Dawn inhaled & exhaled deeply ’fore turning round. However, her eyes ne’er crossed Edgar’s; they were glued to the carpet while her lips moved mere millimeters.
“We’ll have to think o’ a way to sneak that Genie back from Lance. It’s the only way we’ll be able to revive Autumn,” said Dawn, her voice holding only a shell o’ its normal tone.
Edgar nodded slowly.
“There’s no way we’ll be able to follow his copter… ¿D’you think he’d go back to Atlas Tower?” asked Dawn.
“I don’t know.”
Dawn strode o’er to Autumn’s laptop still left open. Staring @ its screen, she could see a notepad program with a few lines o’ notes typed in.
Edgar remained standing in the middle o’ the living room, feeling as vulnerable as in an arctic blizzard. ¿Had it truly become colder, or was that his situation that tricked him into thinking so?
He gazed @ Autumn’s corpse, the still frame o’ her sleeping self, as jarring as if he’d suddenly found himself in a 1920s black-&-white movie. Though he could feel bile, mucus, & tears flood his throat, nose, & eyeholes the longer he watched Autumn, he also couldn’t yank his sight ’way, as if her carcass were a barb on which he was stuck, from which ’twas impossible to free himself, impaling him the mo’ he stayed. It sucked him in like a black hole, everything outside vanishing.
Edgar was startled out o’ this when Dawn abruptly said, “Wait. Autumn got these tracker things, ¿didn’t she?”
Edgar turned to see Dawn leaning down o’er the couch, holding the mouth o’ Autumn’s pack out from under the table, Dawn’s hand inside.
“& it’s open now,” she continued. “¿D’you know if she put 1 on the Genie?”
“I dunno,” Edgar said with a tone o’ dying batteries.
“¿How does she track these things?” Dawn said as she picked up the packet for a closer look.
“I dunno,” Edgar said ’gain. “She ne’er told me.”
Dawn frowned. “Hmm…”
She looked back up @ the monitor & crept her hand toward the mouse as if ’fraid o’ breaking it.
Edgar felt an icy wind stab inside his chest so sharply he almost gasped. ¿Will she be able to revive Autumn somehow? He stumbled to Dawn’s side & saw a list onscreen, which flashed ’way & changed as she began typing. Looking @ the top bar o’ the window, Edgar could see the word “History.”
Though Edgar hadn’t planned to ask, Dawn answered his silent question: “I’m searching her history to see if there’s any website Autumn uses to track these things. Hopefully this is it.”
She double-clicked the line that said “cPanel | StarTracker – The world leader in item-tracking …” @ the top, only to be met with a menu asking her to log in.
“Shit,” Dawn muttered. “You wouldn’t happen to know her password, ¿would you?”
Dawn’s eyes became increasingly desperate as she stared @ the screen.
Then Dawn glanced @ him so suddenly it felt like an arrow to the lungs. He knew he was quivering, knew his face was ’bout to crumble & that his chest was funneling in extra air just to keep it from doing so. He tried to stop—please, stop.
She patted his hand & said, “It’ll be all right. We’ll get that Genie back.”
“Here. Sit,” she said as she scooted o’er.
Edgar nodded silently & sat.
Dawn slid her blanket out from under her & wrapped it round Edgar’s shoulder like a cape. Then she grasped Edgar by the shoulder & pressed him toward her.
“If, uh, you need…”
“No… No, that’s OK. Thanks. You… I shouldn’t distract you from what you’re doing. It’s… I’m not the 1 who needs help.”
Vision still burning & blurry, but beginning to clear, Edgar watched Dawn slide the cursor to a tiny link that said “Forgot Password” & clicked it, only to curse ’gain when the next page asked her for her email.
“I… I do know her email,” said Edgar.
“Yes, but—O wait.” Dawn bent toward the keyboard. “¿What service does she use?”
“OK, let’s see…” Dawn typed in the URL & slammed the enter key. Then she held her breath & clutched her fist as the bar filled with blue, only to gasp when she saw a list o’ email titles with “firstname.lastname@example.org” in bold @ the top. He noticed her smile, & then cringe & sniff as if sick. She highlighted it, copied it, & pasted it into the other tab.
“Well, let’s hope this goes well,” she said, tone bassless.
She clicked the button & then switched back to the other tab.
“Guess I need to refresh it,” she said as she clicked the tiny arrow-cycle icon next to the URL bar.
But when the page reloaded, it just showed the same offers for Croissant Isle booty, female booty, & FredMart discounts.
“I guess we have to wait a while for it to be sent,” said Dawn.
Edgar wasn’t sure what Dawn did during the time they waited, for he was too preoccupied with breathing—a sensation he rarely thought o’; but now he had to do so much breathing that it filled his brain as well as his lungs.
After a period Edgar couldn’t measure, Dawn clicked the icon ’gain.
They leaned forward when they saw the words “StarTracker Password Reset” @ the top o’ the list.
