It was then, without warning, that a thunderous crashing sound rang out in front of them, and Amy heard the wall splintering. “What in the...AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH!” Dylan groaned over a loud thumping sound, as if something had struck his head. Amy felt him topple off her chest to the floor, fortunately before he could unbutton her jeans. But what was going on...?
“Amy!” came a sudden familiar cry from upstairs, followed by footsteps. Amy’s heart leaped: Craig! But she was starting to black out from lack of air now; she probably had no more than a minute left at most...
“LLLLLLPPPP!” she let out a weak cry towards the stairs. Footsteps thundered down them. “No you don’t, Dylan, you creep!” Craig roared angrily, Amy only now hearing Dylan stumble to his feet beside her. She heard Craig roar and leap through the air, followed by Dylan groaning again as he was tackled to the ground. Fingers grabbed the tape over Amy’s nose and ripped through it, allowing her to breathe again. She jolted from the burst of life-saving oxygen, now feeling the fingers unknotting her gag and blindfold. “Hold him steady, Craig!” Beth’s voice rang out to her left, followed by a loud whomping sound, and another loud groan from Dylan. “We trusted you, Dylan Wilson, and you betrayed us and Amy!” Beth shouted angrily at him, “Well you’re out of the Sidekicks, and you’re going to jail for this!”
The cloth fell away from Amy’s eyes. She blinked out the light for a second, but was able to see Dylan being held in Craig’s clutches on the floor. “Beth, let me explain...!” he stammered dazedly to the Sidekicks’ leader above him.
Growling, Beth bashed him over the head with the thick wooden plank she was holding. With a louder groan, Dylan slumped down in Craig’s hands. Craig furiously hurled him sideways into the basement wall. “Amy...!” he ran to her and hugged her, “I was so scared you were dead...!”
“Craig...!” she cried in delight as the gag was removed from her mouth, “He was going to...!”
“Yeah, we saw,” Monica said behind her, tearing at the tape holding the guns to Amy’s head. Beth joined her in doing the same. “Give us a hand untying her, guys,” she called through what was now a large hole in the wall in front of Amy. Patrick and Judy slid through the hole and dropped to the floor in a flash. They rushed to Amy’s chair and joined Craig in fumbling with her ropes. “How are you, Amy?” Judy asked her worriedly.
“Frozen solid, Judy; I feel like an icicle,” Amy moaned, waving her arms around to try and restore circulation in them once they were freed, “How did you guys find me!?”
“A tip from the guy guarding us, and some really luck breaks,” Beth told her, gently lowering the gun that had been against Amy’s left temple down against the post to her left once it was free of her head. Monica did the same with the gun on the right, then joined Beth and the others in releasing Amy’s ropes. With the five of them working together, she was fully freed in a little over a minute. “I see her coat over there, get it for her,” Monica pointed to the corner, where Amy’s coat was hanging over an old sawhorse. “Come on, we’ve got to hurry,” she lifted Amy up out of the chair. Amy immediately stumbled and fell to her knees. “I can’t move; my legs are numb!” she cried, both legs having no feeling from the cold and the ropes having cut off their circulation, “Please go, guys, save yourselves!” she begged them rubbing her legs hard to get them working again, “I’m not...!”
“We’re not leaving without you, Amy,” Patrick raced over and slipped her coat on her, then handed her her belt from the floor. “Judy...” he turned to his best friend, who joined him in taking Amy’s arms and lifting her as quickly as they could out the hole in the wall. “Get on the snowmobile, quick!” Patrick urged her, scrambling to climb out himself, pointing at the one idling in front of the hole. Amy crawled and stumbled towards it, the pain in her ribs from the beating she’d taken earlier hurting with every movement. Nonetheless, she slid on it and slumped onto the handlebars, fumbling to slide her belt back around her waist. She buckled it back into place then pulled her sweater sleeves back down to her wrists and started buttoning her coat up right as Monica rushed over and jumped onto the snowmobile in front of her. “You’re all right now,” she turned and hugged Amy, “We’re getting you out of here, Amy.”
