The secret word is: "Cheese"
What an exciting period in history this is for the city of Northeast Southweston! For the first time ever, our burgeoning borough is hosting the exciting and exuberant World Expo. Okay, technically it's the Northeast Southweston World Expo. And no, it hasn't been sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions. But nevertheless our bustling town is bristling with the buzz of this exciting event. Which means that C.A.P.E.R. is on alert and standing by for any possible problems pervasive with such potential pandemonium.
"Nice alliteration, P.T.," Doc noted.
"Thank you," I replied.
"What kind of potential pandemonium are we talking about?" Bugs asked worriedly. "Long lines at the concession stands?"
"Events like this are magnets for kooks, crazies and criminals," I pointed out.
"And they make up the overall attendance?" Bugs asked. "I think I'll stay home."
"Sgt. Vinton told us to be on alert," I reminded them. "No telling what could happen."
The turquoise telephone began to ring. Bugs made a grab for it at the same time I did and we wrestled over the receiver until finally we silently agreed to do hands for it. Bugs placed his hand above mine and I placed mine above his until finally I came out on top. "Typical," Bugs sighed as he relinquished the receiver, "It's always for you."
I lifted the receiver to my ear. "C.A.P.E.R."
A maniacal laugh came over the phone.
"Did someone place a wake-up call with Dial-a-Joke?" I asked.
"No," Bugs and Doc answered.
"Then this could mean trouble," I said, waiting for the laughter to stop, which it finally did.
"Prepare to face your most daunting challenge yet!" a man's voice warned. "If you fail to stop me, Northeast Southweston will rue the day it decided to host a World Expo!" The voice laughed again.
"Who are you?" I demanded to know.
"I am the Chameleon of Chaos!" the man laughed.
"Chameleon of Chaos?" I asked. I looked to Bugs and Doc, who both shook their heads with disapproval. "That's not a very good name."
"It's not?" the man asked, startled.
"No," I confirmed. "It doesn't roll off the tongue easily. Try it . . . Chameleon of Chaos."
The man repeated the name, as did Bugs and Doc.
"Too many syllables," Doc agreed.
"And how many people even know how to spell chameleon?" Bugs pointed out.
"I thought it was rather catchy," the man said in a hurt tone.
"No, trust us. It'll never sell," I said. "Think about it and get back to us when you have a better name picked out." With that I hung up the phone. "That'll keep him busy for a while."
"I wonder what's keeping Doomsday," Bugs wondered.
"He'll be here any minute," I assured them.
"And what about the girl?" Doc asked.
"She should be here any minute, too," I said.
"I wonder who will be the love interest this time?" Bugs thought aloud.
We all straightened our clothes and our hair and stood, waiting for the girl's entrance.
Right on cue the door of the C.A.P.E.R. room opened and an old woman stumbled in. She was dressed in a broomstick skirt and lacy top with ruffles everywhere and wore a bandana around her head. She wore a long hoop earring in one ear and several of her teeth were missing. "The end is nigh!" she screamed in a cackling voice.
Doc, Bugs and I shared a look then pointed at one another, saying, "It's your turn!"
The woman advanced on Bugs, who backed away from her nervously. "Doomsday!" she cried.
"No, I'm Bugs," Bugs assured her. "Doomsday isn't here yet!"
"Doomsday is near!" she screeched as she ran to me.
"Oh good, we were just wondering where he was," I said.
"Doomsday is coming for all of us!" she cried as she ran to Doc.
"Really?" Doc asked. "Where's he going to take us?"
The woman looked at each of us in turn with a sneer. "You do not appreciate the meaning of my words," she hissed, advancing on me again. "Doomsday is approaching!"
I hesitated, not knowing what I could say that wouldn't set her off again. "Um, ma'am? It's okay, really. Doomsday's not so bad."
"He's a little scatter-brained at times," Doc admitted.
"And he eats like there's no tomorrow," Bugs added.
"There is no tomorrow!" the woman shouted.
"Well, technically that's true," Doc agreed. "If you consider the fact that tomorrow never really comes."
The woman held her head as if she were in pain. "Oh, Ida! Ida!" she cried.
A young woman, dressed in a similar skirt and top but with a much more modern look, entered the room.
"My turn!" Doc, Bugs and I all announced.
"What is it, Mama?" the girl asked the woman.
"These boys . . . they do not understand!" the woman cried.
The young girl looked at us with surprise. "Didn't she tell you about her vision?"
"She must have problems with her vision because she thought I was Doomsday," Bugs noted.
"My name is Ida Teller and this is my mother, Fortuna Teller," the girl explained. "We came to see you because Mama has been having terrible visions of the future, or lack thereof. And her visions are usually very accurate!"
