Chapter 2
Wave The Bus Goodbye

 “Mom, I want to come home. Now.”
 Cappella talked on her cell phone just inside the main terminal building at the Denver airport. She
stood behind an information kiosk, where she had a partial view of the Camp Googie transport waiting
at the curb outside, but no one with the camp could see her. Cell phones were strictly against camp
rules. Cappella did not want anyone to see her with one until she was sure she had her mother
convinced that an immediate return flight home was in order.
 “Oh, Cappella, you’re not even at camp yet,” her Mom replied in a distant, static-laden voice. “It’s too
early to be homesick.”
 Cappella shook her head. “It’s not that. I just feel something bad is going to happen.”
 “Sweetheart, your Dad and I will be alright.”
 “No, Mom, I mean something bad is going to happen to me!”
 “Cappella, Darling, you have such an imagination.”
 “I’m not making it up. An old Indian woman warned me on the plane.”
 “I doubt she ever went to Camp Googie as a child, Dear. It just opened three years ago.”
 Cappella slumped against the kiosk.
 “Mom, will you get me a plane ticket home or not?”
 “Your return ticket is waiting at Camp Googie. That’s the arrangement, you know that.”
 Cappella changed positions behind the kiosk to get a better view of the activity outside. The airport
was bustling with all sorts of people coming and going, but she still had not seen any Camp Googie
counselors or campers, as far as she could tell.
 Avoiding the enemy was key to this mission.
 “Mom, what if I’m not alive in a month, frozen on some mountain glacier, never to be seen again?”
 “We’ll give your room to your brother.”
 “Sweetheart, the people at Camp Googie know what they’re doing. You may not know this, but they
sent me a nice Parent’s Packet. They said first-time campers sometimes want to come home early, but
it’s always best to stay the course.”
 “We’re talking about my life here.” Cappella’s voice cracked and her eyes began to water.
 Crying had always been a powerful tool to persuade her mother to see things Cappella’s way. They
had both sobbed hysterically and held each other a long, long time before Cappella boarded the
airplane in Houston. It had surprised Cappella that her Mom did not agree with her, right then and
there, to let Cappella stay home. Now, Cappella hoped the sound of her quivering lips was coming
through loud and clear on the cell phone, but Cappella guessed it was not. The connection was going
bad. Cappella was having a hard time hearing her Mom through the static.
 “...gshhhhhhhhh...appella, the type of kids selected for Camp you, are gifted
with extremely vivid imaginations. It’s not unusual calls from their children,
begging to come home early. It’s always a confidence to stay. By the end of
camp, you may want to stay longer, as many kids do. Hey, if it’s free again, well...”
 Cappella heard the last part of her Mom’s voice loud and clear.
  “No way,” Cappella quickly responded. She did not want to set one foot on Camp Googie grounds,
much less think about extending her stay.
 Cappella looked out past the kiosk and saw a man enter the building wearing a yellow Camp Googie t-
shirt, a khaki hat with floppy earflaps, and green army fatigue pants. He was heading her way.
 “Crap!” Cappella blurted into the phone.
 “Young lady, what did you say?”
 “GSHHHHHHHHHH...” Cappella made a mock static noise with her mouth. “We’re breaking up.
GSHHHHHHH. Gotta run. GSHHHHHH. Call you later. GSHHHHH. Love you.”
 Cappella quickly disconnected and stuffed the cell phone into her backpack. When she stepped out
from behind the kiosk, the Camp Googie man was standing there, looking at his watch. Cappella wasn’
t sure if he saw her cell phone or not.
 “Uh, excuse me, Sir,” Cappella said meekly. “Are you...yes, you are...with Camp Googie? I’m—”
 “Birdson,” he said, cutting her off. “Cappella Birdson. You’re late. Your flight landed fifteen minutes
ago. Quit dawdling.”
 He did an about face and strode back in the direction he came.
 Cappella stood there, baffled. The man was young, maybe twenty-five years old, and obviously a
counselor. While he had an attitude, he definitely was not a nerd. He was well over six-feet-tall, tanned
to a crisp, and had a tattoo of a grizzly bear on his forearm.
 The hiking boots on his long legs gobbled up the floor of the airport terminal. By the time Cappella
caught up to him, he was already outside, talking to another counselor, a young woman.
