Forever Knight

As the Easter Bunny Turns

This little vignette was inspired by a post on the Sci-Fi Channel Buzzboard: Where would you hide an Easter Egg in Nick's loft?

**********

Nick Knight sat in his loft and surveyed the damage. It was far beyond his comprehension how so much havoc could be wrecked in so little time. And by THEM! How did this all come about? Oh yes. It started a week ago.

**********

"I'm dead." Don Schanke was moaning. "I'll never be able to face anyone again." He held his head in his hands and moaned something unintelligible.

"Come on, Skank." Nick said to his partner. "It can't be all that bad."

"Oh yes it can."

"What can't be all that bad?" Natalie Lambert said as she approached the pair.

"Me." Don replied. "I was supposed to reserve Williams Park for Saturday. Jenny's Girl Guide troop is having an Easter Egg hunt."

"So?"

"So, I didn't do it. You know all the running around we've been doing on the Mitchell case? Well, I forgot all about making the reservations for park."

"So?" Nick handed his partner the phone. "Make them now."

"I tried that a little while ago. According to the Parks and Recreation department, every patch of green grass in the city has already been reserved. It seems that everyone is having an Easter Egg hunt this year. And all of them on Saturday."

"Couldn't you have it in your yard?"

"MY yard? Have you seen my yard? A postage stamp is bigger. Besides, it's supposed to rain buckets on Saturday and Williams Park is the only place in the area with an enclosed shelter house. What am I going to do? I'm dead meat! Jenny's going to hate me for the rest of her life. I don't want to even think what Myra will do." He put his head in his hands and moaned loudly.

"How about having it indoors? You know, a private room at one of the restaurants or party houses?" Nat suggested.

"Thought about that. IF I could get a booking this close to Easter, it'd cost me more than the National debt."

"Nick." Nat asked. "Your loft is pretty big, isn't it?"

"Don't even think about it." Nick said in a stage whisper.

"I couldn't dream of asking you." Don said. "I guess I'll just have to face the music. All those sweet, innocent, angelic faces … so disappointed … " He sighed heavily.

"It won't be that much trouble." Nat reinforced. "The whole thing will be supervised, and the girls aren't exactly infants. They do know how to behave themselves."

"Well … I … I suppose …" Nick stammered.

Don Schanke reached across the desk and planted a very wet sloppy kiss on his partner's forehead. "Nick! You're fantastic! Your loft! It's perfect! We'll provide everything. We'll do the setups and even the cleanup. Some of the girls need their housekeeping merit badges anyway. You won't have to do anything. You won't even know we were there. Trust me."

Famous Last Words. Nick thought.

***********

Nick punched in the access code and rode the lift to the upper floor. It had been a long night, and with Schanke booked off to get things organized for the hunt, it was even longer. There was time for him to get a good three or four hours much needed sleep before Myra and the Girl Guides showed up for the Easter Egg hunt. He opened the heavy steel door to the loft and his mouth dropped.

A gaggle of screaming girls between the ages of nine and twelve were scurrying around the apartment. Myra Schanke, standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the living area was directing them with the authority and efficiency of a drill sergeant. They had brought everything. EVERYTHING. They had exchanged the oriental rugs that usually graced his floor with three Astroturf ones. Plastic palm trees replaced the cactus and the live fiscus that usually stood on either side of the mantle. Pink, lavender and aqua crepe paper festooned the ceiling. A plastic wading pool had been transformed into a miniature lake, thanks to more Astroturf and several realistically painted Styrofoam boulders. Several pots of flowers, both real and artificial, sat in the plastic picket fence 'garden'. There was even a lawn ornament deer grazing on the 'grass'. To top it all off, a six foot pink stuffed rabbit was ensconced in the middle of the room.

Two more girls were sitting at the kitchen table putting chocolates and jellybeans into plastic eggs. Another was stuffing multicolored grass into about twenty Easter baskets.

Across the table, another girl was putting what were clearly real eggs into a large bowl. From the mess on the counter behind her, they were obviously freshly dyed real eggs. Crumpled, stained newspapers lined the counter and the sink was splotched with variegated colors of vegetable dye. The girl looked up and a wide grin spread across her face.

