Family Business

By: CD

It was a normal morning at Rescue Rangers HQ. Besides the sound of Gadget working hard in her workshop and the birds singing outside, everything was quiet. Chip picked up the Informed Mouse newspaper, fresh from the press, and started to look for any crime that might have happened in the last few hours he'd been asleep.

“Aren’t you coming for breakfast, Gadget-love?”

Monty had already tried to get Gadget out of her workshop several times before and was concerned what would happen now. For now, only the rapping and banging of the inventor's tinkering answered the burly mouse's calls. The big mouse shook his head. “Either she'll starve to death or one of her inventions will kill her someday,” he murmured when Gadget once again refused to eat.

“Hey Monty, would you look at this!” Chip said, and pointed to the article so Monty could read what had caught his eye.

New shops open up in abandoned commercial block!

Six new businesses have opened up on Columbus Street and the neighborhood has once again become a prosperous part of town. The new additions include an Art Shop, a Beauty Parlor, a Gym, a Photographer, a Cafe and a Pharmacy.

“Crikey, I never saw such a blooming economy ever since I discovered that hidden flower greenhouse in Benelux!”

“Wouldn’t it be interesting for us all to go there and take a look around?”

“I doubt you could get Dale and Gadget along. Dale isn’t the type of person to go sightseeing and Gadget's locked herself up in her workshop for days. She doesn’t even leave when she’s hungry.”

“She's probably stored some food in there like the last time she worked on a big project.”

“She must've brought her sleeping bag along too; she’s in there day and night!”

“Ah, well, maybe she'll want to come with us. Why don’t you ask her, Monty?”

“Couldn't hurt, I guess," Monty said, and saluted. "Right away, Chipper!”

Monty walked toward the door of Gadget’s workshop, but when he opened it, he was blinded by a bright flash of light and fell over backwards.

“Golly, I'm sorry, Monty, but this IS a secret project.”

Gadget dragged Monty outside as Chip came over to check out what happened.

“What’s going on here?” he demanded while walking toward the scene of the accident. Gadget quickly closed the door and barred it using her body.

“Sorry guys, but what I’m building is a secret, and I won’t tell.”

“Fine, I don’t want to know what you’re building – but what knocked Monty down?”

“Oh, that was my photo camera I built when we were in Brazil. I used it to stun Monty, but I think the modifications were too much for him.”

“You did what?! He could be blinded!”

“No lad, I’m not blind, but it wouldn’t have taken much more.”

“Sorry, Monty, I didn’t mean it.”

“That’s okay, Gadget-love," Monty said, dazed and still blinking away the searing green and red blur across his vision. "It's my fault for not knocking first.”

“Say Gadget, would you want to come and see that new commercial district that opened up in town?”

“Sure, Chip! I think I could use some distraction.”

Thomas “Venice” was getting more nervous by the minute. “I thought I had those newspaper guys post an article!" he growled. "Still not one sucker – I mean, customer. If nobody shows up before noon I’m going to have a serious talk with those lazy bums!”

Just then, a group of rodents entered his store: an Indiana Jones look-alike, a gorgeous female inventor and a mouse who looked like he had one too many meals. Thomas shrugged. As long as they got money, he thought, and greeted them: “Customers! How can I help you’se?”

“We’re just looking around.” The Indiana Jones chipmunk said.

“This is the Art Store from that article right?”

“Sure it is, I sell the best pieces of art in the entire city.”

“Wow look at that!” Gadget exclaimed, “That looks like one of those Ming vases!”

“It is,” the rat confirmed. “Made in China!”

“Looks more like Delfts Blue to me,” Monty warned them, scrutinizing the vase. “It’s a nice one, too, but certainly not made in China.”

“Hey, is that a real Rhino head!?” Chip said in horror.

“Eh, no," Thomas said, getting a little anxious as he felt his chance at a sale disappearing fast. "It’s a fake.”

“I’m not so certain about it,” Gadget disagreed and took a better look at it. “Golly, it’s real! Poor creature, who would do such a thing!? It’s downright evil to slaughter those wonderful beasts just for their horns and their heads!”

Monty was inspecting a bust when suddenly it fell of its stand.

“Hey, you’se broke my artwork!" Thomas accused. "I hope you’re insured!”

Monty began apologetically picking up what was left of the bust, but then he discovered an inscription: “Servo’s Store, we copy any Greek artifact!”

Gadget walked through the store until she noticed something in the tropical section and screamed.

“What's wrong, Gadget-love?” Monty yelled and quickly ran toward where the scream came from. When he arrived at Gadget’s location he noticed what she saw and got a nauseating feeling.

“Look at that!” Gadget exclaimed, pointing at a jar with a tiny head in it.

“That reminds me of that story I once heard about a group of adventurers that explored the jungle hoping to find a tribe of Headhunters and becoming famous. Those men never returned, so they say.”

“If you though that was sick, look at this!” Chip said from his current spot in the medieval section.

“A cage with a skeleton in it, German import,” Thomas informed them.

“I don’t think I want to find out more,” Monty warned them, looking green as he examined the head again and thought, I wonder if I knew this poor bloke?

“You got it,” Chip agreed, and hurriedly herded them all out of the store. “Let’s get out of here!”

“Buncha misers!” Thomas cursed, shaking his fist after them.

The S.S. Sewer Rat had docked and all of its passengers had left the ship. On the wharf remained only two chipmunks talking to each other.

“It was nice to see my parents again, but I’m glad I’m back home now,” Steve told his love. The male chipmunk hadn’t changed much during the few days he was in Florida, except that for wearing the white pants with red stripe at each rear side, a birthday gift from Flora.

“I got to go back to my house to see how Lisa’s doing; I left her alone all the time,” Flora told Steve before she kissed him and then walked away.

“Life’s wonderful,” Steve whispered, staring after Flora’s departing form.

Dale was getting quite curious what Gadget had built this time. “How long before we can see what she's workin' on?” he asked Chip for the umpteenth time.

“For the last time Dale, I don’t know! She’ll tell us when she’s ready, now be patient!”

Another minute passed, but to Dale it seemed like a century. “How long now, Chip?” the red-nosed chipmunk asked innocently.

That was the last straw. Chip lost his temper completely and bonked Dale, growling, “I told you, I don’t know, now shut up!”

Finally they heard Gadget’s voice calling them: “Okay guys, you can come in now.”

Monty, Dale, Chip and Zipper entered Gadget’s workshop. Monty covered his eyes, fearing another blinding flash. “Now where is it?” Dale asked, looking around.

“I think it’s under the white blanket, me bucko,” Monty told Dale, indicating the quite obvious, monstrous, white-clothed mountain right in front of Dale.

“Oh, good, you’re here,” Gadget told them, as she climbed out of a large bin of assorted parts. “I shall now show you what I've been constructing all this time. A few weeks ago, I visited the flight labs where Dad usually bought his planes. Wait, not 'usually,' since he did that only once. So I guess it should be 'where Dad bought the plane.' I convinced them to...”

“Gadget-love, please keep it short, the milk’s cooking.”

“Sorry, Monty. Anyway, I proudly present you my latest work...” Gadget said as she pulled off the cover with a flourish. “The Screaming Eagle II! Ta-da!”

Monty immediately recognized the plane's familiar design and forgot all about his milk, curdling and boiling away to nothing on the stove.

“Too-ra-loo! It’s been quite some time since I saw that masterpiece! Where did you get it, Gadget-love? How did you do it?”

“Well I convinced the people at the labs to give me the designs and I used them to build my own version of the plane. I even put our symbol on it. What do you think?”

“It’s amazing!” Chip exclaimed, awestruck. “You did a great job at rebuilding the Screaming Eagle!”

“You are the best inventor in the world Gadget!” Dale complimented her.

“Gosh, thanks guys," the pretty mouse replied, blushing shyly. "And guess what? I don’t even have any leftover parts this time! How about we go for a test flight?”

“Ooh! Can I, can I?” Dale asked, sounding like a little kid.

“I think it’s a little too complicated for you to fly so I’ll let Monty fly. After all, he knows the plane as well or better than I.”

“That’s right nice of you, Gadget-love," Monty said, then his face changed and a note of concern crept into his voice. "Eh, you didn’t make any modifications, did you, lass?”

“No I didn’t," Gadget said. "Those would have made it difficult for me to build the first time. I can add some later if you like."

“And we don’t have to use dynamite to launch, right?”

“No Monty, that was because last time we didn't have a proper launch ramp and I dismantled the catapult system for parts. Trust me, it’s just like the plane you always knew.”

“Then what are you waiting for, mates?!” Monty shouted, bounding forward and climbing the plane as if he was in cheese-attack mode. Nobody noticed the faint trails of black smoke emanating from the kitchen where the stove was beginning to burn out the bottom of the now empty milk pan.

When Steve reached his nightclub again, he noticed that there was an entire police force surrounding the place. He approached and caught sight of Timbert, in a discussion with a police officer.

“What’s going on here?” Steve demanded.

“We could ask you the same thing,” the officer told Steve.

“What do you mean? Is it a cockroach infestation?”

“Nope, counterfeiting. We got a tip from someone who told us you guys gave him funny money. We checked it out and found more than enough to confirm that.”

“Enough talk, capture them!” demanded another officer, sporting a shiny rank insignia.

“Aw, did you have to go that far?” Henk asked, grabbing the officer and tossing him at a gathering of his fellow policemen.

“Retreat to the chopper!” Steve ordered, and the others followed him to the helicopter and took off.

“Get them down!” The officer demanded.

“But Chief, we don’t have any anti-air weapons!”

The Chief slapped his forehead and ran his hand down his face in frustration.

“Hey, what’s all the fuss down there?” Dale asked.

“It’s coming from Steve’s nightclub,” Chip noticed.

Chip grabbed his binoculars and looked at what was going on.

“What do you see?” Dale asked curiously.

“It looks like the big group of police officers – and boy, are they furious!”

“Hey look, isn't that Steve's helicopter?” Gadget asked, noticing another airborne craft.

“Looks like the lad got himself into trouble again,” Monty said dryly.

“Then I guess it’s our job to get him out again,” Chip stated. “Monty, can you land this aircraft somewhere down here?”

“No problem Chipper—No, I didn’t mean it that way!”

Even with the wrong choice of words, Monty proved more than able to land the Screaming Eagle II without crashing it. The Rangers got out and walked toward the angry officers. “Oh my, you’re still in one piece,” Monty said weakly and breathed a sigh of relief.

“What's so important that you guys have to start a party in this part of town?” Chip demanded.

“We're not having a party! We're trying to figure out how to get that cursed aircraft back down on the ground again!” the officer snarled back.

“What happened that got you so angry with him anyway?”

“That guy and his gang are counterfeiters!”

“Steve!? A counterfeiter? I can’t believe it!”

“Believe it, we found the wretched device in one of the storage rooms, along with a few piles of fake dollars.”

“Either something’s wrong here, or he's been fooling us all this time,” Chip concluded. “And if it was the latter, he’ll dearly regret it!”

“That’s the spirit,” the officer agreed.

“Whatever’s going on here, we better find out,” Monty stated. “And let’s hope Steve's been framed.”

Meanwhile, somewhere in the air, a certain mouse checked the instruments and pronounced a solemn judgment: “Darn!”

“What’s up, Mousestein?”

“We won’t be up for long Steve.”


“The motor, it needed maintenance and I forgot.”

“Is it that serious?”


Mousestein landed the chopper and the motley group of fugitives exited. However, any rest they could have hoped for was short-lived, for they quickly saw the group of police mice coming toward them.

“Uh-oh, we had better run,” Timbert advised.

“Looks like they're having a party over there,” Steve observed. “If we can play it right, maybe we could replace their music band. Policemen are a pain in the tail, but they don't like being party crashers.”

Steve’s gang ran toward the stage and were automatically announced by a mouse:

"And now the American Festival is proud to present today’s musical entertainment: The Big Blue Bluegrass Beasts!"

“Uh-oh, they were expecting a bluegrass band,” Hiss told the group.

“We don’t even have appropriate hats and beards!” Steve complained.

“The public didn’t seem to mind when we came onstage—maybe they’re blind?” Timbert suggested.

“Okay, we need to find something these people like and fast!” Steve warned. “Timbert?”


“All right then, mountain tempo in A-minor!”

Timbert quickly grabbed a guitar, while Hiss took the drums. Mousestein took his place behind a keyboard and Henk got a bass guitar.

“All right, let’s get them!” one police mouse suggested.

“Now just wait a minute,” the Chief said. “They haven't sang yet!”

"Did you have one too many doughnuts, Chief?"

"Look at this crowd," the Chief explained. "If we drag the band offstage, we're in for a riot. Let' em play first—then when they stink, we'll be heroes for taking them in."

