You strode purposefully into the large room at the end of the hall. Your eyes took in the rectangular shaped room with it's powder blue painted walls and pristine paneled white trim. This place seemed to have been preserved from the excessive decay that seemed to stain most of Wonderland. Here there was a long expensive looking Persian rug under your feet and brightly lit lamps symmetrically attached to the walls. A healthy looking tree was growing in the back of the right side of the room, however this one was obviously well groomed and purposely placed there unlike the random greenery that had sprouted roots in the more run down and abandoned parts of town. You came to stand side by side with Hatter facing a nicely varnished long cherry wood desk filed with neatly stacked piles of books and various things. Behind the desk sat a middle aged man with a dark head of hair all dressed in black. He had a large head and a run of the mill face. From your first impression of him his only distinguishing feature seemed to be his neatly trimmed salt and pepper mustache and full chin goatee. He was seated in his chair behind his desk and he didn't seem at all to feel the need to extend either you or Hatter any sort of greeting.
"She's looking for her friend Alice Chance." Hatter announced without any hesitation and absolutely none of his usual aplomb. "Chase," you immediately corrected him, "Her name is Alice Chase." Hatter didn't even blink as he said flatly, "She needs help. I thought of you Dodo." You were already tense from your earlier encounter with the jumpy older couple holding guns, but your body became even more rigid as you couldn't help but take notice that Hatter was standing perfectly still and all traces of his playful lilting tone were gone. You hadn't known Hatter long but in that short time he hadn't once dropped his charming nonchalant demeanor nor had he for a second not moved or fidgeted in some way. Hatter had lead you to believe this was a casual meeting, but this cautious atmosphere suggested anything but.
The man called Dodo stood and began to step out from behind his desk. In a thick upper crust British accent that insinuated aristocracy he said, "Really? And why would I want to help your Oyster when you know that bringing her here puts us all at risk?" He stood facing you and Hatter looking calm but definitely unpleasant. "Oh please, I've spent years smuggling more dangerous things than this down here," Hatter retorted, but it still lacked any of his customary panache. Dodo smiled to himself as he took a few casual strides forward with his cultured voice dripping civilized scorn, "You know what rankles most about blood sucking carpet baggers like you Hatter?" He came to a stop at the front of his desk and leaned one long arm out gently on it's edge. "Your gall. You think you can play both sides of the court and come away with two trophies." Immediately taken aback you turned towards Hatter only to find his face carefully controlled. His body had not moved a muscle but you noticed his jaw was clenched and his eyes now held a slightly angered squint. "I haven't seen daylight for three years, " Dodo continued as he turned to the jumpy woman who was standing a bit off to his side with her arms nervously folded in front of her, "and Owl here has forgotten what a vegetable tastes like." At this the woman who you now knew was named Owl eagerly responded while bobbing her head up and down, "I remember kumquat...is that a vegetable?" Dodo did not answer her and instead shifted his eyes away in exasperation at her inferior intelligence. Everything about this man from his haughty sophisticated voice to his refined noble mannerisms reminded you of a snobby university professor. Ignoring the woman at his side completely he continued on with his lecture, "While we risk our lives trying to bring freedom to ungrateful leeches like you. You swall about living the good life." At his clearly punctuated insults he even lifted up his long arms in mockery. Hatter hadn't left you with the best first impression either, but you felt a little uncomfortable hearing this man blatantly dressing him down like this.
Instead of retaliating Hatter simply, but firmly replied, "Stop your crowing. You know I'm on your side." Dodo didn't look convinced as he began to walk back towards his chair again saying, "I'm sure you say that to all your enemies." At that Hatter finally defended himself exclaiming, "I do what's necessary. I kiss what butts need kissing so your machines stay oiled." Hatter's body was still tense, his hands were in fists at his sides and the complete lack of any sort of charm or nuance in his tone was really throwing you off. He had seemed so in control, so perfectly suave back at the Tea Shoppe and even when he had had a gun pointed in front of him. But here in this room in front of this black clad haughty man he seemed to be devoid of all his typical self assurity. He stood defiantly in front of these critical verbal jabs, but something told you they might be secretly wounding him inside.
