Monday, October 9, 2017

Daphne's Halloween Horror

Hi, all! It's been a while since I've been deep into "Blogland". Since my Mom passed away over a year ago, I've not really had my heart into doing any artwork or even publishing any of my stories. This goes for all five(5) of my blogs. At any rate, now that I've found a bit of time, I can almost get back to normal. Almost. Friends and trolls that used to follow me over at DeviantART, ken well that I get depressed around the hols. 2017 is no exception. But, those that remember this ken that I'm at my creative best (or worse, however you want to view it), when it comes to putting damsels in perilous sitches. Below is a revamped version of one of my Daphne Blake cosplay works from 2014. If anyone has a copy of the original, you'll note that this one is a bit...different. Upgraded strictly for the Halloween season, poor Daphne (in her shiny latex Batgirl costume), is still having trouble getting free. Only now, she's being goaded by Mr. Punk and his son, Punk Jr. There is no story behind this. One can assume anything they want to. So have fun and use your imagination.

This work is also a part of the "Hunter's Moon Halloween Festival", in progress over at VLADEN13's DA page. Go have a looksee, muwahahaha!

On a sadder note...I've decided to take down all but two of my blogs. My "Pixies in Peril" and "The Many Perils Daphne" blogs will be merging into my DPL blog (which, I've really been neglecting for far too long). All current posts on those two blogs will be moving over to the DPL, over the course of the next few months. When all is moved, I'll permanently delete those two blogs. I'm also deleting my "Clouded Imagination" blog, which I never really launched. Stuff I had intended for this blog will, eventually, end up on my "Abandoned" blog. 'Nuff said. Hope everyone has a safe, sane and happy Halloween. My special thanks go out to Vladen13; you're awesome!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Daphne Blake Imperiled Reporter Pt. 3 Sneak Peek

Above is my finished illustration for Pt.3 of my story "Daphne Blake: Imperiled Reporter", of which I'm still working on. I ken it's been a while since I posted Pt.2 but hopefully, I'll have Pt.3 completed by the end of June. Hopefully. But for now, you can just wonder how she gets out of her "hanging" predicament at the warehouse and onto a conveyor belt at a fish processing plant. Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Return Of J.W.

The Return of J.W.

  Author’s note: This is a work of “fan fiction” and based on characters from the “Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated” cartoon show. Those that have seen the show will recognize some of the character names. All other characters are created by me and are purely fictional. And they exist only in my warped mind. This story takes up where “The Last Address” left off and before “Vexina’s Revenge” (two other fan-fics I've written.)  Two years have passed since Jason Wyatt was arrested for the kidnappings and attempted murders of Daphne and Velma. Jason was committed to the Crystal Cove Asylum for the Mentally Deficient, after being judged too mentally degraded to stand trial. After five months, he was transferred to the Criminally Insane Asylum in Diamond Bay, forty miles to the north-east of Crystal Cove, under orders of the doctors. The Diamond Bay facility was better equipped to handle Wyatt’s case. It was in this facility that Jason plotted his new revenge against Daphne and Velma.

 Part 1

 “Two years. Two long, fucking years!” said Jason as he went speeding out of the car-park of the asylum. “But I’m free again! HA!” His escape had been well planned. It had helped that the orderly that was in charge of him looked similar (at least as far as build and eye colour...dying his hair black came later.) Jason had become good friends with the orderly, one Dominic Farnsworth, and made it his “duty” to find out everything he could about him. So, over the course of the past eleven months, Jason was well prepared to make his move. He knew the type of car Dominic owned, what his scheduled rounds were and most important, how to use the security cards that every employee of the asylum carried on their person. It had also helped that Jason had been moved to the ground floor and into a lesser guarded area. He had “convinced” the doctors that he was, indeed, getting better and had warranted the transfer. “Stupid doctors,” said Jason as he smiled to himself and headed towards the downtown area of Diamond Bay.

 Dominic woke up with a splitting headache. Groaning, he slowly opened his eyes and found that he was lying prone on the floor of Jason’s cell. Carefully rolling onto his left side, he propped himself up with his left forearm and elbow as he felt along the back of his head. He winced when he felt the large lump in the middle. “Shit,” he said aloud. He wondered how long he’d been out. Surely someone would have noticed by now that he wasn’t on his rounds. He looked down to see that his trousers were missing, ditto his white jacket and security card. “Damn!” he lamented. Shakily getting up, he went over to the call button panel over the bed and hit the “alert” button. After which, he passed out onto the bed. All hell broke loose as soon as the alarm sounded...the info-board at the nurse’s station indicating that the call had come from Cell 122...Jason Wyatt’s cell. Of course it was too late, and by the time security gained entrance to the cell, Jason was long gone.

 The first guard into the room quickly noticed the inert body on the bed. He cautiously approached, his taser in his right hand. With his left hand the guard shook the half-naked body to gain a response. He let out a slight chuckle when he noticed who it was. Two other guards had, by this time, entered the room. The lead guard, a tall man with a shaved head, looked over at the bed, then at the first guard, said, “What’s so damn funny?”

 “You can call off the search for Wyatt,” he said. “But you might want to let the director know to alert the police that he’s escaped.” 

“Say what?” retorted the guard. “If Wyatt’s gone then…who’s that?”

 The first guard turned the body over face up to reveal who it was. “This is Dominic Farnsworth. He’s one of the chief orderlies.”

 “Damn,” said second and third guards in unison. Suddenly, Dominic began to stir awake.

 “Oh my aching head,” said Dominic as he tried to sit up. He slowly opened his eyes and focused on the first guard. “What time is it?” he asked. There were no clocks in the asylum. Too, Dominic’s watch had been taken along with his I.D. badge, mobile phone and wallet.

 “It’s 15.45,” said the burly guard.

 “Damn!” swore Dominic. “I came to check on Jason at 14.30 then I was to go on break. He’s got quite a head start.” He shook his head still not believing he’d been suckered into trusting Jason. And now all his I.D. had been taken. “Did anyone check the car-park? Jason seems to have taken everything else of mine including my keys!” After telling the guard which car it was, a check was made of the car-park. It revealed that Dominic’s car was, indeed, missing. The police were notified and an APB was quickly dispatched, to no immediate avail. Jason Wyatt was on the loose and considered to be very, very dangerous.

 It was a dejected Sheriff Stone that had taken the call. It was from his old friend and fellow officer Chief Philo Pilkins. The Diamond Bay officer had been instrumental in apprehending Daphne & Donna’s kidnappers a few years back**. He sighed as he issued orders to his officers, the description of the car and Jason. “Guess I’d better tell the girls,” he lamented as he flashed back two years. He could never forget the insane, human monster known as Jason Wyatt. Just as mental as his mother was. Stone sighed as he picked up the receiver to his ‘phone. He paused as he tried to recall Velma’s mobile number. Then it hit was in his rolodex. He quickly pulled it over from the right side of his desk and thumbed through it until he found what he was looking for. He then input the number and hit the “dial” button. He groaned as he got Velma’s answering service so, left her a message to call back ASAP. In the meanwhile, he prayed Wyatt wouldn’t find her or Daphne first.

 “Was that your mobile ringing?” asked Daphne. She and Velma had just returned from the costume shop. Velma had managed to score a pair of tickets (allegedly from a “secret admirer”), to the first ever Comic-Con in Crystal Cove. This, of course, gave them an excuse to go shopping. Now with the packages unloaded from the boot of Daphne’s car, the girls ascended the front stairs of the Blake mansion.

 “I didn’t hear it and it’s not set on vibrate,” answered Velma. “If it’s important, whoever it is will call back.”

 “What if it’s...your secret admirer?” giggled Daphne as the two entered the Blake manse. Percival, the butler, greeted them at the door and offered to take their packages. “That won’t be necessary, Percival, we’ll just take them up to my room,” said Daphne.

 “Very good Miss Blake,” returned the butler.

 “Is anyone else at home?” inquired Daphne of the butler.

 “No Miss Blake, except for the servants,” said Percival. “Your father won’t be home until late...his campaigning you know. And your mother is off on another one of her wild charity things...beg pardon Miss.” 

“Oh don’t worry, I won’t tell,” said Daphne as she winked her right eye and grinned.

 “Ahem...yes. Very good Miss Blake,” returned Percival. Daphne dismissed him and she and Velma went upstairs to her bedroom. As soon as they entered, Velma’s mobile jingled again. It was the tone for her messages. Sighing, Velma dropped her costume-box on the bed and dug the mobile out of her right, front, skirt pocket.

 “Hey! It’s from Sheriff Stone,” said Velma. “I wonder what he wants?” she added as she cued up her inbox.

 “Maybe he wants you to fix their programming again,” joked Daphne. She turned to look over at Velma and froze. Velma had a very worried look on her face. “Wh-what’s the matter?” asked Daphne. “Is it something serious?”

 Velma hit “save” and re-pocketed her mobile. Looking towards Daphne she averred, “It’s serious, alright...very serious.” Here she gave pause, not for effect but more for the fact that she couldn’t believe what she had just heard. “You might want to sit down,” she said to Daphne. Somewhat confused, Daphne complied and sat on the edge of her bed, waiting for Velma to continue.

 “Well?” inquired Daphne. “Give.”

 “Remember Jason Wyatt? And that Halloween horror from a couple of years ago?” asked Velma. Nervously, Daphne nodded her head. How could she forget? “ seems he has escaped from the facility in Diamond Bay.”

 Daphne’s face went white. “Y-you mean...he’s free? When did this happen?” she asked, panic in her voice.

 “According to the message Sheriff Stone left, sometime between 14.30 and 15.00…today,” lamented Velma. “The guards made the discovery about an hour ago. There is an APB out for him but he’s not yet been found.”

 “Wh-what are we g-going to d-do? What i-if he comes a-after us again?” stammered Daphne.

 “I really don’t know,” answered an unsure Velma. “But I’m not going to let it spoil us going to the Comic-Con! I’ve waited practically my whole life to attend one.”

 “Well…okay,” said Daphne. “I’m sure Sheriff Stone and his men can handle it...I mean if he manages to get back to Crystal Cove.” She didn’t sound too reassured. Daphne heaved a sigh and then picked up her box. Putting aside the issue of Jason, Daphne opened the box and reached in with her left hand and extracted the bright orange and yellow, spandex costume. Tossing the empty box back on the bed, she then held the outfit in front of her at arm’s length. Velma had done the same with her red and pink costume. “Tell me again who we’re supposed to be going as?” inquired Daphne as she looked at the “EW” monogram in the middle of the chest part of the costume. She felt the smoothness of the spandex and the silkiness of the attached, nylon cape.

 “You’re going as ‘Electra Woman’ and I’m supposed to be ‘Dyna Girl’,” answered Velma. “I looked them up on the internet. Whoever sent me the tickets requested that we go as them. I figured ‘why not?’ so, I did some checking round and found a costume place that had them.”

 “All well and good...and I really like this orange and yellow one,” stated Daphne. “Anything we should know about the characters? I mean, you know how fanboys can be, right?”

