*Slowly wakes up*…yawn… Oh, hey guys. Oh, would you look at the time! 7 months since I was last on FF! What a crap fan-author I am! Seriously. I suck. OK, so I've been thinking (*gasp*): I took a leaf out of Morrissey's book - took a long walk, listened to The Smiths (I Want The One I Can't Have, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and Half A Person are absolutely bloody perfect) and tried to get my head together. This is what I came up with. Bit of bad language on Naboo's part in this chapter, so my apologies in advance to all those reading. Thank you for your time.
To Howard, Vince and Bollo (I'm not putting 'dear'. I just don't swing that way, I'm no Graham Norton),
If you're reading this, it means I'm gone. Probably dead, most likely injured and voodoo-ed up. It means I've left this with Bollo, and you've all found each other now. Just as well, you're all total Muppets and there's no way you'd manage alone.
Now listen - or read, whatever. Every bit of this is important: I'm not writing for my health. There's just a few things you need to know - about what's happened, how to help Bollo, where to go from here, and what to do about this mess we're in.
Basically, from what I heard, they're pissed off with Howard. The Hitcher knows that they're vulnerable, y'know, all jilted and that, and he seems to think that Howard is minted (don't know how he got that idea: he's a caretaker in Leeds), so he's convinced them that extortion is the best revenge, and threatening him with some freakish creature is going to make him cough up. Personally, I think he's scared of something, and needs the money to protect himself - the cowardly cockney he is. He's also got it figured that if anything happened to him, we'd come running, so he's tried to get us nearer together, and get rid of us, one by one.
Seeing as they were heading for the Zooniverse, I'm guessing they're going to keep Bollo there. As soon as you get in, go round the back of the panda enclosure and go to the end of the corridor. That door brings you out at the back of Bollo's old enclosure. Get Bollo out of that exit, out of the zoo, as quickly as possible; he's a lumbering idiot and if you hang around too long they'll pounce on you like a tiger with Chlamydia. The main idea is not to give them the time to set whatever they're making on you, just make sure you're at a distance where you can give him the money and he can't hurt you.
And about that. Howard, don't go back to Leeds; don't go back to the flat- and whatever you do, do NOT go back to the Nabootique. Find a place to lie low for a while, and expect some sort of memo or something from them. Something a bit threatening, a bit rough. Trust me, as long as you stay quiet for a bit, and do what they say, and everything will go back to normal. Codeye and co. will go back to wherever they came from, and you can go your own ways. Just don't get too worried about the threats, and Bollo - don't kick off. Your asthma can't take it, so don't be a prick.
And last thing. Don't mess this up. Not trying to frighten you, but if you mess this up, get too cocky, don't do what I say - you'll be made into mincemeat. The hitcher is more than capable of causing damage. Just do what I've told you - and don't fuck it up.
Sincerely (too formal?), Naboolio.
"I don't believe it. I honestly don't believe it."
"I told you Leroy got everything."
"What?" Howard turned to his glittery companion, his face contorted into Bewildered Farmer until his realisation made it twist into Angry Priest. For the first time in years, Howard was once again Monsoon Moon, and there was a pain storm a-brewing. "For God's sake, Vince, I don't care who or what Leroy knows! What I do worry about is how that peppermint nightmare knows. You saw what Naboo put. I don't know if you can remember what he can do, sonnimy-jiminy, but it's fresh in my mind, fresh as a hot bun from mama's oven!"
"Alright Howard, cool your boots!"
"Look, Naboo put we should go find place to stay." Bollo grunted. "You know where we can go?"
"I've got a flat." Vince said softly after a pause, smoothing down his hair and a-tugging at his cape. "But-"
Vince shook his head, biting on his bottom lip. "It's not exactly the Ritz, Howard. The heating's a bit faulty, and we get leaks. I think upstairs' has got mice. And there's only one sofa." Vince paused again, as if realising just how bad his accommodation was. "Most of my wages just go on food and rent, I haven't really been able to do it up."
