Life After 9/11

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Another Threat is Made

"The good news is that we thwarted a kidnapping of a teenage girl in Utah," Eugene O'Neal said while the Knights were having their weekly meeting at the Dairy Grill. "But the bad news is that a teenage boy in South Carolina disappeared from his high school last week."

"I see," said Sean. "Have the police been notified about the kidnapping?"

"The kidnapper says that if anyone calls the police, the boy will die," said Eugene.

"Indeed," said Sean. "We've gotten ourselves in a pickle here."

"Not to mention that 54 students were taken away from Lochland High School when the kidnapping happened," said Anthony Giles.

"By the police?" said Shane Marshall.

"Not exactly," said Anthony. "But I have a feeling that if we could find out what's going on, we could put together a team to rescue the missing boy and arrest his kidnapper."

"Then let's do that," said Sean. "Time is of the essence here."

As the Knights packed their equipment, Sean turned to Dicky and Andrea, saying, "This mission is very dangerous, and I already know that many of us will die because disabled people are being killed left and right in the South. Are you guys sure that you want to go through with this?"

"Heck yeah," said Dicky. "Aggie would be furious if she finds out that I've been in California in California twiddling my thumbs while I should be helping people."

"Same here," said Andrea. "I want to start helping people, especially since now I have to be a single mom of two small children. This is so unfair!!"

"Just checking," said Sean.

"And anyway, I've been hearing rumors about a secret society at a local high school, and that secret society uses magic," said Andrea. "I bet that they might be able to help us search for the boy."

Dicky frowned, saying, "Drea, I don't like this. Most of these so-called "knights" with us are just sitting targets for the Sons of Ebal and their allies because of their disabilities."

"Yet, the Knights stopped over 475 criminal acts all over the world so far; those who the Knights caught ended up facing life in prison for their crimes," said Andrea. "Don't be such a naysayer, Dicky."

"To be honest, I don't know if this is a good idea," Mobley said as he approached them. "What if those people become violent knowing that we're going to stop them from doing bad things?"

"It's a risk we have to take," said Sean. "Remember, the more time we waste, the less chance we have to save the boy and stop his kidnappers. We can't afford to lose anyone."

And with that, the Knights, Mobley, Dicky, and Andrea quickly took off towards Charleston, South Carolina. There wasn't any time to waste. A child's life was at stake.

"And in today's news from Utah, the man killed in the Rice-Eccles Stadium shooting several weeks ago has been identified as 33-year-old Joseph Lightfoot of Bolton Landing, Utah..."

Logan frowned as he watched the latest edition of the Stale Grapes News. The news spoke about the man who had been killed in the shooting that took place while he and his family had gone to watch the Winter Olympic Games. To date, Logan still had a hard time getting over the fact that he, Dicky, Andrea, and Sean could have been killed in the shooting, which was what the terrorists had wanted. Deirdre and the rest of the family were far from the action.

At this point, Deirdre came into the living room and saw him, saying, "Did they find out what happened in Utah?"

"They did," said Logan. "They revealed some information about the man that died in that shooting last month."

"Indeed," said Deirdre. "Did Sean say if he had a family?"

"He had a daughter and a son," said Logan. "Their names are Cleopatra and Anthony. That's all we know about his family."

"At least we get more news from Sean than we get from CNN," said Deirdre. "I knew his Stale Grapes News was a good idea."

"And why wouldn't it be?" said Logan. "After all, I've always criticized the news for sensationalizing child abductions and political scandals. Sean brings none of that to the table; he makes sure that other news neglected by CNN and Fox News are shared on the Stale Grapes News."

"At least he hasn't mentioned us yet, not since you got that award at the Dummy Awards a few weeks ago," said Deirdre. "Who knows when the guys at Fox News are going to find out about us."

"Oh they'll find out about us soon," said Logan. "And when that happens, we’ll make them wish they didn't."

Meanwhile in the city of Deltaville, South Carolina, (which was outside of Charleston), Sean frowned as he stared at a small house at the corner of Deanmar Way and General Avenue. He was sure that the kidnapper and their victim were in that house. The Knights were running out of time. "We need to strike now while it's still daylight," said Mobley.

"They'll be expecting that," said Sean. "Plus, I'm not putting any innocent bystanders in danger by publicizing this rescue mission."

"Yeah right," said Mobley. "The bystanders who often get caught in the crossfires are hardly innocent, not when you always seem to find out who they are and find out who they are and expose their dirty deeds to the public. Need I remind you of how you caught your mother's killer when we rescued 9-year-old Jessie Robinson back in 1998?"

"I see," said Sean.

"And then we have the story about how after you saved me and Dicky from the orphanage, you unleashed that campaigned that exposed over 137 men and 275 women as child abusers," said Andrea. "Any of that ringing a bell?"

