Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh
It had been a fairly slow day. No new cases to solve, no unusual incidents to investigate, not much of anything, really. The Rangers were all engrossed in their own efforts to stave off boredom; Dale glued to the television watching a monster movie marathon, Monterey Jack in the kitchen experimenting with a new recipe, Chip and Zipper playing chess, and Gadget working on an invention (which had no particular purpose other than keeping her busy) in her workshop.
Outside, the sun had nearly set, the shadows in the park growing ever longer. A mouse in a fine suit hesitantly approached the door of the Rangers’ headquarters, trying to convince himself that he had no other choice, that there was really nothing else that he himself could do. He nervously knocked on the door, but received no response. You’re going to have to knock harder than that, he thought to himself, so he tried again. Again no response. Maybe they’re out... but the lights are on. He tried once more, knocking with more earnest effort. Still no response.
Inside, Gadget struggled to pop a gear into place. After numerous failed attempts to wrestle it into position with her hands she decides to resort to an old, yet still reliable, method. Grabbing the nearest mallet she gave the troublesome piece a few hearty whacks. “It’s in,” she proclaims to herself, “OK, what’s next.” However, before she can determine what her next step should be, that same defiant gear began to wiggle itself out of place. With a loud ‘sproing’ it went flying across the workshop, ricocheting off the opposite wall, and right out the door.
“Heads up, everyone!” Gadget shouted, “Waitaminute, maybe you should put your heads down, keeping your heads up when there’s something flying around really isn’t such a good idea.”
The others had become uncomfortably familiar with the potential dangers of Gadget with time on her hands, and despite their own involvement's had, unconsciously, been awaiting the inevitable warning. They all dove for cover as the wayward gear made a quick tour of the living area...
The mouse in the fine suit had decided to poke his head though the door to see if there was, in fact, anyone home to hear his knocking... and received an impromptu haircut as the gear finally came to a stop, lodging itself in the wood above his head. “Perhaps I’ll come back tomorrow,” he yelped, and promptly backed out of the doorway.
“Wait!” Chip shouted as he climbed out from under the table and rushed to the door. As there was no immediate danger to life and limb, the others emerged form their hiding places and converged on the front door.
“Gadget, luv,” Monterey started, “do you think you could keep your door closed the next time you’re working on something?”
“Gosh, I thought I had,” she said while retrieving the gear, “Oh well, no harm done.”
“Yet,” Dale and Monterey said in unison.
Chip managed to catch their guest before he’d gotten too far and brought him inside. Zipper went to fetch a thimble of water as the still nervous mouse took a seat and prepared to explain his problem.
Before he could start, though, Gadget felt compelled to apologize, “Sorry about the incident with the gear, it kind of got away from me.”
Still somewhat shaken, the nervous mouse accepted, “That’s OK, my... my wife’s been after me to get a trim anyway.”
“Well, I mean,” she continued, “another three quarters of an inch and you would have been decapitated...,”
“Gadget...,” Chip interrupted.
Changing the subject to more relevant matters, Chip addressed their guest, “Is there something we can help you with?”
“I hope so, I... I’m not sure what to do,” he responded, “My name’s Walter by the way. I’m here because I think something terrible might have happened to my cousin, but I’m not sure... I guess I’d better start at the beginning.” Taking a deep breath he continued, “I sell wine, along with other beverages, but I get the wine from my cousin. You see, he distributes it, he gets it from vineyards in the Finger Lakes and distributes it to retailers like me, and I get a great deal out of it because I’m family. Anyhow, the prices started to go through the roof, and I wrote him to ask what it was about. When he finally did respond he talked about a gang moving into his area, that they were putting pressure on him. Here, I have the letter with me.” He reached into his coat and removed a folded letter and handed it to Chip.
As Chip and the other Rangers took a look at it, Walter continued, “I wrote back and asked if there was anything I could do, and this time got a much faster response. It was short, and just said that everything was fine and it was all just a misunderstanding he had with his new business partners. But this is where I’m concerned most,” Walter once again reached into his coat and produced another letter, “This isn’t his handwriting.” Placing the two letters side by side illustrated the obvious difference. “I didn’t know what to do, and I’m afraid my asking to help may have made things worse. I’m worried sick about this... I need help.”
“Well, you came to the right place,” declared Monterey Jack, “We’ll figure out what happened to your cousin, so there’s no need to worry!”
Walter was clearly relieved, “Oh... you, you’ll all have my eternal thanks for this! I just hope he’s all right!”
“So, where does your cousin live?” queried Dale.
“Um... Salamanca, it’s south of Buffalo in New York State. Not a very large place.”
“We’ll get right on it,” said Chip.
At Buffalo International Airport the ground crew went through their normal routine of servicing passenger jets, doing all the little things that go unnoticed by passengers in general. But what went unnoticed by the ground crew was the emergence of a small rodent piloted aircraft from the forward landing gear housing. In a few minutes it had gained enough altitude to avoid unwanted attention by the humans below. The Ranger Wing plied it’s way through the crisp morning air in a southerly direction. The flat terrain of the Lake Erie coast slowly grew into the forested hills of the Allegany Platteau. The trek was blissfully uneventful for the most part, with only a short stop for lunch.
“That should be Salamanca up ahead,” Gadget stated, “Better get out the map that Walter gave us.”
As Chip reached beneath the seat to retrieve the hand drawn map that Walter had made, showing the location of his cousin’s home and business, there were two loud ‘bangs’ from somewhere below. Before anyone could get out the words “what was that?” they were caught up in a flock of panicked ducks.
“OUTTA’ MY WAY!” screamed many of the foul, others were simply screaming in their mad dash to escape the gunfire below. Gadget wasn’t having too much trouble flying through the turbulence wrought by several dozen wings, but the duck that actually collided with the Ranger Wing was another matter altogether. After a moment, that seemed an eternity to the passengers, the aircraft leveled out.
The wind tousling Chip’s hair brought him a sudden realization and just as he began to feel around for his hat Zipper flew up to him with the truant headgear. “Thanks, Zip! Uh... you didn’t by any chance see where the map went, did you?” All the housefly could do was shrug in response as he hadn’t seen it after catching the hat.
“What do we do now?” asked Dale.
“Well, we’d better set down,” Gadget responded, “I want to make sure we didn’t sustain any major damage.” She landed behind a barn and immediately hopped out to begin inspecting the vehicle. The other Rangers soon disembarked as well, grateful to be on solid ground.
From out behind a loose board a local mouse emerged, “Hey there! You need some assistance?”
Chip turned to him, “Well, I’m not sure,” then turned back to the Ranger Wing, “Gadget, how does it look?”
“If we take off right now,” she started, “we’ll remain airborne for about two hours, fifteen minutes, and thirty six-seconds... after which the wings will fall off and we’ll crash.”
“You should have Dee Hawkfeather take a look at it,” the local suggested, “she can fix just about anything.” Motioning to the southwest he continued, “Ya head that way a couple ‘a miles, there’s an abandoned rail yard... her place is right in there... best mechanic yer ever gonna find.”
“Thanks for the advice, mate, but we got all the mechanic we’ll ever need in our li’l Gadget ‘ere,” Monterey Jack boasted, pulling his teammate to him in a chummy manner.
About this time a lady mouse appeared and called over, “Frank! Are you Hawfeather’s ad man or my husband? Get back in here and help with these dishes!” Frank turned back from his wife, wished the Rangers luck, and slunk back inside as if to his execution.
“That’s why you’re never gonna see me get married!” Dale stated confidently.
“Don’t worry, Dale, I don’t think Foxglove’s going to make you do the dishes,” Chip quipped with a smile.
“Ha, ha,” Dale responded sarcastically, “I’ll have you know Foxy and I are just friends.”
“Sure thing, lad, whatever you say,” added Monterey.
Gadget climbed back into the Ranger Wing, “We might as well see if we can find this Hawkfeather person, it couldn’t hurt to have an extra pair of hands for doing repairs. Of course it would only help if the hands were actually attached to a person’s body, but I don’t know why her hands wouldn’t be attached to her body, unless she was involved in a terrible accident that...”
“Gadget, luv,” Monterey Jack interrupted, “are you sure we can find this person before the... uh... wings fall off?”
“Sure!” she replied cheerily, “As long as it doesn’t take longer than two hours, fifteen minutes, and thirty-six seconds!” With that, the others warily climbed aboard.
Lifting off, Gadget piloted to the southwest as the henpecked husband had suggested. Upon cresting the nearby hill, the small city of Salamanca spread out before them. Almost immediately an abandoned and heavily overgrown rail yard came into sight. Standing tall over the field of weeds and shrubs, the massive concrete coal bunkers were mute testimony of the economic prosperity the little city had known in years past. But hidden in the shadow of the mighty edifice was a small clearing, at the center of which was what appeared to be a miniature landing strip. At the edge of the clearing there stood a dilapidated structure of brick and wood.
Not wanting to be in anyone’s way, Gadget landed a few feet to the side of the landing strip. A red squirrel in a grease streaked smock emerged form the building that adjoined the clearing and approached the aircraft. The Rangers disembarked and proceeded to meet the diminutive squirrel halfway.
Once they had all approached close enough to have a civilized discussion, Chip began, “Excuse me but...”
“Are you Dee Hawkfeather?” Dale blurted out, much to his friend’s consternation.
The squirrel looked at Dale with obvious annoyance, then returned to his previous calm before replying, in a clear and proper British accent, “I most certainly am not!” followed by, “And who, may I ask, are you? Don Ho?”
The subtlety of the insult having been completely lost on him, he responded with a laugh, “No, I’m Dale!”
“Yes, well,” the British rodent said, turning to Chip, whom he assumed was of a somewhat higher class than the Hawaiian shirt clad dimwit he’d just encountered, “My name is William Worthington III. I am Miss Hawkfeather’s assistant.”
Before Chip could even open his mouth, Monterey Jack spoke up, “If you don’t mind my askin’, what’s a proper chap like yourself doin’ in a place like this?”
“If you must know,” William began, “I did not have the heart to see my beloved Britain Americanized bit by bit, so, for the sake of expediency, I simply moved to America. Is there anything else you would like to know about me?”
Chip managed to get his mouth open this time, but was cut off by Gadget, “Yes, achally...,” Chip simply covered his face in defeat as Zipper gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, “We were wondering if we could talk to your boss.”
William was noticeably surprised by Gadget’s appearance, though the other Rangers ascribed this to nothing more than her usual, unintentional, effect on the opposite sex, “I- I’m sorry, but Dee just left. She went to drop something off on the other side of town and then to head straight home. She will not return until tomorrow.”
“Well, then can we get some parts to repair our plane?”
As the conversation continued between William and Gadget, a large, muscular mouse pushed his way through the weeds next to the decrepit building. With dark brown fur and straight black hair he was an intimidating figure, this was heightened by the dark glasses and black jacket. After brushing himself off he put his hands in his pockets and casually approached the group.
“I can’t do that,” William explained to Gadget, “My employer is very strict about what is to be done with her supplies... which is nothing. Even I am not permitted to handle most of it as I am only her assistant.”
“Maybe you’d be her partner if you weren’t always acting like her butler!” The large mouse, who had a thick Native American accent, gave William a hearty slap on the back (which nearly sent him to the ground) as he joined the assemblage.
“Hello, Bob,” William acknowledged, regaining his balance, “I suppose you are looking for your sister?”
“No,” Bob laughed, “I’m here to infite you to haf tea and crumpets with the queen, she wants to knight ya’, then haf yer baby!”
“Yes, Bob, very amusing,” William had never ceased to be irritated by Bob’s presence, but had also never ceased to maintain his calm demeanor, “Your sister has already left, you will most likely find her at her residence.”
“Huh, and how am I supposed to get there?”
“You might try walking.”
“Fery funny,” changing the subject, Bob motions towards the Ranger Wing, “This plane belong to any of you?”
Gadget immediately responded, “Yeah, that’s ours!”
Bob’s reaction to seeing her was much more noticeable than William’s, lifting up his shades to get a clearer view he simply said, “Wow.” After a few moments he regained his power of speech, though still seemed a little awkward, “Think you could gif me lift to Dee’s place?”
Chip, finally getting a chance to speak, responded for the group, “We were hoping to get some parts to repair it before doing any more flying.”
“If you can get as far as her place she can make whateffer repairs you need.”
“How far is it?” Gadget was becoming more interested in meeting this person, given all the talk about her mechanical skills.
“Just a couple miles t’ the south.”
Gadget thought for a moment, “I think we can make that.”
Chip was a little concerned, “Are you sure?”
“Sure, I’m sure, c’mon!”
The group boarded the plane, with Dale scrunched in between Monterey and Bob, while William returned to the workshop in the dilapidated building. Flying to the south they soon left the river valley in which the city had been nestled and entered the hills of the Allegany State Park.
Looking out over the expanse of woodlands, Monterey wondered if they would actually find their destination, “Doesn’t look like there’s much of anything out here except for trees. You sure you know where we’re going?”
“Yeah,” Bob responded casually, “Dee’s flown me ofer this enough to know what t’ look for. It’s right on the other side of this hill here. You’ll haf t’go in low though, she’s got the place camouflaged.”
Beginning to come in closer to the tree tops, Gadget wondered aloud, “Why would she have it camouflaged?”
“Because it’s part of an abandoned saw mill, without camouflage it’d be fisible to humans from abuff, some of them might decide to hike into the woods to infestigate the place.” Flying within feet of the higher trees, Gadget noticed a shelf of foliage under which there appeared to be a cavity. Before she can ask, Bob points it out, “That’s it ofer there. When you get in closer you’ll see a rectangular opening, go in on the left side of it... well, our left. That’s her hanger.”
Gadget slowly piloted the Ranger Wing into the hanger, and once everyone’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness they realized where the name had come from. All around the spacious enclosure were parts of aircraft in various states of assemblage, tools, workbenches, and a wide range of other equipment. But shortly before touchdown, a combination of cracking and tearing alerted the passengers to what was coming next, as the wings broke free. The fuselage dropped to the floor, only an inch below. The momentum of the propellers caused the wings to spin for a brief time before coming to a rest nearby.
“Golly, that wasn’t supposed to happen for another 45 minutes 30 seconds,” Gadget mentioned, “I must of underestimated the additional mass when we took off.”
“Well, we’re here!” Bob stated as everyone proceeded to disembark the crippled aircraft, “Oh, by the way, try not to touch anything till Dee gets here, she’s a little obsessiff when it comes to her...” he paused for a moment trying to think of the proper word, finally settling on, “stuff.”
Dale looked around in awe, “This is like the Twilight Zone, when you wind up in someone else’s head.”
Chip was in complete agreement, “Yeah, Gadget’s.”
“What?” the mouse mechanic looked up from one of the damaged wings, thinking Chip was talking to her.
“Oh, nothing,” he replied as he continued to look around.
Gadget stood up after assessing the damage to the plane, “I guess we’ll have to wait till Dee arrives before I can do any repairs.” Now that she had a chance to actually look around she was entranced. It was almost as if she were dreaming; pieces, parts, tools everywhere. As she wandered around in amazement she nearly tripped over something. Looking down she noticed a wire suspended just above the floor, and then another, and another, all running parallel to one another. “Golly! These are almost like the arrester cables they have on aircraft carriers!”
The others began to assemble around her to investigate. They soon became aware of a sound in the distance. It grew in pitch and volume to an ear-splitting, screeching, wail. Monterey Jack, who had been looking out of the hanger, yelled a warning to the others, “INCOMING!” Bob suddenly realized what it was, and became acutely aware of the danger the others were in. “MOOF!” he bellowed as he ran across the landing strip bulldozing them out of the way.
Just as they’d cleared the side of the strip, Dee Hawkfeather’s prized jet, the Banshee, snagged one of the wires and soon came to rest at the far end. Out of the cockpit jumped a mouse whose jumpsuit and goggles exactly matched those worn by Gadget. It took a little longer for the next realization to sink in, but she even had the same hairstyle. The only visible difference was their color: Gadget had dark blond hair and her fur was peach, this other mouse had black hair with brown fur (the same as Bob).
“Dammit, Bob, what the hell’s wrong with you?!” she looked a great deal like Gadget, but certainly didn’t sound like her, her voice was a little deeper (and there was the matter of the vulgarity), “I could have taken yer damn head off!” her rage then dissipated somewhat as she added, “Not that you’d notice it was gone.”
Chip and Dale stood stock-still, frozen in their astonishment, she was every bit as stunningly beautiful as Gadget, and to top it off was dressed exactly like her. Monterey Jack was the first to find his voice, “Crikey, how many more Gadget look-a-likes can there be?”
“Let’s just hope this one doesn’t try to kill us,” Gadget responded remembering less than fondly the treatment they’d received from her Hawaiian double, Lahwhinie.
“It’s nice to see you too, Sis,” Bob said responding to the dressing down he had just received, he then proceeded with the introductions, “Dee, meet Chip, Dale, Monterey Jack, Zipper, and Gadget, they’re the Rescue Rangers. Efryone, this is my sister, Doohickey Hawkfeather, the most skilled mechanic and infentor in the Seneca Nation.”
Dee immediately walked over to Gadget, looked her over, then asked, “What’s your name again?”
“I’m Gadget Hackwrench,” she responded.
Dee thought for a moment, “Um... could you come over here for a second?” she asked as she began walking. After some hesitation Gadget followed, who in turn was followed by the other Rangers. When she got to a mirror Dee positioned Gadget next to her. “Damn, this is strange,” she commented as she and Gadget observed their reflections.
“Great, now there’s four of ‘em,” Bob joked.
Dee almost laughed, but was still a little too stunned. She eventually came back to herself, “Uh... What are you all doing here anyhow?” she asked as she tore her gaze off the unusual scene reflected in the mirror.
It took a little while but Chip finally responded, “Oh, uh... We came here hoping to get parts to repair our plane.”
“Oh, OK,” Dee said, “Where is it?”
“On the other side of the hanger.”
“Well, then let’s take a look at it,” Dee approached the Ranger Wing and, seeing the state it was in, said, “Looks like you’ve already started your repairs.”
“Well actually the wings came off just as we were preparing to land,” Bob corrected her.
Dee inspected the vehicle closely, then gave her estimate, “I can have this thing airborne in half an hour, I just have to get the parts out of storage.”
“Oh, you don’t have to go through the trouble,” Gadget said, “I can do the work myself once I have the necessary parts.”
“Lemme guess, you built this, right?” Dee was certain of the answer even before she asked, it just made sense.
“Well, you’d be the right person to do the work then,” Dee conceded, “I know I wouldn’t like someone trying to reassemble one of my planes without knowing how it was supposed to look, let’s go find some parts.”
Dee led Gadget into an adjoining room filled to the ceiling with parts of various kinds. One pile was nothing but springs, another was screws, other piles seemed to have a miscellaneous theme. Turning to face Gadget, Dee said, “Tell me what you need and I’ll find it.” Gadget began running down a list and Dee immediately set to work going straight from one pile to another gathering the items. As Dee roamed from pile to pile Gadget began to follow and it wasn’t long before she became distracted by some of the things she came across. It wasn’t long after that Gadget began to openly debate wether to use the items she’d already requested or substitute them with items she’d seen while following Dee.
The situation was becoming a little irritating for Dee who had little patience for the scatterbrained. C’mon, she thought to herself, make up your mind! As Gadget became more engrossed in her own deliberations Dee became more concerned. I could let her find the parts herself. That thought sent a cold chill through her, she had put a great deal of effort in keeping things organized and didn’t like the idea of letting someone screw it all up. Dee just stood there, watching Gadget think to herself out loud, all the while trying to figure out what to do. When Gadget picked something out from one of the piles Dee stopped deliberating and watched. Put it back where you found it, not someplace else, not someplace else, don’t do it. Gadget walked over to the next pile and compared something she removed form there with the one she had grabbed earlier. Dee stopped breathing.
While waiting for Gadget and Dee to return the other Rangers occupied themselves by looking around. Their focus soon settled on the Banshee, and they gathered around to inspect it.
Running his fingers along the streamlined fuselage Monterey let out a whistle, “This is one smart lookin’ aircraft.”
Zipper dropped down into the cockpit to get a closer look at the controls as Bob walked over to give them a warning, “You should remember not to touch anything, Dee is a little goofy when it comes to anyone messing with her things.”
“Nope, that won’t work,” Gadget stated as she tossed one of the pieces over her shoulder.
Dee almost screamed, “Whoa... WHOA!” She ran over to Gadget and took hold of her before she could do any more harm, “Hold on, will ya’?” Dee then went to retrieve the discarded piece and returned it to where it belonged. She told Gadget in as polite a voice as she could manage, “Don’t touch my parts,” then said, almost to herself, “reminds me of my last date,” then returning to Gadget, “anyhow, everything here is ordered precisely, I’m the only one I allow to handle anything in here, OK?”
“Golly, I’m sorry, I guess I got a little carried away,” Gadget said, “I usually find what I need in junkyards, no one there minds if you make a mess.”
“I’m partially to blame for the misunderstanding,” Dee admitted, “I don’t get many guests so I’ve never had to warn anyone not to touch anything here, and since we looked so much alike I guess I unconsciously assumed you were as obsessively organized as I am. Well, live and learn.” With Gadget’s mind back on track they collected the last few items and returned to the hanger.
“You know,” Gadget started as they walked past the others, “when you said you don’t allow anyone to handle your parts it reminded me of your assistant, William...”
“Mm hm...” Dee mumbled.
“Well, he called your brother ‘Bob’; I would have thought he’d call him Robert. That is his proper name isn’t it?”
Before Dee could answer Bob attempted to change the subject to something he was more comfortable with others hearing, “Dee, maybe you could, uh, tell your guests about building the Banshee.”
Dee simply waved a dismissive paw at her brother as she answered Gadget’s question, “Bob’s real name isn’t Robert...,” Bob gritted his teeth, “it’s Thingamabob.”
“Thingamabob?” the Rangers repeated in unison, to which Dale added with a laugh (and without a thought), “How do ya’ get a silly name like that?” and after realizing Bob was glaring at him added sheepishly, “Not that there’s anything wrong with it.”
“The same way you get a name like Doohickey,” Dee answered, setting down some of the supplies by the Ranger Wing, “Our father was one of those who could never think of the right name for something when he had to, so he was always asking for a thingy, dealy, doohickey, whatchamacallit, thingamabob, or thingamajig. Mom thought it was cute... so cute in fact she named us ‘Doohickey’ and ‘Thingamabob’. I’d go with my Seneca name, but I prefer Dee, it’s nice and short.”
“You have an Indian name?” Dale excitedly asked, “Like ‘Dances with Wolves’?”
Dee nodded in acknowledgment, “Yeah, my name is Ye’shöni’. It means ‘She Invents’.”
“And what’s Bob’s?” Gadget asked.
“Ha:nege i:e,” Dee answered, “it means ‘He’s Drunk Again’.”
Bob felt the need to explain, so he added, “And it’s not because I drink...”
“Much...” his sister quietly interjected with a smirk.
Bob continued, “I wasn’t fery coordinated as a kid, I’d stumble around like I was drunk.”
“Gadget,” Chip asked, “How long do you think it’ll take to do the repairs?”
Gadget thought for a moment before answering, “Um, ‘bout half an hour.”
“I’m not sure I can wait that long,” Dale grumbled, “I’m starving.”
“I’ve got plenty of food here,” Dee mentioned, “C’mon.”
The Rangers, sans Gadget, followed Dee to the far wall of the hanger. The lower half of the wall was recessed. A rope hung from the center of where the upper half projected overhead. Dee gave the rope a tug and half of the lower wall slid to the side. The room revealed was furnished with chairs, a couch and a coffee table, the far wall was made up in part by a sliding glass door which opened onto a balcony. One of the walls was comprised of a television screen, and there was a door in the opposite wall.
Dee motioned to the others, “Through that door is the kitchen, the door to the right in the kitchen leads to the pantry, help yourselves ONLY if you pick up after yourselves... the other door leads to my bedroom,” Dee stopped for a moment, then continued, “I may as well tell you, in case you didn’t know, you NEVER enter a lady’s bedroom without her permission, I don’t care if you are my guests,” with that Dee entered her room, closing the door behind her leaving her guests to make do in the kitchen.
As Chip, Dale, Monterey, and Zipper set down in the living room with their makeshift meals, Dee emerged from her room. They all stopped eating when she entered the room. Dee had doffed her light blue jumpsuit for one of black, and the effect was quite profound. Up to that point the Rangers had unintentionally viewed Dee much as they did Gadget: bright, cheerful, helpful to a fault, and wholesome. Standing before them now was a stranger, and none of them had the slightest idea how to view her.
The black jumpsuit, accentuated by a dark blue belt and purple shirt visible at the neckline, provided a certain sensuality that they never knew Gadget lacked. Suddenly the two young chipmunks began to see all their fantasies of Gadget superimposed on this mouse, even those fantasies they would never admit to anyone in a million years. To Monterey Jack, Gadget was like his niece so he had never developed the type of fantasies his two companions had, but the physical similarity between Dee and Gadget wasn’t enough to stop his imagination at this point. Zipper’s reaction wasn’t quite as hormonal as his friends’ (he never was into mice anyway), but couldn’t help but be impressed by the impact Dee’s appearance had on the other three, I should probably tell Dale he dropped his sandwich, he thought, before someone steps on it.
