An AH version of "Café Disaffecto", inspired by Ace Trax's "Darian" series.
I suggest that you read "Darren's Estimation" to have a better idea of what's going-on in here. For comments/criticisms e-mail Bacner at Olgak531@rogers.com.
Daria and related characters are property of MTV, Noggin, etc. No copyright infringement is intended.
This particular alarm system was installed at alt.lawndale.com, a place installed long ago to promote the international popularity of Lawndale High, but it had rather failed, and so the police were a bit... slacking, when they drove towards it. After all, the most they expected to find there was some vandalism, right?
the heroic upholders of law and order in
"Oh my god!" one of the cops whistled, seeing the scene of the crime, now pristinely clean - as in having nothing on it - neither vandals, nor any furniture or electronics.
"Crikey!" echoed the other cop. "This place has been wiped clean. We've got to inform the owner." He paused. "Who is - or was - the owner of this dump?"
"According to this plaque on the door," the first cop spoke in a rather downbeat voice. "This cybercafe was sponsored by Lawndale High."
The second cop's face fell too, and he, with a rather martyred expression, went towards the nearest phone. "When Li finds that we didn't prevent this, she'll eat us alive."
And she almost did.
The next day, everything continued as it has before, as if several thousands of dollars worth of computers hadn't evaporated into thin air without police having any leads as to who done it.
"Come on Mack Daddy! I'll get the coach to write us a note. I'll say we need extra time on the free weights," Kevin whined. He, for example, had more pressing concerns than some consumers. He was about to face the English class, something that he feared dreadfully. And that Shakespeare was such a pain in the arse for a long-dead guy, too.
"Don't call me that, okay?" Mack snapped. "He's not gonna excuse you from English for weight training."
"I can't take anymore of this Shakespeare dude bro. He's like, a total chick writer!"
"Hi Mack! Hi Romeo..." Brittany, Kevin's girlfriend, called-out as she walked passed them. She didn't have anything against Shakespeare. She thought that he wrote some rather nice things. If only her Kevie would be more understanding.
"See?" Kevin said, sounding even whinier than before. He almost hated it when Brittany got into one of those poetic moods - whenever she started to act like that, he almost never ever got any mookie.
"Maybe we'll start Hamlet today. That has a skull in it," Mack sighed.
"Really?" Kevin perked up.
At that moment another boy joined onto the scene - Darren John Morgendorffer, a newcomer to LH. He was acting cheerful and singing: "...When we'll cross the river Rhine, when we'll cross the river Rhine, we will say Azochen vine, we will say Azochen vine... Excuse me."
"Move away from my locker, dude."
Kevin, however, didn't do so. "Darren, you're a brain, right?"
"Why'd you ask? You have a biology test today?"
"Like, why would I be interested in anything that Shakespeare guy says?"
Darren paused. "What about Shakespeare?"
"We're having Hamlet," Mack said.
"Oh, well, in that case," Darren said contritely, looking with as much kindness at Kevin as he could muster. "You can probably hold a skull." He put the books in his bags and walked-off to the English class, whistling something in that merry tune.
"Somebody's in a good mood today," Mack spoke.
"Yeah!" Kevin echoed. "What a nerd."
Timothy O'Neill was feeling like a man condemned to Hell while still alive. This started a few weeks - about a month - ago, when his boss, Angela Li, started to act all smug and mysterious. This, as the staff at Lawndale High had learned to fear, meant that she made yet another grand plan to improve Lawndale High, and that meant - at least to O'Neill - that they all sled down to Hell just a bit closer.
Or maybe he was just silly, and his overly religious upbringing was acting-up again. After all, wasn't it the meek who were supposed to enter the kingdom of the lord?
Or was it the righteous?
O'Neill looked at the faces of the students before him and sighed. How he longed to educate them without having to stick to Li's rules. But alas, that was not to be.
The bell rang, signifying the beginning of the next class. O'Neill sighed and began to follow Li's directions, like he had always done.
"Class, I thought we'd take a break from the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and discuss the real life tragedy that happened here in Lawndale. Let's share our feelings of violation following the loss of Lawndale's cybercafe - alt.lawndale.com," he paused. "Who would like to start? Charles? Charles, did you hear me?"
"You mean, Kevin?" the boy replied.
"Kevin, I'm sorry. You uh, look like somebody else. What do you have to say about last night's horrible event?"