 The Camp Googie man took a clipboard from the other counselor and looked down at Cappella.
“Laarsenbjorg,” he said. “Max Laarsenbjorg.” He extended his hand crisply out toward Cappella and
shook hands. He tipped his head at the other counselor and said, “This here’s Worm. Real name:
Streeter, Wendy. Just call her Worm and she’ll be happy enough.”
 Worm had a toothpick dangling from the corner of her mouth, which managed to overpower her
otherwise nerdy black-frame-thick-lens-taped-bridge eyeglasses. She curled her lip and grunted a
barely audible “Hey,” which briefly revealed dingy yellow teeth. Worm didn’t bother to shake hands.
Instead, she removed her khaki hat, wiped her thumb across her sunburned forehead and flicked a
bead of troublesome sweat to the ground.
 Worm’s fudge-brown hair was short and jagged. She stood about Cappella’s height, which, last time
Cappella bothered to check, was five-feet, eleven-inches tall. Worm meandered away, without excusing
herself, leaving Max to do the paperwork.
 “Birdson, Cappella, here,” he said to himself, making an exaggerated checkmark on the clipboard.
“Finally,” he added for emphasis. He looked at his watch, made another notation with his pen, then,
without looking up, he said to Cappella, “On the bus.”
 Cappella had been facing the terminal building, looking around for a place to hide and call home
before boarding, but saw no convenient cover, except for a bunch of people smoking cigarettes in the
direction Worm had gone.
 Cappella turned and took a couple of steps toward the Camp Googie bus and stopped dead in her
tracks. What she saw made her forget all about calling home for the moment.
  The Camp Googie bus wasn’t a bus at all. It was one of those street-legal military vehicles, a
Hummer, like something Arnold Schwarzenegger often drove in his action movies. Only this Hummer
had been modified by stretching its midsection and adding a few extra rows of seats, like a stretch
limousine. Indeed, it was a stretch Hummer, painted in splotches of camouflage green, tan, brown, and
black. Mounted on the roof were a couple of satellite dishes and various antennas, including one that
looked like a boomerang.
 Everything about the vehicle screamed, “Warning: Serious Adventure Ahead”—except the corny Camp
Googie logo on the front door.
 Cappella must have gawked too much, because Max snickered and said to her, “Go ahead. It won’t
bite. Sit anywhere you want.”
 A choice of five doors on the vehicle faced Cappella at the curb. Which one should she go in? If this
were a normal yellow school bus, the aggressive teenagers would stake out the back seats, leaving
the seats up front for counselors, young kids, and wussie suck-ups. If in fact this turned out to be a
really awesome camp, choosing the wrong seat now could position her with inappropriate allies for the
rest of an otherwise excellent adventure.
 Cappella chose the second door from the back, thinking it was a sufficient gauge of how cool she
could be if she wanted. She was almost thirteen and taller than most sixteen-year-old girls. She could
pretend to be outgoing and fool them if she put her mind to it.
 As she was about to hoist herself into the Hummer, Max called back to her. “Birdson, you gotta pee?”
 Cappella could not believe how well his voice carried. The question seemed to echo off the sides of
the terminal building like a loud speaker for everyone around to hear.
 To make matters worse, Max quickly repeated himself and cranked up his volume. “Birdson, I said,
‘DO...YOU...GOTTA...PEE?’ Because if you do, Worm’s gotta take you. Campers have been known to
get lost at this airport. Spoils the fun for the rest of us if we get delayed.”
 So much for trying to forge a cool image. Cappella shook her head without looking back and climbed
into the vehicle.
 Cappella gasped at the sight before her. The interior of the stretch Hummer was, without a doubt, the
finest of any car or sport utility vehicle she had ever seen, even more luxurious than the first-class
section on the airplane.
 Cappella rubbed the rich brown leather of the captain’s seat near her and plopped herself down. She
slipped her backpack off and held it as she bounced around the seat and soaked in every detail.
Each seat had a flat-panel television screen, mounted flush in the back of the seat in front of it. Controls
for the television—plus a joystick, audio compact disc player, a digital video disc player, and radio—
were embedded in the armrests. Various kinds of game controllers and headphones were handily
available in mesh pockets on the side of each seat.
