For several minutes, everything was confused motions and sounds to Vaughn. He heard more gunshots, and running footsteps moving away from him. He heard voices arguing, and then a young police officer was above him, asking him if he was all right. Vaughn looked up at him and couldn't speak. The officer checked him over for injuries and helped him to his feet, and then his father was there, shoving the officer out of the way and hugging Vaughn so tightly he couldn't breathe.

"Vaughn," he said in a voice Vaughn had never heard before. "Vaughn...are you OK?" He let go and looked down at his son. Vaughn tried to answer, but the lump in his throat was too big.

"You're freezing," Victor mumbled, feeling his bare arms. He hastily pulled off his long black coat and wrapped it around his son. Vaughn swallowed hard, trying to hold it back, but then the familiar smell of his father's cologne hit him, and it was too much. He leaned into him again as silent tears slipped down his cheeks, wetting the front of Victor's shirt.

"It's OK, Vaughn," his father assured him, trying unsuccessfully to hold back a few tears of his own. "It's over. We're going home."


In truth, they didn't actually get to go home until much later. Victor had flushed with anger when he saw the bruises on Vaughn's neck, and insisted that he be taken to a hospital for an examination. The doctor's found nothing wrong other than the ugly bruises and scrapes and slight dehydration.

Then he had to go to the police station in Centerville and give his statement, something Vaughn was reluctant to do. He didn't relish reliving the ordeal so soon after it was over, particularly Crystal's shooting. But the police said it would be best while the details were still fresh in his mind. A handsome officer with a heavy mustache interviewed him. His tone was conversational and caring, and he skillfully guided Vaughn through the dark hours of his captivity.

Victor also told his side of the story, about the phone calls and the meetings with Brady. Vaughn got the vague feeling he was leaving some details out, and was pretty sure it had to do with the disk and the ball. He had seen his father hastily pick it up off the ground and stuff it into his inside coat pocket before the police could ask him about it. Vaughn didn't press the matter.

He was surprised to hear his father mention Frank Miller's name. "I think you need to arrest him. I think he was in on it the whole time." He explained how Frank had come in just after he received the first call from Brady, and how he was always there at just the right times, advising him what to do or talking him out of calling the police.

The interrogator nodded. "We'll contact the authorities in your area to bring him in for questioning. Even if he wasn't in on it, we need to get his statement." He put down his pen and looked Victor in the eye.

"Why didn't you call the police, Mr. Pearson?"

Victor glanced at Vaughn. "I didn't want any harm to come to Vaughn. And I thought I knew Jonathan...I didn't realize how...how much he had changed."

Vaughn was confused. "But if you didn't send the police, then who did?"

"The lady you told me about, Crystal," the officer explained.

"She's alive?" Vaughn asked incredulously.

The officer nodded. "Her wound is serious, but last we heard the doctors think she will pull through. She was conscious long enough to crawl to the phone and call for help. She told us to go to the old rest area, that there was a crime in progress there. We sent a few officers to check it out and that's when we found you."

He also informed them that Michael Jakes hadn't gotten far. The police had stopped him before they even arrived at the rest area, when he was less than a mile down the road. "We can add attempted murder to his charges now too, from what you've told us."

Jonathan Brady had escaped into the woods on foot. The police were combing the area but so far had not found him. Vaughn found this news unsettling; Victor was downright enraged.

"How could you not catch him? He was right there? He tried to kill my son!"

"I assure you, Mr. Pearson, we are doing everything we can. We will capture him."

So it was late in the afternoon before Victor's Porche finally pulled up to the mansion. Vaughn exited the car and stared at the house for a moment.

"Coming?" Victor asked.

Vaughn nodded. "It's just...it's like seeing it for the first time or something."

They both turned as a movement to the side caught their eye. Someone was coming on foot. As the figure drew closer, Vaughn saw the setting sun reflect off of familiar red hair.

"Josie?"

Josie Trent glanced and Victor, then back at Vaughn. "You weren't at school the last couple of days...I brought your homework."

Vaughn looked at his father, surprised to see that the annoyed expression he usually got whenever Josie came around was absent. "I'll be inside, Vaughn," he said as he turned and walked inside the house.

Josie looked confused as well as she handed to books to Vaughn. "So...have you been sick or something? You didn't miss much, really. Well, except for Lucas and Marshall causing a minor explosion in the science lab when they-" she stopped as she caught sight of the bruises on his neck and face. "What happened to your neck?"

Vaughn didn't answer; he just stared at her concerned face for a moment. Then, without warning, he set the books on the car and pulled Josie into a hug, lifting her feet off of the ground.

"Vaughn?" she gasped. "What was that for? Are you OK?"

"Yeah," he said, smiling as he returned her to the earth. "I am now."

THE END

Note: Yes, Brady got away...I know there are some loose ends...a sequel is planned.