The Return of the Stone
Part 1

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Cape Suzette Harbor
January 1938
Wednesday Morning

In the pale, misty dawn, a sleepy seagull sitting on a buoy saw an unusual sight. The dark water a few yards from his perch bubbled up, then a man in a wet suit and scuba gear bobbed his head out of the waves. Pushing back his hood, spitting out his regulator, and lifting his goggles, the tan bear, a professional scrounger, took a few deep breaths. Shaking his damp, closely-cropped head to get the water out of his fur, he raised his dripping hand to examine his new-found treasure in the light of day.

After searching the sea floor nightly for more than a year, he finally had his prize. He scraped a glob of mud from the object clenched tightly in his fist just as a shaft of sunlight blazed between the hills, revealing a patch of gleaming crimson beneath the grime. With a triumphant whoop, the diver swam for shore.

Louie's
Thursday Afternoon

The late afternoon sun shone brightly when the Sea Duck splashed down in the sparkling azure waters surrounding the tropical island that was home to Louie's Place and taxied up to one of the few free spaces along the dock. As soon as the propellers stopped, a group of monkeys swarmed the plane - filling the fuel tank, checking the oil, washing the windows, etc. The pilot, a large grey bear, and his navigator, a small brown bear cub, disembarked. Their teeth chattered despite the torrid temperatures.

"How'd I ever let Becky talk me into turnin' the Duck into a freezer, Li'l Britches?" Baloo growled. He threw his heavy parka into the yellow and orange Conwing L-16's cockpit, slammed the door, and stormed down the dock towards the nightclub.

Trotting to keep up with the pilot's angry strides, Kit felt his bones thaw in the warm sunshine. "Beats flying through a volcano to cook two hundred pizzas."

"Dunno 'bout that, kid. Burned an' frost-bit tootsies both hurt somethin' fierce."

"C'mon, Papa Bear, be reasonable. You know we had to pack Bo's Better Bitter Butter in ice, otherwise it'll melt. If that happened, the customers would be furious, not to mention Miz Cunningham."

"She won't be 'Miz Cunningham' much longer." Baloo fondly ruffled the boy's hair through his blue and red baseball cap.

The thirteen-year-old beamed at the happy thought. "Are you gonna tell Louie about that?"

"You betcha. After all, he's my oldest pal," the big bear replied, pushing open the door and stepping into the noisy interior of Louie's.

Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, the nightclub was hopping, crammed full with both freelance and Khan's pilots. The band belted out one jazzy tune after another. Customers devoured frothy fruit drinks, elaborate ice cream concoctions, and greasy fried foods as fast as they were dished out.

Louie, a large, brownish-red orangutan, bounded from his office. Over the din, he shouted, "Hey, it's little boy Baloo! What's the haps, man?"

The two friends performed their special handshake - giving each other high fives with one hand and pointing at each other with the opposite hand.

"Hey, Kit," Louie greeted, leaping over the tiki bar. "The usual?"

Kit nodded as he scrambled onto a barstool.

Louie dished up two Krakatoa Specials using his hands and feet, scat singing in harmony with the band's song. "A-ba-be-bo-do-dow-wow-bo-bow-wow-mwa-du-mwa-da-dang-da-bang..."

"Thanks, Louie," Kit said politely before dipping his spoon into the mound of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and hot fudge topped with five flaming sparklers served in a half coconut shell. His stomach rumbled; the sandwich that he had eaten for lunch seemed ages ago.

Between big mouthfuls, Baloo said, "Uh, Louie, I got somethin' ta tell ya."

Perceiving the big bear's unusually serious demeanor, the ape bantered half-teasingly, "Who waltzed over your grave? Not bad news, cuz?" He placed two Banana Burritos on a serving tray and handed it over the bar to one of his waiters.

Baloo pushed his empty coconut shell away and leaned forward, his arms folded across the bar. "Naw...um...don't be disappointed, Louie, ol' pal...I know how much ya like Rebecca an' all, but..."

"Ya chased the pretty lady off, didn't ya? With your ugly mug, you never had the good luck that yours truly has with the dames," Louie said with a mischievous twinkle in his black eyes. He licked his paw, removed his straw hat, and slicked back his thinning hair.

Baloo scowled at Louie's smirk. "Don't see women beatin' down your door. In fact," he took a deep breath and blurted out, "Becky an' me are gettin' married."

