Roaches, Hamsters, and Ladybugs, Oh My!
Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh

Fat Cat went tumbling down the river wall followed by his loyal lackeys and their counterfeit Oscar statuettes. With splashes and shouts the gang entered the swift moving water. Sputtering and coughing, the crime boss grabbed hold of one of the floating statues to keep himself upright in the swirling current. Shaking a clenched paw at the victorious Rescue Rangers up on the crest of the river wall, he shouted, specifically to Chip, “That’s it! I’ve had it with you, you Indiana Jones wannabe! I’ll get you! Even if I have to hire the deadliest assassin in the world!”
“You’d think he’d get tired of making all these threats,” Dale mentioned as the Rangers proceeded to walk back to the Ranger Wing.
“You’d think he’d find a different line of work!” joked Monterey Jack.
“Still, we should take it as seriously as all the others,” Gadget suggested, “This is the first time he’s threatened to hire an assassin.”
As Chip led the team out form the group of local spectators who had assembled to watch the commotion he removed his trademark fedora and idly scratched his head. “Yeah, he usually does try to make good on all these threats,” he responded as he returned his chapeau to it’s rightful place. Coming to a stop at the Ranger Wing he turned to face the others, “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop doing our job.”
While Chip had been speaking, a thin and elderly mole wearing a black stovepipe hat and dressed in black formal attire had approached. He was only noticed when he began to measure the chipmunk with a rodent sized tape measure.
“What are you doing?” Chip asked.
“Taking measurements,” the mole responded casually as he adjusted his extremely thick spectacles to read the numbers on the tape measure.
“Uh, for what?” Dale inquired.
“Your companion’s coffin,” came the matter-of-fact reply.
It took a moment for the comment to sink in. “My coffin?!” Chip finally blurted out when it had.
“My card,” the mole stated as he politely handed Chip a business card.
As the new companion continued to take measurements, Chip proceeded to read the card aloud, “Gregory Newbury,”
“That’s Gregory,” Mr Newbury corrected politely, stressing the second syllable.
“Gregory Newbury,” Chip repeated in imitation of the mole, “The fourteenth... Mortician.”
“Mortician?!” the other Rangers responded in unison.
“Golly, what would we need with a mortician?” Gadget asked, “Chip isn’t dead... Well, not yet anyway.”
“But he will die eventually,” Mr Newbury responded in a voice somewhat reminiscent of the late Vincent Price, “We all die sooner or later, that’s the nature of life. And given what has recently transpired I believe you will be in need of my services sooner rather than later.”
“Then why not wait until he actually does die,” Monterey asked.
“Well I prefer to get all the details out of the way beforehand,” the mortician mole answered as he jotted down some numbers, “It saves time.” Putting away his notepad, Mr Newbury pulled out his tape measure once more, “Now I’d like to double check those numbers so please hold absolutely still.”
“Is that really necessary?” Chip asked, feeling a little uncomfortable about the whole situation.
“Do you really want your grieving family to experience the trauma of knowing that your legs had to broken so we could fit your corpse into a coffin that was too small?” Mr Newbury asked, “Of course not, and neither do I... So if I may?”
“Um, that’ll have to wait,” Chip responded as he proceeded to climb aboard the Ranger Wing, motioning to the others to follow as he did, “We really must be going.”
As the Rangers had finished piling into their transport Dale waved down at Mr Newbury, “We’ll be seeing you!”
“Yes, you will,” he replied with a chuckle as he walked off.

“Ok, Zipper, bring him out,” Chip called to the fly. Before too long, Zipper emerged from the pile of rubble carrying a mouse toddler in one of Gadget’s spur-of-the-moment contraptions. “That’s it, Monty, you can let it go now.”
Letting the pile of bricks he was supporting collapse over the hole from whence Zipper and the child had emerged, Monterey complained, “Crikey, why can’t these kids ever find someplace else to get stuck?”
“Thank you so very much!” the young mother nearly sobbed as she hugged her rescued youngster, “I don’t know how we could’ve gotten Hubert free if it hadn’t been for the six of you!” The mother then departed, scolding little Hubert about not climbing into every hole he finds.
Six of us?” Gadget wondered aloud.
