TheWolfandtheRose

The Night the Lights went out in Florida

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That's the night that they hung an innocent man
Don't trust your soul to no backwards southern lawyer
'Cause the judge in the town has bloodstains on his hands

This is my new murder mystery CT story...and here's how it's going to work:

The characters are

: @mkw19 @Joshfarias16  @thelastsith @Sharktibolt  @deepcanyon1  @Terrie @Coolguy @Ike @Moana of Motunui @Mitch O'Neil @birdman_drawhead @XxGothsCanSmile2xX @BTVKIDS @Prebs   @theflash999d

I am going to post one Segment each day until the story is finished. There should be about 42 segments total, so this'll last over a month.

Here is the first segment:

 

Segment One

 

 

Darth Vader stood on a balcony. He was a guest at a hotel in Florida. He was looking down upon the darkened city at dusk.


He could smell bitterness in the air. Death. Murder.

It was glorious. He was invigorated.
 

Tomorrow, the future promised. In the stark silence, Darth Vader could hear the imprint of evil laughter.

 

***

 

“Hello, Terrie,” CoolGuy uttered formally. “What have you been up to?”

“The usual. Feeding. Used the flight here to turn someone into a vampire.” She licked her fangs.

“Was it painful?”

“Not for me, no.”


“Well, you look healthy.” CoolGuy beckoned at her rosy cheeks. Her black eyes also bore an energetic spark to them, as if she were a mare getting pumped up for a race.


“It was a good feeding,” Terrie replied, her smile sincere.


“And you, Tinkerbell?” CoolGuy asked, his gaze adjusting to the glowing fairy on Terrie’s shoulder.

Deepcanyon unleashed a mellifluous series of laughter. “You have a talent for charming fairies,” she replied when she was finished, blushing with pleasure.

CoolGuy tipped his hat. “Since I’m the only one without wings or fangs, I needed the Charm Talent.”

Terrie pointed to her left. “Shark doesn’t have fangs or wings.”

CoolGuy winked. “I wouldn’t test that theory. If you like having ten fingers, don’t wave one under his nose like a hot dog. You might be surprised.”

Deepcanyon glanced over her shoulder in the direction of a laugh. The golden glow around her turned green then pink then light blue as she flew above Terrie’s head in excitement. “Is that Sith over there with Josh, doing magic tricks? I’m going to ask what school he went to. Those look like Durmstrang robes.” She flew off.
 

“Sith went to Hogwarts,” CoolGuy told Terrie. “We came up here on the same train. Those Durmstrang robes were from a friend when Sith visited them for the Triwizard Tournament.”


“Oh! Deepcanyon will be disappointed. She’s wondered what kind of Houses they have at Durmstrang.”

Mkw, walking by, saluted CoolGuy. CoolGuy was wearing a trench coat with Post-It reminders stuck to the numerous pockets. “How do you keep them from falling off?” Mkw pondered.

“Willpower…and strong glue.”

Mkw nodded with gusto. “Of course!”

“I thought about sewing them on,” CoolGuy explained, “but I figured out willpower enables them to fall off when I don’t need them anymore.”

Shark came bustling over. “Guys, we are wanted in the meeting room.” He glanced at Terrie then did a double-take. “Terrie? You look different than your picture. Taller or…not so pale?”
 

“I photoshopped my fangs out.”

“Yes, that’s it. Are you a werewolf?”

She just laughed incredulously in response.

CoolGuy said, “Shark, she was married to Dracula.”

Shark’s eyes were still cloudy as he herded the group into the meeting room then went back for the others.

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Segment Two

 

 

“Is that Jim Parsons?” Random CT Member #1 asked, her eyes round.

 

Random CT Member #2 replied, “No, that’s Toon.”

 

Random CT Member #1 murmured, “Ah, yes.” She ran her fingers through her silky red bob. “By the way, I like your snake tattoo. How do you make its eyes flash like that?”

