“Well, looks like it’s down to just you and me, John,” Jeff said at the breakfast table before Gordon put in an appearance.
“What happens to the money if he never caves?” Virgil asked. “Are you going to give it back?”
“I thought about giving it to him. It might make up for all those swim suits that got ruined the other day,” Jeff said, giving his eldest son a raised eyebrow.
Scott opened his mouth to reply, but just then, Gordon made an appearance.
“Good morning everyone,” he said sleepily. The family around the table answered him. Kyrano set a cup of fresh fruit before him.
“Oh, thanks, Kyrano,” he said. Glancing around the room, he asked. “Where’s Grandma? And Tin-Tin?”
“Grandma is sleeping in this morning, believe it or not,” answered Jeff.
“And Mr. Brains has left instructions for Tin-Tin,” Kyrano said, bringing a plate of eggs and ham to Gordon. “She is in the laboratory.”
“Thanks again, Kyrano,” Gordon said appreciatively as he dug in. “It’s good to have things pretty much back to normal.”
“Well, they will be once Alan goes back to Five and Brains comes home,” John commented. “I am so glad that I’m not going back to the station right away. To spend the holidays with my family is a treat!”
“We’re glad to have you home, John,” Jeff said. He looked up to see Eleanor come into the room. “Good morning, Mother.”
“Good morning, Jeff, boys. Good morning, Kyrano. Oh, this fruit salad looks lovely. Thank you for jumping right back into the household chores, Kyrano. The boys have been a big help, as long as they were given the right motivation.”
“Yeah, like being bullied into it,” Virgil said with a grin.
“Now, now, Virgil. I didn’t have to bully Gordon all week,” she replied, tipping a wink at her buzz-cut grandson. “Is that hair cut okay, dear?”
“It’s great, Grandma. Definitely a ‘wash-and-go’ kind of style,” Gordon replied, returning the wink.
Jeff folded up his paper, and rose, taking his coffee cup with him. “Alan, when you’re done with breakfast, I’d like to see you in the office.”
“Sure, Dad,” Alan said from behind his racing magazine.
Gordon finished his breakfast and went out for a run on the beach. John was waiting for him at the base of the bluff.
“So, what do you think Dad wants to talk to Alan about?” John asked.
“I dunno,” Gordon said as he stretched. “Maybe briefing him on returning to Thunderbird Five. Brains is doing some extensive upgrades on the translation programs. That’s not something you’ll have to worry much about.”
“Nah, especially since I helped write them,” John said with a grin. He straightened up. “Ready?”
“Yep. Let’s go.” The two men began their jog across the white sands.
Sometime later, a disgruntled Alan left the lounge, his father’s speech ringing in his reddened ears. Hands in the pockets of his shorts, he sauntered down the stairs to the pool, deep in thought.
What does he expect of me? Yeah, I said that this life is too dangerous to share it with anyone. And there’s no way in hell I want to leave a wife and children behind the way we were left. That’s why I’ve distanced myself from Tin-Tin. I know it’s hurting her; it’s killing me, too. But it has to be done. I can’t get serious about any girl.
“Hey, why the long face, kid?” Scott asked as he came out to the pool to find Alan sitting on the covered swing.
“None of your business, Scott. And I’m not a kid. I haven’t been one for a long time,” Alan growled.
“Could’ve fooled me, the way you treated Tin-Tin yesterday,” Scott shot back as he laid a towel on a nearby lounge chair. “And the stunt you pulled with Gordon.”
“Hey, look who’s talking, Mr. Shrinky-Dink,” Alan sneered. “You should at least reimburse him for the suits.”
“He doesn’t know who it was,” Scott retorted. “I didn’t go around advertising my involvement.”
“Yeah, well it’s a good thing he is sticking to this resolution of his, or you’d be just as dead as Virgil and I would be. I’m sure he’s figured it out by now,” Alan snapped. He rose from the swing. “I doubt John or Dad will do anything to hedge their bets.”
“Bets? What’s this about a bet?” came a familiar voice from the stairs to the pool. Tin-Tin was coming down to swim, tucking her hair up under her favorite pink swim cap. She was dressed in a hot pink tankini, with a white blouse over it for a cover up. She dropped her towel on the lounger next to Scott’s and looked at each man quizzically as she slipped out of her sandals.
“Well? Who will tell me about the bet?” Her eyes flicked from man to man, resting longer on Scott than on Alan.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in the lab?” asked Alan.
Tin-Tin rolled her eyes. “I’m taking a break. Scott, tell me about this bet you’ve been talking about.”
Scott sighed. “You know this resolution that Gordon has made, to not play any more pranks?”
Tin-Tin nodded, folding her arms across her chest. “Yes, I do. Go on.”
“Well, Virge said he wouldn’t last a week. On the way home, Dad and I started talking and it seemed that none of us thought he’d be able to keep his resolution. So I suggested we have a wager on it. Each of us chose a day by which we thought Gordon would cave. Whoever was right would win the pot.”
Alan joined in. “Yeah. So far Scott, Virge, and I are out of the running. Gordon’s stuck by his guns. No matter what we’ve….”
“What you’ve done to him?” Tin-Tin finished his sentence, frowning. “So, the reason you all have been tormenting him is to win a bet? That’s low, really low. And all of you are involved? Even Mr. Tracy? I can’t believe it of you!”
Both Scott and Alan avoided her gaze. Finally Scott spoke. “Look, Tin-Tin. We didn’t mean him any harm, any more than he’s meant us harm when he’s pulled some of his practical jokes. And I don’t think anything more will happen to him. John’s far too laid back to do anything and Dad? Well, Dad wouldn’t think of it. So he’s safe. And he’s hanging in there, too, despite what we thought. I don’t know how or why, but he seems to have given up the jokes for good.”
