Short Summary:

A “Daria” Christmas Special.

Daria and related characters are property of MTV and Noggin. Horatio, Chris, Calais, and other Harpies, are mine. No copyright infringement intended.


Christmas days in Lawndale. Part I - the Lane style


By Bacner (


“Casa Lane,” Lawndale (Essex County, Massachusetts)


“I wish all a merry Christmas, I wish all a merry Christmas, I wish all a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!” Jane Lane was singing outloud, safe in the comforts of Casa Lane. Well, in relative comfort anyways, ‘cause Casa Lane wasn’t that comfortable or secure, compared to other houses - even that of Morgendorffers’. They, at least, were all home for Christmas.

“Talking again to yourself, Lane? Sounds like you’ve got dementia, or something!”

Well, apparently, that went for almost all of them. “Daria?” Jane turned around. “Why aren’t you at your place?”

“Did you see the weather outside?”

“Hm-m? The weather outside? What about it?”

“Remember the time we got heat with that hurricane? Well, now it’s a snowstorm, worse than the one we had in the mountains, remember?”

Jane looked outside. “Whoa, whoa, and whoa-hoa-hoa! You sure you don't want to trudge it through the snow, singing Christmas carols along the way?”

Daria shook her head. “I check the Morgendorffers’ answering machine. Dad is snowed-in at his office, mom - at hers. Quinn and the rest of her fashion clique are at the Millennium Mall. It seems that Y2K if not quite here, then it is coming here in style!”

Jane shrugged. She may always wanted to be alone on a holiday with a television dinner, but Daria’s company was good and tolerable enough, and besides, judging from the weather, a good person would not send a dog or a cat out, let alone another person. “Very well Daria, you may stay,” she said. “Pity that Trent isn't here, you know? Bet then this place would be warm enough for even me!”

Daria paused, giving Jane an evil eye. “You know, the only reason why you’re still living is because I do not want to spend a snowstorm in an empty, alien house. If this was my place, you’d be struck dead already.”

“By lightning? This happens only in a cyclone,” Jane snorted.

“And aren't we just a little Miss Weather Network,” Daria replied.

“Nah, not really. Just that some of older Lanes once brought forth a black-and-white movie called “Vertical Ascent”, and it talked about some alpinists scaling a mountain. There was this cyclone, and, you know-“

“I’m surprised that you didn't try to paint no mountains,” Daria shrugged.

Jane looked peevish. “I can’t do them Daria, seriously. When it comes to landscape painting, I can do forests or open spaces; I just can’t do no mountains! It’s extremely frustrating!”

“Why is it so?”

Jane shrugged. “Search me; ask my muse; I have no answer.”

It was Daria’s turn to shrug. “Good point; but cyclone or no cyclone, I am damn glad that Li didn’t try to pull off no Wilderness Adventure Weekend this time. It’d be a disaster even for Lawndale!”

“Aw, come on, last time you and I made it fine!”

“Yeah, to miles off course! We're lucky that it was my folks and DeMartino, who awaited us at point B, you know?”

“Excuse me? I seem to remember a $50 worth of hush money because of your folks and DeMartino.”

“Come on! ‘Popeye the Sailor Man? Toot, toot!’? Lane, you’re not insane?”

“Point taken,” Daria shrugged. “Let’s change the topic. So where are your folks?”

Jane shrugged. “I'll be damned if I know.”


Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan


“We're happy, Mr. Lane, that you’ve come to us to help us complete our photo-essé,” the tall Azeri man was telling Vincent Lane. “Now those corrupt bastards in Baky won't be able to close their eyes on what their precious friends in Mother Russia are doing to our nature!”

Vincent Lane nodded absent-mindedly. Ever since he began to work as a free-lance photographer, he learned that unbiased and unattached nature worked best for him. His current clients will stay (or at least plan to stay) here, in Azerbaijan, while he… well, he might be working for “those corrupt bastards in Baky”, or “their precious friends in Mother Russia” - it all was more chancy and less orderly than a game of cards. “And the war never ends, if your whole world depends, on a turn of a friendly card”, Vincent Lane hummed softly under his nose.

Well, he certainly could say that. Once a hippy, Vincent Lane quickly realized that no protests could change the world; “the man” was bigger than D.C., and besides - he liked to photography. But ordinary, selective photography, couldn’t properly feed even him and Amanda - and Amanda, damn her, seemed to be popping kids every other time he returned after a long photo-shoot. Vincent had a sneaking suspicion that those kids weren't his at all - or at least not all of them. Oh well. While he wasn’t Charles Ruttheimer Jr. or Steve Taylor, who were really hang-up on sex, he wasn’t that loyal to his wife either. Quite possible, in some part of the world or other, there was a kid with his colouring and some really weird facial features. Oh well.

“Mr. Lane, we’re here?”

Vincent took a full-length view of the large mountain-side cave. “So this is it?” he asked his entourage - a man and a woman. “Very lovely.”

That was true, of course - the mountains were impressive, even if Vincent was no alpinist; but this statement was also a bit of a suck-up - those never were out of place, if you were dealing with fierce patriots of any country - always praise national landscape - you’ll never know the difference that it’ll make.

“Why thank you,” the woman nodded. “Well then, the apparati seems to be properly established, let’s shoot?”

“All right,” Vincent nodded, turning completely professional. “So what are the orders?”

“First - shoot the mouth, the cave’s opening,” the man said. “Then a couple of interiour shots.”

“All right.” Vincent cast a critical gaze around, calculated the sun’s angle and camera’s reflection and best shooting distance, and took a shot a photo.

With a big, big flash.

Instantly, there was a flutter of wings, and millions, billions, trillions of bats came fluttering out, their mouths open and ready to bite.

And bite they did.

The bats’ squeals cluttering his ears, Vincent Lane thought that he never ever thought that he was going to die on a Caucasian mountainside from bitten to death by a bunch of mutant bats.


Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming


“Oh boy, oh joy!” Amanda Lane rubbed her hands with excitement. “I knew that coming here was a good idea!”

Amanda Lane was in a very good mood, and she felt that she had every right to be. She was standing in the Yellowstone National Park, watching as Old Faithful and other geysers discharged their hot water charges into the air. Amanda scratched, accidentally remembering something that Courtney and Adrian told her:

…Deep in the heart of Urborg lie massive volcanoes whose thick black smoke covers the land with perpetual darkness.

Amanda shook her head. From where did that come from? Courtney and Adrian weren't that hang-up on the modern-day game cards; the last thing she heard they and Summer were somewhere in Arizona.

Amanda shook her head. What on earth did possess her to name her oldest daughter Summer? It was probably Vincent’s fault, for not caring one thing. Vincent was a nice person deep inside, but as he travelled the world and his view broadened, he seemed to be growing more and more cynical - something that was not good for an artist or an artisan of any sort. Instead, Vincent was seemingly growing more politically-based every time they met, which weren’t often, not lately.

Amanda looked thoughtful. Maybe Helen had been right, all those years ago. Maybe it hadn’t been such a good match, her and Vincent. In fact, Helen was probably right - Vincent proposed to her only to escape the military draft. Maybe, just maybe, they should’ve stayed friends. And maybe, just maybe…

Amanda stiffened. Something was wrong. The ground was shaking. She must’ve let her mind wonder for too long. It happened once, in Tanzania, on Serengeti Plain. And as once before, back then, when a rhino chased her and Vince all the way to a nearest baobab, Amanda put forth an amazing burst of speed, climbing quickly the nearest fur tree!


A geyser blew-up - the same geyser over which Amanda was standing scant minutes before. “It’s a good thing that I have good reactions,” Amanda muttered to herself. “Otherwise I would’ve gotten such an enema, that I would never need one again.”

Amanda sighed, and began to climb down. Climb up was easy, climbing down - that was the challenge!


Flagstaff, Arizona


“Any idea where they can be?” Summer Lane snapped angrily at a completely innocent desk clerk. “Look buster: you talked rings around me for hours now; now did you see my kids or not?”

The desk clerk - whose last name was Mormot - paled. He remembered the imps passing through. The “dynamic duo” had completely trashed the hotel, and all he had received from them was some sort of a pseudo-wise saying.

…Whether for good or ill, their arrival always means change.

“Yes, that’s them,” Summer nodded. “Ever since they hooked up on that stupid card game, they been quoting off it for months. In which direction did they leave?”

“In that-a way, Madame,” the young man replied, doing a gradual sweep of his arm.

“Don't be a show-off!” Summer growled. “Tell me in which exact direction did they leave? Or what I am going to do to your place and to you will make their deeds look pale and anaemic in comparison! Where did they go?”

The young man sighed. Talk about a perfect man-trap! Looks quite touchy and beautiful, but got sharper teeth than a manticore! I think I heard a police record of two juvenile car thieves matching the description of your kids. They were driving towards Little Colorado.”

“What’s Little Colorado?”

“A river in the state’s northeast. I think they were going to cross it or something.”

Summer paled. “Oh F*ck. They’re going to some national park or monument there - got to go!” she raced-off.

The clerk sighed. That was some f*cked-up family.


North Las Vegas, Nevada


“How do I always get in those messes?” Wind Lane whined to no one in particular.

“You got me,” his inmate shrugged. “What are you here for, Colombo?”

Wind crossed his eyes in distaste. He was a mature, educated man, dammit! Why couldn’t he find onto himself a proper woman and wife?”

“Please don’t call me that,” he said. “The name’s Lane. Wind Lane. I’m here for-“

“Wait, wait, let me guess. From your kosher outlook and attitude, I'll say - fraud or alimony problems.”

“The latter, I’m afraid,” Wind sighed. “And who are you, and why are you here?”

“The name’s Horatio, mate,” the man looked down at Wind.

“Like Shakespeare?”

“One’d wish! No, my da - he was a really educated man, all that antique literature and stuff. Got a brother named Petrionius, and another one named Ovid, and so I am Horatio. But you can call Parrot. I don’t mind.”

“So what are you here for?”

Parrot-Horatio sighed. “Various things. Lockpicking, mainly.”

“Then why’re you still here?”

“It’s not easy, mate, nor simple. Busting out is the easy part, it’s what to do next is hard. Besides, I have no place to go.”

“I have,” Wind said slyly.

“Oh? Where?”

“In Bozeman, Montana.”

“Bozeman, Montana, eh?” Parrot said. “That a mighty long distance, one that would require cash - and a bundle of it to make. ‘Course, it’s a mighty fine hidey-hole to go to when you’re in trouble down here in Nevada.” He looked calculatingly at Wind. “You got any money stashed away, Domicello?”

Wind almost grimaced in distaste, but held himself in check. He did need this guy, after all. “Yes, I got some money stashed. In Vegas proper,” he said. “Can't be a scam artist without learning those things, you know?”

“A scam artist, eh? And about alimonies?”

“That’s my scam,” Wind shrugged. “To my other people - mainly my mom and dad - I’m a flake that can’t get married; but let me tell you, my friend-“

“Wait a sec!” Horatio quickly skidded down to Wind. “Here’s the thing. You go there, watch-out for the guards and continue to create a soundproof distraction, while I work on the lock.”

“How long will it take?” Wind asked nervously.

Horatio smirked. “You're a scam artist, I’m a lockpicking artist. Not long.”


San Lorenzo, Honduras


‘I knew I shouldn’t have left Nicaragua!’ Penny mentally told herself. ‘Heck, I should’ve never ever come to Central America in the first place! Back in Kitimat, British Columbia, I could’ve had a booming business roaring, but no, I had to come to arts-and-crafts homeland, Honduras and Nicaragua!’

That, as far as Penny could see, was a bust. In Corinto, Nicaragua, fair enough, things were pretty down; but compared to Ampala and San Lorenzo in Honduras, things were pretty good down there. ‘Unfortunately, I cannot go that way - my big mouth and Glue took care of that,’ Penny thought acidly. It was bad enough that the local separatists of Aguacatec race were planning to storm Tegucigalpa and conquer the whole damn country; even worse were those refugees from El Salvador (foreign provokers, most likely) were urging the separatists forward; worser still were the separatists’ mercenary “allies”, who cared little for politics, but plenty for cash; no, the worst thing in this mess, Penny thought was Glue.

Or whatever he called himself these days.

Glue, Penny knew though and through, was trouble. The first time he and Penny met was in Quebec, where he was working for the Quebec separatists. Penny, of course, was then young and foolish and more interested in the Tete de Boule Cree and Algonquin native art, but Glue caught her eye even then.

Only back then he wasn’t Glue, but Louis. Louis something, she couldn't remember his last name. That wasn't the point anyways. The point was, was even back then in the tender times of teenage years, Glue was someone bad. He was an anarchist and a blatant anti-capitalist, if pressed hard enough. He was also a ‘good and thorough’ follower of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, and his dream was to herd the populace of some small country to happiness with an iron hand. That Penny learned a few years later after Quebec, when she was in what would become later Nunavut, studying art of Naskapi and Labrador Inuit. And guess what - Glue popped up there too.

Only now his name wasn’t Louis Something, it was Robert. Robert Zimmerman, and he was by then quite mercenary; in fact he was a member of a small group of mercenaries, hired by the government of Northwest Territories, stirring trouble between the two ethic groups.

And it was then Penny and Glue came into first contact. Penny became sort of indebted to Glue (being saved from a rabid polar bear does that to people, even to a daughter of Vincent and Amanda Lane), and sort of worked for a while with him and the mercenaries, till the separation of Nunavut became unavoidable.

Still, back then Glue - Robert Zimmerman, or whatever - was still learning the ropes. Back then he was clearly unhappy working for a capitalist government, and was planning to do some for an autocratic one later. Whether that was because the payment was higher or his ideology fire was going-on brighter, Penny wasn’t so sure.

Now, however, that was no longer the case. Glue was still with his old chums, only now he was promoted to a higher position, and was using his advantage to go even higher, to become more notorious. Then again, as Penny listened to Glue’s plan of doing things to trains and ‘choppers, he had also gained much experience. Last time they met, Glue could only talk in various English and French dialects; now he apparently knew Spanish and Portuguese too.

“He’s a smart man, no?” a man spoke next to Penny.

Penny crossed her Alcuado was a metiso, a cross-breed, and a former cattle rustler. He was also damn good with a knife, a gun, and a lasso. In short, somebody to be reckoned with. Then again, probably every person in the room was somebody to be reckoned with, as Glue pointed out. He was like that, this Glue - always saw the most potential in people. Unfortunately, he used his gift for evil - or maybe he was evil. Yes, that’s it, he was evil, and so was everybody else in this room - only not as evil as Glue.

“Then what am I doing here?” Penny mumbled. “God, was it only because I helped rustle some drugs over the border?” Yeah, that must be it. She rustled some drugs in company of Alcuado next to her, and couple of Spaniards - close comrades of Alcuado. And as a result, she got recruited by Glue and his co-workers.

Penny groaned. All she wanted at this point was to safely return home, and… “God, if I ever return home, I'll make a candle to the Blessed Virgin out of a pound of wax with my own hands,” Penny silently prayed. “Please, let me return home in alive and in one piece!”


Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona


“This has got to be the most embarrassing moment in our whole lives at this point,” Courtney was saying to Adrian. “I mean, when you think about it via hindsight - two kids stuck on a 220-million-year-old tree, chased there by a crazed wild pig, that’s got to be something for a family album.”

Adrian thought about it. “Nah,” he said. “I heard once that in Africa grandma Amanda got treed by a rhino. Compared to him our wild pig is no big thing.”

“Not unless it is compared to us!” Courtney groaned. “I wanted to Wupatki National Monument and all that; instead here we are, freezing our asses of a cold, cold rock of a tree, looking down at a boar that’s been overdosed testosterone by Mother Nature! If only we had a gun…”

“If only we had Rufus,” Adrian replied, thinking. Rufus was the pet of Summer and her family - supposedly an Airedale, but as big as a donkey and with similarly-tuned attitude. He wiped the floor with Adrian, Courtney and their siblings from time to time. Adrian was willing to bet that Rufus would’ve wiped the whole National Park with that lame-d*ck pig.

Actually, it wasn't a pig; it was peccary. While the actual biological differences were too fine to be pondered upon by any person but the most stalwart biologist, the crunch was this: this male peccary was in heat, but since he lost his heard to a younger rival, he was about to take-out his frustrations on two youngest Lanes freely.

Well, he would’ve, if he could just reach them. Courtney and Adrian, apparently, got something of their grandma Amanda in them, for they scaled the petrified tree in a matter of minutes - something that they wouldn't be able to repeat for a long time.

However, at this point in time, neither kid was able to recognize it. All they wanted was that damn pig to find somebody else to bother, or, possibly, to hump. Looking at how… excited he was, the two kids had their doubts that the pig wanted to kill them; in fact, Courtney secretly hoped that the pig wouldn't go and relieve his frustrations on them in no other way.

As Courtney was thinking those hardly encouraging thoughts, the pig squalled. It wasn’t a “wee-wee-wee-wee” of a pig from a Mother Goose rhyme; it was more a shrill squeal that penetrated the kids’ skulls and caused their already fickle grasps to weaken on cold, cold stone tree.

“Mommy!” the pair yelled, abandoning their maturity to the winds. “Mommy!”

“I hear you!” Summer yelled, appearing out of nowhere. “Yo, you prig! Bugger off and live my kids alone!”

The pig roared. Admittedly, it was a somewhat of an oinking roar than the type associating with lions and tigers and bears, but it was a roar still, and a quite good one, too.

Then the pig charged.

And Summer fled.

Courtney and Adrian watched wide-eyed as their mom re-appeared a moment later, driving a car. Before their open eyes the vehicle smashed into a pig and smashed itself and the pig I a petrified tree behind them.

Unfortunately, that was the same petrified tree that Courtney and Adrian were hanging-on.

However, at that moment more genes of grandma Amanda activated, and the pair leapt scant moments before the big


The car blew-up, effectively scattering its’ own parts, the pig’s guts and tree’s chips all over Courtney, Adrian, and their mother.

The kids looked at each other. “Got anything to say, kids?” Summer asked two of her four children sternly.

Adrian paused. He remembered something…

…As a rite of passage, Kipamu youths taunt razorbacks with long sticks … then flee.

…but he doubted that it would be appropriate at this moment. He and his sister shook their heads. “No,” they said in unison.

“Then let’s go,” Summer said in a no-nonsense tone.

“Where to?”

“Away from here?”

“That’s not what we meant,” Courtney shook her head.

Summer sighed. The shock was obviously wearing-off. “How about Zuni? It’s a pueblo in New Mexico,” she suggested.

