"What is your father doing in a photograph with my mother?" Chance demanded.
"I don't know! I wasn't even born yet!"
"Neither was I! I didn't know they were even in the same part of the country, never mind the same neighborhood!"
"Is there anything on the back?" Kit asked. "A date, a name, anything?"
Ian flipped it over. "Nope. Nothing."
"Is there any clue to how old it is?"
"It would have to be before 1924. That's when we moved here. Well, when my parents moved here; I wasn't born yet. This house behind them looks kinda familiar. That's what I wanted the photo albums for. I think this fell out of one of them, and I want to see where it belongs, if the other pictures in that set give us a clue."
Chance was stroking the photograph gently with one finger. "She's so pretty," he said. "And young. She was only twenty-nine when she died. Would have been thirty in the fall. She looks about . . . eighteen, nineteen? So . . . nineteen-twenty, maybe?"
"I hate to have to drag down all those boxes," Rosalie said. "I could use some help."
"We're on it!" Ian jumped up, ran to the bottom of the stairs, and only then noticed that no one was with him. He ran back, grabbed Chance by the hand, and despite having no idea where he was going, managed to find the boxes and carry them all downstairs in four different trips. At the end of the fourth trip up and down the stairs, he started lining the boxes up and checking the labels on the outside to be sure he had the right ones. "Hey, guys, little help here?"
With that, Len and Kit got up and went to help look through the boxes, though they weren't sure what it was they were looking for. It took them some time to check everything, but it went much more quickly when Nolan finished his coffee and joined them. He never once complained about how he was feeling, but they noticed that he wasn't his usual lively self. In fact, he more closely resembled a zombie, only without the gray skin and the brain-eating.
"Where's Adam?" Kit asked.
"Still in the bathroom, I guess." Len glanced toward the hall, and the closed bathroom door.
"Poor kid can't hold his liquor," Chance said.
Len gave him a look. "Oh, yeah, and you're the model of sobriety."
"You make it sound like I go on a binge every weekend or something! You know I don't drink all that often! Once a year, twice if I'm lucky -"
"Guys," Kit interrupted. "What's that noise?"
"What noise?" asked Ian.
They fell silent, and at that moment, a low, rumbling growl could be heard.
"Some kind of construction, maybe?"
Len looked out the window. "No, no sign of any equipment. Not a cloud in the sky, either."
Suddenly Rosalie laughed. "Oh, that's Katie!"
They all looked at her.
"She has a deviated septum. She really should get that corrected."
"Sounds worse than Chance with a head cold," said Ian.
"A lot worse," Chance agreed. "I've heard some pretty bad congested snoring before, but this is like a full-blown case of bronchitis."
"Should we go wake her up?" Kit asked. "I mean, is she okay?"
"I guess so," said Rosalie. "She usually is, once she wakes up on her -"
"Got it!" Ian exclaimed, holding up a dusty, cloth-covered album that said MEMORIES on it. "I knew it was in here somewhere!" He set the album on the table and started flipping pages to find the empty space where the photo he had found had formerly rested. About halfway through, he found it, a blank slot up in the right corner. The glue had long since dried out from the hot, dry conditions, and as he touched the page, one of the other pictures fell out, and another was hanging by a thread.
"What we need," he said, "is some Super Glue. Do you have any?"
"Look in the drawer beside the sink there."
He opened one drawer that was nowhere near the sink, found nothing but silverware, tried another, and finally happened upon the right drawer purely by chance. Propped up against an empty Mason jar was a shriveled tube of glue. He grabbed it and brought it back. "Here."
"Me? You're the one who wanted it!"
Rosalie just sighed. "You never change, Bean." She pushed the album over to him and got up to make some more coffee. They were probably going to need it.
Chance suddenly bolted out of his chair. "I hope Adam's out of the bathroom, cause I need to get in, now!"
"Try the one upstairs," Rosalie said, but Chance was already gone. He was back in seconds, though.
"Do you have a key for that door? I've knocked and knocked, and he's not answering me. Either he slipped out and locked the door behind him, or . . ."
"Or he choked on his own vomit and died?" Ian, who was happily gluing pictures, said.
Everyone glared at him.
"What? It happens! Mostly to rock stars. Anyway, the key's in that drawer. I saw it when I went to get the glue. I think it's the right key."
"I'll break the door down if I have to." Chance took the key and went to try it. It must have worked, because next they heard his voice from within the bathroom: "Adam, come on, what are you doing? No, you can't sleep on the bathroom floor. Come on."
