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When their friend Bear gets involved with a group of school misfits who model themselves after a ...
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When their friend Bear gets involved with a group of school misfits who model themselves after a popular fantasy book series, Sean and Melissa go undercover to reveal the truth about their "magical powers."
At last, the moment had arrived. Sean and Melissa—or rather, Hilga and Arnold—knocked on the basement door, were ushered inside the theater, and were now about to be voted into the Phangdoodle Mystical Society.
Fred stood before them in his High Phang getup and pointed his "magic" wand in Sean and Melissa's direction. "Arise," he commanded.
Brother and sister threw glances to each other, then obeyed. They rose from their chairs.
Fred continued. "Congratulations. The Phang has judged you worthy."
Both Sean and Melissa felt a wave of uneasiness wash over them.
"Now there is only one thing you must do to prove your allegiance." Fred turned to another kid, who stood beside him on the table. "Is the animal ready?"
The boy nodded and clapped his hands. Another kid, this time a girl, came forward. She carried a cage with a strange-looking and frightened animal in it.
What is that? Melissa wondered. But only for a moment. Because almost immediately, she realized it was...Precious!
"Bring the sacred sword," Fred commanded. Then he pointed his wand at Sean and Melissa. "Come forward," he ordered. "You must prove yourselves worthy of our trust by offering this animal upon our altar."
"But that's—that's somebody's pet," Melissa said.
"Yes," Fred agreed, "and they have done me a grave injustice. And now they must suffer the consequences."
"Youwant us to kill somebody's pet?" Sean asked. "That's crazy. No, that's not crazy, that's just plain sick. No, that's worst than sick, that's—"
"Uh, Sean," Melissa whispered, "I think they get the picture."
Sean turned to the group. The look on their faces said they got the picture, all right. And they weren't too thrilled with what they saw. Or with what they heard. Because, unfortunately, Sean wasn't quite finished. "And we know all about what you did to Miss Perrucci's car. How you—"
"Uh, Sean," Melissa warned.
"—cut her brakes. And how you broke into Mrs. Tubbs' house to steal her cat, and—"
"—how you're all a bunch of losers trying to fit in through that stupid book and those wing-nut cards!"
At last he was finished. Pleased that he'd gotten it all off of his chest, Sean looked at the group. If they were unhappy before, they were really steamed now. In fact, many were trading concerned looks with one another and starting to rise to their feet. Things were not looking good. Not good at all.
Melissa tried her best to smooth things over...or at least try to get out of there alive. "Uh, what my brother here is trying to say."
"Arnold's your brother?" someone asked. "I thought he was from Germany or someplace."
The group began mumbling among themselves. More were rising. Some started to approach the stage.
Melissa cleared her throat. "Er, I mean, friend, what my friend Arnold is trying to say."
"Hey, what happened to your accent?" another demanded. The group grumbled even louder as more of them moved toward the stage.
"Uh, laryngitis?" Melissa offered halfheartedly. "When you've got laryngitis, your accent is the first thing to go."
But they weren't buying it—not for a moment as they continued to close in.
"Exkuz mee, Hilga." It was Sean. "But I zink I hav un idea."
"Yeah, what's that?" Melissa whispered, slowly backing away from the approaching group.
"I share it only iv you are oopen to suggestions."
"I'm open, I'm open," Melissa whispered, continuing to back away. "Tell me, what do we do?"
Sean swallowed hard, took a deep breath, then made his suggestion.
"RUN! RUN FOR OUR LIVES!"
No argument there. The two jumped off the table and headed for the stairs as fast as they could. The group lunged for them, some grabbing their arms, others their clothes. For the most part the two managed to slip through the crowd—well, except for the one kid who grabbed Melissa's hair, only to have the wig come off in his hands.
"Augh!" he screamed, throwing it into the air, where it caught in the blades of the ceiling fan and started spinning around.
"DON'T LET THEM GET AWAY!" Fred shouted.
Suddenly Precious was also loose and running.
"Who let the cat out?!" Fred yelled.
"It's this stupid cage!" Bear lied. "It just opened on its own!"