Dawn clicked it & then the link. There they saw 2 bars: “New password” & “Confirm password.”
“Shit,” muttered Dawn. “Well, she can always change it to something better later.”
She typed in what looked like “password” from where Dawn seemed to press her fingers, & then clicked the “OK” button.
But then, as if the website were mocking them with its many delays, it made Dawn log in ’gain.
“I can only be glad that they use emails for usernames or we’d be screwed,” muttered Dawn.
They were finally led to table o’ icons. Dawn quickly clicked on the 1 that said “Tracker Map” ’neath.
“You know, she may ne’er have e’en put a tracker on the damn thing & this whole ordeal could be for nothing,” Dawn said breathlessly as they waited for the next page to load.
When the map popped onscreen, they saw ’twas a close-up owl-eyed view o’ their street. A whole colony o’ variegated dots were o’er Dawn’s apartment, while 1 green dot was in the middle o’ their street.
“¿What’s that s’posed to be?” Dawn asked as she pointed @ it on the screen. “That’s not—” Her voice filled with air. “He didn’t drop it & leave it right here, ¿did he?”
She jumped to her feet & opened the door a crack, Edgar followed right ’hind. There, in the middle o’ the street, they saw Lance Chamsby with his arms round his stomach, just standing there next to his golden copter while staring up while loud clacking sounds loomed ’bove. They followed Lance’s eyes up to a wide white copter slowly descending.
Edgar heard Dawn whisper in his ear, “We’ll either need to sneak the Genie from him ’fore he mounts, or sneak aboard.”
Edgar nodded, though he couldn’t understand how they’d do so. He could only hope Dawn was as resourceful as Autumn; he could only hope that Dawn didn’t expect the same o’ him.
Dawn backed ’way & shut the door.
“We’ll need disguises—quick,” she said just ’fore turning & scampering down the living room. Edgar turned to see her bending down next to a chair in a cluttered desk. He walked closer to get a better look. Without noting Edgar’s movement, she pushed the chair out & pulled out a flaking suitcase covered in colorful but deteriorated stickers. Opening it released a musty odor Edgar remembered from that secret closet in his & Autumn’s ol’ apartment. He was surprised by the nostalgia such a traumatic event would inspire in him.
Or maybe ’twas just him & Autumn venturing.
There will be time, he told himself: time for Autumn & time for me. For some reason, this only reminded him o’ his venture through the Spinach Swamp—though why, he didn’t know.
O. Duh: ’cause she…
He forced his mind off the topic & back onto Dawn ripping open a plastic bag full o’ what looked like fake moustaches.
“A’least I’m finally getting a chance to use these,” said Dawn, her voice jerky from the pressure the thick plastic took on her arms as she continued to tear @ it. “I only wish it weren’t so urgent.”
She began biting into it & finally ripped a hole big ’nough for her to tear through. Upon extracting the moustaches, she handed 1 to Edgar.
“Put that on & 1 o’ those garbs,” Dawn said quickly. “¿You want the bathroom?”
“No. You can have it,” said Edgar. E’en if Autumn were… dead, he guessed he’d feel less discomfort from undressing in front o’ her than Dawn.
So Dawn dashed out with a pile o’ clothes & what looked like some kind o’ hat. Edgar thought it’d be smart for him to take 1, too, so he took 1 he knew wasn’t just like hers after trading his robe for a large jacket. He put the hood all the way o’er his head so that it’d conceal his skeletal face, & then covered his feet with big black boots.
As he did so, he heard a knock & Dawn say, “¿You decent?”
She exited, dressed in a striped business suit with a cane in-hand. He noticed that Dawn had folded her hair up so that only her front bangs showed just under her top hat.
“Sorry it took so long,” she said. “I had to move some o’ my potions. Anyway, ¿you ready?”
“Great. Let’s hope they haven’t left yet.”
She strode toward the door, only to stop suddenly & twisted her path toward the window.
“We’ll sneak out here,” she said as she lifted the blinds with 1 hand & waved a hand toward it with the other.
Edgar didn’t ask questions & walked forward immediately. Though the sill wasn’t that far from the ground, Dawn still offered him a boost, which he didn’t feel worth rejecting, & climbed down the other side, only to wait hanging on the edge.
“It’s safe to fall down: there’s bushes below.”
He’d had worse dangers to risk, & knew they had no time to hesitate; so he dropped immediately, cringing as he felt the thin branches smack gainst him & the feathery leaves poke him in the face.
He quickly swam back to flat grass so that Dawn wouldn’t fall on him, but waited by the side for further instructions.
It only took Dawn a few seconds to leap out o’ the bushes, & a few mo’ to wipe the leaves off her. Edgar copied her, only then realizing the suspicions they’d cause.
“We should walk out onto the sidewalk & act as if we’re walking down the street like we’re headed somewhere,” said Dawn.
