Part 2 of 2 for this story.
Gracias for the great reviews, I really do enjoy reading every single one. Bouncing around the state for the next few days, so another super-fast, probably error-riddled type job in order to not keep you all in suspense.
And I apologize for the 'Artie runs someone over with his wheelchair bit' being metaphorical. While that would have been awesome, hopefully this ending won't be too disappointing.
I don't own anything Glee related, except a number of iTunes purchases.
It took seven days for Artie to target, plan, and execute a serious smackdown.
The first two days didn't really count, because he had spent them at Tina's house. Worried about the aftereffects of Tina's concussion, and not wanting to leave her alone to rattle around her huge, empty house, Artie announced over pancakes the morning after that he'd be staying the weekend. Kurt and Mercedes were instantly on board, chattering excitedly about movie marathons and pedicures and reading trashy magazines. There was a brief moment of awkwardness when everyone turned to look at Rachel, but she surprisingly eased the tension by informing them all that she traditionally spent one weekend a month on partial vocal rest, meaning that she avoided singing and excessive vocal activity and speaking at any volume louder than a hushed murmur, and given Tina's obvious and understandable need for quiet while she healed, she herself had no problem moving that weekend to the present.
Which dropped the likelihood that Mercedes would strange her by Sunday night by at least 68%.
It took until Wednesday for Artie to figure out who had attacked Tina. She had told him what had happened in whispers on Friday night as she fell asleep—she had gotten cornered by three jocks who dumped paint on her; when she had shoved the jerk in charge, he had shoved her back and she had cracked her head on the bank of lockers behind her—but steadfastly refused to tell him who had done it. He tried everything he could think of to get her to crack, but she was adamant, saying that she 'couldn't remember' and 'my memory's kinda fuzzy, seriously Artie, just drop it, please?'
They both knew she was lying. Wheelchair or not, one word from her and he'd have gone after Mike Tyson.
Artie knew once she had made up her mind, trying to force an answer out of her would only make her upset. So he didn't ask, and a few pointed looks at the others were enough to get them to toe the line as well.
Kurt helped him clean the dried paint off the wheels of his chair on Sunday, when the girls were out picking up chips and salsa.
He had, for about 2.4 seconds, considered dropping the issue like she had asked. But as Kurt pulled into the school parking lot on Monday morning, Tina reached up to tie her hair back for first period gym. As soon as Artie saw the tiny speck of red paint on the skin behind her ear, it was back on.
All Artie had to go on was "a hulking a-hole in jockwear", which didn't really help much—the Venn diagram of 'athlete' and 'psychopathic terrorist' in this school was pretty much just a circle. But Artie was patient, and he was smart. He also happened to have a plan which utilized his natural advantages without calling any unnecessary attention to himself. For three days, he watched the floor with what pretty much equated to tunnel vision. From his vantage point, he had an excellent view of the underside of everyone's footwear, and he was banking on the likelihood that Tina's assailant hadn't gone shopping for new shoes over the weekend.
Though he did make a mental note of every new pair of sneakers he saw, just in case.
Finally, just before 5th period on Wednesday, Artie spotted a flash of red on the bottom of a giant, otherwise white athletic sneaker. Heart suddenly beating faster, Artie nonchalantly followed the shoe down the hall, just to make sure his obsession with finding the culprit hadn't caused him to start hallucinating. After another minute, Artie was certain: it was definitely red paint on the bottom of the sneaker. He'd found his target.
Blake Townsend. Football player, newer addition to the basketball team, grade A asshole, known associate of David Karofsky.
Artie smiled. Dickwad would never see it coming.
It was 12:30 on Wednesday, and Puck was wicked tired. He'd had to postpone his daily nap in the nurse's office after he'd gotten caught pouring nacho cheese from the cafeteria inside some band geek's tuba—right as Principal Figgins was turning the corner. Oops. He'd gotten hauled into the principal's office and had been yelled at by a few adults for a while, something about permanent record and destructive tendencies and detention until he was eligible for retirement benefits. Whatever. It would have been fine except he'd been stuck there for so long that he'd missed lunch for real, and he'd had to terrify five different freshmen until he found one with anything good to eat in her backpack. Chowing down on the strawberry Pop-tarts, Puck slammed the door of his locker. Only to find Wheelchair Kid was sitting there staring up at him, his hands folded primly in his lap. "What do you want, Abrams?" he asked, already bored with the conversation.
Dude, even that kid's smile was dorky.
"I find myself in need of some assistance that can only be described as badass," Artie stated neutrally. "I was hoping I could hire your services." Puck raised an incredulous eyebrow at him. "What kind of services?" he asked, not without amusement. Artie smiled. "Illegal decimation of property. A covert job, obviously. It would probably require at least two other people; I was thinking maybe you could convince Matt and Mike to help." Puck narrowed his eyes. "Not Finn?" he questioned. Weird. The Glee nerds practically licked the ground Finn walked on. "Not Finn," Artie confirmed. "He's a nice guy, but dumb as a bag of hammers. He couldn't keep this on the DL."