“That's the ticket, boss! They ain’t going nowhere.”

The music started up, and all the rodents at the festival came out of the stands in front of the stage as Steve sang, with Mousestein and Timbert as background vocals:

That old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day.

Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way.

When all at once some mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw,

A-plowin’ through the ragged skies, and up a cloudy draw.



The ghost herd in the sky

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel.

Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel.

A bolt of fear went through ‘em as they thundered through the sky.

For they saw the riders comin’ hard, and they heard their mournful cry.



Ghost riders in the sky

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred and shirts all soaked with sweat.

They’re riding hard to catch that herd but ain’t caught ‘em yet.

Cause they had to ride forrever in that range up in the sky.

On horses snorting fire as they ride on hear their cry.



Ghost riders in the sky

As the riders rode on by him he heard one call his name.

If you wanna save your soul from hell a-riding on a range.

Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride.

A-trying to catch the devil’s herd across these endless skies.



Ghost riders in the sky

"What now, Chief?" one officer asked. "They're actually good!"

"Don't worry about that now," the Chief told him. "Just get ready to grab 'em!"

Just as the song ended and the police got ready to storm the stage, a rope dropped down in front of Steve and his friends. They didn’t have to think long before they climbed it.

“Ohhh, no you don’t!” the lead officer shouted and began to climb the rope after them.

When the entire gang had made it up, Henk bit through the rope and the police mouse fell on top of his fellow officers and the Chief, who found himself at the bottom of the pile.

The group turned around to see who rescued them. They saw a muskrat in a raincoat standing in front of them. “Who are you?” Steve asked the stranger.

“You might not know me, but I know of you, mostly through reputation,” the stranger answered. “My name is Billy. I’m a friend of Monterey Jack, and I heard rumors at the docks about what was going on. I thought you'd appreciate it if I saved your tails.”

“Mister, you don’t got any idea of who I am or what I’m doing here, why do you want to work with us?”

“Because I've heard a lot about you, and you're not a criminal.”

“I wish I could say you were right, but I committed a crime before. But this counterfeit thing was certainly not my idea.”

“Mine neither,” Timbert backed up Steve. “And I kept a close watch over what happened at Steve’s place.”

“You’re not a real criminal, Mister Steve. If you were, you wouldn’t have let the Rangers follow you as long as they did. You tried to escape the shame of committing a crime, not the Rangers.”

“I really appreciate your assistance, but I can’t allow you to come with us; we’ll only endanger you. If you want to help, find the Rangers and get them to help. I'm sure they could help me more then you could on your own.”

“Of course, Mr. Nutcracker,” Billy agreed, shaking his hand.

“Please, call me Steve.”

“Good luck.”

Meanwhile, somewhere else in town...

“All right boys, our plan is going perfectly,” Thomas explained.

“It'll only be a matter of time before the cops capture that weakling Steelnerve,” a rat with a dirty old green shirt, bowler hat and cigar commented.

“That’s right Boris, and when they do, we can proceed with the second phase of our plan,” Thomas agreed. “By the way where's my moll, Mercy?”

“My guess is the weak little cowering girl is somewhere, crying,” a chipmunk in tux, high hat, walking cane and British accent explained.

“Then get her in here, Peter, I have an assignment that requires her special skills.”

Oh drat! Mercy thought as she listened at the door. If there is a Scotty, please let him beam me up now, because I've had enough of that rat!

After searching for a while, Billy finally found the Rescue Rangers.

“Hey, Rangers, I need to speak to you!” he shouted.

“What’s up?” asked Monterey Jack.

“I spoke to Steve just a while ago,” he whispered. “He doesn’t know anything about that counterfeit press in his place.”

“I’d gladly believe that, but the police doesn’t think so,” Monty explained.

“Then do you have any idea how we can convince them?” Billy asked the Rangers.

“I've got an idea!” Chip perked up. “Go to the AP station near Central Park and try to catch Warden Rensen. He might be able to help Steve out, too. And also something important, inform Flora Firalda of what’s happening, she has the right to know. We'll try to contact Steve’s dad, he worked with the RBI and knows the criminal mind. He’ll prove useful in finding whoever framed Steve.”

“On my way,” Billy affirmed.

Steve’s gang was currently hiding inside a clock pole, but Henk kept a constant watch for AP agents who might find them.

“This isn’t my day,” Steve complained. “What did I do to deserve something like this?”

“I don’t know,” Mousestein responded.

“Really?” Steve asked sarcastically.

“The last time I went and tried to avoid the law, I almost lost Flora! Why does this happen to me?”

“Because you're grumpy and in a bad mood,” Hiss told him. “Look at things from the bright side: at least they haven’t found us yet.”

Steve was about to say something nasty in response but was cut short by Henk.

“Uh, boss—we're surrounded.”

“Just let them try to get up here,” Timbert told the rest of the group.

“No!” Steve protested. “They got us trapped now, and we can’t keep running anyway. We must hope the Rangers can cleanse our reputation again.”

“Then what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to surrender, Timbert,” Steve said dejectedly and began climbing down the pole.

“Steve 'Steelnerve,' I presume?” the police sergeant recited. “May I compliment you on your singing?”

“May I compliment you on your breath?” Steve responded with a sneering grin. “It’s strong enough to knock an elephant on it’s side. Three words: 'You-Benefit Breath Mint.'”

“A wise guy, huh? Just keep it down from now on, the warden doesn’t like wise-cracks.”

“We’ll see about that.”

The group escorted Steve back to the AP precinct without noticing the four other creatures still hidden in the clock pole.

Flora was sleeping when someone rang her doorbell.

“I’m coming,” she said weakly, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, still in her blue nightgown. She walked up to the door, half drunk of sleep and crashed into her chair on the way. When she finally opened the door, all she could see where two vague blurs, one of them yellow, the other one blue. She staggered about a bit before falling backwards.

“Ouch, my bottom!” she exclaimed as she rubbed her posterior.

“Sorry for having to wake you up,” Billy apologized.

“It’s okay,” Flora said “I was just catching up on some sleep. Resting on a boat doesn’t really make me comfortable, especially if you spend most of your time on deck watching helplessly as your lunch disappears into the sea.”

“May we come in, ma’am?” Rensen asked.

“Yeah, why not?” she said while she walked toward the overturned chair and tried to set it back up.

“Here, let me help you with that,” Rensen said and picked it up and righted it.

“What is it you want?” Flora asked them as she sat down sleepily.

“We’re here to tell you your boyfriend's in trouble."

“What? Steve!?” she asked, instantly wide awake.

“The Rangers told me you deserved to know that,” Billy explained.

“They didn’t get hurt or something did they?” Flora asked, concern in her voice.

"Accused of counterfeiting and resisting arrest," the Warden stated.

“The Rangers don’t want to believe he did it, but it looks like the AP does,” Billy added.

“What? I got to find him!” Flora exclaimed, and started to leave.

“That’s a bad idea.” Rensen told her quickly.

“Why?” Flora said defensively and put her hands on her hips.

“If the police find you with Steve, they might think you were involved in this,” Rensen explained.

“Not to mention that you’d embarrass yourself if you went out there in your nightgown,” Billy added with a giggle.

Suddenly, Rensen got a call from the AP precinct. He grabbed his radio and answered, “Yes, Warden Rensen. What is it?”

“Where have you been? We finally captured that menace Steve and we need you down here!”

“Yes, I’m coming as soon as possible,” Rensen put away his radio with a sad look on his face. “Bad news. They captured Steve and want me to came back to the precinct.”

“Oh no!” Flora shouted, afraid. “I must see him, I’m coming too!”

“Then you had better get dressed before you go,” Billy warned her.

Chip entered Rescue Ranger HQ and walked directly to the phone and dialed a number. It took a while before someone answered the phone.

“Ans Nutcracker here, who’s calling?”

“It’s me, Chip Maplewood. I need to speak your husband,” Chip answered her.

“Steve didn’t kill those gangsters, did he?” she asked, angry and worried at once.

“No, no, not that—but he’s in trouble enough, though.”

“Then I think you should tell my husband, he's the one who deals with big problems around here. I’ll give him to you now.”

It didn’t take long before Gus took over the phone, “Yes, Gus Nutcracker.”

“Gus, this is Chip. We've got a problem down here. I think someone tried to frame your son by putting a counterfeiting machine in his place. It looks like the AP believes it and are searching for him even now.”

“It must have been those gangsters I warned you and Steve about. But what I don’t understand is how they know that he’s my son.”

“Someone must have told them. Maybe someone in that strange bar down in the sewer knew Steve from his criminal days and made a connection to you...” Chip started and broke off as he realized too late that he'd told Gus more than he should have.

“What do you mean, 'My son is a criminal?'” Gus asked, angrily.

“Uh, yes—," Chip stammered. "But that was some time ago before we knew you and he's already been pardoned.”

“My son: a criminal," Gus mused and sighed. "I think I’ll have to talk to him about that, because it’s not something I'm going to forgive lightly.”

“First we better save him from the police, and we have to find who tried to frame him, or you’ll have to speak to him behind bars,” Chip reminded him.

“Right, I’ll try to get to New York as soon as possible.”

Chip hung up the phone and sighed. What have I done? he thought. I should have kept quiet about the whole criminal thing! Now Gus knows that Steve committed a crime once, and I have a bad feeling this will greatly affect how Steve’s parents view their son. I just hope they can forgive him for what he did.

“What was that about?” Ans anxiously asked her husband. “I heard something about Steve being a criminal?”

“Your ears aren’t deceiving you, he is—or was. But right now, he's been framed by someone and he could use some help. Get your luggage ready, we’re going to take the next available flight to New York!”

Rensen arrived at the AP precinct and found the Chief waiting for him. “We already put that crook Steve in his cell," the Chief beamed merrily. "There's nothing left for you to do but watch him and the other criminals. By the way, where have you been?”

“Just visiting some friends.”

“You should do that after work, got it?”

“Understood, sir.”

“Then get busy already! I got work to do," the Chief growled and left.

Rensen got back to his department and found things just as his colleague had said: they had already found and locked up Steve "Steelnerve" Nutcracker.

“I was hoping I’d never see you here again,” the Warden told his prisoner.

“It wasn’t my fault, I was framed. I know it sounds like a lame excuse, but it’s the truth.”

“Take it easy, I believe you. But it’s going to be more difficult to make the AP believe that.”

“I’m sure the Rangers will come up with something," Steve said, desperate hope in his voice.

Flora entered, panting from running, and walked up toward her imprisoned beau.

“I’m so ashamed you have to see me this way,” Steve told her apologetically.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Flora consoled him. “This is the work of someone who wants you out of the way.”

“Well, he's doing a very good job of it. The AP believes it, and that looks to be enough.”

“Don’t give up!” Flora said firmly. “Who ever is doing this will pay dearly for what they're putting you through!”

“Please, don’t do anything foolish!” Steve cautioned her. “The last thing we need is you behind bars, too.”

“As long as it can save you from prison, I’ll do anything,” Flora said as she leaned closer toward Steve and hugged him.

“Hey, what are you doing? Visitors aren’t allowed here!” a police mouse shouted at her.

“I think that means I have to go,” Flora said dejectedly and turned to go, whispering to herself, “Hold on Steve, I’ll get you out of here—somehow!”

Dale hung up the phone and turned to see his friends all waiting for him to explain the call. “That was Warden Rensen," he said dejectedly. "He said that the AP has already captured him.”

“Drat, we’re too late!” Chip cursed.

“What do we do now?” Gadget wanted to know.

“What every detective would do.”

“And what's that?” Monty asked him.

“We wait; every criminal makes a mistake. And when they do, we get them.”

Zipper buzzed something at Chip. “I know that could take a long time," Chip explained, "But it could also happen in the next twenty-four hours. It's bound to happen sometime.”

“Well, we don’t have time for twenty-four hours!” Dale interrupted. “Steve’s case is due in court tomorrow! The longer we wait, the more difficult it'll be to get Steve out of the slammer.”

“First things first,” Chip stated. “Just in case, we should get him a lawyer.”

“Let me do it, lad,” Monty offered. “I know a mighty fine lawyer, and I’m sure he’ll be available.”

“All right, you handle the lawyer problem while we discuss some other things.”

Monty started to leave the tree as the rest took a seat at the table. “Do you really think Monty can get us the right man for the job?” Dale whispered when Monty was out of earshot.

“I doubt it Dale," Chip said, rolling his eyes. "Knowing Monty, he’ll get Steve a military sergeant.”

“Wowie Zowie!” Dale cheered. “That would be fun to watch!"

Dale assumed a fierce, gruff expression and snarled in a gravelly voice, "On the ground, you swine, and gimme a hundred!”

