Escape From Los Angeles
(Third Book of The Big Apple
by Wendy R. Williams
Illustrated by Sophie Escabesse
Teen Action Adventure
Copyright @ 2012 by Wendy R. Williams
All rights reserved,
including the right to reproduce or transmit this
book or any part thereof by any means whatsoever,
without written permission of the author, except
where permitted by law.
Address story inquiries
Wendy R. Williams Oval Concierge
276 First Avenue
New York, New York 10009
Address illustration inquiries to:
Amanda squirmed in
the backseat of the Escalade, unable to find a comfortable
position without waking her brother Peter who was
asleep, his head on a pillow in her lap. Amanda
also had a pillow; she had a blanket too, for which
she was grateful. It was nice to feel warm again
after swimming from a yacht to shore in fifty degree
weather wearing a cocktail dress, high heels, and
what was now a soggy, smelly down jacket. Now that
she was warm, she could feel the bruises developing
on her face from where the thugs had slugged both
her and Solange to make them tell where Thibodeaux
and Peter were hiding. But for now, they were safe.
Thibodeaux and Solange were asleep in the middle
seats of the Escalade; she was trying to sleep in
the back, and Michael and his brother, DJ True,
were driving. Amanda guessed it could be worse.
She could be the one trying to stay awake and drive
all night instead of trying to sleep without pressing
on her bruises. Not that anyone would allow a thirteen-year-old
girl to drive on a highway at 1 a.m.
Today was shaping up to be one of the worst days
of Amanda's life—right up there with the day
they were trapped in the basement of the theater
after the terrorists attacked New York City. Well,
maybe not quite that bad, but being kidnapped, beaten
up, and forced to escape by jumping out of a yacht
porthole in March in New Orleans (people who thought
New Orleans was always warm really needed to log
onto weather.com) would be considered pretty awful
on anyone's scale of yuck. Nice girls from nice
homes in Greenwich, Connecticut were not supposed
to have "those kinds" of problems.
Amanda dozed on and off, but sometimes she could
hear Michael and DJ talking on their cell phones.
It sounded like they were talking to their Dad,
Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau must be trying to figure
out where they should go next, because she heard
Michael say, "We'll drive to Baton Rouge and
call you again."
About an hour later, Amanda woke up. The car was
stopped in the parking lot of a twenty-four hour
Walmart. Amanda asked, "What are we doing?"
DJ answered, "Michael is going to buy some
clothes for you and Solange? What size shoe do you
Amanda was really tired but she thought for a moment
and said, "Seven, and I think Solange wears
an eight, because I wore her shoes tonight and they
were a little too big."
"Go back to sleep. I'll take care of this,"
Strangely enough Amanda did go back to sleep only
to be awakened fifteen minutes later by Michael
handing a bag of clothes to her and Solange and
telling them to put them on.
"Sorry, you need to wake up enough to put these
on. If we get stopped by the police, I don't want
you getting out of the car looking all beat up,
wearing just a sweatshirt, and without any shoes,"
said Michael. Amanda fished around in the bag that
Michael handed her. There was a hoodie, some sweatpants,
socks, sneakers, and underwear. Amanda did not want
to think about how Michael decided what size underwear
she wore. She just took the clothes and put them
on, using the oversized men's sweatshirt she was
wearing as a cover as she changed. Surprisingly,
everything fit, including the underwear which Amanda
still did not want to think about.
While Amanda and Solange were changing DJ's phone
"Okay, we'll head to Natchitoches. Can you
give us driving instructions? Michael disabled the
GPS on this car when they arrived in New Orleans.
We really need to hide the car before sunlight when
it will be visible by satellite. You know the New
Orleans police have the license plate and description
of this car from their traffic cams," said
Amanda thought that DJ must also watch a lot of
Law & Oder. But then she dozed off again.
While she was sleeping she would occasionally hear
the phone ring and DJ talking in a hushed voice.
The next time she woke up, they had pulled off the
highway and were driving through the outskirts of
some town, and then she woke again as they drove
onto a roughly paved road that seemed to go on for
a bit before they pulled to a stop. Amanda could
see the outline of a large two-story wood house
by the light of the moon. There were no lights on
anywhere, making the house look haunted.
A lady with a flashlight in her hand approached
their car and gestured for them to follow her as
she guided them to drive the car towards an old
barn. The lady used hand signals to indicate that
they should park the Escalade inside the barn.
Once the car was parked, DJ and Michael got out
of the car and DJ said, "I'm Terrance Trudeau
and this is my brother Michael and you must be Mrs.
"Yes, I am and we need to get everyone inside
the house before dawn. Please wake the kids. I don't
want anyone to know you are here until we figure
out exactly how much danger you are in," said
Amanda woke Peter up and they very grumpily followed
Solange and Thibodeaux as they climbed out of the
car. As soon as they were out of the barn, Mrs.
Gallagher closed the door. Amanda looked at Mrs.
Gallagher. She looked to be in her sixties, was
very tall and thin with short curly blonde hair.
She was dressed all in black—black jeans and
black leather jacket. She must really not want to
"Come on kids, we can't turn on any lights,
but I have your beds ready. We'll sort all of this
out tomorrow after you get some sleep. Is anyone
hungry?" asked Mrs. Gallagher.
