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July 30, 2012

I Hraet You (25)

Beat 25: Aw, How Cute…Too Bad There’s Still a Fire

“All right.  Fun time is over.  Thinking time is now,” said JP, straining to keep up his stoic gaze.  “I would prefer for the janitor’s closet to NOT be my grave, so if you have any ideas, I’m all ears.”

“Yeah, I got one.”  Without another word, Trixie turned toward the door and started tackling it.  “Stupid damn door.  Yer goin’ down!”  She slammed a shoulder into it with a blow that would make Emmitt Smith proud…unfortunately, the door held its position.  “I ain’t done yet!  Gonna plow right through ya!”

JP threw his hands in the air.  “Well, I guess I had a nice enough life.  Little short for my tastes, but at least I’ll never have to worry about having a midlife crisis.”  He pressed a palm against his forehead.  “Or those awkward teenage years, for that matter.”

“Ya just gonna sit around and yammer?” Trixie asked, just before throwing herself at the door again.  “Keep that up, and we’re gonna run outta air!”

“This is how I help.  Sarcasm is a powerful coping mechanism.  You should give it a try sometime.”

“I oughta throw yer ass through this door -- maybe that’ll get us outta here!”

“And risk harming a minor?  I know the building’s on fire, but at least try to keep your cool, Tex.”

Trixie ground her teeth, but remained silent.  She pressed her hands against the door; in spite of all her strikes, it had barely moved.  More to the point, she could feel the heat radiating from the other side.  Smoke slipped past her feet, and collected slowly but surely in the closet’s corners.  Both she and JP started coughing; if it kept up, they’d suffocate before they even saw an ember.

“Dammit.  Gotta do somethin’…” Trixie started looking around the room.  “They locked us in here.  There’s gotta be another key ‘round here somewhere, right?”

“You think we have enough time to search all these boxes for a key that might not even be here?”

Trixie didn’t bother answering.  She just knocked a shelf’s worth of boxes onto the ground and started sifting through the mess.  Her hands slid across dozens of knickknacks -- plastic jars, wrenches, screwdrivers, soaps, rags -- but no key in sight.  “There’s gotta be somethin’ here…” she muttered, crawling on her hands and knees. 

JP’s brow tightened, but he crouched down nonetheless.  “Do you really think you’ll find it here?”

“Worth a shot.”

“No it isn’t.  Why would the janitor keep something important like a spare key mixed with a ton of identical boxes filled with junk?  It’d be more likely for him to keep it in a more obvious place -- or maybe even on an extra key ring, assuming he didn’t just add it in with the rest of his keys.”  He did a quick scan of the room.  “And unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s anywhere special to put it here.”

“So what?  Ya just wanna give up?” Trixie yelled, leaping to her feet.

“Get back down!  Didn’t they teach you anything about fire safety in the south?”

Trixie ducked back down onto her knees.

“If you’re caught in a burning building, you’re supposed to stay low to the ground.  The smoke’s poisonous, but it also rises; keep low, and you’re more likely to make it out alive.”  He winced.  “More likely…what a joke.”

“Don’t worry.  We’ll make it outta here.”

“How?”

“I dunno yet.  But we will.  We just gotta keep tryin’.”

“You know, if positive thinking was actually worth a damn, I don’t think we’d be in this mess in the first place.  Hell, I’d probably have my own island and jetpack right about now.  And my own army of servants…maybe a nice car…no, better yet, my own amusement park.  I was always a big fan of the bumper cars…”

For a second, Trixie thought about smacking some sense into him -- but before she could even get the impulse to raise her hand, she let fly a short gasp.  The chilly glint in JP’s eyes had grown dull and foggy; his breathing had quickened, and a sheet of sweat covered his face.  Both his head and his shoulders started to droop -- and even amidst the now-ambient alarm blaring in the background, she could hear his rapid panting.

“JP!  Hey!  Y-ya gotta hold on!”

