Kate looked up at the balloon. It was caving in and flames were leaping across the fabric.
“We’re dropping fast!” Jeff shouted. “We’ll need to get out from under this thing. Get ready to jump!”
They did exactly that and not a moment too soon. The hot air balloon crashed into the nearest Evergreen, setting it on fire.
It was only a 12-foot drop and the grass cushioned their landing.
The forest they’d planned to run into was now a wall of fire.
“Where’s Mr. Turnbow?” Brandon asked.
Before anyone answered, Mr. Turnbow did.
BAANG. BAANG. “Don’t run from me. I just want to talk. Honest,” Mr. Turnbow yelled.
“The supply-tent! That’s our only chance. I think Frank keeps his shotgun in there for bird hunting,” Jeff said.
They ran for it. Kate was faster than both of them and was mid-way across the field when another shot pierced the sound of their labored breathing.
Kate shrieked and fell to the ground. Brandon grabbed her arm and Jeff supported her weight.
“My shoulder,” Kate moaned.
“It looks like it went straight through,” Jeff said. “We’re almost to the woods and the tent will be on the other side. Only about 50 more yards.”
But Mr. Turnbow was running fast. He was one of those coaches who believed in staying in shape.
The trees offered some shadows for protection. Jeff ripped off his yellow jacket and threw it down another trail. “That might confuse him,” he whispered. “We’re nearly there.”
Brandon pulled the zipper and opened the tent flap.
“Close it!” Jeff said. “I’ll find the gun. It’s in one of these cabinets.”
Brandon looked at the boxes stacked to the ceiling. There were narrow slits of light where the sun was shining through.
Apparently, the tent was used for more than just hot air balloon supplies. It housed an odd assortment of Frank’s hobbies. There were Halloween masks on the walls, sad clowns, a werewolf, a dead carnie, and a despicable looking vampire. Roller Coaster rails ran the perimeter and turned steeply out of sight.
“I found it!” Jeff said.
Brandon heard Jeff’s footsteps and then they stopped. There was a distinct metallic CLICK.
The voice was all too familiar. It was always telling them to run three extra laps.
“Move out into the light where I can see you. Where are the others?”
“They’re in the woods,” Jeff said.
“You lie!” The voice snarled. “I hate killing kids, but you’ve left me no choice. Now give me the gun.”
“Why are you doing this?” Jeff asked.
“I lost a bet to an annoying accountant who threatened to sue me if I didn’t pay him. Nobody threatens me! Instead, the bastard paid me with his life. Now you have to die. I can’t have witnesses.”
Brandon grabbed the vampire’s cape from the wall and climbed the rungs of the rollercoaster. He was directly above Mr. Turnbow. Brandon dropped like a rock.
“What the… what is this thing?”
CLICK. BAANG. BAANG. BAANG.
“Run!” Brandon yelled.
BAANG. Sisss. Pshhh.
“What’s that smell?”
Fire spread everywhere, igniting the air.
“Kate, get out!” Brandon yelled.
They left the tent faster than folks leaving a bad circus show.
And fire engulfed everything.
“Well, Mr. Turnbow got fired. It was bound to happen one way or another,” Brandon said.
“That’s not funny,” Kate whispered.
“Let’s get you to a doctor. One of us will need to explain what happened and I know it’s going to be me.”