He came out, supporting - almost carrying - the younger man, and put him on the living room couch. "There. If you want to sleep, sleep here. I'll get you a bucket or something. Don't scare us like that, man. You need a blanket?"
"Okay, then. We're all here; just call us if you need anything."
Another mumbled reply. Then he made a choking, gagging noise that sent Chance running to find a bucket or something similar. The closest he came was the big vase on the coffee table. He carefully laid the flowers aside, dumped out the water, and brought it over just in time.
"Can someone put those flowers in the blue vase before they die?" Rosalie said.
"I'm sorry," Chance called out to her. "It was an emergency."
"I'm aware of that. I just don't see why you have to take it out on the poor flowers."
"I got it," Ian said, and took care of the poor flowers.
In all the confusion, no one noticed that the rumbling from upstairs had stopped. When Kaitlyn finally appeared in the kitchen, everyone was surprised to see her.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"We think your great-grandfather hooked up with my mother," Chance said. "Which would make us . . . what, exactly? I'm confused."
"So am I."
"I don't even know what's going on," said Nolan.
Chance looked at him in surprise. "It's alive! Where've you been, buddy?"
"Right here. What are we doing?"
"Finding out how my mother knows Ian's father."
"Oh. Wait - what?"
"Yeah, freaky, isn't it? To think that they had these other lives before we were born, that we don't know anything about . . ."
"I know how to find out," said Len. "Anyone know where my phone is?"
"Did you leave it at the club?" asked Kit.
"No, I'm positive I had it when we came home. It must be upstairs." He went to get it.
"I think I might have found something," Ian said, turning over one of the photos that had fallen out of the album. "This one has something written on the back. 'Channing Street, 1920.' Where's that?"
"That's where my mom grew up," said Chance. "It's in New York. Town called Adelina, just outside of Yonkers. She used to tell me stories all the time about the old neighborhood. I don't remember if she ever mentioned your father."
"How would you know? You didn't know who he was."
"Well, what was his name?"
"Harrison. Harrison Fletcher."
"Hmm . . . ouch, my brain hurts."
"No more drinking. I mean it."
"Oh, come on! It's not like I'm some kind of alcoholic or something! Ow . . ."
"Would you people please keep it down?" Adam called from the other room. "Let me die in peace!"
"You're not dying," said Len, who had come back with his phone. "Trust me, this will pass. And I'm sorry I left you in the limo. I won't do that again."
"Right now I just want to sleep, but my head's killing me."
"Join the club," groaned Chance.
"What did you guys do last night?" Katie asked.
"Besides drink? I'm not sure."
"You guys want some Tylenol or something?" Len started to put his phone down, but Katie stepped in.
"I'll take care of this. You just go make your phone call."
"You sure? I don't mind -"
"You've got enough to do. I'll handle it."
"Well, okay . . ."
With that, he went into the other room, and she went off to find the painkillers. Kit was left sitting by himself, not knowing what to do.
"Can you hold this for me for a second?" Ian said, handing him the photograph. "I just want to glue this back in where it belongs. And maybe some of the others too."
"Have you looked at the others to see if there's any more information on the back?"
"I doubt there is."
"Maybe you should try anyway."
"I don't want to rip them out if they're not falling out. Mother would be furious if I ripped the pages."
Kit had to smile. "I don't think she'd know about it."
"Mother always knows."
"Okay, fine. Just look at the loose ones, then."
But there was no further writing on the backs of the other pictures. Disappointed, Ian glued each one in place, as even and straight as if he had used a ruler. "Mother" would be mad if they weren't perfect. Kit thought it was a little silly to worry about pleasing a woman who'd been dead more than forty years already, but he said nothing.
"Okay," Len said, coming back from his phone call. "I talked to Price, and he's going to look up some stuff on Family Tree dot com. If it's not there, he can do a Google search and see what comes up. One way or another, we'll get to the bottom of this."
"Good," said Ian. "I want to be able to sleep with Chance again."
Chance, who had his head down on the kitchen table, looked up, and then went back to sleep.
"Where'd your sister go?" Len asked Ian.
"I don't know. She could be anywhere."
"She's in her room, taking a nap," said Katie. "If she doesn't take a nap in the morning, she can't stay awake through her soaps in the afternoon."
"But it's Saturday."
"She'll watch a movie or something. I think we should all have some quiet time now. I'll be upstairs."
"Um . . . okay. When I'm done with this, what should I do?"
"I don't know. Did you bring a book?"
"I think so."
"If you don't have one, there's some in the bookcase beside the TV. Just put it back when you're done."
