The secret word is: "Zoo."
Something strange has been taking place overnight in our humble hometown of Northeast Southweston. What could be the reason behind several bizarre and unexplained robberies around the city? Why was electrical and broadcasting equipment mysteriously disappearing from our local media centers? And what would cause Doomsday to come in and ask this particular question?
"Do any of you know how to speak Malagasy?" Doomsday asked as he entered the room.
Doc, Bugs and I eyed Doomsday strangely.
"No," Doc felt confident in answering for all of us.
"Oh, okay," Doomsday said with a shrug, and he crossed the room to sit on the bench by the window.
The turquoise telephone rang and I picked it up. "C.A.P.E.R. room, P.T. here," I said. I listened carefully to the caller, then assured him, "Yes, sir. We will do everything we can to solve the case."
"Was that another one?" Doc asked as I hung up the phone.
"The fourth one today," I confirmed. "That was Mr. Fossberger from Fossberger's Radio Repair Shop. He says he arrived at his shop this morning to find it had been burglarized."
"What was taken?" Doc asked.
"Various radio parts," I answered.
"So far we've heard from radio station KUUK," Doc recounted.
"They reported their control consoles were missing," Bugs recalled.
"And then we heard from Northeast Southweston University's college radio station," Doc continued.
"And they said their microphones were missing," Bugs noted.
"And Sgt. Vinton said that several of the emergency police radio repeaters around town have disappeared as well," I reminded them.
"Looks like we have a rogue wanna-be deejay on our hands!" Bugs deduced.
"But so far there have been no witnesses to any of these crimes," I pointed out. "They apparently happened in the dead of night."
"Before the break of dawn," Doc added.
"By the light of the silvery moon," Bugs included.
"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie," Doomsday began to sing, then he hummed, "Mmmm . . . pizza pie!" and sat back down again.
"It's a pretty brazen series of crimes," I pointed out.
"And they're all clearly connected," Doc added.
"If only we knew what that connection was," I sighed.
"Maybe Klinsinger's on the case," Bugs suggested, and he walked over to the television and hit the top of it. The television flickered on but there was nothing but snow.
"What's wrong with this thing?" Bugs complained as he kept hitting the television, trying to get a picture.
At that moment Kurt Klinsinger walked into the C.A.P.E.R. room, looking distraught. "It's terrible!" he cried. "It's monstrous!"
"I can hear him but I still can't see him!" Bugs complained, slapping the television again.
"Bugs . . . " I tried to interrupt.
"Oh wait, I think I'm getting something," Bugs said hopefully.
"Bugs . . . " I repeated.
"Yeah, I think I see his pointy, little head coming in now," Bugs said, staring at the still snowy screen.
"Bugs!" I shouted.
Bugs finally turned around and saw Klinsinger standing at the doorway. "Oh, he's reporting live today!" Bugs said, and he hit the top of the television to turn it off.
"The television station's been robbed!" Klinsinger told us in a tearful voice. "It's a travesty! It's criminal! It's interfering with the freedom of the press!"
"The television station's been robbed as well?" Doc asked.
"Did anyone witness the crime?" I asked hopefully.
"I did!" Klinsinger said. "I arrived at the station early this morning to get started on the next award-winning Klinsinger report, and I saw them getting away!"
"Great!" I said. "What did they look like?"
"They were brownish-gray and furry and they had tails with rings around them!" Klinsinger stated.
We looked at one another with confusion. "You were robbed by raccoons?" Bugs asked incredulously.
"No! No, they weren't raccoons!" Klinsinger insisted. "I don't know what they were!"
"What you just described sounds like racoons," Doc pointed out.
"They weren't racoons!" Klinsinger insisted.
"Well, what did these non-raccoons take?" I asked.
Klinsinger took a deep breath to keep his emotions under control. "The transmission tower," he sobbed, his lower lip quivering.
"What?" we all gasped.
"Racoons stole the television station's transmission tower?" Bugs asked in disbelief. "That thing is over fifty feet tall!"
"Those must be some strong racoons!" Doomsday gasped in awe.
"They were not racoons!" Klinsinger insisted again.
"But you said . . . " Doc began.