"Uncle Nick!" Jenny Schanke said as she ran and wrapped herself around him. "Daddy told us that you let us use the loft for our Easter Egg hunt. You're the greatest!" She punctuated her remarks with a loud kiss on his cheek.

"But how did you get in here?" Nick asked.

"That's my fault." Myra said. "I didn't think you'd object if we started a little early, so, since Don had the codes for your security system, we sort of ... Well, to tell you the truth, we've been here all night. The girls decided to make it a kind of sleep over, and well, I didn't think you'd mind, so ... "

"That's okay. I don't mind." Nick said, pasting a smile on his face. He minded, but now was not the time to go there. "I'll just go upstairs and sack out for a few hours."

"Ah ... Uncle Nick. Do you have another bedroom besides the two up on the balcony?" Jenny asked.

"Why?"

" 'Cause Crystal and Heather are sacked out in your room and Autumn and Rashana are in the other. They're gonna be down here in an hour and then me and Gail, and Jan and Shayla are gonna grab a few hours shuteye. We're the last ones."

"I think I can hold out that long." Nick said with a forced smile. I wonder if Janette would be willing to rent me a room at the Raven.

"By that time, Daddy and Natalie should be here." Jenny said. "And the kids are due at nine o'clock."

"Kids? What kids?"

"From the day care center, of course."

"Day care? I thought that you girls were having the Easter Egg hunt."

"We are. But it's for the little kids at the Family Shelter. You see, since they're homeless, they don't get much chance to do these kinds of things, so every year, we take them on an Easter Egg hunt. We also do special things for them at Christmas, and Boxing Day, and for Canada Day too."

"In that case, I can only say that I am very proud of you and I am happy to lend my home for such a worthy cause. I guess I can put up with a couple of hours lost sleep for it." He reached down and kissed Jenny on the top of her head. "I'll just take a quick shower and bed down where I can."

**********

The sight in his bathroom made the downstairs look spit and polish clean. Girls clothes of every description littered the floor, while nearly every towel and washcloth he had was piled in a corner behind the door. Streaks of toothpaste, blobs of hair gel, and a swatch of something purple caked the bowl of the sink.

The tub wasn't much better. Rings of soap scum, and something he didn't really want to identify lined the surface, and a yellow rubber ducky floated in the stagnant water that indicated that the drain was clogged.

He made a face and reached for the bottle of drain opener.

Twenty minutes later, the drain was opened and the sink and tub were reasonably clean. Apparently, the purple whatever-it-was would just have to wear off.

He put the last of the towels in the hamper and piled the clothing in a laundry bag to be sorted out by the girls later.

So much for a quick shower.

**********

He awoke to the screams of what sounded like an army of preschoolers running through his skull. Although it was not the most comfortable of sleeping quarters ... he had slept in the Caddy on many occasions ... and it was the quietest place. Until now. He closed his eyes and tried his best to block out the noise. He had only been here for less than an hour. He HAD to get some rest.

"Hey!" One of the toddlers, a boy of no more than 5 or 6 cried out. He was peering into the Caddy . "There's a body in here!"

"Where?" "Who?" "Mrs. Peterson!" Several of the children crowded around the car. One little girl let out a shrill cry/scream that burrowed into Nick's brain, causing a pain like he had not felt in several centuries

"Children!" An adult female voice that must have belonged to Mrs. Peterson, called. "Get away from the car. NOW!"

"But he could be dead!" Another of the children called out in a whining voice.

To prove that he was among the living (in a manner of speaking) Nick opened his eyes and sat up. This caused even more shrieks and screams from the kids.

The voices faded as Mrs. Peterson herded her charges into the lift. Slowly the noises disappeared as the elevator made its way to the top floor.

So much for sleeping there. The Raven was looking better by the minute. As he started to get out of the car, his cell phone went off.

