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Time for Trouble!

Written by:
Cousin Aurora Lenore

. . . . Continued

Larry hopped in the back seat of the cab beside Balki and slammed the door before glancing out of the rear window to see that Max and his two companions were quickly exiting the warehouse and climbing into their van.

"Take us to the Shady Tree Inn," Bianca told the driver, tossing him a twenty dollar bill.

"And step on it!" Larry hissed.

"You got it," the driver replied with a tip of his cap as he slammed on the gas, sending Larry, Balki and Bianca lurching forward.  "Hang on to your cats," he told them.

"You look really familiar," Bianca told him, leaning forward in her seat.  "Do I know you?"

"I do not think so.  I am Meego from Marmazon four-point-oh," he told her.  "Have you ever been there?"

"Wait; isn’t that in Canada?" Larry marveled.

"Yes," Meego replied slowly, seeming somewhat shocked at Lary’s response.

"You know?  Now that I think of it, you look familiar to me, too," Balki chimed in.  "Were you ever a contestant on The Price Is Right?"

"No, you look more like someone famous," Bianca argued.  "You look exactly like – "

"Jimmy Dean?" Meego asked

"No."

"Bradley Cooper?"

"No," Bianca giggled.

"Buck Rogers?" Balki chimed in.

"No.  Now you are just being catty," Meego replied with a grin.

"Catty; that’s hilarious!" Balki laughed loudly.  "Where do you come up with them?"

"Look, I’m sorry to break up this little game, but have you forgotten there are three angry men chasing us in a van who want to kill us?" Larry asked, annoyance written on his face.  "Can’t you go any faster?" he asked Meego.

"You are lucky this baby is equipped with rocket blasters," Meego replied as if people said that everyday.  "I hope you all had a light dinner."

Suddenly, the car lurched forward and Larry audibly gasped as the world flew by in a hazy blur through the window.  How fast were they going?  Two hundred, three hundred miles an hour?  "Are you crazy?" Larry yelled, trying to keep Balki from falling on top of him.

"Cousin, I don’t think he was kidding when he said he had rocket bastards!" Balki cried.  "We are going faster than a speeding bullet wound!"

Finally, after thirty more seconds, Larry had enough.  "Stop!  Stop this car!" he yelled, his voice frantic.

"Okay, okay.  You want me to go faster and then you say you want me to stop.  Make up your mind!" Meego retorted as he slowed the car down to a thankfully normal stop on the side of the road.  "We’re here, by the way."

"Uh, thanks," Bianca panted as Meego got out and opened her car door for her.

Larry would have laughed at the three of them as they got out, their entire bodies shaking like Jell-o.  The only reason he didn’t was because he was too worried about staying alive.

*************************

"Well, here we are; room two-twenty-two," Balki told them as he used the key to unlock the room.  "At least we managed to lose Max and the guys, hoh?"

"Oh my Lord!  Tell me this isn’t our room," Larry cried out as soon as they walked inside.

As Balki set down his cat and looked around, he could see why his cousin was concerned.  The room looked as if no one had been by to clean in in a while.  The bedspreads were a tacky brown and grey design and the dark brown wallpaper was peeling badly.  The two pictures on the wall above the beds were crooked and looked as if they had been painted by Picasso during a seizure.  "Well," he said slowly, blowing dust off a book and coughing, "this is…nice."

"I can see now why they call this the Shady Tree Inn," Larry observed distastefully.  "This place hold fond dust-bunny-filled memories for you, Bianca?"

"No.  It was just the first name that popped into my head, okay?  Sue me!" she barked.

"Are you calling the time machine to come and rescue us now?" Balki asked, seeing that she was playing with Max’s phone again.

"I’m trying."

"Is something wrong?" Larry asked, sitting down beside her on the bed.

"Max has his phone password protected.  I’m trying to break the code.  It’s seven letters long."

"A seven-letter word for using a phone.  Talking?  Calling?  Dialing?" Balki guessed.

Bianca glanced up at him wearily.  "No, no and no."

"What about your last name?  If he’s obsessed with you, maybe it’s Pierson," Larry pointed out.

"Tried that," Bianca replied.

