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Ambivalent Eyes


Nicole Starleigh Yeager


Lights everywhere, police barricades and guns and yellow tape wrapped around the perimeter of his lawn... Jesse is off to her left; Ashley, Nate and Mikki are close behind. The front door opens slowly and Quinn steps out, with blood on his hands... He is crying, "I can't save him, I can't save him..." A SWAT team rushes on him and drags him away from the door... A pair of weeping eyes in the doorway as it swings shut... An arrow, floating in the air, spinning frantically in circles... Chief
Sanders is there, among the other policemen... she pulls him aside to find out what's going on... he pushes her away, like he doesn't even recognize her, telling her it is no place for a young girl like her... Jesse puts his arms around her and they stand together with Ashley, Nate and Mikki, watching... until Deputy Banks storms over to them... Cassie is filled with such fear that she cowers into Jesse's hold...
Banks screams "Murder!"... he murdered his son and they never found the body...

Cassie awoke in a cold sweat with tears streaming down her face. She had had the dream again, only this time it had more detail than before. The police, the tape, the blood... the eyes... the arrow... What did it all mean? It was the second nightmare in two days. Why was she having these dreams? She wiped the tears away from her face.

Stretching, she sat up in bed and looked around the room for no specific reason. Bo, her 3-year-old black Labrador Retriever, realized she was awake and jumped into her lap. "Hey, Buddy," she smiled. Bo always made her smile. He kissed her good morning and cleaned the tearstains from her face.

She got out of bed and went for a shower. She passed her mother, Charlene, in the hallway. "I don't want you out late tonight, Cassilyn," she said.

"OK, Mom," Cassie answered with a yawn and closed the bathroom door behind her. A million things ran through her mind that morning. In about an hour Jesse was going to pick her up. They were all supposed to meet at the little ice cream shop around the block called Jake's, their favorite hangout for years. Jake's iced tea was perfect on a hot sunny day, and his hot cocoa was just right after a walk in the brisk winter air. Cassie's five best friends were Ashley Cavert, Nate Hunter, Mikki Heart, Quinn Louis and, of course, Jesse, her boyfriend. They all lived within a few blocks of each other, and attended the same high school. Ridge Pointe High consisted of 9th through 12th grades. Though they did not all fall in the same grade level, they still managed to spend most of their time together in and out of school.

At any rate, school was almost out for the summer; there were only two weeks left. They were all looking forward to the three months of freedom ahead.

The images of the dream forced their way to the surface of her mind again. Deputy Banks' frightening scream bellowed in her ears, startling her all over again. Once she realized she was standing in the shower, water dripping down her face and back, she calmed down again. Then she saw the eyes... she couldn't seem to let the image go. They were definitely Dancing Water's eyes, there in the closing doorway, weeping uncontrollably; so much that it tore at Cassie's heart. Something was wrong, in her dream, with Rising Sun. Something terrible.

One night last summer, they had gone out on a picnic and had gotten caught in a sudden summer thunderstorm. Jesse's car slid off the road into a muddy ditch and got stuck. Mikki, Nate and Quinn were trying to push the car out of the ditch while Cassie drove it. Through the thick curtain of rain, a silhouette of a tall man appeared, walking toward them. He called out, in a friendly voice, "Need some help?"

"Kinda," Jesse answered, the uncertainty showing in his voice as he tried to get a better look at the stranger. "We slid off the road and got stuck. Now we can't get out."

"You're not gonna get it out until this rain lets up. Besides, you're liable to be struck by lightning, you know," the man answered. "Come on, kids, get in."

The Good Samaritan was finally in view. It was William Corrigan, the man whose son had disappeared three years previously. No one knew much about it. William Corrigan was a teacher at the elementary school, though he didn't start working there until Mikki and Jesse were in the sixth grade, in the Middle School, and Cassie, Nate, Ashley and Quinn were all in the fifth grade. There were rumors, of course, with nothing to back them up, about how he murdered him and buried him in the back yard, or chopped him up into little bits and burned the remains. They hesitantly followed the man into the sheet of rain. Slowly a large van came into view.

