Note: This follows on from my earlier novel-length story, Day of the Rat. It was set between movies II and III, and this one will be too, initially, before moving on to continue the adventures of the Turtles, plus their friends and enemies, beyond movie III.
Rather than a single story, Tales will be an ongoing series of shorter story arcs.
Disclaimer: The Turtles and associated characters don't belong to me. The story is for my own entertainment and hopefully that of a few others. I don't own any of these toys; just playing with them.
The rasping voice blared across the main floor of the darkened department store, making the gang of men with stockings stretched across their faces flinch as one. "Will you just shut that damn thing off...?!"
"Hey, I'm trying. The off switch doesn't work."
"Give it here..." Feeling ridiculous, the leader snatched the toy from his fellow criminal's hands. Giving up on getting the off switch to co-operate, he finally pulled out the batteries and threw them to the floor in a fit of pique.
"Seriously...!" the other man ranted. "Who the hell markets a creepy Christmas clown? I say creepy clown, as if there's any other kind."
"Could you just focus on the job in hand, huh? We are supposed to be robbing this place!"
"What?" He stormed over to another of his gang, to find the man jumping back from where one of those Ninja Turtle full-size head masks was resting on a counter. If anything it was even creepier than the clown - Its eyes, showing through the slits in the purple cloth band, seemed to follow you as you moved around. Clever, though. Kids' toys these days were sometimes pretty cool.
"That thing moved."
"Just find the safe, OK?!" he said dismissively. Once the others were out of sight, though, he did lean closer to the Turtle suspiciously. It did look kind of lifelike...
"Hi!" it piped up. He sprang back - startled was a word that barely covered his reaction. "Iiiiiii... aiiint got no booo-ooo-ooodyyy...!" it sang, head swaying in time with the music.
"Here...!" he yelped to the others. "Over here!"
"You guys..." said Donatello as he emerged from behind the counter. "We've been waiting here simply forever."
"Yeah," said Raphael, right behind him. "That's right. Waiting. You guys might wanna try being a little less predictable."
The others came running back, another Turtle on their heels - Michelangelo was swinging a yo yo around his head delightedly. "That's right, amigos... It's us! Happy holidays!"
"Miss us?" Leonardo was blocking the way they had arrived, arms folded but hands never straying far from the hilts of his swords. He stared the lead criminal out with hooded eyes - If anything he looked disappointed with him. "I can't believe we're here again," he said quietly.
The leader nodded slowly, and slapped a hand to his forehead. "Thank... Thank God you're here!" he cried. "We just got here, and... and some people were robbing the place, and we thought... We thought... Oh no, we thought, we'll be blamed for this, and we found these stockings on the floor... You know... They must have dropped them - Like your friend's glove! Yeah... Remember we helped you - I helped you find your friend... Uh... How is she? Is she doing OK now...? I hope so... She certainly looked, uh, nice... Uh, well, on TV last night... Uh, you're not buying this, are you...?"
The Turtles looked around each other, as if to wordlessly compare their take on the situation, and as one shook their heads. Not buying it. "I tell you what..." he said, picking up the scary Christmas clown casually. "Uh... We'll leave right away. It's absolutely right that we should be made to leave right away!" He moved toward the exit. "Come on!" Leonardo stayed blocking the way.
"Nuh-uh," he said. "You're staying right here till we invite the cops to this little party. I warned you last time. You should have listened. Now we're even."
The man nodded. "Yeah, you're right," he said, before, in an act of pure desperation, not expecting to actually achieve anything, he threw the toy clown at Leonardo and tried to skip around him. Sighing, Leo caught the clown and spun on his heels to try to intercept the man - and fell heavily as he stumbled over the discarded batteries on the ground. Not believing this good fortune, the man wasted no time and ran at full pelt out the door, the others close behind him.
Raphael stooped over to check Leonardo was all right. "You, OK, Leo?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine!" he said testily. "Get after them!" As Raphael and Michelangelo raced off in pursuit, Donatello helped Leo up. "I saw the batteries, Don, I really did. I just forgot about them."
"Are you really OK?"
"I'm just feeling a little woozy. I'll be fine."
"A little worse."
"Well, I'll check you out when we get back."
"OK, Doctor Don. I'll humor you." He looked up as the others returned. "You get them?"
"Too much of a start," said Raphael. "Nicely done, fearsome leader." He looked a little regretful as Donatello quickly shook his head at him. "Sorry, Leo, it's just... Those guys have been giving us trouble for a while now." He clapped his brother's shoulder. "You OK?"
"I'll be better if you all just stop asking me that," Leonardo said irritably as they walked toward the exit. "Let's just get back, and chalk this one up to experience, huh?"
"Hey, look on the bright side," said Donatello. "Only a few more sleeps till Christmas."
"So...?" demanded Raphael.
"So get with the program, Raph. You gotta discover the true meaning of Christmas."
"Presents," suggested Michelangelo.
"No," said Donatello sagely.
"What then?" Raphael was impatient now.
"Leo, help me out, will you?" Leonardo just looked annoyed - Clearly he was more ill than he was letting them see. Donatello sighed. "Mikey? One more try?"
"Old movies on TV!"
"Yeah, but there are no new episodes of stuff," said Raphael, sulky.
"Raph's still getting MacGyver withdrawal," explained Michelangelo.
"Is that an actual medical condition?"
