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artymon I\/
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Joined: Thu 9th Feb 2012
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Post by artymon I\/ » Wed 30th Jan 2019

By the skin of my teeth, I just make the deadline.

Anyhow...

Enjoy!

~~

“You're too close to the shore, lad!” Colin cautioned, eyeing the rollers cresting and crashing.
Unperturbed by the pirate’s fears, Liam did not heed the warning, continuing the construction of his grand structure.
“But I want a moat to surround my castle,” Liam revealed, digging a trench around his castle walls.
Colin shook his head.
“You have to go further back on the beach and dig it lower than sea level; that way the waves won’t wash away your work.”
Clearly set in his construction, Liam objected.
“But this is fine…”
Rachel returned with a pail full of semi-wet sand. As Liam dug the trench, she reinforced the castle walls to ensure they’d hold their shape.
It was naturally around this time a playful wave strolled forward, eager to lap at the heels of the beach goers. Overzealous, it accidentally consumes the entire castle Liam and Rachel had constructed.
Rachel is relatively resilient and takes it in stride.
“Uh oh, time to cancel the insurance.”
Solemnly, Liam nods.
“Cancel the insurance – and fire those architects.”
Cheekily, he glares at Colin.
“See, I told you we were too close to the shore, Dad.”
Exasperated, Colin cups his forehead, smoothing creases. In reality, he was foxing a smirk. Peering from his finger shroud, he spies Livy peeking above her sketch pad, telltale lines betrayed her amusement as well.
“Remind me again why we agreed to babysit?” he asked her.
“Apparently it’s fun,” she replied.
“And because Mom and Dad babysat last week so this week it’s their turn to go on a date and screw.”
“Rachel!” A note of horror and shock played over Livy’s voice as she lets the magazine drop. “Where did you hear such a thing?!”
“Not from us,” Colin mutters.
Nonchalant, Rachel shrugs.
“TV, books, isn’t that what usually happens when you go on dates?”
“Well, there’s a little more to it…”
“What’s that mean though?” Rachel wondered, a coy confusion pursing her lips.
“Screw in a lightbulb maybe?” Liam theorized. “Or maybe they’re doing construction work.”
At this, Rachel’s eyes widen.
“Construction?! You know that’s code for being a hitman? Painting the walls with people’s brains?”
Overhead, Seymour the seagull scours the sea, searching for succulent scraps. The seagull passes the quartet and can’t help but caw and snicker. Perhaps Seymour ought to stick around. They didn’t have a cooler, but they might be good for a few more laughs.
Now it’s Liam’s turn to grow shocked.
“Your parents are hitmen?” A fearful flicker bolts through him.
“Or is that hitpeople?” Rachel pondered.
“I wonder who they hit?”
“Only the bad guys,” Rachel assured her friend. Suspiciously she casts an eye back at Colin and Livy. “So does that mean you guys are secret assassins too?”
Colin was at a loss.
“Um…”
Livy was slightly better prepared.
“What gives you that idea?” she asked.
Rachel shrugged, an eerie impression of another individual.
“Well if Mom and Dad screwed this week, logically doesn’t that mean you guys screwed last week when you went on a date?”
Also finding herself at a loss, Livy cast a look at Colin.
Help me, please.
“We make it a policy not to kiss and tell,” Colin told the little lass in what he hoped sounded cool and collected.
This was the furthest thing from what he should have said. Rachel’s face twisted in a mix of emotions, astonishment, horror, absurd fascination, as her mind connected dots.
“Ohh, that’s what it is!” She turned to Liam. “Kissy kissy the missy!”
Liam howled with laughter.
“So if we get married someday and have to screw, then we can either be assassins or kiss?” he inquired.
“Definitely assassins,” Rachel clarified. “That’s way cool.”
Joining his wife on the beach towel, Colin kneaded his forehead.
“I think we’re going to have to have a long talk with her parents,” Colin said.
