That particular section of Industry Mill Road was as isolated an area as one could imagine. After pulling up in front of the plain, ordinary building I sat thinking for a moment. I had to make an important decision. Would I leave Doc unsupervised in the Big Bologna? Or would I take him inside with me?
Making up my mind, I turned to unbuckle Doc. "Okay, Dot, listen to me," I said, trying to gain his full attention. "I need you to do exactly as I say. Do you understand?"
Doc look scared but nodded his head.
"You have to be a brave boy," I urged. "Promise me when we get inside that you won't cry and you won't yell. Okay? Can you do that for your Unca Petey?"
Doc nodded again as he chewed anxiously on his knuckles.
"It's gonna be okay," I said calmly. "We're gonna save Unca Doody and Unca Buzz, right?"
"Right," Doc nodded, looking as determined as a toddler could.
"You're gonna get to be a real policeman!" I smiled. "Okay?"
"Okay," Doc smiled.
"Come on," I said, and I led Doc from the Big Bologna and towards the building.
I found the front door unlocked and so we entered cautiously. The front office was unextraordinary. Passing through to the back I led us down the narrow constructed corridor until we reached a storage area to our left. Beyond that I could see an open door which led to what looked like a large laboratory. Stepping closer to this open door I could just catch sight of Bugs and Doomsday. Both of them were tied to chairs.
Pushing Doc back away from the room, I led him into the storage area. "Okay," I whispered, coaxing him to sit on the floor beside several boxes. I made a quick scan of the area and didn't see any hazardous materials that would be dangerous for him to get into. "Dot, I need you to stay here, okay? Stay here and play quietly. Can you do that?"
"Yeah!" Doc whispered with a smile.
"Good boy," I said, patting his head. "I'll be back soon. Just stay here."
Dot began playing with the cardboard box beside him as I walked to the corridor. Slowly I approached the room. Doomsday and Bugs saw me coming and frantically tried to motion for me to stay away. Doomsday was tied to his chair with a few pieces of rope while Bugs was tied down to his chair with a ridiculously huge amount of rope.
"I take it from your spastic head maneuvers that our anticipated guest has arrived," I could hear Athena say in an amused voice.
I stepped into the room and found Athena standing beside a table in the center of the lab. Minerva was standing behind her, looking anxious.
"P.T., it's a trap!" Bugs yelled. "She wanted to lure you here!"
"I'm sure he knows that," Athena sighed impatiently.
"I knew that," I assured Bugs and Doomsday. "Leave it to Doc to know the best way to get to me is through you guys."
Athena smiled. "Then you knew that I knew that you would come," she smirked.
"Of course," I replied. "And you knew that I knew that you knew I would come."
"What else do you know, I wonder?" Athena hummed.
"I know that you know that we're not going to let you get away with stealing Doc's brain," I said.
Athena nodded. "I do know that. And surely you must know that I can't allow you to stand in my way?"
"I suspected as much," I sighed. "So, it's basically a showdown then."
"A battle of wills," Athena nodded. "Brains vs. Cleverness."
We stared at each other for a long moment. I knew this was going to be a real challenge. I had never needed to go up against Doc's brain before, and that was in addition to Athena's intellect, which was undisputably impressive in its own right.
A wicked smile crossed Athena's lips. "Bananas."
"BA . . . NA . . . NA!" Bugs starts screaming, writhing violently in the chair but unable to break free of the huge amount of ropes that bound him. "NA! NA . . . BA . . . NA . . . NA . . . !"
"Stop it!" I yelled.
"How many times in a row do you think he can stand my saying that to him?" Athena laughed.
Bugs started to come around, asking wearily, "What's happening?"
"Not much," Doomsday lied worriedly.
"Should we find out?" Athena asked with a smirk.
Thinking quickly, I ran over to the bookshelf and pulled down a huge volume from a set of science encyclopedia, flipping it open and looking quickly for a scientific fact.
"Ban . . . " Athena began.
I cut her off, announcing loudly, "The hottest planet in the solar system is Saturn!"
Athena gave me a puzzled look at first, then suddenly she felt herself growing irritated against her will. She clutched her head in pain and moaned, arguing, "No, it isn't! It's Venus!"
