Word Count 2,756
A hollow ring echoed down the long hallway and returned to assault Scott Lancer’s ears with a deafening boom as his small fist tapped against the massive door.
“Who is it?” a gravelly voice said from the other side of the closed door.
Scott shivered. “It . . . it’s me, Grandfather.”
“Ah, Scotty, my boy. Come in. I’ve been waiting for you.” The voice was inviting, but it didn’t quite sound like it belonged to Harlan Garrett.
Another tremor raced up Scott’s spine, and he felt a strange urge to run. He ignored it and twisted the doorknob. His grandfather was never late for breakfast unless he was ill. What if he needed something?
The hinges of the heavy door squeaked faintly as Scott pushed against the smoothly varnished wood. He hesitated, took a deep breath, and tried again. This time the door silently swung inward.
Peaking around the edge of the door, Scott eyed the form that lay nearly hidden beneath the bright quilt on the four-poster bed. His heart lurched into full speed, and he scolded himself for being silly. There was nothing to fear. His grandfather would never harm him.
Scott eased forward and stopped several feet away from the bed that was made of rich, cherry wood. The gray hair sticking out from beneath the edge of the red night cap seemed much to dark and stiff. “Is that you, Grandfather?” he said, his voice squeaking.
The man in the bed spoke slowly in a deep, raspy voice. “Yes, Scotty. Come closer, my boy, so I can see you.”
Scott’s brows pinched together. “Grandfather, have you caught a cold?”
His grandfather coughed. “My throat is a little scratchy. Perhaps you would be kind enough to pour me a glass of water.”
Keeping close watch on his grandfather, Scott edged closer to the bedside table. He reached out with a trembling hand, picked up the crystal pitcher, and filled the matching glass. Some of the water sloshed over his fingers and dripped onto his bare feet, but he didn’t bother to look down. His eyes were fixed on the large rimmed glasses perched on his grandfather’s nose.
“My drink, Scotty,” the old man said.
Scott’s hand bobbled as he waved the pitcher. “Grandfather, why are you wearing those glasses?”
“Why . . . the better to see you with, my boy.” The bristled face split into a wolfish grin.
The pitcher clumped against the top of the table. Scott gulped. His grandfather’s ears were large and covered with tufts of hair. How could they have grown so much overnight?
“Grandfather?” Scott hoarsely whispered.
“Wh . . . why are your ears so big?”
Large teeth filled the gapping space between the old man’s lips. “The better to hear you with, my boy.”
A cold chill spread over Scott’s back and crept up to the top of his head. His hand shook harder, and more water spilled from the pitcher. “B-but Grandfather . . .”
“Really, Scotty. If you must ask so many questions, would you please hand me my drink first,” the old man said in a growling tone.
“But . . . but, Grandfather,” Scott stammered. “Your . . . your teeth. Why are they so long?”
A large, hairy paw tossed the quilt aside and a monstrous beast rose from the bed. “The better to eat you with,” it roared.
Screaming at top of his lungs, Scott whirled and ran for the open doorway. “Grandfather! Grandfather! Where are you? Help! Help!”
With bare feet pattering on the steps of the steep stairway, Scott slid one hand down the dark oak banister in an effort to retain his balance in case he happened to trip in his haste to reach the bottom.
A rush of hot breath scorched the icy chills running the full length of Scott’s back.
“Wilson! Grandfather!” Scott’s frantic cries tore at his throat while his ears seemed to be deaf to the sound.
Teeth snapped and stiff whiskers brushed against Scott’s neck.
Scott threw a leg over the banister like it was a horse and leaned forwards so that he glided downward on his belly–the waxed wood sliding freely between his small hands. Grandfather might punish him for doing so, but that didn’t matter. Anything would be better than what that monster had in mind.
The floor seemed to rush up to meet Scott. His toes bent backwards as they skidded across the brightly polished floor of the foyer.
Scott’s momentum carried him to the front door. Miraculously, it opened at his arrival.
“Kind o’ in a hurry, ain’tcha, Goldie Locks?” a soft voice said as a small hand grabbed his arm and held him fast.
Scott stared at the dark-haired boy who was dressed in red from head to toe. Snug fitting tights encased his legs and lower body, and a satin shirt with a row of embroidery down each side of the front was partially covered by a flowing cape that was tied about his neck.
“Who … who are you?” Scott stammered gazing at the smaller boy.
“Red Robin Hood. Who’d ya expect? Johnny Madrid?” the boy said with a smirk.
Scott’s mouth dropped open.
“Out of my way,” Robin Hood said, releasing his hold on Scott and giving him a back-handed shove. “What I have in mind is a one kid show. Wouldn’t want ya lyin’ in a ditch with ants crawlin’ over them pretty lashes of yours.”
A strange looking weapon appeared in Robin Hood’s hand.
