The Patty Duke Show

The Second Chance Bit

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This is written for the 31 Days prompt The changes take place inside, you know and is sort of a follow-up to the second season episode The Perfect Hostess, which was about Patty and Cathy's cousin Betsy. This picks up after the episode and involves George Tutwiler, the boy with Cathy whom Betsy charmed. It also concerns another character played by the same actor, and here they are brothers. It's rather uncannily odd—the actor, Jeff Siggins, looks almost exactly like a character from a Japanese anime I love. Hence, I'm rather fond of the assortment of characters Jeff Siggins played on The Patty Duke Show. I plan to write about all of them, for each seems to have a distinctive personality. Also mentioned is Luke, a character John C. Attle played in the episode Patty and the Cut-Rate Casanova. He will be in future stories.

Intro

It was an average day at Brooklyn Heights High. Students milled through the halls, chatting and going over their schedules as they headed to their assorted classes.

Patty dug into her locker, seeking the books she would need for her next class.

"So," she said over her shoulder to Cathy, who was waiting, "have you heard anything from George what's-his-name since cousin Betsy left?"

Cathy shook her head. "No," she replied. "And I'm not really expecting to. He obviously wasn't interested in me."

Patty straightened, drawing out the needed books. "He sure is fickle," she said in annoyance. "I mean, he pretty much took one look at Betsy and dumped you!" She closed her locker and they moved to Cathy's.

"Betsy knew how to charm all the boys," Cathy said. "George certainly wasn't the only one."

"Yeah, well, I hope he doesn't come crawling back to you now that Betsy dumped him," Patty said, watching as Cathy opened her locker. "And if he does, you should tell him you're not interested. He had his chance and he blew it."

She stopped when she realized Cathy was not listening. Instead she was reading over a small piece of paper.

"What's that?" Patty asked, stepping closer.

"It says 'Cathy, I'm sorry. Can we talk?' I just found it in my locker."

"So who's it from?" Patty wondered.

Cathy turned it over, then back. "It's not signed," she said.

Patty stared at it. "You don't think . . . ?"

"I don't know," Cathy said. She shrugged, setting it back in her locker. "Come on, let's go."

"Wait!" Patty exclaimed, hurrying forward. "What are you going to do about that?"

"What is there to do about it?" Cathy returned. "If I see George, maybe he'll let on if he left that note. He might ask if I got it." She took out her own books and shut her locker.

"Well, who else would leave it?" Patty said. "You didn't have any other problems with boys, did you? Recently," she added.

"No, I didn't," said Cathy.

"So of course it's from George," Patty said as they started down the hall. "What are you going to tell him?"

"I suppose that depends on what he has to say," Cathy said.

"Oh come on, Cat, you wouldn't think of giving him another chance, would you?" Patty protested. "He doesn't deserve it!"

"Didn't you give Richard another chance?" Cathy said. "He was smitten with Betsy too, if I remember correctly."

"Yeah, but that's different," Patty said. "Richard and I have known each other for years! You and George . . . you don't really have any connection. You've just studied together a few times."

Cathy sighed. "I suppose," she said. "Still, if he honestly feels bad I would be willing to . . . oh look, isn't that George there?" She pointed ahead to where a tall boy with glasses was about to open a classroom door.

Before Patty could even reply Cathy was hurrying over to him. "Excuse me, George?" she called.

He turned. "Oh hi, Cathy," he greeted. "Did you want something?"

She stepped back. "I . . . wondered if you wanted to see me," she said, suddenly embarrassed. What was she doing? This was ridiculous. It was not like her to make silly assumptions, and there was no proof that George had even written the note.

"Because of the note, you mean?"

Cathy looked back to him with a start. "Yes," she blurted. By this point Patty had come up beside her.

"What did you think?" he asked.

Surprised, Cathy hesitated. "Well . . . this isn't really a good place to talk," she said. "I don't want to hold you up. Maybe we could talk after school?"

"Sure." As he opened the door to go into the classroom he gave Cathy a wicked smirk. "I'll be sure to pass along your message to George. He's been dying to know what you'd say."

Cathy stared at him, stunned speechless. Patty glowered.

"Alfred!" she yelled. "You're a creep!"

Laughing, Alfred stepped inside the classroom and closed the door. Cathy ran her tongue over her lips, trying to push back the mortification evident on her face.

"At least," she said, trying to break the awkward silence, "we know George did write the note. And apparently talked about it with his brother. . . ."

Patty shook her head in disgust. "There's too many people around here who look like each other," she proclaimed.

Cathy just gave her a Look.

Act One

"I can't believe you did that!"

George Tutwiler glared at his brother from across the lunch table. Alfred merely shrugged and continued to empty the peppershaker onto his food.

"Can't she take a good-natured rib? She thought I was you. I thought it was funny, especially considering her and Patty."

George frowned, lifting a forkful of macaroni and cheese. "It wasn't funny," he said. "You must've embarrassed Cathy something awful."

"I didn't mean anything by it. You know I wouldn't want to hurt Cathy. And anyway, that sounds funny, coming from you." Alfred set the shaker aside and sampled the food. "Who was it who started this whole mess in the first place?"

George looked down. Alfred was not ready to give up the subject.

"Betsy really got you good," he smirked. "I heard from Luke that all she had to do was flatter you about the family name and ask if you were related to some military guy. And you swallowed it hook, line, and sinker! Betsy sure reeled in a sucker."

"And she sure dumped me fast," George muttered.

"I guess she didn't like Westerns," Alfred said.

"I'm not sure I do any more, either," George said. "At least not that one. It's going to leave a bad taste in my mouth."

"That's the bland food," Alfred proclaimed.

George rolled his eyes. "No, it's that I broke my date with Cathy to go out with Betsy," he said. "I tried to make some stupid excuse. She took it well and all—you know Cathy—but I know she figured out the truth. I mean, Betsy didn't keep it quiet. She even told me she'd told Cathy and Patty about me taking her out."

