(Author's Note: It may be helpful, not not necessary to be familiar with Lupin III before reading this story)
The Babysitter Caper
By Chris Schumacher
"This is completely unacceptable," Larisa said. "I have homework to do. I don't have time to waste looking after those rugrats."
"It's not like you have to cater a dinner," Larisa's mom said as she attached an earring to her right earlobe. "You just need to look in on them occasionally, make sure they're not getting into trouble."
"Why don't you just call their parents and say they can't come over? I can deal with just Walter," Larisa said.
"He's been looking forward to this for almost a month now, Larisa. Do you want to destroy his expectations?" her mother said.
"I wouldn't mind," Larisa said.
Her mother tsked. "Honestly, Larisa. How can you be such so callous towards your own brother?" She stood up. "How do I look?"
"Like a mother who's going to a cocktail party while her daughter goes through a living hell," Larisa said though gritted teeth. "Can't you have them meet at one of the other kids' house?"
Her mother tsked again. "You don't invite yourself, much less your child, to someone else's house. You really need to read up on your Miss Manners. It'd be a nice change from that turgid Russian melodrama."
"I have fifty pages of one to read for class tomorrow," Larisa fumed.
"Well, consider it a happy distraction, then," her mother said.
Larisa frowned. "Well, you're half-right."
Walter was playing one of his video games when Larisa came into the living room. Larisa slumped onto the couch next to him, and spent several moments in silence watching her brother shoot guards in the back of the head with a sniper rifle.
"Why don't you ever shoot them when they're facing you?" Larisa said. She never imagined asking such a question.
"Because they don't die right away when you do that. I think it's because the bullet doesn't go directly into the brain, so they probably bleed to death instead," Walter said.
"Knowing so much about anatomy at the age of eight, you're a veritable Doogie Howser," Larisa said.
"Who?" Walter asked, not looking up.
Larisa was about to reply when the doorbell rang. Walter leapt from the couch and rushed out of the room. He let the controller fall to the ground. On the screen the guard turned around and ran off, screaming something in Cantonese.
Larisa reluctantly rose, by the time she got to the foyer her brother had already thrown open the door. His two best friends: Matt, and Jim, were waiting on the porch. A woman Larisa vaguely recognized stood with them.
"So Larisa," the woman said. "I've heard you're looking after them tonight."
"Yeah, that's right," Larisa said.
"My condolences," the woman said. "If Jimmy does anything bad, just call me and I'll pick him up."
"Don't worry mom, I'll be good," Jim said.
"I'm sure everything'll be fine," Larisa said.
Walter played that terrible video game with his friends (this time shooting each other instead of innocent computer programs) while they waited for the pizzas to arrive. After that they ate more pizza than Larisa thought was humanly possible and then rushed upstairs.
Larisa laid down on the couch and opened the turgid Russian novel she was reading for class. After eating that much, Larisa though, they must really be tuckered out. This probably meant she was in for a quiet evening.
After a quick change of clothes Lupin, Jigen and Goemon looked across the bedroom at each other.
"What's the gig this time, Lupin?" Jigen asked.
Lupin went to his bookshelf and picked up the large astronomy atlas his mother had gotten him in second grade, but which he never opened except to hide things like bad report cards and pictures of naked girls. From the section on the moon's far side he took out a piece of graph paper which had a crudely drawn map on it.
"Is that West Germany?" Goemon asked.
"No! It's the kitchen!" Lupin seethed.
"Are we going to steal your mother's rutabaga or something?" Jigen said.
"You've got a smart mouth, now shut it and let's get down to business!" Lupin said. "My parents are having a big party tomorrow. There's going to be at least 30 people here."
"So, what, we use that as a distraction to steal that huge diamond they keep in the safe in the basement?" Jigen said.
"Your parents own a huge diamond?" Goemon said excitedly. Lupin and Jigen both gave him a withering look.
"No, we're going for something a little sweeter. Ice cream, in fact," Lupin said.
"Ice cream is not a prize worthy of our talents," Goemon said.
"This is a shitload of ice cream. Gelatos, sherbets, hashes, you name it. My parents bought it last night and they won't let me near it. But if we can get past Pops, we'll be climbing the walls for the next twenty-four hours," Lupin said, his voice getting high-pitched with excitement.
"Hmm, sounds like a big score, maybe it's worth the risk," Jigen said.