"These were bigger than racoons," Klinsinger insisted. "And they had big round eyes and really long ringed tails! I saw them carrying loops of wire away from the station! I didn't realize the tower was gone until I tried to broadcast my morning report and . . . and no one could see me." Tears came to Klinsinger's eyes.
"Oh, you must be talking about the lemurs!" Doomsday realized.
"What?" Klinsinger asked.
"Lemurs?" Doc asked with surprise.
"Yeah," Doomsday nodded.
"What is a lemur?" Klinsinger asked.
"Lemur catta, or ring-tailed lemur," Doc explained casually. "A large diurnal Strepsirhine primate that is endemic to the island of Madagascar."
"Madagascar?" Klinsinger repeated as if he hadn't heard correctly. "And you think lemurs stole my transmission tower?"
"No, from what you said we thought racoons stole it," I corrected.
Klinsinger bit his lower lip then stood up straight, glaring with indignation. "If you aren't going to take this case seriously then I'll just go solve it myself!" He stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him.
"Maybe Klinsinger ought to cut back on those early morning hours," Bugs sighed.
"Well, that explains that," Doomsday said, looking satisfied.
"Explains what?" I asked.
"Explains the lemur I saw last night," Doomsday answered.
"You saw a lemur last night?" Doc asked.
"Yeah," Doomsday confirmed. "Late last night I was hungry, so I went to the 24-hour diner to get a sundae. Marge always makes it special for me with extra relish. Anyway, as I was coming home I saw a lemur walking down the street carrying a loop of wire around its shoulder. I tried to talk to it, but it didn't seem to understand me and I couldn't understand it. I figured it must only speak Malagasy."
"The native language of Madagascar," Doc explained.
"So you saw a lemur walking down the street late at night carrying a loop of electrical wire and the only thing that struck you as being strange was that you couldn't talk to it?" I asked.
"Maybe Doomsday ought to cut back on those relish sundaes," Bugs noted.
Doc began to pace the room. "Okay, as preposterous as this all sounds, let's suppose for a moment that lemurs did steal some of the electrical equipment last night. They couldn't have carried off a fifty foot transmission tower! And besides, where would the lemurs have come from anyway?"
Just as Doc was finishing that sentence the door opened and a girl walked in. "From Madagascar, of course," she answered.
We all eyed the girl. She had feathered brown hair which hung to her shoulders and was wearing a safari-style tan outfit with leopard print accents and short pants. She had an animal print scarf tied prettily around her neck. She looked me up and down and smiled and I looked her up and down and smiled back. The guys seemed to be looking from her to me, back and forth, for some reason.
I walked over to her. "I like your scarf," I smiled.
"I like your ascot," she noted with a smile.
"Hey, P.T., I didn't know you had a sister!" Doomsday commented.
"Oh, I certainly hope we're not related!" I noted, happily realizing that it might actually be my turn to get the girl.
"Do you work at the zoo as well?" the girl asked. "I don't remember seeing you there."
"No," I answered. "Why?"
"You two look like you're ready to host Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," Bugs pointed out.
"Oh, I love that show!" Doomsday smiled, then he leaned over to Bugs and whispered, "Although you don't want to know what the animals are really saying about Marlon Perkins."
"My name is Anna Malover," she explained. "I work at the Northeast Southweston Zoo. But something strange has been happening."
"Don't tell us," Bugs interrupted. "The lemurs are building a pirate radio station."
Anna looked confused but answered, "They wouldn't have the energy to build a radio station if they wanted to. Lately all of the animals just seem to be exhausted all the time. It's like they have no energy!"
"Well, they don't really have much to do anyway, do they?" Doc asked.
"No, but it's affecting attendance at the zoo," Anna explained. "People don't want to see the animals just lying around sleeping when they visit."
"This is true," I said. "And this definitely sounds like a case for C.A.P.E.R."
"Who?" Anna 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 finished, then continued with a flourish. After a moment I stopped. Usually the girl would have stopped me by now.
"Oh, do continue!" Anna smiled.
Elated, I continued to belt out a rhythmic ditty until Doc finally stepped in.
"Okay, that's enough!" Doc declared. "I suggest we head over to the zoo, making a quick stop at the television station to check out this missing transmission tower for ourselves."
"And the library," Doomsday added.
"Why the library?" Bugs asked.
"To pick up a Malagasy / English dictionary," Doomsday explained.