Remembering all the warnings their parents had given them when they were younger about strangers and getting into unfamiliar vehicles with strangers, Jesse gave Quinn a look that said, 'Well, we are all together. If anything should happen, we could handle it.'

That was how they met Rising Sun, their Indian friend who lived on the farthest block from the center of town. Rising Sun and his family had moved in a few years back, along with a few friends who became his neighbors. There was a bit of an uproar among the more small-minded of the townspeople when this happened, but most of it had died down by the time the kids had become teenagers.

Will "Rising Sun" Corrigan and his wife, Sarah "Dancing Water"  Corrigan, gave them lemonade and chocolate chip cookies. They all sat on the large, enclosed screen porch and listened to the storm, sharing stories about their childhood and earlier years. When the rain had finally let up, Rising Sun (as he asked them to call him) called up a friend of his to help pull their car out of the muddy ditch, which was sure to be even more sunk into the mud after all that rain. John "Bear Claw" Clayton, whose hands were outrageously enormous, drove them back to their car. John helped them (actually, almost single-handedly) pull the car from the ditch. Taking a step back, he laughed and shook his head.

"You kids are on your own to get it clean," he said, and got in his car to leave.

Rising Sun walked over to the driver side window as Jesse started the car. "You kids are welcome in my home any time. If you ever need anything, just let me know." 

"Thanks, we owe you one. Anything you need, let us know," Jesse answered.

He smiled. "Thank you, my friends. Drive carefully, and see you again sometime." He stepped back to allow Jesse to pull away and head for home. Looking out the rear window, they saw a rainbow in the sky just above the spot where Rising Sun stood.

Now, the time had come to fulfill their pact. Rising Sun needed their help. They didn't know very much about the situation. In fact, they knew almost nothing at all. The only thing they had to go on was a mysterious note Rising Sun left in Jesse's car, slid through an open window. 


If you can, I need you all to meet at my home on Saturday morning. I must speak with you. It is very important, but also very secret. Tell no one where you are going, and mention nothing about my family's name. Come in on my property through the woods, and enter my house through the back door. We will be waiting for you.

Rising Sun"

The note baffled them all and had them worrying themselves restless. Jesse picked up Cassie on Friday night to meet the others over at Ashley's house. Her parents had gone out to a movie and would be gone long enough for them to try to figure out what was going on without having to worry about who was listening. After four and a half hours, none of them could come up with anything that made any sense. The others being too preoccupied, Jesse was the only one to notice that Cassie had kept awfully quiet and to herself the whole evening. When Jesse finally pulled up in front of her house around one a.m., she was still silent.

"Cass, say something," he pleaded, hating to see her in that particular state.

She stared ahead, blankly, not hearing him.

"Cassie," he said again.

This time she jumped out of her trance, startled by the slightly louder tone of his voice.

"Are you alright?"

"I... I had a bad dream last night," she began, but trailed off.


"Rising Sun... he was really sick and - and he was in trouble with the law... something about... murder." She wiped a tear from her eye.

"Hey, sweetheart, hey, it was only a dream," he said, to comfort her. "It didn't really happen."

She wiped another tear away as he leaned over to hug her. She let herself rest in his embrace for a few moments before she pulled away, unbuckled her seat belt and opened the car door.

"Goodnight," Jesse said, wondering where his goodnight kiss was. At the cue, she turned around and kissed him quickly on the lips, then got out of the car. "Get some sleep. I will see you tomorrow morning."

"Night," she answered and closed the door behind her. He waited until she was inside and turned off the porch light before he drove away.


Cassie got out of the shower in the same daze she'd fallen asleep in the night before. She even realized that she had no idea what her mother had said to her in the hallway. She dressed and went back to her room where she dried her hair and put on her makeup. Out in the kitchen, Charlene had her checkbook out on the table with all the bills. Jimmy, her 10 year old little brother, was sprawled out on the floor in front of the television, watching his favorite Saturday morning cartoons.

