Inspired by Angelboy's Iron Chef for authors that are polar opposites of each other to write up a fic together.
This story requires some knowledge of DJW's Open Windows stories and Richard Lobinske's Falling Into College stories and Band of Bothers It takes place at the beginning of the summer following Daria's sophomore year of college.
DJW and Richard Lobinske
A Little Help From Your Fiends
Charles Ruttheimer III didn't like the guard, not in the least. But he followed instructions and assumed a spread-eagle position, leaning against the wall of his cell. The guard methodically patted down Charles' jumpsuit, paying attention to hems and seams for any hidden items. Finally, the guard combed out Charles' hair.
Frustrated, the guard turned to a second. "It's not here, nor on him. I must've lost it somewhere else."
The second guard swiped a keycard against the door lock and let the other guard out while simultaneously keeping an eye on Charles, still leaning against the wall. He told the first, "It's gonna be your ass if you don't find it."
"Crap, tell me about it. Maybe it's in the locker room."
The door closed and cut off the sound of the guards' voices.
In the dim light of his cell, Charles grinned to himself and thought, as easy as conning money from Mr. O'Neill. When he backed away from the wall, he had the missing keycard palmed in his hand. Morons. Londo Mollari was right, they hire them for the thickness of their skulls.
Patiently, very patiently, Charles waited for the early morning hours. Quietly, he slid the key into the slot and unlocked the room door. Moving through the pale hallways, he used the card to access a counseling room, where he retrieved a credit card hidden between the cushions of the therapist's chair. Next, Charles headed to the cafeteria, where he had a mechanical key wedged between the tubular leg of a chair and the underside of the seat. The library was next, and the retrieval of a telephone card from deep within a little-used book.
Picking up his pace, he passed through another keycard locked door. Down the hall to the next, he carefully looked through the window at the nurses/guard station. Patience again paid off, when the nurse rose and left for the bathroom. He quickly opened the door and dashed by the station, opened the door and into the hallway beyond.
Charles used the mechanical key to open the guards' locker room. He located the laundry bin and pulled uniforms from it. After several tries, he had one that fit. Attached to the locker room was a maintenance locker, where Charles found some rubber boots.
He stepped outside and felt relaxed. Near the staff parking was a pay phone. Charles reached it and used the calling card. "Hello? Hey, my car broke down and I need a ride home from work…I'm at Oakwood Psychiatric Hospital." He chuckled. "No, I'm a guard…Five minuets, thanks."
On time, the taxi appeared at the parking lot and Charles climbed in the back. "Thanks."
The bored driver said, "Yeah, where to?"
"One-Eleven Howard Drive, in Lawndale."
When the reached the off-white house on the west side of Lawndale, the cabbie turned and said, "That'll be fifteen dollars."
Charles handed him the pilfered credit card. "Please, add five for a tip."
"Will do, buddy."
The driver manually imprinted the card and filled out the receipt. After Charles singed it "Donald Baker", the driver handed the carbon copy and the card back. "Good luck with the car."
"Thanks. Have a good night."
Charles stepped aside and watched the cab turn around and drive away. He looked up at one of the upper story windows. "Ah, Ms. Lane. I shall see you and your ravishing friend soon."
Walking with a spring in his step, Charles covered the short distance to the Lawndale train station and stopped at the ticket counter after reading the schedule. He told the agent, "One to Boston, on the six AM train, please."
He sat on a bench and waited, hiding his worry. They should've found out that I'm missing with the four AM bed check. They should behave like their usual, moronic selves and start by searching the area on foot. That should kill at least an hour or more. By the time they think to call the cab companies, I should be on my way.
Daria Morgendorffer and her boyfriend, Michael Fulton, sat on the grass of Boston Common, enjoying the late spring warmth. Daria kissed his neck and said, "Much more enjoyable than Middle English Literature."
Michael sighed and leaned his head to the side to expose more of his neck. "Still on Chaucer?"
"Yeah. I'm still picturing Quinn in the hideous pink gown and wimple."
"So, you're not missing much from class?"
"Not a bit."
The ringing of a cell phone brought a "Dammit!" from Daria. She pulled it out of her pants pocket and shrugged, "I'll tell Quinn to keep it short."
Opening the phone, she said, "Hello?"
Michael watched with deep concern as the color drained from her face. After several nods, she forced out a "Thanks for calling. Please let me know if you learn anything."
Michael asked, "What's wrong?"
"Upchuck escaped from the hospital. They tracked a stolen credit card from there to the Lawndale train station, and a commuter train to Boston. He probably got off the train half an hour ago."
"Call me a knuckledragger, but I'm not leaving you alone while he's loose."
"Ugg. This time, you're welcome."
Karen Myerson and Jane Lane hugged Daria as she entered their apartment that evening."
Daria said, "I'm fine. How's everything else?"
Jane said, "No sign of him."
Behind Daria, Michael said, "I noticed you called in reinforcements."
Karen shook her head. "Yeah, and they've been down there running their mouths for half an hour. They only went down to get their suitcases." Karen moved past Daria and Michael and called down to the parking area. "Derek, Mack, get up here!"
By Derek Adler's car, he and Mack MacKenzie stopped their conversation and waved up. Derek yelled, "We're coming!"
The telephone rang and they all watched, waiting for the answering machine to click on.
Karen's voice on the machine said, "We're sorry, but we can't answer the phone now. Please leave a message."
Daria said, "Wow, that sure sounded generic."
At the beep, a man's voice said, "Hey, Daria. It's Tom Sloane. Thought I'd call and…
Daria answered the phone. "Hi, Tom."
"Hey. Just get in?"
"So, what's up lately?"
Trying to move their suitcases into the hallway, Mack and Derek bounced them together, and they in turn bounced off the walls.
Tom asked, "Um, what was that?"
"Uh, just Derek and Mack running into each other while trying to get their suitcases in here.
"Suitcases? Are they moving in or something?"
"Upchuck escaped. They're staying here, along with Michael, to help keep an eye on things."
Tom thought, Maybe I should send her some help. "Ouch. I hope you stay safe."
"That's quite a full house."
"Yeah, I'm sure Mrs. Lyndon will remind us about 'No Loud Parties.'"
"Well, please be careful."
"Trust me, I plan on it."
After hanging up the phone, Tom Sloane decided that it would not be possible to head down to Boston to join the guard duty, he did not posses the right frame of mind to be able to just drop everything he was doing to engage in a random idea and damn all the consequences. However, he knew someone who did, two of them as a matter of fact,
One advantage of moving in the different social circles than Daria and her fellows was that he made acquaintances with some slightly unusual individuals. It was a specific pair that he had in mind, a twisted, modern-day Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Although, you wouldn't want to make that comparison in front of them, or anywhere else for that matter. They had a strange way of finding things out; it was this skill of theirs he was hoping could be put to some use.
As he prepared to dial he thought to himself, Daria is either going to be eternally grateful…or never forgive me for this. As he dialed he added, or both, before hearing the phone being answered:
"Doctor-in-Training Clovis R. Lee-Daniels speaking."
"Hi Clovis, it's Tom. I know this is short notice but I kind of need a favor…"
"Tom, as much as I'd love to chat old pal," Clovis interrupted "I'm kind of in the middle of something here."
"Oh crap I forgot you have a different schedule in medical school…" Tom still had trouble accepting his friend had chosen that line of higher education, although he had even more trouble accepting that any medical school had let him in.
"Yeah, we have to observe…what?"
Tom was unable to hear what was happening on the other end of the line but was able to get a good idea based on what he could hear:
"...Sorry, just one second, I'm trying to hang up."
At least it sounded like his friend had mellowed with age,
".... Bloody hell, calm down mate."
Although Tom thought to himself Of course, I have been wrong before.
".... Oh I'm being distracting am I? Well HERE!"
There was a short pause and the sound of walking before Tom heard a noise that could best be described as 'SPLORCH' and then a wet snapping sound.
"There, the bloody appendix is out now. Happy?"
Well, at least he hasn't gotten any worse, Tom thought before speaking, "Should I call back?"
"...Could someone get me a hand wipe? Nah its no problem mate, the guy in charge passed out and everyone else is seeing about stitching up the patient so I think I can spare a few minutes. So, what can I do you for?"
Tom explained the situation as best as he could to his friend:
"So let me get this straight, you want me to drop everything I'm doing and head on down to Boston for an indefinite period of time…to keep an eye out for a potentially dangerous prison escapee…by standing vigil over a girl you dated in high-school and who I've only met once, and during said meeting I was partially responsible for demolishing a sizable chunk of the college's drama department."
"In so many words, yes."
"I'll be there within the hour."
"Excellent, think you can recruit our mutual paranoid friend for this?"
"You want me to pass it on to Wasabi? Sure, he came to watch… OI Waz… oh he collapsed…no problem, I'll explain it to him on the way."
It was at this point that Tom realized that it wasn't a question of whether Daria would be grateful or never forgive him, it was a question whether she would thank him…or kill him.
"… Hey where's my watch?"
The latter seemed MUCH more likely.
Charles read the ATM printout and lightly chuckled.
Transaction rejected. Credit limit exceeded.
He flipped the card into a storm drain and walked down the sidewalk. "Mr. Baker, you really should be more careful about were you leave your credit cards, someone just might misuse them."
Comparing the address in a classified ad with a Boston map, Charles figured out where he wanted to go. Flipping through a bus schedule, he found an acceptable route and stop and walked there, to patiently wait.
After a modest wait and about twenty minutes on the bus, Charles exited and located the drab apartment complex that matched the address in the newspaper. Ten minutes later, after the exchange of a cash deposit with the bored manager, Charles signed the month-to-month agreement, Charles Emerson III.
The manager handed him a key. "Remember, we don't put up with any crap. If you don't pay on the due date, we give you a four-day notice. You don't pay before then, you're stuff's out on the street."
Charles nodded. "I won't be problem."
"Good. I hate problem tenants."
"Oh!" Jane exclaimed in surprise as she looked through the peephole of the door.
A little concerned, Daria asked, "Who is it?"
Jane swallowed and said. "Daria…I know that there's a lot going on, promise me you won't get upset."
Daria narrowed her eyes. "Jane…"
Jane scratched her head. "Um…it's Clovis."
"What's he doing here?!"
Spreading her hands, Jane said, "I don't know!" She suddenly put her hand over her mouth. "Oh, crap! I hadn't seen him since the play…I hope…"
Mack laughed and finished for Jane, "…that he's not here to ask you out? Yeah, that would be a little embarrassing."
"A little." Jane opened the door just as Clovis had braced himself against the landing railing and was preparing to kick the door. She shouted, "Whoa! What the hell are you doing?"
Clovis dropped back down to stand normally. "Sorry, Jane. When nobody answered, I got worried something had happened."
Wasabi waved and said, "Hi, Jane."
