THE SHROUD OF THE MIDNIGHT PHANTOM
Copyright 2003 Stratomiker Syndicate
A Julie Kane mystery set in Potter County PA at the annual Judy Bolton Day weekend
read chapter 1 here
|The Haunted Attic!|
Chapter Two: ALLEGHENY AMBUSH
The red-haired girl giggled ebulliently as she put a finger to her lips. "Don't let everyone hear you!"
She looked around warily. Then, when she was assured no one had overheard Julie, she turned back with a grin. "They'll attack us if they know I'm me! I nearly caused a riot in Erie last week. I was shopping with my mom at the mall and someone recognized me, a girl I went to elementary school with. She made a big fuss, right outside the entrance to Sears. Then everyone heard it was me and there was this totally huge mob. I had to run into the Ladies' Room for cover until the police came."
Julie had been to the huge Millcreek Mall just outside of Erie by Interstate 90 many a time. Jamestown had its own Chautauqua Mall, but it was small, and area residents often drove over to Erie for serious shopping. But she couldn't imagine being mobbed by frenzied fans at your hometown mall.
"Did the police have to escort you home?" she asked.
Gina nodded, pushing the dark glasses into place. "Yes, but that was later. I'd never be so uncool as to abandon fans. Once the police arrived, they escorted me out to the food court and I signed autographs and chatted with everyone for a couple hours. It's really fun to hang out with fans. People are so interesting and, to me, 'regular' people are the ones to be really admired. Then one of the police cars followed us home. It was all pretty weird. Our house is only two miles from the mall and I can't even go there without getting mobbed!"
Julie leaned forward, laughing. "One of the shortcomings of being the hottest star in the world, eh?"
The teen queen grinned with a shrug of her shoulders. "Well, I wasn't exactly the pop princess that day. I had this very same garb on and my hair in rollers. And no make-up. Hoping no one would recognize me. But, hey, it's my neighborhood and they're always on the lookout for me."
Julie could understand that. "I'll bet Gina Sabreen sightings are a big deal in Erie."
The girl nodded. "One day I went to the Barnes and Noble bookstore across from the mall to buy the latest Harry Potter book. My mom was with me and I actually wore a flight attendant outfit I got out in Hollywood, complete with a cute little cap and a brunette wig - just to go to Barnes and Noble!" Her fist pounded on the table. "I love to spend hours browsing for books, but right away several people recognized me. I had to take the wig off and hold court in the cafe and chat with everyone. Some of them bought my CDs and I signed them. One lady had me inscribe a book she bought - The Da Vinci Code! Imagine that! Sitting in a cafe dressed as a stewardess signing CDs and a book I didn't even write. Well, at least it wasn't a mob scene, and they do have Starbuck's coffee!"
Julie was chuckling. "Gina, you are really funny." She held her hand out to the girl. "I am very happy to meet you."
"Likewise," the Sabreen girl said, shaking Julie's hand vigorously. "Do people recognize you often?"
"As a matter of fact, they do. You're the second person today to recognize me. Of course," Julie added, "I'm not that well-known as to cause a mob scene. And even though my life certainly is exciting, I'm sure it's nowhere near as exciting as yours."
"I do have a blast-o-rama," Gina admitted. "And it's huge to be able to travel the world. But I'm always chaperoned and guarded. You're only a couple years older than me, but you're all about going off alone like a girl James Bond and having real adventures. Solving mysteries! That is so large! You rule, Julie Kane. I want to be just like you. On my own."
Julie picked up her Big Mac and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully. "Are you flattering me to get on my good side because I'm going to write about you?"
Gina was like, "No way! I really mean it. I know I have an awesome life and I'm very grateful for all of it, but I'm never alone. Mom and Dad are always with me, or Boom Boom, my bodyguard. I can't remember the last time I was alone except to go to the bathroom, and not always that!"
Julie found she couldn't stop laughing. "No wonder you were such a hit on Family Values. You really have a wacky sense of humor. Is that man you were sitting with your bodyguard?"
Gina snorted and began to giggle. "Totally no! That's my dad."
"You're dad? Wow, what a hunk he is. And I love hunters. He looks great in that camouflage gear."