Louie burst out laughing. Tears of mirth flowed down his cheeks as he beat his palm against the top of the bar. "HA-HA! That's the jivingest joke I've ever heard! Oh, baby!" His boisterous guffaws subsided when he saw Baloo's and Kit's wan smiles. "Ha-ha...ha...heh? Well, blow my nose." And he did just that on a white towel with a loud honk. "You're not jokin', are ya?"

A blush crept to Baloo's cheeks. He shook his head.

Kit piped up with, "They've been engaged for almost a week."

Louie was shocked beyond belief. "No!"

Grinning, Kit nodded vehemently. "Yes!"

"She force ya to marry her, cuz? She said ya had ta marry her, or she'd pilfer the plane? Was that it?"

"Nope. I asked her," said Baloo. With his index finger, he drew an 'X' across his chest. "Cross my heart an' hope ta fly."

Once Louie picked his jaw up off the floor, he said, "Why on earth did ya go an' do a fool thing like that?"

Baloo hugged his red pilot's cap with a dreamy smile on his face. "Why'd ya think? I love her."

"You...love...her!" Louie nearly screeched. "Are we talkin' about the same Rebecca?"

"Yeah."

"Rebecca Cunningham? Your boss?"

"How many Rebeccas do ya think I know?" Baloo snapped.

"Well, there was that Rebecca in Spango-Pango. Remember that wild weekend?"

"Oh, yeah..." Baloo grinned, sharing a knowing look with Louie. He wiggled his eyebrows up and down. "Man, oh, man, she was a looker!"

"An' I didn't mind lookin'!" Louie added with a wolf whistle.

Baloo's expression became serious. Running his finger around the rim of his empty bowl, he said, "But that dame's not even in the same class as my Becky."

"I thought that that Rebecca was pretty classy from the top of her blonde head down to the tips of her high heels."

Adamantly, Baloo said, "Nah, Becky wouldn't trick us inta huntin' for some stupid treasure."

Kit said, "Yeah, Miz Cunningham tells you if you're going hunting for something, like truffles."

"Truffles!" Baloo snickered and clapped a paw on the boy's shoulder.

Louie interjected, "'Course, how were we s'posed ta know that that dame was in cahoots with the loot snatchers? They stole that treasure right out from under our fuzzy noses."

"They were tryin' ta break our noses, Louie."

"An' our necks. Did we get anythin' outta that crazy weekend?"

"Our lives. An', boy, was I glad ta have that!"

Louie scratched his head. "How did we get mixed up in that?"

"Same way as always. Got fooled by a pretty face an' a great set of legs."

Simultaneously, Baloo and Louie vowed, "Never again!"

"But I sure wouldn't mind seein' her again. That dame had more curves than..." Louie quickly broke off when he noticed Kit's eyes fixed on him. He self-consciously cleared his throat. "More ice cream, Short Stop?"

With his spoonful of dripping ice cream suspended in midair, Kit shook his head, eager for more reminiscing. His Papa Bear didn't often share particulars about his past, especially sordid details about the mysterious creatures called women.

"Those were the days, huh, Louie?" Baloo said with a grin.

"Fun times, man." Louie held out his palm and Baloo slapped it.

"But we sure took a beatin' that time. That wasn't fun." The big bear rubbed his temple. "I thought I'd never get over that knock over the head."

"Speakin' of knocks over the head...are ya sure yer feelin' well, cousin?" He slapped a hand to Baloo's forehead. "Usually ya can't stop complainin' 'bout Rebecca's slave-drivin' an' crazy schemes to dig up more dough."

The pilot puffed out his chest. "I feel like a million shaboozies, innkeeper. I'm in the prime of life."

Smirking, Louie countered with, "Yeah, looks like a whole lotta prime beef ta me."

"Watch it," Baloo growled playfully.

"But all jokin' aside, you're really gettin' married? No lie, guy?"

"Nope. No lie," the big bear said simply.

Greatly disappointed, Louie mumbled under his breath, "Keepin' the biggest thing in yer life from yer best bud for a whole week!" He absently whipped a white towel around like a propeller while pacing behind the bar.

In the nick of time, Kit saved his sundae from being knocked to the floor by the towel.

"Baloo an' Rebecca?" the ape muttered to himself, completely incredulous. "Kinda like the Filthy Beast marryin' Miss Goody Two-Shoes. Who woulda thunk it, man? Wowsie, wowsers...craaaazzzzy..."

Annoyed, Baloo growled, "Hey, I ain't filthy! I showered this mornin'."

