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October 1, 2012

I Hraet You (42)

Beat 42: You Can Probably Guess Who’s Bad Cop

Lloyd kept his arms folded behind his back, and stared absentmindedly at a drifting cloud.  “So, Miss Walters, are you feeling better yet?” he asked.

The sound of gagging and puking gave a quick answer.

“W-well then, take your time.  That was quite the experience.”  He couldn’t help but grin.  “Did you see it?  Did you see it when I stopped the truck?  Well, granted it wasn’t so much as ‘stopped’ as it was ‘let the surrounding trees serve as a speed dampener until our inertia faltered’, but still, we managed to come to a halt!  Eventually!  And that’s certainly a victory in itself!”

Trixie started to wheeze, and then made another meat-speckled splatter across the road.

Lloyd stroked his chin and raised an eyebrow.  “By chance, is excessive vomiting a means of celebration in the south?  It doesn’t seem like a very pleasant tradition.”

Somehow, Trixie managed to make her next wave of puke sound like the word “idiot”.

Lloyd scratched at a few bangs.  “I suppose I should leave you to your business.  I’ll return momentarily.”  He started off, leaving Trixie to keep tagging Porpoise Road with her juices.  An empty park stretched before him -- and it would have been a pleasant one, if not for the destruction caused by the toppled big rig.  More than a dozen trees had been snapped in two, leaving bark and leaves and splintered trunks everywhere.  The rig’s grinding had turned once-green fields into brown plateaus, with hills of dirt clumped around the trailer.  The bathroom that had withstood the test of countless bowel movements had turned into a shattered mass of bricks, with broken toilets leaking water in every direction.

“This here is a real mess.”

Lloyd turned to his left; sure enough, Patton approached and stared at the wreckage with his typical gaze.  “That’s a shame.  Now how’s anyone supposed to play Frisbee without staring at that eyesore?”

“You escaped from the truck?” Lloyd asked.

Patton looked down at his son and nodded.  “I told you, I had a really bad itch.  So I just broke free and scratched it myself.  Not too manly to have a lady do a man’s job.”

“Fair enough,” Lloyd said with a nod.  He turned back to the rig.  “Do you suppose the driver is all right?  That was a nasty spill.”

“If he is, he’s not about to be.” Patton popped his knuckles and started marching toward the rig.

“Just hold on a minute!  I think we may be able to use this to our advantage!”  Lloyd leapt in front of his father.  “This has certainly been an eventful day, but we know very little about its particulars.  This may be just the opportunity we need to mount our counterattack.”

Patton growled a bit, but managed to calm down.  “You have something in mind?”

“I feel as if something is amiss here.”  He covered his mouth.  “Our enemies at the moment are Gaston Leroux and his cohort, Mrs. Overdose.  You would think that with the powers and skills at their command -- and the leverage they’ve gained by kidnapping JP -- they’d have everything they needed to have us bow to their will.  And yet…”

“You think this rig business has something to do with Gaston?”

“It goes a bit beyond that, I think.”  Lloyd pointed at the armored truck; it waited patiently for a driver a few hundred yards away (while lodged inside a tree), and the remnants of Patton’s shackles left a trail towards it.  “That was quite a display they put on at the square.  I know that the town has certain countermeasures to deal with you, but they certainly mobilized quickly, don’t you think?”

“Maybe so.”

“And there’s more.  Rosco and his partners were able to mobilize on that front as needed -- with all the equipment they could ever hope for.  This is in spite of Rosco being -- to my knowledge -- a construction worker handling a few specific jobs.”  He furrowed his brow.  “He’s certainly appearing an uncomfortable number of times in my life.”

Patton nodded slowly.  “So it’s not just Gaston that we have to worry about.  He may have plenty of powerful allies on his side.”  He glanced briefly at the rig.  “Hold on.  If that armored truck was supposed to be handled by Rosco and his goons, why’d that rig try to run us over?”

“Good question.  It’s possible that Rosco or one of his friends made a call, and when the transport went awry the rig was sent to handle the situation.  But to go to such extreme lengths…and to think of the collateral damage…”

“That masked bastard isn’t just messing with us -- he’s putting the whole town in danger.”

“So it would seem.  And if we’re to defeat him, we’d best make use of whatever opportunity we can find -- starting with this one.”  With a quick nod to one another, the Hoigleheimers started for the rig -- with the son hoping that it wouldn’t explode, and the father secretly hoping it would come to blows.

Patton didn’t even bother waiting for Lloyd’s instruction.  He just climbed up the rig’s tractor and tugged the door wide open -- notably, because he tore it from the rest of the machine.  He tossed the door aside and reached in, and leapt back down with a man tucked under his arm.  “He’s out, but at least he’s still breathing,” he declared.  He tossed the man to the ground, who splayed his limbs wide on contact with the upturned earth.  “Doesn’t look like he’s too hurt.  But I can fix that, if you want.”

