Chapter Five

Chip felt as though someone had taken the whole world, shaken it roughly, and put it back upside-down. He felt numb, and in fact almost nothing at all registered in his brain until one of the guards stuck a key in the lock next to the security gate of a former electronics store and twisted it. With a hum of electric motors the gate rolled up, and once Chip had been roughly pushed through it, the gate was closed again and the guards left.

Chip picked himself up from a pile of old signs advertising sales and bargains galore, not to be missed by any discerning consumer, and went to explore his new surroundings. As with the other stores, anything movable that could conceivably be used to effect an escape had been removed. The rear exit of the store was apparently barred from the outside. The security gate had no visible controls on this side, and the glass storefront was some type of security glass designed to resist even determined battering. The other occupants of the cell, a crow, a mouse, and a glum-looking rat with a square jaw, watched him for a bit before the rat finally announced, “We’ve tried all that you know. Don’t you think it might have occurred to us to try all that?”

“What’s going on around here?” Chip asked, suddenly irritated. “This whole place is nuts! There are criminals in charge, and nothing makes any sense at all!”

The rat snorted glumly. “Welcome to my world.”

“This isn’t your world, it isn’t any of our world,” the crow pointed out, “how could it be?”

The rat eyed the crow grumpily. “I’ve been stuck here for a while. Try going from Chief of Police to being kept prisoner in a shopping mall.”

The crow put a sympathetic wing around the rat’s shoulders. “How about going from the minister of the city’s largest church to being kept prisoner in a shopping mall?” The rat shrugged off the gesture of sympathy with a grunt.

Something dawned on Chip. “Wait a minute. You’re Police Chief McCarthy?” The Police Chief had been one of the earliest victims of the mysterious coma epidemic. His illness had made headlines in the local paper.


Chip eyed him carefully. The face seemed somewhat familiar, but of course the Police Chief was human, not a rat. “So how come you’re a rat?”

McCarthy let out a hollow laugh. “Beats me. If you figure it out, let me know.”

Chip’s mind kicked into gear. He turned to the crow. “You’re the reverend Arthur Reeves of St. Paul’s,” he said

The crow smiled. “That’s right. Since I’m locked up, I guess that makes me a troublemaker,” he joked. “And no, I don’t know why I’m a crow either.”

The mouse, who had been quiet up until now, asked Chip suspiciously, “Okay, so you know who we all are. Who are you?”

“My name’s Chip. I . . . er,” Chip suddenly trailed off, unsure of how to explain his identity to what appeared to be a bunch of humans who only looked like animals. “I’m a private investigator,” he finished, hoping no one wanted to pursue the matter further.

“My name’s Walter. I’m a newspaper reporter,” the Mouse offered. “How come I’ve never heard of you before?”

Great, Chip thought, a natural-born busybody. He tried to think of a plausible answer, but his thoughts were chased away abruptly by another voice that drifted from behind the sales counter near the middle of the store.

“Hey, hold it down, can’t you? I’m trying to get some sleep here.”

The voice, even slurred by sleep, was immediately familiar to Chip. “Dale?”

There was a pause, then, “Chip?”

“Dale!” Chip cried out, just as Dale rocketed from behind the counter and knocked him rolling over and over in his enthusiasm.

“Chip! Is it really you? It is you Chip!” Dale yelled jubilantly.

“Alright, get off me, will you?” Chip picked himself up and dusted himself off. “You know, just once I wish someone would do that to you so you’d know how it feels.”

“I knew you’d find me somehow!” Dale hugged Chip fiercely, and then continued at a breakneck pace, “Ever since I got here I’ve been hoping you guys would get me out of here! Chip, the world has gone crazy, it makes no sense at all, and coming from me you know that’s saying a lot! Did you know that everyone here has been turned into some kind of animal? Fat Cat and his gang are running the city, and everything is real small, and . . .”

“Whoa, slow down,” Chip said, momentarily overwhelmed.

“Where is everybody?” asked Dale, looking around as though he expected Gadget, Zipper and Monterey Jack to be there too.

“I don’t know,” Chip admitted. “We got separated.”

