"Are you sure you don't want me to call a doctor, Mr. McCallister? It worries me your wife's been out of it this long," the chief of security at O'Hare told Peter with a concerned expression inside his office at the airport.
"Not quite yet; she was out of it longer last year. Kate, honey, I know you're in there; it's time to come back, for Kevin's sake," Peter gave her a shake on the shoulder. Kate did not answer and did not make any response. She continued instead to quake softly in her seat, her eyes rolled back into her head and her mouth open wide, as she'd been since realizing Kevin had gone lost again. "Kate, I know it's terrible this somehow managed to happen again, but we're going to need you for this," he reiterated, shaking her a little harder.
Slowly, Kate's lips started to move. "'Everything's going to be OK, Mom,' he said," she whimpered weakly without changing her expression, "'Nothing's going to happen this year,' he said. Why does this always keep happening to us, why, why, why, why, why, why...!?"
She let out a loud, mirthless laugh before returning once more to her catatonic state. Peter shook his head softly. "Well, she'll snap out of it soon enough," he told the security chief, "So, for the record, how DID this happen!? How could he and all those other kids just disappear in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the world!?"
"Well, we're still trying to sort everything out, Mr. McCallister, like we've told the other parents who've gotten here so far," the security chief scratched his head, clearly unable to give an easy answer to Kevin's father, "That power failure we got was the first problem; that scrambled everything up. Once we got it back working again, we were way behind schedule, and the airport brass gave the order to send out everything at once so we wouldn't fall way behind."
"Why, why, why, why, why!?" Kate moaned again, her head rolling around for a few moments before going still again. The security chief raised his eyebrows at her. "We looked at the most recent weather reports, Mr. McCallister, and saw the snowstorm to the west was going to unexpectedly intensify, which as you can see did happen," he pointed out his window, where the snow was now coming in torrents; indeed, at least eight inches had already fallen by now. "So management made the decision to get all the flights that were delayed by the power failure out of here as soon as possible so people wouldn't be stranded. We also got everyone that was stranded on the planes that had just landed before the power failure off so they wouldn't be stuck, so as you can see, it's pretty easy to see how he and those other kids could have gotten lost in the mass confusion."
"OK then, where were all the flights off the Cross American Airlines concourse going to at that time!?" Peter challenged him, "We'd really be able to narrow down where he and the others are if we can figure out which plane he got on."
"Easily done, Mr. McCallister; a quick check through the boarding schedule'll give us some answers," the security chief started typing some information on his computer...
...when suddenly it and all the power in the room went out with a low zap. "Oh great, another power failure!" the security chief roared, slamming his fist on the desktop, "Either they didn't fix the substation well enough, or this snow took out a power line!"
Indeed, another glance out the window showed the entire airport dark again. "Terrific, just terrific!" Peter threw up his hands in disgust, "Just when we might have gotten a quick break...!"
"Worst mother ever, worst mother ever..." Kate moaned out loud. Her husband sighed softly. "Don't worry, I'll snap her out of it now," he informed the security chief. He pulled Kate close and gave her a warm kiss on the lips. Kate responded to this by letting out an ear-splitting scream that threatened to shatter every piece of glass in the office...then turned to Peter with a normal expression on her face. "Did I miss anything?" she asked innocently.
"No, unfortunately not, honey," Peter patted her hand, "Good to have you back again, though."
"Back? Where have I been? And where am I? How'd...KEVIN!" she shrieked again, going pale.
"Now take it easy, Mrs. McCallister, we are working on finding your son as soon as possible," the security chief quickly assured her, looking worried that she'd do something dangerous, "Or at least we will once the power comes back on..."
"Well in the meantime, I suggest you round up all the gate attendants on the Cross American concourse and see if any of them saw him get on one of their planes," Peter suggested firmly, "And then call through to all the airports those flights went to so we can see if any of them are holding him and his classmates there."
"We will when the phones are back up, Mr. McCallister," the security chief held up his receiver, which had no dial tone at the moment due to the power failure.
"Just do it as quickly as you can. And for the record, my wife and I want to help directly to find our son, so we'd be glad to man the phone banks with you when we do have working phones again," Peter offered.
"We'll consider it, Mr. McCallister. If you'll excuse me now, I'll go check with the rest of security here and see what if anything they've found out," the security chief rose up from behind his desk, a frown spreading on his face, "If I may ask, though, how do you lose a kid three years in a row?"
