It's a Pumpkin Celebration, Charlie Brown
By Henry J. Cobb
[There really should never be a Peanuts/Castle Clash crossover. But if there has to be one the common element is obvious. -HJC]
I was flying over a World War One European battlefield trying to find the Red Baron before he found me, when suddenly a small yellow bird appeared.
You mean that Lucy is angry, not distraught. You really do need to work on identifying human emotions Woodstock. Or is it a different person?
I don't know what you've been smoking, but I'll play along for now. It's getting a little late in the season to be playing Guns of August after all.
I hopped off my doghouse, went inside, down the stairs and to the main closet. I placed my pilot's helmet back on the hook and picked out a fedora. I paused in front of a mirror in the den to adjust the angle then headed out just as Lucy van Pelt opened our backyard gate. She looked on the verge of tears. This was a mystery. Should I have taken the deerstalker hat instead? Naw, a dame like this needed the people skills of a film noir detective, not an emotionless clue vacuum.
"Snoopy." She stopped in front of me and looked down.
What was wrong with the girl? I tried my usual trick to snap her back to her usual angry normal self. I kissed her on the nose.
She looked up, blinked, and threw her arms at me.
I dodged to the side as I always did, but I had misjudged her response.
She threw her arms around me and hugged me to her. "You've got to help me. They're going to take him away!"
"He's always been a little off, but they're taking it too seriously this time. He's not a bad kid. He's okay, he's got to be okay." She sniffled into my fur.
I tried to wiggle out, but her grip was too tight. I leaned back a bit and she shuffled forwards. I continued to retreat, hopping up the stairs of the Brown house.
With my front legs pinned to my side, I kicked backwards against the door.
After a minute the bald headed kid opened the door. "Snoopy! Suppertime isn't for another two hours! What, Lucy?"
As she looked up her grip loosened and I dashed through the door.
Charlie Brown led Lucy into the living room and got her to sit on the sofa. "Can, I get you something? Some tea?"
She nodded at this then looked down at the coffee table.
Staying carefully out of reach this time I asked. Who are they going to take away?
"Linus, you stupid beagle. They're going to take him away!"
"Something's happened to my Sweet Babboo?" Sally rushed in and sat next to Lucy.
"He's had an accident. He's in the hospital. They think he's crazy." Lucy threw her arms around Sally and sobbed into her shoulder for a while.
After a while Lucy calmed down and agreed to take us to Linus.
"Hi guys!" Linus waved from his hospital bed, his forehead wrapped in bandages.
"Oh my Sweet Babboo!" Sally ran up and grabbed his hand. "How did this happen to you?"
"I'm okay now, but I barely escaped with my life."
"I was lying there looking at the stars, wondering if it'd finally come this year. Then suddenly there it was. I was so happy, and then it tried to attack me. I ran, but it kept chasing after me, faster and faster. And the worst thing was that music. It was the last thing I heard until I woke up here."
Linus cringed as an angry trombone sounded from the doorway.
Lucy turned to the nurse. "Can't we have a few more minutes? He's family."
The trombone sounded off some more notes.
"Okay, we'll go. Rest up Linus, that's an order! We'll be back later."
"Can you bring my blanket please?"
"You know they won't let that filthy thing in here."
"You could wash it."
"What am I, your maid? Okay, we'll bring it."
Outside the hospital Lucy turned to me. "Snoopy, can you figure this out? Can you prove that my brother isn't crazy?"
I held out my paw.
"What, at a time like this?"
I nodded at her.
"Okay, this better be worth it." She dug into her pocket.
I skipped away, flipping the nickle and whistling, that is if beagles could whistle.
I knew exactly the spot Linus would be stargazing on an autumn night like this. Sure enough I found his recent scent in the local pumpkin patch, along with an unfamiliar earthy scent. His footprints leading away from the patch were pushed deeper into the ground, and the spacing increased. He had suddenly run from this spot, but why?
The extra dirt he had dug into his soles helped to mark the trail, and my keen nose was able to follow it a few blocks until it ended at a brick wall marked off with police tape. I ducked under this and sniffed at the wall. There was a small spot with his scent. Neither of his hands had been injured so he must have smashed his forehead into this spot. I dropped to the ground. He had lain there for several minutes. There were several unfamiliar human scents around this spot, but the earthly scent stopped a few feet short of the point of impact.
I looked around. It was hard to judge in daylight, but it seemed as if this spot wouldn't have been lit at night. Why had Linus run into the darkness?
There was something else bothering me. I returned to the pumpkin patch and examined Linus' fleeing footsteps again. These had been overlain with some thin lines, but the lines didn't match between footprints. These weren't from the molding on Linus' soles. Some sort of cable had been dragged along behind Linus.
Cable? I looked around, It had to be vines! Linus had gotten tangled in a pumpkin vine, but why had he run? It was the music. Somebody had been waiting for this moment and used his musical talent to startle Linus.
There was only one musician with a motive to get the van Pelts out of his hair. I found him playing his toy piano in his room.
Schroeder, what were you doing last night?
He ignored me as usual and continued to play. I noticed that it was one of the faster paced Beethoven pieces.
