Disclaimer: I don't own National Treasure, although you probably already knew that.
"Aw, Abby, come on!" I whined, kicking an empty soda can into the gutter. "This is gonna be like the twelfth store we've been to today."
Abigail, who I could tell was barely resisting the impulse to strangle me with her scarf, said, "If you complain one more time, Riley, I swear I'm going to steal your Converse in the middle of the night and burn them, promise or no . . ."
Yeah, right. I sleep with them on, Abbs.
". . . and then you'll have to borrow Ben's shoes while you go shopping for new ones."
I made a face at the thought. "I'm not borrowing those. Ben's like two sizes bigger than me. And his shoes are so . . . not Converse."
"I mean it, Riley. No more whining." Abby looked smug.
Deprived of my favorite pastime, I sullenly scuffled my shoes on the pavement, just loud enough to annoy Abigail. She pressed her lips together, stubbornly trying to ignore it, but then she snapped.
"Riley! Cut it out! This is the last store, I swear."
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, well, forgive me if I don't sound overly optimistic, but that's what you said about the last eleven. Why'd I even have to come with?"
"I just thought maybe you could help me pick something out. But I see now what a bad idea that was." Abigail sounded resigned.
I grinned. I really hated shopping, and, due to my sweet powers of annoyance, I doubted that Abigail would ever bring me along again. This was working out well enough. "Yeah. You're his wife. Shouldn't you be able to pick something out by yourself?"
"Well, I'm just trying to find something thoughtful. Not something Ben could buy for himself."
"Good luck with that." I said sarcastically. "We're all so rich that we could buy ourselves, like, anything."
"If you're the expert, what'd you get him for his birthday?" Abigail sounded royally irritated now.
I grinned, shoving my hands into the pocket of my hoodie. "Not telling."
Abigail looked positively irked. "Riley . . ."
"Nope, not gonna say."
She shook her blonde head in frustration, doubling her pace. "Never mind. Let's just go home before I decide to leave you here."
"If you ditched me, I could call a cab, you know," I called after her.
"Do it, then," Abby tossed over her shoulder.
I shook my head. "Women," I muttered, then took off after her. "Abbs? Abby, wait! Abigail Chase Gates! Mean Declaration Lady! Oh, come on!"
"So, find anything good?" I asked casually, as Riley and Abigail trudged into the kitchen. I was dumping a bag of Jelly Bellies into a blue ceramic dish.
Riley plopped down at the table, reaching almost automatically for the bowl of jellybeans. His bowl of jellybeans, really, since neither Abby nor I liked them. I knew he enjoyed the idea that we had started shopping for him, like he really lived here. Which he practically did, come to think of it.
"What do you mean?" Riley smiled innocently, fishing out all the green jellybeans first, as per his habit.
"You two seriously don't think I can figure something like this one out?" I asked incredulously, shaking my head at Riley. "First of all, my birthday's in three days. That's a pretty good indicator. Second, Abigail definitely doesn't take you shopping without me very often. Make that ever. Thirdly, you drive each other crazy. Thus, I have come to the conclusion that Abigail couldn't think of anything satisfactory to buy me for my birthday, so she took you along. You bickered until she couldn't stand it, and you came home before resorting to anything drastic. Like strangling each other."
Riley rolled his eyes. "Nope, Ben, completely off. We were booking a vacation to the Bahamas without you, and the line was out the door."
Abigail smacked him upside the head, saying, "Like I'd go on vacation with you."
Riley put on a mock-hurt look, and then ruined the effect by stuffing his mouth with green jelly beans.
I shook my head. "So, I take it that the whole trip was a disaster?"
"You do know that you're impossible to shop for, don't you?" Abigail sighed, sitting down across from Riley.
Riley brightened at this. "Come on, Abby. It's not that hard to find a gift for a rich history geek."
I glared at him.
"All right, all right, a rich history macho."
Satisfied, I turned back to Abigail. "He's right, you know. There are a few things I can think of that I want," I said, sitting down next to my wife.
"Well, yes, but nothing you couldn't just buy yourself. I want it to be special, you know?"
Yes, I knew. Finding a present for Abby's birthday had been a real challenge, since I had already given her the perfect gift after our first meeting. The campaign button. Thinking of something just as thoughtful and special had taken some time.
Riley, on the other hand, was always ridiculously easy to shop for. The kid was happy to get pretty much anything, since I knew he already had what he wanted most: a best friend, a Ferrari Spider, a laptop, and an . . . Abby? I smiled. Riley is one of those people you just can't imagine your life without.