Edgar nodded & followed her out. He kept his eyes on the sidewalk under him, refusing to let his eyes wander o’er to Lance or 1 o’ his henchmen & attract attention.
He didn’t need to to know what was going on, though: he could hear Lance barking so loud, it smothered the copter’s propeller thwacking just ’bove. Then, when Lance finished, he heard him start complaining just as loudly.
“Don’t bite my ass, Marmaduke.” The cool voice jarred Edgar. He knew it couldn’t be 1 o’ the crayon-called guards.
They walked past them for a dozen or so sidewalk tiles ’fore Dawn whispered, “OK, now we’re going to sneak onto the other side o’ the street & see if we can sneak onto the copter from the other side. Hopefully there aren’t any o’ those guards with the masks there or they’re not paying attention.”
Edgar didn’t bother asking what if 1 o’ those hopefullys didn’t apply. He knew from tagging ’long Autumn that there were some outcomes you couldn’t solve & that forced you to scrap the whole plan. He just hoped that this wasn’t 1 o’ them.
But they could already see that no one was on their side o’ the copter. & yet Edgar knew that someone on the other side might still see them.
Just keep your head down. No ’mount o’ looking will keep them from seeing us—it’ll only make it mo’ likely. ’Sides, Dawn’ll probably see them & warn if we need to run.
’Less she’s keeping her eyes off them, too.
’Fore he could worry ’bout that, though, they’d already reached the copter’s side. He saw Dawn stand just in front o’ the door, arm hanging just in front o’ the handle. He could imagine the question running through her head: ¿Dare I?
She dared. She gripped it & slowly pulled it back. Edgar breathed easily @ its silence. She scooted in, only to stand & climb o’er the back o’ the seats, & then hold her hands out to help Edgar up.
So long as it hides us as quickly as possible, he thought as he pulled himself up by the seat top while Dawn pulled him up by his sides.
They squeezed into the back, ducking under the chair tops. Edgar wanted to ask Dawn if she thought they were seen or if she thought no one would see them on the trip up, & what she thought they might do to them if they were caught, or say anything to relax his tension just a li’l bit…
’Stead, he saw Dawn pull a big blanket out from under her jacket as if doing a magic trick. When ’twas all the way out, she threw it o’er them both, & then pulled the edge so that it covered them, leaving Edgar to shiver in darkness.
O, I’m such a horrible person.
Try as she might, Dawn couldn’t stop giggling. She knew there was nothing funny ’bout the situation they found themselves in; she tried to tell that to whatever was causing those dratted chortles to ’scape her throat; but they didn’t seem to want to listen.
She wanted to apologize to Edgar, who probably found these sounds as soothing as a trebuchet in the atrium; she wanted to ’splain that ’twas due to the tickling from her squirming nerves; but she didn’t dare make mo’ noise than she needed & risk revealing them to their rivals.
So she tightened her hands gainst her mouth & bit her lips. Hopefully, the noises ’head o’ them would distract her.
She could hear a pair o’ shoes tink gainst the metal ground. The absence o’ cloth’s soft scraping told her that it wasn’t Chamsby. Each tink caused a shiver to reverberate from Edgar into Dawn through his thick raincoat arms wrapped round her. ’Twas only then that she’d noticed him doing so. It’s warmth was so surprising that she actually felt bad ’bout returning the favor.
O, androgyn. ¿What’s wrong with you? Comforting him’s 1 thing, but could you keep from getting gooey ’bout it when his love’s just kicked the can.
Nothing I can do ’bout it. She wanted to laugh. Knowing Autumn, she’d be mo’ annoyed by focusing on such a petty problem with fatter lobsters to broil.
So she did just that:
The 1st thing she heard was someone saying, “Here’s your drink, Sir,” followed by a slurp.
Then O’Beefe’s voice appeared: “I must say, you’ve been quite rude to your faithful vizier.” He took a few mo’ steps. “All this help giving you a ride when your genius henchmen forget to turn the car battery off in your not-car, & you still won’t let me see your new toy.” His steps ceased. “I’ll tell you what: you show me it & I’ll let you see some o’ my toys. ¿Eh? ¿Eh? You look like you could use some, sour-vag.”
“I have no time for your shenanigans,” said Chamsby. Porcelain clinked. “Just hurry me to Atlas Tower.”
“Aw, don’t tell me that thief who looks like a man turned you down ’gain.”
“For your information, I’ve finally rid the world o’ that vile looter.”
“¿Sick o’ her already?”
“I was sick o’ her since I 1st met her.”
“So, ¿what’cha planning to do with that new toy you found?” asked O’Beefe.
“I take it you’ve researched the Script Genie,” said Lance, his voice drier than sand.
“¿Does it actually work?”
“It worked on the looter, that’s for sure.”
“That can’t be all you want to do with it.”
“No: I have important things to do.” Dawn could hear the sneer in his voice.