Kevin began to frantically think. Was O'Neill trying to pin the heist of the computers on him? Not if Kevin himself had something to say about it. "I was home all night. You can ask my parents. Besides, I already have a computer," he quickly said, proud at his own alibi.
O'Neill sighed. This was not going to be easy. "No Kevin, I mean how did it make you feel?"
Kevin paused. This seemed like a harmless question. "Um, sad?"
O'Neill frowned. "Are you asking me or telling me?"
Kevin decided to try again. He'll show Mr. O'Neill that nobody could confuse the QB! "Angry?"
O'Neill blinked, now really confused. "Hmmm... Jodie, how about you?"
Jodie looked up, and if it was anyone else but O'Neill, they would've caught the pointy glance that she sent towards Darren. "I think the cybercafe served one very particular segment of the community. But it still pisses me off when people take what isn't theirs."
"That's how I feel!" Kevin joyfully said, deciding to get rid of Mr. O'Neill inquiries once and for all.
"Thank you, Kevin," O'Neill absent-mindedly said, forgetting about the QB already. "About that word, community. Isn't that the whole idea of a cybercafe? To jack us in to the global community? What's most disturbing about this crime is the symbolism involved. Don't you agree Jane?"
Jane paused, and decided to go with her traditional response. "No."
But Mr. O'Neill didn't listen to her, as he went whole-heartedly into Ms. Li's speech. "Suddenly we're cut off. We can't hail our friends across the globe and say, "It's a beautiful day in the cyberhood." They didn't just take a few computers. They took a symbol of our virtual community. To visit alt.lawndale.com was to come together with the planet!"
The class listened to it half-awed. They never saw their English talking so passionately. Needless to say, they were impressed. Even the new kid, Darren.
"To misquote Nero, what a great actor died in vain," he muttered quietly, but O'Neill heard him all the same.
"Yes? What were you saying?" he spoke.
If anybody were to look at Darren's face, they'd see a trace of a smug smile appear on his face briefly before Darren put on his most monotone face, folded his arms across his chest, and began to speak. "Come together with the planet? By staring at a screen for hours? Sitting in a room full of people you never say a word to?"
"Interesting point, Dorian," O'Neill worriedly said. There was something about this kid that just bothered him...
"It's Darren," the boy said sharply.
Mr. O'Neill quickly made a show of killing a spider on his desk. "Damn spiders. Darren. You believe that while connecting Lawndale citizens with global neighbours, the cafe was alienating us from each other?"
"I'm saying if you really miss the place, put a Mr. Coffee in the computer lab."
Mr. O'Neill decided to treat this as a window of opportunity. "So, in your opinion, what we really need is a return to the traditional coffee house of yore, where you'd watch some performers and share a cup with your friends face to face?"
Jane sighed to Darren. "Well, ain't he a visionary?"
But Mr. O'Neill didn't hear, he was back in his world. "Right here and now, let's pledge to make Darren's dream a reality."
"You mean the one where it looks like it was taken straight out of d20's Modern Role-playing game?" Darren sarcastically asked.
"The coffee house! We'll plan it, locate it, raise money for it, and open it!" Mr. O'Neill chirped in reply.
Jodie suddenly looked thoughtful. "Would this qualify as an extracurricular activity?"
"Then," Jodie said, while giving Darren another pointed look, "I'd like to register as a conscience objector."
Today is promising to be great, Ms. Li thought happily as she watched the events unfold on the monitor of her surveillance system. I've finally found-out how to make that damn cybercafe make money for this school again!
And I also seem to become better at manipulating people, and establishing a firmer control at school too! she added to herself, gleefully. O'Neill did his part, the young Mr. Morgendorffer bit as I knew he would, and as for Miss Landon... Ms. Li actually smiled. Well, Miss Landon is now eating some humble pie, and so's her wretched mother - I hope.
The last thought made Ms. Li positively gleeful. After several years of eating crow by Michelle Landon it felt great to let the latter know that her precious offspring suddenly became expandable in Ms. Li's eyes.
When Darren Morgendorffer had uttered that self-esteem speech, he had pretty much proved that he was just as good as Jodie Landon was. Maybe even better. Michelle Landon recognized that too, and demanded that Li did something about it, hiding, of course, behind the same old song of racial inequality. Alas for her, after having listened to the same speech for several years, Ms. Li had her feel, and at last she made Michelle Landon eat her words - literally speaking, of course. She had no intention of being arrested for assault. But Michelle Landon, however, hadn't bothered her again since that night.