 

Random CT Member #2 eyed her companion like she was unintelligent. “Sweetie, I don’t have a snake tattoo.” Then she glanced down and jumped backwards ten feet, bumping into a wall. She flew right through BTVKIDS five feet in.

 

“Nice one,” Josh remarked as Sith used his wand to make his art piece evaporate from Random CT Member #2.

 

“Thanks.” Sith turned Shark’s hair pink fleetingly, eliciting giggles from a couple of girls in a group watching him speak. “I mostly use my Sithy powers for humor.”

 

“And when you’re not?” Josh asked.

 

A mysterious mirth filled Sith’s eyes. “Mum’s the word.”

 

Someone bumped forcefully into Josh’s back. Loudly, he proclaimed, “If they don’t stop jostling me, they won’t live to regret it.”

 

“How many people came to this thing anyway?” Sith wondered, trying unsuccessfully to count the moving heads.

 

“A little more than thirty.”

 

“Well, this is a better way to spend the summer than leaning over a computer screen. One week in Florida, enjoying the sunshine!” He dropped his sunglasses over his eyes. “CoolGuy told me some interesting stories about his work at Disney on the way over.”

 

“How did you know he was on your train?”

 

“I didn’t. I walked around calling CoolGuy! Shark! CT Josh! And CoolGuy responded.”

 

“Did you really?”

 

Sith laughed. “No. We figured it out in chat and chose a meeting place.”

 

“Oh. Well, Shark and I flew the same plane. I knew we would, but he didn’t. I saw him and said, ‘Hi, Shark,’ and his eyes bugged out. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. I said, ‘You know me, and I know you.’ He slapped me. I think I scared him.”

 

“To be honest, it is a bit creepy when you meet someone online who’s never seen your picture and they know exactly who you are.”

 

Josh guffawed. “But Shark made it easy! He’s wearing a shirt with fish on it!”

 

“Who’s that funny little guy?” Sith beckoned at a 3-foot mummified pharaoh with a trumpet for a head and rockets for arms. The pharaoh also sported a cranberry-red scarf with Santa heads, Christmas trees, candy canes, jingle bells, and Rudolphs sewn on it. He was chatting vividly with Champ, Ike, and Flash.

 

“That’s Prebs. My, he’s shorter than I thought he was.” Josh indicated with his hand. “I thought he was chest-high.”

 

“Wait.” Sith flung his wrist in Flash’s direction. “Is it me, or is that Flash?”

 

“It is. It must be. I mean, he’s wearing a The Flash shirt. How could he be anyone but Flash?”

 

“He could be an imposter,” Sith joked. “I must say hi.”

 

“Looks like Prebs is sliming up the place,” commented Josh. “With his hoisin sauce.”

 

“Is that what that goo is? I hope this hotel has exemplary maid service. Otherwise, we’re going to be bathing in it.”

 

BTVKIDS was about to say something to Flash as Sith and Josh joined them. Prebs, Ike, and Champ were heading off.

 

“Look what I can do!” BTVKIDS gushed, strutting through Flash then Sith and finally Josh.

 

“When did you die?” Flash inquired, stroking his chin.

 

“Last week. I was in NYC, and there was a construction site. Naturally, I went to explore. One of the guys dropped a huge, heavy cylinder on my head from thirty feet up. I never saw it coming. I died with a smile on my face.”

 

“That’s the way to go,” Sith enthused. He used his wand to make confetti tumble through BTVKIDS from the ceiling. “Personally, I intend to make a philosopher’s stone. Sometime in the next five years.”

 

“No, Sith,” BTVKIDS jested. “You can’t! You’ll offend me!”

 

“You should do it,” Josh joshed, “and give it to BTVKIDS for safe-keeping.” Then he studied BTVKIDS appraisingly. “Never mind. It’ll slide right through him.”

 

“Burglar alert!” Flash embellished. “You let BTVKIDS be your safe, and that stone will be gone the second you turn around. BTVKIDS is going to swallow it.”

 

“If I manage that,” BTVKIDS lamented, “I want a thunderous round of applause.”