“But there’s only five of us,” Dale pointed out as he turned to face the others. “There’s me, Chip, Zip-AAHHH!” his count was cut short as he was unpleasantly surprised by the ghoulish bespectacled visage standing next to Chip.
“I forgot to ask, during our last meeting, whether you have pre-existing burial arrangements,” Mr Newbury stated, “After all, I’d hate to poach.”
“Where did you come from?!” Chip asked.
“Oh, nowhere in particular,” the mole answered, “Now, about any pre-existing arrangements?”
“What? No, of course I don’t have any pre-existing burial arrangements,” Chip replied indignantly.
“Then I’m not poaching,” Mr Newbury proclaimed with a smile, “Wonderful! Do you prefer above ground internment, have a family plot, or have you considered cremation?”
“I’d really like to answer your questions,” Chip stammered nervously, “but we were right in the middle of a case when we were interrupted by this rescue operation... Right guys?”
“But, Chip, weren’t we just on our way to lunch?” Dale asked innocuously, before being bonked on the head. “Ow! Oh, yeah, that’s right,” he corrected himself, “We were, uh, looking for... something, for um... someone.”
“See? We’re really quite busy,” Chip added as he hustled the others off on their ‘case’.
It was mid afternoon when the Rangers finally returned to their headquarters after having a late lunch at a newly opened bar and grille. The meal had been without incident... unless one counted Dale’s vivid description of a horror movie that ruined the appetites of the couple at the next table as an incident.
“You didn’t have to compare the body to ‘That plate of whatever they’re eating over there’,” Chip reiterated.
“But that was what it looked like,” Dale replied, “At least after The Zombie Monster was through with it.”
Chip merely rolled his eyes, accepting that it was a pointless endeavor to get Dale to behave like a proper meal companion. As he reached to open the door a note caught his attention, attached as it was by a thumbtack whose plastic top had been carved into a skull.
“I wonder who could’ve left that here?” Gadget pondered.
“Probably a questionnaire from our pal Gregory Newbury the Fourteenth,” Monty suggested with a huff.
“‘Chip,’” the named chipmunk proceeded to read aloud, “‘You will die at the Ravenous Rover dog food factory in four days. Signed, World’s Deadliest Assassin.’”
“I guess that rules out Mr Newbury... the Fourteenth,” Gadget observed.
“Too right,” Monty added, “He’s the kind of bloke who would end a note with ‘Have a nice life’ or something like that.”
Zipper squeaked out a comment as they entered. “Zipper’s right,” Monty pointed out, “Fat Cat did say he’d hire the ‘world’s deadliest assassin’.”
“I think this is a hoax,” Chip responded confidently, “I mean, what kind of assassin would actually call themselves that?” Then came a tap on his shoulder. With a shriek, Chip nearly jumped out of his fur.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Chip!” Foxglove apologized when Chip finally landed, “I’m looking for Dale.” After having stated this, the chipmunk of her dreams wandered in through the door brandishing the black skull shaped thumbtack in his paws.
“Alas, poor Thumbtack,” Dale proclaimed in a dramatic voice, “I knew him, Horseradish, a man of infinite pointiness...”
As Foxglove wrapped her wings around Dale with a heartfelt ‘Hey there, cutestuff!’ Monty led Chip over to a chair. “So you think it’s just a hoax, eh there, pally?” he offered up with a hearty helping of sarcasm. Zipper buzzed over with a thimble of water for Chip as he sat down.
“Maybe we should take this seriously,” Gadget suggested as she walked over, “It would only make sense to explore every option.”
“I agree,” a voice stated as an open catalogue was placed on the table before Chip, “Which wood type would you prefer?”
“Mahogany looks nice,” Chip answered as he looked at the catalogue. “What am I saying?!” he screamed as he realized he was looking at a catalogue full of coffins.
Mr Newbury leaned in closer. “Now I suggest a beige satin interior as it goes so well with chipmunks who have your kind of fur complexion,” he politely added.
Chip slammed the catalogue shut and shoved it into Mr Newbury’s paws. “Get out! GET OUT! OUTOUTOUTOUTOUT!!” he shouted as he turned the mole about and proceeded to shove him out the door. Once the mortician had been ejected, Chip slammed the door shut and leaned his body into it, panting.
“Does this mean I can start building salesmen traps again?!” Gadget asked excitedly.

