cloudmonet’s kim stories

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Circumstantial Evidence

Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, Rufus, Monique, Felix Renton, Wade Load, Dr. Betty Director, Duff Killigan, Hank Perkins, Lars, Dr. Drakken, and Shego are characters from the Kim Possible show, created by Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, owned and copyright © by the Walt Disney Company. The story takes place in March of Kim and Ron’s sophomore year of college, nearly three years after “So the Drama,” and shortly after my earlier story, “Opening Arguments.” This story © 2005 by cloudmonet.

“We’re gonna have to be more careful lad,” said Duff Killigan, downing a mug of ale in the dimly-lit room. “The lass almost got us charged with a big one.”

Hank Perkins looked most uptight and uncomfortable, especially whenever one of the dancing ladies left the stage and started, shall we call it, flirting with him. “Wouldn’t a regular bar have served just as well?”

“Wha’? Don’t tell me ye dinna like the view. Yer office is about as insecure as they come. The lass kinna come here. She’s nae twenty one yet, and there’s at least several places like this in every big city. By the time she figures where we are, we’re done talking.”

“What are we going to do about her?” asked Hank.

“Yer plans get too complicated, lad. Forget trying to argue the legalities of what the lass does. Fine, if it helps get us released, but ye kinna turn the tables on her and get her sued or prosecuted. Forget yer Lisa Tudor scheme. Ms. Tudor’s got her own lawyers, and publicists, and if they dinna think it’s a good idea to sue the lass for damage to the jet, she’s nae gonna do it. That’s what Drakken never figured. When ye try to turn the tables on the lass, she takes it personal. That’s when ye’re in trouble.”

“It is personal,” said Hank. “I’m the one who gets the villains free, and she wants to bring me down.”

“Aye, lad, of course she does, but see,” Duff aimed his big finger at Hank. “Ye kinna win when the lass gets involved. We have to assume she’s right outside the door where we can’t see her, and gonna follow us to the ends of the earth. She knows ye want to free Lars. She told me so. She wants Lars to turn on ye. Then ye’re in jail and everyone else stays there longer, makin’ less trouble for the world, and that’s nae fun!”

“Hi, handsome,” a young lady said to Hank while loosening the knot of his silk tie. Her costume, or lack thereof, must sadly remain undescribed. “Fun is what Trixie’s all about!”

“No thanks, not now,” Hank said with some irritation.

“How about you, Scotty?” Trixie asked Duff. “Wanna beam me up?”

“Good one, lass,” he replied pleasantly, slipping her a five dollar bill. “Buy yerself a cool one on old Duff and come back later. Right now I gotta focus on the scheme.”

“So you’re, like, real criminals?”

“Aye, lassie, I’m nae good. And my friend’s a lawyer.”

“I’m impressed,” Trixie said with a smile, and sauntered over to another table.

“Ye’re too uptight, lad. Ye need to relax more. What’s the point o’ bein’ evil if ye dinna enjoy the perks?”

“It’s just hard to concentrate,” said Hank.

“It seems like we hardly spend any time together,” Kim told Monique, as they sat in the booth eating frozen yogurt.

Monique smiled sadly. “We’re not taking any of the same classes this semester, and not hanging out in the room together, either.”

“Are you okay with Yvonne?”

“We get along fine. It’s Felix I’m worried about. Actually, Yvonne and I are both worried about him.”

“He keeps saying he’s tight with Belinda.”

Monique snorted. “He’s tight with you guys. He wouldn’t do anything that would even slightly separate you. I think she’s just playing him. She glomps onto him last fall, gets him all happy— he’s never really had a girl before, right?— then she’s all, ‘bye now, we worked out our karma—’ so callous. Now she’s all glomping again and using your desire to be with Ron every night to keep him living in her room.”

“He asked if he could bring her to the wedding.”

“I’m not saying he doesn’t think he likes her,” said Monique. “I’m saying he’s not getting any chance to be objective.”

“Felix can take care of himself, believe me,” said Kim. “Belinda’s not the only girl he’s ever, you know—”


“Not gonna say any more.”

“Okay, I’ll drop it,” said Monique. “What about you and Ron? What made you change your mind about waiting till graduation? You’re not expecting, are you?”

“No, not at all,” said Kim. “It’s just time for this to happen, it really is. Being married makes more sense than not being married.”

