A Parting of the Ways
"I'll tell you one thing for sure, Kevin; these guys don't know when to give up," Ethan huffed, taking a glance over his shoulder at the crooks still charging after them.
"Believe me, I know; I put them through enough stuff that would stop normal guys, and they just keep coming," Kevin stumbled out of his Splat Zone uniform and snatched up his backpack from the table it was sitting on backstage, "We've got to get security and get them arrested quick-DOWN!" he pushed everything within arm's reach down as another shot rang out, zinging over their heads.
"Better head for the lobby; there's got to be security guys on duty out there," Julian reasoned.
"Probably. Ditch the uniforms in case we have to lose them in a crowd," Kevin instructed everyone else who'd been on the team with him. He burst through the door to the lobby and slammed it shut. He pushed against the door, hoping to buy enough time for everyone to undress into their regular clothing. The door strained from the pushing of all the criminals behind it. Kevin pushed back for all it was worth. "Where's Sidney? Wasn't he watching where we went!?" he asked, gritting his teeth.
"We must have left too soon for him to catch up-we're ready," Nate called to him.
"OK, go!" Kevin released his grip on the door, sending everyone pushing on it toppling flat on their faces from the sudden loss of pressure. He quickly scanned the lobby. "There, the guy at the desk!" he recognized Les talking to Stone by check-in, "He can call security for us! Come on!"
He led the rush up to Les. "Mister, call security, we're being pursued!" he announced breathlessly.
"Oh, it's you," a dark look spread on Les's face, "I've been waiting for you kids to come back, after we got the call that Mr. Charles Lindhurst is actually a whole continent away, and that you've been shopping up a storm with that credit card you used to check in."
"That's my father's card, and I'm perfectly entitled to use it...!" Danielle shouted at him.
"Save us the dog and pony show. You kids are going down for credit card fraud. Mr. Stone, place them under arrest and have them locked up in the city jail," Les instructed the security chief.
"With pleasure-no you don't," Stone grabbed Kevin's arm when he tried to run, "You're all coming with me...!"
"Hey, give 'em here!" Harry bellowed, running up with his gang in tow, "We'll take them from here!"
"I am chief of security here, and I'll handle this, mister!" Stone warned him.
"You don't understand, we got a long history with this kid, and we wanna finish him ourselves, so gimme!" Marv grabbed Kevin's other arm and started pulling.
"I don't care what you have with him, you're making a scene and ruining your cover, so let me do my job!" Stone pulled back.
"If ya don't give him up, we'll take him by force!" Harry leveled his gun at Stone.
"You know, gentlemen, this isn't really the time and place to force the issue!" Les hissed nervously at Harry under his breath, "You could jeopardize our whole mission by shooting at kids and make a scene in here...!"
"Can it, pops; we want blood, and we're gonna get it!" Harry shouted, reaching for Kevin's throat.
"Hey, leave the kid alone!" Sidney finally appeared, to Kevin's enormous relief, and snatched him away, "He hasn't done anything to anyone here...!"
"Mind your own business, fat boy!" Harry threatened him, "The kid's ours!"
"You're not going to touch him or anyone of these other kids," Sidney threatened him back, "And know that if you try anything, I have a black belt in Akito," he lifted up his trouser leg, "And the boots to match."
"And you're risking your job standing up for these kids, Evangeline, because they're all guilty of credit card fraud," Les told him sternly, "They checked in with the card of a man in Singapore at the moment. So they're going with Stone to jail. Hand the kid over to him."
"No," Sidney leaned right in his face, "They're not hurting anyone, and they certainly don't belong behind bars."
"I'm warning you, Evangeline, hand him over or you're fired!" Les warned him. "You people move along!" he shouted at all the bystanders watching the scene, "There's nothing going on here. Take the kid, Stone!" he ordered the security chief.
Stone grabbed for Kevin-only to take an Akito kick square to the chest from Sidney. "Run, get out of here," he instructed Kevin, "I'll hold them off."
"Thanks. Go, guys, go!" Kevin waved everyone to run after him towards the front door...
...but it was promptly blocked by a trio of glaring security guards, who quickly extracted guns from their pockets. "Back, back...on second thought, turn!" Kevin realized the Wet Bandits gang was right behind them and leaped to the side just in time. But security guards were circling all around them, and Sidney was too busy trying to keep Stone down to help them now. "They've got us surrounded; now what!?" Julian asked out loud, dodging one guard who dove right at him.