"That's not a surprise." Alfred leaned back, studying the physically identical boy. "But now here's a question. We both know a lot of girls aren't interested in going out with you. Do you really feel bad about hurting Cathy because it wasn't right or just because she was the first girl in a while to want to be with you?"

George was about to take a bite but now hesitated, the fork almost to his mouth.

"Maybe you should figure it out," Alfred said. "Because if it's just for you, maybe you should leave it alone."

Recovering, George said, "That sounds like something Luke would say."

"Maybe we hang around him too much," Alfred mused.

"Luke wouldn't have dumped Cathy in the first place," George said. "I feel like a louse."

"Well, she agreed to see you after school, so just go and say your piece and see what she says," Alfred shrugged.

"Thanks to you, maybe she'll wonder if she's even talking to me," George shot back. "And I'm starting to wonder if you like her too. Maybe that's why you tease her."

"I tease you too," Alfred said in all innocence.

"I know," George retorted, "and I hope you don't hate me."

"Touché," said Alfred.

xxxx

By the time the last class let out for the day, George found himself a nervous wreck. It did not help that Cathy was also in the class. For fifty minutes he had shifted position, played with his pencil, and continually glanced her way. Once or twice he had thought he had caught her looking at him, but maybe, he rationalized, she was really looking at the clock. Still, that was surely not it. Cathy was not the type who watched the clock.

He really shouldn't be so nervous, he tried to tell himself. Cathy was someone he had found easy to talk with. They had studied together several times, discussing the various problems and questions in their homework. After one of their sessions George had found himself inviting Cathy to go with him to the movies. It had been all planned.

And then Betsy had appeared and charmed him into temporary insanity.

Well, that was what he thought of it now, anyway. He had been on Cloud Nine after her flattery. He had stumbled and stammered over his words, unable to forget her questions about his relation to this famous general. He had even blurted "General" instead of "George" when giving his name. And he had stayed in that state until their date.

He had felt a twinge of guilt when he had made up an excuse and canceled with Cathy, but he had not thought much on it after that. He had believed, or made himself believe, that it was not a big deal and Cathy would surely not think much of it either. After all, those things happened.

Then Betsy had got bored not long into their date and had wanted out. Of course, she had been very sweet, complaining of a headache and asking him to be a dear and take her home. He had not caught on at first.

It was Luke who had surmised that she had dumped him. George had not wanted to believe it. Instead he had gotten angry with his friend and said he would prove otherwise. But soon after that he had seen Betsy with someone else. When he had tried to talk to her, he had been coolly dismissed. As he had left, Betsy's new guy had asked her about him.

"Oh, him?" George had heard Betsy say. "He's nothin' to me. I was bored to death on our date. And what an awful deceiver! He tried to make me think he was the descendant of the famous General Tutwiler. Can you imagine?"

The new guy had laughed.

"Anyway, what did you say your name is? Fielding? Well, my goodness. I wonder if you could be related to the esteemed Colonel Thomas Fielding!"

George had flinched at that. It was the same ploy Betsy had tried with him. After hearing that, he had fled the shake shop as quickly as possible.

He had smarted over the rejection for a while. His pride had been badly bruised, especially after the way she had built him up on their first meeting. And when he had next talked to Luke, the other boy had not been as sympathetic as he had hoped.

"So you dumped Cathy and then Betsy dumped you," Luke had said, shaking his head. "If that isn't poetic justice."

George had to admit, that was the first he had really thought about what he had done to Cathy in a while. And the more he had thought about it since, the worse he had felt. Finally he had got up the nerve to leave the note and Cathy had said they could talk . . .

. . . And now that the bell was ringing and everyone was getting up to leave, his knees were shaking.

"Cathy!" he called as he leaped up from his desk. His foot hooked around its leg and with a yelp he crashed to the floor. Several students turned to look.

But it was Cathy who hurried over in concern without a second thought. "George!" she exclaimed. "Are you alright?"

"Just another strike to my pride," he mumbled, mortified as he disentangled himself from the triumphant, still-standing desk. He started to pull himself up while Cathy reached to steady him. He stumbled, reaching behind himself for the edge of the desk.

His words did not seem any more willing to cooperate than his equilibrium. "Um . . . C-Cathy . . . so . . . Alfred said you got my m-message," he stuttered.

"Yes, I did," Cathy nodded. "But are you sure you're alright? Your hands are shaking."

"Oh." George glanced over his shoulder. "S-so they are. Well . . . maybe we should talk s-somewhere else anyway." Mentally he kicked himself. He had to pull himself together! He sounded ridiculous.

"Do you have somewhere in mind?" Cathy asked.

"Maybe the shake shop?" George ventured.

A sound at the doorway brought them both to attention. Several students were still there, observing the scene with goggle-eyed interest.

"Maybe we should try someplace where there won't be so many listening ears," Cathy said.

"That's a great idea!" George said. "Where?"

Before Cathy could reply, George took a tentative step forward and promptly winced. "I-I'm okay," he said, trying to smile in response to Cathy's wide-eyed concern. "It'll wear off in a few minutes . . . ow!" He grabbed for the next desk to alleviate the sudden shooting pain.

Cathy looked to the spying students. "One of you go get the school nurse now!" she directed. Without stopping to watch, she turned back to George. "Here, sit down," she said. "You shouldn't try to walk on that ankle. You may have sprained it."

"I'm sure it's nothing," George protested, even as Cathy gently pushed him into the chair and carefully elevated his throbbing ankle on another. She took off her sweater, rolling it up and placing it underneath as something soft.

George was thoroughly red by this point. "Really, you don't have to do this," he said. "Especially after the way I just tossed you away like an old shoe. . . ."

Cathy looked to him. "I've felt very hurt by what you did, George," she said, "but I don't want you to be hurt."

"Gee. . . ." George regarded her with something akin to admiration. "Most girls wouldn't be like you."

Now Cathy blushed. "Oh, I'm sure there's plenty of compassionate girls around."

"Maybe," George said. He looked at her, his eyes serious and pleading. "I really have thought of you as a special friend, Cathy, and I never wanted to hurt you. I don't know what happened to me when Betsy showed up and started going on like she did. I guess I completely lost my marbles."

