DISCLAIMER: I certainly don't own the Facts of Life or any of the characters represented in the show. No copyright infringement is meant and no profit is being made.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Headless Biker of Peekskill
By Del Robertson
"Jo, it's Blair." A slight pause. "I need a ride."
Blair placed one hand over her ear in an attempt to quiet the din of the party and clutched the receiver more firmly with her other hand. "It's Halloween night, Jo. The cab services are backed up for hours. Yes, even for Blair Warner."
If it was possible, Blair could have sworn she heard the smirk in Jo's voice through the telephone line. "No, Brad's not an option. He's just not." Blair attempted to control the anger in her voice, forced herself to speak on an even keel. "No, I can't ask anyone else for a ride." She could practically picture Jo rolling her eyes. "Jo. Please."
And, that was all it took. Two simple words and Jo caved in. Without even realizing what she was doing, she was scrawling the address on a pad by the telephone. Slipping on her leather jacket and gloves, she paused just long enough to write a note explaining to Mrs. Garrett she'd be back later.
Mrs. G was out at a party of her own. Some charity fund raiser that she was doing with Natalie and Tootie. Otherwise, she'd have asked to borrow the car. The bike was great for her own personal use, but she didn't feel right having a classy lady like Blair having to ride on the back.
Still, something continued to niggle at Jo's brain as she climbed on her bike and coasted out of the drive. Brad was supposed to be her escort for the evening. But, she'd heard the tone in Blair's voice when she mentioned Brad's name. Anger, bordering on distress. Something wasn't right about the whole situation, she could feel it. For his sake, he better pray he ain't hurt Blair! Determined, Jo stomped down harder on the gas, leaned into her bike as the sleek machine accelerated beneath her.
She'd arrived at the Van Tassel mansion in record time. An elaborate mansion nestled in the country backwoods, every boy and girl grew up dreaming of the day they might be invited past the wrought-iron gates and into the inner sanctum. According to legend, Old Man Van Tassel had fled his homeland as a child, smuggling himself aboard a freighter bound for New York Harbor. Once there, armed with what amounted to three dollars in his pocket and his wood-carving tools, he set out to etch his place in the world. And now, decades later, he was a multi-billionaire clock maker with a beautiful wife, successful children and, according to Blair, the most-eligible grandchildren in seven states.
Tonight, the wrought-iron gates were open. Carefully, Jo edged her bike up the winding driveway, taking the steep incline at a slow pace. It had rained recently, not much, just enough to make the streets slick with oil and grease. She was acutely aware of the gnarled trees lining each side of the drive. Her headlight picked up on a scar marring the beauty of a majestic oak directly ahead. She guessed that someone on a past excursion hadn't slowed for the sharp curve in the drive and had ended up wrapped about the trunk of the tree.
Not me, buddy, not tonight, Jo thought, cautiously gliding her machine around the tree. She let out a low whistle as she rounded the last curve and pulled to a stop in front of the mansion. At least three dozen cars lined the drive. No, not just cars. Precision, engineered machines. It looks like a German auto convention. She'd never seen so many Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes and Jaguars in one place, not even Smilin' Ed's Car Dealership in downtown Peekskill. At best, he only carried two of any of these babies at one time.
Jo cruised to a halt near a pink Mercedes. She sat there idling for a minute, staring at the vehicle, imagining how her friend might look behind the steering wheel. Bet Blair would love to have that baby, she thought, pushing down the kickstand, climbing off her bike. She started to leave her helmet on the handlebar, but tucked it under her arm out of habit.
She turned around, getting her first look at the elaborate mansion spread out before her. Her jaw dropped. She'd never seen such a place. Well, maybe one of the museums in New York. But, that was for a bunch of paintings - or historical stuff. Places where tourists went to on vacation and kids were forced to write reports about after field trips. This was actually a house. Someone really lived here. In awe, Jo stood lost, just staring up at the architecture. It wasn't until that little voice in the back of her head reminding her Blair was waiting spurred her feet into action and she began the trek up the long flight of marble stairs leading to the front door.
