Chapter One: A New Adventure Begins
The sound of the ringing telephone pierced the stillness. Ellen Bartlett groaned as she was jarred awake. She reached for the receiver.
“Good morning, Mrs. Bartlett,” said a cheery male voice on the other end of the line. “This is the front desk calling. You asked to be woken up at seven o’clock.”
“Oh yes,” she said, remembering she had asked for a wake-up call when they checked in the evening before. “Thank you. Goodbye.”
As she placed the receiver in its cradle, Jenny began stirring. Luke, who had been sleeping in the bed near the window, pulled back on the curtains, allowing a sliver of bright sunlight to come into the room.
“These blackout curtains really work.”
Jenny reached over and turned on the lamp next to her bed. They all yawned and stretched, then Jenny and Luke’s mother got out of bed to make coffee by the sink.
“Did you two sleep well?” she asked as she dropped the coffee packet into the top of the coffee maker.
“Just fine, Mom,” said Jenny, sweeping a strand of blonde hair away from her eyes.
“What’s the name of this town again?” asked Luke.
“Ruidoso. Ruidoso, New Mexico,” replied his mother as she poured water into the coffee maker. “And today we’re going to take another side trip. We’re going to an Old West town not too far from here. It’s called Lincoln. It’s where Billy the Kid used to live.”
“Cool!” said Luke, remembering the adventure he and his sister had shared in Tombstone a couple days before.
“I don’t know what happened to change your mind Luke, but I’m glad to see you taking more of an interest in this trip. I’m really looking forward to our next stop.”
It wasn’t the vacation they had planned. That vacation was to have been a trip to Disneyland. But now, due to circumstances beyond their control, their plans had changed. Instead of Disneyland, they were going to Texas to visit their grandparents. And while Luke and Jenny both loved Grandma and Grandpa, it just wasn’t the same as going to Disneyland. Luke had been especially disappointed. But when they made a stop in Tombstone, something unexpected happened, and they experienced an adventure beyond anything they could have possibly imagined.
“I’m going to take a shower,” said their mother as she switched on the coffee maker. “And while I’m doing that you guys can check your e-mail.”
As she stepped into the bathroom, Jenny got up and retrieved the laptop. She brought it back to the bed, took it out of its case, and turned in on.
“I so love having wireless Internet here. I wonder if Dad got my e-mail yet?”
For as long as Luke and Jenny could remember, their father had served in the Army Reserve. It wasn’t like being in the regular army. Most of the time he lived at home and worked at his regular job designing computer hardware for an electronics company. Then he would go away for two weeks every year for field training, as well as spend an occasional weekend with the Reserve. Everyone in the family called him their weekend warrior because it seemed like an adventure game. But now it was no longer a game. Their father had recently been sent to serve in Iraq and he would be away for at least a year. They all missed him terribly. It was especially hard on Luke. He felt as if he had lost his very best friend and now nothing seemed right anymore.
Luke sat on the bed next to Jenny and watched the computer screen. A few moments later they found what they were looking for. Jenny eagerly opened the e-mail. She read it out loud to Luke.
“Hi you two. I see you guys had a lot of fun in Tombstone without me. I really wish I could have been there with you but duty calls. Thanks for the photos. I especially loved the one of Luke getting hung at Big Nose Kate’s. I showed it to all the guys and they thought it was pretty funny, too. Good job, Jenny. Tell your mother there’s an e-mail for her, too. I really miss you guys and can’t wait to get home. When I do, I promise we’ll all go to Disneyland. Love, Dad.“
Luke suddenly got quiet and leaned back against the headboard. He was relieved to know that his dad was okay, but he was solemn, knowing it was still going to be a very long time before he got home. Jenny looked at him. “I know, Luke. I miss Dad, too. But he wouldn’t be happy if you were sitting around moping. Besides, I’m going to take lots more pictures today to e-mail him. That way he can feel like he’s with us.”
Luke smiled and nodded in agreement as he reached for the remote and turned on the TV. A few minutes later their mother emerged from the bathroom and began towel drying her short, curly blonde hair.
“Okay Jenny, you’re next. Then Luke.”
“And hurry up, Jenny,” said her brother. “I’m getting hungry.”
It was a mystery to Luke how a ten-year-old girl could take so long in the bathroom. Jenny always said it was because her long hair took more time to wash. Luke sighed as he leaned back against the headboard and ran his fingers through his short, dark brown hair. He looked at his mother who was sipping coffee while she brushed makeup powder on her face. Then he remembered.
“Dad said to tell you he sent you an e-mail.”
His mother let out a big smile as a look of relief came upon her face. “That’s good. Thanks for letting me know.”
“Well, aren’t you going to read it?”
She picked up her coffee cup. “Of course I am. I’ll read it tonight, after you guys have gone to bed. Right now, Luke, I want you to get some clean clothes out of your suitcase. Better wear your blue jeans. Lincoln is out in the country. There’s a lot of grass and brush around here and I don’t want you getting poison ivy.”
About an hour or so later they checked out of the motel and drove around Ruidoso in search of a breakfast place. Ruidoso is a quaint little mountain town nestled in a forest of pine trees. They enjoyed the cool mountain air. It was a refreshing change from the summer heat at home in Phoenix. As they drove along, they noticed rental cabins and tourist shops lining the road. They soon found a roadside café.
“Well, guys, what do you think?”
“Looks okay to me, Mom,” replied Luke.
She parked the car and they went inside for breakfast. After enjoying big plates of pancakes they were on their way.
“How far is it to Lincoln?” asked Luke as he reached into his backpack and retrieved his Game Boy.
“Not that far,” replied his mother.
Jenny looked at her brother. “Don’t you ever get tired of playing with that thing?”
She turned her attention back to her mother. “Have you ever been to Lincoln, Mom?”
“No I haven’t, so it will be a first time for me, too.”
Luke looked up from his Game Boy. “Do you know anything about Billy the Kid?”
“Not that much,” replied his mother. “Just what I’ve seen in movies, like that John Wayne movie we all watched on one of the cable channels not too long ago. Remember?”
“Yeah, I think so,” said Luke. “Didn’t he play some guy named John Chisum? That was a good one.”
“That’s the one. But you know, a lot of that stuff in the movies is probably made up. I’ve heard some people say that Billy was a bad guy. Others say he wasn’t that bad and that he was actually helping the good guys. So I’ve always wondered what Billy the Kid was really like.”
Luke thought about it for a moment. Then he leaned back and started playing with his Game Boy again. After his and Jenny’s adventure in Tombstone he wondered what would be in store for them in Lincoln, New Mexico.