Dee hadn’t anticipated the kind of reception she received. At no time in her life had she ever felt so conspicuous. It soon occurred to her that their stares were due to her change of attire and felt compelled to say something, “Um, I thought we’d all feel a little better if Gadget and I didn’t look quite so much alike,” they were still staring at her, “Uh, I’ll be working on my plane... if any of you need anything.” She took a step forwards, and noticed Dale’s sandwich on the floor, this helped bring her back to herself, “I hope you plan on picking that up before you leave.”
“Huh?” her polite scolding brought Dale back down to Earth and he realized his meal had escaped, “Oh, I wonder how that got there?” he said, managing a nervous laugh. As Dee left to do work on her aircraft Chip and Dale couldn’t help but watch as she strode across the hanger. They finished their meal in quiet reflection. Monterey scolding himself for having had the types of thoughts he’d had for someone half his age as Chip and Dale replayed how Dee walked in their minds over and over again. Zipper sat on the back of the couch and watched the two ladies working on their respective aircraft thinking how much Dee looked like Gadget’s shadow.
Upon finishing his meal, Monterey stood up and stretched, “Wonder what stations you can get around ‘ere?” he asked as he wandered towards the television.
“Maybe you should ask permission before you start playing around with her TV,” Chip suggested.
“Right ya’ are, almost forgot me manners,” Monterey responded, changing direction.
It’s going to be awhile before Gadget’s finished with the Ranger Wing, Chip thought to himself, maybe I can get a few more chapters out of the way. He left his seat in the living room to retrieve the detective novel he’d brought with him.
Dale was busy picking up the crumbs he’d left on the floor (he didn’t want to chance ruining anything with Dee) when he saw Chip leave. Oh no you don’t, I saw her first! he thought, assuming his friend was on his way to put the moves on their new acquaintance. He got up and hurriedly walked towards Dee, only to realize Chip was walking in Gadget’s direction. After having spent so much time competing with Chip for Gadget’s attention he instinctively changed direction.
“Sure, you can use my TV,” Dee said to Monterey, turning her attention away from her work, “but if you change anything other than the volume or channel,” she continued, as she brandished a screwdriver at him, “I’ll gut you like a carp.” She normally didn’t make threats like that (not so soon after meeting someone anyway) but was still a little uncomfortable following the reception she’d received after changing her clothes. She always preferred to keep others on the defensive, especially in her own home.
“‘Course,” Monterey said, in as nonchalant a manner as possible, “Not a problem!” He came up on Dale as he walked back to the living room, “Hey, pally, let’s see if we can find something good on the TV.”
“Uh, sure, Monty... in a second,” Dale said as he continued closely behind Chip.
Chip walked up to the Ranger Wing to retrieve his book and greeted Gadget as he passed. As she looked up to return the greeting they made eye contact. Looking into her beautiful blue eyes he almost felt he should apologize, he felt a little ashamed for the thoughts he’d had about her when he saw Dee walk into the living room. He awkwardly explained that he was going to do some reading to pass the time.
Dale walked up intent on being a third wheel. When he saw Chip pull out his book he couldn’t help but comment on his friend’s seemingly bizarre obsession with complicated, incredibly dull, stories, “Don’t you ever get tired of those detective books?”
Chip tried to explain, once again, what his interest in them was, “The mind is like a muscle,” then looking at Dale he added, “well, for most people the mind is a muscle, and without exercise it turns to mush, and I don’t want my brain turning to oatmeal.”
Dee’s ears perked up, she loved detective novels almost as much as building and inventing. She had always been a bit of a social outcast because of this, most of the people she knew couldn’t stand thinking. In fact, most of the guys she’d dated just wanted to ‘touch her parts’. She would pray at night for someone to come into her life who had the same love of problem solving as herself. “I’ll marry the guy who has a complete set of Sureluck Jones stories” she had once declared. She looked up from her work and watched Chip walk back to the couch.
Chip didn’t realize she was following him with her eyes. Actually, he was trying hard not to look at her, he wasn’t entirely comfortable knowing someone other than Gadget could have that strong an effect on him.
Not bad for a chipmunk, Dee thought, kinda looks like a squat Indiana Jones. She set down her work, Not bad looking, likes to pass the time reading... I have to check him out. The couch was arranged to provide a view out of the picture window opposite so anyone sitting in it would have their back to the hanger. Perfect, she thought to herself as she approached, I can read over his shoulder to see what kind of story it is. She read for a moment, barely breathing, and realized it was a story she was already acquainted with.
“Hey, I’ve read this one,” she mentioned.
Nearly dropping his book out of shock (having assumed she was still several feet away occupied with work), he managed some measure of language as he looked up at her, “Uh, what?”
“I’ve read this one,” she reiterated.
“Well, don’t tell me how it ends, I haven’t finished it,” Chip responded, still somewhat startled and, now, a little curious. He’d never met someone else who would find the time to read such a piece (and casually admit it). He was beginning to see more of a difference between Dee and Gadget, his teammate had rarely found time to finish even the shorter stories he had recommended, much less show enough interest in one to actually walk away from a contraption.
Though he had rarely ever felt compelled to mention it before, Chip remarked that he had already worked out how the crime was committed and by whom. Dee was becoming more interested in this particular chipmunk, and had developed a sudden urge to play. As he resumed his study of the text she leaned in closer, almost close enough for him to feel her breath as she purred, “Really?”
He was truly surprised at this development, no one had ever shown this much interest in his reading, and he began to blush quite noticeably. After fumbling for the right words he proceeded to detail his assumption. When he’d finished he looked up at her almost as if asking So, am I right? That’s what she had been looking for. She gave him a seductive glance, looked back at the text for a moment, and then began to slowly walk away as she patted his shoulder softly. So this is what it feels like to go fishing, she thought to herself, I like it! For half a second she contemplated curling the tip of her tail like a hook, Don’t overdo it, she told herself, and allowed her tail to glide naturally. She was smiling ear to ear, completely oblivious to her surroundings except for one thing: she could feel him watching her.
Chip sat there, dying for some kind of response as he watched her slowly glide across the floor. He was torn, he wanted to know what she’d thought about his solution but wasn’t completely sure he wanted an answer. There’s something about my conclusion she wants me to know about, he thought, should I call after her? Wait, if she says I’m wrong, the others will hear about it. I can go over and ask her privately... sure, that’ll work! Deep in the recesses of his mind, a little voice in his left brain was saying, “She’s teasing you, don’t play her game!” There was another little voice deep in the recesses of his mind, somewhere in the vicinity of the right brain, saying, “SHE KNOWS! I’VE GOTTA KNOW! DID YOU SEE THAT LOOK SHE GAVE ME?! WHAT A BODY!!” Despite his long devotion to listening to the logic of his left brain while keeping the right under some measure of restraint, she had pressed all the right buttons and his right brain was loose... and in control. He quickly marked his place in the book and began to walk after her.
Somewhere between the couch and her plane, Dee heard the rustling of pages, followed by quickly approaching footsteps. Got ‘im! She was barely able to contain a triumphant chuckle. This is too much fun, she thought, I’m gonna go to hell! She slowed down only a little.
“Uh... Dee?” Chip asked nervously; in fact, more nervous than he had wanted.
“Mm-hm?” Dee acknowledged, desperately holding back an idiotic grin as she turned to face him.
“Uh... What did you think of my... uh... conclusions?”
She had one last volley to fire, “If I told you that you were right... would you hate me for ruining the ending? If I told you that you were wrong... would you hate me for pointing out the failure of your deductive reasoning?” The second question sounded more like a statement, but she wasn’t concerned about hiding her amusement now. Yes! I’m definitely going to hell!
Chip was utterly unprepared for that response, and, for once in his life, was completely without a clue. His legs began to feel like jelly.
Now yer just being cruel, she thought, better show him a little mercy. “You’re part right,” Dee finally confessed, “And I’m impressed, I hadn’t figured that much out until a lot later.” She led Chip back towards the living room, “I have a feeling you’ve read more than a few Sureluck Jones stories.”
“That’s an understatement,” Chip never thought he’d meet a lady with whom he could have this kind of conversation. “I’ve read, and memorized, all of them,” he boasted, “even the one that was never published.”
Chip now had Dee’s undivided attention, “Beg pardon?” The two of them sat down at the couch as Chip proceeded to regale his hostess with the tale of the Rangers’ unintended visit to Baskerville Mansion and the resultant adventure that led to the discovery of the unpublished manuscript. Monterey Jack, who was seated nearby, normally reveled in recounting such adventures, but chose to keep his peace and left this one entirely for Chip.
Gadget finished work on the Ranger Wing earlier than she had expected, in part due to Bob’s offer of assistance for some of the heavy lifting. Dale even helped out some, and received a particularly nasty shock while reconnecting some of the wires. Everyone was set to go except for Chip, who was still deeply immersed in conversation with Dee (and getting a little lost in her dark brown eyes). The polite efforts to get the attention of either culminated in Bob thrusting his paw between them and waving it around.
“What the hell do you want?” Dee asked, quite irritated at the interruption.
“Their plane’s fixed,” he stated bluntly.
“And we do have a case to get back to,” Monterey added.
“Oh, that’s right,” Chip quickly stood up, anxious to get back to work, then turned back to Dee, “Um, it was great to meet you, Dee,” then to her brother, “and you too, Bob.”
“Wait,” Dee called after him, hesitant to let him leave that easily, “It’s pretty late, you sure you... all wouldn’t want to stay overnight... and get started in the morning?”
The Rangers looked at one another, and as Monterey looked at Chip he broke into a broad grin, “I don’t see why not, eh Chipper,” and gave him a little nudge.
“Well, since we lost the map,” Gadget added, “it would make more sense to start early in the day.”
“Besides,” Dee jumped in, “maybe I can help.” Bob was a little surprised at Dee’s suggestion since she wasn’t the type to come right out and make such an offer, she preferred to let others come to her.
Chip turned back to face Dee, “Are you sure we wouldn’t be...,” he hesitated when he made eye contact with her, “imposing?”
“If I thought it would be an imposition,” she responded as she drew closer to Chip, “I wouldn’t ‘ave asked.”
Bob decided this would be as good a time as any to bring on the cold shower of reality, “They can’t all sleep in your bed.” Dee wasn’t at all that amused by her brother’s remark and the way she glared at him made it quite obvious. Bob seemed quite a bit smaller as he corrected himself, “I-I didn’t mean it the way it sounded...,” he continued as he took a step back, “I meant that you only have two beds here.”
Dee’s countenance softened (some) as she responded, “While we’re on that subject... Why are you here?”
“What, I need an excuse to visit my little sister?”
“She threw you out, right?”
“No, not this time,” Bob corrected, “The humans got a cat, so we had to move. She’s with her sister.”
“And she threw you out.”
“No,” he corrected once more, “She threw a crock pot at me... I left entirely on my own.”
“Right,” Dee turned back towards the Rangers, “I can find y’all places t’sleep, it’s not a problem,” she motioned for them to sit in her living room, “Now what’s this case yer on?”
Chip proceeded to explain what had brought them to the area, “Well, there’s a merchant back home who’s worried about his cousin here, he’s a wine distributer...”
Before Chip could continue Bob interjected, “You mean Rick Tanner?”
“Yeah, you know him?”
“Work for ‘im, I do security at his warehouse on weekends,” Bob answered, “Something happened to ‘im?”
“That’s what we’re here to find out,” Dale responded.
“He wrote ‘is cousin Walter about some toughs who had come around puttin’ some pressure on ‘im,” Monterey added.
Chip produced the letter in question form his jacket and set it on the table, “But this is what really worried him,” he said as he took a second letter out, “when Walter offered some help this is what he got back,” he set the second letter by the first, “a letter saying that everything was fine, it was all a misunderstanding, but in completely different handwriting.”
“That ain’t good,” Dee commented as she leaned in to get a closer look.
“Have you noticed anything unusual at the warehouse?” Chip asked, turning to Bob.
“Yeah,” Bob responded as he thought, “there were a couple new guys who started workin’ there, weren’t from around here. I asked ‘em what they were supposed to be doing here and one of ‘em said,” here he made his best approximation (which sounded like something out of a poorly made gangster movie), “‘We’re here cuz the boss don’t know if he can trust youse yet’ and that was it.”
“Have you seen your boss recently?”
“I’fe rarely seen ‘im period... that’s not really fery odd considering I’m only there on weekends.”
“Do you know anything about the new guys you’re working with that might help?”
“Huh,” Bob leaned back in his chair, “Can’t think of anything,” he gave the matter a little more thought, “Dafe might know something though.”
Chip had never heard of anybody named ‘Dafe’ and wanted to make sure he had heard it correctly, “Dafe?”
“Dave,” Dee corrected, accentuating the ‘v’, “Bob’s exaggerating his accent again,” she explained, “There’s no ‘V’ sound in the Seneca language, like there’s no ‘L’ in Japanese.”
Chip continued his questioning, “Does Dave also work security at the warehouse?”
Bob nodded, “Yeah, I’fe seen ‘im talkin’ to the new guys off and on. Come to think of it, he’s not been talkin’ to me as much. Not that I really cared, I do haff more interesting people to spend time with, so if he wanted to talk to the new guys it’s no fur off my back.”
“Do you think he’d talk to us about his new friends?”
Bob shrugged, “I dunno, I guess we won’t know unless we ask ‘im.”
“We should probably try to find him tomorrow then,” Chip concluded, “It’d be better to know something about these people before we start poking around too much.”
Everyone was in silent agreement. No one really had anything more to add to that particular discussion. Now that Chip’s mind wasn’t focused on the case at hand his mind began to wander and he became more aware of his immediate surroundings, in particular the fact that Dee seemed to be sitting unusually close to him on the couch. He turned his gaze slightly to see just how close she actually was, and noticed that she was also looking in his direction. Chip began to silently pray for something to break the intolerable silence. Unknowingly, Gadget came to his rescue.
“Oh, Dee?” everyone looked to Gadget as she began to speak, “Do you think you can show us the Banshee now? That is your plane, right?”
Dee had indeed been watching Chip out of the corner of her eye, and when Gadget broke the silence she wondered if any of the others had noticed. “Uh... sure,” she responded, “C’mon.” Dee grabbed Chip by the arm and led the others back into the hanger. Bob stayed behind to watch some TV.
“Now I didn’t see any propellers,” Gadget started, “Is it rocket powered?”
“Only for liftoff,” Dee answered, “I need to pick up speed fast to get the ramjet lit.”
“This must be the air intake then,” Gadget said as she stuck her head into a prominent opening in the front, “What do you use for fuel?”
“This,” Dee responded as she handed a bottle of clear liquid to Monterey, “G’head take a swig.”
Monterey held the bottle to his face and took a deep whiff, “Whoa... I think they were serving this at a bar in Davao.”
Gadget took the bottle, “Alcohol?” she asked as she prepared to take a tiny sniff, then quickly drew her head back, “Ugh!”
“It’s an old family recipe,” Dee mentioned, “When I decided to build a jet I remembered being told that you should never drink any of that near an open flame. Gramma used to tell us kids ‘bout a time when her brother and a friend a’ his were getting loaded on that stuff, and decided to have a belching contest... they were a little too close to a bonfire when they did it. She swore that her brother’s friend got blown to pieces.”
Gadget had passed the bottle to Chip, who took a very small sniff. Zipper flew in to investigate, inhaled a little too much, and soon ‘forgot’ how to fly. Fortunately he bounced into Monterey Jack, who promptly caught him before he could hit the floor, “Heh, guess we’re gonna hafta’ keep you away from any open flames for awhile, eh Zipper?”
When Dee noticed Gadget climbing into the cockpit she offered a helpful warning, “Don’t push or pull any buttons or levers, if you accidentally activate the ejection system you’d go crashing head first into the ceiling... that’d be none too pleasant.” She climbed up beside Gadget and gave her a review of the controls, reminding her periodically not to touch any of them. Before long they were talking in detail about aeronautics, engineering and other topics only the two of them would consider of interest.
In time the other Rangers joined Bob in front of the television. The tranquility of viewing soon was interrupted while Bob flipped through the channels, “Wait, go back!” Dale shouted, “That was ‘The Marriage of Dracula’, it’s a classic, I’ve only seen it three times!”
“You’fe gotta be kidding!” Bob responded.
“I know this probably won’t be a popular suggestion,” Chip offered, “but we could watch the local news.”
“Local news?!” was the universal response.
“Wait! Pro wrestling! That’s even better!” Dale yelled.
Bob groaned in frustration, “Please, there has to be a football game on somewhere.”
Back in the hanger Dee and Gadget continued their discussions. When Dee brought up the fact that the prototype for the Banshee was named The Screaming Eagle, the discussion veered off from engineering matters. When Gadget pointed out that her father’s plane had the same name it opened a new venue for conversation. Gadget began to reminisce about her late father, and some of the bittersweet memories brought her to tears. This was another point of fact that separated the two.
“You’re lucky to have such fond memories of your father,” Dee mentioned as Gadget wiped away a tear, “I don’t have any.”
“You don’t have any fond memories of your father?” Gadget asked incredulously.
“I don’t have any memories of him at all,” Dee responded, “He left shortly after I was born. Mom always told me that I should never blame myself for causing him to leave, it was just that he was lousy person and we were better off without him.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” declared Gadget who, being as kind hearted as she was, found it hard to disparage anyone.
“Would you rather my mother told me it was my fault?” Dee responded with a laugh.
“Well... you know what I mean, it’s just not a nice thing to do, to tell your child their father was a lousy person,” Gadget defended.
“For all either of us know he could’ve been a wife beating child molester,” Dee pointed out, “And if he were I’d rather not know. In any case I know my mother may have had reasons of her own to badmouth ‘im, so I don’t fully believe he was a lousy good for nothing, he’s just my father.” She thought for a moment, “Or was my father, he could be dead for all I know.”
Gadget saw Chip walking over and greeted him with a cheery, “Hi, Chip.”
Dee turned about, “Well hello there,” she said, giving him a coy smile, “anything I can do for ya’?”
“Well, uh... no,” Chip replied with a nervous laugh, “I just thought I’d come over and see how the two of you were getting along.”
“Oh, we’re getting along great,” Dee replied enthusiastically, “Hey, why don’t ya’ tell me ‘bout some of the other cases you’ve been on?” she asked as she hopped down off of the Banshee.
“Uh... sure, why not,” Chip said as Dee took his hand and led him back towards the living room. After a while Gadget jumped down from the Banshee and proceeded after them.
Arriving in the living room Dee was welcomed by an unusual scene: Monterey Jack and her brother were kneeling on either side of the coffee table making various guttural noises as Dale and Zipper looked on intently.
“What’s going on here?” Dee asked bluntly.
“Monty and Bob are arm wrestling to figure out what we’re going to watch,” Dale explained, “If Monty wins we watch wrestling, if Bob wins we watch football.”
Dee leaned close to Chip and whispered, “This is the real reason you came over, right?”
Chip’s answer was short and to the point, “Uh-huh.”
“My TV, my decision,” Dee declared as she changed it to the Weather Channel.
“Spoil sport,” Bob mumbled as he and Monterey returned to their seats.
Dee sat Chip down beside her on the couch, “How ‘bout you tell me how y’all got together?”
“Well, Dale and I grew up together,” Chip started, “We met Monty, Zipper, and Gadget on our first case, that’s when we all became the Rescue Rangers...,”
Dee was riveted as Chip recounted the Rangers’ myriad adventures. Only rarely did she shift her gaze from the him. Periodically Monterey would interject with his own colorfully boastful comments, and Dale could always be counted on to add sound effects (almost as if he were a living comic book). It wasn’t long before Dee understood the reason why they’d all been affected by her appearance, especially the two chipmunks who had so often competed for the love and attention of a lady who looked so much like herself. She was slightly amused by their tendency to fight over which one was more pathetic and childish in behavior when it came to Gadget. Dee would sometimes question the validity of the tales, but as they confirmed one another’s stories she ruled out the possibility that they were making it all up on the fly. Bob had, at first, thought that this would be a good time to catch up on his sleep, but was soon engrossed in the tales nearly as much as his sister.
“My life sucks,” Dee commented with a laugh, which drew everyone’s attention, “Nothing ever happens around here!”
“Maybe you should get out more,” Gadget responded innocuously.
“Oh, about getting out,” Dee mentioned, “I was just thinking: since we don’t know who or how many people we’ll be dealing with in order to find...,” she paused as she tried to remember the name, “Rick, we should see if we can get a little more muscle on our side. Just in case.”
“I don’t suppose it could hurt to have reinforcements,” Monterey responded.
“I agree,” Chip commented, then turning to Dee, “What kind of reinforcements are you suggesting?”
“I have some friends in the area who could be of enormous help if anything gets too physical,” Dee answered.
“You mean Romulus and the others?” Bob asked.
“Don’t you think that’s a little oferkill?”
Bob shrugged, “Ok... If no one minds, I’m heading t’bed.”
As Bob wandered off Dale asked, a little concerned, “Who’s Romulus and the others?”
“Just some friends of mine,” Dee responded with a smile, “You’ll get to meet ‘em tomorrow.” Before anyone could ask anything further she continued, “Anyhow, it’s gotten pretty late, I’ll go find ya’ stuff to sleep on.”
Within a few minutes Dee had prepared makeshift beds in the hanger. After closing the hanger doors she began to turn things this off for the night. With the obligatory exchange of ‘good night’s Dee retired to her room as the Rangers worked out who was sleeping where.
After they went to their respective beds, Dale turned to Chip, “Are you sure we can trust her?” he whispered.
“What?” Chip asked, also whispering.
“Well, I mean, how do we know she’s not leading us into a trap, how do we know this Romulus person and his friends aren’t part of this gang... or whatever it is?”
“I think you’ve been watching too many spy movies again, Dale.”
Monterey rolled over and joined the discussion, “I think Dale’s gotta point. We haven’t exactly had the best ‘a luck with women: Lahwhinie, Desiree...”
“And Foxglove,” Gadget added, “Well, I don’t mean she was bad, but the people she worked with certainly were.”
Chip was surprised he hadn’t thought of that possibility earlier, as it now seemed quite logical, “Well, there’s nothing we can do right now, we’ll just have to wait and see.” I just hope she doesn’t turn out to be ‘my’ Desiree, he thought to himself. His bed didn’t feel quite as comfortable as it had before. He kept replaying in his mind how Desiree Delure had used her feminine wiles to turn Monterey against them. Is that what’s happening now? Women don’t usually throw themselves at me like that... well, Tammy, but she’s just a girl who had a crush on me. He tried different positions, but just couldn’t get comfortable. Maybe if I get up and walk around a bit...
Looking around the hanger he was surprised by the amount of light. Must be a full moon out, he thought. Chip walked into the living room, careful not to make too much noise as his friends seemed to be sleeping soundly. Out of the sliding glass door he could see the moon in a crystal clear sky. He half heartedly tried the door, and to his surprise it opened. Why not? he thought as he walked out onto the balcony. Outside he saw that it led around the outer wall of the pantry. His curiosity drove him around the corner. A little ways down the wall there was another sliding glass door, and it was open. That must be Dee’s room. There weren’t any lights on inside, and a voice in his head was daring him to go over and take a peek. But a more rational voice, and his innate sense of decency, told him to head back to the living room.
Dee walked out onto the balcony from her room, and caught a moving object out of the corner of her eye. She wasn’t accustomed to there being anyone on her balcony this late at night, even the local bats had learned to keep their distance. As she turned to confront whoever it was, she realized it was Chip, on his way back to the living room. “Well, hello there!” she called.
Out of shock, Chip was momentarily airborne. He turned about to see Dee approaching him. “Uh... Hi... Dee,” he managed as all the blood left his face.
“Sorry, didn’t mean t’scare the hell out of you there,” She said as she leaned up against the wall beside him, “Couldn’t sleep?”
“I-I thought taking a walk would help wear me out,” he answered as the blood slowly began to return to his face.
“Hm,” Dee nodded, “Well, while you’re up and neither of us have anything better to do I’d like to show you something.” She began to walk back towards her room, “C’mon.”
Chip slowly began to follow her. Dee walked past the door to her room, which eased his mind a little. She turned a corner, and when Chip made the turn himself he saw her ascending a flight of stairs. Dee stopped and looked back over her shoulder to see if he was indeed following her. She smiled and motioned for him to continue. As Chip began to climb the stairs Dee disappeared into a door on the left. He wasn’t completely comfortable with this and continued slowly. Chip passed through the door.
The room had a floor that slanted down to the left and had a soft carpeting of moss. The ceiling was made of camouflage netting through which the moon brightly shown, drawing strange patterns of shadows. Dee was seated on the moss in the center.
“C’mon, sajë:h,” Dee said as she patted the moss beside her.
“I suppose that means ‘have a seat’ in Seneca?” Chip asked as he walked over.
“Mm-hm,” she acknowledged with a smile. Dee noticed he seemed a great deal more nervous than he had been earlier, “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna bite ya’...” she assured him, then added with an inviting smile, “unless you want me too.”
Chip gave a nervous laugh, then asked, motioning to the rest of the room, “Is this what you wanted to show me?”
