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Archive for the ‘Sid Crosby’ Category

Christmas has come early to IPB, Gentle Reader, because what should we find waiting in our inbox today, but the third and final part of Margee’s magnum opus, “Spooking Cindy”! Read it here, and be humbled. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll never look at the Penguins the same way again.

* * * * *

Cindy Crosby was like Ivan Lendl. He wasn’t very good on grass. Colby Armstrong had tried to install software that made it easier for him travel off-ice, but the results were rudimentary and the best he could manage was a sort of waddle, and only in pointy, shiny shoes. Cindy knew he was holding them back. Marc-Andre Fleury was faster just doing round-offs across the grounds of the Lemieux estate than Cindy was “running.” Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin had each grabbed an arm to help him along, but neither was strong enough to support him completely. Cindy longed for the days of Georges Laraque sweeping him into his arms and running him through the streets of Pittsburgh, Amsterdam, Provincetown. Sometimes they went shopping at the Sewickley farmer’s market and Georges would let him ride in a sling around his neck so his hands were free to look at the fruit. Running was difficult.

They tore across the rolling hills of the Lemieux Estate. Castle Lemieux loomed, dark and ominous, behind them. They stopped to catch their breath. Army bent over, hands on his knees, his Hawaiian shirt soaked through with sweat.

“When this is all over,” he huffed. “I’m quitting the stogies, once and for all.”

“You always say that,” said Cindy rubbing his father’s back affectionately. “But you never do.”

Cindy was not tired. Physical activity never made Cindy tired. He wondered if that quality had been programmed into him, or if it had been passed down to him from Mario Lemieux. Mario Lemieux, the man who had killed his mothers and was now trying to kill his father and brothers.

“Someone is coming,” said Flower, flattened on the grass. “Up ahead.”

The boys followed his gaze. Sure enough, the lights of a golf cart cut through the darkness like laser beams. It was coming towards them.

“Oh my word, it’s him! It’s Lemieux!” wailed Geno in his measured Iowan cadence, quickly descending into hysteria. “We’re going to die! He’s going to kill us! We’re all going to die!”

He was silenced by a hard slap from Gronk, who then grabbed Geno’s chin to calm him. It took two hands.

“We’re not going out like that,” said Gronk, shaking Geno. “I grew up on the streets of Thunder Bay. I’ll shank a bitch! I refuse to die by the hand of Mario Lemieux. I refuse!”

Cindy hit the ground, mirroring Army and Flower. Gronk and Geno quickly followed. But there was no cover for them to crawl under. The forest was still several meters away. And there was no shrubbery on the Lemieux Estate. It was a known fact that Mario Lemieux hated shrubbery. It would take a miracle for them not to be seen.

“Cindy,” Army whispered. “Your butt cheeks.”

Cindy closed his eyes and squeezed his butt cheeks together as hard as he could. The golf cart was pretty far away, but maybe, just maybe if he could squeeze his butt cheeks together hard enough, he could short out the cart.

“It’s working,” hissed Gronk. “He’s doing it, it’s working!”

Cindy could barely hear them; he was concentrating so intently. But the golf cart had come to a rolling stop some distance away. They had a chance, a small chance, of making it to the woods before Lemieux could see them. Cindy opened his eyes.

In the moonlight, he could see that the driver had gotten out of the cart and was stalking in their very direction. The driver’s cape billowed in the breeze, flapping hauntingly.

He squeezed his butt cheeks together, but it did nothing.

“Cynthia?” the driver called. It was a familiar voice. “Cynthia?”

Cindy opened his eyes. Geno and Gronk had picked him up and carried him several meters. Cindy had barely noticed.

“Madame Lemieux,” he murmured. “It’s Madame Lemieux!”

Madame Lemieux stood in the moonlight, glaring at them. It was she who had been in the golf cart.

“I saw the big, beautiful bird nose of Colby Armstrong on the security camera,” she said coldly. “And I knew Cindy was with you. I always know where my Cindy is.”

“I’m sorry Mrs. Lemieux, but we have to take Cindy with us,” said Army, met with the narrowing eyes of Madame Lemieux. “It’s for his own safety.”

“Your husband is trying to kill us,” said Gronk, lowering Cindy, but keeping an arm around him so he could get used to the grass again. “And we’re not going to wait around while he plots our deaths. We have to get as far away from here as possible.”

Madame Lemieux shook her head. “Silly Staal brother,” she almost laughed. “This is the safest place for the boy. My husband is in Amsterdam… on business. Let’s go back to the house and we can figure all of this out.”

