Sorry about the long wait but this won't be the last of the delays. I will try and create a cache of chapters during the times I can actually write. I will admit I did get side tracked but not really during the times I would have been writing. But here's some good news
I wrote two different versions of the sixth chapter. One was lost on a dead computer but now that I have the files back I merged the two together. I forgot how good the lost files were so that's why I didn't just delete it.
On a side note I had worked at a place called Spinelli's deli
Gretchen ran up the hall and around a corner. She leaned against a wall, crouched down and caught her breather. ( I need to get to class I can't be seen anywhere around the bathroom – I swear, I swear…..calm down! -I need, I still need to know what's going on in there. I need to know what Miss Finster thinks before I leave.) Randall and the school nurse entered the boy's room first. Gretchen waited till they all went in before creeping back to the area. She listened from the other side of the door.
"Ken, what happen?" asked Randall.
Ken staggered to his feet with the help of the school nurse. "Riptide."
"I've said we should have suspen-"
"Just wait a minute Randall, What exactly happen here. You and him have been at it again!"
"Yes, Miss Finster, I was going to the bathroom when he attacked me."
"Ken, I'm tired of hearing he attacked you and it was unprovoked" Said Miss Finster.
Randall jumped between them. "Riptide's jealous. He hates him. I've seen him attack Ken for no reason."
"Were there any witnesses? I see you are pretty beat up. Where is Riptide?" Asked the school nurse.
"Randall here said he walked in on the fight."
"What did you see and did you see anyone else around?" Asked the school nurse.
Gretchen took a deep breath and waited for the rest of the story.
"Riptide was savagely attacking Ken on the floor. He was bending Ken's leg around the stall partition. There was blood on the floor like it is now. And I think I saw T.J. before I came in. He had to hear the noise unles-"
Ken cut him off. "Yes, I think someone else came in."
"Collect anything that's yours including teeth and we'll get to my office. You need to get your cuts cleaned and your teeth fixed now. "Demanded the school nurse.
"Yes, work one of your miracles. I'll go look for Riptide then I'll be looking to talk to you again." Miss Finster gazed from the nurse to Ken.
As soon as Gretchen heard foots steps near the door, she ran back to class. Ken was back in class for the last period but Riptide was missing for the rest of the day.
T.J and his friends waited after school for an extra 15 minutes for Gretchen to show up. Gus was worried that something might have happen because she didn't send them any messages.
T.J and Spinelli convinced everyone that she was probably checking on Ken since he was injured in the fight. They imagined him ranting to Gretchen about Riptide and how much of a menace he is.
They were going to go to Spinelli's house for ice-cream but their plan detoured when they neared the strip-mall. Vince spotted Gretchen before anyone else. "What is she doing sitting on a curb down there?" Vince said pointing to a dot up the street.
Mikey ran off shouting back. "She might be hurt."
Gretchen frowned at him then at her friends as they crowded around her.
"What are you doing here? I never saw you leave the school." Shouted T.J.
"I left undetected. But I didn't get the chance to tell you in advance, so I came here hoping to run into someone."
"What's all the fuss about?" Asked T.J.
"I saw the fight… it was bad, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino bad. But I've got news, Riptide got blamed."
"Well that will be the first time." said Vince.
"What are you talking about?" She stood up.
"I talked to Menlo again. The bus fight was blamed on Ken; Ashley T. was the witness."
"No F-ining way, I was there. Riptide got blamed. She was nowhere around when the fight started."
"No he did not!"
Guy, guys stop for a minute; Riptide's been expelled?" asked Spinelli.
"No, he ran out of the school. That's why no one found him. I overheard Miss Finster and Randall talking and I know Riptide is going to be blamed."
T.J interrupted before Vince could argue. "Both of your sources are good but only one can be the truth. I think Menlo isn't being straight, I just can't prove it."
Vince looked disgusted, Gretchen somber and everyone else confused. Gus interrupted the tension "Where do you think Ken and Riptide are?"
