Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh
Chapter Five: The Liar Standing Before Her
As midday crawled on into the afternoon the hastily assembled search parties began to retire. The teams returned home earlier after each attempt, the effort required looking more wasteful with each failure. Attempts on Gadget and Dee's part to organize the search into a more efficient and potentially fruitful venture came to naught as the increasing sense of despair had already made up people's minds. Aside from having been informed that there was never any evidence of natural predation, the sisters were as clueless as when they joined the hunt. Seeing the Dirksons return towards town in tears, Gadget and Dee threw in the towel, at least for the time being. They were nearly back to the inn, discussing what methods the Rangers could incorporate once the rest were brought in, when they were addressed directly by a squirrel quickly approaching them.
"Excuse me, ladies," the tall rodent called to them, "A moment of your time, please." Once all three were stopped and close enough to speak comfortably, he continued, "You are Gadget and Doohickey, correct?" The mice in question assented. "I'm Derrick Fellow, what you could consider the mayor of this community..."
Before he could continue further, Gadget burst in, "Really? Then I'd like to formally offer the assistance of the Rescue Rangers in resolving the crisis that is plaguing the populace. We can get the rest of the team in here in just a few days."
"I'd rather you didn't," Derrick bluntly replied. Seeing the astonished expressions his response evoked, he clarified his position, "It's not that we wouldn't want your help, but it's been brought to my attention that people are uncomfortable with strangers going around asking questions, especially at a time like this. Some, out of frustration, may be all too eager to start assigning guilt, and I've already heard about the two of you being spoken of in less than pleasant terms. Frankly, there's no way I can guarantee your safety. The best thing for both of you would be to leave and not return for some time."
The suggestion was at the same time both confusing and insulting. "But, we only want to help," Gadget countered.
"And I thank you both for the offer," Derrick replied anxiously, "But not everyone may be willing to believe that. Please, things are bad enough, I don't want to see innocent people get hurt."
"Maybe we should leave," Gadget suggested to her sister, not wanting to be the cause of any trouble. "We'd just like to say goodbye to someone at the inn before we go," she explained. It was the last thing she wanted to do, having come this close to possibly finding her mother. But personal matters had to take a back seat to her responsibilities, and for Gadget, being the unintentional cause of public disorder would be quite irresponsible for a Rescue Ranger.
"Actually, I think you should leave now," Derrick pressed. The source that had alerted him to the potential for trouble had made it clear that such trouble was brewing at the inn. Given the circumstances, the best course of action was to keep Gadget and Dee as far from there as possible.
His suggestion did not go over well with Dee. "It took us two days to get here just to meet one person and then barely have a minute to speak with her," she argued loudly, "and considering the remote possibility that she could be our mother... To tell us to leave without giving us a chance to tell her how she can get in touch with us or at least say goodbye is nothing short of idiocy!"
"I don't want trouble," Derrick sternly replied, hoping the increasing number of people drawn to the argument would discourage it's occurrence.
There was no way Dee could legitimize leaving. Neither she or her sister had done anything wrong, they had not been given any tangible reason to believe they were actually in any danger and, though she would have been embarrassed to admit it just two hours before, she was beginning to suspect her mother was indeed waiting for her back at the inn. To top it off, someone of questionable courage had not only blocked her path but had challenged her. Standing practically chest to chest with Derrick, even though it meant nearly having to look up his nose given their respective heights, Dee countered, "Maybe I want trouble."
Gadget quickly intervened to head off that trouble. "Dee!" she whispered harshly, pulling her sister aside, "This isn't the time or the place!" Remembering how Dee had undermined a previous attempt on her part to avert a fight the previous year, Gadget kept a firm grip on her sister's arm to discourage her from taking a swing at Derrick.
Dee glared at Gadget for a few minutes, sizing up both the situation and her sister's resolve. Gadget's expression conveyed a measure of conviction she hadn't anticipated. Dee realized Gadget was right, it was neither the time or the place, least of all for a fight with her own sister. "Fine," she growled, making sure her concession was quiet enough for only her sister to hear. Gadget released her sister and allowed her to move off towards the Ranger Wing, though she made a point to immediately position herself between Derrick and Dee in the event the concession was less than sincere.
As they proceeded past the informal boundaries of the community, Dee looked back over her shoulder. "I can't believe you," she grumbled.
"What's that supposed to mean?!" Gadget asked indignantly.
"We get this close to finding our mother," Dee began, finally acknowledging her own conversion in the matter, "Offer to help people in need, and you let us be run off like a couple of children!"
"We're going to return," Gadget confirmed, trying to sooth her sister's bruised ego, "They may not want our help but they're going to get it. We just have to get the others here."
"And what if Samantha winds up missing while we're gone?" Dee challenged, "Do you really want to risk losing our mother?"
As the sisters stopped to argue, an unnoticed hunting party took advantage of their preoccupation with each other. By the time they realized they were in danger their attackers already had the upper hand.