"I guess you did," Cathy said guardedly.

She looked up with a start when the school nurse suddenly appeared and walked around her. "I'm sorry!" she exclaimed. "I didn't realize you were coming in."

"That's alright," the nurse replied. "What happened here?" She surveyed George before moving forward to carefully remove his shoe and examine his ankle. "I was told you had a bad fall, young man."

"It wasn't that bad," George said. "Ow!" he cried as his shoe was taken off. "I just tripped over the stupid desk leg."

The nurse rolled down his sock, trying to be gentle. "Well, it looks like you've got yourself a bruise," she said. "There's no sign of swelling, but it's already black-and-blue." She looked up at him.

"It's probably just a bruise without the sprain," George said.

The nurse, instead of answering, continued the examination while asking questions. George responded to the best of his ability, clearly embarrassed by the fuss even though the woman had made sure to shut the door against curious eyes. Once or twice he winced in pain.

After a moment the nurse looked up with a thoughtful nod. "You're lucky, Mr. Tutwiler," she said. "It is just a bruise. Put some ice on it and try to stay off it for a day or two and it should be fine."

"Alfred will have a heyday with this," George muttered. Louder he said, "Okay. Thanks."

Cathy hid a smile of gentle amusement. "Do you want me to go find your brother?" she asked as the nurse straightened and left.

"By now he probably knows, along with the whole school," George sighed.

"Well, I'm glad you'll be alright," Cathy said.

George leaned forward, replacing his sock and shoe. "I still want to talk, Cathy," he said, glancing up at her. "But you're right, this isn't a good place. Can you come over tonight after dinner?"

Cathy blinked in surprise. "Why . . . yes, I suppose I could," she said.

George grinned, caught up in his relief. "That's great," he said. "I'll see you then!"

Just as he was moving to stand up, the door opened. Alfred leaned in, smirking. "The lovebirds are still here, I see," he greeted.

Cathy could feel the color creeping up her cheeks. "I'm afraid there's been a misunderstanding," she said, wondering exactly what was going around the school by now—and whether she even wanted to know. "I was just staying until the nurse could look at George's ankle. I'm going now; please excuse me." With that she swiftly walked to the door and brushed past Alfred in her haste to get into the hall. Alfred glanced over his shoulder, observing her flight before strolling into the room.

"So, how did it go?" he asked.

"I guess it could have been worse," George said. "I was stupid and tripped over the desk. But Cathy was great." He smiled at the memory. "She even said she'd come over after dinner to talk more."

Alfred whistled. "You're doing good for yourself," he said. "And you've got it bad. It makes me wonder how Betsy completely bamboozled you. I mean, Cathy's definitely the better girl. Hey, what's this?" He reached down, pulling up wadded woolen material.

George's mouth fell open. "It's Cathy's sweater," he said. "She must've forgot to take it."

"So what's it doing here?" Alfred wanted to know. "This isn't her desk, is it?"

"No," George retorted. "She gave it to me while we waited for the nurse. I'll have to get it back to her."

"You can do that tonight," Alfred said. "She gave it to you for your ankle?"

George nodded. "Yeah."

Alfred adopted a mock thoughtful stance. "Interesting," he intoned. "Very interesting."

George rolled his eyes. "She would have done it for anyone," he said. "But she was great."

"Your dreamy eyes betray you, Georgie," Alfred smirked. "I was going to ask if you needed help walking, but if you stay on that cloud you should be fine."

George pushed past him, still vaguely limping. "Let's go," he said.

Amused, Alfred followed.

xxxx

Cathy walked quickly down the hall, her books clutched to her chest. Students were talking all around her, some in whispers, some loudly. And from the snatches she was hearing, they were all talking about her and George.

"Did you hear what happened to George?"

"No, what happened to George?"

"George tripped."

"Tripped? What's so exciting about that?"

"Cathy was with him."

"No, really?"

"Yes, really."

"Gloria says he was trying to talk to Cathy when he fell."

"Cathy?"

"Cathy!"

She increased her pace. Would they ever stop? It had really not been as fantastic as all that, and certainly not worthy of so much attention!

"Cathy!"

She started and turned as Patty ran up to her. Her cousin looked out of breath and confused.

"Hey, what gives?" Patty demanded. "Do you know what they're saying about you and George?"

"Yes, I do," said Cathy. She looked ahead, continuing her walk. "And I don't want them to ask me about it. Let's hurry and go."

"Well, is it true?" Patty persisted.

"Not now, Patty," Cathy said, desperate to get away. She did not want to confirm or deny anything until they were away from gossiping students. Not that Patty was not prone to gossiping as well.

"They're saying that George called to you and you wouldn't give him the time of day and he tripped and broke his ankle and then you felt bad and stayed with him," Patty said all in one breath. "And that you were alone in the classroom for a suspiciously long amount of time."

"That's ridiculous!" Cathy exclaimed, at last stopping and turning to face Patty. "I was going to go over when he called. He tripped at that point, but the nurse said it's only a bruise. And I was only there long enough to find it out. Then I left."

"And it's already been blown three times out of proportion," Patty said in disgust. "Hey, where's your sweater?"

"What?" Cathy gasped, looking down at herself. "Oh no. I couldn't have!" Without explanation she whirled around, purposely heading back the way she had come. Bewildered, Patty chased after her.

"You couldn't have what?" she cried. "Cathy, what's going on that I don't know about?"

"I left my sweater with George," Cathy tossed over her shoulder.

"What?" Patty echoed. "What did George want with your sweater?"

"He didn't want it!" Cathy retorted. "I mean, he didn't ask for it. I gave it to him!"

"Why did you give it to him if he didn't want it? You didn't think he could fit into it, did you?" Patty said as she chased the other girl.

"Very funny," Cathy said. "It was to support his ankle since we didn't know if it might be sprained. It should be right here. . . ." She pulled open the door of the classroom in question and walked in determination to the askew desks. But then she could only stop and stare at the empty chair.

"It's gone," she said in disbelief. "It was on this chair!"

