London's Treasures
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 8
Chapter 8 of 12

“Science fair!”  David and Wesley screamed as they jumped up and down, raising their arms high then smacking their palms together.  “Science fair!”  They screamed together again.


“What are you dorks yelling about?”  David’s sister Lisa said coarsely as she walked into the den they were in.


“The science fair.  We’re going to enter it again this year, Wesley and I are, we’re going to win this year too, second place, is first loser.”  David replied.


Lisa rolled her eyes.  “Dorks.”  In a falsetto higher than her normal voice she said, “science fair, science fair, science fair.”  She returned to her normal voice.  “Only dorks like you two would get excited over a lame assed science fair.  Losers.”


“Better than being a sweater monkey.  Cheer competitions, now that’s for losers.  What good is that anyways, being a cheerleader.  Your future will be swinging around a pole for dollars!”  David went on, ending with sticking his tongue out at his sister.


She scoffed.  “Yeah, you nerds will be the ones throwing dollars at girls at a strip club, only way you’re ever going to see girls naked; dorks like you,” she scoffed again, “probably die virgins.”


“I’m not a virgin.”  Wesley interjected, unnoticed by either of his counterparts in the room with him.


“I’ve seen your boobs, that counts, and I didn’t have to give you a dollar to see them, that counts, so you’re wrong, as usual.”  David retorted then looked at Wesley and motioned towards his sister with a thumb out from a fisted hand.  “Low IQ.”


“Gross.  I’m your sister, my boobs don’t count; you weren’t supposed to be home anyways and I was just getting out of the shower when you walked in, creep, pervert.”  Lisa defended herself with.


David snorted and giggled.  “Yeah, I’d say they don’t count, wasn’t anything to see anyways.  Spider bites, that’s all they were.”  He cachinnated hard.  “Spider bites would’ve been bigger!”  He teased.


Lisa scoffed hard.  “Twerp.  You and your little chess club losers.  You’ve never even kissed a girl, maybe a boy…”


“No!  I have not kissed no boy!  And I have kissed a girl.  So have you, your cheer-sluts, kiss them all the time and like it!”  David went falsetto now.  “Look at me, I’m a sweater monkey, I twerk in spandex, and everybody knows what my beaver looks like.” 


“Yeah, well at least I have a life.  All you and him do is play chess, science fair this, science fair that, boring!  You couldn’t handle a cheer competition.  Hell, you get worn out walking from the den to the kitchen, wimpy little brat.”  Lisa replied rather angry now.


“Oh yeah sweater monkey?  Smart people make everything.  Those cheerleading outfits you wear, you wouldn’t have them if a smart person didn’t invent the loom, or the sewing machine.  You can do your pyramid because of science, physics.  What do cheerleaders and jocks make?”  He made a face at her now.  “Nothing, that’s what.  Know why cheerleaders don’t go out in the rain?  Because they’d drown from looking up with their mouths open!”  David laughed at his own joke, Wesley was quiet and watching Lisa.


“Cheerleaders and jocks make something, more money than you ever will, loser.”  Lisa retorted.


“Bill Gates, smart person, makes more money than every NFL player and cheerleader combined.”  David argued back.


Lisa gave him the finger then left the room.


“Brain one, cheer-slut, zero!”  He said claiming some sort of victory for himself.  David looked back to Wesley now.  “What?”  He said seeing his face.  “You ogling my sister or something?  Gross.”


“Lisa’s got nice boobs, I like ‘em.”  Wesley said meekly.


“What boobs?  She hasn’t got any, shit dude, your sister’s got better boobs than Lisa.”  David made a girly shape with his hands.  “She’s f-i-n-e.”  He said suggestively.


Wesley made a disgusted face.  “Wendy?”  He shook his head.  “She’s thirteen dude.”  He smiled now.  “Your sister is hot dude; I’d fuck Lisa.”


Now it was David’s turn to make a disgusted face.  “Gross!  Lisa?  She’s been rode more times than a rollercoaster.”  After giving the thumbs down sign he said. “So Wendy’s thirteen, when I’m twenty five, she’ll be twenty three, it’s only two years, and she’s nice, cute, funny, she makes me laugh.  She’s smart too.  Lisa’s a box of rocks dude, you can do a lot better.”


“Lisa’s not stupid David, you just say that because she’s your sister.  Sure, she’s no Rhodes Scholar, but she’s not stupid like most cheer-sluts; she’s… you know… normal.”


“Whatever dude.”  David said with disdain.  “If you wait for her, you will die a virgin.  She likes jocks, you know, all the other boys that pick on us, beat us up in the halls.  Shoot, if you did score with her you’d probably catch something that would make your wiener turn black and fall off.”


Wesley picked something up from the table near them and tossed it at David.  “I’m not a virgin!”  He yelled.


“Oh yeah?  Who’d you score with?  Your hand?”  He retorted and laughed as he moved his hand like was jacking off.


“Never mind.”


“See, I knew it, you’ve never even seen a boob or got to feel one.”


Wesley spoke quietly when he replied.  “Yeah I have, several times.  Been further with a girl than you have.”


David stopped giggling and became serious.  “You have?  Who?  You’ve got to tell me dude, I’m your best friend.”


Wesley shook his head and looked down.


“Come on Wesley, we tell each other everything.  Holding out on me is like… lying you know.  If you can’t tell me… shoot, who can you tell?  I’d tell you.”  David urged.


“You promise you won’t tell anyone?”  Wesley asked with severe worry in his voice.


David was shaking his head.  “No, I won’t tell anyone; who’d I tell anyways?  We’re outcasts; being we’re advanced, no one will talk to us.”


Wesley nodded hearing this, they were two grades ahead and the other kids shunned them.  “Okay.”  He took a deep breath as he looked off then released it through tight lips.  “Tessa Milroy.”


David’s face sprang to shock.  “No way!  Tessa Milroy?  But… she’s… in special ed Wesley!”


Wesley’s face became angry.  “She’s not stupid David!  She’s not in special ed, it’s special needs!  She’s smart, she just has family issues.  That’s why she’s there.  I like her, she’s nice to me and… she likes me.  You don’t know her at all David; if you did, you’d see she’s smart and really cool.”


“She rides the shorty bus dude!”


“See, I knew this was going to happen.”  Wesley commented looking dejected.  “That’s just the bus that picks her up from the girls home.”


David’s face became horrified.  “Girls home!  That’s where they send the bad girls dude!  You hang with her, shit Wesley, you get in trouble because of her, MIT, history dude!  Think of your future!”


Wesley sighed hard.  “It’s not like that David.  She’s not there because she’s bad, that’s at a different building.  She’s in like the safe house part.”  He looked down.  “Her mom’s a drunk and her dad’s in prison.  She’s there so she’ll have a safe environment, food, shelter, you know, the basics.  If she were at home…”  he became sad in the face, “she didn’t have food in the house usually; she always had dirty clothes at home.  Her bedroom…”  Wesley had a few tears roll down his cheek now.


David himself was hit with the emotional effects of what his friend had told him; he didn’t cry since he wasn’t as close to the situation as Wesley was, but he was still saddened by hearing this.  “Hey, Wesley, I’m sorry dude.  I didn’t know; that is messed up.  She’s lucky to have you as a friend, I mean that.”


Sniffing back hard and wiping his face, Wesley looked up at David with a light smile.  “Thanks.  She’s my girlfriend.”


David smirked.  “Yeah?  So, second base?  Third?  How far have you gotten?”  He asked.


Wesley broke into a laugh.  “Homerun dude.”


“No way, really?  Tell me dude, tell me!”


With a giggle Wesley said, “Yeah, well, you know, I’ve had my hands on her boobs, seen them, kissed her and her boobs.  She sucked me off a few times.”


