The Ties That Bind
Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh
“Dale, go see who’s at the door,” Chip said as he perused through notes from a previous case.
“Why me?” Dale protested, refusing to tear his eyes from the television screen.
“Because you’re closer!”
Dale hesitantly got up from his seat and approached the door, keeping his eyes turned towards the TV. “They never rerun this one,” he muttered to himself as the visitor knocked at the door again. As soon as his program broke for a commercial he opened the door. “What can we do for...” there was no one to be seen, “...you?” Dale looked around but saw no indication that there had ever been anyone there. “Uh... hello?” he asked as he stuck his head through the door. Walking out onto the branch Dale looked around as his state of confusion mounted. “I know someone was out here, someone had to knock on the door,” he reasoned, “unless I imagined it...”
As Dale began to question his sanity the visitor quietly dropped to the branch behind him and entered Rescue Rangers’ Headquarters unobserved. Stealthily the intruder proceeded through the living area towards Chip. Engrossed in his thoughts, Chip was utterly unaware that anything was about to happen to him... until everything when dark.
“Guess who!” the female assailant declared as she covered his eyes. Chip’s startled shout brought Dale in through the front door and Gadget from her workshop.
Rising from his seat and turning to face his ‘attacker’ he found himself face to face with someone he hadn’t seen for nearly a year, “Dee?!”
“Miss me?” she responded cheerfully, then threw herself at Chip, wrapping her arms around him tightly.
“Hey! How’d you get in here?” Dale asked in utter confusion.
“Simple,” Dee confessed as she let go of her love, “I became invisible and walked right past you!”
Dee regarded Dale with an amused smirk, “No. I was hanging above the door and knocking on it with my foot.”
“What brings you here, Dee?” Gadget asked.
Dee threw her arms around Chip form behind, looked over his shoulder at Gadget and said, “Take a wild guess.”
“You need our help?” Dale ventured. The others looked at him. “What?”
“I just couldn’t stand being away form my Jiho’gwais any longer!” Dee said as she snuggled her cheek against Chip’s, causing him to blush considerably. “Oh, I gotta do something before I forget,” Dee said giving Chip a peck on the cheek. She walked out the door and removed a small lasso made of twine from a pocket of her jumpsuit. One by one she retrieved the pushpins she had used to climb the tree. “Nearly killing myself falling out of that tree a year ago really bothered me,” she explained to the assembled Rangers, “especially since I should have anticipated the need for tree climbing equipment earlier.”
“Did you fly here in the Banshee?” Gadget asked.
“Nah,” Dee answered as she stowed her gear, “The Banshee only has a range of about thirty miles or so. I wouldn’t even be able to get to the nearest airport since the only place I can refuel is back at the hanger. I built a single seat battery powered prop plane for this trip, it was a lot more practical than a jet.” Walking back inside she looked around, “Where’s the rest of ya’?”
“Monty and Zipper should be back soon,” Chip mentioned, “They’re out grocery shopping.”
No sooner had Chip said that than they heard the pair in question approaching. “I tell ya’, Zipper, ‘Cheese Flavored Foodstuff Product’ may look like the real thing,” Monterey was explaining, “but that’s where the similarity ends, it just doesn’t compare.”
“Hey, Monty!” Dale spoke up when the portly Aussie entered, “Look who came to visit!”
“Well I’ll be!” Monterey responded when he saw Dee, “Doohickey Hawkfeather! What brings ya’ to the big city, luv? Got a craving for more of my home cooked meals?” he joked.
“Oh yeah, there’s nothing a woman likes more than a guy that’ll cook for her!” she jested, then grabbing a hold of Chip, “Actually I just needed some more of this hunk of a ‘munk!”
“All we need is Foxglove to come visit Dale and we’d ‘ave ourselves a veritable cornucopia of affection,” Monterey whispered to Zipper.
“I’m not interrupting a case at the moment am I?” Dee asked Chip out of the blue.
“No,” he answered disappointedly, “things have been kinda’ slow the past couple days.”
“So you’d be free to show a country girl some of the sites?”
Chip liked the sound of that, taking Dee on a private VIP tour of the city, “Well, I suppose...”
“Golly, that’s a great idea!” Gadget interrupted, “We can show you all the places where we’ve helped to make the city a better place... Oh, and I can show you my old home by the airport.”
Neither Chip or Dee felt up to explaining that they would have preferred to be alone on such an excursion and soon found themselves boarding the Ranger Wing with the others. Due to lack of seating space Dee wound up on Chip’s lap, not that either protested the arrangement. The first sight on the improvised itinerary was the abandoned bomber that Gadget had called home before joining up with the others.
“After getting moved out I hadn’t really given this place a second thought,” Gadget explained as she showed Dee around, “Until the ‘incident’ that is. After that the others insisted I find someplace else to work on certain projects.”
“The ‘incident’?” Dee asked, wondering what could have justified the move.
“She tried reproducing that jet fuel you use for the Banshee,” Chip explained.
“Yeah, the whole place smelled like burnt fur for a week!” Monterey elaborated, “My fur!”
“Well, Monty, at least you didn’t complain about being too warm,” Gadget mentioned.
“And it did all grow back... eventually,” Dale added.
“I’d never been so embarrassed in my life!” Monterey continued, “It was even worse than the time I got m’tail caught in a door.”
“What would be so embarrassing about that?” Dee ventured.
“I was, um... wearing a dress at the time... and it was in a bar full of men... and the door was stuck- it took an hour to get my tail out.” Dale began giggling at the thought of Monterey in a dress, and the others were all a little surprised, in all the time they’d been together he had never told them that story.
“Why were you wearing a dress in a bar?” Gadget asked innocuously.
“What is this?” Monterey responded defensively, “The bloomin’ Spanish Inquisition?”
Dale suddenly began looking around expectantly.
“What’s the matter with you?” Chip asked.
“Aren’t guys in red cloaks supposed to pop out of the walls?” Dale responded.
“Dale, this isn’t a Monty Python routine,” Gadget answered. Leading Dee over to a table strewn with pieces-parts Gadget continued with the tour, “After seeing your plane I was inspired to start working on a jet of my own. Of course I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to work on it because up until recently we were really busy, but I’ve already built a working mock up.” Gadget handed Dee a miniature aircraft that had been sitting on the table, and as Dee examined it Gadget continued, “Given the volatility of the fuel I figured it would be safer to work out design problems this way rather than find out I’d done something wrong during the maiden flight of the actual aircraft.”
“Wish I’d thought of that,” Dee muttered as she remembered the disastrous first (and only) flight of the Screaming Eagle, the predecessor of the substantially more successful Banshee. “I suppose you’re aware of how extremely impractical something like this is. I hadn’t even thought of that until after I’d gotten the Banshee built. In fact, the only reason I keep it is for the sheer thrill.”
“I know. I just can’t resist a challenge,” Gadget admitted as she took the model back form Dee. Making some minor preparations she readied it for a demonstration. “Ok everyone, stand around where Dee is, that way nobody will get hurt.”
The others congregated around Gadget’s dark furred double as a fuse was lit. In a second the model flashed into motion as it’s miniature engine ignited. It flew in a circular path inside the cavernous fuselage.
“It’ll be running out of fuel soon,” Gadget mentioned, “then I can catch it with the net.” The distinctive sound of the engine came to a halt, “Just a few more laps,” Gadget mentioned as she readied her foot over a pedal on the floor. “Now!” she said as she depressed the pedal. Nothing happened. “Uh-oh.”
“What ‘uh-oh’?” Monterey asked on the verge of panic.
“Oh! There it goes!” Gadget declared as the net shot up from the floor. The top of the net’s frame deflected the tiny jet causing it to spiral out of control. When it winged a cable that suspended a piece of equipment overhead she calmly observed, “That’s not good.”
The cable snapped. Everyone scattered. The weight smashed into the metal plates that comprised the floor, causing the one Monterey was on to launch him through the air. He went crashing into a pile of abandoned parts a moment before the tiny jet glided to a rest on his stomach.
As Gadget recovered the model jet Chip helped Monterey to get back on his feet. “As I recall, something like this happened to me the last time I was here,” Monterey mentioned as he brushed himself off.
When it was clear that no one was seriously hurt, Dee began investigating underneath the upturned floor plating (she never could resist exploring hidden places). Right away a small box caught her attention. From the accumulation of dust it was clear it had been undisturbed for some time. Dee set her prize up on the floor then lifted herself out after it.
“Hey, Dee, what did you find?” Chip asked when he saw her emerge from below.
“A box!” she declared over dramatically.
“Hey, Gadget,” Dee called, “Would this belong to you or your dad?”
“What is it?” Gadget asked after checking her tiny plane for damage.
“A box!” Chip declared in imitation of Dee.
“Huh, I don’t remember it,” Gadget mentioned as she walked over to investigate, “I suppose it could’ve belonged to dad. Let’s see what’s inside.”
Dee lifted open the top of the box and began to remove it’s contents. “Ok, le’s see... we got a picture,” she said removing an old photograph and handing it to the others, “and... some folded pieces of paper.”
“She sure is pretty,” Dale remarked of the young mouse in the photo.
“I wonder who she is?” Gadget added when she got hold of it.
Chip began to unfold the papers Dee had handed him, “Maybe whatever’s in these papers will explain that.” He quickly looked it over and realized what it was, “Uh, Gadget?”
“What is it, Chip?” she asked.
“It’s a letter, for you... from your father,” Chip explained.
Everyone’s attention was riveted on Gadget as she took the letter. She began to read it aloud for the sake of the others since she felt she didn’t have any reason to hide anything form them. “Hello, Gadget,” she started, “I wish I would have had the chance to tell you this in person, but if you’re reading this then it wasn’t meant to be. I was going to tell you when you were old enough, but... I hadn’t been completely honest to you about your mother, and for that I’m sorry. It’s probably best to start at the beginning:
“A while before you were born I was traveling across the country in the Screaming Eagle. I was heading south out of Buffalo and was planning on going over the Allegheny National Forest, but I developed some engine trouble and had to set down in a town called Salamanca. It wasn’t long after I began looking over the engine that I was approached by a very beautiful young native... actually that’s putting it mildly, I forgot my own name after I saw her, but I digress... When she offered to help I couldn’t bring myself to say no so I let her take a look at the engine.
“I honestly didn’t expect much from her, the odds of a young lady in a backwoods community like that being able to repair a plane as advanced as the Screaming Eagle were astronomical. She looked the engine over intently then said, “Gimme a wrench.” When I hesitated she explained what was wrong, detailed how she planned to repair it and finished with, “Now gimme a wrench!” Before I knew it I was handing her my tools. And I didn’t regret it, when she was done the Screaming Eagle was sounding better than before I started the trip!
“When I asked her what she wanted in the way of payment she explained that she wanted out of town. I told her that really wasn’t an option (I still don’t know why I said that, though). She reached into the engine, I heard a ‘clunk’, then she turned to me with her hand still in the engine and calmly stated that in the time it would take me to come over to drag her away form the plane she could cripple it, and that unless I wanted to spend the night with my head in the engine trying to find out what she’d done I’d better take her with me! I couldn’t believe it! That was exactly the same type of stunt I would’ve pulled! I was in love! While we were flying over the Forest she explained that she was having problems with her ex-husband’s family and had wanted to make herself scarce until they cooled down. When we settled down here she let her family know about where she was in case they needed to get in touch with her.
“You already know about our courtship from there, I didn’t think there was any reason you shouldn’t have known about that. Of course, before long, you were born. It was about two weeks later that she got a letter form her mother back on the reservation. Up until then she hadn’t told me she had a son. She’d left him with her mother before she’d planned on leaving (as it happens this was earlier that same day we met). Her mother was in bad shape and your mother’s ex was demanding custody of their boy. She wasn’t about to accept that considering the bad blood between her and her in-laws, so she decided it was time to head back. I wanted to go with her in case there was any trouble. But she brought up two problems with that: if there was going to be trouble she didn’t want you anywhere near it, and if we left you in someone else’s care while we were gone there was the chance you’d grow up without either parent.
“I know I had absolutely no idea just how bad things could’ve gotten but from what she had told me I agreed that getting you involved would have been a bad idea. And I don’t want you to think that she didn’t care about you any less than your half-brother, I wouldn’t have questioned a single tear she cried when she kissed you goodbye. When she left she told me that she’d get back in touch if she could. I never heard from her again so I assumed the worst. I guess the real reason I never told you about this was because I was afraid there might be too much of your mother in you, that you’d get it into your head to go looking for her and that I’d never hear from you again.
“As you got older you developed an idealized picture of your mother. I could never bring myself to destroy that fantasy, especially considering how much joy it brought you. I also didn’t want to take the chance someone else would either, so I never told anyone else about all this, not even Monterey Jack. I told him all the same lies I told you. I would never have done anything to hurt you, and if this has caused you any pain I’m sorry. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.” A tear slowly rolled down Gadget’s face as she finished, “Love, Dad.”
Monterey looked at the picture, than turned it over. “Uh, Dee, luv... what was your mother’s name?” he asked quietly.
“Amanda,” Dee answered.
“Did she happen to look anything like this?” Monterey asked handing Dee the photograph.
Dee looked at the photo for a moment, then flipped it over where the name ‘Amanda’ was written. Turning the picture back over she gave it a better look. Dee nodded her head slowly.
Gadget had seen this exchange and intervened, “We couldn’t have the same mother, Dee’s only two months younger than me, that would’ve meant my mother left when she was seven months pregnant... I don’t think that would’ve been a wise thing to do. Besides, if she was still alive, why didn’t she get back in touch with my dad?”
“We’re one year and two months apart,” Dee corrected, “You were born in January and I was born in March the following year.”
“Hmm, I must’ve just been thinking of the months,” Gadget thought aloud.
“And... I guess I can explain the rest of that,” Dee added, “Last year when we got to talking about our fathers it got me wondering about what mine was really like, so after you all left I decided to talk to George about him... you know, the historian? Anyhow, he explained that my parents had sort of a ‘love-hate relationship’... though he never knew what my mother saw in him worth loving. But there were plenty of reasons to hate him, and no end of people who felt that way... he was ignorant, selfish, and an absolute coward. Not long after Bob was born my parents had a serious falling out, George didn’t know the details but apparently mom pissed off her in-laws big time and had to leave.
“Gramma had a lot of influence on the reservation and really wasn’t someone anyone wanted to mess with, so mom felt Bob would be safer with her than if she took him with her. However, gramma got sick and wasn’t in the best position to care for a young child, so rather than my father winding up with custody, my mother returned to take care of him. My parents eventually patched up their differences and got back together, that’s where I came in. Their new relationship didn’t last long though, my mother threw him out three months into her pregnancy. Anyhow, shortly after I was born my dad and a couple of his cronies ganged up on some guy in a bar and really messed him up. This guy’s brothers weren’t happy about the situation and were looking for revenge. When dad’s friends skipped town that left him alone to face the consequences of his actions, which he definitely didn’t have the courage to do, so he ran away... and hasn’t been seen since.”
“But that still doesn’t explain why she didn’t get in touch with my dad,” Gadget responded, now accepting that she shared more with Dee than their appearance and mechanical aptitude.
“George told me that when my mom came back to take care of my brother despite the problems with her in-laws she wound up with the moral high ground,” Dee answered, “so what she lacked in protection from gramma she made up for in the respect she earned from everyone else. I imagine if anyone found out she’d had a child with someone else while she was gone it would have made her appear a lot less... noble. The two of you showing up probably wouldn’t have been the safest thing in the world to do, for you or her. And when my grandmother died mom had to take over some of her responsibilities which meant she couldn’t just pack up and leave.”
“Well, couldn’t she have sent him a letter explaining that?” Gadget asked.
“I don’t know,” Dee admitted glumly, “I guess she felt that since they couldn’t get back together it would be easier on him to think she was... dead.”
“I don’t mean to sound disrespectful,” Monterey offered, “but if that’s the case it seems she didn’t really put a great deal of thought into it.”
“She names her children Thingamabob, Gadget, and Doohickey, and got back together with her ex despite the fact he was an absolute loser,” Dee responded, “I think it’s safe to say she wasn’t exactly playing with a full deck.”
There was an awkward silence, which was broken by Dale as he broached what was, for him, a perfectly logical question, “Does this mean that Luwhiney might actually be Gadget’s sister too?”
“I don’t think our mother got around that much,” Dee answered.
Gadget took the picture of her mother from Dee and gave it a better look. Her father had never shown her any pictures of her mother so she had created an image of her from his descriptions, the picture she held in her hand didn’t entirely match the picture she held in her mind, but it was close. She would have said something if it weren’t for the unusual mixture of emotions she was feeling.
“So... sis?” Dee ventured, “You feel up to getting back to the tour?”
It took a moment for Gadget to realize Dee was speaking to her, being addressed as a ‘sis’ was a new experience for her. “Oh, sure!” she responded cheerfully.
“Are you sure?” Chip asked out of concern.
“Of course! I don’t see why this should ruin my sister’s visit.” Gadget placed the photo and letter back in the box and set it on her worktable, “Everybody ready to go?”
The Rangers and Dee boarded the Ranger Wing and returned to the tour. Throughout the duration nothing was said concerning the recent revelation regarding Gadget and Dee’s parentage. It was nearly sundown when they stopped in at a small rodent operated bar and grille across from the park the Rangers called home. Finally having a chance to rest, it was only a matter of time before the two ladies began discussing the matter that had been on both their minds.
“I think it’s a shame my mother didn’t get back together with your dad,” Dee mentioned to Gadget, “Maybe I wouldn’t have been such a hell raising harlot if I’d grown up with a responsible father figure ‘round the house.”
“I wonder what my Seneca name would’ve been?” Gadget asked rhetorically.
“Probably woulda’ been ‘she invents’,” Dee responded.
“But that’s already your name,” Gadget pointed out.
“You’re the older sibling, you would’ve gotten the name first,” corrected Dee, “I guess mine woulda’ been ‘she also invents’!”
“Imagine what that would’ve been like for Bob if you did both have the same name in Seneca,” Chip brought up, “‘Hi, I’m Bob... this is my sister Ye’shöni’... and this is my other sister Ye’shöni’.’”
“Aw, you remembered my name!” Dee cheered as she gave Chip a loving gaze.
As Chip began to blush, Dale spoke up, “Gee, I wonder what the two of you would’ve invented if you’d grown up together?”
Dee reluctantly drew her gaze away from Chip as she responded, “Well, given the tendency of some of our inventions to go horribly awry it’s probably for the best that we didn’t have that chance... there’s no telling what kind of unspeakable havoc we might’ve caused!” The thought prompted Monterey to quickly down another shot of cheese sauce.
A slightly inebriated weasel sauntered up to the table where the Rangers were seated. “You the Rescue Rangers?” he loudly asked with a slight hint of malice in his voice.
“That’s us!” Monterey responded, “What can we do for ya’?”
“Nuthin’!” he shot back, “I just thought I’d pay ya’ back for what you did to my cousin!”
“What are you talking about?” Chip asked indignantly.
“I’m talkin’ bout how you sent him down the sewer when you busted up his gang!” the weasel responded in an increasingly bellicose manner.
“It was his own fault for having been part of that gang!” Dale replied. The drunk didn’t take that assertion well and started to go around the table to get at Dale.
He only got a few steps before Chip stood to block his way. “I think you’ve had a little too much to drink!” he stated as he looked up at his adversary. The drunkard grabbed Chip by the collar of his jacket and lifted him off his feet. Monterey and Dee immediately rose from their seats, shortly after which several of the weasel’s companions rose to their feet.
Foxglove was waiting patiently at the Rescue Ranger’s headquarters, hanging from the ceiling, when she heard the Ranger Wing return. When she’d arrived and discovered everyone had left she was concerned they’d taken on a case and that Dale had forgotten to leave her a note. She hated to miss another date with her sweetie, even if it was just to watch some TV.
“I still can’t believe you did that!” she heard Chip exclaim.
“They weren’t about to let us out of there without a fight and you know it!” an unfamiliar female replied. Chip walked through the front door followed by what appeared to be Gadget (had she been soaking for an hour in used motor oil).
“I’m just surprised we got out of there in as good a shape as we did,” Monterey stated as he passed the threshold.
“Most of us anyway,” Dale responded as he entered. Foxglove was horrified to see her beloved walk in with a black eye, she immediately let go of her perch and fluttered down to him.
“Golly, Dale, how many more times can I say I’m sorry!” Gadget said as she followed Dale inside.
“Dale! What happened?” Foxglove asked, landing at his side.
“Gadget punched me,” he responded.
“Whatever for?!” Foxglove demanded of Gadget, astonished that such an incident could take place.
“It was an accident,” Gadget answered, “I thought he was one of those drunks.” From her expression it was clear Foxglove was still very much in the dark about the whole occurrence.
“We stopped in at a bar across the park and encountered some blokes who weren’t particularly happy to see us,” Monterey pointed out, “One of ‘em had Chip by the collar and was ready to clean ‘is clock. Now we weren’t about to let that happen so we all got up to join the fun!”
“Of course Gadget did try to stop things from getting out of hand,” Chip interjected in Gadget’s defense.
“Yeah, but when she said ‘There’s no need to resort to physical violence’,” Monterey continued, “Dee here responded with ‘I beg to differ!’ and planted her fist right in the guy’s stomach! It, uh, gets kinda’ confusing after that.”
“That’s why, when somebody grabbed my arm from behind, I assumed it was someone other than Dale!” Gadget finished as she returned from the kitchen with a cold compress for him.
“I still don’t know why he’d do something like that,” Dee stated, “That’s not exactly the smartest thing to do in a fight.”
“Well that’s because my cutie’s a lover, not a fighter,” Foxglove responded, “Isn’t that right?” she added as she tenderly wrapped her wings around Dale.
“Uh, sure,” Dale answered nervously.
“Now let’s find you a monster movie on television to take your mind off of all this senseless violence,” she said leading Dale over towards the couch.
With the possibility of being rudely interrupted all but nil, Gadget had an opportunity to learn more about her mother. Dee was more than willing to help her ‘new’ sister learn about her extended family. With nothing else to do and themselves being intrigued by the subject, Monterey, Chip, and Zipper each took a place at the table and listened in.
Before long, Gadget was able to give voice to one of the realizations that had previously eluded expression, “Golly, this morning when I woke up I was the only person in my family... now I find out I have an older brother and a younger sister!”
“Not to mention a niece!” Monterey pointed out. A moment after having said that he remembered that the subject of Dee’s daughter, Raven, was not something to be mentioned in mixed company. The look he received from her sent a chill down his spine, especially now that he’d had a chance to see what she was capable of doing when angered. “Sorry,” Monterey sighed, “I wasn’t thinking.”
“No kidding,” Dee remarked coldly. No one elaborated further on that particular topic.
When Foxglove and Dale’s movie was finished Foxglove had an opportunity to meet Dee. Despite her previous disastrous encounters with bats, Dee got along quite well with her. Monterey even brought up the possibility of the two ladies taking Chip and Dale out on a double date, both thought it was an excellent suggestion.
“How about tonight?” Dee suggested, then looking at Chip longingly, “There is a full moon out after all.”
“Oh, I think that’s wonderful!” Foxglove chimed in, then turning to Dale, “What do you think?”
“Uh, yeah, wonderful,” Dale stammered nervously.
High atop the roof of the Metropolitan Museum two small figures made their way through an open window. The window wasn’t meant to open, but wind, heavy rains (and a still unsolved phenomenon that tilted all the buildings in the city a few years back) had worked the window slightly out of place. As they had planned, there was no one about save the occasional security guard patrolling the corridors. The two intruders moved without concern of the guards’ presence since they couldn’t be seen, unless the guards suddenly became capable of flight. Making their way along the top of the elaborate decorative friezes, far above the guards’ heads, the mouse and bat soon reached their destination.
“Now, unless they moved things around since yesterday,” the adolescent mouse stated, “it should be right around this corner.”
“Right where we... whoa!” the bat proclaimed as he caught sight of other intruders.
“That ain’t right!” the rodent hissed as she scampered closer to get a better view. Her winged companion followed as quickly as he could given he wasn’t airborne. From their perch overlooking the display they watched a group of assorted animals approach the object of their interest.
“There it is, boys, the Delronne Diamond!” the impeccably dressed obese feline proclaimed, “I could sell all of you and still not come anywhere near affording that rock... if it were on sale that is.”
“You’re not going to sell us, are you, boss?” the mole mumbled.
“Oh, of course not, Mole,” his employer responded condescendingly, “I’d never be able to find anyone dumb enough to buy any of you!”
“That’s good,” the myopic minion replied, “I think.”
“How are we supposed to get it?” the rat inquired.
“Simple,” the large feline answered, “you’ll stand on each others shoulders and the one on top will lift himself onto the display, use the glass cutter to get through the top, grab the diamond, and toss it down to me.”
“I think that’s Fat Cat and his gang,” the mouse whispered, “I’ve heard Tammy’s story of how the Rescue Rangers saved her from them enough times.” Watching the lackeys climb upon one another only to come tumbling down like fools cinched it, “Yep, that’s them.”
“And it looks like they’re after our rock,” added the bat.
“Can’t have that, we’ll have to beat them to it,” the mouse stated as she pulled out their own glass cutter from her trench coat.
Watching his accomplices fail once again to balance, Fat Cat began to lose his patience, “Morons! Mole, stand there! Mepps, on Mole! Snout, on Mepps! Wart, take this glass cutter and GET UP THERE!!”
The bat dropped down to the display as his companion descended down a rope. As the mouse quickly set to work getting through the glass Wart began to climb over the edge.
“Hey! You’re not supposed to be here!” Wart stated as he noticed others had beaten him to the goal.
“Neither are you!” the bat replied, “Now scram!”
“Why should I?” the lizard asked indignantly.
“Because I’m a vampire and I’m hungry!”
“You’re a vampire?” Wart asked skeptically, “Prove it!”
The bat, his broad grin revealing long razor sharp incisors, approached menacingly. Wart began to retreat, not sure if he wanted to know how his opponent planned to prove his point.
“Stay back!” Wart warned as he brandished the glass cutter. The bat took to the air and flew over Wart’s head. Swinging the glass cutter wildly in his panic, Wart lost his balance and fell off the display, crashing into his companions below.
“Fangs, I got it!” the mouse yelled as she climbed out of the display with the diamond. Fangs came about in the air, clutched the stone with his feet and lifted it up to the ledge.
“THEY’VE GOT MY DIAMOND!” Fat Cat bellowed, “STOP THEM!”
“How?” Snout asked, “It’s not like we can fly.” Fat Cat merely steamed over having lost his prize as he watched the pair escape.
As they made their way back to their point of entry another pair, a snake and spider, approached form the outside.
“I can’t believe we couldn’t find a way in from the ground!” the snake mumbled, “I hate having to climb buildings.”
“Well it wasn’t any easier for me to lift you, Bud,” the spider responded, “you’re not exactly light as a feather you know.”
“Quiet, Lou!” Bud hissed, “I hear someone coming!” They ducked out of sight as they listened to the two other intruders approach the window.
“That certainly was interesting,” Fangs stated as he emerged from the museum.
“Yep,” the mouse agreed laconically, “Now let’s get this over with and get this thing back inside where it’s supposed to be.” She searched through the sky for the full moon. What she found wasn’t what she wanted, “Where the hell did these clouds come from?”
“Doesn’t look like there’ll be a break any time soon,” Fangs added, looking skywards.
“I can’t cast the spell without the moon,” the mouse protested.
“May as well drop the diamond back into the museum,” Fangs mentioned, “and try again next month.” When his companion didn’t respond he addressed her directly, “Raven!”
“I heard you,” she answered, “We can’t put this back now. First, Fat Cat will just grab it. Second, if we do put it back when and where the humans are sure to get it, they’ll have it under better security by next month... we’d never be able to get near it.”
“So we keep it?!”
“Just till the next full moon,” Raven lamented, “weather permitting.”
“Ok, so where do we keep it?”
“Well, I sure as hell can’t take it home,” Raven thought aloud, “Guess you’ll have to keep it at the church. You head on back, I’ll meet you there.”
“You’re taking it with you?”
“Maybe there’ll be a break in the clouds before I get there.”
“Hey! They’ve got our diamond!” Bud whispered to Lou.
“Let’s get ‘em!” Lou declared pushing his bowler forward on his head, just before being pulled back by his companion.
Bud looked around the relief and watched as Raven and Fangs parted company. “We’ll follow the mouse and grab the stone form her when she’s alone,” he explained to his partner. The attempt to follow Raven seemed to fail completely when she ducked into the shadows... and didn’t come out.
“Hey, Bud, where did she go?” Lou asked as they reached where they’d seen her last.
“Don’t know,” Bud responded, he flicked his tongue in the air, “But I’ve got her scent, c’mon.”
Beside the massive stone Methodist church where Fangs resided, Tammy waited for her two friends to return from the museum. She wasn’t entirely comfortable with their breaking in but felt that as long as the diamond was left in the museum where the proper authorities could recover it there wouldn’t be a problem.
“Hey, Tammy,” she heard Raven say. Looking around, Tammy was unable to find the owner of the voice.
“All right, you got me,” Tammy conceded, “Where are you?”
“Right here,” Raven stated as she emerged from the shadow of the bushes.
“Do you have any idea how unnerving that is?” the young squirrel asked rhetorically.
“You expect me to walk the whole way from the museum completely visible to all those stray cats?” Raven responded, “Making you a little ‘on edge’ is a small price to pay for staying alive.” Raven thought for a moment. “You sure you don’t wanna know how to do that?” she asked playfully, “You could spend more time with Chip and he’d never even know it!”
“No, magic is your hobby, not mine,” she answered, “So, did it work?”
“There were a couple of problems,” Raven confessed, “First, Fat Cat and his gang were there for the diamond too. Second,” Raven removed the diamond from her trench coat, “even though we got it, we can’t use it yet.”
“You said you weren’t going to take it from the museum!” Tammy responded in disbelief.
“We weren’t!” Raven defended, “But by the time we got back to the roof these damn clouds had moved in.”
“Then you should’ve put it back! Like you planned!”
“If we had it would’ve been placed under better security by the next full moon. We wouldn’t be able to get at it,” then Raven added, “Besides, if we put it back, Fat Cat would get it. You’re the one who wants to be a Rescue Ranger, do you think they’d just let someone like that just snatch it up?”
“You hear that, Bud?” Lou quietly asked, “She’s a witch. How are we supposed to get the diamond from her now?”
“Simple,” Bud responded as he picked up a rock with his tail. He took careful aim as the girls continued to argue, then let go. The stone hit Raven square in the head, knocking her cold.
“Raven!” Tammy shouted as she knelt down by her unconscious companion. Her concern turned to fear as Raven’s assailants emerged from the bushes. Before she could react she found herself being lassoed with spider silk.
Arriving beside the two helpless girls, Lou picked up the diamond from where Raven dropped it, “Boy, Freddie’s sure going to be glad to get this! Hey, maybe she’ll give us a reward.”
“Eh, you know Freddie, she’s never glad about anything,” Bud responded, “and she’s never given us a reward before...” then, looking towards Tammy, “so I guess we’ll have to make due.”
“W-what are you going to do?” Tammy asked nervously.
“Oh, not much... just eat you,” Bud answered, licking his lips.
As Tammy attempted to loosen her bindings there were voices off in the distance, getting closer.
“Hey, Bud, hear that?” Lou asked.
“Yeah,” Bud responded disappointedly, “We got what we came for. Let’s go.”
While Bud and Lou slithered and scuttled off Tammy continued her struggle to free herself. Finally managing to wriggle free, she immediately set to work trying to raise her friend. “C’mon, Raven, this is no time to take a nap!” she pleaded as she heard the voices approaching. Tammy began to regret not asking her friend to teach her an invisibility spell. She also kept hearing her mother repeat, That little witch is nothing but trouble! in her mind.
Raven eventually began to stir, her head badly aching from the attack. Unfortunately, she was in no position to move when a scraggily looking cat in a knit cap and tattered vest came meandering out from under a bush, his nose close to the ground. “I think we’re getting close,” the cat mumbled. He was followed by others whom Tammy immediately recognized as members of Fat Cat’s gang.
“Ain’t that her on the ground?” Snout pointed out.
“What?” Mepps weakly responded as he looked up form the ground.
“That’s her all right!” Wart confirmed.
Tammy grabbed the glass cutter from Raven’s coat, it was the closest thing to a weapon she could lay her paws on, “Stay back!”
“C’mon, sweetheart, put down the glass cutter before you hurt yourself,” Snout commanded condescendingly as he approached. Tammy swung her weapon at the thugs but, being outnumbered four to one, was quickly disarmed.
“Mr. Fat Cat is very upset with you for stealing his diamond,” Wart mentioned to the barely conscious Raven as Mepps tossed her over his shoulder. The group left the churchyard carrying her and dragging Tammy along kicking and screaming.
Where’s Fangs?! Tammy thought to herself, He’s always with Raven! Where the hell is that winged rat! Oh, Chip... where are you?
On the opposite end of the city from the park and Methodist church, a freight train slowly came to a shuddering halt. Once it was clear it wasn’t going to move further anytime in the near future, two stowaways disembarked form the undercarriage of one of the weatherbeaten cars. Careful to avoid the prying eyes of humans, the two massive canines carefully looked about from behind the metal wheels.
Looking to his companion, the bolder of the pair stated, in imitation of Sean Connery, “We are pilgrims in an unholy land!” Though the movie character he emulated was referring to a Nazi party rally in 1930's Berlin, to a couple of wolves born and bred in the wild the rail yards of a large city were every bit as ‘unholy’.
“Honk,” his companion replied in agreement.
Sticking to the shadows and trusting that city dwellers wouldn’t immediately recognize them as wolves, they made their way through the city. Traveling through the back alleys was fairly easy as every stray cat and dog they encountered quickly made room for them to pass. Their greatest concern was from the few humans who they encountered in such dark and close quarters, but avoiding eye contact helped to lessen the possibility of an incident.
“H-E-E-E-LP!” the wolves’ ears perked up, “SOMEBODY, H-E-E-E-E-LP!” There was something vaguely familiar about the grating southern accent attached to that barking. The pair approached the entrance of the alley to investigate. A pinkish-white blur, barely discernable as a poodle, shot past their field of view. The bolder wolf stuck his head out of the alley and nearly had it taken off by the Doberman and two mutts who were in pursuit of the poodle.
Off in the direction from whence the four canines had come a man was calling out, “Somebody stop those dogs! They’re after Canina Lafur!” The bolder wolf, with his companion tagging behind, took off down the street after the procession. Dodging the occasional human, the two began to gain on their quarry. When the domesticated dogs turned down an alley the two wild canids followed. They quickly came upon a dead end where the three hunters had cornered their prey. There was no mistaking it, the poodle was indeed Canina LuFur, star of stage, screen, and occasional dog food commercial.
“I must admit, you’re the most tenacious autograph hounds I’ve ever met!” Canina nervously stated.
“We’re not after your autograph, honey,” the Doberman chuckled.
“Oh yeah?” Canina growled, “Well I’ve taken on bigger mongrels than you in my day!” Her assailants weren’t impressed by her threat, in fact they laughed at her.
“I was afraid you weren’t going to put up a fight,” the Doberman responded condescendingly.
“And I’ve killed and eaten things larger than all of you put together!” the lead wolf snarled.
“And who the hell are you?” the Doberman remarked turning to face those who were foolish enough to interrupt his fun. He found himself facing two canines, each of which was at least a third larger than himself.
“I’m a grey wolf,” the wolf responded in a Clint Eastwood voice, “the most powerful wild canid in the world. Now you gotta ask yourself a question... Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya’... punk?”
“Think you can take me, nature boy?” As far as the Doberman knew, wolves were nothing more than overgrown dogs that lived the high life in the zoo... or in the woods eating little pigs in straw houses. He didn’t think they would be any match for someone who had grown up on the mean streets of the city. Needless to say, he was grossly misinformed about what a wolf was capable of.
With the limited lighting available in the alley the two wolves looked as if they’d come straight from a horror movie. The Doberman’s associates weren’t quite as reassured by their leader’s arrogance as they usually would be, and they showed it as they began to slowly back away with tails tucked.
“This is your only chance to leave this alley in one piece,” the wolf warned.
“Really,” the Doberman laughed, “I was about to say the same thing.” Since neither wolf had advanced towards him he began to think that they were simply blowing hot air, trying to scare him off. One loud bark, he felt, would be enough to get them to back down. He was wrong. The instant he moved to bark the wolf attacked.
The short coat and thin skin of a domesticated dog were poor defense against long sharp fangs driven by jaws powerful enough to shatter bone. The thick coat and tough skin of a wolf proved more than adequate against the short dull teeth of the domesticated dog. The fight was nearly over before it had begun, with the Doberman squealing like a hurt pup and limping off as quickly as he could leaving a trail of bloody paw prints in his wake. His two companions were already gone, having left trails of submissive piddle in their wake.
Canina wasn’t sure what to expect at this point, wasn’t sure whether to be thankful of being rescued or fearful of being dinner.
“I must apologize, ma’am,” the victorious wolf responded with unexpected poise and civility, “for your having been witness to such barbaric behavior, but I was left with little other choice.” Clearing his throat as he sat, he continued, “My name is Romulus, and this is my brother, Honker. May I have the honor of your name?”
She was surprised, this certainly was not the behavior she would have expected from a ‘wild’ dog. And now that concern for her safety was no longer foremost in her mind she began to notice how handsome he appeared, in a rugged sort of way. “I am Canina LaFur,” she introduced holding out her paw, “star of stage, screen, and occasional dog food commercial.”
“Miss LaFur,” Romulus said taking her paw and giving it a reverent kiss, “I have been a fan of yours for years and years a-... well, ever since we got cable.”
“Oh, well thank you,” Canina responded, more flattered than is usual by a fan’s attention. “Did you come from the local zoo?” she asked, assuming that could be the only way a wolf would, for one thing be in the city, and for another be so well mannered (not to mention have cable).
“No, we are from the forests of southwestern New York,” Romulus corrected, “We came to the city in search of one of our pack members. She came here to visit friends, and though she is quite capable, being a conscientious Alpha I am naturally concerned about the well being of all my pack members. Besides, she’s the only one who knows how to repair the TV.”
“Honk,” Honker affirmed.
“Did he just, uh... honk?” Canina asked in surprise.
“Y-yes,” Romulus confirmed, “He swallowed a horn when he was just a pup, he’s been unable to speak or howl ever since... just honks.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she offered.
“Honk-honk,” Honker shrugged in a ‘that’s life’ way.
“Maybe he should see a vet,” Canina suggested.
Both wolves looked at each other in a worried way. Then Romulus explained, “Well, the reason we’re an endangered species is because of the humans... and we’ve heard what vets routinely do to canines.” At that, Honker stuck his front paws between his hind legs in a protective manner. “We prefer to have as little contact with humans as possible,” Romulus finished.
“I’m beginning to see why one shouldn’t be too dependant on humans,” Canina huffed, “My handler was giving me a walk when those three lowlifes came after me... he just panicked, the only thing I could do was run. Well, I suppose I should get back to the set before they recast my role with some undeserving understudy.”
“Given what has just happened I’m sure you would understand that we would prefer that you have an escort,” Romulus offered.
“How can I refuse?” Canina accepted. Staying to the alleys (at Romulus’s request) they made their way to the set of Canina’s most recent cinematic endeavor.
“Now if you two boys would wait here,” Canina suggested, “I’ll see what I can do about making the two of you less conspicuous.” Romulus and Honker bided their time as they awaited her return, not quite sure what she had in mind.
“Now this is the best thing I could think of,” Canina said when she returned, pulling out two collars with tags she continued, “These are the type of collars worn by guard dogs that work for the studio, this way it’ll look like you belong here and aren’t on the loose or something.”
“Hey, didn’t you do that in the movie ‘Where Beagles Dare’?” Romulus asked.
“Where do you think I got with the idea?” Canina responded. Never having worn collars before the two wolves had a great deal of trouble putting them on (it also didn’t help that the collars were designed for dogs with thinner necks). With some doing, Canina managed to wrangle the collars into place around both their necks. “Now to see if it works,” she said, “Mind escorting me to my trailer?”
The three managed to arrive at Canina’s trailer with little notice, due primarily to the fact that Canina couldn’t be seen between her two hulking bodyguards.
“That went better than I thought it would,” she confessed as they entered her lavishly styled ‘dog house’ trailer.
“I’m not sure I could ever get used to being in a city,” Romulus mentioned, “It’s just too creepy with all these humans wandering about.” Honker shuddered at the thought. “I mean, watching large numbers of them on TV is one thing: they’re so small, have no scent. But here: they’re large, they stink, and they’re everywhere!”
“How are we ever going to replace her?” a person outside asked, “Her stand-in’s not ready for this.” Whoever it was walked up the trailer’s stairs. Both wolves froze. When the door opened Canina recognized the director, and he (eventually) noticed her, “CANINA!”
“BARK!” Canina responded (actually she said ‘Frank’, but that’s not what he heard).
“We thought we’d lost you girl!” he knelt down to hug her, “Where did you come from?” Canina placed a paw on Romulus’s shoulder. “Oh, they must’ve found you and brought you back! I’ll have someone bring them a couple steaks! It’s great to have you back, the producer almost had a heart attack when he heard what happened!” The director departed to spread the good news.
“Honk!” Honker stated.
“Yer right,” Romulus agreed, “Not all humans are bad, we’re getting free meat after all!”
“You understood what he said?” Canina asked.
“Hey, if Han Solo can understand Chewbacca, I can understand Honker,” Romulus pointed out.
After enjoying their free meal, Romulus felt it was time to get back to their search.
“Is there any way I can help?” Canina offered.
“Well...,” Romulus thought for a moment, “Actually, yes, there is. You do know where the Rescue Rangers live, right?”
“Sure do!” she responded enthusiastically, “They saved my life, not to mention my career!”
“I know, they told us,” Romulus explained, “but they never explained to us where they lived... Well, not to me anyway.”
“My, they do get around don’t they.”
Romulus began to regale his screen idol with the story of how his pack assisted the Rangers in a case in the pack’s own backyard. She found it quite unusual that his pack had adopted Dee. She was also slightly disappointed to hear that Romulus had a mate, though she knew a relationship really wouldn’t work, they lived in two completely different worlds.
“If you two stay here tonight I can show you where they live when I go on my morning walk,” Canina suggested.
“Sounds good,” Romulus agreed, “I suppose Dee can keep herself out of trouble that long at least.”
Chip, Dee, and Dale approached the Metropolitan Museum in the Ranger Wing with Foxglove flying alongside. When the full moon had disappeared with the oncoming clouds their double date was cut short. On the way back to the Rangers’ headquarters the sound of police sirens grabbed their attention. Chip’s instincts told him to investigate but his conscience demanded that he ask his companions if they’d mind the detour. When no one objected the matter was settled and he brought the Ranger Wing about and pursued the sirens.
“Must’ve been a break in,” Dee noted as he watched the police cars come to a halt in front of the museum.
“Either that or they opened an all night doughnut shop,” Dale quipped.
“Let’s look for a way in,” Chip suggested, “We’ll check on this side. Foxglove, you go check the other.”
Upon meeting up on the far side of the building Foxglove announced her discovery, “There’s a window ajar on the top floor. I think it’s large enough for us to get through.” For some time Foxglove had been offering her assistance on some of the Rangers’ cases, it was a welcome change from her previous association with the witch Winifred (commonly referred to as ‘Freddie’, though never to her face). Everything she helped Winifred with ultimately wound up hurting somebody. But with the Rangers, everything she helped out with helped somebody, plus it gave her more chances to spend time with Dale and prove her worth to him (aside from providing him with unconditional love).
“Think this is how they got in?” Dale asked as they approached the window.
“Only if the intruders were small animals,” Chip answered.
“How do you mean?” Foxglove inquired.
“If it had been humans,” Dee started before Chip could respond, “they would’ve had it opened wider when they got through, and that would have damaged the surrounding frame.”
“From the looks of it,” Chip followed, “I’d say it was worked open gradually over time.”
