California Bodies Fitness Center
Thursday, October 5, 1989
"Jamie, what are you doing?" Ashley asked.
"Tapping on the walls." Jamie pounded his palm against the rough bricks, methodically working his way down the walls. "Trying to see if there's a way that we can get out of here"
Ashley laughed in disbelief. "What do you think? That it'll be just like Scooby-Doo and some secret passage will open up or something? Get real."
"Well at least I'm trying to do something. All you can do is sit there feel sorry for yourself."
"Why do you think they took off our handcuffs? They know that there's no way out of here. The door's thick metal and the walls are solid brick. We're stuck."
Jamie tapped the walls a few more times before gave up. He sat on the floor beside Ashley. "Are you always such a pessimist?"
"No, I'm a realist, and I'm telling you that there's no hope—you might as well give it up"
"There's my mother and my stepfather."
"What can they possibly do?"
"You'd be surprised."
"Even if you're right, how would they find us? No one knows we're here, remember?" Ashley stared down at her hands—Jamie could see tears gathering in her eyes. "I was such an idiot to trust Tony—I mean, I've known him since I was little and I never thought— and now I'm going to end up just like my sister."
"Ashley, come on— don't be like that." Jamie put his hand over hers.
"I'm just sorry that I got you involved," Ashley said. "It's like— you know—at first I thought you were kind of a dork, but now—well—I really like you, Jamie."
Her hand squeezed his own and suddenly Jamie found it hard to breathe. Ashley looked at him—even in the dim light he could see her eyes, staring deep into his own. As if by instinct Jamie leaned closer—her eyes closed as their lips met—
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"We'll contact Judge Thomas tonight, Tony," Mr. Tambouri said. "Once he knows that we have his precious daughter I'm sure he'll be willing to play ball."
"What about the other kid?"
"Wrong place, wrong time." Mr. Tambouri shrugged his shoulders. "It's regrettable, but you know what we have to do. After all, we can't afford to have any witnesses, can we?"
"Yes sir, Mr. Tambouri. I'll take care of it right away."
"See that you do."
"Here we go." Lee pushed the gym door open, putting the lock-pick back in his pocket. Amanda followed Lee down the dark corridor. "We'll check the office first—he'd be most likely to hide any evidence there."
Amanda nodded. They were just about to turn the corner when they heard voices. Lee drew his gun—both he and Amanda flattened themselves against the wall.
"Let him go—please," a girl's voice said. "He knows nothing about anything—he's no danger." Ashley's voice, Lee realized. He and Amanda exchanged glances.
"Wrong," the man's voice was cultured sounding—the faintest trace of an accent remaining. "It's like I told you before, Ashley. He's a witness. Even someone with your limited abilities should be able to figure that out."
"I'm begging you," Ashley pleaded. "Please—" There was a loud 'crack', followed by a thud.
"Shouldn't mess with us, little girl," another man's voice said—Lee recognized it as Tony Bryson, the man they'd spoken to on their first visit.
"Don't touch her!" The voice Lee heard caused his blood to run cold.
"Relax, lover boy," the cultured voice said. "She'll live—unlike some I could mention."
Amanda's hand clutched Lee's sleeve.
"It's Jamie," she whispered. "Lee, they have Jamie."
"I know." Lee carefully peered around the corner. He saw Ashley first leaning against the cinder block wall—a thin man that Lee didn't recognize towered over her. As for Jamie, Tony Bryson had the boy's arm jammed up behind his back.
"Follow me," he said to Amanda. "I have a plan."
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"Do it right here." Mr. Tambouri told Tony. "Then Ashley here can see what the consequences of misbehavior are."
"Very well." Tony threw Jamie back against the wall. Ashley stared at him, one hand still cupping her cheek protectively.
"I'm sorry, Jamie," she said.
