We all got to our feet and stepped out of the fountain, taking a moment to collect ourselves.
"Bugs, take Carmen and go out to the Big Bologna," I said. "Use the C.A.P.E.R. band radio to contact Sgt. Vinton. The rest of us will keep an eye on Mr. Geddit to make sure he doesn't get away."
"Okay, but be careful!" Bugs warned us, and he and Carmen hurried off to the main entrance.
"Come on, guys," I said, and we made our way back to the Geddit Credit store, proceeding with extreme caution.
Bugs and Carmen reached the entrance, only to find that the doors were locked. "That's right, P.T. locked the doors when we came in," he sighed.
"Maybe P.T. still has the keys," Carmen suggested.
"We don't have time for that," Bugs said, then he eyed the doors and shrugged. "Guess there's no other way."
Bugs steeled himself as he summoned his super-strength once more and pulled open the two huge doors. Almost instantly there was an unexpected flurry of motion as dozens of eager women pushed past Bugs and Carmen, stampeding into the mall.
"Whoa!" Bugs exclaimed, stepping back and pulling Carmen with him to keep her from being trampled in the rush. "Where did all of these ladies come from?"
"They must have been waiting for the mall to open!" Carmen exclaimed. "Like last night!"
As the last of the women dashed inside, another figure appeared, looking flustered.
"Kurt Klinsinger!" Bugs said with surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm looking for my mommy!" Klinsinger cried anxiously, then he acted calm to cover his worry. "She left late last night and didn't come back, so I assumed she might be here. I had no idea there would be such a crowd at four a.m.! What's going on, anyway? A midnight madness sale?" Klinsinger eyed Bugs and Carmen up and down, noting that they were soaking wet. "Or some kind of pool party?"
"No time to explain," Bugs said as he pulled Carmen through the doors. "We have to call Sgt. Vinton!"
"Oh come on!" Klinsinger called after them. "The crowd isn't that unruly!" Seeing Bugs and Carmen running to the Big Bologna, Klinsinger sighed worriedly to himself. "I'd better find mommy before she gets herself arrested!"
As we approached the record store we could see the lights were on inside, as well as in the Geddit Credit store. Cautiously we peered through the front window of Vinyl Word, which was adorned with prizes, including bicycles, skateboards and radios, for a large giveaway promotion the store was holding. We could barely see Mr. Geddit inside one of the listening booths at the back of the store. He was bent down beneath the table inside the booth, working with some wires.
It was then I noticed the master key ring hanging from the keyhole inside the door. I motioned to the keys and held a finger to my lips to remind Doc and Doomsday not to speak. While Mr. Geddit was busy working in the listening booth, I crept towards the door, hoping that I would be able to reach inside and retrieve the keys.
As I was sneaking past the window, a strange sound reached our ears. It didn't make sense at first, since we knew it was still late at night and no one else was there. But then it became unmistakable. It was the sound of numerous women spreading throughout the mall, chattering and trying to push their way into closed stores. They were approaching quickly and we knew it would only be a matter of time before Mr. Geddit heard them as well.
And as if that weren't enough, the main lights of the mall suddenly flickered on!
"There!" Klinsinger said happily as he stood by the main lighting panel, having just flipped the switch. "Now I should be able to find mommy more easily!"
I was only halfway to the door when the women started rushing past us, noisily yammering and trying to force nearby doors open. One of them stopped and grabbed Doc by the arm, pulling him towards another storefront as she exclaimed, "Oh Doc! Come on, there's so much to buy!"
I looked through the record store window and could see Mr. Geddit looking up from his work. Spotting me, his grin actually disappeared and he leapt to his feet, running towards the door.
It was a race now. I leapt at the front door, which thankfully he'd left unlocked, and opened it a crack to reach inside. Thankfully the key came loose without much difficulty and I pulled the ring through the door and pulled it shut, locking it just as Mr. Geddit reached me. He pounded on the glass door as I jumped back. I was startled by the viciousness on the man's usually confident, smiling face.