Balki listened as Bianca and Larry tried several more guesses before leaning down to give the cat some more catnip and a gentle rub on its head.  It was then he noticed that the cat had a collar and tag.  "Cupydon," he read slowly.

"Wait; what did you just say?" Bianca asked.

"The cat has a name on his collar.  It says Cupydon.  C-U-P-Y-D-O-N.  I am saying it correctly, aren’t I, Cousin?"

"Seven letters," Bianca mumbled as she typed it in.  "Ha!" she cried out seconds later.  "The password is his cat’s name!"

"Now are you contacting R.O.B. to get us the heck outta here?" Larry pressed.

"Why, yes; yes I am," she giggled.  "Thanks, Balki."

"Well, you’re very welcome," Balki blushed, although he had no idea really what he had done.

Suddenly, the three of them looked up as a loud noise could be heard down the hall.  It sounded like some sort of scuffle, but Balki saw that Bianca was beginning to shake.

"Balki, don’t move and whatever you do, don’t open the door," Larry warned, placing an arm around Bianca.

Seconds later, someone began pounding on the door fiercely.  "We know you’re in there, Bianca!  You and your friends come out nice and easy and we won’t have to break the door down!" Max’s voice hollered on the other side.

Balki turned around and whispered.  "They know we’re in here and if we don’t come out nice and easy, they are going to break down the door."

"We heard, Balki," Larry hissed before turning to Bianca.  "Now would be a good time for your machine to get us outta here."

"Okay, you give us no choice, babe!  On the count of three, we’re breaking down the door…one…"

Suddenly, Balki turned just in time to see the machine appear in the room.

"Two…" Max called out as Larry, Bianca and Balki quickly shuffled inside the egg and closed the door.

"Go ahead, Max; do your worst!" Bianca cackled as she quickly typed in their destination and pressed the power button.

"Three!"

*************************

"You brought us back to our apartment?  You don’t think Max might try to look for us here?" Larry asked, eyebrow raised as they exited the machine.

"Larry, Max is still in two-thousand-thirteen.  He can’t touch us here; he’s just a baby.  We’re perfectly safe."

"Oh no!" Balki cried out, looking around frantically.  "I forgot Cupydon!  He must be so scared!  Cousin, we have to go back and get him."

"Balki, are you crazy?  Max will surely capture us if we go back.  Besides, Cupydon wasn’t your cat to begin with; he belongs to Max the creep," Larry reasoned.

"But, Cousin, I – " Balki protested.

Bianca placed a hand on Balki’s shoulder.  "Balki, Larry’s right.  It’s too dangerous to go back right now, but I promise that we will try and find him later."

Larry’s head shot up at her last words, his eyes wide.  "Later?  We will try and find him later?  Bianca, Max is looking to hurt us!  I don’t know about you, but I really didn’t plan on tempting fate today or anytime soon."

"But Cousin, Bianca cannot stay here forever.  At some point, she will have to go back to her house.  Unless we deal with Max, he will always be waiting for her like a monkey on her neck.  We have to go back and make sure Bianca is safe," Balki told him as they walked to the kitchen.

Larry frowned.  "I know," he groaned, reaching for his bottle of liquid antacid.  "I just didn’t want it to have to be today.  Can’t you just stay here for another twenty-six years?  Maybe Max will have mellowed out by then."

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and Bianca squeaked.  Balki instantly appeared by her side and placed his arm around her while Larry quickly took a swig of his chalky stress reliever.

"Larry?  Balki?  It’s Jennifer and Mary Anne.  Are you home?" Jennifer Lyons’ sweet voice called out on the other side.

Bianca quickly reached in her pocket to allow her machine to disappear, but cursed when she realized she could no longer use her cell phone without a signal or the internet.  "I can’t make it disappear," she hissed.

Larry ran to the door and barely opened it.  "Hey, Jennifer.  I really wish I could let you girls in, but you see, Balki has come down with a terrible stomach virus and I’m afraid he’s just too contagious."

Balki looked up from his position at the bar and glanced at Larry and then Bianca.  He hated lying.  Even if there was a good reason, he hated it.

"Oh, that’s terrible!" Jennifer replied empathetically.  "Balki, if you can hear me, I hope you feel better!"

"What she said," Mary Anne added.

