I Know We'll Make It Through
VALPARAISO, A SHORT WHILE LATER...
Danny Bailey was positive that he was next. “I’m not sure what’s gonna happen or when, but whatever it is, it’s gonna happen to me!” He was the only bully left, and as the leader, he had been saved for last. And as much as the boy hated to admit it, he didn’t have the faintest idea who it was that was out to get them.
“Together the three of us have made so many enemies, heck it could be any one of ’em!” Well, I’m not gonna go easy, and I’m sure not gonna act like those other two - the great big sissies! Shoot, even little Jeddie-weddie hadn’t acted like that!
Danny headed downstairs, feeling like a fish out of water without the other two boys beside him. Three bullies were a formidable force to be reckoned with, two were double trouble, but one? Well, he’d have to wait and see what one was. Since the other two had been given extra chores to do for the next two weeks, he’d be on his own quite a bit.
It was almost suppertime as Danny strolled nonchalantly towards their usual meeting place. Nobody dared to bother them there; in fact, except for the other two bullies nobody even knew that this place existed. It had been a well-kept secret for almost two years.
Jed smiled behind his slate as he watched Danny’s progress towards the ‘secret’ hideaway. Shoot, it wasn’t so secret - I was able to find it! He was positive Han didn’t know it was there. Jed frowned. Proud of his discovery, he had planned on sharing it with his cousin, as a special surprise. Well, this oughta be a real special surprise, alright!
Thoughts of Han reminded Jed that he still hadn’t caught sight of his cousin. Where is he? he wondered for at least the hundredth time. Then a daunting thought struck him. How many times can Han flatten me if he finds out about everythin’ all at once?
Jed waited until Danny disappeared, then sauntered casually towards the hidden doorway, all the while keeping a wary eye out for Han as he waited impatiently for his chance to follow Danny without anyone seeing him. When he reached the place where he would need to stop, he ‘accidentally’ dropped his slate. Turning around to lean against the secret panel, he glanced around the room. Nobody was paying him the slightest bit of attention and there was still no sign of Han.
Well, guess I’m jus’ gonna have to take my chances; I can’t wait any longer. Okay, Han, you jus’ stay busy, wherever you are, for a few more minutes an’ everythin’ will be jus’ fine.
Darting one last quick look around, Jed reached behind him, pushed the panel and quickly ducked inside. Even though he knew Danny would be further down the passage, he crept forward as quiet as a mouse, not making a sound as he neared the last obstacle that separated him from Danny; a thick, wooden door.
Sniffing the air, Jed wrinkled his nose. Yep, Danny was definitely in there, the smoke alone was a dead giveaway. “Wonder if he’s really as tough as he thinks he is?” Jed edged closer and stretched out a hand towards the door, ready to slide the bolt across it.
Suddenly, the door swung wide open. Both Jed and Danny yelled at the same time as they came face to face. Danny backed up against the door and Jed bumped into the wall behind him. It would have been hard to say who was the most surprised. Both boys were wide-eyed; their breathing loud in the narrow hallway, but it was Danny who found his voice first.
“Well, well, well... if it ain’t little Jeddie-weddie! Whatcha doin’ down here?” After darting a quick look around for Heyes and not seeing any sign of him, Danny got a bit braver. “All alone? Whatcha doin’ so far away from your watchdog cousin, huh? Too bad he ain’t around to help ya out this time, ain’t it? Why, I’ll bet Heyes don’t even know you’re down here, does he Jeddie?” The whole time he was talking, Danny had been walking towards Jed; he now stood right in front of the boy.
Jed gulped. I’ve gotta do somethin’ - maybe I can talk my way out like Han does? “He does too know I’m down here – he... he went to get Miss Menius! Yeah, he’s gonna bring her right down here in jus’ a few minutes, you’ll see. Then you’re gonna be real sorry, you’re gonna be in lots of trouble - way more’n Michael or Matthew!” Jed pulled himself to his full height and tried to sound like Han when he was angry, but to his dismay, Danny just laughed and called his bluff.