Around eleven o'clock, she heard Jesse pull up outside. She patted Bo on the head as she left her room to go to the door. Jimmy had gotten there first. He let Jesse in, asking, "Hey, Jesse! When ya gonna bring John over?"

Jesse laughed and playfully punched him in the arm. "Soon, sport," he answered, and Jimmy ran happily back to his cartoons.

She was quiet, again, in the car. Jesse knew it was the same thing. "You OK?" he asked.

She shrugged and continued staring off into space, fighting the heavy, burning tear that threatened to spill out of her left eye any minute.

"Another dream?"

She turned and looked at him, wanting to tell him, but unable to find the words. "It doesn't matter," she said instead.

"Sure it does, Cass," he replied. "What happened this time?"

She took a deep breath. "I don't think it really means anything..."

"Cass, you can't lie to me. If you didn't think it meant anything, you wouldn't be so damned worried about it."

Another deep breath. "OK. Well, we were running, you, me, them..."


"Ashley and Nate and Mikki."

"Oh. OK," he said.

"Up... ahead, there were these... flashing lights, and sirens, and voices yelling... guns cocking all around us, police everywhere, and the yellow tape, all around his house..."

"Whose house?"

"Rising Sun's house. And then Quinn came out the front door with blood on his hands, saying he couldn't save him..."

She had caught Jesse's full attention.

"They charged on him, the police, and they yanked him from the house, and they pushed me away... Sanders was there, he said it was no place for a young girl like me... and Deputy Banks came running at me..." She took a deep breath, as if she was about to lose it, "and he was screaming... 'Murder, he murdered his own son and they never found the body...'

Jesse reached over with his free hand and touched her leg to comfort her. The tears streamed freely down her face, now. He couldn't understand why the dreams bothered her so much. As far as he could remember, it had never happened before. They drove the rest of the few blocks in silence.

Nate, Ashley and Mikki were sitting at Jake's drinking their iced-teas, waiting for Cassie and Jesse. When they finally arrived, they said 'goodbye' to Jake and headed outside to meet them.

"You guys ready?" Nate asked.

"Yeah," Jesse said, from inside his car. "Where's Quinn?"

"Oh, he went on ahead. We were running a little late, and we didn't want him thinking we were standing him up."

Cassie's face went pale.

"Jess, what's wrong with Cassie?" Ashley asked, walking over to the passenger side.

Cassie only had to give one look and Jesse knew what he had to do. "Look, we'll meet you guys by the swings in East Park." He put Cassie's window up with the power window button on his door, hiding her behind the tinted windows, and peeled out of the parking lot and away toward the park.

"That was weird," Mikki said.

"Yeah, what was that all about?" Ashley wondered.

"Did you guys notice Cassie was acting weird last night?"

"Not really, unless you mean about how quiet she was at my house."

"What are you guys talking about?" Nate said. "She's fine. She's not a morning person."

"It's 11:30, Nate," Ashley said.

"So, she was up late with us last night. You know she pulled an all-nighter on Thursday for that test in Chem yesterday. She was tired," he said.

"Yeah, you're probably right," Mikki said.

But Ashley wasn't satisfied.

"Thank you," Cassie said, meekly, as they drove down the road.

"I love you, babe," he said, taking her hand in his. "It's gonna be alright."

They pulled in East Park and parked the car next to Quinn's parents' car. He, of course, was gone already. They had to walk over to the swings. Jesse noticed most of Cassie's energy was gone. They walked together toward the swings, Jesse squeezing her hand to comfort her along the way. She came around a little bit the more Jesse spoke to her while they waited for the others to show up.

"It could be a coincidence, Cass. In fact, that's what it is, a coincidence. It has to be," he said, trying to reassure her.

"Jesse, Quinn went ahead, alone, to his house. Don't you see what this means?" Cassie had some of her energy back.

