From Guatemala to Guatepeor

Personally I feel my negotiations with Manuel went pretty well.  I haven't felt this giddy since, well, since I let up that shack way back when.  Obviously the flame itself thrilled me, but there was something more, too; the surrounding panic also jolted some glee somehow.

But the ecstasy this recent encounter has induced has also sparked my demon again.  I curse under my breath.  I need to burn something again.  It pains me, having to reduce myself to lighting old newspapers so I don't shatter, but it's not my fault I have this problem.

Not my fault.  That's what Manuel keeps muttering under his breath once in a while, isn't it?  Come to think of it, that guy has a weird thing for crazy little mantras, which personally I think is nuts.  Then again he gawks at me for muttering under my breath, so we're even.

I slip down to the infirmary for the second time this week.  Doc N raises his eyebrow when he sees me come in.

"Back so soon Gabi?" he asks.

"Demon's worse than usual," I mumble.

"Say no more, I understand."  He sets me up with my paper and lighter, except I'm on the opposite side of the room at a metal table this time.  I give him a look, and he quickly says, "I may understand your demons, but management surely won't understand if my paperwork's charred."  I shrug.  I'm perfectly content to burn anywhere, I just feel more sheltered in the corner behind his desk is all.  I'm on display enough as it is.

About halfway through the second section the new'un I cut off the other day stumbles in, clutching his shoulder.  The doc scurries over to check him over as I give him a distant once-over.  That gets the gears in my head going: Manuel was trying to talk to this guy before I stepped in; why would he concern himself with a rookie more paranoid than even he?  As I thought about it the answer seems obvious: the only thing Manuel ever seems to have on his mind is escape.  He probably wants to recruit the rookie somehow.

I shake my head in reply to my conclusion.  I just can't let that happen, it's just not good to rile up new blood.

The rookie sits on a bench next to my table, holding some ice on his shoulder with the wall.  I look him over again and allow a feline smile to linger on my lips.  Casually I twist and light another sheet of dead newsprint.  I catch him gawking at me, the nosy little creature.  My grin starts to rival that of the Cheshire Cat himself.

"Obviously haven't heard about me?" I ask easily.  He starts a little; I can see beads of sweat on his forehead already.  "Yes, I was talking to you."

"I'm-I'm sorry," he stammers.  "I, I didn't hear you..."

"I said you obviously haven't heard about me.  You looked surprised to see somebody burning paper down here."  I survey the flame before me, acting as sentry between myself and the new guy, twirling the remaining paper between my fingers and letting my eyes drift over the sputtering spark and the new'un.

"C-can't say I have."  He stumbles over his words again.  How charming.

"Surprising.  Most of the time it takes less than a day for new blood to learn about the Maniac."  He cocks his head in innocent confusion.  "You mean to tell me," I ask, lowering my voice to rest above an indignant hiss, "that you've yet to hear mention of the Maniac?  The Pyro?  Pyro-Chick?"  I lean in closer with each biting name, spatting each foul name with disdain.

The poor creature tries to disintegrate, but to no avail.  "S-somebody might've mentioned," he whimpers pathetically.

"Somebody might've mentioned," I repeat with a spiteful chuckle.  "That's sufficient, I s'pose."  I let silence to lapse, and I watch him carefully.

He cowers a bit under my gaze.  "Can I help you?" he asks with a squeak.

"Ah!" I cry in mock delight, nearly sending the boy through the ceiling.  "I thought you'd never ask."  I lean in close, lowering my voice again.  "You've seen a nervous-looking vet in here, yes?  The one I was talking to the other day?"  He nods.  "He'll probably try to approach you with an escape plan."  His eyes light up.  "But, let me warn you, I'm not the only one a little off-kilter in here.  I suggest that, when he does approach you, you don't take the offer."

"Why not?" he asks.  I can't tell if he's trying to sound defiant or naive, because he's failing at both.

My smile slowly becomes more and more serpentine.  "Let's just say the laundry room door can slam and lock at the most inopportune times, and I'd hate to see some maniac turn it into a pyre."  I light up another sheet for dramatic effect.  His eyes widen in pure terror.  "How would I know if you join'm or take my advice?"  Boring my eyes into his, and lowering my voice I answer my own question: "I'd ask you.  You can't lie.  I can tell, you can't lie to save your sorry life."

"Not true!" he barks weakly, but his heart's not in it.

"See?  That proves it."  He crumbles a little, further confirming my suspicion.  "In any event, I'll just know.  I'll let you decide for yourself, but I very strongly recommend that you take my advice."

I burn one more sheet, letting the obsessive glint in my eye flicker a little bit more than usual, and the possessed smirk to linger a little bit longer, just to scare the kid.  I stand up, mouth "think about it" to the rookie, and stroll out.

I figure that the more alone Manuel is in his operation, the easier it'll be for me to keep tabs on him, and the fewer witnesses I'll have when I admonish him when he slips up, which I know he will.  "If you're smart," I mutter to the absent Manuel, "You'll keep yourself in Guatemala rather than stumbling into Guatepeor.  It'll be better for the both of us."

The End

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