“I’ve a sneaky feeling it’s hereditary,” Livy suggested, watching a familiar cat’s grin spread across Rachel’s lips like butter on warm toast.
“Heaven have mercy on us all.”
“Cute kid though.”
Setting her sketchpad down, Livy stretched and watched as the kids now began sifting through the sand for shells.
“Y’know, why does Sally sell seashells at the seashore?” Liam pondered. “That doesn’t seem like a smart, economical decision.”
“How so?” Rachel asked, meticulously scanning a sheen of shells.
“Think about it,” Liam persisted, “Why should I pay Sally for something I could just as easily find myself if I’m already at the seashore?”
Rachel considered this.
“True. Clearly Sally is an extremely charismatic saleswoman. She could probably sell dirt to a farmer.”
Above, Seymour began to grow bored, after all, he was in this for the food! Maybe he’d try his luck at the Taco Bell a block south across the street. Though around this time there was usually that weird duck prowling around.
Wore a hat, probably to disguise himself from the Chinese place next door.
Although what was this?
About twenty yards from Livy and Colin, a wiry fellow in a Panama Jack hat was sauntering around with – get this – a WHOLE box of pizza. No way he was going to eat all of that by himself, right?
Hm, the man seemed to be heading in their direction.
Alright, alright, stick around for bit, maybe Panama Jack would drop a slice. That’s all Seymour needed, a single, solitary slice of scrumptious –
When he was ten feet away, Panama Jack abandoned all pretense and dropped the pizza.
Darting with the speed of a cheetah, he dashes up to Livy and Colin.
Before either can so much as raise an eyebrow, Panama Jack stoops low, grabs Livy’s bag and book and races off, his feet kicking up a cloud of sand.
An instant later, both sprang to their feet.
“Hey!”
“That b a s t a r d stole the notes!” Livy told Colin, a significant amount of color draining from her face.
“Poseidon’s fury,” Colin swore. “Alright, stay here and I’ll – ”
Livy had already run after the thief.
“….or no, go ahead, I’ll stay here and keep an eye on the kids,” Colin finished, rolling his eyes.
Fascinated, Liam and Rachel abandoned their beach frivolities.
“What was that?” Rachel wondered, watching Livy chase Panama Jack. The pair were getting faint now, Panama had made his way up, back onto the streets, Livy wasn’t too far behind.
“Does Mom know that guy?”
“She seemed pretty excited to chase him.”
“Oh man, you don’t think she’s like running away with him, do you?”
“Nah,” Rachel shook her head. “When you runaway, you do it in the middle of the night or while the husband is at work; when he comes back he sees everything is gone, even the ice cube trays.”
The idle prattle filtered straight through Colin who occupied himself checking for more assailants.
“Right, it’s time to go,” he told them. “Pack up.”
In his head, a million scenarios ran through him as he stuffed towels into the beach bag. Who was that guy? Why did he steal the notebook?
Was he acting alone or part of a larger conspiracy?
“What about Mom?” Liam fretted, twisting his head around in hopes of spying her.
“She’ll be fine, she’ll catch up with us later,” Colin assured Liam….trying not sound too much as though he were assuring himself.
In the car, as soon as the kids closed their doors, Colin punched the lock button and drummed the steering wheel, debating where to go.
If Panama Jack had accomplices, and were after Livy and Colin for whatever reason, logically they might send a team to the house. A single operative here however implied the man was working on his own.
The boat was out of the question as well. He’d have to play it that Panama Jack’s potential friends knew his and Livy’s assets.
Starting the car, Colin backed out and drove, running a list of safe places to hunker down and regroup with Livy.
On the beach, Seymour had dove onto the beach, claiming the pizza box. A few smaller birds expressed interest, but Seymour puffed his chest in dominance. Using his talon and beak, he flipped the box open, ready to revel in the sweet treats beyond…
The box was empty.
Well. That was a buzzkill.
What kind of sick person does that?