"Look, this is a small town, am I right?"

She nodded.

"And, in small towns, nothing big happens, right?"


"I'm just saying, it doesn't sound... possible. Not for this town. And we know Rising Sun. He's our friend, Cassie. He couldn't do anything like that."

"I know that, but... I think there's something wrong, Jess."

"Why, because you had two bad dreams?"

"They were almost exactly the same."

"You've been worried about this since Wednesday. You make your own dreams, Cass, remember? You came up with the worst possible scenario and started to dream about it."

"But, Quinn-"

"Coincidence, Cassie, I promise you."

She looked at him, as if pleading for help but not knowing what for. "You- you're right. It's just a silly dream. Two silly dreams and one coincidence."

He sighed. "I promise you, it's going to be alright. Come here," he said, extending his arms to hug her. She stepped into his arms and laid her head on his shoulder. She always felt safe in his arms. This day was no different.

"Hey guys," Mikki called from across the park.

They turned to see the others running over to them. "Hey!" they called back and waved.

Nate reached them first. "You remember the way?" he asked Jesse.

"Yeah," Jesse answered as Mikki and Ashley caught up to them.

"Let's go," Nate said, and they headed into the woods, on a path that Rising Sun showed them once on a visit to his place.

One by one they followed the narrow path for a good half a mile. Then, up ahead, they could see the edge of the woods, and the end of the path in Rising Sun's backyard. Jesse, leading the group, took a step out on to the lawn, but suddenly jumped back. "Oh, freak!" he said, pulling Cassie down to the ground with him. Mikki, Ashley and Nate dove down as well.

"What? What's going on?" Nate whispered.

"Shh, listen," Jesse said.

Cassie's thumping heart finally slowed down enough for her to tune her ears into a faint but certain sound. There were voices coming from out in front of the house.

"So, he's having a picnic," Mikki said, starting to stand up.

"No," Jesse said. "Look over there." He pointed up toward the house. All the shutters were closed, and there was something yellow visible in the side yard.

Cassie's heart started pounding even harder when she realized what it was. "Some freakin' coincidence, Jesse," she said. "We've got to get in there..." Her voice began to quiver.

"The root cellar," Nate said. "If we can make it to the root cellar without getting caught, we can get to the house through there."

"How?" Mikki asked.

"The root cellar connects to the basement," Ashley said. "Right underneath the stairs."

"It's gonna be dark, but it'll do," Nate said.

"Do you really think they'll shoot us if they see us on the property?" Mikki asked sceptically.

"No," Jesse answered. "But they will escort us off the premises, order us to leave and then our only way in will be heavily guarded. We better take the root cellar." He looked out onto the yard. "Two at a time," he instructed. "That way we won't draw attention with all five of us, yet we'll double the time and have less of a risk of getting caught."

"OK," they agreed.

"Me and Cassie will go first." He looked at her as he felt her body trembling. He kissed her forehead. "We gotta go, now."

She nodded, and they got to their knees. With one last surveillance of the back yard, they took off to the root cellar. Jesse quickly, but quietly, opened the in-ground door to the root cellar. Cassie jumped in first, and he followed right behind. They waited back in the tunnel, away from the daylight that shone down inside. A few seconds later, Mikki and Ashley joined them. Nate followed not too far behind. The dirt walls and floor made for a musty, moist smell in the cellar. Cassie clung blindly to Jesse's arm as he led them through the dark tunnel to the other side.

"What if... what if we run into something down here?" Ashley asked.

"There's no one down here, hon," Nate answered.

"I believe she said 'something,'" Mikki added.

"There's no things down here either, trust me," Nate said.


"That sounds like a thing," Mikki said, cringing in the darkness.

"It was my arm, I found the door," Jesse said. He pushed it open slowly. There they were, under the stairs in the Corrigan's basement. Jesse walked out into the room, listening carefully. The only voice he could hear was Rising Sun's over the shouts and cries from the front yard. "What the hell is going on here?"

