“Dear friends, I am not dead. Meet me at the Blue Sun Theater on Tuesday at 8PM. ~Taylor Parker.”
Stuart Greer, Mara Llewellyn, Irene Haughton, and Pearl Tanner frowned as they stared at the message they were given. The funeral had just ended, with the mourners standing around the Sarah Jane Green Memorial Gardens, talking about Taylor and how and why she didn’t deserve to die. The Parker family (which consisted of Benjamin, Aimee, Billy, Aubrey, and Ashton) were speaking to the mourners and ignoring the rainy weather that fell upon the city of Harrison Creek, Oregon.
“I wonder if this is a joke,” said Mara as the others stared at the note. “Taylor’s dead. The police found her body at the Green Hill Manor a few days ago.”
“But how do they know the body is actually Taylor’s?” said Irene.
“Fake, or different person,” said Pearl.
“Exactly,” said Stuart. “Don’t forget, we’ve heard the story about Tracey Powell and how she disappeared around the same time Taylor did.”
“I’ve noticed,” said Mara. “Nobody could have known about Tracey, not unless…”
She grabbed the note again, saying, “Maybe this note is true. Maybe Taylor’s still alive and they buried the wrong girl.”
“I hope you’re right,” said Irene.
“But we won’t know that for sure until we go to the theater on Tuesday,” said Stuart.
“I’m not sure that’s going to happen,” said Pearl. “Mayor put up curfew. We kids not allowed to go anywhere without adults.”
“Oh, so *NOW* they want to play it safe after the crap they went through with trying to get us to put down our phones and tablets and get off the computers and go outside,” said Irene. “That’s not happening!”
“Not unless Team Sescape investigates this mystery letter,” said Stuart.
To make this long story short, Team Sescape stood in front of the Blue Sun Theater the following Tuesday at 8PM. It was a slow day, with only a few people coming to the theater to watch movies. Just then, a girl wearing a white coat decorated with red roses came out of a dark car that pulled in front of the theater. She saw the kids and said to them, “I was beginning to think you didn’t get my message. Did you miss me?”
“Taylor?” Mara, Stuart, Irene, and Pearl cried out.
Shara: What? You mean to tell me that you guys aren’t allowed to just stay at home and hang out with your families? Or at least clean your rooms?
Mara: Uh, nope.
Shara: And why not?
Stuart: Because back in 2002, the city decided that we kids were spending way too much time watching TV and not playing outside, so they put an end to Saturday morning cartoons and forced our families to hire people to clean our rooms so we have to go away from our families during the day.
Pearl: No families allowed.
Irene: I know. Tragic, isn’t it?
Shara: Well, I can’t help but find that unacceptable. No teenager is allowed to be with their families anymore? That sucks!
(music turns on)
Can’t go to school, can’t stay at home, is there no place for a teen to roam? You look at me like I’m the clueless girl next door, but I’m the girl you’ve been waiting for!
Hello daddy, hello mom! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB! Hello world, I’m the bad girl! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB!
Life is sad if you don’t do your chores, yet they want you to get a score. They took away your right to choose; come on, guys, we’ve got nothing left to lose!
Hello daddy, hello mom! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB! Look out, Harrison Creek, here I come! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB!!
(brief instrumental solo)
Hello daddy, hello mom! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB! hello world, I’m the bad girl! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB!
Now is the time to break free, it’s time to make them see that we’re so done with this town, now we have no choice but to shut it down!
Hello daddy, hello mom! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB! Look out, Harrison Creek, here I come! I’m your…CHERRY BOMB!!
“Well, I can’t say I’m glad this is happening,” Stuart Greer said to his friends Mara Llewellyn, Irene Haughton, and pearl tanner as they all sat in the courtroom. It had been two and a half months since the trial of Mrs. Schindler began. And to be honest, many people expected her to plead insanity and avoid the entire thing.
(In case you forgot, Mrs. Schindler was accused of cyberstalking and cyberbullying the kids after their friend/ringleader Tanya Chinook disappeared without a trace in 2010. Mrs. Schindler was also accused of hampering police efforts to find Tanya and return her to the Shinnok family.)
“Oh, but it is,” said Irene with a weird smile on her face. “It was already bad enough when Mrs. Brezetta was found guilty of orchestrating Tanya’s kidnapping and was sent to that mental hospital in Montana, but this is ridiculous. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know she isn’t going to be let off with a warning.”
“But still, she’s Tara’s mom,” said Mara, “and we can’t wish she’d go to jail, no even to keep us safe.”
“She stalked Tara too,” said Pearl.
“Yeah, and that too,” said Stuart.