"So George must have it," Patty shrugged. "He's probably looking for you right now to give it back."

"You're probably right, Patty." Cathy sighed. "This isn't like me. How could I have gone and forgotten it?"

"Oh well, it'll turn up," Patty said. "Just ask George about it tomorrow at school. Hey, by the way, did you talk to him?"

"Not much," Cathy said. "It wasn't very private. And then he got hurt." She paused before adding, "I'm going to talk with him after dinner. I'll get my sweater then."

Patty's eyes went wide as saucers. "You're going to talk with him after dinner?" she all but yelled.

Cathy flinched. "Shh!" she scolded. She stepped closer to Patty, speaking in a low tone. "Yes, I am. He seems to feel sincerely sorry about what happened with Betsy."

Patty frowned, crossing her arms. "I hope for your sake he is, Cat," she said.

"We're just going to have a little talk." Cathy stepped back. "It's not as if he's proposing to me. We're not even going steady; we're only friends."

Patty gave a sage nod. "That's how it starts," she said.

Cathy sighed, shaking her head.

xxxx

The Tutwilers had a pleasant, two-story brick house in the neighborhood. As Cathy approached that evening, she paused to look up at it.

Or maybe, she reflected, she was just stalling.

A frown crossed her features. Was she really? It should not be so difficult to come here, especially after her conversation with George in the afternoon. Maybe Patty's objections were starting to get to her. Or perhaps hearing Patty's reaction was just bringing out the doubts she herself harbored. It was true—since Betsy had wrapped George so easily around her little finger, who was to say that someone else could not do the same thing?

She took a deep breath. George just wanted to talk. That did not mean Cathy would give him all of her trust or that she would even go out with him if he asked.

It did not mean she would not go out with him, either.

But in any case, she had already agreed to this conversation. She could not suddenly turn around and run, even if she was having doubts. That was more like something Patty might try to do.

The same moment she took several steps forward onto the walk, the front door opened and George stepped onto the porch. At least, she hoped it was George. He seemed to be walking with a slight limp as he waved to her and came to the top of the stairs.

"Hi, Cathy," he greeted. "Alfred was starting to wonder if you were coming after all."

"But you felt I would?" Cathy said. Reaching the steps, she began to climb.

George moved aside, half-hugging one of the support beams with his left arm. "Well . . . yeah," he said. "I mean, you don't break promises." He looked down guiltily. "Like I did."

Cathy sighed, but gave him a kind look. "What exactly happened, George?" she queried. "I'd thought better of you than that."

George gestured towards the porch swing. "Sit down?" he offered.

Cathy nodded and sat. "Thank you." She watched as he came over and sank onto the swing as well. It moved under their combined weight.

George shifted, leaning forward as he clasped his hands. "There's not really much to say," he said. "What it looked like was happening is pretty much what happened. Betsy just . . . came on strong. I've never had a girl butter me up like she was doing and I really liked it." He looked to Cathy in all seriousness. "But then later I realized something—that's all it was. Betsy probably gives the same kind of lines to a million different guys!"

"I have to admit, I'm afraid she probably does," Cathy said.

George straightened. "But you're not like that, Cathy," he said. "When you give anyone a compliment, you really mean it. And you've been a really good friend. At the end of the day, well . . . I like that a whole lot more."

Cathy looked down, unable to stop a small smile. "It means a lot to me to hear you say this, George," she said. "Of course, it will take some time before things could be more like they were before."

"I know," George nodded. "But . . ." He shifted again. "I want to try. And . . . I'd like to take you out, like I said we'd do before. Not to a Western, though. Oh, unless you want to, I mean. . . ."

Cathy looked back to him. "Anything would be fine," she said. "I'll tell you what, I'll think about it tonight and let you know at school tomorrow. Alright?"

George smiled in relief. "Sure!" he said. "That's great."

He hesitated, seeming to be mulling over something he wanted to say. "Alfred told me about what happened at school today, when you thought he was me," he said. "I'm really sorry about that."

"Oh, don't worry about it," Cathy said. "You certainly couldn't help it, and I know how Alfred is."

"Yeah. . . . Maybe I shouldn't have told him about the note at all," George said.

"There was no harm done," Cathy said, deciding not to mention that the note had been left unsigned. Most likely in his haste to get it to her, George had simply forgot or overlooked that detail. He would only be further embarrassed if she brought it up. There would not be any point in that.

"And I just remembered, I wasn't thinking and I left my sweater in the classroom today," Cathy lamented now. "Do you have it?"

"Oh yeah!" George snapped his fingers. "I knew I was forgetting something." He stood and crossed to the door. As he opened it, he reached inside and pulled an object off the back of the couch. "Here," he said as he turned to face Cathy again.

"Thank you." Cathy took her sweater and began to slip into it. "And now I'd better be going. It must be getting late."

"It's not that late," George said. "But if you need to go . . ." He stepped forward and stumbled, wincing in pain. "Ow. . . ."

Cathy glanced in concern to his ankle. "What's wrong? Did you move too fast?" she asked.

Embarrassed, George nodded again. "It's just a bruise, but it sure hurts," he said.

"I'm sorry." Cathy started to turn to the stairs. "I hope you'll be feeling better tomorrow."

"I'm sure I will," George hastened to say. "Gee, I'd offer to walk you home, but . . ."

"Don't worry about it." Cathy smiled. "I'll get home fine. Goodnight, George."

"Night!" George called after her with a small wave.

Cathy continued to smile, to herself, as she walked home. She wanted to believe George was sincere. She had liked him when they had studied together. He deserved another chance. Already she was quite sure she would tell him yes in the morning.

Even so, she intended to stay on her guard. And she would try not to get her hopes up. If Betsy could sway him, another femme fatale could do the same thing.

Though if another one approached him, perhaps that would be the best indication of whether or not he truly had changed.

Act Two

Patty was waiting near the front door when Cathy got back. And Patty was definitely not so pleased by the news of the probable date. She barely even noticed that Cathy had retrieved her sweater.

