"I can't believe you're doin' this, dude."
JD rattled around in some boxes tucked into a corner of the walk-in closet in his bedroom, Dillon leaning against the door jamb watching him as he fished out the equipment he needed.
"I made all the arrangements. I accepted the commission. I told the client I would be there, and when ... what's so hard for you to believe?"
"That a guy who's all scientific 'n' shit's so frickin' dumb, dude," Dillon sneered at the back of his head.
"I'm not being dumb. I just don't think this is any big deal. They almost never are."
"Almost? Dude, you're battin' a frickin' thousand. What're you, a dumb-ass? C'mon. Th' only stuff you seen was a big deal."
"That's not true," JD sighed, "and I've been over this with you. I'm going. Wendy wants to go with me. You're welcome."
JD shook his head. "You're being irrational."
"I'm makin' sure I stay alive, homey."
"Oh, cut it out. You don't have any reason to believe you'll die if you go."
"I ain't givin' a chance fer that shit t'happen, bro. I think you oughtta make Wen stay, too. You wanna risk your own ass, that's fine. Don't risk her incredibly tight and perky one."
JD turned and glowered at Dillon over his shoulder.
"Sorry ... I can't help it, dude. It's true."
"Keep your eyes above her collar bones, please."
Dillon shrugged. "Whatever. Dude, I'm jus' sayin', this trip's a trip. You didn' learn jack from the last one."
"I understand your position," JD said, standing with several devices in one hand and a small, worn duffle bag in the other. "I do. You've made it clear. What happened scared you. So much you can't compel yourself to go with us. That's fine. But I made a promise and I'm keeping it. Wendy won't be made to stay behind, she's taken the time off work, and she's excited about the trip."
"Didja even tell 'er I don't think it's smart?"
"No, I haven't said anything to her about you."
"You didn't tell 'er I ain't goin'?"
"Why would I?"
"She might care 'bout that ... she might wonder why I ain't goin', an' ask me an' stuff. Then I can tell 'er how stupid I think you're bein', and she'd be all, like, 'Oh, Dilly, you're so much smarter'n JD, I wanna be with you all weekend havin' massive sex an' stuff while JD goes to play with more ghosties.' An' then we'll stay here all warm an' safe an' havin' massive sex, and YOU can go get killed."
JD was staring at Dillon with something between disbelief and disgust. "How ... how long has that fantasy been playing in your so-called mind?"
"Dude, I'm jus' sayin' is all. If Wen knew I waddn't goin', maybe she'd think twice, y'know?"
"She'll be here after she gets off work, why don't you tell her yourself. I'd leave out the sexual proposal component if I were you, though."
"'Fraid she'll take me up on it?"
JD laughed. "Yeah. Right."
"Hmph. Well ... still. When're you leavin', chump?"
"Right away. As soon as she gets here. I'll load her things into the car and that's it, we can go."
"Tonight?? You're leaving tonight??"
"No, this afternoon. It's a long drive and we want to get there as early as possible, so --"
"Yeah. Is that a problem?"
"Dude! That's like -- that's like today, man!"
"Uh ... yes, that would be the 'this' part of 'this afternoon'. Isn't that interesting?"
"DUDE. I didn't know."
"Didn't know what?"
"Didn't know you were leavin' today, you asshole-licker!"
"I told you we ... did -- did you just call me an asshole-licker?"
"Aw, man!! I can't believe this shit! Dude!"
"That don't give me time t'set up a party or nothin', dude! I'm gonna be all bored an' crap, while you're off gettin' laid!"
"Don't be crude. And I told you I was leaving as soon as I could make the arrangements. They're made. We're leaving."
"I ... aw, man. Naw, dude, that ain't cool. I'm all off-kilter an' shit now."
"I can't. You gotta gimme some notice."
"It's the rules, dude."
"The rules that say you gotta gimme time t'be cool with bein' left alone an' shit. Dude!"
"Rules? You're a grown man for pity's sake! What's the matter with you?"
"How do I know you didn't leave a damned ghost up in here, dude?? You could be trackin' it all over th' place like dogshit!"
JD shook his head. "Will you grow up, please? If you're not comfortable staying here alone -- for some reason -- then come with us. Your choice. Or go back to your mom's basement for a week."
"Dude. I'd rather hang with ghosts."
"When's Wen comin', dude? I gotta try an' talk 'er outta this."
JD glanced at his watch, stacking bags near the door of his room. Some were filled with the clothes he'd need for the week. Others were filled with the instruments and laptops he'd need for the investigation. He grabbed a handful of straps with each arm and went into the hallway.