Jane anxiously looked over her shoulder at Daria before turning back and saying, "Hi, Wasabi."
Daria sat straight upright and braced both hands rigidly against the sofa.
Clovis stepped in and said, "Hey, Daria. Everybody. Ol' Tom called and said you needed a couple extra eyes to look out for a guy named Puke, or something like that."
Daria said through her teeth, "Tom, I'm going to bury you in Elsie's ball gown."
Michael sat at Daria's computer desk and nodded his head. "Yeah, I am weirded out by this. Your old boyfriend convinced a couple of buddies to come here to help protect you from some other guy from Lawndale who's obsessed with you. Sounds like he's still a little obsessed himself. Forget Highland, are you sure the uranium wasn't in Lawndale's water?"
"Look," Daria explained, "You saw the psych evaluations the DA submitted about Upchuck. That had nothing to do with the water. As far as Tom…he has this odd sense of responsibility…he probably also wants Clovis and Wasabi to protect Jane. Granted, they did blow the roof off the theater last summer, so I'm not happy about what kind of collateral damage they may cause."
"Don't forget that the Theater Department still has wanted posters up for them."
"That's right. And considering how bored campus cops get during the summer; that could be a problem."
"Mrs. Lyndon, I know this looks bad," Karen explained to the landlady, "but it's only temporary until that jerk gets caught."
"It better be. And I expect all those boys to keep things quiet," the white-haired lady standing outside the door replied.
"You have my word that they will."
"Is there anything else, Mrs. Lyndon?"
"No, dear. Tell Daria to please be careful about that horrible young man."
Karen closed the door and said, "Don't make me eat those words."
Clovis shrugged and said, "We'll be as quiet as church mice."
"That'll be a first," Jane said. "Okay, now first thing tomorrow, we're taking you to BFAC to get some disguises made."
"But we can't…"
"…keep an eye on things in jail. We'll get you a disguise, and then you can stake out Raft."
Jane was suddenly awakened reasonably early (or unreasonably if you asked her) in the morning by a scream…at least it would have sounded like a scream, if not for it being cut off a fraction of a second into starting, by what sounded like a thud.
"Shut it you prat, we promised we'd be quiet"
"Well one's awake it seems," She muttered as she got up, heading to the living room that the two had camped out in to see what had happened. She opened the door to find Wasabi slumped on the floor with a faint boot impression on his face and the inflictor of said imprint not far off.
In her opinion a man doing push-ups was boring, although handstand push-ups where more interesting, doing them on just the fingertips especially so, doing these WHILE reading a book was just plain worrying however…especially when you wonder how he was able to turn the pages.
"Clovis do you mind explaining why Wasabi is unconscious on the floor?"
"…96…oh sorry about that, he woke up and realized he had left all his guns in Starfield…97… albeit that was on account of being shanghaied down here by yours truly, I figured he'd be less of a nuisance unconscious…98"
"Well I guess its one less loon to worry about." She then made a snap decision (that would no doubt come back to haunt her) "Well since we're up and its too early for most people to be awake I suppose we can get you to BFAC for those disguises without anyone recognizing you."
"99…if you insist but I still think disguises are a bad idea…100…I mean it's not like anyone will still recognize me." He said as he finished his exercise and flipped back onto his feet.
"Clovis believe me you leave impressions on people, because of you Daria tells me the theater professor now gibbers at the sight of a black baseball cap."
"Well if you insist, let's get a move on then if we must." He replied as he headed out the door and to the stairs, deciding for some reason to turn round and fall onto the rail to slide down.
"You know there are a set of perfectly good steps for you," Jane said with a little irritation as she reached the ground floor and opened the door, "Come on, my car's parked just outside."
"In my opinion it would be wiser to take my car, this Upchuck fellow may recognize yours and choose to follow."
"Oh come on, he's never seen my car, how could he know its mine?"
Clovis simply looked in silence at the elaborate paint job gracing Jane's car for some time before finally responding; "Gee I wonder."
"Alright you made your point, where did you park?"
"Not too far, in fact its right here" Clovis spoke as he lead her towards a bright red original Mini-Cooper with a Union Jack painted on the roof.
"Figures" Jane muttered as she got into the passenger side.
"You may want to buckle up, I'm told my driving is a little like me…whatever that means."
Jane had her seatbelt fastened in record time upon hearing this as well as muttering several prayers under her breath, it would seem the snap decision would come back to haunt her much sooner than expected.
Coming out of class, Daria jumped at seeing a person with long, black braided hair. "How'd you…" Daria realized her mistake and said, "Oh, sorry Anna."
The former dorm neighbor of Daria's said, "You seem a little jumpy today."
"I am. You heard about that guy that was stalking me?"
"Yeah. Sounded like a creep."
"He escaped and the police think he's in Boston."
Anna reached up to her long braid, "He has hair like mine or something?"
Daria sighed. "No, Upchuck's hair looks like an orange scrubber pad. But the 'help' a friend sent over does have hair like yours."
"Why would seeing him startle you?"
"Long story, but he was supposed to pick up a disguise today and my first thought when I saw your hair was that he dressed in drag."
"Why a disguise?"
"When he's around, there tends to be…incidents. He and his friend were responsible for what happened to the theater last summer."
"Now I see why you're jumpy."
"…And that was how I learned just how many bones you can break with just a piece of fruit." Clovis finished his anecdote as his car screeched to a stop, "Ah, happy days…well here we are,"
He continued as he got out the car, "Boston Fine Arts College, and you said I wouldn't be able to make it because of all the roadwork's going on" he stopped to remove a large pole of wood that was fixed to the front of the car, no doubt an unfortunate barrier that had been in the wrong place at the wrong time,
Clovis looked away from examining the pole and glanced into the passenger window before sighing, "…Jane you can let go of the dashboard now, if your fingers dig in any further they'll damage it."
As Jane near-collapsed from out the car, thinking, I'll never again curse Mystik Spiral's driving habits, she grabbed Clovis and dragged him into BFAC as quickly as possible, with him still carrying the pole.
"Remind me to never get in a car with you at the wheel again."
"For crying out loud, you're worse than Wasabi." Clovis said as they came to a stop in the lobby of the BFAC dorms.
"Whatever, now let me find out where CC is, she's the best person I know to go to for make up and since we're ex-roomies she should be easy to talk into helping."
"Yeah we shared room 665…don't say it." Jane replied tersely as she headed to the reception, "Heya, know if CC is around at all?"
"Sure do Jane," the Residence Assistant at the desk replied, "She's up on the sixth floor dealing with something, just head on up in the elevator."
"Thanks" Jane replied before turning to Clovis, "OK, now I want you to stay here…"
"Hi Jane, who's your friend? Won't Mack be mad you picked up another stray?"
"Ah Nell, perfect timing, I need you to watch this guy for a few minutes," Jane replied as she pointed at Clovis, who had lost interest and was in the process of stripping any markings or other such clutter/shrapnel from the pole. "Just don't let him leave the building wouldya?"
Waving one of her crutches, Nell said, "OK, but don't expect me to chase him if he makes a break for it."
"I'm more worried about him making a break IN something…or someone," Jane muttered
"What was that?"
"Nothing." Jane hurriedly replied as she ran to catch the elevator and leaving a somewhat bemused Nell alongside the now occupied Clovis.
"So…" Nell said as she looked at him as he appeared to be checking the balance of the pole in his hand, "…do you have a name or should I just call you Jane's Stray du Jour?" After she saw him begin to idly start spinning the makeshift staff in one hand she added "And perhaps a little warning as to who she is trying to set you up with?"
"Ah of course, terribly sorry, how rude of me" Clovis stopped twirling the staff, "The name is Clovis R. Lee-Daniels, a pleasure to meet you." He said as he bowed slightly.
"Sure…name's Nell Girard, and what did you filter that accent through?"
"What accent?" Clovis replied, confused.
"Um…Okay never mind," Nell replied warily as she watched Clovis return to spinning the staff, getting a little more elaborate with the stuff he was doing, "So are you that desperate for a dance partner?"
"Actually I haven't had much time to practice my forms in a while and figured a quick go of 'Taoist Secret Style Xuan Wu Staff' would be a good way to kill some time" Clovis remarked offhandedly as if it was a perfectly normal thing to say.
"If it's so secret then are you gonna have to kill me?" Nell asked sarcastically, she was beginning to think Jane had picked up some Bruce Lee-Wannabe…albeit this train of thought was cut off when Clovis suddenly spun around with the staff, stopping it a mere millimeter away from her face, a deathly silent expression upon his face.
"… No, not really," He said dryly.
"Um, look…" Nell replied, wide-eyed. She gulped and said, "My bladder would really appreciate it if you didn't do that again."
Clovis leaned the staff over his shoulder and sighed, "Bugger it; no one in this bleedin' town lets me have any fun."
Jane stepped off the elevator and listened. Down the hall, she could hear CC saying, "Look, it can't stay here."
Jane smirked and headed that direction. After a few moments, CC said, "I'm pretty sure you're not even allowed to have one in the city limits."
Jane raised an eyebrow, remembering some of the offbeat pets the other dorm residents tried to keep while she was living there.
"I don't want you to hurt it, but you need to find it a new home. Now. I don't know, try the zoo."
CC stalked out of a room and her blue hair swayed side to side as she shook her head. "Hi, Jane."
Jane carefully said, "CC, can I ask a favor from you?"
"As long as it doesn't include livestock."
"Potbelly pig. And, I'm not cleaning up after it."
"My favor can be an ass at times, but he's usually not considered livestock."
"I need some of your makeup skills for a couple of quick disguises."
Now for the following events to make sense it's probably best for us to rewind to a few minutes earlier were Jane and Clovis both made their entrance. Instead of focusing on these two, focus on a BFAC campus security guard and his friend from a similar line of employment having a cup of coffee outside. The friend, who happened to be with Raft security, saw a black-clad figure with the braided hair pass by and performed the comedy classic of the spit-take.
"What's with you, dude?" the BFAC guard asked.
"Remember that explosion we had at the drama department a while back, the one we never did catch the culprits for?"
"Uh-huh…wait, the one with the not-unimpressive reward?"
"The very same. Well, one of them just walked right past us."
"You're kidding me."
"Nope, honest to God, I'd recognize that hair and baseball cap anywhere."
"What are the odds? So, you planning on nabbing that reward?"
"Well I would…but thing is, I've heard rumors about the guy, I hear he's real big into that Jackie Chan chop-sockey type stuff, they even say he spent time with Shaolin monks. Call me a coward, but I don't wanna try and apprehend him single-handedly, and call me greedy but I don't want to share the reward with any other of my colleagues."
"Tell you what, howsabout I call in some of my guys, I keep them in the dark about the cash, we nab the guy and split the reward?"
"Well I suppose it's better than splitting it amongst the whole bunch of guys, ok, deal."
