TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT
The secret word is: "Gold"
It was a quiet morning in the peaceful mini-metropolis known as Northeast Southweston and the time was 9:32. The turquoise telephone had yet to ring and no girl had arrived, so we were hopeful that it might actually turn out to be a calm day. If we only knew then what awaited us on this seemingly humdrum day . . .
But perhaps I should introduce myself? My name is P.T. and I'm part of a rather unique group of crime fighters. The other members of the team, Doc, Doomsday and Bugs, were all keeping busy around the C.A.P.E.R. room located in the heart of police headquarters. Doc was at his computer, Doomsday was by our aquarium water-cooler eating a sandwich (I believe I smelled peanut butter and onions) and Bugs was pacing. I knew what was on Bugs' mind, so I tried to head him off before he could say . . .
"The turquoise telephone hasn't rung," Bugs and I ended up saying simultaneously.
"And no girl has arrived," Doomsday and Doc commented together.
"Do you suppose we won't have any cases today?" Doomsday asked.
"It's always calmest before the storm," Doc stated prophetically.
"And every cloud has a silver lining," Bugs added.
"And every dog will have its day," I reminded them.
"And we will sell no wine before its time," Doomsday chimed in.
"Getting back to what Doc was saying, do you think we'll have rain?" Bugs asked.
"I was speaking figuratively," Doc explained.
"I was speaking English," Bugs retorted.
"I think what Doc means is we can expect things to pick up any minute now," I explained.
At that moment, the most remarkable thing happened! The turquoise telephone rang . . . and a girl walked into the office at the same time!
"Boy, when it rains it pours!" Bugs noted.
Since the others were already focusing their attention on the girl, I picked up the turquoise telephone. "C.A.P.E.R. room."
I could hear a sweet, elderly woman's voice on the line saying, "Oh, is this the heroic, wonderful, daring Kids from C.A.P.E.R.?"
"That's us," I replied modestly. "How can we help you?"
"Oh, I have lost something and I need your help to find it! It's very, very important!" the woman said. I could almost picture the tears in her eyes.
"Is it something very valuable? Was it stolen? Did some heartless thief steal one of your cherished family heirlooms?" I asked.
"It is sentimental, but it isn't expensive. And it wasn't stolen, I just lost it! Oh please help me!" the woman cried, her voice breaking.
This didn't sound like a particularly crime-ridden case, but I agreed to take down the woman's address and assured her we would be there as soon as possible.
In the meantime, Doc, Doomsday and Bugs had all approached the girl. "How can we be of assistance?" Doc asked.
"Oh yes, you see I . . . oh, what is that sound I hear?" the girl asked, staring at Doc with an all-too familiar expression in her eyes.
Bugs noticed that Doc was smiling at her and asked, "Does it sound like bells ringing?"
"Why yes, it does!" the girl realized.
Doomsday took her hand and placed it into Doc's hand, asking, "And now?"
"Why . . . now it sounds like a thousand violins," she gasped.
She stared up into Doc's eyes and Bugs sighed. "There go the thundering hoofbeats!"
"I don't think we have a chance this week," Doomsday sighed.
"Never say never," Bugs rallied, and he and Doomsday stayed close to the girl.
"My name is Goldie. Goldie Locks."
"That's cute," Bugs commented. "I knew a girl named Miss Muffet."
"Didn't she have a certain spider problem?" Doc asked.
"Yeah, but she learned to tuffet out," Bugs quipped.
"Whey to go, Bugs!" Doomsday smiled.
"I really need your help," Goldie continued. "It's my father. I want you to help me find him."
"You've lost your father?" Bugs asked. "And I thought it was bad when I lost my library card."
"I lost a skate key once," Doomsday nodded.
"And I'm about to lose my mind," I said as I walked over with the notepad.
"That might be really hard to find," Bugs observed.
"Yeah, how big is it?" Doomsday asked.
"The call was from an old woman who needs our help finding something," I explained.
"Well, this young woman, Goldie, also needs our help finding something," Doc countered. "Her father."
"Your father is missing?" I asked with surprise.
Goldie nodded, on the verge of tears.
"When did he disappear?" Bug asked.
"I haven't seen him for fifteen years," Goldie explained.
"Fifteen years?" we all replied in shock.
"It sure took you a long time to get here!" Doomsday commented. "Did you come by bus?"
"I haven't seen my father since I was a little girl," Goldie explained. "Now that I'm old enough to look for him myself, I came to the police. But after explaining my story out front they sent me back here."
"Well, you came to the right place," Doc assured her.
"Why, who are you?" Goldie asked.
We stood at attention and recited, "The Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless."
"Tadaa!" sang Doc.
"Tadaa!" sang Doomsday.
"Tadaa!" sang Bugs.
"Tadaa!" I sang, elaborating quite nicely, I might add.
"I've never heard of you," Goldie admitted.
"Well, we are a secret authority," I explained.
"Then why are old ladies calling us directly on the turquoise telephone?" Bugs asked.
"Speaking of which, what are we going to do about the old woman who called?" I asked. "It doesn't exactly sound like a classic C.A.P.E.R. case."
"We've had these kind of cases before," Bugs reminded us. "Remember that old lady who asked me to move her furniture?"
"Yeah, and that other old lady who asked me to walk her dogs?" Doomsday remembered.
"Yeah, and I have women calling me all the time," Doc added.
"When have any old ladies call you?" I asked.
Doc thought for a moment then asked, "Who said they were old?"
"What did they ask you to do?" Doomsday asked.
Doc just gave Doomsday a blank look (oddly enough, Doc never seemed to notice that women were always falling for him.) "P.T., it's your turn to be the good Samaritan."
"Yeah, you're the best at finding things anyway," Bugs added. "You can use your nose, Seymour, to find whatever it is she's lost."
I hesitated, not wishing to leave what appeared to be our main case (or Goldie, for that matter). "Won't you need Seymour to help find Goldie's father?"
"It wouldn't help," Goldie sighed. "It's been so long, I don't remember what he smells like."
"Okay," I sighed. "This address is only a couple of blocks away." I tore the page off the notepad and picked up my C.A.P.E.R. band radio. "I'll walk over there and help the old lady. You guys get started on Goldie's case and I'll meet up with you when I'm done."
"See ya," they said as I exited.
"How do we get started on a case that started fifteen years ago?" Bugs asked.
"Well, let's start with a song," Doc suggested, and he began to sing.
It was a short walk around the corner to Flintberger Street and I soon found the address I was looking for. The house looked as if it were in a complete state of disrepair. I double-checked the numbers just to be sure. It was the right address all right. I knocked on the door, which was covered with peeling paint chips. After a moment, the door creaked open slightly and I could see a small figure peering out from the darkness within.
"Yes?" the familiar old woman's voice creaked, not unlike the way the door creaked when it had opened.
"Hi, I'm from C.A.P.E.R. You called asking us to help you find something?" I reminded her.
"Oh yes, young man, please come in!" she smiled, and she opened the door to allow me to enter.
The house was even worse on the inside. Dust covered every surface and there was no furniture to be seen, just loose floorboards, curled, darkened wallpaper and permanent light fixtures covered in cobwebs. This certainly wasn't what I had expected!
"You live here?" I asked.
The old woman nodded with a smile.
"Where's all your furniture?" I ventured.
"I had it taken out so the house could be cleaned," she explained.
"Well, it certainly needs it!" I confirmed. "So, what is it you want me to find?"
"When the furniture was being removed I lost a very special memento given to me by my late husband," the woman explained. "It's very precious to me and I would be heartbroken if I couldn't find it!"
"I understand," I sympathized, then asked, "What is it?"
"It's a gold nugget," the woman croaked. "I used to have it on a chain but it must have broken off while I was moving the refrigerator because I can't find it now."
"I see," I nodded, then I realized, "Oh, but do you have any gold on you now?"
"Why, dear?" she asked.
"Seymour needs to know what he's looking for," I explained.
"And Seymour is . . . ?"
"My nose," I explained.
"Oh, you named your nose . . . how novel," the woman smiled, then she seemed crestfallen. "Why no, I don't have any gold on me. I'm a woman of simple means, I'm afraid. That's why this nugget is so precious to me. It's the only possession I own worth anything . . . besides the refrigerator."