“Oh,” Dale’s face fell momentarily, “What about Foxglove?”

“I’m not sure, I guess she’s still in the hospital.”

“Oh no, what happened to her?” Dale asked.

“Calm down will you? She’s there visiting you.”

Dale was alarmed. “Oh no, what happened to me?” Then confusion set in. “Wait a minute. If I’m in the hospital, how can I be here?”

“I’m not really sure myself. I think this is some kind of a dream world.”

“Nightmare, more like,” Police Chief McCarthy butted in.

“Who’s this?” Walter the nosy reporter asked.

“This is my partner, Dale,” Chip answered.

“If this is just a dream, how come we can’t wake up?” Dale asked.

“None of us can,” Arthur answered. “There is some ominous force at work here.”

“Listen Dale,” said Chip. Everyone else leaned in to listen too, causing Chip to pause, but he decided they might as well hear it too. “I don’t know what’s going on around here, but we met someone who does, or at least he says he does. He says he’s the Muse, and he told us we should find the Belfry.”

“Where’s that?”

“I don’t know,” Chip admitted.

“I might,” said the crow. The others looked at him. “Well it was only a rumor, but I heard of a belfry in the Valley of Mists, which I’m told is to the north of here, down the river. Asking about it was what got me locked up. I’ve never heard of the Muse though, except in the literary sense.”

Chip was excited that he finally had a direction in which to start looking. “Great, so all we need to do is think of a ways to get out of here!”

“Again,” countered McCarthy glumly, “when you figure that out, let me know.”

“We’ll think of something,” Dale said confidently. “At least I think we will. We’ve been in tougher spots than this before.”

“Like what?” Walter asked.

“Quiet,” Chip said, “we’re thinking.”

“Yeah,” Dale added, and sat down to think.

Chip thought quietly for a moment, but the way he had acted in headquarters was bothering him. “Hey Dale, I’m sorry I hit you.”

“Which time?”

Chip hadn’t been expecting that question. “Er, pick one. Now help me think up a way out of here.” Both chipmunks lapsed into silence.

“Gangway!” Sparky called as he pushed the stretcher through the doors of the hospital entrance. “I’ve got a live one here,”

“You mean we’ve got something to treat besides another case of the epidemic?” the head nurse asked. Nurse Hardy had relieved Nurse Redmond as the shift supervisor, and she was inclined to be sarcastic and unpleasant all the time, even when she had gotten enough sleep. She felt she was superior to the paramedics and emergency medical technicians that brought patients to the emergency room, so she was habitually rude to them and contemptuously referred to them as ambulance drivers.

“Yeah,” Sparky replied. “Severe gastric distress. I don’t know what this guy ate, but he ate a lot of it, and it’s really giving him a hard time.” Sparky indicated the old rat who lay doubled up in pain on the stretcher, groaning softly and clutching an ornate golden box. Monterey Jack’s Chili Cheese Surprise had gotten into a violent disagreement with the old rat’s digestive system, and at the moment the chili appeared to be winning.

“Didn’t the family give you any idea what he might have eaten?” Nurse Hardy asked.

“There wasn’t any, this guy’s homeless. Someone near the park saw him and called us.”

“Terrific. Put him in the hall, Dr. Hunt will look at him when he can. What’s in the box?”

“I don’t know, he won’t let it go.”

“He will after he’s been sedated. You can go now.” With that curt dismissal, Nurse Hardy turned and left, leaving Sparky standing there holding the patient’s run sheet. Sparky made a face at her. He didn’t really like Nurse Hardy much, nor for that matter did any of the other paramedics on his squad. He tossed the run sheet into the proper box and went back out to the dock to help his partner clean out the ambulance, silently hoping as he did that the patient would throw up on Nurse Hardy too.

Foxglove returned from the canteen feeling a little better after a small meal. The staff there was also nicer to her than Nurse Hardy was. She was headed toward Dale’s ward to check up on him again when she saw the old rat, lying more quietly now that he’d been sedated. Actually, it had been the ornate golden box that the old rat was clutching had caught her eye.