Now that this little diversion is out of the way, we can return to our main story, as you may recall Clovis was just explaining how he never got to have any fun in Boston.
"Excuse me sir," a voice from behind Clovis spoke up, "would you mind coming with me?"
Clovis turned around to find that several BFAC security staff (obviously the back up had arrived quickly) standing around him.
"Ah…" Clovis examined the assembled staff before saying; "I assume this is to do with my previous excursion to this fine city. Sadly, as much as I would just love to come along with you gents, I am regretfully under strict instructions not to leave this building. So, I would suggest that it is in your best interest to just pretend you didn't see me."
"Were you just threatening me?" The guard asked annoyed.
"Clovis R. Lee-Daniels never threatens…he merely points out."
"Clovis…you mean you're named after that town in New Mexico?"
Behind his shades, Clovis's eye twitched as he tightened the grip on the staff, "Nell, my dear, you know all that stuff I just said about not being able to have any fun in this city? I take it all back."
Waiting for the elevator, CC said, "If nothing else, you two are welcome to hang out back stage at work. Considering that being able to bench press a Harley is a job requirement for the bouncers, I think you'll be pretty safe."
"But we can't exactly live there."
"What about disguises for Clovis and Wasabi?"
"It won't be any harder than getting someone ready for a costume contest at a sci-fi con. They're gonna be in the stuff all day, so the makeup has to be durable."
Jane said, "With those two, you better make it extra-durable."
"The challenge will be the one with real long hair. Even around here, a guy with a ponytail running down the middle of his back stands out. Probably let it fall free and maybe a do a temp dye job."
As Jane and CC watched the elevator door open, out fell a pair of unconscious security men. Clovis followed shortly after, stepping over and on the two guards as he rather calmly exited the elevator, pausing to brush some dust from his shoulders.
"Hey Jane, no need for those disguises after all. Me and what was left of security had a nice little chat, they've agreed to keep their distance as long as…well I decided to conclude negotiations there and they didn't seem inclined to argue so there you have it."
Hands on hips, Jane asked, "Where's Nell?"
Clovis pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "Inside. I take it she's had a rather sheltered life and doesn't deal well with a little excitement."
Pressed into the far corner of the elevator car, Nell stood, staring wide-eyed at the door (minus one crutch for some unexplained reason).
Jane pushed Clovis and CC into the elevator while saying, "You still have that effect on people.
CC scanned Clovis and smiled. "You are cute. I bet we could do some real interesting things with that ponytail."
"There are a few martial arts moves that it's useful for." Clovis said in return, not quite catching CC's implication.
When the door opened on the ground floor, Jane carefully pulled Nell away and past several moaning security guards. "Why don't we leave CC to keep him occupied for a while so we can go to class?"
Coming out of her shock, Nell simply nodded and started toward her next class, planning to stop by her room for a spare crutch.
Jane turned and said to Clovis, "We're heading for class. Look, since you don't need the makeup, you can kill a little time around here and head back to the apartment."
"Won't you need a ride?"
"I'll catch the bus home. No problem."
Clovis shrugged and said, "Sure. Somebody should be there when Wasabi wakes up, anyway."
The elevator door started to close again when CC said, "You don't have to leave right away, do you?"
Wearing a Boston Red Sox cap to cover his hair, Charles purposefully walked down the sidewalk away from the bus stop. The century-old or better houses in the neighborhood gave the feeling of well-aged elegance and tranquility. He noted one particular house with care while appearing to give it no special attention. After a brisk walk, he came upon another bus stop and patiently waited for the public transit to arrive.
Their entrance must be around back. A pleasant additional challenge.
Daria unlocked her car door and told the stocky blonde who'd walked out from work with her, "Good night, Shelly."
"Good night. I hope they catch that slimebag pretty soon."
Daria locked the car and started it, but stayed in the parking space until Shelly was in her car. Daria frowned and grumbled, "I hate this."
Rush hour traffic was horrible, as usual, and Daria was more than relieved to reach home and to see multiple cars out back. She parked and marched up the stairs. After unlocking the door, she entered to see Jane, Mack, Clovis and Wasabi sitting at the dining table eating pizza.
Jane waved and said, "There's more in the kitchen."
Daria noticed something odd and said, "Well, it looks like at least one of you had a good day. Clovis where did you get that BFAC campus security cap?"
He tipped the hat and said, "Spoils of war."
Shoulders sagging, Daria asked, "Did he...?"
Jane nodded. "Yes…several."
"But," Clovis said, holding up a finger, "we did come to a mutually agreeable settlement."
"That's great for BFAC, but what about Raft? Where I go to school. You know, the place that's looking for you?"
"Package deal," Clovis replied, swapping the BFAC cap with one from Raft and grinning.
Everyone had scattered throughout the apartment that night. Daria was at her computer, putting the final touches on a paper. Michael was prone on her bed, reading through a textbook, a pile of photocopy handouts and a three-ring binder of notes. Karen and Derek were at the table, with it covered by molecular models while they worked through organic chemistry problems. Mack was working at Jane's computer while she read through a pile of notes and handouts haphazardly scattered on the floor around her bed. Wasabi had a notebook computer open and was studying some kind of spreadsheet. Finally, Clovis reclined on the sofa, reading a human anatomy text.
Taking a break, Daria went to the kitchen for a soda and on her way back, noticed Karen staring at Wasabi, who was gibbering incoherently as he scrolled through different screens; the only things recognizable in his voice were various math terms.
Karen nodded her head toward Wasabi, saying, "Now that's disturbing."
"Wanna know the scary thing?" Daria crossed her arms and sighed. "According to Tom, he's the sane one."
Dumbfounded, Karen sputtered, "What?!"
Daria pointed to Clovis, who was spinning the pizza cutter between his fingers while reading. "I keep telling myself that he only meant that when compared to Clovis."
"Kind of like saying jalapenos are mild…compared to habaneros," Jane said as she came into the room.
When the doorbell rang, Jane said, "I'll get it. Probably Nell wanting the money for a new crutch after Clovis wrapped that it around that guys neck."
She looked through the spyglass and relaxed, opening the door and saying, "Hi CC, what brings you over?"
"Wanted to see if Clovis was busy tonight."
A sudden sound and motion caught Jane's eye and she turned to see Clovis dive out of a window.
She turned back and said, "Wow, I've never seen Clovis look scared before."
CC shrugged. "I just want to ask him a few questions Jane, nothing weird."
Hearing a jingle when CC moved, Jane pulled CC's collar aside. "Then why are you wearing the chainmail bikini?"
A faint pink appeared on CC's cheeks. "Because...um…err...okay, you got me."
"Ordinarily, I'd say he couldn't have gone far since we're on the second floor, but with him…"
CC tilted her head back and to the side. "I double parked him. If he goes anywhere, it's on foot."
"She's crazy, I tell you. Completely, absolutely, bloody crazy," Clovis muttered the next morning while nursing a cup of coffee at the table.
Still jittery with separation anxiety from his arsenal, Wasabi said, "But you've got to like her choice of hair color."
"You go out with her, then."
"Since you're guests and helping out, sort of, I made ya'll some breakfast," Karen said, bringing in two plates, each holding a pile of scrambled eggs, bacon and grits.
"Great, thanks" Clovis said simply before diving in like a man who hadn't eaten in a week.
Wasabi carefully picked up a fork and poked the grits. "What is it?"
"Grits." Karen wiped her hands on a towel. "And the best you're gonna find in this town."
"It looks like wallpaper paste."
"Well, yeah. So, what's your point? Have you taken a close look at raw tofu lately?"
Wasabi looked up with one eye. "Lady, I'm from New Jersey. The closest I've ever come to sushi was a visit to a local aquarium."
Daria passing, looking ready to head out in a hurry, cut the discussion over breakfast materials short.
"I gotta get going for class, didn't realize I slept in so late...think something woke me up early this morning…how did he get back in?" She said as she glared at Clovis
"I knocked at the door…what?" Clovis responded to the incredulous looks from the others, "Well if you're heading off, me and Waz here are ready to accompany."
"Who let him in?" Daria asked with a hint of impending doom for whoever answered. When she saw Karen looking nervous she continued, "Upchuck's attention can wander, you might want to accompany Karen today to scout things out where she works, just in case." As she saw Clovis about to protest…and Karen more so, Daria held up a hand, "Wasabi can come with me to Raft, besides Clovis, surely you could learn some stuff watching the zoo animals?"
"A well made point." Clovis replied as he grabbed the arm of a faintly protesting Karen and headed to the door.
"If he gets to be a nuisance just show him the monkeys!" Wasabi shouted as the door shut. Then turned to Daria, "You know you could have just told him I would go along and he could stay and guard the place."
"I am not, I repeat NOT, leaving him alone in this apartment." Daria replied, "and to a lesser extent the same goes for you, now let's go." As she left Daria kept repeating in her head: Lesser of two evils…Lesser of two evils,
While Daria was attending lessons, Wasabi stood outside, glaring at the no-smoking sign on the opposite wall,
"Hmm," he thought to himself, "she's busy in class so I have some time to kill; I wonder what ever happened to that theater roof."
With that, he wandered off, leaving Daria to feel an unexplained cold shiver, which she dismissed with, "Whatever it is, I'm sure it's much worse for Karen."
"Clovis, get the hell out of the monkey enclosure! How did you even get in there anyway? Wait, scratch that, I don't want to know."
As Wasabi wandered around Raft, realizing that he had no idea where the theatre department was, he amused himself instead by finding his way to the Dunston Hall's Math Department and examining the equations on a classroom whiteboard.
"Tsk Parseval's Theorem, buncha amateurs if you ask me." He smirked as he put the finishing decimal point at the end of the chalkboard.
Approaching said classroom happened to be unfortunately named Professor Paine, head of Raft Theatre Studies. His reasons for being in this area happened to be the young lady, a member of the math's faculty, that he "just happened" to be heading in the same direction as, with the intent to invite her out to dinner,
She looked in her classroom and said, "I don't believe it, someone already solved the challenge for the freshman class."
"Must be a smart student."
"I don't recognize that Asian guy as being one of mine."
Making a poor joke, he said, "I thought they all looked alike?"
"Not unless spiky green hair is common now…"
She was stopped from continuing by Professor Paine rather inconsiderately passing out at this point, (fortunately Wasabi had chosen to exit from a different doorway or else it could have been a full blown heart attack.)
Still feeling on edge, the sound of an ambulance stopping behind Dunston Hall made the hair on the back of Daria's neck rise. Seeing Wasabi coming down the sidewalk from that direction, her suspicion kicked into high gear. She grabbed and pulled him into some nearby bushes. "What did you do?"
"You're walking away from a building with an ambulance outside. What did you do?"
"Nothing! Well, I finished off a simple little math problem on a classroom board, but that was it."