“Ya know Jeddie, I havta admit, that was a pretty good try. Almost made me believe it might be true. But, ya wanna know what ya did wrong? Ya forgot somethin’, somethin’ really important, somethin’ everybody knows, ’cept you, I guess. Your cousin would never leave ya down here alone while he went for Miss Menius.” He snapped his fingers. “Hey, I think I just figured out somethin’ else; you’re the one who’s been makin’ trouble for us, ain’t ya?”
Without waiting for Jed’s answer, he continued. “An’ Heyes don’t know a thing. He’s almost loco tryin’ to figure out what’s goin’ on!” Danny jabbed a finger into Jed’s chest. “Boy, just wait’ll Heyes finds out about all the stuff you’ve been doin’ behind his back; I’d love to be there to see his face!” The bully paused long enough to draw on his cigar. He exhaled the smoke with deliberate slowness in the other boy’s face, and then smirked when Jed started to cough.
“That’s one of the reasons why we don’t like you two,” Danny went on in a conversational voice. “Did ya know that? You haven’t been here that long, but the two of ya came in together an’ can’t nothin’ - or nobody - come between ya. The rest of us are all alone; heck, we don’t even know if we can trust the ones we call our friends.
“But no matter what happens, you two got each other to lean on when ya need to; ya trust each other for everything. But then, Jeddie-weddie, then you gotta go and do somethin’ like this; it’s really gonna tear Heyes up. Now, what I wanna know, is how ya found out about this place, and why you’re down here - an’ you’re gonna tell me the truth! Ya weren’t gonna do somethin’ stupid now, were ya, little Jeddie?”
Jed shook his head; he was in deep trouble. Danny’s right, nobody knows where I am; shoot, they might never find my body!
Danny leaned down and shoved his face right up close to Jed’s. “Hey, I’m talkin’ to ya, Jeddie! Were you gonna lock me up down here?” His eyes narrowed. “Didn’t think you’d get caught, did ya? Well, ya know what I think? I think it’s your turn to find out what it’s like to be scared for a change!”
Before Jed realized what was happening, Danny had grabbed him and shoved him inside the little room. The boy hit the far wall and crumpled into a pile on the floor.
“Let’s see how you like it!” the bully taunted Jed. Danny grabbed the lantern and slammed the door shut; the loud sound reverberated in the hallway. Knowing it would take both hands to slide the bolt, the boy set the lantern down and laid his cigar on top of the old barrel next to the door in order to push it, but the rusty old bolt was stuck and wouldn’t budge.
Danny kept at it until the bolt finally slid across the door with a squeaky groan loud enough to wake the dead. Losing his balance, the bully pitched forward and fell against the barrel and slid to the ground. On his feet in a split second, he went to stand by the door where Jed was imprisoned.
Meanwhile, inside the room, Jed had managed to stand up and find his way in the darkness to the door. His teeth were clenched tight against the throbbing pain in his arm. “Danny, listen; I was only gonna ask ya if you’d let me come down here with you guys. Han, well, he don’t let me do anything like smokin’; I jus’ wanted to be like you guys, really! I’m tired of bein’ treated like a baby! Danny, ya gotta believe me, I wasn’t gonna lock ya in! Danny? Danny... ya can’t leave me down here!” Jed’s voice had started to crack on his last word. He just had to convince Danny not to leave him down here alone! “Danny?”
After a stretch of silence, Danny’s voice was heard again. “Yeah, I’m still here, but not for long, Jeddie-weddie. Ya know, ya sure do know a lot of funny stories. Wish I had time to stick around an’ listen to ‘em, but well, it’s almost suppertime an’ I’m real hungry. Don’t have too much fun alone down here in the dark tonight, Jeddie-weddie; I’ll be back to check on ya in the mornin’.” And with those parting words, Jed was left the solitary occupant of the small, pitch black room. Please, don’t be gone yet, Jed pleaded silently. “Hey, Danny... are ya still out there?” The boy swallowed what was left of his pride as he begged, “Please... answer me!”
