= = = Trigger 2 = = =
Patton sits up on the surfboard and smooths his wet hair back from his forehead. The sea rocks him back and forth and a tame wave rolls past him. He licks his lips, puckers, begins to whistle a tune.
Little surfer, little one
Made my heart come all undone
"Do you love me, do you surfer girl," Patton breaks out into song in the last line, then coughs and looks around to see if anyone is within earshot. No one is, so he relaxes. Patton is a decent surfer; he's surfed since he was seven. Before that, his father would take him out on the longboard and teach him how to swim. His father swears that if he had it his way, Patton would have been born out on the ocean.
Patton paddles out into the path of an oncoming wave and rides it back to shore. The board whips back and forth under his feet like a wild animal, and he grins because he knows that it does what it does because he tells it to do so. It's as simple as shifting his weight and changing his stance. It's better than snowboarding really, even though he's competent at that too. When Patton reaches the shore, he steps into the shallows and winks at two girls, who giggle and blush. One of them adjusts her bikini top.
Yep, definitely better than snowboarding. But Patton isn't really interested in strange girls, no matter how well-endowed they might be. No, he's only interested in one particular girl. He hasn't seen her in a while though. He hasn't seen her in years. He only remembers seeing her once, at this beach. She was tall, (at least, she was back then,) blonde, with a wicked grin that made him want to ask what she was plotting. For some reason, even though he hadn't seen her before, he gave her a day-long surfing lesson.
They were rather comfortable with each other, Patton remembers, despite being total strangers. They just sort of clicked. So Patton comes here to surf when he can and hopes to bump into that girl again. Perhaps the next time, there can be a name and a number to go with the girl. It's getting late, however, so Patton picks up his surfboard and tells himself that he'll have to try another day, as the mysterious girl isn't showing up. He dries off some, secures his surfboard to the top of his sister's jeep, and heads for home.
He's careful not to do any illegal maneuvers, because he doesn't have a license yet and his sister would kill him if he returned her precious jeep with a new scratch on it. But she might kill him anyway because Patton didn't ask before he sneaked the keys out from her jacket pocket. Patton drives halfway around the island before he reaches home and when he reaches home, he leaves the jeep running and bolts out the car.
The house, a tidy, sturdy building built by Patton's grandfather, is crumpled. A part of the roof has been ripped off and the front door is missing. The porch sags. Patton runs across the yard, kicking bruised fruit and broken branches from the fruit trees out of his way, and into the house.
"Mom," he calls out. The entire place has been ransacked. Patton does a double take at the piece of broken wood he steps on and recognizes it to be a piece of his father's ukulele. "Dad! Come on! Is anyone here?"
There is no blood. Patton goes through the ruined kitchen, the bathroom, all the bedrooms and does not see one speck. Perhaps they escaped. Hope blossoms in Patton's chest and he takes out his cell phone. He dials and waits.
"Hello," someone says and Patton freezes because that someone doesn't sound like his sister at all. "Finished gallivanting already?"
"Who are you?"
"The person keeping your family hostage," there's some static, and then Patton hears his father saying:
"Patton? Boy, don't do what he says, it's a trap!"
Static again, then, "Where is Nigel Uno?"
"Who?" Something twinges in the back of Patton's mind, but it's lost as soon as it happens.
"Don't. Toy. With. Me. You know where he is. You will bring him to me, or else the well-being of your family is forfeit."
"You know where to find me." CLICK. The line goes dead. Patton stares at his phone with a slack jaw before he goes into his room. He rummages through the debris of his desk and finds what he's looking for hiding underneath the smashed printer. It's a padded envelope and even though a good portion of it is stained with black ink, the words FOR EMERGENCY ONLY are still legible. Patton's kept this envelope for a long, long time. He doesn't remember getting it, but he does know that it would something his grandfather would put together for some sort of situation, so he left it alone and only moved it around to another place when he cleaned his room. Patton rips open the envelope and lets the contents slide out onto the bed.