"Can we go?" Cassie asked, anxious to know what was really going on.

He nodded. "Yeah, come on," he said, taking her hand and walking slowly toward the stairs. The other three followed.

They made their way up the stairs slowly. If there were police in the house, they would be thrown out for sure.

At the top of the stairs, Jesse put his ear to the door. He heard Rising Sun talking to someone, but he wasn't sure who. He listened more closely and heard him say, "I want a group picture when everyone is here. Sarah reminded me that we have no pictures of our good friends."

Jesse opened the cellar door and they walked into the house. "Hello," he called. 

"In the living room, my friends," Rising Sun called to them.

Cassie still clutched Jesse's arm, afraid of what she might see.

"Come, my friends! Everyone on the couch with Quinn; Sarah would like to take a picture with the instant camera," Rising Sun said.

They hesitantly walked over to the couch and posed for the shot with Rising Sun standing at the back of the couch, behind them. Sarah took the picture with a meek smile on her face. When the camera spit out the slowly developing picture, she took it out and waved it in the air. "I will hang on refrigerator," she said, turning and walking into the kitchen.

Rising Sun pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket as Nate headed straight for the window to peek through the closed curtains.

"Careful!" Quinn warned.

Nate turned to look at him.

"There's a lot of angry people out there, a lot of police." Quinn looked very nervous. "They didn't see you, did they?"

"No. What's going on?" Jesse asked.

"I need you all to sit down, and have an open mind. And please allow me to finish before you make any decisions," Rising Sun began. He sat in his recliner again.

Ashley and Nate joined Quinn on the couch. Mikki sat in the armchair and Cassie and Jesse sat in the love seat. Everyone was quiet; the suspense of the past few days was finally about to end.

"Twenty-five years ago, Sarah and I were blessed with the most wonderful gift on earth. We had a son. His name was Matthew Cougar Corrigan." He held the piece of paper to his heart, then kissed it. "Sarah," he called. When she came in from the kitchen, he said, "Please take this back upstairs to the desk. I was going to write in it today, but I didn't have a chance. There was too much distraction outside."

She quietly took the paper and left the room.

Cassie tried to hide half of her face on Jesse's shoulder. He put his arm around her and gently squeezed her. Her grip on his arm grew tighter as she began to quiver again.

"He was a good boy, very smart in school. Many friends. They came to our house to play every afternoon. He graduated at the top of his class, and he was a hard worker. I knew that one day, he would make his father proud." He bowed his head, and let a tear roll down his cheek. "We argued, like all humans do. The fights only got worse as he got older. He thought I was trying to restrict him from his full potential, but I was only trying to protect him from what I thought might hurt him. The old-fashioned white man. No offense, my friends."

"None taken," they answered out of sync.

"One night, four years ago, there was a really big fight. He came home drunk, and he was underage. I didn't want him breaking the law, we didn't need any more trouble than we had waiting for us if we made the wrong move or crossed the wrong people. He was throwing things and I was yelling, but I never laid a finger on my boy. Not once. He got into his pickup truck and drove away, and I wanted to follow him. But, I knew he needed to be alone, no matter what, because my presence would only make him angrier. I was scared, I wanted to take him home and hug him and make it all OK again." He looked up on top of the fireplace. "There was a witness that night, said he saw me leave in a fit of a rage after my boy and saw me return home alone. They think I killed my son."

Cassie let out a sickening whimper as she went white in the face.

"I never left my house. This man, who says he saw me, said that it was very strange... that he never heard my footsteps, but he could hear my truck start and pull away. And when I supposedly looked at him, my eyes were completely black and I was filled with so much anger he could smell it."

Finally, getting up enough courage, she said, "They never found the body, did they?"

Rising Sun looked at her. "No, child. They did not. They did find his truck, out of gas, by . . ." Tears welled up in his eyes. "I am sorry, my friends. It was four years ago, but I miss him like it was yesterday."