The streets were full, brimming to peak with humans cavorting from market to market, getting ice cream here, buying clothes there, dropping a glob of ice cream on a freshly bought shirt and dropping it at a dry cleaners next door.
Livy wasn’t pleased.
Was it that hard to let her enjoy a simple day at the beach?
“Move,” she snarled, shoving a pudgy guy in blue swim shorts out of her path. He dropped the corndog he had just purchased and could only watch in horror as seagulls instantly flocked to it, fighting for a bite.
Livy was losing sight of the guy, what had he looked like again? White hat, kind of tallish. How does a tall person manage to blend in better than her? That was supposed to be the prime advantage of being short.
In a trash barrel, she saw a Panama Jack hat half sticking out.
Well, well, smart fishie aren’t you? No matter, she was smarter.
Hopping onto a railing that separated parking from the street vending, Livy scanned ahead.
There!
Panama Jack-sans-Panama was still a conspicuous figure with his long, wiry limbs. To his credit, he seemed to be in no particular hurry, casually ambling through the streets, certain he’d lost Livy.
He carried such a prevalence of innocence, had it not been for the suspect bulge under his open button shirt, Livy might have been inclined to let him go.
Fighting her way through throngs of tourists, Livy strove to maintain a casual profile…which wasn’t easy as in her head she had already pummeled through the crowd like a German tank over a fence of balsa wood and beaten the snot out of Jack.
Discretion, discretion, she could hear Roxanne purr.
Ahead, a man in a black jacket with a red and white Tommy Hilfiger logo on the arm bumped into Jack, who twisted his head fearfully, as though expecting Livy.
Upon not sighting the feisty brunette, a perplexed look scrunched his brow and he turned…to promptly fall flat on his face.
Breaking pretense, Livy rushed forward, pushing past the persnickety pedestrians.
“Hey! Watch my slushie!”
“Chill, brah, sun’s not going anywhere…”
“Try that again and I’ll beat your skank *** so hard – ”
Livy ignored them all, wedging her way into the circle around Panama Jack.
“It’s alright,” she told them, “I’m a doctor, I know CPR.”
“I don’t think he’s breathing,” whispered a redhead with blue nails meticulously styled with minute white stars.
Hardly sparing Miss America a look, Livy dutifully checked the man’s throat for a pulse. Her fingers probed but found not even a dull throb of life.
Frowning, she opened his shirt, and frisked him for her package. Gone. What the hell?
Ripping the undershirt open, she discovered a small pinprick directly over his chest. In a flash, she recalled the man in the Tommy Hilfiger jacket. He must have hit Panama Jack with a syringe needle of potent poison and swiped her notes.
Syringe needle? Poison? What the hell was she dealing with?
Standing, she stepped back from the body.
Miss America twisted her head, halfway caught between horror and confusion.
“Where are you going?”
“I have to get my bag,” Livy lied. She expounded, “It has medical supplies, stay with him – and call an ambulance.”
Turning, she slipped back into the crowd, allowing its charming anonymity to swallow her like an egg in a blackhole.
“Hey! That’s the b i t c h who knocked over my slushie!”
“She threw my corndog in the sand!”
Or maybe not so anonymous…
Livy rolled her eyes.
“For f u c k ’ s sake…” she groaned before she could help it.
Alright, what would Roxy do?
Flirt, flash a tit, knit a noose, strike a goose? She could try rhyming them to death, but she had a feeling that was purely a Nate skill.
Instead, she raised her arm and pointed back where she came from.
“It’s Scarlet Johansson!”
Instantly all animosity was feverishly forgotten in favor of finding the fantastic female. The angry mob melted away, permitting Livy to search for her new quarry: Tommy Hilfiger.
These people seemed to have a thing for brands. You think they’d want to remain anonymous.
Whoever ‘they’ were.
Were Panama Jack and Tommy Hilfiger working together? Why kill Jack then? Why did they care so much about Livy’s notes?
Later, she could pick it apart. Now it was vital she retrieve her notes.
Only….she had lost him.
Damnit.
Not ahead, certainly not behind, nor on the beach….he most likely would have gone further in town, possibly ducked into a tavern or shop. Then she heard the roar of a train bolt past and groaned. Naturally.
Whipping out her phone, she hit the Colin button.

