Act Three: For Justice, For Friendship, For Love
Fillmore woke up and stretched his legs in the wooden cell he had been in for the last few days. Fortunately, when he first regained consciousness a few days ago, his captors had searched him, but left his pocket notebook and pen in the cell. He had managed to write a note and hide it in his cell before he tried using the pen to pick the lock on cell door. Fillmore's luck ended there as Penny and Sonny showed up with another masked figured. The unknown companion berated the two for being so careless to leave Fillmore with the pen when that person saw Fillmore picking the lock. They quickly entered the cell and subdued Fillmore and tied his hands and feet together. Fillmore wasn't able to do anything with the 3 on 1 assault. To make sure Fillmore was secure, his hands were tied behind his back and two ropes were used on his feet. One rope was to bind his feet together and the other acted as a tether from his bound legs to a wooden chair. Another rope also acted as a tether from Fillmore's wrists to the chair. They left him in the cell as they took his pen and paper with them. Then over the past few days they just gave him a small amount of water and no food.
After doing what little stretching he could, Fillmore heard the door open behind him. As Sonny Lombard walked in, he mocked Fillmore as he spoke. "You get a special treat today Fillmore. Instead of a bottle of water with a straw, you get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich." Sonny just put down the paper plate with the sandwich and the open bottle of water with a straw next to it. He grabbed the empty bottle and started to walk out of the cell. At the gate he turned around and said, "O and don't forget. All you have to do to get out of here is tell us where you put Project Trust." After seeing Fillmore was still not going to break his silence, Sonny left.
Fillmore scooted like an inchworm towards his daily meal. He quickly ate the sandwich as he was on his stomach so his mouth could grab the sandwich. After washing it down with some of the water, his stomach growled. Man I wish I didn't have a bottomless pit for a stomach right now. It's obvious from the walls and ceiling of this place where on the school grounds I am being held. Nobody uses this castle anymore since it was built for that engineering competition. Judging by that Pentagon table in the open space outside this cell, I'd say there are probably five Pentagon members. Sonny and Penny are two of them. Then there was that masked figure. Whoever that was, Sonny and Penny obviously screwed up when I found out who they were, given that figure's reaction. That still leaves two more. I thought I might see who, but this place seems to be pretty vacant most of the time. Either that or they're not meeting here with me so close.
Fillmore exhaled as he started to reposition himself so he could try to get some more rest. He hadn't been able to find a comfortable sleeping position yet with the ropes tied the way they were. His only sleep recently had been due sheer exhaustion. He rolled over a little so he leaned on his left side, which had been the least uncomfortable position he had found.
It's already been a few days so I know the safety patrol is already looking for me. This Pentagon group though, they don't make many mistakes. The only one who seems to know everything that is going on seems to be that one figure in the hockey mask. That character was precautious enough to be wearing gloves the entire time too, so that would rule out any fingerprints. It might be a while before the Pentagon leaves a clue so the others can crack this case or at least find me. I'll just have to hold out until then. At least Ingrid should have been safely found by now. Linus and Rita practice in the auditorium almost every morning, so that probably went well. Aside from Ingrid being safe, the only other thing I did right that night was hiding the database. The only strange thing was after they tied me up. Sonny and Penny held my hands so they would be open palm while that other figure's gloved hands pushed against mine. That doesn't serve any purpose for testing the strength of these rope knots. "Oh snap! The gloves would have my fingerprints. That's why they would let me go once I told them were the database is. They've been setting me up. The only question is what were my fingerprints planted on?"
Anza entered the Safety Patrol Headquarters and Glee Club Annex that morning and saw Vallejo discussing something with Head Commissioner Mitchell in the Assistant Commissioner's office. "Vallejo has had a rough couple of days lately huh," observed Anza as he walked over to Tehama's desk.
"The head commissioner has been turning up the heat since people started to arrive for the safety patrol convention. With Project Trust being a national database, widespread disbandment could happen because the patrols would be useless with organized delinquents having that information. To top things off, the article about the database missing right before it was supposed to be introduced at the National Convention was in the Z High School Dispatch today," replied Tehama.
"The convention starts tomorrow. We're running out of time and fast," Anza stated.
Tehama looked over her shoulder towards Ingrid sitting at Fillmore's desk as she pored over the case file of her exploding desk. Tehama turned back to Anza and gloomily said, "I don't want to believe it, but it's not looking that great for Fillmore either right now." Anza just nodded. The pair's attention suddenly snapped back towards Ingrid as the safety patroller shot straight up in her chair.
"Tehama and Anza come over here. I think I found something," Ingrid said with some hope in her voice. As soon as Karen and Joseph got over to Ingrid she pointed towards the segments of the file she had pulled aside. "Look here at the snow cone ice. It had traces of the syrup still. When the syrup was analyzed, it was determined to be the most difficult brand to get on the market. That's because you can only get it with smoits. I've sent an email to Andy Walnut about that. Chances are someone who has access to a lot of smoits is one of our primary culprits."
"Is that it?" Anza asked
Before Ingrid could reply, Vallejo called from his office, "Third! Anza! Tehama! I need you three in here now." Ingrid grabbed the file and segments she had pulled out and carried it with her as they headed into the office. As Ingrid entered the office she saw a safety patroller that was also in the picture on Fillmore's desk.
"Wayne Leggit, good to see you," Anza said as he walked in behind Ingrid.
"Good to see you Anza and Tehama. This here is my Deputy Sheriff Emily Kinzey."
After some quick handshakes Vallejo spoke, "I didn't call you three in here because Wayne is in town for the convention. It's about the Pentagon case."
"I'll explain it Vallejo," said Head Commissioner Mitchell. "I understand you three have still been pursuing a closed angle on the Pentagon case. I'm giving you a direct order now to stop it. The press is already eating this alive and outrage from Student Council Representatives like Brad Parnassus is giving this patrol a bad enough name. I don't need the press being able to dig and suggest we are showing favoritism towards a corrupt officer. He'll get his due process upon being apprehended. If you three want to pursue anything more on this case, you need my direct approval as the Head Commissioner." He left the room without giving any time for objections or questions.
Wayne spoke first to break the silence, "Vallejo told me all about it and I was informed of everything that has happened. I'm the Sherriff of my high school's safety patrol and I have to agree with what the evidence has shown. I wouldn't have expected Fillmore to…"
Ingrid mercilessly cut him off. "Fillmore hasn't done anything wrong!" Ingrid shouted as she threw the case file onto Vallejo's desk. Lowering her tone a little she regained her composure and continued. "Look at the fingerprints taken from my desk and compare them to the fingerprints I took off of Fillmore's desk this morning. There both his prints, but the ones that came off of my desk are reversed left to right."
