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August 13, 2012

I Hraet You (28)

Beat 28: A Highly Persuasive Argument via Armaments

JP ran a hand over his face as he struggled to open his eyes.  “Argh…jeez Louise.  I feel like a rhino stomped on my lungs.”  He shook his head; considering the fact that he’d used a phrase like “jeez Louise”, he still had some grogginess to get out of his system.  Nevertheless, he managed to sit upright -- albeit in a slouch -- in the van’s back seat.

Or rather, the sedan’s back seat.  The half-torn, leather upholstery was a far cry from the van’s cotton, and the distinct smell of fried foods and cigarettes made his nose start to burn.  But among those scents, he smelled one slightly unfamiliar.  He’d heard things about it, and had done a little research on the side, and could make a guess -- for some reason, the car smelled like gunpowder.

“Okay, what exactly did I miss?” JP asked.  He looked to his left.  He didn’t even notice the fifty- or sixty-something Hispanic woman.  Nor did he notice the reed in her mouth.  No, the first, and only thing he saw was the shotgun aimed at his face.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” she said, holding the barrel a few inches from his nose.

JP stared at that shotgun for a full minute.  He turned away and raised a hand.  “Can I go back in the fire?”

Trixie looked back at him from the front passenger’s seat.  “I don’t think any o’ us’re getting’ outta this one too easy,” she said with a sigh.  “Sorry, pal.”

“You don’t have a thing to be sorry for, Trixe,” said Patton, acting as the driver (and with their guest pointing a gun at the seat, figuratively at shotgun).  “Not a thing at all.  You did your best, and that’s what matters.”  He cast a scathing eye back at his captor.  “You, on the other hand…well, let’s just say you’re lucky you’ve got that gun in your hands, Mrs. Overdose.”

Mrs. Overdose pressed the gun’s barrel into the back of the seat, no doubt prodding against Patton’s spine.  “Didn’t anyone ever tell you to respect your elders?”  She grunted loudly before even getting an answer.  “I guess good manners aren’t too high on the priority list for Easter Island heads.”

“My mother was a very kind and soft-skinned woman,” Patton growled.

JP rapped his knuckles atop his forehead, hoping to force the last of his grogginess out of his system.  “All right, fun time is over.  Serious time is now.”  He focused the toughest glare he could on the captor, but she met his gaze with one ten times as nasty, forcing him to relent a bit.  “Who are you, and what do you want with me?”

Mrs. Overdose’s reed slid around as she sorted out her answer.  “I’m what you’d call a bounty hunter,” she began.  “I turn in marks like you so I can get paid -- and paid a lot.  Can’t say it’s the most glamorous job, but as long as I get my green I can’t complain.”  She looked up at the roof of the car for a moment, wearing the faintest traces of a smirk.  “Sure helps that I’m pretty good at it.”

“So what do you want with a twelve-year-old?”

“It’s not just you I’m after.  I get paid when I bring in the full set.”  She cut her eyes towards him.  “The money-grubbing midget…”  Her eyes drifted to Patton.  “The meat-loving disaster…”  And finally, they rested upon Trixie.  “And Rockwood’s MIA princess.  My client’s just dying to meet all of you.”

Trixie pursed her lips and looked out the window, while Patton just kept driving -- though he looked as if he’d started contemplating leaning back in his seat and crushing her.  “Mind if I ask why?” JP asked.

“How the hell should I know?  If my client doesn’t tell me, I don’t ask.”

“That’s a pretty dangerous business policy.”

“Doesn’t matter.  I’m the one with the guns.”      

As much as JP hated to admit it, she certainly had a compelling argument -- and he didn’t much feel like seeing the rest of her gun collection any time in the next century.

“So I’m guessin’ yer the one that was lookin’ to shoot JP with an arrow,” said Trixie, turning a few hairs to look back at Mrs. Overdose.  “And ya tried to burn down the school, too.  Don’t ya care about what happens to those kids?  Yer really crossin’ the line with all this shootin’ and burnin.”

