Viva Las Vegas
"Well, looks like we're going to get a little more snow than they called for earlier in the day," Peter McCallister proclaimed, looking out his front window at the increasingly strong snowstorm starting to blanket Lincoln Boulevard under a mantle of white, "Just hope Frank and the kids are careful coming back."
"I just hope Kevin can make it back safely," his wife mumbled from the sofa.
"He'll be fine, Kate, and you know it," he assured her, coming back over, "I think you worry too much about him anymore."
"Well, wouldn't you after what's happened...?"
"Well, first, let's get back to what we had planned in the first place," Peter popped the cork on a champagne bottle, poured two glasses full of it, and sat down next to Kate. "To us," he handed her one glass, "Finally a night alone, just the two of us again."
"To us," her expression brightened. She tapped her glass to his and downed the champagne. "Twenty years together," she sighed happily, "And it's been one heck of a ride-for better or worse."
"And I wouldn't want to have shared it with anyone else," Peter put an arm around her, "It still seems like just yesterday I saw the loveliest woman in the world in the Millikin library while looking for books for my accounting final and decided to ask her out. Best decision I ever made."
"Seems like yesterday, yes," Kate grew melancholy again, "It's gone by too quickly, Peter. Sometimes it seems like I was laying Buzz in his crib for the first time only hours ago; now he's going off to college next year, and Kevin's going to be entering his teen years before we know it. We're aging too quick; the kids are aging too quick."
"Well, that's the way it goes," her husband mused, taking another swig of champagne, "But we've got to let them grow up, Kate. And look at it this way; other than the last two Christmases, I think we've done a really good job raising them all. We should give ourselves credit; we've done good as parents-more or less. And when they go..."
Kate abruptly jerked upright, her face going taut. "Honey, what's wrong?" Peter took her hand.
"I have that feeling again," she said softly, her expression not changing.
"That we've forgotten Kevin? Come on Kate, don't let the memories of the last couple Christmases get to you," he told her firmly, "He's safely on the plane with his teacher and classmates; there's no..."
It was at this moment the phone rang. Kate's eyes grew wider. "Don't answer it, Peter," she begged as he rose up again.
"Kate, it's probably just Frank saying they're coming home early; now will you relax!?" he half-laughed, picking up the receiver. "Peter McCallister. Yes, Mrs. Ingram, I..."
His own eyes started going wide. "WHAT!? How!? Well didn't you...OK, calm down, I know this is upsetting for both of us, but...OK, we'll be there soon. Just keep looking till we get there, just in case you miscounted."
He very slowly lowered the receiver back onto the cradle, his own expression now numb. "Uh, Kate, you're not going to believe this, but..." he began, but was cut off by the rustling of Kate's footsteps as she ran to the window, clearly already knowing what had been said on the phone. "KEVINNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!" she screamed at the top of her lungs through the window, her cry rising high over Lincoln Boulevard and echoing all over Chicago...
"...and so my Mom showed up at the Rockefeller tree, and we all reunited at the Plaza," Kevin finished relating his adventures to a wide-eyed Sarah on the plane, "And then I decided that for everything the pigeon lady did for me, she deserved the extra turtle dove, so I gave it to her. Then my dad got the room service bill," his expression crashed, "And to make a long story short, it was a pretty agonizing plane ride back to Chicago."
"Well, at least you saved the kids' money," she was visibly impressed, "Wish I could have the chance to do something like that."
"Same here," Nate remarked next to her, looking much more comfortable with her presence now, "I'd've given anything to have gone along with him on that. Several days without any parents would have been great."
"Well I've told you, Nate, it wasn't as great as it looked at first," Kevin reminded him firmly, "There were a couple of times each instance where things could have ended badly for me with no adults around. Believe me, I thought the way you do at first, but then I realized there wasn't nearly as much fun in the whole experience without someone to share it with. And while it was good to stop the Bad Guys each time, it felt even better to get my family back in the end. I didn't realize how good I'd had it until I'd lost them."
"That's your opinion; I don't care if I'd lose mine after what they've done to me," Nate grumbled bitterly. "But anyway," he turned to Sarah again, "We've been pressing Kevin to try and get his story published; it would make a great book, maybe even a good movie..."
"Nah, I don't think it would be interesting enough for a movie," Kevin shook his head, although he wasn't completely sure on this, "But since Julian's into writing, I told him if he wanted to look into it..."
