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The Ties That Bind

Written by:
Cousin Aurora Lenore

. . . Continued

Bianca screamed as loud as she could, not knowing what good it would do, but feeling the need to.  She needed to get out of here and fast.  If Balki and Larry were as close as Greg had suggested, they should have been there by now.  Which meant, Jacob possibly had them captured, as well.

“Must you scream your head off?  I’m doing the best I can,” Greg complained as he played with a small device while pacing back and forth.

“What are you doing?” she asked, walking over to him and peeking at the small cell-phone like object.

“Trying to contact Henry but I don’t think he’s able to talk.  I think that freak of a bodyguard Quinn is watching him like a hawk.”

Bianca felt a lump in her throat just thinking about her grandfather and the dream of Larry rushing to her bed to tell her what happened.  “Is it true?” she blurted out without thinking.

Greg looked at her, eyebrow raised.  “Is what true?”

“Is it true that my grandfather was blackmailed into sending me to live with my aunt?”

“It’s as true as I’m standing here.  Henry sent me to place a cassette tape he had made long ago inside a folder that your friend Larry had found.  Then he had me get out his boom box so that when Larry came to the house, he would find it.  Your grandfather may still be held prisoner here, but he has been busy.”

“Did you also slip something into my drink too so I would dream about Larry returning to tell me all of this?  Before I was kidnapped, Larry came to me and told me about the blackmail and that Aunt Liv killed Uncle Frank.  He started to say something else, but Balki woke me up.”

“Nope,” Greg replied, placing the device back in his pocket.  “I just slipped the dream drug into Larry’s drink.  Not yours.  If that was the case, I might have been able to stop Jacob from ever getting his hands on you.”

Suddenly, Jacob appeared at their cell window and Bianca instantly bristled.  “What do you want?” she growled.

“Just to check on you and see if Marsden was being on his worst behavior.”

Greg opened his mouth to reply, but Bianca beat him to it.  “You are a worthless piece of slime for keeping me locked in here with … with him,” she jerked her thumb at Greg.  “What do you want from me?  An apology?  When hell freezes over!”

Jacob laughed.  “Didn’t think I’d get that much.  No, I came to tell you the great news!  Two unexpected guests have arrived to save you.  Unfortunately, now they need saving.  Especially that despicable curly-haired one.”

Bianca’s face went ashen and she grabbed the bars on the window.  “Larry; what have you done to Larry?”

“I think the better question will be what am I going to do with Larry?”

“Please Jacob; I’m begging you to please leave Larry and Balki alone.  Do what you want to me, but please just leave them be,” she cried, tears streaming down her face.

“Eh, I’ll think about it,” Jacob retorted before walking off, whistling.

Bianca turned to Greg helplessly.  “What are we going to do now?  He’s got Larry and Balki and I just know he’s gonna hurt Larry and – ”

Bianca couldn’t finish her sentence out loud, but in her heart, she knew the ending. “ … and I can’t imagine my life without him.”

*************************

Balki walked inside the room and smiled when he saw Bianca’s grandfather.  The older gentleman reminded Balki of Bianca, both of them having dimpled cheeks and a twinkle in their eyes.  Balki also noticed that Bianca’s grandfather looked tired and worried, as well.  “Grandfather Henry; it’s so good to meet you!  I’m Balki Bartokomous,” he introduced, hugging the man with pride.  Surprisingly enough, Henry returned the hug.

“Balki, it’s lovely to meet you,” he replied warmly.

“What are you doing?” Quinn snapped, looking up at Alek from his position on the floor.

“Jacob’s got too many people scattered about.  Why don’t you go take a break and I’ll watch these two?” Alek suggested.

Quinn shrugged and left his solitaire game without a word.

“Alek brought me here to meet you, Grandfather Henry.  Bianca will be so happy to know you are not dead!” Balki exclaimed happily.

Henry threw his head back and laughed and Balki once again noticed that Bianca had a similar jovial laugh.  “God, I hope so.  I cannot wait to see my beloved granddaughter again.”  Henry then turned to Alek.  “Did you get what I asked?”

Alek nodded and Balki watched as he gave Henry a cellular phone.  “What that?” he asked.

“You don’t know what a cell phone looks like?” Alek asked, eyebrow raised.

“Well of course I do; don’t be ridiculous!  But can you get a bat signal in here?”

Henry laughed again.  “Balki, I think you mean a cell signal and yes.  This phone can get a signal anywhere.  I invented it.  I’m going to use it to get in touch with Greg.”

“Greg is the guy watching Bianca, but Jacob thinks his name is Marsden,” Alek explained before Balki could ask.

“I’m getting a headache,” Balki moaned, trying to keep everything straight.  Not to mention he was worried about Larry.  Jacob seemed extremely angry at him and that scared Balki.

“Greg, it’s me.  Is she okay?” Henry asked.  “Good.  I have Balki and Alek in the cell with me and they’re fine, but we don’t know where Larry is.”

Balki rocked back and forth on his heels and placed his hands in his pockets, waiting patiently until the phone conversation was over.

Suddenly, his fingers touched something inside and he pulled it out and looked at it.  “Oh, that’s right!  I forgot when Cousin Larry and I arrived, we Shrinky-Dinked the machine so it could fit in my pocket.”

Henry stood up from where he was sitting.  “I’m sorry, Balki; did you say that you had Bianca’s time machine?”

Balki nodded and handed it to Henry.  “Yes.  Cousin Larry wanted me to put it in my pocket for safekeeping in case we needed it.”

“This is fantastic, Balki!  We can all finally get out of here!” Henry cried, hugging Balki.

“Well, we gotta talk about that,” Balki said.  “The machine works but it almost out of gas.  We forgot to stop and get some on the way.”

“Well, maybe we have enough to just send for Bianca and Greg.  With the five of us, we can put our heads together and rescue Larry.”

“I don’t know how touching our heads are going to help Larry, but I’m good if you are,” Balki replied.

“Wow,” Alek exhaled.  “You really are a weird kid.  Can you use the machine to get Bianca and Greg and bring them back here?”

