The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 15

“Oh, really?” Heathrow questioned in a level of skepticism unusual for his nature. “How in the world are you gonna change the straw in my head into a brain without magic?”

As Oswald printed something from his laptop, he chuckled, “My dear boy, you already have a brain! You couldn’t function without one! Even the tiniest of bugs have brains! What you have is low self-esteem; you don’t think very highly of yourself, do you?”

Heathrow admitted, “I guess not! But I’m just a dumb drifter, so I-!”

“That’s where you’re wrong!” Oswald interrupted him while opening up the other curtain and digging through some old crates. “Your kindness helpd a lost person find direction, and your bubbly spirit never got tarnished regardless of what negativity came your way! That alone sets you apart from the average citizen, but when it was important, you set your mind to the task and persevered!”

“That’s true!” Nick concurred. “He was the one who came up with the plan to rescue Daphne! The rest of us were clueless!”

Heathrow smiled gratefully, but he didn’t seem convinced. “Goh, that’s awfully nice of ya! But that wouldn’t help me figure out how to get out of poverty and stuff!”

Oswald put the paper he printed into an ornate frame, and he asserted, “What you need is a jolt of confidence! That’s why, due to your quick wits under extraordinary pressure, I am bestowing upon you an honorary degree in thinkology!”

“Is that a real-?” Lionel began to enquire. Daphne elbowed his side, and he clammed up.

“Wow! I have a degree!” Heathrow rejoiced. “Now, I can find myself a wonderful job!”

Oswald assured him, “You always could! You just needed to believe it!” Heathrow grinned, and then Oswald turned his attention to Nick. “Now, you wanted to gain some evidence to put Whitney behind bars, but I believe you’ve already accomplished that.”

Nick nonverbally acknowledged the truth behind that, and when he saw Oswald rummaging through his belongings, he warned him, “Don’t you dare to drum up some kind of a heart for me! I don’t care what you heard- I don’t need emotions!”

“You’ve already got emotions!” Oswald disputed. “You’ve proven that in bits and pieces during your journey!” Heathrow and Lionel nodded vigorously in agreement, and Nick pouted from getting proven incorrect. Oswald went on, “Young man, you’re not an unfeeling robot- you’re depressed. You’ve numbed your feelings in order to protect yourself, but if you’re trying to be productive, that’s not the route to take! If you didn’t possess a strong desire tosave Daphne, you wouldn’t have had the nerve to break into Pumperdink Gulch! You didn’t fare well the first time you faced the Ochre Angel, but you sure bested her with the right motivation guiding you!”

“That’s true,” Nick thoughtfully conceded.

With a twinkle in his eyes, Oswald added, “Besides, I don’t need to give you a heart, you need to give your heart to that beautiful lady behind you!” Nick whipped his neck around and gazed at Daphne. Daphne began to furiously blush, and he followed suit. Oswald handed him a watch and instructed, “If you ever feel guilty for your emotional state, simply read the inscription.”

Nick read out loud, “It’s okay to not be okay! That’s… accurate!” He wiped a tear off of his cheek.

“I doubt you’ve got anything back there to make me into less of a coward!” Lionel morosely expressed.

“You’re under the false impression that having a lot of fear makes you unable to be brave, but it’s quite the opposite!” Oswald resumed sifting through his property once more. “Having no misgivings aout participating in dangerous activities doesn’t make you courageous, it makes you dumb! It’s only human to feel a certain level of apprehension in those situations, and your courage is born when you do the thing that scares you despite your fright! You suffer from anxiety since you’ve been through more horror than most people, but you push past more terror than anyone else! Why, you’re  the bravest guy I know!” Lionel beamed with pride, and Oswald went on, “In case you need a reminder of this, I’m presenting you with a championship belt in honor of the heroic feats you pulled off in your quest!”

Lionel put on the ornate belt with glee. “Wow! This outta get the respect of all the other boxers at Suntop!” As he admired his newly acquired gift, he spotted Daphne out of the corner of his eye, and he asked Oswald, “Hey! What about Daphne?”

Daphne bashfully responded, “Oh, it’s okay! I don’t even know what I want!”

“She wants a purpose and the feeling of truly being at home,” Oswald answered Lionel.

“Huh! That is what I want! How did you know that and I didn’t?” Daphne questioned.

Oswald laughed, “I wasn’t lying when I said I know everything!” Proceeding his moment of mirth, he more seriously explained, “You spent many years trying to survive, but you never really considered how you might thrive! You strove to appease society’s standards, but you never truly looked inward and acted on a path that woul please yourself! Clearly, you are passionate about solving mysteries, so why not choose a career in that realm?”

Daphne animatedly chattered, “Jeez, that’s always been a secret dream of mine! But, I never thought I could do it! I don’t have the stamina to pass the police academy, so I couldn’t become a detective!”

“Actually, there are multiple methods of assisting with investigations!” Nick interjected. “You could get certified as a private eye and get hired to work on personal matters, but if you have your heart seriously set on murder cases, there are always crime scene investigators and federal analysts. I’m not positive on what their certification process is like, but based on some of my colleagues’ behavior, they wouldn’t have passed any sort of physical!”

“That makes a lot of sense! I’d love to go that avenue, but I can’t afford the schooling it’d take…” Daphne gave Oswald a wry look. “Hold on, were you planning on offering me some sort of scholarship?”

Oswald’s expression grew pleasantly prideful. “Great deduction! See, you’ll be fantastic in this vocation!”

Daphne cried out, “Yay!” 

She did a merry jig, and when Heathrow joined in, she danced with him. Lionel and Nick mimicked that move, and Oswald fondly tittered at their celebratory antics. Once their fervor ebbed slightly genially stated, “I’ll have Henry sned over the necessary forms. I would recommend an online course so you can continue your studies while you return to Vegoz for a visit.”

“Visit? Oh, right! I’ve got to go home! But Aunt Mae’s home blew here! Where are we gonna go? And my friends- Jack, Ray, and Bert! I gotta see if they’re alright! What if we’ve all lost our home?” Daphne fretted.

“Darling, home isn’t a place- it’s a feeling!” Oswald sagely articulated. “As long as you’ve got your loved ones around, you’re home! Whether you choose to reside in Kansas, California or you wind up roosting here, you’ll be surrounded by love and support, and you’ll be home!” Everyone appreciatively drank in his words, and then Oswald offered, “If you’d like to leave, I’ll take you back myself! I’ve been meaning to return Morgan’s balloon anyhow!”

Heathrow puzzled, “If you can’t do real spells, how did you get a balloon to last so long?”

Lionel relayed to him, “I’m assuming he means a hot-air balloon.” He paused and then wondered, “Don’t you?”

Oswald confirmed, “Indeed! That’s where the inspiration for the Emerald Angel stemmed from- everyone was amazed that I flew in!” They all guffawed at that, and Tater let out a happy meow. “What is your wish? A yummy fish?” He opened up a mini fridge and tossed the cat a piece of salmon. As Tater devoured that morsel, Oswald remarked, “And all is well! Nothing else shall go wrong!”

In the courtyard of  Emerald City’s Center, Daphne held Tater inside of a basket below a large, green, inflated structure. She stood beside Oswald, who spoke to all of his employees whom had gathered, “Don’t worry yourselves too much! I shall return one day soon! During my absence, I decree that these three will rule in my stead: Heathrow for his superior brain, Lionel for his outstanding bravery, and Nick for his extensive legal background.” Some of the staff politely clapped, but many began to murmur in confusion. The three named men awkwardly stood before them, and Oswald, seemingly oblivious to all of this, carried on, “Treat them as you would myself! Now, I bid you adieu!”

Tater espied another cricket, so he hopped out of Daphne’s grasp and pursued the insect. “Tater, no!” Daphne hopped out of the basket and swiftly retrieved her animal. When she turned back to the balloon, she was horrified to see it ascending into the air! “Come back! Come back!” Daphne beseeched him.

“I can’t! I don’t know how it works!” Oswald shouted.

“What? Then how on Earth were you gonna get me home?” Daphne challenged him. He merely shrugged ash he drifted away, and Daphne commented, “Wow! I’m really glad I missed that opportunity! Oh, but how will I get home now? I don’t have the money to take a plane!”

Nick proposed, “I’ll get you back to California! … Eventually! Apparently, I’m partially in charge of this joint going forward! How’s that gonna work? I gotta go back to my job tomorrow…”

Henry inquired, “How are you three gonna fulfill the Emerald Angel’s duties? You don’t even have any powers!”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna be an issue…” Lionel replied.

“How’s that possible?” Henry shot back.

Lionel didn’t know what to say, but luckily for him, he didn’t have to create any sort of excuse! Heathrow pointed to a speck in the sky, and he announced, “Look! There’s someone who can help us!”

The blue speck gently floated down to the ground, and Sapphire appeared! Charlie gasped, “Lawksamercy me! Is that the Blue Angel?”

“Yes! And she’s the only Angel of Vegoz right now!” Daphne conveyed to him.

“For a short period, I am. I’ve seen plenty of angels come and go from here- trust me, I won’t be alone for long!” Sapphire addressed the crowd. “Anyways, Oswald may be gone, in every sense of the term, for a lengthy stretch, so I’m gonna take over this operation. Unless you fellas would rather do it…?” Nick, Heathrow, and Lionel all vehemently shook their heads. “Sweet! I can finally stay in Summerland without all that hassle! Okay, so what’s the first order of business?”

Nick requested, “Can you get me some transportation so I can take her home?”

Sapphire declined, “I don’t need to. She has the means to travel right there!” She indicated to the Carmine Clogs on Daphne’s feet.

“WHAT?” Daphne roared. “You mean this whole time I could have magicked myself out of here?”

“Technically. But if you had done that, you would’ve missed out on all you’ve gained this city,” Sapphire countered.

Daphne mulld that notion over, and she concluded, “Yeah, I suppose so! I wouldn’t have met my new best friends, and I wouldn’t have found my found my true purpose! I could’ve done without the whole getting kidnapped thing though!”

Nick reckoned, “I guess this is goodbye then!”

“Only for now! I’ll be back! And I can take down your number to…” She pulled out her busted cellphone and instantly changed her tune, “I’ll get a not-broken one in Kansas, and…”

“Here’s my number.” Nick handed her a business card. “Call me as soon as you can!” After Daphne stowed away his info, they gave each other a kiss.

Heathrow let her know, “We’ll miss ya, Daphne!”

Lionel concurred, “We will! Thanks for everything!”

“I love you guys!” She embraced them all, and once they parted, she notified Sapphire, “I’m ready!”

“Tap the Carmine Clogs together three times and say, ‘There’s no place like home!’” Sapphire instructed.

Daphne heeded her advice, and sooner than she anticipated, she and Tater were drifting through a swirling vortex. Flashes of her stint in this town played back to her, and suddenly, it all disappeared!

Quite alleviated, Aunt Mae proclaimed, “She’s awake!”

“How did the house get back from Vegoz?” Daphne pondered. “Did your insurance have it towed?”

“Boy! You can hardly tell you got hit in the skull!” Aunt Mae kidded. Daphne still seemed addled, so she clarified, “You were dreaming, kiddo!”

Daphne disagreed, “It wasn’t a dream! I got captured by pigeons and battled a fallen angel! … I can see what you were saying! Maybe I was dreaming!”

Jack canvassed her, “Was I in your dream?”

Ray echoed, “How about me?”

“Or me?” Bert tacked onto that chain.

“No…” Daphne glanced behind her, and Professor Frank poked his head in. “You were there though!”

Professor Frank blinked in surprise. “I was where? Sorry, I just came to see if you were alright after walking home in that storm!”

