Who Stole the Zmulobeast? Chapter 1, Scene 2

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Welcome back! 

The adventure continues. If you missed Scene 1, no worries. Just scroll back a bit and get yourself caught up. We’ll be here when you return every Tuesday and Thursday to read the next scene.

2

Now it’s 8 a.m. and we’re all still sitting here at Headquarters waiting for the meeting to come to order. If you could only see this place. Picture an itty bitty room with a rickety table in the middle. The table’s all scratched up., but you can only see a few of the scratches because of all the paper and other junk scattered on top. The one light bulb in the joint is hooked up to the ceiling from this long cord and won’t stop swinging back and forth. It’s starting to make me dizzy, and that’s not a good thing.

But here’s where the real comedy comes in. Next to the table? There’s a recycling bin – only nobody’s bothered to empty the bin since dinosaurs walked the earth. This is no joke. I mean, recycling is a good thing, but you kinda have to take the things that need recycling to the recycling place for the plan to work, you follow? Sometimes I gotta worry about these folks. They scare me, they really do.

What makes it all even scarier is the “laboratory” we’ve got set up in the place. Supposed to be where we conduct our scientific research, but I’m telling you that corner of the room – and that’s all it is, a corner – looks like it could catch fire all by itself any minute now. Test tubes and all fulla who knows what lyin’ around with no labels on ‘em, mainly because Chief says she knows what’s in ‘em so the rest of us don’t need to know. Gee. That really makes me feel safe. Then there’s these three broken down microscopes scattered across the top of a long steel table that look like  they first saw action in the middle of World War I. Behind the whole mess is a worn out black chalkboard propped up against the wall that’s so covered with white chalk dust it’s an outright lie to call it a blackboard.

There’s no place like home, but sometimes I kinda wish there was, you know?

So anyway, in the midst of all this splendor, I’m looking at Arthur and wondering how long it’s gonna be before he falls out of the chair he’s sitting in. This guy kills me. Ten years old and the oldest kid in the Squad. Always trying to convince the rest of us he’s on top of everything, like he’s got it all figured out ‘cause he’s the oldest.

But then again who’s the one with his head thrown back, snoring so loud that Maria’s got her finger stuck in her ear? You got it. King Arthur.

Maria, Maria. Now see, there’s one smart lady. She’s the youngest one of the bunch. In fact, her ninth birthday was just a month ago. But still, she’s the one I work with best when it comes to figuring things out. A real brain. Whenever we team up, there aren’t too many riddles we can’t piece together. If I weren’t a dog and she weren’t a kid, I’d just about think we were twins. See…

“All right, people, let’s get started.”

That’s Chief. Figures. She’s the only one who knows how to think straight this time of day. Sometimes I wonder if it’s cause she’s an adult. I mean, what is it? Do humans suddenly think straight once they turn 40?

“ARTHUR! That means you.”

Just like that, Arthur falls over, like I knew he would. Boom. Maria starts snickering, but covers her mouth because she doesn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelins. You might say Arthur’s the sensitive type.

Zuke, Arthur’s main buddy who was just about to fall over himself, sits up when he hears the crash. I catch him sneakin’ a peek around the room, trying to see if anybody caught him napping. When he looked at me, I just winked at him and started panting. He grinned and winked back. Gave me a thumbs-up.

“I’m here, man. I’m here.”

Yeah, right. Like he’s been on full alert the whole time. Then he looks down next to himself and sees Arthur laying there on his back with his face all flushed rec. The first thing Zuke does is grin and shake his head, then he reaches down and helps him back up. Soon as Arthur’s back on his feet, he gets to work trying to convince everybody how he meant to do that. Just checking his response time for falling backwards on his rear end, or something like that. Maria groans and rolls her eyes. As for me, I have to fight off the urge to bite the kid in the shins. But Zuke? He just nods and pats his buddy on the back.

“Pretty cool, man, pretty cool. Looks to me like you’ve got it covered.”

Zuke’s a pretty mellow kid to be a kid. Thin as a stick of gum, but strong as an ox – he’s always wearing the same jean vest and a baseball cap that he keeps turned to the side. He might not be the brightest lamp in the room, but you can coiunt on him. Zuke and I, yup, we get along no problem.

Uh-oh. Chief is starting to fidget. “One more time, people. Can we get started? Looks like we’ve got ourselves a pretty serious situation here, I’d say, and the sooner we can get down to business the sooner we can get this thing solved. Somewhere out there is a stolen Zmulobeast, and it’s up to us to track it down.”

“Ahem.”

That’s Arthur clearing his throat. Trouble.

“Now, you guys all know I’m not one to blow my own horn or anything like that, but uhh, well, let’s just say I’m pretty good at these kinda things. And this isn’t to make anybody feel bad, because you’re all a fine bunch of problem solvers and I’m proud to be associated with you. But some of you might recall our last case, when we had that stolen…uhhh….stolen… you know, that big metal whatchamacallit thingy with the long snout….”

“That would be the tank, Arthur,” said Chief.

You might say she was getting even more annoyed. Not a good thing, especially not early in the morning. You could tell when Chief raised her voice.

“Okay, listen up, people. Now what’s the first step we take when we get a case?”

“Why certainly. That would be to quark…no, that’s not right…quake? …no…Quick! See, now there…no wait…”

Count on Arthur to spit out the wisdom. Naturally the rest of us are starting to look about as confused as a pack of monkeys at a debutante ball.

“Arthur, what exactly are you trying to say?” I ask. “And I do mean exactly. In plain English so the rest of us can follow along his time.”

“I think he means to be saying ‘Question’,” suggests Maria, giving Arthur one of her famous raised eyebrow looks.

Chief finally looks relieved.

Arthur clears his throat, then readjusts himself in his seat, trying to find the right pose to tell us all how smart he is.

“Exactly, Maria. I was wondering when someone would pick up on my cue. Now Chief, you know I knew that answer. It’s just that, well…”

“Question, hypothesis, test, conclusion. That is the scientific method,” says Maria, still giving Arthur the eye.

“Arthur nods sharply, then reaches up under his chin to readjust his tie that he must have bought at the local flea market. The tie was in the shape of a fish. What kinda kid wears a tie that looks like a dead fish? A brave kid, that’s who. Verrrrry verrrrry brave.

“Good job, Maria!” he says. “I was prepared to follow up, but I’m uhhh..well, I’m satisfied to see you carried on there so…in such a good way…and all that…”

“Arthur?”

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kaoblues
Writer and musician.

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