Deciding you had heard enough you interrupted them, "Look if you can't help me I'll just leave." You started to make as if towards the door when you heard Dodo's mocking laugh ring out behind you followed by a patronizing "Headstrong isn't she?" You whipped around to find him once again seated comfortably behind his fancy desk. "Can you help me get my friend out of the Casino?" you asked desperate to stop the grandstanding. You didn't know what might be happening to Alice at that moment and you didn't have the time or the patience to be standing around here doing nothing."I don't see how?" Dodo answered offhandedly. Hatter interjected, "The Resistance has contacts inside the Casino right?" Dodo immediately shifted his gaze and flatly stated, "No comment." Hatter ignored him and continued, "Use them to find our girl. She can pay you, but I want my usual cut up front." Confused you turned your gaze back towards Hatter who's attention was focused on Dodo. You weren't sure what Hatter was up to. He had told you back at the Tea Shoppe that money was useless here and you didn't have anything else to use as a kind of payment. From what you had gathered in your limited time here they used strange colored liquids as a sort of currency and you definitely did not have any of that on you. Once again your red flags went up. You had dropped your guard thinking Hatter was going to help you, but you had already forgotten that technically he had bought you from Ratty for reddish pink liquid. He was a drug dealer no matter how pretty or charming he may try to wrap himself up as and you would do well to remember that.
"Pay me?" Dodo sounded intrigued now, "Pay me with what?" He stood up again from behind his desk thinking that you might have something worth his attention. For the first time since entering Hatter moved. He took a few slow casual steps behind you, coming to stop on your other side as he commanded, "Show him the rock (your name)." Instantly puzzled you asked, "What?" His face wasn't turned towards you and he continued to train his gaze on Dodo. "The ring. On your finger." He intoned calmly. Affronted at his insinuation you declared, "That is off limits!" Finally he inclined his head towards you and looking down into your eyes said softly and honestly, "It's all you have."
Dodo came around his desk approaching you like a seagull who had thought it had scented some food. "No," you firmly told Hatter when without ceremony Dodo grabbed your left hand and brought it out towards the light, fully displaying the beautiful and mysterious ring on your finger that Alice had left you with before her disappearance. "It's not possible", Dodo whispered to himself in disbelief. His hazel eyes looked up at yours with an avaricious glint. Instinctively you pulled back your hand from his cold grasp. "Where did you get it?" he pressed. A feeling of foreboding washed over you at his sudden change in mood upon seeing the ring. "It's none of your business; it's not for sale," you strongly replied. You had remembered Alice's final warning to you about not letting them have it. She might have been talking about this man for all you knew. The man's face turned red and mottled as he shouted, " WHERE DID YOU GET IT!" while taking a slight step closer to you. "What is it?" Hatter cried out, temporarily moving Dodo's attention onto him instead. Looking at Hatter he grabbed your hand and proclaimed, "Your Oyster is wearing the Stone of Wonderland!" Hatter's face was one of startled disbelief as he turned to you and said, "That's impossible."
"I'm never wrong," Dodo declared assuredly. Hatter took a step to stand beside Dodo and the both of the them were now facing you with intense interest. "Where did you get it?" Hatter implored. His voice was still reasonable, not as sharp and pressured as Dodo's. His eyes too looked to be curious and confused and not at all like Dodo's obviously predatory ones. Feeling cornered and not really sure of yourself you answered honestly, "Alice gave it to me."
"Alice?" Dodo prompted. "Alice Chase the girl I'm looking for." you blurted without thinking. "Well where did she get it?" he urged while advancing even closer. "I don't know!" you shouted feeling as if your back was against a wall even though it technically wasn't. "GIVE IT TO ME!" Dodo demanded while getting in your face. "No." you countered while decidedly looking him in the eyes to make sure he knew you were standing your ground on this one. He turned swiftly on his heel, his long black coat snapping a bit as he barked at Owl, "Take her out!"