Daphne reported, “I’m fine! I had this really strange vision though! Your cousin was gonna take me home in a green balloon!”

“Oh no! He better not have! That’s how he wound up getting lost!” Professor Frank darted off.

“Wait, was that really a hallucination then…?” Daphne pensively glimpsed at the ceiling.

Aunt Mae comfortingly pat her purple footwear. “Get some rest! You’ve been through a lot!” The maintenance men vacated the room, and Aunt Mae paused prior to her departure. “Ooh! Where did you get those new shoes?”

Daphne sat up and was shocked to discover, sitting in her closet, the Carmine Clogs! With a wide smirk, Daphne affirmed, “Over the rainbow…”

The End

The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 14

Daphne, Nick, Tater, Lionel, and Heathrow all stood before the jade fence. Heathrow gave it a loud knock, and they waited patiently for someone to respond. After a minute or so, Charlie poked his head out of the small window above the knob, and he nearly jumped from the shock he received from the sight of them. “My word! You’re still alive?”

“Yeah! We’re just as surprised about that as you are!” Nick remarked.

“I bet! Speaking of bets… Hey, Henry! I owe you twenty bucks!” Charlie ducked back down, and the front entrance swung open.

Heathrow queried, “Did he bet that we would…?”

Daphne recommended, “Don’t look too much into it! Let’s keep our focus on getting in and out so we can all go home!” She mulled over that sentence, and then she apologized to Heathrow, “Oh, right! Sorry!”

“You must be excited to go back home to Kansas, California!” Lionel supposed.

“Sure…” Daphne’s stomach lurched at that notion.

Nick probed, “That is what you’re wishing for, isn’t it?” He gazed at her with hopeful eyes, and she couldn’t give him a reply. She visually scanned over her companions and then all of the friendly employees of the Emerald City’s Center, and suddenly, she didn’t feel so certain about anything! All that she wanted was to get a dangerous killer off of the streets, and now that she had done that, she realized that she was jobless and directionless again. She possessed a purpose during her stint here, and since her quest came to an end, she would return to exactly where she was in the beginning! Her newly acquired acquaintances and the harrowing journey she endured changed her though, and at the present moment, she didn’t know where she wanted to go from here…

The five travelers approached the stage with far less apprehension than their previous visit. Heathrow called out, “Your excellency! We’re back!” A brief pause ensued, and Heathrow beseeched him, “Aw, come on! Don’t make me go near the fire again! I’ve had enough of that today!”

Without the theatrics in this instance, the Emerald Angel manifested onto the platform. “Why have you come back so soon? Didn’t I tell you that you couldn’t do that until you had the Ochre Angel’s cellphone?”

“You didn’t say we couldn’t come back without it!” Nick contended. “You simply said we wouldn’t prove we were worthy of getting your gifts without it!”

“Do not play semantics with me!” the Emerald Angel roared. “I set my terms, and you did not follow them! Whatever reason you entered my quarters is moot! I’m denying your requests, and-!”

Daphne held up Whitney’s cellphone and differed with him, “But we did get her cellphone!”

The Emerald Angel’s eyes widened upon this revelation. “Is that…? Did you…? You really got it, huh?”

“Yup! But, then again, you already knew that, right?” Daphne glimpsed at him suspiciously. “You told us you know everything!”

“Do not question my prowess!” the Emerald Angel bellowed. “Your colleague’s quarrel merely confused my perception.”

Lionel petitioned the Emerald Angel, “So, you’re gonna grant our wishes now, correct? Cool! I’m so excited! There’s a tournament I wanna register for, so I’m ready to get my courage now!” He did a few boxing moves in anticipation of this occurrence.

The Emerald Angel austerely announced, “The matter requires further contemplation! Come again in the twenty-four hours!”

After a collective outburst from everyone as they drank in this bitter disappointment, Daphne vociferated, “Twenty-four hours? That wasn’t part of your terms! You said we’d get our wishes after we brought you the cellphone!”

“Don’t argue with me, chippy!” the Emerald Angel grumbled. “Twenty-four hours is still after you brought the cellphone in, isn’t it? You’re lucky I don’t force you to wait longer than that! This is a complicated situation, and it requires more deliberation!”

“What’s left to deliberate?” Daphne shot back. “You mandated us to get this device from her, and we did! Now, it’s your turn to hold up to your part of the bargain!”

The Emerald Angel huffed, “And I shall! Provided that I can authenticate your claim…”

Daphne held up the phone closer to him and persisted, “Go ahead and study it! You’ll see that we’re telling the truth!”

“Don’t get sore with me!” the Emerald Angel snapped. “Don’t you understand that most of my beneficiaries have gone through months of processing and vetting? You guys are total strangers to us, and yet we allowed you onto the premises and gave audience to your requests! Regardless of how long I have you wait, you’ll still receive your wishes faster than all of my other clients!”

“And we’ve also done more than all of your other clients!” Daphne disputed. Tater began chasing a cricket as she spoke, but she ignored him. “How many of your clients had to battle a fallen angel to get their wish granted?”

The Emerald Angel bickered, “Excuse me, but everyone is fighting a battle in their own way- do not seek to diminish what they’ve been through!”

Daphne refuted that argument, “I’m not diminishing their experiences, but we nearly lost our lives on a venture you convinced us to go through! I’m sure others have been through extraordinary hardships too, but ours stemmed from circumstances that you created! It’s not like we were like, ‘Oh, battling an evil being with supernatural abilities- that’ll be a laugh!’”

“Well, I kinda did until, you know, the whole near-death escapade!” Heathrow interjected.

“That ordeal scared the bejesus out of me!” Lionel put in. “I did it ‘cause I thought it meant something to you, but apparently, I was fooling myself!”

The Emerald Angel eyeballed Tater nervously as his bug-hunting grew closer to the curtained area on the right, and he assured his human visitors, “I’m not belittling anything you’ve done! You just don’t seem to understand that I can’t solely rely on a person’s claim! I will consider your story, but if I don’t have the evidence to back it up, how am I supposed to accept it as truth?”

Daphne pushed the cellphone closer to him, and she asserted, “All you need to do is inspect the property we’ve brought you, and you’ll see that we weren’t lying! None of us are good enough techies to have faked something like this! Come on!”

“Leave it on the steps, and I’ll take a gander later,” the Emerald Angel directed her. 

“Why can’t you do it now?” Daphne challenged him. “It doesn’t seem like you have any appointments any time soon, and it’ll only take a minute!”

The Emerald Angel offered, “Why don’t you return to the beauty salon and finish your makeovers? You must be tense after such a grueling episode, so relax! Soothe your aching muscles and jangled nerves as you soak in the luxury! Then, go out and properly celebrate your victory! We can provide beds if you’d like! Then, after a decent recovery, you will be able to come back and fully enjoy the next chapter of your life!”

Daphne declined, “I don’t need any more spa treatments! I need you to take this cellphone and give us our requests!”

“How long does it take for a feline to catch its prey?” the Emerald Angel posed to them as Tater remained in hot pursuit by the curtains.

“You’re changing the subject!” Nick observed. “Why won’t you take the cellphone from her?’

The Emerald Angel folded his arms in defiance. “Because I do things on my own accord!”

Heathrow suggested, “Well, then grab it and do it in whatever fashion you choose!”

The Emerald Angel still refused, so Lionel chimed in, “Dude, you’re making this more complicated than it needs to be!”

“Did you seriously call me dude?” the Emerald Angel scoffed.

“Sir! Your honor! Your majesty! Whatever you like to be called, take the freakin’ phone!” Nick demanded.

The four people erupted in a chorus of clamoring for him to obtain the device, and he got so taken aback by this that he didn’t notice the insect deciding to roost on the curtain. Tater hopped onto the curtain, and to his alarm, he knocked the entire structure down! As he zoomed away from the fright, the contents once hidden revealed themselves. Daphne and the others expected to find old furniture or unused equipment, but what they didn’t expect to find was…

An elderly gentleman with wispy, white hair and bright, green eyes stood at a small table with a laptop on it! He looked very startled and very familiar to Daphne! Other than avoiding eye contact with everyone, he didn’t seem to know what to do, and eventually, he decided to speak into his headset. At precisely the same juncture, the Emerald Angel commanded, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

“Okay!” Heathrow very willingly obliged. Nick swiveled him back to facing the elderly gentleman, and his brows furrowed. “Huh? Who are you?”

“He’s a fraud!” Daphne alleged.

The Emerald Angel stood firm, “I am no fraud! I’m the great, the powerful, the legendary…” The elderly gentleman realized the futility of his grandstanding, so he lamely finished, “Emerald Angel of Vegoz.”

Lionel questioned, “So, are you holding the real Emerald Angel of Vegoz captive somewhere, or…?”

“No, no, no! I may have engaged in a bit of deception, but I’m no criminal!” the elderly gentleman defended himself.

“How do you make time for this deception between teaching college classes and heading the anthropology department of USCK?” Daphne interrogated him.

The elderly gentleman informed her, “You must be thinking of my cousin, Professor Morgan Frank. I’m the reason Almira took a position there! Of course, she had no clue about my true nature- she was using him as leverage for me to not interfere with her activities on the East Side. I got the impression that she was beginning to view this practice as pointless, which is partially why Whitney decided to off her. I could never prove that though, which is why I wanted you to retrieve the cellphone…”

Nick vehemently exclaimed, “You’re not getting it now! Not only are you a terrible person for tricking everybody, but you’re not even a real angel! You can’t do anythin to help anyone, so-!”

“My boy, you have me all wrong! I haven’t been honest, but it was all for a great cause! I couldn’t stand by and witness all of the suffering of the world, and it occurred to me just how many people could solve each other’s problems simply by connecting with one another. Take the Hickory family that I recently met with- so many hungry individuals come to me begging for food, and the Hickory family came to me begging for assistance in their efforts to feed hungry individuals! I aimed to make a business out of this concept, but no investors showed interest in financing Oswald Frank’s idea. I invented the Emerald Angel character, and all of a sudden, I had everyone’s respect! They even dropped the Oswald part- I was simply the Emerald Angel, a powerful divinity! I’ve lost count of all of the philanthropic feats that the ‘Emerald Angel’ has pulled off! The ‘magic’ is staged, and the stories about his accomplishments are phony, but isn’t it worth it to help so many individuals out?” Oswald entreated them.

“Maybe for everyone else, but you can’t help us out!” Daphne morosely articulated. “That’s why you sent us on that mission, huh? You were hoping it’d be too impossible for us to pull off!”

Oswald refuted, “Actually, I have a higher purpose for that. You see,, I may not possess paranormal gifts, but I have an advanced knowledge of technology. In my crusade to go beyond our depth of understanding of the universe, I accidentally invented a gadget to communicate with the Heavens! They watched the cyclone that killed the Crimson Angel, but they could not prove that Whitney purposely got her sister annihilated. I hoped that getting a hold of this would show some admission of guilt so that the Heavens would strip her of her powers. I seems more important than ever at the present- who knows what would transpire if someone removed Whitney’s shackles!”

Daphne hesitated. “That is a wonderful cause, but we went through a lot to obtain this, and we won’t get anything out of it except for the satisfaction of doing the right thing! Which is fine and all, but still!”

“You want your wishes?” Oswald surmised. “Listen, just because I can’t do magic doesn’t mean I can’t make magical stuff occur…”

The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 13

“You!” Whitney ogled Heathrow, Lionel, and Nick in an outraged shock. “How did you get in here?”

“Through the door..” Heathrow gazed at her like she lot her marbles.

Whitney let out a noise of annoyance, and then Nick smirked as he asked her, “Surprised we outsmarted you, huh?”