"Do you hear that Balki? The girls want you to get better soon!" Larry yelled, turning his head in the direction of Balki’s bedroom.

"Ah–ah–a-CHOO!" Bianca suddenly sneezed, causing both Larry and Balki to look at her, albeit with different expressions.

"God bless you," Balki replied before covering his mouth with his hand in error.

"Wow, Balki must be really sick if he sounds like that," Mary Anne said.

"Mary Anne, that wasn’t Balki!  Larry, what’s going on?" Jennifer pressed.

"What’s going on?  Nothing, nothing.  That, uh, that sound you heard was the, uh, television; yeah, the television.  I was watching a documentary on allergies for an article I’m writing up in the paper," Larry replied nervously.  "It’s extremely boring.  What do you say to maybe going out for dinner tomorrow night if Balki’s feeling up to it?"

"Balki feels up to it now, just in case anybody was wondering," Balki muttered under his breath, causing Bianca to stifle a giggle.

"O-okay.  We’ll see you later, Larry.  We have to catch a flight first thing tomorrow anyway.  Dinner sounds good," Jennifer replied, still talking through the crack in the door.

"Tell Balki I hope he feels better," Mary Anne added before they left.

Larry quickly shut the door and leaned up against it.  "Phew!  That was close."

"Cousin, why you lie to the girls and tell them I was sick?  I feel fine.  My head is cool as a kumquat, my throat is wet and my nasal passageways are clear," Balki told him.

"Balki, if I had let the girls in, they would have seen Bianca and," he stopped, pointing at the machine, "that thing and would have asked a million questions.  Is that what you want; for Jennifer and Mary Anne to find out that we’re hiding a time machine?  Just think of the repercussions, Balki."

"I don’t want to think about percussions, Cousin.  I just want help keep Bianca safe so that Max doesn’t try to hurt her or anyone else again."

"Well, that’s what I want, too, Balki!" Larry scoffed.  "Bianca, help me out here.  You see why I had no choice but to lie to the girls, right?"

Bianca reached on top of the refrigerator, grabbed an aerosol can of cheese and sprayed some in her mouth.  "Right now, all I can think about is food," she mumbled.  "I think we all need some serious nourishment before we think about doing anything else."

Balki smiled.  "Oh, Cousin, can we order Chinese food from that new restaurant that opened on Fifth Avenue?"

"Bianca, what do you say?  Do you like Chinese food?" Larry asked, his hand on the phone.

Bianca nodded her head before filling her mouth with more cheese.  "Does it look like I care?"

Larry raised his eyebrows and looked at Balki in amusement.  "Apparently not."

*************************

Bianca sat down her container of moo goo gai pan and sighed happily.  It was hard to believe that something so simple as food could help not only her mood but her mental state, as well.  "Well, that was good, but now we really need to go back to my house and retrieve my iPad before Max gets it and – "

Suddenly, the three of them looked up as a familiar buzzing sound reverberated from the living room and saw that Bianca’s precious time machine had disappeared into thin air!

"Bianca, your machine; it vanished!" Larry cried out, his eyes wide with horror.  "That must mean that Max found a way to control it and he’s on his way here to kill us!"

"You mean we don’t get to read our fortunes in the fortune cookie?" Balki asked.

"Here’s our fortunes: we’re doomed!" Larry panicked, grabbing Balki’s arms as they sat side by side on the sofa.

"It’s coming back," Bianca told them, hearing the machine as it made its return.  "Dammit!  They must’ve found my iPad and hacked into it already!"

Sure enough, the machine reappeared with Max, his two sidekicks and Cupydon.  They almost looked laughable as they resembled clowns packed into a tiny car, but Bianca noticed she wasn’t shaking from laughter, but from fear.

Urpos threw open the door and practically fell out.  "We meet again," he panted, grabbing the liquid antacid off the counter and taking a gulp.

"Hey, that belong to Cousin Larry!" Balki scolded.

"Hello, babe," Max greeted with a smile as he reached over to graze Bianca’s cheek with the back of his hand.  Bianca recoiled and responded with a brisk slap across his face.

Max touched his now red jaw and glowered at her.  "You just made a stupid move, my dear."

