(2018-04-08) After School
After School
Summary: Penny defends her turf, Eddie makes kids cry.
Date: 2018-04-08
Related: None
Player Characters: Eddie, Penny, EmmahSue as ST

---| A Dark and Empty Schoolyard - Temporary Room |

Schoolyards are fun, happy places (most of the time, when the bullying isn't going down)! Except when it's night time. Then they're eerie and startlingly quiet but for the creaking of the tether-ball chain and an occasional skitter of a dry leaf. Really, who'd be out here at night? It's downright spoooooooky.

Two roads converge in the wood. That is to say:

Eddie's got a job! He's the Private Investigator hired to find a runaway teen, a boy of 13 named Artie. Artie declared he was gay and was summarily tossed out onto the street by his strict parents, who were sure that he'd see the error of his ways in an hour or two. Artie did not come back inside. Thus, an Eddie was hired.

Penny's got a job! That job involves prowling around the edges of a middle-school doing… well. Penny-things. Corners to lurk in, shadows to make darker, kids to watch out for so they don't toss toilet paper all over their hated walls. Really, it's a wonder the school doesn't pay her for protection.

Both roads lead to Stevens Middle School. A pair of boys are even now climbing over the chain-link fence in a scramble of young and athletic bodies. They urge each other in hushed whispers: "Nobody's here!" "It's so freaky at night!" "That just means nobody'll come looking for us, it's perfect!" "You sure you know how to sneak into the cafeteria?"

Penny lurks in the shadows of the dumpster in the back of the school, not too far from the playground. She's all in black, hoodie and cargo pants and boots, clutching her baseball bat in one hand, eyes scanning for any incursion from The Other Side. She's feeling alive and alert, her entire being singing with the rhythm of the night and darkness. She perks up when she hears the sounds of youthful intruders. A smile creeps onto her face.

An actual paying job? With nobody shooting at him, probably? Eddie's not sure he knows how to do those anymore, but he's willing to give it a shot. When he hears the kids ahead plotting mischief he ducks out of view and clicks on his flashlight, sticking it in his mouth while he rummages into his pocket with his good hand for the picture Artie's parents gave him. He shines the beam down at it to refamiliarize himself with who he's looking for, then shoves it back in his pocket and clicks the flashlight back off, quietly approaching the fence and trying to figure out how he's going to get over it with one good arm.

Two pairs of feet land with light thud-thud thud-thud as the boys toss themselves down from the top of the fence. They don't care about safety, they're young and stupid. "OK, once we get in," Artie instructs his companion in crime. "You grab the chips. I'll see if there's anything in the fridge. That pasta stuff she made last week?" The other boy — we'll call him Benjamin for now — assures on a low moan, "I could eat a horse!" To which Artie snorts: "No way!" And with that, they start hustling it across the lot, sticking to the side of the building rather than crossing in full view in the open. "Keep an eye out!" Artie hisses over his shoulder. Benjamin takes a turn at snorting: "I heard what Nancy said!" Despite this claim, he still lifts his voice in a low howl, imitating a dog or a wolf. "As if! Just her being a weirdo!" Behind them is an Eddie on the other side of the fence. Up ahead another pose or two is Penny and her dumpster.

Penny is a little confused. These boys are just trying an elaborate fridge raid, to her mind. But, if everyone starts heading to Stevens for Superdonuts and leftover tuna casserole, her job gets more difficult. So she reaches into her bag of tricks, first trying to make it more difficult for the boys to notice her.

Eddie watches the kids running off. He looks down at his arm in the sling, then at his scuffed up loafers, ill-suited for climbing. He looks at the fence, and has a premonition of humiliation, his quarry getting further away by the minute. "To hell with this," he mutters, hustling over to the actual building and going straight up the wall without using his hands at all. He hops down on the other side of the fence, wings making for a relatively graceful landing, then follows after the kids in no particular hurry. It'll take them a minute to ransack the cafeteria, he reckons, and he'd rather not have to chase them down out here.

For all of Artie's urging, Benjamin is *not* keeping an eye out. Despite how weird it is to be out here at night, he hurries to catch up, laughing and howling just under his breath all the while. Thus the two of the miss Eddie's remarkable feat of non-climbing and oddly graceful landing afterwards. They're too busy hustling towards that kitchen, all unawares that there's a scary clown lurking just… about…

There is a small swirl of autumn leaves and Penny disappears into the shadows. Then she intently stalks after the duo, whispering faintly, "Silly silly boys, making so much noise…" She can't help but let loose with a mad giggle herself; it comes with the territory for clowns.