Scott pointed at what looked to be a revolver with the pointed end of a dart poking out the end of its barrel. “What is that?”
Robin rolled his eyes. “It’s a dart gun. Don’t they teach you nothin’ in them fancy schools ’round here?”
A thundering roar drowned Scott’s reply.
Scott turned and stared at the tall form filling the doorway.
Robin Hood smiled up at the wolf in man’s clothing and aimed his weapon at the monster’s heart. “If ya know what’s good for ya, you’ll get out o’ here while ya can.”
The towering creature let out a harsh laugh. “And just how do you plan to make me?” He waved a dismissive paw at the boy’s weapon. “With that?”
“At fifty paces, I could split an apple off the top of Goldie here an’ not touch a hair of his head,” Robin replied.
The beast let out another loud guff-haw. “Care to prove it, Boy?”
Scott shook his head as he took a quick step backward. “Oh no, you don’t. You’re not playing William Tell at my expense.”
Robin Hood stepped back and slung an arm over Scott’s shoulder. “Aw, come on Goldie. No one’s gunna tell Willie boy a thing,” he said. Then he moved closer to Scott’s ear and whispered, “Don’t worry. I cain’t miss. I’m the best shot either side o’ the Mississippi.”
“And what benefit is it to me, if I go along with your crazy scheme?” Scott asked, pulling away. This new boy was far too familiar for his liking.
Robin Hood raised his eye-brows and grinned. “You get to keep your arms, legs, an’ guts, if ya got any.”
“And if you miss?”
Robin shrugged and nodded at the leering wolf-man. “Guess he gets ’em for lunch.”
“What if I refuse to go along with your plan?” Scott said as he crossed his arms over his chest. He wasn’t sure he should trust Robin Hood’s dubious scheme.
Robin raised his brows and lifted his free hand. “You wanna get yourself eaten, that’s fine by me. Just don’t expect me to be dessert.”
“All right.” Scott motioned toward the wolf, who was hungrily eyeing him. “But I want him to agree to let us go if you don’t miss the apple.”
Robin Hood turned to the wolf. “Agreed?”
The monstrous beast scowled and then nodded. “Agreed.”
“Would you mind putting that in writing?” Scott asked. He wasn’t about to trust the word of the wolf. By pretending to be his grandfather, the creature had already proven it couldn’t be trusted.
A piece of paper appeared in Robin Hood’s uplifted hand. “Will this do?” he asked.
Scott’s eyes widened. He took the paper and quickly read it over. “You already had this made up?” he asked.
Robin grinned. “I always believe in bein’ prepared.”
“Cut the talking, boys,” the big, bad wolf-man growled. “I’m hungry. The sooner we get this over, the sooner I can eat.”
“You’ll get your lunch when I’ve proved I ain’t good enough to hang on to it,” Robin said.
“But first we have to sign this.” Scott waved the paper in front of the wolf’s nose. “My grandfather taught me that no agreement is legal and binding without there being a signed contract.”
The monstrous beast let out a loud groan.
A grin spread across Robin’s face. “Gramps is a lawyer, huh?”
“No.” Scott shook his head and proudly lifted his chin. “He’s an accountant. He can out count and out add the fastest mathematicians in the country.”
Robin let out a snort. “You don’t say. That good, huh?”
“Boys! You can talk numbers while I’m feasting.”
The paper was quickly snatched from Scott’s hand and then handed back after the wolf had scratched his name on the appropriate line. “There, now you sign,” Robin said.
With a sigh, Scott started to pen his own signature below the wolf’s. He noticed the beast’s name, faltered, and looked up. “You’re . . . you’re Murdo Land, Sir?”
“So I’m told,” the wolf retorted with a snap of his long, sharp teeth.
“But . . .”
The beast’s eyes flashed fire. “You have a job to do, Boy. Now do it.”
Robin’s small, bronzed hand took hold of Scott’s arm. “Come on Goldie. Ain’t ya learned the Big Bad Wolf always calls the tune?”
Scott scowled and shook free of the other boy’s grip. “And just where am I supposed to come up with an apple?”
“Well, ya could try holdin’ up a train an’ stealin’ some old lady’s fruit basket.” Robin paused and glanced toward the edge of the yard and pointed at a tree by the fence. “It’d be a lot quicker, though, to get one of those. Besides, that tree looks to be just the right number of paces away.”
Murdo growled in a menacing tone.
Scott shivered and strode over to the tree Robin had pointed out. He stretched an arm upward and plucked the single piece of fruit dangling from the only branch within reach. With trembling hand, he stood with his back against the white picket fence and placed the apple on his head.
“Ready?” Robin called.
Scott gulped and nodded. He sucked in a deep breath and held it as Robin Hood carefully took aim.
Murdo smacked his lips and roared. “So long, Goldie. Been nice knowin’ ya.”
