Who Stole the Zmulobeast ?Chapter 3, Scene 5


I didn’t think I’d ever see the day, but Zippy actually turned pale. At first I couldn’t quite figure the reason why, but then I got a glance at the look Chief had in her eye – and the length of the needle she was holding in her hand. Ohhhhh buddy. Yeah, well. Better thee than me, kid.

“Perhaps you could give me a reason, Chief? I seem to recall something else that requires my attention. Immediately.”

Chief grinned, and that didn’t exactly help matters much. Seeing somebody grin with a long needle in their hand is not a comforting sight. Especially when you have a suspicion that needle might be meant for…

“Pardon me, Chief, but is that needle for me?”

“It’s for science, Zippy, and you won’t feel a thing. I need to show that this difference in chromosome count isn’t just between Zmulobeasts and us Earth types but between all Acabaguans, so I need your assistance here. Trust me, I’m really good at this.”

Trust me. Something else you don’t wanna hear from somebody with a really long needle.

“Zippy. Come on, now. We don’t have a lot of time. Let’s just get this over with.”

“I don’t suppose there’s any other…”

“No, Zippy, there isn’t any other way. Now let’s go.”

Zippy kept on joustin’ back and forth with Chief for a few more minutes, but he finally gave in. Closed his eyes so tight, I thought he was gonna seal ‘em shut. Fear of needles is one thing, but wow, this was amazing. Anyway, Chief gets the blood sample she wants, and runs another test. Same test she ran on her own blood. Chief smiles, which lets me know what the results musta been.

Then she tossed a huge book onto the table in front of me. I looked at it, then shrugged. Big deal.

“Yeah. So?”

“So inside that book are contained the number of chromosomes of every known animal type on the planet.”

“And while I was busy blinking my eyes, you went through that whole telephone book-sized monstrosity and compared the number of chromosomes we found the Zmulobeast to have to the number of every animal on Earth? Gee, Chief. I’m impressed.”

“Don’t get smart with me, Spike.”

“Can’t help it. Born that way.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Look, I know this has got to be the Zmulobeast – or at least some out-of-this-world creature – because its chromosome level is way higher than the highest count of anything else listed in this book. That’s for starters. Second, now that I’ve got the results from Zippy, it’s clear the chromosome count in his blood cells is in the same range as the other blood sample. Which is out of range of anything else on this planet. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

“Margin of error?”

“Itty bitty.”

“Itty bitty meaning…?”

“Meaning itty bitty, Spike. Not enough to worry about.”

“Gotcha. So now what?”

“Two things: Zuke? Arthur? I want the two of you to take a trip to our local zoo and speak to the zoologist on staff there. Alison Weathersby. She’s a friend of mine. Tell her I sent you over, then tell her about the evidence we’ve collected here. See if she has any hypothesis of her own. Knowing Alison, she’s going to want to see the proof for herself, which I understand. You can trust her, and besides, she owes me one. Now get going.”

“Chief, Zuke and I are on our way, but before we go just let me say that you can count on both of us to…”

“Provide miracles. Yes, I know, Arthur. I know the speech. Now please get going. We don’t have much time.”

Arthur cleared his throat, then forced a grin. He hated it when Chief cut him off like that, but thank goodness she did. Believe me when I say, the kid’s a legend in his own mind.

“Certainly, Chief. Understood. Well then, I guess we’ll just be on our way.”

“Yup, guess we will,” piped in Zuke.

Chief waited until they were actually gone before she came out with the second thing, which was to continue the meeting. There wasn’t that much more to go over except the tire tracks Maria and I had found near the trap, the initials on the trap, and that funny-smelling haze in the woods.

Discussion of the tracks didn’t take a lot of time since we all pretty much assumed they belonged to whoever swiped the Zmulobeast out of the trap. Judging by the size of the tracks, and how far apart they were, Maria suggested the vehicle was probably a pretty large jeep or some kind of van. Because the tracks were indented pretty deep into the soil, that suggested there may have been more inside the van than just a passenger or two – unless one or both of the passengers were pretty sizable folks.

That was when Ursula spoke up.

“Excuse me. You said the initials on the trap were B.G.?”

Maria and I nodded, then Ursula got this look. I can’t remember the last time I saw that look on Ursula’s face. She looked like she couldn’t make up her kmiond whether to be scared, sick, or both.

“B.G. …B.G. …” she mumbled.

Chief frowned, but in a concerned way. She tilted her head to the side.

“Ursula? Ursula are you all right?”

Ursula kept mumbling for at least another minute before she finally answered.

“Greedy,” she blurted, almost like she was spitting out something that had gotten caught in her throat. The rest of us looked back and forth at each other trying to figure out what…

“Greedy!” she said again. “I knew he’d surface again. I knew it. Why can’t he just…? But then he’s always been…I knew it…”

I started to growl.

“Uhhh, Ursula? You wouldn’t mind maybe including the rest of us in this conversation would you? Just for kicks.”

For a second, she looked like somebody’d beamed her up to the moon. She could be kind of spacey sometimes.

“There is something you all must know. The person who stole the Zmulobeast? Bad. Very, very bad.”

For some reason, this revelation wasn’t exactly making me shiver with doggie fear just yet. As for Chief, she just stood there with a half grin on her face. I knew she trusted Ursula, and so did the rest of us, but if this was the best she had, then…

“Bad as in how bad, Ursula?” asked Chief. “What did you turn up?”

Ursula pulled off her dark glasses, which let me know right then how serious this was gonna get.

“Mind if I sit down?” she asked.

Chief looked at her watch.

“Once I get through telling you what I know, you’re going to want to sit down too. Trust me on this.”

Chief sat down and told the rest of us to do the same.

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