Eddie stops his lazy pursuit, hearing that giggle and catching a whiff of a familiar greasepaint scent. "Penny?" he whispers, scanning the dark. He has a hard time spotting her, with the extra-Darkling darkness and her improviwed ninja outfit, but he follows his nose. She's headed in the same direction he is, anyway.

"Psst. Artie! Artie, did you hear that?" Benjamin glances over his shoulder. There's nobody there — Penny's hidden in her element, and Eddie's lingering to let them get ahead. Artie pauses and glances back too, frowning. "I… I don't… let's just go, OK? I haven't eaten in like, a whole day, I'm starving." He reaches back to tug at Benjamin's sleeve. "Faster, man. Go on already." No further urging is needed: Ben hurries ahead. He's still howling, but he's not laughing anymore, and it's not under his breath either. "And quit it with that already!" Artie adds just a little louder towards his scurrying friend.

Benjamin isn't the one howling.

"Eddie Spaghetti?" Penny is taken aback by not only the appearance of everyone's favorite PI, but also by the fact that he knows that she's here. Her whispered surprise comes on the wind not too far from Eddie. "What are you doin here, fly guy? Did the cafeteria hire you to stop the food raid?" She snickers a little, but the snickering stops when she hears that howling.

"The kid's parents," Eddie nods in the direction of the cafeteria, "want him home." He still hasn't exactly spotted the clown, but he aims his eyes in the direction her voice is coming from and tries his best to fake it, until he hears that howling. He makes a pained face and sighs a defeated sigh. Of course, it wouldn't be that simple. When is it ever, in Port Angeles? "I'm guessing that's not the school mascot. You know this place better than I do, keep an eye on the kids, would you?" And then he's up the wall again, making for the roof this time.

Both of the kids are hurrying now. Artie is shoving at Ben's shoulder a little; Ben is protesting in an affronted hiss that he *didn't* keep howling, gawwwwd. They stare up at the window, propped open by a ruler, for a good long second or three before Artie sighs. "You're smaller than me, up you go." The object of Eddie's search sinks down to one knee and settles himself so his buddy can start climbing. "Get in and unlock the door for me, ok?"

Out on the field, a single man and a dog? on a leash are crossing the mud and dirt. The dog is on the large side, but not extraordinarily so. It's straining on that leash — chain links, choke collar — just a little. There's no rush to the man, though. He strolls along like he's got all the time in the world, heading to the same location as everyone else. A baseball cap and the shadows help hide his face; his skin is pale, his clothing non-descript in a way that an Eddie can tell is deliberate.

"Roger Wilco, Sergeant Bilko," Penny responds in the affirmative. She keeps following the boys, stalking them up to the propped open window. She invisibly shakes her head, but doesn't stop them from entering the school, just from hurting themselves if that happens.

Soon enough, Benjamin is up and through the window. The clang and clatter as he lands on a metal table and knocks things over makes Artie flinch in sympathetic pain. Or in concern that they'll be found out; he keeps glancing towards the side of the building, beyond which is the field. "Hurry up, Ben! That sounds like someone's dog, I don't want to get bit! I can't go back and I don't want to get gangrenes!" Inside, Benjamin cusses. It's the low, fervent sort of initial-cussing that a 13 year old thinks is big news. "Fuck! Dammit! Fuck! I stepped in some mashed potatoes!" Outside, Artie rolls his eyes so hard it's a surprise nobody can hear a rattling sound. He mouths his own "Fucking idiot," but doesn't give it volume.

A cold breeze cuts through even colder from the roof; this is not a pleasant place to stand at night, that's for sure. With that chill wind comes the scents of the field and beyond, layering atop one another in a rich strata of information for a sensitive nose to catch. Lurking beneath the physical scents is the trembling feel of something *more*. Whoever that strolling fellow and his not-quite-large definitely-not-small dog is, he's not anyone normal.

Up on the roof, Eddie settles into a crouch and scans ahead, first getting eyes on the kids and then noticing the creep out in the field. He comes out of his jacket with a little pair of binoculars (of course he carries binoculars) and brings them up to his eyes for a better look, a frown of concentration coming across his face as he really focuses on picking out any telltale signs of the uncanny. "Shit," he mutters, stuffing the binoculars hurriedly back into his pocket and fumbling for his cellphone, hoping Penny has hers set to vibrate.

"someome comhng not normkl", a hurried message from an unpracticed texter still using a flip-phone.