"Don't let it get away!"
Some of the kids were chasing Sean and Melissa as they headed for the stairs, while others were trying to grab the cat. Eventually, one of the girls managed to scoop Precious up into her arms, but only for a second before he leaped away. Up and away. High into the air, and...right on top of Melissa's head, "OW!" digging in his claws for all he was worth.
The good news was that with all of the confusion, Sean and Melissa were able to get through the crowd and make it to the stairs. The bad news was that for the briefest moment, Precious seemed to be permanently stuck to Melissa's head. Oh, and there was one other bit of bad news. Fred was right on their tail, using the only weapon he could think of...his can of Silly String.
They raced up the stairs. But when they arrived at the door, it was locked.
"Now what?" Melissa cried.
They turned toward Precious. He had leaped off Melissa's head and was waddling up another flight of stairs. "Up there!" Sean shouted.
They darted across the landing and started up the steps. Fortunately, Fred had made the stairs and floor behind them so slippery with the Silly String that he and the rest of the group kept slipping and sliding. That gave Sean and Melissa some lead time. Not much, but some.
When they finally reached the top of the stairs, they threw open the door to the theater. It was musty smelling, with more dust and cobwebs than a bad horror movie. Then there was the matter of the light...
"Ouch! I hit my knee!"
"Oaf! So did I!"
After tripping and stumbling a few more times along the way, the two managed to race to the front of the theater, where they ducked down between the seats to catch their breath and hide.
Well, at least that's what they were hoping to do.
"Yoo-hoo! Here we are!"
Sean looked down at his watch. It was Jeremiah!
"We're up here behind these front seats! Come and get us!"
Sean glared. "Jeremiah! What are you doing?"
"They won't hurt you," Jeremiah squawked. "They're my friends. They were just fooling around." He yelled again, "Yoo-hoo! Here we are! Here we—"
But that was all he got out before Sean took off his watch and stuffed it in his pocket so Jeremiah could no longer be heard. "Come on," he ordered, "we've got to move."
And move they did, farther to the side and more toward the corner...just as the back door flew open.
"All right!" Fred shouted. "We know you're in here! So why don't you just give yourselves up and make this easier for all of us."
Sean and Melissa crouched lower until they were flat on their stomachs. Then they began crawling under the seats.
"All right, have it your way," Fred called.
Other kids could be heard entering the theater as the search began.
Fred continued. "Just remember that the harder you make us work, the harder it'll be on you."
The footsteps continued to come closer and closer. And closer some more.
* * *
Meanwhile, back at the lab, Doc had inserted the last of the microchips into SuperVac's power supply. And then, after a little noodling here and a little doodling there, bingo! ol' SuperVac came to life just as pretty as you please. Well, just as pretty as you please for about half a minute. Then suddenly, for no reason that Doc understood, the machine began...
...louder and louder and, more suddenly still, its wheels began spinning.
Before she could catch it, the thing leaped off the bench, hit the floor, and left a long patch of rubber as it peeled out the door and down the stairs. Doc tore off after it, but she was no match for the added power she'd just installed in it. Before she reached the bottom of the stairs it...
...burst through her front door and out onto the street. Of course Doc followed, but by the time she got outside, it was long gone. She had no idea where it had vanished to. If she could hear, she might have been able to know which direction it was heading. She'd also be able to hear something else... the distant...
"WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!"
...of one very frightened dog being chased.
* * *
As all of this was going on, Sean and Melissa were crawling on their bellies under the theater seats. If they could just circle around behind Fred and the gang. If they could just reach that back door without being spotted. If they could just—
Uh-oh. That's the sound Melissa's head made when it bumped into someone's leg. She froze, but it was too late. Suddenly one very big face dropped into her vision. One very big face that looked a lot like Bear.
"You guys see anything?" Fred shouted from across the room.
Bear and Melissa continued to stare at each other, their faces less than twelve inches apart.
"Nobody on this side," someone shouted.
The two continued to stare. Melissa could see something running through Bear's mind, but she couldn't tell what.
"Nothing here, either," another shouted.
"Bear," Fred called, "what about you?"
