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Rold and Hare made it one by one out the door.  No maniacal laughter drifted into the hallway as they fled, only the sound of their frantic footfalls bounced through the hall.  They skittered to the stairwell, rushing down each step.  Hare stopped Rold at a landing by placing his hand out.
“Act natural.  We.  We don’t want people in the building to know.  We shouldn’t run.  Oh, we shouldn’t run.”  Hare huffed and puffed.  “Maybe we should catch our breath.”
Breathing heavily, Rold radiated exuberance.“That.  Was.  Awesome!”  Rold bent forward at the waist with his hands on his hips.  “That was, like.  He must be, like, a crime lord.  Or like, a crime peon.  Peasant.”  
Hare leaned against a handrail.  “Yeah.  Okay.  Peasant.  I’m just happy you’re okay.”
“Whew.”  Rold put his hands over his head and tilted his head back.  “Running always looks easier in online.  Orcs don’t have to take a breather in the middle of a battle.”
“They’re orcs, I wouldn’t expect them to.”  Hare wrinkled his nose.  “Not that I know what an orc is.”
“Orc?  Rhymes with pork, Hare.  From Lord of the Rings.  Don’t you use the internet at all?”  Rold asked, then immediately resumed his communion with oxygen.
“Oh, yeah.  I remember that.”  Hare held the envelope up the nearest light.
The stairwell was a common affair with white walls that contrasted well with the grey concrete staircase and the chipped and dinged black handrails.  Bright buzzing fluorescent overhead lights occasionally blinked, casting yellowish beams around their two shadows.  The unfinished concrete floor and steps housed cracks which crazed in every direction at random.  Eventually, Harold and Hare’s breathing slowed.  
“I’ve never been out of breath before or held at gunpoint.”  Rold grinned wolfishly.  “We are so gods of this!  Wait ‘til we tell Harold, I bet he flips out.”
“Don’t tell Harold.”  Hare added.  “Harry neither.”  “It’ll just worry them.  And no bragging on the inter-online web either.  We tell everyone we know that everything’s okay, and nothing bad happened.”
“Nothing bad did happen.”  
“Exactly.”  Hare winked conspiratorially.”
“What’s wrong with your eye?”
Hare sighed.  “Promise me you won’t mention the gun.”
“How about if I mention it, but make it seem like it wasn’t us?”  He tipped an invisible top hat.  “Classic, and that way I get the excitement without all the work.”
“No.”  Hare patted Rold on the shoulder.  “Come on, we might as well get out of here.  Harold’s probably spinning his wheels.”
Rold snerked at Hare’s little joke.  They treaded the linoleum tiles leading to the lobby solemnly;  Hare nodded at the security guard as they strode past.  Beyond the main entrance, they spotted Harold in the brown station wagon, worrying his hands against the steering wheel.  Efficiently, Hare and Rold got back into their seats.  Harold gunned the engine and the car peeled out of the carport.
Rold laughed.  “I didn’t even buckle my seat belt yet.”
“I’m sorry,”  Harry admitted.  “I was a bit worried that something horrible had happened to you two, but clearly you’re fine, now that you’re here.  Buckle up.”
Hare and Rold managed to pull their seatbelts on.  The cityscape zoomed past the car, a grey on grey blur.  Washed of color and speeding by, the landscape appeared as if it had been seen before in a poorly remembered dream,  familiar and exotic at the same time.  Streets, shops and buildings combined in a new way when reduced to mere spots, memory no longer served correctly.
“Why are you driving so fast?”  Hare tapped a hand idly against the door handle grip.
“I’m nervous, that’s all.”  Harold kept to the higher side of the speed limit until the station wagon reached the dusty-grey edge of the city.  His shoulders began to free themselves of tension as the green fields approached on the horizon.  “Everything went well?”
“Yup.”  Hare interjected quickly.  “A simple exchange.”
“What he said.”  Rold lazily stated.  “A simple exchange.”  He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth.  “In and out.”  Snapping his fingers once, Rold continued, “Easy-peasy.”
“I have the papers in this envelope.”  Hare lifted the envelope, not that Harold turned to look.  “We should probably check them out later.”
“Good.”  Harold inhaled then smiled.  “I’m really happy it went well.  I’ve been worried all week about this.”
“Get this, the office looked totally legit.”  Rold nodded.  “There was only one guy working there, though.”

