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October 18, 2012

I Hraet You (47)

Beat 47: The Best Laid Plans (Kind of Suck)

Lloyd ran his eyes up and down Mrs. Overdose’s body.  Normally he would have taken an extra half-second to appreciate the female form, but he suspected it would have to wait.  He just folded his arms and covered his mouth, nodding and humming to himself as he kept his eyes locked on the gunwoman.

“You know, now would be a good time to actually help me,” JP grumbled as he squirmed across the stage.  “Just grab me and bail.  Grandma over there is just after the money -- I say let her have it, and we fall back to fight another day.  Sounds like a plan, right?”

Lloyd didn’t answer.  He just kept staring and nodding.

“Oh, right.  I forgot you’re allergic to logic.”  In spite of the ropes binding him, JP rolled a bit to face Mrs. Overdose.  “Hey, Grandma.  You’ve got your money, and your boss has got his entertainment by now, right?  You’d gladly let us go, wouldn’t you?  As long as we don’t interfere with your transaction, you’ve got no beef with us.”

Mrs. Overdose glanced at the brothers, and then turned toward Gaston.

“Oh my, yes.  I suppose I HAVE gotten a fair bit of entertainment,” said Gaston, spreading his arms wide.  “We can leave just a few moments before Lloyd does -- I’m in no mood to be trampled, as you can imagine.  And I suspect you share the same sentiment.”

“And my money?”

“We can negotiate a payment plan afterward.  But I’ll add an incentive for you -- the longer you stay on that stage, the more money you’ll make.  Rather pleasing, yes?  Especially considering the generous bonus I’ve offered you.”

Mrs. Overdose gave a brisk nod.  She hadn’t forgotten about the stack of cash Gaston had tossed -- she could only begin to imagine how many Ben Franklin heads she’d be able to count in that pile alone.

“See, Lloyd?  We can get out of here at any time!  So let’s pack up and run!”  JP rolled a few inches toward his brother’s leg.  “Getting out of here is the easiest and best thing we can do right now!”

“Oh, who said that you brothers would be able to leave?” Gaston asked, waving casually at the pair.  “My associate -- if she wants to claim the rights to her exorbitant payment -- is under strict orders not to let you two leave this auditorium.  I can’t have you getting too accustomed to interfering with my plans, you see; best to dispose of you before you become a real nuisance.  Or rather, any sort of nuisance at all.”

“We can get out of here at any time, you damn freak!” JP yelled.  “Lloyd got in here, and he can --”

Gaston held out a hand, and in it sat a pair of keys -- one of which had a caricature of a smiling old man.  “I don’t think anyone will be getting in or out of here without these.  I’m fortunate enough to have a matching set, and a bodyguard eager to blow back any malcontents out to escape.  The question is, o noble Hoigleheimer brothers…what hope do you have left?”

JP bit his lip.  Gaston had them in his trap, and even if Lloyd did the smart thing and tried to escape, he likely wouldn’t get far.  The door that the villainous pair had used had no doubt been locked behind them.  The door that Lloyd had used was still open -- but all it would take to smack him aside (or worse) was a quick move from Mrs. Overdose.  Maybe if he could get out of those ropes, JP and Lloyd could go on the attack, or mount some kind of key-snatching, shotgun-dodging offense.  But as it stood, the brothers had been thrown into an impossible situation.  Impossible, in more ways than one.

All right.  Fearing time is over.  Thinking time starts now, JP thought.  There has to be a way out of this situation -- I just have to use my head, and come up with an answer.  There’s nothing a little smarts and logic can’t so-

“I’ve got it,” said Lloyd at last.  He stepped toward Mrs. Overdose again.

“You sure are a glutton for punishment, kid.”  She reared back to strike Lloyd again, but didn’t.  She couldn’t.  He stood well outside her range; the best she could hope for was to nick the tip of his outstretched hand.

“If it’s money you want,” said Lloyd, “why don’t you join my group?”

If JP had control over his body, he would have slammed his head against the nearest wall -- but he’d just have to accept banging his face against the stage. 