 Overhead, trimmed in a polished wood-grain-looking plastic, individual reading lights and air-
conditioning controls beckoned to be fiddled with. Cappella tapped on the trim with her knuckles and
realized it was in fact solid wood.
 And that smell! Cappella sucked another deep breath through her nose. She had smelled something
like it once before, a long time ago, before her Dad devoted himself to a practical life of buying nothing
but “pre-loved” automobiles, as he liked to call used cars. But in her distant memory, that new 1993
Toyota Celica had not smelled anything like this. Sitting in the stretch Hummer, in the lap of luxury, the
aromatic mix of leather and wood and electronics was titillating.
 Voices outside diverted Cappella’s attention. About twenty feet away, Max was checking in a couple of
campers, a boy and a girl, definitely teenagers.
 The girl didn’t pay any attention to Max. She leaned against the boy and locked her radar onto
 Cappella felt bullets of intimidation shoot through her and looked away from the girl’s gaze. The two
seats behind Cappella, the likely command posts for the teenagers, suddenly seemed amazingly
close. Perhaps Cappella had overestimated herself and was too much in the thick of the teenage cool
zone in the back.
 Cappella stood up and banged her head on the recessed controls in the ceiling.
 “Yowee,” she said. She instantly regretted both her clumsiness and her choice of cuss word.
“Crap” definitely would have been the appropriate word in this case.
 The teenage girl’s smile widened as she watched Cappella check the top of her head for blood.
It was dry. Cappella sensed that had there been just a single drop, the teenage girl could have smelled
the blood from where she stood.
 Cappella hunched over and slid into the narrow aisle between the seats, dragging her backpack with
her. She plopped down in the next seat up on the left, placing herself smack in the middle of the stretch
Hummer. No man’s land.
 Clutching her backpack against her chest, Cappella thought about calling her mother again. But it
would be too easy to be seen or heard. She watched the conversation taking place outside and found
herself focusing on the boy.
 He seemed to be about sixteen and had an air about him that said he was born to live for the great
outdoors. A turquoise blue tank top with a faded Black Diamond Carabiner logo hugged his evenly
tanned, nicely muscular body and draped over a pair of gray cargo shorts. A pair of well-worn, high-tech
sport sandals anchored his ensemble. As he talked, coils of floppy brown hair sprung to life around a
set of attentive eyes and a broad, constant smile. His easy-going good looks were accented with a
strand of bone-colored beads around his neck and a small silver hoop earring on his left lobe.
  The boy pointed at the stretch Hummer and simultaneously both he and Max surfed the air with their
right hands, moving them in an exaggerated snake-like manner. From what Cappella could tell, they
seemed to be comparing notes about taking Sunday drives up and down the world’s highest
 The girl was clearly bored and annoyed with all the guy talk. She tugged at her companion,
commanded him to pick up both of their backpacks, and led him straight toward the rear door of the
stretch Hummer. Where the boy was of average height and walked with casual confidence, the girl was
brazenly short and took curt, bouncy steps, all the while managing to keep her classically preppy face
stiff and even keeled. Her smooth, silky blond hair, cropped so that it rested evenly on the nape of her
slender neck, was pushed back by a red headband, which apparently didn’t satisfy her need to control
it because she constantly tucked loose strands behind her ears, whether she actually had loose hair or
 The girl wore a flowery red and white sundress, with matching red leather low-heeled slip-on shoes,
and she had one other feature that clearly stood out to Cappella. The girl had boobs. Big ones. It was
hard for Cappella to tell if this girl was seventeen or twenty-seven. It did appear to Cappella, though,
that the girl’s short, bouncy steps were designed less to move her forward than to call further attention
to her abundant bosom.
 Cappella looked at the concavity of her own chest and slunk down in her seat.
 The door to the back of the stretch Hummer seats flung open.
 “Sweet!” the boy said, peering inside the Hummer. Cappella watched him help Miss Big Boob to the
opposite window seat, plop the backpacks on the floor between the seats, then bounce around in his
own perch before acknowledging Cappella. “Can you believe this thing? Un-freakin’-believeable!”
