Chapter 10: Resolution
"There are more than seven billion people in the world. Out of those 7,000,000,000, you have to find the 1 that's right for you."
This was a sign. Ned was sure of that. Suzie returning was a sign that he had done the right thing by staying friends with Moze. If he had told her he liked her at any time, for any reason, Suzie returning would have caused a fiasco.
He could just imagine it: Moze awkwardly stammering a hasty apology that she just wanted to be friends. Suzie crying and rending her garments, calling him a betrayer. Faymen riding in on a white horse, sweeping Moze off her feet, and laughing maniacally at Ned for thinking he was any match for the tall, dark, Brazilian import. Planet Earth being knocked off course by a giant meteor and hurling into the sun.
That might be a bit of a worst case scenario, but he was glad he avoided it all the same.
Still, as Suzie chatted at him happily from her seat beside him on the bus, his eyes kept flitting over to where Moze and Faymen were sitting across the aisle, and he wondered: 'Would she have picked me?'
"This is definitely a sign." said Moze to Ms. Frizzle. The buses had finally arrived at their destination and everyone was spilling out and stretching their legs after the two-hour ride.
"With Suzie back, Ned has a girlfriend. I have Faymen. Everyone has someone. We can all be happy." Moze continued.
"Of course'" said Ms. Frizzle. "Although, you could just as easily be paired with Ned and Suzie can have Faymen." She added coyly.
Moze glared at her, annoyed.
"My point," Moze said, "is that everyone is happy. There's no need to upset the applecart. We don't need to run the other test."
"Really?" asked Ms. Frizzle. "You're in no way interested in knowing if you and Ned are truly, madly, and/or deeply in love? Destined to ride off into the sunset and forever be happy? Getting heart shaped candies on…" she trailed off at this point. Her teasing expression replaced with one of worry. She looked around, as if in response to a sound Moze didn't hear.
Before Moze could ask what was making her act stranger than usual, Vice Principal Crubbs addressed the crowd. He was standing on a bench overlooking the students and speaking through a megaphone. For some reason, the megaphone was wearing sunglasses.
"Good morning students!" he shouted. "Welcome to the World Showcase." He gestured broadly to the giant gate behind him.
The gate was a huge archway, big enough to accommodate a passenger plane. It was decorated by metal flags of all the nations of the world: the Union Jack (Britain), the Star Spangled Banner (America), The Rising Sun (Japan), a Train Racing an Octopus (The Greater Andaman Islands), and hundreds more. At the top of the arch, in bronze letters as tall as a grown man, were the words 'World Showcase'.
"For those of you who don't know," Crubbs continued, "This is a theme park. It's divided up into different enclosures, one for each major nation in the world. Each enclosure features life size buildings and architecture endemic to the culture. The Park has hired people from the actual countries to work in the enclosures. The park literally has miles worth of exhibits."
"Now, this is an educational field trip," Crubbs said. "So, while you're having fun, learn something, or this whole thing was a wash. And since this is a school trip, the school rules still apply: no fighting, no shouting, don't break anything, or you're fired."
After his inspirational speech, everyone surged forward through the archway. As Ms. Frizzle made her way into the park, she would look around every so often, keeping an eye out for a red overcoat.
"This is incredible!" said Cookie, looking down from the railing into the Spree River. "They built a river!"
They were in the German Enclosure. The park had replicated the city of Berlin. Ned wasn't as vocal as Cookie, but he was just as impressed. They had made everything look so real: the buildings looked like life sized buildings, the cobblestones looked like they'd been weathered by years of being trodden on, and they had built an actual flowing river down the middle of it. Ned wondered if when they went to the Jamaican Enclosure they'd see an ocean.
Their group was wondering which enclosures they were going to visit first. A tour guide passed them with her group.
"Germany is the birthplace of the printing press, as invented by Johannes Gutenberg," said the Guide. "It made possible the widespread dissemination of knowledge. A book that would have taken months to hand copy could now be printed in minutes."
"I definitely want to visit the Thai enclosure," said Suzie, looking over the park map. "These temples are so ornate. What their culture can do with spires is inspiring."
"I'd like to see the Venetian enclosure," Said Loomer. "I always thought it was cool that they didn't have streets, just canals."
"Which one do you want to see, Lisa?" asked Cookie. She didn't answer, most likely because she couldn't hear him over the sound of the horde of boys that was surrounding her.
"Jennifer," said Faymen, "I want to take you to see the Brazilian Enclosure. They have a replica of the Great Theater of Manaus."
"I want to know what's bothering Ms. Frizzle," said Ned.
At this declaration, they all turned to see where he was looking. Ms. Frizzle was under the Brandenburg Gate, walking in circles around one of the pillars. By wordless agreement, they all walked over to where their teacher was apparently going crazy. Lisa's posse hung back out of a healthy fear for a person of an unknown mental state.
"Ms. Frizzle?" said Ned cautiously.
She stopped her perambulating and turned to him.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
She chewed her bottom lip, and tugged at one of her explosive red curls, then she answered.
"Since we arrived here I've been feeling there's trouble afoot," she said.
"Like there's something rotten in the Denmark Enclosure?" asked Cookie.
Ms. Frizzle's punishment for his bad pun was preempted by a building exploding.
For Ned, everything seemed to move slowly, as if he was watching a movie where all his actions were scripted out ahead of time being played out in slow motion. The girls all hit the deck, then the boys dogpiled on top of them to form a meat shield. From his position on top of Moze, Ned could see Ms. Frizzle standing between them and now smoking building. Taking stock of the situation, Ned saw that the roof of one of the buildings had been blown off, there was a lot of debris flying everywhere and clouds of smoke, but at least the city wasn't on fire and people weren't being crushed by falling rock. He looked around at his friends. Cookie was plastered over Lisa. He and Faymen were perched on Moze. Loomer was covering Suzie, who looked horrified at the explosion, annoyed that her boyfriend was heroically defending another girl, with undertones of shock that she was being protected from further harm by her ex.