"I'd rather not answer that, please," Kate held up a hand, looking green at the mere thought. The security chief gave a soft nod and bustled out of the office. "Do they have any leads?" Kate asked her husband once the airport guard was gone.
"Maybe," Peter filled her in on what little they did know at the moment, "But you know of course, Kate, this one's not our fault, right? This is completely a freak accident that just happens to correlate with the terrible mistakes we did make the last couple years..."
"Peter..." she cut him off, once more looking sick.
"Sorry, sorry," he apologized, "Well, on the bright side, at least we know he's not alone this time, assuming the rest of his classmates got on the same plane as him."
"Who else is here...just Mitch and Lisa?" she noticed the Ostrowskis on the other end of the waiting room outside the security chief's office through the dim emergency lights now glowing.
"Guess no one else could make it right now with the weather being what it is; I'm sure they'll come in once this storm finally does stop," Peter glanced at his watch, "And where's Frank and the rest of the family!? I left the note on the front door when I drove us here. Hope they're still holed up at the house. I'm going to try Leslie's cell; you let me know if any leads come up while I'm gone."
"Right," Kate's eyes drifted back over to the Ostrowskis. Once her husband was gone, she bustled over to them. "Lisa, Mitch, hello," she greeted them softly.
"Oh, hi, Kate," Mrs. Ostrowski greeted her through misty eyes, "Any new leads where Nate and Kevin might be?"
"Not that I know of," Kate shook her head softly, "This snowstorm wasn't supposed to be this bad," she pointed out the window at the falling snow, which seemed to be even heavier now, "And this is screwing everything up in finding them. How are you two holding up?" she asked the Ostrowskis.
"Not good," Mr. Ostrowski looked just as grim as his wife, "We flew like the wind here once we heard something went wrong with his trip. I mean, Nate's been upset ever since he learned he had a little sister coming," he pointed at his wife's large chest, "But we'd do anything for him, and to not know where he is, not being able to help him...it's excruciating..."
"I know; believe me, I know," Kate nodded knowingly. She took Mrs. Ostrowski by the hand. "When I brought Kevin here, I saw that final confrontation you and Nate had; is it really that bad between you?" she had to ask.
"I wish it wasn't," Mrs. Ostrowski sniffed again, "Mitch and I wanted the experience of holding a baby again. Nate's apparently thought that meant he was going to get shoved aside and not cared for anymore. He even screamed he felt betrayed by us the other night. We love him so much, he'll always be special as our first child, and to think the last thing I might have heard him say to me was that he hated me..."
She broke down sobbing. "I know, Lisa, I know," Kate pulled her into a hug, "We'll find him if we have to move heaven and earth to do it. I'm sure he's all right; Kevin's a survivor and he'll make sure nothing bad happens to him."
"How did you manage, Kate, each time you realized you'd left him behind?" Mrs. Ostrowski looked up at her, "What held you together?"
"The knowledge that I was going to get back to him by hook or by crook," Kate told her, "And wherever they are now, at least we know they're going to stick together until we can get to them."
"I hope so. Because it's driving me inside wondering what he's doing now..."
"Come on, let's get this parade started," Nate at that moment was saying out loud in the courtyard of the Walley World Resort, staring impatiently up the well-decorated Victorian street before he and his classmates.
"Still about five minutes to go, Nate," Kevin checked his watch. He glanced up at the large Christmas tree in the center of the square. "It's still not right," he mumbled out loud.
"What isn't?" Sarah asked from next to him.
"There's no snow," he told her with a frown, "I hate having to be grounded in a place where there's no snow for Christmas. At least there was a big chance for that in New York; what are the odds of getting it out here?"
"You always were bent on snow for Christmas, Kevin," Julian half teased him, taking a sip of hot chocolate from the Marty Moose mug he'd bought at a nearby vendor, "Hope they do get started soon; the wait's a killer."
"Excuse me please," a man pushed his way through the crowd to the curb next to Kevin. Kevin glanced up-and recognized him at once. "Excuse me, aren't you Martin Walley?" he asked. Roy Walley's eldest son had made frequent appearances on his father's prime time program in recent years.
"Huh? Oh, yes, yes I am," the man glanced down at him. "And you are...?"