"I don't know," she said with a frown once Cathy finished her recounting. "I've been thinking. Doesn't it seem kind of conveniently odd that George tripped and fell right when he did?"

"Oh Patty." Cathy sighed. "He wasn't watching where he was going. It was just a simple mistake."

"Uh huh." Patty gave a firm nod. "That's exactly what he'd want you to think!"

"Surely you're not saying that you think he fell on purpose," Cathy objected. "He truly was hurt. The nurse examined him."

"Yeah, but maybe he didn't mean to get hurt for real!" Patty said. "Maybe he was going to pretend to be hurt so you'd feel bad for him."

"That's ridiculous," Cathy said as she headed for the stairs. "George isn't like that."

"You didn't think he'd dump you for some flirt, either," Patty said. "But he did!"

Cathy paused. She could not deny that argument. Still, the idea of George deliberately falling just to get her pity sounded ludicrous. She resumed her ascent.

"George was very embarrassed about falling," she said without looking back. "You're not going to say he made himself blush, are you, Patty?"

Patty slumped back. "Well, no," she conceded.

"Good." Cathy reached the top of the stairs and turned back. "I know you're just worried, Patty, but you don't need to be." She smiled. "Everything will be fine. If George doesn't come through this time, I won't consider going out with him again."

"I hope so," Patty said.

But as soon as Cathy was out of sight in their room, Patty made a beeline for the kitchen. "Ross!" she hissed, pushing the door open.

Ross, who was at the table with a glass of milk and a plate of cookies, started and dropped half a cookie onto the plate. "What?" he said in frustration.

Patty slipped inside and into the next chair. "I might need your help," she said as she crossed her arms and leaned over the table.

"With what?" Ross retorted. He picked up the cookie half. "Will you pay me if I say yes?"

"No!" Patty snapped.

"Then sorry, no deal," Ross said, dipping the end of the cookie in the milk. He bit off the part he had just dunked.

"This is an emergency," Patty protested. "A mission to help our cousin Cathy. Surely even you wouldn't think of being paid for that!" She straightened, indignation obvious in her body language and tone of voice.

Ross frowned in confusion. "What's wrong with Cathy?" he wondered. "She seemed okay to me."

"She might be going out with a heartbreaker," Patty said.

"Who?" Then Ross's eyes widened in realization. "Oh, wait, you mean that George guy you've been going on about?"

"Yeah, him!" Patty nodded. "He wanted to talk to Cathy tonight, so they talked and he fed her some story about being sorry for what happened with Betsy. And he said he wanted to take her out for real!"

"So?" Ross shrugged. "Maybe he really means it."

Patty sighed, shaking her head. "Ross, Ross, Ross. You're too young and innocent to have any idea what Casanovas are really like."

"I don't even know what a Casanova is," Ross pointed out.

"Exactly!" Patty stood. "I don't want to see Cathy get hurt again. Do you?"

"Of course not." Ross looked at her in exasperation. "But I still don't get where this is going."

"We'll go along and spy on their date!" Patty exclaimed, frustrated. She bent down, placing her hands on the table. "The instant George starts to be fickle, we move in and break things up."

"I don't know, Patty." Ross was unimpressed. "Don't you think we should leave it up to Cathy? She's the one actually going on the date."

"Cathy's too much of a pushover!" Patty said. "You know how she is. She just quietly accepted it when George dumped her for Betsy. She didn't chew him out or anything!"

"Cathy can get pretty mad when she's pushed too far," Ross said. "I don't think she'd let it go a second time."

"And I won't, either!" Patty declared. "Come on, Ross. Please?"

"I don't get what you even need me for," Ross retorted. "You're the one who's so worried. Why don't you just go spy on them by yourself?"

"Because! It'd be easier for two people to blend in than just one," Patty said. "We could pretend to be out having a good time too."

"I'd like to really have a good time and not just pretend," Ross said. He sighed in resignation. "But if it means so much to you, sis, I guess I could go with you just this one time."

Patty straightened in joyous relief. "Oh, thanks, Ross!" she said. "I knew I could count on you. You're the greatest!" She reached to swipe a cookie from the plate.

"Hey!" Ross jerked it away from her. "Get your own. Besides, I've been eating off this plate."

Patty made a face and went to the cookie jar.

xxxx

Cathy caught George at his locker the next day.

"Hello, George," she greeted. "How's your ankle?"

He turned and smiled at her. "It's a lot better!" he said. "I hardly feel any pain today. I guess the ice really helped."

"That's wonderful." Cathy shifted her books. "I've decided I'd like to take you up on your offer, George."

He brightened all the more. "Really? I-I mean, that's great!" he stammered. "Would tonight be too soon?"

"Tonight would be fine," Cathy told him.

"I'll pick you up at seven," George promised.

Around the corner, Patty was eavesdropping. She nodded to herself. "Seven," she repeated. "The Patty and Ross Rescue Team will be ready." She gave a secretive, determined smile.

xxxx

It was five to seven when Patty announced that she and Ross were going to take a walk and might stop for ice cream or something along the way. They were told not to be home late, but neither Martin nor Natalie found anything odd about the chosen activity. On the contrary, they were happy that Patty was going to do something with Ross.

Ross hurried outside and around the side of the house to where Patty was waiting. She looked up as he dove behind the bush with her to wait.

"That went perfect," she grinned.

"Yeah. Now that that's out of the way, all we have to do is follow Cathy and her date to the movies, the shake shop, and then back home. Boy, I'm glad the hard part's over," Ross said, his voice dripping sarcasm.

Patty rolled her eyes. "Stick with me and we can't go wrong," she said.

"Oh brother," Ross muttered. He shifted position, hoping that they would not be crouched here for very long.

Not long afterwards George came up the walkway and knocked on the door. Patty checked her watch.

"He's two minutes late! That's not a good sign!"

"Don't tell me you've always been ready for a date by the exact minute," Ross said.

"We're not talking about me, we're talking about George," Patty shot back.

Ross gave her a perturbed look, but she barely paid attention. She was watching like a hawk as Cathy opened the door and stepped onto the porch.