“That’s not nice, Dale,” Gadget pointed out to the red-nosed chipmunk, rolling in laughter on the floor. “I doubt Steve would like being a soldier.”

“Whatever Monty will bring, it’s better than nothing,” Chip said to comfort the team, not feeling comfortable at all himself.

Zipper buzzed something to the team, looking quite worried. “What? Monty never made friends with a lawyer?” Dale asked, puzzled. “Well, that’s kinda reassuring.”

“Why?” Chip wanted to know.

“Because lawyers are just a pain in the tail, if you've heard all the jokes.”

Chip bonked Dale and sighed.

We've got ourselves quite a situation here, Chip thought, and sighed deeply.

The next day, the Rangers went to court, having so far been unable to find any clues as to who framed Steve. People were already gathering in the court, and the judge and other officials had arrived early. In only a few minutes the case would begin.

“Just keep your mouth shut Dale,” Chip told the red-nosed chipmunk with utmost seriousness. “One joke is all it takes to ruin this case. One tiny mistake it all it takes here. These lawyers can make even Jesus look a sinner.”

“What does this has to do with religion?” Dale wanted to know.

“Nothing," Chip said, realizing the metaphor was wasted. "Just shut up or you could ruin everything. And I’m not going to defend you if you wind up answering to the law.”

The Rangers sat down on a bench and waited for the case to begin. “Court is in session,” a large owl announced. “Today's first case: Steven 'Steelnerve' Nutcracker. The charges are: counterfeiting, fraud by impersonating a music band, and the heinously unforgivable forbidden act of climbing into a clock pole.”

“WHAT?” came the chorused shouts of the Rangers, Steve, Warden Rensen, Billie, and several others.

“Just kidding,” the owl said with an impish grin. “Just because we're in court doesn’t mean we can't have fun once in a while, right?"

Dale glared at Chip and stuck his tongue out at him, blowing a raspberry. Chip frowned and pouted grumpily as the owl continued, "Anyway, scrap the clock pole thing and let's get on with the case.”

“Where is that lawyer you talked about, Monty?” Chip asked nervously.

“You’ll see,” the Aussie mousie responded.

The owl looked at a sheet of paper and declared, “First, I want to hear from Peter Grabhand, who claims to know about the counterfeiting.”

A chipmunk in tuxedo, walking stick, and a high hat rose up and took his place in the witness box, delivering a crisp "How do you do?" to the owl.

“Good morning. So, how did you know the suspect was a counterfeiter?”

“I’ll gladly explain that, your honor,” the chipmunk answered with a British accent. “One night I visited the night club mister Nutcracker owns. I ordered a drink and got some change back. I don’t want to brag about it, but I know a false dollar when I see one, so I studied the money I got back. By the way, that’s a habit of mine, making sure I get real dollars back. With today’s society, organized crime can be tricky. Anyway, I noticed it missed some vital signs of a real dollar and showed it to my companion, whose name I'd rather not mention. My companion agreed that it was fake, so I decided to tell the Animal Police. They took the dollar in question as evidence and confirmed my suspicions. What happened after that I don’t know, because I’m certainly not the type of person to meddle in the affairs of the AP. That’s all I have to say.”

“Okay, now I want to hear from the Chief of Animal Police, Jake Judgeson.”

The Chief and Peter then switched places.

“When we heard about those fake dollars, we decided to take action,” the Chief explained. “And after a quick search, we discovered the cash register had more false money in it. Then we checked out the storerooms and the basement. In the basement we found the root of all trouble: a printing press and four large stacks of fake money. Some joker had also painted the words, “Property of Steve’s Nightclub, Hands Off!” on it. Furthermore, on the fake dollars we discovered the writing, “Counterfeiter S. Nutcracker.” I know I've heard of artists signing their work, but this is one of the weirdest things I've ever seen!”

“No surprise to me,” the owl added. “Never heard such a good joke before, either. Now, I’d like to hear from Steve’s lawyer . . . Anyone know who that is?”

“That’s me, mate!” Monty exclaimed and rose from his seat.

“YOU?” the other Rangers shouted in disbelief.

“Trust me on this one,” Monty reassured them, and before the Rangers could do something, Monty walked up to defend Steve.

“Maybe we should have taken the sergeant!” Chip wailed in complaint and slapped his paw over his eyes.

“Now, Mister Jack, tell me what makes you think Steve is innocent,” the judge asked the burly Australian.

“Ever since the Bank robbery some time ago, we've kept an eye on the bloke," Monty began. "As you know, the Rescue Rangers aren’t stupid.”

“Only half of the team is,” the Chief scowled in a low voice.

“Ha-ha, that’s a good one, Chief Judgeson!” the owl howled in laughter.

“Would you two please shut yer yappers and listen?” Monty demanded angrily. “As I was saying, we kept watch over 'im. He never did anything else, and a couple of weeks ago he went to Florida with his parents. When he returned, he's suddenly accused of counterfeiting. He couldn’t have done that while he was visiting his family in Florida, and that machine couldn’t have been run before he left, or we would have heard about it already.”

“Oh, come on, your Honor!” the Chief interrupted. “That thing still could've been down there before Steve left, and he could have ordered his henchmen to operate it!”

“Possible,” the Judge agreed. “Maybe it’s time we heard from Steve himself.”

“Finally,” Steve said under his breath, then rose and addressed the court. “First, I've never had a printing press in my basement. Someone else must have put it there, because I didn’t. I was gone for a few days, and in that time it could have been placed there.”

“Oh, sure," the Chief said sarcastically. "Some prankster just thought 'Let’s frame someone by putting a printing press in his place!'”

-“You have a point, Mister Nutcracker. Chief, I’m not yet certain now. I think we need some more evidence.”

It looks like I’m going to win this one, Steve thought. If the judge stays undecided, I’ll go free!

“I've got to admit, having Monty as an attorney isn’t as bad as I thought,” Chip told the rest of the team.

“I want one more person to speak up,” the judge announced. “Would Chip Maplewood of the Rescue Rangers please come here and add his input to this riddle?”

Chip stood up and took Monty’s place as beside Steve. “You can go on, Monty, I’ll handle this,” he said, a little worried.

“Now, explain to me why you think this chipmunk is innocent or guilty,” the Judge intoned grimly.

“First I’d like to say that—”

But Chip didn’t get any further as he spotted a familiar chipmunk sitting in the room. Oh, no! he thought in nervous panic. Not her!

The girl in question was looking expectantly in Chip’s direction, making him even more nervous moment by passing moment. All he could do was stammer: “See...I...We need...”

Chip tried to go on, but couldn’t focus anymore. He turned his head away from her, but he had the feeling she was still looking at him. He could feel her eyes on him. Then he noticed another female face—a more friendly face, but it didn’t improve the situation for him one bit, for the other girl was Flora, who was just worried and gazing at him pleadingly. She was obviously concerned as to what was caused Chip to be so nervous. Neither of the two ladies was making this easy for him.

“Are you going to tell us something, or are you going to stutter all day?” the owl asked, somewhat annoyed and angry.

“Yes...I-I mean, no ... I’m going to, I—”

“Say no more," the Judge said, as if he understood now. "Stage Fright. Happens to the best of them in here. Face your fears; we really like to see that the famous Chip Maplewood gets nervous like everybody else, but just not right now. Now come on, are you going to say something, or what?”

“Yes, I have to...I mean I want to, but I—”

“This is getting old, Mr. Maplewood. Be serious!” The owl was getting very upset now, and decided he had enough of this nonsense. “We’ll continue this later. For now, we should all get a break.”

After everyone left the courtroom Steve walked up to Chip and asked, “What's going on? Why did you get so nervous all of a sudden?”

“It was that girl, the one from the place in the sewers," Chip told him. "She's here, and she makes me nervous every time I see her. I can't explain it. She was watching me, all the time.”

“That's no small surprise," Steve reflected. "You were supposed to speak.”

“No, not like that, I know it was just to make me nervous. She did it on purpose.”

“Then why would she do that?”

“Remember, she was in that bar full of tough guys and criminals. People there knew her, so she must be some sort of criminal.”

“Then why would she risk going to a courthouse?”

“I have no idea,” Chip said and began moving out of view from the other animals who were present. “But if you want to go free, then maybe we should switch places. You and me look a lot alike, so nobody would notice it right off. You can pretend to be me and defend 'Steve Nutcracker,' without worrying about that vampish lady. You've already got a girl, you're beyond her influence. If she does has an effect on you, just think about Flora.”

“What about you?" Steve protested. "It would be unfair if you go to jail just because you tried to save me.”

“I’ll take that risk. I'm a Rescue Ranger, after all. Besides, sooner or later the person who framed you will be caught anyway.” Chip took Steve’s hat and traded it with his fedora, thinking I just hope it's soon.

“I owe you one,” Steve told him as the two swapped clothes.

There was a brilliant flash of light and Chip quickly turned around. It was just a rat taking a picture of Gadget and asking her for an autograph. “Gadget sure is famous, don’t you think, Chip?” Chip asked his doppelganger.

“No surprise, with her looks she could have the entire world if she wanted to.”

“She isn’t the only one with looks,” Mercy whispered to herself from her hiding place behind an antique clock, photo camera in hand.

A little later, court continued, and this time Chip was able to talk without being nervous, or at least people thought it was Chip who was speaking. After "Chip" had finished, the judge spoke again. “Does anyone else have anything to say before I declare sentence?”

“I do,” Jake Judgeson said.

“Go ahead.”

“I just want to say that Steve talks a lot about being innocent, but we don’t have any real proof of that. We have evidence that he is a counterfeiter, but what is the word of that chipmunk worth to you? People in court are supposed to speak the truth, but there are those who don’t do that. He could be lying, for all we know. Please, if you have any sense of justice at all, don’t listen to his words, look at the evidence.”

“Thanks, Chief Judgeson. Now, for my sentence: The Rack!”

“WHAT!?” many of the people in the courtroom shouted as one.

“That’s just a joke! You all really thought I came from the Middle Ages, didn't you?” the Judge said and began to laugh heartily. “My real sentence is...”

“Wait, not yet!” Mercy shouted, running into the room.

Not her again! Chip thought.

“Before you sentence someone, you might want to know who it is you sentence,” Mercy told the Judge, and handed him a picture. “As you can see, the two of them are trying to sabotage this case.”

Mercy walked up toward were the defendant was standing. “Isn’t it, ‘Chip Maplewood?'” she said, and pulled Chip’s fedora off Steve’s head.

“How are we going to find out who's who?” the judge asked.

“Simple. This,” Mercy said, pointing a finger at the accused, “is Chip Maplewood.”

Mercy took the hat Chip was wearing and placed his fedora back on his head.

“The other is no-one else than Steve Nutcracker. If you were going to punish him for his crimes, add this to the list of accusations.”

“The girl is right, we can’t let this happen. Whose idea was this?”

“Mine,” Steve declared, taking the blame. “I threatened Chip to swap places, but unfortunately she had to interfere.”

“Hold it right there...” Chip tried to interrupt, but it was too late.

“This was all I needed to be sure that Steve 'Steelnerve' Nutcracker is a criminal. You will receive a fifteen-year sentence! Take him away! Court is closed!”

“I just can’t believe he took the blame,” Chip lamented.

“Why did you two swap places anyway?”

“That’s easy Dale: Steve was the one who wasn’t nervous. Beside, he was framed, so even if he was sentenced, he’d be able to move around freely and easily without anyone knowing it, and help clear his name.”

“Why did you get nervous anyway?” Dale asked him.

“Yeah, you looked like a lobster in hot water,” Gadget chimed in.

“It was that girl...I met her in this bar—”

“Chip has a girlfriend! Chip has a girlfriend!”

“Shut up Dale! She isn’t my girlfriend! I saw her in this bar while checking the sewers for Rat Capone.”

“You were relaxing while we were trying to find Rat Capone?”

“Would you please let me finish? The rest were searching for Capone's whereabouts in the bar because it had a board with the address of every illegal business in town. But this girl wanted to talk to me, and I couldn’t resist. You don’t know the half of how attractive she is! An Eskimo covered with subzero ice would melt at her glance. Whether she wanted to or not, she got me in the hands of Rat Capone, and today she was in the courtroom. She's the reason I got nervous, and then she spoiled our plan to swap places.”

“I can’t blame her, it’s not right to impersonate someone in court just to get him or her free,” Gadget explained.