Bear opened his mouth but did not answer.
Finally he rose out of Melissa's sight. And then, after what seemed an eternity, he called back. "Nope, nothin' here, either."
A wave of relief washed over Melissa as she lowered her head and continued crawling under the seats. But only for a moment. Because, suddenly...
"Come here, you!" A pair of hands reached down, grabbed her shoulders, and pulled her to her feet. It was one of the kids.
"Sean!" she screamed. "SEAN!"
"Here's the other one!" Suddenly Sean was pulled up from the floor by another kid.
"Well, well, well..." Fred said, turning around to face them with an unnerving grin. "Look what we've found."
Melissa tried her best to squirm free. "Let go of me! Let go!" But the burly kid held her shoulders tight.
Sean faired no better.
"Bring ‘em back downstairs!" Fred ordered. "Now!"
Moments later Sean and Melissa found themselves down in the basement. They were sitting in chairs, their hands tied back to back, looking up into the very angry face of Fred.
"We're going to teach you two that you can't mess with the High Phang," Fred sneered. "Just like we showed that stupid assistant principal."
"So," Sean said, "you admit that you messed with the brakes on her car."
Bear, who was standing nearby, turned to Fred. "You did?" he asked. "But you told me it was the curse that—"
"Oh, come on, Bear, you can't be that stupid," Fred said. "And I can promise you this...she'll never mess with one of us again, no way. We've definitely given her something to remember us by." Then turning back to Sean and Melissa, he added, "Just like we'll do to your friends here."
"Wha-?" It took Bear a moment to find his voice. "What are you going to do to them?"
Fred turned back to him, that eerie smile filling his voice. "Not what I'm going to do, my dear friend. It's what you're going to do."
"M-m-me?" Bear asked.
Fred turned and shouted over his shoulder, "Is the sacred sword ready yet?"
"Just about," one of the members called. She was holding a small dagger over the burner of a hot plate.
"Good, very good." Then, turning back to Bear, Fred continued. "I have been given reason to doubt your allegiance to our great Mystical Society, my friend."
Bear swallowed nervously.
"This is a grave matter, but there is one very easy way to clear it up." Fred glanced over to Sean and Melissa, then back to Bear. "Which will it be?" he asked. "Your friends...or your brothers of the Society?"
Bear said nothing but swallowed again, even harder.
"The sword is ready!" the girl called.
"Then bring it forth!" Fred commanded.
As the girl approached with the glowing, hot sword, Fred explained, "You, Bear, will have the great honor of searing each of their foreheads with the hot blade of the sword. It will serve as a brand, a mark of warning to the rest of the school, that we of the Phangdoodle are not to be toyed with."
The group of kids murmured in agreement. They obviously liked what they heard.
As the small dagger approached, Bear took a step backward. "I...I can't do that."
"And why not?" Fred asked, taking the dagger from the girl.
"Because they're...they're my friends."
"Exactly," Fred grinned. Suddenly he reached out and thrust the handle of the dagger into Bear's hand. "And such fierce and terrible action against your very friends shall make us all the more feared."
Again the group murmured in agreement. One or two called out, "Yeah... Do it, Bear. Do it!"
"Do it, Bear!" Fred ordered. "Do it or else you, too, will wear the sacred brand!"
"But—" Bear continued backing away, until he bumped into one of the other members. "I...I can't. They're...they're my—"
"ENOUGH!" Fred shouted. Motioning to the closest members, he ordered, "Grab him!"
Suddenly four or five pairs of hands wrapped around Bear's arms.
"Let me go!" he shouted. "Let me go."
Fred continued, shouting above him to be heard, "If he does not have the courage to administer the brand, then he, too, shall wear it!"
Bear struggled. "No, let me go. Let me—"
But he was no match for the large number of kids. Soon they were all dragging him toward Fred, forcing him onto his knees before him. Slowly, menacingly, Fred raised the dagger. It looked like Bear would be the first to be branded, followed by Sean, then Melissa. Now the dagger was just inches from his forehead and coming closer by the second, when suddenly—
The outside door flew open and in ran...