"Boom Boom is my bodyguard," Gina told her. "He's even bigger than my dad, about six-two and 240 pounds. He's huge and strong and tough, like The Rock. And he's black. He watches over me like a hawk and won't let a soul get near me. He's been visiting his mom in Philadelphia and will meet me in Coudersport this afternoon. They absolutely loved him there when we were filming the movie this summer. He's such an oddity to them, that town is so completely white."
"So your dad is driving you to Coudy?" Julie asked.
"Yep. He'll drop me off at the motel and then double back this way and down south to Tionesta Dam. We have a hunting camp there, a cozy little cabin. It's bow hunting season, you know. He's just gotta get himself a buck!"
"Right. I know all about that," Julie agreed. "I've been on dozens of hunting trips with my mom, dad, and brother. It gets to be like a religion. Where is your mom?"
"At home in Erie. She broke her arm a couple weeks ago. Slipped and fell while we were covering up the swimming pool for the season. So she's just staying home this weekend to relax. Boom Boom will take me back to Erie on Sunday."
Julie's brows knit in thought. "You can ride with me to Coudersport. That way your dad can go right down to Tionesta Dam from here. He won't have to drive all the way out to Potter County and then double back."
Gina's mouth went agape. Then, "Julie, that'd be so cool. I'd love it. On my own with a girlfriend! What a treat. And it'd sure save Dad a lot of time."
She turned and sent a loud "Pssst!" over to the booth her dad was sitting in. When he looked over, she whispered, "Come on over here!"
Mr. Sabreen picked up his coffee cup and squeezed his beefy frame out of the booth. Julie checked him out as he walked over, pleased at what she saw. He was a tall husky man in his forties with muscular arms and broad shoulders, and a slim waist. He was handsome, and Gina looked a lot like him. She had his cool blue eyes and blond hair, too, when she wasn't sporting the 'dye job'.
He sat down next to Gina, giving Julie a friendly smile.
"Dad, we were right. This is Julie Kane. Julie, this is my dad, Eddie Sabreen."
Julie shook the man's hand. "Great to meet you, Eddie. Wow! What's it like to be the father of this amazingly talented daughter of yours?"
The man grinned from ear to ear, obviously very proud. "It's wonderful. Gina is a great talent and she's also a wonderful girl. We all worked hard for the astounding success she's achieved, and we haven't lost sight that we're a very blessed family. There are so many who don't make it, and we're sure grateful that Gina has."
Julie was impressed by the man's attitude of gratitude. Her parents had instilled that value in her and her brother, and always expressed it themselves. It always pleased her to hear it from others.
"She brings a great deal of pleasure to millions of people with her acting and singing," Julie said. "Earlier, on my way down here, I heard Wings to Fly on the radio and, wow, it really sent me. I almost flew off the road!"
Gina giggled. "Wait till you hear the club version. Six minutes and thirty-two seconds of it with a techno-pop dance beat and background vocals by Justin Timberlake and a rap riff by Kanye West."
Julie's eyes widened. "Yo! How did you manage that?"
Gina shrugged. "They're my friends. They wanted to do something with me."
Julie shook her head in wonder. "That's awesome. I'm taking mental notes for my article about you. I can't wait to hear it - Wings to Fly, a dance version, with JT singing and dude himself rapping!"
"Boom Boom will have CD copies of it in Coudersport," Gina told her. "It was remixed at a studio in Philly by one of our DJ friends, not far from his mom's house."
"Speaking of Coudersport," Julie said, looking at Mr. Sabreen. "I'm headed there myself right now. Gina can come with me. That way you can go right down to Tionesta Dam to start your hunting and save a lot of time."
There was a quick gleam of interest in the man's eyes. He looked at Gina. "Do you think it'd be okay, honey? I'd sure like to get started hunting that buck on a beauty day like this."
Gina nodded eagerly. "Of course it'll be okay, Daddy. I'd be safer with Julie than with the President. She travels all over the world, solves mysteries and fights crime. Like a super hero."
Julie was all, "Hey, I don't fly faster than a speeding bullet or leap over tall buildings with a single bound!"
Eddie Sabreen winked at her. "From what I've read in LifeStyles, you do just about everything else but that."
