Part Forty-Two: Rescued and The White Wolf Returns
"Hey man, we can get in serious trouble!" One of the gang members said nervously.
Nash turned to him, and his zippo went out. "Hey! Relax! Me and Simone thought this whole thing through. This little bastard has it coming to him!"
"Yeah well I don't see your little bitch here," the masked goon said.
"Hey man, relax!" Another said to the nervous guy.
Arnold knew listening to Nash's cold, uncaring voice that he was either about to die, or be permanently disfigured. He felt light-headed from the smell of the alcohol that was burning all of his cuts and scrapes. He gasps trying to regain his breath, but knew it was pointless at the same time. He couldn't run, or fight back in his condition.
Oh please God, save me! He thought to himself frantically.
Just then there was a sound like a long, low howling that froze Nash and his thugs in their tracks. Arnold heard it too. It sounded almost like a large dog, or a wolf howling.
"What the hell was that?"
Nash recovered quicker, "It was just a dog. Damn you guys are such pussies!" He gave Arnold one more kick in the chest, then reignited the Zippo. "So long, punk!" Arnold could practically hear the sadistic glee in his voice. He closed his eyes, waiting to feel his skin catch fire, shaking like a leaf.
Just then another sound. This time not a howling, but the sound of something flying through the air. Just then Nash screamed and the lighter went flying out of his hand out of reach and away from Arnold. He opened his eyes and saw that the Zippo had what looked like some sort-of rubber-tipped dart on it.
"Shit! What the hell was-"
"Look!" One of the goons said, sounding nervous.
Then a familiar female voice spoke up. "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with fire?"
The gang members, Nash and Arnold all looked up to see a young woman in a tight, form-fitting blue suit with a pink utility belt hugging her hips standing on top of the graffiti-covered wall. It was Bridget! Her auburn hair blew in the wind and the moon in the background complemented the superhero aura she displayed.
"Get her!" Nash shouted pulling out his switchblade. The motorbike gang charged at her with their weapons raised, baying like wolves.
Bridget smiled and then jumped, doing a somersault and landed in the thick of them. Then she used a combination of martial arts moves against the surprised bullies. Most of these involved leg sweeps and high kicks that Arnold might of been slightly more than impressed by if the situation wasn't so serious.
While Bridget was disarming and beating up his gang, Nash abandoned his victim and (stopping only long enough to get his lighter) went for his bike to get away. But before he could do so, a loud cry of: "MONKEYMAN!" could be heard and a thin figure dressed in jeans, t-shirt and red cape swung down from a rope and tried to kick him from his bike.
Unfortunately, he over-estimated the distance and, with a startled Nash ducking just in time, Monkeyman overshot his target and instead crashed hard into Bridget and two of Nash's gang members.
"OW! Hey watch it, you big ape!" Bridget said annoyed. Monkeyman lay across her waist on top of her groaning.
"Let's get the hell out of here!"
"Wait for us, man!"
The gang jumped onto their bikes and took off before Bridget could successfully get the stunned Monkeyman off of her and pull out one of her gadgets. Nash was already way ahead of them.
"Oh great, they got away," Bridget said frowning.
"Sorry, it was my–Monkeyman!–fault," Monkeyman said dejectedly. "I knew I should of used my banana peels."
Arnold began to pass out from the pain. Bridget was at Arnold's side in a second. "Arnold, can you hear me? Arnold stay with us!" Monkeyman knelt down on his other side. He heard their voices from far away. The last thing that Arnold heard was Monkeyman saying he'd get an ambulance and Bridget frantically calling his name before falling into oblivion.
Arnold found himself standing in a forest surrounded by pine trees and a thick white fog. He looked up and saw a sky full of stars in a pink evening sunset. He couldn't see anyone, but somehow he didn't feel as if he were alone.
As he walked further into the woods he heard the sound of rushing water ahead of him. Arnold walked on and found a creek. He knelt down and splashed some water on his face and then watched the ripples distort his own reflection and then replace it with that of Helga's. He blinked surprised and then her reflection was gone.
"Helga," he whispered sadly. "Where are you?" He looked up and then saw another reflection across from his on the opposite side of the creek. It looked like a woman with brown hair and a beautiful smile dressed in a white so pure it almost looked unearthly. The woman seemed familiar somehow, but he couldn't quite place where. He looked up and was again surprised. The reflection was gone but instead of a woman dressed in white, a large white wolf sat across from him looking at him with bright blue eyes.
Arnold felt a moment of fear and stood up. The wolf made no move to stand, nor did it growl at him. Instead it just tilted its head looking at him, almost studying him. For some reason Arnold didn't feel afraid of the white wolf.
"Do you know where Helga is?" he asked it, feeling a little foolish right afterwards. The wolf opened its mouth and its tongue hung out, just like an ordinary dog would have done. Then it barked once.
Arnold blinked. "You understood me?" The white wolf barked again.
"So you know where Helga is! Can you take me to her?" The wolf then let out a whimper and looked down sadly. Arnold knew that he couldn't get to Helga now,t hat she was separated from him and he was unable to reach her.