Emily Kinzey stared at this revelation. She asked, "But there both his prints. The computer system was able to match it since it rotates the fingerprint every possible way in case it was a partial print. What's your point?"
Ingrid replied, "A computer can only match things up. It can't conceptualize how they got that way. If you were to take a new glove, put it on your hand and press it open palmed to my ungloved open palmed hand, my fingerprints would be on the glove. Now if you go and hold something with that glove…"
"It would be your fingerprints and not Emily's that get transferred," finished Tehama.
"That's a lot of trouble to go through to frame someone, plus how would they get Fillmore's fingerprints?" asked Kinzey.
Anza replied, "Fillmore was missing for more than a whole day by the time Ingrid's desk exploded. That would have been plenty of time for Fillmore's captor to take prints off him since Fillmore's would probably be unconscious if he was captured."
"Plus the Pentagon had been very diligent so far in their movements. That level of calculation would seem to fit the existing pattern." finished Ingrid.
"Okay so it's plausible Fillmore is being framed. That's only going to be useful once this case gets solved and you three are off the case now remember. It's out of my hands with the Head Commissioner taking charge like that," said Vallejo.
"Vallejo's right. We need to go by the book on this," said Wayne in support of Vallejo.
Ingrid retorted, "We seem to be stuck in this mess because we're going exactly by the book. It's making us predictable. Every plan we've done so far, the Pentagon has predicted and had an adequate counter measure. Besides the last thing to catch my attention allows us to do that now. A piece of black rubber was found after my desk exploded. I had nothing that would match it and neither did any of the bomb pieces. If the culprit wore gloves, it would have been something stuck on the glove. Looking at it more closely, I saw treads. The treads indicate the rubber probably came off a tire."
Anza inquired, "So you think the Black Rubber Castle is the base of operation for the Pentagon? That place was marked off months ago for being unstable. They wanted to try to preserve it because it was done very extravagantly. The creators even dug underground to make a dungeon and stuff to go with all the tires they used to build it, which is why I think it won the engineering club the competition that year."
Ingrid replied, "Exactly, it's marked off for being unstable, so no one would think of going into it to check it out. The specs show it was designed with a dungeon and numerous rooms. That dungeon could hold Fillmore since we haven't been able to find him anywhere and the other rooms could be used to conduct all the planning the Pentagon has obviously done."
"It's a good theory Third, I'll head over to Mitchell's office and get a task force to go check it out. We need to have some bodies for possible rescue if the tires start falling," replied Vallejo
Ingrid quickly replied, "But going by the book is going to buy the Pentagon time. As secret as we've been so far, the Pentagon has found out our plans and has made counter measures. We just need to…"
"That's enough Third," said Wayne. "Vallejo is going by the book like he should. The rules and regulations were made for a reason."
Vallejo started to say, "Ingrid, I don't need you going off halfcocked on this. For the time being just prepare for…" Vallejo never finished as Ingrid just tossed her badge over to his desk. Before anyone could say anything she was out of the office heading towards Fillmore's desk to grab her bag. As she reached down to grab her backpack, a book was dropped on the desk. Ingrid looked at the book's title: Safety Patrol Official Guidelines, Regulations, and Mission Overview Twelfth Edition.
Wayne softly spoke. "Ingrid, Fillmore always told me how smart you were. He told me how he could trust you with anything. If you go through with this, there is a good chance Fillmore's best shot at being innocent until proven guilty is going to be gone. Being overzealous isn't going to show impartiality. It will only…" Wayne trailed off as he saw Ingrid pick up the book. She calmly tossed it out the open window behind Fillmore's desk. Ingrid walked out of the Safety Patrol Office and Glee Club Annex. Everyone in the office had witnessed Ingrid's actions. Emily Kinzey walked over to Wayne as he stared out the window at his book lying in the dumpster below.
Emily said with concern in her voice, "Wayne?"
Wayne just stood there thinking. She threw out my book. An amused grin appeared on Wayne Leggit's face.
Ingrid climbed down the tires of one of the castle's air shafts that lead to the underground portions of the castle. As she reached the end of the shaft, she repositioned herself so she could poke her head out to survey the area. She saw shadows starting to come around a corner and quickly drew her head back into the tunnel of tires. Luckily she wasn't casting any shadows herself. As Ingrid stared out the opening, she saw two figures she recognized and heard their conversation.
"Zero said he should have replacement voice distortion masks for us today. We should be able to meet with everyone else once we pick them up," said Sonny.
"When was Zero supposed to drop them off here?" asked Penny.
"Zero should be here within the hour. At any rate, I need to give our guest his bottle of water and see if he's ready to talk yet."
The pair started to walk away from the shaft at this point. Ingrid quickly made her way to the ground from the shaft and starting to tail the criminal pair. As she looked around the next corner, she noticed it gave way to a huge room with a large pentagon shaped table in the center. Behind the table, a wooden dungeon cell could be seen. With Penny and Sonny's backs to her, she ducked back behind the corner and started to climb up the wall. When she reached the ceiling she started to crawl along the ceiling towards the cell. When Ingrid got within earshot, she stopped and just listened to the conversation going on in the cell.
"Fillmore you could at least show some gratitude for me bringing you a sandwich yesterday to go with your water and just tell us where you hid the flash drive."
Ingrid never heard Fillmore replied, but even from where she was she could hear his stomach growl. Sonny's next words confirmed what Ingrid thought.
"This silent treatment is getting old Fillmore. You could end all of this by just telling us where you hid Project Trust."
Penny tried to get Fillmore to react by adding a jibe. "Come on Fillmore, we're giving you more of a chance than you ever gave me."
Ingrid fist clenched around a tire she was gripping. She did not just say that. Fillmore risked his badge to rescue her when she was capture by Winston Connor. Then when Fillmore found out he had been played because she had been in on it, but was trying to go into business for herself, Fillmore gave her the chance to turn herself in. I still remember when Fillmore came in the next morning and asked if Penny had come in. I teased him about how the office wouldn't make for a good date location. Fillmore had me worried when he replied with a solemn serious face and asked me to come with him as he started to head out of the office. He explained everything on the way. By the time we got there, she was about ready to ship the Cal Ripken cards out to make a tidy profit. She didn't take Fillmore seriously when he said "don't make me come get you." We actually had to chase her down. I cornered her and Fillmore caught her. Penny actually had the nerve to say, "I thought you had feelings for me." Fillmore's body language stayed cool as he said "You're a friend, and I hold my friends accountable." Even then, I could see in his eyes that it hurt him. They might have been friends on the verge of something more, but it died that day. I still don't know what I did, but Fillmore thanked me a little while after that for helping him move on. Ingrid's thoughts ended as Sonny and Penny came back out the cell. As soon as they had closed the gate, Ingrid's foot slipped causing a piece of rubber to tear off and fall down. Ingrid knew she was about to be discovered with nowhere to run as she saw the clump of tire fall.