 “Aside from the fact that I’ve only been to comic shops, yes, I have an idea,” returned Velma. “Anyway, from what I researched on the ‘net, EW and DG, that’s fan-boy speak, were some super-heroine team from an obscure Saturday morning kids’ show back in the 1970’s. Apparently, the series was short-lived but still has a rather large fan-base.”

 “No super powers?” giggled Daphne, as she opened up the box containing the matching, orange boots. She took out the boots and noticed another item in the box. Placing the boots on her bed she lifted out the other item. “What the heck is this supposed to be?”

 “They were more like a female version of Batman and Robin but with way more ‘tech gadgets’, at least at the time,” explained Velma to Daphne’s first question. “As for that thing (here Velma pointed to the item in Daphne’s right hand), it was some sort of communication device. Like a two-way wrist radio.”

 “Do these things actually work?” asked Daphne.

 Velma took a closer look, said, “Nope. Just a chunk of molded plastic with a velcro band. Strictly for show.” Daphne tossed the “communicator” back into the box.

 The girls then quickly doffed their regular clothes (all except their bras and panties) and slipped on the spandex outfits. They then donned the boots. The costumes fit perfectly. “I can’t believe how well these fit, even the boots!” exclaimed Velma. She turned towards Daphne and grinned, “How do I look?”

 Daphne giggled, said, “Like a super-heroine nerd! Sorry!”

 “Oh har-de-har-har,” retorted Velma as Daphne walked over to her floor-length mirror to check out her latest purchase. “I like it! Villains beware!” grinned Daphne. “Damn! I look hot in this!” she exclaimed. “Freddy wouldn’t probably notice though. But I’m sure Shaggy would notice you,” she winked her left eye at Velma, who blushed.

 Velma sighed. Shaggy was away on business for his aunt, while Fred was up in Montreal at an international convention for traps...of course. So the girls were on their own, mystery-solving-wise. “I’ve already gone by the Civic Centre and had the tickets authenticated,” explained Velma. “Seems there’s always a bunch of counterfeit ones made every time one of these things come round so, we’re good to go.”

 “What time does it start again? I’ll want to pick you up, of course. I really wish you’d get a license, y’know,” said Daphne. She then recovered her flub. “Sorry Velma...I didn’t mean it like’s just...well...having another licensed driver would come in handy, y’know?” She chided herself for the flub. “I don’t mind driving you round when you need a lift, honest!”

 “No, you’re quite correct,” returned Velma. “I really should overcome this fear of driving. I hate being such a burden to everyone.” She sighed again, heavier this time. Daphne felt about two inches tall at the moment. She silently berated herself for the heartless comment. Velma looked up at her and grinned, said, “Pick me up at 08.00? The doors open at 10.00 and I want to get there before the mob does.”

 “A two hour wait? It’ll only take ten minutes to get across town,” said Daphne.

 “Trust me on this,” replied Velma. “I’ve survived the pandemonium at a comic shop meet. This will be a hundred times worse, maybe more. I’ll be ready at 08.00.”

 “O-okay,” said Daphne as she started to remove her costume. The two girls quickly got out of costume and redressed back into their regular clothes; Velma in her brown, suede pocket-skirt and orange, button-down blouse; Daphne in her dark-blue, long-sleeve, mini-dress and navy-blue, patent-leather pumps. Neither girl had been wearing tights. Once done, they both went back downstairs and exited the front door. Daphne’s small sports-car was still parked in front of the house. The two got in and Daphne drove Velma home, promising again to return in the early morning.

 The search for Jason Wyatt was now in full force as both the Crystal Cove and Diamond Bay police co-ordinated their efforts to find him, before he did any more serious damage. A Diamond Bay patrol-car found Dominic’s car just outside the city limits, behind an abandoned petrol station. Ironically, the car had run out of petrol so, Jason had simply left it there, unmolested. The find was radioed to H.Q. and within twenty minutes, a K-9 unit was in the area sniffing for a trail and hoping to catch Jason’s scent. It was now 19.30, less than four hours since Jason’s escape. But he had had a long head-start and it was already dark in the early October evening.

 “He can’t be too far off...the car’s motour is still warm,” said Chief Pilkins as he removed his hand from the motour-block. The car had been thoroughly searched but no evidence linking it to Jason had been found. “Keep the dogs at it until we get a hit,” he said to the lieutenant in charge. Pilkins had been fortunate enough to gather a couple of objects of Jason’s from the asylum, a t-shirt and a left-footed tennis-shoe, so the dogs would have a scent to start with. It was only a matter of finding where he had left the area.

 “Yessir!” answered the lieutenant as he turned to issue more orders to his men. But it was a hopeless task. Upon further inspection of the car, police found that the petrol-tank had been punctured on purpose. Jason had apparently been crafty enough to douse part of himself with petrol, thus throwing off the dogs and their ability to sniff him out. Damn.

 “Much obliged for the ride, ma’am,” exclaimed Jason as he exited the minivan. “You sure you don’t want any money for petrol?”

 “No dear, you keep it,” said the little old lady. “It was fun just to have the company on the way to Crystal Cove. I do hope you find what you’re looking for,” she smiled and waved “good-bye” as Jason smiled back and shrugged his shoulders. He then disappeared into the night.

 Part 2

It was now had been an exhausting search. Unfortunately, the Diamond Bay police had come up empty-handed. The theory of Jason using petrol to throw off the dogs, was holding up. Chief Pilkins needed a lead and he needed it an hour ago. Just as he was getting ready to call everybody in, the radio in his cruiser crackled...

  SCREE-SQUAWK! “H.Q. to Car 1...H.Q. to Car 1, do you copy, over?”

 Pilkins reached in through the open driver’s-side window and grabbed up the handset...”I copy, H.Q. This is Chief Pilkins, go ahead, over.”

  “We have a witness that swears she saw a man matching the suspect’s description hitch-hiking along Rt. 231E, copy?”

  “Hot damn!” thought the Chief to himself. “I copy H.Q. Any other details? Over.”

  “Oh yes...suspected person hitched a ride in a late model, dark-red or possibly maroon minivan, license number KRW-344. We checked and it comes back registered to one ‘Olivia Halpgood, 3328 Hawthorne Lane, Diamond Bay, copy?”

 “I copy that, H.Q.,” said Pilkins. Hawthorne Lane was in an older area of town, mostly retired and elderly folks lived there. Crap. Pilkins hoped nothing bad had happened to this lady. “I’m suspending the search, H.Q. and coming in. See if you can get a lead on where Halpgood was going, copy?”

  “We copy Chief, over and out.”

 Pilkins called in his forces and they all headed back to the station. By the time they returned, the dispatcher had been able to track down one of Mrs. Halpgood’s neighbours. Luckily some of them still stayed up late into the night. The dispatcher was able to ascertain, that Halpgood was away to Crystal Cove for the weekend and was given the contact information for the residence there. A quick call to said residence confirmed that Halpgood had made it to her destination, safe and sound. Unfortunately due to her bad short-term memory, she couldn’t recall what the man looked like and had only a vague recollection of picking someone up. Not good.

 Pilkins then called Sheriff Stone’s office to alert the police in Crystal Cove that Jason Wyatt was possibly back in their city. Stone had taken the call personally as he was still going over the day’s events. Needless to say, Stone wasn’t too enthused at hearing the news. He issued a second APB with Jason’s last known description. He then put in a call to Velma’s mobile to give her the bad news.

 The morning started out on a bad note as Velma checked her messages on her mobile. “Damn!” she lamented as she listened to Stone’s latest update on Jason. She had only just awakened ten minutes before but, her sleep-addled mind quickly alerted her to this new danger. Ringing off, Velma quickly dressed in her familiar orange turtle-neck sweater but opted for an old, faded pair of blue-jeans instead of her usual mini-skirt. She completed her ensemble with an old pair of brown hiking-boots and orange crew-style socks. With her mind now much clearer, she put in a call to Daphne’s mobile, silently hoping that she had it powered up. Velma cursed herself at her own ineptitude for not leaving her own ‘phone on during the night. Daphne answered on the second ring.

 “Velma! I just got the message from Sheriff Stone! Is it true? Jason is back in Crystal Cove?” exclaimed Daphne.

 “As far as what he’s been told, yes,” answered Velma. “But I’m not going to let that stop me...I mean us, from attending the Comic-Con! I’m pretty sure Sheriff Stone and his men will find Jason.” Velma only said this to calm Daphne down. She wasn’t 100% sure Stone and his men would find Jason any time soon. She checked the clock on her bed-side table…07.25. ”Look, I’ll be ready by the time you get here Daphne, so see you in a bit.”

 “Okay Velma, see you at 08.00!” replied Daphne and she rang off. She then went into her en suite bathroom and took a quick shower. After which, Daphne toweled herself off and lightly dusted her entire body with cornstarch baby-powder which would make it easier to slip in to the snug-fitting, spandex, Electra Woman costume. She first donned a pair of “barely there” pink panties and a pink “invisible bra”; she hated to show any panty-lines. Daphne then slowly pulled on the costume, wriggling in to it’s snug confines. The costume hugged her in all the right places. Daphne blushed a bit as she realised she was starting to enjoy the feel of the spandex. Good thing she wasn’t allergic to the materiel. She then donned the boots and turned towards the floor-length mirror next to her make-up table. Standing with her legs a pace apart and her arms akimbo, fisted hands on her hips, she marveled at how great she looked in the costume, more-over how Freddy might react if he saw her dressed like this. But then, she came back down to reality and let out a sigh. Who was she kidding? The only thing Fred still noticed was his stupid trap magazines. Daphne then strapped the silly, fake communication device onto her right wrist. Glancing at her mobile’ clock which now read…07.45, she quickly gathered up her purple hand-bag and headed out of her room and downstairs.

 Daphne could see Velma sitting on the front steps as she pulled into the driveway of the Dinkley home. Her costume box sat next to her. Velma arose as Daphne’s car pulled up and walked toward it. It was a warm morning for late October, with the temperature hovering round 65F. But clouds were rapidly building up due to an approaching storm, rendering the morning darker than usual. A stiff breeze wafted though the neighbourhood as Daphne alit from her car. “How come you’re not in costume?” she asked Velma.

 “ started having second thoughts about actually showing up in it,” stammered Velma. “Don’t worry, I can change in one of the bathrooms when we get there. Here’s your ticket and I.D. badge,” she added as she handed Daphne a small, laminated placard attached to a black, nylon lanyard, along with an admission ticket. The placard was emblazoned with the Comic-Con logo and admission information. On the back was a smaller, identical logo above a serial number, along with the pertinent Con policies. The ticket was slightly smaller and basically a copy of the placard. The only difference being the admission price and date. “We wear these badges the entire time we’re there; they allow us access to all the booths and forums,” stated Velma.

 “I’ve never seen you this psyched up for anything,” said Daphne as she got back into the driver’s seat. Velma opened the passenger’s door and pulled the seat-back forward, tossing her costume box into the small area behind it.