What a pretty box, she thought. I wonder what’s inside it? The old rat seemed to be sleeping peacefully now. He won’t mind if I just look. Curiously, she reached out and opened the lid.

A hospital orderly discovered her unconscious form ten minutes later and called for help.

“Think of anything yet?” Chip asked Dale.

“Naw. You?” Dale asked Chip.


“Hooray for our side,” Walter remarked sarcastically, not looking up. Both chipmunks scowled briefly at him before returning to their contemplation.

“I’ve got it!” Dale announced, grinning.

“What, a plan?” Chip asked incredulously.

“No, a big headache,” Dale said, snickering at how he’d suckered Chip. Walter and Chief McCarthy groaned.

“This is no time for joking,” Chip said, rapping Dale sharply on the head.

“Hey you big jerk, that hurt!” Dale complained, rubbing his head where Chip had hit him.

“You wanted a headache, you got one blockhead,” Chip retorted.

“I didn’t want one, I was joking!” Dale fumed. “I think best when I joke!”

“We don’t need jokes, we need a plan!” Chip yelled.

Dale jumped to his feet. “ I thought you were sorry for hitting me just a little while ago.”

Chip stood up too, nose to nose with Dale. “Yeah? Well I take it back!”

The angry close quarters staring match continued for a moment until Arthur decided to intervene to prevent a fight, partly because he was a priest and he considered it his duty, but mostly because he wasn’t familiar with Chip and Dale and didn’t know any better. “Look, this won’t solve anything. Why don’t you two just--”

Chipmunk Battle Royal . . . Round One . . . Ding! Nobody threw the first punch, the fight was joined by mutual consent. Arthur had to hop backwards quickly to avoid being caught in the brawl.

McCarthy observed the combatants glumly. “Our heroes,” he grunted.

“Hey Chief,” said Walter, “ten bucks on the one with the Hawaiian shirt.”

Police Chief McCarthy stared at the mouse for a moment. “Okay, you’re on.”

Fat Cat was in a remarkably good mood as he checked his reflection in the mirror in the luxurious penthouse suite he had commandeered for his personal use. “Oh, you are one smooth criminal,” he told his image in the mirror. The administration of the city had proven to be a difficult task, but it was not without its perks. As he exited the building, he climbed into another one of those perks, an antique Rolls Royce limousine that the bombing had miraculously spared. “Let’s go to work, and step on it. I feel like an early breakfast today.”

“You got it, boss,” said Snout. The Rolls smoothly accelerated away from the curb.

Like any half way competent subordinate, Mole had called early in the morning to give him the good news, which accounted in large part for the good mood he was in. “Two of those pests down, three to go,” Fat Cat said aloud. “Time to try out some of the equipment in the food court.”

The fight attracted the notice of a group of hamsters in the store across the way, who also began to root for one or the other. It was the first break they’d had from the tedium of captivity. Inmates in a couple of the adjacent stores heard the yelling. They didn’t know what the commotion was about, but they joined in anyhow, just to have something to do. Those who could watched the fight. Those who couldn’t yelled just to blow off steam. Naturally it wasn’t long before the noise attracted a couple of the guards.

“Quiet down!” one of the guards yelled.

His partner was more direct. “Shut up you lot!” He rapped on the security gate with his pike to let the inmates know he meant business. Subdued, the fight watchers withdrew.

“You two in there, knock that off!” the first guard yelled ineffectually at Chip and Dale. The guard produced his keys. “If I have to come in there, you’ll be sorry!” Again, the chipmunks carried on wrestling as though they hadn’t heard. Arthur, Walter and Chief McCarthy backed away from gate. The guard shoved a key into the lock and twisted it, and the gate began to rise.

“Bet’s off, Walter,” said Chief McCarthy.


“I just got an idea.” Chief McCarthy watched closely, looking for his opportunity.

The guards entered the makeshift cell and separated the two combatants, none too gently. As large as the rats were, it was still a struggle. Finally the guards managed to get them apart, suffering some dishevelment in the process. Chip and Dale continued to glare angrily at each other.

“Knock it off!” Chip’s guard yelled, slightly out of breath.