Ms. Li looked back at the surveillance monitor, and her spirits even higher. "Yes!" she spoke out loud. "The money-collecting drive begins!"
It was a regular afternoon at the Morgendorffer house, with the Morgendorffer women ready to go for an outing, and the Morgendorffer men reading one sort of literature or another.
A classic example of that unfolded now, as Helen walked by her husband and her son. "Hi! Gotta change, dinner meeting." And she was off.
Jake looked away form his newspaper. "Did something happen?"
Darren shrugged and looked away form his book. "Hmm... depends on your perspective."
"Hi! No dinner for me! Emergency meeting at the fashion club!" Quinn spoke, as she walked by to her room.
Darren sighed. "I'll make up a nice plate for you and cover it up with cling wrap."
"That was Quinn?" Jake asked after a pause.
"Yes, but you still haven't our first mystery guest," Darren said with a slight smirk.
At that moment that 'first mystery guest' made a come-back. "Damnit. I just called Eric for directions and he said the dinner's cancelled. Well that just gives us a chance for a family dinner."
Darren just sighed. "I'll throw another steak on the grill."
Outside the door closed, signifying that Quinn was gone.
"Where's she going?" Helen frowned.
"Emergency meeting at the fashion club. Someone woke up with frosted hair," Darren said absentmindedly.
Helen frowned in thought. Should she? Well, she didn't have anything to do now that the dinner was cancelled. Might as well tackle this hurdle. "You know Darren it wouldn't hurt if you got involved in some after school projects once in a while."
Darren hurriedly hid behind his book. "Can't. I'm learning how to read Swahili?" he finally said.
Helen sighed. "I'm serious. When you apply to college, they'll be looking for that kind of thing. Right Jake?"
"Hmm?" Jake glanced briefly from his newspaper then hid behind it once again.
Darren just sighed. Didn't mom just get it? "They're going to be looking to see whether I can pay for school. This might be a good time to talk about setting up a trust, I suppose."
"Jake!" Helen spoke in exasperation.
"Tell our son about the importance of extracurricular activities to get into college."
Jake frowned. "I don't know Helen. Remember Middleton? These jerks were about money only! Maybe we can set up a small trust fund to help Darren instead? A small one, mind you, I don't think we can afford-"
"Jake, shut up. You're not helping me," Helen hurriedly said, but it was too late. Darren joined-in onto the conversation.
"Have you thought about a living will, Dad?" he asked.
"What makes you think we need one?" Jake's frown deepened.
"Excuse me," Helen hurriedly said. Once those two started to talk about family finances, she could just as well get up and leave. "I ask you, Darren, to just think about it, that's all."
"Because otherwise we might have to make up for it over the summer. Send you to music camp."
Darren sighed. "You wouldn't, and you couldn't, anyways."
"Why not?" Jake asked, briefly looking away from some financial combination.
"Because I was kicked out of it, after I stuffed some jerk's bald noggin into a trombone with my sax."
"Ah, but you forgetting something!" Helen triumphantly said. "This is a local camp. They don't know about that incident."
Darren's eyes widened and he whistled in respect. "You're good. When you put your mind to it, you're very, very good."
"Sure she is!" Jake said emphatically as he looked around.
"You're find something to get involved with. It'll be fun," Helen continued to drive her point home.
"Hey," Jake suddenly noticed that somebody was missing. "Where's Quinn?"
Mr. O'Neill was not a happy man. As usual, Angela's latest big score was dying down via pure student unenthusiasm, only now Jodie Landon seemed to be-
There was a knock on the door.
"Who is it?"
"Right! Daria. What's up?"
"I want to volunteer to work on the coffee-house."
"Fantastic! What made you change your mind?"
"Did you ever had to learn how to play a music instrument by a little old man who looked like some crooked street hustler?"
"Um, no... But I once had to recite the Gettysburg address wearing a rainbow wig and panties that said "Tuesday" - whatever made me want to join a fraternity. Anyway, that's great! I guess you want to read one of your essays."
Darren frowned. "No, I wasn't actually thinking about performing."
"Maybe that one about being a big misfit whom everybody hates. The other kids will really relate to that. I know I do."
Darren's frown deepened. "I don't think that would be a great idea. That's the one that compares the sophomore class to barnyard animals. It names names."
"Oh yeah," O'Neill agreed though he didn't get it.
"I'm really not much of a performer. I'm thinking more along the lines of fundraising?"
