Happy New Year? - Chapter 6
Back on the road, coffee cups filled all the cup holders, Chris driving and Jenny drifting in and out of sleep. AnnaBelle leaned over to turn on the radio. The Pruett’s favorite Christmas cd filled the van. The drums of the Little Drummer Boy played on in the background.
"Sooo, are you guys just picking up random people or what?" Anna Belle asked.
"Um, not totally random people, Jenny knew me from gradeschool, and you seemed like a nice person, and I’m not really sure how we ended up with George.” Chris explained as pulled up to a stop sign.
"Oh," AnnaBelle sighed. They drove on for another few blocks before Anna Belle spotted him."What about him?"
"Um, sure, he looks like a decent guy. Guys, what do you think?" Chris yelled back. Jenny was out and George shrugged his shoulders. “Ok then…here we go,” Chris whispered under his breath.
"Hey sir?” Chris yelled out into the cold as the man slowly walked over. “Do you know the way to Geneseo, Illinois?"
"I've heard of it, it’s near the Quad-Cities, right?" The man said as he leaned on the van.
“I think so," Chris answered, perturbed.
"Then I can get you there." The man said as he walked around front and got in the van.
"Good, hop on in!" Anna Belle said as she made her way to the back seat. The man sat in the front next to Chris. He looked to be in his 30s, some facial hair, appearing tired, but well kept. His face looked like one that of those you would find on tv or billboards. A pleasant and reassuring presence. He carried no bag, just a small Christmas ornament.
"So, does anyone know what happened to the others?" The man asked once everyone got situated.
“No,” Chris said.
"Okay, turn right here, up ahead get on the interstate and take that for a while." The guy said slightly confused.
"Alright," Chris said as she turned.
On the way down Anna Belle and Jenny slept, Anna sprawled out on the back seat and Jenny cozy in the middle seat. George just sat there, gazing out the window the whole time while the guy gave Chris directions around the interstate. Around 9:30 am they made it to the Quad-Cities. The guy had gotten Chris lost a few times. They had almost gone to Indiana, Iowa and even Minnesota. And to top off their troubles a policeman was following them.
"I think you better pull over, it looks like that policeman wants to pass." The man said as he looked over his shoulder.
"I guess," Chris slowly answered, as he slowly came to a stop at the side of the road. “Jenny, Jenny, there’s a cop where’s the insurance stuff?” Chris yelled back.
“Umm…what?” Jenny said groggily.
“Here it is, I found it in the glove compartment,” the man said.
“Umm…ok.” Jenny said as she snuggled back into her seat.
"Hello," the police office said as he looked at the man sitting next to Chris.
"Hi officer, does there seem to be a problem?" Chris asked.
"Not really, how old are you?" he corrected himself.
"18, why?" Chris said, aggravated because the policeman kept looking at the mystery man next to him.
"You look kind of young, may I see your driver's license?" the policeman said, still looking at the man next to Chris.
"Alright,” Chris said as he leaned over to pull his wallet out of his back pocket.
"Hey, you look like the guy that's been on tv all morning, are you?" the policeman asked the man sitting next to Chris.
"No, I haven't been anywhere near a camera for quite a while. But I do have a brother. I'm John Phuelger, my brother's Nick." the man said as he shook the police officer's hand, reaching over Chris into the cold.
"Ok," the police officer said, disappointed.
"Here you go, sir." Chris said breaking his disappointed attitude.
"Oh, looks great! Maybe I'll see you around somewhere." The policeman said as he gave Chris back his license and pointed to John before turning back to his car.
"Sooo, your name is John," George said.
"John Foo... Fool" Chris said tongue-tied.
"Phuegler," John, the mystery man answered.
"Right," Chris said still not sure that was what he had said before.
"How much longer? We've been in this van for quite a while." George complained.
"We'll be there in a few minutes, we would have gotten here sooner but we got lost and may have ended up in Indiana and Iowa." Chris said as he followed the policeman past the one mile marker.
"You think we should wake Anna Belle and Jenny?" Chris joked.
"Sure," George answered.
