Disclaimer: I still don't own Hey Arnold! It all belongs to Nickelodeon and is brilliant creation of Craig Bartlett.
A/N: So a couple of nights ago, I was sleeping... and I suddenly felt like something was walking on my bed- not like a bedbug, no. Something bigger, like a cat or a small dog... Scary, huh? Anyway, I stayed awake for a while, trying to come up with a rational explanation and I concluded that it was a freak 'jump' from one of the springs in my bed or that I was imagining it or that it had been part of my dream...
However, a not-so-rational voice in my head kept telling me: "It's a plot bunny! It's a plot bunny! Catch it before it goes away!"
The voice was so annoyingly insistent that I did. I caught the bunny and this is what it gave me:
Chapter 13 - Just how 'eventful' can this night get?
Earl was building a house of cards to entertain himself as he hummed a catchy song to himself. It was nice to have some peace and quiet now that Frank was out doing… well, whatever he was doing.
A few minutes ago, his partner had stormed out of the building, mumbling something about making a call or something like that.
"Just one more level..." he mumbled as he tried to place the last two cards on the top level of the ridiculously tall tower. Predictably enough, that's the moment when the whole structure collapsed to the floor, leaving Earl's hands suspended in the air, holding the last cards, a confused expression frozen on his face.
Earl sighed and plopped down on the nearest chair. He was fairly good at occupying himself but tonight he was feeling restless. The fact that he was holding a girl against her will, no matter how terrifying she was, was a bit unnerving. Or perhaps, it was precisely because she was scary that he felt so uncomfortable.
In any case, he wasn't naturally a mean guy. In fact, he had tried practically every job available for someone with his poor academic background, but his clumsiness had always got in the way of his professional development.
When his childhood friend, Frank, had approached him with a "big plan to make a lot of money", he had never imagined anything like this. But he had promised to his friend that he would have his back and that he was in, "no matter what"… Now, he was starting to regret that promise. Mostly because, although Frank had always been quite bossy, Earl was pretty much okay with that. However, lately his friend was being right down mean.
And so, restless as he felt, he was still thankful for this little time alone.
Glancing at his cheap plastic watch, he realized that Frank had been gone for about 20 minutes and thought it wouldn't be too long before he came back, so there was no point trying to build another house of cards. If he did, he'd risk getting smacked on the head and yelled at for doing something "so stupid".
He sighed. He was starting to get bored.
"I wonder if I should go check up on Helga…" he asked to the empty room before him. He stood up and headed for the dressing rooms.
• • • • •
"So, let me see if I get this straight", Helga said as she half jogged beside Gerald towards the Circle Theater, "instead of taking the most sensible and wise decision by calling the police and let this be handled by grown-ups, you decided to play cops and thieves and solve it yourselves?"
Gerald grunted. "Look, it wasn't my idea and I didn't like it from the start. But Phoebe and Arnold kept goin' on and on about the danger you were in and how we shouldn't cross the kidnappers."
"What about my parents?" she asked, but regretted the question the second it left her lips. Before Gerald even made an attempt to answer, she looked down and added, "Never mind".
She could've sworn she saw, out of the corner of her eye, the boy's mouth twitching in disapproval and… could it be? Pity?
"And your stupid football-headed friend just had to be the hero, huh?" she changed the subject. Naturally, the possible empathy he could have felt was gone as suddenly as it had arrived. That's more like it, she thought. Helga G. Pataki doesn't need anyone's pity.
"What are you complaining about? He was trying to save you!"
"Hey, Gerald-o, are you implying it was my fault?" Helga said as she pulled Gerald to a halt and turned to face him.
"All I'm saying is that he did this for you."
Helga wanted to swoon. Oh, Arnold, my savior, my knight in shinning armor! You risked you valuable existence to save my pathetic, meaningless life…
A sigh almost escaped her lips, but she managed to keep it together and looked Gerald straight in the eye as she told him: "Listen to me, Gerald: I'm not gonna be held responsible for whatever happens to that bold, yet incredibly dumb friend of yours. I didn't ask for any of this."
"So what, you're just gonna wash your hands and pretend nothing happened?" he clenched his fists, evidently angry.
"Doi! No, you dork! I'm going to fix this. I'm going to save him. Whatever. It. Takes."
• • • • •
Feeling as if she was in auto-pilot, Olga watched as Officer Williams used his walkie-talkie to ask someone at the police station something about some files he needed.
She could hear her mom in the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge to get some drinks for the officers. When she emerged from the kitchen holding a tray in her shaky hands, Olga got up to help her and almost tripped with one of the wires of the police equipment.
