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July 8, 2013

I Hraet You (72)

Beat 72: Corn of Coercion

Less than a day ago, the O’Leary family needed a new table for the kitchen.  Now they needed a new kitchen.

Only one out of every four cabinet doors remained on the hinges -- and even those that did hung haphazardly off them, half-shredded like all the others.  Plates once used for fancy dinners had long since doubled as throwing stars, bludgeons, and the occasional impromptu knife, with shards thrown across and through wood and tile alike.  The refrigerator looked as if it took a head-on blow from a train, spilling its contents all over the floor.  It might have been a fire hazard if not for the gash-laden walls and the wires that swung from them; those could pose a risk just as easily.  Then again, considering the columns of smoke drifting about, fires didn’t seem to register as much of a problem.

Jane certainly didn’t care.  She just stood her ground, scratched up and sweat-laden, as she ran a fist past her stinging cheek.  “Heh heh…you can put up a good fight.  I’ll give you that much, Sheila.”  She spat a few drops of blood out of her mouth.  “Guess you inherited something from me after all.”

Sheila sniffled, hoping that it was just snot inside her nose and not blood.  She looked up at her mother while bent over, with hands on her knees and lungs struggling to take in air.  “I didn’t inherit anything from you.  My skills are my own -- and I’ll use them to surpass you.”

“Cheeky girl -- and corny, too.  Is Momma going to have to put you in time out?”

“Now who’s being corny?”

Jane drew herself upright and popped her knuckles.  “Count your blessings.  If I didn’t have this hangover, you’d have your head lodged in the ceiling.  Isn’t that just the worst?  I’m not even at a hundred percent, and this is the best you could do.”

Sheila snapped upward.  “O-oh yeah?  Well guess what?  I haven’t unlocked my full potential yet!  So there!”

“So what?  I still have my secret weapon ready!”

“Well I…I…this isn’t even my final form!”

“Out of material already, sweet pea?”

Sheila gave a quick retort -- a butcher knife went spinning past Jane’s ear.

“…Huh.  What do you know?  You throw just like your father.”  She clapped a fist into her palm.  “Guess that’s just one more lesson Momma’s going to have to teach you -- along with a good, hard spanking!”

“Um, how about no?”

Sheila and Jane turned to the living room, bringing an immediate halt to their (presumably) epic battle.  Mrs. Overdose stood on the threshold, swishing her reed to and fro within her mouth.  Of course, they couldn’t quite bring themselves to notice, considering the shotgun barrel aimed at Sheila’s head.  “Hey there.  I’m Mrs. Overdose, and I’ll be your kidnapper today.”  She tilted her head.  “Well, sort of.  Not like we’re goin’ all that far.”

Sheila could only wonder how her jaw stayed on her face.  Jane didn’t; she just popped out from behind Sheila, offering a pleasant smile and a delighted clap.  “Oh, we have new guests!  I’m so glad to have you here -- sorry the house is in such a mess, but you know how daughters can be sometimes!  Would you like some cookies?”

“Huh.  You know, that’s still not the craziest mood swing I’ve seen before, if you can believe that.”

Jane’s burst of optimism vanished in an instant.  “So I guess you saw all that, huh?  Sorry.  It’s just that pain-in-the-ass daughters need to be grounded -- preferably as literally as possible -- before they make an even bigger mess of things.”

“Can’t say I know the feelin’.  Then again, I don’t care.” She pushed her gun forward a few inches.  “All right, Belle.  You and me are gonna take a little walk into your room.  Better move quick, though; wouldn’t want your mom cryin’ over spilt milk.”

“Ha.  I get it,” said Jane.

Sheila whipped her head toward her mother.  “M-Mom!  You’re not seriously gonna let this happen, are you?  There’s a crazy woman in our house who’s got a gun pointed at my face!  And you’re just gonna let it happen?!”

“Yup.”

“You’re a terrible mom!”

Jane shook her head.  “Mrs. Overdose, was it?  I take it you’re one of Lloyd’s friends?”

“How did you --”

“The morning after my daughter brings home the strangest boy I’ve ever met, the strangest circumstances I’ve ever seen pop up in the form of the strangest gunwoman I ever met.  It doesn’t take an ace detective to string it all together, if you ask me.  Then again, my brain feels like it’s about ready to leak out of my head, so maybe my common sense is a little on the fritz.”