The group walked out of the courthouse when Jake Judgeson noticed them and walked up to them, snarling. “Just because the judge didn’t punish you doesn’t mean you can just walk away with this, Chip!” the chief of AP threatened menacingly. “Your reputation won't save you from me, and if you do just one wrong thing I’ll get you! Don’t even try to break Steve out of jail; I've got every lawman in this state on my side. And my colleagues in the other states will be happy to lend me a hand. I can even call upon the help of the police forces in other countries if that’s necessary! I’ll be keeping a very close eye on your team, and you wrong move is all it takes, and you won’t get away as easy as this time. I know more than enough people who'd like to have a word with you, Chip!”

The Chief turned on his heel and stormed off. Beyond one of the giant lion statues, a female chipmunk had been eavesdropping on the Rangers and the Chief all the time. “Welcome to the club,” she whispered.

Flora hopped off the bus and walked to the back part to the prison facility they were keeping Steve. The jail itself was built under a pet store and had a surprising amount of room. Flora entered and asked if she could see Steve Nutcracker. She was then sent to the section were Steve was currently locked up. She kept searching until she found him sitting on his bed. “Steve!”

He looked up and saw she had visited him. He stood up and walked up to the bars of his cell. He was wearing a classic white-black uniform and hat instead of his normal clothes.

“Nice of you to visit me Flora.”

“I’m sorry this had to happen to you, I should have tried to defend you as well.”

“It’s not your fault, it was that strange girl who ratted me out. You know who I’m talking about, the one Dad got so angry with after Chip disappeared in that bar full of criminals.”

“Yes, I remember her. But Steve, you weren’t serious when you said you forced Chip into switching places did you?”

“No, that was Chip’s plan, but when it failed, I said that to prevent Chip from getting in trouble as well.”

“What’s going to happen now? I don’t want you to stay in here for the next fifteen years!”

“Don’t worry Flora, sooner or later, the Rangers will find out who did this and then I can go free...I hope.”

“I hope so as well,” Flora said, and hugged him through the bars of his cell.

Steve returned it and kissed her. When they separated, Flora left quietly. She exited the jail and walked back home, but two rodents noticed her. “Hey, Alberto, you see that?” Boris asked a mouse in swimming trunks.

“Yeah I see, what's the big deal? What, you see something I don't?”

“I mean that chipmunk femme over there, that's Nutcracker's girlfriend. If we capture her, we could totally devastate him, and a hostage might come in handy against the law.”

“How are we going to capture her?” the big muscle-mouse asked his companion.

“You distract her while I knock her out from behind. I know what you’re thinking--I’m not the kind of person to be sneaky, but I’m not going to bear-wrestle a fragile woman either.”

“Oh yeah, I get it. I think.”

“’Nuff said.”

Flora was walking across the street when a top-heavy muscle mouse in swimming trunks run past her, turned around and blocked her path.

“Uh, you want to hear a Colky-Colky Frab-Frab?” he asked.

“No, really, I've always wanted to know what one sounded like,” Flora replied irritably, already in a foul mood over Steve's situation.

“Okay, here goes: Colky-Colky Frab-Frab! Ha! Good one, don’t you think?” the mouse asked and began to laugh.

“I've wasted enough time, move along,” she said and began to walk past him.

Boris made a few motions to Alberto, indicating that he was getting impatient and that he should try something better. Again the mouse blocked Flora’s path. “Do you know why Communism in Cuba is so unhealthy?”

Not just in Cuba, Flora thought to herself, but said nothing, waiting politely but impatiently for the answer. “Those reds don’t have those juicy wieners from Harry’s meat store!”

Flora ignored the laughing mouse and walked past him, but yet again the mouse blocked her path so he could tell another joke. “You wanna hear my imitation of a very lazy metro musician? Tra-la-la-la-money,” he hummed a few notes and stuck out his palm in a gesture demanding payment.

“Stop bothering me,” Flora demanded and tried to storm past him, but he stopped her yet again. “My second imitation is a peacock!”

Flora was mercifully spared that performance by being knocked out from behind by the big rat. “What did you do?" Alberto whined. "You knocked out my audience!”

“Okay, okay, fine! I’ll be your audience then,” Boris said impatiently.

“Okay! Here goes,” Alberto said, then made a loud screeching sound that could be heard all over Manhattan.

“SHUT UP!” Boris shouted urgently and covered the mouse’s mouth before he'd have to make Alberto do an imitation of a peacock with amnesia. “Great, now every rodent and human close by will come running to find who was killed!”

Boris was angry and picked up the unconscious form of Flora. “Let’s get to the boss before someone finds out what we did. And no more imitations for you!”

"Awwww," Alberto groaned in disappointment. "I didn't get to do my imitation of a talkative mime yet."

Mercy was back at her place, thinking about her life and the past few weeks; how she met Chip in The Burly Rat cafe and the strange feeling she had about him; about Thomas, the gang leader and how much she hated him. Then her thoughts returned to the past and wondered how she ever got into this situation. She couldn’t decide what was worse: living with her mother doing as she was told, or being part of Thomas’ gang and doing as she was told. Then she remembered why she had left her mother and immediately regretted the recollection.

“Why don’t you want me to go to school anymore?"

“You don’t need it Mercy, I’ll teach you whatever you need to know.”

“But what about Todd? How come my older brother gets to go to high school and I only get to go to basic elementary?”

“He’ll need it later so he can get a good-paying job. That’s all I want from him, Mercy: for him to become rich one day. You, on the other hand, don’t need to study; you've got your looks. All you need is to find a rich boyfriend, marry him, and never forget about your poor mother. All I need to do is teach you how to be a good wife.”

“But I want an education too! I’m going to be a movie star!”

“Darling, being a movie star isn’t all that nice--and who says you will become one? Just marry a millionaire and you’ll be fine!”

“But what about little Andy? He’s younger than I am. Is he going to get to study instead of me?”

“Yes he will, end of discussion.”

“That’s not fair! He’s as dumb as a box of rocks! Why doesn’t he just marry a wealthy woman? Then you can use his education money for me.”

“How dare you talk like that about your own family! You won’t go to high school on my money! Never!”

“Why?” Mercy asked in tears, fearing that her dream would now be replaced by a nightmare, still feeling the slap her mother had administered with that last comment. Todd was Mercy’s elder brother, but neither of them really got to know each other. He had studied through High School, but Mercy had just finished her basic school. She had always dreamed of being a movie star and was convinced she would be one when she grew older. To be honest, she didn’t like school at all, but people kept telling her she needed to study if she really wanted to be famous. Something in her didn't doubt that. In spite of her tears, or perhaps because of them, her memories continued to play out:

“Do you have any idea how much a school asks in return for their services? I could use that money much more than you! All I’m asking is for you to pick a rich person to get hitched with and then give me my share of the money in return. Is that so hard?”

“If you treat me like this, mother, you’ll never, ever get anything from me! No! No! Stop slapping me!"

“When you get some sense I will! You have to, or else I’ll die as a poor woman! You can’t do that to me, not to your mother! I gave you life! You could at least show me some gratitude for that! You, your sisters AND your brothers will have to take care of me. It’s called trading. I took care of you all for years and then you will take care for me; that’s how life is. One favor calls for another in return. So I’ll explain it to you one more time Mercy: You are going to make me rich or I'll...”

“What? What are you gonna do if don’t?”

“I’ll... I’ll...”

* * * * * * *

Mercy’s mother had desperately searched for an answer that she didn’t find. How could she scare Mercy so much that she would do as she said without making a crucial mistake herself? Mercy was resourceful and cunning, something she had inherited from her father. Her rebellious nature was from him as well; neither of them could be controlled easily. Failing to find a good argument, she resorted to her normal way of keeping her children in check: she slapped Mercy several times across her face until she had relieved all her stress. Mercy had been dazed and scared, and cowered in fear. From that moment on, she knew she couldn’t stay in this place. Eventually, she would merit a more severe punishment when she continued resisting her mother’s will.

“Marrying a man with a big bank account is for your own good as well,” Mercy’s mother had told her daughter. Her mood calmed down immensely and one could wonder if this was the same Anne-Mary Stoneturner who had been tormenting her own daughter just a few moments ago.

“Why didn’t you do it yourself?” Mercy asked with the fear evident in her voice, expecting that her mother would get angry with her again. Instead she remained calm and answered the question.

“I tried to marry so many rich people, but all of them were to smart for me to handle. They all dumped me either when I got pregnant or when they found out I was after their money. Every brother or sister that lives in this den has a rich father that no longer needs me. Every time I'm about to marry one of those rich stinkers they reject me, dump me, stop loving me, tell me I served my purpose and leave.”

She started to get angry again at the remembrance, but didn’t take it out on Mercy. Instead her aggravation vented itself in her explanation. “Your father, he was the worst of them all! At the last moment, when we were going to get married, he said no. He looked at me and somehow saw I wanted the money, not him. For some reason, he knew it. He rejected me and I had to start all over again with someone else.”

She sighed and calmed down again, futility sinking in. “You're always complaining that you wear old dresses and clothes that are dirty, or stinky, or that you are starting to outgrow.”

Mercy took a good look at herself. She was wearing purple jeans and a yellow shirt that were indeed smelly. Here and there were holes in various sizes and places. And Mercy was still growing while the clothes weren’t, especially now. She had entered the part of her lifetime where growth accelerates; new clothes, if only she had the money for those, would be something she needed to consider. “If you do what I tell you to," her mother had said, "you can have anything you desire. The most expensive dresses, rings, necklaces. It’s all yours if only you would marry one of those wealthy Surgeons or Generals. Outsmart them, and it will all be yours.”

And reward you for torturing me? No thanks! Mercy had thought, but refrained from telling her mother she only wanted to be a star.

That night, when Mercy was in bed she thought more and more about her mother and her future. More than once had she begged her, threatened her, warned her, insisting that she marry a rich man, but Mercy had never agreed. She had always lived in this hole her family used to call home. She had to give her mother credit, though, that she had her own room instead of sharing one with a sibling. That was quite understandable since she had come to an age that she should be separated from boys. She looked out of the window of her room. A crescent moon was watching over the earth, at least that was what her mother told her and all the other children. Of course, she knew that was just a fairy tale, but it still made her feel safer, as if somewhere out there, there was someone who would understand her and comfort her.

If only he could be there for her, if only she could find him. When she told her mother about that, she would laugh hard and tell her no one would be interested in visiting this dump to be with her, and worst of all, Mercy knew she was right. Their family had been living in this place in poverty ever since her mother bought it from a gopher who built cheap houses for rodents. The house was a mound of sod that had several rooms dug out in it. Doors and windows had been installed in an attempt to make it look more like a home than a burrowed den. The gopher had failed in achieving that, however, so the house had little value. They had been lucky that their mom received a small amount of money from the city because of her worthlessness and all her hungry children.

Mercy never knew that there were so many millionaires out there, and that every single one had rejected her mom. On the other hand, she could see why and immediately her thoughts returned to how awful she was being treated here. She started to cry again and realized it had to end. Only a few weeks ago her mother had seriously injured her brother Philip. Mercy pitied him as she envisioned her cute little brother growing up to be used by her mother as a source of income. Or Wendy, who could never do something right—it wasn’t her fault, but mother would always punish her if something went wrong and she was involved. And although her mother could sometimes be calm like today, she was greedy and Mercy knew that she had to leave. Anne-Mary would not make any profit from her and she’d be sorry for being rude. She got out of bed and began putting all her clothes in a luggage case. She sneaked into the kitchen and grabbed the cooling box her mother had scavenged from the junkyard next door. She started putting the contents of the refrigerator in the box. She searched the drawers for food until she found something very interesting in one of them. “Well, what have we here? So that’s why we're so poor!”

The drawer was filled with chocolate; the kind of candy bars that were expensive, but didn’t taste as good as the cheap ones, according to her friends. “She’ll pay for that,” Mercy whispered, taking all the bars with her in the cooling box. She was almost to the front door when she realized she might need to defend herself in the outside world. Back to the kitchen and a drawer for a sharp knife. She found a good one and suddenly she was getting the feeling that taking the chocolate wasn’t enough. She walked toward her mother’s room with the knife in her hand, still trying to decide whether she’d do it or not. When she finally entered her mother’s room she was still unsure.

She stood there for an interminable moment until she decided she shouldn’t do it. She put the knife away in its sheath and then slipped it in the pocket of her pair of jeans. She noticed a few bottles of perfume standing on a table in the room, along with make-up and other things that would make her look attractive. Although Mercy didn’t recognize any of the names, it was clear to her what her mother did with most of their money. She swept all the contents on the table into her luggage case and got down to take her cooling box as well. She suddenly realized what she doing was wrong. She didn’t care a bit about anyone who lived in this house except for little Philip. She would never forgive herself if the small toddler died of starvation because of her. After a moment of wondering what to do, she walked to where the young children where sleeping and took Philip from the bed, careful not to wake him or the others; her escape plan would be ruined. She hugged the small cub to her and took him with her. She picked up her coffer and cooling box and left their house. She walked off into the dark night and didn’t look back.

