Heist Phantoms

19

Nora took off running at Lea's words, and they all followed after her.

"Nora!" Alejandra shouted, rushing towards her sister. Behind her was an old man holding a sizeable suitcase, their grandfather.

After a few minutes of searching the sleepy crowd, Nora suddenly came to a stop before two women clad in archeological gear. A tan woman with mid-length blonde hair was helping a taller woman with a pale, pointed face and a brunette ponytail stand.

"Moms!" Nora shouted. "Mama!"

"Nora!" they both shouted, scrambling over to their daughters. "Alejandra!

"You did it, sis," Waco said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I'm not sure what 'it' is, but you sure did it."

His comments suddenly reignited Lea's concern at the man who had put them all in this situation. Back where she'd landed, she spotted Navy and Deanney standing over Mr. Foley. At the edges of the park, a few curious faces were staring at him as well.

Lea looked at Mr. Foley with her heart full of pity. Even as the rainbow fragments fluttered around them, she unable to accept that there was nothing more than he, or she, could do anymore.

"Lea! Paxton!" Nora shouted. "Come meet my parents!"

"Thank you so much," Alejandra shouted. "For staying, for believing."

"Always," Paxton said, adjusting his glasses and rushing over. Lea took a final look at Mr. Foley. Navy was helping him up. She wondered for a moment what would happen to them. It wasn't her responsibility past this point, she knew that. But she was still concerned.

"Come on, Lea!" Paxton called.

She took one last look before running off to see her friend's family.

Because this was the end, but it was also a beginning.

-HEIST_OVER-

"A lot of thieves," Mr. Foley said, scowling at the three younger former Phantoms as they spoke to the Guerras. "Yet I couldn't match them."

"Sir," Navy said, pulling him up. "You needn't blame yourself."

"I should have done more research before sending you off to Ms. Lacombe," Navy insisted. "You could have died."

"Speak for yourself," Deanney disagreed. "If he hadn't tried to bash my skull in, none of this would have happened."

"Deanney is right, Navy," Mr. Foley said, taking his assistant's hand. His gestures had an air of finality to them that made it hard for him to pretend anymore. Even his body knew what was to come.

"Sir, what are you saying?" Navy asked as Mr. Foley clutched his assistant's right hand between both of his. Mr. Foley took a deep breath, taking in the magic of the moment. In the end, the Noiz had really given him a new future.

But instead of his coronation, it was his abdication.

"I'll be turning myself into the police after this," Mr. Foley said.

"Sir!" Navy shouted, a single tear rolling down his cheek.

"But I'm not leaving Paradox City's future to chance," Mr. Foley continued, swallowing hard. "Whilst I'm... away, you have to become mayor. Be the leader you were truly meant to be."

"I can't possibly take over," Navy insisted. Behind him, Mr. Foley could see the same SWAT officers they'd sent to the Alis home watching him. "I'm nowhere near good enough."

"I hate to admit this, kid," Deanney said. "But you're plenty good enough."

"Politics isn't a game of absolutes, Navinder," Mr. Foley said. "Even when you try to make it one, there will always be a force pushing against you."

He gestured towards Lea, unable to turn his head to the teenager who had bested him.

"Remember that, Navinder," he insisted, looking deeply into the eyes of a man that he'd almost killed, along with half of Paradox City. A man who had supported him for years, who had sacrificed his conscious at the foot of Mr. Foley's ideals.

It was the first time he saw the grave errors in his plan, but his heart still wouldn't accept defeat. In the end, it was best for him to go away, just like the Witch Maiden had.

"You needn't play fair, but you can't impose your ideals on others, either."

"Before I forget," Mr. Foley said. "Take care of that Phipps kid. It's seems he needs a good home."

"It's..." Navy began to say before hiccuping back a few tears. He'd accepted it all, the responsibility Mr. Foley had put on his shoulders. For that, Mick was glad.

"It's the least we can do," Navy said finally. "After what's transpired."

"Exactly," Mick said. "Now, I'm off."

