DISCLAIMER: I don't own Danny Phantom. Never have, never will. I do, however, have an iPod, which doesn't mean anything in this context, but it's really nifty, and it means a lot to me. :)
A/N: Well, I'm updating at a sort of decent time, so I'm not going to bother with excuses, because really, if you think about it (reeeally hard, perhaps), there really is no need. Heehee. Thanks for the reviews for the last chapter; they mean a lot, and also, thanks to everyone who is taking the time to read, favorite, and follow. Also means the world! Here's chapter three… please read, review, and enjoy! :)
Blood Blossoms Are Red
Chapter Three: I Know Something You Don't Know!
The Cougar didn't exactly look like Danny had expected him to. From everything he'd seen on TV, or that Sam had read about in books and told him, he fully expected the leader of a gang – especially of the drug ring variety – to be very tall, very muscular, and to have a bunch of scars on his mustachioed face. He'd have a ton of tattoos, piercings, and his head would be bald.
Well, this guy had a moustache, but that was where the similarities between Danny's expectation and the reality of the situation ended. The Cougar was short for a grown man, just an inch or so taller than Danny was. His hair was thick and black, slicked back in a way that the creep probably thought was stylish, but in actuality looked like he'd just dunked his head in a vat of grease. He kind of looked like a plump version of a gangster out of the 1920s. His eyes were small and piggy, his nose large and slightly upturned, and his lips were thin, and were currently pulled back over his shiny white teeth in a bizarre, creepy grin. He had a large, black moustache peppered with grey, but was otherwise clean shaven. He wore a crisp, dark blue suit with polished buttons and a black tie. His shoes were black and so polished that the light reflecting from the dull bulb overhead to the pristinely cleaned footwear was almost blinding.
The man was still chortling, and Danny was becoming more freaked out by the second. Apparently, this wacko thought that he knew Danny, but the teenager had never seen this creep before. When he spoke, The Cougar's voice was threatening, but also kind of gleeful, like he couldn't be more pleased with his captive. This was strange, considering that before he had entered the room and seen his "visitor," he had sounded supremely annoyed that his minions had bothered him with a hostage instead of dealing with him themselves. Suddenly, Danny wanted to be anywhere other than here – he would even take chilling out in the basement with the rat to being in the same building with the crazy jerk still giggling in front of him.
His captor finally stopped laughing, and took a couple of steps forward, a dark gleam in his eyes. Now that he was only a few feet from Danny, the latter could see that the guy had dark green eyes, and they were swimming in mirth – not the good, happy-go-lucky kind of mirth, either. The gleeful, I-can't-wait-to-find-out-your-pain-threshold kind that Danny had only ever attributed to serial killers and psychos on CSI. He swallowed, eyeing The Cougar nervously. He wanted to make a snarky comment, like he would be doing if he had his powers and the guy facing him were a ghostly adversary.
"Well, well, well," The Cougar said in a sing-song tone. "This is just too good. I mean, really. I get a call from my insufferable flunkies pthat they've caught some punk kid sticking his nose into our operations. I tell them to take care of it, and they say they want me to handle it." He sighed melodramatically, shooting Danny a wicked smirk. "I always get stuck with the messy stuff." Danny gulped, but didn't speak. His voice seemed to be on the same frequency as his ghost powers at the moment – zero frequency, as in not working in the slightest. "But I'm a generous guy, when I want to be. I tell'em to bring the little busybody, and I'll take care of him. But then… I walk in here, and find none other than Danny Fenton is my guest."
Danny finally found his voice, and when he spoke, he sounded a lot more scared and pathetic than he would have hoped. "How do you know me? I've never seen you."
The Cougar smirked. "No, I guess you haven't," he conceded. "We haven't been formally introduced, but I know so much about you. I've been dying to meet you. You're actually just what I need. I was thinking about… enlisting… your help later on, but now that you've come so willingly into my clutches now, I believe I can afford to change my plans a bit." He snorted. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry; I keep coming back to this. But really, what are the odds?"
Danny shook his head slightly, and his voice was stronger the next time he spoke. "You're crazy."
"And you're in no position to insult me!" the man snapped, bringing his hand back and backhanding his captive roughly across the face in the first show of actual anger since his appearance.
Stunned, Danny licked the right side of his mouth tentatively, tasting blood. The whole side of his face felt like it had caved in. Everything, even his teeth, on the right side hurt. Hot tears stung the corners of his eyes, but he didn't give in. Instead, he locked gazes with his attacker, and with newfound bravado, he snapped, "You're not going to get away with this!"
The Cougar laughed. "Oh, what cheesy Saturday morning cartoon did you steal that line from, Fenton?" he asked sarcastically. "Really, kid, grow up and face the facts." The man's meaty hand shot out toward Danny's face again, and despite himself, the teen flinched slightly. Instead of slapping him again, The Cougar took hold of Danny's jaw in firm but not rough fingers. Danny stiffened and barely breathed as his head was tilted up, back, and forth as he was examined. He stared resolutely at a shiny brass button on The Cougar's suit no matter which direction his head was turned, and tried not to wince at the pain that sprung up anew in his face at the guy's touch. Jerking his captive's head forward slightly, The Cougar leaned in and spoke to Danny, his surprisingly minty-fresh breath spilling over Danny's face. "You're so far off the radar, kid, that nobody's going to be able to help you. You're in way over your head, and I'm not going to allow you the luxury of coming up for air for one second. But don't worry, I'm not going to kill you – yet. You're going to prove to be very useful to me." He released Danny's aching face abruptly, patting the boy lightly on the injured side of his face and making him cringe.