“Wait, you’re not surprised that your husband is trying to kill us,” said Gronk.

“I have been married to Mario a long time. One comes to expect these situations.”

The boys exchanged looks. Madame Lemieux smoothed Cindy’s hair from his forehead. Her cool, bony skin felt good on his velvety cheek. Cindy liked Madame Lemieux. She had always been so kind to him.
“My poor, poor Cynthia,” she said, pressing her forehead to his. “They didn’t even get you proper clothes.”
Madame Lemieux unbuttoned the cape at her neck. She swung the massive fabric toward Cindy and he realized it was not a cape at all. It was a pair of his pants. She held them out for him to step into, right foot first.

“I always have pants for my Cindy,” she said, smiling at the others. “He bursts out of them so often, I always make sure to have a spare or two with me.”

As Cindy fastened the drawstring, he could hear the others whispering back and forth.

“She’s legit,” he heard his father say. “She brought him pants.”

He could hear Gronk and Geno agree. But it seemed that Flower was unsure.

“I do not like this,” he said. “Something is not right.”

But he was overruled. “We’ll come with you,” said Army. “But only to regroup. We still have to find a safe place to hide.”

“Come,” she said. “I will make you some sandwiches.”

The boys followed her to the golf cart, piling in. Flower climbed onto the roof, laying flat and holding tight to the edges. Madame Lemieux tapped the seat next to her for Cindy. The engine wouldn’t turn over.
“Cindy?” she said, patting his knee.

Cindy clenched his butt cheeks and the engine roared to life. She thanked him and the cart lurched toward Castle Lemieux.

They headed to the kitchen, Flower following, warily. Cindy could hear Flower’s heart beating rapidly. Cindy wondered why Flower was so agitated.

Madame Lemieux looked at Gronk and Geno. Their camouflage makeup was faded and they both had clumps of grass in their ears. She grinned at them.

“Perhaps you two should wash up,” she said, leading them from the room. She indicated for Army, Flower and Cindy to have a seat at the table.

“We have to get out of here,” said Flower. “Bitch crazy.”

“Why?” said Army, fishing a fat cigar from his pocket. “Because she wants to feed us and help us escape from her murderous husband?”

Flower glowered at Army.

“Crap, I lost my lighter,” said Army, rising from the table. “There have to be matches in here somewhere.”

Army rifled through the drawers. Flower sat tensely next to Cindy. His hands were flat on the table and his eyes were closed. Cindy had always liked Flower. Though he had never understood him. Flower had always used his skills to protect Cindy, though Flower had always been pretty distant in their relations.

“It’s going to be okay, Flower,” said Cindy, touching Flower’s arm, like he’d seen humans do when they spoke. “We’re with Madame Lemieux. She won’t let anything happen to us.”

“I do not think so,” said Flower. He opened his eyes and glanced furtively at Colby Armstrong, whose back was still turned away, still in search of matches.

Flower slid along the booth that surrounded the Lemieux’s kitchen table, towards Cindy. He reached for Cindy. And Cindy reached for him. Flower was going to hug him.

“I am so sorry, Cindy,” said Flower into Cindy’s ear. Cindy felt Flower’s spidery hands creep down his back. Towards his power switch.

Cindy struggled to free himself, but Flower was deceptively strong. Cindy felt himself start to power down. He could feel the hash of sleep mode start to seep in. He squeezed his butt cheeks together, but he was losing power fast.

Then suddenly, he heard a terrible clang, and Flower’s grip loosened and fell away. He felt Army hit tap the keyboard in his six-pack to awaken his software. When he came to, he saw Madame Lemieux tying up an unconscious Marc-Andre Fleury. A frying pan sat on the table next to them.

“I’m sorry, Cindy, but I had to,” she said, rising. “He was going to power you down. There’s no reason to be frightened any more.”

“It was Flower all along,” said Army, squinting at the goalie, searching for the evil that apparently lurked beyond his soul-patched façade. “Flower killed them all?”

“But of course,” said Madame Lemieux, guiding Army to a chair. “One must never trust a French-Canadian.”

Cindy Crosby was horrified. Marc-Andre Fleury was capable of many things. But Cindy had never, ever imagined that murder would be one of them.

Madame Lemieux retreated to the kitchen counter. She rustled through the cabinets, extracting the ingredients for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“Mario could never do such a thing,” she said, peanut-buttering bread furiously.

Army sat there, stunned. His eyes darted back and forth from Cindy to Flower’s hogtied form. He rolled his cigar, still unlit, in his pale, stained fingers.