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking!" Kevin weaved away from more guards and the large hulking henchman of the Bad Guys.
"I don't have to worry; I can just turn myself in and explain everything, and I'll be home free," Danielle was only slightly worried.
"And you think these guys are going to care about that!? They WANT to send us to jail, in case you didn't notice! Side entrance!" Nate pointed an additional escape door to their right-but the long haired thug cut them off. "Going somewhere!?" he sneered, activating his switchblade, "I've wanted to gut a kid for a long time now. Who's first?"
"I GOT THEM, HARRY!" Marv took a flying leap towards the children from behind, but sailed over them and slammed into Sam, sending them both to the floor. Two more security guards, however, rushed forward and blocked the door again. Kevin leaped backwards when they tried to grab him. "The elevators!" he realized, "Let's go back up to our floor!"
"More company over there, though!" Ethan pointed towards the elevators, which was being swarmed by guards who'd seen them heading in that direction. Kevin saw one elevator opening up. "Everyone do what I do all together," he commanded, "Right...now!"
Just as he had the previous year at the Plaza, he dove hard and slid under the legs of the guard right in front of the elevator, a slide that had enough momentum to carry him inside. Everyone else slid in as well-but Sarah only generated enough momentum to get halfway inside, and an enraged Stone dove forward and grabbed her legs and tried to pull her back. Thinking quickly, Kevin jumped back out and tickled Stone hard under his left armpit. Stone broke out laughing long enough to release Sarah. Kevin grabbed her arm and pulled her back inside before the guards could grab them, and seconds before the door slide shut and the elevator started rising. "That was even worse than last year's lobby chase," he lamented, slumping against the elevator door. Then his rage boiled over. "I told you that you were spending too much!" he rounded on Danielle, "One or more of the stores on the Strip must have called the hotel here and tipped security off! I hope you're happy now, Danielle!"
"Yeah, this is your fault!" Nate also lambasted her. For a moment, Kevin thought he saw Danielle's lip quivering, as if she was about to break down in tears at the accusation; indeed, she almost did look ashamed. Then she forced a haughty look onto her face. "It most certainly is not my fault; the rest of you had to buy a lot too," she retorted back, although not all together convincingly, "And if we're going to the top floor again, McCallister, you've just boxed us into a corner. How are we supposed to escape here now, may I ask?"
"I don't know; I'm making this up as I go!" Kevin admitted sharply, "I'm not an all-knowing seer!"
"Well, let's make them see what you've done before; let's rig up our room and let them get smashed silly like you did to them before," Julian proposed, looking quite eager to participate in giving the Wet Bandits a beat down.
"Love to, Julian, but it's not going to work here; two or three rooms with easy sightlines won't stop them, and we'd have no way to get out after they get back on their feet," Kevin pointed out, "And what are we going to use? Some soap and mattresses? The first year, I had my house and knew everything in it; last year, I was lucky to find my uncle's brownstone and lots of convenient things in it. We don't have that luck this year. We can't do it, not now and not right here, at least."
He sighed at being unable to immediately do what he'd done before. "But if you guys heard them down there, the Bad Guys know the staff here," he pointed out, frowning, "Something's going on, and I think they're in cahoots together. If we get out of this all right, we should find out what the story is."
"So what IS the plan, then?" Ethan grilled him. Kevin thought hard. "Go to our room, grab our stuff, and get out down the fire escape-and hope they haven't cut it off," he reasoned, "Then go to the police..."
"No way, these guys are close to the police," Nate vetoed it, "The cops'll believe them over us."
"Well we have to try," Kevin paused as the elevator came to a stop at their floor, "Anyway, let's just get our things and be out of here," he declared. The six of them rushed out the door and turned to the left...
"Aha," Burke, grinning darkly, stepped out of his hotel room, "I knew you'd come up here if Mr. Stone couldn't stop you. Take them, men," he called out loud. About a dozen security guards poured out Burke's room, guns at the ready. Kevin gasped and backpedalled, but the elevator had swung shut behind them. They were cornered with nowhere to run. "OK kids, just come along quietly," one snickering guard advanced towards them, "It's a nice quiet night in jail for all of you."