“Well of course I can; don’t be – ”

“Okay, then go, son.  Hurry.  Just type in Bianca’s name and two thousand thirteen and you will get there,” Henry interrupted.

Balki nodded and pressed the button to bring the machine to normal-size.  “Okay.  Bye guys,” he waved, excited that he would see Bianca again.

*************************

Greg sat down beside Bianca as he placed his phone back in his pocket.  “Henry is relieved to know you’re okay.  He said Balki is with them but they can’t find Larry.”

“Why couldn’t you let me talk to my grandfather, Greg?” Bianca whined.  “I haven’t spoken to him since I was a kid.  There are so many things I want to say to him.  So many questions I need answered.”

Greg smiled thinly.  “Because he doesn’t have that kind of time right now.  Quinn could come back any second.  And I had no idea that Alek was on Team Good Guys.  Trust me, though; when we get out of here, you can ask him anything you’d like.”

Suddenly, a loud buzzing noize sounded from behind Greg and he shot up with a cry.

“Hi, honey; Balki’s home!” a strange accented voice cried as he appeared inside a time machine.  How many of those did Henry have?

“Balki!” Bianca cried, running into his arms and allowing him to pick her up and spin her around.  “Thank God!”

Greg glanced out the small window on the door nervously.  “Uh, guys?  Hate to bust up the happy reunion, but can we use our indoor voices in case Jacob or Quinn returns?”

“Hi, Greg!  I’m Balki Bartokomous,” Balki said, hugging a very off-guard Greg.

“So you saw my grandfather?  How is he?” Bianca asked.

Balki turned to her and touched her shoulders.  “Oh, Bianca, he is so nice and grandfatherly.  He is worried about you and Cousin Larry, though.  He wants me to come and bring you and Greg to his room so we can touch each other’s head and come up with a way to rescue Cousin Larry and get the heck out of a Dodge Ram.”

Greg looked at Bianca with one eyebrow raised, but Bianca didn’t seem to care that Balki wasn’t making perfect sense.

“So no one knows where Larry is?” Bianca asked.

Balki shook his head sadly.  “No and Jacob seemed pretty mad when he took him out of our room.”

“Jacob took him away?  Then that’s it.  I’m going to use the machine to go to Larry.  Balki, you hide in the bathroom and Greg, you can stay here, but I’m going to get Larry and bring him back.”

“Bianca,” I don’t think that’s wise.  If Jacob is still with him – ” Greg began, but Bianca cut him off.

“I’ll deal with Jacob.  Trust me.  I’m madder than a wet hen and if he laid a finger on Larry, so help me … ”

Greg opened his mouth again, but this time, Balki interjected.

“Greg, if she madder than a wet hen, you shouldn’t argue.  On Mypos, our prized hen Helga accidentally fell into our water bucket and she was so mad, steam came out of her wattles for days,” he told them.  “Not to mention she turned to a most unflattering shade of red.”

“Greg, you’re not talking me out of this.  I have to help Larry.  After everything he did for me, I have to do this.”

Greg looked from Balki to Bianca and back again before letting out a huge sigh.  “Okay. But just please be careful.”

“You, too.  I’ll be back.”

Greg watched as she climbed into the machine before he remembered something.  “Oh!  Wait!  I almost forgot to give you this.  When I put Henry’s cassette in the folder of your Aunt Liv’s things, Henry told me to take something out and give to you if we should ever meet.”  He quickly reached inside the original Marsden’s pants pocket and pulled out a note.  “Henry said to read this when you have time.”

Bianca took the note and hastily put it in her front pocket.  “Okay.  I’m going to get Larry.”

Balki smiled and waved.  “Tell him Alek is a nice man.  I don’t think he know that.”

“Yeah.  I didn’t know that, either,” Greg said as Bianca disappeared.  He then turned to Balki.  “Okay, get in the bathroom and don’t say a word in case Tweedledee and Tweedledum come this way.”

“I thought we only had to worry about Jacob and Quinn; now we have to worry about two more?” Balki asked.

Greg opened his mouth to answer, but decided against it, instead pointing towards the bathroom door.

*************************

Jacob knew it was coming.  He could feel it.  He reached out for the nearest object, but it wasn’t there.

Then suddenly, a strong hand grabbed him before he hit the floor and he looked up, his blurry vision making it unable to see who caught him.  “Oh,” was all Jacob could say.

“It’s okay, boss.  I got you,” Quinn’s low voice replied as he helped Jacob to the bed.  “Your nose is bleeding again.”

Jacob moaned and fumbled around for a tissue on the nightstand.  He had just wiped the blood from his nose when he could feel another unpleasant sensation in his throat.  Grabbing as many tissues as he could, he coughed into them, each cough sounding worse than the first.  “Quinn, I can’t do this anymore,” he gasped.  “I’m too sick.  I wanted revenge, but it looks as if I won’t get to live long enough to unleash any more of my wrath.”

“Don’t talk like that, boss.  You just rest and I’ll check on the prisoners.  If anything fishy goes on, I’ll take care of it.”

Quinn turned to leave, but Jacob grabbed his arm.  “Quinn, whatever you do to them, don’t physically hurt Bianca.  As much as I detest her, she’s still – cough – family.  Same goes for the ungrateful old man.  I don’t care what you do to those other two.”

“But boss, why did you kidnap them if you planned no harm to them?” Quinn asked.

“I just want them to be miserable.  I have no hope, so neither should they.  They separated me from my mother, so it’s only fair that I separate them.  The foreign guy and Curly know too much.  If they tell Bianca about her grandfather being alive, she’ll scratch the walls down to get to him.  I just want them to be as miserable as – cough – I am right now.  I mean it, though, Quinn.  You, Alek and Marsy can’t attack Henry or Bianca physically.”

“You just rest, boss.  I’ll take care of everything,” Quinn assured him before walking away.  “Somebody has to take charge around here since you haven‘t or can‘t.”

Jacob thought he heard Quinn mumble something else after he said he’d take care of everything, but as he opened his mouth to speak, he began another fit of coughing.