There are two CDs, a small bundle of money (all in twenty's), a folded piece of paper, a bronze house key, and a polaroid picture. Patton's heart skips a beat: it's a picture of the mysterious girl. Patton picks it up with two fingers. All these years of looking, and there she is, beaming up at him. He's surprised to find that she looks a bit tired, but wonders why in the world her picture would be included in this kit.
PLAY ME is scrawled across one of the CDs, so Patton picks it up, but it snaps into three pieces.
"Oh," Patton curses and tosses the remains across the room. The other CD is also useless, so he turns to the folded paper, which turns out to be a letter.
If you are reading this letter, then your life must be in danger. Please, if you can, watch what's on the dvd. Hopefully, it'll explain everything. If something's happened, and you can't, then it is important that you follow the instructions I give you now in this letter. In the order I give them to you.
1. Do not attempt to solve the problem yourself.
2. Do not call the police.
3. Pack some clothes in a bag. It has to be a carry-on.
4. Use some of the money to get to the mainland by plane.
5. Use some of the money to get to the address listed below.
6. Find the girl in the photo. She will answer to "Rachel McKenzie."
7. Give her the second dvd. Make her watch it.
8. If the dvd has been destroyed, then tell her to look into the box in her closet. Tell her to watch the dvd in that box.
9. All of this must be accomplished within 12 hours of opening the envelope.
As soon as you're done reading this letter, you must burn it. As soon as you're done with your dvd, you must smash it. I'm sorry, Patton. I'm so sorry. I wish that we could meet again under better circumstances, but is seems we don't have that luxury.
There is no signature. Patton crumples the letter in his hand, then flattens it out again so he can copy Rachel McKenzie's address on the back of the picture. He places the picture in his hat.
= = = … = = =
Patton stares at the picture all throughout the trip. He thinks about that day on the beach. He thinks about the way Rachel's mouth moves when she speaks and wonders why he can't remember what she sounds like. He wonders what she looks like now.
He also thinks about his family. How they're doing now, how they'll have to fix up the house again when they're free. Because they will be free. Any other alternative is impossible. Patton takes the 'unaccompanied minor' tag from around his neck and throws it into a nearby trashcan, then hails a cab.
"Hey," he shows the cab driver the back of the picture. "You know this address?"
"Sure do," the driver says. He pulls away from the curb.
= = = … = = =
The door opens after Patton knocks twice. It's opened by Rachel. Rachel, all grown up, with her bangs swept over her left eye. Her jaw snaps shut and she flushes bright red.
"Can I help you," she asks.
"Ah, yeah," Patton stammers. He mentally curses at how idiotic he sounds. "I…I need your help. There was this letter…and then there's this picture. My parents are missing…there's this box in your closet and…"
Rachel's eyes widen. "Oh my gosh!"
"Get out!" Rachel tries to slam the door shut, but Patton shoves his foot in. The door bounces open.
"I just-" Patton pushes against the door, but Rachel doesn't let up. She puts her back to the door and uses her legs to try and push it shut.
"How do you know about the box?" she asks.
"Have you watched the dvd?"
"Because if you know about the box, then other people know and urgh!"
"If you just let me explain-"
"If other people know then the colleges know and they'll never let me in! I'll be checked into a psych ward instead."
Patton shoves his shoulder into the door and it opens all the way. Rachel shrieks as she tumbles head over heels across the living room rug.
"Let me talk!"
"I have pepper spray!" Rachel throws a stack of magazines at Patton and runs up the stairs.
"Wait!" Patton takes off after her, but it's too late. Rachel slams her bedroom door shut and locks it.
"I'm calling the police!"
"No wait! Please wait," Patton pleads with his palms flat against the door. He bumps his forehead against the door and sighs.
"Umm," Rachel says from inside. "Can you hand me my cell phone? Just slip it under the door? I think I left it on the coffee table downstairs."
Patton freezes, his mind going a mile a minute. "No," he says before he realizes it.