Madame Lemieux set a plate stacked with the sandwiches in front of Colby Armstrong. She plopped down next to Cindy and strung her arms around his ivory neck. She smelled nice.

“Please,” she said. “Eat. There’s no more danger. I’ve called the authorities. They’ll be here soon.”

Colby Armstrong picked up a triangle of PBJ. He seemed to consider it a moment. Cindy couldn’t help but notice that Madame Lemieux was watching Army intently. Madame Lemieux tended to be very proud of her cooking. She made her own jams from the orchards out back.

“I just can’t believe it,” said Army, the sandwich dangling from his hand. “Flower? A killer? I was so sure it was Lemieux.”

“But it wasn’t,” said Madame Lemieux. “He’s in Australia on business. There is nothing to worry over. I’ll call the police and this will all be over soon.”

“I thought you said you called the police already,” said Army, stopping short of taking a bite.

“I did?” Madame Lemieux blinked. “I did! I did call them. I’m so forgetful nowadays. I’m lucky I even remembered to cut the crusts off of that peanut butter and jelly. Please, have a bite and tell me what you think.”

“I just find it so hard to imagine why Marc-Andre Fleury would have done this.”

“Why? Why?” Madame Lemieux smiled bitterly. “Who knows what goes through a person’s mind?”

Madame Lemieux curled against Cindy. Cindy hadn’t noticed until that moment that she still held the peanut butter and jelly-smeared knife in her hand.

“I have to imagine that he was very desperate. Desperate to claim what is his. Sick of being brushed aside. Tired of playing second fiddle to some defenseman. Enraged that a robot prostitute commands more respect and love and affection than he does.”

Cindy was still very unclear on human emotions, but he was pretty sure that Madame Lemieux was not talking about Flower. He knew well that Marc-Andre Fleury had no problems with robot prostitutes.
“I think we should get going,” said Army, gingerly placing the sandwich back on the platter. His eyes were almost the size of his big, beautiful bird nose as he gaped at Madame Lemieux. “Where did you say Geno and Gronk went?”

Madame Lemieux folded her arms coolly. Her eyes narrowed and her crimson lips pursed venomously. Cindy could see out of the corner of his eye that her thin white hand was tightening on the butter knife.

“They are,” she hissed. “Unimportant. What is important, is you eating that sandwich, and then another, and another, and another. Until the poison takes effect and we are finally rid of you for good, Colby Armstrong.”

Army let out a birdcall of terror. “You?”

“Did I not tell you, boy? One must never trust a French Canadian.”

With that, Madame Lemieux lunged across the kitchen table, a PBJ half in one hand and the gooey knife in the other. Cindy tried to grab her ankles, but she slipped out of his grip as quickly and cleanly as Flower might have. Army had Madame Lemieux by the wrists. Cindy didn’t know what to do. The words of his father echoed in his mind.

Your butt cheeks. Use your butt cheeks.

Cindy would not lose another parent, he told himself. With all of his might, and with a great primal scream he squeezed his butt cheeks together harder than he ever had before. There was a great buzz that seemed to rock the entire house. The lights blinked into darkness and Cindy heard his father’s voice cut through the black.

“Run!”

Cindy took off, grasping for traction on the polished Italianate marble floors of Castle Lemieux. He heard a clamor behind him but kept going. He wondered if he could get to the North Southeast Wing and hide in one suits of armor Mario Lemieux collected from the Mummy movies. In the dark, his super–hearing kicked in. He could hear the shuffle of Madame Lemieux’s ballet slippers padding through the secret passage from the kitchen to the North Southeast Wing. She had said, after all, that she always knew where “her” Cindy was.
Cindy dashed into the West Northeast Game Room and slid under the air hockey table. He could remember over the summer when his teammates put him in standby and used him as the air hockey puck. The little shoots of air from the table had felt so cooling. The memory was so vivid, that it took a while for him to realize that he was not alone under the table.

He was face to face with a gagged Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin. And was not the kind of gag Cindy had sometimes seen them in when they took him along on their trips to the Chick-Fil-A in Robinson Town Center. They howled desperately at him through their restraints. Cindy scrambled to untie them.

“That bitch knocked us out with a frying pan!” said Gronk, enraged.

“So much for your Thunder Bay street skillz,” snarked Geno, tossing the Terrible Towel that had been used to gag him across the room.

Cindy heard the telltale click of the portrait of Bobby Bonds that guarded the West Northeast secret passageways, slide open. Madame Lemieux was near. He put a finger to his lips to quiet the other two.
“Cynthia,” he heard Madame Lemieux’s voice call. Only now, the voice sounded cold and foreign to him. She had killed or tried to kill everyone Cindy had ever loved.

