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August 9, 2012

I Hraet You (27)

Beat 27: Proper Roadside Etiquette is a Societal Treasure

Patton swerved around the corner, with enough momentum to make the van slide on two wheels.  That alone would’ve been enough to make Trixie puke, but the thought of where they might soon head left her searching for a barf bag.  “Ya can’t be serious, pal,” she said, her face starting to pale, and her mouth starting to get that salty feeling it often did just before a purge of the gut.  “Ya seriously wanna leave the country?”

“It’s the only way to save my boy for sure.”  Patton didn’t even bother looking at her; he just kept his eyes on the road, his mighty moustache bristling in the wake of his spoken resolve.

“But…but that’s just crazy talk!  Ya can’t just pack up and skip town!  Ya got a lotta stuff to take care of!”

“…You’re right.”

“I am?”  Trixie shook her head.  “I mean, course I am!  I know yer worried about JP, but --”

“I should go by the house and pick up some supplies.  And a change of clothes.  I got a lot of paint on my pants today.”  He let loose a low rumble.  “Mmmmmm…and some steaks.  We can’t leave the country without steaks.  That’d be like spitting on the Liberty Bell.”

This whole family has some seriously screwed-up logic, Trixie thought.  But knowing that they were minutes away from a journey across the border, she cast the thought aside.  “Hold on a minute.  What about Lloyd?  He’s yer boy too -- ya can’t just skip town without talkin’ to him, right?”

“Hrrmmm…that’s true.”

“So ya can’t go anywhere.”

“No, I think we can.  Lloyd’ll be eighteen soon; if he’s a real man, he’ll be able to take care of the house and the business while I’m away.  And probably assassins, too.”

Trixie cocked her head and frowned.  “Mr. Hoigleheimer, Lloyd almost drowned in a few feet of water.  I don’t think he’s gonna do too well if somebody’s aimin’ a gun at his head.”

Patton shook his head.  “Don’t write him off that easy.  My boy…”  He glanced at the rearview mirror, watching as JP started mumbling about howler monkeys.  “My boys are full of surprises.  They just need a chance to put some muscle into a situation.  Lloyd’ll be able to handle things here in Porbeagle, and while he does that, we’ll keep JP safe so he gets his chance someday.  As their dad, that’s the best thing I can do right now.  You understand?”

As much as she hated to admit it, Trixie had started to see his line of reasoning (flawed as it might have been).  She jerked out a nod and rubbed her neck.  “I know what ya mean, and it’s nice and all that yer tryin’ to do so much for yer boys.  But don’t ya think there’s somethin’ better ya should be doin’?”

“Like what?”

“I dunno.  Callin’ the cops?  The FBI, maybe?”

“You really think they can help?”

“Yeah!  Of course!  I mean…”  She stroked her cheek.  “That’s what they’re there for, right?  When ya got trouble, ya call them, and they’ll take care of the bad guys, right?”

“I dunno.  In situations like these, they might not be much help.  You know what I mean?”

Trixie shook her head.  Situations like these?  The last time she checked, they were in Porbeagle, not a comic book.

“I’m not convinced that the police or any of those other guys’ll be much use.  And I think it’d be good if I didn’t get too involved either.”  His hefty brow twitched.  “Right now I’m thinking that the best thing to do to stop these guys is tear my way through every building in town and murdering anyone who gets in my way.  It’s the only way to be sure that I get those sons of bitches and smash the hell out of them until they turn into a nice red splotch of paint on the asphalt.”

Trixie looked through the van for a bit, then focused on the road ahead.  “Okay, maybe we should leave town.”

“CHRISTMAS TREES?  Who loves them?!” JP asked.

“But, uh, we should probably get him to the hospital first.”  Trixie clamped her hands together.  “Can we at least do that?  And -- uh, any chance ya could NOT murder anyone?”

A guttural rumble came from Patton.  “I’ll give it a try, but I’m not making any promises.”

“That’s all I ask.”  Of course, knowing that the most she could garner was a half-abstinence from violence made Trixie’s stomach quiver -- but with a sigh and a slump of her shoulders, she figured dwelling on it would just give her an ulcer.  With that out of the way, she focused back on the road.  With Patton’s hints at genocide, she’d scarcely noticed where he’d driven her -- a gravel-edged road a fair distance from some fields and trees, with a row of long-abandoned buildings on the horizon.  They still moved through Porbeagle of course, but with only one beat-up sedan wobbling ahead of them, she had every right to assume they’d abandoned civilization.

