“Okay Jacobs, where is it?” Shane stepped out from behind the bushes near the entrance of the parking lot. “Hurry up...before the cops get here.”
Andrew and Steven jumped up from the bench they were sitting on, where Moon Dove told them to stay and wait for the police. Somehow (unknown to Andrew and the others) she had made arrangements with the local authorities to come and pick them up. And before she fled back to the forest to assist Ranger, she made Andrew and the other boys promise they wouldn’t go anywhere. Shane, however, decided to run off...
“Oh there you are,” said Andrew, startled. He didn’t know why Shane had run away, but his gut told him it had something to do with the police. “Why’d you run off like that? Moon Dove told us to stay put and wait for the police."
“I can’t deal with the police right now,” Shane replied, anxiously. “I’m on probation! If they catch me out here, breaking curfew, I’ll have to go back to reform school.” He glanced over at Steven. “Now where is it?”
“Where’s what?” Steven asked, agitated.
“The briefcase, dummy!” Shane got in his face. “What did you do with it?” He looked all around, but it was nowhere in sight. “Come on, Jacobs, don't play games with me.”
Shane had been nagging Steven about the briefcase from the moment they reunited back in the forest—insisting that Steven knew where it was. And he was right— but Steven wasn’t about to tell him what he’d done with it, or where he hid it. Even Andrew had no clue where it was at the moment, nor did he care.
“I told you a hundred times that I don’t have it!” said Steven, raising his tone. “I have no idea where it is! Burch dropped it somewhere during our fight.” He placed his hand on his bruised nose. “We fell off a cliff and I didn’t have time to look for it afterwards. I was too busy running from demon creatures if you don't mind!”
Shane narrowed his eyes. “You had a fight with Butch?”
“Yes,” Steven nodded.
“Because Butch is a jerk!” Andrew chimed in. “When you fell down, Steven and I wanted to help you, but Butch had other plans.”
“What are you talking about, Harper?” Shane walked over to Andrew, giving him a cold stare.
“I’m talking about your so-called “friend” who betrayed you!” Andrew’s blood started to boil. “He tried to stop us from rescuing you, so we could take him back safely to the parking lot. He didn’t care that you were in danger. All he cared about was escaping with the stupid briefcase!”
Shane narrowed his eyes again, apparently doubting the story.
“So anyway,” continued Andrew, “If it weren’t for Steven getting in Butch’s face— then fighting with him—I wouldn’t have been able to come and help you.”
Andrew could tell that Shane was taken back by the story, and he felt it was the right time to tell him the truth about Butch—no matter how painful it may be.
“You’re lying!” Shane shouted, glaring at both of them. It wasn’t quite the reaction Andrew expected.
“Lying?” Steven frowned, then pointed to his puffed up nose. “How do you suppose this happened!”
“Butch would never leave me hanging,” Shane insisted. “I’ll ask him myself...when I see him again.” He backed off a little bit. “And if it turns out you’re lying—boy will you regret it!”
Andrew couldn’t believe what Shane was saying, and even though he had every right to be angry with him, he couldn’t help but pity him for some reason. He wanted to believe that deep down inside Shane was just a typical boy like himself, albeit angry and confused with the world.
“It’s the truth, Shane. He left you for dead.”
“Yeah keep talking, Harper, but I’ll find out everything when I talk to Butch.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “We don’t even know where Butch is!” he glanced over at Steven, who nodded is head in agreement.
“I just hope he’s okay,” said Steven, before telling them the story again; how Butch was scooped up to the sky by The Winged Tyrant, and how he tried to save him but failed.
“Don’t feel guilty.” Andrew patted Steven’s back to comfort him. “You did everything you could to save him, and I’m sure he’ll thank you when he’s rescued.”
“You mean IF he’s rescued.” Steven’s tone was grim. “There’s a lot of things I wanted to tell those Guardians, but they didn’t give me a chance!”
It was true. Steven intended to warn the Guardians about the traitor known as Sky-Lord, and everything else Tara told him back in the forest—but the Guardians rushed back into the woods, and told Steven they’d have to speak to him at another time.
The boys continued their conversation, bickering back and forth with Shane about Butch and the briefcase, until they heard a loud siren in the distance. Andrew turned his head and saw the bright lights of a police car coming down Meadow Brook Road; the road leading into the parking lot.
