Chapter 2: Handle With Care

Dexter had just finished packing the car when the remaining people, Stephanie, Christine, and Mike, reached the car. "An SUV?" Christine grimaced. "You drive THAT?" Dexter turned to me, saying, "It's not my car; it's my parents' car, and it's the only thing that would fit seven people and equipment. Trust me; they're good for camping trips."

"Alright, I'll give you that."

Manny and Ashlea both called shotgun, immediately giving each other repressive looks. Dexter, of course, was the driver and, noticing the sudden death match, stepped between them saying, "This calls for an apparent game of rock, paper, scissors." There was a collective groan from a few select people; however, Ashlea and Manny were into it in a heartbeat. Two out of three and Manny beat her twice, once with paper, the second time with rock.

Stephanie and Mike took the two middle seats, leaving Christine, Ashlea, and Arby to sit in the back, Arby and Mike both sitting nearest to the door.

The car ride there was…dull. It was dull, that is, until Ashlea began singing showtunes. "In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking but now god knows anything goes," She sang. Dexter, finally somewhat annoyed, replied, "what the hell are you singing?"

"It's from the musical, Anything Goes," she replied, continuing on "Good authors too who once knew better words now only use four letter words writing prose, anything goes," she sang. "Well," he began, "Shut the Ghandi up! And sit still!" Ashlea bluntly refused, only singing louder to match the hum of the Voltaire CD that was playing. Dexter turned it up to drown her out and Ashlea, finally unable to match the volume, lowered her head sadly and muttered to herself for the rest of the trip, hardly able to even look at the other people in the car. Later on during the road trip, the song, "When You're Evil" came up. Ashlea sighed and said, "Oh great, now he's probably going to do his little dance again."

"What little dance?" Stephanie asked, confused. Ashlea pointed at Dexter and said, "Whenever he plays this song he does this little dance he made up to it. It's disturbing."

Dexter turned down a dirt road, driving through muddy patches and over rocks. He finally stopped on the side of the road and got out. Once everyone had stepped outside, he began giving orders, and handing various object to each person. "I, of course, will handle the guns. Wouldn't want anybody accidentally shooting themselves," he said.

Ashlea looked at him, glaring, and said, "I could handle a gun!" Dexter took a sheathed shotgun from the trunk, "Fine, you can carry this one if you promise to keep it in the case." Rolling her eyes, Ashlea nodded, adding her own backpack to what she carried. She picked up the gun and waited for Dexter's lead. She was tempted to go off on her own, but she didn't know the woods well.

Dexter called Manny over and handed the second shotgun to him, "I can trust you with this right?" he asked. Manny nodded and replied, "Hell yeah, dude." Slipping a backpack onto his shoulders, he eagerly awaited for them so they could press on and find an ideal location to set up. Dexter picked up the rifle himself.

With the guns taken care of, Dexter took one of the tents and his own sleeping bag along with a backpack. Each person took their own stuff, Arby grabbed the remaining tent, and they began their trek, entrusting where they were going to Dexter.

It was a short way into the forest that a gunshot rang out behind them. Stephanie let out a scream and instinctively dropped her stuff and covered her head. Arby, caught off guard by the gunshot, sprinted ahead a good distance. Dexter immediately turned to the sound, and caught Manny dropping his gun, unsheathed and still smoking, to the forest floor. "He looked at Dexter, who caught his eyes with a glare, and had the nerve to say, "Wasn't me."

"Manny you sonofa-" he started, not quite knowing how to take his anger out on him for the sheer stupidity of his act. "You could have shot someone! Even killed someone! Do you have any idea how much damage you could have caused! Do you care!? Do you want me to teach you anything!? Huh!?" Stopping himself before he got too carried away, Dexter, wordlessly, walked over to him, dropped the tent at his feet, and snatched up the shotgun, putting the safety on and sheathing it. His eyes no longer focused on contempt at the possibly fatal act, he stalked off into the woods at a much quicker pace than before.

Ashlea looked at Manny, who slowly picked up the tent and shifted his other stuff around it. She shook her head and stated seriously, "If looks could kill, you'd have been dead the second he turned around." And with nothing more to say, she quickened her pace to catch up.

It took, what seemed like hours for many of the hikers, to finally reach their campsite. Nearby, they could hear the soft gurgle of a stream. The clearing held many of the sights and sounds that campers came to enjoy. Aside from the river, the birds had never sounded so loud. They chimed so often, Christine was beginning to wonder if it was more than just the birds making those noises.

Dexter dropped everything, save the guns, and sat down on a rock, waiting patiently for the rest of the group to catch up. Arby was the first, followed closely by Ashlea, who quickly handed him the gun. Christine was not too far off; however, she would stop on occasion just to look around her. The woods always amazed her, but she'd never been this deep into any.

Manny, of course, lagged behind a great deal. Not, Dexter was sure, because of the weight of the tent. No, he thought, the tent was light, if a little bulky. He was worried about Dexter's own reaction, rightfully so. Dexter shook his head; he would chew Manny out over this many times before he even let him touch a gun again.

Once everyone had settled down, Dexter decided it would be a good idea to split into groups and search around their site to get a feel for it. He made sure that no one went off by themselves. Having previous experience with camping, he was almost guardian-like in his approach. Stephanie and Mike had already decided on going off by themselves.

Arby went off and Christine decided to follow him, leaving Manny, Ashlea, and Dexter left as the remaining group. Dexter looked at Ashlea, then at Manny. Manny was absent-mindedly examining the guns and ammo. He was so intensely focused on it that he failed to notice until the fifth time Dexter called him, practically shouting in his ear. When Manny finally faced him, Dexter grinned bitterly, "You two, get going!" he growled, pointing to Ashlea and Manny, and then pointing in a generic direction. He stalked off in the opposite direction himself, taking a shotgun and his hunting knife.

When Dexter was out of site, Ashlea took to glaring at Manny. His lenience in light of what had happened was infuriating to her. Slowly, and as quietly as she could manage, she back stepped away from the camp site until there were trees aplenty between her and Manny.

Manny, on the other hand, was busy rummaging in his backpack for food. He was so engaged with his task that he didn't even notice her slip away.