He sat back down and looked down at the rippling water defeated a moment. Then the white wolf barked once more. Arnold looked up and saw that it came over to him, was now nearly face to face with him. Its blue eyes were so deep and so beautiful, almost exactly like Helga's (at least when they weren't angry or calling him mocking nicknames). But there was something deeper there, a range of emotions behind those eyes that was more human than beast. Something hauntingly familiar and it was on the edge of his memory, but he was unable to reach it....just like he was unable to reach Helga.
Then Arnold had a thought. He looked at the wolf and asked, "Have you seen Helga and can you get to her?"
The white wolf seemed to smile as it barked at him.
"You can! Then can you please watch over her until she can come back to me?"
The wolf stuck its tongue out again and Arnold could see white, sharp teeth but again didn't feel threatened. Indeed in the presence of the white wolf he somehow felt safer than he'd ever felt in his life. He boldly reached up and petted the wolf on its head. "I never realized until she was gone how much she means to me. I don't want her to be locked away, especially since she didn't do what she was accused of. I love her, and I guess I always have, but I didn't know it at first, even when she told me she loved me."
The wolf licked his hand when he pulled it away and then nuzzled against his shoulder. He hugged the wolf, burying his face into its warm white coat. "Please watch over her till we can be together again. Please keep her safe." He started to cry.
I will my Arnold, I promise you, an angelic female voice seemed to say inside his head. Arnold's eyes widened and the white wolf was gone. In front of him were a set of dog-like footprints on the muddy bank but no sign of the white wolf.
The voice of the White Wolf–and even though he knew the wolf itself didn't talk, Arnold knew also that it had indeed spoken to him–somehow sounded familiar and also out of reach in his memory.
"Arnold," another voice spoke just then, again familiar. Then a small beeping sound appeared along with it.
This was followed by other voices: "Arnold, hey Arnold!"
"He's waking up!"
The beeping sound made Arnold's head hurt and the forest and the fog soon gave way to a brighter light and then . . . .
Arnold slowly opened his eyes and saw that he was surrounded by the faces of his grandparents and his extended family members.
"Hey there, shortman," his grandpa said smiling down at him slightly. "You gave us all a little bit of a scare there."
He opened his mouth to talk but his mouth was too dry to talk.
"Here's some water, Kimba," his grandmother said handing him a paper cup and helping him sit up long enough to drink it down. He coughed as a bit too much went down the wrong pipe. Then he managed to choke out, "W-Where am I?"
"You're at Hillwood Memorial Hospital," a halfway bald man answered. He wore a doctors white coat and had a pair of glasses. "Move back everyone, I have to check him for signs of brain damage, or swelling."
Brain damage? Swelling? Arnold blinked wondering how long he was out.
The doctor shined a light into his eyes and then asked, "What's three times four?"
"What's color is my tie?"
"Follow my pen with your eyes–yes that's very good. What grade are you in?"
"Um, forth grade," Arnold answered feeling his head throb.
"What's your last name?"
"Oh give it a rest, you quack!" Grandpa suddenly said annoyed. "He's fine, aren't you?"
"My head hurts," Arnold said closing his eyes.
"That's to be expected," the doctor said producing some aspirin. "You've just woke up from a small coma."
"Coma? How long was I out?" Arnold asked.
"About forty hours," the doctor said. "You were brought in by EMT after you were assaulted. Do you remember what happened?"
It all came back to Arnold just then. Billy Nash and his gang. Him running for his life. The alcohol and then Bridget and Monkeyman saving him. He tried to sit up but the doctor held him back a bit. "Easy son, don't try to do too much at once." Arnold then realized he was sore in other places, especially his left side and his back. His face hurt also.
"It was Billy Nash and his gang," Arnold said looking up at them and the white tiled ceiling. "Did the police catch them?"
His family looked at each other and their faces either darkened, or looked worried. Before the could say anything, Arnold heard a familiar voice from nearby say, "Hey Arnold." He looked over to the doorway and saw Gerald and Phoebe standing there looking torn between happy and ready to cry.
Arnold's grandpa smiled and said, "Well, its good to see you're back with us, Shortman. Alright everybody, let's give Arnold and his friends time to talk." They left telling Arnold to get well soon and offering their support, all of which he was grateful for. The doctor helped Arnold sit up long enough to take a couple of aspirin and then swallow down some more water before he too left.
Phoebe rushed over and then hugged Arnold sobbing. "Oh Arnold, we thought you weren't going to wake up!"
"Yeah you gave us quite a scare there, buddy," Gerald said standing beside Phoebe and wiping his own eyes.
Arnold smiled and said, "I'm okay you guys. I feel a little bit sore, especially my face, but I'll be okay."
"Um, hello?" A female voice said at the doorway. It was Rhonda. She was carrying a vase of flowers and behind her Nadine stood with another vase and some balloons. "They told me that Arnold was awake and I....oh my!" She froze in her tracks looking at Arnold. Nadine looked a little shocked also but didn't say anything. "Um, I'll just put them over here with the others," Rhonda said when she was able to compose herself.
"Others?" Arnold asked curiously. He looked over where Rhonda and Nadine went and saw a table full of flowers, balloons, candies and cards. One was a wreath that said, "Get well soon" and another was a teddy bear with a get well card in its hands. He blinked surprised at the amount of well wishes. "Wow, all of that for me?"
