Afflictions: Part Thirty Three

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Arte stood, on guard, outside the bathrooms. It had been a long day up to now, and it wasn’t over yet. She needed to find time to talk to Ashley, since she was starting to feel bad about how awkward things were getting, but now didn’t feel like the time. She just couldn’t take how much Ashley was putting herself in danger. She didn’t have an offensive power, and she’d only just gotten her back. She couldn’t bear to lose her again.

There was the sound of clanking off to the side, and Arte saw a bottle rolling out into the hallway from the closet.

Arte cautiously began to approach the doorway from where it rolled. She was leaving Ashley, but it would only be for a second, so she should be fine.

Out from the closet stepped a figure, who bent down to pick up the bottle. It was dark, so she couldn’t make too much out about the person. They looked over at her and froze. They thought for a moment, then booked it down the hallway.

“Shit…” She muttered, and began to chase after them.

She paused at the closet to peak in. Inside, was a sleeping bag, with a bunch of trash scattered around it, along with a few more items she didn’t care to identify. It looked like there really was a homeless guy sleeping in the school at night. That didn’t quite give her reason to let her guard down, since there were still any number of ways this guy could be dangerous. Kriska did seem to imply that this was something worth looking into, so she was reluctant to believe this was just a normal dude.

Arte saw he was about to approach a doorway, and decided to put an end to the chase. She was in decent shape, but she didn’t intend to tire herself out chasing him. She drew an invisible line across the doorway, and clothes-lined him with it. As expected, he fell to the floor. After a few moments, he was totally enclosed by a cage.

She got a better look at him, and it was definitely a man. He was wearing a mismatched and ill fitting set of clothes, that looked to be from the lost and found. She tried to study his face, but something wasn’t quite right about it. One thing was for certain, he was definitely smiling.

The man’s form began to morph. Curved horns sprouted from his head, and his skin began to turn red. He had enough room in the cage to sit up, but not enough to stand.

“How do you do? I’m Caveat.” He held out a hand, and she rejected it.

“So I take it you’re the alleged powerful being that’s been roaming the school?” She kept her guard up. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that he could break out if he wanted.

“Guilty as charged.” He nodded. “Now, can I interest you in a deal?”

Arte paused her pacing. “What?”

“I have the ability to make any of your wildest dreams come true. All it would take is a handshake.” He smiled.

“Sorry, no thanks.”

“Are you sure?” He cocked his head. “I could make your family love you for who you really are…” He raised an eyebrow. “Or perhaps I could offer to render your fiancé invulnerable to any harm. That would surely ease the burden on your shoulders. Hell, why not both?”

Arte froze. She knew this was a bad idea, and had relatively little interest in making the deal in the first place, but she was curious how this worked. “And what would you want in return? That is how deals work, isn’t it?”

“Keen, aren’t you?” He nodded. “I’m sure you could offer me any number of things. Say that necklace, for example. I’d be quite interested in that.”

“No deal.” She shook her head immediately. Not only was this way too valuable, she didn’t want it to fall into this guy’s hands either.

“Well, perhaps just a favor, to be repaid on a later date?” He raised an eyebrow again.

“I think that somehow sounds like worse of a deal, really.” She shook her head. “Besides, I don’t want my parents’ fake love. I had that for long enough, and I’m not interested in a second course. I’m also capable of protecting Ashley myself.” She crouched down, out of reach, but still near him. “What I’m really interested in, is knowing what you did to Jessica Maguire.”

“Do I really look so sinister that I’d abduct a teenage girl?” He held his hands on his hips.

“Absolutely.” Arte nodded. “Are you naturally like that, or is that cosplay?”

“100% natural.” He nodded. “Regardless, I have nothing to do with the girls disappearance. It just so happened to occur while I was here. Didn’t even happen at the school, otherwise I’d know something about it. I’d definitely narc too, not a fan of pedos.”

“Prove it.” Arte stood and placed her hands on her hips.

“You want me to prove that I hate pedos? Just google ‘Devilman gores rapist’, I do believe it was on video.”

“I want you to prove you don’t know where Jessica is.” Arte rolled her eyes. This guy’s sense of humor reminded her a little bit too much of Paul’s.

“Fine, fine. I’ll make you a deal.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out something. “This is my card, take it and keep it, and I will truthfully tell you everything I know about the girls disappearance.”

Arte took the business card, and pocketed it, then shook his hand. “Well?”

“It didn’t happen at the school, and I had nothing to do with it.” He looked smug and satisfied.

A gunshot sounded in the distance, and Arte jumped. She’d forgotten about Ashley. Caveat had been playing her.

“Holy shit she shot me!” His eyes went wide, then he shrugged, returning to his previous demeanor. “I thought you’d be the one that tried to kill me.”

“Shut up and don’t move.” She ordered, and ran towards where the shot came from.

She rounded the corner, and saw Ashley crouched down onto the floor with her pistol by her. She ran over and kneeled next to her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” She looked up. “I just found what we were looking for…”

“So did I…”

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Someone should do an empirical analysis of my rate of good and bad weeks based on these blurbs. This one was a bad one. Recovered now, but sheesh.

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