Jay and the gang were out in the driveway, and they were in the process of getting into his car. Jay had the driver’s side door open and had put the seat down so that Alicia and Speed could get into the backseat. Alicia climbed in as Jay lectured Speed. “Okay. There are a few rules when you ride in this car,” Jay stated. “First of all, wear your seat belt. My insurance rates will skyrocket if someone in my car gets injured. Secondly, no leaning forward over the back of my seat. That screws up my concentration.” Jay eyed Speed to make sure he was listening. Speed nodded. “Lastly,” said Jay, “no backseat driving. I HATE backseat drivers. I don’t care how bad you think my driving is, just be quiet.” Jay wondered if Speed could tell how nervous he was about driving with him. Speed didn’t seem to notice. “Mmm-hmm,” he affirmed.
“Backseat driving can be very dangerous,” Speed remarked as he climbed into the backseat of Jay's car. Jay rolled his eyes at the sincerity with which Speed delivered the statement. It really wasn't that big a deal; Jay just didn't want Speed Racer nitpicking his driving. He pushed the seat back and got into the car. Jay locked his door and put on his seat belt. Then he started his car. “Okay,” he said. “Now it’s time to go find Kate.” Jay backed out of Alicia’s aunt’s driveway onto Central Street and started off towards downtown Georgetown.
Kate had been wandering around town in a daze. Her brain had been fried ever since she discovered Speed Racer drinking lemonade in Alicia’s kitchen. That’s it, she thought. I have a tumor for sure, and now I’m hallucinating. When I get back to Houston, I’m getting an MRI. People were eyeing her oddly and wondering why she was shivering, since it was a hot summer night. Kate was scared senseless. She looked like she’d seen a ghost. Kate drifted around town, here and there, in and out of shops, trying to rationalize what she’d seen in the kitchen and why she had seen it. It was getting dark, but there was no way she was going back to Alicia’s house. Kate didn’t care where she went, as long as it was as far away from Alicia’s aunt’s kitchen as possible.
Kate was now walking down North Street and was passing Perley Elementary School when it occurred to her that Alicia might be looking for her. Alicia would almost certainly have Jay with her, since he was over that night and had a car. Kate stopped walking and stood still. What if Alicia went in the kitchen? she thought. Kate had broken one of her aunt’s glasses, and to her knowledge, the pieces were still on the floor. Oh, she’ll think I’m crazy for sure, she reasoned. But what if she has that guy with her? Kate's mind raced. No, he can't be with her. He’s not real, she reasoned with herself. He couldn’t possibly be... And yet, he was there. A sickening feeling started to creep up in Kate, and she decided to cross the street. She was terrified now at the thought of being pursued, so she decided to hide.
Kate was walking down Pond Street. The best place to go, she figured, would be American Legion Park, since it was tucked away back behind some houses and a small lumber yard. It was a fairly nice park, and Kate figured she could spend a night there without getting mauled or abducted. Kate hung a quick left onto another street, which had the lumber yard and one of the entrances to the park on it. She headed straight for this entrance and disappeared into the park. Hopefully, Alicia wouldn’t find her.
Meanwhile, Jay was cruising around town and had just made a right turn onto East Main Street. Speed Racer was biting his lip and trying not to comment on the fact that the turn was made two degrees off. He couldn’t help noticing; after all, he was a world-class racecar driver. For her part, Alicia was looking out the backseat window and scanning the street’s pedestrians to see if Kate was one of them. Jay was looking at what he could, considering he was the driver and had to keep his eyes on the road. “I don’t see her here,” Alicia reported from the backseat.
“I don’t either,” Jay replied. “Let’s try the library.” He put on his brakes, signaled, and turned left. Speed Racer really had to bite his lip now, to keep from commenting on what an incredibly sloppy left turn he thought it was. Again, Alicia scanned the sidewalks, looking for Kate. Jay cruised slowly down the street. He scanned the grounds in front of the library, but to no avail. “I don’t see her here, either,” he commented.
“Yeah,” Alicia agreed. Speed, who hadn’t said much of anything the whole time as he was observing Jay drive and thus couldn’t comment, spoke up. “Hey, has it occurred to you she may be hiding?” he asked.
“Where would she go?” Alicia countered. Jay had now turned out onto North Street and was driving back in the direction of his house. Speed thought. “I don’t know. You live here, I don't. But I speak from past experience,” he replied. “I've gone after many villains and crazy people who have done this kind of thing.”
“But Kate’s never done this kind of thing before,” Alicia said. “I can’t possibly think of where she’d go.” From up in the front seat, Jay contributed his idea. “I remember one time getting stoned at a party. There was no way I was going to go home and face my mom,” he said. “So I went and spent the night at the park.”
“The park? You mean American Legion?” Alicia asked.
“Yeah,” he answered. “It’s a good place to go because it’s back behind everything and no one can really find you there.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” said Alicia, now that she'd thought about it. “Why don’t we go check it out?” she asked. Jay nodded in agreement and turned his car around. He was soon speeding back down North Street toward the park. Jay got down to West Main Street and entered the driveway for the park.
Kate had taken to sitting down on top of one of the picnic tables on the small beach in front of the pond. She was breathing deeply, in the hope of calming herself, and she was preparing to spend the night there. She had taken her sweatshirt out of her backpack and rolled it into a ball, to use as a pillow. Kate had put her backpack back on to reduce the risk of having it stolen, and was about to lay down when she heard a car approaching. Its headlights flashed across the small beach as it pulled into a parking spot and parked.
They’ed found her.
Kate jumped up, knowing instantly who it would be. Almost as soon as the car stopped the passenger side door was flung open, and Alicia scrambled out of the backseat as fast as she could. The driver’s side door opened a bit more slowly and Jay stepped out. Alicia came scrambling down the small grassy hill to the beach, and she cried, “Kate! You’re here! I’m so glad!” She made it to the foot of the picnic table and stopped to catch her breath. “Hey, Kate. It’s getting dark. We have to go home,” she panted.
While Alicia was running towards her, Kate was watching Jay get out of the car. He stepped back from the door in the familiar style of someone with a two-door car who was letting someone else out of the backseat. She knew then that they had brought The Man from the Kitchen with them. He stood up, and he walked around Jay and started down the hill toward Alicia. Kate crouched into a defensive stance.
“Kate?” Alicia queried, realizing she hadn’t heard her. Alicia looked over her shoulder and saw Speed Racer and Jay, who had followed him. Alicia turned back to Kate. Kate pointed an accusatory finger at Speed, yelling, “I don’t know who or what you are, but just stay the hell away from me!!”
“Hey, young lady! Now wait just a minute!” Speed declared at the offense, scowling.
“Kate,” Alicia said simply, “It’s Speed Racer.”
“But he’s a cartoon!” Kate shrieked. “He’s not real! He’s not...he’s not...” she mumbled as she trailed off. She swayed as she started to become dizzy and lose her balance standing on the table. “Look out! She’s going to fall!” Speed cried. “Uh-huh,” Jay nodded and rushed forward to help him catch Kate as she fainted and fell off the table.
Almost simultaneously, as Kate fell into the arms of both the men, Alicia reached out to grab Jay’s arm and steady him. Her aid was unneeded, for, as Kate fell into their arms and Alicia grabbed Jay, a weird light surrounded and engulfed the four of them. In a flash and a bang, they were gone.
On to the next chapter. ---->