"Oh. Well, we're selling magazines, CDs, and wrapping paper. Jump in!"
Darren sighed. So there was no way out of it. "Can I go with my friend Jane?" he asked helpfully.
"Sure! She wants to help out?"
"Umm Hmm," Darren shamelessly lied. "She's a big joiner."
Needless to say, Jane was nothing like that. "No way baby," she immediately said.
"Come on," Darren wheedled. "Do it for us."
"Are you nuts?"
"Then do it for the opportunity to look inside people's houses and find out what screwed up tastes they have."
"I'm bringing a Polaroid," Jane excitedly said and was bagged.
Mr. DeMartino was in a foul mood. Angela Li was up to her tricks, and this meant that they all would be dragged into trouble if things went bad. And if they didn't go bad, well, this was the case of choosing between rotten apples.
DeMartino sighed and read the latest reports from the teachers' union. They were of little condolence for him too, since the demands they made wouldn't be easily carried-out with Angela Li's iron grip.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. DeMartino went to open it, but as he did so, he heard voices from outside.
"Have you been practising your lines for the coffee-house?
"Awww, they give me a headache babe."
"Kevin, please learn them. Or I might give you a headache."
"What do you mean?"
At that point, Mr. DeMartino opened the door and almost snarled. "Well, well. Kevin and Brittany. What a delightful surprise."
"Ah, hi!" Kevin eagerly said, unaware of the bitter sarcasm in DeMartino's voice. After all, how could he? Brittany was acting-up again about this damn Shakespeare fellow, and they still haven't sold any rolls of wrapping paper.
DeMartino continued, ignoring Kevin's remark. "You've come, no doubt, to apologise for your academic performance."
"Um, no!" Kevin firmly said. He and Brittany had not done anything wrong, for what should they apologise?
Brittany, on the other hand, always knew that it was better to apologise even if you haven't done anything wrong - other people were funny about that. "But we are sorry about like our grades and stuff," she said.
"Well then, to what do I owe the pleasure?" DeMartino asked, feeling scarcely mollified.
"We're raising money for the new Lawndale young adult's coffee house! Would you like to buy some holiday wrapping paper?" Kevin eagerly said.
"We've got religious, festive, and/or non-do-minational!" Brittany chirped.
"That's non-dominational babe."
Mr. DeMartino stared at the Punch-and-Judy of Lawndale High in muteness for a few seconds, then spoke-up. "What an attractive offer. Too bad the holidays aren't for months!"
Kevin wasn't easily deterred. He was the QB, after all. "How about a magazine subscription?"
Brittany joined in. "Would you like to join a CD or Cassette club? 20 albums for a penny, and no obligation to buy, ever!"
"How would you like to receive regular blooming flower seeds every month?"
Mr. DeMartino decided to interrupt before they totally swamped him with their enthusiasm. He had heard enough, at any rate. "It's good to see you both enterprising! I could make a trite observation about wishing you were so enterprising toward your school work, as you are to in this effort to find financing for a new place to loot, but am I the sort of man, who engages in trite observations, Brittany?"
Brittany paused. DeMartino was looking kind of angry, so she decided to disagree. After all, it seemed like he was doing that irony thing. "Umm... No?"
"Good, Brittany, now, while you're on the roll, am I the sort of man who you suppose believes in under riding the indolence of students who already display the work habits of garden slugs?"
Brittany paused. She wasn't sure, but the mention of slugs made her feel gross. "Uh... I'll take no again?"
"Very good Brittany. Now Kevin, given what we have learned from Brittany's razor sharp observations, Kevin is there anything more you would like to say before leaving my front doorstep in an uncomfortable hurry!"
Kevin scratched his head. Unlike Brittany, he had no interested in thinking this through. "Umm, do you want to buy a chocolate bar?" he finally said.
With a great roar of disgust DeMartino swung his door shut, leaving the two teens outside rather confused. "Boy, Mr. D forgot to buy any of our stuff!" Kevin said, confused. "Let's remind him." He reached to ring the doorbell again.
Brittany shook her head. "No - Kevvy - wait. Let's try all those other people first, okay?"
"I don't know babe," Kevin reluctantly said. "Maybe we should give Mr. D another chance."
"Well, all right. Maybe he'll be more receptive to some Shakespeare."
"Uh, babe," Kevin began to hurriedly move towards the next door. "Let's try these other people first, okay?"