 “Are you kidding?” retorted Velma. “This is almost like a once-in-a-lifetime event!” She was all smiles as she got into the car and buckled up. It was now 08.05.

 “Sheriff, Sheriff Stone!” yelled Sergeant McCoombs from across the situation room.

 “What is it now, McCoombs? Can’t you see I’m busy?” replied Stone somewhat irate. He was dog-tired, having been up all night in an effort to pin down Jason’s whereabouts. He needed some fresh coffee. And a nap.

 “Sorry sir,” said McCoombs in his usual loud voice. “I think we may have a lead on our suspect.”

Stone was suddenly wide awake. “Pray tell me what you’ve found out,” said Stone, in a tired, but eager, voice.

 “Yessir!” beamed the sergeant. “A man fitting the description of our suspect, one Jason Wyatt, was seen near the entrance to the Civic Centre, sometime around 06.00 this morning.”

 “I wonder what he’d be doing at the Civic Centre?” wondered Stone aloud.

 “Beg pardon sir?” inquired McCoombs.

 “Uh...nothing, McCoombs. Never-mind. What was the suspect wearing? Doing?” asked Stone.

 “According to the description, he was wearing a dark-grey what a janitor or workman would wear. He also had one of those convention badges on,” returned McCoombs. “He was seen unloading a lorry and bringing equipment inside the building, through one of the side entrances,” he added.

 Stone looked up at the sergeant from his desk and said in a calm but demanding tone, “Has anyone notified security at the Civic Centre, that they might just have an escaped lunatic running round the premises?”

 “Uh...not yet, sir,” answered the sergeant.

 “Well then,” started Stone, “perhaps someone should RING THEM UP!” he yelled the last three words as he grabbed for the ‘phone’s receiver.

 “Howdy ya’ll!” greeted the parking-pot attendant as Daphne pulled her tiny sports-car into the main entrance. It was only 08.17 but the lot was already filling up. Located just across the street from the Civic Centre, it was the best parking one could get, if one could manage to get there in time. The attendant was wearing a Barney Rubble mask and Green Lantern costume, leaving none of his features distinguishable. “I reckon ya’ll’re here for the convention, right? May I see your badges, please?”

 “Oh yes, of course!” exclaimed Daphne as she held up her badge. Velma did like-wise. The attendant looked them over and spotted the small gold emblem in the upper, right-hand corner of each badge. “Hoo-ee! Free valet parking! You sure scored some great perks!” averred the attendant.

 “What do you mean?” asked Velma.

 “You’re kiddin’ me, right?” joked the attendant. “You mean, you didn’t know?”

 “Know what?” inquired Velma, further. “I...we...received these from an anonymous donor.”

 “Well, he or she must like ya’ll a lot! These are V.I.P. passes!” exclaimed the attendant. “Just pull up right over there and Don’ll take care of your car and personally escort you into the building.” 

“O-okay,” said Daphne now a bit unsure of what they were getting into. She pulled up to the indicated spot and a rather short, nerdy-looking young man, came over to greet her. He was wearing an older pair of military-issue, black-framed spectacles and was dressed up like Bat-Mite. Velma almost let out a laugh but held it in, grinning. Daphne wasn’t sure what to think as the pimply-faced Don opened her door and bade her, with a sweep of his short cape, alight from the vehicle. Velma reached in and grabbed her costume box after she and Daphne had complied, while Don got in (somewhat awkwardly) and parked the car in a spot marked “V.I.P. Parking Only”. After-which, he came back in an electric golf-cart and bade the girls to hop aboard. Neither girl noticed that the lot attendant was now missing.

 “Are you crazy?” yelled the events co-ordinator into his mobile. “Do you have any idea how many people I have working here? It would take hours to check them all out...again!”

 “I’m very sorry,” said Stone (knowing damn well he wasn’t), “but this is a police emergency.”

 “I can’t just shut down the convention! We’d be ruined! Have you any idea of the riot this could cause?” exclaimed the co-ordinator. “Not to mention the money that’d be lost?”

 “Right now that’s not my main concern,” said Stone in an even tone. “My main concern, is apprehending an escaped lunatic. Quite possibly the same lunatic that is now freely running round loose at your convention. All available units are now en route.” Stone left the co-ordinator hanging, as he briskly rang off.

 Don pulled up to the rear loading dock and parked the cart next to a lorry. Motioning the girls to get out and follow him, the trio ascended the cement stairs and entered through an open emergency exit door. He eyed Velma’s costume box. “Follow me and I’ll show you where you can change into your costume,” he said as winked his left eye at Velma. Velma blushed a bit. A few steps more down the darkened passageway, brought the trio to a maze of doors. “In here,” said Don as he indicated a room marked “Science Lab 5”. “When you’re ready, give a knock on the door. I’ll be waiting just outside and I can take you to the forum room for the Krofft Q & A.”

 “What’s that?” asked Daphne.

 “You must be new to this. Am I right?” inquired Don.

 “Oh, don’t mind her,” chipped in Velma. “I’ll clew her in.” She grinned back at Don and then she and Daphne entered the “Science Lab”, which was nothing more than a standard, eight-stall, women’s bathroom.

 “So...what’s a forum and Q & A?” asked Daphne as Velma quickly got out of her sweater and jeans.

 “It’s like a panel of paid speakers. Usually someone that was either involved in the shows or fan-boys that are proficient in them. Some panels feature just a Q & A or ‘Question & Answer’ session, while others can include artists, film-makers and the like,” explained Velma. “Apparently, these badges of ours allow us full access to all of the events.”

 “You are such a nerdette!” giggle Daphne as Velma finished squeezing into her costume.

 “Whatever,” grinned back Velma. “At any rate, I was lucky enough to get a costume that had lower boot heels. You know I can barely walk in high heels,” she added. Her boots and fake communicator donned, the girls headed for the door. A crowd was gathering outside at the front of the building and there were a few peeks of sunlight struggling to get through the heavy cloud cover. There was no-one else in the passageway, save for Don. Velma knocked on the door as instructed to which Don opened it up and bade the girls follow him one more time. Thirty metres more down the passageway brought them all to another series of doors. Don indicated the one marked “Krofft Panel Q & A” and opening the door, ushered the girls inside. Velma was agog at what lie within. The room was a complete replica of Electra Woman & Dyna Girl’s headquarters, from the television series. There were even some trap props set up, including two large, clear tubes set on “sci-fi-techie”-looking bases, in the middle of the room. There were no other people in the room.

 “You pretty much have the place to yourselves, until 10.15,” stated Don. “After that, the first panel convenes. If you want or need anything, just press this call button over here,” he said as he motioned over to the left to the entry door. Enjoy!” he added as he exited the room. The door closed with a faint click...then another, slightly louder, click. Velma was too absorbed in her surroundings to notice as was Daphne. Both girls approached the mock-up of the main controlle panel, similar to the one seen on the show. Velma ran her fingers over the many buttons; the various coloured lights winking on and off.

 “Do any of these buttons really do anything?” asked Daphne.

 “No, they’re just fake,” answered Velma as she pushed a blue button on the left side of the panel. Within a split second, a greenish gas started to quickly emit from a speaker-box atop the controlle panel.

 “Wh-what...what’s th-that?” said Daphne as she covered her mouth and nose with her gloved hand.

 “I…I don’t know!” exclaimed Velma as both girls started to cough; the gas quickly spreading to engulf them. Velma stumbled away from the controlle panel but it was too late. She fell to the floor on her left side, landing hard. Her glasses came tumbling off her face to land a half metre away. Daphne had succumbed at almost the same moment as, she too, gave into the gas and slumped over the middle of the controlle panel, before finally falling limply to the floor, rolling onto her back...her arms splayed out. 

Meanwhile, Sheriff Stone and all available units were rapidly approaching the Civic Centre, sirens blaring. It was now 08.35.

 Meanwhile, a gloved hand pulled the “Krofft Panel Q & A” label off the door. A maniacal laugh filled the empty passageway. Calmly, a man wearing a Green Lantern costume with a Barney Rubble mask over his head, unlocked the door to the room and entered. He gloated as he eyed his two victims, lying on the floor...quite unconscious. The knock out gas had done its job well. A vacuum hidden under the controlle panel, had evacuated all traces of the gas soon after the girls had passed out. The costumed character walked over to the panel an raised the fake controlle-board to reveal the inside. Therein he found what he had placed there earlier; a few coils of hemp rope and a roll of gray duct tape. He busily got to work binding first Velma, then Daphne. Tightly securing them both at ankles, above their knees, and mid-thighs. He then rolled each over in turn and bound their wrists, crossed, behind their backs. After-which, he ran more lengths of the rope round their mid torsos, securing their arms to their backsides. Lastly, he tore off a strip of the wide duct tape, one for each girl, and sealed their mouths shut. He located Velma’s glasses and placed them back on her face.

 The police were just now rounding the corner only two blocks from the Civic Centre. Onlookers stared, agape, wondering what was going on as traffic quickly moved aside to let the cruisers pass.

 Meanwhile, “Barney-Lantern”, pressed a green button on the left side of the controlle panel and the two clear, plexiglass tubes, arose from their bases. He first took Velma to the one on the left and while standing her in an upright position, pressed a button at the base of the device. The tube slowly lowered and encased Velma as the man slowly withdrew, making sure she didn’t slump down before the tube closed. Satisfied, he repeated the procedure with Daphne.

 The events co-ordinator met Sheriff Stone at the main entrance to a hail of shouts by the many fans lined up. Some thought that this was part of the convention, while others sniffed out that something else was going on. Half of Stone’s force of forty men, held back the crowd while the others filtred inside the vast building. While the co-ordinator explained to the crowd that there would be a short delay in opening, Stone and the rest of his men spread out to search for Jason. They were unaware that Daphne and Velma had been captured, much less that they were even in the building.

 Daphne awoke first. Blinking her eyes open, she soon realised she was securely bound and gagged. What was worse, was that she was encased in one of the tubes. She looked to her left and saw Velma was in pretty much the same predicament. “MMMMFFF! NNNUGGG!!” she tried to speak to no avail. Velma was slowly coming to. Their costumed captor gleefully rubbed his gloved hands as he stood just centimetres away.

 “I’ve been waiting for you two!” he exclaimed with a sneer. Daphne and Velma both stared hard at him, trying to place his voice. Unfortunately, his mask disguised even that. “Can’t figure it out yet? Has the great Velma Dinkley been outwitted by a cartoon character?BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!

 “HHMMFFR GGNUNNM?” Velma tried to ask but, of course, she couldn’t.

 “Oh, this is too fantastic!” said “Barney-Lantern”. “You really have no clew, do you?” Here, he slowly removed his mask. Daphne’s eyes went wide and she struggled uselessly. Velma remained calm and wasn’t really all that surprised. She could see it all now...the tickets and badges...the costumes...the convenient parking and escort...a perfect set-up. Jason Wyatt now had them both. She didn’t like this, not one bit. He came a bit closer to them...

