This story is dedicated to the Eternal Memory of my dear cat 'Smokey.'
(October, 5 1987 - July, 16 2003)
"You'll Always Be In My Hart, Girl."
Now twenty years have passed away,
Since I here bid farewell
To woods, and fields, and scenes of play
And school-mates loved so well.
Where many were, how few remain
Of old familiar things!
But seeing these to mind again
The lost and absent brings.
The friends I left that parting day -
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
And half of all are dead.
"My childhood Home I See Again."
(1846), stanzas 6-8
"HOW FEW REMAIN"
Authors note: This story was inspired by events in "The Scooby-Doo Movie," and "Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island."
The hall is silent, as the 52 year-old man who has been head of the customs department at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for 25 years steps to the podium. Norville Rodgers looks at the solid gold pocket watch in his hands.
He holds the watch up for all to see. "Nice watch," he says. A few chuckles rise from the audience, as he pulls out a pair of board-rimed spectacles, and from his black coat, and a speech. The spotlight brightens on him, as he clears his throat.
"Ah-hem, Ladies and gentlemen… It is my pleasure to introduce you to your new Chief-Customs Inspector. Ellen Yindle."
Rodgers points to a lady in her early forties just of the stage. She raises one hand, and folds her arms again. The spot light swings back to Rodgers.
"I do not envy her. The job has few rewards. The best you can hope for is that when you're finished with it, things aren't as lousy as they would've been without you. Ellen Yindel is eminently qualified for this job. To attempt to quote her outstanding record in the minutes I'm allowed would be a disservice to her. Rather, I offer my sympathy, in the knowledge of what she faces."
He cleared his throat more loudly this time, and took a drink from the water glass provided.
"Because of the recent events of September 11, she'll have more than her fare share cut out for her. She'll have to face terrorists, drug smugglers, petty thieves, and people who just haven't got a clue. She faces decisions that will decide the lives of hundreds, maybe even thousands or people, for every hour to come."
He makes a quick side glance over at Yindle. To his expectations, she hasn't flinched.
"There will be moments when this job seems like hell, and there are moments when it has its rewards."
He paused in mid sentence, as his mind floated back to a happier time.
"But I'm sure she'll make the right decisions. Or I would never have recommended her for the job."
Laugher fills the audience.
"I can only wish her well. I have made many friends here, and I've seen people come and go, people rise through the ranks. It'll be painful to see you all go, but that is life, things come, and things go."
Rodgers bit his lip, as he held back a tear, trying hard not to cry at the memory that had just serviced.
"Thank you – and good-bye."
There is a standing applause for Mr. Rodgers as he leaves the stage. He walked over to Ms. Yindle, shakes her hand, and walks of backstage. He can here her voice, bombing out through the microphone, as she takes to the podium to deliver her speech.
Her words mean little to him. As she speaks, his mind is else wear. In the darkness of the backstage area, he sheds a tear. Then, it hits him like a ton of bricks, as he choked on his breath.
He half collapsed against the wall, covering his eyes with his free hand while grasping hold of a curtain rope with the other. It took him a full minute to bring himself under control, as he pulled out a hanky, and whipped his eyes with it. He brought his breathing under control, as he stood once more.
He took a few deep breaths, blinking out the blurriness, he started towards the exit. It was raining outside as he opened the door. He looked up at the darkened night sky, and shook his head.
His dark green '88 Ford was still were he'd left it. He held the nights program sheet above his head, as he dashed across to the car, climbed inside, and tossing the watch onto the passengers seat beside him, he started up the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot.
He pulled up at a set of lights, and leant back into the drivers seat. He sighed, as he tried to concentrate on the sounds in the car. The tick, tick, ticking of the cars clock. The putting of the engine as it sat in neutral, the thiwwping of windscreen wipers, and the steady drumming of rain on the roof.
He groaned loudly, as he looked about him. Just beside him, was an advertisement for jewelry. A man holding a woman's hand, and on her middle finger, was a ring with a pretty looking diamond in the middle.
The caption read, 'Friendship is forever, and so are diamonds. Say you love her with a "Jason Damon Jeweler's" Ring.'
Shaggy smiled slightly, as he read the one line that caught his eye. 'Friendship is forever.' His smile broadened to show some teeth, as he thought of the good old days.
Just then, the light changed back to green. Rodgers failed to see this, until a flashy looking sports car came up, and bleared its horn at him. Rodgers nearly jumped, as he glanced up at the light, to see it burning bright green. He started forward, but quickly slammed on the brakes.
The sports car behind him screeched on its brakes. Bleared its horn again, swerved around him, and roared of down the street. Rodgers never paid it any heed. He then pulled hard right on the wheel, and pumped on the gas, as he sped of down a different road.
Lighting lit up the night sky, and the thunderclap that followed nearly made Rodgers jump, and he nearly lost control of the car. A few turns later, took him out of the residential area of Seattle, and onto a dirt road. He eased of the accelerator a fraction, just as the car careened over a slight raised section of the road, sending the vehicle into the air for a split second, before bouncing back down on the road with a shuddering jolt.
Staring forward, past the flick, flick, flick of the windshield wipers, Rodgers saw the black silhouette of a clear top hill, looming in the distance, and he eased of the accelerator, slowing down. As he did so, the headlights flashed upon a blue arrow sign with white writing on it. The sign read, 'PARKING' and pointed of the right.
Rodgers brought the car down into first gear, and pulled hard on the wheel, and immediately putting it into second, as he drove up a steep gravel hill, and into a cemented parking area, with a corrugated iron roof.