The Pataki house didn't feel quite like home tonight. It was boiling with movement. Police officers and detectives were walking back and forth talking, passing on instructions, setting up equipment… When finally all the devices required to intervene the phone line were set up, most of the officers left and only a couple of technicians, a female officer, a detective and officer Williams remained.
"Are you alright, honey?" her mom asked, placing a hand over her shoulder. She looked at her with puffy red eyes and slowly nodded. Her mom pulled her in for a quick hug, "Don't worry, dear, we will find Helga. I'm sure."
However, her shaky voice did little to comfort Olga. She let out a whimpering noise as her mom released her. "I just feel like I have to do something, mommy. My baby sister is gone and I can't do anything to bring her back…" he choked on her tears and felt her mother's hand squeezing her own.
She knew people often said she was a little dramatic, and perhaps she was, but in this dreadful night, nobody could say the drama was uncalled for. She felt so powerless…
Officer Williams had explained to her that the only thing they could do was wait for another phone call to trace it back to the kidnappers' hiding place. According to the officer, there was a Tactical Team ready to rescue Helga as soon as they knew her location.
She walked to the window and stared at the sky through it. The moon was casting its light all over the pavement…
As she watched a plane draw a line across the night sky, she snapped out of her numbness and, suddenly, she knew just what to do.
• • • • •
"Sunset Arms Boarding House?" Phil greeted as he picked up the phone. When he heard nothing, he inisisted: "Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?"
He pressed the phone closer to his ear and heard the faintest sound of a person's breathing.
"Listen carefully, old man," the cold, hoarse voice of a man said.
Phil frowned. What the…?
"Who is this?"
"Shut up, and listen: that stupid grandson of yours is in big trouble."
"What are you—?"
"SHUT UP! He was told that his little girlfriend's life was at risk if he didn't do what we said and he stood us up."
Phil had no idea what this man was talking about but he was pretty sure this was a mistake.
"I think you have the wrong number, mister." He said, but the man yelled, asking for silence once more.
"Listen, Phil, if your grandson, Arnold, thinks he can play with us, he is totally wrong."
The old man froze as he realized that the guy addressing both him and his grandson by name was too much of a coincidence to be a wrong number.
"We have Helga Pataki, your grandson's girlfriend, and he was supposed to bring us the ransom money but he never showed up."
Ransom? Helga? Girlfriend?, Phil was trying to process everything but it was just too much. However, one thing did catch his attention.
"What the heck is wrong with you? Arnold's a kid! How can he give you any ransom money?"
"W-Well, he was very well aware of what was at stake here", the man sounded a bit less confident than he had been a couple of seconds before.
"But he's nine, for heaven's sake! Is this a joke?"
"This is no joke, old man. Now, if you think your grandson can't deal with this, then it's your turn. You are giving us a hundred and fifty thousand dollars or your daughter-in-law will be dead. You have 'till sunrise. We'll call again."
Phil could practically hear the man's smirk. And then, the line went dead.
He replayed the conversation in his head and struggled to piece everything together. Arnold didn't have a girlfriend that he knew of, but he was pretty sure that Helga was that little blonde girl with the pink dress and the one eyebrow that reminded him so much of Pookie.
And she was kidnapped.
By a gang of idiots who believed such a thing could be handled by kids.
He still wasn't sure this was all true but, even if it was, it made no sense! Why would this kidnappers deal with his grandson, the alleged boyfriend, instead of her own parents?
He scratched his head in thought as he climbed up the stairs towards Arnold's room. Perhaps he would know Helga's number; that way they could call her and see if she was okay. This just had to be a bad joke. There's no way this can be true.
However, after knocking a few times on the door and getting no response from his grandson, he pushed the door open and was met by an empty room.
Arnold wasn't there. And it was almost 11 p.m.
That's when intuition kicked in and he suddenly knew: not only was the kidnapping real, but also, Arnold was most likely out there trying to save this girl somehow.
Grandpa Phil was a very healthy old man and he was aware of it. He knew how lucky he was that the worst health issue he had, at age 81, was his raspberry-intolerance. However, right now he felt very close to having a heart attack.
"ARNOLD!" he called out as he ran down the stairs. "ARNOLD!"
A/N: To be honest, I wrote this very quickly and I didn't completely proof read it. I apologize for any mistakes, typos, etc. I hope you can forgive those, considering that I'm giving you a new chapter *smiles sheepishly*
Please, if you decide to honor me with your reviews, do tell me what you really think of this chapter.
See you soon!