"Hello. Good evening, George," Cathy greeted, pulling the door shut behind her.

"Hi!" George chirped. "How are you tonight, Cathy?"

"I'm well, thank you. And you?"

"I'm great. Kind of nervous, but great." He walked alongside Cathy as they headed down the stairs and to his parents' car.

"I'm sure everything will go fine," Cathy said, albeit from her tone of voice she was wondering herself what might happen.

"What am I saying? I should be reassuring you, not the other way around," George berated. He opened the car door for her.

Cathy slid inside, hiding a smile.

Ross looked to Patty in frustration. "So how are we going to follow them? He has a car!"

"I know the theatre they're going to!" Patty said. "So we just take another route and try to get there before they do."

"Or you could just call Richard and use his car," Ross said.

"That would take too long!" Patty retorted, starting to slowly stand up. "And you already said you'd help with this."

"Okay, okay." Ross stood as well, waiting as George got in the driver's side and drove away from the house. When the car was halfway down the block, Patty hurried out.

"Now's our chance!" she cried. "Come on, let's go!"

Hoping he was not making a dreadful mistake, Ross followed.

xxxx

In spite of Patty's efforts to take a shortcut, the Tutwilers' car was in the parking lot when she and Ross arrived at the movie theatre. Ross frowned at the vehicle.

"So much for that idea," he said. "Face it, Patty; no shortcut as long as the one we took could beat a car."

"So the movie's started!" Patty said. "We'll just get some tickets and sneak in and find where they are."

"In the dark?" Ross gave her an incredulous look. "Maybe the seats near them aren't even free."

"And maybe they are," Patty said, shepherding him to the box office. "You know, you're really growing up to be a negative kid."

"Well, somebody's got to be realistic in this family," Ross said.

"Har har," Patty muttered. Smiling at the handsome guy at the window she said, "We'd like two tickets, please."

"Right away," the guy smiled back. "It's already started, but not by much. They're probably still showing previews."

"Oh that's good," said Patty as she counted out the money and slid it through the window. "Yeah, it seems like the previews get longer every year. You could almost watch another movie in the time it takes to show them!"

Ross stood unimpressed to the side, his hands shoved into his pockets. Patty had a boyfriend already. Did she have to make eyes at every good-looking guy she ran into?

The guy passed the tickets through the opening. "Enjoy the show," he said.

"Thank you," Patty said as she took them. "I'm sure we will."

With that she hurried down the corridor to the ticket taker. Ross caught up to her as she handed the tickets over. Almost as soon as they were ripped and handed back, Patty was all but flying to the heavy door and hauling it open.

"What about popcorn?" Ross protested, coming up behind her.

"Let's see where they are first and then we'll know if we can get any food," Patty hissed.

They stepped inside the darkened theatre, letting the door close after them. On the screen was a preview for a new thriller movie, which promptly captured Patty's interest. Instead of scanning the people and the corresponding available seats, she watched in open-mouthed shock as the secret agent leaped free of a car that was exploding in mid-air.

Ross jabbed her in the ribs. "Come on, where are they?" he said in exasperation.

"Hey!" she exclaimed. "I'm looking."

"They're not helping Agent 009 with his new mission," Ross remarked, eying the screen.

"It's 007, and that isn't a James Bond movie," Patty shot back. "It looks good, though," she mumbled.

Several people on the back row turned and shushed them. Ross rocked back in embarrassed irritation.

"We finally know one thing," he said as they moved forward. "They're not on the back row."

"Has anyone ever told you that you have a really bad habit of stating the obvious?" Patty muttered.

Ross shrugged. "Hey, is that them?" he whispered after a moment of fruitless searching.

Patty came to attention. "Where?"

"Right there." Ross pointed to where a guy and a girl were seated on the far left of the theatre.

Patty's eyes widened. "It must be!" she said. "That looks like Cathy's hair. And there's even a row of empty seats behind them. Ross, I love you. Come on!"

"We have to get mushy now?" Ross exclaimed as Patty grabbed his wrist.

She all but dragged him to the vacant seats, selecting the ones directly behind the unsuspecting teens. Ross stumbled in after her, plopping in the seat in back of George.

"Are you sure we should be this close?" he worried. "What if they turn around?"

"Just don't say anything and maybe they won't," Patty said.

That policy went fine until about halfway through the movie. That was when George leaned over, placing an arm around Cathy's shoulders. She did not resist and even seemed to be moving closer to him.

Patty's mouth dropped open. "Look at that!" she gasped. "The nerve of him! And just on their first real date, too!"

"She could push him away if she didn't want him to do it," Ross pointed out.

Patty shook her head. "She's completely mesmerized. Oh, he's a smooth worker. Ross, we have to do something!"

"Like what?" Ross said in frustration. "Let's just finish watching the movie."

"How can you think of the movie at a time like this?" Patty cried.

George and Cathy turned around, annoyed at the stage whisper-level outburst. Patty's eyes widened in shock. It was not them at all. Instead it was two strangers. After a searching glare, they turned back to the screen.

Ross stared. "Well, you've really done it now, sis," he said.

"And just who was it who led us here?" Patty retorted. "Now we don't even know where they really are!"

"Well, we can't change seats now," Ross said. "The movie's half over. Come on, just relax. We'll look for them when it lets out."

Patty slumped back in her seat. "But we won't know what was happening during the movie," she moaned.

"So we'll see whether they look happy or mad," Ross said. He resumed eating the popcorn he had bought.

Patty crossed her arms in resigned frustration.

xxxx

It was lucky for them that George and Cathy were among the first to leave as the movie ended. Patty sat up straight when the movement from the center section caught her eye. "There they are!" she announced. "Hurry, get out of your seat!"

Ross leaped up, making his way into the aisle. "They look okay enough," he said.

"And Cathy's not walking stiff or anything, like she's mad or hurt," Patty noted. "That's a good sign. Let's make sure we don't lose them!"

"And make sure they don't find us," Ross returned.

It was nigh to impossible to keep them in sight as more and more people got up to leave. At last in despair Patty grabbed Ross, heading for the nearest outside door.