 

Sith made his voice robotic. “Your order is scheduled to ship upon receiving due payment.” He flicked his wand and made a silver baton twirl through BTVKIDS.

Image result for graverobber

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Segment Three

 

 

Shark was wearing a black Pokémon Sun and Moon shirt. He was entertaining some kids with a Pokémon skit he’d made up when he was interrupted by Random CT Member #1.


The laughing kids surrounded him and begged, “Don’t go, Uncle Shark!”

 

He answered them with a sad kind of look. “I finished anyway.” He tried to rip his wrist out of the grip of a particularly stubborn boy, but the kid clung to him like a Poliwhirl’s glove.

 

Meanwhile, a wild-haired kid mounted his back and clung for dear life. “You won’t leave us,” he or she vowed, the voice dripping with rabid passion.

 

Random CT Member #1 ripped the youngster off Shark’s back. “I have seven little monster siblings,” she told the children. Using her scariest voice, she hissed, “So scram!”

 

They all scampered away. When she turned back to Shark, she saw he was frowning deeply at her.

 

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

 

“That’s how you get rid of kids,” she shrugged.

 

“Are you a Death Eater? Because those kids were harming nobody.”

 

“Your windpipe isn’t huffing?” she rebutted sarcastically.

 

Arms folded in front of his chest, Shark wondered aloud, “What do you want?”

 

Instantaneously, she was smiling sunnily even as her right eye twitched horribly. Grabbing Shark’s arm, she purred in his ear, “I want something I know you want too.” There was a noise in her throat that reminded Shark of the breath of a tiger. “A cToon.”

 

Shark stared straight at her, holding her cheeks to keep her off his ear. “What kind of cToon?”

 

She tittered and attempted to step in his arms. When she failed, she coughed nervously and batted her lashes at the floor. “A cToon of Cory and Topanga in Boy Meets World.”

 

“That’s not a cartoon.”

 

“So what?”

 

“It’s against everything CT stands for.”

 

There went that tiger noise again. “I thought CT was about free love.”

 

Shark stared solemnly at her. “I don’t know what planet you were on when you got that idea.” Her face fell like a stack of dominoes. “CT’s about collecting dreams.”

 

Random CT Member #3 appeared at his shoulder. “Yes, it is, thought the later you join, the less likely those dreams will come true,” and he was gone, leaving Random CT Member #1 gaping speechlessly after him.

 

Shark gave her thirty seconds to collect her wits. When she remained still, he released her and announced, “I believe we are done here.”

 

“B-but…” Random CT Member #1 grabbed his arm. “You h-have to.” Her bottom lip trembled. “Please.”

 

“Or what? You’ll use your scary voice?”

 

Brightening, she released him and trumpeted, “Yes!”

 

Shark ambled a few feet away then turned toward her with pity in his eyes. “That wouldn’t work on me, and if it did, you’d have to go through Xavi next.”

 

Random CT Member #1 looked as if an elephant had sat on her chest, draining her of energy and skin color. Clutching her chest, walking shakily up to Shark, she whispered, “B-but she’s not here!”

 

“Exactly. And how do you intend to persuade Toon?”

 

“I wasn’t. I was hoping a hole would open up in the ground and take care of his vote.”

 

Shark patted her back. “Nice try, but you should focus on the dreams you can achieve.” Squeezing her shoulder, he stared at her crestfallen face. “This one is out of your hands.”

 

Gathering herself and pulling away, she uttered haughtily, “It is not! Giving up is not an option.” She stalked off, leaving Shark to shake his head.

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Segment Four

 

 

Ike was sitting on a towel, surrounded by CT members at a beach party. His knees were pointing to the sky and arms were draped loosely around his legs. Most of the guys wore shirts, but Ike only wore a masculine necklace, flip-flops, and swim shorts.

 

He was saying, “When I turn into a werewolf, I become a full wolf. Like in Harry Potter. You remember the essay assignment Snape gave—how do you distinguish between a werewolf and true wolf…”

 

Random CT Member #2 asked, “So which do you prefer to bite—kids or adults?”

