The cult leader roughly comes to a stop in front of Tommy's house and nearly breaks the brake as he parks the car. To think two Slenders were right outside the house, and he missed them! He turns the car off - but then growls and punches the dashboard. His fists hurt, but he does not stop until he accidentally hits the horn. Cursing, he pulls out his cell phone and speed-dials one of the idiots in the Black Circle. The phone rings two and a half times before someone answers.
"H-Hello?" the other voice says.
"Are you done with the pictures?" The boss wastes no time getting to the point.
"Yes, sir. We took plenty for you to look through."
"Bring them back to the mine. And have someone check on the Slender lady. Make sure she's not strong enough to escape."
The lackey hesitates.
"Do you understand?" the serial killer nearly shouts.
"Y-Yes, sir. Of course, sir."
"And make another copy of that list. I want one for myself, and I'm giving one to the police."
"...Um, sir?" The minion sounds very small. "W-We, uh, lost the list."
The leader blinks. "Lost the list?" His voice sounds eerily calm.
"Well, Joe was overpowered by those kids. They took the list."
The leader lays his head back against the headrest and chuckles, rubbing his eyes.
He sits back up and opens his eyes. "You mean to tell me, that a bunch of high school students happened to take out one of the toughest members of the Black Circle, and get away with the list? Just like that?"
He bangs the door open, his eyes darkening. "Find those kids," he says, his voice dangerously dropping. "Get back that list. I've worked too hard to let my plans be ruined by those pre-college brats." He hangs up, makes to throw away the phone but at the last minute stops. He growls and shoves the phone into his pocket, storming up to the front door. I just need the boy, he thinks. He knocks on the door with one hand, the other fingering his handgun.
James is sitting on the ground, taking in everything the Fitzgeralds said. All the misunderstanding, all the violence and crime, all the terror...is to get back at him? For stopping that psychopathic jerk?
"I remember," Charlie says, sitting on the ground and staring off into space, "that guy came by my apartment and said we shared a common enemy." He looks up at James with a guilty expression. "I don't think you're my enemy."
Trevor makes his way slowly over to his friend, extends a hand until he feels James' shoulder. "I'm sorry," he says softly. "No one should have to go through this."
James looks up at the blind boy, at everyone around him. Charlie, Lily, Kevin, Jenna, Victor, the Fitzgeralds. All the danger they were in. Because of him. "I'm so sorry," he says, his voice heavy. "I never meant for anyone to be hurt or scared." He hangs his head.
"James," Lily says, rising to her feet and taking a couple steps towards him, "none of this is your fault. You saved Charlie from that creep, you protected all of us when he tried to come for us again. You had no idea he was gonna turn everyone against you and all other Slenders."
"And you saved me from those thugs in front of my house," Trevor speaks up. "You're my hero."
"See?" Lily gestures to the sullen Slender.
"Besides," Victor adds, leaning against a nearby tree, "people were bound to find out about us sooner or later. They keep cutting down our forests, and soon we won't have anywhere to hide."
Kevin, who has kept silent this whole time, lifts his gaze. "Um, guys?" he says quietly. The others stare at him. He looks at the two Slenders. "Is there anybody else you know? Or who knows of you?"
James and Victor look at each other, then shake their heads. "No one that we can think of," Victor replies.
Kevin glances down again and rubs the back of his neck. "I've been thinking," he tells them. "About that list? Our names were on it."
"Right!" Lily pulls the list out of her pocket and unfolds it. "All our names are on it."
"Well...all the people on that list, I think, are related to the Slenders in some way."
Lily looks over the list. "Eric Knudsen's on this list, the Slender Four, Trevor, Kevin, Jenna, Karie..." Her voice trails off.
Jenna peeks over Lily's shoulder. "I recognize those names," she says, pointing to two other names. "Henry and Valerie Dingwall. I used to work with their daughter in the mall, but then her parents went crazy about some sort of tall, pale stalker and disappeared shortly after."
"Let me see that," Mrs. Fitzgerald says, holding her hand out. She looks over the list. "I recognize a few of these names from the news. They went missing and were found mutilated in the woods. They had some crude pictures of stick people." She glances up at James and Victor with an embarrassed look. "I assume the pictures were of you."