She didn't tell me it was a costume party. Jo stood just inside the door, eyes surveying the sunken hall in front of her. She spotted vampires, witches, pirates and countesses alike. But, so far, she hadn't seen anyone resembling Blair. Of course, it would help if I knew what she'd come as. She remained rooted to the spot, scanning the crowd, hoping that if she didn't spot Blair, perhaps Blair would at least see her.
After several minutes of indecision, Jo made her way into the throng of costume-goers. She nodded uneasily at debutantes and witches alike, worried that someone would comment on her not wearing a costume. Guess they're just all too polite to mention my faux-pas, as Blair would say. Jo circled the room again, carefully scrutinizing the faces of each partygoer. Where is she, anyway?
"You look lost."
Jo turned suddenly, startled by the voice behind her. "I am," she told the knight in shining armor.
"How may I be of service, my lady?" He asked, bowing low before her.
"Do I look like a damsel in distress to ya?" Jo snorted, gesturing towards her outfit.
"Ah, but a lady in need is still a lady," he pointed out, "regardless of her attire."
Jo smirked. "Okay, ya got me there, Sir Galahad."
"Lancelot, actually." He noted Jo's confused look. "Galahad was a wimp. Lancelot got to go on all the quests, slay all the dragons, rescue the fair maidens."
"Yeah, ain't he the one that betrayed King Arthur by cheating with Guinevere?" she asked.
"Well, even the most courageous of heroes sometimes falter. But, just in case the king's around, perhaps you should just call me Devon." He flashed a brilliant smile. "Now, how may I be of service to you, my fair lady?"
"Actually, I'm on a quest of my own," she admitted. "My friend, Blair, called me, saying she needed a ride home from this fancy shindig, but I ain't been able to find her."
"Blair?" The knight looked genuinely perplexed.
"Blair Warner," Jo clarified.
"Ah, the Princess."
"Excuse me?" Just who does this guy think he is, calling Blair by her nickname - the name I gave her!
"The Princess. She came with Prince Charming. I think I saw them on the patio out back."
"The patio?" Jo glanced around the room, trying to locate the back door.
"Yeah, we do a big bonfire out back every year for Halloween." The knight placed a hand at the small of Jo's back, directing her towards a set of double French doors. "Everyone takes turns telling ghost stories, legends, that sort of thing. It's a real blast."
"And, they say the spirit of Molly Malone still haunts the docks - calling out Cockles and Mussels - pushing her spectral cart until the day her true love returns from the sea."
"She's great, isn't she?" asked the knight, referring to the witch hunched over the boiling cauldron as she concluded her tale.
"Yeah," Jo admitted, somewhat distracted. She had allowed the knight to lead her out here in the hopes of finding Blair. But, so far, she'd seen hide nor hair of her friend. If it was anyone else but Blair, I'd have left by now.
"Would you care for a drink?"
"What?" Jo asked. She had just spotted Prince Charming, sidling up to the witch beside the cauldron, offering her a cup.
"Would you like a beverage?" repeated the knight.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, that'd be great."
She was so intent on staring at Prince Charming, that she'd scarcely noticed Sir Lancelot leave. He was leaning into the witch, offering words of congratulations on her story telling. She was eating up the attention, practically drooling all over him.
Furious, Jo stormed across the patio, shoving revelers out of her way as she went. Prince Charming looked up at her approach, a frown marring his otherwise handsome features. As he recognized Jo, his frown turned into a grin.
"Jo!" he shouted, motioning her over. "So good to see you!"
"Brad." Great. Prince Charming's smashed. "Where's Blair?"
"Great costume." His hand shot out, snatching Jo's helmet from beneath her arm. Even as she reached for her helmet, he backed away, effectively avoiding her. "Reminds me of a story," He slurred. "A true story."
"Give it back, Brad," Jo ordered.
"After the story." He deftly avoided Jo's reach once again. Not wanting to cause a big scene and ruin the party, Jo allowed him to continue.
"You see, there were these three bikers. Real tough types. The kind that went into town on a Saturday night just to cause trouble. They had skulls painted on their solid black helmets and their leather jackets all had emblems of a blazing skull on the back. And, they wore these chains wrapped about their waists, at least two feet in length so they'd have some insurance in case of a fight. Not that anyone ever messed with them. They had earned a tough rep in town and people had a tendency to steer clear of them.
