Trick or Swipe

Bushroot had one job. One lousy job, and he blew it. He was supposed to replace the decorative planters in the lobby of the 36th National Bank with real plants, loaded with explosive mulch that they could chuck at the vault when Negaduck went in.  Bushroot did not even have to be there in person! It was the easiest job Negaduck could have given him, but Bushroot quailed at the last moment when he realized the acid in the mulch was hurting the ferns and bamboo. He’d knocked the planters over while extracting the plants and accidentally dropped the mulch through a sewer grate.  Now that sewer was leaking noxious fumes and the rats were taking cover in nearby buildings.  The bank was closed and a cleanup crew was investigating. 

 There was nothing left to do except skedaddle before Negaduck came around with pruning shears.

And so Bushroot ended up hiding in the Halloween section of a store, hoping he’d covered his tracks well enough to keep Negaduck’s dogs from sniffing him out.

    • Dr. Moira Rousseau
      Dr. Moira Rousseau

      Fortunately for Bushroot, the store was currently devoid of customers and the cashier seemed to be engrossed in a game on his phone, giving the plant-duck plenty of opportunity to hide.

      But it wouldn’t last long.  Moments after he’d disappeared into the seasonal area of the store — now stocked with a large assortment of candy, costumes and spooky decorations — the door opened once again and a raven-haired woman walked inside.

      At least... it may have been a woman.  It was hard to tell, what with the trench coat, floppy wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.  Not to mention the long, heavy scarf that nearly dwarfed the person wearing it despite having already been wrapped around the neck several times.

      Sure, it was a tad nippy outside.  But whoever was buried underneath all those layers looked as though they were heading into a blizzard.

      Once the door closed, the tinted glasses came off and, sure enough, revealed the face of an obviously nervous young woman.  Her anxious expression melted into relief upon seeing she was apparently alone, with only a cashier who hadn’t even acknowledged that she’d walked in.

      What good luck! Moira thought to herself, her mood brightening.  James and Posi had been right... maybe this wouldn’t be so difficult after all.  No one had recognized her on the way, so there had been no polite small talk to fret over.  Now all she had to do was pick up a few things she’d been tasked to get for the SHUSH Halloween party later that week, pay, and scurry back to her apartment whilst bundled up safely in her fortress of winter clothing.

      James had tasked her with purchasing a specific brand of candy corn only found at this particular store, and she was suspicious that it was only an attempt to get her to actually interact with people rather than just buying online as she normally did. But, surely, just getting out at all would be satisfactory enough.

      She would not be making an idiot out of herself this time, no sir!  Just imagine... an entire errand completed without any gunfights, hostage situations or, worse, awkward silences after one of her failed jokes.

      Feeling emboldened, the peculiarly socially-phobic psychiatrist made her way to the Halloween section to begin perusing the candy selection.  As she reached for a bag of candy, she paused, sniffing the air.

      Was it her, or did something smell... floral?  With a hint of something... sort of... chemical?

      Moira glanced around, looking for the faint odor’s source.  How strange, she didn’t see any plants.  Figuring the smell was probably coming from the cheap materials they used to make the Halloween decorations on the shelf next to her, Moira shrugged and turned her attention back to the candy.

      The petite young woman grabbed a bag of miniature chocolate bars before standing on her toes to reach for a bag of candy corn on the highest shelf - the one James had specified as a requirement.  If she could just reach it, she could pay and leave.  And the sooner she left, the sooner she could once again be safe at home... curled up on the couch with a good book and a hot cup of cocoa.

      • A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs
        A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs

        What was she doing? Bushroot stayed as still as he could, scarcely daring to blink until he was sure the young woman had ended her scent quest and resumed her errand. Oh. The poor dear couldn’t reach that bag of candy corn. And the only other person in the store was the cashier. It wouldn’t hurt to offer a helping hand, would it?

        Bushroot put on some of the costume pieces he was hiding amidst and carefully snaked an arm around the decorations and boxes and bags of candy until he could reach the top shelf. He nudged the bag of candy just a tiny bit closer and hid his hand behind a box. Did she get it? Maybe another nudge. Oops. Too hard. The candy almost fell on her. At least it wasn’t hard or super heavy. Sorry! He hid his hand and stealthily started retracting his arm.

        • Dr. Moira Rousseau
          Dr. Moira Rousseau

          Whoops!

          Moira cringed and looked around guiltily, as if feeling the need to apologize for dropping the candy.  It wasn't until she'd picked it up off of the floor that she paused, realizing she hadn't even been able to reach it, much less knock it over. So, then, how....?

          Curiosity getting the better of her, Moira began inspecting the shelves and displays a little closer.  She shuffled the merchandise around -- always politely putting it back when she was done -- looking for anything out of the ordinary.

          Maybe it was a Halloween prank?  Some hidden device that scares people by moving things?  If so, she wondered if they had one for sale.  She knew of at least two people at work who'd love something like that...

          • A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs
            A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs

            Bushroot bit his bill nervously. Slow down, Lady! Or at least make enough racket so that he can retract his arm faster! At this rate either she was going to see something green slithering across a shelf or-

            The heel of his hand bumped a box of jack’o lantern fangs off the shelf. Retracting his arm as fast as he could, Bushroot put on more disguises. Maybe she would be so busy looking for the source of noise on the shelf, she’d fail to notice the gnarled feet or beak jutting out from the costume display shelf three feet away from her.  