"Not exactly," Julie chided him with a smile. "But Gina will be plenty safe with me. The only thing between here and Coudy is the Allegheny National Forest, and nothing is likely to happen in there."
Gina nodded, flitting a grim expression at her dad. "Right. No crazed fans or stalkers in there!"
"Stalkers?" Julie asked, looking from one to the other.
Mr. Sabreen shrugged, the corners of his mouth tightening. He jutted his chin toward Gina. "Some guy out in Hollywood was stalking her in August. A real creep, too. Boom Boom and I had to be with her every minute, even on a couple publicity dates. We had to sit and have dinner from a couple tables away."
Gina rolled her eyes and chuckled. "And I was with that dreamy Chace Crawford! Had to have my dad and bodyguard ten feet away! That's why we're staying home in Erie for a while now. We completed some interior scenes for The Vanishing Shadow movie in Hollywood and then hightailed it back home. It's totally creepy having one of those weirdos after you!"
Julie shivered. "Ughh! It must be awful. You haven't seen or heard from him since you've been home?"
Eddie Sabreen shook his head. "Nothing so far. It appears to have been just a Hollywood thing. It happens a lot out there. But we're still being cautious."
Talk about the stalker had gotten to Gina, Julie could see, but the girl forced a smile. "Can I go with Julie, Dad? We'll be okay. And Boom Boom will be there waiting in Coudy."
Her father nodded. "All right, but don't tell your mother. I'll never hear the end of it!"
Gina was obviously thrilled and sent Julie a triumphant smile. "Mom totally won't here about it from me," she assured her dad, grinning happily.
Julie was awed by the fact that a two-to-three hour car ride with a friend was such a treat for this girl who was an international star and entertained people all over the world. But, after all, she had to remind herself, it was Pennsylvania and it was October and they'd be driving through the Allegheny National Forest to Judy Bolton Country. That was indeed pretty special, even to a girl like Gina who had it all.
Julie finished her lunch and the three of them went back outside. The day seemed even brighter than before; there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Gina's dad was driving a big silver Dodge truck with a tonneau cover over the back bed. He unsnapped the part by the tailgate and pulled the tailgate down, revealing suitcases and hunting gear that were stashed underneath. He pulled out two cloth suitcases, both packed tight and looking like they might explode.
Julie pointed at her car parked about forty feet away. "That's me. The black Jaguar."
Eddie Sabreen nodded. "Hot car, Julie. But will these big lumpy suitcases fit?"
"No fear. There's plenty of room. Just toss them in the back seat."
Gina's dad walked over to the car and did exactly that, then hugged his daughter and kissed her on the cheek. "Have a good time, honey. And listen to Boom Boom. Don't try sneaking off away from him!"
Gina blushed guiltily, glancing sideways at Julie. "Oh, Dad! I only did it that one time. You know how he watches over me like a mother hen. Sometimes it creeps me out!"
Mr. Sabreen sighed with long-suffering patience. "Creeped out or not, honey, you need a bodyguard. Good luck with the video. I'll be back home on Monday or Tuesday, depending on how the hunting goes."
He turned to Julie. "If you should need me, Gina has my cell phone number. If you don't get an answer, keep trying. You know how hit-and-miss reception can be in these mountains."
Julie nodded and grinned. "That guy on TV who keeps walking around and asking 'Can you hear me now?' should be checking it out here in Appalachia, huh? It's a pleasure to have met you, Eddie, and don't worry about Gina. I'll keep an eye on her. She's my big story this weekend, so I won't let anything happen to her for sure!"
Gina was all "Sa-weeet!" and "Ohmygod!" when they had climbed into the Jaguar and pulled out of the parking lot. Julie headed east and the car purred across the bridge that spanned the Allegheny River.
"This is such a total wow!" Gina was carrying on. "No mother, father, bodyguard, agent, producer, director, fans or stalker! Just me alone, on my own. No one in my space. I love it!"
Julie glanced at the girl with a laugh. "I'm here, Gina. Right in the same space next to you."
Gina chuckled happily and was like, "But you are so majorly awesome and, to tell the truth, I feel safer with you than any of the others. This is so cool!"