"Ken vanished after school; Riptide went to where ever Riptide goes." Said Gretchen.
"I've been wondering where he lived for a while. I was thinking about looking for Riptide." Said Spinelli.
T.J shrugged "It might be dangerous though."
Vince walked over to Spinelli "I'm going with her. Is anyone else coming?"
"No but knock yourself out I'll be looking for Ken in a few." Replyed Gretchen
Spinelli, Vince and Gus ultimately went looking for Riptide around the park. T.J. and Mikey went to Spinelli's house to tell her parents they weren't coming. They planned to wander the area for Ken or Riptide. Gretchen went solo to look for Ken at the park.
Davis and Cody couldn't find Ken after the bell rung. However, they knew Riptide was on the loose somewhere near the school. Davis feared being followed so he and Cody ran all the way to their friends' favorite café instead of going home. They crashed into Izzy and Joe down the street from the coffee house.
"What's going on? What are you doing here? Why are you running?" asked Izzy.
"We…" pant "…Ken left cause Riptidethebully is on the loose."
"I had thought he was expelled but then I heard he ran away from the school." Added Davis.
Izzy listened to them and looked horrified. Joe looked at them like they were over reacting. "If this guy goes to your school and never looked at you the wrong way, why run off scared." Joe looked around. "You should be looking for Ken. He's the one who might need help."
The four of them began walking up the street. "Joe, Ken would have called if he was in trouble. The best way to help Ken is to find out more about Riptide. Sora knows more about him than we do." Said Izzy.
Davis looked surprised. "What; how's this?"
"You can ask her when we get to the shop." Cody and Davis raced to the coffee shop then turned back after looking in the window. "She's not there, is she out with Matt?" asked Cody.
Joe frowned "No."
"Well where is sh-?" asked Davis
"She must be out with her other friends. I don't think you should go looking for her." Said Joe
Izzy looked at his watch. "I'm guessing Ken isn't going to soccer practice but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go."
Davis sighed and walked off. Cody went chasing after him.
After they left Joe turned to go into the café. "Are you coming in?"
Izzy looked worried. "No, I'm going to look for Sora. I know it's a bad idea but…"
Joe just shrugged and went in. Izzy walked up the street. (Hum..I wonder where Ken is. He sometimes goes to his school's after school program. But I think he's found somewhere to hide. I hope Sora is just like at the mall or something and not in a bad part of town or something.)
He began to have second thoughts about looking for Sora. Izzy decided to check the mall and a teen club. If he didn't find her in an hour, he would go back to the cafe. He sat down on a wooden bench and stared across the street at a few store fronts.
Although he didn't know it, Gretchen had been following him for a few blocks. She watched Izzy out of a large window from the lobby of the bank behind him. He sighed and looked at his watch then the sun. Izzy got up and walked across the street to a nutrition shop. He was hoping they sold something to drink.
The shop was large with a counter at the front of the store; the space was large enough for a long line of customers. The wall opposite the counter had a large window with a plush bench and two bean bag chairs under it. Izzy looked at the menu then to the side of the counter at the aisles stretching to the back of the store. He noticed some gym equipment at the back. (Hum, when did this store open?)
As Izzy wandered to the back of the store Gretchen crept in. She figured that Ken was somewhere around him.
Izzy was shocked and angered by what he found at the back of the store. Riptide was bench pressing 70 pounds with free weights. He stopped his set, jumped up and backed away from Izzy into a treadmill. They stared each other down for a while until Izzy heard someone behind him. He whirled around and the person ducked around another aisle.
Izzy looked at Riptide accusingly, but Riptide's own face showed fear of the mysterious intruder. Izzy jumped and peered over the aisle. He saw Gretchen, a girl he often seen passing him at his bus stop walking with another group of children. She was hunched over looking up at him. Since she was caught she walked around to them.
"What were you doing?" asked Izzy
She didn't answer him. She just faced Riptide and studied the scene. She knew now Ken was nowhere around, but she wondered why one of his friends was with Riptide.