"It sounds like an honorable test of our mettle," Goemon said.
"So how do we go about it?" Jigen said.
"Well we've got the advantage right now. Pops doesn't know we're after it. So we can use stealth. We make use of Goemon's artistry, and soon enough we'll be up to our eyeballs in chocolately goodness, and Pops'll never know what hit her," Lupin said with a sharkish grin.
Larisa was reading a conversation about the emptiness and futility of life between two characters with very similar names when she heard footsteps on the stairs.
Larisa looked up and saw her brother and his two friends coming down the stairs. Her brother was wearing his Badger jacket, along with the clip-on tie he wore at his first communion; there was a large paperclip clipping it to his t-shirt. He was wearing a paper mask which had a rather good drawing of her father's face on it.
He was followed by Matt, who had a Brewer's cap that was pulled down over his face. From the way he was tightly holding onto the railing, Larisa imagined he couldn't see. He was also wearing a paper mask that had her mother's face on it.
Last was Jim, who was wearing a white bathrobe. Hanging from the bathrobe's belt was an aluminum yardstick. Jim was wearing a paper mask which had the image of Bob Newhart on it.
"Hello love, we came home a little early," Walter said, in a very bad imitation of their father's voice; their father didn't have a British accent, for one thing. "So feel free to dash off and dally around with those young friends of yours. We'll hold down the fort here."
"Are you guys high?" Larisa said in a shocked voice.
"I did not raise my daughter to speak to me with such disrespect!" Walter said. "You go up to your room, young lady, you are grounded!"
"I have no daughter!" Matt said through fake sobs.
"You sh-sh-should do what they say," Jim said through his paper mask.
"How did she know it was us?" Jigen said angrily.
"Someone must have tipped us off. Maybe you, Jigen?" Lupin said, getting up in his partner's face.
"Maybe it was that tramp friend of yours," Jigen said.
"You leave Fujicakes out of this! Besides, she isn't here. She couldn't have known!" Lupin said.
He'd tried to invite her, in fact. His parents said there was some rule about not inviting girls to guy's sleepovers. Stupid rules.
"Don't you see, this is what Zenigata wants," Goemon says. "She wants us to fight each other. She knows how untrusting you two are. Don't you remember one of our enemies almost got you to kill each other?"
Lupin turned and started to pace. Jigen continued to fume.
"It's the stairway that gave us away. Pops is guarding it like a guard dog. We need to figure out a way to get down there without using the stairway," Lupin said.
"That's going to be hard. This isn't a museum or something, there's only one exit to this level. Unless you want us to go out the window; and I know your tree-climbing skills aren't what they were," Jigen said.
Lupin brought his clenched fist into the palm of his other hand. "I've got it!"
He went and threw open the door to his bedroom, he motioned for his partners in crime to join him. They looked out into the hallway.
"That walkway has railings on both side, the side with the stairs goes past the living room, where Pops will see us. But the other side goes straight into the kitchen! If we lower ourselves down, Pops won't even see us!" Lupin said.
"But once we get down there, how're we going to get out?" Goemon said.
"How's your throwing arm? We can throw a bunch of the ice cream up onto the walkway, and then allow ourselves to get caught. She can't catch all of us; one of us will run up and take the ice cream to my room and hide it. In the confusion she'll have no idea what happened!" Lupin said, grinning at his master plan.
"Wait a second, what are we going to lower ourselves down with?" Jigen said.
"I've got just the thing!" Lupin said, and rushed back into his room.
He went into his bathroom and took something from the drawer. He went back and showed it to his friends.
"Dental floss?" Jigen said. "You've got to be kidding me!"
"This is special steel-fibre dental floss! I got from a friend of mine during the spaghetti caper. It looks like regular dental floss, but it's got the tensile strength of... something really strong!" Lupin said.
"You can't be serious!" Jigen said.
"What's the matter, Jigen, chicken?" Lupin said.
"I'm just not suicidal, Lupin," Jigen said.
"Fine, stay here, and I'll keep all the ice cream to myself," Lupin said, heading for the door.
"Uh, Lupin? Can we try out the steel cable first? You know, sorta like a dry run?" Goemon said.
Lupin sighed and turned back to his friends. "I suppose it doesn't hurt to be careful."
