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July 16, 2012

I Hraet You (21)

Beat 21: The Plot, It Grows More Viscous 

8:14 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $148.54

Trixie followed JP along the sidewalk as Sondheim Middle School came into view.  Maybe it was just that she hadn’t been to a middle school since her own tween years, or maybe the sounds of laughing kids coming to greeter, but something about the building just felt small and quaint.  The main building stretched from one end of the block to another, like a massive hot dog made out of brown bricks, and sprinkled with polished windows.  As the pair trotted near the chain-link fence, she spotted the usual niceties -- the asphalt track, the grassy field, and no shortage of portables in the distance.  Even though they approached from the building’s backside, the flagpole at the front of the school stood high enough to peek past the roof -- and with it, the American and school flags flapping in tandem.

“So we’re clear on your schedule, then?” JP asked, hands in his pockets as he strode in the lead.  “Just follow my lead for the first bit.  Then when I give you the signal, you head back to my house and help my dad with his work.  Once lunchtime rolls around, you head back here; I’ll be waiting at…”  He pointed behind one of the portables, the one closest to the parking lot.  “That spot.  Meet me back there, and play along with me.  Got all that, Tex?”  He cocked his head back at her, refusing to give her the blessing of his full attention.   “Or do you need me to write it all down?”

Trixie barely heard him; she gave him a little nod, of course, but hardly a conscious one.  She just walked along, arms folded and hands clutching her biceps tightly.  The big guy wanted me to keep an eye on his boy, she thought, her eyes drifting toward the sky as she pondered ever further.  I don’t get it.  Is there really somethin’ wrong with him?  Besides the whole money thing?  Come to think of it…

“JP, why’re ya so crazy about gettin’ yer hands on a lotta money?”

So I can rule the world, of course.”  Without missing a step, he pulled out his calculator and notepad.

8:16 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $180.43

“If there’s one thing that ticks me off, it’s stupid questions,” JP explained, sliding his gear back into his pocket.

“Now just how is that a stupid que…?”  Trixie shook her head.  “Look, can ya just tell me what’s goin’ on in that head o’ yours?  I mean…”  She scratched at her temple.  “It ain’t like yer a bad kid or anythin’, so I figure that…ya know, maybe I could get to know ya better.”

“Heh.  Typical girl -- always getting sentimental.”

Short, cheap, bratty, and sexist…this kid’s a real winner, Trixie thought with a grimace. 

“Fine.  I guess I’ll indulge you,” JP said with a sigh and a shrug.  “We don’t live in a world where superheroes fly through the sky, or sword masters roam the countryside.  People are weak.  Normal.  What sets us apart is how much we desire things -- and in order to have those desires fulfilled, we need something very important.  You know what that is?”

“Money.”

“Good answer.  Money is power; the ones that gather up the most of it are the ones that rule.  They can boss others around whenever and however they want.  Or maybe they’ll use it for a good cause.  Or maybe they’ll just keep it to themselves, and live like a king with all their wants and needs taken care of.”  He snickered a bit.  “Or maybe they’ll give it to charity…like saps.”

“And what’re ya gonna do if ya get yer hands on some cash?”

“Well, nothing too heartless -- I have my standards, you know.”  He waved a hand through the air.  “As long as I can get whatever I want, you won’t see me cracking down on others anytime soon.”

“Huh.  Guess ya got it all planned out, pal.”

“What did you expect?  I may be young, but I’ve had my eyes on the prize since the day I was born.” 

“Yeah, but…are ya sure that’s what ya really want?”

Suddenly, JP came to a halt, and turned toward Trixie at last.  To his surprise, Trixie had stopped as well; she stared back at him with a cool yet focused gaze.   “Look,” she began.  “I know money’s important, and ya can’t do much without it these days, but ya don’t hafta treat it like the be-all and end-all.  It’d be way too easy for a kid like you to get all swept up in nickels and dimes, and lose track of all the good stuff in life.  Lotsa fun adventures, friendship, even love.”

JP stared at her.  “Love?  You’re starting to sound like Lloyd.”

“Maybe, but he’s got a good point.  I mean, come on.  Ya thought about romancin’ some girl at one point or another, haven’t ya?  Sure, money can help ya win one over, but it’s no good if all ya care about is money.  Know what I mean?”

“Love…” JP muttered.  “Heh.  As if that matters to a kid like me.”

“I guess yer a little too young for that kinda thing right now.”  Trixie shrugged.  “Look.  Ya just gotta be careful -- ya hear all the time how money changes people, and I’d sure hate to see that happen to a kid who’s barely made his way in the world.  I mean…”  She scratched behind her ear.  “Yer a smart kid.  Smarter than me when I was yer age.  So I figure that ya got a real shot at doin’ somethin’ real big in this world.  But ya don’t exactly need money to pull it off.”

“Then what do I need?”

“Just one thing.  You.”

At the sound of that, JP actually reddened a bit, and his gaze started shifting around the street.  He bore his teeth in a reflexive scowl, but couldn’t find it in him to aim that scowl at Trixie.  “Pfft.  Don’t think for a second that just because you say something nice means that you’re off the hook with your payment.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Right.  Glad we’ve got that straight.  But still…”  He ran the toe of his shoe against the sidewalk.  “Th-thanks.”