 Cappella flashed a brief smile in reply, then glanced over at Miss Big Boob, who sat without fanfare as
though she rode in cars like this every day. The girl pretended to use the reflection of the television
screen before her as a mirror to help her apply a new coat of red lipstick, but in fact she looked squarely
at Cappella the entire time. To perfect her application, she deftly rolled her lips in and out, slowly.
  The boy got up and moved down the narrow aisle toward Cappella. “I’m Stuart Knight, from Butte,
Montana,” he said, extending his hand.
 Cappella blushed. She wasn’t in the habit of shaking hands with teenage boys, especially cute ones.
She let go of her backpack and met Stuart’s hand. It felt big and strong.
 “Cappella,” she said, her voice cracking a little.
 Miss Big Boob interrupted. “Stuart, come here, quickly. Look at this.” Her words were coolly calculated,
spoken through a small mouth and clenched jaw, and they seemed to drop an octave at every
punctuation point.
 Stuart shrugged and smiled at Cappella and slid back to his seat. Miss Big Boob didn’t show him
anything. She simply leaned over and whispered in his ear, keeping a skewed glance at Cappella.
Stuart grinned as he listened, then both he and Miss Big Boob broke out laughing.
 Miss Big Boob’s forced laughter turned into a snicker and then a sigh. She got up and casually
approached Cappella. “I’ll let you in on the secret,” she said to Cappella, indicating with her fingers for
Cappella to lean toward her.
 Miss Big Boob whispered so that only Cappella could hear. “Here’s the deal, Girlfriend. You can have
all the nerd-glass-wearing, megabyte-gobbling, bucked-tooth-metal-braces-wearing goofball geeks in
camp you want. This cowboy is mine.”
 Miss Big Boob stood upright and patted Cappella on the head. “This concludes our negotiation,” she
said. Then she scrunched a fake grin and bounced back to her seat next to Stuart.
Cappella felt deflated, lower than low, like a squished ketchup packet in a fast-food restaurant parking
lot. She chuckled, but knew the muscles working her face were not the same as when she laughed for
fun. Cappella turned in her seat, faced straight ahead, and clamped her eyes shut.
 In her solitary darkness, she sought comfort and strength by conjuring up the image of the title
character in her computer game,
 Itsy was a brave little blue dragonfly who had a favorite saying whenever times got tough: Itsy is and
Itsy does. Loosely translated: You’re still alive, fool, so take action.
 In her mind’s eye, Cappella could see Itsy hover over a defeated foe—a giant alien robotic mosquito—
then fly off into the sunset. The image faded away and Cappella opened up and smiled.
Five thousand points, game over, on to the next level.
 She still held her backpack in her lap, so now the next thing for Cappella to do was simple: stow it
away. She placed her backpack into the foot space below. As she did so, she heard the frumple of
paper. She backed it out and heard the sound again. Feeling around, she found a sheet of white paper
stuck to the bottom side of the seat in front of her. A piece of purple bubble gum had held it in place.
Cappella flipped the paper over. On the other side, scrawled in pencil, was a note, almost illegible, and
poorly written.
 Cappella stared at it, trying to comprehend its meaning:

Camp not
what you think
escape now
while you have

 She re-read the cryptic note.
Camp not what you think escape now while you have
 The message seemed to stop in mid sentence. By the looks of the sloppy handwriting, Cappella
guessed it had been written by a boy.
 She looked back at Stuart to see if he and Miss Big Boob were waiting for this moment, eager to howl
with laughter at Cappella’s expense. But they were checking out a rack of computer games and CDs
behind them, and were no longer interested in Cappella for the time being.
 Cappella stared at the note and brightened up. It was not meant specifically for her. After all, she had
been the first one to board the Hummer and had her choice of any seat. Most likely, the note had been
left there by a previous camper as an anonymous prank.
 Outside the vehicle, Max’s voice rose sharply. He stood with his hands on his hips, admonishing a
camper who was just checking in.
 “THAT is NOT a BACKPACK, RooberTON,” Max bellowed. The words loomed so large they seemed to
echo off the distant mountains.
 The recipient of Max’s tirade—Rooberton—was a redheaded boy, maybe seventeen, who had an
enormous duffel bag hoisted onto his back. Rooberton had slipped his arms through the handle straps
so that he could lug his load backpack-style. It must have weighed a lot, because Rooberton, who had
an unusually wide, beefy body underneath his Hawaiian shirt and baggy shorts, was hunched way over
as he talked to Max.
