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July 23, 2012

I Hraet You (23)

Beat 23: Falsified Documents Are the Best

Trixie sat beside JP, looking as if she could either start screaming like a banshee or bawling like a baby.  Naturally, the fact that she’d become the lynchpin for his extortion plot left her in a sour mood -- but being in a classroom with children a decade younger, staring and whispering and gaping and questioning, made her regret waking up that morning.  Or that month, more appropriately.

She didn’t even get a desk of her own -- just a loose chair (a wobbly-legged one with gum stuck on it, for that matter) pulled next to JP’s.  But with the exception of the young Hoigleheimer -- scribbling in a notebook, even though class hadn’t started yet -- she had more than enough personal space.  The other children had backed off, occupying the desks at the room’s fringes.  In their eyes, she was practically radioactive…and certainly not in the good, superhero-creating way.

For a while Trixie tried staring at anything besides the other students -- the poster-shrouded walls, the bookshelves, the tall windows -- but with each new murmur she could feel their disdain.  She could almost imagine them burning her at the stake for her crimes, existing chief among them.  So she looked at the paper JP scribbled atop, hoping to find some solace.

A poor choice, indeed.

8:29 A.M.
Costs Accrued: $350.81

JP caught a glimpse of Trixie’s furious/teary eyes, but paid them no mind.  He just looked back at his notebook, slashing away at it with his pencil.  But then, he started sliding it over in Trixie’s direction, and tapped at the sheet with his eraser.

Trixie steeled herself for the worst, and took another look.

YOU’RE DOING WELL.  BETTER THAN I EXPECTED.

He slid his pencil down a line, past a few doodles of dollar signs and quarters.

KEEP IT UP.  JUST FOLLOW MY LEAD, AND IT’LL BE OVER BEFORE YOU KNOW IT.  DON’T MAKE ANY UNNECESSARY MOTIONS.  DON’T SHOW TOO MUCH EMOTION.  AND DON’T SPEAK.  AT ALL.

Trixie’s face turned into a full-on scowl as she glanced aside.  But she looked back at the notebook as JP started tapping against it.  And rapidly, at that.  She saw him purse his lips for a moment, and then he started writing something out.  She had to strain a bit to make it out; his already-messy handwriting suddenly looked like an abstract painting, and each letter had shrunken to a fourth its size.  But she just managed to make it out.

THANKS.

Trixie would have talked back to him if the bell hadn’t started rung.  With the metal pings still vibrating through the air, the stragglers shuffled into distant desks -- and with them came the teacher.

“All right, all right, class is in session…or something like that…whatever.”   The teacher slumped into his chair at the front of the room; even while sitting down, he still had a fair bit of height to him.  Unfortunately, he also looked as if he’d either been mugged, or spent the last week with a hangover.  A patchy suit jacket that sat uneven atop his flimsy shoulders; a plum-hued dress shirt buttoned wrongly, and a tie that dangled like an untended flag; a stooped posture, burdened by the satchel of books he’d dragged into the room; a sunken face, half-shut eyes, and a verifiable tumbleweed of hair affixed to his head. 

Are all the folks in this town from a nuthouse? Trixie thought.

The teacher placed his skeletal hands atop his desk.  “So, uh…yeah.  I’m Mr. Nemo, your English teacher.  Everybody in the right class?  Nobody from shop?  ‘Cause we’re not here to do any baking.”  He slipped his satchel off, and let it fall to the ground with a thunderous crash.  “We’re here to read.  Reading’s the best.  Lots of fun, and…damn, I’m tired.  Should’ve slept some this weekend…well, whatever.  More time for books.  Books rule.”

He ran a hand across his face, oblivious to the students’ silence.  “So, uh…we’re gonna read a lot, so be sure to bring lots of books.  Or something like that.  So…uh…I guess that’s about it.  Oh, wait, textbooks and workbooks…eh, we’ll get those eventually.  It’s the first day.  Do something fun.  Like read.  And don’t bother me.  Freakin’ kids, always getting in the way of me and my books…”

Yep.  Gotta be from a nuthouse, Trixie thought.

Nemo tilted his head and started knocking against it, as if trying to pound a few pints of water out of his brain.  “So, uh, any questions?  ‘Cause, you know, if there aren’t, the rest of the period is all yours.  Make friends, or read, or whatever.  It’ll be --”

JP’s hand shot up. 

“Uh?  Oh, yeah, you, the mean-looking kid next to the freakishly huge middle-school girl.  What is it?”