Stepping out, he popped the boot. Inside, lay a black torch, and an umbrella, which he pulled out. Then, grabbing the torch, he headed out into the pouring rain.
He followed the gravel path up the hill, towards the top. At the top, he stepped of the track, and into the forest on the right, facing the city. He climbed up a step hillside, groaning as his back reminded him of his age.
Finally, at the top of the hill, he stopped to take a deep breath. He glanced up. He smiled a simple smile. They were still there. Beneath a tall tree, over looking the city, where two small white colored wooden planks.
Sighing happily, he walked over to the tree, and looked down at the two planks. The one on the left read,
"Scooberb 'Scooby' Doo: February 19th 1966 – October 25th 1981"
The one beside that read,
"Scrappy Cornelius Doo: June 5th 1973 – December 23rd 1987"
A small stifled chuckle escaped his lips, as he stood there, just before the two graves. He lowered his gaze to the wet grass at his feet, as he blinked back the tears, fighting their way to the surface.
"Hey Scooby," he said in a small voice. "How ya been?" The grave marker did not answer. He blinked a few times as his vision blurred. "Scrappy? It's nice to see you too."
He coughed loudly, a sound that was half way between a cough, and a sob. He rubbed his nose with the hanky, and pulled out his pocket watch. His retirement present.
"How am I handling? They retired me three days ago," he muttered, "25 years of service and what do they give me? A pat on the back, and a watch." He thumbed the switch, that opened the watches case, and the clocks face stared back at him. On the inside of the cover, was a picture of when he'd first made Chief Inspector. On the picture, someone had written with a black pen, in very small writing,
"So long, Shaggy, we will miss you."
He closed the cover of the watch with a loud click, and he quickly looked away, towards the many blinking lights of the city below.
He hardly began to notice when he was shedding tears. He began to see the lights go blurry, and he realized. He blinked the tears out of his eyes, and turned back once more to the graves.
During their final days together, Scooby and Shaggy always came up to this very point of the hills. They loved to come up here and watch the sun set over the city. Scooby had always wanted to be buried here someday, when he died.
Then, when Scooby could no longer make the journey up the hilltop anymore, Scrappy had joined him. Sure Scrappy had been a cancer on societies, and his backside most of the times, but he was family, and family always stuck together.
Then, when it was just him and Scrappy, he'd grown closer to puppy than he'd ever done in the years he'd spent on the road with him. He actually grew to love him, like he were Scooby.
He heard a low sob, and realized it's come from his own throat. He covered his eyes with his hand.
"God, I really miss you guys," he sobbed out. He looked down at the watch in his hands. He then reached up, and placed the watch in the over handing branches of the tree. "I just needed to be with my real friends, tonight." Rodgers said to the graves. "I'm retired now, and I've just begun to realize that I'm not going to be around forever. I've already passed my half century, and I'm officially a senior citizen on a pension."
He scoffed at the title. Senior citizen.
"And to think, I was at Woodstock." He chuckled. "Do you remember that day Scoob? We ate so many hot dogs and those bikers thought we were sideshow attractions. Ahh man." He shook his head, and looked back towards the city. "Those were the best fifteen years of my life I spent with you, buddy. I wouldn't trade them for anything else in the whole world."
He turned to the other grave.
"Scrappy, you were there for me in those years I spent without Scooby. For that, I owe you more than you ever can imagine. You helped me in those days after Scooby left us. You became my dear friend."
He chocked off as he whipped the tears away welling in his eyes. Nobody had been there for him when Scrappy was gone. For weeks he'd just mopped about the office, moving from one location to the next, acting like a zombie.
It'd nearly cost him his job. However, he went to get help, the shrink he went and saw helped him get over it. Now look at him.
No Job. No friends. Nothing. Once again, he was all alone.
He burst into tears before he knew what was happening. His knees buckled and he felt wet grass soaking his legs through his trousers, and he felt dirt beneath his hands. The umbrella fluttered to the ground, and the rain soaked him through to the bone.
He didn't care. He knelt there, before the two graves, crying like he'd never cried before. Spitting out sobs, until he couldn't breath, and for one split second, he thought he'd choke.
He clutched his chest, as he tried to regain his breath.
For what seemed like hours, he lay there, on his knees, clutching his chest, soaking wet, in the pouring rain.
He had to go home.
Slowly, muscles aching, he clambered to his feet, and smiling at the graves, started back down the hill, towards the gravel path, that lead back to his car.
He felt the car seat beneath him start to warm him up, as he closed the car door once inside. He sighed heavily, as he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the car.
Maybe he should've retired much longer ago. One corner of his mouth went up slightly. He'd spent a night of celebration into his own personal sob story. That's not what Scooby would do. What would that mutt do if he were here right now?
Ro ret a rizza!
Shaggy chuckled to himself. He looked out the rain slick window, towards the hilltop. "Thanks guys," he whispered. "Thanks for being my friend." Then popping the car into reverse, and pulling out, he put it into first gear, and took of towards home.
THE NEXT MORNING…
Norville Rodgers walked down the old wooden steps of his house, and took the short but painful trip down his driveway to the mailbox in front of his house. The man on the bike nodded to him, and sped off to the next house.
Today was going to be a good day. He was sure of it. The shrink he'd seen all those years ago, had told him that if a day was going badly, what could he do to make it go his way. To look at the situation, and see what he could do, to make it a good day. He was retired, and now intended to have fun for once in his life.