David grinned.  “That’s like… third base, not a home run; have you stuck her yet, given her your meat?  That’s a homerun.”


“I kissed her biscuit.”  Wesley revealed.


“Really?  What did it taste like?  Did it smell like fish?”  David questioned eagerly.


Wesley made a weird face.  “Fish?  Why would you think that?  It’s not a tuna, it’s her pussy dude.”


David chortled.  “You know, guys say girls smell like fish, you know, in jokes, say it smells.”


“I like how her pussy smells, and tastes.  Kissing and licking it makes her wiggle and squeal.  I’ve made her cum.” 


“Yeah, I’ve made a girl cum too.  Didn’t stick my face in her pussy, I’ve fucked her though, homerun dude!”  David stated.


Wesley raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?  You never told me about that.  Your turn dude, tell me all about her.”


It was David’s turn to become shy.  “Ah, you know… it was a while ago, I’m sure I told you.  It was nothing.”


“Bullshit David; I told you my secrets, you’re not weaseling out on me.  Come on, like you said, we’re best friends for life, we tell each other everything.”  Wesley said using David’s own logic against him.


David started shaking his head.  “No, I can’t, I promised her I’d never tell anyone.”


“And we promised each other we’d never keep secrets from each other.  That promise is older and binding, and you owe me dude; I told you about Tessa, no fair you not telling me about…”  Wesley’s face burst with expression.  “Wendy!”


David’s own face burst with surprise that Wesley had figured out who his secret lover was.  “How… she didn’t tell you did she?!  She promised she wouldn’t tell anyone!  That bitch!”


“Hey, that’s my sister!  No way, I was right?  You and Wendy?”  He looked around a moment while shaking his head.  “Dude, I don’t know if I should punch you or not for poking my sister.”  He looked fast at David again.  “You better not knock her up!  My dad would freak!  He’d kill you!”  Wesley scoffed a second.  “Shit, my mom, if Wendy got preggers…”


“She’s not going to get pregnant, alright!”  David informed his friend.


“Oh?  So you were lying then?  You really haven’t been poking my sister?”  Wesley asked with hope.


“I haven’t been ‘poking your sister’, it’s not like that.  I love her you know; I make love to her.”  David said with a reserved face, not being comfortable talking about his relationship with his best friend’s sister.  “She’s on the pill, alright.”


Wesley looked at David with disbelief.  “You and Wendy, you and my sister, and I never knew.”  His face changed with his next question.  “She’s thirteen, how’s she getting the pill?  You can’t just buy it at the grocery store, how are you getting her the pill?”


David looked depressed and a touch scared now that Wesley knew he was messing around with his baby sister as he often called her; they were close, and neither wanted Wesley to know, ever.


“She’s been stealing your mom’s, okay?”


Shock took over Wesley’s face now.  “My mom’s?  Great, now she’s going to end up preggers and I’m going to have a baby brother or sister, just great dude.  I’ve got to…”


“No!  Your mom isn’t going to get knocked up because she’s been stealing her pills.”  David looked off for a second then back to Wesley.  “Just been taking the ones your mom doesn’t; she keeps them in a drawer in the bedroom, Wendy has been taking them from there.  She has plenty.”


“What do you mean the ones my mom hasn’t been taking?”


“The pink ones, there’s like seven or five per pack.  Wendy just takes those, we got it covered.”  David explained.


“You better; I don’t want my baby sister… having… spitting out your butt baby.”  Wesley exclaimed.


“She can’t get pregnant from me doing her in the butt Wesley, sheesh, you should know that.”  David remarked.


Wesley’s face became even more shocked.  “You’ve been doing my sister in the butt?  Gross dude, that where her shit comes from, that’s just gross.”


David shrugged.  “She likes it.  We did it that way for the first couple months until she’d been taking the pills for a couple months.  You know,” he shrugged, “to make sure it was working.”


“The first couple months?  Just how long have you been bumping uglies with my sister David?”


He shrugged again.  “Since summer started, right after school was done for the summer.  We didn’t go all the way all the way till a few weeks ago.  It’s really fun; you should go all the way with Tessa.”


The two boys stopped talking for a bit and stared at each other.  This went on for several minutes. 


Wesley broke the silence.  “It was really fun?”  He asked.


David smiled and nodded.  “Yeah, the best.  It hurt her at first, then she really started to enjoy it.  We did it twice that night.  The second time was a lot more fun for her.  So were the other times, didn’t hurt her at all.”


Wesley tried to take on a macho stance.  “Well, if you really love her, I guess it’s alright.  You better treat her good though, she’s my sister, you know.”


David chuckled and smiled back.  “Yeah, I know.  And I really like her a lot.  You know me, I’ll be good to her.”


Silence fell between them again.  Each looked off away from the other in different directions for a while, not sure what to say.  Wesley eventually started pacing around the room, trying to think of what to say, but came up with nothing.  He didn’t want to talk about girls anymore.  It had been a bonding moment, he was just uncertain about David and his sister; he better not dump her. 


“So… ah, science fair… um, what should we do?  It’s gotta be great if we’re going to win this year.  Plus they’re offering a scholarship to the winners.”  Wesley finally said returning the topic to what they’d been talking about in the first place.  “It’s got to be something phenomenal, you know dude.  Something that will blow the judges away, something fresh that no one else has done yet.  You know, something epic.”


“Yeah.”  David said as he put a hand to his chin and looked off in thought.  He snapped his fingers after a few minutes of thinking and brought his attention to Wesley, whom was now looking at him with an excited and expectant face.  “Model solar system, now that we can see the movement of other planets, put it in a model galaxy showing the difference in the sizes, placement and movements of far off worlds; orbital differences, planetary rotation differences, descriptions of the atmospheres, totally do the planets within our galaxy.”


The look his counterpart had was less than the exuberance he’d hoped for; more the equal opposite honestly.  Wesley’s face held more of how he felt his face looked when he engaged in a battle of minds with his sister, bordering on saying ‘what, are you retarded’ more then anything.  David felt himself wilt and was thankful that Wesley simply let his concept pass as the first idea and was expected to be lame.  They’d both been there before, and first ideas were usually lacking and wanting for something more grand.


After a few more minutes passed, Wesley snapped his fingers; David looked over at him with hopeful eyes.  “String theory.  Go totally Steven Hawkins on them.”  Now it was David’s turn to be less than enthusiastic.  His face was blank now, his eyes bored.


“Too overdone.  That’s like the go-to thing for science fairs.”  David commented.


Wesley sighed, David was right.  “Yeah, you’re right.  And we came in second place to that last year.  There were at least a dozen others that dealt with string theory that were far better.”


They went back to thinking, and added pacing to their thoughts.  One of them would stop, hold a hand out grasping at a thought, then shake their head and move on.  Anything that was a current hot topic would for sure be duplicated by others.  Unless they came up with something that set themselves apart from what everyone else did, it would boil down to whom had spent the most of their parents money on the project; or who’s parents worked in the science fields and talked their company into donating stuff for their kid to use.  That was a problem with the science fairs over the past several years, no originality, just monetary endeavors. 


“Dark matter verses anti matter.”  David said at one point; after a moment, he shook his head and moved on to other thoughts.  “That’s lame.”  He commented to his own idea.


It was several minutes after David’s comment Wesley had a question.  “Are you thinking about space and exploration stuff primarily, like I am?”


Looking over at him David cocked his head back and forth while wriggling his face.  “Yeah, not liking anything, all seems to obvious, you know what I mean?  I think everyone is stuck on those ideas.”


Wesley nodded.  “Yeah, the power station, wind plant thing those girls had from West Bend, that was pretty cool.  I thought they should’ve won honestly.  They came in ninth.  I think the judges were prejudiced because they were girls.  That’s totally lame.  I wouldn’t date a girl that wasn’t smart.”


