The four remaining kids sat in their corner at the diner. It seemed odd; the booth was bigger without James there.
He had been lapsing in and out of consciousness, never fully awake when they came to visit him. Of course as soon as Penny came into the hospital, she demanded truthful answers, and the kids gently explained the horrible circumstances that had brought them there, starting with them accidentally hearing the argument and later listening in on it.
She tried calling the parents of every single teen, but no one answered, including James' family. Diana's technical guardian was still out there partying. She was most likely in Vegas, getting the idea from Di's mother. J's uncle also was missing in action, but that wasn't a surprise.
It had been days since James had landed in the hospital, and the nameless man was still out there. The grandmotherly side of Penelope Langston wanted to ship her grandson, and by extent his friends, out of Myso Valley ASAP. But the part of her that was an activist and a governmental scientist knew secrets well. She understood that whoever was after her grandson would just follow him out of town.
Everyone agreed it would be best to keep Alex's old little grandma out of the loop. They parked her van in the garage and kept it closed 24/7. Also, the four kids shouldn't go out alone, and they should stay in crowded places. Most days Tim, Kristen, Alex, and Di spent their time indoors, usually at Di's place. It seemed miserable that they had to stay in so often, but it rained for five days after the cliff episode, so they were comforted knowing they didn't miss much.
Eventually the rain stopped, and the next three days they sat around, reading, talking, bored out of their minds.
When they couldn't take it anymore, they decided to take walks in pairs. Alex and Di, Tim and Kristen, Kristen and Di. It was fine until Kristen and Tim went out.
They were walking along the edge of the park, enjoying a clear-sky sort of day.
"Kristen," Tim said after a time.
"That car's following us. Don't look back."
"I know," she said. "I won't. Think we should run, or would that look suspicious?"
The young McGee thought for a moment. "If he follows us after we turn the corner, run for the woods."
The two walked down in silence. They turned their feet in the direction the side walk pointed, but their bodies were pointed at the woods, ready to make a getaway.
The car followed after them.
"Run!" Tim hissed. Both took of like a shot, thanking God for making them fast. Sprinting through the woods was frightening, but the car couldn't trail off the street, and it left them alone.
Hopping a couple fences to avoid walking out in the sidewalks, they made it back. Explaining what had happened to Alex and Di, the four decided to only walk in threes and four from then on.
Eight nights after James was put out of action, the cabin fever got intolerable. It was either go insane, or get out. The diner seemed safe, since it had at least two adults inside at all times.
"What's the plan?" Diana asked as brightly as she could manage.
"We stick to the dark. Stay off of the sidewalks and streets. No where that you could see us from a car," Alex strategized. His parents might have thought he was irresponsible, but their son was very capable. He picked up his talent for strategy from his dad.
"Anything else?" Kristen rolled her eyes.
"Nope," he grinned.
They did just that. When the four arrived at the restaurant, Mitch and Lisa asked a million questions, but they deflected them as best they could.
"Where's J?" Lisa asked.
"Oh, he's resting. He got hurt," Diana said.
"Poor baby. He's gonna be ok?"
"He should be good as new in no time," Tim said. Alex stared at him as the owners went into the kitchen.
"Who talks like that? 'He'll be good as new in no time?' Really?"
Tim couldn't help himself. He started laughing. The others joined in, and it seemed almost normal for the first time in over a week. James could have been at home recovering from a football injury. It had happened before! No big deal. He'd be back soon, and all would be right in the world.
They ordered lots of food, and after they finished, the four sat back to talk. It was a busy night, at least fifteen people came in after ten thirty.
Around eleven thirty, there was no one left in the diner, save the kids. However, the bell dinged and a man walked in and sat at the counter.
"Menu, please," he said.
The kids froze. Kristen stopped mid sentence.
It was him.
Tim pulled a menu up in front of his face. The rest did the same. Officer Carroll, or whoever he was, hadn't noticed them yet.
"We can't get out from the front or he'll see us," Alex hissed.
"The back way," Di said. Tim peeked out from behind his menu to see the phony officer watching them out of the corner of his eye. His jacket was thick on one side, holding a shape that could only be a gun.
"Oh god, he saw us."
"Well, so much for that," Kristen said. "It was nice knowing you all."
Tim closed his eyes. The gears in his head turned at insane speeds. His mouth was moving slightly based on his thoughts.
Every possible outcome...every possible way to get out alive...
"I have a plan. Kristen, get up and pretend like you're heading to the back to use the bathroom. Get Mitch and Lisa to hide. We don't want them hurt. Then, switch off the lights. It gets so dark in the front that by the time Carroll understands what's going on, we can run out the back door."
"What if he recognizes her?" Alex asked.
"He won't, I'm sure of it."
"Act casual or something, because this looks pretty sketchy what we're doing right now," Di warned.
Kristen spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, and got up, keeping her face pointed away from the counter.
"Order me a chocolate milkshake. I need to use the restroom."
The girl walked as calmly as she could to the back, her heart in her throat. She passed the man, and he didn't notice.
Tim's plan would have gone off without a hitch. Maybe things would be so much different then. Except for the banging open of the kitchen door. Kristen dodged around the bend.
"You want anything else?" Mitch called from the doorway. The man turned and made eye contact straight with Tim.
Everything else moved in slow motion.
The man at the counter whipped out his gun...
Kristen pulled Mitch to safety in the kitchen...
The gun was aimed straight at Tim...
The lights went out.
"MOVE!" Alex shouted. Bullets were flying everywhere. A window shattered, a couple mirrors shattered.
"Getoutgetoutgetout," Kristen yelled from the back exit. They burst out the back door, practically flying. The problem was that they made it only a couple yards before Alex fell.
Doubling back to him, Tim moved to help him up, knowing their attacker would be out the diner any minute, with the upper hand: a car.
But when Tim went to move his friend, he gasped at what he saw.
Alex was lying in his own blood.