“This is ridiculous,” Chip mentioned as he walked down the sidewalk, Monty accompanying him, “I’m not some little kid that needs an escort to walk down the street.”
“Normally I’d agree with ya’ pally,” Monty replied, “But there’s no tellin’ when that hired gun might try to bump ya’ off.”
“His note said he’d do that in four days,” Chip reminded his bodyguard, “I’ve still got three days left.”
“But he may have been leading you on in hopes you’d let your guard down,” Monty reasoned aloud, “And I’m not sure I completely trust that Newbury bloke... the way he keeps showing up where ya’ least expect him and all.” He quickly turned to look behind him. “Besides, somebody’s been following us for the past few blocks,” Monty added suspiciously as he continued along beside Chip, “I can feel it!”
As Chip proceeded to lecture Monty on being overly suspicious, a faint scent chanced into the Aussie’s nostrils. His mustache twirled around and his eyes bulged as he quietly chanted ‘Che-ee-ee-eese!’. Floating off in the direction of the delectable aroma, Monty left Chip alone. Chip didn’t have a clue... not until there was no response to his lecture.
“Monty,” Chip called out, “Monty?” As he proceeded down the street slowly, every shadow seemed to develop a sinister edge. “I am being followed,” Chip whispered to himself. He tried to remain as calm as possible, not letting on that he knew, or thought he knew. But before long, his nerves began to get to him. The sound of a cough was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “I can’t take it anymore!” Chip shouted as he spun about, “Just give it to me and get it over with!”
“Well I was going to wait till we were somewhere a little more private,” Tammy stated after recovering from the initial shock, “But, here you go, Chipper.” The young squirrel handed him a small chocolate cake. “I hope you like it, I made just for you,” she added, batting her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Tammy, I thought you were someone else,” Chip offered, not wanting to dwell on the fact that Tammy had been following him for several blocks carrying a cake.
A loud squeal from behind startled Chip, causing him to toss the cake into the air. Fortunately for the cake, Tammy caught it. Chip turned around to see another young redheaded female squirrel race towards him. She was quite a sight dressed in a white blouse and a blue poodle skirt... almost as if she’d escaped from a Fifties’ sock hop.
“OHH-OH-OH! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! IT’S YOU! IT’S REALLY, REALLY YOU! CAN I HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH, SIR?!” the young squirrel asked ecstatically, thrusting a tablet and pencil into Chip’s paws, “OH, YOU’RE MY ABSOLUTE FAVE! I KNOW ABOUT ALL YOUR ADVENTURES, ALL YOUR DARING ESCAPES, AND HOW YOU NEVER EVER EVER LOOSE YOUR HAT!!” Chip, having scrawled his signature on the tablet, handed it back to the screaming teenager. Looking at it intently, she looked back at Chip, her expression full of malice, “HEY! YOU’RE NOT HARRISON FORD!!” The disappointed youth then stomped off in a huff.
Tammy clucked her tongue, “Those fan girls can be so pathetic.”
Monty returned, leisurely finishing off a hunk of cheese. “Did I miss anything?” he asked.
Before anyone could answer, the Ranger Wing appeared overhead. Landing beside the group, Gadget hollered over to Chip and Monty over the sound of the engines, “C’mon guys, somebody needs rescuing!”
“Can I come?!” Tammy asked excitedly.
“I don’t see why not,” Gadget answered before Chip could disagree. Tammy eagerly climbed aboard and then the Ranger Wing was off.
“My babies! Somebody’s got to save my babies!” a male packrat wailed as the Rangers arrived to provide assistance. He frantically directed the Rangers to where the water from an open fire hydrant was forcefully flowing down into a storm drain. Inside, in the darkness, could be seen the form of a bundle.
Although there was a close call, the Rangers were successful. “Here are your babies,” Monty stated as he handed over the unusually heavy bundle to the packrat, “Safe and sound!”
Hugging the bundle tightly, the packrat squealed with joy and fell to the sidewalk. Opening the bundle he removed a shiny, colorful marble and kissed it. Then he took out another... and another... and another. “Oh, they’re all here, not a one of them lost!” the relieved packrat exclaimed, “I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d lost my marbles!”
“Who says he hasn’t?” Monty mumbled sarcastically, for which Gadget gently and discreetly nudged him with her elbow.