Cindy peered out from under the skirt of the air hockey table. Madame Lemieux had a firm grip on Colby Armstrong. Her bejeweled hand held the knife pressed firmly against his throat. And Army had one of the poisonous half-sandwiches clamped between his teeth. Cindy could see that his father had tears in his eyes.
“Cynthia, show yourself,” she called out into the darkness. “You are in no danger from me. I want what is best for you, my boy.”

Cindy turned to Gronk and Geno. He couldn’t lose Colby Armstrong. He wouldn’t lose Colby Armstrong.
“Follow my lead,” he said, tearing off his breakaway pants. “Hold on to my butt cheek. If she tries to make a move on my father…”

“Cindy, no. We can’t. Your memory could be erased completely. We have to repeat this year,” stammered Gronk, though his hand was already carefully kneading Cindy’s butt cheek.

“I’m your captain. Do it.”

Gronk and Geno gulped and followed Cindy out from under the air hockey table. Madame Lemieux smiled at first, until she realized that Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin each had a grip on one of Cindy Crosby’s butt cheeks.

“No! Get away from him! What are you doing?” she gasped.

“Let him go,” said Cindy calmly. “Or I’ll give the order and they’ll dismantle my butt cheeks and I’ll go dark. For good.”

“Don’t you see, Cindy… I did this for you,” she cried, dissolving into tears, yet tightening her grip on Army. “You need a mother. A real mother. Not a robot prostitute. Or someone who would sell you to the NHL. Or Ryan Whitney!”

“Ryan Whitney was the best mother a boy could ever have,” Cindy shouted back at her, startled at his own very human reaction. “EVER.”

“When I first found out about you, when I first saw you, I knew you were mine, Cindy. You were meant to be my son. But I saw all of this happening and I was powerless to stop it.”

“One day, you came back from Amsterdam, where my wretched husband was no doubt visiting his robot whore. And suddenly you declared that Ryan Whitney was your mother. And this hawk-faced boy was your father.”

Army let out a little cry.

“I arranged to have them traded. But no, that didn’t keep them away. You still insisted on communicating, and exchanging gifts, and loving them as your parents.

“So I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. I…removed all of your so-called ‘mothers’ one by one. So that you had no choice but to let me mother you.”

“You’re a monster,” said Gronk, still thoughtfully massaging Cindy’s butt cheek.

“I’m a mother,” she said gravely. “And I mothered all of those other mothers to death. Except for the robot whore. Her? I just straight up tore up. And it was glorious.”

“How could you do this?” said Cindy, experiencing a new feeling altogether. Anger.

“I loved you more than any of those other mothers,” she pleaded, loosening her grip on Colby Armstrong. “Do you think any of them would commit multiple homicide for you?”

“You’re damn right I would,” said a familiar voice, hidden behind the drapes.

Startled, Madame Lemieux let go of Army, who promptly spit out the poisonous PBJ and ran to the Slurpee machine to wash his mouth out. Ryan Whitney appeared as if out of thin air and backhanded Madame Lemieux. The knife flew from her hand and she spilled to the floor in a blur of rubies and Capri pants with that one decisive pimp slap. Gronk and Geno jumped on her, tying her up with the same Terrible Towels with which she’d restrained them.

Cindy ran to Ryan Whitney’s outstretched arms.

“I knew it,” he said, finding the water pouring from his eyes a comforting sensation. “I knew I couldn’t lose you. I knew you would never leave me!”

Ryan Whitney tightened his grip on Cindy.

“You’ll never lose me, Cindy,” he said softly, the dimple on his chin deepening as he smiled lovingly upon his son. “I’ll always be with you.”

Army sputtered and choked by the Slurpee machine.

“Father!” he cried. “Is it the poison?”

“No, it’s a brain freeze,” he said. “Come on, let’s call the police.”

“You’re right,” said Cindy turning back to Ryan Whitney. “Come on, mother…”

But Ryan Whitney wasn’t there.

* * * * *

“Crosby,” Sal, the equipment manager said to Cindy, as he peeled off his sweat-soaked Under Armor. “Coach’s office. Now.”

Gronk and Geno stood up from the bench, breathless and ruddy. Practice had been extra-tough that day. As it had been every day since they’d gone back to playing hockey.

“Lemieux is in there,” said Gronk, suspiciously. “Do you want us to go with you?”

Life had resumed for all of them. Army had gone back to Atlanta. Gronk and Geno had returned to frequenting Chick-Fil-A. Flower had recovered from his head injury and resumed his martial arts and gymnastics studies.