“Nope, this is,” she responded excitedly. She quickly reached to her right side with her left hand and grabbed something. Chip’s heart stopped for a moment. Then the ceiling of camouflage netting lifted up and back allowing an unobstructed view of the sky. “What do you think?” she asked motioning to the sky, “Can’t get a view like this in the city, too much valley fog and too many lights.”
Chip couldn’t measure the kind of relief he felt. This is Dale’s fault, he thought, he had to go and bring up the possibility of a trap. As it happens, Dee was leading him into a trap, just not the type he would have anticipated. He began to feel a little embarrassed by how nervous he had become. Looking into the moonlit sky all he could manage was, “Wow.”
“I was coming up here anyway,” Dee admitted, “I always do when there’s a full moon. I figured I might as well have some company.”
After a few moments of silence Chip decided to strike up some measure of small talk, “How do you say your name in Seneca?”
Chip tried to repeat it, but couldn’t quite make it.
“Try it like this: the first syllable is the word ‘yeah’ with a glottal stop, the second is pronounced like ‘shown’ without the ‘n’, the last is the word ‘knee’ with a glottal stop, also the last syllable is stressed,” Dee explained.
Chip’s second attempt was more successful.
“Not bad for a jiho’gwais,” Dee mentioned with a smile.
“And what is that?” He asked.
“Chipmunk!” she responded giving him a playful poke on the nose, “and I’m a jinöhdaiö:’.”
Chip laughed, “I’m not even going to try to repeat that. It’s ‘mouse’, right?”
“Yep!” she squeaked, “‘Hello’ is hae’, that’s where the word ‘hi’ came from, and it’s the easiest word to learn.”
“Isn’t that a word in Japanese too?”
“I think so, but I’m not sure what it means,” Dee answered, “Anyhow... there’s no ‘good bye’ in our language, the closest is ë:sgögë i:e, literally translated it means ‘I’ll see you again’.”
Chip worked that phrase over, and managed to get a hold of it with Dee’s assistance, “So if I were to leave I would say: ë:sgögë i:e Ye’shöni’.”
“Very good, jiho’gwais!” Dee leaned in a little closer, “another useful phrase is ëgögwayö:’.”
“And what does that mean?”
Dee leaned over and pressed her lips to his. For Chip, care and grief grew dim as he became lost in that moment. For Dee, however, it was the zenith of anxiety as she awaited his response. She was unsure how she would handle a negative reaction. What man doesn’t like getting a kiss from a beautiful woman? she reassured herself. But her analytical mind promptly concocted numerous reasons why. She quickly reprimanded herself, You didn’t get to this point just to second guess yourself, so shut up and enjoy it! Dee lingered for a moment more in that kiss before leaning back and opening her eyes. Now to see if I’ve made an ass of myself.
Chip had nearly forgotten where he was. When he opened his eyes it all came back to him. The moonlight painted lines of silver through her hair, shimmered in her deep brown eyes, and there was no mistaking the look he found there. This time he was the one to lean over. As their lips met a second time she put an arm around him and drew him down with her. The myriad voices of doubt in Dee’s mind had been silenced.
But another voice was sounding opposition. Wait a minute! Chip heard himself think, You’re on a case, stupid! Snap out of it! He pulled himself up a little, and looked down on the sensuous female mouse laying beneath him. Her eyes opened, soft and inviting. Chip couldn’t count the number of times he had dreamed of sharing such a moment with Gadget. But this isn’t Gadget, he told himself, I hardly even know who this is! He almost had to force the words out, “I think I’d better head back to bed.”
Dee thought, and almost asked, Yours or mine?
“We have a lot to do tomorrow,” he added.
Chip couldn’t miss the disappointment in her eyes, nor in her voice as she responded, “Yeah, yer right.”
As they stood up Dee tugged on a lever. The roof of camouflage netting swung back into place restoring the bizarre patchwork of shadows. Walking back towards the door Chip heard an unusual cracking from behind. He swung around, “What was that?”
“What was what?” Dee asked in surprise.
“That cracking sound, didn’t you hear it?”
Dee suddenly realized what he meant, “‘Course I heard it, I made it!” She rather enjoyed the puzzled look on his face, “I was cracking my spine.” To emphasize the point she tilted her head to the side and promptly cracked her neck, which produced a similar sound as before.
“Oh,” Chip didn’t bother to mention the fact that seeing such a demonstration made his skin crawl.
Dee and Chip walked back to the balcony in an awkward silence. After passing her room Chip heard Dee call after him, “Ë:sgögë i:e, jiho’gwais.”
Chip turned to his hostess, who was standing just outside her door, “Ë:sgögë i:e,... Ye’shöni’.” He continued back to the hanger where the other Rangers were still fast asleep. How am I supposed to get to sleep now? he asked as he slid into the makeshift bed.
Everyone except Bob was up by the time Chip awoke. He staggered into the living room as if he were half drunk. It wasn’t just the drowsiness he experienced every morning, he was still trying to sort out whether what he had experienced the night before was real or just a dream.
“Mornin’ Chipper,” Monterey greeted him, “Looks like you could use a cup ‘a joe, careful though, this stuff’s stronger than a rhino on steroids.”
Before Chip could head off to the kitchen to fetch himself a cup Dee walked in from the balcony, “Good morning, jiho’gwais.”
The way she breathed the words as she sashayed past him settled the question of whether or not it had been a dream, but he wanted to be absolutely sure, “Uh, that means ‘chipmunk’, right?”
Dee turned, “Hey, you remembered!” she cheered. She then turned back and continued into the hanger.
As Chip turned to head for the kitchen he met the combined gaze of the other Rangers. When nothing was immediately said (or asked) he proceeded on his quest for caffeine, albeit quite self consciously. Reentering the living room with a full cup he once more became the center of attention. He tried not to notice the four pairs of eyes watching him as he took his first sip of coffee, trying to be as nonchalant as possible. The attempt to appear absolutely normal failed once he got a good taste of the dark brown liquid in the cup. He swallowed a certain amount of pride as he choked down that first mouthful of the foul tasting brew.
Monterey was the first to break the silence, “Now, I know it’s really none of our business... but did anything happen last night that the rest of us, sleeping as soundly as we were, would be unaware of?”
“Yeah,” Dale broke in bluntly, “what did you and Doohickey do last night?”
Chip’s ears began to feel as hot as the cup in his hand, “Nothing,... We just talked.”
“Really?” Dale asked, taking a certain amount of sadistic pleasure in watching his friend squirm. He finally had a chance to pay him back for all the similar exchanges they’d had after he would return from a night out with Foxglove.
Fortunately for Chip, Bob lumbered into the room on his way to the kitchen, nearly falling over as he tripped on the coffee table. This provided a temporary distraction. It didn’t seem as if Bob’s eyes were even open. He angrily mumbled something once he had regained his balance, but no one was able to decipher what was said, not even Bob.
Gadget returned everyone’s attention to Chip, “So what did you talk about?” she innocently asked .
Before Chip could answer Bob once more provided a distraction, “OH YEAH!” Everyone was taken by surprise due to Bob’s reaction to the coffee. “This is the way coffee’s supposed to taste!” he proclaimed as he walked back into the living room.
As Dee walked in from the hanger Chip tried to further distance himself from the previous discussion, “Dee? What did you put in this coffee?”
“You think that’s coffee?” she asked as a worried look crossed her face.
Bob’s response was rather direct, “What the hell are we drinking then?”
Dee waited to get a concerned look from everyone. A Kodak moment if I ever saw one, she thought triumphantly. “Oh it’s coffee,” she confessed, “I’m just surprised you recognized it,” her mischievous smile widened into a grin, “I haven’t cleaned my coffee maker for years.” Chip and Gadget both got up to dump what was left of their alleged coffee down the drain while Dale suddenly felt a little queasy as he stared into his empty cup. Monterey Jack and Bob simply shrugged and kept drinking as Zipper made a mental note to bring a thermos of real coffee with him next time.
Upon rejoining everyone in the living room Chip steered any further discussion towards the case at hand. It was soon determined that they would split up; Monterey, Gadget, and Zipper would go with Bob back into town to meet with Dave while Chip and Dale would go with Dee to meet with Romulus.
As they began to form up into their respective groups Chip pulled Dee aside, “Um, that last phrase you mentioned last night...,” he paused since it was hard for him to admit he couldn’t figure out what it meant, despite some obvious assumptions.
Dee realized what it was he was attempting to get out. “You don’t know what it means?” she asked, then playfully added, “What kind of detective are you?” She leaned in close, “It means,” she started before getting closer to whisper into his ear, “‘I’m going to kiss you.’” She promptly followed this with a peck on his cheek. Chip nearly lost his balance.
“Everyone in?” Gadget asked to her three passengers. Seeing that they were seated and strapped in she prepared to take the repaired Ranger Wing into the air. After leaving the hanger Gadget turned to Bob, “Where should we start looking for Dave?”
“At this time of day he’d be at the ‘Hole in the Wall’,” Bob answered, “That’s the bar closest to his place. Once we’re in sight of the city I’ll give ya’ directions.”
Having followed Bob’s directions Gadget set the Ranger Wing down on the roof of one of the buildings downtown. “The humans’ got a bar down at the street lefel, the ‘Hole in the Wall’ is right underneath,” Bob said as he disembarked. They all proceeded to descend the fire escape when something occurred to him, “Gadget, you should probably stay with the plane.”
“Why?” she asked.
“You look a little too much like Dee,” Bob explained, “Since just about efryone around here knows what she looks like, seeing you walk into a bar might draw more attention than we want.”
“Don’t worry, luv, we’ll be back before ya’ know it!” Monterey reassured her.
Bob and Monterey walked into the subterranean establishment, the song “Bubba Shot the Jukebox” was playing loudly in the bar above them. Being early in the morning there wasn’t much of a crowd and Bob quickly located his coworker.
“That’s him ofer there at the table,” he said pointing out a dopy looking grey mouse, with slightly drooping ears wearing a worn out jacket over a white shirt, to his companion. He was seated between two other mice who looked a shade more alert and intelligent, “Looks like he’s with the new guys.”
“Ya’ mean the two blokes in cheap suits?” Monterey asked.
“Yeah, that’s them. Not sure we want to ask too many questions with them right there next to us,” Bob thought for a moment, “You haf a hearing problem, right?”
“What?” Monterey wasn’t quite sure what Bob had meant by the question.
“Perfect, c’mon,” Bob said motioning for Monterey to follow him. “Hey, Dafe!” Bob called as he approached the table, “This here’s Monterey Jack, I told ‘im he just had to meet you.”
Dave looked up at the portly Aussie, and gave a nod, “Hey, how ya’ doin’?”
By now Monterey understood what Bob had in mind and played along, “What was that, mate? I can ‘ardly hear ya’!”
“Sorry, he’s a little hard a’ hearin’,” Bob stated, “It’d be easier to talk if we were outside.”
Dave looked to his two companions, “That’s alright, we were just leavin’,” one of them said, “We’ll meet you at the usual place, David.” Dave’s companions stood, nodded to Monterey and Bob, and proceeded to leave.
“Well, le’s go,” Dave said as he got up.
Zipper, who was waiting outside of the bar, watched Dave’s two companions pass by as they left. You don’t usually see people dressed like that walk out of a place like this, he thought, they look like the type of people Bob was talking about last night. He watched them walk up the street and disappear around a corner. Shortly thereafter Monterey, Bob, and Dave emerged.
“Dafe, Monty and I were wondering what all you could tell us about yer friends there,” Bob said.
“Yeah? Like what?” Dave asked.
“Well,” Bob thought for a moment, “For one thing, why would Mr. Tanner hire goons like that when he’s got goons like us?”
Dave answered without thinking, “Rick didn’t hire them.”
“Then who did?” Bob asked.
It suddenly dawned on Dave that he had said something he shouldn’t have and did his best to cover, “Uh... His partner, his new partner.”
“What’s this partner’s name?” Monterey asked.
Dave couldn’t think of a way to answer and desperately grasped at a diversion, “Ya’ know,” he blurted out, “I hafta get something back to my apartment. Once I get that outta the way I can stay and talk longer. Ok?”
“Sure thing,” Monterey said, “We’ll wait right ‘ere.”
Dave couldn’t hide the immense relief he felt, “All right! I’ll be right back!” He quickly turned and hurried off in the direction his two companions had gone.
Monterey called to his winged partner, “Zipper, keep an eye on ‘im.” Zipper gave a quick salute and sped off after Dave.
When Dave turned the same corner as the two other mice had Zipper concluded that they most likely were the people Bob had mentioned. His target ducked into the recess of a door, and started talking to someone, Zipper stopped on the wall just before the door and listened to the ensuing conversation.
“You gotta problem, David?” one of the voices asked.
“Yeah, Bob and this fat guy are askin’ questions about you guys,” Dave answered.
“What kinda questions?”
“Why you were hired. Who hired ya’. Stuff like that.”
“Isn’t this Bob the brother of that mechanic... Dee?” asked another voice.
“Ya’ know, I heard this chick has some kind of factory out in the woods, she can build just about anything.”
“We could use someone like that,” the owner of the first voice mentioned, “You think we should send Dave to check these people out?”
“Yeah, see what this chick has in the way of resources, and find out more about this ‘fat guy’ and why he’s taken an interest in us.”
“How am I supposed to do that?” Dave asked.
“What do you want... a script? Tell Bob you wanna go ask his sister for a date or something.”
“Ok, I think I can do that,” Dave muttered.
“Hey! You will do these things, got it?”
When the talking ended Zipper made his best time back to Monterey and Bob. He’d barely had time to tell them that Dave had met with two others before Bob signaled that Dave was on his way back.
“So, Dafe, what about Rick’s new partner?” Bob asked.
Dave still wasn’t sure what he should say, on the short walk back he had run through a couple ideas but nothing seemed workable. After an awkward couple seconds frantically thinking of what to say, he finally answered, “Tell you what, Bob, I heard your sister has this great place in the woods... if you can take me there I’ll tell you everything you wanna know.” He hoped that on the way there he could come up with plausible answers to give them. Zipper had discretely flown behind Dave and motioned to the others that it wasn’t a good idea to agree to the proposition.
“No,” Bob flatly stated, “My sister doesn’t like unexpected company.”
Dave just stood there, unintentionally looking pathetic, desperately searching for a ‘plan B’. Then one popped into his head, and he jumped on it before thinking it through, “Ok, I’ll level with ya’... These aren’t people I wanna piss off, they don’t know where your sister lives so if I can hide out there I’ll tell you what I know.”
Zipper didn’t have any advice this time since he wasn’t sure if Dave was sincere or not. Bob decided to take him up on the offer, “Ok... c’mon.”
Upon reaching the roof where Gadget was waiting with the Ranger Wing, Dave was a little surprised, “Uh, Bob? Is that Dee?”
“No, that’s Gadget,” Bob answered, “Strange isn’t it?”
As Dee prepared to take Chip and Dale to meet with Romulus she left a note for the others prominently displayed in the hanger. She led the two chipmunks down a staircase into a larger section of the mill. They passed through a room with topographical maps spread out on the floor and hanging on the walls, then passed through a sliding door into a much more dimly lit room. There were piles of blankets scattered about, bones that clearly had once belonged to large animals, and a television.
“What do you use this room for?” Dale asked warily as he was rather concerned by the decor.
“I don’t,” she responded, “This is where Romulus and the others stay when they’re not out hunting.”
Chip inspected one of the bones as he passed. He was able to discern marks left by the teeth of a large carnivore. It didn’t take long for him realize who had left them, But there aren’t any of those in this part of the country, he thought, not outside of a zoo anyway.
Dee led them out of the mill at ground level by an opening just large enough for a large dog to squeeze through. She continued along a narrow path that led into the surrounding forest. Their trek was, for the most part, uneventful with Dee having to periodically reassure Dale that she did, in fact, know where she was going. They would stop occasionally as Dee sniffed intently at the air.
“Ah, this way!” she proclaimed as she began to push her way under some bushes. They emerged in a small clearing that was obscured from above by the prodigious branches of the surrounding trees. Scattered throughout were several large wolves, all soundly sleeping.
“I take it these are Romulus and the others?” Chip asked.
“Yep,” Dee responded as she calmly walked into their midst. “Actually this one’s Gary,” she mentioned as she passed one of the large predators, “That’s Romulus over there.” Dee walked straight towards one of the slumbering giants. This wolf lay on his side stretched out, as if he had been walking along and suddenly fallen asleep. From the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail was a broad swath of dark grey hair along his top, there was a fringe of tan separating this from the light grey that covered his underside.
Dee walked up in front of his face, “Hey, Rom!” There was no movement beyond his rhythmic breathing. “They must’ve just eaten,” she reasoned.
“I certainly hope so,” Dale said as he came to a stop near the end of the wolf’s snout.
Dee called out louder, “Romulus!” There was still no noticeable movement. She proceeded to climb up on to the side of his head.
“Are you sure that’s safe?” Chip asked.
“Yeah,” Dale joined in, “‘Let sleeping dogs lie.’”
“Sure I’m sure,” Dee reassured her companions as she pushed trough the hair around one of the pointed ears, “And you shouldn’t call any of ‘em ‘dogs’ to their face, they consider it an insult.” She leaned in towards the ear, “Hey, wake up!” Still no movement. Dee tried again, “WAKE UP!”
Romulus’s head suddenly lurched forward, knocking both Chip and Dee off their feet. After the flurry of movement all was quiet once more. Chip picked himself up off the ground as Dee’s head popped up out of the thick forest of hair.
“I didn’t know the adults hiccuped, I know the pups do... quite a lot actually,” Dee mentioned as she climbed back down.
“You all right, Dale?” Chip asked, “Dale?” Dale was nowhere to be seen, “Dale?!”
“HELP!” Dale’s cry was heard to be coming from inside Romulus’s mouth.
“DALE!” Chip ran up to the wolf’s lips, unsure about what he could do. Logically he knew there was no way he could pry a wolf’s jaws open, but to save his friend he was willing to try. Romulus shook as he began to snicker, his amber colored eyes opening slowly.
“Oh, real cute, Romulus, real cute,” Dee responded sarcastically, “Now spit ‘im out.”
Romulus lazily rolled onto his belly, his head flat on the ground. He opened his mouth and rolled out his tongue like a red carpet. Out rolled Dale, moist but none the worse for wear (at least in the physical sense).
“Dale? Are you ok?” Chip asked as he came to Dale’s side.
“Now I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of one of Monty’s cheese attacks,” the shaken chipmunk responded. Romulus resumed his snickering.
“THAT WASN’T FUNNY!” Chip yelled as he marched up to the amused carnivore, just barely able to see over his snout.
“Oh please, it was a riot.” countered Romulus who was now finding a measure of humor in how bold this particular rodent had become.
“Hey, Rom,” Dee started, “we could use your help.”
“No kidding,” the wolf responded as he turned his eyes to his petite friend, “This guy has absolutely no sense of humor.” Chip was on the verge of socking Romulus in the nose, even if it did mean starting a fight with someone more than a hundred times his size.
“Sense of humor or lack thereof aside,” began Dee, “we may have need of your help.”
“Really?” Romulus’s ears perked up.
“It seems a mouse in town has gone missing, it’s possible there’s some kind of mob involvement. The problem is that, including me and Bob, there’s only seven of us. We don’t know how many people we might be up against, what weapon’s they might have, or even what these people are... though in all likelihood they’re probably rodents.”
Romulus lowered his ears to the side, and did his best Godfather impression, “And you want us to make them an offer they can’t refuse.”
“Yes, ‘Don Lupini’,” Dee responded in keeping with the theme, “that’s it exactly.”
Romulus sat up and, gesturing with his paws, continued, “It would be my pleasure to do this thing for you, you have always been a good friend of the family. Now if you don’t mind, I must discuss this matter with my associates.” With that he stood up and sauntered off towards the rest of the pack.
Making their way back to the mill, Chip brought up a couple questions that had been pestering him since realizing Dee’s friends were large meat eating predators, “How did you make friends with a pack of wolves? For that matter, what are they doing here? I thought wolves were extinct in this part of the country.”
“As far as the humans know, wolves are extinct in this part of the country, and Romulus and his pack have gone to great lengths to avoid any contact with irrational gun-toting bipeds,” Dee answered, “As far as our friendship is concerned... The first night I stayed at the mill I heard this sad plaintive crying, I decided to track down whoever it was as soon as it was light enough out to look around. I eventually came upon a cluster of large boulders which was being circled by very agitated adult wolves. It took a while, but I found that one of their pups had fallen between two boulders and gotten stuck, wedged between ‘em in mid air. None of the adults were slender enough to get at it and the rest of the pups were too young, so it just hung there crying for it’s mother, crying for food, and sometimes just crying.
“I had just moved in and didn’t want my first week or so in my new home to be dominated by listening to a scared child crying as it slowly starved to death with the family within sight but unable to do anything. I did some estimates of the resources at hand, unpacked my tools, and went over to see what I could do. I was hoping that the adults were so preoccupied with worry that they wouldn’t snarf down a tasty little mouse morsel. I managed to get Romulus’s attention and explained that I had some ideas that could help. As it happens, he flatly declared that there wasn’t anything I was capable of doing since I was only a mouse and told me to get lost. I wasn’t about to let it go at that, I wanted to help that pup and I wanted to get even... in a morally acceptable way.
“The pack more or less ignored me as I began dragging pieces-parts to the top of one of the boulders. After a while some of them began to ask me what I was doing, eventually, Virginia, Romulus’s mate and the pup’s mother, heard about what I was trying. She pressured Romulus to get the pack members to help out. Now that I had more muscle power, the winch I was trying to build could be a lot larger and stronger. When it was done, some of the pack held the contraption in place on top of the boulder while others did the pulling, I nearly bought it when I went down to hitch the pup into the harness. We did get him out though, and Romulus and Virginia adopted me into the pack. I even let them move into the unused portion of the mill, and got them a cable hookup... Virginia is still a little sore about that since the pups and Romulus spend so much time in front of the TV.”
Gadget guided the Ranger Wing to a safe landing in Dee’s hanger. As the passengers disembarked Zipper pulled Monterey aside to tell him about what he’d overheard earlier. Dave looked around in astonishment at what Dee had made for herself out in the middle of nowhere.
“Chip?... Dale?... Dee?” Gadget called out and hearing no response assumed the obvious, “They must still be out.”
“Ok, Dafe,” Bob began, “What do ya’ know ‘bout those people?”
“Hm?” Dave muttered as he turned to face Bob.
“Those people you’re so afraid of, what do you know about them, and what they have to do with our boss?” Bob reiterated.
“Huh? Oh! They were hired by his new partner.”
“You said that already, you couldn’t think of his name, then you implied they were dangerous,” Bob was slowly losing his patience, “What is it?”
Before Dave could answer Monterey tapped Bob on the shoulder, “‘Scuse me, mate, there’s something Zipper just told me I think you should hear.”
“Hold on a minute,” Bob said to Dave. He walked with Monterey until they were sure Dave was out of earshot, Bob continued to face Dave while Monterey turned his back to him to discourage any attempt at lip reading. Gadget, who had found the note left by Dee, walked over to show it to Bob but listened in before saying anything. After hearing about Dave’s clandestine meeting they all turned to look at him, which caused him a great deal of worry. At this point Gadget mentioned that the note asked for them to wait in the ‘map room’.
“Hey, Dafe!” Bob called, “Dee’s gonna meet us in the map room, c’mon!”
Dave felt a wave of relief since he believed this could be another distraction. Bob led all of them into the room filled with maps that Dee, Chip, and Dale had passed through earlier. Once inside the room Gadget proceeded to inspect the maps intently as Bob and Monterey continued Dave’s interrogation.
“Ok, Dafe, Rick’s new partner, who is it?” Bob asked bluntly.
“William... William Wallace,” Dave answered confidently.
Monterey Jack and Bob looked at each other, “Our boss’s new partner is a dead Scottish war hero?” Bob asked incredulously.
“And a human no less,” Monterey added.
Damn! Dave thought, Knew I shoulda’ gone with Rick Blair! “Uh... Well, his family had a great deal of pride in their Scottish heritage,” he responded.
“Ok... Why are these people so dangerous then?” Bob asked, now convinced Dave was just feeding them a line.
“Oh, they aren’t,” Dave answered lightly, “I just wanted you to get me here so I could ask Dee out for a date.”
Dee had just arrived in time to hear Dave’s latest attempt at a lie, “Who the hell are you? And why should I go out with you?” she asked, completely unaware it was just a ploy that was about to be blown out of the water.
“He didn’t come here to ask you out, luv, he came here to check you out,” Monterey responded, turning to Dave, “right, mate?”
“Whattaya mean?” Dave asked as he desperately tried to cover for himself.
“We know about the talk you had with your associates,” Bob stated.
“Stop being stupid, Dafe, you know what talk,” declared Bob, “Now who are these people and what did they do with our boss?”
Dave finally accepted that his efforts at deceit had failed, “He didn’t wanna cooperate, so they took care of ‘im.”
“They killed him?” Gadget asked in shock.
“They will,” Dave corrected, “once they no longer have a use for ‘im.”
“Where are they keeping him?” demanded Chip.
“Why the hell should I tell any of you? Not like any of ya’ can do anything,” Dave responded arrogantly, “Get in their way and you’ll wind up dead,” he warned.
“How ‘bout if we make you talk?” Monterey asked as he cracked his knuckles.