“Well, if the intruders did come through here,” Dee said leaning in close to the opening, “I guess it would make these hairs evidence.”
“You’re right,” Chip agreed as he pulled out some small plastic bags and a pair of rodent sized tweezers.
After collecting the hair samples the four proceeded inside. Given the size of the building it would have taken a great deal of time to locate where the police were performing their investigation, but Foxglove was able to locate their voices and led the others to the scene. Several officers were gathered around an empty display case, each performing their respective duties of collecting and cataloguing what little evidence they could find. Another officer was interviewing the museum director who, given the condition of his clothes and hair, must have been roused from bed by the news.
“How much was this diamond worth?” the officer asked.
“The Delronne Diamond was priceless,” the bewildered director answered, “It was donated to the museum at the behest of the previous owner. Before that it was handed down through his family... There was never a price tag attached to it.”
“Did he say the ‘Delronne Diamond’?” Foxglove asked.
“That’s what it sounded like,” Dee answered.
“You know something about it, Foxy?” Dale inquired.
“Yeah,” Foxglove proceeded to explain, “the reason Freddie wanted me, Bud, and Lou to collect all those things for her potion was because she didn’t know where to find the Deronne Diamond.”
“Would that have given her the powers she was after?” Chip asked.
“That’s what she thought.”
“Do you know if she’s still in jail?” Dee asked of Chip.
“I don’t remember hearing anything about her being released,” Chip answered after some thought, “but she could be out on parole. That’s definitely something we’ll have to check out.”
“And if she did get back together with Bud and Lou they could have gotten in through that window,” Dale pointed out.
“You’re right,” Chip said as he watched the action below intently, “Doesn’t look like there’s anything more we can do here, at least not until there are less people around. We should head back to headquarters and get a closer look at those hairs.”
When they arrived back at Rescue Rangers headquarters they found Monterey, Gadget, and Zipper still up.
“We weren’t waiting up for you in case you were wondering,” Monterey mentioned to them as they entered, “We know you’re responsible adults and all.”
“What?” Chip asked out of sheer confusion.
“Nothing,” Gadget responded, “So, how was your date?”
“Depends on your point of view,” Dee answered with a raised eyebrow. Chip explained about the break in at the museum and asked Gadget to help identify the hairs they’d recovered.
Examining the first set of hairs under the enormous microscope (well, enormous compared to the user), Gadget identified them, “Dee, this are your hair.”
“No,” Dee responded pointedly.
“Oh, then I guess it belongs to a mouse with the exact same color fur you have.”
“If I had been through there before it’s more likely I would’ve left this hair behind,” Dee added as she ran her fingers through her voluminous black mane. Dee thought about that for a moment. She knew her daughter may have inherited her coloring, but the chances of it being Raven’s hair seemed too small, given the kind of rodent population a city of that size must have... there were undoubtedly many more mice with dark brown fur in the area.
“Ok, Chip, lets see the other set of hairs,” Gadget instructed. Chip removed the first slide and replaced it with next. After a moment of study, Gadget proclaimed, “This looks like bat hair.”
“You’re not going to say it’s mine are you?” Foxglove joked.
“Nope, it’s too dark to be your hair, Foxglove,” Gadget answered, apparently oblivious to the humorous nature of the bat’s inference, “In fact, it doesn’t look like it belongs to any of the local bat species.”
“At least that narrows down the possibilities,” Dale suggested.
“I’m not sure how much help that could be,” Monterey interjected, “That just means it could belong to any one of the numerous species that don’t live around here, and that’s quite a lot... it coulda’ come from a fruit bat, vampire bat...”
“Vampire!?” Dale responded with obvious concern.
“Not that kind of vampire!” Chip scolded, realizing that Dale was thinking of the ‘Dracula’ style vampire.
“Well, it’s not a fruit bat at least,” Gadget added, “But other than that, I’m stumped.”
“It’s getting kinda’ late,” Chip observed, “we can get back to this in the morning, right now we I think we should head off to bed.”
“Ooooh!” Dee cooed as she threw her arms around Chip, much to everyone’s amusement. Foxglove followed suit, wrapping her wings around Dale, causing him to blush every bit as much as his fellow chipmunk.
“What did I tell ya’, Zip,” Monterey whispered to his companion, “A ‘cornucopia of affection’.” Zipper could barely suppress his own laughter.
“Don’t worry,” Dee said to her chipmunk, “I don’t wanna make you that nervous. I can sleep on the couch.”
“No,” Chip stated, “you’re our guest. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“You are the gentlemunk, aren’t you?” Dee cooed, “Wait!” she suddenly blurted out seriously, “You want me to sleep alone in the room with him?” she finished pointing distrustfully at Dale. Everyone unconsciously turned to look at him.
“I... guess I’ll be sleeping on the couch too,” Dale sighed.
“That’s ok,” Foxglove said comfortingly, “I’ll hang around outside with you.”
“No, you don’t have to,” Dale feverishly searched for an excuse, he still wasn’t as comfortable with Foxglove as Chip apparently was with Dee, “You can use my bunk!”
She was disappointed, but didn’t want to let it show, “Whatever you want, cutie!”
The two ladies adjourned to the chipmunks’ room for the night, Dee taking Chip’s lower bunk while Foxglove took the ceiling over Dale’s top bunk (close enough to catch his scent). As Dee changed out of her black jumpsuit, Foxglove struck up some conversation, “I think it was a good thing that Chip met up with you.”
“Well, he’s not as hard on Dale as he used to be... I haven’t seen him bonk my cutie on the head for quite a while. And neither of them has been hitting on Gadget as much,” Foxglove added.
“I think the reason they kept it up so much was out of competition with each other... if one of them was flirting with her the other would have to outdo him. But, since meeting you, Chip hasn’t been doing it as much, so there’s not as much competition,” Foxglove explained, “Not that I mind, it gives me more time to spend with Dale.”
“You’re welcome,” Dee laughed as she walked back to Chip’s bunk.
“Thank you,” Foxglove giggled.
As Dee sat on the bed she noticed the gold feather pendent necklace she had given Chip when they had parted over a year ago. Well, this settles the major question that’s been on my mind, she thought, he still loves me! She laid back on the bed and was please to discover it smelled like him.
The two chipmunks made themselves as comfortable as they could on the couch.
“Hey, Chip,” Dale whispered.
“Mm-hm?” Chip responded.
“Do you think the girls are talking about us?”
“I wonder what they’re saying.”
“It’s probably best we don’t know.”
The sky in the East was beginning to show the first stirring of the coming dawn when Raven finally managed to raise herself from unconsciousness. The last thing she could remember was arguing with Tammy, which had come to a screeching halt due to a sudden impact to the back of her head (an impact which still resonated through her aching skull). Looking about she quickly realized she was being held in a cage. Beyond her prison, however, nothing lent itself to immediate recognition. The lush carpeting, potted plants, elaborate furnishings and prominently situated desk made it clear that she was in the office of someone with power and stature. And considering that the furniture was far too small for humans but too large for rodents meant that someone must be approximately the size of a domesticated cat.
“Where am I?” Raven mumbled, mostly to herself.
“Fat Cat’s office, over his casino,” Tammy answered, “This is the second time I’ve been here.”
Realizing she wasn’t alone, Raven deliberately asked the next question on her mind out loud, “What happened?”
Tammy recounted the events following Raven’s unexpected encounter with a rock. How an unidentified snake and spider made off with the diamond, nearly ate them, and left them to be captured by Fat Cat’s goons.
“I should’ve thought of that,” Raven lamented.
“Thought of what?” Tammy asked.
“My scent,” Raven answered, “I forgot that the invisibility spell doesn’t conceal my scent... it was only a matter of time before they would’ve caught up with me.”
“Do you know who the snake and spider were?” Tammy asked, hoping to better understand what they had just been through, “I think the snake’s name is ‘Bud’.”
Raven shook her head, “Not a clue. But I should have been more careful after beating Fat Cat to the diamond, I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that he would’ve had me followed.”
“Where was Fangs?” Tammy asked, finally remembering her sense of betrayal.
“We were supposed to meet up back at the church, he must’ve stopped to feed on the way.”
“Do you think he’s looking for us?”
“Don’t know. There’s probably not much he could do unless he saw us being dragged off, otherwise all he’d know is we weren’t there when he showed up.”
After a moment of silence Tammy once more spoke up, “You think you could use your magic to get us out of here?”
Raven thought for a moment, “It’d be tough. The kind of magic I use requires concentration, that ain’t easy with a splitting headache.”
“It couldn’t hurt to try,” Tammy pointed out.
Raven simply shrugged in response. Looking around, she ran through the repertoire of spells in her mind, applying their intended results to the surroundings. One eventually presented itself. “Since there’s a lock on the cage there has to be a key somewhere,” Raven mentioned.
“Are you thinking of using that ‘avatar’ spell?”
“Maybe. The problem is I’ve never been able to get it to work.”
“Well, you’ve never really had a need for it to work,” Tammy mentioned.
“Good point,” Raven agreed as she reached into her trench coat and pulled out a satchel of fine powder. She removed a small pawful. “Don’t say anything,” she advised her friend, “I need to focus as much as possible.”
Sitting by the bars of the cage, Raven closed her eyes and began deep regular breathing. In a few moments she began mumbling something under her breath. Though Tammy strained to hear what was being said she understood that what was said wasn’t what gave the spell it’s power. Raven had explained to her before that the verbal aspect was merely to help focus the mind and body to the task at hand, that it was possible with proper mental discipline to cast spells without having to say a word.
Raven’s speech stopped. She opened her paw where the powder sat, reached though the bars and blew it into the air. Raven sat back up with eyes closed and made no further movement. Tammy had watched this many times as Raven would practice, only to watch the cloud of powder drift slowly to the ground with no result (other than to irritate Raven at another failed attempt). This time was different. The cloud hung suspended outside the cage, then slowly began to swirl about.
The cloud began to glow with a bluish-white radiance. When Tammy wondered if that is how ghosts appear in real life she began to wonder what the glow actually represented. Was it Raven’s soul, her consciousness (if soul and consciousness existed separately), or was it energy created by magic. From what little she knew of the spell, Tammy gathered it was a mixture of the three. Raven had explained that such an ‘avatar’ served as an extension of the user’s consciousness, but was somewhere short of an ‘out of body’ experience (neither girl really understood what that actually meant as neither had an out of body experience).
As she watched, the radiant cloud began to resemble the form of a bird... a raven to be precise. All movement within the form seemed to stop. Before long the figure as a whole began to move, slowly taking to the air. It’s movement wasn’t quite that of a real bird, it was closer in movement to an aircraft, like a glider. The wings would flap periodically, but the timing made it clear that the wings’ movement were more cosmetic in nature, not necessary to keep the form aloft.
The raven circled the office as if it were looking about. It soon landed on the desk and focused intently on an object at it’s feet. Lifting up it’s head, the raven quickly looked to either side. The raven bent down and, to Tammy’s relief, rose up clutching a small key ring in it’s beak. From the desk the spectral bird glided down to the cage and laid the keys on the floor, at which point it just stood there... unmoving. Now that the raven and Raven were practically side by side, Tammy could see both together. She was surprised to see a quizzical look upon Raven’s face. Before long, both mouse and raven shrugged simultaneously, at which point the phantom bird walked through the cage. As it touched Raven’s body she opened her eyes, the bird vanished leaving a cloud of fine powder which began to precipitate from the air.
For a brief moment nothing happened, then Raven proceeded to look about. She started when she caught sight of the set of keys just outside the cage. “It worked!” she muttered in utter astonishment. Raven’s surprise was quickly overcome by her desire for freedom and she grabbed the keys.
Tammy’s own surprise was overcome as Raven rushed past her to the door of the cage. “What was that like?” she asked, “What happened?”
“It was like I was dreaming,” Raven explained as she began trying different keys in the lock, “I wasn’t even sure anything had really happened until I saw the keys right next to me.”
“What did you shrug about?” Tammy inquired.
“Just before the... um... well,” Tammy stumbled, trying to find words to describe events she’d never encountered before, “before it all ended, you shrugged your shoulders.”
“Oh!” Raven finally figured out, “I didn’t know how to bring it to an end. I figured I’d try what you see in those movies, you know, where the soul walks back into the body... well, whatever it was it worked.” With a ‘click’ the final key popped the lock, “We’re out!”
“Now we just have to get out of the building without being noticed,” Tammy stated.
With some thought Raven soon began thinking aloud, “Well, since this is a casino it’s a safe bet most people here would be too wrapped up in their own affairs to notice us... and the few people who do know about us probably assume we’d still be locked up...”
“But when the Rescue Rangers and I tried to get out we were noticed,” Tammy pointed out.
“But you all probably looked like you were trying to get out quickly, and as a result drew undo attention,” Raven countered, “If we walk through as if we belong here it might not look so suspicious.”
Before they could get any further in their planning they heard the arrival of someone by the elevator. Having been taken by surprise they both hesitated, and as a result were standing in the middle of the office, in plain sight, when the doors opened. As Fat Cat and his associates walked out of the elevator they noticed the two girls.
“Hey, boss, they got out of the cage!” Snout announced.
“I can see that you fool!” the porcine feline replied, “Now get them back in there!”
As Fat Cat’s cronies advanced, Tammy ran to the side in an attempt to outflank her pursuers. Raven, on the other hand, charged straight at Fat Cat. Since it was highly uncommon for a mouse to charge a cat, the feline crime boss was unprepared when she slammed into him like a miniature linebacker. While Fat Cat tried to right himself Raven and Tammy (who did manage to outflank her pursuers) were able to reach the elevator... just as Mepps grabbed Tammy by her tail. As he proceeded to drag the young squirrel out, Raven leapt out of the elevator and tried to wrestle the scraggily feline to the floor.
This delay, however, gave Fat Cat a chance to get back to his feet and take matters into his own paws. Grabbing Tammy by the collar he lifted her off the ground and likewise hoisted Raven off Mepps by her tail. Never the type to give up, Raven swung herself towards her captor, grabbed hold of his whiskers (which were styled like a typical villain’s mustache), and chomped down on the first part of his body she could find (which happened to be his upper lip). Fat Cat, crying out more as a result of surprise than pain, promptly dropped both of his captives.
Before the girls could capitalize on this second chance they were jumped by the others and dragged, kicking and screaming, back towards the cage. Raven was the first to be thrown in, but she quickly righted herself and charged to the door colliding with both Mepps and Tammy who went sprawling onto the floor. Though startled, Tammy was quick to take off towards the elevator after Raven. Fat Cat situated himself between the girls and their only apparent means of escape. Once again Raven threw her shoulder into Fat Cat. This time, however, he had gotten his footing and allowed both girls to rebound off his prodigious girth.
Raven and Tammy were once more dragged to the cage. “Throw the squirrel in first, then the mouse!” Fat Cat ordered.
As the door was being thrown shut, Raven made another attempt, but only succeeded in crashing into the bars of the cage. Not to be deterred, she went to work grabbing and clawing at her captors as they worked to lock the door. Even after the door was locked, Raven continued her struggle, trying to work herself between the bars (not so much to escape, but just to lay her paws on her enemies).
“And I thought the Rescue Rangers were tenacious!” Fat Cat commented. Raven, eventually, relinquished her struggle to force her way between the bars. When she had finished, Fat Cat proceeded, addressing Raven in a friendly and cordial (not to mention over dramatic) manner, “I must admit I was impressed with the precision with which you and your winged companion carried out that heist, it was clean, efficient, it was almost like a dance. In fact, it put them...” motioning to his flunkies, “to absolute shame. It would be an honor to give you and your partner a prominent position in my... organization... if you would be so kind as to hand over the diamond.”
Raven sat completely still, glaring at her captor with all the malice she could summon. She eventually responded coldly and in a disturbingly calm tone, “You have no idea the kinds of things I want to see done to you.”
Fat Cat frowned disdainfully, then returned to his mock civility, “I guess that means you’re turning down my offer. Well, that’s your choice to make, of course. I’m sure your friend will be slightly more agreeable... in order to have you returned unharmed.”
Tammy couldn’t stomach the mobster’s insincerity any longer and blurted out, “We can’t give you the diamond because we don’t have it! We were attacked by a snake and spider before your goons showed up! They took the diamond!”
“Oh, of course!” Fat Cat responded sarcastically, “A snake and a spider! I’ll have my men go out immediately to find ‘a’ snake and ‘a’ spider...” then his tone became more malevolent, “or I’ll just keep you here until your friend decides to cooperate. His name was ‘Fangs’ wasn’t it? I’ll have someone find him and give him my terms for your release.”
As Fat Cat turned to leave, Tammy shouted out, “You’ll be in serious trouble when the Rescue Rangers realize I’m missing! I’m a close friend of theirs and you know it!” Raven rolled her eyes.
“Why would I know something like that?” Fat Cat asked out of honest disinterest.
“Because this is the second time you’ve held me hostage!” Tammy replied, “Didn’t you recognize me?!”
“My dear,” Fat Cat laughed condescendingly as he turned, “I meet so many people in my line of business. I can hardly be expected to remember every single one.” He thought for a moment. “So, you’re a friend of the Rescue Rangers,” Fat Cat stated with a sense of villainous supremacy.
“That’s right!” Tammy responded.
Great, Raven thought, I can see where this is going.
“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” Fat Cat asked cheerfully, “Since I’m going to be having such important guests I’ll just have to give them a proper reception!” As he proceeded to leave he mentioned, menacingly, to his cronies, “Come along, boys, we have preparations to make. Snout, keep an eye on them so they don’t get loose again.”
It suddenly dawned on Tammy what she’d just done. “Why did I have to say that?!” she groaned as she sat down.
Raven wanted to respond with ‘Way to go, Tammy. Any state secrets you want to sell while you’re at it?’ but settled on the less patronizing, “Because you were scared and desperate.”
“Da-ale,” Foxglove softly sang as she nudged him gently with her wings. He kept sleeping.
“Grab his nose,” Dee suggested, “that’ll get him up.”
“I’m not going to make him think he’s suffocating,” Foxglove responded. “Da-ale,” she repeated a little louder. Dale rolled slightly onto his side and released a horrifically loud snort (which was usually enough to induce Chip to kick Dale from underneath through his mattress).
“I definitely don’t want to hear that again!” Dee stated as she reached for Dale’s nose and pinched it shut.
In a moment Dale’s limbs began flailing about. Dee released his nose and after his first full breath Dale shouted, “He-elp! I’m drowning!” Sitting up, Dale looked around frantically. Dee was filled with sadistic contentment, and her expression showed it.
“Good morning, cutie!” Foxglove said once Dale had calmed down somewhat.
“Uh... Mornin’, Foxy,” Dale responded, then noticing Gadget and Dee also hovering over him by the couch he continued, “you... want something?”
“We were wondering if you knew where Chip got off to,” Gadget answered.
“Last time I saw him he was sleeping on the other end of the couch,” Dale responded.
“Well he ain’t there now,” Dee pointed out.
“Maybe he decided to get started early on the case,” Dale suggested as he stretched.
“He probably would’ve left us a note if he did that,” Gadget thought aloud.
As the four contemplated Chip’s whereabouts the front door opened slowly. They turned to see who was entering and watched the object of their search come sneaking past the threshold. It was clear that Chip was trying to avoid being seen or heard, and the fact that it was completely unnecessary made it an interesting sight. Realizing that he was oblivious to the others’ presence, Dee quickly motioned for them to remain quiet. Carefully closing the door as not to make too much noise, Chip didn’t notice Dee quickly approaching like a wolf coming upon an unsuspecting deer (which, as it happens, was exactly what Dee was thinking).
Chip turned to tiptoe into back to the couch just as Dee lunged at him. Any attempt on his part to yell out in surprise was muffled as she passionately kissed him. Dee’s momentum sent them crashing into the door where she kept her prey pinned. Removing her lips from his she greeted him with, “Were you out getting me flowers?”
“What?!” was the only response he could manage at first.
Gadget and Foxglove giggled at the situation as Dale rolled off the couch laughing.
Chip soon realized what had happened and frantically searched his mind for an excuse, “Uh... no, I had an errand to run... a-and wanted to get it out of the way before we got to work.”
“Ok,” Dee shrugged as she released him. Chip was grateful she didn’t attempt to delve any deeper, it would have ruined her surprise... and after what had just happened he was looking forward to her being on the receiving end for once.
After breakfast had been consumed the Rangers, Dee, and Foxglove gathered in the living area to watch the morning news. Chip felt it was best to see if there had been any breaks in the museum theft worthy of news coverage, especially since it might lessen the amount of work they needed to do.
“Ok, this is it!” Chip called to the others as the anchor started the story.
“The Delronne Diamond, donated to the museum by the late millionaire/recluse Conrad Johnston, was stolen last night from the Metropolitan Museum,” the news anchor opened, “The police admit they have few leads, and just this morning released their only suspect, Ms Winifred Wilson. Ms Wilson was working as a janitor at the museum as part of a work release program. She had been convicted of a similar robbery at the Science Museum where she stole a moon rock that was on loan from the Smithsonian. Ms Wilson was dismissed as a suspect in this case when it was discovered that she was meeting with her parole officer at the time the theft if believed to have taken place.” As the next story was brought up, Chip turned off the television.
“The police may not have reason to suspect her,” Gadget mentioned, “but they don’t know her like we do.”
“Too right!” Monterey added, “They’d never suspect that someone like Freddie would use animals to do her dirty work.”
“Our next step should be to find out where Freddie’s been staying these days,” Chip said.
“Hey, Foxglove,” Dee said turning to the resident bat, “Is there anything else you might be able to tell us about that diamond?”
“Sorry,” Foxglove answered glumly, “All Freddie was able to find out was that the diamond could give someone great magical power and was kept in a private collection. When she ran into a dead end trying to find out who had it she decided to use other means to expand her abilities.”
“Did she find out how the diamond would give her greater powers?” Gadget asked.
“No,” Foxglove answered, “She probably planned to find that out after she got her hands on it.”
A knock drew everyone’s attention to the door. Gadget went to answer it. Opening the door she was met by Tammy’s mother. “Oh, hello Ms Pinewood!” Gadget greeted, “Is there anything we can do for you?” In the silence that followed everyone noticed the worried look on her face.
“Tammy wouldn’t happen to be here, would she?” she asked in a pleading tone.
“N-no,” Gadget answered, “Why? What happened?”
“Tammy didn’t come home last night,” Ms Pinewood stated, “She told me she was going to be out late with some friends. But when I checked h-her room this morning...” She began to break down as tears streamed down her cheeks. Gadget took hold of her and led her in. “She probably went to see that witch!” Ms Pinewood now had everyone’s undivided attention. “I-I told her that little witch was nothing but trouble... her and that bat she always hangs around with!”
“Does this witch have a name?” Chip asked as gently as possible.
As everyone congregated around the bereaved mother another guest arrived at the door. Hearing the knock, Dee broke away to answer the door. She had wanted some excuse to distance herself from the situation, the thought of losing a child hit a little closer to home than she wished. “Yes?” Dee asked as she opened the door. Before her stood a young dark furred bat.
Fangs was a little nervous. Part of him had wanted to go to Raven’s parents to see if she was there, if she had possibly changed her mind about where to meet up after having left the museum. But another part of him knew that was something Raven would never do, she wasn’t the type to leave someone in a lurch like that, at the very least she would’ve found some way to leave some kind of message. That, and he knew Raven’s parents didn’t like him much, and if she was missing they probably wouldn’t react well if he were the one to tell them (the words ‘kill the messenger’ kept repeating in his mind).
“Uh... hi,” Fangs eventually said, “One of my friends is missing,” he nervously stated, “I think.”
“Why don’t you come in,” Dee suggested as she led him in.
Once through the door, Fangs caught sight of Tammy’s mother, and noticed she was greatly distressed. Oh shit! he though, Tammy must be missing too! I can’t be seen here, not by her! “Y’know, I’m sorry,” he hurriedly stammered, “You’re busy, I’ll be back!”
“YOU!” Ms Pinewood screamed when she saw Fangs. She quickly got up from her seat and bolted across the room towards him. Grabbing him by the fur on his chest she threw him against the wall and pinned him there. “WHAT DID YOU DO WITH TAMMY, YOU FILTHY BLOODSUCKING BASTARD?!”
As everyone rushed to separate Fangs and Ms Pinewood, two mice hesitantly entered through the open door. Dale pulled himself away to meet with them. “I don’t suppose this could wait,” he asked, then looking back as Monterey helped drag the irrate Ms Pinewood away from Fangs, “uh, we’re a little busy.”
“No, this can’t wait,” the woman responded, “Our daughter’s missing.”
“Oh! Then this is the place to be,” Dale said as he led them in, “Everyone seems to be disappearing today.”
Chip managed to excuse himself so that he could speak with the two new arrivals. “I’m sorry things are a little hectic,” he started, “Now, what’s the problem?”
Before Dale could respond the man answered, “Our daughter’s missing, she didn’t come home last night.”
It never rains but it pours, Chip thought. “What’s her name?”
“Raven... Southmont,” he answered.
Dee’s ears perked up, it wasn’t everyday she hears somebody mention her daughter’s name. She walked over to make sure she had indeed heard it, “Did you say Raven Southmont?”
“Doohickey?!” the slightly elderly mother asked when she saw Dee.
“Ann?” Dee responded, then taking a look at her companion, “Ben?” The bottom dropped out of Chip’s stomach, he knew Dee’s daughter lived in the vicinity, but he had hoped that this had been a different Raven they were talking about.
“W-what are you doing here?” Ann asked Dee.
“I came to visit some friends,” Dee answered weakly, then with greater voice, “What happened to Raven?”
“We... don’t know, s-she’s missing,” Ben responded.
All the color had left Dee’s face and she began to feel very light headed. When she began to waver Chip came to her side to steady her.
“So the little witch is missing too,” Ms Pinewood said scornfully.
“She has a name!” Dee responded defensively as some of her parental instincts took over.
“I told Tammy to stay away from her,” Ms Pinewood continued, “and stay away from that... that thing,” she added pointing at Fangs, “and look what happened... they’re both gone!”
Chip helped Dee to a chair beside Mrs Southmont, who took Dee’s paw in a protective manner. “Is there anything you can add that might help,” he asked turning towards Fangs, “Mr...”
“Huh?” Fangs had never been addressed as ‘Mr’ so it was a while before he realized the chipmunk had been speaking to him, “Oh, uh, my name’s Darkfire, but everyone calls me ‘Fangs’.”
“Ok, Fangs,” Chip said, “Do you know anything that might help?”
Fangs was hesitant to answer. He knew very well that Raven and Tammy’s disappearance might be linked to their encounter with Fat Cat’s gang earlier that night. But explaining that might mean revealing that he and Raven had stolen the diamond, not exactly something he wanted to reveal in front of the Rescue Rangers... or Raven’s parents for that matter.
As Fangs deliberated about what he should say, Chip’s analytical mind began rearranging the clues of two cases that should otherwise have had no connection. Fangs, a bat that clearly didn’t belong to any local species... Raven, a mouse who is an alleged witch and most likely had fur identical to Dee’s... fur from both had been found at the museum where a diamond that would be valuable to a witch had been stolen. The obvious conclusion didn’t sit well with Chip, he didn’t want to think that Dee’s daughter had been involved with the theft. But he was a detective, he had to ask, even if it risked an uncertain, possibly hostile, reaction from Dee, “You didn’t happen to be at the Metropolitan Museum last night, did you?”
Dee would have made a similar deduction had it not been for the emotional state she was in. Even the question itself took awhile to sink in. Once it had, however, she had difficulty accepting what she had heard. Dee looked up at Chip, her eyes pleading, Please, you can’t be serious! Chip glanced to his side to witness her reaction, and seeing Dee’s pained expression turned away. Everyone else, however, was focused on Fangs’ ‘deer in the headlights’ expression.
Tammy was right, Fangs thought regretfully, he is a good detective. An idea presented itself to him and he acted on it. “Yeah, we were,” Fangs began slowly, “Raven and I wanted to see some of the displays there, you know, without all those humans around... it’s kind of hard to enjoy a place like that when there are people yelling and trying to swat you out of the air and stuff.” He paused to examine his audience and, with the exception of Ms Pinewood, found that they seemed to believe what he was saying, if at least a little.
Taking a deep breath, Fangs continued, “While we were there we noticed some kind of commotion down at the far end of one of the halls. When we got closer we recognized Fat Cat and his gang. We could tell it was them because of Tammy’s story of how you all had saved her from him before. While they were going after the diamond one of them saw us, so we ran... and flew, of course. Raven and I split up and were going to meet back at the Methodist Church where I live. We knew Tammy was already there, we were going to meet her there after we left the museum anyway. It took me longer than usual to get back, and when I arrived I couldn’t find either of them. I searched the immediate area but couldn’t find any trace of them. I didn’t give up searching until just before I came here... to get your help.”
“Why would it take you longer to get back than Raven?” Ms Pinewood asked skeptically, “What kind of delay would have held you up that long?”
Fangs knew the delay was due to his stopping to drain off some blood from a vagrant passed out in an ally. Both Ms Pinewood and the Southmonts knew he was a vampire bat, and might believe the real story, but he wasn’t sure how the Rescue Rangers would react and he didn’t want to know, not if he could help it.
But before he could conceive of some other excuse Ms Pinewood spoke up again. “I know why you weren’t there,” she stated in an accusatorial manner, “You knew Fat Cat’s people would catch up with Raven eventually, so you didn’t want to be anywhere near her. That’s why you split up isn’t it... you didn’t want to be captured!” Ms Pinewood was becoming increasingly belligerent as she continued, “You abandoned your only friend just to save your own worthless hide! How do we know you didn’t tell Fat Cat where to find Raven? What deal did you make with him? In exchange for your worthless life you’d help him kidnap Tammy and Raven... so he could use them as bait to lure them into a trap?” she finished motioning to the Rangers.
“I would NEVER do ANYTHING to hurt Raven!” Fangs shouted in disgust at the accusation, “She’s the only person who has ever treated me with any kind of respect! And I never would have done anything to Tammy because she’s Raven’s friend!” Fangs’ indignation reached a boiling point as he addressed his accuser directly, “And if you don’t believe that then you can go straight to hell!!”
Monterey chose that as an appropriate moment to intervene. “Now I don’t think we need this to come to blows,” he said as he situated himself between Fangs and Ms Pinewood.
“Monty’s right,” Chip stated, “Your fighting isn’t going to get the girls back any sooner. We need a plan, and the first step should be to head to the Fat Cat’s casino to see what we can find out.”
“I want to go with you,” Fangs stated, “I owe it to Raven... because I wasn’t there for her when she needed help.”
“You can’t possibly consider trusting him!” Ms Pinewood responded.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?!” Fangs shouted, “Can’t you get it through your thick skull that maybe I’m not evil?”
“I’m not the one who thrives on attacking people and drinking their blood!” Ms Pinewood stated as she rose to her feet.
Gadget stepped before Tammy’s mother, “Now Ms Pinewood, we’ll get Tammy back safe and sound. The best thing for you to do now is to go home and keep an eye on Bink. Ok?”
“Ok,” Ms Pinewood conceded, “You’re right.” She began to leave, but as she reached the door she turned, “But the best piece of advice I can give is not to turn your back on that bloodsucking leech for an instant.” Giving Fangs one last contemptuous look she left.
“So... Fangs,” Chip started after a few moments, “You’re a vampire bat?”
Fangs nodded his head somberly.
“Now why didn’t I see that?” Monterey asked, disappointed at his failure, “I had a run in with some vampires the last time I sailed up the Amazon River! Of course, that was some time ago... Heh, guess me memory ain’t what it used to be!”
“A vampire?!” Dale stated as he reached to cover his neck, once more he was thinking of the comic book vampire.
“He’s not that kind of vampire you stupid twit!” Dee harshly scolded. The Rangers regarded her with a certain measure of shock, in all the time they’d known her she had never blown up at someone in that manner. “Sorry,” Dee offered, “I’m having trouble with Raven being in trouble.”
“That’s ok,” Chip responded, “We understand.” There was a short pause as Dee continued to collect herself. “So,” Chip eventually said, “These are your godparents?” he asked in reference to the Southmonts.
“Um, I don’t mean to intrude,” Foxglove entered politely, “But did I miss something?”
“Um, I think I’ll get some equipment from my plane,” Dee mentioned awkwardly as she stood.
“We’ll go with you,” Ann Southmont stated as she and Ben rose and escorted Dee outside.
Chip understood what Dee meant and waited until the door was closed before he began to explain to Foxglove the parts of Dee’s past that had gone unmentioned after their return a year ago. “When Dee was much younger... about Tammy’s age actually, she gave birth to two children. One died a few days after being born. During the next few days she realized that, at her age, it wasn’t really fair to her surviving daughter to keep her considering all the mistakes she would undoubtedly make, not to mention the stigma that this girl would grow up with.
“Dee’s godparents agreed to take in Raven and raise her as their own. Everybody agreed that Raven wouldn’t be told she was adopted and that Dee would have no real contact with her, and the family made sure that others who knew about this wouldn’t spill the beans and possibly hurt Raven by doing so. Shortly after this, Dee’s godparents moved and the issue became irrelevant to everyone in the area. That changed when we showed up a year ago.
“Because Dee and Gadget looked so much alike, some of the locals who knew that Dee had a daughter thought that Gadget was her daughter... none of them knew that Gadget was actually older than Dee, but that’s not really the point... Because Dee had been evasive, even outright hostile, to some who brought up the issue we were, understandably, curious. Given how she’d behaved towards others who had brought up the issue we felt it best that I ask her about it... we felt she was less likely to do something ‘unpleasant’ to me.
“When I asked her, the look she gave me was unpleasant, but that was the extent of it. She explained to me that she was tired of hiding from that part of her past. She told me, in private, about Raven and left it up to me whether or not I told the other Rangers. I decided to tell them everything I just told you except that her daughter’s name was Raven and lived near here... I didn’t want to take the chance the others would say anything...” Chip suddenly realized he had said something he didn’t want the others to know. “Well, I know I should’ve trusted all of you more than that...” he nervously explained.
“That’s ok, Chipper,” Monterey assured him, “we understand.”
“That’s right,” Gadget added, “Logically speaking, the more people who know a secret the greater the chance someone will say something they shouldn’t... kinda like you just did.”
Dee descended the tree followed by her godparents. Once they had all reached level ground Dee proceeded towards the bush under which she had hidden her aircraft.
“Any reason why Ms Pinewood kept calling Raven a witch?” Dee asked as they neared the bush.
“Carol didn’t exactly like the idea of Raven taking on magic as a hobby,” Ben answered, “And I’m not talking ‘bout the ‘coin behind the ear’ type of magic.”
“Raven wants to become a sorceress,” Ann mentioned, “She hates being referred to as a ‘witch’.”
“Of course befriending Fangs didn’t help matters either,” Ben added.
“How exactly did she come to meet up with a vampire bat anyhow?” Dee asked as she disappeared into the shrubbery.
Hesitantly following behind, Ben answered, “Actually, that was because of her magic. She had just gotten used to using an invisibility spell and decided to do some exploring ‘round the city.” As Ben was talking Dee popped open a hatch on her plane and began rummaging around. “Anyhow,” he continued, “she was going through an alley and saw a bat land on a sleeping vagrant, she wondered why a bat would do that so she went over to investigate...” Ben stopped for a moment when he noticed Dee removing a small arsenal from the open compartment. He was reminded of Dee’s affection towards fighting and was concerned about what she must have gotten into to justify carrying around such armament.
Dee looked up from the small pile of weapons she’d unpacked, “And?”
“Oh, uh,” Ben stuttered as he tried to remember what he was saying, “When she got closer she realized that the bat was drinking the person’s blood. She struck up a conversation with him... ‘course she was still invisible at the time so he found that a little strange, his sonar told him a mouse was standing in front of him but couldn’t see it. They’ve kind of grown on each other since.”
Dee tied back her hair into a ponytail before taking on a quiver of arrows. This was followed by a bow. She then unzipped the front of her jumpsuit some before stashing a dagger inside. What she couldn’t fit on her person she returned to the compartment aboard the plane. “You don’t seem quite as hostile towards Fangs as... Carol?... is,” Dee mentioned as she closed the hatch.
“He hasn’t exactly given us a chance to be hostile, we rarely ever see him,” Ben responded, “But considering how people like Carol behave I can’t blame him for wanting to keep his distance from us.”
“So, how have things been going with you?” Ann asked. She was hoping Dee might explain, among other things, why she brought a small arsenal with her.
“Long story,” Dee answered as she began to make her way back to the tree, “I’ll fill you in after we get Raven back.” And made that fat hairball pay if he’s done anything to hurt my girl! she thought to herself.
Chip had just finished explaining to Foxglove (and Fangs for that matter) how Dee and the Southmonts could all be Raven’s parents when the parties in question returned. They were all a little surprised to see that Dee was armed.
Monterey was the first to mention anything about it, “Are you always in the habit of bringing weapons with you on your vacations, luv?”
“Yes,” Dee bluntly answered, almost surprised that such a question was asked. It seemed as if she was ready to add, ‘Doesn’t everybody?’.
“Well, now that we’re all here we can get started,” Chip began, “Next stop: Fat Cat’s casino!”
“Uh, Chip,” Gadget called as the others headed towards the hanger, “Maybe one of us should stay behind in case the girls show up.”
Dale was the first to ask the question the others were all thinking, “What girls?”
“Raven and Tammy!” everyone gave Gadget a rather puzzled look at that answer, “I mean, we don’t know for a fact that Fat Cat even has them. For all we know they may be in hiding, and knowing Tammy she’d find her way here as soon as she felt the coast was clear.”
The Southmonts both seemed to perk up at the possibility.
“Well don’t look at me,” Dee responded after she had a chance to appreciate the faint glimmer of hope the suggestion brought, “I’m not about to sit around here if there’s the slightest chance my daughter is in danger.”
“Ok, Gadget, you stay here with the Southmonts in case they do show up,” Chip ordered, “the rest of us will take the Ranger Wing to the Happy Tom Catfood factory.”
“Can I come?” Foxglove and Fangs asked simultaneously.
“Sure you’re up to it, luv?” Monterey asked Foxglove.
“Sure am!” she replied enthusiastically.
“Ok, Foxglove, you’re in,” Chip agreed. He then turned to Fangs, “Um...” Chip wasn’t sure if allowing Fangs to tag along would be such a good idea, especially if Dee felt the same towards a vampire bat as Ms Pinewood. That was a distinct possibility to Chip considering the reference Dee had made to him the previous year about a colony of bats having tried to kill her. In an effort to avoid disaster he turned to her for approval, “Dee?”
“What?” Dee curtly responded.
“Do you have any objection with Fangs going with us?”
“Who cares?!” Dee answered with obvious annoyance. It didn’t take a great deal of investigative skill for Chip to realize her primary concern was getting underway.
“Ok, Fangs, you’re in too,” Chip finally told him.
In short order the Ranger Wing was airborne with Chip at the controls, Dee beside him in the front, with Dale, Monterey and Zipper in the rear. Foxglove and Fangs flew along on either side. Soon the factory with the large gold colored reclining cat statue came into sight. Chip set the aircraft down behind the air conditioning unit atop the building adjacent to the factory.
“Couldn’t you have landed a little closer?!” Dee growled disapprovingly.
“If we had landed any closer we might’ve been spotted by Fat Cat’s security,” Chip answered calmly. He intentionally avoided his normally less than diplomatic means of responding to someone who questioned his decisions. Chip knew that one of the most dangerous forces there was in the world was a mother trying to defend her child, and the last thing he wanted was to be confrontational with this mother in particular... both for the sake of their relationship and his health. “What we gotta do now is get in without being noticed so we can start searching for clues.”
“Tammy said that when she was captured by Fat Cat the last time she was kept in his office, inside the head there” Fangs stated, “maybe I can fly over and spy in the windows real quick?”
“That might not be such a good idea considering that tubby tabby probably has his cronies keeping their eyes peeled for you,” Monterey responded.
“I can go,” Foxglove suggested, “I don’t think anyone in Fat Cat’s gang would recognize me... it’s not like I’ve been around all those times you fouled up his plans.”
“Uh, you sure about this Foxy?” Dale asked with obvious concern, “I mean, I wouldn’t want you to get hurt or anything.”
“Oh, you’re so sweet!” Foxglove stated as she gave Dale a quick peck on the cheek, “But I’ll be fine!”
“Well, ok, Foxglove,” Chip agreed, “Just be careful.”
“I will!” she called as she took off towards Fat Cat’s casino.
As Foxglove approached her destination the others took up positions where they could keep an eye on things. They watched as she flew up to the face of the giant feline and peered into the eyes which served as the windows for the office. Everything was going well until a large crow passed by, only to double back towards Foxglove.
“Looks like she’s been spotted!” Dee shouted to the others.
Foxglove was too focused on her surveillance to notice the crow approaching. Realizing that she was so preoccupied, he decided to get her attention in a way she couldn’t ignore. The crow ascended for a moment, then dove at her. Swerving at the last moment he missed her by barely an inch. The sudden, unexpected turbulence caused Foxglove to tumble for a brief while.
“We’ve gotta do something!” Dale exclaimed.
Once Foxglove had righted herself in the air the crow positioned himself directly in front of her, and when it was obvious she’d seen him he motioned with his head to land atop the statue. Foxglove understood and fought back the instinct to flee.
“Wait!” Chip stated as he grabbed Dale by the collar before he could reach the Ranger Wing, “It looks like Fat Cat’s sentry wants to question her, we should give Foxglove a chance to talk her way out of this before we go rushing in.”
Dale was, by no means, satisfied with just sitting around while who-knows-what was about to happen to Foxglove. Though he would rarely admit to it, his feelings for her were deeper than what he led on, and the current circumstances made that quite clear as he responded, “Well we can’t just wait here!”
“If we go rushing in now, he...” Dee motioned towards the crow as she spoke, “might make the connection that she was spying for us and that we’re coming to rescue her. The logical thing for him to do would be to grab a hold of her and threaten to do really nasty things to her if we don’t back off. Is that what you want?”
Dale couldn’t argue with that logic and settled down some, but he was clearly still very concerned. Chip, however, was slightly relieved. He was glad to see that Dee was still in possession of her logical and reasonable nature. Chip had been concerned that worry for her daughter might lead Dee to behave irrationally which was something he couldn’t allow, not if it would endanger the others. It set his mind at ease not having to explain to her why she couldn’t go any farther. Now his only worry was whether Foxglove actually could talk her way out of things. It went without saying that Foxglove had the same concern.
“Do you have any business with Fat Cat?” the crow asked gruffly.
“Uh, no,” Foxglove answered as she searched her mind for a logical reason for her to be there. It didn’t help that she was still a little shaken up by how he had gotten her attention.
“Then why are you here?” he responded, “You’re a bat, aren’t you supposed to be sleeping about now?”
“Well I would be,” she answered as an idea presented itself, “but I slept in real late last night, so right now I’m looking fo-” she added a drawn out yawn for effect, “sorry... I’m looking for dinner. If I’d known there would’ve been so few insects out in the day I wouldn’t have let myself sleep in as late as I did. You wouldn’t know where I could find a lot of insects all in one place, would you?”
“Try the dump, it’s swarming with flies. Now beat it!”
“Thanks for the suggestion,” Foxglove said as she flew off. She was mindful of the possibility that the crow would be watching her for some time after she departed so she wanted to head off away from the others. As Foxglove neared a water tower she ducked behind it then made her way back beneath the level of the rooftops.
Soon after Foxglove had left the crow returned to his patrol. “See there, pally? No need to worry!” Monterey told Dale as he gave him a hearty slap on the back. The others gave a collective sigh of relief. In short order their chiropteran companion popped up from the opposite side of the building where they were waiting.
“Anything to report?” Chip asked as Foxglove landed.
“Well, there wasn’t anybody inside,” she answered, “but there was a cage in there that would be large enough for a mouse and a squirrel.”
An empty cage could have meant several things, unfortunately most of the possibilities were less than pleasant. Chip chose to head off anyone mentioning the least pleasant of them by citing the most plausible, “Fat Cat probably moved them to someplace else... he had to have known this would be the first place we’d come looking.”