After letting out a derisive laugh, Whitney answered, “Oh, please! You didn’t outsmart me! I saw the guards’ uniforms down the hall, and it dosn’t surprise me you could best those idiots! What I wanna know is how you found this place after I cast a confusion spell on you!”

“Oh, you were right, Nick!” Lionel lauded him.

“What? You’re not gonna tell me?” Whitney questioned.

Daphne responded, “Why would they do anything to help you?”

Heathrow concurred, “Yeah! Why would we help out a dirty, old witch?”

“Witch? No! I’m a fallen angel, you nitwit!” Whitney snapped.

“You’re real evil, you cast spells, and you fly through the sky… Why am I a nitwit for assuming she’s a witch?” Heathrow wondered.

Nick assured him, “You’re not! She’s just being mean ‘cause she knows she’s about to loe this battle!”

Whitney cackled at that concept, “You? I have supernatural powers, and you’re cornered! The odds are in my favor!”

“It sounds like some of that confusion spell blew back to you!” Daphne bantered.

“Ugh! That’s it! We’re finishing this now!” Whitney raised her hand to strike, and without hesitation, Lionel punched her in the forehead! While Whitney absorbed this pain, Daphne grabbed Lionel’s wrist and pulled him into the fire exit with the others.

As they descended the staircase, Lionel queried, “She doesn’t count as a woman, does she?”

Daphne commended him, “No, you can hit her! And you did hit her! Quite well too!”

“It felt great!” Lionel celebrated. “I’ve been so scared to get back into the boxing ring, but I-!”

“Let’s get done escaping before we start patting ourselves on the back!” Nick advised.

Daphne confidently stated, “I’m sure we’ll be fine! I didn’t see anyone guarding the emergency exits!” She opened the entryway to the outside, and she beheld a bunch of pigeons waiting for them! She slammed the door shut and then stated, “Nope! Not doing that again!”

Heathrow urged them, “Come on! Let’s go out the main way! We’ll be fine as long as-!”

“Attention, personnel!” Whitney’s voice boomed throughout the building. “We have a code orange! All hands on deck!”

“Oh, fudge!” Heathrow lamented.

The five travelers dashed through the residence, but when they espied a group of guards towards them, they bolted in another direction. More o them streamed in, so they ran upstairs. People started emerging from their domiciles, so they made a bid for the rooftop. That terrace had more birds, so they hurried tot he laundry room. There wasn’t anyone in there but there also wasn’t a route for their departure! They huddled in the corner, and Nick shakily articulated, “We’re gonna be alright! We can find a solution! It’s not totally hopeless!”

Lionel apprehensively eyeballed the guards that encompassed them, and he conjectured, “Maybe one of us will come back as an arc angel so our side can come back and kick her-!”

“Ah-ha! I’ve got you surrounded!” Whitney trumpeted.

“Yeah, duh!” Daphne shot back.

Whitney put her hands on her hips and probed, “Can we skip the whole heroic last-stand thing? I’ve got other stuff to do besides deal with you!” She pulled her cellphone from her pocket and groaned, “Drats! I’m gonna be late!”

Daphne scoffed, “Really? You could magick someone into oblivion simply for looking at you funny, and you’re worried about tardiness? Who is this you’re late for? Do you actually have a date?”

“I’m late to ambush someone heading home from work! You’re not the only enemies I have, you know!” Whitney folded her arms in a huff.

“I could see her getting dates…” Nick remarked.

Whitney approved of his assertion, “Thank you!”

Daphne reacted in startlement, “You can?”

“Yeah… she’d have to threaten them, but they’d do it!” Nick joked.

“Hey!” Whitney barked as her captives giggled.

Heathrow sincerely offered her solace, “Aw, it’s alright! I’ve gone through periods of time where I don’t have anyone who likes me too!”

Whitney became aghast at that statement. “Don’t put me on your level! I’m wealthy, admired, and very popular!”

“Uh, you only got one out of three right!” Lionel kidded, which made the others guffaw.

“Shut your traps!” Whitney roared.

Daphne interrogated her, “Is that why you killed your sister? People liked her better than you?”

Whitney growled, “That’s it! We end this claptrap now!” She grabbed a broom from a set of cleaning supplies close to her, and then she commanded “Nimmie, hand me your lighter!”

“I don’t have it, ma’am!” Nimmie came forward wearing a garbage bag and nothing else, which made even her colleagues snicker.

“What on Earth are you wearing?” Whitney incredulously inquired.

Nimmie irately replied, “Someone stole my clothes!”

Nick told her, “Don’t look at me! I had enough of seeing you clothesless! I’m the one who insisted on covering you up!”

Half amused, half bewildered, Daphne canvassed Nick, “You were two were an item, huh?”

“Unfortunately! But fortunately, I broke it off prior to her stint with the Ochre Angel!” He glanced over to Daphne and added, “Actually, I’m glad I broke it off period…”

“Nimmie, you said you dumped him!” Zeb asserted while he and Rak showed up in their underwear.

The entire room cracked up at this spectacle, and preceding Nimmie responding to that topic, Whitney regained control of the room, “Enough! You three, go home and change! Someone else who smokes hand me your lighter!”

Somebody enquired, “Can’t you just do a hex to produce a flame?”

“Who dared to utter such impertinence?” Whitney demanded to all of her employees. No one confessed, but someone else produced a set of matches. “Thank you!” She snatched them from their grasp, and as she lit a matchstick, she aimed one of her palms at a sprinkler head. Her jinx contained the water that flowed out close to the ceiling, and the crew murmured in understanding of her actions. “Now then, you’re about to get… fired!” Her staff cheered, so she yelled, “Not you!” Most of her employees emitted a very audible sigh of disappointment.

“Woah, careful where you point that!” Heathrow requested with very wide eyes. “I’m highly flammable, you know!”

Whitney wryly stated, “Sounds like I need to get you hot first!”

Heathrow declined, “Nah! I’d rather burn to death!”

After releasing a horrible howl, Whitney moed the broom towards Heathrow. Lionel and Nick shielded him, but Daphne spotted a janitorial bucket in the cleaning supplies, seized it, and hurled its contents at Whitney’s torch. There was a lot of water inside, and much of it landed on Whitney’s visage, which caused her to let out an ear-splitting screech! She dropped the broomstick, and Lionel immediately put it under the freely flowing sprinkler. Everyone else curiously peered at Whitney, who had her hands hiding her front…

“You cursed brat!” Whitney bellowed. “Do you see what you’ve done?”

“No! Can you show me?” Daphne entreated her.

She wailed, “I’m melting! Melting! Melting!” She sunk to the floor, and…

After a minute or two of watching her inactivity, the collective began to exchange whispers of leeriness. Eventually, Daphne broke the silence, “So, are fallen angels water soluble, or…?”

“She doesn’t seem like she is!” Heathrow attempted to moee one of her hands, but Whitney instantly snapped it back into place. “Why, you’re not melted at all!” Heathrow esteemed.

“You’re dead fo this!” Whitney snarled.

Heathrow chuckled, “Gosh! She’s all kinds of mixed up!”

Nick grabbed her arms, and she kept her hair low enough on her face to keep it concealed as he pulled a pair of manacles out of his pocket. “You carry around handcuffs on your off days?” Daphne catechized.

“Yeah!” Nick confirmed. “Just in case…”

“In case you have to arrest someone!” Heathrow finished his sentence.

With shifty eyes, Nick responded, “Sure…” Daphne blushed, Lionel grinned, and Heathrow appeared confused.

Lionel asserted, “Okay, I gotta know what she’s hiding!” He reached out to brush her hair back, and she tried to bite him! She wasn’t successful in her endeavo, and, in fact, she created worse circumstances for herself…

“What happened to your looks?” a male guard gasped.

“Wow! You wore a lot of makeup before!” a female guard observed.

The masses all caught a glimpse of her altered image and became overwhelmed in astonishment. The dark beauty she once possessed had vanished, and she now resembled a much different person! Her chin was sharper, her noe was lopsided, and her skin was overtly pop-marked! The color in her cheeks was gone, and she developed circles so dark that it nearly meatched her hair! The congregation hooted in amusement, and Whitney’s scowl became more and more pronounced. “Go ahead- have your fun!” she yelled. The mirth intensified after that statement, and she grumped, “Oh, come on! It isn’t that hilarious!”

Daphne affirmed, “Hey, so I was correct in guessing that you killed your sister ‘cause she’s prettier than you!”

“Oh, please!” Whitney disagreed. “Almira’s lucky she had a house covering her ugly mug when she died!”

“Whitney Hamilton, you’re under arrest!” Nick proudly proclaimed.

With a defiant expression, Whitney argued, “You think so, huh? You’re the ones who broke into my territory! I have a legal justification for what I do to trespassers onto my land! Plus, you assaulted me and destroyed some of my property!”

Lionel contended, “Woah, woah, woah! It’s not our fault you used such cheap material for their uniforms!”

“I doubt the courts will care about any petty misdemeanors when you committed a major felony!” Daphne articulated.

“Excuse me, I never admitted to any murders! You just keep bringing up that theory!” Whitney spat.

Daphne differed, “Uh, I was talking about kidnapping me!”

Whitney insolently claimed, “Those pigeons did that on their own!” Nobody in the lot shared her enthusiasm for that hypothesis.

“Oh my goodness! It sounds like she’ll be in prison for a long time!” Rak excitedly realized. “That means we’ll be free of her! Free! Free at last!” All of the guards burst into jubilation.

“Why don’t you call the police station now?” Nick suggested.

Daphne petitioned the gaggle, “Hold on! Can we grab her cellphone first?”

Zeb reached into Whitney’s pocket and handed her the device. “Please, take it with you! And no hard feelings about the whole hunting you down thing, right?” Nick and Nimmie gave each other sour side-eyes, so Zeb refined his sentence, “Well, at least not with most of us…”

“I don’t mind ‘cause I’m about to get a mind! Finally!” Heathrow clapped and hopped in delight.

“Oh, yeah! We can get our wishes now!” Lionel denoted.

Daphne verbalized, “Eventually! Before that, we gotta tell law enforcement our story. By the way, what is our story? We can’t give them the true reality or they’ll evaluate our sanity!”

Nick shrugged. “Let them! It’s not illegal to be crazy!” The whole space chortled at that quip. Nimmie dialed the number for the authorities, and Whitney severely glowered at their glee.

The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 12

As the three men followed the cat towards the back of the abandoned water park, Lionel fretted, “Oh, I hope we’re not too late!”

“Nah, we’re fine!” Heathrow confidently stated.

“How do you know?” Lionel challenged that.

Lionel filled him in, “Just a feeling inside of me. That’s how I’ve been getting by all these years- I may not have a brain, but my gut gives me guidance! Besides, I’m sure if Whitney got the Carmine Clogs, we’d all know it! She wouldn’t keep something like that a secret!”

Tater halted in his tracks by the reargates, and while Nick gave him the utmost attention, Lionel continued his conversation with Heathrow, “Would she though? We have no proof they do anything!”

“Guys!” Nick tried to redirect their focus.

“They must do something!” Heathrow insisted. “I know women love shoes, but I can’t imagine they’d kill one another over them!”

Nick gave it another go, “Guys!”

Lionel brought up, “What if the magic in them expired? Then Whitney would realize she wasted her time kidnapping Daphne, and who knows what she’d do when she-!”

“Guys!” Nick furiously whispered. They heeded his demand, and Nick quietly apprised them, “I think he’s signaling that we’re getting close!”

“Ha, look! He’s yelling at you!” Heathrow indicated to Tater, who was giving them a stern stare.