Julie had to admit, yes it was! She didn't usually get to take a lengthy car ride with her interview subjects and Gina was indeed the hottest entertainer in the world right now. This set-up was offering Julie a very intimate one-on-one with the girl that everybody but everybody wanted.
She turned east after the bridge onto route 6 North which curved its way through the hills south of Warren. But not a minute later she made a quick left turn onto route 59, which led east through the northern part of the Allegheny National Forest.
"I love this road so much," Gina said, as the forested hills closed in on them. "We drove it a lot earlier this summer back and forth to Erie when we were filming The Vanishing Shadow movie in Potter County. Boom Boom prefers the northern route that goes up to Interstate 86 in New York and then Interstate 90 to Erie. He likes the freeways. But I'd rather be on these remote country roads and in the hills and woods."
"Me too," agreed Julie. "This route is so major the way it follows the river all the way to the reservoir and the dam, then goes up into the really high country before meeting up with route 6 again in Smethport. Once I had to stop because there was a bear in the road. That was freaky. Another time, this same weekend in early October, there was a blizzard on my way back home from Coudy."
"There won't be any snow this weekend," Gina predicted. "Not even any cold. It's supposed to be sunny and warm. I totally love it. Look at how beautiful it all is!"
Julie had to agree. The hills were all ablaze in their fall palette of color, the river alongside the winding road smooth and glistening in the dazzling sunlight. One couldn't ask for more lovely scenery through which to drive. The car hugged the road and purred like a cat as it swooshed around the curves in the breathtaking high country.
"So tell me about when you sneaked away from Boom Boom," Julie asked the girl. "What made you do it? Where did you go?"
Gina grinned and rolled her eyes. "It was in Coudersport this summer while we were making the movie. Benneto Franchi had come from Cleveland to spend a few days."
"I met him and interviewed him last week," Julie interposed. "What a guy, huh?"
"He's totally fab, for sure. I talked to him a couple nights ago and he said he'd had lunch with you. But Boom Boom won't let him or any guy get near me! He is such the king of protecting my virtue. My dates are so phony!" She shook her head and laughed. "Of course, that's what he gets paid for. It's his job. But sometimes it's just a little too much. One night in Rome Justin Timberlake and I wanted to be alone, but Boom Boom wouldn't allow it. Justin got sort of peeved."
"Sure can't blame him," Julie commented. "But if Boom Boom can say no to him, he's really good at his job."
"That he is! Anyway,"Gina went on, "I made friends with a lot of the high school kids in Coudy. They were extras in the movie. The town had a big teen dance one night at the Consistory there, this big old mansion that's now a Masonic Lodge and party center. It's right across the street from the Farringdon-Pett mansion from the Judy Bolton books. The kids begged me to come, so I snuck out of the hotel and Benneto and I went to the dance. It was a blast to hang out with those kids like that!"
She paused a moment, grimaced, took a deep breath, then went on. "But then Boom Boom showed up, having figured out where we went. I thought he was going to strangle Benneto! He was so angry. But he managed to calm down because the kids were instantly all over him. They knew him from being on location, and he's so big and hunky and has such a great personality, they just wouldn't leave him alone. He was the hit of the dance. Benneto and I were able to have a good time without his hovering all over us every minute. It was great, almost like a real date! Like now, just being off away with you without everyone who is usually on my back is so cool!"
"Exactly what do you have to do for the music video?" Julie asked.
"Just the parade scene. Speaking of which ....," Gina fished around in her shoulder bag, now on the console between them, and pulled out a CD case. She opened it and slipped the disc into the car's CD player. "This is the new single, It's No Mystery. I wrote it myself! I hope it's a hit. It'd be so insanely major to have a hit that I wrote myself!"
Julie jumped when a sound like a sonic boom exploded in the car. A rapid dance beat followed, backed by a rack of synthesizers that took off as if for outer space. Julie was tempted to floor the accelerator and take off with it. Gina's vocals joined the melange in an infectious hook that was repeated over and over again in one key and then the next, then followed by a melodic bridge that led into an instrumental riff and then a rap solo.
"Gina!" Julie looked at her in surprise. "Is that you?"
