“What do you mean you have to leave?”
For all the time Scout spent telling Scofflaw to take a hike, she was awfully enraged to see him go. At the moment, she was sitting on his stomach and pounding her fist on his chest. Scofflaw was caught between laughing and wheezing.
“Damn, sweetheart, you can pack a punch!” The next one caught him in the jaw. “Yowch! Alright, alright, stop! Listen, I’m goin’ to a birthday party.”
“Oh, that is such bullshit!” Scout’s open palm slammed down on Scofflaw’s clavicle and, mercifully, stayed there. “That’s not even a good lie!”
“That’s because it’s the truth, Scooter,” Scofflaw said. He made a valiant attempt to sit up, but she wouldn’t budge, and he only wound up pressed against her. “If I was gonna lie, I’d weave you a tale of triumph and woe, to win your fair and oh so sympathetic heart.”
“Right, some shitty fantasy about how Sir Pecker slays the dragon. Oh, what was it, the time you told me fifty cops stormed your house and you fought your way out with a wire hanger.”
“Hey, that was a good one! I put serious thought into it.”
“Yeah, except you forgot the part where I work in law enforcement!” She slapped him once more, for good measure. “Now tell me where you’re really going.”
“I’m really going to a birthday party, Scooter.” In spite of knives and vicious teeth, Scofflaw put his arms under her and flipped her onto the bed, showering her face with kisses to try and keep the punching at bay. “Sonhearst is turning thirteen. I’d invite ya, but I’m guessing it’s not your kinda crowd.”
“Fine,” she snapped, arms crossed in a world class pout. “Go hang out with your asshole mobster friends.”
“Don’t be like that, Scooter,” Scofflaw purred. “You know I’m coming back tonight to make it up to you.” That infectious smirk cracked across the mobster’s face. “Might even make up twice.”
Scout was immune to that smile. She put a foot into his chest and toppled him clean over the edge of the bed.
Scout didn’t make it three feet away form her building before she crossed paths with a scurrying little cockroach. Snooping was her game, it was in her name for fuck’s sake, so why this bastard thought he could get the drop on her was beyond comprehension. She stopped at the corner and stuck her hands in the shrubbery, snagging Karkat by his shirt sleeves.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, kid?” she hissed, directly in his face.
“Practicing detective work!” he said. Sure enough, he had his trusty notebook in hand, but slammed it shut before she could peek. “Since you won’t let me help.”
“I keep telling you, I’m not playing this babysitter bullshit anymore!” She spun him around and gave him a shove in the opposite direction. “You wanna be a cop? Try showing up for school!”
“It’s three in the afternoon! School’s out!”
“... Oh.” Scout boggled vacantly for a moment. “Shit. Detective’s gonna kill me.”
“You’re not being a very good role model,” Karkat said. And then, to nail that point home, he flipped open his book and wrote it down.
“I am not your role model,” Scout snarled. “And what the fuck are you doing, anyway? That journal bullshit is Detective’s thing, you never follow him around.”
“Well, like I said, you aren’t being a very good role model.” Karkat sneered, and then jumped back when she swung for him. “Just let me help on one case! I can do it, I swear!”
“Yeah, let me stroll in six hours late and bring along somebody else’s kid to help solve crimes on top of that. I’ll win employee of the month for sure.” Scout paused and regarded him with her one glaring eye, but he stood tall. So she barked at him, “Go home now, kid!”
He wouldn’t budge, so she advanced on him with fists raised until he took off running.
It was impossible to tell when Deadeye Detective was actually angry. He he always looked a bit surly, a bit disinterested by the world. He never tipped his hand to his thoughts or plans unless necessary, and wasn't prone to fits of rage the way Scout was. She could only gauge his mood and the level of punishment she was about to receive with educated guesses.
Scout normally showed up late to work, hours after everyone else. It was understandable. Her part of the job required her to be out until ungodly hours, blending in with the riff raff to see what she could learn about the criminal underbelly. But after three in the afternoon was a but much even by her standards.
The moment she walked into the office, Detective was on his feet. He didn’t greet her, or even say a word. A thin case file was shoved into her arms and, much like she’d done to Karkat, he spun her around and gave her a shove right back out the door.
Not as bad as it could’ve gone.
Instead of sitting at her cozy desk, Scout sat on the sidewalk as she flipped through her newest case. A string of arsons and burglaries in Canterbury, a relatively clean and peaceful neighborhood. No known MO’s matched the patterns, no one looked good for it, no leads. The only truly interesting thing about it was that each crime was recorded taking place between 2 and 9 P.M. She was starting from scratch.
The first and really the only thing to do was to visit the scene of the crimes. Scout didn’t think this person would stupid enough to burglarize the same house or burn the same spot twice, but all his strikes were within this neighborhood, so there she would prowl.
She located the latest robbery site, using it as a starting point, and walked up and down every street in a six block radius. The sort of thing she’d normally do at night, when it was dark enough to hide and actually snoop around. This was more like a leisurely stroll, and it was infuriatingly boring.