Somebody was hurt.
He stopped and looked up at me. "Who, what happened?"
Can you guess?
"No, I've got no idea. I was here practicing until late last night."
Can anybody verify this?
"Ask my parents! I didn't do anything."
A clever ploy. He knew that adults were incomprehensible. It was the perfect alibi.
"Who was it?"
Linus. He's in the hospital.
"How did he get hurt?"
He hit his head.
"How did that happen?"
We don't know who did it yet.
"It wasn't me. I swear."
He was playing it cool as a cucumber, but I knew how to crack this case. I snuck back into Linus's' hospital room.
"Hi Snoopy, you didn't bring Sally this time?"
"That's a relief."
I'd like to leave you to your rest, but I've got one question.
What kind of piano music was it that chased you?
"No, it wasn't a piano. It was trumpets, one after another, faster and faster. Impossibly fast. No human could play that fast."
Oh, thanks for your time. Rest up. I'll get back to you later.
"You don't think I'm crazy?"
You're talking to a dog, you cling to your blanket, and you're the only one who believes in the Great Pumpkin. Of course you're not crazy.
Linus' blanched and he looked around the room. "It can't get me in here, can it?"
Don't worry, you're in a hospital. You're safe.
Damn! I knew the boy was traumatized and I'd brought it up like that. I could never forgive whoever it was who twisted his fondest dream into a nightmare. I would crack this case.
I walked to the house of the only trumpet playing kid I knew, one of Linus' classmates. An innocent prank gone terribly wrong, or was there more to it? There was no car in the driveway and no lights were on. I sniffed at the door. Nobody had passed through it in at least a week.
Then I remembered. This family was on vacation in Florida visiting relatives. I had followed a false lead. Where do I look now? My stomach grumbled. Can't solve cases hungry. I turned back towards home.
Charlie Brown was sitting on the back steps looking at my full supper dish. "Snoopy, you don't come late for supper. Worried about Linus?"
I nodded then dropped to all fours to eat.
"He's going to be okay. He's got to be okay. None of my friends are crazy. We're all just unique, each in our own way." He continued to watch me for a while longer then went back inside his house.
I hopped up on top of my doghouse and looked up at the clouds, but they offered no answers.
As the sun began to set I hopped back to the ground. There was some critical fact I had overlooked, but what?
I returned to pumpkin patch and lay down in the exact spot where Linus had stargazed the previous night. I closed my eyes and focused on my hearing. None of the houses were in earshot and the homes of the instrument playing kids from Linus' school were even further away. I had seen no signs of a recent party nearby. Perhaps a radio from a passing car? None of it made any sense. Was Linus crazy?
I must have drifted off because the next thing I knew I was rolling. Had I been kicked? No, it had been an instinctive response on my part. I looked around. There was a jack-o-lantern on top of a column of what appeared to be vines with a star spangled cape drawn around it.
It stood there as if it were watching me. The light from inside the pumpkin flickered, the only motion to it. Had somebody put it there? But how did they do that without alerting me? All I needed to do was find out who and the case was solved.
I reached down to pick up my fedora, then rolled again to the side. The figure had moved and it continued to move. It swung a viney claw and I hopped back.
I pushed the fedora down around my ears, dashed out of the patch on all fours, then looked back.
The monster was following me, but it couldn't hope to keep up with my four legged speed. I set out on a leisurely trot to draw it towards the nearby houses. At some point somebody would call the cops and arrest whoever it was who was wearing that costume. How could it be a costume? The extremities were far too thin to contain human limbs. Even if it were a remotely controlled robot the same tactic would expose the operator.
Then the trumpets sounded, not from the monster but it seemed like from everywhere. I looked around for the source then back at the monster. It was faster this time. I ran, still keeping well ahead of it.
Then the trumpets sounded again, playing faster this time. I could now hear the more forceful vine-steps of the monster against the ground. It was now faster than I could possibly run.
I noticed that I had either accidentally chosen the same path Linus had, or I had been herded into it. I could use this.
The trumpets sounded yet again, even faster. I could sense that terrible claw stabbing down at me as I ducked under the police tape. I heard the tape ripped aside in an instant. I wouldn't stand a chance against that force, but neither would it. I leapt up as high as I could against the brick wall and my paws stung from the impact as I bounced back from it and at the monster.
It swung both claws at me and one scraped against my fur. Then I jumped onto its head and past it as hard as I could. My paws stung again as I landed hard, then unable to keep my balance I rolled twice. I risked a look back.
It had spun around to try to catch me, but it was going too fast and it's thin viney feet had little purchase against the sidewalk. It impacted against the wall hard enough to crack several bricks. The pumpkin shattered and splattered all over the ground.
I stood there for several seconds listening. I looked around and saw nobody, then I turned back at the scent of dust.
The monster was turning into dust. Within seconds even that had blown away, leaving no trace other than the damage to the wall.
No! It was no fair! Without evidence I couldn't crack the case. Adults wouldn't accept the testimony of a dog so I couldn't do anything for Linus. Worst of all I'd have to return the nickle to Lucy!