Penny looked up as she felt something fall on her head. "How did you get in here?!"
Sonny heard Penny speak and quickly looked in Penny's direction. Then he followed Penny's eyes. "Well, if it ain't Sunshine. Why don't you come on down? We can give you a seat in the dungeon here and maybe you can convince Fillmore here to talk."
Ingrid smirked and replied, "I don't think the seat would be too comfortable. It you just want Fillmore to say something this should help." She shouted, "Hey Fillmore, I know you said you wouldn't eat my dad out of house and home, but don't you think this is a bit extreme?"
Fillmore, a little weak from hunger, managed a small chuckle. He replied, "Just building up my appetite for that lizard soup or was I supposed to eat the rattlesnake meat."
"Well he can still speak after all," Sonny commented.
"Anyways, while we wait for you tire out and fall from the ceiling, why don't you humor us. I knocked you out cold so you obviously didn't see where Fillmore hid Project Trust, but you can tell us were Fillmore hid you that night? ," added Penny.
Ingrid stared coldly at Penny as Third remembered being knocked out from behind that night. "Apparently you aren't very smart. He hid me amongst the weight bags backstage. You mean you couldn't find me after all those hours even if there aren't many places to hide a body there."
Sonny replied coldly, "Well finding you wasn't very important. Fillmore had the flash drive and saw our faces so he was more important to chase down."
Ingrid was a little touched as she realized Fillmore had made himself the bait to draw them away from her that night. Her eyes opened a little more as she got an idea. She stared down at Sonny and Penny just waiting outside the cell. Gripping the tires hard, Ingrid used her boots to rip some of the tires from the structure so they fell towards Sonny and Penny. The pair quickly moved aside as the tires were falling. During the commotion Ingrid jumped down from the ceiling and landed onto the pile of tires on the ground to cushion her fall. As soon as Ingrid landed, she bolted for the cell gate to pick the lock. Right as she pulled a paper clip out of her pocket, she heard Fillmore yell, "Ingrid! MOVE!"
She quickly jumped to the side in time to see that Sonny had been right behind her. Quickly analyzing the situation, Ingrid saw that Penny was halfway between the two exits effectively blocking both escape routes, while Sonny was ready to fight Ingrid to capture her too. Guess it's time to see if those self-defense classes are going to pay off. Ingrid managed to block the first few blows Sonny threw at her, but got thrown off balance as a dirt clod hit her leg. After she had fallen to the ground in front of the Fillmore's cell, Sonny said, "Nice throw their Penny. Now we just need to get her tied up too and then…"
He was interrupted as Penny said from the exit way, "What is he doing?"
Sonny, Penny and Ingrid all looked into the cell. With his hand tied behind his back, Fillmore had picked up the wooden chair in similar fashion to a lift. He was now spinning in circles has he continuously hopped with his feet tied together.
"Che, I thought he might try to carry the chair with him, but he just looks stupid spinning around like that," commented Sonny.
He's building up inertia, but what for? He's tied to the chair, so about the only thing he might do, would be… Ingrid quickly buried her face in her arms as she realized what Fillmore was about to do. As soon as her head was covered, Fillmore threw the chair towards the cell's wooden bars. The bars shattered as the chair broke through taking Fillmore with it. The chair and Fillmore collided with Sonny and sent the pair into the pile of tires. Sonny got up slowly as was obviously bruised by the collision. He looked over to see Ingrid had untied Fillmore. Fillmore clearly took the worst of the collision due to his weakened state, but was still conscious and currently leaning on Ingrid's shoulder as she supported his weight.
Penny meandered over from her spot near the exits, "Well Fillmore stopped you from being captured for the moment, but he's in no shape to help you anymore. You won't get past Sonny and me if you try to carry Fillmore with you. Then again you aren't going to get out of here even if you leave Fillmore behind."
Even though logically Ingrid had a chance to escape if she left Fillmore right now, she couldn't bring herself to even try. She stared coldly at Penny, while at the same time clenched the hand that wasn't helping to support Fillmore into a fist.
Sonny coughed from dust he had inhaled when the gate broke as he stood up from the rubble he was lying in. "I always said Fillmore was the best. Even when he can't win, he makes it as hard as possible to deal with him. You seem to enjoy being his equal when it comes to being a pain to deal with Sunshine. That's all pointless now though. I think you two have reached the end of your rope."
Suddenly a lasso encircled Sonny and was yanked tight. Sonny quickly fell back to the ground. Ingrid and Penny looked over and followed the rope towards the left exit and saw a safety patroller at the other end. Fillmore noticed too and wisecracked, "I didn't know you Tennessee boys knew how to use a lasso."
"I might not be very good at it, but I'd say it worked," replied Wayne Leggit. Coming in from behind Wayne was Emily Kinzey, Tehama, and Anza. Anza quickly ran over to the other exit cutting off the other escape route. Seeing that she was cornered Penny quickly gave up and went to her knees as Tehama and Emily came over to get her.
Wayne explained to Ingrid, "Vallejo, Frank, and O'Farrell headed over to Head Commissioner Mitchell's office to tell him the new leads. We decided to cut out the middle man and just get over here as fast as we could and just take our punishments later." As the group finished corralling the two culprits, another figure came in through the exit Wayne had entered.
Andy Walnut said, "After witnessing what I did, I'd say I owe Officers Third and Fillmore an apology. Probably need to give one to Vallejo too. At any rate, I get what Wayne and the other safety patrol officers were doing now."
Ingrid raised a suspicious eyebrow and asked, "Why are you here? I thought you didn't care for anyone with a record. "
"I don't. I was working with a club to figure out how to stabilize this place to investigate it. The tire rubber from your desk explosion didn't fit any bomb parts, so it seemed logical that is might be a clue to the location of the bombardier. Before those plans could be figured out, I saw this group running recklessly into this structure and followed along. I caught up to Wayne and was about to barge in here, but he asked me to wait." Assistant Commissioner Walnut pulled out a tape recorder. "I'm glad I honored that request because Ms. Madrid over there was running her mouth about Fillmore stopping them. I got enough evidence on this recorder from Mr. Lombard clearly stating you and Officer Fillmore were working against them. Just because I don't care for delinquents doesn't mean I will unjustly convict them of crimes they didn't commit. That wouldn't be justice at all, and justice is my priority here. Now get those two out of here."
As the group started to leave, Wayne came over to help Ingrid with Fillmore. Ingrid asked, "What made you change your mind?"
"You are the second person to ever throw out my book."
"Let me guess, Fillmore was the first."