Why is this happening to me? he thought miserably as he stared at the brown-stained tissues in his hands.

*************************

“Where is she?”

Greg looked up and saw Quinn’s ugly scarred face peering through the window.  “She’s using the bathroom, man.  You want me to go in there?” he jerked his thumb behind him.

“I wish you would.  She could be trying to escape.  Look.  Jacob’s too sick to function, so it’s up to us.”

Greg stood up.  Jacob was sick?  This was news to him, but did the real Marsden know?  “Too sick; what’s going on with him now?” he asked, hoping there was a ‘before’ to speak of.

Quinn literally growled.  “The nosebleeds and dizzy spells are worse.  He’s coughing up blood like crazy.  Now it’s up to us to take charge!  I have a feeling that Alek may be going soft on us, so you need to take care of Bianca now!”

“Take care of her?  I’m doing the best I can!” Greg scoffed, sticking his head around the corner where the restroom was and letting out a high-pitch scream.  “Yeah, see?  She’s still in there!”

“You know what I mean!  If you don’t take care of her, I will!  Now I’m going to see that insufferable idiot with the curly hair.  Jacob is too sick to deal with things, so I’m in charge now!” Quinn shouted before storming off.

“Is he gone?” Balki whispered from where he was hiding.

Greg nodded.  “Yes, but he’s gone to Larry’s cell and he is not in a good mood.”

“Oh no!  He going to hurt Cousin Larry, too!”

“I’m more worried about what he’s going to do when he finds Bianca in Larry’s cell!  Balki, he wants me to kill her.  And if I don’t, he will!” Greg cried, panic setting in.  He had to figure out a way to warn Bianca – and fast!

*************************

Larry slammed the laptop shut for the umpteenth time and pulled Bianca’s photo out of his pants pocket.  He looked at her beautiful porcelain face smiling back at him, that twinkle in her eye that he loved and missed so much.  Would she ever look at him that way again?  Would he ever hear her sweet voice say his name or hum some random tune?  Would he ever feel her touch his shoulder gently or listen to her bubbly laugh again?

Wow, Appleton; you got it bad, he thought to himself before placing the photo back in his pocket and opening the laptop once more.  Sadly, nothing had changed.  She was still in chains, her head hung down and her body limp.  Wait … was she – ?  No, no! his brain screamed as he raced to the door and pounded on it wildly.  “Jacob!  Jacob, what have you done?  Somebody help!” he cried out, his voice high and panicked.

Suddenly, he heard a buzzing noise behind him and he dashed to the table, grabbing the chair as a makeshift weapon.  For a second, he thought maybe it was Balki when he saw the egg appear, but the person who emerged wasn’t Balki.

“Larry!  Oh thank God it’s you and you’re okay!” Bianca’s voice cried out before she ran towards him.

Larry held the chair out from his chest as if he were trying to tame a lion and backed away.  “Stay away from me; I fell for it once, but I’m not going to fall for it again, Jacob!” he snarled.

‘Bianca’s’ smile left her face and he swore he saw what looked like actual tears forming in her eyes.  “Larry, it - it’s me.  What did Jacob do to you?”

Larry wanted to believe, but he still kept the chair between them.  “Jacob, I swear, if you sent another hologram – ”

‘Bianca’ began to literally cry now and Larry wasn’t sure what to believe.  “Jacob has been tricking you with holograms of me?  Oh, Larry; I’m so sorry.”

“Bianca?” Larry allowed himself to whisper, slowly putting the chair down and reaching out his hand.

Bianca didn’t hesitate before she jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly.  “Oh, Larry!  It’s me.  I’m here and we’re going to get out of this place.”

Larry returned the embrace, touching the back of her head, gently stroking her hair.  Oh, she felt so good in his arms.  After a minute of holding each other tight, Larry pulled apart, grabbing her hands and looking her up and down.  She looked so beautiful.  Nothing like the woman on the screen –

“Wait a minute; if you’re here and you’re fine, then why does the laptop show something completely different?” Larry asked before gently pulling her to the table and hitting the enter button on the laptop.  Sure enough, the same picture was there of Bianca in chains, crying out for someone to save her.

“What the hell?  That’s not me!  I mean, it’s me, but it’s a trick!  Jacob is showing you doctored footage of me that isn’t real,” Bianca gasped.  “Oh, Larry; he locked you in here and made you believe that I was being tortured?”

Larry nodded, tears threatening to spill down his cheeks.

Suddenly and without warning, Bianca grabbed the laptop, held it high above her head and threw it with a cry of frustration, smashing it against the wall into tiny pieces.  “Damn you, Jacob Langley!” she screamed.

Larry touched her shoulder and then grabbed her arms as she turned to face him.  “I – I never thought I would see you again.  There’s something I need to tell you, Bianca.  Something important.”

Bianca smiled.  “Not now, Larry.  I need to take you back to where Balki and Greg are so we can go to the cell with my grandfather and Alek.  We don’t have a lot of time and my machine is almost out of gas.”

“But, Bianca, this is really important and I need to tell you – wait; did you say Greg?  Who’s Greg?”

Bianca smiled.  “He’s the guy who’s been helping you and my grandfather this whole time.  I can’t wait for you to meet him and my grandfather.  Pretty soon, we’ll all be out of here and free, Larryyyyyyy ….. ”

In a split second, the floor underneath Bianca opened and she fell, but not before Larry managed to grab her hand.  "Bianca!  Hang on!  I’ve got you!”

“Larry!” she screamed, dangling in the darkness below.

Larry Appleton; if you’ve never accomplished anything in your life, you have to save Bianca and not let go, he commanded himself, trying not to slip and fall with her.  Carefully, he leaned down and ignored the pain in his bad back.  “Bianca, give me your other hand and I’ll pull you up,” he grunted.

Slowly, Bianca cried out as she swung her other hand up and grabbed Larry’s wrist.  “Larry, hurry!  I can’t hang on!”