 

A weird look came over Ike’s face. “We don’t. Unless attacked. I join the wolves, and we howl at the moon and bond. Sometimes, we run together. We don’t go looking for humans.”

 

Champ mused, “If you don’t get bitten, how do you become a werewolf?”

 

Ike fingered the chain around his neck. “It’s DNA. My father was one.”

 

“How old were you when you realized you were a werewolf?” Sith inquired.
 

“Sixteen. My first transformation. It’s not as quick as for you wizards, though I have always had an affinity for a good steak. But my mom figured that was the guy in me.”

 

“Ah yes,” Sith grinned. “In The Wheel of Time, Nynaeve thinks if you leave dinner up to men, all you’ll ever eat is meat and beans.”

 

“My mom thinks so too,” Ike marveled affectionately. “Or she did, before she realized I was a werewolf.” He rubbed the back of his head. “I have a cousin who is a centaur on my mother’s side, so she’s not terribly disappointed I didn’t remain ordinary.”

 

Jwool splashed Ike from his spot in the ocean. Ike turned to the merman as Sith blended in the shadows and left.

 

“How’s the sea life kicking for you?” CoolGuy asked Jwool.

 

“The sea is wild. The sea is free. The sea is a tornado. Please, all, be a friend and choose not to litter. I’ve seen a can of soda kill an octopus recently. His last words were, ‘In ink, we trust.’”

 

“So the sea is a foe?” CoolGuy suggested, reaching down and accidentally touching Jwool’s shoulder. “Huh. Your skin feels weird.”

 

“Yes it does. To a human. Happy Birthday, Mate!”

 

“It’s not my,” CoolGuy began automatically. He broke off. He arched his brow, a twinkle in his eyes. “I see what you did there.”

 

“Next prank I pull,” Jwool asserted smugly, “I’m going to get half of CT to go along.”

 

Mkw flipped a picnic table then waved as he left.

 

Shark watched him go and murmured, “I should be going too. I’m exhausted. But has anyone seen Josh? I have something to ask him.”

 

“He said something about volunteering at an animal shelter,” Champ replied. “He didn’t come to the party.”

 

“That’s a shame,” Shark uttered sleepily, unloading a massive yawn. “Sun’s still out, so I guess it’s early. I overdid it.”

 

Flash scoffed and perkily announced, “I will never overdo it.” He had a feverish glint on his face as he left in a flurry. CoolGuy thought he was pretending to leave and expected him to spring back in the next ten minutes. He was wrong.

 

Shark nodded off for a moment as Champ stated, “It is a shame Josh missed this party. CoolGuy, you really know how to throw a good one.”

 

CoolGuy held his hand up like a microphone and deepened his voice. “Thank you, thank you very much.” Returning his voice to normal and dropping his hand, he stood straight and swished his hips. “But the party is nonstop until we go home. We’re here to have fun, not work on our car.”

 

Random CT Member #3 interjected, “I like to work on my car.”

 

Birdman patted his back. “Dude, you need a hobby.”

 

Deepcanyon was singing as only a fairy can sing in the background while Terrie strummed a guitar. The music was background noise, but at a change in song, Shark awoke with a start.

 

“I’m heading to my hotel room,” he enlightened at the same time that CoolGuy strolled up to BTVKIDS and waved his hand through him.

 

A chorus rose. “Bye, Shark! Sleep well.”

 

In salute, Jwool did a diving move that caused everyone within thirty feet of him to get sprayed. A lone girl squealed.

 

CoolGuy took off his shirt. Pretending to be irritated, he declared, “Alright, punk, it’s you and me,” and he dived, completely forgetting about his non-waterproof watch.

 

As he splashed Jwool, a bunch of other CT members decided they wanted in too. The beach party transformed into a splash party.

 

There was another person who never attended the party. A disappointed, dejected CT Member who wound up at a restaurant, venting her pain to a sweet waitress. Business was slow, and the waitress was bored. Therefore, even though this invader didn’t order anything, the waitress listened with rapt attention.