"Are they still alphabetical?"
"The ones here are, by title, and the ones upstairs are by author."
"What must it have been like," Kit wondered aloud, "to grow up in this house?"
By late afternoon they had recovered enough to discuss their plans for the evening.
"I think we'll skip the drinking this time," Adam suggested. "You'll like this place."
"That's what you said about the disco," said Len.
"No, seriously, you'll feel right at home. You'll see why when you put on the outfit. And that's all I'll say about that."
"Somehow I do not find that comforting."
"Oh, come on! We're supposed to be having a good time this weekend! Don't be a killjoy!"
"A 'good time' should not leave you semi-comatose for a good part of the next day."
"We won't drink this time!"
"I'll believe it when I see it."
"Oh, come on! You don't really think I'd be dumb enough to get that messed up again, do you?"
"You've made bad decisions before."
"I thought we weren't gonna bring that up again."
"I'm talking about the ski trip. That went so wrong, we didn't have another field trip again."
"That wasn't my fault!"
"You were the one who was all 'Let's go skiing, it'll be fun!' Yeah, some fun."
"What ski trip?" Kit asked. "What happened?"
"What didn't happen?" said Chance. "The final tally was six broken legs, one collision with a tree - he was fine - two people buried in a snow pile - we dug them out - and we ended the day with a massive search of the mountain for two lost skiers."
"Let me start at the beginning," Len said. "I was up in the mountains during the summer, and I saw that they had skiing in the wintertime. I didn't really ski, so I didn't think too much of it. But then I mentioned it to Adam, and he wanted to go."
"And then I wanted to go," said Ian.
"We were lucky enough to sign up for a package deal, but everyone who heard wanted to go. By the time we were ready to go, there must have been fifty people, and we had to rent a bus."
"Did you sing camp songs?" Kit asked.
Len gave him a look. "No, we didn't. Then we got to the resort, and they only had about twelve rooms for all of us. We had to sleep four to a room, not that we got much sleep. The people next door were really loud."
"We went and told them to shut up," said Chance, "but they wouldn't. Finally, one of the chaperones went and got the management, and the loud people got kicked out. Win!"
"Yeah, but then the next day, I ended up on the wrong side of the mountain, and I found myself in the middle of this costume party on skis."
Kit cracked up laughing at that image. "Really? Costumes?"
"Really! It was like Halloween came late for these people. Anyway, by the time I disentangled myself from them, I didn't know where I was, or how to get back. I tried going around the mountain, and I came this close to a bear."
"Medium-sized. I hid behind a tree until it went by. I'm surprised it didn't see me or smell me or something. I got out of there as fast as I could and headed off in what I thought was the right direction. After a while, I came out into a clearing, and there's Ian lying in the snow, making angels. I said, 'Do you know how to get back to the lodge?' and he said-"
"I said, 'I don't know, I'm lost!'" Ian finished.
"We went around in circles until the sun went down, and then we got tired and sat down under a tree. And that's when the Ski Patrol found us."
"Wow," Kit said. "And here I thought you had this perfect sense of direction."
"I never said I did."
"Why didn't you just use your Rider Sense to find your way home?"
"Cause I wasn't that good at it yet. This was still a couple of years before we were Chosen. All I had learned so far was basic stuff."
"Excuse me for interrupting," Rosalie said, "but I wanted to know if I should bother making dinner, or if you're eating at this place you're going?"
"Well, there is food there, but just appetizers and stuff," said Adam. "We'd better eat before we go, if you don't mind, ma'am."
"In that case, I'd better get started. I was thinking fresh fish, with salad greens, and iced tea. How does that sound?"
"Throw in some curly fries," said Ian, "and you've got a deal."
"I don't think I have any of those."
"Have you looked?" he asked her, giving her a look that could best be described as desperate. "I mean, recently?"
"How recently are we talking?"
"Say . . . since this morning?"
"What are you up to, Bean?"
"I might have bought some stuff," he said, and left it at that.
"All right," she said, "I'll look." She went to the freezer and opened the door. "Are these dino nuggets yours?"
"Well, you can take them home with you. I don't eat things like that."
"It's real chicken! Just in fun shapes!"
Chance rolled his eyes. "I can't take you anywhere, can I?"
After dinner, they all changed into their going-out clothes, which were pretty flashy. Then they waited for Len to emerge in his own gear.
"Where are you going," Katie asked, "Woodstock?"
"It's a surprise," said Adam. "Len, hurry up, the limo will be here any minute!"
"You can't be serious!"
