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June 3, 2013

I Hraet You (62)

Beat 62: More Bounce to the Sixteenth of a Pound

Patton looked down at his son, and pressed a paw against his shoulder.  “It’ll be all right.  I bet it’ll all work out in the end.”

JP didn’t return any of his compassion; he just stared out the van window, watching the town’s shops whiz past.  “It’ll work out because we’re bound to get involved,” he grumbled, his chin propped up with one hand.  “I’m starting to doubt anyone else can at this point -- and not just because of the usual ‘everyone but me is an idiot’ reason.”

“Mmmm.  Then that’s all the more reason to be at our best.”  He took a left turn.  “Can’t help anyone if we’re on an empty stomach.”

JP grunted.  Even ace detectives could use a meal every now and then.

“So, any guesses?  Think you know what’s going on around town?”

“Hard to say for sure -- for now, at least.”  His gaze hardened.  “I’m no expert, but I’m guessing it’ll come down to finding something -- or someone -- that doesn’t belong here.  I already have an idea, but I want to get some real evidence before going too far.”

Patton nodded.  As expected of his son.  “We’ll head back as soon as we get a bite at the bakery.  Gotta keep our energy up -- and our stomachs full.”  He steered the van into a parking space, and shut off the engine.  “I’m gonna grab a bear claw or eight.  You all right with a blueberry muffin?”

“You know I am.”

“Right.  Back in a minute.”  Patton slid out of the van and headed into the bakery, somehow managing to squeeze his massive frame through the doorway.

Guess it’s just me, then, JP thought.  He slipped down in his seat, so that no troublemakers would spot him from the windows; as he did, he grabbed the strap of the slim duffle bag beside him.  His high-interest insurance policy, so to speak.

Reckless as he could (and usually did) get, JP couldn’t think of a better person to have around than his dad.  Ignoring the fact that he stood almost three feet taller than him, JP knew that he’d make a much better target than the big bruiser.  Someone had it out for him once, threatening to skewer his skull with an arrow and char-broil him alive in the confines of a middle school.  Was it someone sending a message?  Calling him out?  Or just out to exact revenge?  And why?

He didn’t know.  And for the moment, he didn’t want to take any more chances than what was necessary.  He’d scrape up whatever info he could, and he’d do it in the shadow of Porbeagle’s so-called Butcher.  Now, if only he could get someone to pay him for sticking his neck out for others…

“I’m outta here!”

JP raised his eyes a few inches above the dashboard -- just in time to watch the baker run out of his shop, arms lashing through the air like wet noodles.  Why, he could instantly guess; he looked to the bakery, and sure enough he spotted a handful of burly bodies shifting within.  Of course, none of them looked quite as burly as --

Ka-DOUBLE-DECKER DESTRUCTION!

Patton flung a thug through the bakery’s window, smearing pastries and cream (and glass shards) all over his body.  He rolled onto the sidewalk, moaning and groaning and clutching his sides; he’d taken a beating, but at least the worst was over.

Ka-PARFAIT OF PAIN!

Except it wasn’t.  Another thug went flying -- well over the display case -- and landed atop the first thug.  Both of them wheezed from the blow, hoping, and praying, that the beast wouldn’t hammer them any harder.

Ka-BON-BON-BONECRACKER! 

And miraculously, he didn’t.  Patton just flung a third thug through the window, and stomped after him before the poor fool could even start running.  That didn’t stop him from trying, but he’d barely climbed to his knees before Patton hoisted him by the collar like a sopping-wet mutt.  He lifted the thug a bit higher, as if hoping to show him off to JP.

And JP certainly took notice -- of the thug, and his crew.  Black trench coats.  Heavy boots.  Army fatigues.  Green snake masks.

He almost smiled.  Guess we’ve found something that doesn’t belong.

*

“Yer sure about this, pal?”

Lloyd -- clad in a dusty baseball cap and a too-small hoodie -- gave a quick nod.  “Pardon my small-mindedness, but I see few other options.  To leave Miss O’Leary in a sorry state of affairs is to leave one of my comrades before a firing range.”

Mrs. Overdose looked back at him from the driver’s seat.  “You ever learn how to say in three words what you say in ten?”

“I did.  But I’ve long since shoved such lessons from my mind.”  He wore a pleasant smile, but that only made Mrs. Overdose chomp on her reed even harder.  “In any case, I know the inherent risks.  If I’m being targeted -- by Gaston’s men, no doubt -- then it’s safe to say that I’m being watched and pursued no matter where or when I gallivant about.  That said…”  He covered his mouth.  “There’s an argument to be made that no matter where I go, friends and townsfolk alike are at risk.  Protecting them may not be as simple as just burrowing underground.”

“Yeah, I gotcha,” said Trixie.  She rubbed the back of her neck.  “It ain’t exactly a good situation to be in, that’s fer sure.  Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t.”

“True enough -- which is exactly why I intend to make what strides I can.”  He held up a strip of paper.  “I’ll have a hearty discussion with -- heh heh, wordplay -- with Miss O’Leary, and explain to her the circumstances.  There’s no guarantee that it can work, but I’d prefer to proceed with alterations to the plan rather than outright abandoning it.”  He looked to Trixie and Mrs. Overdose.  “And as such, I’ll be depending on the two of you for protection; you handled those fiends well enough on your own, and given that I pray that you’ll stand as an aegis before Miss O’Leary.  Protect her, no matter what harm may come to me.”

“Spoken like a true knight in shining armor,” said Mrs. Overdose. 

“Yes, I’d say so as well.”  Lloyd smiled shamefacedly.  “Shame about these quirks of mine, though.  Hardly befitting of the job…but alas, perfection eludes us all.”  He pointed out the window, and through a few rows of shrubs.  “I’ll be heading to that yellow house in the distance.  If you would, try to keep an eye on it -- and contact my family, so the four of you can compare notes.  With any luck, this shouldn’t take long.”

