Al tensed up.
I put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Settle down. Here’s what we’re going to do. In a second, we’ll casually stand up and walk over to the fence and point to all the crazy kids going past on the water slide. When I say so, we hop the fence and take off. We get the hell out of the park.”
“Before finding Dad?” Al sounded incredulous.
“Before finding Dad,” I said. “If the people that are looking for him are the same people that took him, how thorough a search do you expect?” His downcast eyes told me I had made my point. “So we get out of here and find a phone that works and get some real police on the case.”
Without missing a beat, Al stood and said as he leaned against the fence separating him from the Colorado Rapids water slides, a little louder than necessary, “Oh, man, I can’t imagine going down that thing when it's this cold out.”
I took my place next to him and said, “Ready?”
All I got in reply was a nod.
There wasn’t any need to give a countdown or shout “go!” We had talked about what we were going to do, and we just went ahead and did it, each throwing a leg over the barrier at the same time. Behind us, a bunch of voices (my educated guess would have been four) erupted, telling us to halt, to stop, to stay where we were, or something like that. They all shouted at the same time, making it kind of tough to tell what they were saying.
Five feet past the fence, we ran into our first obstacle. Well, second if you count the fence itself. The majestic Colorado Rapids, roughly two feet deep and six feet across, stood between us and freedom. We both plunged through it without hesitation.
Al let out a loud string of curse words, ending with, “That is cold!”
I agreed with everything he said, but didn’t feel the need to say them all myself. Only after making it to the far bank, with Al’s pants and my dress completely soaked almost up to the waist, did I dare throw a look behind us. The security goons (or maybe they’d prefer “minions”—hopefully I wouldn’t have the chance to ask) weren’t even to the fence yet. Only three of them appeared to be in pursuit. The fourth was too busy talking into the sleeve of his jacket to chase us.
On the other side of the “river,” the ground sloped sharply down. We took this at a dead run, making each step more like a jump. A brief vision flashed through my head of astronauts bounding across the surface of the moon. I was pretty sure that’s what we looked like. At the bottom of the hill, there was another fence. Once we were over that one, we found ourselves back in foot traffic. We didn’t follow theme park etiquette and go around the groups meandering down the lane in front of us, instead busting right through their midst. Al offered up one hurried “excuse us” after another, but I didn’t have time for social niceties. I needed to find a place where we could disappear.
I raced through the park, the sound of laughter and smell of popcorn mixing with my rising sense of panic. Running for my life in a dress wasn’t the easiest thing I’d ever done, but at least I’d opted to wear ballet flats rather than the heels Lou had insisted I pack. It would have been my luck to evade the goons, only to twist an ankle, fall down, and break my neck in the process.
A stitch appeared in my side. My breathing was labored. “I really need to work out more” went through my mind as I tried to find refuge.
“In here!” Al called from behind me. I turned and followed him into a dark cave. Okay, so it wasn’t really a cave, but that’s how my adrenaline-besieged mind interpreted the small, dimly lit space. Al grabbed my arm and pulled me down behind a couple of big barrels.
“What is this place?’ I asked, gasping for breath and clutching my side.
“It’s the Buckaroo Bear meet-and-greet area.” Al said. He seemed to be recovering from our run. He must work out more than I do.
“So, where is he?”
Al looked at me like I was crazy. “I don’t know. He must have the night off or something. Don’t we have more important things to worry about right now?” I just nodded, still trying to catch my breath. “So, who are those guys, and why are they chasing us?”