“Monica, I don’t know how to say thank you to you and the others...” Amy mumbled gratefully, continuing to rub her legs to try and get feeling back in them, “But the rest of the gang...!?”
“We lured them into the bushes,” Patrick explained, jumping onto the snowmobile behind her, followed by Judy. “Laurie came up with the plan: we waited for the split second they’d all gone inside, then grabbed the snowmobiles. They chased after us into the bushes, where she bashed them with her crutches, and Shawn nailed them with some rocks. I hope it was enough to knock them out...“Come on you guys, it’s time to go!” he shouted to Craig and Beth down in the basement.
“Just one moment, Patrick,” Beth called back up as she and her brother hurled the dazed Dylan into the chair Amy had been tied to. “So you think it’s fun to tie up a girl, punch her around, and try and rape her, Dylan Wilson!?” she snarled coldly at him, joining Craig in tying Dylan’s arms to the chair, “Well you do not treat any girl like that and get away with it if I can help it!”
“Beth, I said I could ex-!” Dylan mumbled in protest. Beth angrily stuffed the gag in his mouth. “Let’s see how you like being bound and gagged for a change, you creep!” she bellowed, stepping back so Craig could smash him in the chest with the plank, making him groan again, “This is what you put Amy through, and I’ll bet it’s not...!”
“Beth, Craig, come on!” Judy shouted impatiently at them, shooting a worried glance at the bushes behind them, where more groans could be heard, “I think they’re waking up!”
“They’re waking up; now what!?” Shawn shouted from the bushes, confirming her fears.
“Hit them again, and let’s get out of here!” Patrick shouted back. “Hurry it up!” he begged the Kleins, stumbling to crawl through the hole out of the basement.
“We’re coming, we’re coming!” Craig protested, pulling his sister up out of the cabin. They rushed for the snowmobile Shawn was now driving out of the bushes, with Laurie clinging to his back and jumped on behind them...
...right as Amy noticed a pair of figures crawling out of the bushes, bleeding on the forehead, but still conscious. “Guns, behind you!” she cried out, seeing the figures taking aim at Shawn’s snowmobile. Shawn frantically zoomed to the right as two shots rang out, shattering the cabin’s front windows. “Go, follow me!” he shouted at Monica, who revved up her snowmobile’s engine and tore off after him. “Didn’t you hit them again, Shawn!?” she shouted at him.
“I thought I did, but maybe I panicked trying to hurry and only got glancing blows in-and I forgot about the other snowmobiles...!” Shawn worriedly glanced back at the figures stumbling for the two remaining snowmobiles outside the cabin, “They could follow us easy...!”
“Watch where you’re going!” Laurie shouted, pointing straight ahead. Shawn quickly zoomed to the left to avoid smashing into a large tree. Monica had to do the same behind him with another tree. The two of them weaved their way down the hill, zipping to the side to avoid the trees popping up in the snowmobiles’ headlights every few feet. Amy gripped tighter on to Monica’s back, shivering. “Where are we?” she asked Monica.
“Up on Sharp Mountain. We’re miles from Coalport or any town, so I can understand why they took you up here as a hostage, Amy,” Monica explained, hunching low over the handlebars and weaving around more trees, “I just hope we can get down off the mountain in the dark,” she sounded worried, “If we take a wrong turn, we could really be lost here...”
A loud shot suddenly rang up behind them. “And now we’ve got company too!” Judy cried, flattening herself out against Patrick on the back of the snowmobile. Amy glanced back and saw two more headlights behind them, well back but seemingly getting closer. “Speed it up, or they’ll catch us!” she begged Monica and Shawn.
“We can’t go any faster this deep in the woods, Amy; we’ll crash into a tree for sure!” Shawn shouted back, “If I...!”
“Watch out!” Laurie’s cry came a split second too late. Amy saw the drop-off towards a fast-flowing river now looming ahead of them, having been disguised in the darkness till now. And it now too close for either Shawn or Monica to stop change course. Both snowmobiles tumbled off the drop, sending their occupants flying through the air into snowbanks. “Ow!” Craig spoke up for everyone, stumbling back to his feet and watching the snowmobiles flowing away downstream. “Everyone all right!?” he asked the others worriedly.