"Goodbye, Mr. Foley," Navy said.

"Please, no need to be so formal," Mick said as he let go of Navy's hands and walking towards the police force. "Please come visit."

"I will, Mr. Foley" Navy said.

"Call me Mick," he said. Then he stopped in his tracks.

"Oh, and Ms. Lacombe?"

"Yes?" Deanney said loudly, clearly believing she'd been sidelined.

"I'll tell your father father you've gone on an extended vacation," he said sharply, using all the political charm he'd cultivated over the years. "Just until the statute of limitations on causing a supernatural calamity runs out."

"Thank you," she said.

"Now those are some good last words," Mr. Foley said with a smile.

It was all he could do not to make a break for it himself.

-HEIST_FAST_FORWARD-

"Hey dad," Lea said as she and her brother sat down opposite their father in the prison meeting room. For a prisoner, he looked relatively well. The bags under his eyes were prominent, but his eyes were filled with life. This was her second visit in the last month, and her tenth since the seal was broken.

Before that, she hadn't visited him at all. She still felt guilty about it, but she was glad she was here now. That was all she could do, after all.

"Lea, Waco," their father said. "You both look swell."

"Sorry we're so late," Waco said.

"Road shift?" he asked.

"Road shift," they confirmed. In the months since the seal was destroyed, Paradox City had managed to get even weirder.

Nowadays roads would just change direction mid-journey. In the most extreme cases, roads would just jump from a street on one corner of the city to another. According to Lucky Bagley, scientists had determined that it depended on how curved the road was, but much like everything in Paradox City it wasn't an exact science.

"Forgetting the road shift; I got the all clear from the docs," Waco said happily. "I can get back into the meatier roles at school now."

"Waco! My big star!" their father said. "I'm so happy for you."

"And you, Lea?" he asked, his smile widening.

"Working on new tracks," Lea said with a huff. "But I've been invited to play the Video Paradox Festival."

"She's been working really hard, with a lot of celebrities," Waco told him. Even after all this time, he was still starstruck. "Last week, Sidni Spikes came over just to jam. Just to jam."

"I'm so proud of you, Lea, so proud," Mr. Allis said. "Paradox is so popular that some of the guys in here can't get enough of it."

"Dad," Lea said, feigning embarrassment. After her little post-summer misadventure, Lea had posted a demo version of Paradox with her singing lead vocals onto YouNow, and had been contacted by a manager representing an up and coming singer named Rallie. In the end, they had ended up collaborating on the track as LIV-YA feat. Rallie.

The lyric video finished track, with Rallie on vocals, now had fifty-million views.

"Her new song, Condition, just hit #10 on the download charts this morning," Waco mentioned. "I checked."

"Really?" Lea said excitedly. "That's great!"

"That's your second number one, honey!" he said, clapping. "I never thought you'd be a hit songwriter so early on."

"It's like magic," Waco said with a wink. Lea shot him a look.

"I'm glad, though," Mr. Allis admitted. "That you two are doing so well. It means I have something to work towards.

"They say I could get parole in three years," he said, suddenly serious. "You think I could make something of myself, out there?"

"As long as you have a dream," Lea said.

-HEIST_OVER-

"Did you get to see him?" their mother asked as they got back into the car in Paradox Prison's parking lot.

"Mom," Waco whined. "We always get to see him, why don't you just come along with us?"

"I don't think he's ready," she said solemnly. "I don't think I'm ready."

"We are getting divorced, after all," she admitted. There was a second where Lea considered glossing it over and pretending everything was okay, but she took a deep breath and smiled.

"I don't think he'll mind," Lea said. "There are still things you need to talk about."

"You're right, Lea," her mother said as she started the car. "When did you get so smart."

"That time she fell out of the sky," Waco said matter-of-factly.

"Waco!" Lea shouted.

"I still don't get that joke," their mother said curiously. "I must have missed a lot while I was gone."