Rodgers reached his mailbox, and opened the box. There was the usual. Bills. Bills. Bills. He sighed heavily, as he started back to the house, but as he reached his front door, he noticed one strange white envelope, with a red wax seal holding it closed.
Rodgers narrowed his eyes. The seal had VVG on it. He raised an eyebrow as he opened the door and went into the kitchen. Sitting down at his table, he grabbed a butter knife from the kitchen sink, and ripped open the letter.
The letter was hand written with black ink dip pen, not a biro. What grabbed his attention was some one had written in large letters 'SHAGGY' at the very top. He scratched the white bristles on his chin. Nobody had called him shaggy in nearly 20 years. He tossed the thought aside, and started reading the letter.
'Shaggy, I hope you have received this letter, for it is most important that you do. First off, this is Flim-Flam.'
Rodgers gaped as he read. Flim Flam? He hadn't spoken to that con artist in over 25 years. He chuckled silently to himself, and continued reading.
'Inside the envelope, you should find plane tickets. I need you to take the next flight to Himalayans ASAP. Mr VanGhoul requests your presence at once. I cannot explain it to you now, and Mr VanGhoul will only speak directly to your face. Please hurry. Your pal, Flim-Flam.'
Rodgers shook the envelope upside down, and sure enough, a plane ticket fell out and floated like a leaf towards the kitchen table below. He checked the date he'd be leaving. It was tomorrow.
Humph, Flim-Flam didn't waist any time.
But what surprised him even more, was who called for him. Mr. Vincent VanGhoul? Wow, the guy was still alive? How old was he now? 80? 90? He hadn't seen him in nearly 27 years. What was he doing? But more importantly, what did he want with him, after all these years? He and Scooby returned all 13 of the ghosts to that creepy chest.
So what did he want now?
He started waving the ticket up and down, like a fan, as he stared of into space. He started thinking about other things. A trip? A trip to the Himalayans? Why not. He deserved a vacation. He hadn't done much travelling since he Scooby got the job as custom inspectors at the Seattle international airport.
They'd gone on trips when they'd saved up enough money, but when Scooby became to old to travel, Shaggy had stayed by his side till the end. The same with Scrappy. After Scrappy was gone, he pretty much never left the house, only to buy food, and go to work.
It was high time he got out, and had an adventure, just like the good old days, when he was part of Mystery Inc.
He shook his head once more. Mystery Inc. He hadn't seen the guys for quite some time. Nearly thirty years since they had last stood together. Fred, Daphne, Velma.
He looked back at the ticket. He'd have to get in contact with them again. With all of them. Have a group reunion. It'd be fun.
He got up of his seat, and hurried upstairs. He'd have to pack in a hurry. He didn't have very much to pack, just a few change of clothes, underwear, and toilet utilities. The old worn leather travelling suitcase had just about had it. However, it wasn't as bulky as it used to be, when he and Scooby used to hide all manners of food in there.
He chuckled, pausing in mid packing. He'd bought this travel case not long before he, Scooby, and Scrappy settled down. After they'd collected all of the 13 ghosts, Daphne, went her separate way, and Flim-Flam went to live with Mr. VanGhoul.
Then, it'd been just the 3 of them, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy. God, it seems like a century since he'd last seen any of them. He paused, as he walked over to his dresser, and picked up a framed photo. It was a picture of the original cast of Mystery Inc. before Scrappy joined them.
He smiled. Fred and Daphne standing side-by-side, with Scooby in the centre, Velma on the other side, and Shaggy poised of to the side of Scooby, halfway between him and Daphne.
He gently traced his fingers over Scooby, then, slowly, placed the picture down into his travel case, and placed some more clothes on top of it, so as not to get it damaged.
After he'd finished packing, he hurried downstairs to the phone. Pulling out his little black book, he started dialling a few numbers. He hated giving people short notice, but he'd been given short notice as well. He'd need someone to look after his garden, his house, make sure the automatic light timers turned on, and so on, and so on.
Finally, he called 'Roomies Pizza' and ordered an extra large pizza, with 3 hamburger's, large fries, and a large shake. He smiled, putting down the phone.
Well, if he was going on an adventure, he might as well celebrate it in style, just like the good old days. Who knows what VanGhoul wanted him for, but he could hardly wait to find out.
He walked over to the fridge to get himself a snack while he waited for his pizza. Just like the good old days, he wasn't going to let himself starve.
He laughed out loud. He was really enjoying himself now.
THE NEXT MORNING…
The taxi arrived two minutes early. Shaggy had been still eating breakfast when the doorbell rang. "Coming," he replied with a mouthful of toast.
The cab driver was a short balding man a few years older than Rodgers. He spoke with a Russian accent. "You call a cab, my friend?" He looked down at the slip of paper in his stubby fingers. "This is 268 Duth Drive?"
Rodgers nodded. "That's me," he said, hurrying into the hallway. His travel case was still there. "I don't have much, just this, I'll be ready in a second."
The cabby took the case out to the cab, while Shaggy finished of the last of his breakfast. The cabby was waiting for him, as he hurried out the front door, making sure to lock the front door before he left.
The drive didn't take very long. Rodgers only lived about 20 minutes away from the airport. He paid the cabby his fare, and pulling his bag along with the extendable handle, he went to check himself in.
Shaggy turned his head at the sound of his name being called. It was Ellen Yindle.
"Hi Ellen," he replied, as he handed over his passport. "How are things?"
"Their fine, Mr. Rodgers…"
"Ellen," Shaggy replied, "I'm no longer your supervisor, could you please quit with the Mr thing, please?"
