Chapter 79:

Chapter 79 - The Boy in the Bubble


Morgan threw open the door of Parge and O’Fleef’s firm with Ricochet in hand. He hung back by the door at first, fully expecting that Bubba Lee would’ve arranged some trap or surprise attack to welcome him, but–for the moment, at least–all seemed quiet. There wasn’t a single hint of a threat in view.

…Primarily because the entire office was crowded floor-to-ceiling with bubbles.

They hung silently in the air, reflecting and refracting everything around them. Most were empty, but some appeared to have been formed around objects: paperweights, wastebaskets, three-hole punches and the like. It was difficult to make head or tail of what lay beyond them, and Morgan was sorely tempted to just start shooting. These bubbles don’t seem to pop easy, but I bet a bullet’d do the job just fine, he mused.

Only the thought of winging an innocent held him back. Going in guns blazing could lead to Solomon or Beretta catching a stray, and he considered that an unacceptable risk.

So Morgan did just the thing Bubba Lee had probably intended for him to do: he walked slowly among the bubbles, brushing them aside as he went. They proved to be more resilient than the typical soap-and-water variety. Not a single one broke at his touch; instead, they allowed his fingers to probe beyond their borders and back out again, their surfaces rippling softly with every contact. He found that he could reach out and touch the objects trapped inside some bubbles with impunity, though actually removing the item seemed to be almost impossible–the bubble just got dragged right along with its contents, stubbornly refusing to burst.

But I got through the surface of one, he reminded himself. I guess if something’s small enough compared to the bubble, it can get through just fine.

As he was puzzling over the unique properties of Bubba Lee’s projectiles, Morgan became aware of a noise issuing from somewhere nearby. He deviated from his chosen path and felt his way through the bubbles to his right, his hands outstretched and seeking for the source. It sounded like a little girl crying, and he dared to hope that it might be Beretta.

Before he could make a call either way, Morgan tripped. He plummeted through the bubbles and fell to the floor, slamming headlong into the carpeted steps before him. Disoriented, he glanced back to see what he’d tripped on… And found Solomon lying there, bound, at the foot of the stairs with an apologetic look on his face.

MMmmMMMph! the man blubbered through his cloth gag, his voice shrill enough to confirm Morgan’s growing suspicions about exactly who he’d heard crying from across the room.

“Damn it, Solomon,” he cursed, lifting himself up off the stairs with a grunt. “Have some pride, will you? You were whimperin’ so high ‘n’ so loud I thought you were a nine-year-old kid!”

MMMmmmMMMmmmMMM! Solomon replied with an energetic wiggle.

“Now, don’t give me that. I heard Conrad take the high harmony in that little ditty of yours, I know you’ve got it in you to scream bloody murder in a lower register.”


“Arguin’ with me about it won’t–”


A sudden impact from behind sent Morgan sprawling. The thing that had struck him–a large wooden cupboard–crashed to the floor a half-second later, splintering apart mere inches from Solomon’s resting place. The man fainted dead away from the fright of it, sparing Morgan the experience of having to listen to his bleating… But the impact of the cupboard against his unguarded back had been less merciful. The sting of his injuries reached an insistent crescendo, and he found himself struggling to draw breath as he writhed about on the floor.

“Haw haw… Sounds like I got a direct hit!” crowed a voice from somewhere above. Morgan gathered himself up into a kneel and glanced at the stairs. He couldn’t see Bubba Lee anywhere, but thanks to the force of the careening cabinet, the bubbles lining the stairwell had dispersed enough for him to see the danger he’d been oblivious to before:

A flock of large objects, all of which floated in bubbles hovering several feet above the L-shaped stairway. Morgan reckoned that the cupboard had been one of these a moment ago: an airborne weapon just waiting for its bubble to be popped. Once that happened, gravity would do the rest, sending it tumbling down the stairs to flatten anyone and anything in its path.

It wasn’t a bad trap, really. Morgan rose shakily to his feet and clutched the bannister, trying to figure out a way to climb the stairs without provoking another attempt on his life. It wouldn’t be easy. The stairs were of the creaky wooden variety, and mounting them without attracting Bubba Lee’s attention seemed about as likely as the prospect of getting on Mimi’s good side.

That’s when a thought occurred to him. Just to be safe, Morgan started by taking hold of Solomon’s legs and dragging him away from the foot of the stairs before attempting his gambit.

“Hey, ugly!” he called. “I’m still alive down here, y’know!”

As he’d hoped, this provoked Bubba Lee into dispensing another of his deathtraps. Morgan watched as a small, sharp pebble streaked down from the second floor to pierce the big bubble nearest him. The writing desk within skidded down the stairs and clattered to the floor with a resounding crash, but it wasn’t the writing desk he was interested in:

It was the metal filing cabinet behind it.

Morgan whipped out his weapon, quickly assessed where Bubba Lee was hiding based on the pebble’s trajectory, and loosed a couple shots at the gleaming face of the filing cabinet. The bubble popped, the cabinet dropped, but the bullets kept right on going, bouncing their way up toward the second floor.

Bubba Lee squealed in pain. Morgan heard him shuffle away from the top of the stairs, leaving him free to charge up them in peace… Though, given his injuries, it ended up being less of a “charge” and more of a “slow, ineffectual clamor”. Still, he reached the top nonetheless, taking care to avoid brushing against the larger bubbles littering his path.

The first thing he noticed was a calm, easy breeze tousling his hair. At first he thought it was coming through the open window he saw in the study at the end of the hall, but the blue seams forming at the edges of his vision told a more sinister story. Those seams, it seemed, weren’t really seams at all, but patches of clear blue sky.

…Patches of sky that normally wouldn’t have been visible if the roof weren’t in the middle of drifting away!

Morgan looked on in anxious silence as the great bubble above his head ripped the roof clean off, exposing the law office’s second floor to the elements. It was hardly what he’d call a clean separation. Walls cracked, and dust rained down on him, sending him hobbling down the hall in search of cleaner air. The study with its lone, open window seemed to be his best bet, so he used the wall to guide him on his progress toward it, coughing and hacking every step of the way.

He stumbled into the study and made for the window, thinking nothing of the fact that the room was almost completely bare. Morgan had more pressing concerns at the moment, and chief among them was breathing. The man stuck his head out the window and gulped in great lungfuls of air, noting with some amusement that it was this very window he’d seen Conrad dangling from. He could still see the Sheriff’s office down below, and was pleased to see that neither Conrad or Caden had gone back inside yet; they stood just where he’d left them, waving up at him enthusiastically.

Morgan smiled and waved back. What a couple of chuckleheads, he thought with a snort. Still out there waving at me as if they've got nothing better to do.

He realized too late just how pointed and frantic the waving seemed to be. By the time he caught wind of it, the curious sensation of a cool, yielding surface enveloping his whole body was already vying for his attention.


Morgan rounded on the source of the laughter. He saw nothing at first–the room was empty, just as it had been when he first entered it. But the subtle rising motion of his own body prompted him to look upward, and it was then that he learned the true magnitude of his folly:

Everything in the room had been swallowed up inside its own bubble. Desks, bookcases, lamps, chairs… Just like Morgan, they were all drifting steadily upward. He could see it all through the confines of his own bubble–the one he’d allowed himself to be trapped in so carelessly.

And above all the other clutter, atop a bubble-borne safe–the very safe that Beretta had taken shelter in before the whole mess transpired–sat the architect of his predicament.

Bubba Lee Barton himself.

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