Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We're the Cupcakes

Chapter Five.
Hooey! (The End)

All four girls bounced out in the morning, excited about the second round of the competition and satiated from the marathon boy sessions of last night. But when they came out, McCabe wasn’t there.

And the shower wasn’t on.

And there was a note on the fridge.

“Cuppycakes— Round 2 postponed till this afternoon, went for breakfast with Bud. XOMC”

“McCabe doesn’t sign off with X’s and O’s” said Ten.

“Geez, you’re so suspicious Ten,” Said Lola. “Take the spy hat off every now and again. She obviously had fun last night. As did we. And now we’ve got the morning to relax.”

“I think I’m gonna go back to bed!” said May and she bounced back to her room.

But she was stopped in her tracks by the doorbell.

Ten was still questioning the whole thing, “And seriously, when has she ever gone to breakfast with anyone, and on competition day, I mean, she lives to cook for us and—“

But she was interrupted by that high-pitched squeal that emanates from a gaggle of girls when plussed by a boondoggle of boys. Yes, The Nutter Butters were back, this time forgoing the windows and choosing the front door.

Theo did the talking. “Hello ladies. We heard the contest has taken a small detour and thought of no better way to waste away a morning than with our favorite Cupcakes. What do you say? A beach walk?”

“I’ll get my suit!” cried May.

“Let me just get some sunscreen,” said Vivi.

“Be right back,” winked Lola.

“No!” yelled Ten, but it was no use. The girls had retreated to their rooms to get their various and sundry sun stuff.

“This isn’t right. Something’s up, something’s not right.”

She didn’t notice that Bobby, who was swaying from side to side, had excused himself at this point. But Theo pushed his way to Ten and with his most velvet-voice said, “C’mon Ten, live a little.”

Ten stood her ground. Yes, he was cute. Yes, he was knowledgeable about all things rock and roll. But the McCabe note didn’t sit well with Ten.

The girls were quickly back and each grabbed their Nutter Butter’s arm and walked out to the beach. Once there, each couple went in a different direction.

Ten and Theo stayed back. To avoid sitting, and because she thought better when she was moving, Ten started to clean. Not that the shack was dirty, it wasn’t, McCabe kept it spotless. It was just something to keep her hands busy. Theo chased her around the living room and kitchen, trying to get her to sit, to no avail. She waxed, he worked her. She featherdusted, he flirted. Ten’s head was spinning: McCabe? Floppy hair! X’s and O’s? Long tan neck! Sticky counter? Bud Ingstarr? Sticky counter? McCabe never spilled anything! McCabe? McCabe! Oh no, he’s taking his shirt off…”

But Ten looked away. She wasn’t giving in to Theo’s charms. His perfect charms. His exquisitely choreographed charms. His oh so very specifically appropriate to her personality charms. And the others. Vivi’s boy was shy. May’s dorky. Lola’s just plain hot. This is a set up, she thought, and then she said it aloud, “This is a set up!”

“What? No no,” said Theo unconvincingly.

“Where is she? What have you done with her?” cried Ten.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Theo but then he grabbed his shirt and he wrapped it around Ten’s mouth, thereby gagging her.

But Ten practiced her spy skills more than anyone in that house. And Tae Kwon Do was her specialty. She plunged her elbow into his rib cage and then whipped her right leg around super Alias stylee, knocking Theo to the ground with one quick hit to the ear. She grabbed his own shirt and quickly tied his wrists together with a buntline hitch knot. Her favorite. He yelled profanity at her. She smiled and then yelled back at him, “What have you done with McCabe?”

But he said nothing. So she pushed him into the hall closet, locked it, and wedged a dining room table under the knob.

Ten then went tearing out of the house after the others.

Meanwhile, on the beach, May and Bobby were holding hands and walking barefoot in the spray of the ocean.

May didn’t notice Bobby was biting his lip, she didn’t notice he was wincing or that his ears were bright red. But she did notice that his palms were sweaty.

“Oh hon, a little baby powder will clear that right up,” she offered.

“I just can’t do this,” Bobby cried. “I really, truly like you—“

“And I really truly like you too,” said May all smiles.

“No, I mean, I have to confess, this is a ruse, a set up, a hoax. Bud Ingstarr is paying us to distract you girls, he schooled us on your likes and dislikes, on your personalities on everything and oh, I’m so ashamed.”

“Wha?” May really was having a hard time following. Remember, not stupid, just slow.

“Everything I said May, was honest and true and I’m not gonna take any money from him, promise.”

“Um, OK, wait, the other boys, it’s just a trick, they were paid? Like actual money?”

“Yes, sadly, and now we’ve got to save everyone. I’m afraid the boys are plotting to rid this town of you girls, and I don’t know for sure, but something may have happened to your manager, McCabe.”

“Nooo!” cried May, and off they ran towards the beach house.