"Sorry Norville," Yindle replied. "It just seems a little weird, you know, not having to kiss up to your butt now,"
"Don't push it, Yindle," he replied with a chuckle, "I still know a few things about you."
She gave him a mock threatening glare, then chuckled herself. "It's good to see you smiling again, Noville," she replied, her voice softening, "I can't remember the last time I saw you smile."
"Life's thrown me a curve ball, just recently," Shaggy answered. He took back his things, and started walking towards the terminal, Yindle followed, keeping in step with him.
"Anything I can help with?" She asked.
Shaggy shook his head, not bothering to look at her, "Nope," he said, "It's just a surprise reunion with some old friends of mine."
"Mystery Inc?" She asked, her eyebrows perking.
"Close," he replied, "Just two friends I sheared my adventures with, before I came here."
He could see that she opened her mouth to speak, probably to say Scooby and Scrappy – after all, she'd meet both of them – but realising their current status, she quickly halted herself. "Do I know them?" She said after a few moments pause.
"No, you wouldn't," Shaggy replied. Shaggy flashed his ticket to the inspector, and put his baggage on the X-Ray machine. "They both live in Nepal." Shaggy passed through the metal detector, while Yindle flashed the guards her security pass, and followed Shaggy through.
"Nepal?" She asked, as Shaggy collected his things, "Who is it, the Doli Lama?" One side of Shaggy's mouth turned up slightly, as he thought for a moment.
"I wouldn't be surprised." He said after a second. They said nothing more, until they reached the gate. Passengers were lining up, and presenting their tickets to flight attendants. Shaggy stepped in line, with Yindle beside him.
"Why did you leave the celebration early last night?" Yindle finally asked.
Shaggy sighed heavily, "I just didn't feel like being surrounded by people, that's all," he lied.
"You're lying, Norville," she said, without looking at him, "I know you too well."
"I was alone," Shaggy said bluntly. "I had no job, no friends, I was all alone," he bit his lips, "I couldn't stand being alone, so I went to visit some old friends." They were nearing the flight attendants.
Yindle just nodded, she knew whom he meant. "But what about me?" She asked.
"What do you mean," Shaggy asked.
"Aren't I your friend, too?"
"Tickets?" A young lady asked. Shaggy handed her his ticket, she ran it through the machine. It beeped with approval, and she turned to Yindle.
"I'm not a passenger," she said.
"I guess this is good-bye, then," Shaggy said, holding out his hand. Ynidle looked down at it, and slowly extended hers. They shook, and Shaggy turned around and headed down the corridor to the plane.
"Have a nice trip!" Yindle called out. Shaggy turned back to wave, then, she was gone.
NEPAL: 'TAPLEJUNG' 2 DAYS LATER…
It was raining when he finally reached his destination. The train shuddered as it crossed the points into the city and the rain ran in streams across the window. Around him the other passengers rose and shook the creases from their clothes. To his left the elderly couple with whom he had shared a compartment with, smiled their goodbyes to him; he stood up and help them with their case.
There was a hiss of steam and the train pulled into the station. Rodgers opened the door, stepped down and looked around him. people were everywhere, getting onto the train, leaving, or meeting those who'd just gotten off. Clutching his travel case, he walked off to find his luggage.
To his right, the elderly couple were embracing a son and daughter-in-law, hugging a grandchild they had not seen for two years. Norville Rodgers let a half smile escape his lips as he watched the loving reunion, before heading over to the porters.
After receiving his luggage, Rodgers then payed a porter to carry his two suit cases out to the front, where he flagged down a cab. Using the newspaper in one hand as a makeshift umbrella, he quickly dashed over to the cab, tipped the young man, and quickly sealed himself inside the warm dry inside of the taxi.
"Where to, sir?" The drive asked.
"The Star Hotel." He said. The driver nodded, and pulled out into the driving traffic.
Despite what travel agents have told him, the traffic in town wasn't actually that bad. It might have been a slow day, or the rain, but it there was hardly a car on the streets. The driver quickly got to the hotel, and Rodgers payed the fair, before quickly rushing up the steps, with a very wet bellboy behind him.
The foyer of the hotel was busy. He checked in, and then went to the room on the fourth floor, the bellboy arriving with his two cases almost immediately. He tipped the man, locked the door, went to the bathroom, stripped, turned on the shower and stood beneath it, working on the plans he had to make.
VanGhoul's Castle was at least half a day's journey out from this place. This was the closet he could get to town where VanGhoul lived. He'd have to hire some sort of transport, most likely a land cruiser, and take a back road out to this place.
He exited the shower, and put on a bath rob. He sat down, and turned on the TV.
" ----In a late braking story, Scientists still have no explanations as to the bizarre weather patterns affecting the Asian continent. Many attribute this phenomenon to Global Warming, although some dismiss this theory as utter rubbish."
The newscaster shuffled a few papers, and was handed something from off screen.
"Oh. This just in, Weather control are asking citizens in the northeastern region of Nepal to beware. Late this morning, an unconfirmed sighting of heavy storm clouds were spotted moving over Tibet. Local authorities are asking everyone NOT to try anything foolish, and to cancel all travel plans you might have until the all clear can be given. In other news...."
Rodgers looked up from the TV as the telephone rang interrupted his thoughts.
"Who is it?" He said as he picked it up.
"This is the front desk, sir," the voice said, "There's a parcel that has just arrived for you." Rodgers raised an eyebrow.