David smiled.  “Yeah, me either.”


The two looked at each other for a moment then smiled.  “Thanks, I’m glad you think Wendy’s smart.  Did I tell you she’s going to be getting into the advanced classes this year?”


David laughed.  “No, you didn’t mention that, but I’m dating your sister, she told me.  You should tell her you think she’s smart, it would mean a lot to her coming from you.  She thinks you think she’s a box of rocks.”


Wesley looked away from his friend with a depression in his expression.  After several moments and without looking back at David he said, “I don’t think she’s a box of rocks.”


After he said that, the two boys went back to hunting ideas in their minds.  After about ten minutes, David had an idea about their idea.  “I think we should do something retro, old science with new tech.  You know, advance something that’s been forgotten or ignored.  That might get the judges attention.”


Wesley pursed his lips as he considered what his friend had said.  “Old science, new technology… hmm, interesting concept.”  He muttered then the two boys again went back to pacing and thinking.


After half an hour of pacing the room and muttering to themselves, David snapped his fingers getting Wesley’s attention.  “Tesla coils, and the world’s largest Jacob’s Ladder.”


Wesley returned an unimpressed gaze.


David was full of energy on his idea.  “We use conductor rods, with different elements in them, ones that give off color when they arc.”  He stopped in place and looked right at Wesley now.  “The arcs are driven by sound, frequency; we use… like an auto tuner, something like that to control the arcs so they resonate as the input frequency and discharge based on tone from specific node to give a color to the tone of the sound.  People can talk or sing into the pickup, and the Jacob’s Ladder will replicate their tone and sound in an electrical arc.”


Wesley stood for a moment considering what David suggested.  After almost a minute he started smiling, he was onboard with what David had come up with.  “Genius!”


The two boys went over to a table with a bag of gummy liquid filled candies; each grabbed one then they stood facing each other with victorious beaming smile.  Raising their hands near their faces they opened their mouths and each tossed the candy they held into the others mouth then they chewed the gummy liquid filled candy up.


“Sweet juicy victory!”  They said together.


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When Sheriff Hanks entered London’s Treasures, he wasn’t even remotely ill received as he had been on any of his prior visits.  Denver and Shelly still weren’t happy to see him, but the verbose hostility was gone now that the laughing moon had been contained.  The implications of what this meant bothered Thomas, but there wasn’t much if anything he could do about it.  It had happened and the London’s, especially Denver, had changed in attitude.


“Denver.”  Sheriff Hanks said looking at him as he approached where he stood with his wife.  “Shelly.”  He said greeting her.


“Sheriff Hanks.”  They said together.


“Have you found out anything else?”  Denver asked.


Thomas looked off to one side and sighed then back to Denver and Shelly.  “The other victims in the Twitchel murders have died.  They suffered in agony until the end.  The last one died at five forty two this morning.  Still nothing on the source of the thallium.  Lab results came back on the powder in the bottle we recovered from your store; you daughter was right, it was thorium.”


Shelly had placed a hand over her chin and mouth when Sheriff Hanks had said the others had died.  “That’s horrible, those poor people.”  She said when he finished.


“Any ideas on a motive yet Sheriff?”  Denver asked.


Sheriff Hanks shook his head slightly.  “None.  And Gretchen still claims she didn’t poison the customers and insists she only put powdered sugar on top of the whipped cream like they always do at the coffeehouse.  We’ve checked every shaker, container and package of powdered sugar in the coffeehouse, nothing but powdered sugar.  Search of her home and car, all dead ends.” 


“We searched the entire vault room, didn’t find anything else.”  Shelly said.  “Same thing with the basement, we even checked everything in the office, nothing.  Any of the construction people you talked to see anything?”


Thomas shook his head again as he looked towards the coffee bar area.  “Nope, no one saw anything taken out that matched anything we’re looking for.”  He motioned to the coffee bar.  “Looks like your coffee shop is doing well.”  He looked back to the London’s.  “Guess that goes to reason since Grammatically Correct Coffee is closed for business after what happened.  No one wants to risk  drinking coffee from there.”


Denver and Shelly looked over to the coffee bar for a second.  Every seat was filled and people were waiting in line for coffee while Wanda worked her ass off trying to keep up.  “We weren’t set up to handle this much traffic.”  Denver stated.


“Wanda has been trying her best, but she’s not a barista.”  Shelly added.  “We thought about closing the coffee bar, but that would leave people with just The Boxcar and gas station coffee.  I hope the Grammar’s can put this behind them and open again.  We aren’t a coffeehouse and don’t intend to become one.”


Sheriff Hanks sighed deep and nodded a couple times; he knew they were busy by default.


“We felt obligated to keep the shop open for people.”  Denver included.


“Well, the Grammar’s are finished.  Their shop won’t be opening again.  The families of the deceased are suing them.  They’ve put their business and house on the market; they’re probably going to file for bankruptcy.  They are moving out of the area; have to, no income, no one will hire them or their kids.”  The Sheriff told them.


“This is all just so sad; they were nice people and didn’t even do anything, it was all Gretchen.”  Shelly stated blankly.


Sheriff Hanks looked off, he didn’t have anything more to say on the topic; when he looked back to the London’s, he moved on to his real area of interest and reason for visiting the London’s store.  “Jessica Rabbit, she shopped here at times?”


“Yes.”  Denver and Shelly said together.


Thomas nodded.  “You ever see her in here with another man; talking to one as a customer perhaps?”


Shelly shook her head.  “No.  She always came in with Jackson.  They were at each others side all the time typically.  The only time she came in alone that I know of is after I called and told her something she’d special ordered was in.”  Shelly looked at nothing for a second.  “She never even actually picked it up.  When she found out we’d do free shipping and gift wrapping, she had it sent to a relative of theirs.  Birthday gift I think.”


Sheriff Hanks nodded.  “Right.”  Next he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out three photos.  He handed them to Denver as he asked, “Either of you see Jessica talk with any of these men?  Seen them in your store?”


As he thumbed through the photos Denver held them so Shelly could see them as well.  After he was through them once, he shuffled through them once more; he started shaking his head.  “None of these men have been in our store that I know of.”  He looked at his wife.  “Shell?”


She started shaking her head as well.  “No, only one I even recognize is Gary Lindman.”


“Same here.”  Denver added.  “Only reason I recognize him is because his picture’s all over the place.  He even has a billboard coming into town.  Realtor, no, something like that I think.  Never really read the sign.”


“Accountant.”  Shelly filled in.


“Yeah, that right, he’s an accountant.  Attends the Catholic church out on Willow.  You ever seen him with Jessica Rabbit?”  Sheriff Hanks inquired.


Both shook their heads, Denver spoke.  “Like I said, never seen Gary in person, never met the others.”


“Do you think Jessica Rabbit was cheating on Jackson with one of these men?  Or all of them?”  Shelly asked.


With a sigh Sheriff Hanks said, “It’s been suggested she was seeing someone from their church, someone that worked in finances.”


“What about Oliver Douglas?”  Denver questioned.


With a questioning face Sheriff Hanks said, “He runs the feed and seed, hardly a financial type.”


“He does more than that.  He handles the loans for Funk’s G and NK seeds; he also manages state and federal farm aid distributions, applications, record keeping on the clients.  He does handle finances in a manner.”  Denver informed Sheriff Hanks.


Thomas’s face said he was unaware of this aspect of Oliver Douglas’s business.  “Is that so.”


Denver and Shelly both nodded.


“And he does go to the same church as the Rabbit’s did.”  Sheriff Hanks looked towards the door out for a second.  “Perhaps I should give mister Douglas a visit.  Thanks.”


“No problem Sheriff, happy to help.”  Denver said.