I tried to think of a way to help the woman. If I only had some gold on me. Then I remembered . . .
"My C.A.P.E.R. ring. It's gold-plated. Maybe that will do it."
I lifted the ring to my nose to take a sniff. As I raised it, I paused for a moment. "That's funny," I said aloud, "It's vibrating. Usually it only does that if there's some danger about." I looked around the room again but could only see the old woman smiling hopefully up at me and a big empty house. Shrugging, I went ahead and took a sniff. Then I waited for Seymour to do his thing. Sure enough, I began to pick up the very faintest smell of gold from somewhere in the house. "I think I have it," I told the woman, and I headed in the direction I thought the smell was coming from.
Little did I know that behind my back the old woman was giving a thumbs up to a mysterious man peering in through the window.
I walked through the foyer and down a hallway to a back bedroom. Here the scent grew cold, so I doubled back and picked it up again near the stairs. It seemed to be coming from above, so I climbed to the top step and sniffed. Odd. Now the smell seemed to be coming from below. I slowly walked back down the steps until I reached one step in particular. Yes, this was where the minuscule smell was definitely the strongest. But I couldn't see any nugget.
I let Seymour lead me, bending down to closely examine the edge of the step by a railing. I finally spotted something very small, and reached down to pick it up. It was no larger than a quarter inch long and an eighth of an inch wide; a mere pebble really. "This can't be it," I thought, but I took a sniff and while there were other smells to it I couldn't readily identify (and, honestly, didn't want to) it definitely smelled like gold. Shaking my head, I returned to the old lady, who seemed to be waving at the window before turning back to me.
"I found something," I reported. "But this couldn't possibly be it, could it?"
I handed the tiny thing to her and her face lit up. "Oh! Oh my! Yes! Yes, it is!" She took out a handkerchief and wrapped it up like a tiny treasure, placing it into her tiny purse. "Oh, how can I ever thank you?"
"I'm glad I could be of help," I smiled politely. "Take care not to lose it again."
I headed for the front door when the woman called, "Oh, wait! There is something else . . . if you wouldn't mind?"
I stopped and returned to her, saying, "Sure. If I can." At this point I couldn't imagine what other bizarre items she might want me to find.
The woman reached into the same tiny purse and removed a small blue bottle, which she held up. "I'm afraid this bottle isn't labeled and I don't know what's inside. Oh, I know . . . I'm a silly old fool, mixing up my bottles this way. But, if you could . . . ?"
"Sure," I agreed, reaching out to take the bottle from her. I removed the tiny cork and took a deep whiff. The smell was strong and immediately identifiable.
"That's easy," I said, putting the cork back into the bottle and handing it to her, "It's ethoxyethane, CH3-CH2-O-CH2-CH3. More commonly known as ether." With that, I passed out on the floor.
If I had seen the woman standing over me, joined by the man who had been looking in the window, and noted the greedy look on their faces, I would have realized then what trouble I was in.
While I was being so unceremoniously shanghaied, the others were learning what little they could about Goldie's missing father.
"It isn't very much to go on," Doc sighed.
"Yeah, so far all we really know is that your father was named Dred Locks and that when you were a young girl he disappeared," Bugs summarized.
After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Goldie said the following to put to rest any thoughts which the guys might be thinking. "Mother told me that all father wanted was to make a better life for us. He wouldn't have abandoned us, I know he wouldn't!"
"I hope nothing bad happened to him," Doomsday said sadly.
"Maybe we can learn something from the computer," Doc suggested, and he walked over to computer to type in the information.
"What has your mother done to try to find him over all these years?" Bugs asked Goldie.
"Oh, she called the police when he disappeared. They searched for a while, but as time went on the case went cold," Goldie sighed.
"I'm getting chills just hearing about it," Doomsday shivered.
"Okay, I've uncovered a bit more information," Doc announced, returning from the computer. "It says that the police investigated the disappearance of a Mr. Dred Locks fifteen years ago but that the case was never solved."
"Too bad we weren't here to help back then!" Bugs sighed.
"It also says he worked for the State Parks Bureau, and that he was last stationed in Northeast Southweston's very own National Park, the Culchuck Woods," Doc continued.
"I always wondered why it's called the Culchuck Woods," Doomsday hummed.
"It's shortened from an Indian name," Goldie informed them. "The full name is Haumuch Woodwood Awood Chuckchuck Iffa Wulchuck Culchuck Woods."
"Try saying that ten times fast," Bugs commented.
"Haumuch Woodwood Awood Chuckchuck . . . " Doomsday began to recite quickly.
"Those Indians were quite the linguists," Doc noted.
"The Culchuck Woods aren't very far from here," Bugs noted.
"That's right," Goldie remembered, "I think he worked as a surveyor for the park. He used to take me there when I was very little."
"It seems you're starting to remember more about your father the more we talk about him," Doc observes. "That could help us a lot."
"You're helping me to remember, Doc," Goldie said gratefully, sidling up to him.
"It's just so frustrating," Bugs sighed with frustration as he crossed to the desk. "How are we going to solve a case that the police couldn't solve fifteen years ago?"
In aggravation, Bugs struck the top of the television set, which flickered on. The familiar voice of reporter Kurt Klinsinger could be heard as he happened to be in the middle of one of his famous Klinsinger reports.
"Rumors have abounded for years about the mysterious lost gold mine of Culchuck Woods," Klinsinger said mysteriously.
"Hey, we were just talking about Culchuck Woods!" Doomsday exclaimed. Everyone gathered around the television set to watch the report.
"This intrepid reporter has looked far and near for any truth behind the alleged existence of this mysterious gold mine for many years," Klinsinger continued. "So far I can only uncover speculation and hearsay, neither of which qualify as reliable news material . . . except when facts cannot otherwise be found. So let me tell you that the reason the gold mine remains hidden is because . . . it's haunted!"
"Haunted!" Doc, Bugs, Doomsday and Goldie cried with surprise.
"Doesn't Klinsinger usually disregard anything supernatural unless it comes after him?" Bugs asked.
"Not when his ratings need a boost," Doc speculated.
"Yes, the reason the gold mine's location has remained a secret all these years is because a terrifying specter protects it and keeps anyone who ventures too close from ever telling of its location," Klinsinger continued even more dramatically.
"How horrible!" Doomsday gasped.
"Of course, there are no witnesses to this fact . . . but then they're all probably dead . . . killed by the ghost of the haunted mine!" Klinsinger finished his report by making some eerie noises.
Bugs hit the top of the television set to turn it off. "That's preposterous!" he exclaimed.
"Outrageous!" Doc agreed.
"Hippopotamus!" Doomsday tried.
"But also suspicious," Goldie added. "I mean, you don't think . . . you don't suppose . . . ?"
"What?" Doc asked.
"That my father could have been a victim of the Gold Mine Ghost?" Goldie gasped in horror. "I mean, it is supposedly in the Culchuck Woods where my father disappeared!"
"Now don't you worry," Doc assured her. "If there's any chance your father is still alive, we'll help you find him."
"Oh Doc, I feel so much better," Goldie swooned.
"Perhaps a visit to the Culchuck Woods Ranger Station would provide us with some new information," Doc thought aloud.
"That's a good idea, Doc!" Bugs agreed.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
"I'll get it!" Doomsday said, and he went to answer it.
I knew when I awoke I was bound to be in trouble, but I didn't expect to find myself bound to a chair. But bound I was, unable to move my arms or legs. Shaking my head slightly to clear the lingering fuzziness from my brain, I opened my eyes and took in my surroundings. I appeared to be in a small, dingy kitchen. Light filtered in from tattered curtains partially covering a window over the sink. Standing with their backs to me in front of this window, studying something on the counter between them, were two hunched figures.
Seeing them thus occupied, I quickly looked down to see if I could somehow get hold of my C.A.P.E.R band radio, only to find it was missing from my belt. I quickly scanned the room but couldn't spot it anywhere. Either it had fallen off somewhere or had been taken from me. I could feel my C.A.P.E.R. ring on my finger vibrating like crazy now. If only I had paid attention to it earlier!
Instinctively I struggled against the bindings, slightly scraping the chair on the floor and attracting the attention of my captors. The men turned around to look at me. The light from the window prevented me from seeing their faces until they moved closer. Once they had, I seemed to recognize the blue and silver hairstyle of the one man.