And they ran right smack into Ten.

“Thank goodness you’re OK!” cried May.

“Get away from her!” Ten yelled at Bobby.

“Wait, Ten, he told me that this is a trick! We’ve got to find the others and get back to the shack, we’re all in trouble, McCabe is in trouble,” May’s face said it all, she was terrified.

“Bud Ingstarr paid us Ten, I’m sorry, especially sorry for how I must have hurt May here, but we’ve got to hurry,” Bobby pleaded.

Something in Bobby’s eyes told her to trust him. And as a semi-professional crimefighter, you have to be able to look in someone’s eyes and know whether to trust them or not in an instant. “You two go get Vivi, I’ll get Lola and hurry, we’ll meet back at the shack and find McCabe, now run!”

And then she added, “Oh, and if you get there first, don’t open the hall closet!”

The other girls weren’t as lucky as to have had a boy who cared enough to be honest. Each boy had maneuvered their gal down the beach: Vivi towards an abandoned water tower, and Lola toward an underground bunker built into the beach. May and Bobby came running up on Stu and Vivi. Stu simply assumed that Bobby needed a new place to ditch May, so he didn’t run, he didn’t hide. He actually waited for the two to catch up.

Stupid Stu.

“It’s three against one Stu, step aside,” said Bobby with a dashing confidence that made May swoon.

“What’s going on?” asked Vivi.

“He’s a phony, sure as baloney,” said May. “We’ll explain on the way home, we’ve got to find McCabe!”

Stu headed for Splitsville, but not before calling Bobby a traitor and cursing him for foiling his opportunity to make “big cash.” (Apparently, he really wanted a jet ski.)

Ten used her super spy abilities, the very ones she had practiced on Lola just two nights before, to catch up to the other couple and trail them without being seen or heard. Or rather, Weston didn’t see or hear. But Lola, Lola was hip to Ten’s schtick. She waited until Ten was close by, behind a sand dune, and then she whipped around and with a smile on her face said, “Come out, come out wherever you are!”

Ten jumped out with a look of vengeance on her face, Weston grabbed Lola in an instant and started running. But have you ever tried to drag someone down a beach? It’s hard to run on dry sand alone, but dragging an unwilling participant along? Ten had the advantage.

Ten leaped and pounced, landing on top of Weston’s back, taking him, and Lola, down. “He’s bad,” yelled Ten.

“Shut your mouth,” said Weston.

“He’s trying to get rid of us, I don’t know why exactly, but something’s up, he’s been lying to you.” Ten was now shoving fistfuls of sand into Weston’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

Lola herself kicked into gear and added more sand upon Ten’s sand. “Grab that booey,” yelled Ten.

“I love that word, booey,” said Lola as she ran over and yanked it off the side of a small boat. Ten tied Weston up, this time with a Bandini Top Knot and they dragged him, kicking and screaming to the boat. They considered dragging the boat out to sea, but relented when they realized how mean that was (not to mention how much more time it would take!)

As they were running to the shack Lola said, “I may be cured, I didn’t even want to kiss him anymore!”

Back at the shack, the girls turned the place inside out looking for clues. The thumping of Theo’s pitiful fists on the inside of the closet were drowning out their thoughts, but they persevered. When they got to McCabe’s room (which mind you none of them ever, ever went in) they all felt a little guilty. They carefully moved things around. They picked up clothes, papers and stuffed animals with their fingertips. The room was a mess, which certainly wasn’t McCabe’s style. But other than a quick glance through a sliver of a door, they had never seen the inside of this room. They really had nothing to compare it to.

Then, May heard a soft brushing noise coming from the floor, “A mouse, oh my god, a mouse!” she screamed. Bobby calmed her down, “they’re cute May, mice are cute, little noses, they like candy,”

Lola cried, “Shhh! Listen.” The girls were all quiet and still.

This is what they heard:

…. . .-.. .--. ..-. . . - - .-. .- .--. -.. --- --- .-.

“It’s morse code. Listen,” urged Lola.

…. . .-.. .--. “Help,” translated Lola.
..-. . . - “Feet,” she added. “Feet?”
- .-. .- .--. -.. --- --- .-. “Trap door!” cried Lola.

Everyone looked at their feet and then Vivi spotted it. A small knot in the pine—just large enough to stick your finger in. She poked her pointer inside and pulled. A trap door lifted up to reveal a bound and gagged McCabe, her hands secured to her sides and in her mouth, a bobby pin for which she used to create the Morse signals by scraping it against the roof of her cell.

They all lifted her out of the hole and got to work on her knots. As soon as they loosened the gag on her mouth she began to breathlessly talk, “Bud! I let my guard down girls, but that Bud Ingstarr, he did this and now, we must capture him so he never hurts anyone again.” And then without missing a beat, she added, “Why is this boy here?”

