"And so we came here and the Big Guy nearly pummelled Squid, but we stopped him. And then Squid had a bath and a meal and here we are."
"We're going to talk later." Helen Magnus warned the Big Guy when Ashley, Henry and Squid were finished telling their story.
The Big Guy lowered his head, ashamed.
"But seriously do you quote Shakespeare?" Helen asked Squid.
Squid nodded. "Shakespeare's cool."
Helen shrugged. "All right. Ashley, it's time for bed. Go brush your teeth and I'll be up to tuck you in."
"Now, Ashley. And Henry, you need to go finish your homework."
Ashley sighed, and dragged her feet as she walked, but did as she was told. While she left, Henry hid behind the sofa, but the Big Guy picked him up and walked him to the door. Helen smiled, and then turned back to Squid.
"Can I stay?" he asked quickly. After he had a good shower and a proper meal, he didn't feel so twitchy.
Helen surveyed him for a long time. Eventually she nodded. "As long as you obey the rules and do your share of the work."
Squid nodded eagerly. "I have, in this rough work, shaped out a man-"
"Timon of Athens." The Big Guy interrupted before Squid to get too carried away. "I've heard it before."
"Recently?" Squid asked in disappointment.
"You've been quoting it every time somebody says 'work'."
Squid shifted. "I have, in this rough work, shaped out a man-" he muttered under his breath.
"George, can you show Mr. Squid to his room."
"I thank thee, my lady." Squid got to his feet and bowed deeply. "Thank thee with all of mine heart."
Helen waited until there were no more witnesses. She turned on the Big Guy with fire in her eyes. She flicked her wrist and a small handgun fell from her sleeve into her waiting fingers. She lifted it level to the Big Guy's head.
"This is the last time you endanger my children." She seethed, and pulled the trigger.
Not really. But I bet all you clever readers knew that already, huh? All right, so this is was really happened.
Helen waited until there were no more witnesses. She turned on the Big Guy with fire in her eyes. "One week." She said.
"I know." The Big Guy looked down at his feet.
"I ask you to watch them for one week. It hasn't even been a full week!"
"This is the first time I've been able to take a vacation in fifty years, and you call me back early?"
The Big Guy shook his head emphatically. "No, that was George. I just wanted you to know what was going down around here. George is the one who told you to come back."
"True." Helen thought for a moment. "But you let Henry and Ashley run away and get kidnapped! I shouldn't have left in the first place!"
The Big Guy was alarmed. He had never seen Helen so irrational and moody- except when she was pregnant with Ashley. He gulped, wondering how to breach the topic. Helen paced the room for a moment, and then came back to stand beside him.
"I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
"No, it's not. I know that you are a responsible individual and that you take very good care of the children. When Ashley gets something in her head... Well, there's just no telling what she will do next. And Henry is always trying to keep her out of trouble." Helen smiled briefly. "I saw Druitt."
The Big Guy instantly grew concerned. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure I can talk about it right now. But he knows Ashley's here. That's the real reason I came back. I think he's going to try to kidnap her."
"So you're not pregnant?" the Big Guy asked in relief.
"Do I look-"
"No, you're acting like it."
Helen's brow puckered, and then she laughed. "No. You don't have to worry about making ice-cream pickle sundaes." She grew sombre again. "I'm glad it worked out this time, with Squid, but Ashley has got to learn that everything that goes bump in the night is not friendly."
"She's got a great teacher and mother." The Big Guy assured her.
"Thank you." Helen smiled.
The brave, intrepid lioness Ashley poked her head into the room. Mommy and the Big Guy were talking. Neither of them noticed when she sneaked in, treading softly on her four huge paws. She crept along the floor, crouched down low over the carpet. The grasses swayed around her, hiding her. She was getting close now... so close...
I would like to thank everybody who stuck with me this long. Thanks for all the brilliant reviews! Have a great day!