The Case of the Black Lion--Chapter 7
Bo blinked while everyone stared at Arthur. "Come again?" he said, breaking the silence.
"Hmm?" Arthur said. Yume got out of her seat and took a bowl and a book from the table. Its contents slushed around as she walked to Arthur, who immediately dipped his pipe into it and took the book into his free hand. He blew into the pipe, and a stream of bubbles flew out. The floating shapes entertained the group before they popped one by one.
"You're going to tell us how you guys were formed?" Bo said.
Arthur put the pipe aside. "Of course." He opened the book and began skimming it. "Do you know how the Black Lions were finally defeated?"
"The Genovian government found their base and took them down," Blake answered.
Arthur turned a page. "That's true," he said without looking up. "At least, that's what the public records will tell you." He smiled.
Shirley watched as Arthur turned another page. "You were responsible."
Arthur nodded. "All of the Big Ten met that day." He looked at Yume, who was eating a bowl of pancit and eggrolls. To be more accurate, she was sucking up the yellow noodles while taking big bites of wrapped meat and vegetables. "Well, eleven if you count Yume here."
After noisily chewing her food, Yume froze when everyone's eyes were on her. She swallowed loudly. She opened her mouth to say something, but instead of words, a long belch exited her lips. After Yume was done, everyone except Arthur stared at her. Shirley raised an eyebrow at her. Bo kept his eyes wide open. Blake stopped himself from saying anything. Lucy hid her smile behind the back of her hand, but a chuckle escaped through her fingers.
"Excuse me," Yume said, smiling.
Bo kept his eyes on Yume. "She was there?"
"I told you it was a pretty explosion," Yume said, still smiling.
Arthur flipped through his book. "It's been a while," he said, holding the book to his face. Shirley recognized the cover of Current Urban Legends.
"Definitely," C.D. said.
"Now..." Arthur rubbed his chin with one hand while his other flipped through the pages of his book. "Hmmmmmm..." He raised his eyebrow at the current page. "Hmmmmmm..."
Bo grinded his teeth together, and he almost crushed the edge of his seat. Shirley raised an eyebrow at him, and he loosened his grip.
"Ah, yes." Arthur smiled at Shirley and her friends. "Ever heard of Bashtarlle?"
"No," Bo answered quickly. "What's the point of...?"
Shirley raised an eyebrow at her friend. "It's a small country near the border of Genovia," she said.
Arthur flipped through his book for a while before slamming it shut. "The Knight Foundation was involved in a power plant project in Bashtarlle," he said. "To be more accurate, a solar/lunar power plant capable of storing energy for future use."
Bo blinked. "Run that by me again?"
"Bashtarlle is a poor country compared to industrialized nations like Canada and the States," Arthur continued. "However, it had potential for development, and the Knight Foundation was among several companies interested in assisting in that development." He tapped his book a few times. "A Knight Foundation scientist named Orbley proposed building a clean source of energy there based on his research. He saw Bashtarlle as the place to test out his theories on solar and lunar energy." He inserted a finger into his book. "To put it simply, he believed it was possible to collect and store energy from moonlight as well as sunlight and use it."
"Interesting," Shirley said. "A virtually clean source of energy if it worked."
"Big emphasis on 'if,'" Bo said, earning him "the look" from his best friend.
"Orbley's experiments worked on a smaller scale," Arthur said. "In addition, he was concerned about the plight of the people of Bashtarlle. The internal Genovian conflict had been occasionally leaking into their country. Things would get messy, to put it lightly. Still, Orbley was determined to help them out. Even brought his little daughter there."
"How'd you guys get involved?" Blake asked.
"Knight Foundation Scholar trip. Some of us were selected to go to Bashtarlle to see the plant as it was constructed," Arthur said. He bowed his head. "Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse."
"How so?" Shirley asked.
"A day after we arrived in the country, Orbley was killed when he drove into a minefield on the border while on the way to work," Arthur said. "To compound the gravity of the situation, his daughter was in the car. She went missing."
"She liked yo-yo's," Lucy said. "She was playing with a yellow one last time I saw her."
"I assume you guys went after her?" Bo asked.
"If you mean all of the Big Ten, yes," Arthur said. "Yume here was in the area as well. Something about punishing an abusive parent. She really helped us out." He smiled when Yume smiled. "It's funny. All we wanted to see was a power plant being constructed, and we ended up destroying a terrorist organization."