* * * * * * *

Later, the brother she had then taken care of like a son was taken from her by the AP. She had resisted heavily, but lost. They had taken him to an orphanage, where he lived still. The caretakers never allowed her to see Philip again, and even called the AP a few times when she insisted on visiting him. She herself got more and more involved in a life of crime until she ended up as the vampish girl she was nowadays. Lately she'd been involved with this “family” Thomas was a part of. And then she met Chip.

She didn’t know how to describe the feeling she had for the heroic chipmunk. She had always considered him as an obstacle until she actually met him in person. Mercy took a leaf of paper out of her drawer and a pencil and without knowing it she began to draw a picture of him. When she realized what she had just drawn she took a good look. The drawing was perfect, as if he was real. She decided to keep it. It reminded her of him and kept that feeling she had alive. She still didn’t really understand, but she started to suspect that this feeling that she had, this feeling that made her both sad and happy, was love as people used to call it. It confused her; she never loved anyone like this. Only her little brother could make her feel like this, and she was wondering how on earth that was possible. After lots more thinking she decided that she couldn’t solve this mystery on her own right now and dismissed the thought, at least for the time being. She then took notice that while she was daydreaming it had started raining. She could see Boris and Alberto, carrying a female chipmunk, entering Harold’s Drugstore. For some reason, she suddenly didn’t know what to do anymore. She grabbed her umbrella and went outside, going for a long walk.

Flora was starting to regain her senses. She opened her eyes and saw she was in some kind of laboratory. Several chemicals where around and also many construction tools, although it didn’t look like the place was being constructed or rebuilt. She saw a rat in a black apron, black gloves and a lab coat busily with various tools and equipment. She found she was strapped to a bed and was unable to escape. The strange rat turned around to see she was awake. “Ah, welcome to my laboratory.” he said and then thought for a moment.

“There has got to be something else to say that isn’t as old as that line,” he wondered out loud.

“Who-What the heck are you?” Flora asked with disgust.

“My name is Harold 'Hyde,' and this is my little kitchen of horrors.”

“Go figure,” Flora muttered under her breath.

“Tell me: what is a beautiful girl like you doing in a lab like this?” he asked and bent over her.

Flora gave him a poisonous look and quickly put her teeth in the nose of the madmouse. “Let go of me!” he squealed and tried to get his snout out of her mouth. “That is no way to treat your host!”

He cautioned her and took a vial of acid. “If you keep this up, maybe you would have an accident,” he growled and held the vial threateningly over Flora’s head as if he was going to pour the contents of the vial right in her face.

She immediately stopped struggling and looked at the vial with the fear written on her face. “That’s better. Now let’s get down to business. My two companions brought you here so I could run a few ‘tests’ on you. It’s just simple things like sawing off your legs, nothing important. Don’t expect me to aim a laser rifle at that puny little head of yours.”

“You call that unimportant? It’s a crime against humanity!” Flora shouted, disgusted.

“Shut up or I’ll start right away!” the doctor said and laid a saw flat across her upper torso. Flora backed off again until Harold calmed down a little. “But first you must tell me: would you prefer this hand saw, that chainsaw or this circle saw?”

“You’re insane!” Flora cried, shocked.

“Thanks for the compliment. I think I’ll be lenient... maybe I'll skip the part of decorating you face with a club...and go straight to turning your body into a Popsicle. We’ll get started right away.”

“Wait a minute! You can’t do that to other people, you...”

But the mad rat had already grabbed an axe and heaved it above his head. Flora closed her eyes and wondered how it would be to live as two beings. When, after a few seconds she didn’t feel anything yet, she carefully opened one eye. She saw the axe coming toward her and instinctively closed her eye again, trying to make herself as tiny as possible. Again she didn’t feel anything at all and opened her eyes. The rat put the axe away and Flora relaxed.

“Nothing wrong with your reflexes I guess,” he told Flora. “That was fun, but what are we going to do now?”

Harold leaned with his hand on the bed. Flora saw an opportunity and grabbed his hand. She squeezed it as hard as she could, hoping she could subdue him. Unfortunately, the rat had already prepared for futile attempts like these, quickly grabbing a vial and pouring its contents in Flora’s face. For a moment Flora thought that the substance would burn through her skin and kill her. She let go of the scientist and began making wild maneuvers trying to get free. After a few seconds she realized it wasn’t corrosive or dangerous at all. It felt like soap in your eyes, and while it didn’t feel pleasant, Flora was relieved she wouldn’t die from it. “For the last time girl, don’t try anything at all. I've got plenty more where those came from, but I’m not going to use that twice. My next step will be battery acid.”

Flora quieted down again and nodded. Harold sat down on the bed Flora was lying in and put a finger under her chin. “See if you can resist the temptation to kick me off.”

Very tempting indeed, Flora thought but refrained from saying anything.

That moment, the gang leader entered the lab and took a look at Flora. Harold got off the bed and stood next to him. “So you’se Flora Firalda. I never had the pleasure of meeting you’se in real life, I only saw you on posters.”

“Cut the fan admiration and get to the point, you sleazy mobster,” Flora spat at him.

“Well I’se was thinking that it’s not necessary to have you’se here as a guinea pig. You’se could be my moll and get out of this mess. I’se think it’s much better than staying here.”

“Well I think it’s not!” Flora said, annoyed. “There is no way I’ll ever be your girlfriend you pig!”

“Shall I go get the AIDS-infected needle?” Harold asked eagerly.

“Nah, if she makes up her mind, it'd be pointless if you did that. Give the girl some time,” the gangster rat decided, and left the lab, leaving Flora at the mercy of whatever else the mad doctor might have in mind.

Back at Rescue Ranger HQ, Chip paced back and forth, trying to think. “I know I missed something. What was it?”

“Hey Chipper, they forgot to deliver today’s newspaper!” Monty informed him.

“Of course! That’s it!” Chip exclaimed, and quickly went to retrieve yesterday’s newspaper.

He looked it through until he found the page with the announcement of the six new businesses. “Aha! There it is! Mercy Stoneturner, the owner of that beauty parlor. I’m positive that’s the same Mercy 'Mischief' they’re talking about. I’ll see if I can confront her and get some answers from her. She certainly owes me that after all of this!”

Mercy had finished her small walk and returned to her beauty parlor. Back to a world of violence, she thought, and sighed. Back to a life of seduction. Back to Thomas. The last one made her shudder. She would gladly trade Thomas for Chip. Although Chip might be suspicious of her, at least he had some manners. Thomas, on the other hand, was someone she just loved to hate. She entered her place and saw Chip was rummaging through the drawers of her desk. She silently walked up to him. “What are you doing?” she asked sweetly, startling the heck out of Chip.

“Don’t worry Chip, I’m not angry at all.”

Chip was wary, not liking her friendly tone at all. He feared she would start flirting with him right away and moved backward nervously. “I-I only want to know a few things," he stammered, then warned, "Don’t even consider putting me in a trance again.”

“Now, why would I do such a thing?” she asked, putting her arms around his neck.

“B-Because whenever you show up, th-things go completely wrong!”

Mercy let go of Chip and walked toward a window. “But don’t you think afterwards my interference is a blessing?” she asked a small note of sadness in her voice.

“Well I didn’t mean to offend you," Chip said apologetically. "But...”

“I’m not angry at all,” she said, took his head and kissed him.

For a moment, Chip thought he would faint again. But this time it seemed he had gotten over that weakness. That’s good to know if the two of us ever fall in love, he thought and immediately couldn’t believe he had just considered the possibility if him and this seductress together as a couple. Although the kiss didn’t knock him out, a sudden hit on the head did. “Gotcha!” Boris said with pride.

Mercy appeared shocked for a moment but the large rat ignored it. “Now let’s haul him off to the boss’s office,” he said and took Chip's unconscious body.

“Well, look who’s here!” a mouse said in welcome to his old partner.

“Ulbrecht! Long time, pally!” Gus greeted his old friend. Ulbrecht was a field mouse from Luxembourg and thus, like many other from the Duchy had a mixed French-German accent. He sported a brown trench coat and sunglasses like most of his colleagues.

“I thought you stopped working for zee RBI,” Ulbrecht reminded Gus.

“That’s right, but trouble’s brewing, and my son is in it.”

“Say, do you mean you’re zee father of Steve 'Steelnerve?'”

“Yes, you got a problem with that? Then it’s your business.”

“I didn’t know he’s your son, but I never had to deal with him. But Chief Judgeson seems to be quite suspicious of him. You should have seen him in zhat court room, he...”

“What? Did they already sentence him?”

“I saw it with my own eyes,” Ulbrecht said sorrowfully.

“That’s just great, I’m too late! I’d better get started searching for the real criminal right away before something else happens.”

“I’ll come along as well. You never know what you might run into und zis city still has places where ze police doesn’t show zheir faces.”

Meanwhile in one of those places, a certain chipmunk was coming to his senses again. “Ah, you’se are awake. Fine.”

That voice, Chip thought. I've heard that accent before...

He looked into the direction the voice came from and saw a rat in green suit. Combined with the accent and hat he looked like a gangster.

“Wait a minute, I've seen you before!” Chip told the mobster rat.

“That’s right. Me’s the one from that art shop you’se and your companions visited a couple of days ago. My name is Thomas 'Venice' and this is my lieutenant Boris 'Bowler.'”

“Don’t try to escape or I’ll break your arms,” the rat dressed in green shirt and bowler hat greeted Chip.

“My technician, Harold 'Hyde,'” the leader continued and pointed toward the insane mouse doctor. “The muscle of the team, Alberto 'Chain.'”

“Hi!” a big mouse in red swimming trunks greeted him with a smile on his face.

Just by looking at him, Chip got the feeling that Alberto could even beat Monty and Arnold Mousenegger in melee with ease. “This is my agent in politics and lawsuits, Peter 'Poker,'" Thomas said and pointed at a chipmunk dressed in tuxedo and high hat.

“You’re the one who was in court for Steve's case!” Chip noted.

“That’s right, old chap. I've sabotaged over twenty criminal cases in my life. Do you remember the case against William 'Havoc' Acornteeth?”

“You mean that cold war veteran who blew up twenty of the Reds' supply depots and was executed a few years ago for war crimes he never committed?”

“That’s him, and that was me. He should have never got into investigating crimes or he might still be alive today.”

Thomas coughed and got the attention of the two chipmunks. “I’d like to introduce one more person, but you’se already knows her all too well,” he said and took a step aside. “Mercy 'Mischief.'"

Mercy gave Chip an apologizing look. Chip, on the other hand, didn’t feel sorry at all. “So that’s why everything goes wrong when you are around! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you! I even told you where I live!”

Once again, Chip realized his mistake too late. “Wait a minute, Mercy, what’s he talking about?” Thomas interrupted the two chipmunks.

“You know where to find the RR HQ? Why didn’t you tell us, Mercy? What’s going on here?” Boris demanded to know.

“If you don’t tell us really fast where it is,” Thomas said, rolling up his sleeves, “You’ll be going fishing.—with cement shoes!”

“It’s the big oak tree in the park,” Mercy said quickly and shrank in fear.

“All right boys, play the Imperial March, 'cause we are going to march that tree out of the city!” Thomas said and left the office.

His henchmen followed, except for Mercy, who remained with Chip. “Now see what you did!” Chip accused her. “They're going after my friends and it's all your fault!”

“My fault?” Mercy defended herself. “If you didn’t start about your stupid HQ they wouldn’t have threatened me!”

“You could have kept shut and didn’t tell them were it was!”

“I’d be dead!”

“If I ever get free, it won’t matter anymore if you told them or not, you’ll dearly regret this, Mercy!”

“You only care about yourself and your friends, huh? Do you have any idea of the hell I've been through?”

Chip was taken aback at Mercy’s outburst. “What do you mean? What's more important than losing your friends?”

“Losing someone you care about; hiring yourself out to anyone who pays you; working for this rodent mafia!”

“You lost someone you cared about?”

“Yes. I ran away from home a couple of years ago. I took my younger brother with me so I wouldn’t miss him.”

“So you kidnapped him?”

“My mother had already enough children, she could miss one. And she had plans to use him as a source of income just like me and my other siblings. I hoped I could offer him a better life, but looking back at it, I'd say he’s better of where he is now.”

“Is he...?”

“No, not dead. He now lives in the Saint Nicolas Orphanage, and the people there refuse to let me see him. The AP found us and decided he was too young to be carried around by another ‘orphan.’ I was able to escape the precinct, but when I tried to visit him my temper got me in trouble. I got into a fight with one of their ‘mothers’ when they started causing difficulties. I never saw Philip again, but if I ever do, I'd give him the world if I could; he’s so cute, and I really miss the only brother I ever actually loved.”

