PART THIRTYTWO

Louis and Nicole were positioned behind a thick row of bushes while they examined the cabin where Vince and someone affiliated with the FBI were in. Louis had taken several minutes to carefully scan the area for anyone else before devising a path to advance on the cabin and eavesdrop. He got up into a low crouching position and started to move towards the cabin.

"Louis! What are you doing?!" Nicole whispered at him loudly, grabbing his arm.

He stopped and looked back at her. "I'm going to get closer to hear or see who's in there with Vince. This may be really important!".

"But Louis, we're going to get caught! What will we do then?" she warned.

"You just stay here and man the cell phone just in case. Don't worry, I'll be fine". Nicole tossed her arms up in exasperation, but she couldn't help but admire Louis' courage. She was actually proud of him. This all eventually came down to Alex, and Louis wasn't about to let her down. He moved out from behind the bushes and stealthily loped towards the cabin.

After several tense moments, he had made his way to the near side of the cabin which was still in Nicole's view. A window sat ajar on that side, and Louis bowed down and scurried up underneath it. He slowly rose to peer inside, hoping to get some answers to this intriguing puzzle.

Inside, Louis spied the FBI's Agent Garth standing beside a table with a number of boxes, papers, and a laptop computer on it. A large field radio sat beside the laptop. He recognized him as one of the agents which Alex and Annie had described to him earlier.

"What in the world is going on?" he whispered quietly to himself.

"That's what I'd like to know..." a man's voice rang out from behind him, causing Louis to gasp loudly in fright, spin around, and sink to the ground in a sitting position. When he looked up, he saw the harsh face of Vince Carter staring angrily down on him.

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"I can't believe this!" Raymond Alvarado Sr. exclaimed loudly, pacing frantically in front of Ray and Robyn. They were sitting quietly in chairs in the front lobby of the Paradise Valley Police Department experiencing the full force of Mr. Alvarado's wrath. Barbara Mack was sitting in a chair next to Robyn, who's face was streaked with tears.

She was angry with the kids too, but not as much as Ray's father was.

"What in the world were you kids thinking Ray?! This so unlike you!" he continued angrily. "Blowing off school, and then getting pulled over for joy riding at high speed all over town, in Alex's jeep no less?!".

He and Barbara had arrived only minutes ago after receiving a phone call from Sergeant Greg Ryan, the officer who pulled Ray and Robyn over. For several hectic minutes, the teens' parents were in contact by phone, informing each other of the crisis.

Before, both Mrs. Mack and Mr. Alvarado were on their way to Paradise Valley High School to find out why Alex and her friends were not in school. Mrs. Mack had already called Mr. Alvarado about their absence, and when the police contacted him on his cell phone and told him they were holding his son at the station, Mr. Alvarado called Barbara back to let her know.

Wanda Russo, Robyn's mother, was also on her way after Mrs. Mack called her; her father was working a funeral out of town and didn't know yet. Mrs. Mack had also re-routed her husband George to the police station by cell phone while he was returning from Pittsville Gardens.

Sergeant Ryan, a ten year veteran of the PV Police Department, stood patiently nearby, watching intently.

He knew who Ray was because he was the 'best friend' of their local celebrity, Alexandra Mack, 'The GC-161 Kid', but he also knew Alex's mother through charity functions she'd helped organize for the Police Department. He hadn't pressed any charges against them for her sake, deciding to let Mr. Alvarado and Mrs. Mack handle this themselves. Ray almost wished the Sergeant had shut him away in a cell under the building instead of having to facing the wrath of his dad.

"Well Ray? Don't you have anything to say for yourself?" his father demanded, causing both Ray and Robyn to flinch. Barbara held her hand up at Ray Alvarado Sr., causing him to pause.

"Please Raymond..." she said to Ray's father.

"Let's stay calm and find out where the rest of the kids are first, then what's going on here". Ray and Robyn could tell Mrs. Mack's patience was strained by the trembling in her voice, but she remained calm and in control. Mr. Alvarado knew his temper could get the best of him and decided to let Barbara's cooler head take over.

He was just thankful she was there. The Macks were practically family to him and his son. Handing Robyn a tissue from her purse, Mrs. Mack concentrated on Ray.

"Ray, can you tell me where Alex and the rest of the kids are?" she asked, but when Ray and Robyn looked guiltily at each other without responding, she knew something serious was going on. Officer Ryan stepped closer, noticing their dilemma as well.

"Ray, you can tell me. What are you kids up to? Where's Alex and the rest of your friends?". Just then, Wanda Russo, Robyn's mother, and Mr. Mack, burst through the front door of the station and made their way over to them. Mrs. Russo immediately alit like a doting mother bird at the side of her daughter Robyn as Mrs. Mack and Mr. Alvarado gave Mr. Mack a quick run down of events.

After several tense moments, Mr. Mack addressed Ray while officer Ryan continued to listen closely. "Ray, what is it that you and Robyn are afraid to tell us? We'll understand, no matter how bad it may be".