The roof of the building seemed to be blossoming. Something large, red, and silk was emerging from the ruined structure: a hot air balloon. The group pulled themselves up to get a better look and possibly run away if necessary.
The Balloon ascended slowly above the park, which is really the only speed a hot air balloon can go. In the basket of the Balloon was a lady. She had a large red hat and a red overcoat. She was too far away to see clearly, but Ned imagined she had a smug expression on her face. All of a sudden she jerked down suddenly because something had grabbed onto her red scarf that was trailing over the side of the balloons basket.
"Ms. Frizzle!" Ned and the others cried out. Ms. Frizzle had, in a short amount of time, managed to scale the smoldering building, make a jump of a narrow ledge, and snatch the villainess's scarf. And she did it all in a skirt and two-inch heels.
The lady in red flailed as her scarf choked her. Ms. Frizzle climbed higher and higher towards the basket. The lady in red finally looked over the basket rim to see what was trying to murder her and saw the ascending school teacher. From somewhere within the basket she pulled something out. At first Ned though it was a broom stick, which didn't make sense, but as she aimed and threw it, he knew it was a spear, which made more sense, and was also very bad.
Ms. Frizzle saw the spear before it was launched and swung out of the way. This crucial maneuver proved to be too much for the stylish scarf, which came disentangled from its owner and sent Ms. Frizzle falling to the unforgiving if highly authentic pavement.
Without any clear plan in mind, Ned ran toward where her trajectory intersected with solid ground. All the other guys had the same idea and they converged on the point to catch her. They didn't manage to catch her, but they did succeed in breaking her fall.
She picked herself up her impromptu mattress of groaning students and shook her fist at the escaping balloonist.
"Curse you, Carmen Sandiego!" she cried.
Carmen Sandiego waved at her from the balloon basket. "Boa Sorte!" she yelled down.
"Did you say 'Carmen Sandiego'?" asked Lisa. She and the other girls were trying to pull the crushed boys to their feet.
"Who's Carmen Sandiego?" gasped out Loomer, whose lungs had been forcibly evacuated.
"She's the world's greatest thief!" said Lisa. "The greatest thief in History!"
"The fiend who stole Newton's Apple," said Suzie.
"That's a thing?" asked Loomer.
"The filcher who kidnapped the Primogeniture of Luxembourg," said Moze.
"The who of where?" asked Ned.
"The mastermind who stole the tea from China," said Lisa.
"All of it?" asked Faymen.
"All of it!" affirmed Lisa.
"The felon who purloined the shores of Patagonia." said Cookie.
"That" started Ned, "cannot possibly -."
"Enough!" snapped Ms. Frizzle. "What would she be doing in the World Showcase?" she resumed pacing in circles, trying to chase a good idea. "Everything here is a replica. There's nothing here worth stealing." she gestured to the damaged building, now revealed to be a wire frame with a plaster shell.
At this point, a woman came stumbling out of the wreckage, coughing, covered in ash, clothes in tatters, and carrying a large, leathery rectangle in one hand. She was waving it around. This must have meant something to Ms. Frizzle, who ran up to her and snatched the object from the woman's grasp. Ms. Frizzle was so focused on whatever it was that she didn't give the woman a second glance when she collapsed.
Moze, not seeing the value in the object when levied against human life, ran up to the fainted woman. She tried to picture her as Resuci-Larry.
"Ned!" she yelled. "I need a bandage."
He checked his pockets. "I don't have a - ." There was a ripping sound and he found himself with one less sleeve. "You're welcome," he said, as Moze wound the fabric around the woman's arm.
"I know what this is!" declared Ms. Frizzle, gazing at the object in horror. Now that Ned was closer, he saw it was a ripped off book cover. "That fiend has stolen The Book of Love!"
They looked at her blankly; uncomprehending of the impending horror that concerned Ms. Frizzle. Moze didn't know a lot about evil plots, but if the jumping off point was 'Stealing The Book of Love' it seemed fairly innocuous.
"That cannot be a thing." said Loomer.
"That thing is a thing!" said Ms. Frizzle. "And I assure you, a plot involving The Book of Love is anything but innocuous!"
"But love is the source of kindness, compassion, and mercy." said Lisa. "It's a force for good."
"Tell that to Romeo and Juliet." said Ms. Frizzle.
"Oh, that's right." said Lisa. "Romeo died, Juliet died, Mercutio died, Paris died, Tybalt died…"
"Did anyone even live through that play?" asked Suzie.
"I think the monk was alive at the end," said Ned.
"Focus!" said Moze. "What is the Book of Love?"
"The Book of Love was written very long ago," said Ms. Frizzle, "in the days of cuneiform and stone tablets. It was compiled as part of an initiative by ancient scholars to understand love."
"Aww," said the girls.
"Why haven't we ever heard of it?" asked Lisa.
"Because, as an instruction manual and comprehensive explanation, the book was a complete failure." said Ms. Frizzle. "Those ancient ones bit off more than they could chew. It was the days when fire was cutting-edge technology. And all of the authors were men." She scoffed.
"No wonder it bombed," said Suzie.
"Since then, the book has been passed down from generation to generation." continued Ms. Frizzle. "It has been added to and improved by hundreds of authors over thousands of years. Its contributors span every era of human history and ever culture to have ever existed. Working tirelessly to perfect their understanding of Love."
