Carter’s dad was standing on the front porch looking at the myriad of police cars littered about the cul de sac, his arms crossed and his foot tapping. Carter saw the exact moment his dad caught sight of him and felt himself slowing down. The cop beside him urged him on.
Seconds later, their screen door flew open and his mom came racing past his dad and down the walkway before enveloping him in a giant hug.
“We were so worried! Why would you try to rescue Mr. Stalnaker all by yourself?” she asked, still holding him in a tight hug.
“I didn’t think you’d believe me,” he said, when she finally released him. “I mean, you didn’t believe him when he said there was a woman being held captive.”
“To be fair, neither did you,” his dad said.
“Well, he seemed crazy.” Carter shrugged his shoulders.
“Exactly,” his dad said. “We might have believed you, but you didn’t even give us a chance.”
“That was insanely dangerous!” his mom added.
Carter looked down at his feet scuffing the toe of his sneaker on the pavement.
So much for feeling like a hero.
* * *
The next day he managed to finish up the rest of garage. After they got home from work, while, his parents were inspecting the garage, Mr. Stalnaker arrived home from the hospital. He caught sight of Carter as soon as he got out of the car and immediately started walking towards their house, much to the chagrin of his son.
“Thank you my boy!” he said, throwing his arms up in the air as he walked towards Carter and his parents. “If it wasn’t for you I’d still be stuck in that house with that wretched woman and her sons.”
“How did you get caught by them to begin with?” Carter’s mom asked. “That must have been a truly dreadful experience.”
“It was,” Mr. Stalnaker said, grimacing. “I told you earlier that I had seen someone waving for help from the front window. No one believed me, mind you.” He gave his son a sidelong look. His son look mildly chastised and stay quiet. “Turns out, I was right. Her name is Denise and they had locked her in the basement at the end of their last party. Apparently, she was snooping around and discovered that Karen is an alias. Her name is actually Barbara Her and her son Robbie are quite the identity thieves.
“What about Jeffery?” Carter’s dad asked.
Both Carter and Mr. Stalnaker laughed. “Hardly,” Mr. Stalnaker said.
His parents looked at them confused, but Mr. Stalnaker didn’t seem to notice. “Anyway, that’s why the parties stopped. They couldn’t very well have a bunch of people in the house. Someone might have heard her calling for help. But they’re basement wasn’t exactly secure or soundproof, so I guess they brought contractors in to build a soundproof room until they figured out their next move. But, then they had to bring her upstairs during the day and blasted that horrid metal music so no one would hear her.
“And you’re telling me Jeffery didn’t know about this?” Carter’s dad asked.
“Well, not at first. But Denise told me that she was able to get his attention after a few days thinking that he might help her.”
“He didn’t?” Carter’s mom asked.
“Hardly, he used it to secure the landscaping job,” Mr. Stalnaker said.
“So, that’s why his mom hired him.” Carter laughed.
“Yup. I told you there was something fishy going on.” Mr. Stalnaker grinned proudly.
“Yes Dad, you did. Now can we inside. You just got out of the hospital.” Mr. Stalnaker’s son gently put his hands on his dad’s shoulders and tried to steer him back towards the house.
“Party pooper,” Mr. Stalnaker muttered as he was led back to his home.
“See you tomorrow,” Carter called back.
“Wow,” Carter’s mom said. “All that was happening just next door and we didn’t know anything about it.”
“Yeah, cool,” Carter said, already losing interest. “So, do I get to go to Mason’s cabin?” Carter asked, motioned towards the newly organized garage.
His parents shared a look, then finally agreed.