“You sure you’re ready? You sure he’s ready?”

“We’ve only been companions for fifteen and a half years,” Kim said sarcastically. “Maybe I should get to know him a little better.”

“You gonna change your name?”

“Check it out,” said Kim, taking her driver’s license out of her wallet.

“Kimberly Ann Stoppable,” Monique read.

“I just renewed it, and since the wedding’s just a couple of weeks after my birthday, I thought, why not?”

“El Diablo, you have a visitor,” said the guard, unlocking the door. “Trixie McAllister, says she’s your girl.”

Lars didn’t know any Trixie McAllister, but wasn’t about to spoil the plot, if this was a plot. “Trixie’s here?” he asked, in as perky a voice as he could muster.

“Yeah, come on, walk in front of me.”

Lars walked ahead to a visiting room which was set up so the only possible contact was through a hole in the bulletproof plastic divider. “Have a heart, Mitch. This is my girl!” he complained.

“Just following procedure,” said the guard. “Earn enough merits and we might let you sit together some time.”

Lars looked through the glass at a very curvy girl in a tight gray sweater and bluejeans, chewing gum. “Hey, bad boy,” she said, reaching through the hole to caress his hand. “Miss ya.”

“Miss you too, babe,” Lars replied. “Guess this spoiled all our plans.”

“Can’t get what you can’t see. You know how Kimberly gets sometimes.”

“Oh, yeah, Kimberly. How we gonna deal with her?”

Trixie looked confused. “I don’t— um, have an answer for that.”

“Who’d you ride with?”

“Scott brought me here.”

“Scott— is he the guy who plays golf?”

“Yeah, talks golf all the time. Don’t be jealous, babe, just a friend. I got something, show how much I love ya.” She pulled her hand back, then handed him a package of cigarettes. “Read the box, babe, you’ll get a laugh. The new warning label’s a riot, I swear.”

“Thanks,” he said, putting them in the pocket of his orange jumpsuit.

“Share a few with your friends. I’ll bring more. I’ll bring ya somethin’ to read.”

“Sure thing, babe.”

By the time Trixie wiggled out of the room after giving Lars a big kiss through the hole in the bulletproof plastic, he thought he had it figured out. Scott the golfer was probably Duff Killigan, an old friend of Hank Perkins. They couldn’t get Drakken’s cloaking technology because of Kim Possible. Maybe Possible had them all under surveillance, hence the use of Trixie. Lars guessed she was some lady of the night Killigan picked up somewhere, maybe a wannabe actress.

Back in the cell, he looked at the package of cigarettes, after passing two to his roommates, Bob and Stretch. Bob was serving a six month sentence for lying to the FBI about insider trading, and Stretch sent millions of annoying emails promoting bogus male enhancement products. Like a lot of guys in federal, they weren’t really dangerous. Lars was more than six foot tall, totally buff, with a nasty scar on his shaved head, and spoke with a hoarse growl like a pro wrestler. If Lars wanted to be left alone, they left him alone, and right now he wanted to puzzle over the package of cigarettes.

“Read the box. The warning’s a riot,” Trixie had said, but it just said, “Warning, cigarette smoke has been shown to cause lung cancer and emphysema.” Nothing funny about that. Maybe “Read the box,” was the real message, but what was there to read? He opened it. On the inside of the lid was a hand-drawn arrow that he hadn’t noticed at first, pointing to the corner and down. Wait— one of these filter cigarettes wasn’t really a filter cigarette, but a plastic tube with a switch. There was writing inside the box.

Monique wrestled the steering wheel of her big green Buick as she backed into the parking place. “One hour parking,” she said, putting four quarters into the parking meter. “That’s not gonna be long enough.”

“If it’s not, we can move the car,” said Kim. “Let’s do this.” They walked around the corner to Rowena’s Bridal Boutique, a small shop with mannequins in wedding dresses posed in the three display windows. They opened the heavy glass door and walked in.

“Wow, this is it,” Kim said, gazing at all the white dresses. “I’m gonna wear one of these. This is real.”

“Realer than his name on your driver’s license?” asked Monique.

“That’s usually in my pocket,” said Kim.

“Hi, may I help you?” asked a pretty blonde woman in a brown dress, with a few smile wrinkles around her eyes.

“I’m Kim, I’m getting married April 10, and I need a wedding dress,” she said.

