The Case of the Misplaced Hero
First story of the Beeton Dispatches
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 8 - Alex Gives Chase
THORNY was not there.
Alex looked wildly about. Where did he go? He couldn't have got far. He was too drunk.
Could he have staggered back to the water? No, he would have had to pass Alex to do that. He could have gone up into the rocks, but that looked like a more difficult climb. He probably went up onto the road.
Alex climbed up and looked uphill, where the car full of soldiers had gone. The road rose and fell, and there were tall trees. He couldn't see beyond the first hill.
He cursed Aunt Flavia. Why hadn't she told him this place was real?
But she had. Many times. He'd taken it as part of the game. He thought it was the "If you only you believe in magic hard enough, Tinkerbell will live" kind of real. Not the "nearly drowning in a waterfall" kind of real.
He felt a wave of sorrow and he cursed himself for not listening hard enough, not believing well enough.
But he had no time for that. He had to find Thorny and take him back. The man was so drunk he probably wouldn't remember it. He'd think it was a dream or an hallucination.
If he didn't drown or get arrested first.
Alex turned around and looked the other way, and saw a cluster of figures. Another car. Some soldiers and peasants. These soldiers seemed neater than the scruffy bunch who had bounced up the road a minute ago, with shinier boots, spiffier uniforms. They had someone on the ground and were kicking him.
A man in a wet gray suit. Thorny.
Alex broke into a run. He wasn't sure what he would do, but at least he spoke Awarshi. Some Awarshi. He tried to come up with the right the phrases: He's old, he's crazy, he's drunk. I'll be responsible for him.
And who the heck are you? Where are your papers? he imagined the reply.
He'd tell them they'd left their things by the river. He only had to convince them to take them back to the river, then he could grab Thorny and they could jump in... if that was how the magic worked. He was sure it was. It had to be.
Alex pounded down the road at full speed, but it was too late. The car pulled away, and disappeared around a bend before he got there. Most of the peasants were gone too, but there was a man leaning on the gate of the nearest house.
He looked at Alex with suspicion.
"Where...?" said Alex breathlessly, trying to remember how to say it in Awarshi. "Where are they going? The old man is my friend. Where...?"
The man didn't answer. He looked Alex over, taking in his dripping wet and muddy clothes. Alex realized that the hoodie and jeans he was wearing weren't exactly familiar.
"Spies!" said the man. "That's what you are, eh?"
"No!" said Alex.
"That's what they said he was."
"It's a mistake. He's just a crazy old man. A drunk. I have to take care of him."
The man just kept squinting at him. Alex turned away to start running again. He would keep up best he could and ask someone else.
But then a woman came out of the house.
"I told you," she said to the man. "They're just foreigners from the train wreck."
"Foreigners are foreigners," said the man.
"All the same, they might as well be foreigners together," said the woman, and she turned to Alex. "Follow the road all the way down. At the foot of the falls is the town. They've set up a headquarters in the inn."
"Thanks!" shouted Alex, and he broke into a run again. At least he was going down hill, but he had no idea how far he would be running. Or what he would do when he got to the bottom.
Stay Tuned for Episode Nine: "The District Facilitator"
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