“But where would he move them to?” Dale asked.
“I don’t know,” Chip answered as he thought, “We’ll have to go inside, see if anyone there might have overheard anything.”
“So how do we get inside?” Dee questioned.
Chip thought for a moment then snapped his fingers as he responded, “Got it! Dale, did you ever unpack those disguises we used during our last case?”
Dale began to stammer nervously as he realized he hadn’t and did not want to admit it.
“Perfect!” Chip responded, “Dee, Monty, Dale- come with me.” Before long the four were all but finished with their disguises with Chip applying the finishing touches to Dee’s makeup.
“I hate wearing dresses,” Dee mumbled, “and the only thing I hate worse than wearing dresses is wearing makeup.”
“Just remember why you’re doing this,” Chip reassured her.
“Why else do you think I’d put up with this?” Dee responded.
“What should we do?” Foxglove asked.
“You can’t exactly go with us, Foxglove,” Chip answered, “since one of Fat Cat’s guards already ran into you it might look suspicious if you came back. And Fangs...”
“I know,” Fangs interrupted in a crestfallen manner, “my showing up might attract a whole lot of unwanted attention.”
“Right,” Chip acknowledged, “And since it’ll be hard enough to get the four of us in, Zipper, you’ll have to stay here with Foxglove and Fangs to help keep an eye on things.”
As Chip, Dale, Monterey and Dee reached the roof of the cat food factory they stopped. “Everyone clear on what to say?” Chip asked. The others nodded in response. “Good. It’s been getting harder to sneak in each time since Rat Capone started moving in on some of Fat Cat’s rackets. They’ve both been increasing security around their home turf.”
“At least sniping at each other has kept them from causing too much trouble elsewhere,” Dale commented.
“Let’s go,” Chip stated as he motioned to the others.
The muscular rat that was serving as doorman had just let a couple of well dressed cats into the casino through the main entrance (which was the stylized grill from a Rolls Royce) when he saw four rodents approach. There were two chipmunks up front dressed in identical suits, a very striking young lady mouse with long black hair and brown fur in a form fitting dress following behind them, and behind her was a large mouse wearing a tee shirt and bandana sporting a red mustache and beard. As the group neared he stopped them.
“Ya’ got currency?” the hulking door-rat asked.
“I beg your pardon?” Chip responded indignantly.
“This here’s a casino,” the rat responded, “If ya ain’t got nothin to gamble or pay for your drinks with you’ll hafta leave. Them’s the new rules.”
“We have an appointment!” Dale stated with an irritated tone.
“Yeah? What about?” the door-rat asked skeptically.
“I’m Vic,” Chip stated, then motioning to Dale, “and this is my brother Vinny, we’re from the Durban Brothers talent agency. We’re here so that Angelique could give a command performance for the big man- er, cat himself and finalize terms for a contract. This was arranged three weeks ahead of time,” then Chip finished with a more serious tone, “We were told there wouldn’t be any problems.”
“I wasn’t told nothin’ about that,” the rat countered.
Chip pulled out a lucky rabbit’s foot and responded, “See this? This is all that’s left of the last guy that ducked out of a meeting with Fat Cat. He gave this to us at our last meeting as a reminder not to be late.”
Gee, that sure sounds like the boss, the rat thought. He looked the group over. “Welcome to Fat Cat’s Casino. Enjoy your stay,” he said as he opened the door. As they entered he stopped Monterey, “Whoa...” he turned back to Chip, “You’re Vic, that’s Vinny and she’s Angelique... but who’s the fat guy?”
“FAT GUY?!” Monterey bellowed. Both Chip and Dale moved to hold him back as Dee merely rolled her eyes.
“Wait a minute, Bruiser!” Chip ordered. Then he turned back to the door-rat, “Do you think we’d bring this beauty...” he said as he motioned to Dee, “all the way across town without a body guard?” Then he whispered, “And don’t call him fat, the last guy that did that is still in traction.”
“Fine,” the rat said as he motioned them in.
“Good work, Monty,” Chip mentioned once they were in.
“Yeah,” Dale added, “I think he actually thought you were going to flatten him!”
“Heh, who says I wouldn’t ‘ave?” Monterey joked.
Gadget returned to the table with drinks for Ann and Ben Southmont. “You shouldn’t worry,” she reassured them as she took her seat, “If Fat Cat does have Raven the others will get her back.”
“I hope so!” Ann responded after taking a sip from the thimble Gadget had handed her.
“Um, do you mind if I make an unusual request?” Gadget asked.
“I don’t see why not,” Ben answered.
Gadget started hesitantly, “I was wondering if you could tell me what Dee’s mother was like.”
The Southmonts looked at her for a moment. They both suspected why she would’ve made such a request, but didn’t want to run the risk that their assumption was wrong. “Sure,” Ben answered confidently, “but why?”
“Well, yesterday we discovered that Dee and I have the same mother. I never really had a chance to get to know her... Dee filled me in about some things, but I imagine there are some things she wouldn’t have known, and since I imagine you knew my mother longer...”
“We understand,” Ann interrupted, “We thought that’s why you asked, but if it wasn’t we didn’t want to be the ones to spill the beans.”
“You already knew?” Gadget asked in surprise, “We got the feeling that only my parents knew that.”
“Well, that’s how it was supposed to be,” Ben responded, “But...” he continued with a shrug, “that’s not exactly how things went.” He set down his thimble of coffee as he began, “When Amanda returned to the rez after meeting up with your father she told us, and her mother, about having met a dashing young pilot/adventurer. She didn’t go into too much detail, just how handsome and caring he was... and that she loved him a great deal, but she never mentioned anything about a daughter... well, not then at least. I had always thought she was holding out on something, wasn’t telling us the whole story, but...” he shrugged again, “Anyhow, she would usually change the subject of the handsome young mouse who was clearly head and shoulders above her ex so we left it at that, we assumed she had her reasons and didn’t pry.
“That changed when it came time for Dee to give up Raven. Both Dee and your mother were a mess emotionally, in part because the pain of losing Becky... Raven’s sister... was still quite fresh. Logically we all knew that, in the long run, it would be best for both Dee and Raven but that didn’t make it hurt any less. But it seemed to bother Amanda a lot, more than you would think it would... it wasn’t that her second granddaughter had died, and she would be in good hands. There had to be something else that was bothering her.”
“We eventually convinced her to go out with us, just a night out with her friends,” Ann started, “By this time Dee had started to recover emotionally, and Bob was there to keep an eye on her, we left Raven with a sitter. As we were all talking we steered the discussion toward what had been bothering her. After a while she admitted that she knew exactly what Dee was going through, having to leave a child. Your mother told us about having to leave you and your father.
“We understood why she couldn’t tell us before, considering the way things were back then,” Ben continued, “We asked her why she hadn’t tried getting back in touch with your father after Dee’s father skipped town. She explained that, given the amount of time that had passed, she wasn’t sure how her showing up from out of nowhere would go over... and didn’t want to take the chance it might do more harm than good.”
There was some silence as Gadget took it all in.
“I think you should know,” Ann said, breaking the silence, “Your mother was very, very proud of you!”
Gadget didn’t have the slightest clue about how to respond, she didn’t even know that her mother had given her a second thought. Eventually she simply asked, “What?”
“When we moved here, to the city, it hadn’t crossed our minds that this is where your mother said you and your father lived,” Ann continued, “but several years ago we began to hear about the ‘Rescue Rangers’... and about you. There was no way we could keep that from your mother, we felt she needed to hear about what you were doing. We told her about what you and the Rescue Rangers were doing for others...” Ann began to get a little misty eyed as she remembered Amanda’s reaction to the news. She remembered the disbelief followed by a small measure of shock, then the unbounded pride about what her daughter had chosen to do with her life.
Ann wasn’t the only one who whose eyes began to water. Gadget had often wondered if the mother she never knew would have been proud of the choices she’d made in her life. Now she knew... not only was her mother proud of her, she was very proud of her.
Ann could see the emotion in Gadget’s eyes and nearly began to cry herself as she finished, “She... said you were a hero.”
Tears began to roll down Gadget’s cheeks at the news. She and Ann both, almost instinctively, rose from their seats and embraced. Ben, who had always worked hard to be the ideal ‘man of the house’, a solid rock upon which his family could rely, couldn’t help but be moved and wiped away a tear.
Gadget’s joy was mixed with some sorrow. Though her mother hadn’t died as soon as her father had told her, she was still gone... she would still never be able to hold her. Ann, however, didn’t mind acting as a surrogate for the moment. She felt that it wasn’t only a duty, but an honor, to comfort the daughter of her dearest friend, a daughter for whom she had cried many tears.
After some time had passed Gadget and Ann released one another and returned to their seats, just as a familiar voice was heard from without, “Hello? Chip? Dale?”
Golly, Gadget thought, that sounds like Canina.
“Monticello?” the voice continued.
Yep, that has to be Canina, Gadget decided, remembering Canina’s inability to get Monterey’s name right. Brushing off the last vestiges of saline secretions from her facial fur, Gadget got up to answer the door.
“Hey, Dee, ya’ in there?” a much deeper voice asked. This got the Southmonts out of their chairs and they followed Gadget to the door.
Walking out onto the branch Gadget looked down to see a poodle and two wolves sitting at the base of the tree. “Hi Canina!” Gadget opened cheerfully, “And Romulus, and...” she paused, not being able to place the second wild canid.
“Honk!” he offered.
“Oh, you must be Honker!” Gadget realized. Honker wagged his bushy tail in approval.
“Did that wolf just go ‘honk’?” Ann quietly asked her husband.
“Is Dee up there?” Romulus asked.
“Golly, no.” Gadget answered, “She and the others went to Fat Cat’s Casino, we think he may have kidnaped Tammy and Raven.”
“Uh-oh!” Romulus muttered to himself. Dee had told him about her daughter, and he knew the damage Dee could do when in a foul mood. “Where’s Fat Cat’s Casino?” he asked. Gadget explained where the casino was located and how to get there, after which the two wolves quickly departed.
“Sorry I can’t stay to chat, dear,” Canina called up to Gadget, then turned to join Romulus and Honker, “Hey, wait for me!”
“Um, why were there two wolves looking for Dee?” Ben asked as he watched the three canines leave the park.
Gadget explained as she led the couple back inside, “Some time ago Dee saved one of the pack’s puppies. After that, Romulus adopted her into the pack, and Dee let the pack move into the sawmill where she lives.”
Chip, Dale, Monterey and Dee made their way through the bustling casino, which seemed unusually active for midday. They went unnoticed for the most part, except for Dee who got more than a few double takes form the males. As they traveled they all kept their ears tuned to the various conversations going on around them.
“Check it out,” a scraggily grey cat in a dress shirt and dark blue vest whispered to his companion, “Two chipmunks and two mice, one fat, one female.”
“Just like the boss said,” the calico feline sitting across from him responded, “but ain’t there supposed to be a fly with ‘em?”
“Who cares?” the grey cat answered, “This is the closest we’ve come all day, this has to be them!” As the four rodents approached they opened up with a prepared conversation. “Didja’ hear? Fat Cat caught a couple of thieves tryin’ to get their paws on the same diamond he was after,” the grey cat said to his companion, loud enough for the approaching Rangers to hear him.
“No kidding?” the calico responded, “Who’d be dumb enough to try that?”
“Amateurs... just a couple a’ girls,” the scraggily feline answered. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that the four they were doing their performance for had set down at the empty table nearest them. A table left empty in anticipation of their arrival.
“What’s Fat Cat plannin’ to do with ‘em?” the calico asked in mock interest.
“What I heard is that he’s gonna off both of ‘em!” Chip watched as Dee digested that last comment. He watched as her shock was replaced with an expression of extreme malice.
“Is he gonna do that here?” the calico asked in false astonishment.
“Nah,” the grey cat dismissed, “It’s gonna go down at a warehouse a couple blocks over. I was told he was going to invite a couple of his under bosses to see it, to remind him of the cost of crossin’ ‘im.”
Chip decided to go over to pry for some more detail. He casually walked over to the cats’ table and struck up conversation. “My name’s Vic,” Chip opened in his toughest voice, “My associates and I are new in town and were considering hitching up with Fat Cat. We’d be interested in seein’ his handiwork, to see if he’s really as ruthless as they say.”
“Really,” the grey feline responded.
But before anything else could be said the calico broke in, “Ugh, that bean burrito I had for breakfast just caught up with me... ‘scuse me!”
As the calico departed on his unanticipated trip to the bathroom his companion continued, “Ya’ ain’t gonna find anyone more ruthless than Fat Cat. I heard he was goin’ to cut their heads off...” While the grey feline continued his talk, Dee stood and calmly walked over. “Of course there are worse things he could do...” Chip noticed Dee come up next to him and the feline. “He could have ‘em lowered into a vat of acid...” The fact that Dee seemed so unnaturally calm didn’t sit well with Chip and he prepared to act to stop her from doing anything drastic. “That’s more his style, he likes to here ‘em scream...”
Before Chip could grab a hold of her, Dee grabbed hold of the feline’s shirt collar and pulled down... hard. So hard that when his head hit the table it bounced. The infuriated mouse drew her dagger from somewhere within her dress (had Chip not been so startled by the swiftness of her reaction he would have wondered how she had kept it hidden). “If you try to call for help I’ll make damn sure it’s the last sound you ever make! Got it?” Dee snarled as she positioned the blade at her captive’s throat. The startled feline nodded. “Where is that warehouse?!” Dee hissed.
“C-corner of Twenty-fifth and Jefferson,” the cat stammered. Dee hurriedly made for the exit with Chip, Dale and Monterey following behind. Nobody dared get in her way.
Dee returned her dagger to it’s hiding place in her dress as she burst through the door. The door-rat called after her, “Hey sweetheart, why you leavin’ in such a hurry?” She turned back with clenched paws. The others made it through the door just in time to see the door-rat fall flat on his back, unconscious, with a swollen jaw... Dee stood over him menacingly.
The door-rat stood at his post, grumbling angrily to himself. He was furious that a female mouse had been able to knock him cold with a single punch... the fact that no one else had seen it didn’t really help sooth his ego, he still knew. He hadn’t been out of things for very long, the crow that was serving as sentry had roused him and gave him the time... he was only out for a minute or so.
Under normal circumstances he would have compensated for his recently acquired, self perceived, lack of strength by being extra surly towards the next arrivals. However, the next arrivals didn’t look like they should be messed with. The door-rat had ceased his grumbling as he watched three dogs approach, two of whom were much more intimidating than the poodle that accompanied them.
Romulus, Honker, and Canina stopped at the entrance. Romulus looked down upon the startled rat and simply said, “Open the door.”
“W-welcome to Fat Cat’s Casino. E-enjoy your stay?” the rat stammered uncertainly as he complied with the wolf’s command.
Romulus was just barely able to fit through the door and enter the establishment. The cats, rodents, and the occasional lizard or bird quickly moved aside. Those not right near the entrance turned to see what the commotion was about. When it was clear he had the attention of a good many patrons and staff, Romulus stated his business, “I’m looking for the Rescue Rangers and a female mouse with brown fur and black hair. I know they came in here. Where are they?”
“With any luck they’re already dead!” laughed the grey cat in the dark blue vest. Had he bothered to turn around at the sound of the astonished gasps, screeching chairs and breaking glass he might not have made such a brazen statement. But after he had successfully mislead the Rangers he chose to reward himself with some drink and was now pleasantly sauced.
This meant that he wasn’t quite sure what was happening when he felt a great pressure on his back and saw the tabletop come flying up at his head for a second time. Only this time his head didn’t bounce when it hit the table. His head, and torso, went smashing through the table and he found himself temporarily pinned to the floor. The next thing the cat knew he was being lifted up off the floor by a large paw and was soon face to face with Romulus. By now the cat had sobered up considerably.
“Would you mind elaborating on that remark?” Romulus growled.
“W-well I-I was told t-to tell them to g-go to a warehouse,” the grey cat answered.
“F-Fat Cat was s-setting a trap for them.”
The cat knew he could get away with revealing the first two answers. But revealing that last one would undoubtedly invite an extremely unpleasant response from Fat Cat once he’d found out. “Corner of Main and River Street,” he lied.
Romulus turned to the rest of the occupants of the casino and stated, “If I find out my friends died because this flea bag gave me the wrong directions I’m coming back here and eating all of you!”
“Twenty-fifth and Jefferson!” several terrified animals called out.
Tossing the cat aside, Romulus quickly left the casino... demolishing several more tables, a slot machine, and sending a chandelier crashing to the floor as he turned around. He emerged from the casino like a shot from a gun. Honker and Canina took off after him and only had a chance to say anything when they began to descend the fire escape.
“Where are we going?” Canina asked.
“Honk!” Honker added.
“To stop a disaster!”
“Here we are my dears,” Fat Cat said as he set down the birdcage containing his two prisoners, “I had some of my people go through this warehouse and seal off all the entrances except one.” He walked over towards a closed door. “The Rescue Rodents will have no choice but to enter at that one place... where I have prepared a little surprise for them,” as he said this he opened the door. Within could be seen two sheets of plywood on opposite sides of a small, poorly lit, passage. Nails, each a few inches long, had been driven through the boards with the tips facing inwards. “It’s my own version of the ‘iron maiden’. You see, your ‘rescuers’ will come through the door in there...” he motioned deep into the passage towards the far end, “and once they enter, the door will slam shut- trapping them. And then...” he finished by bringing his paws together in a sweetly sadistic manner. “Well, you get my... point,” he couldn’t help but laugh at his own sick joke.
“Raven, are you absolutely sure there’s nothing you can do?” Tammy asked her fellow captive quietly as her fear mounted, “Any spell you can cast?”
This hadn’t been the first time since their aborted escape attempt that the question had been asked, and Raven was in no mood to keep repeating herself, “I told you! I can’t cast spells when I’m angry! And you’re not helping!”
“Well we can’t just sit here!” Tammy stated. She marched to the door of the cage and tried to work the lock.
“It’s not going to work!” Raven responded harshly, “Your fingers are too large!”
“At least I’m trying!” Tammy shouted.
“Quiet, you two!” Fat Cat ordered as he shook the cage, sending Tammy to the floor, “You’ll wear yourselves out and won’t be awake to celebrate my victory.”
Tammy wanted to respond with ‘I’d never celebrate your victory, you sick monster!’ but was too enraged to form the words. Fat Cat’s lackeys milled about, bored out of their skulls. Raven remained seated where she’d been since being thrown into the cage, fully aware there was no conventional way out but too unsettled to use her magic to escape.
“Ok everyone, be careful,” Tammy’s ears perked up at hearing Chip’s voice, “this could be a trap.”
“CHIP! IT IS A TRAP!!” Tammy yelled at the top of her lungs.
“Don’t waste your breath,” Fat Cat responded calmly, “They can’t hear you... but we can hear them. There’s a microphone in there... so we can hear their screams.”
There was the sound of a trap door falling shut. “What was that?” Chip was heard to ask. Then there was the sound of turning gears as the walls began to move. “Everyone out!” Chip ordered, “Wait... we’re trapped! Oh no! NO! NOOO!!” The yelling was very nearly drowned out by Fat Cat’s triumphant laughter.
Fat Cat’s laughter abruptly ceased as he listened closely for the final, grotesque, gurgle. When all sounds from within the passage had ended, the portly feline released a long, contented sigh.
“I’m only sorry I didn’t put in a closed circuit television camera,” he said finally, “I would truly have loved to watch them die... and I could have taped it! So that I could watch it whenever I’m blue... Ah well, I guess I’ll have to settle for keeping their blood soaked clothes as souvenirs.”
Hearing their boss go on about such matters was a little bothersome for Fat Cat’s cronies, who hadn’t enjoyed the final sounds quite as much. For Tammy, however, it was absolute torture. Sitting on the floor, hugging her knees she wept uncontrollably, trying desperately to convince herself it hadn’t been real... that it had been part of Chip’s plan.
“Why was there only one voice?” Raven unknowingly provided some breath for the dying embers of Tammy’s hope.
“H-what?” Tammy managed between sobs.
“If they were all in there... why did we only hear one of them?” Tammy’s sobbing began to ebb as she considered what Raven had said.
Fat Cat was too wrapped up in his own exuberance to hear what the young mouse had said. “Ok, boys, let’s open it up and see what’s left of the great Rescue Rangers!”
“Uh... do we have to, boss?” Snout asked hesitantly, as he was perfectly willing to go without seeing the gore.
“YES!!” the obese feline bellowed. His lackeys immediately ran to open the door in order to placate their boss. The lock was released and the door swung open. Raven and Tammy unconsciously leaned forward as they strained to catch sight of the interior of the passage, each now convinced there was nothing horrible to see.
“What?” Fat Cat uttered skeptically. There was no blood. No corpses. The walls hadn’t even come together. Fat Cat then focused his attention on what was actually between the walls. Looking up from the floor he took in the image of two wolves standing shoulder to shoulder, wedged between the plywood walls.
As Fat Cat’s curiosity was slowly replaced by shock, the two canines leaned against the walls, forcing them back. Once the grinding of gears and clatter of broken machine parts falling to the floor had ceased, the two wolves focused their gaze upon Fat Cat. Both Romulus and Honker gave him broad demented grins. Romulus then cleared his throat before taking a draw off of the helium balloon he was holding. Then, in an astonishing facsimile of Chip’s voice, called out, “Rescue Rangers, away!”
Fat Cat ran screaming in the opposite direction as Romulus released the balloon and gave chase. The warehouse was soon filled with Romulus’s high pitched maniacal laughter. Honker chose to deal with Fat Cat’s associates who were still standing nearby. As he bolted from the passage, Honker tripped over Mole (who had actually begun to approach in an attempt to figure out what the cause of the commotion was) and landed on Mepps, Wart, and Snout... knocking the wind, and the fight, out of all three. Raven and Tammy watched the unfolding scene in wide eyed bewilderment.
“Sounds like the wolves have things in hand,” Fangs mentioned as he stepped back from the trap door.
“All right, Monty, you know what to do,” Chip stated.
Everyone stepped aside to give Monterey room to work. He promptly rolled up his sleeves and advanced on the door. After some grunting and straining Monterey wrenched the trapdoor loose. “Ladies first,” he offered giving a courtly bow.
“Why thank you, Montana,” Canina mentioned as she passed. Monterey clenched his paws and teeth in frustration as she got his name wrong once again.
“At least she got the first syllable right,” Foxglove offered as she passed.
“Frankly, I think she’s doing it on purpose,” Dee responded as she followed.
“At least she didn’t call you ‘Madonna’,” Chip joked.
As Canina made her way through the passage she nearly tripped over something. She looked down and noticed a confused mole pick himself off the floor. “Oh, excuse me,” Canina apologized, “I didn’t see you down there.”
“Hey,” Mole said in a thoughtful tone, “You sound an awful lot like Canina LaFur!”
“Well I should,” she responded, “After all, that’s who I am!”
“Oh! Oh, Miss LaFur,” Mole responded excitedly, “I’ve been a fan of yours for years...”
“Thank you,” Canina responded politely.
“And years...” Mole continued.
“You’re too kind,” the poodle offered blandly.
“And years...” the portly mole went on.
“Uh huh,” Canina replied in an irritated tone.
“And- WHOA!!” Mole’s accolade was cut short as Honker sent him rolling across the floor with a swat of his paw.
“Thank you!” Canina acknowledged. Honker smiled proudly.
“CHIP!!” Tammy exclaimed as she saw him come through the door. The sudden outburst did nothing to help alleviate Raven’s headache, which up till then had begun to subside. Tammy’s joyous cry drew everyone’s attention to the location of the captives. Soon, everyone except Romulus (who was still harassing Fat Cat) was gathered near the birdcage.
“It’s probably locked,” Chip remarked, “Zipper?”
The most diminutive of the Rangers flew into the lock, and within moments a soft metallic ‘clank’ signaled his success. As Zipper opened the door Tammy threw herself at Chip, wrapping her arms around him tightly.
“I was so terrified! I thought I’d never see you again!” Tammy stated excitedly as her prodigious tail flailed about wildly, “But deep down I knew you were too smart to fall for one of Fat Cat’s traps!”
Raven calmly emerged from the makeshift prison once the chance of being buffeted about the head by her friend’s tail had died down. Dee was frozen in place... Raven was less than a year old the last time she’d seen her more than a decade ago, and now she had grown into a beautiful young lady.
When Chip finally got a good look at Raven, he too was astonished. In his mind he saw the photo Dee had shown him of her and her two newborns, this girl looked exactly like her mother had at that age, the only difference being the clothing: whereas Dee had been wearing a hospital gown, Raven was wearing a grey tee shirt and, like Tammy, blue jeans, and over her shoulder was slung a trench coat. Chip was so lost in thought that he hadn’t heard Tammy ask him a question.
“Chip?!” Tammy asked again trying to get his attention.
“Huh?” Chip asked once he heard Tammy.
“How did you get past Fat Cat’s trap?” the adolescent squirrel asked once again.
“Oh, well, we didn’t even know there was a trap until Romulus, Honker and Canina caught up with us,” Chip began to explain, “What happened was that one of Fat Cat’s lackeys had led us to believe that you and Raven were going to be killed soon so that we wouldn’t stop to look for a trap. But Romulus wrung the information out of him and warned us.
Now that we knew there was a trap we had Foxglove and Fangs do some echo-sounding into the passage and discovered what Fat Cat had planned. Since their fur and skin were thick enough to withstand the nails, Romulus and Honker went in first to spring the trap. That way Fat Cat would think his plan worked and would open the door. At that point Romulus and Honker would jump out and deal with him while the rest of us came in to free the two of you.”
“Oh, Chip, you’re so smart!” Tammy squealed as she hugged him again, causing him to blush.
“Where did you get the helium balloon?” Raven asked.
“Fortunately for us there was a store down the street having a grand opening,” Fangs explained, “They had a whole bunch of decorations, including helium balloons.”
Tammy looked around at the others. “Gadget,” Tammy addressed Dee, “What did you do to your hair?”
“Oh, I’m not Gadget,” Dee explained politely, “My name’s Doohickey.”
“Oh,” Tammy responded in a surprised tone, “Oh,” she added in a darker tone as the name sunk in. This mouse wasn’t Gadget... she was worse. Tammy had accepted that Gadget wasn’t trying to win Chip’s affection, which left the door open for her. But she’d heard of the mouse Chip had met abroad who actually had won his heart. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Tammy greeted her coldly.
As Tammy continued to regard Dee with contempt, Fangs pulled Raven aside. “They found out that we were at the museum last night,” he whispered to her once they were out of the way, “But I explained that we were sightseeing and witnessed Fat Cat’s gang steal the diamond and that we had fled when they saw that we had seen them.”
“Why did you tell them that?” Raven asked.
“Well, your parents were right there,” Fangs explained, “I didn’t want you to get into any more trouble than you were probably already in. But since Fat Cat has the diamond now no one...”
“He doesn’t have the diamond,” Raven interrupted bluntly.
“What?” Fangs asked as the bottom dropped out of his stomach.
“Tammy and I were ambushed by a snake and spider... they took it,” Raven explained, “One of them knocked me cold and before Tammy could wake me Fat Cat’s goons found us.”
Unbeknownst to either Fangs or Raven, Foxglove had overheard their discussion. She pulled her sweetie aside, “Dale, I just heard something I think you should all know...”
Fat Cat came crawling, exhausted, towards Chip and the other Rangers with Romulus following menacingly behind. He pleaded, panting heavily, “Please... don’t... let him... eat me! I’m too... handsome... to die!”
“Can I, boss?!” Romulus asked excitedly, “Can I eat him?! Huh-huh-huh?!”
Chip stroked his chin thoughtfully. He had no intention of feeding Fat Cat to a wolf, and knew Romulus likely wouldn’t eat him anyway, but he just couldn’t help letting Fat Cat agonize for a little while.
The overweight and exhausted feline, seeing the sadistic smile on the chipmunk’s face, began to panic, “Y-you wouldn’t. You couldn’t! You-you’re the good guys!!” He grabbed Chip by the collar of his jacket, “YOU’RE THE RESCUE RANGERS FOR PETE’S SAKE!!”
“Well, since you put it that way,” Chip responded cooly, “We won’t throw you to the wolves.”
“OH, THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!” Fat Cat exclaimed as he picked Chip up with both paws and kissed him on the cheeks repeatedly.
“Perhaps I should reconsider...” Chip stated loudly.
Fat Cat promptly set him down, “Sorry!” The porcine feline adjusted his suit and stated, albeit hesitantly, “Well, you’re all safe, you’re friends are safe... so I guess I’ll be heading on back to my casino then.”
As Fat Cat began to walk off, Chip called after him, “Not so fast!” Romulus immediately stepped on the feline’s tail, stopping him in his tracks. “There’s still one more piece of business to get out of the way,” Chip said.
“Uh, Chip?” Dale asked as he poked his friend on the shoulder.
“Not now, Dale!” Chip scolded as he brushed off Dale’s paw. “It’s about that diamond you stole,” he continued to Fat Cat.
Dale grabbed the shoulder of Chip’s jacket, pulled him over and hurriedly whispered in his ear. Chip’s expression went from irritated to stunned, then went on to dismay. “I was afraid of that,” he mumbled, almost to himself. Chip turned to Romulus, “Let him go.”
“Huh?” the canid asked.
“You can let him go,” Chip repeated, “We don’t need him anymore.”
“O-k,” Romulus responded uncertainly as he let up on Fat Cat’s tail. The crime boss wasted little time in leaving the scene.
“What’s going on?” Dee asked.
Chip wasn’t quite sure how to respond to Dee’s question. He remembered the pained look in her eyes when it was first considered that Raven had stolen the diamond... it was something he didn’t want to have to see again, not unless it was absolutely necessary. “Fangs wasn’t entirely honest with us,” Chip eventually said.
“Um, excuse me,” Raven interrupted as she and Fangs approached. She had realized that Tammy would, inevitably, explain what all had transpired before being captured by Fat Cat. Raven felt that waiting until the Rangers confronted her about the discrepancy would only make Fangs (and herself) look bad. In her mind, the only thing that made sense would be to come forward right off the bat... they’d still be in trouble, but at least the damage would be somewhat limited. “There’s something you need to know.”
“I take it this is about the diamond?” Chip asked.
Raven nodded solemnly. “Fangs and I were only going to remove the diamond from it’s case, take it to the roof, then return it. When we arrived we did see Fat Cat and his gang trying to steal the diamond, but what Fangs didn’t tell you was that we decided to beat him to it. But, when we got to the roof with it, after having made Fat Cat’s people look like fools, I realized I couldn’t cast the spell as I’d planned. I needed the full moon for the spell to work, but the sky was completely overcast. It was my idea to keep the diamond till the next full moon... Fangs didn’t like the idea, but I pushed him into it.”
Dee was disappointed, to say the least, that her daughter had been responsible for the theft. But this was mixed with a certain amount of pride... not only was Raven accepting responsibility for what she’d done, it seemed she was accepting further blame to spare Fangs.
“Tammy didn’t know about any of this until after we met up at the church,” Raven knew very well that this wasn’t entirely true, but she didn’t want her friend getting into any more trouble, “She was very angry with me over this, but before she could talk me out of it I got whacked in the head with a stone... Tammy had to fill me in on what happened after that since I was out of things.”
“What happened?” Chip asked as he turned to Tammy.
“Well, after Raven was knocked out, a snake and spider came out of the bushes,” Tammy started, “The spider got me tied up before I could get away. They took the diamond... the spider said that someone named Freddie would be real glad to get it. The snake... I think his name is Bud... said he was going to eat me, but they heard others coming so they left. I was just able to free myself from the spider’s webbing when Fat Cat’s people showed up. I could’ve run but I didn’t want to leave Raven behind so I tried to fight ‘em off, but I was outnumbered.”
“Looks like that wigged out witch has the diamond after all!” Monterey declared. Tammy would have continued with her recollections and confess that it was her fault the Rangers had been led into a trap, but the Australian’s interruption spared her from having to go that far.
“Bud and Lou must have arrived at the museum just as Raven and Fangs left and followed her to the church,” Chip concluded.
“Oh... Fangs,” Dee started, “Why did it take you so long to get back to the church?” She was pretty sure of the reason why, she just wanted to be sure.
“I stopped to feed,” Fangs answered with a shrug, “I’m not exactly in a position where I can pick and choose when my meals are... I notice a homeless person asleep in an alley- I take advantage of the situation.”
“You eat homeless people?” Romulus asked with a raised eyebrow.
“No,” Fangs answered in a matter-of-fact tone, “I’m a vampire, I drink some of their blood...”
The enormous canine’s eyes bugged out at the answer.
“I’d love to be able to eat solid food,” Fangs continued, oblivious to the startled reaction from Romulus, “It’d be so much easier to get a hold of.”
Before the bat could continue he was stopped by a horrified scream from Romulus (which scared the bejeebers out of everyone present). Fangs looked up in time to see the carnivore leap in his direction and ducked into a crevice next to a drainage grate.
“KILL IT!! KILL IT!! KILL IT!!” the terrified wolf yelled as he bounced on the crevice with all four paws and his full weight, “EVIL, EVIL, UN-DEAD MONSTER!!” He stopped for a moment and with outstretched paw demanded, “QUICK, GIMME A STAKE!” Honker clumsily rummaged through his fur and produced a small t-bone steak which he quickly handed over to his leader. Romulus looked at it and said, “Close enough,” then proceeded to smash the piece of meat against the floor in the vicinity of the drainage grate, “DIE!! DIE!! DIE!!”
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” Raven yelled once she overcame her initial shock. Without waiting for a response she ran up to the wolf and, when the slab of meat hit the floor, grabbed a hold of the fur on one of his forelegs. As Romulus brought his ‘weapon’ up above his head for another strike, Raven dropped onto his snout. Wasting little time she scurried to the tip and plunged her incisors into the wolf’s cold black nose.
“YEOW!!” Romulus shouted as he dropped the steak and brought his paws to his nose, unintentionally pinning Raven in place. Chip, Dale, and Monterey rushed to pull the meat aside, allowing Tammy to help pull Fangs out of his hiding place. Zipper flew up to Romulus’s face and loudly chastised him for his irrational behavior. “Huh?” Romulus muttered as he looked at the fly, unable to decipher his furious squeaking and buzzing.
“LET GO OF ME YOU STUPID MUTT!!” Raven yelled. Romulus almost had to cross his eyes to focus on the end of his snout... where he noticed the backside of a mouse sticking out from underneath his front paws. He released his grip on his nose and allowed her to get up.
Raven stood, turned, and boldly marched up the length of the canid’s long muzzle with clenched paws. “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!” she shouted angrily, “THAT WAS MY FRIEND YOU WERE TRYING TO KILL!!”
Oh yeah, Romulus thought to himself as he crossed his eyes painfully to watch her, that’s Dee’s daughter all right. Her tirade continued with an ever increasing vocabulary of vulgarity. I should probably get her off of my face before she tries to gouge my eyes out. Romulus gently took hold of the irate adolescent and placed her on the cement next to him. As soon as he let go Raven began to advance on him, continuing to hurl epithets as she did so. The mighty hunter actually began to back away from the mouse. At that point Foxglove ran up to grab hold of Raven and began to pull her back.
“You ok?” Chip asked as they approached the bewildered bat.
“Yeah, just shaken up,” Fangs answered, “This isn’t the first time someone’s tried to kill me. Humans, cats, owls, bats... but this is the first wolf.”
“Why would other bats want to kill you?” Tammy asked innocently.
“They don’t think of me as another bat, they only think of me as a vampire,’ Fangs explained, “Whenever humans find a colony of bats living in their home their first concern is ‘what if they’re vampire bats?’ So when the colony gets gassed by the exterminators the survivors, or witnesses, blame vampires for what happened since vampires seem to be the reason humans fear bats in the first place. And since there aren’t any vampire bats this far north we’ve become a convenient scapegoat. Parents tell their children: ‘be good, or a vampire will come and get you’, ‘eat up all your moths or a vampire will get you’, ‘don’t stray too far from the colony or a vampire might get you’.”
While Fangs was explaining his difficulties with other chiropterans, Dee was dealing with a somewhat confused wolf. “What the hell was that all about?” she asked Romulus.
“Well... he’s a vampire!” Romulus answered, as though it were a logical explanation.
“He’s a vampire bat... NOT the kind of vampire from horror movies!” Dee clarified in an irritated voice, “Why don’t you know that?”
“That’s the only kind of vampires they have on TV,” the wolf replied, “And you said TV can be educational!”
Dee dropped her arms to the side and stared at her friend in disbelief. She could hear, in the back of her mind, his mate saying It’s your fault for giving him cable! “Some TV is educational... the History Channel is educational, the Discovery Channel is educational...”
“Ah! ‘Most meteors burn up in Earth’s atmosphere’!” Romulus responded excitedly as he quoted a line from a Discovery Channel commercial he’d seen during a monster movie marathon. Dee sat on the cement and groaned as she buried her face in her paws in despair.
After Romulus apologized to Fangs for his act of attempted murder, preparations were made for departure. It was decided that Raven and Tammy would return aboard the Ranger Wing with Chip and Dale while Dee, Monterey and Zipper returned ‘aboard’ Romulus and Honker. It went without saying that Foxglove and Fangs would fly back alongside the Ranger Wing.
As the Ranger Wing plied it’s way over the city towards Ranger headquarters Chip remembered a question he had meant to ask earlier. Turning to Fangs he asked, “Since vampire bats don’t normally live this far north, what are you doing here?”
“I was born in captivity somewhere around here... in the city,” Fangs answered, “My parents belonged to a man who sold exotic animals, including vampires.”
“So you escaped?” Chip asked.
“Sort of,” Fangs responded, “When I was still real little I was sold to some drugged up wannabe rock musician. He was heavily into ‘gothic’ crap so having a vampire bat was real important to him. One day he was so high he thought he’d found a way to become a vampire himself... it included sacrificing a real vampire: me! I really wasn’t in the mood to be sacrificed so when he opened my cage I made a break for it. Fortunately his reflexes were so shot he didn’t stand a chance at catching me. I’ve been on my own since then.”
“I was born in captivity too... before Freddie bought me,” Foxglove mentioned, “Maybe we came form the same breeder!”
“Hey, maybe the two of you are related!” Dale joined in excitedly.
“Doubt it,” Fangs responded, “Until I met up with a colony of bats on my own I thought all bats drank blood... if I had close relations that didn’t I think my parents would’ve mentioned something about that when I was still with them.”
“Oh,” Dale mentioned, “I thought it woulda’ made sense... After all, yesterday we found out that Dee and Gadget are half sisters, and this morning we found out that Raven is really Dee’s daughter...”
For Chip, who had developed the habit of ignoring much of Dale’s suppositions, it took a moment before what Dale was saying to sink in. Once it had, he was less than pleased. “Dale, you dummy!” Chip shouted as he bonked his companion hard on the head (so hard, in fact, that the jerking of Chip’s body nearly sent the Ranger Wing into a spin), “You aren’t supposed to say that in front of her!”
“What do you mean I’m ‘really Dee’s daughter’?” Raven asked suspiciously.
Oh no, Fangs thought glumly, the shit’s really gonna hit the fan now!
“Nothing,” Chip answered, trying to cover for his friend’s slip, “Dale just has a tendency to start talking in gibberish. You shouldn’t take anything he says seriously.”
Raven thought for a moment. “If it was nothing but gibberish... why did you say he shouldn’t have said it in front of me?” she asked.
Chip’s mouth dropped open when he realized his own slip was as bad as Dale’s. As his mind raced in search of an excuse, Raven’s suspicion took control of her. “Well? What did he mean?” she asked sternly. Raven quickly lost her patience and her suspicion turned to anger. “The two of you know something about me that I don’t! And you seem to think I don’t even deserve to know! What is it!!”
“Um,” Chip mumbled as he tried to think of a way to defuse the situation... before things got any worse. “It’s not something we’re supposed to tell you,” he eventually responded in desperation.
“Well that’s exactly what you’re going to do!” Raven demanded.
“We can’t do that!” Chip said firmly, trying to assert an authoritative influence.
Unfortunately, the thought of strangers knowing something about her that she didn’t even know, and that they were trying to keep it from her, was unacceptable. The fact that Chip had taken an aggressive tone didn’t help since, from Raven’s perspective, it was a challenge... and Raven, like her mother, could not bring herself to back down from a fight. “Tell me!!” she growled.
“No!” Chip responded, “There’s nothing to tell you!” He didn’t know where those last few words came from... and he wished he could take them back.
Raven chose to be the one to break the verbal stalemate. She reached in front of her and grabbed the collar of Dale’s shirt and pulled it back tightly.
“G-ck!” Dale said. Chip, Foxglove, and Fangs each nearly lost control of their flight when they saw this.
“Tell me what you know!” Raven commanded Dale in a slow and deliberate voice.
“I can’t!” Dale croaked.
“Yes you can!” Raven responded.
“Stop it!” Foxglove shouted, “You’re hurting him!”
“Dale, just unbutton your shirt for Pete’s sake!” Chip suggested. But when Dale began to reach for the top button Raven quickly let go of his collar and put an arm around his neck.
“G-ck!” Dale said once again.
“Talk!” Raven commanded.
“Raven, we promised your parents we wouldn’t tell you,” Chip said, “so if anyone’s going to tell you it should be them.” She didn’t let go.
“Raven, I’ll tell you if your parents don’t, ok?” Fangs offered.
The young mouse was stunned. Even one of her closest friends knew this secret. Raven realized that matters were no longer in her control, and she had faith that Fangs would keep his word... there was no longer any reason to cause the hapless chipmunk any further discomfort.
“Sorry,” Raven said as she let go of Dale’s neck, “I just hate being lied to like that... especially after what I’ve been through so far.”
“That’s ok,” Chip responded with a deep sigh, “We understand.” He tried hard not to think about how Dee was bound to react to these turn of events... at least not until they landed.
There were no words spoken as the Ranger Wing neared the large oak that was home to the Rescue Rangers. The aircraft set down on the landing strip with no incident with Foxglove and Fangs landing nearby. As the passengers proceeded to disembark, Gadget’s head popped out of the door at the end of the branch. After ducking back inside for a moment Gadget emerged from the door followed by the Southmonts.
Upon seeing Raven safe and sound, Ann raced down the landing strip and embraced her daughter as tears welled up in her eyes. The young mouse briefly forgot the issue discussed in flight and reciprocated her mother’s affection with great zeal. The two ladies were soon joined by Ben who embraced both of them, overjoyed that his family was now reunited.
Chip watched as the Southmonts embraced one another. He hoped that Raven’s safe return and joyous reunion with her adopted parents would cause her to forget about the question that had plagued her during the flight back. But the realist in him greatly feared that Raven would remember the question, and that one of Dee’s greatest fears would be realized as the young mouse’s whole world would be turned on it’d head by the answer.
“I guess I should be heading back home now,” Tammy mentioned as she observed the reunion before her, “But given what we’ve just been through I think I could use an escort,” she then turned to Chip and, batting her eyelashes, continued, “What do you think, Chipper?”
“Huh?” Chip responded blankly as he was preoccupied with other thoughts, “Well, it’s ‘Chip’, remember?” he continued politely, “I’d rather stay here... just in case anything comes up. Gadget, could you take Tammy home?”
“Sure, Chip!” Gadget responded, much to the young squirrel’s chagrin.
As Gadget and Tammy walked off, the elder Southmonts released their daughter. After looking around Ann realized someone was missing. “What happened to Dee?” she asked with a slight hint of concern.
“She, Monty, and Zipper decided to return with Canina and the wolves,” Dale answered.
“That way we could get Raven and Tammy here sooner,” Chip added.
“I suppose we can wait a little while before we go on home,” Ben said, “I think we should have a chance to give her our thanks in person.”
“That reminds me,” Raven spoke up boldly. Both Chip and Fangs cringed at the thought of what she was to say next. “He,” she pointed at Dale as she continued, “unintentionally said that I was ‘really Dee’s daughter’... What did he mean?”
