Chapter Ten

Winter 2009—Present Time

Megan was cold. Freezing, in fact, but she couldn't move her arms to wrap them around her. She was standing in the middle of a long dirt road, the excess dust blowing around by the wind. Through the dust, she saw a figure walking towards her.

"Megan!" a familiar voice called—it was her father's voice, but when the figure came into view, it was exactly how she had imagined Aspen Kalibur in Jack's books. He was young—approximately sixteen—and wearing loose black jeans, a khaki t-shirt, and a brown jacket. His hair was down to his ears as it whipped around his face. "Megan, you have to come with me." She tried to speak, but couldn't. "Megan," he repeated urgently, "we have to get out of here!"

A deafening explosion of sound erupted, and Aspen Kalibur fell to his knees, his face filled with pain. A red spot appeared on his shirt as blood began pouring out. Then, his face shifted, and it slowly became Jack Parks, right before he fell face-first to the dirt ground and sank into it as if it was the quicksand in the Molasses Pool from the fourth Aspen Kalibur book, Aspen Kalibur and the Deathly Jungle. Megan heard a laugh.

Roman suddenly appeared in front of her with a gun in his hand. Slowly, he brought the gun to his lips and blew off the smoke, like in one of those old western movies. He pressed the gun to Megan's forehead and smiled.

Megan screamed, sitting up.

"It was just a dream." Megan's head snapped to the direction that voice came from and saw Brock sitting in a chair behind her. They had locked her in the warehouse closet.

"Why are you here," she asked, stammering with cold.

"They left me to watch you," he said. "And you were talking in your sleep. Bad dream?"

Megan nodded shyly. I'm living a bad dream, she thought. Carter would have said that out loud.

"What was it about?" Brock slipped out of the chair and sat beside the small, thin mattress Megan had been given. Megan was still speechless, partly from the dream and partly from surprise that he was actually concerned. "I don't bite," he assured her.

"Why do you care?" Megan mumbled between chattering teeth. Brock stood up angrily and stalked to Megan's side. He slapped her across the cheek.

"Because I can do whatever I want with you," he retorted, just as quickly spinning around and leaving the small room.

When she could no longer hear Brock's footsteps, she bundled herself up as small as she could, rested her head on her knees, and cried.

Carter had never run as fast as she was then, yet she had never felt so slow. It was like a dream, where she was running away from something and it seemed as if she was on a treadmill that she couldn't quite exceed the pace of. The soles of her old black converse slapped against the asphalt. She ran to the nearest hiding place she could find – the park. She hid behind the blue slide.

It has to be in here, she thought, wiggling her fingers beneath the lid of the cardboard box. It was definitely heavy enough to have all of the money in it. She threw off the lid with such nervous excitement that it was caught by the wind and landed in the sand about ten feet away from her, but she didn't care.

It was as if the box was glowing green. There it was - thousands and thousands of dollars. She took out her cell phone to text Megan's.

I have the $.

Carter flipped the phone shut and stood up, only to fall back down immediately at the sight of the Parks' car screeching to a stop at the curb. Carter held her breath, but that didn't stop Jack Parks from marching right over to her.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked furiously, pulling Carter to a standing position. He snatched the box of money out of her hand. "And what exactly are you going to do with seven million dollars?"

Seven, Carter thought. It's enough to save Megan.

"Did you hear me?" Jack yelled. "First my daughter is taken away, now my money? What the hell is wrong with you?!"

"I...I..." Carter hesitated. She had never been good at improvisation, like Megan. "I can't explain. But..."


"I can't explain it!" Carter cried, tearing up. Suddenly, her phone vibrated in her hand, startling her to the point that she dropped it and it flipped open. Jack looked and read the text.

If you really have the five million, find some way to get to Loving County, Texas. At the Entering Loving County sign, it will say East 302 Texas. There are bushes there. Hide the money somewhere good in the nearest one, but not underground, then wait for further instructions. If you mess up or try to trick us, Megan dies.