Back at the Kummon Inn, Samantha anxiously awaited the return of her daughters. One by one, those who had left the inn to aid in the search returned. They were soon joined by others looking to commiserate another loss among their neighbors. Gadget and Dee were not among them. Concerned, Samantha began asking if others had seen them. It was not long until a recent arrival related having witnessed their confrontation with Mr Fellow. "They're leaving?!" she asked in utter disbelief.
"He said he felt they were in danger of being blamed for what's been going on," she was informed.
"That's absurd!" Samantha replied.
"No, it isn't," Terry joined in, gently pulling his love aside, "Outsiders are usually the first to wind up being scapegoated by an outraged public."
"Outraged?" one of the locals asked, "I hardly think we're that bad. Who are we supposed to be outraged at anyway?"
Terry was about to dissuade further random discussion on the matter when another joined in. "Those two girls Derrick threw out," the patron pointed out, "I think Terry told Fellow something bad about them ‘cause I saw them talkin' while I was rounding up others to join the search."
Desperate for any explanation for why her best chance at recovering her past had just vanished, Samantha turned to Terry with wondering eyes. He couldn't ignore the increasing desperation he found there, nor his own guilt, and involuntarily looked away. "What did you tell him?" Samantha asked.
Refusing to look her in the eyes, he replied, stammering, "I-I told him people were suspicious of them, th-that they might get blamed for the... disappearances."
"Where did you get that idea?" Samantha queried further. Terry opened and closed his mouth several times, hoping an excuse would spontaneously arise. "What is it?!" Samantha demanded.
"I-I was afraid I was going to lose you!" Terry confessed, "I thought they were going to take you away from me!"
Samantha stared at the mouse she once thought she knew. She remembered how he would tell his old traveling companions to ask about her when they left on their adventures. How he was always right there to help with a heavy load when her shoulder bothered her. How his shoulder was always there when the pain of not even being certain of her own name brought her to tears. How he told her that anyone as special as her must have family out there moving heaven and earth in their efforts to find her. Then there was the liar standing before her. The traitor that had singlehandedly destroyed her hopes solely for his own desires. The coward that couldn't even look her in the eyes. "Y-you," Samantha stammered, struggling to find her voice. "HOW COULD YOU?!" she hollered.
In Samantha's paw she still held the paper the Sisters had left her, she had wanted to show it to Gadget and Dee, to show them that even as she clung to life they were still foremost in her thoughts. She thrust the paper angrily in Terry's face. "See this?!" she yelled, tears beginning to cascade down her cheeks, "You know these words?! The words nobody could figure out?! Thingamabob, gadget and doohickey?! THEY'RE NAMES!! THE NAMES OF MY CHILDREN!!" Practically sobbing, Samantha gestured at the door as she continued, "Gadget and Doohickey came here looking for me! And you drove them away!" She was so close. After five years she couldn't let this opportunity escape. Turning from Terry, Samantha left for the door. She knew there was no guarantee she could catch Gadget and Doohickey, she didn't even know which way they'd left, but there was no way she could tolerate staying where she was.
"Samantha, don't leave!" Terry called after her, hoping desperately he could explain himself, that somehow he could apologize for what he'd done. When she disappeared up the stairs he ran after her.
Once outside the inn, Samantha had to make her choice. Which way to go? They said she was supposedly lost during a flood... so she must have been carried downstream. The closest thing to a river anywhere nearby was the Allegheny Reservoir, and upstream of that was north. That was it, she'd head north following the reservoir until she found a community that knew of anyone named Thingamabob, Gadget or Doohickey. How many places could there possibly be that would have siblings with those kinds of names?
"Samantha!" Terry called after her, "I didn't mean to hurt you!"
"You mean by lying to me, by keeping me prisoner here?!" the angry matron hollered back, "By trying to keep me as your pet?!"
Terry ran up behind Samantha and grabbed her arm. Turning about, she grabbed his wrist and yanked his paw from her arm. Squeezing as hard as she could, Samantha snarled, "Don't you dare touch me!"
He was completely unprepared for just how strong Samantha was, and once she continued off towards the edge of town Terry nursed his sore wrist. "You can't go off on your own!" he called out, "It's too dangerous!" There was no answer as she continued her march. He couldn't just let her go. This was his fault. There would be no way he could forgive himself if something happened to her now... and no way he could face the town again. Samantha may not have wanted a traveling companion, but she was getting one. However, he reasoned keeping a good distance back would be a wise course of action.
As Terry made an effort to keep up with Samantha he was finding it increasingly difficult to keep her in sight. Then, he lost track of her altogether. As he considered calling out for her, realizing it was highly unlikely that she'd answer, he heard movement behind him. Hoping Samantha had somehow doubled back and came up behind him he quickly turned about. But it wasn't Samantha, nor anyone else he knew. There was very little time to study the stranger's features, though, as he was promptly knocked unconscious.
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