After the fact that his best friend was getting married finally sunk in, Louie enthusiastically slapped Baloo on the back, causing the big bear to wheeze in pain. "Congratulations, fuzzy! Never thought I'd see the day when party-'til-dawn Baloo would join the ol' pipe-and-slipper club. When's the big day gonna be?"

"June sometime." Baloo shrugged. "We don't have all the details sorted out yet."

"You mean Miz Cunningham doesn't have all of the details sorted out yet," Kit added with a sly grin.

Crushing his hat in his hands, Baloo said solemnly, "I'd...uh, appreciate it if you could be there ta see me hitched, Louie."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, Baloo," Louie answered, just as solemnly. Then, a big smile creased his simian features and he jumped on the bar. "What are we all standin' here for? Special oc-ca-sions deserve biiiig cel-e-bra-tions!"

"Now yer talkin'!" Baloo exclaimed, putting on his hat. "Maestro, strike up the band!" He snapped his fingers and the band broke into a rousing rendition of 'I'm Gone'.

Kit tugged on Baloo's shirt. "Papa Bear, we've got to deliver the butter pronto!" he reminded sternly and pointed to his watch. "The ice is gonna melt out in that heat."

Baloo, bouncing to the music, waved him off. "Aw, relax, partner. Bo's Better Bitter Butter'll make better biscuit batter if it's a little warm. What's better than a warm biscuit? Man, what a beat!" He jigged around the room to the music.

"But Miz Cunningham will..." Kit began.

"Ya gotta lighten up, Kit-boy, if yer gonna be my son. Let Papa Bear learn ya what life's all about." Baloo patted the boy condescendingly on the head.

"You won't be alive long enough to teach me anything when Miz Cunningham finds out you ruined her shipment," Kit muttered under his breath, adjusting his hat indignantly. "She'll have a meltdown."

Letting his spoon clatter in the now-empty coconut shell, Kit morosely watched Baloo and Louie dance. He knew it wouldn't be long before the ice melted and, consequently, the butter. He also knew his Papa Bear couldn't care less. When Baloo started partying, obligations flew out the window no matter how pressing they were. The boy sighed and hopped off the barstool to retrieve his homework from the Sea Duck.

Higher for Hire
Five Hours Later

Darkness had drawn its mantle over the tropical city of Cape Suzette when the Sea Duck taxied up to the dock outside of a small brown building overlooking the harbor. As usual, Baloo was attempting to think up a good excuse for their tardiness.

"What's our story, Kit? How's about we're late, 'cause we got hit by a deer?"

From his dour countenance, the cub was clearly not impressed. Arms crossed, he retorted, "A flying deer? Not even Wildcat would buy that."

"Reindeer fly," Baloo said weakly, turning off the engines.

Kit shook his head.

"No, huh? Swarmed by giant dragonflies?"

"Used it two weeks ago, and she didn't believe you then."

Baloo snapped his fingers. "How's about this one, navigator? We were held up by butter fanatics with super large buckets of popcorn. It took everything we had to fight 'em off!"

The duo exited the plane and walked slowly towards Higher for Hire.

Kit sighed in exasperation. "Why don't we just tell Miz Cunningham the truth, Papa Bear? She knows we were at Louie's."

"Where's the fun in that?" Baloo asked, frowning.

Bear and cub stepped through the door into the office. Rebecca, a petite brown bearess, was stationed at her desk. Impatiently drumming her fingers on the desktop, she glowered at her flight crew from between two large stacks of papers. Her seven-year-old daughter Molly, a little yellow bearess, sat on the edge of the desk. She was scribbling in a Danger Woman coloring book.

"Baloo! Kit!" the little girl cried happily. She hopped off the desk and ran over to Kit. "Wanna play tail gunner?"

"Not now, Molly," Kit answered softly. An uneasy sensation was growing in his stomach from the furious expression on his boss's face.

"Now, Beckers, I can explain," said Baloo, flashing her his most charming, disarming smile. His mind raced to think of the perfect alibi. "Ya see, Kit an' me..."

His boss held up a hand to silence him. "Don't give me another one of your lame excuses, Baloo. I know exactly where you were, and I also know that the butter was liquefied to a pool of mushy goo by the time you finally delivered it two hours late," she said in the silky smooth, ominously tranquil tone of pure rage.

A uncomfortable silence fell over the foursome, during which Baloo and Kit fidgeted nervously under Rebecca's glare.

Finally, she said quietly, but firmly, "You're fired, Baloo."

