A Grand Excursion
"...flashlight, rope, water..." Christy Bryant laconically counted out the items she was stuffing into her backpack. She glanced up at the clock. Not too much longer till her friends showed up.
"You almost packed, Christy?" her mother stuck her head in the room door.
"Pretty much, Mom," she nodded, "Hey listen, I know you've been a little worried we're going to try the path up to the top of Packer Mountain, but the path is marked, so we'll be fine."
"I suppose," Mrs. Bryant nodded, indeed looking a little relieved, "And the more I think of it, you'll be inside the state park at all times too. Just promise, though, Christy, you'll be back before dark; I'm just...well, you know how a mother's intuition is."
"I guess so. Don't worry Mom, I really, really don't think this hike'll take seven hours," Christy gave her a reassuring hug, "I'll be right back home before we both know it."
She turned back to her backpack as her mother left again. A warm June breeze wafted through the open window, ruffling her hair as she zipped the backpack up. Christy enjoyed hiking with her friends, which they frequently did in Onondaga State Park just outside town, and today they were going to take the longest trail in the park for the first time, all the way up to the top of the tallest hill in the park.
Done for the moment, she sat down on the floor, leaned back against her bed, and closed her eyes, letting the sun warm her face while waiting for her friends to show up. She was enjoying summer break so far, although it seemed to be going faster than she'd prefer. It seemed the last day of school was so long ago, even though it was no more than a month previous. She wouldn't be fifteen much longer either; her birthday fell in mid September just after school would go back. Christy was amazed how fast time was flying; it seemed like just yesterday she'd still been a little girl, and she felt a bit apprehensive that adulthood seemed right around the corner. If only time would go more slowly again...
The doorbell rang downstairs. With a smile, she rose up and grabbed her backpack. She hustled down the stairs, beating her mother to the front door by a few seconds. "Right on time, Dawn," she said with a smile when she opened it.
"Well you know me, Christy, it's pretty hard to be late when I'm only three houses away, isn't it?" Dawn Kersey grinned mischievously. She and Christy had been inseparable best friends since first grade, so much so that Christy almost considered Dawn as a sister. And physically, people might have assumed as much as well, given Dawn shared Christy's long blonde hair and deep blue eyes (although her hair was much curlier and slightly shorter than Christy's). "Hey there, Mrs. B," she greeted Mrs. Bryant warmly, "Have a nice day at work?"
"Yes, I did, Dawn, thank you," Mrs. Bryant told her, "I presume you'll be sleeping over with Christy tonight when the two of you get back?"
"Hey, you know me, Mrs. B; I can't pass up a sleepover with Christy if I can help it. So, are you ready?" Dawn asked Christy.
"Yep, all set," Christy hefted her backpack, "Might as well get going then."
"Just have her back by dark, Dawn," Mrs. Bryant reminded her.
"I will, Mrs. B, don't worry. Say hi to Mr. B for me when he gets back," Dawn nodded.
"Bye Mom," Christy kissed her mother goodbye. She grabbed her bike from where it lay against the house and climbed aboard. "Hard to believe I won't be needing this bike much longer," she confided in Dawn, pedaling up the block after her friend, "Just three more months before I can get my license."
"And you are so lucky," Dawn told her, looking somewhat glum, "Yours truly still has another nine months to wait for the car. Just promise you'll give me a ride whenever I ask."
"Dawn, haven't I always said I'd do anything for you?" Christy almost laughed, "So where are Bobbie and Jackie...?"
"They're waiting at the corner of Poplar and Route 71..in fact there they are now," Dawn waved to two other figures on bikes waiting on the corner directly ahead of them. Christy waved at the two figures herself. Bobbie McMillan and Jackie Gregory were her other close friends, and together with Dawn the four of them had been nearly inseparable for years. Much like Dawn and herself, it would have been easy to assume Bobbie and Jackie were sisters too, as both had long brown hair (although Bobbie's was dark brown, thick, and curly, while Jackie's was light brown and straight) and both shared similar interests, especially when it came to athletics, and hiking in particular. In fact, it had been they who'd first suggested hiking in the state park regularly a while back, an idea Christy and Dawn had taken to quickly.
The two brunettes starting pedaling once Christy and Dawn came alongside them. "Good timing," Bobbie commended them, adjusting the blue baseball cap she almost always wore, "Jackie and I just got here about a minute ago. Any of you two check the weather, just to be sure?"
"I did go online briefly, Bobbie," Christy told her, glancing both ways as they crossed the highway and started heading for the town limits, "Mostly sunny (she wiped sweat from her brow; the temperature was in the upper 80s right now, it felt. At least it would be a lot cooler in the shade on the path in the forest) with a slight chance of thunderstorms."
"Sounds reasonable enough," Jackie, who had played three varsity sports as a freshman, was pedaling the hardest and thus leading the way out of town, "Slight's good, especially since this will probably take us at least an hour and a half. Although anything to get this humidity lower will be a big plus, as long as we're not in harm's way if it does start raining."
"Agreed," Christy nodding, pushing harder to keep up with her friends, "Well, anyway, Jackie, that hour and a half'll go pretty quickly, even though this probably won't be that eventful a hike in the end."
Deep in the woods, he waited. There was no hurry; no one knew he was there. He had all the time in the world. He just hoped that what he was waiting for wouldn't come with complications.
It was then that his cell phone rang. Walking into a small nearby clearing to get the best reception he could, he turned it on. "You're a bit behind schedule," he said without betraying emotion.
"We had to take a bit of a detour," the voice on the other end could barely be heard over the static; there just wasn't enough coverage, he knew. "We're still on track for tonight, though."
"Anyone following you?"
"Every now and then, people have given us strange looks along the way, but by and large we'll been pretty anonymous so far."
"Good," he nodded, "Just be in the woods by dark, and make sure you're not followed. You know the pickup point; be there punctually."
He hung up. No point in giving the authorities anything that could be traced at all. He lit up a cigarette as he strolled to his van. Once he finished his mission with his associates, they could go far, far away and start anew-if they didn't alert anyone that they were coming. In the meantime, all he could do was sit back and relax and hope the cops weren't tipped off to anything...