Raven’s adopted parents looked at each other in shock, and then at Dale with dismay. Dale looked at his feet, not wanting to make eye contact with either of the elder Southmonts.
“Then he,” Raven pointed to Chip as she continued once again, “said that he shouldn’t have said that in front of me.” Chip joined Dale in the act of avoiding eye contact. There was still no response from Ann or Ben so Raven went on, “I eventually got them to admit that they had promised you that they wouldn’t say anything so if anything was said... you should say it. Now what is going on?”
“We should go inside,” Ben finally said solemnly, “We’ll explain it then.”
Everyone moved indoors and assembled in the livingroom. When it appeared that everyone had found someplace comfortable Ben hesitantly started, “We... had planned on telling you about this... when you were older... better able to handle the news. You... your...” he sighed deeply as he gathered his thoughts, “We aren’t your natural parents.”
“I’m adopted,” Raven stated coldly.
Ben nodded, “Doohickey Hawkfeather- ‘Dee’- is your mother by birth.”
“She didn’t want me,” Raven added, just as coldly as the last time she spoke. Ben realized that she was reacting just as he feared she might, with indignation about having been lied to and betrayed, and was afraid that her anger would interfere with her sense of reason.
“It wasn’t like that...” Ben started.
“What was it like?” Raven interjected,“What could it have been?” she added with obvious sarcasm, “If she wanted me then she would have kept me! But she didn’t keep me... she gave me away... like a fruitcake after Christmas!”
“Raven...” Ann tried to intervene reassuringly, but feared that Raven’s anger was already out of hand.
“I was something to be gotten rid of!” Raven continued angrily, oblivious to her adopted mother’s attempt to calm her, “I didn’t mean a thing to her!!”
Chip watched this with increasing concern. He knew that this was exactly what Dee had been afraid of. He was also increasingly angered by the accusations Raven was making about her, accusations he knew were false and completely undeserved.
“What kind of mother would do something like that?!” Raven ranted rhetorically.
“One that loved you a great deal!” Chip heard himself say. Raven quickly spun about to face him. The way she glared at him sent a chill down his spine. Way to go, Sureluck! Chip thought to himself.
“WHERE THE HELL DO YOU GET OFF SAYING ANYTHING?!” Raven shouted.
The grotesque silence that followed Raven’s verbal outburst was broken by a voice from outside. Though the words weren’t clear, the voice obviously belonged to Monterey Jack. What he had said was followed by an indistinct comment from Gadget, then another from Dee. There was an outburst of laughter from the three as they came through the door followed by Zipper.
Raven’s gaze was soon fixated on Dee who, seeing this, ceased her laughter and with a smile asked aloofly, “Did I miss something?” The lightness of Dee’s bearing was more than Raven could tolerate. As she stormed out the door, Raven intentionally bumped into Dee hard with her shoulder. All vestiges of joviality had fled as Dee turned to the Southmonts in desperate confusion, “What happened?!”
As Dee walked over to her despondent godparents, Fangs went to stop Raven. Before anyone could say anything their attention was returned to the open door by a horrifically loud shriek. Fangs soon staggered back inside with his wings over his ears, he was clearly in a great deal of pain. “I am so-o-o stupid!” he whispered.
“What was that sound?!” Gadget asked him in a loud voice.
“Ah-ah-ah!” Fangs responded painfully as he waved her back with a wing, then continued in a whisper, “Raven isn’t in any mood to talk!”
“Crikey!” Monterey responded (remembering to whisper), “What did she do?”
“She grabbed my ears, pulled my head real close, then screamed at the top of her lungs!” Foxglove cringed at the thought as she was the only other one present who knew how painful that could be for a bat.
“What happened?!” Dee demanded of the Southmonts.
“She found out she was adopted,” Ann responded.
“Your friend there with the red nose,” Ben said motioning towards Dale, “mentioned it without thinking.” Dale then discreetly made his way to the kitchen. Foxglove followed a few moments thereafter. There was little reason for Dale to make himself scarce, though, as Dee was still too stunned to retaliate. She simply sat at the table beside Ann.
“I’m going after her!” Chip stated resolutely as he headed for the door.
“She won’t talk to you,” Ann warned, “and trying to drag her back would be a very, very bad idea.”
“Then I’ll just follow her... to keep an eye on her,” Chip offered.
“We already know where she’s going,” Ben told the chipmunk, “This isn’t the first time she’s lost her temper like this... and she always goes to the same place to cool down.”
“Where?” Dee asked.
“Well, ever since meeting up with Fangs she’d hang out at his place,” Ben explained.
“You knew?” Fangs asked, having slightly recovered from Raven’s rebuff.
“Of course,” Ben responded, “She may not be our daughter by birth but she still is our daughter. We weren’t going to let her storm off into the night without knowing where she was going... I’d follow her.”
There was some silence before Fangs spoke again, “I’d better head back home... she always winds up talking things out with me anyway so I’d better be there.”
“One of us should head back home too,” Ben mentioned as Fangs left, “We don’t want her to return to an empty house.”
“Ok, I’ll stay here,” Ann responded as she placed a paw protectively on one of Dee’s.
“No, I’ll be fine,” Dee reassured her, “You should both be there when she gets back.”
“Well, ok,” Ann sighed, “I’m sorry we couldn’t stay to visit. You take care of yourself!” She gave Dee a motherly kiss on her forehead before leaving with her husband.
Chip walked up to Dee and laid a paw on her shoulder, “You really ok with this?”
“It was bound to happen sooner or later,” Dee remarked, “Just as well we got it out of the way.” She stood and, in an unusually calm voice, asked, “Gadget, mind if I do some work in your workshop?”
“I guess not, I’ll just get some of my projects out of the way,” she answered as she led her sister away.
“I’ll go tell Dale it’s safe to come out of the kitchen,” Monterey said once the ladies had left.
Chip sat down in the seat Dee had vacated. It hurt to see her in the shape she was in, especially considering what she had been put through thus far... and the day was only half over. He reached into one of his jacket pockets and removed a small felt covered box. I was going to wait until after we’d returned the diamond to the museum, he thought, After saving the girls I was going to before we went after the diamond, just in case things didn’t... go our way. Chip looked in the direction of Gadget’s workshop. But I can’t do it now, not in the shape she’s in.
“You mean she wasn’t even a little angry?” Dale asked as he, Monterey, and Foxglove emerged from the kitchen. Chip quickly returned the box to it’s place in his pocket.
“I don’t think it’s quite set in yet,” Monterey suggested, “But at least while she’s in Gadget’s workshop you’ll have a head start when it does... provided there’s some kind of warning first.”
“And I think it would be a good idea to avoid wandering in until we’re sure she’s not going to do anything to you,” Foxglove added, “Just in case.”
She’s going to bury herself in work, Chip thought, so she doesn’t have to let in set in.
Fangs chose a leisurely course to return home. He knew that it would take Raven a while to get there by foot, there was also the fact that he was rather fatigued. Hope she doesn’t want to do too much talking, Fangs thought as he flew, I’ve been up since sunset yesterday... haven’t even had a chance to nap. The stone church he knew as home almost seemed like an island paradise as he approached. Working himself through an obscure opening between the eaves and roofing tiles he entered the cavity that separated the inner ceiling and roof.
After climbing along the undersides of the beams Fangs came to his perch within the wall that separated the main hall from the bell tower. Wrapping his wings about him he hung comfortably and awaited his friend. If Raven’s going to talk she’d better get here soon, Fangs thought as he yawned, I don’t think I can stay awake much longer. But by the time Raven did arrive he was too deep in his slumber to hear her arrival. I hope Raven doesn’t get caught in the storm, Fangs thought in his sleep. In his semiconscious state his mind had turned the sound of Raven loudly clearing her throat into rolling thunder.
Raven’s shout awoke Fangs with a start and he found himself looking into the mouse’s face as she stood on the crossbeam beneath him (though it was ‘above’ from his point of view).
“I’m awake,” the groggy vampire mumbled.
“I need to know something,” the mouse stated.
“Sure... what?” Fangs was doing his best to remain lucid for his friend’s sake.
“Did you know I was adopted?” Raven asked, “Or were you just trying to get me to let go of Dale?”
“I found out this morning,” Fangs started to explain, pausing to yawn, “When Chip mentioned that your parents...” he noticed how Raven scowled at him as he said the word ‘parents’ and corrected himself, “When he mentioned that your adopted parents were Dee’s godparents Foxglove got confused, so he explained how they were related and that you were adopted... I just happened to be there at the time.”
“Ok, thanks. I’ll let you get back to sleep,” Raven stated quietly, “And I’m sorry about screaming at you earlier,” she added apologetically.
“That’s ok,” Fangs mumbled, “It was my fault anyway, I forgot how unpleasant you get when you’re mad.”
“G’night,”Raven offered as she sat down on the beam.
“Yeah,” Fangs responded as he closed his eyes, grateful to be allowed to return to his rest.
It was well into the afternoon when Gadget approached Chip with a request. It appeared that he was watching the news as he sat on the couch facing the television. However, he registered very little of what was being said or shown. He was more concerned about Dee’s emotional state, he wasn’t sure how best to proceed... should he encourage her to express her emotions... should he try to cheer her up... how should he try to cheer her up...
“Chip?” Gadget asked, “I was wondering if you could do something for me.”
“Uh, sure... What?” he responded once he’d returned to the here and now.
“Could you do something about Dee?” Gadget asked plainly, “I’d like to be as understanding as I can and let her use my workshop as long as she wants since she is my sister after all, but I do have projects of my own that I’d really like to get back to.”
“Ok, I’ll see what I can do,” Chip said as he got up from the couch.
“I’m also a little worried because Dee always says that her inventions have a tendency to explode,” Gadget continued as she followed Chip, “and even though I don’t keep anything around that has any kind of explosive potential... well, not since the ‘incident’ anyway... I don’t think it would be wise to leave her alone in there in the event I overlooked something.” This was followed by fairly substantial ‘boom’ as they reached the closed door. “Which apparently I did,” Gadget added. Chip and Gadget rushed into the room and were confronted by a light cloud of smoke.
“Huh... that wasn’t supposed to happen,” Dee said to herself with little noticeable concern.
“What happened?!” Chip asked.
Dee turned and noticed the two. “The thingy I was working on blew up,” she responded simply.
“How?” Gadget asked.
“I’m not quite sure,” Dee answered as she waved her paw about to clear away the smoke before her, “I don’t think I was handling anything explosive.”
“Are you ok?” Chip asked as he walked over to her.
“Is there anything unnatural sticking out of me anywhere?” Dee responded as she looked herself over.
“No,” Chip answered after a cursory examination.
“Then I’m fine,” Dee concluded. “I suppose you want your workshop back, right?” she asked as she turned to Gadget.
“If you don’t mind,” Gadget responded politely.
“That’s ok,” Dee answered, “I should make it a rule to stop working when things start to explode for no logical reason anyhow.”
As Dee began to leave the workshop Chip came up beside her. “Uh, Dee?” he asked as he put an arm around her, “I was wondering... considering all that’s happened since you arrived... maybe we could go out to dinner, just the two of us, to take your mind off things.”
“How can I refuse?” Dee responded cheerfully. Chip hadn’t been sure whether this was the right time to set his plan into motion, but her gleeful response was enough to help silence the doubt.
Dee was ready to go in an astonishingly short time, helping lay to rest the myth that all females take forever preparing for a date. It wasn’t just her generally efficient nature that sped up the process, this was the type of thing she had in mind when she’d decided to visit... getting a chance to spend some quality time with the love of her life. Chip was pleasantly surprised to see that Dee was practically bouncing as she joined him at the door before they left.
“Don’t do anything I’d do!” Monterey called after them with a laugh.
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Dee replied.
As he piloted the Ranger Wing over the city, Chip couldn’t help but feel a little nervous. He’d planned this evening two months before in anticipation of a visit from Dee. Logically he knew it was entirely possible that she wouldn’t come to visit, but part of him held out hope... and it had been Spring after all, he just couldn’t help himself. Chip had been careful not to over think the matter, not just because he had come to realize he might ‘plan the fun out of it’ but because their relationship had been built on a certain level of spontaneity.
Chip brought the Ranger Wing to a landing within walking distance of one of the finest nonhuman restaurants in the city. As they approached the entrance Dee took note of the well dressed rodents coming and going.
“Somehow I don’t think I fit the dress code,” Dee mentioned as she gave a glance to her traditional black jumpsuit.
“I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem,” Chip responded confidently as he opened the door for his date.
Upon entering the establishment the two were confronted by the maitre d’. “Excuse me, we do not serve your kind here,” the mouse stated in a close approximation of a French accent, “Perhaps you would be better served at... Burger King.”
“I believe the management would be willing to make an exception in our case,” Chip stated boldly.
“And what am I to tell the management to justify such an... exception?” the maitre d’ responded sarcastically.
Chip casually motioned for the faux Frenchmouse to lean closer, which he did, much to Dee’s surprise. “You can tell him this...” Chip began before whispering something into the mouse’s ear.
As he listened, the maitre d’ began to smile, then nearly laughed. “I think I shall,” he responded lightly, “the manager should get quite a kick out of that!” The mouse walked off to relay the message.
Dee couldn’t help but admire the fact that her escort didn’t seem the least bit concerned over the matter. She watched as the maitre d’ walked to a door at the far side of the establishment and spoke to someone just inside. He was joined shortly by a mouse in a rather expensive looking suit. After listening to the maitre d’ for a moment the well dressed mouse smacked him upside the head and began to berate him in an animated manner. Following this the maitre d’ quickly walked back to the two casually dressed patrons.
“My apologies, Monsieur Maplewood,” the maitre d’ began in an embarrassed voice, “I... did not recognize you. Please, right this way!”
As they were led to one of the finer tables Dee quietly asked Chip, “Let me guess... the manager owes the Rescue Rangers big time, right?”
“Was it that obvious?” Chip responded. They both enjoyed a quiet chuckle.
All through the meal the two talked, laughed and gazed into one another’s eye’s. It was turning out to be the kind of date both had dreamed of since they’d met. The affair was made even more perfect when it came time to settle the bill as they were informed that the meal was on the house.
Chip made sure the evening didn’t end simply with a good meal. As the setting sun painted the sky brilliant hues of red, orange, purple, and royal blue Dee found herself being driven through the park, snuggled up beside her escort, in a chihuahua-drawn carriage (which was dwarfed by the horse-drawn carriages that occasionally passed by).
Holding Dee with one arm Chip reached into his pocket with the other. Well, here goes, he thought as he held the small felt box. “Ye’shöni’?” he asked softly.
“Yes, Jiho’gwais?” Dee responded as she hugged him close.
“I want to ask you something,” Chip stated as he removed the box from his pocket. Holding it before his date he opened it with his one paw revealing a magnificent diamond ring. Chip finally asked, “Will you marry me?”
Fangs awoke shortly after the sun had set. As he stretched, his sensitive nose detected a faint heat source below. A quick echosounding revealed Raven’s familiar form. Curled up and breathing regularly she appeared to be sleeping soundly. Don’t tell me she’s been here all afternoon! Fangs thought to himself, I should have tried to make a better effort to stay awake!
Though he didn’t really want to, Fangs decided to wake her, “Raven?” She moved a little, “You awake?” he asked. No new movement. “Raven,” he repeated louder. Her body twitched suddenly, then, rolling onto her back, she stretched. “Have you been waiting here all afternoon for me to wake up?” Fangs asked.
“No,” Raven answered, “I left shortly after you went back to sleep.” She sat up and continued, “I went home for a quick bite to eat then went to check on Tammy.”
“How is she?”
“For how long?”
“I’m not really sure,” Raven stretched again before continuing, “Bink answered the door. She said that Tammy was grounded ‘forever’... then her mother showed up and began screaming at me. I couldn’t understand most of what she said, but what I could figure out wasn’t very helpful. Hostile and vulgar, but not helpful.”
“She throw anything at you?” Fangs asked with a little laugh.
“No, but I think that’s only because there wasn’t anything in arm’s reach,” Raven joked. Despite the jest Fangs noticed that his friend almost immediately sank into a sorry state.
“Did you talk things over with your parents?” Fangs asked with a serious tone. Raven glared at him. “Adopted parents,” he corrected himself.
“Wasn’t in the mood,” Raven answered, “Besides, what’s to talk about? The fact that they’ve lied to me my entire life?”
“They’ve also clothed, fed, and protected you your entire life,” Fangs responded in the Southmonts’ defense.
“That’s only because I was foisted on them!” Raven shot back, “That only means they have more of a conscience then... her.”
“I assume you mean your real mother?” Fangs asked. Raven’s response was somewhere between a hiss and a growl. Ok, no more references to ‘real mother’, Fangs thought to himself.
“What kind of parent would abandon their child like that?” the young mouse asked calmly.
Fangs knew better than to repeat Chip’s answer from earlier that afternoon. He decided on a response that, hopefully, would appeal to her logic, “How do you know she didn’t want to keep you? My parents wanted to keep me, but they had to let me go.”
“Your parents didn’t have any choice!” Raven answered, “A human opened the cage, reached in, and pulled you out! What were they supposed to do? Write a letter to Amnesty International?”
Ok, let’s try a little more logic, Fangs thought. “How do you know she had a choice?” he asked.
“She certainly doesn’t look... or act like someone who’d been in a position like that. She’s obviously in excellent shape, a close personal friend of the Rescue Rangers,” Raven responded, “doesn’t live in a cage,” she added sarcastically in reference to Fangs’ parents.
Ok, so much for logic, Fangs thought glumly.
“I’m alone,” Raven said softly, and had it not been for his excellent hearing Fangs might not have even heard it.
“You’re not alone,” Fangs told her quietly. He lowered himself down onto the beam next to her. Sitting down he put a wing around her. “You’ve always been there for me, the only one to come to my defense... How can I do any less for you?”
Raven leaned up against her friend as a tear made it’s way down her cheek. He has always been there for me, she thought, came to my rescue, even tried to keep me out of trouble. The first tear was soon joined by others.
Fangs wrapped his other wing protectively around Raven as she cried softly. Holding her close he gently began to sing their song, a soft ballad by Dan Seals they’d adopted as their own since hearing it late one night coming from a human’s apartment.
“She’s a small town girl with no room to grow.
He’s a reckless boy with nowhere to go.
They’re like birds in a cage with no place to fly.
So he parks the car and she holds him tight.
“And they rage on,
Somehow searching for the answers,
In the night like shadow dancers,
Before their time is gone.
They rage on.
“On the same dark night two more people meet
In a rented room on a cross town street
And she’s lost her youth and he’s lost his dreams,
But for a while they feel like they used to feel.
“And they rage on,
Somehow searching for the answers,
In the night like shadow dancers,
Before their time is gone.
They rage on... rage on.
“And they rage on,
Against the lives that this world gave them,
Hoping something’s there to save them.
They rage on... rage on.
“And somewhere between right and wrong,
In the grey between dusk and dawn,
They tell themselves they are not alone
‘Cause they rage on.
“They rage on,
Somehow searching for the answers,
In the night like shadow dancers,
Before their time is gone.
They rage on.
“They rage on,
Against the lives that this world gave them,
Hoping something’s there to save them.
They rage on... they rage on.”
“I thought they were only going out for dinner,” Gadget mentioned as she realized the sun had set some time ago.
“‘Dinner’ means different things for different people, luv,” Monterey replied, “For some it means getting a small bite t’ eat. For others it could mean gettin’ something t’ eat, then running off to Vegas to get hitched.”
“You don’t think...” Foxglove started as she sat with the others on the couch.
“Nah, Chipper ain’t the sort,” Monterey responded dismissively, “Oh sure, he’ll settle down eventually, but only after years of careful planning. Why it’ll probably take ‘im a year just to work out the proposal.”
“I don’t know,” Dale interjected thoughtfully, “Dee and Chip took to each other pretty quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chip popped the question tonight!” Zipper got a hearty laugh from Dale’s logic. “What do you think is so funny?” Dale asked the amused fly.
“Dale, you have to admit, Chip isn’t the type to do something that impulsive,” Gadget explained.
“Well then, what do you think is keeping them?” Dale asked.
“I dunno,” Gadget replied with a shrug, “Maybe they stopped to help somebody in trouble. Or they found out they couldn’t pay for dinner and had to work off their debt in the kitchen. Or the Ranger Wing malfunctioned and they crashed. Or they were kidnaped by a cult and are going to be brainwashed into becoming fanatic members... who will eventually gain control and lead their followers on a campaign of death and destruction that can only end when we take up arms against our own closest friends and-”
“Gadget,” Monterey interrupted, “I think that’s enough speculation for now.”
“Oh, ok!” Gadget responded cheerfully.
In a few moments the front door opened and the two in question slowly made their way inside. They both seemed slightly tipsy, an image enhanced by the fact that Dee was clinging to Chip’s side with her arms flung around his neck. But the most unusual aspect of their appearance was that Dee was wearing Chip’s fedora.
“Heh, we were beginning to wonder what was keeping the two of you,” Monterey greeted them.
“Looks like you had a good time,” Gadget mentioned noticing the incredibly goofy smile on her sister’s face.
“Mm-hm,” Dee responded with an exaggerated nod, still clinging to Chip.
“Do you want me to tell ‘em?” Chip asked his companion.
“G’head!” Dee answered as she laid her head on his shoulder.
Chip cleared his throat, “Tonight, I asked Dee to marry me... and she said ‘yes’!”
Foxglove, Dale, Monterey, Gadget, and Zipper stared in amazement.
“Actually,” Dee added, “I said: AAAAHHHHHHH!!” The sudden scream caused Foxglove to jump, and seeing this Dee pointed to her and shouted, “That’s just what the chihuahua did!”
“Then she said ‘yes’,” Chip finished.
“Golly!” Gadget said, “um... golly!”
“Congratulation, pally!” Monterey said as he gave Chip a bear hug, “And the same goes for you too, luv!” he added as he hugged Dee. As the two lovers tried to recover from Monterey’s crushing enthusiasm he caught sight of the diamond, “Too-ra-loo! Get a load of that rock!”
“So that’s what you were doing this morning,” Foxglove mentioned to Chip as she joined them, “You were out getting the ring!”
“That’s right!” Chip answered.
“I told them you were going to pop the question tonight!” Dale joined in, “But they just wouldn’t believe me.”
“You must be psychic,” Foxglove joked.
Gadget finally overcame her shock and joined in. “Congratulations, Chip!” she said as she hugged him tightly. Gadget then embraced her sister, “Congratulations, sis!”
“Ya’ know, this means Chip is gonna to be your brother-in-law,” Dee commented.
Gadget thought it over for a moment, then flung her arms around Chip once more, “Welcome to the family, Chip!”
“And don’t you worry, lad,” Monterey stepped in, “Dale and I are gonna give ya’ one bonzer bachelor party!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Chip laughed.
“Just make sure I get ‘im back in one piece!” Dee added, “Now, if nobody minds too much, I think we should go let Romulus in on all this. He deserves to know that his pack is going to be one chipmunk larger.” Dee then took her future husband by the arm, “We’ll be back before long.”
Chip did his best to keep his mind focused on the Ranger Wing’s controls rather than his future wife snuggled up beside him. He thought about bringing up the possibility of stopping off to tell the Southmonts. But the thought was soon dismissed when he considered Dee and Raven coming into contact again. No need to bring it up if she doesn’t, he told himself.
“Ahhh, Rodent-McNuggets!” Romulus noted as Dee and Chip arrived at Canina’s dressing trailer.
“Cute,” Dee responded, “I got something to show ya’!”
“Really?” Romulus asked as his ears perked up.
“Yep!” Dee answered as she held out her left paw.
The massive canine crouched down in order to get a good look. “Ooooh! Sparkly!” Romulus commented as the light reflected off the diamond.
“Honk?” Honker asked.
“Yeah, what is it?” Canina joined in, “Oh my gosh! I’m actually starting to understand him!”
“It’s a diamond ring!” Romulus replied as he sat up, then picking Dee up and showing her to the others continued, “See?” Canina and honker leaned in to observe the engagement ring Dee was proudly displaying.
“It’s beautiful!” Canina commented, “Although it is a little small.” The star of stage, screen and occasional dog food commercial gasped, “Does that mean what I think it means?”
“Uh-huh!” Dee answered, “Me and Chip are getting married!”
“Oh! I’m so happy for you!” Canina exclaimed, “Both of you!”
Honker honked excitedly.
“You will invite me to the wedding, won’t you?” Canina asked, “Well, provided my agent will let me go of course.”
“We haven’t set a date yet,” Chip explained, “But when we do we’ll be sure to let you know.”
“Could you set me down now?” Dee asked Romulus.
Monterey, Zipper, Dale, Gadget and Foxglove were still discussing their surprise at Chip proposing marriage after knowing Dee for only a year (and their equal surprise that Dale had actually predicted it) when the two returned. One by one they all discreetly retired to different rooms until Dee and Chip were alone with one another in the livingroom. Eventually, one by one, they found their way to the kitchen.
“I wonder how we’re going to break this to Tammy?” Gadget thought aloud as Monterey fixed the others something to eat.
“I don’t think we’re the one’s who should be breakin’ it to her,” Monterey commented as he backed away from the fridge with an armload of food, “If anyone’s gonna break ‘er heart it should be Chip.”
“I wonder why she can’t find other boys her own age?” Gadget asked.
“It’s just a phase we all go through,” Monterey responded, then looking at Gadget for a moment, stated, “Well, most of us anyhow.” He then got the urge to reminisce, “I remember back when I was a lad... making my first trip through the States. There was this Creole mouse I met outside New Orleans... she was nearly twice my age,” then he added with a laugh, “but she didn’t look it!”
Monterey’s story was interrupted as the door to the livingroom opened. As Dale and Foxglove came in Chip could be heard in the background proclaiming, “There’s the real killer! Shoot him!”
“I wonder what they had to drink at dinner?” Dale asked rhetorically.
“What was that about?” Gadget asked.
“Dee and Chip are watching ‘Matlock’,” Foxglove answered, “Apparently Dee has seen it before because she pointed out one of the characters and shouted ‘There’s the real killer, shoot him!’ I guess she got the characters confused because she later shouted ‘There’s the real killer, shoot him!’ They’ve been going back and forth ever since... I think there was a commercial on that last time.”
Later on, Chip ventured into the kitchen. Before he could say anything Dale and Foxglove shouted, “There’s the real killer! Shoot him!”
“Verrrry funny,” Chip responded lightly, “I thought I’d let you all know that Dee and I are ready to turn in. After all, we still have a case to solve and should get started bright and early tomorrow.” As Chip began to leave he turned back. “Dale, you don’t mind sleeping on the couch again tonight, do you?” he asked.
“Gee, I don’t see why not,” Dale answered, “But can I have the other side this time?”
“You can have the whole couch if you want,” Chip replied as he left.
“Uh, what did he mean by that?” Dale asked the others.
“I think he meant that Dee and him will be having the bedroom to themselves tonight,” Gadget ventured.
“So he’s just kicking me out?!” Dale protested.
“Don’t worry,” Foxglove purred as she put her wings around him, “I’ll keep you company, cutie!”
After all the others had departed for their respective rooms Dale and Foxglove made themselves comfortable in the livingroom; Dale stretched out on the couch with Foxglove perched above him. Some time passed before Dale got up the nerve to ask something that had been preying at him for a while. “Foxy?” he whispered.
“If there was anything going on in mine and Chip’s room you’d be able to hear it, right?”
“Well... is there?”
“Dale,” Foxglove scolded kindly, “If they were doing what I think you think they were doing then I think you might have heard something.”
Dale wasn’t entirely able to make sense of what she had said, but didn’t want to admit it, “Oh... um, ok.”
Foxglove giggled at his sheepish response. “G’nite, cute stuff.”
The day started as it usually does, with the Sun’s rays bursting over the eastern horizon and sending the shadows of the night scurrying for cover. The sunny disposition of the dawn was rivaled only by that of a chipmunk and mouse residing in a particular oak tree. How they went about the morning routine barely ever taking their eyes off one another provided a certain measure of amusement to those around them. The other chipmunk, however, soon found himself ‘on the spot’ as a young bat, inspired by the behavior of the other two, kept snuggling up beside him.
The Rangers, Dee, and Foxglove were gathered in the livingroom preparing to head out after Winifred and the Delronne Diamond when there was a knock at the door. Gadget, being the closest, went to answer it. Upon opening the door she was confronted by a pair she hadn’t expected. “Oh! Hello, Raven... Fangs,” Gadget greeted them, “Can we help you?”
Dee was instantly filled with anxiety as she heard who was at the door. She was calmed somewhat as Chip took her paw in his.
“Actually, we were wondering if we could help all of you,” Raven responded politely, “May we come in?”
“Um, sure, I guess so,” Gadget answered hesitantly.
As she entered, Raven inadvertently made eye contact with Dee. She scowled briefly before looking away. Chip watched as Dee’s entire countenance drooped as she also looked away. He gently squeezed her paw to remind her that he was there for her.
“It occurred to us that since you’re probably gonna go after the diamond we might be able to help,” Raven confidently announced, “Since you’ll be trying to get it away from a witch it might help to have someone with you who has some practical knowledge of magic. And from what Tammy has told us, none of you really know all that much about magic... except that it exists.”
Everyone looked at Chip, who then looked at Dee. He was unable to read her thoughts by her expression and therefore wasn’t quite sure what to say. Eventually, he decided to fish for more information, “What kind of help were you thinking about? Spells you could use... Information you might have...”
“Well, both,” Raven answered, “I know some spells that could be useful; I can become invisible, create illumination, I can ‘zap’ things... or people. I also know how the diamond is supposed to be used to increase someone’s powers.”
“‘Zap’ things?” Dale asked, “You mean like shoot lightning at something?!”
“Yeah,” Raven nodded casually.
“Could you show us? Y’know, like zap something around here?” Dale asked excitedly.
Raven never liked taking requests and was slightly offended. She quickly reached into one of the sleeves of her trench coat and pulled out a metal wand (actually it was a straight portion of a former paper clip). Pointing it at Dale she declared, “I can zap you!”
Dale suddenly looked very alert as he responded, “Uh, no thanks! It was just a thought.”
“Well, what if I set up a target... could you ‘zap’ that?” Gadget asked, “I’d really like to see something like that!”
“Fine,” Raven grumbled.
Gadget ran off to her workshop. She soon returned with a stand and a small wooden block to use as the target. Gadget stepped back and lowered her goggles, “All set!”
Being asked to put on a show was irritating for Raven, so before she could do anything she had to calm down. She kept reminding herself that one good demonstration would be enough to shut them up so they wouldn’t ask for an encore. Once she was calm enough to focus, Raven lifted the wand across her chest, then thrust it towards the block.
A jagged bolt of blinding bluish light appeared between the tip of the wand and the wooden block. This was accompanied by an earsplitting ‘CR-R-RACK’. The block went flying across the room as the stand fell to the floor. Trailing smoke behind it, the block bounced off the far wall and tumbled along the floor dropping bits of glowing embers in it’s wake.
“Golly!” Gadget exclaimed as she lifted her goggles and ran to retrieve the smoldering block of wood.
Raven turned to the others and, brandishing her wand, stated, “The next person who asks for a demonstration is going to be part of the demonstration.” As she had hoped, there were no requests for an encore.
Chip gave Dee another look in an effort to find either approval or disapproval. He found no conclusive evidence of either. “Ok, Raven and Fangs, you’re in,” Chip finally said. “Time to get down to business,” he continued, “We need to find out where Freddie is staying now that she’s out on parole. Dee and myself will see if the police have anything on file. Foxglove, you should let Romulus and Honker know that we might need their tracking skills. The rest of you should stake out the abandoned laundromat where Freddie used to hang out. We’ll all meet back there by noon or earlier.”
“Should I ask the wolves to meet us there too?” Foxglove asked.
“No, they should continue to play ‘guard dog’ for Canina until we need them,” Chip answered, “If they spend too much time wandering around the city loose, people might get concerned.”
As Chip piloted the Ranger Wing towards the police station he felt they might have a chance to take advantage of Raven being preoccupied. “If we’ve got time after checking things out with the police you think we should pay a quick visit with your godparents, let them in on the good news?” he asked Dee.
His fiancé gave him a broad smile, “Then we best not dawdle while we’re looking for the information!”
“You know, I’m amazed by how similar you and Raven are,” Chip ventured, hoping Dee wouldn’t mind the new topic, “Not only does she look like you did at her age but she acts a lot like you.”
Dee gave a little smile and shrugged, “What can I say? She’s my daughter.”
As Gadget piloted the Ranger Plane towards Freddie’s old hideout Raven kept looking over the ‘unique’ aircraft. Whereas the Ranger Wing bore a distinct similarity to prop driven aircraft flown by humans, this particular vehicle had a look all it’s own. Held aloft by an elongated balloon, the bleach bottle fuselage was propelled forward by flapping wings and used plunger tipped ‘legs’ for landing gear.
“When Tammy told me about this thing I didn’t think it would be this... goofy looking,” Raven commented.
“It was the best I could do given the resources available at the time,” Gadget responded, “Besides, it’s less likely to fall victim to jet wash and crash like the Ranger Wing did the last time we encountered Freddie.”
“More like ‘vacuum cleaner’ wash,” Dale pointed out.
“Vacuum cleaner wash?” Raven asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Y’see, Freddie was a ‘thoroughly modern’ witch, as it were,” Monterey explained, “She flew a vacuum cleaner instead...”
“...of a broom,” Raven finished. “Yeesh!” she proclaimed rolling her eyes dramatically, “She should’ve been sent to prison for that alone!”
“That it down there?” Fangs asked as they approached their destination.
“That’s it!” Gadget stated, “Oh! No.. waitaminute...”
“That’s the right place all right,” Monterey confirmed, “But it looks like it’s back in business.”
What had been an abandoned laundromat was now quite active. People of various descriptions were coming and going with bundles of laundry. Gadget landed the Ranger Plane atop a neighboring building as Fangs landed nearby.
“I don’t think Freddie would’ve set up shop here again,” Monterey thought aloud as they disembarked, “Not with so many people comin’ and going.”
“Actually she might’ve,” Raven responded, “If she knows the right spells she could arrange it so that the people who enter will be under the illusion that there’s nothing out of the ordinary.” Raven thought for a moment. “Come to think of it, she wouldn’t need to be much of a witch at all,” she added, “A stage magician could pull off an illusion like that without ‘real’ magic.”
“What do you mean?” Dale asked.
“The people going in there are predisposed to think they’re in a normal laundromat,” Raven pointed out, “That means they’ll be less likely to notice things that have nothing to do with a laundromat.”
“I’d think a cackling witch stirring a cauldron would be kinda hard to miss,” Monterey responded.
“I know what she means,” Gadget stated, “During the Second World War some ships were painted with bizarre patch works of red, white and black markings. The resulting contrasts made them look so unlike ships that they were actually overlooked by observers looking for ships.”
“So unless someone goes in there looking for something out of the ordinary they might not see it at all,” Monterey concluded.
“Right,” Raven said, “Someone looking for a UFO will be more likely to see that” she added pointing to the Ranger Plane, “than people who assume that anything they see up in the sky is just another bird or something.”
“So if we go in there looking for Freddie,” Dale postulated, “then we will find her!”
“Assuming she’s in there in the first place,” Gadget pointed out.
“Well, of course,” Dale added.
“Fangs and Monterey, you stay out here to keep an eye on things,” Gadget suggested, “the rest of us will look around inside.”
“Be careful,” Fangs warned, “Rodents aren’t as out of place in a laundromat as a witch.”
“I can take a look around inside without attracting attention,” Raven stated, “I can become invisible after all.”
“Well, ok,” Gadget agreed, “but be careful anyway, I don’t want to have to be the one to tell Dee if something happened to you.”
“Like she’d care,” Raven growled as she left.
Shortly after Raven departed Foxglove arrived. It was closing on eleven before Dee and Chip arrived in the Ranger Wing.
“We found Freddie’s address,” Chip stated as he and his fiancé climbed out of the aircraft, “She’s staying in an apartment across town. Anything happen around here?”
“Not really,” Gadget answered, “We’re still waiting for Raven to get back, she went in to look around.”
“I was wondering where she was,” Dee mentioned.
“The wolves and Canina are ready to do some ‘sniffing’ around whenever we need them,” Foxglove reported for Dee and Chip.
“What took the two of you so long?” Monterey asked, “It doesn’t usually take you that long to get a hold o’ some information.” He then added suggestively, “Unless you decided to have some time to yourselves.”
“We decided to stop to meet with Ann and Ben,” Dee responded, “We figured we’d visit when Raven wasn’t around.”
“Not only didn’t you want me as your child,” Raven proclaimed as she approached, becoming visible as she did so, “You don’t even want me around at all!”
“That’s not what I meant!” Dee replied desperately.
“Like hell it wasn’t!” Raven growled as she stormed off.
“Please, Raven, I need to explain,” Dee pleaded as she went after her. The distraught adolescent didn’t even slow down. “Please?” Dee asked as she took hold of her daughter’s arm.
“LET GO OF ME!!” Raven shouted as she flung her arm around. “JUST STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!!” she screamed as she faced her mother. Turning back around Raven ran off.
“Aw, damn,” Fangs mumbled as he took to the air to follow Raven.
Falling to her knees, Dee began to cry.
Fangs located Raven sulking on the railing of the fire escape with her back to the wall, just over the side of the roof. She had told him the previous night that she could handle her anger towards her mother. Fangs had a feeling that, as much as anything else, Raven was upset at being unable to meet her own expectations.
“Where the hell does she get off laying a finger on me?!” Raven snarled as Fangs landed on the railing in front of her.
“I know you probably don’t want to go back to deal with the others right now,” Fangs started quietly, “So, if you want, I can go back and tell them what you found inside... if anything... and I’ll be right back.”
Raven looked at her friend as she thought. Then her eyes began to widen as a realization sank in. “Damn!” she blurted out as she leapt up. Fangs instinctively backed away as he was unaware of what had occurred to her. He watched as Raven clambered back up onto the roof.
As Fangs flew up to follow her he noticed the Ranger Wing taking off. If she’s going to apologize she’d better hurry, he thought assuming that the others were leaving. Chip, Dale, Foxglove and Zipper were still there.
“Hey, looks like she’s coming back!” Dale mentioned as he noticed Raven approaching.
When Chip turned to see Raven, Foxglove noticed that he clenched his paws. “Remember, Chip, she’s just a young girl,” she said laying a wing on his shoulder, “and this whole thing with her being adopted can’t be easy on her.”
“So maybe you should be,” Dale added.
“I’m... I’m sorry I took off like that,” Raven stated once she had returned, “There wasn’t anything in there... in the laundromat.”
Chip glared at Raven for a moment trying to think of the right thing to say. But everything he felt was right to say would likely make things worse, so he settled on the ‘appropriate’ thing to say. “If you’re going to be working with us you’re going to have to learn to control your temper,” Chip stated in a slow, controlled tone of voice.
“I know,” Raven responded in a dismissive manner.
“We can’t have you flying off the handle like that if we’re going to be depending on you,” Chip continued in a slightly raised voice.
“I know,” Raven repeated.
“And I know you’re having a difficult time accepting your mother-”
“She’s not my mother!” Raven interrupted.
“Fine,” Chip sighed, “I know you’re having a hard time accepting that you were adopted, which is why I’m going to give you a second chance to help out. Ok?”
“Right,” Raven conceded blandly.
“Now, while we’re waiting for Gadget to get back from dropping off Dee and Monty, could you fill us in on what you know about the diamond?” Chip asked.
“Well, the legend about it’s origin supposedly goes back about a thousand years, give or take a couple centuries,” Raven began, “A man wanted to marry off his daughter to a good family, but because they were poor the girl didn’t have any real dowery. At some point the father went to a sorcerer and explained his problem. This sorcerer produced a diamond from inside his cloak and explained that it could be used for his daughter’s dowery if he agreed to be his slave once the girl was married. Since he was desperate to ensure his daughter would be taken care of, he agreed. Before long the girl got married to one of the wealthiest noblemen around. At this point she found out about the deal her father had made and was heartbroken. She tried to get the sorcerer to relent and even offered her first born child in exchange, but the sorcerer refused.
“Overcome with grief, she ran off into the forest. As she sat crying on a tree stump a bird asked her what was wrong. After hearing her story the bird revealed that he had been a sorcerer and that the diamond had been his and that the sorcerer who gave her the diamond had been his apprentice. The bird explained that his apprentice stole the diamond in order to increase his own power and then used it to take away his. As a final act of contempt, his former apprentice turned him into a bird. Since the girl was now in possession of the diamond, the former sorcerer explained to her that she could free her father and help him take revenge against his former apprentice.
“After teaching her the proper spell the girl used the diamond to restore the old sorcerer’s powers, then he taught her how to use it to take away the other sorcerer’s power. Later, she went back to the sorcerer who had taken her father and acted as if she was going to beg for her father’s release. This time when he refused she took out the diamond and cast the spell before he could realize what she was doing. Now that he was powerless, the old sorcerer returned and used his power to free the girl’s father and, as punishment, turned his former apprentice into a mule to be put to work on the father’s farm. Since then the diamond was passed down through the family.”
Chip thought for a moment. “Do you know of any time, in recent history, when the diamond was actually used for magical purposes?” he finally asked.
Raven shook her head, “No, that legend was the only mention I was able to find. Of course, after finding about that legend I was mainly interested in finding out about the spells that were used... and that took some doing.”
“What all goes into the spell to give someone all that power?” Chip inquired, “Could Freddie have used it already?”
“No,” Raven answered confidently, “The spell requires that the light of the full moon pass through the diamond and strike the person casting the spell. By the time I got my hands on it heavy clouds had rolled in, and I don’t think they parted before the moon set.”
“In any case,” Foxglove interrupted, “If Freddie had cast the spell that night we probably would have seen some evidence of it.”
“That’s right,” Dale added, “The word ‘subtle’ definitely is not in her vocabulary.”
“I didn’t know ‘subtle’ was in your vocabulary,” Chip jabbed, “But this is good news, it means we still have time.” He looked up as he heard the familiar hum of the Ranger Wing approach, “Next stop: Freddie’s apartment.”
Dee strode around Rescue Ranger Headquarters angrily, looking as if, at any moment, she would tear the place apart. Monterey busied himself placing fragile objects out of Dee’s immediate reach.
“I’m sure the li’l lady just needs some time to sort things out in ‘er ‘ed,” Monterey mentioned to Dee as he stowed a picture in a cupboard, “After all, this is a lot for a young girl to hafta deal with all at once. Once she’s ‘ad a chance to think things through with a calm mind she’ll probably want to apologize for blowin’ up at you like that.”
“That’s not what I’m upset about!” Dee shouted as she continued to circle the room like an agitated wolf.
Monterey searched his mind for something to say that would help, but came up lacking. “I know you’d rather ‘ave Chip here to talk things out with-”
“But because he’s the leader he has responsibilities,” Dee finished, “I know that! That’s why I asked him not to come... or weren’t you there when I said that?!”
“Well, then maybe you could tell me what you are upset about,” Monterey offered out of desperation.
“I cried!” Dee shouted as she stopped her pacing, “I’m not supposed to cry!”
Her answer didn’t make a great deal of sense to Monterey but he tried to work with it. “Well, we all cry, luv, even I do,” he started.
“I know that, dammit!” Dee responded, “That’s not the point! I broke down in public! I’m not supposed to do that! I’ve worked damn hard to keep my emotions and desires under control... so that others couldn’t use me! I don’t cry... I don’t lose my temper... I don’t do anything to let others know how they could control me!”
“I’ve seen you lose your temper, luv,” Monterey countered, “and I’ll bet you’ve cried in front of others before... Chip for instance.”
“What you’ve seen were flashes of anger,” Dee responded defensively, “a short outburst to startle others and put them on the defensive... it’s always a controlled act.” After a brief moment she continued, “And I haven’t cried in front of others since Becky died and I had to give up Raven. Not in front of my brother, not in front of my mother, not in front of Romulus, Virginia, or anyone else! Never! The one exception has been Chip, but only because he’s the one person I’ve trusted enough to let my guard down around!”