“I’m hoping you can find something you like off the rack, because there won’t enough time for custom.”

“So, what you have is what I see?”

“I hope you see something you like.”

“Well, okay, I’m looking,” Kim said, moving from mannequin to mannequin.

“This one’d get some attention,” said Monique, drawn to a modern-looking dress with a very deep neckline, strap behind the neck, and a clingy skirt with an angled hem.

“This post-contemporary look is very popular with many of the young brides who buy here,” said the saleslady.

“It’s a very nice gown, but it doesn’t look like a wedding dress to me,” said Kim.

“Maybe you’re thinking of a more traditional look,” the blonde woman suggested, leading her toward a ballroom gown with sequins and beads all over the bodice and a skirt with way too much lace trim.

Monique made a gagging face behind the saleslady’s back.

“See, I like the bare shoulders and full skirt, but this one’s got way too much stuff all over it,” said Kim. “It’s all ewww, you know? No sequins, okay, and maybe just a little bit of lace.”

“Oooh!” said the saleslady. “Kim, I do have your dress.” She led Kim and Monique out the front door. In the display window on the left side of the door was a white gown with a subtle sparkle in the weave of the cloth, a full but not extremely full skirt with lace trim at the bottom. “Do you like it? Do you want a closer look? I’ll unlock the case.”

“Okay,” said Kim.

They went back inside, and the saleslady unclipped the key ring from the belt of her dress, unlocked the door on the back of the case, and slid it open.

“Come on up,” she said, climbing onto the platform.

“I’m liking it,” Kim said, feeling the silky smooth cloth of the bodice and skirt. There was a band of subtle white embroidery across the top of the bodice which matched the pattern of the lace at the hem.

“It’s a wedding dress,” said Monique, standing next to a mannequin wearing a pink bridesmaid’s dress of similar design. “I guess I can live with bein’ seen in this.”

“How many bridesmaids do you have?” the saleslady asked.

“Just two,” Kim replied. “Here’s one, the other lives in Montana, but I have her measurements.”

Felix was sitting in his wheelchair, Belinda on the computer chair facing Ron, who sat on the edge of the bed. They were all in the room supposedly shared by Ron and Felix, but actually Kim was living there now. Her clothes filled Felix’s closet. Her computer sat on the counter beside Ron’s.

“Just relax, Ron, you’ll enjoy this,” said Felix.

Rufus was curled up half-asleep on top of the pile of shredded paper towels in his plastic nest box.

Belinda smiled an enigmatic smile that reminded Ron of Kim. “Maybe in addition to learning something about each other, we’ll learn something about ourselves,” she said.

“This is against my better judgment,” said Ron.

“Against your fear, perhaps,” said Belinda. “What could there be about you, a real hero, that you wouldn’t want to face?”

“I don’t know. This already feels like psychology class, which really messes with my head. Okay, maybe my parents aren’t the best in the world. Maybe they should’ve told me the garden gnome didn’t really make the sprinkler spray on me. Maybe they did make me go to Camp Wannaweep.”

“Uh-oh,” said Felix. “I’ve heard about this stuff before.”

“I don’t really wanna talk about it either,” said Ron.

“Then don’t,” said Belinda, pressing her hands together and bowing, like Yori often did. “You may have thoughts and feelings come up as I do this. You can talk about them, or not, as you wish.” She stood up, leaned over, and moved her hands around the contours of Ron’s face and shoulders, just barely not touching him. “I feel her presence everywhere, guarding and protecting you,” Belinda said. “Her devotion and love are deep, and old.”

“Are you talking about Kim?” Ron asked.

“A strong guardian spirit, very strong,” Belinda replied. “You often have what seems like astonishing good luck in a fight.”

“You mean like I’ll stumble, and knock someone out? We, uh, kinda jokishly call that ‘the Ron factor.’ ”

“There’s something else,” Belinda said, “a yellow energy, reminding me of the incarnation of Buddha as the monkey king.”

“Buddha was into mystical monkey power?” asked Ron. “I didn’t know that! I got it from the jade idols that Monkey Fist used. Huh. Mystical monkey power’s a real thing. Is the Ron factor guardian spirit real, too?”

“Can I look in your eyes? Would it spook you too much?”

“All right,” said Ron, looking into the deep space of Belinda’s dark brown eyes, very different from the beautiful jade pools of Kim’s.

