THE TRIANGLE

Les: Johnny's doing bogus news reports, Andy. That's very dangerous.

Andy: Like what?

Les: Well, he's telling listeners there's this thing called a Cincinnati Triangle. It's just like the Bermuda Triangle, except it runs from Cincinnati, up to Dayton, over to Columbus and back. He's reporting that things have begun to disappear from the Cincinnati Triangle!

Jennifer: What kind of things?

Les: Well, so far, two recreational vehicles and Woody Hays!-From the episode "Hoodlum Rock"

Andy Travis walked into the WKRP offices looking concerned. Jennifer Marlowe, who had been reading a romance novel behind her desk, looked up when she noticed he wasn't his usual cheerful self. "Andy? Is everything all right?"

"No, it isn't Jennifer. Tell me, has anyone seen Mr. Carlson today?"

"The Big Guy?" Herb Tarlek shook his head. "The last time I saw him, he was complaining about sales figures again. I told him a mortuary account takes time to fine its proper audience." Herb cocked his head. "Come to think of it, that was yesterday."

"And he hasn't been in at all today?" Andy asked.

"No, Andy." Jennifer glanced at Mr. Carlson's door. "I keep expecting him to ask me for a cup of coffee and me reminding him of our little agreement…it is kind of strange he hasn't been in yet."

"Good morning, fellow travelers. What's up?" John Caravella, AKA Johnny Fever, walked in drinking coffee and looking slightly hung over. "Ugh, remind me never to mix six different kinds of beer together at once." He looked at the others. "What happened? Mrs. Carlson isn't here, is she?"

"No, but the Big Guy is MIA," Herb informed him.

"Carlson's late?" Johnny's eyes widened as much as his hangover would allow. "He's never late. He's always on time. In fact, he always gets here early, just like Les. You know, sometimes I wonder about those two."

Bailey and Venus were the last to arrive. "Hey, somebody should have told me we were having a meeting in here. I would've worn my lucky jacket," Venus joked.

"I noticed that Mr. Carlson's car wasn't outside," Bailey added.

"That's because he's incommunicado," Johnny replied. "We think the Russians kidnapped him."

"What are you talking about?" Bailey asked.

"Well, Mr. Carlson seems to have vanished into thin air." Andy spread his hands. "Does anybody have any idea of where he could be this time of morning?"

"I know where he is," Les Nessman, winner of the Buckeye Newshawk Award, somberly replied as he came into the room. His eyes narrowed at Johnny. "I think you know too, Johnny. Andy said you were just joking, but…"

"Come on, man, what are you talking about?"

"Remember that news report you did about…the Cincinnati Triangle?"

"Les, that was just a joke," Andy reminded him.

"Maybe…maybe not. I did some checking, and found some very disturbing facts. Interesting, but still disturbing." Les folded his arms. "For instance, did you know that there have in fact been several mysterious disappearances in that area Johnny described since the early 19th century?"

Andy stared at him. "You mean it's real?"

Johnny nearly choked on his coffee. "Hey, man, how was I supposed to know? I can only be right twenty per cent of the time, you know!"

"Relax, Johnny, nobody is saying this was your fault," Bailey patted him on the shoulder.

"That's right. OK, Les, keep going. We'll get to the bottom of this."

"Well…it's just that a number of vehicles have actually disappeared there. First it was wagons, buggies, that sort of thing. Later on automobiles started disappearing. There was even a railroad train that vanished, cars and all, about a hundred years ago."

Venus whistled. "And you think the Big Guy has joined them?"

"But even if that's true, how do we get him out again?" Jennifer asked. "Les, has anyone ever been able to escape from this…Triangle?"

"There was only one reported instance. A man had driven a 1939 Buick into the Columbus corner of the Triangle. His family declared him missing, but he turned up again several days later with no memory of what had happened. Apparently, time seems to be different in there than it is for the rest of us."

"Man, I know that feeling," Johnny quipped.

"All right, then. I suppose since we're in the Cincinnati corner, we'll have to start with the last place he was seen." Andy looked at the others.

"Well, that would have been here, Andy," Les said. "We're always the first ones here and the last ones to leave. I remember saying, 'Good night, Mr. Carlson,' and he said, 'Good night, Les,' and then he left, presumably to go home."

"Well, then that's where we have to start-Mama Carlson's house." Andy looked at Johnny. "Anybody want to volunteer to go with me?"

Johnny gulped and looked around. Then he sighed. "Ah, what the heck-whatever's in the Triangle can't be any scarier than a morning with Mama Carlson…"

Mrs. Carlson's butler, Hirsch, smiled as he answered the front door of Mrs. Carlson's mansion. "Ah, Mr. Travis and Mr. Fever, so nice to see you again!"

"Hello, Hirsch. Is Mrs. Carlson in? We need to ask her some questions."

"Yeah, like what she did with the body," Johnny muttered.

