Track XXX.4

Morning comes to Montaukettston, as we expected it to. After all, no one did anything exceptionally boneheaded yesterday. In fact, Mary Lee, Pat, Melody, and Sunny made some real progress on relationship-building. This morning in Patricia Garret's apartment, Mary Lee is the last to wake up. Sunny and Melody wiggle out of their blanket and off the sofa with exaggerated care, making sure not to wake Sunny's mother. She doesn't sleep too long — after all, the girls haven't left for school yet — but she's still rubbing sleep from her eyes when she makes her way to the kitchen.

Melody sits at the table, carefully going over Sunny's homework. She seems happy, and the task is a natural for her. Cereal, milk, and toast are waiting on the table for Mary Lee. Pat only has one kind of cereal: Apple Jacks. No one in our house likes that particular brand, but plenty of people must because I always see it at the grocery store.

Pat is watching over Sunny like a sentinel. The little girl has a rather large knife and, under the sheriff's tutelage, is carefully trimming the crusts off their lunch sandwiches. It looks like a BLT.

Pablo frowns. "The crust is the best part."

"I recall that you spent several months trying to convince the hellions of that when they were going through their anti-crust phase." I look at him, eyebrows raised. "And how well did that work out for you?"

He sighs. "It didn't. They're a couple of weirdos."

I shrug. "They might have learned it from a classmate. Or some show on TV."

Mister Teddy says byakee, lliogar, and tsathuggua contains all the necessary food groups, plus everything good for growing girls!

"And what the hell is that?" Pablo asks. "It looks like bacon, lettuce, and tomato."

Rene chuckles. "Things out of Lovecraft stories. It's disconcerting to hear a six-year-old talking about Lovecraft, though."

"After everything she's been through?" I shake my head. "It's practically normal."

Melody is rolling her eyes and Pat's giving Mary Lee a knowing look.

That she got from your side of the family.

Mary Lee shrugs.

Sure, the silliness of it, maybe. But those are creatures from the creepy section of the library, and Chuck was always more interested in that.

Once the crusts are removed from the sandwiches, Sunny adds a handful of small carrots to each of the bags as well as a single-serving container of Motts cinnamon applesauce. I'm once again reminded that I haven't eaten in forever . . . or twelve hours, anyway.

Mary Lee gets a tight hug from Sunny before the two girls head out for their day at school.

Don't worry, Mommy. Mister Teddy says that as long as everyone is good, there will be a Thank Heavens It's Monday!

Melody manages a small, poignant smile for her friend.

We'll look after each other as best we can.

The girls reach for each other's hands at the same time, as if this is something they've been doing all their lives. I smile fondly. That's something my two have been doing since they were born: reaching out to each other. I'm pretty sure they were doing it in utero, too.

It would seem Pat waited to have her breakfast so Mary Lee wouldn't have to eat alone, which is a nice gesture. As Mary Lee begins cleaning up the kitchen, Pat brings out a small metal case from the top shelf of a closet. She takes a key from a pendant around her neck, and unlocks the case. It contains her gun and ammunition, as well as her work belt, badge, cuffs, and holders.

Pablo nods his approval. "I locked up my gun and ammo even when I lived alone. You never know who's going to visit."

"I'm downright pleased to see that Sheriff Garret is every bit as smart as my husband," I say with a smile. "It's like having a sign above the door that says 'Kids Welcome.'"

"I'm surprised yours haven't tried picking the lock on your case, though, Pablo," Rene says.

I look over my shoulder and narrow my eyes at him. "Who are you, and what have you done with my sister's husband?"

He seems confused for a second before dropping his gaze. "Oh. Sorry."

"As you should be," Pablo says. "I started the kids on basic gun safety before they were in preschool. Madeline added her unique take on things when they five or six."

I chuckle. "I suspect our kids have more respect for guns than half the gun-toting population of Colorado . . . LEOs and private citizens alike."

"You'd think I'd know better by know than to be surprised by this," Rene says.

"Absolutely, especially since you knew Maddie before she became the upstanding citizen she is today." I wink at him.

I've got some things I want to look up. You remember that movie A Civil Action? You know, where at the end of the film the lawyer realizes that going after the big bad guy was the stupidest thing he'd ever done, when he should have been looking for the guy who cleaned up after the bad guy? Maybe that will help. You want to help today, princess? Come find me at lunchtime. If this is going to work, we're going to need some groceries.