"I think I met your mother earlier," I told him groggily.
The man quickly reached up and pulled off the old lady's wig, which he'd forgotten to remove. I started, wide awake, now recognizing the rough-looking pair from their wanted posters in the police station.
"The notorious Wrong Brothers, descendants of the original dastardly Wrong Brothers who double-handedly tried to destroy the fledgling airline industry in an attempt to advance their failing unicycle shop!" I exclaimed.
"The very same," the one brother sneered. "I suppose introductions are unnecessary then. You apparently know my brother, Orber."
"And my brother Wilville," Orber smiled a tooth-gapped grin.
"Wanted for theft, forgery, disturbing the peace, littering and all-around nastiness," I sneered.
"Tadaa!" they sang proudly.
"Well, you must have something seriously sinister in mind to go to all the bother of bringing me here," I deduced.
"Fell into our little trap, didn't you?" Wilville smiled wickedly.
"Only we had to test it out," Orber offered as an explanation.
"Test what out?" I asked.
"That nose of yours," Wilville answered, reaching out to brush at Seymour and causing me to pull my head away to avoid those larcenous fingers. "We had to be sure it could track what we wanted!"
"And it worked!" Orber laughed. "It worked!"
"You wanted to make sure I could track down a minuscule piece of gold?" I asked.
"Well, being that business has been slow lately, we didn't have much to work with," Wilville sighed, then he snapped his fingers and said, "Oh! I almost forgot!"
Wilville fetched the tiny purse from a small table beside me and pulled out the folded tissue. He carefully unfolded it and held the small gold piece out to Orber, who took it carefully.
"See, Orber here was nice enough to supply the gold for our little experiment," Wilville gleamed.
Orber quickly popped what I now recognized as a gold filling back into the gaping hole in his right lower molar and smiled broadly, saying, "No problem at all, Wilville."
"Ew!!" I cried with disgust. "I smelled out something that had previously been in your mouth? Well, at least that explains the pungent, foul odor!"
Wilville leaned in close to me and laughed, "It's brilliant, you see! Brilliant!"
I was having a hard time understanding what they were getting at. "So, you want me to track down the gold fillings in people's teeth so you can steal them?" I asked incredulously. "That's low, even for you two."
Orber looked at Wilville and noted, "That's not a bad idea, is it, Wilville?"
"Yeah!" Wilville agreed. "We may just have to save that plan for later!"
"Then what is it that you want from me?" I demanded to know.
"We have something a little bigger in mind," Wilville explained. "You see, we don't want just a little gold. We want a lot of gold!"
"We want the gold that's in the lost gold mine in Culchuck Woods!" Orber said greedily.
"You expect me to find a lost gold mine in the vast expanse of Northeast Southweston's National Park?" I asked in disbelief.
"Don't be stupid," Wilville sneered, and he ran to the counter to retrieve what the brothers had been studying when I had awakened. He held up a map for me to see. It showed directions leading into the park and a black X marked in a spot at the foot of Mount Culchuck. "We've got a map!"
"You have a map to a lost gold mine?" I asked. "How could the two of you get hold of a map like that?"
"I happen to be very interested in cartography," Orber answered in a haughty voice.
"See, we're gonna take you to the mine and then you're gonna tell us where the gold is," Wilville hissed gleefully.
"Yeah, where the gold is!" Orber hissed as well.
"I have to admit that is a pretty good plan," I admitted. "There's only one little problem."
"What's that?" Wilville asked in a somewhat hurt tone.
"I'm not going to do it," I stated.
"What?" Wilville and Orber responded angrily.
"I couldn't willingly aid and abet known criminals," I said simply. "It's against the C.A.P.E.R. code."
"Oh, so you don't want to aid and abet us, huh?" Wilville asked, leaning in closer.
"Absolutely not," I stated firmly. "And I don't care what you do to me, the answer is no."
"We thought you might say something like that," Wilville smirked at Orber.
"Yeah, thought you might say something like that," Orber smirked back at his brother.
"Sorry to be so predictable," I apologized.
Orber ran around behind me and turned my chair toward the table so that I was now facing a small monitor. Wilville switched it on. A somewhat blurry, black and white picture flickered onto the screen. It took me a moment to recognize it as the C.A.P.E.R. room.
"How did you get a closed-circuit camera into the C.A.P.E.R. room?" I demanded to know.
"I happen to be very interested in video components and installation," Orber explained in a snooty tone.
Wilville stepped in front of me and held up a walkie-talkie. "Watch carefully," he said as he raised the antenna and spoke into the mouthpiece. "All right . . . you may commence.
"You see, your friends are about to get a very special delivery," Wilville continued. "I took the liberty of ordering lunch for them. A nice, big pizza with everything on it; asparagus, pralines, strawberries, whipped cream . . . and pepperoni."
"Pepperoni?" I asked with confusion.
"Poisoned pepperoni," Wilville elaborated.
There was no sound on the monitor but I could clearly see Doc, Bugs, Doomsday and Goldie gathered around the television. They were probably watching one of Klinsinger's reports. Bugs turned off the television and they began talking. Suddenly Doomsday turned and walked to the door.
Inside the C.A.P.E.R. room, Doomsday opened the door to find a pizza delivery man. "I have a pizza here for the . . . " He consulted his delivery sheet. " . . . Kids from C.A.P.E.R.?"
"That's us!" Doomsday said happily.
"Ah, then this is for you," the pizza man explained, handing the box to Doomsday. "Compliments of a loyal admirer."
"Who would be sending us a pizza?" Bugs asked.
"I don't know, but they have all of our favorite toppings!" Doomsday drooled as he opened the lid. "Asparagus, pralines, strawberries, whipped cream . . . and pepperoni?"
"Pepperoni?" Doc and Bugs asked.
"Well, despite the pepperoni, it looks delicious!" Doomsday exclaimed, picking up a slice.
I watched with growing horror as Doomsday picked up a slice of the pizza. I knew it would only be a matter of seconds before he'd devour the entire piece.
"All right! All right, you fiends! I'll do it!" I gave in.
Wilville clicked the button on the walkie-talkie and quickly said, "Cancel that delivery!"
Back in the C.A.P.E.R. room, the delivery man heard the instructions in the earpiece that was attached to the walkie-talkie at his side. He quickly stepped forward and grabbed the slice of pizza from Doomsday as well as the pizza box.
"Oops, sorry . . . my mistake!" the delivery man said and he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Doomsday turned to the others slowly and asked, "Wasn't that a bit strange?"
"It certainly was," Doc agreed.
"And how," Bugs concurred. "I mean, who puts pepperoni on a pizza?"
Wilville again clicked the button on his walkie-talkie, ordering, "Okay, stand by. And be sure to stick with those Kids no matter where they go!"
Wilville and Orber leaned in closer to me with smug expressions. "You see what will happen if you don't do what we say," Wilville snarled.
"Or if you try to get away," Orber snarled.
"Death by pepperoni," Wilville smiled wickedly, running a finger across his throat.
Clearly I had no choice but to agree to their nefarious plan. I only hoped that the others would start to wonder where I was.
"I wonder where P.T. is," Bugs said. "It shouldn't be taking him this long to find something for an old lady."
"I'll try calling him on the C.A.P.E.R. band radio," Doc suggested, and he picked up his radio and lifted the antenna. "Doc calling P.T. Come in, P.T. Over." After a moment Doc repeated this message, but there was still no answer.
"He said he was only going a short distance away," Bugs pointed out. "He can't be out of range."
"Did he give us the address of where he was going?" Doomsday asked.
"No, but he wrote it down on this notepad," Doc said, crossing to the desk to pick up the pad and a pencil. He quickly rubbed the pencil across the page to highlight the indentations of the letters I had written on the page above. "211 Flintberger Street. We'll drive the Big Bologna over there, check in with P.T., then head over to the Culchuck Woods."
"The Big Bologna?" Goldie asked, confused.
"Our van," Doomsday explained proudly.
"It's parked out front," Bugs added.
"Oh, I thought that was a catering truck," Goldie explained.
As they exited the police station, Doomsday stopped before climbing into the Big Bologna. He had noticed a pizza delivery car parked across the street and the man who had delivered the pizza to them earlier was sitting in the driver's seat watching them.
