I didn’t know what to expect when the elevator doors opened, but I sure wasn’t expecting some hippy sitting around nude on a couch, smoking a joint. Because that’s not really the kind of thing you expect all that often, you know? I mean, an elevator door opens, you expect to see a guy in a suit, or maybe a bicycle courier, or possibly a couple of people who were right in the midst of some serious flirting, but got caught unexpectedly.
But you don’t expect some old hippy sitting around naked with a joint in his hand. And if that IS the kind of thing you expect when elevator doors open, you need to go seek therapy.
“What’s up, man?” He asked me.
“Huh. Did you just kill tribe of wild highlighters, or what?”
“This is my work suit.” I was kind of thrown off by this conversation. I didn’t know if this guy was another bad guy or if I was just having some weird sort of hallucination.
“What, do you work down on Wall Street?”
“Nah, not that kind of suit. I have to wear it because of community service.”
“Oh, man. I had to do some community service, once. I had to wear a bright orange vest and pick up trash. Is that what you’re doing, picking up trash?”
“Beats me, man. I guess.”
“Don’t let the man get you down.” He went back to watching TV. I glanced at the screen and saw that it was American Idol.
He didn’t say anything else, and he didn’t do anything villainous like try to kill me or kidnap me, so I figured we were okay. I walked around the lair, picking through various scraps of paper, going through drawers, that kind of thing. I didn’t really have a plan. Magnum P.I. just walks in and finds what he’s looking for, and I guess that’s what I figured I would do, but it wasn’t working out too well.
“Hey,” I asked the old hippy, “Are there any secret plans or anything around here?”
“Huh?” He was rolling another joint at this point, and I guess I broke his concentration.
“Secret plans. Stuff like that. You know if there’s any of that stuff around?”
“I don’t know, man. Check behind the TV. That’s where they’re always leaving stuff.”
Dealing with this guy was kind of like dealing with a hand full of Vaseline—very slippery, very surreal, and very pointless. I checked behind the TV and saw a file folder full of papers, two porno mags, and a pack of cigarettes. I stashed the smokes and the file folder in my fanny pack, careful not to touch the porn. That kind of thing is creepy enough to mess around with when you’re in the house of a normal person—the hair on the back of my neck stood up in terror and disgust at the thought of touching anything that creep Jimmy had self-pleasured to.
“I’m about to burn this place down, man,” I told the naked hippy, “So you might want to clear out.”
“Why would you want to do something like that, dude?”
“Because it’s a lair of evil, and it must be destroyed before it causes the fall of the human race as we know it.”
“Oh, man. That really sucks.”
“It really does. Has to be done, though, you know?”
“Yeah, I guess. Can’t have evil lairs running around toppling the human race.”
“I’m glad you understand. So, uh, grab whatever you need, and we’ll take off.”
“Oh, I’m good to go. I travel pretty light, you know? Nothin’ but the clothes on my back.”
I was tempted to let it pass, but I’m basically a dumbass that can’t keep his mouth shut, so I said, “Hey, did you realize that you don’t have any clothes? On your back or otherwise, man.”
He looked down and saw that he was naked. “That’s really weird. I could have sworn I wasn’t naked last time I checked.”
“It’s weird, all right. Anyways, I’m about to catch this place on fire, so if you have any stuff, grab it and get out.”
“Yeah, just give me one second.” He stood up and wandered off down the hall. I tossed one of the little fire-bombs under the couch, and threw another one down the hall. I looked around for anything really flammable, but I didn’t see much, so I just tucked the last one under a computer monitor. Theoretically, these things would be ignited by one press of the little remote control in my pocket. They were supposed to burn really hot, for about thirty seconds or so. I wasn’t sure how well they would work, since Arnie had whipped them up the night before, while he was modifying his costume and stuff.
The incendiary devices were small, about as big around as a half-dollar coin, and about two inches thick, and they looked like they had been covered with aluminum foil. I didn’t really care if they worked or not, as long as I was well out of range when they were tested.
“Okay, man, I’m all set,” the hippy guy said. He was wearing a bright pink jogging suit, a dirty pair of sneakers, and a much-worn backpack.
“What the hell are you wearing?”
“This? I don’t know, man. It was in that room over there. I think it belongs to that mean lady, but I figured if you were burning down the place anyways, it would be okay to take it.”
“Out of everything you could have swiped, why did you decide on that outfit?”
“Thought we were going for the bright color look.”
“Ah.” I knew that I should just take off, burn the place down, and get back home, but I just couldn’t resist. I grabbed the firebomb out from under the monitor, and headed down the hall to the Judge’s bedroom. I did a quick search, but didn’t find anything else of importance. I did find her underwear drawer, though, and grabbed as many pairs of panties as would fit in my fanny pack—I figured that Arnie could make a mint selling them on the website, and I could piss her off at the same time.
I tucked the firebomb under the bed, and headed out. The hippy was back on the couch, watching TV. “What’s up, man?” He asked.
“Not much. About to burn this place down.”
“It’s haunted. Let’s roll.”
