A/N: I am dedicating this ENTIRE FIC to Raphfreak. It is the offspring of one of her rabid plot bunnies, which she heartlessly threw at me... errr, I mean, so generously shared. ;)
Thanks to Raphfreak, and also to 54Viruses for beta-reading. Raphfreak, you are the fount from which ideas and inspiration flow (come floating to the surface like something long buried in the sediment...) LOL, and 54Viruses, you are the epitome of grammar, continuity and comma helpfulness.
And thanks again to the many faithful readers and reviewers. You guys ALL rock.
No warnings for this fic, except some relatively minor T-rated language and some gore. No Hamato-and-friends deaths of course and, as always, a happy ending is promised.
(HA I took two extra commas out of this sentence, Tammy!) LOL
Reviews are loved, and I will respond to signed reviews.
Raph will use flames to roast marshmellows, and possibly flamers, depending on his mood. ;)
Chapter 1 -The Discovery-
Juan Mendez liked Billy Jo Roberts all right. He liked his funny Upstate accent. He liked the way he yelled "Woooo-ee!" when he got excited. He especially liked the kid when he had a little money and was in the mood to party, which was most of the time. But most of all, he liked Billy Jo's stories about hunting, about the woods, about how it wasn't such a big deal that Juan's brother had shot a man, because it wasn't so very different from shooting a deer, which Billy Jo had done himself dozens of times, growing up in the farm country upstate.
Billy Jo seemed to come from a different planet to Juan and he thought, someday, when his brother was out of jail, when Mama was better and when his little sister was old enough to be married and have babies of her own, some day Juan wanted to visit that planet. The way Billy Jo talked, where he grew up, everybody had guns, but they had better things to shoot at than each other.
The girls were pretty and liked a good man, a strong man who would take care of them. He would be respected for his prowess in a fight, not be called a punk, chased down by the cops with their cold stares and handcuffs. Yes, Billy Jo's world was one Juan wanted to visit one day. He just didn't know the day would come so soon, or that it would be quite such a strange and wild ride.
The night didn't start out differently than any other night. They hit a few bars, met a few girls. Billy, with his blond hair and blue eyes, even got a couple phone numbers. Juan got drunk. Billy Jo wasn't far behind him. Four AM found them cruising down Hollywood Boulevard, bored and looking for something to do. The streets were relatively quiet. The city never truly slept, but it took cat-naps at times and this was one of those times. When Billy Jo swerved to the side of the road, putting the car's tires up on the curb, Juan shot him a sullen, annoyed look.
"Hey, Billy, whatcha doin, amigo?" he drawled.
"I t'ought I saw somefin." Billy's words slurred and he squinted, staring into the alley.
"Ya saw the bottom of a tequila bottle," said Juan, smirking.
"No. No, man, I thought I saw somebody layin' down in the alley. Takin' a nap. Let's go see."
Juan shook his head. "Nah, it's just some bum."
"No, man, it's weird, but… Just come on. I thought I saw somethin' weird."
"You go, man. I'm not messin' with no bum."
Billy jumped out of the truck. Juan watched his friend, laughing to himself. Billy'd had too much to drink. He was acting funny, even walking differently, on the balls of his feet. Juan couldn't hear his footsteps through his open window. Billy stalked into the alley. This would be mui funny to tease him about tomorrow.
"Holy… Juan, come here! You gotta see dis t'ing!"
"What'd you find, Billy? Another bottle of tequila? Better leave it alone, you've had enough," teased Juan, opening his door. He staggered a little as his feet found the pavement, but managed not to fall. He walked down the alley toward his friend. Billy was standing over something in the alley, staring at it, his face white. Juan looked down at the huddled bundle on the ground and recoiled. There was blood pooling around the fallen body.
"He's dead, Billy. Come on, muchacho. Come away. He's just a bum. Somebody bashed his head in, is all. Come away, now and let the policia deal with it."
"No, Juan, look."
"I don't wanna see no dead guy's brains. It's bad luck," said Juan, trying a weak joke. "Makes you puke." But he leaned over and looked. He fell back, swearing and crossing himself. "What… what… what is dat, man?" he cried, suddenly dangerously close to sober.
"I… I t'ink it's a… turtle," whispered Billy. He leaned down and grabbed the thing's hand. "It's cold. I think it's dead."
"Billy, man, don't touch it!"
"I never saw one dis big," said Billy. "Chill, dude, it's just a dead turtle."