Bianca watched out of the corner of her eye as Larry and Balki slowly and carefully made their way toward the machine.  She had to stall.  "You have my iPad, don’t you?"

Max proudly opened his black leather jacket to reveal it.  "Good guess.  You really didn’t think just because you stole my phone that all was lost, did you?"

"No.  I guess you just thought of everything, didn’t you?"

"I guess so.  Now are you coming with me willingly or do I have to use force again?" he asked as he, Lylo and Urpos closed in around her.

Quickly, Bianca grabbed a bottle of hot sauce and threw the contents in their faces before running to the time machine.

"Bianca, hurry!" Larry cried as Balki stepped out for a moment to let her inside.

Furiously, Bianca typed in a destination and didn’t even think to shut the machine door as she pressed the power button.

Unfortunately, she also forgot to allow time for Balki to re-enter the machine before it disappeared.

*************************

“Cousin?  Bianca?” Balki asked softly as the machine disappeared from right in front of him.  What had happened?  One minute, he was letting Bianca get inside and the next minute, she and Larry had gone, leaving him behind with Max, Urpos and Lylo.

“Well, well, well,” Max grinned from ear to ear, his face dripping wet after having to stick his head under the faucet to relieve the burning.  “Look who got left behind.”

“Ha!” Balki threw back his head and cried.  “That what you think!  What you don’t know is you are in deep babasticki as soon as Cousin Larry and Bianca come back!”

“You really think they’re going to come back for you?” Urpos scoffed.

“Well of course I do; don’t be ridiculous.”

“Okay, smart guy.  When?”

“I have no idea,” Balki grimaced.

“Grab him, Lylo,” Max ordered.

Lylo quickly reached up and grabbed Balki around the throat with one hand, pinning him up against the wall by the apartment door.  “What do you think now, smart guy?”

“Well,” Balki replied, his voice strained.  “You could use a breath mint and possibly some moisturizer for your dry skin, but other than that, you’re good.”

Max pulled out his gun and pointed it at Balki.  “What about now?”

Lylo let him go and Balki placed both hands up in defeat.  “I got nothing.”

“You keep your mouth shut, understand?  I don’t want to hear a peep outta you until I say so.  Got it?” Max spat, putting his arm around Balki while keeping the other hand with the gun tucked safely under his jacket.

Balki nodded in reply as he let the three men escort him out of the apartment building and hail a taxi.  Where were Larry and Bianca?  Surely they had a plan, didn’t they?

*************************

“Where are we?” Larry asked, still feeling the Earth shake after the ride.  “Balki, are you – ?” Larry turned around mid-sentence to find an empty space where Balki should have been.  Within seconds, panic set in.  “Balki?  Balki!  Bianca; Balki’s not here!  He’s not in the machine!  What if he fell out when we forgot to close the door?  There’s no telling where he could be; he could be wandering through space and time!  Bianca, what are we going to do?” he gasped, clutching her arms as if his life depended on it.

First, we’re going to let me go and breathe!  We are in Beverly Hills,” Bianca replied through gritted teeth as they exited the machine.  “Then, we’re going to quickly get another iPad and figure out how to destroy Max Fagen!”

Now it was Larry’s turn to grit his teeth.  “Question.  How are we going to go back to get Balki and destroy Max Fagen when he already has your iPad?”

Bianca looked around to the darkened alleyway they had appeared in and saw a twenty-four hour hardware store across the street.  “We need to go in there.  Don’t ask questions, just follow me.”

“We’re just going to leave your machine here?” Larry gaped.

“I said don’t ask questions,” Bianca replied icily as she ran to the crosswalk.

Larry shook his head in confusion and followed her.  He was itching for his clipboard and liquid antacid, but mostly, he was worried about Balki.  If he was still in the apartment with Max, there was no telling what could happen.  Breathe, Appleton, breathe, he scolded himself harshly, trying to breathe from his nose but sounding more as if he were a dog sniffing out a trail.  He just hoped that Bianca’s plan would work and they could rescue Balki, get Bianca home and Max, Lylo and Urpos would be locked away for good.

Once inside the hardware store, Bianca quickly scanned each aisle, throwing several pipes, screws, nails and Plexiglas pieces into her buggy as if she did this all the time.  The last thing she bought was a sledgehammer, which amused yet disturbed Larry.