Wayne simply nodded. An echo of footsteps could be heard coming down the pathway the others had not headed towards. Thinking quickly Fillmore spoke, "leave me here in the pile and hide in the other exit corridor." Ingrid was about to object but Fillmore said, "We might get the mastermind if you do this. Hurry up before whoever it is gets here."
Ingrid quickly but gently let Fillmore down and bolted with Wayne to get out of sight. By this point the others had made their way to the exit. Wayne and Ingrid swiftly grabbed them and shuttled them into the corridor as they informed them of what was happening. Walnut quickly whispered, "Tehama and Anza, take these two back to headquarters, we'll stay here." The pair nodded and escorted Penny and Sonny further down the corridor.
A cloaked figure emerged from the other corridor with a mask that had the number zero on it covering his face. The figure was carrying two masks and a piece of paper between the two masks. Upon seeing the pile of rubble by Fillmore's cell, the figure tossed the masks with the piece paper onto the pentagon table. Upon approaching Fillmore, the safety patrol officer heard the figure say, "You're a real idiot. Even with no one watching you, you couldn't figure out that breaking out would injure yourself."
Suddenly Fillmore jumped up and grabbed the figure's arm. "I'm guessing since you're Zero that spoke with Sonny and Penny earlier that you're the brains behind the Pentagon."
Zero grunted in reply and he fought to get Fillmore off of him. He managed to shake Fillmore off, Fillmore managed to grab onto Zero's gloved hand and yanked the glove off. At this point Walnut, Wayne, Emily, and Ingrid came out of the corridor. Emily and Wayne covered the exits as Andy and Ingrid started running towards Fillmore. Zero noticing this started to bolt for the table to grab the masks. Walnut noticing this broke off from heading towards Fillmore and arrived at the pentagon table. Zero turned around to run back towards the pile of tires next to Fillmore. Fillmore managed to grab a hold of the arm that had Zero's gloved hand. Zero used his other hand and pushed on Fillmore's face. Fillmore running low on stamina at this point fell back down but grabbed onto Zero's cloak. Zero jumped up towards the hole that was made when Ingrid had caused the tires to fall earlier. In doing so, the cloak tore near the waistline. Zero escaped as part of the cloak ripped off, but not without the four safety patrollers present witnessing part of an orange safety patrol sash worn by the escapee.
Fillmore just rested on top of the tire pile as he gripped the piece of cloak he had torn off. "Almost had him," mumbled Fillmore to himself.
"Don't worry Fillmore, we'll get him," Ingrid said softly as she came over to where Fillmore was sitting. She knelt next to him and asked," Do you think you can walk out of here?"
"I can try," he replied. Suddenly a loud rumble could be heard from above. Ingrid and Fillmore looked up and saw the hole Zero had escaped through starting to collapse as a mountain of tires was falling. Fillmore shoved Ingrid with all the strength he had left so she tumbled and rolled down the current pile of tires. As Ingrid rolled, the tires fell down and buried Fillmore underneath.
Ingrid quickly gained control of her momentum and stopped. Looking back she couldn't see Fillmore, but she saw tires continuing to fall where Fillmore and she had been. Concern and worry were evident in her voice as she shouted "Fillmore!"
Ingrid sat in a chair next to Fillmore's bed in the nurse's office. It had been about forty-five minutes since they got Fillmore out from under the mountain of tires. It took while because they had to make sure the more tires didn't fall as they removed the tires from the pile. Vallejo had been over briefly to give Ingrid her badge back.
Wayne had taken the brunt of the heat from Head Commissioner Mitchell for over stepping his boundaries, but Assistant Commissioner Walnut made Mitchell back off given the evidence Andy had been able to get. Even with the Head Commissioner backing off, Wayne and Emily were advised by Andy to not help with the case anymore. So Wayne and Emily went to help set-up for the National Safety Patrol Convention and left the rest of the case the of safety patrollers of Z High School. Tehama and the others were currently scouring the dungeon for any more clues.
Ingrid's head quickly turn and she defensively watched the door to the nurse's office open. She readied herself to not let anyone near Fillmore who hadn't been present for his rescue. With the torn cloak revealing a safety patrol sash, she couldn't bring herself to trust anyone who wasn't there except for Vallejo, O'Farrell, and Frank Bishop.
"Easy Ingrid, it's just me," replied Anza as he walked in. "Walnut assigned me to bodyguard duty here. Right now Fillmore is the only one who knows where Project Trust is, so there's a good chance he would be a target right now."
"I figured," Ingrid replied. Her eyes went back to the unconscious Fillmore.
"How is he?" asked Anza.
"The nurse said he's probably a little malnourished since he has only a sandwich to eat these last few days. The exhaustion from that led him to easily being knocked out by the tires falling. She said he should come to in an hour or two, but it's going to be a few days until he gets his strength back." Ingrid shook her head and said, "Idiot, you should have just jumped out of the way. Even jumping into me would have worked."
"Ingrid, he's going to be alright."
"I know. He probably didn't even have the strength to move his legs so he just pushed me. I just wish he wake up," Ingrid said as she stroked Fillmore's hand with her own. Trying to change the topic away from Fillmore's health, Ingrid asked, "What clues have we've been able to pick up?"
Anza smiled. "Apparently that Zero person, left a list on that pentagon table with those two masks. The bottom of that list had a bunch of names for people the pentagon could hire to do dirty work, like Colby Bosworth and Nicky Larkin. Basically they were small fry who couldn't be connected to the big fish. At the top of that list though we saw clearly that the Pentagon is a group with five members instead of one individual."
"Do we have names?"
"The members apparently only referred to themselves by number. This Zero character had the full list and just put down the word 'me' beside his codename. The rest of the list had names beside the numbers though. It started with Sonny Lombard as One and Penny Madrid as Two. It even included their function of special operations. Johnny Nevada was listed as Four. He was the main financier."
"So he could have enough smoits for that syrup in the snow cone ice that blew up my desk. And the orange in the boat at the lookout that got busted was probably a bunch of smoits," replied Ingrid. She swiftly added, "Wait, who would have been Three?"
"I wanted to save that one. He's an old buddy of yours. He's responsibility was to make it difficult to get search warrants for certain operations and to apply public pressure on the safety patrol from student council."
Ingrid eyes quickly narrowed in recognition. "You mean it was…"
"Yeah, it was Brad Parnassus. In addition to this list, his goose is cooked because we found a hidden drawer in that Pentagon Table that had a binder of all the Pentagon's activities since its inception and who did what for each operation. Being very meticulous and detailed helped them from not getting caught for so long, but it preserved a lot of evidence for us to eventually get our hands on. All the hard evidence to take down Parnassus was in that binder. The four Pentagon members have already all been rounded up. But we have nothing on Zero, the mastermind behind this entire thing." Anza retorted.