With fierce determination, Larry grunted and cursed as he pulled with all his might, slowly dragging her back up.  As soon as she was three-fourths of the way back in the cell with Larry, he fell backwards, taking Bianca with him as they toppled to the floor like two dominoes.

Larry didn’t breathe as Bianca lay partially on top of him, tears of relief and gratitude on her face.  “Well that was close,” he finally whispered.  “I was afraid for a second I was going to – ”

Larry didn’t get to finish his sentence, however, for Bianca pressed his lips against his, causing all thoughts to leave his brain.  So Larry did the only thing he could do.  He returned the kiss eagerly.

*************************

“Come on, Bianca; please hurry with Cousin Larry,” Balki whispered as he stared at the space where the machine had been before Bianca left.  He hated that he had let her go alone, but he also knew that something weird was going on between her and Larry.  He could feel it, even back when they were fighting about Larry’s dream.  Maybe Bianca and Larry were keeping a secret from him.  Maybe Bianca was going to move into the apartment building with them or she was getting a job working for the Chicago Chronicle.  All Balki knew was that after Larry had the dream about Bianca being kidnapped, his mind had been preoccupied.  Then when Bianca came back, both she and Larry had a weird aura about them.  Normally, no one would be able to tell, but as a Myposian, Balki had a heightened sensitivity to that kind of thing.  He knew it was from spending all that time with the flock.  They knew when something was going to happen long before it did, just by a feeling in the air.  While Balki might not be able to detect an earthquake before it occurred, he could sense the rising and lowering temperatures between his two friends.  Now, however, he just hoped they were both alright.

“I’m sure they’ll be back soon, Balki,” Greg told him, although Balki knew he was just as worried.

Suddenly, the door to the cell swung open with a loud bang and before Balki could run and hide, a very angry Quinn stood in the doorway.  “I was hoping there would at least be one more person on my side, Marsden.  Looks like I was wrong.  Bianca wasn’t here, but the foreigner was!  Why did you lie to me?”

“Quinn, calm down, would ya?” Greg laughed.  “You knew that Alek changed up the rooming conditions!  He put Balki in here, as well.  You just missed Bianca.  The girl’s got a bladder the size of a cufflink.”

“Don’t lie to me, Marsden!  I know she was in the cell with that curly-mopped freak!  I don’t know how you managed to do it, but don’t worry; she won’t be coming back any time soon.”

Balki’s body tensed up.  “Wait; are you trying to tell us that she won’t be coming back any time soon?”

Quinn bristled.  “That’s exactly what I’m telling you, you imbecile!  I took care of her and now, I’m going to take care of you!”

Balki opened his mouth to reply, but Quinn quickly pulled a revolver from his jacket pocket and pointed it at him.

Greg stood up.  “Now, Quinn; do we really need to kill the Mypiot?  I mean, did Jacob condone this?”

“Jacob’s not in charge anymore; I am!” Quinn yelled, cocking the gun.

“I don’t want to die,” Balki cried, closing his eyes and waiting.  “I never even got to eat at White Castle like Cousin Larry promised.”

Suddenly, Balki heard the sound of moaning and a loud thud, followed by Greg whooping.  Balki opened his eyes to find not Quinn, but the second worst thing.  “No,” he cried, backing away and covering his ears.  “Don’t scream, please; I can’t take it!”

*************************

Greg thought about checking on Balki, but he had never been happier to see anyone in his life.  “Valeena!  How did you – ?”

“What, you thought I was just going to miss the party entirely?” she laughed, her strange accent never sounding more beautiful.  “Good thing I came back when I did.  Now, I gotta explain to Balki that I’m a real live person and no longer Jacob’s hologram of death.”

“Okay, while you do that, I need to use your time machine and check on Larry and Bianca.  Quinn said he took care of them and Henry will never forgive me if anything happens to them.”

“Bastard better not have hurt Bianca or Larry.  Don’t worry ‘bout me.  I’m gonna go find Henry and get him out of here,” Valeena replied.

Greg jumped into the time machine and punched in the location of the tracking device he had placed on Larry while he was in the hospital getting his hand bandaged.

Seconds later, he appeared in the cell with Bianca and Larry, who looked as if they were about to take off in her time machine.  “Wait!” Greg cried out.

“Greg!” Bianca cried out, hugging him, while Greg noticed Larry didn’t look nearly as thrilled to see him.  “What happened?  Where’s Balki?”

“He’s with Valeena, who saved us in the nick of time.  Quinn is in control now and he said he just took care of you and Larry.”

Bianca nodded.  “The floor opened up right underneath me.  If Larry hadn’t been holding onto my arms, I could have – ”

“But she didn’t because I saved her,” Larry retorted, sticking out his chest.  “And I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Well, we kind of have, but it’s not important right now.  All you need to know is that we gotta get in that time machine and get to Henry and Alek.  Valeena and Balki will meet us there,” Greg gushed, literally pushing them towards the machine.

“Wait, Valeena’s here and she’s okay?” Bianca asked.

“Yes, now stop talking and get in, okay?  You, too, Larry.  Questions need to be saved for after the reunion process.”

*************************

“I’m going to get to see my grandfather again,” Bianca whispered to Larry as he held her close before Greg powered up the machine.  She couldn’t wait to see him again.  She couldn’t wait to tell him that she understood and forgave him for everything.

“Yes, you are,” Larry repeated.  “If he’s anything like you, I can’t wait to meet him.”

Seconds later, they arrived and Bianca flew out of the door and straight into her grandfather’s arms.  “Oh, I’ve missed you so much!”

“I missed you, too,” Henry replied, tears in his eyes.  “And just when I thought you couldn’t look any more beautiful, you stun me.”

“Grandfather, I’d like you to meet Larry,” she said, grabbing Larry’s hand and pulling him closer.  “He was the one – ”

“Who discovered the truth,” Henry interrupted.  “My granddaughter and I are so grateful to you and your Myposian cousin.”

Larry once again puffed out his chest and smiled.  “Well, I am an investigative reporter.  It’s my job to uncover the truth.  But, uh, thank you for the help along the way.”