 

Granted, she didn’t understand most of the rant. What was this about Sea Toons? Some new cartoon? Or a Baywatch remake? The waitress had never heard of it. Then again, she buried herself in soap operas and was mostly ignorant of other TV genres.

 

She found a particular part of the conversation utterly confusing. “BBT isn’t a cartoon! And a member was willing to cartoonize the characters—wait, I’m kidding myself. I don’t want the cartoon version of Cory and Topanga. I want the real thing!” Sobs ensued.

 

The waitress probably heard her wrong on account of the slurred speech caused by her drowning misery.

 

“My best friend tells me it’s just a game,” the poor woman in her early twenties hiccupped. “But it’s not. It matters to me.”

 

The rant was fascinating, even with the befuddlement. The waitress sympathized and hugged and patted the girl, thinking to herself, She’s so young. Her dreams will change as she gets older.

 

All cried out, the young woman left the restaurant at about the same time Sith, Mkw, Flash, and Shark were vanishing from the party.

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Segment Five

He had had the long day to end long days. After spending ninety minutes talking to a neighbor he disliked having conversations with, he finally got away. Only to realize he had to go back for his briefcase, enduring five additional minutes of teeth-grinding small talk.

Once at work, the day had lengthened. Each minute felt like an hour. He’d been claustrophobic and had to fake his way through several tedious conversations at his puny desk.

The air-conditioning blew out before he arrived at work. He was hot and uncomfortable yet dutifully did the work his boss required of him.

At the end of the day, his boss was promoting someone. It should have been him. He was the most efficient at this work, sometimes fixing his co-workers’ mistakes as well as doing his own work and only being compensated for his.

But his boss detached all forms of loyalty when he promoted the new girl with the pretty brown eyes who screwed up every single task she was given. She squealed, applauded herself, and jumped in the boss’ arms, kissing him on the cheek.

As if she felt she earned it. As if she thought she worked hard. As if she was proud of her work ethic.

He was not in the mood to talk to anybody. He wanted to be alone in his misery.

So when his phone lit up, he didn’t want to check it. He did so dutifully, seeing his girlfriend’s name floating on the screen.

He only picked up because he was afraid if he didn’t she’d assume he was with another girl. Women always thought that. He’d been friends with this girl for years, but they’d only begun dating two weeks ago. He really liked her, but he was adjusting to the conversion and waiting for nasty surprises. Trying to avoid them.

“Hello?”

She didn’t say anything for a moment. All he heard was shallow breathing. It occurred to him she was about to lose her sanity.

“Heeeellllp,” came the whisper, the whisper of a ghost.

His lips grew small. “This isn’t funny.”

All he heard in response was shallow breathing. Desperate sounds. Needing a savior.

He. Wasn’t. A. Savior.

He hung up. Tomorrow he’d be shocked to learn she wasn’t five minutes away but in Florida (he barely listened). He’d be shocked to learn she’d called him, even knowing he couldn’t help. That he was the final person she thought of in her last, most hopeless moment.

Tonight, he basted in annoyance. In irritation that his girlfriend would dare to pull a drama stunt on him. Today of all days. Even the coolest girls could turn into the neediest bloodsuckers. She wasn’t worth this…

He texted her. “You and I are done.” Then he fell back against his couch, full of stony resolve.

The recipient never read the message.

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Segment Six: But First She Dies

Refreshed mentally from the vent, Random CT Member #1 took a bubble bath then pulled on her Big Bang Theory sleepshirt. She padded out of the bathroom and sank onto her comfy bed. She reached over to flip the light switch off.

Then she wriggled her body against the sheet and thrashed her head on the pillow until she was satisfied with her spot.

 

She lay still as a stalking lion, drifting off. Until she felt strong hands upon her throat. Her eyes popped open. She stared straight at her attacker.