As the packrat meandered off, he passed Mr Newbury walking the other way, and was oblivious to the mortician politely tipping his hat in greeting. “Oh joy, Mr Sunshine is back,” Chip groaned under his breath. Just as the mole neared the Rangers, he was nearly trampled by a couple human firefighters who rushed by to turn off the gushing hydrant... he seemed as oblivious to the near miss as the packrat was to him.
“Golly!” Gadget exclaimed, “You could’ve been killed!”
“Yeah, it’s lucky you were walking as fast as you were,” Monty chimed in, “Got out of the way just in time and didn’t have to miss a step.”
“It’s a good thing you aren’t Gregory Newbury the Thirteenth!” Dale added.
Despite the notorious reputation attached to the number Thirteen,” Mr Newbury, began, “My father, ‘The Thirteenth’, was not plagued by a lack of good fortune.”
“Really?” Dale asked incredulously.
“Well, he did die under unusual circumstances,” the morbid mole confessed, “Crushed by a piano.”
“Well, that’s odd,” Gadget responded, “But I wouldn’t say it was unusual.
“He was in the middle of an open field when it happened,” Mr Newbury replied, “To this day no one knows where that piano came from.”
“I guess that must have put a kink in the funerary plans,” Monty piped in.
“Not at all,” Mr Newbury replied sprightly, “It actually saved us time!”
Not sure he wanted to know the answer, Chip asked, “How?”
“You see,” Mr Newbury proceeded to explain, “When I was just starting out in the family business I asked my father, ‘Oh, my father, what is it you wish me to do with your mortal remains when your time has come?’ and he got this look in his eyes and answered, ‘Squashed flat, sealed in an envelope and mailed to Guam .’”
“Was he serious?!” Gadget asked in disbelief.
“Well, since he made no other reference to a preferred means of burial,” Mr Newbury explained, “We mailed my father’s flattened corpse first class to Guam.” He then turned to Chip, “So you see how important it is to make sure the proper arrangements are made.”
“Just imagine the reaction of whoever it was in Guam that got Mr Newbury the Thirteenth in their mail!” Monty mentioned.
“Hey!” Dale blurted out, “If they’d emailed ‘im, his computer coulda said ‘You’ve got mole!’”
“Guys!” Gadget scolded, “That’s more than a little disrespectful.”
Regardless of the joke about his late father, Mr Newbury proceeded with his business. “Do you wish to be buried with your hat?” he casually asked Chip.
“Chipper, what’s going on?” Tammy inquired out of sudden concern, “Are you dying?!”
“It’s nothing to worry about,” Chip told the troubled youth, “There’s just an assassin after me.”
Tammy plastered herself to Chip’s side, wrapping her arms tightly around him. “I won’t let him hurt you!” she declared, “If he wants to kill you he’ll have to kill me first!”
After Chip tried, and failed, to extricate the distressed squirrel form his side, Mr Newbury asked, “Shall I order a double-wide for the two of you then?”
As Chip waited for his blushing to die down, Gadget observed of the mortician, “You certainly are accommodating.”
“The customer is always right,” Mr Newbury replied, “Unless, of course, they want a Viking funeral on land.”
“Now who would want something like that?!” Monty asked.
“Oh, you meet all kinds in this business,” the mole answered. “In this case it was a cow in Chicago... before my time mind you,” Mr Newbury proceeded to explain, “She had this incredible fear of the water. My family reminded her that she would be dead, that the water couldn’t possibly cause her any harm. She screamed, ‘No water!’ My family asked her to consider what Mrs O’Leary would think, she certainly wouldn’t want us to start a fire in her barn. ‘NO WATER!’ the cow screeched. So, when her time came, she was placed in a longship, every precaution anyone could think of was taken...” There was a pause before he returned to his narrative, “It’s a shame it takes something like a city burning down to teach you that there are some things you just should not allow.” As the others pondered the lesson that had been learned, Mr Newbury turned back to Chip, who was still trying to remove Tammy, “You wouldn’t, by any chance, want a Viking funeral?”
“NO!” Chip answered curtly.