Ingrid quietly spoke so her voice wouldn't carry outside the room. "Not completely true. We know Zero is a safety patroller."
Anza depressingly replied, "Yeah, but we have no way of identifying who it would be. We have a traitor, but have no way to figure out who it is. The glove Fillmore grabbed was one of the standard issues from the safety patrol office when we have to move debris from a crime scene. Multiple safety patroller fingerprints were on the inside of the glove. We only know it wasn't anyone who was there when we first caught up to you and Fillmore. "
"Knowing the other four all had a grudge against Fillmore doesn't narrow it down much either. Sonny hated Fillmore for deciding to change and walk the straight and narrow. Penny held a grudge because Fillmore didn't let her off the hook for the counterfeit baseball scheme. Johnny Nevada's smoits gambling operations have slowed down with Fillmore getting most of his customers in detention for other crimes. Parnassus hates Fillmore because of the foiled plan to frame me for the stink bomb back at X," commented Ingrid.
"Too bad you couldn't see through Zero's mask. It would have all been wrapped up by now," Anza said in a light hearted tone to try to lighten up the situation a little bit.
"See?" Ingrid asked as her hand went to head as her photographic memory was acting up. Before Anza could ask what she was thinking about, Ingrid stood up. "Crackers, that's it."
"I don't have time to explain. Go get Tehama here and bring some fingerprinting equipment back with you. I'll stay here and watch over Fillmore."
Anza quickly left room and headed down the hall to Safety Patrol Headquarters and Glee Club Annex.
"So we have an unknown rogue officer, Project Trust still missing before the wonder twins are supposed to introduce this ground breaking database, and the only person who knows where it is happens to be unconscious in the nurse's office. Of course I'm not happy about getting most of the Pentagon in custody! Getting that flash drive back is still going to make or break everything," Head Commissioner Mitchell angrily stated. "That doesn't even include how this past operation didn't even follow proper regulations and procedures. This wasn't like cutting an unapproved deal to get some information. This could have had serious safety ramifications."
"Calm down," replied Assistant Commissioner Walnut. "You seem to be taking this a bit too personally. Try to be a little more professional."
Tehama walked into the room before the conversation started to get out of hand. Mitchell spat out, "You better have a good reason to come and interrupt this meeting Officer Tehama." Tehama walked over and handed a piece of paper to Vallejo. Before Tehama could speak, Anza called from the doorway.
"Tehama, I was told you were over here. I need you to come with me with your fingerprinting materials."
Tehama addressed the commissioners, "I think that letter is almost self-explanatory. I couldn't figure out the ending, but it's the best we got." With that, she left to get her fingerprinting equipment. As she exited the room she asked Anza, "what's the rush?"
Anza whispered back, "I don't know. Ingrid had her photographic memory act up and told me to come get you."
"Then let's get going," Karen replied back.
Back in commissioner's office, the door was shut by Andy as Tehama exited the office. As Walnut turned back around he asked, "Well Vallejo, what does it say?"
Vallejo started to read.
I am writing this letter in hopes that it will be found when the safety patrol finds me here in this dungeon. I am hiding it in the cell because I don't think they will look for it here. They will only take away the pen and paper they find on me. After I conclude this letter, I will try to break out, but if I don't succeed this letter can be used to find Project Trust. I will only give a clue to its location so if my captors find this letter; they still won't know where I put it.
Project Trust is hidden inside Fred Durst.
"That's all the letter says," said Vallejo when he had finished. Vallejo put the letter on the table for the others to quickly read.
"That doesn't make any sense," commented Walnut. He quickly typed on his laptop. "Hmm, it says here Fred Durst is a known musician and rapper. There's no scholarly substance to him at all, so the school wouldn't have any structures or even rooms names after him."
The Head Commissioner coldly asked, "Walnut, who's the smartest kid in school."
Before Vallejo could angrily respond, Walnut spoke. "The smartest kid at Z High School is Brad Parnassus. His scores are slightly better than Ingrid's scores."
Vallejo said," Good we can show this to Third. Aside from being smart, she's known Fillmore for a long time now. If anyone can get inside Fillmore's head and understand what he meant, she would the one."
"I'm not going to trust this to someone more focused on saving her partner than solving a case that affects all the safety patrols nationwide," replied Mitchell with obvious disgust in his voice. He picked up the phone. "I'm calling Principal Folsom. We don't have much time and I need to approval to make a deal with Parnassus." As he dialed he thought, I am not going to let this all fall apart.
Tehama and Anza entered the nurse's office. As Tehama made her way toward Ingrid, Karen asked, "What's up?"
Ingrid genuinely smiled as she said, "When Zero and Fillmore were struggling, Zero wound up shoving Fillmore in the face with his ungloved hand."
Anza replied, "But we can't exactly lift fingerprints off Fillmore's face."
"No you can't, but Zero's thumb didn't touch Fillmore's face. He pressed it against Fillmore's glasses. We took off Fillmore's glasses after the nurse looked him over, but the glasses haven't been wiped," replied Ingrid with a triumphant look on her face.
"So we match that print with the safety patroller files at headquarters…" commented Tehama.
"And we have our traitor's identity," finished Ingrid.
Tehama popped open her fingerprinting kit. "Alright then, let me have those glasses."
Fillmore's letter and a summarized biography of Fred Durst were placed on the table in front of Parnassus in the interrogation room. The Head Commissioner spoke. "Here's the deal Parnassus. Folsom will approve you getting immunity from this Pentagon incident if you figure out where Fillmore hid the database. None of this will touch your permanent record, BUT only if the location you give us is correct and we retrieve Project Trust in time for the National Safety Patrol's Convention opening ceremony tomorrow."
Parnassus replied, "Such generous terms. What happens if I say no and you can't find it?"
As much as Vallejo hated seeing Parnassus get away again, he saw how high the stakes were. We should have just asked Ingrid, but we're running out of time here. Vallejo retorted, "Then those aspirations you've had for college since middle school are destroyed here and now Parnassus."
Seeing that his bluff was called, Parnassus said, "I guess I shouldn't refuse such a generous offer." After looking at the letter and biography, Parnassus came to his conclusion. He gave his answer to the three commissioners present while including an insult. "The safety patrol must really be full of simpletons. Obviously Fillmore hid it inside the school's music studio."
Mitchell said, "Vallejo you keep an eye on Parnassus. Walnut you come with me. We need to grab some officers and go search the music studio."
Right before Mitchell and Walnut left for the music studio with a group of safety patrollers, Tehama walked into the office. She asked, "Commissioner Walnut, can I speak with you for a moment?"
Mitchell spoke with annoyance in his voice, "Go ahead Walnut. Just catch up to us when you're done." The group of officers left with the Head Commissioner. After they had exited the office, Walnut said, "What did you need me for Tehama?"