Sheriff Hanks looked at each of the London’s, gave a small nod then turned and started for the door.  His mind was contemplating if Oliver Douglas being involved in finances in an unobvious manner was hidden from him, how many others in the large church went unnoticed by his investigation.


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Sheriff Hanks was on the phone in his office, he’d called the Frogg brothers.  “… they’re doing fine outside of being burned a bit.  Barb Rabbit was the worst, but they both are going to survive.  Furnace wasn’t even running, the air conditioner was.  Fire investigator said it looked like it was an electrical problem, when the AC turned on, something shorted out and turned the gas on with it.  The squirrel cage pushed the gas through the house, it concentrated for some reason in the fireplace.  Something created a spark and, poof, up the place went.”


“Zevulun Sheriff, were they taken to the hospital in town?”  He asked.


Sheriff Hanks cocked his head thinking that was an odd question to ask in the situation.  “No, actually, since they were burn victims, they were flown down to the University of Minnesota Hospital’s burn unit.  Our hospital here isn’t equipped for handling those types of cases.  Why do you ask Zevulun?”


“Good, that’s good Sheriff, that the Rabbit children are not in Lakeland.  No reason really, it’s just a good thing.”  Zevulun answered, Sheriff Hanks was unconvinced that his interest was nonchalant. 


“Right.  Anyways, the London’s actually mentioned something concerning the financial person that may or may not have been Jessica Rabbit’s secret lover.  There’s another man that deals with finances in a way; he owns the feed and seed, he also handles loans from seed companies for farmers as well as government aid disbursements.  There could be others from their church that have something to do with finances, not sure how many, be hard to find out in time; the full moon is tonight so I’ll be watching the original three I had on my list and Oliver Douglas.”


The end of the call the Frogg brothers were on became somewhat quiet, Sheriff Hanks could hear whispering between the brothers for a few moments.


“Pessach good Sheriff, no, not handling finances from a secondary profession.  The man the butcher’s wife was cavorting with was directly and fully involved in a financial arena.  Many people handle other peoples finances in a secondary capacity, mister Douglas is of no interest to you as his primary employ was in sales, not finance.  Banker, accountant, financial advisor, someone in those or similar professions good Sheriff.  Even an attorney handling a probate would be outside of the area of interest, the man’s profession must be primarily that of finance.”  He explained, so Oliver Douglas was in the clear.


“Right.  I was afraid of that, but it’s also a good thing I guess; one less person to keep an eye on.”  He said.


“Be vigilant Sheriff Hanks, you won’t be able to save everyone, but those that you can, those that you are able to identify as being primary, you must try and save.”  Pessach told him.


The hairs on the back of Sheriff Hanks neck stood up, he felt a shiver go through himself to his core.  “What’s that supposed to mean?  I won’t be able to save everyone?  Just what the hell do you mean by that?”


He could hear all three brothers sigh from the other end of the call.  “It means Sheriff Hanks, this is just beginning sir; there will be many persons involved, these persons will die.  What you have seen thus far good Sheriff, is but a taste of the sorrow yet to come.”  Yitzchak’s voice said.


The Sheriff felt he was originally going to say more, but had stopped.  The ill feeling he’d had since he left the London’s store became worse.  “And just what do you mean there is more to come?  Talk to me boys, these people are my responsibility, and the local police’s.  If you know something, you need to tell me so we can stop this, whatever it is.  I don’t want any more corpses in Lakeland, you hear me?  Tell me what the hell is going on and what you mean this is just starting!”


No one spoke directly to the Sheriff now.  The whispering on the other end of the call returned; some of it sounded rather angry, the brothers were disagreeing on what to say.  Pessach’s voice came over the line.


“Sheriff Hanks, you’ve seen what we deal with, experienced it first hand.  Using what you know of us and what you have seen, deduce for us what you believe we mean.”  He said.


Sheriff Hanks became rather angry at the brothers right now.  “Look Froggs, I don’t have time for games, this isn’t a joke or a game, people are dying all over the place.  Just god damn speak plainly, enough of your riddles and games.  What the hell is going on and what aren’t you telling me?”


“You are quite right Sheriff Hanks,”  Zevulun’s voice said, “this is not a joking matter, but a game is afoot, your concern is fully warranted, however good Sheriff, we brothers Frogg can only help you with what you believe and accept; you need to talk to us plainly and tell us what it is you see and comprehend, else, good Sheriff, help you we cannot; there is little enough already sir that we can do for you.  What is happening, is by design, alas good Sheriff, our hands are bound as there is nothing we or you can actually do to stop what is already happening from continuing.”


“God damn it!  Stop fucking around with me!  Tell me what the hell is going on!  Tell me now or so help me…”  Pessach cut Sheriff Hanks off before he could issue his threat of arrest.


“What do you think is happening Thomas Hanks?  What is your heart telling you that your mind is refusing?  You already know, you just don’t want to believe it.  We, good Sheriff, cannot help you; you, good Sheriff, must help yourself.  It is only through your own understanding and acceptance that you will see what the game is that is being played out in front of you.  Once you acknowledge what it is you are denying, then you will see clearly and understand.”  He told him.


“Look, if this is more of your bullshit about curses and dark forces encompassing this town and making people…”  Sheriff Hanks stopped himself.


“Yes, there it is right there.”  Zevulun’s voice said over the phone.  “The moment of belief.”


“Enough of this fairytale bullshit.  I deal in the real world, facts, I haven’t got time for magic and witchcraft.  I don’t believe in any of that crap!”  Sheriff Hanks shot back harshly.


Though he couldn’t see, Zevulun was smiling.  “Is that so good Sheriff?  Then you don’t have a hard ball in the pit of your stomach right now; your brain isn’t fighting thoughts that defy reason, there isn’t division within yourself; your gut telling you things that your mind tells you can’t happen or be true.  But you know they are.  You know there are things in our world that cannot be explained, are irrational, are beyond reasonable thought; but you have accepted these truths though you rage against accepting them with your logical mind.  You will lose your battle of reasonability good Sheriff.  You know there are forces at play here that are beyond your control; you have already admitted this to yourself, it is your denial and unwillingness to accept them as fact that is giving you trouble, angering you.  Tell us now good Sheriff, tell us brothers three what it is you believe yet are still unwilling to accept?”


Sheriff Hanks held himself, he sighed hard.  Was it that obvious to the Frogg brothers what he had been thinking and unwilling to accept?  This Frogg brother, Zevulun, he seemed to know things he couldn’t possibly know.  The way he said things at times when he asked a question, it was more like he was stating a fact instead of asking a question.


“That Lakeland is cursed; that something has the city… surrounded, imprisoned.  Every time I come to work in the morning, I feel it, as soon as I cross the city line, something inside me feels… I don’t know how to put it, not right?”  Thomas said.


“Cold, boding, fear, a feeling of being watched.”  Zevulun stated.


“Yeah, like that.”


“So you don’t live in town then good Sheriff Hanks?”  Yitzchak’s voice questioned.


“No.  I’m about fifteen miles out, I have a house on Lake Woebegone.  Why?”  Sheriff Hanks said then questioned.


“Oh… because then you are outside of the influence of the compass that as you so accurately said, holds Lakeland prisoner.”  Yitzchak told him.


Again Sheriff Hanks felt like there was more that wasn’t being said.  It was clear the brothers Frogg would not state what they were keeping from him without his being forceful and direct.


“Just what else aren’t you telling me?  How does this involve me and why is it good, as you’ve said, that I live outside of town; there’s more than just being out of the influence of whatever it is you claim has Lakeland in its grasp.”  Sheriff Hanks bluntly challenged.