"Um, about the success of this," asked Ned. "Was there any?"
"Well, some of the formulas they've come up with are pretty accurate," said Ms. Frizzle.
"Like, an algebraic formula?" asked Ned. "Seriously?"
"Yeah, Dr. Xavier did that for me and Faymen," said Moze.
"Really?" said Ned. "What did it say?"
"You!" said Ms. Frizzle, directing her comment at the woman passed out in the rubble. She pulled up the woman by her collar. "Why is the Book of Love in the World Showcase!? It's supposed to be under heavy guard in the real Berlin!"
"The ICL brought it here." the terrified woman said in a thick German accent.
"Who?" asked Loomer.
"The International Committee on Love," guessed Suzie.
"Now, that really cannot be a thing," said Loomer.
"The book was in total disarray," the woman continued. "There were chapters in different languages; chapters in dead languages; some chapters were just pictures. The music had no tempo notation."
"It has music in it?" asked Moze.
"What were the pictures of?" asked Loomer, grinning mischievously.
"The formulas weren't even in metric," the lady continued.
"What are these formulas?" asked Ned. "I mean, if I hypothetically wanted to test -."
"No test!" said Moze.
"The World Showcase has every language and culture represented," the lady continued. "This is the one place we could translate the entire text into a single language, gain cultural insights into the ancient romantic legends, and finally arrange the book into a cohesive narrative."
"You were translating it into German?" asked Ms. Frizzle quizzically.
"Alright," Ms. Frizzle dropped the poor woman again and resumed pacing. "Carmen Sandiego has stolen The Book of Love. But why? Who would buy it?"
"An online dating site?" supplied Ned.
"The Splinter Group of Oprah's Book Club?" offered Suzie.
"We can just catch her and ask." said Cookie. "Her getaway vehicle is a bright red hot air balloon going at 4 miles an hour in broad daylight. We could catch her with a golf cart and a pair of binoculars."
"The ICL is no doubt scrambling their security to follow her cumbersome getaway vehicle." said Ms. Frizzle. "But because of its ostentatiousness, I believe the red balloon to be a red herring. She will abandon the balloon for alternate transportation and will slip away unobserved while everyone is chasing the decoy."
"Then what can we do?" asked Ned.
"Either she's going to give it to an outside buyer," said Ms. Frizzle, "or she's planning to ransom it to the ICL. If it's the ransom, she'll stay close by for convenient pick-up and drop-off. She'll probably take advantage of local experts to translate any passages she's interested in. I wouldn't put it past her to use it for nefarious purposes. If she's still in the park we can find her."
"How do we know she's in the park?" asked Cookie.
"We don't," confessed Ms. Frizzle. "But it's the only scenario where we can do anything."
"I might know where she is," said Ned, examining the scarf that Ms. Frizzle had brought down. "This isn't a scarf, it's part of a Sari: a traditional Indian gown. I recognize it from a report I did for Mr. Pal. She could be in the Indian Enclosure."
"There's more," said Cookie. He was examining the spear that Carmen Sandiego had thrown at Ms. Frizzle. Right now it was sticking out of the chest of an unfortunate erstwhile tourist. "This is a harpoon used by the Aleutian whale hunters. She could be in the Canadian Enclosure."
"She shouted 'Boa Sorte!'" chipped in Faymen. "That's a thing we say in Brazil. She could be in the Brazilian Enclosure."
"Good work, gumshoes!" said Ms. Frizzle, rubbing her hands together. "And the balloon she was in had a smell that reminds me of Jamaica. We have leads, but I can't go to four countries at once."
She pondered her options for a moment, and settled on the one with least regard for safety.
"Right," she said finally. "Ned, Jennifer, Simon, William, Faymen, Lisa, Suzie! As of now I am conscripting you into the Inquisitorial Squad; a club I have just now invented. It provides college credit."
"Yes!" Cookie fist pumped.
"The aims of this club is to find where in the world is Carmen Sandiego," Ms. Frizzle continued. "The minute you find her, call me, and the police, and the national guard. We'll have to split up to follow all the leads. Simon and Lisa, go to Canada!"
"On it." said Lisa. She and Cookie took off.
"Jennifer and Faymen, go to Brazil," said Ms. Frizzle.
As they left, Ned suppressed a shudder. The horrific thought of those two going to the real Brazil danced across his mind. If he had looked after her, he would have seen her cast a worried glance at him. As it was, he missed it. As it happened, Suzie saw.
"Ned, Suzie, William!" said Ms. Frizzle.
"William?" asked Suzie.
"We've been calling Loomer by his first name since the pie-vending machine incident," answered Ned.
"Is that a thing?" asked Suzie.
"You three are going to India!" said Ms. Frizzle. She turned and walked off. "I'm going to Jamaica."
The Great Theater of Manaus in the Brazilian Enclosure was stunning. The dome of the building was tiled in bright colors. The exterior of the building was interspersed with statues. Moze and Faymen were standing on the portico of the theater looking out over the rest of the enclosure.
"This place is stunning," said Moze, looking at the rainforest in the distance.
"During the rainy season," said Faymen, "my family takes a boat up the river to our house deep within the jungle." He leaned in closer to whisper into her ear. "Maybe this year you can come with us."
Moze was spared making this decision by a scream coming from inside the theater. The both ran inside at top speed.
The theater was empty and poorly lit. Moze and Faymen went down the center aisle, heads constantly swiveling, in case of any red villain in the shadows or hiding in between the seats.
"Up there!" shouted Faymen.