Tehama put her case down and opened it up. After lifting the paper that had Zero's fingerprint she said, "This is a fingerprint we got off Fillmore's glasses. It should match the safety patroller who is also Zero for the Pentagon."
Taking the paper, Andy Walnut asked, "This is from when Zero got into that scrap with Fillmore right before Zero escaped?" Tehama nodded. Walnut continued, "Okay I'll plug this into the fingerprint database and see who it pulls up." He and Tehama quickly went over to Andy's office. Walnut scanned the fingerprint into the computer and the program started searching. As it scanned Walnut asked, "Why didn't you just ask for me over the radio?"
"For the same reason Anza came and got me in person. We didn't want to risk tipping off that we might have found something to whoever the leak in the safety patrol is."
"That's a solid strategy," he replied. At that moment, the computer beeped as it had found a match. The Assistant Commissioner's eyes widened in horror and realization as the pair of officers looked at the computer screen. "Tehama get to the nurse's office and get Third and Anza. I'm going to grab Vallejo. Meet us at the Music Studio as quickly as you can, we have to hurry before it's too late." They quickly rushed out of the Safety Patrol Headquarters. Left on the monitor screen was the picture of fingerprint and the matching safety patroller: the picture of Head Commissioner Fred Mitchell.
Mitchell overlooked the Music Studio after every square inch had been searched only to turn up nothing. He said, "Alright everyone, clear out. Obviously Parnassus was wrong, so we'll have to try searching elsewhere once we can get a better idea where Project Trust might be." After the officers had left, Mitchell exasperatedly said, "Where did you hide it Fillmore? If it wasn't for you this whole thing would have been over with by now!"
"I guess it's a good thing the National Safety Patrol Convention got move to this school. Otherwise Fillmore wouldn't have been around to stop you," said Walnut.
Mitchell quickly turned around, "What do you mean by that?"
"He means you're busted," Ingrid said coldly as she and other patrollers came in from behind Walnut. "You may not have notice but when you fought with Fillmore back in the Black Rubber Castle you shoved your ungloved hand on Fillmore's face. When you did that, your thumb pushed against Fillmore's glasses and left a fingerprint. It's over. Whatever plans you had for Project Trust and framing Fillmore, both are history."
"WHY YOU!" Mitchell shouted as he lunged at Ingrid. Mitchell was caught from behind by Anza, who immediately put the soon to be former Head Commissioner into a lock he learned in bodyguard training.
As Anza held him, Vallejo asked, "Why did you do it Fred?"
"Guess there's no point in keeping it a secret. I was going to make a huge profit off the delinquents in this and any school I wanted to. By making knowing the strengths and weaknesses of officers, I could help them plan very successful schemes. They would make as much money as they could off their operations and I would get a cut when I let them know things would be getting too hot. To maximize time for the operation, all I would have to do would be to pair off officers who wouldn't make good matches. Play both sides of the same coin. It would pay off so much better than having a blatantly corrupt force that would cause crusaders to push for reform."
"That's just disgusting," Ingrid replied.
Mitchell retorted, "Sorry to hear you say so. I thought with you being so smart, you would have seen the benefit in something like that. I even hoped I would woo you and eventually invite you to the Pentagon. You have quite a nice figure, but despite your disregard for safety patrol regulations, you don't have the right frame of mind needed to recognize such an opportunity. Too bad, you would have been a nice score to have for a night or maybe two."
Ingrid quickly landed an uppercut to Mitchell's jaw. Tehama immediately restrained her friend as Walnut spoke, "Mitchell, keep you lewd suggestions to yourself."
"Pfft, you're lucky she didn't harm me any. I can't prove any unprofessionalism that way."
"I'd say you're lucky Tehama restrained her or else you might not have been able to vocalize any complaints," Vallejo commented.
Anza added, "One thing I don't get is: why did you want to frame Fillmore? The other four Pentagon members had personal grudges. I don't really see a reason for you."
"Of course you wouldn't. Even though my cousin was stupid about it, he understood the benefits of using the safety patrol and keeping his own little profits on the side. He had Macluhan Middle School's safety patrol running beautifully. He couldn't even get in trouble for circumstantial evidence since he dad was principal there. Fillmore ruined all of it and in the end before he left to come back here that Wayne fella wound up being name Patrol Sherriff in place of my cousin."
"So it was revenge?" asked Tehama.
"No, I knew from my cousin's mistake that I needed to keep Fillmore from meddling. I figured he would somehow find out about my plans to steal Project Trust. Therefore by framing Fillmore, no one would trust the ex-delinquent enough to try to find him. Instead they would only focus on solving the case, which I could work around by knowing all the procedures they would follow." Mitchell added coldly as he stared at Ingrid, "It almost worked except one of you just didn't know when to quit."
Ingrid smirked as she replied, "Thanks."
"Let's get this guy down to headquarters and book him already. We still have work to do after we get this guy to the holding room," Vallejo interjected.
Anza walked out of the holding room to see Walnut talking with Vallejo.
"I have to say, a lot of my beliefs about the safety patrol and delinquents have been challenged today. I've got a lot of thinking to do after we wrap this case up for sure," Walnut said to Vallejo.
"Don't worry Andy, when those beliefs change you just have one thing to worry about," replied Vallejo.
Anza interjected, "Folsom constantly coming down on you about the budget, especially with Fillmore on duty."
Everyone in the office laughed a little, but the mood quickly went solemn. "Fillmore's still in the nurse's office isn't he?" asked Walnut.
"Yeah, Ingrid's in there right now. She wanted to be there when he woke up, so she went there instead of coming back here with us," answered Tehama.
Vallejo exclaimed, "That's it! Tehama, in my office there is the letter you found. Go get it and meet us at the nurse's office. Ingrid might be able to figure it out."
As the group left for Ingrid's location, Walnut said, "I hope you're right Vallejo. I heard Chuck and Chippy Chestnut's schedules cleared and they are going to be here to present their program to the convention right after the opening ceremonies tomorrow morning."
"I still disagree with how the program ignores how officers knowing each other can make a huge difference too. Regardless, this is our best chance at wrapping this case up," replied Vallejo.
Ingrid carefully read, "Project Trust is hidden inside Fred Durst."
"We don't even have an idea what Fillmore means by Fred Durst," Tehama commented.
"Crackers!" Ingrid exclaimed.
Walnut raised an eyebrow and replied, "That actually made some sense to you?"
Ingrid closed her eyes to focus on all the Z High School maps she had gone over with Fillmore as the pair had planned the Project Trust transfer. Third open her eyes and said, "He hid it at the Z High School Miniature Golf Courses. The ninth hole on the third course set is designed to imitate a vegetable garden. The flash drive will be inside one of the plastic eggplants."