The bully ignored Jed’s imploring as he walked away. “The little brat deserves everythin’ he’s gettin’; teach him to try an’ get the better of me!” By morning, Jed was going to be ready to do almost anything to get out, and Danny knew just what he was going to make him do.
“I’ll take care of two birds with one stone, and Jed’s gonna be the one to do all the dirty work!” Danny grinned. “When I’m finished, Hannibal Heyes won’t even want anyone to know he’s kin to Jedediah Curry; this is gonna be great!” He could hardly wait to find the other two bullies so he could share what he had done with them.
After using the peephole to make sure the coast was clear, Danny cautiously opened the secret door. Everyone was getting ready to head in for supper. Too bad little Jeddie’s gonna miss out; everyone knows how much he loves to eat. For such a puny thing he sure could put it away! “Oh, well, it’ll be all the more reason for him to agree to what I’ve got planned.” The bully smiled as he thought of something else. “Think I’ll bring Jed a little somethin’ to eat when I come back down in the mornin’ to let him out. That oughta make him even more grateful to me and more willin’ to do what I tell him to do.”
Danny joined the others going in for supper; he wanted to make sure he had a front row seat to see Heyes’ face when his cousin didn’t show up to eat supper. An’ when Jed didn’t show up at bedtime…
“This is gonna be even better than I planned – an’ there ain’t one single thing Heyes can do about it!” Danny’s smile went from ear to ear as he got his plate and sat down to wait.
MEANWHILE, WE JOIN “SHERLOCK HEYES” HOT ON THE CASE…
The reason Jed hadn’t been able to find any trace of Heyes was because that young man was occupied with going over the scene of the crimes to see if he could find anything to help him figure out what was wrong with the puzzle he was trying to solve. Unfortunately, what he had found so far hadn’t helped much.
At the scene of the spider attack, all he had discovered was an old jar under the stairs.
“This could’ve been what held the spiders until they were used on Michael,” the junior sleuth surmised. There wasn’t anything else special about the jar as far as he could tell, nor were there any more clues to aid him in solving the puzzle.
He fared a bit better at the scene of the bee attack when he discovered two marbles directly beneath the tree from which the beehive fell. Not for one moment had Heyes believed that it fell of its own volition and so, using the process of elimination, the young sleuth began to formulate a solution.
“Someone might’ve dropped them,” he mused aloud, “or maybe they could’ve fallen out of someone’s pocket, or they could have been used in a slingshot to knock the beehive down...” If he was right with that last guess, whoever did the slinging was a darned good shot; that narrowed the list of suspects down quite a bit.
“There aren’t too many kids who are that good with a slingshot,” he murmured with a frown. “In fact, I could narrow it down to about three, and one of ’em’s Jed!” Heyes ran his hand through his hair, with the fervent hope that this was one time he was wrong. All of a sudden he slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead accompanied by a loud groan. “There’s still one bully left and all the suspects are with him right now!”
VALPARAISO, TWO HOURS LATER
Jed had long given up hollering. What was the use? Along with a throat that was raw, a head that was throbbing and hands that hurt from pounding on the door, his arm felt like it was on fire; he was exhausted. He wanted something to drink, he wanted something to eat, but most of all, he wanted to escape the confines of his prison!
He saw the closet as an enemy which had to be fought and conquered. It wasn’t long before Jed realized that his real enemy wasn’t the closet itself though, it was the stark loneliness which surrounded him. It coiled around Jed like a boa constrictor. The black nothingness tightened its hold on him a little bit more with each passing minute and turned him into a frightened prisoner of the darkness.
Jed hadn’t always been afraid of the dark. In fact, the boy could remember back to a time when he used to love to play in it, as he tried to find the best places to hide in it...
1859, Lawrence, Kansas
Jed had been five years old when he’d found the ‘perfect’ hiding place during a game of hide-and-go-seek and had been exhilarated by his discovery. It was an old wooden coffin, left in the alley behind the undertaker’s.
Being the youngest of the group, it seemed to Jed that he was always having to prove himself. Han was the one who had convinced the rest of the older boys to let him join them today. What better way to show them how brave he was to hide inside something as scary as a coffin. Just wait’ll they can’t find me an’ finally give up; they’ll havta admit I’m the champeen hider! That’ll be great, an’ boy, is Han ever gonna be proud of me!