“I’m surprised we were ever able to pry Tammy off of you, there, Chipper!” Monty mentioned as he and the others reminisced about the previous day’s revelation to the young squirrel of Chip’s impending doom. “Heh! If Mr Newbury hadn’t shown up there at Tammy’s house her mother prolly never woulda taken it seriously enough to get that crowbar!” he added as he joined Chip in front of the TV.
“It says here in this book on child care,” Gadget stated as she read from a human sized book propped against the wall, “‘That you should never underestimate the determination of a mother to prevent her eldest daughter from being the unintentional victim of an assassin’s hit.’”
“Oh it does, does it?” Monty asked skeptically as he stood up, “Sounds just a little too specific to me.”
“That’s what it says,” Gadget asserted as Monty walked up to read for himself, “right there.”
Mumbling as he read, the Australian blurted out, “Well I’ll be a dingo’s doormat, that is what it says!” He gave a chuckle as he continued, “Also says ‘Parents can show extraordinary resourcefulness at keeping their children away from Bob Saget impersonators.’!”
Oblivious to the kernels of knowledge being bandied about behind him, Chip checked the time. “How long are Dale and Foxglove going to be out on that date?” he asked, “That corn-ball horror movie at the drive in should’ve been over an hour ago.”
“Maybe our pally finally succumbed to Foxglove’s charms,” Monty suggested, “If you know what I mean.”
Before Gadget could scold her corpulent companion for giving voice to something best left unspoken, there was a loud ‘thock’ at the front door. Zipper buzzed over to the door to investigate, and upon opening it, discovered a note pinned to the door with another skull shaped thumbtack.
“Golly, another note!” Gadget gratuitously gauged.
Monty rushed out of the open door in hopes of catching sight of whoever had left it. Caught up in thought as he took the note from Zipper, Chip closed the door before the Aussie had returned.
“What does it say?” Gadget asked.
Chip was about to read the note aloud when Monty was heard on the other side of the closed door. “Thanks for putting me out for the night, like I’m some mangy cat,” he stated sarcastically, “You could’ve at least left me a saucer of milk... or some che-e-e-ese.”
As the door proceeded to open, Gadget shouted a warning, “Monty, no! WAIT!” But it was too late. As the rotund rodent stepped in, Gadget’s salesmen trap was set in motion. The spring-loaded top step launched Monty’s mass through the air, across the room, and into a box. Two gloved mechanical hands emerged from the wall and swiftly closed the box and wrapped it as decoratively as a Christmas present before a boot shot out from the wall sending the package, with it’s screaming occupant, out through the open door. “You forgot to enter the access code,” Gadget sighed after the fact. Zipper sailed out the door to retrieve their departed and undoubtedly dazed teammate.
“That’s the third time today,” Chip remarked, “You think he’d catch on.” As he and Gadget gazed out the door, he sighed, “I’ll be glad when this is all over.”
Gadget was horrified at what she heard. “You don’t mean you’re actually looking forward to being assassinated, do you?” she asked in shock.
“What? No!” Chip responded, “I mean I’ll be glad when we’ve stopped the assassin and I’m no longer being stalked by a mortician.”
“Gadget, luv,” Monty started as he returned with Zipper, “You’ve got to get that thing to tell the difference between me and a salesman!”
“I did,” the beautiful inventor replied, “A salesman wouldn’t know the access code to get through the door.”
Zipper cleared his throat as he nudged Monty with his elbow. “Yeah, I know. I’ll be glad when this is all over with.”
“You don’t mean you’re actually looking forward to Chip being...” Gadget was stopped in mid sentence as Chip gave a rather loud ‘A-hem’. “Oh,” Gadget responded after a moment of thought, “He means when we’ve stopped the assassin and you’re no longer being stalked by a mortician.” Chip nodded. “Ok,” she squeaked cheerily as she set about rearming the trap.
“By the way there, lad,” Monty called over as he sat down, “What does that note say, anyhow?”
Chip began to read from the sinister sheet, “‘Chip, Your friends have been captured. If you want to see them alive again you will be at the Ravenous Rover dog food factory tomorrow after the humans have gone for the day. Signed, World’s Deadliest Assassin.’”
“Oh no!” Gadget cried out, “Dale and Foxglove are in danger!” Her brief lapse of concentration caused her to loose her grip on the spring-loaded stair. As it whizzed past her head a corner caught hold of her goggles and sent the protective eye wear spiraling through the air. When Chip turned to see why Gadget had let out a startled yelp, the strap of the goggles caught on his nose.