Neither of the kids knew what a pueblo was, and they did want to get out of this national park badly, so they nodded agreement.

And so, the three Lanes left. Together.


Mall of the Millennium, Lawndale (Essex County, Massachusetts)


“This sucks,” Trent turned to Nick. “Any idea where Monique and her Harpies are? We could really use ‘Leviathan’s’ snow-plough nose-thingy, you know?”

Max heard that. “Aw, come on! We’ve already got my Tank! It’s indestructible!”

“We don't need to destroy it - unless we’re going to use it for a bonfire,” Nick snapped. “What we need is a damn snow plough with a whole lot of horsepower behind it to push!”

“Yeah, well, my Tank got a whole of push, you-“

“Jesse!” Trent hurriedly interrupted the other two. “What’s the sitch?”

“Bad,” Jesse replied in his usual manner.

“We know that it’s bad, Jesse,” Trent sighed tiredly. “What we need to know is how. Can the Tank make it?”

“Nah-ah,” a perky young red-head popped from behind the largest member of Mystik Spiral. “It’s up to his waist.”

“Daria’s sister. What’re you doing here?”

“I was shopping, but now I’m stuck here you with you all.”

“You can always get unstuck,” Trent suggested helpfully. Daria’s younger sister wasn't what they needed at all.

“Nah-ah,” Quinn shook her head. “If I get to get stuck in a snow-bound mall, I'll get stuck with the people I know won't take advantage of me.”

“Your friends?” Trent asked curtly. He couldn’t tell Daria’s sister to get lost after all; Daria would eat him alive for that.

“We got separated from each other in the throng. It’s a real, what was that word Daria used - ah, yes, Hodynka when the lights flickered out. I was lucky enough to find him,” Quinn pointed at Jesse.

“He has a name,” Trent said irritably.

“What-ever. Look, you guys got a very big van - can’t you drive it or something?”

“That’s what I was telling them!” Max perked-up. “My Tank isn’t one of those flimsy passenger cars - it’s indestructible!”

Trent sighed. “Look, Daria’s sister, and you too Max. The Tank is a mighty powerful car, fair enough. But it doesn’t have a plough to push the snow before and away from it - without one it’ll flounder like the rest of them. And the Harpies’ ‘Leviathan’ got one of them attached - for this reason, I'll bet.” Trent paused. “Say, Daria’s sister - do you have a cell phone?”

“Well yeah, why?”

“Couldn't you phone Daria or Janey and let them know what’s up?”

Quinn and Jesse simultaneously shook their heads. “I tried already,” Quinn said irritably. “Daria’s at your and your sister’s place, and I can't contact them for some reason.”

Trent sighed, remembering the procrastinated phone bill of Casa Lane. “Nevermind,” he said glumly.

“Why do you need my sister for anyways?” Quinn asked, curiously.

“To contact Monique!” Trent sighed in exasperation. “The ‘Leviathan’ is just what we need.”

“Oh? Really?” Quinn perked-up suddenly. “Then that’s okay. Me too got Monique’s cell phone’s number - lemme try!”

Now it was time for Mystik Spiral to perk up. With eyes aglow with hope they watched as Quinn dialled Monique’s number. “Hello? Monique? This is Daria’s sister - can you talk to Trent?”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale (Essex County, Massachusetts)


“Well, this is depressing,” Daria sighed loudly. “I never thought I'll say that, but I’m really depressed. This is almost as bad as getting stuck on a mountain.”

“Hey, we’re warmer than back then, at least,” Jane argued.

Daria gave her partner-in-crime an evil eye. “That's a fact, oh mighty guru? How ‘bout the fact that we’re sitting in the middle of your living room, fully dressed, draped with some spare blankets, almost next to your mother’s kiln - fully functional one, by the way - and we still don't feel too toasty warm, eh?”

“Daria, chill,” Jane paused. “Wrong word there. It’s just that you’re depressed that the TV doesn't work. “I honour and respect you as a friend, you know that?”


“So don’t take it too personally Jane, but your TV, your telephone, your central heating - they all don't work! Basically, we stuck in an elaborately-shaped plywood-and-cement box to keep the freezing cold out - and it’s a very thin-skinned box too. Jane, I've been in warmer cars than this.”

“Me too,” Jane sighed. “’Course, Trent probably didn't pack as  much heat for me as he did for you, eh?”

Daria turned towards Jane, the look on her bespectacled face slightly manic. “Jane, don't mess with me, girl-friend. At this rate, they’ll won’t find your corpse till all the snow melts - and it hasn't finished falling, either.”

Jane edged away slightly. Her words obviously didn't do the reaction she hoped they would have. “Look, Daria, maybe…”

There was a knock on the door. “Who is it?” Jane yelled loudly.

“Janey? Is Daria with you? Come out quickly - the snow grows higher as I speak?”

Neither girl wasted anytime - since they were fully dressed. They just grasped their blankets, instinctively turned-off the kiln and raced outside, where two vans - Spiral’s Tank and Harpies’ Leviathan were waiting. The Tank’s door was open. Daria and Jane almost literally dived into it - the wind was blazing cold - and it slammed shut.

“Where are we going?” Daria asked, her teeth chattering. The void-gazing was getting too close for comfort to her.

“To your house, Daria,” Trent replied, sighing. “Ours is probably nothing more than a plywood-and-cement box at this point.”

Daria sighed herself. “Sure. You provide the transportation, we provide the housing.”

Trent nodded into the depth of the van. “Monique?” Quinn voice came from that direction. “Tell your driver to go-go-go!

Roaring, the vans drove off, their taillights vanishing in the deepening evening dusk.


Epilogue: the morning after


Daria awoke from the sun shining brightly in her face. “Where were you the day before?” she exhaled, loudly.

“At the mall,” replied the sun in a completely Quinn-like voice.

Daria’s eyes flashed-open. “Wha-? Ha-? What the-?”

“Daria, chill!” Quinn looked from the other side of the bed. “Don't you remember anything?”

“After we all got to Chateau Morgendorffer - not a thing,” Daria shook her head.

“Me neither!” Jane looked-up from the couch in Quinn’s bedroom. “Me and Daria just barged into the first warm room and fell asleep.”

“Yeah, my room,” Quinn said grouchily. “I had to take-off your boots and stuff. Ew!”

“Poor Quinn,” Jane smirked. “And there me and your sister were, yesterday, freezing our asses off at Casa Lane.”

“You mean the plywood-and-cement box with very thin walls?” Quinn replied, half-mockingly. “Still, I think the weather crisis is over - what was it yesterday? Another hurricane?”

“I’m leaning towards a blizzard or a snowstorm,” Daria shook her head. “Where are the others?”

“In your room or in the parents’ bedroom,” Quinn shrugged. “You go and talk to them. They’re your friends - mainly.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jane grunted, getting up. “So what happened yesterday?”

“I ran into them at the mall yesterday, got Monique on my cell for Trent, Monique and the Harpies came on their Dragon Wagon, and all of us hightailed it out of there, stopping only briefly for you two.”

“And the others?”

“The road was becoming re-covered behind the Tank as we watched,” Quinn shook her head. “No do, I'm afraid.”

“Yo youngsters - you up?” Monique stuck her head in the door. “By the way - nice room, Daria. Very Gothic and depressing.”

“Thanks,” Daria replied, as she, Jane and Quinn also exited the room. She paused, suddenly. “What’s that noise?”

“Oh, it’s just Jesse and Effïndïe, making for all of us a major omelette with green onions. There are portions for you three too.”

Quinn opened her mouth to complain, then closed it. After yesterday she couldn't be too choosy, and besides, there were probably eleven or so people in the house - how big a portion could she get? Besides, she was curious, as to what would an omelette with green onions taste like? Therefore, she said nothing.

Daria, however, wasn't satisfied. “I don’t think so, Monique. That sound sounded more like…”

“Hey, Daria’s parents,” Trent’s voice came from downstairs. “Cool morning, no?”

The next moment the combined yells of Jake and Helen shook the house.


Christmas days in Lawndale. Part II - Arse deep in trouble and a snow pile - such are the holidays, Lane family style!



“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale (Essex County, Massachusetts) 9:30 AM.


Daria awoke from the sun shining brightly in her face. “Where were you the day before?” she exhaled, loudly.

“At the mall,” replied the sun in a completely Quinn-like voice.

Daria’s eyes flashed-open. “Wha-? Ha-? What the-?”

“Daria, chill!” Quinn looked from the other side of the bed. “Don't you remember anything?”

“After we all got to Chateau Morgendorffer - not a thing,” Daria shook her head.

“Me neither!” Jane looked-up from the couch in Quinn’s bedroom. “Me and Daria just barged into the first warm room and fell asleep.”

“Yeah, my room,” Quinn said grouchily. “I had to take-off your boots and stuff. Ew!”

“Poor Quinn,” Jane smirked. “And there me and your sister were, yesterday, freezing our asses off at Casa Lane.”

“You mean the plywood-and-cement box with very thin walls?” Quinn replied, half-mockingly. “Still, I think the weather crisis is over - what was it yesterday? Another hurricane?”

“I’m leaning towards a blizzard or a snowstorm,” Daria shook her head. “Where are the others?”

“In your room or in the parents’ bedroom,” Quinn shrugged. “You go and talk to them. They’re your friends - mainly.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jane grunted, getting up. “So what happened yesterday?”

“I ran into them at the mall yesterday, got Monique on my cell for Trent, Monique and the Harpies came on their Dragon Wagon, and all of us hightailed it out of there, stopping only briefly for you two.”

“And the others?”

“The road was becoming re-covered behind the Tank as we watched,” Quinn shook her head. “No do, I'm afraid.”

“Yo youngsters - you up?” Monique stuck her head in the door. “By the way - nice room, Daria. Very Gothic and depressing.”

“Thanks,” Daria replied, as she, Jane and Quinn also exited the room. She paused, suddenly. “What’s that noise?”

“Oh, it’s just Jesse and Effïndïe, making for all of us a major omelette with green onions. There are portions for you three too.”

Quinn opened her mouth to complain, then closed it. After yesterday she couldn't be too choosy, and besides, there were probably eleven or so people in the house - how big a portion could she get? Besides, she was curious, as to what would an omelette with green onions taste like? Therefore, she said nothing.

Daria, however, wasn't satisfied. “I don’t think so, Monique. That sound sounded more like…”

“Hey, Daria’s parents,” Trent’s voice came from downstairs. “Cool morning, no?”

The next moment the combined yells of Jake and Helen shook the house.


“That’s what I was afraid of,” Daria sighed, and she and Quinn, followed by Jane and Monique, raced downstairs.

Downstairs, white-faced Jake and Helen surveyed their house, finding it somewhat altered, and not to their liking.

“Mom! Dad!” Quinn and Daria raced quickly to their parents and hugged them. “You're alright!”

“Yes, that we were,” Helen replied, softening down somewhat, “even if we have been stuck in big dark buildings for over twelve hours. But back to you two - what’s going on?”

“Oh, that’s just Daria’s friend’s brother’s band and the band of his girlfriend.”

“What? What kind of a den do you think this is, young men?” Helen’s gimlet gaze settled on Trent, who looked very uncomfortable.

“Look, mom, they all saved me and Jane from freezing alive, I wager,” Daria quickly began to explain.

“Actually, it was Quinn’s cell phone that really saved the day,” Monique pointed-out.

“Oh? Well let’s go and eat and me and Jake can hear it all there,” Helen said, softening.

At that moment Jesse and Effïndïe appeared from the Morgendorffers’ kitchen. “Breakfast is ready, everybody.”

“Uh, Jess - we have two more people it seems. Thirteen, not eleven.”

“’S all right, we made enough for twenty,” Jesse shrugged. “Come in as soon as you’re ready and get it hot.” The pair vanished back into the kitchen.

Helen and Jake stared at the pair. “Ah, is she-?” Jake finally said, meaning Effïndïe’s memorable features.

“According to my sister - Allaine, Alexa or Alecto, call her what you will - Effïndïe’s part Arabic part Persian. Beyond that - I have no answers,” Monique shook her head. “Let’s go into the kitchen instead. I don’t know anything about you, folks, but after last night, I’m really ready for some hot food. You coming?”

They all did.


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale (Essex County, Massachusetts) 9:47 AM.


“Well, the food was really good - thanks Jesse,” Jake said cheerfully.

Jesse nodded. When he and Effïndïe woke-up, they decided on something hot and filling for the company. A big omelette was just what the dietologist ordered. And the onions were just what the same dietologist ordered for the improved flavour.

“However, you used all the onions, hah?” Jake said, dimming down a little. “That’s too bad. I was going to make a soup out of them. French cuisine and stuff.”

Monique and her sister exchanged glances, but before they could say a word, Helen wedged-in. “Jake, don't be rude!” Then she turned towards Trent and Jane. “So why did your house appliances failed last night?”

The Lane siblings exchanged glances. “We’d be buggered if we knew,” Jane admitted. “The whole appliance thingies - they all blitzed-out. Like, literally.”

Jake frowned. “That's odd. You sure that you paid your bills on time and everything?”

Alecto took a quick look at Trent, then got up. “Good idea, Mr. Morgendorffer. Why won’t we all just go the Lane house and take a good look? We’ve imposed on your hospitality long enough, and we do have our own dwellings to expect ‘cause of snowstorm last night… Let’s go, ladies.” She got up and looked at Trent. “What about you guys?”

“Good idea,” Trent quickly said. “Guys, come on.”

Quickly, the two music groups left.


The road from San Lorenzo to Tegucigalpa, Honduras 10:04


Penny Lane was depressed. She was very, very depressed. The sudden march through El Salvador was not what she bargained for. At all.

“Hey wagon-rider! You okay?”

Penny turned sideways. Glue was walking next to her, whistling cheerfully something under his nose, seemingly not bothered at all by the long march. “Can it mister,” Penny growled. “What do you want?”

“Is that how you treat an old friend? Or should I be rescuing you from more polar bears?”

Penny blushed. Her meeting with the bear in the Barrens was not something she remembered willingly, even via hindsight. And as for her actions with Glue - back then Robert Zimmerman - they were another sore point. Speaking of points… “You remember me?”

“How could I forget? I don't do rescues of damsels in distress that often,” Glue shrugged. “So where did you go to after the whole ship sank?”

“To British Columbia,” Penny replied. “You?”

“Louisiana. Established contacts, and generally washed my feet in Lake Pontchartrain. Nice spot. Really nice. So how did you get from BC down here?”

“The Lane curse,” Penny shrugged. “Really big phobia of settling down. Besides, Kitimat didn't play up to my expectations. Back to you - what do you think you’re doing?”

“Hmm? What do you mean?”

“Look. When we first met, in Quebec, you were a separatist, a trouble-maker, rabble-rouser, whatever. Certainly not a professional. In the Barrens, you were government-paid, had a certain respectability around you. Now, here you are, seemingly completely without principles and all that. What happened?”

“I grew completely disillusioned with the capitalist view of the world,” Glue shrugged. “What about you? Why’d you started rustle drugs over the border?”

“I didn't - I got tricked into doing that,” Penny growled. “And it’s the last time too, I wager. I cannot afford getting involved in more fixes like these.”

“What’d you expect? Descending to the river great, we all leave the tracks in the sand, and as we throw rocks into it, the rings in its’ wake never end…”

Penny stared. “What’s that all about?”

“Don’t know, I just felt like it. My sister - she was big into music - until we got involved in capitalist politics.”

“And now here you are, working for the all-mighty dollar yourself,” Penny shook her head. “Summer once said something like ‘Serve either God or Mammon’. I daresay God is the better choice.”

“And what do you know? And what can you offer in its’ stead?” Glue’s voice was completely serious.

“I don’t know - you have any diplomas or know any trades?”

“Sure - I've got a diploma to be a librarian,” Glue grinned cheerfully.

Penny stared. “You're pulling my leg!” she said.

“Nah-ah - I’m serious. ‘Course, it’s a Canadian one, but still.”

“Ah! Canadian? It explains a lot. Still, if we ever get back home to US.”

“Chill, sister - I've got a plan, worthy of Hades himself!” Glue grinned. “’Course, it would be simpler if we had a fighter plane on our hand, and we’ll have to participate in taking-over the capital, but I've got a plan. Want to be let on it?”

Penny nodded. At this point in time she was ready for anything.


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale (Essex County, Massachusetts) 10:04 AM.


There was some silence at the kitchen table after the two bands left. “Well?” Helen finally spoke.

Jane paused. “Oh yeah, I should be going too.”

“That’s okay, Jane,” Quinn suddenly spoke. “I don’t know what they’re going to be doing, but they probably won’t want having you around.”

There was a pause. “Quinn, what are you saying?” Helen said with obvious undercurrent of danger in her voice.

Quinn shrugged, the holy simplicity that she was. “What? Obviously, that Alecto person didn't have Jane in mind, otherwise she would’ve mentioned her or something. Obviously, they’re going to rectify the Lanes’ house and don’t want a kid underfoot.”

“Jane’s not a kid,” Helen argued, surprised at the sudden show of logic from her youngest daughter.

“Aw, Helen, come on - remember when you were their age?” Jake spoke up suddenly. “To us all younger people were kids, even if they were almost the same age as us, remember?”

“Jake! You're not helping!” Helen exploded.

Jake looked confused. “Say Helen, I realized something. When is your birthday?”

Helen groaned and knocked her head at the table, and Jake, using the fact that his wife is outmanoeuvred at the point and his daughters are momentarily gaping, turned back to Jane. “Look, Jane-o, here the facts of life: the line of the second decade’s end is a mighty curious boundary, everybody who’s on the ‘pre’-side is considered a kid by those who’ve just crossed it. ‘Tis the words of experience, Jane, I swear.”

Jane listened to this all with wide blue eyes, then bolted - or would’ve, if Daria didn’t catch her in time. “What’s wrong?” she quickly asked. “Dad’s rumblings… they’re a bit odd, but still…”

“Not that!” Jane protested loudly; “just that… I've seem a glimpse of my future: a chockfull of relatives how can't stand me, and a chockfull of siblings who just can't stand still! I hate my life!”

Helen looked-up and sighed. “I warned Amanda that that might happen, I just warned her.”

Jane stopped looking depressed and assembled a rather interested look. “What do you mean?”


A jail in North Las Vegas, Nevada, 10:12 AM


“All ready and open!” Horatio hissed loudly. “Avec plesir, as our late daddy-o used to say!”

“Not so loud!” Wind hissed. “Want everything to go down because of a detail? Let’s go, and quietly!”