Bianca turned around and smiled as she saw another machine carrying two more people she cared about.  “Valeena!” she cried, racing to hug both her and Balki.

“Cousin!  You’re not deader than a doorbell!” Balki cried seconds later, hugging Larry.

“Balki, it’s good to be – ” Larry began after their embrace, but he stopped short as Balki’s body fell forward and on top of him.  “Balki?”

Bianca turned just in time to see Balki’s unconscious body and Quinn behind him, holding Valeena in a vice grip with one arm and carrying a gun in his other free hand.  “Quinn!” she gasped as Alek grabbed Balki and Larry held Bianca protectively.  “Let her go.”

“So glad I didn’t miss the reunion,” Quinn hissed.  “It’s a shame you all have to die now.”

“Balki’s okay.  Just unconscious,” Alek mouthed to Bianca as she glanced at him from the corner of her eye.

“Quinn, no one has to die.  Just let Valeena go and we’ll talk this out,” Henry suggested, his hands up in protest.

Quinn laughed coldly.  “Talk this out?  There’s nothing to talk out, old man!  Jacob won’t do the job, so I will have to do it for him.”

Bianca slowly stepped forward, but Quinn aimed the gun at her and Larry quickly pulled her back to him.  “Quinn, please; just let Valeena go and give Alek or Marsden the gun,” she said, her voice shaking.

“Why; so they can both shoot me dead?  Both of you are nothing but a couple of traitors!” Quinn yelled, thrashing the gun about wildly.

“Quinn, just calm down before you do something you’ll regret,” Greg attempted.  Bianca looked over at him and could see that he was terrified for Valeena.  Did he have feelings for her?  How did he even know her?

“The only thing I’ll regret,” Quinn replied through gritted teeth, placing the gun at the crying Valeena’s neck, “is not doing this sooner.”

Bianca allowed Larry to place her head on his shoulder so she couldn’t see Valeena’s lifeless body, but she still heard the gunshot echo through the bailey of the castle.

“Valeena!” Greg cried, rushing over to her.

“Jacob?” Henry gasped at the same time.

Bianca lifted her head and forced herself to look.  Valeena was on the floor bleeding, but so was Quinn.  Standing a yard behind was a very shaky and weak-looking Jacob!  “I told him … not to … do that,” he whispered, his voice raspy.  “Is she … alive?”

“Barely,” Alek replied before walking over to Jacob and allowing him to lean on his burly body.

Bianca looked at Quinn’s lifeless form and then up at Larry, tears in her eyes.  “Larry, are you okay?”

Larry looked at her, his face ashen and his eyes glazed.  “I’m fine,” he replied before he promptly fainted in her arms.

*************************

Larry gasped for air as he sat up and felt something wet and cold on the back of his head.  Blood!  He had been shot too!  “Oh, my Lord; oh, my Lord!” he cried, grabbing the back of his head, but felt instead Bianca’s delicate hand holding a damp cloth to his cranium.

“Hey, you have a goose egg on your head, but you’ll be fine,” she whispered, her voice full of fake happiness.  “Balki has a matching bump on his head, but he’s with my grandfather right now.”

“But what about the others?  Jacob, Quinn, Valeena, Alek and that other guy?”

Bianca frowned, tears in her eyes.  Quinn and Valeena were shot, remember?  Quinn didn’t shoot Valeena but Jacob’s gun grazed her, too.  Quinn and Valeena are both – ”

“Dead?” Larry finished for her, closing his eyes and mentally replaying the sound and image of the gun going off and both Quinn and Valeena falling to the floor.  Involuntarily, Larry clutched his stomach.  Where was his antacid when he needed it most?

“Jacob is very sick and Alek is – helping him – for some reason.  As for Greg, he’s pretty distraught.  Seems he developed some feelings for Valeena when he saved her life.  Larry, Jacob burned down my house and R.O.B. and Wakamaru … ” she said, her voice trailing off before she looked away.

Larry glanced around and saw that he was on a bed in one of the rooms, but he and Bianca were the only two in there.  “Balki … ” he moaned.

“He’s in the next room.  I’ll get him,” she said, giving him the cloth to hold and kissing his forehead before leaving the room.

Larry lay back down on the bed and closed his eyes.  How he longed to be back home in his apartment, sitting on the couch with Balki.  He’d even take listening to Balki’s Myposian tales over the reality they were in right now.  The only good thing that had come out of this nightmare was the kiss Bianca planted on him after he had pulled her from the hole in the floor.  The best part of his dream had come true.  An image of Jennifer popped into his mind, but he quickly shooed it and the guilt away as Balki gingerly walked into the room.  Larry noticed he was limping a little.

“I twisted my ankle when I got conked on the head,” Balki answered before he could ask.  “Grandfather Henry say it gonna be okay, though.  How are you feeling, Cousin?”

“I’m fine,” Larry replied quickly, sitting up.  “My head is killing me, though.”

Balki sat down next to Larry and placed his head in his hands.  “Oh, Cousin, I heard the sad news about Quinn and Bianca’s friend Valeena.  The holograph came true!  She was shot and she died!” Balki cried.

Larry placed his arm around his cousin.  “I know, Balki.  I – I saw it.  But Valeena was shot accidentally.  Jacob shot Quinn and Valeena just … got in the way.”

Balki looked up at Larry, eyes wide.  “You saw it?  Oh, Cousin, you must’ve been so scared!”

“No, I was just worried about Bianca,” he half-lied.  “I was afraid Quinn was going to … never mind.  How is her grandfather?  I only got to meet him for a second.”

“Grandfather Henry is okay.  He is upset about Valeena.  Greg say that Valeena was the lady at the steakhouse who gave us the gift certificate telling us where Bianca was!  I knew I heard that voice somewhere before!”

Larry smiled somewhat as he remembered the odd lady at the cashier’s desk.  “Valeena seemed like a good friend to Bianca.”

Balki nodded and then grabbed his head.  “Yes.  I second that emotion.  Greg, too.  He and Grandfather Henry helped you find out what happened to Bianca all those years ago.”