"I am serious! Our reservation is for seven o'clock; if we keep him waiting too long, he'll leave without us!"
"No, I mean this outfit." Len stepped out of the downstairs bathroom, and Katie had to fight to suppress a giggle. "Day-Glo military chic is not my best look."
"Do you know how many vintage shops we had to hit before we found an authentic Sergeant Pepper uniform? They're all in museums now," said Chance. "Is the fit okay?"
"It's a little tight in the shoulders, but as long as I don't move around too much, it should be all right. Are you going to tell me what this is for now?"
"Not till we get there," said Kit. There was the beep of a horn from outside. "Limo's here."
"Have a good time!" Rosalie called as they went out the door. "Don't drink too much!"
"Oh, don't worry," said Len. "We're not planning on drinking at all."
No, Len hadn't planned on drinking, but nobody told the girls at the next table, who kept sending drinks over to him. He would take a sip of each to be polite, then set it aside. The problem was that they just kept sending him drinks, and those single sips added up in a big way.
By the time the lights went down and the evening's main entertainment was beginning, he was well on his way to being totally smashed, and the guys were too busy having a good time to notice. They were sticking to soft drinks and fruit juice, and they naturally assumed Len was, too.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," a voice boomed, "and welcome to the Pink Lady's Saturday Night Karaoke Flashback! Where you sing the greatest hits of the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's! I'm Mean Gene Marvillo, from Oldies 99, and I want to hear your favorite songs! If you're not already signed up for a slot, please see the hostess, and she'll fit you in. It'll be about five minutes while our machine warms up, so think about what you want to perform for us! You don't have to, but you'll want to! See you in five!"
"Karaoke," Len said. "You couldn't have just told me that?"
"Where's the fun in that?" Ian was all excited. He loved karaoke. "I already know what I'm gonna sing!"
Chance looked at him. "Let's make it a duet."
"Can we do that?"
"I don't see why not. I'll go sign us up. You sit here, and wait for me."
"I'll go with you," said Kit. "I know what I want to do."
He went up and checked the book listing all the songs that were programmed into the karaoke machine. The one he wanted was there, although the two songs on either side were unfamiliar to him. He signed for one of the open slots, and sat down again.
"Where's Len?" he asked, noticing the empty chair.
Nolan shrugged. "Men's room, maybe. He'll be back."
But when several minutes went by and Len didn't return, Kit started to get nervous. He got up and started discreetly looking around the room for him. Finally he spotted him by the giant stack of 45s that flanked the DJ table.
"What are you doing? Come sit back down with us."
"I know this one!" he said, pointing at the label on the top record. "How's it go . . . dah dah dah, dah-dah daaaaah . . ."
"Yeah, okay. Now come on."
A man in a disco-ball jacket and a laminated badge came up to them. "Sir, could you please step back from the podium? You can wait for your name to be called over by the jukebox."
"But I wanna sing!" Len protested.
"So does everyone else. You have to wait your turn. Now step back, please. Don't touch the props."
"I know that one too! Dee dee dee-dee, dee dee-dee dee-dee -"
"I'm really sorry about this," Kit said, as he attempted to steer Len back to their table.
The man just shrugged. "We're used to drunks here."
"But he hasn't even been drinking!"
"That's not what it looks like to me."
"I just had one sip!" Len insisted, teetering dangerously.
"Of how many drinks?" Kit asked him.
"I dunno . . . ten? Twelve? Maybe fifteen . . . threes are lucky."
Just then, Len's phone rang. Before Kit could grab it away from him, he answered it. "Hello?"
"Hey, Len, it's me," said Price. "I found what you were looking for. By the way, who's Allen Richards?"
"It was in the search box when I logged on. Who else are you looking for?"
"Nobody! It's nothing! Just forget it!"
"Forget what?" Kit asked. Len waved a hand at him impatiently.
"I wasn't sure if it was yours or-"
"Just tell me what you found."
"What I found, actually, was the person who took the picture."
"He's still alive?"
"She'd have to be a hundred years old."
"Ninety-six, and still sharp as a tack. And get this: she lives in Reno."
"I've made arrangements to swing by and pick her up on the way to your place. Is tomorrow afternoon okay, or should I make it earlier in the day?"
"What's tomorrow? Sunday?"
"I think we're leaving around . . . five or so. I can't remember."
"Len," Price asked slowly and deliberately, "are you drunk?"
"What? No! I only had little sips!"
"Of how many drinks?"
"I dunno . . . ten? Twelve?"
"Oh, man, you're not gonna be in any shape to talk to her tomorrow."