To make a long story short, Georgette Schindler was found guilty of her crimes and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The group all sighed with relief, knowing that the nightmare Mrs. Schindler had put them through was over.
Michael Lowery, Sadie Green, and Isaac Hammond had graduated from Harrison Creek High School, the school they were forced to attend due to their “unforgivable sin” of befriending the hated Thomas Stone many years ago. To be honest, the kids don’t have much of a choice in that matter.
“I can’t believe that this is over,” said Michael.
“I’m not,” said Sadie with a strange look on her face. “It’s just like that story is repeating itself.”
“Like when we got that letter from the Stranger?” said Paul Turner, who at age 14 was the youngest high school graduate. They all stared at him. “At least Mr. Stewart won’t be cyber-stalking us from behind bars.”
“Still can’t believe that Terry’s dad was the Stranger,” said Isaac.
“Yeah, who knew?” said Michael. “Anyway, I’m feeling kind of depressed.”
“Why?” said Isaac.
“It’s our last day here,” said Michael with a look of concern on his face. “After this, there is no more. Our time as high schoolers is over, as is our lives as teenagers. Soon, it’s off to college with us. Isaac, you’re doing fashion design in San Diego, Sadie, you’re heading to D.C., and I’m going into game design at Texas A&M. It’s time for us to end our youth and prepare to enter the harsh and complicated, for better or worse.”
“I know,” said Sadie, with tears on her face. “It’s so hard to say goodbye to everything we know. We’re all going our separate ways and I don’t know if we’re ever going to see each other again.”
“We still have Facebook,” said Paul.
“But for how long,” said Isaac. “We could be making new friends within a month and forget the friends we had in high school. It’s a thing that I fear the most.”
Shane Stone, overhearing the conversation, came to them, saying, “Don’t think of this as the end. Instead, think of this as a new beginning, a time for new discoveries and new experiences. We have the future before us, but we can’t have that future if we keep holding onto the past. Like, remember when you had to let go of Thomas and move on with your lives and enjoy your high years. Now that those years are ending, we need to let go of our youth and go on with our lives. Besides, you’ll never know when you’re going to see each other again. I wondering if I’ll see you guys again; after all, my other friends and I are jetting off to Fresno next week.”
He said to them, “Well I had fun hanging out with you guys, but it’s time for me to head back to California and my other friends. I’ll see you on the flip side.”
With that, he bounded out the room.
Michael, Sadie, Isaac, and Paul stood together for the final time, knowing that even though all things (such as their high school years) ended, they knew that for better or worse, they would see a brand-new beginning.
“I don’t like this,” said Isaac as the group gathered at the Harrison Creek Cemetery one night. It wasn’t Halloween, but it was close. The kids were sure that something strange was going on. “Why are we meeting here?”
“I don’t know,” said Sadie, “but I know he’s here. We just need to find his grave.”
Just then, a ghost appeared; it was the ghost of Thomas Stone, their best friend. He had been killed over the past summer and was found at the famed Green Hill Manor. Since his funeral, the ghosts of many young children who were kidnapped and murdered haunted the city of Harrison Creek.
“Hey guys,” said Thomas as he sat on his tombstone. “Wassup?”
“Thomas?” Michael cried out. “Is that you?”
“In a matter of speaking,” said Thomas. “Nice night, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, if we’re not at a cemetery being haunted by the ghost of our dead best friend,” said Sadie. “By the way, we’re sorry for not coming after you.
“That’s OK, Sadie,” said Thomas. “I’ve been doing great. In fact, I met your other friends Tyler and Lucas. They’re not that bad once you get to know them.”
“Yeah, but you’re all dead,” said Paul.
“I know, right?” said Thomas. “But don’t worry; I’ll be haunting Mr. Stewart and Mr. Brezetta for the rest of their lives!”
“But why Mr. Brezetta?” said Isaac.
“I thought he was nice,” said Michael.
“I thought so too, until he killed me, Tyler, Lucas, Jack, and several other boys because they got too close to his children,” said Tanya. “But not to worry, as I can still get revenge.”
Michael, Sadie, Isaac, and Paul shuddered, knowing that there was no way Thomas would be able to rest in peace until the man who killed him was dead.
A staff worker found him in a small room at the Green Hill Manor. That worker called the police, who arrested the woman guarding him and delivered Thomas to his family, the family that no longer wanted him.
That day, Thomas met up with his friends Michael Lowery, Sadie Green, Isaac Hammond, and Paul Turner in Jack’s Clubhouse. As they toasted Thomas’s safe return, Isaac said, “We never gave up on you.”
“Well, that’s nice,” said Thomas. “But I don’t understand why someone would want everyone in the city to forget I even existed.”