“Gosh, Mercy. I never knew you had such a difficult life. If I had known that I wouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”

“It’s okay, Chip," Mercy sighed. "But now we have work to do.”

“Huh? What do you mean? You’re not suggesting...”

“No—I like you, but not that much. We should go help your friends before something happens to them.”

“You...You’re willing to help me save them?”

“On one condition: I want you to do whatever you can to get me and my brother Philip together again.”

“How do I know you’re not going to back-stab me again?”

“Did you take a good look at my eyes?” she asked and pointed at one of them.

“Yeah, they’re black."

“I didn’t color them that way, that was Thomas. He is our mutual enemy. You've got to help me; you have no choice.”

“I will, but don’t think I won't drag you into court for all the other things you did to me and Steve. You still have that coming to you.”

“It’s not like I have much choice either, staying with these jerks is not going to make my life any better. Even worse, they’ll kill you and that’s far more severe.”

“First, I want some answers.”

“No time for talk, they must be close to the park by now.”

Dale was very exited to see what Ka-Blammo Man was up to this time. “I hope I don’t arrive just when the last comic is going out the door like last time. That means I’ll have to go all the way to that bookstore across town to get it,” he mused to himself.

Suddenly, his eye caught a small group that seemed to be plotting something nefarious behind some nearby bushes. “Okay Harold, you’se just light a fire under that tree. Boris will cover your back and our work here is done. We shall see from their leader where Gus is.”

“Yes, Comrade General,” the big rat acknowledged. Dale guessed he was either a Soviet spy or doing a bad impression of a Red Army Commander.

“Heheheh, let’s turn up the heat!” an evil looking doctor agreed. “Those Rangers will be going up in smoke!”

“What? They’re going to torch headquarters? Oh, NO!!!” Dale screamed, and too late realized that the group heard him.

“Is someone there?” Boris asked.

“No, nobody here but us trees,” Dale tried and considered running away, though he knew that he'd really blown his cover.

“Ah, good,” Alberto said with relief, and wiped the sweat off his forehead.

“Wait a minute, trees don’t talk!” Boris warned his companion and investigated.

“Aha, I got you!” he shouted, and tried to grab Dale, who escaped and ran off.

“Get him, Boris, or he’ll rat us out to the cops!”

“Just wait, you little brat! When I get you, I’ll give you a free trip to Siberia, by Fist Express!” Boris growled as he pursued Dale. Unfortunately for the little chipmunk, the rat was in much better shape, and a good tackle ended his flight.

“HELP!” Dale screamed in hopes that someone would hear, but the rat put a paw over his mouth.

“Let go of him!”

The two rodents looked toward were the voice came from. It was a mouse with a group of others who didn’t seem to be happy with the way Boris was treating Dale. “Mind your own business!” Boris snapped at them as his group arrived to help him.

“This is our business,” the mouse said. “He's a friend of ours. We owe him and his team for pointing out a traitor in our own community.”

Boris pushed Dale into Alberto's hands and walked forward to deal with these interfering pests. “You leave them alone,” one of the neighborhood nervously said, challenging the big rat.

“Yeah, find someone your own size,” said the one next to him. Boris took the heads of the two mice and knocked them against each other to shut them up.

“I-I don't think we can win this,” one of the more afraid members said.

“We have to, the Rangers are our friends and we owe them big time,” a braver member said, ready to take on the muscle rat if needed.

“You should listen to your companion,” Thomas warned him, pointing at the great oak tree of the Rescue Rangers. “After all, he’s the one who will have to scrape you off that tree if you’se don’t leave.”

“You there!” another voice called to the hit squad. The goons turned around to see a rat in a lab coat and a guinea pig in a red shirt and headband. “Weren't you the one skulking around my rodent microscope?” Sparky asked the mad doctor.

“Yeah, I used it to redecorate someone’s face, why?” Harold retorted.

“You stole my equipment and used it to harm someone? I hate it when people do that!”

“Can I play with him?” Alberto asked his boss.

“Go right ahead,” Thomas said, eagerly awaiting the results.

“Look out Sparky! He’s gonna hurt us!” Buzz said, afraid.

“Hurt us? Why?” the forgetful rat asked his friend.

Just then Alberto grabbed Sparky’s neck, quickly discovering one of Sparky’s less social side effects. The brute let go of him after introducing himself to Sparky’s power supply. “Haha, that was fun!” Buzz said, almost rolling across the grass.

Thomas was less amused and walked up to the test animal. He grabbed him by the shirt and said threateningly: “If you’se and your battery friend don’t get outa here you’ll meet my fist, see?”

Buzz simply pushed Thomas’ nose so he also lit up. “Wow, look at that!” one of the other mice said.

“With these shock troops on our side, these goons are easy prey!” another said happily.

Meanwhile, up in the Ranger tree, Monty had picked another culinary masterpiece to create when his eye caught a few of the events that were happening outside. “Gadget-love, Zipper! Would you look at that!” He told his teammates, motioning to them to take a look out the window.

“Golly, it looks like a gang war.”

“That's not all love, those strange blokes have captured Dale! And take a look at their opponents!”

“Golly again! Sparky and Buzz? What are they doing there? I though Sparky hated violence.”

“And then take a look at that other couple of blighters.”

“Triple golly! That’s Pop Top and a few of old Cola Cult mice!”

“And take a look at who’s coming from over there!”

“It’s Chip! But who's the girl who is with him? Golly to the fourth power, I half expect Steggy to come back and join in the fray.”

“Don’t get your hopes up on that one, love, but we should at least go down there and lend a hand in case this turns out uglier than it already is!”

Monty and Zipper left HQ. Gadget quickly grabbed her plunger harpoon and followed them.

“You’se guys got ten seconds to leave or Alberto here will twist an arm out of the red-nosed chipmunk’s chest,” Thomas warned the opponents which outnumbered and surrounded him.

“Not good, not good,” Dale fearfully whined as he struggled in the heavyweight mouse's grip.

“Hold it!” a familiar voice called out.

“You’se? I thought we had you tied up back at our office!” Thomas shouted.

“Well next time you will have to think twice before you let Mercy here guard me.” Chip triumphantly declared.

“I knew that weak-minded Mercy couldn’t even take on someone tied up!”

“Not so, Thomas—I freed Chip out of my own will,” she said as she joined Chip.

“Traitorous dog!” Boris fumed as he kept an eye on the Cola Cult mice. Thomas quickly ran to a bramble and broke off a thorn. He ran over to Alberto and put the makeshift weapon at Dale’s throat.

“One step in this direction and your exotic companion can be written into the history books!”

“Help!” Dale squealed and tried to get free.

“Rescue Rangers Away!” called the three remaining Rangers in unison. Thomas looked up to see a plunger coming his way. Gadget scored a full hit on his face. Alberto decided to back up Thomas’ threat and began squeezing the life out of Dale, only to be suddenly shocked and fall down unconscious.

“If you don’t want to touch them with a ten foot pole, electrocute them with a ten foot pole,” Buzz commented, dropping the iron pipe in his hand.

“Why would you want to electrocute someone, Buzz?” Sparky asked him.

Harold quickly grabbed the thorn Thomas had used as a weapon and made ready to stab Dale, but Mercy grabbed his other arm, twisted it behind his back and pushed up on it. She easily forced him down the floor, but for some odd reason, the mad rat seamed to enjoy it.

“You call that pain? You disgust me!” he said, grinning wickedly at Mercy.

“Try this on for size, then,” she retorted and delivered a full hit over his eye, sending the mentally unstable doctor to dreamland.

“Give it to me, you hulk!” one of the Cola Cult mice told Boris. “I was one of the elite dart thrower ninjas of the Cola Cult!”

“And I'm current champion in bear-wrestling for rodents,” the big rat challenged.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” the mouse said, less confident now, but Zipper helped him out of the fire, getting face to face with Boris and punching him right in the nose.

“Ouch! He hit me,” Boris screamed. “I suppose now I should bow before the great boxing fly or else I’ll be terminated!” the big rat said, humoring Zipper’s "feeble" attack. Suddenly he went pale and fell to the ground.

“Hasta La Vista, Baby,” Monty said, trying to sound like the robot killer who usually spoke these lines.

“Judgment Day,” Zipper smiled and gave Monty a thumbs-up.

“Don’t hurt me!” the gentleman chipmunk begged, and surrendered.

“You’re the one who wanted Steve behind bars so badly! What kinda game are you and your mates playing?” Monty demanded to know.

“We heard he's the son of Gus Nutcracker, the person we were send out to kill. The ‘Godfather’ said that anyone who helped him would have to suffer as well. Thomas came up with the idea of framing him. Not only does it ruin his reputation, but it also would demoralize his friends, including you. Most important, it would force Gus to come here when he heard of it, giving us another chance at eliminating him.”

“A second chance?” Chip asked, confused.

“Yes, we had a chance of killing him some time ago, but he escaped us and left here. After gathering some more info, Thomas decided to use Steve as bait. Boris got us a printing press and he, Alberto and Harold installed it. I can barely believe they could just sneak in and place it without anyone noticing it, but they actually pulled it off. After that, I was supposed to inform the Animal Police. I already told you about it in the courtroom. Yes, it was a set up, and Mercy and Alberto came with me to the court case to insure Steve would indeed be imprisoned.”

“But what about Mercy telling the judge that we switched places?” Chip asked the Englishman.

“That was my own doing,” Mercy answered his question. “I didn’t want you going behind bars, so I eavesdropped on you and Steve. Alberto and I quickly figured a plan so I could take a picture of you two switching places and show it to the judge. I did that for personal reasons, Chip, not because anyone told me too. I like you, Chip.”

Chip was amazed at Mercy actually telling the truth. Only a few hours ago he thought it impossible, but now it looked like she was indeed changing, and Chip hoped it was for the better.

“Anyway,” Peter continued, “Our plan to frame Steve was a success, but we shouldn’t have been so blind as to allow our own helpers to tear our group apart. Harold somehow got on the bad side of that charged up friend of your group and Mercy was starting to get unreliable. I now know why, but it’s not going to make a difference anymore. You beaten us already, and we're out of the game.”

“Let's get you and your companions to the AP precinct,” Chip said.

“There is one more thing you should know about, Rangers. Your friend Steve was not only framed, but the case was also a set up. The judge is an old companion of Thomas; part of the ‘family.’ But by now you have nothing to fear from that owl anymore; he went back to Chicago right after the case was finished. Because you won this battle, I thought it only fair to tell you.”

"Funny that now you wanna be fair," Dale groused.

“Okay, it’s time we got you and your companions to the too, Mercy,” Chip said with regret in his voice. However, Chip got no reply from Mercy. For a moment, he thought she had sneaked off to avoid imprisonment.

“Chip,” Gadget said, tapping him on the shoulder. “She’s no longer here.” Chip spun around to see she was indeed missing, but Thomas was gone as well. Only the plunger dart from Gadget’s harpoon and the unconscious bodies of the remaining henchmen were left.

“She’s gone!” he exclaimed.

“Who's gone?” Sparky asked, oblivious once again. Chip ignored him and looked around for clues.

“We've got to find her, and that other rat!” he said. Chip knew felt he guilty about putting Mercy to justice, but it was his job and it always had to be served. What would Sureluck Jones do in this case? He wondered. Mercy had been a blessing and a curse for him and he didn’t yet know which purpose she served better. Would it really be worth it to let her go freely?

Flora was still strapped to her bed in the laboratory of the mad doctor, but it seemed that Dr. Freakenstein wasn’t returning soon. Do I really have to die of starvation here? I don't want to have to wait for someone to find me, that might not even happen for the next couple of weeks! She wondered, and tried her best to get free, however the belt was too strong for her to snap it, and it was impossible to slide out from under it. Suddenly, she heard voices from the next room.

“Maybe ve will find some clues in zis place,” someone with a strange accent suggested.

“In here!” she shouted, trying to get the attention of whoever was in the next room. Any attention was better than being left alone to die. The two investigators entered the lab to see was in there. To her joy, she saw it was Gus with an old friend of his she vaguely remembered.

“Thank you two so much for showing up,” she said happily. “I was afraid I’d die in this place before anyone found out!”

“Don’t worry, Flora, you’re safe now,” Gus said, comforting and freeing her.

“Zis is certainly not a normal Pharmacy,” Ulbrecht noted. “Look at all ze dangerous chemicals and potions.”

“You’re right, the person who works here is more than just a mad doctor look-alike; he’s a danger to all those around him. Once I’ve recovered a little, I’ll tell you everything you want. But right now, I’m thirsty.”