Pulling Into Town
“So where are we headed to?” George asked as they pulled into Geneseo.
“Where do you guys want to go?” Jenny asked as she stretched.
"We should all discuss what happened before we split How far is your place Jenny?" George commanded.
"Down the street a little ways." Jenny said as Chris slowed down for a stoplight.
"You can let me off here, I live over there,” John Phuelger said as he opened his door and stepped out into the winter wonderland. “Thanks for the ride."
"Your welcome dude!" Chris said as Jenny moved up front.
"How far away?" George asked aggravated.
"A few blocks," Jenny answered as she pointed out which direction to Chris.
"Hurry up, ‘cuz I really need to use the little girl's room," Anna Belle said from the back of the van.
"Alright," Jenny said as they sped through town towards her long forgotten home.
"We're here!" Jenny exclaimed as she opened the garage door. "Here's the key, the bathrooms the first door on the right."
"Good!" Anna Belle said as she grabbed the key and flew out of the van and into the house.
"I guess she really had to go!" Chris exclaimed as he put the van in park.
"Whose is this?" George asked as he held up a Winnie the Pooh book bag.
"Definitely not mine," Chris defined as he walked around to the trunk.
"Probably Anna Belle's,” Jenny replied as she reached for her bags. “Well, isn't someone gonna take it in?" Jenny asked as the guys grabbed their bags and started for the door.
"No," Chris said.
"I have all of my stuff." George said as he followed Chris.
"Fine, I will carry it, and all of my stuff." Jenny said as they walked into the cold house. A few minutes later Jenny emerged with the remaining bags.
"Did someone get my bag?" Anna Belle asked as she came into the room.
"Yeah, sorry it’s a little squished," Jenny said as she glared at Chris and George.
"Sorry!" Chris and George apologized.
"Alright, there's a bedroom upstairs with bunk-beds, you guys can take that, Anna Belle, you can take my parent's room, and I'll take mine. Any questions?" Jenny asked.
"Yeah, I'm stuck with him?" Chris asked as he pointed at George.
"Unless you want to sleep on this hard couch." Jenny pointed to an old red, brick patterned couch.
"No, that's alright." Chris agreed as they started toward the shaggy stairs. "So, buddy, can I have the top?"
"Sure, whatever." George said as they started up the stairs.
"This all good with you Anna Belle?" Jenny asked as she followed her up the stairs.
"Sure, umm, when are we going to talk about everything that happened?" Anna Belle asked as she turned down the hallway.
"About what?" Jenny asked as she went into her room.
"About the disappearances," Anna Belle said as she turned to face Jenny.
"Later, right now I really need to get some sleep." Jenny said as she reached for the temperature control across the hall. After a quick flip of the switch the heater roared to life. Then Jenny turned to the boys' room.
"Guys, lets get some shut eye for a while and then we'll talk, there's food in the fridge if you’re hungry. You can have some of my brother's clothes, if you want."
"Cool!" Chris said as he opened the top draw do reveal some ‘fruit of the looms’. "Gross!"
"Be careful, he's got tons of interesting stuff in there." Jenny said as she slowly made the way to her room.
"Wonder what kind of food is stashed here," Chris said as he went down the hallway into the kitchen. He opened the old yellow fridge to reveal an interesting mess of green goop. "Chicken? Looks good enough to eat."
"What else is in here?" George asked as he walked into the kitchen.
"Well, there's some lasagna, hamburgers, cake, and the usual sandwich stuff." Chris said putting the chicken into the microwave.
"Ok, this cake looks good. Do you think Jenny would mind if I ate in her brother's room?" George said as Chris started the microwave.
"No, man, I'm gonna watch the tube for a while." Chris said as something exploded in the microwave.
"Alright," George said as he made his way back to the room, down a hallway scattered with old family photos. The carpet was spotted either from stains or from a fading rose pattern, hard to decipher which in the dark hallway. As he walked by Anna Belle's room he heard snoring and in Jenny's room he heard the sweet sound of music. George opened the squeaky door into his room and sat on the bed. Before he could finish his cake he was sound asleep.