“What do you mean, you lost it? How do you lose a priceless cosmic artifact? Did you leave it in a bloody taxi?”
The things one hears in a Starbucks.
The man - really, he was more of a teenager - snapped his phone shut (really, buddy, a flip phone? it’s not 2005 anymore) and groaned. Loudly. So loudly, in fact, half the patrons turned in his direction. The other half were too busy drinking their caffeinated cocktails of pure sugar to bother. After a few seconds, though, the coffee shop returned to the not entirely unpleasant buzz of capitalism and community. The boy who had been shouting into his cell stormed out with a tinkling of a bell and the slamming of a door.
Naturally, I decided to follow him.
He drove a somewhat beat-up Camry - by far, the least interesting car on the market; now and forever. I suppose it made sense: if you’re dealing with, quote, priceless cosmic artifacts, it’s good to blend into the background. But a flip phone?
Not trying to draw attention to myself, I waited a bit before climbing into my car (a pale blue VW convertible, excuse you) and driving off after him. Hopefully, he didn’t see me.
The drive took at least an hour, during which time I periodically heard Taylor Swift blasting from the Camry.
Can I take a moment to digress as to how much I already can't stand this guy? For one thing, what kind of jerk makes that big of a scene in a public place? Not to mention his terrible taste in phones, cars, and especially music. I can excuse most things, but shallow pop-country is not remotely one of them.
Now, of all the stereotypical places for someone to follow a mysterious stranger to, an abandoned warehouse is waaaaaaay up there on the list. So, obviously, our mysterious and mysteriously blue-haired stranger was headed to - guess where! - an abandoned warehouse. Honestly, it's like he's trying to be a cliché. If this were a horror movie, he'd be the one going into the basement where the evil clown is obviously lurking.
As we turned onto a dirt road in the exact center of nowhere, I realized something: if this guy wasn't on to me already, he obviously was now. A blue convertible who just so happens to be going to the same death-trap as he is: not exactly likely. To put it nicely, I was screwed. Royally.
It wasn't like the guy was at all threatening, though. I mean, Camry? Flip phone? Seafoam green hair? Taylor Swift? He was trying way too hard - and failing, may I add - to look 'punk', or whatever the kids are calling it these days. The only part of this situation that made me nervous (not scared, mind you - merely cautious for my own safety) was the strange, broken-glass-ridden warehouse. Why couldn't weird priceless-cosmic-artifact-cult meetings happen in wildlife preserves or hotel conference rooms or something? Are there specific rules that such get-togethers must be in the creepiest place in a 20-mile radius?
Our seafoam-headed protagonist (you know, presumably) stepped out of his car, deliberately not looking in my direction. Was he scared of me? I mean, a lot of people can get thrown off by my tall, dark, and handsome façade, but I didn’t think I was this fellow’s type. You know, at all.
I followed him, staying about 30 feet behind him, slipping through a back door into the warehouse. Silently, I might add. He didn’t pay me any notice - to a frankly ridiculous extent, actually. I’m not that ugly.
Inside the warehouse, a tall girl stood, hands on hips, glaring at her watch. “Does punctuality mean nothing to you?” She had a slight accent, but I couldn’t put my finger on quite what it was.
Our protagonist appeared shocked - was it real? playacting? I couldn’t tell. “Oh, we’re talking flaws now? How about you lost the most important - literally the most important thing - that you’ve ever laid your eyes on. Huh, Elise? How are you going to defend yourself from that?”
“Well, at least I can drive somewhere without being followed by some idiot in a freaking Volkswagen!” This was punctuated with a meaningful glare at the corner wherein I was concealed.
“You can come out of the corner, now, if you’d like,” the girl - Elise? - snapped at me. Somewhat sheepishly, I obeyed.
“Well, well, well, looks like the metaphorical cat has exited the equally metaphorical bag,” The boy rolled his eyes. Elise merely smirked. “My name is Oskar. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” I held out my hand, but neither of them made a gesture to shake it. “I admit; I was intrigued by your conversation. Cosmic artifacts?”