"You bet your bo it is."
-Ooh! The light's changed.
With the pent-up traffic held in check, April O'Neil took the opportunity while she could to hurry across the road along with the mass of other pedestrians, swathed in thick layers of clothing, breath misting in the air. All these people were busy, no doubt, but few could be quite as busy as her - After all, she wasn't unique in having a career, but how many of them had a whole secret life as well?
And then of course there was Christmas. She shuddered at the thought of the Thanksgiving turkey pizza, and wondered what would be in store for this holiday... She almost missed it. She had to stop, backtrack, and stare disbelievingly into the frosted window display of the department store.
April smiled. This would make the guys' Christmas.
"Mikey..." Raphael snapped. "Would you just stop playing with Little Mikey? Even for a second...?"
"Uh... Care to rephrase that, Raph?" asked Donatello.
"Y'know what...? No, not really."
"Thanks again, April!" said Michelangelo, looking over his shoulder at their guest, holding up the six-inch tall plastic action figure. His figure. His likeness. They all had one, and they were all kind of pleased about it, but Mikey was by some distance the most pleased.
"One word - image rights," Raphael had said, soon after April had come down the ladder into their subway station refuge and distributed her bounty - "That's two words" Donatello had pointed out - but April managed to catch Raph handling mini-Raph with a faint smile on his face, and knew she had done the right thing.
In fact, the only one who hadn't responded so well to her presents, and in fact her visit, was Leo. Something was very wrong. He freely admitted to feeling ill, but April had caught sight of him a couple of times when he thought no one was looking, and she knew it was worse than he was saying. The others weren't talking about it, and she went along with that. For now.
Another topic usually off limits was broached, as one of them was almost contractually obliged to do on special occasions like this, when Donatello asked "So... Anyone heard from Casey since...?" There was a few uncomfortable moments while they all indicated they hadn't, and that was that. Something else April was trying not to worry about. OK, maybe they weren't a couple after all, but she still cared about him, and he had been away far longer than she ever thought he would be.
So, they all kept up the joie de vivre and pretended nothing was wrong. Hey, it really was Christmas.
"What is the condition of the patient?" The same question every time. The young Japanese woman stood there, face impassive, waiting for an answer.
Dr Aristotle Brewer sighed, and turned to her. "He's coming along nicely." he said, and winking at her, he added "Not long now, and he'll be done to a turn." She somehow managed to resist his charm, yet again.
Since she was still standing there, apparently expecting more, he went on. "Mister Oroku has been through a lot, obviously... I think what I've done here is going to make history. The first man to come back from the dead. Just think what he can tell us..."
"Yes," she replied, without changing her expression, and at that she turned and walked off.
Splinter got on the phone early the next day - a definite sign something was very wrong - and April rushed back to the Turtles' lair. Things were indeed bad. Leo was unconscious, his breathing fitful, and the other three Turtles were experiencing the same symptoms he had shown the day before. Dizzy and weak, the three of them huddled together on one sofa while Leo was stretched out on another.
April and Splinter shared a look - What are we going to do? This was that rarest of situations - one where the Turtles' sensei was out of his depth.
April, however, had an idea almost right away. "Look..." she said, searching through her bag, "He did say, if there was ever an emergency..." She pulled out a notepad, and hurriedly searched through the pages. "Ah ha!" She ran to the phone and dialed. "Go with me on this one, OK...?" she reassured Splinter before giving the phone her full attention. "Yeah, hi... I'd like to talk to Professor Jordon Perry, please... Yeah, it's pretty urgent... Uh... Yeah, tell him... Tell him it's a matter relating to a Mr Bartholomew Simpson. Yeah, that's right. OK, I'll hold..."
Leonardo used the time to meditate. He was in the dark, and he didn't know where he was, but he felt strangely calm about it. Though he couldn't see them - He could after all see nothing except, strangely enough, his own body in its lotus position - he somehow knew the others were close by. Raphael. Michelangelo. Donatello. He could hear their faint, regular breathing, and if he concentrated he could almost hear their thoughts.
He looked around the environment they had found themselves in, feeling curiosity for the first time. Nothing but blackness. No, wait... He could make something out now. A wall. A brick wall, rounded, curving toward - No, it was all one rounded structure. A tunnel. Like the sewer tunnels he was so used to, but with one important difference. The ground he was sitting on was dry. Dry, and kind of warm.
He could see the others now. The three of them were, like him, peering around curiously. Trying to make sense of this situation. They didn't realize yet that it just didn't matter.
"Are we dead?" pondered Michelangelo quietly.
Donatello was the first to stand up - Naturally, he was also the first to offer a rationalization. "Guys... This isn't real..." Oh. Now Leo thought about it that way, that did make sense. He was about to try and explain that it was OK when Donatello continued.
"It's the Rat King" he said. "He's got us again. We're all in a trance and he's in our minds. We gotta resist, guys. Resist!"
"Guys... Maybe we're dead." said Michelangelo again.
"There's no Rat King any more, Don" Raphael tried to reassure him, and he patted the wall hesitantly. "These bricks are kinda... soft." What kinda place is this?" Then, at the same time as Leonardo and Donatello, he finally heard what Michelangelo had been saying. They all looked at each other.
"I think I'm right, guys..." Michelangelo concluded. "I really think we might be dead."
Next: Robyn and the Hoods