The excited boy never stopped to think before he climbed inside, just jumped in and pulled the lid down quickly before anyone saw him. Jed could hear the others as they were discovered; heard them running to make it back to home base before they were tagged, and then it got quiet. He kept as still as he could, knowing everyone was still searching for him since he could hear them calling out his name; that made him laugh because they sounded like they were getting frustrated.
An’ maybe even a little mad, Jed thought gleefully, looking forward to seeing the looks on their faces when they had to admit that they couldn’t find him. Suddenly he thought of something even more amazing. Even his cousin Han, the ‘Champeen Tracker’, hadn’t discovered his hiding place yet. That was something that had never happened before!
After a while it grew silent. “Too quiet,” Jed whispered. He couldn’t hear any of the boys calling him anymore. “Well, guess I made ‘em look long enough, an’ ‘sides that, it’s gettin’ kinda stuffy in here.” It didn’t seem like there was quite as much air as when he first got in.
But, although he pushed on the lid, nothing happened. He tried again, pushing with all his might, even using his knees as much as possible in the small, cramped space, but it was no use, it didn’t even budge. The lid must have got stuck when it slammed shut!
“Unless someone finds me soon I’m gonna be trapped in here forever!” Jed squeezed his hands into fists and tried not to panic...
On the other side of town, Heyes was hard at work in his attempts to find Jed. The boys had been forced to alert the grown-ups about what had happened and everyone had searched all the normal hiding places. Heyes knew his cousin and understood how bad Jed wanted to prove he could outsmart all the older boys. He also knew that the boy wouldn’t think twice before doing something dangerous... or stupid. To find Jed, Heyes was going to have to think like him. Using the process of elimination, Heyes began to sift through the scant information he had.
“By now, if he’d been able to, Jed should’ve come out of hiding, running back to brag and rub it in at not being found.” That Jed had not already done so meant that for some reason or another he couldn’t. “Jed doesn’t have the patience to wait this long to be found.” Which meant either he was hurt or hiding in something he couldn’t get out of; that narrowed things down a bit.
Heyes called everyone together to explain what he had figured out.
“Look for anything that’s big enough for Jed to get into; things that can shut or lock, things you think nobody would try to use as a hiding place,” he instructed them; those were exactly the kinds of places a boy like Jed would choose!
Jed was tired of being trapped; he wanted out! It didn’t matter anymore about showing every-one how good he was at hiding. He didn’t like the darkness, the silence, or the feeling of being all alone. And most of all, he was scared that nobody was ever going to find him!
“Ma, I sure wish ya were here,” he whispered, “I bet you’d find me, wouldn’t ya? Ya wouldn’t let me be scared like this, would ya?” Heck, right now he’d even be glad to see his older sister, Colleen. She’d help him, even if she did call him a pest most of the time.
Jed wanted his cousin the most of all. Han wouldn’t let anything or anybody hurt him. I wonder where he is? If Han can’t find me, then nobody can! These were the thoughts that kept Jed company while his loved ones relentlessly tore the town apart looking for him. Jed didn’t have any idea of time where he was, but he had finally reached the point where he couldn’t hold on any longer.
“Maybe if I jus’ rest a bit...” The exhausted boy yawned deeply as exhaustion overtook him; his eyes slowly closed and the fingers of darkness greedily reached out to claim another victim.
Heyes had walked all around the entire town at least twice, checking every possible place where Jed might be. He was frustrated and beginning to have a bad feeling. This wasn’t like Jed at all.
Then, as he turned the corner, he spied the old coffin. This would be the kind of hiding place Jed would think worthy of being discovered in, if they were to find him. And if they didn’t? Well, then the boy would have the honor of knowing he had beat them all, because they hadn’t even thought of looking for him in it.
Heyes ran over to the coffin and tried to lift the lid, but it wouldn’t budge. He looked it over and discovered what the problem was; the coffin had a lock which had snapped into place when the lid slammed shut.