Mrs. Gallagher looked at the motley band of travelers
as they slowly walked toward the house and said,
"I guess not. Well, you'll be hungry tomorrow."
Amanda walked towards the back of the house which
looked larger and prettier once she was closer.
They climbed up the steps to the raised porch and
entered the back door, going into the kitchen. Looking
at the kitchen through the light of Mrs. Gallagher's
flashlight, Amanda could tell this was an old plantation
style house. The kitchen was huge with old white
cabinets, some with glass doors. There was a tin
topped table in the middle of the room surrounded
by old chairs which must have been white at one
"We always have a lot of company so there are
lots of beds," said Mrs. Gallagher as she led
them out of the kitchen and down the hall and then
shined the flashlight up the stairs. "My room
is downstairs so you can just figure out the bed
situation upstairs for yourselves."
Amanda stumbled up the stairs by the light of the
moon, entered the first bedroom at the top of the
stairs, and climbed into the first bed she saw,
and strangely enough, she fell back to sleep.
The next thing she knew, it was noon. Amanda's watch
had lost the ability to tell time when she jumped
into the Gulf to escape the kidnappers, but there
was an old clock on her bedside table and the hands
were straight up.
Solange and Amanda at Miss
Amanda looked around the room. The walls were covered
in dark green wallpaper with large pink roses and
flowery vines. When she moved in the bed, she could
hear something moving underneath her which she guessed
were old fashioned bed springs. The bedspreads and
curtains were old also, made of some waxy green
fabric that matched the wallpaper and was printed
with huge cabbage roses. The room was filled with
pieces of old mahogany furniture which Amanda thought
were probably antiques or at the very least, old
pretty things. She smelled the scent of dried roses
coming from bowls of potpourri on the bedside tables.
Amanda sat up and looked around. Solange was still
asleep in the bed next to Amanda's so she quietly
got out of bed and walked across the hall to a bathroom.
Even the bathroom was old; it looked like an ad
out of Restoration Hardware, but that would be before
Mrs. Gallagher had laid out a bunch of toothbrushes
that were still in the packages plus a couple of
hair brushes. Amanda opened one of the packages
and brushed her teeth and washed her face. She looked
longingly at the tub, but quickly jumped into the
shower, washed, shampooed her hair, dried off, and
re-dressed in her new Walmart fashions which looked
uglier than they had in the parking lot lights last
night. Amanda left the bathroom without trying to
find a hair dryer to dry her hair. She had no idea
how many bathrooms were in this house, but after
living with only one while they were hiding in New
Orleans, she knew better than to hog it.
Amanda walked back into the hall and looked around.
There were six doors in the hallway so there must
be five more bedrooms or maybe one of those doors
was to another upstairs bathroom. It was a big house.
If you followed the upstairs hall to the front of
the house, walking past the stairway, there was
a pretty glass door that led to an upstairs porch.
Amanda opened the porch door and peeked outside
to see several wooden rocking chairs. Looking around,
she saw that the house was surrounded by woods—she
could not see another house close by. But Amanda
did not go outside because she remembered what Mrs.
Gallagher had said last night about not letting
anyone know they were here, so she walked down the
The stairway ended in the front hall. Amanda looked
to her right and saw what must be the formal living
room which was filled with antiques, but had a couple
of comfy-looking old sofas. The living room opened
into a formal dining room which had an enormous
old mahogany table and twelve chairs. There was
a swinging door between the dining room and what
must be the kitchen and hearing voices from behind
the door, Amanda pushed it open, screamed, and ran
straight to an older man who was standing in the
middle of the kitchen with his arms wide open.
"Hello, darling!" Amanda's grandfather
picked her up and spun her around.
"How did you get here?" asked Amanda.
"I was in Dallas for a horse show when I got
the call from your mother. So I called Gaby (he
gestured to Mrs. Gallagher) and asked her to take
you in. And then I drove all night and got here
just after you did. Both you and Peter were sound
asleep when I arrived. Just look at you. You must
have grown two more inches since I saw you last
Amanda looked around the kitchen and saw that Michael
and DJ were sitting at the table drinking coffee
and she remembered her manners, "Michael, DJ—have
you met my grandfather, Wallace Abernathy?"
Michael and DJ smiled and nodded.
"I sure did meet them and they are already
calling me Wally, and we are busy swapping war stories,"
said Amanda's Grandfather Wally.
Mrs. Gallagher walked up to Amanda and said, "You
were really sleepy last night so I don't know if
you remember me, but I am Gaby Gallagher—you
can be southern and call me Miss Gaby. I am so glad
you were able to sleep. (Miss Gaby touched Amanda's
chin ) You do look better this morning, but you
are going to have some nasty bruises."
"Bruises?" asked Amanda's grandfather
looking again at her face. "How did I miss
those? What kind of man would beat up a little kid
"It's okay. I’m going to be okay and
I think Solange is too. She got beat up too but
no worse than me," said Amanda.
Amanda sat down at the old kitchen table. The table
used to be white but most of the paint on the legs
had worn away so the wood showed through. Someone
had put silverware, plates, and yellow gingham cloth
napkins on the tin table top. It was warm in the
kitchen. The sun was shining through the wood frame
windows, casting shadows on the walls and white
washed plank flooring. The kitchen looked like it
was at least fifty years old; the only new things
were some pieces of blue Le Creuset cookware, a
stainless steel coffee maker, a cappuccino maker,
and a retro looking orange microwave.
