—One month later
At the sound of Samson's panicky, high-pitched cry, all the half-dressed Bean Scouts immediately dropped whatever they were doing and lunged for the camp gates, where Samson's envelope-covered bike sat abandoned, the guinea pig himself busy hiding behind a nearby tree. Hearing the crashing and thudding of his peers dogpiling on his precious bicycle, he winced, moaning a little—but, as the ruckus died down, he gingerly managed to gather up the courage to go and look for himself.
And found a livid platypus growling and baring his teeth.
With a terrified "MERP!", Samson ducked back behind the tree, but it was too late; Edward had spotted him, sprinting around the bend and tackling the boy roughly to the ground. His face was a mask of horrible rage as he squatted heavily on top of the terrified guinea pig, a large cardboard box hoisted menacingly above his head.
"WHERE IS IT?"
Samson squealed, throwing his arms up over his face. "I-I-I dunno what you're talking about!"
"You dang well know!" Edward snarled down at him, fingers tightening around his package. "MY ENVELOPE. THE ONE I GET THIS TIME EVERY MONTH. 'CEPT TODAY, ALL I GOT IS DIS LOUSY BOX!"
"Th-there was no envelope!" Samson protested, shuddering so badly that Edward was well on his way to getting motion sickness. "Well, well yeah, there were lots of envelopes, but just normal small white ones, n-not the orangeish-brownish big kind like yours! I swear!"
Edward brought his face threateningly close to Samson's own, teeth gritted and eyes blazing. "Ya sure?"
For a moment neither moved, and then Edward rose to his feet, pausing only to kick dirt in Samson's face. "If yer lyin', yer toast," he grumbled, grasping the box and stomping back into the camp while Samson struggled to regain his vision.
Once back in the safety of his cabin, Edward dumped the package carelessly onto his bed, muttering curses about "dat stupid mail system" and how "my subscription better not be expired". He continued on like that for several minutes before finally he ran out of steam, sighing and flopping back onto his familiar scratchy, musty sheets. A short while later, he tried to fold his arms behind his head—but his elbow bumped into the edge of the cardboard box.
"Ehhhh, might's'well open it," Edward muttered, sliding back off the bed and facing the package. It was just a normal, post-office-brand cardboard box, and although it clearly had his own name and Camp Kidney's on it, it bore no return address, making him wonder momentarily if it was just another stupid gag from his brothers. But he tore off the packing tape anyways, lifting the flaps up one by one and bracing himself against a pie in the face.
Instead, when he opened one eye to look, he saw the latest sparkling-pink issue of Veronica Weekly.
"Well, dat's weird..." He rubbed his head slowly, glancing over the cover. "Now why would they wrap it up wit'—"
Suddenly he stopped short, eyes fixed unblinkingly on the magazine. That cover—those images, that caption—
Adorning the upper half of the cover was a large pink letterhead proclaiming "The Tenth Anniversary Of The Veronica Doll Company!", which he distinctly remembered having read about during the previous month, but that wasn't what concerned him. Instead, to the left, there was a photograph of Veronica Webbs, smiling prettily and wearing that same lilac dress as she had when last he'd seen her, directly underneath the statement of "Founding Daughter Adds New Dimension To 'Veronica Doll' Universe In Anniversary's Honor!"
And to the right of that...smack in the center of the page...
Suddenly seized by a violent trembling, Edward tossed the magazine aside, letting it flap onto his pillow with a resounding whumf. Beneath it in the box was a small stack of lined paper, each sheet covered with a bouncy cursive handwriting, and he was going to read it soon, he was, because it would only take a moment to pull them off the top of the final item—
And stare himself in the face.
It was a small, blue, rectangular cardboard box, with a plastic screen taking up most of the front. Behind the screen, standing nearly twelve inches tall, was him. Or, more specifically, a platypus doll with broad shoulders and a ridiculously musclebound physique, with a perfect recreation of Edward's head balanced on top of its beefy neck.
"Tenth Anniversary Special: The Edward Doll!" proclaimed the bright yellow lettering across the top of the box, and then, in smaller print beneath it: "The Veronica Doll's Best Friend."
And Edward just smiled.