Once Randy and I have dug our way through enough of the newspapers to make a hole we use to burrow into the apartment, we vacate the unsecure hallway and set up shop in the kitchen to discuss what the papers mean and how they might have gotten here.
“Are you sure we should be talking about this in an apartment that someone clearly has broken into for nefarious purposes?” Randy asks, sitting down in his chair and resting his chin in his hands. His eye twitches, which tells me he’s actually nervous about being in here right now.
“They left a wall of newspapers, Randy, not a bomb.” I swing open the freezer door and begin searching through its contents.
“How do you know there isn’t a bomb in here?” Randy asks. “There could be a bomb strapped to the bottom of my chair right now, and we wouldn’t even be aware of it!”
I count down in my head, Five, four, three, two…
Sure enough, Randy’s up and out of his chair in an instant, flipping it over to check the underside for hidden explosives. I roll my eyes and turn back to my excavation of the freezer contents.
“What do you think for dinner,” I say, “mint chocolate chip or raspberry sorbet?”
“How about some fish and chips? Let’s be healthy for once.” Randy runs his hands over the chair legs, inspecting them for hidden compartments that could contain poison dart frogs or something, I don’t really know.
“Yes, because deep fat fried fish and French fries with identity problems are definitely healthier than dulce de leche ala mode.” I hold up a tub of ice cream the way Vanna White would showcase a prize on Jeopardy.
“I want real food, Mary,” Randy says. “And don’t you realize having ice cream ala mode just means having ice cream with more ice cream?”
“I ain’t your cook.” I toss the tub down on the counter and begin searching through the cabinets for spoons. When I can’t find any, I grab one from the sink, rinse it off under hot water, and then rip the lid off my dulce de leche. “Ahhh. Dinner.”
Randy finally finishes inspecting his chair and places it back on the floor. I pass a tub of plain vanilla ice cream to him (that’s what he gets for questioning my judgment), and then go sit down at my place across the table from him, holding my own ice cream to my chest.
“So about those newspapers,” I say around a mouthful of caramel heaven, “who do you think left them?”
“Honestly, Mary, you are disgusting,” Randy says. He won’t touch his ice cream.
“Make your own dang fish and chips, if you’re going to complain so much.” A bit of ice cream dribbles down my chin, and I wipe at it with the back of my hand.
“I have no idea who could’ve left the newspapers.”
“You are the worst PWNBEIBER member ever,” I say.
He scoffs at me, his dark eyes narrowing. “Oh yeah? Let’s hear some of your theories then, Miss Snarky Pants. Go on. I’m sure they’re brilliant.”
I wipe my mouth and set my spoon down before saying, as articulately as possible considering the fact that my tongue probably has hypothermia now from all the ice cream, “The man the front page talks about, who they found in the Thames? He died today. Rose saw him getting lifted out of the river or something.”
“You were hanging out with your imaginary friend again?”
“You only wish you knew a ghost-pirate who was feeding you intel about the invasion,” I retort. “You know as well as I do that Rose, despite being annoying and strangely invisible to 99.99999% of the world, has found some pretty hefty clues before. It’s either I know a ghost, or I’m psychic. You take your pick between the options.”
Randy finally gives in to the temptation of the ice cream and slips off his tub’s lid. “I’ll take the ghost. Imagining you being able to read my thoughts is far too horrific a scenario.”
“Why?” I raise an eyebrow mock-seductively. “Think about me often, thief boy?”
“Only in my nightmares.”
“How sweet,” I say, “you dream about me!”
“Seriously though. About the newspapers. You have theories about who could have left them. Share.” He points his spoon at me like this is somehow threatening.
“Well obviously it was someone who knows who we are,” I say, “so they must be pretty intelligent and have pretty high clearance. But they aren’t with Interpol or anything, or I’d be in the back of a squad car by now.”
“I still don’t understand how you got caught for running over that senator anyway,” Randy says.
“He was a diplomat,” I correct him. “And some idiot tourist with an iPhone posted a video of the assassination on Youtube. And my face happened to be in it. And the Americans just assumedthat the girl behind the wheel of the bus was the one to blame, despite the way that man clearlywalked in front of my runaway double decker. Right as I came around a corner. And swerved towards him. And slammed down on the accelerator.”
“Theories?” Randy reminds me.
“Right—so whoever it is, they must be like us. High clearance, but illegal. So,” I grin, thinking of how poorly Randy’s going to react to this next chunk of news already, “it must have been a badperson.”
He pales. He drops his spoon into his ice cream tub, so that it lands with a splat and little bits of vanilla bean spray all over his pristine black t-shirt.
“You mean one of the people we fight against?”
“I mean exactly one of the people we fight against,” I say. I lean back against my chair and fold my arms over my chest, my smiling growing even wider. “Or it could be whoever murdered that poor man too, out to get us for some crazy reason.”
Before Randy can respond (or throw up—he looks like he might be closer to doing that, anyway), the lights go out.
“Did you forget to pay the electricity bill again, Mary?” Randy asks.
“I thought you were paying for it this month.”
“No matter.” There’s the sound of rustling fabric as he pulls something from his pocket, and a second later light flickers into existence from an electric torch.
“It’s called a flashlight, Mary,” I correct myself.
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Just slowly losing my sanity over here.”
Randy directs the beam of light at my face and I squint against it.
“What do we do now?” he asks. There’s a boom from the other side of the apartment, like something exploding. Little bits of plaster fall from the ceiling, and my tub of ice cream falls to the floor. Randy screams. When the shaking stops, he says, “I thought you said there weren’t any bombs!”
“There aren’t any, you loser,” I reply. I reach across the table and pull the flashlight from his hands so that I can direct it away from my face. “Now, anyway.” I stand. “Come on, let’s go check out the carnage. Maybe the explosion took out that annoying superintendent.”
“I think the proper course of action at this point in time would be to flee, actually,” Randy says. His skin is almost as pale as Rose’s. How such a scaredy-cat ever became a professional thief is beyond me.
“It would be if we were normal people,” I say. “But we’re PWNBEIBER members, so it’s our job to go confront danger and slap it across the face instead of running away from it like all the dumb civilians do.”
Without waiting to see if Randy will follow, I point the beam of his flashlight through the doorway to the entrance hall, and start making my way to the door. I stop just a few feet later, though.
“What is it?” Randy calls from the kitchen.
“The wall of newspapers,” I say. “It’s gone.”