I somehow imagined childhood summers were full of sweat and laughter... Should I be happy enough to say that at least I had half of that equation?
“Oi! Did yah get smoke in your ears?? I said find that freakin' painting before this house goes tumbling down on us!!!”
“If you hadn't “accidentally” set fire to the place, maybe we could have both been taking our lovely time!” This Lee guy may have only been a decade younger than my father, but he was nothing more than a fool. The both of them really.
Maybe he saw my smug face behind the masks we wore, or maybe he actually understood my sarcasm, 'cuz the next thing I knew, he was holding me by the scruff of my hoodie, “Your father put ME in charge of this operation! So you either do as I say, or I leave you here to burn!” I saw that the parts of his face that weren't covered by his mask was turning red from anger, or maybe he was also roasting in here like the pig he was.
Calmly getting away from his grasps, I raised my arms in mock surrender as I gestured towards a barely scorched hallway, “Alright Big Boss, you're the man, so how 'bout we split up the search and I go this way—“
“Nope. I'm taking that hall and you're going.. there.”
It didn't surprise me that he'd take the easy way out and leave me the scraps, if he thought I'd suffocate and die quietly in a corner, than he's in for a big surprise.
Just when I was passing through the mostly burnt part of the house to make a quick escape without really making an effort to look for that cursed painting, I heard a soft sob. Maybe that haunted piece of art didn't want to be left behind after all. Abruptly stopping dead in my tracks, I listened closely to where the sound was coming from, and came to a halt by the fireplace. Perfect place to hide while the whole house is coming up in flames if you ask me.
Suddenly crouching down to see into the soot-stained darkness, I almost yelped out in surprise at the pair of jade-green eyes that looked back at me in undisguised contempt, “You—you killed my parents!”
No shit Sherlock. I might as well be glad that his sudden outburst was covered by some wood paneling toppling down from the ensuing fire. “Listen kid,” I checked him over, despite the soot that stained his cheeks, he didn't look much worse for wear, he might as well just be a couple years younger than me, “We both know it was the big, scary man who pulled the trigger on your ma and pa, right?”
His lips trembled as I followed his gaze to look over an object covered in cloth, “I'm not giving you the painting! Papa said—he said.. to protect this—from evil people! Until the detective comes by..” His small sob that followed almost broke my heart. Almost. Because I had to have a heart in the first place. It was a good thing I had a plan instead.
“What's your name kid?” I slowly asked as a way to sooth him despite the situation we were in.
“N—Napoleon” his answer must have come out more as of habit than self-preservation, making me grin wide.
“Well little Emperor, how about we make a deal?”
On a sweaty childhood summer day, a pact amidst the devil's flames was made—Who knew those same flames threatened to swallow me whole yet again?
“Resorting to your old modus already? And here I thought we were about to make a toast for a job well done.” The rancid scent of gas spread unfiltered in the small office, but I only looked on in nonchalance as I watched Lee dig another grave for himself. Figuratively, for now.
“Heh. Guess your old man wasn't as sharp as he used to be, but then... that just leaves you.” He cocked his gun in my direction and yet I couldn't help the laughter that took over me. Because at least a decade later, Lee was still a fool.
Author's note: Where it all began... My InkWell Story Map. It all began in The Ink Well Fast and Furious Festival and continues on The Ink Well Weekly Fiction Prompt. Two more chapters to go to reach the final conclusion of this journey. We're almost near the end. I admit I'm getting jittery too. Stay tuned.