Lionel disagreed, “He’s not saying a word!”

Heathrow argued, “If he could speak, he would be hollering-!”

“Shut up!” Nick hissed.

“Exactly!” Heathrow chirped.

Nick warned them, “If you want Daphne to stay alive and well, you’d better zip it!” Lionel and Heathrow nodded in compliance, and when the group stayed silent, Tater continued their trek.

Tater led them to the top of a hilly garden with sandy rocks, thorny bushes, and palm trees, and the three men hid behind topiary in the shape of a cartoonish-looking tiger. They peaked over the hedge, and they saw a dozen men and women in ornate, security guard uniforms. Not only did they have a matching shirt and pants combo, but they had a multi-pocketed utility belt; large, orange ball caps; jackets with frizzy stripes on both arms; and sparkly shoes with matching gloves. They had elaborate, amber lettering of Pumperdink Gulch’s initials on their backs, and they carried big, tangerine billy clubs. One of the guards heard the rustling of leaves in the distance, and he whipped his head in that direction. The four males ducked, and Lionel softly suggested, “Maybe we shouldn’t use the front entrance!”

With a very low volume, Nick asserted, “This isn’t the front entrance! It’s the door with the least amount of cover!”

“Alright, so what’s the plan?” Lionel canvassed Nick.

“I don’t have a plan!” Nick confessed. “I was sorta hoping that we’d instantly figure it out when we got here!”

Lionel remarked, “You know who would probably have figured out what to do lickety-split? Daphne!”

Nick beseeched him, “Concentrate!”

“Yes!” Heathrow concurred. “We’ll never get our wishes if we don’t get that cellphone!’

“Screw that cellphone! I don’t care about the Emerald Angel granting my wish right now! All I want is for Daphne to come out of there safely!” Nick wiped a tear off of his cheek.

Prior to either of the other men getting a chance to respond, they heard some guttural chanting emanating from the apartment complex. They peered over, and they beheld the guards doing some elaborate marching while they recited, “The Ohhhh-Oh! Ochre Angel! The Ohhh-Oh! Ochre Angel!”

They repeated that chorus a couple of times, and then they resumed their stoic positions. Nick puzzled, “What in the blazes was that?”

“I’ve heard them do that at the top of every hour,” Heathrow reported. “I never questioned it ‘cause I like to sing too!”

“So, what do we do?” Lionel inquired.

Heathrow replied, “Oh, it’s real easy! You exhale out of your diaphragm, and-!”

Nick snapped, “He meant about Daphne! Why would we ask about singing when our beautiful damsel is in distress?”

Lionel appeared as though he was going to say something, but he changed his mind. A lightbulb went off in Heathrow’s head, and he excitedly proclaimed, “I’ve got an idea!”

“This better not be about singing!” Nick warned him.

“No, no! Not unless you want it to…” Heathrow gauged his reaction, and then he went on,, “Alright, that’s fine! We don’t need any sort of music for my plan!”

Lionel raised his eyebrows to that. “You have a plan?”

Heathrow confirmed, “Yes! And you’re gonna take the lead role in it!”

He initially laughed at that concept, but once it sunk in that he was serious, Lionel exclaimed,“Oh, you’re serious!” His teeth chattered as they vacated that spot.

The guards stood in silence for several seconds, and then one of them petitioned his comrades, “Did you hear that?”

“Zeb, we’ve been over this!” the man next to Zeb exasperatedly reminded him. “If tacos give you indigestion, stop having them on your lunch break!”

“No, Rak! I think I detected something on the side of the building!” Zeb paused and added, “And I’m never giving up tacos! Are you crazy? Tacos are the best-!”

A female guard interrupted him, “Forget about the tacos! What did you hear?”

Zeb stayed silent, and then he gestured towards the female guard. “There it is again! It’s closer to you, Nimmie! Can’t you-?”

“Hang on! There is something there!” Nimmie determined.

“See? I told you!” Zeb triumphantly commented.

Rak pointed out, “Now isn’t the moment to celebrate! If something happens on our watch, can you picture how the boss will react?”

Zeb shuddered. “I don’t want to!”

Nimmie shushed him, and then she motioned for her two colleagues to follow her. They crept around the corner, and to their startlement, they beheld Lionel striving to open a window! “Freeze!” Nimmie commanded.

“Oh, hi!” Lionel sheepishly regarded them. “I wasn’t trying to bust in here! I was simply taking a stretch before my run… which I’m gonna do right now!” He bolted away from them.

“Stop!” Rak ordered, but Lionel didn’t listen. The three guards chased after him, and they gained some ground as they headed into a walled-off dumpster area. They sprinted at full speed, and they almost caught him when…

Zeb and Rak tripped over Nick and Heathrow’s legs, and they fell to the floor in addition to falling unconscious! Nimmie nabbed Lionel, and Lionel let out a high-pitched scream as he defensively elbowed her in the forehead! She became unconscious, and Lionel rejoiced, “Yay! I hit someone! In all my years of trying to box, I’ve never done that! I’m so…! Oh, no! It was a woman!”

Nick spat, “She’s no woman! She’s a vindictive, self-serving, lying monster!” Heathrow and Lionel and ogled at him in bewilderment, so Nick clarified, “We used to date! You know, back when I still had a heart…”

“Oh! Awkward! Well, if you need a minute, we can wait,” Heathrow offered.

“No, we can’t wait!” Nick declined. “I could care less about her at the present! Daphne is my priority! The plan proceeds as normal!” As they removed the guards’ jackets, Nick reckoned, “Besides, this stunt could get her fired, and I’ll let myself feel amused by that!” Lionel and Heathrow tittered as they carried on.

After waiting for a few guards to pass by, the three men emerged from the dumpster area in their newly-acquired uniforms. Nick gazed at the garish trim in disgust, and Heathrow cautioned him, “Act more natural!”

Lionel muttered, “Easy for you to say! You didn’t have to squeeze into a chick’s outfit!” His boxers were showing, so he pulled his pants up some more.

Nick grabbed Tater and articulated, “Come on, dude! It’s showtime!” Tater rested comfortably in his arms, which signaled that he was ready, so the three men marched on.

The vast north entrance had twice as many guards on the half circle walkway in front of the door. Nick, Heathrow, and Lionel tried not to make eye contact with anyone, and it seemed that they would prove successful in that feat until they reached the portal to the interior. Two guards blocked them from going inside, and one of them huffed, “Where do you think you’re going?”

“To see the Emerald Angel!” Heathrow covered his mouth after making that slip.

“Huh?” The first guard eyed him quizzically.

Nick nervously chuckled, “He’s kidding! Why would we ever do that?”

To their relief, the guards found that humorous, and following their brief amusement, the second guard asked, “What are you really doing? Your break isn’t for an hour!”

“We’re bringing this cat to the, uh, boss,” Nick answered prior to Heathrow getting to communicate with them again.

“Why?” The second guard now eyeballed them suspiciously.

Nick fibbed, “I dunno! But she demanded we bring him in, and we can’t exactly say no!”

Both guards seemed appeased by that explanation, and the first guard opined, “Sounds about right!”

The second guard advised them, “You better hurry! You don’t wanna keep her waiting!” As soon as they gave them the leeway, Nick scurried inside and the other two mimicked his move.

A couple more security guards sat at a gaudy receptionist desk with their chins rested in their hands as they stared at a screen, and they appeared far too engrossed in their task to pay much notice to the three men’s behavior. Nick, Heathrow, and Lionel glanced around due to an uncertainty of where to go, and when Tater squirmed towards the staircase, they took it as a sign of where they ought to travel and ascended towards the upstairs. As they tiptoed up the rickety, antique steps, Lionel hoisted up his trousers with a bit too much force and accidentally tore them! This caught the receptionist guards’ interest, but the three men raced out of their sight to precede their opportunity to view or discuss this development.

“Jeez, Whitney sure uses some cheap material for her employees’ clothes!” Lionel denoted as he shed the torn material.

“What are you doing? You’re gonna give away our cover!” Heathrow worried.

Nick esteemed, “It’s probably too late for that! They’re all residents here and could easily change their clothes if there was an accident like that, so him carrying around his split pants would be a dead giveaway! In light of that, I gotta get this extra layer off or else I’ll boil and never reach Daphne!”

Lionel pondered, “How are we gonna get out of here now though?”

Throwing his arms up in a fashion that conveyed he was clueless, Nick expressed, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!”

“There’s a bridge in this complex?” Heathrow’s visage contorted in confusion.

“Go, Tater! Show us where Daphne is!” Nick set the feline down, and Tater galloped down the hall closely tailed by his three male companions.

At the far end of the foyer, the triad espied a unit closed off with a carrot-colored tape that had the word “condemned” displayed on it several times. “That’s gotta be it!” Nick affirmed. Tater parked himself in front of the door of the one next to that, and this baffled Nick slightly. “Really?” Tater put a paw on the exterior of his chosen site, and Nick acquiesced, “If you say so!” He knocked on the door and called out, “Daphne?”

To their great alleviation, Daphne’s voice rang out, “Nick?”

“We’re all here, Daphne!” Heathrow assured her. “We’re gonna get you out!”

“They use digital codes?” Lionel questioned. “They have this technology, but they skimp on the uniforms?”

Heathrow posed to them all, “How will we guess the password?”

Nick responded, “We don’t!” He opened up a fire emergency cabinet next to him and took the ax to the doorknob. The computer fizzled out, and it became ajar! Daphne looked elated to encounter them, but her smile quickly faded when she saw something ominous behind them…

The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 11

Whitney smiled in delight as her flock of pigeons brought in two captives. “Good work, my birdies!”

The winged creatures carried Tater over to their master, and as Daphne got dropped onto the floor, she saw this transaction take place, which prompted her to shout, “Give me back my cat!”

“You’re in no position to demand anything!” Whitney leered as she stuffed Tater into a cardboard box and closed it.

“Alright, then, what do you want? New furniture?” Daphne glanced around the room, and her face soured from bewilderment.

Whitney was affronted by that. “What? Why would you think I needed that?”

Daphne ridiculed her, “Seriously? Despite all of the power you have in this town, you choose to live in what can only be described as the Golden Girls’ attic?”

“These aren’t my living quarters, you foolish girl!” Whitney snapped. “This is just where I work out my plots with my feathered friends! Obviously, I can’t let them into my apartment or my tenants will get the idea they can keep dozens of pets in their households too! How would that be sustainable?”

“You have tenants?” Daphne questioned. “Who would wanna live with the Ochre Angel of North Vegoz?”

Whitney impatiently let her know, “They’re my employees, and before you ask who would wanna work for me, I forced them into it, you know, threatened to curse their families and stuff.” Daphne nodded in comprehension, and then Whitney shifted the conversation back to the original topic, “Now then, I’m keeping your kitty unless you give me the Carmine Clogs!”

Daphne inquired, “Why do you want them so bad? Oh they must do more than stay stuck on my feet…”

“If Sapphire didn’t tell you, then you’re not gonna find out ‘cause I’m certainly not gonna tell you!” Whitney folded her arms defiantly. “You’ll see when you hand them over to me!”

“Why would I do that?” Daphne shot back. “You’ll kill me whether I hand them over or no, so in light of that, I’d rather follow the Blue Angel’s advice and prevent you from taking them!”

Whitney seethed, “If you don’t give them to me, this box is getting tossed into a flood channel!”

Daphne objected, “You can’t do that! My cat is in there!”

“Uh, yeah! That’s the idea…” Whitney coldly responded.

“I… I can’t let you have them!” Daphne hesitantly told her.