With all her might, she tried to bite, kick, squirm, defend herself in any way. But her attacker was too strong. Next to this person, she was as frail as a caterpillar up against a hawk.

She barely registered the dagger and almost didn’t feel it plunge in and out of her skin. Her ears were buzzing from lack of oxygen.

Her attacker released her and left silently. Left her alive to die alone.

She could hardly draw a breath as she reached for her phone.

She was fading. Time flashed before her eyes. She knew she had enough life for only one call. She knew she was damaged beyond saving.

She picked the person whose voice she yearned to hear the most. One more time. He didn’t know she loved him, and she knew he never would.

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Segment Seven

 

 

When he awoke at 7 a.m., Random CT Member #19 decided to take an early morning swim. He pulled on swim shorts, grabbed a towel, and left his hotel roommate snoring on the second Queen-sized bed.

 

He managed to deposit his towel on one of the pool chairs before his ankle decided to play hockey stick. He tripped over his foot and fell in the pool. A great big splash surrounded him.

 

That was when he noticed the approaching cop. His first thought was, Great. I’m going to jail for Unlawful Tripping in Pool.

 

“Random CT Member #19?” the cop asked, flashing his badge. “I need you to come down to the station with me for questioning.”

 

“Questioning?” Random CT Member #19 gurgled.

 

“I’m afraid so.”

 

“For what?”

 

“The unlawful murder of Random CT Member #1.”

 

Random CT Member #19’s blood ran as cold as ice. His ears rang. “You mean to say there’s such thing as lawful murder?”

 

“Okay, listen, I ask the questions.”

 

“What, cops don’t have senses of humor?”

 

The cop laughed darkly. “We do, but we reserve them for each other and the victims’ families.”

 

Random CT Member #19 swam to the edge of the pool. Propping his chin on his arms, he gazed up at the cop. “Can I change first, or would you like me to drip in your car, staining it forevermore?”

 

“It’ll match the bloodstains.”

 

Getting out of the pool, Random CT Member #19 decided, “I spoke too soon. Looks like you do know how to crack a joke. But,” he added, holding up a lone finger, “the question remains on if you can laugh at someone else’s. If you can’t, you’re only half a man.”

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Segment Eight

Officer Hyde exclaimed, “There’s a car that runs on water, man! It runs on water!”

Officer Kelso whistled. “This again? Dude…”

Officer Forman reread the papers in his hand. “Yeah, okay, so this current murder case…a bunch of people came here to vacation. They all play the same online game. And one of them was killed.”

“Is this what they call bad publicity?” wondered Officer Kelso.

“No,” Officer Hyde corrected. “It’s good publicity. Getting murdered is cool, man! I betcha they’re going to get as many players as World of Warcraft!”

“That makes sense,” Officer Kelso agreed.

Smiling, Officer Forman contributed, “Yeah. It’ll be just like when a gunshot goes off at the rodeo.”

Officer Kelso grinned. “That’s cool, man! I love it when that happens.”

“Lo and behold,” Officer Forman drawled. “The biggest life-risker outsmarted The Grim Reaper.” He paused, recalling Officer Kelso’s closest run-ins with the white light. “The irony is not lost on me.”

“So what are we doing to hunt for the murderer?” Officer Kelso saluted Officer Forman.

Officer Forman gazed down at the papers. Rubbing the side of his nose briefly, he replied, “They’re all going home in six days, so there’s not much we can do. Today, we question each member that was here yesterday. Mainly ask their whereabouts. Then we confirm, see whose story doesn’t add properly. Then we should discuss who our main culprit appears to be, and I get to go home to Donna.”

“And tomorrow?” Officer Hyde rubbed his bearded chin.

“Tomorrow, we investigate.”

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Segment Nine

Officer Kelso sat in a desk chair. The only light in this questioning room came from a ceiling lamp. There were no windows in the room.

Mkw was in shadow, but Officer Kelso’s face, being directly under the lamp, was awash in bright white light. He held a pencil in hand and gazed down at a clipboard.

“Where were you at 7:35 p.m. last night?”

