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16th, 17th December 2015
The thirty odd years Craig knew her, he thought he'd seen everything. The moment he walked into his step sister's house he was instantly proved wrong.
Something had to be amiss if his nephew was allowed to answer the door with the mat on his head. He didn't expect though to walk into the living room and find his sister floating on her back from the ceiling in a makeshift hammock made out of old bed sheets, pushing a vacuum back and forth upside down.
She seemed happy enough. Strangely blissful despite how painful and awkward it looked. So Craig waited for her to finish, which would have to be soon. Even Triah wouldn't clean the same spot with one thing for more than ten minutes before she'd have to move to another. He wondered if she managed to put up that contraption, couldn't she have vacuumed using a similar method to get up there.
Once the machine was off and the house was mostly peaceful again, Craig spoke up, "you know, you could have asked."
Triah hadn't noticed him enter, she jumped slightly, rocking the hammock enough to make Craig worried she would fall out. Instead she rolled over in it to put the vacuum down onto the old chair she only used to step on and reach things. God forbid she used it as an actual chair. After every clean it would go back to the shed, which she always wore some rain coat that reminded him of a hazmat suit to go into.
"Please, you'd miss so many spots," Triah scoffed mockingly.
"Ever heard of a feather duster? How dirty can a ceiling get?" Craig asked, knowing he'd regret it.
Triah wasn't shocked that he asked, like she usually would and he expected. Her eyes merely rolled. "This is why I avoid your place. Dusting a high object without vacuum? You don't own that house, the dust does. I don't know how you can live with that."
"You'd hoover the floor afterwards," Craig said.
Triah laughed as she dropped down onto the floor, thankfully feet first. "Oh Craig, sometimes I wonder how you dress in the morning."
Craig laughed with her, "like normal people do. You should try it."
"No thanks. I've seen you wear the same trousers two days in a row," Triah said with disgust in her voice. Her eyes widened as she looked around. "I thought it was too quiet, where's..."
On cue her son ran by Craig and into the living room, leaving green tracks behind him. The mat on his head had deposited brown needles onto his head, shoulders and then the carpet. Naturally some dropped into the green as well, which Craig noticed looked a little sticky and was already drying.
"Scott, stop. Still!" Triah shouted. To Craig's surprise, Scott did stop. "I... where, have you even been to look like that?"
The boy bit his lip as if he was trying not to laugh. "Nowhere."
"Nowhere is made of green tar, is it?" Triah said tiredly. She turned to Craig, her eyes flickered with despair. "I don't even have anything green."
"Yes you do, in the sink," Scott said, then he gasped as he realised he'd told her after all.
"Which sink?" both Craig and Triah wondered aloud. Triah's face suddenly was a picture of horror. "That, that's the stuff I use to make my toilet bleach with."
Scott shook his head, smiling sheepishly. "No it's not."
Craig involuntarily backed off a few steps, fearing for his life. Triah had smoke rising from her. "That's mummy's cleaning cupboard. How did you get through the padlocks!?" she shouted.
"Uhoh, released the Kraken," Scott said in his uncle's direction before he escaped in the same direction he was running to earlier. His target was the kitchen door. Craig knew the boy wouldn't survive the day if he went in there that like that. As expected, Triah bolted after him, grabbing him in time as his hand touched the handle of the door. Scott did as he normally did once he was caught, reach up to give her a peck on the cheek, all while smiling innocently. In a couple of years he wouldn't be able to pull that off anymore, Craig thought.
"Ohno, not this time," Triah growled. "You're going in the bath."
Since the mummy's boy routine clearly wasn't working, Scott's huffy nature took over and he tried to pull away. "Aaaw but mum, I had one two hours ago!" He was already up to her shoulders in height, so he managed to get out of her hold.
Triah's face turned red, "I told you not to play football in the garden, I just cut the grass." She had her arms back around his shoulders, guiding him back the way he came. Craig was a little impressed that she didn't force him to have a piggy back ride to the bathroom, like she used to.
"So, why bother if I can't go on it?" Scott whined further.
"It's raining, that's why!" Triah snarled at him.
Craig just managed to hear his commbadge chirping at him over the noise. He took it out of his pocket, tapping it before he brought it closer to his face.
"Don't have any kids," Triah hissed to him as she passed by.
Craig nodded, "no problem, already there." Once they were gone he felt his shoulders relax. He didn't even notice they were tense until he did. "Yeah?" he said into the commbadge.
"Craig, it's me." Usually hearing Lena's voice brightened his mood, regardless of what was happening. Her tone though instead left him worried. "We have a crasher. We're going to need to tighten security. Understand?"
