Sunday, February 9, 2014

TRAPPED Sunday Serial Part Ten

Part Ten
For a moment, Kenneth and I gape at him. Then we regain our composure. Right away Kenneth flashes him the movie-star smile that's practically trademarked.
“Oh, hi,” Kenneth says in a slightly syrupy voice I'm sure he uses for all his teenie-bopper interviews, “you're Amber's dad?”
“I believe so.” Karl Harttmin's plucked eyebrows pop up when he looks at Kenneth and me. “And you are associated with Amber Talina Sharpina?”
“Nope,” pops out of my mouth. For some reason, this guy is giving me the creeps, and I want to give him as little information as possible.
“The question was rhetorical, Echo.” The man's top lip curls up into a menacing sneer. “I already know all about your associations with her.”
He snaps his fingers, and suddenly the light dims. A holographic image pops up, and scenes flash by: Amber, Kenneth, Slick, and me in the room right by the Phantom FunCoaster; the roller coaster car crashing into the room—suddenly the pain in my right leg comes back—and me toppling over; our journey to the Haunted House pizzeria, and our hideout in the girls' restroom; Mrs. Kennedy talking to us; Kenneth and me going through the tunnel; us coming to the water; us swimming through the water; us in the control room.
Then the very last scene hits me to the core:
Mrs. Kennedy, Slick, and Amber all tied up, bruised and battered, inside a deserted room with white dust floating everywhere.
What unnerves me the most is the fact that Amber is grinning.
Before I can take a closer look at the video and decipher the location of their imprisonment, Mr. Harttmin claps. The lights fly back on, and I blink in the sudden brightness, disoriented.
What is happening?
“I'm very proud of my daughter.” Mr. Harttmin's voice emanates arrogance and status to the nth degree. “She did such an amazing job.”
“What are you talking about?” Kenneth and I ask at the exact same time.
Mr. Harttmin rolls his eyes. “I thought I was supposed to be interrogating you, not you interrogating me.”
“I'm sorry we're not playing by your rules,” I say, “considering we're never going to.”
Mr. Harttmin smiles, a slow, spreading smile that sends chills down my spine. “Yes, of course, Echo. You're never going to.”
“What's happening?” The syrup has disappeared from Mr. Bored's voice. “Are we missing something, Mr. Harttmin?”
Mr. Harttmin booms out a long, loud laugh that echoes throughout the room. “You're missing everything, Kenneth Pearson.”
The word reverberates through my brain as I flip through the pages of clues and everything we've done. How Amber always seemed to have the answers. How it was too easy. The way Amber had told us to talk into the microphone, while Mrs. Kennedy had said not to.
“No,” I breathe. “No. No no no no. Amber is genuine, Mr. Harttmin.” That seeming carelessness couldn't have been replicated by acting.
Or could it?
Mr. Harttmin laughs again, this time even boomier than before. I wince as the sound waves hit my brain. “Are you implying that I don't know my own daughter?”
I recall how Amber asked me to join her conspiracy. She had seemed nonexistent sixth sense hadn't told me anything, per se...
How I had accepted it...
“We're such fools, Emily,” Kenneth tells me softly. “We're all stinking fools.”
More laughter. Mr. Harttmin is really getting on my nerves with his laughing.
“You need to work on your evil laugh,” I tell him.
His face straightens and darkens. “It's not my evil laugh, Echo.”
“'Scuse me, then.” I don't know where I'm going with this. Stalling, maybe? “So, I'm guessing that your evil plan has nothing to do with stealing money from tourists trapped in Phantom FunPark.”
“Not quite.” Mr. Harttmin smiles. “Of course we need money for supplies and such.”
“Supplies?” I say. “For what?”
“Echo, echo, echo,” he mocks.
I grind my teeth together and glare at him.
“Supplies for...our great plan.” He raises his eyebrows. “I will only tell you a little bit, because I can tell that you are stalling. A new dog can employ old tricks, you know.”
So now I'm a new dog? Or am I an echo? Or both?
This man is confusing me.
“It's quite fortunate the first part of our plan worked, and we caught the only people who could ever stop us,” Mr. Harttmin says. “Amber was a brilliant decoy. Of course, she's my daughter.” As if that has anything to do with it.
“What are you talking about?” I'm sick and tired of these secrets. “Will you just tell us something straightforward for once? Or are you just going to kill us right here?”
Kill you?” Mr. Harttmin paces around my chair. I bristle when his expensive suit grazes my calf. “Of course we're not going to kill you. You're just children! And besides—why kill such valuable ones?”
I gulp and look over at Kenneth. “Valuable?” I repeat.
“Echo, echo, echo.” He smiles, icy. “You have power, Echo. And so does Mr. Pearson. And so do Mrs. Kennedy and Slick. Which is why we have captured them.”
The door swings open as the words leave his mouth. Mrs. Kennedy and Slick are roughly pushed into the room on chairs. Slick is crying.
My heart goes out to him.
“Hi, Slick!” Kenneth calls. “It's me! Mr. Bored!”
Slick stops crying. Out pops his smile, and he hollers, “Hey, Echo! Hey, Mr. Bored!”
“Hey, Slick!” we say at the exact same time.
Jinx,” Mr. Harttmin mocks. Then he spins on his heel and cowers over Mrs. Kennedy. “I trust your seat is comfortable enough, Martina?”
Mrs. Kennedy purses her lips together. “Of course, Karl. It always is.” She looks over at Kenneth and me. “You kids okay?”
I try to give her a thumbs up, forgetting that my hands are tied behind my back. “Yes,” I say as my chair teeters. It crashes down, my hands and head banging against the concrete. Stars float in my vision.
“Ooh my dear,” Mr. Harttmin says, coming over to inspect my damage. “A klutz as well as an echo, my dear?”
The whole echo thing is getting on my nerves.
“AIIIIIEEEEEE!” I shriek, inspiration lighting my mind. I swing my legs around, and something connects solidly—Mr. Harttmin falls down and hollers—Slick and Mrs. Kennedy are out of their bonds and are cutting Kenneth and me out of them—and before I know it, Mr. Harttmin is wriggling on the floor, and I'm bruised but standing up.
It's dead silent.
“Good move, Emily,” Kenneth says, giving me a thumbs up.
“It was an accident,” I respond shakily.
“But it was about time,” Mrs. Kennedy comments crisply. “I'll debrief you on everything that happened when we get to a safe zone. Hurry and follow me.”
I leave Mr. Harttmin on the floor and open the door.

Then I stop in my tracks as a weird sight greets my eyes.

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