Trixie smiled at him.  “Anytime, pal.”

JP couldn’t bring himself to look back at her smile -- so instead he just started fumbling with his calculator.  “So let's hear it.  I want the truth."    

“Huh?”

JP stuffed his hands into his pockets and leaned forward.  “You’re not seriously trying to play dumb, are you?  Come on -- I want to know just who exactly you are, and what you’re planning on doing here in Porbeagle.”

“Oh, right.  I, uh…well…I came here ‘cause I hear there’s treasure to be found.  I was hopin’ I could get my hands on it and bring it back home.”  She shrugged.  “And that’s about all there is to it.”

“You sure about that?”  JP held out a hand.  “Sure, it’s nice to know that’s what you’re here for -- but there are still way too many unknowns about you.  For starters, why do you want this treasure in the first place?  How did you hear about it?  And most of all, who are you?”

Trixie looked to the field.  “I came here lookin’ for that treasure so I could get away from my family,” she answered, albeit with a tensed visage. 

“Well, I can sympathize with you on that point,” JP said with a quick shrug.  “Go on.”

“Ever hear of a place called Rockwood?  It’s a little place, kinda nestled away in the woods and all that down south.  It ain’t much in the way o’ glitz and glam, but we got a tight little community all set up.  We’re like family.  Know what I mean?”

JP thought about mentioning his earnest desire to have the South separated from the rest of the country, but decided to hold off for later.  So he just gave her a short nod.

“Well…actually, even though the whole town’s like a family, there’s one group that’s different from all the rest.”  She lowered her head, unable to hold in a weighty sigh.  “My family.  My mom and dad, and brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles and cousins…the works.  They pretty much run the whole town -- mess with them, and yer on the choppin’ block.  Sure doesn’t help that they’re the richest folks in town, or that they got all the folk on their payroll.  And even if they don’t, they got enough support from their goons to strong-arm anybody that steps outta line.”

JP cocked his head. “So your family’s using their wealth and influence to control the town -- and by the sound of things, you’re out to put a stop to it,” he reasoned.  “If you can find this treasure, you can use it to shift the balance of power in Rockwood…or, you could hire your own supporters and become a force just as terrible as your kin.”  He shrugged, and stared nonchalantly into the distance.  “Or you could just take the treasure and run -- use it as a platform for financial independence.”

“I guess that’s about it, yeah.  I mean…you know, I was gonna find the treasure first, and then figure out what to do from there.”

“And the surfboard?”

“That was a part of it.  I always wanted to be a surfer -- and I figured I’d need some kinda cover if I was gonna go around town diggin’ here and there.  So I said, why not?  And then once I found the treasure, I could go to all the best spots.  Meet the greats, soak up some sun…maybe become a real legend.  And I’d get my start here.”

“Except Porbeagle’s not the best place for surfing.  Maybe you could pull it off if you were daring enough, but all told it’s not the best place you could go.”  He shook his head; Trixie could feel JP grow almost radioactive with disdain.  “You tried to blend in, but only stuck out more.  Not the brightest of moves, Tex.”

“Yeah, I know that now.”

“But why would you think that in the first place?  How do you go from being a southern belle to a treasure-hunting wannabe surfer?”

“Well…”  Trixie scratched at her temple.  “D’ya trust me?”

“I tolerate you.  But go on.”

“I mean it, pal.  This ain’t gonna work if ya don’t give me a little credit.”

JP folded his arms and cut his eyes away from her.  “Well, since you were kind enough to tell me your life story, I guess you’re not all bad.”

“…Look, I know this is gonna sound crazy, but…there was a guy who told me about the treasure, and Porbeagle, and even said I should go as a surfer.  But he was…well…uh…he had on this mask, so I didn’t get a real good look at his face.”

“What’s so special about that?” JP asked, now tapping a finger against his arm.  “It’s unusual, but nothing too out of the ordinary.  If he’s dealing with some kind of southern mafia family, then he’d want to keep his identity hidden.”

But Trixie shook her head.  “That’s not the weird part about it. The thing is…he was flyin’.”

At the sound of that, JP unfolded his arms -- and for the first time, had a look of surprise befitting his age.  “You’re serious?”

“Yeah.  But if ya can believe it, that ain’t the weird part.  Even though I couldn’t see his face, I got a good look at the rest of him.  I saw his chest, and…and…”  She held her hands about a foot apart from each other.  “He had this huge knife stuck in his chest -- smack-dab in the heart.”

“What?  But that means --!”

“Yeah, I know.  That guy was already dead.”

8:20 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

TO BE HEARTINUED…

4 comments:

  1. This is your writing? Is it published? I find it intriguing and bold :).

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  2. I'm trying to get some stuff published right now, but...well, it's been a remarkably slow process thus far. I Hraet You is pretty much just a side project to help me build some semblance of a fanbase, as well as keep my skills sharp.


    That aside..."intriguing and bold," huh? Those certainly aren't the two words I'd use to describe the story, but I'll gladly take them. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. If I recall well..you are a teenager, right? Allow me to observe how very wise you are for your age :).

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  4. Actually, I turn 24 this year. I just look, sound, and occasionally act like a teenager.

    ReplyDelete