The Brock Boys were getting impatient as they awaited the fence store owner's return. Bric checked his watch, then cupped his hands to peer through the window of the shop, as if the owner might somehow materialize inside.

"What's keeping him?" Brac complained, shifting his hands under the machine, which was getting heavy.

Suddenly they heard a loud but distinctive, "Psst!"

Bric and Brac looked at one another with confusion, wondering at first if one of them had somehow made the noise. Then it repeated, the same low, insistent, "Psssst!"

They looked in the direction of the sound and saw a hand motioning for them to come around the corner of the store. They eyed each other questioningly, then Bric took the lead as they walked over.

When they rounded the corner they were surprised to find a bent old man smiling up at them. His white hair was disheveled and his white beard and mustache were also unkempt. He wore a long coat which hung down almost to his feet, which he held close to him as if he might suddenly pop it open and try to sell them something illicit.

"Psst!" the old man said again, quite unnecessarily.

"Yeah? What d'ya want?" Bric asked.

The old man looked around as if checking to see that the coast were clear, then addressed them in a thick, indecipherable accent. "You no want wait? I give you good deal, yes?"

Bric was the one to look around him now. "What do you mean, old man?"

"I give better price!" the old man smiled. "I do you good deal! Better than store!"

Brac seemed intrigued and stepped toward the old man, lowering his voice and asking, "Do you sell fences, too?"

"Yeah, sure, why not?" the old man scoffed. "I sell you white picket fence for you pretty front yard, 'ey? What? We cut through the metaphors. What you got that's hot? What you need to unload? I give you good price! See, my office . . . " He motioned to the open air of the alleyway. "No overhead!" The old man laughed a drawn wheezing laugh, then coughed.

"I don't think you could afford what we got, old man," Bric sneered.

"Hey, you think I don't know my business?" the old man asked. "You, of all people . . . the sons of the famous Brocks? Hey, I was dealing with your mama and papa when you were only a gleam in their shifty eyes. 'Ey, you got big reputation to live up to! You impress me, no? So, yes, you sell? I pay! What you got?"

Flattered by the old man's words, Bric motioned for Brac to show the machine to him.

"Ah!" the old man's eyes lit up with excitement. "Is very nice! Is very shiny! What is it?"

"It's a shrink ray machine," Bric whispered in the old man's ear.

"A shrink ray machine!" the old man exclaimed loudly. Bric and Brac both shushed him, looking around nervously.

"Keep it down!" Bric warned.

"A shrink ray machine," the old man cooed, running a hand across the top of the machine. "What you do with it?"

"You shrink things," Bric explained.

"Ah! Ah!" the old man smiled. "You shrink things!" After a pause he asked, "What for you do that?"

"Listen, old man, this machine will make you a fortune!" Bric smirked.

"Ooh, a fortune!" the old man repeated. Then after a moment he asked, "How?"

"Well, for instance, if you wanted to rob someone, you could shrink them!" Bric offered. "Then they wouldn't be able to put up a fight."

The old man was looking at the boys with questioning eyes. "You want rob someone? You shrink them? Then you make what they own shrink, too? How you rob them, then? What? You steal their teeny, tiny wallets and they're teeny, tiny watches and their teeny, tiny jewelery?"

The Brock Boys found they had no answer to this question.

"It has other uses," Bric tried to recover.

"Yeah," Brac tried to think. "Like if you want to rob a bank. You can shrink everyone in the bank!"

"And you shrink the man who can open the safe?" the old man scoffed. "How he can open the safe? And you shrink the people with the keys to cash drawers? How then you open the cash drawers?"

Bric and Brac looked confused and frustrated.

"You see, you want get more money," the old man continued. "This make you less money! You want more gold? This make less gold! What good is it? What can you use it for?"

Bric shuffled his feet, looking down. Brac stared upwards, trying to think of an answer to the old man's question.

"You try sell me this?" the old man scolded. "Is useless, this machine! I cannot believe it! You steal something that's no good! Maybe you take out insides, you make nice radio! What for else is good for?"

Bric turned to Brac and slapped his arm, snapping, "This was your idea!"

"Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time!" Brac sighed.

"You shame you parents! You should go on unemployment! Is no good, this machine!" the old man continued. "This machine, I no give you thin dime! Is no good! I save you humiliation in store! I would no take it even if pay me!"