There was a pause, followed by Lance saying in a much lighter tone, “You know, I wasn’t looking for this Script Genie when I came here to finally do the duty o’ noble men & eliminate the queen o’ looters—& yet it so easily fell into my lap. What a sign. This obviously has social significance.”
“Sure.” Dawn could hear by how drawn-out ’twas that O’Beefe didn’t agree.
“As a moral authority, I have a duty to use this device as man has a duty to use any other resources in a way that improves the world—& that means using it to free us from the remnants o’ creation-leeching that still infecting the world.” Chamsby’s voice rose. “In Boskeopolis, that decaying coop that’s parliament is the prime culprit—& the 1st target, to be given a taste o’ the very shot they use to ’cure’ others.” Dawn heard leather squeak & cloth swish. In a still-louder voice, Chamsby said, “Once we’ve cured Boskeopolis o’ its illnesses, the rest o’ the world can follow—that will be when the frauds o’ the Utopias promised to be handed to us shall finally fall from their own incoherence & shall be replaced by a true Utopia created purely by creative minds.”
’Nother pause. Dawn heard Chamsby’s chair squeak ’gain—probably sitting down ’gain.
“You appear bored by this revelation,” said Chamsby.
“Nah. ’Twas a sweet tale, son. Truly got my blood rushing,” said O’Beefe.
“I can see that.”
“¿You know how to use it yet?”
There was ’nother pause. “Through some guesswork I was able to figure out 1 use o’ it from that looter’s notes. If she could figure out as much as she did, I should have no problem figuring out the rest.”
“Well, now that that exciting story’s finished, I was wondering if you wanted to hear ’bout my day,” said O’Beefe. “’Twas sure a hoot.”
“I’m sure you’ll tell me, anyway.”
While O’Beefe told Sir Chamsby his entrancing tale o’ riding multiple motorcycles through Peppermint Pond, which Dawn was sure wasn’t fake in the slightest, she tried to devise a plan to sneak the Genie ’way.
I’m sure if Madame Trying to Kill Herself were here, she’d have some convoluted plan to snap that thing up in a skip.
“Now you seem to be the 1 becoming tired,” said O’Beefe.
“I’ve had a long day,” Chamsby said slowly.
“Yeah. You must’ve. Too bad we ne’er installed that bed in here after all.”
“Yeah…” Then Chamsby yawned so loudly, Dawn could hear it all the way on the other side o’ her blanket.
This was followed by a soft squeak, & then the soft kl-kl-kl-kl Dawn immediately recognized from her college years as snoring.
This is my chance. ¿What did Edgar say Autumn said? “Victories are oft found in lucky circumstances,” or something else that sounds like it should be in a fortune brownie.
¿But what ’bout all those guards & O’Beefe? ¿What are the chances that all o’ them’ll go to sleep, too? It’s not like I can just pop out & start frisking Chamsby while they just stand there watching.
That was when she heard Edgar’s voice whisper in her ear—so suddenly & so surprising that she almost jumped.
“I think this might be our chance to sneak it ’way. If you want, I can go out & distract the others from Lance while you sneak the Genie from Lance.”
It’s better than anything I can think o’—& they’ve probably already tried it successfully a few times before.
She put her mouth to where she thought Edgar’s eardrum would be & whispered, “’K.”
She felt a gust o’ cold air as an edge o’ the blanket rose, only to fall back down a beat later.
“Um, ¿boss? ¿O’Beefe?” said a guard’s weak voice.
O’Beefe laughed. “Uh O. Looks like the thief’s girlfriend’s gotten jealous o’ Chamsby ol’ boy.”
“Stop, Sir. ¿Can’t you see he’s resting? ¿How’d you get in here, anyway? ¿Why are you so rude? ¿Did your mother not love you ’nough? ¿Was that why? That’s usually wh—Hey, you can’t go back there. Get out o’ there.” The voice became tinny @ the end, complemented by metallic footsteps.
“¿Is Chamsby sure he killed that 1 broad, or is that just his metaphor for finally hitting the net with her?” asked O’Beefe. “’Cause this looks suspiciously like a diversion.”
Shit. I didn’t think o’ that: ¿what if they don’t all follow Edgar?
“But we saw her collapse on the floor,” said a guard.
“Hey, I’ve gotten girls to do that, too.” Dawn could hear the elbowing & sly grin through his voice.
She heard ’nother guard bitterly mutter, “Lucky.”
¿What’ll I do if Edgar’s caught?
¿What will they do if they catch Edgar?
“Got him, Sir.”
“Quite a struggler, ¿aren’t you?” said O’Beefe. “¿Were you that vigorous in bed with Madame Mortis, ol’ champ? ¿Or will she suddenly rise from the dead somewhere in here?”
There was a pause, filled only with Edgar’s sniffing. Dawn’s head rang with, ¡Go out there & help the poor guy! & ¡Don’t go out! ¡It’d be worthless to screw us both o’er! @ the same time.
