It's time to take another horrifying trip through the streets of Amelia. In this outing, Jake and Emily are pressured by a bully and his friends to spend one hour in Amelia's abandoned theater. With the discovery of two unusual masks inside, Jake and Emily are about to show their abusers who the real victims are. This is Book 2 in the Roads Through Amelia short story series.
Jake sprawled in the dirt when Tommy Worl pushed him in the chest. “Come on, Dobbs, whatcha gonna do, huh?” Tommy asked. He was a large boy for fourteen years of age, with sledge-like arms and the beginnings of the sort of gut drunken frat boys get around junior year.
“Fuck off, Tommy,” Jake replied. He scrabbled to his feet, a spindly boy of thirteen who was often called “Scarecrow” by the kids in his class. His straw-blond hair and gangly frame helped this along, but unlike Dorothy’s traveling companion, he had quite the brain.
And why were these two boys glaring at one another alongside the road bordered by a dirt shoulder and grassy fields to east and west? What was the focus of this David and Goliath showdown? Likely it was the eleven-year-old girl behind Tommy, being held by each arm by Tommy’s current lackeys. The girl had a soft, rounded face in stark contrast to Jake's narrow, angular one. Where Jake was short and too thin for his age, at eleven, the girl was already only half an inch shorter than he. Where he had shoulder-length blond locks, she had a short crop of raven black. They shared the same sleet gray eyes and oblong ears. They shared a certain bearing in their general behavior. They shared parents, too.
She was Emily Dobbs, Jake’s kid sister. The two of them had been at the Marsten Mall in the town of North Perry, just mooning around, really. They had time to kill during their spring break, and they both liked to window shop at the mall together and poke fun about how ridiculous some of their fellow consumers looked and behaved in public.
They weren’t the only kids who hung out at the mall during the break. Tommy Worl and his constant goons had been there too. When Jake began catching glimpses of the three lunkheads following him and Emily, he had suggested to her that they get to their bikes and make their way home. Tommy and company had followed after them once again.. They rode a bit behind Jake and Emily at first, hanging back along Town Road #1. Not long after passing the Saffron Street intersection, however, Tommy put on a burst of speed and shot out ahead of Jake. Jake slowed down, but his sister didn’t. Instead, she tried to maneuver around her brother, but she was too late in turning, and succeeded in nothing less than tangling them both up and spilling them to the concrete.
The moment that happened, Tommy’s goons scooped up little Emily and dragged her away from Jake, who had yet to recover from the collision and fall. When he did get up, he saw Tommy spitting in his sister’s face and screamed, charging heedlessly at the larger boy. That’s where we came in, friends and neighbors.
“Let Emmy go,” Jake barked. He still felt banged up from the crash and the shove, but his voice came out firm and true. His resolve wavered not a bit, despite the disadvantage of size and numbers. “Just let her ride home.”
“No, I don’t think so,” said Tommy, planting his hands on his wide hips. Tommy had a knack for finding what drove twerps like Dobbs up a wall, and the little sister obviously stood as a shining sore spot for the boy. Though he had no real intention of doing anything crude, he said, “I think we should play a round of ‘Tommy’s New Girlfriend’ first.”
“Let go of me you assholes,” Emily fairly shrieked. It wouldn’t do much good. On a Wednesday evening like this in North Perry, few folks would be traveling this stretch of Town Road #1. “Kenneth Bowler, I’ll tell your dad about this,” she threatened the boy holding her left arm. Bowler flinched, and when he did, she took the momentary opportunity to break free of them both and run toward Jake.
Tommy heard a grunt behind him, but was too cumbersome and slow of wit yet in his own large frame to do more than reach for Emily's hair as she streaked past him. She crouched guardedly behind Jake, who kept his eyes locked on Tommy’s face. Emily bunched her hands in the back of Jake’s light blue denim jacket. “Come on, Jake, let’s get out of here,” she said, her voice low and weak, a whimper.
“I know where you live, Dobbs,” Tommy warned. His face flushed red, and his forehead furrowed, as it would if one were deep in thought. “I’m not gonna chase you again, not tonight. I don’t even have to.” His hefty frame relaxed as he crossed his arms over his chest. His henchmen were in the process of picking up their bikes.
“What do you want?” Tommy stood patiently, grinning, his eyes playing across the sky as if in thought. Jake Dobbs, nobody’s idiot, knew already what the henchmen didn’t appear to have come to terms with yet. Tommy wasn’t going for the twelve-speed mountain bike he’d dumped off to the side of the road. He was just waiting, wearing a wolfish grin, and occasionally taking his eyes off of the sky and his mind off of his ruminations to consider the Dobbs children. The look he gave them sent shivers up Emily and Jake’s spines, but for Jake at least, it was little more than the shiver of expectation. “What do we have to do to send you and your goons away?” Jake grumbled.
“I’m thinking about that,” Tommy replied. Ken Bowler and the other boy with Tommy, Stanley Moore, had brought themselves forward to flank their fearless leader. Like Darth Vader’s red-cloak guards, Jake thought.
“Jake, let’s just go,” Emily pleaded. She tugged at him now, but her brother would not budge. “He’s just a toad,” she said loudly enough to be heard by Tommy and company. “A slimy, perverted toad!” Bowler and Moore snickered at the jibe until Tommy gave them each a withering stare.
“I got an idea,” Tommy said. “You two know the old play theater back up the road, over on Libra Street?”
“Darin’s Theater House?” Jake inquired, eyebrow raised. Emily let out a little gasp right behind him. Darin’s, unused and abandoned since the mid-70s, was said by many to be a haunted place. Then again, the entire Amelia City area and its suburbs seemed to have fostered a lot of such stories. “Yeah, what of it?”
“Here’s the deal,” Tommy said, planting his hands on his hips. “You two go in there, stay inside for like an hour or something, if you can. Grab something to bring back for me, too. Do that,” Tommy said, spreading his arms in a show of peace. “And we’ll leave you alone. No questions asked.”