"They'll be getting back in the car," she said. "If we wait outside we can catch them then!"

"And then you'd better hope that they're still going to the same place next," Ross said. "Especially if we're taking another shortcut."

Patty shook her head. "No, this time I think we should try to follow the car," she said. "Maybe we can get a taxi!"

Ross gawked at her as they stepped into the cool night air. "And tell the driver to follow George's car?" he said.

"Well, yeah," Patty said. "Like in the spy movies."

"What if they see us?" Ross retorted.

"If they turn around, we duck down!" Patty said. "What could go wrong?"

"Everything," Ross intoned.

Patty waved a hand at him in annoyance. Suddenly she perked up, diving around the side of a nearby car. "There they are!" she exclaimed.

"Are you sure it's really them?" Ross said as he followed.

"Yeah," Patty said. "They're getting in George's car. And for once luck is on our side!"

"You're giving up and we're going home?" Ross said hopefully.

Patty gave him a withering look. "No," she said. "There's a taxi parked at the curb. Come on!" She darted past, using the cars as her cover.

Ross sighed as he followed. "This is going to blow up in our faces," he said. "And I don't want to be around when it does."

"You can go home if you really want to," Patty said over her shoulder. "Even though you promised to help."

"It's not going to be said that Ross Lane backed out on a promise," Ross replied. "But that doesn't mean that right now I'm not wishing it would."

As Patty dramatically hailed the taxi and flung herself inside with the declaration of "Follow that car!" Ross's feelings only increased.

"It's getting really tempting to say I don't know her," he muttered. As he entered the cab and shut the door, he slouched in his seat.

xxxx

"So, you really liked the movie?" George said as he drove out of the parking lot.

Cathy smiled. "Yes, I did," she said. "It was exciting."

"Gee, I'm glad," George proclaimed. "Do you still want to get some sodas or something?"

"Certainly, if it's not too late." Cathy glanced at the clock on the dashboard.

"They should still be open," George said. "If we make good time, we might even be able to get seconds!"

Cathy looked down in gentle amusement. But then something in the side-view mirror caught her eye. She looked up in surprise.

"George, there's a taxi behind us," she said. "I believe it's been there since we left the theatre."

George glanced behind them. "Maybe it's some other kids with the same idea," he suggested.

"Probably," Cathy said, leaning back in the seat. "It feels strange, a little like we're being followed."

"That would be a doosey. Who would be following us?" George wondered.

Cathy shot another look back at the yellow cab. "Who indeed," she said, her voice vague.

xxxx

The shake shop was indeed still open. Cathy and George stepped inside and navigated to an out of the way table. They did not see Patty and Ross slip in soon after and take a corner table where they could see what was going on.

"So," George said as he pulled out the chair for Cathy and waited for her to sit before sitting himself, "what would you like to order?"

"I'm not quite sure," Cathy said. "I was thinking of a chocolate malt, but I heard they were getting in some new flavors. Maybe we should try some of those."

"I'm daring enough," George grinned.

Before anyone could come to take their orders, a brunette girl got up from a table under the window and headed their way. Seeing her first, Patty tensed.

"Oh boy. Here it comes!" she cried.

"Here what comes?" Ross frowned.

"The femme fatale," Patty said. "Look, she's going right to their table! The nerve of her! She'll flirt with George and he'll flip for her just like he did for Betsy!"

The girl seemed to know exactly what she wanted. She sat down next to George, smiling sweetly at him. "Hello," she greeted.

George looked at her, a swift blush climbing up his cheeks. "H-Hi," he said.

Cathy had tensed by now as well. What would happen now? She had thought things were going good. Yet, she had also wondered if the only way George could prove himself would be if he were tempted again. And now it looked like it was happening. It was an odd coincidence.

Now George seemed to gather his wits. "We're on a date," he said, as though trying to hint to the girl that three was a crowd.

She smiled. "Well, don't let me stop you," she said. "I was just kind of lonely at the table back there and I was glad to see more customers coming in. Especially a gallant-looking man like you."

George's eyes widened. "Gallant? Me?"

"Of course you," the unknown girl said. "You're such a gentleman, pulling out the chair for your date and all."

Patty's fingers stiffened in a claw position before she clenched them into fists. "Look how she's buttering him up!" she cried. "And giving some sob-story about being lonely. I'd like to give her a piece of my mind!"

Ross watched, unsure of what to say. At this point, it looked like all of Patty's suspicions were proving correct.

"Mom raised us to be gentlemen," George was saying. Still a bit red, he added, "And I-I'm sorry you're feeling lonely, but why don't you go talk with the guy at the counter?"

"I'd rather talk to you," she smiled. "You don't mind?" She looked back and forth between George and Cathy, who looked like she was about to say something.

"I mind," George said before she could.

Both Cathy and Patty stared in surprise now. Ross leaned forward, not wanting to miss a word.

"Like I said, we're on a date," George said. "And this time it's going to be done right. That means no one is going to interrupt it."

Cathy's surprise turned to admiration. The brunette girl blinked, then stood in a huff.

"I can see I'm not wanted," she said. "Goodbye." She was gone before either of them had a chance to reply.

"George, you were wonderful!" Cathy declared, smiling at him.

George colored further. "I felt kind of bad to kick her out," he admitted, "but wow, she had a lot of gall to come sit here with us. She didn't even wait for an invitation! And she didn't give her name, either."

"I'm perfectly alright with that," Cathy said. "It was very strange, though."

Patty was thinking the same. As the girl stormed out, she stood up. "Come on!" she said to Ross.

"What now?" Ross said. "We found out George has changed. Aren't we going home?"

"No, we're going to see what that girl does," Patty said, grabbing him by the wrist and pulling him out the door before they could be seen. "The way she popped up like that, it was like it was all planned!"

"Planned?" Ross said in disbelief. "You've been seeing too many spy movies."

But they stopped short as they got outside. The girl was just around the corner of the building, talking to someone leaning against it.

"Well, he didn't give in," she said.

"I knew he had it in him," the other person said. "Okay. Thanks, Julie. Say Hi to Alan, won't you?"