Then she heard Edgar say, “Y-y-yes.”
“No need to be shy, sweet cheeks,” said O’Beefe. “¿Is she hiding somewhere in this copter? There’s cookies in it if you tell us—that & not being thrown out the door to shatter like glass gainst the pavement 50 meters below.”
Dawn had the urge to rip the blanket off o’er her head &… &… ¿Who says something so awful?
“Y-y-yes, she’s in here.” Edgar gulped. “Sh-sh-she wanted me to lead you somewhere this way so you could run into a trap she made. I-I can show you.”
’Nother pause, followed by O’Beefe saying, “Why, that sounds like a joyous romp, ¿don’t you all think? Too bad Grampa Chamsby will have to miss it. Gotta have his beauty rest, though. Lead the way, Boner Boy.”
She heard mo’ metallic footsteps. After half a minute or so, she opened the blanket a centimeter just to see outside, & saw that the room was empty.
Then she threw the blanket off & rushed o’er to Chamsby, only to feel her whole body spark with blood-pumping paralysis, her hand stretched out, but frozen in a stiff fist.
¿How do I do this without waking him?
¡You don’t have time to think, stupid! ¡Go! ¡Now!
She bent o’er & felt round his robe, trying not to giggle @ how weird it felt. This is usually funner when they’re ’wake.
Luckily, it didn’t take long to feel the rubber & plastic o’ the Script Genie in Chamsby’s right pocket.
“Bro, you just can’t get the babes off you.”
Dawn yanked the Genie out & swung round to see O’Beefe slowly pacing back into the room with his arms tied ’hind his back, mouth erect.
“’Fraid he’s sleep, raisin bran. ’Less you’re into that kind o’ thing.” O’Beefe winked & clicked his tongue.
Dawn stepped back as she stared @ the Genie, frantically searching for a way to do something to stop him, only to trip o’er something, knocking her to the floor, ’long with her top hat.
“You should be careful, Madame: that stuff’s probably spiked with the voodoo juices.”
¡Shit! Should’ve planned mo’ when I had the chance.
Well, ¿what was I s’posed to do? ¡I hardly had time to do anything!
Autumn’s voice entered her head ’gain: “What you’re s’posed to do for everyone else is lose. Your odds are just as low as your enemies want them to be.”
Dawn scrambled backward like a crab, still staring @ the Genie, only to feel O’Beefe’s weight jump on her, followed by his leather hands holding her arms down.
He whispered, “No need to scream, Einstein. You’re not my type: only the Genie is. ’Course, if you did scream, that’d only bring Chambsy’s Crayon Club out here—& they’re on my side, remember.”
Dawn glanced ’way for ideas. This is what you should’ve been doing this whole time. There was no chance in Hades you’d be able to use that convoluted device without research; but there could be stuff here I could use.
But she got her idea when she saw O’Beefe’s eyes follow hers. With 1 sudden gesture, she shoved O’Beefe off, kicking her foot into him to pull his hands off. Then she jumped to her feet & pulled the cracked bat out from ’hind her back.
“Hey, that’s some nifty magic trick you did there,” O’Beefe said as he slowly rose to his feet, still smiling.
“I don’t like to hurt people; but if I have to, I will.” She could guess from her wobbling arms, stiff expression, & shaky voice that O’Beefe might not be convinced.
Still stepping backward from him, she continued, “I have to revive Autumn. If you want to keep this for whatever reason, I don’t care, I can give it back to you after I’ve used it to revive her. ¿Got it?”
She knew he’d ne’er accept it; & yet, to her surprise, she saw him stop with pensive eyes.
Then they heard a shout echo through the hall to their side, “Hey, ¿Vizier? ¿Are you OK?”
O’Beefe’s mouth twisted.
The guard continued, “¿Did you get trapped in a trap? I don’t think this skeleton guy is telling the truth.”
¡Think! ¡Quick! ¡While he’s distracted!
OK… Let’s think ’bout what I need to do… I already have the Genie. Now all I have to do is rescue Edgar & ’scape.
She turned & ran down the hallway.
“I think that’s the last direction you want to go in, sugar crisps—’less you want to fight 8 guards @ once,” O’Beefe said ’hind, his voice trailing through the hall’s throat.
As she clambered down the dim hallway, she snuck the Genie into 1 o’ her many pockets in her pants.
If only I’d remembered to pick up my hat: I might’ve been able to fool them into thinking I’m Chamsby waken up ’gain.
& I still need to figure out how we’re gonna get out o’ this copter after I’ve saved him…
She didn’t have time to worry ’bout that now, however: she saw the guards in their golden tuxedos & red-&-white masks just ’head, Edgar standing next to them with his head down & his sleeve-covered hands gripping each other tightly.
They all—including Edgar—turned to the sound o’ Dawn’s pounding steps.
