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September 17, 2012

I Hraet You (38)

Beat 38: The Impetus of a Crapshoot Hero

Trixie slid the painting back on its hook, clutching the frame tightly as she adjusted it.  “Wonder if it’s straight now?” she asked herself, stepping back and observing her work; sure enough, she managed to hang the painting in the perfect position -- maybe a few degrees straighter than it had been before, judging by the wall discoloration.  Still, she couldn’t help but scratch her head.  “Who the hell hangs up a picture of an anvil?”  She sighed and shrugged.  “I just don’t get art…”

But to her credit, she could pass for a fine interior decorator.  She’d singlehandedly returned the Hoigleheimer den to its former, immaculate glory.  The chairs and sofa, back in position; the coffee table and stands upright and perfectly-aligned; the TV in place, and even dusted; the rug somehow managing to look a bit cleaner than before, and the carpet smelling a bit fresher.  “Looks like everythin’s back in order,” she said as she clapped her hands clean.  “That didn’t take too long.”

She leaned to her left, hoping to get a peek at the hall’s innards -- and with it, the first look at Lloyd getting ready for action.  But of course, he didn’t show.  He hadn’t shown his face, or even made a (likely ridiculous) sound in the past half-hour.  Frustrated, she rubbed the back of her neck and groaned.  “Gaston must’ve really spooked him bad,” she muttered, pacing absentmindedly through the room.

But as her eye roved, she noticed a lamp that had rolled to the edge of the den.  She trotted over and picked it up, noticing the hole an earlier attack had left.  “What happened here?” she asked -- but she didn’t have to wonder for long.  A carving knife sat just an arm’s length away.

Trixie shuddered.  She didn’t know why, but for some reason…

“You’d best prepare yourself, my dear!”

Trixie looked back toward the hall entrance -- and there he was.  The cape.  The top hat.  The only signals she needed to name her adversary.  And with them, the only reason she needed to attack.  She threw the lamp at his face as hard as she could, eager to shatter his mask -- and the rest of his skull -- to pieces.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t wearing a mask.

Ka-MISTAKEN IDENTITY!

Lloyd tumbled backwards and crashed against the ground, clutching his nose and rolling the carpet like a toddler throwing a tantrum.  “Agh, my face!  My regularly-slapped, frequently-abused face!  Why have the lamp gods cursed me so?!”

Trixie pointed heatedly at the top hat and cape.  “What are ya, a MORON?”

“In what capacity?”

“Don’t come out here wearin’ a hat and cape when the guy we’re after is wearin’ a hat and cape and was just freakin’ here!  Dammit, Lloyd, this shouldn’t be that hard!”

Lloyd sat up, though he kept massaging his nose and mouth.  “Okay, I deserved that.  But do you know what else is hard?”

“Ya’d better not say what I think yer about to say.”

“The lamp my father picked up at a flea market last year.  Is there something wrong with that?”  He pointed at Trixie.  “What were you thinking of, Miss Walters?”

“Wha- I was just -- it’s -- n-never mind.”  Trixie folded her arms and glared gruffly at the far wall.  “Now hurry up and take off that stupid getup.  Ya look like a loon.”

“B-but it’s part of my ensemble -- the perfect costume for a dramatic reveal!  Surely you know as well as I that the proper costume is a vital part of any performance!  A visual conveyance of ideas and emotions that entrances the hearts of --”

“Ya want me to throw another lamp at yer face?”

Lloyd froze for a moment.  “…I suppose the weather isn’t exactly the finest for a dark and heavy cloak,” he said with a heavy sigh.  He took off the hat and cape and tossed it into a corner of the room.  “Oh well.  I suppose my current garb will have to do.”

He patted a hand against his new attire (clothes that, thankfully, didn’t smell like an ocean of sweat).  He’d thrown on the kind of ensemble a lawyer might wear after a hot day of court work -- a topaz suit vest, with a single line of buttons flanked by straight-edged seams.  An orange tie slid into the vest, hanging from the sharp collar of a slate-hued dress shirt.  Lloyd had elected to roll up his sleeves, showing off a pair of garnet bracelets and his beautiful (but delicate) forearms.  His slacks -- the same shade as his shirt -- still had creases pressed into them, and only wrinkled as they touched the tongues of his square-toed Oxfords. 

“So ya went and got dressed,” said Trixie.  “And here I was, worryin’ that ya gave up.”

“Forgive me for worrying you, but as you can imagine, I had a bit of an…aroma.  And I suspect that somewhere along the line, I happened to make a mess of my other slacks.  Not something I intend to confirm anytime soon, but I’d rather not risk such an embarrassing state of affairs.”  Lloyd ran his eyes up and down Trixie’s body (lingering for a moment, once again, on her chest).  “I don’t suppose I could offer you some new clothes as well, Miss Walters?  You may be slightly taller, but I can likely offer you something -- assuming that you --”

“What?  No, I’m all right.  I’m fine like this.”

“You’re certain?  Because I have a few dresses, if you’d like.”

“I…I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear that.”   