Horatio sighed, his parrot-green-like hair crest swayed as if from a breeze. “I see, Wind, that you’re a serious fellow, not a easy-weight either, I'll wager.”

“If you’ve pulled as many marriage and other scams as I did, you would be a serious fellow too,” Wind snarled. “Now let’s go, and quietly!”

They went. Soon they came to the waiting room of the police district, where several policemen were playing cards. “Now what, boss?” Parrot turned to Wind. “We're going to just walk pass them or what?”

Wind thought for several moments, then sighed. “Cousin John, I really hope you’re telling the truth,” he mumbled, and concentrated.

The next moment, somebody, no one could be sure as to who exactly, spoke: “The third cop clockwise got an ace in his sock.”

The reaction was instantaneous: the policemen immediately started to sort-out their relationship, using fists. It was a real pleasure to see the impromptu massacre - they were barely pulled apart. Of course, Wind Lane and his newest henchman were long since gone.


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale (Essex County, Massachusetts) 10:12 AM.


“What do you mean, you warned her?” Jane repeated her question. “You knew her?”

“Obviously she did,” Daria spoke-up. “Your mom came to our mom for advice about pesky relatives, remember? Though… how did you two meet?”

“Oh, we met in the same college, remember Jake? Jake?”


“Remember Amanda, Jake? The girl who constantly made pots and stuff?”

“That Amanda? Whoa! You're saying that she’s Jane’s mom?”

Helen just groaned. “Jake, I sometimes despair of you. You can be so oblivious sometimes… Anyways, we knew both of your parents, Jane.”

“And? What was the problem?”

“Well, there wasn't any problem… or chemistry. Your parents didn't have the type of common characteristic to make a long lasting relationship. They were just friends - good friends, kind of like Daria and your brother.”

Jane gaped, Quinn squeaked, and Daria blushed. “You knew?” Jane finally closed her oral opening.

“Yes Jane dear, I knew. Ever since Daria started to go ever so often to a household where was a single boy, I kept an ear cocked for news on that battle-front.”

“You did? I mean your work…”

Helen sighed. “Daria, when you become a mother, you’ll understand. Anyways Jane, you and your brother are much like your mom - artistic rather than artisan.”

“And dad?”

“Well, Vince was a good, very good photographer, as a matter of fact. But photography wasn’t his life; it was just his way of life - he was just too realistic for that. That, and he was somewhat cynical, and loved to travel. ‘Course, so did the rest of us, but for Vince, travelling was almost as important as pottery was for Amanda. Naturally, they weren’t very concerned with each other. Oh sure, there was the occasional hello, and sometimes it went even further than that, but give a abatement for the time - the 70s weren't that hard on the sex.”


“What? Anyways, both Vince and Amanda seemed content with that - for a while. Then Vince’s draft came, and Catherine thought of a solution-“

“Who’s Catherine?” Jane asked curiously.

“Another student friend of ours - and an odd one at that.”

“Helen, come on - just because she was gay-“ Jake suddenly spoke up to the girls’ surprise.

Helen whirled onto her husband. “You remember her, Jake?”

“Sure! I mean, how many tall, shapely brunettes did I- I-I shut up now,” Jake hurriedly said, realizing that he had put his foot into his mouth again.

Helen sighed. “Oh, you’re my ineffable woe! I should’ve known you remember someone like that.”

“So who was Catherine?” Daria interrupted.

“Just somebody we just knew,” Helen shrugged. “Basically was planning to be a doctor, and made you and Jane appear warm and open-hearted. ‘Course, she wasn’t so big on sarcasm either, you know? Anyways, she suggested that Vince married someone to avoid the draft - you know of what I’m saying?”

“Anyone who listened to DeMartino did,” Quinn muttered rather acidly for her.

“Yes, yes. Good. So first Vince proposed-“

“To you, Helen,” Jake spoke-up again.

“He did? Wow. So why did you refuse - not that any of us are complaining?”

Helen shrugged. “I loved and I love Jake. Period. No matter how many blondes and brunettes he’s noticing.”

“Aw, honey!” Jake bloomed.

“Well, Vince respected that so we just parted friends.”

“So where does mom come in?” Jane asked.

“I think she overheard it and offered to marry him, figuring-out that the two of them were a close enough fit - her with pottery and him with photography. I told her that it wasn't such a good idea, but your mother, Jane, was never exactly reasonable, and so… they got married.”

“Who blessed that holy union?” Jane said wryly.


“Her again? Was she a nun or something?”

“Nah, just some very odd faith.”

“And nobody minded?”

“Jane, please. It was a hippy wedding, with the groom wearing white and the bride a miniskirt. We all thought it was terribly cute and all.”

“And the army recruiters swallowed it?”

“Yeah they did somehow,” Helen shrugged. “That’s the tale, Jane.”

“Well, at least I have a good idea why Wind’s so casual about marriage,” Jane shrugged.

“Wind?” Helen frowned, trying to remember something.

“Yeah, Wind. My other, older brother. I think he is currently in Nevada, or Montana, or something. Why do you ask?”

“Just trying to remember something,” Helen dismissed that lone of thought for later. “Anyways, Jane, I say that your and your brother’s artistic streaks come from Amanda - gods, that woman could work at her kiln for hours!”

“Yup, that’s our mom,” Jane sighed. “Still, it’s not nice to know that you came into this world only because of an arrangement.”

“Ever read ‘Divine Comedy’?” Daria said suddenly.


A helicopter somewhere in the airspace over Honduras (towards Guatemala border) 10:12


“That was your plan? Grab more than abetted share of loot and skeedaddle it out of there on a chopper?” Penny shrieked loudly, as the wind howled in the chopper’s propeller.

“Yeah! I know it’s no fighter plane, but we can make it work yes sir!” Glue chortled excitedly. “Believe me Penny, I know what I’m doing!”

Penny just gulped as she saw Honduras’ portion of Sierra de Las Minas zoom pass them. “Where are we flying to?” she wheezed to her neighbour.

“To Guatemala-Mexican border!” Glue replied proudly. “From there - a ride to Mexico city, and from there - an airplane flight to US!”

“Speaking of airplanes and fighter planes, there’s one our radar, and it had launched a missile! Glue, do something!”


The helicopter went upwards and backwards at such a high speed, that Penny was pressed backwards into her seat, and red and blue spots flashed before her eyes. The missile coming fast behind them, passed way below them, and way forward now.

The plane, however, was passing right below them, unable to change altitudes as quickly as the helicopter.

“That’s the trouble with semi-professionals - no imagination and lack of technical knowledge,” Glue sighed. “This is a military helicopter…”

He pressed a button.


Several relatively small bombs were discharged, all of them landing on the plane’s back or wings. The plane went-up in a fireball, almost hooking the chopper as well.

“The missile! It’s self-controlling or something!” Penny suddenly shrieked.

“Or something, more likely a TV camera and a lot of fancy positronics,” Glue mumbled. “Lane - your oxygen mask on?”

“Yeah! Why?”

But Glue was already in action. He flapped the helicopter’s lid off, and fired a grenade from a grenade cup discharger.

Straight at the incoming missile.

Before Penny’s astonished eyes the two collided and exploded in another monstrous fireball.

“Let’s go,” Glue said nonchalantly.


A jeep near Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. 10:14 AM.


The day was not shaping well for Amanda Lane. The Wyoming city of Cody had proved to be truly abominable, and being constantly awakened and re-awakened by the song of meadowlarks ever since early sunrise was a bit tiresome - even for her. It was almost as bad as when she and Vincent came to Mariupol’, Ukraine, and they were constantly awakened by pigeons. Of course, Vince back then managed to get some great photo-shots of sea-birds, but still…

Amanda sighed sadly. The lives of her and her husband certainly didn't went as planned. All in all, even though Amanda’s expectations of life weren't very high, she still expected some reimbursement from Vincent. But Helen back then was right - as she usually was. She and Vincent just didn't have the right chemistry to be a couple.

And blaming Catherine wasn’t the right thing to do, either. Catherine was usually as rational and logical as Helen, except for the time when she and her room-mates got Helen’s younger sister Rita drunk and preformed something called ‘Freak on a leash’ with her. That had been pure comedy. Helen, however, wasn't amused. Well, publicly. At least. Certainly, seeing her sister screwing her brains out with Conrad Engelson was pretty humiliating for her. And then there was the issue of Rita’s later pregnancy. Then again, that was only expected when a dorky blonde took-on the members of the campus’s toughest girl gang ever. Humiliation was only expected. And Helen’s anger was directed at Rita only.

Amanda smiled. These were the good old days.

Then where did they all vanish? And why weren't there any better - or at least wholesome - days anymore? And why couldn’t her family get together for more than two days without fighting?

Amanda shrugged. Those questions couldn't be answered - certainly not on a sudden morning near Bighorn River. What Amanda needed was a small civilized dwelling to spend a few couple of nights to catch-up on her sleep - and not in a roach-infested motel, either.

“Say!” Amanda suddenly perked up. “Didn't Wind say once that he had an apartment in Montana? Somewhere, not far from here… Ah yes, Bozeman! Yes, yes, that’s right. Wind and Penny then drunk some of Vincent’s poteen and started to brag, yes-yes!”

Amanda perked-up immensely. She’ll just go to next state and take a short rest in the next state! Whistling cheerfully, Amanda drove off to the nearest interstate highway.


A car somewhere in New Mexico state. 11:14 AM.


“Mom? Where are we?” Adrian whined again.

“In New Mexico,” Summer replied curtly.

“So where’s that Zuni gig?”

“How am I supposed to know? Maybe it grew legs and ran away, hearing what you did in Flagstaff, Arizona.”

The siblings giggled. They certainly raised a rustle in that place. But past’s past, and present’s present, and currently it wasn’t too presentable. They were in New Mexico, and it wasn't too different from Arizona. And if Zuni was too much like Flagstaff - they’ll just pull their old runaway trick again. All was up-to-date.

The kids giggled and continued to watch the scenery.

Meanwhile, their mother wasn't growing too happy either. Where the hell were they? The bleeding fog that had covered the night from dusk to dawn had seemingly come all the way from Acheron, and obscured their way completely. Now, for all Summer knew, they passed through New Mexico completely and got stuck in Texas somewhere!

Suddenly an unexpected, buzzing noise came from overhead. Summer stopped her and watched as a smallish-sized plane landed on a dune near her.

A door opened and a couple got out.

“I thought you could fly anything!” a woman’s voice carried on the wind.

‘Penny?’ Summer frowned. It would just like her red-haired sister to be using an unconventional method of travelling. Still, what would she be doing on a plane in a New Mexican desert?

“Look Lane!” a man’s voice snarled in reply. “I told that I knew how to fly a helicopter, not an airplane. Certainly not one of those semi-glider thingies!”

“Oh sure! Just my luck! Find a man how can beat a fighter plane with a helicopter, but can't fly a regular airplane forth a damn!”

“Hey! This damn was worth all the way from Mexico City from here. Look, there’s a car, let’s go and ask them where we are!”

“And then what? Steal it from them?”

“Got any better brighter ideas?”

“Hey Penny - is that you?” Summer yelled out, remembering that no love was lost between Penny and her. “Who’s your plane-flying friend?”

There was some silence on the dune, then a couple of slim figures skidded down to it. “Summer? That you? What’re you doing here?”

“Penny? I could ask you the same thing, only I don't know where ‘here’ is.”

“Oh, our map says that you’re to the right of Albuquerque,” the man spoke.

“Very funny!”

“No, really. You're between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. What were you doing in New Mexico, anyways?”

“Playing cat and mouse, most likely,” Penny sighed. “Look Summer - can you give me and friend here a ride?”

“Very to? Home to Massachusetts?” Summer almost sneered.

“Massachusetts? Massachusetts is good,” the man spoke-up suddenly. “We agree.”

“Hey! See here!” Summer protested. “I promised to take the kids to-“

“N, you look. We very recently got out of Honduras, where we were subjected to some cruel and communistic political conditions, and flown for an unknown amount of time, ruining in the process, on top of this plane, a helicopter (property of Honduras’ government). A nice, long, relaxing ride in a car is just what we need. And you can call me Chris.”

Summer cast an indignant gaze over Chris… which quickly wondered off. The guy was quite well muscled, not exactly Schwartzenegger style, but still, most impressive. Obviously Penny acted quickly, teaming-up with such a cavalier. Still, old feuds died hard. “Look,” she said reasonably. “It’s not that I want to cause trouble, it’s just that Penny would never agree to seat on the rear seat with Adrian and Courtney, whereas you probably won’t fit into there.”

“Then you sit there,” Chris said reasonably.

“Hey-hey! This is my car or what?”

“Good question. Where’s your license?”

Summer fidgeted. “Well, eh, I thought… you see…”

“I thought so,” Chris said in a self-assured voice. “Move over. I’ll drive. You direct me where to go.”

“What about me?” Penny said, obviously unhappy at this development.

“You sit in the back with the kids and our sack,” Chris said in a thundering voice, hefting a heavy sack onto back seat.

“I don't think we’ll all fit in,” Adrian risked a complaint.

“Lane, take your niece onto your lap - you’ll fit,” Chris replied with a humourless smile. “Do you hear me - you’ll fit.”


On the interstate road between Nevada and Idaho. 11:14 AM.


“Your grandma and my grandma were sitting by the fire, your grandma said to my grandma - your skirt had caught-on fire,” Horatio was whistling a tune while Wind drove.

“Do you mind?” Wind sighed. “It’s not that I’m not appreciative of your tunes, it’s just that it is kind of distracting me from the road.”

“Chill, buddy-o,” Horatio shrugged. “From the disorder we last saw in that police district, it’ll be some time till they look at the accurately locked jail cell and realized that we should be in it. It’s cool, man!”

Wind shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I won’t feel safe till we're in Montana. Now let’s drive, damn it!”


An airport in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 12:27 AM.


“Well, here we are, with nothing but honesty,” a Brittney Spears’ song came from the car’s radio.

Click! The radio was turned-off. “Remind me never to ask you for music,” Chris turned to Summer Lane. “No offence, but even Beatles’ are better than that.”

“Beatles’ are old, old relics, Chris,” Courtney piped from the back seat, “and mom’s music taste is good.”

“No it isn’t!” Penny argued.

“Yes it is!” Adrian turned to defend his sister. “Well, sometimes at least.”

Chris shook his head. “Anyways, here we are, at Santa Fe’s airport. Now, you three want to come with me and Penny, or what?”

Summer shook her head. “No thanks. We're unwilling to go to East Coast in Winter. I have an apartment in this state in Farmington, near Aztec Ruins National Monument, so we’ll go there.”

Summer’s kids exchanged meaningful glances. This may not be something called a pueblo, but it was still cool. Very cool, in fact. They always wanted to see Aztec Ruins.

“Very well,” Chris nodded thoughtfully. “See you some other time, then.”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 12:27 AM.


“Hey Janey, you’re back!” Trent spoke-up back to his old self. “What’s up?”

“I can ask you the same thing - what’s up with our house? Is it finally ready to be repossessed or what?”

Trent did his trademark laugh/cough. “You're funny Janey. But, sadly, we may be facing it soon.”

“Ow slag!” Jane sighed.

“So Janey, what did Mrs. M tell you?”

“Well, we spoke mostly about mom and dad.”


“Just some of their usual hi-jinks at the college, you know?” Jane shrugged. “Nothing remarkable, except that Daria’s aunt Rita was proving to be a jackass even back then… oh, and dad almost married Daria’s mom.”


“If Helen Barksdale didn't love Jake Morgendorffer, she may’ve married Vincent Lane,” Jane said slowly, seeing that her brother was a bit shocked.

“Wow! That would’ve been weird,” Trent finally said. “Still, it explains why Daria’s folks know ours.”

“You know, Daria has a sister,” Max spoke-up suddenly.

“Yeah? So?”

“Thought that you’re ought to mention it or something,” the drummer shrugged.

“Yeah, whatever man,” Trent shook his head. “Any luck with the phone, Alecto?”

The oldest Harpy walked into the living room as well. “Yeah. Took me, Effïndïe and Jesse over two and half hours to do it, but it works. For now. Trent, we got to come up with some money fast, or it’s game over. For good.”

“Well, maybe Santa Claus will grant us a Christmas miracle - who knows?” Jane shrugged. “At worst… we’ll have to move.”


“Wind and possibly Summer have living places in US other than Lawndale. Trouble is, it’s in Montana or some place like that,” Jane elaborated.

“Bad idea, moving is,” Alecto spoke with conviction. “Me and my girls - we moved around till we settled in Lawndale. And Montana… I heard stuff about that state. After Alaska, it’s the closest thing to Siberia that the American government got. Not a nice place to be.”

“Alecto, right now this house isn't a nice place to be; in fact, barring anything short of a Christmas miracle, this house may not even be a Lane place to be!” Jane snapped.

“Sucks,” Jesse spoke, suddenly joining Alecto.

The phone rang.


A dirt road in the Rocky Mountains area of Montana. 12:27 AM.


Amanda Lane was not a happy Lane. The day seemed to be going down the drain ever since the meadowlarks had awakened her too early in the morning. After that she got stuck - first on Wyoming-Montana border because of a customs’ check, and then again in Montana on a bridge crossing the Yellowstone river, because of a traffic jam.

And to top it off there were still the meadowlarks, the blooming, blooming meadowlarks. Amanda Lane started to dislike them quite intently, and what Amanda Lane disliked that intently, it took years for her to like them back. She was still less than gung-ho when it came to mourning doves, for example, and that was years ago, in Mariupol’, Ukraine.

And now meadowlarks. Will they not stop pesting her?

The road produced another bump, and Amanda Lane frowned. Bozeman was in the part of Montana that was part of the Rocky Mountains, and by God - they certainly were proving that title: the ground under her tiles was rocky. Also, she seemed to be lost.

Amanda closed her eyes and hoped that she won’t drive in into Jefferson River or any place like it.


An airflight from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Boston, Massachusetts. 12:30 AM.


“Hello? Jane, Trent? Anyone?”

“Penny? That you? From where you’re calling?”

“My neighbour’s cell-phone. What’s up?”

“Your neighbour got a cell-phone? Boy, those Central American countries sure have gotten nicer!”

“Screw those Central American countries!” Penny snapped. “I think I’m coming home - for good.”

“And this is where we run-in into grey areas. Thanks to neurotic boy’s procrastination, we may lose the house by next year.”

“Jane, ‘tis December!”

“No! You don’t say! I was sure it was merely late October or something!”


“What?! I got stuck in the house with no heat but mom’s kiln! And there was snow outside all the way to my arse! Whereas you were toasty and warm in Central America!”