"Indeed," said Sean. "Those people were placed in charge of the disabled children they later abused."

"They should have known better," said Dicky.

Just then, a teenage boy wearing an ill-fitting dress stood next to them, saying, "Is that you, Sean Michael Rowes?"

"What are you doing here?" Sean said to the boy.

"You gotta help him!" 13-year-old Nicholas Hinton cried as he clung to Sean. "He's in grave danger!"

"What are you talking about?" said Dicky.

"Who is he?" said Mobley.

"Why is he in danger?" said Andrea.

"Jed Hamilton's friend Milton Holt Holt has been kidnapped, and Jed can't save him," said Nicholas. "No one can save him! But I know you can!"

"You really think that I'm a superhero?" said Sean. "I'm not Spider-Man, you know."

"But Jed needs you!" said Nicholas. "Milton needs you! You have to be a superhero! You just have to!"

"Well, no time like the present," Andrea said as she stared at Nicholas. To the Knights, she said, "Let's go, superheroes!"

But before the Knights rushed into battle, Sean said to everyone, "I'm sure we might be walking into a bloodbath. From what I'm seeing here, whoever this kidnapper is isn't like the men we caught trying to blow up the Twin Towers six months ago. These people are dangerous, and this case should be treated as such. I'm not going to say that none of us will get hurt, but this is a job we must do to keep the kid safe."

The Knights agreed. As they inched forward in the direction that Nicholas Hinton was pointing, Sean couldn't help but get a feeling of déjà vu. He had been there when he helped rescue little Rachel Grant from her kidnappers in Australia and took her to Los Angeles. He reluctantly left her with Irina while he did battle with the Sons of Ebal. The fight ended with 37 people dead and over 363 people arrested; Sean had exposed the names of the members of the cult, as well as the various businesses that supported said cult. (It was known as the biggest scandal of 1993; the world was quick to condemn the Australian government for its support for a cult that killed disabled people and stole illegitimate children. Even President Clinton slammed the Australian president for failing to stop the Sons of Ebal from killing Lorraine and kidnapping Rachel.

But that's for a different story.)

A voice inside the house said, "I know you're cops; we have a policy about not calling the police! Now you can watch him die!"

"You think?" said Dicky.

"I don't think," said the voice. "I know who you are, Sean Michael Rowes! I know who you are and I know what you've done! And I've waited a long time to get my hands around your throat!"

Sean tensed for a second, but then he remembered; Milton Holt was in grave danger and he needed to escape from his kidnapper. All Sean had to do was to convince the kidnapper to release their hostage and surrender peacefully and the incident would end.

But it wasn't that simple.

"I know someone out there told you about me!" the voice continued. At the same time, several people began backing out of their houses, as the situation became dangerous. The police had been notified and they showed up, quickly surrounding the house. The chief of police said to Sean, "What's going on here?"

"I'm not sure, but a young boy named Milton Holt is being held hostage in that house," Sean said as he pointed to the house in question. "So what can you tell me about Milton Holt?"

"John is the younger son of Robert and Nadine Holt," said Chief David Bingham. "He's also friends with Jed Hamilton and my son Clayton. John's all right, but his twin sister Barbara is a bit of a troublemaker."

"How much of a troublemaker are we talking about?" said Andrea.

"For the last few years, Barbara had been beating John for something he didn't do," said Chief Bingham. ”Clay and Jed had been trying to protect him from her abuse, and Jed's aunt had intervened several times. She even had Milton removed from the Holt family when the abuse was traced back to Barbara. It appears that Barbara had found out that Milton had escaped from her and decided to hunt him down, hence this particular incident. As for Jed, he and a group of other students recently exposed a bullying ring at Lochland High School, which caused a huge scandal. Over 50 students were expelled from that school a week ago. I guess Barbara decided to kidnap her brother to hit back at Jed, as she was among those expelled from school for bullying and child abuse."

"I see," said Sean. "So why would she kidnap her brother to get back at Jed for getting her in trouble? Or did Jed expose a secret about her that she didn't want revealed?"

"Who knows?" said Chief Bingham. "We must end this crisis immediately or else someone will get hurt."

At this point, Milton's voice was heard: "Jed? Are you out there? Please come quickly; she's going to kill me!"

At the same time, Barbara said, "Are you here to get my brother? It's not going to happen! You now have five seconds to disperse or else you're dead!"

"Dude, are you crazy?" said Aydin Baxter.

"She is out of her mind," said Philip Cooper.

"And what about Milton?" Sean said. "He was never part of this, or was he?"

"Forget about me," said Milton. "I didn't want Jed being dragged into this. In fact, I didn't want to be a part of this, but it's all her fault. Barbara was always telling me what to do!"