“It is called the compass good Sheriff.  Four totems are placed, north, east, south, and west; the four points of the city with an obelisk central to them all.  These totems must first be brought within a specific distance of the obelisk to empower them, christen them with the power of the dark elements they serve, charge them if you will.  Then the totems are taken to the points of the compass they represent and placed.  Once all four are in place, the compass is activated.  Once it is activated, there is nothing that can be done.  The curse must run its course, just like with the Rabbit’s curse.  The man Jessica Rabbit was cavorting with, will die tonight good Sheriff.  Since you live outside of town Sheriff Hanks, you are an inert aspect of the curse and are simply a victim of circumstances, a bystander that has the misfortune of watching as the curse razes the city of Lakeland to its demise.”  Zevulun explained to the trepidation of Sheriff Hanks.


“Then we have to locate these totems and destroy them!  When are you boys coming back?  We’ll do a house by house search if we have to.”  The Sheriff said with a voice of conviction.


Pessach took over the conversation now.  “Thomas, Sheriff, its not that simple, I’m sure you’ve suspected this.  We don’t know what the totems… we haven’t been able to identify them as being in Lakeland.  If you did find one and tried to disturb it, it will defend itself, by killing whomever tries to disturb it.  This would only add to the destruction of the curse, you would be helping it.”


Sheriff Hanks sighed.  He had hoped there was something they could do, but he suspected inside, there was a reason the brothers hadn’t offered this as a suggestion; he just had to be sure, it was his job to protect the people within his county.  It wasn’t in his nature to just sit idly by and watch people perish.


“We have to do something, try, when you get back here, we’ll work on this together.  We can’t let the city destroy itself!”  Sheriff Hanks argued.


“We shan’t be returning to Lakeland good Sheriff”  Pessach informed him.  “It would be to dangerous for us because of what we do.  We must preserve ourselves so we may help those we can and contain more artifacts so they may not ravage the unsuspecting.  As much as it pains me Sheriff Hanks, we brothers three have failed.  The city of Lakeland, is a loss.  Goodbye Sheriff Hanks.”


After Pessach said this, there was a click and the line went dead.


“God damn it!”  Sheriff Hanks said to the phone receiver, then slammed it down on the cradle.


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Anything to report on your end Mark?”  Jasmine asked over the radio.


“Nothing yet Jasmine.  All quiet out here.  Both parties returned home from dinner, went into their house, seem to be watching TV right now.”  Mark reported back.


Roland had heard Jasmine call to Mark, he’d be next.


Base to Adam Twelve, over.”  That was him.


“Adam Twelve, go ahead base.”  He answered her call.


Anything to report from your end Roland?”  Jasmine asked.


“Negative base.  Subjects are inside their house currently; they cooked on their grill at the side of the house and went inside to eat.  The son that resides with them left for a date.”  Roland reported.


Ten four Adam Twelve.”  Jasmine replied.


It was still light out, Sheriff Hanks had told them when he put them on this stakeout assignment that things would happen after sundown.  He felt this was a joke, watching the men that may have had a relationship with the late Jessica Rabbit.  But, Thomas was the boss and felt they needed to watch these men and their wives.  What was he expecting?  The dead to return out of spite and kill someone?  Secretly he hoped someone else would run against Hanks this election.  Everyone liked him though.  Rolland thought he had rather strange ways of handling things.


Nausea hit him again, he exited the car as Jasmine called to the next unfortunate deputy on this stake out.


Base to Zulu forty one, over.


Gavin grabbed the microphone of the radio as he watched Roland get out of his car, again.  He was parked four houses back from him on the street.  His subject of interest for the night was on the same street as Roland’s.


“All’s quiet here Jasmine.  Roland’s out of his squad, puking again.  May want to have someone else take over for him tonight.”  He reported.  He could see Roland turn towards him; he held up his hand, giving him the finger.


Do you have your subjects in sight Zulu forty one?  Status please.”  She replied back.


“Yeah, they’re inside their house eating dinner, just like everyone else is.  Both their kids are inside with them.  Family dinner.”  He answered her.


Ten four Zulu forty one.  Base to Adam Twelve, over.”  He heard her say.


Roland looked back towards him again as he opened his car door and reached inside.  “I’m fine base.  Just some bad chicken from the KFC; I’m fine, the sarg is just overreacting.  I served in the Marines, I can tough this out.


Jasmine looked at the chicken leg she’d just taken a bite out of.  It tasted fine; she was considering asking Roland if he had gotten regular, extra crispy or grilled chicken as she set the chicken leg back in the box then spit out what was in her mouth into a napkin.


“Are you sure Roland?  I can have Adam Nineteen cover for you.”  She said to him.


My stomach’s just upset is all, I’m fine, no worries, okay?


“Ten four, base out.”  She replied then looked back at Sheriff Hanks.  “Want some chicken Sheriff?”


He snorted at her.  “And I thought you liked me Jasmine.”  He retorted with a glance at the box of chicken she had in the dispatch office.


She smiled at him and he turned away from where she sat at the radio and started pacing behind her thinking.  Which one of the three suspects was the most logical?  Which one would Jessica Rabbit have most likely taken an interest in, which one fit her style?  He really didn’t know her or the three suspects at all.  There was nothing in her belongings in the Rabbit house, in her car or on her phone that gave any indication she’d been having an affair nor whom it might be.  Everything seemed ‘normal’ to him.


He started to consider maybe the Frogg brothers were wrong; maybe Jessica Rabbit cheating on Jackson Rabbit wasn’t part of the mechanics of the curse as they had figured.  He couldn’t believe himself at that moment, he was actually buying into what they’d told him.  Curses, accursed objects, artifacts and totems.  They’d really gotten to him with this crap.  He considered calling things off.  This was a snipe hunt from his experience.  Curses, that was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that’s all it was; Jessica Rabbit’s lover dying from salt water, salt water from the Dead Sea.  Ridiculous, that’s what this was.  But what if it wasn’t, what if these three Frogg brothers were right?


They’d nailed what happened to Jackson Rabbit, he effectively drown in his own juices.  The fire at Buster Rabbit’s house did start in the fireplace, which was a large stone one, just as they had mentioned there would be.  The Rabbit children had survived after they contained the relic.  As much as he wanted to believe they’d have survived no matter what the Frogg brothers had done, his gut disagreed and said if they hadn’t contained this artifact, the Rabbit kids would be in the morgue.  There was also what happened at the London’s store, the changes in the London’s and himself after the laughing moon was contained.  He’d been becoming angry every time he entered their store, that was something he couldn’t explain along with his instant dislike for Denver.


Thomas shook himself trying to shag the thoughts in his mind off.  He’d seen plenty of strange things in his days; things he couldn’t explain.  That was part of the reason he’d moved to Minnesota, to Lakeland, to get away from what he’d seen and experienced.  Maybe he was cursed; strange things seemed to follow him.  Looking up he decided he’d go to his office and work to try and take his mind off of things.


“I’ll be back in a bit.  Keep me posted Jasmine.”  He told the dispatcher.


“Sure thing Sheriff.”  She said looking back at him with a smile.  “You going to run again this year?”  She asked.


He smiled back.  “Yeah, don’t know what I’d do if I actually retired.  Been too many years I’ve been working in this kind of field; it’s what keeps me going you know.  As aggravating as the job is at times, I’d miss it.”


“You could always get a job dispatching Sheriff.”  She joked back.


With a snort he said, “Not a chance.  As Sheriff I can get out from behind my desk.  No way I could do what you do; most people can’t take it long, why we have such a high turnover in dispatchers.  Honestly Jasmine, I don’t know how you’ve managed to do the job as long as you have.”


“Simple, stay calm, and never take your work home with you.  When I have to let off some steam, my dog listens great and never complains.  Then she nuzzles me and life is good.”  She answered.


Sheriff Hanks chuckled.  “I’ll be back in a bit.  Keep me posted if anything happens.”


“Will do Sheriff.”  Jasmine replied and Sheriff Hanks headed to his office.