“Hey, ¿who are you?” 1 o’ said the guards. “¿How d’you guys keep getting in here? ¿D’you care nothing ’bout private property?”
Dawn didn’t respond, despite how rude ’twas. ’Stead, she charged forward with her bat held high in 1 hand & scooped Edgar with the other.
That was when she realized that just ’hind Edgar was a wall surrounded with junk.
“Hey, you don’t look like the ponytailed devil,” said the same guard as before. “¿Where’s your ponytail?”
Worth a throw.
She turned to the same guard with the haughtiest expression she could give, fists pressed gainst her sides.
Trying as hard as she could to emulate Chamsby’s nasally voice, she said with a whisper, “It’s me, you idiots.”
The guard scratched his head. “You don’t look like Mayor Chamsby.”
“It’s a disguise, stupid,” said Dawn, squinting 1 o’ her eyes in what she hoped looked like a leer.
“You don’t e’en sound like Chamsby.”
Dawn threw her arms up. Still whispering, but with a hoarser tone, she said, “¿What part o’ my whispering do you not understand? Be quiet.”
The guard rubbed his chin. “¿Weren’t you 1 o’ the people there with the ponytailed devil & her skeleton partner?”
“O, O.” ’Nother guard raised his hand. “It’s the… it’s the reason why we’re s’posed to be quiet I don’t understand, Sir.”
“To be fair, Chamsby does usually tell us to shut up.”
She leaned closer to them & whispered, “I don’t trust O’Beefe.”
“You told us that already, Mayor, Sir.”
“No, no.” The original guard held his hand out to the previous speaker. “That’s his proof that he’s truly Chamsby. No one else would know this.”
They all nodded ’mong themselves.
“That… jerk…” Dawn tried not to cringe. ¿What kind o’ words does he use, ’gain? I know he talked kinda funny is all. “That jerk tried to spike my drink & make me fall asleep so he could steal the Genie I found fair & circle. When I pretended to sleep out there, I felt him try.”
The guard said, “O, gee, Sir. ¿You sure it wasn’t just a bad dream? That kinda stuff happens to me all the time.”
Dawn’s eyes darkened. “I think I can tell the difference ’tween dream & reality… I’m no… communist, ¿’K?” She realized how weak that sounded as an emulation that she almost laughed right there.
“Um, ¿what do you want us to do then?” asked a guard, voice rising in unease.
“I need you to keep by my side,” whispered Dawn. Then she glared @ Edgar, causing him to shake. ¿Is that acting or not? “& I want this… I want it by my side, too. Lord… Rand knows how… O’Beefe will screw this up.”
I have to stop getting nervous. This is terrible.
But the guards didn’t show any suspicion; in fact, they showed excitement, vigorously nodded & saying, “No problem, Mayor, Sir.”
“Also, ¿is there a way we can leave this copter without O’Beefe knowing?”
“I wouldn’t know, Sir,” said 1 o’ the guards. “There may be parachutes & stuff in here. ¿But isn’t that kinda dangerous? You don’t think Vizier O’Beefe is so dangerous that we can’t wait till we’re @ Atlas Tower, ¿do you?”
“Yes. ¿Do you e’en know if we’re truly heading there?”
“I sure hope,” said 1 o’ them: “Courage the Cowardly Dog is on in an hour.”
Though Dawn wanted to laugh, she had to remind herself that she was Chamsby, & he was such a grump that he’d ne’er find that funny. ’Stead, in the grumpiest tone she could fake, she said, “¿Hasn’t that show ended years ago? ¿Can’t you just get a DVD or something?”
“It’s not the same if it’s not in the order o’ the channel programmers,” the guard said in a tone that indicated he’d stick by his water pistols.
Dawn shook her head & pinched the bridge o’ her nose. “I don’t care. Look, ¿do we have a way out or not?”
“I don’t think so…”
“¿How high are we?”
“Too high to fall out without becoming a pancake on the way down.”
“Luxembourg.” Dawn was proud o’ that 1. See, the teachers were right: history is useful when you need to know the names o’ famous socialists when you’re pretending to be an Ayn-Randian who uses their names as curse words. She drummed her fingers together. She was pretty certain he did that. Actually, she only remembered what he did ’cause she remembered Autumn doing it a lot, too.
Then her eyes widened.
“Do you still have any o’ that…” Shit. ¿What did he drink? “¿Do you still have that drink you gave me?”
“You were the 1 who had it last,” said 1 o’ the guards.
“No,” Dawn’s voice deepened. “I mean… ¿did it come out o’ a container or something?”
“I think it comes out o’ a bottle.”
Dawn put a hand to her mouth. “Hmm… We need to think o’ a way to make O’Beefe drink it himself so he falls asleep.”
“¿Where is O’Beefe, anyway?” asked the guard. “¿Is he still looking out for the ponytailed devil?”
“That was just a ruse…” But then Dawn’s brows twisted. “Actually… Where did he go?”