“Y’know,” Chip drawled casually as Gadget’s goggles dangled from his snout, “Keeping Mr Newbury out of here may not really be worth all this trouble.”

Chip, Gadget, Monty and Zipper scoured the top of the concession stand form where Dale and Foxglove would’ve been watching the movie. It wasn’t long before Chip happened upon the only apparent clue. The half eaten Hershey’s bar bore the distinctive tooth marks of a certain chipmunk, whose predatory lust for sweets would not allow him to leave behind the partially devoured corpse of his chocolate prey.
“There don’t seem to be any signs of a struggle,” Gadget observed.
“It’s like they just up and left,” Monty added.
As they continued to scout around the crime scene, a thought entered Gadget’s mind, and though she didn’t feel it had much merit she brought it forward. “You don’t supposed this is actually just a prank that Dale is playing on us, do you?”
“No,” Chip answered assuredly, “Foxglove would never let him pull something like this.”
“Too right,” Monty agreed, “That lass has a heart o’ gold. I can’t see her causing the least bit of harm to anyone, even as part of a joke.”
Chip spotted a cockroach skittering around nearby. “Excuse me,” he called over to the vermin, “Did you happen to see a chipmunk and-” But before he could finish his question the insect raced over and grabbed Chip’s jacket with his forelegs.
“Didyouseemycontactlense?Ofcoursenot.Ifyouhadseenmycontactyouwouldhavetoldmebutyou havenotsoyouobviouslyhavenotseenmycontactlense...” he hurriedly rambled before letting the startled chipmunk loose. Seemingly without a break for air, which would make sense as cockroaches don’t breathe through their mouths, he continued his frantic rambling as he skittered about rapidly looking about in all directions, “Gottofindmycontactlense,mustfindmycontactlense.Ithasbeengonefordaysanddaysanddays...”
“Crikey!” Monty declared as the roach proceeded on his search, “An’ I thought Gadget on a caffeine rush was hard to follow! Could either of you figure out what he was on about?”
Gadget offered, “I think he said something about not being able to find his contact lense.”
“In days and days and days,” Chip added.
“Then I guess he hasn’t seen much of anything lately,” Monty concluded.
For the first time in a while, Chip wasn’t surprised to see Mr Newbury approach. “Have you seen Dale or Foxglove recently?” he asked.
“No, actually, I haven’t,” the mortician replied politely. “You haven’t, by any chance, seen a cockroach’s contact lense?”
“So you encountered him too, eh?” Monty asked.
“Yes, I have,” came the reply. Mr Newbury specified as he brushed bits of dried mud off his suit, “Just after he scuttled across a mud puddle.” Removing a pad and pencil from his semi-soiled coat, he asked, “Any details of your impending death I should be made aware of? How you are to be killed? Where the assassin intends to leave your remains?”
“Well,” Gadget thought aloud, “According to the most recent note, Chip should be dead sometime after 5 PM tomorrow... assuming that’s when the factory closes for the day.”
“Gadget!” Chip scolded.
“Well I didn’t mean you actually would be dead,” Gadget clarified, “just that is what the assassin intends, and considering he calls himself the ‘World’s Deadliest Assassin’ he will probably take great pains to make sure you actually do die, which we hope doesn’t happen, but taking into consideration that he, assuming it’s a ‘he’, isn’t 100 percent perfect there is always the chance he’ll make a mistake in which case you’ll live, but...”
“Uh, Gadget,” Monty interrupted.
“Let it go.”
“If you’ll excuse us,” Chip stated to Mr Newbury, “I think we should go investigate the Ravenous Rover dog food factory.”
“Of course,” Mr Newbury acknowledged, “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

It was late at night when Chip, Gadget, Monty and Zipper returned to Rescue Ranger Headquarters. By the way they trudged through the door it was obvious their excursion had not been fruitful. Out of both exhaustion and depression they flopped onto the couch before the tv.
“We were all over that place and couldn’t find hide nor hair of either of ‘em,” Monty lamented.
“You know, it’s entirely likely Dale and Foxglove aren’t even being kept there,” Gadget pointed out.