They terrorized the town for years. Then, one night, while they were out cruising the highway looking for trouble, the leader of the pack decided his gang had gotten too soft. So, he decided to teach them a good lesson. He accelerated, putting some distance between himself and his gang. Then, once he was about a mile or so up the road, he doubled back. See, he was planning on riding between the two bikes and giving his boys a really good scare.
He saw the headlights of his gang riding towards him. And, he really stepped on the gas, flying down the highway, driving right between the two headlights. What he didn't know, though, was that a semi had passed the two bikers back down the road. He hit the eighteen-wheeler so hard that his helmet disintegrated on impact. They found his decapitated torso and mangled motorcycle fifty feet down the road from the original collision.
Legend has it that to this day, he still travels the highway on his jet-black motorcycle, looking for his head. More than one unfortunate soul passing the Peekskill Cemetery at midnight has disturbed his restless slumber. All you hear at first is the ghostly whine of his engine and the clattering of his chains. And, where his head used to be, there's only a flaming helmet. Then, he's upon you before you know it. They say the only way to lose him once he's on your trail is by crossing old Peekskill Bridge on Highway 42. That's where his body came to rest, at the ravine at the base of the bridge. And, that's where his power ends.
But, be warned, for if you find yourself out at night, chased by the spirit of The Headless Biker, be careful, or he'll take your head for his own!" Brad ended his tale by turning towards the bonfire, hurling Jo's helmet into the flames.
"You jerk!" She shouted rushing forward, only to be stopped by the heat of the fire.
"What's wrong, you big dumb bulldyke?" he sneered. "Thought all you butch girls were too manly to ride with helmets."
"I'm warning ya, Brad." Jo advanced on the muscular jock, a murderous look in her eye. "Tell me where Blair is so we can get out of here before I do something I'll regret - like getting arrested for your murder!"
"Easy there, Studly. In case you hadn't noticed, Blair's straight." To Jo's embarrassment, the rest of the partygoers gathered around the bonfire were laughing at her. "And frigid," He added. "Why do you think she's called The Ice Princess? Her legs are permanently frozen together at the knees!"
"That's it! You can insult me all you want, creep!" She charged at Brad, hitting him square in the breadbasket with a clenched fist. "But, Blair's a lady!"
"Get off me, you dyke!" Brad shouted, pushing Jo backwards.
Catching her off balance, he quickly leaped at her, landing a jab to her eye, quickly followed up by several punches to her ribs. He had just missed an awkward uppercut when she charged, socking him in the gut, using her momentum to carry him backwards. She had him on the ground, arm back to deliver a shot to his nose when she felt a hand on her upper arm, restraining her.
"Jo!" She dimly recognized the voice through her rage. "Jo!"
Slowly, Jo turned to see Blair standing there. She was indeed dressed as a princess. Only - her dress was ripped and soiled. She had several runs in her hose. And, the heel was broken off one of her shoes.
It took several moments for the meaning to register. The late night phone call, the tone of Blair's voice, her appearance. "You bastard!" she shouted, turning her fury on Brad, raising her arm, ready to strike again.
"Jo, please. Take me home."
She would have fought until she couldn't stand up any longer. She would have smashed him in the face until her knuckles were bruised and battered. Given half a chance, she would have kicked him in the groin. But, with just those words, spoken in that soft voice, she stopped.
With one last shove, she stood up, limping towards Blair. Taking off her jacket, draping it about Blair's shoulders, she escorted Blair back into the house. And, with as much dignity as could be expected from a lady in her position, Blair left the party.
Jo's grip increased on the handlebars as she applied more pressure to the accelerator. Her jaw was locked, the muscles clenching tightly as she ground her teeth. Anger seethed within her, simmering to a slow boil. With every mile marker she passed, she imagined it was Brad's face she was punching.
Blair held on tightly, her arms about Jo's waist, her face buried in the back of the leather jacket. She rested her cheek on Jo's shoulder, feeling her strength. At first, she was content to merely ride, grateful that Jo had come to her rescue, no questions asked. But, then, as the ride progressed, she became aware of the tension in Jo's frame. She felt Jo shift, accelerate again.