"Huh? I'm not expecting any package." There was a slight pause, while he checked over it again, before the man spoke up again.
"Well, there's a parcel here for a Mr. Norville Rodgers, and you're the only one here, answering to that name...."
"Alright, alright!" Rodgers said. "I'll come pick it up." He placed the phone down, and pulling on some shorts, exited his room, and headed down to the front desk.
The guy behind the front desk was busy talking with a guest when Rodgers arrived. He motioned for him to wait for a few moments, while he finished regestrating the guest.
Finally, he ducked down out of view, and reappeared with a large laptop sized package wrapped in dark brown butcher paper. It was neatly tied up in thick string, with a white envelope attached to it.
"Who sent it?" Rodgers asked, walking over to the desk.
The man shrugged. "It just arrived with the mail."
Hmmm, who ever it was, sure had great timing. He looked at the envelope. His old nick name was scrawled across it. Shaggy. He headed back for his room, with a pretty good idea who it was from.
THE NEXT MORNING…
Rodger's passed though two more settlements on the way back to VanGhoul's castle. Neither was large, little more than villages. Too small to warrant much of 21st century technology.
Of course he drew stares as he passed. Villagers - farmers and
merchants and tradesmen - stared as the jeep slowed to a crawl to pass through their hamlets. Probably the only exciting thing to happen to them for some time. Even kids were reluctant to trail behind him. How long has it been since technology passed through this area? Hell, there were still areas like this back in the States.
Each time he left the boundaries of the towns Rodger's would put his
foot down in a surge of acceleration. He looked back down at the brown paper parcel on the seat beside him, with the – now opened – letter atop it.
The letter had been from Flim-Flam. The letter instructed him not to open the parcel just yet, just to take it with him, and have it ready for his meeting with Mr. VanGhoul.
Damnation! What was so damned important to drag him halfway around the world to tell him something that couldn't be explained over the telephone, or fax. Hell, why not the internet? Well, one way or another, he'd find out what it was soon.
His eyes slid down to the brown paper parcel on the seat beside him. However, what the hell was in that parcel? It felt like a book.
Finally he topped one last rise, and slowed the jeep to a stop.
The town sat beside the mountain range that was part of the seemingly endless, Himalayans. The towers of the castle looming over it. Massive guardians of granite. Several errant beams of sunlight flickered through the heavy cloud, spearing down upon the town and spotlighting it in patches of shifting light.
"Well, here I am VanGhoul," Rodgers finally said after a stark silence, "What the hell have you got installed for me this time?" Staring at the sprawling edifice and the dark skies behind the castle, he couldn't help but smile at the effect it produced.
"Is Dracula in?" He said with a stifled chuckle.
There was hardly anybody out of the streets as Rodgers drove through the town. The last time he'd been here, was the return that damn chest. The people had been grateful for recapturing the ghosts, and there had been a full parade of honour for the gang as the town's people carried them on their shoulders all the way to the castle.
Now, there was hardly a soul.
Something like this would have freaked him out when he was younger, but age had mellowed him out, and now it would take something of mass proportion to scare him.
No, he was not scared. Just a little curious.
Those who were out of the streets just gave him a two second glance, before continuing with whatever it was they were doing. Shaggy crawled along in second gear, eyes sliding from one side of the street, to the other. Then, not before long, he left the town behind him, as was driving up the narrow frozen muddy road, towards the castle of his destination.
No one was there to great him. Rodgers just pulled up a few feet from the castle entrance, and turned off the motor. He just sat in the car for a minute, just staring at the double doors, as if expecting someone to open it.
No one did.
Finally, he grabbed the brown parcel, and stepping out into the cold snowy air, made his way over to the front door.
He banged the doorknockers three times; then waited. He could here the sound of shoes hitting stone floors, echoing throughout the castle. They drew closer, until there was the sound of a wooden bolt sliding against metal, and the door opened.
A man in his late 30's early 40's – it was too hard to tell – opened the door. He had short, almost jet-black hair and wearing a blue robe. He had a shortened moustache that reminded him so much of VanGhoul's.
In fact, the guy looked like a younger version of the wizard himself.
The man smiled. "Shaggy?" He asked.
Rodger's narrowed his eyes, "do I know you?" He asked.
"That would depend on weather you have Lotts'a Luck." Rodger's stared hard at the man, then his eyes widened.
"Hi Shaggy," he replied, "Long time no see."
Rodgers just stood there, opened mouthed, as he gaped at a person he'd not seen for quite some time. Before he knew it, his vision was all blurry. There were tears in his eyes, as he suddenly threw his arms around Flim-Flam, and hugged him for all he was worth.
Shaggy was slightly aware that he was laughing, as he clung on for dear life. He finally let go, to take a step back to observe his long lost friend.
"It's good to see you again, Flim-Flam," he said, gripping his arms, "But what in the name of God Almighty, have you done to your self?"
"What do you mean?"
"What do I mean!?!" Shaggy cried out, "Well… Just look at you!"
"What about me?"
"You look like VanGhoul, for crying out loud!"
"A long time training with that guy, and let's see how you turn out!" Flim-Flam said back. "Speaking of change, at least you shaved off that stupid goatee."
"What was wrong with my goatee?" Shaggy asked.
"It looked like a prickle bush stuck onto the edge of your chin, that's what."
Shaggy raised his fist in mock anger. "Why you…" he chuckled with a large toothy smile plastered on his face, and the two friends hugged each other once more.