Without questioning anything, Vallejo ordered, "Tehama and Anza, go grab Frank and O'Farrell. Then head on over the golf course and find that flash drive."
Tehama and Anza left the nurse's office. After they had left Vallejo said, "Third you stay here for when Fillmore gets up. It shouldn't be too long now. Walnut and I will head over to Folsom's office and start wrapping this case up."
Anza, Tehama, Bishop, and O'Farrell were looking through the plastic eggplant patch at the ninth hole. Danny asked "So um, how do we figure out which one he hid it in?"
Frank Bishop commented, "Most of these eggplants have been damaged from stray golf balls. Are the any that haven't been damaged?"
Anza kneeled down and looked over the eggplants. "They all look pretty much the same…wait." He then pointed, "Look at the stem on that one. All the other eggplant stems curve and meticulously point in the same direction. That one is off by about a half an inch or so."
Tehama picked up the eggplant Anza pointed at. She pushed slightly on the stem and it rotated. She continued to spin it and the top of the eggplant came off like a lid on a jar. Reaching inside, Tehama pulled out a flash drive.
"Score one for the…" Danny started to say.
Bishop put his hand on O'Farrell's shoulder and interrupted, "O'Farrell, maybe you should save the puns for the open mike comedy social at the convention."
"Hmm, that's a good idea. It would help to have some unused material." O'Farrell replied.
After delivering the flash drive, Tehama said, "Glad that's over. Today has been exhausting with the speed at which this case picked up," as she gathered her things at her desk. She turned and said to Anza, "Hey Joey, I'm going to head over to the nurse's office to check on how things are one more time. Are you coming or do I just need to meet you outside?"
Before Anza could answer, Vallejo, who had overheard, interjected, "Don't worry about that Tehama. While you all were at the golf course, Fillmore came to. With his parents still out of town, Ingrid's sister came and picked them up. There won't be anyone there for you to see."
"Thanks chief," Tehama replied. As she walked out of the office with Anza she said, "So how long do you think it will be before we aren't the only couple on Safety Patrol?"
"At the latest, I'd say by the end of the National Safety Patrol Convention." After a pause he added, "Maybe by the beginning of the convention."
Tehama just giggled in response.
Ingrid walked into the guest room to check in on Fillmore. Seeing that he was awake as he was on top the guest bed staring at the ceiling, she asked, "So how are you feeling?" as she walked over to the bed and sat on the corner of it.
"Better, still hungry, but the doc did say I had to pace my eating," he replied as he sat up a little.
Ingrid genuinely smiled as she replied, "Don't worry; you'll be back to being mister six foot tall eating a twelve foot sub soon enough."
Fillmore shrugged his shoulders somewhat sheepishly. "What can I say? I still got it."
"That's more than Mitchell can say now."
"I'd hate to be in the ex-commissioner's shoes. Folsom is not the principal you want to see if you've given the school a bad name," commented Fillmore.
"He will deserve every bit of it. At least I won't have to deal with him trying to flirt with me outside school anymore. Ugh, that was almost unbearable."
"It could have been worse. You could have been stuck with me in that cell and he would have visited there," Fillmore tried to joke.
"I never did thank you for hiding me did I?" Ingrid said with some remorse.
"Don't be like that. If it wasn't for you, I'd probably still be in that cell."
Smiling again she replied, "Yeah I guess you're right. Anyways, what happened that night after I got knocked out?"
Fillmore told Ingrid everything he remembered, from Penny showing up with Ingrid unconscious through breaking the masks and getting Ingrid to safety to eventually hiding Ingrid and getting Sonny and Penny to chase him before he got knocked out himself after hiding the flash drive.
"The others would have found the flash drive by now. Using Fred Durst was a good decision," said Ingrid.
"Hey, a messed up eggplant got Joan of Arc to crack a smile the first time."
Ingrid actually laughed a little. She was feeling happier now than she had in days. Ingrid started to feel an urge to kiss Fillmore like she had back in the alley. That urge made her think about the kiss she and Fillmore had shared back in that alley about a week ago. Gathering her courage with the lighter mood, she hesitantly asked, "Fillmore…back in that alley…did you…well did you enjoy that kiss?" as Ingrid looked at her boots.
A little caught off guard by the question, Fillmore stared at the hands in his lap. I knew I crossed a line when I did that. Well, I can't lie to her, so I might as well face the consequences. Fillmore softly, but audibly replied after taking a deep breath, "I did. Even if it helped us get out of there safely, I should have apologized. All the stuff people like Checkmatey did that got on your nerves, and I did something even brasher…" As Fillmore started to ramble on about how he should have been more considerate of Ingrid's feelings on the matter, he didn't notice the look of sheer joy and relief on Ingrid's face. He also didn't notice Ingrid actual get off the corner of the bed and walk over to him as he continued to ramble. "…At the very least I should have…"
Fillmore stopped as he felt Ingrid's hand on his cheek. Before he could think about what just happened, Ingrid's lips crushed against his own. No words needed to be spoken. As Fillmore wrapped his arms around Ingrid, it was clear to the both of them that their relationship had changed. When it had crossed from friendship into the murky waters of potentially something more didn't matter. What mattered was that at this moment it moved from those murky waters into mutual acknowledgement of the feelings of love they shared for each other.
They broke the passionate kiss for need of air. Each could see the joy of contentment in the other's eyes. Both could also see how the events of the day had worn on them and that they both needed some rest. Fillmore took off his glasses and placed them on the nightstand next to the bed. Ingrid simply kicked off her boots and curled up next to Fillmore. They cuddled as they drifted off into sleep on top of the bed. A few minutes later Ariella came quietly into the room. Seeing her sister curled up with the man who cared as much for Ingrid as Ingrid did for him, Ariella couldn't stop the amused smile that appeared on her face. Ariella just went over to the closet. She opened it and took out a fleece blanket that she draped over the sleeping pair. As quietly as she had entered the room, Ariella left, leaving Cornelius and Ingrid to their peaceful slumber.
Fillmore, Ingrid, O'Farrell, Tehama, and Anza were all eating lunch in the Safety Patrol Headquarters the next day.
"This was a good idea Joey. Even with no school today, there's really not anywhere to sit in the cafeteria with all of the patrollers here for the convention," commented Tehama.
"Thanks. I'm just sorry all the work Third and Fillmore did on that Project Trust case wound up being kind of a waste of time."
O'Farrell added, "I never would have seen it coming though. The wonder twins using you two to show how the database works, then the database shows everyone that you two should make horrible partners because your skill sets are too similar."
"That was a little embarrassing for them wasn't it?" replied Ingrid. She continued as she looked lovingly at Fillmore, "I wouldn't say it was a complete waste though. I'm pretty happy with how a lot of things turned out."