"I'm...what!" Baloo cried in disbelief. His boss had threatened to fire him at least once a day, but had never carried through with her threat. And now, when they were engaged, she had the audacity to do it. Within the span of a few moments, his expression changed from astonished to angry. In his fury, he balled up his large fists, seeming to grow in height and girth.

"Mommy, you can't! Baloo's gonna be my daddy!" Molly shrieked hysterically, tears pooling in her brown eyes. She latched herself onto one of the pilot's legs.

Without taking her eyes from Baloo's red face, Rebecca said tranquilly, "Kit, take Molly outside, please."

A fearful shiver streaked down Kit's spine. Not wanting to witness a second Great War, he obediently took the sniffling little girl by the paw and led her outside.

When the door closed behind the cubs, Baloo stomped across the room and punched his fists against the ledger, causing everything on the desk to skip. "Now listen here, Rebecca! This!" POUND! "Ain't!" POUND! "Fair!" POUND! POUND!

"Sit down, Baloo," she motioned to a crate beside the desk; "and I'll tell you what's not fair."

Mutely, he complied. If looks could kill, Rebecca would have been buried six feet under.

Rebecca swivelled in her chair to face him. Taking one of his large paws in both of hers, she said softly, "Baloo, let's get one thing straight. If we are going to be married, I have to be able to trust you completely. No more dumb excuses. No more secrets. Everything has to be aboveboard and out in the open."

He opened his mouth to protest, but Rebecca cut him off with, "Honestly, I don't mind your going to Louie's. You have to refuel somewhere, and Louie's does have the cheapest gas."

In spite of his black mood, Baloo's lips twitched at her characteristic comment. Saving money ranked high on her list of priorities.

"I realize that Louie is your friend, and I don't mind your having a few laughs with him. It's just..." she rubbed her forehead wearily; "would it have hurt you to have taken five minutes out of your jocularity to call me and tell me you were going to be late?"

"Jockey? There's no horses at Louie's."

Fighting to keep a straight face, Rebecca chuckled inwardly. His malapropisms made him even more lovable. "Not 'jockey'. Jocularity. It means having fun or partying."

Baloo hung his head in shame. "Oh...sorry, Rebecca," he mumbled. He was startled by her quiet approach to this conversation. It made him feel guiltier than if she had, as was her wont, ranted and raved.

Quietly, she continued, "In a few months, you're going to be the head of the household, and you have to start acting like it, no matter what."

Baloo again opened his mouth, but she tightened her grip on his hand and forged on earnestly. "Not only that, but you'll have a wife and two children to help provide for. This business is all we have, Baloo. If it goes under, we'll lose everything - our home, the Sea Duck..."

"Not my baby!" Baloo cried.

Rebecca nodded, pleased that she had hit a nerve. She hoped that this time she had finally gotten through his thick skull that punctuality and responsibleness were important. She smiled a shy smile up at him.

A year ago, Baloo was the last man on earth that Rebecca thought she would ever be engaged to. True, he had a million bad habits that drove her to distraction, but he had a good heart; and she liked nothing better than to be held, safe and secure, in his strong, yet gentle, arms. Smiling up at him, she loved the way his unruly hair fell over his forehead, the boyish grin on his face, and the tender light in his eyes. It was nice - sitting there, hand in hand, knowing that she was loved in return, just the two of them. Alone.

As one mesmerized, Baloo gazed deep into her eyes - large, velvety brown eyes that he had once compared to two bowls of chocolate pudding. He thought to himself, If bein' engaged makes Becky so calm, cool, an' composed, I shoulda asked her a long time ago, as the soft pair of eyes drew closer, closer, closer...

Then, instantaneously, as if a switch had been flipped, those eyes flashed dangerously. Roughly tweaking his ear, she shouted at the top of her lungs, "I ought to strangle you for the despicable stunt you pulled on the Bo's Better Bitter Butter account! Thanks to your goofing off, we lost a very, very profitable client! No clients means no money means no plane means no parties at Louie's! Do you hear me?"

His ears ringing, a dazed Baloo gulped. He nodded quickly.

A sunshiny smile broke over her face, dispelling the storm clouds on her brow. "Now, the next item on the agenda - I need a pilot. Do you know anyone who's available?"

Baloo, who was becoming accustomed to her abruptly shifting highs and lows, knew that it was best to just play along. He warily jerked a thumb at himself. "How's 'bout me?"

Rebecca looked him up and down with a critical eye. "Hm...can you lift heavy objects?"

Baloo flexed his muscles. "Yep."

