The Haunted Hayride began at the check-in shack and picked up riders along the campground road. A utility tractor pulled the old wooden hay wagon stacked with bales of hay. Punk used the tongue to climb up on the wagon and then turned to pull PJ up. They found an empty bale near Stan and Shirley, still in costume, and nestled in with a fleece blanket that PJ had brought. Doris and Fred, Gigi and Aletha got on at the same time, as well as Tom and Adela Sneth, Blake and his friend Willie. Blake and Willie did not look excited about the ride.
PJ had noticed Darth Vader and Princess Leia behind them, Leia grasping a pair of crutches to keep them from sliding off the bale. By the time the Sneths found seats near the front, the hayrack was full.
The driver put the tractor in gear, yelling as he did so to the rest of the would be riders, “Sorry, folks! Another wagon will be along soon.”
The wagon lurched forward. After traversing around the loop at the end of the campground, the ride returned to the campground entrance and headed down a twisty park road. The air was just crisp enough to warrant the blanket and filled with the chatter and laughter of the riders. PJ leaned back on Punk’s shoulder and gazed up at the quarter moon, singed by racing wisps of clouds. She nearly forgot the tragedy of the weekend. But she wondered if Adela would make her son apologize to Bonnie Bruns.
They crested a hill and had just started down the other side when the tractor, chugging along until then, emitted a loud thunk and stopped chugging. Wagon and tractor lurched to a halt. Everyone talked at once while the driver got down and tinkered with the tractor.
While they waited, lights appeared behind them and the second tractor and wagon drew along side. The drivers conferred and as the second wagon continued on its way, the first driver came back and addressed the group.
“I’m afraid this is not something I can fix out here but Bernie will be back to pull this wagon in after delivering his load. Shouldn’t be more than twenty minutes or so.” He did not wait for questions or comments, but returned to his tinkering.
At the front of the wagon, Adela poked her son and PJ heard her say, “Now is as good a time as any.”
“Enough with the ‘Aw Ma,'” said Tom Sneth and jumped down off the wagon, motioning Blake to follow.
They walked along side the wagon and Tom cleared his throat and said, “My son here has something to say to all of you.”
Blake hung his head, which was just as well, because seeing Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Raggedy Ann and Andy, a witch, a scantily clad genie (Gigi) and a large minion (Aletha) all turn their focus on him at once would have unnerved him completely.
Blake mumbled something and his dad said, “They can’t hear you.”
He spoke up. “I’m the once who scared Ms. Bruns last night. I’m really sorry—it was just a prank.”
“A prank!” came a high pitched screech from Princess Leia, and she tore off her mask. While PJ sympathized with Bonnie’s experience and pain, she thought the expression on her non-Princess face was more than was warranted by a teenager’s thoughtlessness.
Now Darth Vader removed his helmet with a similar look of shock and PJ realized Bonnie’s husband was the man they had met near Black Hawk Point. Something about him bothered her, but Bonnie continued to scream at the hapless prankster.
“You little punk! Why would you do such a thing? Do you know what you’ve done?”
Tom Sneth looked as surprised as his son. Everyone on the wagon was so transfixed by Bonnie Bruns’ reaction, the car coming up behind them didn’t register until the sheriff walked around the end of the hayrack just in time to hear Blake say quietly to Bonnie, “I delivered your note.”