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“We’ve got to hire someone to run that coffee bar!”  Wanda exclaimed to Denver when she came up to the office.  “I can’t keep going like this.  Barista isn’t in my wheelhouse.  I studied business management and criminal psychology not food service.”  She went on to say.


“Summer’s over, things are slowing down.  You’ll be fine, you’re doing great.”  Denver told her.


“They may slow down for you at the store, but for me at the coffee shop, we’re the only gourmet coffee shop in town since Grammatically Correct shut down.  There’s a corporate chain place that’s coming to town, but that won’t happen till next summer.  I can’t run the place seven days a week, it’s killing me and I have the rest of my work to do at the store.  I’ve had to extend the hours of the coffee bar because of the Grammar’s going out of business.  We need to hire a few people, maybe some of the old ones from Grammatically Correct Coffee.  Least they’d know what to do.”  Wanda explained and rationalized.


Denver was shaking his head.  “Doubt any of them would work for us.  Gretchen trashed us to the other employees pretty hard; plus the Grammar’s blamed us for what happened at their store.  If we hire people from their shop, it may have a negative influence on our business.  We are making decent money from the coffee bar.”


“Okay, Gretchen, after killing a bunch of the townsfolk, her word, pretty much shot, well, totally shot; as for Grammar’s, people need a paycheck and they aren’t providing one anymore.  People blame Gretchen and the Grammar’s, not the other employees.  And we’re a different place entirely.  We need people with experience dad.”  She argued back.


After letting go a deep sigh he flapped his arms.  “You’re right.  It hasn’t slowed at all; if anything, it’s gotten steadily busier.  Fine, hire some of their former employees.  Give preference to anyone who managed things for them, worked there a long time, and wasn’t friends with Gretchen.” 


Wanda smiled large.  “Thanks dad.  Any luck on finding a property manager yet?”  She inquired.


Denver’s body sagged a touch.  “Maybe.  Dudley and Graves sounds promising, meet with them later…”  A sound caught Denver’s attention, “today.” 


Another sound almost exactly like the first came to his ears, he looked towards the windows that faced the street.  Wanda was looking with him; they were both thinking the same thing: gunshots.


Wanda and Denver looked at each other.  “Fireworks?”  Wanda said with a disbelieving yet hopeful tone to her voice.”


“Only if our luck changes.”  He remarked.


With trepidation father and daughter slowly moved to the window to look out.  There appeared to be nothing happening as they looked out.  They looked across the street, then up, then down the street the best they could.  Everything appeared to be what typically was happening in their part of town down on the street.  They were just about to retreat from the windows when a girl came running from the store almost directly across from them, the store their competition owned.  Though they couldn’t see her that well, she looked horrified.


Denver and Wanda looked at each other.  “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”  Denver commented.


Wanda’s eyes widened.  “Don’t say that!  That’s what they always said in the good Star Wars movies before bad shit happened.”


“That’s because they knew bad shit was about to happen.”  He replied.  Looking to the door he furthered by saying, “We should probably go downstairs.  It looked like that chick ran to our store, why would she do that?”


“Because we’re close, and open.  She probably gets coffee here too.  We’re familiar to her.”  Wanda reasoned.


They started for the door.  They were halfway down the stairs when Shelly’s face appeared in the doorway into the store; she looked distraught, scared, and pissed.


“Denver… Benson Dahl, his wife…”  She looked back into the store a second.  “One of their employees, Tina, Tanya, something like that, shit, come on, you have to go over there with her, she’s too shook up.”  Shelly explained, sort of.


They headed to the sales counter where the employee of The Dahl House was, the store they’d evicted.  She was sobbing.


“Hello miss, I’m Denver London of…”  He stopped himself, he almost identified himself as an investigator out of habit.  “I’m a former cop.  What happened; was there a robbery?”


She shook her head.  “No, we weren’t robbed, we were just closing up, it was our last day… the store was…”  She couldn’t talk anymore.


Denver looked at Shelly then Wanda.  “Come on, we’ll go see what happened.”  He said then went behind the counter and grabbed some latex gloves.


“Denver, we don’t to that anymore.”  Wanda told him.


He looked at her then at the gloves.  Looking up he stuffed them into his pocket.  “Always be prepared.”  He said then started for the front door, the girls followed him out.


The girl that had come to their store followed with, crying.  They crossed the street and started into the store, Denver stopped just inside.  “Gunpowder.”  He said.


He looked at the girl, she was still crying.  “They’re in the office.”  She said then pointed in the general direction.  She broke into uncontrollable sobbing again.


Looking in the direction she had pointed, Denver saw a door that was ajar.  He started towards it with a glance at Wanda, jerking his head telling her to follow.  This was all to familiar of a scenario for them both.  The smell of gunpowder became stronger as they closed on the door.  Denver looked through the gap in the door.  After a moment he pulled out a glove and put it on his right hand, then he pulled the door open.  Inside Benson Dahl was sitting in a chair behind a desk; his head was rolled back, pistol in his hand on his lap, his brains spattered across a filing cabinet and up the wall.  Leaning in and looking at the area across from the desk, the body of his wife was on the floor.  She’d been shot in the back of the head while standing, her body fell face first to the floor carried by the shot to the back of her head.


Looking back to Wanda he told her, “Call Sheriff Hanks, tell him we have a murder suicide at The Dahl House.”  Then he moved inside carefully and looked the desk Benson was at over.  There was a note on the desk he could see.


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“I questioned Tasha, she was here when this happened, she came to our store for help.  She said the store was closing; the Dahl’s were in bankruptcy.  I looked in the office, didn’t touch anything, there’s a note on the desk.  I recorded what Tasha said when I questioned her.  Wanda’s putting the video on a flash drive for you now Sheriff Hanks.”  Denver informed him.


“Right.”  Sheriff Hanks said while he nodded.  “Show me this note.”


Denver led the way into the office and pointed at the note.  “Right there.”


Sheriff Hanks leaned forward and read the note.  “Fuck you London’s.”  He snorted.  “You said Tasha told you they were going out of business, did you know anything about this before then?”


“That they were closing, no.  Wanda had said they were hurting, even before we bought the store.  Lisa Miller even said they were in over their heads running this place.  That’s all I know.  Never spoke with them after they moved out of our building; they were rather unfriendly towards us.  They blamed us for their bad luck.”  Denver stated.


Sheriff Hanks nodded.  He moved over to where missus Dahl lay.  “Looks like she was facing away from him, possibly crying, looks like there’s a crumpled tissue in her right hand.  She probably never saw what was coming.”


Denver nodded.


“What the hell Hanks.”  A female voice said from behind them.


Denver and Thomas turned around quick.  Chief Friday was standing at the door; she looked angry.


“Jolene.”  Sheriff Hanks said as he looked at her.


“I just got the call and you’re already here.  I’m the chief of police in Lakeland, I should be the first one here.  This is my jurisdiction, I call you when I need you, not the other way around.”  She said with a heated voice.


He motioned towards Denver.  “He had his daughter called me.  When I heard what they had, I came right away Jolene.  Didn’t mean to step on your toes any, but we do have a murder suicide here.”  He could read on her face he was just pissing her off more.  “It’s all yours Jolene.”  He said then moved from the room, Denver followed.


“It’s Chief Friday Sheriff Hanks.”  Her eyes moved to Denver.  “What’s he doing here?”


With a heavy sigh Sheriff Hanks replied.  “He’s the one whom found them, after Tasha told him and his wife and daughter about what happened, he came to see if he could help.  He was a federal investigator before he opened his store.”


“He may have been an investigator for the feds, but he’s nothing now.  Keep civilians out of my crime scenes.”  She said coldly.


“Right.”  Sheriff Hanks commented.