Whitney ordered the beaked beasts, “Go ahead and drown that stupid animal!” The pigeons darted towards Daphne, so Whitney barked, “Not her, you idiots! Take the box and toss it into the flood channel!”

The fowl began to obey her command, and Daphne’s heart plummeted at the tragic premise this posed! Tater was family to her, and she couldn’t let him lose his life like that! She unwillingly relented, “No, don’t do that! You can have the shoes as long as you promise you won’t hurt him!”

“Yes, fine!” she brusquely agreed prior to diving for the red footwear. “Finally! You’re mine!” Her clutches crept closer to them, but when she fell within inches of the Carmine Clogs, they shot out a bolt of scarlet electricity! “Ouch! Oh, that can’t be right! She gave me permission to take you! You’re mine now! You have to allow me to touch you!” She made another attempt, and the shoes issued another zap! “I’m your owner now! You must bend to my will!” She made another bid for them, but the footwear repeated the same action. Daphne stifled a giggle, and Whitney growled at her, “What did you do to them?”

“Nothing! I can’t make them do anything!” She paused and then followed that with, “Can I?”

Whitney snarled, “You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?”

Daphne asserted, “I can understand why you’d assume that, I would’ve found something like that extremely amusing! But no, I’m serious! I didn’t jinx them or anything. Actually, they even attack me if I get too near them! I could’ve mentioned that to you, but it was more fun to watch you figure it out yourself!”

“Hmm… How do I get those clogs?” Whitney wondered.

“If I had any inkling on that, would you really expect me to tell you?” Daphne snidely articulated.

Whitney let out an exasperated exhale, and then she yelled, “I wasn’t talking to you! I was thinking out loud!”

Daphne needled her, “Oh, really? Well, could you specify that next time? I wasn’t very clear…” Whitney gritted her teeth, and then she began to pace around the space. She spotted Daphne getting comfortable, and she ogled her in disbelief. Daphne very nonchalantly regarded her, “What? You expect me to be cowering in fear right now? If you wanted to watch someone tremble from terror, you would’ve been better off kidnapping Lionel instead!”

“You should be scared!” Whitney hissed. “You don’t know what I’m capable of!”

“What are you capable of? Murder?” Daphne grilled her. “Have you killed before?” Whitney chose not to reply and resumed her pensive movements, and Daphne continued to hurl enquiries at her, “Did you murder your sister? Huh? Did you get the impression that you could obtain her shoes if you annihilated her? Or did simply wanna take over her territory? Oh, maybe you just got jealous of her…”

Whitney paused her pursuit as she doubtfully acknowledged her assertion, “Really? Why would I be envious of her? I have far more power and influence than that so-called professor ever had!”

Daphne sort of smirked at her slight against Almira. “If she showed as much compassion towards her students as she did the staff around her, I wouldn’t doubt that statement! However, her teaching ability evidently isn’t something you covet much, but there could have been other things! Like… Well, maybe you thought she was prettier than you..”

“Ha! That’s ridiculous! That dog was not prettier than me!” Whitney argued. 

“I guess we’ll never learn the truth since you made her disappear!” Daphne retorted.

Whitney refuted that allegation, “I wouldn’t assassinate Almira over something so superficial!”

Daphne probed, “Then what would you assassinate her over?”

“Enough!” Whitney roared. In her fury, she gestured wildly and wound up flipping over the box Tater was held in. As soon as he got the opportunity to do so, the cat burst out like a spring and darted out the window!

“Go, Tater! Go!” Whitney encouraged him as she watched him jump off of a canopy and onto the nearby pavement. “Man, I wish this was big enough for me to copy that move!”

Whitney held her hands up in confusion. “Why did he escape? I already agreed not to hurt him!”

Daphne vocalized, “Maybe he left in case you changed your mind. I bet you did the same to your sister- did you promise that she’d stay safe so she’d get rid of her suspicions?”

“Quit interrogating me, you strumpet!” Whitney screamed. “I’m not gonna crack, so zip it!” She returned to her speculative steps, and Daphne stayed silent for a stretch. Suddenly, she ceased and declared, “I’ve got it!”

“You’re gonna execute me?” Daphne presumed.

Whitney spat, “I’m not telling you anything! You’ll discover it for yourself soon enough!”

Daphne shrugged. “Perhaps! Meanwhile, I have backup en route here, so you’ll have to contend with them soon enough!”

“Ugh! You’re right!” Whitney cringed.

“About the murder?” Daphne cheekily quizzed her.

Whitney clicked her tongue in annoyance, and then she informed her, “Do you picture me getting to where I am by being dumb? Listen, you see this timer?” She adjusted a timer in the shape of a chicken, and then she darkly conveyed to Daphne, “This is how long you have to be alive! I won’t say how, but when this goes off, you can hassle Almira about how everything went down personally!”

Whitney cackled as she left the room, and initially, Daphne stayed defiant. After a while, the reality of the situation hit her. She was all alone up there! Tater fled, and her three other companions were getting subjected to whatever depravity Whitney had in store for them. She was completely by herself in there, and the next instance she would have another soul in her presence would likely stem from the onset of her demise! She had no manner in which to escape either! She felt so helpless, and she berated herself for beckoning this fate to her direction! She wanted to lend innocent folks a helping hand, and instead, she evoked the termination of her lifespan! Her stomach tied itself into knots, and she wistfully cradled her knees as she contemplated it all.

“Daphne? Daphne! Where are you?” Aunt Mae’s voice sounded from Daphne’s pocket.

“I’m here, Aunt Mae!” Daphne gratefully held her busted cellphone up so she could speak into it. Her heart flooded with joy to hear a friendly ally during a juncture like this! It was a relief to have someone who could offer her comfort in her final moments, but then it occurred to her that it didn’t necessarily have to be final for her after all! She swiftly reported to her, “I’m in Vegoz, Aunt Mae! I’m being held captive by a woman who’s named Whitney Hamilton, and she’s keeping me in the Pumperdink Gulch apartments! Please call nine one one! I can’t, my phone broke during the cyclone!”

Daphne expected Aunt Mae to assure her that she would comply with her request, but no noise got emitted from her device. “Aunt Mae, do you hear me?” She got no response, and her spirits sank. She allowed her optimism to prevail as she fell under the belief that she had unearthed a method of breaking away from this deathly predicament, but alas, it appeared to have been a deceptive concept instead! Daphne desperately strove to restore her idealism once more, “Oh, Aunt Mae! Please don’t leave me! Please, come back! Please! I’m frightened!”

Whitney’s image abruptly manifested onto the monitor by her, and she mocked Daphne, “Aunt Mae, please come back!” She snickered at her cruelty, and then she sneered, “I knew all that bravado was inauthentic! Nothing gets past me! … Except the pool boy! I don’t let him go anywhere near my proximity!”

“Why?” Daphne pondered.

“Never you mind why!’ Whitney grumbled as she disappeared from the screen. Daphne couldn’t furnish any other avenues of faith or solace, so she buried her face in despair.

Whitney stirred a giant cauldron and gave it a sniff. “Ooh! It’s almost ready! If those meddling boys are convinced they can rescue that bratty tramp, they have a huge shock coming!”

Two men entered into the vicinity with pretzels and a six pack of beer, and when they beheld Whitney in the lounge, one of them assessed, “Uh, we should probably come back later!”

“Yes! Or I’ll mandate overtime with no pay!” Whitney screeched at them. They sped out, and then Whitney opened a window that faced the water park. “No person can carry on with this in their system! Enjoy!” She guffawed as the vapors floated outside.

“We’ve already been to this spot!” Nick complained.

Heathrow disagreed, “No, we haven’t! I don’t remember seeing this slide before!”

Nick pointed out, “You carved your name into it!”

“Oh, yeah!” Heathrow recalled. “So I wouldn’t forget!”

“We’re lost!” Lionel esteemed. “I don’t know how though! It’s not that large of an area, and all we had to do was go straight! How did we get so turned around?”

Heathrow concurred, “It’s strange! Even being brainless, I don’t usually get this mixed up!”

Nick catechized, “Hold on! Did we get some sort of spell cast on us?”

“Probably!” Lionel reacted nervously.

“So, what do we do now?” Heathrow canvassed them.

Heathrow and Nick motioned in a fashion that indicated their dubiousness. All of a sudden, Tater entered into their scope! “Tater! Where did you come from?” Nick addressed him. Tater swiveled around and craned his neck back, so Nick determined, “I think he wants us to follow him!” Heathrow and Lionel obliged, and the three of them tailed the feline.

The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 10

A bus with old signage that depicted a cougar’s silhouette with the phrase, “Passage of Urban Masses Association,” on it pulled up to a battered and dingy stop, and Heathrow got off with a happy sigh, “Oh! That was refreshing!”

As Nick and Daphne dragged Lionel out of the coach, Nick muttered, “Speak for yourself!”

“What? You didn’t enjoy that?” Heathrow puzzled.

“There was nowhere to sit, it smelled funky, and strange people were staring at us like we were strange!” Daphne complained.

Lionel shrugged. “That’s the PUMA bus for ya! Like it or leave it!”

Nick exclaimed, “Leave it! Always leave it!”

“Oh, come on! It wasn’t perfect but at least it was a ride!” Heathrow debated them. “So, we had to deal with a few minor discomforts! It beats walking, don’t it?”

“Only ‘cause time is of the essence here!” Daphne argued. “I took the bus passes from Henry so we could get this mission done and over with, and it was our only real option! I don’t know why no one could’ve given us a ride!”

Lionel illuminated her, “Well, no one wants to go into Mangaboo’s Baum willingly! Including me! Personally, I’m used to taking public transit… Why didn’t you leave me on the bus all day instead of bringing me here?”

Nick dryly responded, “That’s a stupid question! Okay, how do we get to Mangaboo’s Baum?”

“You don’t know where it is? I thought law enforcement has a good layout of the city they work in!” Daphne remarked.

“I told you no one ever goes in there!” Lionel emphatically pointed out.

Nick disagreed, “It’s not that I was scared! Remember, fear is an emotion, and I don’t have any of those!” Daphne rolled her eyes at that claim. “It’s just that nobody enters onto the property, therefore, there are never any crimes to solve in that area. Well, now we have a case to untangle there, so it makes sense to go in. It’s a new experience, but I’m not nervous at all!” After he said that, his hands were visibly shaking.

Heathrow relayed to them, “Oh, it’s real easy to get there! You simply turn onto Mangaboo’s Baum Boulevard, and it takes you all the way down there!” He indicated to a side street a short distance away.

Nick seemed abashed by the obvious solution he missed, and Daphne inquired to Heathrow, “Have you been here before?”

“Yeah, once! And I vowed never to come back again!” Heathrow casually mentioned.

“Well, let me help you honor that vow!” Lionel grabbed Heathrow’s arm and tried to drag him away.

Daphne pulled Heathrow’s limb out of Lionel’s grip, and Nick advised him, “Your fears will only get worse if you don’t deal with them immediately!”

Lionel acknowledged, “You’re probably right! Okay, let’s go!” The other three people as well as Tater forged ahead, but Lionel stood in a frozen stance. Daphne and Heathrow linked elbows with him, and they headed away from that site.

At the end of an avenue full of aged and mostly unkempt homes, they beheld several towering slides with faded paint and rusty parts. It was surrounded by a lanky iron fence with a gate that had a banner which had become warped and barely legible. “Mugaboo’s Baum Water Pork?” Daphne’s brows furrowed from perplexity.

“Water park,” Nick clarified for her. “It used to be a very hip spot, but after a few lawsuits were filed, they closed the joint down. They turned the corporate office into an apartment complex, but they still haven’t done anything with the rest of it.”