“I’m looking into your eyes and seeing a strong, beautiful woman with emerald eyes, big and round, and hair flowing over her shoulders like rivers of fire.”

“That’s gotta be Kim,” said Ron. “You’re reading my mind or something, cause I was thinking of her eyes when I looked at yours.”

“She says you presently know her by that name,” Belinda said.

“I thought a spirit guide or guardian had to be a spirit,” said Felix. “Kim’s a real girl.”

“Ron and Kim have merged to some extent,” Belinda explained. “The spirit of one protects the other. It’s how they work together so well.”

“So the Ron factor really is the Kim factor,” said Ron. “That’s what I told Dr. Director.”

“So here’s maps o’ the cities and the prison area, showin’ exactly where I want you to leave the cars and trucks,” Duff Killigan told Hank Perkins, late in the evening of another day, over a pitcher of beer in the shadowy corner of a different bar, leaning toward his ear to be heard over the band’s ear-throbbing heavy metal.

“You are going to wear something less conspicuous for this operation, aren’t you?” Hank said to Duff’s ear.

“Aye, I’ve got jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps for us both. We’ll be nigh impossible to describe. We set the date for the lass’s birthday, not that that’s a guarantee she’ll be distracted.”

“Wouldn’t her wedding day be better?”

“Nae, she’ll be expecting trouble then, and she’ll probably get it from someone or other. We dinna wanna be the ones who give it to her. Personal, remember. Never make it personal for the lass.”

“And her 20th birthday’s not personal?”

“Nae so much, with the wedding so near.”

Dot dot dadot! Kim was sitting in a booth with Ron at the local Bueno Nacho. He was having seconds, after Rufus ate most of his first meal. Kim pulled the kimmunicator from her pocket and took a sip from her soda to wash down the mouthful of naco she was chewing before asking, “What’s the sitch?”

“Killigan’s been spotted,” Wade replied, “last night in the Riverwood Bar in Kansas City. He was with a younger man. Slash Skulker described him as a ‘business nerd.’ I’m thinking Perkins.”

“Do I want to know who Slash Skulker is?”

“Lead guitarist of the Samurai Panthers, a heavy metal band that plays bars in the midwest. They don’t have a record contract, but they get a lot of downloads. I met him online. This could be about Lars. He’s in the federal prison less than a hundred miles away.”

“They’re getting smarter,” said Kim. “Who could overhear what they’re plotting with live heavy metal, and I can’t go into bars yet, not in most states, not legally anyway.”

“Show me your disguises and I’ll whip up ID’s.”

“If Killigan and Perkins recognized us in the pigeon-feeding disguises through a bad surveillance camera, they’ll know us in person for sure and bail on whatever they’re planning. Better to catch them in the act. I’m guessing they’re planning an escape for Lars the day and hour of my wedding. Won’t they be surprised when Yori and Hirotaka drop in to spoil the party!”

“We’re gonna be lucky if three or four of your foes don’t plan something at the same hour,” said Wade. “But we probably should give anything that can put Hank away top priority, unless there’s another Chixulub level sitch.”

“If there’s another Chixulub level sitch, Ron and I are in, no matter what.”

“I second that,” said Ron.

“Understood,” said Wade.

“Who’s gonna be at the console while you’re at the wedding?” Kim asked.

“I don’t want you worrying about that. I’ll handle everything.”

“Any word about Wanda Hu Khan?”

“Nothing,” said Wade. “She just disappeared after her escape. She could be anywhere by now, and there’s nothing about her that’s easy to spot.”

“I’m not sure even Singapore could have held her for long,” said Kim. “Be just like her to try something during the wedding.”

“Monkey Fist got a reduced sentence from the Egyptian authorities in exchange for valuable information about certain supposedly undiscovered tombs and temples,” said Wade, “but he’ll still be locked up for some time unless he escapes.”

“Not impossible,” said Kim.

“Central Asian Jihad’s got their usual labyrinth of plots, but most of the active ones don’t involve America. The relevant authorities are on it.”

“The Seniors?”

“Still apparently estranged over La Bella Rouge, who’s still all over Junior,” said Wade. “I think the elder Senior’s divided in his mind between being angry at Junior for taking his woman away, and being glad that Junior actually has a steady girlfriend.”

