A Parallel Plot
"How'd it go, Mr. Burke?" Les the desk clerk leaned around the corner and signaled the Walley Entertainment executive down as he bustled into the lobby from the courtyard, where chaos could still be heard.
"Shhhhh!" Burke hissed furiously at him, "We can't talk here! Back here!"
He waved Les back through a door labeled EMPLOYEES ONLY in the rear of the lobby. He glanced around the long tunnel before them to make sure they were alone. "Better than I thought," he whispered softly, a dark grin on his face, "Walley Junior's going to take a load of heat for this happening on his watch."
"With all due respect, Mr. Burke, wasn't this going a bit too far?" Les asked, looking quite nervous, "I can understand breaking a couple of the rides, but this could really have hurt someone. And what if they trace it back to us...?"
"They can't pin anything on us, Murphy, so get a spine," Burke assured him firmly, "And if I'm to get the support of the full board, the Walleys have to look bad. What's the latest report from back in L.A.?"
"I gave them a call, sir; Silver's still holding out strong. He's got Waltman and Porter still with him. Everyone else is prepared to accept you as the new company president if Walley does step down."
"Good, good. Now we just have to go for the neckbreaker," Burke practically skipped down a flight of stairs towards the basement of the hotel.
"Mr. Burke, with all due respect, why do we have to do it this way? I mean, why not just buy Roy Walley out if you want the company?" the clerk had to ask.
"You know full well the old fool'll never sell, Murphy," Burke rounded on him, "He and his family'll hold onto this billion dollar company until the day they die. They see tradition, I see mass profit, and by God I'm going to get that profit any way I can. So we have to discredit the Walleys, so...ah, Mr. Stone," he approached a stern-faced man in a formal suit with the title CHIEF OF SECURITY on his lapel tag standing in front of the large vault in front of them, "Very good work with this later mishap."
"It can't be traced to us, can it?" Les nervously asked the security chief.
"No one will know what caused the crash," Stone said without a trace of emotion, "For your information, Mr. Burke, almost three quarters of the security staff will be all right with the next phase, if we choose to go to it," he informed the executive.
"Wonderful, wonderful," Burke rubbed his hands eagerly. He approached the vault, "Yes, Mr. Stone, we are going ahead with the final phase on Christmas Eve," he told the security chief, "Make sure all of your men that aren't fully committed to us are relocated off the property by the scheduled time. Have the rest form a perimeter so no one comes in to interfere. Then, we break open this vault, take out at least half the casino money, and take it where no one can immediately find it. Then we dump some of the cash and the tools used for the break-in on sonny boy; once that hits the news, both he and the old fool are guaranteed to be forced out in shame, and the company'll be mine to exploit as I see fit. No more of this kiddie rubbish under my watch; I'm taking Walley adult, because that's what sells."
He snickered softly at his grand scheme. "Of course, sir, we'll have to get some outside muscle to do the actual robbery, so that can't be traced to us either," Les pointed out, "Any luck finding anyone, Mr. Stone?" he asked the security chief.
"Not yet, but we're looking," Stone told him, "The right people should come to us in time."
"Good," Les breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, and before I forget, Mr. Burke, earlier tonight, a couple kids came in wanting a room; the credit card they used checked out, but something doesn't seem right. I think we should look into it."
"Hmm," Burke mused, "I think I know who you mean, Murphy. Well, I think it may indeed be worth examining more closely..."
"You know, all the time I've seen this, I still can't understand how a mouse climbing around in a clock would be enough to break it this bad," Nate remarked, pointing at the TV screen in the hotel room, where Joshua Trundle's Santa clock was now imploding due to Albert the Mouse's unintentional meddling.
"I'm guessing he unscrewed a critical junction point or something, and that set off a chain reaction," Julian proposed next to him, "Or maybe the clock was made badly in the first place; it wasn't Joshua's original clock anyway."
"Nah, the clock was fine. Albert must have tripped a critical...Ethan, you all right?" Kevin asked the brain with concern. Apparently the scene on now, with the mayor of Junctionville sternly refusing Trundle's request to fix the broken clock, was having an effect on Ethan; he was doubled forward with his eyes squinted shut and his hands over his ears. Kevin walked over and tapped him on the shoulder. "Ethan, you all right?" he asked again, louder. There was a pained look on Ethan's face when he looked up. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said out loud, but he gestured for Kevin to follow him towards the bathroom, then shut the door when he was inside. "They turned on him for one little mistake," he mumbled softly, pointing through the wall at the TV, "Whenever I see that happen, like now, I feel I really need to keep getting straight As. My parents want me to keep getting straight As; I can't make mistakes..."
"Did they tell you that's what they want?" Kevin had to know.