Doomsday ran to me. "He's locked in now," I told him. "All we have to do is wait for the police to get here."
"Is there another way out of there?" Doomsday asked.
"All the storefronts should be locked and there's no doorway between this shop and Geddit Credit," I noted. "I think we have him trapped."
Mr. Geddit glared at us through the window. Then that terrifying, evil smile crossed his lips and he stepped back. We watched as he moved to the window display and grabbed one of the bicycles, wheeling it back a ways. We couldn't understand what he had in mind . . . that is, until he hoisted the bicycle over his head and readied himself.
"Look out!" I shouted, quickly turning to push several older women who were passing by out of the way. Doomsday likewise steered one woman from harm and took cover as Mr. Geddit rushed at the window and threw the bicycle through the pane, shattering the glass with a loud crash.
Several women screamed as Mr. Geddit jumped through the huge gap he'd created in the window and took off running towards the center of the mall.
"He's getting away!" I shouted. "Doc! Doc?"
I turned to look for Doc, but he seemed to be infatuated with the contents of a window display several doors down.
Doomsday helped the woman he had pulled aside to step away from the broken glass then stopped beside me.
"We've got to stop him!" I said, turning to run after Mr. Geddit.
Instead of running after me, Doomsday ran over and reached inside the window of the record shop to retrieve the skateboard. "Out of the way, ladies!" he called as he carried it past the broken glass and then tossed it down, leaping onto it to ride down the corridor.
Mr. Geddit was forcefully pushing his way past women as he rushed through the mall. Not being so impolite, I was having to maneuver my way around these same women. Doomsday was deftly zipping around the women on the skateboard and soon caught up with me.
"P.T., can I have the keys?" Doomsday asked.
"Sure," I said, throwing them to him without question. He took off ahead of me and I stopped and turned back to get Doc.
Mr. Geddit reached the center of the mall and looked back to see Doomsday catching up quickly. He desperately looked for some way to escape, then realized that the entrance to his left was open. He changed direction just as Doomsday was about to catch up with him. Unfortunately it was at that moment that the skateboard hit the flooded section of the center court caused by the fountain, which was still spilling out onto the floor, and he skidded out of control, just missing his chance to grab Mr. Geddit by inches.
The entrance to the mall was in sight and Mr. Geddit pushed several women out of his way as he rushed for it. Just as he was about to make his escape into the parking lot, he was blinded by two bright lights which took up the whole of the space.
"There he is!" Carmen cried out as Bugs brought the Big Bologna to a halt, blocking the entrance.
Mr. Geddit held up his hands to block the glare from the headlights, then turned and ran back into the mall.
Doc and I reached the center court just as Mr. Geddit ran back in looking around desperately for way to escape. The scene was already chaotic enough with the women running everywhere in a frenzy and the water spilling out on the floor, but things became even more bizarre when a huge flock of parakeets suddenly appeared and started swarming around Mr. Geddit's head.
Mr. Geddit cursed and screamed as he tried to wave away the pesky birds. Moments later several dogs and cats, as well as a number of mice and rabbits, appeared, running around Mr. Geddit and leaping at him. I would have thought I was hallucinating if I hadn't happened to notice Doomsday coming out of the pet store.
But these poor little animals weren't enough to keep Mr. Geddit at bay. He was already making his way out of their circle. We needed more help!
Thinking quickly, I jumped up onto a bench and called out. "Ladies! Ladies, please! Can I have your attention!" The woman in the area stopped and looked at me. "I'm sorry to announce that your Geddit Credit cards have all been cancelled! You won't be able to buy anything else with them!"
The women all moaned and protested loudly, angrily turning on me.
"Don't blame me!" I called out. "It's Mr. Geddit who made the decision!" I pointed to Mr. Geddit and the woman immediately turned on him.