“Sir, I have a unique condition that you should probably know about,” said JP (ignoring Trixie’s sour reaction).  He reached into his notebook and pulled out a few sheets, and brought them over to the teacher.  “It’s a little complicated, so I should probably explain.”

Nemo held them up to the light, and turned them over in his hands a few times.  “Huh.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was stuff from the president, or something like that.”  He cocked his head.  “Whoa.  Are those watermarks?  Huh.  This actually looks like the real deal.”

“I know it sounds crazy, but those are definitely real documents,” said JP, taking the papers back.   He showed them off to the class, official seal and all.  “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has declared me a VIP to be protected and defended at all costs; if I fell into the wrong hands, it would be a threat to national security…but, taking me out of my natural environment would only make me more liable to kidnapping.  So…”

He pointed at Trixie.  “She’s my bodyguard.”

The hell I am!  But in spite of Trixie’s silent outburst, JP gestured for her to stand beside her -- and in spite of her worries, she did exactly that.  All right, ya little brat.  What’ve ya been cookin’ up in that head o’ yours? 

“Don’t let her looks fool you -- she’s good at her job,” said JP, gesturing towards her as if trying to sell a new car.  “They call her PTX-40A -- the best-trained bodyguard the feds have to offer.  But the hellish training she went through left her with a few…well, let’s call them defects.  For one thing, she’s mute.  And for another, she has a difficult time perceiving and responding to anything other than orders from her superiors.  And me, of course.  But even then, it’s a crap shoot.”

“Huh.  Soooooo…what’s with the clothes?” Nemo asked.

“If you had been trained from birth in nothing but CQC and governmental procedures, and then suddenly had to try and blend into a middle school setting, wouldn’t you look a little tacky?”

“Uh…probably.  But then again, I stopped caring about the question about a second after I asked it, so…yeah.  I believe you, or something like that.”  He grabbed a dictionary-sized book out of his satchel.  “You do whatever.  I’ve got words to read.”

“You do that,” JP said with a nod.  “Anyway, there’s one other quirk you all should be aware of.  PTX here has a certain affliction; she needs money, or else she gets a little antsy.  And by antsy I mean she threatens to snap the neck of anyone that crosses her.  So I’d highly recommend leaving a few dollars and cents lying around as tribute.  I’d sure hate for there to be a murder on school grounds.”

That’s way too obvious, JP! Trixie thought, forcing herself to stay still.  Yer gonna blow your story wide open if ya keep that up!

“You seriously think we’re just going to accept a lie like that?” a girl in the back of the room asked.  “What kind of fools do you take us for?”

See?  I knew it!    She and JP both looked at the other classmates -- some staring at them with bulging eyes, some with quivering fingers, and a healthy percentage holding one eyebrow arched.  That little outburst had helped crack JP’s little act; murmurs and laughs started making their way through the room.  But no matter the look on the kids’ faces or the words they spoke, both the belle and the brat could feel the disbelief flooding the room, threatening to drown them.  If they wanted to pull off the charade, they’d have to put on a show.

JP pressed a palm to his forehead.  “You’d think that my word alone would be enough, but I guess not.  Jeez, why is everyone nowadays so damn cynical?”

How ‘bout ya ask yerself that first, pal? Trixie thought.

“Fine.  I had a feeling this might happen.”  JP stuffed his hands into his pockets.  “I’ll give you all the evidence you need.  But after this, PTX might be expecting an extra-high tribute from you.”  He shot an eye toward Trixie.  “PTX.  Execute: Phaeton Maneuver.”

I ain’t a damn robot, kid!  And -- wait, what’s a Phaeton Maneuver?  What am I supposed to do?  She started to flinch.  Aw hell, they’re all starin’ at me!  If I don’t do somethin’, then…

All right, I’m gonna wing it!  She swept JP into her arms and held him like a bride -- and then, jumped atop a desk in the center of the room.

“Not bad, PTX,” said JP, slipping out of her grasp and heading back to the front of the room (amidst a slew of gasps and whispers).  “Although by the looks of things, you’re about two-thirds of a second slow.  Maybe it’s time for you to go back to training.”

Nothin’ is ever good enough for ya, is it? Trixie wondered as she trudged behind him.

“Huh.  So I guess that wasn’t enough to prove my case, huh?  Fine.  Then how about this?”  He looked through the crowd, and ran his index finger across them.  “Hmmm, let’s see here…how about…”  His finger came to a halt.  “You.  Andre.  Come up here for a minute.”

Andre slid out of his seat and stepped to the front of the room.  “Wh-what do I do now?”

