Authors: James Kahn
“Bogus bills,” said Brand. “Check it out,” said Data, handing me the page.
“I knew those people were from the ozone.”
Stef pulled the news photo of our hosts off the wall. “Oh, God, I knew I recognized these faces,” she said. “This is the Fratelli
mob. They were on the news. Jake just broke out of prison, and there was this high-speed car chase, and they're wanted everywhere,
“See! You guys never believe me,” said Chunk, still
trying to get the freezer open. “And now look what you got yourselves into.…”
Suddenly the freezer door flew open.
And standing inside was a dead body.
Frozen solid, his eyes wide-open. With a bullet hole in the center of his forehead. And an FBI badge pinned to his lapel.
He was one of the two guys in dark suits we saw go in the restaurant earlier in the day. He was bound and gagged now, and
halfway zipped into a green plastic bag. The one that wouldn't fit into the trunk.
And then, like it was in slow motion or something, the body fell forward and hit the floor. Almost hit Chunk—he was so petrified
he didn't move—until the body crashed to the cement, and then we all moved, and I mean fast.
Out the door, down the hall, up the stairs. But not very far up the stairs. Because in the lounge above us we heard voices.
The Fratellis were home.
And then, at the top of the staircase, we heard the basement door open.
We turned without a word and ran back to the counterfeiting room and shut the door.
I took a suck on my inhaler.
Chunk was shivering. “Mommy! Daddy! Uncle Wormer!” Over and over. I remember that's also the way he calmed himself down the
night after he snuck in to see
Friday the 13th, Part II
“Oh, Jesus,” whispered Andy, and crossed herself.
Chunk saw that, and I guess he figured he'd try anything if it would help, but he was Jewish, so he outlined a Jewish star
over his chest and stomach.
“What are we gonna do?” said Brand.
“We gotta get him back in the freezer,” I said, “or they'll know we been here.”
Chunk got behind the body and pulled, while the rest of us got in front and pushed, except Andy, who just stood there stiff
as the stiff, whispering, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”
We could hear the Fratellis coming down the stairs, but we finally got the corpse up on its feet, pushed it into the freezer,
and closed the door. We didn't realize yet that we'd pushed Chunk in with the body.
We ran to the fireplace. I grabbed a shovel and motioned everyone else down into the passage below the false floor—first things
first, but I figured as long as we were escaping from the Fratellis, we might as well check out the buried treasure at the
All the kids went down the hole except Brand. “Geez, it looks kinda small,” he said.
“Yeah, like the elevator. Remember?” I said.
“I told you to shut up about that.” He started to smack me a good one, but Mama's voice was getting closer, and besides, Andy
was watching him from below, and he didn't want to look chickenshit in front of her for sure. So he swallowed it and crawled
down in there with the rest.
I went in last. Once I was down there I pulled the grating back over our heads, and then stuck the shovel up through the grating
and pulled the logs and sticks back on top of it, and then took Stef's lighter and Data took Andy's matches, and we relit
the fire from underneath.
And then Mama and the boys came in.
I could see them through the grate. Jake went right to the freezer, but before he could open the door very far, Mama spotted
the broken water cooler and knew somethin' was up.
“Let's go check your brother,” she said, real raspy. It
was pretty obvious to me who the Thing in the next room took after in the voice department.
The Fratelli family left to check on junior. I could still hear her saying, “He better not've busted them chains again. I
ain't goin' back to the zoo for another set,” when the freezer door opened the rest of the way and Chunk slid out from behind
the corpse. That was the first time I realized he wasn't with us.
“Chunk!” I yelled in a whisper.
He ran over to the fireplace. In his Hawaiian shirt he reminded me of a plate of frozen Jell-O with fresh fruit in it, but
I didn't say anything.
“Guys?” he said, holding his hands over the fire to warm up. “Lemme in! Quick, c'mon!”
There wasn't any time for that, though. The gang would be back in a second.
“You gotta get outta here, Chunk,” I whispered. “Get the police.” I saw the window above the press. “Use the window! Up there!”
