now.
There was no reply, but no one made a move to stop Liz and Maria as they dragged Kyle outside. So she had been right. It was her they were after. Remembering what she’d heard about Max’ experiences when he had been captured, almost made her lose her nerve.
What would these people do to her if they were able to overpower her? There was no doubt about what Nasedo would have done. He would have told her to kill them all. She couldn’t do that, but she couldn’t let herself be captured either. So she gathered the strength she had left and raised her hands in the air. Two of the guards pulled their weapons and aimed them straight at her. If she failed – but that kind of thinking only weakens you further, that was what Nasedo had taught her.
The two men fell backwards, dropping their weapons. Three other guards tried to pull their weapons but found that they couldn’t. One other guard dropped his gun, after he realized it was burning hot, leaving a red mark on his hand. But that was only a temporary improvement.
Careful not to actually bring the inferno back to her fingertips, Tess began to form the illusion of a firestorm in the reception area. If she made a mistake now, every human in this building would die in agony. She couldn’t let that happen.
Now every guard and the two women behind the reception desk started behind her. From upstairs the firestorm began to roll down towards them. In less than 30 seconds the entire room was empty. Guards and receptionists had taken cover anywhere they could. Tess didn’t stay to find out where they went. If only she could get to the car –
But using her powers had drained her, and she felt she was walking so slowly. If she couldn’t hurry up a bit, they would still catch her. Then she met Liz. She had never been so pleased to see her rival as she was at that moment.
The dark-haired girl put an arm around Tess’ shoulder and supported her towards the car. Maria was ready to take off as soon as they’d sat down. Liz kept looking over her shoulder. Would the guards be coming after them? But she couldn’t see any cars following. Had they really managed to get away? It seemed that way.
As they were speeding back towards Roswell, Liz began a quick visual examination of her ex. He seemed to be ok. Whatever drug they had used on him was beginning to wear off. But she was a bit worried about Tess. From what she could see, the blonde girl was completely exhausted, and Liz didn’t know enough about aliens to be able to tell whether she was going to be ok or not. They needed to consult Max about this.
But long before they reached Roswell Tess seemed to regain her strength and turned all her attention on Kyle. So far he hadn’t said anything to anyone.
“Are you ok?”
“I think so.”
“What happened? How did you end up out here?”
“I – I don’t know. This headache is making me a bit dizzy.”
“What did they do to you?”
“They injected me with something, I think. After that, I hardly remember a thing. I must have been asleep the entire time.”
“They didn’t say anything?”
Kyle paused to consider. He had a vague memory of being questioned, about Tess. And he wouldn’t tell them anything.
“They wanted to know things about you.”
“I see. That’s what I suspected. Did you tell them anything?”
“What do you think?”
The accusing tone made Tess blush vividly. She was the one who had driven him away, making him an easy victim to these people.
“I’m sorry, Kyle. For everything. I shouldn’t have said those things I did. You were right.”
Suddenly aware of the other girls in the car, Tess broke off. She could hardly discuss this in their presence. Again she felt her face take on color, but apparently she wasn’t the only one. Kyle seemed to have guessed what she was about to say.
“We’ll talk about that later. I’m just so glad to have you back.”
Before she should have time to change her mind, Tess put her arms around Kyle and held on to him for such a long time, she was wondering what Liz and Maria would think. Oh, who cared anyway? Max really loved Liz, so why shouldn’t she love another guy? She pulled him closer still and ran her fingers through his hair.
It felt so good to have him back, safe and sound. She could sense that there was no resistance in Kyle. He had to return her feelings. Maybe he wasn’t just a stupid jock, with only one thought in his mind. This might be what she had been waiting for all her lonely life with Nasedo.
They decided to go right over to the Valenti house. Tess and Kyle needed their rest. But to their surprise, no one was around. Assuming that the sheriff was still out looking, Tess made a grab for the phone.
After making sure that their friends were ok, Liz and Maria quietly backed out of the house, knowing that what Kyle and Tess needed most of all right now, was each other. Maria headed for the Crashdown Café. To their astonishment, there was a crowd of people standing around outside, and several police cars surrounding the café. Liz felt her face drain of all color. What now? If anything had happened to her family or her friends –
Maria parked the car round the back and both girls ran to the back door. The entire area was cordoned off, and they had a horrible premonition. Someone was dead, they just knew it. But once inside, they immediately caught sight of mr and mrs Parker, sheriff Valenti and their four friends, apparently alive and well. Until Alex turned around and faced them. All that blood. What could have happened?
Liz ran up to Max and pulled him into her arms. For now that was enough. Maria found Michael and drew him into a hard embrace. It was a long time before anyone found anything to say. Finally, Maria let go and took a closer look at her boyfriend.
She pointed to a prominent bruise, marring the beauty of Michael’s face.
He gingerly touched the spot.
“Oh. That. It’s nothing. I must have gotten that when I took Wendell’s gun away. Max will – I mean it’s going to fade away soon.”
Maria reached up and planted a gentle kiss right on the ugly mark.
“I guess I’ll leave it.”
“Didn’t you just kiss it and make it better?”
“I can do better than that.”
Now that everything was over, and everyone they cared about was safe, Maria began to relax. She decided to ignore her friend’s parents and went ahead and kissed Michael for a while longer. This time on the mouth. She didn’t think anyone would notice. Everyone was too busy doing the same thing, or taking statements or writing reports.
It was another three hours, and the sun was nearly up again, when the last deputies had left the scene. Since Valenti now knew his son was at home, safe and well, he had taken his time.
But after a few last reassuring words to the Parkers, he decided to call it a night. By then, Alex and Maria’s mothers had shown up, taken a look at their children, determined that they were safe, and were now still standing around, as if not quite knowing what to do after what had happened.
Mr Parker suddenly remembered his duties as a host of sorts, even though his business had turned into a crime scene.
“Some coffee, anyone?”
Soon mrs De Luca and Alex’ mother were sitting alongside of mr and mrs Parker having coffee and pie, as the rising sun painted the sky pink outside the windows.
Max and Isabel had been able to reassure their parents on the phone, so they hadn’t shown up. Instead, the Evans’ twins had had to leave their friends and go home. It was ok. They would see each other the next day and the day after.
Maria was still holding on to Michael and for once her mother didn’t seem to object. She even fired off a warm smile at the normally so sulky boy.
“Michael, I just heard what you did tonight. That was very brave of you. It’s sad how confused and misguided some people are. Thanks to you Alex is going to be just fine. You have every reason to be proud of yourself.”
“Thanks, mrs De Luca.”
Michael wasn’t used to grownups being so friendly. It made him feel awkward. But Maria didn’t let him feel that way for long.
“Come on, I’ll drive you home. If that’s ok with you, mom?”
“Of course, darling. I’ll get home on my own. See you soon. I’ll just finish my coffee and then I’ll be right with you.”
Outside Michael’s house, Maria regretfully let him go with no more than a kiss. She knew far too well that she would never leave him, if she went inside with him.
“See you tomorrow.”
“Yes. Sleep well.”
Back at the biotech company, a man picked up the phone and punched in a number.
“It didn’t work. She got away.”
“Relax. There will be other opportunities. I’ll be in touch.”
After he’d hung up, Nicholas gave in to his fury and blasted the nearest object into cinders. If that intolerable girl, Tess had been eliminated, it would have made his job all that much easier. And now he didn’t have much time. He would have to think of something else, but for the time being he had to lie low. There would be other opportunities. The royal four shouldn’t think they were safe. He was far from finished yet.