 “We’ve gone over the whole area, sir!” exclaimed Sergeant McCoombs. “Nothing!”

 “What about the back rooms?” inquired Stone. “He has to be hiding somewhere in here!” Just at that moment, one of the patrol-officers approached the sheriff with a pimply-faced and bespectacled man. He wore thick military-style glasses and was dressed like Bat-Mite. 

“Sheriff Stone, sir…, says he knows where the suspect might be hiding,” said the patrolman.

 Stone looked at the short man said, "Well? Out with it man! Where’s he hiding?” 

“P-p-please...d-don’t hurt m-me!” said Don as he cringed under Stone’s glaring eyes. “H-he p-paid me to take the g-girls into the f-forum rooms. Said it was his l-little joke on them. I thought nothing of it and went along, heh.”

 “I’m not laughing,” said Stone in an even tone. “He paid you to take who?”

 “A c-couple of girls...I think their names are Daphne and Vera,” said the nervous Don.

 “Do you mean ‘Daphne and Velma’?” asked Stone.

 “Oh, y-es sir! Yes, s-s-sir, that’s them!” stammered Don.

 “Then...take us too them...NOW!” bellowed Stone. 

“Y’know, I’ve always had a thing for super-heroines,” started Jason. “Especially when they are about to meet their demise!” He walked back over to the controlle panel. His left fore-finger finger hovered over a big, red button, smack in the middle of the panel.

 “Hoo boy! Here we go again!” thought Velma. The ropes were too tight. Not that it mattered. Daphne had given up her struggling. She wished Freddy or Shaggy were here to rescue them. That was usually the way these things were supposed to go. But then, Shaggy was usually the “bait”.

 “Back there!” said Don to Sergeant McCoombs. “He had the room for the Krofft panel set-up.”

 “Which room? I don’t see that label anywhere!” said the now frantic sergeant, wondering what a “Krofft panel” was.

“I suppose I could tell you two how I managed this but…I won’t!” gloated Jason, as he pushed the big, red button. “You can take all those questions to your fucking GRAVES!” He laughed his maniacal laugh again as Velma and Daphne struggled in vain to get free from an ominous blue-green-gray gas, now seeping into the tubes from the jets below them.

  CRAAAASH!! went the door as Sergeant McCoombs burst through it with a battering ram. “POLICE! FREEZE!” he yelled as he dropped the ram and withdrew his gun from his right-side holster. Stone and four other officers followed. Stone summed up the situation in the blink of an eye.

 “Shut that thing down! NOW! he bellowed at Jason.

 “NOOOOO!! NOT AGAIN! screamed Jason as he made a dash for the door, only to get pounced upon by the other four officers and Sergeant McCoombs. The tubes were now about half full of the lethal gas; Daphne and Velma were both holding their breath trying desperately not to inhale any of it. Stone quickly reached the controlle panel but, he had no clew of how to shut off the gas in the tubes.

 “You tell me how to shut this thing off or I’ll personally see to it that you don’t make it to gaol!” exclaimed the sheriff.

 Defeated, Jason gave in. ”Quick! Hit the big, orange button to the left of that big, red one!” Stone complied and within seconds, the gas was evacuated out of the tubes. “Now push that green button...on the left’ll open up the tubes.” Two off the officers cautiously went over to grab the girls and keep them from falling over when the tubes raised. Jason had already been cuffed at both his wrists and ankles and was now being carried out of the room, by McCoombs and one of the patrolmen. Stone grabbed at his lapel radio and put in a call for a couple of ambulances and the haz-mat squad. Velma and Daphne were quickly unfettered and the super-sticky tape painfully removed from their mouths. It was finally over. Or was it? Heh, heh, heh...

  EPILOGUE: Both Daphne and Velma suffered no ill effects from the gas. But as it was mainly a mixture of freon gases, had they actually inhaled any of it, it would have brought about a very slow death to each girl, via suffocation. They both made a full recovery.

 Jason, once again, avoided a direct court battle as he was ruled too mentally deranged to stand trial. He was remanded to the new mental facility in Crystal Cove for the criminally insane for the rest of his life, under the maximum security ward.

 The Comic-Con was a huge hit with the local nerd population, despite the fact that a few forums were cancelled. Once the true story had been revealed, the events co-ordinator ensured both Velma and Daphne, that they would be the honoured guests at the next convention. Both girls denied the invitation to attend. Really, who could blame them for refusing?


 T. Slater (a.k.a. Torpedo585) March-June, 2012 (re-written, 5 June, 2015)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Daphne's Twin Dilemma Pt. 4

I made a few edits to this and changed a couple of scenes, other than that it remains basically the same as when I originally wrote it. Sorry but I did no illustrations for Pt. 4 or Pt. 5 so, you'll have to use your imaginations. I've tried to be as descriptive as possible...

 Daphne's Twin Dilemma Pt. 4

 Fred got up from the porch to stretch, said, “Looks like it’s just you and me on this one, Shag...”

 "Ruh? Rut arout re?” inquired Scooby (who had just wandered back to the porch in time to hear Fred’s statement.)

 “Huh? Oh sorry. You too Scooby,” corrected Fred.

 “Like, man, where do we start?” asked a nervous Shaggy.

 “Well for one thing,” began Fred, “we have got to get the Mystery Machine back! It’s got the tracking...gizmo...thingy that Velma installed. If we can just get to that, I can call Daphne’s cell-phone and get a fix on the signal.”

 “Like, we may not need it,” explained Shaggy. “Velma, like, gave me a back-up disc before she left. Like, y’know...just in case something like this, like, ever happened. And, like, may I point out Freddy...that it, like, has!” Fred just gave Shaggy a blank stare, while thinking, “Hey! How’d Shaggy get so smart all of a sudden?” Then shrugged his shoulders and followed Shaggy into the house with Scooby right behind them. Entering Shaggy’s disaster of a bedroom, Fred looked around for a place to sit while Shaggy loaded the disc into his computer. Finding an old hassock under a stack of gaming magazines, Fred set them on the floor and moved the hassock over to the computer table.

 “Wow!” exclaimed Fred. “When did you get all this?” he said as he eyed the various gadgets, LCD screens and stacks of gaming CD’s.

 “Oh, like, saved up for most of it,” replied Shaggy. “But, like, most of the games are, like, freebies. One of my aunts, like, works for a soft-ware designer, so, like, I get to test new games out...y’know, like, for bugs. I’m, like, also helping to design some new games! Imagine...gettin’ paid to, like, play video games all day! Like, man, it’s a dream job come true!” Fred was dumb-founded. He had had no idea that Shaggy was so tech-savvy. While the programme was loading Shaggy asked Fred, “I wonder if, like, Daphne’s dad got a ransom note or, like, she tried to call him too?”

 “Hey!” exclaimed Fred, “I was so caught up in not having the Mystery Machine, that I completely forgot all about that!” Getting his mobile back out, he hit the speed-dial for Daphne’s home number and was surprised that Mr. Blake himself, answered on the second ring.

 “Fred m’boy!” said Mr. Blake, “I was just going to call you.” His voice was a little anxious. But when Daphne had failed to show up for lunch, he’d looked again at the note left him by the chauffeur. “Fred,” started Mr. Blake, “have you seen Daphne?”

 “That’s, ah, kinda what I’m calling you about, sir,” explained Fred. “I’m over at Shaggy’s house now. Can we meet somewhere? I think it may be important.”

 “You mean,” started Mr. Blake, “about the note one of her friends sent? Or was it one of you just playing a prank on the ‘old man’?”

 “Note?” inquired Fred. “What note?” He could hear Mr. Blake heave a heavy sigh, on the other end of the ‘phone.

 “Don’t go anywhere,” said Mr. Blake. “You say you’re at your friend Shaggy’s...Rogers isn’t it?”

 “Yes sir but...,” Fred began but was cut off.

 “I know where it is. I’ll be right over,” and he rang off. Gathering the note off his desk, Mr. Blake then summoned the butler to have the car brought round the front of the manse. “Oh and Pilkins,” started Mr. Blake, “don’t tell Mrs. Blake a thing until you hear back from me. I’m not sure what this is about, yet. No use in upsetting her over possibly nothing, you know.”

 “Not a word shall I divulge, sir!” exclaimed Pilkins. He then bowed and opened the front door, allowing Mr. Blake out. Getting into the silver four-door Lexus sedan, Mr. Blake headed towards Shaggy’s house. It was now 15.30.

 Gretchen took one last look round the cottage, making sure she’d gotten all the wrappers and other trash the trio had produced from lunch. Both girls were still asleep. The drugged water doing far better than the old bottle of chloroform had. Dumkrip checked on the repair job he and Kleeber had done on the roof. The rain was coming down heavier now and he didn’t want the cottage all full of water, as they may have to set up a watch guard and stay over for the night. Kleeber had gone out and moved the van up next to the front porch. This would make it quicker to load up their “cargo” if they had to get away in a hurry, not to mention, keep everyone a little drier. Luckily, the “patch” on the roof was holding up. Gretchen’s mobile rang again. She sighed as she recognised the number. Carefully, she answered. “Y-y-yes?”

 “Another change of plans,” said the Voice. “ Old man Blake didn’t buy into the ransom note. He thinks his precious daughter set the whole thing up with her friends. Well, I’ll just have to prove him wrong.”

 “B-b-but how?” queried Gretchen.

 “Simple,” was the reply. “Do you still have all the girl’s clothing...the first girl , I mean?” 

“Why, y-yes!” stammered Gretchen. “They’re in a bag in the van, along with a necklace of some sort. It came loose in the struggle, so I picked it up and tossed it in with all her other things.”

 “Good...good,” said the Voice. “Leave Kleeber to watch over the girls...just in case. You and Dumkrip get back to town and I’ll meet you at our usual place. And make sure you have that bag with her things.”

 “Yes sir!” exclaimed Gretchen and rang off. Turning to the other two, she said, “Bossman wants Kleeber to stay and stand guard while you and me meet up with him at the old abandoned plastic know, our usual meeting place.” Dumkrip just nodded. Hearing this, Kleeber had gone to the van to get some of the old blankets. If he had to stay and play watch-dog, might as well get a bit more comfortable. “Now don’t you go fallin’ asleep!” retorted Gretchen to Kleeber.

 “Don’ worry!” Kleeber retorted back. “Dem goils’ll still be out when youse get back!”

 Nothing more was said as Gretchen and Dumkrip exited the cottage. After making sure Daphne’s (Blake) items were in the van, the two set off, leaving Kleeber alone with the twin “sleeping beauties”. Watching from a front window, Kleeber waited until the van was out of sight. Then, taking the blankets, he made up a bed roll along a cleaner part of the floor, laid down and within five minutes, was sound asleep. He didn’t even hear the beeping from his mobile, alerting him the battery was low. Three minutes later, his mobile was dead. There were no further sounds save for the rain falling upon the roof, the girls’ shallow breathing, and Kleeber’s gentle snoring.