"You mean she has 20/20 visions?" I asked.
"Tell them, Mama," Ida coaxed.
The woman looked skeptical, then began, motioning with her hands to some far-off spot on the horizon. "I foresee the end of the world! Brought about by innocent hands! The world will be destroyed! It is Doomsday!"
We were all looking intently in the direction which she was motioning.
"All I see is a smudge on the wall," Bugs said, walking over to wipe at it with his sleeve.
Doc shook his head and went back to reading his book.
"This is all very interesting," I said. "But what makes you think this will actually happen?"
"Fortuna Teller is never wrong!" the old woman jabbed her painted fingernail into my chest.
"Well, a few more details might help," I suggested. "Like how exactly this is going to happen. And what exactly is going to happen."
"I can only tell you what I tell you." Fortuna Teller crossed her arms with indignation.
"At least until you get paid, right?" Doc asked sarcastically.
"You doubt Fortuna Teller?" the woman asked in shock.
"I doubt everything to do with fortune telling, soothsayers and the likes," Doc assured her. "It's all a scam."
"How dare you insult my mother?" Ida turned on Doc, who had his face behind his book again. She stormed up to him, yelling, "My mother isn't some run-of-the-mill phoney psychic! My mother's visions are real! And if you . . . "
Ida pulled the book down to look Doc in the face. Even though she was yelling at him, he smiled at her. "And if you . . . oh my . . . !"
"What is that?" Fortuna suddenly exclaimed, cupping a hand to her ear. "Do I hear church bells ringing?"
Doc took Ida's hand in his.
"Ah!" Fortuna exclaimed. "Now it sounds like a thousand violins!"
Doc stared into Ida's eyes.
"And now the sound of thundering hoofbeats fills the air!" Fortuna gasped. She rushed over to Doc and Ida and forced them apart. "No! No, this skeptic will not seduce my daughter!"
"Oh, but Mama!" Ida whined in protest.
"Yeah, come on, Mama," Doc said gently, smiling at her.
Fortuna pushed the book back up in front of Doc's face and snarled, "You, keep your eyes to yourself and off my daughter!" The old woman pushed her daughter towards the door. "I don't know why we come here!"
"Mama, you're the one who said we should come here," Ida reminded her. "You said this is where we would find the key to your prediction."
"Then I was wrong!" Fortuna stated.
"I thought you were never wrong," Doc pointed out, then quickly hid behind his book.
"Come, child," Fortuna huffed and they turned to leave.
Just then Doomsday came in through his secret entrance carrying several candy bars. "Sorry I'm late," he apologized. "I just stopped upstairs to get some snacks."
"Oh!" Fortuna exclaimed, pushing Ida aside and running to Doomsday, raising her hands to him. "Oh! It is the harbinger of destruction!"
"No, it's just a Sky Bar," Doomsday explained. "I also got a Marathon Bar and a Choco-Lite . . . "
"He is the one!" Fortuna shouted to us.
"Yes, that's Doomsday," I confirmed.
"So now you believe me?" Fortuna cried.
"That's his name," I explained patiently. "Doomsday."
Fortuna looked at Doomsday with terror in her eyes. "Then it is irrefutable!"
Doomsday looked confused. "No, it's chocolate," he said, holding up the Sky Bar. "But it's got four different flavors inside. I suppose one could be irrefutable. I like the caramel myself."
"He will bring about the end of the world!" Fortuna cried.
"You're taking his name too literally," I sighed. "Sure, Doomsday sometimes thinks he's cursed, but he wouldn't destroy the world. He's too nice."
"I tell you, this boy will destroy the world!" Fortuna insisted.
The turquoise telephone began to ring again. "Hold that thought," I said, and I picked up the receiver. "C.A.P.E.R."
A familiar voice laughed, then said, "You're greatest challenge now begins! But I promise, you will have no chance to defeat me! I will make fools of all of you! Of the entire city!"
"Who is this?" I demanded to know.
"This is the Masqueraded Marauder!" the voice laughed.
"Who?" I asked with confusion.
"Formerly the Chameleon of Chaos," the voice explained seriously.
"Oh!" I remembered, then frowned. "Oh. Masqueraded Marauder?" I looked at Doc and Bugs, who looked like they'd eaten something distasteful. "That's all you could come up with?"
"It still has the same amount of syllables," Doc noted.
"Actually I think Chameleon of Chaos might have been a tiny bit better," Bugs added.
"I don't care what you think!" the voice said angrily. "I am going to do something that will cause the city a great deal of expense and embarrassment if you don't accurately decipher my clues."