“Sounds like par for the course to me.”  Mrs. Overdose glanced back at the hall.  “Hey.  Get out here already.  This might be a two-woman job.”

“Do I have to?”

“Couldn’t hurt.”

Trixie sighed and walked into the room.  “I’m real sorry ‘bout all this, ma’am,” she said to Jane.  “It’s just that things kinda have a bad habit o’ gettin’ outta hand…it ain’t like I wanna kidnap yer daughter or nothin’, but, uh, well…”

Jane raised an eyebrow.  “You know my face is over here, right?”

“Huh wha…?”  If it wasn’t for Jane’s mention, Trixie would have kept staring at Sheila, slack-jawed and glass-eyed.  “O-oh, yeah, I’m -- I’m real sorry ‘bout that.  I didn’t mean to -- it’s just that I…I…I, uh…”  And she went right back to staring.

Ka-SOCIAL GRACES!

Mrs. Overdose walloped Trixie in the back of her head.  “Okay, that’s enough of that,” she announced, ignoring Trixie’s outrage (and blossoming tears).  “You -- stop with the snot-spewin’ and get a move on.  I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to show you how this gun of mine works.  Billie Jean, you take her from the front -- make sure she doesn’t try to run.  I’ll get her from behind…and if she knows what’s good for her, she won’t try to step out of line.”  She didn’t bother waiting for Sheila to form anything more than a whimper; she just slipped behind her and shoved her gun into her back.

“Mom!” Sheila moaned at last.  “Are you really gonna let them take me?”

“Uh-huh.  Don’t worry, I’m sure you’re in good hands.  A nice, potentially-insane boy like Lloyd is JUST what you knees!”  Jane snickered to herself.  “Besides, I wouldn’t mind seeing you get cut down to size.”

“But -- but --!”

Jane just waved goodbye as Trixie and Mrs. Overdose led her back to her room.  “See you soon, sweet pea!  Enjoy your stay -- and remember, this could have all been avoided if you hadn’t gotten expelled!”

“I should’ve used my tear gas when I had the chance!”

“Yeah, you should have.  See you at dinner time, maybe!”

Sheila started to mouth a few words -- some spicy ones, most likely -- but Mrs. Overdose pushed her gun forward to reiterate the threat of a busted spine.  They marched rigidly toward her room, and by Mrs. Overdose’s prodding she stumbled inside.  Trixie had to dodge out of the way to allow it, throwing her hands up and leaping a good three feet, but they managed their way inside.  And with all the players in place, the gunwoman shut the door behind them.

“What are you going to do to me?” Sheila asked.  Not that she needed to; a metal chair and several feet of rope sat a few feet away.  Lloyd and his chair sat right behind it, now upright and looking like a mirror image.

“Get in the chair, or that pretty robe of yours is gonna need a lot of rinse cycles.”  She waved her gun toward the chair, and as Sheila took a seat she jerked her head at Trixie.  “And you.  Tie her up.”

“Wha- why me?”

“I can’t tie her up and hold this gun at the same time.  So handle it.”

“But I don’t -- what if I…ya know…what if I end up touchin’ somethin’ I shouldn’t?”

“Then you’ll be the luckiest girl on Earth.  Now let’s do this already; I’m in the mood for a bowl of oatmeal.”

“All right.  Just don’t get too trigger happy, all right?”  Trixie picked up some of the rope, and knelt down and started wrapping Sheila’s ankles.  “Sorry.  So sorry.  If I’d known I was gonna be helpin’ to make a hostage situation worse, I woulda slept in today.”  Of course, she’d spoken while facing the door, and nearly tied her hands to the chair a few times.  But she pulled it off eventually, and bound Sheila’s legs as tightly as she could. 

“Huh.  I figured you were good at tying up livestock, but not this good.  You’re just full of surprises.”

Trixie frowned at her.  “Even when yer bein’ nice, it sounds like yer makin’ fun o’ me.”

“It’s what I do.  Now tie up her body.  Wouldn’t want the little lady squirmin’ around on us.”

For a second it looked as if Trixie wanted to kneel and say a prayer, but she held off; she just started wrapping up Sheila’s stomach -- and nothing more -- as quickly as she could, hoping her hands didn’t go too far out of line.  “Really, really, really sorry about this,” she said, tightening the cord with each pass.  “Please don’t call the cops on us.”

Sheila looked at her calmly -- at least as calmly as one could with a shotgun aimed at their face.  “You’re Lloyd’s friends, right?”