“I know you said no more questions,” Larry whispered as they walked to the check out line, “but just what exactly is your plan?”

“You’ll see when I’m done,” she answered before turning her attention to the sales clerk.  “Excuse me, but do you guys have an all-night electronics store around close-by?”

The sales clerk popped her gum.  “Yeah, there’s one a couple of blocks from here.  It’s called Crazy Alex’s Electronics – big neon sign – you can’t miss it.”

“Thank you,” Bianca responded, turning to Larry.  “Um, I need a favor.”

“Sure.”

“That’ll be two hundred sixty nine dollars and seventy four cents,” the sales clerk announced in a monotone.

“I know you have a fat wallet, right?” Bianca smiled.  “I sorta left my purse at the house.”

Larry’s eyes widened.  “Two hundred sixty nine dollars?!”

“And seventy four cents,” the lady finished.

“Do it for Balki,” Bianca winked.

“Huh.  Women,” Larry scoffed as he pulled out his wallet.

“I wouldn’t complain, if I were you,” the sales lady replied curtly, looking Larry up and down.

Larry grimaced.  Bianca actually was incredibly beautiful.  Too bad he already had a gorgeous girlfriend or Larry might have developed feelings for Bianca, instead.  “She’s my sister,” he replied quickly, aware that the more he thought about Bianca, the more he felt his face turn red.

“Wait for me!” he yelled when he saw that Bianca was already walking in the direction of the electronics store.  “Let me guess.  I’ll need to use my cash for our future purchases at the electronics place, too?”

“That would be helpful, yes,” she drawled.  “Then a clothing store so I can get the hell out of this dress.”

“And exactly how is all of this money I’m spending helping Balki?”

“You’ll see.”

“No,” Larry argued, stepping in front of Bianca to stop her.  “I need to know now.  If you have a plan, I need to know what it is.  I don’t like not having a plan.  What’s…the plan?”

“The plan is we’re going to do what Max asked.  We’re going to build another time machine.”

What?  You’re just going to do what he asks?  Bianca, that’s insane!  There’s no telling what he could do with his own time machine!  I mean, think this through!”

Suddenly, without any warning, Bianca kicked off her shoes and raced back toward the alley.  Larry had to run as hard as he could to keep up with her until they reached her machine, right where they had left it.

“No, Larry; I’m not going to build Max another time machine!” she cried, grabbing the sledgehammer.  “I’m going to build another one for me!”

Larry hollered as she raised the sledgehammer over her shoulder and swung it with all her might until her original masterpiece was in multiple pieces in the alleyway.  Was she completely mental?  How were they going to be able to rescue Balki now?  “Oh my Lord!  What are you doing?”

“Destroying this one so that Max and his goons can’t use it anymore.  Then I’m going to build another one from scratch.  Then only I can control it!” she panted.

“Couldn’t you have just loosened a wire and caused the computers to malfunction or something?”

“I could have, but why do something half-heartedly?” she smiled thinly.  Besides, that felt really, really good!”

Larry stood there staring at the pile of rubble that had once been their mode of transportation.  Bianca Pierson was something else.  He wasn’t sure what, but she was definitely–

“Larry, come on!” Bianca cried.

Larry looked up, aware that she was already rounding the block.  “Coming!”

*************************

Bianca sat in the middle of the hotel room floor, her tools and other supplies strewn around her and took a sip of her coffee.  Smiling, she looked up at the sleeping figure lying on one of the beds.  Larry had insisted on staying up all night with her and helping her, but she had insisted that he rest and forego his own cup of java.  Both of them were worried sick about Balki, but Bianca was better at covering up her worry by diving into her work.  At least with Larry asleep, he couldn’t see the stray tears that cascaded down her cheek ever so often as she thought about being betrayed by Max, the kidnapping, being worried about Balki and her own twinge of guilt.  Surely there was something she could’ve done differently to keep Larry and Balki out of danger.

“Grandfather, if you can hear me now, you have to help me.  I’ve put innocent lives in danger because of my stupidity.  Now Larry and Balki are separated and it’s all my fault for trusting that creep Max.  I just don’t know what to do and I don’t know if I can recreate this machine in time to save Balki.  Just please tell me what to do or give me a sign,” she whispered, tears spilling down her cheeks once more.