"…Are you going to kill me?"
"Then what do you want?"
"I want you to open that box. I want you to watch the dvd that's in there. That's…that's it, really," Patton trails off. "That's all."
Silence, then a shuffling noise comes from inside. Patton steps away from the door and sits against the wall on the other side of the hallway. He waits.
Eventually, Rachel emerges from her room, looking a little weary. Her eyes are different and she looks at Patton the way team leaders look when they're picking kids for basketball teams. "Do you remember?" She asks. Her voice is different too. It's lower pitched, with no room for argument. Patton feels bad saying:
A flicker of pain passes across Rachel's eyes and she turns away and beckons to him. "Come with me," she says. Patton follows her into the kitchen. Rachel motions him to sit on the stool at the island, then walks around the kitchen. She takes out a pie pan with a pre-made crust, cinnamon, vanilla, eggs. She adds blocks of butter and cream cheese to the pile before she glances at Patton.
"Well?" she says. "Talk. What happened?"
"I…I don't know. My parents at missing. My gramps. My sister. They're all kidnapped by this guy. I don't know who. He's asking for some guy named Nigel Uno. I don't know who he is either."
Rachel pauses, a lemon in her hand. "How do you know?"
"I called him. Or well, I called my sister's cell phone and he answered."
"How long ago was this?"
"Like…ten hours," Patton whispers. "Ten hours. They've been missing for ten hours…I…" He gets to his feet and the stool scrapes against the tile floor. "They're missing and I'm just sitting here and what the hell are you doing?"
Rachel turns around, a whisk in her hand. "Patton-"
"There was this letter and I followed it and what the hell! Are you supposed to help me?"
"We will get your family back, I promise you. But right now you need to calm down."
"I am calm!"
"Sit. Down. And shut. Up," Rachel hisses. "Going out without a plan and without your memory will not help set your family free."
Rachel puts her hands on her hips. "Yes, your memory. You're missing some of your memory. That's what that dvd was for. What happened to it?"
"It was broken to bits, but that doesn't prove anything. I would know if I had amnesia."
"Yeah. And I don't have amnesia."
Rachel smirks. "You'd be wrong."
Rachel crosses her arms and looks Patton up and down for a few moments. "So, that surfing lesson…"
"You…that was real?"
"Heck yeah," Rachel gave that wicked smirk. "Kind of cut short, wasn't it?"
"Yeah. I mean, do you remember saying goodbye?"
Patton searches his memory for the end of that surfing lesson. He remembers arriving and he remembers her. He also remembers having lunch (it was spam musubi), but when it comes to saying goodbye, there's nothing. It fades into nothing.
"No," Patton says and Rachel's smile dims.
"Of course you wouldn't," she turns back to her work.
"Wait, I want to remember. I want to know what happened."
"…I want you to remember too."
"So is there an extra dvd I could watch?"
"No, there's just the one."
"Then maybe you can tell me what happened-"
"I can't just tell you," Rachel snaps over her shoulder, her face bright red. "That's not how it works."
"Let me think! Jeeze, I'm not a freaking miracle worker, okay?"
Silence. Patton sits back down as Rachel continues to throw things into the mixing bowl. She mixes everything together with the whisk, and as she pours the mix into the pie pan with the crust, she says,
"I know how to jog your memory."
"Yeah," Rachel gives a shuddery sigh as she puts the pie pan into the oven. She straightens up and dusts off her hands. "I'm gonna have to punch you in the face."
"I, uh, you have to close your eyes," Rachel looks down at her feet. "You have to brace yourself."
"But you've told me what you're going to do. Isn't stuff like this supposed to be a surprise?"
"No, it'll work. Just close your eyes. No peeking."
"Okay. Okay, okay, okay," Patton stands up and shakes out his arms to limber up. "Just…not the nose, okay?"
"Close your eyes."
"On three, okay?"
Patton holds his breath and waits for the count, only it never comes. He flinches when he feels something brush his face.