“Pumperdink Gulch is in the back section. Explain again why it makes sense to go through the front,” Heathrow requested. 

Daphne queried, “Don’t you think Whitney will expect us to go that route?” Heathrow opened his mouth to speak, but Daphne cut him off, “I know, I know! You don’t think! But can you imagine all of the safeguards she’d have at the entryway to her lair?”

Lionel read from a sign near the knobs, “I’d turn back if I were you!” Before he could budge an inch, Nick and Daphne clasped his forearms, which made Lionel pout.

“How do we get in?” Daphne wondered.

“I’m gonna hold onto the door handle and push my weight into it. That lock looks pretty ancient, so it shouldn’t be too hard to bust it!” Nick clutched onto the latch, and he twisted it as he butted the entryway with all of his might. It was apparently unlocked since he nearly fell into the park’s grounds! “They didn’t secure the premises- I didn’t see that coming!”

Daphne gestured in a manner that conveyed to Lionel that he should enter, and Lionel feigned a courteous bow to her. “Ladies first!”

With a smirk, Daphne told him, “Yeah, right!” She nudged him in, and Heathrow shut the door behind them. The thud it created caused everyone to pause, and Daphne somewhat apprehensively articulated, “Wow! This is it! We’re really doing this! I mean, I knew we were going here all along, but now it just feels so… real!”

“Well, what are we waiting for? The Ochre Angel to come find us?” Heathrow laughed at his quip, but he quickly realized that he was alone in that sentiment. He glanced at their faces, and even Tater’s expression bore a note of distaste for that humor! He apologized, “Sorry! No brain, remember?”

“Uh-huh!” Daphne tersely reacted as they began to explore the territory. She surveyed the space, and it really struck her to see how untouched the expanse appeared. It was as though somebody had placed them in a time capsule from two decades ago! It also had more square footage than she anticipated, which prompted her to ask, “This is a lot of land! How is it that not a single soul ever tried to use it?”

Heathrow answered her, “Oh, it’s probably ‘cause of all the ghosts!”

Nick raised an eyebrow at that concept. “Ghosts? Seriously?”

“No, it’s true!” Lionel put in. “I’ve heard Mugaboo’s Baum is super haunted! It’s like when the living left, the dead took over it!”

“What a bunch of bunk!” Nick scoffed. “How could you say it’s true when you’ve only heard it? If it were actually true, you would give me a reason to know it!”

Lionel posed to him, “You don’t believe in ghosts, Nick?”

Nick asserted, “Oh, please! I’ve been around a bunch of bodies, and I didn’t see any evidence that their spirits were still around! If someone’s essence does return to the planet, they do it as Earth Angels. You can see how rarely that happens, it’s not like Vegoz is brimming with them! Gosh, it’d be nice if more of them did so they could take care of this whole mess!”

“I dunno… I’m pretty positive that not all of the individuals that go over the rainbow and back can get to their bodies!” Lionel opined. “There are probably loads of them around! And they’d have nothing better to do than bother all of the humans who are still alive!”

“Bunk!” Nick disputed. “There’s no such thing as ghosts!”

All of a sudden, something picked Nick up by his shoulders! He got suspended in the air for a minute, and he was too frightened to scream! He flailed his legs a little in the hopes that it would assist him in getting down, but it didn’t have an impact on the force that carried him up. Then, with an amount of abruptness equal to the juncture that elevated him, Nick’s suspension stopped and made him plummet to the floor! His companions checked on him to ensure he had not injured himself, and he jerked back into an upright position. His eyes darted in random directions, and he catechized, “What in damnation was that?”

Daphne sarcastically regarded him, “Hmm… Ghosts aren’t real, so maybe it was a pixie?”

As they resumed their trek, Lionel chanted, “I do believe in ghosts! I do, I do, I do!”

From her antiquated television, Whitney watched their frantic reactions and cackled, “Not so brave are you now, detective? A silly ‘phantom’ spooked you, and you still believe you have the guts to take me on?” She guffawed at that notion, but then she studied the screen more closely and frowned. “And yet, they haven’t given up! They’re scared, but they didn’t get scared off! That means they’ll still try to come here! Oh no! We can’t have that, can we?” She swiveled around to face her pigeons as if they would respond to her, and she took their blank visages as agreement to her sentence. She paced the room until a lightbulb went off in her head. “I’ve got it! It’s time we finish this ridiculous saga once and for all! Go get the girl! Do what you want with the others, but make sure she is unharmed.” the creatures did nothing more than blink, so she hollered, “What are you lingering for? Go! Fly, my birdies! Fly! Fly!” The entire flock took off, and she shrieked in delight as she watched them soar outside of her window.

“Maybe it was gas!” Nick theorized.

“Don’t look at me! That dragon fruit and a bit of corn were the only things I’ve eaten in a week!” Heathrow defended himself.

Nick elucidated, “No, not that kind of gas! I meant the entity that carried me up a bit ago! Maybe this facility has a natural gas leak!”

Lionel cautioned him, “Quit calling it stuff other than ghosts! “You’ll insult them and provoke them to do more!”

“So what? All they did was elevate me a tad! They don’t seem very harmful! What are they gonna do next? Spin me around and make me do the Lindy Hop?” Nick shot back.

“What’s that?” Daphne peered at the sky as she threw that question out there.

Nick ogled her in surprise. “It’s a type of dance! Like in swing music, it-!”

Daphne interrupted him, “I know what a Lindy Hop is! What I wanna know is what that is!”

She pointed to a formation moving towards them in the atmosphere. The three men did a visual examination, and Heathrow concluded, “They’re pigeons. Vegoz is full of them!”

“Typically, yeah!” Lionel focused on them with mounting trepidation forming on his profile. “These don’t seem so typical…”

Nick assessed, “They’re definitely heading straight to us! There isn’t anything here though… except for us! But birds like them wouldn’t band together to hunt humans, would they?”

As the feathered critters neared them, Daphne recommended, “Maybe we should run for cover…”

Lionel and Nick hid in a pair of tubular chutes, and Heathrow dove into a trash can and shut the lid. Daphne scooped Tater up and shielded the two of them in some topiary at precisely the best moment to do so- dozens of the winged beasts scoured the vicinity! A select number glided over the territory as if they were striving to maintain coverage in case anyone decided to flee, but most of them hovered over the sites of refuge. A few of them pecked at the surfaces above them, and Lionel denoted, “They’re not gonna hold off ‘til we come out, are they?”

“I’m guessing not!” Heathrow chimed in. “And what’ll happen if we relent to them?”

“Uh, I’d rather not find out!” Nick stated.

Daphne covered her cranium as they inched themselves to her proximity, and she urged the others, “We gotta do something! We can’t let them get us!”

The instant she voiced that, Tater defensively swiped at the beaked brutes! They were able to clutch his paws, and they dragged him out of the brush! Daphne immediately hurled herself to their level and vociferated, “Leave him alone!” She grappled onto him and attempted to pull him back, but instead, the pigeons all united and pounced on her! They hoisted her up, and Daphne cried out in terror as they carried her off the surface!

“Daphne!” Nick bellowed as he sped to save her. Lionel and Heathrow moved with swiftness too, but all of them were too late- the fowl toted her out of their reach! Nick clenched his fists and avowed, “Don’t worry, Daphne! We’re gonna rescue you!”

“You’re darn right we are!” Lionel echoed his inclination.

Heathrow pondered, “How?” Nick and Lionel signaled their cluelessness on that concept, but all three of them also demonstrated their determination to unearth a fast solution.

The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 3

“Who’s that?” Daphne asked as the Met Kids murmured in agreement with that suggestion.

“Oh, he’s a very powerful angel! But he’s also very wise,” Sapphire knowingly answered her. “Many Vegozians turn to him for help their deepest problems, and no fallen angel will dare to cross him!”

Daphne responded, “He sounds great! When does he get here?”

Sapphire let her know, “He doesn’t. He doesn’t leave his headquarters in Summerland, which is on the west side of Vegoz. It’s a fairly ritzy community. Must be nice to watch over that area! I’m not bitter, I like my assignment!”

“Yeah…” Daphne didn’t quite believe her, but with more pressing issues on her mind, she hardly had a minute to argue. “So, if I travel to this Summerland neighborhood, the Emerald Angel will help me get back to Kansas, California?”

“Probably.” Sapphire espied Daphne’s alarmed expression, so she elaborated, “He’s very exclusive in how he renders aid to, but you don’t have anything to worry about! The Carmine Clogs don’t choose just anyone to grace their presence with!”

Daphne inquired, “What do they do?”

Sapphire shrugged. “Whatever they do must be significant or else the Ochre Angel wouldn’t be plotting your demise over them!”

“Swell. Is Summerland far from here?” Daphne wondered.

“Uh… Kinda! But, again, don’t worry! Assistance will always find you at your most dire hour!” Sapphire assured her.

With wide eyes, Daphne queried, “You’re not going with me?”

Sapphire told her, “I’d like to, but if I set foot into the posh district looking like I do, I usually get arrested for suspicion of this and that. And no, I can’t change unless I leave Vegoz, which I rarely do. I did take a trip to U SUCK once!”

“U-S-C-K!” Daphne corrected her.

“Whatever. I had to observe Almira in her teacher role. I never did see how she runs her classes, but I heard her yelling at some employee for shelving her books too slowly…”

Daphne informed her, “That was me!”

This startled her a tad, but Sapphire nonchalantly addressed her, “Well, she won’t be an issue for you anymore in her lifeless condition!”

“She wouldn’t have been an issue anyways ‘cause she got me fired,” Daphne illuminated her.

“Is that why you killed her?” a Met Kid probed.

Daphne insisted, “I didn’t kill her! Will you stop saying that? The police are gonna make me a suspect!”

Sapphire relayed to Daphne, “There isn’t gonna be any kind of formal investigation. There’s no body and no real evidence, so they could never get enough proof to get a conviction in court.”

“I don’t believe that! Somebody somewhere knows who murdered her, and I’m gonna figure out who that is!” Daphne avowed.

“You wanna solve her murder even though she was so horrible to you?” another Met Kid catechized.

Daphne confirmed, “Of course! But not ‘cause I wanna do anything to assist her! There’s a killer on the loose, and they don’t deserve to get away with this crime!”

Sapphire commended her, “That’s very noble of you! The best of luck with that goal! In the meantime, you should get going before Whitney catches up to you!”

“What? Already? I can’t go so soon! I… Oh, I should call my aunt and tell her where her house went! I hope she has protection against magical cyclones on her insurance policy!” She pulled out her cellphone, and to her dismay, she saw that it was cracked beyond repair! “It’s completely busted! Oh gosh, I can get started on my journey now!”

“You’ll do fine!” Sapphire reassured her. She wrapped a supportive arm around her waist, and she indicated to the street in front of them that ran northwest. “Just follow those tall construction cones on Gold Stone Road!”

The choir students chanted, “Follow the Gold Stone Road! Follow, follow, follow! Follow the Gold Stone Road!”

“Okay, I’m off to see the Emerald Angel of Vegoz!” Daphne asserted.

“Goodbye, and God speed!” Sapphire’s height increased, and she shed her dissheveled appearance! She had a soft visage, a long, flowing, turquoise goan, and indigo feathered wings, and she gave Daphne a gentle wink prior to her departure. This gesture erased all of Daphne’s doubts about her angel claims, and she resolved to adhere to her advice. She waved farewell to the Met Kids, and she followed the cones on Gold Stone Road.

