We outnumbered them, I reckoned, doing a quick count of who was hiding in or around the copse. I didn't count the ones who hung back, like Pete; they wouldn't be any help. Problem was, Stew and the crew from class 11B were used to fights and rumbles; at least, more so than our guys. I didn't know who would fold and run if it came to a fight.

"Where's the others?" I asked Rich.

"Danny's over the other side somewhere. I haven't seen Sam or Cappo."

I was a little disappointed. I had hoped they'd be here. As for Danny, well…at that moment, with Cathy's confession fresh in my mind (why did she do it?), I didn't have the guts to go up and face him. I know it wasn't my fault and all, but I still felt funny about it. And right now, I had other, more urgent problems.

"Jay!" called one of the shadowy figures. They were still a distance away, but it was a clear night and his voice carried well. Everybody hushed. It was Stew.

"I'm here," I called back.

"Come over here so I can talk to you," came the slurred bellow.

I laughed derisively. "How stupid do you think I am?" I called back. "Five of you and one of me? Yeah, right. Nice try." I was still feeling pretty belligerent, with all the beer in my system. Still, I told myself not to be so flip. Even when he was plastered, Stew was an enemy I wouldn't wish on anyone.

"We won't hurt'cha."

"Course you won't, Stew," I said sarcastically. Then I went a little more serious. "Don't you reckon all this is going a bit far just to get Helen to come to your party? Can't you just see her tomorrow?"

"This isn't about Helen anymore," Stew cried. "She can spin for all I care."

"Then what are you here for?" I shouted.

"We're here for you," came the reply. I knew it. I'd pushed him, and he wanted revenge.

In the copse with me, everyone was silent, expectant, waiting to see what I would do. I smiled invisibly to myself. I was the General. My army against his army. Those prepared to defend my party (or who were pissed up and lairy and willing to have a fight) against Stew and his boys. Truth be told, most of the guys on my side didn't much like the 11B crew anyway, and with school now over, this was a God-give opportunity to get back at them for years of irritating swagger and intimidation.

The silence stretched out, the anticipation building unbearably.

"Come and get me, then," I said.