"What about me?" Julian stuck his head over the top of the seat in front of him.
"Kevin's showdowns with the burglars; you said you'd take a crack at writing them, remember?" Nate reminded him.
"I never said that," Julian dug out a notebook and opened it up, "And as you can see, I'm busy right now with another story. Sir Ethelbert's quest for the jeweled wedge of cheese."
"You always did like the stories of knights and dragons and all that," Kevin nodded knowingly, "Let me have a look when you're done; maybe if..."
His eyes narrowed, noticing the time on Julian's watch. "Wait, is that right?" he frowned, staring hard at it, "It can't be nine thirty. We can't have been in the air that long...could we?"
"Huh?" Julian checked the watch himself. "That's strange, it didn't seem that long a flight," he mused, staring out the window, "I guess I lost track of time while writing..."
Kevin's gaze shot out the window. There was no snow below them, as would have been the case in Illinois-rather, there was sand, and seemingly miles of it. "Ethan," he leaned over the seat and stared firmly at his other friend, "You said you were sure this was the right plane. Is it!?"
"Uh..." Ethan turned to look out his window. "Uh oh..." he mumbled softly, his eyes getting wide.
"Uh oh what!?" Kevin didn't like the sound of this.
"The moon's moved backwards across the sky since I last saw it," Ethan admitted in a faltering voice, drawing quickly away from the window (Kevin knew he didn't like heights that much), "I think we made a huge mistake. We're heading west-far west..."
It was at this point the PA system buzzed to life. "Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, we ask that you fasten your seatbelts and make sure your tray tables are in their upright and locked positions as we begin our descent into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada," rang out the stewardess's voice.
"Las Vegas!?" Nate was stunned, "We got on a plane to LAS VEGAS!?"
"Vegas..." Kevin moaned softly, slumping back in his seat. It couldn't be true, he thought desperately; he couldn't have just gotten himself separated from his family for a third year in a row! That was utterly impossible...wasn't it...!?
He remained partially dazed as the plane touched down on the runway and skidded to a stop. "Kevin, you in there?" Sarah was whispering in his ear, sounding gravely concerned, "Kevin, what do we do now!?"
"Oh, uh..." Kevin snapped out of his funk, "Stick together above all else. Let's just make sure this is what we think it is." He glanced warily up the aisle. "OK, we know Danielle's on here too," he told the other boys, "Whoever's bravest, go break it to her."
"Let the witch find out herself, I say," Julian muttered dismissively.
"Guys, I don't like her either, but she's alone now too, so we're all going to have to stay together whether we like it or not," Kevin pressed him. Come on," he took Sarah by the hand again, "We'll go find someone to confirm this is Las Vegas."
"Kevin, how are we going to get back to Chicago?" she asked, looking quite worried. Kevin had no easy answer. There was only one good hope, he knew, threading his way quickly through the crowds streaming down the causeway to the terminal: that somehow this wasn't Las Vegas, and the people at Santa's Village were somehow playing an elaborate trick on the passengers...
Emerging into the terminal, he in fact noticed a guard standing by a pillar. "Excuse me," he walked up to the man, bracing himself for the worst, "Is this Las Vegas?"
"Of course it is, young man," the guard frowned, "Didn't they tell you that on the plane?"
"Yeah, they did. Thanks anyway," Kevin's heart crashed all the way down to his ankles. He slowly trudged with Sarah over to the terminal's nearest windows. Sure enough, the glowing lights of the Strip were plainly visible. "Oh no," he groaned miserably, slumping his head against the window, "I've done it AGAIN!"
"Well we just grab the next plane back, don't we?" Sarah asked him hopefully.
"Probably not without passports we don't, Sarah," Kevin admitted glumly, "And there may not even be a plane heading back to Chicago tonight..."
"So we're stuck here forever!?" the girl started whimpering, "I want my mommy...!"
"Hey, hey, don't cry, please," Kevin pulled her close, "I'll think of something, I promise. We'll get home somehow..."
"McCallister!" it was Danielle's enraged voice behind him. The rich girl was storming towards him with a furious expression. "How dare you strand me here in Nevada!?" she bellowed, giving him a shove.
"Don't blame me, Danielle; there was total chaos in O'Hare!" Kevin protested.
"Besides, you were dumb enough to get on the plane too, you know," Nate snickered as he and the other boys arrived at the window as well.
