Well, here it is, Gentle Reader — the highly anticipated second chapter of Margee’s brilliant “Spooking Sidney”. Get ready for thrills and chills, action, adventure, and heartbreak. We are so proud to be posting this great work of literature, and hope you enjoy this installment as much as we did.
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“Flash!” a voice hissed from the dark.
“Thunder!” Colby Armstrong responded, extinguishing his cigar on the gritty brick wall behind him.
Jordan “Gronk” Staal peeled back the heavy drapes cloaking the windows. In the lamplight, Army could see that he was dressed in military garb and his face was smeared in camouflage makeup. Gronk looked around the room with a look of detectable irritation. Following on his heels was Evgeni Malkin, toting a large, black drawstring bag over his shoulder. He was dressed and made up like Gronk, as usual.
Marc-Andre flipped into the room with a back handspring so delicate, his feet barely made a sound as they hit the floor. He was wearing a black catsuit and ballet slippers. With a quick brush of his fingertips, the drapes were closed and he leapt to the chaise lounge, perching himself on the thin armrest, squatting, balanced on his toes. He made no sound, but glanced around furtively. A lookout.
“This is your idea of a safehouse?” said Gronk, helping Geno lower the bag to the floor.
“Haven’t you ever heard of hiding in plain sight?” said Army, his shaking hands betraying him as he tried to relight his cigar.
“We could smell that smoke halfway here,” snapped Geno, swatting the cigar from Army’s mouth, disdain in his Midwestern drawl. “We’re asking to get found out.”
Army massaged the bridge of his big, beautiful bird nose. It took two hands. He wished Ryan Whitney were there. Ryan Whitney always knew what to do. Colby Armstrong wasn’t ready to be a single father.
“You didn’t power cycle him, did you?” said Army, untying the drawstring. Cindy was inside, limp. His glossy eyelashes grazed the top of his cheeks and Army couldn’t help but run his fingertip tenderly along the fringe. He looked so sweet when he was in Standby.
“We had to,” said Jordan, reaching under Cindy’s UnderArmor top to switch him back on. “He was malfunctioning or something. He kept saying Ryan Whitney’s name over and over again.”
“Damn it, Gronk! That was grief, not a glitch! Could you at least have put some proper clothes on him? You can’t treat him like a robot.”
“Don’t you ever,” said Staal, his hissing mouth mere centimeters from Army’s big, beautiful bird nose. “Ever accuse me of treating him like a robot. You haven’t been here, Army. You don’t know what Geno and Flower and I have to do for him. We’re here every day making sure he’s included in all the team activities, trying to keep the dancers from spraying Dom on him when we take him to the Champagne Room, protecting him when Sergei Gonchar puts magnets in his jock or when Max Talbot tries to use him to look up things on Wikipedia. You have no idea anymore, Army. No idea.”
Gronk jabbed an emphatic finger in Army’s direction and stormed away to the wicker couch. Geno joined him, slinging a comforting arm around Gronk’s shoulder. The whirring sound of Cindy Crosby powering up was the only sound in the room.
“Chris Kunitz is dead,” said Cindy, his speech slurred as his software lurched into action. “I just got a Google Alert…in my head… it’s on Puck Daddy…”
The full humans in the room exchanged concerned looks. Cindy seemed shaken. This is one of those times, Colby Armstrong thought, that it was so tempting to erase this file from his memory. But Cindy would have to know pain to know his humanity.
“I’m sorry, Son,” Army knelt to him, stroking the mess of jet curls. “We didn’t want you to find out this way.”
The police had found Kunitz that morning in his beloved maroon PT Cruiser. The authorities wouldn’t say for sure what happened. But, after dipping into his supply of Cubans to use as a bribe, Colby Armstrong had found out the truth. Chris Kunitz had been suffocated, and they’d found the imprint of a sternum on his face. As if someone had pressed his face into their chest until he’d stopped breathing. Almost as if he had been hugged to death…
“This is the second one,” said Cindy, leaning his head, filled with a thousand worries and CPUs, to Army’s chest. “This is the second mother of mine to die.”
“Third,” said Army, as the faces in the room snapped to attention. “It’s the third.”
“Third?” growled Gronk. “What do you mean, ‘third?’”