Then the sheriff is off to work, leaving Mary Lee alone for the morning. After she finishes cleaning up the apartment, we watch her head toward the little church on the other side of town, where the Parasol Sisters are standing on the steps, chatting with the parish priest. The scene fades out as Mary Lee gives the three of them a shaky smile and bids them a good morning.

"That wouldn't be my first choice," Pablo says. "But if it works for her, well, more power to her."

"It might be my first choice, though," I muse. At the look on Pablo's face, I hasten to add, "Oh, not going down to the Basilica or anything. I'd head out to Ganado and visit my cousin the shaman."

He nods. "And I recall you doing that, or at least calling Tommy, on more than one occasion."

"I know I make him crazy sometimes, but he's got more than enough patience to deal with me and my less-than-ordinary problems."

Pablo chuckles. "More than I do, sometimes."

The next scene slowly resolves to show a bird's-eye view of the sleepy town, with the sun already above the trees. The proprietor of the hardware store is just setting up his row of mulchers and lawnmowers in front of the large front window filled with a display of fertilizer and grass seed. He's tacked a handwritten sign up suggesting that folks make sure their lawns are ready for the upcoming tourist season. The library and school are quiet, which would make sense. The kids are in their classes at the moment, and the small library doesn't seem to get much business. It might see an influx of patrons when the tourist season starts, or Mary Lee might need to go back to work in order to entice more people in with books that are more diverse than the offerings of the sweet old lady who's running things now.

There's a town truck outside the school, which may or may not be suspicious. It's entirely possible that today's the day for groundskeeping over there.

And I can hear the radio playing from somewhere. As frustrating as that is, at least the local station is playing a good song: Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Newspaper Man and Beach Guy are chatting as they progress through their breakfast at the diner, then a saunter up Main Street to sit on one of the ubiquitous benches along the street.

Derek, who's your doctor?

Newspaper Man looks a little surprised at the question.

To be honest, I haven't been back to the doctor since returning to the island. As a kid, I had Doctor Shaw, but he's long since retired and headed off to Hawaii, I think.

Whatever work being done up at the school seems to have been completed, as the town truck rumbles down the street, taking a right when it reaches the state highway. As we've seen in the past, it could be heading either to the bridge that leads to the big island, to Camp Hero, or even up to the Discovery Center. Sadly, we don't see which destination it aims for.

Both men watch the truck, but Beach Guy apparently has something else on his mind.

Can we think of a way to get some of those pills of Melody's? Maybe even after she's been dosed? Certainly, we have cameras on the center so we can maybe learn more about what happens Friday night and Saturday morning.

Newspaper Man shrugs.

We also know where there will be a video record of the treatment room: the house with all the screens.

Rene snorts. "This is the worst spy movie ever made. He's acting like saying that it's Miss Ell's house will get them snatched up right where they're sitting."

I haven't come up with a good way to stop the treatment, but I feel like we really need to. I'm not sure observing the event is the best plan. Certainly, it's a backup plan if all other options fail. But we need to adjust their plans in some way. The trick, of course, is how do we do just that?

Beach Guy shakes his head and frowns. Oh, my gods! A new facial expression!

I don't know. It's bugging me too.

After a moment, he brightens again, and — surprise — smiles.

There you go, Derek. You might just have solved it. Perhaps we already have footage that might help. A photo. I'm not sure our film would show anything, but I'm desperate enough to have another look. Maybe your office?

As Newspaper Man nods, Beach Guy takes out his phone and starts to pull up the images he and Lucy had taken. Once in the office, the two men have things set up fairly quickly and easily. Beach Guy emails the images to Newspaper Man, and they pull them up on the computer monitor. We get treated to another viewing of everything.

"Wonder what they're looking for," I muse. "Gods, I hope they have some clue."

Pablo sighs. "At this point, I don't hold out hope that they do."

"Take another look at the bedroom," Rene says. "I'm not sure that's from inside the crazy lady's house. It looks more like Miss Jilly's house."

"Well, that's not creepy," I mutter. I'd figured it was in Crazy Military Ice Cream Lady's house because the homes over there had likely been built at the same time. But, yeah, now that Rene's pointed it out, it does look more like a teenage girl's bedroom that a crazy military person's.