"How are your piloting skills?"

"The best in the world," with false modesty, he added, "by my own estimation."

Shooting him a coquettish glance through her eyelashes, she asked nonchalantly, "How are you at kissing?"

Taking her in his arms, he gave her the longest, most passionate kiss he had ever given her.

When they finally broke apart, Rebecca, who was swooning a little, whispered breathlessly, "You're hired."

Baloo, his cheek resting on hers, laughed softly in her ear. "I think I'm gonna like this job."

They shared another quick kiss before she shouted towards the door, "You can come in now, kids!"

Kit and Molly tumbled through the entryway where they had been standing with their little ears cemented to the door.

Rebecca stuffed papers in her briefcase. Brightly, she said, "I want you to get a lot of rest tonight, Baloo, because we're going shopping tomorrow." She chuckled. "I can't believe I told you to get sleep!"

Baloo grimaced in distaste. Shopping was one of his least favorite activities. "Aw, do we hafta?"

"Yes, we have to. We need to do some preliminary wedding shopping. Six months doesn't give us very long to plan. I want to check out a few stores and compare prices on a few things." Rebecca wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. "See you tomorrow."

He pulled her into his arms and returned her kiss. "See ya, sweetheart. Do we really hafta go shoppin'?"

Rebecca chuckled, giving him one last embrace. "Yes! And don't invent a silly excuse to get out of it either." After kissing Kit's cheek, with a "Goodnight, sweetie" she took Molly in one hand and her briefcase in the other. "I'll call you later, Baloo," she said, smiling, before closing the door.

Tiny's Grill

At first glance, Tiny's Grill appeared to be an average, upscale restaurant in the downtown area. However, things aren't always as they appear. Few denizens of Cape Suzette, least of all the police, knew that this particular place was the popular hangout of gangsters. Some of the most infamous names in organized crime drifted through Tiny's Grill - big names like Owl Capone, Heimlich Menudo, and Babyface Half-Nelson.

This evening, the restaurant was crowded with the dinner rush. Every high-backed booth was full, and there were a few people sitting at the bar. Behind the bar stood an extremely tall polar bear with very broad shoulders in a black tuxedo and red bow tie. It was the proprietor - Tiny. As he mixed drinks, his beady, hawk-like eyes flitted around the restaurant, making sure that his waiters were doing their jobs and making sure that there were no troublemakers. All of the customers were familiar except for a strange trio - a small alligator, a burly rhino, and a hulking ape - in the corner booth. Tiny's habitual frown deepened. This odd trio looked like riffraff to him. He decided to keep a sharp eye on them.

Trader Moe leaned back in his seat, straining to hear the conversation in the booth behind him. Because of all of the background chatter and silverware clattering against dishes, it was difficult, to say the least.

It didn't help that the two goons squeezed into the booth across from him were slurping noisily on lemonades.

"Where's we's goin' next, boss?" asked Rhino Goon loudly.

"Yeah, like where's we's goin'?" echoed Ape Goon, rattling the ice cubes around his empty glass.

"I thought we's were gonna hold up da Cape Suzette National Bank," said Rhino Goon.

"Do we's need chickens?" said Ape Goon, confused.

Trader Moe, who had a short temper to match his short stature, slapped the two goons across the noses with his floppy brown hat. "Shaddup, ya lunks! Cancha see I'm listenin'?"

In the booth behind them, a gravelly voice whispered, "To the right bidder, this stone could be very valuable. Worth thousands!"

A deep bass voice said, "But it ain't no real jewel." The voice grew slightly louder with skepticism. "How can a piece o' glass be worth somethin'?"

"Shh!" hissed the gravelly voice urgently. "See them markings on it? Here? An 'SK' in a circle? Shere Khan!"

Trader Moe's ears perked up at the mention of richest man in Cape Suzette.

"Shere Khan?" whispered the bass voice, impressed.

"Yeah...an' I bet he'll pay a pretty penny to get this ornament back."

"I bet Miniversal Corporation would pay a prettier penny to get their hands on it," the bass voice said, "just to get one up on Khan Industries."

Both voices chuckled ominously.

"We'll split the reward sixty-forty," said the bass voice.

"You wanna bet? I spent half my life in that harbor for the past year," protested the gravelly voice with a menacing undertone. "I found it. That means I get sixty percent plus a finder's fee of ten percent."

While the two voices argued, Trader Moe grinned. "We's gonna be rich as soon as we swipe dat stone! I got me a plan. I'll chat dese bozos up an' when I grab da stone, youse guys rough up dose two? Got it?"