Denver and Sheriff Hanks moved from in front of the office door towards the main entry door.  Wanda returned and came to Sheriff Hanks holding a USB drive in her hand.


“Here’s the video Denver made when he questioned Tasha.”  She said holding the drive out to Sheriff Hanks.


“You let him question a witness Hanks?”  Chief Friday stated coldly.


“No, he did that on his own before I got here.  He had Wanda put it on that USB drive so I could see what happened.  I didn’t let him do anything.  You have an issue with that, take it up with him Jolene.”  Sheriff Hanks replied.


“I told you it’s Chief Friday, not Jolene Hanks.”  She retorted.


Sheriff Hanks leaned back on a leg as he looked at her.  “Right.  Sheriff Hanks, Chief Friday.  We’ve known each other some time Chief Friday.  Worked a lot of cases together…”


“Doesn’t matter Sheriff, this is my town, and this is my crime scene.”  She stated then reached out and snatched the flash drive from Wanda’s hand.


“It’s all yours Chief Friday.”  Sheriff Hanks said then moved towards the door, Denver followed.


“I’ll need to question you mister London.”  She said.


Denver smiled.  “You can talk with my attorney  Chief Friday.”  He replied and kept following Sheriff Hanks.


Wanda and Shelly moved to go with them.  “I’ll need to question you two as well.”  Chief Friday said to them before they could leave.


“Chad Wiseman, he’s our attorney, you can talk with him.”  Shelly said as she kept walking.


“Hold on, I didn’t say any of you could leave, including you Sheriff Hanks; you were the first one here, I’ll need your statement.


Sheriff Hanks smiled back.  “Well Chief Friday, I have other matters that need my attention, and as you said, this is your crime scene.  I’ll talk with you when I have time.”


“This other matter wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the three men you have staked out in my town.”  Chief Friday said.  “I’d like to know why three people in my city are being followed by your deputies.”


With a smile firmly in place Sheriff Hanks looked at Jolene.  “Your city is my jurisdiction, Chief Friday.”  With that, he headed to the door and left.


The London’s were close behind the Sheriff on the way out.


Sheriff Hanks looked back at Denver.  “I don’t know what crawled up her craw; she’s been rather snippy with me these past few days.”  He glanced at Shelly and Wanda a second then returned to Denver.  “And I don’t think it’s because it’s that time of the month.  You wouldn’t happen to have another laughing moon around would you?”


Denver chuckled.  “Nope.  I think we all just ended up on her shit list though.”


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“Hillary!”  Her mom yelled up the stairs.  She came to the head of the stairs on the second floor.


“Yeah mom, I’m not deaf, my room’s right next to the stairs, the whole neighborhood can hear you.”  She told her mother in a calm but scolding voice.


Her mom always felt the need to yell up the stairs to get her attention; scream was more like it most of the time.  Now, she’d use her usual excuse.


“I didn’t know if you had headphones on or not darling daughter that chastises me so.”  Her mother replied.


“You could text me.” 


Putting a hand on her hip her mother lightly scoffed.  Hillary knew what was coming next, she always said the same thing to this reasonable suggestion.  “I’m not texting you when your in the same house I am.”


Old school, that was her mother.  She hated being yelled for like her mother always did.  Her dad would text her, however her dad also used his phone for more than just a phone and actually worked in a somewhat related field.  He owned a small software company.  He didn’t make anything she’d use, but he was very tech savvy since his company made a lot of apps for businesses, like banks and stuff.


“What did you want mother?”  Her mom didn’t like it when she called her mother, well, when she said it the way she had.


“Lisa is here to pick you up and take you to dance class.  I’ll pick you up when your done.  Her cheer practice goes later than your dance class.”  Her mother informed her, needlessly.


The high school’s cheerleaders practiced for three hours, her dance classes were an hour and a half on school nights, when school started in two weeks, and two hours on Friday or Saturday nights, depending on which class she was in; thus, her mother would have to pick her up unless she waited two hours since Lisa never left cheer practice immediately after practice, none of the cheerleaders did.


“I know mom, I’ve been doing this a few years now, hasn’t changed any.”  Hillary replied then turned and walked back into her bedroom to get her backpack for dance class.


Her mother was talking when she entered her room, but she didn’t hear her, didn’t care either.  It would’ve been more drivel about some pointless perspective from her mother’s end.  Parents, they’re such a drag most of the time, except for her father, he seemed to understand and would give her credit when she pointed out the obvious and typically wouldn’t repeat the same foolish crap like her mother insisted on doing.  She was actually surprised her parents were still married.  She honestly expected her dad to get fed up with her mother and find someone who appreciated him more.


Hillary tromped down the stairs as her mother muttered on and past her towards the door and freedom.  “Yup, sure mom.  See ya.  Let dad pick me up.”  She said as she blew by her mother.


“Your father is in Pasadena Hillary.”


She slowed herself.  “Ah, okay, right, ah, I’ll walk home then.”


“Hillary!  It’s five miles, you are not walking home!  I’ll not have you walking through those parts of town.”


Yeah, the strip with its dive bars, strip clubs, tattoo parlors, lowlifes everywhere.  “Fine, I’ll take the bus.”


“No you won’t.  I’ll not have my daughter riding that city bus with the prostitutes and winos.  I’ll be there at nine sharp to pick you up and that’s final young lady.”  Her mother informed her.


Hillary could tell by the tone of her mother’s voice she’d better drop it.  She hated being picked up by her mother, she was such an embarrassment to be seen with, but if she pushed the issue, her mother would cancel her plans for the night, that being going to dance class with her friends.  She’d then have to clean her room, the bathroom, or some other manual labor job she hated even more than her mother picking her up.


“Fine, make it nine thirty, some of the other girls and I are working on routines for the first pep-fest the school will have when I go back.”  She replied.


“Nine sharp, you can work on your routines some other time.”  Her mother said.


With a roll of her eyes and a sigh she turned to the door and headed out, Lisa would get pissy if she had to wait any longer.


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“Alright ladies, we’ll take this again, from the top.  Kristi, you need to kick higher and move faster.  You’ve got to be in place when Heather comes around, and Marcy, don’t run into your sister this time.” 


“Yes missus Green.”  They all replied in unison.


This was the first new routine for the new school year.  They’d had their summer show last month, then three weeks off, now it was time to start the more advanced class.  Hillary was a sophomore this year, that meant high school competitions, finally!  She had been tops in her class, but now, she was in the varsity leagues, that meant she was in with the best dancers.  Her school usually went to state championships.  She’d been given a spot for a shot on the team, she’d have to be at the top of her game if she wanted to stay on.  She could do it, missus Green had faith in her.


“Fuck you Wilma, stick your butt in my face one more time and I’ll kick it for you!”  One of the girls was yelling at another girl.


“Hey, Wilma, Darcy!  Knock it off!  No swearing in dance class, that’s no way to act girls.  Crunches, five minutes, that’ll work some of that energy off.”  Missus Green told the two girls.


They were both new to her, Wilma and Darcy.  They were both seniors and Hillary had never met them before until tonight.  Wilma was half black, half Norwegian and one hundred percent nasty Hillary had decided after working with the new dance team she was on.  Darcy was a full blooded Irish girl and thus naturally always ready for a fight.


Her best friend Lydia had made it to the class Hillary was in.  She was the victim of split parents, like many of her classmates.  Her father ended up with her since her mother took off to Vegas with some guy.  Her uncle paid for her to be in dance class since her dad couldn’t afford them.  Her dad worked at the school as a custodial engineer, janitor is what her mother referred to him as, and a lowlife.  She’d gone to school with him when she was Hillary’s age, didn’t like him then, downright hated him now and forbid her to hang out with Lydia because of that.


“Hey, Lyds, going to make it to the party on Friday, last chance summer bash?”  Hillary asked her when she came to where she was at.