"That's funny," Doomsday sighed. "I wonder who the pizza is really for? Whoever it is . . . it's going to be cold by the time they get it."
The Big Bologna pulled up at 211 Flintberger Street a few minutes later. Everyone climbed out and gathered on the sidewalk, looking up at the run-down house.
"This is 211 all right," Bugs noted. "But it doesn't look like anyone lives here."
"Let's check it out," Doc suggested, and they approached the house.
Several knocks on the door later produced nothing. "This certainly seems strange," Bugs commented.
"Everything seems strange today," Doomsday nodded.
Doc tried the door and they were surprised when it opened. They stepped inside, looking around at the empty, dusty house.
"This can't be right," Bugs said as they looked around. "No one's been here in ages!"
Doc crouched down and examined the floor in the entrance way. "You're wrong, Bugs. Someone has been here. And I'm afraid that P.T. has been kidnapped."
"What??" Bugs, Doomsday and Goldie exclaimed.
"How do you know?" Bugs asked.
"It's evident from a myriad of clues," Doc explained. "The disturbed dust on the floor clearly shows two culprits' and P.T.'s footprints. This large area of disturbed dust in the foyer and the drag marks leading to the door, coupled with the vague trace of ether in the air . . . "
"Oh look!" Doomsday said, reaching down to pick up something. "P.T.'s C.A.P.E.R. band radio."
" . . . and that," Doc nodded. "It all tells a sordid story of deception and abduction."
"That's horrible!" Doomsday exclaimed.
"Despicable!" Bugs added.
"And incorrigible!" Doc agreed.
"But why would anyone want to kidnap P.T.?" Doomsday asked.
"And how are we going to find him?" Bugs asked.
"Now there are two missing people!" Goldie sighed. "Oh, Doc, what can we do?"
Doomsday had moved to the window and was looking outside. "I don't know about you but I'm going to try to convince that delivery man to let me buy that pizza from him. I'm hungry, and I can't stand to see a good pizza go to waste, even if it does have pepperoni on it."
"What are you talking about?" Bugs asked as they crossed to the window to look outside with Doomsday.
"See that pizza delivery car out front?" Doomsday asked. "That's the same guy who came to our door earlier. I saw him sitting outside the police station when we left."
"And now he's here?" Bugs asked.
"It's as if he were following us," Doc deduced.
"A spy!" Bugs exclaimed.
"Or someone who might know something that could help us," Doc hummed. "Come on."
They crossed the street and Doc knocked on the window of the pizza delivery car. The man rolled down his window and looked up at them.
"Excuse me, but is that pizza for us?" Doc asked.
"Not yet," the man answered.
"Not yet?" Bugs asked.
"I have specific instructions," the man explained. "I'm to be on call to deliver this pizza to you kids at any time today. If I get a call on this walkie talkie saying to commence, then I bring you the pizza. But you can't have it before then."
"But we're hungry now!" Doomsday complained.
"Sorry, kid. Those are my orders," the man apologized.
"Can you call out on that thing?" Bugs asked, indicating the walkie talkie.
"One way," the man explained, pointing to the earpiece. "I can hear them but they can't hear me."
"Was there any message that went with that order?" Doc asked. He looked at the others and suggested, "Maybe they've devised this as a bizarre means of delivering a ransom note?"
The pizza man flipped open his order book and read over one receipt. "No, no message. But my instructions are spelled out very clearly right here. Do not deliver until ordered . . . last minute cancellation possible . . . stay on call for possible later delivery. See? They ordered the deluxe, extra large with asparagus, pralines, strawberries, whipped cream. Oh, and extra poison on the pepperoni."
"Poisoned pepperoni?" Doc, Bugs, Doomsday and Goldie exclaimed.
"They were very specific about that!" the pizza man emphasizes.
"Who would want to poison us?" Bugs asked.
Doc thought for a moment, then asked, "Is there a name or address on that order?"
"No name," the man answered, "but there is an address. 4969 Dillinger Lane."
"A less than reputable neighborhood," Doc observed.
"But less than a mile from here," Bugs pointed out.
"Thanks for your help, sir," Doc said to the pizza man, handing him a couple of dollars. "Don't worry about the delivery. We got what we needed."
They started to walk back to the Big Bologna. "Hey, what about the pizza?" the man called after them.
Doomsday hurried back to the car to get the pizza. Doc and Bugs ran after him, grabbing him and pulling him away before he could take the box.
"I was gonna pick off the pepperoni!" Doomsday insisted as they pulled him to the Big Bologna. "Aw, come on, guys! Just a little bite! I'm starving!"
The ride was definitely unpleasant. I was stuffed into the back seat of the Wrong Brothers aging Gremlin. There was no way to get comfortable, especially considering that my hands were tied behind my back. I had shifted my position for at least the one hundredth time as we rattled through the entrance gates of Culchuck National Park.
"Okay, which way do we go now?" Wilville asked, since he was driving.
Orber looked around a moment, then stared straight ahead.
"What? What is it?" Wilville demanded.
"I . . . I forgot the map," Orber admitted.
"What?!" Wilville roared.
"I forgot the map!" Orber slapped his own forehead.
"Look, I made a checklist for this very reason!" Wilville snapped. "I was in charge of bringing the flashlights, the shovels, the picks, the kid . . . I even remembered to bring the walkie talkie!" Wilville waved the walkie talkie in Orber's face to emphasize the point. "All you had to do was remember the map. And you forgot it??"
"My tooth has been killing me ever since I pulled out that filling!" Orber complained. "It's very distracting!"
The brothers were arguing so passionately by now that the car was swerving wildly. I pushed myself forward to lean between the front seats. "Hey, I'm getting car sick back here! Can we just get there and get this over with?"
"We could, but stupid Orber forgot the map!" Wilville snapped.
"I didn't do it on purpose!" Orber insisted. "It's this tooth, you see . . . "
I let out a sigh of frustration. They had both been studying the map so intently when I'd awakened back in their kitchen I couldn't fathom that neither of them had memorized it. "Look, you showed me the map," I pointed out. "I remember where it is. In fact, if you'll just untie me, I'd be happy to drive."
"Never mind!" Wilville sneered, giving me a warning look in the rear view mirror as Orber pushed me back. "You just tell me where to turn . . . or I'll be making a little call to our friend, Mr. Pizza Delivery Man."
"Make a left at the next fork," I sighed. "And slow down, will you? The speed limit within the park is fifteen miles per hour."
"Isn't this breaking and entering?" Doomsday asked worriedly.
"Sshhh!" Bugs urged as he pushed open the window at 4969 Dillinger. "We don't know if they're here or not!"
"And we need the element of surprise," Doc added. "Bugs, go in and check it out."
"Right," Bugs said, and he hoisted himself up through the window and disappeared from view.
"Oh Doc, you're so brave," Goldie gushed, leaning against Doc. "Risking your friend's life to save another friend."
"All in a day's work," Doc assured her calmly.
The side door suddenly opened and Bugs leaned out. "There's no one here," he reported.
"Any sign of P.T.?" Doc asked.
"No, but you'd better come see this," Bugs suggested.
They entered the house and Bugs led them to the kitchen. It was in a state of disarray. A chair with loose ropes hanging from it was pulled away from a table. A large map lay across the table next to a black and white monitor, which had been left on.
"It looks like this is where they were holding P.T. all right," Doc observed, fingering one of the ropes. "But where could they have gone?"
Doomsday pulled the chair up to the table and started fiddling with a knob on the monitor.
"What are you doing?" Bugs asked.
"I was hoping to catch the early afternoon Klinsinger report," Doomsday explains. "But all I can get is this boring show about the C.A.P.E.R. room."
"What?" Bugs asked as they gathered around the monitor to look.
"That's the C.A.P.E.R. room!" Bugs exclaimed.
"I didn't know they'd made a show about us," Doomsday said. "But I'm afraid it won't be very successful unless something happens soon."
"When did we get a video camera installed in the C.A.P.E.R. room?" Bugs asked Doc.
"Oh, they put it in a few weeks ago," Doomsday replied.
"Who did?" Doc asked.
"Some guy came by and said he was there to install our new closed-circuit camera system," Doomsday explained calmly.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Bugs asked.