“Bianca?” Larry mumbled, stirring.

“Everything’s fine, Larry.  Go back to sleep,” she sniffed.

Larry looked at her before climbing off the bed and sitting across from her.  “No, everything’s not alright.  You’re crying.  And who were you talking to?”

Bianca smiled through her tears.  “My grandfather, may he rest in peace.  If ever I needed his wisdom, it’s now.”

“I’m sorry about your grandfather, but it’s nice that you still talk to him,” Larry replied, rolling the screwdriver back and forth in his hands.  “A couple of months ago, Balki’s grandmother, Yaya Biki passed away on her way here to America to see Balki.  He tried to pretend he wasn’t sad, but I told him it would help if he talked to her and told her goodbye.  If you, uh, don’t mind me asking, how long has your grandfather – ”

“Fourteen years,” Bianca interrupted.  “You see, my grandfather and I had this amazing connection; it defied all logic.  He was an inventor and a tech geek like me and he taught me everything I know.  When I was five, I remember he told me ‘Bianca, you and I have a bond like no other; you know it and I know it.  If ever you should need me, no matter when or where, all you have to do is think of that bond and our love and we can communicate as if we were in the same room.’”

“Wow.  And did it work?”

Bianca smiled and wiped away a tear.  “Yeah, it did.  I’ve been talking to my grandfather ever since.  Of course now that he’s gone, we can’t have conversations, but I can still hear him occasionally or can feel him around me.  Maybe you and Balki have that bond.”

Larry stared down at the screwdriver sheepishly.  “I just hope he’s okay.  I know Balki can take care of himself, but I just hate not knowing if he thinks we abandoned him; that I’ve abandoned him.”

“Then try it.  If you truly love Balki more than you love yourself, just close your eyes and concentrate.  Focus all of your love and energy on Balki and maybe, perhaps, your bond is as strong as mine and Grandfather’s.”

Larry looked at her hopefully.  “I guess I could give it a try.”

Bianca stood up and walked towards the door.  “You talk to Balki and I’ll go get some more of those free cookies and coffee in the lobby.”

As soon as Bianca left, tears formed once again in the corner of her eyes.  “Please Grandfather.  Let Larry connect with Balki the way we do.  That’s all I ask.”

*************************

“Balki?”

Balki tried to raise his head up to look around, but it felt as if it were filled with rocks.  His throat was parched and he felt cold sweat drip down his neck.  He tried to remember what happened after Max, Lylo and Urpos took him out of the apartment, but the fog in his brain was too thick.

“Balki, can you hear me buddy?”

“Hoh?” he mumbled, knowing he heard that voice somewhere before.  Licking his lips, he spoke in a hoarse voice.  “Who dat?”

“It’s me, Balki; it’s Larry!  Are you hurt? Are – are you alright?”

“Cousin?  Is that really you or is it just a collage?” he asked, forcing himself to look up and around.

“I’m sorry, Balki.  I’m still with Bianca.  We’re trying to get back to Chicago to save you, buddy, I promise.  Bianca is trying to build a new time machine so we can get back.  Balki, listen to me; it’s going to be alright.  Just stay strong,” Larry’s voice told him, his voice cracking.

Suddenly, Balki remembered that Max had shoved him in a taxi and they drove to an abandoned cottage-like house before one of Max’s friends hit him over the head with something.  When Balki came to, he was tied to yet another metal chair and forced to drink some nasty liquid that tasted like pepper juice and liquidized sulfur.  He tried to remember what he heard before he felt the world spin around him and passed out again.  He felt it was something important…

“Balki, are you still there?” Cousin Larry’s voice cried out desperately.  “Balki, please talk to me.”

“I’m trying to remember, Cousin, but I have a headache the size of a Texan.”

“What are you trying to remember?  Is it important?  If it is, you need to remember.  Focus and remember.”

“The machine.  Where is the machine?” Balki asked slowly.

“Bianca took a sledgehammer to it last night.  She’s building another one so Max can’t control it with her iPad device.”

