Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
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10:30 AM

   The Faircrest carnival takes place on the Sunday following Columbus day in October. It has been an annual tradition for as long as anybody can remember. Construction would always begin on the previous Sunday, which was the middle of the long weekend. A resultant ritual that had somehow developed over the years, is that of local kids lingering around the surrounding chain link fence on that day, observing the assembling of the rides. Not all day long, but maybe for an hour or so, just to see if there was anything new for the current year.
    As Carl approached the fence, he noticed Linda standing by herself, observing the raising of the giant double ferris wheel, which was always the centerpiece of the carnival. He thought to himself, 'Well, now's your chance. She's just standing there by herself. Go and say something.' He had had his eye on her for over a year now, but had no idea how to facilitate conversation.
   He casually strolled up next to her. "Hiya Linda."
   She turned and looked at him suspiciously. "Hi."
   "Have you ever ridden on that ferris wheel before?"
   "No." The monosyllabic nature of her answers did not sound promising.
  "Well, if you'd like, I'll treat you to a ride next weekend," he smiled at her, and mentally crossed his fingers.

   Meanwhile, elswhere around the fence, four girls who always hung out with each other in school, were now hanging out with each other on the weekend. Three of them, Dana Lefkowitz, Cindy Toliver and Rhonda Gaines had been fast friends for over a year. The fourth one, Stacy Kessler, was new to Faircrest middle school this year, but had no trouble being accepted into their inner circle. She had been friends with Dana the previous year because they both had attended the same afterschool hebrew school. The four of them always stood out, not just because they were stunningly beautiful, but because they also were always dressed and made up in a manner that some people might consider to be age inappropriate. Not slutty, just overly sophisticated.
   "Hi Girls."
   All four of them turned around to see Gavin Marshall, another guy who stood apart from other students in the school for multiple reasons. He was a year older than the girls, in the 9th grade, and big for his age. Short haired and muscular, he was a textbook example of the sort of thuggish presence that all too many girls found attractive. Much to the chagrin of her more level headed friends, Dana Lefkowitz appeared to be one of those girls.
   "Hi Gavin," She walked up and put her arm around him, while Cindy and Rhonda just smiled half-heartedly. Although Dana was clearly the only one of the four who was showing any interest him, he continued to talk as if all four of them were doting on his every word.
   "If you girls meet me at the ring-toss next Sunday, I'll win you all stuffed toys. And if I don't, hell, I'll just buy one for each of ya."
   Dana giggled. Rhonda and Cindy smiled and rolled their eyes, while Stacy just stared at him inquisitively. She didn't really know him like the others, and wasn't aware of the fact that he came from a family that was literally wealthy enough to buy the whole fair, thus his humor was completely lost on her.
   "Hello," Gavin looked right back at her.
   "Have you two met?" asked Dana.
  "I've seen this person around in school, but we've never been formally introduced."
   "Gavin, this is Stacy...Stacy Kessler, Gavin Marshall."
   Stacy studied his face for a moment. "You're the guy who gets dropped off in that big limousine every morning, aren't you?"
   "That would be me," Gavin proudly proclaimed, assuming that it would impress her as much as it did Dana.

