Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh
Chapter Three: The Quest Begins
After a hearty breakfast, Dennis was prepared to continue his travels and experience what the wild fates had in store for him. "I'd be offerin' to go with ya', lad," Monty stated as he led the younger adventurer from Ranger Headquarters, "But I've got my own responsibilities here."
"Yeah, we don't have to look for adventure here," Dale joined in, "Adventure usually finds us!"
One ‘farewell' out of the way, two to go. Everyone met up on the landing strip where Gadget and Dee were finishing up preparations for their own odyssey. "Are you sure this won't be too much of an inconvenience?" Gadget asked as she finished loading the Ranger Wing, "I mean even though we're only going to be gone for a few days we all know what kind of things can happen, and with us taking the Ranger Wing..."
"It's just as likely nothing will happen," Chip began to explain, "And besides, with your guidance Raven is becoming an excellent auxiliary Ranger, she should be more than capable of taking on emergency situations." Noticing the rather harsh look he was receiving from his fiancé, he quickly amended, "Or not."
"Dee, luv," Monty stepped in, "We know you're just lookin' out for your girl, but she's proven herself on more than one occasion and she's gettin' better at not charging in without thinking."
"I know," Dee grumbled, "Still doesn't mean I have to like it."
"Spoken like a true mother!" Monty replied as he hoisted Dee up into the Ranger Wing, much to her surprise. As she stood in the aircraft she spun about to scold the Aussie. "Sorry, luv," he offered sheepishly, "I forgot which sister I was dealin' with."
"We won't be gone any longer than absolutely necessary," Gadget assured her friends as she took her place in the pilot's seat.
With a final exchange of farewells the sisters departed. For the duration of the journey there was very little small talk between the daughters of Amanda, due in no small part to Dee's lack of enthusiasm for the endeavor. She was more than approving of Gadget's desire to learn more about the mother she never knew, it was the let down she was sure would result from the quest that she wanted no parts of. Dee was always a little bothered by how naive her sister seemed to be at times, how it sometimes appeared that she genuinely believed that ‘happily ever after' was a guarantee... eventually. She wasn't looking forward to comforting Gadget when it became obvious to her that there was no long-lost parent waiting to embrace the little girl she hadn't seen in nearly twenty-eight years.
It was well into a brilliant Spring morning when Gadget and Dee located the distinctive bend in the road as detailed by Dennis and from there were able to spot the abandoned mining town. Setting down well out of sight of any likely human traffic from the road, vehicular or pedestrian, the sisters disembarked and headed off to find the Kummon Inn. A quick inquiry to a local led them true. Both mice made a quick visual sweep of the interior upon descending the stairs within. There were few souls to be found and none even remotely familiar.
"I suppose we should take a seat," Gadget suggested as she approached a nearby table. Dee promptly took the seat opposite her sister.
A cheerful young chipmunk soon arrived at their table. "Is there anything I can get you two?" she inquired brightly.
"How about someone," Dee replied.
"We're hoping to meet a mouse by the name of Samantha Grant, we were told she works here," Gadget clarified, "Do you know her?"
"I know her, but she's not here at the moment," the girl answered, "She and Mr Greystone, the owner here, went to assist the Sisters at the convent just outside of town."
"Do you know when they'll be back?" asked Gadget hopefully.
The chipmunk thought for a few seconds. "Well," she began slowly, collecting her thoughts, "They left pretty early, so I guess they should be back by noon." The way she broke eye contact immediately after her answer hinted at matters left unspoken.
Dee spotted the girl's apparent uncertainty and inquired, "But?"
Sighing deeply, the chipmunk confessed anxiously, "We're really not supposed to bring this up to visitors, but... people have been going missing lately. People leave the immediate area and sometimes don't come back."
"You mean people who live here?" Dee inquired further.
Biting her lower lip, the young chipmunk nodded. "People are being told to travel in pairs, that's why Mr Greystone left with Samantha," she eventually explained.
"Golly, maybe we should have brought the others," Gadget wondered aloud.
"We may as well wait until we get a chance to meet Samantha," Dee reasoned, "if for no other reason than to see if they return."