Larry lay back down on the bed.  “Balki?  I’m really tired now.  Could you just leave me here for a little while to rest?”

“Okay, Cousin,” Balki slowly rose and grinned down at him.  “Hey, Cousin?”

“What is it, Balki?”

“When can we go home?”

“Why don’t you ask Henry or Bianca?  The sooner, the better is all I have to say.”

“Okay, I will,” Balki said.

Larry watched him go and then closed his eyes.  And once I get home, I may never leave the apartment again, he thought to himself, feeling a wave of nausea and sadness wash over him.

*************************

Greg sat on the bed, his head leaned back against the wall, staring into space.  How did he go from being a cowardly apprentice to a gofer to a knight in shining armor to a grieving lovesick fool?

“I know you don’t believe me now, but it’s going to be okay, son,” Henry whispered, sitting down beside him and placing his hand on Greg’s shoulder.  “I miss her terribly, too.”

“I saved her from the fire just so she could get shot and die anyway,” Greg laughed bitterly.

“No sense in beating yourself up, Greg.  There was nothing you could have done.  I will always be grateful to you for watching after B and saving Valeena’s life.  You have always gone above and beyond for me and it’s appreciated.  But right now, you need to be strong for B and for Valeena’s memory.  My granddaughter has no home to go to and she lost her dear friend.”

Greg turned to Henry . “She has somewhere to go; she can go live with you now.  You’re alive and she would love to go crazy with you just like old times.”

“I’d love that more than anything, but my life is no refuge for B.  She’s still so young and I’m no Spring chicken.  I’d only be holding her back.  I’m glad she’s in my life once again, but she needs people closer to her own age group to socialize with.  The last thing she needs is to be boarded up with me inventing twenty-four seven.  Which makes me think: do you know if she read that letter I gave you to give to her?”

“I – I don’t think so.  She shoved in her pocket when she went to find Larry,” Greg replied.

“Well, then, don’t just sit here. Go; remind her of the letter.  It will change everything.  Not to mention, it will give B something to focus on,” Henry urged.

Greg looked over at Bianca, who stood with Balki in silence.  “Okay.”

“Hey, Bianca,” Greg started as he walked towards her and the Mypiot.

“Hi,” Bianca replied, chewing on a piece of her copper hair.  “What’s up?”

“Did you, uh, ever read that piece of paper I handed you earlier?  The one you put in your pocket to read later?”

Bianca pulled the note out of her pocket and flashed it.  “This one?  No.  I’ll read it later.”

Greg cleared his throat and looked at Henry before looking back at her.  “Why don’t you read it now?  It might take your mind off Larry.”

Bianca looked up at him, surprised that he knew what she was thinking about before Greg took Balki to the side to give her some privacy as she read whatever was in the note.  While he had no major clue what was in the letter, he knew it was from her Aunt Liv and it was addressed to her specifically.  From what Henry had told him, Greg was surprised her aunt even remembered Bianca’s name.

*************************

“Alek, why aren’t you with the others helping them go home?” Jacob asked, hearing how hoarce his voice had become.  In just a matter of hours, it was almost as if he didn’t even recognize himself.  He sounded nothing like the former man he remembered, passionate about technology and longing to know more about his mother.  But when did that longing turn into such bitterness and hatred towards others?  He was definitely jealous of Bianca’s relationship with the grandfather he longed to be loved by, but he never meant for it to come to … this.  Ever since he became sick, it was as if he had two separate personalities.  The jealous yet protective one and then the bitter, hateful, malicious one.

“I’m here because I was with you before you became ill and I will be with you until the end.  Once you are comfortable, I will help the others get home,” Alek replied, wiping Jacob’s damp forehead with a cloth.

“This damn disease is spreading, Alek; I can feel it.  I’m losing blood and I can barely stand.  I killed one, possibly two people today.  I deserve to die.”

“You killed Quinn because he was going to kill your half-cousin and your grandfather and you knew that.  You sacrificed a life to save theirs.”

Jacob coughed but pushed away the tissue Alek handed him.  “And poor Valeena.  I tortured that girl to scare that foreign kid so he would be distracted.  I don’t even remember why I hated her so.  Oh, Alek, I wish I could take it all back.”

Alek grimaced and placed another blanket on Jacob’s bed.  “Don’t talk, Jacob.  Just rest.”

“I hope everyone is rejoicing in being free,” Jacob continued.  “No one probably even knows – or cares – that I’m dying.”

Suddenly, Jacob spotted a blurry figure standing in the doorway.

“You’re wrong, Jacob.  I care.  We are family, after all and that’s what families do; we care about one another,” the blurry image said.

Jacob smiled and closed his eyes.  Surely he was imagining things.  The voice sounded just like a younger version of his mother.  Only it wasn’t his mother; the voice belonged to none other than the woman he kidnapped: his half-cousin, Bianca Pierson.

*************************

“Grandfather Henry, where did Bianca go?  Did she go see Cousin Larry again?” Balki asked as he sat on the floor beside Henry’s chair.  “And why are we waiting to go home?”

Henry laughed.  “You ask a lot of questions, Balki.  Never lose that quality.  Bianca didn’t go see Larry, but she had something she needed to take care of.  And as soon as our supplies arrive, we will go home.”

Balki scratched his head.  Supplies?  Balki’s head was beginning to hurt and he didn’t think it was just from the concussion.  His cousin was hurt and witnessed a violent crime, Bianca and Henry had been kidnapped by someone in their own family, two people lost their lives and Greg was dealing with the loss of a woman he liked.  And now Bianca was out and about in the castle and Jacob was still … somewhere.  At least they were free to roam around now, thanks to Henry grabbing Quinn’s keys after he was shot.  He just hoped whatever supplies that were needed arrived soon.  He was more than ready to get back to his apartment, his bed and Dimitri.

Suddenly, Larry wandered in, his mouth open.  “Do you guys hear a helicopter?  Does that mean we can go home finally?”