“Heh! None of you have the guts. Not even you!” Dave countered as he gave Monterey a soft jab in belly. He walked through the middle of the group as he began to boast about the strength and ruthlessness of his new allies. Dave stopped after he had gotten to the opposite side of the assembled party. He turned and continued to boast with his back to the door leading to Romulus’s den.
At this point Romulus came swaggering in, Dave was too wrapped up in his speech to hear him. The enormous canine sat down, towering behind the flop eared mouse (much to the astonishment of Monterey, Gadget, and Zipper), and listened in. Dave then proceeded to compare the criminal organization to which he belonged with a pack of wolves, ravenous and unstoppable, at which the resident wolf rolled his eyes. The bluster reached a crescendo as Dave, arrogant as ever, asked, “What do any of you think you can do to make me talk?!” Romulus bent down and gulped him up, and sat back up with a smug look on his face and Dave’s tail hanging out of his mouth.
Dale laughed, “He was right, it is funny!”
“Yeah, just as long as it isn’t happen to ya’,” Dee commented.
A few moments later there was a terrified shriek form Dave who suddenly realized where he was, followed by what sounded like, “LEMME OUT, LEMME OUT, I’LL TALK, I’LL TALK!!” Romulus promptly spit him out.
Dave rolled to a stop amidst the crowd he had tried to impress, and all he could manage was, “Teeth, s-so m-many teeth...”
“Now,” Chip leaned over, “you were going to tell us where your associates took your boss?”
“W-what?” Dave muttered weakly.
“Our boss, Rick Tanner, where is he?” Bob asked.
Dave hesitated for a moment, still trying to recover from his recent experience, “Um, they said they took him to the mine.”
“What kind of mine?” Dee asked, “Coal mine, iron mine, land mine?”
“I dunno,” Dave answered, “they just said it was a mine.”
Chip turned to Dee, “Do you know if there are any mines in this area?”
Dee shook her head, “I’ve never heard of any.”
“George might know,” Bob mentioned.
“Who’s George?” Chip asked.
“He’s a historian,” Dee answered, “has a place under the Seneca Nation Museum in the west end of town.”
“Then that’s where we’ll head to next,” declared Chip.
“Perfect,” Dee said as she took Chip by the arm, “I was waiting for a chance to take you up in the Banshee.”
“Would it be all right if I came along?” Gadget asked, “I’d like to see how well it flies.”
Dee’s hopes were a little deflated, but she didn’t want to be rude, “Eh, sure, why not.”
“Wowie-zowie! Can I come too?” Dale chimed in.
Dee sighed, “Bob? Monty?”
“That’s all right, luv,” Monterey responded, “somebody has to stay behind to keep an eye on our friend, Dave ‘ere.”
“Yeah,” Bob mentioned in agreement.
“You go ahead, we’ll have a high old time,” Romulus said as he pulled Dave over with a menacing chuckle.
Up in the hanger Dee, Chip, Dale, and Gadget were taking their places in the limited seating provided by the Banshee. Dee informed her passengers that the small handle on their right would eject their seat in the event of an emergency. “Hey, these seats are pretty comfy,” Dale commented as he leaned way back in the foam padding.
“They have to be,” Dee responded, “or the takeoff would be very uncomfortable.” She checked over the controls, “Y’all strapped in?” When her passengers responded in the affirmative she pulled back on a lever. A couple of matches were struck as they were thrust from a rear compartment, and the resulting flames lit the fuses on the model rocket motors. As the fizzling started Dee called out, “Hold on!”
All were buried deep in the foam padding as the Banshee launched out of the hanger. Having had a chance to inspect the aircraft in detail, Gadget knew what to expect from the sudden acceleration. Chip and Dale, on the other hand, had to wait for their stomachs to catch up with them. Dee hit a red button on the side of the control panel and with a ‘POW’ the ramjet ignited.
The trip was quite short despite the roundabout path Dee took. As she approached the city Dee doused the engine and prepared to deploy the brakes. The plane’s speed decreased considerably as slats emerged from the wings, creating a whistling sound. Buildings sped by beneath as they descended. Dee began to circle near the landing site behind the museum before touching down. She deployed the landing skids and the Banshee surfed along the grassy field towards the wooded area nearby. Her passengers gripped their seats. They continued to slow more and more as the trees drew closer, then passed right by. The Banshee bounced over a few half submerged roots before coming to a complete stop.
“Perfect!” Dee declared, “Now we won’t have to drag it into the woods!” She unhitched herself and hopped out of the cockpit. Gadget was right behind. It took a little while for the boys to pull themselves together.
Finally disembarking from the aircraft, Chip reprimanded Dee, “You know, you could have warned us you were going to land that close to the trees.”
“I would’ve, but I didn’t know I was going to until I actually began to land,” she replied honestly, “this is the first time I ever tried landing here.”
“Dee?” Gadget asked.
“Why didn’t the Banshee sound so much like, well, a banshee when you landed this time?”
“Well I noticed, after the fact, that the landing siren was a little too conspicuous for landing in the city, especially since I land somewhere in the city nearly every day,” Dee explained, “I had to redesign it so it wouldn’t go off every time I came in for a landing.”
“It’s a good thing you used it when you landed that first time,” Dale commented, “or we all woulda’ been creamed.”
After crossing the field that separated the woods and the museum Dee explained that they had to go through the museum to find the entrance to George’s archives so they would have to be as inconspicuous as possible. They had made their way past and behind several displays before Dale stopped to look at one. There were several intricately carved wooden masks painted in bright colors hanging on the wall, many of which were comical in appearance. Dale laughed as he imitated one of them. The others stopped when they heard him.
“You’re not laughing at a ‘False Face’ mask, are you?” Dee asked with a hint of concern in her voice.
“Uh, why?” Dale asked in response.
“It’s bad luck,” Dee answered, “very bad luck.”
Dale became noticeably concerned, prompting Gadget to intervene, “Dale, there’s no such thing as bad luck,” she reassured him as she took his hand and began to lead him back to the others. This was followed by a loud ‘thunk’. They all turned back around to see one of the masks laying on the floor with Dale pinned beneath it.
“Told ya’,” Dee mumbled.
“C’mon,” Chip shouted, “We’ve gotta get him out from under there before any humans come to see what that sound was!” They managed to wrangle Dale loose and scurry behind a display just as a security guard rounded the corner.
The four entered a room containing a cutaway reproduction of a long house. Dee led the group over the floor of false dirt and under a bunk made out of branches and fur. She pulled aside a cover of bark to reveal the entrance to a tunnel. Compared to the cool atmosphere of the museum the subterranean tunnels were down right frigid.
After entering the chilly passages underlying the structure Dee called out, “George?!”
A few moments later her call was answered when an elderly packrat wearing a moth eaten old vest and bifocals came shuffling out from one of the side tunnels. “Yes... yes, I’m coming, hold on a minute,” he stammered. Hobbling over to the group he proceeded to greet them, “Hello, hello, how may I- Oh!” he stopped a moment upon recognizing Dee, “Doohickey, it’s a pleasure to see you again, dear... Tell me, how’s your mother?”
Dee looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “Dead,” she bluntly stated.
“Oh... OH! That’s right!” George konked himself in the head a few times, “I was at the funeral, how stupid of me! I’m sorry. Sometimes I’m amazed I even remember to get dressed in the morning.” He turned to face the others, “These must be friends of yours.”
“Yeah... Chip, Dale, and Gadget,” she said motioning to each in turn.
“Very nice to meet you,” he greeted, then taking a good look at Gadget, “Ah! This must be your daughter!”
Dee growled through her clenched teeth, “I don’t have a daughter!”
George’s eyes widened as he looked at Dee, then remembered, “Oh, that’s right. Sorry. What brings you all here?”
“We need to know what kind of mines there are around here,” Dee asked having suddenly returned to her previous calm.
“What kind of mines?” George asked.
“Iron mines, coal mines, gold mines...,” Dee rambled off.
“Yes!” George proclaimed.
“Yes what?” asked Chip.
“There are gold mines in this area,” he answered, “six of them I believe.”
“Really?” Dee responded in amazement.
“Yes,” George stated, “come.” He proceeded to hobble down the tunnel with his guests following close behind. Passing by several side passages George stopped at one in particular, “This should be the one we’re looking for.”
The room they entered was filled with bookshelves and desks from model homes, all of them overloaded with papers, scrolls, and various objects. George began to sort through a pile of pages that were yellow with age. He eventually found the documents he was looking for and began to read off the relevant information, “Now there’s Kyser’s Mine on South Mountain, a mine along Bucktooth Run, and there’s one below Fentier Village. Of course none of these proved to be profitable and were quickly abandoned.” George set down the papers and turned to face his guests, “The other three, however, were rumored to be far more valuable, but since they were located on Seneca and State owned land further commercial mining was forbidden by law and all official records of their locations were destroyed.” He walked over to one of the desks and lifted the top (causing a number of papers and files to slide off) and pulled out a folded sheet of high quality paper, the kind reserved for official government records, “As it happens, my grandfather, Randolf, came across this while rooting through an office up in Buffalo,” George began to unfold the document which soon occupied a great deal of space in the room, “Since it was scheduled to be destroyed he figured the humans wouldn’t mind if he kept it.”
Chip looked it over, then pulled a notepad and pencil from his jacket. He recorded the geographical coordinates detailed on the document pertaining to the mine locations. “We should be able to figure out where these are with the maps back at your place,” he mentioned to Dee as he returned the notepad and pencil to their proper location. “Are those the only mines in this area?” he asked George.
“Sure are,” George answered as he began to fold up the sheet of aged paper.
“Nya:wëh, this’ll help us out a great deal,” Dee said as she helped him finish the folding.
“Well I’m glad to help, of course.”
Upon returning to the Banshee, Dee immediately set to work getting it ready for take off. After ejecting the spent rockets she replaced them with fresh ones from a compartment in the nose. “Y’all mind helping me drag this into the field?” she asked her companions.
As they helped pull the aircraft from hiding Chip asked, “Dee, if you’ve never landed here before, how do you know you can take off from here?”
“She should be able to,” Gadget responded, “there’s more than enough room in this field, provided we don’t hit any depressions or rocks obscured by the grass.”
“Now that’s a reassuring thought,” Dee sarcastically mentioned.
After an uneventful return to the mill, Dee, Chip, Dale, and Gadget disembarked the Banshee and proceeded down to the map room. Bob, Monterey, and Zipper greeted the others as they entered the room. Dave was tied to a chair in a far corner.
“Where’s Rom?” Dee asked.
“He got tired of terrorizing Dave and decided to watch TV in the den,” Bob answered.
“So, what’d ya’ find out?” Monterey inquired.
“There’s gold in them thar hills!” Dale responded enthusiastically.
“There are six gold mines around here, three of which don’t officially exist,” Dee added.
“But we know where they are,” Chip stated as he pulled out his notepad, “at least we will once we find the coordinates on a map.”
“We should probably put him someplace else while we do our plotting,” Dee suggested motioning towards Dave.
“Right ya’ are luv,” Monterey stated, “Hope ya’ like mid afternoon talk shows.” He grabbed the chair Dave was tied to and proceeded to carry him upstairs. Setting the hapless mouse in front of the television Monterey flipped through the channels till he found Jerry Springer. “You enjoy yourself now,” he said as he left for the map room.
Reentering the map room Monterey found Chip calling out numbers as Dee walked across a topographical map marking mine sites with little X’s. “Y’know, I almost feel like Paul Bunyan here,” Dee mentioned as she crossed entire valleys with a single stride, “Shouldn’t I have an ox then? Hey, Bob, get on out here on all fours and ‘moo’ for me.”
The thought gave Monterey a good chuckle, “Heh, ‘Bob the Blue Ox’!”
“How ‘bout I just stand here and ‘moo’?” Bob responded.
“Sure, that’ll work,” Dee agreed as she marked another site on the map.
“Moo,” Bob said.
“There, that should do it,” Dee stated marking off the final site.
“Moo,” Bob repeated.
Chip walked out onto the map beside Dee, “Now to see if we can figure out which one of the mines would be most suitable for a hideout.”
“Moo,” Bob agreed.
“I think we can write off the three nearest the city,” Dee concluded, “those first three that George mentioned.”
“Moo,” Bob concurred.
“How do you figure?” Gadget inquired.
“Moo?” Bob asked.
“If they’re keeping someone prisoner they’d do it someplace fairly remote,” Dee began.
“So if their prisoner escaped he’d be less likely to find help,” Chip finished.
“Moo,” Bob mooed satisfactorily. Chip was starting to grow weary of Bob’s continual bovine commentary.
“Besides,” Dee continued, “I’m pretty sure anything left of the mine below Fentier Village would’ve been destroyed when they built the expressway...”
“Moo,” Bob pointed out.
“They blew away practically the whole north face of the hill,” Dee finished
“Moo!” Bob blurted out in astonishment.
“So it’d be one of the mines we just marked on the map here,” Dale pointed out.
“Moo,” Bob agreed.
“Now cut that out!” Chip shouted.
Bob hung his head and made one final, dejected, “Moo.”
Zipper squeaked out a suggestion, which Monterey wholeheartedly endorsed, “Zipper’s right, maybe one of the wolves ‘ave seen something.”
Dee walked over to the door to the wolves’ den, “Hey, Rom!”
“Can this wait for a commercial?” the leader of the pack responded. This was followed shortly by some scuffling and snarling, “Hey! OW! Ok, ok, I’ll go.” Romulus walked into the map room, “Never marry a she-wolf.”
“Has anyone in your pack noticed anything unusual at any of these sights?” Chip asked motioning to the map in the center of the floor.
The wolf sat down at the bottom edge of the map to take a look, “Ok, where are we?”
“The map room,” Dale offered innocuously.
Chip promptly bonked him on the head, “No you dummy, he means where on the map!”
Dee pointed out their location for the large canine. “Ah, let’s see...,” Romulus leaned in close to the map. “Right here,” he stated as he pointed out one of the X’s with his paw, “there were beavers working on something here a couple weeks ago, it didn’t make any sense since they weren’t near a stream or anything.”
“Someone will have to go there to check it out, see who’s there and what kind of defenses they have,” Chip thought aloud.
“We can do that,” Romulus offered, “A pack of wolves wandering through the area wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary, besides, what would they do? Ask us to leave?”
“That’s assuming everyone there is smaller than you are,” Gadget pointed out.
“The only two species we defer to are humans, who don’t live anywhere near there, and wildcats, and they’re extinct in these parts,” Romulus responded.
“Zipper, you should go with them,” Chip suggested, “to get a look at the place from above.”
Romulus turned to Zipper, “Ok, fly-boy, let’s go.” As he started to enter the wolves’ den Romulus looked back, “Hey, Dee, you’re gonna hafta’ pupsit for us, ok?”
“I was planning to head upstairs to get the Banshee turned around,” Dee responded.
“That’s ok, the pups are watching TV right now,” Romulus explained, “Just come down and tell ‘em a story or something if they get fussy.”
Once Romulus, his pack, and Zipper departed the mill, Dee, Bob, and the remaining four Rangers retired upstairs. Dee immediately set to work cleaning off the Banshee from it’s previous landing in a field as well as preparing for it’s next liftoff. Monterey, Dale and Bob set down to watch TV with the captive Dave while Chip set his mind to do some reading.
Dee was digging grass out of the Banshee’s landing skids when Gadget approached with a request, “Dee?”
“Yep?” Dee responded without looking up.
“I was thinking of doing some work on the Ranger Wing and wanted your permission before I started looking for parts.”
Dee was getting used to Gadget being around, though she was momentarily startled when she looked up at a pale version of herself. She’s a nice enough person, Dee thought, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. “Sure, just two rules first: try not to make a mess... and if you don’t use a part, put it back where ya’ found it.”
Gadget easily agreed to Dee’s terms and departed for the storeroom. Walking among the ordered stacks and piles she took stock of the parts available. It wasn’t long before a random thought floated into her head, This reminds me of the time Chip organized my workshop, my first birthday since moving in with the others... he wanted it to be a surprise. She began collecting parts for her current project. Well, it was a surprise, I just didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d misplaced everything. Of course he didn’t know he’d misplaced everything. Golly, a Duralux .60 Flex Joint! I’ve been looking for one of these for months! Chip and Doohickey seem to be getting along pretty good. Maybe it’ll be good for him to spend time with someone as organized as he is. Whoops... better put that back. Who knows, maybe she’ll get him to loosen up a bit, then maybe he won’t be so hard on Dale all the time.
When Dee finished work on the Banshee she tried to think of something to do to keep her mind off of the fact that Gadget was going through the storeroom unsupervised. Her gaze soon settled on her favorite chipmunk. Wonder if he’d be interested in a game of chess, she thought to herself as she walked towards the livingroom. As Chip read he was completely oblivious to the rest of world and therefore was completely unaware that Dee was reading over his shoulder... again. She contemplated how best to get his attention, and soon settled on an idea. Dee draped her arms around him as she snuggled her cheek against his, “Hello there!”
Chip’s book flew a fairly good distance before gravity reasserted it’s dominance, causing it to land with a ‘clop’. “Oh... hello... Dee,” he nervously stammered.
“I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing something a little more... stimulating.”
Chip’s entire body went numb for moment. He gulped, then asked weakly, “Like what?”
“Well,” Dee began, “no one has ever beaten me in a game of chess. Think you have what it takes to be the first?”
Having recovered slightly from his shock Chip let her offer sink in. He, himself, had never been defeated at chess either, so this invitation proved utterly irresistible. “There’s only one way to find out!” he declared as he accepted Dee’s challenge.
“Perfect! Just gotta get my set!” With that Dee dashed off to her room. She emerged a moment later with her chess set. “Over here!” she called to her opponent as she went to one of the workbenches in the hanger.
Dee excitedly set up the pieces which, to Chip’s amusement, had been crafted out of screws, nuts, bolts, and various other items. Should’ve figured, he thought to himself as he took a seat opposite Dee at the workbench.
Just my luck, Dale glumly thought, we meet a beautiful woman, and she turns out to be just like Chip. His spirits rose when he saw Gadget emerge from the storeroom. Wait, if Chip is playing chess with Dee, then he’s not doing anything with Gadget! “Ya’ know, I think I’ll see if Gadget would like a little help,” he mentioned as he hurriedly left the livingroom.
“If only Gadget were as interested in comic books,” Monterey observed.
“What’s that bat’s name...” Bob thought aloud, then answered himself, “Foxgluff.” Turning to Monterey he asked, “She put’s up with that?”
“What, ya’ mean Dale hittin’ on Gadget?”
“Yeah,” Bob answered.
“He doesn’t,” Monterey started, “at least not when Foxglove’s around. I think he ‘as a soft spot for her, he just hasn’t realized it yet.”
Bob stood up, “If none of you mind, I hafta’ use the facilities.”
“Well, seein’ as how it’s a commercial I may as well get myself somthin’ to eat,” Monterey mentioned. “Anything ya’ want me to bring ya’ back?” he asked Dave.
“A knife?” Dave responded with a little chuckle.
“Nice to see ya’ have a sense a’ humor ‘bout all this,” Monterey commented as he left for the pantry.
Dave looked back over his shoulder to be sure no one was watching. Prefect! he thought as he began to twist his hands. The entire time he had been in front of the television while all the others were in the map room he had managed to loosen his bonds. Almost got it, almost... THERE! Dave had finally freed his hands, and immediately reached for the knife he kept in his jacket. Can’t believe these idiots didn’t search me, he thought to himself as he cut loose his feet. Now for a hostage. Dave knew it would be impossible to escape to the ground level, what with a wolves’ den in the way, and decided the only way out was the way he had come in... by air.
Chip and Dee were too involved in their cognitive competition to notice that Dave was loose. The only warning they had was when Dave actually grabbed Chip from behind. He now had his left arm tight around Chip’s neck, and as the chipmunk tried to wrestle himself free Dave slashed at his hands with the knife. Dee began to advance on the two, but the instant Dave saw her move he brought his knife behind his captive, “Don’t get any closer or the chipmunk of your dreams gets it!”
By now everyone in the hanger was aware of what was happening. Dave quickly backed up pulling Chip with him, the knife point slowly drilling a hole in the back of his bomber jacket. As soon as everyone was within his field of view Dave stopped. “You!” he yelled to Dee, “In the plane... NOW!” She moved slowly towards the Banshee. Once she had taken her place in the pilot’s seat Dave pushed Chip into the passenger seat behind, then took the next seat back himself. “Now take off!” he commanded.
Not three seconds after the Banshee had taken to the air the wolf pups began whining. “They would have to start fussing now, wouldn’t they,” Gadget groaned.
The Banshee soared over the forested hills of the Allegany State Park with it’s three passengers. Dave was still tightly gripping his knife, trying to figure his next move. Chip was doing his best to deal with the cuts he had sustained during his scuffle with Dave. Dee flew her aircraft in no particular direction, growling to herself. I should have charged him, she thought angrily, he would’ve let go of Chip and used the knife to defend himself! I’d love to be able to eject that son of a bitch, but the handle is right next to him three seats back. An idea suddenly manifested itself, That might work, not like things can get any worse if it fails.
“Where am I supposed to be flying?” Dee called back to Dave.
“I don’t know!” he yelled.
“Great,” Chip responded, “we’re being held hostage by an amateur!”
“Shut up!” Dave searched his mind for an idea, “The mine! You’re going to take us to the mine!”
“What makes you think we know where it is?” Chip asked.
Dammit, Chip, shut up! Dee thought to herself, I know what I’m doing!
“Don’t give me that bull!” Dave yelled.
“We don’t have the fuel!” Dee responded.
“Listen!” Dee countered, “We’re too heavy to get that far with the fuel we have! If you’d told me we were going there I could’ve dumped the cargo before we left!”
“Then dump the cargo NOW!”
“I can’t dump it while I’m flying you jack ass! That’s why I would’ve had to dump it before we took off! The only way to dump it in flight is for someone else to pull the release lever!”
“Fine! Where is it?”
“On the right hand side of the third seat!”
So that’s what she’s trying to do, Chip realized, I hope Dave is as stupid as she thinks he is.
Dave quickly looked around and found the lever on his right, and pulled it. It wasn’t until he saw the whole aircraft shrinking beneath him that he realized something was very, very wrong. His blood froze as the full realization of what was happening hit him. HOLY SHIT!! his panicked mind cried out, I’M NOT WEARING A PARACHUTE!! He instinctively clutched the foam padded seat with all his strength, not knowing that the seat itself was equipped with a life saving device.
Dee turned the Banshee and searched the surrounding sky for her former passenger. She soon caught sight of Dave, desperately clutching his seat, dangling by a set of strings from a handkerchief.
Back at the mill Bob, Monterey, and Gadget were busy trying to determine what should be done. They were getting nowhere fast by the time they heard the wail of the Banshee. The three stood at the side of the landing strip in excruciating anticipation. Though each had great faith in the abilities of their missing comrades they had each privately feared that they would meet nevermore (at least not in this life). Almost before the aircraft even came to rest in the hanger Dee leapt from the cockpit. She dashed over to one of the workbenches and retrieved a first-aid kit.
As Chip began to disembark the others ran over to him. “Chipper, what happened?!” Monterey shouted.
“We dumped some unwanted cargo,” Chip calmly answered.
Gadget gasped as she saw the dried blood all over Chips hands, stomach and thighs, “Golly! Chip, are you alright?!”
“Huh?” the immense relief of a safe return had temporarily taken his mind off his injuries, “Oh... it looks a lot worse than it is.”
Dee rushed over with the first-aid kit and promptly set to dealing with Chip’s injuries, “Who’d think hand wounds could bleed so much?”
“Where’s Dale?” Chip asked as Dee bandaged his hands.
“He’s telling the pups a bedtime story,” Bob answered.
When Dee was finished tending to Chip’s injuries she wandered over to a workbench, grabbed a pencil and began writing. “Next refit: Install pilot activated passenger ejection system,” she mumbled aloud as she wrote.
“What happened to Dave?” Monterey asked.
“Dee tricked him into activating his ejection seat,” Chip answered, “he’s probably dangling from a tree branch somewhere.”
“Unless we were lucky and he got plucked up by a predatory bird,” Dee smiled as she looked up from her writing.
From down below came the cries of frightened wolf pups. The sadistic pleasure Dee took in imagining Dave’s demise dissipated at the sound of the first pitiable whine. She bolted from the hanger, down the stairs, and sprinted across the map room towards the den. The others did their best to keep up with her. Dee nearly collided with Dale while entering the den.
“Dale, what happened?” Chip asked as he came to a stop at the entrance.
“I don’t know,” Dale responded, “I was telling them the same bedtime story my mom always told me... Little Red Riding Hood...”
“Oh, Dale...” Gadget groaned.
“Dale, you dummy,” Chip answered, “you just told a litter of wolf puppies a bedtime story that ends with a wolf being HACKED TO DEATH by a woodsman!”
“Oh... hadn’t thought a’ that.”
“Well, on the bright side,” Gadget pointed out, “they’ll at least have a healthy fear of humans.”
Dee was inside the den doing her best to comfort the pups. “Don’t worry, the pack will be home soon,” she told them as soothingly as possible, “and they’ll be home even sooner if you go to sleep.”
“Will you sing us a lullaby, Aunt Dee?” one of the pups meekly asked as he sniffed back a tear.