 Around fifteen minutes after Kleeber had zonked out, the two bound girls started to come the same time, of course. Both blinked away the sleep from their eyes and slowly shook away the grogginess. They stared at one another in the dim light. Realising that they were no longer gagged but still tied up, each girl slowly turned to see the sleeping Kleeber. “I hope he stays that way, for a while,” whispered Daphne Lake, her voice barely audible over the sound of the rain pounding on the roof.

 “Me too!” exclaimed Daphne Blake in a like whisper. The two girls looked at each other and neither could really believe what they were seeing.

 “Who are you?!” they both whispered at the same time, then quietly giggled despite their current predicament. It was Daphne Blake who started, whispering even lower, as she placed her head next to her twin’s. “My name is Daphne, Daphne Blake. I live in Crystal Cove.”

 “My name is Daphne too!” whispered the other girl. “Daphne Lake. I live in Diamond Bay. I’m not sure what brought me to Crystal Cove. Some sort of a...I dunno...a I was being pulled there for some reason. Maybe to meet you?”

 “Maybe,” said Daphne B. “It is a bit weird, y’know? I mean, they say everybody has a twin but...I never guessed!”

 “We have to be!” started Daphne L., a bit louder than she wanted. No move from Kleeber. “OOPS!” she whispered again. “I mean, we seem to do everything as’s freaky!”

 "Well, let’s worry about it later,” said Daphne B. “We have to see if we can get loose. I just wish I knew where they’ve taken me...I And how did you get the same outfit as mine?”

 “I picked it up in Diamond Bay,” came Daphne L.‘s reply. “Crazy we match so well, huh?”

 “It’s almost spooky!” exclaimed Daphne B. Putting this aside for now, the two turned away from the crates they had been leaning up against. They got back-to-back with a bit of effort and, each one tried to undo the tight knots binding the other’s wrists. After ten minutes, neither girl had managed to budge the ropes. Looking over at the sleeping Kleeber, Daphne B. whispered over her left shoulder, “That’s the guy that did all the tying. He told me I’d never be able to get free. I think he was right!” But Daphne L. wasn’t about to give up. Looking around the room, her eyes now adjusted to the fading light, she spied some pieces of glass...there...just below one of the side windows, over in the next room. Apparently, someone had tried to break in long ago. She told Daphne B. of her discovery. Daphne L. then, as quietly as she could, dragged herself over to the doorway and then the window...kind of “inch-worming” her way over by using the heels of her sneaker-clad feet to pull her, while sliding her rear-end along the dirty, wooden floor. “I hope I don’t get any splinters!” she thought. Daphne B. followed her over, in a similar manner. It was rather slow going but the girls were determined to get free.

 It was only three metres to the window but seemed much farther, given their fetters. But both girls soon prevailed. Each carefully grasped a piece of the broken window pane and they set to sawing away at their bonds. Five minutes later, Daphne B. managed to get her right hand free, while Daphne L. continued sawing away. Another minute and her right hand was free, as well. About a minute later both girls had their left hands free at the exact same moment. They then flexed their fingers and rubbed their wrists. “Hey,” whispered Daphne L. as she looked over at her twin, “how’d you get free so fast?”

 Daphne B., grinning, told her, “If you only knew how many times I’ve ben kidnapped and tied up!” and winked her left eye. "But more about that later." Once the girls had their hands free, they set about undoing their ankles, knees and torso bonds, still using the pieces of glass to cut the ropes, as they just couldn’t undo Kleeber’s restrictive knots. So excited were they, that they had failed to keep an eye on Kleeber. The two gave a start, when suddenly a gruff voice sounded...

 “Well, well, well!” said Kleeber. “Good t’ing I hadda get up ta go ta da bat’room!” The girls froze. They had just finished cutting free their upper torso bonds. They hadn’t heard Kleeber at all in their intense battle for freedom. “HA!” he continued, apparently in good spirits, “Looks like youse proved me wrong, goily! Don’ youse worry tho’, I’ll fix youse real good. Um, youse might as well use da bat’room, now youse are free. I would if’n I was youse.” Taking that as a cue, the girls sighed and gave in...for now. But a plan was forming in Daphne B.’s head. She just hoped her “twin” was thinking the same thing... 

“So what you’re saying,” started Mr. Blake, “is that you can track Daphne via her mobile-phone?” After racing over to Shaggy’s house, Mr. Blake had shown Fred & Shag the note. And since all the crime-solving computer programmes were in the Mystery Machine, Shag couldn’t do an analysis of the hand-writing. Fred in turn had let Mr. Blake listen to Daphne’s frantic message.

 “Like, that’s right Mr. B.,” said Shaggy. “We just, like, call Daphne’s ‘phone and let the Wi-Fi do the rest. If, like, her mobile is still powered up, we can, like, zero in on the signal.”

 “Don’t worry, Mr. Blake,” said Fred. “We’ll find her...and get to the bottom of this mystery!”

 Meanwhile, at the abandoned plastic factory, three people were meeting in the main office. A fourth person showed up and gave the requisite “secret knock”. “It’s about time you got here!” yelled the Voice. “You better not have been followed.” The Voice looked out the dirty window but could see no evidence of a “shadow”. Satisfied, he told the new-comer to take a seat. The office was mostly bare, save for an old, battered desk, a half dozen old folding metal chairs and musty papers strewn about the floor. Gretchen and Dumkrip were seated near the right side of the desk. The Voice walked behind the desk and sat in the chair there, which creaked loudly. Looking back at the new-comer, he growled, “You should have been here twenty minutes ago!” 

“I say, it couldn’t be helped, sir!” said the new-comer nervously. “The downstairs maid had me helping her gathering some things and...”

 “Enough!” bellowed the Voice. “I’m not paying you to help the maid! I’m paying you to keep an eye on things and by letting me know what Blake is doing. Understood, Mr. Pilkins?”

 “Y-y-yes s-s-sir!” exclaimed the Blake’s butler.

 “Fine,” stated the Voice. “Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll let you all in on my new keep Barton Blake from becoming the new mayor of Crystal Cove!” be concluded...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Daphne Blake Imperiled Reporter Pt. 2

The following story is a condensed version of a longer tale. It is basically a Super Damsel Daphne story but, one in which she does not rely on her super-heroine identity. Instead, she uses her many resources available to her through her work (this being the local news station), her contacts at Police HQ and her long-time friend, Velma Dinkley-Carson. This is the tale that directly precedes the events that lead up to Velma joining Daphne on her crusade against crime.

 Here's Pt. 2 of the story, continued from Pt. 1

Daphne Blake Imperiled Reporter Pt.2

 A fan-fic copyright T. Slater, (c) 2013

 The late morning sun beat down upon the van, heating up the bare metal interior. After over an hour of fierce struggling (and not really getting anywhere with loosening her bonds), Daphne had given up and, exhausted from the early morning’s events, had drifted off to sleep. To make matters a bit worse, the driver had taken the extra precaution to make sure all the van’s windows were rolled up tight. Not so much that anyone would hear Daphne’s pleas for help as if she could call out but, to further cause her discomfort as the predicted hotter than usual day, would turn the van into an oven of sorts. Not sure of the time seeing as how her mobile was up front in the passenger’s seat (and unknownst to her it had been switched off by the driver’s cohort), Daphne blinked away the sweat that had trickled into her eyes as it seeped down from her forehead. The stifling heat was making it difficult to breathe normally. The mouth-filling gag didn’t help either.

 As she adjusted her vision she looked round the van’s semi-lit interior. There was just enough light filtering through the rear windows to be able to see round. That’s when she spotted it...right there next to the left wheel-well hump...the first aid kit. Wincing from the pain of the tight cords that held her, she carefully scooted toward the kit, feet-first. With a seemingly extra bit of energy, Daphne managed to kick the kit out of its holder, silently thanking herself that she had forgotten to strap it in. A bit more effort and she was able to roll herself round so that her back was facing the kit. Daphne reached with her numb fingers and fumbled with the kit, eventually opening it. Turning her head to the left, she craned her neck to see the kit’s contents. And there it was...wrapped in wax paper...a small scalpel. Daphne carefully grabbed at the tiny blade and unwrapped it. Though it wasn’t much, at least she now had a chance of cutting herself loose. With grim determination she began to labouriously saw at her wrist bindings.

 “Hi, Ted, sorry to wake you,” said Velma into the ‘phone. “But by any chance, have you seen Daphne?” she asked, a note of concern in her voice.

 Ted looked at the clock on his was 10.45. He groaned and let out a small yawn before answering, said, ”Sorry Velma, but no. I left the studio about an hour after Daphne, round 07.00. I’ve not heard from her recently. She’s probably asleep. We had a pretty hectic morning.”

 “So I saw on the early news,” replied Velma. “It’s just that she’s not answering her mobile, and she never shuts off her mobile!” Velma tried to keep the panic out of her voice. “I guess I’ll just have to go over to her flat then,” she continued.

 “I just had a thought,” said Ted. “I remember seeing someone lurking round the site as I was leaving for the studio. Couldn’t tell who it was and I’m pretty sure Daphne spotted whoever it was, also. Maybe she followed and got into trouble?”

 “Knowing her, if she saw anything or anyone that was suspicious, she’d do just that,” replied Velma. “I just hope she hasn’t gone and gotten herself in trouble, again.”

 “Let me know if there’s anything wrong, Velma,” said Ted. “Or better yet, I can meet you at Daphne’s building...I suddenly got bad feeling.”

 “See you there in twenty minutes?” asked Velma.

 “I’ll be there!” exclaimed Ted and he rang off.

 With the temperature rising into the low 80‘s, Velma dressed light. Slipping out of her orange sweatpants and pink pajama top, she wandered, barefoot, over to her dresser and rummaged through the second drawer down, picking out a pale orange t-shirt and a pair of blue denim cut-off shorts. After donning these, she put on a pair of orange ankle socks and then her dark blue sneakers. Returning to her desk, she grabbed up the bag that held the remains of the switch and stuffed it into her brown carry-all bag. She also took a small sheaf of papers that she had printed out and, folding them in half, placed them in the bag with the switch. Her mobile was the last thing to go in. Picking up her keys from her nightstand she departed the house, making sure the door was locked tight.

 It was just after 11.00 when Ted pulled up in front of Daphne’s condo. He parked at the kerb and quickly alighted from the car. Velma was patiently waiting in her own car, which she had parked in the driveway. She got out when she saw Ted pull up and met him halfway. Neither one said anything to the other as they walked in unison toward the front door of the condo. They needn’t speak for the tense look about them echoed their thoughts. After repeated knocks on her door and ringing of the doorbell had brought forth no answer, Velma had called out Daphne’s name as well but, to no avail. With her spare key, given to her by Daphne quite some tine ago, Velma let herself and Ted inside the condo. Ted let out a low whistle as the duo crossed the threshold. “Nice place!” he averred. Velma just rolled her eyes at the remark as the duo entered the passageway.