The girl nodded happily. "Yes! Totally! I love it. I just had to rap on a record. Do you like it? I think it is so insane!"
"It's great, Gina. You really sound terrific!"
Julie knew that rapping was not the easy thing a lot of people thought it was. It was a real art form of its own, and for a girl pop star like Gina to rap on her own record instead of having a rapper join her and do it was really taking a risk. But she sounded just right, that exact mix of tough and sexy and sweet that girl rappers strove for.
She was like, "The kid's will love this song, Gina! That beat is fantastic and the melody is so catchy. Wow, another huge hit it's gotta be! And I love the way the words tie in with the movie - so cool. Right, 'Life is no mystery when you live it with someone you love!' Awesome!"
"There's a parade on Saturday for Judy Bolton Day," Gina told her, "and I'll be on a special float and they'll film me lip-syncing this song. Then they'll mix it in with the rest of the shoots. We did the other footage in Hollywood and they'll be using a lot of scenes from the movie."
Gina patted her upswept hair. "That's why my hair is still red. I'm still playing Judy Bolton! What a thrill. I started reading the Judys when I was a kid and I've never stopped."
"Same with me," Julie said, and she chuckled as the song came to an end. "But I never imagined rapping ever having anything to do with Judy Bolton! Does Philly Cable intend to film more of the books?"
"They're talking about it, and waiting to see the response to this one."
The song ended and Gina popped out the CD. "So you really like it?"
"You bet, girlfriend! Perfect to lead off your new CD and tie-in with the movie."
"Wings To Fly will be on the new CD too," Gina said. "It's No Mystery will be released in early January, the movie aired later in the month, and the CD released the first week in February. It's so exciting! Then they want me to do a world tour. That's scary!"
Julie nodded. "Yikes! That's a lot of hard work, kiddo. I've interviewed Madonna, Cher, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain, and many of the male singers too. They all agree that the tours are the hardest work in the music business. They love doing it, of course. But it's tough."
Gina looked pensive for a moment, then, "We'll figure something out. Probably a limited tour here at home and a few international shows, sort of like Cleveland, Philly, Pittsburgh and New York for starters, and maybe Toronto, London, Hong Kong, Melbourne. I'm big all over the world! I actually got a fan letter from Timbuktu. My mom, who takes care of all of that, made sure I read it. I don't even know where that is!"
Julie laughed. "Somewhere in Africa. One of those really exotic places."
Gina grinned and gazed happily out the window. "I've been to so many fabulous places but, let me tell you, I just adore Pennsylvania! To death! My eyes are so huge just looking at the scenery. I guess because it's home, no other place can really compare."
Julie gently punched the girl's shoulder. "We're just a couple of Allegheny Girls at heart, you know? They say that north-central PA is the ultimate nature getaway and that its color show in the fall is unparalleled anywhere else in the country because of all the maples, sumac, and oaks. They give it all the fabulous oranges and deep reds."
Julie let her eyes leave the road for a moment to glimpse the brilliant foliage. "It's hard to believe that this right here is almost all second-growth forest. A hundred years ago clearcutting had just about devastated this area, which was supplying the whole USA with wood for housing and furniture. Thank goodness they stopped the destruction and made this a National Forest. It's all grown back and now the environment is protected!"
"My dad and I made a canoe trip down the Allegheny several years ago," Gina said. "We started out from the marina at the reservoir, right by the bridge up ahead. We paddled all the way, camped two nights on islands in the river and one night on shore. It was so ultra! We canoed all the way down to Tionesta Dam, to the cabin there. My mom met us, having driven over from Erie, and we spent a few more days there.
"Then," Gina's eyes widened and she snorted a laugh, "after we got home, Mom and I flew to Hollywood and I filmed some Mickey Mouse Club episodes. I was about ten or eleven then. It was so fantastically weird to me - one day living on the river in the wilderness, the next singing and dancing on a sound stage in Hollywood!"
Julie looked at her with amused wonder. "Talk about diversity, huh? You're an Allegheny girl, a mouseketeer, a sexy hip-hop recording star and rapper, girl vocalist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Grammy Award winner, .... ummmm ...., and Judy Bolton actress too. Can't forget that! You're a movie star now, too, sweetie."