Trixie opened her mouth to speak, but Mrs. Overdose answered first.  “Yeah, we are.  Kid’s an idiot and a troublemaker, but I guess there ain’t a lot of words left to describe it.”

“Just friends, right?”

“I sure as hell don’t love him.  And I get the feelin’ that he thinks the same thing.  She looked past Sheila, noting Lloyd’s purple head nearly brushing up against her orange.  “I dunno if you noticed, but tryin’ to get the kid to love you is gonna take you more years than you got in you.  But then again, I’m thinkin’ that it works both ways.”

Trixie looked up at Mrs. Overdose.  “What’re ya talkin’ about?”

“Eh, just thinkin’ out loud.  Don’t worry your pretty little heads over it, girls.”

“But what about Lloyd?  I’m guessin’ he ain’t too keen on lettin’ ya talk about him like that.”

Mrs. Overdose pointed calmly at Lloyd’s head.  Sure enough, it had an uncharacteristic tilt -- likely because Lloyd himself had long since fallen asleep.  “It’s like he’s got nerves o’ steel,” Trixie muttered.

“Not quite.  He’s not just out because of one rough night.  He’s out because he knows we can handle whatever comes our way…and we can handle whatever job he gives us.  It’s a little thing called trust.  I’m guessin’ you’ve heard of it at least once, right?”

Trixie stood up and stepped away from the tied-up Sheila.  “What kinda loser d’ya take me -- never mind, I prob’ly don’t want an answer to that.”  She nodded slowly.  “But yeah, I hear ya.  Lloyd’s countin’ on us, and I guess he’s so willin’ to trust us that he’ll give us free range.”

“Looks like it.”  Mrs. Overdose aimed her shotgun at the ceiling and pulled the trigger.

Ka-SHELL SHOCK!

The blast brought down whole chunks of the ceiling (and bits of the Lloyd tributes plastered atop it).  Trixie jolted aside out of reflex, and Lloyd himself -- now fully awake, no doubt with a hammering heart -- would have done the same if he could.

“If I’m gonna go to work, I want my servant to do the same,” said Mrs. Overdose, ignoring the smoking barrel and the multitude of frightened youths.  “Although last time I checked, the master shouldn’t have to do anything.”

“T-true enough,” said Lloyd.  He turned back as far as he could to catch a glimpse of her.  “But make no mistake; I’ve no intention of violating the perceived pecking order society holds so dear.  In fact, the work -- for a given definition of the word -- will be done solely by your loyal aide, milady.  All I ask is that you pull up a seat and…”

“And?”

Lloyd shook his head and forced a laugh.  “Forgive me, for I misspoke.  I intend to put in a bit of effort, yes; in reality, however, it shall be Miss O’Leary who handles the true business of the day.  I’m more than a bit distraught that it’s come to this, but I see no better alternative.  I’ve no choice but to -- as they say -- ‘get a little rough’.”

Sheila wobbled in her chair.  “Wh-what are you going to do to me?” she asked through cascades of snot.

“Very little in comparison to you.  Miss Walters, if you would offer our comrade a seat?  Have it within reach of Miss O’Leary, preferably.”

“Ugh, I dunno what’s goin’ on, pal, but…”  Trixie grabbed the remains of a Lloyd statue and dragged it in front of Sheila -- and after a glance that lasted a bit too long for comfort, she jolted back to the wall adjacent to her. 

“Yes, that should do it.”  Lloyd bobbed his head toward Trixie.  “Now then, milady.  Hand off your weapon to Miss Walters, and take a seat.”

“You want me to give my gun to Marianne Gordon?  What are you, brain-dead?  What if those deep-fried instincts of hers kick in and she --”

“You can trust Miss Walters,” said Lloyd.  “Just as she trusts you.  Just as I trust you.”

Mrs. Overdose swished her reed around for a moment.  She glanced at Trixie, then Sheila, and finally back to Lloyd; her grip on the gun started to loosen, but it tightened a half-second later.  “I don’t like it when other people touch my guns.  Especially when --”

“I would think that you’d be eager to take a bit of rest, milady.  After all, I wouldn’t want any mishaps to take place while Miss O’Leary gives you a foot rub.”

“Foot rub?!” Trixie shouted.

“Foot rub?” Sheila asked.

But Mrs. Overdose didn’t say a word.  She just tossed her gun into Trixie’s hands and started to smile.

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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