Tin-Tin slipped back into her sandals, and picked up her towel. “I don’t think I want to swim today. At least not in your vicinity. You’ve disappointed me, Scott: you and Virgil and especially you, Alan,” she said angrily. Pushing Scott aside, she left the pool area, and headed for the path to the beach.
Scott and Alan watched her go, and they exchanged embarrassed glances. Scott sighed again, then turned to the pool, climbing up to the high board and diving off. Alan shook his head and went back inside the Villa.
Halfway down to the beach, Tin-Tin stopped suddenly. I wonder if Mrs. Tracy knows about this? Abandoning her swim, she turned around and went in search of Eleanor.
Gordon and John were cooling off from their run, walking together over the clean beach.
“So,” Gordon asked, smiling slightly. “When are you going to lower the boom?”
“What do you mean by that?” John responded.
“I mean, when are you going to get even with me? Try to make me dump my resolution?” Gordon shook his head. “Alan, Virgil, and even Scott have done their bit. You’re the only one left.”
“Gords, you know me better than that. If this resolution means so much to you, then more power to you. I’m not the type to hold a grudge,” John said. “Besides, I can never think up anything as good as you do. There’s nothing I could do that would match that green dye.”
Gordon barked a laugh, and smiled at John. “Thanks… I think. It’s good to know that I don’t have to take my shower head apart every time I step in the tub.”
John thumped him on the back, then turned a thoughtful eye on him. “What got you so serious about this anyway? It really came as a bolt from the blue.”
Gordon slowed his walk and sighed. He looked at his toes, then the sky as he spoke. “Well, I happened to overhear a bit of conversation between Dad and Lady Penelope. Dad was talking about how he wished one of us would get serious about things, that the fooling around was getting hurtful. I figured they were talking about me. I mean, I probably do the most ‘fooling around’ of anyone in the family.” He turned to John. “I wanted to show Dad that I could be serious about life.”
“Aha! So that’s where this came from.” John nodded his head in understanding. “And that’s why you’ve been like Gibraltar when put through the wringer.”
“Yeah. I just want Dad to know he can count on me–that I think about more than where my next joke is coming from.”
John chuckled. “Hate to tell you this, squirt, but I think Dad already counts on you. And he knows that you’ve got more depth than you sometimes show. There’s not one of us who takes more care during a rescue, who is more focused or serious. And if this resolution of yours has shown us anything at all, it’s how determined you can be when you’ve got your mind set on something.”
“Determined? Or just plain stubborn?” Gordon asked with a grin.
The two men chuckled, and John nudged Gordon in the ribs. “I think you should talk to Dad about this. Ask him what he meant when he said what he did. Clue him in to the real reason for this resolution of yours. I think he’d be proud of you.”
“You think?” Gordon asked hesitantly. John nodded.
“Okay. I’ll talk with him after my swim.” By this time they were climbing the path to the house. “Coming in?”
“Yeah. That sounds like a good idea.”
“Yes, Tin-Tin. I’m aware of the wager,” Eleanor said with a sigh as she poured herself a glass of iced tea. “They must have thought that I was asleep when they discussed it.”
The two women were seated at the kitchen table. Eleanor squeezed a lemon wedge into her tea and stirred it with a long-handled spoon. She sipped it, then put the glass down firmly.
“I don’t know all the details of the bet, but I think most of the hijinks going on around here have been a result of it.”
“Yes, Mrs. Tracy,” Tin-Tin replied. “Scott and Alan intimated that this was the case.” She paused to sip her fruit juice. “What do we do about it? Do we tell Gordon?”
“Now, I’m of two minds about that, Tin-Tin. It would be a blow to Gordon to know that even his father thinks he can’t stick to his resolution. There are some things that are best left hidden under that bushel, if you know what I mean. I don’t think that John or Jeff would do anything in the way of a practical joke like the others have; John is too laid back and Jeff’s too… fair, at least in matters like this.”
“Do you think that Scott, Virgil, or Alan would try again without the incentive of the wager?” Tin-Tin asked.
Eleanor frowned. “Scott wouldn’t. Virgil, well, he’s a little more iffy, but I’d say it’s unlikely he would. Alan is a definite maybe; he’d be more likely than the others, especially since he’s been Gordon’s partner in crime more times than I can count.” She sipped her tea again. “I wish I knew what brought on this resolution of his in the first place.”
“Oh, Mrs. Tracy! I can tell you that!” Tin-Tin cried, then related the conversation that she and Gordon had on the way home from Wellington.
Eleanor nodded. “Now things are a bit clearer, and I can see my way. I think that the first thing to do is to tell Jeff about this so he can have a heart-to-heart talk with Gordon.”
“Do you think it will help?” Tin-Tin asked doubtfully.
Eleanor smiled. “If I know my son, he’ll cancel that wager in a heartbeat, and probably swear the others to secrecy about it.”
“What do you think Gordon will do?”
“That’s a little bit harder to guess. He might decide that stopping the practical jokes is better than playing them. Or he may decide to start them up again–with a vengeance. Then, too, he might choose to just cut back on them and play them when he’s particularly inspired, or on April Fool’s Day or something of that nature.”
Tin-Tin smiled. “I’ll admit that life is a little more exciting here when Gordon’s playing his pranks. They keep us on our toes between rescues.”
Eleanor was about to agree when the emergency signal went off, causing both women to jump.
“That’s the real excitement around here,” she said wryly. “I guess I’d better put off my conversation with Jeff until the boys are on their way back home.”