"Would you like some breakfast? I made eggs
and toast. I don't have bacon or much other food
in the house because I thought I would be alone
this trip," said Miss Gaby.
Amanda nodded and said, "I would love some
"How about a nice cup of tea?" asked Miss
Gaby. "I have a nice collection of flower teas
that I bought at a tea shop in Austin."
"Amanda's a coffee drinker just like her grandfather.
She's got a lot of the old West in her for a Connecticut
girl," said Grandfather Wally as he poured
a cup of coffee, added milk and sugar and handed
it to Amanda.
"You said you were here for a trip. Don't you
live here?" asked Amanda.
"I grew up here and when my parents died, I
inherited the house. I live in Austin, Texas most
of the time, but I come here when I need a break.
I say break, but I spend most of my time when I'm
here fixing up the house. But I couldn't bear to
have the house pass out of the family, so here I
am," said Miss Gaby. "This is a beautiful
house," replied Amanda. "I can see why
you love it."
"Thank you." Miss Gaby handed Amanda a
plate of eggs and toast.
Amanda looked up at Miss Gaby and said, "Thank
you. Where are we?"
Amanda's grandfather Wally answered, "We are
just outside Natchitoches, Louisiana. When your
mother told me you had to leave New Orleans and
needed a place to hide, I remembered Gaby had a
house out here in the woods and I called her cell
phone hoping that she had a key hidden somewhere
outside and that she would say that you could stay
here. But we were in luck. Gaby was already here
and she was gracious enough to invite us all to
stay while we try to figure out what to do next."
"You talked to my mother? Where is she?"
"Melanie has to hide too so she took a leave
from work and is living in Boston. We all want to
talk to you, but just can't risk someone finding
you even when we are talking on burn phones,"
said Wally. "Melanie had to move twice because
men supposedly from the FBI keep finding her friends
and asking questions. They seem to know everyone
she knows, even kids from her grade school."
"Is my Mom okay?" asked Amanda.
"Yes, she can't risk staying with any of her
friends anymore. She is living in an apartment in
Cambridge that she rented for cash. I sent her enough
money to stay where she is until the trial so she
should be okay. She dyed her hair and does not have
a car so she does not need to carry an ID,"
said Grandpa Wally. "She wanted to come to
New Orleans and take care of you, but we did not
think she should risk driving. She would have to
use her own driver's license and if she was stopped
for anything...and of course, she could not fly.
I'm pretty sure her name, and all of your names,
are on some kind of watch list."
"I can't wait for June when we can testify
and then I can go home and see my mother,"
said Amanda. "I wish she was with us. She must
be very lonely without us." "She misses
you very much, but the last thing she wants to do
is lead those terrorists to you," said Grandpa
"How do you two know each other?" Amanda
was really curious. Did her grandfather have a girlfriend?
Amanda looked at Gaby closely. She was very pretty
for an older woman. Even dressed in an oversized
man's white shirt and jeans and with bare feet,
Gaby looked elegant. Amanda knew her grandfather
liked pretty ladies and Miss Gaby looked like she
might be fun— she had a tattoo on her left
Wally and Gaby looked at each other for a few seconds
and then Gaby spoke. "We met at the Marfa Film
Festival a couple of years ago. I was there because
one of my books had been made into a film and your
grandfather was there because, as he told me, ‘It
was something interesting within a hundred miles
of his ranch.’”
"You went to a film festival?" Amanda
asked her grandfather.
"Yup. I like to piddle around in a lot of different
things these days," said Wally.
"Don't let him fool you. He has a real talent
for storytelling. He spins some of the best yarns
in our club," said Miss Gaby.
"Your club? What kind of club?" asked
"Well, Gaby asked me to join her club and I
have been meeting with them on and off for the last
couple of years," said Grandpa Wally.
"What kind of club is it?" asked Amanda.
"It's called The Day of the Dead Drinking and
Lying Club," said Miss Gaby.
"The what?" asked Amanda.
"We get together two or three times a year,
and tell stories and well, some of us drink while
we tell stories, but not me or your grandfather,
of course," Miss Gaby gave a meaningful look
to Grandpa Wally. "All of our members, except
your grandfather, who really needs to start writing,
are writers. Most of us are crime writers or screenwriters.
We named it the Day of the Dead Drinking and Lying
Club because our first meeting ten years ago was
in Cuernavaca, Mexico on the first of November.
We visited some friends outside the city in Ocotepec
and saw our first Day of the Dead celebration and
the name sort of stuck." "What's the Day
of the Dead?" asked Amanda.
"It is a celebration of the lives of ancestors.
In Latin American countries, everyone goes to the
cemetery and brings offerings—food, flowers,
gifts—for the dead in their family. They believe
that life continues after you die, that you move
onto a different plane. The celebration started
in the Aztec culture, but after much hemming and
hawing, the Catholic Church unofficially incorporated
The Day of the Dead into the celebration of All
Saints Day," said Gaby.
"That's nice," said Amanda changing the
subject. "You write books?"
"Crime novels. I also teach literature at the
University of Texas in Austin. Writing books used
to be my sideline, but now they bring in enough
money to pay for all the renovations on this old
place. And with this kind of house, it's 'write
a book, write a check.'"