“Yeah, I think so, but the landing sure stung,” Patrick moaned, shaking his head, “Are we...?”
“My crutches!” Laurie gasped, pointing at them floating away down the river after the snowmobiles, “How am I supposed to get around now!?”
“Never mind that; here they come! What do we do now!?” Judy mumbled worriedly at the kidnappers’ snowmobiles getting closer to the crash site above them.
“Camouflage. Lie down on your backs and cover yourselves with snow, quick!” Shawn advised, throwing himself down on his back and shoveling snow all over himself. Amy and the others did the same, then held still as footsteps and the beams of flashlights approached the high bank above them. “You see them!?” the leader barked impatiently as the beams swung around the river.
“No...wait, there go their rides!” the woman exclaimed, pointing at the headlights of the snowmobiles bobbing down the river in the distance, “They must have fallen in!”
“And that means half the loot’s gone downstream too!” the other man lamented, “Now what, Nevin!?”
“Follow those snowmobiles!” the leader shouted, “If those blasted kids get away, we’ll all fry, and I don’t want to lose one cent of that money either!”
The crooks’ snowmobiles’ engine roared and zipped down the river in pursuit of the now empty snowmobiles. One their tail lights had vanished from sight, the teens sat back up and dusted themselves off. “Good thinking, Shawn,” Beth commended him. “Let’s get moving quick, guys, across the river and down through the woods on the other bank,” she urged them, helping the now helpless Laurie to her feet and sliding her onto her back, “They’ll find out we’re not there in the river real quick, and then they’ll double back for sure.”
“But which way are we supposed to go now, Beth!?” Judy protested, staring around the snowy woods surrounding them, “I don’t recognize any of this, and we can’t just keep walking around in the woods all night, when we’re all frozen solid, including Amy,” she gestured at the other blonde, shivering harder now.
“I know, Judy, but it’s a chance we’ll have to take,” Beth shook her head grimly and started splashing across the stream, “Come on, let’s book it!”
“I can’t go on, guys, I’m sorry!” Amy whimpered what was likely an hour later, although it had seemed like an eternity to her. She sank to her knees in the middle of the woods, her already low body temperature having dropped even further after having trudged through knee deep snow in the teeth of the blizzard for as long as she had, “Please, save yourselves!”
“Amy, we’re not leaving without you!” Monica worriedly dropped to her level and tried to get her back up, “Come on, please!”
“I can’t, Monica! I’m frozen solid to the bone; I’m not going to make it! Go on, tell my parents I love them...!”
“Amy, please!” Monica begged her tearfully, “You can’t give up now, you’ve got to believe that we can get through this...!”
“Monica, we’re stranded in the middle of the woods in a blizzard; no one’s going to save us! And don’t use God to get me to go, because he’s not real, I know it now! If he was, why did he let me get put through what I was!?”
“I don’t know, Amy. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, unfortunately. But that’s no reason to give up!” Monica pleaded, dragging her upright.
“Amy, don’t quit, please! We can do this!” Craig also begged her, staring right into her eyes, “You’re a strong, brave girl, and I know you’ve got the strength to keep going! And if you don’t, those guys’ll find you and...!”
“What difference does it make anymore, Craig!? We’re all dead anyway now! And there’s nothing out here anyway, no shelter we can...!”
“Wait, wait, what’s that over there!?” Laurie suddenly spoke up on Beth’s back, pointing hard to the right. All eyes turned to see what looked like the outline of a building in the trees, just visible in the beams of their flashlights. “That just might be the shelter we need. Come on!” Beth shouted to the others, rushing for the building as fast as she could with Laurie clinging to her back. Monica and Craig hefted Amy up and carried her in their arms after Beth and the others. They soon found themselves in front of a small cabin. “Looks like a ranger station; we must be within the confines of White Birch State Park,” Beth realized, tugging hard on the doorknob. It, however, was firmly locked. “Great!” she muttered, “If we could just get in, we’d be safe for now...!”