Then Julie's smile turned up a notch. She was all, "Oh don't mind me, Gina. I'm just writing out loud, making mental notes. All this stuff about you is so interesting. I want to use it all in my article, like how the girl mouseketeer canoed down the river with her dad. So awesome! Tell me more!"
As they drove along through the blazing forest Gina continued to talk about herself, her family, and her life in the entertainment industry. Julie stored it all away in the files of her mind. It was like she had a special memory chip embedded in there. She was always able to remember everything, which sure came in handy for all the times important information was forthcoming and she was in a situation where she couldn't write it down.
At length the river alongside the road began to widen as they approached the Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir. The mountains began to spread apart as a wide valley folded out before them.
"This part ahead always gives me goosebumps," Gina said, sitting forward in excitement. "Like when you take off in an airplane. It's like the whole world is totally opening up and you are flying wild away through it!"
Julie had to agree. Driving by the big dam and over the reservoir bridge was always thrilling. The sudden openness seemed like outer space itself after the deep closeness of the mountain forest.
"Lookit!" she cried as the car drove past the widest section of river, the immense dam hovering over it like a monolithic concrete creature. "You can see soldiers up on the top of the dam. And there," she pointed as they passed parking lots for workers and tourists, "tanks and hum-vees in the parking lots. More soldiers, too!"
Gina bent down to the dash, looking up at the huge dam with eyes popped wide. "Boom Boom and I noticed the increased security this summer when we kept driving by. What's it for?"
Julie slowed the car down a little so that they could look at the dam and the huge reservoir ahead that it was holding back from gushing down the river. "It's part of the increased homeland security instituted last year after nine-eleven. The dam is one of the top ten high-security sites in the country. If it was bombed, the city of Pittsburgh would be flooded within the hour."
Gina shuddered. She was all, "Ohmygod! That quick? And Warren and all those cool little towns along the way? And Tionesta, too? Yobs! They'd all be underwater in no time. Look at the size of the reservoir!"
The hills had fallen away behind them and ahead, and spread out on both sides, lay an immense valley lake, miles wide in spots. The sun-splashed colorful mountains, reaching out like fingers, surrounded the smooth glistening waters giving the scene a Wagnerian magnificence that was as splendid as it was startling after coming from the darkness of the hills.
Julie felt a thrill of excitement course through her. Then she was like, "I love this part, too. You're right. It's just like flying!"
The road began to descend lower into the valley to the bridge that crossed the lake to the other side, about a mile's length at this point. With the wide open spaces and the speed of the car, and the sudden change in altitude, it was indeed like flying, and both girls started to laugh out loud.
"Yikes! It's like we're gonna go right into the water!" Gina cried.
Julie responded by pressing harder on the accelerator, the muffled swoosh of the engine sounding like a jet.
She was all, totally, "Never fear! We'll fly right over it!"
"Talk about 'Wings To Fly'," Gina piped, holding her arms out to her sides.
The low-slung car shot out onto the bridge that crossed the blue sparkling waters. It was four lanes wide, but the immensity of the open valley and lake surrounding it made it seem tiny and insignificant, as if the car, too, was just a tiny speck in an overwhelming vastness of an endless universe.
"Yahoo!" Gina cried, as they sped on over the waters. "Julie! You are such a total ball!"
Julie laughed. "And I'm going slow because you're with me! You should see me whiz over this bridge when I'm alone!"
"Well don't cramp your style because of me!"
"Hey, I promised your dad to look after you, not place you in harm's way."
"Screw harm's way," Gina shot back. "This is just way too cool. Oh, look down there, the marina we canoed from!"
They were quickly approaching the opposite shore and near the end of the bridge could be seen the marina that served the reservoir, a multitude of colorful boats and sails sparkling in the sun. A moment later the car shot off the bridge back onto the roadbed that now climbed steeply up the forested hill back into the highlands. Julie had to accelerate again to keep up her speed as they were suddenly plunged into the colorful darkness of the densely covered high country once again.
A sign on the right proclaimed that the Rimrock Overlook was only a half mile ahead.
"Oh Julie, that was fun!" the Sabreen girl cried, plopping back in her seat. "Can you stop at the overlook ahead? There are some outhouses there. I have to pee!"