They move through other images: the wooded landscape around the research facility; white hallways that look like parts of the Discovery Center and a vestibule; something that looks an awful lot like an operating room. I stare at that picture for as long as Newspaper Man and Beach Guy do. I shudder.

"It's an operating room without an anesthesia station."

"Are you sure, Andi?"

I nod. "While I've never been in an operating room, I've seen enough movies and TV shows. And they all have this big contraption near the head of the gurney, where the anesthesiologist sits. I'm sure, Rene."

I think something has finally gotten through to the two men. Their auras go chillingly cold as they stare at the picture.

How do we break the chain? Melody is a key, but is she the only piece in this house of cards? It seems to me that something this complex should be easy to foil if we can find the right place to pull a thread.

Jeez, the metaphor mixing going on here might make my brain explode. Beach Guy nods, but then shrugs.

It sounds like we have a limited number of options and, therefore, can't afford to make a mistake. But that's difficult when we have no idea what to do. Plus, fear can paralyze and we can't afford that either. I just know that I want to do almost anything to stop Melody having to go through those treatments again. Do any of those books give us anything useful? Do we know anything about Collinsport? Lycanthropy is werewolves, right? And what are Eldridge contradictions?

Newspaper Man blinks and looks up at Beach Guy.

Werewolves? What has that got to do with anything? And yes.

"Dude! Did you not see the photos of Crazy Military Ice Cream Lady's books? There's one right there on lycanthropy!"

"He can't hear you, Andrea."

"And it's a good thing, too."

Beach Guy fetches the two of them coffee, while Newspaper Man goes down rabbit holes, this time regarding the Eldridge contradictions. After doctoring his own coffee with cream and sugar, Beach Guy sits down to read over Newspaper Man's shoulder.

It seems that invisibility was the goal for the Eldridge. And that Collinsport was a fictional location in a supernational series where a parallel universe is mentioned. Looking for parallels to what we're experiencing, I might have a theory. What if when we reset, or move to a parallel universe, we actually move? The other people there don't, so it would be as if we'd become invisible, wouldn't it? That might explain why we remember previous resets, or parallels, but other folk who don't actually move don't? Or am I talking out of my backside.

Beach Guy grins — again! — and makes me want to crack him over the head with my big stick. Then I sigh. Maybe he has Tourette's; that would explain the inappropriate facial expression. Okay, I guess if that's the case, I can be less annoyed and more charitable about it. I still think he's an idiot, though.

Technically, we would move, and disappear. I don't think that qualifies for the standard definition of invisibility. Teleportation doesn't even apply, as that would be place-to-place, usually within the same dimension. But I understand your thoughts. If we're changing realities, for lack of a better work, and others aren't, that does fit the events as seen subjectively, at least from our point of view anyway. The picture you took that shows someone crossed an X through 'infinite' seems to imply we have a limited number of realities or dimensions that we can go to. It would also imply that we can't go backward. A reset would mean moving to a different place. The last place continues on and would be basically destroyed if we were to return to it. Certainly, it wouldn't be anything like we'd envision our world to be. It also implies that we may be nearing the end of our particular little adventures. If we don't solve our problems, then, well, we may be out of luck. I don't pretend to know how many universes there are, but finite means it has to come to an end at some point. That lends a certain level of urgency to our choices, doesn't it?

"Um, didn't Mary Lee say basically the same thing last night?" Pablo asks.

"Oh, yes. It would appear these dunderheads suffer from a case of misogynism," I say. "A women tells them something, but they don't believe it until they go looking it up for themselves."

"I'm not defending them," Rene says, "but it could be a case of . . ." He trails off when he sees my eyes. "Okay, no, you're right. They're dunderheads."

"Rene, I figured out pretty early on that most women are smarter than I am," Pablo says. "And I say that even when I'm not pretending to be a dumb cop."

I shrug. "We need to be twice as good to be thought of as half as good as men. It sucks. And it's even worse for those of us who are minorities."

Rene nods slowly. "I apologize. I'm not even going to blame the era in which I was raised. Knowing Maddie, knowing you, I ought to know better."

"It's possible you're as tired as I am," I say.

"Andi, I'm a Spirit. I don't get tired."

"I don't either, much. Not with Mother Earth feeding me energy. But, Gods, Buddhas, and Spirits, I'm so very tired of those idiots over there." I sigh again. "I don't think they grok what the Eldridge contradictions are. It's pretty basic: all the naval records show that the USS Eldridge was never anywhere near Philadelphia. If it wasn't in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, then the experiments couldn't have been run, right?"