“Yeah? You want to know how my night went?” Penny snapped. “Now listen Jane, the world-“

Chris coughed. “Give me that!” He snatched the phone and spoke into it. “Listen kid.”

“Who're you?”


“Say what?”

“Just listen. We're coming to your home in less than a day, and when we do, I want the list of all your problems laid-out and clear. You savvy?”

Hearing this new, masculine voice did something unexpected to Jane Lane: she nodded in agreement.


An interstate highway, near Twin Falls, Idaho. 12:30 AM.


“Hum-hum-humhum; hum-hum-humhum!” Horatio was humming wordlessly the wedding march.

Wind rolled his eyes. His newest acquaintance was helpful to have around, but also very irritating: he was driving Wind Lane up the wall, and since Wind Lane was driving on a highway at a rather high speed, this was also dangerous.

“Look,” Wind sighed at last. “Here’s the deal. When we cross the Snake River, you’ll drive.”

“For how long?” Horatio immediately perked-up.

“Till Bitterroot range - deal?”

Horatio nodded. “I can handle that. Shutting-up now.”


An interstate highway in the Rocky Mountains area of Montana. 13:48 PM.


Amanda Lane was finally un-lost. Amanda Lane was finally off the bleeding dirt road. Amanda Lane was finally on the road to the Montanese city of Bozeman.

Montanese. It had a funny ring to it. Was it a real word?

Amanda Lane neither knew nor cared. She drove on.

Suddenly her engine stopped.

“Oh f*ck!”


Chaco Culture Natural Historical Park, New Mexico, 13:48 PM.


“I still think we should’ve gone with aunt Penny and her boyfriend,” Adrian argued. “It’s not like Arizona or New Mexico are any warmer than Massachusetts in December, it seems. ‘Course, when you’re fleeing a sex-denied wild pig it’s one thing, but currently it’s another.”

Summer Lane whirled around on her boy with fire in her eyes. “You two shut-up! You two have played with me ‘the monkey in the middle’ with my car keys, and now that bloody roadrunner has got them! So shut up and help me track it!”

“Catch a desert-dwelling bird in its’ natural habitat. What fun,” Courtney said with irony thick enough to be worthy of Daria Morgendorffer. “I’m sick of sand, you know that?”

Whose idea it was to come here in the first place? Not mine, that’s for sure!” Penny snapped. “Now let’s go and find that damn bird!”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 13:48 PM.


“Well, Jane - what did Penny say?” Trent asked, curious. There was an odd look in Jane’s eyes, something that he hadn't seen before.

“Not much. I think she's bringing a boyfriend over, and she’ll be here in less than a day. Also, that supposed boyfriend of hers is rather bossy - or maybe he and Penny are just in a bad mood. Maybe they ran into Summer or something.”

“Isn't she in Central America?”

“Apparently, not anymore.”

Nick and Calais entered the room. “Guys and girls - listen to the radio.”

The Tank’s car radio (working for once) turned on. “Fierce street battles are still being condone in Tegucigalpa. Although most of separatists and their allies have fled into Comayagua mountains, some still remain.”

Jane’s face went white. “Oh my God! Penny!”

“Did somebody got a lock on that cell?!” Alecto roared. “Effïndïe! Jesse!”

The pair shook their heads sadly. For once the Harpies and the Mystik Spiral were out of their collective luck.


The Painted Desert’s area in Nevada. 14:32 PM.


“I think something is wrong, mom,” Adrian worriedly said. “The clouds look bad, and there’s another set of tracks near to the roadrunner’s. Can't we go back?”

“We can’t!” Summer snapped. “I had it with hotwiring cars for a while! We're going to get the damn keys even if I have to kill every damn bird in the whole damn Nevada!” Summer Lane was becoming more and more dysfunctional as time went on. She and her kids crossed another dune, and finally saw “their” roadrunner.

Lying dead at a coyote’s feet, and the animal didn't look very happy. “Mom?” Adrian and Courtney froze, trying to figure if they could climb a cactus and for how long they could stay there. “Let’s get out of here. Now.”

Their mother had different ideas, however. After Rufus, the coyote didn't look so tough. She went down.

The coyote whirled around, its’ mouth open and bloody saliva dripping out of it. “Nice,” said Summer nonchalantly. “Now get lost.”

Despite the popular “Looney Tune” cartoons, a coyote isn’t a genius animal - it’s just a wild relative of the dog, naturally smart, but no more. And when it is very hungry…

The coyote leapt.

Any ordinary person would not have a chance, but this was Summer Lane, owner of Rufus the giant Airedale. Compared to Rufus, the coyote was relatively small pickings. As the animal slammed into her, Summer caught it, and began to wrestle it. “Adrian, Courtney!” she yelled. “Get those car keys now!”


A highway in Montana. 14:32 PM.


Amanda Lane was getting tired. Getting tired of just standing there and waiting for a car. What was worse, she had no idea where a nearest gas station was. And what was the most depressing, was that she remembered - very vaguely - that Vincent would’ve known what to do in this situation. “But then again Vincent would know what to do in this situation,” Amanda muttered. “He’d crisscrossed the world, even was Turkey, I believe.” True, it was just Istanbul, but still…

A particularly perky meadowlark sat onto a pine branch over Amanda’s head and relieved itself of its’ internal wastes. “Why you-“ Amanda was about to curse especially vilely, especially for her, when suddenly a car stopped next to her and a blond young man looked out of it.

“Mom?” Wind Lane spoke suddenly. “What are you doing here?”


The Painted Desert’s area in Nevada, 14:49 PM.


“Mom? How you’re feeling?” Adrian Lane timidly asked Summer.

Summer bit her lip. “Like Hell. Now I remember why we gave Rufus up.”

“Because a rabid fox bit him?”

“That too Courtney, that too. And Adrian, next time you and your sister pull-off something like that, you’ll be in worse shape than that coyote.”

The two younger Lanes nodded. Their mother had easily discarded the three-foot snarling beast like it was a plaything. Then again, compared to Rufus, it had been.

Then again, Adrian and Courtney now realized to full extent why they have galloped through USA round and round.

It was because of their mother. Summer Lane may’ve loved them in her particular manner, but she was also a very, very dysfunctional person. Her and their uncle Wind. It was something genetic, something related to Cassandra Lane, who was once a missionary in China at the turn of the century. Oh well. Right now the only thing that bothered the small duo was how to get away. They didn't dare do it in the Painted Desert, so they decided to wait till they came to Farmington. And from there - it’s off to the state of Colorado.

Then the twins shook their head. They had been in Colorado briefly, to see Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, and their experience in the Rockies wasn’t pretty. No. It was sad, but their mother was the lesser evil.

At least for now.


An apartment in Bozeman, Montana. 14:49 PM.


Wind and Horatio were finally home - well, at one Wind’s homes anyways. So was Wind’s mother Amanda, but she just went into the bathroom, muttering some curses about meadowlarks. Neither of men pressed her for details.

“Nice place you got there,” Horatio said knowledgably to the other man. “Got others?”

“All over the US. Me and Summer. I have them because if I get in trouble in one state, I always seek refuge for a while in a perpendicular one, and Summer, well, Summer, see - got four kids, and an attitude problem.”

“What are you talking about, man?”

“See, you should not get Summer excited - bad thing. Once upon a time she also had a dog - supposedly an Airedale, but bigger than a Mexican burro and with an attitude to boot. The dog could wipe the floor with you. But Summer - the dog was afraid of her, and it was half-assed crazy to begin with. Summer is crazier than a hyena in heat.”

“It may be true, but it isn't nice,” Horatio pointed-out.

Wind sighed. “Nice? Nice? Let me tell you something man about our family. The last time we all got together was a couple of years ago, for a day and a half or so long. We can't get together for too long an amount of time, we all are… just scattered.”


“That depends. Dad can be anywhere in the world. Me and Summer and mom generally go around US of A. My sister Penny can be anywhere from Arctic Ocean to straits of Magellan. And our youngest, Trent and Jane, are still at home.”

“Must be fun?”

Wind chuckled. “Not really. My last and personal sibling bond was with Penny over a smuggled bottle of pulké.”

“What’s that?”

“Mexican version of Irish poteen.”

“Sounds potent.”

“It is. I’m still blurry about what happened back then.”

“So what do you all do for a living? Besides you, that is.”

“Dad’s a photographer, mom’s a potter. Penny is also a craftswoman… I think. I don’t know what Summer does. Trent is a part-time musician and Jane is still a minor.”

“For somebody who isn't home a lot you sure keep a good report on your family.”

Wind shrugged. “Somebody has to. My mom is more interested in birds then people, currently, for example.”

“Yeah. What is she muttering about? Bluebirds?”

“Meadowlarks,” replied Amanda, finally emerging from the bathroom. “Wretched creatures, almost as bad as mourning doves.”

Horatio looked at Wind, who shrugged. “So mom, what are you doing in Montana? I thought that you were in Wyoming?”

“I changed my mind,” Amanda shrugged. “The geysers there, really, are a disappointment. And there were some woodpeckers that were especially determined to make a new hole in my head.”

“Why? Were you in a tree or something?”

“Why, yes?”


“To avoid an enema.”

Wind and Horatio looked at each other. “Mom, why won’t you tell us the whole story behind enemas, meadowlarks and woodpeckers while we order take-out.”

“A good idea.”


A police district in North Las Vegas, Nevada. 15:02 PM.


“What do you mean, they’re escaped?” the police chief yelled at the quailing police worker.

“I’m sorry sir, but those two inmates - a lockpicker and a scam artist - escaped, during, the, er, insurrection.”

“Wonderful,” the chief growled. Then he broke back into yelling: “Get out of my office!”

The police worker fled. The chief returned to his musings. The bastard who had knocked his daughter up had fled with a new buddy all because four of his policemen were accusing each other of cheating in cards. Well, that all changed: the quartet found suddenly themselves working in the rowdier areas of the city of Ely; it did not matter. What mattered was that Wind Lane was still at large. And in charge. And most likely still in Nevada, California or Arizona. “He shall not escape me,” the large man growled. Suddenly he paused. He had thought of something else.


An airflight from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Boston, Massachusetts. 15:02 PM.


The phone rang.

“Yes?” Glue spoke into it.

“Hello again, varmint.”

“Oh, it’s you chief. What do you want from me?”

“A job.”

Glue laughed, startling other passengers. “Sorry chief, I’m retired.”

“What?!! Last time we’ve met, you were full of determination-“

“It is now sated, thank you very much. I’m planning to settle down now, and if you excuse me, I’m on my way to see my girlfriend’s family.”

The man on the other end sighed. “Look, I’m too worried about my family. Some bastard called Wind Lane swindled my daughter into believing that he was… Well, nevermind that. Can't you at least try to find that man and bring him back to me?”

“I'll try, but I can’t promise,” Glue replied and hanged-up.

“Who was it?” Penny Lane asked.

“Do you have a brother named Wind?”


“Do you know where is he now?”

“No. He can be anywhere in the country.”

“I thought so.”

“Why, is he trouble?”


“Then good luck whoever he offended - with a good running start Wind can elude anybody.”

“The next time you two meet, tell him to avoid Los Vegas and its’ suburbs, will you? Some people there will certainly have long memories.”

“I'll roger that.”


Farmington, New Mexico. 15:02 PM.


“Well, here we are,” Summer Lane turned to her children, Adrian and Courtney.

“And here is where in New Mexico?” Adrian spoke up. “Is it New Mexico, or is it Arizona or Colorado?”

“This is Farmington, New Mexico,” Summer ground her teeth. “Now get inside and let me phone your aunt Jane in Lawndale.”

Adrian and Courtney looked at each other. Their mom had calmed-down somewhat after the ordeal with the roadrunner and the coyote, but it was best not to push her. They complied.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 15:03 PM.


The phone rang. “Who is it now?” Jane said in a semi-weary voice.

“Jane? It’s Summer.”

“Hey Summer. What’s up? Did you find your kids?”

“Yeah, we’re in New Mexico. Anyways, you know that Penny now has a boyfriend?”

“Yeah. I and Trent heard on the radio that there was trouble in Honduras, so I thought that Penny would get out of there. Still, I thought Nicaragua or Guatemala… instead she’s coming here, to Lawndale.”

“I know that. I and the kids gave her and her guy a ride to the Santa Fe’s airport.”

“Why didn’t you come with them?”

“We didn't want to spend winter in northeast USA,” Summer replied curtly. “Call you later, bye.”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 15:05 PM.


“Who was it, Janey?”

“Summer. From New Mexico. She and her kids are holing down there for the winter.”

“Oh. Bugger.”

“Yeah, she met Penny, and tells me that she and her beau are coming here.”

“Oh. Cool.”

“Trent, why are you acting like Jesse?”

“I don’t know, I’m just… kind of depressed, I mean. This is Christmas.”

“Trent, come on - Penny and her beau will be just enough for us to handle, I'll wager.”

“Not that Janey, it’s just that, well, it is Christmas time. Our family should be together…”

“Can't say I share your vision Trent, I'm sorry.”

“Oh well. You know, Daria’s folks offered us to spend their Christmas with them.”

“Well, why not? After all, our dad did want to marry their mom.”

“You're pulling my leg, Janey.”

“Honest to goodness, I’m not.”


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 15:05 PM.


“So Quinn,” Helen turned to her youngest daughter. “How did you get Monique’s phone number?”

“It was some time ago,” Quinn shrugged. “Me and Jane and Daria got Monique and the Harpies’ van to get Trent’s equipment when their van ran into trouble.”

“Oh. I see. And she gave you their phone number because?”

“For the sake of advertisement and spreading the news. Monique also teaches guitar lessons.”

“Guitar lessons, eh?” Jake said thoughtfully. “Maybe I an help her with the advertisement part…”

“Say Daria, who is Monique?” Helen interrupted thoughtfully.

“Trent’s friend,” Daria shrugged. “I don't know if there’s any chemistry or not.”

“Where are these girls from, anyway?” Helen inquired.

“I don’t know. Max said that from Quebec or something.”

“That Effïndïe girl is definitely not French,” Helen said firmly. “Not even Quebecois French.”

“So she’s from Algeria or something,” Daria said suddenly. “Big deal.”

“I'm sorry honey, it’s just that she has such a startling appearance…”

Daria shook the head. The phone rang. “Who is it?” Quinn asked.

“Is Daria home?”

“It’s for you.”

“Hey Jane. What’s up?”

“Penny’s coming over for winter festivities, it seems, and she’s bringing a boyfriend with her - care to see it?”

“I'll ask.” Daria turned away from the phone towards her family. “Uh, Jane tells me that one of her sisters is bringing her boyfriend over and she wants me for moral support. Can I go?”

“Sure thing,” Jake nodded. “After all, that fella might have a younger brother or something.”

“Given my luck, it’ll probably be a sister,” Daria muttered.


The airport in Boston, Massachusetts. 15:19 PM.


“Uh, the feeling of solid ground under one’s feet,” Chris said emphatically to Penny. “How refreshing, no?”

Penny sighed. After a lo-ong travel via helicopter and two airplanes, she was inclined towards agreement. “Yup. It’s cool,” she said.

“Why’s the sudden curtness? It’s about your brother or something?”

Penny sighed. “Both Wind always tended to get in troubles with the ladies.”


“Yeah, but I fear that he may’ve gone too far.” She paused. “Did he?”

“Perhaps. The caller was a chief of a police district in North Las Vegas which is in Nevada. And it wasn't bluebirds that he wanted to discuss with your brother, either.”

“I was afraid of that. Care to elaborate?”

“Let’s get out of here, and we’ll talk.”

“Fine by me.”


Farmington, New Mexico. 15:19 PM.


“So what are we going to do now, Adrian?” Courtney asked worriedly.

“Sis, why so nervous? You weren't that nervous in Colorado.”

“Please. Masa Verde National Park and the rest of the whole eight bits don't intimidate me that much as the prospect of being alone. With mom.”

“Courtney, don't say that! What if she overhears? It’ll be just worse.”

Courtney sighed. Why did the Fates give her and her siblings a loving mother… whose mental machinery was not up to full 100 percent? Furthermore, both they and their mother inherited from Amanda Lane’s side her set of genes, ensuring that they’re chances of survival were very fast. And Adrian and Courtney had fully appreciated these sets of genes in San Juan Mountains this fall.

The trouble was, as they learned during the last couple of days travelling with their mother through Arizona and New Mexico, their mother also had these genes. And obviously, she as bigger and stronger than they, and they didn't want to test their mettle against hers. It was too scary.

And also sad. Summer Lane really loved her kids, all four of them, but in her own, weird way. And that way was scary sometimes. Very scary sometimes.

“Adrian, what are we going to do?” Courtney said quietly.

“I have no idea.”


Bozeman, Montana. 15.19 PM.


“So Wind, what is your plan for today?” Amanda asked quietly. “Well, for the rest of it, anyways?”

“Mom, me and my friend are going to stay here for a while,” Wind carefully asked. His mother was not too realistic, and, Wind believed, an honest person. To learn what her oldest son was doing for a living would not have filled her with pride.

After all, what Wind Lane was doing has been scamming… and saving.

Money, that is.

And to Amanda Lane money was of no irrelevance - or so Wind though. Certainly his mother never showed-off anything contrary to his belief. And if she learned just what his scams composed of, she’d might be angry with him. Not that it mattered much to Wind but still. Lawndale, Massachusetts has been a place to rest for him all those years, and he didn't want to lose it.

Meanwhile, Wind’s new friend (and future partner) Horatio was thinking among the same lines: Mrs. Lane doesn't have to know the truth. At all. Let’s keep her in the dark and see what comes forth from it.

“Yeah, ma’am. We had a bit of tough times in Nevada, so we just want to rest for some time. Is that okay with you?”

“Sure,” Amanda Lane nodded. “I could use a bit of free time from meadowlarks.”

Wind shook his head. “Mom, you’re starting to sound like Summer on a bad day.”

“I do? Oh my. Well, she did get it from my side, I’m sure…”

As Amanda continued to drone on, Wind sighed. The Lane family was one big giant looney bin, and the saddest thing was, he couldn't be qualified even for a doctor. It was going to be a long stay in Bozeman.


Christmas days in Lawndale. Part III - a winter day in the life of the Lanes


The road between Boston and Lawndale, Massachusetts. 15:38 PM.


The car whipped itself through the air, so fast its’ speed was. Its’ passengers, a young man and a woman, laughed manically from the feel of fresh air on their faces, and not oxygen-distended either. “So what city did we pass?” Glue asked nonchalantly.

“Cambridge. We're already in Middlesex County, soon Lawndale will come before us!”