Resolutely, Blair tapped Jo on the shoulder, signaling she wanted to stop. The bike gradually began to slow. Jo scanned the area, looking for a safe place to exit. Signaling, Jo pulled over, angling onto a side road before the motorcycle coasted to a halt.
She sat there for several long moments, feeling the engine idling beneath her, Blair clinging to her. Eventually, Blair slid off the back of the bike, motioned for Jo to do the same.
Blair walked several paces ahead of the bike. The headlight was still on, illuminating Blair's form. Her hair was swept back from the chill autumn wind, blowing wispy tendrils against her face. She wore Jo's leather jacket, pulled tightly about her torso to keep out some of the damp. Her white gown clung provocatively to her legs, swirling about her knees. With a shuddering breath, Jo realized Blair wasn't wearing underwear.
Jo killed the engine, threw down the kickstand, dismounted all in one fluid motion. Blair looked back, coyly checking to see if Jo was following before turning to slowly walk towards the wrought iron gate in the center of the road.
Mesmerized, Jo trailed her.
Blair stopped at the gate, hands reaching out, clutching at the wrought iron bars. She had half-hoped the gate would be open. She had the overwhelming urge to walk through the cemetery, perhaps lay down beside a tombstone in her misery and simply will herself to die. They have it lucky, she thought, they're not hurting anymore. She tugged frantically on the gate, rattling the old iron all the way down to its posts. She suddenly wanted in, desperately so. She began to tug harder at the wrought-iron.
She heard Jo, felt her approach. A warm body pressed against hers, leaning into her, hands traveling the length of her arms until warm hands closed over her own. She felt the frustration seep away, abruptly stopped pulling on the gate. The only sounds to be heard were the hoots of a barn owl, the crunching of gravel beneath Jo's shuffling boots, and their erratic breathing.
Blair nodded, shivered as the hot breath tickled her ear. One hand came up to her face, a finger tenderly stroked over her cheek. "Thank you for coming."
"Ah." Jo shrugged it off. "No big deal."
"It was. To me."
Something was wrong. The tone was too soft, the words - she didn't know how to describe it, but this wasn't Blair.
"Blair, what's going on?" she pressed. "This isn't just about some guy hitting on other girls at a party."
Blair stiffened, but didn't answer. Jo moved impossibly closer, wrapping both arms about Blair's waist. Imperceptibly, she felt Blair relax beneath her touch. Burying her nose in blonde locks, Jo contented herself with merely breathing in Blair's essence.
"Oh, Jo." Blair began, soft sobs wracking her body. "It was horrible. Brad had been drinking. Heavily. I think he started before we even went to the party. And, once we got there, things just got worse. He took me into a bedroom just off the main floor. And, he - he - "
"Blair." Jo hugged her fiercely, trying to transfer some of her strength to the struggling woman. "What happened?" she asked, dreading the answer, but knowing she had to ask.
"He - got rough when I wouldn't do anything with him. He threw me down on the bed and climbed on top of me. Then, he - he - " Blair turned in Jo's arms, burying her face in Jo's neck. She clung frantically to the brunette as she sobbed out the rest. "He stuck his hand under my gown and ripped off my panties."
Jo held on tightly, shutting her eyes against the mental images. "Did he - ?"
"No," Blair choked out. "I was able to get out from underneath him and run for the door. He grabbed me and tried to yank me back. That's how my dress got torn. I ran upstairs and locked myself in another room and called you."
Jo breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that was as far as it had gone. Blair's sobs came in a torrent now, soaking Jo's neck and t-shirt with hot tears. She tightened her grip on Blair, smoothly rubbing her back, encouraging her to get it all out of her system.
She wasn't sure how long they'd been like that, but the cold was slowly beginning to sift into her bones. She fought the urge to move, not wanting to disturb Blair. But, eventually, she gave in to her body's demands and shifted slightly.
Immediately, Blair stiffened in her arms. Pulling back, she looked up into the blue eyes of her rescuer. She had been ashamed when she confessed the whole sordid mess to Jo. And, she had been afraid of what she might see in Jo's eyes afterwards. She had feared there would be pity, scorn, rejection. Instead, all she found was understanding - and something else she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Under Jo's scrutiny, she suddenly felt shame well up within her again. Tears rolled unchecked down her cheeks. And, despite the warmth of Jo's jacket and the close proximity of their bodies, she trembled.