None of them really knew what to say.

Cassie was shaking even more. Jesse held her even tighter as her mind swirled with what she had just found out. How could this possibly be? It was only two silly dreams, how could this possibly be? What about the rest of it . . . she didn't want to know, she wanted it to be one big coincidence, but it kept throwing itself around in her head. The blood. Quinn stepping out onto the front porch, crying, "I can't save him, I can't save him." She buried her face in Jesse's chest, hoping to shield out some of the thoughts.

She could hear his heart beating faster than normal in his warm, comfortable chest. He had both arms around her now. She knew everyone was looking at her, trying to figure out what was wrong. She stood up and went into the bathroom to try to calm herself down.

In the living room, the discussion continued. "So, why are they here, now? What's going on?" Jesse asked.

Rising Sun stood up and walked to the mantle. He picked up a picture and stared at it for a few seconds. Taking a deep breath and wiping a tear away, he handed the picture to Jesse. "This is my son. This is Matthew."

Jesse took the picture and looked at the forever-smiling high school grad in his blue gown and proud tassel. The features of the boy's face mirrored his father. He passed the picture to Quinn, then looked to Rising Sun for the answer to his question.

Rising Sun walked over to the window. As he reached up to part the curtains, Quinn spoke up. "I wouldn't . . ."

Rising Sun parted the only shield between them and the mob of angry people outside. Within an instant there were people pressed up against the window pain, police pushing them away, and cameras flashing. Rising Sun just stood there, watching them. Jesse stood up and walked over to him, looking out the window. The people rushed at the window again. This time the police used more force to push them back, and Jesse realized he'd better back away. Rising Sun let the curtains fall closed again. "My friends and neighbors are suffering from this, also."

"But, where did all these people come from?" Ashley asked. "This is the twenty-first century... nobody does this anymore." The people outside were making her nervous. Please, Lord, keep them outside, or calm them down and send them home!

"It started with one man," he began with a deep breath. "Saul Perkins and I have never gotten along. But his son could never seem to make the grades in my class, like the other kids. Jacob often came to me for advice. Saul hated that. He tried hard, that boy, he really did. I was very fond of him. One day he asked me what he should do about proving he was worth his father's love. I told him, 'Jacob, you are your father's son. Even if he doesn't always show it, he loves you.' Jacob then told me that he failed at doing something his father wanted him so desperately to be able to do. Saul had given up on the boy and told him to give up trying. I told him to keep trying, because I knew he had it in him to do whatever he put his heart to." He paused. "That night, Jacob sneaked out to his father's barn and saddled up the prize steed they kept. He got on the horse and rode it into the barnyard. Jacob could not control the horse, though, and it took off. At the edge of the Perkins' property, there are many rocks, as the soil is no good there. The horse threw the boy, breaking his neck. The horse ran back to the barn and Saul found his stable wide open in the morning and the steed with his saddle on. They discovered that Jacob was missing, and found him dead later that afternoon. Saul blamed me immediately, and  has hated me more than anything ever since."

"Oh, poor Jacob," Ashley said.

"Saul was out there early this morning. He must have found out that someone said they saw me leave the house after my son and that now there are suspicions about what really happened. He has been luring people in, telling them all that a child killer teaches in the elementary school. He has a poster out there with him, with his son's picture on it. When too many people started showing up, I had to call the police. They were in our lawn, on our porch, even at the windows, yelling at us. He has them believing I killed his son . . . and mine." He took a deep breath, seeming a little relieved that he had lifted a great weight from his chest. "Which is why I need you to help me prove my innocence."

"So, they think you killed Jacob Perkins and Matthew, all because he's standing out on your lawn, with a poster of his son, ranting and raving?" Ashley asked, heatedly. "They all believe him? What kind of people are they? What kind of souls do they have?"

"Ashley, what you see out there on my own front lawn, on my own street, is living proof of the power of... gossip, to put it politely," he answered. "Human instincts are to side with the man who has suffered the most. Of course, only hearing his side of the story, you can see how things have turned out."

