STORY SO FAR: It’s 1972. Jamie, having finally convinced everyone that Gillian was forced to go to Mansfield by the man from the sky, joins the state troopers as they try to rescue her.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Searching for Gillian

Goddard kept Gillian moving a couple of paces in front of him. He held the bag of money in one hand while keeping his other hand tightly on her shoulder. The stick was tucked under his arm.

He had told Gillian to keep away from all roads and houses, and she had done as asked. Once she started to bolt, but Goddard quickly dropped the money, grabbed her, and shoved her down. He stood over her, stick in hand. “Don’t do that again!” he screamed. “Just get me to the bus station, and I’ll let you go!”

Gillian, very scared, decided she had no choice but to obey him.

“Where are we?” Goddard asked after some time.

Gillian stopped. “We’ve come about two miles.”

“You sure this is the fastest way?”

“I think so.”

“All right. Keep going.”

Gillian, eager to get to Mansfield, started to move again, but Goddard suddenly said, “Wait a minute. We can rest. Go on, sit down.”

Gillian did as she was told. Goddard, holding the stick, sat down as well, his bundle on his lap. He rubbed his knee as he nodded toward the bundle. “You know what’s in this?”

“Money.”

“You know how I got it?”

“No.”

“You wouldn’t believe how hard I worked for it,” said Goddard. “Worked for almost a whole year.” He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe it himself.

Gillian looked closely at Goddard. She could see in his face how exhausted he was. And she could tell his knee hurt.

“What’s your father do?” he suddenly asked.

“Dairy farmer,” she replied.

“He rich?”

“No.”

Goddard smiled. He patted the bag. “I’m rich,” he said. “I really am. Million bucks in here. I think I’ll go on vacation. Sit on a beach. Do you know how I got here?” he asked.

Gillian shook her head.

“Oh, come on,” he snapped. “You saw me parachute down. Don’t tell me you didn’t.”

He’s thinking about Jamie, thought Gillian. He thinks I’m him. Better that he doesn’t know someone else saw him. If only Jamie went to get help.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t,” repeated Goddard.

“I guess I did,” said Gillian. She studied his face, trying to understand him.

“We could go to Springfield,” he suddenly said. “If they knew where I landed, they’d figure I’d go to Mansfield. They wouldn’t even think of Springfield. Did you tell anyone you saw me?”

“No.” Gillian’s heart began to beat hard. She was thinking, If we go to Springfield, my message won’t mean anything.

Springfield is a lot farther,” she said. “And much more rocky. Be hard on your leg.”

He looked at her, and for the first time he smiled. “You’re right,” he said. “My knee does hurt.” He stood up. “Just three miles to Mansfield,” he announced. “Let’s keep heading there.”

Gillian got up and continued to lead the way.

As soon as Jamie settled into the front seat of the trooper’s car, they took off.

“You must have been all shook up when you saw your friend with that guy,” said the trooper.

“I guess.”

“Only ‘guess’?”

“Just that I wasn’t sure it was realat first,” said Jamie. “I mean, it was like some TV news story. Or something I’d only imagined. Then I realized it was really happening.”

“Well, you did the right thinggoing to get help.”

“Thanks.”

“How long did it take you to figure out that message?”

Jamie stared straight ahead down the road. “Not long,” he said.

“That was pretty smart of you,” the trooper said.

“Thanks.”

“No, I mean it,” said the trooper. “And the way you describe things: not everyone notices things the way you do. You’d make a good detective.”

Surprised yet pleased, Jamie looked over at the trooper.

“I mean it,” said the man.

Once in Mansfield, the patrol car slowed down and began to cruise the main streets. Then it went up and down the roads, but constantly returned to the town center. Finally the trooper turned the car to the side streets.

It was growing dark.

Gillian got to the hilltop first. When she saw the lights of Mansfield in the valley below, she allowed herself to feel a little better. “That’s Mansfield,” she said.

“Good girl,” Goddard said.

“Can I go home now?” Gillian asked.

Goddard shook his head. “The bus station. You can go home as soon as you show me the bus station. Do you know where it is?”

“I think so.”

“Come on. Let’s go. Sooner I get there, the sooner you go home.”

Eager to get there as well, Gillian led the way down the hill. She kept thinking of the message she had left for Jamie. If only he could read it. Somebody, be in Mansfield, she thought with every step. Somebody, be in Mansfield.

“Hey, not so fast,” said Goddard, holding her back with his hand on her shoulder.

For more than an hour, Jamie and the trooper moved through town at the same slow rate. In the dark, they could only see what was framed in their headlights. Though worn out, Jamie kept staring straight ahead.

“Maybe you were wrong,” said the trooper softly.

“I’m not wrong,” said Jamie. “I know what I read.”

“Kid,” said the trooper, “if you say you read it, I’m going to believe it. We’ll keep moving. We’ve gotta find that girl.”

(To be continued.)


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