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Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn

Chapter 39:
Who Can you Trust?

"No, thank you," replied Feo, "I'm not hungry." She looked confused and suspicious as she returned the large, red apple to the clear glass fruit bowl.

Charlie, Alice, and George tried to hide their horror and astonishment at discovering that Feo was the kidnapper, but they were unsuccessful. Cordelia and Feo easily saw that something was wrong.

Cordelia asked, "Why did you toss that apple?"

Charlie hesitated. He now knew that Feo was evil and that she was only pretending to look for the criminals, but he wasn't sure about Cordelia. He didn't know if Cordelia was telling the truth or not. Cordelia had seemed genuinely upset about the time crimes that had been committed. But he couldn't trust what she had said. After all, they had already been fooled by Feo -- she had seemed like a very sweet person, a lot nicer than Cordelia.

Charlie thought about the possibilities. If Cordelia was a good person, then he had to warn her about Feo. If Cordelia was evil, then she already knew about Feo and telling her wouldn't have any effect, except alienating her, and she already didn't like him. After thinking about it, Charlie realized that he had to tell Cordelia about Feo. This might be his last chance to stop Talon.

Charlie ignored Feo and said to Cordelia, "Feo isn't who she says she is. She helped Talon kidnap Jane Wadkins, and she tried to kill Jane by stranding her in the rainforest."

Cordelia dismissed Charlie's accusation. She responded angrily, "How dare you say that about Feo? What you said is just silly. Feo is an old friend of mine. She would never do anything like that. Why would you say something so vile?"

George said, "We saw Jane being kidnapped. We were there when it happened. We heard Feo's strange laugh and we saw her hand with the missing fingers when Talon hit Jane on the head. Feo's the one who suggested stranding Jane in the rainforest because that's where she lost her fingers to a crocodile during the Test of Time."

When George said this, Cordelia sat up straight. "Feo did lose her fingers to a crocodile during the Test of Time." Cordelia turned to Feo and asked her, "How could they have known about the crocodile?"

Feo just smiled tensely and said nothing. Cordelia was confused and upset; she had begun to doubt her friend.

A car pulled up to Charlie's house, startling everyone. Almost immediately, they heard the front door of the house open and then slam shut. Talon and Gertrude appeared in the dining room. Talon was pointing some sort of weapon at them; Gertrude was carrying loops of rope in her arms.

Feo shouted at them sharply, "What took you so long? I emailed you as soon as I found out that those kids knew where you lived."

Talon snapped back at her, "I came as soon as I could. Gertrude couldn't find the rope."

Cordelia had taken out her time machine, and was trying to press a button and get help, but Gertrude grabbed the time machine from her and put it in her pocket. "Tie them up," Talon yelled to Feo and Gertrude.

The women tied Charlie, George, Alice, and Cordelia securely to their chairs. When they were done, Talon asked Feo, "Where's my time machine?"

"It's on that boy," said Feo, pointing at Charlie. "It's around his neck."

Talon went over to Charlie and tried to find the time machine, but it wasn't there. "Where is it?" he asked Charlie in a very angry voice. Talon was getting red in the face.

Charlie didn't answer. Talon hit Charlie on the face, knocking him over. Charlie and his chair flew backwards onto the floor. Feo said, "It's probably in his room. It was there last night when you tried to get it. He didn't even hide it, yet you couldn't find it. You've always been an incompetent oaf. I'll find it myself."

She left to go upstairs, but Talon and Gertrude followed her. Before Talon left the room, he turned around briefly and said, "If you scream, I'll kill all of you." They believed him.

Charlie whispered to the others, "I can't move at all."

Alice replied quietly, "Neither can I." Cordelia and George were also immobilized.

Suddenly, Kate peeked her head in the room. She came up to Charlie and untied him. As she freed him, she said, "I heard everything, but I can hardly believe it. I thought you were lying about that time machine." Charlie and Kate then untied Alice, George, and Cordelia.

Charlie whispered to George, "Give me the time machine. We need to get to Grandours and get some help."

George dug the time machine out of his pocket and handed it to Charlie. As Charlie started pressing buttons on it, he heard a noise on the stairs. Talon and Feo were returning. Charlie whispered, "They're coming back. You've got to hide, Kate." Kate ran behind the thick curtains on the dining room window, and Alice, George, and Cordelia held onto each other, hoping that Charlie would finish typing buttons and the time travel process would start.

Feo, Gertrude, and Talon came into the room, and saw that the kids and Cordelia were untied and were using the time machine. Talon ran to them and grabbed the time machine from Charlie, foiling their escape.

They were at Talon's mercy, but Talon had no mercy.

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