They looked at each other for a few quiet moments. Nate cleared his throat. "We'll do it. Tell us what we have to do, and try to remember everything from that night. Little things about your son would also help, like his personality, what he liked, some of his hobbies... you know. Some kind of... trail to start with."

They nodded in agreement. Dancing Water entered the living room and stood by Rising Sun. She was very quiet that day and she wore all of her pain on her face. And Rising Sun began to talk about the one thing he had never spoken to them about before. The mystery of his son.

He sat down in the recliner again.

"Maybe I should go get Cassie," Ashley said, getting up.

"No," Jesse said. "She's fine."

Ashley sat down, stunned at Jesse's reaction. Normally, he would have gone to get her, himself.

Jesse, actually, didn't want Cassie to be hearing any of this. Too much of it seemed to be fitting in with what she had told him in the car and it was actually beginning to scare him a little. What did the blood mean? Why were Quinn's hands covered in it? Whose eyes were in the doorway? He couldn't let Cassie know how bewildered about it all he was, or she might get hysterical.

Dancing Water brought a chair from the dining room into the living room and sat on it by the door.

"They think I murdered my son," he began, "because someone said they saw me chase after him in the heat of anger and return home alone. When we reported him missing, this person stepped up, told them what he saw, and the suspicions began to fly."

"But, why haven't we heard anything until now?" Quinn asked. "It's been four years."

"They didn't want to make hasty decisions, I suppose, and they were trying to keep it quiet. They found his truck, came to see us, told us we were under suspicion, but still kept it quiet. My only guess is that somehow it leaked out into the public. John and a few others still stand by us, firmly, but some of my friends have their doubts. And I don't blame them," he explained.

They understood, and he continued. "They discovered blood in his truck. I assume he was injured in the accident. But, they searched our house, his room, and everything they could get their hands on. Matthew was a little reckless in his later years. Always messing around with automobiles, taking them apart and putting them back together again. He must have gotten cut on a rusty piece or something; there was blood in the garage. So, immediately, they assume... that is where I killed my son. And I swear to you, I never left this house that night. I didn't know he was gone until the next morning. We reported him missing two days later."

Jesse stood up. "Rising Sun, if it is the last thing we do, we will find out what happened. We'll prove you're innocent."

The others agreed. "What are some of his favorite places? Where did he like to go?" Quinn asked.

"To the mountain," Rising Sun answered. "We used to go hunting and camping out there. It takes several days to get there on foot. Unless you have a helicopter, it is the only way to go. Vehicles can only go so far into the forest. That, my friends, is where I need you to go for me. I followed him into the forest as far as I could go. Then I lost him. And he has never come home. I need you all to go there. I must tell you something. But you must promise to not think negatively about it."

They promised.

He took a deep breath, and they knew immediately that it was very serious. "I was diagnosed with cancer. It has progressed greatly in a short period of time. I don't have much time left."

They were silent, not knowing what to say to the horrible, unexpected news.

Then, Ashley braved a question. "What kind?" she asked, meekly.

"Melanoma," he answered.

There were five distinguished gasps in the room, and Ashley began a prayer.

"And, if I tried to leave, I might be killed myself by the people out there."

"I guess we're going to have to sneak out of here, huh?" Mikki asked sullenly.

"Well, considering they already saw Jesse, we better," Nate said. "We should go tonight."

"No. Tomorrow night," Jesse said. "When they are least expecting it. You know, the last week of school on Monday, why would we go anywhere?"

"You're right," Quinn said. "They'll never guess. It's perfect."

"What about finals? Ashley asked. "Will they let us make it up over the summer?"

"Why wouldn't they?" Mikki said. "We'll be fine. Jess and I will still graduate next year, and you guys will be moving up, too."

Suddenly, something shattered the window and came flying into the living room. "Look out!" Jesse yelled, falling to the floor.

