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And now, we resume our series...
Walt Fischer was growing alarmed. It had been hours since Amanda and the children had gone into Jack's house, and now, at well past 9 pm his intuition was telling him something was seriously wrong. This was the first time since Paul's death that Amanda couldn't be completely accounted for and Walt cursed under his breath for letting it go this far. He should have intervened as Amanda made her way toward Jack's house.
What was it about Jack that always had Walt's senses on full alert? Although there was no way to know for certain, Walt had carried a niggling suspicion about Jack from the moment he set foot in Cherry Hill; that there was more to this war hero turned high school teacher than met the eye.
But Walt had never been able to prove it to The Association because, as far as they were concerned, everything had been contained when Amanda's late husband Paul was killed in a tragic car accident and big mouth Val Petersen, who had been with him in the car that night, conveniently lost her memory.
"Clean slate, new chapter," had been the party line and though Walt had been sent in to keep an eye on things under the guise that he was the town's new doctor, there was very little concern that something could be amiss. Now that they were certain who Amanda really was, the entire team was ready to put Zanzibar into action.
But if Amanda didn't leave Jack's house soon, Walt feared the entire mission might be in peril.
"Crafty little minx," he muttered, and then, lighting another cigarette, radioed the team.
In the meantime, Jack, Amanda, and the children were on the go.
After packing rucksacks with food, canteens of water, and survival gear, Jack revealed another hidden doorway, this one behind the pantry shelves that opened into a long roughly hewn passageway smelling of damp earth and moss. Handing Amanda a flashlight, he said "Follow behind me closely and watch your step. The passageway is bumpy and we don't have much time."
With Jack in the lead and Amanda and the children close behind him, Amanda wondered again if she was doing the right thing following Jack so blindly into the night. Secret doorways? Passages? It all had her head swimming; but the one thing she held onto was the look in Jack's eyes when he asked "Do you trust me?" It was as though she was looking directly into his soul, and when she answered back, every fiber of her being, told her this was a man who had her best interests at heart.
She wasn't quite sure where this knowing came from, but having hunches about other people and situations was something she had always lived with. For as long as she could remember, Amanda had had what she thought of as "The Knowing" and though she had never told anyone else about it - not even her mother - it was her Knowing that had never let her think ill of Paul. Although every clue pointed to the conclusion that Paul had been unfaithful, Amanda clung to the belief that there was another explanation.
"Pish!" she thought, shaking her head as if to clear it, "Thoughts like these are only going to confuse me and I need my wits about me this evening - if not for my sake then for the children!"
As if reading her mind, Jack turned around at that very second and offered his hand. Straight ahead was a large steep embankment leading to an opening in the tunnel. Amanda could see the evening's moonlight peeking down and was filled with relief that they would be emerging from the darkness.
With Jack helping her up and out she was able to reach down for the children as he helped them scurry their way up the steep hill.
Once outside, Jack made quick work of covering the doorway to the tunnel. While he did that, Amanda looked around and began to get her bearings. They were on the outskirts of Cherry Hill on the south side of Frank McGorman's farm. On one side were wheat fields, recently planted, and on the other was forest that stretched on for many kilometers. The forest surrounded two large vastly deep bodies of water known as the "Twin Lakes."
In all the time Amanda had lived in Cherry Hill, she had never so much as seen the lakes let alone visited them. This was because of an old wive's tale that townsfolk called "The Legend of the Lakes." They would tell their children in hushed tones on camping trips and sleep over parties that the two lakes had mysterious powers that drew people to them and then never let them go. Although Amanda had never believed the legend, enough people had wandered into the woods surrounding the lakes and gone missing to make her pause before entering the woods herself.
Although she didn't subscribe to flights of fancy, she knew there were bears and wolves in the forest.
Jack knew this as well, but he also knew that if they were going to have a chance at getting away, it would have to be through the woods after dark. Twin Lakes Forest was as vast as it was dense and less experienced hikers would have difficulty tracking them. This is what Jack was counting on. He had been preparing for this day for years and knew the forest like the back of his hand. The escape route was set, but it was imperative that they make the first drop off point before sun up if they were going to have any chance of getting away.