I was glad he hadn’t appeared yet, as he could probably break my cover… ¿but why hadn’t he come out here to do so? ¿What’s he think I’m doing?
Maybe he just expects the guards to have captured me & done me in already & that they’re just taking a long time.
I can’t imagine what else he’s doing…
¿Should I go out there now or wait?
¿Wait till what?
“Follow me,” Dawn said with a swoop o’ her arm in her direction.
She led them down the hall back to the main room to see O’Beefe sitting back in a couch chair with his arms tied ’hind his head & a leg crossed perpendicularly to the other’s knee.
“I was wondering what was taking you all so long,” he said. “I see you found Boner Boy’s replacement toy.” He pointed a finger gun @ Edgar. “Dames love the bones, ¿eh, kid?”
Dawn ignored him. ’Stead, her attention was rapt by Chamsby still sleeping on the couch-looking seat.
Dawn muttered as quietly as she could, “Pretend I’m your captive & that that double on the couch is me.”
“¿What’s that?” the guard said loudly to her side.
He bent next to her mouth & she repeated it.
“Uh, you should…” the guard began in an attempted demanding tone. “You should be sorry. ¿OK? Yeah.”
O’Beefe wiggled his raised foot. “Aw, ¿no mo’ verve? That’s a drat-doggone shame.” He looked up @ the guards. “I want to search her. I think she’s stolen something o’ mine.”
Dawn’s eyes widened. She turned to what she assumed by now was the lead guard. “¿W-what? ¿He’s lying?”
“I think you have that backward, kid,” said O’Beefe.
The lead guard said, “Um, we’d better search her, Sir. She may be dangerous.”
“Aw, you don’t think I’m rude ’nough to put you to that much trouble, ¿do you?” said O’Beefe.
“No trouble @ all, Sir. Just my job,” said the guard.
O’Beefe spread his hands. “I tell ya what: I like balance—you all search Boner Boy & I’ll search Richie Bitch.”
The lead guard stuttered as he spoke: “I-I-I’m ’fraid we can’t let you do that, Vizier. Mayor Chamsby’s orders are that we protect you.”
O’Beefe began rubbing his mouth. “Well, golly, that’s sure a surprise. I was pretty sure the guy with a hard on for that ugly Russian dominatrix o’ his was gainst people being protected for their own good. Sounds kinda commie to me, bro.”
’Nother guard stumbled out, “I-I… She has something o’ mine & I want to get it.”
O’Beefe snapped in his direction. “I can get it for you, pal. No questions or comments ’bout whatever boy-toy mags you might have.”
This’ll ne’er end ’less I do something.
Dawn stepped forward & aimed a finger @ O’Beefe, causing the latter’s smile to grow.
“’Nough, Vizier. It’s obvious that you know who I truly am. Regardless, your attempt to sabotage me has been foiled.”
O’Beefe clasped his hands together on his lap. “I’m ’fraid I didn’t know who you were, but I had a guess.” He held a hand out toward Chamsby. “¿Then am I to take this man sleeping on this couch as an impostor? Perhaps it’s the ponytailed devil herself risen from the flaming hells o’ Cuba to slander you.”
Dawn tried to match Chamsby’s usual sideways frown as much as possible & said, “That’s none o’ your concern, Vizier.”
“I must say, that’s awfully rude,” O’Beefe said as he crossed his arms. “¿How can I tell you’re truly Count Pennybags? ¿Couldn’t you a’least take off that disguise to prove it?”
This time Dawn crossed her arms. “I’m not playing your games, Vizier. My henchmen know who I am.”
She saw them hesitate ’fore nodding, a few e’en murmuring in agreement.
“Well, I don’t want to be rude, but it’s not like they’ve ne’er been tricked before, ¿eh, guys?” O’Beefe flicked his wrist toward them.
They paused ’gain, & then the leader said, “Um… No, Sir… I mean, Vizier.”
O’Beefe tapped his hands together while smirking.
“Seems we’re @ a wicked stalemate then, mate.”
Dawn thrust her finger into the air. “¡Socialist lies! I have complete control & I will use that to demand you land this copter immediately so that I may ’scape to safety.”
O’Beefe’s mouth cracked open into a smile.
“¿Don’t you mean ‘socialistic,’ Mayor?”
Dawn glared @ him. “Don’t correct me, Vizier. I didn’t spend my entire life learning ’bout the evils o’ socialism to have you correct me.”
“My deepest apologies, Mayor,” said O’Beefe. “I’ll do as you say.”
He rose, walked o’er to a door, & slid it open, causing air to suck out & out. He sat with a smile ignorant o’ his fluttering hair.
Dawn’s eyes bulged. “¿Are you nuts?”
“You asked my to let you go.”
Dawn tightened her fists to her sides. “I told you to stop this stupid thing, 1st.”