Elise glared at the boy. “In public, Adrian? You discussed it in public?” The boy - Adrian - smiled awkwardly (really, it was more of a grimace).
“It, um, I, you called me first?” It was obvious he was grasping at straws. “Anyway, this isn’t the issue here. The issue is that you lost-”
“Yes, I get it, I lost it. I’m a terrible person. Happy?”
Adrian mumbled something vaguely resembling a ‘no’ under his breath. I cleared my throat loudly, just to remind our heroes that, shockingly enough, they weren’t alone.
“So, a priceless cosmic artifact. How exactly did you two get your little hands on something like that?” The two exchanged worried glances, as if to say, Should we tell him?
The girl stepped forward and took a deep breath. “Well, it’s rather a long story…”
I spread my hands, indicating the dark expanse of the warehouse. “All the time in the world and no one around for miles,”
“Actually,” Adrian said, “I’ve gotta be home by four.”
“A few days ago, Adrian and I were in the park, when he tripped. Over a rock.”
“Like you do,” I added. Elise glared at me.
“I picked up the rock, and it looked… weird.”
“Weird, how, exactly?” Man, if looks could kill…
“It was kind of… glowing? Greenish?”
“And you haven’t died of radiation poisoning yet?”
The girl snapped. “Listen, mister, if you’re going to keep interrupting me, I swear I’ll knock you out.”
“She will, actually,” Adrian confirmed.
I raised my hands in a gesture of surrender. “Hey, I believe you. Just… maybe fewer espressos, okay?”
Rolling her eyes, Elise returned to her story. “Anyway. I brought it home…”
“And now she can’t find it,” Adrian scowled.
“I told you, I left it on my dresser. The only way someone could have accessed it is if someone broke into my house. And my dad is a freaking police officer. There’s no way anyone could have taken it. And I sure didn’t misplace it.”
Adrian mumbled something obscene under his breath.
“Excuse me, what?” Elise was about two seconds away from a z-snap.
“Ladies, ladies. You’re both beautiful,” The girl had barely to reach to slap me across the face. I was the second to swear; I, however, nearly shouted.
“One more misogynistic comment and they won’t find your body.” She didn’t sound like she was kidding, either.
“Um, is this a bad time? Should I come back later, let you two lovebirds sort things out?” Another slap across the face, punctuated with a variety of colorful language - in Spanish.
“Okay, crazy and crazy junior, I’m out of here.” I turned to head towards the door but stopped when I saw Adrian - suddenly, a bit more threatening. Knives tend to do that to someone.
Instinctively, my hands went to my waistband, but goshdarnit, I left my switchblade in my other coat. This motion caused Adrian to move a step closer. My hands flew up, as if of their own accord. “Let’s… let’s not do anything we’d regret here, okay?”
Elise, too, seemed more than a tad ruffled by this too-bold act. “Um, Adrian, there’s really no need to-” At these words, he pivoted sharply; now the blade was pointed at - gasp! - Elise. Although I was considering making a run for it, I was still curious. You know, mystical disappearance of possibly-radioactive stone, catfight between two possibly-in-love teenagers. If a TV producer caught wind of this story, it could be bigger than Desperate Housewives!
“Are you seriously just going to let this guy get away?” Adrian snarled (seriously, snarled). “Besides the fact that you told him everything about the magical bloody rock, he’s probably not quite as stupid as he looks.” I put my hands to my chest, mock-offended. The boy spun around to face me. “I’m. Not. Talking. To. YOU!” The blade nicked my collarbone, which was about as high as he could reach. Grabbing his wrist, I twisted his arm behind his back. Wincing, Adrian dropped the knife, which I picked up, snapping it closed.
I clicked my tongue against my teeth. “Now. This has been fun, but I’ve decided - once again - that I want nothing to do with you. If you don’t follow me, I promise I won’t mention the switchblade. Ta!” I threw Adrian’s knife to the concrete, where it broke neatly in two. Then, turning on my heel, I strode towards the door. If you don’t mind my saying, I looked awesome.