"Guess again!" Nate jumped up and pulled the nearby fire alarm. The alarm bells clanged shrilly, sending people running out of their rooms in a panic. Fortuitously, many of them stumbled into the guards, knocking them down. Kevin looked around. Too many guards were still clustered around the fire exit down the hall, but they had at least bought time to get their things. Hopefully once they had, the odds would be more in their favor. For now...
"To the room, quick!" he instructed everyone. He rushed towards their room and jammed the card key into the slot-but saw a furious Burke rushing him with his arms outstretched. "In, quick," he waved everyone inside, slammed the door shut before Burke could reach him, locked it, and grabbed a nearby chair and jammed it against the lock. The knob jiggled furiously. "Break this thing down, now!" Burke could be heard ordering the guards. Kevin jumped back as the door rattled hard. Clearly, the door wouldn't hold for long. "Well, now see what you've done, McCallister; now you've gotten us really good and trapped!" Danielle shouted in his ear, "Where are we supposed to go from here!?"
"I have another idea," Kevin ran into the girls' room and yanked the comforter off the bed, "This is what I did last year at the Plaza when the concierge snooped around in my room. "I just hope it works like this. I'll need two of you; Nate, Sarah, come with me. The rest of you, hide under the beds until we get rid of them."
"Harder!" Burke shouted outside. The door shuddered and started cracking off its hinges. Kevin knew they didn't have much time. He raced into the bathroom and turned on the shower full blast. "Nate, in the tub; Sarah, on his shoulders," he instructed them, digging around in his bag for his Talkboy, "I hope I didn't erase this...!"
He rewound the tape and played it, then rewound again. But on the third rewind, Uncle Frank's voice came on. He breathed a sigh of relief and rewound to the very beginning of the clip. "OK," he pulled the shower curtain closed, climbed up onto Sarah's shoulders and draped the blanket over all three of them, "We're going to have to coordinate this just right for this to work. When I start this, move in rhythm to the music like you're singing along to the song. And keep doing it until I tell you otherwise, and stay completely quiet too-and hope they don't realize something's up."
There came a loud crash as the door caved into their room. Kevin took a nervous breath. This attempt at the familiar trick had a larger degree of possible failure without the convenient inflatable clown to project a convincing human figure. And he could feel Nate starting to sway from their weight below him; hopefully they'd be able to remain erect as long as eyes were on the bathroom. "The bathroom, I hear somebody in there! Go, go!" came Burke's shout from outside. "OK," he whispered nervously to his friends, "Here we go...now!"
He hit the Talkboy's Play button. "We know a guy who can really do the Cool Jerk," Uncle Frank's voice boomed out loud. Kevin almost lost his balance once Sarah started swaying along with Nate below him, but regained it by locking his ankles to the sides of her head. The bathroom door burst open. "AAAAACCCK! S-S-S-Sorry, sir," one of the guards stammered, "Wrong room, Mr. Burke," he announced.
"Wait a minute, I don't remember any man coming into this room. What's the story here!?" Burke's footsteps stomped into the bathroom, "You there, who are you!?" he demanded, "How did you get in here!?"
"Don't come any closer!" Kevin begged; the last thing he wanted was Burke coming closer, not until the right moment. Fortunately, luck remained with him for the moment, for Burke remained where he was, shouting, "Can you even hear what I'm saying, buster!? Some kids ran in here; did you see or hear anything!? I'll give you till the count of three to answer, then I'm coming over there, and I don't care what you look like in there!"
"Get ready to turn and point at him," Kevin whispered as softly as he could; the music was starting to crescendo to a climax. He pleaded it would reach the critical point before Burke came over. He listened closely to the tape as Burke starting counting down outside: "...on their faces, they wear a silly smirk, because they know I'm the king of the Coooooool Jerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrkk!" "Turn!" he hissed, spinning his body to the left with the others just in time, as Burke was storming towards the shower. "Sarah, point now!" he hissed again, hoping it would work. Fortunately, it did; Sarah thrust her finger at Burke seconds before he grabbed the shower curtain, and at the exact moment Uncle Frank bellowed, "Get out of here, you nosy little pervert, or I'm going to slap you silly!" on the tape. "YIIIIIIIII!" Burke yelped, diving backwards onto his rear end, "Sorry, sir, we'll leave you now, sir! Let's go, now!" he ordered the guards, who hastily left the bathroom. Kevin breathed a sigh of relief. "OK, that at least buys us some time," he declared, stopping the tape and starting to climb down off his friend's shoulders.
