Chapter One

Balki Bartokomous was thirsty for vengeance. He lowered his weapon and waited patiently as the victim came into his sights. Finger steady on the trigger, he closed one eye and aimed at the smirking creature in front of him. "You have elevated me for the last time!" he cried out before pulling the trigger expertly, the bullet quickly finding its target.

"You mean evaded and that was really good, Balki," Lydia Markham cheered as she sat beside him on the sofa. "Now let me at that little monkey. I'll pretend it's my ex-boyfriend Trevor's butt!"

Balki and Lydia had been playing the small shooting range game for almost thirty minutes now and Balki had already lost track of how many ex-boyfriends she 'shot'. Balki had found the game at a rummage sale on his way home from the grocery store and couldn't wait to play it with his cousin, Larry Appleton. Larry, however, was working late at the Chicago Chronicle, so Balki called Lydia to see if she wanted to play.

"So, Balki, is it just me or is Larry working at the paper all the time? Ever since the two of you got back from your trip overseas, he's been glued to his desk chair," Lydia pointed out.

"No, Cousin didn't glue himself to the desk chair. He just working a lot to get his mind off of-" Balki stopped before he mentioned Bianca Pierson's name. Only a week ago, Balki had found out that she and Larry were more than just friends, despite the fact that Larry already had a girlfriend. But while Jennifer Lyons had been away with Balki's girlfriend Mary Anne Spencer in Canada, Larry and Bianca had developed feelings for one another. Balki was disappointed in both of them for cheating on Jennifer, but Larry was hurt that Jennifer hadn't called more than two or three times. Mary Anne had called at least seven. Larry assumed that Jennifer had found someone else and had told Balki "turnabout is fair play". While Balki wasn't sure what that meant, he figured it meant Larry was trying to ease his guilt by blaming Jennifer.

"Oh, that's right. Jennifer and Mary Anne are still in Canada. How silly of me," Lydia replied bashfully before handing him the gun. "Well, it's your turn. I nailed Bobby, Ricardo, Trevor and Peter right in the-"

Suddenly, the door opened and Balki turned to see Larry, looking haggard and frail. He still had stubble on his face and his clothes were wrinkled. "Oh, hi, Cousin. Lydia and I were just-"

"Balki, what are you doing? Put that away! Put it away now!" Larry rushed over to Balki, his eyes wild. "I don't want to see that thing ever again!"

"Cousin, it's only a toy-" Balki began, but Larry cut him off.

"I said put it away, Balki!" he shouted angrily before storming off to his bedroom and slamming the door.

"What's his problem?" Lydia scoffed, jerking her thumb towards the bedroom door.

Balki felt bad for not being able to tell her the truth. He hated keeping Bianca a secret from everyone, but Larry and Bianca convinced him it was for the best, considering Bianca was from the year two thousand thirteen. "He just fell on the wrong side of his head this morning," Balki replied, staring at Larry's bedroom door sadly. How he wished that was the only thing wrong with Larry.

Larry lay back on his bed and swallowed the lump that formed in his throat. How could Balki bring home that-that thing, knowing what Larry had witnessed? Had Balki no heart? No soul? No consideration? Ever since he watched as two people were shot and killed, their bodies lying on the ground in a pool of blood, just the mere sight of guns made his stomach turn in knots. Knots so complex, that even his antacid couldn't cure it. Larry rolled over on his side and glanced at the picture on the round nightstand by his alarm clock. It was a photo of him and Jennifer, taken only four months earlier. Their smiles were bright and their eyes shone of mutual admiration. Feeling a pang of guilt, he placed the frame with the picture side down and pulled his wallet out of his pants pocket. Quickly fishing through the contents, he found the photo of Bianca, the same one he showed to strangers when she had been abducted. He smiled at the copper ringlets of hair that framed her porcelain face, that perfect smile that would have melted ice cubes in Alaska and those sparkling blue eyes that he found himself lost in many times. He saw her two days ago, but his heart literally ached for her already. He remembered how excited she had been when she found out Greg Kitchens, her grandfather's apprentice, had saved her robot R.O.B. from the fire that destroyed her home. He hated that she was living with Greg in the year two thousand thirteen while he was stuck without her in nineteen eighty seven. Not that Greg was a bad guy. Quite the contrary, given that he had helped Larry uncover the truth about Bianca's grandfather and helped them all when Bianca and her grandfather were held captive by her half-cousin. Even though Greg was practically a saint didn't mean that Larry had to like Bianca's living arrangements. He would have preferred her living with her grandfather, or better yet, living in the apartment with he and Balki.

Suddenly, a knock at the door startled Larry and he quickly shoved the photo back in his wallet and threw it on the nightstand.

"Cousin, you asleep?" Balki asked softly on the other side.

Larry thought for a minute about remaining quiet in hopes Balki would think he was asleep, but he sighed. "No, Balki. I'm just resting."

Balki took that as a sign to enter and gently opened the door. "Cousin, I'm sorry about that carnival game Lydia and I were playing. If I knew it would make you jump off the deep end, I wouldn't have brought it home."

"It's okay, Balki. It-it wasn't the game that upset me as much as it was the-"

"The dart gun," Balki finished. "Oh, Cousin. I should have realized you were still shaken not stirred by the thought and sight of guns. Can you forgive me?"

Larry sighed and sat up. "Of course I forgive you, Balki."

"Oh, boy am I retrieved!" Balki clutched his heart and sighed in relief before sitting beside Larry. "Cousin, I'm worried about you. You work all day and the only times you come home are to sleep and when you know Bianca is visiting. And I tell you why Mary Anne say Jennifer hasn't called you: she has Larry-ite-is!"

"That's laryngitis, Balki and I understand that, but she's not calling me now, is she? Just face it, the woman who I thought loved me has changed. She doesn't give a damn about Larry Appleton anymore."

"Oh po po. Cousin, that is such a far crime from the truth. If anyone changed, it's you. Cousin, I know you like Bianca, but you already have a girlfriend! You know what you and Bianca are doing is wrong. You should either break up with Jennifer or Bianca. You can't go around silly stringing them along."

Larry ran his hand through his hair. "You think I don't know that, Balki? I realize I have to choose, but I-I just need time to process everything. I love them both."

Balki stood up and stretched. "As long as you know you have to choose, Cousin."

Larry looked up at Balki, a flash of hope in his eyes. "Did, uh, Bianca come while I was at work? Have you heard from her?"

"No, Cousin. But Bianca say she will be here tomorrow with bells on. I hope she will play us a nice jingle," Balki replied before laughing and raising his arms in the air. "Where do I come up with them?"

Larry smiled wryly. "I really have no idea. But I wonder what Bianca is doing now? Knowing her, she's either working on a new invention or working on her web design business." Whatever it is, it's got to be more fun than what I'm doing, Larry added silently to himself.