“This place was nice and quiet until you two got here,” Dale’s guard yelled, also winded. “One of you jokers is going into a separate cell until the boss gets here. Now, who’s it going to be?”

“Him!” Chip and Dale both said, pointing at each other.

Dale’s guard sighed in exasperation. Turning to Chief McCarthy, he said, “You pick. Which one?”

Chief McCarthy appeared thoughtful. “I think they’ll get along now. Why don’t you ask them how the fight started in the first place?” Saying this, he winked at Chip. Chip caught the gesture in surprise, then tensed for action.

“Alright,” Chip’s guard said tiredly. It was near the end of their shift. “How did this fight start anyhow?”

“Kind of like this!” said Chip, grabbing hold of the guard’s helmet and ramming it down over his eyes. Dale followed suit immediately. Both guards released their captives and took hold of their helmets, trying to restore their sight. McCarthy immediately sprang forward and grabbed one of the guard’s weapons from his belt, and applied it to the side of his helmet with a resounding clang, dropping him like an anchor. In like manner, Chip and Dale tackled the remaining guard, who managed to get his helmet off just in time to see the blow coming, but too late to do anything about it, and so in like manner he joined his partner on the floor, less a few teeth.

“Get the keys!” Chip hissed to Dale.

“Right!” Dale replied. All traces of their former animosity seemed to have vanished in an instant, much to the surprise of their cellmates. Dale unclipped the keys from the guard’s belt and announced, “We’re outtahere!”

Realization slowly dawned on Walter, but he was wrong of course. “You mean that whole fight was a ruse, staged just to get the guards?”

“What else?” said Chief McCarthy.

“Er . . . yeah!” Chip added. “We do this kind of thing all the time.”

“My word!” said Arthur. “What a life you must lead!”

“If you only knew,” Dale said, but Chip shushed him. They left their cell and paused to get their bearings. Helpfully, their captors had rather obtusely left the Mall Directory standing, complete with a yellow arrow telling them that they were here. They looked at it in silence for a bit, figuring out the quickest way out of the mall.

One of the hamsters called to them from the empty video store across the way. “Hey you, let us out too!”

“Sure thing!” said Dale, and went over to the gate and began fumbling with keys.

Chief McCarthy heard more guards coming. “That’s our exit cue, I think.” He took the keys from Dale and stuffed them between the bars to the hamster. “Figure it out yourselves after the guards are gone,” he said, then headed for the nearest stairway calling, “Come on!”

Together they ran up the stairs as quickly as they could. Reaching the top level of the mall, they headed for the nearest set of escalators to the surface. Chip and Dale stopped short, the rest of the group crashing into them, when they saw who was coming down the escalator.

“Fat Cat!” Chip hissed. Indeed it was the notorious feline, together with Snout, Meps and Wart. They heard the sound of guards clattering up the stairwell behind them.

“You know that guy?” Walter asked curiously.

“Over here!” Dale hissed, holding open a door marked Associates Only. McCarthy, Walter, Arthur and Chip raced through, the door closing behind them just as Fat Cat alighted from the escalator, to be unexpectedly confronted by a pack of flustered-looking guards.

The guards looked at Fat Cat uncomfortably. Fat Cat looked back at them, sensing something was amiss. “What’s going on here?” he demanded. The guards looked at each other, as though deciding who should be the one to break the news.

Chip, Dale, and their new friends found themselves in a service corridor that ran behind the stores. “Now where do we go?” Arthur asked nervously.

“Anywhere, there’s got to be more exits out of here,” Chip said.

“The parking garage!” Chief McCarthy said. “We might be able to get a car.”

“And after that, maybe we should go to the Valley of Mists,” Arthur said.

“How do we get there?” Chip asked. They came to the back door to one of the stores. As Chip had surmised in the store where they’d been held, the door was locked from the outside with a simple iron throw bolt.

“Just follow the river north out of town until you get there, so I’m told.”

Chip regarded the bolt on the store’s rear door, and suddenly a mischievous grin crossed his face. Reaching out, he undid the bolt, then scampered to the next door and undid that bolt as well.