"I thought you knew," Doomsday said. "He said the police were installing them in every room."
"The police wouldn't install a camera in the C.A.P.E.R. room," Doc pointed out. "It's supposed to be a secret."
"A secret that every old lady in town knows about," Doomsday added.
"Make that fake old ladies," Bugs corrected as he held up the old lady's wig. "P.T. was duped for sure."
"But we still don't know what it is they're after," Doc said with frustration.
"Or where they've gone," Doomsday added.
"Maybe this map will give us a clue," Bugs suggested, looking at the map on the table.
The others leaned in over him, studying the map. "This is a map of the Culchuck National Park," Doc noticed.
"But what's this big X here?" Bugs asked.
"Wait a minute!" Goldie exclaimed as she pulled the map out from under them to study it. "I know this map! This is my map!"
"Your map?" Doc, Doomsday and Bugs asked with surprise.
"Well, my father's map," Goldie corrected. "I needed money to help pay for the investigation to find my father. I was going to hire a private detective but they cost money. So I sold a few of my father's old surveying maps to two men. The one said he was very interested in cartography."
"When was this?" Bugs asked.
"A week ago," Goldie answered. "In fact, I heard from them again just yesterday. They knew why I needed the money, so they strongly suggested I go to the police station and tell them my story again. They said they thought the police might be able to help me this time."
"The connections here are getting more and more mysterious," Doc hummed in thought.
"It's making me delirious," Bugs added.
"And I'm just furious," Doomsday scowled as he looked into the refrigerator. "They don't have any food in here at all!"
Doc took the map from Goldie and studied it again. After a moment, he raised his eyes, which were filled with strange mixture of understanding and confusion. "Fellas, this isn't just any map. If I'm correct, this map will lead us straight to the Lost Gold Mine."
"The haunted Lost Gold Mine?" Doomsday asked nervously.
"That remains to be seen," Doc stated. "But I have a feeling that if we follow this map, we'll find those men . . . and hopefully P.T."
How about that? Doc, Bugs and Doomsday were now racing to my rescue! Of course I didn't know this. But I had every confidence that eventually they'd find me. At this point I was enduring a rather lengthy hike up a very obscure and overgrown trail to the foot of Mount Culchuck. With my hands tied behind my back and the brothers following behind me there really wasn't much chance for escape, so I continued to bide my time.
At that moment the brothers were in the midst of a new argument. They had decided not to bother bringing the shovels and picks with them until they had checked out the mine. Of course, not having memorized the map they'd obviously forgotten how long of a walk it would be, and now they were cursing each other for not bringing the items along and debating about going back for them.
"You just didn't want to carry the shovels," Wilville accused his brother.
"Well, you just didn't want to carry the picks," Orber countered.
I stopped and they almost walked right into me. "What's the idea?" Wilville asked angrily.
"We're here," I answered calmly.
Sure enough, we were at the shored up entrance of a rather sorry-looking old mine.
"We found it!" Wilville gasped in awe, staring at the opening in the mountainside. "We found the legendary Lost Gold Mine of Culchuck Woods!"
"You found it?" I murmured under my breath.
Wilville and Orber shared a moment of celebration, then turned on me. "Okay, no funny business now. You're going to find that gold for us!"
"In there?" I asked. "You want me to go in there? It's got to be violating every safety rule on record!"
"Don't cross us!" Wilville threatened, waving the walkie talkie at me. "You do as we say or you know what!"
I didn't bother to point out that we were hopelessly out of range for their walkie talkie to even work any more. No sense making them more angry when I was trapped with them in such an isolated place. "You want me to find the gold?" I asked.
"Yeah!" Orber smiled.
"Did you bring any gold with you? Seymour needs to be able to smell what you're looking for to find it," I reminded them.
"Who's Seymour?" Orber asked. "Say, have you got someone else with you?"
"Relax. He's named his nose Seymour for some weird reason," Wilville explained.
The brothers seemed baffled for a moment. Then Orber exclaimed, "Oh!" and proceeded to pull the filling from his tooth.
He was about to stick it under Seymour but I adamantly protested. "Get that thing away from me! The only thing I'd be able to locate from that is the inside of your smelly mouth!"
Wilville snapped his fingers. "The ring! He's got a ring we can use!"
"Sure!" I said. "Untie my hands and I'll use that."
"Never mind!" Wilville sneered, and he ran around behind me and started pulling my C.A.P.E.R. ring from my finger, and not having much consideration for the poor digit, I might add.
"Ow! Watch it!" I complained.
"It's hard to remove," Wilville grunted. "It won't stop vibrating!"
Wilville finally managed to wrench the ring from my finger and stepped back in front of me, shoving the shaking device under Seymour. "Smell it!" he ordered.
Seymour took a long sniff and got the scent. Much to my surprise, Wilville proceeded to pocket the ring. "Hey, you can't take that!" I insisted. "That's exclusive C.A.P.E.R. property!"
"Trust me, you won't be needing it any more," Wilville assured me as he pushed me toward the mine. "Now get moving!"
At that moment, the Big Bologna was racing toward the Culchuck Woods National Park. Bugs was driving as Doc, Doomsday and Goldie sat in the back. Doc was studying the map.
"It's interesting that your father would happen to have a map to the Lost Gold Mine," Doc noted.
"He had maps to every part of the park," Goldie explained. "It was his job to survey and map the entire area."
Goldie's eyes opened wide as she spotted something peeking out of the tank of water behind Doc.
"Don't look now," she whispered, "but I think there's a dolphin in your van."
"Oh, that's Mr. Featherstone," Doomsday explained as the tiny shark popped up out of the water. "He's our RADAR system."
"He'll help us to find the way," Doc added.
"We're just entering the park!" Bugs called from the front seat. "Which way do I turn?"
Mr. Featherstone looked at the map in Doc's hands and let out a series of strange noises.
"Got it!" Bugs calls. "Left at the next fork!"
"How can Mr. Featherstone know where we're going?" Goldie asked.
"He has a keen sense about these things," Doomsday explained. "Plus, he knows how to read maps."
Mr. Featherstone nodded vigorously.
"Oh Doc, you're so clever to have such a smart shark working for you!" Goldie swooned.
Mr. Featherstone made a move to bite Goldie's hand as she placed it around Doc, but Doomsday motioned for him to stop. Frustrated, Mr. Featherstone grunted more sounds.
"Okay, okay! But we're in a hurry!" Bugs cried from the driver's seat.
"What did he say?" Goldie asked.
"He was reminding us that the speed limit within the park is fifteen miles per hour," Doomsday interpreted.
"Sorry about this, Seymour," I apologized as I proceeded cautiously into the mine with the brothers following close behind me. I have to tell you that I was becoming more nervous the further we went. All around us were the sounds of soft creaking and cracking, as if the entire thing might give way at any time.
"You know, it would be a lot easier to search if my hands weren't tied," I called behind me.
"Keep moving!" Wilville threatened.
"What was that?" Orber asked nervously after a particularly loud creak from a strained timber.
"It's nothing," Wilville insisted.
"They say this mine is haunted, you know," Orber almost whispered.
"Orber, don't start with me," Wilville warned. "We went over this before . . . that haunted stuff is all a bunch of hooey. Just think about how rich we're gonna be!"
As we moved quietly forward, I was reading Seymour loud and clear. There was no scent of gold anywhere in the vicinity. Not even coming from the deepest recesses of the mine. But I certainly didn't want to tell them that. I knew they would never believe me. I had to keep them occupied . . . somehow.
Suddenly I stopped. We were not too far inside the cave and there was still enough light filtering down to us from the opening to be able to see without flashlights. Seymour was actually picking up on something. I looked around, sniffing to try to pinpoint the source, which I determined was somewhere below my feet, buried in the dirt. It certainly wasn't the mother lode, but it might keep the brothers busy for a while.
I marked the spot with my shoe and motioned to it. "Here."
"Here?" Wilville asked as if he hadn't heard correctly.
"Right here," I confirmed.
"Right here what?" Wilville asked impatiently.
"Dig here," I said.
"With what? We didn't bring any shovels or picks!" Orber reminded us.
"Shut up," Wilville snapped angrily.
"It's not too far down," I explained. "You can dig with your hands."
Wilville eyed me questioningly and then a smile crossed his face. "You dig!"