"The most abundant element in the universe is zinc!" I proclaimed. I knew the one thing that befuddled Doc more than anything else was listening to incorrect information stated as fact.
Athena looked even more pained, struggling to get a hold of herself. "No! No! No!" she screamed. "It's hydrogen! Zinc isn't even close!"
"And that's referenced on page 47!" I added, holding up the book to her.
"No! No, it's not!" Athena cried in anguish. "It's page 53!"
"Page 47!" I insisted, motioning for Bugs and Doomsday to join in.
"Page 53!" she cried.
"Page 47!" we shouted.
"All right, enough!" Athena cried, snatching the book away from me and giving me a nasty stare. "You want to play rough? Okay then! I happen to know that you didn't have time to take Doc anywhere before coming here, so you must have brought him with you." She caught the look of concern on my face and smiled. "Minerva, go find Doc and bring him here."
Minerva gave her mother a concerned look before hurrying from the room.
"50 plus 50 is 200," I said.
"You stop that!" Athena shouted with frustration. "Stop it or . . . or I'll say that word again!"
"What word?" Bugs asked.
"Okay, okay," I agreed. "We'll call this particular battle a truce."
"Fine," Athena sighed with relief.
Minerva walked out of the lab and almost immediately spotted Doc sitting on the floor beside the open cardboard box in the storage room.
"Doc!" Minerva exclaimed with surprise as she hurried to him. Doc whimpered slightly as she knelt beside him. "Oh, don't be afraid," she said comfortingly. "It'll be okay."
It was then Minerva realized that Doc had been playing with numerous eight track cassette tapes and boxes which he had pulled out of the cardboard box beside him. He was even chewing on the corner of one box, so she pulled it away from him.
"No, no, you mustn't play with these!" Minerva scolded gently.
Doc whined slightly, reaching for the box Minerva had taken away.
"No," Minerva said firmly. She glanced at the box and recognized her mother's unique way of signing her name: "Prof. V." Curious, she opened the box and shook loose the cassette within, eyeing the label which read clearly in her mother's handwriting, "Scruples."
"So that's why she was so certain she had room for your brain," Minerva realized. "She removed the scruples from her own mind. That's why she's . . . "
Minerva looked over her shoulder then quickly returned the cassette to its box. She threw the other cassettes and cases back into the cardboard box and then took Doc by the hand. "Come on, Doc. Come with me," she ordered.
When Minerva re-entered the lab she was leading Doc by the hand.
"Don't you dare hurt him!" I warned her.
"I wouldn't hurt him," Minerva assured me in a hurt voice, then catching the angry look from her mother she led Doc to a corner of the lab and made him sit down.
Doc had spotted Athena and cried out, "Scary lady!"
"It's okay," Minerva tried to console him as he cried softly.
"Now then," Athena said, "Since I have all of your friends here and can easily remove their brains . . . or what passes for brains . . . " She shot a look at Doomsday, who looked confused. " . . . don't you think it would be best to cooperate with me?"
"You make a fair argument," I agreed. "But I do have one question for you."
"And what would that be?" Athena asked.
"Why did you feel it was necessary to steal a man's brain?" I asked.
Athena looked dumbstruck.
"When we first met Minerva she was looking for the smartest man in town," I pointed out. "Not the smartest person. Now why is that?"
Minerva eyed her mother with curiosity.
"I'll tell you why," Athena snarled. "Because I not only wanted the smartest brain in town, I wanted to make sure to take away the smartest man's intelligence! One less man to have to worry about later on! And I hope one day to make all men as oppressed and trodden upon as they have made women all these years! I'll steal the brain of every man worth stealing! With the smartest minds in the world at my disposal, I can make sure all men pay for their arrogant assumption of superiority!"
"Is that what you really want to do, Mother?" Minerva asked in shock.
"Of course!" Athena spat angrily. "And no one, especially no man, is going to stop me!"
"Scary lady!" Doc cried as Minerva cradled his head to calm him.
"Well, I hate to fall into your twisted, clichéd viewpoint of men so readily, but since I am of the male persuasion I feel it necessary to point out that I'm definitely stronger than both you and Minerva," I stated calmly. "And if necessary I won't hesitate to use physical means to stop you."