"Should be any minute now. She was leaving work at 11. It's nearly 11:30 now."
"You said this afternoon! 11:30 ain't after noon!"
JD sighed, moving down the stairs. "We'll be going to lunch before we get on the road. Possibly dinner too, depending on what time we get there."
"You're goin' out t'eat? Without me?"
JD stopped and looked at Dillon. "Dill ... do you want to come on the investigation with us?"
"All right then. It's your choice."
"I don' want you guys goin' either."
"Sorry, that's not possible."
JD set the bags beside the front door, Dillon close behind him with the rest of the bags.
"Thanks," he said absently, taking them from Dillon and stacking them with the others. "Let me get my list and make sure I got everything I'll need."
"Man," Dillon moaned. "This sucks, dude."
"It is what it is. Okay, let me see ..."
JD slowly walked toward the kitchen, looking at the printed list on the 3 x 5 index card in his hand.
"It ain't like ya never broke a promise b'fore or nothin'."
"I don't break my promises," JD answered absently, still looking over the list.
"Yes you do. Chump."
"No I don't."
"You promised me in 5th grade that in 6th grade you weren't gonna be a geek no more. You been breakin' that promise every year since."
"Oh, stop it."
"I just don't like it, dude. I gotta bad feelin' about this."
"You mean like intuition?"
"No, like a gut feelin' an' crap."
"Do ... do you know what 'intuition' is, Dill?"
"Look, all I'm sayin' is, I got this feelin' somethin' bad's gonna happen t'you guys up there. You should call this off, dude."
JD sighed again. "Dillon ... I'm trying to be patient with you. The entire trip is most likely going to turn out to be absolutely nothing but a few squirrels in the attic, or someone talking in the hallway and voices carrying through the ventilation system. We're being put up for free, fed with 5-star food, and have the entire resort to ourselves. There's wireless Internet access throughout the entire hotel, a store, and a fantastic view of a valley. It's going to be a vacation and a lot of fun. And since you refuse to join us, it's a perfect chance for me to be alone with Wendy in an extremely romantic setting."
"Until you die."
"No one's going to die."
"You so are."
"No, I'm not. Wendy's not going to either. And you'll be fine here."
"Aw man ... you gonna at least call once in a while??"
"Yes, mother. I'll call you once in a while. If I'm not busy."
"Wendy will be here soon. I'm packed. Are you going to help me move this stuff into the car?"
"What 'bout food for me? How'm I s'posedta eat?"
"There's food in the fridge, and if I recall correctly, there are no fewer than three grocery stores all over town, countless fast food restaurants, a Denny's, a buffet, and a mall with a food court. I think you'll be okay."
Dillon pouted. "Yeah. I'll help yer ugly ass."
"Thank you." JD watched Dillon staring down at his Chuck Taylors quietly. "Do you want to come with us?"
"All right then. You have my cell number -- for emergencies -- call if you need to."
"What counts for emergencies."
JD shook his head. "You're going to be fine. Try not to destroy the house while we're gone. Clean up after yourself."
"Dude. I've lived on my own before, y'know."
"Clean up after yourself, please." JD strode into the kitchen and sat at the peninsula, going over his list again.
Dillon exhaled loudly through his lips, flapping them together. He pushed himself off the wall he'd been leaning on and paced the floor, staring through the picture window in the living room at the street outside.
"Wen's here, dude." His voice was soft and hollow.
JD got up as Dillon opened the door, and Wendy swept in, all dazzling smile, wafting auburn locks and sparkling eyes. JD smiled instantly, his chest warming internally as he saw her come in.
"Hi, Dilly!" she said, throwing her arms around Dillon's neck and hugging him hard. He held her tightly.
"Mmm! Good to see you, sweetie," she said, pecking him on the cheek.
He laid his head on her shoulder. She giggled and hugged him again, then tried to pull away. Dillon didn't release his embrace, and hid his face from her.
"Um ... did you miss me, Dilly?"
"Uh-huh," he said into her coat.
"It's ... good to see you."
"You ... you can let go now, Dilly. We have to leave."
"Dillon's not going with us, Wendy," JD interjected as he approached her.
Her head snapped around in shock, her jaw dropping open. "What??"
She pushed hard and finally separated from Dillon, his face sad, his eyes not meeting her gaze. "Dilly? You're ... you're not going?"
He shook his head.
