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July 26, 2012

I Hraet You (24)

Beat 24: The Magical Closet of Love and Ammonia

Practice?

Archery practice?

JP just kept shaking his head over and over, and slapping himself in the forehead.  “So this is how it ends, huh?” he asked himself.  “Somebody tries to shoot me, and the most they can come up with is some BS coincidence?  Jeez, a baboon could outthink these guys!”

Trixie patted JP on the shoulder.  “Look on the bright side -- least yer still alive.  And besides, the cops ain’t done lookin’ around just yet.  Give ‘em some time, and I bet they’ll find somethin’ good.”

JP started grinding his teeth.  He wasn’t about to let the police’s poor sleuthing go anytime soon; for them to explain away a near-assassination with the improbably convenient presence of an archery club -- the likes of which Porbeagle had never seen before -- left him with an earnest desire to drop-kick the boys in blue.  “What kind of archer would practice with a laser sight?  Wouldn’t that just cripple him in a contest?”

“Well, I don’t know much in the way o’ archery, but this whole thing smells real fishy.”  She shrugged.  “But the important thing is that yer safe.  So count yer blessings.”

“Count my blessings?”  JP threw out a hand.  “We’re in a damn broom closet!”     

A damn broom closet, indeed.  With a new school year barely even started, they would have figured the custodian would have left his bastion in a decent state.  That wasn’t the case; brooms, mops, and murky buckets lined the walls, with rumbling pipes jutting out of the walls and heating up the room.  Ladders leaned against shelves full of half-crumpled boxes, and those boxes overflowed with long-expired chemicals and overused tools.  In spite of the small perimeter, Trixie and JP counted themselves lucky that the light bulb was so dim -- all the better for being unable to see the grime and dried vomit (and scurrying creatures) within.

“Okay, that part’s kinda…”

“What?  Stupid?  Silly?  Moronic?  I almost had an arrow lodged in my head, and the first thing they do is hide me in a closet?  I mean, I’ve seen some dumb stuff in my life -- what with being Lloyd’s brother and all -- but this takes the Dunce Cake.”

“Look on the bright side.  Nobody’d ever check the janitor’s closet for ya.”

“By the looks of things, the janitor wouldn’t check the janitor’s closet.  Seriously, what is that smell?”

Trixie grimaced.  “I’m tryin’ not to think too hard about it, pal.  Same goes for whatever I’m standin’ in.”

“Okay.  Joking time is over.  Serious time is now.”  JP folded his arms and started gripping his tiny biceps like a vise.  “Why in the hell is someone trying to kill me?”

“Why’re ya askin’ me?”

“Gee, I wonder why.  Last week?  Nobody trying to kill me.  This week?  I almost end up having my brain get skewered.  Hmmm, now what’s different about this week compared to last week?  Hmmm, I wonder?  Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm…oh wait, I think I got it.  IT’S YOU!”

Trixie reared back a bit.  Compared to JP’s usual callousness (and grudging acceptance of other life-forms he’d been forced to coexist with), he seemed positively juiced.  His speech moved several half-steps faster than usual, and the twitching of his face made her wonder if he snuck jumping beans under his skin.  “Just calm down, pal.  Yer gonna be fine.”

“You’re missing the point, Tex.  They know who we are, and where we are.  They could lay their hands on us any time.  Or better yet, they could use me to get to you.”

“Ya really think so?”

“You’re really taking this in stride, aren’t you?  Get it through your thick head -- my life is on the line here!  My life!  Don’t act like this doesn’t matter, or everything will work out!  This is YOUR fault, so stop standing around and fix it!”

“Fine.”

“What?”

Trixie rubbed the back of her neck.  “Yer right.  Nobody’d be tryin’ to kill ya if it weren’t for me.  So…yeah.  I guess it’d be better for ya if I wasn’t around.”

“Pfft.  At least we’re in agreement on that.”

“I shoulda known that if I came to town, trouble would come with me.  And now yer in danger, and prob’ly yer folks, too, and lord knows who else.  So…look, maybe I should just give myself up.  Maybe I’ll head back home and face my folks.  Won’t be easy or fun, but if it’ll help ya out, then…”  She lowered her head and shrugged.  “What else can I do?”

JP crammed his hands into his pockets and glanced aside, his face straightening into a strained pout.  “Well.  It’s a shame I’ll be losing my bodyguard so soon, but it can’t be helped.  The sooner you’re out of my life, the better off I’ll --”

“NOT A CHANCE IN HELL!”  Trixie slammed a fist against a pipe.  “Ya think yer gonna get rid of me that easily?  Ya think that just ‘cause I leave, all yer troubles are just gonna melt away?  Whether ya like it not, I’m in this fer the long haul, pal.  Ya wanted a bodyguard?  Ya wanted someone to make ya look tough?  Ya wanted someone to help stuff yer pockets with cash?  Then fine!  I’ll do all that and more.”