“At least we have a feel for the layout of the place,” Chip countered, “That should come in handy tomorrow.”
Zipper squeaked out a comment before giving a drawn out yawn.
“‘E’s right, there,” Monty agreed, “We should hit the sack, it just wouldn’t do to be fending off the ‘World’s Deadliest Assassin’ without a good night’s rest.” And so the Rangers, sans Dale, retired to bed for the night.
The next day, in the mid-afternoon, the human employees of the Ravenous Rover dog food factory were exiting their place of work under the watchful eye of Chip and the remaining Rangers. Nothing and nobody unusual were seen entering the building afterwards.
“Guess we’d better get going,” Chip sighed finally.
Cautiously, the mice, chipmunk and fly approached the deserted structure. Suddenly, out of the shadows emerged... the cockroach they’d met the previous night.
“Gottafindmycontactlense,mustfindmylense,can’tgetalongwithoutit,needtofindit,haveto,have to,haveto,” he muttered as he skittered across their path, oblivious to their presence.
After recovering from their shock and taking a deep breath, they continued. Within the factory, the processing and canning machines sat idle, their bodies bathed in the scant illumination provided by the security lights. There seemed to be no living presence anywhere to be seen. That is until they spied a familiar form off in the distance.
“He would have to show up here, wouldn’t he,” Chip commented as he watched Gregory Newbury XIV casually set up a folding chair in front of a wall. With his seat in place, the placid mortician sat down with his hands neatly folded in his lap to await the coming calamity.
“You sure he’s a mole?” Monty asked sarcastically, “‘Cause right now he looks more like a vulture.”
“Stay where you are!” a voice commanded.
Everyone let out a collective, “Huh?” Then the lights went out.
Chip heard the sounds of scuffling intermixed with the shouts of “What do you think you’re doing?!” from Monty and “Watch where you’re putting those hands, buster!” from Gadget. When the lights went up, he saw that both mice, Dale, Foxglove and Zipper were sitting on the floor behind him bound up with thread, all looking rather indignant about their present predicament.
“Now it is just you and me, detective!” came a voice in a close approximation of a Japanese accent. Looking up towards the source of the voice, Chip saw what appeared to be a ninja that had the distinctive outline of a hamster standing atop one of the machines.
“So, you’re the ‘World’s Deadliest Assassin’?” Chip asked.
“Correct, Chip Maplewood,” the ninja hamster answered. “The time for words had passed,” he declared as he drew a hamster sized katana blade, “You die now!” Leaping from his perch, the ninja flew at the chipmunk with deadly speed. Fortunately for Chip, the reaction time of chipmunks is better than that of hamsters, even if the hamster in question is a ninja.
Having rolled out of the way, Chip quickly regained his footing. With a quick sweep of his blade the ninja intended to remove Chip’s head. Chip ducked and the blade passed beneath his hat before it plopped back down upon his furry cranium.
“We’ve gotta do something!” Monty declared as he strained against his bindings.
“It’s no good,” Foxglove lamented, “Dale’s been trying ever since we were captured and hasn’t even been able to stretch them.”
“Maybe if we could back up against something-” Gadget was cut short as something bumped up against her rear end. “What the heck?!” she gasped as she looked behind her. There was the cockroach again. “Get outta there!” Gadget shouted defensively.
“Notmycontactlense,nopenopenope,toowarmandsoft,” the visually impaired vermin concluded before wandering off aimlessly, still in search of his truant lense.
“Why don’t you go look in a roach motel you... you... roach!” Gadget yelled after him.
“Easy there, luv,” Monty advised, “He probably didn’t even know you were in front of him, much less what part of you he’d run into.”
Chip continued to dodge and duck the attacks of the ninja hamster. That is, until he tripped and fell backwards over a bolt. The assassin raised his blade triumphantly above his head to deal a deadly blow before his prey could escape again.
Chip quickly pointed over the ninja’s shoulder and shouted, “THE HORROR!!”
“Where?” the ninja asked in an oddly mid-western accent as he looked back.
Astonished at his great good fortune, Chip grabbed the bolt and belted the assassin upside the head with it.
“Ow!” the ninja hamster whined as he rubbed his sore noggin. “I mean,” and here he regained a Japanese accent, “You shall pay for that dishonor, chipmunk!” Then, with a kick, he knocked the bolt out of Chip’s paws.