Tenderly reaching out, with a touch softer than she'd thought she was capable of, Jo's fingers gently wiped the tears away. "Why are ya cryin', Princess?"
Blair tried to answer. But, looking into those baby blue eyes, worried about the loathing she might see there if she told her, the words wouldn't come. Shaking her head fiercely, Blair buried her face in Jo's neck.
Jo held on tightly. Blair was shaking uncontrollably in her arms now. And, she was having to work her hands briskly up and down the arms, the back of the jacket in an attempt to calm her. She'd never seen her friend like this before. Sure, she'd seen Blair cry before. And, she'd held her in her arms until it was all better. Usually, it had been after Blair had discovered one of her dates was a jerk. But, it had never been as severe as this. Usually after a good cry, she was her usual annoying self. Please, don't tell me she's actually in love with that creep!
"Maybe Brad's right." Jo heard the sniffle, the tiny voice against her throat. She made a noncommittal grunt. "I mean, maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I should have let him go farther. If I'd followed through - " The rest was unintelligible as Blair's body was racked with a new round of sobs.
"It's not your fault, Blair," she whispered into her friend's ear. "It's not your fault."
"Maybe it is, Jo." Blair pulled back from Jo's embrace, looked up at her. "You've always warned me about my flirting, about being a tease. You said one day I'd go too far and someone wouldn't take "no" for an answer."
"I was mad at ya. I had no right to say that." Jo did remember saying that to Blair. Vividly. Because she'd seen how Blair had been flirting with some jocks. She'd practically had three of them eating out of the palm of her hand. And, as she stood there watching Blair teasing, she'd been jealous. "No's still no. And, no guy has the right to ever take that decision away from you."
Reaching up, Blair cupped Jo's cheek in a trembling palm. Jo closed her eyes at the touch, reveling in the sensation. The area around her eye stung, but the pain was bittersweet, as long as Blair was touching her. She melted into the caress, delighting in the smooth silkiness of Blair's skin. She felt the lightest of touches on her lips, tasted the flavor of Blair's lip gloss as her tongue reflexively darted out.
Blair leaned farther into Jo, her lips making contact once again. The pressure increased, Jo acquiesced, and Blair's tongue slipped into velvet softness. She felt Jo's embrace tighten as her tongue responded, darting out, frolicking with Blair's. She pulled Jo's lower lip into her mouth, sucking at it, then biting. She smiled broadly when she heard Jo's throaty growl.
Ending the kiss, she leaned back, putting some distance between herself and Jo. She waited, eyes searching, studying Jo's face for her reaction. Slowly, lashes fluttered, lids blinked open, blue eyes the color of ice on fire focused. Blair felt her throat tighten, her pulse quicken at the emotions she saw painted so clearly on Jo's face.
For one word, that question asked so much. Was this just to make Blair feel better about herself? Was this a kiss out of gratitude for saving her from the jerk of the week? An experiment that she would deny in the morning?
"I think I've been wanting to do that since the first day I met you." Blair admitted with a soft smile. "Right after you threatened me for insulting your taste in jeans."
"For real?" Jo saw the mischievous smile. "You're lying."
"Through my teeth." Blair's nose crinkled as she laughed. "I thought it would sound romantic. Truth is, I couldn't stand you. Then, one day, I stopped hating you. And, then another day, I decided I actually liked you. And, one morning, I woke up and noticed you were kind of cute. Imagine my horror the morning I awoke to discover I had feelings for you."
Jo recognized the teasing banter for what it was; Blair's defense mechanism. She was laying her feelings on the line. And, in an attempt at self-preservation, she was shielding her heart with a joke.
"Blair, are ya sure?" Jo's voice came out in a strangled whisper. "I mean, really sure? Cause, I gotta tell ya, I can't be a one-night stand. Or, some collegiate lesbian fling. I've gotta be more to you than just a pity fuck."
