“Thanks, Helen,” Ben said as he takes the pack from her. In return he reaches into his pocket and slowly hands her the note he wrote earlier. “Give this to my mum if I’m not back by tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t say that! You’ll be back before the sun comes up,” Helen takes the note and stuffs it into her coat pocket. “And we’ll be right here waiting for you. Just be careful and bring back some kind of proof that we’re telling the truth.”
“I’ll do my best. Well…I guess I’d better be going.” Ben hesitates then gives the girls a short hug and shakes Kevin’s hand like an adult.
“You sure I shouldn’t come with you? “ Kevin asks.
“I’m sure. You need to stay here in case anyone asks where I am. You’re my alibi, remember? Plus you need to protect the girls while I’m gone.”
“I know,” Kevin nods. “But it just doesn’t seem right to let you go by yourself. It could be dangerous, you know.”
“I’ll be okay, but I better be going.” Ben tries to smile as fear crawls up his shaky legs. He turns towards the base of the big tree and pushes the backpack into a hole hidden between the tree’s roots. Getting down on his belly, he crawls through the opening without making a sound. The soles of his shoes are the last of him to be seen before he disappears into the darkness.