"Okay, fine," I agreed. "Untie me and I'll dig."
Wilville's expression changed from smug to suspicious. "I'm not stupid, you know!" he remarked, grabbing me and pushing me back against the opposite wall where I was forced into a sitting position. "You sit! We'll dig!"
Wilville returned to Orber, grumbling under his breath about how stupid I was to underestimate him. They both got down on their hands and knees and started digging in the spot I had marked. Wilville continuously looked over his shoulder at me to make sure I wasn't going anywhere.
The brothers grew more intense about their work as they dug down with their hands, throwing dirt up in flurries around them.
I couldn't see any chance to escape, even with the brothers busily digging. I knew that even if I could sneak out of the mine without their noticing, it would be difficult to run through the woods with my hands tied behind my back.
Suddenly Wilville cried out, "I've got it! I've got it! Gold!"
The brothers jumped to their feet and Orber shuddered with excitement as Wilville brushed the dirt from the item he was holding. In the dim light he was forced to lift it up to his face to identify it, dangling it in front of his eyes.
"What is it, Wilville?" Orber asked.
"It's . . . it's a watch," Wilville sneered angrily. "It's just a pocket watch!"
Wilville threw the watch to his brother and advanced on me, pulling me to my feet by my shirt and then pushing me against the dirt wall. "A watch?"
"A gold watch," I corrected.
"Who do you think you're fooling?" Wilville snarled.
"You told me to find gold," I pointed out. "You didn't say what kind."
Wilville was not happy. I could tell by the way his grip tightened on my shirt and his hot breath pounded my face with every word he spat. "Listen, kid . . . I'm not fooling around. Either you point us to the real gold or I'll . . . "
His threat was interrupted by a deep, low moaning wail coming from further inside the mine. We all froze, unable to conceive of what could have caused that kind of sound.
"There! There, you see?" Orber voice quaked. "What did I tell you? The mine . . . it's haunted!"
I felt Wilville's grip on my shirt loosen and could tell he was rattled, but he wasn't about to show it. He turned to Orber and shouted, "Shut up! There is no such thing as . . . "
The wailing began again, then turned into a blood-curdling screech. I had never heard such a terrifying noise in my life and I'll admit that it even made me nervous!
Orber whimpered and then lunged at his brother, clinging to him in fear. Wilville had to release me to push his brother away.
"The ghost! The ghost is coming! It's going to get us!" Orber cried, nearly hysterical.
"There is no ghost!" Wilville insisted as he grabbed Orber by the jacket and shook him. "And even if there was, there's no way it could 'get us!'"
The brothers were now facing each other, so they didn't notice the tiny spark which flew over their heads and landed between us and the mine entrance. It took a moment of me squinting at the small cylinder-shaped silhouette with the sparkling end before it registered.
"It could if it uses dynamite!" I cried.
The brothers turned to see the small charge of dynamite on the ground; its short fuse dwindling quickly.
Having left the Big Bologna at the point in the road where the Wrong Brothers' Gremlin was parked, Doc, Bugs, Doomsday and Goldie were now making their way up the rugged trail to the foot of Mount Culchuck. Doc was on his C.A.P.E.R. band radio, talking to Sgt. Vinton.
"But I don't understand, Doc," Sgt. Vinton was complaining. "What does a lost gold mine have to do with a closed circuit television set? Any what do you mean P.T.'s missing?"
"There's no time to explain everything, Sgt. Vinton," Doc said. "Just follow the left fork of the road once you're inside the Culchuck National Park and look for the Big Bologna and a Gremlin."
"What was that?" another voice asked over the radio. "Are they saying they've seen a gremlin at the lost gold mine?"
"Is that Klinsinger?" Doc asked into the radio.
"Yeah, he's looking for another scoop," Sgt. Vinton complained. "Look, I don't know what's happening but we'll be there as soon as possible."
"Thank you, Sgt. Vinton," Doc finished.
"I just love the way you speak with such authority," Goldie smiled at Doc, then suddenly she let out a scream which made everyone jump.
"Now he's got her screaming for him!" Bugs moaned, trying to compose himself.
"No, there!" Goldie cried out, pointing at the trail ahead.
They turned to see two huge black bears lumbering toward them.
"Oh Doc, what are we going to do?" Goldie cried, clinging to him for protection.
"It's okay," Doomsday assured her, and he walked toward the bears, one of which reared up on his hind legs as he approached.
"What is he doing?" Goldie cried.
Even Doc and Bugs cringed slightly at the sight of the huge bear towering high above Doomsday. The bear raised a huge paw and brought it down toward Doomsday, who lifted his hand to meet the bear's in a strange, uneven kind of high-five.
"Won't those bears tear him apart?" Goldie asked.
"Not unless he insults their relatives," Doc answered.
"You see, Doomsday can talk to animals," Bugs explained.
"No!" Goldie scoffed.
"Yes!" Doc and Bugs confirmed.
They noticed that Doomsday was motioning for them to join him with the bears. Doc and Bugs walked over. Goldie followed but stayed close behind Doc.
"I explained to them that we're looking for our friend," Doomsday explained. "They told me there's been some strange things going on at the abandoned mine at the end of this trail."
"Sounds grizzly," Bugs interjected.
"Thank them and tell them we'll check it out," Doc said gratefully.
Doomsday scratched the bears behind their ears and talked to them some more as Doc, Goldie and Bugs took a few steps up the trail from them.
"What do you think, Doc?" Bugs asked.
"I think we should proceed with caution," Doc answered. "We'll move slowly and quietly so they won't obtain the upper hand. After all, we wouldn't want to telegraph our approach with any sudden or loud noises."
All at once they heard the unmistakable sound of an explosion coming from the foot of the mountain. The bears cried out and darted behind a tree, cowering with fear. Doomsday hurriedly tried to comfort them then ran to the others.
"Are we still going with the slow and quiet approach?" Bugs worriedly asked Doc.
"No, I think now we'll go with the 'Let's get the heck up there and see what's going on right now' approach!" Doc stated, and they began running up the trail.
Actually, the explosion could have been much worse. The charge of dynamite had been small but effective. Fortunately we'd had enough time to duck back further into the mine and take shelter behind some jutting timbers. Now the air was filled with choking dust, Over my coughing I could hear the brothers coughing across from me.
Slowly the dust began to settle and the dim light from the entrance managed to filter down to us once more. But the creaking sounds had increased and I could see showers of dirt falling from the ceiling at the place where the explosion had occurred.
Without hesitation, I scrambled for daylight. I could feel dirt sprinkle down on me as I ran past the sagging timbers. The mine entrance was within my sight when I stopped to look back. I had expected to see the brothers coming after me, but instead I could hear their voices still well within the mine.
"The ghost is going to kill us!" Orber was screaming hysterically.
"This is all your fault!" Wilville was shouting at him. "You and your talk about ghosts! You conjured it up!"
Sure I could have escaped. But that wouldn't be keeping with the C.A.P.E.R. code. Even if they were dastardly scoundrels, I couldn't very well just leave them down there.
"Hey!" I shouted back to them.
They stopped fighting at the sound of my voice, but before I could call again the timber between us gave a loud crack. Instinct took over and I ran forward, throwing my back against the sagging beam against the wall. I braced myself with my legs to shore it up momentarily. "Hurry up and get out of there!" I called, realizing I couldn't hold this weight for long, especially with my hands still tied behind my back.
The brothers ran forward, scrambling past me and up to the entrance without so much as a look back. I took a deep breath, ready to bolt to safety myself, when a noise caught my attention. It was a strange moaning sound like before, only not as frightening. I glanced back into the mine and was startled to see something moving within. It was an odd, bent figure, obscured by darkness but unmistakably human in shape.
"Come on!" I called out. "Get out of there!" But the figure didn't move.
Suddenly I felt the beam shifting behind me, falling toward my left. I knew I couldn't hold it back any longer, but escaping towards the entrance would be impossible. I could never launch myself far enough to clear the beams. I did the only thing I could, and that was to hurl myself as far to the right as I could as the timbers finally gave way and came crashing down.
Well, things are certainly looking bleak, aren't they, C.A.P.E.R. fans? But never fear! My courageous compatriots, not to mention Goldie, had nearly reached the mine. But little did they know they were in for a bit of a confrontation.