“Who the fuck steals shit in broad fucking daylight, anyway?” Scout scowled aloud, shooting death glares at nearby birds that had the nerve to chirp. Birds were never around to bother her during night hours, or these little punk kids, freshly set loose from school and running amuk, for that matter. This all felt stupid.
And then, just like that, it jumped the line from stupid into infuriating. “Haven’t you figured it out yet?”
“Son of a bitch!” Scout whirled around swinging, but Karkat had already proven he knew when to duck. “How the fuck long have you been following me?”
“Long enough that you should’ve figured it out!” Karkat said. “What, are you off your game or something?”
“None of your concern, ya little brat!” Once again, Scout spun him around and shoved him, but he would not go. “I told you a million times, you don’t get to tag along on cases! Detective’ll hand me my ass if he sees you. It’s illegal as fuck.”
“Well, maybe I have something to tell Detective that’ll be even worse!” Karkat said.
Scout paused, and regarded him with a sneer, veiling curiosity. “You blackmailing me, you prick?”
“Maybe,” Karkat said., sweet as could be. “Maybe I’m just a concerned citizen who saw Peccant Scofflaw leaving your apartment this afternoon.”
“I - you - he - WHAT?” For a moment, Scout became Pernicious Innovator, in that she sputtered hysterically and nearly hit the floor from the shocking blow the world had dealt her. But that moment was fleeting, quickly replaced by the instinct to grab Karkat by the shoulders and shake him violently. “Tell me what you saw, you little shit!”
Scout having only one eye was an advantage. Karkat shoved his hand at it, blinding her and still having another free to grab her wrist for a wicked indian burn. “I just did tell you!” he said. “Why can’t you just let me help?”
“Blackmail is for cowards and crooks, kid!” Scout let go to save the skin of her wrist, wrenching it away and then guarding it. “I thought you wanted to be a good guy.”
“I thought the same about you,” Karkat snapped. The venom in his tone stung, made Scout pause and stare and wonder when she’d started to give a shit what the little pest thought.
“... What I do in my spare time doesn’t change what I do at work,” she said. Karkat stared her down, jaw set and arms crossed. She sighed. “... Alright, fine, you can help. But you can’t say a word to anybody, about anything.”
“Sure,” he said, and smiled. “I just came by to tell you I saw someone start a dumpster fire three blocks from here.”
“Seriously? You couldn’t just say that to start with?”
“You tried to hit me!”
Scout bared her teeth in a snarl, but this time when she gave Karkat a shove, she ran with him.
The small dumpster was concealed far enough in the labyrinth of an alleyway that the smoke hadn’t yet been noticed. It was deserted; whoever had done it was surely long gone.
“Smells,” Scout said. “Did you get a good look at him?”
“He was short,” Karkat shrugged.
“And wearing a cape.”
“... A what now?” And then it clicked. Who would commit crimes between two and nine? “It’s a fucking kid.”
“Duh. You didn’t get that before?”
This time, Scout didn’t have to hit Karkat. A rock flew down from above and bounced off his head. “Ow! What the hell?”
“I see you’ve figured out my grand scheme!” The voice that carried down to them was comically high-pitched. The figure on the fence above them was, indeed, short, with a purple towel tied around his neck that clashed ridiculously to the tiny suit he was wearing, along with some sort of weird black mask around his head.
Scout groaned aloud and smeared her palm into her face.
“Yeah, well, I see your face is fucked up,” was Karkat’s clever retort. “What are you supposed to be, Phantom of the Opera?”
“What? No- what- It’s not even the same kind of mask!”
“Whatever, you wear it ‘cause your face is fucked up!”
“God, you’re dumb!”
“I’ll kill you!”
The masked child dropped down to the floor, but Scout wrapped an arm around his neck before he could get a hold of Karkat. “Alright, cut the shit! How many times do I gotta say I’m not a fucking babysitter? This isn’t even a real fucking case, Deadeye must be fucking punishing me!”
As she ranted, Scout wedged her fingers under the culprit’s mask and yanked it off his head. Both she and Karkat balked. “... Aren’t you Angry Delinquent’s kid?” she asked, quietly.
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Shouldn’t you be at your birthday party?”
“What the hell are you on about? It’s not my birthday.”
Scout was still for a full three seconds. The quiet before the storm hit, a flurry of teeth and swears. “Son of a fucking bitch! Lying fucking bastard, I’ll fucking kill the shit out of his smuf fucking face! I’m gonna stick a knife right up his- ARGH.”
Sonhearst broke free and ran, while Scout howled in pain and patted out the fire he’d set to her shirt. “I’ll be seeing you again, detectives!” he cried melodramatically, and Karkat shook a fist at him. Playing right into this charade.
Rage bubbled over in Scout’s head. She threw her head back and bellowed out to the city, the epitome of hysterical.
“When did my life become a comic book?”