"Then why are you listening to her?" said Sean. "Why are you always listening to her?"

"She's my sister," said Milton. "I have to listen to her! You think I have a choice?"

"Of course you do," said Sean. "Take it from me; I know what it's like to be bossed around by my older sister. Wait, scratch that, I have five older sisters."

"What's it to you?" Milton snapped.

"The point is, though, you can't let other people run your life, and especially not your sister," said Sean. "She can't tell you what to do. In fact, she's not allowed to tell you what to do."

"What do you mean?" Milton snapped.

"John, don't look right through him," said Chief Bingham. "Look at what Barbara has done to you! She's been beating you for the last five years of your life and abusing you..."

"No she’s not," said Milton. “She doesn’t abuse me…”

"It's abuse if she doesn't let you have your own friends and beats you up for hanging out with them," said Nicholas, who stepped from behind a cop. "Besides, she doesn't love you; she just wants a punching bag."

"Nicholas is right, Milton," Jed said as he and several other people showed up. "Barbara didn't care about you at all. Did you forget that she beat you up so bad you spent several weeks at the hospital two years ago? And you had to have brain surgery at that."

"I know," said Milton. "Jed, you can't save me..."

"Listen to me, Milton," Jed said as he and his friends stood in front of the house. "We used to be friends. We used to play video games and ride our skateboards at the park. Do you really want to give that up in exchange for being Barbara's chew toy?"

"Wow," Dicky said to Andrea. "His sister treats him like THAT??? Margaret would NEVER do anything like that to Lysander."

Milton came to the doorway upon hearing Jed's voice. He frowned, remembering the boy who he helped regain his identity as a boy after years of seeing him wearing dresses. He remembered Jed helping him defend himself against bullies and beating up a popular boy who insulted Milton and called him gay. He remembered confronting Barbara when she plotted to get rid of Jed and his friends and send him to a town in Mexico where he couldn't escape or get help.

Just then, Nicholas and Jed reached out and grabbed Milton, hugging him. "Well, that was easy," Andrea frowned.

"Easy? More like anti-climatic," Dicky said as the boys stepped off the porch and rejoined the other children in the yard. "I don't know about you, but I think this is the most boring rescue ever."

"You think?" said Jed. "This is Barbara Holt we're dealing with here, and Barbara will kill ANYONE who tries to take her favorite punching bag away from her. We already had a tragedy last when we couldn't protect my older sister sister Zoey from her older sister's wrath..."

"Though to be honest, Zoey was protecting YOU from Freddie," said Anastasia Hoffman. "Don't forget, SHE wanted to kill you for saving Zoey and keeping Zoey's daughters away from her."

"I stand corrected," said Jed. "But we can't let what happened to Zoey happen to Milton..."

Just then, Barbara also came to the door. "Jedidiah Hamilton," she snarled as she stared at him. "You've gotten me in a lot of trouble! You told them lies that got a bunch of us kicked out of school and sent to jail. Plus, you have the nerve to claim that I have a child and she’s from you..."

"Well, you did have Casey, but she’s not Jed's daughter ," said Milton. “I can’t wait to see Clayton’s reaction when he finds out that his girlfriend has been cheating on him and with the most popular boy in the school too."

"And what about you, big brother?" Barbara clapped back. "When last I heard, you had Ashley and Maddox from that Melissa Palmer!"

"Melissa raped me!" Milton snapped as all the girls and most of the boys gasped in horror. "No one cared that I had been raped, but everyone cared when Freddie Lloyd had you beaten up for lying to her about me! Now everyone will know who and what you really are, and this time, you can't stop me!"

"You would dare," Barbara began, but then several people burst onto the scene. They were members of the Knights and they didn't take too kindly to those who kidnapped innocent boys and threatened the lives of innocent people. "This is the Knights," Robert Kane yelled as soon as he saw her. "Barbara Anne Holt, you are to lay down your weapons and surrender. Anyone in the area must assist us in apprehending her!"

And with that, all hell broke loose.

Barbara snarled at the Knights, "You'll never take me alive!" she brandished a shovel and waved it around like it was the Holy Grail and the knights were thieves that were coming to take it away from her. "You'll have to get past my cold dead corpse in order to get to Milton!"

"Actually," Jed began to say, but Milton clamped his right hand over his mouth. There was no need to give away his actual position, not yet.

"Come out now," Sean said as he stared at Barbara. "You don't have a choice. There’s nowhere you can escape to and everyone here knows who you are.”

"You better listen to him," said Chief Bingham. "You don't want to make this any harder on yourself than you should. You’re already in trouble for bullying and child abuse, so don't add anything else to your rap sheet."

"And why are you siding with him?" Barbara snapped at Bingham. "You of all people should know that Milton Holt is the worst sort of fraud and Jed Hamilton was wrong to be friends with him instead of me!"