“Maybe they don’t like you,” said Sadie. “You do know they made up so many bad things about you while you were gone.”
“I see,” said Thomas. “It’s too bad that Annabelle Brezetta will have to testify against her own husband for his role in my kidnapping. And I thought he was nice, too.”
“So did I,” said Sadie.
“But the story isn’t over yet,” said Thomas, “as I have something very important to tell you while I was in captivity…”
“I can’t believe they had the gall to do this to us,” said mara as the kids met at their usual spot. “I mean, who do these people think they are?”
Several weeks before, Mara llewellyn and her friends Stuart Greer, Irene Haughton, and Pearl Tanner were forced to play scavenger hunt with a dangerous stranger. The Stranger claimed to have kidnapped their friend, Tanya Shinnok, and he left clues about her true identity throughout the city of Harrison Creek for the kids to find. To make matters worse, the police and other trusted adults are not allowed to get involved with the case.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Stuart. “All I know is that no one could help us and we had to do all the work by ourselves. It’s like our faith in humanity was shattered.”
“Not completely shattered,” said Pearl. “Remember that Shara showed up right around the same time telling it disappeared. She solved the mystery before we got a chance to.”
“Well, good for her,” said Irene. “I’m glad she isn’t the type to be scared off so easily by a cruel stranger.”
For all the summer that they had without their friend and ringleader, Mara, Stuart, Irene, and Pearl learned that Tanya had gotten many people in trouble because they messed with her. Many people living in the city were shocked to know that such horrible acts of bullying were happening in their schools and many students were suspended as a result of the bullying. Someone who didn’t like Tanya decided to make her disappear, but that backfired the moment Shara revealed that Tanya Shinnok was not real.
As for the others, they didn’t know what to think. On one hand, they were glad that Sarah has showed up when she did and help to solve the mystery, but they were upset to know they were forced into a scavenger hunt no one else could help them with.
In another universe, Michael Lowery, Sadie Green, Isaac Hammond, Paul Turner, and Thomas Stone were hanging out at Jack’s Clubhouse when the Norse godLoki showed up.
“Who are you?” said Isaac as he stared at the god.
“He’s Loki,” said Michael. “Don’t you know who he is?”
“Don’t tell me, it’s Loki from those “Thor” movies,” said Sadie.
“So does that mean we’re going to get Loki?” said Paul.
“Not if you want him to trick you,” said Michael. “He’s a trickster God, after all.”
“You’re quite right,” said Loki.
“Let me guess: you’re going to play a trick on someone?” said Thomas.
“Well, I have someone who owes me something, and they didn’t pay up,” said Loki.
“And who owes you something and they didn’t pay you back?” said Thomas.
“Someone by the name George Stewart and Samuel Burton,” said Loki. “They had the nerve to make a demand that I couldn’t meet, and they owe me for that last trick they did with your friend Tyler Dawson and Lucas Nelson…”
“Oh no, they killed them, didn’t they?” said Sadie.
“Nope,” said Loki. “I just sent them to Disneyland. They tried to get me to do the same thing to your friend Thomas, but I knew Thor was going to find out if I was involved in yet another disappearance. So I told them no.”
“They’re not going to like that,” said Michael.
“Then they’re not going to love what I’m doing to do to them,” sad Loki.
To make this long story short, so she ended up torturing Mr. Stewart and Mr. Burton until they admitted to the police that they organized the kidnapping of Tyler Dawson and Lucas Nelson. Of course, they claim that the god Loki made them do it, but nobody believed them.
“Never thought this would happen,” said Sadie as the group celebrated their friends’ safe return. “Who knows what would have happened if Loki hadn’t showed up when he did.”
“Who cares?” I said Thomas. “We got our friends back, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Burton are in jail, and everything’s going our way. What could possibly go wrong?”
Unfortunately, the kids forgot that Loki was still around causing nothing but trouble for the city of Harrison Creek, Oregon…
“I can’t believe this happened,” said Sadie as the kids watched Mr. Stewart being arrested by the police. “How were we to know that Terry’s dad was the Stranger?”
“I don’t know,” said Michael, “but there had to be a reason why he did whatever it was that he did.”
“I hope so,” said Isaac. “He wouldn’t have kidnapped Tom and hampered all efforts to find him without a motivation.”
The trio stood and watched as Shane and Paul, along with Terry and Louie, came toward them. “Guys, what happened here?” Shane cried out. “I could hear police sirens from a mile away.”
Sadie said, “Well, it’s kind of a funny story…”
TWO HOURS EARLIER…
“I can’t believe you chose to do this instead of going to the movies,” said Sadie as she, Isaac, and Michael drove away from the theater and went to the neighborhood where the old Mycroft house was located. “What could be more important than a movie?” They were sure that someone living in the house had something to do with the Thomas Stone debacle.