A block away, Colin and crew were casually cruising.
“So what’s Mom doing?” Liam persisted.
“Uh…she spied an old friend and wanted to say hi,” Colin fabricated. With her fists.
Glancing in the rearview mirror, the old sailor felt like a chauffeur with Liam and Rachel tucked in the back.
There didn’t appear to be anyone tailing him…yet, but there was no telling what kind of hornet’s nest Livy was kicking.
“No, someone stole her art bag and now she’s going to kick some a s s,” Rachel corrected.
Recalling their earlier conspiracies, Liam’s eyes alight.
“See, she is a spy!” Liam gushed. “I wonder what’s so important about her bag…”
“Maybe it has plans for the new book she and Dad are making…” Rachel pondered.
“Or plans for super-secret missile system!”
“Or the perfect bank heist plot.”
“Eh, you don’t really rob banks anymore; you hack them.”
“But that’s less fun, no guns or explosions?” Rachel pouted.
“Oh my god, Rachel, it’s not always about the explosions,” Liam sighed in exasperation.
Doubtful, Rachel rolled her eyes.
“It’s definitely something top secret though,” she said.
“Aye,” Liam agreed. “Something important….”
These kids, Colin thinks to himself, shaking his head. Where, oh where, do they get these ideas?
Aloud he tersely offered, “Or it could be he’s a simple purse snatcher and Livy’s reporting him to the local constabulary.”
The kids considered it for about a Planck or two...then burst into laughter.
Over the radio, Fountains of Wayne sang about Stacy’s Mom.
“But that’s no fun,” Liam protested.
“If you say so,” Colin chuckled, moving his hand to change the radio dial.
“Don’t change that!” Rachel scolds. “Dad’s got this on his Totally Tubular cassette.”
They come to a red light and Colin cranes around, eyebrow cocked.
“….he uses cassettes?” he dubiously asks. “Why?”
Rachel shrugs.
“Dad’s dad.”
“That he is,” Colin chuckles, letting his foot off the brake and continuing down the road.
Casting confused looks between his father and friend, Liam’s brow was scrunched in supreme stupefaction.
“Um….what’s a cassette?”
Colin is spared a trip down memory lane (a trip he could barely make himself!) by the ringing of his phone. Livy’s tone.
Dia duit, mo stór,” he greeted. “What’s the situation?”
On the other end, Livy puffed for breath.
“The train,” she said. “Panama passed it to Tommy Hilfiger.”
As usual, not a lick of what she was saying made sense. To the outsider at any rate. Colin had enjoyed Livy’s company enow to be fully fluent in Livianaese.
They were looking for a man in Tommy Hilfiger who had boarded the train.
“North or south?” he asked, checking the mirrors for traffic and pedestrians.
“Not sure, swing by 43rd and pick me up, I’m right outside of Catwalk.”
Behind Colin, Liam and Rachel were engaged in pertinent discussion of musical appreciation and theory.
“So who was Stacy’s Mom?” Liam wondered.
“No one knows,” Rachel cryptically said, holding her ominous posture for a few seconds before lapsing into her charming layer of bubbliness.
“….except you,” Liam surmised.
“Well, aside from the obvious of her being just the standard MILF, the popular theory is that Stacy’s Mom is also Jessie’s Girl.”
“Wait, what?” Liam shook his head. “That’s impossible; they’re separated by twenty years – ” Then he did the math in his head. “Oh…yeah, I guess that could work…So Jesse is Stacy’s father?”
Rachel shook her head
“Actually no. Her father is a man who found her number on a wall…”
The penny hits the ground at roughly the same rate as Liam’s mouth drops in realization.
“Eight six seven five three oh nine!!!”
Rachel vehemently nods head, pleased to see the recognition.
“Exactly!”
“So that means Stacy’s mom’s name would be Jenny!” Liam thoughtfully concluded.
From the front, Colin, snapped his phone back into its cradle, amused by his passengers’ sleuthing.
“You two are liable to put Joey and Quacksalot out of business if you’re not careful,” he commented.
“Oh don’t worry, we’ll still give them a cut of the action,” Liam assured his dad.
“Yeah,” Rachel agreed, a ravenous gleam lilting off her voice, “They can have Yosemite.”
“How generous,” Colin rolled his eyes.
“So where’re we going?” Liam asked.
“To pick up your mother,” Colin promptly said, hoping to dispel further questions.
“Oh.”
Then,
“Did she get her bag back?”
“Ah….we’ll….find out.”
“After the break,” Rachel added.
“After the break,” Liam agreed.

