Manhattan

Tuesday, April 24, 1990

"Well, that could be one reason Brian hasn't called." Di stared disappointedly at the phone. "Why hadn't we checked this before?"

Honey shrugged. "Miss Bellmont said that was her phone number, so I figured it worked."

"And you didn't make any phone calls from here?" Mart gazed at the phone receiver in Di's hand. "Which phone did you use to call me?"

"The one in the general store." Honey gave him a half-frown. "I didn't want Miss Bellmont to have any extra expenses on her phone bill. I assume she's on a fixed income."

Mart leaned against the cherry-wood credenza that held the old-fashioned turquoise blue phone. "So, Jim and Trixie are on their way here, right?"

Honey nodded as she sat down on the couch. "Yes. I called him again this morning when I first woke up. That's when I discovered the phone didn't work. It was only seven in the morning, so I didn't think Mr. Bellmont would be at the store. I tried the phone here, and ... nothing." She grimaced slightly at the unfortunate discovery. "Luckily, he was at the store. Mr. Bellmont, I mean, of course. I called Jim, and he said he and Trixie would leave shortly."

"Okay." Mart wandered over to the window and glanced out at the narrow street where his own car was parked behind Brian's. "Well, we're going to have to split up. I don't want to wait however many hours for Jim and Trixie to arrive. I'm going to head to Tonopah and see if I can find him. One of you will have to wait by Bellmont's store. I'll call that number as soon as I get to Tonopah."

"Can I go with you, please?" Di gazed at Mart timidly. "I couldn't bear it if you went missing, too."

Honey frowned. She didn't particularly want to stay behind, but she could certainly understand Di's request.

Mart seemed torn. His eyes were moving back and forth between her and Di. He finally rested on her. "Would you be okay staying here by yourself?"

"Someone has to stay. Otherwise we might not be here when Jim and Trixie arrive." She grimaced as she thought of spending time in this strange town all by herself. But she knew that Mart and Di had a lot to talk about. "I guess I'll be fine on my own."

"Thanks, Honey." Di crossed the room to her quickly and pulled her off the couch to hug her. "I hate to leave you, but ...."

"It's okay, Di. I'm sure I'll be fine." She smiled reassuringly at her friend. "You two go on to Tonopah and call me when you get there, okay?"

As Honey watched Mart and Di drive down the road, she wasn't sure what she would do to occupy herself for an hour. There wasn't anything to do or see in the town except the old buildings just over the hill. She wasn't sure if she wanted to go exploring by herself. But she also didn't want to hang out in the general store for an hour, since that's about how long it would take before her two friends made it to Tonopah.

She went upstairs to grab the novel she had sort of started. Maybe she could spend some time reading, even though she knew she probably wouldn't be able to concentrate any better that morning than the previous night.



Di gazed at Mart as the two of them drove farther down the same road that had brought them to the Manhattan turnoff. "What are we going to do when we get to Tonopah? I mean, I know we're going to look for Brian, but how do we even start?"

Mart glanced at her and then turned his eyes back to the road. "He needed a part for his car, so we'll start by seeing if we can find a car parts place, some kind of junkyard, maybe."

Di nodded. "That makes sense." She stared silently out the window at the passing scenery, but she couldn't have described it for anything. After a few moments she turned back to her boyfriend. "Mart?"

"Mm-hmm?" Mart glanced at her briefly.

"You're not sorry ... are you?" Di frowned.

"Sorry?" He kept his eyes on the road. Di didn't explain, and apparently she didn't need to. After a moment of silence, Mart finally answered her. "Sorry about the baby? That's hard to answer, Di. I mean, I'm not, really, I'm not. Not in the sense that I wouldn't want you to have him or her or that I wished you weren't pregnant right now. I'm not sorry for that at all. I love you and I'm excited about this change in our lives. But then ...." He sighed. "I am. I am sorry that I got us into this mess, that I couldn't wait, and now we have to deal with the consequences of that. I'm sorry I've made your life more difficult."

Di swallowed back some unshed tears. She hated how she always seemed on the verge of crying these days and really hoped it was just hormones. Trying to gather her thoughts, she also gathered her courage. "I am, too. I mean, I'm not. And you didn't get us into this mess, we did it together." She smiled and reached over to touch his arm. He let go of the steering wheel and grasped her fingers in his briefly.