"Boy, is she a mess," said Matilda Gilliam.

"You think?" said Nicholas.

"I don't think, I know," said Matilda. "But anyway, we gotta put an end to this crap show before someone gets hurt."

"Such as how Barbara has to turn herself in before she ruins everything that we worked for in terms of helping Milton get his life back together after Melissa took it away from him," said Jed. "Believe me when I say that when we get through with Barbara, she's next. No one hurts our friends and lives!"

"So you think you can keep protecting Milton from me, even if I manage to find him?" said Barbara.

"And the news knows who you are and what you've done," said Nicholas. "You're finished, Barbara Holt!!"

"Indeed," Barbara said as she pulled out her gun and aimed it at Sean. "I know who you are, Sean Michael Rowes," she snarled as she stared at him. "I know that you made that report about bullying and child abuse on your Stale Grapes News. You had no right to call me a child abuser, especially since I never abused anyone in my life!"

"But you have," Sean said as he tried to ignore the gun being pointed directly in his face. "You’ve abused your own brother for no reason, other than to have some fun abusing him. I've heard about the scandal in your school, the scandal that's sending many of your friends to jail for the rest of their lives. You’re one of the ringleaders in the bullying ring, I’m sure, and you've also decided to make your brother's life a living hell because you hate him. But that ends now, Barbara."

"What are you going to do about it?" said Barbara. "You can’t stop me; you're just a news reporter."

"Funny you should mention that, since I’m one of the guys who stopped the 9/11 attacks before they happened," said Sean. "And before you protest, I can assure you that I’ve heard those ridiculous rumors that the attacks were supposed to happen and my cousins should have been dead in those attacks, and I made sure that those who made those comments were punished. But not today. Today, it's about you giving up your delusions of grandeur and embracing the cold reality of a life sentence..."

He didn’t get to finish his speech because a gun went off. And the moment that gun went off, everything went straight to hell.

The knights burst into the house and were promptly shot by Barbara as she tried to get to Sean. Mobley, hearing the gunshots from inside the house, snatched Milton and ran down the street, not stopping until they were far away from the house.

At the same time, Jed, Anastasia, Matilda, and Nicholas pulled out their wands and aimed them at Barbara. Jed said, "Abandon this futile mission, Barbara; it's not going to work! And killing those people isn't going to stop us from stopping you, so you might as well give up!"

"Never!" Barbara yelled as she waved the gun around.

"OK, that's it," said Nicholas. "She's going down!!"

"Uh, let's not kill her," said Matilda. "Remember, from above, the wicked will face their judgement."

Little did they know that that wasn't the worst of it.

The police, upon hearing the gunshots, also burst into the house, attempting to apprehend Barbara, but she began throwing knives and other things at them. Danny Snider said to Sean, "You would think she was recruited by the Sons of Ebal with the way she's fighting against us."

"You think it's always about the Sons of Ebal?" said Sean. "It’s not about them; nothing is all about anything. I didn't know the Sons of Ebal existed until I saved Rachel Grant in 1993. Even then..."

Just then, a bullet brushed past Sean’s face and embedded itself into a nearby car. Sean gasped, knowing that had he not moved when he did, he would have been dead. "OK, that was a little too close for comfort," he said with a strange look on his face.

"No shit, Sherlock!" said Kevin White. "Anyway, where's Mobley?"

"If he was smart, he would have taken Milton and gotten out of here," said Sean. "He doesn’t do well with gunfights.” He then observed the scene, which had descended into chaos when Barbara began her shootout and said, "Let’s end this farce of a standoff and go home."

True enough, most of the people in the neighborhood had fled upon hearing the gunshots. "Them crazy white kids dun pushed us around long enough," a Black man said as he and his family fled from their home. Sean nodded, knowing that it wasn't always going to be evil cults and corrupt news reporters he would have to fight. He would have to fight against ordinary citizens that went crazy and disrupted the lives of regular people.

The thought of an ordinary person like Barbara Holt kidnapping people and abusing her brother made him sick. He vowed to talk about that on the next Stale Grapes News broadcast.

By the time the shooting was over, Sean discovered that there were only six knights still alive, with the rest of them being caught in the crossfire. Seven, if you include Mobley, who was probably still running through the community. Sean also took stock of the victims; no civilians were hurt or injured, even if they were all shaken up by the shooting. Milton's friends Jed, Anastasia, Matilda, and Nicholas were searching for Mobley and Milton. Several police officers were wounded in the shooting, and Barbara was nowhere to be seen.

Until that moment that a heavy shovel connected with the back of his head and he fell to the ground, hearing nothing but the screams of various people who couldn't escape from the shooting in time...

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