"But I've never mutilated anyone!" James says. "I can't think of any Slender who's done that!"
"Whoa, this guy's good," Charlie says. "He's been living under the radar for who knows how long."
"It's sick." Trevor would glare if he could, but all he can manage is a grimace. "He's willing to kill whoever to get to you, and he makes everyone think you're the one doing it. Hasn't anyone seen anything out of the ordinary? Didn't anyone think about this guy?"
Mr. Fitzgerald speaks up, "Actually, there was a news report a few years ago. He was being chased by police, but then jumped into river rapids and was swept away. His body was never recovered."
"I bet he had some sort of device that kept him alive," Jenna says. "Or maybe even some followers back then to help him out."
Lily jumps and pulls her phone out of her pocket, James and Victor recoiling and hissing in pain. "Man, that freaked me out," she mutters. She presses a button. "It's from Tommy." All the humans (except the Fitzgeralds) follow her when she walks away from the Slenders, her phone to her ear. "He says he got the warning, he and his parents made it out of the house as someone was walking up, and they're heading into the forest."
"Why there?" Kevin asks.
"Probably because it's dark and no one can easily see them."
Charlie asks, "What about Peter?"
"Still no word from him."
"It sounds like the leader is already at their house," Trevor says. "Hope he doesn't hurt 'em."
"I'll go get them," James says, stumbling a bit as he stands up. He raises his hand as everyone opens their mouths. "I feel responsible for dragging you humans into this, I'm going to make sure you stay safe under my watch."
"But what if he shoots at you?" Charlie says.
"Or if he has something electromagnetic?" Kevin adds.
A thought pops into Trevor's mind. Before he can stop himself, he blurts out, "How about more Slenders?"
He can feel James' gaze (sort of) upon him. "Are you crazy?" James says. "They could be hurt."
Trevor shrugs. "So could you. You and Victor are good at fighting and protecting us, don't get me wrong, but if there's a lot of bad guys around, it couldn't hurt to have more people, especially if we're gonna get Margareta out of that mine: some to go in and get her, some to be distractions, and some to take out some buttheads."
James brings a hand to his chin, mulling over the idea.
"The kid has a point," Victor tells him. "I can try to contact the rest of my clan. They all have shadow powers. It would come in handy in the mine, since no one really knows how to get around in there."
James nods. "And my clan can stretch our torsos and arms extra long...Sure, I guess it couldn't hurt to have a few more Slenders." He disappears in a blink and returns a minute later with Tommy and his parents.
"Tommy!" Charlie and Lily say at the same time, going over to hug-attack their friend. The wary parents slink away to join the Fitzgeralds and demand in hushed voices what in the name of Mike is going on.
"Stay here," James tells them as he and Victor give each other a look, and each vanishes to his respective area.
James still has not found his original clan yet, but he remembers Alder Grobman offering his help that one time James arrived in the Black Forest too late. He hopes Alder is still willing to help. Once in the Black Forest, he calls, "Alder! Alder!"
"Hush," Alder says right behind him. "Someone may hear you."
With a sigh in relief, he turns to face the German Slender. "It's good to see you again, Mister Grobman."
"And you too, lad. How haff you been?"
"I'm in trouble."
"Not just me, but all Slenders are. A very dear friend of mine has been captured, and if I don't turn myself in within a day, they'll kill her. And the cult leader knows there's more than one Slender."
"Oh. Zat's not good."
James shakes his head. "No, it's not. And I was wondering...well-" He rubs the back of his neck, "I remember you once offering to help me when we first met. Are - I mean, could you still help me?"
Alder throws his arms out. "Of course, herr Slenderman. It's ze least I could do for you."
Sigh. "Thank you so much!"
"Just let me get ze rest of our clans."
"Okay - wait, our clans?"
Alder rests a hand on James, and the two of them teleport to a small clearing somewhere. Every Slender stops what he or she is doing and stares at James. He searches among the blank faces, but not once does he sense any familiar faces.
Then it hits him. That familiar buzz that only comes from members of his clan. But where? He keeps looking around at the people in front of him.
A voice behind him says, "Son?"