"I feel like in one way we have messed up our lives," Di continued. "You're talking about changing schools, I'm thinking of not even going to college, and God only knows how we're going to manage taking care of a little one when we're still learning to be adults ourselves. But, then, I think about God, and about how we were careful and we did use protection and still, here I am, with this life growing inside me. It's incredible. It's a gift. And I wouldn't trade it for anything."

"It is a gift. And changing schools, deciding where to live, deciding how to best take care of our family, that's not messing up our lives—it's living them." Mart smiled at her. "Isn't that how adults do it? We just need to deal with this change in our plans, together."

Di sighed softly and leaned back against the head rest of the passenger seat. "Together."



Maria got out of the car and stretched. Jim had pulled into a gas station just outside of Reno, but they didn't need gas; they needed a map. She followed Trixie and him into the store and then wandered slowly up and down the aisles of candy, gum, and chips. Nothing appealed to her in any of the bins, and yet she had a package of those giant SweeTarts in her hands. She grimaced and then placed them on the shelf. She made her way back to the front of the store and waited silently for Jim and Trixie.

"This one doesn't list it either." Jim refolded the map in his hands and reached for a different one.

Trixie shook her head. "That one's no good. I already checked."

 

Cat looked in her hands, empty. She marched back down the aisle she had just come from and picked up the discarded SweeTarts candy. She went up to the register and quickly paid for it. Jim and Trixie were still leafing through the maps. "'Scuse me," she asked the disinterested cashier. "Have you ever heard of a town around here called Manhattan?"

He gave her a cursory glance. "You mean the city in New York? Sure."

"No, the town. Here in Nevada." She peered at him intently while she opened the package and pulled out the giant yellow candy. Yellow was her favorite flavor of almost any candy. She supposed she ought to say "lemon", but the yellow candies with their artificial flavors hardly ever actually tasted like lemon, and it was the artificial and overly sweet flavor that she preferred over real lemon flavor, anyway.

The cashier rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. "Nope. Just New York." He winked at Trixie, who had been watching the conversation with interest. "Keep heading east on 80. Another 2,500 miles or so."

"Right. Thanks." Cat turned around, dismissing him, and headed out the door to wait by the car. She was starting to wonder if this place actually existed.

"Wait up," Trixie called to her.

Cat paused, letting the curly-haired blond girl catch up to her, which only took two seconds. She licked at the giant candy, getting it soft enough to chew off a small bite. "Where's Jim?"

"He went to the restroom." She blushed slightly when she spoke.

"Oh." Cat shrugged her shoulders. The two were silent as they waited for Jim to return. "Hey, Trixie?"

"Hm?" Trixie looked up at her.

"Do you think we'll find him? I mean ... do you think we'll find the town?" Cat frowned. She didn't want to sound so hopeless, but she really didn't know how they would go about searching the whole state of Nevada.

Trixie gazed back at her, determined. "Of course we'll find the town. And Brian."

"How?" She couldn't help the doubt that entered her mind. "Nobody's ever heard of the town. It's not on any maps."

"Brian, Honey, and Di found it. We can, too." Trixie pressed her lips together. "This place," she gestured around her at the gas pumps and the small building, "is probably too close to California for anyone to know much of anything. We need to head into the middle of the state somewhere."

Jim joined them as she finished speaking. "Right." He opened the car and pulled out the map they did have. "How about we try Fallon? It's still on a major highway, but kind of out of the way of everything. Maybe that's where they originally headed?"

Trixie nodded. "Fallon, it is."

Cat got into the car, still chewing on the giant, yellow SweeTart. "How far is it to Fallon?"

"Probably just another hour or so." Jim studied the map briefly and then handed it to Trixie, who was settling back into the passenger seat. "Besides, Fallon's on the way to Tonopah, and if we can't find Manhattan, we can at least get to Tonopah."

"Makes sense to me." Trixie buckled her seatbelt and then rested her head back against the seat.

Jim glanced in the rearview mirror. "Those things aren't sticky, are they?"

Cat shook her head as she popped the remaining piece of candy into her mouth. "I won't mess up your car, Jim."