“Well, I know that Terry didn’t have anything to do with Tom’s disappearance and Tiffany and Torvald aren’t involved with Tom either,” said Michael. “So it has to be one of his parents.”
“Why is it always adults that do that kind of thing?” said Isaac.
“Because whenever Thomas Stone is brought up, our trust in our parents and other adults decreases,” said Sadie. “Soon, I fear that the FBI will step in and take us from our families like what happened when Mimi Johnson was murdered years ago.”
“Let’s make sure that this doesn’t happen to us,” said Michael.
They made their way to the house and found a secret passage that led to a part of the house which contained an office full of computers, tablets, cell phones, and hidden video cameras.
“What is this place?” Michael cried out.
“It must be where the Stranger lives,” said Sadie.
“No doubt about it,” said Michael. “He must have been tacking our movements and everything we do or say.”
“Just like in “Pretty Little Liars“,” said Isaac as everyone glared at him. “I’ve read those books. I know what’s going on. I bet their story applies to us.”
“But unlike the girls, I know how to end this story,” said Sadie as she whipped out her cell phone. “The police routinely watch social media websites to weed out criminals. We need to report this now while no one can stop us.”
She took pictures of the computers and tablets and everything on them, beginning with summer 2005, when the trouble with Tom began to summer 2010, when the horror truly began. The boys walked around the place, searching for clues that would lead them to Tom and his killer, but instead found fake documents and school records belonging to a boy named James Osborn.
“OK, now who the heck is James?” Michael snapped as he read the papers.
“I don’t know,” said Isaac, “but something tells me that we’re soon going to find out.”
“What are you children doing in my office?” A voice cut into the air. Michael and Isaac quickly pulled the door shut, locked it, and set a bar across the door as well as a heavy steel cabinet.
“You might want to call the police,” said Isaac as Michael gathered the papers. “We have a problem.”
“Why?” said Sadie. “We’re already having a hard time trusting adults as it is, so why should we ask them for help?”
“Because they’re the only thing between us and whoever’s out there,” said Michael. “Now hurry up, we don’t have much time!”
As Sadie called the police, the boys cringed as they heard the Stranger on the other end pounding on the door. They knew that the next few minutes could mean life or death…
TWO HOURS LATER…
“So that’s where you were while we were at the movies,” said Shane. “You were snooping around the Old Mycroft place.”
“Not just snooping,” said Sadie. “The Stranger has their office here.” They all watched as the police hauled papers, computers, tablets, and cell phones from a large office.
“Ok, that’s all fine and dandy,” said Paul, “but who is the Stranger?”
They all watched as Mr. Stewart was hauled away in handcuffs. The man cursed and screamed as the police were taking him away.
“Well, what a great plot twist,” said Louie. “Terry’s dad was the Stranger all along. How did no one but us see that?”
“I’m sure that this will be all over the news once that story gets out,” said Terry. “But still, I can’t believe that my own dad had a hand in the entire Thomas Stone thing. How did I not foresee this?”
“None of us did,” said Michael.
“Now what do we do since there is no Stranger for us to deal with?” said Sadie.
The kids knew that within a few days, people would be talking about the arrest of Gregory Stewart for cyberstalking and harassing several children under the age of 18. No one would believe that the victims of the crime had somehow gotten the power to turn the tables on their tormentor.
It was now a new year; another chance to get things right. Mara, Stuart, Irene, and Pearl had been through a lot since Tanya disappeared last summer. Tanya was kidnapped from their hangout and no one knew where she went. To make matters worse, those who did know where Tanya was refused to tell the police or aid in the search.
In short, the city of Harrison Creek, Oregon had forgotten about Tanya Shinnok.
“It’s sad that we’re the only ones who know about Tanya and we can’t tell anyone about her because they don’t think she’s real,” said Mara as they sat in their old hangout.
“I know,” said Irene. “It’s also too bad that everyone’s fixated on that new girl instead of worrying about if Tanya’s OK or not.”
“Forget about that, what about us,” said Stuart. “In case we forgot, we haven’t exactly taken care of our own needs. I mean, when is the last time we did something for ourselves instead of doing things for other people?”
“Maybe we need to start over,” said Pearl. “Maybe we need to focus more on ourselves instead of what everybody wants us to think about. Tanya is gone and there’s nothing we can do about it. Maybe we should forget about her and move on with our lives.”
The others frowned, but something had to give. It was a new year after all, and they knew they had to let Tanya go and move on with their lives. The question was, were they willing to let Tanya go and focus on their lives?