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kiddin’ me…”  Mrs. Overdose slapped a hand against her forehead.  “You friggin’ serious?  What, am I gonna get paid in hugs and kisses?  ‘Cause I’m pretty sure not even the Care Bears would want that kind of payment.”

“Well, I would be lying if I said that unwavering love wasn’t part of the package.  But that aside, I imagine there may be a way to make some monetary gains.  All it would take is some perseverance, imagination, and luck.  And of course, the efforts of a seasoned veteran such as yourself.”  He smiled sheepishly.  “I’m afraid that I can be a little haphazard at times; I need the grounded sense of people like you to keep myself alive.”

“Because you’re an idiot, right?”

Lloyd nodded.  “I see you’re attentive.  Very good.  That’s the marking of a splendid employee.”

Mrs. Overdose tightened her grip around her shotgun, and her reed straightened as she pressed her teeth into it.  “So let me get this straight.  You don’t just want me to join your little magical harem thing, but you want me to work for you?  Do I look like a hooker to you?”

“Not at all.  Truth be told, I find you rather attractive.”

It only took a quarter of a nanosecond for Mrs. Overdose to aim at Lloyd’s head.  “If I were you, I’d start thinkin’ about what I was going to say before I say it.”

“But I have.  And I am.  I want you to abandon Gaston’s camp, and become one of my dear allies.  If you do so, any monetary gains we make -- however incidental -- will become yours.  Every profit, every penny, all guaranteed to venture into your pockets.”

“And how do you expect a damn harem to make any money?”

“I don’t know.”

“And what do you expect me to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then how am I gonna get paid?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then why should I follow you?”

“Ah, that I DO know.  It’s a good thing you asked; I was starting to look rather untrustworthy.”  Lloyd pulled back his hand, and began to stare at his palm.  “I’m beginning to come to my own satisfying conclusion, Mrs. Overdose.  It’s not necessarily about what I’ve done, or what I’ve failed to do.  The path that I envision is one where I take strides, based on what I can do now.  I wish to use what potential I have to reach even further potential.”

“Talk faster, kid,” Mrs. Overdose warned.  “You’re losin’ me here.”

“I have no idea what sort of future awaits me, as long as I continue to wield this power.  I have no idea if I’m even worthy of it -- if I can control it, and use it to help others as I wish.  But even with so much unknown to me, I owe it to myself -- to everyone around me -- to try.  All I can do is do my best…and as long as I keep going, I can reach the plateau I envision.”  He held out his hand once more.  “A plateau, you, I, and all who embrace love can stand upon.”

Gaston chuckled, and cocked his head.

“Real cute.  But unless you’re willing to put a number to that plateau of yours, I’m gonna have to pass.  Nothing personal.”  She started to lower her gun, but immediately brought it back up.  “Just so we’re clear, you DON’T want me as some kinda call girl, right?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.  Women are a precious and divine blessing; I would sooner flay myself than dishonor or disgrace one of them.”

“Pfft.  Well, not like it matters.  I never had an interest anyway. Now, if you’ll excuse me for a bit…”  She turned her back on Lloyd and reached for the stack of money.

“Ku fu fu…well, isn’t this exciting?”

Before she could put a hand on the stack, Mrs. Overdose shot an eye toward Gaston.  “What’s with you all of a sudden?”

“Really?  You can’t tell?  You can’t see it?  You can’t hear it?  You can’t feel it?  Perhaps your senses aren’t as honed as I suspected, Mrs. Overdose.”  He raised a hand towards her, and with flowing, deliberate motions, pointed a finger at her.  “You have already lost.”    

“I beg your friggin’ pardon?”

“Haven’t you realized it yet?  Your mind and your words may lie, but your heart cannot.  You’ve been moved by Lloyd’s earnest pleas; even if you reject his offer, his mindset, and what meager funds he can bring your way, you cannot reject his own heart reaching out to yours.”  He pressed a hand to his hidden ear.  “Your heart is thundering, Mrs. Overdose.  And in spite of your iron will, you have never been more vulnerable than you are now.”