“Ok, I’ll sing you a lullaby,” Dee responded softly, “but only one, so find yourselves a comfy place to sleep.” The sleek black coated puppies began to mill about searching for the best sleeping spot, and within a minute had conglomerated into one big pile on a blanket. While a few legs and tails still twitched within the mountain of puppy fluff, Dee began, “Ok li’l pups, here’s your lullaby...
“When the dark wood fell before me
and all the paths were overgrown,
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone.”
Out of sheer curiosity the five persons assembled in the map room stopped to listen.
“I did not believe because I could not see
though you came to me in the night.
When the dawn seemed forever lost
you showed me your love in the light of the stars.”
It sounded particularly familiar to Chip, who listened more intently as he tried to place it.
“Cast your eyes on the ocean,
Cast your soul to the sea,
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me.”
He finally remembered that Tammy had tried to serenade him with it last Valentine’s Day.
“Then the mountain rose before me
from the deep well of desire,
From the fountain of forgiveness
beyond the ice and the fire.”
It was a song by Loreena McKennitt: “Dante’s Prayer”.
“Cast your eyes on the ocean,
Cast your soul to the sea,
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me.”
Tammy’s version didn’t have quite so much emotion...
“Though we share this humble path, alone
how fragile is the heart.
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly,
to touch the face of the stars.”
...or quite so much tenderness.
“Breathe life into this feeble heart,
lift this mortal veil of fear.
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears,
we’ll rise above these earthly cares.”
Chip hadn’t noticed the others had already returned upstairs.
“Cast your eyes on the ocean,
Cast your soul to the sea,
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me.”
For a few moments Dee watched as the pups, piled one atop another, slept quietly. She turned and proceeded to leave the den, and was surprised to see Chip waiting in the map room. “Hae’,” she said smiling pleasantly.
At this point Chip finally realized he was alone with Dee. “Hi,” he responded nervously, “I... guess the others went back upstairs.”
“Either that or they became invisible,” Dee responded with a nervous laugh. She hadn’t thought that anyone would have stayed to listen to her sing. The fact that Chip had was incredibly flattering, and she began to blush noticeably. This eased Chip’s mind greatly, knowing that he was able to make her as nervous as she’d made him, even if it was unintentional.
“Do you pupsit often?” Chip asked as they began to leave the map room.
“Off and on, everyone in the pack takes their turn as the nanny,” Dee answered, “and besides, I am their ‘furry godmother’!” They were both laughing as they entered the hanger.
“How’re yer hands doin’ there, Chip?” Bob asked once Chip and Dee had seated themselves on the couch.
“Oh, they’re just a little sore,” Chip responded, not mentioning that some of the cuts still stung quite badly.
“If they start to bother you just let me know,” Dee offered, “I have plenty of painkillers, antibiotics, bandages... whatever you need, anything at all.”
Chip continued to downplay his discomfort. Both he and Dale would exaggerate their wounds in an effort to get just a little more attention from Gadget, but this wasn’t Gadget. Chip didn’t have to exaggerate to get attention from Dee, and he knew it, so he figured this would be an excellent time to demonstrate his mettle.
It was well after sundown when the excited yelping of pups alerted everyone to the return of Romulus, his pack, and Zipper. Dee put the finishing touches on a new set of bandages for Chip’s hands and they joined the others already gathered in the map room.
“So, what did you find out?” Chip asked.
“Those beavers we saw had built a pretty sturdy one level complex beside the entrance to the mine,” Romulus started, “There were a number of remote controlled toy vehicles kept just inside the mine entrance under a makeshift tent.”
“Of course,” Chip reasoned aloud, “they’d need reliable transportation into town.”
“There were rats, a few mice, and some raccoons going in and out of the place,” Romulus continued, “well, the raccoons couldn’t actually get inside the place, they’re too big. From their behavior I would guess that the mice were the ones in charge for the most part, the rats figured in the middle with the raccoons as hired help. They all kept their distance when they saw us come up the trail, we just sniffed around, looked in the few windows... y’know, typical canine investigative stuff, nothing that would give them the idea we were doing anything other than patrolling our hunting range. While they were watching us, Zipper here went in for a closer look and found that each room has an opening, skylight basically, and he located where they’re keeping the guy you’re after.”
“Good work there, Zipper!” Monterey cheered.
“Could you draw a layout of the place for us?” Dee asked.
Sure, no problem, Zipper motioned in response. Dee turned over one of the maps and Chip handed him a pencil. Zipper proceeded to draw an overhead view, pointing out whatever interior features he’d noticed during his reconnaissance. When he was finished drawing he gave a ‘grand tour’ of the hideout, detailing how many persons he’d observed in each room, what they appeared to be doing, and most importantly, where Rick Tanner was being held and how many appeared to be assigned to watch him.
They all studied the map for awhile. Dee was the first to speak, “Ya’ know, those skylights just beg for an airborne assault, just like the battle for Eben Emael.” Everyone just stared at her. “Sorry, guess you’re not all that into military history.”
“Why would they haff skylights?” Bob asked, “Wouldn’t they figure someone would try to get in through them?”
“They probably didn’t expect anyone would find them,” both Chip and Dee answered simultaneously. They looked at each other and began to blush, much to the amusement of the others.
When the chuckles subsided Chip added his voice to the planning, “Dee is right, coming in from above would be best.”
“Well that solves the problem of getting in,” Monterey began, “but how are we going to deal with the guards once we’re in?”
“We’ll need a distraction,” Dale answered, confident that no one could find fault with his reasoning.
Dee looked up at Romulus, “Maybe the wolves can cause some trouble?”
“Wait a minute,” Dale intruded, “Can’t the wolves just tear the place apart and grab Rick?”
“That’s a cute thought, ‘hors-d’oeuvre’,” Romulus responded patting Dale on the head roughly, “But it’s not particularly easy to break apart something a beaver’s built.”
“Besides,” Dee added, “there’s no way for them to be certain that doing so won’t seriously hurt or kill the people inside.”
“If we come in and start harassing some of their people outside it should distract them nicely,” Romulus suggested.
“That’s right!” Gadget realized, “some of them would have to be outside, the racoons are too large to take refuge inside.”
“And while they’re all watching what’s going on outside,” Monterey added, “we land on the roof, come in through the skylight, grab Rick and leave before they know anything’s happened.”
“Landing on the roof would be a little obvious,” Dee mentioned, “this thing’s only one story high, they might notice something like the Ranger Wing or Banshee coming in... What if we land on the mine entrance?” she indicated a spot on the diagram, “right here...”
“If we don’t land too close to the edge they shouldn’t see us,” Gadget agreed, “and our climbing down the side of the mine entrance wouldn’t be nearly as obvious as an incoming aircraft.”
Having developed a general idea of what should be done discussions soon settled on particulars. Chip and Dee dominated the talk, even finishing one another’s sentences at times. If the issue involved the need for equipment Dee and Gadget would throw around ideas. Chip ran through the plan several times with the others to spot any possible flaws and to ensure everyone knew their place. When the meeting adjourned they all retired for a late dinner, except for Romulus who returned to the den to watch some television (Virginia permitting).
With dinner completed Dee and Gadget immediately went to work crafting the tools necessary for the coming mission. Monterey, Bob, Dale, and Zipper found something to entertain themselves on Dee’s television. Chip returned to his detective novel, but read unusually slow as his mind was still working through the strategy for the next day.
Just as Dee and Gadget were completing the last of the equipment a thunderstorm rolled in. As the lightning grew progressively closer a thought occurred to Gadget, “Uh, Dee? Where do you keep the fuel for the Banshee?”
Dee didn’t have to ask why her near double asked, “Don’t worry, the storage tank is grounded. And this place has been hit by lightning on more than one occasion without any problems... so there’s nothing to worry about.” When they were finished Gadget and Dee introduced the others to their creations and gave instructions on how they were to be operated.
Everyone returned to the living room. There wasn’t much talk, what little there was centered on the severe weather warning that had been flashed along the bottom of the television screen. Before long, Dee leaned over and rested her head on Chip’s shoulder, which he didn’t really seem to mind, he simply continued reading. He wondered how long Dee could stay snuggled up next to him... until she began to snore. Not very loud snoring, just enough to tell him she was out like a light.
One by one everyone began to retire to their beds for the night. Since Dee was still slumbering next to Chip, Bob took it upon himself to close up the hanger for the night. Before she, herself, checked out Gadget whispered to Chip, “You’re going to have to wake her sooner or later, you can’t sleep sitting up. Well, achally you can, but you really shouldn’t, it’s not very conducive to your health.”
“I know,” Chip responded, “I’ll wake her as soon as I finish this chapter.” Finishing the chapter was actually the second reason he hadn’t moved, he was finding it hard to wake her while she was sleeping so peacefully. This really isn’t a good position for her to sleep in, I should wake her up, he finally convinced himself. Chip’s first subtle efforts to wake Dee merely resulted in her leaning over in the opposite direction, resting her head on the arm of the couch. Great, Chip thought, that’s an even worse position for her. Another effort to rouse her simply prompted her to stretch out on the couch.
“Dee, wake up,” Chip whispered loudly, just as loud as he felt he could considering the other Rangers were sleeping nearby. He shook her. No response. She can’t really be sleeping this deeply... wait, how would I know how deeply she sleeps? “You’re not going to make this easy for me are you?” he asked hoping he could trick her into revealing if she was really awake after all. The only response was the same deep regular breathing and faint snoring he had become accustomed to. Well if she really does sleep this soundly than she won’t get mad if I go into her room to drop her off! He slipped his arms underneath Dee’s sleeping form and lifted her off the couch. Chip half expected Dee to wrap her arms around his neck.
Opening the door proved easier than Chip had anticipated. He carefully maneuvered through Dee’s bedroom, occasionally waiting for a flash of lightning to reveal any potential obstacles. Arriving at her bed Chip realized he’d have to turn her around, or else leave her feet resting on the pillow. While turning Dee as gently as possible into a proper sleeping position he wondered how she would react if she were to awaken while he was still leaning over her. The fact that just a look from her was enough to cause Bob to visibly cower didn’t do much to reassure him. Just as he laid Dee’s head on her pillow she began to move.
Chip swiftly backed up and waited to see just how awake she had become. Dee rolled over on her side, facing him, but still seemed to be slumbering. Letting out a sigh of relief Chip began to leave the room.
“Don’t go,” Chip heard her whisper.
“What?” he whispered in response.
“What?” Dee asked, lifting her head slightly from the pillow.
“Didn’t you just say ‘don’t go’?”
“Musta’ been dreaming,” she mumbled laying her head back down on the pillow. Thinking that she had drifted back to sleep, Chip turned to leave, grateful that things had gone as smoothly as they had. “Wait,” he heard her whisper loudly.
“Yes?” Chip asked as he turned to face her.
Dee propped herself up on an elbow as she spoke, “I haf something a little... strange to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“Well, it’s sort of a fafer,” Dee mentioned, her Seneca accent becoming more noticeable. She propped herself up on her elbow, “I’fe been waiting a long time to meet somebody like you... and here you are... and today I nearly lost you... so... while you’re still here...,” she hesitated, trying to find the right words, “I... want to... haf you... to hold onto... as I go to sleep.”
Chip’s heart began to race, Is she asking what I think she’s asking?
“It’s nothing sexual,” Dee reassured him, “I just want... to hold you... instead of my pillow.” She added softly, “Please.”
A flash of lightning illuminated the room and Chip could clearly make out the expression on her face. Up to that point she always had an air of supreme confidence, but now that confidence was gone. In it’s place Chip found something, something that looked almost like fear. A peal of thunder shuddered through the room. Chip couldn’t bring himself to turn and walk from the room, or explain to her why he should (which was made even more difficult due to a lack of ideas as to why he should).
“Ok,” Chip said, “move over.” Dee slid to the side to give him room. As he reached the side of the bed he remembered about the open door, “Want me to close the door first?”
“As long as you promise to come back,” Dee joked.
Chip climbed into Dee’s bed after having closed the door. As soon as he’d settled in, Dee nestled in as tight as she could manage throwing an arm over and pulling him closer. Chip placed a comforting hand on her arm as he closed his eyes.
“What are you thinking about?” Dee asked as her face remained buried against his neck.
“Nothing,” he responded.
“You’re lying,” she countered, “you’re clenching your jaw, I can feel it. So either you’re concentrating on something or you haff trouble controlling your facial muscles.”
“I was thinking about tomorrow,” Chip confessed.
“Don’t,” Dee pleaded, “You need rest, and yer not going to get it by worrying.”
Chip couldn’t silence the strategist in him, working over the next day’s plan, looking for anything that might have been overlooked. He was also worrying, though he hated to admit such uncertainty to himself.
Dee realized he wasn’t letting go. She put her hand on his cheek and turned his head so she could face him. Dee was close enough that Chip could feel her breath as she spoke gently, “I learned years ago to appreciate these moments of peace before the storm. This moment can never be repeated. Once it has passed... there will never be another moment like it, no other chance to enjoy it. Don’t think about tomorrow... don’t think about yesterday... just think of now... let the rain sing to you, let the thunder massage your weary muscles... appreciate what is here now. This night you’re safe. Just close your eyes and rest.”
“Ok,” Chip quietly agreed laying his head back on the pillow. Dee nestled her face back into his neck and hugged him close. Chip laid there motionless feeling the heat of her breath coursing through the fur on his neck. It wasn’t long before this was joined by Dee’s soft snoring. Wait, what if everyone else is awake by the time I get up again? Chip thought, certain that Dee wouldn’t reprimand him for doing so, how am I supposed to explain this to the others? I can’t exactly get up and leave now, though... She’s right, what’s the point in giving myself a headache over this, I can’t avoid it and can’t do anything until then.
Closing his eyes, Chip let out a deep sigh and just listened to the rain playing a melody on the roof, felt the thunder roll through him, felt Dee’s warmth and the steady rhythm of her breathing. He was amazed at how comfortable he suddenly felt. Chip was unable to recall another time in his life where he felt this safe and secure. He soon slipped into a blissful, restful sleep.
A sea of fog filled the forested hollows of the State Park by the time the storm had passed. The morning sun was visible only to the birds nesting near the peaks of the hills. The cold front that had driven the storm before it had settled in and permeated through all but the best insulated dwellings.
Monterey Jack was the first to awaken in the hanger. As he stretched by his bed (cracking several joints in the process) he noticed that Chip’s bed was rather empty. Always was the one to get the jump on the day, he thought, ‘specially when there’s important work to be done. Monterey expected to meet Chip on his way to the kitchen, but he was nowhere to be seen. Taking his coffee with him Monterey surveyed the hanger, still no Chip. Walking back towards the living room he stopped at the empty bed. Cold as a polar bear’s behind, he noted as he felt the bedding. Sitting himself down in the living room he glanced through the kitchen at the door to Dee’s bedroom. Ya’ don’t suppose... nah. But where else could he be?
A few minutes later Dale rolled out of bed, literally. Falling to the floor with an undignified ‘flump’ he suddenly awoke. “Who-what-where?” Dale hurriedly babbled as he tried to ascertain what had just happened.
Dale’s sudden onslaught of noise woke Gadget and Zipper, both of whom sat up and stretched as they tried to work the tiredness from their muscles. Zipper groggily buzzed into the living room and sat up on the back of a chair with a long strung out yawn.
“Good morning, Monty,” Gadget said following Zipper into the living room.
“Mornin’ Gadget, luv.”
Gadget looked around, “Where’s Chip?”
Monterey wasn’t quite sure how to answer. He cleared his throat as he unconsciously looked towards the kitchen. Gadget noticed this and wandered into the kitchen, then into the pantry.
“Well, he’s not in there,” Gadget stated as she walked back into the living room. She stood for a moment, running things through her mind. Something finally dawned on her, “Waitaminute, you don’t mean...” She looked back over her shoulder towards Dee’s bedroom, then looked to Monterey who merely shrugged. She let out a little squeak before covering her mouth, then began to blush.
Dale, who had finally gotten his wits together and pulled himself off the floor, entered the living room, “Mornin’ Monty... Zipper... Gadget.” Dale stopped when he got a look at Gadget. She had a stunned look on her face, was blushing considerably, and kept making peculiar squeaking sounds from behind her hand, “Uh, Gadget? You feeling ok?” Gadget simply looked at him.
Bob came wandering through the hanger, still half asleep. Monterey decided to take a wild stab, “Hey, Bob, you ‘aven’t, by any chance, seen Chip?”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah, I seen ‘im a whole lot,” Bob mumbled as he entered the living room.
“I-I mean this mornin’,” Monterey clarified.
“Oh hell no, I just got up,” Bob answered. Then he saw Gadget. “Is she ok?” he asked turning back to Monterey with a concerned look. Gadget’s squeaks began to take on the semblance of a suppressed giggle. “Uh, why do you want to know if I’ve seen Chip?” Bob ventured out of sheer confusion.
Monterey finally had an idea for what to say, “Near as I can figure,” he began, “he’s either in the map room, sleeping with the wolves, or...” he trailed off looking in the direction of the closed door on the other side of the kitchen.
“You don’t mean...” Bob started incredulously.
Dale finally got the point, and his jaw dropped.
Bob walked over to his sister’s door, then suddenly stopped. “No-o-o, I don’t think I’ll go right in,” he drawled, “I made that mistake before.” He walked out onto the balcony, and disappeared. In a few moments he returned, “Yeah, they’re in there!” Gadget’s squeaking got a little louder. “They are fully dressed though,” he reassured everyone.
Neither Dee or Chip noticed Bob taking a look in through the sliding glass door. Dee gave her bomber jacket clad teddy bear a gentle squeeze. “Finally woke up?” Chip asked softly.
“Finally?” Dee asked, “I’ve been awake for the past half hour,” she looked up at him, “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“So have I,” he responded, “I didn’t want to wake you.” They both laughed at the irony.
“Well, may as well get up now,” Dee mentioned as they both began to get out of bed.
“Ladies first,” Chip stated with a smile as he opened the door for Dee.
“Ooh, how chivalrous,” Dee cooed as she walked past.
The sound of the door opening immediately drew the attention of everyone in the livingroom. Dee emerged first, clearly amused by something. She was followed by Chip, who closed the door behind him. Once they realized everyone was staring at them they slowed down and, upon entering the livingroom, stopped.
Dee’s unconscious instinctively told her to confront them with “What the hell are all of you looking at?” However, her rational mind took over and she opened with, “Just so you don’t give us this look for the rest of the day: We didn’t do anything...” then added, “well, not what all of you seem to think we did.”
Chip decided to divert attention away from the awkwardness of the moment, “We’d all better have a light breakfast, you don’t want to eat so much that it’ll slow you down.”
“I’m gonna head down to talk with Romulus, see how long it’ll take him and the others to get to the mine,” Dee announced, then left for the den.
Chip returned to the kitchen to prepare himself breakfast. When he returned, Dale cautiously posed the question that was gnawing at him, “Uh... What did you and Doohickey do last night, Chip?”
“Dale!” Gadget scolded as she and everyone else gave Dale stern glances.
“Well that’s really none of your business, Dale,” Chip responded with an offended tone. Chip thought about admitting that Dee simply wanted him to hold on to, but thought that doing so without her ‘ok’ would be a poor decision to say the least.
Dee soon returned from the den and passed on the information from Romulus, “He says they can make it in about twenty minutes.”
“That means we should leave here about twenty five minutes after they do,” Chip remarked, “That way we’ll be sure they’re there and causing a distraction when we arrive.”
Dee fixed herself a little something to eat and sat beside Chip on the couch (which the others had left open for them). Periodically the two of them would glance in the other’s direction, and occasionally, when their eyes met, they’d smile. Monterey, Zipper, and Bob found this to be rather entertaining. Dale was quickly growing tired of their behavior, If they get any more lovey-dovey I’m going to lose my breakfast, he thought to himself.
But something was bothering Gadget that she couldn’t quite place. I don’t think it’s what I’m eating, she thought, and I’m not nervous... Could it be that I’m jealous? No, that’s silly, I don’t have any reason to be jealous. I don’t even have a relationship with Chip... well, not that type of relationship anyway. I’ve thought about it, but I already decided it wouldn’t be a good idea: if I started up a relationship with him it might alienate Dale, and if the relationship went bad it’d affect the whole team... I can’t do that. Besides, he is a little too strict at times, he might turn out to be the type who wants to control the relationship, and that would cause it to fall apart and it would affect the whole team. And Dee has a lot more in common with him, and they are getting along really well. Then what’s bothering me? I know! Because of all the attention that Dee’s been giving Chip, he hasn’t had a chance to flirt with me like he usually does, therefore I must be suffering from withdrawal! Yeah, that makes perfect sense!
Once everyone had finished with their breakfast it was time to get down to business. Dee was the one to tell Romulus and his pack to head off for the mine.
“By the way, we’ll be leaving the pups with Honker,” Romulus called up the stairs to Dee.
“You think that’s a good idea?” Dee responded.
“Do you really want us to take him with us?”
“Um, no, not really.”
“We’ll see ya’ at the mine then.”
As Dee walked back into the hanger where the others were assembled Chip felt compelled to ask, “Why don’t we want ‘Honker’ helping out at the mine?”
“Well, when Honker was a pup he swallowed a horn,” Dee proceeded to explain, “It got stuck. Ever since then he’s been unable to bark or howl, he just sort of honks.”
“That’s terrible,” Gadget commented.
“The first time he went along on a hunt an entire herd of deer laughed themselves silly,” Dee continued, “It was a rather harsh blow to the pack’s pride... being laughed at by their prey. Anyhow, Honker’s forbidden to say anything on the hunt, but given the circumstances we’d rather not take the chance that he’ll forget and start honking out of excitement.”
“Ok, let’s make sure we all know what we’re doing,” Chip stated to the group, “Dale, myself, and Dee will go in the Banshee, we’ll be taking the rope ladders... Gadget, Monterey, Bob, and Zipper will follow in the Ranger Wing, you’ll be taking the winch. While we’re waiting for the Ranger Wing, Dee will get the Banshee ready for take off. When we’ve all arrived we’ll use the rope ladders to descend down the side of the mine entrance, then we set up the winch over the room where Mr. Tanner is being kept, Dee and myself will drop in to get him, then Monterey and Bob will use the winch to pull us out. After that, we ascend the ladders, get Mr. Tanner in the Banshee with Dee and Dale, who will take off immediately, the rest of us will follow in the Ranger Wing and we’ll all meet back here.”
Everyone confirmed that they all understood their roles and began gathering the equipment. When the time came they boarded the two aircraft and strapped themselves in. As Dee pulled the ignition lever Chip saw a chance to be dramatic and proclaimed, “Rescue Rangers AHHHHHHHHH!” Unfortunately he had misjudged how long it would take the rockets to fire. Once he’d caught his breath he cleared his throat and finished with a rather subdued, “away!” Dale and Dee couldn’t help but snicker quietly to themselves.
Dee soon located the clearing where she saw large gray animals harrying smaller brown animals. “Well, that’s them,” Dee proclaimed as she shut off the engine. She made a couple loops around the area to slow down for a landing.
Chip looked down at their landing site, “There’s not enough room for the Banshee to land!”
“Sure there is!” Dee responded sprightly, “I’ll just have to use the emergency brakes!”
Dale gulped, “You’re not going to say ‘They should work’ are you?”
“Oh hell no, I know they work,” she answered, “It’s just extremely uncomfortable is all.” Coming in for the final approach Dee called to her passengers, “Put your head between your knees and hold on to your hats!”
The instant Dee felt the landing skids hit the earthen embankment atop the mine entrance she pulled a lever under her seat. Spikes shot out from the skids, lodging themselves into the dirt and bringing the Banshee to a near immediate halt. Once everyone’s stomachs had settle they disembarked. Dee immediately set to work preparing her aircraft for takeoff, Chip began unloading the rope ladders, and Dale checked on the situation below.
“Doesn’t look like they saw us,” Dale relayed, “everyone’s too busy watching the wolves play ‘raccoon ball’.”
“Raccoon ball?” Dee asked as she retrieved fresh rockets from the nose of the Banshee.
“Yeah, they have one of them rolled up and they’re kicking him around like a soccer ball!”
“Is it just the raccoons outside?” Chip asked.
“Nope,” Dale answered, “There are a few rats and a mouse down there too.”
“They probably got locked out when the others ran for cover,” Dee supposed, “Hey, I could use a little help here, we need to push the plane back to get the brakes to retract.” Chip and Dale took up positions on either side of Dee and pushed the jet backwards till they heard the metallic clack of the brakes being pulled into the skids. “Now we have to push forward a bit, just to make sure nothing’s stuck,” Dee stated as she ran to the rear. The Ranger Wing landed as Dee proclaimed the Banshee airworthy. Bob and Monterey disembarked with the winch.
“Where’s the other rope ladder?” Dee asked looking around.
“It’s still in the Banshee,” Chip answered as he went to retrieve it.
“I’ll get it,” Dale interrupted, “I’m closer!” Dale hopped aboard the plane and grabbed the rolled up ladder. As he tried to jump off he came to a sudden halt, and dropped the ladder on Chip.
“What’s wrong with you?” a very irritated Chip asked.
“I’m stuck!” Dale answered tugging on his shirt (which had caught on something).