“You’ll have to wait until we reach your house, I don’t trust the water supply here.” Gus warned her.

“That’s right, I have no desire to stay here any longer. All those brewing potions put me under pressure, IfyouknowwhatImean,” she said and took an uncomfortable stance.

“We’ll be going right away, Flora. Ulbrecht, you can handle investigating this place on your own, right?”

“Affirmative, I’ll call some help and we’ll get this equipment over to ze RBI HQ,” he said as he waited for a reply from his walkie-talkie.

“Good you called us,” the voice on the other side of the radio said. “We just got a report from someone who lost his microscope. Guess now you have something to do, Earl.”

Ulbrecht glanced at the table and smiled to himself. “For zee last time, it is Ulbrecht! And I zink I already found zhat microscope.”

Meanwhile, Chip had reached the outskirts of town. Along with himself, Dale, Zipper, Monty, Sparky, Buzz, Pop Top and the other former Cola Cult mice had asked around for anyone who had seen someone who fitting Mercy's or Thomas' description. With Pop Top and his helpers in the group tough, it didn’t take them long to find someone who'd seen where they went. Chip had warned him, along with Sparky and Buzz, that it could be dangerous, but they insisted on coming. He appreciated their help, but Sparky was just slowing them down considerably, giving Thomas a huge advantage.

“This is where we should find him,” one of the mice said.

“Find who?”

Chip ignored them. “Come on!” he called out and the group carefully entered the abandoned structure. Sparky looked puzzled for a moment, but Buzz dragged him along before he could ask why they should enter or rant away about how unstable the building looked. When they reached what looked like the hall Chip recognized what sort of building this was supposed to be.

“Great, he chose a hotel as hideout. We should split up to search for this mobster. If someone finds him or Mercy, scream and wait for us. Rescue Rangers Away!”

Yeah, go right ahead, Monty thought and folded his arms. The chances I'll arrive at the action first are down to one in twelve. Ah well, better start searching right away before someone beats me to it.

The Rangers and their allies searched both human and animal hotels from top to bottom. Just when Monty was about to give up and return to the hall, he heard voices coming from one room. From what Monty could hear, one was delirious, the other angry. He put his eye at keyhole level to see what was going on. What he saw inside the room shocked him. Enraged, he slammed the door open. Thomas, about to hit Mercy again, stopped in mid-punch.

“That ain’t no way to treat a lady, you mean dirty, lying murderer!”

“What do you’se mean fatso? She’s alive, but not for long, you’se pest!”

Monty had seen a lot of people die in his life, but he wasn’t going to let someone die at the hands of someone else, at least not on his watch. He quickly dived for the mobster rat, grabbed him and pinned him against the wall. Mercy was starting to regain her senses and saw the battle that escalated between the two.

“If it turns out the lass isn’t going to make it through this, I’ll swear you’re going down for life!” Monty threatened and threw him out of the doorway, right through the railing. Thomas plummeted toward the marble floor of the hallway, landed face down on the floor and lay motionless. Mercy seeing it happen, kicked into action and ran after Thomas, jumping down where the rat recently broke what was left of the railing. She landed with her foot right on the back of the dirty rat, causing him to scream out in pain.

“That’s what you get for abusing me!” she hissed menacingly.

Monty, shocked at Mercy’s sudden outburst of activity, quickly walked out of the room to see what happened. It seemed that in only a matter of moments Mercy and Thomas had switched places, and now it was Thomas’ turn to feel pain. “What going on here?” Chip demanded to know.

“Chipper me lad, this ain’t pretty,” Monty warned him. Chip looked anyway and saw Thomas desperately gasping for breath and a very angry Mercy.

“Monty!” Chip shouted disapprovingly.

“This wasn’t my work mate, I only threw him from up there,” Monty pointed to where Thomas had crashed trough the railing. “It was the lass here who caused him the pain.”

Chip looked like he had seen a ghost. “A-are you cuh-razy!?” he shouted.

“I have to refrain from kicking him in the head or spitting in his face,” Mercy told him. "It wouldn't be ladylike."

Chip walked up to her and pushed her away from Thomas. “Mercy, can I have a word with you? Monty, get an ambulance over here and see what you can do to keep this...thing...alive.”

Chip guided Mercy into an empty room, while Zipper arrived at the hall and sat down at Monty’s shoulder, looking at the scene in horror. He buzzed something to Monty.

“No lad, he didn’t have cheese-breath. It was the sheila he kidnapped. She planted her heel in 'is back, from up there.” Again Monty pointed upwards. “She sure knew how to use physics against someone. Quite a bit of damage done for someone who's unarmed. She didn’t even wear shoes.”

“What's you’se discussin'?” Thomas asked between gasps. “You'se heard that chipmunk, get me a medic over here, fat boy!”

“Just 'cause you're out for the count and in a bad way doesn’t change my opinion of you!” Monty spat at him angrily. “I’ve seen enough of the likes of you to know that girl had good reason for that!”

“I think I’ll go get a doctor,” Zipper buzzed in his best English and took off.

Chip closed the door of the abandoned office while Mercy sat down. “Now, what is it you want to talk about?” Mercy asked sweetly.

“Don’t play dumb, Mercy, you know it’s about what you did to Thomas,” Chip said, feeling a little down.

“Wonderful right?”

“Mercy! That’s not something to be proud of!”

“Well, he deserved it.”

“No one deserves something like that! He could be paralyzed, for all we know!”

“You won’t hear me complaining,” Mercy retorted, staying calm.

“It’s forbidden to cause that much pain to someone! Suppose what he could demand of you with a lawyer to back him up! He's in the right now, even though I really hate to admit it.”

“We’ll see about that after the judge hears what he did to me!” Mercy shouted, having another mood swing.

“Then what is it he did to you?” Chip asked, trying to sound understanding.

“I don’t know how to tell while keeping it a normal heart-to-heart talk. I don't think I can. But if you ask me, we’re even now.”

“Still, you’re definitely going to hear about this in court. I was unsure if I should defend you or accuse you when the time came, but with this you sealed away any chance of getting away with it. You're definitely going in jail for this.”

Mercy’s confidence was gone and she looked more worried than ever. Tears where forming in her eyes and she buried her head in her arms and began crying. “I didn’t deserve this,” she cried. “Why do bad things always happen to me? It's like others are always immune to misery while I receive more pain and trouble than anyone else. And just when I think I got even with someone it turns out he or she gets the upper hand because of my actions!”

She continued crying as Chip tried to comfort her. But to Mercy, it looked like the end of the world. She'd gambled with her happiness and lost it. Chip didn’t know what to do. Sure, Mercy had caused him a lot of trouble and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to solve this dilemma with her. The two lost track of time as a gulf of misery filled the room.

When the ambulance and police finally reached the abandoned hotel, the medical crew immediately did a few field tests to see if Thomas would survive the injuries he received. The medics were surprised though, at the serious damage to his back, which Monty had to explain to them. “So then I decided to crash the party,” Monty informed Chief Judgeson. “If I hadn't, a murder might have been committed right there and then.”

“Yeah, and he doesn’t mean ‘murder’ written on the bathroom door,” Dale chimed in.

“I beg your pardon?” Judgeson asked.

“Forget it,” Dale dismissed.

Just then, Chip and Mercy reentered the hall, Mercy still in tears and Chip still wondering how he was going to solve this problem. “Do either of you two know what happened here?” the AP Chief asked them.

“T-that was m-me, sorry.” Mercy managed between sobs.

“I’se don’t forgive easily!” Thomas threatened.

“You stay out of this!” Monty told him.

The chief smiled. “All's forgiven.”

“Really!?” Mercy said, exited but confused.

“No of course not!” the chief screamed angrily.

“Why do you always scold the ones who least deserve it?” Chip asked angrily. “In case you already forgot, the real criminal is in the ambulance!”

“We'll see how innocent she is after we get some more background on her. Then we’ll see who's the one who deserves scolding,” Judgeson retorted and motioned to two of his police animals. “Take her away, then let’s get out of here.”

“Hey wait, you didn’t even hear me tale to the end yet!” Monty lamented.

“Monty, this is not the time,” Chip reminded the musclemouse.

Warden Rensen was going through some files he borrowed from the archive. “Let’s see, we've got several complaints on Thomas 'Venice' his gang. There's Flora Firalda, who accuses Harold 'Hyde' of insanity, possession of forbidden chemicals, selling drugs without the proper paperwork, the list goes on. Same gang member is accused by Sparky and Buzz for stealing an expensive microscope from their lab. Several charges against Boris 'Bowler' for use of violence. Also a few accusations from out-of-state about inciting riots and street fighting. He's also wanted by the Russian AP for several reasons. Peter 'Poker' Grabhand is wanted for sabotaging several court cases. The list goes on and on and on,” Rensen said, dropping all the files on the table where Mercy and he were currently in discussion. “If I get you right, you want to accuse Thomas himself for use of violence and...'unwanted intimacy?'”

“I hope you understand what I mean by 'unwanted intimacy,'” Mercy asked.

“I know that all too well; I’ve been handling such crimes for several years now, and I still think it’s disgusting.”

“Yes, that’s all I wanted,” Mercy confirmed.

“Well, before you get up and leave, I’d like to discuss your activities,” Rensen told her in a less happy mood. “I've got a few reports that say people lose things because of you. Things like money, girlfriends, valued items. From what I heard last time I talked to him, Chip also had some complaints on your behavior, but he dropped the charges. More serious than that is you causing some serious injuries to your former boss, Thomas. I agree that he is a jerk and a violent felon, but I don’t think violence will solve your problems.”

“I’ve learned to always solve my problems on my own,” Mercy confessed. “In my whole life, I never actually met someone who wanted to help me solve my problems. I was always alone on things like that abuse from Thomas. I've learned since that what I did was wrong, and I’m willing to change my life...but I've got a feeling it’s too late now. I’m going down in jail, that’s for sure. I can only hope it will be a short sentence and they'll let me go early for good behavior.”

“Don’t worry little girl, a lawyer is already being arranged. Monty offered to find us one, but for some reason Chip politely but firmly refused the offer. From what I hear, the one who did get picked to defend you is very good at what he does. The judge who replaced our last one seems to be a nice person with a good feeling for justice and lots of experience. Chip seems to pity you, so technically, the odds are in your favor. You probably will draw sentences for all of this, but it could have been a lot worse.”

“Thanks Warden, I just hope you’re right about this court case,” Mercy said, relieved.

“Speaking of court and cases, Steve 'Steelnerve' Nutcracker’s case has been dropped because of proof that he was framed, plus that the judge was one of Thomas’ cohorts. I’ll have to speak with him when they let him out of that jail.”

“Good luck with it, and thanks,” Mercy said.

“How do you feel now?” Flora asked her love as they left the jail.

“Still feel like I didn’t get enough time to stretch my legs there, I’m starting to get rusty,” Steve said, glad to be out of the jail house and back in his regular clothes.

“Maybe I could help loosen you up a little,” she offered with a sweet voice.

“First I need to handle some things, though. I guess I shouldn’t try to get that chopper back from the AP, but I do need to get my friends back. I lost them after they captured me and I wonder were they are.”

“They'll turn up soon enough,” Flora comforted him. “Concern yourself with me first.” She giggled and gently placed a kiss on his mouth.

“I guess so. Shall we go over to your place and catch up with everything?”

“Sounds great, let’s go!”

When the duo reached the flat Flora’s rented, they saw Warden Rensen waiting for Flora to open up. “Flora Firalda isn’t at home at the moment,” Steve told him.

Rensen turned around to see them standing behind him. “That explains it,” he replied.

“Please, come on in,” Flora offered.

The three went inside, Steve and Rensen sat on the couch while Flora entered the kitchen to grab some snacks. “What do you two want to drink?” she asked, already reaching for two glasses.

“Me, some cola,” Steve replied.

“Just some apple-juice,” the Warden answered.

Flora returned a little later with the drinks. “How's it to be free again?” Rensen asked.

“Still got a lot of things to handle like getting my helicopter back, as a member of the AP, could you help me with that?”

“I can handle that, anything else you need help with?”

“I still haven’t heard a word from Timbert, Hiss, Mousestein, or Henk. I’m concerned that something happened to them.”

“I don’t think that’s such a mystery. I think they fled the city to get away from the AP. They might even be in another country!”

“In that case, it might take a while to hear from them again. I just hope they won’t forget me,” Steve said, worried. “They're my best friends and I can’t run my nightclub without them; they're an important part of it.”

“You can stay here for as long as you want,” Flora offered. “I earn enough money to house both you and myself. And I'd love your company.”

