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July 19, 2012

I Hraet You (22)

Beat 22: Remember, Guys: Bullying is Bad

JP furrowed his brow and groaned.  “What the hell…?”

“So you believe me?”

He rubbed his head, digging his fingers into his scalp.  “So this guy.  You’re sure about this?  The flying, and the knife through his chest?”

“Kinda hard to forget somethin’ like that, pal,” said Trixie.

“Was there anything else about him that seemed off?”

“I think yer a little too relaxed about this whole knife through the chest thing.”  Trixie folded her arms, and tapped a foot against the sidewalk.  “I guess if it bothers ya that much, he WAS wearin’ a top hat.  And a cape, too.  Looked like somethin’ straight outta Broadway.  Or…I dunno, some kinda musical.”  She moved her hands through the air.  “Oh yeah -- and I checked all around my place after he left.  So unless he packed up his bag o’ tricks right after, I’m guessin’ he didn’t hafta use any cranes or strings or nothin’ like that.  He was just…I dunno, some kinda ghost dandy.”

JP covered his mouth.

“Somethin’ on yer mind, pal?  ‘Cause if ya got any idea what that guy’s supposed to be, I’m all ears.”

But JP didn’t have a good answer.  He just turned around and started walking, muttering and grumbling and humming to himself. 

“Great.  So yer not much better off than I am,” Trixie said with a sigh.  “Figures.  But…man oh man, was that guy ever freaky.  And what if he really was -- er, really IS a ghost?”  She gasped.  “Hey!  If he knew about the treasure here, then maybe --”

“That’s enough,” JP snapped.  “We’re done talking about this.”

“What?  Why’s that?”

“What do you take me for, an idiot?  I don’t believe in ghosts -- garbage like that might scare your pants off, but when it comes to the supernatural I don’t even flinch.  Know why?”  He turned a chilly eye back at her.  “Because there’s no such thing. Get that through your head right now, Tex.”

JP looked at the sidewalk ahead, walking forward with his hands in his pockets.  Now just what in the hell was that all about? Trixie thought with a pout.  I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what I saw.  Why’s he so uptight all o’ a sudden?

She snickered to herself.  Maybe he’s scared o’ ghosts.


The duo walked through the school halls, with the chatter of countless tweens filling the silence between them.  The slamming of lockers and the trudging of sneakers across linoleum tires had Trixie swiveling her eyes in nearly every direction; she waved at any students that met her gaze, but they quickly turned away.  Some of them picked up the pace of their motions -- and in some cases, they broke into a stiff run.

All right, that was weird, Trixie thought, rubbing the back of her neck.  I mean, yeah, I probably look a little creepy right now, but it ain’t like I’m a bad person.  She furrowed her brow (accidentally scaring a sixth grader in the process).  Wait a sec.  Come to think of it, what the hell am I supposed to be doin’ here anyway?  I’m way too old to be goin’ to classes here.  She looked down at JP, who scribbled something with a black marker.  What’s this kid up to?

She shook her head.  No sense in thinkin’ about it, I guess.  Might as well ask.  She opened her mouth to speak -- just as JP started stroking a few hairs on the side of his head.  But as he did, Trixie caught a glimpse of his palm.  Apparently, he’d made a slew of marks atop it; even while walking, he managed to draw up a clear message:


Trixie grimaced.  The hell’s that supposed to mean?  But before she could make an outburst, JP showed off his other palm -- and the other message he wrote:


Oh what the -- there’s no way this kid can do that!  He’s gotta be bluffin’!  And I haven’t done a damn thing wrong!  Well, except punch Lloyd.  And ran away from home.  And my folks’ve probably got a manhunt goin’ just to track me down.  She stared blankly at JP’s back for a moment -- and then, her face and shoulders drooped.  Son of a bitch…

JP made a subtle nod, and slid his hands back into his pockets.  Could be worse, I guess.  Least this way, he ain’t makin’ me pay any more money.

JP pulled his right hand back out, and showed her his palm.

8:24 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $301.49

Now he’s just messin’ with me…

“Hey, there he is.”

JP and Trixie came to a halt across from some lockers -- or rather, the three boys in front of them.  A lanky one with spike-studded bracelets; a short, pudgy one with a nasty grin; a blond with slicked-back hair and hands crammed in his pockets.  If Trixie was ten years younger she would have started scurrying down the hall; for someone like JP -- someone shorter than all three of them -- she would have figured he’d bow down to them.

But the kid held his ground, and gave them each a curt nod in turn.  “Randy.  Hogan.  Andre.  Good to see you again.  Have a nice summer?”

Hogan nodded back.  “Sure did.  Me and my boys here had plenty of fun.  ‘Cause you know, there’s nothing better than street fighting…well, except maybe winning those fights.”

Just how many crazy people are there in this town? Trixie thought. 

“So I guess you three are even tougher than before, huh?” JP asked.

“You know it.”

“Good to hear.  Always nice to know that my enemies are at their best -- because breaking them in two is all the more satisfying.”

You gotta be…JP, don’t go startin’ a fight with some punks like these!  They’re gonna turn you into a pile o’ --

Randy, Hogan, and Andre all dropped to their hands and knees, and bowed their heads so low they nearly kissed the floor.  “Please don’t hurt us!” Andre yelled.  “We-we don’t want any trouble!”