“Very well.  I suppose you’ve grown accustomed to your ‘bad man’ ensemble.”  Lloyd waved a hand through the air, ignoring Trixie’s fluster.  “But enough talk of clothing and fashion; we have a brother to save, and a villain’s plan to thwart.  Time may be on our side at the moment, but even the slightest delay may play into Gaston’s plans -- and with it, any number of obstacles that could lead to a lethal plunge.”

“Why can’t ya just talk like a normal person, pal…?” Trixie muttered.  But she shoved the thought aside.  “Hey, wait.  Yer all set to go after this guy?”

“Of course.  Aren’t you?”

“W-well yeah, I am, but…”  She shot a look at the kitchen phone.  “Don’t ya think we should call the cops or somethin’?  Or maybe get some other folks on our side to help us look?”

Lloyd shook his head.  “I’m afraid that the more people we involve, the more people will be at risk.”

“Huh?”

The purple prince covered his mouth, and started nodding to himself.  “I only have conjecture to go on right now, but it’s a strong conjecture.”  His eyes shifted through the room.  “The clues we need to unravel the truth behind Gaston and ruin his schemes may have already been revealed.  It’s only a matter of putting everything we know together, and using that as our weapon against him.”

“I dunno what’s goin’ on in that head o’ yers, pal, but ya just might be onto somethin’.”  She frowned and folded her arms.  “But what’s Gaston got to do with keepin’ everyone else in the dark?”

“If my theory is correct, then involving more people than necessary -- for the moment, at least -- would only serve to make Gaston stronger.  And the innocent bystanders of Porbeagle…well, I’d rather not think about what could happen to them.”

“Bein’ cryptic ain’t exactly too reassurin’.”

“Forgive me.  But until I know for certain, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to trust me.”  He smiled sheepishly.  “Even though at present, I’ve only done one or two things to earn it.”

Trixie shrugged.  “Well, I’ve trusted ya up till now, so I guess I can keep on trustin’ ya.  So I guess we’ll keep this mess between us.  And yer dad, and JP too.”  She let loose a soft groan.  “Man.  Ya sure can bounce around from one mood to another.  One minute yer all mopey, and the next yer back to yer old crazy self.”

“Ah, so you remember that.”

“Why would I forget somethin’ that happened just a half-hour ago?”

“I would have preferred for you to forget seeing me in such a pitiful state,” Lloyd answered, laughing politely and pawing at the air.  “Rather unsightly for an ambassador of love.”

But Trixie shook her head.  “Lloyd, look.  Just ‘cause yer an idiot and a loon and a goofball don’t make ya any less of a person.  If yer sad or scared, it’s all right.  Yer just doin’ what people do -- be honest about the way they feel.  So don’t feel like ya gotta hide anythin’, cause yer still just a normal kid.”  She glanced aside.  “Mostly normal.”

“M-Miss Walters…!”  Lloyd ran his forearm across his face.  “Such…such tender, caring words!  So beautiful!  So heartfelt!  So…so…nice!  I could cry myself to the grave, and die a happy man!”

“Please don’t.”

“No, no, I wouldn’t dream of it!  For I must live on, and fight on!  For now, at long last, I finally know how it feels to have an older sister!”  Lloyd threw his arms wide open, and leapt at her like a mauling housecat.  “BIG SISTER!  EMBRACE MEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Trixie reeled, and on reflex bobbed to her left -- just in time to let Lloyd crash face-first into the ground.  “Dammit, Lloyd!  Get serious, will y-“  She grimaced and looked up at the ceiling.  “I feel like that’s the second time I’ve had ta say that today.”

“But I am serious -- now more than ever,” said Lloyd -- a statement that would have been better received if his butt wasn’t sticking into the air. 

“Ya sure?  ‘Cause in case ya forgot, we got some pretty big stakes on the line.”

“I haven’t forgotten.”  Lloyd stood up and patted himself clean.  “It would take a dire blow to the head to make me forget what’s happened these past few days.  A new power…a new ally…a new opportunity…a new dilemma…and atop it all, a new nemesis.  For a normal man, what I’ve experienced would be nothing short of a curse.  But for one of my persuasion, it is the finest blessing I could ever ask for.”

He turned to face her, a heated glint in his eyes.  “I won’t allow myself to fall prey to sorrow and indecision.  I have too many things to fight for to be dissuaded.  Therefore, for the sake of my dream -- for the sake of others -- for the sake of being able to hear your kind words, day after day, I will fight on.” 

“Lloyd --”

“I can’t do it alone, of course.  But I’ll do everything I can.  I’ll take the first step, and lead whoever may follow me to a brighter day.”  He nodded slowly.  “You just wait, Miss Walters; I’ll prove myself worthy of your faith; all I ask is that you keep on believing, and reciprocate when my aims, my visions, are made real.”

“Your visions…” Trixie repeated.  She couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud, but for a moment, Lloyd actually looked -- and acted -- kind of cool.

He pumped a fist into the air.  “I fight in the name of my harem!  And no force on earth shall stand in the way of my bosomy paradise!”

Trixie grimaced.  “Just couldn’t end on a high note, could ya?” she grumbled.

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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