Shrugging, Brittany followed her boyfriend.
While Kevin and Brittany were knocking on doors at DeMartino's neighbourhood, Quinn wasn't wasting any time either, as she knocked onto yet another door. "Hi! I'm selling long distance phone cards," she said cheerfully to the young boy that opened the door.
"I just use a credit card," the boy - Danny - said, feeling confused.
Quinn's face fell. "Oh. Well, are you really happy with the service?"
Now it was Danny's turn to become confused. "Um, it's fine."
Quinn shook her head. "I mean, are you really happy?"
"I don't get you. Why shouldn't I be?"
Quinn carefully looked at the boy. Apparently, he was just a tad slow-witted. Good. After living side-by-side with her brother for so many years, she could really jerk the strings of a guy like this one. "I mean like, are you ever like really looking forward to talking to someone and you can't hear them because of crackling and static?" she began her campaign.
"I mean, I know that if I were your friend, I'd want to listen to you, not some static. I mean, you have a really nice voice. Your friend should be able to hear it," Quinn continued.
Danny shook his head. Was the new girl hitting on him? "Thank you," he spoke just in case.
"Just pretend you're calling me," Quinn suggested.
"Really, just try it. My name's Quinn. What's your name?" Quinn elaborated.
"Danny," the boy mechanically said.
Good. He's almost in the right mental condition. "So, call me Danny."
"Hello? Uh, Quinn?"
"Danny? Is that you?"
"Speak up Danny, I can't hear you."
"Hi! Quinn? It's me, Danny."
And now... "I've been thinking about you all day. The way your hair falls over your eyes when you laugh. I can't get it out of my head."
Yeah, sucker. "You got to speak up Danny. Listen, do you want to come over tonight? My folks went away for the whole weekend."
"Yeah!" yelled Danny, all a-flame. "I mean, sure Quinn."
"Oh, that's okay Danny, I understand. I'll see if Pete wants to come over."
"But I said..."
"Click. See what can happen with bad long distance service Danny?"
Oops. Overdid it a bit. Memo to self: tune down the skills a bit, Quinn mentally told herself, and prepared to make yet another spectacular sale.
While Quinn was doing that, her brother and Jane were prepared to do some selling of their own. "Um, hi. I'm selling chocolate bars for the new student coffee-house," Darren spoke, curiously looking at the huge woman before him and Jane
"The new coffee-house?" the giant woman rumbled.
Jane nodded. "Our cybercafe got trashed."
Mrs. Johanson couldn't care less about the cybercafe and the coffee-house, but she had her own agenda. "Well, I enjoy chocolate. Doctor says I'm not supposed to have too much of it, but he wouldn't mind if it's for a good cause. Just a second girls."
Darren frowned. The woman didn't look too good. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just, I was in the basement when the doorbell rang. Need to catch my breath a little. How many chocolate bars you got there?"
"We've got about 2 boxes. That's 24."
"Tell you what, I'll take all of them."
Jane's eyes lit up. "All of them, really?"
Darren was nowhere as enthusiastic. "You sure that's okay with your doctor?"
Mrs. Johanson nodded. "As long as he don't know about it! Now where's that purse..." She suddenly coughed, and fell in a dead faint to the ground.
Darren sighed. "Well, that certainly slammed a lid on our sail," he sadly said.
Jane frowned. "Don't you know CPR or anything?"
Daria - Nah, I once gave the Heimlich Manoeuvre to Quinn."
"Did it work?"
"She wasn't choking. Anyways, let's get out of here before the authorities arrive."
"Why? You afraid of them?"
Darren shrugged. "What can I say? After having a few roadside accidents with my dad and one of my aunts, I don't like being in trouble, you savvy?"
"You've been in roadside accidents? Cool!" Jane said. "So was I..."
"Great, let's get out of here, and then we'll talk."
But at that moment Mrs. Johanson got back on her feet. "Damn hypoglycaemia. I'm sorry, girls, I'm holding up the works. Okay now. How much each are these chocolate bars?" she said, as if nothing has happened.
Darren's eyes narrowed. "Ma'am, I'm not sure I can sell you any chocolate bars."
Instantly, Mrs. Johanson exploded in an eruption worthy of a cannon valley. "What's the matter, my money's not good enough for you?"
Darren reluctantly shook his head. "It's not that, it's just... maybe it's not such a good idea."
"Give me those chocolate bars!" Mrs. Johanson roared.