“If you never lose your temper in front of others... What were you doing just now?” Monterey inquired cautiously.
“I’m losing my temper!” Dee responded, “I cry, and I lose my temper, when and where others can’t see it!”
“Then why are you venting your rage in front of me?” Monterey asked.
“Because you’re a friend of my fiancé... and you’re a good friend... which means you’re not about to let me out of your site for a moment if there’s the slightest chance I might do myself some kind of harm!” Dee answered.
She’s got you there, mate, Monterey thought to himself. “Then vent all you want, luv,” he said, “Just try to keep the property damage to a minimum.”
Raven, Fangs and Zipper sat quietly in the Ranger Plane as Gadget piloted. Chip, Dale and Foxglove flew up ahead in the Ranger Wing, periodically circling around to allow the slower aircraft to keep up. Both chiropteran companions had chosen to ride along rather than fly, though for different reasons. Foxglove liked the chance to be close to Dale; Fangs, on the other hand, wasn’t as well adjusted to daytime activities as Foxglove and didn’t want to over do.
Gadget was growing tired of the awkward silence coming from one particular passenger and decided to make some small talk to pass the time, “I’m not sure if you found out yet or not, though I’m not sure why anyone would’ve told you, but, technically speaking, I’m your aunt.”
“And?” Raven responded coldly, clearly in no mood for small talk.
“Oh, nothing,” Gadget answered, “I just thought it’d be interesting to bring up. I mean, I didn’t even know you were my niece until a couple days ago when I found out that Dee was my half sister.”
“Maybe you could answer a question for me,” Raven opened as something entered her mind.
“Sure,” Gadget replied helpfully, “What I mean is I’ll try.”
“Who the hell is my father?” the adolescent asked bluntly.
“Golly, that’s a tuffy,” Gadget replied, “I’m not sure anybody knows the answer to that one... Not even your mother... I mean Dee.”
“She doesn’t even know?!” Raven nearly shouted in disbelief, “Why the hell not?!”
“Well, from what I know,” Gadget started, “At the time she had you she wasn’t in the habit of keeping track of the guys she was, well... with.”
Raven hadn’t thought it possible, but her opinion of her mother actually dropped even further. She had heard others say how their blood boiled with anger, and now for the first time she understood what that meant. Raven clenched her fists and desperately wanted to punch something... wanted to scream... but she held it in.
Fangs could clearly see the anguish on Raven’s face and in how her whole body suddenly became tense, and it hurt for him to see. Why is she doing this to herself? he asked himself, There’s no logical reason for her to be putting herself through this... no reason to help get the diamond back, it would have been stolen whether we’d been involved or not. Something occurred to Fangs as he thought, but he quickly shoved the thought aside. That can’t be the reason she’s doing this, he told himself.
Both aircraft landed a respectable distance from the apartment complex where Winifred lived. Once all the passengers had disembarked, Chip pointed out which windows he thought belonged to the apartment they were looking for.
“I doubt she’d be keeping the diamond at her apartment,” Chip mentioned, “especially considering she’s on parole.”
“Then why are we here?” Dale asked, “We gonna pay Freddie a social call?”
Chip frowned at Dale for a moment. “No,” he finally stated bluntly, “We’re going to look around for any clues that might tell us where she’s keeping the diamond.”
“I take it I’m not going in alone then?” Raven asked.
“Right,” Chip responded quickly.
“Why not?” the young mouse asked with a hint of anger.
“For one thing,” Chip proceeded to point out, “I don’t want us to be hanging around too long... so the more people we have looking around the sooner we’re likely to find something. And second, I don’t want to have to tell your mother if anything happens to you.”
“She’s not my mother!” Raven growled.
“Whatever,” Chip replied, “Ok, Foxglove and Fangs, you two stay here to keep an eye on the planes. The rest of us will head inside to see what we can find.”
Several minutes and two wrong turns later Chip, Dale, Gadget, Zipper and Raven found an air duct that led into Winifred’s apartment. Before the others entered, Zipper squeezed through the grate and went to scope the place out. He soon returned and motioned that all within were asleep. Once within the apartment, Chip admonished the others to conduct themselves as quietly as possible.
Entering the bed/livingroom the group found the unshapely red haired witch fast asleep in her bed. Bud and Lou, also apparently sound asleep, were in separate terrariums on a table near the window. Each individual went about to search a different portion of the room.
Climbing up onto the desk, Raven took note of a closed book that sat prominently in the center. “‘Bodkin’s Big Book of Spells’” Raven quietly read aloud from the cover. “Amateur!” she snorted.
Dale was investigating the night stand by the bed, and had just opened the drawer when the phone (which was right behind him) rang. The sudden explosion of noise caused him to lose his footing and tumble into the open drawer below. He was just about to climb out when Winifred began to roll over. Throwing all of his weight into the effort, Dale was able to close the drawer before she had completely rolled over and reached for the phone.
“How DARE you call me when I’m sleeping!” hollered the wicked witch of the washroom. Her attitude soon turned quite apologetic, “Oh! M-mister Horner, I didn’t realize it was you! Huh? Oh, of course I can fill in for him tonight! Mm-hm... B’bye.” Winifred slammed down the receiver in disgust.
Instead of laying back down, Winifred opened the drawer in the night stand. She pulled out a pad of paper and, to everyone’s horror, Dale. “Scraggily scrub brushes!” she cursed, “If he can’t stand the smell of ammonia then he shouldn’t be a janitor!” Chip, Gadget, Raven and Zipper watched helplessly as she proceeded to use the bewildered chipmunk to write down a note to herself. Fortunately for Dale, Winifred wasn’t anywhere near lucid enough to realize that her writing utensil was unusually soft, warm, fuzzy and wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt (he didn’t write very well either). When she had finished she tore off the note, set it by the phone, then threw the pad and her ‘pen’ back into the drawer and slammed it shut.
“Good thing Foxglove wasn’t here to see that,” Chip whispered to himself.
As Winifred rolled back over to return to her slumber the others waited to see if it would occur to her what she had just been using to write with. Once her snoring had started, Dale’s companions realized it was safe and emerged from their respective hiding places. After rescuing their friend they left the apartment rather than tempt fate.
“What did you find out?” Foxglove asked as the others returned.
“We found out that Freddie isn’t at her best when she’s just woken up,” Gadget answered.
“And that Dale can always get work as a piece of office equipment if he needs to,” Chip added. Foxglove was quite confused by the two answers she’d been given, and it showed. “We’ll explain that when we get home, you’ll want to sit down for it,” Chip explained.
“Find out anything useful?” Fangs asked.
“No,” Chip answered glumly, “We’ll have to try again later. But until then we can have someone tail her, in case she checks to make sure the diamond is still where she’s hidden it.” Chip turned to Zipper, “Since you’re least likely to be noticed you’re the perfect person to shadow Freddie. Follow her wherever she goes, and if she leads you to the diamond: report back.” Zipper gave a quick salute, then flew down to keep watch on the apartment.
As they prepared to depart, an idea presented itself to Chip. The possibility of it resulting in anything positive was limited, but he felt the need to give it a go anyway. Turning to Raven, Chip presented his thought, “Raven? I know you and Fangs probably plan on heading back home after we return, but I was wondering if there was any possibility you might want to try to talk things over with Dee.” Raven glared at him. “It isn’t fair to be putting her through all this,” Chip continued, “especially considering that she does care and never wanted to hurt you.”
“Don’t give me that shit!” Raven responded, “She had her chance to show me how much she cared... and she threw that chance away... and she threw me away with it! There is nothing she can say that I would want to hear... and there is nothing I have to say to that damn whore!”
Chip ground his teeth together hard as he did his best to keep from losing his temper.
Gadget moved in to prevent things from going any further. “Raven, maybe I should take you and Fangs home now, ok?” Raven didn’t respond, she simply climbed into the Ranger Plane with Fangs doing so shortly thereafter. After Gadget left with her two passengers, Dale and Foxglove did their best to calm Chip down before he took the controls of the Ranger Wing.
The trip to the church where Fangs lived and where Raven spent time to calm down was uncomfortably quiet. Once Raven had jumped out Gadget called after her, “Chip, is right. It isn’t fair to Dee to just write her off like this, you haven’t even tried to get to know her.” Raven merely stormed off, paying no heed to what her aunt was saying.
“I’ll see if there’s anything I can say to her,” Fangs offered as he disembarked, “once she’s no longer in the mood to kill anything that crosses her path.”
The sun had set in the west when Fangs got an opportunity to make good on his offer to speak to Raven about her mother. Raven had departed the church shortly after Gadget had dropped her off to check in with her adopted parents and have some lunch. She had told Fangs she would be back shortly after sunset and, true to her nature, was quite prompt.
Fangs wasn’t sure just how to bring up the subject, so he just brought it up plain. “I was wondering,” he started, “how much harm could it do to just talk with Dee?”
“What’s to talk about?” came Raven’s retort.
“Why she gave you up,” Fangs suggested bluntly. The young mouse didn’t respond. “You don’t have an answer for that question,” Fangs stated, “she does.” Still no response. It occurred to Fangs that perhaps Raven was afraid of what she might hear... that she didn’t want to confirm that her mother really didn’t want her, or didn’t want to face up to her hostile behavior if it was revealed that Dee actually did care for her. “So you don’t want to know?” he eventually asked.
“I don’t need to know!” Raven shot back.
The anger in her voice was enough to convince Fangs of his assumption. He was thankful that the perch he was at was out of Raven’s reach, it made asking the next question so much safer, “You’re afraid of what you’ll hear aren’t you?”
“I am not!” Raven shouted.
“Yes you are!” Fangs responded.
“I... am... not!” Raven growled.
“Yes... you... are!” Fangs replied. C’mon, prove me wrong! he thought to himself. Raven wasn’t the type to tolerate anyone implying that she was a coward, even if it was a friend... and Fangs knew this. Raven immediately began searching for some way to get up to where he was perched so she could make him understand the depth of his mistake. It was becoming quite clear to Fangs that his plan was starting to go awry. He desperately searched for someway to direct Raven’s anger in a more useful fashion... one that didn’t include his being maimed to any real extent. “If you’re not afraid, then go talk to her!” he shouted. Like you were supposed to! he thought.
Raven stopped searching for an avenue of assault and looked at Fangs. “Fine,” she growled, “if it will shut you up.”
Fangs let out a sigh of relief as Raven left. However, he began to feel uneasy about what he had done. “Why do I feel like I’ve just released Godzilla on an unsuspecting Tokyo?” he asked quietly, “I’d better keep an eye on her.”
As the last vestiges of daylight faded into the night, the Rangers, Dee and Foxglove were lined up on the couch before the television watching the movie ‘Midway’. Each had their own reasons for watching the classic war movie: Chip enjoyed the strategies involved in military battles, Dee enjoyed combat on epic scales (and being snuggled up beside her future husband), Dale enjoyed the action and explosions, Foxglove actually didn’t care much for the movie but did enjoy being snuggled up beside Dale, Monterey always had a fondness for war movies, and Gadget found a strange delight in seeing complex machinery being blown to pieces. The movie was nearing it’s end when there came a knock at the door.
“I’ll get it,” Gadget stated as she got up from the couch. “Hi, Fangs!” she greeted upon opening the door, “Is there something we can do for you?”
“Actually it’s the other way around,” Fangs responded. “Raven is on her way over to talk to Dee and I’m not quite sure what kind of mood she’ll be in when she gets here. She was kind of riled up when she left my place,” then he added a little sheepishly, “that’s, uh, my fault.”
“Why would that be your fault?” Gadget asked.
“Well, basically, I implied that she was a coward if she didn’t... so she’s kind of on her way over to prove me wrong. I just wanted to warn all of you about that before she arrives. And don’t let her know I’ve been here first, I don’t want her to know I’ve, well, gone behind her back.”
“Well, ok,” Gadget replied, “I’ll tell Dee.” Fangs nodded, then flew off.
Gadget returned to the couch and whispered Fangs message to her sister. Chip hadn’t heard the exchange at the door, or what Gadget had whispered, but he could tell by the way Dee tensed that it wasn’t exactly good news.
The hope Fangs had that Raven would be disposed to engage in a calm discourse with her mother had little chance, if any. Raven had long since made up her mind about the type of person Dee was. She expected insincere declarations of maternal love and any other lies she could think of to portray herself as a fallen angel, an otherwise devoted mother who had no other choice. Raven had little tolerance for being lied to and wasn’t looking forward to the pile that was going to be shoveled at her feet. Her anger grew with each exchange she envisioned. By the time Raven arrived everyone had ‘battened down the hatches’.
“I’d like to talk with Dee,” Raven stated when Gadget answered the door.
“Ok,” Gadget responded. “None of us will be using the kitchen for awhile if the two of you want to be alone,” she offered. It had been decided ahead of time that the kitchen, with all potential weapons stowed out of immediate reach, would be set aside for the meeting.
Awkward silence prevailed once Dee and Raven were left alone in the kitchen. Raven stood with arms crossed just glaring at her mother. Dee searched her mind for some way to start the ball rolling. But what does one say to a child they left more than a decade ago?
“I suppose I should explain why... I didn’t raise you,” Dee opened slowly.
“Ya’ suppose?” Raven replied sarcastically. “That might be nice. It might be nice... to know why the people I grew up calling ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ aren’t really my parents at all! It was nice to find out that I don’t even have a father! To find out that my mother was sleeping around with every Tom, Dick and Harry... and couldn’t be tied down by something as inconvenient as her own child!”
As Raven allowed a break in her rant, Dee tried to explain, “You make it sound like I tossed you aside like a half smoked cigarette! I didn’t leave you on the doorstep of a disreputable orphanage, I left you with my godparents, my mother’s closest friends, they were family... and I knew they could give you a far better life than I could.”
“How would you know?” Raven responded, “You didn’t even try!”
Dee was having difficulty finding a way to direct things in some constructive manner, to make some kind of inroad that would give her a chance to explain, “You don’t have the slightest clue what a parent has to go through-”
“Neither do you!” Raven snapped back, “You pawned off the responsibility on somebody else!” Anger had now completely clouded her logic, there was nothing left but to give voice to her rage, “You were too afraid to face up to your responsibilities, you were too chickenshit to deal with it!” Raven’s fury was reaching a critical level. “YOU WERE NOTHING BUT A DAMNED COWARD!!” she shouted.
That final word incited the greatest reaction in Dee’s mind. She had never allowed anyone to get away with calling her a coward... and no one ever made the mistake twice. All the pain that had been rising in her since seeing Raven’s own suffering was now focused in a single direction... one outlet. Dee clenched her fist and began to slowly raise it, her lips drawing back over her teeth. But part of her held back, refused to allow her body to go any further.
Raven noticed Dee’s reaction to her last accusation... part of her welcomed it. “What... you going to hit me?” she pressed, “Go ahead! Show me what a good mother you are!”
The part of Dee’s subconscious that held her back finally took control... made her realize what she’d almost done. Something broke... the walls she had built to protect herself from others were crumbling... falling in on top of her. There was nothing she could say... nothing she could do. Dee could feel tears welling up in her eyes. All her attempts at control were failing... the pain held her firmly in it’s grip. She wanted out... she wanted to run... run far away... to escape the pain.
Despite their efforts, the others couldn’t ignore the shouting they’d heard and they had begun to converge on the kitchen. The door flew open and Dee emerged in a state of great distress. She stopped for a moment, and in that moment Dale stepped forward.
“I-I’m sorry for causing all this,” Dale offered, “I didn’t want this to happen.”
Dee looked up at Dale, but through her tears all she could see was the cause of all her present misery. She didn’t even think... she just acted. The impact of her fist in his gut actually lifted Dale off his feet. He fell to the floor in a heap.
“DALE!” Foxglove yelled as she rushed to his side.
“Dee?! What’s the matter with you?!” Chip asked desperately as he rushed up to her.
For a brief moment, Dee was once more aware of what had transpired... and this time it wasn’t just her daughter who had been hurt. The solid ground upon which she could have rebuilt was now gone... everything in her world was gone... she felt herself falling into a dark void. There was no way to make amends... no way out. Dee slid the ring from her finger and let it drop to the floor.
The sound the metal band made as it struck the floor resounded like a cathedral bell in Chip’s mind. Dee fled before anyone could say anything... out the door and into the night... into the void.
While everyone was still very much in shock, Raven strode triumphantly from the kitchen. She had her revenge. She was pleased.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?!” Chip demanded.
“Nothing she didn’t have coming to her,” Raven responded calmly.
Chip could understand Raven being angry about the revelation that she was adopted, he could understand her wanting to scream, yell, swear and throw things. But this was different, whatever Raven had done to cause Dee that much pain and that much confusion had to be intentional... premeditated.
This ‘girl’ had apparently gone out of her way to cause Dee as much pain as possible... and, of all things, seemed very proud of what she’d done. He couldn’t accept that she could be that malicious and hateful towards someone he loved that much, towards someone who had never intended her any pain whatsoever. Every muscle in Chip’s body tensed, it seemed that, at any moment, his anger would cause him to literally explode. Monterey and Gadget grabbed hold of Chip before he could do anything he would undoubtedly regret.
Gadget herself... kind, gentle Gadget, had to fight back the urge to strike the arrogant, snot nosed brat. That realization, in and of itself, added to her own anger. “Raven, I think it’s time for you to leave,” Gadget declared, “Now!”
Raven simply shrugged and walked away.
“HOW COULD SHE DO THAT?!” Chip yelled once Raven had gone. Nobody had an answer for him. He paced angrily back and forth.
Gadget released a deep sigh. “What do we do now?” she asked.
Chip stopped pacing and observed the engagement ring at his feet. He bent down and picked it up. “I’m going after her,” he resolutely stated.
“Which one?” Monterey asked.
“Dee.” As Chip was on his way out he nearly collided with Zipper, who was reporting back as ordered. Chip didn’t seem to notice him.
When Zipper entered, he noticed Dale sitting propped up by a wall in obvious discomfort with Foxglove by his side, Monterey and Gadget were nearby and clearly distraught. He flew up to Monterey and shrugged as if asking ‘What happened?’
Raven was on her way back to the church when something occurred to her. Fangs will probably ask how things went, she reasoned, Then he’ll probably complain that I didn’t give her a chance to explain herself. Who died and made him my conscience? Raven changed direction and headed towards home.
This was the first time in the past few days that Raven felt like her life made sense again. She had won back her sense of security, she was sure of where she belonged. She was going home. It was her home once more, she had reclaimed it. It was where her parents lived. They may not be parents by blood but they had always done what parents should do.
Yes, they lied to me, she thought, but it was to save me from unnecessary pain.
Somewhere in her mind a voice asked, What if Dee had wanted you back? She couldn’t just waltz right back into your life because of the pain it might, and has caused. She would have let you live with the lie just like the Southmonts. How is that any different? Isn’t that what a real mother would’ve done?
Raven shook her head. No, she made that choice and she stuck with it, she reassured herself, She didn’t want me, she didn’t care. Raven continued to convince herself that she had won, that she had banished the harpy that had willingly caused her so much pain.
But she wasn’t the one who told you that you were adopted, the voice pointed out, That event was sprung on her as much as it was sprung on you. That hadn’t been her choice. How do you know she wasn’t willing to let you live with the lie and thereby ensure your happiness, your sense of security?
No! Raven shouted back, What I did was right! She deserved it for what she did to me!
‘What she did to you’? the voice echoed, What she did was try to protect you from pain.
Raven walked up to the door of her home within the interior wall of a department store. She hadn’t anticipated the sight that greeted her when she opened the door. On the couch sat her adopted mother and clinging to her, sobbing painfully, was Dee. Her face was buried in Ann’s chest, the fur on her cheeks matted down from continual crying, the tears eventually having been absorbed into Ann’s blouse. Raven also noticed that Ann, herself, had been crying.
Everyone but Dee looked up when Raven entered. Ben gently escorted his daughter into the next room and closed the door behind them. He motioned for her to take a seat, when Raven did so he took a chair and sat facing her.
Ben searched his mind for something to say. “Do you know how badly you hurt her?” he eventually asked gently. “We haven’t seen her this upset since... well, since she was your age,” he added.
Raven almost felt insulted. “Well I couldn’t stand being told that I don’t know what a parent has to go through by someone who didn’t have the courage to even try to raise a child!” she responded defensively.
“You don’t know what it’s like for a parent to lose a child... she does,” Ben replied.
“She didn’t lose a child,” Raven countered, “she gave me away!”
Ben sighed, he hoped she could keep her calm long enough for him to get his point across. “She didn’t tell you about your sister, did she?” he asked. You probably didn’t give her the chance, Ben thought.
This was the first Raven had ever heard of the subject.
“You weren’t an only child,” Ben opened, “there was one other in your litter, your sister Rebecca. I was there when the doctors let Dee hold both of you, she was happier than I’d ever seen her. The next morning... a doctor explained to her that one of her babies was dead. She wasn’t any older than you are now, she shouldn’t even have been a mother yet, but she was willing to face up to her responsibilities. But two days into her motherhood she was hit with the hardest thing any parent could ever face... some adults can’t even deal with that, but she was just a child! Over the next few days she spent crying she came to the realization that she wasn’t ready, she had the presence of mind to know she couldn’t give you the childhood you deserved. That’s why she gave you to us.”
With all the thought Raven had given to what Dee would say to her, no consideration had been given to the possibility that Dee actually had a good reason for what she had done. Raven had assumed the worst about her mother from the start, it never occurred to her that anything like what she had just heard could have happened.
“Dee was like our own child,” Ben continued, “We helped to raise her, and we suffered with her when Becky died.” It was becoming harder for him to hold back his emotions as he spoke. “We were willing to do anything for her, so when she asked us to care for you like you were our own flesh and blood... we couldn’t turn her away.” Ben could feel tears begin to form in his eyes. “The only thing she ever wanted was for you to have the best possible chance at life.” A tear began to roll down his cheek as he continued, “And one day she kissed you goodbye, handed you to us, and went to her room and cried... and she cried for a long time.”
Raven almost felt ashamed... almost. She wasn’t ready to accept that she had been that wrong. “But why didn’t she ever tell me any of this earlier?” she asked.
“Did you ever give her a chance?” her father bluntly asked.
Raven knew very well that she hadn’t, but she wasn’t about to admit it. She was willing to accept that she had overreacted, but not that she was wrong. Raven wasn’t yet willing to swallow her pride. “I’m going to be in my room,” she finally stated. With that she got up and left. But there was something gnawing at her, something she was trying very hard to ignore.
Chip hadn’t given too much thought, initially, as to just how he was going to find Dee. When he reached the base of the tree and had to choose a direction it finally struck him. He sniffed at the air, trying to catch the faint scent of burnt fur that always clung to Dee’s jumpsuit.
“Nothing,” Chip mumbled to himself. The thought occurred to him that Dee, in her distress, might have run aimlessly to escape the pain. No, Chip thought, even if she hadn’t given any thought as to where she was running she would eventually choose a destination. But where? She’s never been to the city before. She’ll want to go someplace familiar, someplace safe. But what else around here would be familiar to her? Chip had already wandered out of the park by the time an answer popped into his head, “Romulus.”
The studio where Canina and the wolves were staying was rather quiet when Chip arrived. When he entered Canina’s trailer he quickly surveyed his surroundings for any sign of Dee, but only saw two wolves sprawled across the floor. “Dee!” Chip called out. There was no answer. He called out again, and again received no answer. “Hope they’re not sleeping too soundly,” Chip sighed as he decided to ask the wolves about Dee’s whereabouts. He approached close to one of Romulus’ ears, “Romulus?”
“Ee-yup?” the wolf drawled without bothering to open his eyes.
“I need to ask you a question,” Chip stated plainly.
“Rub my tummy and I’ll tell you anything,” Romulus replied playfully.
Chip wasn’t quite used to that type of answer, “What?”
Romulus, who was now nearly on his back, opened his eyes and noticed the chipmunk. “Oh!” he exclaimed, “I thought you were Dee- er Canina- er Virginia... yeah, Virginia, that’s it.”
That response was even more unusual, so it took Chip a moment to remember what he was going to ask, “Has Dee been through here?”
The wolf, still laying pretty much on his back and looking at Chip upside down, responded questioningly, “No, why?”
“She had a falling out with Raven tonight, Dee ran off and I’m not sure where she ran off to,” Chip explained, “Since she’s part of your pack I thought maybe she’d come here.”
Romulus rolled onto his stomach and sniffed at the air around him. Her scent was there, but it was too weak to have been left recently. Romulus shook his head. “No, ain’t been here today,” he answered.
“Do you have any idea where she would be?” Chip asked with obvious concern, “You’ve known her longer than I have.”
The carnivore laid his head on the floor as he thought. His ears suddenly perked up. “What about her godparents?” Romulus suggested, “She’s known them since she was a pup... and from what she’s told me they practically were her parents, at least ‘til Raven was born.”
Chip smacked himself in the forehead as he reprimanded himself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Chip thanked the wolf as he quickly departed. Romulus stood and stretched. After shaking himself from nose to tail to straighten his coat he turned to his brother, “When Canina gets back tell her I’ll be back before too long.” After receiving a confirmation honk, Romulus left.
Dee’s sobbing had slowly died down, and with Raven’s arrival she was seized with a strong desire to make herself scarce. “I suppose I should be leaving now,” she mentioned weakly, sniffing back the last few tears.
“You don’t have to,” Ann responded softly, “Raven may have had the right to be angry, but she has no right to drive you away like this.”
“No,” Dee replied, “I really should go.”
“Where?” Ann asked.
“Home,” Dee answered.
“You should at least try to work things out with Chip before you go,” Ann suggested as Dee stood to leave.
“I... I don’t think I can face him, not after what I’ve done,” Dee stated.
“That’s not the Doohickey I spoke to this morning,” Ann rebutted.
“I know,” Dee whispered as she left.
Chip grew ever closer to the alley that led to the rodents’ entry to the department store where the Southmont’s lived. As he continued, it occurred to him that Raven might have decided to actually head home rather than talk things out with Fangs. If that were true than it may have made things worse if Dee were already there. What if Dee left rather than deal with Raven again? he thought, What if she didn’t head this way at all? Uncertainty gnawed at his gut. As Chip’s uncertainty grew so did his anger towards Raven. Why? he asked himself, Why did she have to be that vicious? He hadn’t heard the exact exchange between mother and daughter but he knew that whatever Raven had said must have been deliberate. Dee hadn’t done anything to justify an attack like that!
Chip was so consumed with his thoughts that he didn’t notice the mouse walking in his direction until they almost collided. He recognized her in an instant, “Dee?!” She hadn’t even been aware there was anyone or anything else in the ally. All she was aware of was the area immediately in front of her feet, but at the sound of Chip’s voice she looked up into the face of the chipmunk she loved. She looked horrible. Her eyes were red and swollen form crying, the fur on her cheeks was caked from the tears, her bearing that had been proud and confident was haggard and weak. Without even thinking, Chip threw his arms around her and held her for all he was worth. Within moments, Dee followed suit.
At the entrance to the alley a predator eyed the two rodents. They were preoccupied, in the open... an easy meal. With appropriately feline precision he approached the lovers slowly, judging the distance to target. His muscles tensed. In an instant a great force came down upon the predator’s neck and he was pinned to the pavement. Before he could muster the strength to pull himself free, he found himself airborne. Landing several feet away he quickly looked back to where he had been, but only long enough to get a fleeting glimpse of the massive grey canine that had preempted his attack, that was all he could stand. Romulus backed into the shadows and kept watch over his friends.
Dee clung to Chip with all her heart and soul. He had come for her... come to rescue her... to pull her free of the void into which she had fallen. He had not abandoned her. Dee had said she was going home... and she had. She was home.
“Why is it all the women in that family seem intent on causing Dale some kind of physical harm?” Foxglove asked rhetorically as she got her sweetie a thimble of soda.
“Don’t know, luv,” Monterey responded as he grabbed a hunk of cheese for himself, “Just be glad there aren’t any others.” Then he finished with a laugh, “If there were I don’t think Dale would survive.”
Foxglove didn’t quite see what was so humorous about Dale’s misfortune, but she kept her peace anyway and returned to the couch. “Here you go, cute stuff,” she said handing Dale the thimble, “Is there anything else you need?”
Dale thought for a moment. He actually liked having Foxglove cater to his every whim. It even entered his mind to ask for a back rub, but the presence of Monterey, Gadget and Zipper would have made it a little too awkward. “That’s ok, Foxy, I’m fine,” Dale finally answered.
“Well if you need anything at all, just ask,” Foxglove reminded him.
Shortly after Foxglove had settle down beside Dale the door opened. Everyone turned to see who it was, hoping to see two rodents in particular. Chip entered with an arm around Dee. Dee could have looked much better, but given what she had just been through no one minded her bedraggled appearance.
“Dee!” Gadget shouted as she rushed up to her sister and future brother-in-law, “We were so worried!” Gadget quickly turned to Chip, “Where did you find her?”
“He found me on my way out of town,” Dee responded, and it was clear by the sound of her voice that she had yet to completely recover from what had transpired earlier.
“Now why would you go and do something like that?” Monterey asked as he walked up to the group.
“I... I didn’t think I’d be welcome here anymore,” Dee answered sheepishly, “Not after how I behaved.”
“Nonsense!” Monterey replied, “Nobody could expect you to be perfectly rational, what with the mood you were in.”
“And besides, you’re family,” Gadget added, “And what good is family if they can’t forgive you for a perfectly logical reaction. Well, not really ‘logical’, but it was a logical response for you if one takes into account the kind of emotional state you were in.”
Dee actually smiled when Gadget finished her explanation. “There! Y’see? You’re already starting to look like your old self!” Monterey cheered when he saw her expression. “And now that we ‘ave you back safe and sound we can get back to the case.”
“Zipper showed up just as you all left,” Foxglove joined in, “He has a pretty good idea where the diamond is.”
“What did you find out?” Chip asked.
Through squeaks, buzzes and an impressive display in pantomime Zipper explained what had occurred. He recounted that he followed Winifred on her motorcycle to a gas station where she entered the restroom. While out of sight of any obvious witnesses she cast a spell to become invisible and left. Zipper attempted to follow along by tracking the sound of her footsteps but had soon lost her. With little other choice, he returned to the motorcycle to wait for Winifred to return. He hadn’t waited long when she eventually emerged from the gas station’s restroom completely visible. Before leaving, Winifred had mumbled something about having to retrieve the diamond the next day.
“She had to have been checking on the diamond,” Monterey stated when Zipper was finished, “to make sure it was where she left it.”
“Right,” Chip agreed, “But even though we know the general vicinity there’s still quite a bit of ground to cover if we’re going to find the diamond before tomorrow, how can we narrow down the area to be searched?”
Gadget thought for a moment. “Well, we could take the amount of time it took Freddie to go from the restroom and back and divide that by two which would give us the amount of time it took her to get to where she hid the diamond, then with that we could calculate, according to the average walking speed for a human her size, the maximum distance she could have gone in any direction. That would give us a specifically outlined area in which to search... which in turn could be narrowed down further by determining exactly where she was and what direction she was heading when Zipper lost track of her.”
“Well I was thinking we could have Romulus, Honker and Canina track her scent,” Dale offered.
“Or we could do that,” Gadget responded.
“Hey, Dale, you could probably track her, you’ve got a pretty sensitive snout,” Monterey suggested.
“As sensitive as his nose may be we’d still have a better chance with the wolves,” Dee interjected, “Their survival depends on tracking.”
“The problem with that is they wouldn’t know her scent from anyone else’s, it’s not like they’ve met her before,” Monterey pointed out.
“I know, but Dale has, and he probably reeks of her stink considering how she pawed him earlier today,” Dee added in defense.
“Ah!” Dale declared, “Toupé!”
“That’s ‘touché’,” Chip grumbled.
“Right!” Dale responded.
Later, in the shadow of a dumpster behind a gas station in a less than affluent section of town, the Rangers, Dee, Foxglove and the wolves gathered together. Canina would have joined them except she needed a good night’s rest for the next day’s shoot.
“Ok, boys,” Dee said, “Take a good whiff!”
Romulus bent down till his nose was practically touching Dale and, with a loud SNIFFFFF, inhaled deeply... so deeply, in fact, it lifted him off his feet and pinned him to the wolf’s snout. When Romulus finished inhaling Dale fell to the pavement with a BOOF. “Got Hors-d’oeuvre’s scent!”
“Hors-d’oeuvre?” Foxglove asked Dee with obvious concern.
“That’s just his nickname for Dale, doesn’t mean anything,” Dee answered reassuringly.
With a SNIFFFFF-BOOF Honker smelled Dale.
Then Romulus: SNIFFFFF-BOOF “Ooh!” the wolf responded excitedly, “Got Foxglove’s scent!”
Then Honker: SNIFFFFF-BOOF “Honk!” he confirmed.
Romulus bent down again: SNIFFFFF-BOOF
Honker followed suit: SNIFFFFF-BOOF
Then Romulus: SNIFFFFF-BOOF
Then Honker: SNIFFFFF-BOOF
The two took turns smelling Dale for some time before Chip asked, “Haven’t you got her scent yet?”
“Oh, I had her scent since the third sniff,” Romulus responded, “Now we’re just trying to see which of us can keep him in the air longer!” Foxglove ran up and pulled Dale away from the wolves before they could start another round. Having thus confirmed they had the witch’s scent the two canines proceeded tracking with the others hitching a ride on their backs.
Following the invisible trail of dead skin cells, pheromones and other particles that comprised Winifred’s unique scent, and periodically pausing for traffic, the group arrived at a darkened building. It seemed completely void of human habitation. The trail led inside and, after a while, came to a stop.
“Nothing,” Romulus stated, “Can you find anything, Honker?” Honker shook his head in answer. “She must have turned back around here,” Romulus deduced.
“But there’s no place she could have hidden the diamond in here,” Chip responded as he looked around at the featureless walls and bare floor.
“She could’ve made it invisible for all we know,” Dee suggested.
“Or she coulda’ levitated it to another floor,” Dale tossed in.
Honker had started sniffing around the base of a column when Chip turned to ask Foxglove a question, “Could you try using your-”
“HEY, YOU, DOG... GET AWAY FROM THERE!!” a human male shouted. All turned to see a dark figure standing in a large opening in the far wall. No features could be made out through the glare of his flashlight. “GO! GET OUTTA’ HERE!” the human shouted. His words were soon followed by the sound of a gunshot.
At the sound of the report both Romulus and Honker bolted from the scene and fled as quickly as their legs could carry them. They ran for quite some time with their bewildered passengers hanging on as best they could. Eventually, the two wolves came to a stop behind a pile of boxes in an a dark alley. Though he was not the type to admit the fact, it was clear from the position of his ears and head that Romulus was frightened. Honker’s fear was even more apparent as he was shaking quite noticeably. The Rangers and Foxglove slowly lowered themselves down to the pavement.
“Huh, so much for ‘the mighty hunter’,” Monterey snorted sarcastically. He was promptly pinned to the pavement by one of Romulus’s enormous paws.
“Listen, you bloated rat,” Romulus snarled, “You’re not the one who has to live in fear of being hunted down and murdered simply because you exist!” There was a slight wavering in his voice that would have gone unnoticed... but for Dee, who was still sitting on his back, it was very clear as he continued, “You’re not the one who has nightmares of your pups’ skins being tacked up on a hunter’s wall as trophies!” Romulus looked around a bit, then asked in near panic, “Where’s Dee?!”
“I’m right here,” Dee answered gently as she clung to the hair near one of his ears. “It’s ok,” she reassured him, “I’m safe... you’re safe... we’re in no danger.” Still somewhat agitated, Romulus let up on Monterey. “Maybe we should head back to the trailer,” Dee suggested.
“You’re right,” Chip agreed, “There really wasn’t much more we could do back there. With a security guard patrolling around Freddie wouldn’t have left the diamond anywhere easy to find.”
“Ok, everyone, climb on,” Romulus muttered.
At Canina’s trailer the Rangers, Foxglove and Dee prepared to part company with the wolves. As everyone was preparing to leave in the Ranger Wing and the Ranger Plane Dee held back. “If no one minds too much, I’d like to stay behind for awhile,” she explained.
“Sure,” Chip responded, “Stay as long as you need.” As he watched her walk off back to the trailer he turned to the others, “You guys head back in the Ranger Plane. I’ll be along shortly, I just want to check to see if she would want to have someone pick her up later.” When the others had left, Chip walked up to the trailer door. He heard Dee and Romulus talking and decided to listen for awhile before entering.
“I can’t believe I panicked like that,” Romulus started in a disgusted tone, “I came all the way here to keep an eye on you and I wind up running off like a scared pup... it didn’t even occur to me that I might have left you behind until after I saved my own hide!”
“There was nothing wrong with that,” Dee responded, “You’ve been afraid of humans a lot longer than you’ve known me. If I’d had the chance I would have told you and Honker to make yourselves scarce anyway, you were the ones in danger.” The mouse drew closer to the wolf as she continued gently, “I know what it took for you to come here and the chance you’ve taken... and the chance you’re taking by staying... and I’d tell you to leave if I thought you actually would so I don’t want you to add to your problems by beating yourself up over this. You did what you should have done.” Dee added seriously, “I don’t want you... or Honker, risking yourselves unless there were no other choice.”
“You know I couldn’t live with myself if you were killed and I knew there was something I could have done to prevent it,” Romulus stated.
“And you should know that I couldn’t live with myself if you got yourself killed because you feel an obligation to protect me,” Dee replied with obvious concern. “You and Honker should get some sleep,” she continued, “You’ll feel much better in the morning and everything that happened tonight will just seem like a bad dream.” Dee observed the large furry ball in the near corner, “Honker’s probably already asleep.”
“You’re right,” Romulus conceded as he began to curl up, “You’re always right.”
“That’s why I’m the alpha!” Dee added playfully.
“Don’t let Virginia hear that!” the wolf responded in an equally playful manner.
Dee began humming a tune as Romulus closed his eyes. Dee paused, then began to sing gently...
When the moon on a cloud cast night
Hung above the tree tops height
You sang me of some distant past
That made my heart beat strong and fast
Now I know I’m home at last
As she had begun to sing Romulus gazed upon her one more time before closing his eyes and covering his face with his tail.
You offered me an eagle’s wing
That to the sun I might soar and sing
And if I heard the owl’s cry
Into the forest I would fly
And in it’s darkness find you by
Part of Chip’s stomach dropped out as he heard Dee sing so sweetly. He’d thought she only sung like that for him... he never imagined having competition, at least not at this point.
And so our love’s not a simple thing
Nor our truths unwavering
But like the moon’s pull on the tide
Our fingers touch our hearts collide
I’ll be a moons breath from your side
He didn’t want to compete with a predator hundreds of times his size...
I’ll be a moons breath from your side
But for one heart he was willing to try.
I’ll be a moons breath from your side
Chip was still waiting outside when Dee quietly emerged. When she saw him she nearly jumped out of her skin. “Geez, I thought you’d all left!” she remarked as she leaned against the wall for support.
“Well, I, um, wanted to make sure you had a ride back,” Chip stammered.
“Well, that’s sweet!” Dee responded.
“That was... a beautiful song,” Chip mentioned, taking a chance, “What was it?”
Dee realized he’d been listening at the door, but didn’t immediately see a problem. “That was ‘Samain Night’... by Loreena McKennitt,” she answered.
“Oh,” Chip replied. He wasn’t sure where to go next as they walked towards the Ranger Wing. Chip eventually stumbled into the more direct route, “Is... is there... something between you and Romulus?”
Dee looked at him for a moment, honestly unaware of what he meant, until it dawned on her what Chip must have been thinking. “Nothing you should be worried about,” she answered, “He was in love with me, and I did have feelings for him, but we knew if we let things go too far it would hurt the pack... and that was something neither of us could bring ourselves to do.”
Dee knew she had to tread carefully, she didn’t want to hurt Chip, not after he came for her earlier that night. “And we do still love each other dearly as friends, the same as you and Dale love Gadget. You would have loved to have a more intimate relationship but knew if you did it would hurt someone you cared about... and you couldn’t do that. She’s more than a friend, more than a teammate, someone for whom you would lay down your life for in an instant, but not a lover. It’s the same with me and Romulus.”
Now standing by the Ranger Wing, Dee wanted to make matters as clear as possible because she now knew she couldn’t afford to lose Chip. Dee took his hands as she continued, “Even if Romulus were a chipmunk, or mouse for that matter, I’d still choose to be with you. Killing comes too easily for him... I know it’s a matter of survival for him, but... I have killed before, and I don’t like that even if it was in self defense. If I were with him the way I want to be with you I know I would fall, and I don’t want that. But I know that won’t happen if I’m with you, because you won’t let it happen, you won’t let me fall... you’re above that... above me... you’re more than I deserve.”
“You couldn’t fall,” Chip responded as he saw a tear forming in the eyes of his love, “You risked your life to save a young wolf- a predator that would have gladly eaten you. Even when the pack’s leader told you not to try... you went ahead anyway. You, one mouse, shamed him and the rest of the pack into helping you save that one life. No, you couldn’t fall, not the way you’re saying you could... I won’t believe that you need to be saved from yourself.”
“But there is something you can save me from,” Dee said with a weak smile.
“What’s that?” Chip asked.
“You can save me from being alone,” Dee answered as a tear rolled down her cheek. The two lovers embraced tightly, renewed in their faith in one another.
“Ready to head home?” Chip asked when they parted.
“Yeah,” Dee answered. “It’s been an eventful past couple days,” she commented as she climbed into the Ranger Wing, “If it get’s any more eventful I don’t think I’ll survive,” Dee added with a laugh. While airborne Dee turned to Chip, “Y’all got a tape recorder and blank tape back home, right?”
“Sure,” Chip answered, “Why?”
“I’ll explain after we land,” Dee answered.
“Um, hi,” Fangs said nervously as Ben answered the door.
“Hi,” Ben responded laconically.
“Is Raven here?” Fangs eventually asked.
“She’s in her room,” Ben answered.
“Ok,” Fangs said with a measure of relief, “I lost track of her after she left to talk with Dee.”
“Oh,” Ben responded blandly. “You did a wonderful job,” he added with obvious sarcasm. Fangs had hoped someone would say those words about what he’d done earlier that night, but the elder mouse’s tone of voice caused a knot to form in his stomach. “When Dee got here she was an absolute mess,” Ben continued, “Do you know what it’s like to see someone you care about in that much pain?”
Seeing the increasing look of panic on Fangs’ face, Ann intervened, “Ben, please... Fangs, I know you meant well, but you can’t just throw two people like that together and expect them to work things out peacefully when one of them is already upset. Let them deal with this in their own way and in their own time.”
“Right... sorry,” Fangs replied sheepishly, “Can I... talk to her?” Ann motioned Fangs inside. When he reached the door to Raven’s door he knocked.
“Yeah?” Raven responded at the sound.
“It’s me,” Fangs mentioned as he entered. Inside he found Raven sitting cross legged on her bed levitating a poker chip with one hand while spinning the disk with the other. At least she’s not too upset, Fangs thought. “Guess things didn’t go all that well,” he opened.
“Things could’ve gone better,” Raven replied without taking her concentration off the poker chip. She then released the chip from her mystical grasp, caught it and laid it on the bed before her.
“Do you think anything at all was gained from all this?” Fangs asked as he sat down at Raven’s side.
“Not really,” the young mouse responded as she gazed at a finger, slowly lowering it towards her companion’s wing without his notice. With a flash and ‘crack’ a small charge was released from Raven’s finger at the unsuspecting bat.
“OW!” Fangs shouted as he rubbed the sore spot on his limb.
“That was for implying I was a coward,” Raven calmly explained.
“I guess I should consider it a good thing you didn’t get a chance to use that diamond,” Fangs stated, “I’m not sure you’d be too safe to be around.”
“Just remember not to tick me off in the future,” Raven reminded him.
“We still going to try to help the Rangers get the diamond back?” Fangs asked, still rubbing his wing.
“Whether they like it or not,” Raven answered with certainty.