Daphne reached a park that was mostly dry grass. Small children played on a nearby playground, and a few older youths played soccer in the field. Three gazebos had three different parties: the first one had a pinata and a bounce house, the second had a set of biker-looking people grilling some food, and the third had a group all wearing white dress shirts and black bottoms who were playing Bingo. Once Daphne soaked in this motley bunch, she turned her attention to her route. She could go straight ahead, turn right, or turn left- none of the avenues had signs by them and all of them had a trail of tall traffic cones! “Oh no! How are we supposed to get to the Emerald Angel now?” Daphne posed to Tater.

From seemingly nowhere, a jolly male’s voice recommended to her, “Pardon me, but going north will do just fine!” 

“Who said that?” Daphne visually scanned the scene to discover who uttered that sentence.

“Course, some people go west too,” the voice conveyed to her.

Daphne eyed a mesquite tree that had a cart with pictures of corn underneath it, and she speculated, “That’s funny, I think that tree is talking to us!”

A pair of arms dangled out of the branches as the voice concluded, “Actually, folks have been known to go both ways!”

After it registered to her that someone was in the timber, Daphne circled around it and beheld a man with sooty, olive-toned skin, brown pants with various stains on it, a green jacket with random patches, and a burnt umber hat hanging from the limbs! It startled DAphne to see such a sight, and the man eagerly pressed her, “Did I scare ya?”

“No! You surprised me a little, but I wasn’t scared,” Daphne swore to him.

“But I didn’t scare ya?” He hung his head in disappointment.

Daphne’s brows furrowed at his reaction. “You were trying to scare me? Is that why you’re hanging out in the branches?”

The man briefed her, “Oh, no! I thought I saw some Easter eggs in there, and I thought I’d get myself a snack!”

“But Easter is still a month away!” Daphne pointed out.

“Eh…!” The man gestured that he didn’t care about the span that the candy had been sitting out there. “Anyways… Yeah, I was trying to scare ya! That’s my job! I guard the elote vendor’s cart while he spends time with family and in exchange for that, he gives me a dollar and a free ear of corn!” 

Daphne noted, “That’s not a fair trade!”

The man lamented, “It isn’t? Oh gosh, that figures! Aw, if I had a brain, I wouldn’t keep getting myself into such terrible predicaments!”

“Don’t be silly! You have a brain! Everyone does!” Daphne differed with him.

“No, no!” the man pleasantly quarreled. “There’s only straw in my thick skull! It isn’t simply my hair, I swear! I can’t use any smarts for nothing! Even a roadrunner was able to outsmart me once!”

Daphne challenged him, “Are you sure you didn’t get that from a cartoon?”

The man despondently recalled, “I haven’t watched t.v. in years! I can’t pay rent anywhere ‘cause I don’t have enough brains to keep a job! I got real close one time, but that Whitney woman set fire to the car wash I was gonna get hired at! For some reason, the owner didn’t wanna take me in after that!”

With her interest piquing upon hearing this, Daphne interrogated him, “You know the Ochre Angel? Do you know her sister too?”

“Almira? Well, yeah! I may not have any intelligence, but I do hear about all the stuff that goes on in the streets!” He indicated to his ears.

“Oh, we have to talk!” Daphne chimed. “What’s your name?”

The man grinned. “Heathrow, Heathrow Bolger!” He tried to extend his hand to hers, but he couldn’t get his arm close enough to her.

Daphne volunteered, “Here, let me help!”

As Daphne climbed up the tree, Heathrow complimented her, “Aw, that’s kind of you! Very kind!”

She spotted a twig that was caught onto this clothing, and she bent the wood to release him. He crashed onto the floor, and Daphne apologized, “I’m so sorry! Are you hurt?”

“Oh, no!” Heathrow jovially reassured her. “I’ve got tough nerves! It’s a haphazard of sleeping on cement!”

“Well, that’s good, I guess! I’m Daphne, incidentally.” She extended her hand to him.

He genially shook it, and she strove not to wince as she felt the filthy texture of his palm. He affably regarded her, “Nice to meet ya, Daphne Incidentally!”

Daphne mentioned to him, “No, it’s just Daphne.”

“Okay! I won’t use your last name,” Heathrow obliged.

“Cool…” Daphne decided against further argument on the subject. “So, tell me more about Almira. Did anything different happen with her lately?”

Heathrow considered the matter for a moment. “Hmm… I don’t know! She’s acted the same for a decade now! Still causes mayhem whenever she’s in town!”

Daphne quizzed him, “How often is she in town?”

“Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Although, she’s been coming weekday nights lately too!” Heathrow remembered. “I did hear some rumors that she was planning to make Vegoz a more permanent residence though!”

“WHAT? Then why did she bother to get me fired at the college?” Daphne cried out. Heathrow ogled her in confusion, so she advised him, “Don’t ask! So, was anyone upset about that decision?”

Heathrow stated, “Everyone!”

Daphne expressed, “Oh, yeah! That was a dumb question! Did anyone get upset enough to make plans to stop her?”

“I doubt it! No one really liked her, but nobody knew how to stop her,” Heathrow reported.

“No one liked her? What about her sister?” Daphne enquired.

Heathrow rubbed his chin contemplatively. “I dunno! I’ve never really seen them together. They mostly stick to their own territories. Well, Whitney does like to go into Almira’s domain when she’s out. I imagine they have some sort of fear quota they gotta fill, so she helps her out!”

Daphne took a mental note of this tidbit. “I see… And now that Almira’s gone, Whitney has full control of Almira’s territory!”

“She’s gone? Where did she go?” Heathrow pondered.

“She died,” Daphne disclosed.

Heathrow’s face contorted into a befuddled presentation. “She is? Well, if she died, why do you wanna know so much about her? She’s left this earth, so who cares what occurred with her while she was still here?”

Daphne enspeeched, “It matters ‘cause regardless of how nasty she was, she still didn’t deserve to get murdered! There’s a killer roaming the streets, and they don’t deserve to get away with their crime! We live in a society of laws for an important purpose! We can’t allow anybody to cherry-pick what rules they get to follow or else society will become chaotic! Whoever did this should have to account for their actions to set an example to everyone else that regulations are for everyone, and this will bring more peace to the land- something we all deserve to live in!”

“You’re probably right! I mean, what do I know? You have a working brain, after all! I don’t! There’s only straw in my noggin!” Heathrow sighed. He then got struck with a stroke of inspiration, “Hey! Do you reckon that the Emerald Angel could give me a real brain?”

“I have no clue!” Daphne remarked. “All I know is he’s super powerful and can allegedly pull off magnificent miracles. If any angel can… fix someone’s noggin…, it’d be him!”

Heathrow entreated Daphne, “Oh, please! Take me with you! I won’t be no trouble ‘cause I don’t have enough smarts to try and take over your agenda! And I won’t bicker none ‘cause I don’t have the ability to outwit anyone! Oh, won’t you take me with you?”

Daphne mulled it over for a spell. “Umm… It’s not that I don’t want the company! Heavens know I’d be better off with someone who has more insight into the layout of the city than I do! But I need to get to Kansas, California as fast as possible! I can’t afford too many delays…”

“I won’t cause any delays!” Heathrow promised. “I won’t even request a meal break ‘cause I can go for days without food! Oh, please let me come! If I only had a brain, I could get myself a decent job and not be a bum no more! It gets lonely out here…”

“Oh, alright!” Daphne consented. “But FYI, you have to be fine with a fallen angel going after us. I got the Carmine Clogs, and she’s plotting to get them back for some reason!”

Heathrow made a noise of disdain. “I ain’t afraid of no fallen angel! I may not got the intellect to best an opponent, but I’ve been a bum long enough to survive almost anything! I’m not afraid of anything…” He changed to a whisper, “Except fire… I’m highly flammable!”

Daphne acceded, “Okie doke! Let’s get a move on then!”

“Yay! We’re off to see the Emerald Angel!” He instantly sprang up and sang, “We’re off to see the Angel, the Emerald Angel of Vegoz! Because, because, because of all of the wonderful things he does!”

“Does everybody here have to sing?” Daphne grumbled.

Heathrow invited her, “Feel free to join in!”

Daphne rejected that notion, “Pass!” Heathrow repeated that verse, and Daphne attempted to interrupt him, “Heathrow! Heathrow! Heathrow!”

“What?” Heathrow paused his antics.

“Which way do we go? North or west?” Daphne grilled him.

Heathrow cheerfully communicated to her, “Yes!”

Daphne let out an exasperated exhale, and she clearly already regretted her decision to permit him to tag along! As he did a festive little jig, she arbitrarily opted to go west. He continued to prance around as they trekked down this path, and Daphne strove to ignore his shenanigans in order to stay calm and finish her mission more speedily. As they departed from the perimeter of the park, Whitney peeked out from behind another mesquite tree and sneered at the oddly paired travelers…

The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 2

“Aunt Mae!” Daphne called out as she strove to wrest the cellar door ajar. Opening her mouth got a pile of dust into her throat, and as she coughed it up, she realized it was too late for her to ride out the tornado in the storm shelter. She clutched Tater with all of the might in her arms to keep him secure, and she dashed across the parking lot into a beige mobile home. “We’ll be safe in here, Tater!” Daphne assured her cat. “We just need to stay away from the windows!” Instantly after she uttered that sentence, the living room’s pane came out of its frame and hit Daphne in the head! She fell to the floor with her eyes closed…

“Is it over yet?” Daphne queried as her eyelids fluttered open. She felt the ground beneath her spinning, but she assumed that sensation stemmed from her injury until she glanced outside and beheld a whirling wind speeding by! “I guess that’s a no!” She stood up and watched as various debris zipped by, and when she spotted another mobile home flailing in the distance, she surmised, “We must be inside of the cyclone!” 

A chicken coop with several baby chicks passed by, and Daphne remarked, “Those are probably the ones that escaped before my meeting! I wonder who they belonged to!”

An old lady in a rocking chair floated into her periphery, and she let Daphne know, “They’re mine! Or they were! Looks like I’m not getting cheap eggs after all!” She continued knitting a blanket as the gale took her in another direction.

“Moo!” A cow whooshed by the property.

“Where did she come from?” Daphne puzzled.

Shortly afterwards, a rowboat with Ray, Jack, and Bert inside of it sailed by. They merrily waved to Daphne prior to their disappearance from her sight, and Daphne probed, “Why is everyone so frickin’ calm while they’re in the middle of a frickin’ twister?”

Someone didn’t seem too keen on getting stuck in this tempest, and her presence practically halted Daphne’s heart! Professor Hamilton was on her bicycle furiously peddling away, which made Daphne gasp. She couldn’t fathom anything surpassing that shock, but then Professor Hamilton’s form got replaced with a tall and wide figure with fiery, red hair and a long, crimson robe! Her face grew hazy as though it was surrounded by a cloud, and she sprouted wings with scarlet feathers! Daphne didn’t have a minute to spare to soak in this spectacle because the figure leered and maniacally cackled while raising her hand in a manner that suggested she could emit some sort of trajectory out of it! Daphne braced herself for this impact, but quite abruptly, the figure vanished as if something plucked her out of the sky! The entire transpiration baffled Daphne, but she didn’t have the opportunity to process any of this…

The rotating grew more forceful, and Daphne fell onto a wayward couch. She screamed out of fear of what might occur, and it went faster and faster until… plop! They appeared to have landed on solid earth, but Daphne waited a moment to make sure they were truly in the clear. She espied Tater stumbling across the space in a dizzy fashion, and she recognized that her own balance had become a bit off! Once she collected herself, she attempted to assuage her nerves with humor, “Kinda amazing, huh? We took a wild trip without ever leaving the house!” She chuckled, and when she glimpsed at Tater, she felt like if he could laugh, he wouldn’t. “Well, let’s go see the damage” She beckoned Tater to follow her, and then she cracked open the front door…

Bright colors blinded her vision! Vivid shades of various neon pigments were sprinkled throughout the scenery, and it wasn’t until she recovered from their intensity that she recognized that she was surrounded by tall, metal flowers and flashy, lighted signs! A large building stood in front of her, and it was decorated in a cascade of rich designs! Daphne stepped out onto the porch, and she couldn’t comprehend what kind of place they wound up at! All she could discern was the fact that she had no clue where they were at, and she dumbfoundedly commented, “Tater, I don’t think we’re in California anymore!”