Athena actually smiled. "So it's come to this? Threats of brute force? So typical of a man. When nothing else works, resort to violence."
"And hitting someone over the head with an umbrella isn't resorting to violence?" I asked.
"You always have just the right comeback, don't you?" Athena said with an eerie calm. "You are so clever, after all. And I'm beginning to realize that intelligence isn't always enough. If I had your cleverness as well, I'd be unstoppable!"
"And how can you assume you're going to be able to obtain that?" I asked.
Athena's smile grew wider. "BecauseI know one last thing you don't know that I know."
"Oh please don't start that again!" Bugs cried. "I already have a headache!"
"I know your Achilles' Heel," Athena informed me, moving to a row of shelves on the opposite side of the laboratory.
"Ha!" Doomsday laughed. "P.T. doesn't even wear heels!"
"His one weakness," Athena explained patiently.
"P.T. has a weakness?" Bugs asked.
Doomsday shrugged. "You have a weakness, P.T.?" he asked.
"I don't know," I shrugged. "I can't imagine what she's talking about."
Athena turned from the shelf holding a small brown box. "Perhaps you recall a trip you took when you were twelve . . . to Africa."
"Uh oh," I thought to myself, thinking quickly. "Did I ever tell Doc about that??"
"And you had a wonderful time," Athena continued, advancing on me as I instinctively backed away from her.
"I did, didn't I?" I realized with growing concern.
"All except for one pesky problem," Athena smiled, opening the box.
I could barely see the small plant clipping inside the container but its effects were immediate. In an instant Seymour, my nose, was tingling horribly, my eyes were watering and I began sneezing uncontrollably.
"You're violently allergic to Baobab trees," Athena smirked.
There was nothing I could do. The effects of the Baobab clipping were overwhelming and I could only sneeze and wheeze and gasp.
"Quick, Minerva, tie him down!" Athena ordered.
"But Mother . . . " Minerva protested.
"Now!" Athena ordered.
With my body being racked by constant sneezing I had no strength to fight off Minerva as she pushed me down into a chair and tied by arms and legs to it tightly.
"Scary lady! Bad!" Doc cried, jumping up and attempting to kick Athena in the shin.
"Get away from me, you little brat!" Athena roared, raising her arm and scaring Doc back into the corner.
"Leave him alone!" Doomsday cried angrily.
"Don't . . . hurt . . . him," I managed to sputter between sneezes.
Thankfully, Athena closed the box once I was tied down and I felt like I could begin to breath again.
"Minerva, hook him up to the machine," Athena ordered.
"You . . . won't get away with this," I gasped, fighting back another sneeze as Minerva began to affix the electrodes to my temples.
"I don't see why not," Athena smiled. "Once I have your cleverness, I'll empty the minds of your partners in crime-fighting here. Then with all of you out of the way, I can be sure to fulfill my plan for female world domination!"
Minerva avoided making eye contact with me as she worked. "Please," I gasped. "You don't have to do what she says."
Much to my disappointment, Minerva turned her back on me and switched on the machine.
"Stop!" Bugs shouted, trying to break free of the ropes that bound him.
"Leave P.T. alone!" Doomsday cried.
"Scary lady!" Doc shouted again.
"Is it ready, my dear?" Athena asked eagerly.
"It's all ready," Minerva assured her mother.
My eyes were still watering and I blinked several times, trying to clear my head. It was then I noticed that Minerva was tapping her finger ever so slightly on the table next to the machine. As I looked closer, I realized that the wires leading from the electrodes were laying unplugged beside the input jacks.
"Then . . . begin," Athena ordered with a smile.
Bugs and Doomsday watched in horror and Doc cried as Minerva hit the play and record buttons on the machine. I struggled at first then gradually grew calm, finally staring blankly ahead.
"Oh no . . . P.T.!" Doomsday gasped.
"Let him go!" Bugs shouted.
"Scary lady! Bad!" Doc cried again.
After about ten minutes, Minerva hit the stop button.
"It's done then?" Athena asked anxiously, pulling the electrodes from my head and fastening them to hers. "Wonderful! Perfect! Quickly now, transfer his cleverness to me!"