Catwalk was a quaint clothing store that was just off the beaten path, enough so to appear fresh by newcomers and comfortable to long time advocates.
Back when they were still in school, Livy could remember Nathan journeying here at least once a month and coming out with a hoodie more abstract and unique than the last.
‘Back in school’….a lifetime ago, Livy mused.
No branded clothing would be found in Catwalk, the management preferred to keep it that way, allowing fresh minds and deviously dedicated designers the chance they needed to prosper.
It seemed to be working for them; they hadn’t gone out of business yet.
“Do you need any help?”
A sales associate had appeared from nowhere, jerking Livy’s thoughts to a halt.
“More than you can offer,” Livy muttered.
“You’d be surprised what we can offer,” the associate politely returned.
She noticed the associate had a pin in the shape of a falcon just below her name: Brooklyn.
This prompts Livy to lift an eyebrow.
“Little far from home, aren’t you?”
“Actually I was born in Orange County, but I’ve been to New York a few times, used to help out on Broadway….and a few other places.”
“New experiences always yield the best growth,” Livy stated, hoping she sounded as cryptic as the associate Brooklyn. There was a game at work here she sensed…or she was just killing time before Colin got here.
“Exactly. Now, what’re you looking for?”
“That depends, you carry any art bags…or Tommy Hilfiger jackets?”
Brooklyn made a thin smile and shook her head once.
“We don’t carry Brands, but perhaps you’d fair better luck on the train headed South. If you hurry, you could catch a great sale at 23rd avenue.”
Livy grinned in gratitude.
“Thanks…and uh…if LASS ever needs some help….”
Our sins are obstinate and our repentance is faint…” Brooklyn recited, as though that were somehow a suitable solution.
“Oh, uh right. For where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”
Livy no sooner felt the door close behind her, still mystified, when Colin screeched to a halt in front of her.
“There you are,” he said, popping her door open. “Any luck?”
Casting an eye at the kids in the back (who watched with a markedly intense interest), Livy shook her head, climbing in.
“No, head South, and step on it, full sail, Captain.”
“Aye, love.”
Livy had no sooner grabbed the seat harness when Colin sped off.

