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It's Christmas Eve, and like every other day of the year, Lyra McCabe is baking cookies. However, her idea of the universe is about ready to extend when Rick Shilling, Entity Exterminator, runs through the door, shooting at living gingerbread men.
Time to expand your world, Lyra, and it's way past due!
Rick Shilling to the Rescue Story 1 -- NOVELLA LENGTH
The door to the Cookie Fairy House flew open. The small bell flew off the doorjamb and a blast of cold air filled the hot building. A blue-eyed, brown-haired man wearing a tan Stetson hat, black leather gloves, and a black leather jacket entered the building. A tan satchel hung off his shoulder and neck. But it was odd, because he held onto a gigantic orange and bright lime green water gun. He proceeded to point that water gun at some unseen adversary out the still-open front door.
Lyra McCabe couldn't move, watching the scene unfold before her. The man shot some sort of liquid through the open door, seeming to laugh at the joke. But she didn't see the humor.
"Shut the door!" she yelled, and moved closer to the display cabinet filled with cookies. The temperature was around zero, since it was the day before Christmas in Colorado. Silly man.
He lifted his gun once more and shot the liquid from the water gun. "Duck!"
The guy must be an escapee from a mental institution. He was shooting at nothing, and everyone knew a water gun was no true weapon, especially in sub-freezing temperatures.
Lyra crossed her arms over her apron, still standing behind the display case. "If you don't leave right now, I'm calling the cops. Shut the door on your way out."
He ran around the four-foot display case and stood beside her. "I said, duck!" He kept shooting over the case and toward the floor near the door, but she didn't move or look at his target, disgusted with the guy. She had work to do, but until she got this annoying man out of her shop, she couldn't do anything.
Stetson-man grabbed some of the flour from the container on her worktable and threw it toward the floor near the door. She turned and stared over the display case. The flour covered small gingerbread men, holding bows and arrows aimed directly at her.
She should've looked before now, but didn't consider them a threat. They were, after all, only about six inches tall. What could they do with those weapons, anyway?
"What's that?" she asked and pointed. "Why are there small cookies shooting at you?"
"Not your issue, Toots." Stetson-man aimed and shot again. "Take that, you rotten cookies, you!"
"Cookies?" Even though she knew he was telling the truth, Lyra couldn't believe it. She glanced at Stetson-man and then darted her eyes downward over the case and to the showroom floor. In that instant, a tiny arrow sailed through the air and struck her left arm.
"You've been hit," Stetson-man said.
Lyra stared at the tiny army of gingerbread men, angrier than ever. Her head suddenly felt woozy and she staggered backward.
"Sit down," Stetson-man said. "I'm about out of ammo. Do you have any milk here?"
"Milk?" That was an odd request. He must be thirsty. But in battle? She fell into a chair at the table where she'd been working. "Why?" She felt so dizzy all of a sudden.
"That's my ammo. It makes them dissolve. Haven't you ever seen cookies in milk?"
"Uh-huh." Her life was filled with cookies, but right now, she didn't care. Instead, she watched the mysterious man shoot over the counter, and then duck. Before she could enjoy the show for more than a moment, everything swam in her eyesight. That's all she remembered.
"Lady," she heard. "Lady, wake up. I've treated your wound but need to know if you're diabetic."
"Diabetic?" She forced her eyes open and saw the ceiling. She must be lying on the shop floor. "Why?"
"They shot you with a quick-acting concentrated sugar compound. I need to give you an antidote."
She looked up at him, holding a syringe in his hand.
Lyra moved away as much as she could. "Who are you?"
"Name's Rick Shilling." He nodded as if he were the good guy in an old western movie. "I'm going to save your life. Now are you diabetic or not?"
"No. It doesn't run in my family, either."
"Good." He pushed up her short sleeve and shoved the needle into her skin. Pain filled the spot.
She grabbed her arm and tried to sit up. "Oww! You're an idiot. You have no right to shoot me up with whatever."
He pulled the needle out of her arm and pushed her back to the floor. "Stay there. The enemy's gone. I dissolved all of them, for now." He moved his gaze toward the display cabinet. "You might want to clean up a bit. There's gingerbread and flour everywhere over there. It's a confectionary mess."
She forced herself to sit up, but her head still swam a bit, so she lay back down.
"Told ya," the man said. "You really need to listen to me and lie down. I also shut the door, so it'll be warmer in here again. Sorry about that, but I needed to contain the Gingerbread Gang and lure them into some place they'd feel familiar."