"I'm amazed you didn't want to join after you were done kicking bad guy butt," Bo said to Yume.
"Well, I felt I had enough responsibilities at the time," Yume said.
"What happened next?" Shirley asked.
"We figured out where the Black Lions were hiding out, and to put it mildly, a one-sided battle," Arthur said. "We crossed into Genovia since we learned the Lions would kill the girl to send a message to foreigners. From there, it was easy. A shame about the Lions' leader, though."
"He got blown up, right?" Bo said.
"He did, indeed," Arthur said. "Running away from her." He jabbed his thumb at Yume, who grinned. "Unfortunately, he ran into his own minefield."
"So what happened to the daughter?" Blake asked.
Arthur looked around. "I'm afraid I can't tell you that."
"Why not?" Shirley asked.
"Because the person who's best at answering that question isn't here," Arthur said. "All I can tell you is after that incident, we all got to know each other, and the Strangers' Club was formed." He got up from his chair. "So, let's eat."
As Arthur went for the food, Lucy played out what had happened. It had been after the Black Lions were all routed. She and C.D. had gotten the girl out of the area and were running for safety. They had reached the clear field, and then the girl thought she saw a yo-yo on the ground. Before Lucy had noticed, the girl reached for it, and then came the explosion...
"Lucy! Come on! More food!" Yume cried out.
Lucy snapped back to reality. "Huh? Oh, OK." She reached for an eggroll, but the moment of her brief recollection didn't escape Shirley's watchful eye.
The woman pulled her young son away from the bench. "You shouldn't stare," she admonished him as she dragged him away.
"But, Mommy, that man's so weird-looking," the boy managed to say before his mother silenced him with a glare.
Damian showed no sign of being offended as he sat on the bench. He had been waiting for a while at the airport, and he ignored the stares he got from passers-by. Clad in his black coat with his red goggles slung over his eyes, he wasn't exactly easy to ignore. He folded his arms over his chest and waited.
"Hmmm...you haven't changed a bit."
Damian looked up and saw a White man in a baseball jacket carrying a single bag. Although his hair was a fine white and his face showed the progression of age, his eyes still contained youthfulness.
Damian stood up. "Neither have you," he said, holding out his gloved hand.
The man took it and shook firmly. "I wish it'd been happier circumstances we'd be meeting again."
"Yes," Damian said. "Are you sure about this?"
"I am," the man replied. "I want to see him."
"I see," Damian said.
"Still, are you sure?" the man asked. "Is it him?"
"It is him," Damian said with a nod. "I have never forgotten that face."
"Good," the man said grimly. "Good."
"Well, that was all for nothing," Bo said as he exited Chang's with his friends.
"Not really," Blake said. "I got my blazer fixed." He held it out, showing that it had no more slash marks. "Thank goodness for Yume."
Bo frowned at Blake. "You wouldn't be saying that if you were there when she made Shirley play a game with her."
Lucy and C.D. led the way to the Beetle. "Well, we'd better take you home," Lucy said to Shirley. "Don't want your family to worry about you."
"Good point," Shirley said. "I need to process everything I learned today."
C.D. unlocked the Beetle, and he, Lucy, and Shirley stepped inside. "See you guys later," Lucy called to the others.
"Bye bye," Yume called out, waving her hand vigorously.
Shirley's gaze fell on Blake, who returned the look. She continued looking at him as the Beetle pulled out. He and Bo watched as the Beetle left. When it was gone, Blake turned to Bo.
"Guess we'd better go home, huh?" he said.
"Uh, yeah," Bo said, still looking in the direction of the Beetle. "Bye."
Both boys mounted their bikes and left. As Blake headed towards home, Bo wondered if he should follow the Beetle. Then, he felt his stomach churn. "Damn it," he muttered as he continued on his way home.
As Bo and Blake rode their bikes to their respective homes, C.D. drove the Beetle towards Shirley's house. As Lucy and Shirley carried on a light conversation while Shirley tried to gather more information, C.D. began to recall another moment from Bashtarlle. He saw his younger self on the roof of the hotel the Knight Foundation Scholars were staying at. He had been staring down at the ground from the ledge. The sky was dark and twinkling with stars while the moon hovered among them. The cold wind blew through him, prickling his skin as it flapped through his light blue pajamas. He kept looking down.
C.D. turned around and found Lucy standing next to the door leading to the hotel. She was wrapped in a red robe, which she held closed with her hand. Her scarf was wrapped around her neck.