Finally, Flim-Flam broke the bonding, and ushered Shaggy inside, and then closed the door with a loud bang that echoed all around the enormous room. "VanGhould is waiting for you upstairs, come on, he doesn't like to be kept waiting at his age these days."
Shaggy's face took on a look of seriousness, "Say," he said, as Flim-Flam led him up the stone stairs with the velvet rug, "What dose the old geezer want with me anyway?"
"The old geezer, as you put it, Shaggy, will tell you everything once you're there," Flim-Flam said, without turning back. Shaggy just only nodded, as his mind contemplated what Flim-Flam had just said. He didn't sound to thrilled at Shaggy's name for VanGhoul.
"You've developed a lotta respect for the old guy, haven't you?" Flim-Flam nodded, this time turning back to face Shaggy, as they reached the top of the stairs.
"I never knew what it was like to be a normal boy, Shaggy," he said. "You guys, you were like a family to me, you, Scooby, and Scrappy, were my brothers and Daphne was my sister." He sighed heavily, "But I never really had any parental figures. VanGhoul was not only my teacher, and mentor," he gave a small smile, like someone who's just seen a beautiful sunrise, "He became my father, too."
Shaggy just nodded, and there was a moment of silence, before Flim-Flam started off down a corridor, with Shaggy following behind. Torches kept the corridors full of light, as they travelled past the many doors, ascended a few stairs, and finally, came to what was most likely, the attic.
The last flight of stairs led to the very top of the castle. At the top of the stairs, was a single corridor, with lit torches, that led to a grand set of double doors at the end, with a shield, and the letters 'VG' on a shield, that reminded Shaggy of the Wanner Brothers logo.
They stopped before the double doors, and Flim-Flam banged twice on the doors, before stepping back.
"This is as far as I go, Shaggy," he said, "VanGhoul wishes to speak with you alone." Then, Flim-Flam headed back down the corridor, and disappeared down the winding staircase.
The double doors interrupted his thoughts, as they slowly creaked open. If he were younger, he would have jumped right into Scooby's arms, or vis versa. However, he didn't bat an eyelid. One corner of his mouth rose ever so slightly, and he slowly, walked inside the room.
Just as slowly as they'd opened, they closed behind him with a dull click. The room seemed to scream of medieval Europe. The tapestries that covered the walls, the huge pain glass window directly opposite Shaggy, allowing the sunlight to shine in through.
But no sun shone. And in the far end of the room, lay a bed, on raised steps. Lying in that bed was a frail old man that he instantly recognised.
The man was old. His once dark black hair, that had the small stripe of silver around the bottom, was completely white, not grey, white, along with his bushy moustache. His face was covered in wrinkles, and his eyes looked sunken. His hands were frail, and looked gnarled, and along with the constant rise and fall of his chest, Shaggy could here the horse-breathing coming from the old man.
Looking over at the old man, Shaggy didn't feel as old as he should. He seemed like a young man again in comparison. Slowly, he licked his lips, and called out, "Mr. VanGhoul?"
The eyes cracked open, and slid over to look at Shaggy. "Welcome back, Shaggy," he said in a crackled voice. "Please, come over to me."
Shaggy walked over to the bedside, to where a wooden stool with a red cushion on it lay. He walked up the three steps, and sat down, next to the aging wizard. "Yes, Mr. VanGhoul?" Shaggy asked. "I am here? What is it you wanted me to know?"
"First of, Shaggy," the wizard rasped, "It's good to see you again."
Shaggy smiled. "Its good to see you too, sir," he said, "You look… well."
VanGhoul's frail hand shook as it rose of the bed, and grasped Shaggy's hand. "I'm not as well as you think I am, Shaggy," he said with a weak smile. "Tell me, how old do you think I am?"
One eyebrow rose, as Shaggy contemplated the reason for this question. "Excuse me?"
"How old do you think I am?" VanGhoul asked.
Shaggy scratched his bristled chin. "All right, Umm… I guess, 82?"
A small chuckle escaped the old mans lips. "I'm actually 134 years old, Shaggy." This caught Shaggy by surprise.
"What!?!" He cried out, latterly reeling back. VanGhoul's hand squeezed Shaggy's.
"Do you have the parcel I sent you?" Shaggy brought it up in front of him, so that VanGhoul could easily see it.
"So, that was you, huh?" Shaggy said, looking down at the parcel in his hands. VanGhoul let go of Shaggy's hand, and pointed to the parcel with a shaky finger.
"Open it." He said. Without a telltale glance, Shaggy tore apart the brown paper parcel, letting the shredded remains float to the lovely floor below. VanGhoul didn't seem to mind, or care.
It was a leather bound book. It was held shut by a brass buckle, and leather strap. On the front cover, was one simple word.
"I… don't understand?" Shaggy said, holding the book up for him to see.
"I cannot escape time forever, Shaggy," VanGhoul replied. "The herbs and roots and potions I used, cannot rejuvenate a dying spirit forever. I will die soon."
"I…" VanGhoul suddenly gripped Shaggy's hand with more strength than humanly possible. The grip was like a vice, tightening, almost crushing Shaggy's hand.
"It's not about understanding, Shaggy," VanGhoul rasped, "It's about fate, about timing, destiny!" The strength in VanGhoul's hand suddenly withered away, and he let go. "Sometimes, life choses our destinies for us, Shaggy. It can sometimes be filled with great joy, and sometimes be filled with great misery, but in the end, if you have hope, things will always work out!"
Okay! Shaggy was finding it very hard to take all this seriously. He'd been called halfway around the world for this? God, the guy sounded like Yoda, in fact, what was he going to tell him next? Use the force? Heaven forbid!