Penny bites back a curse when her phone vibrates, trying to watch the kids and stay silent. She sneaks the phone out of her pocket and looks at the message. "w8 until boy in skool" is her poorly spelled response. She puts herself between whatever is coming and Artie, invisibly waiting.

Clk! "Got it!" Benjamin's crow of delight is immediately "Shut up!"'d by Artie. But the boys are inside in a scurry, closing the door behind them.

Just in time too: the fellow steps out from around the corner. His dog lifts its nose and starts snuffling wildly; can it tell Penny is there? Is it aware of Eddie so far above? Either way, the man himself moves into view: just a face beneath the ball-cap. Just a normal, every-day, too-pale face. The breeze follows along with him, a cutting edge to what was a fairly mild night before. He and his pet move still unhurried to… there. If he's unaware of the lurking darkling, he's plenty aware that when the cafeteria door opens and those boys spill out, the first thing they're going to see is the snarling bared teeth of a furious dog.

Penny hears the door close. The children are inside. And a too pale man with a medium sized, snarling dog is standing in front of her. She types "boys insid", puts the phone away, then suddenly appears in front of man and dog, clutching her bat. "This is not your place. Leave."

Eddie actually remembers how to check his texts, by now, but there's no time to pat himself on the back. He rises from his crouch and stows the phone, coming back out with the flashlight and pointing it down at the man and flicking it on to show there's more than one set of eyes on the situation.

There's a moment in that initial surprise, that moment when she's suddenly *there* and the spotlight is shining, when his hand on the leash begins to slip. The dog jolts forward towards the abrupt threat: it doesn't look nearly so medium-only when it's this close. When it's clashing those teeth in a furious snarling growl, only barely remembering to avoid getting choked by the collar.

The man tilts his head up just enough to study Penny. Head to toe to head again, but there's no judgement there, no leering for her dark-clothed form. It's an evaluation instead, considering in a distant sort of way what threat she and her bat may present. "And if I do not?" He smiles as he tilts his head back further to peer towards the roof, though it's hard to tell if he can see much. It's a pleasant expression, and his tone is curious instead of worried. That's a smooth-jazz baritone if ever there was one. "Do you claim the prize for your own? There are two. Perhaps you will share the hunt?"

Eddie keeps the flashlight aimed at the man's face, for a better look or hoping to blind him or just being a petty jerk, who can say? While he's holding out the light he's whispering to the Darkness, reminding it of a deal he made with it a long time ago, and throwing in a little glamour to sweeten the pot. Even monsters are scared of the dark, when it really sets its mind to it.
Penny rolls her eyes when she hears the man's question. "You're serious?" She laughs, a freaky high-pitched giggle. "This ain't your huntin ground, Elmer Fudd. You and your pooch need to move along. This is my school. Leave."

Something must have happened; Mr. Fudd's hand on the leash tightens. The dog cuts off its snarling with a startled yip when the collar tightens in response. It shrinks back against his leg, cowering with tail between its legs. "Then I bid you and your friends good evening, miss." Still ever-so polite, terribly urbane, despite the surroundings and the situation. Can't they all just get along? He turns and starts back the way he came. The collar remains tight, so the poor animal - medium sized after all! - is whimpering and staggering as it follows. But he's leaving, he's leaving, no damage done, maybe no threat after all, see, all is well, all is well. There's a hint of tension fading now, not even really noticeable until it leaves relief in its wake.

"And your little dog, too," Eddie mutters, spitting off the side of the building and sagging with relief when the guy goes away. The flashlight was getting kind of heavy, and he isn't wearing a gun tonight. He didn't think it would be necessary or adviseable on a job like this, silly him. He steps off the roof and touches down on one foot, strangely weightless. "I've got his scent, if you want to follow him home and give Quiet his address," he offers Penny. "In the meantime I guess I better see about Archie."

Penny whiteknuckles her bat, watching until Man and Dog have completely left the premises. Her shoulders slump a little when that's done. "Thanks for the back up, Eddie," she says when the private eye touches down. "Who the hell is Archie? One of those kids who are probably into the pizza squares by now?"

Speaking of: the kids are silent! Hopefully nobody snuck in and killed them while everyone was focused on Mr. Fudd and his Dog! That would be bad for Eddie's paycheck and Penny's tidy schoolgrounds. No, no, no need to be silly, that's a silly idea, the kids are fine. They're eating salt'n vinegar potato chips and drinking all the cola they can swallow, that's all. That's all.