Moze looked where he was pointing. In one of the upper balconies a woman was hanging by her frock over the railing. She was trying to pull herself up and not panic, though failing at both.
After some running around, they found the staircase to the upper balconies and found the one with the dangling woman. A sword was stabbed through the collar of her frock into the railing of the balcony to hold her in place. They both managed to pull her up. Moze looked her over for serious damage while Faymen tried to pull the sword out of the woodwork.
"Who did this to you?" Moze asked.
"It was some maniac in a red overcoat!" cried the lady. She had a single long black braid and copper skin. "She wanted me to translate some book."
"The Book of Love!" said Moze and Faymen.
"That's a thing?" asked the Brazilian woman. "The passage she had me translate was an old legend, the story of Iurupari."
"What's that?" asked Moze.
"It is one of the stories of our people," said the woman. "In the time when there were tribes and no cities, an Amazonian woman fell in love with a warrior from another tribe. Their tribes would not permit them to be together, and, out of loyalty to their tribe, they stayed far away from each other."
"As time passed, their feelings did not lessen, and the pain they felt from being apart grew more onerous. The God of Dreams, Iurupari, saw their plight and was resolved to ease their sadness. Every night, in their dreams, Iurupari would bring them together. In the dream world they grew closer and their love became stronger."
"One day, the warrior could not stand to be physically separate from the woman he loved any longer and went to her tribe's land. When her tribe caught him, they were greatly angry, and sentenced him to die. The woman who loved him, helpless to save his life, clung to him and refused to let go."
"Then Iurupari appeared in fire and storm. He waved his hand, and the spirits of the two lovers left their bodies. He gathered them up and spirited them away to the next world." the woman finished.
"That's so sad." said Moze.
"Well, yes," said the woman. "They could have gotten over each other, found someone else in their own tribes, lived longer, but then what kind of story would that be?"
"But, everyone would have been happy." said Moze.
"No." corrected the woman. "They would have missed each other for the rest of their lives."
"Oh, that's right," said Moze. "And he lives right next door."
"What?" said Faymen.
"They took a risk and it didn't pan out," said the Brazilian woman. "But if you don't take any risks, nothing great is ever going to happen to you."
"Got it!" said Faymen. He managed to pull the sword out of the woodwork and free the woman. The woman booked out of the theater, shouting for la policia.
"Wait!" shouted Moze. "Did the woman in red say where she was going?"
"I think I know." said Faymen, holding the sword delicately. "This is a katana."
"Oh," said Moze. "Isn't that a samurai sword?"
"Yes." said Faymen. "Samurai are the warrior class of Japan."
"To Japan." said Moze. "Or rather, the Japanese Enclosure."
Meanwhile, in the Indian Enclosure:
Ned, Suzie, and Loomer were searching through a replica of the Chola Temple.
"This is incredible." said Suzie. "It's like the Jungle Book."
"That makes sense." said Loomer, "It was set in the Indian rainforest."
"You've read the Jungle Book?" asked Suzie, skeptically.
"After I started applying myself more in English, I discovered I was a huge Rudyard Kipling fan." said Loomer.
The conversation went on without Ned's involvement. Which was just as well, his mind was on other things. Part of him was wondering where was Carmen Sandiego. Part of him was focused on the feeling of Suzie's hand in his. Part of him was focused on Moze being with Faymen in Brazil. He felt worry about the caper, jealousy of Faymen, guilt about thinking of her when he was with Suzie, happiness that Suzie was back, guilt about being happy that Suzie was back when he had been admitted to himself that he liked Moze, confusion about whether or not admitting this constituted an abrogation of the boyfriend and/or best friend code. Maybe when he found the Book of Love it would have a flowchart.
"What did happen to Loom- ah, William?" Suzie whispered to him, surreptitiously. "He's changed. Like, bitten-by-a-werewolf changed."
"Oh," said Ned. "It started with a pie vending machine -."
He was cut off by a scream coming from the faux jungle. Reflexively, Ned and Loomer grabbed each other, sandwiching Suzie between them.
"Tiger!" they screamed.
"What?" asked Suzie. "Here? Don't be ridiculous." She pried herself out from between them and made her way into the jungle.
The boys followed, resolving to later explain to Suzie the domestic threat of tigers. They all followed the screaming to a tree, which had a woman in its branches.
"What are you doing up there?" asked Suzie.
"I was chased up here." said the Indian woman wearing a purple sari that was badly roughed up from her climb. "A crazy lady in a red overcoat chased after me with a truncheon."
"Well," said Suzie, looking around. "She's gone, now. You can come down."
"I will wait here until the constable comes." said the woman, hugging the tree branch.
"What did she want?" asked Ned.
"She wanted me to translate a book." said the treed woman. "It was full of charts and figures and instructions for dancing."
"Well, that's unhelpful." said Ned.
"Truncheon…" said Loomer, thoughtfully. "I've heard that before."
"She also wanted me to explain the story of Sohni and Mahiwal." said the treed woman.
"Ah, yes." said Suzie. "Them. Of course, I know it. Just for Ned's benefit –"
"Why don't you repeat the story?"
"Sohni and Mahiwal were potters." she began. "She was promised in marriage to another man."
"So, naturally, they fell in love." filled in Ned.
"Naturally," said the treed woman. "They lived on opposite sides of a river. In the dark of the night, Mahiwal would swim over the river to see Sohni. One night he was caught and Sohni's husband stabbed him in the heart."
"Sohni dragged his body to her kiln and fashioned a new heart for him out of clay. She fired it in her kiln and put it in his chest and he came back to life."
"However, her husband's rage had not abated, and when he next saw her, he threw her in the river and she was attacked by Gharials."