"So, in order to believe the experiments were run, people have to believe in a contradiction," Pablo says.

"Pretty much, yeah. Or they have to simply ignore all the evidence that doesn't support their pet theories."

"Ah! Like the Flat Earthers."

"Exactly like that," I say, grinning at him. "You really can't get away with pretending to be a dumb cop anymore, Pablo."

"It helps when I'm working."

I sigh. "At least you don't dress like a slob like that Columbo guy did."

"Only when I'm undercover, which isn't something I do anymore."

Newspaper Man nods.

I think I follow most of that. Okay. We sort of know how the resets are happening . . .

I snort. "No they don't."

. . . so we need to try to avoid any triggers as we try to solve the problem. And back full circle: that surely means we have to stop Melody being hurt. I'm getting to the stage of thinking we need to do something more radical. We don't have the information and resources to be more subtle. And if we can't move the problem from Melody, then there's only one alternative.

Beach Guy shakes his head.

Maybe we should kidnap Melody.

Newspaper Man snaps he head around, looks at Beach Guy with something close to horror.

What? Death didn't work, in some of the other places, times, or whatever they were. How would kidnapping work? We'd delay their torture, but . . .

Beach Guy throws one hand up, the other one still holding onto his coffee cup.

We have to do something! What else would you suggest?

Newspaper Man looks frustrated.

That's my problem. I don't know what to suggest. Taking Melody away and becoming labeled kidnappers certainly works for me. It wouldn't harm her; we would make sure of that. The trick, of course, is how long are we gone and what do we do? Go camp in the woods?

"Oh! My! Gods!" I growl in frustration. "That's a sure way to get the military industrial complex to come kick your asses into another dimension!"

"As long as it's not ours, I'd almost like to see that," Pablo says.

I shrug. "They're no closer to figuring out how to save Melody than they were the first time around. I doubt it would hurt anything in the grand scheme of things. Well, other than the fact that Sunny may be running out of new universes to jump to."

My brain seems so jumbled with information. We know that the girls tried to get away and, when they were caught, it was much worse. We know killing Melody doesn't solve the problem either. We need to find a more subtle way of throwing off their plans.

Beach Guy shrugs.

I'm out of ideas, Derek. I guess I still think like a soldier. It's ingrained, and so subtlety isn't part of the curriculum. You'd think the author side of me might fare better, but I just make up what I want to happen. Can't do that here. There must be something we can do. I feel so sorry for those kids.

"I'm a military man, and I think it's fairly simple," Rene says. "Make the bad guys think Melody is dead while you spirit her off to safety."

"And yet . . ." I say, gesturing to the portal.

Let's think like authors. It's a tale that we can spin. After all, we're jumping between worlds, how much more fantastical can it get? How would our story's protagonists get out of this situation? Let's use a trampoline to leap out of the box and come up with new and different ideas.

The two men keep talking about, well, nothing? Or the same thing, going round and round in circles. At some point in the afternoon, Doctor Schwartzer's car zooms up the street and rounds the corner on Route 23. From the direction she's going, there are a few destinations she could have: the Mallory Homestead, the Research Facility, or maybe the school.

I'm actually relieved when the scene flips, literally, from watching the two idiots in the newspaper office to following Chelsea to school. She's walking alone this morning; it would seem her chores took longer than usual, so she's well behind Melody and Sunny. Over her shoulder, we see Teresa and her brother having a rather animated conversation, though I can't hear them and they're too far away for the guys to read their lips. Elaine walks on Jeremy's other side looking bored. Her qi says she's anything but bored, but she seems to be smart enough not to take sides when the siblings bicker. As they get closer, I hear 'double' and 'Halloran' and 'date' coming from Jeremy. His commanding tone just barely comes close to matching Teresa's annoyance.

It turns out that today's the day for the town to replace the light fixtures in the school. The workers are taking down the old fluorescent fixtures, trading them for fancy new LED lights. Despite the havoc they're creating, I'm sure the kids will appreciate the new fixtures. I don't see a point in using anything but LED lights these days. But wouldn't it have made more sense to wait a week or two until school's out for the summer?