“Do you have any sources deeper than the Weekly World Scandal?” asked Kim.

“Does he need any?” asked Ron.

Rufus, who was lying on his back with a bulging tummy, burped.

Trixie sat on Duff’s lap in the dark corner, doing certain special things she knew he really liked. “So I want you to give these to Lars tomorrow,” he whispered in her ear, handing her another sealed pack of cigarettes, which she put in her bag. “If he got the message, he should ask you something about Kimberly’s birthday party. If the cutting laser works, he’ll say something about candles for the cake. Flirt with him all ye like, fill the visiting time like ye’re really his girl.”

“I’d like to see you later, Scottie,” she said. “Ya still at the Clark Motel?”

“Nae, I moved to the Riverside Inn, room 9. Remember lass, dinna say a thing about our business there, or anyplace else but here.”

“Got it,” she whispered, and ran her fingers through his beard.

Kim held Ron’s hand as they walked together to the third floor of Mathom House, their backpacks filled with texts and books from the library. It was about six thirty. They stopped at the landing to look out the plate glass window at the beautiful rose sunset over the pale green of the budding bigleaf maples. It was March 28th, Kim’s 20th birthday, a sunny spring day after a long wet winter. Ron had already given her the abalone necklace she was wearing. She felt pretty good. Ron opened the door to a hallway decorated with twisted ribbons of sparkling crepe paper, and red foil letters on a string at the threshold of the lounge saying HAPPYBIRTHDAYKIM.

“Okay,” she said, cautiously approaching the central lounge.

“You think someone’s gonna do something weird?” Ron asked.

“This is Mathom House,” Kim replied.

“Point taken. You wanna put the books away first?”

“Hmm,” Kim said, looking at Ron suspiciously. “Here,” she said, handing him her backpack. “Be a sweetheart.”

Ron unlocked the door to his room and handed the backpacks to someone.

Kim stood under the birthday banner with her hands on her hips, tapping her right foot. “Come on out, everyone. Don’t you know you can’t surprise Kim Possible?”

Out came Monique, Yvonne, Belinda, three other girls, five guys, and last of all, Felix, holding the birthday cake in his lap, all singing the happy birthday song.

“Okay, spill,” said Monique, as they all took seats in the lounge. “You heard us, right?”

“First of all,” said Kim, “if you want to surprise me, you’d better surprise Ron, too. I can tell, the moment he tries to hold back anything. But aside from that, yeah, I heard you.”

“Is that a new necklace?” asked Belinda. “It’s beautiful.”

Lars had a reputation on the floor for being the dumb tough guy. The guards were always careful to avoid a situation where he might overpower them, but weren’t really expecting him to do anything clever. Cutting through bars with a laser late at night while his cellmates were asleep— they might expect that— if Lars happened to have a laser. That he would cut the steel only after disabling the associated alarm wires with the same laser, this they wouldn’t expect.

Not that Lars had an easy time getting over the wall. He did have to overpower a couple of guards, knock them out with another special cigarette device, put a uniform over his orange jumpsuit and briefly help hunt for himself, but by the appointed time he was in the thick brush at the rendezvous point.

A blue pickup truck pulled to a stop a couple hundred feet down the road. A stout hairy arm waved a baseball cap. Lars leapt out of the bushes and ran toward the truck.

Dot dot dadot! Rufus ran from his nest across the blanket and chattered in Kim’s ear when the kimmunicator’s ring didn’t wake her up. “Oh, Rufus, thanks,” she said, when he handed it to her. The lights outside gave a trace of light to the room, so she put her thumb over the kimmunicator’s camera.

“Wade, is that you?”

“Lars broke out of prison about an hour ago,” he said.

“Any private planes in the air?”

“They’ve tightened security at the airports. They think he’s still on the ground.”

“Okay, Killigan— I want to know where he’s been staying, and check every bar, casino, or other adult entertainment place in the Kansas City area, both states, and same thing with Perkins. I’m on my way.”

Kim put her hands on Ron’s cheeks, directed his mouth toward her lips, and gave him a big kiss.

“Oh, uh?” he said articulately.

“Wake up, sweetheart! We got work to do. Lars broke out.”

“Okay, okay,” he said, flipping on the lamp and looking for clean mission clothes. “Let’s do this!”