Eddie waves off the thanks with a dismissive any-time gesture. "Yeah, the one that went in through the door," he says, "his folks kicked him out and now they want him back. If you could go around back and make sure they don't bolt, I'd owe you one." He gives her a minute to do that, then pushes on in to the cafeteria. "Hello Artie," he says, getting the name right this time, "your parents are very worried about you."

He's not sure he buys that himself, exactly, given the circumstances. He's put away the flashlight and come out with a business card, just in case. Not one of his, for once. The name on it is Sydney Rae, apparently a social worker.

Penny thinks for a moment, then nods. "They might also try to come back out that window there." She points to the possible exit. She knows the school, she knows the other way out. She runs around the back to await any scurrying out the back way.

It's rather a good thing Penny went 'round back as requested, because the minute Eddie steps in and starts talking, both boys jump to their feet. They *were* hands-deep in potato chips and… ew, half-frozen chicken fingers? How hungry could they be? But all of that is abandoned when an ADULT makes himself known. "Fuck!" Benjamin shouts. "Run!" They take off in a clatter of sneakers against linoleum, heading towards that selfsame door. There are no cartoon sound-effects when they pull it open and the scary clown lady is there, but that's just because the two kids are too busy falling all over each other in a futile effort to get away to hear them. Wah-wah-waaaaah.

Eddie knows what's waiting behind that door, so he doesn't make any serious effort to give chase. He ambles over to where the kids were eating and grabs a frozen tendy to gnaw on, watching with amusement as the inevitable happens. "Are you about done? I could just report all this to, I don't know, the cops, or the school, or," he points his finger at the kid he doesn't know, "-your- parents, instead, but it's less embarrassing my way."

"Hey kids!" The boys aren't going to get that Krusty the Clown joke, but Penny says it anyway. She closes the door behind her and watches the two boys. "We just want you to get home safely. I'll clean up after you here, that's what I do anyways…"

They scramble backwards in a crab-walk, all clumsy feet and elbows and hands. That meep!y sound coming from Benjamin is the kinda thing a girl can treasure for months to come. But Artie is made of sterner stuff. He pushes up to his feet, swallowing heavily. "I don't want to go home," he declares in ringing tones, too panicked and startled to keep his volume down. "I won't! They don't want me and I don't want them! Ben and me are boyfriends! They won't let me see him!"

Eddie rubs at the bridge of his nose. This isn't the part of the job he's really good at. It's not really a part of his job he even knew about, before tonight. "They want you home," he says, truthfully, "or they wouldn't have sent me. Look, they're not paying me enough to drag you out by the ear, but if you don't come with me they're just going to call the cops, and look how fast I found you." He's pretty sure he did a faster job than they would have, but there's no need to mention that.

Penny sighs. "Couldn't just be a rebellious runaway." She looks thoughtful. "Eddie, can you at least get somebody from one of those gay rights groups to talk to the parents? This is gonna be hard on him." She tugs her hood back, revealing her face.

"Then they can call them!" Oh, but Artie's got his back up now, arms crossed, chin high. That leaves Benjamin to ask in a whisper, "The *cops*?" and… oh god… no… oh man. He just bursts into tears. "I don't want to go to jail! Artie! I can't! I saw my dad watching that old show! They're awful!" So Artie drops down to his knees and wraps his arms around his 'boyfriend', his own face all wracked with uncertainty. "No, Ben! Don't cry! It'll be okay, you're not going to jail!" The look he shoots over Ben's shoulder at Eddie across the room is *daggers* yo.

"Look," Eddie says, holding his hands up in surrender as the tears start flowing, "nobody's going to jail. You can't keep doing this, though, clearly," he gestures toward the window and the pile of gross cafeteria food. "We can get someone to talk to your folks, like she says, and I've got the number of someone you can call if you've really got problems at home. Have you got any other relatives, in the meantime? Aunts, uncles, whatever?"

Penny rubs the back of her neck, clearly feeling out of her depth in this situation. "Yeah, any relatives that are more sympathetic? Because the streets are dangerous, kids. I know I sound like an After School Special and you have no idea what I just said…um. See, this is why I'm a janitor and not a school counselor. Which reminds me, maybe you should talk to Mrs. Brawley. At the very least, give her somethin to do so she's not leavin coffee grounds in the water fountain."

"Come on, Ben." Artie helps the still-sobbing boy up to his feet. He transfers his glare just as hard to Penny, but there's too much pride there to give voice to any of it. Instead he simply keeps an arm around the other kid's shoulder as they turn to head across the room towards Eddie. "We'll go home," he informs with a set jaw. "But you can just fuck right off for making Ben cry!" Exit: stage right.

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