"I'm not the one who needs to talk to her. Bring her! More the merrier, I say!"
"Bring who?" Kit asked, and Len shushed him.
"Okay, we'll be there about three o'clock or so. She's bringing coffee cake. I told her she didn't have to, but she insisted. Although I did manage to talk her out of the bottle of wine."
"Whyyyy? I like wine! It's so pretty, sitting there in its glass all in-inno . . . innoculous-"
"I think you'd better go now," Kit said, and took the phone from him. "Sorry, bye."
"What'd you do that for? There's gonna be cake!"
"Yeah, but right now you need to come sit down and wait for your turn to sing. It might be a while." He flagged down a passing waiter. "Can I get a glass of water here?"
"Actually, make that two. And if anyone else sends drinks over here, please send them back with our apologies. We're done drinking for the night."
"What'd you do that for?" Len whined. "I wanna drink!"
"No more drinks for you! Look at what it's doing to you! You never act like this!"
"I'm sorry . . ." In an instant, Len went from mad to sad. "Don't yell at me."
"I'm not. I'm just telling you. You're done drinking for the night. We need you to sober up by the time the limo gets here, or we'll be walking home and getting soaked along the way. And you know what happens when you go out in the rain."
"It's raining out?"
"I think so. The people coming in are kind of damp."
"Tell me about it. I don't think we're going anywhere for a while, so why don't you just sit down and wait for your turn?"
"Have they started yet?"
"Can't you tell?" Kit nodded up toward the stage, where a skinny young man in a bow tie was murdering "Rocket Man."
"Oh. Right. When's my turn, again?"
"When they call you. I wonder where the other guys went?"
"I'm right here," Chance said. He was sitting way on the other side of the table, a glass of what looked like fruit juice in front of him. At least, Kit hoped it was fruit juice. "I think we're next."
"I picked the song," said Ian, who was coming back from the bar with a clear, bubbly drink. "It's Diet Crystal Something," he said. "I made sure it was diet."
"Um, good." Kit wasn't sure why, but he knew that Ian wasn't allowed to have sugar. He wasn't diabetic or anything; it just did crazy things to his metabolism, or something. As long as he was sober, that was all that mattered, at this particular point in time.
"Anyone else hungry?" Kit asked. "I'm hungry."
"We ate dinner," Chance pointed out.
"Yeah, like four hours ago! Anyone see any food around here?"
"I think they have some appetizers over at the bar," said Adam. "Chicken wings and shrimp and meatballs and stuff. I'll watch your seat for you."
"Thanks." He got up and went to see what was there.
While he was gone, they called number 17. It took a moment for them to realize which of them had number 17. "That's us!" Ian called, waving the slip of paper with the number. "Come on, Channy. It's our turn."
"To sing! Wait till you hear this, we picked the perfect song!" He grabbed his partner by the arm and dragged him up onstage, where they turned Elton John's "Your Song" into a duet, to riotous applause.
"I think they like us," Ian said, as they sat back down.
The rest of the evening passed in something of a blur, especially for Len, who wasn't used to drinking and so it affected him more than usual. When his number was called, he stood up, and promptly fell over. Kit and Nolan had to help him up to the stage, where he, appropriately, sang "With a Little Help From My Friends." They even harmonized with him.
When they were finished, Kit said, "I think we'd better go. He's fading fast."
"But I didn't sing yet!" Adam protested.
"We can come back another time, and you can sing then. We're done for the night. Somebody call the limo."
"It's only nine-thirty," Chance pointed out.
In response, Kit looked at him, looked over at Len, who was slumped against the wall, and then looked back at Chance.
Forty minutes later, they were home. "Did you not have a good time?" Katie asked.
"Some of us had too good a time."
They hauled a semi-conscious Len upstairs, got him into a bed, and let him sleep it off. Someone would have to stay with him to make sure he woke up again in the morning.
"I'll do it," Kit said.
"No, I will," said Adam. "I have more experience with Len when he's, um . . . incapacitated. Although the last time he was drunk like this was the end of World War Two. We had a big party, and he kinda went a little too far. But, hey, twice in sixty years isn't bad, is it?"
"I guess not. Okay, he's all yours. I'll, um, sleep in the other room, I guess. Just let me go get my stuff."
They all went to bed, planning for a quiet Sunday with absolutely no drinking or partying whatsoever.
But in all the confusion, Len had failed to tell them about the phone call he had received at the club. And so, when the doorbell rang about five-thirty that afternoon, it was one heck of a surprise.