DJ and Michael were eating breakfast and had been
very quiet, letting Amanda talk to her grandfather.
DJ cleared his throat and said, "So what are
we going to do now? I have been talking to my father
on and off all night, but so far, we haven't worked
anything out except hiding here. I don't think we
can stay here long. We would attract too much attention."
"You're right. This isn't a safe place for
you. Natchitoches still operates like a small town
and people talk. And even if you stay inside this
house for the next few months, someone will come
to the door and see you. Plus your grandfather told
me there might be an All Points Bulletin out on
you from the New Orleans Police. Some lawyer in
New York City is talking to the FBI to try to get
that quashed, but for now, I don't think any of
you should be seen anywhere there might be a policeman,"
said Miss Gaby.
"The lawyer in New York is our Dad, Benedicte
Trudeau. He has been up all night making phone calls,
trying to find a place we can stay until the trial,"
"Well, you are in luck. Since I knew you could
not stay here, after your grandfather called me
and told me about how much danger you are in, I
called some of my friends to try to find a place
for you to stay. One of the people I called was
one of our club members, Lafayette Loomis. It was
only 11 p.m. in Los Angeles, where he lives. Lafayette
is a screenwriter and he told me that he just bought
an old house close to the University of Southern
California where he guest lectures. The house had
only one owner for the last fifty years and she
just died at the age of ninety so it probably needs
as much work as this place, but he said we could
stay there until the trial. He bought the house
furnished because the only heir lives in London
now and it was impractical to ship or dispose of
the furniture or the household goods. Unfortunately,
Lafayette is leaving town to work on a film in New
Zealand so he won't be with us. So now we just need
to figure out how to get to Los Angeles without
being picked up by some local yokel cops."
said Miss Gaby.
"What?" asked Michael. "Is this guy
"Lafayette has been my friend since we were
students at Yale. Once I told him why we needed
help, he wanted to do anything he could," said
"But if he talks about this…," said
"I told him that if he talks to anyone, some
really sweet kids could be killed," said Miss
"Honey, no one is going to let anything happen
to you," said Grandpa Wally.
"But shouldn't we wait for my Dad to figure
this out? He has been working on it all night,"
"If he comes up with a better plan, we'll go
with it. But right now we need to concentrate on
figuring out how to go to LA. We will have to drive,
because with all the security at airports and bus
stations, we don't dare risk flying or riding on
a bus. But we are in luck, since I took this semester
off from teaching to finish my book, I can go and
stay with you in LA. Unfortunately, your grandfather
needs to get back home as quickly as he can. If
the thieves knew about Thibodeaux's relatives, they
know about Wally," said Miss Gaby. "And
if they know Wally is missing, they will start looking
for his friends and acquaintances."
"Gaby is a very good crime writer. She thinks
about all the angles," said Grandpa Wally.
"Just look what she figured out since last
"Yes, that is quite something," said Amanda.
She was dazed, listening to this stranger who seemed
to have taken over and planned out their lives.
But she wondered why she was surprised. All sorts
of kindhearted strangers had helped then since the
bombing and they all seemed to be full of ideas.
"Well, we can't travel in the Escalade. We
need to assume that all of law enforcement has the
make, model, and license plate of that car,"
"You're right about that. I closed the barn
doors on your car last night and that is where it
needs to stay," said Miss Gaby.
"But will it be safe to be in LA?" asked
"Lafayette's house is next to a university
with over thirty-five thousand students, so a few
more young people won't attract any attention. Plus
it is pilot season in Los Angeles and the city is
swarming with actors from all over who have moved
to LA to make the rounds. If anyone asks, we will
just say that you are in town for pilot season and
that I am your acting coach and manager," said
"Oh no, this stops right now. Solange is not
going on any auditions," said Amanda.
"I did not mean to imply that any of you would
actually audition for a TV show, after all, you
are going home after the trial. But why are you
worried about Solange in particular?" asked
Miss Gaby looking around the room to see that Michael
and DJ were laughing.
"Because whatever Solange does, she is amazing.
The only thing she can't do very well is swim and
I'm sure that is because she never tried. But if
she auditions for a pilot, they will cast her and
then her photograph will be in magazines and we
will have to leave Los Angeles just like we had
to leave New Orleans. So, no, she doesn't get to
audition. Solange was born under a lucky star or
she has a fairy godmother or something, but that
girl has to stay away from auditions, talent scouts...,"
Amanda's voice trailed off as she saw Michael and
DJ convulsed with laughter.
"Amanda's actually right. If we do end up in
LA, we need to keep Solange in a closet,”
said Michael. Michael saw the look on Amanda's face.
"That was a euphemism. No one is putting Solange
anywhere she doesn't want to be."
"I know what a euphemism is," said Amanda.
She actually didn't, but she was tired of everyone
considering her to be such a clueless nerd.
"Well, none of you will actually audition and
Lafayette told me the house has an old heated swimming
pool, so maybe Solange can learn how to swim,"
said Miss Gaby.
"Yes, that is what she needs to do. Solange
needs to practice swimming and stay away from clubs,
music stages, auditions..." Amanda just gave
up. Michael and DJ kept looking at her and cracking
up. She did not think she was being funny at all.
Going anywhere with Solange was like attending Sunday
School with Lady Gaga.