            Or else so he hoped until he got himself tangled in a Grim Reaper’s robe and plastic scythe. No no no no! Timber! Down fell Bushroot and a dizen costumes and shelf hooks with him.

            • Dr. Moira Rousseau
              Dr. Moira Rousseau

              Moira jumped back when the box fell, spilling fangs all over the floor.  But before she had any time to react any further to that, another louder crash came from right beside her.  She yelped as a heap of costumes and props seemed to fall into the floor from the display on their own.

              But then, it hain’t been on their own, had it?  She thought she’d caught a bit of movement from within the pile of spooky garments... was someone in there?  Maybe there had been a child playing by hiding in the costumes?  But then, where were the parents?

              Moira glanced over to see the cashier still engrossed in his game, and frowned upon seeing the earbuds in his ears.  Well, no wonder he hadn’t heard he commotion!  The young man’s obliviousness was concerning — what if a customer really needed his help? Or there was an emergency? — but she supposed she should count herself lucky.  Maybe she could clean this mess up before he noticed anything was amiss, and the child wouldn’t get in too much trouble.

              ”Um... h-hello....?” Moira said, crouching down as she began picking up stray costume parts.  “Are you okay?”

              Fortunately, it was near impossible for her to decipher where the mess of costumes ended and where the person buried in them began.  The fact that a few costumes in the mess had been made in the likeness of certain local villains certainly helped with that.

              Which may have been why Moira thought nothing of it when her hand reached down to pick up something that resembled a large, green vine underneath some reaper robes.

              • A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs
                A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs

                Was it too late to play dead and pretend to be a prop? Yep. Much too late.

                ”Y-y-yes! I’m okay, I’m okay.” Bushroot flinched from the light touch and tried moving some of the stuff out of the way, while adjusting what he was wearing. “Are you? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” 

                • Dr. Moira Rousseau
                  Dr. Moira Rousseau

                  That... was most certainly not the voice of a child.

                  “Oh, I’m fine... that’s what Halloween is for, right?  Spooks and scares?” She chuckled a little.  “Here... let me help you clean this up.”

                  As she began picking up the mess, Moira caught sight of a bit of green under the stranger’s layers, and suspicions started to arise.  Come to think of it, that voice... she‘d heard it before.  On TV?  Was this a celebrity trying to avoid the media?  Maybe that green was part of a costume he was wearing?

                  When it finally hit her, Moira started slightly, nervously backing away a few steps.

                  Bushroot.

                  She had heard him on TV, on the news.  Countless times.  That would also explain the green... it wasn’t makeup at all...

                  Part of her was screaming at herself to get out of there... she had no way to fight against a real supervillain.  But under that fear was also the gut feeling that this particular villain wouldn’t hurt her.  She’d always held a lot of sympathy towards Bushroot.  She firmly believed that, at heart, he was a good person who’d suffered a lot and made really bad choices out of desperation.  And now he had no idea how to turn things around.  Maybe this was her chance to help...

                  Against what might have been her better judgment, Moira slowly took a step back towards the plant-duck.  “Look, I... I know who you are,” she said quietly.  “But... I also know you don’t want to hurt me.”

                  At least, she dearly hoped so.

                  “You... you were trying to help me, right?  Just now...?”  She motioned to the shelf where he’d knocked over the candy.  “That was very kind of you.  Thank you.”

                  Looking him in the face, what fear she’d had moments ago melted away, and she gave him a genuinely friendly smile.  “My name is Moira.”

                  • A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs
                    A Lion, A Witch, and A Wardrobe of OCs

                    Bushroot appreciated the woman’s sense of humor but he saw the recognition and fear set it. He felt his stomach drop with dread. She’d start screaming, and then the store alarm would blare and he’d have half the city chasing him until he runs smack into Negaduck, Darkwing, or the police. He looked around for an escape route as he started backing away. Wait. She wasn’t screaming?

                    ”That’s right,” he started to smile, pressing his shaking hands together in front of him and looking shyly at the candy. “Pleased to meet you...Moira.”

                    He started picking up the mess with various vines and put them back where they came from.

                    “I was just hiding- Oh no...” His eyes widened as he remembered who he was hiding from. “I-I-I should go. What am I saying! You should go! Go on and get your candy and go!” He handed Moira her candy, gently turned her around like she was a little child, and nudged her shoulders, carefully yet anxiously urging her to the cashier.

                    • Negaduck
                      Negaduck

                      He had one job and he had blown it. How hard was it to replace some plants? He would have had better luck with monkeys!

                      "Bank job ruined because of that walking celery stalk! When I get my hands on him he's going to mulch!"

                      Bushroot's worse nightmare was heading around the corner following a couple of his Dobermans that were tracking down the plant duck. Negaduck halted in front of the store for a brief moment when the dogs stopped to scratch at the door.

                      "Ah. Bingo." Not being the least bit polite, he kicked in the glass door to make his way in.

                      "Hey! You're going to have to pay for that!" The cashier looked up from his phone game and scowled.

                      Negaduck paused and leaned over the counter. "Put it on my bill." He snatched the phone from the cashier's hand to smack him with it to knock him out. "Opps. Should have been more aware of your surroundings." He dropped the phone before stalking past.

                      "Come out, Bushroot. I know you're here." That voice was predatory and oozing with maliciousness.