A flash of blue flickered to Daphne’s left, and when she checked it out, she expected to see something extraordinary. It caught her off guard to view the apparent source of illumination as a lady with frizzy, yellow hair, a short and tight cobalt dress, and loose, wrinkly skin with obvious sun damage! This lady’s piercing blue eyes studied her carefully as she lit a cigarette,  and Daphne wasn’t sure what to do with herself. She couldn’t exactly flee in an area she didn’t know, but she wasn’t positive on how a conversation with this individual would benefit her whatsoever! Daphne did grow curious to the type of business the lady intended with her though, so she gave her very focused attention. The lady took a drag off of her cigarette, and Daphne’s intrigue piqued as she decided to speak… “Are you an arc angel or a fallen angel?”

“Huh?” Daphne didn’t have the foggiest notion what to expect from her, but it definitely wasn’t that! That didn’t even make sense to her!

“The Met Kids told me an angel arrived and dropped a house on Almira, the Crimson Angel of the East Side,” the lady conveyed to her.

Daphne couldn’t comprehend what the whole angel bit was about, and she had no inkling who or what the Met Kids were, but one aspect of her sentence struck a chord with her. “Did you say I dropped a house on someone?” She turned back to the mobile home, and to her alarm, she saw a pair of legs with red, fishnet stockings and sparkling, ruby platform shoes sticking out from beneath the dwelling! “Oh my god!” She peeked under the house’s skirting, and she observed, “She’s not breathing! She must be… Professor Hamilton!” When she caught sight of her visage, it was unmistakably her! She saw her minutes ago, so it flummoxed her as to how she could have gotten into this specific predicament! “What is she wearing?” It addled her as to why a woman who usually wore fifty shades of brown would don a striking outfit like that! Nothing was consistent for her that day!

The lady behind her responded, “That’s what the Crimson Angel always wears when she’s in Vegoz.”

“I’m in Vegoz?” Daphne reacted incredulously. “Wow, that tornado sure traveled far! Wait, what does Professor Hamilton do when she’s here?”

“Almira? She terrorized everyone she could!” the lady informed her in between puffs. “Nobody has had the power to stop her before, so when the Met Kids said someone rubbed her out, I figured only a powerful angel could have done it! So, the question remains… Are you an arc angel or a fallen angel?”

Daphne furrowed her brows at this enquiry. “I’m not an angel at all! Aren’t angels dead?” She heard giggling from behind the ornate sculptures, so she asked, “Who’s that?”

The lady answered, “Those are the Met Kids! They’re the students of the Little Met Academy.” She denoted Daphne’s blank expression, so she clarified, “There’s obviously been some confusion here. You’ve landed in front of a school named after the New York Metropolitan Museum, and this is the Artistic District of Vegoz. I’m Sapphire, the Blue Angel of Boulder Expressway. I protect the south side and its inhabitants, but I can get around if I want to!”

“Yeah, I bet you can!” Daphne hadn’t meant for that slight to slip out, and she immediately apologized, “Sorry, I just-!”

“It’s fine! My human form was meant to blend in with my surroundings,” Sapphire explained. “So, you’re really not an angel! I suppose I should have known!”

Daphne bristled at this statement, “Has Professor Hamilton been spreading lies about me here too? I may not have been perfect, but it doesn’t mean I’m not a decent person! I don’t know if I’d call myself an angel, but… Hold on! Did that storm kill me? Am I an angel?”

The Met Kids giggled again, and then Sapphire educated her, “If you were an angel, you’d know it without a doubt! Angels are people who’ve… let’s say gone over the rainbow… and come back to earth with the power to protect a region. Some of us live by the virtues of the arc, but some of my peers have fallen from grace and use their powers to harm. That’s why I wanted to know if you were an arc angel or a fallen angel. But since you’re neither, we’re alright! You hear, it’s alright! You can come out now!”

A flood of high school students in flamboyant garments poured out of their hiding spots, and when they saw the Crimson Angel’s corpse, they erupted in a chorus of cheering. One young man in green apparel approached Daphne, shook her hand, and gratefully regarded her, “Thank you so much for offing that fallen angel!”

“I didn’t do anyone in!” Daphne corrected him. “But it seems like someone out there did! Tell me, kids, do you know anyone who held a grudge against her or wished her gone?”

“Ding, dong! Crimson’s dead!” an assembled choir joyfully sang. “Which old red? The wicked red! Ding, dong! The wicked crimson’s dead!”

Daphne inferred, “Apparently a lot of people did!”

A girl in pink bowed to Daphne and exclaimed, “I represent the Orchestra League, and we would like to thank you and formally welcome you to the Little Mets Acad!”

“There’s no need-!” Daphne attempted to respond to her.

“We represent the Theatre Guild!” Two boys in maroon and azure plaid merrily presented lollipops to her. “A token of our appreciation for your service to-!”

Sapphire interrupted them, “Alright, alright! That’s enough! She’s not a movie producer for cryin’ out loud! Now, we gotta find a way to get this lost person home!”

One teen pointed out, “But her home’s right there!”

“No! I meant we need to get her back to where she came from! And quick too before she runs into-!” A cloud of cloudy, orange light abruptly appeared, and all of the Met Kids raced for cover. A female nearly identical to Almira save for her apricot frock eyeballed her surroundings suspiciously, and Sapphire sighed, “Too late!”

“Who’s that?” Daphne quietly inquired to Sapphire.

Sapphire replied, “That’s Whitney, the Ochre Angel of North Vegoz. She’s a fallen angel too, but she’s worse than the other one!”

Whitney finally noticed the crimson corpse, and she growled, “My sister! No! Who did this?” She swiveled around, and when she saw Daphne, she stomped towards her and seethed, “Was it you?”

“She’s not an angel! It was probably an accident!” a girl in violet defended Daphne from behind a bush.

“Well, my dear, I can make accidents happen too!” Whitney threatened Daphne, who instinctively jumped behind Sapphire for shielding.

Sapphire smartly reminded Whitney, “Aren’t you forgetting the Carmine Clogs?”

Daphne found it odd to bring up shoes at a juncture like this, but Whitney did not! Her eyes widened as she recalled, “The clogs!” She dashed back over to Almira’s body, but prior to her getting to lay a finger on that footwear, they disappeared! The rest of the Crimson Angel’s remains dissolved too, and Whitney howled, “No! The clogs are gone!”

“So is your sister!” Daphne brought up. “Shouldn’t that be more of a concern?”

“Earth angel bodies only last as long as their spirit does,” Sapphire filled her in. Whitney foraged around for the shoes, so Sapphire triumphantly trumpeted, “You’re too late! There they are, and there they’ll stay!”

Sapphire gestured towards Daphne’s feet, and Daphne grew aghast at their sudden placement on her pads! “Ew! Ew! Ew! I have a dead person’s clothes on! Get ‘em off!”

Whitney volunteered, “I’ll do it!”

“Keep them on!” Sapphire recommended. “They must be really powerful or else she wouldn’t want them so badly!”

“Ooh, I’ll get you for this!” Whitney avowed. “Make no mistake, I’ll make the Carmine Clogs mine no matter what, so be afraid! I’ll get you my pretty, and your little kitty too!”

Sapphire laughed derisively, “Oh, b.s.! Your powers are no good here! Now, get away! Go on, shoo!”

Whitney muttered, “Very well! But you haven’t heard the last of me!”

An orange haze enveloped her, and she exited the area. As the Met Kids cautiously reemerged, Sapphire asserted, “Well, there’s only one person who’ll get us out of this mess- The Emerald Angel of Vegoz!”

War of the Mystics: Frozen

Attention Readers: the free version of my novel, which I posted a chapter at a time on my blog, is no longer available. However…you can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Createspace, and eBay. So please, check it out and spread the word!!!

Temca Academy II, Part 12


Meretrice stands beside Anielle, who has disguised herself with a blonde wig and some high brand clothes.

Remember, lead her down the opposite
direction I’m standing. And don’t let her
catch you because she’ll kill you!

I know exactly what to do. If I didn’t
know how to escape from people, I’d
get arrested like every day!

There’s our cue! Go!

Anielle walks up to Circe.

I totally forgot our sales pitch for
those shoes in the window!

Okay! This high heel is designed for comfort…

Meretrice opens the door to Madame Fate’s shop.

Hello, mother! Yes, that’s right. Your
boyfriend killed the wrong person!
And I’m gonna tell everyone what
you did!

Meretrice gets on her broom and flies away. Madame Fate exits the shop and looks around. She sees Circe talking to a blonde woman and pays them no attention. She summons her broom and flies away.

(interrupts Circe)
I remember now, thanks!

She rushes to Madame Fate’s shop.

I love the new hair, by the way!


Anielle rushes over to the purple curtain, holding her broom. After she draws the curtain, she sees a deep hole.

Joshua, here I come!

She hops on her broom and flies down the tunnel.


Anielle finds the exit right next to an empty well. The town looks like a western ghost town. A few eccentric Mexicans and a couple of tourists roam the street. Anielle walks up to HOMBRE (a strange, Mexican cowboy).

Excusez mey, donde esta la
Puerta del Dominicio?


He points out in the desert. Anielle can see a faint structure in the distance.



Anielle flies through the desert, but the winds become so strong that it makes it hard to navigate. Anielle is already feeling the heat. Suddenly, she feels a hand on her shoulder.

Hey, when did you learn Spanish?

Don’t do that! You almost gave me
a heart attack!

Sorry! I was on a date with Chad and
I was gonna return these stripper boots,
but Circe told me you went into Madame
Fate’s shop, so I knew what you were
about to do.

I didn’t think you’d come.

Were you starting to believe that
stupid prophecy? Silly girl! I’ve
been busy, but I wouldn’t let you
do this alone!

Thanks! What did Chad say?

I told him I’m gonna battle a demi
goddess and a master villain in Hell.
Then I ran. I can’t imagine the look
on his face!

So, something I’ve been wondering, if
you think sex is so important, why are
you still with Chad?

Because it’s the first time someone respects
me for my mind! So, seriously, you speak

Not a lot. Just some basic expressions
I picked up from our maids.


Anielle and Toci land with messed up hair and watery eyes.

That was an ordeal!

Oh, I just realized I must’ve dropped
my wig!

What do you need a wig for?


George appears around the side of the cave-like boulder.

Hey! Why don’t you look all
messed up?

I just flew higher and dove. My
grandfather said that’s how he
got here. Apparently he comes
here once a week to piss on some
dude’s marking he used to know.


Sometimes the people who enter here
get their name and their sin carved on
the wall to serve as an example or whatever.

Where’s the door?

Grandpa said you have to make
payment of some sort.

It’s blood.

Why is it blood?

It’s always blood! Do you see
a coin slot?

Anielle takes out her scepter and magically cuts a gash on her arm. She flips her arm over so the blood drops onto the rocks. An entrance magically appears. Anielle seals her wound.

(reads a sign above the door)
“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”
Why would anyone wanna live here?

Wow, so we’re going to enter Hell. This
is starting to feel like a suicide mission.

What choice do we have?

They take a deep breath and enter.