"Are you sure this is what you want, Mother?" Minerva asked.
"Positive," Athena cackled eagerly.
Without her mothering noticing, Minerva plugged the wires into the input jacks of the machine. Once her mother had finished affixing the electrodes to her temples and sat down in a chair beside the table, Minerva pressed the play and record buttons again.
"Whatever you say, Mother," Minerva sighed.
Bugs and Doomsday watched nervously and Doc whimpered as Athena's laugh grew quieter and quieter. Finally an eerie calm came over the laboratory.
"It looks like this is it for us," Bugs sighed sadly. "It was nice knowing you, Doomsday."
"It was nice knowing you, too, Bugs," Doomsday replied sadly. "I just wish I could have seen that movie about your trip to China starring Bruce Lee."
After a while, Minerva turned off the machine and said, "That should do it."
I lifted my head as Minerva walked behind my chair to untie me.
"I'm so sorry," she sighed.
"You did what you had to do," I offered sympathetically. "Thank you."
"Unca Petey!" Doc cried happily, running over to give me a hug.
"P.T.!" Bugs cried out with surprise. "But . . . your brain . . . ?"
"Still safely inside my head, thanks to Minerva," I assured Bugs, hurrying over to untie Doomsday.
"I don't understand," Doomsday said with confusion. "What happened?"
"I couldn't let my Mother get away with what she was planning," Minerva explained. "Especially when I found out she had removed her own scruples. She was out of control!"
Athena looked around and then started to cry. "Wanna Papa!" she wailed.
"I think maybe she could do with just being a kid again for a while," Minerva said with a smile.
"Scary lady big cry baby!" Doc teased Athena, causing Athena to cry even louder.
"Can you restore Doc's brain, Minerva?" Doomsday asked as I finished untying him and then started the long process of untying Bugs.
"Of course," Minerva assured him. She hurried from the room and returned a moment later carrying a cardboard box.
"Doomsday, why don't you help Minerva?" I suggested, fumbling with the long lengths of rope holding Bugs. "This could take a while."
Minerva set the box on the table beside the machine. "Look for the cassette box marked 'Doc's Brain,'" Minerva told Doomsday.
"Okay," Doomsday nodded, and he started looking through the cassettes inside the box.
Minerva removed the electrodes from her mother's head as Athena continued to cry. "There, there, Mother," Minerva spoke gently to her. "It will be okay. We'll go for ice cream later."
"Ice cream?" Athena asked with big, hopeful eyes.
"Wanna ice cream, too!" Doc chimed in.
"We'll get you some ice cream, too," Minerva promised him. "Come, sit down here like a good boy, okay?"
Doc sat in the chair by the machine and Minerva started trying to attach the electrodes to his head.
"No! Scary! Bad!" Doc protested, knocking her hands away.
"Doc, come on, you have to sit still," Minerva urged him gently.
"No wanna!" Doc cried.
"I found the cassette," Doomsday said, holding up the cassette tape box marked 'Doc's Brain.'
"Put the cassette into the machine," Minerva instructed as she continued to try to place the electrodes on Doc's head.
"Okay," Doomsday said, pushing the eject button on the machine and taking out the cassette containing Athena's brain to replace it with the cassette he'd found.
"No wanna!" Doc continued to cry.
"Hey, Dot!" Bugs called. "If you sit still and do what Aunt Minerva says, Unca Buzz will give you a horsey ride!"
"Horsey?" Doc sobbed softly.
"And ice cream," Doomsday promised.
"Ice cream?" Doc smiled.
"But you have to sit still for Aunt Minerva," I said.
"Okay," Doc promised, sitting still.
"You're such a good boy," Minerva smiled as she placed the electrodes on Doc's temples. Once done, she switched the wires to the output ports.
"Here goes," she said, pressing the play button.
We waited an anxious fifteen minutes, within which time I was finally able to free Bugs. At last Minerva hit the stop button.
"That should do it," she said.
We waited anxiously for some reaction from Doc, who was sitting and staring blankly ahead.
"Doc?" I asked. "How do you feel?"
Doc stood up and looked around. Suddenly he broke out singing in a high-pitched voice, "Loving you . . . is easy 'cause you're beautiful . . !"