"Gharilas?" asked Ned.
"Crocodile with prognathous snout." filled in the treed woman. "When Mahiwal woke up, she was bleeding heavily. So he repaired her wounds with ceramic patches. Then they both roped a Gharial and it pulled them to a new village down river where they lived out the rest of their lives, happily and with each other."
"Good story." said Ned. "If somewhat implausible."
"Adherence to reality isn't of paramount importance." said the treed woman. "What's important is what you learn from the story."
"Yeah, of course," said Suzie. "I get it, but for Ned's benefit -."
"Can you explain it?"
"What the potter molds by hand is an extension of themselves," said the treed woman. "Those parts were ingrained into other people. She became a part of him. He became a part of her. That's what love does."
Ned remembered back to when he told Moze he was going to start applying himself in school. She had walked him through her patented scheduling and study regiment. He followed it to the letter and now he got all his assignments in early and aced every test. That part of him that was studious came from Moze. He wondered if there was anything she had gotten from him. She must have, they had known each other their entire lives. How much of him was her? How much of her was him? How much of him belonged with her?
"Truncheon!" Loomer shouted. "It's a club used by British law enforcement. Anyone else would just call it a club, but tree lady is clued in because India was once governed by Britain."
"And?" asked Ned.
"Carmen Sandiego is in the British Enclosure!"
Meanwhile, in the Japanese Enclosure:
The samurai warrior blocked a blade that came within an inch of his jugular, then another that made a slice for his leg. He struck a body blow to his opponent, relieving him of one of his legs. It was all very humdrum, but had Faymen's rapt attention. Like every man who has ever lived, he had a weakness for theatrical violence.
"How are we going to find Carmen Sandiego if you're focused on the samurai exhibition?" asked a disappointed Moze.
"She might decide to kidnap one of the samurai and question him." said Faymen, still focused on the exhibition.
"A man with a sword? In front of a crowd?" asked Moze. She was being snippier than usual. Even if there wasn't a caper going on, this enclosure reminded her of the bet Ned won against her with his project on Japan. The image of him in popsicle stick armor kept distracting her from the villainess crisis and made her think about her romantic crisis. She was distracted from her romantic crisis and back onto the villainess by shouting coming from a nearby shrine. She ran over, ran back, grabbed Faymen, and ran over with him in tow.
The pursuit of the anguished screams took them to the Zen garden behind the shrine. Sitting underneath a large, presumably sacred tree was a priestess. She was clutching one shoulder and her kimono was stained red, presumably with blood.
"Quick, Faymen!" said Moze, running up to the bleeding priestess. "I need a bandage!"
"I don't have a –," Rip! "You're welcome."
"What happened?" asked Moze, putting pressure on the wound.
"I was attacked…by a woman in a red kimono" said the priestess. "She wanted me to translate a book. It was full of flowcharts and diagrams."
"I'll go find a medic." said Faymen, and he ran off.
"Is there anything else you can tell us?" asked Moze. "Do you know where she's going?"
"No idea." said the priestess. "The only thing I even remember from translating her book was the story of Tanabata."
"Who is that?" asked Moze.
"It's the story of a Princess and an Oxherd." said the priestess. "They are in love, but they became so focused on each other they neglected their other duties. The Emperor looked out of his castle one day to find there were oxen running wild over the rice fields. He was enraged and moved them to opposite sides of the universe."
"The Universe?" asked Moze. "What was he emperor of?"
"They were miserable without each other." the priestess continued. "For months the Princess begged the Emperor to return the Oxherd. He relented, and made them a deal. If they are dutiful in fulfilling their responsibilities then he will give them one day together on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year."
"That's horrible!" said Moze. "One day a year!"
"Some people don't get to see their true love ever again," said the priestess. "True, it's not particularly happy, but the story is about the pain love can exact. That deep, abiding, ponderous, burning ache when the person you love isn't with you anymore."
Moze thought back to when Ned first started dating Suzie and he hadn't spent as much time with her. She had flipped out. Cookie-level flipped out.
Faymen ran back into the garden, two medics with a stretcher in tow. Moze stood back as they loaded up the priestess and tended to her wound. A team of police officers descended on the scene.
"That woman is causing chaos from Argentina to Zimbabwe." said one of the officers. "If only she would stumble into the North Korean Enclosure."
"That woman," said the priestess, reaching out for Moze from her stretcher as they carried her away. "She got away on a bicycle."
"Great," said Moze. "That's a clue. Which countries have bicycles?"
"The ones that have people with feet." said Faymen. "Bicycles are the most popular mode of transportation in the world. Every country in the world sponsors bike races. Several countries use bicycles to the exclusion of cars."
"That's it!" cried Moze. "A bike race! The most famous bike race! The Tour de France!"
Meanwhile, in the British Enclosure:
Ned, Suzie, and Loomer were searching through a replica of Royal Hyde Park. Suzie was searching through a grove of Yew trees. Loomer was trying, unsuccessfully, to open up a blue police call box. Ned was searching a hedgerow.
He came upon a pedestal in the middle of a flower bed. He had seen several of them in the garden. All the other ones had generals perched on them, posed heroically, but this one was empty. Ned saw it still had a plaque on it. It read 'BOOJUM'. Maybe, the statue was taken away for cleaning.
He heard a groan behind the pedestal, and looked over it to see a man lying prostrate in the agapanthus. He was wearing suit and waistcoat with a Windsor tie. There was a watch chain trailing from his breast pocket. He had an impressive moustache. Ned felt the overwhelming urge to call him Jeeves.
He gave the man a shake.
"Jeeves!" he said. "Who did this to you? Was she wearing red?"