"Excuse me," Jane quickly said, and dragged Darren by his ear away from Mrs. Johanson. Then, when they were sufficiently far away, she turned onto Darren with full force. "What's the matter with you, we could make a fortune!"
Darren looked sympathetically at the girl. "Jane, Jane, Jane. I don't want to sound so condescending, but did you ever read fairy tales?"
know, about the greedy wolf?"
"Hah? Darren, stop acting so snobbish, and go and sell those chocolates."
"And then that woman drops dead, and her relatives come crawling out of cracks like a clan of roach thralls in that d20 Modern Role-playing game, and sue us down to the last sewn-on patches on our pants!"
"What relatives? She has no relatives!"
"The only thing, Jane, that has no relatives, is the legendary homunculus, that was brought forth by the warm rays of the sun from the fluvial muck and silt."
There was a pause, which ended when Jane finally shook her head. "You know, I know now why I hang around you so much. You really provide great ideas for my paintings." She paused, and added, sadly. "But we could really use that money."
Darren nodded. "Good decision, Jane. After hanging around with mom I really know that you can get sued down to your last pair of pants. Now let's go, I know how we can get some of that money replaced."
Jane shrugged, and they left, ignoring the curses of Mrs. Johanson that came from behind.
Timothy O'Neill was sitting in his house, doing... pretty much nothing, when there was a knock on the door. He opened it, and saw a pair of students outside. "Hey, Mr. O'Neill," the girl student said.
"Hi," O'Neill said, feeling confused and mystified. "It's Jean, right?"
The girl paused, then shook her head. "Can you help our school and us? We need to fix a small matter of smart money."
O'Neill blankly stared. When it came to matters financial, O'Neill was, frankly, a loser, and always asked either Angela Li or Diane Bennett for aid. And, naturally, neither of them was around. "How can I help you?" he finally said, pulling-out his wallet.
"Well, you can buy this box."
"For how much?"
"Two hundred and forty dollars, please," the boy spoke for the first time.
"A bit expensive."
"Hey, you don't like it go and talk with our principal! She is the one establishing he prices!" the girl snapped.
Signing, O'Neill pulled out the according number of bills from his wallet. "Here," he said with a sign. "I hope that the principal will be happy," and he closed the door.
Walking some distance away Jane turned towards Darren. "Two hundred and forty dollars? We needed a rather lesser sum!"
"Hey, if that is the case, want to go back and ransom the chocolates from him? We can have a rather lesser sum easy by doing door to door routine!"
"Not that, it's just that what are we going to do with the excess?"
"Each of us now has a twenty, and the remainder of the excess goes back to the school's treasury, or whatever Li's got."
"Ever heard the story of the man that didn't got to the moon? An officer summoned a soldier, and told him that he was to scout an alien colony on the moon. The army was willing to pay anything for his heroism. The man asked for three million dollars - one million for himself, the other for the officer who had summoned him, and the third for whoever will fly in my stead..."
"And now the straightforward version, please..."
Darren sighed, and began to explain to Jane the nuts and bolts of their high school economy...
Meanwhile, Mr. O'Neill was having financial troubles of his own. "Now what am I going to do with all this chocolate," he muttered, almost crossly. Suddenly he brightened. "Of course!" he quickly dialed a number on the phone and waited.
"Yes?" rumbled a voice on the other end.
"Did you, uh, put a notice in the newspaper about wanting to buy any chocolate anyone had?"
"Can I come over? I have excess chocolate that I'd like to sell."
"Good, I'll be waiting for you," spoke Mrs. Johanson, and hanged the phone.
The next day Darren and Jane were summoned to the principal's office. Only this time, instead of a nervous-looking Mr. O'Neill, there was Mr. DeMartino, looking like he was about to blow at any time.
And Ms. Li was there too, of course. "Well," she began, "you two were a pair of those who'd been selling chocolate, correct?"
"So," exploded suddenly Mr. DeMartino, "two of your number managed to swindle that simpleton O'Neill out of two hundred dollars or more!"
"How'd you know that?"
"Mr. O'Neill managed to re-sell those chocolates to a certain person-" DeMartino began, but this time Ms. Li cut him off.
"That is irrelevant. The point is, despite your excellent performance at the school assembly in September, you two are still under suspicion, and I expect you to act accordingly. Understood, now get out!"
Darren and Jane hurriedly left.
Once they were gone, DeMartino turned onto Ms. Li. "Just what you were doing, Angela? Those two are guilty, I have no doubt."