He went over to his bed and climbed up on it, and proceeded to tie a loop of the dental floss around a fixture of the ceiling fan. After he was done, he pulled on it a couple of times.
"There we go, nice and secure," Lupin said. "Nothing to worry about."
"See if it will support your weight," Jigen said.
"All right, then," Lupin said. He looped the other end of the dental floss around his wrist a couple of times and then jumped off the bed. With very little resistance at all, the dental-floss snapped.
Lupin held up the broken end of the dental floss, and the three of them just stared at it in silence for several moments.
Larisa had gotten bored with her schoolwork and was now surfing the web. She'd found a fanfic which crossed over Harry Potter with Kiki's Delivery Service.
Just as Kiki was breaking her Death-Eater brother out of Azkaban, Larisa turned and looked up the stairs. It had been pretty quiet for the last half-hour. She dreaded to think of what the little monsters were up to now.
"We need some sort of distraction," Jigen said.
"We can call on the phone and pretend to be her boyfriend, and while she's getting all lovey-dovey we can sneak past," Goemon said.
"No, that won't work; she'd recognize the number. Besides, she and her boyfriend split up," Lupin said.
"Really?" Jigen said in a very un-Jigenesque manner. "So she's available?"
"Ewww, gross," Goemon said.
"Are you kidding me? She's really hot! I love blondes, I just wish her boobs were a little bigger," Jigen said.
Lupin punched Jigen in the face. "That's my sister you're talking about, you asshole!"
They two fell to the ground as they started beating each other. Goemon tried to break it up at first, then sighed and threw himself down on Lupin's beanbag chair and started reading one of his comic books.
Larisa heard the shouting and had assumed it was just the usual hijinx. When she heard the bumps and crashes she suspected something was wrong and ran up the stairs. She threw open the door to her brother's room to find her brother and Matt rolling around on the floor, punching each other. She ran over and pulled Matt off her brother.
"What the hell are you two doing! Stop it!" she said. "Are you two animals or something? For god's sake Matt, your nose is bleeding!"
"Jigen started it! But that's what I'd expect from a Chi-town hoodlum like him!" Walter shouted.
"I don't know what kind of sick game you guys are playing, but it ends now! You need to grow up!" Larisa said. She noticed that Matt was beginning to cry.
She took Matt by the hand and lead him into the bathroom in her parent's room. She started to treat the bruises on his face.
"I don't know why you parents let you watch that show, there's a reason it's on at midnight," Larisa said, as she dabbed hydrogen peroxide on the cut on Matt's face. He was holding a kleenex to his right nostril to stop the blood.
"We just Tivo it," Matt said.
Larisa shook her head. "Well after I tell your parents about what happened, they're not going to let you watch it again. At least not until you're the age Lupin III was intended for."
Ten minutes later, after the bleeding had finally stopped, Larisa took Matt back to Walter's room. Walter was sitting in his desk chair, and glared at them as they entered.
"Have fun consorting with the enemy?" Walter said.
"Screw you, Lupin," Matt said.
"All right, that's enough," Larisa said harshly. "This ends now." She pulled off Walter's clip-on tie. He gave her a shocked grimace.
"Now are you going to behave, or am I going to have to call your friend's moms and have them taken home?" Larisa said.
"All right," Walter said.
"What's that?" Larisa said, miming deafness.
"I said I'll behave," Walter said.
"Good," Larisa said and made to leave. Just as she was almost out the door, she turned around and faced the three of them. "By the way, the name is pronounced "loo-pin", not "loo-pahn". You don't call a wolf a canis "loo-pahs", do you?"
The three of them gave her bitter looks.
"Where is Chi-town, anyway?" Goemon asked, looking up from his comic book.
"It's somewhere in Europe, I think," Lupin said. He brought his hands together in a get-down-to-work gesture. "Okay, next idea."
Jigen had started unrolling his sleeping bag. "I'm going to bed."
"How is that going to help us get the ice cream?" Lupin said.
"I'm through. I was through the second you hit me," Jigen said. "You're lucky I didn't go home."
"He was only defending his sister's honor, Jigen," Goemon said.
"I don't care," Jigen said. He was laying in the sleeping bag, his head facing the wall.
Lupin sighed and sat cross-legged on his bed. "These are the hardest times of all, guys. I know it looks like Pops has beaten us, but we can't give up hope!"