"I'm sure you're not being watched here." Gretchen said suddenly
Izzy looked at Gretchen then at Riptide. Riptide sat down in the bench and looked at his watch. "I don't know. I'm not sure where Ken is." He then looked at Izzy.
Gretchen glanced at him too. "What's going on?" asked Izzy.
Riptide looked distantly at some protein power cans on the shelf. "I need to talk to someone who can do something. The more you know the more problems you have..."
Izzy quickly became enraged and left.
"Were you waiting for him to leave?" She thumbed down the aisle.
"Uh, no. Yeah I didn't want to talk to you two at the same time. But I'm not sure if I should tell you what's up. I think it might be better if you figure it out on your own."
Gretchen frowned. "Spit it out."
Riptide paused for a while. "It's not best if you find out from me. But I can tell you about other stuff. What do you want to know about Ken?"
Since he was going to be difficult she picked the best questions. "So Ken can fight hard yet he doesn't look that strong."
"Don't be fooled." Riptide lifted up his shirt and showed her some bruises and cuts.
Gretchen was a little surprised that he was that scared up. She also took note that his ribs were taped up. "Do you think he will get suspended?"
"No, I'm getting blamed."
Gretchen found his certainty a bit strange. She had some questions for Vince next time she saw him. "What does Ken think I'm up to?"
"If you were looking for Ken after school, don't you'll get his friends suspicious. I don't think he cares what you do as long as you don't pry too far."
She looked at him skeptically
"Uh… but you should be careful cause I think Ken has uh…the wrong idea, partly. Um, don't hit on him." He said nervously
Gretchen's eyebrows flew up "What!"
"Uh, nothing. I might be confused. Don't let him hit on you. I got to go." Said Riptide scurrying off.
Gretchen quickly made her way to the front of the store. She saw Izzy pacing outside on his cell. As soon as he got off she walked up to him.
"It won't do you any good. He will be gone before your friends get here. I'm not with him. I don't know him, but he's in my class if you were wondering."
Izzy walked with her across the street and sat on the bench. "Where the hell did he come from and what was all that B.S. about?"
"I think he's playing games or hiding something but according to him, Ken is too." Said Gretchen
Izzy gazed at the store fronts. "Do you know where he lives?"
"Then I think I know more about him than you do." Said Izzy
Gretchen watched Riptide run out the store and down the street.
"Ken has been hiding something lately and acting strange. His friends Cody and Davis can't find him. He's not at his house."
"Do you know why they've been fighting? She asked
"No, that's the mystery. I'm going to go meet my friends." He left her sitting on the bench. She thought about looking for Ken but decided to listen to Riptide's warning.
Ken slouched against the side of an art supply store with a slushy in one hand and a box of fresh donuts in his lap. He had escaped Riptide and Gretchen's watchful eye along with the rest of his friends for the seventh time this week. He thought about going home to rest; he wasn't that far from his apartment. Instead he wondered where Riptide was and what to do with Gretchen. He chuckled about what he would do if she kept asking questions. Ken quickly dosed off but was awakened by Cody.
"Ken, Ken what are you doing here?"
He jumped up so quickly he knocked the box of donuts off his lap, spilling them all over the ground. Ken was shaken, looked paranoid and angry. "What are you doing on this side of town?"
"What am I doing here, why are you here?"
Ken sipped his slushy impatiently. "Hiding from Riptide, you?"
"Looking for Sora." Replied Cody
"She wouldn't be in this area; too few criminals." Ken laughed nervously and picked up the donuts.
"Let's go home; everybody's worried."
Ken followed Cody around the corner. As soon as they started walking Ken slipped the chip out of his phone and replaced it with another one. He sent a text message then put the original one back.
Gretchen got in class before everyone else again. She didn't know if Ken was going to come to school to day. She figured that either he was at the doctor or he would be taking a day off. She assumed Friday would be boring now that Riptide had been suspended or expelled. It would be nice to have a weekend without the drama that had been characteristic of the weekday.