The pale blue Volvo came to a stop in front of an apartment building not far from the river, behind a white Dodge Caravan. Duff and Lars, both wearing gray hooded sweatshirts and jeans, walked toward the front door, reached for but did not actually press the security buzzer. After waiting about a minute, they walked back to the street, got into the Dodge Caravan, and drove away.

A small black jet with “KP” monogrammed on the tail flew over the Rocky Mountains toward Kansas City. Kim was at the controls, while Ron was sitting next to her, holding the kimmunicator while they both talked to Wade.

“I got something good,” Wade was saying. “Killigan’s spending the night in room 22 of the Quiet Night Inn. His car, a yellow Hyundai hatchback, is still there but he’s not in the room. The hostess says there was a turquoise blue Nissan pickup parked beside it earlier. So I traced the Hyundai to a rental agency, and found a whole fleet of vehicles rented to the same credit card at the same time, supposedly for a bunch of executives of the Perkins Company to use while in town for an important conference.”

“The Perkins Company,” Ron repeated.

“Great stuff, Wade,” said Kim. “Send me a complete list of descriptions and license numbers.”

“Beaming jpegs of each one to your kimmunicator’s hard drive,” said Wade. “Done and done. Of course in a metropolitan area this size, finding one car, let alone fourteen, is not easy. The Kansas State Police and the FBI are looking, but, wait, they did find one of them. It’s in a Smarty Mart parking lot, the gray Buick Skylark.”

“Thirteen different, common looking cars, and we want to find one that’s moving,” said Ron. “How we gonna find one of thirteen possible cars in a big area like Kansas City?”

“Well, it’s something,” said Kim. “If the other parked cars are in similar places, the police may find them pretty quickly. If not—”

Wade turned away from the camera and started typing something on another keyboard. “Oh really?” he said, and typed some more. Then he turned to yet another keyboard and typed something else. “Hold on Kim, I got something,” he said, and turned back to her. “The adult entertainment search paid off. I found Lars’ alleged girlfriend, one Trixie McAllister, West End Trailer Park, number 14. According to another dancer who works at the same establishment, Trixie gets quite touchie-feelie with Killigan when he comes in. Seems to genuinely like him.”

“Ewww—” said Ron.

“Trixie’s home right now. She’s staying up late for some reason. Maybe she’s waiting for Duff and Lars to show up.”

“You’re online buddies with an exotic dancer?” Kim asked Wade.

“She’s a nice girl,” he replied defensively. “She’s got a webpage filled with her paintings. She’s a fine arts major at the University of Kansas. Dancing pays better than modeling.”

“And she lives next door to Trixie?”

“No, I got Trixie’s trailer on a spy satellite cam.”

“Unless you get a better lead, we’ll go there,” said Kim.

“Listen to ’em yap yap yap,” Duff said, as police voices crackled on the scanner. “They know the cars.” He turned onto a residential street, parked in the shadows between streetlights where all the house windows were dark, got a pair of license plates out of his golf bag, a screwdriver, and quickly changed the plates. “Now they dinna know this one anymore,” he said. “Now get in the driver’s seat.”

Lars scooted over, and Duff climbed into the passenger seat and handed Lars a checkbook. “Yer name’s Thor Anderson, I believe, but ye might want to check that. There’s about a hundred thousand dollars in this account, give or take a few, and ye live at this address in Milwaukee. Yer driver’s license shows ye with hair, so stop shavin’ yer head. Where ye go from there is yer business, but I suggest ye take a cruise somewhere ye like and don’t come back.” Duff thumbed through a bunch of bogus vehicle registration cards before finding the one that matched the description of the present car. “Here’s the matching vehicle identification plates, too. They’ll just stick on top of the real ones. Might help if ye’re stopped. So start driving toward Milwaukee, not too fast, like ye’ve been going a long ways and ye’re tired.”

“How can I ever thank you?” Lars asked, as Duff got out of the car.

“Just go lad, go,” Duff replied.

After Lars drove away, Duff walked across the street to an old Toyota hatchback, unlocked the door, and drove away.

Ron drove the stealth bike through obscure towns in eastern Kansas in the predawn hours, following Kim’s, and Wade’s changing directions. So far the police had found none of the other rental cars.

“A car pulled into the trailer park, but the person who got out is too small to be Duff, and went to a different trailer,” Wade told Kim. “The light’s gone out in Trixie’s trailer.”