A deafening clap of thunder rattled the windows of the Garrett mansion. Fire belched from the barrel of the revolver, and the gun bucked in Robin’s hand. Mesmerized, Scott watched the dart hurtling toward him. His mouth went dry and his stomach lurched as the small arrow grew larger and larger.
As the sharp point penetrated his forehead, Scott yelled, “Robin!”
Somewhere in the distance, Scott Lancer heard drumsticks rumbling against tightly stretched calfskin as fingers gripped his shoulder. He lashed out with one hand while squirming to escape and connected with something that felt like flesh covered bone.
Another set of strong fingers wrapped around Scott’s wrist and a soft voice drawled, “Hey, watch where you’re swingin’, will ya.”
Scott’s upper body bolted upright and his eyelids flew open. Sticky moisture dripped from his brows. He blinked and shook his head while his heart thundered against his ribs.
Slowly Scott’s vision cleared, and a young man with dark hair and wearing a red shirt came into view. “Robin?” Scott whispered.
A broad smile accompanied a soft snort that turned into a chuckle. “Scott, if you can’t tell me from some lady named Robin, then you must’ve been drinkin’ too much of Murdoch’s private stash of brandy? Ya know ya better go easy on that stuff. He’ll have your head on a platter if it’s gone by time he gets home.”
Scott shuddered at the vision of a plate, bearing his head, held in the giant paws of a monstrous wolf.
The dark-haired man stooped. When he stood, he held a book in his hands. “The Life and Adventures of Robin Hood,” he read. He gave Scott a sly grin and a mock punch in the arm. “Hey, is this the Robin ya mistook me for? Maybe ya shouldn’t be readin’ these fairy tales before goin’ to bed. Next thing ya know, you’ll be dreamin’ your grandfather turned into a wolf an’ wants to eat ya like in that story you was tellin’ T’resa and me last night. You know . . . the one about some kid named Little Red Ridin’ Hood.”
Scott scowled at his tormentor, who he now recognized as his brother. “Keep it up, Little Brother, and I’m going to have to teach you some respect for your elders.”
Johnny Lancer flashed a wicked grin. “Might be worth seein’ ya try.”
“Don’t you think I’m big enough?” Scott asked in an irritable tone.
“Ain’t got nothin’ to do with size, Brother.” Johnny pointed at Scott’s head. “I just don’t think ya want that pretty face of yours mussed up. A black eye might be hard to explain to that gal you’re takin’ to the dance tonight.”
“That may be so, but I’m sure you would have one to match,” Scott replied with a smile. It instantly faded when his father’s ward flounced into the room.
Scott groaned as he pulled the quilt closer to his chin. Wouldn’t she ever learn?
Teresa O’Brien stopped a few feet from the bed and propped her hands on her hips. “If you two don’t get down to breakfast, you’re going to have more than a black eye. Maria will–“
“We’ll be right there . . . soon as Goldie here gets out of bed,” Johnny said.
Scott glared at both of his visitors. “Which I will do as soon as I have some privacy.”
Teresa turned toward the doorway. “Well, see that you do,” she said with a backward glance before leaving.
Once Teresa was out of sight, Johnny fiddled with the book in his hands–mischief dancing in his eyes.
Scott cringed and mustered his most menacing tone of voice. “One more crack like that last, and you won’t have to worry about Maria.”
Johnny laid the book beside the lamp on the bedside table and raised both hands. “Okay,” he said and walked backwards toward the door.
Scott watched the growing grin on his brother’s retreating face. Johnny had given up much too easily. Most likely, he had thought of a parting shot and, in hopes of avoiding having something thrown at him, was waiting until he was in a position to duck into the hallway before he delivered it.
As his brother slowly retreated, Scott prepared his own plan. He grasped a corner of his pillow and waited for the smart remark that was sure to come.
With one hand on the knob of the door, Johnny paused in the doorway. He looked down and then slowly raised his head. “See ya in a while Goldie Locks and–“
The pillow rocketed out of Scott’s hand and flew straight as an arrow at its intended target.
Johnny dodged through the doorway, and the pillow smacked the slamming door. “Don’t let the big, bad wolf get ya,” he called from the other side.
“You’ll pay for that,” Scott muttered as he crawling out of bed. His hand touched the book that Johnny had picked up off the floor. An idea began to form and he smiled.
By the time Scott walked into the kitchen, his plans were made. The only thing left to figure out was what bit of trickery would work best to get his little brother to agree to the scheme. He suspected that wouldn’t prove too difficult, given Johnny’s aversion to being thought of as a coward.
Scott whistled his way to the table and greeted Teresa with a cheerful, “Good morning.” He nodded at Johnny and smiled. All the while he was thinking about how he could acquire a bow so he could refresh his archery skills. Then they would see just how brave little brother was.
~~And so begins the adventures of Goldie Locks and Red Robin Hood.
Revised November 2013
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