Madame Lemieux had not been charged with any crimes. Mario had made sure of that.

“No,” said Cindy. “It’s okay.”

He strode to the coach’s office. He was still wearing his skates, so getting across the floor was much easier than it was in shoes. He knocked.

“You wanted to see me,” he said, ignoring Lemieux lurking in the corner.

“Have a seat, kid,” Coach Dude said. “This arrived for you today.”

Coach slid a closed wooden box across his desk to Cindy. Cindy looked briefly to Mario Lemieux who was staring out the window, chin in hand.

The box was small and smooth. And airbrushed into the lid was a portrait of Cindy and Ryan Whitney, staring directly out, grinning. Someone had painted it from a photo they had taken on a day trip to see Tony Orlando at the casino in Wheeling. Cindy closed his eyes and could remember, as if it was the most recently opened file on his desktop, how Ryan Whitney had pulled him close and held the camera at arm’s length to snap the photo of them.

“It’s Ryan Whitney’s remains in there,” said Coach, flatly. He had long ago become used to handing the ashes of murdered loved ones to his players. He’d spent several seasons coaching Gary Roberts. “His ashes. He wanted you to have them.”

“He said he’d always be with me,” Cindy smiled faintly. “I guess he was right.”

Cindy ran his fingers across the smooth surface of his Ryan Whitney’s portrait. And stopped on the small flourished signature of the artist at the bottom corner of the lid.

N. Lemieux.

“She wanted to make it up to you,” said Lemieux, squinting against the silvery glow of the overcast Pittsburgh sky beyond the window. “She—she feels terrible…about Ryan Whitney, at least.”

“He was there,” said Cindy, taking the box into his arms as if it were a newborn baby. “He was there that night. He saved Father.”

Lemieux smiled bitterly to himself, yet he still did not meet Cindy’s eyes.

“I have no doubt that Ryan Whitney came back from the dead to pimp slap my wife,” said Lemieux. “It would take more than death you keep Ryan Whitney from loving you, Sidney Crosby.”

Cindy clutched the box tighter to him as he stood. He turned head back to the locker room. He wasn’t using his super-hearing—one of the traits he had inherited from Lemiuex—but he could swear he heard Lemiux sigh again.

“No. Death cannot stop Ryan Whitney.”

Gronk, Geno, and Flower wear waiting for him outside of the Coach’s office. Their expressions were solemn and none could take his eyes off of the box that contained Ryan Whitney.

“He’s right, you know,” said Flower, who by now had forgiven the rest of them for believing him a murderer. “About Ryan Whitney.”

Cindy nodded.

“Come on, guys,” said Gronk, taking Cindy’s hand in his. “Family dinner. Let’s go to Chick-Fil-A.”

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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.

* * * * *

“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.”

“How?”

“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.

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You may recall, Gentle Reader, that we are now taking submissions for our Sidney Crosby creative writing challenge, “Spooking Sidney”. The first entry in this open-ended series is Part I of Margee’s “Fear Street”-inspired magnum opus. For some backstory to this brilliant and spine-tingling tale, we recommend you revisit (or visit for the first time) her “Chasing Sidney”, which stands as the single greatest thing we’ve ever published on this blog.

* * * * *

The soft ping of an incoming call broke Cindy Crosby out of his sleep mode. Cindy felt the whirring of his hardware snap to attention as he powered up. Ever since his Colby Armstrong had hooked him up to high-speed internet service, he felt so much more connected to the outside world. He felt like people.

Cindy answered his videophone. In his external monitor, the one his Colby had given him, masked as a wristwatch, he saw the face on the person he had come to accept as his mother. The one who had sung him to sleep mode by phone only hours before. But his mother looked different.

“Mother,” he said. “Mother, is that you?”

Ryan Whitney looked out from Cindy’s wristwatch. Water was snaking from his eyes. Ryan Whitney had taught him that water in the eyes was part of having feelings. Ryan Whitney was shaking.

“Sidney, my boy,” said Ryan Whitney, his voice wobbly. “Sidney, listen to me. You have to do something for me.”

“Of course, mother, of course.”

“You have to warn them, Sidney. I want you to call your new mother…”

“You’re my mother, you are!”

“Of course, I am your mother, my darling, of course I am,” said Ryan Whitney, looking deeply into the monitor, feeling so close that Cindy could practically feel him there, feel his loving embrace. “But when I was traded, I asked Chris Kunitz to care for you in my place. I need you to find him. I need you to warn him.”

“Warn him of what? What, mother?”

“He is in grave danger.”

