"You were the first person I wanted to tell !" Nancy said "But where were you, Miss Amelia Earhart Cooper ?"
Betty blushed and pulled Nancy into another embrace. Nancy and Chuck were getting married in a week. Betty was the last to know since she was also the last to appear on the scene.
"You know that we postponed it thanks to you." Nancy told Betty "There was no way I was going to get hitched without my golden girl." Betty smiled "Sorry." she said.
"Now come on, there's so much to do !" Nancy dragged Betty off the bed, the blonde shaking her tears out as she shook her head.
Archie was sad. College was not working out as he had thought. Sure, the classes were no big deal but Archie never thought he was the academic type. It gave him some solace thinking Jug would give him company after school, but after Jug changed radically in the last two months, Archie found himself falling into a bottomless pit.
Losing Betty didn't help matters either.
He was in the old Basketball court. The paint was peeling off and the panels underneath were cracking more then ever, now that Riverdale High finally managed to cajole some funds out for a new facility, the Bee decided to let the old court rust. Some kids still hung out in the summer when it was really hot and the broken ventilation system ensured there was a cold draught.
Archie picked up an old ball lying on the floor and tossed it. The hoop was still there, minus the net. Oh how would he give for another game, Jug, Chuck, Moose, Dilton, Reggie...
Wonder what he is up to now ?
"What do you mean you cannot find him ?"
"Sir, we have tried all our sources, our team also got into the systems of all the flight, train and road operators. We can't find any such man."
"He is a 75 year old geezer for heaven's sake !" Reggie screamed "What the hell did he do ? Fly like Superman ?"
"I realise Sir that the situation is complicated." The ex SEAL answered "but we are trying our best, we will track him down."
Reggie pressed his temples with his fingertips. This was all wrong, he should have concentrated more on this old lunatic than Betty and Jug, to think that he really thought he was untouchable.
"I want him." Reggie said in an audible whisper, his eyes down on his desk "I want him, Alive ! Do I make myself clear ?"
The strongman nodded "Understood."
After he left, Reggie picked up his phone and pressed a hotline key. It was picked up almost instantly on the other side.
"Are you sure he can break it ?" Reggie asked.
"I am sure." the voice said "It was the best system of it's kind and he designed it. If anyone can get to the bottom of what really happened, it's him."
"I can't be a Murdoch." Reggie muttered "I can't afford to go down Rupert's way."
Jug cringed to see. He had been driving for 20 hours non-stop, his eyes were blood shot and if he went on like this, he would either veer off into a field or collide head on with a truck which occaisionally crossed him. He pulled over reluctantly and closed his eyes.
A butterfly landed on the windshield and spread it's wings.
"Try this !"
"No that's too modest, wait !"
Betty couldn't make head or tail of it. Nancy and Midge were fitting her in one dress after another. Wasn't Nancy getting married ? And although they were the same build, what fit Betty like a glove wouldn't be true for Nancy.
"Say that looks good..."
"Hmm, yeah, really goes with her eyes."
"Would you please make up your mind about what you are going to wear, Nance ?" Betty crossed her srms, exasperated.
"What am I gonna wear ? Girl, we fixed that two weeks ago !"
Betty couldn't speak in shock, she raised her hands in amazement, "Then what on Earth was all this for ?" as she ponted to the heap of dresses she had been made to put on.
"Well we want the bridesmaid to look as good as the bride." Midge replied.
And then there were tears.
It was funny when it came back to him now.
He didn't have a clue where to look for Betty, she did a good job in leaving no clues and covering up her tracks. That's where his advice came in handy.
Betty ran away but she was a smart girl. She wouldn't wreck her life completely, she would find something to support herself.
She would have gone to some place where people would never think of looking for her, because it would be so obvious.
A place close to home, but not too close. Where she knew the locality, but nobody would know her.
What follwed next was a list of all the places she could have chosen. It had to be a low profile job but one which gave her enough security. Nothing which would throw her up in any systems or databases but safe.
The final answer ? He had no idea how the hell he figured it out, but the answer, down to the address was in that document which he handed him over three months ago. That in fact was the hardest puzzle to crack.
His hands fumbled for the cell as his eyes were still closed, it was improbable, totally, but what if ?
"Hello, Prof. Johnson speaking."
"Hello Prof. Johnson, this is Forsythe P. Jones from the Maths class of 2011."
"I was expecting your call Mr. Jones." Prof. Johnson smiled.
-"That's awesome Betty !" Archie whooped "A real bridesmaid, woo-hoo ! And guess what ! Chuck asked me to be his best man."
"Hey that's really nice of him." Betty patted Chuck on the hand. "Yeah, couldn't do without my bud Arch here." Chuck grinned. "Man but it will be really wierd in a suit you know ? I never liked those things !"
"Well you better get used to it !" Nancy retorted. "I want it to be just like in the fairy tales !"
"They didn't have suits in fairy tales." Betty smirked at which Nancy gasped and lightly jabbed her in the side. All of them fell giggling and Pop Tate watched the group fondly from behind his counter, shaking his head. Presently, he brought them up drinks.
"On the house !" Pops said "Here's to Riverdale High's first couple as he handed the drinks to Nancy and Chuck. Oh what I would give for Jug to be here !" he sauid as he left.
Betty quitened suddenly and looked away. They didn't say much after that and Nancy's arms enveloped her in a hug.
The guy at the soda stand looked at him, quite interested.
He seemed, well strange. Evidently he was here for the free wi-fi but the people who came for that were all kids or at least below 50.
This guy was old, darned old.
After some light strokes, closed the flap and put it in his satchel. He got up, took hold of his stick and walked out.
The soda guy couldn't see himself doing that even in a hundred years.
Of all the places on Earth, why the hell did he have to choose this ? And how the hell was he living here ? He was close to the grave, walked slowly, Jug was sure he had a caretaker in college, so what the hell was he doing here ?
On the other side of the world,
Tokyo Stock Exchange :
Traders looked at the figures, they were not good. This script was a good performer. It held even in the high recession, but this was bad. They would have to sell it and the stock would tank, there was nothing anyone could do.
Jug looked at the clock on the dashboard, another 5 hours till first light, he would have to wait.
By then, Sydney, Singapore, Beijing, Mumbai, Frankfurt, Paris and even London have already woken up.
Everywhere it was the same story, the stock was tanking.
"I told you Jim." A London trader said sipping the morning coffee. "It's another Murdoch for you."
"Think it will make it ?" his friend asked.
The trader shook his head "Murdoch was big, this guy was big too, but not that much, no Jim, he is dead."
"Oh well, so much for another Yank !" his friend tossed his hand.
"Yeah he will really blow when NY wakes up !" the trader chortled "Nice name he has too, Mantle !"
He could see him.
He was standing at the water's edge, facing Lake Superior. The cottage was a little way off. He was surprised to see him in something other than black for a change, white.
What would he say ? More importantly, what would he ask ?
Was he mad ? No, why should he be. He wanted answers. Why, how, how did he know, why did he do what he did ?
On his part he was prepared for everything.
He was closer now.
He wouldn't be taken aback by anything.
"Good Morning Mr. Jones, I hope the journey was pleasant."
Anything but that.