She crouched down and grabbed JP’s jacket.  “I ain’t goin’ anywhere until I know damn well yer safe.  So until ya can sleep easy at night, yer stuck with me -- now get yer head outta yer ass and stop tryin’ to get rid o’ me!  Ya got that?!”

JP stared at her with a scowl, but his widened eyes broke any attempts at toughness he’d tried to muster.  After a full minute of staring, he finally thought to tear himself out of Trixie’s grasp.  “Tch.  I’ll thank you to keep your hands to yourself,” he grumbled, turning away and adjusting his jacket.  “And I should give you a massive penalty fee for that.”

Trixie glared at the back of his head.

“…But I guess I do owe you for saving my life.  So just this once, I’ll let you off easy.”  He scratched his head and turned back to face her, wearing the same scathing stare as always.  “All right then.  What now, Tex?”

“I said I was gonna protect ya, didn’t I?  Well, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.”

“All right.  How?”

“Well, I…uh…”  She folded her arms and started tapping her foot.  “Didn’t get that far yet.  Just gimme some time, and I’ll come up with somethin’.  Honest.”

“Honest?  What’s that supposed to mean?”  JP glanced aside, hands shifting in his pockets.  “It’s not like I don’t have a reason to distrust you.”

Trixie cracked a smile.

“Well, whatever.”  JP leaned against one of the walls.  “The faculty suggested that we wait here until the heat dies down.  That had to be about an hour ago; if I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were planning to keep us locked in here all day long.  And I’m willing to bet that -- even if the ‘grown-ups’ are incompetent and willing to believe in coincidences that big -- they’re not so naïve that they’d leave a school full of children ripe for the picking by snipers.  The whole building’s probably locked down…which means nobody gets in or out. “

“Locked in, huh…?”  Trixie stared at the door.  “Dammit.  Guess we couldn’t get outta here even if we tried.”

“Unless you’ve got some kind of super strength, then no.”

“And on top o’ that, there’s a good chance the rest o’ the school’s zipped up tight.”

“Very likely.  Though I might be giving them too much credit.”

Trixie clutched her head; she wasn’t sure if it was because of the situation or the room’s noxious scent, but she started to get a headache.  “Look.  Lockdown or not, I’m gonna get ya outta here.  I get the feelin’ that yer gonna be safer if yer back with yer dad.  Course, I’ll be there, too -- but if there really is somebody gunnin’ for ya, I’d rather ya be with yer folks.  Yer dad seems like the kinda guy that can handle a few goons.”

“You have no idea.”

“Well, we’ve been in here for an hour.  We can spend another hour tryin’ to come up with some kinda plan.  Once we got you all tucked away, me and yer dad can start lookin’ fer the punk that’s gunnin’ for ya.”

“You mean you’re going to go fight?”

Trixie nodded quickly.  “What, ya think that just ‘cause I’m a girl, I can’t handle myself?”  She clapped a hand into her fist and grinned.  “Just so ya know, back home they call me the Sasquatch of Rockwood.  Wasn’t a man around from five towns over that could take me out in a rasslin’ match!”

“That nickname doesn’t sound very complimentary…although it does kind of suit you.”

“Shut yer damn mouth and start thinkin’.  Put that big head o’ yers to good use.  We got plenty o’ time.”

JP pouted.  “Who’s got the big head, you --?”

Ka-REEEEEEN!  Ka-REEEEEEN!  Ka-REEEEEEN! 

“Gah!  What the hell’s that noise?!” Trixie yelled.

“Fire alarm,” JP answered, pressing his hands to his ears.  “Nice to hear it’s in working order…but this is bad.  Very bad.”

“Whaddya mean?”

JP stared at her -- and as he did, Trixie noticed the beads of sweat forming on his face.  “Think, Tex.  Don’t you think the first day of school is a little bit too early to have a fire drill?  And a fire drill for a school that may or may not be in the middle of a lockdown?”

“Wait a minute.  So yer sayin’…but that’s crazy!  Who would…why would…?”  She would have kept talking, but she realized that she’d started to sweat as well, and the closet’s already-rancid air grew nearly intolerable.  Thicker.  Hotter.  Well near poisonous, if it wasn’t already.

The cause?  The wisps of smoke leaking under the door.

JP grimaced.  “Should have skipped school today.”

9:42 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: 26 Minutes

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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