Dee jumped up to help free Dale, “I can’t even tell what it’s stuck on,” she stated leaning in close.
Chip saw that the others were already prepared and were waiting on him and Dee. “We don’t have time for this,” he called to Dee and Dale, “Dale, you and Zipper keep an eye on things up here.” Zipper gave a salute while Dale continued tugging at his shirt.
The rope ladders, once affixed to the earth embankment, were rolled down the steep slope of the mine entrance. Chip, Dee, Monterey, Bob, and Gadget quickly descended to the roof of the hideout. Bob and Monterey deposited the winch by the side of the skylight as Gadget began making final adjustments.
“There’s a problem!” Dee called out in a harsh whisper, just loud enough to be heard over
ruckus caused by the wolves.
“Don’t say that!” Bob responded.
“What is it?” Chip asked.
“There are two guards in the room,” Dee answered, “we can’t go in with them in there.”
“We’ll have to go in anyway,” Chip resolutely responded.
“What if we create a distraction?” Gadget offered.
“We already have the wolves raisin’ Cane,” Monterey mentioned, “What more can we do?”
“I have an idea!” Dee stated as she ran to one of the rope ladders. In a few moments she returned carrying one of the rocket motors.
“Won’t we need that to lift off?” Chip asked as Dee ran over.
“I always keep enough for two more liftoffs when I leave the hanger,” she hurriedly explained. Looking into the next skylight she spotted two more guards, “Perfect!” Dee reached into the front of her jumpsuit and produced a match, then lit the fuse. “Enjoy!” she yelled throwing the lit rocket down into the room.
“What’s that?!” they heard one of the guards shout, this was followed by the sound of the rocket firing. The sounds of the rocket casing ricocheting from one wall to another was accompanied by a great deal of screaming.
“It worked!” Gadget announced as she watched to the two other guards race to the door. Throwing it open they were immediately engulfed by a billowing cloud of grey-brown smoke and became completely disoriented.
Chip and Dee each grabbed a handhold at the end of the two ropes that emerged from the winch and were quickly lowered down. Rick Tanner was standing at the opposite side of the room from the door, which by now had been completely hidden behind a wall of acrid smoke. His finely tailored jacket was rather worn after a couple weeks of continuous wear.
“C’mon, we’re gettin’ you outta here!” Chip said as he and his partner grabbed the extremely dazed and confused mouse. The three raced back to the ropes that dangled down from the skylight above. “Hold onto these,” Chip told him placing his hands at two loops attached to the rope. Mr. Tanner grabbed hold of the hand loops.
“Bring us up!” Dee yelled as she grabbed the hand loops on the neighboring rope. Rick and Dee were swiftly lifted off the floor as Bob and Monterey worked the levers of the winch. Chip grabbed the handhold at the end of one of the ropes as it ascended. Once all three were safely through the skylight the whole group took to the rope ladders.
Above, Dale was still wrestling with his stubbornly stuck shirt. Zipper, who was keeping watch, alerted him to movements in the bushes behind. They both ducked down out of sight into the Banshee as several large rats and a couple mice emerged.
“David, I’m impressed!” one of the new arrivals declared, “Your words hardly did justice to these exquisite aircraft.”
“Well, they do have to be seen to be believed.” Dale immediately recognized the second voice, Dang! They must have found Dave after Chip and Dee ditched him! he thought.
“Yes, quite right. This more than makes up for your getting caught,” the first voice replied, “Now to wait for them to come to us.”
“We’ve gotta warn the others!” Dale whispered to Zipper.
“Ah! You must be the Rescue Rangers!” the first voice proclaimed.
“Too late,” Dale mumbled.
“And Dee Hawkfeather and her brother Bob,” Dale and Zipper peaked out over the side of the Banshee and watched as the others were apprehended. The large knives carried by their captors were difficult to argue with as their hands were bound behind them. “And of course, Mr. Tanner, always a pleasure to speak to you... At least your last day on Earth was an exciting one!”
The commotion caused by the wolves below died down once they noticed what had happened atop the mine entrance. Romulus and his pack assembled and tried to figure out what they should be done.
“My name is William Danforth,” the gang’s impeccably dressed boss opened, “I’ve recently set up operations in town and am looking for employees to assist my fledgling business. I have openings for...” he motioned to the Banshee and Ranger Wing, “two pilots. Of course anybody with a strong back is welcome,” he added looking to Bob and Monterey, then to Chip, “and I’m sure we can find something for you to do. Mr. Tanner turned down my gracious offer to make him an administrator answerable only to me, which is actually quite unfortunate... But all of you have shown yourselves to be clever and capable people, so I’m sure you can see the obvious benefits of joining our little organization... otherwise it would mean throwing your lives away for a failed and pointless effort... trying to save a fool who clearly can’t appreciate a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance at wealth and power, even when it’s handed to him.”
“We’d never work for a lowlife like you!” Chip responded
“Too right!” Monterey added, “Ya’ may as well be planting roses in the Great Sandy Desert, mate!”
“Is this how you all feel?” Danforth asked in false astonishment. He could clearly discern their answer by the look they gave him. “That’s unfortunate, it truly is,” he replied, “Well Mr. Tanner, at least you won’t be alone in the shallow ditch I’m going to have your corpse thrown into.” The wolves below began snarling. This was all they could do at the moment, they knew the only way to the top was accessible to small animals alone. Looking down on them condescendingly Danforth continued his calm and emotionless diatribe, “Now I can’t kill you all, of course. If I did, those diseased mongrels down there would rip me and my men to shreds. So, I’ll have to keep one of you...” he walked up to Dee, “and since you Miss Hawkfeather are so close to them, you’ll have the honor of being my guest. I’m sure you’ll learn to appreciate what I can provide for you... with the right incentive.”
The wolves responded badly to such a suggestion. Romulus vented his frustration by destroying the gang’s remote controlled vehicles. The other wolves followed suit and soon the space before the mine entrance was filled with shredded tires, bent axles, smashed engine casings, and mangled chassis.
“Destroy my cars you stupid mutts!” the mobster called out, “I have planes, I can just fly over you!” He returned his attention to Dee, “So, my dear, what do you think of my offer?”
Dee’s expression turned from one of disgust to an amused smirk. Boy was that the wrong question to ask! she thought to herself. Bob noticed the look on his sister’s face, and remembered the last time he’d seen it... just before she put someone in the hospital. Danforth, deep down, was uneasy about her sudden change of attitude, but his arrogance overwhelmed his common sense, and he didn’t back away. He realized his mistake when he felt Dee’s teeth plunging into his snout.
Shrieking in agony, Danforth grabbed Dee’s head and tried to pull her off, but that only added to the pain. The wolves below barked and howled their approval. Zipper was about to make a dash over behind his comrades to untie them during the confusion but realized some of the guards were keeping their attention fixed on their captives. One of the rats grabbed a hold of Dee and held her still while a second pried her mouth off his boss’s face. Once pulled off, Dee was thrown back with the other prisoners, her mouth and chin covered with Danforth’s blood. “Hm, tastes like chicken,” Dee said after tumbling to stop.
“YOU CRAZY BITCH!!” Danforth shouted holding a handkerchief to his mauled snout, “I’LL HAVE YOU SKINNED ALIVE!!”
“Ooh, I merit special treatment!” Dee responded excitedly. Some of the wolves tried jumping but could barely graze the crossbeam of the entrance, nowhere near high enough to do any good.
Dale had finally had enough of waiting for an idea or opportunity to present itself. He grabbed the area of his shirt closest to where it was caught and pulled hard. It gave a little, but not much. Dale propped his feet up against a seat and made a sudden, hard pull. His shirt slipped loose without any resistance whatsoever. All the force Dale had put into the pull sent him spiraling through the air. When the world stopped spinning he found himself sitting upright in the pilot’s seat. Looking over the nose of the Banshee he saw the thugs spread out before him, their attention focused on his bound comrades off to his right
Danforth began to recover his composure. With blood dripping down the front of his fine suit and tears streaming down his face he continued somewhat calmly, “I guess I’ll have to choose someone else.” He looked at the group for a moment and soon fixed his eyes on Gadget. “You should be grateful,” he said as he walked over to her, “your friend there just saved your life.” Gadget responded by spitting in his face. He instinctively drew back towards his lackeys, fearful that her sudden movement heralded a second assault on his snout.
Dale was ready to jump from the Banshee and tackle the nearest thug. As he stood in the pilot’s seat he rested his foot on a ledge for support. What he thought was a ledge was the rocket ignition lever, and the weight of his foot pushed it out of place. Dale promptly lost his balance and fell back into the seat. He was about to make a second try when he heard the fizzling of the rockets. Dale strapped himself in a split second before the Banshee went plowing through the assemblage of bad guys.
Danforth and the members of his gang hadn’t the slightest idea what hit them. Romulus and the other wolves were just as surprised, they heard the Banshee launch, immediately after which it began to rain rodents. Gadget best summed up the experience of her fellow captives who now found themselves alone atop the mine, “Golly! That certainly was unexpected!”
Zipper, who had flown out of the plane before it took off, promptly went to work untying his more than grateful friends.
“That was some pretty quick thinking on Dale’s part there,” Monterey stated as his bindings were loosened.
“Somehow I don’t think that was his original plan,” Chip responded.
“Does Dale know how to fly?” Dee asked Gadget as she pulled a work rag from a pocket and began to wipe Danforth’s blood from her mouth and chin.
“No,” Gadget responded in a worried tone.
The two mechanics jumped into the Ranger Wing and took off after Dale, “Y’all stay here till we get back!” Dee shouted.
“Where does she think we’re gonna go?” Bob asked rhetorically.
“Somehow I don’t think this is how Mr. William Danforth expected this day to turn out,” Monterey mentioned as he watched Romulus and the other wolves chase the terrified gangsters about.
“What about the children?” Mr. Tanner asked.
“What children?” Bob asked in response.
“The raccoons'’ children,” Mr. Tanner clarified, “the only reason they were working for Danforth was because he kidnaped their children.”
“Do you know where they are?” Chip asked.
“I think so.”
“Looks like we still have work to do,” Monterey stated.
“Do you think we can actually catch up with Dale?” Gadget asked, “I mean, the Banshee is a lot faster than the Ranger Wing.”
Dee continued scanning the horizon. “We will eventually,” she responded, “I doubt Dale engaged the ramjet, so it’s just a matter of time before it slows down enough for us to catch up with him.”
“Assuming he hasn’t already crashed,” Gadget mentioned woefully.
“I thought you were the ‘perpetual optimist’ type,” Dee countered, “anyhow, he hasn’t crashed yet.”
“How can you be sure?”
“That fuel I use is very combustible, any sudden impact that opens the fuel tank will set it off,” Dee explained, “If Dale crashed we’d see a column of smoke.”
In a matter of moments Gadget spotted an airborne object off to the side, “Could that be it?”
“We’ll hafta’ get in closer,” Dee responded. The distance between the Ranger Wing and the object was closing quickly, “That’s it!” Dee shouted.
“It’s coming this way,” Gadget stated, “I’ll try to come up along side of it.”
Dee desperately thought of what to do now that they found Dale. “Dale knows how to hang-glide, right?” she finally asked.
“Yeah, Foxglove taught him,” Gadget answered.
“That shouldn’t be too much different than flying a glider.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“A couple weeks ago I installed glider wings to make it easier to control at slow speeds,” Dee explained, “If I can get Dale to deploy them he should be able to control it well enough for me to talk him down form here.” Gadget piloted the Ranger Wing along side and a little above the Banshee.
“Boy am I glad to see you two!” Dale called out, “What do I do?”
Dee leaned over the side of the Ranger Wing and called down to Dale, “I’m going to have you deploy the glider wings... See that green lever by your right knee?”
“Pull it... NO, WAIT!” Dee’s warning was too late, Dale had already pulled the lever. Dee pulled her head out of the way as the pilot’s seat, with Dale strapped in, was launched from the aircraft.
“What happened?” Gadget asked.
“I gave him bad advice,” Dee explained, “keep an eye on where he lands, I’ll take the Banshee.” Dee jumped down onto the her pilotless aircraft and grabbed the controls before it could begin to tumble. “Now the red lever,” she said aloud to herself as she prepared to deploy the glider wings. On cue the wings swung out from the fuselage... and kept going. Dee watched as the wings spiraled down towards the tree tops, “Aw fudge puppies... knew I shoulda’ tried this out on the ground first!” Dee hit an emergency switch and a parachute deployed behind the plane. She climbed into the second seat and strapped herself in as the Banshee drifted down into the forest below.
Gadget had watched as Dale’s parachute disappeared amidst the foliage, and also witnessed Dee’s misfortune. Circling the vicinity she watched as the Banshee’s emergency chute got caught in the upper branches. “Ok, Dale went down a quarter mile from there,” Gadget said to herself trying to memorize the location. Once she was sure of it she turned back for the mine to get help.
Mr. Tanner led Chip, Monterey, Bob, and Zipper through Danforth’s hideout. Bob and Monterey were flanking him to deal with anyone who tried to get in his way, but the members of Danforth’s gang were quite submissive and readily cleared out of the way. Having seen their boss and his most trusted bodyguards being run ragged by a pack of wolves was more than enough to take the fight out of them, and many were openly discussing new employment.
“I think this is it,” Mr. Tanner said as he opened a door. Inside they found quite a few adult mice and rats.
After an awkward silence one of them spoke up hesitantly, “Uh, w-what’s going on outside?”
“Mr. Danforth is getting his ass kicked by a pack of wolves,” Bob blurted out.
“Oh... uh well... we were members of his gang but, well, we’ve... well... we’re not anymore,” one of the rats said, “We just thought you should know that.”
“That’s nice to hear,” Chip responded, “Are there any raccoons in here?”
“Hm? Oh, uh, they’re over there,” the rat motioned towards the back of the room, “I didn’t have anything to do with their being kidnaped or anything.” The others quickly affirmed that they, also, had nothing to do with that particular crime.
Chip found a group of young raccoons huddled in one of the corners, clearly terrified. He knelt down in front of them, “Hi there, we’re here to take all of you home.”
“Did mommy send you?” one of them asked meekly.
“Yep, c’mon, she’s been waiting for you,” Chip answered, “and the rest of your parents are waiting for you too,” he said to the rest of the children.
Monterey asked Bob quietly, “Romulus and the others wouldn’t have eaten any of the raccoons, would they?”
“No,” Bob answered confidently, “they limit themselves to the local deer population, there’s more than enough to keep them fed.”
Chip led the group of children to the front of the building, “Bob, go outside and see if you can locate those raccoons the wolves were chasing earlier.”
Bob walked out and saw the wolves still chasing Danforth and his minions around. “HEY, ROMULUS!” he yelled.
Romulus picked up Danforth in his teeth by the back of his suit and carried him over to Bob. “Yeah?” he said out of the side of his mouth.
“Where are the raccoons you were chasing earlier?” Bob asked.
“Over there in a pile,” Romulus answered motioning to the side with his head, with Danforth swinging about helplessly.
“They’re not dead, are they?”
“Nah, they’re just exhausted, Virginia’s keeping an eye on them so they don’t escape.”
“Good! That thing...” Bob motioned to Danforth, “kidnaped their kids, that’s why they were working for him.”
Romulus grabbed the mobster with his paw and looked him in the face, “You’ve been a very, very bad boy... You realize I’m going to hafta’ hurt you now.” Danforth merely whimpered in response.
“Well we’fe got their kids, so could ya’ haff Firginia bring ‘em ofer?”
“Sure,” Romulus said. He popped Danforth in his mouth and trotted over to his mate.
The parents weren’t so exhausted that they couldn’t run to embrace their children as Chip led them from the hideout. Amid squeals of joy and crying Chip heard Gadget calling him. He turned and saw her jogging over to meet him, “Hey, Gadget... Where’s Dee? What happened to Dale?”
“We found Dale but he accidentally ejected himself, then Dee took control of the Banshee but the wings fell off so she had to use an emergency parachute and the Banshee went down somewhere in the woods,” Gadget answered all in one breath.
Chip looked at her for a moment while he tried to make sense of what she’d said, he finally asked, “So where are Dee and Dale right now?”
“Somewhere in the woods.”
“Do you know where in the woods?”
“About a mile to the northeast,” Gadget answered, “The Banshee’s parachute got caught in the upper branches which means I should be able to find it again from the air.”
Chip and the others agreed that something had to be done with Danforth and his gang before any attempt to rescue their missing comrades. It was decided that the members of the gang who had taken refuge in the hideout could leave, without interference by the wolves, as long as they agreed not to cause any more trouble. Danforth, and those the wolves had apprehended, would be left to the mercy of the raccoons... after Mr. Tanner had formally fired Dave.
“Gadget, I want you and Zipper to go back up in the Ranger Wing,” Chip instructed as they got down to the business of rescuing the others, “When you find the spot where the Banshee went down, circle the area while Zipper flies back to tell us what direction to head in. The rest of us will set out with Romulus and his pack. Zipper, you’ll be with us at that point, we’ll send you back up to check where the Ranger Wing is circling so you can give us any necessary course corrections. When we get close to the right spot the wolves should start sniffing around for their scents.” Once everyone understood their jobs they headed out.
Dale was wandering through the woods in the direction he thought would lead him back to the mine and the others. He had stopped to rest beside a tree and was listening to the birds, when he heard an unusual bird. That’s some crazy bird call, he thought, sounds like someone yelling... and it’s getting closer. Dale began to stand to look around for the bird that had such an unusual call... then Dee landed on him. The impact knocked them both for a loop, neither was aware that it was the other that had hit them. It was a while before either was up to saying or doing anything.
“Am I dead?” Dee eventually asked aloud.
“Funny, I was about to ask the same thing,” Dale responded.
Dee was unaware she’d landed on a living thing, so Dale’s reply was a little startling. She immediately rolled off to see who she’d landed on. The attire was unmistakable, Dale had actually broken her fall.
“Of course,” Dale continued, “if I was dead I probably wouldn’t hurt this much.”
“Sorry ‘bout that,” Dee apologized, “Didn’t mean to drop in on you like that.”
“Oh, that’s ok, I’ve felt worse,” Dale groaned as he sat up, “Are you ok?”
Dee tried to stand, but when she put pressure on her right leg she collapsed in a heap. “No... no, I’m not,” she groaned sitting up, “think I broke my leg.”
“Uh... that’s not my fault is it?”
“Why would it be your fault?” Dee asked, “You didn’t know I was going to land here... hell, I didn’t even know I was going to land here!”
“Why did you land here?” Dale wondered, “Weren’t you in the Ranger Wing?”
“Well, I was until I jumped over to the Banshee...”
“I’m sorry,” Dale interrupted.
“Pulling the wrong lever, I’m always doing dumb things like that.”
“No, that was my fault, ” Dee admitted, “I forgot about a minor discrepancy in the controls.”
“What kind of desk-uh... whatever it was?”
“When I installed the glider wings I’d installed the lever in the cockpit before getting it hooked up,” she proceeded to explain, “When I went to hitch up the connecting wire I found out I’d made the wire too short... so rather than waste an otherwise perfect piece of wire I switched it with the wire from the pilot ejection seat lever, that red one beneath the one you pulled, which was longer than it needed to be in the first place. I’d planned on switching the colors this weekend,” Dee looked up into the trees above, “And if can ever get my plane down that’s going to be right up there at the top of my ‘to do’ list.”
Gadget flew high above the treetops to provide the best view possible, Zipper surveyed the thick carpeting of trees for anything white.
“I think this is the area,” Gadget mentioned, “Do you see anything?” Zipper continued to look around intently, then began squeaking excitedly. Gadget looked down in the direction he was indicating, “That’s it all right!”
As Gadget sent the Ranger Wing into a holding pattern Zipper hurriedly flew back to the mine. By the time he arrived Chip, Bob, Monterey, and Mr. Tanner had each taken a seat atop four of the wolves. Zipper conveyed the direction and distance to Chip who then called out, “All right, let’s go!” Then he nearly lost his mount as Romulus broke into a trot. The pack immediately followed, with the three other mice making sure to get a good grip before their rides took off.
After covering a quarter mile the pack stopped so Zipper could check their bearings. As they waited Monterey struck up conversation, “Hey, Romulus, think we could convince you and your pack to come back to the city with us? I’d like to see the look on ol’ Fat Cat’s face if we came rushing in to spoil his fun with a pack a’ wolves!”
Chip liked the mental picture and asked his ride with a laugh, “What do you think?”
“Hm, me and my pack in the big city...,” Romulus thought for a moment, then proceeded in his best ‘Joe Friday’ voice, “This is the city, it’s a city of crime, my name’s Friday, I wear a badge...” and continued even after they’d resumed tracking. Virginia just kept shaking her head in dismay.
Shortly after Romulus dropped his “Dragnet” routine (due to Virginia having lost her patience with it and threatening to have him fixed) he began sniffing intently at the air. He suddenly cried, “Hors-d’oeuvre! I smell Hors-d’oeuvre!” and bounded off with the rest of the pack close behind as Chip, Bob, Monterey, and Mr. Tanner held on for dear life.
Dee had just finished tying the splint to her leg as Romulus came bursting through a bush, “Found ‘em!” he shouted.
After recovering from the initial shock of having a large predatory animal come at her with no warning, Dee noticed Chip sitting atop Romulus’s head. Letting out an exaggerated squeal of joy (which caught Dale completely off guard) she cried out, “Oh! My knight in shining armor has come to rescue me astride his mighty steed!”
Romulus whinnied. He then turned to Dale and said, in his best ‘Mr. Ed’, “Hello, Hors-d’oeuvre.” Virginia flopped to the ground, covered her face with her paws and began to whimper.
“Zipper, you can go tell Gadget to head back to the mine, we’ll meet up with the two of you there,” Chip said as he began to climb down from Romulus’s head. “Dee, what happened?” he said when he noticed her leg.
“I found out the hard way why chipmunks and squirrels live in trees but mice don’t,” Dee began, “I did mange to get nearly all the way down before I fell, though.”
“Does it hurt?” Chip realized only after he said it how stupid a question it was. Dee simply looked at him crooked. “Sorry, stupid question.”
“There’s no chance in hell Dee would effer admit that something hurt,” Bob said jokingly as he climbed down from his lupine transport, “Well, there was one thing that she’ll admit that hurt...”
“Dammit, Bob, SHUT UP!!” Dee shouted angrily.
Everyone was a little startled by Dee’s sudden outburst. Bob finally muttered a weak, “Sorry.”
Dee regained her placid composure, then turned back to Chip with a smile, “So, squat, dark, and handsome, want to take me away from it all?”
“If the two of you are ready to go,” Chip answered.
It was mid afternoon by the time everyone returned to the mill. The return trip was blissfully uneventful. After everyone had met back at the mine Gadget made two trips, the first was with Bob, Monterey, Zipper, and Mr. Tanner, the second was with Chip, Dale, and Dee. Romulus and his pack returned as they had left, on foot.
“I can’t thank you all enough,” Mr. Tanner expressed once everyone was safely back at the mill, “I mean... there just aren’t words to describe how grateful I am!”
“All in a day’s work,” Chip responded modestly.
“For you all maybe,” Bob interjected, “A day’s work for me is sitting on my ass all day at the warehouse... or hiding from my sister-in-law if it’s my day off.”
“Oh, that reminds me, Bob,” Mr. Tanner said, “you’re getting a raise... you’re in charge of security now: day, night, weekends, everything.”
“I’m gonna hafta do more work?”
“Well, yes. But you get to boss people around... starting tomorrow, we’re giving your predecessor the heave-ho since he was in with Danforth.”
“Sure, I think I can handle that,” Bob responded as the two shook hands.
Mr. Tanner turned to the Rangers, “And I’m telling Walter that if you want any of the wine I send his way you can have it... free of charge.” With a final exchange of pleasantries Gadget flew Mr. Tanner back to his home in the city.
“We should do something about that leg now,” Chip said to Dee once the Ranger Wing had left the hanger. With directions from Dee, Chip found the supplies necessary to properly set her leg. Due to the sometimes hazardous nature of their occupation the Rangers had all acquired some measure of medical proficiency. Dee, as well, had a certain measure of medical knowledge and was used to tending to most of her own wounds. But properly dealing with her leg would have been a challenge. That, and she couldn’t help but enjoy having Chip touch her leg.
As he watched, Dale was a little surprised at how calm Dee was, almost as if Chip were doing something as trivial as painting her toenails. “Doesn’t that hurt?” he eventually asked.
Dee turned to him and playfully responded, “If it did I wouldn’t let you know.”
“Why not?” Dale asked. He was still laboring under the assumption that Dee was basically just like Gadget except that she had Chip’s love of boring pastimes. Dale knew Gadget wasn’t prone to dramatizing any discomfort, but wouldn’t suppress her reactions to the level that Dee apparently was doing.
“Because it creates the illusion that she’s a lot tougher than she really is,” Chip answered.
“Very good,” Dee purred to Chip. She turned back to Dale, “That, and I do have an unusually high pain threshold. It’s the same with Bob. Nobody we’ve ever gotten into a fight with ever made that mistake twice.”
“Ya’ take a lickin’ and keep on kickin’,” Monterey observed.
Chip had finished his work on Dee’s leg and she was snuggled up next to him on the couch by the time Gadget returned. In the rear seat of the Ranger Wing were two miniature bottles, the type that are sometimes served on passenger planes. Each was filled with wine.