Ms. Li rolled her eyes. "Just because the boy is driving you nuts with those role-playing game comments of his, doesn't make him evil. Besides, O'Neill was barely coherent, and his 'client' is currently hospitalized..."
"Don't point that silver lining to me, Angela," DeMartino rasped. "Especially since I have to point-out to you that that's bad publicity. First our cybercafe gets robbed, now one of our teachers gets involved in that mess."
"And that makes the union look bad, I see," Ms. Li mused. "They won't be happy with you, right?"
DeMartino's eyes narrowed. "What are you implying, Li?"
"Judging from the ways your eyes are bulging, you know that better than me," Ms. Li told sternly. "Anthony, you know that what O'Neill did was an accident! Stop trying to make this into a career move for yourself! You won't make it! Now I suggest you come to your senses... when you begin to manage the opening of our coffee-house... tonight."
DeMartino's face visibly darkened. "This isn't over, Li," he uttered - before he left.
When Jodie and her boyfriend Mack got called into Mr. DeMartino's office, they didn't expect anything good to happen.
They were right. DeMartino snapped at them, and told them that they were to perform at the coffee-house tonight, and then he sent them out.
"Well, that was unexpected," Jodie muttered.
"Yeah, well, who knew that the mere suggestion that Darren has been selling chocolates with Jane was enough for him to run-off to Ms. Li. I mean, I know that Darren's comparisons to various role-playing games are infuriating, but that much-" Mack said.
"Please. I think that he's a bit afraid of the jocks," Jodie shook her head. "That, or of Mr. DeMartino proper. You should've seen some of the stunts that he pulled off O'Neill. It's like Kevin and DeMartino, only less, well,.. it's different!"
"Speaking of stunts and differences, what are we going to do this evening?" Mack said.
"Well, at least my parents will be happy that I'm in the public eye once again," Jodie muttered as they walked-on, talking to each other.
Neither of them noticed a girl dressed in Goth-style clothing, looking thoughtfully at them.
The coffee-house was packed, as various students chose to appear there - of their own will, or forced by Ms. Li's decision to forget their former "transgressions" in exchange for a stunt in the show. Basically, the acts went slow, though an act of a guitar player who smashed his guitar on stage was well-received.
Jodie watched nervously, as that guy walked on stage, and Brittany with Kevin took it.
"Relax," Mack whispered to her. "You'll be fine. DeMartino knows that that isn't your actual writing, and frankly, he doesn't care less. Now take deep breaths-"
On stage, Brittany was chanting. "Oh Romeo, Romeo! Where for art thou Romeo?"
"I'm right here babes!" Kevin cheerfully replied.
"Deny thy father and refuse thy name! Or thou will not be sworn my love and I will no longer be a Capulet!"
"Hey! Yo! I'm down here! Check it out!"
That was the final straw. "Check it out? You promised to learn your lines, you clown! And what's that skull for?" Brittany exploded.
Kevin paused. All that he could think of to say was... "The skull's cool?"
That did it. Brittany erupted, and literally chased Kevin off the stage, turning Shakespeare into a "Punch and Judy" show.
That alleviated Jodie's mood somewhat, and even the subsequent appearance of a Goth girl, with her poem - "...Anybody home in that rotting bag of flesh?" didn't ruin her improved mood.
"See, you don't want to do poetry for this crowd," Mack told his girlfriend. "Besides, I think it's too late for you to learn juggling."
Jodie smiled a bit. "Thanks, Mack. Maybe this will go smoothly." And she went onto the stage.
"Hey," she confidently said, ignoring the continuous fighting of Kevin and Brittany behind the stage. "Tonight I'd like to read you a story entitled, "Where The Future Takes Us."
"As students standing at the dawn of a brand new century, we face certain choices, how do we prepare for the future? Melody Powers knew how she was going to prepare, as she checked the fit on her tooled leather shoulder holster. She thought about all the communists she would be taking out tonight. Melody harboured no illusions about unilaterally stemming the resurging red tide, but she reflected with a grim smile, what special agent could resist the opportunity to fill a few Bolshevik cemeteries'. As Melody sun-bathed on the Rio beach she looked back over the last few days with a certain quiet satisfaction, twelve dead Russians, five dead Chinese, and three of four dead Cubans. The world was once again safe for democracy she reflected, while watching Tonio's exquisite chest rise and fall with his light snoring. Safe for democracy, or almost safe. Melody brushed some errant grains of sand from her fingers, tied her top back on and reached into her beach bag, Tonio heard nothing and that was a pity, because he would never hear anything again. So long Tonio, she thought as she calmly stood up. I could have loved you if you weren't as red as the blood stain now spreading across the sand. Melody walked calmly away to the hotel, there would be a message there from HQ no doubt. She hoped she had time to shower."