“Allow me, Beth,” Patrick picked up a nearby rock and tossed it through the window next to the door, which shattered loudly. He reached through the hole in the window and unlocked the door. The Sidekicks staggered into the cabin, shivering heavily. “Lock the door,” Beth instructed Patrick, who quickly did so. She scanned the cabin and could just make out a small room with a bed to their left. “Get Amy in the bedroom; get out the spare blankets, and look to see if there’s any more in here,” she told the others, helping Laurie down into a chair by the door. She gestured Monica and Craig into the bedroom. Her brother and Monica helped Amy into the bed, then stepped back as Beth pulled a blanket out of her carrying bag and laid it over Amy. “You’re going to be OK, Amy; we’re going to get you warmed up as best we can,” she told her, digging out a pillow as well and slipping it under Amy’s head.
“You think anyone’ll be here later on, Beth?” Craig asked, glancing around the station, “Certainly a ranger would be a big help...”
“Probably not, Craig; I think the state park shuts down everything except the primary ranger station for the winter, and they probably shut off the power too. So we’re still completely on our own,” Beth shook her head grimly. “Anything?” she called back through the door.
“Fortunately yeah, Beth; a whole closet full of them,” Shawn called back. He and the others bustled in clutching four more blankets, which they spread on top of Amy, followed by four additional ones from their bags to go with Beth’s. “Hopefully this’ll warm you up, Amy,” Shawn told her encouragingly.
“Thanks, Shawn,” she commended him, still shivering hard under the covers.
“OK, one of you guys guard the front door, another stand guard outside the bedroom door; I want multiple lines of defense for Amy in case those thugs show up while we’re here,” Beth told them, walking over to the windows and pulling the blinds shut. She flicked on her flashlight and pointed it up at the ceiling on the nightstand, illuminating the bedroom in light, “Any takers?”
“I might as well do the front door, since I can’t really go anywhere else at the moment,” Laurie volunteered from inside the main room.
“Guess I’ll stand guard outside,” Shawn also offered, glancing over at Laurie with an expression that made it clear his feeling for her were getting stronger.
“Wonderful. I’ll stand guard inside the door; I want advance notice if you see or hear anyone coming this way,” Beth told him, nodding at Monica, who was dragging several chairs towards the bedroom, and gesturing for her to leave one for Shawn outside.
“We’ll do our best, Beth,” Laurie rose up and hobbled towards the bedroom doorway on her good leg. “I want to say, Amy, I’m sorry,” she apologized to her with a heavy expression, “I was so selfish and heartless earlier. You deserved better from me. If we get through this, I’ll make this up to you as best I can. I want to be friends with you now...”
“You’re doing good so far, Laurie,” Amy gave her a small smile. Laurie looked relieved to be forgiven. “Come on Shawn, let’s make sure no one bothers her,” she told him, hopping back to her chair by the door. Shawn gently took her by the shoulder and steadied her on her way back. Beth pushed the bedroom door closed, then slumped into the nearest chair and let out an overwhelmed exhale. “You holding up OK, Beth?” Craig put a concerned arm around his sister.
“I don’t know how much longer I can hold up, Craig,” Beth confessed, fiddling nervously with the zippers to her boots, “It’s taking every ounce of my mind and wits to get us through this, and I don’t know how we’re going to get safely back to Coalport….”
“Just keep praying, Beth,” Monica offered more ecumenical advise. She dragged another chair to the left side of the bed and sat down. “How’re you feeling now, Amy?” she asked her new best friend with a worried expression plastered on her face.
“I’m so, so cold, Monica,” Amy whimpered, “I still feel like an icicle under here. I’m still in a lot of pain from when those guys beat me. And I’m so hungry...”
“We’ve got some food here, Amy, it’s not much, but maybe it’ll help,” Patrick dug through his pockets at the foot of the bed. “Granola bar OK?” he pulled it out and approached her with it.
“Sure. I’ll take any food right now,” Amy eagerly grabbed it, tore it open, and chewed it up in a minute. “Hope that helps,” Patrick told her sympathetically, bending down to her level, “You’re going to be OK, Amy. We’re going to get you warmed up and get you home, I promise. So don’t give up hope yet.”