"I'm still trying to decipher your name," I said.
"Silence!" the voice ordered. "Now listen carefully: Follow my clues, although they be tricky;
or else at the Expo things will get sticky."
I waited for him to continue, but there was only silence. "That's it?" I asked with surprise.
"For now," the man chuckled. "I'll be in touch."
At the sound of the dial tone I hung up. "I don't know who this guy really is, but I think he's serious," I told the others. "He's giving us clues and if we don't decipher them correctly he promises that something bad's going to happen."
"What clues?" Doc asked.
"The first one is: Follow my clues, although they be tricky; or else at the Expo things will get sticky."
"Well, whoever he is, he's no literary scholar," Bugs scoffed.
"Well, it's obvious," Doc sighed. "Our unimaginative friend is clearly going to target the Expo. But when and how?"
"He said he'd be in touch," I said. "I suppose to give us more clues."
"And hopefully a better name!" Bugs added.
"This definitely sounds like a job for C.A.P.E.R.," I stated.
"Just what does that stand for exactly?" Ida asked.
We stood at attention and recited together, "The Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless."
"Tadaa!" sang Doc.
"Tadaa!" sang Doomsday.
"Tadaa!" sang Bugs.
"Tadaa!" I finished, then added my own flair to the end until Fortuna jabbed her finger into my chest to stop me.
"It might prove preemptive of us to send someone to the Expo to scout around," Doc suggested.
"Good idea, Doc," I agreed. "Bugs and Doomsday, you can go to the Expo and keep an eye on things from there."
"Oh boy!" Doomsday said happily, pocketing his candy bars for later. "The Expo! Do they have food there?"
"Hello?? End of the world???" Fortuna cried, reminding us of her presence.
"I'm sorry," I sighed. "But this matter is more pressing. And this guy is actually giving us clues to go on."
"Unlike some people, who are obviously clueless," Bugs added in a biting tone.
"Oh yeah?" Fortuna sneered under her breath to Bugs. She fixed him with a serious stare, then smirked. "I hope you're feeling as smug when your rear end catches fire . . . "
"What was that?" Bugs asked.
"Oh, I didn't say anything!" Fortuna cried innocently. "What do I know? I'm just a clueless, crazy woman! Although I'm not going to have an award-winning scientist threaten my life, either."
"Who would do that?" Bugs demanded to know.
Fortuna snapped her fingers at Bugs as her way of dismissing him, then turned to her daughter as she motioned to Doomsday. "You keep an eye on that boy! Don't let him out of your sight!"
"You're going to let her spend the day with us?" Doc asked hopefully.
"And keep your eye on that boy, too!" Fortuna warned. "Or rather, don't keep your eye on him!" Fortuna wheeled dramatically, giving Doomsday a wary eye before exiting the room.
"Nice woman," Doomsday smiled. "Maybe we can pick up some irrefutable for her at the Expo."
As we climbed into the Big Bologna, Seymour (that's my nose) wrinkled with disgust. "Oh, it smells like rotten fish in here!" I complained. "Hasn't anyone cleaned out Mr. Featherstone's tank lately?"
"I just cleaned it yesterday, P.T.," Doomsday assured me.
I decided to drive and the others took their seats. Ida sat next to Doomsday and Doc sat next to Ida. As we headed to the Expo, Ida tried very hard to ignore Doc, keeping her eyes on Doomsday instead.
"Tell me something," Doc asked her, "Do you really believe in your mother's predictions?"
"Mama's predictions have been strangely accurate," Ida assured him, still keeping her eyes on Doomsday. "She predicted Innsbruck would be the site of the Winter Olympics this year. And she predicted that 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' would win best picture."
"Don't tell me," Doc smirked, "She also predicted that 1976 would be the year of the American Bicentennial."
"Mama was right about you," Ida complained, still keeping her eyes away from Doc. "You are nothing but a skeptic."
"You have to admit that it's a pretty big leap, going from Oscar predictions to foretelling the end of the world," Doc pointed out.
"People don't understand Mama," Ida admitted. "But that doesn't mean she's wrong!"
"Well, in this case I do hope she's wrong," Doc said, taking Ida's hand in his. "I hope Doomsday doesn't destroy the world, because then we won't have as much time to spend together."
Ida couldn't resist looking into Doc's eyes and she immediately melted.
"I think Doc and Ida would appreciate it if you could hold off destroying the world for a while, Doomsday," Bugs nudged him.
"What's all this about me destroying the world?" Doomsday asked with confusion.