"How are you feeling?" he asked the children in a gentle voice, "Are you up to a little more walking before we have something to eat and go to sleep?"
Both children looked at Jack with big eyes. They had no idea what this adventure was about or why they were there with Jack in front of the big woods in the dark, but glimmers of The Knowing had been passed along to them through their mother, and, without needing to be told, both understood that they would need to keep going.
"We're okay," piped Bobby, and puffing his chest out bravely, he put an arm around his sister and said "Let's keep going."
At Jack's house a small team of men dressed in grey suits wearing fedoras arrived in the front yard and, led by Walt Fisher, made their way to the door.
When nobody answered, Walt nodded to a man they referred to as "The Specialist" and in short order the front door was opened and the team made their way silently inside.
The radio in the living room was still on as were the lights.
For all purposes it looked as though Jack, Amanda, and the children had disappeared into thin air!
Walt shook his head in frustration, once again angry at himself for not sticking to his guns when it came to Jack. He knew this operation wasn't going to be as straightforward as The Association would have had him believe, and now they had runners on their hands.
"Do you think they took off out the backdoor?" asked one of the younger agents.
Walt thought about it for a minute. They had underestimated Jack to this point and to do so again would be a fatal mistake. No, Walt's gut told him a search of the neighborhood would be fruitless.
Looking at the team Walt barked out an order: "Sweep the house and don't miss a damn nook, cranny, or corner. They're either hiding somewhere or Wilson hatched out an escape route. Either way, we're gonna find them."
The team worked into the wee hours of the night tearing Jack's tidy house apart piece by piece, to no avail, but in the early hours of dawn, just as Walt was about to wave his white flag, the young agent from earlier called out from the kitchen "I think I've found something."
Searching through the kitchen broom closet his hand had accidentally brushed a small button that was recessed into the wall. The closet's hidden doorway opened to reveal the flight of stairs Jack, Amanda, and the children had taken earlier.
As night turned to early dawn, Jack sighed with relief as he spotted the first drop off point just ahead. To an outside observer what looked like a large hill surrounded by dense forest, was actually a cave that went down 6 feet into the ground. Amanda and the children lowered themselves onto a rope ladder affixed to the cave's rocky walls by metal spikes while Jack covered over the cave's entrance and followed the three to the bottom.
Once there, he led the way downhill and they continued down a long, damp, rock lined passage that led into a small round room with a twenty foot ceiling that had a small opening to let in the daylight. "We'll set up camp here," said Jack. This ceiling is high enough that we can build a fire but by the time the smoke travels upward, it will have dissipated enough not to give us away.
Jack began by building a fire and reaching into his rucksack, he pulled out a cast iron frying pan, a loaf of crusty bakery bread, a brick of cheddar cheese, and a small pot of fresh raspberry jam. In short order he had toasted the bread and melted the cheese, boiled water for sweet tea, and as the four ate slabs of crusty bread slathered in raspberry jelly and melted cheese, a feeling of tired contentment began to take over.
Amanda crept away and using the supplies she had taken from the secret room, made a large cozy bed for the four of them to sleep on and before she could think on further about the strange turn of events the last few days had taken, she was sound asleep. Jack looked at her with renewed tenderness and tamped down the fire before drifting off to sleep himself.
Please enjoy the next installment in the Cherry Hill Saga: The Ladies Auxiliary Receives a Shock
Stay tuned next Sunday for the next exciting installment of Cherry Hill! And if you enjoy reading my food related fiction, pop by and check out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."
Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut throat divorce attorney Alan Wentworth. To recoup her losses she applies to be on a reality TV show, falls in love with the married producer, just about kills the pompous chef host, and gets herself into all kinds of other interesting predicaments.
Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch! I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world celebs to keep you guessing! Each installment will come with a signature cocktail, recipes, and a fun question and answer to include you in the plot twists - so be sure to bookmark The Kitchen Witch and come along for a fun, food related, romantic romp through the world of reality TV!
Click here to read Episode 1: Samantha Drowns her Sorrows in a Vodka Gimlet
Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.
Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.