 “Dude,” said Rooberton, slightly out of breath, craning his neck to look up at Max. “This is my
backpack. Like, in my family, we super-size everything, man, not just orders of fries.”
   Max shook his head. One of the rules imposed by Camp Googie was that each camper could only
bring one backpack; no other luggage allowed. All your essentials would be provided, including
clothes, shoes, even toothbrushes. Your laptop computer also had to fit into your backpack, which, of
course, didn’t leave much room for anything else.
 Max looked at Worm and asked, “What do you think?”
 Worm twirled her toothpick as she weighed her considered judgment. She shrugged and mumbled,  
“Up to you, really.”
 Max continued to shake his head and think, but finally gave in by hiking his thumb toward the Hummer,
indicating for Rooberton to get in.
 Stuart jumped out and helped Rooberton with his bag.
 “Buddy, what on God’s green earth have you got in this thing?” Stuart asked as the two boys struggled
to hoist the bag into the Hummer.
 Rooberton smiled, looked back at Max and Worm, then whispered in a low, conspiratorial tone to
Stuart. “Chips, candy, soda, beef jerky and more beef jerky, Dude. Enough to last us a lifetime!”
 Miss Big Boob chimed in. “I trust you made room for your laptop.”
 Rooberton raised his bushy orange-red eyebrows and beamed. “You got that right, Dudette. There’s a
killer game in that machine, just waiting to blow yours and everyone else’s away!” He pointed both of
his index fingers at Miss Big Boob and pumped his arms as if he was in a high-noon shoot-out.
 Stuart smiled and looked at Miss Big Boob. “Gamer!” he said. “Big-time!” He turned back to
Rooberton and said, “We’ll see who’s got game. We’ll see.”
 Stuart and Rooberton did a high-five.
 “I’m Stuart Knight.”
 “Rooberton, Peter,” he said, trying to imitate Max.
 Cappella watched Stuart put a hand on the armrest beside Miss Big Boob. “Okay, Rooberton, this
here’s Dearest Applewhite. She’s all the way from New York City.”
 “Long Island,” she said coolly, looking at Rooberton. “And I am not a ‘Dudette.’“
 Rooberton grinned broadly and chuckled. “Did I hear that right? ‘
Dearest?’ Bummer of a name,
Dudette. Your parents, like, hate you or something when you were hatched?”
 “It’s better than RooberTON, Fat Boy,” she calmly retorted. “And leave my parents out of it. One phone
call to them and I could buy you, your family, and all the beef jerky factories in the world a million times
   “Watch out for her, Rooberton,” Stuart said. “She’s sharper than a claw on a mountain cat. Got an IQ
pushing a hundred ‘n eighty.” He changed the subject by pointing toward Cappella. “That’s Cappella...
sorry; I didn’t catch your last name.”
 “Birdson. Cappella Birdson. All the way from Houston.”
 “Houston?” said Dearest. “They’ll let any hick chick into this camp.” She reloaded and turned both
barrels back at Rooberton. “So, Fat Boy, where are you from?”
 Unfazed, Rooberton answered, “Los Angeles. City of Angels. I doubt the word ‘Angel’ is in your
vocabulary, is it Dearest? You know, I will call you Dearest, after all. It makes me feel closer to you
somehow, like, maybe we’re going out or something.”
 “In your dreams, Fat Boy,” Dearest said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
The door to the front passenger seat opened and Worm climbed in. Max appeared outside the back
door next to Rooberton and Stuart.
 “Men, find a seat. Time to shove off.”
 “Dude, this is it?” Rooberton asked, looking around. “Only four campers?”
 “You’re a select group, so they tell me,” Max replied, looking at his watch. “We’ve got a four-hour ride
over the mountains. I’m on a tight deadline to get you to orientation. Hop in.”
 Max walked around the Hummer, did a quick check of the tires, and climbed into the driver’s seat.
 Rooberton plopped himself down in the seat behind Cappella.
 In the excitement of the introductions, Cappella had forgotten about the note in her hand and her
desire to go home. She folded the paper neatly and wondered what she had gotten into.