"Are you counti-" he's cut off by lips. On his. By Rachel. By Rachel kissing him. Patton smells the cinnamon and the lemon and even the cream cheese from batter that Rachel whipped up and he's thrown, back, back, back in time, back to the beach, back to the day he gave her that surfing lesson.
Rachel was good at surfing, if only because she was already athletic and had a good sense of balance. This didn't stop her from having insane wipeouts though. Patton laughed the hardest at the last one.
They had spam musubi for lunch. Rachel had never eaten it before, so when she ended up not liking it all that much, she took him by the arm in search of something else to chase it.
"There's chicken katsu over there," Patton said.
"No, what about something sweet?"
"Like what? A snow cone?"
They ended up going to a frozen yogurt shop. It was right off the boardwalk and the employee was sweeping sand out the door. Rachel picked the cheesecake-flavored yogurt and topped it with graham cracker crumbs.
"What is it with you and that flavor," Patton asked. Rachel scraped her spoon against the inside of the cup.
"It's good. I can't really explain it. It's like you when you pack powder."
"You can't eat powder."
"Mmm," Rachel paused to eat more yogurt. "That's not what Virginia says."
"This is true. But she's not a liar."
"Okay fine. But that's still a bad comparison."
That was when they were attacked. King Sandy, along with his cousins, were trying to conquer all the sand castles in the world, and they were making excellent progress.
Patton and Rachel ended up defeating them with a juicebox and the plastic spoon Rachel used to eat her frozen yogurt. Somehow, during their fight, patches of sand were melted into glass. Patton stepped on a particular patch that was cooled by the rising tide and wondered how it looked like by itself. He crouched down and felt around for the edge.
"Hey," Rachel said. Patton grinned at her and stepped off the glass pad.
"So, I was thinking."
"I like surfing. I'd like to do this again."
"Sure. But you know, you kinda don't need me anymore. You already have all the basics down. All you need is practice. I bet you could even teach Fanny."
"Hah. Nah, Fanny won't go for something like this."
"It's the sun. Her skin hates it. She doesn't tan at all; just freckles and burns."
"What about that one retreat in sector J? She was in the sun then."
"And you didn't see her for two weeks afterwards, right?"
"…It was that bad?"
"So bad. That's all I'm saying."
"Well, I'm glad you're able to come out here. I guess, if you ever wanna surf again, just call me up and I'll come with. I'll teach you some tricks too."
"Like a level two crash course?"
"Yeah. Something like that."
"I'd like that," Rachel said. She tilted her head. "Come here. I need to tell you a secret."
"Huh?" Patton stood up and turned his head a little. "What's up?"
Rachel leaned in close, as if to whisper something into his ear, but then changed direction and pressed her lips to the corner of Patton's mouth. The smell of cheesecake frozen yogurt wafted into his nose.
= = = ... = = =
Patton wakes up on the couch in the living room, under a tartan blanket. He sits up and sees Rachel hanging up the kitchen phone. She bows her head and crumples a paper in her hand.
"Rachel," Patton asks. The girl glances at him and shakes her head.
"I was afraid," Rachel whispers. Her words are clear in the still house. "My parents went to a conference last week. They took took Harvey with them and they left me to house-sit." She holds up the crumpled paper. "This was the list of emergency numbers that they gave me and none of them work."
"Father," Patton says. Rachel clucks her tongue and sighs.
"We'll get 'em back, Rachel," Patton says.
"He's desperate now," she says. "His style must have changed from when we saw him last. It'll be tough."
Patton spreads his arms wide. "Don't you know? We're teenagers now. We play hard too."
Rachel gives that wicked grin that makes Patton's stomach flip. "I have a plan."
= = = … = = =
I have to consolidate all the Trigger ideas into one story somehow. I just keep on coming up with them. Let me just say: if it wasn't for Numbuh Phenon's headcanon about Rachel liking cheesecake, then Patton wouldn't have such a memory trigger.