I Think Her Name Should Be ‘Debbie.’

Wake up, Detective.

There’s something wrong, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Detective! It’s time to wake up now!

I don’t seem to be able to see or move. That’s not good.

Wakey wakey!

Definitely not in bed. Too hard, too flat, and too low. But my fingers seem to be working now, even if it feels like I left em in the freezer overnight.

D’ya think we used too much?

If you did and he’s dead, then I’m going to personally make sure that you twist in a very private underworld for the next fifteen eternities.

That voice is like the red and green sugar water those inedible christmas cherries come in. It’s like the smell of spilled melted vanilla ice cream. It’s like Shirley Temple drank a whole tanker truck of saccharine dry. It’s downright creepy.

And now it’s giggling.

Oh don’t be such a big silly. I wouldn’t be hanging around here if he were dead, would I? Stop blubbing and go tell the others that we’re almost ready.

Y-yes, mistress.

I manage to get my eyelids open, and I see what looks like a disused classroom.

Warning, New Challenger Approaching!

“Where-?” I manage to squeeze out before my mouth goes back on strike.

Abandoned warehouse, near the railway, explains that voice, apparently coming from a young… squirrel?Except she doesn’t seem to have a tail. You’ve got a train to catch in a few hours.

My next question comes out as a gulping noise, something like a constipated robot.

Those are the drugs. Somebody— she shoots a glare at the whimpering elephant in the corner–wasn’t as careful as they should have been with the nasty bottle from the medicine cabinet.

“Who are you?” I manage to mumble.

I think you met my daddy. And then she smiles.

Squirrels aren’t supposed to have pointed teeth, are they?

See, detective, you gave my daddy a lot of trouble. You made him very cross. So cross that I was born. And he sent me to go get you, so he can send you to be with my mommy and all the rest of my family like you should have long ago.

My head is clearing. I think I can remember a hot day, stopping for a drink, then everything went fuzzy.  Wasn’t Max with me? Where is he now? If he got word to the police-

Oh crap. My life is in Max’s hands.

“So why the… schoolhouse?” I push myself up along the wall. My legs feel like noodles. “Don’t tell me this perfectly normal cult kidnapping is gonna turn all creepy.”

She’s pouting now. Think I touched a nerve. You’re a big fish, detective. A really big fish. There isn’t nobody that gave us trouble like you did, so you’re gonna sit here and you’re gonna explain to all my freinds–they all shudder when she says that–exactly how you kept getting away from us, so it’ll never ever ever happen again.

“Seems like an awful lot of trouble just for set dressing.”

Shut up you big poopyhead! Now tell us how you escaped!

Shoot, looks like she saw through my ‘using insults to stall for time’ gambit. “Well, it looks like you’re all pretty familiar with ‘Using insults to stall for time 101,’ so lets move on to the next lesson.” And what’s that? “Being smart.” Seriously? That’s the best I can come up with? Being smart? Shut up, I tell myself, I’m kinda under pressure here.

But they seem to be swallowing it. I clear my throat and continue. “Being smart is…a matter of practice! You need to.. practice doing… smart things in order to be smart. Yeah.”

The mangy thing raises it’s hand.

“Um, a question in the back?”

What kinda smart things should we do, mister?

“That is an excellent question, uh, what’s your name?”

Adam Young.

“Excellent question, Adam. One thing you can practice to be smart is brainteasers. Like the one about the guard who fell asleep and different thieves were stealing from him and from that you have to figure out what color his eyes are.”

Silence.

“Tough crowd, huh?”

You’re gonna stop wasting time, Detective. I don’t like it when you waste time!

Sly?  Ya in here?

Everyone turns to look at the small yellow mouse in the bright pink bowler that just wandered in, apparently unconcerned with all the satanists. Uh, ya gave me dis paper an said I wuz supposed to take it ta… somebody?Back at da office, I tink, but I fergot who.

Max, I’m going to kill you for this.

So, I kinda brought em all. Dey’re outside.

Oh.

All the cultist kids look around for the squirrel girl went, but she’s gone. Just as well, hope I never see her again. For now, I’ve got unfinished business.

“Max.”

Yer mad, aren’t you?

“I’m taking you to dinner.”

yer firing me, aren’t you?

“If next time you royally screw up and don’t follow my orders means you save my butt too, then no.”

I… really dun get dis, Sly.

“Well, I could teach you how to be smart.”

The Final Word.

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