Daria released his shirt. Also trying to convince herself, she said to Wasabi, "Okay, coincidences do happen. They have to happen sometime around you two. Not everything can be your fault."
Daria returned to the apartment to find Clovis sprawled on the couch with an assortment of scratches and cuts on his body. Oddly, he was also wearing the blue kimono Daria had worn for the aforementioned play the previous summer.
"What the hell happened to you?"
"Those monkeys are a hell of a lot less friendly than the ones in Japan." Clovis replied as he rubbed his forehead.
"But, he did make a nice show for the tourists." Karen added, "Several asked me when the next one was scheduled."
Daria put her face in her hand as she thought to herself, "Obviously this is all some sort of elaborate revenge scheme orchestrated by Tom…oh who am I kidding? If only it was that simple."
Wasabi asked, "Why are your clothes from earlier today outside drying?"
"Because I wasn't letting him in the house until everything the monkeys threw on him was hosed off." Karen explained.
Daria asked, "You made him wear that?"
Karen shrugged, "Actually he chose it himself"
Daria faced Clovis, "What were you doing in my closet?"
Wasabi said, "Ten bucks says his answer involves ninjas."
Clovis said, "Um, looking for ninja."
Daria turned to Karen. "You let him?"
"I wasn't going to let him look in my closet."
Daria shook her head and turned back to Clovis. "Go get something out of your suitcase!"
"Oh," Clovis said, "I suppose I could do that."
"I hope it doesn't take the shop too long to replace my car's water pump," Michael said to himself as he stepped off the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus. He started down the street and added, "Eh, at least my car puking should cover my bad luck for the day."
Wasabi sat on the back bumper of a car watching Clovis work through a kata. "You should've let me bring something."
Clovis landed after a kick combination. "You know what she'd do with anything she found. I don't want to perform that kind of extraction."
"But how would she find out?"
Clovis spun through a block-punch-block combination. "When you couldn't resist using it."
"Oh, well, yeah. There is that."
Clovis stopped and held up his hand to silence his friend. He whispered, "I heard something."
Michael crawled along the hedge bordering the house, muttering, "Klutz." He moved forward, feeling through the grass and leaves. "That pen has to be here somewhere."
Clovis saw a flash of red hair moving low along the bushes and flew into action. Wasabi lost no time in joining his friend in subduing the offender.
"Gotcha!" Clovis triumphantly proclaimed to the body he held face-first down on the ground.
Wasabi crouched and lifted the guy's head. "Uh…Clovis…"
"What?" Clovis asked.
Michael spat dirt out and said, "What the hell was that all about?"
Clovis straightened. "Bloody hell, he sounds just like Michael."
"Clovis," Wasabi explained, "This is Michael."
"Can't be. Michael drives a car."
"It's in the shop," Michael said and twisted his head to face Clovis. "I took the bus."
"What's that noise down there?" Daria asked from the stair landing.
Clovis stood and let go of Michael. "Nothing much."
"Your personal bodyguards attacked me," Michael said.
"It was practice. And you didn't even do a thing to fight back." Clovis said,
"Like I had a chance?"
Daria's boots thumped loudly as she came down the stairs. "Clovis…"
"No, no he's perfectly right" Clovis shrugged, "He wouldn't have stood a chance."
Wasabi said, "Sorry, Daria. We saw red hair creeping along the hedge and assumed it was Upchuck."
"His hair doesn't look at all like Upchuck's!"
"Well," Clovis said, "We really don't know what this guy looks like."
"What?" Daria exclaimed. "Didn't Tom fill you in on that little detail?"
Wasabi and Clovis look at each other and shook their heads. "No."
Daria slapped her forehead. "I should've guessed. Okay, get up there."
After the two were inside, Daria kissed Michael. "I'm sorry about that."
"I'll live. Are you sure that Tom doesn't hold a grudge against you?"
"Well…he mentally compensates for those two. Like how Jane can walk through the apartment and automatically avoid stepping on band members asleep on the floor."
Michael brushed dirt and grass from his clothes. "Compensates a lot, doesn't he."
Inside, Daria pulled up the online edition of the Lawndale Sun-Herald and located Upchuck's arrest photo. She stepped aside to let Clovis and Wasabi see it. "There."
Clovis looked and raised both eyebrows. "My God! It's Archie's creepy little brother!"
She pushed them back out of the room. "Good, now you know what he looks like." She called to Karen and Jane, "Michael and I are going out for a little while."
When they got back to the apartment, Michael looked at the television and asked, "What is that?"
Clovis, Wasabi, Jane, Karen and Derek were in the living room. Clovis was completely absorbed in what was showing. Jane was in her 'art data collection' mode while watching. Wasabi was half-watching while playing Freelance Building Implosion on a laptop computer. Derek watched with marginal interest while Karen rested against his chest.
Karen said, "Some kind of kung-fu series. Clovis says there are only eighty-four episodes."
Daria asked, "And he has them all with?"
"Yeah. He found them when he opened his suitcase for fresh clothes."
"There couldn't have been much room after the tapes."
Clovis said, "Tom said you didn't have a DVD player, so I packed the bloody tapes."
Daria crossed her arms. "Tom told you we didn't have a DVD player, but forgot to show you what Upchuck looked like."
Michael shook his head. "Where's Mack?"
"He volunteered to pick up the take-out." Karen got up and ushered Daria into the kitchen.
Michael said, "I'll be in your room"
Daria said, "Be there in a minute."
Karen closed the door and said, "I think Mack was getting out of the house before he did something. He left saying, 'I didn't kill Kevin. I didn't kill Kevin.'"
"That says something if they're wearing on him as bad as Kevin Thompson used to. I'm a little surprised you and Derek are watching."
"I think Derek was amusing himself by picking out the real stuff from the stage stuff. I was just enjoying the pillow."
"If it keeps Clovis occupied, he'll do less damage that way."
Karen said, "Just wanted to warn you about Mack. Jane was kind of oblivious."
Karen opened the kitchen. "We'll try to keep them under control and'll holler when Mack's back with dinner."
Derek's attention had drifted to Wasabi's laptop and he was saying, "You know, C4 as a shaped charge would work a lot better for those supports."
Daria stopped, but kept going, thinking, It's only a computer game.
Inside her room, Michael was fast-forwarding through the trailers and other filler at the front of a video. He asked, "Anything wrong?"
"I think Mack was getting a little frayed around the edges." She settled onto the bed next to him. "What's on?"
"The Final Programme. Very British sci-fi with a nice early seventies feel."
About half an hour later, Karen knocked on Daria's door and poked her head in. "Mack's here with dinner."
"Great, I'm starved," Daria said and stood up. "And my brain needs a break from the movie."
Michael also stood. "I warned you it was a little odd."
"Little is an understatement." When Daria stepped into the living room, she noticed Wasabi and Clovis hovering over the food.
Mack took his and Jane's meals over to her. "Food."
"Hm?" Jane looked, up. "Oh, hey Mack. Sorry, zoned out a bit there."
"Might be the best way to deal with those two."
"Only works when someone else is awake. Otherwise, they tend to cause structural damage."
"They're watching videos."
Clovis looked into a carton and was surprised to see sauerkraut. "What's this?"
Karen said, "Dinner."
Clovis sniffed the box. "This is some strange kimchee."
"It's sauerkraut, you idiot."
"You said he was going out for Chinese. I was expecting noodles."
"No, I said he was going for takeout."
"Like I said…"
Daria carefully grabbed Karen's arm and guided her to the kitchen. She said to Clovis, "There are places other than Chinese that have takeout food. This came from Bratwurst Uber Alles, a German restaurant.
"Aw, man. There should be a law against that."
Daria turned and pushed Karen through the kitchen door. "Time for a breather."
"Can I shove the brats up his…?"
Karen sighed and leaned against the counter. "Okay. It's just after dealing with him all day…"
"I understand. Look, they're my problem; I'll take both with me tomorrow. Give you and Jane a break."
"Are you sure?"
"No, but I think I have to, or you and Jane are going to run away."
"I'll take it."
"We better get back out there."
Karen opened the door and they saw Clovis a few feet away, asking Wasabi, "What's wrong with Betty and Veronica?"
Wasabi looked past Clovis' shoulder straight at Daria and Karen. " Nice knowing ya, Jughead."
Daria tapped her foot on the wooden floor. Clovis turned and said, "Oops."
"Oops is right," Karen said.
"I still say making me sleep out here is over-bloody-reacting," Clovis grumbled from the outside landing.
"Better you than me man" Wasabi replied at the door, "Sleep tight and don't let the ninja bite, dude." He laughed as he shut the door, watching Clovis glancing back and forth nervously.
"What are you grinning about?" Derek asked from the table, busying himself with finishing off the leftover takeout.
"Oh just looking forwards to maybe the first easy sleep in a few days, made all the more sweeter knowing my esteemed friend outside will be not be sharing such an experience." Wasabi replied as he took a seat and joined in scavenging amongst the takeout.
"I would have thought from what I've seen that sleeping outside wouldn't be a problem for someone like him."
"Normally it wouldn't, but he'll be up all night keeping an eye out for ninja attack now I've put the idea into his head." He held up a hand as Derek began to speak "Before you ask, he only explains it as being a past experience and I figure it's best not to go into detail with him, since the most ludicrous story you can imagine can often turn out to be what actually happened."
"Sounds like you befriended a bona fide living embodiment of chaos," Derek paused to watch Wasabi open up his laptop before continuing, "so what game is that anyway?"
"Oh its no game" Wasabi replied, "It's a 3d mock-up of the campus I'm in. I'm planning my …graduation celebration."
Derek looked uneasily at the blank faced man opposite him before the blank stare broke down into a laughing grin, "Sorry dude I couldn't resist, it is a recreation of the campus but we use it for online gaming, there are no shooting ranges in Starfield so I need to work on my aim somehow, and taking potshots at Clovis just doesn't cut it."
Clovis leaned against the wall, trying to get comfortable while putting the thought of ninja attack out of his head, at least he had retrieved his trusty cricket bat from his car just in case.
He pulled the peak of his cap down to cover his eyes and fussed around until he was pushed back into the corner, he remembered what it was that therapist had told him…right before the men in white coats had him carted away for his electroshock therapy, poor therapist.
"The ninja are not out to get me, the ninja are not out to get me," he repeated under his breath.
He began to feel calmer as he kept repeating the phrase, although he did feel an itch under the cap so he lifted the peak and scratched, while still continuing:
"The ninja are no-I BLOODY KNEW IT!"
With that he raised his cricket bat above his head, and with a cry of "HAVE AT THEE YOU NINJARY WANKER!" vanished off into the night chasing a black clad figure he saw snooping around.