"To the Big Bologna!" Doc pointed, and he walked out of the C.A.P.E.R. room.
"After you," I bowed to Anna, and then followed her from the room.
Bugs and Doomsday stopped at the door and Bugs bowed, mockingly saying, "After you!" and they followed behind us.
Soon we were making our way to the television station in the Big Bologna. Anna and I were sitting in the back with Bugs. Mr. Featherstone popped up out of his tank and gave Anna a nudge.
"Oh, what a wonderful specimen of shark!" she exclaimed excitedly, inspecting Mr. Featherstone's teeth without trepidation. "Do you know that they have an excellent sense of direction? Almost like radar!"
"Seems we've heard that before," Bugs noted.
"You certainly know a lot about animals," I commented.
"I oversee all the veterinary services at the zoo," Anna explained as she finished inspecting Mr. Featherstone's mouth. "His teeth are in great shape. A very handsome specimen indeed!" Anna smiled, patting Mr. Featherstone's head.
Mr. Featherstone made a series of enthusiastic noises.
"Hey!" I cried.
"What did he say?" Anna asked.
"He said we should replace P.T. with you!" Bugs laughed.
"Looks like the transmission tower's missing all right," Doc reported from the driver's seat.
The Big Bologna pulled up to the television station and we piled out, looking up at the empty space behind the building where the tower used to sit. We heard a voice talking and walked around to the side of the building where we found Kurt Klinsinger standing in front of a manned camera and talking in a very animated fashion into a microphone.
" . . . and rest assured, I will stay on this story until the mystery of our missing transmitter has been solved! I'll forego sleep! I'll forego sustenance! I'll forego everything until this wrong has been righted!"
Bugs casually wandered into the camera shot and looked into the lens, then at Klinsinger. "What are you doing? You know you can't broadcast anything without a transmission tower."
Klinsinger covered his microphone with his hand, then motioned for the camera crew to cut as the rest of us approached. "For your information, I'm filming a report to be shown when we are able to broadcast again. I'm staying on top of this story, that's what I'm doing! And what are you all doing here?"
"We came to inspect the scene of the robbery," Doc informed him.
"I thought I told you I would handle this!" Klinsinger said angrily. "Now stop following me around! I'm going to crack this case wide open and I don't need any help from you!"
"Gonna round up those raccoons all by yourself, huh?" Bugs asked.
Klinsinger placed his hands on his hips and sneered. "Why don't you go find those larcenous lemurs of yours? I'm going with something just a little more substantial."
"Which is?" I asked.
"Never you mind!" Klinsinger scoffed, and he turned back to his camera crew. "Where do you want me to pick it up?"
"Start from the part about the aliens," the cameraman suggested.
"Aliens?" we all asked in shock.
"Well, it makes a lot more sense than raccoons!" Klinsinger insisted. "I mean lemurs. I mean . . . oh, just leave me alone."
We walked around to the back of the station as Klinsinger began filming his report again. "This ace reporter is fairly certain that we are dealing with powers far beyond our understanding. Who are these furry, bug-eyed alien creatures? And what do they want with our transmitter and equipment? The mind boggles at the possibilities . . . "
"My mind's certainly boggling," Bugs sighed, shaking his head.
"How else can one explain the disappearance of a fifty foot transmission tower with practically no signs of disturbance anywhere?" they could hear Klinsinger continue as they rounded the corner to view the field behind the station.
"Is he kidding?" Doc asked as we eyed the torn up field. What was once a green patch of land was now a complete disaster. The cement foundations where the legs of the tower once stood were ripped apart and scattered. Every inch of grass had been trampled and destroyed. And several trees in the area were knocked over or broken in two.
"Those are some destructive lemurs!" Bugs noted.
"Why do you keep talking about lemurs?" Anna asked.
"We have reason to believe that lemurs were involved in a series of robberies," I explained.
"Well, that's crazy," Anna protested. "The only lemurs in town are the ones in our zoo. And they certainly can't get out of their enclosure."
"Do you see any lemur tracks around here?" Doc asked her.
Anna walked around, inspecting the ground. "Everything's so torn up, I can't make out anything specific," she said.
"But there is something that's clearly missing," I pointed out.
"What's that?" Doomsday asked.
"No tire tracks anywhere," I answered. "You would think that whoever stole the tower would have used a crane or a truck or something, but there's no sign that any vehicles passed through the area at all."