"Well, guys, it's been fun, or not," I said, with a pointed look at Abby, "but I've got to get going," I stood up, grabbing another handful of jellybeans. Now that the green ones were gone, I zoned in on the pink.
"Where you off to?" Ben asked casually, but I knew his overprotective-ness was getting the better of him. I mean, it's not like he had no reason to worry about me, what with all the trouble I always manage to get into, but I figured that I needed a little time to myself. So did he and Abby.
"Geez, Ben. I'm just going to my apartment. I figure that if I still pay for it, I should at least sleep there a couple nights a month."
Abby smiled. "Makes sense."
"The only time you guys ever tell me I'm right is when you're trying to get rid of me," I said matter-of-factly.
"We're not trying to get rid of you, Riley," Ben said quickly. I knew he meant it. Ben was like the most awesome best friend ever, always picking up on my moods and whatnot.
"I know, Ben." I walked to the door, Ben following to see me off. My keys had their own little peg by the door, which I was amused by but also loved. It was great to know that I had become like part of Ben and Abby's little family. Geez, Riley, getting sentimental, are we?
"Well, see you tomorrow," I said. "Abby's making lunch, right?"
"I think so," Ben answered.
"It's not that broccoli thing, is it?" I complained. "Because if it is, I'll bring over some Chinese."
"I heard that, Riley!" Abby called from the kitchen.
"Bet she'll make it now, just because I said that," I sighed.
"Probably," Ben answered seriously. Then he leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, "If she does, we can both get Chinese."
I grinned. "Bye."
"Bye. Be careful."
I rolled my eyes, remembered Ben couldn't see that with my back turned, and waved the words away instead.
I really shouldn't have, because as it turned out, I needed them.
I hauled myself up three flights of stairs to my apartment, fumbled with my key for a while in the dim hall, and then finally went in my apartment. It was really dark, but when I reached to flick the light switch, nothing happened.
Great. Either I had left on the lights the last time I was here, which was like a week ago, and they had died, or the power was out. I carefully made my way to the kitchenette, and realized that the digital clock on the microwave was still working. It was 12:56. Okay, so the power definitely wasn't out.
I dug in my junk drawer for my flashlight. Clicking it on, I made my way to the back room, planning on messing around on my laptop for a while. Dropping the flashlight on the bed, I started shifting stuff off my desk. Including Ben's birthday present, which was, like, the best gift I'd ever bought anyone.
Suddenly, there was a flash of movement behind me. I spun around, only to come face to face with the barrel of a gun. I felt my heart speed up.
The man holding the gun was huge—all arms and chest. His shirt looked about three sizes too small, like it would split if he flexed his arms. He leered at me, and I found myself thinking that he looked very much like Popeye, only on steroids.
"Hello. You must be Riley Poole." The voice was rough, with a distinct Jersey accent.
"Yeah. And you must be the electrician. Thanks for stopping by and all, but I've got it covered, okay?" The words were out of my mouth before I even realized I'd thought them up.
"I don't need any lip," the man sneered, and apparently decided that I didn't either. His gigantic fist collided with my mouth, splitting my lip rather spectacularly and sending me sprawling.
Head ringing, spitting out blood, I tried to get up. "What do you want, besides a shirt that fits?" I spat at him.
Popeye blinked, and then the insult caught up to him. "Just you," he growled.
"Sorry, man, but I don't think I'm your type—"
"Shut up!" And the gun was back. Nice going, Riley. Maybe you really should shut it. "You got any money stashed here?"
I stared at the guy for almost a full second. If he was looking for my money, why bother waiting for me to come in? It's not like I had a safe or anything. "Sure," I said. "I think there's like thirty-four cents between the couch cushions."
Another guy stepped forward, his thumbs hooked in his pockets. I probably hadn't noticed him before because he was so short—at least a head shorter than me, and I'm not exactly tall myself. Just goes to show that behind every muscular henchman, there is a tiny evil mastermind.
"Enough smart talk. You got any money here?" His voice was high-pitched and rather comical. I decided to call him Mickey.
"No. I'm not that stupid."
"All right. Let's go."
For a second, I took this to mean that Mickey and Popeye were leaving. But that was just too good to be true; apparently, it was a signal. Popeye threw a fantastic left hook. It caught me under the chin, and then everything was dark.
A/N: I apologize for the formatting. Apparently, this site does not like spacing as much as I do!
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