"Well, right now I need to go to the grocery
store and since no one knows I have company, I better
go alone. Please make sure your friends get something
to eat when they wake up," said Miss Gaby.
Amanda's grandfather pulled out his wallet and handed
Gaby a couple hundred dollar bills. "Here,
use this and don't argue with me. Let me do my bit."
Miss Gaby took the money and gave Amanda's grandfather
a quick kiss on the cheek. Amanda thought that she
would watch them closely so she could figure out
just what was going on with them.
Grandpa Wally walked back to the table and said,
"Amanda, let's go wake everyone else up. Michael
told me that Peter and Thibodeaux are the only ones
who have any clothes with them. I will go into town
and buy a couple of changes for everyone, but I
need to know the sizes."
"I'll make more coffee, toast, and eggs,"
Amanda walked upstairs with her grandfather. First
she stopped at the room where she slept last night
and woke up Solange who was very surprised to meet
Amanda's grandfather. Then she walked down the hall
and peeped into the rooms until she found the one
where Thibodeaux and Peter were sound asleep. Amanda
walked into the room and shook both of them.
Peter was thrilled to see his grandfather; he hugged
him and said, "Please take us home with you."
"I would love to, but I can't. We know those
hoodlums found out about Thibodeaux's relatives
and we should just assume that they know about your
family," said Wally. "So you need to go
somewhere else and I need to go back home and act
like I have not heard from any of you. But just
look at you. I haven't seen you since last summer
and you must have grown two inches just like Amanda.
"But will you be safe if you go back to the
ranch?" asked Peter.
"Hey! I've been taking care of myself for a
very long time and no one can get anywhere near
my ranch without my knowing about it a mile before
they arrive," said Wally. "I've warned
everyone who works for me; they think they are looking
for a gang of horse thieves who want to steal a
race horse I just purchased. Plus we are high tech
these days—there are security cameras hidden
all over the ranch."
"Hi, I'm Thibodeaux."
"I'm sorry. Granddaddy, this is my friend Thibodeaux.
He is a member of Peter's and my posse," said
"Pleased to meet you young man. Hmm, so you
call yourself a posse. You know, my grandfather
and his brothers used to ride with a posse every
time someone stole a horse or broke out of jail.
The sheriff would come bang on the door in the middle
of the night and they would load their guns, saddle
their horses, and ride out with him. It was a rougher
time in Texas back then and everyone had to pitch
in and do their part to keep the place safe. But
I'll tell you my tales some other time. Why don't
you three (Solange was leaning against the doorway)
get cleaned up and come downstairs and eat some
breakfast. I am going to town to shop for some more
clothes for everyone so you will need to give me
your sizes," said Wally.
"We'll go with you," said Solange.
"We can't, Solange. Everyone thinks the police
are looking for us so we need to stay inside the
house. But Granddaddy, if you go shopping, don't
you think the bad guys can track you here by your
credit cards?" asked Amanda. She was getting
really good about thinking of all the angles. Michael
and DJ weren't the only ones who had been watching
Law & Order.
"I'm old fashioned and don't use credit cards
much. But I do have a wad of cash in my wallet and
I will buy the clothes at several different stores
so no one will remember some old guy buying clothes
for six different people," said Wally. "There
are two bathrooms upstairs and a half bath off the
hallway downstairs. Gaby's room is downstairs in
the new addition and she has her own bathroom so
you can use any of the other ones. I will see you
in a few minutes."
"Peter and I have our clothes with us. We had
about an hour after Michael called us before they
picked us up, so we were able to pack. You will
only need to get some clothes for the girls and
Michael and DJ," said Thibodeaux.
"That's right. I actually did hear that,"
said Grandpa Wally.
Amanda looked at Solange, "How are you this
"I'm going to go to the bathroom and look at
my bruises. How do you feel?" asked Solange.
"Sore, but I'm okay," replied Amanda.
"I guess we are lucky, but the next class I
take is going to be karate," said Solange.
Amanda and her grandfather went downstairs. Wally
went back into the kitchen to get Michael and DJ's
sizes. Amanda wandered around the house. In the
living room she found an old VCR player and a bunch
of VCR movies. Well, it wasn't a blue-ray player
or an Xbox, but they would have something to do
with their time while they were figuring out where
to go next.
Amanda walked back into the kitchen as DJ was saying,
"Thanks for going for some clothes, but I don't
need more than a shirt. I have to get back to New
York City because I have a television show every
day at five. I got a substitute, but that can't
go on forever; my viewers expect to see and hear
me spinning the tracks. I need to figure out a way
to get to Atlanta without anyone seeing me. If I
make it to the Atlanta airport, and the Feds stop
me when I am boarding the plane, I can probably
talk my way out of it and not let them know where
you are. But I bet by the time I make it to Atlanta,
my father will have figured out a way to quash that
"You are leaving us?" asked Amanda.
"Michael is going to stay with you," said
DJ. "When I get back to New York, I will have
my crew. They will pick me up from the airport,
and I won't go anywhere without them until after
"You are staying with us and not going back
home with DJ?" Amanda asked Michael.
"Of course. You need someone to take care of
you," said Michael.
Amanda looked at Michael and thought about how much
he was giving up to stay with them—his career,
his girlfriend . She thought about hugging him,
changed her mind and tentatively touched his arm,
"Don't mention it," replied Michael.