“The woman who called herself ‘Mrs. Crosby.’ The one who Lemieux left Cindy to be raised by. The one who sold him to the Canadian government and Reebok in some Faustian bargain of hockey servitude… they found her last week.”
“Choked,” Army sighed. “She was tucked into bed too tightly and it cut off her air supply.”
“And the computerized whore is missing, too?” said Geno, aghast.
They sat there in silence, the reality of their situation sinking in with an audible clang. Even Cindy, with his human instincts only beginning to take shape, seemed to sense how dire their position was.
They were all thinking the same thing: They were the only ones left. They were the only ones left who knew that Mario Lemieux had fathered a child with a robot prostitute named Sydney. And that the android baby grew up to become one of, if not the, greatest hockey player of his generation (deal, Ovechkinites).
“Lemieux,” said Flower, still perched on the thin edge of the chaise. His eyes were closed and his hands pressed together. “Lemieux has killed them. And we are next.”
“Then why are we hiding out in his pool house?!” Gronk leapt to his feet, indicating their surroundings.
Perhaps Mario Lemieux’s pool house was not the best place to hide from a murderous Mario Lemieux. But Colby Armstrong knew from their flight through the streets of Amsterdam that Cindy was too bottom-heavy to tote long distances. Especially without the brute strength of Georges Laraque to do the heavy lifting. And since Army was one of the few people who knew that Mario Lemieux could not swim and was, in fact, terrified of chlorinated water, he’d had to hope that Lemieux would never venture out past the first sixty acres of his property.
“Do you know how many brothels, or whorehouses, or bordellos, hooker’s apartments or Chick Fil-A’s Geno and I could have called in favors to? We could be eating chicken biscuits or cookies that hookers baked, instead of sixty-five acres and a putting green from the guy trying to kill us!?”
Army looked to Cindy. He was still prone, his head poking out of the nylon laundry bag used to carry him there. Cindy swiveled his downy head towards Jordan Staal.
“Don’t yell at him,” he said, his balled fist poking through the fabric of his nylon casing.
“It’s okay, Cynthia,” said Army. “He’s right. We have to get out of here.”
Flower, Geno, and Gronk rose in decisive unison. Flower cartwheeled to the sliding glass windows and peeked through the crack in the drapes. Cindy struggled to get to his feet. He was still mostly in the laundry bag, and that, combined with his normal inability to negotiate non-ice surfaces, made for a difficult getaway.
Army hoisted him out of the bag. Cindy was clad only in his Under Armour top and his quintuple-XL boxer briefs. They wouldn’t get anywhere toting an underwear-clad Cindy Crosby through the streets of Pittsburgh. Imagine how many female Duquesne undergraduates alone would end up following them!
“We have to get him some clothes,” said Army. “Flower, there should be some cruisewear in that closet. Grab him a shirt. Maybe we can make some pants out of the drapes.”
Flower wordlessly tumbled to the slatted closet door. He opened the door cautiously and stepped inside.
“We can go to the Chick-Fil-A in Moon Township, or the whorehouse in Robinson Town Center, or the Chick-Fil-A that turns into a whorehouse after midnight in Fox Chapel,” said Gronk, his hand covering the mouthpiece of his iTouch.
Army waved him off. He didn’t care where they went, as long as his Cindy was safe. He hugged Cindy close and whispered in his ear that they’d be okay. That they were all going to be okay. And Army wanted so badly to believe what he was saying.
“Fox Chapel it is,” said Gronk slipping the phone into one of the many cargo pockets of his army pants. “But we’d better get moving. The day shift girls start soon. You don’t want to know from them, believe me.”
Gronk was right.
“Hey, Flower,” called Army. “Did you find anything?”
Flower emerged from the closet, his skin was a wan gray, even in the dim light. Instead of his customary grace and gymnastics, Flower shuffled loudly out of the closet.
“I have found something,” he said. “But not something he will be able to wear.”
“Like what?” said Cindy.
“I found this,” Flower shuddered. “And this. And the rest of her.”
The rest of them were horrified to see that in one of the goalie’s hands was a limp, lifeless, severed arm, with several frayed cables where the shoulder socket should have been. And, in the other, was the disembodied head of Sydney Crosby, the robot prostitute.