As Doc, Bugs, Doomsday and Goldie rounded the bend just below the mine entrance, they were surprised to see two men running toward them and they stopped running. The men were equally surprised and also stopped. And there they stood, facing each other at twenty paces.
"The Wrong Brothers!" Doc, Bugs and Doomsday gasped.
"Tadaa!" Wilville and Orber automatically responded.
"That's them!" Goldie cried. "Those are the men that bought my father's map!"
"And what a perfect little distraction for our foolish heroes you did make, my dear!" Wilville sneered.
Goldie clung to Doc with indignation, but Doc was quick to defend her. "Don't worry, Goldie. We know that you were an unwilling pawn in their evil scheme. You couldn't have known that when they called to suggest you go to the police station that the police would undoubtedly turn the case over to us, increasing their chances of getting P.T. on his own."
"But now that we're here, your evil plans are foiled!" Bugs assured them.
"All wrapped up in aluminum!" Doomsday added for emphasis.
"That's what you think!" Wilville sneered before leaning back to his brother and whispering nervously, "How do we get past them?"
"Leave it to me!" Orber smiled. He walked past his brother and began advancing on our group in a menacing fashion.
Doc, Bugs and Doomsday held their ground and Goldie ducked behind them, but Doc held his arms out and warned, "Watch it, guys. We don't know what he plans to do."
"What I plan to do . . . is have you . . . watch it!" Orber shouted, reaching into his pocket for something.
In an instant Orber had lunged forward and was dangling the tarnished pocket watch in front of them. He began swinging it back and forth slowly, speaking to them in a sing-song voice. "That's right . . . follow the watch with your eyes . . . you're getting sleepy! Sleeeeeeppyyyy!"
Bugs and Doomsday both started to nod off, but Doc was too smart for such a trick. Yay for Doc! Instead he kept his eyes fixed firmly on Orber.
"How did you ever learn about hypnosis?" Doc asked.
"I happen to be very interested in psychological matters of the subconscious," Orber bragged.
Doc quickly snatched the watch from Orber's hand, snapping Bugs and Doomsday out of their stupor in an instant. Orber was startled by the sudden motion and jumped back.
"Where is P.T.?" Doc demanded to know.
"It wasn't our fault!" Orber crumbled. "The ghost got him!"
"Ghost?" they gasped.
Wilville had a flash of inspiration and hurried next to his brother, fishing into his pocket and pulling out P.T.'s C.A.P.E.R. ring.
"Hey, you aren't supposed to have that!" Doomsday cried. "That's exclusive C.A.P.E.R. property!"
"Okay then . . . here!" Wilville smirked, and he suddenly turned and threw the ring away with all his might.
Coughing from the dirt and dust, I slowly struggled to sit up. I was surrounded by darkness and the sound of settling dirt and debris. As I twisted my body to lay on my side, I realized my left leg was trapped in a gap between the fallen timbers. And with my hands tied behind my back, it was pretty much impossible for me to work it loose.
I lay still for a moment, trying to catch my breath and think through the situation. A soft noise close by caught my attention and I propped myself up on one elbow and froze, straining to listen. After a long moment of anticipation, I had almost convinced myself that nothing was there.
Suddenly a sparking blue and white light, accompanied by a hot sizzling sound, erupted next to my head. I let out a cry of surprise until the flame settled on the match and I found myself looking at a dirty, beard-encircled smile, surrounded by an equally dirty and wrinkled face.
"Ha!" the man laughed at me, using the match to light a candle he was holding.
I stared at the face intently before stating the obvious. "You're not a ghost!"
"No, but you're a claim jumper!" the man snarled. "Get outta here!"
"Sure," I happily agreed. "If you could just untie my hands I'd be happy to leave!"
The man sat back on his haunches and looked down at me before laughing again. "Ha! And let you steal my gold?"
"What gold?" I asked.
"The fortune in gold hidden in my mine here," the man answered, clambering to his feet.
"There is no gold here," I informed the man gently.
"Poppycock!" The man's voice was gravelly, as if he hadn't spoken to anyone in years. "You can't fool me! You and your cohorts came here to steal my gold! But you didn't get away with it, did ya? I scared them away! And I'll make sure you don't get my gold, either!"
"They weren't my cohorts and there is no gold here," I explained calmly.
"I've been looking for that gold for over a decade now," the man sighed in a sad voice. "I've given up everything for it and you're not going to come along and take it from me!"
"I don't want any gold," I assured him. "I just want to get free so I can catch those men you scared away. They're notorious crooks!" It dawned on me that the man didn't seem too concerned about the debris blocking the entrance. "Is there another way out of here?" I asked hopefully.
The man turned and started walking away, laughing. "Maybe there is. But it won't do you any good. For all I care you can just stay there and rot. Try to steal my gold . . . no one can have my gold!"
As the candle light moved further away, my hopes sunk. "Wait! Come back!" I called. But there was no reply apart from the man's cackling laugh echoing as it faded away.
"Noooo!" Doc and Doomsday cried as they watched the C.A.P.E.R. ring flying toward the underbrush.
But suddenly there was a blur of motion and Bugs launched himself into a run, following the path of the ring. In what was a flash (but still somehow seemed to play out in slow motion,) Bugs launched himself in a fantastic leap, catching the ring in midair.
Doc, Doomsday and Goldie all cheered the magnificent feat.
"That was incredible, Bugs!" Doomsday smiled as Bugs rejoined them.
"Oh Doc, you were so smart to have Bugs leap for the ring like that!" Goldie bubbled.
"Huh?" Bugs asked, not sure he heard her right.
Doc suddenly looked around and realized the Wrong Brothers had slipped past them and were now running away down the trail.
"Hey!" Doc said. "They're getting away!"
"We have to catch them!" Bugs agreed, and he and Doc were about to take chase when Doomsday surprisingly stopped them.
"We have to find P.T.!" Doomsday reminded them.
"But the crooks . . . !" Bugs protested.
"It's okay, they won't get away," Doomsday said with unusual certainty.
Bugs and Doc looked confused but Doomsday was uncharacteristically adamant, saying, "Trust me. Come on!" As Doomsday headed for the top of the trail, the others shrugged and followed.
Reaching the entrance of the mine, they entered cautiously. "Looks like there's been a cave-in," Doc noted from the dust still lingering in the air.
They eyed each other, realizing what that might mean. As they slowly walked into the cave they began calling my name.
"P.T.?! P.T.?! Are you in here? Can you hear us??"
My eyes had adjusted to the darkness again and I could just make out small spots of light filtering in through the uneven debris blocking the passage. A moment later I heard voices and pretty soon I could make them out and knew they were calling my name. And, oh, what a welcome sound that was!
"Guys! I'm over here!" I called.
I could hear scuffling on the other side of the debris and Doc's somewhat muffled voice called, "P.T.! Are you okay?"
"I'm okay, but my leg is caught between a couple of fallen timbers," I answered.
"Okay, hold on!" Doc called. "We'll have you out in a minute!"
Doc stepped back from the debris and said, "Okay, Bugs. Do your thing."
"Which thing?" Bugs asked.
"Your super-strength thing," Doomsday explained.
"Oh, that thing," Bugs realized, "Okay. Stand back guys!"
Bugs looked at his hands in the dim light to summon his super-strength. He then launched forward and grabbed one of the fallen beams, calling out, "Hang on, P.T.!" With a groan he lifted the heavy beam up.
As soon as I felt the weight lift from my leg I pulled it free. "Okay, good!" I called, pushing myself away from the debris and struggling to my feet. "Thanks, Bugs!"
"Give me a minute and I'll have this cleared," Bugs called as he continued to work.
I had just gotten to my feet when I saw a light and a voice suddenly screamed, "Hey!" right in my ear.
"Oh! Don't do that!" I cried to the man, who had returned.
"More claim jumpers!" the man shouted. "Well, I'll fix them!" He ran to the blockage where we could hear Bugs working and shouted, "Boo!"
"What was that?" Doc called.
"The ghost!" Doomsday cried nervously.
"It's not a ghost!" I called back. "It's just some crazy old man!"
"Hey, I'm only 41!" the man protested. "And you kids better get out of here! Shoo! Scat! Git!"
"Look, calm down," I urged the man gently.