"How do you know my name?" asked the man, slurring his words together. "There was a lady…" he trailed off and started snoring.
Loomer and Suzie ran up to find Ned shaking the man.
"What's going on?" asked Loomer. "Did Carmen Sandiego get him?"
"Doubtful," said Suzie, picking up a wine bottle from under a fern. She turned it upside down experimentally; nothing came out.
Jeeves woke up suddenly.
"Yes! Carmen! That was her Name." he shouted. "She gave me a bottle o' bubbly for translating a passage of a book she had." He passed out again.
Ned turned him on his side and stood back up.
"That doesn't make sense." said Ned. "Why would she need to translate a passage that's already in English?"
"Maybe it was in British English?" suggested Loomer.
"Seriously, Loomer?" said Suzie. "She needed an interpreter for British English?"
"It was about a Snark." said Jeeves, coming to.
"A what?" asked Ned.
"A creature that tastes meager, yet hollow, but crisp." said Jeeves. "Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist, with a flavor of will-o-the-wisp. It has a fondness for bathing machines, which it constantly carries about, it is said to improve the beauty of scenes; a sentiment open to doubt. Some have whiskers that scratch and some have feathers that bite. If you're snark is a snark that is right. Bring it home by all means. You can serve it with greens, and it's handy for striking a light." He passed back out.
They pondered this for a minute. Suzie turned to Loomer.
"I owe you an apology," said Suzie.
"What was the story?" asked Ned, giving Jeeves a nudge with his foot.
"It's the story of the Snark that was a Boojum." mumbled Jeeves. "Once upon a time, there was a Boojum…" he trailed off. "I forget the rest of the story." He belched. "There was a moral, but I forget that, too."
"Nice," said Ned. "Our only lead has given us more questions than answers, and he won't be sober for …" he paused, "What was in that bottle?"
"Champagne," said Suzie, examining the label. "So, 16 to 18 hours."
"Ah, you kids today," groaned Jeeves. "So obsessed with clear cut answers and logical solutions. With all your… your…thinking and worrying and lists of pros and cons and…and…worrying about things not working out or…or…"
"Signs?" asked Ned.
"Signs!" said Jeeves. "And after all that careful consideration, trying to make everyone happy, making sure nothing goes wrong; Do you have what you really want?"
"No…" said Ned.
"What?" asked Suzie and Loomer.
"Nothing!" said Ned. "Where is she headed now?"
"Champagne," said Suzie, holding up the bottle.
"Yes!" said Jeeves.
"No," said Suzie. "Champagne was first made in the Champagne region of France. It was the first carbonated beverage; the precursor to soda pop."
"So, she's on her way to the French Enclosure!" said Ned.
The sun was setting over the World Showcase. The lights were going on in the French Enclosure. Under the Arc du Triomphe, Cookie and Lisa looked around for trouble. They were in bad shape: their clothes were in tatters, they were smeared with ashes, they were bleeding in various places, and Cookie was limping slightly. It was here and in this condition, they ran into, or rather were run into by, Ned, Loomer, and Suzie.
"Cookie!" shouted Ned, hugging him.
Cookie gave a groan of pain at the embrace.
"What happened to you two?" asked Suzie.
"It was horrible," said Cookie.
"But so exciting!" chimed in Lisa.
"We went to the Canadian Enclosure."
"An Aleut woman was being chased by walrus."
"We tried to lure them away."
"Simon was so brave! He got gored by a tusk."
"Lisa was amazing! She tackled a big one to the ground."
"Which is how we found a shrunken head."
"That led us to the Indonesian Enclosure."
"There were headhunters there. They thought we were the ones who attacked a tribe woman. So, they chased us."
"We got away. We found a giraffe."
"That led us to the Botswanan Enclosure."
"Where we were chased by a herd of giraffe."
"But a werewolf attacked them."
"And that led us to the French Enclosure," finished Lisa.
"Can you expatiate on the werewolf?" asked Loomer.
"Those cannot be real," said Suzie. "How do you know it was a werewolf?"
"She introduced herself," said Cookie.
"What happened to you guys?" asked Moze, who had just arrived with Faymen.
"Moze!" yelled Ned, running to hold her. "What happened to you?"
"Huh?" asked Moze. She looked down at herself and realized she was still covered in the priestess's blood. "Oh, this isn't mine."
"We must be close," said Loomer. "We all found our way to the same enclosure. Though, I'm still unclear how you make the French werewolf connection."
"It got me thinking of the story of the beast that turns into a man," said Lisa. "The French have a story about a man who was turned into a beast. He was so hideous that no one could stand to be around him. There was one woman that came to live in his castle, as payment for saving her father. The longer she lived there, the more she understood him, the more she grew to love him, and the more she loved him was the more beautiful he became."
"That's the power of love," said Cookie. "It beautifies. It changes everything completely and for the better."
"I agree," said Ned. "Specifically, about being close. This is Paris: the City of Love."
"That seems like the logical place to find the Book of Love," admitted Moze.
"Has anyone seen Ms. Frizzle?" asked Ned.
"We haven't," said Cookie.
"Nope," said Moze.
"Has anyone even seen Carmen Sandiego?" asked Ned.
"Well, this is probably our last chance to stop her," said Ned.
"How do you figure?" asked Loomer.
"That," Ned pointed to the Eiffel Tower replica. It was a perfect facsimile. "That is the tallest structure in the park. If she wanted to make an aerial escape, that's the place to do it. Earlier she released a decoy red hot air balloon at high noon. The perfect double-bluff would be a black cold air balloon at night."
"I mean helium."