“The helicopter is taking Jacob to the hospital,” Alek said, causing everyone to jump.  Balki saw that Bianca was behind him and he was glad she was safe.  “Bianca called the hospital to have him flown over immediately.”

“You did what?” Larry gaped.  “Did you not forget what that monster did to you; to us?”

“Larry, it’s more complicated than that.  Yes, I know Jacob did awful things, but when it comes down to it, he’s family.  I couldn’t just watch him die alone in this castle.”

Balki gasped.  “Jacob got shot too?”

“No, Balki; remember?  Quinn said he was sick,” Greg reminded him.

Balki opened his mouth to reply, but Larry beat him to it.  “Bianca, I cannot believe you are helping him; family or not!  If you ask me, the man deserves whatever illness he’s got!”

Bianca recoiled, but quickly regained her composure.  “Larry, there is more to the story than you realize.  Jacob’s illness – well, it’s more than just your run-of-the-mill illness – Jacob has a rare tumor on his brain and another in his lungs.  The tumor in his brain affected his behavior.  Normally, the doctors would be able to do surgery, but it’s too late.  Jacob isn’t going to make it.  But I’ve got to do what I can as I’m the only family he has left, other than Grandfather.”

“Bianca, you are doing a selfless and noble thing,” Balki told her, standing up and taking her hands in his.  “Family is the most important thing, no matter what.”

“I – I don’t believe this!” Larry cried out.  “It’s great that you want to be the heroine and all, but Jacob is still crazy and dangerous!  He shot two people and let’s not forget that he set your house on fire with Valeena trapped inside!”

Balki looked at Henry, but Henry shook his head.  Were they the only people who understood the value of family?  As Balki looked around at Larry, Greg and Alek, he knew his answer.  While they had a bit of reason to be surprised, it was disappointing to see them so shocked, disturbed and appalled that Bianca was doing the right thing; no matter how hard it was.

*************************

“Cod liver oil … check; pumpkin seeds … check; corn starch … check,” Bianca heard the unmistakable voice from down the hallway.  “This sounds like a recipe for disaster or a very excellent piece of artwork, if I do say so myself.”

“Serge!” Bianca squealed, racing to embrace the flamboyant art dealer.

“Oh my God!  There you are; my pièce de résistance.  How are you doing?  I love your hair!  Did you do it yourself?” Serge chattered excitedly.

“Who’s he?” Greg asked, one eyebrow raised.

“I called him.  I design a website for his art dealership in Beverly Hills,” Bianca beamed.

“That is correct.  She called and said ‘Serge, I know it’s late, but if I send my very special car over, can you pick up a few random items and come back here?’ and I said ‘Well of course I can do it, you little minx, you’ and then she said – ”

“Thanks, Serge.  I owe you,” Bianca interrupted, grabbing the paper bag of items from his hands and handing the various items to everyone.

“If I may ask – which I’m going to, anyway – why do you need this mish-mash of random-y goodness?” Serge asked, his hand gestures as outrageous as his accent.

“It fuels my very special car so we can get the hell out of here,” Bianca replied as she poured the ingredients one by one in a small hole near the base of her machine.

“Well, what do you know?”

Bianca couldn’t help but to giggle a little as she watched Alek’s facial expressions from the corner of her eye.  Everyone else other than he and Serge had seen her machine enough to know how it was fueled.  Her grandfather had taught her well, given as how he had built the first prototype, although it was limited on its’ travel ability.

“There!” she exhaled.  “Now that this one is locked and loaded – ”

“Could you please not say ‘locked and loaded’?” Larry barked.

“We can all go home,” she finished.

Suddenly, cheers and applause erupted from the crowd and Bianca smiled and grabbed Larry’s hand.

“Wait; we’re all going to different places,” Alek said.  “There’s only two machines and I’m a little nervous to get in one.”

“You?  Nervous?” Serge scoffed.  “Hard to believe a big wooly mammoth of a person such as yourself is afraid of a small – oh, never mind.”

“Alek, it’s okay.  We can drop you off at the hospital, Serge can go back to the art studios, and Greg, my grandfather, Balki, Larry and I can go back to the apartment.”

Balki gasped.  “Really?  You’re coming back to the apartment with us?”

Bianca smiled and winked at Larry.  “There’s no place I’d rather be.”

Larry blushed.  “Me, either.  So can we please just get the hell out of here?”

“I second that emotion!” Balki, Greg and Henry replied in unison.

*************************

As soon as they entered the apartment, Greg watched in amusement as each of them ran to their treasured articles.  Balki ran to Dimitri the stuffed sheep and held him close to his chest, Larry went straight for his bottle of chalky antacid and Bianca grabbed a can of spray cheese and devoured it.  “So when are you going to tell Bianca you can’t stay?” he asked after a minute.

Henry looked at Greg and smiled softly.  “As soon as possible.  Truthfully, though, my granddaughter already knows we have to part ways.  But this time, she knows that I’ll be right there if she ever needs me.  She no longer has to feel as if I abandoned her.”

As if on cue, Bianca walked over to them, a mix of relief and sadness on her face.  “S - so, I guess we’re finally free, huh?” she asked timidly.

“Yes, we are,” Henry exhaled.  “Oh, B; I’m so proud of you.  You are more remarkable than I could have ever imagined.  And my expectations were pretty high.”

Bianca hugged Henry and Greg saw a tear fall down her cheek.  “Grandfather, I’m gonna miss you.  I love you.”

Henry pulled back.  “Now what’s this ‘I’m gonna miss you’ business?  Just because I won’t be right next-door doesn’t mean I’ll be any further than right inside your heart.  We will always have our special connection.  And now that you know the whole truth, it’s even stronger than ever.”

Greg swallowed the lump forming in his throat.  He wished he had that special connection with his family, but sadly, that never came to pass.  But at least he had a new somewhat extended family with Henry and possibly Bianca.  In fact, his new “sister from another mister” as he called her would be closer than before now that –

“Bianca?” Balki asked, causing Greg’s thought train to derail.  “Now that your lovely home has burned to the ground, where will you go? You need somewhere to hang your rat.”