"What is that?" Bugs cried.
Minerva looked started. Quickly she hit the eject button on the machine and pulled out the cassette to look at it. "Oh no!" she gasped.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Doc was playing with the eight-track tapes and must have put a different cassette into the 'Doc's Brain' box! This is Minnie Riperton's album, 'Perfect Angel!'"
"Well, for goodness sake!" Bugs cried, "Let's find the cassette with Doc's brain! And quick, before he tries to hit the high notes!"
We all fumbled through the cassettes frantically as Doc continued to sing, "La, la, la, la, la . . . la, la, la, la, la . . . la, la, la, la la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . . doo doo doo dee doo . . . "
We all covered our ears as Doc squealed out a painfully high, "Aaaahhhhhh!!!!"
" . . . so then Minerva finally managed to restore your brain and that's what happened," I finished.
"Perfect timing, P.T.," Doomsday noted as he pulled the Big Bologna up to the curb in front of the 927th precinct.
Doc was very quiet and we all looked at him worriedly. "You okay?" Bugs asked.
"Yes," Doc answered. "It's just . . . well, it's all so hard to believe. I don't remember any of this."
"The important thing is you're back to being yourself," I noted. "And Minerva promised that she would turn her mother over to the authorities when she's old enough."
"Oh," Doc said, looking confused for a moment. Then he offered sincerely, "I really must thank you guys for going to such lengths to get my brain back."
"That's okay," Doomsday smiled. "We know you'd have done the same for us."
As we exited the Big Bologna, Sgt. Vinton was walking toward the building and stopped. "Oh here," he said, reaching into his breast pocket as he approached Doc, "I have something for you." He pulled out a lollipop and held it up in front of Doc, saying in a cutesy voice, "Would you wike a wowipop?"
Doc looked at Sgt. Vinton strangely, then leaned over to me and asked, "Are you sure she didn't steal his brain as well?"
"Um, Sgt. Vinton . . . we got Doc's brain back," I explained.
"Oh," Sgt. Vinton said, looking embarrassed. He unwrapped the lollipop and popped it into his mouth, stating, "Good job, boys!" before walking into the station.
"Fellas, exactly what was I like when my brain was gone?" Doc asked suspiciously.
I coughed slightly and shuffled my feet. We hadn't bothered telling Doc all the details about his behavior during the previous twenty-four hours. "Oh well, you were . . . you were, um . . . "
"Heavy," Bugs chimed in. I elbowed him sharply in the side.
"Are you sure you're okay, Doc?" Doomsday asked. "Can we get you something to eat or anything?"
"Yeah, there's tons of leftover watercress in the C.A.P.E.R. room," Bugs offered.
"Actually, if you don't mind, I think I'd like to go over to the library and do some reading," Doc answered. "I've lost a whole day of learning and I'd like to catch up."
"Sure," I said. "We'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay," Doc said as he turned to leave. "Thanks again, guys!"
We stood watching as Doc walked away.
"You know, I'm kind of going to miss Dot," Doomsday sighed sadly.
"Yeah," Bugs agreed. "In a way, I feel bad that we had to give Doc his brain back. He seemed so much happier without it."
"Don't feel bad," I said. "Doc is still happy. He's happy when he's studying and he's happy when he's thinking. He's just more reserved about it is all."
"But he's so serious all the time," Doomsday noted.
"Listen, Dot is still somewhere inside of Doc," I assured them. "I'm sure we'll see him again from time to time." I looked at my watch. "Listen, I think we can go ahead and call it a day, don't you?"
Bugs and Doomsday happily agreed. Bugs helped me take my bike down from the front of the Big Bologna and we agreed it was Bugs' turn to take the van home. Bugs offered to drop Doomsday at his house on the way, so after saying goodbye I mounted the bike and rode off.
As I approached the park I saw Doc cutting across the grassy clearing on his way to the library. I slowed down when I realized he was stopping in front of the empty swing set. After a moment he looked around to see if anyone was watching, then he proceeded to walk over to one of the swings and sit down, grabbing the chains and backing up to get a good start, then lifting his legs and swinging forward.
I smiled as I started pedaling again. Oh yes . . . there was definitely still a little Dot left in Doc.