"Lucy?" C.D. stared at her. "What are you doing here?"
Lucy took a step forward while clutching her robe over her body. "I couldn't sleep," she said as she continued walking towards C.D. "I had a feeling something bad would happen, and then I felt like coming to the roof."
"You don't say," C.D. said, returning his focus to the edge of the building.
"Yeah." Lucy shivered. "What are you doing up here?"
C.D. kept looking over the edge. "Oh, just thinking about going on a trip."
"What trip?" Lucy asked.
"The one I'm going on to meet my family."
"What are you talking about?" Lucy walked towards C.D.
"Stay back!" C.D. yelled, holding up his flat palm.
Lucy stopped advancing. "C.D., what...?"
Then C.D. leaped off the ledge. He did his best not to close his eyes as gravity drove him towards the ground below. Images of his family rushed through his head.
Suddenly, he felt something wrap around his legs. Its grip tightened, and he stopped falling. As he swung in the air, he felt himself being pulled up despite his efforts to break free. His ears picked up the sound of strained grunting as he got closer to the roof, and one good yank later, he crashed on it face-first. Groaning, he lifted himself off the hard concrete, but he felt his legs still tied together. He turned his head and saw a long strip of material wrapped around them. Lucy held the other end of it.
"What were you thinking?" she yelled, gripping the other end tightly. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"
C.D. tugged at the scarf wrapped around his legs. "So what if I was? It's none of your business!"
"It is if you're trying to kill yourself!" Lucy yelled back. "That's just stupid!"
C.D. scowled at her as he tugged at the scarf. "Let me go," he demanded.
"No," she said as she pulled him away from the ledge.
Another futile pull at the scarf. "Let me go."
He raised his hand, which began to vibrate. "I don't want to hurt you."
Lucy pulled hard, and C.D. was slammed against the wall. As he slid down, he felt the scarf loosen around his legs.
"Don't think I have to worry about that," she said with a grin as C.D. stood up slowly.
"How...?" he asked as he stared at the scarf.
"Not sure. I just focus on my scarf, and stuff happens," she answered. "Guess it's a psychic power," she added, pointing to her head. "So, you're special like me."
C.D. rubbed his head. "I guess."
"So, care to tell me why you wanted to kill yourself? What does it have to do with your family?"
He frowned. "You wouldn't understand."
She frowned back. "Try me."
For a while, he faced her with hands balled into fists that vibrated slightly. She kept her gaze on him while holding her scarf. The wind continued to blow. Finally...
"C.D.? We're here," Lucy said.
C.D. saw the the Holmes residence before him. "Oh, right," he said as he parked on the driveway. "See ya later, Shirley."
"Likewise," the teen detective said, and after stepping out of the Beetle, she waved goodbye to the two Strangers. The Beetle drove off as she entered the house.
"Something on your mind?" Lucy asked C.D.
C.D. kept his eyes focused on the road. "Oh, just remembering stuff."
"Like the time you tried to jump off the hotel roof in Bashtarlle?" she asked.
C.D. grinned. "You're good. Now you're a mindreader?"
"I guessed." Lucy grinned. "I know you too well, Cody."
"Yeah, you do," C.D. said with a chuckle.
"Do you still miss them?" Lucy asked.
C.D. sighed. "A lot."
Lucy patted him on his shoulder. The Beetle continued on its way to the Knights'.
Shirley realized it while getting ready for bed. Once she spotted her copy of Current Urban Legends on her desk, she said, "Of course."
She reached for the book, and after leafing through it, she found what she was looking for.
At the Hewitts', Blake had a similar realization. He dug through the pile of books on his desk until he found his copy of Current Urban Legends. "That Arthur," he said, smiling at the entry he had been looking for.
Meanwhile, Bo was asleep in bed. He tossed and turned, causing most of his blanket to fall to the floor. He hugged one of his pillows close to him. "Shirley," he mumbled as he tightened his grip.
Alicia grumbled as she headed towards the girls' dormitory. She had spent her time after school at the mall, but she had been resigned to window shopping. "Can't believe the Quazar's gonna be closed while it gets fixed up," she muttered. "Oh, if only I had enough money to buy that skirt..."
She had reached the dormitory entrance when she heard footsteps behind her. Gulping, she reached for the doorknob and found a gloved hand around her wrist.
"Alicia," someone whispered behind her.
Alicia turned around and gasped.