The drive to Fallon was pretty quiet. Trixie spent the majority of the time gazing out the window, catching views of the Truckee River along the way. They still hadn't stopped to eat anything, besides Maria getting the candy. Her stomach grumbled, and she thought maybe she should have picked up a candy bar or a bag of chips, too.

"Do you want to stop and grab something to eat when we get there?" Jim asked.

"You read my mind," Trixie told him. "I hate to take any time away at all from getting there, though."

"I know. But we need to eat. Hopefully there's a McDonald's or something with a drive-thru. We can pick up some burgers and fries. That way we won't take too much time." He grimaced slightly. It was obvious he was just as worried as she was.

"You know we'll probably get to Manhattan and find out that Brian's been back for hours but nobody could get a hold of us," Maria spoke quietly.

Trixie couldn't tell if the other girl was seriously no longer concerned or just trying to put on a brave face, but she guessed it was probably the latter. She turned around and smiled at the other girl. "That would be the best possible outcome, so I really hope you're right."

Maria pulled out the next piece of candy from the SweeTart pack. "Want half?"

Trixie shook her head. "No, thanks though." She turned back to look at the road ahead of them. "How much farther?" she asked Jim.

Jim groaned quietly, but not quietly enough that she couldn't hear. "You ask me every five minutes."

Trixie smirked. "You know I'm not good at math, but I take it that means twenty more minutes to go, right?"

"Yep. Give or take." Jim flashed her a small smile.

 

They stopped at a gas station in Fallon that was across the street from the McDonald's they had just driven through. Trixie was looking over the maps and suddenly found what she was looking for. "This one here, Jim!"

Jim came over. "Manhattan?"

Trixie nodded. "Right here." She pointed to a spot in the middle of the state.

"Great! That looks like it's not all that much farther than Tonopah, although it's a different road so hard to tell. It would be good to stop there first and see if he's made it back." He plucked the map from her hands and went to the cash register to pay for it.

"Heading to Tonopah?" the clerk asked.

Jim nodded noncommittally. "Have you ever heard of Manhattan?"

The young clerk snorted, his brown hair falling into his eyes. "Who hasn't?"

"He means Manhattan, Nevada," Trixie clarified.

"The old mining town in the mountains?" He regarded her with interest.

"Yes, that's the one." Trixie smiled at him. "Do you know anything about it?"

He shrugged and then flicked his bangs out of his face. "Not much. It's an old ghost town, I guess. I've driven along the main road but never took the turn off to see what was out there."

"Oh. Well, thanks." Jim handed him a few bills and waited for his change.

When they got back to the car, Maria was no longer waiting in the back seat like she'd said she would be.

"Great." Jim scowled. "Where'd she run off to?"

"She might have just gone to the ladies' room. I'll go check." Trixie hurried off back toward the convenience store.

Maria wasn't there, nor was she inside the store. Great! She echoed Jim's thought from earlier. She went back to the car and shook her head.

"Can we just leave her here?" He scowled slightly in response to her glare. "Don't worry. I wouldn't actually do that, tempting as it might be."

Trixie frowned. That really didn't sound like the honorable boy she'd fallen in love with long ago. "She doesn't seem so bad, Jim. Why don't you like her?"

"I'm sorry. You're right. She's not that bad, really." He looked across the street at the long row of stores. "If you were Maria, where would you go?"

She followed his gaze. "You want to start at one end and I'll start at the other?"

He shrugged. "I donít see what else we can do besides wait here for her."

"We could wait a few minutes. She'd come right back, wouldn't she?" Trixie watched as cars sped down the highway separating the gas station from the strip mall.

"It's Maria." He turned to Trixie, a sheepish expression on his face. "Maria has a ... well, she kind of ... I don't know how to explain it exactly."

Trixie had a feeling that Jim knew exactly how to explain it, but he just didn't want to. She placed her hands on her hips and squared her jaw. "Try."

He looked at her in surprise. "She has a tendency to get easily distracted."

She knew he was hiding something further, but she took the little tidbit and filed it away. The mystery of Maria could wait until after she was sure Brian was well and safe. "Okay, how about I go over and look through the stores, and you wait here in case she comes back?"

Jim shook his head, disagreeing. "I'll go with you. If we can split up, we'll probably find her faster. If she comes back, hopefully she'll have sense enough to wait for us."