He looked over to the wall and started to shake his head, but then we all heard the Fratellis coming back. So he jumped up
on the printing press, pulled open the tiny dirty window, and crawled out, just as Mama, Jake, and Francis reentered.
“I knew he couldn't break those chains,” said Mama.
“Maybe it was one o' them tremors, Ma,” said Jake.
“Yeah.” Francis nodded. “I remember that happened once—”
“Shut up,” said Ma. “C'mon. We gotta move the other one.” She pointed to the freezer.
The boys nodded and dragged the body out. “You boys take care o' that,” Mama went on. “I'm gonna stay behind and look around,
make sure none o' them ‘tremors’ is still nosin' around to start up again.”
I figured it was time for us to ease on down the road a little, so I scooted back with the others.
We were in a narrow tunnel surrounded by smooth rocks and hard earth and shored up by an occasional beam of tar-soaked timber.
The tunnel headed down at a slant, getting wider as it went but totally black as soon as we got away from the feeble firelight
above us. So even when it got wide enough to stand, we just huddled together for a minute, scared to walk any farther into
the darkness, trying to take stock of everything we'd just been through.
We were hidden from the murderers, Chunk was gone for help, every step from here on might bring us to pirate gold. It was
wild and scary and it felt like we'd made it past the first couple of dangers like pros almost, and I was like high or something.
Andy was more like something. “Oh, my God, I saw my first dead body,” she whispered.
“Okay, look guys,” said Brand, “I'm the oldest, so I'll call the shots. First, let's find a way outta here—heads up, maybe
we'll see a manhole cover.”
That seemed like a dumb idea, but I didn't say so. I turned to Data instead. “Hey, Data, you got any light on you?”
“Yeah, in case of emergencies. When I'm walking home from school and some big guys stop me for money, I pretend like I'm real
scared, and then I reach in my pocket and pull this cord and say ‘Bully blinders!’” He sort of whisper-shouted the last words
as he pulled the cord in his pocket.
Two eight-millimeter movie projector lamps on his belt burst on with this incredibly bright light that was so blinding, we
all had to cover our eyes.
And then about three seconds later the lights went out.
“Only problem,” Data mumbled, “batteries don't live
so long.” So he reached into his backpack. “So… I have father's backyard light.” He pulled out a large battery lantern and
flipped it on. It lit up the passageway.
Brand took it from him. “Okay, I'll walk ahead with the light.…”
“Walk? said Mouth. “What about run, son, and when you're done, you run some more, till you know you've won…” he started rappin'.
There was a little cluster of nervous laughter.
And then we began our journey.
We walked for a long time. The tunnel twisted around in every direction, sometimes getting bigger, sometimes narrowing, sometimes
widening to the size of a cave, sometimes splitting into three or four forks. After three turns I was totally lost. So we
just kept heading upward as well as we could—at least to freedom, if not booty.
After a while we came to a surprise sight: In a wide, low cavern, pipes came down from the clay ceiling, dangling into our
space, crossing over each other, and bending back up again. All different sizes, mostly pretty rusty, tangled with lots of
tree roots and creepers..
Whatever they were from, it meant we were probably pretty close to the surface here.
Stef jabbed Mouth. “Your old man's a plumber. What kind of pipes are those?”
Mouth checked it out. “Gas pipes, electrical, sewage, plumbing, hot water, cold water, pressure pipes.…”
“Water pipes?” said Brand. “Hey, you think if we started hangin' on 'em, somebody upstairs might hear?”
Mouth nodded and pulled out the wrench he always carried in his back pocket. The rest of us picked up rocks. And we all started
Nobody answered, though, so we clowned around a little, just to relax—began swingin' on the pipes like
Tarzan or walkin' on some of the bigger ones like they were balance beams, and Andy tried her Mary Lou Retton imitation but
fell, and Brand hung upside down from one, which I think is his natural position.
Mouth began working on one of the fittings with his wrench, trying to unscrew it. Between him and us, it wasn't long before
a dozen pipes were leaking and spewing water. Some, under pressure, even started to move by themselves, and it was weird and
kind of mysterious, like a huge underground engine or something.