The midday traffic was moderate, typical to what could be expected of a Saturday. Still, Colin managed to weave and sneak between cars, great haste halted only by concern for the charges he carried.
Rachel and Liam didn’t find his cautionary tactics particularly enjoyable.
“C’mon, Dad, hurry, you can make it past this guy!” Liam encouraged, eyeing a grey Toyota who was wearing a perplexed expression geared towards the madman behind the Mercedes that deftly snaked past and raced the light as it went from orange to red.
“Colin!” Livy cried, gripping the roof handles as their Mercedes sliced into the opposite lane, prompting those in the opposite lane to piss themselves, only to weave back into their proper side.
Horns blared and fingers stretched skyward.
Liam and Rachel were terribly amused by it.
“It’s just like Grand Theft Auto!”
Now it was Livy’s turn to crane.
“Liam, where have you played Grand Theft Auto? That is an obscenely crude and violent game.”
“Um….”
Guiltily, Liam flashes a look at Rachel, unwilling to rat her out….but unintentionally ratting her out anyway.
“We just like to drive around….although his pirate game is fun,” Rachel brightly added, “especially the part where you can carousel whores and pillage other boats.”
“Ships,” Livy, Liam, and Colin all irritably corrected.
“Alright, ship, if you insist,” Rachel appeased, certain they were being overtly fanatical about the matter.
Watching streets pass, Livy frowns.
“Wait, where’re you going?”
“Down to the next train stop, in Fairview,” Colin said, recognizing the Tone.
A Tone that said in so many words, Damnit, Colin, you should know where I want you to go – we’ve only been married for over a decade; can’t you telepathically read my mind?
Livy shook her head.
“We need to catch them at 23rd; if we cut down to the Fairview stop, we’ll lose ‘em.”
Before Colin can object, Livy punctuates her point by reaching across to grab the wheel and executes a sudden, sharp turn, causing the remaining two passengers and driver to shift like dice in a Yahtzee cup.
Swiftly, they cut through an alley sandwiched between a hair parlor and a café with outdoors seating. The quartet narrowly cream a table recently vacated by a couple that spied the mighty Mercedes blasting in their path.
To his credit, Colin is fairly nonchalant…despite physically feeling at least fifteen years of his life shave off.
“But love,” Colin exasperated, “how the bloody hell do you plan to board….oh you’re going to jump on?”
“Raiders style,” Livy confirmed.
Blowing past the alley, a woman in a summer dress of flowers leapt back, yanking back the leash on her dog. Something obscene was being expelled by the woman.
Colin was only able to offer a sheepish smile and wave as Livy turned the wheel again before relinquishing control.
On the right, buildings were recessed back and a pair of tracks ran parallel to the road. The primary traveler of the tracks then emerged from a tunnel, a monochrome of brushed, if aged, metal.
Chugging along at a merry thirty five miles an hour, the train carelessly, ceaselessly, tirelessly churned forward. They only had a short window as at the end of the block, the train would then elevate to bypass a particularly nasty intersection.
Colin matched the rough speed of the train and Livy buzzed her window down. Back in the day, such a leap was easy-peasy, she could do it in her sleep and had; more than once, after being shot at, and thrown down a mountain (half dead), she’d pulled off some pretty spectacular spelunking.
Drag force tugged at wisps of her hair that had snuck out of her beach bun and now waved around like patrons of a techno rave.
Without a word, Livy leapt out, launching herself at the speeding train.
“…Yeah, goodbye, I love you too,” Colin casually called after her, confirming via peripheral vision she had safely made the jump.
Awestruck, Rachel twisted between Colin and Liam, amazed none of them seemed the least concerned.
“….is she crazy?” she asked with a note of admiration.
“Oh this is nothing,” Liam assured her; “you should see her on game night.”

Crashing against the cold, hard metal, Livy felt the wind knocked from her chest. Well hey, that’s what tits were for right? Personal female airbags. Oh god, what would Roxanne say to that? Most likely disagree and all too happily educate her in erogenous zones.
The internal patter was a distraction for the pain snaking through her body.
Okay, focus. She had to get off here and into the train before some clichéd low hanging sign knocked her off.
A tantalizing roof hatch lay in the center of the train’s top, but Livy knew better than to fall for the hatch’s lies. At least from the outside, it would prove impossible to open without proper tools.
So she was stuck shimmying along until she hit the gangway.
Now here was the tricky part: Gaining entry.
Typically it was fairly simple to travel the gangway connection…from inside the train.
Exploiting a maintenance hatch, she was able to slip inside.
The train seemed to be empty in the carriage ahead and behind.
Or nearly. In the carriage ahead, she spied a black jacket flung over a lump in one of the corner seats. At the edge of the jacket, she can see a pair of Christian Louboutin boots sticking out.
Livy rolls her eyes.
Hiding? Or is it just nappy time? Running like a chicken must be tiring work after all.
Are you sure he was running?
Well, yeah, what’re you on about?
Maybe Tommy Hilfiger was leading us on…
To what? He’s right here!
Livy ignored the nagging voice, preferring to plod ahead. The end was in sight after all. Maybe once she recovered her bag, she and Colin and the kids could get some ice cream and salvage the night –
Ripping the jacket off, Livy sees she’s been duped.
Beneath the jacket isn’t its owner, it’s a clunky device the size and shape of a business printer. Vents and grooves line the sides, on top is a note, neatly printed, not handwritten.