“And if it does?”

“If it does, then…hmmm.  I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”  He pressed a thumb to his mouth, and nudged it to and fro with his lips.  And then, suddenly, he opened his eyes wide.  “Aha!  I know!  I’ll just stay with her for a while!  A sleepover, of sorts!”

“Yer just gonna invite yerself in and stay as long as ya want?”  Trixie hung her head.  “I’m guessin’ that ain’t exactly the best move to make, pal.”

“Well, I’m sure if I make a case for myself, she’ll at least consider it.  She’s a charming young lady.  Then again, I could just be saying that because of the presence of her gargantuan breasts -- though to be fair, they do make a remarkably strong argument in her favor.”  He tilted his head.  “Hmmm.  I wonder if one of them is indeed larger than my head.  Or how much one of them might weigh.  Or what they feel like.”

Trixie stared blankly at Lloyd.  So did Mrs. Overdose. 

Lloyd stared back at them.  And then he put on the biggest smile he could make.  “This is going to be an amazing day!” he blurted.  He leapt out of the car and waved at them.  “Farewell, my comrades!  Guard us well!  For you see, I’ve a momentous meeting with a mountainous maiden!  And I hope for -- oh, hey, more alliteration!  Exquisite!”  He skipped merrily on his way…for about eight steps, just before tripping and face-planting against the concrete.  But he jumped back up, dusted himself off, and headed into the bushes after an impromptu jig.

“That guy sure knows how to give a gal a headache,” Trixie muttered.

“I hear that.” Mrs. Overdose turned to Trixie.  “Wanna go see her?”

“Huh wha?”

“You know.  The boobs -- just a quick peek in the window, and that’s it.  Sounds like somethin’ that’d be worth a laugh.”

Trixie’s shoulders slumped.  “You’re just messin’ with me, aren’t ya?”

“Nah.  I just need somethin’ to watch on Tuesdays.”

*

Is this it?  Is this the gate to heaven?

Lloyd stood on the porch, hand raised, but unable to press down on the doorbell.  Behind this door may lay a world I’ve yet to encounter in my wildest dreams.  To venture in is to welcome a realm of unfathomable depth -- and buoyancy -- into my fractured psyche.  It is what I’ve prepared myself for, and a step toward my ultimate harem…but all told, and all considered, can I truly handle the effort?  Can my heart -- among other things -- handle the sheer amount of pressure I’m destined to bear?

He swallowed hard, but forced a nod.  Yes.  I can.  And I shall.  For the sake of glory, I shall step forward into this bold new world.  And I shall emerge triumphant!

 He pressed the doorbell, and heard the chimes sound off within.

The deed is done.  And in a moment’s time, I’ll be facing off with Miss O’Leary and…and…  He jerked his head to the left, just as beads of sweats started spraying from his body.  Wait a minute.  If this is Miss O’Leary’s house, then I’m bound to meet her family here as well.  And if that’s the case, then I’ll be receiving a thorough instruction on genetics soon enough.  And if that’s true, then…if Miss O’Leary is what one might charitably call improbably buxom…

His eyes nearly bulged out of his head.  Could it be…?  Could it be that the madam of the house…is even further beyond?!

He didn’t have much time to wonder any longer.  Because at that moment, the door swung open, and revealed…

Lloyd threw his fists into the air.  “CALADBOLG!”

“Ah, you must be Lloyd.  It’s so good to finally meet you in person.”

Lloyd pulled his fists down -- and actually decided to look at the woman who greeted him.  To his surprise, she was…average.  Completely average.  Average height and build.  Brown hair swept into a smooth bob, and brown eyes that gave off the expected motherly warmth.  A yellow polo shirt and khakis, with a plaid jacket tied around her waist.  She looked like every soccer mom Lloyd had ever seen molded into one, and coalesced into a single mind.  Conventionally attractive, sure, but harrowing all the same (if she was indeed some multi-brained conglomerate).

“I’m Jane, Sheila’s mom,” she said, extending a hand.  She flashed a bright smile.  “You’ve got quite the shouting voice there.” 

Lloyd looked down at her hand, and then back at her -- and with a bashful laugh, he took her hand in his own.  “Forgive me for the absurdity.  I tend to get a bit carried away at times.”

“Well, don’t we all?  Come on in; I’ll hang up your clothes, and you can have yourself a few oatmeal raisin cookies.  I just made a fresh batch.”

“O-oatmeal raisin?  Those are my favorite!”  He pulled off his jacket and cap, and let the lady of the house take them aside.  “Such hospitality…I’m not worthy of your kindness, Madam O’Lea-”

“Please, call me Jane.  I insist.”  She led Lloyd into the nearby kitchen and pulled out a chair at the table.  “Have a seat.  I’ll give you as many cookies as you want.”

“Oh, yes, er…thank you…Jane.  But I don’t need a full plate of…” He took a seat and sniffed at the air.  “Well, maybe just one would do.  But generosity aside, I didn’t come here just to delight in your presence.”

“I figured as much.  You’re here to see Sheila, right?”

“Essentially, yes.  It’s a matter of some importance, I’d…”  He trailed off just as Jane set a small plate and a glass of milk before him.  “Er, Mada- Jane.  You said ‘it’s good to finally meet you in person’, yes?  What exactly did you mean by that?”

Jane didn’t answer him.  She just tended to the oven before her, rustling and sliding about trays and foil.

“Is there something that I need to know?”  A stupid question, of course.  Lloyd already had an answer.

Jane looked over her shoulder with a terse smile.  “Lloyd?  You’re in for a rough time.”

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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