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August 2, 2012

I Hraet You (26)

Beat 26: Escape from New York, Or Something Like That

“Damn it!  Give me a break!”

JP just kept crawling and cursing as he moved through the vents.  His balled-up hands (one of which clutched a screwdriver) and uncovered knees bumped against the heating metal; between the darkness and the smoke starting to fill the vents, his visibility had long since nosedived.  He pulled his jacket and shirt over his nose.  “Damn it!  Damn it, damn it, damn it!” he growled, making sure to slam his fists down with each motion.  And for good measure, he added a quick “Son of a bitch!” 

If he’d been destined to die in there, he’d do so with the comfort of knowing that no one could stop him from swearing freely.

All right, JP.  This is where you shine the most -- your mind is the ultimate tool.  He nodded slowly, hoping to reassure himself (and distract him from the paranoia of having the second floor collapse atop him).  Tex gave you the chance you need to escape.  Now how do you take advantage of that chance?  He glanced down at the screwdriver.  She meant well, but her plan’s probably no good.  I doubt I’ll be able to make an opening from this side -- and I don’t have the brute force to bust my way out, either.

Wait a minute.  Brute force?  He almost slapped himself.  I should have called Dad from the outset.  I know it’s a long shot, but that raw power of his has made plenty of miracles happen!  He tugged his cell phone out of his pocket and hammered against the keypad.  Come on…come on…pick up already!

“…This is Patton.”

“Dad!  Get over to my school now!  I’ve got a situa-”

“Sorry, but I’m not around right now.  Taking care of some errands.  Leave a message, or call me back…unless you’re trying to file a lawsuit against me, and you can just go ahead and piss off.  I warned you not to get between me and that chicken coop, didn’t I?  What did I tell you, huh?  And now you’ve got a rooster stuck in your --”

JP groaned.  Normally I’d find his reckless violence cute, but since I’m pretty much about to die here, I’m not in much of a laughing mood.  Rather than pocket his cell phone, he held it out before him as a makeshift flashlight -- not very effective, but still leagues better than stumbling in the heating dark.  Okay, new plan.  I started off in the janitor’s closet and climbed my way over here.  All I have to do is visualize a map, and intuit my way to an exit.  It’ll be even easier if I can find another light source -- that’ll be a huge signal for an opening.

Okay.  I started in the closet, then moved forward, and then right…right again…left three or four times…  He swiveled his head around.  I think I took some turns here…or maybe there…and…oh, I think I remember going that way about eight or nine swears ago…

He slammed a fist against the vent.  “Damn it to hell!  There aren’t any landmarks in these vents!  Everything looks the same -- how am I supposed to figure out where I am and where to go?!”  He paused for a moment, trying to get some fresh air out of his jacket.  And then for good measure he shouted, “Ass!” 

For a second he thought about slamming his head against the wall -- if only to give him amnesia and allow for a slightly blissful death -- but decided against it at the last second.  All right.  Enough of this crap -- I’m just going to wing it and hope for the best.  I may not have much of a chance, but I’ll be damned if I die in here like a rat in a cage!  He glanced aside.  Not that I’m a rat or anything.  Or any kind of animal besides a human.  Although dragons are pretty cool.  He glanced to the other side.  I should get out of here before my brain shuts down.

He started crawling at double speed, forging ahead without any sense of direction, planning, or hope.  He trekked down a straight lane; he made a right turn, then a left, and then another straight drive.  The only thing that could stop him was a dead end, and the occasional wall of smoke that nearly made his eyes shrivel like raisins.  And then…

Wait a second.  Is that it?

It wasn’t much to go by, but at that point JP was more than willing to believe.  A light at the end of the tunnel lay before him -- the saving grace that he so desperately needed.  No choice.  I’ve gotta go all in! JP thought; he charged forward, leaving a rush of wind in his wake.  I’m not going to die in here!  I’m gonna live!

I’m gonna live!

He crossed the threshold, and tumbled out of the vent; if not for a quick tuck and roll, he would have landed on the ground head-first.  But he regained his footing and balance quickly, and shook off a bit of the dizziness that plagued him.  All right.  Not sure how I made it out of that one, but it looks like I’ll be --

“JP?  What in the hell’re ya doin’ back here?”

With his brain sorting itself back out, JP took a look around.  Trixie stood before him just five feet away, unfazed by the janitor’s closet they now knew so intimately.  “Oh, son of a hell-damned ass-bastard bitch!” he yelled.  “With a fat cup of piss!” 

“Hey, you watch your mouth!”

“What for?  If I’m gonna die, then I plan to get in enough cursing for a lifetime in the minutes I have left!”

“Never mind that!” Trixie shouted, shaking her head rapidly.  “Jeez!  I went and did one o’ those heroic sacrifice thingamajigs, and ya go and screw all that up?  I thought ya were smart!  What, don’t tell me ya ain’t got a sense o’ direction!”

“A sense of direction won’t help if I can’t tell which direction I’m going!”  JP thrust a finger at the vent.  “You think you can do better?  Then get in there and try it for yourself!”

“You know I can’t fit in there!”

“What’s wrong?  Too fat?  Is that it, fatty?”

“Ya seriously think I look fat?”

“Yeah, a little bit!  And anybody that’s heavier than me has gotta be fat!”

“Yer brain’s broken or somethin’, pal!  And --” Trixie winced.  “Aw hell…maybe yer brain really is broken.  Can a lotta smoke do that to a guy?  Or maybe yer just havin’ one o’ those panic attacks?”