“It’s that glorious, hah?”

Penny snorted. “Lawndale, nah. It’s a quiet little town, almost dinky.”

“That’s why you left?”

Penny paused. “Not exactly. It’s our parents really - they like to travel. They were even Africa, and more than once, you know?”

“Hel-lo, I'm Canadian, of course I'll know. Anyways, you just followed your parents’ examples?”

“Not exactly. My older sister left because of personality problems, and my older brother left because of women problem, and I left went to Quebec to study the local Native American culture… Anyways, what about you? Do you have any relatives?”

“Well, I have a few relatives in Concord, New Hampshire, including both parents and a step-aunt with family in Rochester, same state. But my other aunt - who won the guardianship of me and my little sister - she lives in Ontario, Canada.”

“Where exactly?”

“In Ottawa.”

“Cool! But why did your aunt win the guardianship of you and your sister?”

“I do not know. We weren't told. What I do know, that there was a big row before me and my sister were born, between my aunt and my folks and her stepsister - she’s the step-aunt in Rochester.”

“Why’d it happen?”

“A man was involved, I think. Anyways, to make a long story short, the females of the previous generation in my family get along like cats and dogs - or worse.”

“That brings forth a startling suspicion that you and your sisters were pawns in a bigger family politics game.”

“To this I have to counter you with the fact that our aunt loved us very, very much.”

“And look at how you turned-out to be,” Penny snorted.

“Rich? Well-educated?”

“Well, yeah. But wasn't your aunt bothered by you and your sister’s-“

“Not really. She ran some sort of a crime ring when she was our age, and now that she’s an adult, she’s worse.”

“And how did you turn out to be this way? Why’d you join the separatists?”

“Well, my sister wanted to spend some time in Quebec-city so I took her there. There, she befriended a girl named Monica or something, who was Longueuil - a native Quebecois. And that Monica girl, though just a very young teen, she was stuck on political trouble. And that certainly rubbed the right way my pro-communistic and anti-capitalistic tendencies, and there it all began.”

“And you lost your sister as a result?”

“Not really. The last I heard of her, she and Monica-girl and a couple of others were in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, about to go forth into America.”

“Why’d cross so many borders?”

“We’ve made an enemy in Quebec - a very dangerous enemy. Someday, mayhaps, I'll find a way to pay him back. But for now - I’m interested in finding my sister… settling down, getting an ‘honest’ job, starting a family of my own - any suggestions?”

Penny sighed. After their shared adventures naturally such feelings will arise - mutual feelings, coincidentally. “You know, maybe you should ask Angela Li for a position as Lawndale High’s school librarian - I heard there was a vacancy, you know?”

Glue smiled in return. “I like that idea Lane, I like it!”


Farmington, New Mexico. 15:38 PM.


“Well? What does it say? What does it say?” Courtney insistently asked Adrian. “Come on, turn it over already!”

Adrian glared. The siblings ‘invented’ that game in Colorado, as they were crossing the Rio Grande. It was a parody of Tarot, consisting of cards that the twins made before they ran away from their mother’s home in Pueblo. In the beginning, the siblings didn’t take it seriously, but after they drew-out a card with a pig, and a wild pig (a peccary) attacked them later in Arizona, the duo was starting to have doubts, that maybe the silly game wasn’t as silly as they thought. “Come on, draw it out!” Courtney insisted.

“From which pack?”

“The rightmost first.”

“Alright. In Urborg, few things are less permanent than death.” “Wow. What does this mean?”

“I don’t know. Maybe that we’ll stay in Farmington no longer than in Pueblo.”

“Then try the leftmost pack, the leftmost!”

“Alright. The very skies seethe with the aven’s hatred for the Cabal.”

The siblings exchanged glances. “Do we want to know what this means?” Adrian asked, almost wryly.

“I don’t think so,” Courtney shook her head. “Hey Adrian, what’s a cabal?”

“I don’t know. Maybe the meaning was cabala, you savvy?”

“So what’s cabala?”

“Some sort of ancient Hebrew magic, I reckon.”

Courtney looked impatient. “Adrian, get serious. For all we know, mom’s troubles started when she told that black-haired lady off, and she accused her of having confused lunacy with courage.”

“What are you two talking about?” Summer appeared in the living room, drying off her hands with a towel.

“Mom, do you hate anyone?”

That question startled Summer, if anything. “Courtney, why do you ask?”

“It’s just that we were playing that divining game and it hinted that the solution lay in you hating someone. Well, do you?”

Summer sighed. “Kids, you’re starting to take that damn game too seriously!”

“We aren’t!” Adrian protested quickly. “It’s just that that a pig has once come up, and presto! - we were attacked by a crazed pig in Arizona!”

“How did you get to Arizona? Went straight through through Colorado? How’d you end-up in Flagstaff anyway if you were going to Petrified Forest National Park?”

Courtney and Adrian winced in embarrassment. “After we left Mesa Verda National Park we crossed the border to Utah,” Adrian explained, and stopped only when we reached Lake Powell.”

“Please, it’s not a real lake, it’s artificial!” Summer snorted scornfully.

“It’s not the point!” Adrian protested. “Anyways, after Lake Powell we turned south until we reached the Grand Canyon National Park. And from there we turned south - past Wupatki National Monument - till we came to Flagstaff. And from there - well, you know that part.”

“So what was the most memorable moment of your stay in Utah?” Summer curiously asked.

“Gulls. There were a lot of gulls in Lake Powell. They didn't like us,” Courtney explained, blushing.

“I'll wager,” Summer said, experiencing a few times the unpleasant experience of unwanted attention of gulls. “Take care kids, or the gulls will become your mourning doves.”

“Say what?”

“Your grandma Amanda - she really dislikes mourning doves. Something about going to Ukraine with your grandpa Vincent…”

“Right. So mom - do you really hate anyone?”


Bozeman, Montana. 15:38 PM.



“Yes, mom?”

“How long do you plan to stay here?”

“Mom, I explained it to you already. After the unnecessarily excessive excitement in Las Vegas, me and Horatio want to stay, say, till January.”

“But we're in the Rocky Mountains! Once the snow sets, you two may not be able to leave till March!”

“We’ll rough it then, mom. You're free to go - we don't hold you here.”

“How ‘bout to Great Falls? North of here, can't miss them,” Horatio suggested suddenly. Staying in the Rocky Mountains till March or even April sounded really good, giving the amount of hoopla they’ve raised in Las Vegas.

“Great Falls? Are they interesting?” Amanda Lane perked-up.

“Oh yes. Straight in the middle of Cascade County. Can't miss it. Got giant freshwater springs and a couple of national parks. Just like Yellowstone, only without the geysers.”

“I like that idea!” Amanda said. “See you later Wind! Bye!”

The door closed behind her; the two men looked at each other, and smiled.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 15:38 PM.


“Jane, Trent. If your faces get any sombre, I'll start worrying about the competition. Spill.”

“It’s Penny.”

“Yes, she’s bringing a new boyfriend. I know. Mom and dad wonder if he has a younger brother, but given my luck it’ll be a sister. So what?”

“Look Daria, it’s the crunch of the matter. Aside from Trent, who has this kind of relationship with Monique, the only boys and girls brought over were by Summer and Wind.”

“Ah! The oldest Lane children?”

“Yeah, them.”

“So what’s the crunch?”

“The ‘crunch’ is that Wind never could hold a relationship because of his whining and lying, whereas Summer - she was really screwed.”

“Jane. I'm shocked. Even I don't say things like that about even Quinn or any of the Fashion Club.”

“Summer’s different. Once she ate only Pez for a whole year.”

“And your folks didn’t say anything?”

“Nah. You wouldn't want to know what we ate. Cheesecakes with carrot stuffing were bad enough. Pez, perhaps, was not so much of a step down then a step sideways.”

“Cheesecakes with carrot stuffing?” Daria said incredulously. “Did you ever try Kitchen Sink Stew?”

“You bet we did! Now that we met your family, Daria, I think it was your dad who taught our folks to do that,” Jane said with a bit of acridity.

“Janey, chill,” Trent said placidly. “Remember the times when Penny made us a broth from bread and a couple of carrots? And all because children in Niger were supposedly starving. Compared to that Mr. M’s cooking was actually quite nice.”

“Thanks Trent. But back to my question. Why does Penny’s new boyfriend really gets your goat?”

“Because anybody who associates with a Lane is odd!” Jane snapped.

“Thank you,” Daria said flatly.

“You're welcome. After all, you’re not exactly a conformist, are you?” Jane said, amending her mistake.

“If you put it that way… So maybe Penny brings some Native Mesoamerican from Honduras. Big deal.”

“Summer called. According to her, that guy is hot!”

“He’s also older than you, Jane,” Daria said mildly.

“Don't worry about me, worry about Summer. She got four kids - from different dads.”

“And also Rufus. Do not forget Rufus,” Trent quickly said.

“I'm almost afraid to ask, but I'll ask anyways. Who’s Rufus?”

“Summer’s pet. Supposedly an Airedale terrier, but bigger than a donkey in Lawndale’s children petting zoo, and very unfriendly. Could really hurt a person if he tried, and a few times wrestled Trent to the floor.”

“So this relates to Penny and her boyfriend how?”

“Summer and Penny have this small feud. I guess it was something before my and Trent’s time because both of them get along with me just fine, but between each other - sparks fly.”

“So you’re afraid that Summer will also come here, and there’ll be another great Lane family gathering?”

“Nah,” Jane shook her head. “Travelling in winter in a temperate climate - not fun, my friend. Even us Lanes hole-up till March or April. Summer with Adrian and Courtney’s in New Mexico, Wind’s in Montana, I think.”

“And you worry because?”

“The Harpies and other young women of Lawndale in general. I do not like to think what’ll happen when a good-looking guy appears in the scanty pool of Lawndale. And, well, holding tightly to a spouse in our family was best done by mom and dad - see my point?”

“Ah-ha. Worried about Trent’s love life?”

Jane glared. “Daria, can I count on your support?”

“Yeah, I think so. But for really sound advice you should ask Quinn instead.”

“Ha-ha, very funny, Diarrhoea.”


The road between Boston and Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:07 PM.


“Feel the pain, feel it Lane, see how shining world can be. And remember, Penny Lane, bataleurs always fly free!” Glue was cheerfully whistling songs to Penny Lane.

“What’s a bataleur?” Penny only managed to ask. Her new boyfriend’s singing left her speechless. As always.

“An African eagle. I knew that guy, Henry, who told me about it.”

“How he knew about it?”

“He used to fight in some Bantu-originated war in eastern Africa, I think. An odd duck, and too British for my tastes.”

“Only because he is British?”

“Well, there is the matter of him being wanted for war crimes in both the Republic of South Africa and Gabon.”

Penny nodded apprehensively. “What a charming guy. Think we won't have to invite him to Lawndale?”

“Probably not. I think he got mowed down last night, remember?”

“I'm trying to forget,” Penny said wryly. “Remember - I’m an artist, just an artist.”

“Who somehow manages to appear in the same hot spots as I do?”

“Maybe it’s fate?” Penny offered an explanation.

“Maybe. But seriously, you think I can find work in your town?”

“There’s a very good chance about it, yes.”


Farmington, New Mexico. 16:07 PM.


“Now listen kids,” Summer looked at Adrian and Courtney. “There’s no such thing as magic. All those flip-the-coin, Tarot-card-reading, palm-reading - it’s all naught but hocus-pocus.”

“What if it’s on TV?”

“CGI, then. With a computer one can have legs coming from his or her ears!”

“So mom, you never got into an argument with somebody who was into that ‘hocus-pocus’ thing?” Adrian argued.

Summer winced. “Well, there was one time… I was in Watertown, New York. Some black-haired coot ran into my car.”

“You had a car?”

“Still do.”

“No, no, we mean a legal car. You know?”

“I didn’t have that kind of car ever. I was Trent’s age back then.”

“So you had a road-side accident?”

“Well, it wasn't an accident, just a minor car collision. Neither of us was hurt then. But we did get into a terrible argument as to whose fault it was, and I think I said that I felt it was her fault - or something along the same lines. So she snapped back something like if I felt, that it would always be me who dealt it. Or something on those lines.”

“So who paid the fine?”

“No one. It was closer to Adirondack Mountains than to Watertown proper, and no sign of civilization was in sight, including a police vehicle. And neither of us wanted to go to court. We just snapped a bit and then drove off in different directions.” Summer paused and smiled triumphantly. “So what do your little cards say about that?”

“Which stack do you want to ask?” Adrian smirked back.

Summer momentarily paused, but good mood carried her on. “The… red one.”

“Okay. Kyren goblins always act behind the scenes-even in battle.

“And this means what?”

“Something is bothering you, behind the scenes - maybe astrally? Ever thought of having your karma and aura checked?”

Summer Lane resisted the urge of expressing an extremely violent curse. “It’s aunt Natasha, isn’t it? Her clairvoyance and everything!”

“Mom! You like aunt Natasha, remember? You two really clicked and all that!”

“So who says that I’m angry at her at getting hooked-up on those things? Maybe we should go to her place some time - where is she now? Ah yes - Slidell!”

“That’s too far. I think,” Adrian pointed-out.

“Hmm. So it is. Guess it’s just the three of us then. Well kids, you can play with your card games all you want, but try not to drag me into it? At least for most of the times.”

The siblings looked at each other. “Deal,” they said, thoughts of Natasha Lane’s telephones’ list lying in their pockets.


Bozeman, Montana. 16.07 PM.


“Well, that was slick,” Horatio told Wind. “Your old lady just flew out of the door.”

“Mom and dad are hyperactive, in their own loose-smooth sense,” Wind shrugged. “But don’t get too happy or carried away. Even us Lanes need to hole somewhere warm for the winter.”

“You consider Montana warm in winter? Man, where are you from - Alaska?”

Wind shook his head. “Actually, I was thinking of spending winter in Henderson instead. But…”

“…you stopped in Las Vegas, the city of Love eh?” Horatio smirked. “Say, you aren't worried that our blue-collared buddies from North Las Vegas will check Henderson just in case?”

“If they’ll do that, they’ll find no clue of my whereabouts here,” Wind said firmly. “I've been doing these schemes for over five years now, and tend of thinking being very good with these things.”

“Those of us who don’t get regularly caught and sent to jail usually do,” Horatio agreed. “That, by the way, was my first break in my three-year-old career. Need a sidekick, oh wise guru of the Sith?”

“Star Wars fan, eh?” Wind said. “Tell me, then. Which part of the original trilogy is your favourite?”

“New Hope. Yours?”

“Empire Strikes Back.”


The road from Bozeman to Great Falls, Montana. 16:26 PM.


Amanda Lane was driving along, whistling cheerfully to the wind. The sudden drop in temperature has seemingly scared the bloody meadowlarks off, so all was peachy and happy in Amanda Lane’s life.


“Life is good!” Amanda yelled-out loudly into the nature.

And nature answered back. A small, but dynamic avalanche appeared on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains and went crashing down towards the highway on which Amanda Lane drove.


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:26 PM.



“Yes, dear?”

“We need to talk.”

“About what?”

“About our family.”

“What did Rita do this time?”

Helen grimaced. “Very funny Jake. Coincidentally, how come you're having trouble remembering when it is my birthday, but don’t have any time remembering Catherine the leggy brunette?”

Jake winced. “Honey, please. I was a teenage guy for crying outloud! Besides, you remember that Christine and all of her little friends were gay.” He paused. “And you hanged around them a lot. Should I be worried or what?”

Now it was time for Helen to wince or make a poker face. She opted for the later. “Jake, don't be ridiculous. But we’ve wandered off topic. I was talking about last night.”

Jake sighed. “I was afraid of that. Last night was pretty terrible, wasn’t it? Quinn stuck at the mall, Daria at the Lanes’ house. We're lucky that everybody is alive and without frostbite.”

“Jake, this luck passed via the skin of our teeth. Things like that never happened in Texas.”

“Helen, you're not suggesting we move back, are you? Personal issues aside, the move from there to here hadn't been cheap.”

“I’m not suggesting that we move, I’m suggesting, that, well, we buy Daria another cell phone, for a start.”

“Daria? A cell phone? We can do that. What for?”

“So that we wouldn't always have to depend on Quinn for the rescues!”

“Good point. Daria handles responsibility much better than Quinn.”

“Jake. Daria is three years older than Quinn.”

“She is? Oh wow! Time certainly flies!”

Helen glared at her husband. “Jake, I remember the time when you tried to lift the Pentagon with your mind - or was it the White House? Still, you can try to remember our daughters’ ages.”

“I'm sorry honey, but it isn’t either of their birthdays, is it?”

“No, Daria was born in May and Quinn in August,” Helen said tiredly.

“All’s cool then.” Jake said Helen’s face and sighed. “Or not. What’s bothering you, Helen?”

“I don't know. Remember the ‘Lion King’? The circle of life thing?”

“Oh.” Jake for once understood. “Don't worry dear, it’ll probably work itself out. Daria is a mature person, and Quinn also seems to be growing out of her former fashion phase also.”

Helen sighed. “Maybe so. But I’m still not prepared to accept that I’m approaching my mother’s age.”

“Ah, Helen - what is your mother’s age?”

“Jake, do not go there,” Helen said firmly and with a bit of threat in her voice.

“All right, all right. So tell me - are you going to call your sisters or anyone?”

Helen looked thoughtful. “Maybe Amy… no. Forget it. Are you going to call your mother?”

Jake thought for a bit. “Um, no. Such a shock might kill her.”

Helen briefly felt a rather Dariaescque impulse come over her, but she shrugged it off. She just wasn't her oldest daughter. Period. “So Jake, our children aside, how did you spend last night?”

“Cold and lonely. You?”

“Trapped in the office building with a lot of other people. It was probably just like Quinn and the mall.”

“Daria has some sort of fancy word for it, something foreign, I think.”

Helen shrugged. “Come on Jake, let’s clean up our room and kitchen. Daria’s friends might be helpful, but they’re also messy.”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:26 PM.


“So why did you really leave?” Jane asked Daria after it became clear that her friend was more than content seeing how various birds - starlings, pigeons, house sparrows - played in the snow, searching for some food. A couple of squirrels had also joined them.

“I told you - for moral support and for idle curiosity,” Daria replied.

“No, that’s more of Quinn’s way than yours,” Jane argued. “Come on Morgendorffer, spill your guts out!”

“Not here - I'll just ruin your nice wooden floor,” Daria smirked. “What kind of wood is it?”

“How am I supposed to know?”

“Hey, remember that block of wood?”

