Who Stole the Zmulobeast, Chapter 1, Scene 3

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Tune in every Tuesday and Thursday to read the next scenes and see what happens next!

Anybody who ever heard that voice once would never forget it. It was dry as a desert – like she hadn’t had anything to drink in a week. The whole room went quiet just as soon as everybody heard those raspy tones. Ursula was standing in the doorway and she was giving Arthur one of those looks. Arthur sat down. Ursula nodded her approval, then stepped inside of Headquarters in that slow-walking way of hers. She walked as if she was afraid her next step might be her last.

“Sorry I’m late, folks. Other Organization business. I came as soon as I heard about the Zmulobeast. Got stolen huh? Hmmm. Not good. No, not good at all. Got any leads? Suspects?”

“Have a seat, Ursula. Now that everybody’s here, I hope we can finally get started.”

“Hey, where’d Zippy go?” Maria asks.

Chief, who’s standing at the front of the table, peeps out across the tops of her glasses and stares off into the thin air. Empty. She shuts her eyes tight, and I can see she’s about to have one of those fits when…

Poof! There he is. Just like that. One minute Zippy’s floating above the table and the next minute he’s vanishing into thin air. Now here he is again with that odd little grin of his looking down on the table at everyone. I hate it when he does that, but I don’t think I’d hate it so much if I knew how to do it. Sometimes I think aliens have all the luck.

“Morning!” he says in that high-pitched squeak of his.

Chief glares at him, but she can’t seem to make the little green guy stop feeling so cheery. After awhile, she just shakes her head.

“Okay,” she says finally, sounding like she just fell off the top bunk bed. “Now is everybody here?”

“Yep,” says Zippy. “All present and accounted for, Chief.”

“Wonderful. I’m so happy. Let’s get down to business.”

“I’d say it’s about time,” says Ursula, not looking at any one of us when she says it. Instead, she’s leaning back in her chair looking up at the ceiling.

“Stool Pigeon,” I finally blurted out. “This is one of his tips. Something he picked up out there nosing around the neighborhood.”

Arthur rolled his eyes.

“I might have known.”

“Watch it, Arthur,” said Chief in Stool Pigeon’s defense.

“People, we have a theft on our hands. A very serious theft. A Zmulobeast has been abducted and it is up to us, the Pi in the Sky Squad, to get that Zmulobeast back. Now the first course of action is to determine what we’re looking for. Second, we’ll need to determine who has it. Third, and finally, we must figure out how to retrieve it…”

“Hold on a minute,” Stool Pigeon said. “Don’t you folks wanna know how I came across the information? Pretty interesting story actually. See, I was hanging out around the park waiting for the morning bus. Ya know, the one that comes down 3rd at Vine? Well…”

I didn’t want to say anything to Stool Pigeon in the middle of his story, but leave it to Arthur to chime in.

“Uh, Stool Pigeon, what were you doing waiting for the bus when we don’t even have school today? Trying to get a good seat for Monday?”

Stool Pigeon glared at Arthur, the kind of glare that made him sink down into his chair ‘til we couldn’t see that fish tie of his anymore. We all knew Stool Pigeon made mistakes like that, but only Arthur would point it out.

Stool Pigeon continued on with his story and Arthur kept quiet.

“So as I was waiting for the bus, I see some shady, trenchcoat-wearing types across the street huddling under a tree. Five of ‘em. All wearing shades, and all of ‘em pacing back and forth, acting nervous, talking on cell phones, looking over their shoulders the whole time. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it wasn’t hard to figure something was up.

“See, that’s the good thing about being a kid sometimes. Adults don’t always think they have to take you seriously, and they figure you don’t know half of the things you’ve been knowing for a long while. So because they don’t know any better, they sometimes blurt stuff out, you know, thinking kids aren’t gonna know what to do with that blurt. Are you getting the picture here?”

Leave it to Stool Pigeon. He’s been out there on the streets for a long time, watching the way things work. Figuring out how to put blurts together isn’t too tough an assignment for a kid like that. His folks have been out of the picture for awhile, so he stays with his older sister in a pretty rough section  of town. He’s probably seen more than most of the older kids on the Squad, but he’s learned a lot too. Stool Pigeon may get on my nerves sometimes, but he’s a survivor.