“Just this.”  JP pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket, and punched in a number.  “When it stops ringing, just start talking.’”  He tossed the phone to Andre.

“Uh…okay, I guess.”  Andre pressed his ear against the phone.  “Hey, this is Andre, and I’m here with JP --”

“DON’T MOVE!  WHOEVER YOU ARE, WHEREVER YOU ARE, I WILL FIND YOU!  I WILL STOMP YOU INTO A FINE POWDER AND SPREAD YOU ACROSS MY STEAK AS SEASONING!  KNOW WHY?  BECAUSE THIS IS THE USA, AND YOU HAD BETTER NOT MESS WITH ONE OF ITS KIDS!  YOU THINK LABY LIBERTY IS JUST GONNA STAND AROUND AND LET YOU MISERABLE LITTLE TERRORIST BASTARDS STRUT AROUND, EATING WHERE YOU WANNA EAT AND USING OUR FLAGS AS NINETY-NINE CENT TOILET PAPER?  NO, YOU DUMBASS!  BECAUSE I AM THE WARRIOR OF AMERICA, AND I AM COMPLETELY IMMORTAL TO ALL YOUR EAGLE-PUNCHING SHENANIGANS!  IF YOU SO MUCH AS TAKE A BREATH -- JUST ONE -- I WILL SMELL IT.  I WILL JUMP UP INTO THE SKY AND COME CRASHING DOWN UPON YOU WITH SO MUCH JUDICIAL FORCE THAT YOUR WHOLE DAMN CONTINENT WILL BLAST OFF INTO SPACE!  DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?  DO!  NOT!  CROSS!  MY!  COUNTRY!”

Everyone in the room just stared at the phone.  JP hadn’t set it to speaker mode, nor had he done anything to raise the volume.  Whoever had spoken did so just as he would with any other phone.  He just spoke loud enough to shake the walls of the classroom.

Not surprisingly, Andre broke into tears.  He dropped the phone, and -- with one hand pressed to his likely-shattered eardrum -- he dashed out of the room.

JP picked up the phone and pocketed it.  “That was the panic button,” he explained.  “Why send one bodyguard to protect a VIP when you can send two?”

“That still doesn’t prove anything!” said the girl in the back.  “Lie all you want, but you can’t fool me!”

“What the hell is it going to take to convince you, then?” JP asked.  “You want me to throw myself out there and get nabbed by terrorists?  Is that it?”

Trixie watched JP’s motions.  Once so lax and full of swagger, they’d started to grow a bit tense.  The same went for his face; his brow just kept twitching, and his mouth started curling into a sneer.  Even with all his best moves, JP had more than strained their trust; considering that she knew who his other bodyguard was the moment “steak” was mentioned, he’d started running out of ammo.  Just had to make it complicated, didn’t ya? Trixie thought.  Wonder if there’s anythin’ I can do to help.  Maybe…

As JP moved about, Trixie caught a glimpse of the back of his head -- and something peculiar in its center.  It wobbled a bit across his hair, but she could make out the shape fairly easily.  A circle, and a small one at that; still, she’d have a hard time failing to notice that red dot, no matter how ti-

Wait a sec.  A red dot?  Aimin’ at his head?  It took all of a nanosecond for Trixie to put it together.  Oh SHI-

Ka-SHATTER!

The window behind JP burst into pieces, and tumbled into the room.  But JP himself got tackled to the ground; Trixie threw her weight into him, and together they skidded across the tiles.  Shaken, but otherwise unharmed.

And the cause? Trixie, JP, and every student in class saw it: an arrow, lodged deep into the opposite wall.  An arrow that had missed the returning Andre by about half a hair’s width.  Not surprisingly, Andre passed out.

Nemo looked up from his book.  He stared at the arrow, the broken window, and Andre in turn.  And then he went right back to reading.

8:34 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

TO BE HEARTINUED…

3 comments:

  1. I couldn't help of wonder if it's a bit inspired from personal experience...JP and all :). I have read a generous fragment of your post and, I must confess my opinion regarding your ability to think big, hasn't changed. You seem to have an astonishing ease in rolling your words out, I am more of a dialogue freak, myself...I am still at awe here :).

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  2. Personal experience...can't say that's a factor in this story's case (and given the "slightly" improbable events to come, that's a definite statement).


    But that aside...thinking big? Ease in rolling my words out? Well, those are certainly comments that I never would have imagined receiving -- or even thought about -- but even so, I thank you for them, AND for stopping by and giving my stuff a read.


    I just figured I've got to do what I can to become a writing hero -- and earn the right to swagger my way through town one day.

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