Puck tried not to crack a smile, but it was hard. Artie was definitely his new favorite dork. Sorry Tina, you're down to second place. "I don't know," he bluffed, "I'm a baby daddy now, I've got a kid to think about. I don't know that I want to risk ending up in jail for whatever you've got going on." Artie nodded. "I thought you might be concerned about that," he admitted. "So I'm prepared to make it worth your while." He pulled a small red duffel bag off of the handle of his chair and passed it to Puck. "Careful, it's fragile," he warned. Puck sneered and unzipped the bag. Inside were four unopened bottles of Jack Daniels. Puck whistled. "Damn, Abrams," he exclaimed with appreciation, "What'd you do, rob a liquor store?" The corners of Artie's mouth twitched. "Holy shit, you did rob a liquor store!" Puck fucking loved this guy! "My parents needed a few bottles of wine for a dinner party they're having this weekend," Artie explained. "My chair has a tendency to set off metal detectors."
Puck reopened his locker and stashed the duffel bag safely inside. "All right," he conceded, "I'm so in. What's the plan?"
Artie waited until after the final bell on Thursday to enact the next part of his plan. Puck had assured him that Mike and Matt would definitely be in, and had even sounded excited about Artie's idea, contributing his own helpful tips and modifications. But he had also pointed out a serious potential roadblock in their way. And for that, Artie needed some professional expertise.
"Hey Kurt, wait up!" Down the hall, Kurt pivoted like a ballerina and waited for Artie to reach him, elbow balanced delicately on his other arm and hand resting artfully by his cheek. "I just talked to Mercedes," he called out as Artie approached. "The package is safe." Artie smirked wryly. Unbeknownst to Tina, the three of them had worked out a schedule for the two weeks following The Incident, wherein each day following the end of her final class, one of them would meet up with her to discuss some crisis or critical piece of gossip. And if that discussion just happened to last until Tina had safely reached the choir room... Yesterday had been Kurt's day, so Artie had been forced to wait in order to catch the boy alone.
"So, purely hypothetical question," he began, keeping his eyes straight ahead as he rolled beside Kurt. "Say that someone wanted to disable a car alarm without having the keys. Theoretically, how would one go about doing such a thing?" Kurt's pace remained steady, even if his voice did not. "Hypothetically, one would have to know the make and model of the car in order to determine if that were even possible," he replied slowly. Artie flipped open his phone and scrolled until he found the right picture, taken that morning in the parking lot. He handed the phone wordlessly to Kurt, who examined it carefully before nodding. "It could be done. A shame, too, since it's a beautiful car. If it were damaged in any way, it would be a very costly fix." He gave Artie the phone back, and Artie promptly deleted the picture. "Would it be possible, theoretically, of course, to get the directions written down?"
Kurt looked at him sharply. "Perhaps if the writer knew the directions would be memorized and burned. As in 'set fire to', not just thrown out." He looked away from Artie and stated flatly, "Those aren't instructions anyone can just google. There are only four mechanic's kids in this town." Artie nodded, face serious. "Done. Hey, Kurt," he started, his tone suddenly light and airy. "What are you up to tomorrow night?" Kurt looked down at Artie, unconvinced. "Washing my hair," he replied snarkily, "why." Artie smiled brightly back at him. "I just found out that I have a doctor's consult in Columbus, so I have to cancel my plans with Tina tomorrow night. Maybe you guys could go bowling or something." He pulled out his wallet and handed Kurt a twenty dollar bill. "If you treated her to a few games, you know her, she'd insist on buying the snacks. And since she never carries more than ten dollars in cash and you forgot to stop at the ATM, you'd probably both pay with your legally traceable credit cards or something."
Kurt carefully folded the $20 and tucked it into his bag. "Does Tina know you've crafted us an alibi?" he asked, straightening the strap of his bag. Artie blinked innocently. "I don't know what you're talking about," he replied blithely. "Let's get to the choir room, we're almost late."
Friday night at 10:15, Artie sat hidden between two SUV's in the parking lot of Lima's sole movie theatre. Mike had been tailing the offending vehicle ever since basketball practice had ended that afternoon, and had given the others the all clear just before ten. Artie watched as the guys made short work of the car—slashing the tires, pouring sugar in the gas tank, coating the engine with ammonia-based cleaner, and replacing the windshield washer fluid with motor oil. Puck insisted that Artie stay close to Matt's car, just in case they had to make a speedy getaway. Artie couldn't fault his logic—wheelchair guy kind of stood out, especially when committing acts of vandalism—but he insisted on being the one to thoroughly drench each of the seats, seatbacks included, with thick, red paint.
He'd thought it was an awful color three years ago when his parents repainted the house. Now, he was just thankful that the leftover paint had still been sitting in the garage after all that time.
Puck made sure that the two vehicles were running, and that Artie and his chair were strapped in the car and ready to go, before adding the final touches to their destructive masterpiece: three smashed windows and a frowning face painted on the rearview mirror. Then quickly and silently, he ran back to Mike's car, giving Matt the ok to take off before jumping in the passenger seat.
Half an hour later, Artie sat in his bathroom, washing the slight traces of red paint out of his brand new gloves. Matt had driven him straight home, laughing the entire way, and Artie had thoroughly charmed all of his parent's dinner guests with the hilarious tale of the evening he had just spent schooling his jock friends at DDR. As the last of the paint flecks swirled down the drain, he again caught sight of his reflection in the mirror.
He could really get used to that wicked smile.