"Yeah, man." Gerald said smiling. "When everyone found out you got hurt they got you some things. Everyone in class, Mr. Simmons, Dr. Bliss, all of the boarders and even Monkeyman and Bridget left you some things too. I guess they felt bad that they let that creep Nash get away."
Rhonda glared then. "I hope that this catches up to them! How dare they do something like this to a boy like Arnold!" Nadine nodded vigorously in agreement.
Arnold was surprised by the words. Despite the recent problems between him and his friends, they all came together when he was hurt to show their support. He smiled at them, his disapproval of their opinion of Helga momentarily forgiven. "Thanks Rhonda, Nadine. Tell everyone I said thank you for me."
Rhonda nodded, "We will Arnold, count on it."
Nadine added, "Hope you feel better soon, Arnold." With that the two of them left waving to him warmly.
Arnold lay back and smiled. He now knew that once Helga was proven innocent that all of their friends would see that they were wrong and all would be better. Sure they could be pretty fickle at times when something happened, but in the end everyone always seemed to come back together at the end of every crisis.
Phoebe smiled, "Everyone got you cards, Lila got you're the bear. Sid and Stinky got you the wreath and everyone else brought their own flowers. Oh and Mr. Kokashka and Harold both brought you the chocolates....um, however I believe most of them are missing."
Arnold couldn't help but smile at that. Then he looked at them. "How bad do I look?"
Gerald and Phoebe both shared a look. "Um, its bad, man. You got bruised all over, a contusion in one of your ribs and you were kicked in the head hard. That's why you passed out. The doctor said you had a severe concussion and that your brain swelled up a bit." Phoebe took off her glasses and wiped her eyes and Gerald explained it all.
Arnold then said, "My face feels bruised." He remembered Rhonda's reaction and the asked, "Is there a mirror?" They looked concerned again. "Please guys, let me look."
Gerald bit his lip and then handed Arnold a hand-held mirror from the night stand. Arnold looked at it and saw that the left side of his face was covered in one big purple and black bruise and there was a smaller almost greenish one on his jaw. There were a few cuts and a bandaged covered a cut over his left eye. He took it all in and then set the mirror down, not blaming them for looking shocked at his condition.
"Well you do look like you had a battle with a subway train and came out worse for it." Gerald tried to sound more humorous, however he frowned and said, "Damn it, Arnold! Those jerks who did this to you got away! We told them who they were, however Nash and his gang supposedly had an alibi."
"Cookie and Simone," Phoebe said, her own usually pleasant face twisted in pent-up frustration at the injustice. "The police said they had no evidence at the scene, and even Bridget and Monkeyman were unable to positively identify any of them."
"They were wearing masks," Arnold said remembering. "They chased me down an alley on their bikes and then attacked me. Nash said..." He blinked. "He was doing it because of what happened with Simone! They must of planted the note and then set me up!"
Gerald nodded, "That's exactly what happened, man. Me and Phoebe tracked down the person who wrote the note for them. It was that girl, Siobhan from the third grade, the one that Cookie and Simone also used when Phoebe was sent to the sixth grade. They made her write the note so that nothing would be traced back to them. I called Bridget to let her know to watch out for you and I guess Monkeyman was there too when it happened. When we talked to the cops, we didn't mention the note in case it got Siobhan in trouble and she already felt bad for all of it."
Arnold nodded, "I'm glad, Gerald. I don't want anyone else to suffer because I was too stupid to see the trap." He looked away angry with himself for worrying everyone.
"Arnold stop that," Phoebe said, surprising both him and Gerald. "You did it because you believed in Helga's innocence and you hoped to prove it. You were willing to risk the unknown in order to right a wrong and defend someone who means something to you. You have nothing to feel ashamed of."
"Yeah buddy," Gerald said agreeing with her. "You were just being who you always are. Mr. Do The Right Thing. Even if it puts you in danger, you always go out and do the right thing, and do you know why you do that, why you always have to look on the bright side?"
Now Arnold looked at his best friend and smiled a little. "Because somebody has to."
"Well you're not alone, man. We're sticking by you and when you're better were going to keep looking. Who knows maybe we might still find something somewhere?"
Arnold smiled at Gerald's newfound optimism and then he felt very lightheaded. "Thanks, both of you."
The doctor came in and said, "Your friend needs his rest. You can come back in the morning and talk some more."
Gerald then took Arnold's hand and said, "Get better soon, we need you, man." Arnold then managed to do their thumbshake, despite the heart monitor thing connected to his thumb. Phoebe told him goodbye and then, surprisingly leaned over and kissed his forehead. They left looking back at him and wishing him well. He waved back and then closed his eyes.
Just before he fell back asleep Arnold realized he forgot to tell them about the white wolf in his strange coma dream. He soon dozed off and enjoyed a dreamless sleep for once.
To Be Continued . . . .
Well now that Arnold is out of danger, its time to head back to Cherry Hell and see how Helga is dealing with things, including the news of Arnold's brush with Nash's gang. You don't want to miss it! Read and Review! ~D.R.