Hare turned around to glare at Rold.  
“Had a suit on and everything,”  Rold enjoyed winding Hare up.  “Kind of gangland-ish, but without the fancy hat.”
Hare faced forward and squeezed the door handle grip.  
“He . . .”  Dragging the word out, Rold eventually continued.  “Seemed nice.  He seemed nice.”
“What do you think, Hare?”  Harold asked.
“About what?”
“About the man.”
“We gave him the money, he gave us the papers.”  Hare tapped the envelope lightly with his fingers.  “I’m not sure that they’re all complete.  Still, they’d fool me if I saw them.”
Harold grunted under his breath.  “That’s what we could afford.  Maybe the price would have been lower last year, or a while ago.”
“No sense looking to the past.”  Rold shrugged.  “We got what we came for, now we have to worry about the next thing.”
“Yes, the house.”  Hare tapped his chin with a forefinger.  “I think we need a realtor.”
“Honestly, I keep saying we should use the internet.”  Rold licked his lips.  “With some nice pictures, I bet we could  get a good idea of the market and whatnot, make a lot of money.”
“Don’t you want us to find good owners?”  Hare asked honestly.  “I mean, I want a family to move in, maybe a young couple looking to start a family.”
“We can find young couples on the internet!”  
“Yes, but I’m not sure they’re looking to buy a house.”
“I’m not sure it matters so much who gets it.”  Harold murmured.  “We should concentrate on fixing it up first.  Storm windows, redo a room or two for maximization of space, you know, build a real interest.  Before you say it again, Rold, we’re going through a realtor.”
“You’ll at least let me pick one based on my own research?”
Harold thought for a little bit.  
Hare conjectured, “I think maybe, you could find us a few, and then we can interview them.  It’ll have to happen soon.”  Sighing, he continued, “I’ll do all of the major home improvements.”
“Harry and I can handle the major cleaning, dusting and the like.”  Harold nodded.  “Yes, it’s still a lot to do, but we can handle it.”
“So much left to do.”  Hare lamented.
“Yes, so much left to do.”  Rold mimicked.
Harold flicked the radio on to make the rest of the travel time seem less daunting.  As they neared an empty baseball park, he slowed the car down and steered the wagon into the car park, a grassy field embedded with deep car ruts, which carved the ground into many patterns.  A simple wooden fence composed of two rails surrounded the clearing, with several large wooden logs at different distances.  Harold drove the wagon to a relatively flat part of the parking area.  Turning the radio off, Harold grinned at the other two.
Harold flicked the ignition off.  “I’ve got all the time for this today, you know, no jobs, no obligations, so we shouldn’t wait for this.  Harold, I’m going to let you drive this car.”
“Can I wait outside the car?”  Rold deadpanned.  “Oh wait, if I do, you might hit me.  I’ll stay inside.”
“Ignore him, Hare.  Now, I’ll just demonstrate the important parts for driving right now.  There are three pedals at my feet, from the left to the right, they’re called the clutch, the brake and the accelerator.”  Harold patted Hare on the arm.  “Do you see them?”
Hare nodded nervously.
“Good.”  Harold calmly repeated his words and then indicated the shifter, the stick.  “We keep the car in neutral, push the clutch and start the ignition.”  He completed the tasks he had set, watching Hare’s face to see that Hare understood.  “Okay, the engine is started.”  He tapped the gear shifter.  “Now, today, you’re just going to shift from neutral into first.  I’ll show you how to do it, then you’ll try.  I press the clutch, and shift from neutral to first.”  He shifted the gears.  “Now, I slowly release the clutch.”  
The car pitched forward smoothly and Harold pressed on the accelerator.  Executing a wide turn on the flattened area, he returned them to their original starting point, downshifting into neutral and then engaging the parking brake.
“And this is the parking brake.”  Harold
“All right.”
Harold and Hare switched places, then nervously put on their seatbelts.
“Here we go,” said Hare.
“We’ll go really slow.”  Harold stated for everyone’s benefit.  “Hare, say everything you’re about to do before you do it.”
“Disengaging the parking brake.”
“Engaging the clutch, and now shifting.”  Hare’s voice rose in pitch.  “Releasing the clutch, slowly.”  
The car surged forward and Hare pushed his foot down on the accelerator.  Acclimating himself fairly well to the steering wheel, he steered the wagon in a wide turn similar to Harold’s earlier one.  Then he did it again.
“I’m quite good at this,”  Hare marvelled.  “Am I able to go faster?”
“Eventually,”  Harold cautioned.  “Why don’t we focus on regular steering today?”
Hare forced the wagon to do a figure eight and then used the brake to stop.  Unfortunately, he had not paid as close attention as he should have to Harold’s earlier actions.  Although the brake slowed the car down, the slowed car still was not jerking to a complete and full stop.  To make things worse, a log near the fence was getting closer and closer.  The log seemed to grow bigger and bigger as the car slowly coasted towards it.
“Turn the wheel.”  Harold advised.  “Turn it!”
“I’m trying to stop the car! What do I do!”  Hands gripping the steering wheel, Hare cried out.  “Oh god oh god oh god.”
Rold screamed, “The brake is the one in the middle.”
“I’m pressing it, I’m pressing it.”  Hare jabbered.  “I’m still pressing it.”  He bounced his foot up and down against the brake.”
“Use the clutch and downshift!”  Bracing for impact, Harold grabbed onto the dashboard.
Hare quickly downshifted into neutral, which slowed them down quite a bit.  His foot crunching forcefully against the brake, but the car did not completely grind to a halt.  They gently tapped the log, making a thunking noise.


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November 2010

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