A Flute Player's Story

Lost and Found

I woke up in a dark cave. I didn't know how or when I had gotten there. I didn't even know what day it was. I only knew three things; that I was cold, I was hungry, and I was in pain. I thought I was alone, but since I didn't even know where I was, I couldn't be sure that somebody wasn't just outside. The sound of voices coming towards me made me sit up. I got about halfway up before the pain became too much and I had to lie back down with a groan. I tried to muffle the sound as much as possible to keep myself from being found.

"We can't move her. She's not strong enough."

"So we'll carry her."

"All the way to New York? Chepi, we can't do it. She has to rest."

"I've spent my entire life on these plains. I know how to make a sled to carry her. I know many ways to help her heal as we move. If you want to get your sister to safety, I say we move her tonight, before those men find this cave. And mark my words, they will find her by the noon meal tomorrow, unless we move now."

The voices stopped for a minute. During that time, I tried to process what I had heard. The first voice had sounded male. The other voice-Chepi-was female. Wait, I thought to myself. Chepi. My cousin. She was in this cave. That must mean the other voice belongs to Castel. But what did they mean they couldn't move her? I realized the voices were speaking again.

"Maybe we could try it. But she needs to see a doctor. A real doctor. I know something about medicine, but not enough to really help her. If we do move her, we need to go slowly. Our best bet would be to move during the night." Chepi started to protest, but Castel stopped her. "It's the best way. We'll be covered by the darkness of night and those men won't be able to see where we go. They'll have to follow our tracks by day. Hopefully we'll be able to find good enough hiding spots that it throws them off our trail."

The voices stopped again as blackness overtook me once more.

Next time I woke, Castel was gently shaking me. "Na-Na, wake up. You need to open your eyes for me. Na-Na, please."

I slowly opened my eyes and blinked. Everything was fuzzy and my entire body still hurt; it felt like a herd of horses was running over my head. The pain was so bad I had to roll over and empty my stomach. Fortunately, there wasn't much in my stomach to empty and I quickly stopped vomiting. I rolled back over, ignoring the pain as much as possible.

"What…happened?" I managed to croak out. "Where are we?"

"That man you saw…"


"Si. He found us as we were ice fishing. We had to run." Castel explained what happened after we were separated. I had fallen from the tree I was hiding in. Castel and Chepi found a cave to hide in but were worried when I didn't show up. They went back to the camp, but I wasn't there either. A search party had been sent out; almost a week later they found me still unconscious underneath the tree, nearly frozen to death. Chepi had somehow managed to convince the search party to let her and Castel take me back. At the first chance they had, they started running in the direction they thought New York was. That had been a whole month ago. We were now being followed by Mr. Snyder and a man Castel told me was called Mr. Wisel. They were right on our tails and it was almost impossible to move without being seen by them.

"You were hurt badly," Chepi told me. "Your ankle is broken in two places and you hit your head hard when you landed. And your hand-"

"Chepi, can you help me get some more fire wood?" Castel interrupted her, giving her a look I didn't understand. She looked at him, confused.

"What? She needs to know. She'll find out anyway; why not tell her now and-"

"Chepi!" Castel glared at her. I had never seen him so angry and it surprised me.

"Okay!" She left the cave in a huff.

"Castel, what was she about to tell me?"

Castel didn't answer me. He set about pulling out medical supplies and changing my many bandages. I hadn't realized how many I had until just now. My left leg was wrapped up all the way to the knee and my left arm was wrapped all the way up to my shoulder. I had so many cuts, scrapes, and bruises I wondered if there was any part of me that was uninjured.

"Castel? What's wrong with my hand? What happened?"

"I don't rightly know," he finally said. "I didn't see what happened, but you managed to hurt your hand badly when you fell. I don't know how bad it is and I don't think I will until you see a real doctor."

"Don't lie to me, hermano. I know it's bad. How bad is it really?"

Castel's face clouded over and he looked at me sadly. "I really don't know. It's bad though. You may not be able to play your flute again." He kept talking, but I stopped listening. Not play my flute? I couldn't imagine that. It would almost be like not breathing again. I was so lost in my thoughts of not playing again that I didn't notice when Mr. Snyder entered the cave.

"Hello, children," he said, smirking. "I've been looking everywhere for you."

"Race! Racetrack! Wake up!" Someone's voice hissed in my ear and the person started shaking my shoulders.

"Go away!" I muttered sleepily, putting my hand out and shoving the person away from me. "Ise sleepin."

"Wake up, youse scabber!"

I threw my pillow at them and rolled over. I was dreaming about Ally and nobody was going to wake me up from that. A body landing on me told me otherwise. "Wassa matta wit youse?" I groaned, pushing what looked like Spot Conlon's body off me. I had no idea why he was here. After our fight about Ally a month and a half ago, we had hardly spoken. When we did, it was mostly to fight about her. Those fights usually ended with me somehow telling him to deal with Robin or Spot telling me that since Ally had left, she didn't care about me. So far nobody had managed to make us stop our fighting. "Why is youse here?"

"It's Ally," he whispered. "She's-"

"Git off me!" I gave Spot another push and sent him crashing to the ground. I sat up and glared at him. "Stop whisperin. Ise can't hear youse. Wat about Ally?"

Spot held out a letter. I took it and started reading it as Spot talked. I didn't know who it was from; the handwriting was too neat to be Ally's and the words were all spelt right.

"It's from Rooster. He wrote me weeks ago. Something happened. Something bad. Ise think Ally's hoirt."

I reached the bottom of the letter and froze. Spot kept talking, but I couldn't hear him. All I could hear was the racing of my heart and blood pounding in my ears. Something bad happened, all right. Snyder had tracked Ally to Arizona. The sound of my fellow newsies getting up brought me back to the present.

"Race, youse okay?" Jack asked me. Behind him stood Crutchy and Blink, all three of them looking concerned. I shook my head and everyone started asking what was wrong.

"Wat happened?"

"Are youse hoirt?"

"Did youse hear from Ally?"

I shook my head again. "Ally's hoirt."

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