"SLOBS!" Sean and Melissa cried in unison. Both were thrilled that she'd come to save them. But they couldn't be more wrong. Slobs hadn't come to save them, she'd come to be saved. Because right behind her...
"What is it?" Fred yelled.
"An army tank!" someone shouted.
"An alien space craft!" another cried.
But Slobs didn't care what it was, she just wanted to get away. It was only natural that once she discovered the gate was unlocked, she would follow her masters. But now all she could do was run in circles...
...around and around, and around some more, with SuperVac right behind.
All this as Fred stood in the middle of it all, yelling, "Stop! Stop this at once!" But it did no good. Or maybe it did. Because, for whatever reason, after several more minutes of running in circles, Slobs had finally had enough. She came to a shaky stop, wobbled this way and that, and suddenly got a funny look on her face.
"Slobs?" Melissa called. "Girl, what's wrong? You don't look so good."
Melissa was right, in more ways than she knew. Suddenly the dog dropped her head right over Fred's shoes and...
...covered them in her latest meal of semi-digested dog food.
"Oh, gross..." the group groaned.
"You stupid dog," Fred shouted. "Look what you did all over my shoes!"
But if Fred would have looked a bit closer, he would have seen that it wasn't just dog food on his shoes. There was also one very tiny little microchip! The very one that Slobs had swallowed the other day at Doc's.
Immediately the SuperVac stopped in its tracks.
"What's it doing now?" Fred shouted in alarm.
Then, instantly, it spun around and raced straight toward him.
Fred tried to turn and run but...
...it was too late! Doc's vacuum cleaner grabbed hold of Fred's rear and wouldn't let go. "GET IT OFF! GET THIS THING OFF OF ME!"
And then, just when it looked like he was about to become SuperVac's latest meal...
...three Midvale policemen, led by Chief Robertson, burst through the basement door with their guns drawn.
"Nobody move!" the chief shouted.
And nobody did.
He got all white in the face, then fainted and fell to the floor, with Supervac still sucking at his rear.
"Get those kids untied," Chief Robertson ordered his men.
"How did you know we were here?" Sean asked as they began to untie the ropes.
"Somebody called us," the chief answered.
"But nobody knew we were here," Melissa said.
Chief Robertson shrugged. "It was somebody with a real strange voice. Kinda high and squeaky. Almost like it was electric or something."
Sean and Melissa looked at each other and grinned. Each knew what the other was thinking.... Jeremiah!
"What's going on here, anyway?" the chief asked. "Somebody tell me what happened."
"It's a long story," Sean said, rising to his feet and rubbing the feeling back into his hands. "Got a couple of hours?"
The chief gave him a look and nodded. "I'm all ears."
After carefully explaining to the police everything from the Phangdoodle books to the cards, to the attack on Miss Perrucci's car, to the break-in and theft of Precious, Sean and Melissa were finally able to go home. The chief had called Dad, and he was on his way to pick them up.
But as they sat on the steps waiting, Jeremiah appeared on Sean's watch, glowing a deep shade of blue and hanging his head in sorrow. "I thought they were my friends," he said.
"I'm sorry, Jeremiah," Sean said. "But we're sure glad you called the police."
"Yeah," Melissa agreed. "You saved us, Jeremiah."
"They really pulled the wool over my ears," Jeremiah said.
"Please, Jeremiah," Sean said, "just forget about it."
"I promise, from now on I'll always put my money where my nose is. I won't bite the hand that weeds me. And I—"
"Jeremiah?" Sean asked.
And then, in perfect unison, both Sean and Melissa repeated, "Forget it!"
The Scam of the Screwball Wizards
|1.||The Case Begins||9|
|2.||Well, I'll Be Phangdoodled||23|
|3.||An UnBEARable Bear||37|
|4.||BEAR-ly Hanging on to Reality||47|
|5.||Mrs. Tubbs, What a Card||57|
|6.||Slobs Turns Electric||67|
|8.||The Secret of the Mystical Brotherhood||91|
|9.||It's a Good Thing Cats Have Nine Lives||99|
|10.||Making a Clean Sweep||111|