Anyway, he decides to stroll over to where this group of trench coats is stumbling around and he gets to asking questions. You know, little kid questions, like “What kind of animal makes a footprint like THAT, mister?” But the question that really got them scurrying around was when he asked them what in the world a Zmulobeast was. See, they didn’t think he’d heard them say that word, even after they’d ignored his first ten questions. They just kept telling him to go away and mind his little kid business in the playground. Now, all of a sudden, these guys are yelling at each other trying to figure out who told the kid about the stolen Zmulobeast.

“Somebody stole a Zmulobeast, Mister?” asks Stool Pigeon. I just know his eyes were all big and wide when he asked it too. Trying to look innocent.

All told, it probably didn’t take Stool Pigeon more than about five minutes to piece together that some really high-level types were worried about something called a Zmulobeast that had been snatched. He wasn’t able to get out of ‘em what this thing looked like, but he got a good look at the footprints on the ground.

“And the footprints? They looked like what?” asked Ursula.

Just as Stool Pigeon started to answer, Ursula raised her hand up in the air, like she was trying to stop traffic.

“Wait, wait, wait. Before we talk about footprints, Stool Pigeon, , I think we all  need to know why you think the authorities can’t let it out that this thing is missing.”

“You mean you wanna know why it’s up to a  bunch of kids to come to the rescue instead of grownups, right?”

“Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. Exactly.”

“That’s simple,” said Chief, who figured it was about time to interrupt. “Because the police by themselves can’t handle this without any leaks popping through the dike. So to speak, that is. They’re…that is…we’re…going to need some help from some sources closer to the ground who are less likely to be detected. That equals you folks and Ursula.”

Stool Pigeon grunted.

“What you’re really saying is that the kids have to save the day ‘cause the grownups  are embarrassed, right? They’re embarrassed they lost this thing, but being typical grownups they can’t say it up front. C’mon, man. Just be honest about it. That’s what it is. And when grownups get to acting embarrassed is when they act like kids. We’re already kids, which gives us the advantage. Well, except for Chief and Ursula. You two are adults. But we’ll forgive you this time. Nobody’s perfect.”

“Very funny, Stool Pigeon.”

“So what do we have to go on so far, Chief?” asked Maria.

“The footprints,” Pigeon replied.

“All right, now back to the footprints.,” says Ursula. “They looked like what?”

He glanced over at Chief, making sure she wasn’t gonna cut him off this time. She gave him the nod. Cool.

“They looked like they belonged to one of the biggest rabbits I’ve ever seen.”

“Rabbit? You mean to tell me we’re looking for a giant rabbit?” asked Ursula.

“I sincerely doubt that. Now, before we go any further, I need to give everyone an assignment so we can carry out the mission as effectively as possible. Maria? Spike? You two will work together as the primary investigators on this case. That means it’s up to the two of you to collect all the primary data that the rest of us will be working from. Zuke and Arthur? You two will take the data provided by our investigators…”

“That would be Maria and Spike?” asked Arthur.

Chief took a deep breath, rubbed her eyes, then let out a sigh.

“Yes, Arthur. As you would have heard about three seconds ago if you’d been paying attention, Maria and Spike are the investigators. You and Zuke will serve as the follow-up team. That means you take the data, the clues, and use it all to create a rough sketch of what the Zmulobeast looks like. Meanwhile, we’ll also be counting on Ursula and The Organization, our sister group, to provide us with any important underworld developments.”

Ursula, being Ursula, nodded slowly but didn’t say a thing.

“Good,” said Chief. “Now is that clear to everyone? You each know your role?”

“You bet,” I said.

“Yup, clear,” said Zuke.

“Yes,” said Maria.

Arthur cleared his throat, then started to say something.

“I just wanted to know if we’re clear, Arthur,” said Chief, looking edgy.

“Well, I suppose so, but you know, it seems…”

“Good. Thank you, Arthur. Now…”

“What about me?” Zippy asked, looking nervous.

Chief stared blankly.

“Ummmm….right. Well, certainly we’ll need your help, Zippy. Since the Zmulobeast is from your planet originally, you can probably help us in ways no one else can. Absolutely.”

“Wonderful. Perhaps you can tell me how?”

“How…? Right…well, let’s just say we’ll depend on you for Zmulo background info, you know? Yeah, that’s it. You’ll be our background expert.”

“Background expert?”

“Correct. Exciting, don’t you think?”

“If you think it will be exciting, then I am sure you are right.”

Chief grunted, probably because she knew that Zippy knew that we all knew she was about two steps to the left of the truth on this one.

“Well, I guess that about does it. Any questions? No? Good. Meeting adjourned.”

Hallelujah.

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kaoblues
Writer and musician.

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