“Oh great!” said Shane, as the police car drew closer. “I’m out of here.” He started to run away, then stopped for a split second and yelled, “This ain't over, guys! I want that briefcase!”
Moments later, after Shane was gone, the police car pulled right up to them. And when Andrew realized who the police officer was, he wanted to run away too...
“Oh no!” he said.“It’s Officer Moore!”
“No way,” said Steven, wide-eyed and equally concerned. “It can’t be.”
“It is!” Andrew’s heart started to pound again, a feeling he was getting sick of.
Officer Robert Moore was one of the strictest police officers in town, and he just so happened to be Berta Moore’s father! Andrew wanted to crawl under the bench and hide.
The large policeman got out of the car, towering over the boys, with a stern look in his eyes that would scare anyone.
“Andrew?” he said, in a deep voice.
“Yes...sir.” Andrew could barely look up at him. “How are you…Mr. Moore?”
“I’m fine, thank you. You boys okay?” He glanced back and forth at both of them. “Looks like you’ve had a rough night.”
“Yes...sir, we’re fine,” said Andrew. “Just a little tired.”
“The woman I spoke to told me there were three of you. Where’s the other boy?” Officer Moore glanced around, suspiciously. “Well?”
“I think she made a mistake...sir. It’s just Steven and I.” Andrew crossed his fingers behind his back, angry with himself for lying again. But he didn't want Shane to go back to reform school.
“Are you telling me the truth?” Officer Moore took out his flashlight, and shined it all over the parking lot. “Because if you’re lying to me, Andrew, you’ll be in a lot more trouble than you already are. She said three boys, not two!”
And then it occurred to Andrew that Moon Dove didn't mention their names, otherwise the officer would have known Shane was with them. Perhaps she was in too much of a rush to go into specific detail, and simply told the officer that three boys were waiting for him in the parking lot.
“It’s just us sir,” said Steven, trying to help his buddy. "We wouldn't lie to you."
Office Moore glanced over at Steven and nodded his head, but Andrew could tell he wasn’t buying their story.
“Alright, boys, get in the car.” He opened the backdoor to let them in. “Wait here for now—I have to speak to some of the other officers.”
Andrew looked out the window and noticed a trail of police cars pulling into the parking lot.
“Wonder what they’re all doing here,” he whispered to Steven.
“Probably here to look for Butch. The Guardians must’ve told them that Butch went missing.”
“Then you better tell Officer Moore what you told us—about the winged monster that took him away.”
“I will,” Steven said with a frown, “but I doubt he’ll believe me.”
Andrew hadn’t thought about all of that yet, and he wondered if anyone would actually believe the crazy things that happened to them that night: Werewolves, demon-wolves, an evil warlock that disappears, and heroic Guardians with superpowers. He knew it all sounded crazy, and it seemed unlikely that anyone would take them serious—unless they witnessed it themselves.
“I have to tell you something,” said Steven, changing the subject. “The briefcase...I know where it is.”
“You do?” Andrew’s eyes lit up. “How?”
“I found it during my trek through the woods. It was still sitting close to where Butch dropped it. When I saw you and those Guardians coming up the trail, I hid it under some bushes.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“Because I had a feeling Shane would try to take it from me. Obviously I was right!”
“Good point,” said Andrew, nodding his head. “He wanted to take the daggers from me as well. But I think I talked him out of it… or at least I hope I did.”
“Oh yeah, speaking of those daggers...we need to talk about that too.” Steven’s tone became serious. “The woman I met in there...she told me they’re very important to this warlock fellow.”
“You mean the wolf-lady?”
“Yeah. Her name’s Tara. I really want to help her.” Steven sighed. “She saved my life.”
“Well that’s great...but what does she know about the daggers?”
“She said they're very important to The Warlock,” said Steven. “And that it was a blessing that we took them.” He shrugged his shoulders. “She knows more than anyone else about this warlock guy and his minions—even more than the Guardians know.” He sat back and took a deep breath. “She warned me about his plan to take over our town, and that he's recruiting a handful of crooked Guardians to join him! I just hope she can get her message to the good Guardians if I can’t.”
“Creepy stuff,” said Andrew, who’d just about heard everything at this point. “So what should we do about the briefcase?”
“We’ll have to come back and get it somehow, depending on how long our parents ground us for!”