Howard sensed that a nerve had been touched; he knew how much Vince had wanted to prove his success. He would never mention it, but Vince wasn't the only one being kept up-to-date with the gossip. Every new band was a hot vocal point among the students at Howard's inner-city comp, and with every success story, there was an almighty flop. Florence + The Machine, Kasabian, The Maccabees: they were the bands that earned the glowing reviews, every student gushing over each bands originality, how the latest one had nothing in common with the ones that had come before. On the other hand, every band that didn't make it had one very clear thing in common. Be it electro or punk, ska or indie, Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster Goth or 'The-Next-Beatles'-esque bubblegum-pop, every flop seemed to carry one huge flaw: the same front man, Vince Noir. To hear them slagging off the vocals and 'not seeing the point' of the lyrics of the very thing his best friend poured his heart and soul into; risked his job - and occasionally his life - for, was enough to make Howard's heart break. It appeared that there were still clouds in the sky for the Sunshine kid, and Howard was determined to blow them away.
Spotting their zookeeper doppelgangers out of the corner of his eye, he gave Vince a weak smile and a friendly nudge. "C'mon little man, I'm sure it's not that bad. Plus, there's no way it'll be worse than that manky zookeepers' hut. And speaking of which; do you see what I see?"
Vince looked up from his Chelsea boots, following Howard's line of vision until his baby-blue peepers widened with joy. "He's got the new 'Kiss' belt!" Vince exclaimed. "Genius! I would have loved that when I was working here! Oh Howard, I have taught you something after all!"
Howard rolled his tiny eyes, letting them swivel like peppercorns on a saucer. "Above the belt."
And sure enough, hanging from a diamante hook, was a set of gleaming keys. With a smile, the two men stepped away from the enclosure, and when they returned, those same gleaming keys were swinging between Vince's ring-adorned fingers. Behind them, the younger zookeeper began to panic, searching his pockets, and Howard picked up his pace. "C'mon, little man, haven't got all day." The mismatched friends hurried past the run-down kiosk where Naboo once worked, and along the narrow, off-white corridor, keys clinking as they ran.
Inside his enclosure, Bollo was growing agitated. He tried to convince himself it was his asthma, not his anxiety, that was making it so hard to breathe. There was a clunk and scrape of metal-on-metal as a key turned in the lock, and Bollo stood, waiting beside the exit. After a few seconds of counting down, panting and muttered swears, the door few open. There was a moment of hesitation - surely this had all been too easy? A quick whisper to his pencilled pony, and Vince produced a can of Goth Juice from the folds of his cape. He caught Howard's eye, winking. "For emergencies." Removing the cap, Vince sprayed hard on the lock and round the edges of the doors along that familiar corridor. Seeing the bewildered looks being shot at him from his companions, Vince nodded through to the panda enclosure, where the suspicious zookeepers stood, distributing feed and bickering over the whereabouts of the keys. "I'm not risking Joan Jett and Charlie Mingus in there catching us. This stuff's 24-hour hold, they won't get out for ages. Even now, we'll need to mad dash. C'mon Bollo, stop being a twat, your asthma's not that bad." The Electro fairy raised his eyebrow at the older primate, who had been breathing heavily, and rolled his eyes. The men prepared themselves, balanced on the balls of their feet, coiled like vipers, like Olympic sprinters on the starting line. "Three, two, one… GO!"
Chelsea boots, moccasins and the bare feet of a silverback pounded the floor as the trio broke into a run, wind whistling in the ears as they ran past the school-trip parties and young families, knocking balloons out of sticky fingers while they zigzagged towards the exit. Bursting out of the gate, relieved laughter escaped Vince's lips, catching Howard's attention. There was still a trace of sadness in the young Goth's eyes, but there was a new-found determination, something that gave Howard hope. As they made for the station, Howard draped a lanky arm across Vince's shoulders. Vince shot him a confused look (what had happened to the no-touching rule?), but didn't complain - after all, he was grateful for the support. There had been something missing, Vince had to admit, and now, even in these circumstances, three out of four wasn't that bad. Scared as he was, being with Howard just made him feel… better? Something a bit less Vincent Black, Topshop employee, and a bit more Vince Noir, Rock and Roll Star. Leaning onto his best friend, it dawned on Vince that he felt safer than he had done in years. It no longer mattered that Howard was going to 'pull a move' or anything stupid like that - they were together again, and it was that all that mattered.
In the shadows of the operating theatre, blissfully unaware of what was happening in his zoo, Dixon Bainbridge's time operating was finally coming to an end. As he sutured the last stitch, he breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't like this business, not one little bit, and was glad it was all over. Glancing at the beeping monitor, a small smile spread across Dixon's pompous face. The creature was alive.
Removing his surgical mask and gown, Bainbridge stepped into the waiting room, where his acquaintance, the Hitcher, was waiting. He could had swore he caught a flash of worry in the cockney's eyes, but it was soon masked when he stood to address him, saying gruffly: "Well?"