They heard the bathroom door fly open as Cassie came bolting out. She stopped dead in the living room and stared at Rising Sun. It was a brick, and it had hit him in the side of the head. He was slouched over in his chair, bleeding down his neck and onto his shirt. Too stunned to speak, she ran over to him. "Rising Sun!" She finally managed to scream.

There was a tragic cry from Dancing Water as she ran for the phone. They all realized, then, what had happened. "Quinn!" Jesse yelled.

"Wake up!" Cassie yelled, holding up her limp friend. "Please!"

"Move, Cassie!" Quinn ordered, pushing her out of the way. He sat Rising Sun up in the chair. "Nate, get me some clean towels!"

Nate jumped up to get the towels as Dancing Water came bursting back into the living room, crying, with the phone in her hand. "It won't work!" she cried. "No dial tone!"

Jesse picked Cassie up off the floor as Mikki dumped out her purse, looking for her cell phone. Ashley sat, stone faced, on the couch, praying. Quinn yelled, "Hurry up, Nate!"

Nate ran back in with the towels as Mikki grabbed her cell phone and started to dial. Dancing Water stood next to her, with pleading eyes, as Quinn and Nate worked to stop the bleeding. "Jesse..." Cassie whispered, a tone of fright in her voice.

"It's OK," he told her, uncertain of what was unfolding before his eyes. Everything Cassie dreamed about was so far coming true. Did that mean . . ?

"904 Apple Drive," Mikki was yelling into the phone. "Please, no, listen? No! No! Hello? Yeah, no I thought you hung up? Listen, you're not going to be able to get through the street," Mikki said, peeking out the window at the mob of people. The police had a few people in handcuffs, and were pushing someone else through the crowd toward a squad car. "Meet us... meet us at... Guys! Where can we meet the ambulance!?!"

"Uh, oh, freak," Quinn said, trying to think too quickly.

"The- the park!" Jesse said. Meet us at the park! We'll take him out through the root cellar!"

"East Park," Mikki told the dispatcher. "We'll bring him through the woods!"

There was a loud thump at the front door. Mikki looked out the window and realized the crowd was out of control. "Oh my God..."

"Get in the cellar!" Jesse commanded. He dragged Cassie to the cellar door. Nate and Quinn picked up Rising Sun to carry him to the stairs. Ashley, Mikki and Dancing Water began to barricade the door as quickly as they could, with a bookshelf, a desk, a couch and a chair. Jesse helped them as soon as he knew Rising Sun was in the root cellar. The pounding grew fiercer, and the front door began to splinter and buckle under the force. They then ran to the cellar to escape with the others. Jesse locked the cellar door from the inside by sliding the handle of an old shovel (which he found hanging on the wall) through the old cabinet handle on the inside of the door, bracing it to the walls on either side. It would keep the door from being pulled open from inside the house. Mikki, Dancing Water and Ashley were in the root cellar. Ashley was holding the door for him.

"Hurry!" Ashley whispered, as a burst of excitement sounded from upstairs and footsteps thundered above them, filling the house. As Jesse closed the root cellar door, he heard glass smashing on the floor and windows being broken. They had gotten downstairs just in time.

"Go! Go!" Jesse yelled, panicking. "Cassie! Cass!"

"She's with us, Jess!" Nate called back from up ahead.

Jesse could see a light at the end of the underground room as Nate lifted the door to the back yard. He peeked out first, to see if anyone would be waiting for them. "We don't have much time!" Nate said as he climbed back down into the cellar to help Quinn get Rising Sun out. Cassie took his left arm while Quinn took his right. Nate took a hold of his legs and they carried him up the stairs and ran into the forest with him.

When she hesitated to wait for Jesse, Quinn snapped, "Don't look back! Keep going!"

Her heart sank quickly into her stomach; the three of them moved as quickly as they could, carrying Rising Sun's limp body. She tried to look back over her shoulder, but couldn't see any of them coming.

Chapter 2

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