"Hey, Nick." His partner said. "I'm afraid I can't make it to the festivities. I got a call from one of my snitches a little while ago. Ray Pecklester, our chief suspect in the Mitchell case is getting ready to bolt town. As soon as the warrants come out … I expect them in about an hour …I'm gonna cuff and stuff him. I know you wanted to be in on the collar, but with your sun allergy and all that … And if we wait until tonight … Well, he could be in Brazil by that time. I tried to call the house phone, but it's been busy for the past hour. Tell Myra, will ya? Don't worry about a thing. I know you and Nat can handle things. You won't even miss me. See you tonight. Hasta la Bye Bye."

No sooner did he hang up than the phone rang again.

"Hi, Nick. It's Nat. (Sniffle, Cough) I don't think it would be a good idea for me to come over to the loft. (Hack, Wheeze) I think I'm coming down with the flu (Pant, Groan) and I don't want to give it to any of the kids. (Puff, Sneeze) I'll see you when (Sniff, Sneeze) … and if … I feel better. I know you and Don can handle the hunt. (Cough, Hack)"

The Raven DEFINITELY looks better. He mused as he rode up the lift. If the sun weren't up already, he'd be on his way there now.

**********

He felt a tug on his trouser leg. He looked down to see a boy, barely out of the toddler stage pulling on his pants. The boy looked up at him with enormous brown eyes. "Pawdey tuck." The boy said, taking his thumb out of his mouth only long enough to utter that profound statement.

"What?"

"Pawdey tuck." He repeated.

Nick looked around the room, desperately searching for someone fluent in toddler to translate. Finally, one of the Guides, barely nine, came over. "Joey says that the toilet in the downstairs bathroom is stuck, Mr. Knight." She enlightened. "In fact, it's overflowing."

All that from two words?

"Tawwey taw." The boy said, sticking his tongue out at the stool pigeon.

"I am not a tattle tale." The girl indignantly replied, sticking her tongue out at the toddler.

Nick looked toward the guest bathroom. Sure enough, a thin trickle of water was seeping from under the door. He began rolling up his sleeves as he headed to the bathroom.

The water in the room was well over the soles of his shoes and the commode was running full force, adding several gallons of liquid to the melee every minute. Sloshing loudly, he waded to the offending fixture and forcefully jiggled the handle. Schanke had told him once that this would stop the water. The handle broke off in his hand. The flow increased tenfold. Shutoff valve … Under the tank … a voice that sounded remarkable like Nat's filtered through his brain. Getting down on his hands and knees on the soggy carpet, he peered into the tiny space between the wall and the bowl of the toilet. Sure enough, there was a valve. On the other side of the toilet. Next to the wall. With about a three inch clearance. The only way to reach it was to get on his back and slither between the loo and the wall. He finally managed somehow, from the backwards and upside position, to turn off the water.

Now to unclog the toilet itself. He opened the cabinet under the sink and began tossing things out of it. I know I have one in here somewhere. Not that he had that much call for a snake. He never used that particular part of the bathroom after all. Finally, he found it.

**********

He emerged from the bathroom. In his hands were a hand towel, an Easter Egg, and his universal remote. "How … " He asked. He wasn't sure he wanted an answer.

"He did it." One of the other children said, pointing to Joey.

Joey came to him and wrapped his little hands around his waist. "I wuvs you, Mister Knight." He said with the innocence that only the very young can have.

Nick hugged him back. It didn't really matter how those things got into the toilet, and he could replace the handle before he went into work tonight.

Nick started across the room. That was when he noticed that the shutters were up and in spite of the weather forecast, there was bright sunlight streaming through the window. He pushed the proper button on the remote. Several times. Nothing happened. It was waterlogged and the batteries were dead.

"Jenny!" He called. "There's a button on the wall beside the windows. Push it."

Jenny did as she was told and, with a loud whirring sound, the shutters began to clank and slide into place. In the safety of the darkness, Nick started across the room.

"Jen! That was cool." Another of the girls called. "Let me try it." She pushed the button and the shutters rolled up into their nighttime position.