The Brock Boys were utterly defeated. "That's the last time I let you talk me into wasting our time stealing something technical!" Bric complained, turning to walk away in disgust.

"Wait, Bric! I didn't . . . !" Brac began, then he shoved the machine at the old man.

"You no foist off worthless machine on me!" the old man cried, backing away. "I no pay you for useless piece of junk!"

"Just take it, old man," Brac insisted, shoving it into the old man's hands. "Make a radio out of it!" Brac turned and ran after his brother, shouting, "Hey wait! Don't be mad! How was I supposed to know it was worthless to us?"

The old man watched as the Brock Boys got into their car and drove away. He then leaned against the building and sighed. Or rather, I should say I leaned against the building and sighed. I was actually pretty surprised I was able to fool them with the disguise I'd found stored in the Big Bologna. But I was certainly glad it had worked! I hurried toward the Big Bologna, determined to get the shrink ray back to C.A.P.E.R. headquarters as soon as possible.


Doc and Violet were hurrying to keep up with the mouse, who was still backing up down the narrow passageway with Bugs dangling from it mouth. "Where are you taking me, Mr. Whiskers?" Bugs was demanding to know.

"Keep talking, Bugs!" Doc called. "We're not far behind!"

Doc and Violet caught up with the mouse as it turned into an opening off the corridor. They followed it into the small space and were surprised to find light filtering in from the cracks around an electrical outlet set above them in the wall of another office.

The mouse had stopped and allowed Doc and Violet to come up beside it. They were surprised to see Doomsday standing with several mice in the space. All around him were even smaller mice, scurrying about happily.

"Doomsday!" Violet cried in relief, running to him.

"Hi, guys!" Doomsday greeted them happily.

"Are you okay?" Doc asked.

"Oh sure," Doomsday smiled. "I'm just visiting with my friends."

"Some friends!" Bugs scoffed. The mouse holding him let go and Bugs dropped roughly to the ground, landing on his backside.

"We thought that mouse had taken you against your will!" Doc pointed out.

"Oh well, he just wanted to bring me home to meet his family," Doomsday explained. "I told him you'd be worried about me, so he went to find you."

"Well, thanks a lot!" Bugs moaned, getting to his feet and rubbing his sore posterior.

The mouse squeaked loudly at Bugs, then turned its back.

"Say, what has this rodent got against me anyway?" Bugs asked Doomsday.

"You chased him with a broom and tried to squash him," Doomsday pointed out.

"Oh . . . well, I . . . " Bugs hemmed.

"And you keep calling him Mr. Whiskers," Doomsday added.

"Well, yeah, but . . . "

"His name is Bob," Doomsday explained.

"Uh . . . " Bugs sighed.

The mouse squeaked at Doomsday decidedly.

"And, well . . . he thinks you smell funny," Doomsday related gently.

"Well, it doesn't exactly smell like a bed of roses in here, you know!" Bugs noted.

Violet knelt down to pet some of the baby mice which came up to greet her. "Oh, aren't they cute?" she cooed.

"Bob said that the pizza and snacks have really helped him to feed his family," Doomsday explained.

"This is all very touching but we have a more pressing problem," Doc reminded them. "We have to let someone know what's happened to us!"

"How are we going to do that?" Bugs asked.

"We need to get back to the C.A.P.E.R. room and make ourselves known," Doc said. "If only we could get up on the desk. Then we'd have a better chance of being spotted."

Doomsday walked to Bob and they began talking to each other. After a moment of conversing, Doomsday explained, "Bob says he knows a way they could help us."

A short time later, Doomsday, Doc, Bugs and Violet were clinging desperately to the fur on the backs of four willing mice as they scurried along the passageway back to the corner opening to the C.A.P.E.R. room.

"This is more fun than riding the ponies at the petting zoo!" Doomsday laughed.

The mice blasted through the cockroach colony with no problem, then reached the opening and leapt effortlessly over the Coke bottle. Their nails clicked on the floor as they scrambled toward the desk. The mice used the phone cord dangling over the edge to help them in their ascent. It took a lot of effort for everyone to hang on to their mounts as they made the short vertical trip, but somehow they all reached the top safely.

"Wow, thanks for the ride!" Doomsday said as he dismounted his mouse. Doc and Violet's mice had also stopped beside the open pizza box and were climbing down as Bob reached the top of the desk with Bugs on his back.

