“Dude, you killed Eva!” I exclaim.
“Don’t be so excitable, little man-feast,” Ernie says. “She probably just broke a fake nail or something.”
Jan looks up. “Eva’s nails are fake?”
“Of course not!” I retrieve Ernie’s clothes from various spots around the room and hand them to him forcefully. “Get dressed.”
“Why?” he asks.
“You’re coming with me to save Eva.”
Genuine confusion. “Why me?”
“Because if I’m breaking and entering—”
“Hacking and entering,” Beta corrects.
“—so are you. And you owe Eva one. And…just get dressed!”
Ernie takes his clothes. “Bug Eyes can look after herself.”
I glare at him. “That’s what she was doing right now—screaming hysterically while looking after herself. Really.”
“She’s a jockette. If anything, that makes her more qualified to download into strange darknesses and unknown insinuations—”
I don’t have time for this. “I’ll pay you fifty bucks if you come with me.”
Ernie puts on a proud air. “Your money doesn’t affect me, rich white boy.”
“I’ll pay you in honey buns, then.”
“Fuck you! Are you being serious or just making fun of my fatness?”
“Whatever. Twenty boxes of honey buns, and you’ve got a deal.”
My jaw drops. “Jesus Christ, Ernie—twenty boxes?”
“Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.”
“Take it or leave it.”
Beta and Jan watch me expectantly.
I fold my arms. “What are you going to do with twenty boxes of honey buns?”
“I think that’s fairly obvious,” Ernie replies.
“I’ll get you a couple of boxes, but an entire bakery’s worth—”
“Now there’s an idea.”
“Ernie, I’m not negotiating with your stomachs.”
He drops his clothes, waves his hand at my torso. “Then live out the remainder of your days as an undead child actor from the blah ages. I can’t wait to see your grandparents’ reaction to that skimpy little loincloth of yours. Oh, and the kids at school are going to love those darling blond locks—”
“Fine. Twenty boxes of honey buns.”
“And fifty bucks.”
“Fifty bucks or twenty boxes of honey buns.”
“Both. Final offer.”
“You know what? Never mind. I’ll go alone.”
Ernie’s smug smile falters, ala Austin Pendleton in My Cousin Vinny during the Mr. Tipton reading glasses revelation scene. “Okay, twenty boxes of honey buns it is, and I work for free.”
Crap—my shoes are still on Thrill-Kill’s server. “Too late, fat shit. The deal’s off.”
“Go home, Ernie.”
“Fifteen boxes. They can even be those shitty Mrs. Freshley’s instead of Little Debbie—”
“I’ll go with you,” Jan offers.
“Dude,” I say, “you’ve already dealt with enough. You don’t have to clean up Ernie’s messes, too.”
“I’ve been cooped up here all day. I want to go.”
“Okay, guys. Ten boxes. Final, final offer—”
The bedroom door opens.
Dad’s back, and he looks to have recovered from his inner-ear fire. Motioning for me to follow him, he says, “Theo, we need to talk.”
And I need to rescue the girl of my dreams from certain doom in the hopes that just maybe she’ll fall madly in love with me. “Okay, but can it wait a few?”
Dad shakes his head. “Now.” He closes the door.
“Ooh,” Ernie coos, putting his hand on my shoulder. “You’re in trouble, junior.”