"Yeah, well, I hear of these turtles. There are more. They're crazy, fightin' wit' da Dragons, an' winnin'. An' if we don't get outta here, they'll come and t'ink we killed dis one. Let's go."
"No, wait. I know a guy… Juan, this one's already dead, right? An' we got the car right here. Let's take it. I know a guy, back home, he'd pay good money for this thing."
"Mr. Reeds, he's a taxidermist. He shoots animals and mounts 'em. Sometimes he does mounts for other people, too. He likes weird stuff. He'd pay a fortune for this thing. Come on, help me get it in the car."
"Oh, no, man, I ain't touchin' dat t'ing." Juan shuddered, backing away.
"Come on, Juan, don't be such a baby. You want to pay for your ma's medicine or not? I'm tellin' ya, this thing is worth a fortune. All we gotta do is get it to him. We could be there tonight and come back tomorrow."
"It's worth that much?" Juan thought of the expensive little pills his mother needed and the hours she'd spent crying last night after talking to that man from the insurance company.
"Yeah, it's worth thousands. I'm sure of it."
"Well… Ok." He grabbed the thing's shell, avoiding touching its skin. It was wrapped in a trench coat, which made it easier to ignore the blood and the weird shape of its hands and feet. They heaved it into the back seat of Billy's car. Billy had to come around and tuck its legs in. Juan wasn't about to touch it. It made his skin crawl just to look at it.
Billy rubbed his hands on his jeans, wiping the blood off without so much as a second thought. "We're gonna be rich, Juan. You'll see."
"Enough to pay for Mama's medicine," said Juan softly.
"More than enough, bro." Billy put his hand on Juan's shoulder.
Juan looked into the clear blue eyes. "Ok. Let's go." he said. The boys climbed into the front seat and rolled away.
"Billy, dis t'ing's gonna stink. We can't go all da way Upstate wit' it in your car," said Juan. "What if somebody sees it?" Besides, I don't wanna be in da front seat o' dis little car wit' it right behind us for six hours.
"Well, what about your brother's truck?"
"I can get da keys," said Juan. "But we can't tell Mama. She shouldn't get upset."
"Well, let's just tell her we're goin' to visit my sister. You know she likes Jo."
Juan blushed. "Yeah. She likes her ok." Johanna had come for a visit last summer. Mamma had been taken with her. Juan liked her blond hair and blue eyes, but there was something hard, something cold about her. She lacked the softness he liked in a woman. He liked less sass and more curves in a girl.
Billy pulled up at Juan's place and Juan ran up, taking the stairs two at a time. Mamma was still awake, as he'd known she would be. She didn't sleep much at all these days and she'd never slept when he was out with Billy. She waited. She always waited.
"Mamma." he kissed her cheek and met her sharp dark eyes.
"Where you been?" she asked. The tired lack of accusation in her voice was almost worse than if she'd shouted at him for coming in so late.
"I was with Billy, Mamma. He's homesick. He misses his family. We're gonna drive upstate tonight, ok? He wants to see his sister. She's leavin' tomorrow, he wants to see her before she goes back to college, ok? Can we take Jose's truck?"
"You gonna see that nice girl?" Rosita's eyes lit up.
"Yeah, Mamma." Juan's heart twisted, just a little, with the lie, but he thought of his Mamma's medicine to ease his conscience. "So, can we take the truck?"
"Si, darling. Drive slowly. Be careful and come home safe to me."
"We will, Mamma. We will. I love you." Juan grabbed the keys and dashed down the stairs to where Billy was waiting. He already had the turtle-thing in the back of the truck, the doors closed. Juan tossed him the keys and they drove off, carrying Raphael away from the city, away from his family, away from his home.
I hope this thing is worth the money, thought Juan. Mamma needs her pills.
Raphael's eyes flickered and he moaned.
Shell, my leg hurts. Guess I shouldn'ta jumped down on dat Purple Dragon from da fire escape. Wait a minute… where da shell am I? Feels like I'm movin'. A truck? But I ain't tied up. What's goin' on? I gotta get outta here.
He sat up.Whoa. He threw out his hands, fear surging. Felt like da truck was tippin' over for a minute. Guess dat bat hit my head pretty hard. Wonder if I got a concussion. I'm pro'ably lucky if dat's all I got. Donny'll have me in bed for a week.
Raph smiled at the mental image of his brother's scowl. Guess I oughta quit givin' him so much to worry about. He's turnin' into a regular Leo. He'll give 'imself an ulcer. Let's see… how do I get outta here?