"Sure. But you'd better not tell him about this. He wouldn't like it." Julie turned, walking off down the street.

Instantly Patty was marching to the building's edge, Ross at her heels. "Alright, what's the big idea?" she cried. "Having this Julie go in there and flirt with George?"

"It was just to see if he could resist temptation," was the reply from the figure. "He was so nervous about the date tonight, wondering if he'd mess it up. I believe in my dear brother, so I decided to give him a hand. Now maybe he'll be able to trust himself again."

Patty frowned. "And what if he'd given in? Then what?"

"Then wouldn't it be good for them to find it out sooner than later?"

"Alfred, I have just one thing to say to you," Patty retorted. "You're a creep!" She started to stalk past, then stopped and turned back. Ross was gawking at George's twin. Patty crossed her arms.

". . . I guess if you did it for the right reasons. . . ." she said in resignation, letting her sentence trail off. "As long as you weren't really trying to play a joke!"

"No joke." Alfred pushed himself away from the building. "But let's keep this our little secret, okay? George wouldn't like it any more than our cousin Alan would. Especially since I got one of Alan's friends to do the job."

"Don't worry. I'm not going to tell anyone!" Ross exclaimed. "We're mixed up in this civil war deep enough as it is."

Patty thought a moment. "As far as I can see, the war is over," she said.

A bit of relief flashed in Alfred's eyes. "Truce?" he said, holding out his hand. "I really don't want to have you mad at me, Patty girl."

Patty frowned. "You'd better not have an electric buzzer in your hand," she said.

"I'm clean!" Alfred insisted, holding his hand palm-up for her to see.

At last Patty nodded. "Okay, truce . . . Alfred boy." She gave one firm shake. Alfred pulled back then, waving to her and Ross as he walked off, grinning in mischief.

"I won't tell George and Cathy you guys were following them everywhere, either," he said.

"Hey!" Patty yelled. "How do you know we were . . ."

Ross shook his head, grabbing her shoulder. "We were probably pretty obvious, especially to him," he said. "Can we just go home?"

Patty sighed. "Yeah, let's go home," she said.

She glanced at the shake shop as she stepped away. "You know, I think this is the first time I'm glad to be wrong," she said.

"And probably the last time," Ross quipped, deadpan.

Patty glared at him, but then allowed a smile. "Yeah, you're probably right," she said. "Come on."

She put her arm around Ross's shoulders as they walked off.

Epilogue

"Patty, what kind of walk lasts almost three hours?"

Patty looked down, studying the carpet. She and Ross were sitting on the couch while their father paced the living room, upset. Mrs. Lane was sitting on a chair, looking sternly at their children.

"I'm sorry, Poppo," Patty mumbled. "We kind of got carried away."

"Where could you have possibly been walking for three hours?" Natalie persisted. "We were frantic! We called all of your friends."

"Yeah," Martin agreed. "We were just about to start on the people you don't talk to as much." He stopped in front of Patty, his hands on his hips. "You owe us an explanation, young lady."

"It was a long walk," Ross piped up.

"Yeah," Patty agreed. "That's . . . what it was, alright."

The front door opened as Cathy came in. She took in the scene quietly, shutting the door behind her. After debating for a moment, she walked into the room.

"Hello, everyone," she greeted.

They looked up. "Oh, hi, Cathy," Patty said. "How was your date?"

Cathy smiled. "It was fine." She looked to Mr. Lane. "Uncle Martin, Patty and Ross were on a very long walk. I believe they went all over town."

Patty stared at her in disbelief.

"All over town?" Mrs. Lane exclaimed. "Patty, is that true?"

"Uh, yeah!" Patty said. "We walked all over the place before going to get the ice cream. I mean, we didn't want to be stingy with our family time!"

Cathy nodded. "I think I may have caught a glimpse of them once, after the movie," she said.

Martin sighed. "Patty, you still should have called," he said.

"I know." Patty looked down. "I won't let it happen again." She looked up again. "Can we go now?"

Martin exchanged a look with Natalie. "I guess so," he said.

"But if this happens again, Patty . . ." Mrs. Lane interjected.

"It won't! I promise!" Patty leaped up, hurrying over to Cathy. "So George was okay?" she blurted, as Ross got up to follow. "He didn't . . . fall for some brunette or something?"

Cathy gave her an odd look as they headed for the stairs. "No, he didn't," she said. "But what makes you think of a brunette?"

Patty froze. "Oh, no reason," she said airily. "I just wondered if, you know, brunettes would have the same reaction for him as blondes."

Cathy's look lingered for a moment before she turned away. "No, George didn't fall for 'some brunette or something,'" she said. Concealing a smile as they reached the top of the stairs she added, "But I'm sure you know that already. The table you and Ross were at has a very nice view.

"And I hope you enjoyed the movie too."

As she went into her and Patty's room, Ross looked to Patty in shock. Patty gave a grim nod.

"We're busted," she said.

Ross shook his head. "Boy, sis, you make a really lousy spy."

Patty glared. But then she sighed, her shoulders slumping. "I guess I am," she consented. Straightening, she added, "You weren't much better!"

"Hey," Ross shrugged, "I was just following your lead."

Patty shook her fist at him. As the situation fully sunk in she stepped back, starting to laugh. Maybe, she decided, it was kind of funny after all. Especially since no harm had been done.

"I'll tell you what, Ross," she said now. "You were a pretty good sport about the whole thing. How about tomorrow we go to the shake shop and have some ice cream for real?"

Ross perked up. "No following Cathy and George?" he said.

"No following them or anyone," Patty said.

"You've got a deal!" Ross declared.

Patty glanced to the closed door leading to her and Cathy's room. "I wonder if Cathy's going to go out with George again," she mused.

"Patty . . ." Ross gave her a warning look.

"What? It's a simple question." At Ross's continuing, unconvinced look, Patty simply headed for the room and opened the door. "Say Cathy, do you think you'll be going out with George again?" she asked.

Ross rolled his eyes. "Girls. Who can understand them?" he muttered, heading for his room.