“No, no, he’s suffered enough.”  Lloyd tilted his head left and right, back and forth, humming to himself as he made his inspection.  Nothing about him seemed to stand out -- brown hair and average height and build, with a blue cap and matching jumpsuit.  He seemed more like an extra than anyone of note.  But then, suddenly…

“Aha!  I’ve got it!” Lloyd yelled.

“What is it?”

“I have NO IDEA who this is!”

Patton scratched his crown.  “Guess we got no choice, then.”  He knelt down and patted a meaty hand against the man’s jumpsuit.  “Search him.  Maybe he’s got some ID on him, or a clue.”

Lloyd started sliding his hands across the man as well, finding nothing but dirty, wrinkled clothes and heated skin.  “Oooohoohoo, I feel just like a secret agent!” he cheered.  “Searching for clues amidst a downed enemy…ah!  Does this mean I’ll get to sneak into a secret facility while wearing his clothes?!”

“Maybe for your birthday, son.”

Lloyd let loose a girlish squeal.

Never do that again.”

“I can’t make any promises!”

Patton sighed and tugged the man up by his armpits.  “Nothing in the front, I guess.  Better check the back to make…hmmm?”  He leaned forward a bit.  “Wait a second.”

“What is it?”

“His jumpsuit has a tag on it.”

“With washing instructions, I hope -- clearly, this man’s uniform is in need of it.  But what has your attention?”

Patton pulled the tag off and let the man drop back down.  “I’ve seen this design before,” he said as he showed the tag to Lloyd -- one with washing instructions, but more importantly with a diamond-bearing crest woven into it.  “This is the emblem for the Cornerstone Corporation.”

Lloyd took hold of the tag and inspected it, stroking his chin all the while.  “So the jumpsuit is machine washable…” he muttered.

“Lloyd, the Cornerstone Corporation is one of the biggest companies in the world.  They’ve got a choke hold on lots of big products.  Electronics, cars, planes, medicine…you name it, they’ve probably got a hand in it.  A company that big wouldn’t have any problem hiring goons or setting up a stunt like this.”

“Ah, yes, that’s true.  But the question is…”

“What does a company like that want with Gaston -- and why go after Porbeagle?  And my son?”  Patton grimaced, and stomped past Lloyd.  “Well, I’m about to find out.  I’m goin’ to their headquarters, right now.”

“B-but wait!  What about JP?”

“They’ve got him.  They have to -- it’s the safest place Gaston could keep him, since they’re in cahoots.  So I’m gonna storm their building and take my son back, one way or another.”

“No, wait!”  Lloyd slid in front of his father once more.  “Listen to me.  I know we may have made a breakthrough here, but JP won’t be at their headquarters.  Neither will Gaston.”  He pressed his hands against his father’s torso, trying (and failing) to stop his march.  “It’s all just a ruse; if you go to their headquarters, you may very well fall right into Gaston’s trap.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted you to go down there, raise a storm, and be arrested because of it.”

Patton started to slow down -- not stop, but at least his steps didn’t shove Lloyd’s feet deeper into the ground.  “And what if he is there?”

“If he is, then we’ll make a trek to their headquarters -- AFTER we head to my destination.  If my deductions are correct, Gaston may have revealed his hand far earlier and more thoroughly than he would have hoped.”  He looked up at the sun.  “Rather than risk losing JP and our mortal foe, we may be able to have our kin back well before sunset.”

Patton’s brow twitched, and his arm muscles tightened -- but after a moment of tension, he stopped his advance and relaxed.  “It’d take a long time to reach their building anyway,” he admitted.

“Then you’ve no objections to my plan?”

“You have a plan?”

“Figuratively speaking, of course.  And by figuratively speaking, I mean no.”

Patton clapped a hand against Lloyd’s shoulder. “Well, if you’re a real man, you’ll make a plan on the fly.”  He gave a brisk nod, and started walking toward the truck.  “So, where are we headed?”

“Wait.  There’s one more matter we need to discuss.”  Lloyd looked at his father, and then to the distance -- to the point where Trixie stood, rubbing her stomach and moaning.  “I can count on you to handle any situation that arises, yes?”

“Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?  I’m your dad -- I’ve got your back.”

“Yes, of course.  But there’s a strong chance that what may transpire is more than a little…unsavory.”  He folded his arms and watched as Trixie bent over, gagging and sputtering.  “I only hope that on this occasion, I’m actually very, very wrong.”

Of course, Patton didn’t pick up on that last line.  He’d chosen to punt the downed driver like a football.


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