“I hope Urpos wasn’t still inside.  That would have been – Urpos!” Balki cried, his voice sounding back to normal and excited again.  “Cousin, I remember!”

“Sssh, keep your voice down!  You don’t want Max to hear you!” Larry scolded.

“Sorry, Cousin,” he said, his voice an octave lower.

“No, Balki, I mean don’t talk so loud.  What about Urpos?”

“Before I pass out from whatever Max gave me to drink, he says, ’Urpos, I’m going to make the time machine appear and I want you to get inside and go back to where Bianca and Larry are.  Find them and bring Bianca to me,’” Balki told him, imitating Max’s cold and harsh voice.

“But Bianca destroyed the machine, so there’s no way he could have gotten – unless he showed up while we were at the hardware store!  Oh my Lord, I’ve got to warn Bianca!” Larry panicked.

“Now, Cousin, don’t lose your mind.  Bianca is there with you and she – ”

“No, she’s not!  She left to get some food from the lobby!  Balki, I have to find her before Urpos does!  Thank you, Balki and I promise, buddy; we’re going to come back for you.  I just hope we come back alive!”

Balki could feel sleep drifting back, but he didn’t want to lose Larry.  “Cousin, wait.  Don’t go.  Promise that you’ll keep…an eye on Cupydon.  I don’t know where…he is…”

*************************

Larry dashed down the hotel stairway as quickly as his short legs could move before literally skidding into the lobby, stopping just inches shy of Bianca.

Bianca turned around, sloshing some of her orange juice out of its Styrofoam cup.  “Oh, Larry!  There you are!  I had no idea that it was already morning!  I brought you some–”

Larry hastily grabbed the orange juice and the jelly doughnut from her hand and set it down on a nearby counter.  “There’s no time to eat.  We have to leave; now!”

“But Larry, I haven’t finished the machine yet.  We can’t leave.”

“No, you don’t understand.  I did it; I was able to talk to Balki and he said that Max retrieved the time machine while we were at the hardware store and he sent Urpos back here!  For all we know, he could be watching our every move as we speak!”

“Are you sure?  I destroyed it, remember?”

Yes, but while we were out shopping, that would’ve given him just enough time to come looking for us!  Now that he has no way back, who’s to say he won’t find us and kill us both?  Bianca, please; let’s just get the hell out of here now!”

“I’d take Curly Sue’s advice there, sweetie,” a voice snickered from behind Bianca.

Bianca spun around and instinctively clutched Larry’s arm for support.  “How fast can you run?” she whispered to him.

“When my life is on the line?  Like the wind,” he replied before they both bolted through the lobby and out into the street.  “Now would be a great time to have a car – or better yet – a time machine.”

“Don’t get snippy,” Bianca warned as they turned the corner.  “I’ve got an idea.”

“You do?  Oh good.”

“Get in!” Bianca cried as she opened the door of an abandoned van on the side of the road and hopped inside

“Your idea is to steal a car?  Are you crazy?” Larry objected.

“Do you want to save your life and get to Balki?  If so, get in!” she yelled.

Larry looked back just in time to see Urpos hijack a car from a woman and climb inside before Larry literally dove into the back seat.

“How did you know the keys were in the ignition?” Larry gasped, out of breath as she started the engine and sped off.

“Just lucky, I guess.  There’s only one eensy-weensy problem,” Bianca replied.

“Do I wanna know?” Larry muttered.

“You might.  The problem is….I can’t drive!” she squealed as the van crashed through a chain link fence.

“What do you mean you can’t drive?” Larry screamed, his eyes wild.

“I haven’t manually driven a car since I was eighteen!  I rigged all my cars to be able to drive themselves!” she wailed.

“And yet your big idea is to get behind the wheel and drive the streets of Beverly Hills?  What kind of a plan is – LOOK OUT!”

Bianca screamed and swerved the van hard to the right, barely missing an SUV going the other way.  “I can’t look!”

Larry did a double take, appalled.  “Don’t close your eyes!” he hollered, seeing as she covered her face with her hands.  “Keep your eyes uncovered, open and on the road!”

Bianca did as she was told, just in time to swerve again, this time to dodge hitting the curb.  “Do you see Urpos?”