Upchuck wearily looked out of the apartment window at the predawn activity of Boston while shedding his black sweatshirt. "Who was that unstable, psychotic nutjob? Not the wretched interloper to the wondrous Ms. Morgendorffer's affections, nor the now-adventuresome Mack MacKenzie, or the good soldier-boy."
He went to the tiny bathroom to wash his hands and tend to the many cuts, scrapes and bruises on his hands from a night spent in terrified flight. "Perhaps, perhaps she has hired some professional security." He grinned a grin of mischief and lust. "Will make the challenge all the more delectable.
Jane awoke after an unusually peaceful night, as she lay in bed she began to hear a faint tapping sound, assuming it was Clovis knocking at the door again she got up and made her way to the door, stopping when she realized the sound was coming from the window. Warily approaching it she was equal parts relieved and vexed to see it was Clovis, hanging onto the window ledge with one hand while he tapped at the glass with the cricket bat in his other.
Jane sighed as she opened the window, figuring it was that or risk him trying to smash it, she watched him crawl in as opposed to his one of his usual showy flips or somersaults,
"Again? Did CC find you or something?"
Clovis half spoke, half mumbled as he got to his feet, "Was chasing the ninja, slippery little bugger he was as well" Clovis paused speaking as he made his way to the kitchen and collapsed into a chair. "But I'd rather face a whole horde of ninja (again) than deal with that CC woman." He paused only long enough to start filling a bowl with what looked like cereal before resuming, "I mean you people think I'M crazy!"
Jane rolled her eyes as she replied, "CC is not crazy."
"The woman wears a chain-mail bikini," Clovis countered as his voice began to return to its usual slightly manic lilt, "Normal people do NOT wear chain-mail bikinis!"
"Not ALL the time" Jane replied, "Although her wearing last night it was a bit weird, but it's not like it was store bought, she made it herself…"
A shout of, "THAT'S SUPPOSED TO MAKE ME FEEL BETTER?!?" gave Jane a hint that she shouldn't have said the last part. It was then she decided she should change the subject to something more important,
"…By the way, that isn't cereal, its Bump's dry food"
"…Ah" was Clovis's reply as he held the milk bottle hovering over the bowl of cat food, stopped from pouring it a second early, staring at the contents of the bowl that he nearly ate. Of course, his response of shrugging and saying, "Eh, sod it," before pouring the milk and eating it anyway left Jane more than a little stunned.
"Tastes familiar..." Clovis spoke between mouthfuls looking thoughtful before the light of realization dawned on him. "So that's what they've been serving at that discount sushi place. The bloody little…"
His plans for (no doubt excessively violent) retribution against the sushi purveyors were cut short as he noticed the black cat that had entered the kitchen was now glaring at him.
"I suppose I should mention that she doesn't like to share." Jane added, while making a mental note to commit the downright surreal scenario before her to canvas at the first chance she had.
"Back off, fuzzball!" Clovis replied as he glared back at the cat. "I learned some interesting recipes for stir fried moggy in my travels…"
Deadly serious, Jane warned, "Daria spoils that cat just a tiny bit. If she hears you say that, she's likely to go grandpa on you."
Clovis chuckled, "Well, unless her grandfather was that 'Mad Dog' Morgendorffer I heard about from the Korean War."
Clovis continued to laugh until Jane's expression made it fade into a choke. He shuddered and looked back at Bump. "Nice kitty."
The situation was prevented from delving into further bizarreness when Daria entered. She saw Clovis and her eyes narrowed.
When she opened her mouth to speak, Clovis held up a hand and began before her, "Before you say anything, I got in through the window. No, I didn't injure anyone last night…sadly. Also, yes I'm aware that I'm eating cat food, no I don't care, and while I'm at it, I shall apologize in advance for anything I may, scratch that, will: say, do, or inflict that will irritate you."
Daria closed her eyes and whispered to herself, "With friends like these..."
"At least know we know how Tom was so patient with you all the time,"
"You know it's not too late to make him spend the day 'protecting' YOU Jane."
"What the hell are you guys talking about?" Karen asked as she walked in, before her eyes fell upon (who else) Clovis, "Oh…how…?"
"Window, no injuries, yes cat food, don't care, sorry in advance," Clovis said quickly before finishing off the bowl and looking at it. "I've eaten worse." He continued speaking as he stood up and stretched, "So what's on the agenda for today ladies and…ladies? Now where did that little green haired wazzock get off to?"
"As unlikely as it is to say, I agree with Clovis, where did the other one get to?" Daria asked as she placed a hand to her head, awaiting no doubt news she would rather leave unheard.
Karen was the first to speak up, "Oh he went somewhere with Derek...why is everyone looking at me like that?"
"Oh great, he's loose." Clovis sighed, "Ah well can't be helped, suppose Karen here's fancy-man can keep an eye on him for the time being. I mean, it's not like Waz can do any harm here…unless…" Clovis had memories of the last visit. "Honest Herb's Used Munitions doesn't have a branch here, does it?"
It was at this point the trio reached an unspoken agreement to ignore whatever the black-capped one had said, Daria instead spoke on, "We'll just hope Derek doesn't lose him, as for YOU Clovis, you're coming with me and you are not to leave my sight. Understand? I suppose I should be thankful I don't have many classes today."
"Ah, speaking of which," Karen spoke up nervously, "That Findlay guy called…says he wants you to work some extra hours today…I kinda sorta accidentally let slip you didn't have much class to attend and well…" she shrugged sheepishly as Daria just stared at her.
Karen continued with "But look on the bright side", as she pointed to the cat food box label that said, "Hairball Formula," "At least that's one thing you won't have to worry about today."
Daria took a deep breath before continuing, "I suppose it could be worse…I'm not sure how, mind you, but the way this weeks is going I'm sure I'll find out soon enough." With that she turned her head and snapped, "Clovis, Heel, bring a book or whatever it is that stops you going all chop-sockey on people…and for God's sake reconsider your policy on entering via the window."
"They get mad when I come in through the door, they get even madder when I come in through the windows, I just can't win…wonder if this place has air-vents?"
Elsewhere, Wasabi was getting re-acquainted with his preferred method of stress relief of emptying the contents of a gun into a target at the other end of the room, after expending sufficient ammo he approached the nearest vending machine for a drink.
As he got the drink he found Derek and another guy standing at the machine discussing something. The "something" being a strange looking man at the other end of the room keeping a tattered bag close to him.
"What's going on?" Wasabi asked as he approached the two.
"Crazy Eddie seems to have something new," Derek replied, "Guy usually turns up with something he claims is gonna help establish his new world order…although it's usually some sort of dud."
"Oh?" Wasabi replied before considering something before rubbing his jaw and saying, very loudly, "Damn my fillings are buzzing again…" As he heard the sound of running feet he approached the now unattended bag.
"Wow." Derek said in admiration, "you've done this before haven't you?"
"You get a lot of wackos in Starfield, heck I'm friends with the biggest, you kinda get a feel for them after a while," at that he opened the bag and peered inside, "Well this is underwhelming, just a bunch of mineral water bottles."
"Damn, guess he didn't get over that mind control drugs in the tap water theory," Derek replied "I mean what moron believes that?"
"I know." Wasabi nodded and said, "It's clearly the bottled stuff with the drugs in it," unaware of the nervous glances he was getting he continued, "I'll go hand this in at the desk or whatever, then I gotta get going, laters."
Gazing incomprehensively at the book on the desk front of him, Clovis whispered to Daria, "Isn't this a little…easy…for college?"
Trying to keep up with the professor's rapid delivery and take notes, Daria irritably whispered back, "The class is for learning how to teach literature to middle school students. So yes, I'm sure you find the book a little easy."
"Okay." Clovis read a couple more paragraphs and then asked, "So, why are we here?"
"It was a bloody simple question. Why are we here?"
"I'm here because I'm registered for the class and paid a lot of money to take it. You're here because Tom is…Tom."
"I mean, why are you taking this class?"
"It's part of my Education degree."
"Education? I'm sorry, I thought you're trying to be a writer."
"I am trying to be a writer."
"Hence, my question. Why are we here?"
"Education is my second major."
"Bloody hell, can't you just answer a question?"
"I am. I'm a double major, English and Education."
"I figured that part out. I'm trying to figure out why."
"Teaching is my backup plan. The starving artist thing may have appeal in some quarters, but I prefer to eat."
"Don't you expect to get paid for writing?"
"Yes, but I'm planning on the possibility that I may not make enough money writing. Few authors do."
"Ahhh," Clovis said, realizing Daria's point. "Contingency plans. I've heard of those and was curious about what they were like."
As Wasabi headed off from the shooting range instead of handing the bag in he left right away, ducking into an alleyway he opened a bottle and sniffed the contents, reeling back he shook his head;
"Whoa, and here I thought this 'Nitro9' stuff was just an urban legend…" he paused as he began to walk out of the alleyway, "Of course a version of nitroglycerine made from household cleaners discovered by a Dr Who fan is pretty tame by some standards…question is what do I do with this now? I could always make Clovis drink it?"
His train of thought was cut off as he bumped into someone, and given the contents of his bag it certainly managed to draw his attention.
"AHHH!" He yelped before seeing he was un-blown up, nervously he looked at the confused person he had bumped into "sorry about tha…aw crap."
Len Ernst stared in disbelief at the man who almost blew him up during the opening performance of Henry V the summer before. "You! I can't believe you're loose…Ahhh!" the former actor screamed as he fled from Wasabi.
He weakly waved and said, "Um, nice to meet you, again?" Shaking his head, Wasabi continued on his way. "Always heard that Boston-types were upright and not very excitable. Guess I heard wrong."
A brunette with knee-length hair stepped out from the nearby restroom. "Len? Oh, where did you…" Mandy, Len's girlfriend started to ask. When her eyes landed on Wasabi, he would later say that the best description was that they detonated in anger. "You!"
Daria pointed and said, "The guy in the next cubicle is on vacation this week, just take a seat and do some web surfing or something. And please, try not to make any problems, my boss is a royal pain in the ass."
Clovis sat and asked, "So why put up with him?"
"I like the work, and I like having staff parking. You don't want to try to find a spot in the regular student lot."
"Any decent games on this thing?" Clovis said while starting the computer.
"Not even solitaire?"
"My boss even took solitaire off of the machines so they wouldn't be a distraction."
"What a prat."
"You're being generous, you haven't met him, yet."
A few moments later, Daria's supervisor, Dr. Findlay, walked past and said to Clovis, "David, I see you're back early. Great, you can…who the hell are you?"
"Oh, hello. The name's Clovis R…"
Daria interrupted, "Clovis is a guest in town for a couple days. He won't be a problem." Daria's eyes told Clovis that it would be very advisable to agree.
"Well, Mr. Clovis. I'll take Ms. Morgendorffer at her word." Dr. Findlay faced Daria and handed her a CD. "The markup technician at the printers must've been blind, drunk and stupid when he put together the Miller manuscript. I need you to fix it by the end of the day."
