How Exactly Does a Centaur go Undercover??
I forced my expression to stay neutral as the Sabom clomped back and forth across the front of the dojo. The four rows of students in front of me stood at perfect attention. No one moved. No one breathed.
“I have heard some very disturbing news from yet another dojo.” His dark eyes matched the severe way he pulled his hair back. They met mine, but slid away without lingering. He almost got to the wall before turning around and walking back. “Sabom Nikius’ arrived at his dojo this morning and found that all of his practice pads had been replaced by sacks of flour. They didn’t find out until they started their kicking drills.”
No one sniggered.
In a room full of hyper-competitive centaurs, someone always sniggered. If not snorted. Yet silence hung around me heavier than a bag of rocks on my shoulders.
“No one has been able to catch the perpetrators.” Sabom Apostion stopped and stared hard at his front row. “If any of you know anything, you need to tell me.”
Again, no one twitched.
This had to be the place.
These students had to be responsible for all of the antics leading up to the tournament the next day.
Sabom Apostion waited. And waited.
I hadn’t been involved and I was getting uncomfortable.
My jaw started to ache from clenching my teeth so hard, and I was grateful when Sabom Apostion finally sighed and turned away.
“Twenty laps outside, then all of your kicking drills. Twice.”
“Yes Sabom!” the class answered in unison as they bowed.
I joined the rest as we lined up to go out the door. Being the lowest rank, I went last.
All the better to watch.
Sure enough, several of the mid-ranking students exchanged knowing glances as soon as Sabom Apostion wasn’t in their line of sight.
These had to be the guys playing all of the practical jokes. I watched them as we began to canter around the yard.
The flour sacks was the last in a long line of almost harmless pranks. As Sabom Apostion said, no one had been able to find out who was doing it.
My own Sabom had been wise to send my here. I’d been attending for a couple of weeks, and I had to say that pretending not to know anything was more difficult than simply doing it. Having to kick wrong hurt my brain.
We were halfway through our first set of laps when a pair of mid-ranking students slowed until they cantered on either side of me.
“Hey,” one of them said. I hadn’t bothered to learn names. This guy had long blond hair and palamino coat.
“Hey,” I said, pretending to be winded.
“How are you liking class?” This one had dark skin and an even darker coat.
“It’s hard, but it’s pretty fun.”
“It’s not usually like this.” Blondie waved his hand. “Sabom Apostion is pretty mad about all of the pranks going on.”
“Yeah, I caught that,” I said between gasps.
“What do you think of these pranks?” the darker one asked.
I looked around, as if to make sure no one else was in hearing range. Then I leaned my body closer to blondie. “I actually think it’s kind of funny. I mean, no one’s getting hurt, right?”
The two of them looked at one another, then back at me.
“What?” I asked. I sped up, trying to look panicked.
“Do you like playing jokes on people?” the darker one asked.
I shrugged. “Sure.”
Blondie leaned in. “What if I told you we were playing the pranks on the other dojos?”
I hadn’t expected them to confide in me so easily. Maybe they’d figured out who I was. “I would say good job.”
They both laughed.
“Right?” the dark one said.
“Listen, we could use some help with our next one. Are you in?”
I looked around again. “Why are you asking me this?” I watched them as closely as I could as we turned the corner of the yard.
“We need a third guy. You like to tell jokes and you’re into funny stuff. We thought you might get a kick out of it.”
Either they knew who I was, or they were looking for a fall guy.
We finished our laps and we went on to kicks.
“Think about it,” blondie said.
I got partnered with the other white belt, and was apparently supposed to figure out if I wanted to go in with these guys.
They would likely give me a fun part to play, then leave me to take the fall for everything. It was possible that they actually wanted to incorporate me into their little gang, but I doubted it.
If they knew who I was, they could frame my dojo for the problems.
My partner—a red-head with a bay coat—stumbled back as I kicked with one of my back legs. A little too hard.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
Then I realized I’d kicked her so hard she should have flown across the room.
Maybe I wasn’t the only one here who weren’t who they seemed.
I returned her smile. “What number are we on?”
My mind chugged on what I was going to do, but it didn’t take long to figure it out.
This called for the crocheter. Plain and simple.
Argh! I didn’t get to the afghan. I was going to have them replace a different instructor’s uniform with a crocheted one the morning of the tournament. So not exactly an afghan, but better.
Alas, I ran out of words. I’m really not sure how to do a caper in less than a thousand words. I’m going to have to think about it!
Genre – Caper
Character – Undercover Centaur
Setting – Taekwondo School
Random Object – A Crocheted Afghan