"Don't you dare call me dumb, Ostrowski!" she waved a threatening finger in his face, "My father can have your parents fired from their jobs in a heartbeat if I ask him too!"
"Not when they don't work for him, princess," Nate shot back.
"You just wait and see; I'll have...!"
"Quiet!" Kevin shouted to stop the bickering, "Like I said on the plane, we're going to have to stick together with this. Now let's all put any ill will aside and do the rational thing and call home to let everyone know where we are."
He scanned the concourse for the pay phones, and saw them against the far wall. He felt around in his pockets and found only one quarter. Well, he thought, it would have to do...as long as he could make the call count. He waved everyone after him towards the phones. "Julian, give me a lift up," he asked his friend, who complied. Kevin dropped the quarter into the slot and dialed his house number. "Please pick up, please pick up!" he begged in his mind. Heartbreakingly, however, only the answering machine sprung to life on the other end. "Mom, Dad, it's Kevin; when you get this, I got on the wrong plane again. I'm in Las Vegas. Come as fast as you can; I'll be waiting," he left a message, hoping they'd get it soon. "Anyone got another quarter?" he asked the other children after Julian had lowered him back to the floor.
"Hold on a minute here," a wry grin was spreading on Nate's face, "What are we so worried about? Why should we have to rush to go home? We're here in a major resort destination; why don't we enjoy it?"
"Nate, think what you're saying; our families are going to be worried stiff wondering where we are. That's why we need to go home," Kevin frowned at him.
"Worried? You saw yourself at the airport that they don't care if I exist anymore, Kevin," Nate countered, "I say we go back when we're good and ready to go back; like you did in New York, I say we enjoy the town while we're here."
"Nate, you're not thinking this through rationally! This isn't some kind of game; this is a serious situation!" Kevin shouted at him, "And even if you and your family are at odds at the moment, we can't...!"
"Actually, I'm with Nate, Kevin; right now, I'm in no hurry to go home," Ethan spoke up as well, "Maybe if I'm gone for a while, they'll stop fighting and get back together for me..."
"Ethan, come on, you know that's not how...!"
"Sorry, Kevin, but they have a point," Julian spoke up as well, "Maybe my dad'll think twice about trying to force me to do what I don't want to if..."
"Stop, everyone, just stop!" Kevin slapped his hands to his temples, feeling overwhelmed and helpless. "All right," he sighed in frustration, "I suppose we COULD spend a little bit of time..."
"You won't regret it, Kevin," Julian commended him with a smile, "Besides, if it's nine thirty, it would be all night if they did come for us, and I don't want to have to stay here all night."
"Same here, not with the town waiting for us," Nate rubbed his hands eagerly and shouldered his bag.
"Just a minute again," Kevin raised his hands, "Haven't any of you guys thought this through!? Where are we going to stay for the night if not here, may I ask!?"
"Well, I guess we'd do what you did in New York and book a room somewhere..." Julian proposed.
"Which would be all good and well, Julian, except I lucked out in having my dad's credit card handy. I don't have it with me now, and I don't think any of the rest of you do at the moment either," Kevin frowned him down.
"Wrong. I know she does," Nate turned with a deep grin to Danielle. "Absolutely not!" she bellowed at him, pulling her purse away from him, "I refuse to share any hotel room with the likes of any of you!"
"But you do have plastic, don't you?" Nate continued to press her. Danielle growled in frustration. "Yes, daddy bought me a card of my own; it's signed in his account, and he's OK with me using it any way I wish..." she confessed.
"There, you see, and since it's his account, any transactions would be legal, Kevin. So what do you say?" Nate grilled him. Kevin put a hand over his face. "Well, if it would be a legal account, I guess it's the best we can do," he conceded, "All right, we'll do it-but first thing in the morning, we call home, all right? I'm dead serious here, guys, this is not some kind of game...guys!"
The other boys had snatched Danielle's purse and were running towards the escalators with it. "Give that back, you ruffians!" she shrieked furiously, charging after them. Sighing, Kevin waved Sarah to follow after them all. "I hope we're not making a big mistake not alerting the authorities that we're here now when we have the chance," he confided to her.
"Well, I would prefer a hotel to the airport anyway, Kevin," she told him, "Where are we going to stay?"
"Well," Kevin thought hard, "If everyone else agrees to it, there's one obvious choice for us..."