There was a noise in the background. Ryan Whitney’s face disappeared briefly from Cindy’s wristwatch. When his face came back, there was more water on his face than before.

“Mother, what is happening?”

“Oh, my beautiful boy,” said Ryan Whitney, smiling, even as the water spilled from his eyes. “If anything happens to me, I want you to remember this: you are a real boy. Don’t let anyone make you feel like a robot. You are a real boy. You’re my dear boy.”

“I’m a real boy.”

There was another noise and Ryan Whitney let out a small scream. His face went closer into Cindy’s wristwatch.

“I love you,” he whispered to Cindy. “I love you forever…Son.”

Cindy’s monitor went black.

* * * * *

Chris Kunitz stood against the wall. Sometimes, the Kid seemed so lifelike. So real.

Cindy rocked back and forth on the floor, pausing only to ask Kunitz when the water would stop coming out of his eyes. He was half-human, Kunitz had to remind himself. He was capable of having feelings. He crouched to Cindy, rubbing his back half-heartedly. Kunitz had always known he was never cut out for motherhood. He had suggested to Ryan Whitney that Eric Godard be assigned as Cindy’s new mother. But Ryan Whitney had insisted that Cindy needed a mother that was in no danger of being sent down to the AHL. But Kunitz was no good at this.

“I’m sorry, Kid,” he said, squeezing Cindy’s shoulder like Godard had told him. “Ryan Whitney was a great guy.”

“He was more than a great guy,” said Cindy, studying the tears he that had pooled on the back of his hand. “He was the best mother a boy could ever have.”

“He was, Kid, he was,” Kunitz sighed. “But, I suppose, I could… I could be your new mother.”

Cindy met his eyes. He no longer looked like a boy. He looked like the cold, hard robot Kunitz recognized from Mellon Arena.

“Ryan Whitney is my mother,” he said icily.

Kunitz tried not to feel the sting of his words. He stood up and paced the room.

“Mother had a message for you, Chris Kunitz,” the Kid continued, his beady eyes following Kunitz’s path. “Mother said you were in danger.”

Kunitz stopped moving. The air felt chilly, as if a window had been thrust open somewhere in his soul.
Then suddenly, he felt someone grip his shoulders. A hand clamped itself to his mouth before he could scream and he could smell hot cigar breath in his ear.

“Don’t make a sound,” the voice hissed.

Kunitz’s heartbeat thrummed in his ears. His assailant released him. As he turned, he saw the big, beautiful, bird nose first.

“Colby Armstrong!”

Colby Armstrong stood, holding his arms out to hush Kunitz. Army’s eyes were bleary, rimmed with pink. Haunted. His face was a pallid gray as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. He pressed a clammy, tobacco-stained palm to Kunitz’s mouth.

“You don’t want them to hear you,” Army whispered. He released Kunitz with a jerk.

Army looked as if he wanted to say more, but his bloodshot eyes caught on Cindy, still rocking across the room. Kunitz saw Army’s lower lip tremble briefly, his cheek buckling in a half-smile. He approached the Kid gingerly, an emotional grin overtaking his face.

“Cindy?”

Cindy looked up miserably from the floor. When his software recognized Army, he scrambled to his feet. It took him his requisite few seconds to figure out that the floor was not made of ice and that he could not skate across it. Army took the Kid’s face in his hands. At first they smiled shyly at one another, before collapsing into each other’s arms.

“Dad.”

Kunitz felt like an intruder. However, he still felt the chill of the Kid’s words. Was Chris Kunitz really in danger?

“I came in through one of the secret passages,” said Army, his arms wound tightly around Cindy. “I couldn’t risk being seen.”

Army’s big, beautiful, bird nose nestled affectionately into Cindy’s hair. But his gaze seared into Kunitz.

“You’re in danger, Kunitz.”

Kunitz started to back away towards the door. Suddenly Mario Lemieux’s mansion no longer seemed safe as it had all those Stanley Cup celebrations ago.

“I don’t know if Ryan Whitney told you all of this, but my Cindy’s biological mother was a robot prostitute from Australia.”

Kunitz nodded uncomfortably. Cindy murmured something into Army’s shoulder about Ryan Whitney being his mother.

“I was at her robot brothel, And I just thought I’d check in on her. But when I talked to the robot madame, she told me that there had been an attempt on her robot life. I knew something was up. I called Ryan Whitney. And I came back here to Pittsburgh to check on our boy. We’re meeting at a safehouse. You should come, too. You’ve been his foster mother. You’re involved in this, too.”

“There’s something you should know, Armstrong,” said Kunitz, bracing himself. “Ryan Whitney…is dead.”