Owl fumbled with the rifle in her hands and trained it in your direction. "Are you crazy!" You cried towards Dodo. "Stop! Just wait!" Hatter quickly interjected as he stood in front of you, shielding you with his body while he held one outstretched hand towards the obviously fidgety Owl. "You're in way over your head Hatter." Dodo called out from beside his desk. "Gimme one second to talk to her okay?" Hatter begged turning towards him. The menacing sound of a chamber of a revolver clicked as Dodo now held out a gun towards Hatter. You instinctively put your hands out and up in the air behind Hatter in the universal sign of don't shoot. Another chamber clicked as Dodo carried on, "It controls the looking glass," here he looked dead at Hatter and said, "You know that." Hatter quickly swiveled his head around the room from the old man standing guard at the entrance behind you back to Dodo in front of you. "Calm down. Put the gun away. I'm sure we can all get what we want here," Hatter reasoned in his rational business man tone. Without thinking of the consequences you exclaimed bluntly, "No one is getting this ring!" Hatter looked back at you like he couldn't believe how ridiculous you were being right now. "I've been waiting for years for a break like this and now it falls into our laps." Dodo's voice was low and dangerously steady as he came closer with his gun still pointed and at the ready. Hatter had one hand protectively behind him signalling for you to back away from the danger. "Stop waving that thing around you're scaring everyone!" he demanded while taking a step away from the imposing man in black. "If we can return the Oysters back to their world, maybe we can save ours." Dodo implored Hatter. The fierce hardness of his eyes said he was a man with a mission and the gun in his hand said he wouldn't let anything get in the way of that mission. "Just put the gun down!" Hatter entreated. "Think about it! The Queen reduced to mopping floors...It'll be just like the old days." Dodo cajoled; a hint of self righteous madness taking hold of him. "Justice. Reason. And the rule of law!" Dodo's gun was now touching Hatter's stomach and the tension in the air was like a piano string screwed too tightly and ready to snap at a moment's notice."Stop it!" Hatter shouted as he grabbed onto Dodo's gun. A deafening shot rang out and in a blink of an eye Hatter was sent flying backwards into the wall from the force of the blast. A helpless cry escaped your lips as you watched in horror. Owl held her own rifle to her chest now, apparently just as stunned and frightened at what had just taken place as you were. "You shot Hatter!" she cried in disbelief. Dodo's eyes were still full of purposeful determination as he continued to point his gun in the direction of Hatter's still crumpled body. "We don't need him anymore. The ring is our ticket out of here."
Your fight or flight instinct took hold and before you could even think about what you were doing you ran at Dodo and slapped his arm as hard as you could, knocking the gun out of his grip. Before you could even hear it hit the floor you darted out of the room past the shocked old man and back through the hallway you had initially came through without even once stopping to look back. Another gun shot rang out from behind you spurring your legs faster. You grit your teeth and pushed your legs to carry you faster than they ever had before. Your mind was not thinking where your were going it was only focused on escape.You ran for your life down the beautiful marbled hallways of the empty upper levels of the library. Suddenly recognizing where you were you ran towards the end of the hall where the bus that acted like an elevator was. Panicked and in a rush you started pushing and pressing on all the buttons and knobs desperately trying to make it go. You were pretty sure Hatter was dead. No one could survive being shot at that close a range. Dodo clearly wanted the ring and he had no qualms about whether you were alive to give it to him or not.You spared a glance back toward the red carpeted long hallway of the library only to watch with horror as Dodo's black hulking figure came lumbering down towards you. A cold sweat of anxiety enshrouded you like a wet blanket, your hands began shaking and your mind felt as if it was spinning in circles as you frantically pushed and prodded all the gears of the open bus. No matter what you pushed it just wouldn't start. YOU WERE RUNNING OUT OF TIME! You couldn't die here, you had to save Alice.
To be continued…
Author’s Notes: My goodness it has been awhile since I updated hasn't it?! In fact it was last summer..my bad guys! I'm really sorry to have left you hanging all this while. I got too absorbed in progressing my Peter Pan series and ended up neglected this one. I had momentarily forgotten my love for this hidden gem of a series and of course for the ever entertaining charm of Hatter. Not to worry though I've been struck with a bit of inspiration for this story so be sure to check back soon for the next chapter for more Wonderland goodness. I have absolutely no plans of abandoning this series If you are interested you can find the full DVD on Barnes & Noble’s website.
Until next time guys!