“They’re a gift from Mr. Tanner,” Gadget explained, “One for Dee and Bob and one for us to take back with us.”
“Right neighborly of ‘im,” Monterey said as he helped unload the passive yet potent passengers.
“Dee?” Gadget asked as she walked into the living room, “I was thinking of trying to recover the Banshee while it’s still light out, but I wanted to make sure I have your permission, it’s your plane after all.”
“I’ve been running ideas through my head about that,” Dee responded, “But I haven’t been able to come up with anything that could be put into motion before sunset.”
“I was just thinking of using the Ranger Wing’s grappler to get a hold of the Banshee and carry it back.”
“There’s a grappler on that thing?” Dee asked in surprise.
“Gadget,” Chip interrupted, “Wouldn’t the Banshee be a little too heavy for the Ranger Wing to carry?”
“Not really,” Gadget answered, “I originally designed the Ranger Wing to be able to carry sixty percent of it’s own weight, the Banshee is roughly seventy percent as heavy as the Ranger Wing. With the work I did on the Ringer Wing yesterday it should be able to carry seventy-five percent, more than enough to carry the Banshee back here.”
Dee did some thinking, then spoke, “It’d be better if you could empty the Banshee’s fuel tank, it’s still about three quarters full. All you’d need is a length of hose to syphon it out.”
Gadget thought that over, “I can’t pilot the Ranger Wing and syphon at the same time, and I don’t want to carry the extra weight of a passenger.”
“What about Zipper?” Dale ventured, “He doesn’t even hafta’ sit in the Ranger Wing, just fly along next to it.”
“That’s a great idea, Dale!” Gadget proclaimed. Dale was clearly elated to receive such praise.
“Wait,” Dee said, “If Zipper’s going to do the syphoning he should probably bring a portable hand pump and mask, after all he did get loaded off that stuff just from the fumes.”
“Huh, yer right,” Gadget said to herself, “Do you have anything like that around here?”
“Well, if I don’t have the actual things I should have the parts to make them in the storeroom,” Dee started to get up before remembering about her condition, “Could someone give me a hand?” Chip immediately offered his assistance. “Ooh, you’re as gallant as you are handsome,” Dee remarked, causing Chip to blush noticeably (much to the amusement of the others).
“While we’re here I’ll make you some crutches,” Gadget said as they entered the storeroom. In a matter of moments Gadget returned with a pair of crutches for Dee.
“Nya:wëh,” Dee said as she took the simple devices.
“Oh, you’re welcome!”
“That would be nyö.”
Within two minutes of getting to work Dee and Gadget had created the equipment necessary for Zipper to safely empty the Banshee’s tank.
As the Ranger Wing left the hanger something occurred to Dee, “Oh damn.”
“What’s the matter?” Chip asked.
“How are we supposed to get the Banshee back in the hanger if it’s dangling beneath the Ranger Wing?” Dee pondered that problem for few moments before being hit by inspiration, “Problem solved!” She retired to the storeroom to get the parts needed to bring her plan to fruition. When she’d finished her work, Dee explained to the others what she needed them to do.
Gadget hadn’t encountered any problems in retrieving Dee’s plane. In fact, she was surprised how simple it turned out to be. “That certainly went well,” Gadget said to Zipper as they returned to the mill. “Oops, spoke too soon,” she stated as they approached the entrance to the hanger, “I hadn’t thought about how to actually get the Banshee back in.”
As Gadget looked down at the Banshee dangling below she saw a pole emerge from the hanger. She watched with curiosity as it nudged the aircraft into a slow spin. Soon a plunger harpoon shot out form the open hanger and affixed itself to the nose of the Banshee, “Oh! That’ll work!”
“Great shot, Dee!” Dale shouted as Dee handed the rope attached to the harpoon to Monterey.
“Now remember,” Dee said to Monterey, “Pull slowly.”
“Whatever you say, luv,” Monterey responded as he proceeded to reel in the aircraft.
As the Banshee drew closer to the hanger Gadget lowered the Ranger Wing. Inside, Chip and Dale took hold on opposite sides to prevent the plane from drifting while Bob positioned a carriage beneath it. Once the Banshee’s center of gravity was safely supported within the hanger Gadget released the grappler’s hold. When Dee’s aircraft was finally all the way into the hanger Gadget brought the Ranger Wing in for a landing.
Almost as soon as the Banshee was safely within the hanger Dee began removing leaves and twigs. Chip watched as she hobbled from one part of the plane to another on her crutches.
“You know, you really shouldn’t be doing that kind of work in your condition,” Chip mentioned to Dee.
“I’d like to get it flight ready by tomorrow, I do have work to get back to in town,” Dee responded as she continued to work, “Bill must be confused as all hell, I haven’t been in for the past two days.”
“Don’t you need both feet to operate the pedals?” Gadget asked.
Dee stopped when that question sunk in. Damn, she thought to herself, I can’t fly with a cast on my leg! “Yer right,” Dee relented blandly.
Zipper squeaked out a comment that Dale wholly agreed with, “Zipper’s right, we’ll all help ya’ out till you’re back on your feet again!”
“It’s only fair,” Gadget added, “You helped us out...”
“And it’s time for us to return the favor,” Chip finished as he began to pull Dee away from the Banshee.
“Too right! And to start off I’ll fix ya’ a good hearty supper,” Monterey stated as he turned towards the kitchen, “Nothin’s better for recuperation than a full stomach!”
“Why do I feel like I’m under house arrest?” Dee asked quietly as Chip led her to the couch. “Could be worse, though,” she said as she sat down, then she looked up at Chip with a sly smile, “at least I like the warden.”
“Hey, while I’m at it I may as well make enough of this for everyone,” Monterey called out from the kitchen, “Sort of a ‘celebratory feast’.”
“I could go for that!” Dale responded, “After all, we missed lunch.”
“Well if it’s going to be a celebration,” Dee offered, “we should break out some of that wine!”
The sun had set by the time the meal was ready. All were seated in the living room with food and wine.
“I’d like to make a toast,” Chip stated, “To a job well done.”
“To a job well done!” the others saluted.
“I probably shouldn’t have too much of this,” Bob mentioned after having some of the wine, “Don’t wanna show up to work hung over. While I’m thinkin’ bout that, how am I gonna get to work tomorrow?”
“I can give you a lift into town,” Gadget offered, “I guess I’ll have to take you into town too,” she said to Dee.
“I don’t think she should be climbing in and out of the Ranger Wing until her leg’s better,” Chip mentioned.
“Then how am I supposed to get any work done?” Dee countered.
“I’m sure Gadget could fill in for you for awhile.”
“I still have to go into town to explain all this to Bill... and make sure Gadget knows what she’s doing there.” Chip couldn’t argue with that logic and grudgingly acquiesced.
The rest of the meal passed without event and with only the occasional comment about Monterey’s cooking.
As Monterey proceeded to clean up afterwards Dee felt it necessary to remind him of something, “Everything you used better find it’s way back to where it was before you started cooking, just because I have a cast on my leg doesn’t mean I can’t hurt you.”
“Point well taken, luv,” Monterey called from the kitchen.
Chip turned to Dee, “Ye’shöni’?”
Dee was a little surprised to be addressed by her Seneca name, and turned to see Chip giving her a slightly suggestive look, “Uh huh?” she responded as she returned the look.
“Would you like to do something a little more... stimulating than just sitting on the couch?”
“What do you have in mind, Jiho’gwais?”
“How about a game of chess?”
“Mmm... I thought you’d never ask!”
Dale rolled his eyes dramatically, which Gadget thought was rather fun to watch. When Chip and Dee had left the living room, Dale began searching for anything interesting on television. His search soon bore fruit as he proclaimed, “All right! They’re showing ‘The Marriage of Dracula’ again!” This time Gadget rolled her eyes dramatically.
“Well, since I have the home field advantage I’ll let you make the first move,” Dee offered as she and Chip took up their positions on opposite sides of the board.
“Ok,” Chip said simply as he considered his choices.
Dee gazed longingly across the checkered battlefield at her contemplative opponent. A broken leg really ain’t so bad, she thought, it gives me a chance to hold onto him for a couple of weeks. Dee’s quiet admiration was interrupted by a howl form the wolves’ den.
“They’re showing ‘The Marriage of Dracula’ again! Cool!” Romulus yelled.
“Apparently Romulus and Dale share the same taste for cheesy horror flicks,” Chip mentioned as he returned his attention back to the board.
“It’s sad really,” Dee commented.
After awhile there was the howling of wolves in the movie. This was promptly accompanied by the awkward howling of the wolf pups in the den. Then, on cue, Dale, Romulus, and Dracula (in the movie) voiced in unison, “Listen to them- the children of the night. What music they make.”
“Now that was just plain creepy,” Dee mentioned.
“Can’t argue with that,” Chip responded.
Dee and Chip, embroiled in their virtual combat, eventually became completely oblivious to the passage of time. They hadn’t noticed the others retiring to their beds one by one.
“Don’t mean to interrupt,” Monterey stated as he walked over to the two cerebral combatants, “but I thought I’d let you know the rest of us ‘ave decided to hit the sack... and it would be real helpful if we could douse the lights here in the hanger.”
Dee looked up at the watch she had hung on the wall, “Whoa, guess we should be headin’ off to bed too.” As she and Chip rose from their seats by the board Dee looked at the half completed game, then to her opponent, “We’re probably both mature enough not to sneak out here in the dark to rearrange the pieces.”
“Oh, of course,” Chip replied confidently.
Dee made her rounds closing up the hanger for the night, then headed off to her room. She thought she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, that Chip had followed her to the room. She turned and, sure enough, there he was. “Do you have a reason for following me in here or have you suddenly become a lost puppy,” she confronted him playfully.
“Well, I was wondering if you needed someone to keep you company tonight,” Chip replied cooly.
Dee chuckled to herself as she leaned her crutches against the wall and sat on the side of her bed. “That’s a hard offer to pass up,” she started, “but this is the first time I’ve had to sleep with a cast on my leg, so I’m not sure if having someone laying beside me would be a help or a hindrance. When it comes to my health I’ve learned the hard way to err on the side of caution.”
“Well, ok,” Chip responded, trying not to sound too dejected.
As he turned to leave, Dee called after him, “I didn’t say I was ready to hit the sack yet, did I?” When Chip turned to look back she patted the bed to her right, “Sajë:h.” Chip took a seat beside her. Dee only rarely made eye contact with him as she spoke, “You know how I’ve been giving you little lessons in Seneca? Well there’s one phrase I thought about teaching you last night... but I didn’t want to put more on your mind than you already had.”
Chip could plainly see she was nervous about something, which was a refreshing change. “What is it?” he asked, as much about the phrase she was referring to as her present state of being.
Dee finally made eye contact and, with the most beautiful smile he’d seen since meeting her, said, “Gönoöhgwa'.”
“And... what does that mean?” Chip asked quietly, though from the look in her eyes he was fairly certain what the answer was.
Dee took a deep breath, took his hand in hers, then said softly, “I love you.”
The time Lahwhinie, impersonating Gadget, had given him a long passionate kiss, or the moment he had shared with Dee in the light of the full moon two nights before had nowhere near the effect of those three words. Without any conscious effort Chip placed his free hand on Dee’s cheek and leaned towards her. Dee reciprocated in kind, and as they closed their eyes their lips met. Chip put his arms around the raven haired beauty and pulled her closer. The awkwardness that had intervened a few nights before had since been lost.
Time and space seemed to dissolve into nothing as they held one another. The fact that the door to the room was wide open allowing any who passed by to peer inside didn’t matter to either of them. Nothing mattered but that one moment. Neither Dee or Chip knew how long they had held that single kiss, or if they had even bothered to breath, since what they were doing seemed so natural and so right.
Dee withdrew just enough to break the connection. They gazed into one another’s eyes for an undetermined length of time before Dee finally broke the silence. “We should both get some sleep,” she whispered softly, “so... maybe... we can pick up where we left off... tomorrow.”
All Chip could manage was, “Ok.” Chip rose from his place on her bed and began to leave, still gently holding one of her hands.
As her fingers slipped from his she whispered, “Ë:sgögë i:e, Jiho’gwais”
“Gönoöhgwa', Ye’shöni’,” Chip responded softly. He had regained enough of his senses to break eye contact with her long enough to safely get through the door. Their eyes met one last time as Chip pulled the door closed.
Giggling quietly, Dee fell back onto her bed... and smacked her head against the wall (having completely forgotten where on the bed she was seated). “Aye-ya!” she muttered as she rubbed the back of her head, “Gee, love hurts,” she observed with a laugh. Arranging herself the correct way on the bed she curled up with the pillow clutched to her chest, not out of worry or loneliness as had always been the case, but out of sheer joy.
Chip didn’t hear Dee bonk her head after he shut the door, he was too busy thinking to himself. I just told Dee that I love her... it was in another language but that’s what it meant. Did I mean to say it? I didn’t even think about it, it just came out! Maybe that means I really do love her... Chip climbed into his bed in the hanger, grateful the others were already asleep, At least we won’t have a repeat of this morning tomorrow. He laid his head back onto the pillow, his mind still quite active. Why shouldn’t I fall in love with her? he asked himself. Simple, he answered, you’ll be heading home once her cast comes off. Why get involved like that if you’re just going to disappear from her life? The devil’s advocate in him responded, Who says I’ll be leaving her forever? We could always keep in touch. Again he answered himself, Keeping in touch over that kind of distance? Yeah, right. Somewhere in his mind a suggestion presented itself, Maybe she’ll be willing to come with us? Dee admitted that nothing ever happens around here.
During this metaphoric back-and-forth between his heart and mind he remembered what Dee had told him the night before, about enjoying the moment while it lasts. If I’m in love I may as well enjoy it: ‘It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ He knew that it was more than likely that a relationship with Dee might not last. But I feel wonderful ‘right now’, he finally declared to himself, silencing the nagging voice of reason (at least for the night). He thought back on the moment he had just shared with her not more than a few minutes ago; how it felt to hold her in his arms... the warmth of her body... how beautiful she looked when she said those three little words... the smile that crossed her face when he repeated them, even if it was in a different language.
That night, despite being in separate beds in different rooms, Dee and Chip were together in each others’ dreams.
When the new day arrived the only way to know was the singing of birds and the blue sky. The fact that the abandoned mill Dee called home was on the West side of a prominent hill meant there was no glaring sunlight pouring in through any windows (one of the reasons she loved her home so much).
Monterey and Chip both started out of their beds at approximately the same time. While stretching his joints Monterey commented, “Early to bed, early to rise...”
“For Dale would be a big surprise,” Chip finished. Monterey’s hearty laugh startled both Gadget and Zipper awake... whereas Dale simply rolled over.
Dee found that the only difficult part of getting through a door with crutches was getting it open. Once through the door it was a simple matter of pulling it closed with her tail. As she took a seat on the couch Chip handed her a cup of coffee. “Nya:wëh,” Dee said, a little flattered by the courtesy.
“Nyö,” Chip responded with a smile, “That is the right word isn’t it?” Dee nodded.
Once everyone had woken up breakfast was arranged. Everyone noticed that Dee and Chip seemed to be sitting closer together on the couch than the previous few days, but nobody said anything. No one bothered to ask what the two had done after everyone else had taken to their beds either... Dale considered asking though, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to find out how Dee would react so he kept his mouth shut (in so far as eating was still possible).
After breakfast was finished, Gadget, Dee, and Bob proceeded to the Ranger Wing. On the way Dee asked Gadget if it was possible to bring her back after dropping Bob off at work.
“I don’t see why not,” Gadget answered.
“Good, there are some things here I want to get back to,” Dee mentioned.
“Don’t you mean someone?” Bob asked with a smirk. Dee quickly took one of her crutches and whacked her brother behind a knee sending him sprawling on his back. “Of course not, silly me,” Bob groaned as he lifted himself off the floor. When Dale witnessed this he was convinced he was wise to hold his peace during breakfast.
“Are you going to need a lift back to the mill after work, Bob?” Gadget asked once the Ranger Wing was airborne.
“Nah, maybe getting a raise and a promotion will encourage my sister-in-law to treat me better,” Bob said, “But efen if she doesn’t let me stay there I haff friends I can stay with in town.”
“She’s the one who threw a crock pot at you, right?”
“Why doesn’t she like you?”
“Near as I can figure,” Dee joined in, “it has something to do with what happened at Bob’s bachelor party.” Gadget decided to let the subject go at that.
Once Bob had been dropped off it was a short flight to Dee’s workshop in the shadow of the abandoned coal bunkers. As Gadget helped Dee out of the Ranger Wing, her assistant arrived to meet them. Dee explained her absence over the past few days and that Gadget would be taking over her work until the cast came off. Dee provided Gadget a tour of the facilities and explained her responsibilities, and to stay away from the stockpile of explosives.
After outlining what Dee needed Gadget to do they made a return trip to the mill. As soon as they landed Monterey offered to help Dee out of the Ranger Wing.
“Thank you, Monty,” Dee said, “Oh, and while you’re being so helpful... I think I left something in the map room so I was wondering if you could help me down the stairs, just in case I have some trouble.”
“Sure thing, luv,” Monterey agreed.
Once in the map room Dee made a cursory look around, then headed towards the wolves’ den. “Hey, Rom!”
“Yep?” the pack leader responded.
“I gotta ask ya’ something.”
The massive carnivore meandered into the map room, “Better be important, there’s a monster movie marathon I’m missing.”
“Have you seen my lug wrench around here anywhere?”
Romulus was a little perplexed by the question since he knew his petite friend would never leave her tools where the pups might get them, “N-n-nope. Should I have?”
“Well, guess not,” Dee confessed, “Musta’ left it somewhere else.” She turned to leave the room, then stopped, “Oh, I just remembered something...,” she turned back towards the den, “Monty here knows Canina LaFur personally!”
Romulus was now all ears, the movie marathon would have to go on without him, “The Canina LaFur? Star of stage, screen and occasional dog food commercial?”
“Ooooooh!” the mighty hunter said as he stamped his front paws excitedly.
“Hey, Monty, how ‘bout tellin Romulus about the time y’all saved her life?”
“Yeah, how ‘bout it?” Romulus chimed in.
“Uh, you sure you can get back up the stairs on your own?” Monterey asked Dee.
“Sure, I was just a little worried that first time, it doesn’t seem so intimidating now,” Dee responded reassuringly.
Romulus rushed over and picked up Monterey with his teeth by the back of his coat, and pranced around in a little circle before heading back to the den. Once inside he asked a question that had been on his mind since first seeing the world famous poodle on the television, “You think a guy like me has a chance with her?”
“Aren’t you married?” Monterey asked.
“What’s yer point?”
“Now all I gotta do is distract Dale,” Dee muttered to herself as she headed back towards the hanger. Much to her pleasure she found that Dale was already watching the monster movie marathon on her TV. “Hey, Dale, I was planning on watching something that would probably bore you to tears, so could you go watch that down in the den?”
“You mean with the wolves?” Dale asked.
“Sure, the pups are already watching it.”
“Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt,” Dale reassured himself as he left for the den.
Dee quickly looked around. Don’t see Zipper anywhere, she thought to herself, Perfect! Dee set herself down beside Chip who was engrossed in his detective novel. “Looks like it’s just the two of us,” she said.
Chip looked around. “That’s what it looks like,” he agreed with a smile.
Dee took Chip’s book, marked his place and set it on the table. Sitting back up she put a hand on his knee, “Now, where did we leave off last night?”
“Hmm, I think it was right about here,” Chip answered as he took her in his arms. He was beginning to see that giving in to his desires, at least once in awhile, wasn’t really such a bad thing. Zipper, who had been exploring around the outside of the mill, flew in through the open hanger door. He nearly flew right into the livingroom, but caught a glimpse of Dee and Chip embracing on the couch, at which point he decided to discreetly return to his outdoor explorations. Eventually Dee and Chip had to catch their breath.
“So,” Dee breathed, “is this all we’re going to do for the next three weeks or so?”
“You mean making out like a couple of directionless adolescents?” Chip responded.
“I’m sure there are worse things we could be doing.”
“Ooh! Ooh! Like what?!” Dee asked excitedly.
Chip couldn’t help but laugh at so silly a response, “Well, I can’t think of anything worse to do at the moment. Any ideas?”
“We could get back to that game of chess we started... or you could help me work on the Banshee,” Dee suggested, “after all, you didn’t like the idea of me working on it in my condition, so how ‘bout I say what has to done and you do the grunt work?”
“Grunt work?” Chip asked with a mischievous smile.
Dee was astonished that Chip could think like that, “That is not what I meant you pervert!” she laughed. As Dee and Chip made their way to the aircraft they met Monterey coming up from the den. He couldn’t help but notice how pleasantly disheveled the pair looked.
While carrying out what Dee referred to as ‘daily maintenance’ on the Banshee, Chip considered asking if she would be interested in returning to their game of chess. He really wasn’t the mechanical type. But before he could bring himself to mention it something dawned on him. Chip considered how territorial Dee was, that she didn’t even allow her own assistant to handle equipment at her workshop in town. He realized the kind of effort she had to have put into the Banshee, not counting ‘daily maintenance’. Chip came to see the amount of trust Dee was placing in him. That realization put a different light on what he as doing, it didn’t seem to be as much of a burden anymore.
A little later in the day Gadget returned, but only for a short while. She explained that there was a project she had started that required a part she’d seen in the storeroom. Gadget went in, got the part, and was gone almost before anyone noticed. She didn’t realize until after she was on the way back into town that Dee should have mentioned something to her for running into the storeroom and taking something out without asking permission. For her part, Dee barely noticed anything had happened, she was too wrapped up in watching Chip work. This all didn’t go unnoticed by Monterey, who chuckled to himself as he regarded how oblivious Dee and Chip were to the rest of the world, they seemed to be aware only of each other.
The days passed, each one not unlike the others. Dee and Chip always preoccupied with each other. Dale, disgusted with their gratuitous displays of affection, either watching TV with the wolves or taking advantage of Chip’s preoccupation by lending Gadget a hand whenever possible. Monterey and Zipper, hitching a ride with Gadget into town, would strike out in search of whatever adventure that might cross their path, and learning why Dee had lamented the fact that ‘nothing ever happens around here.’
“Me and Zipper had an unusual conversation with a couple of locals today,” Monterey mentioned as he, Zipper, Gadget, and Dale headed back towards the mill in the Ranger Wing. It had been a week and a half into Dee’s recovery, and it had become very much of a vacation for all involved.
“What did ya’ talk about?” Dale asked.
“Well, we were talkin’, bout nothin’ much mind you, when we got around to mentioning that we were staying with Doohickey Hawkfeather,” Monterey proceeded to explain, “That’s when one of ‘em said he’d heard that she and her daughter had gotten back together. When me an’ Zipper explained that we didn’t even know she had any children they both looked real surprised and clammed up... couldn’t get another word out of ‘em on the subject.”
“That’s odd,” Gadget mentioned, “When we met with that historian, George, he thought I was her daughter. I really didn’t give it much of a thought after that, he did forget that he had attended her mother’s funeral after all.”
“What if she is your mother?” Dale mentioned to Gadget. Zipper smacked himself in the forehead at such an absurd comment.
“Dale,” Gadget answered in a very ‘matter of fact’ tone, “First, my mother died two weeks after I was born. And second, I’m two months older than Dee... how could she be my mother?”
“Oh, right,” Dale meekly replied.
“In any case, isn’t she a little young to be a mother in the first place?” Monterey asked hypothetically.
“Well, not really,” Gadget responded, “If she was impregnated shortly after she became biologically capable of conceiving than she could be a mother, even as young as she is.”
“I know it’s conceivable,” Monterey started, “uh, sorry ‘bout the pun there, it just kinda slipped out... But wouldn’t she have mentioned something like that?”
“Maybe she didn’t think she had to,” Dale jumped in, “It’s not like we asked her if she had any kids or anything.”
Zipper spoke up, and Monterey concurred, “Right, maybe she might of mentioned it to Chip.”
“I suppose we could ask him when we get back,” Gadget thought aloud.
It was an unspoken agreement that they wouldn’t ask Dee about that particular subject before finding out if Chip knew anything, lest they insult their hostess. The opportunity to speak to him arrived that night during dinner as Dee excused herself and left for the bathroom. When asked, Chip confessed that he was as much in the dark on the subject as the rest, that Dee had never brought up the subject or alluded to anything of the kind. He confirmed that he would broach the subject to her some time later.
With dinner out of the way Dee and Chip returned to their game of chess, the same game they had started two weeks before. They had agreed to finish it before Chip and the others had to leave.
“It’s a good thing we’re not performing surgery,” Dee joked as they took their places beside the board.
Chip managed a slight laugh, it would have been more if he weren’t thinking of something other than chess. The revelation that others had thought with certainty that Dee had a daughter, especially since someone with extensive knowledge of the area and knew her personally had said the same thing presented a mystery. Well, George had forgotten being at a funeral, so it is possible he might mistake Dee for another young lady he knows who has a girl, he thought, but Dee’s reaction was a little harsh, one would think she’d be more insulted by his forgetting about her mother’s death. Then two others bring up the subject as if it was common knowledge she had a child.