“What are you up to?” Dale asked.

“Letting everyone else out. They should get a chance to escape too, and it will give Fat Cat and his friends someone else to chase besides us! C’mon, help me out!” They all ran from door to door, undoing the throw bolts on all of them.

“Hey man, you hear something?” the squirrel asked his cellmates.

“It’s your imagination man,” one of them replied sleepily.

“No, I heard something at the back of the store,” the squirrel insisted. He got up and went to the back of the store. To his surprise, the back door was ajar. “Yo guys,” he said, “check this out!”

“One thing,” Fat Cat said. “I ask you to do one simple thing. Just keep them locked up until I get here.” Mole trembled slightly at the words. He was in deep kimchee and he knew it. Fat Cat was standing menacingly close to him; he couldn’t see anything but Fat Cat. “But you couldn’t even do that right, could you Mole?” Mole remained silent and shuffled slightly. “Tell me, please,” Fat Cat began, his voice rising in volume with each word, “what in the world possessed you to put them in the same cell in the first place!”

“Er . . . nothing Boss, it just . . . sorta happened.”

“IT JUST SORTA HAPPENED?!!” Fat Cat yelled, making Mole and everyone standing around them flinch. Fat Cat straightened up and regained his composure, then fixed Mole with a frightful look. “It’s your job to get them back, quickly. And there had better not be any more escapes.” Fat Cat turned and stalked towards the elevator. Mole shoved a fist into his mouth to stifle an involuntary cry of fear when he saw that the row of stores behind Fat Cat were now mysteriously empty.

Chip and Dale had acquired a sizable following. Figuring that there was strength in numbers, most of the newly freed inmates decided to follow them. They had reached the bottom level now, where the food court, mall offices, parking garage and subway station were. There was just one problem. Chief McCarthy studied the map of the mall layout that was posted by the door.

“There is no connecting corridor,” he said. “The only way to get to the parking garage is to go out through the offices and cross the food court. As I remember, that’s where most of the guards were.”

“Well they won’t be there now, they’ll be out looking for us,” Chip replied.

“Yeah,” Dale added, “besides, with all this help the guards won’t stand a chance, right?” There were unenthusiastic mumbles of assent from the others.

“It’s an easy plan,” Chip said. “Just run for the garage exits like crazy. Everybody ready?” Those closest nodded. “Lets go then!” They went through the door. At first, they could hardly believe their luck; the offices seemed deserted.

“Are you sure all the exits are sealed?” Fat Cat asked. Mole nodded in mute reply, afraid to speak. Fat Cat stood in the middle of the Food Court addressing his henchmen and the guards, who were seated at the tables.

“Yeah Boss,” Meps said, “We’ve got every door guarded, but we still can’t find any of the prisoners.”

“Has anyone checked the service corridors?” Fat Cat asked. From the blank looks he received in reply to his question, he quickly surmised that no one had. He slapped a paw to his forehead in a gesture of frustration. “Imbeciles. I’m surrounded by imbeciles!” he complained loudly.

Just then the door to the offices burst open. The guards turned in their seats and looked in surprise at the crowd that came through them.

The crowd stared in surprise at Fat Cat’s gang and the guards.

“Charge!” yelled Chip.

“Get them!” yelled Fat Cat.

Dale had been right; the sheer number of stampeding prisoners quickly overwhelmed the relatively few guards that were present. Most of the prisoners headed directly for the large doors opposite the food court. A sign above them read “TO PARKING AND SUBWAY”

“Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING!” Fat Cat roared.

“Help!” a voice yelled. Chip and Dale stopped midway across the mall to see what had happened. Arthur had tripped and fallen, and was now cut off and surrounded by a menacing circle of guards. “Do something!” he yelled helplessly.

“You’re a bird,” Dale yelled back, “fly away!”

A dumb look crossed Arthur’s face, evidently the idea had not occurred to him. Of course, he was used to being human, not a crow, so he could hardly be blamed. Spreading his wings he took off into the central court. “Ha-ha! I can fly! Thank you! I’ll see you at the Valley! Follow me!” Up he soared, finally disappearing through a broken skylight, with all the other birds following him. The guards watched them go, feeling pretty dumb themselves.