"Oh, Kevin McCallister. My friends here and I are spending the night here," Kevin dug through his backpack for a piece of paper, "If it's not too much to ask, can I have your autograph? I mean, you are a critical part of Roy Walley Entertainment, and everything it's done for American culture..."
"Well, you're the first person to ask me for one, but I guess I could oblige," Martin dug out a pen and signed his name to the paper, "I think you hold me a little high, Kevin, I guess you said, but I do appreciate the respect. Seems half the board of directors don't give me and my father any respect anymore."
"We'd heard about that when we checked in," Kevin told him, "Is it really that bad?"
"It is," Martin sighed glumly, "For so long, everything was going smoothly. Then after we had those couple of flops in a row, the board voted for change. Since then, Chuck Burke's been turning everyone against us, although he at least seemed to trust me enough to let me oversee this casino's opening. He was rather adamant about it, too, for some reason, which was surprising given it was his idea to open this in the first place."
"I wouldn't call all your films flops, Mr. Walley," Kevin assured him, "Green Willow kind of missed the mark, and last year's release of The Chimes was a little glum. But given how great almost everything else you've done's been, I think it's just by comparison to what's come before."
"Well, let's just hope Jorinde and Joringal can be a success. Can you keep a secret?" Martin bent down to his level.
"Well, my father's thinking of retiring very soon. He just wants one more success so he can go out a winner, so hopefully this film will be that final triumph."
"Roy Walley retire!?" Ethan seemed stunned at the very thought, "Who's going to lead the company then, you?"
"I would hope so-my father's wanted it to be me all these years. But I have to wonder if Burke's got enough loyalists in place now to give him the top spot. And frankly, we've been having a lot of accidents here at the resort lately; I had no control over them, but I know it reflects on how my leadership might look to the board, so..."
"Excuse me please, coming through," it was Sidney now approaching the curb as well. "Well, you took my advice then, huh kids?" he greeted Kevin and his classmates warmly.
"We figured, why not, Sidney," Kevin told him, "Thanks for the tip."
"Glad to. And look who else is here; nice to see you made it too, Martin," the bellboy greeted Roy Walley's son with a vigorous handshake.
"I had to make sure everything went smoothly tonight, Sidney. I don't want any more mishaps like the other night's parade breaking down before it got started," Martin seemed quite worried.
"Well, I think they fixed that. Anyway, do you kids watch Splat Zone regularly?" Sidney asked them.
"Every weekend," Kevin told him; while he'd watch pretty much any game show that was in good taste, Walley Entertainment's recent kid-oriented offering was a personal favorite.
"Well, they're having a live broadcast tomorrow night at six. If you'd want to try out for it, show up on Stage 3 on the resort studio tour by eleven; they'll be taking potential contestants then," the bellboy informed him.
"Well that sounds quite interesting," Kevin nodded firmly. Perhaps it was a good idea to stay longer at the resort than he'd originally planned. "You guys up for that?" he asked his classmates.
"Not at all; that show is for the lower-minded, and I refuse to get myself slimed up or otherwise dirtied while acting like a fool," Danielle turned away from him with a snort.
"The rest of us would love to do it," Nate was excited at the prospect himself, "And because...OK, here we go," he rubbed his hands excitedly as the courtyard's lights dimmed. "Ladies and gentlemen, the Walley World Resort is proud to once again present for your viewing pleasure The Ice-Tacular Holiday Parade!" announced a peppy man's voice.
"They'd better not include 'Keep It In,' in this," Julian grumbled, "If I have to hear that song one more time..."
"Oh you don't like it?" Danielle turned towards him.
"No, and they play it too much on the radio anymore. Why...?" Julian got his answered as Danielle leaned into his face and practically shouted, "Keep it in, keep it in; don't let the world see your tears...!"
"Enough, let's just watch the parade," Kevin stepped between the two of them. While he agreed "Keep It In" got played too much since Green Willow's release last year, he was at least open to hearing the song. The first song that rose up, however, was an exciting tune that presaged, to loud cheers, the appearance of the parade's first float, an electric light-encrusted ice castle with Marty Moose, decked out in a Santa suit, on the spire. "Hello, Marty," Kevin waved at the company mascot. He glanced down at his paper. "And now I have the signature of the man Marty was named after."
"Yep, that's certainly worth something all right," Sidney leaned down to his level with another grin. "Merry Christmas Walley characters!" the bellboy waved happily like a big kid at the rest of the characters on the float-Steven Skunk, Orville Opossum, and Horatio Hare among them, Kevin noticed. He took note of the next float coming, themed, fittingly, after last year's animated feature The Chimes. "Not a bad design," he remarked out loud, waving at the man playing Trotty Veck atop the bell tower on the float.