"I can see it in their eyes; they want to hold me up as their perfect child. And when I do mess up, like I did with that math test a few weeks back, they go off the handle," Ethan confessed, fear in his eyes, "I hate it when they get mad over anything; maybe that was what drove them to divorce..."
"Hey, I thought I told you that wasn't your fault," Kevin put both hands on his friend's shoulders, "And you don't have to be perfect, Ethan; I like you as a friend the way you are. And besides, it's only a TV special; if the town of Junctionville chose to treat the Trundles badly, that was their decision. That's probably why Santa seems to have only given Joshua's family presents in the end. A show shouldn't reflect on you."
"I know, it's just...this part of the special always makes me uncomfortable," the brain said softly, his face slowly returning to normal, "It seems to send the message you will get turned on if you fail."
"Hey, real friends never turn on each other," Kevin assured him, "Trust me on that. I'll be there for you no matter how bad things get for you at home. Well, while we're in here, I'd like to go, you know."
"Right," Ethan glanced out the door, checking to make sure the discomforting moments were past. Nodding, he walked out. Kevin quickly took care of business-then made another decision. Seeing a phone just outside the bathroom door, he reached out and pulled it inside, then started dialing his home number. "Come on, Mom, Dad, please pick up!" he thought furiously in his head.
The only thing that came on the other end of the line, however, was a recorded message: "Due to the snowstorm, all lines for Chicago are currently out of order. Please call back at a later time." "Great!" Kevin muttered, jamming the receiver back down on the cradle. Now the weather was conspiring against him calling home. And that meant it appeared they were basically stuck at the resort for the time being-although, accidents aside, that might not have been a bad thing...yet.
Slipping the phone gently back out on the table, he bustled back into the bedroom; Twas the Night Before Christmas had long been high on his list of Christmas specials, and he hated to miss the end. And indeed, he found himself breaking back into song with everyone else as Santa returned to Junctionville to the strains of the fixed clock: "Come on old Kris Kringle, down the Milky Way; Christmas chimes are calling, Santa, we need you today!" He turned to Ethan once Santa started delivering the Trundles' presents and gave him a wink; Ethan in turn managed a thumbs-up at him. All was at least well at the moment.
"That never fails to be good," Nate commented once the special was over, yawning, "And, I guess it's time to turn in for the night."
"Is it quarter to midnight already?" Julian seemed surprised at the time on the nightstand clock, "Well, it has been a long day. Might as well hit the sack, yeah."
"Don't any of you bother me while I do try and sleep," came Danielle's warning from the adjoining room; she had chosen not to watch the special with the others, likely out of scorn.
"Same for you, princess," Nate shot back at her, drawing the room blinds. "Here we go, a big, comfy bed," he mumbled excitedly, kicking off his shoes and climbing up into the bed closest to the window. Kevin did the same and switched off the light. "Let me get a good night's sleep and put this behind me for now," he thought softly to himself.
Only, for whatever reason, he couldn't. As the minutes started dragging on and on in the dark, he lay there, his mind racing with thoughts of home, and how worried his family no doubt was for him. The first time he'd been separated from them, he wouldn't have cared what they'd've felt; now, however, part of him felt guilty for this happening again, even though it was an accident. "I'm sorry, Mom, Dad," he thought grimly, "I had no control over this one. I'm doing what I can to try and get back to you. But if you can come to me, please do."
Time continued dragging on. Eventually, at about quarter to one, he heard Nate get up next to him and go to the bathroom. When he was done, though, his friend instead went to the window and stared out it. Kevin slipped out of bed and joined him there. "Can't sleep anymore?" he asked Nate.
"Just taking it all in," Nate said without looking at him, "Freedom, from the top of the world. It never felt so good. Now that I'm gone, maybe they'll realize I'm worth more than their stupid baby and beg me to come back."
Kevin sighed again. "Well, I'm sure they ARE worried about you, Nate," he said softly, "And I think maybe they'd be here in a flash once they realize where we are."
"I doubt it," Nate mumbled bitterly. Kevin decided not to push the point any further at the moment. "I do like the view, though," he said, looking down at Vegas after dark.
"And tomorrow, we hit the Strip and hit it hard," Nate rubbed his hands eagerly, "Take Danielle's credit card and just get as much in as we can..."
"Well let's not get carried away," Kevin warned him, "We don't want to end up in deep debt; then our parents'll really kill us when they get here. When I was in New York, I took care to keep it within reason even with a credit card and lots of cash at hand."
"Hey, you only live once, I say, so live it up," Nate didn't care. He finally turned towards his friend. "Was it like this in New York at the Plaza?" he asked sincerely, "The same feeling of being special, being above it all?"