“Why?” Fangs wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the answer, but the question was asked.
Raven shrugged. “It’s the right thing to do I guess,” she answered blandly.
The certainty of the first answer fit poorly with the uncertainty of the second. Fangs realized that Raven wasn’t putting herself through this because it was ‘the right thing to do’ but he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to believe the other option. He briefly thought of pressing the issue but figured Raven wouldn’t take it too well, so he let the matter die.
The next morning a street map of the city lay spread upon the table before Chip. Pointing to a site on the map he stated, “Zipper, this is where we’ll be stationed. As soon as Freddie leaves the apartment meet us here.” Zipper nodded in understanding. “Foxglove,” Chip said as he turned to her, “Since Freddie-” A knocking at the door cut Chip off. As Dale left to attend to the caller Chip continued, “Foxglove, since Freddie will probably be invisible when she goes after the diamond we’ll need you to use your sonar to locate and follow her.”
“Um, Chip?” Dale asked with uncertainty.
As everyone turned they saw Dale with Raven and Fangs immediately behind him. Before anyone could speak Raven stepped forward. “We were wondering if there was still anything we can help with,” she stated bluntly.
“I think we’ve had just about enough of your help,” Chip responded coldly.
Raven was preparing to apologize for the previous night... she didn’t want to, but she was willing to in order to get back on the case. However, her apology was delayed as she watched Dee pull Chip aside.
“Ya’ got some nerve coming back here,” Monterey scolded Raven lightly as Dee and Chip talked.
Raven knew she had to keep her cool if things were going to go her way. And it occurred to her that, being in a calm state, she could ‘zap’ him as she did Fangs the previous night. However, she understood that such an act would torpedo her efforts. “Do you think it’s easy for me to come back here?” she finally responded.
“Well, you do look unnaturally calm about it,” Monterey countered.
As Raven glared at Monterey, Chip returned to the group. “Against my better judgement we’ll let you tag along,” he said to Raven specifically. Turning to Fangs, Chip continued, “You can help Foxglove locate and track Freddie when she comes to get the diamond... we found out last night that she’s been going around invisible to where she’s kept the diamond hidden and is planning to retrieve it today.”
“Raven, could you use your magic to counter Freddie’s invisibility?” Dee asked. Everyone was surprised with the ease with which she addressed her daughter, especially considering what had passed between them the previous night.
Raven was taken aback, she didn’t expect Dee to address her personally, much less in a calm and normal voice... as if nothing had happened. After a few moments of stunned silence she responded, “Um, no, not really. Such spells exist but I don’t know any of them, and if I did I couldn’t guarantee any would work since I’d have had no way to practice them.” Technically, Raven was lying. Even though she couldn’t make Winifred visible to others, she knew that invisibility spells weren’t as effective in deceiving those who are sensitive to magic... but she had no intention of telling the others... she had her own plans.
At the entrance to an alley facing the abandoned structure within which the diamond was hidden the passengers disembarked from the Ranger Wing and Ranger Plane. Most of them came together in a group while Gadget remained behind to unpack some equipment. Once she had done so she joined the others.
“Here you go, Foxglove,” Gadget stated as she handed her a small headset. Foxglove slipped it onto her head and adjusted the improvised microphone. “And for you, Chip,” Gadget continued as she handed him a slightly larger version. Chip removed his trademark fedora and fitted on his headset. As he did so Gadget proceeded to speak, “Now because I had to make Foxglove’s set small enough for her to comfortably fly with it doesn’t have as much power as I’d like so we’ll have to follow her into the building to keep the distance between the two sets as small as possible. Fangs, I couldn’t make one for you because we didn’t think you and Raven would show up today so you’ll have to relay any messages to Foxglove... and vice versa.”
“Now all we do now is wait for Zipper to come and tell us when Freddie’s on her way,” Chip stated.
As the group awaited Zipper’s arrival they milled about. Both Gadget and Dee looked at the building across the street. There was something about it’s appearance and the accompanying lack of traffic that piqued their interest. Gadget was merely curious. Dee, on the other hand, was a little troubled, but being unable to deduce the justification for her concern she remained silent.
Zipper soon arrived with news of Winifred’s imminent arrival on her motorcycle. The group immediately dispatched for the building with Foxglove and Fangs taking up positions to look out, and ‘hear’ out, for the witch.
“Why wouldn’t she be flying in on a vacuum cleaner? That is her M.O. isn’t it?” Raven asked once inside the structure.
“She’s out on parole,” Dee responded, “so she’s not about to do something that might draw unwanted attention.”
“Oh,” Raven replied simply. She was still a little confused by Dee treating her like nothing had happened, there was no hint of anger in her voice and was therefore rather confusing.
As Gadget looked around the room they were in she finally realized why the building looked the way it did. “That makes sense,” she stated aloud, “It’s been prepared for demolition.”
“That would explain why she wants to move the diamond,” Monterey commented.
“Here she comes!” Chip heard Foxglove call over the headset, “Both she and her bike are invisible.”
“Roger,” Chip responded, “Keep us informed on where she comes in and where she goes.”
“Understood,” Foxglove called back. She followed Winifred into the building, all the while keeping Chip updated on her progress. Foxglove was soon joined by Fangs who had heard Winifred approach.
Following Foxglove’s directions Chip led the others through the building. But while everyone was focused on following Chip’s lead Raven went off on her own.
“She’s airborne!” Foxglove relayed to Chip, “She’s heading up to the second floor.”
“Great,” Chip grumbled, “Anyone see a quick way up to the second floor?”
As everyone looked about for a staircase Gadget saw something that caused the fur on the back of her neck to stand on end. “Chip!” she called out, “We have to get out of here now!”
“Why?” Chip asked.
“Because the explosives have been wired! They don’t do that until the last few minutes before they’re ready to set them off, and since we didn’t see anyone moving about in here when we arrived we can only assume this place will blow at any moment!” Gadget hurriedly explained.
“Foxglove!” Chip called into the microphone, “You and Fangs get out now!”
“But-” Foxglove tried to respond.
“Don’t argue! Get out of the building!” Chip reiterated.
“Understood!” Foxglove called back as she motioned Fangs to leave. When they got out through one of the empty windows they noticed the group of rodents below racing across the street towards the alley.
Once safely behind a box in the alley Chip asked, “Everyone here?” Everyone looked about for the rest.
“Raven?” Dee asked when she couldn’t locate her daughter. Her blood turned to ice when there was no response. The distraught mother raced past Chip and out of the alley.
“DEE!” Chip called out as he lunged for her as she passed, only to wind up face first on the pavement. He was soon on his feet again and raced after his fiancé.
Fangs was startled by the sudden roar of a motorcycle engine. He quickly ascertained where it was and where it was headed and flew out after Chip. Coming about, he tackled Chip and the two of them tumbled back towards the ally just as Winifred’s motorcycle sped by just inches away. The cloud of dust kicked up by the wheels temporarily blinded both of them.
Before he could head back towards the building Chip was grabbed by Monterey. “Sorry, Pally, but we can’t all go back in after her!” he stated as he carried both Chip and Fangs back to the alley, one under each arm. Upon reaching the curb they could hear the countdown being called out over a megaphone.
Safely shielded by the boxes in the alley everyone peered around the corner to watch for the mother and daughter to emerge. Chip continued to struggle against Monterey’s grip until he saw two mouse-sized forms race out through an opening near the ground.
Dee and Raven, racing on all fours, leapt from the curb onto the street. Shortly after landing the countdown ended. Dee grabbed Raven by the collar of her trench coat and threw her to the pavement in front of her. Raven instinctively balled up with her forelimbs covering her head. Dee crouched down over her daughter, covering her as much as was physically possible.
Raven felt Dee lurch forward with a slight grunt as the pressure wave from the first detonation hit them. The ground began to shake violently as tons upon tons of brick, mortar, stone, steel and wood came crashing down. The Rangers, Fangs and Foxglove watched as a billowing cloud of dust and debris quickly swallowed the huddled figures before they were forced to duck behind the boxes. Soon, everything within a city block in all directions was engulfed in a haze of brownish grey dust.
Once the ground had ceased shaking and the winds died down Raven opened her eyes. “I think it’s over,” she muttered quietly. Raven felt Dee slowly lower herself to the pavement, coughing periodically. As she came to rest at her side Raven sat up. “You ok?” she asked out of standard concern.
Beside her, Raven observed Dee laying on her right side breathing in short gasps, a trail of blood emanating from the corner of her mouth. Looking over the rest of Dee’s form she noticed something protruding from just below her right breast. It appeared to be a sliver of wood. Raven began to feel cold all over as she leaned forward to examine Dee’s back. A far longer length of wood jutted out from the fabric of the black jumpsuit. It was then that she noticed the growing pool of blood on the pavement below.
Raven sat back up completely at a loss for what to do. As Dee coughed again she looked to her face. Her eyes were glassy and nearly closed. As Raven watched, Dee turned her head slightly and looked up at her daughter. “I’m sorry,” Dee managed in a hoarse whisper before laying her head down and closing her eyes. The cold Raven felt disappeared... all feeling disappeared, she was completely numb with shock.
Call for help! a voice in Raven’s mind cried out, For God’s sake, CALL FOR HELP!! Her first attempt failed, not a sound came from her throat. Raven tried again, “Help!” Louder! the voice commanded. “HELP!” Raven yelled, “SOMEBODY, HE-E-E-LP! ANYBODY!! HE-E-E-E-E-LP!!”
The Rescue Rangers were fairly well known to the staff of the Saint Bernard Veterinary Hospital. Though they rarely needed the specialized medical services themselves they would occasionally bring in the more seriously wounded whom they had rescued. Some of the staff took comfort in the calm and professional manner with which the Rangers comported themselves in such situations... but they seemed unusually troubled when they brought in two mice.
Chip paced back and forth through the waiting room. For those unaware of the situation they’d swear he was awaiting word from the maternity ward. Dale, Monterey, Fangs, and Zipper were all seated nearby, all of whom were also quite anxious. As the door to the waiting room opened all turned to see who was coming out. Gadget emerged with one arm around Raven and the girl’s trench coat in the other. The ugly splotch of dried blood on the coat was an uncomfortable reminder of why they were all there.
Gadget led Raven towards the seat next to Fangs. She looked to be in good shape with just some bandages on her elbows. The awkward way she walked and the vacant expression on her face indicated injuries that were much less tangible. As Raven slowly took her seat she could be seen to shake ever so slightly... much less than when she arrived.
“How is she?” Chip asked Gadget.
“Just some cuts and scrapes on her knees and elbows,” Gadget answered calmly, “The nurse washed out the wounds, applied some antibiotics and bandaged them... should be better in a couple days.” Gadget looked towards Raven with obvious concern. “They also gave her a mild sedative,” she finished.
“The blood?” Chip asked as he motioned to Raven’s coat.
“Dee’s,” Gadget explained quietly as she lifted it a little, “She was leaning over Raven when she was hit by the projectile. Since it went all the way through, she... bled.” Both Raven and Chip felt numb at the thought. When Raven shuddered suddenly Fangs put a wing around her. As she leaned against him he wrapped the other wing around.
“Did you hear anything about Dee?” Chip asked.
Gadget shook her head, “No... sorry.” Chip resumed his pacing as Gadget took the seat on Raven’s other side and held her paw.
“Shouldn’t worry yourself too much there, Chipper,” Monterey stated, “Dee’s as game as Ned Kelly. It’d take more than a splinter to do in someone like her!” Though it was a commendable effort to lift Chip’s spirits, Monterey’s voice betrayed his own uncertainty.
As Chip continued his pacing the Southmonts rushed into the waiting room with Foxglove following behind.
“Raven!” Ann cried out as she caught sight of her daughter. She raced over to where Raven was seated, lifted her to her feet and embraced her tightly “Oh, my little gaiskäseh! Are you ok?”
“Uh, yeah, yeah... I-I’m fine, I’m fine,” Raven stammered.
“Where’s Dee?” Ben asked Chip, “How is she?”
“We don’t know,” Chip answered, “We haven’t heard anything since we brought her in... she was in pretty bad shape.” Ann clutched Raven even tighter upon hearing this.
“Well, no news is better than bad news I guess,” Ben sighed.
“How did you get here so fast?” Dale asked.
“I stopped to tell the wolves and Canina first,” Foxglove answered, “They gave me a ride to the Southmonts’ and then here... In fact, they’re right outside.”
“I guess I’ll go let ‘em know what little we know,” Monterey stated as he left the waiting room.
In short order all the new arrivals found a seat. Not long after taking her seat Ann caught sight of Raven’s blood stained coat; instinctively she clutched her husband’s paw. In turn, he put a reassuring arm around her. It was a half hour later when Chip, out of frustration, located a nurse and demanded that she find somebody who could give them some word on Dee’s condition. It was another half hour until somebody finally showed up with news.
As the bespectacled mouse entered the waiting room he caught the attention of everyone as he addressed Chip, who was still pacing, “You were asking into Miss Hawkfeather’s condition?”
“Yes!” Chip responded with a slight hint of annoyance.
The doctor took a deep breath before continuing. “She got out of surgery just a little while ago-”
“She’s alive?!” Ann interrupted.
“Yes,” the physician responded after a slight pause, “We removed the projectile from her torso and with it a good portion of her right lung... we tried to save as much of it as possible but there was quite a bit of damage that was done. We also had to attend to some ribs that were broken when the spear went through. She has a seventy to eighty percent chance of recovery,” there was a substantial pause before he added slowly, “provided she survives the next twenty four hours.”
Ben stood and approached slowly, “And... what are her chances... for that?”
The doctor bowed his head and took another deep breath. “She... has a little less than a fifty percent chance of surviving the night,” he answered. Ben awkwardly returned to his seat as the doctor explained, “She had lost a great deal of blood by the time she arrived, and normally we don’t operate under those conditions unless it’s absolutely necessary... What it boils down to is whether or not her body can handle the stress.”
“Can I see her?” Chip eventually asked.
“Are you part of her family?”
“I’m sorry,” the doctor responded firmly, “unless you’re a direct relation I can’t allow it.”
“I’m her fiancé,” Chip stated, “If there’s the chance she might not survive I think I have the right to see her!”
The doctor nodded, “Ok.”
“I want to see her, too,” Raven stated as she stood.
The physician was quite hesitant to allow this, “I don’t think-”
“She’s my mother!” Raven interrupted, “And I’m the reason she’s here in the first place! If she’s not going to survive I have more right than anyone to see her before-” she choked as the words ‘she dies’ entered her mind, “before then!”
“Raven,” Ann started, but before she could say ‘I don’t think you should’ Gadget stood up beside her.
“I’ll go with her,” Gadget reassured Mrs Southmont.
“Are you a relation?” the doctor asked with obvious irritation.
“I’m her sister,” Gadget answered.
“And I suppose you’re her father,” the physician remarked sarcastically to Monterey. “Ok, the three of you can come,” he stated to Chip, Gadget and Raven, “but you won’t be able to stay long.”
“Does anyone know how we can get in touch with Bob?” Monterey asked the others once the party had left, “Just in case?”
“Now we had to remove most of her hair for the operation,” the doctor mentioned as he led Chip, Gadget and Raven to Dee’s room, “I just wanted to warn you before you saw her.” Arriving at the proper door they stopped and holding open the entrance the doctor stated, “You can talk to her, just don’t expect her to respond.”
In the room, Dee was laying prone on a bed surrounded by a variety of medical equipment, some of which she was attached to. Her eyes were closed and her mouth was slightly agape as she took deep, regular breaths. Despite the dark brown of her fur, her pallor was quite evident. With her black hair cut close to the head she looked a great deal like her daughter. It was that last point more than anything else that bothered the girl.
“She looks a lot like she did after Raven and Rebecca were born,” Chip mentioned quietly as he remembered the photo she’d shown him the year before, “Though she did look a little healthier then.”
When Chip took Dee’s paw in his there was some reaction from her. Her eyelids twitched and her mouth closed slowly. As everyone watched, Dee’s eyes began to open. After a moment she slowly turned her head towards Chip. She blinked a few times before saying weakly, “Chip...” At a loss for any greater response, Chip simply squeezed her paw. Though muffled by the oxygen mask strapped to her muzzle, everyone heard Dee ask, “Is Raven... safe?”
Raven’s blood ran cold when she heard the question. After everything that had happened, Dee’s first concern was for her safety.
“Yes, she’s safe,” Chip answered, “She’s right here!” Chip motioned Raven closer.
Dee looked towards her daughter and, seeing her, lifted her paw from Chip’s. Raven took hold of her mother’s paw as she drew close.
“Do you... forgive me?” Dee asked in a voice just as weak as before.
Tears began to form in Raven’s eyes as she answered, “I forgive you...” and a tear streaked down her cheek as she added, “Mom.”
A smile played upon Dee’s face as she closed her eyes and, as her paw slipped from Raven’s, she lapsed back into unconsciousness.
“I think you should go now,” the doctor quietly suggested.
As the three were escorted back to the waiting room Gadget turned to Chip. “Do you think we should tell her about the tape?” she asked him quietly.
“I’m not sure,” Chip answered after a little thought, “That was supposed to be for when we wrapped up the case.”
“I know,” Gadget admitted, “But if she doesn’t... survive... it wouldn’t make any sense to wait till then, so maybe she should know now.”
Chip cringed at the logic behind Gadget’s argument, but he couldn’t refute it. He stopped the group and pulled Raven aside to speak to her. “Raven, Dee recorded a message for you last night... she wanted you to have it after we were done with the case... but...”
“You think I should hear it now... just in case she doesn’t make it,” Raven finished. Chip nodded solemnly. “Ok,” Raven sighed after a moment.
“You don’t have to, you know,” Gadget reminded her.
“I know,” Raven conceded, “But my curiosity would really bother me if I didn’t... and I have enough things to bother me tonight as it is.”
Back in the waiting room the Southmonts were concerned, though not surprised, to see that Raven had been crying. After some discussion it was decided that all would return to Rescue Ranger Headquarters for the night.
When it was time to depart, Romulus suggested that Honker and Canina give the others a ride back. “There’s something I have to take care of,” he explained.
Gadget led Raven into her workshop where the tape player was kept. She made the obligatory explanation that all Raven had to do was depress the button marked ‘PLAY’. With that, Gadget left the girl alone in the room.
Raven put off starting the message for awhile. Part of her very much wanted to hear what the message said, but another part of her felt that listening to it that night was as good as declaring her mother dead. She sat, looking at the device, as if waiting for some sign to tell her it was ok. Well, I told everyone I was going to listen to it, she thought, so I better do it, or admit I didn’t have the courage to do what I said I would. Raven walked over, pressed down the PLAY button and returned to her seat.
“I would’ve given this message to you personally,” Dee’s voice stated from the speaker, “but you probably wouldn’t want to talk to me in the first place... and besides, I’m not sure I could get through it even if you would put up with it. When I was your age, having children was the furthest thing from my mind, my only interest back then was having fun... any way I could. I never thought about responsibility, I never thought about others, only myself. And I was proud of the fact I could outsmart just about everybody, I manipulated and used anybody I felt like... especially males. I thought I was always in control, that I could always find a way out of the problems I caused. My mother tried to warn me about what my irresponsible behavior would get me into, but I never listened. But when I found out I was pregnant I realized just how little control I really had over my life, and I was terrified. I’d finally gotten myself into trouble I couldn’t lie or cheat my way out of.
“I realized that my life up to that point had been a complete failure, that finding creative ways to avoid responsibilities had consequences I couldn’t avoid. I figured that since being completely irresponsible had caused me to be a complete failure then taking responsibility for my actions wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I started listening to my mother’s advice and decided to start a new life for myself... and that new life would start with my family. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t run from it either. I started doing what I was supposed to, started using my creativity to deal with problems rather than avoid them... and I was proud of myself for it, for once my life really had meaning.
“Having you was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. If it hadn’t been for you my life would have been meaningless. And when the doctors let me hold you and your sister... I guess no one told you about that, you had a sister named Becky... When they let me hold both of you I thought I could do anything and I promised that I wouldn’t fail you the same way I had failed myself. The problem was that my own mistakes came back to haunt me. Your sister died. The doctors discovered that it was because her heart hadn’t formed properly.” Dee’s voice became more emotional as the recording continued. “That was my fault! If I had waited to have children until I was physically more mature that wouldn’t have happened! I made a mistake and your sister paid for that mistake with her life!
“I couldn’t let that happen to you! I wouldn’t let you be hurt by any of my other mistakes... and I would make mistakes, it would only be a matter of time. I didn’t know what I was doing, I had been lying to myself that I could handle being a mother, I had lied to myself so that I would believe that I wasn’t a complete failure after all. But I was... I had no right to be a mother, there was no way I could give you the life you deserved. That’s why I wanted Ann and Ben to raise you... because they could do it right. I didn’t want to hurt you, that’s why I wanted you to think they were your real parents. I didn’t want you to be burdened by my reputation. And I didn’t want to risk that I might somehow screw things up for you in the future so I avoided any contact with you. As far as everyone else in the world was concerned the Southmonts were your parents and I was a complete stranger who had no reason to be associated with any of you.
Dee’s voice had returned to it’s previous calm , but that calm was shattered as she blurted out, “But I failed anyway! I never should have told Chip about my past... should have told him it was none of his business. And I shouldn’t have come here. I figured there wasn’t any real chance I could do any harm because this was such a large city. I figured I could stop by to visit Chip and leave without any chance of getting involved in your life. Just like before, I put my own pleasure before anything else and you got hurt because of it! I failed Becky and I failed you! I know there’s nothing I can do to change any of this... I can’t give you back the life you had before. The only thing I can do is leave... I won’t be here to remind you about how I screwed up your life, about how miserable I made you... I can give you back what little remains of the life you knew before.” Dee paused before adding, “I’m sorry.”
Raven was almost in tears again. She thought the recording was finished and was about to get up to turn it off when Dee’s voice resumed.
“Now, you have every right to stop the tape right here because you probably don’t want to hear what I’m going to do next.” There was something in Dee’s voice that made Raven a little uneasy, but she couldn’t place it. “Before you and your sister were born, while I was still carrying you, I-” Dee’s voice stopped abruptly, and Raven knew what it was about Dee’s voice that bothered her... she had been on the verge of crying as she recorded this part. “I looked forward to the chance to sing you a lullaby... just like my mother always did for me. I almost did during the short time I was allowed to hold you in the hospital, but I was too embarrassed because of everyone standing around so I decided to wait till I brought you home... But that never happened! Becky died the next day, and I gave you up. The closest I ever came was singing lullabies for the wolf pups. But I want to sing you one now,” Dee’s voice broke, “so you can stop the type now and leave in disgust if you want... I won’t blame you for it...”
Tears began to trail down Raven’s cheeks as she listened to the silence that was left as Dee composed herself. Part of Raven wanted to stop the tape, she wasn’t sure she could handle what she knew was coming. But that part of her was silenced when Dee’s voice began. Softly, she began to sing Lee Ann Womack’s ‘I Hope You Dance’:
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed.
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance-
I hope you da-a-a-a-a-ance.
I hope you da-a-ance.
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance.
Living might mean taking chances but they're worth taking,
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth making.
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to selling out- reconsider.
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance-
I hope you da-a-a-a-a-ance.
I hope you da-a-ance.
I hope you da-a-a-a-a-ance.
I hope you da-a-ance.
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance-
I hope you da-a-ance
I hope you da-a-a-a-a-ance.
I hope you da-a-ance.
Raven had completely broken down by the time Dee’s voice trailed off at the end of her lullaby.
The elder Southmonts were in the kitchen preparing a dinner for everyone so they didn’t notice Raven come bursting out of Gadget’s workshop and out the door. Fangs, however, had and soon had followed Raven outside. In the waning daylight Fangs spotted the young mouse seated at the far end of the branch, sobbing uncontrollably.
“Why did I have to be such a stupid, selfish bitch?!” Raven wailed as Fangs sat down beside her, “I treated her like shit... went out of my way to hurt her... she didn’t do anything to me... she was still willing to give her life for me... after everything I did!”
“Isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do?” Fangs asked rhetorically. Even as he spoke he wished he had something better to say.
“It’s all my fault,” Raven sobbed.
“No it isn’t,” Fangs assured her.
“Yes, it is!” Raven responded, “It’s my fault she almost got killed! And if she dies it will be my fault!”
“You can’t blame yourself for that,” Fangs reassured her.
“The reason I didn’t get out with the others is because I went after the diamond on my own, that’s why I didn’t know everyone evacuated,” Raven explained.
“So?” Fangs shrugged.
“Do you know why I wanted to get the diamond back?” Raven asked pointedly. Fangs merely shook his head. “Because I wanted to use the diamond to get all that power,” she answered, “That’s all that mattered to me! I’d lost my family... my life didn’t make any sense... the only thing that still made sense was my dream of being a sorceress! I wanted to get the diamond first so I could give them a replica to return to the museum... while I kept the real one.”
Fangs had known Raven was hiding something from him, he hadn’t wanted to think about the possibility. He was angry that she hadn’t trusted him enough to tell him, but couldn’t bring himself to hate her for what she’d done, not with the emotional torment she was putting herself through. Fangs kept searching his mind for something, anything to say to make Raven feel better.
“Everything that has gone wrong has been my fault!” Raven continued, “Tammy and I were kidnaped because I wanted power... the others were nearly killed trying to save us because of that... I led you and everyone else on because I still wanted to get my hands on the diamond... because of that I kept attacking Dee, kept treating her like shit,” Raven began to break down again as she spoke, “and now she might die because of me, because I wanted power so bad that I didn’t care who I hurt! I should be the one dying in the hospital, not her... she doesn’t deserve this!”
“I forgive you,” Fangs eventually said. As Raven turned to look at him through eyes red and swollen from crying he added, “and I think she would too.”
Raven leaned up against her friend and he wrapped his wings around her. I don’t deserve someone like this, she thought to herself, I lied to him... and risked his life... but he’s still here for me. Raven put her arms around Fangs and held him tightly as she continued to cry. I hope she’ll forgive me... even if I don’t deserve it.
Dinner progressed with very little talk. There was the almost obligatory round of compliments to the Southmonts for having cooked dinner for everyone. This was accompanied by Monterey’s suggestion that the only thing the meal lacked was cheese. Raven ate very little. Though this didn’t come as a particular surprise to anyone, they would have been surprised had they known the true cause of her melancholy.
Neither chiropterid was present for dinner. Foxglove didn’t want the Southmonts to go through any more trouble than they had to in preparing the meal and opted to catch her own dinner. There was also the fact that she hadn’t enjoyed a nice juicy moth in quite awhile and it was starting to get to her. Fangs couldn’t join the others for dinner since vampire bats can’t ‘eat’.
With dinner complete and the dishes being taken care of by Monterey and Gadget, Chip began contemplating how to proceed with the case... it was a far more pleasant subject to think of than Dee’s condition. “The logical thing to do would be to have Zipper tail Freddie again,” he said aloud.
“But what if she becomes invisible again?” Dale asked.
Chip was actually quite surprised that Dale had listened to him. “He could try hiding somewhere on her clothing,” Chip responded, “hang onto the back of her blouse or something like that.”
Returning from the kitchen, Gadget joined in on the discussion, “But would that be safe? We don’t know what effect an invisibility spell would be on someone it wasn’t meant for.”
Chip thought that over for a moment. “Raven?” he asked. The young mouse didn’t respond, she just sat quietly on the couch looking miserable. Chip addressed her again.
“Huh?” Raven asked vacantly.
“We were wondering if anything would happen to Zipper if he were holding onto Freddie when she becomes invisible,” Chip explained.
“Nothing, really,” Raven answered sullenly, “though he’d still be visible unless he concentrated on being invisible himself.”
“He’d actually be able to tap into her magic?” Gadget asked.
“Sort of,” Raven mumbled.
Chip was concerned about the girl’s emotional state and thought he had found something that could help take her mind off of things, at least for a little while. “Maybe you could help Zipper prepare for that, I mean it’s not like Freddie would volunteer.”
“Sure,” Raven shrugged.
As Raven and Zipper went off to practice his disappearing act Foxglove and Fangs returned from their respective outings.
“Good!” Chip declared as they entered, “I wanted to talk to the two of you next!” Chip led the two bats away from the door as he began to explain, “We’re going to be making a concerted effort to locate the diamond and part of that will mean keeping Freddie’s apartment under constant surveillance. That’s where you two come in. There’s an air duct leading into her place; one of you should be there at all times in the off chance you’ll overhear something important.” He then addressed them individually, “Foxglove- since you’re used to being up during the day that’ll be your shift. Fangs- you’ll cover the place at night.” Chip made one final statement to both, “The two of you can work out the exact times between yourselves.”
When the time for sleep grew close it was agreed that the Southmonts (including Raven) and Fangs could spend the night at Ranger Headquarters. This made a great deal of sense since most would be heading to the hospital first thing in the morning and it would be a fairly substantial walk from the Southmonts’ home. Though Fangs didn’t have to rely on the Rangers for transportation he wasn’t comfortable leaving Raven out of sight for too long. Gadget arranged a couple of spare beds for Ann and Ben Southmont while Raven preferred to take the couch. Fangs and Foxglove were both content to perch on the ceiling.
Raven was having great difficulty getting comfortable. It wasn’t so much the couch that was causing her the discomfort, it was her own conscience. She kept hearing every hateful thing she had said to Dee over the past few days. In an effort to silence her mind Raven thought back to when she was still a little girl when her mother... when Ann... would sing her a lullaby. But the only thing such thought kept bringing up was the lullaby Dee had recorded for her. This nearly brought her to tears once more.
Above, and a little to the left, hung a distressed vampire bat. Fangs listened as Raven tossed and turned on the couch below. Every time she shifted position he would take an echosounding of her to get a glimpse of her facial expression. It was never reassuring, and occasionally he’d catch ‘sight’ of a tear.
Between Fangs and Raven they were making enough noise to keep Foxglove very much awake: the sound of Raven tossing on the couch followed by a high pitched shriek from Fangs followed by a deep sigh. “You’re really worried about her aren’t you?” Foxglove asked Fangs in a frequency that only another bat could hear.
“Yeah,” Fangs responded similarly.
“Do you love her?” Foxglove wasn’t sure why she asked, but she did.
“Yeah,” Fangs responded again.
“Does she know?”
“I don’t know,” Fangs answered in a resigned tone.
“Maybe you should tell her... at some point,” Foxglove suggested, “It might help her.”
“No,” Fangs returned assuredly.
“What if she doesn’t feel the same?” Fangs asked sternly, “What then? The chances of my finding someone who can love me are slim to none... closer to none. At least this way there’s the possibility... even if it is just in my mind.”
Foxglove decided to leave it at that. “Well, could you keep the noise down some?”
“Sure,” Fangs answered politely.
Oblivious to the discussion between Foxglove and Fangs, Chip lay in his bunk staring at the gold feather pendant Dee had given him a year before. He reached out and removed it from the peg on which it hung. Chip held on to the pendant, remembering back to the previous summer, until it became warm in his paw... as if it were a living thing. He looked back on their first meeting when she jumped from the cockpit of her plane... the surreal effect of seeing someone so similar to Gadget. He remembered how she’d flirt with him... The apprehension, and even a little fear, that first night alone on her roof beneath the moon... That first kiss... The first time he held her in his arms... The tears she cried as they parted company.
I don’t want to lose her, Chip thought to himself. He could feel a growing knot in his stomach. In stressful situations he always took charge, took matters into his own paws to get things done... always in control. This situation was different, there was noting he could do, no action he could take. As Chip lay there clutching the pendant he realized there was one thing he could do, something the rational minded chipmunk rarely did... he prayed. Drowsiness closed in on him, and as he surrendered to Sleep his final conscious thought crossed over to his unconscious, Please don’t let her die.
The day was still quite young as two separate teams departed Rescue Ranger Headquarters. Zipper and Foxglove immediately departed to begin their surveillance of Winifred’s apartment whereas Chip, the Southmonts and Fangs departed for the hospital to check on Dee’s condition.
“We have good news and bad news,” the bespectacled mouse doctor explained to Chip and the others, “The good news is that Miss Hawkfeather’s condition has stabilized, the bad news is that it’s because she slipped into a coma.”
“Well, given what the most likely alternative was we should be grateful,” Ben responded.
“Can we see her?” Ann joined in.
As the doctor led the party down the hall he turned to Chip, “Maybe you could help us solve a little mystery.”
“I guess,” Chip answered questioningly, “What is it?”
“Last evening Miss Hawkfeather received a ‘get well’ bouquet form a most unusual source,” the doctor explained, “I’m kinda hoping you’d know why.”
“What was so unusual about the source?” Chip asked.
The doctor stopped as he answered, “It was sent by Fat Cat.” Chip’s jaw nearly dropped as the doctor continued, “Most of what we receive care of Fat Cat is far less than pleasant... and usually in need of immediate medical attention.”
As the group resumed down the hall Chip recalled what Romulus had said the previous night about ‘having to take care of something’. Before he could say anything he noticed Mepps, one of Fat Cat’s lackeys, being pushed down the hall in a wheelchair by several mice in orderly uniforms.
“But I keep telling you I’m fine, I don’t need a check-up,” the scraggily feline protested.
“Healthy cats don’t cough up hair balls like that one I saw last night!” the doctor called after him as he passed. “You’d think with the resources he has that mobster could afford some kind of health care plan for his ‘employees’,” he mentioned to the group.
“Well you don’t make a profit by spoiling the help,” Chip explained.
“Why are you bothering to treat him at all?” Raven asked of the physician.
“My Hippocratic Oath,” the doctor explained simply, “Besides, the longer we keep him here the less harm he can do on behalf of his boss.” He added quietly to Chip, “We’re doing our little bit to help lighten the load for you guys out there.” Chip gave him an appreciative smile.
When the group arrived at Dee’s room they found her little changed form the previous day. Ann Southmont was the most affected by the sight and held onto her husband for support. And as Ben put his arms protectively around his wife he turned to the doctor, “How long will she be like this?”
“We don’t know,” the physician answered honestly, “Some people come out of a coma in a few days, others never do.” Chip took hold of Dee’s paw hoping for some kind of response, only to be disappointed. “There is one other thing,” the doctor continued, “even if she does wake up she’ll have to adjust to some changes in her lifestyle.”
“What do you mean?” Raven asked.
“Being impaled was just the most serious injury she sustained,” the doctor proceeded to explain, “Some other piece of debris, possibly a piece of masonry, struck her in the lower back causing irreparable damage to her spinal column.” He took a deep breath before finishing, “Barring a miracle, I don’t think there’s chance she’ll ever walk again.”
A tear rolled down Raven’s cheek as she hung her head in shame. “It’s not fair,” she whispered under her breath. Fangs overheard Raven’s lament and placed a wing on her shoulder to comfort her.
“We... have a case to get back to,” Chip hesitantly stated.
“Ben and I will stay here,” Ann told him, “Talk to her... I’ve heard that helps.”
“Raven?” Chip asked, “Do you want to stay behind?”
The girl looked up at Chip for a moment before turning her gaze back to the floor. “I wanna go,” she mumbled quickly.
“I have to go now,” Chip said gently to his fiancé. “Remember, you said you’d marry me, so don’t think you can back out of it now,” he said with a forced smile, “I know you’re not the type to do that... and I know you’re not the type to give up without a fight, so I know you’ll get better.” His voice broke slightly as he added, “I love you.” Part of him didn’t want to let go of her paw, not until there was some kind of response. But he had responsibilities. Chip let her paw slip from his as he turned to leave.
On the way back to Ranger Headquarters, Chip, Raven and Fangs stopped off at Canina’s dressing trailer to inform Romulus and Honker of Dee’s condition. It also gave Chip an opportunity to follow up on a recent suspicion.
“How is she?” Romulus asked right off the bat.
“Alive,” Chip started, “but she’s in a coma... They don’t know when she’ll come out.” Romulus growled to himself in frustration. “Her back was also broken which means she’ll probably never walk again.”
Romulus trembled with rage. Like Chip, he was the type to take matters into his own paws when things got rough. Unlike Chip, however, the inability to take action wasn’t depressing... it was infuriating. Suddenly, with hackles raised and teeth bared, Romulus glared at Raven. “Why didn’t you leave that building with everyone else?!” he snarled at the girl.
Raven felt as if her blood had turned to ice water. The Raven that had hurled threats at the wolf while standing on his muzzle from a few days before was gone. The experiences of the previous day had very nearly destroyed her bold and aggressive attitude. She stood frozen in place, desperately trying to come up with an excuse, but she could do little more than gape in horror as the gigantic predator glared at her. Within moments Fangs placed himself between Raven and Romulus.
“Romulus, it’s not her fault!” Chip shouted. It soon dawned on him what might have more effect. “Do you think Dee would tolerate you acting like this towards her daughter?” he asked pointedly.
After a moment of thought, Romulus backed down. “Sorry, I’m... it’s just so frustrating,” the wolf explained.
“I know how you feel,” Chip offered, “there’s nothing either of us can do.”
“We’ll be waiting back at the Ranger Wing,” Fangs mentioned to Chip as he led Raven away.
“There was something else I wanted to talk to you about,” Chip stated once Fangs and Raven had gone, “You wouldn’t, by any chance, know why Fat Cat would send Dee a ‘get well’ bouquet, would you?”
Romulus gave Chip a very broad, toothy, grin. “Well, since he’s tried so hard and failed so many times to hurt you directly it made sense that if he caught wind of your fiance’s condition he’d bribe a nurse or doctor or someone to do her in and hurt you indirectly,” he began to explain, “So I explained to him that if she died while in the hospital I would have no choice but to assume he was responsible... in which case I’d have to kill him.”
Chip remembered, with a shudder, what Dee had told him about how easily killing came to someone like Romulus... and just how close Fat Cat came to his own death without doing anything to ‘deserve’ it. “You wouldn’t have really have killed him, would you?” Chip asked.
The wolf shrugged. “At least this way we can be reasonably sure that, if she does die, it wasn’t his doing,” he responded, “People like him are too cowardly to do something knowing it would inevitably lead to their own death.” Romulus hadn’t actually answered the question, but Chip didn’t see the point in pressing the matter... he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know the answer anyway.
Gadget greeted Chip as he, Raven and Fangs returned from their excursion. “Chip, that mole that’s been passing us information about Rat Capone’s activities just informed us that he intends to take out Fat Cat later today,” she stated once Chip was through the door, “Well, I mean Rat Capone is going to take out Fat Cat, not the informant.”
“By ‘take out’ I assume you mean-” Chip ended the sentence by making a slashing motion across his neck.
“Precisely,” Gadget responded.
“Any details?” Chip asked. Gadget quickly railed off the information provided about the intended hit. “Great,” Chip stated sarcastically in response, “We’ll have to leave now if we want to be in place to stop him.” There was a flurry of activity as preparations were made and, as Chip, Gadget, Monterey and Dale were on their way out, Chip turned to the other two. “Raven... Fangs... You’ll have to stay here,” Chip ordered, then he turned to Dale, “I want you to stay behind too.”
“Why me?” Dale protested.
“We need someone here in case Zipper or Foxglove come back with information about the diamond, and Raven and Fangs aren’t experienced in handling these kinds of things,” Chip explained hurriedly. “I have complete faith in you,” he finished in an effort to sooth Dale’s slightly bruised ego.
“Right!” Dale responded with a salute, “I won’t let you down!”
“Why are they going to save Fat Cat?” Fangs asked once the others had left, “Isn’t that rather self defeating?”
Dale made a clumsy attempt to answer the questions, but eventually settled on, “It’s kinda complicated, you’ll hafta ask Chip when they get back.” When Dale turned to go back to the television he noticed Raven sitting on the couch in an obvious state of depression. His first instinct was to try to lighten the mood. “Hey Raven,” he called cheerfully, “Since we’re all stuck here with time to kill I was wondering if you could teach me how to use magic to ‘zap’ things?”
The young mouse sighed deeply before answering. “Sorry,” Raven responded, “I’ve decided to give up magic... too much pain for too little gain.”
It was well past noontime when the Ranger Wing came in for a landing at Ranger Headquarters. Dale was watching cartoons, trying desperately to cheer up Raven as Fangs hung from the ceiling above trying to catch up on his sleep. The vampire’s sleep was interrupted as he caught wind of talking from without, Dale and Raven weren’t aware of the arrivals until the door flew open.
“No, Monty, we can’t tell Fat Cat we saved him just to give him a heart attack,” Chip scolded as he came through the door.
“That would defeat the purpose of having saved his life in the first place,” Gadget added.
“I was thinking it’d be worth it just to see the look on his face,” Monterey said with a laugh.
“Maybe when Fat Cat is on his death bed we can tell him, that way we wouldn’t necessarily be responsible for his death,” Chip offered, “You get to see the look on his face, we’d loose our greatest threat to life and limb and everyone lives happily ever after.”
“Except for Fat Cat,” Gadget added, “but I guess that would only make sense.”
“Dale, did you hear anything from Foxglove or Zipper?” Chip asked.
“Nope,” Dale responded, “Not a word.”
“I take it you were successful?” Fangs asked as he looked down upon the others from above.
“Yes we were,” Chip responded with a hint of weariness in his voice, “And most importantly neither Fat Cat or Rat Capone have any idea we were involved.”
Fangs flitted down next to Chip, “Why, exactly, did you save Fat Cat’s life in the first place if you don’t want him to know he owes you?”
“For one thing,” Chip started, “it wouldn’t mean anything to him in the long run. He knows we’re not about to stop getting in his way so the only way he can live his life the way he wants to is to get rid of us... His logic would be along the lines of...” here Chip did a fair impression of his adversary in all his over-dramatic glory, “What’s the point in being alive if you’re not allowed to live? Someone as gifted as myself surely was not meant to work with, or for, the common rabble... but to get them to work for me, to pay tribute to my greatness.”
“Wowie-zowie, Chip, you sounded just like Fat Cat!” Dale applauded, “Now do Rat Capone!” Chip was by no means encouraged by Dale’s remark and the extra hard bonk he gave him made it abundantly clear.
“There’s that,” Monterey added, “and that there are more than a few underlings who would love to try to carve out their own little empire after Fat Cat’s demise before Rat Capone can solidify his control over the turf... and they’ll be looking to make examples out of anyone who gets in their way.”
Fangs shuddered to think that sometimes someone’s life can boil down to a matter of convenience, especially when that someone has no realization of it. “I wonder if Fat Cat has any idea just how little control he has over things,” he idly pondered aloud.
Chip paid no heed to the chiropterid’s philosophical thought as he approached Raven... he hoped he could find some way to keep her mind off of her misery. “Um, I was thinking,” he opened to the depressed youth, “how difficult would it be to learn an invisibility spell? Is that something that someone has to be predisposed to or can anyone learn?”
Raven was visibly pained by having to think of the matter and it was evident in her voice as she responded bluntly, “I’m not into magic anymore.”
“Why?” Chip asked.
“It’s too much trouble and I don’t want to have anything more to do with it!” the girl responded angrily. Raven hoped there would be no follow up questions, or any discussion of the issue for that matter. She didn’t want the others to know she was responsible for all the trouble they were going through, especially Chip.
“Golly, and I was hoping I could talk to you about how magic works,” Gadget mentioned disappointedly, “I was thinking recently about what Arthur C. Clarke had said about any sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic... that got me thinking that maybe the magic that you and others use may be leftover technology from some long dead society or even left behind by aliens... and if that was true and you, Freddie and others were actually tapping into some extraordinarily advanced technology, that discovering how it worked would be a great boon to mankind... and mousekind.” Gadget realized from the way Monterey was shaking his head that future discussion of the matter was not necessarily conducive to Raven’s emotional well being.
“If no one minds,” Fangs stated before returning to the ceiling, “I’m gonna get back to my sleep.”
“We’ll try not to make too much noise,” Gadget offered.
“I’d appreciate that,” Fangs responded as he folded up his wings.
The others, as if responding to an unseen command, retired to the kitchen. Raven, lost in her depression, wasn’t aware of this and remained behind.