“Okay.” We walked to the elevator, and I pushed the button. It opened up, and there was Jimmy Flicks.
“What the hell?” He screamed, and pointed his arms at me.
“We’re just leaving,” the hippie said. “This place is haunted.”
Jimmy fired a series of his stupid little flame balls at me, and the room around me was suddenly engulfed in flames. I dodged as well as I could—nothing like Arnie with his stupid evasive techniques, but still good enough to keep me from being hit directly.
I looked around for some sort of weapon, but there was nothing around except for the confused-looking hippy who was probably wondering what kind of nightmare he had wandered into. I grabbed him and shoved him at Jimmy. Oh, come on, man, it’s about time that someone did something useful with a hippy.
They stumbled around for a second, and I used that time to throw a flaming couch cushion at Jimmy. He screamed and backed up into the computer monitors. I grabbed the firebomb out from under the couch and chunked it over at him. It bounced off of his forehead and fell to the ground. I grabbed the hippy, hit the ignition switch, and ran to the elevator.
I threw the hippy into the elevator just as the firebombs exploded, making a sound like a giant hellhound growling.
The flames reached into the elevator, like desperate fingers, or a hungry mouth, or some other kind of hurtful body part. I dropped to the floor and the hippy fell beside me. “This is no good, man,” he told me.
“Tell me about it. That’s why we’re leaving.”
“We can’t just leave that other guy, man—this whole place is burning up.”
“That’s what happens when you shoot flame balls all over the place.” I reached up, hit the UP button, and waited for the doors to close.
The hippy grabbed my fanny pack, ripped it free, and tossed it out into the burning lair.
“What the hell did you do that for?” I screamed at him.
“I’m buying him some time. You have to go get your purse or whatever that thing is, and he’ll be able to ride up with us.”
“Asshole!” The thing is, I don’t even like that fanny pack. And the stuff inside, I could give a damn about that, too. If it comes down to risking my life just for some panties and secret plans, I’m out. But I have to wear my entire costume at all times. If you’re a logical thinker, you might think, “But hey, you were about to die. Surely the powers that be don’t expect you to risk your life for a three-dollar fanny pack?” And that’s the problem with logical thinking when you’re dealing with the people that enforce my punishment. They don’t need it, don’t want it, won’t listen to it, and generally seem to agree that it’s a bad idea.
I could have gotten out of the lair without my fanny pack, but that’s an extra three years serving the public as Portly Boy, or a small stretch in the pen. And even a small stretch is too much for a guy like me.
I jumped to my feet, grabbed the hippy by his jump suit, and tossed his ass out into the fire. I figured if I had to die because he threw the fanny pack out, so did he. I ran through the smoke and fire until I found my fanny pack, and as I turned back to the elevator, I saw that the hippy was dragging Jimmy into the shaft. I also saw that the doors were sliding closed.
You know in movies where the hero takes a running leap at the closing doors? They always make it just in the nick of time, and the really bad ass guys like Indiana Jones even have time to reach back for their hat. That’s what I did, was jump for the doors. Don’t cringe, man, I didn’t do anything stupid like crash into the closed doors. What kind of a jackass does that, anyways? I’ve seen it in movies all over the place (almost as popular as the hero just barely making it through the doors), but it’s just dumb.
What I did, was, I forgot about the low ceilings in the evil lair. And I didn’t realize the door jamb was even lower.
I heard a horrible crack sound, felt a searing pain in my forehead, and then everything went dark.
The first thing I noticed was the horrible thudding in my head. Then I noticed that I was awake. And then I noticed that there had been a time in the not-so-distant past that I hadn't been awake.
I tried to sit up, but couldn’t, which was pretty much a relief. I didn’t feel like sitting up, anyways—it just seemed like something I should try to do. I was tied down, though, and that’s rarely a relief in my life—maybe if I was some sick, twisted bastard like Arnie, I could enjoy it more, but I’m not, so I don’t.
“Ah, you’re awake,” Jimmy Flicks said. “Good.”
“And you’re alive,” I told him. “Bad.”
I opened my eyes, and looked around. We were in what looked like an abandoned dentist’s office, and I was tied to the chair. Something even Arnie wouldn’t get a thrill out of. I don’t care what kind of weird fetishes have become socially acceptable—if your fantasy involves you being tied in a dentist chair, you need to go out and spend all the money you have on therapy.
“Always with the jokes. So tiresome. You’re lucky you aren’t dead.”
“Says you. Try this gig for a bit and see how lucky you think I am.”
“You shouldn’t take life for granted, man,” the hippy said. I turned my head the other way and saw him sitting there on the sink. He was still wearing the pink jogging suit, but it had been blackened by flames and smoke.
“You’re still here?”
“You’re lucky he’s still here,” Jimmy Flicks said. “He’s the only reason you’re alive right now.”
“He’s the only reason you're still alive,” I said, “Which gives me all the reason I need to hate him. If it wasn’t for that guy, you’d be flame-broiled and tasty.”
“I know that. Which is why I didn’t kill you. The Magnificent Steve says that all life is precious, but I’m still deciding whether to spare yours.”
