[personal profile] hwrnmnbsol
I hired a dogsled team and set out cross-country. I wasn't sure exactly where I was going, relying only on a dimly recalled memory of the Island. Time and again, this mystery had been going back to my distant past, back to when I was a lot younger and more carefree, witnessing momentous times. Now here I was again, setting out to have a look for myself at the Island of Misfit Toys.

In its time, that place had been a sanctuary for animated toys that had no other home. King Moonracer, the mighty winged lion, combed the world looking for oddball playthings and bringing them back to his Island to live. When he learned about the place, Santa intervened and promised to find homes for all the toys. He was as good as his word, and the Island was abandoned.

But Rudolf's blurry photos didn't look old. They could have been taken yesterday. And if what I saw in them was true, the Island of Misfit Toys was open for business again.

I felt that this had to be the key to the strange affair I had become embroiled in. There were just too many questions. If Rudolf was so well loved, why had he been killed? And why did it seem like everybody I talked to had something to hide? The answer had to be on the Island. On the Island I would find something that somebody was willing to die for – and somebody was willing to kill for, too.

I got off a mile from the Island. I paid the lead dog to wait, and I glided across the open ice towards the jagged waterway separating the Island from the main mass of ice. I had a warm scarf, a full bottle of gin, and a box of ammunition for my pistol. I felt ready for anything, provided it was small, harmless, and more scared of me than I was of it.

At the water's edge I found a rowboat pulled up onto the ice. There was a sign next to it. The sign read THE ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS. The word 'misfit' had been lined through in red ink, and the word DANGEROUS had been scrawled above it.

"Uh oh," I said.

"Uh oh what?" said a tiny voice. I looked down and saw a tiny figurine of a baby in a blue jumper. It was smaller than my thumb. The baby folded its arms and scowled.

"Hi there," I said. "What's your name?"

"I asked you a damn question, snowball," said the baby rudely. "You got a problem with the sign that you want to tell us about?" The baby beckoned, and about forty more of the babies stepped out of hiding. They all sneered and made rude gestures.

"I don't have a problem with the sign," I said. "I just said 'uh oh' because I was afraid some dangerous toys might be around. And obviously I was right."

"Aw, don't blow smoke up my ass," jeered the first baby. It seemed somewhat mollified, however. "We're Bite-Sized Babies. We're dangerous, all right. We've hurt people in forty countries. My name's Baby Sez No and I'm wanted for murder."

"Is that so," I said, keeping my face as straight as possible. "Well, it just so happens that I'm a dangerous toy too."

"Yeah?" said Baby Sez No uncertainly. "You're kind of big to be a toy. What was your brand?"

I thought quickly. "I was marketed as Frosty the Hitman," I said, flashing my Air Force pistol. "It's all fun and games until somebody gets behind on the vig and has to lose an eye."

The Bite-Sized Babies applauded and whooped. "Well then, we'd better take you across to the island right away," said Baby Sez No. "You should meet the others, maybe talk to the boss. He would probably want to talk to a guy like you."

"Yeah," I said. "Good idea."

I rowed the boat across the waterway. A cluster of the Bite-Sized Babies came along for the ride, and Baby Sez No kept me company on the midships bench. "So, just between us Dangerous Toys," I said, "how'd a little dude like you get to be such a bad ass?"

"Simple," said Baby Sez No. "I'm a choking hazard. Just the right size for little windpipes." He made a grisly strangling sound, followed by a death rattle, and then laughed nastily. I decided I didn't want any more conversation for the rest of the ride.

We tied up on the other side. The island was crawling with unsettling toys. A rag doll trudged past, completely engulfed in flame. Two jack-in-the-boxes played Frisbee nicely until the disc cut off one of their hands; the edge was very, very sharp. A pair of very realistic-looking plastic assault rifles slid past on the ice; I wondered how a non-metallic firearm could be dangerous, but then it hit me that police would be likely to shoot a child carrying something so close to the real thing.