"Yes, today. I know you'll be under a bit of time pressure, but I'm sure you'll pull through for me."
He spun and walked away, not giving Daria a chance to reply. She stared at the CD and said, "Today. Wonderful."
Clovis noted, "You don't sound too happy about that."
"It's an identification guide to slime molds. Kind of interesting, but it goes into details only about a dozen people in the world would be interested in. And, he goes into them at great length. So, no interruptions."
"27," Clovis said.
"That's how many ways I could have stopped that bugger from ticking you off."
"I don't want to know…"
"Are you sure?" Clovis inquired, "14 of them involved a pencil."
"Clovis, just do some surfing. And make sure you erase the browser history when you're done. Please, if I'm going to finish this today, I can't have any interruptions."
Clovis walked out of the office while stretching his arms and yawning, clearly going for so long without committing an act of casual violence or other such mayhem had left him a little bored.
As Daria left the building she reached into her pocket before stopping, "Oh great, I left my keys in the office." She looked at the black clad figure at the base of the steps and said, "Clovis I want you to stand right there and not move at all, understand?"
"Oh fine, fine, fine, fine, fine," Clovis said swiftly, with a touch of irritation.
After Daria had re-entered the building, Clovis began to look around again, getting bored he decided to do some practice while he waited, taking a coin from his wallet he set about balancing the coin on different hand forms.
Clovis continued doing this until something suddenly knocked into him, sending the coin flying from his hand, with total disregard Clovis dived after the coin, catching it before it rolled under a parked car, as he stood up with the reclaimed money he was nearly knocked into again by a group of people.
"What the Bleedin' Hell kind of town is this?" He asked himself as he looked around, seeing a familiar figure running at him from the opposite direction he continued, "Oy, Waz! You see those nutters running around here?" As his friend seemed to ignore him as he passed, Clovis reached out to grab him, "Waz I'm talking…oh."
Holding the rapidly disappearing Wasabi's backpack Clovis yelled after him "Waz get back here, you left your…mineral water?" as Clovis looked at the bottle in confusion several female figures ran past seemingly in pursuit of Wasabi.
Clovis stood watching this for a few seconds before it finally clicked into place and he grumbled, "Oh for the love of, I leave you alone for one bloody day Waz and this happens?" He threw the bottle over his shoulder and set off in pursuit. "I swear he's even more bloody trouble without his bleedin' guns, I'm sure Daria will understand."
However since he set off running he was blissfully unaware of the fateful arc that the bottle of supposed 'Mineral Water' was taking…
BOOM! Pretty much sums it up.
Clovis made a fast cut and sprinted down a narrow alley between two lecture halls, arriving at the end just in time to grab Wasabi as he ran past and pull him into the alley. Seconds later, a group of women led by Mandy ran by.
"Waz!" Clovis whispered, dodging his friend's wild swing. "It's me!"
"Wha? Oh, Clovis. Nice running into you. How's things?"
"What did you do?"
"Nothing. Just kind of hanging out. Spent a couple hours at a shooting range with that Derek guy."
"Right, and those women were chasing after you for your good looks."
"I don't know. I'd just run into that King Harry guy from the play last year when one come out of the ladies room and went nuts."
Clovis started pushing Wasabi back toward where Daria worked. "We better get back and be on some good behavior. Daria's patience is wearing a little thin"
"Yeah, and I get the feeling she could fry our brains with just a thought."
"If we're lucky, and I have the distinct feeling that no amount of martial arts training will save you if she loses it.""
"Don't you mean us?"
"Clovis, this one time, as unlikely as you may find it, I don't think it would even save you."
Clovis paused for several seconds before speaking, "I'm sorry Waz I don't understand what you just said. Anyway you left this."
"Ah, my backpack. Thanks." Wasabi took the luggage from Clovis and carefully looked inside.
While walking, Clovis looked at the plume of smoke directly ahead and said, "Huh, I wonder what's up?"
"Looks like something's burning."
"At least they can't blame us for this one, we were nowhere near it."
They finished the short walk and saw that the smoke came from a burning car in the staff parking lot near the University Press building. Daria saw them from the front door and marched forcefully toward them.
Clovis held up his hands and said, "We didn't have anything to do with it." He pointed back. "We were over there."
Daria studied his face closely. "Clovis, my boss's car is a burning wreck and you say you have nothing to do with it?"
"I don't know what to tell you, I'm as puzzled as you are, not to mention a lot more disappointed."
"So, what where you doing, and were did he come from?"
Clovis explained, "I was, um, rescuing him from a pack of angry women."
Daria folded her arms in frustration. "A pack of angry women?"
Wasabi added, "It was led by that Man-something woman…you know, the king's girlfriend from the show last year?"
Daria relaxed slightly. "Okay…Mandy was a little on the unstable side…I can almost believe that. But, I'm still having a hard time believing you had nothing to do with my boss's car, even though it couldn't have happened to a bigger ass."
Clovis shrugged, "Eh, maybe he's made a few enemies in his life. Wouldn't surprise me."
Daria gave both of them a nudge in the back and said, "Let's get out of here, just in case somebody starts to ask anyway."
From a distant corner of the parking lot, Upchuck watched the three get into Daria's car and leave. Rattled, he made a fast walk to the nearest bus stop. "She ordered her boss's car blown up and walked away like nothing happened…." He gulped and said, "Um…feisty?"
Back at Daria and company's apartment, Wasabi stopped at the bottom of the stairs to count the bottles in his backpack while Daria unlocked the door and went inside. Worried, he asked, "Um, Clovis, did you take any bottles out?"
"Yeah, when did you start collecting mineral water? I tossed it away when I had to chase you down."
Wasabi asked, "Where, exactly, did you toss it?"
"Over my shoulder as I left…" Clovis fished a bottle out and held it at Wasabi "Waz, this isn't mineral water, is it?"
"Where the bloody hell? Forget it, I don't want to know. We need to find a way to dispose of it before Daria finds out."
At the top of the stairs, Daria asked, "Find out what?"
Clovis looked between the bottle in his hand and Daria before a resigned look crossed his face, "Oh I suppose it can't be helped" he said as he gulped down the bottles contents, "I may have used a delayed reaction nerve pinch on your boss as he passed, if he mentions losing his sense of smell then..."
"Clovis...just stop talking," Daria said wearily as she pinched the bridge of her nose "please?"
"Right you are." Clovis watched Daria re-enter the apartment before turning to Wasabi, "well there go then" he stopped when he saw the shocked look on Wasabi's face "Waz…what the hell did I just drink?"
"A homemade nitroglycerine substitute." He said nervously.
"Ah…so Tai Chi practice tonight I suppose."
"Clovis, how are you still alive?"
Clovis remained silent, deep in thought for some time before he gave his reply. "Dunno."
After making sure that his backpack was safely locked up in the back of Clovis's car Wasabi entered the apartment,
"As hard as it is to believe," Daria explained, "I think the 'ninja' Clovis spent half the night chasing was Upchuck."
"Wait a minute," Waz interjected. "You're starting to believe one of his hallucinations?"
Karen said, "Our landlady calling to complain about 2 sets of footprints through her flower garden wasn't a hallucination. Mrs. Lyndon was not amused. And as for the set on the wall...she's just baffled"
Daria said, "Clovis chased somebody who had been prowling around here, and the logical suspect is Upchuck."
"This is really getting creepy," Jane said.
Mack suggested, "Why don't we get away for a little while? Go someplace that's fairly public so he can't do anything, and just put him out of our minds."
Derek said, "Why don't we try to think of someplace he wouldn't go?"
Karen laughed and said, "I bet that The Boston Globes would be a good place to go and not be noticed by him."
Jane shook her head, "He probably already knows it inside out."
Daria said, "Probably, but Karen has a point. Upchuck would never think to look for us there."
Standing under gaudy neon lights, Clovis asked, "What the bloody hell kind of place is this?"
Jane said, "Clovis, with a name like 'The Boston Globes', what did you honestly expect?"
"Well, not this, that's for sure. I thought it was a newspaper." Clovis raised an eyebrow from behind his shades. "I mean what kind of friend of yours would know about this place?"
"Well hello…." A slow and sultry voice spoke from behind Clovis.
Clovis let out an exasperated sigh. "Oh, but of course." He turned around to look at CC "I should have known someone of your…nature," he repressed a shudder before continuing, "should be a patron of such an establishment."
"Actually I work here," CC replied. "Surprised?" she added with a smirk.
"Oh is THAT all you do?" Clovis replied, relief in his voice, "and all this time I thought you where a porn star."
"…WHAT?" CC responded sharply
"Well ok maybe not a star but you know what I mean." Clovis said with a shrug, as usual seemingly oblivious to the ramifications of what he was saying.
"I am not one of them; since I can assure you that THESE are NOT fake!"
Clovis showed no response whatsoever for nearly a minute, at which point Wasabi spoke up, "I've seen this before; on the rare occasions he winds up in a situation he doesn't know how to respond to, his brain just freezes up."
"Congratulations. Not many people have made him speechless and motionless at the same time." Jane spoke with a smirk, "I suppose now you're free to do whatever you want with him?"
CC seductively drew a finger along Clovis's face with a wickedly thoughtful expression on her face, "Tempting, but I'll come back later." As she turned to walk away she added, "The chase is half the fun."
Daria looked at CC and shook her head. "Hiding from Upchuck in a strip-joint, oh the irony."
Jane said, "Hey, that's what we live for. Let's go in."
Derek said, "I just thought of something, we're all under twenty-one."
CC said, "No problem, you're with me. Just don't overdo it, okay? Now, come on."
As the others went to find somewhere to sit Wasabi remained with the still 'frozen' Clovis. When he finally began to show signs of motion again, he said, "Waz…when the hell did women learn to aim those things?"
The Boston Globes was smoky and fairly crowded, with music just loud enough to be heard over the crowd noises, which consisted of both personal conversations and comments to the dancers. Mack seemed unperturbed as he talked with Jane as the group made their way to a table. Daria and Karen scanned the crowd for any sign of Upchuck while Michael and Derek seemed the most uncomfortable, attempting to scan the crowd while trying, not entirely successfully, to avoid watch the dancers too much.
After they sat down, Daria nudged Michael and said, "You're allowed to peek. Otherwise, we're going to look really suspicious."
Jane said to Mack, "You seem to be fairly calm."
"With how often my fraternity brothers hire strippers…" he replied.
Jane said, "Don't tell me you're jaded."
"Not entirely, but they need to be better than average."
Wasabi sat down just as a new dancer spun out on stage with a cascade of blue hair swirling around her. When CC threw her hair back and looked out over the top of her small, oblong-framed glasses, he thought, Clovis, I think she's hunting you.
Thinking of a long-ago conversation with CC, Daria observed, "Hmm, she can do some interesting things with those glasses'
Smirking almost uncontrollably, Jane said, "Getting ideas?"