To her surprise Ken was the next student to enter the class. His face looked bad and he had some trouble sitting down.
"Jesus!" Gretchen said to herself.
Ken looked at her with scorn but quickly changed his expression. "What do you think I would look like after that fight?"
She sighed. "Did the cops show up?"
"No, the school dealt with it on their own."
Gretchen was visibility upset; though, she knew that Ken was the one who started the fight. Still Riptide didn't do the right thing and get help as opposed to fighting.
More and more students were filing in. By the time the teacher should have come in, the class room was full except for one student. The main teacher Miss Fiddle walked in with Riptide. Ken and Gretchen were shocked. The teacher pointed to a desk where Riptide would sit down at.
"Ken I need to talk to you around third period, before lunch." Demanded Miss Fiddle.
He nodded his head in agreement and looked over at Riptide. He didn't return the glare, Riptide kept looking at the teacher nervously.
After the third period most of the students went to the bathroom. Ken left to go to the teacher's lounge. Gretchen kept a close eye on Riptide; she followed him to his locker.
"What do you want?" Riptide said while putting some text books on the shelf.
She looked him over squinting hard. "Why the hell are you still here?"
He looked around to make sure no one was listening. "To be honest I'm not quite sure. But Ken requested that his parents not be called."
Gretchen was very confused. "How do you know?"
"I was in the principal's office with Miss Finster this morning. They were yelling at me when Miss Lemon came in and told Principal Prickly to put the phone down. And that they weren't to call Ken's parents. He left the office to talk to her while Finster continued to yell at me."
"Okay….strange but that doesn't explain why you are still here. Why should I believe you; why would Ken request something like that?"
"I told you before…" He slammed the locker shut and faced her.
"If you want me to even think about believing you, you need to stop being so vague."
Riptide handed her a piece of paper out of his pocket. "Just keep following Ken."
She took it and decided talking to Riptide was unproductive so she walked away. Gretchen unfolded the paper and read it. It was a flyer with Kens teams practice times and location. The piece of paper was moderately useful but didn't answer any of her questions. She shoved it in her jeans and went to the bathroom.
Vince and T.J's class had a substitute teacher for their second class so he asked to go the bathroom. From there he went into Miss Lemon's office. He stopped at Menlo's desk.
"Menlo I've got a question for you."
"Then I hope you hate pizza cause it's going to cost you." Said Menlo
Vince sat in one of the chairs across from him and pulled out his cell phone.
"You know you're not allowed to have those in here."
"Relax I'm not calling anyone. I'm just reading something. Do you know about the fight yesterday in the boy's bathroom?"
"Everybody knows about that, Vince."
"Well why is Riptide still here, that was a big fight? That bathroom is still out of order. Weren't Ken's parents here?"
"Oh…well no they weren't here. Nor were Riptide's parents."
"Who was blamed for the fight? What did you see when they came through here?" Vince said standing up.
Menlo straightened his tie. "I wasn't at my desk when they came in. I was at the water fountain. When I came back they were in the principal's office."
Vince thought he was lying. T.J. told him that Menlo messed with his tie whenever he was being dishonest. "Let me see whatever files you have on that fight."
Menlo seemed nervous. "Well with this particular file, since it's new I'd prefer you to pay up front."
Vince was surprised and also knew that Menlo wasn't looking to be paid in food or firecrackers this time. Vince gave him a five knowing his friends would likely freak out if he told them what happened.
Menlo reached in the cabinet for Ken's folder and removed the report. Vince wasn't allowed to photo copy anything but he could take notes.
He was surprised again when Ken was blamed for starting this fight too. The report said that Riptide was defending himself and had restrained Ken long enough to go looking for help. While he was out Miss Finster had found Ken in the bathroom.
At the bottom was a paragraph that told Principal Prickly not to suspend Ken or call his parents even if Riptide's parents showed up. There were instructions on how to handle the problems between the two families without the cops help.