Game over.

Rolling her eyes, Livy was just about to crumble the note and toss it back when she noticed the clock under the note. Specifically, she noticed the digits counting backwards.
A countdown.
A bomb?!
Were these people crazy? This was a public transit, if this went down…
Okay, don’t panic.
The clock showed sixty seconds remaining. Not enough time to defuse or monkey around. Her best bet was to uncouple the other train cars and get out before this sucker blew.
Spinning on her heels, Livy started to race back the way she had come…and promptly trips as the train hits a kink in the track. She falls into one of the horizontal rails and clatters to the ground where she sees dirt and grime caked into the marrow of the flooring. Hidden just out of sight beneath the hard plastic seats, she spies an array of bubblegum in varying stages of mastication.
A metaphor for a sticky situation? Pulling herself up, Livy barely spares it a parting thought, reaching the vestibule.
From there she could see into the next car.
Christ, there were people in there. A mom and child, a pair Valley girl looking types, and a homeless man that looked like Santa.
The child lay nestled in its mother’s arms, who was soundly snoozing on the cheap seats while her child dabbed away drool.
The Valley girls wore Ugg boots and Levi’s cut into Daisy Duke shorts and were deftly texting on their phones. Were they texting each other? Livy wondered, shaking her head at the breakdown of human social skills. Back in her day….well…okay, she had had cellular telephones and such…but it was at that pivotal turning point of technology when people still put their faith in papers notes.
Homeless Santa was back in the corner mumbling to himself from under a great coat a deep shade of a rich red.
On an extended examination, Livy began to suspect the ‘homeless Santa’ was an act; he eyed the Valley girls, who were at a respectable distance, the same for the mom and child.
That’s one way to get some privacy, Livy thought, immediately chastising herself for getting so engrossed in the other passengers.
She had to save them!
….did she?
A dark voice had awakened from a dusty recess in her head, greeting her like an old friend.
No…this wasn’t the time for that.
Burying the voice, Livy’s fingers race over the gangway vestibule’s floor. Finding a groove, she uses the tip of her knife to rip a maintenance panel up and a mess of wires, cables, and strange switches greet her.
Okay…what the hell was she looking at? Just slash and stab, and pray she hits the right magic plot wire?
Ah wait, here we go.
A box labeled emergency release.
Excellent.
It was locked.
Not excellent.
….but not a problem.
With her knife, Livy managed to manhandle the maniacal masterbox, ripping it open. Can’t be bothered with anything fancy, she likely only had a good twenty seconds. Under the panel was a red handle.
Above, in red letters a message cautioned: DO NOT RELEASE WHILE CAR IS IN MOTION.
This was highlighted by a yellow and black square, apparently the train manufacturers felt strongly about this.
Hey, rules were made to be broken, right? Livy was confident they’d be able to make an exception and without a thought, she twisted the handle.
A pneumatic hiss sounded, a nest of angry vipers threatening to slither out and spit venom.
Following this, perhaps fearful of the faux fer-de-lance viper vexing them, the train cars ended their intimate embrace and slowly began to drift apart from each other.
No, please, don’t leave…
It’s not me, what…
I can’t hold on any more!

