"Hey, c'mon kid. It ain't personal, it's just business. You understand. Jackie, tell 'im he understands."
"I dunno, Liam. I mean, how can you make someone really understand something? How can anyone? It's all a matter'a perception and wanting to believe and he don' look like he's the type that's gonna wanna believe. See, here's the deal, kid. Sometimes in business you have to--"
"Oh fer Chrissake. Just cap him in the knees already, wouldja?"
"Oh. Oh! Sure, Liam."
This was not exactly how he'd expected to spend St. Patrick's Day, Angelo reflected, lying trussed up in a bedsheet and ropes beneath Artie and Leech's treehouse.
Angelo generally liked Saint Patrick's Day. He liked any holiday that gave him an excuse to sit around and get drunk by noon. All he asked was that for people to keep the green beer away from him, and everything was going to be fine. Beer was not meant to be green, or any other weird-ass color, actually. Unfortunately, Jubilee had a strange fascination with the stuff, which tended to make things interesting. Also, St. Patrick's Day was the one day a year where Sean was so flat-out drunk that he didn't notice if half a case of beer walked off on its own, or if he did, he had the good grace not to mention it afterwards. All things considered, it made for a pretty damn good day.
Angelo had woken up to the distinct feeling that someone was watching him. They were trying to be sneaky about the whole thing, but you had to get up pretty early in the morning to fool Mama Espinosa's baby boy. He knew what the sound of breaking twigs outside his window meant.
Odds were someone was trying to set him up for a prank. April Fool's Day might still be two weeks off yet, but that didn't mean anything. Pranks happened all year 'round. Also, there was still that little matter about the webcam in the girl's bathroom that needed to be settled. There had definitely been some threats of revenge directed his way.
All through breakfast Angelo tried to stealthily ask leading questions of the other kids to try to get a fix on who was after him, but came up empty handed. Almost. Jubilee had been conspicuously missing, and from all accounts had been since dawn.
By noon she still hadn't turned up, and Angelo decided to take matters into his own hands.
"Has anyone seen Jubilee?" he asked, sauntering into the living room.
Jono, who had some idea of what Angelo was thinking having been subjected to a rambling diatribe on bad pranks and green beer on the way down to breakfast, snorted and began plucking at his guitar. Angelo shot him a dirty look and flipped him off. Jono returned the gesture.
Paige shook her head slowly. "I told you I hadn't seen her since this morning. Why?"
Angelo flopped down beside her on the couch. "I think she's trying to pull something."
"Well," Paige gnawed on her lip. "She was acting a bit strange, but I figured it was just Jubilee being herself." She shrugged. "I dunno."
Unable to ge any more useful information out of her, Angelo climbed off of the couch and ambled out into the hallway, intent on finding Jubilee. He was just about to head towards the kitchen when he heard the sound of something expensive being knocked over down at the end of the hall, followed by a quiet string of curses. Angelo hurried down the hallway, but at the end of it all he found was a broken vase and a shadow rapidly disappearing around the corner. Aha! Angelo gave chase, following the figure through the building, but never quite catching up enough to it. "You can run, but you can't hide, Jubilee!" he yelled. "I know what you're up to!"
Finally, the shadow darted around a doorway and into the Danger Grotto. Angelo followed it in and shut the door behind him. If she wanted to go get out, she'd have to go through him first.
"All right, you can come out. I know you think you're being cute, Jubilee, but you can just quit it, okay?" A movement in the bushes over by Leech and Artie's treehouse caught his eye. She just didn't know when to give up, did she?
"Jubilee," he warned, determinedly heading in its direction, "I don't care wh--AUGH!"
His foot caught on something solid and he went tumbling down, landing face first in the dirt. When he got his hands on her he was going to...eh?
A stick jabbed him sharply in the shoulder. "All right, kid. Where's the gold?"
Angelo swatted it away. He didn't recognize the voices, which was definitely a bad sign. Pushing himself up onto his elbows, he got a his first look at his assailants -- both of them three feet tall and dressed in green.
Leprechauns. Christ. Angelo closed his eyes again and willed them to go away. Like the fucking fairies and dragons weren't enough, there had to be real leprechauns, too.
"Hey, hey! I'm talking to you!" The stick jabbed harder this time, punctuating every word. "Where. Is. My. Pot. Of. Gold."
"I don't have any gold, moron," Angelo growled, climbing to his feet. Standing, he looked down on the two tiny invaders. Dressed in dark green double-breasted suits and wearing mini fedoras, they didn't look quite like the leprechaun in the Lucky Charms commercials. And they weren't carrying sticks, either, he noted, those were semi-automatics.
The shorter one, (who kinda looked like a red-headed Danny Devito,) stepped forward and gave him another poke. "But I'll bet you know where it is, don'tcha? And you'll tell us, or else ol' Jackie here gets to have a little fun."
Jackie nodded vigorously, waving his gun about none too steadily.
"I don't know what you're on about, man, but you need to stop poking me with that thing." Angelo made a grab for the smaller one, but he winked out of sight before Angelo could lay hands on him.
The leprechaun reappeared about twenty feet to his left. "Get'im, Jackie!"
Angelo whipped his arm in its direction, and heavy tendrils of distended skin flew towards it. Once again, the leprechaun disappeared from view. Angelo felt a heavy weight land on his back and begin kicking at his sides. Twirling around to try to dislodge it (and prevent permanent kidney damage,) he didn't notice the strung up bedsheet until he ran straight into it.
Which led him back to his current predicament.
"I told you, I don't have your damn pot of gold!" he snarled, his mind working frantically as he tried to figure out how to get out of his bindings. He was seated, propped up under the treehouse, wedged uncomfortably between some heavy roots. The sheet was tightly wrapped around him, covering him from his shoulders to his knees. The only bare skin he had free was the skin on his head, and that was harder to control, if for no other reason that he usually couldn't see what he was doing when he tried.