“Please. I thought that I could work with it.”

“And you did. You made that block of wood into a lump of wood.”

“It was supposed to be an abstract figure of my relative Vivian,” Jane explained, snappishly.


“Yeah. She plays the fiddle. Do you play a musical instrument?”

“You heard my harmonica,” Daria said, almost flatly.

“Aw, but you were purposely making it bad - weren’t you?” Daria’s face spoke volumes. “Oops. My bad. So anyways, why are you here?”

Daria shrugged. “Snow white, birds pretty?”

“Yeah, the birds are pretty nice,” Monique suddenly appeared behind the two girls. “You know, before we all settled in Lawndale, Calais and Effïndïe sometimes would go bird-catching.”

“Did they catch anything?” Jane said, wishing that Monique would leave to let her bother Daria in peace.

“Yeah, they did clean-up a few poultry farms in New Brunswick and Maine,” Monique said thoughtfully and sincerely. “The last such time was not far from Bangor - yes, that’s right. Bangor.” She looked at the two girls, who were staring at her. “Anyways, Jane. Alecto sent me to ask - do you know where your parents can be contacted about the house?”

The phone rang. “Who is it?” Jane spoke into the receiver.

“Jane. It’s me, Penny. We’ll be home soon.”


Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:30 PM.


“So where do we can find that Angela Li of which you speak so… unhighly?” Glue asked, trying to come with an English accent and failing.

Penny shook her head. “That’s easy. Lawndale isn’t such a big town. I've seen places - especially in California - where four or more Lawndales could fit-in.”

“San Francisco? Los Angeles? Sacramento?”

“Even Palm Springs. Heck, even Joshua Tree National Park is bigger than Lawndale!”

“Now you’re exaggerating. Say, what were you doing in Los Angeles?”

“Learning the local Native American culture.”

Glue snorted. “Even I know that there are, like, dozens of NA culture groups in California.”

“So I took bits and pieces of every one - hey, we’re here. Now let me talk with Ms. Li.”

“Yes, dear.”


Ms. Li’s apartment, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:35 PM.


The doorbell rang. “Who is it?” Angela Li looked out.

“Uh, Ms. Li? You may not remember me? ‘Tis I, Penny Lane.”

“What do you want, Ms. Lane? You're just visiting town - as habituary of you - and decided to make this a private visit?”

“Not exactly. I heard from Jane that Lawndale High needed a librarian.”

“And decided to apply for it?”

“Not me. Him.” Penny jerked her thumb at a tall man who appeared behind her.

“I'm Chris Dimmerman, and I was thinking of applying,” the man spoke gravely.

Angela Li looked estimatingly at the Chris fellow. The man didn't strike her as the librarian type; more of a P.E. teacher. “Prove it,” she finally said.

“Here’s my papers,” Chris replied, fishing them out of a bag that lay in the car.

Ms. Li looked over them. “Canadian, eh?” she said, as if that explained things.


Angela Li wasn’t a stupid woman. She saw that the papers were genuine, and the photo didn't differ from the man’s face. And besides… “The pay’s small,” she said.

“I'll handle it,” the man said confidently.

“I hope so. You're hired. See me after the weekend ends and we’ll finalise it.”



The road between Bozeman and Great Falls, in the Rocky Mountains’ area of Montana. 16:35 PM.


The avalanche went down, gathering momentum and speed and increasing its’ area at the same time. Pines and firs and the rest of the montane forests fell down to its’ onslaught, as it fell, a merciless, ruthless, blind force of nature. Birds and animals fled away from it, as fast as they could.

The avalanche ignored them and their cries, for it wasn't a living thing, not in the direct sense of the word. But it could move, it could develop itself, it could grow. And once it would stop moving, it would cease to exist.

It would die.

But not before, of course, burying many, many plants, animals and possibly people under eight tonnes of snow and rubble, chocking and/or crushing them. Not a pleasant way to die either way.

If Amanda Lane was not very lucky, or fast, or both, she would experience both or either of them.


Farmington, New Mexico. 16:35 PM.


“So mom,” Adrian asked Summer. “What’s for dinner?”

“That damned roadrunner, of course!”

“What? We left it miles back near that historic park! Even if that coyote didn't snap it up, something else did!”

“Then I guess it’s TV dinners for us.”

“Oh boy, oh joy,” Adrian said with sarcasm almost worthy of Jane and Daria.

“We could always go back and search for another roadrunner, if you like.”

“Not without Rufus!”

“If Rufus was here, you’d be scarfing down the whole thing.”

“Of course we would! Rufus usually ate those TV dinners still completely packaged! Come to think of it, what Rufus didn’t eat?”

“You and your siblings?”

“Well, he sure tried.”

“Tried isn’t enough. That coyote also have tried. Did he succeed?”

“We see your point mom,” Courtney spoke-up fast. “Still, how long are we going to stay here?”

“Probably all winter.”


“My spot in Pueblo is too far away, and I’m not driving through San Juan or Rocky Mountains in winter. And my next nearest place is in Idaho, a small lodge in the Wasatch Range. We're not crossing the whole state of Utah just to stay in a mountain lodge. No way.”

“And we’re not too hot on crossing Utah either,” Adrian admitted. “The gulls back there were kind of mean, if you catch our drift.”

“I do,” Summer said with a smile, “I really do.”


A street in Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:40 PM.


“So what did you think of Ms. Li?” Penny smirked, as she and Glue approached “Casa Lane”.

“An interesting woman,” Glue shrugged. “Reminds me of another woman I've seen in Quebec, and a very unpleasant memory that was. She and I did not hit it off.”

“I hope you're not talking about me,” Penny huffed.

“Nah, God forbid. Say-ay, is that your house?”

“Why, I believe it is!” Penny perked-up “Let’s go and meet them!”

“Fine by me.”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:42 PM.


There was a knock on the door. “Penny, that you?” Jane perked-up, as she, Daria and Monique went towards the door.

“Yeah-yeah, it’s me. Now open the Hell up!”

“Talkative isn't she?” Monique smirked, as Jane opened the door.

The smirk fell from Monique’s face as Penny was followed by Glue. “Oh boy,” she said, worriedly.

The look on Glue’s face was intimidating, to say the least. “Monica. Long time no see since Quebec. Where’s me sister?”

Monique took one breath, decided that her name wasn't important at that point and yelled: “Calais! Come here this instant! Or I die!!”

“What?” the blonde Harpy, Calais, entered the room. “Yikes! Hey! What are you doing here?”

That’s your sister?” Penny asked. “Why am I not as surprised as I should be?”

“’Cause you’ve travelled around with my brother for a while, it seems,” Calais shrugged. “Now bro, relax or Monique there will have a coronary, and Alecto will get all upset.”

“Why should I care what Alecto feels?” Glue snapped.

By now the rest of Mystik Spiral and Harpies assembled to see what Monique was shouting around. “Louis,” Alecto finally broke the silence, but Jane hurriedly interrupted:

“Now look. Didn't you claim to have solutions to the problem of us losing this house? Can you share it with us or what?”

The Canadian’s statue shifted slightly, dropping the tension levels dramatically. “Good thinking… Jane?”

“Well, it’s sure as Hell isn’t Summer!”

“True. We left her and her kids in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now wait just a sec till I get our things from the car.”


A road intersection from Bozeman to Great Falls, Montana. 16:42 PM.


“Yee-ho!” Amanda yelled, as she subtly shifted gears. “What would Trent say? Ah, yes - this vehicle rocks!”


Amanda shifted the rear-view mirror and her eyes widened from fear, as she saw the ever-gaining avalanche for the first time. Without thinking, she pressed the gas pedal and drove forwards as fast as she could.

The lethal race was on.


Farmington, New Mexico. 16:42 PM.


“So kids, how was your dinner?” Summer turned to her offspring.



“Your gratitude is heart-wrenching,” Summer said with sarcasm equal to Jane’s. “I really think that Rufus would’ve been in order.”

The kids groaned. When Summer was put into a sarcastic mood, it was even worse than when she was angry. The siblings could deal with an angry Summer - they could run away. But a sarcastic Summer - it was another kettle of fish entirely. An unpleasant one.

“So mom, you have any board games or can we go and play with our cards?”

“Run along kids,” Summer said tiredly. “I'm going to cal Lawndale and see what’s happening there.”


“Casa Lane,” Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:45 PM.


The phone rang. “Who is it?” Trent spoke loudly.

“Yo, Trent. It’s me, Summer. Did Penny and her boyfriend get over to your place?”

“Just now. And already we’re dissolving into arguments. Apparently, he’s got relatives over here too.”

“My condolences. I can imagine what they have to say about it?”

“Actually, me and Janey are already friendly with them.”

“Oh, you are? Good for you.”

“I’m not sure. I'll call you later Summer; where are you, anyways?”

“Farmington, New Mexico. Tell Penny I said ‘hi’. See ya.”


“Casa Lane,” Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:46 PM.


“Who was it?” Daria flatly asked, watching as Glue made his return.

“Summer,” Trent replied, almost as flatly. “Penny, you’ve really done it this time. If mom and dad were here-“

“Mom would be at the pottery wheel or the kiln, and dad would be in the washroom, developing his photos,” Penny replied, also in a flat voice.

“Come on, give them at least one dollar worth of credit!” Jane argued. “Maybe they’ll turn here yet, you know?”

“Last I heard from mom, she was staying in Wyoming,” Penny shook her head. “She has a lodge in Wild River Range, remember?”

“Yeah, but you know mom, she’s probably ran it into the ground.”

“Wind then. He has an apartment in Bozeman, Montana. That’s much closer, than Lawndale, Massachusetts.”

“I don't know. Wind usually prefers to spend winters in Nevada, California, or Florida.”

“So? His apartment’s still there,” Penny was not bulging from her argument.

“Remind me - what are they arguing about?” Daria asked Nick as he stood next to her.

The musician shrugged. “Don't worry. As far as us non-Lanes know, when more than two Lane siblings get into one place, they begin to argue where the rest of them are, as they do now. If you ask me, it’s something in their nature.”

“Ahem,” Glue’s voice interrupted the argument before it could continue. “So how much do the repo and others want for your house?”

“Alecto? Show him the bills and the letters,” Trent said. He was curious: just what was that guy going to do?

Glue looked over the paperwork, smiled, and untied the bag.


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:50 PM.


“Mom? Dad? Are you home?” Quinn called-out.

“What’s up kiddo?” Jake appeared. “Your mother is on the phone upstairs, talking to her aide or something. Shouldn’t you be with your friends?”

“Nah,” Quinn shook her head. “Penny’s boyfriend only has a sister, the blond girl - you remember her? Calais or something.”

“Oh. Oh well, I’m sure that you’ll find a suitable boy for yourself someday.”

“Sure thing, dad,” Quinn nodded, then paused.

“Yes?” Jake asked, wondering if he was going to be asked for cash.

“Are you and mom okay? While we were waiting for Jane’s sister and her boyfriend, Daria said that shock might be getting to you and mom. Or something. I was worried and went here to check. Besides, nothing fun is happening over there anyways.”

Jake sighed in appreciation. “Thanks for your concern, kiddo. No, me and your are fine. Speaking of concern, how are your friends? Maybe you should phone them.”

“Good thinking, dad.” Quinn walked-over to the kitchen phone and dialled.


The Rowe house, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 16:50 PM.


The phone rang. “Who is it?” spoke Yasmine Rowe, Stacy’s mother.

“Mrs. Rowe? It’s Quinn Morgendorffer. Sorry for bothering you, but how’s Stacy after yesterday? We got separated in the rush and all.”

“Oh, she’s fine, shaken-up but fine,” Yasmine said in a friendly tone. “Wait a second, just let me call her. Stacy! It’s for you!”

Stacy came downstairs and took the phone from her mother. “Who is it?”

“Hey Stacy, it’s Quinn.”

“Oh hey Quinn! Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I ran into some friends who drove me home. They had to stay overnight, though, because of the snowstorm. You?”

“Got shoved into this pharmacy, and hid in the cashier’s counter until the showing abated. It was simply awful, like that movie that Mr. DeMartino has showed us about Nazi Germany, Crystal Night or something.”

“Oh! Sorry for what you’ve experienced, Stacy.”

“That’s okay. I just huddled in that box until the rescuing teams came. Then all was okay.”

“Fine, but what about Tiffany and Sandi?”

“Tiffany was flung over in the Food Court into a fast food stand. Really flung. Far and wide.”

“Was she hurt?” Quinn said worriedly. “Some of those stands have cooking furnaces in the back, or so I've heard…”

“No, no, not hurt or burned or anything, merely stuck in a pile of roasted potatoes and meat patties for a long, long time.”

“Ouch! And Sandi?”

“Was also flung, but into a floral shop.”

“Lucky her.”

“Not really. She landed on a row of cacti, so she had to be taken to the hospital. She had also knocked her face over some flower pots, I think, but I’m not sure.”

“Oh gee - I certainly don’t envy her. When we’ll be able to get together?”

“I don’t know… oh, Tiffany is re-calling!”

“Heeeey,” Tiffany’s voice carried through the phone lines. “Hiya Stacy, Quinn.”

“Hey, Tiffany. So how’s Sandi?”

“Still in the hospital. Her brothers told me that we could have a mission without her.”

“Uh, Tiffany, that’s ‘meeting’.”


“We're having meetings, not missions.”

“Oh. Sorry. So where can we meet?”

“Why not at my place?” Quinn said brightly. “Daria isn’t here, and mom and dad say it’s okay.”

“Cool, see ya later, Quinn.”

“Yeah, Quinn, see you later.”


Great Falls, Montana, 17:00 PM.


Amanda Lane finally released the steering wheel. For what seemed an eternity she has raced through descending montane roads, desperately trying to outrace a thundering avalanche. But now it was all over. Now the sun shone once again through the clouds…

…and back were those damn meadowlarks! Joining them were a series of doves and pigeons, and a couple of birds that looked like cuckoos. Amanda Lane just shook her head. Her eldest son’s idea for staying in a house for the winter sounded better and better. Hell, she might just do it!

Amanda began to think. Returning to Bozeman was out of the question. The road back south was buried almost to very mountaintops. To her left once again lay Rocky Mountains, which have proven to be very inhospitable. To her right was Montana’s flatland, and to her north was Canada.

Amanda suddenly brightened. Why not Canada indeed? Penny had once stayed there for well over a year, and even brought back souvenirs. Smiling, Amanda refuelled her car and drove north, to Alberta.


Bozeman, Montana. 17:15 PM.


The phone rang. “Mom?” Wind cautiously asked. For all he knew, it could be some auditor or tax collector.

“Yes, Wind. I won't be staying with you in Montana for winter, I’m going to Canada.”

Wind wasn't very surprised. Amanda Lane was known very well to pull off stunts like that. “Fine mom. Let us know where you’ll stay, fine?”

“Yes, Wind. Bye!” Amanda Lane hanged-up.

Wind sighed. “Why my mom is such a ditz?” he asked the ceiling. Naturally, there was no answer.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 17:15 PM.


“Well, this is interesting,” Daria said in a monotone, as she and Jane were sitting with Monique in Jane’s room. “Who said that life in Lawndale was boring? Around the Lane family, it’s never boring!”

“Pinch me again, Daria, I may be dreaming,” Jane said absently. “Ouch!” Daria had slapped her.

“So tell me again, who is this guy?” Daria turned to Monique, who quietly left with the younger girls to prevent undue tension in the Lanes’ living room.

“Louis something. You’ve got to ask for his last name Calais, ‘cause I don't know.”

“Nevermind his name, who is he?”

Monique shrugged. “I met him and Calais in Quebec over a decade ago. I befriend Calais and dragged myself, her and her brother into the pro-separatism movement.”


“I'm a Quebecois, so’s Alecto. She’s my older sister. We were born in Longueuil, lived there our whole childhoods. But then Alecto found herself a real job in the state, and after enrolling me first into a private girl school and then into Loyola College, left.”

“And you naturally got into trouble.”

“It’s all in one’s opinion,” Monique said firmly. “Anyways, I became involved and went to Quebec-city. There I met Calais and her brother, and got them involved too. Then we got into trouble with a capital T, and if Alecto didn’t return back then with Effïndïe in tow, who knows what’ve happened. At any case, Calais got separated from her brother, and went traipsing with me, Alecto and Effïndïe, through Quebec, New Brunswick, Maine and New Hampshire, until finally settling here, in Lawndale, Massachusetts.”

“And you became the music group how?”

“It just happened,” Monique shrugged. “It is classified information; Alecto will kill me if I let it out. She sill hasn't quite forgiven me for being a Quebecois separatist, you know?”

“And Calais’ brother is mad at you for that also,” Jane shook her head. “Ever thought of going on air at ‘Sick Sad World’?”

“I'm thinking more of ‘Jackass’ lines,” Daria smirked. “But seriously. Any idea where he and Penny Lane could’ve returned with a bag full of dollars and gold nuggets?”

Monique looked at Daria. Hard. “You know Daria, questions like these should not be asked.”

“But somebody has to ask them.”

“As Alecto sometimes says, a question may be asked, but it doesn't have to be answered,” Monique replied. “Besides, an answer may be censured out because of your tender age.”

Daria gave her an evil eye. “Monique, you’re hopeless.”


Farmington, New Mexico. 17:15 PM.


“Well, that was interesting,” Adrian turned to Courtney.

“It was sure fun talking to aunt Natasha though.”

“Well yeah, but it’s also nice to know that aunt Natasha will look into our mom’s astral self. It would be nice if mom would snap back to normal - well, as normal as a Lane can get.”

Courtney nodded. “I wonder what the results can be.”

Adrian wordlessly brought forth their cards. “Pick from the second pile, Courtney.”

Courtney picked.

“What does it say?”

The plagues robbed Dominaria of all but its dreams. Eldamari hoped dreams were enough. I don't know Adrian, it doesn't sound good.”

“I think it does. I think that mom may have a chance yet to snap back to being a normal Lane.”

“I heard that!” Summer Lane appeared in the doorway. “You’ve  used me in your little game too far. Now it’s my turn. Let’s see what the cards say about our joint future.”


Medicine Hat, Alberta, 17:30 PM.


Amanda Lane was cheerfully driving through the city’s streets, when a car drove over to hers’ and signalled to stop. She complied. “What’s wrong?”

“Hey, Amanda, remember me? ‘Tis me, Catherine.”

“Catherine, oh my! How nice to see you again!”

“Ditto here, Amanda. So what brings you to Alberta?”

“I'm searching for winter quarters. Have any ideas where I can find some?”