Thibodeaux and Peter came downstairs. Thibodeaux
immediately poured himself a cup of coffee and sat
down at the table. Amanda looked at him and poured
herself a second cup of coffee and sat down beside
him. Hey, after what they went through last night,
she deserved a second cup.
Thibodeaux looked at Amanda's face in the sunlight,
"Oh man, look what they did to you. If I had
"I know. If you had been there, you would have
helped. But I am glad you weren't there to get beat
up too," said Amanda.
"From now on, we all need to stick together,"
Amanda looked at Thibodeaux and nodded.
"Where's Solange?" asked Michael.
"I'm sure she's in the shower. I could not
wait to wash that dirty water out of my hair,"
said Amanda. "Grandpa, don't buy a coat for
me. I have a Tommy Hilfiger coat and I would rather
wear it. It's just wet and dirty. I'll wash my coat
and Solange’s. I saw a washing machine in
the mud room. Do you think Miss Gaby has three tennis
"Why do you want three tennis balls?"
asked Grandpa Wally.
"You use them when you dry down coats. It keeps
them in shape," said Amanda.
"How do you know something like that?"
"Because I've heard them. The balls thump around
in the dryer. You'll hear them too if we can find
some tennis balls," said Amanda wondering why
every time she opened her mouth, DJ and Michael
looked like they were about to burst out laughing.
"I doubt she has tennis balls. Gaby has never
been much for sports, just yoga and running. But
I will bring some back from town," said Grandpa
Peter looked at Amanda and Thibodeaux drinking coffee
and poured himself a cup with a lot of sugar and
milk and sat down on the other side of Amanda who
wrapped her arm around his shoulder to hug him.
Strangely enough, he did not squirm out of the way.
"When did you start drinking coffee?"
asked Grandpa Wally.
"Right now," said Peter.
"Oh," said Grandpa Wally.
"Well, I guess everyone is going to be short,"
Amanda gave him a stern look. She was definitely
not going to laugh at his jokes if he insisted on
laughing at everything she said. But the stern look
did not work. DJ just looked back at her and burst
out laughing again.
"Okay, Amanda, Michael, and DJ, give me your
sizes," said Grandpa Wally. "I will get
everyone two changes of clothes, pajamas, and toiletries.
Once that APB is quashed, we will figure out a way
for you to shop for more clothes by yourselves so
you can get what you really want. "
Amanda rummaged through one of the kitchen drawers
and found a pad and a pen, "I'll go upstairs
and ask Solange what she needs. Why don't you tell
Thibodeaux and Peter about Los Angeles?"
"Los Angeles? What's going on in Los Angeles?"
Amanda left the kitchen and climbed back up the
stairs. The shower had stopped so she banged on
the bathroom door and asked Solange if she could
Solange opened the door. She was wrapped in a towel
and combing out her hair with one of the hair brushes
Miss Gaby had laid out with the toothbrushes.
"We need to make a list of two days worth of
clothes and drug store stuff that we need,"
Solange wrote out her list while Amanda told her
about the plans Miss Gaby had made.
After Amanda was through telling her everything
that had been "settled" this morning,
Solange looked at Amanda and said, "Do you
think going to LA is a good idea?"
"How do I know? Ever since the bombing there
have been all these nice strangers helping us. Well
at least this time, one of them is my grandfather
and I do trust him," replied Amanda.
Amanda looked at Solange and asked, "Are you
going to be okay about leaving Armand in New Orleans?
You were really upset last night."
"I don't really have a choice, do I? Armand
and I have not been apart since grade school. The
only time I did not see him was when I went to New
York City to visit Auntie Tina and Thibodeaux,"
said Solange. "And when we were both sixteen,
he went to New York with me."
"I guess we are just going to have to miss
everyone until after the trial," said Amanda.
"But what about Michael? Now that Armand is
"Hey, men have been interested in me ever since
I turned twelve, old men, young men, little boys.
But that has not changed how I feel about Armand;
he's my best friend. Besides, even if I did not
love Armand, Michael lives in New York City, he
is twenty-three years old, and we have nothing in
common. I am not about to be some fling for a guy
in the hip-hop business. Besides, Michael thinks
I'm an idiot."
"I don't think that's true," said Amanda.
"Which part? Me being a fling or Michael thinking
I'm an idiot?" asked Solange.
"Both," replied Amanda.
"Yeah, I was really smart to get us both kidnapped.
But hey...now that you are growing up, all kinds
of men will want you and you need to be sure not
to fall for one of them like my Cousin Marie—having
Thibodeaux at such a young age ruined her life.
She never did grow up. That's why it's Armand for
me. He respects me and who I am," said Solange.
"I told you. I am going to Harvard and I am
not interested in boys," said Amanda.
"Well, they sure will be interested in you,"
"Well, I will think about that when I get back
to my life. Right now the only men who are really
interested in me want to kill me," said Amanda.
"Except Thibodeaux," said Solange.
"Thibodeaux and I are just friends," said
"Right, just friends," said Solange. "You
could do worse than Thibodeaux, a lot worse. He
was the best little kid. I took care of him full
time starting when I was nine years old until Auntie
Tina came and got him after the flood."