"What was your name again? I want to know who to tell the cops to arrest."
He chuckled. "Rick Shilling, but they'll never find me."
"I'm not...from around here."
What a weird guy. Her initial assessment was correct. "So? They can find you anywhere."
He shook his head. "Nope. They won't find me."
She sighed. "You're in Nutmeg, Colorado, right now, which is close to the center of the state. Even though it's not very mountainous here, the town's surrounded by them. I doubt you can get out of the state before they find you."
He shot her a big smile, but she wasn't impressed. "I can do it," he said.
"You're an American, right?"
He had to be lying, but she needed to know. "No? You sound American. Canadian, then?"
He laughed. "Hunh-uh. I'm not from North America or any of the Americas."
He shook his head. "Try again."
"Australia, Africa, Asia?"
He seemed pensive. "The three A's. Been there, but not from there."
"That leaves..." She had to think of a few mnemonic devices to remember all the continents. What was left? "Antarctica?"
He snorted. "Antarctica? That's just cold. Who lives there, anyway? Penguins, seals, albatross, a few birds, some whales, and that's about it. No people live there full time. They'd be people-sickles if they did." He seemed amused with himself. "People-sickles. The thought's hilarious."
The guy was a little too confident in himself, but Lyra had to keep going. "If you're not from any of the continents, then you're not from this earth."
He touched his nose with a grin. "Bingo!"
She backed away from him, sitting up fast. "You're an alien?" she whispered. She lowered her head slightly from lightheadedness, but recovered after a moment.
He never should've come to Earth and she had to warn him. "The authorities will want you in their labs."
He laughed again. "No, they won't. They already know about my kind and about me. We have an agreement involving cash. So it's all good."
"An agreement...with cash? What are you talking about?"
"Well, I'm an Entity Exterminator. I get called when anyone needs an entity eliminated. They pay me in silver and I move on."
But she didn't understand. "Entity."
He flipped open a small screen on his watch. The thing became bigger as soon as it completely flipped. "Here's the definition of Entity..."
She sighed. "I know what entity is. It's a being. I get that." She pointed at his watch. "I want one of those. Is it connected to Wi-Fi?"
He chuckled and shut the watch, returning it back to a standard wristwatch. "Earthlings. No, but it has your entire internet without any connection as you know it. You'll get it someday on this planet. But for now, it's highly confidential and you've never seen this." He tilted his head with a stern look. "Right?"
She wasn't about to argue with an alien. He might have super powers or something like mind control. "Yes, sir. So you hunt beings. You're like a ghost hunter?"
"Not just ghosts but anything. In this case, a Koala bear hired me to get the pesky Gingerbread Gang out of his territory. He paid me half my fee already, and now, I just have to make sure the rest of the gang is gone, and he'll pay me the rest. Easy money, too."
Unable to believe her ears, she just stared.
He waved his hand in front of her face. "Hey, Lady. Are you having a seizure? I have anti-seizure meds in my bag." He reached in, but she grabbed his arm.
"Wait." She shook her head. "Back up. A Koala?"
"Yep. His name's Harcourt."
"How...why..." She shook her head, not even sure how to word it. But she had to find out more. "How did you ever talk to a Koala?"
Rick sighed. "He opens his mouth and talks. Haven't you ever talked to one yourself?"
Lyra shook her head and pinched her arm. "I'm asleep. I'm dreaming, right?"
"No," he said in a slow fashion. "Are you on meds for craziness or something? Are you sure you're not diabetic? You're acting really crazy."
But he wasn't crazy? Unbelievable.
He just didn't get it. "I'm not on anything and I'm not diabetic. I'm a baker and part owner of this fine establishment." She waved her hand, indicating the Cookie Fairy House. "But you sound insane. No one talks to animals..." She glanced around them and leaned closer. "And no one gets a response back from them," she whispered.
"I do." He stood up and offered her his hand. "I'm going to help you clean this up. Harcourt will be really happy I found some of the gang."
With his help, she got to her feet and dusted herself off. "Well, good luck with all of it. Tell Harcourt..." She paused. "Where does Harcourt live?"
"Duh." He rolled his eyes. "Australia. Where do you think he lives? I got half the silver fee for this job, too."
"Why silver? I'd think you'd rather have gold."
"I need silver. It's in high demand on my world." He headed out of the work area and around the display case. "Wow. This is major carnage of the cookie kind." He turned his blue eyes back toward her. "Got a broom and maybe some dynamite?"