Catherine looked thoughtful. “See, Amanda, there’s a meeting of an organization, of which I’m a member, in Calgary. Want to go to Calgary with me? Then I can take you back to my home in Ottawa, and you can spend the winter there.”

“It's a deal.”


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts, 17:30 PM.


“Hey Stacy, Tiffany!” Quinn cheerfully said.

“Hey!” the other two girls nodded in agreement.

“Sorry about Sandi.”

“’S okay, Quinn,” Tiffany spoke.

Quinn frowned. Tiffany’s face looked somehow different, somehow changed. “What are we doing today?” Tiffany continued to ask.

“I was thinking of just hanging around and eat some non-fat chips and see a fashion show or two,” Quinn replied. “Anything more would be unfair to poor Sandi.”

“Good idea,” Stacy nodded, her hair bobbing in the air. “We wouldn't want poor Sandi to miss anything out.”

The trio of girls walked upstairs. Moments later two more girls appeared.

“Hey Daria, Jane!” Jake cheerfully said. “What’s up?”

“Trent and Monique and their bands left for music practice. Penny and her boyfriend have saved “Casa Lane” from financial ruin then hit the sack.”

“Oh? Yeah. They apparently travelled for a lot of time.”

Jake shrugged. “That’s from Vince’s side, I’d bet. That man loved to walk around and shoot pictures. Maybe Jane and her siblings inherited that from him.”

Jane shrugged in her own turn. “Anyways, the pair of them snores so loudly, that we can't hear ourselves talk. Is’t okay if we hang at my room?”

“Sure girls,” Jake nodded, then glanced outside. “Wow! Is it dark outside or what!”

“Dad, it’s December, it’s been dark for hours already,” Daria said. “You’ve just been watching too much TV.”

“I did?” Jake said and yawned. “But all the same, I do feel sleepy.”

“I daresay, after last night it was only natural. Well, we’ll be upstairs if you want to call us.”

Daria and Jane left. Jake yawned again, stretched, and decided to go and see what Helen was up to. Maybe she was also feeling sleepy.

And maybe he could perk her up.

Smiling and whistling cheerfully Jake Morgendorffer went upstairs.


Farmington, New Mexico. 17:30 PM.


“Well, that was fun,” Courtney Lane looked up from the board game ‘Getting into Trouble’. “Pointless, but fun.”

“Courtney, board games are made that way - pointless, but fun,” Summer explained.

“Oh. Hah. We didn't know that,” Adrian and Courtney exchanged glances, then yawned, as the events starting with the crazed wild pig started to catch-up with them. “Why do we feel sleepy all of a sudden?”

“’Cause the adrenaline is finally wearing off,” Summer replied with a knowing glance. “It's a Lane thing. We can go on for days, weeks, and months, but as soon as we get a real chance to hit the sack, we hit it as soon as possible. Come on you two, let’s go to sleep.”

The siblings looked at each other. Between the crazed pig, the roadrunner, the coyote and their mother they were tired indeed. “All right,” they said.


Christmas days in Lawndale. Part IV - the Lanes get Christmas!


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:00 PM.


“Hey people!” Calais piped-up out of the Lanes’ doorway. “Bro and Penny are sound asleep, we can do whatever we want to do here, as long as we don't go into their room. Otherwise, we're screwed.”

“Noted,” Alecto nodded and turned to Trent. “Well Lane, do you want to do it?”

Trent nodded. “Yes. As soon as Jesse and Effïndïe return with the fir tree, we’re preparing Casa Lane for Christmas.


Tree lot, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:00 PM.


“Well?” Effïndïe looked around the Lawndale tree lot, which looked like some strange urbane forest. “Which tree do you like, Jesse?”

Jesse shrugged. He wasn't big on trees, but you needed a prickly-looking tree for Christmas, but a cactus didn’t count. “Ask for advice?” he replied instead.

Effïndïe shrugged. In her childhood, before she met “Alecto” Dupri she had lived in NYC, and in a sector that didn't rate Christian holidays like Christmas very highly as well. After that, she, the Dupri sisters and Calais travelled through eastern Canada and America’s East Coast, until finally settling in Lawndale, and a nomadic life did not promote holidays either (events of joy when a large amount of food or necessities like toilet paper was gleaned-from or gained didn't count). So naturally, she wasn't the one to argue. “Hey! Anybody here?”

Out popped a boy with all of his intelligence shown on his face. “Hey! I’m Kevin Thomson! I’m the QB!”

“Aha,” Effïndïe nodded, knowing that Jesse didn't speak, not willingly. “Do you work here? We want to buy a Christmas tree.”

“Indoors or outdoors?” Another sporty-looking boy appeared next to Kevin. “Ma’am?”

“Indoors. Bushy. A fir tree,” Jesse minted the words out.

Effïndïe almost stared. That tone of voice was new for Jesse, that much was for certain.

“Right. That makes it a low-cut tree,” Robert nodded knowingly. 

“You got one?”

“We’ve got some! Come, let me show you.”


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:05 PM.


Downstairs, the phone rang. Daria and Jane looked at each other. “Well?” Jane asked. “Who’s going to pick it up?”

“Quinn, most likely,” Daria shrugged. “Quinn! Phone!” she yelled.

“We’re busy!” Quinn yelled back. “Go and ask dad or mom or pick it up yourself!”

Daria and Jane looked at each other. “Will wonders never cease?” Jane asked her friend.

“I don’t know,” Daria replied, and went to pick-up the phone.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:05 PM.


“Who is it?” a voice spoke in the Lanes’ phone’s receiver.

“Janey? It’s me, Trent. Come over here and bring Daria with you - we’re going to party-hardy!”

“We're going to do what?”

“Celebrate Christmas and the fact that us Lawndale Lanes still have our house?”

“Sounds reasonable. And Daria can come over?”


“Cool then, will be over soon. Bye.”


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:07 PM.


As the front door slammed, a hungry raccoon slowly made its’ way around the tree. It was hungry. Last night’s snowstorm really messed-up with its’ hibernation process, and now it was wide away. And also hungry.

It is known only by people who are quite interested in zoology, that racoons and badgers, just like black and brown bears, hibernate throughout the winter. And what they also don't know, that a raccoon, badger or bear awakened from his winter sleep can be a messy problem indeed. And right now, one of such problems what about to make itself known.

Slowly the raccoon began to make its’ way across the Morgendorffers’ backyard towards a tiny bit ajar basement window. If the racoon would’ve gotten into it, it would’ve been disappointed, since in the Morgendorffer basement naught was kept but Helen’s old paperwork, Jake’s assembled (or maybe mis-assembled) bits and ends, Quinn’s discarded fashion stuff, and few of Daria’s mementos that Jake and/or Helen have realized that importance of, and were kept. At any rate, nothing edible was lying in the Morgendorffer basement, to the racoon’s future disappointment.

But the racoon never made it into the basement directly. As it waddled across the yard, a snow-buried rusty grating gave way, and the racoon fell - deep down into the Morgendorffer  water pipe.


Tree lot, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:15 PM.


“All right, we’ll take this one,” Effïndïe nodded.

“Good choice, ma’am,” Robert said knowingly. “Fraser Fir is the most popular choice. You want it in a pot or cut-down?”

“In a pot,” Jesse spoke suddenly.

“Very well. Though I have to point out that Norway Spruce is the much better choice for-“

“We’ll take this one,” Jesse said with a finality that stopped any argumentations.

“Very well then,” Robert said, knowing that this was the time to stop. “Come on Kevin, let’s take this one to their car.”


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:15 PM.


Sadly (but not overly), the racoon didn't survive the fall. For a small animal plunging over three metres down is a nasty shock; you might say it had a stroke.

That, however, is beside the point. The point, on the other hand, is that there’s a dead animal blocking Morgendorffers’ water supply.

But water is a powerful force. When too much of it accumulates (we're talking liquid state here) in one point, it starts to push out, to spread. And since we’re talking about a water pipe, most, if not all, of water pressure comes from one point - from behind the block, aka the Dead Racoon. So naturally, the water pushes the block forwards, and as the block does so, the water goes straight forwards, pushing the block along. If this was a river, the whole thing would’ve gone unnoticed, since a river, a) much wider than a plumbing pipe, and b), it eventually comes to a sea, an ocean, or at least another, bigger river, and the whole point of an obstacle being an obstacle to a current becomes moot.

But what we have here isn't a river; it’s an artificial, man-made water pipe. The Morgendorffer family’s water pipe, to be exact. And as water pipes tend to do, this one branches off into smaller and thinner tubes, to go reach various sinks and faucets.

Now a racoon - it isn’t a small animal. Let’s say this poor sod of an animal that fell down into the pipe (believe me, when the sh*t hits the fan, the water management of Lawndale will really hear it about their pipes going rusty and holey), is a metre long, more so if you consider the tail. So naturally, when it reaches that branching point, it becomes stuck. Completely stuck. Unable-to-go-further stuck. And the water pressure behind it builds. And builds. And builds.

When something is going to go, it really will go, believe me.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:25 PM.


“Well, we're here,” Daria said flatly as she and Jane entered Casa Lane. “What’s the big hoopla’s about?”

“We’ve decided to celebrate Christmas,” Trent said proudly. “And Daria would you like to join our family?”

“Why not?” Daria shrugged. “The festive mood is far away from our house, believe me. Quinn and her fashionable friends are accounting for their losses, for the head fashion fiend, Sandi Griffin, is sadly absent from her lair.”

“He-he, you’re funny Daria.”

“Yes, well, speaking of family, where are Penny and her boyfriend?”

“Upstairs,” Calais said flatly. “Do not attempt to wake him, at least: he’s liable to give you a fat lip as a minimum.”

“Gee, what a nice brother you have,” Jane smirked.

“Hey, you should meet our guardian - she’s our aunt,” Calais smirked. “If anything, she’s more loaded then my brother ever could get.”

“Gee, who is your aunt?” Jane placidly asked.

“Catherine Barrette. She lives in Ottawa, Canada.”

Jane and Daria’s eyes bulged. “What?” Calais asked, suddenly worried.

“Nothing,” Daria finally managed to get her face into her usual deadpan expression. “Just that your aunt married Jane’s and Trent’s and Penny’s folks - Vincent and Amanda Lane. My mom and dad told me and Jane my sister earlier today.”

Calais whistled. “Sounds to me like bro and Penny up there are already pretty much family-like. Cool.”

“I don't suppose your aunt can marry them too?” Nick said, from his watcher’s post at the window. He and Max and Monique were watching for Effïndïe and Jesse to appear with the fir tree.

“Nah. She usually travels a lot, and I don't even know if she still lives in Ottawa or moved somewhere else, like, say, Toronto.”

“Hey!” Nick spoke once again. “The tree is here! Bring forth - the toys!”

The house once again broke into a bundle of activity.


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:25 PM.


“Jake?” Helen turned to her husband. “Can you get me a glass of water? I'm parched.”

Jake nodded and went downstairs. Downstairs, as he turned-on the tap, he received a nasty surprise: there was no water there. “What the?” Jake wondered, as he futily tried to do something about it, namely open and close the tap few more times. No luck. “Hon,” Jake called-out loudly, we’ve got a problem.”

“What?” Helen yelled from upstairs.

“No water!”

“What?! This is ridiculous!” Helen stomped downstairs, determined to see for herself. “What the Hell is going-on here? We’ve paid our water bill! You just wait - somebody’s going to get it!”

Never underestimate the power of an active lawyer who’s been denied anything, especially a life’s necessity, like water. But also don't underestimate the power of water, when it is denied moving along with its’ current. Something is going to give. You can count on that.


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:30 PM.


“Hey dad, what’s up? At whom mom is angry at now?” Quinn asked, as she went downstairs, flanked by Stacy and Tiffany.

“The water company. For some reason, all of our taps and faucets aren't working,” Jake replied nervously. Helen had been storing unspent aggravation all day since morning, and so he was very, very careful to avoid her.

So did their daughters, it seemed. If Jake had lived with Helen only throughout his married life, then Quinn and Daria lived for their whole lives, and knew their mother mayhaps even better than Jake did his wife. As a result, knowingly or not, both Morgendorffer girls planned to stay out of their mother’s way as much as possible. Other people didn't know that, or simply were unlucky. And so…

“Why isn’t there any water, Mr. Morgendorffer?” Stacy asked timidly.

Quinn winced. While quite calmer and less aggressive than Helen, Jake Morgendorffer tended to turn any innocent question that was directed at him into a crazed rant about his father, “Mad Dog” Morgendorffer. Actually, though Quinn wasn’t so sure, Daria once told her that she had met her grandfather, while he was still along the living. Apparently, it was her third birthday or so, so Daria wasn’t too sure about it herself. The bottom line was, though, that grandpa Morgendorffer hadn't been as bad as Jake sounded him to be. He was merely… something else. Daria wasn't sure of that herself, so Quinn wisely withheld that bit of sister-shared information from everybody else, including Daria, who probably forgot all about it by now.

“How are we supposed to know?” Jake sighed. Truth to tell, he was tired of constantly being afraid of his wife. Well, not exactly afraid, but worried, worried that one wrong move - and he’ll get scared, really, really scared. And that would be not good, not good at all. In short, Jake Morgendorffer was not a happy camper, and as a result, he needed to take-out steam. Stacy’s question did that for him. He began to rant.

As the other two girls listened with wide-open eyes and mouth’s to Jake’s latest monologue concerning the water management and his grandfather, Quinn walked-over to the faucet and opened it. A few drops of water came out, coupled with some sort of a peculiar smell. “Dad?” Quinn said slowly. “I think there’s something dead in the water pipe!”

“What? Lousy, no-good capitalist fat cats!” Jake yelled, as he flung a newspaper that he was reading outside.

By caprice of fate (or perhaps Jake just didn't know his own strength), the newspaper flew further than it should’ve, and fell into the same grating hole that the late racoon had fallen into as well. And just like the late racoon, the newspaper was carried forth by the water current, until it slammed itself into the wet and smelling corpse. Compiled with that, the wet paper effectively stopped the water’s flow. That did it. The piping gave way. With a capital BANG.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:35 PM.


The phone rang. “Who is it?” Daria spoke into the receiver, feeling for certain that that could only be one of her family members.

“Daria, it’s Quinn. We’ve got a disaster.”

“What do you mean?”

“The pipes have exploded, and our house is apparently sinking into the ground.”

“Say what? How did this happen?”

“I don’t know, something just clogged-up the pipes too much, you know? Oh, just get over here! This is a Morgendorffer family emergency!”

Daria nodded. “I’m coming.”


“Chateau Morgendorffer”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 18:45 PM.


Daria quickly exited from the Tank (Max and Monique gave her a ride). “Quinn! Dad! Mom! What has happened?!”

“The ratings rusted through,” the repairman replied instead. “A racoon smashed right through them and the top of the water pipe. The current carried it to the brachiating point and there it got stuck. In comes the next object - a newspaper or a magazine, and the whole thing gets shot to pieces sky-high. Now you’ve got your own geyser for a while.”

“Who’ll pay for that?” Daria asked, wide-eyed. Such an event was almost enough to make a cynic believe in God. Almost.

“The insurance company!” Helen said sharply, moving into view. “And believe me, pay they will - I've got the paperwork up to their ears that says so!”

Daria almost smiled. The more things changed the more they stayed the same, it seemed. “Well, at least the house is still standing,” she said trying to be supportive. Remember when dad set it afire instead?”

“Please, don't remind me!” Quinn winced. “I almost dated a geek!”

“Yup,” Daria said almost smilingly. “Things don't change much. At all.”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 19:00 PM.


“Why, Jane, Trent, it is extremely nice of you to let us stay at your place while ours is being repaired,” Helen told the younger Lane siblings.

“No sweat at all,” Jane replied cheerfully. “You let us stay at more than one occasion. And besides, now that I know that we almost became family…”

“Please don't mention it,” Helen said quickly, noticing that Jake was frowning. “Coincidentally, did you buy a new car or something?”

“No, just Penny came home with her new boyfriend,” Trent said, smirking.

“Is he a good boy?” Helen said, curiously.

“He’s okay. He’s Calais’ brother.”


“The blonde Harpy, remember?” Jane said.

“Well, that’s nice, but-“

“They’re also the nephew and niece of that Catherine lady that supposedly married our folks,” Jane elaborated.

“Oh boy. I presume that he is some sort of a mercenary then, at least.”

“Mom!” Quinn said, appalled. “That’s not a nice thing to say!”

“Quinn, you don't know Catherine Barrette as well as I do.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Jake suddenly agreed. “If my memory serves me correctly, Helen, you kind of wanted to be a part of Catherine’s crowd - until that incident with Rita, I believe. Even so, you two remained friends till graduation or some time around that.”

“Didn't you say this morning that they were gay or something?” Jane quipped, feeling an opening.

Helen blushed. “And you’re not?” she suddenly said.

Jane goggled. “Say what? Mrs. M., believe me, what you’re hearing about us artists is false-“

“I'm sorry,” Helen quickly said, realizing that she was trading insults with a girl who had offered them to stay at their place, “it’s just that my boss Eric has this niece, Allison, and between her and him I understood…”

Jane blinked. “Allison is a lawyer’s niece?”

“Allison is a niece of a lawyer’s wife,” Helen said sharply. “First wife, as a matter of fact.”

“Does it matter?” Trent said, surprised.

“Yup. If you’re rich,” Daria said sadly. “It’s kind of like the Taylors, I believe.”

“They sound familiar,” Trent frowned.

“Yeah, you played at their place at Brittany’s birthday,” Jane said. “The blonde cheerleader, remember?”

“Wasn't that Ashley-Amber?” Trent frowned. “I think I remember her talking to Jesse…”

“Let’s not get into that,” Jane hurriedly said, noticing the look of open curiosity on Helen’s face.

Fortunately for Trent, Helen made a monumental effort to hold her curiosity in place and succeeded. “So what we were talking about in the beginning?” she asked Jane.

“Allison,” Jane said, hungry for some gossip herself. “So your boss has remarried?”

“Yes, some time ago, to a woman named Meiko,” Helen said.

“Sounds oriental.”

“She is. Chinese or Japanese - I don't know,” Helen said. “Basically, Eric pays his first wife and child alimony; plus former Mrs. Schrecter is a manager in some company. All in all, they’re sufficiently financially successful. Unfortunately, Allison isn't very appreciative of that fact.”

Jane shrugged. “So where does she live?” she asked, deciding that a bit of revenge was in order.

“I do not know,” Helen admitted. “Maybe Eric does. I'm not sure.”

“Say, Jane-o,” Jake suddenly piped-up, “what’s that smell?”