"Why do you want to meet with Samantha anyway?" the chipmunk asked.
Dee looked to Gadget who fielded the question. "My parents separated not long after I was born and I was raised by my father," she proceeded to explain, "We lost our mother before I discovered the rest of my family so I don't even know what she looked like."
As the subject was centered on Samantha and given what little she knew of her, the young chipmunk just assumed Gadget's choice of words implied ‘missing' rather than ‘dead'. This meant that what next came from her mouth seemed perfectly logical to her. "Maybe Samantha's your mother," she suggested.
Dee couldn't help but wince. She didn't want Gadget's hopes inflated any more than they likely already were. Fortunately for her nerves, Gadget's response leaned towards the cynical. "I think that would be statistically improbable."
"Why would you even say that?" Dee inquired of the girl.
The chipmunk femme responded as casually as pointing out the sun was shining, "Well, ever since she showed up here a couple years ago we've been hoping her family would come walking through the door and tell her how much they missed her."
Neither sister was quite prepared for that type of answer. They looked at each other, utterly at a loss for what the girl was talking about. Gadget finally broke the silence, "Ever since she showed up here?"
"She staggered into town looking like something the cat coughed up after a heavy rain," the girl informed the guests, "A couple of Sisters from the convent had gotten stuck here by the rains and when they left to head back they encountered Samantha. They brought her back in to care for her. From what I was told it was a couple days before she could answer any questions, and by then all anyone found out was that she had amnesia." The girl stopped for a moment before remembering a forgotten detail, "Actually, I think she did answer a question after they first brought her in, she said something like, ‘My name's Samantha'. But that could have been later, I do know she said something like that at some point."
"Didn't anybody check with the nearby towns to see if anybody knew her?" Dee asked.
"Yeah," the girl responded, "But no one recognized her or had known of anyone that had gone missing the day or two before." Remembering that her responsibility was taking guests orders, not being the local story teller, she got back to work, "Can I get you anything while you wait?"
"Just some water, please," Gadget answered, still thinking over the information just provided.
"Water," Dee nodded in agreement.
"Looks like there are two mysteries that need looked into," Gadget stated to her sister, "Even if Samantha isn't our mother it's likely she does have family somewhere."
Shortly after the young chipmunk brought the double order of water, she spotted her employer and coworker entering the hall. Quickly making her way over to them, she conveyed the knowledge that some new arrivals wished to meet with her.
Upon hearing that they implied that she looked like their mother, Samantha had a sudden rush of emotions. Five years had passed since her arrival and during those five years she had hoped something, anything would happen to help reunite her with her past. Early on she had waited tables at the Inn hoping to come across someone passing through that might recognize her, but her apparent technical skill soon brought her into the kitchen to help keep things working properly. She could have kicked herself for not asking that Dennis character where he'd come from. Even being told that the mouse she reminded him of had died wasn't a deterrent to her hopes, it was still a better lead than she'd had the previous five years. She would not pass up this chance. Not given the fact that they had come looking for her specifically. Maybe they know Dennis, she thought, and he remembered having met me. Having a missed opportunity resurface like that seemed statistically improbable. Giving Mr Greystone, or Terry as she knew him, a peck on the cheek, she departed to meet with the two strangers.
Though he had been hoping as much, or possibly more, than the others in the community that Samantha would rediscover her past, he was a little leery of these new arrivals. The fact that friends and neighbors were disappearing right and left had something to do with that, but he had developed a particular attachment to the local ‘mystery mouse' and the last thing he wanted was to see her get hurt, physically or emotionally. Staying back a ways, he followed Samantha to the table where Gadget and Dee were seated and set down nearby.
"Hello," Samantha addressed the two visitors as she reached their table, "I heard you two were looking for me. My name's Samantha."
Not having seen her approach, the first sign Dee had of Samantha's presence was her greeting. The tone of her voice caused an almost instinctive reaction. Dee immediately jerked about to face the owner of the voice. Looking up she met the smiling gaze of the greying matron. Every feature was perfect, just as they appeared in all the dreams she'd had for the past five years, just as she'd remembered them from the years before. The power of speech having deserted her, Dee's mouth merely hung open.
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