“All right, everyone,” Monterey said as he dove into the refrigerator, “What all would you like for lunch?”
“I’m not really all that hungry,” Chip responded.
“I guess saving Fat Cat would tend to ruin one’s appetite,” Dale spoke up.
“It’s not that,” Chip corrected, “I’m not sure what to do about Raven... I mean, when Dee and I get married, she’ll be my step-daughter.” Chip added sullenly, “If Dee and I get married that is.”
“You shouldn’t talk like that, Chip, you have to believe that Dee will get better,” Gadget stated, “And I can talk with Raven if you like, I am her aunt after all.”
“No, that’s ok,” Chip assured Gadget, “I’ll think of something to say.”
As he expected, Chip found Raven still sitting alone on the couch, wallowing in her misery. For a moment he thought that she hadn’t even moved since he and the others left, but the fact that the volume on the television had been turned down told him otherwise. Sitting down beside her, Chip struck up some conversation, “I was wondering if you’d like to talk.”
“Is it about my giving up magic?” Raven ventured.
“No, not unless you want to talk about that,” Chip responded, “I was thinking it might help if we just... talked.”
“Sure, why not,” Raven shrugged, “But we’ll have to talk somewhere else so Fangs can get some sleep.”
“We can go outside onto the branch,” Chip suggested. Raven agreed and the two left the livingroom. As Chip closed the door Raven sat cross-legged on the branch. Sitting down nearby, Chip opened up, “I have the feeling you’ve been blaming yourself for what happened yesterday, but you shouldn’t.”
Raven clenched her teeth in frustration. It was her fault. Who was he to try to absolve her crime when he didn’t even know the truth behind it? And she wasn’t about to inform Chip of his mistake. Telling Fangs of her guilt was one thing, he was her friend and there was the chance for forgiveness. How could Chip forgive her if he knew the truth... that his fiancé was nearly killed and is now crippled for life because of her own selfish desires.
Chip noticed he wasn’t getting anywhere yet so he continued, “Whether you blame yourself or not, I do know that nobody who cares about you wants to see you this miserable. It won’t do you or anyone else any good. If you are blaming yourself, then beating yourself up over it won’t change what’s already happened... and won’t change the outcome.”
“I’m sorry,” Raven muttered weakly. Before Chip could ask why, she explained, “I’m sorry for behaving like I have been for the past few days.” She knew she really hadn’t treated Chip or the others all that bad... she wasn’t really saying it to Chip anyway. Raven wanted to say it Dee, she knew she’d have to eventually.
Chip awkwardly put an arm around her, “I don’t expect you to jump right up and start behaving like Dale... please don’t jump up and start behaving like Dale, just try not to drown yourself in your pain, ok?” Raven smiled briefly and nodded her head. “Is there anything else you’d feel like talking about?” Then Chip added lightly, “Anything Tammy told you about the two of us that you’d like cleared up?”
Raven actually laughed a little. “No,” she responded simply. Raven and Chip stood and returned inside. Chip felt confident that he would be able to handle a family of his own, and desperately hoped he would be allowed that chance.
It was nearing sundown when Fangs awoke. He wanted to leave early so he could feed before relieving Foxglove at the witch’s apartment, Fangs didn’t want to have to leave his post unless absolutely necessary. It felt good to have responsibilities beyond meeting his own need for survival, knowing there were others who could trust him as much as the Rangers did. If it weren’t for the emotional torture he knew Raven was going through he’d actually be enjoying himself.
As Fangs walked out onto the branch he met up with Ben Southmont. There was the basic exchange of pleasantries before the vampire took flight. When Ben walked through the door Chip immediately noticed and practically ran over.
“Any news on Dee’s condition?” Chip asked expectantly.
Ben shook his head solemnly. “We figured it would be best if one of us was around to keep an eye on Raven,” he explained, “as independent as she is she’s still our little girl. Besides, when the orderly came in to shorten Dee’s incisors it brought back some bad memories. My grandfather was in a coma before he passed away and my parents would bring me by to see him... it’s hard enough to see someone you care about in that kind of condition when they’re two generations older than you, but when they’re a generation younger...,” he trailed off as Chip gave him an understanding nod.
It was a little past sundown when Foxglove returned to Rescue Ranger Headquarters. To everyone’s dismay there was little to report... except that Freddie would occasionally talk in her sleep. “At first I thought my cover was blown because she addressed me by name,” Foxglove explained, “but I soon realized she was dreaming.”
“How could you tell?” Gadget asked.
“She kept saying how she enjoyed watching me suffer and how she was finally getting a chance to repay me for betraying her,” Foxglove responded, “then she’d say something like ‘That hurts doesn’t it’ as if she were actually doing something to me, but since nothing actually happened she must have been dreaming about it.”
Dale began to look a little concerned. “Um, maybe you should, y’know, lay low until this is all over?”
“Dale may ‘ave a point there, luv,” Monterey agreed, “Freddie’s definitely got it in for you worse than the rest of us. If she got her mitts on ya’ the results probably wouldn’t be too pleasant.”
“I know,” Foxglove responded, “But if you can’t keep her from getting all those extra powers she’ll be coming after me anyway, and it’d be a lot harder to keep hidden. The way I see it, the best way to protect myself and others is to help stop her.”
“Spoken like a real Rescue Ranger,” Chip commented.
“Really?” Foxglove responded cheerfully.
“Well, nothing’s official,” Chip mentioned, “But you definitely have the right attitude.”
“I want to help too,” Raven stated as she walked over to join the group, “I may not be using magic any more but there has to be something else I can do.”
Ben Southmont wasn’t particularly pleased by his adopted daughter’s decision and made it clear as he pulled her aside. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he began to explain to her, “These people are professionals, this is what they do for a living... I mean, before, Dee was there to look out for you, regardless of how you behaved towards her, but she’s not there anymore... and we can’t be there either.”
Raven, being an adolescent and very much her mother’s child, wasn’t concerned about her own physical safety, and Ben realized that from the look she gave him. He figured it was time to rely on something more traditional... guilt.
“In the past couple days we’ve had to deal with you being kidnaped, you and Dee having a painful falling out, the two of you nearly being killed and now Dee is comatose in the hospital... and now you want to put yourself in harm’s way again,” here, Ben hoped to reel the youngster back form harm, “Do you really want to put people who care about you through that?”
Raven took a deep breath as she prepared to respond. She didn’t want to put her adopted parents through something like that, but that kind of guilt was outweighed by another kind... and she hoped Ben would understand. “No, I don’t want to put you through that,” she started seriously, “But I can’t just walk away form this either... I caused all of this, I started the ball rolling when I stole that diamond and a lot of people are going to get hurt because of that... a lot of people have already been hurt. This is my mess, I have to help clean it up... I have to take responsibility for my actions.”
Ben couldn’t help the pain he felt at hearing Raven’s logic. It was as if Dee’s own childhood crisis were being played out before him... only this time he wasn’t the spectator he was back then. And what added to the pain was the fear that Raven’s efforts, like her mother’s, would meet with failure causing her to be saddled with guilt for years... and that was just the best case scenario if she failed, he didn’t even want to think about the worst case.
“I know you’ve made up your mind about this, so I guess all I can do now is wish you best of luck,” Ben conceded in a solemn tone, then added with a weak laugh, “and pray your mother doesn’t hurt me too badly when she finds out I couldn’t talk you out of this.”
Raven gave her adopted father a hug before returning to the others. “Well, since my mother can’t help out is there anything I can do that might help make up for the loss? What did she do?”
“She could invent things,” Gadget suggested.
“She was good in a fight,” Monterey added.
“She flirted like crazy with Chip,” Dale piped up... just before being bonked on the head by Chip.
Walking over to Dee’s bow and quiver of arrows Raven asked, “Are these hers?”
“Yeah, she brought those along when we went to rescue you and Tammy,” Chip answered, “and I have a feeling she was slightly disappointed that she didn’t get to use them.”
“So that’s where I get my aggression from,” Raven commented as she examined an arrow, “What are these things tipped with?”
“Looks like porcupine quills,” Gadget stated.
“Too-ra-loo! When your mum goes on the warpath she really means business!” Monterey commented.
“I can make practice arrows for you to use so those aren’t ruined,” Gadget suggested to Raven, “Since there aren’t many porcupines in the city those would be kind of hard to replace.”
As Gadget led Raven to her workshop to manufacture arrows of similar weight and flight characteristics as the originals, a thought occurred to Monterey. “Do you think Dee would approve of Raven using her weapons?” he asked.
“Actually,” Ben responded, “I think she’d be proud.”
The next morning, shortly after Foxglove had left for Winifred’s apartment, Fangs returned to Rescue Ranger Headquarters with his report of what transpired during his stakeout.
“Nothing,” Fangs stated bluntly.
“Nothing... at all?” Chip asked in disbelief.
Fangs shook his head. “I was hoping she’d take her accomplices with her so I could have a chance to poke around the place,” he explained, “but they stayed behind.”
“Probably to let Freddie know if the police stopped by to snoop around,” Raven hypothesized.
“And they didn’t say anything?” Gadget inquired.
“Nothing useful,” Fangs answered, “They played cards most of the time she was gone... their inane banter sounded like something out of a vaudeville routine.”
“Has Zipper noticed anything?” Monterey asked.
“No,” Fangs responded glumly, “He’s been sticking to her like glue but hasn’t seen or heard anything... well, nothing that he feels worth mentioning.”
Chip thought things over. “If she’s found a safe place to hide the diamond- a place she doesn’t have to check up on- why did she hide it in a condemned building in the first place?” he wondered aloud.
“Maybe she didn’t realize it was condemned until that first night Zipper followed her,” Gadget supposed.
“Well, let’s hope she gets nervous and feels the need to check on the new hiding place before the next full moon,” Chip sighed.
However, the days passed with no useful information forthcoming. The days stretched on into a week... then two weeks. A few small cases were solved during that time but the satisfaction that came form a job well done was muted by an underlying frustration. A frustration heightened by the lack of improvement in Dee’s condition.
Neither Chip or Raven wasted the free time available to them since doing so would mean inadvertently contemplating their own individual pain. Raven worked hard to learn whatever she could about mechanics, flight, strategy... anything that could help fill the void left by her mother. Chip was always right there to help, to provide assistance, reassurance and what little wisdom he had to offer to her. Without intending to they helped one another on another level, with Raven’s enthusiasm helping to buoy Chip’s spirits and Chip’s paternal guidance providing structure and stability to Raven’s endeavors.
Even though Raven had very nearly acquired two sets of parents, she was increasingly aware of something missing. With the time she spent training and the time Fangs spent ‘on duty’ the time left to the pair had nearly vanished. Raven would eagerly await the return of her chiropteran companion, anxious to tell him about something she’d just discovered, only to get through a portion of her talk before he would drift off to sleep. There was never enough time to tell Fangs everything she wanted to. But that didn’t bother her too greatly, there would be plenty of time to talk after the case was closed. Time enough, even, to reveal how deeply her feelings for him ran.
Though part of Raven looked hopefully towards the future, part of Chip dreaded it. He could almost feel the time slipping away. Every night he’d look up at the moon, watching it grow in size... it was as if an eye were slowly opening, waiting to behold something unspeakable. When clear weather was forecast for the days surrounding the full moon he almost trembled with uncertainty... Raven growing to adulthood, Dee coming out of her coma, the future of the Rescue Rangers... none of that would mean a blessed thing if they couldn’t get that diamond in the next week.
Far in the back of Chip’s mind an idea had been growing, it’s voice growing with his own sense of desperation. Recently, while Winifred would be at work, Bud or Lou would step out for a time. One would always remain behind in the apartment while the other disappeared. Though it had been tried, following the one that stepped out simply wasn’t working. What was needed was someone, or a group, who could get information from them without arousing the slightest suspicion. Chip knew of only one person who had the right type of contacts on the street, but this was a favor he didn’t want to ask. It wasn’t the favor that bothered him, it was who he needed to ask.
Chip took a deep breath. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” he lamented as he set off for a meeting with Fat Cat.
The rat that served as the doorman at Fat Cat’s casino watched with great apprehension as two wolves casually approached... he wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw a chipmunk sitting atop one of the canines. The wolves stopped and sat before the door looking down upon the worried rodent. Then, one of the predators spoke.
“Hello,” the wolf said in a heavy Spanish accent, “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die.”
“What?” Chip asked in confusion once Romulus had finished his statement.
“Honker and I watched ‘The Princess Bride’ in Canina’s trailer last night,” Romulus explained as he turned his head about to (almost) face the rodent on his back, “I just had to say that to someone.”
Chip rolled his eyes as he prepared to disembark from his mount. Once he was on his feet he walked up to the door-rat and stated his business, “We’re here to talk with your boss.”
“Uh, sure,” the door-rat responded, “sure.” He then turned, ran in the door and shut it behind him. This was followed by the sound of locks being set in place.
“Gee, and I was looking forward to playing the slots while we were here,” Romulus joked.
Some time passed before voices could be heard from within, and at least one sounded somewhat panicked. The locks were undone, then the door opened just long enough for Snout, clutching a cellular phone, to be shoved out.
“Wait!” the panicked rat yelled as he tried to get back in before the door closed. Finding the door shut tight, Snout turned to face the three visitors. “Here!” he shouted as he tossed the phone over to them. “Okay, I gave ‘em the phone... now let me in!” Snout pleaded as he pounded on the door. He was quickly swallowed up by the entrance, which was locked once more.
“I think this has to do with the fact that every time I go in there I knock things over,” Romulus mentioned to Chip.
“Yes, that might have something to do with it,” Fat Cat commented through the phone, “Had I expected wolves to show up on a regular basis I would’ve had the interior designers take that into account. Now, to what do I owe the honor of this visit?”
Chip took a deep breath. “Listen carefully,” he stated clearly, “because I don’t want to have to repeat myself... We need your help.”
There was a long silence. “This has got to be a joke,” Fat Cat finally responded.
“It’s no joke,” Chip replied, “We need to find the Delronne Diamond before the next full moon.”
“Or what, your hairy companions will turn into humans?” the feline asked with a hint of sarcasm.
“If we can’t get to the diamond before then, a witch will use it to gain incredible powers,” Chip explained.
“And why should I care?” Fat Cat asked with disinterest.
“This woman is a couple nuts short of a fruitcake and is dangerous enough with what little power she already has,” Chip stated, “But once she uses that diamond to enhance her powers there’s nothing the human police will be able to do to stop her.”
“That didn’t answer my question,” the crime boss interjected, “Why should I care if the human police can’t stop her? If anything, the chaos will just provide me with greater room to maneuver.”
“You didn’t let me finish,” Chip countered, “She knows that animals have their own society, so it’s only a matter of time before she starts wreaking havoc in a way that would interfere with your ‘business’. And as I said before, she’s a lunatic, so the chances of ‘cutting a deal’ with her are practically nonexistent. Even if you were able to make some kind of arrangement with her there would be no way you could hold her to it... she’d turn on you the instant she thought she could get a charge out of it.”
The whole thing sounded a little far fetched to Fat Cat, he really wasn’t the type to believe in magic anyway. They’re probably just trying to dupe me into doing the hard work for them, he thought to himself, They get the diamond and get the thrill of having gotten me to do it for them. Maybe I can turn their little prank to my advantage.
“Very well then,” Fat Cat agreed, “I’ll have my people find the diamond and then let you have it.” ‘Let you have it’?! he thought, How could I have been so careless? Now he’ll think it’s a trap!
“No deal!” Chip responded sternly. “Your people find out where the diamond is located and we retrieve it.”
“I think I’d rather take my chances with the witch then,” the corrupt feline growled.
“I didn’t want to bring this up,” Chip began, “But you owe us.”
“Is that right,” Fat Cat chortled.
“Remember a couple weeks ago when some of Rat Capone’s goons tried to do you in only to be trampled by a stampede of panicked restaurant patrons before they could ‘give it to you’?” Chip asked.
“Of course,” the corpulent crime boss sighed out of boredom, “That... Wait, how would you have known about that?”
“Who do you think incited all those screams of ‘Eek! Mice!’ and ‘There are rats in my ratatouille!’?” Chip asked tauntingly.
Fat Cat quickly put Chip on hold. “That’s impossible,” he muttered to himself, “Why would they save my life? They know I want them dead.”
“Maybe they were just being nice,” Mepps suggested.
“Bah!” Fat Cat shouted as he dismissed his lackey, “Nobody’s that nice! Not unless they stand to gain by it. But what could they gain?”
“Sounds like they want your loyalty, boss,” Snout mentioned.
“That’s absurd!” the fat feline responded. My only loyalty is to myself! he thought to himself, they must realize that. But knowing that, they’d know I’d value my own life above all else... Then why wouldn’t they just threaten to kill me, like that wolf? No, that’s not their style... they’ve had numerous chances to kill me on their own but they never have. They won’t kill... but they could let someone else kill me!
“Of course! Nobody could be that good and decent!” Fat Cat declared as he pounded his clenched paw on his desk... he thought it was his desk, actually it was Mole’s head since he’d unintentionally started wandering about his office as he thought. “If I don’t do as they want, they would withdraw their protection thereby letting some amateur bump me off when I’m not looking!” he stated as his twisted mind concocted a conspiracy out of his own personality and paranoia, “That way my blood isn’t on their paws... and since someone else gets the blame for my death their reputation remains unsullied.”
Fat Cat returned to his desk and grabbed the cell phone. “I’ve underestimated the Rescue Rangers, they’re far more devious than I’d anticipated!” he exclaimed as he sat down, comforted by the fact that his opponents finally made more sense to him. “Alright,” he addressed Chip with what he hoped sounded like suppressed hostility, “I’ll help you. But don’t think this will lead to any kind of ‘understanding’ between us, understand?”
“Of course,” Chip responded, “Your people should keep an eye out for a snake named Bud and a spider named Lou, they’ve been working with this witch for some time.”
“A snake and a spider,” Fat Cat repeated, “Yes, I recall having heard of that combination in regards to this diamond before. I’ll have someone get in touch with you as soon as we find out anything... by the way, how do I get in touch with you?”
“You can have someone leave a message with Romulus here,” Chip answered, “he’s been staying with Canina Lafur on the set of her latest film.”
“Then it’s agreed,” Fat Cat stated before turning off his phone. He leaned back in his seat as a wicked smile crossed his face.
“You’re actually going to help them?” Wart asked in disbelief.
“Of course I’ll help them,” the fat feline responded, “I’ll help them... right into a trap.”
As Romulus and Chip proceeded on their way back, Romulus asked the obvious, “Think he’s going to work a trap into this?”
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t,” Chip answered.
“Oh! Hi, Tammy!” Gadget stated as she answered the door, “I guess this means you’re no longer grounded... of course I suppose you could’ve just snuck out when your mother wasn’t looking.”
“Hi, Gadget,” Tammy responded as she walked in, “Mom finally got tired of me and Bink playing inside all the time... continuing to punish me was getting to be more trouble than it was worth.”
“Chip should be back pretty soon,” Gadget confessed, assuming he was the reason Tammy was paying the Rangers a visit.
“That’s nice to know,” Tammy replied, “but I’m actually looking for Raven... and Fangs, too. I went to Raven’s home but there was nobody there, then I went to see if Fangs might know where Raven was- even though my mother has forbidden me to have anything more to do with him- but I couldn’t find him at the church.”
“Well, Raven and Fangs are both here,” Gadget answered, “and Mr and Mrs Southmont are probably at the hospital checking on Dee.”
“What happened?” Tammy asked.
“Technically it all started shortly after you left when we brought you and Raven back after rescuing you... you see-”
“Wait-wait, hold it,” Tammy interrupted quickly as she remembered that Gadget’s explanations tend to be far more complicated than necessary, “I’ll just ask Raven.”
“Oh, ok!” Gadget replied cheerfully, “She’s in my workshop practicing her archery.”
While en route to Gadget’s workshop Tammy thought it was odd that Raven would be practicing something other than magic, but she had been out of touch for nearly three weeks. As she pondered that fact she remembered the original reason she had been so angry that she had been grounded... *she* was in town... the enchantress that had stolen Chip away from her. It was a chance for Tammy to retrieve Chip from the clutches of that temptress... but there she was, grounded like a little kid!
Tammy tried to push those thoughts to the side. At least I can complain to Raven about it, she thought, and she might even be able to give me details about what *she* does to keep Chip... so I can at least fight fire with fire.
“Hiya, Raven!” Tammy stated as she entered the workshop.
Raven, who had been retrieving arrows from the target, looked back towards the door. “Hi, Tammy,” she responded, “You escape or something?”
“Something like that,” Tammy replied with a laugh, “Did I miss anything important while I was gone?”
“I guess that depends on your point of view,” Raven answered as she prepared to loose an arrow at the target, “A lot of things happened that were really important to me... and Fangs and the Rangers and all.”
“You know that’s what I meant by ‘important’,” Tammy scolded as the arrow shot through the air.
“Well, le’s see,” Raven mumbled as she tried to figure out where to start while preparing another arrow. “I found out that Doohickey Hawkfeather is my biological mother and that I had a sister named Rebecca who died shortly after we were born...” Raven continued her target practice as she spoke... “My mother was only about our age when that happened so that really messed her up emotionally because she felt it was her fault. The Southmonts agreed to raise me as their own, at her request, so that I wouldn’t be hurt by any future mistakes on her part... and so I wouldn’t be burdened by her reputation.”
“What kind of reputation?” Tammy inquired.
“She was a whore,” Raven stated bluntly.
“Well that figures,” Tammy responded in disgust, “She probably sees Chip as just another lay.” She was soon aware that Raven was glaring at her. “Sorry,” the young squirrel stated, assuming Raven was upset at being interrupted.
“Anyway,” Raven continued, “I convinced myself from the start that she just got rid of me because a kid would’ve gotten in the way of her fun and didn’t care about me at all. I never tried to hide the fact I despised her and I blew up at her one night and she entirely broke down. When Chip saw what had happened he nearly belted me... well, he wanted to, I could tell from the way he looked at me.”
“Certainly is manipulative, isn’t she,” Tammy commented about her ‘adversary’. Again, Raven was glaring at her.
Raven resumed her narrative, “The next day she convinced Chip to let me continue to help with the case which, at the time, I didn’t understand. We knew Winifred had hidden the diamond in a building and we went in after it. Gadget discovered the place was about to be blown to pieces and Chip ordered us all to clear out... I didn’t hear him. When they did a head count after getting out they realized I was still inside so Dee went back in to get me. We got out just as the explosives went off... she shielded me with her body.”
“That’s why your parents would be at the hospital checking on her,” Tammy reasoned.
“She’s been in a coma for about two weeks now,” Raven pointed out, “She was conscious for a while when the doctor let us see her,” she sighed before she continued, “The first thing she asked Chip when she woke up was if I was ok... I was wrong about her, she did care about me... enough to be willing to sacrifice herself to save me.”
There was no comment from Tammy this time.
“You probably won’t want to hear this,” Raven began slowly, knowing Tammy was bound to take the news poorly, “A few days before, Chip proposed and she accepted... They’re engaged.”
“NO!” Tammy protested loudly.
“Tammy,” Raven sighed as she slumped her shoulders in dismay, “Grow up.”
The young squirrel was moments away from verbally blowing up at Raven, but thought better of it given what she had just been through. “Where is Chip, anyway?” Tammy eventually asked.
Raven hesitated, knowing her friend likely wouldn’t take that piece of news any better then the previous bit. “He went to meet with Fat Cat,” she answered with little emotion as she resumed her target practice.
Tammy was silent for a moment, utterly at a loss for what to say. “What?!” she eventually blurted out.
“We haven’t had any luck finding the diamond and only have a week left before that Winifred character can use it to become a full fledged sorceress,” Raven explained, “Chip’s hoping he can convince Fat Cat to help out.”
“That’s insane!” Tammy responded, “If Fat Cat finds it he’s just going to use it to lead the Rangers into a trap!”
“That was the general consensus of us all when Chip brought up the idea,” Raven pointed out calmly.
“And he still went ahead with the idea?” Tammy asked in confusion, “Gadg- Monte- you all let him go ahead with this?!”
“Yep,” the young mouse answered simply, “As distasteful as it is, it was the only workable solution we could find... it made sense.”
Tammy was becoming increasingly troubled by Raven’s surreal calm. “It made sense?!” she exclaimed. What’s wrong with everyone?! Tammy wondered to herself. “Don’t you want the diamond?” she asked.
“No!” Raven curtly replied, “I’m sick to death of magic!”
As Tammy’s confusion mounted she heard Chip return (actually, she only heard someone arrive, but from what Gadget had told her, she assumed it had to be him). “Chip?!” Tammy called out as she ran from Gadget’s workshop. She soon spotted him in the open living area, ran to him, and grabbed his jacket as she cried out in desperation, “What’s wrong with you?!”
“Looks like Raven told ‘er ‘bout Chip’s meeting with Fat Cat,” Monterey mentioned quietly to Dale.
“You can’t make a deal with that lowlife!” Tammy pleaded with Chip, “You were able to stop Winifred before without help like that!”
“That was under different circumstances,” Chip responded as he pried the distraught squirrel from his jacket, “We knew where she was going to cast the spell back then and got to her in time... This time we don’t have the slightest clue where she’ll be and can’t cover the entire city ourselves.”
“And we’re not even sure she’s even going to be in the city,” Gadget added.
“Why not just follow her to the hiding place and snag the diamond when she gets ready to cast the spell?” Tammy inquired, wondering why such an obvious solution hadn’t been settled on in the first place.
“That’s our ‘last resort’,” Chip explained, “Remember, we’ve all met before, and if she and her two goons remember us from our last encounter then we’ll have lost the element of surprise... which would be essential this time.”
“But Fat Cat’s eyes on the street are far less conspicuous,” Raven joined in as she returned from Gadget’s workshop, “They’re more likely to overhear something Bud or Lou might mention while one or the other is out on the town.”
“We already have Zipper following Freddy everywhere she goes in the off chance she might say or do something that’ll be useful,” Chip added, “Plus, we have Foxglove and Fangs keeping Freddy’s apartment under twenty-four hour surveillance. This wasn’t an easy decision to make.”
Tammy accepted that the decision had been made and the deal struck, her continued protests weren’t going to change the situation.
“Oh, Raven,” Chip stated when Tammy had relented, “Romulus wants to know if you plan to visit the hospital today, otherwise I can tell him to head on back to Canina’s trailer.”
“Sure, it was about time I took a break anyhow,” Raven sighed.
“I’ll go with you,” Tammy offered.
Neither of the girls did much talking en route to the hospital which gave Tammy time to contemplate how thoroughly things had deteriorated in her absence. Chip had become engaged to someone that just wanted to use him... well, that’s how Tammy saw the relationship. Raven had abandoned her interest in magic. And to top it off, the Rangers were now making deals with Fat Cat.
This is crazy! Tammy thought to herself, How could this have all happened? She searched her mind for some kind of answer, anything that could tie it all together. Her! Tammy thought as her mind focused on Dee, Chip’s a very emotional person, and he fell head over heels for this floozy- so much so that he’s willing to marry her- and now she’s in a coma. That means he can’t possibly be thinking rationally, and since the other Rangers follow his lead they’re not likely to second guess his decisions! she reasoned, I knew she was no good for him!
Tammy followed Raven through the hospital to the room where Dee lay. Inside they were met by the elder Southmonts.
“I see your mother finally let you loose,” Ben mentioned to Tammy.
“I guess she realized it didn’t really do any good to keep me locked up for much longer,” the young squirrel answered.
“When you have kids of your own you’ll understand where she was coming from,” Ann pointed out.
“When I have kids I’m not going to ground them,” Tammy countered. Then, looking at Dee with a certain amount of contempt, thought to herself, And thanks to her I’m never going to have the chance.
“No improvement?” Raven asked.
“No,” Ann replied, “but at least there hasn’t been a change for the worse.”
Tammy continued to glare at Dee’s unconscious form. She can’t possibly love Chip the way I do, she thought, She’s just going to use him and break his heart. He’d be much better off if she just died.
“What are her chances for coming out of this?” Tammy asked.
“No one knows,” Ben answered.
“So it’s possible she’ll be like this for the rest of her life?” Tammy inquired further.
Ben nodded. “It’s possible,” he added quietly.
Poor Chip, Tammy thought, He’s going to pine away for her for his entire life. Maybe I can talk to him, make him realize how pointless this is, convince him to let her die with dignity. She thought about how such a conversation might go. No, Tammy concluded, Chip isn’t the type to give up hope, he wouldn’t let her go. A decision like that has to be made for him, for his own good. He’ll hurt, but at least I’ll be here to help him through it... I’m sure she wouldn’t be if the positions were reversed.
For a brief moment, something terrible took hold of Tammy’s thoughts. She looked over the life support equipment. Thoughts of how to disconnect them manifested themselves. Suddenly, Tammy became sickeningly aware of the kinds of thoughts that had occurred to her. She felt ill. Trying not to attract unnecessary (not to mention unwanted) attention, Tammy stepped out into the hall.
What’s wrong with me?! Tammy thought once she’d had a couple deep breaths, How can I say I love Chip when I can think of causing him that much pain... And what kind of Rescue Ranger could I be if I can think of doing things like that?! As her guilt continued to mount, Tammy made other realizations. What about Raven? That’s her mother! What kind of friend am I?
“Tammy, dear, are you ok?” Mrs Southmont asked as she stepped out into the hall.
“Huh?” Tammy felt numb as she hoped none of what she’d been thinking was said unintentionally. “Oh, uh, yeah,” she eventually reassured Ann, “I... just felt a little uncomfortable.”
“I understand,” the matronly mouse responded as she put a paw on Tammy’s shoulder.
No, you don’t, Tammy thought. When she returned to the room and observed her ‘competition’, she felt ashamed for what she’d thought. Coming up beside the bed, Tammy took Dee’s paw. “I’m sorry,” she stated simply.
Raven felt compelled to follow suit... she knew she would have to eventually. But she couldn’t. Not in front of others, in front of people who might ask her why she felt the need to apologize. She couldn’t bring herself to risk that, having to confess the depth of her guilt. “I... I have to go,” Raven mentioned to the others, “Gadget wanted to teach me about magnets... or something.”
There was an awkward silence as the two girls returned to Ranger headquarters. The silence was more than Tammy could bear, so she decided to start some form of small talk. “Why’s Gadget so interested in teaching you about magnets... or something?”
“Dee was working to help find the diamond,” Raven replied, “She’s an inventor and mechanic like Gadget. But now that she’s out of commission for the time being I’ve been trying to fill in as best I can, so I asked Gadget to teach me what she knows.”
Tammy thought about that for a moment. “I wonder if she’d be willing to take on another student?”
When Raven and Tammy returned the young squirrel quickly sought out Chip... there was something she felt she had to do. “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through,” Tammy stated as she hugged Chip tightly, “And I hope Dee gets better quickly... I’d love to get a chance to see you in a tux, even if it is because you’re marrying somebody other than me.”
“Thanks, Tammy,” Chip reciprocated warmly, “I was kinda worried about how you’d take the news.”
“I just want to know that you’ll be happy, that’s all,” Tammy assured him.
“Am I interrupting anything?” Gadget asked as she approached.
“No,” Tammy replied as she and Chip broke their embrace, “not really.”
“Raven tells me you’re interested in learning about mechanics and engineering,” Gadget mentioned.
“If it’s not too much trouble,” the girl responded politely, “Since you’ve all gone and made a deal with Fat Cat I can’t exactly just walk away, and if I’m going to stick around I want to be as much help as possible.”
“Ok, we could always use more help.” Gadget assented. “But we’re not too worried about Fat Cat,” she added, “after all, we have Romulus and Honker to back us up.”
“I just hope we’re not relying on them too much,” Chip sighed to himself as the ladies left the room.
The evening of the full moon began to set upon the city. Restaurants, those run by humans and non-humans alike, prepared for the influx of young couples desiring a romantic dinner, to be capped off by a stroll beneath the shimmering celestial globe. The Police were calling in every available officer to handle the monthly onslaught of trouble and general insanity brought on by ‘Moon Madness’. In a doghouse shaped trailer a wolf gnawed angrily on a bovine thigh bone.
Canina watched anxiously as Romulus noisily vented his frustration. With hackles raised and a low guttural growling barely audible over the clacking and crunching of his teeth on the bone the environment was less than pleasant. The fact that Honker was pacing back and forth along the far wall with ears back and tail tucked, periodically casting worried glances towards his brother, did nothing to help alleviate her concern.
“So, we, uh, just keep waiting,” Canina asked, “right?”
“Yes!” Romulus snapped, “Just like the last time you asked!”
“Of course,” the poodle responded quietly, “just like last time.”
“I hate waiting!” the irate wolf growled as he gnawed. Then, with a sickening ‘tweak’, the bone split lengthwise. Romulus wrenched the bone in half with a grotesque, cracking, rip. He then proceeded to gouge out the soft marrow with his incisors.
A knock at the trailer door caught the attention of everyone within. In the space of a second, Romulus reached the door and flung it open. “WHAT?!” he snarled.
A squat, dumpy looking rat in a tattered maroon sweater and dark blue vest stood trembling in the spacious entry. Barely able to see the massive canine from beneath his cap, Snout merely gaped in shock.
In no mood for pleasantries, Romulus grabbed the guest and brought him up to his face. “TALK!” the wolf barked, “WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A HEAD!”
“Th-th-the witch is keeping the diamond in the warehouse at the end of Pier 12!” the rat answered quickly.
“WHERE IN THE WAREHOUSE?!” Romulus demanded.
“I don’t know!” Snout yelped desperately. Romulus hurled the messenger aside as he leapt from the trailer door. Canina and Honker quickly followed. Once he finished rolling to a stop on the pavement, Snout lamented, “I should be getting hazard pay for this.”
Unobserved by all concerned, a female German Shepherd mix raced off from behind the trailer in pursuit of the other three canines.
“Here they come!” Gadget shouted from the branch when she spotted the wolves and Canina entering the park.
“Everyone to the hanger!” Chip shouted to the others in Ranger Headquarters.
“It’s somewhere in the warehouse at the end of Pier 12!” Romulus shouted up to Gadget as he slowed to a trot before turning back.
“We’ll meet you there!” Gadget shouted back before racing off to the hanger.
Just as Romulus left the park, the German Shepherd threw herself sideways into him as hard as she could manage. She bounced off his flank and came tumbling to a stop on the sidewalk while he collided shoulder first with a mailbox. Canina and Honker stopped short in order to figure out what had just occurred. With hackles raised and teeth bared, Romulus prepared to engage the individual that had ‘attacked’ him.
“Sorry, sir, I didn’t see you coming,” the Shepherd stated to Romulus as she turned away form him. Vigorously wagging her tail in his face, she implored “Please forgive me!”
The expression on the face of the infuriated wolf suddenly became one of intense curiosity. Honker, too, suddenly became intrigued and edged closer to their new acquaintance. Looking over her shoulder, the Shepherd realized she had the complete attention of both males and quickly began to trot off down the street.
As both wolves proceeded down the street after the collarless stray, Canina remained behind, utterly confused. “Boys,” she called after them, “Boys, the pier is this way!” she declared pointing in the opposite direction. “Fellas?” Canina shouted as she began to trot after the wayward wolves.
Once she had caught up with him, Canina stated gruffly to Romulus, “This is no time to go chasing tail! The Rangers are counting on us!” There was no reaction form the wolf as he continued down the street. “Are you listening to me?!” she asked as she grabbed at his collar.
As Canina’s paw brushed the guard hairs along the wolf’s neck he flung his head back snarling and snapped at her foreleg. Fortunately for Canina, however, she hadn’t been able to get a hold of the collar and her limb was already falling away form Romulus as his powerful jaws snapped shut onto empty space. With only a glance at Canina, he continued after the other female.
“What in blazes is wrong with you?!” Canina shouted after Romulus as she began to chase him down. Still no reaction. She galloped past the two wolves and trotted up beside the stray. “What did you do to him?!” she asked.
“If you have to ask you can’t do it,” the stray responded smugly.
“And what, exactly, do you mean by that?!” Canina asked bluntly.
“He’s a male, I’m a female,” the Shepherd responded, “You figure it out!” As a gesture of contempt, the stray boffed Canina in the head with her shaggy tail, nearly knocking the wig off of the actress’ head.
As Canina stopped to fix her hair she realized what the Shepherd had meant. “Damn veterinarian!” she growled to herself. How am I supposed to compete with that? she thought. As Canina frantically searched her mind for some way to win back the wolves’ loyalty she remembered something Romulus had mentioned to her a few nights before about lupine courtship. “Where’s a stand-in when you need one,” she grumbled, “Looks like I’m going to have to do my own stunts this time!”
The stray was far too wrapped up in her own sense of accomplishment to hear the sound of Canina racing up behind her at full speed. This meant that her squeal when she felt Canina’s teeth clamp down on her ear wasn’t so much out of pain as it was out of utter shock. Before she knew it, the Shepherd was thrown against a wall and soon found herself muzzle to muzzle with a very angry star of stage, screen and occasional dog food commercial.
“Listen, you hussy!” Canina snarled, “You can either leave here with your tail tucked on your own or I can make you leave!”
The Shepherd gathered her wits about her and politely asked, “Would either of you gentlemen like to come to the assistance of a damsel in distress?” Romulus merely looked at her with his head cocked to the side.
“Forget it, sister!” Canina responded, “They’re not goin’ to interfere. This is just between you and me!”
“Sister?” the Shepherd asked sarcastically, “Listen, Granny, maybe you should get back to the nursing home before somebody misses you.”
“Well that’s it for you then!” Canina stated as she proceeded to teach the stray some manners... the hard way.
“Still no sign of them!” Fangs reported as he returned to the others just across the street from the warehouse at Pier 12.
“What could be keeping them?” Chip asked in frustration, “Even with heavy traffic it shouldn’t take them this long!”
“Should we risk heading in before Freddie shows up?” Tammy asked, knowing it meant walking into a possible trap with no backup. Chip looked at the digital watch in the dashboard of the Ranger Wing. The moon had already risen, and within a few more minutes would be visible over the buildings of the city.
Before Chip could determine an answer, Fangs’ ears perked up. “That’s a moot point now,” the vampire declared, “I can hear Freddie’s motorcycle!”
“Ok, ‘Plan B’ then,” Chip stated, “We ambush Freddie when she gets the diamond!”
As the witch approached, Foxglove arrived. “Please tell me you have the diamond already,” she pleaded as she landed.
“No,” Chip answered bluntly, “We’ll hafta’ go in after Freddie. Zipper’s still with her?”
“He’ll only be able to distract her for a few moments on his own,” Chip pointed out, “Foxglove, you Fangs go in through a window and as soon as you see Freddie with the diamond, help Zipper keep her from doing anything. The rest of us will join in as soon as we can get there from ground level.”
The roar of the motorcycle rose then suddenly came to a stop. The chiropteran pair flew off for the nearest window as the others raced across the street with whatever equipment they felt would be useful.
The wolves watched patiently as the two ladies slugged it out, obeying millennia of ingrained instinct and custom, waiting for one of the two combatants to prove herself the most capable. Though the Shepherd had youth and muscle on her side, years of training as a dancer meant Canina had stamina, coordination, and excellent health. Canina had another advantage in her favor... she was highly motivated by loyalty to her friends. Soon, the stray realized that what Fat Cat was offering her wasn’t worth all the trouble, and threw in the towel.
As the Shepherd limped off, Canina was nearly knocked over as Romulus began to snuggle up next to her. “Hey there, big guy!” she warned him as she pushed him back, “This ain’t the time or the place!” When Romulus gave her a playful nip on the neck she became a little more direct, and slapped him upside the head a couple times.
Romulus looked about in a confused manner. “Where are we?” he asked.
“Behind schedule!” Canina shouted as she took off down the street. Both wolves soon followed suit.
“Can you see her?” Fangs asked as he and Foxglove circled the inside of the spacious warehouse.
“Not yet,” Foxglove answered, “She may still be among some of these boxes. Wait!” Winifred’s acoustic silhouette stood out once she ventured out away from the piles of boxes near a far wall. “On your right,” Foxglove called out to Fangs, “she’s becoming visible!”
The two chiropterans ventured closer in an attempt to locate the diamond on Winifred’s person, careful to take erratic courses in order to appear like local bats just flitting about after bugs. As Foxglove and Fangs closed, they were met by Zipper who pointed out that Winifred had indeed recovered the diamond.
Clutching the diamond tightly in her right fist, Winifred strode out into the middle of the warehouse as Bud and Lou slithered and scuttled obediently behind her. Coming to a stop, she turned and looked towards one of the windows.
“Perfect!” the witch declared as she spotted the moon edging into sight, “In just I few minutes I’ll have all the power I could ever want!”
“Where are the others?” Fangs asked, “They should be here by now!”
Just as their chiropteran compatriots had entered through a window, the Rangers, Raven and Tammy reached one of the doors. As the rest cautiously entered, Raven got a paw stuck on a piece of gum. “Dammit!” she muttered. “I’ll be right with you!” Raven called out as she proceeded to extricate herself. The others disappeared into the structure.
Almost within sight of the center of the warehouse, the Rangers made their way past a pile of abandoned cloth and netting. Just as Fat Cat had hoped, they were too focused on trying to locate Freddie too notice the potential trap. The netting, flung by wire springs much like in a mousetrap, suddenly lunged up and over the group. As a drawstring pulled closed the open end, the Rangers and Tammy entirely lost their footing and collapsed into a jumbled heap. Fat Cat and his cronies soon emerged from their hiding places.
“It was a long wait,” Fat Cat began, “But I think it was well worth it.”
“You knew where the diamond was before today, didn’t you?” Chip asked accusingly.
“Well obviously,” Fat Cat responded.
“Where are the wolves?” Gadget asked to the other captives.
“Distracted,” Fat Cat answered, having overheard her question, “We’ve all heard it said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach... but for a wolf, it’s through his nose.”
“You idiot!” Tammy shouted, “Don’t you realize what’s going to happen now?!”
“An angel will get it’s wings?” Mole asked.
“QUIET!” Fat Cat commanded as he swatted a paw at his lackey. “You didn’t really think I’d buy that bit about a witch and magic powers did you?” he asked the Rangers, “Not that it matters, though. It only mattered that you did. And once that human realizes that she can’t get any magic powers from that rock she’ll toss it aside in anger... and I’ll be there to retrieve it.”
“Finally!” Winifred declared as the moon cleared the bottom frame of the window.
“GET HER!” Foxglove yelled as Winifred held up the diamond. She, Fangs and Zipper quickly descended on the witch intent on getting the diamond out of her grasp. Zipper flew up to Winifred’s face and batted at her eyes. Foxglove grasped at the diamond with her feet, but the witch retained her grasp... until Fangs raked his razor-sharp incisors across the back of her hand. As Foxglove took off with the diamond, Lou lassoed her about the neck with some webbing... the sudden jerk caused her to drop her prize. Bud lunged out and caught the gem in his mouth. Winifred, in turn, grabbed Bud by his throat and retrieved the diamond.
The witch once more held the diamond aloft to perform the spell. As Fangs flew in to grab at it, she flung her arms about at him. Once Fangs had backed off she held up the diamond again... only to have both bats close on her. Clutching the diamond in her fist she swung at her assailants, causing them to fly off beyond arms’ reach. With Zipper continually making passes at her eyes, Winifred grew increasingly enraged.
Realizing that every time she held out the diamond she would be set upon by the bats, Winifred decided to take the offensive. Grabbing Bud by the end of his tail, she flung him about like a whip. Taken completely off guard by the unorthodox tactic, both Foxglove and Fangs failed to react quickly enough to dodge the assault and were knocked out of the air. Before either could return to flight, the witch held the diamond up towards the moon.
Keeping her eyes open just long enough to aim it properly, Winifred quickly recited the spell before Zipper could make a meaningful attack. A beam of pale yellow light shot from the stone as Zipper raced towards her, only to be blown back several feet as his target was caught up in an explosion of light.
“Is that it?” Winifred asked, “I thought it’d feel different.”
