As she walked down the stairs, Andi nearly ran into Chad who was coming out of his room.
“How you doin’, Andi?”
Andi mustered a smile. “I’m alright. Just a little flustered is all.”
“I can understand that. If Johnny tries anything, you be sure to come and tell me.”
“I will, Chad. I promise.”
“And if Felicity messes with you you’ll talk to me as well?”
Andi smiled. It was rare to have Chad this concerned about her. “I will.”
Just as Andi walked into the parlor, the dinner bell rang. Chad turned and offered her his arm to escort her to the table--everything in Aunt Rebecca’s home was done old-fashioned and proper.
Before she could take it, someone tapped her shoulder. Turning, she saw Johnny.
“May I escort you to the table, Miss Carter?”
She felt Chad stiffen. She turned to him, and he gave her a knowing look. She nodded before turning back to Johnny. “Uh. . .sure” She took his arm and walked into the dining room.
In the dining room, Johnny pulled out a chair for Andi. Andi sat down and remembering to be polite, thanked him. How odd. She thought. Andi looked to her right. There was Felicity. Andi hadn't said a word to her at all yet and decided she should say hello.
Felicity was about to respond when Aunt Rebecca asked Justin to bless the meal. After the prayer everyone started to talk. Felicity looked at Andi and said, “Hi Andi, how are you? I haven't seen you in a long time. The last time I saw you I was being ever so snotty. I am so sorry. Would you please forgive me?”
Andi's breath stopped. What! Is this really Felicity. Felicity, the one who locked me in a shed and beat both Taffy and myself? Both Johnny and Felicity seemed to have changed. But they must just be acting they can't really have changed. Last time they were so mean to me.
Felicity looked at Andi expectantly.
“Sure, I forgive you,” Andi said, “And, I am doing well.” Then she quickly changed the subject. “This sure is good chicken.”
Aunt Rebecca smiled. “Why, thank you, Andrea.”
The meal went on pleasantly , and everyone was soon excused and once again sitting in the parlor. While everyone was talking, Andi stood up and walked over to the window. How she wished she could go on a walk! There were still a couple hours of daylight left. She sighed. It wasn't considered proper for a young lady to go walking out alone. She heard a voice behind her.
“Want to go on a walk?”
She turned, startled to see Johnny beside her.
What? He wants to go on a walk with me! What if he tries to hurt me or something. But maybe he has changed. No, no he couldn't have not much anyways. Andi looked over at him Johnny was smiling at her and was waiting for an answer. I should give him a try, he looks so sincere.
“Sure I will go on a walk with you. But can it be a short walk? I don't want to stay out that long.” I might as well try to make it a very short walk so nothing too bad could happen.
Johnny replied. “Sure, whenever you would like to turn around, just give the word.”
“Okay,” Andi said back. Then Andi went and told her Mother that she was going on a walk and would be back shortly she also told Chad. Because she knew he would come looking if they were gone too long.
But when she told Chad, he pulled Andi aside. “What are you thinking? Going on a walk with your old school bully?”
Andi shook her head and said. “He asked me, just make sure to come get me if we are gone too long.”
Chad shook his head and let Andi go. Then Andi went outside to join Johnny, who was waiting for her.
It was a pleasantly cool evening. Once outside, Johnny suggested they walk to the Military school and back.
Not knowing how far it was, Andi hesitated.
“It's only about 5 minutes’ walk from here.” He said as though reading her mind.
“Okay” Andi agreed.
Johnny did most of the talking, explaining to Andi about his school, what it he was learning , what classes he enjoyed and when he hoped to graduate.
They arrived at the school and Johnny gave her a short tour around the grounds. As they started back toward the house, Johnny turned to her.
“So how are you doing these days?”
How am I supposed to answer that! I was hoping he would be doing all the talking! thought Andi. Then she said. “I am doing well. School is going okay, but I'm glad to be on a break for Thanksgiving!”
“Yeah.” agreed Johnny. They were both mostly silent for the rest of the walk.
Andi had her thoughts entertaining her and she was hoping he wasn’t planning to play any pranks. But he seems so...so...polite! I hate to even admit that to myself. But he could be trying to make me trust him and then pull something really mean. Andi decided. Well, I won't be fooled.
When they arrived at the house Andi felt like she should thank him, just so she could make sure she was being diplomatic. She didn't have to be friendly but she could be polite. “Thanks,” she said.
“You’re welcome, I enjoyed it. Maybe we could go another night.” Johnny replied.
“Maybe,” said Andi, “If I'm not too busy, I have a project I should work on.” I need to write all this down in my diary and sort out my thoughts. Now that's a project.
“What project?” asked Johnny.
“Oh, it's nothing interesting.” Andi said in return.
They walked in the house and Andi went up to her room.
The next 2 days passed by uneventful. Both Felicity and Johnny were polite and--even to a certain degree--seemingly kind and caring. Felicity had apologized and Andi was beginning to believe she really had changed.
On Thanksgiving day, a meal had been planned for the evening, and Aunt Rebecca had arranged for Andi, Johnny, Melinda and Felicity to go on a trail ride in the morning.
“I'm sure you young people want to have time together without all us older folks around.” she had said when she presented the idea the night before.
Andi had frozen in her seat. She could feel both Chad and Melinda's gaze on her and knew what they were thinking: How in the world would it work?
The next morning dawned bright and clear. It is a perfect day for a ride. Andi thought as she dressed and headed downstairs.
Chad stopped her before she went into the dining room. “How would you like it if I came along on the ride?” he asked with a grin on his face.
“Oh, would you really? I think that would work out just fine!”
Chad winked at her. “It’s already been arranged. We’ll leave after breakfast.”
Breakfast was a hurried affair. Aunt Rebecca and mother had left early that morning to go “have a look around the shops” as Aunt Rebecca said. They planned to be home before noon to help with the preparations for the Thanksgiving dinner.
The trail Aunt Rebecca had had in mind started in the outskirts of the city before winding its way down to the San Francisco bay.
They had only gone about a mile down the trail, when Melinda suddenly remembered that Mother had asked her the night before if she could stay behind to help with the preparation. Chad was forced to accompany her back, promising to return soon. That left Andi alone with Felicity and Johnny.
Well, this will at least be interesting if nothing else. Thought Andi as Chad and Melinda disappeared around a bend.
The three rode their horses side by side until a gunshot startled the horse that Andi was riding. Apparently she had the restless horse. Her horse, Gunter, starting running. Andi could hear Johnny and Felicity in the background hollering, but Gunter was going too fast to stop. Andi finally got Gunter under control and she began to turn back suddenly realizing she was far away from Johnny and Felicity.
Suddenly, a man’s hand grabbed Gunter’s bridle and forced them into the woods. Gunter reared, causing the man to lose his balance, but also causing Andi to fall off the horse. Gunter’s hoof beats faded in the distance. This is what happens when you ride sidesaddle, was Andi’s fleeting thought before the man roughly grabbed her, tied her wrists together, and placed a blindfold over her eyes.
Then he took hold of her arm and dragged her through the woods.
“Good job,” Andi heard a voice say.
The man who had grabbed Andi and grunted. “It was nothing, but it will be something once we get the ransom for this rich girl.” Then the two men laughed. Shivers ran up Andi's arm, she was very scared.
The man shoved Andi to the ground and as he did, the blindfold, which had been tied loosely, came undone.
She quickly turned to get a look at his face but a hand slapped her face and threw her to the ground. She gasped and lay motionless. But she had seen enough. There were three men in the clearing. Suddenly, she saw a flash of blue in the bushes.