"Shaggy!" VanGhoul snapped. "Pay attention!"
"I'm finding it very hard to," Shaggy said, "All you talk about is destiny! What destiny? What is going to happen? In fact, what the hell is happening? I haven't gotten one straight answer out of any of you guys, ever since I got here!"
"Shaggy, listen," VanGhoul croaked, "The fate of the world hangs in the balance!"
"Oh no, not this again," Shaggy moaned, covering his eyes, "Look, Mr VanGhoul, if you've called me here, just to save the world again, you're asking the wrong guy. And I'll give you three reasons." He then held up three fingers, and counted each one down as he made his points. "One, I'm not a detective. Two, I ain't the freak'n Ghostbusters, and Three, I'm too damn old!" He lowered his hand, as he sighed heavily. "I stopped chasing ghosts twenty-five years ago, Mr. VanGhoul, I'm in no condition to start that up all over again."
"Shaggy!" VanGhoul warned. "You haven't changed in twenty-seven years. You were impatient then, and you're impatient now!"
"I'm sorry, Mr. VanGhoul, it's just that…"
"Just shut up and listen," VanGhoul rasped. "Events are sparling out of control, too fast for me to handle at may age." He took a few deep breaths.
"This doesn't have anything to do with a certain chest, dose it?" Shaggy questioned, rasing one eyebrow.
"It will, if events keep progressing the way they are."
"Mr. VanGhoul," Shaggy pleaded, "Please, just tell me what's going on!"
"All in good time, Shaggy," He rasped in reply, "But for the moment, I ask, that you hold onto that book with your life." He reached up and grasped Shaggy's right hand in that vice like grip of his, and stared directly into his eyes. "Norville Rodgers, promise me this," he croaked, "Never let go of that book, never let it out of your sight! Don't give it to anyone, and don't try to hide it! As long as you have that book, mankind is safe!" Then, he let go.
Shaggy's eyes widened. That was the first time VanGhoul had ever called him by his proper name before. He then found himself looking at the book in his hands.
What the hell was so important about this damn book!?!
"If it's so important to keep it close to my hart, why did you mail it to me at the hotel?"
"I have many servants, Shaggy," VanGhoul replied, "They carried it only so far, to get it to you. I can no longer keep it protected within these castle walls. It's now up to you to keep it safe."
"Safe? From whom?" Shaggy asked. "You're the most powerful wizard I've ever meet, in fact, you're the only wizard I've ever meet! Who is after this book!?!"
"Evil," VanGhoul croaked, "An ancient evil, so powerful, and so great, that not even my magic can hope to defeat him."
"Oh, and how, dear I ask, am I supposed to protect this book from that evil presence?"
"All will be explained in time, Shaggy," VanGhoul said, "All in due time."
Shaggy had given up trying to get any straight answers from VanGhoul. It looks like that his powers were not the only thing that seems to have deserted the senile old man. But Shaggy dared not make his thoughts vocal.
"So, what happens next?" He asked. "Or do I have to find that out too?"
"Shaggy," VanGhoul warned, "Would you please take this seriously!"
"I know, I know," Shaggy replied, rolling his eyes, "The fate of the entire world is at stake, you told me before, and I'm telling you again, I'm not Indian Jones, I'm not Merlin, and I'm defiantly not Superman! I'm just plain old Norville Rodgers, no one else!"
VanGhoul stared at him hard. "You were never like that when you were younger, Shaggy."
"That was a whole other life time ago, Mr VanGhoul," said Shaggy. "Times have changed. I have changed!"
VanGhoul made no movement. "I can see that for myself."
"My spirit of adventure has passed on, Mr VanGhoul; my get up and go, got up and went 25 years ago! When it was just Scooby, Scrappy, and myself, out on the open road, that was a whole barrel of fun! Travelling all over the world, seeing all the sights there are to see, having the time of our lives! But as time ticks on, you see everything there is to see, and soon, there are no more mysteries to solve, no more secrets to uncover, until you wake up one day, and realise there's nothing left to do. You've done it all."
"You came here, didn't you?" VanGhoul replied.
"I…" Shaggy paused.
"You know, Shaggy," VanGhoul replied, with a smirk, "You really have changed. You never used to come up with excuses about not taking on spooky assignments. You always used to flat out refuse."
"I…" Shaggy was at a loss for words. No, it wasn't possible. He wasn't still that scaredy cat gangly teen! That part of him died years ago!
"Some things about us never change, Shaggy," VanGhoul said, taking his hand gently, "No mater how much we try."
Shaggy just let his head drop. His gaze focused on the floor, and his shoes. He was still a coward at hart. Only this time, Scooby wasn't around to shiver along with him. "I… I'm scared, Mr VanGhoul," Shaggy confessed. "You're right about everything, as usual. I did come over to Nepal looking for another adventure. One more chance to solve another mystery, before I end up in a retirement home."
VanGhoul smiled. "Even grown men, are allowed to be scared, Shaggy."
"So what do you want me to do?" Shaggy asked, lifting his head up to look at VanGhoul once more.
"Just keep the book safe, Shaggy," He replied. Take it back home, and keep it safe. All will be explained in time, but in the meantime, just keep the book in your sights."
Shaggy looked down at the book once more, then gently squeezed VanGhoul's hand in response, and nodded. "I will," he promised.
VanGhoul slowly nodded his head, then let go of Shaggy's hand, and leant back in his bed. "Now, you must go, Shaggy!"
