The walk to Jimmy’s house was treacherous as always. The closer we got, the more obvious it became why we usually spend all our time at my parents. Besides the lack of parental supervision or a cleaning schedule, the street he was on was rougher, more full of holes. The trees were limper, the sidewalks uneven. All of the traps he set didn’t help matters either.
Jimmy led the way as we walked so that we wouldn’t trip on a wire or fall into a crudely dug pit covered with sticks. The city fined his mom a couple of times for his traps, but she was a firm believer that anyone who came over probably wanted something that they didn’t have, so screw ‘em. The mailman, taxman or Jehovah’s witnesses could all fall into holes in her opinion.
As we crossed the lawn, Lizzy was talking about her time at the arcade, the way she hung out there all the time because she didn’t know anybody yet. I only got the gist of what happened at the park, but Jimmy stopped being extra rude so I figured it was all positive despite all the kicking I saw. Jimmy outright refused to tell us what he knew about the shelter until we were in his room, so he knew we weren’t being watched or bugged.
Entering the house, Jimmy uttered his usual warning of how dangerous the whole place was. I think he was stepping up the theatrics of his warning for Lizzy’s sake, as I felt ‘Home Alone on steroids if Kevin wasn’t afraid to take a life’ was a bit exaggerated. After crossing the living room and hallway, both entirely devoid of danger, we came upon the entrance to Jimmy’s room.
The door featured a giant X made of yellow police tape, tape that he had borrowed from the site of a hit and run down the road. Along with that, there was a handwritten sign warning that ‘Sisters get Shot’. Next to that was a small metal sign warning of high voltage, complete with a couple of loose wires taped uselessly to it. Jimmy made a grand show of looking both ways before opening the door and somersaulting inside. I rolled my eyes and followed him in.
All traps and gizmos disabled, we were safely in the vicinity of Jimmy’s bed when he finally decided it was safe to speak. “I know that you’ve been wondering what’s been going on at the shelter, and about my time in the big house since I got arrested. It’s been hard to talk about that experience, it’s left me a hardened man. I hope one day you’ll be able to understand, but I pray to god that you never have to.”
I listened to this monologue without contradicting him, but I knew from what I overheard from dad that he had only been put in the back of the cruiser, they didn’t even put any handcuffs on him. “I’m going to save the details of my time in prison for my tell-all book, but I’ll tell you about the shelter as it pertains to the case. Are you ready? I think you should be sitting down for this.” We weren’t sitting, but Jimmy refused to tell us until we sat down, so Lizzy and I both sat on the edge of the unmade bed. “You’re not going to believe me at first, and that’s okay, but I have plenty of evidence.” He put on the most solemn face he had. “JB. Lizzy. There, in that shelter, in the dead of night, behind the thin curtain of animal welfare, something is happening. Something so horrible, something so foul that - ”
I finally had enough. “Just spit it out, Jimmy,” I demanded. He shrugged and complied. “Mutants,” he said simply. "They’re making mutants in there.”
Our initial reactions were exactly what he said they’d be, thus he started listing off his evidence. “Think about it. That’s why they were acting weird when we asked about the cat, they’re using him for their next experiment. Don is a big monkey. The swinging arms, the hairy hands. The subpar intelligence, but smart enough to do a basic primitive job like security. He was the first test subject.”
I tried pointing out that so far, this was all just a theory, that’s still not evidence. “Evidence is in the history books JB, you should learn to read sometime. The Nazis were experimenting with human-animal hybrids since World War II.”
“This isn’t Germany, or the 1940s. And that doesn’t prove that - ” “ALSO in World War II,” Jimmy shouted, speaking over me until I gave up, “in the United States at Harvard, we experimented with cow blood transfusions. In 1929, the Soviets tried putting monkey embryos in women. We don’t know the results of that experiment. Or, DO WE? Don is exactly old enough, and hairy enough, to be a Russian monkey immigrant.”
I wanted to disagree, but there was no point until he was finished. “In California, we gave about 10,000 prisoners sheep penises to see what would happen. Sheep penises JB! Think about it! Think about the sheep penises!”
I promised I would, so he finally went on. “Then you have Sid Spitler, the guy who works there. He’s so high up on the food chain that he knew I wasn’t from corporate. He’s smarter, but also fatter, pinker. I thought he was wearing a salmon shirt, but I was wrong. It wasn’t salmon you guys, it was pig colored. His snouty nose, the fact that he didn’t sweat despite being so big, it all adds up. He’s a pig person, like in Animal Farm.” Jimmy smirked. “And come on, Spitler? What kind of a last name is that? A little close to Hitler, is it not? Sid Spitler, classic alliteration pattern from a cartoon villain.”
“Is that it?”
“No, Mr. Sarcastic. He also called the cops when he caught me. Cops are known as what on the streets, JB? Could it be…pigs?” He said that last word with mock horror, a little gasp thrown in for effect.
I waited for more, but it seemed like he was done for the moment. I decided now was a good time to start poking holes in the theory. “And what about Nancy? She’s just a harmless old lady, and she didn’t seem like a hybrid to me. Wouldn’t it be risky having a human working there?”
Jimmy shook his head slowly, condescendingly. “Come on JB, even you should know that one.” He turned to look at Lizzy. “What about you, new kid? What’s your take on Nancy?” I turned to look at Lizzy, ready to exchange an apologetic look with her. But, as I looked over, to my horror she seemed to be actually considering the question.
“Well,” she started slowly, rubbing her chin as she thought, “I didn’t find her suspicious at first. With the kitten on her sweater, she just seemed like a regular cat lady. Do you - ”
“A-HA!” Jimmy interrupted, finger in the air in triumph. “A what lady?” Lizzy thought a moment, then her face lit up and she snapped her fingers with the answer. “A cat lady,” she called out happily. “Exactly,” Jimmy said. Oh no, I thought worriedly, she actually might be buying this!
“Think about it! A cat lady, which they need a cat to make. It’s all coming together.” Jimmy smiled. I scoffed. “So there’s monkeys for security and pigs for management, why would they possibly need a cat for front desk duties? I don’t see the advantage in that.” To my shock and horror, it was Lizzy who answered. “Because a cat has nine lives. So they will have someone to do the menial work for nine lifetimes, and they don’t even have to pay her, because we don’t pay cats!” She turned to Jimmy. “Right?” Lizzy asked.
This was my nightmare; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She was buying into this madness! I was officially outnumbered, we had a full-scale mutant-y on our hands!
“Correct,” Jimmy told her. “Except that she’ll only have eight lives, since they have to kill the cat once in order to create the monster. Real good for your first time though! Better than JB ever does.” I groaned. Jimmy was starting to gain steam now that he had backup, I could see all the new connections and evidences start to form in his demented mind. “That also explains why she hated that I knocked things off of the desk, that was her job. I should have known from the start.”
As Jimmy listed more and more thin lines of evidence, Lizzy leaned over and whispered to me, “Remember the story you told me. If this is what he thinks, we need to at least give him a chance to prove it.” I sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that day.
“Okay Jimmy,” I asked. “What do we need to do?”