"Oh, Jo." Blair saw the heartache in Jo's eyes, briefly wondered who had been so cruel to Jo to make her doubt Blair's intentions. She flashed on an image of their English teacher, then quickly put that scenario out of her mind. Stepping forward, she placed another tender kiss on Jo's lips. "I'm not teasing, Jo. I promise you, this is for real." She took a deep, steadying breath, admitting out loud for the first time what she'd tried for so long to keep hidden. "It's always been you, Jo. Even when I was too stubborn to see it. And, no matter what happens here tonight, it will continue to always be you."
Jo pulled Blair to her fiercely, laying claim to her lips the way she'd been fantasizing about for years. She'd wanted Blair, needed Blair for so long that it was a constant ache in her heart. Never in a million years did she ever think Blair could feel the same for her.
A tiny, insecure little voice in the back of her head continued to taunt her, insisting this was nothing more than gratitude. Blair was vulnerable and not thinking clearly. She'd obviously just been traumatized. She was only reacting this way because she needed to feel that she was still attractive. She was taking advantage. And, come morning, Jo would suffer the consequences for her actions.
Jo ended the kiss, held Blair firmly in her embrace for several moments. Mentally kicking herself, she took a determined step backwards. Shoving her hands into her jeans pockets, she stared at her feet, kicking up gravel with the toe of her boot.
She felt fingers beneath her chin, lifting until she found herself looking into the softest pair of eyes she'd ever seen. "Jo, what is it?" Blair prodded. "What's wrong?"
"I - I just wanted ya to know - "
"That - I - well, that is - " She took a deep breath, began again. "Look, I just wanted you to know that I really love playing tonsil hockey with you and all - "
"Tonsil hockey." Blair couldn't believe what she'd just heard.
"Okay. Kissing you - and stuff." Geez, I sound like I'm thirteen! "But, I just wanted you to know - "
"Just say it, Jo." Blair closed her eyes, steeling herself for the blow.
"Look, I'll understand if you want to take things slow." Blair's eyes flew open. Now, she really couldn't believe what she was hearing. "And, I just wanted to say I know what "no" means."
"Oh, Jo!" Blair flew into Jo's arms, knocking her off-balance, sending her stumbling backwards. "How is it that you're more of a gentleman than any of those bachelors I've been seeing?" A saucy grin crossed Blair's face. "But, if you'll get us home before Mrs. Garrett and the girls get back, we'll do some of that 'stuff' you were stammering about."
Blair planted another kiss on Jo's lips before darting down the gravel roadway. Jo was left standing, jaw threatening to hit the pavement as she leaned against the wrought-iron gate, staring after the giggling blonde. Rousing herself, Jo broke into a run, determined to get them back on the road and home as quickly as possible.
Mile marker signs flew by too rapidly for Blair to read. She clung to Jo's frame, settling into the smooth ride of the motorcycle. Her entire body seemed to hum along with the engine. But, deep inside, she knew the motor had little to do with her body's thrumming. That condition was caused by the brunette she was curled about. Smiling, she tightened her grip about Jo's waist.
She felt Blair's fingers squeeze tightly against her abdomen. Reaching down, she caught Blair's hand in a firm embrace. Her own hands were rough, bearing calluses upon calluses caused by hard work. By contrast, Blair's were smooth, perfect, flawless. She could lose herself in the sensations caused by the simple act of caressing Blair's hand. Then, she thought of the other places she'd be caressing as soon as they got home - and the notion made her head swim.
She felt a tapping on her shoulder. She shifted slightly, glancing back quickly. Blair pointed across the highway. On the access road, nearly parallel to them, was a jet-black bike. The driver was riding fast, matching their speed, and Jo couldn't get a good look through the quickly passing foliage that served as a divider between the main highway and the feeder road. Funny, I didn't hear another engine. Of course, I had other things on my mind.
Shrugging it off as a coincidence, Jo didn't think anything more about it. Until she glanced over several more times to find the motorcycle still riding dead even with them. She hit the gas, applying pressure so the bike raced forward. The other bike darted forward, matching her pace. She maintained her speed for a bit, seeing if he'd taper off. Maybe it's a motorcycle cop seeing how fast he can clock me at.
She abruptly took her foot off the pedal, letting the bike coast to a slower speed on its own. She figured the other driver would either accelerate or maintain his speed, effectively putting some distance between them. To her consternation, she saw the other bike drop back, also.