Ron pulled into an all night convenience store.

“Ron, you’re all jittery already,” said Kim. “You don’t need more coffee.”

“I need the restroom,” he said, parking at the door beside an old Toyota hatchback.

“There’s a golf bag in the back of that car,” said the ever observant Kim, “and look in the store!”

“Oh my gosh,” said Ron, looking through the window at the short stout man standing by the microwave on the counter. “Is that Duff?”

“You have the most amazing luck,” whispered Kim. “Where’s Lars?”

“Maybe he’s in the bathroom,” Ron suggested, but what came out of the one-person restroom was a woman with short brown hair and excessive makeup, wearing a denim jacket over a black miniskirt with net stockings and high heels.

“I wonder if that’s Trixie,” Kim whispered.

The woman got a diet soda out of the cooler, a muffin wrapped in cellophane, and presented these to the man at the microwave.

Ron, meanwhile, walked over to the corner of the building and downloaded his used coffee behind the tree. He ran back toward Kim just as she was confronting the man.

“Duff Killigan, I’d like a word with you,” said Kim.

“Get my golf bag!” Duff told Trixie. “How on earth did you ever find me, lass?”

“Don’t even try,” said Ron, grabbing Trixie from behind while she tried to unlock the car door.

Trixie spun around with a knife in her hand and somehow found herself flat on her back on the pavement with her knife under Ron’s foot. He picked it up, looked at it, and tossed it up on the roof. “I may not have a black belt in anything,” Ron said, “but I’ve got a rainbow of other colors in all kinds of stuff, so you just stay right there.”

Trixie looked at Ron with fear widening her eyes, and didn’t move.

Kim and Duff were trading punches and kicks, hers looking far more professional than his, and striking target more often, but not seeming to have much effect.

“You know the guy at the counter’s gonna call the police about the fight in his parking lot,” said Kim. “They know you and Trixie helped Lars break out of prison with a laser powered by the battery from my ring!”

“The lad’s nae gonna call the police, lass,” Duff said, spinning with his fist aimed at Kim’s head, which she dodged. “I saw to that before I came out.”

Kim tried to flip him, but somehow he seized her wrist and twirled around to throw her down and got a kick to the jaw for his trouble. Kim flipped over and landed on her feet.

“Maybe ye can throw henchman and such, but ye’re no match for a brawlin’ Scottish highlander.”

“You’re panting, Duff. You’re getting tired.” Kim punched at his head from the right, the left, then stomped on his foot and punched his stomach.

Duff suddenly stood still. “Is that all ye’ve got, lass? I thought ye were better than that.”

“Oh, I’ve got more,” said Kim, as Ron, wearing his motorcycle helmet, flew through the air to butt Killigan’s head from behind. Kim stepped aside as Duff crashed to the pavement with Ron on top of him.

Ron got up, shook his head, removed and examined at his dented helmet. “We gotta get better helmets,” he said. “Think about it. What would happen to this if we got into a real wreck?”

“I’ve got you,” Kim said, giving him a brief kiss as the police car Ron had called for pulled into the parking lot.

“Without the battery in the laser, which Lars either took with him or threw away somewhere, there’s no proof connecting Killigan directly with the escape,” Wade told Kim, who was lounging on the spare bed while Ron played a computer game. “As for Trixie, the packages of cigarettes were sealed, so she can and is validly claiming that she didn’t know what was inside.”

“So we failed, really,” said Kim.

“Not completely. Duff is serving thirty days for possession of homemade explosive or incendiary golf balls.”

“That’s no big,” said Kim.

“It gets bigger. The hair and fiber people found some interesting evidence linking Hank Perkins, Brigetta, and Duff Killigan to many of the rental cars. Lars, unfortunately, sheds no hair from his shaved head. They checked all the dumpsters and garbage cans near the parking places, but found no trace of either Lars’ prison jumpsuit or the guard uniform.”

“So this means—”

“We’ve convinced every law enforcement agency that’s crossed paths with this case that Hank Perkins is the mastermind. We just can’t prove it, yet. That’ll come with complete investigation of the financing.”

“We’re winning,” said Ron, pausing and saving his game.

“You think?” asked Kim.

“Sure. Hank’s on the defensive now, too worried about his minions spilling on him to keep moving his master plan, whatever it was.”

“I hope you’re right,” said Kim.

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