"So now what?" Sarah asked him, "There's probably still a lot of guards out there."
"Yeah, the floor's probably still swarming with them. We're still boxed in," Nate pointed out. Kevin thought hard. "Wait," he realized, "I saw the wire Marty slides down at night to start the fireworks show's right outside the window. "Anyone want to go for a slide?"
Too late, he heard footsteps stomping back towards the tub. Seconds later, the shower curtain was pulled aside. "Aha! I thought I heard kids' voices in here!" Burke had returned, "Come here, you brats!"
He grabbed for them. Nate leaped up, seized the shower head, and twisted it towards Burke's face. Burke stumbled backwards from the blast of water, sputtering. Kevin dove for his feet and knocked him down, sending him face first into the water-filled tub. "Let's get the others-look out!" he noticed more guards running back in. He dove to the wet floor and hydroplaned under their legs. Nate and Sarah did the same. "The window, over here, quick!" Kevin called to the others, who crawled out from under the beds. He ran to the window and thrust it open, then threw the bug screen aside. To his relief, the wire was indeed within grasp. "Grab on, we're taking a ride," he instructed them.
"Um, Kevin, you know I'm really not that good with heights...," Ethan gulped nervously, unable to look at the steep drop below them.
"Sorry, but it's either us or them, and I don't think you want them," Kevin pointed back towards the guards now charging towards them. They had to go now if they wanted to. In a flash he seized Ethan, hoisted him onto the wire despite his ear-splitting shriek of terror, and pushed him off. "Jump!" he shouted grabbing on and sliding down the line. The drop was vertigo-inducing and seemed to last forever, but finally he touched down on the roof of a much smaller building on the far side of the resort. He jumped out of the way as everyone else landed next to him. "That was great!" Julian had loved the ride, "Let's do it again."
There was a burst of grief from a pale, whimpering Ethan, who was doubled over in terror. "Hey, hey, I'm sorry, Ethan, but they were going to hurt us or worse," Kevin put a sympathetic arm around him.
"Let's just get back to the ground and get out of here; I don't want to go to jail," he mumbled, the color starting to return to his face.
"No problem there," Kevin saw the fire escape and ran towards it. In minutes, they'd reached the ground. "Now where?" Sarah asked him.
"Anywhere but here; just keep moving," Kevin saw Las Vegas Boulevard ahead of them. They could get lost in the crowd if the Bad Guys were still nearby. He rushed onto the sidewalk and across the street, away from the angry guards and burglars, but now on their own in a city that, as Sidney had mentioned, wasn't appreciative of children after dark...
"Come see the show, kids, come see the show," a sleazy-looking man thrust a flyer for a show Kevin suspected was not for kids at them. Kevin jerked away from him. Unsavory-looking people all along Las Vegas Boulevard had been looking at them strangely during their walk up it. Hopefully there could be somewhere family-friendly they could stop at soon...
"I'm getting tired, can't we stop?" Sarah protested.
"Not just yet, we've got to find a safe place," Kevin told her; he could tell she was tiring (they were now up to the Riviera after a long walk away from the Walley World casino), but they couldn't stop now. There seemed to be nothing around them, though, but glittering mega-casinos-and dangerous-looking derelicts all over the sidewalks.
"Where are we going anyway?" Danielle demanded.
"I have an idea, but we've..."
"Hey kid, gimme a dollar," a drunk staggered towards him with his arms extended. Kevin quickly rushed away. "Come on, one dollar, brat!" the drunk bellowed at him. "I don't like it out here," Ethan was looking nervous.
"I don't either, Ethan, and I don't want to go into the casinos; that guy probably called them and told them to be on the lookout for us, if that how they knew we were shopping with the credit card," Kevin rationalized, "And I don't want to risk getting into a cab either..."
"Hello there, sweethearts, all by yourselves?" two unpleasant-looking women, likely in an unsavory profession, leaned towards them. Kevin bolted away again. "Got to be some way to get to the airport safely," he muttered.
"Airport?" Sarah asked him.
"That's the only thing I can think of; at least airport security's less likely to turn us in, and then we'll be safe when our families get here," he explained.
"Well that's all good and well, Kevin, but there's just one big problem: McCarran's the other way," Ethan pointed in the direction they'd come. Kevin groaned in frustration and slumped his head against a lamppost. "Why is it so hard to get back home!?" he shouted out loud.