"Why did she do that? Your house was not flooded,"
"No, not ours. But after the flood Auntie Tina
came to stay with us and see about all of our relatives
and friends. She wanted to be sure everyone had
a place to stay and were not sick or anything. When
she got there, my Mom was at this makeshift hospital
all the time. They were shorthanded, a lot of people
were hurt and injured, and she is a nurse so she
was never at home. And the schools were closed so
I had Thibodeaux all day long. Auntie Tina could
tell that Thibodeaux thought I was his mother, so
she started asking questions and found out that
I had been taking care of him for the last three
years, picking him up from school, making his dinner,
making sure he did his homework. Well she got really
mad and said that had to stop. She enrolled me in
the best Catholic school in New Orleans, paid for
my ballet lessons, and then she took Thibodeaux
to New York City and put him in that fancy school
in the Bronx. I missed him so much at first, I thought
I would die. But Auntie Tina said she was doing
the right thing, that I did not need to be a grownup
at twelve just because my Cousin Marie was irresponsible
and my Mom was too busy to help," said Solange.
"Wow, that is some story. I knew you used to
take care of him but I did not realize that you
were the only one," said Amanda.
"Well, that is what happened. And even though
I was horribly sad to not see Thibodeaux every day,
Auntie Tina was right. Both Thibodeaux and I did
much better once we were enrolled in private schools,
and you saw how much I love to dance. I had taken
dance lessons before Thibodeaux came to stay with
us, but afterwards, there was no one else to take
care of him so I couldn't. Armand would come to
the house after he got out of ballet school and
he would dance with me, but it wasn't the same,"
Solange looked at Amanda who was speechless, "Come
on, I didn't want to make you sad. Let's go downstairs.
I want to see the rest of this house," said
Solange got dressed and then she and Amanda went
downstairs and walked into the kitchen.
When Solange walked into the room, Michael looked
up and pulled out the chair next to him. "Come
over here so I can see your face."
"It is just a few bruises," said Solange.
Michael tapped on the chair and Solange walked over
and sat down.
Michael put his hand on Solange's chin and turned
her face from side to side. Amanda could see he
was trying to hide how angry he was.
"Hey, Michael, it's okay. Amanda and I are
walking and talking," said Solange.
Amanda turned away from watching them and handed
the list to her grandfather, "Here you go and
thanks so much."
Solange, Peter, and Thibodeaux ate breakfast like
they were famished. While they were eating, Amanda
and her grandfather cleaned up the kitchen. Amanda
thought about how she always just pitched in to
clean up now, something she never would have done
when she was living at home. Then her mother would
have to nag her to do her share of the chores. This
pitching in without being asked was definitely something
she needed to quit doing as soon as life was back
to normal. Acting as grownup as Solange was exhausting.
Miss Gaby's car pulled up behind the house. She
walked in and handed the keys to Michael and said,
"Would you please bring the food inside. No
one can see the back of my house from the road,
so I think it will be okay for you to be outside."
Thibodeaux started to walk outside to help.
"Let me do it alone," said Michael. "I
think we covered our tracks pretty well last night
but just in case, the fewer people who go outside
Gaby had bought a lot of groceries and once Michael
had them inside, everyone helped her put them up.
Gaby stopped storing the food and looking at Michael
and DJ said, "While I was out shopping, I was
thinking about what we need to do and I would like
to call three of my friends and ask them to help."
"Three more people! I don't think that is a
very good idea. We already have two more people,
you and Amanda's grandfather, involved in our problems,"
"Hear me out. I have three really good friends,
two of whom I have known since grade school and
another friend that went to Yale with Lafayette
and me—Lafayette is the man who has the house
in Los Angeles. And these three friends would want
to help. Most Americans would do anything they could
to help bring to justice the guys who bombed New
York City and my friends would be honored to be
asked to help," said Miss Gaby.
"Hey guys, listen to Miss Gaby. She's one of
the smartest women I know," said Grandpa Wally.
"Okay, who are these three?" asked DJ.
Amanda was stunned. They were going to involve three
more people? But she just sat down at the table
"First, I went to school with a guy named Cyrus
Bernard who is now a Superintendent in the Louisiana
State Police," said Miss Gaby. She saw the
look on Michael and DJ's faces, "Hey, not all
law enforcement in Louisiana is backwoods. Cyrus
may be a redneck but he has been in law enforcement
for almost forty years and he is also one of the
smartest men I know. And I know he would be a lot
of help. I want to call him and ask him to come
over here today so he can help us figure out just
what to do."
"Okay, so who else?" asked Michael.
"We need to do something about the kid's education.
Solange, are you still in high school?" asked
"This is supposed to be my senior year. I was
being home schooled by a nun from my school because
I had to be at the ballet every afternoon. Sister
Anne was home schooling Amanda too; well, she home
schooled her for two days until I screwed up and
put Amanda and me in a position to be kidnapped,"
Michael put his hand over Solange's hand. Solange
looked at him and started to say something but then
she changed her mind.
"Well, I can tell by looking that Amanda, Thibodeaux,
and Peter should still be in school so I want to
call another of my grade school friends, Bernadette
Lambert. She is the superintendent of schools for
Natchitoches parish," said Miss Gaby.
"What's a parish?" asked Peter.
"It's what we call a county in Louisiana,"
said Miss Gaby.
