Fortunately, the tiger was chained to the side of a cage by a tattered old leather collar that seemed much too small for the animal. Bubblegum noticed as well that the tiger seemed to be limping, and looking at her with a sorrowful expression. She decided Madam Valentine would have to wait… this tiger, and probably the other animals in this tent (which were in cages) needed help first. Slowly, she walked toward the tiger, who cowered and began to back away, but Bubblegum lowered herself down the ground on all fours and crawled towards it; “It’s OK my lovely,” she said gently, “let’s have a look at you… oh dear…”, she noticed the collar was cutting into the sides of the tiger’s neck, “let me take that off you… now please, don’t eat me.”
The tiger growled as Bubblegum moved her hands toward its neck, but didn’t back away; Bubblegum quickly undid the buckle and threw the collar away from the tiger, and then quickly backed away herself toward the entrance to the tent, thinking ‘Well, Bubs, you didn’t really think this one through, did you?’.
The tiger followed her, and thinking once again she was about to be eaten, Bubblegum closed her eyes… she could hear the gentle growling of the tiger… no, not growling… purring… she opened her left eye slightly and saw the tiger sitting in front of her… she opened both eyes and lifted her hands, palms upwards, and the tiger nuzzled its head into her hands; “you’re just a pussy cat…” Bubblegum sighed and tickled the tiger’s ears, who purred even louder, and said, intently looking into the tiger’s eyes “whoever’s done this isn’t going to get away with it… and you, my lovely, are coming with me.”
“There… all done,” The Dropped Apostrophe sat himself down in his comfortable chair behind the desk in the empty pool of the spa room in the Elixir Spa Resort Hotel and Leisure Complex, his flipchart easel just behind him in the corner of the pool, and a couple of filing cabinets along the side to his right. He was about to open his chilled bottom drawer to help himself to a glass of his Almardarera Champagne, when he realised The Lady was still loitering in the pool. “All done,” he said again, louder.
“I did hear you the first time,” The Lady’s voice echoing around the almost empty room, “I was merely wondering why you didn’t set up a temporary office in one of the suites instead of the pool – we do have many spare, you know.”
“Because, my fair lady,” the Apostrophe beamed, “I need somewhere unique for my base of operations – I can’t work in a normal office; no, I need somewhere that makes people think about who they’re dealing with.”
“I think they’ll still think that about you,” The Lady remarked as she clambered up the ladder to leave the pool, “wherever you set up your base… now do excuse me, now that I’ve helped you to move here, I’ll go to see what Ellova wants in reception – some days work is never easy.”
“Unhand me, you buffoon!” Madam Valentine called out indignantly as she was manhandled and jostled toward the Sambabus, elbowing her captor in the stomach with an ear-piercing “Ouch!”
Her captor was Rust, who’d transformed his body into its iron state seconds after catching Madam Valentine as she walked through the woods on her way back to her portacabin. “Nope. Not doing that!” Rust said, with a slight metallic echo to his voice, “you have to come back with me to sort out a little problem you’ve caused.”
“Me?” Valentine protested. “I don’t cause problems, I share love. I rekindle friendships. I put right what has gone wrong.”
“And you make a big mess of everything you get involved with.” Matthew Mist said as he climbed the hill after Rust and Madam Valentine. “Good to see you’ve caught her.”
When they finally reached the top of the hill, Matthew and Rust watched on as the Sambabus sped away, then looked at each other. “It appears Ms Palava has decided to leave us all stranded.” Matthew said, pointing towards the vehicle which was barely visible through the dust from the road.
“I have done no such thing.” Ellova Palava joined the growing group at the top of the hill. “The place is deserted – the lights are on but nobody’s home.”
“There’s only me here.” Madam Valentine scoffed, still struggling but unable to break free of Rust’s grasp, “The others have fled. Days ago. No idea where they’ve gone.”
“And why did you come to the hotel?” Matthew asked.
“Who invited you?” Rust added.
“I’m not revealing my sources. Now unhand me!” Valentine tried to dig her heel into Rust’s shin, but his metal body refused it entry.
Ellova looked back down toward the circus site below. A couple of trucks remained haphazardly parked beside a couple of the portacabins. “Rust, bring her back down to the trucks, we’ll use them to get back to the complex. As Bubblegum and The Opposite Man haven’t returned, we have to assume one of them took the Sambabus.”
“Who did you give the key to?” Matthew smirked as he glared at Ellova.
“Matthew, I still have the key.” Ellova replied, turning her back on him. She set off down the hill, and Rust – with Madam Valentine – and Matthew followed.
Ellova found The Opposite Man lying on the floor between the two vehicles, when they eventually got back there. She helped him up, asking, “What happened to you? Did you get into the main tent?”
The Opposite Man replied woozily, “I did, it was empty… I came here next as Matthew was nowhere around, and someone clonked me on the back of the head. You helping me up is the next I remember.”
“And you were where, Matthew?” Ellova’s piercing green eyes bore deep inside Matthew’s.
“Up there,” Matthew pointed to the top of the hill from where they’d just came, “I was up there with you. There are only two vehicles to check, and if there’s nobody in them, there isn’t going to be anyone in them after I’ve hung around for a few more minutes.”
“And you didn’t knock out The Opposite Man?” Ellova still glared.
“Tom.” The Opposite Man said.
“What?” Ellova asked, flustered.
“Tom.” The Opposite Man repeated.
“Such disharmony.” Madam Valentine chirped up, still trying to escape. Rust gripped her arms tighter.
“Tom.” The Opposite Man said one more time. “It’s my initials. It’s easier to say than The Opposite Man.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Ellova said, bringing her eyes back onto Matthew.
“No I didn’t,” Matthew answered Ellova’s question directed at him, “He wasn’t here when I was. It was probably Bubblegum. She isn’t here. She’s the one who’s took the van.”
“Why would Bubblegum knock out The Opposite Man?” Ellova screwed her face, deep in thought.
“Tom.” The Opposite Man repeated.
“Ugh!” Ellova had had enough. “Rust, and Op Man – you take Valentine back to the complex in the blue truck, and Matthew and I will go back in the white one. And Rust, persuade our guest, by any means possible, that she will undo her Oxo whammy on Jordan and Moonbeam.”
“Odu.” Matthew corrected, not making any effort to hide his smirk.
I wonder if they will ever get along? Time will tell, I suppose. The Co-ordination of Supervillains ongoing story continues. Previous parts can be found in my Storylines menu.
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