I suppose it’s possible that her similarity to Gadget is just too much to explain otherwise... no, Dee’s lived here her entire life, Gadget just showing up wouldn’t be enough, they would have to be aware that Dee had actually had a child in the first place... so either all these people are dumber than Dale, or Dee is a mother. Would there be any signs that I could have noticed? Something about what she or Bob said about her past that might indicate something... would her high tolerance for pain have made labor less... painful? Bob mentioned that there was only one thing that she would admit that ever actually hurt... and when he did she almost bit his head off, almost like the way she reacted to George’s assertion.
She had told me that she had learned to appreciate the calm before a storm, a child coming into one’s life could definitely qualify as a ‘storm’. Then there’s her behavior around the wolf pups, she went out of her way to save one of them... well, that’s not so strange, we’ve gone out of our way to save a cat... actually it was just a kitten, and only because Gadget insisted... Dee went alone into a pack of agitated wolves and addressed the alpha male to offer her help, I’m not sure Gadget would have gone that far before we all got together... there was also her reaction when she heard the pups crying, and the emotion she put into that lullaby. Ummm... knight to queen’s five...
Dee didn’t notice if it took Chip any longer than usual to make his move, she appreciated playing against someone who would think things through thoroughly. When he did move she examined her position. Huh, didn’t expect that, wonder what he’s up to? she thought, His knight is in position to take my queen... I suppose I should move it, don’t want to lose my queen at this point... oh! I can just take his king! WHAT?! She looked the board over to make sure she was seeing what she thought she was seeing. Indeed, he had left his king exposed. He’s too careful a strategist to make a mistake like that. She looked across the board at her opponent and noticed he wasn’t even looking at the playing field.
“What’s on yer mind?” Dee asked.
“Hm?” Chip mumbled as he looked up at her.
“What’re you thinkin’ about?”
Chip wasn’t sure he wanted to bring up the real subject of his deliberations yet, “Just thinking about my next move.”
“No you’re not,” Dee bluntly replied.
“Why would you say that?”
“Take a look at the position your king is in.”
Chip took a good hard look at the board, then smacked his forehead in dismay.
“That’s ok,” Dee reassured him, “no one ever said great strategists had to be great liars... I think. Anyhow, what are you thinking about?”
Chip realized it wouldn’t help to avoid the subject at that point, “Well, I was thinking about what George had said back at the museum, about Gadget being your daughter... and, in town, Monterey had a talk with a couple of people who seemed quite certain that you had a daughter.”
Dee did not want this subject brought up, “You actually think I’m Gadget’s mother?” She hoped she could embarrass him off of the topic.
“No, of course not, Gadget’s older than you... the two people Monty talked to didn’t suggest that Gadget was...”
“George is getting senile, and those other two are idiots!” Dee responded brusquely.
“You don’t have any children then?”
“Of course not!”
Chip wasn’t sure he wanted to take this any further. He dreaded souring his relationship with Dee, but her answers weren’t convincing. There was only one more question he could think of that might lead anywhere and decided to take the chance, “Your brother mentioned there was only one thing that you would admit that hurt. What was it?”
The look Dee gave him sent a chill down his spine and if he’d been standing he would have backed up, but as it was he was sitting. But as soon as the looked crossed her face it was replaced by a look of utter defeat as she hung her head. Dee was tired of keeping this secret, and wasn’t going to threaten Chip the way she’d done to others who had poked too close into that aspect of her youth.
“C’mon,” Dee sighed as she grabbed her crutches. Chip followed her into the living room where the others had been watching TV. She made a conscious effort not to make eye contact as they watched her enter. Everyone had overhead the final portions of the discussion and were anticipating an answer to the question. But they were disappointed as she went through the living room into the kitchen, then through to her room. When Chip had slowly followed her in she closed the door.
“You can sit if you want,” Dee muttered as if the matter were utterly irrelevant. She had no idea where to start, she had never intended to tell anyone about that part of her life and had gone to great lengths to avoid ever having to.
As Chip took a seat on the side of her bed Dee began to rummage through a small dresser drawer. On the very bottom of the drawer she found the old photograph face down, she recognized it from the handwriting on the back. Dee removed it, careful not to damage it or look at the face. She leaned her crutches up against the wall by her bed and took a seat beside Chip. Leaning forward with her elbows on her knees she looked vacantly at the floor in front of her, holding the photo so she couldn’t see the picture.
“I wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a proper young lady growing up,” Dee began slowly, “I did anything I could to get a thrill: pulling stupid childish stunts, starting fights, vandalism... my only interest was having fun, I didn’t care how. And once I hit adolescence and discovered what sex was... I did that too. There was no shortage of guys to mess around with. At that age you never think of the consequences, and for the most part there were never any consequences to deal with. Of course, you know where this is leading... it was only a matter of time before I got pregnant. It scared the hell out of me... it was like my life was over. I was still a kid, and now that was over... my childhood was over, there wasn’t anything I could do to get around it.
“What did I have to show for everything I’d done up till then? Not a damn thing! I didn’t have the slightest clue what it meant to be a mother, or how to be a useful member of society, I didn’t know anything! I didn’t even know who the father was... I didn’t know half the names of the guys I was with... it had never meant anything to me! Of course I stopped doing anything when I found out what was going to happen to me, I didn’t know what else to do. Now that I wasn’t busy I had a chance to hear what others thought of me... I was a joke! I’d never meant anything to anybody! My life was a waste! I wasn’t going to accept that. I’d fucked up my childhood, there was no way I could change that... but I wasn’t going to piss away the rest of my life! I was going to be a different person, and I was going to start by accepting responsibility for my actions.
“If I was going to be a mother than I should take it seriously... Fortunately my mom was more than willing to help me through all of it, and for the first time in my life I was willing to listen to her. At first it all seemed so overwhelming. I would lay there in bed, thinking about how completely my life was going to change, I couldn’t get it out of my mind... it also meant I couldn’t sleep. I kept remembering my mother telling me I wasn’t ever going to get a good night’s sleep for a long time once I had kids. So I decided I wasn’t going to waste the few peaceful nights I had left... I just shut off my mind and enjoyed just laying still, just letting go, knowing that at that particular point in time I had nothing to think about or do, that there was no sense in worrying because it wouldn’t change anything. So every night before going into labor I would just shut off my mind and enjoy the quiet.”
Dee stopped for a moment, preparing herself for what was coming. Chip could sense that her story was going to get worse. The Rangers’ had met many young girls in the city who had gone through what Dee had just recounted, but they hadn’t been this hesitant to talk about it. During this break he tried to imagine the worst possible outcome to the story, hoping that what was to come wasn’t nearly as bad.
Taking a deep breath, Dee continued, “I had been told that because of my age there was the possibility there would be complications, I didn’t have any clue what they might be, but since everything had gone well right up to the delivery I thought I was in the clear,” Dee handed Chip the picture she had refused to look at the entire time she had held it. From the surroundings in the background he could tell it was taken in the type of makeshift hospital that was sometimes constructed by animals in the cities. In the picture was a young female mouse in a hospital bed holding two newborns. Though the hair was much shorter it was clear that the mother with the children was Dee. She looked disheveled, but happy nonetheless. Chip turned the picture over to examine the writing he had noticed on the reverse. In blue pen was written: Doohickey w Rebecca + Raven.
Dee paused again. She had tried hard over the years to forget what she was preparing to bring forward, and was disappointed to discover that, over time, the pain had not lessened. Dee tried not to think too far ahead into what was to be said, hoping that she could get the words out before she broke down.
“I was told there were no problems with the deliveries. I’d never been through any before so I had to take their word for it,” Dee managed with a small laugh, then continued, “Physically that was the worst thing I’d ever gone through... that’s the one thing I’ll admit that hurt, I’m nowhere near that good a liar. Of course the doctors wanted to keep them under observation, and everything was fine the first night... That picture was taken the next day... Since everything was going so well we all hoped that me and the girls would be going home soon,” Dee’s voice began to waver. Chip took one of Dee’s hands and gave it a gentle squeeze.
She paused to think how to explain what came next. At first Dee’s voice was quite clear, “In a million years no one could have prepared me for what I was told... the next morning...,” despite her best efforts her voice began to break, “when they told me... one of my babies... was... gone!” She had never been able to say the word ‘dead’ when it came to that matter. The word she chose was almost irrelevant at that point anyway as her voice had been overwhelmed by sobbing.
Chip involuntarily put an arm around Dee, who put her arms around him and buried her face in his chest. He could feel her tears begin to soak through his fur but didn’t mind. She could have just said that the subject was too painful to talk about, Chip thought, she must’ve known none of us would’ve pushed further than that. She had to let it out, to have a shoulder to cry on... no one should have to hide this kind of pain. “You can cry as long as you want,” Chip said softly as he stroked her hair gently.
Dee clutched him even tighter, unwilling to risk letting go. Throughout her life the males she had known were interested almost exclusively in her body. They would quickly lose interest once she had convinced them that she wasn’t as interested in physical ‘love’ as they were. Dee had never found anyone to whom she was willing to open her heart or to whom she could bare her wounds. Then along comes this one, someone who had everything she longed for and more, someone she knew could genuinely love her, someone she could trust with her pain.
In time Dee’s sobbing began to subside. She lifted her face slightly from her companion’s chest. Though her vision was still a little blurry with tears she noticed a little trail of snot connecting her nose to his fur. “Sorry ‘bout that,” Dee said as she started to wipe it off.
“Don’t worry,” Chip said as he began to wipe it off for her, “That’s nowhere near as bad as what happened to me the last time we let Dale cook.” He saw an opportunity to lighten her heart, “...I still wake up screaming.” Dee laughed involuntarily which did make her feel somewhat better. Her laughter, in turn, helped to lift his own spirits.
While still sniffing back some tears, and her voice still a little shaky, Dee continued, “Well, as you can tell, losing Rebecca hurt... a lot. We were all worried that Raven would join her... but she didn’t, she turned out to be perfectly healthy. But before the doctors were completely sure they kept both of us under observation longer than they’d originally planned. While I was there it finally hit me... that I did have a child I would have to raise. I began thinking seriously about what I would have to do. During all this thought I began to consider what her life would be like, to have somebody like me as her mother. I didn’t like that... she’d never know who her father was, and she would have to deal with the fact that I had the kind of reputation that I had... a reputation I still have trouble with on occasion.
“As it happens, that’s the reason I stopped wearing this black jumpsuit...,” Dee felt changing the subject for a bit would help further alleviate her sorrow, “Bill made an offhand remark about my being a ‘stern mistress’. He was referring to my obsessive organizational tendencies, but those who still knew what I used to be like had a field day with it. That’s when I decided to change to a more ‘wholesome’ color scheme... so I wouldn’t look so much like a dominatrix. After that, anyone who kept it up was reminded that I still enjoy getting into fights on occasion.” The grin she finished the sentence with reminded Chip of the smile she had just before she mauled Danforth.
“Getting back to the topic at hand,” Dee said with a small sigh, “I decided that I couldn’t give Raven the kind of life she deserved, not with the kind of problems I had to deal with. I didn’t want her to have to go through that too. My godparents had been trying for awhile to have a child of their own... I knew that they were good, honest and loving people... the kind of parents everyone wishes they’d had growing up.” Her voice, once more, began to waver, “I know that it’s one of the highest priorities of a mother to ensure that her child has the best chance in life she can give them... and I knew that Raven wasn’t going to have her best chance if I had tried to raise her. They agreed to take her in.
“I insisted, and they agreed, that they would treat her as their own flesh and blood... that she wouldn’t be told she was adopted... I knew some people who had been adopted, a couple of them couldn’t stand the idea that their parents had ‘abandoned’ them, or they felt that it was their own fault their parents didn’t want them... that there was something wrong with them. I didn’t want her to go through that. I also didn’t want her to go looking for her real parents and find... me... someone who didn’t even bother to remember the names of the guys I’d been sleeping around with, and didn’t even have the slightest clue who her father was.
“I wanted her to have the best possible life I could give her...” Dee’s voice began to falter more as she spoke, “she would have respectable, loving parents who would make her the center of their world, they could provide a higher standard of living... she would have a wonderful start in life... if I gave her up. So... I had to... let her go. I couldn’t be... part of h-her life. I couldn’t... take the chance... that m-my mistakes w-would hurt... her.”
Chip cradled Dee in his arms as she broke down. He had heard the self doubt, and even regret, in her voice as she explained her decision. Even before he could think of it he heard himself say, “I forgive you.”
“Dale!” Gadget nearly yelled as she rushed into the kitchen. Grabbing Dale by the ear she led him back into the livingroom, “You told us you were just getting a snack!”
“I was!” Dale responded defensively.
“You were eavesdropping!” Gadget shot back, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“You gotta’ admit ya’ looked rather suspicious with your ear pressed against the door there, pally,” Monterey joined in.
“We shoulda’ brought Foxy with us,” Dale said as he returned to his seat, “She’d be able to hear what they’re saying.”
“If ya’ asked her to move in she’d be right there whenever we head out on a case,” Monterey wryly suggested. The thought of asking Foxglove to come live with them made Dale a little uneasy, it seemed a little too much like commitment to him.
“If Dee only felt comfortable about telling Chip about that part of her life then we should respect that,” Gadget said returning everyone back to the original vein of discussion.
“Besides,” Monterey added, “I doubt she’d be very forgiving of anyone she found eavesdropping on her.”
Before another word could be said the door to Dee’s room opened slowly. Everyone expectantly turned their gaze to the entrance. Chip emerged and gently closed the door behind him. The expression on his face revealed the tone of the meeting.
“What did she say?” Gadget asked gently.
Chip took a seat beside Dale on the couch, “She had two daughters,” he began quietly, “when she was much, much younger...”
“How much younger could she have been?” Dale interrupted.
“Just old enough...,” Chip answered, “One died a few days after being born, her godparents took responsibility for the other. Dee had requested that she not be told she was adopted. She and her family made every effort to ensure she wouldn’t find out, everyone else that knew about it also kept quiet. When they moved out a year later everyone just set the matter aside since there wasn’t any point in talking about it... of course the few people who did try to talk to Dee about it regretted it.”
“Didn’t the father have a say in any of this?” Monterey asked.
“Nobody knew who the father was,” Chip answered plainly, “Dee never bothered to keep track of the people she’d been with... until it was too late to any good anyway. She’s tried very hard to forget that part of her life.” Chip didn’t bother to mention that Raven and her adopted parents had moved to the same city the Rangers lived in, it wasn’t necessary that everyone else knew that.
“That explains why she was willing to save that wolf pup, knowing what it’s like to lose a child,” Gadget mentioned.
“Yeah, most people wouldn’t want to save something that was going to grow up to eat them,” Dale added.
Dee eventually emerged from her room. She did her best to maintain a pleasant demeanor the rest of the night. Before long she and Chip returned to their game of chess with Dee allowing Chip to take back his last move. And, as happened on previous nights, they lost complete track of time. Once all the others had bedded down for the night Chip escorted Dee back to her room.
“Think you’ll be able to sleep tonight?” Chip asked as they got to her door.
Dee thought for a moment, “Probably, but I could use the company... if you don’t mind.”
“Why would I mind?”
Though there was nowhere near the astonishment the next morning as the first time Chip spent the night with Dee, they both felt the need to explain that there had been no ‘hanky-panky’ involved. Afterwards it seemed that Dee and Chip were even closer. Within a few days Dee even admitted defeat in the chess game the two had been playing... she didn’t seem to mind losing.
The days passed, and the time drew closer when Dee’s cast would be removed and the Rangers would return home. As that day approached Monterey, Gadget, Dale, and Zipper grew increasingly anxious about how well Dee and Chip would deal with parting from one another. They were completely unaware, however, that the two had an unspoken agreement not to think about that day till it arrived, that they would simply enjoy the time they had left together.
Three weeks to the day after falling out of a tree and breaking her leg, Dee’s cast came off. Despite being a little weak from lack of use her leg was in perfect condition. That morning, on the Weather Channel, the forecast called for plenty of sun and little relief from the heat.
“Perfect swimming weather,” Dee mentioned.
“Too right,” Monterey concurred, “it’s just a shame we don’t have anyplace to swim.”
“Sure we do,” Dee responded, “there’s the millpond just off the south side of the mill.” Everyone seemed a little surprised. “None of you noticed that in the three weeks you’ve been living here?” she asked, equally surprised.
Zipper raised his hand and squeaked out, “I did.”
“Oh, that’s right, the rest of you have been busy eating me out of house and home,” Dee responded sarcastically, “Anyhow, thanks for helping restock the pantry.”
“Well, it was the least we could do after ‘eating you out of house and home’,” Chip mentioned.
“C’mon, I’ll show ya’ my ‘in ground pool’,” Dee offered as she left the living room. Down by the side of the mill was a small reservoir fed by a small creek coming down form the hill and held back by a small dam. “The original pond was a lot larger,” Dee explained, “but by the time I moved in here it had almost entirely drained and the dam was a mess. I managed to shore up enough of the dam to make a nice little retreat for days like this.”
“There’s only one problem though,” Chip intervened, “We don’t have anything to go swimming in.”
“Well, we could go skinny dipping!” Monterey heartily suggested as he began to remove his coat.
“No, no, I think we can do without the full Monty, thank you,” Dale responded.
“You don’t know what yer talkin’ about!” someone yelled.
“Yeah! Show us your stuff, big boy!” came another voice.
Everyone turned to see a group of she-wolves on a small ridge overlooking the millpond. They soon began chanting, “Take-it-off! Take-it-off! Take-it-off!...”
Virginia, looking more than a little irritated, came walking up behind them and loudly cleared her throat. The other she-wolves turned to look at her. “Don’t you ladies have something better to do with your time?” she asked authoritatively.
“No, not really,” one of them responded. Virginia snarled at her with hackles raised and teeth bared. “W-well, we um, could be, like, p-playing with the uh, pups... or something,” one of her subordinates stammered. With ears back and tails slightly tucked, her subordinates slunk back around the corner of the mill. Once they were out of sight, Virginia gave Monterey (appropriately enough) a wolf whistle, then trotted off.
“Wait a sec...” Gadget stated, “I have an idea!” Everyone looked at each other, a little confused, and awaited Gadget’s return. She reappeared before long carrying a bundle of clothes. “I thought I saw these when I was packing... We went swimming in the park fountain the day before we left. Dale apparently forgot to unpack our stuff after we got back.”
“Well it’s a good thing I did, too,” Dale declared in his own defense.
Much of the rest of the day was spent pool-side. Some of that was spent, by Chip, admiring Dee in her turquoise swimsuit... especially after she surreptitiously mentioned to him that she would occasionally swim nude. Nothing out of the ordinary happened until Romulus cried out “CANNONBALL!” and plunged into the millpond in one giant furry ball, the resultant wave washing the five rodents out onto the bank. Shortly thereafter the pond was overrun by the wolf pups. Dee and the Rangers retired to the upper floor of the mill to dry off and get something to eat.
“Guess we’ll be leaving tomorrow,” Monterey mentioned.
“Yeah, that city of yours doesn’t seem capable of getting by more than five days without having to be saved from the brink of destruction,” Dee joked, “and you’ve all been gone for three weeks!”
“We’ll definitely have out work cut out for us,” Chip responded.
“And I’m sure you’re more than up to the challenge,” Dee commented leaning up close to him.
The evening passed with all of them reminiscing about what had happened over the time they’d been together. Dee confessed that it was probably a good thing that she hadn’t been around when it was discovered that Danforth had kidnaped the racoons’ children, “Would’ve given him more than that free nose job!”
Later, when it was finally time to bed down for the night, Chip noticed Dee was missing. He didn’t find her in her room, and on a hunch wandered out onto the balcony. Around the corner and up the stairs Chip walked. Passing through the door he saw Dee sitting on the mossy floor, illuminated by the nearly full moon.
“I thought you only came up here when the moon was full?” he asked.
“You won’t be here when it’s full,” she answered. Chip noticed a little sadness in her tone, but he wasn’t surprised, the truth they’d avoided for the past few weeks was finally at hand.
Chip sat by her side, “Well, you look beautiful in the moonlight even when it isn’t full.”
“Nyö.” There was an awkward silence. “You know,” Chip started, “you’re welcome to come with us, we could always use the extra help.”
“You have no idea how much I wanted to hear you say that,” Dee responded with a small laugh, “or how much I dreaded it.”
“As much as I want to I can’t go with you. I love you... and I do want to be with you... but I can’t leave... at least not yet. Romulus and his pack are like family to me, and I can’t just abandon them... and I have responsibilities in town... and I went through hell to make this place my home. A colony of bats decided they were more deserving of the place, and when I didn’t leave at first they threatened me, when I still refused to leave they tried to kill me... to make a long story short: the survivors found someplace else to live. So I can’t just leave... besides, I don’t think I could recreate my hanger in your tree.
“And of course it would only be a matter of time before Gadget and I would blow you... and everyone else... to pieces. Her inventions tend to fly apart at the seams, mine tend to explode... if we began working on the same projects, sooner of later someone’s gonna buy it. Frankly I’m surprised I’m ever able to get the smell of burnt fur out of my clothes,” Dee finished with a laugh.
“Well, we don’t leave until tomorrow,” Chip said with confidence, “so we still have tonight.”
Dee leaned over and placed her head on his shoulder, “Damn straight.”
“I seem to recall we were doing something the last time we were up here,” Chip mentioned suggestively.
“Really?” Dee returned, “What might that have been?”
Chip took her in his arms and they laid back onto the cool moss. The moon traced a wide arc across the starry sky before the two once more returned their gaze skywards. Dee leaned back against her companion, who cradled her in his arms as they looked up into the shimmering heavens. With the moon and stars above, and Chip’s arms around her, Dee couldn’t help but think of one particular song. Gently, she began singing to the music in her heart,
“Upon a darkened night
The flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest
Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
While all within lay quiet as the dead
Upon that misty night
In secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
Than that which burned so deep within my heart
That fire ‘twas led me on
And shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
It was a place where no one else could come
Within my pounding heart
Which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
Beneath the cedars all my love I gave
From o’er the fortress walls
The wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with it’s smoothest hand
Caressed my every sense it would allow
I lost myself to him
And laid my face upon my lover’s breast
And care and grief grew dim
As in the mornings mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair”
A few moments of silence passed before Dee spoke, “Y’know, Loreena McKennitt has to be my all time favorite singer.”
“And you’re my favorite singer,” Chip added softly. They lay there for a few moments more. “We should probably head inside before we begin to grow mold.”
That last sentence got quite a bit of laughter from Dee, who agreed.
Everyone was up early the next morning, even though leaving the mill by air wouldn’t be practical until the morning mists cleared. After breakfast everyone began making preparations for departure. While Dale, Gadget, Monterey, and Zipper were doing their part in the hanger, Dee and Chip stole away to the privacy of her room. They faced each other, holding hands.
“There’s no way I could begin to explain what you’ve done for me,” Dee began, “I don’t feel so alone anymore... even if there won’t be as many people around the mill. Besides, maybe I can start a branch of the Rescue Rangers here on the rez,” she shrugged, “It’d give me something to do... and it would remind me of what we’ve had here.”
“Well, if you’re going to be a Rescue Ranger you should try not to kill people... even if they try to kill you,” Chip kindly admonished.
“Sure! I’m always up for a challenge.”
“Now what can I do to remind myself of what we’ve had here?”
“You can take this,” Dee said as she let go of his hands. She walked over to her dresser and opened a drawer. “I’ve never really been one for wearing jewelry,” Dee said as she lifted out a thin gold necklace with a pendent in the shape of a feather, “My mother gave this to me for my first birthday after I lost my kids,” her voice trembled slightly, “I used to wear it all the time before I began working with machinery. I always thought of it as a symbol of the person I became.” Dee handed it to Chip, “You don’t have to wear it, of course,” she laughed.
“I think I will wear it,” Chip said as he slipped it around his neck, “for now anyway.”
Dee and Chip returned to the hanger, hand in hand, for final farewells. Dee gave all of the others a hug before they boarded the Ranger Wing. When she hugged Gadget Dee handed her a folded sheet of paper.
“What’s this?” Gadget asked.
“It’s the recipe for that homebrew I use for the Banshee, I thought you might like to play around with it...,” Dee answered, “Don’t tell Monty you have it, though, we don’t want to worry him.”
Dee and Chip embraced one last time. Dee tried, but couldn’t hold back her tears.
“Gönoöhgwa', Ye’shöni’,” Chip said.
“Gönoöhgwa', Jiho’gwais,” Dee responded, then whispered, “Until the day I can hold you in arms... I will hold you in my heart.”
“I’ll be holding you in my heart as well,” he whispered back.
“Ë:sgögë i:e ögwadeo'shö'!” Dee called out once everyone was aboard the Ranger Wing, then called out, “That means ‘I’ll see you again, my friends’!” Everyone aboard repeated it as best they could with Chip coming the closest. “Close enough!”
With final farewells given from the Rangers in a more familiar means the Ranger Wing lifted off. Dee watched as it ascended into the crisp morning air, and eventually disappear over the tree covered hills in the distance. She returned to her room, laid down in her bed, and clutched her pillow to her chest. Within a few moments she was asleep.
The first night the Rangers spent back in their own beds was blissfully familiar. On a post of Chip’s bed hung a gold necklace with a feather pendent. That night, despite being in separate beds in different cities, Dee and Chip were together in each others’ dreams.
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