"Uh? Which two?" asked Rhino Goon, scratching his head as he looked around the restaurant.

"Yeah, dere's lots of twos here," added Ape Goon.

"Which two do we two rough up, boss?" said Rhino Goon.

Trader Moe slapped his forehead. "Dose two guys sittin' in da booth behind me, ya peach pits!" he hissed loudly.

"Oh...dose two!" Both goons grinned stupidly. In unison, they said, "What are we's s'posed ta do wid 'em?"

The alligator gritted his teeth. "Knock 'em out when I grab da stone!"

"Knock 'em out. We can do dat, boss," said Rhino Goon with a grin, swinging at Ape Goon's chest.

Ape Goon agreed. "Yeah, we're good at knocking out." He took a punch at Rhino Goon's jaw.

After an extended amount of time, both goons complained, "Ouch! Dat hurt!"

Trader Moe casually slid from the booth, grumbling to himself, "I gotta get me some new goons." He flashed a very toothy smile at the inhabitants of the adjoining booth - a scruffy tan bear in his thirties and an old panther with grey hair slicked back with oil. Both sported well-worn suits and ties. "We's don't have no pepper at our table. Ya's mind if we borrow yours?" he asked, eyeing the red stone clasped in the bear's paw.

Before they could answer, Trader Moe picked up the pepper cellar and dashed it in their eyes. Sneezing and yelping in pain, the bear dropped the stone. Swiftly, the alligator snatched it up and stowed it in his pocket.

Rhino Goon remembered, "Bonk their heads together on da count of three."

"One...two...what comes after two?" asked Ape Goon.

"Three!" shouted Trader Moe impatiently. "Three! Three!"

"Da boss said 'three'," said Rhino Goon.

Ape Goon counted on his beefy fingers. "Yeah, he said 'three', uh...more'n two times."

"Knock 'em out already, ya bozos! What are ya waitin' for? Sheesh!"

The two goons bonked the bear's and panther's heads together, causing them to slump to the floor.

Tiny stomped over to Trader Moe and his goons. He towered over the trio - even over the goons by a few inches - seething with indignant anger. Brawling wasn't allowed in his restaurant, because he didn't want publicity. Publicity meant exposure. Neither he nor his clientele wanted their popular hangout to be raided by the police.

He seized each of the goons by an arm and dragged them towards the exit. In a surprisingly high voice, he growled, "If you were lookin' for trouble, you found it. Don't let me ever catch ya's in here again." One after another, he tossed the goons into the alley where they crashed headlong into trash cans. Trader Moe sailed over their heads and smashed into the brick wall of the neighboring building.

After sliding to the ground, Trader Moe staggered to his feet. He was seeing miniature Tinys circling his head. Shaking his head to clear it, he said smugly, "I've been thrown outta better joints. Once we cash in dis stone, we'll come back an' buy his stupid restaurant just ta throw him out. C'mon, boys."

As was wise, no one in Tiny's Grill took notice of the proceedings, except for one of the waiters, a burly brown bulldog, who was moonlighting as an undercover informant.

The waiter hurried to the back room and picked up the phone. "Operator, get me Mr. Khan." He grinned, revealing his gold-capped canines, as he waited to be connected. He would be paid handsomely for this information.

Khan Towers
Later That Evening

Shere Khan, multi-billionaire and CEO of Khan Industries, stood at the gigantic ceiling-to-floor, wall-to-wall window in his opulent office. Much like an emperor surveying his dominion, he apathetically watched the peons of Cape Suzette go about their humdrum little lives. The automobile headlights on the streets far, far below looked like pinpoints of light from his perspective from the penthouse of Khan Towers, but that was how he liked it. His lofty position signified the successful completion of his goals of achieving unlimited wealth and power. It gave him great satisfaction to know that he was above everyone and everything else in Cape Suzette.

Another thing that gave him great satisfaction was the fact that his sub-electron amplifier had been located. Of course, he wouldn't be completely satisfied until he held it in his own two hands.

He crossed the room in purposeful strides to his desk and pushed the intercom button. "Mrs. Snarly, get me Leo Stedman."

The secretary's voice answered briskly, "Yes, Mr. Khan."

With a trace of a smile touching his lips, Shere Khan gave one last glance out the window before pushing the button that closed the heavy maroon drapes, blocking out the moonlit city. Soon he would have more money and power than even he had ever dreamed of. All he needed was that stone.

End of part 1