Mrs. Overdose readied her gun again, and aimed it at Gaston. 

“Now now, madam.  Am I really the one you should be aiming at?  The real threat is onstage.” 

Sure enough, the gunwoman whipped around to face Lloyd, barrels at the ready.  But for once -- for the first time in what had to be a long and storied career -- her aim had started to waver.  She clenched her teeth tightly, and laid them all bare; the reed in her mouth stiffened to wood-like rigidity.  And the reason for her tension?

Lloyd had started walking toward her, hand at the ready.

“Now then, Lloyd.  Show me what you can do.  Show me everything you have to offer with that power of yours!” Gaston shouted.  “Move her heart -- that is, if you think you can!”

“I will,” Lloyd answered, “but not for your sake.  What I do, I do in the name of love -- to show dear Mrs. Overdose the new world that I wish to create!”

But Mrs. Overdose would have none of it.  She took a step back, her finger hovering above the trigger.  “Keep your distance, kid!  Whatever you’re sellin’, I don’t want any of it!  I’m warnin’ you, I don’t have any problems blowin’ a hole in your head!”

“You would murder a boy for money and the sake of your own stubbornness?” Lloyd asked, his steps still as steady as before.  “You would choose a bloody path just to avoid my venture?”

“Hell yeah, I would!  So enough with this touchy-feely crap, or I’ll really blow you apart!”  She took another step back -- and another, and another.  “Your voodoo’s not gonna work on me!”

But Lloyd didn’t stop moving.

“…All right,” she said through jaws clenched shut.  “I’m gonna give you till the count of three to turn around and sit in the corner like a good little boy.  If you don’t, I’m gonna dye your hair red.”

But Lloyd just kept walking.

“One…”  Her finger started to tighten.

“Lloyd!” JP yelled.  “Back off!  She’s seriously gonna --!”

“Two…”  Her finger slid against the trigger.

 “Lloyd!  Don’t push her!”

“Do it, Lloyd!” Gaston called out.  “Go as far as you can go!”

“THR-”

Lloyd stopped a foot away from Mrs. Overdose.  “You won’t shoot me,” he declared, hands at his sides.  “You don’t have the heart for it.”

JP, Mrs. Overdose, and even Gaston could only stare.

“If all you care about is money, then how could you possibly be bold enough to fire?”  But before he could get an answer, he shook his head.  “If all you care about is money, how could you ever be happy?”

Mrs. Overdose didn’t give him an answer -- neither a verbal one, nor an explosive one.  She just stood there, frozen in place, gun at the ready and teeth clenched.  All she needed to turn Lloyd into a pile of meat was a twitch of her finger.   The slightest impulse, and nothing more.

But it didn’t come.  It never would.  Because thirty seconds later, she tossed her shotgun aside.

Lloyd’s eyes widened.  “Mrs. Overdose…so that means you’ll --?”

“Olivia Delgado.”

“Huh?”

“Olivia Delgado.  That’s my real name.”

Lloyd nodded quickly.  “I see.  It’s quite pretty -- but why would you --?”

“Because I want you to know.  Because I want you to remember it.  Because I want you to understand somethin’ real important, kid.”  She looked up at Lloyd with blazing, rage-filled eyes; she chomped down so hard on her reed that it snapped, and fell to the stage without a sound.  “You don’t know a damn thing about me! And I’m gonna make damn sure somebody shuts your garbage-spewin’ mouth once and for all!” 

She thrust a hand forward.  “Come on then, kid.  You really think you got what it takes to show me that I’m wrong?  Then prove it.  Give it your best shot -- and remember my name, as the one who smashed all your dreams into pieces!”

Lloyd could only smile.  “So it’s a duel of hearts you want, hmmm?  Well then…”  He glanced at Gaston, who leaned forward expectantly.  He glanced at JP, trembling but otherwise stone-faced.  And then, finally, he turned to Mrs. Overdose.  “May the best heart win.”

And with that, he took her hand in his own.

--STAGE ON--

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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