“Thank you Flora, I just hope you won’t grow tired of me too soon, though.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of you, Steve,” she said, and put an arm around him.

“I think I’ll go now, I don’t want to get in the way of you two lovebirds, and I've still got work at the precinct,” Rensen told them and left.

“Mercy 'Mischief' Stoneturner, you are sentenced to three years in prison and hard labor.”

Mercy sighed at the decision of the Judge. She felt that for someone who had so much misfortune, she was quite lucky this was everything. The case was now over. Thomas didn’t have a say in what would happen to Mercy, even if he had accused her of the violent act from only a few days ago. Because eventually he would recover and didn’t have any permanent handicaps, it all turned out much better than she had dared to hope. The charges of those who had been her victims made up for that though, and she doubted her reputation would recover from charges like seduction, pick pocketing, and deception. Chip had defended her though, and she got the feeling he really had forgiven her. Her only worry now was whether he had remembered his promise to find her long lost brother Philip. The other Rangers seemed like they sympathized with her, as did Rensen and Gus, whom she'd already met in the ‘Burly Rat,’ where he put a gun at her head. The only ones who didn’t feel sorry for her were Thomas and Jake Judgeson, both jerks anyway. A police mouse led her out of the courtroom and Mercy wondered how she would look in a prison uniform...

Steve sat down at the table in the "Golden Spire" hotel. His parents were living in a room there for the duration of their stay in New York. “We wanted to discuss something you never told us about,” his father Gus said with a serious tone in his voice. It was clear that whatever his parents wanted to talk about, it was not going to be a happy topic.

“What is it? Is one of you seriously ill?”

“As I said, it is about you, not us,” his father reminded him.

“It’s about something Chip told us a little while ago,” Ans began. “When he contacted us to inform us that you were being framed, he accidentally made a slip of the tongue. We were quite shocked to hear what it was. But before we continue, I want you to promise you won’t get angry with Chip, any trouble this discussion might cause is our fault because we pressed the issue. Chip didn’t do anything wrong, okay?”

“Agreed,” Steve said, hoping that if he cooperated, his parents would let him go sooner.

“Well, how to start this? We heard from Chip that you were once involved in criminal activities. Is this true?”

Steve looked shocked for a moment, then a little nervous, made his answer. “Yes, he was right. I robbed a bank some time ago when things were going against me.”

“How could you?” Ans shouted angrily.

“Dear, keep it down,” Gus calmed her. “It happened some time ago; it's behind Steve and the Rangers.”

“That’s not it, I just feel...cheated, somehow! I always taught Steve to stay on the right path, and after all that, he just ignores my advice! I never wanted my child to be a criminal; I always saw that as my top priority as a mother, to keep my son—my only son!—from doing things as low as stealing, fighting, and lying. And I failed in doing that; that makes me feel like I'm not a good Mom.”

“Aww, please, mother! That’s such an old one...”

“She's right though, Steve, things like this can seriously make a mother worry and wonder if she was competent enough at raising a child. Apparently, it wasn’t really clear to you that she'd be devastated should you ever do something criminal. It doesn’t matter what you did, that it happened is already bad enough. You broke her trust, Steve. That’s not something you can glue back together and everything goes back to normal. Wasn’t that nightclub enough for you that you turned to crime? I always told you that money may buy a Rolex, but things like love or happiness are more important, and you broke the love and spoiled the happiness of your own mother!”

“It was difficult times for my nightclub Dad! We were victim of crime as well and we had a bank account in the red. In today’s society, money might not buy you true love or happiness, but it's still essential.”

“You could have asked us for some support. Your inheritance would've been sufficient enough to buy a really expensive limousine,” Gus reminded him.

“But it just sounds so very idiotic, going to your dad for money just because you can’t get your own affairs in line with the few cents you earn. And I don’t think you and Mom could financially support something as big as a nightclub.”

“You should have looked for an alternative...everything—anything—is better than you turning to a life of crime,” Ans reminded him.

This is going nowhere, Steve thought, and said, “You don’t know how it was back then, I was starting to worry if I could even buy my next meal, and I was eating cheap! You two don’t understand enough about finances to know how worried I was about myself and everything else I cared about.”

“Maybe we don’t know much of economy but at least we know manners!” Ans told him and put her hands on her hips. “I have absolutely no respect for criminals. That you're my son doesn’t help anything, it only makes it worse. I never expected that from my own blood! If you think you can just turn your back to something like crime and dismiss it as ‘a bad time’ then you really disappoint me Steve Nutcracker! I won't forgive you until you show us you dearly regret what you did! Until then not even begging will get you my help.”

“Fine, who needs nitpicking parents when I have forgiving friends like the Rescue Rangers, or someone who loves me as much as Flora does? If it makes you feel any better, you won’t see me back until we meet in heaven!” Steve roared and left his parents' room.

“With an attitude like that, you won’t even get there!” Ans shouted after him, then put her head in her hands as tears began welling up. Gus put an arm around her, trying to provide some comfort to her.

“Come on dear, it wasn’t your fault.”

“That’s the problem,” Ans told him and buried her face in his arms and continued crying. Gus decided to shut up before he made things worse.


It was visiting hours and Mercy hoped that she would see a certain charming chipmunk come to visit her. She indeed got a visit, and it was a chipmunk, but not a male. Mercy immediately recognized her; she hadn’t changed attire since she'd left her. Her clothes were still dirty, smelly, old, ragged and weather-beaten. The only changes Mercy could detect were that there were more stains and holes in her clothes. “It’s nice to see you this way Mercy,” she said before Mercy could recover from the shock.

“If you think I've changed my mind, you're dearly mistaken!” Mercy retorted, guessing that was the reason she visited.

“If I'd gotten newspapers fresh from the press, I can assure you I'd have been in that courtroom to accuse you of thievery and kidnapping,” her mother told her. “You should never have taken Philip with you, you didn’t even know if he wanted that! You should have waited until he was capable of making decisions of his own.”

“By then it would've been too late anyway. But did any of you suffer because I took all that food? Even better, how did you survive without your make-up and chocolate?”

“Well, some of us became ill because of your actions, but if you live most of your life in a garbage dump, you build up a resistance against things like that.”

“I take it your life didn’t change much. Still chasing rich men and teaching your kids that they should pay you back for taking care of them?”

“For us it didn’t change at all, Mercy. I can’t say the same of you. It looks like you slowly but surely became scum of the lowest order. The ideal punishment for the likes of you, now you know what happens to those who get on the wrong side of the law.”

“'Scum of the lowest order?' I don't see much difference between us. At least I got a change of clothes, mother. You still have the same rags you had on years ago.”

“Yeah, right. Horizontally striped black and white skirt, shirt, and I’m jealous,” Anne-Mary said sarcastically. “I think I’ll have to go now since your presence is starting to nauseate me.” And she got up and walked off.

“Same here, you money-grabbing—,” Mercy shouted after her but the guard grabbed her shirt and put her rubber baton under Mercy's nose.

“You're supposed to be grateful she took the trouble of visiting you, slime. I’m surprised that anyone would want to have anything to do with the likes of you. Next time you watch your language, understood?” she told Mercy with a look on her face that clearly showed she wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer.

“Y-yes” Mercy replied, a little afraid.

“Good,” the guard said, and pushed her away. Mercy crashed into the wall of her cell and slumped to the ground on her knees. She rubbed the back of her head, feeling a little dizzy and confused, but mostly angry. She lay down on her bed and her thoughts drifted off. She hadn’t really enjoyed the way Patricia had treated her a few moments ago (or the rest of the time for that matter.) Most of the other prisoners seemed to avoid her wrath and had warned her to obey if she asked you to do something. At first, she'd tried to stand up for her rights as a prisoner, but soon it became clear to her that Patricia was a no-nonsense person who wasn’t afraid of using drastic measures to put prisoners in line. Mercy continued thinking of her future and about Chip and quickly fell asleep, not knowing that sooner or later she'd be rudely interrupted by Patricia for sleeping at a time she was supposed to work.

Ans was visiting an old friend of hers in New York, a mouse who owned of a driving snack bar named Rob. Ans never exactly knew where he came from, but certainly not from the USA. He had a funny accent and had trouble with speaking proper English, as some phrases and sayings seemed to confuse him. He also took great pride in his fatherland, although he never said which country that was. “Why you so unhappy Ans, problems at home you have?” Rob asked her while he prepared her hot dog. “O yeah, silly of me that is, you no longer life in city of world.”

“Well it's problem,” Ans confessed. “My son turns out to be a criminal and now it seems he hates us. But on the other hand, I can’t see how he can live with the shame of a bank robbery.”

“My father always said to me that even if everything is against you and you are loved by nobody and you think you are a completely alone person on big, uncaring world, you should think that on the other hand it...Well, then he say something that really was uplifting to spirit.”

Ans smiled a little. Rob and his family always seemed cheery and happy. Wherever he came from, the people were probably never unhappy or upset. “Thanks, but this is a problem I need to solve, it can’t just rest until it’s forgotten.”

“Problem must be buried yes. Just like landmine, should be buried. First you carefully dig hole, carefully put landmine inside, carefully fill hole and stomp on ground then you should.”

As confusing as Rob sounded, Ans believed she got the gist of it. Bury a problem like that too long, and no matter how careful you are, eventually it'll blow up in your face. “You’re right, but I’m not sure how to tell Steve that I’m sorry, he seemed quite upset.”

“You’ll find way to say sorry to son,” he said and prepared another hot dog. “Here, you have this one for free.”

Steve just couldn’t get to sleep that night. He kept thinking about what could've happened to his gang. Without them, he couldn’t continue. And that his parents were angry with him didn’t make things any better. “Are you still awake?” Flora asked him. “You’ll keep me up, too, if you keep tossing and turning. I don’t want to complain, but we both need to get some sleep.”

“I don’t think I’ll get much sleep with my mother angry with me. Just a week ago both of us were happy, and now we’re fighting again. When is this going to stop?”

“It will stop when you two finally stop arguing and be friends again. But don’t expect her to take the first step; you have to take the initiative.”

“Well it’s not something you just do. It’s not every day your mother finds out you robbed a bank.”

“You’ll both work it out sometime, just get some rest and tomorrow when you're full of energy again you’ll find a solution for your problem.”

“We’ll see, but I’m too worked up to go to sleep right now. I’m still too worried.”

“Go to sleep or I’ll help you. I know more than enough ways to put you to sleep,” Flora said and gave him a mischievous grin.

“Well, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to try it out...”

“Good, now shut up and let me sleep as well, I’m quite tired after all that's happened in the past few days.” she said sweetly. Steve smiled back and did as she said. Soon enough, both of them were silently sleeping in bed, just like the rest of the entire city.

Somewhere in a mansion in Chicago, far away from New York, an old mouse was going through the reports he received from all over the world. “It seems everything is quiet, no sign of any trouble at all,” the mouse said in a weak voice.

“Si, except for the city of New York. When I checked the newspaper, I read that the reinforcements we sent were too incompetent to take over the place. We should make spaghetti out of those fools for failing,” a rat in a black Armani suit and a white-banded black hat informed his boss.

“You are right Luigi, the time has come when we take matters in our own hands and take out the cause of our failed attempts by the roots.”

“Do you think it’s that interloper Gus Nutcracker again?” his lieutenant asked.

“I wouldn’t put it past him, but he is one chipmunk against a group of five of my men. Not counting Rat Capone and whoever else joined the family by supporting those two. Even with the AP and the RBI on his side, there is no way they could have stopped them all. There has to be some group of elites helping them out, someone more skilled, more competent than Gus and his annoying family. Get my private army ready to leave for New York. I want to find out what caused all of this to happen, and get whoever did this out of the way.”

“Of course, Mister Salamina,” the rat agreed, and left.

The End

This was my third fanfic, but not the last. Number four is in the making and will be completed sooner or later. Feedback is welcome and if someone has suggestions, I’ll read them. I hope you think this story was worth your time.

The Rescue Rangers, Chip, Dale, Gadget, Monty, Zipper, Sparky, Buzz, the Cola Cult and any character I missed are owned by Disney. I had no permission to use them but since I’m not making profit out of this business and purely do this for fun (and the hope I’ll be a great author someday) there should be no reason to sue me. Steve, Flora, Timbert, Hiss, Mousestein, Henk, Thomas, Mercy, Harold, Boris, Alberto, Peter, Patricia, Billy, Salamina, Luigi, Gus, Ans, Anne-Mary, Judgeson and other characters I missed are my own creations. Ghost Riders in the Sky is ©1949 to Stan Jones, who wrote it. It is used here without permission, but without profit, and with respect. Any references (either situation, place or person) is copyrighted by who-or-whatever copyrighted them.

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