Raph staggered to his feet, but fell flat on his shell again as the truck slowed suddenly. Shell. Better get outta here 'fore somebody decides to check on da cargo. Lose the coat, it's hard to fight in it… Hey, I've still got my sais. Not too bright, are they? Ah, here's da latch.
He popped the small lever up with a loud click and the door swung open. Raphael tipped forward and felt himself falling. Instinctively, he tucked his head and put out his arms, rolling in a somersault to break his fall. He hissed with pain as the rough pavement scraped skin from his forearms. He rolled to the left, out of the road.
He'd rolled right over an edge and he was falling, rolling, tumbling. He grabbed at the tufts of grass brushing his arms and legs, slowing his fall and crashed to a halt, winded, bruised, scratched and bleeding, at the bottom of the steep embankment.
Shell, dat hurts. He clutched his thigh, gritting his teeth against a hiss of pain. Blood seeped through his fingers and he felt a sharp stinging as he explored the edges of the gaping wound. Pulling off his arm-bands, he pushed the edges of the wound together and knotted the silk bands over his thigh. He heard voices from the roadway above and froze, listening.
"Hey, Juan, it's gone!"
"What? Where could it go?"
"It musta fell out. We gotta go back."
"Wait, is that blood?" The first voice was calmer, not as panicked as Juan's. Raph cursed silently.
"Billy, Dude, it was dead," said Juan.
"Yeah, but here's a blood spot. An' it's gone. I don't think it was dead."
"We gotta get outta here!" Juan's voice was rising.
Good, thought Raph. Dat one's scared. Mebbe they'll just go away.
"No, man, we've gotta find it," insisted Billy.
Damn. Ya don't wanna find me, Kid.
"Are you nuts? We gotta get outta here 'fore it finds us." Juan sounded ready to run.
Billy ignored his friend's growing panic. "I'll get a light."
Raph's hands tightened on his sais, a low growl rumbling in his throat. They sounded like kids and not-very-bright kids at that. He didn't want to have to kill them.
"Are you loco?" Juan's voice went high with nerves. "I'm not goin' lookin' fer dat t'ing out here in da dark! If it's alive, it's gonna be pissed!"
Car tires crunched on the gravel and a door shrank lower into the brush as a new voice spoke."Everything ok here, boys?"
"Oh, sure, Officer," replied Billy. "The back door swung open when we stopped for the light, see? We stopped to close it and make sure it's secure this time."
"Looks like your latch popped. You boys making a delivery?" The cop sounded amused rather than suspicious.
"No, Sir, see, it's empty." Raph saw a flash of light as the boy swung the flashlight around. "We're just goin' to visit my sister in Owego. She's leavin' for college tomorrow."
"Ok, well, now that door is latched tight. You boys have a good night.'
"You too, Officer and thanks." The car door slammed again. Raph heard the boys messing around with the truck doors.
"We'll come back in the morning." He heard Billy say. "We can crash at my Pa's place. He only lives about ten minutes from here. The thing was hurt pretty bad, it won't get far." He heard the doors slam and the truck's engine roar to life Gravel crunched and Raph caught a whiff of exhaust as they drove off.
Good choice, boys, thought Raph with a smirk. Guess I can't just lie here. I'll hafta get movin'. He groaned, forcing himself to his feet and looked around. The first thing he noticed was a lack of streetlights. He looked up. The stars were dazzlingly bright. Definitely not the city. How long was I out, anyway? He began to walk, staggered and fell, swearing as his injured leg collapsed under him. He lay still, shivering and sweating, for a while. I can't just lay here. I gotta keep movin'. He got up again and staggered forward. He made three half-hopping steps before the dirt crumbled out from under his feet and he pitched forward with a yell. Instead of crashing into dirt, rocks and leaves, he plunged into icy water, which filled his mouth, nose and throat.
Raph thrashed, lifting his head, instinctively gasping as he broke the surface. He coughed up the muddy water, spitting and choking as he gasped the cool air into his lungs. The current whirled, dragging him along down stream. He paddled, concentrating on keeping himself afloat, allowing the current to carry him along, as he made his way slowly toward the opposite shore.
I gotta get outta dis water, it's too cold. Already the shock of his injuries and the cold were dragging at his limbs, making them feel heavy, leaden. Raph paddled harder, until he felt sandy bottom under his feet. He dragged himself up onto the gritty shore, panting. Got… to… keep… moving… He hauled himself forward, up and out of the water. He could barely feel his feet. Even his leg didn't hurt now- it was too numb to feel anything. Donny's gonna kill me for gettin' my shell-cell wet, was his last thought before the darkness claimed him.