Maria looked around the small tobacco shop. International phone cards were neatly arranged under a glass countertop, all advertising the cheapest rates to Mexico. The older, dark-skinned gentleman behind the counter, his hair wrapped in a turban, looked at her expectantly. His eyes narrowed at her angrily as she stared back. Why is he so mad at me? Deciding the best course of action was to just leave, she squared her shoulders, turned around, and walked out the door, the bell above tinkling as she opened it. Outside, she looked up and down the row of small stores. A UPS store seemed like it would offer a more comforting haven than the tobacco place had.

She had no idea how she'd even gotten to this place. Was she still in Nevada? More importantly, where was Jim and why had he left her here? She looked out the window of the store. The parking lot was fairly large, allowing the shops to be set far back from the busy street. She had to come up with a plan, a way to get back home. She turned to the display of boxes in all different sizes, just to focus on something. A bus station! Surely all towns had some sort of bus depot, didn't they? She crossed her fingers, hoping desperately there would be one ... and that she'd have enough money to get her back home.

She approached the woman behind the counter, her gray hair fashioned into a long braid behind her back. "Excuse me."

"How can I help you?" the woman replied.

"I was just wondering, is there a bus depot in town somewhere?" Maria looked at her hopefully.

Her brown eyes filled with sympathy. "I'm afraid not, dear. The closest one is probably in Reno, but if you're heading east, then it might be better to try Winnemucca."

"Oh, I see." Maria frowned. She thought that must mean they were in Nevada. "How far is Reno from here?"

"About an hour driving, but I guess since you're looking for a bus, you don't have a car?" The woman looked at her inquisitively.

"No." Maria wasn't sure what to do. An hour's drive must mean it was about sixty miles. Even if she could walk a steady three-miles-an-hour, it would take a full day to walk. Should she try to hitchhike? That might be the better option, but who knew what kind of lunatic would pick her up? She shook her head. "Well, thank you."

The door opened and both ladies turned to see who had entered.

"Maria!" Jim strode quickly through the store. He looked and sounded angry. "What are you doing here?"

"Jim!" Maria wasn't sure if she should be glad to see him or mad at him for abandoning her.

The clerk touched her shoulder and whispered quietly. "Are you trying to get away from him?"

Realizing what the clerk was implying, Maria quickly shook her head. "No. No, nothing like that."

Jim calmed down quickly as he reached her. "Trixie and I have been looking for you. We need to get going."

Maria nodded. "I thought you left me stranded here."

Jim shook his head. "You were the one who wandered off. Why didn't you just wait in the car?"

"Oh. I ...." She had no idea how to finish that sentence.

"It doesn't matter. I'm just relieved to find you. Let's get Trixie and get back on the road." He put his hand on her elbow, encouraging her to walk with him toward the door.

She smiled at the older lady behind the counter. "Thanks for your help. I guess I have my ride, after all."

The woman eyed Jim suspiciously but nodded her head. "If you need anything, just come back here, okay?"

Once they were outside, Jim turned back to the store. "What was that all about?"

Maria shrugged, but then she couldn't help let out a little laugh. "I was asking about a bus depot. And then the way you stormed in there looking so ... red, well, I think she thought I was trying to run away from you."

"Wh-what?" Jim sputtered. "Oh, God. I didn't look that angry, did I? I mean, I was angry, but more about the whole situation. I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry." She glanced at him and then quickly looked down at the pavement. "Are you sure I wandered off?"

Jim shrugged. "You were in the car when I went in to pay for the gas. Trixie had come in to the store with me. When we came back out, you were gone." He paused. "You don't remember, do you?"

She shook her head. Her voice came out in a whisper. "No."

"What's the last thing you do remember?" He peered at her with a mixture of worry and concern.

"Oh, I remember when we pulled into the gas station," she quickly replied. Well, the gas station in Reno, anyway, an hour's drive away.

Jim sighed. "There's Trixie." He pointed at the curly-haired blond as she exited one of the other small stores. "Trixie!" He let out a whistle—it sounded like some kind of bird call—to get her attention.



Honey sat at the lone slot machine inside the general store, dropping nickel after nickel into the coin slot. It had been exactly 58 minutes since Mart and Di had left. She checked her watch and mentally corrected that to 59. She glanced over at the phone as she unenthusiastically pulled the handle on the machine in front of her. Technically, she shouldn't be gambling, but her birthday was in less than two weeks. Besides, Mr. Bellmont had barely raised an eyebrow when she came in ten minutes earlier and started trying her luck to pass the time.