King Moonracer's old ice-castle had fallen into ruins, but that wasn't keeping the dangerous toys from making it their headquarters. Baby Sez No led me through a maze of tumbled roofless rooms, all swarming with slinkies made of barbed wire and baseballs made of stainless steel and similar sorts of things. At the center of the place was the old hall, and several toys were gathered around a table in the center. There was a map spread out on the table.

"Hey, guys," said Baby Sez No. "We got a new arrival. This is Frosty the Hitman." I glared at everybody, trying to look menacing.

"What kind of torpedo wears a bowler?" asked a squat box dismissively.

"Hey, you seen those James Bond movies, E-Z Shock Oven," said Baby Sez No. "Hitmen are quirky." He pointed out the other toys. "This is Teddy Wolverine, Whiffle Pipe, and My First Nailgun."

"Nailgun, huh?" I asked. "I bet you shoot real nails."

The nailgun answered by shooting a nail into my midsection. I pulled it out. It was galvanized, just like the one I found in the tree. "Real enough for you?" asked the toy.

"I wanna introduce Frosty to the boss," said Baby Sez No. "He call in today?"

"Not yet," said Whiffle Pipe. It was a long cylinder with enough holes cut in it to look like it was made of swiss cheese, but its metal finish had the dull luster of lead. "Any time, though."

I glanced down at the map, then blinked. It was the same map that hung in Yukon Cornelius's office, pins and all. "So what kind of gig you boys got?" I asked.

Teddy Wolverine put his front paws up on my vest and stood up, sniffing me suspiciously. "The kind where people who are due for a whipping get one," said E-Z Shock Oven.

"That sounds pretty good," I said. "I'd like to get in on it. I could use some cash, and I'm angry."

"We're all angry," agreed Whiffle Pipe.

"This one don't smell like a toy," Teddy Wolverine said suspiciously, squinting up at me. His fangs looked vicious. I brushed him away.

"Not on the vest," I told him. "Is that right? Are you mad too; mad at the kids who didn't want you?"

"Are you kidding?" barked Teddy Wolverine. "Kids loved me. It was their stinkin' parents who didn't want their kids to play with a toy that would bite anything that came within six inches of its mouth. So I was recalled; banned. Yeah, I'm angry. Who wouldn't be? And I'm gonna get my chance to get some payback, too."

I nodded. It was all starting to make sense. Santa Claus was the provider of conventional, child-safe toys. Yukon Cornelius wanted to take over Christmastown for his oil operation. By bringing in his dangerous toy mercenaries to knock off Rudolf, Yukon Cornelius could strike a crippling blow on Santa Claus's Christmas industry.

"Hey, what's this; family photos?" chirped Baby Sez No. He was so damned tiny he had scaled my lower body unnoticed by me, and was pulling the pictures out of my vest pocket.

"No, don't!" I said, fumbling for them, but the pictures and the tiny baby all tumbled to the ground. The photos scattered all over the table. E-Z Shock Oven picked one of them up.

"He's a spy," she said accusingly.

"Working with that other spy we roughed up!" shouted Whiffle Pipe. "Get him!"

Teddy Wolverine leaped at me. I picked him up by one hand, grabbed Baby Sez No with the other, and stuffed the latter down the throat of the former. I dropped Teddy, and he immediately began gaping and clutching at his neck.

Something thumped into my back. It was Whiffle Pipe. I figured he had been responsible for the bulk of the contusions on poor Rudolf. Of course, it's a lot harder to bruise a snowman. We just refreeze. I picked up the squirming pipe, threw it inside E-Z Shock Oven, and nailed her door shut with My First Nailgun. Then I removed Nailgun's clip of nails.

"You won't get away with this!" screeched the toy, its nail-loading action clacking uselessly as I slipped away. "Even if you get off this island alive, the boss'll get you, Frosty!"

Getting off the island was a snap. I'm a snowman; I float pretty well. I just jumped in the water on the far side of the island and floated around close to where I had found the boat. I glided back to where the dogs were still waiting for me.

"Jeez, mister," the lead dog observed, "you look like you went in the drink!"

"Well, not yet," I said, opening my bottle of gin, "but it's a long ride home."

Ack. I had to stop early. There will actually be two more bits.



September 2012

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