Everyone in the apartment building was notified of Kemp’s ultimatum. They all knew the risks of staying in the building. And to Charlie’s great surprise, not a single one of them chose to leave. Now, Charlie, Milo, Bear and Juno sat in Milo’s cluttered apartment awaiting Kemp’s arrival. Juno used Milo’s kitchen to brew a pot of tea and each of them held a small ceramic cup, but none of them even remembered to take a sip. They all had their reasons to be anxious.
“I need to say something,” said Charlie, breaking a silence which seemed to have lasted hours. “I know I’m new here, but I just want you all to know that I am not going to sign anything over to that scumbag. No matter what.”
Juno looked up at him with a smile while Milo rolled his eyes.
“This place, you both, have given me a home here, and I wouldn’t give that up for the world.”
“That’s very sweet Charlie,” said Juno.
Bear barked and pushed his head up against Charlie’s leg.
“Hmph,” said Milo, crossing his arms.
“Milo,” chided Juno. “You’re not even a little happy Charlie’s still here?”
“I mean I’m not mad about it,” snapped Milo. But to Charlie, even this was a surprise.
“You’re not?” asked Charlie.
Their eyes caught each other.
“Well…no,” admitted Milo. “But don’t get all sappy about it.”
A small smile curved across Charlie’s lips. “I won’t.”
From outside, the sound of a large crowd drifted into the apartment, and within seconds it grew to a loud hubbub of angry shouts and loud voices. They all ran to the window, opening it to step out onto the fire escape landing. Down on the street in front of Darkmoon Drive, stood a large crowd of thickly built men and women. Many of them held baseball bats, crowbars and other instruments that seemed like they would hurt to be hit with. But the most terrifying part was their eyes, eerily absent with grey swirly sand in their place. It made them look more demon than human. In the center of the crowd, looking just as prim and proper as always, was Walter Kemp. He smiled up at them.
“I brought a few friends,” he said, motioning the crowd around him. They gave a cheer, thrusting their weapons into the air. “Now, I hate to use an old cliche,” he said as their shouts quieted. “But, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Just come on down here, Charlie, pass the deed to me, and we will be on our way.”
Charlie became confused. “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “But, even if it were, I don’t have a deed to give you. My Grandfather passed this place to me with a letter and a box of keys. I’ve got nothing to give you.”
Walter let out a soft chuckle. “The deed to Darkmoon Drive isn’t a piece of paper, young man. It’s that thing hanging over your shoulders.” He pointed up at Charlie. “Hand over that backpack, and this place and everything in it will pass to me. No one has to get hurt.”
Charlie clutched the backpack, pulling it tighter against himself. “This backpack, this place, is the first good thing to happen to me in a long time. And it’s a home to everyone that lives here.” He stood up a little taller. “We will not be giving you anything.”
“Yeah, so fuck off!” yelled Milo, who couldn’t possibly pass up an opportunity to be included in the conversation.
Kemp sighed. “Very well. The hard way it is.” He gave a gentle wave of his hand, and the crowd of angry thugs barreled towards the door, pushing through the already weak gate and knocking it down completely.
Juno turned to Charlie. “You have to stay here,” she said before Charlie could get any words out.
“Wait, what?” he exclaimed.
“Kemp needs the backpack. Which means he needs you. If he gets that, nothing else will matter. I know it sucks, but the best thing you can do is stay far away from him.” Juno stared at him as if trying to mentally convince him.
“But you all need me,” he tried.
“Nah, we’re good,” said Milo.
Charlie looked at him with hurt in his eyes.
Milo shook his head. “Look, Bear and I can go take care of Asshole Von Trap down there, and Juno can take care of his henchmen.”
“By herself?!” cried Charlie.
“Yes, by herself,” said Milo. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but she might act like a cinnamon roll but she’s actually a badass. Of all of us, she is the one you need to worry about the least.”
Charlie looked at her, expecting her to argue the point and beg him to come help her.
But she simply shrugged. “He’s right. I’m a badass.”
“Stay here,” said Milo, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Cheer us on if you need something to do.”
“I—” Charlie tried, but they were already on the move. Juno moved back through the room and headed for the apartment door. Meanwhile, Milo climbed up on the fire escape railing and dove off it, spinning towards the street below. Bear’s wheelchair transformed, forming a pair of metallic wings, and he too took off after Milo. Only Charlie was left standing on the landing, completely useless.
CONTINUE TO CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE
Hello all and welcome back! I just wanted to let everyone know we are safe and sound post hurricane. Hope you all had a great weekend!
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