He did. The word that stumped him though was crasher. He thought about it as he made his way over to the window, looking out of it gingerly before shutting the curtains. In that fraction of a second he noticed a human sized shape blur behind a tree. Once the room fell dark he remembered, the realisation slapped him in the face. "The festival. Ohno, is it that time already?"
"No, there were a few cancellations before me," Lena's voice answered. She sounded annoyed, now he had a good idea of the reason.
"Gee, I wonder why," he heard Kiara mutter in the background.
"What happened?" Craig asked.
He got a sigh before an answer, "we're fine. It felt more like a warning than an attack."
Craig wasn't relieved to hear that, for multiple reasons. The one shouting in his head was the proximity of this incident to the yearly gathering. He hoped Lena was wrong.
"A one off revenge attack or a warning. Either way, it's worrying," Kiara's voice said.
Craig's eye fell to the blocked window. He hadn't forgotten what he saw outside, the conversation brought it back into focus. "I wonder if anyone knew about this," Craig mumbled.
"If anyone has, wouldn't we know about it by now?" Lena's voice asked.
"Mum!" Scott's voice shouted from the stairs, outside the living room. "There's a man here, he stinks, put him in the bath."
There was a feeling of panic for a couple of seconds. The response to Scott's shouting settled his worries down. "I'm not the one covered in snot, little brat," a man's voice muttered irritably. "Isn't it time for your sponge bath with mummy? Get your nappy changed and jump in."
Craig's panic was long forgotten, he groaned over the top of a heavy foot stamp. "I'm ten!" Scott snapped.
"Let me guess," Lena's voice sniggered.
"Yeah. I'll call you back," Craig smiled as if she were there. He tapped his commbadge.
More heavy steps followed, these ones sounded like they were on the stairs though. "Oh my god, is that the same robe you wore last time? I told you not to come in my house," Triah's voice broke the sound barrier.
Craig sighed and decided to go quell whatever was happening in the passage. There he found Triah standing on the fourth step, glaring at a robed figure in front of the open door. Scott had a scowl of his own, it would have been identical to his mother's if his bottom lip wasn't sticking out. The robed figure turned to Craig's direction.
"You're taking a huge chance meeting me today. This better be good," Craig told him.
The man grunted, he glanced over his shoulder to shut the door. "Everything I say is good. You're just not listening."
"So, you're good now?" Craig couldn't resist, a smirk formed on his face.
It had the desired effect. The robed figure twitched visibly and greatly, Scott heard him grumble a few swear words.
"Yes, let your guard down," the man said in an obviously put on boastful voice. He said it far too quickly for it to be legit. "I'll make it brief. It's quiet, uneventful."
"You broke out of prison for that?" Triah muttered.
Craig wasn't sure what to make of it. This news could have meant anything but after his earlier call he had a bad feeling. "You think they know?"
The man reached up to lower his hood, revealing his face. For once he didn't have a smug or mocking expression on his face. Damien seemed almost serious, which was never a good sign. "They were bound to find out sooner or later."
Triah tapped her son on his shoulder, once she got his attention she pointed upstairs. "You're right, we should leave them alone," he said. She expected it, but still he ran for the front door instead. She rushed straight after him.
"I know," Craig sighed. "I had hoped it would be later. We're not ready. Tomorrow's too tempting for them."
"About that, I do know one thing," Damien said. He smiled as he spotted Craig's interest growing. "They're putting on quite a party this year. I hear an old friend will be a special guest."
Craig's face turned a little white. "You don't mean... Are you sure?"
Damien nodded. "He told me himself."
"Why?" Craig asked, trying desperately to ignore the dread building in his chest.
Damien burst into close mouthed laughter, his shoulders shook. "I didn't break out of prison. He allowed it, just like he's done before."
"He thinks you'll betray us, at our own reunion party," Craig thought aloud. He was worried, but he couldn't let Damien know. The smile on his face showed that Craig had failed. "Will you?"
Disgust took over Damien's smug face, he grunted in anger. "You misunderstand. I'm clearly the distraction. I won't be insulted by these things any further. I'm better than that."
"Yeah sure," Craig said quickly. "You have considered that they may expect you to defy your instructions. Not doing it may be what they want."
Damien's eyes narrowed. "Maybe they want me to think that, so I'll do it and fall into their hands. I'm no fool."
Craig groaned and covered his face briefly, "we could do this all day. We need to find a safer place to talk."
"What are you doing with that? No, put it..." Triah's voice screamed. The sound of a machine blowing air interrupted her. "No, I don't want those leaves in my garden. They've been on the pavement!"
"Yes, we do," Damien smirked.
Craig laughed nervously, "in more ways than one."
TO BE CONTINUED
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