O’Beefe spread his arms. “My deepest apologies, Mayor. Your instructions were confusing. Honest mistake. All right.”
But then he raised a hand to his chin. “But I’m curious… ¿What should we do with the double who’s ‘none o’ my business’, but is apparently to be left to my business once you’ve ‘’scaped to safety’?”
Dawn’s eyes narrowed. “We’re taking him with us, ’course.”
“Hmm. That’s swell. Wouldn’t want him to wake up with just ol’ dangerous me here & have an early Muertoween scare.” O’Beefe flicked his wrist ’gain as he leaned on 1 arm o’ his chair. “Though, perhaps it’d be safer to wake him now to prevent any confusion.”
This time Dawn smiled. “That may be quite difficult Vizier. I’m sure you know why.”
O’Beefe clasped his hands together. “You’ve thought o’ everything. I guess that’s why you’re Mayor.”
He stood & paced toward Chamsby, looking down with his fist in his mouth, eyes pensive.
After taking his fist out his mouth, O’Beefe continued, “But you forgot 1 thing.”
O’Beefe suddenly flew @ Dawn, knocking her onto the ground ’gain, while he jammed his arm into 1 o’ her front jacket pockets.
“Wow, you have so many o’ these things,” said O’Beefe.
Dawn pushed @ him futilely while shouting, “¡Stop this… lunatic looter!”
The guards jerked as if woken from a dream, & then leaned toward O’Beefe, only to stop centimeters ’way from him, as if blocked by an invisible forcefield.
“Calm down, toots; I’m only looking for what’s mine,” said O’Beefe.
After failing with all o’ her front pockets, O’Beefe patted round for it. “Aha,” he said just before sliding a hand into her pants.
Dawn reached back for her bat, only to feel O’Beefe already sliding the Genie out an inside pocket. By the time she detached it from its holder, O’Beefe was already running ’way.
“Stop, Vizier,” 1 o’ the guards said as if trying to sound assertive, but not so assertive that one woke anybody.
Dawn jumped to her feet & ran @ O’Beefe, grasping O’Beefe’s hands ’fore he could pocket the Genie. They yanked @ it back & forth ala Tug-o’-War, devolving into twisting, & then O’Beefe sweeping Dawn to the ground, which was replied with a shove, causing O’Beefe to topple onto the ground with an impact so strong, the Genie bounced right out his hands.
It bounced toward the wind, a sliver o’ light shining gainst its topmost edge from the dim blue light outside. The wind sucked it in till it disappeared.
This image stuck in Dawn’s mind so strongly that she felt as if she had simply been paralyzed while it went on.
Lance Chamsby always hated that feeling one gets ’pon waking in the middle o’ the afternoon: the dry throat; the sweltering, & yet also the chill; the dull throb in the forehead…
He didn’t have time to deal with that anymo’, though. He sat up abruptly, chest seizing as he tried to remember his context.
Think o’ how much stronger we humans would be if we ne’er needed to sleep.
“¿Have a nice rest, sleepykins?”
Lance would recognize that slick voice & jocular tone anywhere. His head swung in its direction & was unsurprised to see O’Beefe sitting there casually, a leg tottering slightly on-knee.
Then it came back to him. Lance shoved his hands into his robe.
“I’ll save you time & tell you that you don’t have it anymo’, Chamsby ol’ boy. That’s what beauty rest’ll get you.”
Lance stood & aimed a finger @ him. “¡You scoundrel! ¡You were the one who drugged me to sleep!”
O’Beefe’s mouth was a mock frown. “¿Et tu, Chamsby? You should thank your faithful servants for mistaking you for a bespectacled black woman with dark hair.”
Lance stopped, scrutinizing O’Beefe. Then his eyes widened & his finger shook.
“A friend o’ your dead boygirlfriend.”
Lance stopped, eyes narrowing ’gain. He glanced @ his guards to see them shiver with fear. Why, he couldn’t confirm.
I’ll have to ask them the truth o’ this when O’Beefe isn’t breathing o’er my neck.
“But since you’re so rudely distrustful o’ me, I’m sure you don’t want me to join you in chasing the… ¿What’s this new 1 called? ¿The ‘onion-haired looter’? I guess she doesn’t have it in that style anymo’. Too bad. You should’ve seen it—I’m sure it’ll be the rage ’mong the kiddies.”
Lance ignored him. ¿What’s his goal? ¿Does he not want to come ’long with me so he can… try what?
Maybe you’re being paranoid.
Hmmph. It’s not as if someone as simpleminded as he could be much threat, anyway. E’en if he did put me to sleep, I can see here the extent o’ his amazing planning: he has the will, but lacks the skill.
Lance looked up. “You do what you want. I need to have a private meeting with my underlings.”
O’Beefe mock-frowned ’gain. “I take it I’m not invited.”
“No,” Lance said as he turned & headed down the hall. His underlings followed with their heads hanging down like students on their way to the principal’s.
To be continued…