“Oh yeah...I almost forgot about the whole grounding thing.” Andrew knew that sneaking out to go camping, with no adult supervision, meant serious punishment. Not to mention what Mr. Pippo might do at the next Youth Troop meeting.
“Maybe Tuesday after school?” said Steven. “We can sneak back here and get it.”
“Why not get it now?” Andrew pulled out a granola bar from his pocket, and tore off the wrapper. “Tell the police where it is.”
“Well...,” said Steven. “I thought we’d talk about it first. It’s a lot of money, Andrew.”
“What are you getting at?” Andrew didn’t like the sounds of this.
“Well, my father wants a new lawn mower...and my mom’s been dying to fix up the house, and Suzy would love a new doll house...and—”
“Your sister’s only a year younger than us!” Andrew snapped. “She doesn't play with dolls anymore.” He shook his head. “You’re making me nervous, Steven.”
Steven frowned. “Look, buddy, I’ve been through a lot tonight,” he said, “and so have you. When you asked me to come with you, I agreed to help, right?”
“And I was happy to help you, right?”
“Yes,” Andrew sighed.
“And I'll always help you no matter what,” continued Steven. “But right now my nose is almost broken, and I’m all bruised up from falling off that cliff. Not to mention I was almost mauled to death by those demon-wolves. So, considering all this, all the trouble that I’ve been through tonight, I think I deserve a new fishing pole!”
“So that’s what this is all about?” Andrew shook his head in disbelief. “You want to keep the money hidden from the police so you can buy a fishing pole?”
“And an archery set…”
“Oh brother.” Andrew rolled his eyes. “This isn’t like you, Steven.”
“It’s no big deal, Andrew,” Steven went on, trying to justify his motive. “And don’t tell me the thought hasn’t crossed your mind either. I’m sure you’d love a new fishing pole too! So just think about it, buddy. We’ll have the best fishing poles in our troop...and anything else we want.”
“We won't have a troop after tonight!” Andrew snapped. “Not when Mr. Pippo finds out about this!”
“I’m sure he won’t expel us,” said Steven, in a confident tone that was beginning to annoy Andrew. “He’ll just give us some silly punishment like he always does.”
“I sure hope so.”
Andrew was taken back by Steven’s new attitude, and didn’t know what to do. This was NOT the Steven Jacobs he knew. But considering the fact that Steven volunteered to help him, and all the unfortunate things that happened to him (like his fight with Butch for instance) he decided to go along with Steven’s plan—with one condition: bring the rest of the money to the police after they buy what they want.
“Is it a deal?” asked Andrew, sticking out his pinky.
“It’s a deal.” Steven stuck out his pinky too, entwining it with Andrew’s, and the promise was solidified.
A few moments later, Officer Moore returned to the car to drive the boys home.
“Okay, boys,” he said, as they pulled out of the parking lot, “I’ll ask you this one more time: are you sure there wasn’t another boy with you?”
“Umm...very sure,” said Andrew, trying his best to sound confident. “It was just Steven and I...and Butch Johnson.”
The policeman nodded his head. “Yes, Butch Johnson, whose now missing. We sent a search crew to look for him. Can you tell me where you last saw him?”
Steven started to tell Officer Moore about the fight he had with Butch, and how The Winged Tyrant took him away. And just as Andrew expected, the policeman didn’t believe a word of it.
“Quite an imagination you’ve got there,” the officer said. “Maybe I’ll take both of you down to the station for further questioning. How does that sound?”
“Not so good,” said Andrew. “But Steven’s telling you the truth, sir.”
Officer Moore sighed. “I don’t know what’s with you kids today. Maybe we spoil you too much. Bad enough my own daughter snuck out to go to some party earlier tonight, and now you two, both out at this late hour, lying through your teeth.” He shook his head, disgusted.
“We’re not lying!” Steven yelled, then quickly apologized for raising his voice.
“Anyway,” Officer Moore continued, “I know all about Butch Johnson, including who he keeps company with. I have a gut feeling that Shane Reilly was with you boys tonight, so why not tell me where he is?”
Andrew and Steven glanced at each other, not knowing what to do or say, and neither one of them said a word.
“Alright then,” the officer went on, “if you think it’s going to benefit you to protect a juvenile delinquent like Shane Reilly, then so be it. But if it turns out that I’m right, and he really was with you, you’re both in serious trouble…”