 Part of Cappella still felt like calling her mother and finding a way out, but part of her also felt the urge
to break out of her shell and have a real adventure. If ever there would be one, this was probably it.
Max pulled the keys from his pocket.
 Cappella still had time to say she had to pee and could call her mother from the bathroom. However,
Worm would have to go with her. At the moment, Worm lounged with her crusty hiking boots up on the
dashboard while she cleaned dirt from her fingernails with her toothpick. This was not someone
Cappella wanted watching over her in a bathroom.
 Max started the engine.
 Cappella still could throw open the door and run out of the Hummer, but that would seem childish—
not only to Max, Worm, and the teenagers, but to herself as well. She was almost thirteen, time to grow
 Max put the Hummer in gear and slowly pulled away.
 Cappella sighed and leaned her head back. Outside, at the left-side curb up ahead, a man and
woman waited for the stretch Hummer to pass. They reminded Cappella of her parents.
 Cappella decided to call her Mom every chance she got at camp. That’s really why her Mom had given
her the cell phone anyway, although she had said it was just for emergencies.
 Cappella cupped her hands over her eyes and pressed them against the window, as though to block
out the sun.
 The man and woman now stood right in front of Cappella as the stretch Hummer passed them and
picked up speed. With a closer look, they hardly looked like her parents at all, but Cappella wanted to
wave goodbye to them anyway.
 She held back that impulse, but could not hold back the small waterfall that trickled down the rocky
ledge of her cheek.
 Cappella was going to camp, in the mountains, and to whatever fate awaited her, whether she liked it
or not.

Chapter 3
Watching Over Each Camper Like A Hawk

 Many, many miles away from the stretch Hummer, a solitary figure sat quietly in his private game room.
 There were no windows, so it was dark, except for the eerie glow from the numerous video monitors
casting images onto his ruddy face. Behind him, on a bank of high-powered computer servers and
other electronics installed in racks against the wall, odd shadows of his head danced about whenever
he moved.
 In this room, the antechamber to his home office, where his minions had to knock three times and
wait for him to say “Enter now at your own peril,” he was Hawkeye, master of the universe, all seeing
and omnipotent.
 But most important of all, here, he was in control.
 He pulled a trigger on Joystick #1 and the image on Monitor #1 zoomed out wide. It showed Max in the
driver’s seat of the stretch Hummer.
 “Excellent!” he said out loud to himself. The new camera hidden in the middle of the steering wheel
was performing superbly.
 Monitor #2 showed nothing but brown smudge. The camera for this view was hidden in an air-
conditioning vent on the passenger-side dashboard. Hawkeye pushed a button on Joystick #2 and the
monitor switched to an image from another micro-camera, this one cleverly concealed in an overhead
light. Monitor #2 now showed Worm lounging with her feet on the dash, covering the air-conditioning
 Monitor #3: empty seat.
 Monitor #4: empty seat.
 Monitor #5: Cappella, sitting quietly, looking out the window. The camera for this angle was hidden in
the flat-panel television screen in front of her.
 Monitor #6: empty seat.
 Monitor #7: Rooberton, turned around in his seat talking to someone behind him.
 Monitor #8: Rooberton’s overstuffed duffel bag.
 Monitor #9: Dearest, arms crossed.
 Monitor #10: Stuart, holding a bunch of game cartridges and CDs.
 Normally at this point, Hawkeye would sit back, watch the campers on their journey, listen to their
innocuous banter, and make a few mental notes. But he had turned off the audio once the Hummer
started rolling and was concentrating hard.
 Something was out of whack, but what was it?
 The new campers were secure, so that wasn’t it.
 He rolled his chair to a keyboard on another part of the large command console that held his many
control devices. He tapped on the keys quickly and another monitor sprung to life. It showed a satellite-
view of earth and a small, blinking red dot. Hawkeye pressed the zoom-in button and held it until the
view was from 70,000 feet in the air. He could now discern the Colorado roadways on which the
blinking red dot moved.
 The stretch Hummer was headed toward the mountains in the right direction, so that wasn’t it.
Hawkeye gave his computers another command and instantly a screen of gauges appeared, showing
the vehicle’s current, real-time operating condition: oil and tire pressures, fluid levels, engine
temperature and revolutions-per-minute, air-conditioning and electric systems, and more.