Ray and Robyn exchanged looks again, questioning each other silently. Still wiping her eyes while her mother hovered over her, Robyn nodded her head at Ray.

Ray looked at Mr. and Mrs. Mack, his father, and Officer Ryan and offered them a big sigh before speaking.

"This is going to sound crazy, but here goes...". He began to explain.

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Alex, Annie, and Grace were grouped in the Mack home's garage discussing their next course of action after retrieving the information on FBI Field Director Walsh. The disc they possessed with the evidence incriminating him put them and their friends in incredible danger.

"So we're agreed?" asked Grace. "We contact my friend Agent Torres in the Bureau and present this disc to her so she can give it to the proper authorities?".

Alex and Annie shook their heads in agreement.

"But we have to do this quickly. I don't think it will be long before Director Walsh has operatives here to find who has the information about him" warned Grace.

"Then it's probably a good idea to call the others to regroup with us. Then, once we've handed over the info to Agent Torres, we can go to the authorities with our story". Annie looked at Alex who was shooting her a concerned look. She thought about her little sister's powers.

"Well, at least the story we're going to 'give' them that is". Alex sighed in relief.

"Alex, call the others on the walkie-talkie and tell them to meet us here" Annie requested.

Alex nodded in compliance and glanced in the direction of the garage door. She squinted her eyes and concentrated on the walkie talkie sitting in the front of seat of Grace's rental car outside, picturing it in her mind. Seconds later, the side door of the garage opened by itself and allowed the hovering walkie talkie to drift into the room and right into Alex's hand. The door closed quietly behind it. Annie scowled.

"Alex, you've almost completely exhausted yourself using your powers today. Don't you think you should save your strength? Anyway, someone's going to see you levitating stuff around here sooner or later".

"Relax Annie..." replied Alex. "I feel fine now, and there isn't anyone home this time of day to see anything outside". After the morning's events and a lot of Alex's heroics, Annie didn't feel like chastising her sister too much. Alex raised the radio to her mouth to speak into it.

"Teams Two and Three, this is Team One" she said. "Return to base, over". They listened several seconds for a response, but none came.

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"Come in Teams Two and Three. Do you copy? Over..." said the girl's voice over the walkie-talkie Gino Lawless held in his hand in his hotel apartment. Agent Simmons had handed him the radio when the girl's voice first crackled over it's speaker.

"A kid?" Simmons scoffed with disbelief. "Some 'kids' broke in here and accessed the FBI's main data banks? Why the hell would they do that, and 'how'?".

"That voice" mumbled Gino. "It sounds familiar...".

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"Nothing..." Alex told Annie and Grace. "Neither team has responded. Maybe they're out of radio range?".

"Maybe we should try the cell phones..." suggested Annie. Suddenly, before Grace could pull her's from her pocket, it beeped.

"Hello?" she said hesitantly, answering it. Alex and Annie watched the look on Grace's face turn to one of concern as she listened to the caller. Alex sensed the anxiety emanating from her and grew frustrated that she couldn't hear the conversation, but she did not eavesdrop on Grace's thoughts out of respect.

"It's Nicole..." Grace reported. "Vince has captured Louis!".

"What?!" Alex and Annie shouted in unison.

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Mr. and Mrs. Mack, Mr. Alvarado, Mrs. Russo, and Officer Ryan looked on in shock trying to process what Ray just told them what they had been doing during the past week.

Luckily, Ray was able to give Robyn some quick instructions before the police officer took them into custody when he pulled them over, telling her to let him do the talking if they had to tell anyone else what they were up to.

He explained how they decided to try and find out for themselves who tried to kill David Watt by blowing up his trailer, and 'found' evidence that made them suspect Vince Carter might have had something to do with the bombing.

Then he told them how they suspected he was also involved in the attempt on FBI Agent Black's life, as well as responsible for the destruction of the FDA's evidence shed at the now-destroyed PV Chemical plant. He went on to disclose Grace Lasky's appearance and former role in Alex's past, and how and 'why' she was booted out of the FBI three days ago.

He finished up by telling them how Grace believed her former boss was involved in some sort of conspiracy within the FBI that could possibly be linked to Vince, Danielle Atron, and the illegal GC-161 project. He also said Grace suspected the loud explosion everyone heard yesterday in the Macks' neighborhood was what she 'suspected' to have been an attempt gone bad by Vince on the Macks' home. He was careful in explaining that one, so as not to bring any attention undue attention to Alex.

During the entire time, Ray never told them about Alex's newly-returned and even more powerful abilities. He realized everyone knew Alex once had GC-161 spawned powers before taking her father's antidote, and he wanted to make sure no one suspected they had returned and that she had used them to discover and solve any of their clues.

After he finished, Ray and Robyn waited for a response from the adults.

"I can't believe this" Mrs. Mack groaned, her entire body trembling from concern for her daughters. "You kids were trying to expose Vince and a conspiracy in the FBI?! All by yourselves? What were you thinking?!".