"Oh," said Peter.
"I will ask Bernadette to give us the books
and curriculum for all of your grades and I will
help you stay on grade level so when you go back
home, you can convince your schools that you are
ready to move on to the next grade. I am sure when
the administrators at your schools know what happened
to you, they will want to help. But you still will
need to keep up next year and Solange needs to convince
them that she qualifies to graduate," said
"Thank you," said Amanda. "I would
hate to be held back a year because of what those
terrorists did. It's bad enough that we had to run,
but to be embarrassed...," Amanda's voice trailed
off. She did not want to give Michael and DJ another
chance to laugh at her.
"I'm not worried about that happening,"
"Well, thanks for sharing that," said
Amanda. But then she thought about it and was glad
that Peter felt comfortable enough to be snarky
about how brilliant he was, so she smiled at him.
"So who is the third person?" asked Solange.
"One of my friends from work, Arnie Gillespie.
Arnie is the head of the College of Fine Arts at
the University of Texas. I want to call him and
ask him to give us a cover story about how all of
you were involved in the Summer Youth Arts program
at the school and I was one of your mentors and
I have taken you to Los Angeles for pilot season.
This is a pretty thin cover story, but it would
be enough to fool some local cop who wondered why
a bunch of kids are traveling across the country
during the school year. We could tell them this
yarn about the University of Texas summer arts program
and pilot season," said Miss Gaby.
"Wow, said Amanda."You really did think
"So, what do you think?" asked Miss Gaby.
"Should we have a posse meeting?" asked
"No, I think all of us should talk about it,"
"This Cyrus guy, the one that is with the Louisiana
State Police, are you sure you can trust him?"
"I have known Cyrus Bernard all my life and
I know he can help you. You know, all the good brains
aren't in New York," said Miss Gaby.
Michael actually looked embarrassed. "So call
him." Michael looked around the room, "Don't
"Yes, call him," said Amanda and then
everyone else chimed in.
"And I like your other ideas, I think you should
call them all," said Amanda.
"So there we have it. Gaby, do you still have
your skeet shooting set-up. I want to take my girl
outside and see how she is shooting. I can buy some
clay pigeons while I am in town," said Grandpa
"I can set it up out in the field if you and
Amanda will stand in the trees so you won't be visible.
But if you are going to be shooting, I need to call
the neighbors and let them know I have company so
they won't call the cops," said Miss Gaby.
"I assume you have your shotgun with you."
"I have a couple. Also, do you have a torso
target anywhere around? I have a handgun with me
so Amanda can practice target shooting," said
Grandpa Wally. "When Amanda is older, I want
to take her to Scotland to shoot grouse. Hell, she
might even qualify for the Olympics someday. "
"My Dad had a target and it is still in the
garage," said Miss Gaby.
"It really is a good thing my mother isn't
here," said Amanda.
"Hey, I taught her how to shoot when she was
a little girl," said Grandpa Wally.
"I know, but she went away fro college and
then she moved to New York and then to Connecticut.
So now she is totally anti-gun and I guess I am
too," said Amanda.
"But you still like to shoot, don't you. And
don't you think sometimes people need a gun so they
can shoot snakes and other varmints?" asked
"Well, yes. But still, don't tell my Mom,"
"Mum's the word. Hey that was funny,"
said Grandpa Wally but he quit laughing when he
saw the look on Amanda's face.
"I'd like to practice too, if you don't mind
and I have my own gun," said Michael.
Solange just rolled her eyes and said, "If
you don't mind, Miss Gaby, I would like to take
my boys into your living room to watch TV while
these guys play Wild Wild West."
"You don't approve of guns?" asked Miss
"No I don't, but I sure did wish I had one
last night," said Solange.
"I don't have cable but there is an old VCR
and it still works. There are a lot of VCR tapes.
They were my parents, but there should be something
in there you would like," said Miss Gaby.
"Does anyone need anything else from town?"
asked Amanda's grandfather.
"No, I think I got everything else. They just
need clothes," said Miss Gaby.
"And tennis balls," said Amanda.
Grandpa Wally looked at the questioning look on
Gaby's face and said, "Never mind." Grandpa
"If you will tell me where the skeet shooting
set and the torso target are, I can set them up,"
"I think we had better wait for Wally. I don't
think anyone can see this house, it's on ten acres,
but I would rather be safe," said Miss Gaby.
"Okay, DJ and I will keep working on a way
to get him back to New York City," said Michael.
"Hey, DJ, give Miss Gaby that extra burn phone
so she can use it to make her phone calls to her
three friends without there being a record."
Amanda wandered into the living room where Solange
and the boys were sprawled on the couch and chairs.
Solange had put X Men on the VCR. Who knew
Miss Gaby's parents like to watch X Men?
"What do you think about going to Los Angeles?"
Amanda asked no one in particular.
"It is probably just as good as any other place,
and it is about as far away from New York and New
Orleans as we can get," said Solange.
"I would like to see Los Angeles," said
Thibodeaux. "There is a pretty big market for
"A market you won't get to see this visit,"
"What do you think about those friends Miss
Gaby is getting involved in our problem?" asked
"I think right now, we should just watch the
movie. I don't know about you, but I would like
someone else to fix this right now," said Solange.
"Me too," replied Amanda.
And so they watched the movie.