Crowdfunding - whatever that actually meant - was a wonderful thing. Not only had Patrick's bail been paid, but somehow the money for a decent hotel room had been sent to him via Josh MacKenzie, the young lawyer who was spearheading Patrick's cause in the media. He'd done away with the hair gel since the courthouse, and now his hair flopped over to the side in a messy fringe. Patrick turned up the volume on the flatscreen TV mounted halfway up the wall in his hotel room to hear what he was saying.
"This is jus anither way fir the government an corrupt companies tae scapegoat blame oan an ootsider," MacKenzie said to the big purple Channel Four microphone stuck practically up his nose.
Patrick's gaze stayed fixed on MacKenzie but he wasn't really listening. Had he always been that... Glaswegian? He could have sworn MacKenzie's accent had been at least neutral at the courthouse, maybe even English. But he supposed it fitted with what was going on with his hair. He was a man of the people now.
There was a knock at his door. Patrick sprang off the bed and dashed over to the door, throwing it open.
He grinned. "Finally!"
Holly, Scott and their mother, Helen, beamed back at him. Well, Helen smiled slightly less wide than her children, but Patrick was used to it by now. Her light brown hair had grown a lot since the last time he saw her, but she wore the same high-waisted jeans and olive cardigan that Patrick often imagined her wearing when her face popped into his head.
He took a step back from the door and beckoned for them to enter. "Come on in. Take a seat."
Holly and Scott immediately sprang onto Patrick's haphazardly made bed - he hadn't left the room long enough all day for the maid to improve it - and bounced to a stop, sitting on the edge. Helen pulled a chair out from the table in front of the mirror on the far wall, and Patrick took the opportunity to stretch his legs.
Glancing between Helen and the kids, Patrick said, "So, how're things?"
"Holly loves him!" Scott shouted, pointing at the TV, which was showing still pictures of MacKenzie's dramatic speech outside the courtroom.
"No I don't!" Holly glared around at her brother. "You're the one that cannae stop talking about him!"
"I know you are but what am I?" Scott stuck his tongue out at Holly.
"That doesnae even make sense!" Holly screeched, shoving him over by the shoulder.
"Doesn't, Holly," Helen said as Scott landed with a bounce sideways on the bed. He sprang back up as Helen added, "And can't, not cannae."
Patrick suppressed a smirk at the fact that she hadn't actually told Holly off for pushing her brother over. He was grinning devilishly at Holly anyway, and it was hard not to feel just a little like he deserved it.
"So you like Josh MacKenzie then?" Patrick said, turning down the TV by a switch on the side as it moved onto another news topic.
"I think both the children are rather besotted by him," Helen replied, before Holly could protest.
Scott shrugged. "I liked his hair better before. He looked cooler."
Holly rolled her eyes. "That's the whole point! He looks like a real person now."
Scott pressed his hand against his head and squashed his hair close to his forehead. "Does that mean I'm an alien now?"
"You've always been an alien," Holly muttered.
Patrick giggled, leaning against the wall. He looked to Scott. "Do you remember that time Lisa the frog actually did think you were an alien?"
Scott glared at Patrick, grumpily crossing his arms across his chest. "That wasn't fair! It's no my fault she'd never seen anyone wi green hair before! Sorry, Mum, I mean not and with."
Helen's mouth tugged up slightly at one side. "I warned you people might think you were weird if you dyed your hair. Granted, I never imagined an amphibious source... Have you told me that story before?"
Holly sighed. "Like, three times, Mum. It's quite fun, actually, you not really listening to our stories from the zoo. It means we get to tell them over and over and over again."
Helen shifted in her chair, swapping which leg was crossed over which. "I listen to your stories from the zoo."
Scott twisted around to face her, his eyes having been fixed automatically on the TV, as a ten-year-old's often were. "No you don't. You always make some excuse or something."
Helen's jaw set. "It's just a little unnerving. Most children tell their mothers about scoring goals for their football teams, not watching football matches with crocodiles."
A small, sad smile briefly crossed Patrick's face. Rita sure did love her football. He swallowed a lump in his throat and focused his gaze on Holly. "Did you ever tell her about Aurora?"
Holly shrugged. "Didn't seem like much point."
Helen leaned forward. "I am right here, you know. Aurora's the panda, right?"
Scott nodded, his shoulders starting to slump. "All the work that went into that obstacle course... When you got to the end, Mum, she would give you a great big hug."
Holly leaned to the side and wrapped her arms all the way around Scott's chest, trapping his arms against his sides. He didn't even protest.
Helen cleared her throat. "She's one of the ones Neuromax still have, isn't she?"
Scott hiccuped, as if he'd been about to cry, and looked up at Helen. "That you remembered?"
"Look, children, I am not a monster. I just worry about you when you're around creatures with jaws strong enough to snap you in half," Helen snapped. She took a deep breath, and sat back in her chair. "That doesn't mean I think any of what is happening is okay. Grandpa is being set up, and who knows what is happening to those animals... to your friends."
Holly let go of Scott and sat up. "M-Mum, would you like to hear about the time Chip the capuchin taught Scott to do a backflip around a tightrope?"
Helen's eyes bulged and she sprang forward, almost coming right out the chair. "Pardon?"
But at that moment Holly's phone beeped. She muttered something about Twitter and disappeared into the world of cyberspace. Scott started to tell Helen the story about his backflip, though Patrick remembered him falling off into the safety net so many times that he really wasn't sure this was a good idea.
He hadn't been particularly sure it was a good idea at the time, but was eventually convinced that it would look perfectly normal from above for the animals to be practicing their tricks. And young children had lots of energy to play along with what Patrick was training the animals to do.
"Uh, Grandpa," Holly said, looking up from her phone. "Josh MacKenzie just tweeted."
"Ha-ha! You have him on alert!" Scott pointed his finger right in Holly's face.
She mutely shook her head, looking up at Patrick. "They've been to Neuromax. They found a bunch of secret tunnels... but no animals."