 “Daphne?” called out Velma. “Are you in here?” No answer as Velma proceeded down the passageway toward the master bedroom at the end of the passageway. Peeking in the door she could see right away that the bed had not been slept in. “I wonder where she is?” said Velma aloud. “C’mon, Ted,” said Velma as she grabbed Ted’s left wrist, “let’s see if her van is in the garage!” The condo had an attached two-car garage that led off of the kitchen area via a short passageway. Opening the door, Velma and Ted could see that Daphne’s van was not therein. “I don’t think I like this,” said Velma. She turned towards Ted and asked him, “Where could she have gone?”

 “Search me,” said Ted. “But if I know Daphne, once she’s got her teeth into a story, she doesn’t let go! HEY! Doesn’t her van have a GPS?” he asked. “I know her car does,” he added as he glanced over at the dark-purple Audi TT.

 Velma smacked her right palm onto her forehead. “Of course!” she exclaimed. “Why didn’t I think of that? We can use my laptop to track it! Let’s take my car, okay?”

 “Whatever, Velma,” said Ted. “I just hope we can locate Daphne!” A note of concern was in his voice. The duo exited Daphne’s condo and piled into Velma’s electric car. They then returned to her house so Velma could grab her laptop. Neither one of them noticed a beat-up, old, black sedan parked just down the street, it’s front end facing toward the house. Velma quickly entered her home, grabbed her laptop, and returned to her car. The pair then set off toward the old warehouse district. The driver in the sedan, his features hidden by the darkly tinted windows, started up the motour and followed Velma’s car at a distance.

 “Here’s a good spot,” said Ted. “We often park here if we want to send info to the studio via Wi-Fi. It’s one of the best hot-spots in the city,” he smiled.

 “I did not know that,” said Velma. She filed away the information for future use. Pulling into the long-abandoned car park, Velma shut off her car and quickly booted up her laptop. A short series of commands and she had her GPS tracker app opened and tuned in to the one in Daphne’s van.

 “How’d you do that so fast?” inquired Ted.

 “We each have the other’s GPS I.D. number and with this app, can find each other no matter where we are,” explained Velma. She quickly picked up a signal as the screen brought up a section of the city. “Check it out,” said Velma as she turned the screen toward Ted so he could see it. It showed a red blip.

“Hey! That’s Baker Ave.!” exclaimed Ted. “Daphne often uses it as a shortcut to get back and forth across town.”

 “According to this map, there are no buildings in that area,” said Velma, “just empty lots.”

 “Yeah,” said Ted. “It used to be an old Victorian neighbourhood. Most of the old houses are long gone, torn down by the city.”

 “To make way for newer buildings?” asked Velma.

 “Not so much to build newer buildings, more like to lessen the chance of any of them falling prey to vandals or arsonists, y’know?” replied Ted.

 “ I get you,” said Velma. “Well, it’s obvious that Daphne discovered something. Maybe she went to meet someone there and...” she trailed off. A slight shudder ran through her body.

 “Hey, don’t worry!” exclaimed Ted. “We’ll find her! It should only take us ten minutes to reach this spot,” he said, pointing to the blip on the screen. With that, Velma started up her car and the two drove off in the direction of the blip. It was now just past 11.30.

It had taken her almost an hour but, Daphne finally succeeded in sawing through her wrist bindings. Grunting a short sigh of relief through her gag, she flexed her numb fingers as she attempted to restore some bit of circulation into them. After a few minutes, she was able to reach the cords that bound her legs and ankles. But the blade she had used to cut her through wrist bindings was now too dull to be of further service. And though the driver’s cohort had done a thorough job of tying her, he’d gotten sloppy and placed the knots in the back, but only on her leg bindings. Straining her aching arms, Daphne reached down and fumbled with the ropes round her legs. She soon had her legs free and then, rolling onto her left side and arching her body into a hog-tie position, she was able to get her hands over her feet and in front of her. She was now within reach of her ankle bindings and, with a bit more effort, and even though she was exhausted, she managed to get the knots loose on the tight cord round her ankles. At least now she could walk round. Now if she could just get the ropes off of her arms! Sweat soaked through her green tank-top shirt and lavender blazer. And although the temperature outside was only 82F, the harsh sun beat down relentlessly on the van’s metal skin...the temperature inside reaching 105F and climbing every minute. With her recent exertions, Daphne now found breathing even more difficult. She began to panic as the stifling heat started to suffocate her. If only she could get this damn gag off! But the way her arms were tied to her torso, prevented her from reaching up to rip the gag away. Daphne heaved a laboured sigh. Still sitting on the floor of the van’s cargo area, she tried to remain calm but, she could feel herself becoming dizzy and light-headed. Dehydration had set in. Slowly shaking her head to clear the dizziness, she carefully got up and, bending at the waist, moved over to the right-side door of the van. Backing up to the door-handle, Daphne gave it a twist. The door did not open. It would not budge. Confusion set in as Daphne struggled with the handle, trying to force the door open. Her breathing was now becoming shallow. The last bit of her energy spent as she passed out. Her body slumped against the door.

 “There it is!” exclaimed Ted. “Daphne’s van! We found it, Velma!” Velma smiled back as she carefully drove her car over the debris-strewn lot. It had taken them a bit longer to reach the area due to a traffic-jam over on Centre Street. Velma finally pulled up next to the van with a queasy feeling in her stomach. Alighting from the car, Ted rushed over to the van and peered in the driver’s-side window. Nothing. He next tried the driver’s-side door and found it locked. Looking back through the window, he could see the other door was locked as well. Upon further inspection, he found both the rear and side doors also locked. And seeing as how the van had no other windows, it was impossible to tell if anyone was inside. “It’s all locked up, Velma!” called Ted.

 Raising her right hand to her chin, Velma scratched it in thought. Walking round to the right side she noticed something that Ted had missed. A piece of metal was wedged in between the rear of the door where it met the van’s rear quarter...preventing anyone from opening it. Velma called to Ted, “Come see this!” As Ted came over, Velma pointed to the makeshift shim. He let out a low whistle. “If I remember correctly, the van’s door can be unlocked from the inside, even if it was locked from the outside,” said Velma. “But with this piece of metal stuck in here like this...,” Velma trailed off. She and Ted both looked at each other. Their eyes grew wide. “Oh crap!” exclaimed Velma. She raced back to her car and opened the boot. Rummaging through a plastic crate, she dug out an old ball-peen hammer and rushed back to the van. Ted had barely time to react as Velma tried to smash in the passenger’s-side window. She succeeded on the fourth blow. Glass flew inward, covering the passenger’s seat and floor. Quickly Velma unlocked the door and opened it. Careful not to cut herself, Velma squeezed in between the seats and looked into the van’s cargo area, sweat already pouring from her brow from the intense heat inside the van. “CALL 9-1-1!,” Velma shouted back at Ted as she spotted Daphne’s limp form. She silently prayed that they weren’t already too late.

 After making the call on his mobile, Ted assisted Velma in getting Daphne out of the van and into the open air. He had found the keys underneath the driver’s seat and had quickly unlocked the rear doors. By this time Velma had checked to see if Daphne was still breathing, which she was but only just barely. She ripped the tape off her mouth and, with a bit of effort, pulled out the choking wad of cloth. Velma then untied her elbows. After asking Ted to get a blanket from the boot of her car, the duo gently placed Daphne upon it, just outside of the rear of the van. Within a few minutes, they could hear the sounds of approaching sirens...

 Daphne moaned slightly. Her eyes fluttered open. She looked round...a bit of dizziness and nausea about her. After a few seconds, she realised she was in a hospital bed. Weak from dehydration and nearly being suffocated, and still sore from her tight bindings, she groaned as she tried to sit up. A cannula inserted into her nose provided her with oxygen, while an I.V. in the top of her left hand administered a steady drip of saline. She lay back down. Looking out of the nearby window, Daphne noticed that it was dark. As she further focused her eyes in the dim light, she saw Velma at the foot of the bed slumped in a cushioned chair, sound asleep. Daphne wondered what time it long had she been here. At that moment, a nurse on her rounds came in to take Daphne’s vitals. Seeing her awake, she quickly called for the doctor in charge. The slight commotion roused Velma out of her slumber.

 Not bothering to stifle a yawn, Velma got up and stretched a bit. She slowly walked over to the right of Daphne’s bed. “Hiya DPD!” she exclaimed, a slight but worried grin on her face.

 Daphne smiled back. “Hi yourself,” she croaked...her mouth still very dry from the effects of the gag. “You haven’t called me that in years!” she exclaimed. Velma just shrugged her shoulders and grinned back, happy to see that Daphne was alert. As the nurse was just finishing taking Daphne’s blood-pressure, both Ted and the charge doctor came strolling into the room. Ted carried two large cups of coffee and offered one to Velma.

 “Thanks,” said Velma.

 “You look like you needed it,” winked Ted. He grinned at her. “How’s the patient?” he asked as the doctor checked Daphne’s chart.

 “She’s pretty lucky to be alive,” he answered. “If you two hadn’t found her when you did, she’d’ve suffocated. Whoever did this to her obviously didn’t intend for her to survive! At any rate, we’ll hold her for another day for observation. She’s still fairly dehydrated.”

 “B-but what about work?” lamented Daphne. Again she tried to sit up...a bit too quickly. Pain shot up her spine...her hands and feet started to tingle. “Uuunnnnnggh!” she moaned as she plopped back down.

 “You’re in no condition to go back to work,” explained the doctor. “You’re still suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and heat-stress, not to mention being nearly suffocated.” His manner was calm. “You also have some pretty bad cuts and bruises from those ropes. A day or two of rest will do you some good.” Daphne sighed and relentlessly gave in to the doctor’s orders. The nurse finished and continued on her rounds. “I’ll check on you again later in the morning,” said the doctor. He turned and exited the room.

 “Anything else to drink in this place?” asked Daphne. She eyed the coffee cups.

 “I spotted a soda vending-machine in the lobby,” said Ted. “I could get you something from it, if you’d like. I doubt the water in that carafe is still cold,” he added, motioning toward a small table.

 “Cold or not, it’ll do for a start,” said Daphne. “Anything with lemon-lime in it will be fine, Ted,” she added. “Thanks.” As Ted left to get the soda, Velma came nearer her bed.

 “The doctor was are pretty lucky,” said Velma. “What happened, anyway?” Velma listened intently as Daphne explained the events that led up to her capture. When she was finished Velma let out a low whistle...her right fingers on her chin again as she thought hard. “I can’t make a connection, at least I don’t think I can,” she stated. In a lower voice, Velma explained about the switch. Taking it out of her bag, she held it up for Daphne to view. “I was able to track the number on the switch to a manufacturer in Los Angeles. So I called and got information on the distribution of them. Turns out that a local vacuum sales and repair store, right here in Crystal Cove, ordered forty of them. It was a special order. I then took this thing over there and not only did the shopkeeper remember the order, but also what the customer looked like,” she paused for effect. “It was a man...kinda tall and with a long scar on the left side of his face.” Velma noted the look of surprise on Daphne’s face.