Nick screamed as a blast of sunlight caught him directly in the face. He quickly shut his eyes. He knew that they were gold and that his fangs had descended. He put his hands up to hide his mouth, but they too, were in the sun's rays.

"What's wrong with him? You'd think he was being tortured." The girl said.

"He is being tortured!" Jenny pushed the button another time and the shutters blocked out the sunlight once more. "He's allergic to the sun, you dork!" She yelled at the girl who had opened the shutters. The girl began to cry.

Several of the girls guided Nick to the couch. His face and hands were covered in blisters.

"I can help." One of the girls called out. "I've got my first aid kit. I've been hoping to get a chance to use it. I need my first aid badge anyway." Minutes later, over his vehement protests, Nick's hands and arms were swathed in bandages. His face too, was covered. The only openings were two slits for his eyes. He looked like an Egyptian mummy. "You should be feeling better soon, Mr. Knight. Girl Guides are prepared for any emergency." The girl said proudly.

Minutes later, Myra came out of the lift pulling a large bucket like machine on wheels toward the bathroom. "Don't worry, Nick." She called. "This happens sometimes when we have the little ones. They like to see how much they can flush. That's why I brought the Wet Vac with me. I figured you wouldn't have one."

**********

Several agonizing hours later, The day care children had left. Each of them had insisted on expressing their thanks to Nick in the only way that three to five year olds know. With wet sloppy kisses. On his bandages. And with hugs. Chocolatey marshmallowey hugs. On his Armani shirt. He could have removed the bandages, but it would have been impossible to explain how second degree burns could have healed so quickly. Besides, he didn't want to disappoint Rebecca, for that was the name of the girl who had treated his wounds so expertly. So he left them in place. Somehow he had managed to get out of his wet clothes and into dry ones without disturbing her handiwork. Also, because of the bandages, he could feign clumsiness and slide the food that they brought him into his sleeve instead of his mouth. When no one was looking, he would dispose of it in the toilet. Myra must have thought he had very weak kidneys ... or diarrhea … or maybe ate something that didn't agree with him.

Several of the Girl Guides were busy cleaning up the mess. They had removed the Astroturf and the 'garden' and were carrying out the palm trees. Others were struggling with the original rugs and plants. Still others were attempting to return the kitchen to its pre-hunt condition.

"Don't worry about a thing, Mr. Knight." Jenny was saying. "We'll come back next Saturday and replaster and repaint the hole and replace the handle on the cabinet. We'll even scrub the floor."

**********

Nick stared at the hole in the wall next to the mantle where Tyrone had used his antique carved shepherd's staff as a battering ram. The three year old twins, Kayla and Ragan had used a screwdriver in a vain attempt to open the locked cabinet where Nick had hidden his stash of 'food'. Although they never got the door open, they did manage to inflict serious damage to the handle. It now rested at a 90 degree angle from its original position. Nick could open it, but it would take his enhanced strength to do so. As was inevitable, two of the live plants in the 'garden' succumbed to the enthusiasm of the toddlers and ended up on the 'pond'. That had been overturned when they tried to retrieve the plants. While Myra's Wet Vac got up most of the water and dirt, the mud had seeped into wood of the oak floor. It would probably need to be sanded and revarnished.

The girls had left around noon and Nick spent the rest of the day cleaning up after their cleanup. He glanced at the wall clock. The sun had set and he did not have to be at work until eight o'clock. That meant that he could still grab two hours sleep.

The phone rang and Nick picked it up. It was Don.

"Just wanted to let you to know that we got Pecklester. He's under arrest for the Mitchell murder. When we confronted him, he sang like a canary. Oh, and Jenny says to thank you for the use of the loft. They had a ball. I hope they weren't too much trouble."

Nick surveyed the loft. The stained counter. The ruined floor. The drying bathroom rug. The damaged cabinet. The hole in the wall. Then he gazed at the huge Easter basket sitting on the coffee table. It was filled with all manners of goodies. Tied to the handle was a card addressed to 'Uncle Nick'. It was signed by Myra and each of the girls.

He smiled. "They weren't any trouble." He said. "No trouble at all."

The End?

Ask Peter Cottontail