"Actually, she's been expecting you. If you'll come this way…"

Mrs. Carlson stared at Andy and Johnny, who tried to look invisible. "The Cincinnati Triangle? Andrew, is this somebody's idea of a twisted joke?"

"No, ma'am, we're very serious. We haven't seen Mr. Carlson all day and Hirsch says he never came home last night. Do you have any other idea of where he might have gone?"

Mrs. Carlson shook her head. For the first time she looked genuinely upset. "Arthur always comes home on time," she said. "I tried calling the police, but they can't do anything until he's been missing for over twenty-four hours." She regained her composure. "Very well, Mr. Travis, I'll leave it up to you to find him. Just make sure that you do, or…" she looked menacingly at him.

"I understand, Mrs. Carlson. Don't worry; we will."

"So where do we start?" Johnny asked as they left her estate. "Do we drive all around the Triangle area looking for him? That could take forever."

"No, I think we'll start by retracing his route. There aren't that many places a guy like Mr. Carlson can stop at on his way home."

"You know, in a way, this is all kind of intriguing. I mean, what do we really know about space, anyway? All we really know is what we can see in front of our own faces." Johnny frowned as he looked at his hand. "Well, mostly see, anyway."

"I never took you for the philosophical type."

"Yeah, well, I've met Bob Dylan. I guess some of him has rubbed off on me in my old age." Johnny grinned.

Their first stop was the gas station where Mr. Carlson filled up his tank before heading home. "Yeah, I saw Mr. Carlson here last night. He even tipped me for the gas like he always does."

"Did he seem all right to you?" Andy asked.

The gas station owner shrugged. "He looked okay to me. Why, has something happened to him?"

"He's having lunch with Rod Serling as we speak," Johnny said.

"Never mind," Andy sighed. "Thanks for your help. If we hear from him, we'll let you know."

"Thanks. You know, I like that guy."

The second place they went to was a small diner off the interstate that Mr. Carlson used. The waitress smiled when they asked her about Mr. Carlson. "Real nice fella," she said. "Always leaves a big tip. He always orders the same thing, too-a roast beef sandwich and a slice of pie."

"Well, he's nothing if not consistent," Johnny said. "That's why we like him."

"Did you happen to see where he went after he left your place?" Andy asked.

The waitress shook her head. "Nah, he just got into his car and took off. But…"

"But what?"

"Well, I know he takes the interstate home, but I didn't see his car get on. I mean, you can see the headlights from the traffic down here, and I know what his car looks like, so I thought it was kind of odd I didn't see it."

"Do you remember where you did see it last?"

The waitress nodded. "Yeah, I can even show you."

The spot was a stretch of road that led to the interstate on-ramp. As she pointed to where she'd last seen Mr. Carlson's car, Andy saw what she meant-the interstate had an overpass that ran over the road.

There was something odd about the roadway. It seemed out of place, and went off in an odd angle that didn't match the surrounding streets.

"Do you know where this road leads to?" Andy asked.

"I'm not sure," the waitress replied. "It was here before the interstate was built, I know that much."

"What have you got in mind, Andy?" Johnny asked.

"Just an idea…" Andy shook the waitresses' hand. "Thanks for all your help."

"Sure," she said. "Any time. He's a nice guy, Mr. Carlson."

"That's what we've heard," Johnny replied. "So, where are we going, anyway?" he asked as Andy began walking up the road.

"Hopefully only as far as Mr. Carlson went," Andy replied. "Johnny, do you know anything about mathematics?"

"I know how much I have to figure out to pay the IRS and my ex-wife each year," Johnny said.

"When I was in college, there was this girl I dated who was studying quantum mechanics. Most of it went way over my head, but I had a huge crush on her so I would help her out with her lessons. Something she told me came back to me when this all started-something about how other dimensions have intersection points and if you find one of them, you can reach a whole new solution in your calculations."

"Travis, you're starting to scare me," Johnny admonished.

"Relax, buddy, I said most of it went over my head, remember. But it got me thinking-if we just follow Mr. Carlson's route long enough, eventually we ought to-ooof!"

"What happened?" Johnny ran up to Andy, who was rubbing his knee.

"I banged my knee on something. It felt like…"

"Travis? Is that you? What are you doing out here? Shouldn't you be back at the station?" Mr. Carlson stood in front of them, holding a lug wrench as he stood next to his car. Mr. Carlson looked at him with concern. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Mr. Carlson, I just bumped my knee," Andy replied. "Mr. Carlson, you don't know how glad we are to see you."

"Yeah, even me," Johnny added. "Nice to have you back with us, Big Guy."

"Back with you?" Mr. Carlson asked. "What are you boys talking about? I was on my way home when I had a flat tire…" then he looked around. "Hey, wait a minute…where'd this daylight come from?"

"It's a long story," Andy said. "But we can talk about it later. Right now it's time to get you home."

THE END!