We started really goofin' on 'em then—pullin' and pushin' and bashin'. Water was spraying all over, and some of the pipes
actually sank to the ground and pulled fixtures down from the surface with them, shower nozzles and fountains and spigots
And then all hell broke loose. The pipes were bouncing righteously, smashing into the earth walls on overdrive, with steam
and water hissing everywhere. It got scary fast, like in the middle of a laugh we all knew we should be somewhere else.
“What's happening?” yelled Stef.
“We wrecked the pressure valves,” yelled Mouth. “We better get outta here!”
We got outta there. On to the next tunnel.
“Geez,” said Brand, “you'd think somebody would've noticed.” He sounded pretty glum. I think we all agreed, but were just
too ragged-out to agree out loud. So we just kept walking.
We were wet now, which made us cold, and cold, which made us scared. Somehow dark and lost and cold is a lot worse than just
dark and lost. So we walked huddled together for warmth and company. Reminded me of Robin Hood and his merry men, hiding in
the forest from evil
Prince John, keeping each other's spirits up with stories and songs and games.
“Anybody know any stories or songs or games?” I said.
Mouth started singin' the “Funeral March,” and Brand said, “Yeah, you hear the one about the kid brother who was buried alive?”
Well, maybe it wasn't exactly like Robin Hood.
After a while we reached a long passageway with an uneven floor, all jutting rocks, and sharp inclines. About halfway down
it we saw something funny—a gum wrapper, a tin cigar tube, and an old mildewed bible.
We stopped like an animal with too many legs.
“Somebody else was here before us,” I whispered.
“Maybe they're still here,” said Data, looking around.
“Maybe we better hope they're not,” said Stef.
Andy stopped doing Hail Marys long enough to start blabbering and wandering. “An hour ago Troy was looking down my shirt.
There's nothing so wrong with that, is there? But, no, I had to get all vain and huffy, so now instead of cruising down the
coast with Troy, I'm down here talking about my body to the walls. I mean, it's a nice body, and how many more years do I
have before—” She stopped so still, I could almost hear her turning white. And then she pointed. “—before I start looking
We all looked in the direction of her finger. On the floor, against the wall, lay a decayed skeleton.
We sort of ran slowly over to it. Its legs were pinned under a giant boulder. I looked up at the ceiling. There was a whole
string of boulders, dangling from heavy chains, along the entire length of this tunnel.
All at once I knew what had happened here, and how, and why, and it all made sense.
I spoke softly to the ghost that told me. “You did this,
One-Eyed Willy, didn't you? This is one of your tricks. And you wouldn't have gone to all this trouble to keep people out
unless you had somethin' awful big to hide, would you, Willy?”
And I think 1 heard old Willy smile.
Like I just knew from that moment on, I was right on his wavelength. There was something between us, reaching across all those
centuries, pulling us together. Maybe he was my patron saint. Is that possible? Saint Willy? Or maybe I was related to him.
Like his genes got passed down generation to generation, and some of 'em ended up in me, and it was that part of me that knew
what he was up to all along the way.
We looked close at the skeleton. He was dressed up in miner's clothes with a miner's hat and tools—shovels, picks, stuff like
“This must be Chester Copperpot,” said Data.
“Who?” said Stef.
“The last guy who went looking for One-Eyed Willy's gold. The newspaper said he went in but he never came out—that was back
“Find his wallet,” said Brand. He wasn't about to do it himself, though.
“No way am I touchin'
dude,” said Mouth. “
find his wallet.”
get it, you nerds,” said Stef, and reached into the skeleton's pants. I told you she was tough enough.
“She reaches into guys' pants all the time.” Mouth laughed about a second before Stef kicked him a good one in the calf, which
shut him up.
She found the wallet and pulled it out, but at the last second, swear to God, the skeleton's hand closed on it and wouldn't
let go. If it were me, I'd have let the sucker
his damn wallet, but Stef had gone that far, and she
wanted to go all the way. So she tugged, and he tugged back, and she finally pulled the thing free, and a couple of the skeleton's
fingers fell off, to boot. Freaked me out, kind of.
Stef opened the wallet, and sure enough, the old guy's name was on a crumbling card inside—Chester Copperpot.