The next moment, audience erupted in yells and cheers.
Suddenly, Kevin jumped forwards onto the stage and yelled. "Brothers! Sisters! Fellow Americans! Let's go outside and crush those anti-American bastards!"
The next moment most of the audience burst outside, yelling vaguely anti-communistic slogans outside, leaving Jodie staring with wide-open eyes.
Nobody saw the Gothic girl slip away in all the commotion and join the general jockish crowd.
It was a new morning in Lawndale, and most of the town was relatively the same, but some parts of it had been altered. Darren John Morgendorffer was walking down the street, when he was joined by Jane Lane.
"So where were you when it all happened?" Jane muttered. "Got scared and ran away?"
"Now how could I compare to you," Darren rolled his eyes. "I merely went and informed the authorities that there was some sort of a riot in the streets, nothing more."
"You know," Jane frowned, "some may think that you're a fink, especially all those that were actually arrested."
Darren's own eyes narrowed. "You know, that happened once in Germany. 'You know, Hans, Adolph and his boys are planning some sort of a putsch, maybe we should inform the district police officer.' - 'Shut up Martha, for I will not be labeled as the neighborhood's snitch. Let those boys have their fun.' And the next thing you know - Adolph is Germany's new overlord, and the world is having its' round two of the war."
Jane paused. "What is your problem, anyways? This damn history topic tends to come-up every once in a while, almost as often as the role-playing game references."
Darren paused. "My grandpa had hailed from that land because of that reason."
Jane paused. "Oh."
"Yup. If you think I'm back, you should've met him. Now he was always ready to talk about the big move. It drove all of us nuts, me included. But, well, you can't erase the past, especially of your own family's."
Jane was also silent. Suddenly she semi-brightened. "Well, I always wanted to have a boyfriend with some sort of a past, and I got a beaut!"
"Yeah, well if that ogre DeMartino assigns some sort of a history project, do not expect my family tree to rescue us. Believe me, otherwise my dad will drive us crazy and deaf."
"Anyways, history and family traumas aside, the cops interference was timely."
"Yeah, I wonder what swine had directed the damn crowd against the Landons," Jane sighed. "And Kevin is sort-of Jodie's friend!"
"Kevin, first and foremost, is a QB. That means, his head is cubic. That means, his brain doesn't work properly. That means-"
"Hey, we've arrived," Jane said. "It's off to the lockers and class."
When Darren came to his locker, Mack was already there. Darren inwardly groaned. "Look," he said plaintively. "I don't care what Jodie or her family thinks, I'm not the Prince of Darkness in the flesh, and I didn't participate in that egging last night."
"I know you didn't," Mack sighed. "And let's not forget that it was Jodie who started that riot. Well, that, and that story of hers that she found on the Internet. I wonder who was the cretin who wrote it in the first place."
"Never mind. Look, I just wanted to say thanks."
"For calling the cops."
Darren's face froze. "How'd you know?"
"I, eh, saw you talking on that payphone. Thanks."
"How'd you saw that?"
Mack shrugged. "Eh, I was a Boy Scout once, you learn and remember odd bits and ends from that period. Why, you girlfriend Jane-"
The bell rang, signifying the beginning of the next class. "You go on, I'll catch up with you," Darren said.
But as soon as Mack went-off, Darren pulled-out a very small cell phone, and dialed a number.
"Hello Marcus," he said. "I've got for you another job."
That night in Lawndale was again dark and damp - and quiet, very quiet. It brought a feeling of déjà vu all over Lawndale, and so it was no surprise, when a particular alarm began to sound. Needless to say, this time the cops arrived pretty quickly... only to see one very pillaged coffee-house stare back at them. This time, the damage was mainly vandalism, will very little actually stolen.
Needless to say, Ms. Li was called again. This time she was more exasperated than furious, and clearly uninterested in "her" coffee-house anymore. And since cops of Lawndale weren't exactly the bright-eyed eagles of justice, they readily wrote-off the case as "currently unsolved", and put it into the folder - where it gathers dust till this very day.