"I think you're only doing this because you want to piss her off," Jigen said, still facing the wall.
"Well, I do like the game, I won't lie about that. It's more than that, though. Think of that ice cream, boys. All that ice cream, and all the different flavors. Some flavors we've never had before; some flavors we'd never even heard of. Tonight may be when we discover our favorite flavor-and what happens if we give up? Maybe we never find that flavor, and we spend the rest of our life eating rocky road and vanilla," Lupin said.
Jigen finally turned over and looked at Lupin. "But she's on her guard now, and we've made her angry."
"Jigen is right. We have awoken our opponent and filled her with a terrible fury. I shudder to think what she'll do to us the next time she catches us," Goemon said.
Lupin rubbed his chin. "That is a good point. We need to make her less dangerous somehow, possibly even get her on our side."
"How are we going to do that?" Jigen said. "We don't have anything she wants."
Lupin brought his fist down into his open palm. "Then we get something she wants!" A wolfish smile crossed his face. "And there's nothing someone wants more than something they USED to have!"
They opened the door slowly and quietly, the hinges being well-oiled monthly by Lupin for just such occasions. The three of them crawled out on all fours, so no creaking floorboards gave them away. The sound of the TV would've drowned it out in any case.
Jigen gave a distasteful look to Lupin. "She's watching Friends?"
Lupin grimaced and shrugged.
"I think I'll call off the wedding," Jigen said.
"You're just saying that to make me feel better," Lupin said.
"Believe what you want," Jigen said.
The hinges on Larisa's door, unfortunately, had not been well-oiled, and the door opened with a creak that sounded like a sound-effect from a horror movie.
All three of them stood stock-still, waiting for the sound of clogs racing towards the stairs; but a minute passed in silence, and they knew they were in the clear.
"Whoa," Goemon said, after they crawled into her room. "That's a lot of books."
Jigen took in all the bookshelves. "She's got more books than you've got comic books, Lupin."
"She's a very lonely person," Lupin said. "Now we've got to figure out what she values most in the world, and take it away. Then we'll have something to bargain with."
"Too bad she doesn't need reading glasses," Jigen noted.
"Tear up the place, we'll come across something," Lupin said.
Five minutes later, and they hadn't found a thing. Goemon was sitting on the floor by the bed and dreading the punishment they'd receive for tearing up this room. Perhaps Zenigata wouldn't even bother going to the authorities; maybe she'd do the job herself.
"No laying down on the job, Goemon," Lupin said. He was still flipping through a pile of books, looking for incriminating notes stuck between pages. "Check out the bed."
"What am I going to find: bed-bugs?" Goemon said. "Is our leverage going to be that your sister has cooties?"
"Shut up and do it!" Lupin said.
Goemon sighed and looked under the bed. Less than a foot from where he was sitting was a stack of magazines. He took the first one off the pile and stared at it. What was a hustler?
Goemon flipped through it, and saw things he'd only heard about; and then things he hadn't even heard about. He felt his face grow hot, like when he was embarrassed, but he didn't feel bad at all. In fact, in a weird feverish way, he felt very very good.
"Hey, what's that you've got Goemon?" Jigen said. "Are you okay?"
"I... I, uh..." Goemon said. He didn't have the words to explain what he'd experienced.
Jigen and Lupin both stopped what they were doing and walked over to their companion. Lupin's eyes bugged out, Jigen just looked confused.
"What the hell is that?" Jigen said.
"This, my friends-" Lupin said, taking the magazine. "Is what they call 'leverage'."
Horatio Hornblower V offered Lupin his choice of dueling pistol. Lupin pondered this for a minute, then adopted his trademarked wolfish grin and took the one on the right.
Walter smirked, the show looked so much better on a large, flatscreen TV. The sound was better too; the set in his room only had stereo, the family room one has Surround Sound.
Walter and his crew were sitting on the sofa, their faces smeared with ice cream as they ate from large bowls. Larisa sat among them, her face red as a tomato from both embarrassment and anger.
"So, tell me again," Walter said, not taking his eyes away from the TV. "What happened to Matt?"
"He fell down the stairs," Larisa said.
"And why did that happen?" Walter asked.
"Because I'm a negligent babysitter," Larisa said through clenched teeth.
"I gotta say, I misjudged you Pops, you're a good sort. You know when you're beaten," Walter said.
"Stop calling me Pops!"