“I’ll drop you off at our house, since we’re close enough to it,” said Patton.  “That’ll give you a chance to start grabbing all the things we need.  You know where all our rooms are, right?”

“Y-yes sir.”  How he expected her to sift through their house and pick out all their valuables for a trip escaped her, but she decided not to press the issue.  She just pressed her hands into her lap and nodded politely.

“Good.  Then while you get everything set, I’ll take JP to the hospital.  As his dad…no, as a man, it’s my job to watch over him in his time of need.”  His grip around the steering wheel tightened, and for a moment Trixie thought she saw it start warping.  “I’m pretty sure that whoever’s messing with my boy won’t wanna pick a fight with me.”

“Ya got a point there.”

“So where are we headed?”

“Uh…I’m goin’ back to yer house, and yer --”

“After that.  I mean, do you wanna go to Mexico or Canada?  Like I said, ladies should get the first choice.”

Oh, good, he’s really goin’ through with this, Trixie thought, noting the sweat starting to gather on her forehead.  “Canada’s closer, ain’t it?  So let’s head there.”  As soon as she made the choice, she thought about taking it back -- since she’d always hated cold weather -- but once more decided against it. 

“Good choice.  We can make some snow-steaks while we’re there.”

Snow-steaks.  Guess that’s what’s really important.  She took a closer look at the wobbling sedan.  “Huh?  Hey, looks like that guy’s flashin’ his hazard lights.  Better move.”

“’Better help’ is more like it.”

“But what about gettin’ to the hospital, and gettin’ ready to leave the country?”  For a moment Trixie thought about asking if she’d get to visit the hospital, too, but realized that a logical appeal to Patton would be better spent on an anteater. 

Just as the sedan started slowing down, so too did the van.  “Ignoring someone who needs help isn’t manly.  Gotta set an example for my boys, after all.” He steered the van off the road, and let it slide into a smooth stop.  “Get out with me.  I might need your help.”

“But don’t ya think someone should stay with --”

“Get.  Out.”


Patton lid out of the van first, unfazed as his machine shifted from the redistributed weight; as he started ahead, Trixie followed closely behind while rubbing the back of her neck.  Guess as long as there’s somethin’ keepin’ us from skippin’ town, I should quit bellyachin’, she thought.  While Patton raised a hand to hail the driver, the sedan door opened.

She started walking toward the pair, with her fingers running through her curly brown hair (though Trixie spotted a number of gray strands).  Physically, she wasn’t too impressive -- nearly a foot shorter than Trixie, with a stout, compact body that reminded her of a penguin.  It would have helped if she’d come in a suit, but decked in a pastel-striped button-down and Capri pants, her shape alone would have to do.  In spite of her bright ensemble, her face was anything but -- her callous scowl and crinkled brow released more deadly waves than an atom bomb…though if that was her default expression, it would explain the wrinkles etched into her olive skin.

“Hey there,” said Patton, staring down at her and into her chestnut eyes (eyes Trixie avoided looking into, given their strangely cold ferocity).  “See you had some car trouble.  Need a hand?”

The old lady folded her arms and started tapping a foot atop the street.  “You’re really gonna do this, huh?”

“You mean help you out?  Of course I am -- ‘cause I’m a man.”  He held out a hand. “Name’s Patton.  It’s a pleasure.”

The old lady didn’t return the favor.  She just looked past him -- a challenge in itself -- toward the van’s interior.  While Trixie didn’t try to meet her gaze, she certainly did follow it; it led to the van’s back seat, with JP lying in place as if he’d been put in a coffin.  Something about this situation seemed…

“You’re here to help, huh?”  The old lady grunted at the sentiment.  “Actually, you know what?  There is something you can help me out with.”  She headed back to the sedan, and fumbled behind the driver’s seat for a moment.

“You need a car jack?  Or maybe some jumper cables?” Patton asked.

“Nah.   Just need you to make this niiiiiiiiice and easy.”  She stepped away from the sedan, having retrieved her valuables: a half-dried reed she’d started twisting through her mouth like a lollipop.  And with it, the sawed-off-shotgun aimed at Patton’s head.

“Oh, you gotta be --!” Trixie yelled.

Patton held his ground.  “Should’ve known better than to trust an old lady,” he grumbled, with the veins in his arms and temples starting to thump.

“I’ll have you know I take pretty damn good care of myself…can’t say the same for my marks, though.”  She chomped down on the reed.  “You can call me Mrs. Overdose, and I’ll be your kidnapper today.”

10:08 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnapping: Actually, it’s happening right now.  And also, Patton and Trixie are getting kidnapped too.  Imagine that.


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