Lydia made a face.  “I don’t think I’ll be able to.  My mom and her new boyfriend are coming up, I’m supposed to spend the week with her.”  She didn’t sound happy about it.


“Yeah, you know it’ll be just like last time.  She’ll stop by the house, give you some lame gift for a ten year old, then hit the bars.”  Hillary replied.


That’s what her mom had done last year when she came to visit her.  Her mom regretted having her, she’d told her that many times.  She was sure the only reason her mother even bothered to come was because she had to meet with the lawyer that handled her trust fund once a year if she wanted to keep getting her checks from the account her parents had set up for her.  She was pissed off that they’d changed the rules so part of that money went to Lydia now.


“I don’t know, I think it will be different this time.”  Lydia said.  “This guy she’s with now, he’s not like the last ones, he actually has a real job and a house.  Mom said I will be able to come and stay with them next summer for a couple months.  They might even be getting married.”


This was a bit of a shock.


“Alright ladies, places.  We have time for one more run through this, and I want you to work on your moves this week, work hard.  We only have two more weeks until school starts, we put this on three days after that, we have to be perfect girls, perfection takes hard work!”  Missus Green called out.


Hillary smiled and waved at Lydia as she went to where she was supposed to be.  Hillary was in the area she needed to be and once the other girls came to their places she moved into position.  The music started.


She glanced at the clock, eight thirty, half an hour left then her mother would be here, joy.  Why did her dad have to go to Pasadena?  She’d much rather have had him pick her up.


They were almost halfway through this part of the recital.  Hillary turned and brought her leg up.


“Fucking bitch!”  That was Wilma’s voice, she was yelling at someone.


“I’m sorry, I turned wrong!”  That was Lydia’s voice.


Then Hillary heard Lydia scream, she looked over, Wilma was on her, swinging her arms.  She could hear the blows Lydia was taking from the larger older girl.  Darcy started towards the fight, along with several other girls.  Some ran the other direction away from the fight.  Hillary ran towards the fight to help her friend.


“Get off her, it was an accident!”  Hillary yelled as she arrived, trying to get Wilma off Lydia.


“Fuck you, you privileged white cunt!”  Wilma yelled at her as Hillary tried to pull her off Lydia.


Missus Green was yelling, telling everyone to stop.  Wilma was up now, she swung at Hillary.  Some of the girls that ran up were there for Wilma while others were there for Lydia.  Arms were flying, fists connecting, it turned into a brawl fast.  Hillary was about to say something to Wilma to try and get her to calm down when Wilma kicked her hard in the stomach sending her flying backwards.


Hillary hit the wall and something on it.  She couldn’t move, the sound of the brawl became strange, trailing and garbled.  She tried to stand up and couldn’t move her legs; she couldn’t feel her legs at all, or her arms.  When she tried to look around the room, she found her eyes wouldn’t respond.  She was half slouched against the wall, up from the floor, her butt was off the floor, she was hanging from the wall.


Something like the sound of breaking glass came to her ears, one of the mirrors on the wall, from where her eyes were held, she could see it break.  Wilma threw another girl to the floor, missus Green tried to grab Wilma, Wilma lunged at her, missus Green grabbed at her own throat, her face, shock, surprise, was that blood coming from her hands?


She saw Lydia’s face, she had come to where Hillary was, it looked like she was yelling something, she couldn’t understand what she was saying.  Suddenly, Lydia’s face, her eyes went wide, terror was on her face, Wilma was behind her.  Lydia fell to the ground, a shard of mirror stuck from the back of her head.  Wilma spit on Hillary’s face, she couldn’t feel it though, then she turned and ran towards the mix of girls fighting.


One of the girls picked up a weight from the rack and swung it at another girl, she bashed her in the side of the head with it and the girl went down.  There was blood on the weight. 


Things looked like they were moving slow; the sound seemed distant.  Girls were laying on the floor while others fought.  She couldn’t see Lydia since she’d fallen, she still couldn’t move her eyes or body.  One of the girls on the floor was facing her, her eyes were wide and unmoving, was she dead?  Missus Green had fallen to the floor, she wasn’t moving anymore.


Wilma was running around, she was chasing Darcy.  She had a broom and was deflecting the knife Wilma held.  At one point Wilma swung at Darcy with an empty hand, she deflected  the blow with the broom, which was clearly what Wilma wanted as she plunged the blade into Darcy’s chest at her heart.  Darcy fell to the floor. 


Hillary’s own body was starting to move on its own, her legs were quivering and starting to thrash.  She saw people coming in, police.  They had their guns out, their mouths were moving, Wilma, they were facing her.  She charged the closest one with her knife.  Flashes, they were firing their guns; Wilma fell to the floor.  The officers moved in around her, she sat up with the knife in her hand, an officer fired her gun into Wilma’s head.  This time when she fell to the floor, there’d be no getting up for her.


The police officers were moving around the room, Hillary thought they were yelling things to other people, but she still couldn’t move her eyes or her body.  She was a bit lower to the ground now, there were weird smells in her nose.  The police were near the door, they were fighting with people, the crowd they were trying to stop from coming in, burst through the door.


Her mother’s face, she could see her now.  She was crying, why?  She was alive, she just couldn’t move.  She wanted to tell her mother she loved her and that everything was fine, everything would be alright.  The room was getting brighter now.  She could move, but… this was strange, she was… floating, she could see… herself. 


Looking back at where she lay, her body, her head was… a coat hook was in the back of her head, that’s why she had been hanging up from the floor.  There was a puddle of stuff behind her, it was red, it looked slick and sticky… blood.  The coat hook was in the back of her head, she was looking down on her body now, but how could she be looking down at herself unless… … … she was… dead. 


Her mother was holding her motionless body with the wide open eyes to her chest sobbing.  “Oh Hillary, my baby, I love you!  She’s gone, my baby’s gone!”  Her mother was saying, she could hear now, now that she had died.


She looked around where she was, Darcy, she was standing near where she was.  Lydia, missus Green, several other girls she didn’t know, they were here.  They were dead like she was, that’s why she could see them standing, watching what was happening.  They were up in the air a bit, she looked down to where the bodies lay.  There was Wilma, only she looked like she was half in the floor.  She could hear her now, she was screaming in agony.  There were two other girls with her, they’d killed the other girls.


A man came walking from a fog, she didn’t remember a fog before.  He was near the ground where Wilma and the few other girls with her were.


“Wilma, you’re with me.”  The man who looked old, tall, thin and frail with grey hair said.  He looked at one of the other girls and called her name.


“Darcy, Lydia, Connie, Heather, Hillary…”  A man’s voice was calling.


She looked back, she could see a man, he looked old as well, only not frail, stately, that word fit.  She looked back to where Wilma was, now the man was in front of a gate that looked hot.  He reached out a hand and the gate opened.  At the top of the archway over the gate were two letters, H G.  Wilma was drawn into the gate when it opened, so were the other girls with her as they screamed.


“You can come with us if you like Hillary.”  The man said looking right at her, then he looked to the other girls.  “Any of you can, if you choose.  Come with me, it’s much more fun where I can take you.”


Someone was beside her, she looked over.  There was another man, younger than the last, maybe thirty.  “That’s the keeper of the gate, you don’t want to go with him Hillary.”


“Keeper of the gate?  What gate is that?”  She asked, her voice sounded odd.


The man looked from her towards the gate.  “Hell’s Gate.  He’s Horace, the Gate Keeper.”


“Come, join us Hillary, it is wonderful where I can take you, far better than that so called paradise he will take you to.”  Horace said to her.


Hillary started shaking her head, then she looked at the man beside her; he pointed behind her and she turned.  There was no gate, only a simple path.  She started towards it, she felt peaceful.  She missed her mother, she would be sad, but, Hillary was safe here.”


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