"Who said we're going home? I'm perfectly fine here," Nate said sharply. Kevin spun to face him. "What are you crazy, Nate!?" he asked incredulously, "What do you think we just went through a while back!? This isn't a vacation anymore; this is dead serious! There are men back there who want to either have us arrested or kill us; how could you possibly want to stay after all that!?"
"I told you, I'm not going back!" Nate shout back at him, "My parents made their decision that their baby means more to them than me, so they can stick it! Let them rot without me; I'm free and I'm happy!"
"Nate, just listen to yourself! You know that's not true at all...!"
"We're free, you idiot, don't you appreciate it!?" Nate barked furiously, "Grown-ups are evil, all of them, and we don't need them! We'll be perfectly fine; we'll just hop a cab to the next city and start over there!"
"Grown-ups are all evil!?" Kevin couldn't believe his ears, "You know, Nate, I think you're half the problem with your family! You're so selfish for attention you treat everyone like...!"
"Don't you dare blame me for my family's crimes!" Nate roared in his face, "Some friend you've been; you've been putting me down at every turn! Well I don't need you; all of you, are you with me, or are you against me!?" he challenged the rest of their group, "Aren't we better off the road living our own lives without grown-ups? Ethan, you know your folks don't care for you when they're too busy fighting with each other; back me up on this!"
But Ethan was shaking his head softly. "Sorry, Nate, but this just got dangerous," he told his friend, "I've had enough; I want to go home."
"Nate, it was fun while it lasted, but it's over," Julian added. He turned to the girls, who nodded in agreement, "All the problems we've had with our families mean nothing when people come at you with guns," he continued, "I want to go..."
"Fine! You want to be against me, be against me! I don't need any of you cowards!" Nate snarled coldly at them all, "Go on back to Chicago and be your parents' slaves! I'm free, and I'm going to enjoy my life of freedom without any adults to put me down! Goodbye!"
He started storming towards a tour bus parked nearby. "Nate, please, you're overreacting here...!" Kevin tried to cut him off.
"Don't you follow me! You betrayed me!" Nate shoved him to the sidewalk. Before Kevin could fully get back up, he'd jumped on board the bus, and it started pulling out. "Nate, wait, come back here!" Kevin shouted, running after the bus, but it had multiple green lights in front of it and soon was well out of range. Kevin roared in frustration and kicked a traffic light. "Selfish idiot!" he shouted out loud. "Now we can't even go to the airport; we've got to find him and talk sense into him!"
"He could be out of the city before we even get close to the bus!" Julian pointed out a major pitfall in trying to find Nate, "Maybe we should just turn ourselves and let the cops know to look for him."
"Let him go; he made his decision, and let him pay for it," Danielle offered.
"No. He may be upset and hostile now, but he is my best friend. We're all leaving here together," Kevin vowed firmly, "If only I knew how..."
He was so lost in thought on what to do now that he didn't hear the squeal of brakes next to them. Suddenly, a rough hand grabbed his arm and yanked him sideways into an RV. He turned and gasped in horror to see himself staring right at the Bad Guys. "Hiya, pal," Harry, in the driver's seat, greeting him coldly, "Didn't want ya to leave without sayin' goodbye-nope, don't even think about escapin'!" he warned Kevin, thrusting a gun at him when he tried to brush past Marv in the passenger seat, "We'll plug all yer pals if ya try!"
Kevin turned to see the Bad Guys' henchmen holding the rest of his friends at gun and knifepoint in the back seat. They'd dropped their guard and had been ambushed, he acknowledged fearfully.
"This isn't all of them," the weasel-faced man holding Ethan at gunpoint was glancing around, "Looks like one of them's missing."
"Yeah, I see. Where's yer other little buddy, pal!?" Harry demanded to Kevin.
"He's not here," Kevin said as bravely as he could, "He ran off..."
"WHERE IS HE, KID!?" Harry demanded, thrusting his gun right between Kevin's eyes.
"I SWEAR HE'S NOT HERE!" Kevin shrieked.
"Hey Harry, you want to move before people get suspicious of all the screaming!?" the long-haired man holding his switchblade to Sarah's throat said with a stern expression.
"Oh, yeah, right, Sammy. We'll find the other one later, after we take care of these ones. Stay put and don't make a sound, pal," Harry tossed Kevin roughly to the passenger side floor, where Marv planted a hard foot on his back to hold him still, "We're goin' for a little ride, all of us."