First, there's a math test, which is followed by social studies and then geography. It's probably not my imagination that Melody and Sunny are looking at the maps wistfully.

When lunchtime rolls around, Melody and Sunny push their desks together, with Mister Teddy set between them. They lay out the lunches Sunny made earlier, and Chelsea joined them. Everything seems so ordinary, that I start to worry. After all, we'd seen the doctor's car speeding . . . maybe in this direction.

It's during science class, right after lunch, that things go south. Sunny's gone back to her own classroom, with Chelsea a couple of seats removed from Melody. One moment, the dark-haired girl is fine . . . the next, her head drops with what looks like a sudden onset of exhaustion. Her eyes are glazed over, and she's got that nobody's home look in them. I can't figure out when anyone would have had a chance to slip her the butterfly juice.

Chelsea jumps up and rushes to Melody's side.

Melody? Melody, are you okay?

She stares blankly as Chelsea, then blinks several times as she tries to focus on her friend.

No. Yes. No. Yes.

One hand searches for her pocket, and Melody pulls out that same worn piece of paper, that yellow prescription note that's a big lie.

Friday.

Melody focuses a moment, looking almost panicked. Friday has come with a vengeance. She hugs herself tightly.

Friday.

"I thought she get her drugs after school," Rene says.

"She does. Something's wrong."

The teacher comes over then to stand behind Chelsea.

Is something wrong?

Miss O'Connell's words are kind, and she sounds genuinely concerned. Melody reacts by rote, pushing the piece of paper across the desk toward her teacher. Miss O'Connell picks it up, refolds it, and places it in Melody's hand, folding her fingers over the paper. Across the room, Elaine points and giggles, Jeremy leers, and Teresa just looks away. Melody carefully puts it back in her pocket.

Chelsea, could you take Melody to the office? I'll call the doctor to come up and get her, and then Miss Mallory to let her know what's happened.

She turns and her eyes rake over the classroom.

And I'll be checking your notes on photosynthesis when we get back.

Chelsea takes her friend's hand and leaves the classroom, ignoring Elaine and Jeremy and the mean girls and the hooligans. The office is empty, which kind of makes sense, since there are only two teachers, and they apparently cover the administrative as well as teaching jobs. There's a big wide window that looks over the front lawns and over much of the town.

Doc Schwartzer's car is coming up the hill.

Come on, Mel. Let's get you out of here.

I tilt my head, intrigued by Chelsea's initiative. She tugs on Melody's hand to get the other girl moving.

Out. Of. Here.

Melody doesn't argue, she doesn't hesitate, although in her drug-addled state, getting her moving in the right direction seems a little more difficult than it ought to be. They head toward the exit at the opposite end of the corridor, at the back of the building. Keeping Melody moving isn't the easiest thing, but Chelsea is full of patience. They make it to the sparse woods, then continue uphill to the nature trail. Fortunately for their escape, it's not a path the doctor can follow in her car. Still, she could follow on foot, and likely could move faster than Melody is managing. They kept close to the outcroppings on the north. The woods are thicker here, providing some shelter.

Run. Run. Run.

It's almost as if running like this is familiar. Maybe this is what Melody did when she was 'sleepwalking' the night of the sleepover. The two of them keep running until they reach the first swaying, wire-suspension pedestrian bridge. These things are all over the islands, connecting the various islands to the butterfly factory.

Run. Chase. Run. Chase.

Melody's words come slowly tumbling out, as she comes to a sudden, full, skidding stop as they reach the beginning of the bridge. Melody starts shaking. She's terrified.

Run. Bridge. Chase.

It's hard to tell if she's talking about chasing something, or if she's acknowledging that they're being chased. I'd put my money on the latter.

Run. Bridge. Chase. Dead.

Melody turns to Chelsea, her face streaked with tears.

Dead. No chase. No more.

Chelsea looks around, maybe looking for somewhere to hide. I'm not sure that's going to work, but maybe . . .

Come on, Melody, let's hide in the trees. We're not going to cross the bridge if you don't want to. I won't make you.

There are tall stone outcroppings, and the trees aren't as thick here as they are on the other side of the bridge. Melody looks at Chelsea, her eyes blank. She's trying so hard to speak sensibly, and my heart aches for her.

Find. Always do.

Looking down the cliff, we can see the rocks and pools of water far below. The water may only be a few inches deep, but it's a long way down. When the tides comes in, all those rocks will be covered.