"We did go through a couple of design phases for this one," it was Martin's turn to lean down to his level, "Fortunately, we've got a good group in Creative with Artie Ralks and John Trench in charge, and they whipped this one up."
"I never did like the bell tower goblins, though," Sarah was shrinking away from several of the performers playing the characters from the film who were skipping too close to where they were standing.
"They weren't bad at all-although some of what they showed Trotty in the future was a bit grim," Nate gulped, "When he saw his daughter about to drown herself, that almost had me..."
"Well that's what Charles Dickens originally wrote in the story," Ethan pointed out to him. "Any plans to do any of his other holiday tales soon?" he asked Martin, "There's still the other three besides A Christmas Carol that don't get done much."
"Not that I know of," Martin shook his head.
"There were others?" Kevin been unaware of this fact himself.
"Dickens decided to do a holiday story every year after A Christmas Carol was a smash success," the class brain explained, "He gave up after five years when they didn't sell as well, but besides The Chimes, he also added Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man to his collection. It was..."
"Oh no!" Julian groaned out loud, jamming his hands over his ears. For "Keep It In" was now blaring over the loudspeakers, heralding the arrival of the Green Willow float. Kevin was impressed with this float's slick Oriental-style design, which managed to blend well with its snowy trappings. He gave another wave to Green Willow and Tomotada on the float-and jumped as the evil tree spirit lord Kukaru's head jumped out from behind some trees and breathed fire at the happy couple. "Talk about unnerving, that guy was," he admitted out loud. "Actually, all your villains have been great lately," he commended Martin, "Ravanna in The Ramayana really scared me half to death, especially when he started growing all his heads and arms back during the final clash with Rama and Sita."
"Good to know, I think," Martin seemed unsure of how to respond to this.
"Hey, the best part of any Walley film is the final showdown with the villain," Nate said firmly, "And that was the best one yet. Although Vasilissa's clash with Baba Yaga wasn't bad either. You can listen again, pal, they're gone," he tapped Julian on the shoulder now that the Green Willow float had passed, "Looks like the new one's up next."
Kevin saw it too; the Jorinde and Joringal float was approaching now. It had the appearance of a snowy wood, with the main characters at the front, holding hands. Their de facto sidekick Gregory the owl hooted in a tree overhead, while behind them, sneering with a sinister grin and clutching several cages of her enchanted birds, lurked Jacosta the witch, who looked like she was going to be another candidate for scariest Walley villain, Kevin thought. He watched, entranced, as the float pulled alongside...
...when suddenly, there was a loud zap, followed by an explosion, and the float, now burning in the rear, abruptly veered off the street. "Watch it!" Kevin quickly grabbed hold of Ethan and Sarah on either side of himself and jumped out of the float's way just in time.
"Hold on!" Sidney's arms scooped all five children up at once. The bellboy leaped clear of the float, which roared across the courtyard to the loud screams of patrons and slammed hard into the wall. "Oh God, oh God, oh God!" Martin was practically hysterical at this rather dangerous mishap. He rushed over to the burning float. "Everyone all right!?" he asked the performers as they jumped off to the floor.
"We're OK, but I think we accidentally nailed a couple people," "Joringal" said breathlessly, pointing grimly at several guests lying groaning on the floor behind them in their path."
"I don't know, Mr. Walley," came the driver's voice from the small driving space near the front of the float, "The whole works just shorted out on us here!"
"Sidney, help me get these people to the medical center, stat!" Martin frantically waved Sidney over to him and the injured guests. Sidney set the children down. "You all OK?" he asked them with concern.
"We're fine," Kevin asked breathlessly, his breathing starting to return to normal. He looked at his friends, who seemed all right themselves.
"OK, just call if you need anything," the bellboy rushed off to help the injured. "What just happened!?" Nate spoke for everyone, "Are they supposed to break down like that!?"
"I don't know; Ethan?" Kevin asked the brain.
"Probably not, Kevin; floats don't just short out like that," Ethan shook his head grimly, "I think it was tampered with."
"Tampered..." Kevin mused softly. It appeared they'd just walked into something big. And his feelings had now started wavering back towards alerting his family where they were again...