Daria faintly smiled in reply.
Through the corner of her eye, Jane looked at Mack. "I bet that would work with sunglasses, too."
"Excellent, excellent," Upchuck whispered to himself as he looked through the back hedge of Mrs. Lyndon's yard and at Daria's darkened apartment. The numerous missing cars, including the Mini-Cooper, brought a smile to his face as he crept across the silent yard to the stairs. "Everyone's gone, including Daria's trained assassin. Perhaps the fair maid's Melody Powers stories aren't as fictitious as we were led to believe. Feisty beyond my wildest dreams."
With an excited sigh, he padded up the stairs and started to pick the lock.
Karen asked, "Does that mean her hair color is naturally blue?"
Daria said, "And I thought Quinn spent a lot of time on her hair. That must take…I don't want to think about it."
"Be glad you didn't have to share a bathroom and wait for her to finish," Jane said.
Several seconds later, Wasabi nervously asked, "Why are you all looking at me?"
"Because we don't want to know if your hair is naturally green," Michael said.
"Hmm, the guys are blushing, I must've put on a good show," CC chirped as she joined the others, following her routine.
Daria said, "I really wonder if there is anything that would embarrass you."
"Eating beans before a performance," CC shot back. "But otherwise, not much. You should know that by now."
Karen pulled on Derek's arm and kissed his cheek. "Now really we know that our males can behave themselves."
"What about you?" CC said to Wasabi. "Have been behaving yourself?"
Wasabi said, "Maybe it's just in the movies, but I always pictured dancers tossing things like gloves to the audience."
CC said, "Hey, I make most of my costumes. I'm not just throwing parts away to any random, drooling basket case…unless they're a real big tipper."
Jane poked CC's arm, "Not to mention the trouble you had when you threw that chainmail glove."
CC swung her head quickly, "Hey! We found all of that guy's teeth."
"So, my job doesn't freak you out at all?"
Wasabi waved one hand. "Hey, as long as no one comes near me in a sailor suit schoolgirl uniform, I'm cool."
"Didn't you wear one of those to MassCon last year?" Karen asked CC.
"Nah, I made that for someone else. I went as a Trill." She chuckled and strummed her fingers along the side of her throat. "Painting those spots all the way down was an entertaining challenge."
Wasabi gulped. "I don't know if I'm repulsed, aroused, or just desperate for a smoke." Lighting one of his cigarettes, inhaling and then exhaling slowly, he said, "Oh thank God it's the third option."
Daria sniffed the air and asked, "Does anyone else have this sudden urge for Italian food?"
After another puff, Wasabi said, "The cops are always embarrassed when they find out it really is oregano."
Head cocked, Daria asked, "Doesn't that stuff impair your judgment?"
"I hang out with Clovis, who could tell?"
Jane said, "You hang out with Clovis; I think that counts as impaired."
"Wait a minute." Daria looked around and sighed, "Where has that maniac gotten off to this time?"
"He was hanging out with the bouncers after hearing about them being able to 'bench press a Harley' and wanted to see. Why?" Wasabi looked at the girls from eye to eye. "Okay, we should be worried."
"UUURGH!" The club's lead bouncer grunted as he lowered the Harley that he was holding above himself, "And that, boy, is how you do it," He said as he stood up, using a rag to clean off the sweat.
"Impressive indeed, I suppose." Clovis said thoughtfully, "And that's a skill you use often in a fight, is it?"
"Well its just, and don't take this personally, in all my experience I've rarely had someone try to hit me over the head with a motorbike, I just don't see it as a proper application of strength."
"Well then kid, why don't you apply some of that strength of yours and try and lift this here 'motorbike'" he practically spat the last word, "and maybe then I'll consider what you have to say."
"Oh, no way could I lift that." Clovis remarked, matter-of-factly, as he examined the Harley, "That there weighs somewhere around…" he ran his hands along the bike, pushing it and feeling the underside, "about 500 or so pounds right? I don't have the raw muscle to lift and hold that thing off of the ground."
"Heh. I was kinda expecting you to use your mouth. It's big enough…"
Clovis's hand moved like lightning, embedding itself into the fuel tank of the bike. "Size doesn't enter into it my friend." He then withdrew his gasoline-covered fingers, extended in a claw-like form from five matching holes torn through the metal.
"As I was saying," Clovis continued as he took the rag from the shocked bouncer. "It's all about the application of strength, old chap." He wiped the gasoline from his hands. "Besides, people are less likely to cause trouble if they know you can tear their ribcage out, yes?"
"What the hell happened out here?" CC asked when they located Clovis, along with some of the other bouncers. "I just saw 'Bonehead Bill' run by; crying like a baby!"
"Well, what did you expect?" One of the bouncers spoke up, "That bike survived all three of his ex-wives and then this guy…"
Clovis held his hand up, "Alright Masher, I already said I was sorry. Tell you what, let him know that I'll pay for the bike," Clovis looked thoughtful for a second. "And you know what? I'm in a good mood, so for all you guys…the drinks are on me tonight."
"Actually, they don't drink while on the job." CC spoke up, "But, if the offer extends until they're off duty…"
"Don't encourage him." Daria said as she saw the expressions on the bouncer's faces,
"Shh." CC hissed in Daria's ear before whispering, "I'm scoring points with the bouncers here, don't mess this up."
"Oh well, they're big boys. They'll have to deal with any consequences."
"Oh yeah, Waz catch." Clovis said as he tossed his car keys to his friend, as he saw the confused look on Jane's face he replied, "What? I'm gonna be drinking, you think I'd drive irresponsibly?"
Michael's stomach grumbled and he said, "Daria, you mentioned something about Italian…that's starting to sound like a real good idea."
"I remember driving by Pappy's Pizza and Pasta just before we got here," Karen said. "I could stand some pizza."
Jane said, "You know I'm always up for pizza."
Daria said, "Wasabi's damn oregano is still making me hungry, let's go."
"I have another performance tonight," CC explained. "So maybe I'll catch up with you later."
Noticing that Clovis had disappeared again, Daria said, "My apologies for leaving Clovis here, but I don't feel like looking for him."
"I think he's still with the bouncers." CC smirked and said, "I'll keep an eye out for him."
"Good luck. You'll need it. Daria then asked CC, "Just in case; the owners of this place have insurance, right?"
"Oh come on how bad can he be? At worse he'll try and keep up with the bouncers drinkwise and just pass out, right?"
Wasabi was about to point out that Clovis was a master of Drunken Boxing and as such the drunker he got the more…Clovis-like he got, but decided to hell with it, if the woman was mad enough to pursue Clovis there was no deterring her.
Folding a used napkin and dropping it on his plate, Wasabi said, "Okay, now can somebody please explain what was so funny about me ordering penne ala pesto?"
"I can't think of that dish without picturing my dad wearing a bowl of it on his head," Daria replied. "And, with your hair…"
"And why, in particular, would your dad have done that?"
"Mom dumped it on him."
"What, pray tell, did he do to deserve that?"
"He agreed with me."
After several seconds of confused thought, Wasabi said, "Your father was crowned with a bowl of pasta by your mother…for agreeing with you. With a background like that, you think Clovis and I are strange?"
"He's got a point there, Daria," Jane said.
"Coming from someone whose father develops photographs in the bathroom and uses the toilet as a rinse tank?"
"And do you," Wasabi asked Karen, "have any similar strange details to your past?"
"Probably nothing worse than irrigating a horse suffering from colic."
"Irrigating?" Wasabi looked down at his plate. "I'm glad I already ate."
Daria crossed her arms. "This is getting stupid. We can't continue turning our lives upside down. Summer classes or jobs are starting soon and everyone has to get back on with their lives. I appreciate what everyone's been doing…but we can't go on like this."
Mack asked, "What are you going to do?"
"I'm not positive yet, but it's something I'll have to face."
"Thanks, but not yet. First, more pizza is in order."
Clovis stood at the locked door before him as he swayed slightly in the night, "Bloody doors," he muttered as he spun around in a strange drunken pirouette, his palm striking the door which juddered silently in its frame.
"Hh-Hm." He laughed as the door swung open without a sound, "But of course." He added as he entered. As he approached where he believed the light switch to be he tripped against the coffee table,
As he staggered forward he weaved and bobbed, using the drunken boxing forms he had learned to counter his already erratic balance.
Still staggering back from the figure that mysteriously had appeared in the door, Upchuck bit his lip to keep from screaming in panic. Despite the miasma of untold different liquors that filled the air around him, the figure had the uncanny ability to figure to follow Upchuck around the room. That mean meant only one thing, Daria's pet assassin was back on after him. Dodging and running with the cold, silent killer in pursuit, Upchuck knew that the bastard was only playing with him like a cat tormenting a mouse.
Hearing the commotion, Bump sauntered out from Daria's room and watched in amusement as the two young men randomly bounced around the room. Assuming they were playing, she started to stalk the noisy one.
After finally regaining some semblance of balance Clovis finished by spinning around 180 degrees, he bent backwards to the point his head brushed the wall, then reached out to hit the light switch.
As the light came up, Upchuck flinched in terror since he was right next to Daria's pet assassin. However, he began to calm down when he heard snoring from the figure next to him. Slowly, he began to edge towards the still open door, as he made it there; he breathed a sigh of relief. Which was promptly cut short by the feel of claws grabbing his lower leg and cat's teeth carefully biting into his calf. While the light pressure of Bump's playing wouldn't cause any real injury, the surprise attack caused a brief shriek to erupt from Upchuck's throat before he could stop it.
Clovis's eyes bolted open at the noise and since he was looking straight at the light, he became temporarily dazzled. He righted himself and spun in the direction of the noise, squinting he made out several black-clad figures and came to natural conclusion.
"AH-HAH! So you brought reinforcements this time did you? Well that's not going to help you matey, oh no, everyone knows the more ninja there are the easier they are to kill! So come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!"
…Well natural for him anyway.
Upchuck dove out of the door as Bump leapt back inside, satisfied with a successful pounce. She cocked her head to watch as Clovis chased after Upchuck. Still on the landing, Clovis skidded to a stop and returned. "We don't need you getting out, missy," he said to the cat as he closed the door and then headed off in pursuit.
CC pulled her car into Daria's driveway and said, "The lights are out, weird. With the way Masher was riding that bike when he gave him a lift, I'd have thought he'd be here first."
Making the sharp corner around the house, she exclaimed, "Ahh!" and slammed on her brakes, but too late to prevent a thump against the front of her car. "Oh, damn!" she said as she bailed out of the car and ran around to the front.
Flat on his back, Clovis said calmly, "Bloody hell, why am I on the ground?"
"Oh Clovis, I'm so sorry, I hit you with my car."