Vince frowned and gave Menlo back the report. "So Miss Finster wrote this when she questioned Riptide?"
"Yes… I guess, I wasn't there." He straightened his collar
Vince looked at his watch then slowly went out. He tried to make it back to class before the sub went looking for him.
Vince met up with Gretchen at lunch.
"So what did you get? Do you know why Riptide wasn't suspended?"
"Yeah but something isn't quite right." Said Vince. They stood in the lunch line waiting on their friends; so they could give them a dish when they showed up.
"Okay…so is it seriously wrong or kinda wrong?" asked Gretchen
"First Menlo wanted me to pay him cash up front. Second he was messing with his tie. You remember what T.J. told us."
She rose and eyebrow. "How much did you pay him and what did you get."
"A five and here's my notes."
Ken was ten kids in front of them near the lunch lady. He stepped out of line just enough to look down the row of kids and find Gretchen. He signaled for her to come to him.
She quickly read the note knowing she wouldn't have much time to talk. "Yes…something is not right. Randall was the one who found Ken and Riptide wasn't running to get help. Who would even know he was looking for help."
"So maybe he ran into a teacher and lied about what happen." Vince spotted Ken looking back at them.
"Vince, I talked to Riptide. I don't think he was being straight with me but he said Ken told them not to call his parents. And he said the school nurse, Principal Prickly and Miss Lemon were involved"
Ken was again signaling for Gretchen to jump the line.
"Menlo said he wasn't around while they talked to Riptide. But if Miss Lemon was involved so was he. Ask Ken what happened." Vince searched the line for Ken but he was missing.
He suddenly appeared behind Gretchen .
"Hu?" She wondered how he got behind her and looked around for the rest of her friends. Vince was also startled.
"Follow me." Said Ken while walking out of line.
"I'll talk to you later, Vince." Said Gretchen
They went to the front of the line and Ken got food for them both.
"How did you cut the line?" She asked as he carried her tray.
He just winked as they sat at an isolated table in full view of the Ashelys. "Gretchen I'm starting to get worried that Riptide won't ever get suspended."
She sat across from him this time. "Why haven't your parents come to school yet?"
"I don't want Riptide to know what they look like." Answered Ken. She frowned at him and he sighed. "Riptide has been following me after school. He's trying to find out where I live."
Gretchen didn't know Riptide was harassing Ken after school. She had been suspicious of Ken but it diminished when she found out Riptide was stalking him. "You need to talk to the cops."
"If I talk to them the media will show up at the school." Said Ken
She poked at her tader-tots. "He's not been suspended so, surely he will follow you home again."
"I can manage. I've been able to lose him all this time."
"No, no, I'll walk home with you today. I don't think he will follow us." Gretchen stood up about to go to her friends table.
"Why haven't you called?"
Gretchen was caught off guard. "Um, I've been busy.
Ken gave her a devious smile. "You sure have time for me in school. What are you doing for the weekend?" He slipped his number under her fruit cup.
She sat back down and glanced at the Ashley's table. "Uh, Studying."
Ken got up and sat next to her. "How about we have some real fun."
"What kinda fun?" Gretchen pretended to be cool and collected hoping he would ignore the hesitation in her voice.
Ken put his arm around her shoulder. A surprisingly large portion of the cafeteria's attention was on them. Gretchen ignored the Ashleys heavy glares and her friend's uneasiness.
Ken glimpsed at the onlookers then focused on Gretchen. "I want you to come with me to a club tomorrow night"
"Um I don't know if I'm allow-"
Ken cut her off. "Just think about it." He said getting up to go to his table.
She quickly went to her table and sat down. Her friends gave her some odd looks. "Yeah….that was… unexpected. I got to walk him home today too. He said he's being stalked by Riptide after school."
"Do not walk him home. We don't know if he's really being stalked and if he is who knows what Riptide might do. Said Vince.