   Faircrest California is a middle class hillside community, nestled at the foot of the San Gabriels, a mountain range with many unpaved paths. One of those fire roads was particularly popular with off road bicyclists. It hugged the side of the mountains, offering panoramic views of the city below. It was from a section of this path that widened slightly, that Jeff Feingold was perched on his bike, observing the fairground construction with binoculars. Although it was a BMX style bicycle, and not made for mountain biking, he nontheless would occasionally use it for that purpose. Before he had gotten it as a birthday present, he used to hike up the fire road on foot, just to get away from everyone, and enjoy the sunset. The bike provided that extra element of fun when coasting back down the mountainside.
    WHAM! He was suddenly knocked off his bike, and hit the ground hard. He was so engrossed in his binoculars, that he took no notice of the four guys, three of which were now pinning him face down in the dirt.
   "Enjoying the view, Feingold?"
Jeff instantly recognized the voice. He struggled to respond, as whoever was on top of him was nearly cutting off his wind. "Clifford, did you actually follow me here?"
   "No, we were just hiking and noticed a big hosebag sitting on his bike, and decided to strangle him."
Jeff thought fast. "Cliff," he huffed, "Are you really so weak that you can't beat me up yourself?" Surprisingly enough, this actually worked.
  "Let him up, I'll take it from here," The other three guys obeyed Clifford like lemmings.
Jeff got up and tried to compose himself. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be Gordy and two other guys he didn't even know who were holding him down. Although he knew he was no match for Clifford in a fight, at least now he could breathe. Cliff just glared at him, as if he were daring him to throw the first punch. Remarkably, the binoculars were still hanging around Jeff's neck. He was seriously considering using them as a weapon, when everyone heard a slight rustling noise coming from up the path. It was the sound of mountain bikers. Instinctively, Jeff began yelling for help. Although the chances of complete strangers coming to his aid was remote at best, it was at least enough of a threat to cause the four guys that were menacing him to temporarily back off. Three muscular adults on mountain bikes rounded the bend, and stopped. "Is something wrong here? We heard someone yelling for help."
   "Not any more!" Jeff quickly picked his own bike up out of the dirt and immediately started gliding down the hillside, followed by the three mountain bikers. This time, he had managed to cheat death, or at least serious injury. It would be a long time before he ever dared biking up the path by himself again.

11:00 AM

   Jeff arrived home in one piece.
   "Mom's not gonna like it when she sees that hole in your jeans," observed his younger sister Aggie.
   The exhausted youth was in no mood to pay any attention. He went straight to his room, threw on some fresh clothes, and fell back on his bed. He put on a pair of headphones, and lost himself in internet radio for the next couple of hours. Later that afternoon, there would be a girl's softball game at the park near the school, and he wanted to get some rest before attending. The main object of his daydreams was the star pitcher.

1:30 PM

   Faircrest park was located just around the corner from the middle school. The baseball diamond always seemed to be in use. On Sunday afternoons, it was taken over by the local girl's softball league. Stacy was easily one of, if not the most valuable player on her team. When she was up at bat, the opposing team's outfielders instinctively backed up. She was well known for the great distances she managed to send the ball sailing.
    Jeff arrived in the middle of the second inning. He chose to remain seated on his bike, instead of navigating the crowded bleachers. From his vantage point near first base, he could make out a few familiar faces from school, sitting in the bleachers. Among them was Dana, who shot him back an angry glance. Jeff ignored her, and kept his eye on home plate. Stacy was up. Even in a loose fitting baseball uniform, she was perfection incarnate. All the pitchers on the other teams knew about her, and usually tried to deliberately walk her. This is why Jeff chose his spot near first base.
   After two pitches that were so far outside that the catcher actually had to move slightly to the right to catch them, Stacy was visibly annoyed. She decided that she was going to swing at the third one, even if it missed the batter's box completely. She did, and it flew over the left fielder's head. Not quite out of the park, but a solid 2nd base hit. Although she probably didn't notice the scruffy kid with dirty blond hair who was cheering her on as she passed first, Jeff pretended she did. This was the sort of daydreaming that kept his grades low in school, but held his precarious sanity in place at night.

4:30 PM, Stacy's House.

   After the game, she entered the front door, and almost bumped into a new piece of furniture she wasn't expecting.
   "Whoa, what's this?" She asked, eyeing the tall, imposing object.
   "A distant cousin who you've never met just died," answered her mother. "For some reason, he decided to leave us this old grandfather clock. Ain't it something?"
   "There's already a clock on the wall. If you ask me, all this thing is doing, is taking up prescious space." As usual, Stacy was being practical.
  "You're probably right," her mother concurred. "But we'll wait 'til you father gets home, before we decide what to do with it."
   Stacy's father had just left on a business trip the previous day. The family owned a small nearby eatery, and he was considering the option of investing in another one in northern California, where most of his side of the family lived. He was there, checking out the facilities, as well as visiting relatives.

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