"Maybe it really was aliens!" Doomsday said with wide eyes.
"Let's get to the zoo," Doc suggested. "See these lemurs for ourselves."
We piled back into the Big Bologna and drove to the zoo, making a quick stop at the library. Since Doc knows his way around the library better than anyone, he volunteered to run inside and find an English / Malagasy dictionary.
"I really think you're barking up the wrong tree," Anna insisted as we sat in the Big Bologna waiting for Doc to return. "Animals don't commit crimes."
"She's right," Doomsday agreed. "Animals are naturally good. It's only when they're mistreated or scared that they might behave badly."
"And I can promise you that all of our enclosures and cages are secure," Anna continued. "The animals can't get out and roam around as they please."
"Then that's pretty clever," Doomsday said.
"What is?" I asked.
"That the aliens are disguising themselves as lemurs," Doomsday commented. "Maybe I should have asked Doc to pick up an English / Alien dictionary as well!"
Doomsday started to get up but I grabbed his arm and motioned for him to sit down again. "I don't think that will be necessary," I assured him.
There was a knock at one of the round windows beside us. We could see an elderly woman cupping her hand over her eyes against the glass to peer inside, and she knocked again.
"I wonder what she wants?" Bugs thought aloud.
We got up and went outside to talk to the old woman. "Can I help you?" I asked.
"Do you work for animal control?" the woman asked.
"Why no," I said. "But we do work for the city in a way. What's the problem?"
"It's my neighbor!" the woman complained, leading us across the street to her house. "I've asked nicely countless times, but he just won't . . . curb his dog, if you know what I mean."
"I think I understand," I said sympathetically.
"I want that beast taken away! It's a menace! Ruining my beautiful lawn!" the woman complained. "And this is the worst yet!"
She motioned to her yard and we stood, staring in awe of the sight before us.
"That wasn't made by some Chihuahua!" Bugs gasped.
"Or even an alien lemur," Doomsday nodded in agreement.
"I don't believe it!" Anna gasped as she walked over to the huge pile in the middle of the lawn.
"What is it?" I asked, joining her as she bent down low to examine it more closely.
"This is elephant dung," she explained.
"Elephant dung?" I asked. "Are you sure?"
"Positive," Anna said. "It's actually very useful. Did you know that some tribes in Africa use it as a fuel to build their fires?"
"Remind me never to roast marshmallows over a campfire in Africa," Bugs said to Doomsday.
"But how would it have gotten here?" Anna asked worriedly.
"Well, if you'll notice, the sidewalks around here are all cracked," I pointed out. "And there are limbs broken off the trees all down the street."
Anna shook her head. "No, that's impossible. The elephants can't get out of their pens!"
"I don't know," I said. "I just have a feeling it's all connected with the disappearance of the transmission tower and the robberies around town."
"You mean the elephants are aliens, too?" Doomsday asked.
"We'd better get to the zoo right away," I suggested, and we started back to the Big Bologna.
"Hey, aren't you going to clean up this mess?" the old woman shouted at us.
We stopped and looked back at her.
"You said you worked for the city," she reminded us.
"But this really isn't our jurisdiction," I pointed out.
The woman stood with her arms crossed, waiting.
Bugs, Doomsday and I eyed each other warily. "Well, picking up elephant dung doesn't require brains," I pointed out.
"Or sweetness," Doomsday added.
"Or even cleverness," I concluded.
Bugs sighed with frustration. "Oh, all right," he sighed. In a flash he was gone, running down the street at high speed. He returned a moment later wearing a street cleaner's uniform and pushing an old-fashioned street cleaner's barrel on wheels. He quickly shoveled up the elephant dung and then sped away with it, returning a moment later in his regular clothes.
"Oh, thank you, young man!" the old woman smiled, returning to her house.
"You guys owe me one!" Bugs said, and we returned to the Big Bologna just as Doc was exiting the library.
We climbed into the Big Bologna and Doomsday sat in the passenger seat as Doc entered and handed him a book. "Here's the English / Malagasy dictionary. They had an English / Alien dictionary as well, but I wasn't sure if you wanted that or not."
"You're kidding!" I exclaimed.
"Sometimes I try," Doc smiled as he climbed into the driver's seat and started the van.