“We’ll do whatever you want!” said Randy, just a blink away from bawling.

“Come on, boys.  We discussed this already.”  JP held out a hand.  “If you want protection from a highly probable beat-down, you’ll have to pay your fee.  And I’m afraid that since you didn’t pay before summer vacation, you’re going to have to deal with penalty charges.”  He shook a finger.  “Didn’t I warn you about that?  Now you’re going to have to deal with some serious financial consequences -- not exactly the kind of behavior a responsible adult would endorse.”

 “Y-y-yeah, we get it.  We should have listened to you before,” said Hogan, his lips quivering.  “So how much do we owe you?”

JP glanced aside for a moment, stroking his chin.  “Well…I suppose this is your first offense, so I’ll be able to let you off freely if you act quickly.  So let’s start with a payment of all the money you have on you.  Now.”

The three boys reached into their pockets and placed money on the ground in front of them -- nickels, dimes, pennies, quarters, dollar bills, and a few balls of lint.  With their heads still hung, they pushed the money forward with the tips of their fingers. 

JP scowled.  “What kind of idiot do you take me for?  I said all the money.  Don’t make me do something I’ll regret later.”  He looked up at the ceiling.  “Actually, scratch that -- don’t make me do something I’ll really, really enjoy.”

The three boys glanced at each other -- and almost simultaneously, they threw their wallets at JP’s feet. 

“Now you’re catching on.  But I get the feeling you’re still holding out on me…and that won’t do at all.”

 The three boys glanced at each other.  They slid their backpacks -- each one curiously decorated with cartoon ponies -- off their shoulders, and started rummaging through the pockets.  Little by little, money started piling up.  Just small bills and change, of course, but more than enough to pay for a few lunches. 

“Good.  This should cover you for the next three days.”  JP swept up all the money and stuffed it into his backpack.  “How about you guys stay on the ground like that for a while?  That’s a good look for you.  Very becoming.” 

Hogan jerked his head up and down.  “Y-yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”

“Sorry, what was that?”

“…That sounds like a good idea, Mr. H.”

JP frowned, and stuck a finger into his ear.  “One more time.”

“…That sounds like a good idea, Grand Master H.”

“Huh.  That’s what I thought I heard.  Well, I’m off to class, boys.  Maybe I’ll see you around…oh wait, I know I will.”  And with a wave, he started heading down the hall. 

Trixie barely registered JP’s departure.  She just kept staring at the boys, hoping that her eyes and mouth didn’t fall from the rest of her head.  It took JP walking back in front of her (and scowling, of course) to remind her that she needed to get moving; as he started walking, she followed a few steps behind.

Okay, what in the name o’ Eli Whitney’s cotton gin was that all about?  No way’re a buncha tough guys like that gonna take lip from a brat like JP.  I sure as hell wouldn’t -- well, at least I wouldn’t if I was in their spot.  So why?  What’s he got that they don’t?

Of course, she didn’t have to wonder for long. 

Wait a minute.  No…no, no, no.  Oh no.  Oh my God, no.  It took every ounce of her will to hold in a scream.  It’s me.  They think I’m some kinda hitwoman! 

That’s just crazy!  What would a hitwoman be doin’ in a middle school?


“I hear you’re the best hitwoman around.  Good to know; I’ll need to make use of your skills rather quickly, madam.”

She gnawed on the end of a short reed, leaning with arms folded against a brick wall.  “You got it all wrong, buddy boy.  I ain’t out to kill anyone.  Too messy.”  She shot a glance at him.  “I’m a bounty hunter.  Learn the difference before you go hiring me.”

“My sincerest apologies.  I meant no offense, madam.”  He bowed like a well-trained butler, even though she could hardly see him -- just a figure in the shadows, the fabric of his outfit rustling about.  “Ku fu fu…You see, I’m none too familiar with the ways of -- how should I phrase this?  Ah, yes -- those in the business of managing human lives.  So you’ll forgive my occasional faux pas, I hope; I’ll have to count on you for a proper understanding…and of course, handling, of the situation.”

“Pfft.  Just as long as the money’s good --”

“And it is, I assure you; I’d offer nothing less than top dollar for the world’s finest bounty hunter.”  He held out a hand, his fingers slithering about.  “I trust you know who the target is?”

“Yeah.  But I’m not just in this for that one.  I’m gonna bag anyone who’ll let me turn a profit -- and let me tell you, there’s a list that’s getting longer by the day.”  She shifted the reed around in her mouth.  “Hell of a lot of freaks in this town.  Makes me wonder if there’s something in the water.”

“Nothing but fish, last I checked.”  He started to smile -- not that she, or anyone, could see it.  “Of course, I trust you’re willing to add an extra ingredient should the need arise?”

“What kind of ingredient?”

“Ku fu fu…blood, of course.”

She held the reed between two fingers, rolling it between them as she pondered his words.  After a minute, she slid it back into her mouth and started chewing again.  “I hate getting my hands dirty.  But then again, guess I wouldn’t be much of a bounty hunter if I didn’t make a mess every now and then.”

“Beautiful.  Simply beautiful.”

She covered her face.  She’d have to remember not to deal with people who dressed like that in broad daylight ever again.

8:28 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: 1 Hour 40 Minutes


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