The alcohol apparently knocked from his system (literally), he rose and started brushing off his clothes with ease. "Oh, good. For a second there, I thought I'd fallen out of a window again."
Realizing that the bump did nothing more than knock Clovis down, CC took on a motherly voice to say, "Poor puppy, I'll have to take care of you."
"No, no. I'm fine."
She ran one finger very delicately down each of his arms. "I better make sure."
"I can assure you that I'm fine," Clovis said, but discovered that she seemed to be using some kind of low-pressure paralyzation technique.
She moved one finger to the base of his sternum and pulled it up his chest and throat, stopping just under Clovis's chin. "I can look at you better at my place."
With just the finger touch pulling him along, Clovis was certain that she was a skilled master at the technique, as his body followed her without protest.
"What in the hell happened in here?" Daria asked, seeing the aftermath of Clovis and Upchuck's encounter in the apartment.
Wasabi said, "Yep, Clovis was here. I wonder where he wandered off?"
Angry, Daria spun and said, "Wasabi do you have any idea how much damage you and that, that THING you call a friend have done since you arrived here to help?"
"78,359 dollars," Wasabi replied instantly, before adding, "and 64 and a half cents"
Daria just looked at Wasabi with a look of shock, "I don't know what scares me more, how high that number is, how quickly you figured it out, or how casually you said it."
"Better than last year I guess, including the roof incident we managed $573,495.39"
"Which, the theatre department managed to get increased to a million for 'enhancements,'" Karen commented. "Either way, that's quite an impressive number."
"True," Wasabi agreed before adding, "but mind you, this is only counting what I actually know of."
"And he was out "chasing ninja" all of one night," Jane replied.
"Be glad; that meant he had something to occupy himself, it's whenever he gets bored that I begin to panic…well panic more than usual."
Daria squatted down and picked up Bump, petting her. "I hope Clovis didn't panic you too much."
Not liking the role of "bearer of bad news", Karen said, "What worries me is that he's out there again tonight…after drinking with the Globe's bouncers…and not chasing ninja."
Waz righted a chair and dropped heavily into it. "Thanks, I really didn't want to sleep tonight.
Nearing dawn at Oakwood Psychiatric Hospital, a security guard looked up from his television to see who was pounding on the door.
Desperate, Upchuck shouted, "Let me in! Please!
"Well, well, well. Mr. Ruttmeister has returned," the guard said and he stood and pulled out his taser. As he neared Upchuck, he said, "Now step away from the door real easy, and I'll let you in."
Upchuck followed directions and the guard unlocked the door and backed away. "Okay, come in. No funny business or I'll zap you."
Upchuck hurried in and planted his hands against the wall. "Close the door! They're insane out there!"
"Settle down." The guard patted down the frightened patient. "Okay, you're clean. You know the way, I'm sure the doctors will be glad to see you back."
"Just don't let me go back out there! Please? The assassin might track me down!"
Hearing a knock on the door the next morning, Wasabi said to the others eating breakfast, I'll get it for you. I need to do something besides worry about damage control."
Needless to say, his shock at seeing Clovis at the door, and CC beside him with one arm snaked around his waist was almost as great as that night after the left turn in Albuquerque. "Clovis what's going on? Not only aren't you afraid of CC, but you're acting…how shall I put it? I think 'unsettlingly friendly' sums it up. What's the deal? I thought she terrified you."
"True." Clovis said as he shrugged, "But then I wound up seeing her movie collection, stuff like 'Mad Monkey Kung Fu', 'The Hot, The Cool, & The Vicious', "The Amazing One Armed Boxer Vs Master of the Flying Guillotine', 'Dance of the Drunken Mantis', 'Hitman in the Hand of Buddha' and even 'Flying Claw Fights 14 Demons'" Clovis let out a sigh, "Waz my paranoiac friend, I think I'm in love."
Wasabi looked from his friend to the woman with the victorious grin and shook his head, "Great, now she terrifies me."
Daria said, "For once, I agree with Wasabi."
"You know," Jane whispered to Daria, "she got every one of those movies for 'bad movie night' on the dorm floor."
Karen asked, "They had those?"
"Once I introduced them to the idea."
Karen nodded. "Ah…wait, CC How did you actually find him?"
"I sorta...ran into him last night," CC replied giving a knowing look at Clovis
"You're not going to let that go are you?" Clovis said as rolled his eyes in an amused fashion,
"Hey, you saw the damage you did."
"Let's not forget which one of us was actually driving a car in that little collision."
"I still have that baseball cap shaped impression on the front of my car..."
Jane quipped, "CC, you drive a Yugo."
"Oh, Clovis was hit on the head. That explains the lack of injuries." Karen then added, "I'm surprised CC's car wasn't totaled."
Derek asked, "A Yugo?"
Michael said, "Allegedly, the only one still operable in Boston."
Mack said, "CC, I kind of pictured you driving something a little more…flashy."
She replied, "Most of my money goes to tuition and books and little luxuries like food. I had to scrimp somewhere."
Still curious, Mack said, "How do you keep it running?"
CC said, "You don't think I actually have a Yugo engine in that thing, do you?"
Daria smirked and said, "Mister 'always aware' was hit by CC's car."
A little indignant, Clovis said, "Hey, she snuck up on me. Okay?"
Jane asked, "In a car?"
Behind Clovis, Wasabi tossed a wad of paper at Clovis that he blocked without looking causing Wasabi to chuckle, "Snuck up on you? Sure."
"Alright" Clovis said, irritated, "I admit I was a little tipsy, so…"
"Clove, you drank enough to kill a small elephant last night," CC interrupted.
"Like I said, a little tipsy"
"Was I wearing a shirt when you found me?"
"Not for long," she answered with a smile.
"Well if I wasn't wearing one, then I wasn't drunk," Clovis replied as if it was a natural answer anyone should have known.
Wasabi confirmed, "Sadly he's telling the truth."
CC then said, "Come to think of it, he certainly didn't act drunk after I took his shirt off."
Desperate to change the subject, Daria said, "It was better than Clovis going out ninja-chasing again."
"Oh that reminds me," Clovis said, with a look of afterthought remembrance. "When I was out that night, I chased the little bugger through a big hole in the road with a bunch of those sodding flashing light sawhorses."
"Some part of the Big Dig, I guess." Daria responded, bracing herself for whatever bad news she was about to hear.
"That species of kidney, yes." Clovis nodded and said, "I punched at him and knocked a hole in a water pipe that started filling the hole. Maybe I should've told someone."
"You caused that water break that flooded a two-block...? No, no, no, do not tell me any more."
"Hmm, $3,459,112.56. That's a new one-day record for you, Clovis." Wasabi said.
"Clovis, I honestly do appreciate the thought behind Tom asking you to come here, but it's really time for you to GO HOME!" Daria said, her voice rising to a Helen-like bark at the end.
Clovis turned away, hacking and coughing until a wad of black fibers plopped onto the floor.
Daria stared at the offending hairball before yelling, "AARGH!" and storming away to the landing.
Michael rose, "I better go after her. She has that 'We have to destroy the village to blow up the house' look."
As the remaining breakfast diners looked at the object, Wasabi said, "I was wondering why you bought that ball of black thread...you know that, sooner or later, she'll realize this is all an act."
Everyone started to laugh at the joke, until Clovis pulled a wad of black thread from his pocket. "What act?"
Slowly, very slowly, everyone except CC backed away and also escaped to the landing.
Clovis bent over and picked up the hairball. "Two for one specials…gotta love 'em."
Reaching around his waist, CC purred, "Two for one? I like the sound of that."
Outside, Jane asked Wasabi, "How the hell do you two put up with each other?"
Wasabi looked at Daria, Jane and Karen. "You know I was gonna ask you the EXACT same question."
"Why are we the ones out here?" Mack inquired.
Hearing her cell phone ring, Daria yanked it from her pocket. "Hello!...Oh, sorry, I've had a very bad morning…What?...He what?...The cat?...When?...No, just a couple friends stayed over…Actually, we were out most of the night…Um, no, as much as I would've liked to do it personally…Uh-huh…Yes…Hopefully they'll keep him sedated, permanently. Thanks for letting me know. Good bye."
Daria turned the phone off and relief visibly crossed her face. "Upchuck turned himself in this morning."
After a round of cheers, Daria said, "Seems he was scared off by something. As much as I hate to admit it, that something was probably Clovis, though it kind of sounds like Bump helped."
Wasabi asked, "Then, we did a good job?"
"You…did the job." Daria sighed and said, "I better go and tell Clovis." She opened the door and stepped in. "Not on the table!"
In the passenger seat of the Mini-Cooper, Wasabi said, "Hey, she actually said 'Thank you,' to both of us."
Making a quick swerve to dodge between crowded lanes on the Mass Pike as they headed back home, Clovis said, "True. Though I'm not really sure why, I never saw that Up-whatever dude."
"Reputation," Wasabi explained. "Reputation. Once he knew we were one the case, he ran away."
"Ah, I can see that."
Wasabi lit a cigarette to help deal with the pinball-like action of his friend's driving as they continued on their way. "Oh, by the way, maybe you should drive a little slower; I kept some of the 'mineral water'…strictly for evaluation purposes."
Clovis looked at his friend. "That's okay, thanks for telling me." He dove the car into the emergency lane to pass a little red sports car, missing the guardrail by an inch. "Oh, I guess I should tell you that CC's coming to visit next weekend."
Wasabi gulped and looked to the side. Nitro-9 or Clovis in love….
Standing at the main door of the house, Daria told the landlady, "It's all over and everyone's gone home. It's just down to your paying tenants."
Mrs. Lyndon said, "Well, I'm glad that they caught that creepy man and things can return to normal. Some of the neighbors were getting worried about all the young people going in an out of your apartment."
"I, for one, will appreciate the peace and quiet. Anyway, just wanted to let you know. Karen's packing to go back to Georgia, so I better get back up there."
"Tell her to have a safe trip," Mrs. Lyndon said as she closed the door.
Gathered around Karen's loaded pickup truck, Daria sighed, "Now Clovis has a reason to come back to town."
Jane said, "I knew CC would finally get revenge for the smurf gift pack I gave her for her birthday."
Daria said, "But what did I ever do to her?"
Jane raised one eyebrow and folded her arms.
"Oh yeah, THAT," Daria admitted.
Karen pulled the last tie-down tight over the load in the truck bed. "And with those lovely thoughts, I'm glad I'm going home for the summer."
Making a side trip to Newtown, Clovis stopped to visit their friend. Seated together in the comfortably appointed living room of Tom's apartment, Clovis said, "Tom, old boy. Thanks for sending me out on that little mission."
He said, "Thanks? Please tell me that you didn't do something to make Daria want to kill me."
Wasabi shook his head. "Worse, much worse. He found a female of the species."
Tom looked up at the heavens. "Dear God, what have I done?"
December 2005-November 2006