“Hang on, Kid, I’m here now; it won’t be long and you’ll be outta there,”
He worked quickly to open the lock and lifted the lid with enough force to pull it free from its hinges and looked down. Sure enough, Jed was inside but he wasn’t moving and his eyes were closed. Heyes shook the boy’s arm.
“Jed? Jed, wake up! It’s me, Han; aw, c’mon, Kid - open your eyes - please!” Heyes was beginning to get worried; he couldn’t even tell if Jed was breathing. He reached down and felt Jed’s arm just like he had seen the doc do, and let out the breath he had been holding. Jed had a pulse and that meant he was alive - so why didn’t he wake up? “I’ll be right back, Kid, I won’t be gone long, I promise - I’ve gotta get you some help!”
Heyes took off at a dead run and found some of the grownups that had been helping to search for Jed and they brought the doctor. He stared at his best friend as they lifted him out of the coffin. Jed was so still; his fingers were torn up, full of splinters where the boy had tried to claw his way out. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, either. Heyes felt helpless; he wanted to help, but there wasn’t anything else he could do.
Doc Martin was on a visit close to town so someone was sent to tell him to head on out to the Curry’s place. Heyes trailed right behind them and climbed into the wagon that would take Jed out to the Curry homestead. Once they arrived at the house, he made sure he got inside and stood against the wall; he kept as quiet as a church mouse and stayed out of everyone’s way so they wouldn’t have any reasons to tell him to leave.
Once the doctor had examined Jed thoroughly, he shared his findings. “There’s no great cause for concern; Jed will be fine. Although he passed out from lack of air, thanks to Hannibal, he was found in time. His hands will take a while to heal, but otherwise he should be up and back into mischief in no time at all.”
Hearing the doc’s reassuring words, Heyes released a sigh of relief. He could hardly wait until Jed was awake so he could tell him that all the boys had taken a vote and he was now the Champeen Hider. They also thought he was either really brave or plain loco for getting into the coffin in the first place. Most of the boys had also grudgingly admitted they never would have even thought of getting inside it at all.
The days passed. The doctor had been correct. Jed did recover physically within a relatively short time, but it was going to take longer for him to heal emotionally and he wasn’t the only one. Jed had no idea how scared his cousin had been. Heyes didn’t ever want to feel like that again!
It had taken Jed several weeks to finally quit having the nightmares every time he fell asleep and even longer to go near, or inside, any kind of closed space. Heyes began to wonder if the old Jed would ever come back. He missed his fun-loving cousin, his best friend and his partner; it just wasn’t the same. Once Heyes decided he was tired of waiting he also realized that he was going to have to ‘fix’ Jed himself.
Heyes was patient; slowly coaxing Jed back into being the happy, mischievous boy he had been before getting trapped inside the coffin. The older boy was the one who planned the ‘adventures’ designed to erase the bad memories that seemed to have taken hold of Jed. They played at being pirates, hiding their treasure inside caves, each time going a little farther and staying a little longer.
Han did his best to help Jed become ‘Kid’ again, never once making fun of his friend. He let Jed take his time, and was wise enough to let the younger boy decide when he’d had enough. Han was the one who talked Jed into sitting in the old shed with the door open, in the daylight.
“Just to help you get over your fears a little,” he assured his buddy. And it was Han who had sat right there beside him, giving the younger boy the courage to stay, when all Jed really wanted to do was jump up and run away, even though he knew that running wouldn’t help.
Being tied up caused him to panic, if he couldn’t get loose. Jed had managed to keep that fact a secret and hidden away from Han, but he couldn’t lie to himself. The boy had tried his best to do what was asked of him, even going so far as to pretend he wasn’t afraid anymore so Han wouldn’t worry.
Jed played all the games, said all the right things and even laughed sometimes when he really felt like crying deep inside. Eventually he’d done such a good job of pretending that he’d even fooled his cousin into believing he was better.
The nightmares had, for the most part, faded away with time, but the fear of being trapped and alone in the dark had just found a temporary place to hide.