Army closed his eyes bitterly, thrust his chin to the sky, and emitted an anguished, eagle-like caw to the heavens. He held Cindy as the boy sobbed his robot tears.

“How did it happen?” said Army, his voice broken.

“He was drowned in a vat of chicken soup.”

Beyond the door to the Kid’s room there were footsteps. Army froze. A look of abject horror crossed his face.

“We have to hide,” he said dashing to the large oil painting of Darryl Sittler that leered out from the wall. Army pulled on it to reveal a false panel. Before his disappeared into the blackness, he again implored Kunitz to hide.

But it was too late. The bedroom door swung open and the glow from the hallway backlit two shadowy figures in the frame. The intruders entered the room, eerily calm as they approached.

“Cindy, it sounded like there was a bird in here,” said Mario Lemieux.

Cindy stood there dully. Kunitz couldn’t figure out if he had gone into standby or if his software was abruptly updating or if he was, in fact, scared.

“But of course there was no bird in here,” said Nathalie Lemieux, clasping her hands together tenderly. “Colby Armstrong was traded more than a season ago.”

Madame Lemieux fixed her eyes on Kunitz, her thick lashes knitting as she squinted at him.

“I didn’t realize that Cindy had company,” she said. “What are you doing in Cindy’s chambers, Chris Kunitz?”

“I—I was just…” Kunitz didn’t know why he was so unsettled. “I heard about Ryan Whitney. I just came over to see if Sidney was okay.”

“We do not use that name in this house,” Madame Lemieux growled. “We do not ever say that name in this house.”

“You should probably head home, Chris,” said Mario, placing a soothing hand on his wife’s trembling shoulders. “We can take it from here.”

“Yes, if anyone can comfort Cynthia it will be us,” Madame Lemieux laced her arm through Cindy’s. “How about I sing you into sleep mode, Cindy?”

Cindy looked from face to face in the room. Kunitz was unsure if the buzz in the air was tension or Cindy defragmenting. But he suddenly felt as if he needed to get out of there.

“Yes, I would like that,” said Cindy.

“That’s my boy,” said Madame Lemieux, leading him protectively away.

Mario gestured sternly for the door. And Kunitz didn’t need to be told twice. He scurried out the door and down the steps. He got lost somewhere between the northwest and north-southeast wings, but jimmied open a window and shimmied down a drainpipe to the grounds. Clouds were gathering overhead. Ominous, billowing clouds. Kunitz felt himself break into a run. In the distance he could see his PT Cruiser, a maroon beacon waiting to take him away from this horrible place. He sprinted towards the car, tasting his escape.

But before he made it, he felt a horrible thud against his temple. As he crumpled to the ground he looked up, catching sight of the baby pink curtains in the window of Cindy’s chamber. He reached out to his foster son as he envisioned him, reaching out from the window.

And then everything went black.

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The other day we were lucky enough to have breakfast in New York City with the inestimable (and outrageously foxy) Margee, of SportSquee fame. And it being a meeting up of such brilliant blogging minds, we spent much of the time lamenting how we have felt short of material of late. So while we sat there whining and spinning our wheels about how uninspired we’ve been so far this hockey season, Margee proved how much more brilliant she is than we are by declaring that what the world needs now is a Sidney/Cindy Crosby fanfic challenge. Last time IPB hosted such a thing (remember “Chasing Sidney”, Gentle Reader?), the theme was Sid’s teen-movie coming-of-age story. This time, since it was hatched the day before Halloween, the theme is spookiness. Ghosts. Ghouls. Monsters. Haunting. You get the idea. We want you, Gentle Reader, to join us in a celebration of “Spooking Sidney”. If you want to write a spooky Sid story for all the world to read here (and trust us — we get a lot of searches for Sid fanfic, so the world will read it), or even want to come up with some other creative project that can be posted on your favorite Devils blog, now is the time to do it!

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Dear Sid,

I hear it’s really hard for teams to dominate in Game 7’s on the road. Is that true?

Alex, Washington DC

Dear Alex,

Not for me it isn’t.

–Sid

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1. The Sid/Ovie “Debate” This is so played out. We’re exhausted by the volume and the predictability of the whole thing. Yes, we KNOW you think Sid’s a whiner. Yes, we KNOW you think he has no personality. We’ve been hearing it for YEARS. And over those years, the pro-Ovechkin party line is that he’s all awesome, all the time. Well, until the hype machine backlash swings around full circle and the dialog about these two includes a universally-accepted and equally emphatic knee-jerk response of “Ovechkin’s a raging douchebag” (which is as fact-based as the boring/whiner response to Sid), we refuse to engage. As it stands, it’s just the same old tired shit, shouted louder and louder as if the person doing the shouting thinks they’re actually contributing something new or of value to the conversation.

mammothoctopus

Pictured above, the bloggers’ representation of the league’s two-pony show.