"Don't you tell me to calm down!" the man shouted. "I can take ya! I can take on all of ya! Why, by the time I'm done with you, you'll all look like nothing but a bunch of smashed overripe ba . . . "
"Don't say that word!" I cried.
"What word?" the man asked.
"Yeah, what word?" Bugs asked as he lifted a beam over his head, now able to peer in at us.
"The word that you can never say to Bugs because it upsets him very much," I said quietly to the man.
"What word?" the man asked again.
"Yeah, what word?" Bugs demanded to know.
"That word you were about to say," I told the man.
"What word?!" Bugs cried.
"What, you mean 'bananas?'" the man asked.
"Bana . . . na . . . ba . . . BA . . NAN . . . A . . !!!"
With my hands tied behind my back I was powerless to stop the man from saying the word! Bugs started going crazy! He convulsed and screamed, completely forgetting that he was holding that heavy beam over his head. We all cringed as the timbers and dirt came crashing down all around him.
When the mine grew quiet again and some of the dust had settled, I could see that the passageway was partially cleared. Doc, Doomsday and Goldie were standing across from us. But Bugs was nowhere to be seen . . . there was only a pile of dirt and debris where he'd been standing!
"Bugs!" I cried out.
"Bugs!" Doc cried out.
"Bugs!" Doomsday cried out.
Suddenly a small patch of dirt shifted slightly and much to our relief Bugs slowly rose from the debris. He shook his head, sending a cloud of dirt flying, then looked at us with confusion. "What's happening?" he asked.
"Not much," we all answered.
"I am so glad to see you guys," I sighed with relief.
"We were worried about you, P.T.!" Doomsday assured him.
"Yeah, we weren't going to let those rotten Wrong Brothers do you wrong!" Bugs agreed.
"Speaking of the Wrong Brothers, we might still be able to catch up to them!" Doc pointed out.
We hurried from the mine and were about to head down the trail when the man's voice called after us.
"And stay out!" he warned. "You crazy kids! No one's getting my gold, you hear me? No one!!"
We stopped and looked back. "What are we going to do about him?" Doomsday asked.
"We can't very well just leave him here," I said, and we walked back to him.
"Don't make me have to scare you away again!" the man warned us.
"Are you really the legendary ghost of the lost gold mine?" Doomsday asked with awe.
"Pretty clever, huh?" the man bragged. "I came up with that as a means to scare any potential claim jumpers away! Got pretty good at terrifying folks, too!"
"We don't have time for this," Doc said, absent-mindedly pulling the pocket watch out to look at it. "The Wrong Brothers could be miles away by now."
"Hey, that's my watch!" the man suddenly shouted, snatching the watch away from Doc. "I lost that ages ago! Thought I'd never see it again!" He eyed us warily, then snarled. "So you are here to steal from me! I knew it! You're nothing but a bunch of lousy claim jumpers! Well, I'll show you!" He readied himself and then hit us with his very best moan.
"I'm sorry, but you don't exactly inspire much dread in the light of day," Bugs sighed.
The man looked startled, then eyed Bugs even more suspiciously and asked, "How do you know my name?"
"What? Day?" Bugs asked.
"No," Doc said, stepping forward. "Gentlemen, I think we've solved the case."
"Yeah, we found P.T.!" Doomsday confirmed, then realized, "But we already knew that."
"Not that case," Doc sighed, and he stepped toward the man. "May I present to you . . . Mr. Dred Locks."
We all gasped with surprise.
"I haven't heard that name in years," Mr. Locks sighed sadly.
Goldie stepped forward. "Daddy?" she asked tentatively.
"I haven't heard that name in years either," Mr. Locks added.
"Daddy, it's me! Goldie!"
Mr. Locks eyes focused on the young woman in front of him then welled with tears. His hands trembled and the tarnished watch dropped from his quivering fingers. "Goldie? My little Goldie?"
"Oh Daddy!" Goldie cried, and they embraced.
"It's so touching!" Doomsday sobbed, dropping his head on Bug's shoulder.
"There, there," Bugs comforted Doomsday, patting him on the back.
"Daddy, where have you been?" Goldie cried. "Why did you leave us?"
"I wanted to give your mother and you the best of everything," Mr. Locks explained. "But I couldn't do that on just a surveyor's salary. Then when I accidentally stumbled across the legendary Lost Gold Mine of Culchuck, well . . . I became obsessed with finding its treasures. I did it all for you, honey. I just wanted to be able to give you everything you could ever want."
"But all I ever wanted was to have my Daddy back," Goldie explained tearfully.
Mr. Locks sighed sadly, then assured her, "Then you will. I'll come home and I'll never leave you or your mother again. I've already wasted too much of my life on this foolhardy dream."
By this time we all had tears in our eyes. Except for Doc. Pragmatic as ever, he stepped forward to retrieve the fallen pocket watch from the ground. "You know, I think there's a lesson here," he stated. "You can spend your whole life looking for treasures you don't have, but you might just end up losing the treasures you already own."
Doc handed the watch back to Mr. Locks and stepped away as the father and daughter embraced again.
"That was beautiful, Doc," I sighed emotionally.
"Yes, but we really should start out after the Wrong Brothers," Doc suggested.
"You're right!" I said, remembering. "Those thieving scoundrels have my C.A.P.E.R. ring!"
"Oh, we got that back already," Bugs explained, pulling the ring from his pocket.
"Oh great! Thanks guys!" I sighed with relief. "Untie me so I can put it back on."
Bugs was about to untie me when we heard voices crying out in distress from somewhere down the trail.
"What's that?" Bugs asked.
"We'd better go check it out," Doc suggested.
We followed the trail down the hill as the sounds became louder, Finally we reached a clearing where we beheld a most unusual sight. Sgt. Vinton was standing with Klinsinger just off the trail looking up into a tree. At the foot of the tree were the two black bears.
"What's happening here, Sgt. Vinton?" Doc asked.
"That's what we're trying to figure out," Sgt. Vinton said, motioning to the top of the tree.
We looked up and could see the Wrong Brothers sitting in the branches above the bears. Their clothes were torn and they were arguing with each other again.
"I told you to bring the bear repellant!" Wilville scolded.
"You were in charge of bringing the bear repellant! I was only supposed to bring the map!" Orber sobbed.
Doc and Bugs looked to Doomsday for an explanation.
"I asked the bears to stop anyone who looked suspicious," Doomsday explained. "I knew they wouldn't let the Wrong Brothers get away."
"Good work, boys," Sgt. Vinton congratulated us. "And I see you found P.T.! Excellent!"
"Who is this?" Klinsinger asked, motioning to Mr. Locks.
"This is the famous ghost of the Lost Gold Mine," Doc explained.
"He's the ghost?" Klinsinger asked in shock.
"Well, he never really was a ghost," Bugs clarified.
"He just liked to pretend to be one," Doomsday nodded.
Mr. Locks demonstrated with a moan.
"Well, that's just great!" Klinsinger complained. "I come up here hoping to get an exclusive story about a gremlin and what do I find? I find out that I have to give a retraction instead! Thanks a lot, guys!" He stalked away in frustration.
"Well, at least that will fill out another Klinsinger report," Doomsday called after him, trying to lift his morale.
"We'll get the fire brigade out here to get the Wrong Brothers down," Sgt. Vinton said to us.
"There's a fire outpost not far from here," Mr. Locks informed him. "Goldie and I will go alert them now."
"You boys did a good job," Sgt. Vinton told us.
"Doc certainly did," Goldie smiles, giving him a hug. "Oh, how can I ever thank you?"
"I think you've been doing a pretty good job of that all day," Bugs noted, still knocking dirt out of his ears.
"Come on, Goldie," Mr. Locks said to his daughter. "Let's go."
"I think our job here is done," Doc stated as he took Goldie's hand, then he addressed the rest of us. "Let's go, guys."
Isn't it great? Everything worked out perfectly! I knew I could count on my fellow C.A.P.E.R. team members to come through for me. Not only that, but we solved two cases in one day! Two family members had been happily reunited . . . two very bad men would be heading to prison . . . "
I turned to see everyone walking away down the trail, Doc happily singing to Goldie.
" . . . and if it wouldn't be too much trouble, would someone please untie me already?" I called, hurrying to catch up with them.