"What?" Shaggy cried out, "But I just got here!"
"Please, Shaggy, don't argue!" VanGhoul snapped. "Already, the forces of darkness gather, you have to leave before it's too late!"
Shaggy looked from the old man, to the book, and back again. He sighed, and nodded. He stood up, and looked down at the old mans face. He suddenly seemed older than when he'd first seen him just a few minutes ago. "Will I ever see you again?" Shaggy asked.
"You will see," VanGhoul simply replied. "You will see." Suddenly, doors leading out of the room, opened, and Shaggy whirled around to see them open. "Now, go!"
Shaggy looked back at VanGhoul, then to the book in his hands. He reached down, and patted the old mans right shoulder. "It was good to see you again, Mr. VanGhoul."
"It's always a pleasure seeing your face, Shaggy," VanGhoul replied. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. "Hurry!"
Shaggy turned around, and half jogged, and half walked out of the room. He started to jog down the corridor, towards the stairs, not looking back as the sound of the doors closing behind him echoed all around the walls.
He hurried down the steps, and through the castle, following the exact footsteps he'd taken with Flim-Flam.
Flim-Flam. The guy was no were to be seen. Shaggy kept on jogging, calling out his name, and each time receiving no response. Finally, he arrived at the top of the last staircase, and down below, the large wooden door that led outside.
The door lay wide open.
He rushed down the stairs as fast as his age allowed him, and hurried out the front door.
It was a blizzard outside. Snow was blowing everywhere, and Shaggy felt the stinging cold blast him in the face. He pulled up the collars of his parker, for some protection, as he stumbled through the roaring winds, towards his land cruiser.
He ripped open the door, and climbed inside. Then shutting the door placed the book inside his jacket. No one would be able to get it in there. He then stuck the key into the ignition, and turned.
He was rewarded with the chocking reve of the engine, as it refused to turn over. "Come on!" He muttered, as he tried again, pumping on the gas peddle.
A few seconds later, the engine roared to life. He clapped his hands in triumph, and putting the jeep into first gear, pumped hard on the accelerator.
The tires spun briefly, before finding traction, and spinning hard on the wheel, turned the jeep around, and headed back towards civilization.
From the open doorway, Flim-Flam watched as the jeep vanished into the whirlwind of snow. He sighed, and then closed the door. Once closed, he shook the snow from his shoulders, and headed back up to VanGhoul's room.
The doors opened as he approached, and he walked on in over to the old mans side. "He has gone, Master." He replied. "And the book is with him."
VanGhoul sighed happily, and turned his eyes to face Flim-Flam. "And the defences?"
"They are ready, master," he said, "Everything is as you've ordered."
"Then help me!" He said, holding out his arm, "We must be ready for when they come!" Flim-Flam pulled back the sheets, and helped VanGhoul to stand. He reached to the bed beside him, and gave the old man a wooden walking stick.
Surprisingly, Vincent seemed to stand pretty well, for his age. Then, gaining his balance, Flim-Flam helped him out of the room, and into another part of the castle.
Shaggy swore numerous times, as the jeep skidded and slid across the road. He could barely see three feet in front of him, even with the high beams on.
He was stretched over the front of the wheel, trying to peer out into the gloomy darkness. He reached down, to turn the heater up to full blast. The wind wasn't that much cold before, but now, it felt like an artic wind straight of the ice.
He leaned down to blow on his hands, which were glued to the wheel. The window was snowing up, and the wipers were having a devil of a time trying to clear his vision.
Humph, those guys at the weather department weren't kidding when they told him he should've stayed indoors. However, he had a mission now, and he wasn't about to ride it out in a snowstorm. He'd get back to the hotel, and leave for home right away.
He subconsciously patted his coat pocket, still feeling the book there. He would have something to read on the trip home…
Something landed on the bonnet, before leaping right off.
"What the…!?!" Shaggy cried out, as he slammed on the brakes, and the jeep fishtailed, losing traction in an end-to-end spin, and for a horrified moment he thought he was going to smash into the rocky wall on the side of the road --- he knew he was going to smash --- and he spun the wheel frantically, and the jeep slid to a stop, the headlights just a foot from the solid rock wall.
He paused there, listening to the rhythmic flick of the wipers. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Then peered out past the flicking wipers, into the snowy storm.
Something was out there. But it wasn't close. It stood forty feet away, at the edge of the illumination from the headlights. However, because of the millions of snowflakes, twirling and tumbling around, he could not make out anything more than a silhouette.
It walked like a man, but it sure as hell wasn't. He could make out the glowing red eyes, and that was about it. The figure just stood there, staring at him with those eyes.
Suddenly, the words of VanGhoul played over in his mind.
"Already, the forces of darkness gather, you have to leave before it's too late!"
A scowl formed across Shaggy's face, as he popped the jeep into first. "Get the hell outta my way!" He snarled, and released the clutch, and slammed his foot down on the accelerator. Then bracing himself in the seat gunned the jeep right at the figure standing before him.
The figure just stood there, and when it looked like Shaggy would hit him, it leapt into the air, somersaulted over the top of the jeep, to land on both legs behind him, like an Olympic acrobat. Shaggy didn't bother to stop; he just kept his foot down, as he took off, leaving the figure behind him.
Shaggy tore off, but not before rolling down the window, so he could stick his arm out, to salute the man with his middle finger. Glancing back into his rear-view mirror, he caught the figure staring after him.
His eyes suddenly flashed, an intense red glow, before he was lost among the tumbling snowflakes.