"Kind of," Kevin admitted, "It was overwhelmingly good to be in such rich surroundings. But you know what it also felt like, Nate? Lonely. Being up that high and unable to share it with anyone. So one thing I can say about this time is that I can share it with someone else. And Nate," he looked his friend right in the eye, "To be honest, there's no one I'd rather share it with than you. We might have a different idea about the situation, but I'm so glad you're here with me now."
"Really?" Nate looked touched.
"Really," Kevin nodded, putting a hand on Nate's shoulder, "Since we moved onto Lincoln Boulevard when I was three, I've always considered you my special best friend. And I appreciated it so much during the time when I didn't like my family as much when I could come over your place and get away from them. I appreciate that you'd always want to play with me at recess, that you'd always want to sit with me at lunch, that you'd come over so often and give me an outlet away from Buzz or one of the others being hard on me. When I was in New York, I wished that you'd be there with me more than anyone. Because I don't feel alone at all when my best friend's with me."
Nate blushed, deeply appreciative of the praise. There then came a creaking on the floor behind them, making both boys turn. "Can't sleep either, Sarah?" Kevin noticed her standing in the space between the boys' and girls' bedrooms, "Come on over."
Sarah joined them at the window. "I don't want to go to sleep," she confessed softly, "To have a big, soft bed like this-I'm afraid I'll wake up and be right back home and poor again."
"Well it's not a dream, Sarah; we've got the high life now, and you, me, Kevin, and everyone's going to enjoy it while we have it," Nate encouraged her.
"I'd like to. It feels good to be out of the dumps for once. I finally feel like someone," she said, staring out the window, "I feel like a queen up here."
"You don't have to be rich to be a queen, Sarah. You seem like one just as you are," Kevin told her, "Take a look at Danielle; she's got the money, and not much else."
"Yeah, she seemed uncomfortable to be sharing a bedroom with me, and let me know as much," Sarah admitted. She turned to him. "And while I'm here, I want to thank you so much, Kevin."
"For treating me so well tonight," she gave him a hug, "Everyone puts me down for being poor; no one's wanted to be friends with me before. They only see the state of my clothes and think I'm not worth it. You're the first person to treat me well other than my mom."
"Don't mention it," Kevin hugged her back in turn, "Every person, counts, Sarah, not least of all you. Not least of all the pigeon lady in New York, even though she doesn't have a cent. If she's worth it, you certainly are. And no matter how long we are here, I hope you do enjoy yourself. And when we do get back to Chicago, I'll still be there for you, promise."
"Thank you, Kevin," she repeated, grateful.
"Sure thing. Say, for starters, if we do try out for Splat Zone tomorrow, how about you be on the team with us? That should make you feel important, being on live TV and all."
"We don't have the Walley Channel at home; my mom can't afford it working as a kitchen aide," she admitted glumly.
"Well, I'm sure somebody'll tape it for you. And if we win, you'll really be a star."
"Um, not to put her down, Kevin, but you know how physical Splat Zone is," Nate pointed out, "Do you think she can handle the second round challenges?"
"I'd like to try," Sarah seemed determined now.
"And I'm sure you'll do well," Kevin told her warmly, "We'll try and arrange partners for each challenge so it works best for you."
He yawned again. "Well, now I really am getting tired," he confessed.
"Me too," Nate started back to their bed, "I want to be wide awake when we hit the town running."
"Or come what may," was the best Kevin could say in response. "Have a good night, Sarah," he told her in parting, "And remember how important you are; if Vasilissa the Beautiful could go from being a peasant girl, defeat Baba Yaga, and win the tsar's love, you can do the same, in essence."
"Vasilissa the Beautiful's my favorite Walley film," she was smiling. She turned and left the boys' room. Kevin hopped back into bed himself. "And you know what's also great about this, Nate?" he told his friend as he pulled up the blankets and rolled over, "the Bad Guys aren't here..."
"Hello, Nebraska," a sleepy-eyed Marv took note of the road sign zipping by the RV that the new Wet Bandits Gang had filched in Cedar Rapids at over a hundred miles an hour. Harry had more or less been doing a hundred since leaving Chicago, and to their great luck, they hadn't been pulled over yet.
"Yep, I'd say we're makin' great time all right, Marv," Harry said, his eyes still fixed on the interstate.
"So where're we goin' now that we're out, Harry?" his partner asked.
"I got a plan, Marv, a big one," Harry said softly, "One I think the guys'll like when they wake up in the morning," he gestured back at their new gang, sound asleep in the back of the shuttle, "Because by this time tomorrow, we'll be in Vegas."
"Oh boy, a casino job!" Marv rubbed his hands excitedly.
"Yep, I figured we earned one really big score before we left the country," Harry nodded, "What better way to earn that then by knocking off a casino? Hundreds of millions of big bucks, soon to be at our fingertips. So look out, Sin City," he pressed his foot down even harder on the accelerator, "We're coming right for ya."