Episode 33 - Alex Captured!
by Camille LaGuire
Lina lurked in the hall, keeping watch as Alex peeked into the kitchen.
There was no one there. Not even Niko. But there was a pot simmering on the stove.
"Niko will be right back," he said. "Let's hurry."
Almost as soon as he spoke, someone started pounding from within larder. Thorny was awake! Alex fumbled out the keys.
"I'm coming!" he called. "Hold on!"
The pounding stopped as he got the door unlocked. He pulled it open...
And found himself face to face with Captain Rozinshura.
For a moment Alex and Rozinshura stared at each other. And then each grabbed the other by the lapels.
"Where is Thorny?" shouted Alex. "What did you do with him?"
"Who are you?" shouted the captain, and being the one of greater bulk, he propelled Alex backward and up against the wall. "Who ARE you!" he growled again, his nose only an inch from Alex's.
"I'm nobody," said Alex, just as emphatically. "I'm just looking for my friend. What did you do with him?"
"Pookiterin took him," said Niko. The captain shot him a glare, while Alex made a lurch to get away.
"I have to get him back," said Alex. "If they take him away to some prison or something, I'll never find him."
The captain made a little sound, and shifted back uneasily, like he knew something Alex didn't. Alex grabbed his lapels again.
"They're going to do something worse to him, is that what you're thinking?"
"What do you think?" said Rozinshura, almost gently.
"I don't know!"
The captain gave Alex a shake to make him let go, though he kept his own tight grip. He pulled back and studied Alex at arms length, looking him down and then up again.
"Niko!" he called. "Why did you give him a uniform?"
"His clothes were wet," said Niko.
"Completely wet, from head to foot?" said the captain. Niko nodded. "Like the old man."
"Yes, like the old man," said Alex. "He jumped in the river and I dove in after."
All of a sudden Rozinshura let go of Alex with a shove that sent him back three steps. Then the captain swore in frustration and held up a book for all to see.
"The book is dry!" he roared. "It's not yours!"
"That's right," said Alex.
"Then whose book is it?" the captain called up to the ceiling, as if the timbers could answer. Neither the timbers nor anyone else answered.
"Where did you get the book, captain?" asked Lady Featherdale.
The captain stared for a second at the wall, and then abruptly stalked to the door, calling loudly, "Tralkulo!"
He glanced back at Alex, his eyes a little distant, like he was thinking.
"Who are you?" he asked one more time. "Who is that old man?"
"We're stowaways," said Alex. "He's on a drinking binge. He's been hopping trains all over the countryside, and I followed him to keep him out of trouble. I don't even know where I am."
Alex braced himself for a more difficult questioning than Lina had given him. The captain looked down at the book and thought for a minute.
"You chased the girl," he said. "Where did she go?"
"I didn't really chase her," said Alex. "I just stalled the guards so she could get away."
"Because the colonel is a creep," said Alex. The captain gave him a blank look, so he explained. "He makes your skin crawl."
Rozinshura nodded as though he understood and agreed.
"Where did she go?"
"I don't know. Into the stable, I think, but she might have gone over the fence."
The captain looked like he might press the point, but just then the floor rumbled slightly, and there was the sound of a train whistle, not far away. The captain swore and closed his eyes. Then he rushed from the room, shouting again for Tralkulo.
Alex turned Niko.
"Where'd Pookiterin take him?"
"I think to the train," said Niko. "But he might be running away from the train."
"Great," said Alex.
"But if he wanted to run away, he would go to the station anyway, because that is where they fuel the cars."
Stay Tuned for Thirty-Four: "The High Commissar Arrives"
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