“We all promise,” Monica reached under the covers and clasped Amy’s hand supportively, “I’m not leaving your side until you’re safely home, Amy; none of us are,” she glanced at the other Sidekicks in the room, who nodded firmly.
“We’re with you every step of the way, Amy; we’ll fight to the death for you,” Judy agreed on the other side of the bed, reaching down to take hold of Amy’s other hand. Amy smiled gratefully, touched by the sheer depth of her friends’ loyalty to her. “You guys are the greatest, you really are,” she was crying again, but now they were now tears of joy, “Taking me in, then saving my life, and now staying with me when I felt I couldn’t go on...I don’t know how I can ever repay all of you...”
“You don’t have to, Amy. Being friends with you is reward enough,” Patrick returned her smile. He walked to the bottom of the bed and knelt down there, then waved Judy over to join him. A scraping sound to her right made Amy turn to see Craig sitting down in another chair there. “I love you so much, Amy,” he bent down and hugged her, “I’m glad that...”
“Ow, ow, Craig, my ribs!” she yelped; her ribs still stung hard from when she’d been punched there earlier by her kidnappers.
“Sorry, sorry,” he quickly released her, then shifted his arms lower on her upper body and hugged her more gently, “Nobody’s going to hurt beautiful, beautiful Princess Amy anymore, I guarantee it,” he vowed to her, planting a soft kiss on her cheek, “And I want you to say something else after me: ‘I, Amy Newberry am a strong and brave girl who can overcome anything.’ Go on.”
“I, Amy Newberry, am I strong and brave girl who can overcome anything...but I’m not, Craig,” she shook her head, “I was terrified when I was being held hostage; you’d be too if people beat you and tried...”
“We know, Amy. But you’re still with us, aren’t you?” Beth posed.
“So you survived. So I think that does make you strong. Besides, before we ran into the cabin to get you, we saw you fighting back against Dylan with everything you had; that really makes you a strong and brave girl in my book.”
“Exactly,” Monica nodded, “And truthfully, Amy, while Christy Bryant’s a survivor too, she spent half her time as a hostage over the summer crying and panicking. So you’re stronger than her. And don’t think that the rest of us don’t respect you for that.”
“Yeah, we respect you a lot, Amy,” Judy patted her foot softly.
“OK then, maybe I am stronger than I thought...” Amy mused softly, nodding.
“You sure are,” Patrick assured her. “Oh, I just remembered,” his face lit up, “Do we still have Amy’s cell phone!? We can still call for help here...”
“Yeah, and Laurie’s too,” Monica pulled it out of her pocket. “Shawn, you still have Amy’s cell phone?” she rushed to the door and called through it.
“Uh...yeah, I do,” Shawn said on the other side.
“Call the cops if you can,” Monica instructed him. “You know Tim’s number, Beth,” she handed her phone to the Sidekicks’ co-leader at the door, “Give him a call and give him an idea of where we might be. Maybe he’d be able to get the cops up here on his own. Then call Kyle and Andrea and get them up to speed as well.”
“Gotcha,” Beth started dialing it. Monica sat back down in her chair and reached under the covers to clasp Amy’s hand again. “You might as well try and sleep, Amy; there’s not much else we can do at the moment,” she told her, “And keep praying; I can understand if what happened rattled your faith, but God’s gotten us this far, hasn’t he?”
“You’re in good hands either way, Amy. So just close eyes, and think happy thoughts,” Craig gently urged her, starting to gently stroke her hair, “Imagine if you will that you and I are on a soccer field together with your parents and all of Coalport watching, that the goalie fell down, and you’re about to score the easiest goal in the world to win the game and the title. Or whatever else is your happiest and most comforting thought. But just relax, close your eyes, and sleep...sleep...sleep...sleep...”
Amy closed her eyes and rolled onto her side. She felt Craig softly kiss her cheek twice more, then continue stroking her hair. She felt more comforted and warmer than she had been before now, and for the first time in a while, truly safe. It was only a few minutes before she drifted off to sleep, hopeful that the worst was now behind them.