Raven finally managed to loose her paw from the gum and, picking up her mother’s bow, raced into the warehouse to rejoin the others. She came to a sudden halt, though, after catching sight of Fat Cat and his gang standing about her captive comrades. The others won’t be a problem if I take him out, she thought as she drew an arrow form the quiver and aimed carefully for the feline’s chest.
“I guess I need to try out my new powers on something,” Winifred reasoned aloud, “or someone.” As she finished her statement, all within earshot took cover... even her accomplices. “Any volunteers?” the witch asked sadistically.
“Oh no you don’t!” Wart declared as he grabbed at Raven’s arms. The suddenness of the lizard’s action caused Raven to loose the arrow lower than intended. As the outraged youth dug her teeth into Wart’s hand, the wayward arrow impacted... right in Fat Cat’s left foot.
The injured feline’s yeowling caught Winifred’s attention, and when he hopped out from behind the boxes on one foot she took advantage of the situation. “My-my, ask and I shall receive!” the witch stated delightedly as she took aim.
To the astonishment of all present, Fat Cat especially, the portly crime boss was turned into a pig, a giraffe, a lamppost, and a statue of Buddha before returning to his natural form. After a short pause, and oblivious to the pain in his foot, Fat Cat ran screaming from the warehouse, his flunkeys in tow.
To the sound of Winifred’s triumphant cackling, Raven and Gadget both set to work cutting through the netting with razors. Before long, Foxglove, Fangs and Zipper arrived and the vampire joined in the effort.
Romulus, Honker and Canina finally arrived as the Rangers emerged from their fetter. “You ok?!” Romulus asked desperately.
“Depends on your point of view, mate,” Monterey responded.
“Freddie was able to use the diamond!” Foxglove informed the overdue hunter.
Upon hearing of the consequences of his lateness, Romulus hung his head, “This is all because that bitch had me by the balls!”
“Honk,” Honker added pathetically.
“Right,” Romulus added, “That bitch had us both by the balls!”
“You can beat yourselves up later!” Chip chastised the predators, “But right now we’ve gotta do... something.”
“But what?” Dale asked.
Gadget turned to Raven, “You told us there was a counter spell, right?”
“Yeah,” Raven responded, “But I don’t see how the hell we can get it to work now!”
“How does it work?!” Chip demanded.
“Well,” Raven began as she thought, “If we can get the diamond we can cast the same spell by the first light of the morning sun... it would have the opposite effect, it would strip her of her powers.”
“So we’ve got two tasks,” Chip stated, “Get the diamond from her and keep her occupied till morning!”
“How?!” Dale asked.
Intent upon atoning for his previous failure, Romulus did what came easiest for him... he took action. “Like this!” he stated as he raced out into the open with Honker and Canina immediately behind.
By the time Winifred realized what was happening, both wolves and Canina were practically on top of her. In her terror, she cast the first spell that popped into her head. Before any of the canines hit the witch, they were transformed into stuffed animals and bounced off harmlessly.
“Well, that certainly helped,” Chip responded sarcastically, “Does anyone have a better idea?”
“They had the right idea, but they were too obvious,” Foxglove pointed out as she took flight. Fangs realized what she had in mind and took off in the opposite direction.
“Are they crazy?!” Tammy shouted.
“No, I see what they’re up to,” Raven responded when she watched the two approach the witch from both sides. As Winifred turned to deal with one, the other would land on her and bite her, pull her hair, anything to distract her. “As long as they stay right on top of her she can’t really do anything to them.”
“Zipper,” Chip called, “Go help out!”
“Can’t let them have all the fun!” Monterey declared as he raced over to the beleaguered witch. He climbed up on a shoe and began to untie it.
“I’ll see if I can make use of this trap,” Gadget mentioned as she ran over to the pile of netting and wire. Tammy quickly joined her.
As Winifred frantically swatted at the bats she dropped the diamond. Seeing it skittering along the floor, Monterey ran after it having just finished tying the witch’s shoelaces together. Returning to the others, he proudly displayed his catch. “One down, one to go!” He declared.
“And there she goes now!” Dale shouted as he watched Winifred trip up and collapse on the floor.
“Scraggily scrub brushes!” Winifred swore out of frustration. As she tried to stand she noticed the state of her shoe laces. “Bah!” she blurted out as she fired off a bolt of energy at the troublesome knot.
Having had to dodge the witch as she fell, both Foxglove and Fangs had put considerable distance between themselves and their target. But as the two dove back in to continue their harassment, Winifred saw them coming. Firing off bolts of energy at the pair she was able to drive them off. To their dismay, Winifred was now much more alert, and better able to keep them far enough back that they couldn’t make any dives at her.
Zipper, in an effort to draw her attention, continually flew up to her eyes, into her ears, and even darted close to her nostrils. But, with just a moment of thought, Winifred cast a spell ensuring that every breath she exhaled was laced with toxins. After only a few puffs, Zipper was forced to back off. Winifred promptly resumed firing upon the two bats, sometimes missing them only by an inch.
“How’s... whatever that is coming?” Chip asked of Gadget, Tammy and Raven as they worked on the former trap.
“In a few moments we should have a dandy catapult!” Gadget remarked. “Hey, Tammy, help me pull this wire back.”
As the two ladies pulled the wire spring back, Gadget lost her footing and with it her grip on the wire. With a startled scream, Tammy went sailing through the air. Fortunately, she hit Winifred rather than the cement floor several feet away. Clutching onto the witch’s blouse, Tammy quickly clambered up over the collar and right inside.
Winifred broke into hysterical laughter as the squirrel made laps inside her dress. “STOP IT! BA-HA-HA! STOP IT!” she shouted as she frantically pulled at her clothes, trying to shake the furry intruder out.
“Golly, that worked better than I planned!” Gadget remarked, “Even though I didn’t really plan it.”
Eventually, Tammy lost her grip and tumbled out of Winifred’s blouse. “Now for some scorched squirrel!” the witch declared as she prepared to blast the disoriented rodent. But before she could let loose with a bolt of energy, Fangs landed on her neck and slashed at her with his incisors.
Unfortunately for Fangs, all the frantic flying he’d been doing had tired him out and he was unable to dodge Winifred’s hand as she smacked him. As Tammy made a break for cover, the witch pulled the dazed vampire from her neck.
“Time to fight bats with bats!” Winifred stated as she held out her free hand and, with a flash, a Louisville Slugger materialized. As Winifred held her ‘ball’ out in front of her, Fangs realized what was about to happen and prepared to fly like mad as soon as she let go. The witch anticipated this, however, and gave a hard squeeze, forcing the air out of Fangs’ lungs and snapping a couple bones in his wings.
Foxglove flew towards the witch as fast as she could, hoping to close the distance before she could swing. As she closed, Foxglove tucked her head and thrust out a shoulder, letting her momentum carry her the rest of the way.
Winifred was utterly oblivious to the incoming projectile until Foxglove literally rammed into one of her eyes. In her shock, Winifred dropped Fangs and awkwardly swung the baseball bat simultaneously. Fangs received a glancing blow from the wooden club.
“NOOOO!!” Raven shrieked as she saw Fangs spiraling through the air.
Foxglove, surprised she was in as good a condition as she was after her kamikaze dive, continued to harass Winifred who was now babying a very bloodshot eye.
Falling to the cement floor, Fangs tumbled for several feet before coming to a stop not far from where most of the others had taken cover. Chip, Dale, Tammy, Gadget, and Monterey raced over to check on Fangs.
“YOU BITCH!!” Raven screamed at Winifred, “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!!” In her rage, Raven raced forward and tripped over something. Roaring in anger, she grabbed whatever it was that had tripped her, intent upon tearing it to pieces. In a brief moment of clarity, Raven realized she was holding the diamond. All her previous thoughts of abandoning magic vanished. What she wanted now, more than anything, was revenge... any way she could get it. Holding the diamond tightly, Raven quickly ran to get into the moonlight.
Raven climbed to the roof of the warehouse, it was the best place to find the moon. As she raced to get into the moonlight, all the things she had wanted to say to Fangs ran through her mind... all the things she would now never be able to say to him. Raven had nearly lost her mother because of her own arrogance, but there was one who was willing to forgive her despite her guilt, someone who wouldn’t leave her, someone she had come to love deeply... and now he was gone, gone forever.
“How is he?” Chip asked as Gadget examined Fangs. He wasn’t under any illusion that the prognosis would be cheery. Laying on his back, a wing grotesquely bent beneath him, he was at least still breathing.
“He has a concussion, and both wings are broken,” Gadget noted, “but his pulse is steady.”
Chip turned to see what effect the news had on Raven, only to realize she was nowhere to be seen. He also noticed the diamond had disappeared as well. “Uh-oh.”
Before anyone could ask what Chip’s concern was for, they heard Winifred call out, “Your death will be a lot less painful if you give me a good clean shot, you little back stabber!”
“Foxy’s trying to handle Freddie on her own!” Dale shouted in surprise. “We’ve gotta help her!” he declared as he raced off.
“Tammy, let’s get that catapult working!” Gadget ordered. The two darted off to continue their work.
“We can’t just leave Fangs here,” Chip mentioned.
“C’mon, lad,” Monterey grunted as he hefted up the unconscious bat, “Let’s find you someplace safe to wait this out!” Chip and Monterey departed for a sheltered location for their injured companion.
Barely dodging Winifred’s constantly shifting feet, Dale leapt onto one of her shoes. He grabbed hold of the sock, yanked it down, and sank his teeth into her ankle. As Winifred swatted at Dale, Foxglove grabbed hold of an earlobe and gave a sharp yank.
Winifred tried to focus on just one of her two assailants long enough to get off a clean shot. Doing so, however, left her open to attack by a third. With a bright flash of light, the witch went flying across the warehouse into a pile of boxes.
“Crikey! What was that?!” Monterey exclaimed afer hearing Winifred’s startled scream.
Dale, who had been clinging to a sock, looked up from the floor where he’d landed and noticed someone new. “Who the heck is that!?” he asked upon seeing Winifred’s latest assailant. Striding across the warehouse was a young human female dressed in a grey shirt, blue jeans and a trench coat. She was thin with short black hair and a tan complexion.
“That’s Raven!” Chip exclaimed as Foxglove and Dale returned to the rest of the group.
“Sure looks different without her ears and a tail!” Monterey commented.
“Who do you think you are?!” Winifred angrily challenged the newcomer as she began to emerge from the pile of boxes she had been blasted into. Raven raced over to her. She pulled Winifred up and drew a fist back to punch her. However, Winifred swiftly transformed herself into a mouse and scampered off between Raven’s legs. Raven, in turn, transformed herself into a cat and pounced upon the rodent. Winifred returned to her human form and lifted the feline up by the scruff of her neck. Raven promptly dug every nail she could into Winifred’s arm. Winifred, howling at the pain, dropped Raven. “You’ll pay for that, whoever you are!” she declared as she prepared to blast the feline with a bolt of energy. But her adversary was nowhere to be seen.
In the form of a flea, Raven hopped behind Winifred. Taking a human form, Raven grabbed her in a choke hold. Thinking of a creature with a thick powerful neck, Winifred assumed the form of a horse. Bucking wildly, the equine Winifred managed to toss Raven aside. Landing on the cement, Raven’s head was cushioned by the wolves and Canina who were still stuck as stuffed animals. “Sorry,” she commented as she got up.
“This is incredible!” Chip stated in amazement as the two sorceresses continued their battle.
“Yeah, this is almost as bizarre as the time I was a genie in a lamp!” Monterey chimed in.
“How long is this going to go on?” Dale asked.
“I imagine it’ll continue until one of them tires out,” Foxglove responded.
“If that’s the case then my money’s on Raven,” Monterey replied, “She’s got the advantage of youth.”
“The problem is we don’t know exactly how the spell affected them,” Chip pointed out, “For all we know they could have the exact same stamina.”
“Well, then there’s always the possibility one of them will make a mistake,” Gadget commented as she and Tammy joined the group.
“I don’t think we should take that kind of chance,” Tammy stated.
“What do you suggest we do, luv?” Monterey asked, “We’re a little out of our league now.”
“Well,” Tammy stammered as she thought, “What if we could distract Freddie? That would give Raven a chance to get off a kill shot.” The reference drew everyone’s attention. “You know what I mean, do something to disable her,” Tammy added.
“We understand,” Chip replied. But I’m afraid a ‘kill shot’ is exactly what Raven has in mind now, he thought to himself.
“We were distracting her before,” Tammy continued.
“At that point Freddie was more or less stationary,” Monterey pointed out, “But know she’s changin’ and movin’ about faster than a chameleon on a sugar rush!”
As there was a spectacular exchange of energy bolts, Dale added, “Besides, there’s twice as much of a chance of getting fried!”
“Wait, we don’t have to go out there to distract Winifred,” Gadget stated, “What if we could hit her with something from our catapult?”
“Like what?” Chip asked.
“WellIdunno,” Gadget mumbled as she surveyed the resources. “I know!” she declared before racing over to some rope, twine, and a pile of boomerangs that had fallen out of a box. Within a few moments Gadget had modified the catapult for launch. “Now, the next time Winifred takes a human form,” she began to explain, “I fire the plunger harpoon to anchor this end of the rope on her person, then we fire the catapult which will launch the boomerang carrying the other end of the rope.”
“And it’ll bind her up long enough for Raven to do... something,” Chip finished.
“But what if Freddie takes a form after the plunger hits her and it comes loose?” Tammy asked. She soon spied Dee’s quiver of arrows that Raven had left behind. “What about those?” Tammy suggested, “A porcupine quill wouldn’t come loose as easily as a plunger!”
“Hmm, that’s right,” Gadget agreed, “But I’m not sure I can attach the lead rope to any of them.” She inspected the quiver, and to her delight noticed that a couple of arrows had attachments for just such a purpose. “Golly, how convenient!”
Gadget quickly moved the twine that served as the lead rope from the plunger to one of the arrows and grabbed the bow. Watching Raven and Winifred as they dueled, she estimated the most likely position for Winifred to take, drew back the bow and waited. Gadget hadn’t waited long before Winifred, as a human, staggered back right into her sights. She let loose and the arrow flew straight to it’s target... Winifred’s left calf. “Oh, sorry!” Gadget replied out of instinct when she spotted a tiny trickle of blood seep from the impact sight.
As soon as the arrow hit home, Tammy set off the catapult. In the excitement, Winifred hadn’t noticed the arrow, but the boomerang flying around and around trailing a rope was another matter. She was far too stunned by the occurrence to immediately use her magic. When Raven noticed her adversary had temporarily frozen in place, she took advantage of the situation. The first spell she cast was to inhibit Winifred’s magic while bound by the rope, the next was to make the rope as rigid as steel. With the sudden change of weight caused by Raven’s second spell, Winifred toppled over with an “oof” and a ‘clank’.
Winifred struggled against her fetters, but to no avail. But her greatest disappointment came as each spell she tried failed, one after another. “What?! How?!” the witch stammered in frustration, “I couldn’t have lost my magic!”
“No,” Raven, as a human, replied coldly, “But you just can’t use it while you’re bound up.”
With Winifred incapacitated, the Rangers, Tammy and Foxglove emerged from their cover and approached the defeated witch. Raven approached as well.
“When I get loose I’m going to turn you all into sponges!” Winifred threatened, “Then throw you all into a garbage disposal!”
When Raven reached the side of her opponent she reached out a hand, into which materialized a Louisville Slugger. “Then we’ll have to do something about that,” she stated. Raven’s tone of voice sent a chill down Chip’s spine. When he saw her raise the bat above her head he realized, with horror, what she had in mind.
“WAIT!” Chip shouted as he placed himself between Raven and Winifred.
“WHAT?!” Raven hollered in anger as she lowered the weapon to her side.
“You can’t kill her!” Chip commanded.
“Why not?!” Raven hissed in response, “All she’s ever going to do is try to hurt people!”
“You don’t know that!” Chip stated, “No one does.” There was a pause as Raven slowly began to calm down. “Where do you get the authority to decide that she’ll never be given the opportunity to change?”
“She had a chance!” Raven shot back, “But she chose to continue to hurt innocent people!”
“And I gave you a chance,” Chip countered. Raven gave him a puzzled look. Chip knew he was walking a very fine line. He knew Raven didn’t react well to insults, and in this instance could do far more damage. “When you offered to help us get the diamond I let you and Fangs go along with us. And when you hurt Dee that first time, at the laundromat, I wanted you gone. I didn’t want to chance her getting hurt further, but I gave you a second chance. That night you went out of your way to hurt Dee, and when you showed up the next morning to ask if you could help us I wanted to throw you out a window rather than give you a third chance... but not your mother. She refused to give up hope in you, and she refused to let me give up on you.”
That last sentence hit Raven the hardest. She did give me another chance, she thought, and with that chance I nearly killed her! The sense of certainty that her rage had given her was being clouded by her sense of guilt.
“That’s what it all boils down to,” Chip continued, “Not giving up hope. I would rather let Freddie, or Fat Cat, or anyone else go knowing that they’ll probably try to kill me tomorrow... I would rather do that than give up hope that they might change. I don’t want to accept that they were destined to be worthless. And that’s what I don’t want to see you do, I don’t want to see you give up hope that things can change for the better. And I know that Dee wouldn’t want to see you give up hope either.”
“And do you really want Winifred’s death on your conscience?” Gadget asked.
“Your mother knows what it’s like to kill,” Chip pointed out, “And even though it was in self defense she hates what she had to do. But this isn’t even in self defense, at this point in time Winifred can’t hurt any of us... she’s helpless.”
Raven finally realized the mistake she had been about to make, but it didn’t ease any of her pain. She wanted revenge for what was done to Fangs, but couldn’t bring herself to actually do anything. Raven’s eyes began to fill with tears as her frustration grew. Throwing the bat aside, she fell to her knees, buried her face in her hands and cried. “He’s gone!” she wept.
That’s right, Chip realized, she probably thinks that Fangs is dead! “No, he isn’t,” Chip informed her as he put a paw on her enormous knee, “He’s hurt, but he isn’t dead.”
Raven looked down upon the chipmunk by her knee, “What?”
“Fangs isn’t dead,” Chip reiterated.
The girl’s spirits rose. “Where is he?” Raven asked as her sobbing subsided.
“Over this way!” Chip motioned.
Raven stood to follow him, but was gripped by a sudden sense of vertigo.
“Are you ok?” Gadget asked when she saw Raven waver slightly.
“Uh, yeah,” Raven answered, “I’m just not used to being this tall!” She followed Chip and the others to where Fangs lay unconscious. Raven knelt down beside him. “He’s so small!” she exclaimed. She reached down a hand to touch her friend, then stopped suddenly upon seeing the size of her hand. “Jeez, I don’t want to crush him,” Raven mentioned.
“Well, just change back into a mouse,” Tammy offered innocuously.
“Oh!” Raven exclaimed. With all that had happened she had temporarily forgotten all about her powers. Raven closed her eyes and was soon enveloped in a luminous mist. As the haze cleared, a small mouse knelt where the human had been.
“Do you think you can use your powers to heal him?” Tammy asked.
“Well, let’s find out,” Raven said as she placed her paws on her unconscious love. She closed her eyes and began to concentrate. Soon, a blueish light began to emanate from her paws and began to spread over the chiropteran’s body. In a matter of moments the light faded. Raven gazed upon Fangs. The bat groggily blinked his eyes. He lifted his head, then began to sit up. With a squeal, Raven threw her arms around Fangs. “I thought you were dead!” she cried.
“What happened?!” Fangs asked out of utter confusion, “I remember getting hit with a bat, but that’s about it.”
“It’s a long story!” Raven responded, “I’ll explain it later.” She released her grip on Fangs and sat up. “But there’s something I have to tell you before anything else happens,” Raven stated happily, taking his wings in her paws, “I love you!”
“I love you, too!” Fangs almost cried as he embraced Raven tightly, “I’ve wanted to tell you for so long!” For the first time since being taken from his parents as a child, he didn’t feel alone. He no longer felt like an outcast or pariah. Fangs knew he belonged and was wanted... and knew he was loved.
Though her wings were still sore from all the flying she’d done earlier, Foxglove embraced Dale from behind and laid her head upon his shoulder. Dale placed a paw on one of her wings and leaned his head on hers.
Raven and Fangs stood, brushing tears form their eyes. Then, upon catching one another’s gaze, embraced once more and, for the first time, they kissed. When they broke their kiss, they cradled each other as they cried. It was quite awhile before they let go of one another.
“I don’t mean to kill the mood,” Monterey interjected gently, “But maybe something could be done for our tail wagging companions?”
“That’s right!” Raven exclaimed, “The wolves!” She turned to Fangs, “I’ll be right back!”
Raven began to run over to the stuffed animals that had previously been Romulus, Honker and Canina. The others quickly followed with Fangs and Foxglove flying along. Coming to a stop, Raven held up her paws towards the three toys. In a burst of light, the canines were restored to their natural forms. Honker, who had been upside down, flopped about for a bit before getting his footing. Romulus shook himself from head to tail.
“How nice of you to get around to us, darling,” Canina mentioned, “I was beginning to wonder how I was going to explain this to my agent.”
“So, what’re we going to do with Freddie over there?” Romulus asked.
“Don’t call me Freddie!” the witch hollered.
“Quiet, you!” Romulus commanded.
“We should get her up to the roof,” Raven answered, “That way I can cast the spell as soon as the sun rises over the buildings.”
“And how, exactly, are we supposed to lift her up there?” Monterey asked.
Raven thought for a moment. Walking over to the witch, she looked her over. The others gathered around to see what the young sorceress was going to do. She held out her left paw and snapped her fingers with her right. In the blink of an eye, Winifred disappeared.
“Where’d she go?!” Romulus asked as he looked about frantically.
“She’s in my palm,” Raven explained.
Romulus bent down to get a close look. Indeed, there was a very tiny Winifred laying in the girl’s palm. “Ooh!” Romulus commented.
“What do you think you’re looking at you hairball?!” Winifred squeaked angrily.
Gadget quickly whispered something into Raven’s ear. “Oh, you’re right!” Raven responded. “Sweet dreams, Freddie,” she said as she waved a paw over her captive.
“Don’t call me-” Winifred was cut off mid sentence by a snore as the sleeping spell took hold.
“What was that about?” Dale asked.
“At the size she was shrunk to, the metal rope would’ve been substantially weaker,” Gadget pointed out, “Freddie would’ve been able to wriggle out of her bindings.”
Raven tucked the sleeping Winifred into a pocket of her trench coat. “Now to the roof,” she stated. Once upon the roof, Raven removed her captive form her makeshift prison and set her down. Stepping back considerably, Raven snapped her fingers. In an instant, Winifred was restored to her natural size, as were her bindings.
Chip was about to ask a particular favor of Raven. But before he could, she turned to Gadget.
“Aunt Gadget,” Raven asked, “Do you think you could give me and Fangs a lift to the hospital?”
“Do you feel ok?” Gadget asked.
“I’m fine, there’s just something I have to have removed there,” Raven responded.
“What?” inquired Gadget.
“My guilt,” Raven answered.
Gadget, Raven, and Fangs arrived at the Saint Bernard Veterinary Hospital in the Ranger Wing. Given the lateness of the hour, visitors weren’t normally permitted. However, Raven reasoned that an exception could be made for people who happened to be invisible. And, after some confused stumbling about, Gadget suggested that they walk single file with paw or wing of one on the shoulder of the one in front. As they crossed through the waiting room, they passed Ben Southmont asleep in a chair.
Once within Dee Hawkfeather’s room, the invisibility spell was removed. Gadget flipped on the light as Raven approached her prone parent. Laying her paws upon her, Raven closed her eyes. As with Fangs, a bluish glow spread form the girl’s paws and enveloped Dee’s body. Only this time, as the light faded, Raven nearly lost her balance.
Fangs quickly grabbed hold of Raven and steadied her. “You ok?” he asked, quite concerned.
“Yeah,” Raven answered weakly, “It’s just all the magic I’ve been using... I’m getting a little worn out.” Her fatigue was put on hold when she saw her mother stir.
Dee’s eyes opened slowly. She blinked several times as she adjusted to the lights. As she caught sight of her visitors, Dee turned her head to face them. Immediately, and with enormous relief, she recognized her daughter. “Raven!” she stated excitedly as she began to sit up, “You’re ok!”
“Yeah,” Raven answered just as excitedly, “Don’t you remember? I was here earlier and you asked if I was ok... you asked me to forgive you!”
“I thought I was dreaming!” Dee explained.
“Can you wiggle your toes?” Raven asked.
“Can I wiggle my toes?” Dee asked in complete confusion.
“Yeah, can you wiggle your toes,” Raven repeated.
Dee looked towards the foot of the bed, as did the rest. To their delight, the sheet over her toes wiggled about. Raven looked back to her mother, and with tears forming in her eyes hugged her tightly.
“Why did you ask me to wiggle my toes?!” Dee asked, even more confused than before. The daughter that had done all she could to convey her contempt for her was not only making odd requests but hugging her... not that she minded greatly. Raven let go of her mother and tried to explain, but was utterly dumb with emotion. “And while I’m asking questions... Why does everyone look like I just came back from the dead?”
“Well,” Gadget started to explain, only to be interrupted as an orderly entered the room.
“What’s going on in here?” he asked as he looked around. Seeing the previously comatose patient sitting upright and clearly quite lucid, he added, “Holy cow!” He quickly ducked out of the room.
“What was that about?” Dee asked.
“You were comatose for the past three weeks,” Gadget pointed out, “The doctors said that since your back was broken you would probably never be able to walk again.” Dee pulled the covers off her legs. She proceeded to move them about with little apparent effort.
The sound of two pairs of feet running up the hall was followed by the orderly and a doctor bursting into the room. “None of you people are supposed to be here!” he stated authoritatively.
“Does that mean I can go home now?” Dee asked playfully.
The doctor’s jaw dropped, “She’s awake!”
“That’s what I told you!” the orderly replied.
The doctor approached Dee and began to examine her, “How do you feel?”
“For having been comatose with a broken back I feel fine,” Dee replied.
Continuing his examination, the doctor proceeded to press his fingers into his patient’s right leg from the ankle upward. “Can you feel this?” he inquired.
“Yes,” Dee answered curtly, “and if you paw my thigh any higher than that you won’t be feeling with that paw for much longer!”
“Of course,” the doctor responded as he pulled his paw away. “Now, if you would, I’d like for you to lift up your gown to just about here,” he instructed as he motioned on his own right side.
Dee regarded the doctor with suspicion. “Why?”
“I want to check on the scarring, from the surgery,” he explained.
“What surgery?” Dee asked as she was completely oblivious to what all had happened to her.
“We had to remove a splinter that had lodged itself in your upper chest,” the doctor explained, “You lost much of your right lung and several ribs were broken.”
“Ok,” Dee relented. She lifted up her gown, careful not to reveal too much to the assembled group.
The doctor ran his fingers through Dee’s fur, looking for the telltale scars from the incisions. He found nothing but healthy skin beneath her fur. More so, he noticed her breathing. “Breath deeply,” he ordered as he placed his stethoscope to her chest. As she inhaled deeply several times, the doctor moved the stethoscope to her back. Dee’s right lung sounded perfectly intact. “That’s impossible,” the doctor remarked.
“What’s impossible,” Dee asked as she lowered her gown.
“You spontaneously regenerated lung tissue,” the incredulous physician explained, “Lots of it. I can’t even begin to explain how.”
“Magic,” Raven mentioned, barely able to contain herself.
“It would have to be,” the doctor reasoned.
“Well, since I’m in such good health,” Dee started, “I’d like to be on my way.”
“I’d like to keep you here for observation, if you don’t mind,” the doctor replied.
“Yes I mind,” Dee answered, “The last time a doctor told me that I lost a child... I’d like to leave now.”
“Ok,” the doctor began hesitantly, “I guess I’ll go start the paperwork.”
“Would you mind unhitching me first?” Dee asked, motioning to the various equipment she was hooked up to.
The physician complied with her request. Then, motioning to the closet, stated, “Your clothes and other effects are in there.”
Once fully unhitched, Dee got out of bed and retrieved her belongings. “A little privacy, please,” she requested. After having had a chance to fully clothe herself, the others rejoined Dee in her room to await the doctor’s return with the discharge papers.
Raven, who was having increasing difficulty keeping her eyes open, finally brought herself to address her mother on a very important issue. “Uh, Mom,” the girl asked a little sheepishly, finding it strange to refer to Dee as her mother, “I have to tell you... that... I’m sorry.” As the words left her mouth, the young mouse felt a great weight lifted from her heart. “I’m sorry for everything I said, and did, to you. I shouldn’t have treated you like that, I shouldn’t have attacked you.” While Raven spoke, she found it harder to hold back her tears. “I never gave you a chance, and I’m sorry!” she added as the tears began to flow.
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Dee responded gently with a broad smile, “You have too much of me in you... in fact, I’m surprised you never tried to knock my teeth out!”
“You forgive me?” Raven asked excitedly through her tears.
“Of course I forgive you!” Dee answered as she embraced her daughter tightly, tears pouring form her eyes. “I’m sorry I gave you up,” she sobbed, “All I wanted from the beginning was for you to be happy!”
“I know,” Raven replied, “I know... You did what you had to do. Thank you... thanks for not giving up on me!”
Dee continued crying. The pain she had suffered for the past thirteen years was finally beginning to ebb, the torment of the past month was now just a memory. The images she had of Raven, her expression full of anger and hatred, began to dissolve... In their place were the images of just a few moments ago, most treasured among them, that first sight of her daughter standing by her side... smiling. At that moment, it was the most beautiful thing Dee could ever imagine.
Raven continued to cling to her mother, tears streaming down her cheeks. All the pain was gone... all the hate, all the anger, all the guilt... all of it was gone. In their place was a feeling of jubilation she had never known, a sense of relief she never could have imagined. She felt as if she had been reborn, that everything was new, and nothing was impossible.
“I love you!” Dee confessed, “I’ve always loved you!”
“I love you, too!” Raven replied.
When Raven entered the waiting room, she immediately hopped over to her adopted father, almost ready to explode with the great news she had for him. The orderly wheeled Dee close by in a wheelchair. Gadget was filled with excitement as she waited for Mr Southmont’s reaction.
“Hey, Dad, wake up!” Raven ordered as she shook his arm, much like she would early on Christmas morning.
The elder mouse awoke with a start. After a brief moment of confusion as he got his bearings, he addressed the exuberant youth, “Raven, what’s got you so excited?”
“Look who came to visit!” the girl stated as she pointed towards Dee.
Ben turned his head... and nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw his goddaughter. If not for the greatly shortened hair and hideous tear in her jumpsuit, there would have been nothing to let on that she had just been on death’s doorstep. “How?!” was all he could get out.
“Raven used her magic to heal me!” Dee explained simply.
For a moment, Ben was unable to find his tongue. Then suddenly he was blessed with the power of speech. “I don’t know who to hug first!” he exclaimed.
“Her!” Dee stated, pointing to her daughter.
Jumping from his chair, Ben embraced his adopted daughter tightly, filled to bursting with pride. Then he turned and bent down to embrace Dee. “We didn’t know if we’d ever see you up and about again!” he declared.
“Well, I won’t be ‘up and about’ until I’m out the door,” Dee replied, “Hospital regulations and such.”
Once everyone had left the hospital and Dee was no longer confined to a wheelchair, Gadget turned to the elder Southmont, “We can give you lift back home before we head back to the warehouse.”
“Well, thank you,” he replied, “But, you’ll have to stay long enough so Ann can see that Dee is all right and that I’m not making all this up.”
Raven was sound asleep in the back of the Ranger Wing along with Fangs as they approached the warehouse at Pier 12. Chip could hardly contain his eagerness as he watched the aircraft approach, knowing it was undoubtedly carrying someone he had longed to hold for the past three, very long, weeks.
Once safely on the ground, Dee leapt from the Ranger Wing and raced up to meet her ecstatic fiancé. As they met, they clung to each other tightly with Chip lifting Dee off her feet and gayly twirling her about. Tammy was giggling, and practically bouncing, to see Chip so happy. Romulus let out a joyous howl and Honker honked excitedly upon seeing their friend once again. The sudden onslaught of howling and honking awoke Raven with a start, causing her to unintentionally dig her nails into Fangs, who was also, now, very much awake.
“Why you look healthier than a bull moose!” Monterey greeted Dee.
“Yeah!” Dale joined in, “I guess.”
“What was it like to be in a coma?” Foxglove asked.
“It was the strangest thing,” Dee responded, “I kept having these odd dreams.” Pointing to Chip and Dale she continued, “In these dreams, the two of you were constantly tormenting this giant white duck! He had a really short temper and strange speech impediment... and he wore this bizarre sailor costume! But the strangest thing was... some of these dreams were in black and white! I mean, it was just plain weird!”
As the reunion continued, Fangs noted that Dee kept fiddling with her hair. Unsure if there was something wrong he brought it up.
“It’s just that I haven’t had short hair for so long,” Dee pointed out, “I kinda feel naked without it.”
“Well I think you look good this way,” Chip told her, then privately added, “It shows off your figure better.” Flattered, Dee chuckled and snuggled up to her future husband.
The night continued with talking and laughter. Everyone was careful not to get too loud so that Raven could get some sleep... there was still one spell she had to cast and no one wanted her to be too worn out to do it properly. As the dawn approached, Dee learned of how close Chip and Raven had become in her absence. It filled her with immense joy to know that they had moved beyond their earlier hostility and were now more like family.
As the sky in the East grew ever brighter and the stars blinked out one by one, the time came to wrap things up. With a little prodding, Raven woke up. Walking over to Winifred, she prepared to release her from the sleeping spell.
“Wait!” Romulus called out. The wolf raced over and stood straddling the slumbering witch. “Ok,” he stated, “You can wake her now.” As Raven cast the counter spell, the predator looked down upon Winifred’s face with a broad grin.
Winifred opened her eyes and gazed upon many, many sharp teeth. “BAAAAAHHH!” she shrieked.
“Now that was mean,” Dee scolded the wolf.
“And funny too!” Romulus added as he trotted happily back to the group.
Raven climbed up onto Winifred’s chest and removed the diamond from her trench coat. The young mouse looked towards the East, figuring exactly where the sun would emerge.
“What are you going to do to me?” Winifred asked.
“You mean you haven’t figured it out?” Raven replied.
“I’m a sorceress, not a mind reader!” the witch shot back.
“Well you won’t be either in a few moments,” the mouse replied, “When the sun rises, I’m going to remove your powers.”
“You can’t do that!” Winifred cried out in desperation.
“Why not?” Raven asked.
“Because, um,” Winifred stammered as she thought, “Because I promise to use my powers to help people from now on!”
“And if ya’ believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell ya’!” Monterey responded.
Raven held the diamond aloft and recited the spell, and as the sun broke over the skyline a beam shot forth from the stone and enveloped both sorceresses in a brilliant light.
“NOOOO!!” Winifred screamed in protest.
As the light faded, Raven turned to Winifred, “Welcome back to mediocrity... Freddie.”
“DON’T CALL ME FREDDIE!!” the former sorceress hollered.
“Oh, shut up!” Raven replied as she hopped off.
“Wait,” Chip stated as he walked up to Raven, “Did you just give up your powers too?”
“Yeah,” Raven nodded.
“Why?” Dee asked, surprised that her daughter was so willing to give up something she’d wanted for so long.
“I wasn’t comfortable with that kind of power,” Raven responded, “I mean, it’s true that wanting something and having it are two completely different things. Besides, I’m not entirely sure I deserve that kind of power... If Chip hadn’t talked some sense into me I would’ve killed Freddie. And, as much as I might not want to admit it, I’m still a kid... I’m just not ready for that kind of responsibility, just like you weren’t ready to be a mother at my age.”
Dee, filled with immense pride, embraced her daughter tightly. “I’m glad you didn’t have to learn this the way I did,” she confided in her, “And I hope that if you have a daughter she doesn’t have to go through this shit when she’s thirteen!”
“Me too,” Raven agreed as she returned the embrace.
“Are you still going to give up magic entirely?” Fangs asked.
“No,” Raven answered as her mother released her, “But at least it’s not going to let it be an obsession anymore, I’ve been ignoring too many things because of that.” She added, giving a deliberate look to Fangs, “For one thing, I’d like to know what it’s like to have a boyfriend.” Everyone was amused by how much the vampire began to blush at the reference. “I’d also like to enjoy what I have left of my childhood,” Raven finished, looking back to her mother.
“I’ve gotta question,” Monterey stepped up, “What are we going to do with that diamond? We know how much trouble it can cause if it falls into the wrong hands... and now even Fat Cat knows about it’s power!”
“I think I can help out there,” an unfamiliar mouse in a cloak stated as he approached. “Allow me to introduce myself... I am the late Conrad Johnston.”
“What are you late for?” Dale asked. Chip, being in as good a mood as he was in, deferred bonking Dale on the head and merely groaned at the comment.
“Golly, for being dead you certainly are healthy!” Gadget remarked.
“Well, I eat right,” Conrad quipped. “I decided to retire from being ‘alive’,” he proceeded to explain, “It’s not easy being a sorcerer when you have the kind of public profile I had... the ‘dead’ at least have a quiet anonymity, we get to go about our lives without any notice.”
“I don’t know about that,” Monterey commented, “Elvis seems to attract quite a bit of attention wherever he goes.”
“But that’s because he really isn’t dead,” Conrad replied with a laugh.
“You said you could help us with the diamond,” Chip stated, trying to get things back on topic.
“Right. I can take it back into my care and provide a duplicate to return to the museum,” the sorcerer explained, “I only donated the diamond in my will because I hoped that the legends of it’s power had finally died out and that it was now nothing more than a pretty stone. I guess it’ll be awhile before I can be rid of this albatross.”
“What albatross?” Romulus asked looking around, “I don’t see any.”
“He’s referring to the poem ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’,” Chip corrected the carnivore, “The albatross symbolizes a great burden someone has to bear.”
“Oh,” Romulus replied, “I was thinking if there was a dead bird around I could have it for breakfast or something.”
“If I may,” Conrad stated as he took the diamond from Raven. Reaching into his cloak, he removed a perfect duplicate. “I’ll see that this finds it’s way to the proper authorities,” he said, then pointing towards Winifred, “I’ll do the same for her.”
“But I’m the one that stole it in the first place,” Raven admitted.
“And you’ve learned from your mistake,” Conrad replied, “Correct?” Raven nodded. “And I’ve learned form mine,” the sorcerer continued, “I thought I could shirk my responsibilities. But thanks to all of you that mistake wasn’t nearly as disastrous as it could’ve been. One of these days I’d like to repay you.”
After a moment of thought, Conrad addressed Raven, “It’s unusual for someone of your age to become so adept at magic without a mentor to guide them, and it’s been some time since I’ve had an apprentice... Would you be interested?”
“Sorry,” Raven answered, “Like I’ve told the others, I have some new priorities in my life. Maybe when I’m older, though.”
The sorcerer chuckled pleasantly, “I wish I’d said that when I was your age, maybe I could’ve had a real childhood.”
Romulus was struck with a sudden desire to make a dramatic statement. As he cleared his throat, all those present gave him their attention. “Friends, rodents, chiropterans,” the wolf began, “Lend me your ears!” No sooner had Romulus made the statement then Hanker pulled a couple ears of corn from his fur and offered them to his brother. After his initial surprise had passed Romulus stated, “Ya’ know, Honker, if you keep this up people are going to start mistaking you for a cartoon character.” As Honker stuffed the corn back into his fur, Romulus prepared to continue his speech. “Great! Now I can’t even remember what I was going to say,” the wolf grumbled.
With an exchange of farewells, the Rangers and their comrades parted company with the sorcerer and returned home. It wasn’t long after boarding the Ranger Wing that Raven was once more sound asleep. And even after returning to Ranger headquarters, Raven found the couch and promptly went back to sleep. Given all she had done that night, everyone let her repose in peace.
On a table, Gadget spotted some things that hadn’t been there when they left the evening before. Quietly, she called the others over. Folded neatly on one end of the table was a cloak similar to that worn by the sorcerer Conrad, on top was a note addressed to Raven.
Dee picked up the note and read it aloud for the others. “Miss Southmont,” the note started, “In appreciation for helping correct the damage caused by my mistake I’ve left you a gift. This cloak will give you immunity to the weapons others might use to hurt you so that you’ll still be around when you’re older and might reconsider my offer. Besides, it’s more flattering than that trench coat,” Dee laughed as she finished the sentence, “that thing makes you look silly. -Conrad. PS- I guess I don’t have to tell you not to misuse my gift. -C.”
Chip picked up the note addressed to ‘The Rescue Rangers’. Opening it, he read the note aloud, “To the Rangers,” it began, “Considering what you’ve gone through, I’m not sure there is anyone that would disagree that you’ve all earned a vacation... so enjoy yourselves, I’ll mind the store while you’re gone. I imagine that obese feline will be taking a vacation as well... it’s not everyday someone gets turned into a pig, a giraffe, a lamppost, and a statue of Buddha. -Conrad.”
“Maybe you could all come visit me and the wolves again,” Dee suggested, “I was thinking of asking Raven if she’d like to come back with me for awhile... get to meet the rest of her family.”
“Golly, that sounds like a great idea!” Gadget responded, “And that’ll give me a chance to meet the rest of my family... of course that’s the same as Raven’s family since we’re family...”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Chip agreed, “It’ll give me a chance to let Bob know he’s going to have a brother-in-law.”
Dee turned to Fangs, “I think you should come with us too, you won’t have to feed off hobos and the homeless while you’re there.”
“Where?” Fangs asked.
“My home,” Dee answered, “I live in an abandoned sawmill in the middle of the woods... there’s a dairy farm nearby, plenty of cows, not to mention all the deer.”
“I guess it would be nice to get out of the city for awhile,” Fangs thought aloud.
“Then it’s agreed,” Monterey declared, “We can start packing-” he was cut off in mid sentence as he yawned, “right after we all get a nice long nap.” As in most cases, the yawn was contagious, and everyone but Dee joined in.
“I’m not tired,” Dee pointed out lightly.
“That’s because you’ve been asleep for the past three weeks!” Chip replied.
“Then how ‘bout this,” Dee offered, “I’ll cradle you in my arms and sing you to sleep.”
“How can I refuse?” Chip responded.
Everyone began to depart for their various rooms to catch up on some much needed sleep. As Chip led Dee towards the room he shared with Dale, Dee pulled away. She quickly hopped over to the couch. Leaning over her daughter, she gave her a kiss on her cheek. “Gönoöhgwa',” she whispered.
Finally joining Chip in his room, Dale having agreed to take one of the spare beds elsewhere, Dee reclined on the bed. Chip removed his hat and laid down in the arms of his love. When he had made himself comfortable, Dee began to sing softly:
“The moon-cradle’s rocking and rocking
Where a cloud and a cloud go by
Silently rocking and rocking
The moon-cradle out in the sky.
Then comes the lad with the hazel
And the folding star’s in the rack
‘Night’s a good herd’ to the cattle,
He sing, ‘she brings all things back’
But the bond woman down by the boorie
Sings with a heart grown wild
How a hundred rivers are flowing
Between herself and her child
‘The geese, even they trudge homeward
That have their wings and the waste,
Let your thoughts be on Night the Herder.
And be quiet for a space.’
The moon-cradle’s rocking and rocking.
Where a cloud and a cloud go by,
Silently rocking and rocking
The moon cradle in the sky,
The snipe they are crying and crying
Liadine, liadine, liadine.
Where no track’s on the bog they are flying-
A lonely dream will be mine!
Where no track’s on the bog they are flying-
A lonely dream will be mine!”
As her husband-to-be lay asleep in her arms, Dee reflected on the past month, or at least what she could remember of it. She remembered telling Raven, in the recording she made for her, that she never should have told Chip about her past, never should have come here. “I’d do it all again,” Dee whispered.
“So would I,” Chip whispered back.
“I thought you were asleep,” Dee poked him.
“I was, but now I’m not,” Chip replied, “I’ll probably be asleep again soon, though.”
“Gönoöhgwa',” Dee whispered.
“I love you, too,” Chip whispered back.
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