"Of course I'll stop. I seldom don't. We can walk to the overlook and catch the view. It's awesome, especially on a fall day like today."
At the top of the hill, under the shelter of the tall trees, Julie pulled into the parking lot for the Rimrock Overlook tourist site. There were several outhouses stationed along the gravel area that led to the path to the overlook and, after alighting, the girls availed themselves of the facilities.
Julie smiled happily as she stepped back out of the outhouse she'd used, and she drew in a deep breath of the fresh mountain air. It was cool and crisp and intoxicating, filled with the myriad scents of the forest. Tall pines and huge maples, oaks, and birch surrounded her in their various shades of fall colors. There were a couple other cars in the parking lot and beyond it was an access road leading up into the hills for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling activities. Julie gazed up the track, longing to hike up that way and spend the day on a high country trail idling away the hours far far away from the real world.
"Oh, I'm just bonkers!" Gina was going as she stepped out of a nearby outhouse, slamming the door behind. "This is so totally fab!"
She stretched out her arms and shivered her shoulders happily, the words PENN STATE on her sweatshirt elongating sideways on each end. Then she walked over and locked her arm with Julie's.
"What a team we make, Julie Kane. We rule!"
Julie's smile grew into a chuckle. "I know that you rule the pop charts, Gina. But exactly what do I rule?"
Gina smirked happily, going, "The newstands! And together we are going to be a huge world-wide hit!"
Julie certainly did hope that her story about Gina and Judy Bolton Day weekend would be a popular one, but her really big stories that had gained world-wide attention had all involved mystery and peril. And there was just no chance of that happening in Potter County, thank goodness. She certainly didn't want anything untoward to mar the beautiful weekend ahead.
The girls walked through the woods down the dirt path arm in arm gaily chatting away until, at length, the tall trees thinned and they walked out onto a large stone-flagged terrace that overlooked the man-made lake below. They walked over to the stone wall that surrounded the overlook on its outer edge.
"Wow! Check out this view," Julie said, leaning against the rail atop the stone, perched there high above the valley. "It's like being ontop of the world!"
Gina looked back and forth with wonder in her eyes. She was totally, "Hey, we should have filmed the video for Wings to Fly up here instead of in the studio. The Cleveland Orchestra could've fit on this big terrace. I could've been standing on this wall lip-syncing. And there could've been helicopter shots of me sweeping and up and down the hills and valley!"
"What an awesome video that would be," Julie agreed, her eyes sweeping the valley reservoir of the damned-up Allegheny. "Beautiful Waters, the native Senecas call this lake. It's twenty-four miles long with ninety-one miles of shoreline. This section here is the widest with these amazing expansive views. Don't you just love how the hills reach into the waters like long spindly fingers of color?"
Gina giggled, all, "Love it! And the sheer beauty of it, and the heights up here, make me dizzy! I wanted to stop here a couple times with Boom Boom this summer, but he's afraid of bears. Oh laugh out loud, and he's bigger than any of them! We did pull into the parking lot and use the outhouses but he wouldn't hike over here to the overlook."
Julie laughed along with the girl, finding it amusing that a big tough bodyguard was that much afraid of bears. "They usually stay away from the people areas like this anyway. There really isn't anything to fear in these woods!"
Both Julie and Gina jumped at the sudden unexpected noise.
Then it came again, and ... again!
Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
A dozen seconds passed before Julie realized what was happening.
"Ohmigod, Gina! Arrows! Someone is shooting at us!"
Two more hunting arrows slammed the wall inches from the girls, bouncing back to the flagged floor to join the others that had preceded them.
Julie grabbed Gina's arm. "Quick! over to that corner!"
She pulled the younger girl to the far corner of the terrace hoping to evade the flying missiles, but they only followed, banging into the farther wall inches aside them.
Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
They scrunched down into the corner, terrified.
Suddenly the whole glorious world around them had turned into a nightmare!
"Somebody's up there!" Julie hissed, pointing to the woods high above them. "A hunter! It's gotta be! It's bow-hunting season! And ... it's crazy ... totally ... but he's shooting at you and me!"
Read Chapter 3 here!