The mood in the treehouse was tense. Leon McCormack paced in front of a whiteboard that he'd stolen from his Mother’s home office. Half of it was covered in 'to do' lists that he dare not rub off. He’d stuck two pieces of red wool from his sister's crochet kit across the lists to form an obvious no go zone. The unsecured half of the board was a pyramid of photographs of kids faces above the pyramid was written the title ‘Summer Lake Death Squad’. Summer Lake death Squad were a gang that had been moving in on the treehouse. All but the top picture had various playing cards assigned to them.
Tommy Diamond was picking his nose and about to eat it when the booger was slapped from his hand.
"Don't. You. Dare. You don't get to eat your boogers until this job is done. You understand me?" Leon McCormack stared him in the eyes.
"Y-y-yes. Okay." Tommy Diamond stuttered from shock.
"Good. Listen now... Boogers later. Actually, no boogers, ever. it’s gross anyway..."
"My brother says it builds the immune system."
Leon McCormack adopted a mocking tone... "My brother says it builds the immune system," his voice dropped to serious again, "Your brother's nickname is Snots. You hear me? Snots. You know how he got that nickname?"
"That's right. Eating boogers. Do you want to be called ‘Snots The Second’?"
"No, you don't. So, listen up..." Leon McCormack turned to address the room. "Today is the day we go over Frank Taglitelli's back fence and hit them where it hurts. The Mud Pit."
A murmur broke out in the room. A chorus of ‘What?’ ‘Huh?’ And ‘That’s suicide’ rippled throughout the kids.
"Shut up. It can so be done. At 10:30 everyone goes inside for morning snack. They usually just leave Duncan Shure next to the Mud Pit because he has a nut allergy and he can't have a snack."
Sam Richter interrupted, "But, how do we get rid of him? He’s huge."
Silently, Leon McCormack pointed to Michelle Hunter who immediately held up a bag of peanuts.
Everyone in the room let out a loud "Phhhhwwaaaarrr."
Leon McCormack continued, "He’ll run, or he’ll need his epipen. Either way, we are in the clear. We take The Mud Pit and make mud pies, quickly, cleanly.”
Jasper Ross put up her hand. Leon McCormack continued. “Before you ask Jasper when I say cleanly, I mean efficiently, I am aware that we are dealing with mud and we will get dirty.” Jasper Ross lowered her hand. “Once our pies are packed we take up stations,” Leon McCormack walked over to a rudimentary scale model of the backyard made from cereal boxes and pointed decisively to four different areas. “Here, here, here and here.”
A long silence befell the treehouse as kids just looked at the ground in front of them, contemplating the horror that was about to unfold.
Kathy Mulligan broke the silence. “How do we know when to throw the pies?”
Leon McCormack gave Kathy Mulligan a pat on the shoulder, “Great question Kathy.” He walked back over to the whiteboard and took one final playing card from his pocket. It was the Ace Of Spades, he placed it on the photograph at the top of the pyramid. “This kid. Craig Tymecki. As soon as he walks out, we get him. Our intel says that even though he’s the boss of the Summer Lake Death Squad and is a bully and a thug, his mum will ground him if he comes home covered in mud one more time. Don’t you see? THAT’S why he’s got other kids making the mud pies. He HAS to keep himself clean, he has an image to protect, and that makes him vulnerable.” Leon McCormack tapped on the photograph again. “We cut off the head, and the body dies. It’s as simple as that.”
Another long stunned silence, this time Leon McCormack was drinking it in.
A hand shot up... Dang, it was Miles Blunt. Leon McCormack pointed at him, “Yes?”
“Sometimes, if you cut the head off something the body doesn’t die. I saw it on a David Attenborough documentary one time, it just grows another head.”
Leon McCormack put his face in his palm.