"It was really sporting of you to carry Bugs, Bob," Doomsday noted.

"I guess no hard feelings, huh, Mr. Whiskers? I mean, Bob?" Bugs asked hopefully as they came to a stop on the edge of the pizza box.

Bob suddenly gave a huge buck, throwing Bugs from his back. Bugs disappeared over the edge of the pizza box out of their view. Doc, Doomsday and Violet ran to the box and peered over the edge to see Bugs sitting up in a mess of mozzarella, chocolate sauce, treacle and marshmallow creme at the end of a slice of pizza.

Bob squeaked with satisfaction.

"No, no hard feelings," Doomsday assured Bugs.

"Glad to hear it," Bugs sighed. "Now can someone help me out of this?"

Sgt. Vinton suddenly entered the room with Klinsinger following him. "You can look all you want! I'm telling you, there are no mice!" Sgt. Vinton insisted.

Both men froze at the sight of the mice on the desk. Sgt. Vinton let out a cry, screaming, "Mice!" in a high-pitched voice they didn't know he was capable of.

The mice immediately scurried from the desk and raced for the protection of the wall as Sgt. Vinton shooed and yelled at them. Klinsinger was watching this with great satisfaction.

"No mice, huh?" Klinsinger smirked. "The press is never wrong!"

It was at this moment I returned. I walked into the C.A.P.E.R. room carrying the shrink ray machine. "What's going on?" I asked, setting the machine down on the corner of the desk.

"Look!" Doc pointed to the others. "P.T. got the shrink ray machine back!"

"Yay!" Doomsday, Violet and Bugs cheered.

"Look at this!" Sgt. Vinton complained. "It's no wonder there are mice in the building when you leave food out like this!" He motioned to the open pizza box.

"Oh, sorry," I apologized. "Have you seen Doc, Doomsday and Bugs?"

"They weren't here when we came in," Klinsinger said.

"I haven't seen them for some time," Sgt. Vinton reported.

"I'm really worried about them," I sighed.

Doc had just climbed over the edge of the pizza box when I reached down to absent-mindedly pick up a piece of pizza. Of course it would happen to be the piece Bugs was sitting on!

"Bugs!" Doc cried. "Get off of there! Jump!"

"I can't!" Bugs cried as he was lifted into the air with the slice. "I'm stuck!"

Doomsday and Violet had climbed over the edge of the box and stood with Doc. Suddenly Doc yelled out, "Bananas!"

"What are you doing, Doc?" Doomsday asked. "You know we're not supposed to say that word around Bugs!"

"His hands are stuck in the pizza toppings," Doc explained. "He can't use his super-strength to get free, so we have to say the word! It's his only chance!"

Doomsday joined Doc and Violet looked at them strangely as they desperately shouted, "Bananas! Bugs, bananas! Bananas!"

"It's no use," Doc sighed. "He's too far away now! He can't hear us!"

"For all we know, they could be in terrible danger!" I continued, raising the pizza to my mouth to take a bite.

Doc, Doomsday and Violet all cringed, unable to look.

Bugs struggled desperately in the gooey pizza toppings but couldn't pull free. "No, P.T.!" he cried as he closed his eyes, unable to look. "Don't!"

I was just about to take a bite when Seymour twinged. I paused, looking around curiously. I could swear I smelled Bugs' cologne nearby. Shrugging, I opened my mouth to take a bite when Seymour registered Bugs' cologne loud and clear.

"Yes, well, it's embarrassing to know there are vermin in the precinct," Sgt. Vinton sighed. "Especially with this guy reporting it on television!"

"You could have all manner of infestations here!" Klinsinger said excitedly.

I finally looked down at the slice of pizza and gawked with amazement. "Bugs!" I cried.

"I see them!" Klinsinger shouted, reaching down to pull off one of his shoes. "Don't worry! I'll get 'em!"

I watched as Klinsinger raised his shoe above the open pizza box and spotted what he was aiming at. "No!" I gasped, reaching up to stop him from bringing the loafer down on the others.

"This is no time for sentimentality," Sgt. Vinton insisted.

"I didn't mean 'bugs' bugs . . . I meant Bugs!" I said, holding the pizza toward them to see. "Look closely!"

Sgt. Vinton and Klinsinger stared at the pizza, then down at the pizza box, leaning in close both places to look.

"Well, I'll be darned," Sgt. Vinton gasped.