As the pair continued their deadly dance about the factory, Chip began to clamber up onto the machinery. Quickly, more quickly than Chip liked, the ninja followed. Up and over gears, shafts, buttons and switches the two went. The chase continued to the vast opening that descended into the canning machine, marked with a sign that read ‘Insert Imitation Rice Meal Food Stuff Product Here’, below which was hung a sign scrawled in red marker that read ‘DON’T FALL IN, YOU MORONS! Love, management’.
Chip lost his balance, but didn’t fall into the machine. However, as he tried to right himself, he discovered his jacket was caught on a small screw that had been worked slightly out of place over time. The ninja once more raised his blade in preparation for dealing a lethal blow.
“No more tricks, detective,” the hamster declared, “Now you die!”
Chip raised his paw, not out of defense but because he was blinded by the light reflected off the razor sharp weapon.
“MYLENSE!!” shrieked the cockroach as he leapt at the shininess.
“What?” the ninja blurted out as he witnessed a black mass fly at his face. Before he could react, the roach grabbed hold of him and the forward momentum sent them both into the canning machine. “AAHHH!” the ninja shouted as he fell.
The cockroach flew up out of the opening. “Nope,notmylense,toofurry,”he muttered as he unknowingly landed upon the ‘on’ switch, which his weight depressed.
With a shudder, the whole machine came to life. Soon, all kinds of indecipherable swearing could be heard within. A line of cans containing low grade dog food emerged from the machine at the far end. One of the cans seemed more lively than it’s kin as it began to bounce around yelling all kinds of profanity in English and Japanese. The animated can tipped over and fell to the floor with a clank. “OW!” the can said, after which it rolled out the door and down a storm drain.
Chip, having finally extricated himself, promptly set to work untying his friends. As the last was set free, Mr Newbury walked over carrying his folding chair. “I hope you’re not too disappointed we haven’t provided you any business today,” Chip stated to the mortician sprightly.
“That’s quite alright,” Mr Newbury responded, “As Mr Franklin observed so adroitly, ‘The only certainties in life are death and taxes.’ So there will always be employment for many Newbury’s to come as well as their brethren within the revenue services.” He made a final check of his possessions, then stated as he prepared to don his hat, “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off to the old age home.”
“Th-th-that’s monstrous!” Gadget sputtered in disgust at the implied reference.
“Begging your pardon, miss,” Newbury responded calmly, “I happen to be a resident there,” and after placing his hat upon his head stated, “And I do so hate to miss ‘Tapioca Tuesday’.”
As Gadget checked Chip over for injuries, two mice dressed in white orderly’s uniforms and carrying rodent sized butterfly nets jogged up to the group. “Have any of you seen an elderly mole dressed in black and wearing a stove-pipe hat come through here?” one of them asked.
“Sure,” Dale responded, “Why?”
“A Mr Newbury escaped from the home again,” came the answer.
“His family checked him in last week,” his companion pointed out, “and he keeps getting loose. We don’t know how he does it!”
“Well he went that-a-way!” Dale dramatically directed the orderlies.
Foxglove observed as the orderlies raced off after the mortician, “Talk about being dedicated to your profession.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Newbury would pop up out of his own coffin at the funeral and went right back to work,” Monty joked.
“Cool!” Dale responded, “I hope we’d be invited!” Everyone looked at Dale. “What?”
Everyone was ready to leave as another voice was heard, “MY WIG! WHERE’S MY WIG?” Then a ladybug, wearing a miniature Dolly Parton wig, raced through the group, it’s tiny legs a blur beneath it. “I CAN’T FIND MY WI-I-I-IG!!” it yelled as it disappeared in the distance.
“Wasn’t it wearing a wig?” Gadget asked.
“Crikey! Nearsighted roaches, ninja hamsters, and wig wearing ladybugs,” Monty exclaimed, “I say we hightail it outta here before the belching bulldogs show up!”
Everyone but Dale proceeded to walk off. “Dale,” Chip called back, “What are you doing?”
Dale answered in a matter of fact tone of voice, “I’m waiting for the belching bulldogs.”
Chip grabbed Dale by the collar of his Hawaiian shirt and dragged him off.

It Ends Now.

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