“Wait, what? Who is The Magnificent Steve?”
“That’s me, man,” the hippy said. “Nice to formally meet you.”
“Does this count as a formal meeting?”
“I don’t know, man, but it beats being on fire.”
“I guess. Say, could you untie me?”
“No you can’t!” Jimmy Flicks yelled, and pointed his arm cannons at the bum.
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” the hippy said as he stared at the flameball launchers. He looked back at me. “Sorry, man, he said he’d fry us both if I freed you.”
“Yeah, that sucks,” I said. “So Jimmy, what’s the game plan here? We just waitin’ around for the Judge to get tired of chasing the Drunkard around, or what?”
He looked a little thrown off, like maybe I had guessed the game plan right on. “Uh, maybe. That’s none of your business. Besides, evil villains don’t go around discussing their plans with their enemies.”
“Are you insane? Haven’t you ever seen a James Bond movie? As long as I’m tied down, you’re safe.”
“Bond villains always get away, man,” the hippy said. “Everyone knows that.”
“You’re not helping here, dick.”
“My name’s not Dick, man. I’m Steve the Magnificent.”
“Right. So Jimmy, how long you gonna play hired thug to the Judge?”
“We’re partners! A team!”
“Bad guys don’t make good teams, Jimmy. You should know that, man. The superior villain always takes over.”
“Always. It starts out small, just asking you to run to the grocery store or whatever. But it builds, man. Next thing you know, she’s taking your ride out, leaving you sitting around the evil lair, she’s not telling you about the master plan, she just orders you around when she needs something done. Shit like that, man, it gets old fast, if you know what I’m sayin.”
“That’s not what’s happening,” he said, but he looked really uncomfortable, like when you’re standing around with a group of guys, talking about how you would never let a chick tell you what to do, and there’s one guy with this look on his face, and you can tell that’s he’s supposed to be calling his girlfriend to check in, but just can’t think of a good way to go do it without getting ribbed to death by his buddies.
“It’s cool, man, I’d lie about it, too. Nobody wants to admit that the gig that THEY STARTED got taken away by someone with a better mind for it.”
“Shut up! That’s not what happened! We’re a team! Besides, what do you care? I think this is some kind of a trick.”
“No trick, you idiot, I just like giving you shit. I mean, you can’t do anything until your boss gets back and gives you the word, right?”
He pointed his fists at me, his arms quivering, and I wondered if these were the correct tactics to be using.
“Shooting me won’t prove anything. I mean, that’s probably what she’s going to tell you to do when she gets back, anyways.”
“She’s not the boss of me,” he said. He lowered his fists, but he was still shaking pretty bad. It’s weird being around people who want to kill you, you know? I mean, I’ve been surrounded by people that hated me pretty much all my life, but it’s a whole different story to be in the same room with someone who is fighting for control so that they don’t kill you. The tension is the air is definitely not an exciting kind.
“Hey, man, maybe you should get some air,” the hippy said.
“Yeah. Yeah, I think I’ll do that. You come with me, though. I don’t want you hanging out in here and getting tricked into letting him go.”
“Have a good time, boys,” I told them.
Jimmy Flicks glared at me over his shoulder as he left the room, and slammed the door.
Part one of my plan was complete: get Jimmy Flicks out of the room so that I could escape. Now for part two: the part where I escape. Unfortunately, most of this plan revolved around someone untying me. And since the hippy was gone, and Arnie was nowhere to be found, I was on my own.
I could move my fingers, but that didn’t seem to help much. I immediately tried to reach into my fanny pack, but the zipper was stuck tight, and I couldn’t get the leverage I needed to pull it open.
The only thing holding me down was some twine that Jimmy had probably found in the vacant lot, which would be nothing if I had super powers. Or even if I had regular powers. I stained against it, but the only thing that gave way was my breath. I took a minute to rest, and came up with a rather desperate plan.
I blew out all the air in my lungs, took a huge breath, exhaled, and then sucked in my gut. When you’re as big as me, sucking in your stomach almost counts as a super power. And believe it or not, it worked. I was able to work my fingers under the fanny pack strap, and tear away the Velcro. With the fanny pack removed, I had an extra bit of space for my stomach, but my hands were still tied. Using my fingers, I pulled the fanny pack up into position where I could open it, and then searched inside until I found my lighter.
I struck the flint and positioned the flame under the twine until my hand was free. After that, it was easy.
I jumped out of the chair, strapped my fanny pack back on, and ran to the door. It was securely locked, though, and because I was three stories up, I didn’t think it would be such a good idea to hurl myself out the window.
I was still trying to come up with an escape plan that wouldn’t get me killed when I heard voices in the hall. I jumped back into the chair, holding the twine in place, and acted like I was still tied down.
The door opened, and instead of seeing Jimmy Flicks, or even the hippy, what I saw was a man that looked like a dentist.
“I am ze Dentist, and you vill tell me everysing I vant to know,” he said to me. And then he pulled out a really evil-looking tool with all kinds of sharp edges.