“Forget them, get them!” Fat Cat yelled, pointing at Chip and Dale. Most of the prisoners were through the doors already, and Chip and Dale were now in danger of being cut off and surrounded.

“Bye!” they said, and raced out the exit. There weren’t any cars in the parking garage, so everybody else was legging it up the ramps to the surface as fast as they could. They were about to follow when Meps, Wart, Mole and Snout, who entered from another side door, cut them off.

“You two aren’t going anywhere,” said Wart.

Chip spied the escalator that led to the subway platform. “Wrong again!” He ran for the escalator with Dale following. Wart and Meps exchanged a knowing smile. There was no escape for them that way either.

Chip and Dale slid down the escalator rails to make good their escape, and received a rude shock when they vaulted the turnstiles and landed in cold water. The subway tunnels were flooded.

Chip surfaced first, spluttering in surprise. The water wasn’t that deep on the platform, just to the level of his chest. But the water in the tunnels was bound to be deeper, and was moving with a swift current that Chip could feel tugging at him even now.

Dale surfaced next to him and spit out a stream of water. “Great idea Chip, now what do we do?” he griped. From the escalator the sounds of their pursuers could clearly be heard.

“Swim for it!”

“In that?” Dale gawked at the swift current in the tunnel.

“The jig is up Rescue Rodents,” said Fat Cat, arriving with his henchmen and about a dozen guards. The guards looked like they had been pulled backwards through a hedge. “There’s nowhere for you to go now, so give up!”

“Nuts!” replied Chip, and swam for the tunnel. Dale blew a raspberry at Fat Cat and followed suit. The current seized them and carried them out of sight down the unlit tunnel.

“Hey boss, what do we do now?” Snout asked.

“Go after them, of course!” Fat Cat replied testily.

“In that?” Mole and the others gawked at the swift current in the tunnel.

“GET GOING!!” Fat Cat yelled, and into the water they went.

Chip and Dale raced down the tunnel, carried along by the current. The water in the tunnel was too deep for either of them to touch bottom, though they did occasionally bang into signals, switch gear and other treacherous submerged objects. Swimming in this current was out of the question; it was enough of a struggle simply to keep one’s head above water. As soon as they were out of sight of the platform, it was too dark to see.

Chip hoped there wasn’t a train stopped in the tunnel ahead. If he remembered correctly, this escape route had one other major advantage. The Galleria Metropolitan was the last stop before the train crossed the river.

Dale just hoped this ride would be over soon. He banged up against something in the water and went under again, then bobbed to the surface coughing up water. At this point he didn’t think very much of Chip’s escape plan.

To the immense relief of both chipmunks, the light at the end of the tunnel appeared, approaching rapidly as the current sped up. The water was also shallower here; the current dragged them over the tracks for the last twenty feet before spitting them out onto the railroad trestle across the river. They tried to hold on, but the slick surface gave them no purchase, and they plummeted from the bridge into the river itself.

The river current was not nearly as rough as the current in the tunnel had been, and Chip and Dale managed to swim to the riverbank, where they pulled themselves out of the water. Chip winced as he got to his feet; he’d banged into something hard enough to hurt his leg. Dale was similarly battered.

“That was some idea,” Dale griped, nursing his left arm.

“It worked didn’t it?” Chip retorted, coughing up some more water. A series of splashes alerted them that Fat Cat’s henchmen had just fallen from the same trestle. They weren’t out of the woods yet. “Let’s go.” As he and Dale made their way up to the street, Meps, Wart, Mole and Snout heaved themselves onto the riverbank, also banged up and half-drowned. They lay still coughing up water, in too much pain to move.

As they reached the street, they almost walked right smack into a large spider web. “What the--” Dale began.

“Well hello there!” said a familiar voice.

“You again!” said Chip and Dale together.

“Yup, me again,” said Will.

“You know him?” Chip and Dale asked each other simultaneously.

“Yeah,” said Dale, “Bill here was the one that got me caught in the first place!”