Mrs. Overdose stared at Trixie for a moment, but jerked her head away and snorted.  “I’m not what you’d call a Good Samaritan.  All that matters is that I get paid.  Screw the details.”  Before she could take any more unwanted questions, she prodded Patton in the back once more.  “Hey, Tom Thumb.  Pull into that driveway.  This is our stop.”

Despite his rumble (and quiet vow to shoulder-check her torso into oblivion), Patton did as instructed.  He, JP, and Trixie all watched with shortened breaths as their destination came into clear view -- a mansion, and an old one at that.  It didn’t sprawl from one mile to the next, but it did have enough volume to encompass four of the Hoigleheimers’ house.  Worn, yellow-brown bricks lined its walls, and the rampart-like outcroppings made it look like a castle…though the gutters and lamps -- shattered and decrepit as they might have been -- diminished the effect.  Windows as tall as Patton stood on both floors, but between the foggy panes and the dark interior, they couldn’t make out what lay inside. 

As the sedan came to a halt, Mrs. Overdose leapt out first with her shotgun armed as always.  “You get out first,” she ordered, a hair’s width away from pulling the trigger and making Patton’s day very unpleasant.  “I’m not too worried about those two.  Kids today are idiots.”

Patton gave her a slight nod, and climbed out of the vehicle as instructed.  As he did, he pressed his bulk into the barrel, and stared down at Mrs. Overdose.  He stared down at her with a predatory glint; she looked up at him with no emotion besides staid contempt.  But in the end, he lowered his head and moved a few paces away, waiting patiently for his next command.

“Next up is the boy.”  JP started sliding toward the left door, but then Mrs. Overdose held out a hand.  “Your phone.  Toss it out here.”  She made sure to punctuate her order with a point of her gun -- a punctuation that JP quickly noted.  He tossed the phone out the door and let it clatter against the ground.

“Good boy.”  She tilted the gun down for a moment -- and then, she pulled the trigger.


The pieces scattered all over the asphalt, leaving little more than a smoking burn mark and shredded circuits.  “Better safe than sorry,” she said, blowing on the barrel.  “Oh, and by the way -- this thing is fully loaded.  You know, just in case you thought I was bluffing and I wouldn’t blow your guts out.”

“I guess I can’t blame you for being thorough,” JP muttered as he got out of the car.  Funny how the people ostensibly trying to help him were idiots, but the people a breath away from murdering him could act so competently.

“Any other phones on you?  Anybody?  No?”  She waited a moment for an answer, but received none.  “Damn.  I thought iPhones were all the rage these days.  Hey, Daisy Duke, it’s your turn.  Get out here.”

“Y’all sure love givin’ me hell, don’t ya?” she whined as she got out of the car.

“Well golly gee whiz, I reckon ya sure are makin’ it easy fer me.”  She gestured for the captives to take their positions in front of her -- a stiff row with Patton in the center, and JP and Trixie flanking him.  “Start walking, or start bleeding.”

Given their lack of body armor, the trio did as instructed and started walking toward the mansion’s door.  But even as they walked, JP made sure to take note of his surroundings; his eyes shot in every direction, lingering on a spot just long enough to finish his one-second scan.  He actually knew the location fairly well, just as Patton likely did.  The old mansion, sitting atop a tall hill…the dead grass surrounding it, and the bat-laden ramparts…the way a visitor could see most of Porbeagle and its shore from the hill, and a tourist could see the mansion framing a full moon…

Haldane Manor, he thought.  Just thinking the name made him feel uneasy.  So she’s been using this place as a hideout.  Fair enough.  But the more he thought about it, the more his brow crinkled.  Wait a minute.  If she’s a bounty hunter, then why would she bring us to an abandoned mansion?  Wouldn’t she want to take us to her client or employer or whatever so she can get paid?  Unless…

He gnawed on his lip.  We’re about to meet someone very unpleasant.

10:28 A.M.
Time Until JP’s Kidnappi- oh wait, that already happened.  Aw, looks like this gag’s going into retirement.


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