“The Nutter Butters were in on it, Bobby here confessed,” cried May, “he helped us find you, don’t’ be mad.” McCabe wasn’t entirely sure what to think of all that but she knew they had to get to the Surf Shack, pronto.

The six of them piled into the Cupcake mobile (a Volkswagon bus painted cotton candy pink on the bottom and bright white on the top) and raced down Boulevard B. But when they got to the Shack, a sign outside in the parking lot read “Closed for a Private Party, Come Back Later.”

The girls sensed this was a private party they needed to attend and they rushed the front door. McCabe threw the shack’s bamboo door open wide and the girls’ mouths followed suit. Inside the Band of the Future banner was gone. In its place? A banner that read “Introducing the Cupcakes!” And the sign was vinyl. And ugly. With a really bad cupcake logo in the left corner. Oh that hurt. And there were people sipping cappuccinos at the tables, but they weren’t townies. They were foreign to the girls, every last one. The girls knew everyone in Sunnydale.

Some were in suits, some were wearing clothes completely not age-appropriate. Thirty year old women in minis. The horror! Ten had been well-trained and she knew this smell. She knew who these people were even though she had never met them. They were… record execs!

But the weirdest thing of all, was there was a band on stage, comprised of four young girls and they were wearing unendorsed bootleg Cupcakes tees! And they were singing the Cupcakes future number one hit, “Share some love tonight”… badly! In fact, they were horrible.

“You’re butchering it!” yelled May. “Butchering!”

Upon hearing May and seeing the rest of the clan, headed up by a steaming McCabe, Mr. Bud Ingstarr, who had been swaying his hips alongside the stage, gasped and hightailed it out the back door.

“I got this one girls,” cried McCabe.

Remember I told you about her stealth speed earlier? She nabbed him in seconds flat. He hadn’t even made it out to his Miata before McCabe had in him cuffs. She dragged his sorry behind back inside. Ten called their pal, Sheriff Lauren Order to come pick up the perp. But first, McCabe had some questions for Mr. Ingstarr.

“Why’d you do it?”

“You ruined my chances of superstardom and you broke my heart,” said Bud near tears.

At with that, everyone’s head sank out of sadness over a broken heart.

“But mostly, you just ruined my chances at stardom,” he said.

Everyone’s head collectively rose feeling pity no more.

“But you had another chance with the Band of the Future show. Why’d you ruin it all for revenge?” queried McCabe.

“That show wasn’t real. The cameras were empty plastic, fake, phony, the director was an actor, the grips, all actors I hired, just like the Nutter Butters. Fakes.”

“But why did you go to so much trouble just to enact revenge against me?” cried McCabe, finally showing a touch of emotion.

“After you left, no one wanted me, my career was over. And it was your fault!”

“Right.” McCabe didn’t subscribe to the blame others for life’s hiccups philosophy. “OK so where were you going with this,” and then McCabe pointed to the faux Cupcake band who were just standing there on stage, mouths agape.

“I thought I’d take them away from you. I was poised to take over the world with your band, but you stole that from me too!”

“I didn’t take them away, you never had them,” said McCabe.

“Well, that’s true. But I could have had their likeness. I could have had their image. I already stole their songs!”

“Sort of,” said Ten under her breath, wanting to distance herself from the crème filled HoHos on stage.

“And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” cried Ingstarr.

Sheriff Order carted him away after telling the clueless faux Cupcakes to pack it up and move it out. She let Bobby off with a warning. She’d already dispatched officers to pick up Stu, Weston and Theo—if those were their real names.

The record execs, after watching this whole thing go down, were now bolting for the door. “Wait,” yelled McCabe. “The real Cupcakes are phenomenal, you’ll see, give us a chance, please sit back down, we can set up, we can, wait!”

But it was no use. They’d heard enough of the Cupcakes future number one hit “Laugh It Up.” And in the arms of the sugar-free Cupcakes, it sucked. McCabe knew this was neither the time nor the place to showcase the genius of her girls. That time would have to wait.

“See girls,” said McCabe, “Boys will come and go, but crime fighting is forever.”

“True, true,” said Ten, “let this be a lesson to us all.”

Vivi felt horrible. She’s been untrue to her nature, to that little voice inside her head. It was indeed a lesson. May on the other hand wasn’t really paying attention to Ten. She had learned a little teeny tiny lesson, sure, but her boy was still by her side. And Lola?

“I’m cured, really,” said Lola. “I am! Between the marathon kissing—“

“What?!” queried McCabe, but Lola just continued,

“And the lying and betrayal and then Mr. Ingstarr’s revenge scheme, it’s all too much and…”

But Lola’s pious speech meandered somewhere else.

It meandered on over to the new Assistant Sheriff escorting all the fake Cupcakes out the door. He was young, he was tan and he was mega-marshmallow hot.