I was actually afraid for the women, hoping that Mr. Geddit wouldn't hurt them. But he really didn't get much of a chance. He was so quickly surrounded by a crush of women who pelted him with their purses and screeched at him as they closed in around him, I started to wonder if we wouldn't have to rescue him ourselves!
Fortunately at that moment Sgt. Vinton and numerous other police officers came rushing into the mall, accompanied by Bugs and Carmen. It wasn't easy, but the police finally managed to save Mr. Geddit from the angry mob of women. His loud jacket was ripped in several places, his hair was unruly and he certainly wasn't smiling when they slapped the cuffs on him and took him away.
Eventually the police managed to turn off the fountain and began to clear the ladies from the mall. Doomsday called back all the animals and thanked them for their help before returning them to the pet store. He promised he would do everything he could to make sure they were all purchased by loving families.
Kurt Klinsinger had called station 6 OKK to have a camera team sent out and was standing by the broken fountain filming his report. " . . . and so the dastardly doings of Mr. Willie Geddit and his Geddit Credit scheme were brought to an end, thanks to this reporter who helped bring about the arrest of this notorious villain by turning on the lights . . . " He thought quickly and then added, " . . . to expose this insidious case." He saw his mother across the way trying to use a crowbar to break into one of the stores and called, "Mom!" as he ran to get her.
Sgt. Vinton had ordered blankets brought in for us and we held them tightly around us. I observed the others and realized that even with the blankets around us we were all shivering. Bugs and Carmen were sitting together on a bench. Doomsday was sitting on the edge of a planter. Doc was standing next to me but still eyed the shop windows longingly.
Sgt. Vinton approached me with a look of serious concern. "If I'd had any idea how dangerous this case was I would never have allowed you to work mall security tonight," he said.
"The fault was mine, Sergeant," I admitted with a sigh. "I underestimated the seriousness of the case." I eyed the others sadly. "If Bugs hadn't happened to wake up at just the right moment . . . "
Sgt. Vinton could sense my feelings of guilt and placed a hand on my shoulder. "This is a dangerous job," he assured me. "Some things are outside our control. We do the best we can, but you have to be on guard at all times. When you come up against a ruthless criminal like this, you can never be too careful."
I nodded with a shiver.
"You did a good job," Sgt. Vinton assured me with a smile, "And I'm glad you're all okay."
"Thank you, Sergeant," I said sincerely as the man turned to leave.
Bugs looked hopefully at Carmen and asked, "Are you still going to make me one of your famous Fruit on a Sticks?"
Carmen eyed Bugs sadly and took his hand, sighing, "No, Bugs. I'm sorry . . . I had no idea that you . . . " She saw the confusion in his eyes and shook her head. "It just wouldn't work out between you and I. It's really for the best that we never see each other again."
Carmen stood up to follow Sgt. Vinton, who offered her a ride home. As she passed us, we eyed her sympathetically. We knew she was only trying to protect Bugs.
"Thank you," she said sincerely to me, and I nodded as she and Sgt. Vinton walked away.
"What happened?" Bugs asked in a devastated voice. "I don't understand! I thought we were getting along so well!"
"I guess nearly drowning would put a damper on any first date," I pointed out.
"Guys, don't you think we could use a three-speed lawn mower for the office?" Doc asked us, still looking back at the shop windows.
"No," we all answered emphatically.
"At least the effects of the brainwashing should wear off in a week or so," I pointed out.
"That's the other thing I don't understand," Bugs said. "If these older women were being brainwashed under the hair dryers at the beauty salon, then how did Doc . . . ?"
A look of realization came over Bugs' face, much to Doc's dismay. Bugs pointed at Doc and started to laugh. "Oh ho ho!" Bugs chortled.
"Aw, come on!" Doc protested.
"What is it?" Doomsday asked, still confused.
"Doc goes to the beauty salon to get his hair done!" Bugs teased loudly, laughing again.
Doomsday's eyes opened wide as he stared at Doc in disbelief. "Then that means . . . Doc really is Isis!"