-PHANTOMS_FOREVER-

"How was the visit?" Nora said, barely taking her eyes off the Allis' TV.

It was set to the news, as always. When Lea had asked Nora why she still watched the news like it was the hottest TV series around, she claimed it was a force of habit. There was a story on about Mr. Dempsey, the youngest mayor in all of Paradox City's history. A frequent subject on not just the local Paradox stations, but the national ones too.

As soon as he appeared, Nora would make a joke about Paxton's father being on TV. Though Paxton frequently tried to deny it, he would eventually end up accepting the title.

They had informed Paxton's family about where he was, but the rift between them had grown too wide for a tearful reunion like Nora had. Instead, after about a thousand apologies, Paxton had moved in with Mr. Dempsey.

"Good," Lea said.

"Our mom had to go off to the airport right after, though," Waco said, plopping beside Nora and picking up a thick script.

"He asked about my music," she said, a bit embarrassed to be talking about it.

"Did you see that your new single is at #10 already?" Paxton said excitedly . He was sitting at the Allis' kitchen counter, working on his latest translation.

It wasn't an ancient, unknown Gaelic; just ancient Irish. An easy project, he claimed. Lea wasn't so sure. She bet his standards on difficulty had been altered by the nightmare that the Mooar Shee had presented.

"That's amazing, Lea!" Mrs. Guerra said.

In the kitchen, Mrs. "Mama" Guerra was preparing a hearty meal for their post-show dinner. Like Lea's mother, "Moms" Guerra was out of town, again.

And even though Navy had taken Paxton in, he couldn't really parent to save his life.

So Mama Guerra frequetly joked that she'd gained four new children in their move to Paradox City, but she rarely complained. In fact, she seemed to be having the time of her life as she worked in the kitchen. Every half hour or so she would check over Paxton's work and they would get lost in a discussion on some ancient language nobody else really knew.

"So when do you think Sidni Spikes will be back?" Waco asked, looking up from his script he'd picked up as soon as they'd walked in the door.

"Never, hopefully," Nora said. "All she wanted to watch was reality shows."

"And she said ancient Gaelic was boring," Paxton added with his usual vehemence when it came to the subject.

"Come on, Lea," Waco begged. "She could be on your next single too!"

"No way, Paxton," Lea said seriously. "I'm still trying to figure myself out, work on my dream."

"Good answer, Ms. Allis," Navy said as he welcomed himself in. "Mrs. Guerra, Children."

Nora looked from the TV to the door as if she was unsure if the news had come to life. Lea understood where she was coming from; there had been at least one reported case of a ten inch tall Lucky Bagley popping out of someone's TV in the last few months.

"Da-... Navy?" Paxton said, pushing his glasses up. "Why are you here in the middle of the day? You don't need to pick me up until after Video Paradox Fes."

"About that," Navy said. "As Ms. Allis is the headline act and the only major act of the night from Paradox City, I thought it would be good if we had a bit of a photo op at the event?"

"With the mayor?" Lea said, full of awe and suspicion in equal measures. Though Paxton had finally gotten on the Navy train, Lea was still wary of Paradox City's Mayors.

"We're willing to cross-promote," Navy said. "Think of all the followers you'll get in diplomacy."

"Do diplomats listen to pop music nowadays?" Nora asked callously.

"They might," Navy said flippantly, staring her down. "Especially if they don't want to be banned from Paxton's birthday party next month."

"Dad!" Paxton whined.

"Sure, I'll do it," Lea said with a smile. As much as she enjoyed watching her friends quabble with Mr. Dempsey, she enjoyed peace and quiet even more.

She had a setlist to work on, after all.

"Is that really the whole reason you came here?" Nora asked again.

"No," Navy said, pulling a paper bag out of his briefcase and handing it to Paxton. "You forgot your allergy medication again."

Then Alejandra rushed in, back from Paradox U, warning them all to stay off Buggy Avenue as the whole road had turned into a springy trampoline mid-rush hour.

Thus was life in Paradox City, and Lea wouldn't have it any other way.