“Don’t call me Bill,” said the spider, “it’s Will.”

“He hit me in the face with a pie,” said Chip grumpily. Dale laughed. “Sure, yuck it up,” Chip added, giving Dale a shove on his injured arm. Dale yelped in pain.

“What’d you do that for you big fat-head?” Dale groused.

“Just my way of welcoming you,” Will said amiably.

“Not you,” said Dale, shoving Chip back.

“Hmmm,” said Will, and waved his Meerschaum pipe at them. With a poof, Chip and Dale were both dressed in colorful suits that instantly ballooned to three times their size, topped with colored beanies. “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum agreed to have a battle,” Will recited, “For Tweedle-Dee said Tweedle-Dum had spoiled his nice new rattle.” The spider laughed uproariously at the chagrined look on the chipmunks’ faces as they climbed out of the silly clothes, their quarrel quite forgotten. Their own clothes were on underneath. Chip replaced his hat on his head.

“I’ve got better things to do than put up with your silly jokes,” Chip said, storming off.

“Yeah,” Dale added, following.

“Okay, just so long as you stay clear of the river,” said Will.

“Why?” asked Chip suspiciously.

Will puffed thoughtfully on his pipe before responding. “There’s nothing down that river for you except lethal danger. Trust me.”

“Yeah sure, about as far as I can throw you,” Dale retorted.

“Now, now,” the spider admonished him, “there’s no call to be rude.”

“You started it,” Dale said.

Suddenly a pickup truck roared onto the street and screeched to a halt on the other side of the spider web. A voice in the cab shouted, “There they are!” and half a dozen guards piled out of the bed. Another pickup truck appeared on the street, following the first. Chip and Dale looked around for an escape route, and saw yet a third pickup truck barreling down the parkway that ran along the river’s edge. Their options seemed rather limited.

“Back in the water?” Dale said resignedly.

“Back in the water,” Chip agreed. They ran back down the bank to the river, held their noses and jumped in. The guards chased them as far as the water’s edge.

“Don’t come back saying I didn’t tell you so!” Will yelled after them.

The guards scrambled back to their trucks, and two of them followed the river’s course on the parkway as Chip and Dale bobbed along with the current. The third remained behind a moment to collect Fat Cat’s henchmen.

“Swim to the other side!” Dale said, but the guards had anticipated such a move. At the next bridge, one of the trucks crossed, and now they had both sides of the river covered.

Chip banged up into a floating bottle from a water cooler that someone had tossed into the river and held onto it, glad of the additional buoyancy. He wasn’t sure how long he could swim with his injuries. “Dale, over here!” he cried out.

Dale swam over and also took a hold of the bottle. They were now pretty much in the middle of the river, and picking up speed. The guards were still following in their pickup trucks however. Dale made faces at them.

“I guess we can just stick to the river until they get tired of following us,” Chip said with satisfaction. “Is it my imagination or is the river moving faster?”

“Waterfall!” Dale yelled in alarm.

“Don’t be dumb Dale, there is no waterfall on the river north of town,” Chip replied

“Oh yeah?” said Dale, pointing. Chip turned, and now he could hear it, the dull roar of millions of gallons plunging over the edge. The mist and sky beyond left no doubt as to what lay ahead. The river was indeed picking up speed as it neared the precipice.

Chip gawked for a moment before deciding on a course of action. “Abandon bottle!” he yelled, and both he and Dale began to swim for shore for all they were worth. Unfortunately that wasn’t much. Both chipmunks had been badly battered and bruised, not to mention just plain worn out, by the day’s adventures so far. The current pulled at them, unwilling to surrender its prey. “Swim Dale!”

“I’m swimming! I’m – glub” Dale said as he swallowed a mouth-full of river. The pickup trucks screeched to a halt, they had run out of road. The guards got out and watched as Chip and Dale bobbed closer and closer to the edge, fighting a losing battle to make the riverbank, but even from their point of view it was all too clear who the victor in this contest would be.

“YI-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I!!!!” yelled both chipmunks as they plunged over the edge into watery oblivion.

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