Dixon nodded, with a reply equally as concise. "Yes." The Hitcher stepped past him, into the theatre, gazing at his monster, his creation, with misty eyes. "Bleedin' brilliant, ain't it?" The Hitcher, looking like a proud father on sports day, marched back to his cronies, tapping them all with the side of his cane. "Oi, you lazy shlags! We've got business to attend to." With that, he produced a biro (almost definitely stolen from the supply within the still-existing Nabootique site of Stationary Village) and notepaper, and began to write.
Hackney had never been Howard's favourite part of London. It was dark and dank and just a little bit scary, graffiti climbing the walls of shops and houses. Hooded hooligans ran the streets, keeping an eye on whoever passed through - it most certainly wasn't a place for a flamboyant rock stars, or jazz mavericks. Vince, to Howard's surprise, was strangely confident - he led them on with his head held high, swishing his cape deliberately as he passed thugs, not fazed by the enraged looks they were shooting him. From outside a run-down Costcutter, a voice called: "Oi mate, what is you?" Vince marched onwards, the heels of his Chelsea boots clicking proudly on the filthy pavement. Howard, however, was not so self-assured. With very jeer, every threatening shout, Howard jumped, and subconsciously took a few steps closer towards his companions. By the time the trio had begun to climb the rickety steel stairs that led to the flat above, the jazzy gent's nerves were frazzled. Vince paused outside his flat, suddenly shy again. "I-"
There it was again. The hand on the shoulder. "Please."
Vince turned quietly, slowly, to the door, fiddling with the keys in his pocket and a second later, the door swung open. "C'mon then. As long as you know it ain't no palace."
Howard felt awful to admit it - even to himself - but Vince was right. After stepping into the flat he soon saw what his friend had meant; it was more of a cupboard than a flat, and it wasn't in the best state, with pale wallpaper dotted with dark spots of damp and every other floorboard creaking as they made there way to the kitchen. A particularly loud squeak was emitted as he edged his way around the battered coffee table, and after staring stupidly at the floor as a series of scratching sounds could be heard, Howard remembered with a grimace what Vince had said about the mice. "Tea?" Vince called from the kitchenette, filling up the kettle at the sink. "Er, yes please, Vince." Perching awkwardly on arm of the sofa, Howard looked around, picking up on Vince's attempts to make the flat his own. The sequins stuck with superglue onto the lampshade; those glittery wind chimes that look like they should be in a teenage girl's bedroom, not a grown man's flat; every kind of fabric imaginable draped across the chairs. He looked up at the framed posters that hung around the room, guessing in his head which ones belonged to Vince, and which to Leroy. The Cure? Vince. Oasis? Leroy. Kiss? Vince. New York Dolls? Leroy. Judas Priest? Could be either. Kate Bush? Definitely Vince. Vince returned quickly, clutching the steaming mugs, and Howard suppressed a small smile as he saw the face that adorned his - Charles Mingus, in all his glory. 'Why on earth had Vince kept that for so long?' Howard wondered, watching Vince take a sip from just above the face of David Bowie. Wouldn't it have contaminated the others with its jazzy presence? With a confused smirk, he swivelled to form a circle with his companions. "So." said Bollo, nursing his Monkees mug ("Very funny, Vince"). "What we do now?"
"For how long?"
"I don't know, Bollo."
Vince smirked, and piped up: "What do we do now, Howard?"
"We wait, Vince."
"How long for, Howard?"
"I don't know, Vince!" This charade went on for what seemed like forever, Bollo joining in, repeated again and again until the words no longer made sense, and the trio were soon laughing so hard they were howling like Mod Wolves at a full moon, tears streaming down their cheeks, soon laughing at nothing at all. But this was over too soon. There was a click of the letterbox and a letter, just like the ones they had received before, landed on the doormat. That awful atmosphere was back, like there had been in the café, where everything was cold and frightening and uncertain. The trio looked at each other with worried eyes, not sure who should make the first move. Bollo went to pick it up, but was interrupted by a strangled 'No!". Vince shook his head. "Please. Not now." With the tips of his fingers, he picked up the envelope, flinging it onto the table. "It'll be there tomorrow. We can sort this out then."
"But Naboo said -" Howard cut off sharply as Vince turned his head away, tears in his eyes. "No. You're right. We need rest."
SO! Worth the wait? I doubt it, but let me know what you think, anyway x much love!