"That makes more sense," admitted Moze. "All of it. But what are we going to do? Guard the Eiffel Tower? Wait until someone else screams about being attacked by a red menace?"
"We need to get ahead of her," said Ned. "She'll probably want something translated from the book, but who would she get to do that?"
"All the other people she accosted were people from the parent countries," said Lisa.
"They were all women," chimed in Faymen.
"Cookie," said Ned. "Can you pull up an employee list for the World Showcase and tabulate a list of female employees from France?"
"On it," said Cookie. He stared off into his glasses for a few seconds, fiddling with his handheld. "That narrows it down to forty-seven people."
"She managed to get them all alone," said Suzie. "Look for people that usually work independently."
Cookie clicked a few more buttons.
"That narrows it down to a handful of maintenance workers, an archivist, a chef, and a few gendamerie."
"What's a gendamerie?" asked Loomer.
"Doesn't matter," interrupted Ned. "Archivist is just a fancy word for librarian. That's her target for translating the book."
Carmen Sandiego raced down the streets of faux Paris, at all times keeping the Eiffel Tower in view. This was her final stop before she left the park. Soon it would be dark enough for her to make her escape. It had been a productive day. She'd caused chaos and devastation from Cairo to Canada. It made her feel nostalgic from when she terrorized the actual countries. This wasn't integral to the plan, but she had some time to kill before nightfall and she figured if she deciphered some of the book she'd have more information to misuse.
She found the book shop she was looking for and ducked inside, locking the door behind her. The shop was wall to wall with books, lit by a gas-lamp chandelier dangling from the center of the ceiling. At the far side of the room was a heavy wooden desk. Behind that, a high back chair, facing away from Carmen Sandiego. She could barely see the top of a blond head done up in a bun over the head rest.
"Hello dear," she said, pulling a truncheon out of her coat. "I was hoping you could look at a book for me. It has a table I can't seem to crack."
The chair swiveled to face her, revealing Ned in a blond wig.
"What the -," said Carmen Sandiego, staggering back.
"Good evening, Carmen Sandiego," said Ned, steepling his fingers. "The gendamerie are on their way. It turns out the gendamerie are the French domestic security, like the police."
"What is this?" said Carmen Sandiego. "A school trip?"
"Yeah," said Ned. "We're supposed to learn something."
"Well, learn this!" yelled Carmen Sandiego, bolting for the door. "No one catches Carmen Sandiego!"
She dashed into the street and booked toward the Eiffel Tower. She raced down the streets, looking back occasionally to make sure she wasn't being pursued by a teenage sleuth or gendamerie. She stopped short when she ran into a crowd that was blocking her escape route. At first she thought it was an ambush, but it was just a crowd watching a man juggling knives. She saw an alley and ran into it. The alley was empty, she could see the Eiffel Tower on the horizon. Just a short dash away.
"End of the line Carmen Sandiego," shouted Moze, she appeared at the end of the alley with Faymen, Suzie, and Loomer.
Carmen Sandiego stopped, pivoted and started running back the other way.
"No dice, Carmen Sandiego," said Ned appearing in front of her, sans wig, with Cookie and Lisa. She was blocked on both sides now.
"We knew you'd take the quickest route to the Eiffel Tower," said Cookie. "We slipped one of the street performers a $10 to block the main road to divert you into this alley."
"To which the gendamerie are headed," finished Moze with a flourish. "The gendamerie are the French domestic security force -."
"I know!" shouted Carmen Sandiego. She pulled a large book out from inside her jacket. "I guess you want this?" her other hand pulled a gun out of her inner jacket pocket. "Well, tough luck. I'm getting out of here."
She fired the gun into the air. It wasn't a bullet, it was a grappling hook that landed on the roof above. The rope retracted and pulled her up into the air.
"Bon Soir, gumshoes," said Carmen Sandiego.
"Bon Soir," said a voice from the roof.
The all looked up.
"Ms. Frizzle!" her students cried.
Carmen Sandiego looked up in time to see Ms. Frizzle sliding down her escape rope. She didn't even have time to look shocked before Ms. Frizzle's shoe collided with her face.
They both landed in the street below, Ms. Frizzle landing more delicately than Carmen Sandiego. The book flew out of her grasp. Moze ran forward and scooped up the damaged tome. Ned and Loomer ran forward and tied up Carmen Sandiego's wrists and ankles.
"Good work, students," said Ms. Frizzle.
As the gendamerie ran up the alley, they celebrated with high-fives all around and hugging each other in relief.
It was night, and the French Enclosure was lit up like a diamond studded disco ball. In the main square of the enclosure, a band was playing and the crowd was dancing. The upbeat tempo and the endless pastries had the party in full swing.
Cookie and Lisa were dancing through the main square, not caring about their tattered clothes or various injuries, completely lost in each other's eyes. Cookie's gaze broke long enough to see a depressed Faymen sitting by a fountain.
"What's up Faymen?" asked Cookie, halting the dance, but still not letting go of Lisa.
"Jennifer," said Faymen. "She told me she couldn't go out with me anymore. She was in love with someone else."
"Really?" asked Cookie, in no way surprised. "Sorry Faymen."
"Eh, it's not so bad," said Faymen, with a shrug. "I got a call yesterday from home. I was offered a positon on the Brazilian National Soccer Team. I wasn't sure if I should go there or stay with Jennifer. Soccer is very important to me. Now, I can follow my dream."
"Well, that wrapped up nicely," said Lisa. She looked around the plaza. "Where is Jennifer?"
From the top of the Eiffel Tower, Ms. Frizzle and Moze watched the revelry bellow. Hundreds of bodies swayed to the rhythm looking like an ocean of colorful currents illuminated by the warm glow of street lights.