“Jesse and Effïndïe,” Trent said. “They’re cooking the holiday meal for us. You're invited too, you know?”

“Thanks, Jane!” Jake excitedly said.

“But we’ll pay for all the expenses,” Helen added.

“It’s a deal.”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 19:25 PM.


“You know Jesse, maybe you should try to be a cook, eh?” Jake said, after the last of dinner was over. “You and Effïndïe have a real knack for it, it seems.”

“You got that right,” Calais smirked, remembering the time they caught a bunch of crows near Woodstock, New Brunswick. “Those two really mesh together.”

“Have you been talking with Mr. O’Neill?” Daria suspiciously asked.

“We’ve ran into him from time to time,” Alecto replied. “If you ask me, that’s not just incense that he is supposedly burning in his house; a clear-headed person would not say stuff like he usually does.”

“How do you know that he burns anything in his house?” Helen asked, semi-suspiciously.

“From Jane.”

“Me and Daria visited him based on one of the assignments,” Jane hurriedly explained. “And yes it was just incense - or so it appeared.”

“And of course, you're the expert on that?” Alecto almost sneered.

“As opposed to you?” Penny and Glue suddenly appeared in the doorway. “Thanks for the door-to-door service, by the way.”

Alecto crossed her eyes at Effïndïe, who just shrugged, as if indicating: “They’re good.”

“I don’t think we’ve been introduced though,” Glue turned to Jake and Helen. “Chris Dimmermann at your service.”

“Jake Morgendorffer, and this is my wife Helen,” Jake quickly replied. “So, is it correct that you’ll be staying in Lawndale awhile?”

“Settling here more like it,” Glue replied cheerfully. “If I get the post Lawndale High’s librarian post, that is.”

Calais snorted under nose but said nothing.

“That’s great,” Helen heartily approved instead. “So you're the nephew of Catherine Barrette?”


“And how is she nowadays?”

“Don't know - haven't seen her awhile,” Glue replied truthfully. “How do you know her?”

“Went to the same college,” Jake replied cheerfully. “So Chris -where did you exactly meet Penny?”

Penny frowned. “Isn't that kind of personal?”

“Hey Penny!” Jane spoke-up. “Since mom and dad aren't here, I've asked Mr. and Mrs. M. to fill-in for them, so talk.”

“Now see here Jane,” Penny began, and soon the two sisters began to argue.

“Don't interfere,” Nick sighed. “When the Lanes get arguing, there’s no stopping them.”

“A good point,” Jake nodded and turned to Glue. “So Chris - where did you meet Penny?”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 19:40 PM.


After the meal, things have quieted-down somewhat. Mystik Spiral and Harpies went downstairs to practice their music playing; Penny took her boyfriend to show him around Lawndale - and at least temporarily away from the inquisitive Jane; Helen went upstairs, taking her files with her to talk to their insurance company; and Jake was left alone with his daughters and Jane Lane.

“So girls, want to play something?” Jake offered.

The trio looked at each other. “Dad, don't you have anything on TV?” Quinn finally asked.

“Nah, nothing interesting,” Jake shook himself. “Just reruns and reruns of cheesy Christmas flicks, and they’re all the same! Year after year! They’re all the same! Can't those hacks ever come up with anything new? But no, the best they can come-up with is Dr. Seuss’s “Grinch” and the children’s nursery rhyme “Frosty the snowman”! This country is on a fast track to Hell, I tell you, to Hell!”

The three girls winced. The bands were putting-up such a racket of their own that not even Jake’s rant could be heard by them, and Helen was upstairs and has learned how to ignore her husband’s rants from a distance. That left only them. Surprisingly, it was Quinn who came-up with a solution. “Say dad, when you saw our house topple where the ground caved-in, you’ve mentioned about some summer house. What were you talking about?”

Jake, always eager to bond with his girls, immediately changed the topic. “Sure thing Quinn, it happened when I was still in the military academy. That bloody hack of a sergeant made us build a summer house for that politician buddy of his.”

“So what happened?”

“Well, this is what happened. The place was all fine and dandy: forest nearby, all comforts, a large enough place for nine people… but we’ve bummed with plumbing, that’s the case! We have bummed the plumbing!”


“We built a well, and because of this well the whole house went to Hell. Literally. The well was dug too near to the porch, and its’ framework eventually toppled - from the proximity of the well. So that bloody bastard brings us again, we make a new framework, put it onto the rim, and basically it is a matter of hours to finish it.

However, we decided to procrastinate till spring. And in spring the earth melted and began to fall into the well, and it was almost forty metres deep! The ground, the framework - it all went down, making a pit over six metres long, right next to the house’s wall.

The foundation thought for a bit, then followed the porch’s framework. Then the wall cracked. Then all the insides fell outside. Two more days passed - and the whole building was in the well. And so, when the checking committee arrived, they found a bald spot!”

“That’s the end of the story?” Jane asked.

“Yup! After that our sergeant was demoted to a corporal and moved someplace else, I do not know where. And I, I, got the Hell out of that school - for once Mad Dog did the right thing though for wrong reasons - and ended-up in college where later I met Helen and the rest of our friends.”

“Cool story,” Jane said. “Ever thought of publishing it or something?”

Jake shook his head. “You don't imagine how embarrassing that was. Earlier I said ‘a bald spot’ but really there was left an outhouse, and a sign that said ‘Private Property’. Yeah, sure - can imagine a fence with a sign that says ‘Private Property’ but encloses naught but a great big hole in the ground and a matching outhouse?”

“I've got to paint that later!” Jane excitedly said. “I can almost visualise it, too!”

Jake smiled. “You a nice kid, Jane-o. Sorry about the art colony.”

Jane sighed.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 20:00 PM.


Helen came downstairs, and saw that all was peaceful, though not quiet, for the teen bands downstairs were busy packing-away heavy-duty sound. Jake and the three girls, on the other hand, were relatively quiet. Jane, in particular, was painting something, while Jake and their daughters watched figure skating on TV. “Did I miss anything?” Helen said, feeling that she did.

“Nah, just dad telling us one of his military school stories,” Daria said. “Quinn kind of pried it out of him.”

“Yeah, but… figure skating?”

“The only thing we could agree on, and it doesn't have any complicated dialogue on it either,” Daria explained. “The noise.”

“Right,” Helen paused. “So are Penny and Chris back yet?”

“No mom. For all I know they’ve went to Lawndale’s bowling alley or something.” Daria paused in her turn and asked. “So what’s the buzz with the insurance company?”

“They’re covering it. It took me a lot of time, but they’ll cover it, or they’ll wish that they were the one falling into that fetid hole in the ground instead of our house,” Helen said with a promising look on her face.

“So mom?” Daria turned to Helen, away from the TV. “We know that dad’s family didn't celebrate Christmas as a rule; what about you?”

Helen shook her head. “When I lived at home, we celebrated Christmas. It wasn't a very functional affair, with me and Rita snapping at each other, and Amy just merging with the background. Then at college, well, we weren’t big into ‘official holidays’ as we called them; we had too many things on our minds, you know?”

“Besides, when you get a large number of twenty-plus aged people, holidays often are forgotten in favour of… more… x-rated pastimes,” Jake added.

“I see,” Jane said wryly. “So no big Christmas parties, Mrs. M.?”

Helen shook her head. “Not really. There was one time that the cat set the fire to a tree, but no biggins.”


Street in Lawndale, Massachusetts. 20:00 PM.


“Well, what do you think?” Penny asked her mercenary friend.

“Think about what?”

“I don’t know… Jane and Trent?”

“I can see why you Lanes like to disperse throughout US.”

“Very funny. They just worry about me - a rather nice change from Wind’s and Summer’s attitudes.”

“What about Wind’s and Summer’s attitudes?”

“Me and Summer get along poorly, if at all. The closest Wind and I have ever got together was over a bottle of Mexican rot-gut, called pulké.”


“Well, nothing without a good side, I suppose. I did learn from Wind that he has a number of apartments in the US - but in which states and cities, I do not know.”

Glue shrugged, having his own knowledge of Wind - not much different from Penny’s, except that he also knew that Wind Lane was a scam artist and was wanted for marriage - or alimonies - in four or five states by now. He also never went as Wind Lane, either. What he actually went as, Glue, or Chris Dimmerman never knew nor care. He had long since discovered the power of many names, wearing a different one each time he could be noticed by public eye. And as a result, he developed something not unlike MPD, but nowhere as severe or violent, either.

“What are you thinking?” Penny asked him, worried by the prolonged something. “Is Wind in trouble?”

‘Your brother is trouble’, Glue wanted to say but he didn’t. Despite all that they’ve been through, insulting her relatives would never do. Not now. Maybe later. “No, just thinking that maybe we should contact my aunt and have her come over here and meet you. Also, I’m thinking about my sister?”

“Calais? I don’t know, she looks alright. Besides, she’s got her friends to help her.”

“That’s what I'm afraid of,” Glue sighed. “All those years ago - it was supposed to be just a simple trip to Quebec province, nevermind what their political views were.”

“That’s what I always thought!” Penny snorted. “And then you blew into my life.”

“So does this make Monique Dupri our fairy godmother?”

“God forbid!!” Penny enthusiastically shook her head. “I do not relish that image in my head.” She paused. “Say, look at the time! Let’s go inside.”

Glue shook his head. “Not exactly. Jesse and Effïndïe may be good cooks, but for the holiday supper I want to bring something special on the table. Let’s go and make a brief pre-pre-Christmas stop, yes.”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 20:40 PM.


“I must say, Chris, it was so nice of you to go and buy these bottles of champagne,” Helen turned to Glue, continued to play-out the role of mother-in-law. And nobody minded, except for Glue, and possibly Penny, who continued to glower at the smirking Jane.

Glue shrugged. “What can I say? Jesse and Effïndïe are wonderful cooks, true enough, but… I can't believe that they know how to make wine as well.”

“True,” Jesse nodded solemnly. “Also, it’s illegal.”

“Not without a license,” Penny popped-up, then shrugged as others stared her. “What? Have you ever been in Mexico?”

“Dad did,” Trent said. “The Inca ruins and stuff.”

“Really? Is that from there he brought that roasted pigeon recipe?” both of present Lane sisters turned to Trent, who now looked embarrassed. “I'm not sure. Mom has this odd anger towards mourning doves. Maybe it was her idea.”

The rest of people looked at each other, preparing for another earful of Lane family facts, when the door bell rang.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 20:45 PM.


“Who is it?” Jane opened the front door.

Jodie Landon stood there. “Excuse me, would you like to donate… Jane? With all that noise inside, I didn't recognize it as your house.”

“It's the season to be jolly, Jodie,” Jane said, looking oddly at the other girl. “And to spend with one’s family, as much as possible. What are you doing outside?”

“You speak about one’s family and yet you ask?” Jodie said with a touch of bitterness. “I sometimes wish I was an orphan.”

“Janey, who is it at the door?” Trent called-out.

“Jodie Landon, for some donations!”

“I think we can give her some!”

“You can?”

“Yes, thanks to our future-brother-in-law,” Jane said with a grimace. “One of my sisters is getting married.”

“The middle one?”

“How’d you guess?”

“I once talked to your other sister, when she was looking for your kids a year or so ago.”

“That sort of a strong impression?”

“Yeah, can't wait for her to meet my mom.”

“That may be arranged - some time in the future. Certainly not this winter.”

“Oh well.”

“Jane!” Trent called-out. “Come on! The meal is getting cold!”

“Wait a sec, Trent!” Jane called back and turned back to Jodie, but she was gone. Shrugging, Jane went back inside.


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 21:30 PM.


“Well, we can finally have dinner, it seems,” Jane finally returned to the table. “So how we’ll start?”

“Why won’t Chris give us a speech?” Monique gave Jane a sneaky look. “He always had a way with words.”

“I don’t know; I’m not really into this whole holiday-speech thing,” Glue protested quickly, giving Monique a death-eye glare. “Really, maybe somebody else is ought to do it?”

“No-no,” Penny said. “Your last speech has been great, you really should try again.”

Glue sighed. “Very well. But I'm passing all the blame on Monica there.”

“It’s Monique!” the girl quietly growled.

Glue cleared his throat and began. “People! We have gathered together tonight for a special occasion. Some of us have walked as little as next door, others a much larger distance than that. Some of us are males, others females, and speaking about the rest isn't politically correct. Some of us may be Christians, others - Jews, Muslims, agnostics, but all of us nonetheless has gathered to celebrate this fine, though Christian, holiday. Some of us are rich, some are poor. All of us have different ages, attitudes and dispositions. It does not matter, for tonight, at least for Christians, a God had supposedly been born, and as all major religions agree upon wholeheartedly (although that is probably the only thing they’ll agree upon wholeheartedly), all men and women are equal before a God. And furthermore, as it is polite to deter to the birthday boy or girl, let’s keep in mind that this holiday is a God’s birthday on top of all things other, and thus we should act polite, lest we won't get invited the next year, for the birthday boy may decide to start Armageddon a little bit early! Or something,” Glue added as an afterthought. “That is something to be remembered all year though… But I digress. Since it is a God’s birthday, and since the birthday boy sadly can't grace us all with his presence, we’ll have to start without him, honouring him to the extent of our meagre and mediocre abilities.” Glue paused for a bit more, then added, looking mischievously. “What are you waiting for, people? Let’s eat!”


“Casa Lane”, Lawndale, Massachusetts. 21:35 PM.


The meal went-on quietly after that. Well, relatively quietly, since fifteen people, with their majority unschooled in table manners don't tend to eat quietly, but actual conversation was lax, however.

“You know, Chris there has said one odd holiday speech, and I've heard a few by all sorts of men,” Jake told Penny Lane. That was true. Some of his father’s drinking buddies could say a lot of odd things, once they were inebriated, yes. “It is both convincing yet misdirected, however.”

“Hey, it’s the best he could come up on such a short notice,” Penny replied, “plus he wasn't much into the holiday spirit until now.” ‘You should’ve heard his speech in San Lorenzo where he’d won me over,” Penny said wryly. “When the bastard really wants to give a speech, he prepares for it, oy vey, he prepares.” That was true. Glue’s speech was pretty much the fuel for a long, eight-hour drive and march, at the end of which the separatists and their mercenary allies took-in the Tegucigalpa and its’ inner defences by storm - a chaotic one. Compared to that speech, this one was pretty mild.

“Say, Mrs. M.,” Jane turned to Helen, before Daria kicked her under the table. “What?” Jane turned angrily to her friend.

“Keep it out of it,” Daria said thoughtfully. “Now’s not the time nor place.”

“And how would you know?” Jane whirled onto Daria. “Miss Quinn’s cousin.”

“What are you girls talking about?” Helen instantly tuned-in on her eldest daughter and her friend. “Does Quinn once again denies her relationship to you?” she asked Daria.

If Daria wasn't Daria, then then she would’ve looked like a deer caught in car lights. But she was Daria, and thus she didn't look that way. “Mom, let’s talk about it tomorrow,” she offered.

“Very well,” Helen unhappily complied to, “very well.”


Bozeman, Montana. 21:40 PM.


The party in the two felons’ house was also underway, guest starring a hooker. Despite all of Wind’s and Horatio’s cautions and experiences, neither was willing to not have a Christmas party, and so they celebrated as good as they wanted to, and that didn't promote high elegance (although when Wind willed it, he could be quite elegant). Tobacco smoke and alcohol fumes have filled the air, and what the three people were doing in the bedroom, was quite, quite x-rated. That much could be evident by screams, some of them so loud, that they caused the incense candles, lit in strategically dark places, to actually flicker.

No, whatever you could say, or Glue have said about Christmas, there was nothing Christian-like in Wind’s and Horatio’s party. Nothing.


Calgary, Alberta. 21:45 PM.


Catherine Barrette was standing outside on the balcony, only partially dressed. To an ordinary person, that was stupid, and not very far from suicidal: after all, Alberta, was one of the coldest and wind-swept provinces in the winter. But Catherine Barrette was different from an ordinary person.

She was a high-ranking official in RCMP, for a start. She was also a professional in a number of yoga-type disciplines, and as a result, she could endure even a -20*C temperature - for a while. A brief while, but still.

But a brief while was all Catherine Barrette needed, as she formed the ritual pose, and whispered her requests to the winds, she whispered the words of power, known to her, to the winds. And those words of power were not something to be used often or lightly: an incorrect syllable could freeze Catherine’s blood faster than the Canadian winter, an incorrect word could drive her mad.

But Catherine didn't falter, didn't break. She had mastered that long ago.

Thinking of long ago brought smile to Catherine’s lips. Those days in college have been good. The only regret was that falling-out with Helen, because of her damn sister. But Catherine really didn't like women like Rita, really intensely. But now that Amanda’s here, mayhaps she’ll be the key to regaining Helen’s friendship. After all, one never knows when one will need a good lawyer.

Smiling wildly, Catherine went into the dining room, where Amanda waited.


Flagstaff, New Mexico. 21:50 PM.


Summer Lane couldn't sleep. Even though she had felt sleepy by 17:30, sleep itself couldn't come. Adrian and Courtney’s proximity was too exciting and activating for that. She wasn’t ever before so close to any of her children.

Well, without Rufus being around, that is.

Summer sighed. What was wrong with her? As months and years flew past, she felt herself changing more and more than whom she was in her childhood - an ordinary girl with aspirations to be an actress. Now she was… well, Summer didn't know who she was, but she also knew that she couldn't be an address now, certainly not a Marilyn Monroe calibre actress. And that was disappointing, to say the least. Also, very, very infuriating. Funnily, Summer seemed to be more and more often in a perpetually angry state. But it would pass, it would pass, Summer thought. After all, half of her children are with her, and together, they’ll beat it!

But beat what? She wasn't under a curse, was she? That was ridiculous, Natasha’s fault! She hung-up Adrian and Courtney on all that stuff… Wait a sec! She liked cousin Natasha!

Summer shook her head and sighed. What was going-on with her?


Caucasus mountains, Azerbaijan. 22:00 PM. (Epilogue)


Vincent Lane awoke with a groan. The last thing he remembered have been swarms of bats, spilling and flying over and around him, clawing, slapping and biting him and his guides.

“Where were they?” Vincent wondered idly. “Ah, there!”

Suddenly Vincent stared. What lay on the ground wasn't quite human, not at all. Startled, Vincent gasped - but what came out his throat didn’t sound too human either.

Groaning, Vincent took-out his shaving mirror and sighed. “Oh boy,” he said, “this is going to raise quite a tremor during the next Lane family reunion!”


Happy Christmas - from the Lane and Morgendorffer families, to you all!