Wish. Stop. Looking.

"As long as she's hiding, they'll find her," Pablo says.

I nod as I bite my lip. Chelsea will find a way out, won't she? She's a smart girl and she truly cares about Melody. She looks down at the low tide beneath them, shaking her head.

We need a place to hide that they've never looked in before. I think if you can go another day without them hurting you, that you'll be better. This was a bad idea, wasn't it, Melody? They're just going to be mad at both of us.

She takes Melody's hands and gives them a squeeze.

I just want to stop anyone hurting you anymore. If we could just convince Aunt Jilly that this is bad for you, she could say no. Then they'd have to stop.

Melody's dark eyes meet Chelsea's as they huddle in the underbrush at the edge of the cliff.

Then . . . they . . . kill . . . her . . .

"Even if there are caves down there, it wouldn't help," Rene says. "The tide will come in, they'll drown, their bodies will get washed out to sea. Defeats the purpose of saving Melody, don't you think?"

Chelsea nods, accepting that Melody is right. She looks down at the rocks again, then back at Melody.

I have an idea. We need them to believe you're dead.

I let a weary sigh of relief. "Oh, thank the Gods, Buddhas, and Spirits someone has figured it out."

Take off your blouse. You can wear my sweater. We need this to really be convincing, Melody. We're probably not going to get another chance. Do you trust me? I want to make a tiny cut on your arm, and wipe blood on the blouse. If they find it, they'll probably analyze it or something. We need them to truly believe it was your blood.

Melody's empty eyes look back at Chelsea, but I can tell she's trying so very hard to break through the wall of drugs.

Me.

She looks down at the stones below. It was a fall that had killed her Aunt Jilly many times on a different part of the island.

Dead.

Slowly, she tugs at her laces. Her taste in gothic clothing becomes more than just a fashion statement today: She's not wearing a blouse, but a fancy black top that's trimmed with lace, a cross between a frockcoat and bodice, tied with a big black bow and set in place by fancy black ribbons. Beneath it is a true bodice in black, and a multi-layered skirt. I smile. She's got so many layers that her modesty isn't going to be twinged. She hands her black top to Chelsea.

New. New. Good. Must.

Melody reaches out desperately, using all her strength to hold her friend's arm and look into her eyes.

I . . . think . . . can't . . .
You. Must. Think hard. Must.

I swear I see a spark of hope in Melody's eyes.

Must. Do. Right.

I nod. If this is going to work, she'll get by with a little help from her friend . . . that friend being Chelsea.

Can you bite your lip or just scrape a cut to put some blood on this? Everything we do will help convince them, Mel. Then we need to figure out where we go to hide. I'll call the others but I'm afraid someone might be looking for us.

Chelsea takes her phone out and turns it off.

Just in case someone can track it.

"Smart kid," Pablo murmurs. "As a cop, I hate when they do that."

. . . kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her kill her . . .

The chittering voices of the not-Shadowkin are really creepy right now.

. . . but not but not but not but not but not but not but not . . .

But they're smart, too.

"The not-Shadowkin are telling them that they need to kill Melody, but not kill her. So, make it look real, just not actually real."

"I said that earlier, didn't I?"

"And you'll be happy to know that Melody's little friends agree with you, Rene." I manage a smile, though it's not easy. There's a lot at stake for Melody and Chelsea . . . and their whole world, really.

Melody reaches out and takes her black top coat from Chelsea. She's wobbly and slow because of the drugs as she stands up and walks to the edge of the cliff. She studies the rocks below as best she can, then moves a few steps to the left. Then she stops, turns around, and takes a step off the cliff.

"Oh, my gods. She's full up with butterfly juice, so she's doing exactly what Chelsea told her to do."

"Shit. That can't end well, can it."

I shrug. "The girl is smart, brilliant even. Chelsea said they have to make it look real."

We watch the drug-addled girl start climbing down the wet, slippery, broken rocks. By the time Chelsea reaches the edge, Melody has made it down several meters, definitely out of reach. She's slow, the rocks are treacherous, and she slips a couple of times, nearly turning this ploy into the real thing. About three-quarters of the way down, Melody makes sure her coat is caught on a sharp piece of rock. Then she looks up at Chelsea with a weird little smile that seems to say, 'Well, if this doesn't work, it will all be over anyways.' Then she tosses herself backward off the cliff. Without the drugs, I don't think she could have convinced herself to do that.