Blair felt the sudden increases and decreases in the speed of the machine. That alone was enough to raise her suspicions. She'd always been fascinated by Jo's bike. And, she knew Jo was a good driver. This wasn't simple inattention to driving.
Then, she noticed the way Jo kept glancing at the other motorcycle. And, the way it was matching their speed. And, she realized if Jo was concerned, well, that was good enough reason for her to worry, also. Instinctively, her grip tightened about Jo's waist.
They were coming up on an entrance ramp. Jo swallowed, acutely aware of the sudden dryness in her mouth. She'd lay odds he was going to come up on the highway with them. She hadn't noticed him; could there be other riders? What if it was a whole gang of bikers coming after them?
The grove of saplings was beginning to thin out. She knew as they neared the entrance to the ramp, the foliage would become almost nonexistent. Risking a glance, she prayed that it was only the one biker.
She rounded a curve, losing sight of him for a moment. Then, she saw him, entering the ramp. He pulled alongside her, matching her speed. Glancing over, her heart froze in her chest.
The biker was headless!
She initially took her foot off the accelerator as she continued to stare at the ghostly apparition. He slowed up, matching her pace. The sounds of rattling chains and ghostly laughter filled the air. Blood red flames trailed from the exhaust pipes on the bike, filling the air with the stench of brimstone. Blair's sharp scream spurred Jo into action. She punched the accelerator, causing the bike to surge forward with a jump.
Laughing, the Headless Biker gave pursuit. Jo straddled the lines marking the middle of the highway. At the speed she was traveling, she couldn't risk riding too near the edges. If she hit a curve at the speed they were going, she knew they'd run right off the road.
She could hear the ghostly whine of the engine, the clanking of the biker's chains, the spectral laugh as they raced down the highway. She knew these roads. She was an excellent driver. And, she had the accelerator down as far as it would go.
But, she still couldn't shake him. She glanced back, seeing him right on her tail. Leaning forward, trying to coax a little more from her engine, she was positive she heard her cylinders popping. She felt a bump from behind and her bike wobbled. That psycho must have rubbed us with his front tire!
She struggled to control the bike, muscles straining as she fought to keep from sliding on the pavement. She looked up just in time to see the marker for the Highway 42 interchange. Instantly remembering Brad's story, every word in vivid detail, she took the crossover.
The road was old, years of dis-use meant no highway crews to fix potholes and make general repairs. The ride was difficult, especially at the speeds they were traveling, and Jo found herself having to make constant adjustments just to keep on the highway. She silently prayed she wouldn't run up on some poor, old farmer trying to get his tractor home. If I do, we're all dead!
There was something in the distance. Jo feared that it really was a slow-moving vehicle. Then, she realized it was a structure of some sort. Old Peekskill Bridge. The original wooden covered bridge used by horse and buggy when Peekskill was first founded. The town had grown up since those sleepy, simple days, but the founding fathers had always insisted that the original Peekskill Bridge be kept up as a memorial to the past.
Remembering the last part of Brad's story, Jo raced towards the bridge. According to legend, The Headless Biker was powerless to travel to the other side of the bridge.
"Hurry, Jo!" was frantically shouted into her ear as Blair, too, remembered the old legend.
The bridge was so close now that Jo felt if she could just stretch out far enough, she could reach it. Risking a peek back over her shoulder, she saw The Headless Biker standing up, leaning over his handlebars, stretching a black, leather glove towards them.
Jo felt the bike jerk beneath her, the handlebar almost tearing itself from her grip. There was the sound of tires skidding on loose gravel as she felt her motorcycle spin around. Her eyes grew wide as she was suddenly facing The Headless Biker. His shrill laughter chilled her to the bone.
Fighting through the skid, Jo managed to right the motorcycle. She turned quickly, one foot dragging along the gravel road for support. Desperately, she gunned the engine, punched the accelerator. The motorcycle lurched forward with a jerk. Both feet up on the bike now, she leaned into the frame.
Wood creaked and groaned as they surged across the bridge and Jo feared the old structure wouldn't be able to support them. Crossing over to the other side, Jo turned, looking back over her shoulder. The Headless Biker had stopped at the entrance of the bridge, sitting on his idling motorcycle. With a wild cackle, he raised a flaming helmet up with one hand, sent it hurtling across the bridge at Jo and Blair!