"Don't worry about it, Doomsday," I called from the driver's seat. "It's nothing for you to be concerned about." The last thing I wanted Doomsday to worry about was potentially destroying the world when we had a job to do.
At last the Big Bologna pulled up to the Expo entrance. I unbuckled my seat belt and met the others in back.
"Okay, keep your eyes open for anything suspicious," I said as I handed Bugs and Doomsday their C.A.P.E.R. band radios. "If you find anything out of the ordinary, contact us. We'll go back to headquarters and wait for further clues from what's-his-name."
"Right," Bugs and Doomsday nodded, and they stepped out of the vehicle.
Ida started to exit after them but Doc stopped her. "Are you going with them?" he asked with surprise.
"I promised Mama I'd keep my eye on Doomsday," she explained sadly, then she hurried to catch up with them as they walked to the entrance gates.
Doc look disappointed as he took his place in the passenger seat beside me.
"Cheer up," I said as I turned the key in the ignition. "You'll get to see her again soon enough."
"Not if the world is destroyed," Doc sighed.
"Are you kidding?" I asked with surprise.
Doc gave me half a smile and admitted, "Sometimes I try."
We were halfway back to the police station when we both heard a crackling sound from the back of the van followed by laughter.
"What is that?" I asked.
"Sounds like someone laughing over the radio in the back," Doc noted. "Pull over."
I pulled the Big Bologna over to the side of the road and we hurried into the back where I picked up the radio microphone as a familiar voice snickered, "It won't be long now! Foolish kids, you'll never stop me!"
"Who is this?" I demanded to know.
"This is the Dastardly Distributor of Discord!" the voice laughed.
"Who?" I asked with confusion.
"Formerly the Masqueraded Marauder," the man explained seriously. "Previously the Chameleon of Chaos?"
"Oh," I realized. "Oh wow. You're really having trouble coming up with a good name, aren't you?"
"But I . . . " the voice protested with frustration.
"This new one's even longer than the others!" Doc scoffed.
"You'll be sorry you ever mocked me when I unleash my fury on the masses!" the man promised. "So you'd better listen carefully to my next clue: I can set off the chaos when I'm in the mood; The trigger is sweet and has altitude."
"That's not half bad," Doc admitted.
"Good luck, C.A.P.E.R. brats," the voice laughed. "Oh, and your radios will self-destruct in five seconds."
"What??" Doc and I asked in shock.
We stepped back from the radio and were startled when a large puff of smoke came up out of it. Smaller puffs of smoke came up out of our handheld units as well.
"What was that?" I cried, coughing and waving away the smoke.
"Apparently he tampered with our radios so he could cause them to self-destruct," Doc noted.
"But how could he have gotten into the Big Bologna to sabotage our radios?" I cried. "Wouldn't Mr. Featherstone have stopped him?"
Suddenly things clicked in my mind and I walked over to Mr. Featherstone's tank. Our RADAR shark had been unusually quiet today. I tapped on the side of the tank and called nicely, "Oh, Mr. Featherstone?"
Mr. Featherstone finally came to the surface, looking pensive.
"Mr. Featherstone, have you been getting 'chummy' with anyone lately?" I asked.
Mr. Featherstone mumbled a few quiet sounds in a guilty manner.
"Oh, Mr. Featherstone, you didn't," Doc sighed with disappointment. "You didn't let someone distract you with chum, did you?"
Mr. Featherstone ducked down beneath the water in shame.
"That would explain the rotten fish smell in here," I said. I tapped on the tank again and said, "Come on, Mr. Featherstone. We don't blame you. We know sharks can't resist the lure of chum."
Mr. Featherstone surfaced again and mumbled an apology.
"It's okay," Doc assured him.
"Well, not really okay," I said, picking up one of the handheld radios and calling into it. "P.T. calling Bugs. P.T. calling Doomsday. Come in!"
There was no answer.
"We don't have contact with the others," I pointed out.
"There's not much we can do about that now," Doc said. "We'd better work on deciphering the latest clue."
"Right," I agreed, and I repeated it. "I can set off the chaos when I'm in the mood; The trigger is sweet and has altitude."
We both thought about this for a moment.
Doc began, "Well, when I think of altitude, the highest point in town is . . . "
"The Krelvin Building," we both stated.
"The tallest building in the world without elevators," I added.
Doc continued, "And when I think about something sweet at the Krelvin Building I think of . . . "
"Dolly Dimples Catering Company," we both deduced.
"We have to go back to Dolly Dimples?" I asked. "Last time we were there she almost blew us up with her dodge-the-explosive-pies dance!"
"It's the only thing that makes sense," Doc pointed out. "Let's get to the Krelvin Building!"