Tehama asked, "besides your and Fillmore's new relationship, what things are you referring to?"
Ingrid responded, "Well, we found a corrupt commissioner and gave him his due justice and destroyed the most complex crime ring to ever be seen at any school."
Fillmore added, "Plus Wayne told me that the Convention is going to look at rewriting some of the Safety Patrol Regulations for a thirteenth edition. They are going to try incorporating some more flexibility into the guidelines and everything."
Anza added, "I even hear Walnut is helping out with that. That's quite a statement considering he's going be the new Head Commissioner with the new Assistant Commissioner being a former Commissioner at Gilby Middle School."
Tehama chimed in, "Yeah I guess Vallejo figures we give him enough headaches as is. But at least he knows the headaches we cause."
"Like Fillmore's effect on the safety patrol budget," Ingrid teased. This caused everyone to start laughing, even Fillmore.
"I do want to know one thing Ingrid. How in the world did you get eggplant from Fred Durst?" asked Tehama.
"Wow that goes all the way back to the first time I met Fillmore. It was back in X Middle School's 'Think About What You've Done' room." Ingrid started to tell the tale to show how only she and Fillmore would have thought about Fred Durst and eggplants.
Fillmore walked into the room. "Some room; I practically spent my first two months of school here. Til that is my partner drafted me out of a life of delinquency and into the Safety Patrol," said Fillmore as he placed a cup of hot chocolate on Ingrid's desk and sat one right next to it with his own hot chocolate.
After Fillmore sat down, took a breath, and continued, "You're lying Ingrid. You didn't do it and I can prove it."
"So what? Listen they're going to expel me and I want out. Why would I wanna stay here?" Ingrid replied.
"I have an ATM tape that proves you weren't anywhere near the school when the stink bomb was set off," said Fillmore.
"And I have an eggplant that looks like Fred Durst. Did you hear me? I don't care. I just want to forget you people," replied an irritated Ingrid.
Fillmore stood up and pointed as he said, "Don't say 'you people' because this person's been out there busted his tail trying to clear your name. And what do I get in return? A messed up eggplant."
Ingrid smiled at how Fillmore would not take no for an answer. It was a little touching given how everyone had been either ignoring her or made their dislike of her known. He even paid enough attention to turn a small detail about an eggplant she had spouted off about back on her.
Seeing the smile, Fillmore teased, "Well what's that? Joan of Arc cracked a smile." Then seeing Ingrid softening, he said softly, "Ingrid you didn't do it. Don't take the fall because of a hundred fools who want easy answers. You've got a friend at X, me."
Ingrid replied, "You know; I was thinking. If one person other than the welcome wagon girl is the least bit nice to me by two o'clock, I wouldn't confess to something I didn't do."
"I would have been here earlier but, I was busy trying to clear a friend's name. Cornelius Fillmore," he replied as he stuck out his hand in friendship at the end.
Firmly shaking his hand, she replied, "Ingrid Third."
"You remembered that pretty clearly for it seeming like it was so long ago," commented Anza.
"Yeah well, it had been a few years since anyone outside my family was nice to me. My family moved around a lot with my dad taking different adjunct professor jobs, so I never made a lot of friends. Then my mom died and I became the end of a lot of jokes around school for not only being different, but being different with added insults about my mom. After combining a stink bomb and a piñata, I wound up at a reform school in Nepal. Soon after finishing up in Nepal, my dad got a permanent professor job here and I went to X Middle School. A lot of good things have happened since," explained Ingrid, who just beamed with happiness as she talked about good things happening ever since.
Tehama said, "Sounds like you just met the right person at the right time."
"You can say that again," Ingrid replied.
"I have to say I'm happy you wound up living here," added Fillmore as he got up and started to gather up the trash from lunch.
Ingrid helped him and as they walked over to the trash can, she gave Fillmore a quick peck on the cheek. Fillmore looked at her green eyes, shining brightly like emeralds and just smiled.
As the new couple started to walk out of Safety Patrol Headquarters and Glee Club Annex with the others, O'Farrell said, "Fillmore, thank you for buying the rest of us lunch."
"It was my pleasure Danny. It was nice to catch up with everyone since I've been either in a dungeon or enjoying some recuperating time. Beside my lunch was already paid for, so it was no trouble at all to cover all of you compared to what I eat."
Anza, O'Farrell and Tehama looked at Fillmore with a questioning look on their faces. Ingrid giggled a little and said, "Don't worry about it. Come on let's get going, the social events should be starting soon."
They all exited the office. As they walked, Fillmore put his arm around Ingrid and the couple enjoyed being with their friends and each other for a little bit of down time before whatever case would befall them next. As they were walking down the hall Ingrid whispered in Fillmore's ear, "That was cruel though not to warn him, especially since your appetite would be bigger than usual having not eaten regularly while you were jailed."
"Hey baby, I still know how to work things. It might not get us Chatmaster 3000 walkie-talkies, but I need to stay in practice."
Ingrid gave Fillmore a quick kiss and said, "Maybe the wonder twins had it right. As partners, we're probably bad for the health of any commissioner's lungs."
In the Commissioner's Office, Andy Walnut and Horatio Vallejo were unwinding from the first day of the National Safety Patrol Convention.
"At least there's only four more days of the convention," Vallejo commented.
"Yeah…hey Vallejo, why did you suggest I get stock up on water as Head Commissioner?"
"Simple, you need to make sure your throat stays moist from all the screaming you are going to wind up doing, especially when it comes to Fillmore."
An envelope passed through the door's mail slot. Andy walked on over and picked it up. Vallejo asked, "What's that?"
Walnut replied, "As a small token of thanks, I told the cafeteria to just charge Fillmore's lunch today to the Safety Patrol Account we use for the hot chocolate and case specific food if needed." Seeing Vallejo look worried as he stared at the envelope, Walnut continued, "It's not that big a deal Vallejo. It's only one meal for one person. Going without food the way he did, it seemed like a fair offer." The Head Commissioner opened the envelope and took out the invoice.
Outside on the school grounds Ingrid and Fillmore were starting to walk home to Ingrid's house as the sunset on the first day of the National Safety Patrol Convention. As they looked up, they saw through a window Vallejo and Walnut conversing. Ingrid said as she wrapped her arms around him, "Come on, if it's a case, we'll just get it tomorrow. While I agree using moderation and consideration with public displays of affection, it's nice to spend time some affectionate time that's not in public too."
"Alright let's go," Fillmore replied. Before they started walking, Ingrid did share with Fillmore a moderately long kiss. As they broke it she said, "Love you Cornelius."
"Love you too Ingrid."
As they walked away from the school, they were too lost in their feelings of happiness, love, and contentment to hear Head Commissioner Andy Walnut scream.