Planet Earth Protectors, The River's End

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After Ian hung up the phone, he watched Marney for a sign. “Is he coming up?” Ian whispered from the other side of Paulton’s desk.

“No. False alarm. Sorry,” Marney, standing watch, replied. “How are Teplan and Terah?”

“They have company too,” Ian whispered matter-of-factly before returning to look through the filing cabinet.

Suddenly the stark room felt a bit colder. Marney kept an ear at the door and rummaged through the coats on the coat rack beside the front door of the office. “Are they okay?”

“Yes, but let’s hurry up here so we can get them.” Ian now stood over the desk analyzing it for any sign of a secret compartment or hint of information. The dull auburn finish of the desk sat dormant, revealing nothing.

“Ian!” Marney whispered loudly. “Check this out!” she said, holding a piece of paper in the air. “This might be a start.”

“What is that?” Ian mouthed as he quietly made his way towards her.

“I found it deep in a pocket of this jacket,” Marney said. “It’s a things-to-do list. Almost certainly Paulton’s, I presume. Look at this,” Marney said, pointing at the second entry. “It says, ‘Get Van Houetti’s certificate to him by June 18!’ Do you know what that means?”

Ian blinked. “No, what?”

Marney paused and listened out the door a moment. “Well, pig farm inspectors only begin their inspections on the 22th of each month. They do it this way to be consistent with end-of-month reporting periods. This means that Paulton had purposely given Van Houetti his certificates earlier than when they are supposed to have been given out. This way if a different inspector were to come during the Inspection Week, he could show his certificate.”

“Great work, Marney! Great work,” Ian said knowing that this piece of evidence connected Paulton to Van Houetti. Now, let’s get Teplan and Terah.”

“Good idea. I haven’t heard a noise from downstairs in a while so we should be safe to leave.”

“Okay, we need to get out of this office before he comes upstairs.” Ian opened the office door, already feeling precious time pass.

The growing sound of footfalls became louder, and in a hurry. “We have to get out of here. Now!” Ian whispered as he grabbed Marney’s hand and basically pulled her into the hallway.”

Ian opened the door wide and stepped into the hall. He timed his steps with those of the footfalls he heard from downstairs and Marney followed suit. The footfalls reached the bottom of the steps and uniformly began stepping their way upstairs. Ian and Marney continued to match the footfalls.

Ian reached for the door handle.

“Ian! He’s coming!” Marney whispered.

Ian jiggled it. It was locked.

The footfalls echoed down the hallway like a freight train.

“It’s locked! Back to Paulton’s office! Hide!”

Marney spun on her heels as Ian grabbed her arms and quickly ushered her back into Paulton’s office and closed the door quietly behind him.

“He’s here,” Ian whispered as he just closed the door behind him. “Closet. Now!”

Marney bolted into the closet and moved out of sight behind some jackets. Ian immediately followed.

Just as he closed the closet door behind him, the door of the office burst open and Paulton’s voice boomed. “Van Houetti! I told you — you better find them! If this becomes a problem, you’ll have a bigger problem! And that’s a promise!” Paulton yelled into his cell phone.

Van Houetti!

“Keep your threats to yourself,” Van Houetti’s reply could be heard bellowing through the Paulton’s speakerphone. “We’re tracking them down now and will at least get the video back, or whatever those two kids have!”

We need to get that video or the both us are history. Especially you, Paulton.”

“Especially me? Why me?”

“Well, I know you seem to think you’re in a better position than I am, but let me remind you, I have money for lawyers. You don’t. Without your job, you’re worthless. Unless you suddenly become useful and help fix this situation, you’re the one who is more finished Paulton!”

“So, any ideas as to whom these kids are working for?” Paulton wondered aloud.

“I don’t know, but I bet that Green Lima Bean of a pig farmer down the way has something to do with this. She’s never liked us and is always filing complaints,” Van Houetti replied. “I just sent guys over there.”

“Well, get on it!” Paulton yelled into his phone, opened a desk drawer and then slammed it shut. “Damn kids,” he muttered as he hung up the phone, walked out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

“Wow!” Marney whispered to Ian from her corner of the closet.

“Yeah. That’s not good.”

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