 “Th-that sounds like the same man I saw at the warehouse fire!” exclaimed Daphne. “Hey! How long have I been asleep, anyway?”

 Velma nervously shifted about. “Ummm...let’s see...,” she said as she checked the time on her mobile “it’s almost 07.00. We found you just before noon...yesterday. You’ve been out for almost a full day.” 

“O...M...G!” cried Daphne as she again tried to sit up. “Ooooohhh! My aching body!” She plopped back down and crossed her arms over her chest...a scowl on her face. Letting out a sigh she asked, “Does the studio know what happened?”

 Again Velma shifted a bit nervously, before she answered. “Er...yes.’re probably not going to like this but...Billie reported that you had gone missing on the late morning news. I didn’t have the telly on, but found out about it later.”

 “I thought you said it was only 07.00,” said Daphne.

 “Er...I meant yesterday morning,” blushed Velma. “She made it sound like you were involved in some sort of a cover-up.” 

“That bitch!” grumbled Daphne in a low tone. “How is she getting all these tips?”

 “That, I may have an answer for,” said Velma. She further explained, “Ted and I went over the footage he shot at the last warehouse fire. You already saw Billie talking with ‘Mr. Scarface’, from what Ted told me,” she paused for effect.

 “And?” prodded Daphne.

 “And. Ted was able to get a fairly good frame of the guy. I looked him up on the Sheriff Stone’s ‘most wanted’ page, using a face-recognition programme. Turns out he’s someone called ‘Heywood Korska’, a.k.a. ‘The Heater’. He has a list of prior offences longer than both of his arms combined. He’s a known arsonist. He’s also wanted for kidnapping in four states, extortion, armed robbery, ADW, GTA, the list goes on. I’m guessing he may have been one of the goons that stuffed you in your van.” 

“Charming fellow,” said Daphne with an obvious note of sarcasm in her voice. “So what’s he doing meeting up with Billie?”

 “I’m not exactly sure,” said Velma. “There is a faint sound-track but I can’t make out what either is saying. And the footage is too dark for me to be able to read their lips.”

 Daphne grinned, having a sudden idea form in her head. “You need to have Ted get that video over to the F.B.I. lab, ASAP! I have a contact there that might be able to remedy all that. Where’s my ‘phone?”

“Well, Velma, that’s the best I can do,” said Agent Carstairs. It was 08.30. After calling Agent Carstairs and giving him a heads up, Velma and Ted had gone back to the studio for the DVD. After Ted made two copies of the footage, they met with Carstairs at his office at 08.00. After-which, they all trekked down to a special lab that was used to decipher video footage. “I’ve brightened up the image but the footage is still a bit murky. However, you should be able to make out what they are saying. As for the sound-track, forget it. There was just too much background noise from the fire. Daphne said you were pretty good at reading lips but, if you need help I can get a linguist down here, no problem.”

 “Thanks Agent Carstairs,” said Velma. “If I do I’ll let you know,” she smiled. After showing her how to operate the equipment, Agent Carstairs let Velma take over. “I’ll run it though at a normal speed first, then slow it down as I need to,” she added. The conversation wasn’t long, as Velma ran the footage at regular speed. She called out the dialogue aloud, for Ted and Carstairs to hear.

 “Korska says: What...are” repeated Velma. She continued...

 “Billie: Mister...K”

 “Korska: When?”

 “Billie: The...sooner...the better.”

 “Korska: Who’s...the...mark?”

 “Billie: That...nosy...reporter...the...Blake...woman.” Velma paused the video.

 “That’s the end of the conversation,” said Velma. She shuddered a bit as if there was a chill in the air. She looked up at the two men, said, “It’s way too much of a co-incidence that Daphne was attacked just a few hours later.” 

“Yeah but, who’s Billie talking about?” asked Ted. “Who’s this ‘Mister K’?”

 “Could be ‘Kolchelb’,” said Agent Carstairs. “Some of our agents have had their eyes on him for months.”

 “Vladimir Kolchelb?” inquired Velma. Ted gave a confused look.

 “The one and only,” said Carstairs. “We’ve been trying to get the dope on him for a long time.” 

“Daphne’s been gathering up information on him for the past few months,” said Velma. “She can link him to the ownership of at least four of the properties that have been torched.”

 “That may be. But it still doesn’t prove he had anything to do with those fires,” said Carstairs.

 Velma hit the play button and the video resumed. In addition to trying to decipher what was being said, Velma had noticed something else. She pointed it out to Ted and Carstairs. “See that? Looks like this ‘Heater’ guy dropped something when he took his right hand out of his jacket pocket!” She reversed the footage and slowed to frame advance, then zoomed in on the image.

 “Looks like an envelop,” stated Ted. He watched as Velma forwarded the frames, noting that the piece of paper or envelop, fluttered to the ground and was quickly blown into a pile of debris. The man apparently hadn’t noticed the drop. The pile of debris was not a part of the fire at hand. Ted, Velma and the agent all looked at one another. “I wonder if it’s still there?” inquired Ted. Agent Carstairs had his mobile out before Ted could even finish his question.

 Officer Ames met Agent Carstairs,Velma and Ted, at the scene of the latest fire. The trio had all piled into the agent’s black Crown Vic and had quickly reached the area. En route, Velma had called Pilkins to let him know what was going on and to meet them there.

 Velma was the first one out of the car and quickly crossed the yellow and black line that had earlier been set up by the police. The area was considered as a crime scene. Picking her way through the rubble, Velma spotted the exact area that she had seen on the video. She noticed a piece of white paper sticking out from underneath some debris. Excitement building in her, she strode over and carefully plucked the paper out of the pile, shaking off the dirt that had gathered on it. She noted that it wasn’t an envelop but a sheet of ordinary copy paper folded in thirds. The paper was still damp from the morning dew. Velma carefully unfolded it to reveal a list of addresses. Agent Carstairs and Officer Ames had, by now, walked over to where Velma was standing. She looked up and handed the paper over to the agent. “I think I just found what you were looking for,” she said. Velma got out her mobile and hit the speed-dial for Daphne’s mobile number. Carstairs and Ames both looked at the list and Carstairs gave out a low whistle when he recognised some of the addresses.

 “Hi Velma!” exclaimed Daphne. She was bored out of her mind and wanting desperately to get out of the hospital. “Anything new?”

 “I’ll say!” averred Velma. “Carstairs was a big help and you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Billie is involved in this, somehow.”

 “I figured as much,” said Daphne. She bit her bottom lip.

 “But that’s not all,” continued Velma, breaking into Daphne’s thoughts. “We found a list of addresses that ‘Scarface’ dropped at the scene. Do you have all the information on the buildings that Kolchelb owns?”

 “I actually have two packets of info,” stated Daphne. “They’re both in safe places, though...,” she stopped as she thought she heard someone on the other side of the door to her room...a bump followed by a shuffle of shoes. Was someone eaves-dropping on her conversation? “Look, Velma, I’m getting discharged in an hour. I’ll meet you back at the studio after I get home and get cleaned up, say round 11.00?” She didn’t mention the eaves-dropper.

 “We’ll be there,” said Velma. “See you then.”

 After a final check-up by the attending doctor, Daphne was given the okay to return home. She was finally discharged at 09.45. Daphne called for a cab to take her home. Once there, she took a much-needed shower. She then dressed in one of her back-up lavender outfits (of which she had several.) Donning a pair of matching lavender tights and pumps, she went out to her garage, got in her car, started it up and exited. She failed to notice an old, beige, cargo van, parked just a few metres down the street. The van was devoid of any markings. As Daphne shifted into first gear and drove forward, the van started up and followed at a distance. Heading downtown, Daphne was so deep in thought about the recent events, that she hadn’t noticed the van. It followed her all the way to the studio. As Daphne pulled up to the security gate, the van passed on by, slowing to a stop by the kerb marked for “deliveries and pick-ups”, just beyond the garage entrance. The three occupants of the van watched as Daphne produced her key-card and swiped it through the reader device, allowing the gate-post to raise and she could enter. “So that’s how it’s done!” said one of the van’s passengers in a gruff voice.

 “She could have told us how, y’know,” said the driver. He circled the block and pulled up to the garage entrance. With a key-card in hand, the driver swiped it through the reader as Daphne had done. A green light flashed and the gate-post went up. He drove in. “You two all set? You remember what to do?” asked the driver of his two cohorts.

 “I’m a little nervous,” said the one man. “I mean, I’ve never kidnapped anyone before!”

 “Yet you have no problem burning down buildings,” retorted the other cohort. “Look, just be ready to grab her feet, I’ll take care of the nasty part,” he grinned from underneath his black full-face-mask. All three men were dressed from head to toe in black, looking like a trio of ninjas. The only thing visible were their eyes through slits in the masks, which they had donned just after crossing through the gate. 

Daphne’s car wasn’t hard to spot, even given the garage’s dimly lit interior. Not many people in Crystal Cove owned a purple Audi TT. But she had already entered the main part of the building, via the lift. “Looks like we wait a while,” said the driver. He circled round the floor of the garage and found a parking spot perpendicular to where Daphne’s car was. He shifted into reverse and slowly backed into the spot. Just as he was about to shut off the motour, he could hear a faint ding coming from the lift. Someone was on the way down.

 “I’ll be right back, Velma,” said Daphne. “I guess I have so much on my mind that I completely forgot my purse. Won’t take me but a sec to get it from my car.” She left the office and strode over to the lift, pressing the call button. 

“There she is,” said the driver as the lift door opened and Daphne stepped out. “She must have forgotten something in her car.” With her mobile in her left hand and her keys in her right, Daphne walked over to her car and began to unlock the driver’s side door. Her back was turned toward the van, so she never saw it coming. In a flash, the van was behind her car. The right-side cargo door flew open and the two cohorts jumped out. The taller one grabbed her round her waist with his left arm, pinning her arms to her side in a kind of one-armed bear-hug. With his right hand he quickly clamped a wet rag over her mouth and nose before she had a chance to call out for help. The sweet smell of halothane was the last thing Daphne remembered as her mind faded into darkness...her mobile and keys slipping from her fingers as she succumbed to the drug. The mobile clattered to the garage floor and came to rest under the front of the left rear tyre. The shorter cohort nervously picked up Daphne’s legs, grabbing them by her ankles, and she was quickly tossed into the van. The taller man returned to the car and, picking up the dropped keys, got in and started it up. He ignored the dropped mobile. As the van’s door was slammed shut by the other man, the driver quickly pulled away. The other man shifted Daphne’s car into reverse and quickly backed out of the parking spot, an audible crunching sound could be heard as he ran over Daphne’s mobile, rendering it quite useless.