“Get over here so I can kick all eight of your fat asses!” JP yelled, swinging his arms like a drunken orangutan.  “I don’t care if you’re upside-down…you’re all…you’re all gonna pave me a golden road with your lunch money…and your blood!  Lots and lots of blood…with a side order of…sauerkraut…”  He slumped down and started nodding off.  “Should’ve gone to law school…”

“JP!  Hold on!  Don’t let the whole no-oxygen thing get to ya!”  Trixie ran towards him, and seized him in her arms.  “We’re down, but there’s no way we’re goin’ out like this!”  She looked back at the door.  She had to have loosened it a bit by now; maybe if she tackled it while holding JP, she’d have enough inertia to break out.

Ka-Rumble…

“What the…?  Aw, what now?!” Trixie looked around.  Had the fire started creeping up the outside walls?  Even if she managed to break out, would she end up greeting a pillar of flame?  Or did the second floor just start collapsing?

Ka-Loudening Rumble…

Trixie clutched JP tightly.  She didn’t know what new threat approached her, but she’d made her stand and her declaration. 

Ka-INCREASINGLY OMINOUS RUMBLE…

“Don’t worry, pal.  I’ll keep ya safe, no matter what.”  She would have said more if not for the…

Ka-REVELATION!

The door -- and most of the wall holding -- blew into the closet, reduced to jigsaw-like rubble in an instant.  For a moment Trixie thought the school had started exploding, but quickly realized that was far from the case.  Neither flames nor smoke had caused that explosive entry.  The true culprit?  A hefty white van, its paint a bit scraped by the blow, but the armored bumper still holding tight.

The driver’s window rolled down -- and from it, Patton’s head appeared.  “Come with me if you want to live.”

“M-Mr. Hoigleheimer?!” Trixie said with a gasp (not the wisest choice, considering the poisonous fumes).  But she knew that mighty body and square head all too well by now; she just had trouble believing that he’d not only torn down the wall, but parked more than half the van horizontally inside the room.  “Wha- how did ya --?!”

“I wasn’t trying to quote a movie.  Get in the van, or you’re dead.”

Trixie didn’t know if he was warning her about the fire, or his dwindling patience.  But given her luck so far that day, she wasn’t in the mood to find out.

*

Sondheim Middle School -- what remained of it, at least -- smoldered in the distance.  The fire had done more than its fair share of damage, having torn through the left half of the main building.  Even as the firefighters worked on putting out the last few embers, a tower of black smoke still stretched into the sky.  Thankfully, the school’s alarms had sent its students and faculty outside long before anyone (besides Trixie and JP) could get trapped outside; even with the distance they’d gained and the time that had passed, Trixie spotted more than a few students gawking and cheering at the school’s destruction in the van’s side mirror.

“Sounds like you two had a pretty exciting day,” said Patton.  He rubbed the back of his head.  “Sorry.  I would’ve gotten here sooner, but --”

“I’m just glad ya got there when ya did,” said Trixie (a little surprised she’d interrupted Patton without him deciding to take a swipe at her head).  “So how’d ya hear ‘bout the school?”

“I didn’t.  JP called me earlier, and I’ve been on my toes since -- just in case he needed me to punch out a few bad dudes.”  He patted a hand against the steering wheel.  “I was working on turning this baby into an all-purpose assault vehicle, but then my Daddy Senses started tingling, so I figured I’d check things out.  And wouldn’t you know it, the school’s on fire.”

“That…uh, that makes sense.  But how’d ya know where to find us?  We coulda been anywhere in there.”

“I didn’t know.  I just started driving through.”

Trixie gave him a quick, jerky nod.  The thought that Patton could have plowed through them just as easily as he could have saved them made her stomach start to quiver…but at the very least, being able to take a whiff of clean air put her at ease.  She peeked at the back seats; JP lay on his back and stared at the ceiling, still breathing, but more than a little out of it.  “B…Bismarck, North Dakota…” he mumbled.

“Listen, I, uh…sorry about gettin’ yer son involved in this whole mess,” said Trixie.  She lowered her head.  “I did everythin’ I could to try and get him outta there safe and sound, but I guess I blew it.”

“What’s important is that you tried.  You did all you could, and even put JP’s safety over your own.”  He patted her on the shoulder.  “I like that.  Shows that you’ll make a great mom someday.”

“Mom?!  That’s…uh, thank you kindly, sir.”  She pouted a bit.  “I just wish I coulda done somethin’ more useful for him.”

“Don’t worry.  We will.”

“Right.  So I guess the next thing we gotta do is get him to a hospital, right?  All that smoke can’t be goo-”

“Nope.  We’re going straight to Canada.  So make sure your seatbelt’s on tight.”

Trixie left her mouth hanging wide open -- a move that caught Patton’s eye.  “Or do you wanna go to Mexico instead?  Ladies should get the first choice.”

9:59 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: 9 Minutes

TO BE HEARTINUED…

2 comments:

  1. He's so adorable in his despair when he realizes a dragon could not be so bad :))). This is a very lovable character .

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  2. Is that right? Funny -- I never would have thought of JP as lovable...but maybe that's just because I've never seen the appeal of surly, miserly twelve-year-olds. Or would this be one of those "different strokes" situations?


    Well, whatever. Glad you enjoyed him; my intent is to switch back to Lloyd's perspective in the next few chapters, so enjoy the young Hoigleheimer heir while you can.

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