“I know that,” JP said, just before a quick fit of coughing.  “But…damn it all, what’s the point?  We’re stuck in here with no chance of escape.  No matter how much hope you have, multiply that by zero and you still get zero.  Damn.  It’s times like this where I wish I was bad at math.  Should’ve slept in class more…stupid friggin’ education system…”

“JP!” Trixie shouted -- but before she could yell anything else, she shook her head, and forced herself to calm down.  “JP,” she began, much softer than before.  She pressed her hands atop his shoulders and gave him a smile -- a warm, gentle one that she’d have preferred giving in calmer circumstances.  “Look.  Everything’s gonna be okay.  I’m gonna make sure you get outta here safe and sound, all right?  Ya just gotta keep the faith.”

JP let loose a snort.  “Keep the faith…I’m not in the mood to buy your southern-fried mumbo-jumbo.”

“Call it whatever ya want.  But I’m makin’ a stand -- and a promise.”  She tugged JP towards her, and before he could react she seized him in a hug.  “I’m gonna get you outta here.  After all, ya still got a lot more money to make, right?”

JP didn’t answer that time.  Why, Trixie could quickly guess: if he was going to believe he had a future outside a scorched closet, he’d need proof.  Something to latch onto.  And for once, Trixie could provide.  She’d spotted the answer up there near the ceiling, on the wall across from her.  She knew it would be just as dangerous, maybe more, than staying there.  But she knew JP had to give it a shot.

An air vent.  A small, but oh-so-glorious air vent.

Trixie didn’t even bother waiting for JP’s approval.  She grabbed the screwdriver on the floor and scrambled to the vent.  She flung some boxes onto the ground, just enough to form a makeshift stepstool; with unsteady footing she went to work, one arm covering her mouth and the other twitching about as she started unscrewing.  “This oughta do the trick,” she said as the first screw fell to the ground.

“What are you up to?” JP asked.

“What’s it look like?  I’m savin’ yer ass!”  Another screw fell to the ground.  “Once I get this thing off, you start crawlin’ around the vents ‘till you find a way out.  If it works anythin’ like the movies, yer gonna be home free in no time.”

JP looked at the vent opening, now sans three screws.  Then he looked at Trixie, and then back to the vent.  “That opening is way too small for you.”

Trixie nodded, her eyes still fixed on the job.  “Don’t ya think I know that?  Gimme a little credit.”

“What are you --?”

“Listen.  I’m gonna shove ya up there real fast, so start crawlin’ yer ass off.  I’ll -- gah, damn thing ain’t comin’ out! -- I’ll give ya this screwdriver, so maybe ya can get yerself outta the vents that way if ya need to.  Oh, and ya gotta make sure to hold yer breath; if what ya said’s true, there’s gonna be a whole lotta smoke in these vents.  Don’t choke up there.”

“And what about you?”

“What about me?”

JP grimaced.  “You can’t get in there.  There’s a fire that’s probably tearing the school apart.  You know what that means?”

“Course I do.”  The last screw fell, and Trixie flung the dusty gate aside.  “Now get yer bratty little ass over here so I can save yer life.”

“No!  This is a stupid plan!  There’s no way I can --”

Trixie didn’t even let him finish.  She flung him over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried him toward the wall, making sure to wrap his fingers around the screwdriver.  “Make sure ya don’t breathe in too much smoke now, ya hear?”  And before he could say anything else, she shoved him into the vent.

It didn’t take much effort to get JP inside.  He slid in like a greased rat, and even inside the vents he had more than a few inches of breathing room to spare.  Of course, it would have been even better for him if those extra inches hadn’t been filled with smoke…but then again, he could have been in a worse position.

He managed to glance over his shoulder, and look back into the closet.  Or more appropriately, he looked back at Trixie, waving back at him and smiling.  He would have expected her to look a bit more frantic, or sorrowful, or even resentful of his potential escape.  But she didn’t.  She didn’t have a shred of negativity in her form -- and for moments at a time, even in such a ridiculous situation, she looked downright serene.

JP bit his lip and started crawling, his hands and knees bumping against the metal maze.  “Damn it all.  This is going to force me to re-evaluate my records.  Guess I’ll start with the simplest number.”

Trixie Walters
All Debts Forgiven
Costs Accrued: $0.00

He shook his head slowly, all too aware that he couldn’t see Trixie even if he decided to look back.  “Now I’m the one that owes her…”

9:47 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: 21 Minutes

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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