2. The Sid/Ovie Exclusivity We would like very much for IPB’s official stance to be: “In the battle of Sid vs. Ovie, we vote Parise and Getzlaf and Richards.” Wait, are we allowed to do that? What’s this, we’re getting a memo from the league? Let’s see here… It says we have to decide if we think Sid’s a diver or if Ovie’s a showboat. There’s no option for “We’re above this?” Please.

3. Specially-Engineered Dirt That Tells You When Your Lawn Needs Water Perhaps the most mentally-consuming stupid thing we’ve seen in these playoffs is a commercial for a lawn starter thing that advertises that it is specially engineered so that the dirt changes colors to tell you when you need to water. (No, we don’t know the name of the product, or its manufacturer, or where you can see the product/commercial online. We’re bloggers, not journalists.) We ended up in a bit of a panic after we considered this product, because we suspect we may have accidentally gotten some for our own garden, when just plain dirt would have sufficed. Seriously, consider this:

Onions Transplanted

That’s one of the beds in our garden, after being watered.

Potato Status Check

And that’s the one next to it, after drying out. Look at the dirt! It changed colors! This is terrible!

4. Changing The Playoff OT Format To 4-on-4 We get that NBC doesn’t like the prospect of limitless, commercial-free playoff OT. It really does fly in the face of their business model, when you think about it. But it’s also one of the best traditions in any sport. So why not, instead of jettisoning the concept of playing regular hockey until someone wins, jettison the idea of it being commercial-free? And if there is some sort of real programming NBC would like to have on in place of 3OT (man, did we get lucky during that Ducks/Wings game that it was just tape-delayed horse jumping, a fact that cracked Boomer up to no end. She kept giggling about all the little horsey tweens who were crying because they were stuck watching ugly old hockey), then slap the game over onto Versus when it runs too long. Sure, we all love to wail and beat our chests about the indignity of that Senators/Sabres game getting shunted aside for Preakness pregame drivel, but that was certainly a much smaller indignity than changing to a 4-on-4 format (a concession that starts us down the slippery slope to shootouts) just to keep our sometimes network happy.

5. Versus’s Great Hockey Moments We have been suffering the lousy broadcast standards on Versus (and NBC) since the lockout because we understand they are gearing their programming toward the elusive “new” or “casual” fan. Fine. You want to present hockey in as crappy a manner as possible because you think it might entice someone who was flipping channels? So be it. But how does that explain the deadly-dull Hockey Moments (or whatever they’re calling them) during the Versus intermissions? What MMA-starved 18-to-25-year-old non-hockey fan is going to see those and go, “Hot damn! This sport is AWESOME!”? TNT’s NBA intermission (er, halftime) show is the talk of the town and you know what it doesn’t include? Grainy footage of shit that happened forty years ago.

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The All Star Game starting line-ups have been announced and as usual we’re incensed at who’s been deemed an “all star” and who’s been deemed “less than”. We look at the guys who were “voted in” by the “fans” and have a hard time trying to figure out which league these so-called “fans” have been watching, because it’s clearly not the same one we are. Let’s take a look at the starters, position-by-position, and see how the “winners” match up to the guys we think are the real all-stars.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Forward
Our pick: Dainius Zubrus

Zubrus was brought in to fill some mighty big shoes following the departure of Scott Gomez and his 60 points, and he brought with him a whopping cap hit of $3.4 million, a staggering sum that could have handcuffed most teams. But did he buckle under the pressure of being the Devils’ new go-to guy? No way! Zubie’s going into the break sporting some pretty hefty point totals: 7g 14a (21p). Dude, if he was a defenseman, he’d be kicking ass! And defense is just about the only position he hasn’t played this season (oh, and goaltender, too. But point us to the skater who has…); Zubrus has been like a 6’5″ Sergei Brylin, making him the biggest interchangeable part we’ve ever seen. So while he might be 151 slots out of first in the Art Ross race, he’s totally played in every position on every line for the Devils. And not just because Coach Sutter had a hard time finding a place where Zubrus would be effective. So that’s why Zubrus gets our pick to be the starting All-Star center — he plays anywhere and everywhere the Devils ask him to, showing a hell of a lot more utility than Gomez ever did, and Gomez was an All-Star, wasn’t he?
(more…)

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