"Why?" Wendy stepped back, her eyes stinging with unexpected tears, her hand going instinctively over her mouth. "Why? Are you ... are you mad at us or something?"
"No," Dillon said quickly, taking her hand, "naw. Nothin' like that. It's all good. I just ... I don' ... I dunno. I got a bad feelin' about this one, Wen. I don' think you an' dumb-ass should go."
"JD, he has to come, he's part of our -- team."
"I asked him repeatedly. He doesn't want to come along."
"Dilly," she said softly, her voice wounded. "Dilly, you gotta come, hon. It won't be as much fun without you."
"Wen," Dillon said, his face worried, "I really don't think it's a good idea. I mean, y'know, with all th' crap that went down las' time ... somebody coulda got hurt, y'know? I think ... I think this time someone will get hurt, but Jackass won't listen ta me."
"Oh, Dilly ... sweetie, it's probably nothing. Most of the time they aren't."
"What're you, a cult dude?" Dillon said, scowling at JD. "You got her brainwashed t'say th' same shit as you."
"I don't have anyone brainwashed, Dillon, it's just true. The last time was an anomaly. This time it won't be that way."
"Aw, man ... Wen, I ... I -- I really think you guys oughtta call this off, man."
"I told you I can't do that. But if you think Wendy can be convinced, now is your opportunity." JD folded his arms across his chest and raised his eyebrows at Dillon.
"Wen," Dillon said softly, "don't go. It's gonna be all messed up. Don't go."
Wendy wiped a tear from her cheek. "Oh, Dilly ... I'm going. It's going to be a good time. I wanted us all to have fun. I ..." She trailed off, and wiped another tear. "I'm going to miss you, Dilly."
He sighed. JD shrugged. "I told you."
There was a moment with the three of them just standing there. JD finally moved first. "We have to go, Wen. I'll get these things into the car and then load your bags, too."
She nodded, and threw her arms around Dillon's neck. "Behave yourself, Dilly."
She pulled back, tears welling in her eyes again. "Hey, it's only a week. I'll see you when we get back. We'll have a pizza, okay?"
Dillon's face was pained, frightened and worried all at once. He finally made himself nod, and a tear streamed over his stubbled cheek.
Wendy hugged him again, and Dillon grabbed the rest of the bags and carried them out to JD's car. He was arranging them in the trunk when Wendy came and brought along her own luggage. JD was surprised at her having one large bag and a small overnight case.
"Is that ... is that all you have?"
She tipped her head. "Yeah, why?"
"I - I don't know. I expected more."
"I'm very efficient. It's only a week, right?"
"Yes, but ... I guess I expected more, that's all. I thought women packed more heavily."
"I got everything I needed in there. And who needs clothes for sleeping?" She bit her lower lip teasingly while watching JD blush deeply.
Dillon placed the last of the bags into the trunk, and JD shut it. They stood there, staring at each other.
"Well." JD finally said. "I ... guess we'd better ... get going."
"Yeah," Wendy agreed. "We have a long drive."
Dillon was silent, eyes downcast.
Wendy embraced him again. "Bye, Dilly. See you soon, okay?"
He held her tightly and nodded against her cheek. They parted and Wendy opened the passenger door of JD's car, watching Dillon as she slid into the seat. JD watched Dillon closely as he opened the door, but they didn't exchange words. Finally, JD got in and closed the door.
They started the car, and JD did a slow U-turn, passing the house. Dillon stood on the curb, hands tucked into his pockets. JD slowed the car to near a crawl, watching his friend standing in the street, just watching them. They began to creep away, and Wendy wiped her face again as fresh tears rolled from her eyes.
JD was looking in the mirror, his face long and heart heavy, as he gradually pulled away from the house.
Dillon watched the car receding down the street, gaining speed.
"WAIT!" he screamed, bolting after the car, flailing his arms, "JD, WAIT FOR ME, MAN!! WAIT FOR ME!! JDWAITFORMEMAN!!!"
JD slammed on the brakes and parked the car, jumping out with a smile on his face. Dillon raced up to him, looking confused and alarmed.
"I ... I guess I'll go," he said softly, clearing his throat. "I mean ... yeah, I'm good. I'll go."
JD grinned broadly, the two friends standing in the middle of the street. Without a word, they hugged hard for a moment. Then they parted, stepping back from one another quickly, checking to make sure they hadn't been seen.
"So ... yeah. I'm all good."
"Me too," JD said, coughing into his fist and getting back into the car. "How long do you need to pack?"
"Oh yeah," Dillon said, "I guess I'll need clothes an' stuff."