"The ICL was very grateful for our help," said Ms. Frizzle. "They'll be making a donation to the James K. Polk Extracurricular budget, and taking care of the bill for this field trip."
"Is that the new book?" asked Moze, nodding at the tablet Ms. Frizzle was holding.
"Yep," said Ms. Frizzle, holding up the tablet. The screen illuminated to reveal the title page of 'The Book of Love: eBook Edition.' "Adapted for a new century. Full digital, translated into consistent, uniform language, with metric measurements, helpful footnotes, indexed for easy research, and annotated by experts in the field."
"So, now that the book has been fixed up," asked Moze, "will we finally understand love?"
"The ICL had good intentions," said Ms. Frizzle turning away from the railing, gazing down sadly at the tablet. "But I don't think we'll ever make a manual for love. There are things about love that are too complicated to put into words, and there are things about love too dumb to write down. Sooner or later, everyone understands love, but the only way to do that is to live through it, experience it, let it take over; it's a very scary, very wonderful thing."
Moze looked over the railing again to the dancing crowd below. She mulled it over and dove right in.
"You said there was one more test," she said.
"And you want to go through with it?" asked Ms. Frizzle.
"Yes," said Moze, steeling her resolve, and trying to disguise her fear.
"Very well," said Ms. Frizzle, as she walked towards the staircase. "Wait here." and she went down the stairs.
Ned watched Suzie dancing around in the Parisian square. She had been through a lot today, overcome every challenge and was ecstatic; dancing for joy. Ned, on the other hand, still had one final hurdle to straddle.
"This is awesome!" she said, running up to him. "I'm so glad to be back."
She kissed him. He felt familiar butterflies in his stomach. It wasn't like kissing Moze. How could you feel butterflies with one person and fireworks for someone else?
She broke the kiss and stood there, smiling at him. His brain started doing a weird sort of math. Probably resembling one of the formulas in the Book of Love. Fireworks are bigger than butterflies. He cared about Suzie. He wanted her to be happy. Breaking up would hurt her, but he wouldn't be as happy with her. He deserved to be happy as much as she did. She deserved someone who thought she was a firework, not someone who wanted someone else.
"I'm so glad you're back, Suzie," said Ned. "I'm glad we can be friends again."
"Excuse me?" asked Suzie, her smile slipping away.
"I just want to be friends," he continued, "the thing is I'm in love -."
"You –" she was scowling now.
"Hey, Suzie," said Loomer, emerging from the crowd. He held a hand out to her. "Wanna dance?"
She gave him a hard look. He as very different from the Loomer she broke up with so long ago. She did her own quick calculation.
"Why not?" she said, then she took his hand and merged with the dancing crowd.
"Well, that worked out nicely," said Ms. Frizzle, appearing beside him.
"Yeah, for everyone else," said Ned depressed. There were couples everywhere, silently mocking him. Cookie and Lisa were swaying to the rhythm. Missy and Crony were dancing with each other. Clair and Backpack Boy were sambaing around. Evelyn and Seth sashayed around the square. And now Loomer and Suzie.
"Well, look on the bright side," said Ms. Frizzle.
"How?" asked Ned.
"Change your perspective," she equivocated.
"To what?" he asked.
"Right now you're at the bottom looking up," she said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You need to go to the top and look down." And she pointed to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
After an arduous climb, Ned was at the top of the Eiffel tower. Why couldn't they have rebuilt it with an elevator?
There was someone else up there when he arrived. She was leaned over the railing, looking at the party below.
Ned thought the view was spectacular. It wasn't the lights of Paris below, or the hundreds of dancers, moving to the rhythm, but the gentle light that illuminated Moze's face.
"Hi," he said.
She looked up, and smiled at him.
"Hey," she said. "Why aren't you with Suzie?"
"I left Suzie," he answered, walking up to her.
She looked surprised.
"Where's Faymen?" he asked.
"I left him." she answered. After an awkward silence: "Why...are you here?" she asked, in a tremulous tone, like she was afraid of the answer. From down on the ground, a sweet, soulful melody started up. The people in the crowd below started swaying slowly.
Ned's mind was still a mess of What Ifs, Maybes, and Could It Bes, but there was one part of him that knew exactly what to do, and it got control of his mouth.
"Do you want to dance with me?" he asked, offering her his hand.
Moze hesitated. She knew the question meant a lot more than what he asked.
"But," she asked, "what about Suzie?"
"I want to dance with you," he said. "Only with you."
Moze felt a sensation deep inside her chest. It was like a flood gate had opened and a torrent was spreading through her body. In spite of the magnitude of the flood, it's only visible appearance was a tear going down her cheek. And the flood swept all the doubt away.
She reached out and took his hand. He pulled her closer to him and they wound their arms around each other. She nestled her head in the crook of his neck and they started to sway with the rhythm from the ground.
At some level, Moze new there was more to come; both good and bad. They would have to tell everyone. There would be some teasing. There would be hand holding in public. Her parents would insist on supervision when she went over to Ned's house. There would be phone calls that would last all night. They would have to deal with Suzie. She would be getting heart shaped candies on Valentine's Day.
Right now though, those thoughts didn't even enter her mind. It was only her and Ned, and the feeling of exhilaration racing through her body. Her heart felt so full. A smile kept tugging on her lips.
Ned pulled back slightly and looked deeply into her eyes. His hand rose to touch her face. His thumb wiped away the tear that had fallen earlier.
They both moved together slowly and kissed. Ned could feel Moze smile briefly against his lips.
Overhead, fireworks went off.