"What on earth happened?" Klinsinger asked. "How did they get so small?"

"The shrink ray machine," I explained, setting the slice of pizza back into the box. "Somehow they were shrunk by it!"

Doc and Doomsday helped Bugs up out of the sticky pizza toppings. "We thought you were a goner, Bugs!" Doomsday sighed with relief.

"How will we get them back to normal?" Sgt. Vinton asked.

"I don't know," I sighed worriedly.

I then noticed that they were waving their arms at me.

"I think they're trying to tell us something," I noted, and we peered down at them, trying to make out what they were doing.

"We need to tell him that there's a reverse switch on the machine!" Violet said.

"How can we tell them?" Doomsday asked. "They can't hear us. We're too small."

Violet stepped forward and contorted her body to look like the letter 'R.'

"What is she doing?" Sgt. Vinton asked. "Has she got a cramp?"

"No, they're trying to tell us something," I explained, leaning in closer.

"Give me an 'R!'" Violet shouted as she repeated the motion. "I used to be a cheerleader, you see," she explained to the others.

"I hope they understand!" Bugs said.

"It's a cheerleading move," I noted, leaning in even closer.

"Wow," Bugs said in awe. "You know, from this angle, Seymour really is pretty terrifying, huh?"

"Yeah," the others nodded in agreement.

"It's an 'R!'" I realized. "'R.' Regardless?"

Violet then started miming driving a car. Doc, Doomsday and Bugs also mimed driving, occasionally backing up.

"What are they doing now?" Sgt. Vinton asked.

"Maybe the shrink ray shrunk their minds," Klinsinger suggested. "Now they're addled."

"They look like they're driving," I observed.

"Say, didn't this happen on Dr. Shrinker last week?" Klinsinger asked.

"Driving. 'R.'" I thought, then snapped my fingers. "I've got it! They're trying to tell us that there's a reverse on the machine!"

I quickly looked at the shrink ray machine and spotted the switch marked "Shrink / Reverse." "Here, see? We can use this to get them back to normal."

"Do we have to?" Klinsinger asked. "I'd love for them to appear on one of my reports! They could perform a little act or something . . . like a flea circus!"

"Forget it," I said firmly.

I tried to keep Klinsinger at bay as I set up the machine to point toward the floor where I had carefully set everyone. Sgt. Vinton had a call in the outer office and left us as I switched the machine into reverse and hit the red button. There was a hum, a strange flash of light, and Bugs, Doc, Doomsday and Violet felt very strange and disoriented. But they were also back to their normal sizes.

"Incredible!" Klinsinger said, impressed, moving over to examine the machine and flipping the switch back to "Shrink."

"Are you guys okay?" I asked.

"Much better now, thank you," Doc said.

Sgt. Vinton re-entered the C.A.P.E.R. room, announcing, "Well, you'll be happy to know the Brock Boys have just been arrested. This time they'll be able to put them away for a while!"

"How did they catch them?" I asked.

"They were picked up down at the government offices illegally trying to qualify for unemployment," Sgt. Vinton explained. "The heels!"

"I'm really sorry I almost ate you, Bugs," I offered.

"That was a close one!" Bugs sighed.

"Yeah," Violet laughed. "They even yelled 'bananas' to you!"

"Ba . . . bana . . . banaNA . . . NA . . . NA . . . !" Bugs started to convulse and go crazy, racing around the room and causing havoc.

At the end of his rant he happened to hit the red button on the side of the machine. There was a hum, a strange flash of light, and Klinsinger felt very strange and disoriented.

"What's happening?" Bugs asked.

"Not much," we sighed as we looked down at the tiny Klinsinger on the floor.

"I guess we should return him to his normal size," Doomsday suggested.

"Actually, I think it would be very entertaining for him to do his next Klinsinger report this way," Doc smiled as he picked the man up and held him in his palm. "He could do a little act or something for the television audience. Maybe get some of your mouse friends to appear."

"I'll handle this, boys," Sgt. Vinton smiled, and he held out his hand so Doc could set Klinsinger into his palm.

Sgt. Vinton was about to leave when he stopped next to Bugs and sniffed at the air. "Oh! You're wearing my favorite cologne! Good choice!"

After Sgt. Vinton left the room, Bugs looked at us and vowed, "Okay . . . I will never ever wear this scent again!"

THE END