Her top rips and she falls, landing hard against the bottom of the cliffs. She looks like a rag doll down there, sliding over the flat rocks and tumbling until her momentum is lost and she rests in the slick stones, half-submerged in the slowly rising water. For a moment, she tries to raise her self up, only succeeding in flipping herself over to stare up at the sky.

"It's . . . it's convincing," Rene says.

And it is. Her torn clothing, the streaks of blood . . . it looks just like an accidental fall. Even knowing I'd get up from something like that, I'm not sure I'd be able to convince myself to do that. Although . . . yeah. Maddie would do it in a heartbeat. But she's crazier than I am.

Melody's not dead, but she is hurt. Now Chelsea's problem will be to get herself and Melody away from the people pursuing them.

Melody! Oh, God, why? Are you okay?

Chelsea looks around frantically, not seeing anything that's going to help her.

Don't move, Melody. I'll get you help. I promise.

She pulls out her phone and turns it back on, immediately dialing Newspaper Man's number.

Come on, come on. Please answer.

Tears are falling from her eyes.

We're treated to a split-screen view again as Newspaper Man answers his phone, asking Chelsea if everything is okay.

No. It's Melody . . . She jumped off . . . She's hurt bad . . . I can't get to her . . . I didn't mean for her to go down . . . that's not what I meant . . . We need to get to her.

She's crying and sniffling and Newspaper Man can barely understand what she's saying.

A boat. We need a boat. I can show you where we need to go. Can you get a boat? Fast. Please, we need to get to her. But we can't take her to a hospital or they'll get her.

Beach Guy is sitting close enough to Newspaper Man that he hears much of what Chelsea is saying.

Teresa has a boat. I can call her. Tell Chelsea she's not on her own. We'll be there as soon as we can. Get a location.

He takes out is phone and dials Teresa; on the other screen, Chelsea nods.

Hurry. Please hurry. She needs help bad. She's really hurt. The tide's going to come in soon, so hurry.

The young woman is frantic, but she's not hysterical. She's someone I'd want at my side in an emergency if I'm going to civilians around.

We're on our way now.

At Newspaper Man's words, the scene expands to only show Chelsea putting her phone back in her pocket.

Melody, Tyler and Derek are coming. They're getting a boat. They'll help you. Okay?

She backs away from the edge of the cliff, looking for a place to hide, where she can also see a boat arriving.

Please be okay.

Her whisper seems to echo as we peer over the cliff at Melody's prone form. The water around her head is darkening, but it's not necessarily dire. Everyone knows that head wounds bleed profusely.

"Chelsea will be fine," Pablo says as the scene fades out and we go back to looking at Newspaper Man and Beach Guy. "She's got reserves and smarts that she doesn't even know she has."

I nod. "I know."

Derek, grab your first aid kit . . . and any rope, cord, or wood you might have.

While Newspaper Man fetches supplies, Beach Guy turns his attention to his phone as Teresa answers.

Teresa, it's Tyler. Emergency. We need you and your boat right now. Is that possible?

Teresa's voice is calm and not the least bit surprised.

Yes, I can do that. Things are chaotic here because Chelsea and Melody decided to suddenly skip out. Melody looked like she did at the barbeque. So, where should I take the boat?

He's got that Tourette's thing going on again.

We're in town. Is there a good place you can pick Derek and me up?

We can't see Teresa but I can well imagine that she's rolling her eyes right about now.

It's a Laser. You know, a Sunfish's big brother. And yet, even so, there's barely enough room for me and one friend. Never mind two to three people. So, a day-tripper with company just won't work. That said, it's light enough to get me almost anywhere around the islands.

Beach Guy puzzles through that information slowly, a lot more slowly than any of us would. After all, it's a small town, and people seem to walk just about everywhere. Teresa is a local, and knows the lay of the land.

"Gee, I don't know," I mutter. "Just tell Teresa where you think Chelsea is and have her take her boat over that way?"

"Now, dear, you know thinking is hard for them."

"And thinking logically is even harder," Rene adds.

Finally, Beach Guy comes to the same conclusion we have.

We'll hoof it over and meet you there. Don't tell anyone, okay? Good luck.

Then the portal goes black.

"Okaay. That's . . . something?"

Next up: Finale

© Kelly Naylor