"End of the line." Tony drew his gun and cocked it, taking aim. Jamie closed his eyes—
The next sound Jamie heard was a thud. He opened his eyes to see Lee wrestling with Tony, trying to get the gun away. And his mother—Jamie watched in amazement and disbelief as she kicked Mr. Tambouri, knocking the gun from his hand.
Lee's fist rammed into Tony's solar plexus—the man fell to the floor, gasping for breath. Breathing hard, Lee picked up the gun and trained it on the man.
"Next time pick on someone your own size," he told him.
"Not so fast," Mr. Tambouri said. The man held his mom by the arm, a gun against her head.
"Let her go!" Lee yelled.
"You shoot me and I'll shoot her." Mr. Tambouri smiled thinly. "And at this range, I'm not very likely to miss."
"Lee," Amanda whispered. Jamie could see the hesitation and fear in his stepfather's eyes.
Before anyone else had a chance to do anything a black Doc Marten boot hit the back of Mr. Tambouri's head. The man gave a slight grunt—and his eyes rolled back in his head as he fell. Ashley stood over the man, her blue eyes venomous.
"That was for Mallory, you creep!" Ashley bent to pick up the gun but Lee placed his hand over her own, stopping her.
"You don't need that," he spoke gently, plucking the gun from the man's nerveless fingers and tucking it into his waistband. "It's over."
"Jamie." Amanda's arms wrapped around him, pulling him close. "Sweetheart I'm just so glad you're all right."
"What were you two doing here, anyway?" Lee asked. "As I recall you're both supposed to be at home."
Ashley and Jamie exchanged glances.
"That's kind of a long story," they said in unison.
Saturday, October 7, 1989
"Lee I don't care what you say, you're going to the doctor," Amanda told him.
"Amanda, you've got to be kidding me. For the stomach flu?" Lee's voice rose.
Amanda crossed her arms. "I think we know by now that this has gone on far too long for the stomach flu."
"But going to the doctor would be ridiculous."
"Ridiculous or not, you're still going."
"You can't make me go."
"Would you two keep it down to a dull roar?" Dotty came into the house, carrying a large brown box. "Did you know that you could be heard out in the street?"
"Sorry, Mother," Amanda apologized. "What's in the box?"
"Well that's what we're about to find out." Dotty grabbed a pair of scissors from the table by the front door. "There's no return address and it says it's for 'The Stetson' family."
"Here let me do that." Taking the scissors Lee cut through the brown tape that held the box together. The only thing he saw at first was a mound of white tissue paper.
"Hey what's that?" Jamie came downstairs, followed by Philip.
"That's what we're about to find out." Lee pushed the mounds of tissue paper aside. "There's an envelope here—says it's for Jamie."
"For me?" Jamie took the envelope and opened it. "It's a card," he said. "But I don't know who—" Suddenly his cheeks turned pink.
"Who's it from, Jamie?" Amanda asked him.
"Looks almost like a valentine," Philip teased, looking over his brother's shoulder. "Don't tell me that you actually managed to get a girl all hot and bothered. Who is it? Let me see. I bet it's that girl from Computer Lab, right? The one with the coke-bottle glasses?"
"Stop it." Jamie tried to push his brother's hand away.
"It's Ashley?" Philip said. "Ashley actually sent you a card? With a lipstick kiss on it?"
"A lipstick kiss?" Amanda asked.
Jamie's face was a deep shade of plum by now. He pushed past his brother and ran up the stairs. Philip shook his head.
"Who would've thought that a girl like Ashley would go for someone like Jamie?" He said bewildered.
"Philip," Amanda said, a warning note in her voice.
"I don't think this is for Jamie though." Lee held up a baby-sized leather outfit with matching black booties. "I think that Ashley's trying to thank us for what we did—in her own way of course."
"Well it's—certainly ah—" Amanda's eyes were wide as she stared at the outfit. The same loss of words didn't seem to have affected Dotty.
"If you have a baby who wears clothes like that," she said. "I'm disowning you."