Everything was running smoothly, so that wasn’t it.
 Hmmm. Hawkeye sat back and thought about the mysterious whatever. He closed his eyes and let his
mind wander, but quickly gave up. He needed to think about something else for awhile. That was a
sure-fire way to figure things out sometimes.
 Hawkeye rolled his chair over to a game pad that had a steering wheel on it. He tapped a command
on a nearby keyboard then watched Max’s face on Monitor #1. For grins, Hawkeye turned the steering
wheel on the game pad abruptly back and forth, his eyes trained on Max’s face on the monitor the
whole time. Max’s eyes instantly flared wide with fright when the stretch Hummer suddenly swerved
uncontrollably onto the shoulder of the road then back again.
 Hawkeye laughed and pressed a button, relinquishing his remote control of the Hummer.
He stood up, breathed deeply and patted his stomach. Good times like this always called for a treat. By
all means, let’s pull out the peanut brittle, he thought to himself with glee.
 A fresh tin, wrapped in cellophane, had been teasing him all morning from its perch on the console
beside him. He stripped the cellophane away, opened the lid, and scrounged around for the biggest
chunk he could find.
 Hawkeye closed his eyes and slowly dragged the morsel under his nose, taking pleasure from the
aroma of its delicate blend of fine sugars, corn syrup, pure cream butter, and, of course, peanuts. He
had acquired this particular batch from the finest candy shop in London and kept it hidden from
everyone else in a specially designed, temperature-controlled, walk-in cooler in a secret part of his
underground cavern.
 He ate his cherished peanut brittle now, slowly, savoring every crunch. He finished each piece by
smacking his lips to the tips of his short, stubby fingers.
 Per his doctor’s orders, he was supposed to cut back on his peanut brittle habit, because sweets
tended to make him hyperactive. While he tried to heed that doctor’s advice, more or less, he also
retained the services of another doctor who prescribed some pills to reduce the sugar’s effect on his
nervous system. He took one of those pills now, not really sure if his present uneasiness was due to
the peanut brittle rush or due to not having figured out what was bothering him about the campers on
the stretch Hummer.
 He tossed the empty tin and cellophane into the wastebasket and stopped. He felt a big “Aha!”
coming on.
 The cellophane. The crinkle sound it made when he placed it in the trash. He pulled it out and crinkled
it some more. Where had he heard a crinkle sound like that on the stretch Hummer?
The piece of paper in Cappella’s hand.
 Hawkeye threw his attention to Monitor #5: Cappella, still sitting there, sadly looking out the window.
 He tapped quickly on the keyboard and cued up a video recording of every moment Cappella had
spent in the stretch Hummer. He fast-reversed the recording until he saw her with the white paper in
her hand. He punched up the audio and rewound the image a bit more until there was no paper.
Hawkeye then let the recording play in normal speed.
 She sets her backpack down and—there—the noise, the crinkle of paper! She pulls back and—there
again—the noise, the crinkle of paper! She comes up with the white sheet in her hand.
 Hawkeye hadn’t paid any particular attention to the paper earlier. His camera angle hadn’t shown
where it came from; he assumed it was simply something Cappella had pulled out of her backpack.
But now, as he replayed the scene over and over with the audio up, he was convinced that there wasn’t
enough time for Cappella to have pulled the paper from her backpack.
 She had found it on the Hummer.
  Hawkeye froze the frame and saw that there was something on the paper, maybe writing. He zoomed
in but the image became too distorted for him read anything.
  What if it was a note? A warning from a loose cannon?
 He punched up the real-time image of Cappella sitting on the Hummer, looking out the window
 Bring out the note, shy girl. Bring out the note where I can read it.
 Hunching over his command console, he hustled down the row of joysticks and positioned every
available camera toward Cappella, keeping just one camera per every other occupied seat.
 Hawkeye would keep a special watch out for Birdson, Cappella, shy girl on Monitor #5.
 He sat down and popped another pill to calm himself. The game he was engaged in required that he
never lose control.

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Excerpt from Wicked Little Camp Story
Copyright 2005 Stan Mays
All rights reserved
Cover design and
illustration by Robert Cook