"I told you it was going to sound crazy Mrs. Mack, but it's the truth" Ray replied, as Officer Ryan was busily taking down notes.

He thought this was just some kids playing hooky from school, but now, he realized he had a lot more than that on his hands. If this had been anyone else telling them a story like this, he would have chalked it up to some teens' overly-active imaginations or trying to lie their way out of trouble, but this particular group of kids were just recently involved in taking down Ms. Atron and Paradise Valley Chemical. He felt compelled to believe them.

"I have to take this to my superiors people" said Officer Ryan. "If you'll please just remain here while I speak to my chief?". He turned and walked away down a connecting hallway and disappeared around a corner.

"And all of this is true?" asked Mr. Mack.

"Absolutely all of it Mr. Mack..." vowed Robyn. "...But it's like Ray said when he explained it. We did it because we didn't think any grown ups would believe us until we actually did something about it".

"But what about Alex and Annie?" Mrs. Mack pressed, her eyes beginning to well up with tears of worry. "Do you know where they are or if they're alright? They could be in terrible danger".

"I'm sure they're alright Mrs. Mack" Ray assured her. "They're with Grace Lasky and she knows what she's doing".

"I wouldn't be too sure of that" Mrs. Mack snapped angrily. "How do you know this isn't just some sort of personal 'crusade' this girl has involved you kids in to help her exact a personal vendetta against the FBI for firing her? I mean, you just told us that she once conspired with Vince to expose her to Danielle Atron! She's endangering our daughters' lives! Your friends' lives Ray!".

"Mrs. Mack..." interrupted Robyn. "Trying to find out who tried to kill Dave was Alex's idea in the first place, even before Grace showed up. Grace has proven to us she can be trusted. We just know, and you have to trust us on that".

"Where would Alex and Annie be right now?" Mr. Mack asked Ray.

"I'm not really sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were back at your house by now". Mrs. Mack immediately pulled her cell phone out of her coat pocket and hit the speed dial.

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Alex, Annie, and Grace all jumped simultaneously when the telephone on their father's workbench in the garage rang.

"It's mom" Alex said without thinking. Annie decided not to ask how Alex knew that concerning the wide range of abilities she has displayed recently. They raced into the kitchen and into the den where the answering machine was setting on the end table beside the couch. They waited for the four pre-set rings to finish before the answering machine picked up.

"Annie! Alex! Are you there?!" shouted Mrs. Mack's voice into the recorder. "If you're there, pick up!". The three girls looked at each other frantically as Mrs. Mack paused for several seconds. Alex and Annie were mouthing "you answer it!" to each other, but neither would until Grace placed her hands on their shoulders to steady them.

Mrs. Mack spoke again. "We're at the Paradise Valley Police Department with Ray and Robyn. They got picked up earlier by the police. Ray told us what you're doing. You've got to call me back or come here to the police station immediately! Don't continue doing this! You kids are way in over your heads! You're going to get yourselves .....".

'Beeeep!" went the answering machine as if cut off.

"Oh hell..." Annie groaned loudly. "Ray and Robyn are in custody and now mom and dad know what we're doing. I'll bet they got caught following Gino when he was racing back to the hotel to catch us". Annie began to pace, her mind working furiously.

"Lucky for us Alex sensed Gino coming" Grace admitted. "But I wonder why Ray and Robyn didn't just call ahead to warn us?".

"Driscoll Electronics is probably why" Alex deadpanned. "Half of the stuff his father sells is junk. They probably tried...".

"Well, we can't worry about that right now..." Annie interjected. "...And we can't worry about going to the police station either and explaining anything to mom. We don't have the time. We have to do something about getting Louis away from...".

Grace's cell phone chirped in her pocket.

"...Vince..." Alex pointed out, finishing Annie's sentence. Grace motioned for Alex and Annie to remain silent as she answered.

"This is Grace Lasky". Grace nodded to them that Alex was correct; it was Vince Carter calling her.

"I understand. Yes, yes, but let me hear Louis to make sure he's o.k. first" she ordered angrily. Grace held the phone out several inches for Alex and Annie to lean in and listen.

"Grace? Alex? Annie? This is Louis. I'm o.k., but don't give these jerks anything" he growled fiercely. His voice faded away as Grace pulled the phone back to her ear to listen. Alex was so worried about him, but she was also proud of him too. Not just two weeks ago, he had been easily frightened by Lars Frederickson into spilling everything about Alex.

Annie silently glanced at her while Grace wasn't watching and Alex didn't hesitate to eavesdrop this time on Grace's conversation. Annie didn't want to take any chances, period, friend or not.

"O.k., you heard the twerp..." hissed Vince's voice in Alex's mind as Grace heard him on the phone. "And I know he followed me up here too. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you kids are the ones who tapped into the FBI's main data files and have some information that you're not supposed to have. We want it back, and don't involve any cops in this either, or you won't see your little friend here again. Here's what we want you to do...".