“Balki, Balki, Balki,” Larry replied quickly.  “Bianca is going to stay right here with us.  Isn’t that right, Bianca?”

“Uh, Larry, thank you for the generous offer, but I can’t stay here.  You forget; I still live in two thousand thirteen.  I’ll still come and visit often, but Greg and I were talking earlier and he said I could stay with him for awhile,” Bianca answered timidly.

Larry’s jaw dropped.  “You’re going to live with – with him?  But - but you barely know him.  Couldn’t you stay with your grandfather or something?”

Greg smiled, knowing that Larry was trying to hide his jealousy.  “Larry, no need to worry.  I’ve been Henry-approved.”

Henry nodded.  “Greg is right.  He will take care of my grandaughter as if she were his own sister.  Besides, it’s only until she finds a suitable place of her own.”

Larry was still trying to argue, but he couldn’t get anything more than the occasional “But … but … ” out of his mouth.

“Cousin, I want Bianca to stay here, too, but she don’t belong here.  Her life is in the future, building flying cars and jet packs for us to use someday.  And I like Greg.  He is a very nice person who helped us get out of that castle, remember?” Balki reasoned.

“Yeah,” Larry whined.  “But I don’t want her to go!”

Bianca giggled.  “Oh, Larry!  I’m coming back for visits!  Tons of them!”

Greg had to stifle a laugh of his own as Bianca leaned forward and kissed Larry’s cheek.  Larry turned at least twenty shades of red.  Greg also noticed the proverbial light bulb turn on in Balki’s head as to what was going on.  Balki’s eyes grew wide and he looked back and forth from Bianca to Larry.  Too bad Henry didn’t have a machine to change Greg to a fly on the wall for that conversation later.

*************************

Twenty minutes later, Greg, Bianca and Henry had left and Larry sat on the sofa, head in his hands.  He missed Bianca already, but his throbbing head made it impossible to concentrate on her beautiful face etched in his memory.

“Cousin, we gotta talk.  I saw the way you turned redder than a sunburned crab when Bianca kissed your cheek.  Cousin, I know Bianca is a nice girl, but you already have a girlfriend, remember?  Her name is Jennifer Lyons and she attends flights for a living?” Balki sat down beside him, setting two teacups on the coffee table.

Larry sat up straighter and glared at Balki.  How dare his cousin make him feel even worse?  “Yes, I remember I have a girlfriend named Jennifer Lyons, but she isn’t here right now, is she?  No!  She’s in Canada and I’ve barely spoken to her more than three times!”

Balki leaned back in his seat.  “Well, considering you were gone back in time to help Bianca out and then we were looking for Bianca after she had been kidnapped and held captain until we were held captain in the castle, I’d say we been pretty busy, too.  Maybe we just weren’t at home,” he pointed out knowingly.

Larry shot up and walked over to the phone sitting on the bar.  “Balki, do you see this phone?  What’s attached to it?”

“A cord?” Balki quipped.

Larry growled.  “No, not the cord; the answering machine!”  He grabbed the machine so that Balki could see it.  “How many messages are showing?  Two!  And do you know who they’re not from?  Not Jennifer!  They are both from your girlfriend, Mary Anne, who apparently is the only one who remembers she has a boyfriend!”

Suddenly, Balki’s eyes lit up.  “Mary Anne called?  Oh, I cannot wait to tell her about the trip!”

“Balki, you know you can’t tell her about us time traveling or that we were held captive by Bianca’s crazy half-cousin!” Larry cried, exasperated.

“Cousin, I know, but I can tell Mary Anne that we went to England and met some nice people in a castle.  When she and Jennifer come back from Canada, though, I think we should tell them about Bianca.  I know they would like to meet her.”

Larry opened his mouth to reply, but Balki had already ran excitedly into his bedroom to call Mary Anne from his phone.  Instead, he groaned and reached across the bar for his antacid.

Suddenly, Larry knocked a folded up piece of paper off the bar and onto the floor.  Bending down, he picked it up and unfolded it.  “What do we have here?” he asked as he read.

Dear B,

I know I am the last person you would expect – or want – to hear from, but I don’t know who else to turn to.  I guess I should start by telling you that I truly am sorry for how I treated you, your grandfather, your uncle and everyone else.  I was hurt, angry and bitter in that I felt as if J.J. and I weren’t getting a fair deal.  Henry never did truly accept me or J.J. in the way that I wished him to and I took all that anger out on you.  If I could take it all back and start over, I would.  I think of how my actions caused me to lose J.J. in the first place every day, as well as knowing the truth about how I killed my husband.  But I guess I finally got what was coming to me.  I now have a terminal illness.  There is a tumor in my lung that is spreading faster than doctors know how to treat it.  I fear that I may have only a few weeks to live.  I know I have no right to ask you for a favor, but I plead with you: if you ever find my J.J., please take care of him for me.  I know how important family is to you, so I hope that you will at least take this plea to heart.  I cannot pay you money, I cannot redo the damage I have done, but perhaps I can give you vital information.  Your grandfather is not dead.  He knew that I was planning to kill him and after your uncle told him and I murdered him, your grandfather faked his own death.  I thought he was dead for a long time, but found out the truth only a few months ago.  Henry actually came to see me and brought with him a nice man named Greg.  I gave them this letter and they told me somehow, someway, they would get this to you.  They didn’t tell me how, but I know they kept their word.

Again, I am so sorry for everything.  I don’t deserve your love, forgiveness or understanding, but please dont turn your back on my son.  He doesn’t deserve any of this.  His life has been filled with pain that I have caused.  Pain that I will die with.  I wish you the best with your grandfather.

Sincerely, Aunt Liv

As Larry folded the letter, he understood why Bianca suddenly decided to help Jacob.  As terrible as her aunt Liv had been to her, Bianca knew she couldn’t refuse her aunt’s dying request.  “Oh my Lord,” he muttered, feeling more emotions stir in him than his heart could hold as tears spilled down his cheeks.  “If I wasn’t certain before, I am now.  I love you, Bianca Pierson.”

 

The End