When the phone finally rang, quite some time later, it startled her. She glanced at her watch. It had been almost two hours since Mart and Di had left. She couldn't believe she'd been sitting there for an hour.

"Expecting a call?" Mr. Bellmont asked, but he didn't seem particularly interested to find out the answer.

Ignoring him, Honey picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Honey? It's Mart."

"Yes. Any luck?" She hoped they had some good news.

"Yes and no. We found a junkyard here and the guy remembers Brian and the other two coming through here. He said they couldn't find the right kind of manifold on any of his cars so he thinks they may have gone on toward Vegas." Mart sighed. "There's also a hospital nearby. I just wanted to rule it out."

"And?" Honey waited anxiously for him to continue.

"And there are no new patients, no John Does, no Brian Belden."

Honey breathed out a sigh of relief. "So they probably did go to Las Vegas. How long will it take you to get there?"

Mart sighed again, seemingly reluctant to answer.

"Mart?"

"Just over three hours." There was a pause, and she could hear Di saying something in the background but she wasn't sure what. Mart finally spoke again. "Di thinks we should go straight there. Will you be okay by yourself?"

"I ... I guess so." Honey glanced around the shop. No one had bothered her in this town yet, not counting creepy Pajama Flynn that first day. She swallowed loudly. "Di's right. Go ahead. Jim and Trixie should be here soon enough."

"Are you sure?" He sounded hesitant.

"Yes, I'm sure," she answered firmly. "It's more important to find Brian. Don't worry about me."

"Okay. I'll call when we get there. I won't start to look first; I'll just call so you know we made it there."

She could detect a hint of guilt in his voice, but she didn't feel like berating him for not calling when they first got to Tonopah. He had probably been hoping for better news before calling her. "Okay. Drive safe."

She hung up the phone and glanced at her watch again, calculating just how many more hours it would be before Jim and Trixie would get there. She walked out of the store, calling just a soft "bye" to Mr. Bellmont, and went straight to Brian's car. There was a map inside that might help her figure out just where her brother and best friend would be by now, and she could take a look at the route to Las Vegas, also.

Luckily, the door was unlocked. She reached into the glove box and pulled out the map. Once she was inside the house, she spread it open and got her bearings. Jim and Trixie might be as far as Reno, she figured. It would be at least another three hours before they showed up, probably closer to four.

With a sigh, she folded the map. She didn't want to hang around the house, so she decided to walk back over the hill and look at the ghost town part of Manhattan.

Several minutes later, she was standing inside the old bank vault Brian had pointed out to her. She ran her hand along a wide crack in the cement. She let out a sob, hoping and praying that Brian was okay, wherever he was.

"You okay there, Maddie?"

Flynn's voice startled her. Still wearing pajama bottoms and a trench coat, the sleazy-looking man was standing right behind her, inside the run-down bank, blocking her exit. "Fine. Who are you, anyway?" She may as well try to get some straight answers from the creep.

"Told you before, name's Flynn." He leered at her. "By yourself now?"

"N-no. My friends will be here in a minute." She hoped she sounded convincing.

"Really?" He narrowed his eyes, unbelieving. "If I let you go, will you head back to town and leave?"

"We can't do that." She astonished herself with how steadily she was able to answer him, but wondered immediately if she should have just lied and let him think she would leave.

"Surprised you haven't driven through already. Expected you youths to be in Vegas by now." Flynn reached into his coat and pulled out a small, dark green flask.

Honey watched his every movement carefully. "No, we're still in town."

He took another step toward her, close enough to touch her. She was amazed he didn't smell as bad as he looked, though there was definitely a strong scent of alcohol. "Shame, nice girl like you, all alone. You shouldn'ta come here."

"Why's that?" she asked defiantly.

He opened the bottle slowly and took a swig. "You're in my way."

"Wh-what?" Honey moved over, wondering if he meant literally. She could easily step around him now and started to do so.

He grabbed her arm as she walked by. "Don't come back here. It's dangerous." Then he shoved her forward, out of the ruins of the bank.



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