“I’ll tell you as soon as my life stops flashing before my eyes,” he retorted before looking behind them.  “No.  I think all the swerving you did confused him.  Now can we please just stop the van?  I felt safer letting Meego drive us!”

“Simple question: how exactly do I stop?”

Larry ran a hand through his sweat-soaked hair . “The brake; the brake.  Hit…the…brake!”

“Okay!” Bianca cried out, getting ready to press her foot on the brake pedal.

“Not in the middle of the street!  Pull over to the side of the road and then hit the brake!”

“Oh, yeah, right.”

Larry sighed with relief as Bianca pulled into a parking lot of an art gallery and stopped the car.  With a shaky hand, Larry reached over and shifted the gear into park before glaring at her.  “Well, that was something I’d never like to do again!  I can’t believe you just got into a van without knowing how to drive!  Bianca, why can’t you just…be normal?”

With that, Larry got out of the van and walked toward the art gallery, his legs wobbling like jelly.

*************************

Bianca sat in the front seat of the van, numb all over.  The only noise she could hear was the sound of Larry’s voice repeating over and over, “Bianca, why can’t you just…be normal…normal…normal…”

“I have to get out and get some air,” she whispered to no one in particular as she stumbled out of the van and entered the art gallery.  “Excuse me,” she said to the man behind the counter, “which way did the man with curly dark hair go?”

“Oh, hello.  He went to use the facilities.  Can I interest you in any of our show pieces?  A private tour?  An espresso with a leh-mon tweest?” the man replied in an accent so jumbled, Bianca had to concentrate hard to understand.

“Uh, no thanks,” she mumbled, gazing around, hoping he didn’t see the tears forming in her eyes.

“Well, my name is Serge and if you need anything, just say it.  I am here to serve, after all,” he replied somewhat satirically.

Bianca, why can’t you just be normal? she swore she heard one of the statues mock her from its place in the window.

“Oh, I see you look at this piece,” Serge brightened, coming around to her side.  “This was done by the great sculptor J.J. Knoxwurst – terrible name, but brilliant artiste – and I’m very excited to show it to you…”

“Thank you, but I’m fine,” she whispered hoarsely before running out of the gallery and leaning up against the van, tears streaming down her cheeks.

A minute later, Larry came back, oblivious.  “That Serge guy was extremely hard to understand; I almost had to call you in as an interpreter.”

Bianca kept her back to him, unable to control her emotions.  She only nodded her head in reply.

“Bianca, are you alright?  You’re shaking,” Larry said, taking off his jacket and draping it around her shoulders.

Bianca let out a small hiccup but refused to turn around until Larry grabbed her upper arm and forced her to turn towards him.

“Bianca, what’s the matter?  Why are you crying?” he asked in surprise, still holding her arm.

“Because…you said…why can’t I…be normal?  You’re right; I wish I…was normal!” she continued to hiccup, her voice racked with sobs.

A pained look washed over Larry’s face as he realized what he had said.  “Oh, Bianca; I’m so, so sorry.  I never meant to hurt you.  I – I was just so upset and shocked when you told me you couldn’t drive.  I’m such an idiot for saying something so hurtful to the one person who’s done nothing but try and help.  Please, Bianca; can you ever forgive me?”

Bianca leaned forward and allowed him to hold her while she continued to cry.  “I just feel so terrible.  This is all my fault.  You and Balki wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for my stupid time machine!”

Larry pulled back and looked into her teary eyes as light rain began to fall around them.  “Balki would be crushed if he heard you talk like that.  He adores you…and quite frankly; so do I.  I can’t imagine my life without you in it,” he told her.

A smile tugged at Bianca’s mouth before Larry surprised her with a sweet, tender kiss.  Bianca returned the kiss, feeling more hopeful than she had in a long time.

A few seconds later, Larry pulled away, but still kept his face inches from hers.  “We should probably get back in the van so we don’t catch cold,” he whispered, eyes still closed.

“Only if you drive,” she replied back, dangling the keys in front of his face so she could lighten the moment.  After all, as bad as she wanted to kiss him again, she knew he already had a girlfriend and she definitely did not need to be the cause of any more problems.  From now on, her focus had to remain on building the machine and rescuing Balki.

Continue . . . .