"We know that, we know that!" Liam said, sadly.
"Sure! We looked!" Jackie chimed in.
Liam smacked the back of Jackie's head. "But the thing is, m'boy, someone in your little club did, and unless it reappears in the next few minutes, we're going to have to make an example out of you. We can't afford to have people thinking that they can just up and take our gold, now, can we?"
"Why not? Isn't that part of your whole schtick?" Angelo asked, trying to stall for time, "Trying to keep people from stealing the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow?"
The two leprechauns exchanged a look. "Now see here!" Liam exclaimed indignantly. "This is the modern age now. It is our responsibility to keep up with the times! Adapt to the developing culture!"
"Also, it's easier to wave a gun at people than to try to to trick them," Jackie added.
Liam nodded. "That too."
"And that's why you still put your money at the end of a fuckin' rainbow for people to find?" Angelo snarked. "Christ, ever hear of a bank, you fucking idiots?"
Liam's face turned bright red and his eyes began to bulge. "That's it. Jackie!"
Angelo pinched his eyes shut. Goodbye kneecaps, he thought, when something small and heavy hit his head.
"Excuse Leech, please, but could Leech have that back?"
Angelo opened his eyes. A shining gold coin lay glimmering in his lap. Tipping his head backwards, he saw Leech hanging over the side of the treehouse floor, arm reaching out toward the dropped coin.
Liam hustled over and snatched up the gold piece. "Hey! That's one'a our coins! Where'd you get this, you little heathen?" he shouted at Leech, shaking his fist.
"Back off!" Angelo hauled back and planted his feet solidly in the leprechaun's chest, knocking the wind out of him. "He's a little kid!"
"Leech was playing in the backyard this morning with Artie when Leech found a big pot of play money. So Leech and Artie are playing pirates! Artie has to walk the plank," Leech informed them solemnly.
"I thought you said you never left it alone!" Liam hissed furiously at his partner.
Jackie shrugged guiltily. "I hadda go to the bathroom."
Liam clutched his head. "Idiot."
"Leech?" Angelo called, "You're gonna have to give these two... gentlemen their play money back."
At that, Artie's head popped out over the side of the platform, wearing a bandanna, an eyepatch, and a distinctly sad face.
"Artie wants to know if Artie really has to," Leech reported.
"Artie really has to," Angelo replied, one nervous eye trained on the leprechauns. "Just because you found it, doesn't mean it belongs to you, understand?"
"Okay. Good. Now you and Artie bring down the play money, and I'll...I'll buy you some new--" Angelo cut off mid-sentence, eyes widening as a stream of heavy gold coins poured over the edge of the treehouse. He pressed himself back against the treetrunk as tightly as he could and hoped that whatever coins bounced in his direction didn't cause any lasting harm.
The black iron pot fell from the sky last, hitting the ground with a resounding thunk. Liam waved his hand and the gold rose up from the ground and flew back into it.
Angelo scooted forward and wriggled uncomfortably underneath the ropes and sheet. "All right, you've got your gold back, so how about you untie me and go, okay?"
"We could do that, I suppose," Liam mused as he sifted his hands through the pot of gold, "We could, we could. But we won't."
"You won't?!" Angelo fell over onto his side. "Why not?" he asked, barely suppressing the squeak of outrage that underlaid his voice.
"Because we're still one gold coin short, that's why." Liam fixed an evil eye on him while Jackie tried to loom ominously over his head. "And normally, boyo, that'd be a shooting offense. Toes, right, Jackie?"
Jackie nodded enthusiastically and hitched the gun up to eye level. "Sure thing, Liam."
Liam tched, and pushed the gun back down to point at the ground. "'Normally' I said. We don't want the little ones to get upset," at this he nodded up at Leech and Artie who were still watching from the treehouse, "so we'll take our leave, all right, but we'll leave you tied up, I think. C'mon, Jackie."
Liam stalked off to stand beside his gold, Jackie following loyally, casting disappointed looks back at Angelo as he went. A moment later, they and the gold had disappeared.
"Whoa." Leech's awestruck voice drifted down from the treehouse.
Angelo rolled over onto his back. "Leech, can you go get Jono or Paige? I need some help here."
The two boys nodded and disappeared back into the treehouse. The ran down the steps and out of the Grotto in a clatter noise and excited whispers.
Angelo wiggled about and tried to loosen the ties while he waited, but they wouldn't budge. Soon enough footsteps sounded nearby.
Angelo groaned. Dios. Of all the people...
Jubilee staggered into sight, clad in skin-tight green pants, glittery shamrock shirt and a plastic green fedora, clutching a suspiciously used-looking drink funnel in one hand. At the sight of him, she began to giggle uncontrollably. "Ha! Lookit you! What happened? Leech and Artie just ran outta here talking about pirates and munchkins. Did you forget to pay off the munchkin pirate king or something?"
"No," he grumbled reluctantly. "It was leprechauns. How will you untie me?"
"Leprechauns?" She shrieked, doubling over with laughter.
"Are you gonna untie me?" he asked again, "or are you gonna stand there and laugh?"
"Actually," she informed him, "I'm going to go get some Lucky Charms. All this talk of leprechauns is making me hungry." Taking another admiring look at his tied up form, she let loose another peal of laughter before wobbling out of sight. "Leprechauns, man..."
Angelo watched her go. He should have told her that Artie and Leech had tied him up playing pirates. Hopefully she'd manage to keep her mouth shut and not tell the rest of the kids. After all, who would believe-
"Hey!" Jubilee's voice shrilled from out in the hall, "Guess what Angelo did?"
Oh, hell. He was never gonna hear the end of this.