Danny glared at him. "If you're trying to get some kind of ransom, you're screwed, dude," he said, ignoring the little voice in the back of his head that told him to shut up. "My family—"
"Oh, I know all about your family, Fenton. And it's not money I'm after. It's knowledge."
Danny blinked. "Well, you sure as heck aren't going to get that from me, either. I've got a C average and—"
"Yes, yes, everyone in your life is well aware that you are an under-achiever," The Cougar snapped. Danny wisely shut his mouth, seeing that the man was getting irritated. "But I don't have to explain myself to you."
Danny scowled and looked away from the gang leader. His eyes wandered to the box of drugs across the room, almost of their own accord. The Cougar chuckled, and when Danny's eyes landed on him again, he was smirking. "I'll bet you're curious about what got you into this situation in the first place, aren't you, Daniel?" Danny couldn't help looking at the box again. "No, no, there's nothing for you in there – right now," the man said ominously. Danny's heart jumped. They were thinking about giving him drugs? "We've still got some kinks to work out, and while you are going to prove invaluable to our scientific endeavors, we can't test our products on you until we are at least seventy-five percent they won't kill you. After all, if you die, you'll be of no help to us whatsoever." He smiled calmly at his prisoner.
Danny's heart was pounding madly against his rib cage. He still didn't have a clue what he'd stumbled into, but he did know that it was even worse than he'd originally thought, considering that the ringleader of this group of bad guys apparently had it out for Danny, despite the fact that Danny had no idea who he was. "I'm telling you, I don't know who—"
"Of course you don't," The Cougar said gleefully. "That's what makes this whole game so exciting." His eyes flitted down to his left wrist, and for the first time, Danny noticed the diamond-encrusted watch wrapped around the appendage. Dang, this guy was rich. "Well, I've got an appointment in about…. Mmmm… twenty minutes that I just can't miss. Tell you what. I'll leave you with my men to entertain you. Don't worry, you'll be relatively safe with them. I'll visit you again later, and we'll get to know each other a little more." He winked and sauntered almost merrily out of the room. Danny watched him go, fear and confusion battling for the title of Most Prominent Emotion in his aching mind.
In the few moments that he was alone, Danny said, "I'm going ghost!"
He didn't go ghost.
Then he was rejoined by the men who had brought him here, and he knew that things could only go from bad to worse from here.
"Do you have the map Danny drew up?"
"Of course! You don't think I'd let us go on a field trip to the Ghost Zone without directions, do you?"
"Yes," Sam snapped irritably, "I do. I know you, Tucker, and that's just the kind of stupid move you would try."
Tucker frowned as he and Sam buckled themselves in to the Specter Speeder. He looked like he was about to argue, but then he nodded shortly. "Yeah, you're probably right. But I can't afford to rush into this, not this time. Danny needs us."
"You bet he does!" a peppy voice sounded from the back area of the Speeder. Sam and Tucker both jumped and spun around to see Jazz, Danny's older sister, pop up from behind the seats. "Hey, guys, I knew you'd come!"
"Uh," said Sam.
"Look," Jasmine said, her blue eyes sharp as she looked at her brother's best friends, "I know you don't trust me, and I know I get on your nerves. But Danny needs us. I knew you'd be down here to get into the Ghost Zone, because that's what I would do. So I came down here after school and waited. And," the over-enthusiastic ginger added, "I helped you out. Wonder why it was so easy to sneak down here? I sent Mom and Dad on a wild goose chase to follow some ghostly lead I made up to buy us time."
Sam and Tucker stared at the girl, who glared belligerently back. "I'm coming with you guys," she said, her tone booking no room for argument. "Three heads are better than two, and we'll have a better chance if we work together."
Finally, Sam spoke. Her voice was kinder than usual as she said, "I know you're worried about Danny. But Tucker and I actually know what we're doing—" Tucker coughed dubiously at his friend's claim while Jazz raised her eyebrows. "Okay, we know more about what we're doing than you do. Danny's already missing, and he was supposed to be with us when it happened. We can't be responsible for you and have something happen to you, too. You understand, right?"
"I understand," Jazz said firmly, "that the only way you're going to be able to get me out of the Specter Speeder is to remove me by force. Do you really want to waste time trying to drag me out of here? Or can we please just get out of here and focus on finding my little brother?"
Sam and Tucker exchanged nervous looks, but before either could respond, their decision was made for them as the voices of Jack and Maddie Fenton wafted down the stairs, indicating that the ghost hunters were on their way down to the lab.
"Crap," Sam muttered. "Let's go."
She started the Speeder, trying not to think about what would happen when the Fentons reached the lab and found it, along with the other child, gone.
"So, what now?" Jazz asked. "What's the plan?"
"Well, we're going to sort of ask around, see if we can actually find a ghost that doesn't hate Danny for catching them, and see if we can get them to help us," Sam supplied.
Jazz blinked. "This plan was really not thought out that well, was it?"
"Well, excuse me if I only had lunch period to think it out!" Sam snapped. "I'm doing all that I can."
Jazz fumed at the back of Sam's head as the black-haired girl propelled the Speeder through the Ghost Zone, which, for some reason, looked even eerier than usual.
"Man," Tucker said glumly. "We are in so much trouble."
"Maybe," Jazz nodded, "but we're probably better off than Danny is right now."
That shut everyone up, and they settled themselves in for a long, possibly fruitless journey. Still, they were doing something, and they could only hope that they were doing the right thing in searching for answers here, and that Danny would be found before it was too late.
A/N: Ooooh… What's with this crazy dude that seems to know all kinds of stuff that Danny doesn't? And will Sam, Tuck, and Jazz be able to enlist the help of anyone in the Ghost Zone? Guess you'll just have to wait for the next update. :) Please review, and I'll update as soon as I can! :D