Quickly, Livy stepped into the new train, the Valley girls didn’t even look up at the new arrival. Homeless Santa narrowed his eyes, but continued to converse in his universe.
Inside, Livy spies another red button – why’s it always red – and rapidly rushes over to it, slapping her hand on the emergency brake.
The effect isn’t comically immediate, but it does provide minor amusement to watch the Valley girls fly forward as the train squeals a protest at being further abandoned by its mate, still rocketing ahead.
“Omigosh, what’s happening!?”
“Like, I dunno, but I totally just sent Jeremy a picture of my – ”
BOOM!
Ahead, the lead train car blossomed into an orange flower of fire, rattling all occupants on the track and knocking them on their back.

Back in the Mercedes, Colin and Company followed the train’s progress from below as best they could. On sighting the blast, the children had this insight:
“Yup…that looks about right,” Liam nodded.
Rachel cocked a wry smirk.
“And she calls Dad a pyromaniac…”

Livy had managed to keep herself upright by grabbing hold of the safety handles. Imagine that.
She observed the fellow passengers tidy themselves. The sleeping mom had awakened in time to see her baby start to fly away and quickly snagged it back, mid-inertia.
Homeless Santa was muttering something that sounded faintly like, “It were pretext, I swears!” Fingers, clad in half open gloves, curled tightly around a silver bar.
The Valley girls were picking themselves up off the floor.
“Omigosh, I think I broke a nail,” moaned one.
“Forget your nails, Brittany, my new boots are totally ruined! Ruined!” screeched the second one.
Brittany leaned over to inspect the boot damage and shook her head.
“Don’t worry, I know a guy on Kaleidoscope Lane, like, he’s a master with shoes.”
As they prattled, Livy angled her head. Under the seats, near where the Valley girls were stationed, she saw a familiar strap of fabric poking out.
Then she examined the Valley girls boots a little closer.
Uggs?
In the summer?
The Valley girls were still bemoaning their losses.
“I think my iPhone has a crack…”
“I think my face has a crack…”
“We should totally sue the train people.”
With barely a fraction of consideration for a proper plan (because hey, improvisation had gotten her this far), Livy storms toward the pair.
“Hey Fuggly,” she snarls, “guess what? You’re not in Oz anymore.”
Before either could so much as gasp at the uncoordinated attire Livy was clad in, the fierce female finessed her fist and decked both Valley girls in a single hit.
Before either could scramble to their booted feet and feebly berate the attack, Livy grabbed the strap under their seat, tugged the rest of her art bag out, and deftly vanished.

Parking across from the carnage, Colin leapt out, dismayed to see Liam and Rachel following suit.
“No, stay in the car – keep it locked.”
It would be hard enough to pull Livy from whatever mayhem she had stumbled into without endangering the chiselers.
“You want us to stay in the car?” Liam repeated, his disbelief disconcerting.
“On a hot summer day?” Rachel added, an auditory wink of sorts riding off her lips.
“Are you trying to suffocate us?” Liam demanded, catching the inferred inflection.
“Don’t be slagging me, this is serious,” Colin insisted, his eye scanning the old patterns, searching for troublemakers and potential cover spots.
Please god tell me Livy wasn’t in that…
His phone rang.
The caller ID displayed a picture of Livy.
Tentatively, Colin slung the answer button across the screen and placed the phone against his ear.
“Pick up on 26th street, recovery successful.”

Later that night, after a particularly long date night, Rachel’s parents came to retrieve her.
Bonsoir, mon amour,” trilled Roxanne, kissing her daughter’s cheeks. “How was the beach?”
Eager to enlighten her mère about the day’s frivolities, Rachel is radiant.
“Oh it was great!” she gushes. “Liam and I made a sandcastle, Poseidon claimed it before we could get pictures unfortunately, but then we were on a car chase and a train blew up, then there was this thing at the local deli – it was awesome.”
Glancing between Colin and Livy, Roxy rolls her eyes, a playful smirk edging her lips.
“Is that so? Sounds like your father and I will have our work cut out for us next week.”
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The last step in any journey may be the first step of an even greater adventure.
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