Morning found Jo and Blair laying on the couch together, curled beneath a quilt. Mrs. Garrett and the girls had come downstairs and found them snuggled together, dead to the world. Spotting Blair's disheveled appearance and Jo's bruised face, she'd correctly surmised that Jo had somewhat successfully defended Blair's honor last night. At her insistence, and Natalie's annoyance, she had taken her younger charges out for an after-Halloween breakfast. She figured by the time they'd conquered the buffet bar, both girls would be awake enough to answer her questions - including where'd they'd been most of the night.
Jo had the oddest sensation that someone was staring at her. Opening her eyes, cricking her neck, she looked down to see Blair, still firmly snuggled against her frame, using her chest for a pillow. She fought the urge to move, even as every muscle in her body screamed out in protest. Restlessly, she shifted, attempting to find a more comfortable position.
"Jo?" murmured a sleepy voice.
"Hmm?" Jo answered, placing a light kiss on the top of Blair's head.
"What was that thing?"
Jo stiffened. She had hoped that was all part of some wild dream she'd had. But, if Blair saw it, too - "I don't know," she admitted. They lay there in silence for several moments, feeling the tension build. "You know, that was a pretty sophisticated bike," Jo idly mentioned. "Something like that probably cost a pretty penny. And, Brad was the one that told the legend of the biker last night. Maybe he was trying to teach me a lesson," she suggested.
"Brad drove his Porsche last night."
"Maybe he borrowed a bike," Jo shrugged. "Or, maybe it was a friend's."
"When we left, he was still on the floor from the beating you gave him. He didn't have the time to catch up to us."
"We were at the cemetery for quite a while," Jo reminded her, even as she attempted to block out the memory of Brad mentioning the ghost of The Headless Biker always appeared at the Peekskill Cemetery.
"He wouldn't know how to make those flames shoot out the tailpipe." Blair remained unconvinced. "And, he certainly wouldn't know how make a flaming helmet." Blair paused, thinking back to the previous night.
The shrill ringing of the telephone broke the silence. Turning over, Blair picked up the telephone. "One moment," she said, passing the phone to Jo with a puzzled expression on her face.
Jo spoke quickly, hanging up, tossing the phone back onto the coffee table. She settled back on the couch, wrapping Blair up in her embrace, draping one leg over the curve of Blair's hip.
"What was that about?"
"Oh, just an offer to replace my helmet." Blair twisted about until she was able to look up at Jo's face. "Brad threw mine into the bonfire at the end of his ghost story."
Jo caught the tone in Blair's voice, the slightly downcast look clouding her features. "What?" she asked, nudging the blonde.
"Nothing." A slight pout marred Blair's features. She reached up, lightly touching the bruise surrounding Jo's eye. "I didn't realize you were fighting with Brad because he destroyed your helmet."
"I wasn't." A ghost of a smile flittered across Blair's lips. God, she's going to make me say it. "He said some things about you that - Oh, Hell. I guess I was defending you."
"My hero." Blair smirked. "Still, it was nice of Brad to offer to buy you a new helmet."
"That wasn't Brad."
"And, just who was it?" Blair asked, her curiosity suddenly piqued.
"Lancelot." She grinned at Blair's confused expression. "Some guy dressed as a knight I met last night while I was looking for you," she explained. "I think he said his name was Devon."
Blair suddenly stiffened in Jo's arms, sat bolt upright. "Jo!" she shouted. "Do you have any idea who that was?"
"Just some guy trying to make time at the party," Jo shrugged.
"That guy was Devon Van Tassel!" Blair exclaimed. "Heir to the Van Tassel fortune, he's only the most eligible bachelor in twelve counties! Do you have any idea what a relationship with him could do for you?" she asked. "Why Jo, there's a rumor that he stands to inherit more money than me! He could buy you anything, take you anywhere - "
Jo held up a finger to silence her. "I thought we settled this last night. This isn't some fling for me, Blair. I'm only interested in you." At the look of adoration on Blair's face, the sudden appearance of tears in the heiress' eyes, Jo leaned forward, kissing delicate lips. "Besides, what do I want with a knight in shining armor when I can have the princess?"
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