 Daphne awoke and tried to clear her head. She slowly opened her eyes and looked round the poorly lit interior. It looked to be an old warehouse of sorts. Litter, debris and piles of old boxes were scattered everywhere. She found that she was bound to an old wooden chair. Her hands tightly tied behind her back and anchored to the back rail of the chair. Her ankles were tied to the front chair legs, one on each side. She was surprised to find that she wasn’t gagged. “H-hello?” she called nervously, her voice echoing in the vast open space. “Is anyone here?” Daphne heard the faint sound of voices coming somewhere from her left. She looked over and froze as a trio of men entered the warehouse. At once she recognised Vladimir Kolchelb and the man known as the “Heater”, Heywood Korska. But what really surprised her was the third man. Daphne’s eyes grew wide as he stepped closer. “Eddie? Eddie Carson?,” she lamented...her already dry mouth getting drier.

 “Long time, no see, Daph,” said Eddie. He grinned a lop-sided grin as he ran his left hand through his wavy brown hair. He was still dressed in his black outfit, sans the hood.

 Daphne was somewhat confused. Quickly recovering her thoughts, she verbally lashed out at Eddie, as Kolchelb motioned to Korska to get the other men. “I never did trust you! What Velma ever saw in you I can’t even begin to imagine! But somehow I’m not surprised to find that you’re involved in all this...this...whatever it is that’s going on!” Daphne’s face flushed red as she struggled in vain to get loose from the chair. But the ropes held her tight. She stopped struggling and heaved a sigh. “So I was correct?” said Daphne as she stared up at Kolchelb. “You’re behind all this, aren’t you?”

 “My dear,” said Kolchelb, finally breaking his silence, “you’ve absolutely no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into! You’ve been a thorn in my side and in my operation for far too long. And now it’s time to remove that thorn, namely, you!”

 “Wh-wh-what are you going to do to me?” stammered Daphne, fear and apprehension evident in her voice.

 “That all depends on how willing you are to co-operate,” said Kolchelb. “I have reason to believe that you have some rather incriminating evidence against me. Evidence that could permanently put me out of business.”

 “H-how do you know about th-that?”

 “I have my sources, the same as you.”

 “You’ll never get any of it!” Daphne was adamant.

 “Suit yourself then. I still have ways of getting the folder you have.”

 “Aha!” Daphne though to herself. “He doesn’t know about the second folder!” This could be her ace in the hole. She was unaware of how much time had passed, but was sure that Velma and the others were most likely out looking for her. She decided to hedge her bet. After all, her life was the ante in this twisted pot of crime. Staring Kolchelb straight in the eyes, Daphne placed her bet. “You mean, your ‘sources’ don’t know about my back-up folder?” she said. Kolchelb looked surprised but only for a moment. 

“You’re bluffing, of course,” he said. “A futile, last-ditch effort to stave off the inevitable.”

 “Fine. Have it your way,” shrugged Daphne. “Just be warned that if anything happens to me, I’ve left instructions for delivery of those folders to the F.B.I. and police. Either way, you’re as good as in gaol for life.”

 Eddie looked round even more nervous than before. “I bet Velma knows where they are,” he said. 

“Perhaps,” returned Kolchelb. “Perhaps not. In any case, you’d better make sure your device is set up. I don’t want a trace of anything left of this building.” Here, four more men entered the warehouse. Two were carrying what looked like bags of cement mix, one was carrying a large plastic mixing-tub and shovel, while the fourth had a couple rolls of silver duct-tape in one hand, and a black five-gallon plastic bucket in the other. Eddie nodded and scampered off to set up his “device”...a rather ingenious set-up, indeed.

 Daphne looked on in horror at the approaching goons. A cold shiver raced up and down her spine, when she noticed the two bags of cement mix. “You’re kidding, right?” she asked. “What? You’re going to make me a pair of cement shoes and toss me into the bay?”

 “That old gag?” said Kolchelb. “Heavens no, Miss Blake. I like to be a bit more...thorough than that.” He motioned the goons into action. The one with the bucket set down the tape near Daphne’s feet. He then went over to a water-station, where Eddie was busy setting up his device on an old wooden crate. She recognised the small metal box on top as one of the switches Velma had shown her earlier. She watched as Eddie glued the switch to the top of the crate. “Bucket Man” went over to a near-by spigot and started to fill the bucket with water. Curious, Daphne looked round and that’s when she noticed an air mattress not far from the chair. She shuddered. A feeling of someone untying her ankles brought her back to the situation at hand, as one of the goons quickly retied her ankles together with a few turns of the duct-tape, making sure it was nice and tight.

 “I get the feeling I’m really not going to like this,” stated Daphne. “If you’re not going to drown me then, what are you going to do?” Her reporter’s curiosity was getting the better of her.

 With a smug, tight-lipped smile on his pock-marked face, Kolchelb began to elaborate. “I must apologise for the Rube Goldberg-ish set-up. Believe me, it’s not my idea. More Eddie’s. I see you’re rather surprised by that fact. Good. Y’see, Eddie came to me looking for extra work. Seems the fire department just doesn’t pay as well as he’d thought when he hired on there. So, I offered to thrown a rather large sum of money at him, if he’d take care of some things for me.”

 “Like torching some of your buildings,” said Daphne. By this time “Bucket Man” had brought over the water and was slowly pouring it into the mixing-tub, while another stirred the contents with the shovel. The other man went to fetch a coil of thick rope from near where the water-station was. Daphne noted that there was a “hangman’s noose” dangling from one end of the rope. Again she shuddered. “A-and here I thought Korska was your arsonist,” she added. The nervousness and fear in her voice bringing a nasty gleam to Kolchelb’s eyes.

 “Korska? Good guess but no, I hired him to do my heavy work,” stated Kolchelb. He smiled evilly as Daphne looked over at the man with the rope. “I trust you have enough rope, Rails?”

 “Sure thing, Mister Kolchelb,” said Rails as he looked up at one of the steel beams. While he made to toss the rope up and over the beam, Kolchelb continued his monologue, while Daphne gave in to her fate but, still holding out hope that Velma would find her in time. If only she knew where she was.

 “As I was saying,” continued Kolchelb, “Eddie is more or less the brains behind all the arson attacks. The device is simple enough but...he’s had to make some for this one. You’ve seen just about everything for this particular trap, but let me ease your curiosity. I wouldn’t want you to die not knowing how all this works.” By this time, the goons had finished mixing the cement. Daphne looked over at one of the empty bags and noted that it was of the “quick-dry” variety. Her taped-up feet were place in the now empty bucket and the wet cement was added in. The one goon made sure he got all the air bubbles out as he filled the bucket. Within a couple of minutes, Daphne could feel the cement starting to harden round her feet and lower legs. She knew right then that she was doomed. She looked from the water-station back over to the mattress and stopped when she saw what looked like a harpoon-gun, in between the two. Kolchelb caught her questioning glance. “Ah yes...mustn’t forget about that. If you’ll notice, Miss Blake, you’ll see that the mini harpoon-gun is mounted to a microphone stand, which is in turn bolted to the floor. The harpoon is aimed directly at the base of the air-mattress. It has a ‘hair trigger’, if you will, which is tied off to a small plastic bucket, like one would use to play in the sand with.”

 “Frelix Toys!” exclaimed Daphne. “And you used to own the Frelix Toy factory, didn’t you?”

 “Smart girl but, a bit too smart for your own good, unfortunately,” gloated Kolchelb. “As you can see, the trigger’s string goes round that pulley there, which is attached to the bucket’s handle. The bucket is positioned directly under the spigot there and at my signal, Eddie will crack open the valve...not a fast flow but rather a slow trickle. As the bucket gets heavier it will pull on the gun’s trigger. Now here’s the ingenious part,” Kolchelb paused for over-dramatic effect as he rubbed his dry, rough hands together in evil glee. “Eddie says he’s timed this and it should work...or else.” Here, Kolchelb shot Eddie a look that said, “You’re dead if it doesn’t!” Kolchelb continued. “As the air is slowly leaking out of the mattress, you will start to feel the strangulation from the noose,” At that, Rails untied her hands from the chair but quickly repositioned them directly behind her back. He held on to them tightly as the other goon started to wrap her wrists with more duct-tape. As she was forcefully made to stand by Rails, the other man tightly wrapped Daphne’s knees, upper thighs and middle torso, effectively pinning her arms to her sides. Tears started to well up in Daphne’s eyes. “As you are slowly suffocating from strangulation, the water continues to fill the bucket. There is just enough slack in the trigger-rope to allow the bucket to hit that switch. Eddie has it wired to a near-by outlet for power. When the bucket hits the switch it will create a circuit, which will in turn will trigger the cache of PBXN-105 you see in front of the mattress. In effect, you’ll be nearly dead before you are blow to bits!”

 “Y-y-you can’t do this!” cried Daphne as the two goons lifted her and, grunting a bit, carried her over to the inflated mattress. “You just can’t!”

 “Of course he can!” said a familiar voice. Daphne looked to her left and was completely dumbfounded at seeing Billie standing there, a huge grin on her face showing off her dazzling over-whitened teeth. She hadn’t seen her enter. “And I’ll have the full story on tonight’s news! Isn’t that great? ‘Reporter dies tragically while investigating warehouse fires’!”

 “If I could, I’d strangle you!” exclaimed Daphne through clenched teeth. Her look shot daggers at Billie.

 “Pretty poor choice of words, considering your current predicament,” gloated Billie.

 It suddenly occurred to Daphne, albeit too late, at how Billie was able to beat her out on all the news reports...Eddie had to have been the one to leak her the info. After all, he was the one setting the fires in the first place. “Don’t think you’re going to get away with this!” yelled Daphne.

 “My dear,” started Kolchelb, “we already have. And Eddie has assured me that there’s enough explosives here to level this entire block! You’ll be lucky enough if you can be identified through your dental records. Shut her up, Rails!” 

“Stop this! I’m a reporter you can’t kil---MMMUUUEEENNNFF!” said Daphne as a thick cloth rag was stuffed into her mouth. Rails, making sure he held up Daphne’s hair so the tape would stick better to her skin, took a few wraps round her head with the remaining roll of tape, further silencing her protests. He and the other goon then carefully placed her upon the mattress and while the one goon held her steady, Rails put the dangling noose round Daphne’s neck and cinched it snug but not too tight. He and the other goon then exited the warehouse, their work finished. Tears streamed down her face as Daphne fought to maintain her balance on the billowy surface of the air-mattress. “HHUMMMEEE! PUNNN NUUU LLMMMEE HHHEMM!”

 “Aw, listen to her plead for her life,” said Billie with a trace of sarcasm in her voice...her lower lip formed into a mock pout. “Ta-ta Daphne. See you on the five o’clock report or rather, what’s left of you, anyway *giggle*!” With that, Billie kissed Kolchelb on his left cheek then turned and exited the warehouse.

 Kolchelb looked at his doomed captive. “Don’t worry, Miss Blake. It’ll all be over within the next ten minutes. I bid you farewell.” He walked toward the water-station and motioned to Eddie (who was still there), to open the valve. A slow trickle of water started to fill the bucket as Daphne looked on in abject horror. The two men departed, leaving a squirming Daphne to her doom... be concluded...