We should stop trusting Menlo. I find it had to believe ken was blamed for that fight."
"But Ken was trying to kick Riptide's ass yesterday," Said T.J. "Plus Vince got to see an official report."
Gretchen looked at the Ashley's table. "I think we should start paying them. Anyway, if I walk Ken home I can ask him some more questions."
Gus looked a few tables over. "They are beyond paying at the moment."
Gretchen looked up at her friends as if they would be mad. I'm going with him after school to-"
"Oh god…. You can't be serious. The horror, Riptide'll show up and why did Ken even ask you anyway?" Said Vince
"Look It is an opportunity." Said Gretchen. She didn't say much during the rest of lunch because she knew her friends were too happy with her decisions.
For the first time in years T.J. and his friends walked home without Gretchen. Ken waited for his friends to leave before taking an alternate exit with Gretchen. They walked the long way to his house.
"I have soccer practice later that I've been missing due to Riptide. Do you want to go to my house or to the field?"
She had only agreed to take him home. She worried that the longer they were out the more they would be in danger. "No, let's go to your house."
Ken smiled. "When we get there we can talk. I'm not sure if Riptide isn't around us now.
When they got to his apartment building he checked to see if he was being followed like usual. Then they rode the elevator to the sixth floor and walked half way down a long hallway.
"This is important; don't tell anyone my apartment number or where it's located."
"Okay I won't."
He opened the door and showed her the living room. She sat down on the striped couch and glanced at a vase filled with marbles. She looked around the room at a book case then at the kitchen. Suddenly she noticed that Ken's parents weren't home.
"Hey, so do you have any idea what happen with Riptide this morning. I'm willing to help you get him suspended."
"I was told by a friend that Miss Finster brought Riptide into the office. And that Miss Lemon handed the principal some files. I guess Miss Finster must have written out a report in the morning. I didn't see him at all yesterday after leaving the nurses office."
"Weren't you too hurt to come back to class?"
He sat at on the couch with her. "Yes but I'd rather not stay in there; I didn't have any broken bones."
"Did your friend talk to anyone in the offices like Menlo? How did they find out about this?"
He scooted over and put his arm over her shoulder "Yeah he was there. My friend was in the office when Riptide was brought in and he talked with Menlo too. If you want to help me I'll have to find a way to properly pay you back."
Gretchen was sure Menlo was lying to Vince now. His deceit meant that Randall was likely helping Ken and either Miss Finster had it out for Ken or something even crazier was happening.
She pulled his number out of her pocket and whispered into Ken's ear. "Take back your number." She stuffed into his hand.
He sighed. "I prefer you keep it but you do know where my apartment is now."
She raised herself and climbed over the back of the couch. "I thought you were putting on a show for the Ashleys." Gretchen wandered around the apartment opening doors.
"Well sort of, but-Hay that's my room!-... I mean unless that's where you wanted to go." Ken said as a desperate attempt to keep her from seeing the digimon inside.
Gretchen was disgusted and was about to curse him out when she saw Wormmon sleeping on his bed.
"I wanted to talk to you a bit before showing you him." Ken tried to push the door close.
"What is that?"
"Oh he's my friend a special friend."
Wormmon lifted his head up and stared at Gretchen. Ken put his finger to his lips behind her back. Wormmon started talking anyway.
"Ken, you know you're not supposed to have friends over while you're parents are gone."
Gretchen was in shock. She was just about to ask Ken what kinda butterfly this giant caterpillar would turn into. But instead was standing there with her jaw dropped.
"Gretchen I can't explain, I can't… please don't freak out." He grabbed her arm and led her back to the living room.
"I'm not freaking out. I'm okay but I got you home safely and I've got to get back."
Ken opened his door and stepped out with her. "He's a secret please don't tell anyone. And um…I want you to keep my number."
She squinted at him and walked off. "I'm not telling." She shouted from down the hall
I can't remember if I ever posted this chapter or if it was left on my computer. R&R