“Setting a house on fire.”

“Come on, man.”

Mkw folded his arms over his chest and shrugged.

“Can you repeat that?”

“Shrug.”

Officer Kelso jerked his head up from the clipboard and scowled. Then he lit up.

“Do…you…speak…French?”

“No.”

“Hungarian?”

“No.”

“Pig Latin!” Spittle flew in Mkw’s face. He didn’t flinch.

“I can.”

“Ere-way ou-yay at-hay e-thay arty-pay ast-lay ight-nay?”

Mkw cringed. “Yes.”

Officer Kelso straightened and relaxed. “So we’re done here.” He made a motion with his pencil for Mkw to leave.

Mkw tossed his head. “You’re incompetent at your job, aren’t you?”

“Why, thank you!” Officer Kelso ran his hands through his hair, pouted adorably, and posed. “Yes. Yes I am!”

“Well, well, well. Because I left before the murder.”

Officer Kelso wailed, “Why would you do that?”

“Gee, I’m sorry. No one sent the memo that someone would impale herself last night.”

“Mmkay. So what were you doing at the time of her death?”

“None of your business.”

Officer Kelso clicked his tongue. “Are you sassing a cop? Or is it your culture? You’re from Pigglegeerah? You don’t have to answer to cops there?”

Mkw rubbed his chin. “That’s not. I don’t feel like sharing this with a man who thinks my native language is Pig Latin.”

“It’s not? So you lied?” Officer Kelso scratched Pig Latin off Preferred Language.

“Never mind.”

“What language would you call your native one?”

Mkw sized Officer Kelso up for a few silent moments, trying to figure out if he was serious. At last, deducing he was, Mkw settled back in his seat. “Cowboy.”

Officer Kelso scribed the word on the form, never thinking once about it.

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Segment Ten

Officer Kelso was rubbing his pencil up and down his bottom lip when Shark entered the questioning room. Quickly, Officer Kelso dropped his hand and straightened his chair.

Clasping his hands in front of him, Officer Kelso barked, “Your name?”

“Shark.”

“Your mother had a weird sense of humor.” He jotted it down. “Your CT status?”

Shark leaned forward. “Administrator.”

“Oh. You’re one of the big guys, hmm? Good thing Hyde isn’t the one questioning you, but don’t think I’ll go easy on you!”

“I thought this was questions, not prosecution?”

Officer Kelso shook himself. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” He peered at the questions Officer Forman wrote for him. “How is your relationship with Random CT Member #1?”

Tiredly, Shark massaged his temple. “I don’t know. I mean, she’s usually nice enough, but she nearly gave me a splitting headache a couple of hours before…”

Officer Kelso perked up. “So you ate her?”

Shark glared with the full force of his Sharky fierceness, snapping Officer Kelso’s mouth shut for about fifteen seconds. “No. I didn’t touch her.”

“That sounds like a lie of a country song.”

Casually, Shark inquired, “Were you dropped on your head as a baby?”

“Yes! Tons of times! But let me do the questioning.”

“Then you’d better not respond with nonsense.”
 

Officer Kelso flicked Shark’s nose. “Okay, bub.”

Shark stared at the flicking fingers like he wanted to bite them. Instead, he muttered, “Yes, sir, Officer Kersplat, sir.”

“That’s the respect I am due!” Officer Kelso lavished. “Did you notice how handsome I am?”

Shark bit his tongue and sat on his hands, eyes wide with all the responses he chose not to issue.

Writing on his clipboard, Officer Kelso remarked, “So you had a lover’s spat, and then, splat, coincidence, she fell off a building?”

“No, sir. Not a lover’s spat. And she was stabbed, sir.”

Officer Kelso glanced at the information. “Oh, right. So where were you when someone was driving a knife in her?”

“Sleeping in my hotel room.”

“Do you have proof you were sleeping?”

“Uh. No. No one was watching me sleep. Because, I mean…how creepy.”

“You don’t have a cat, do you?”

“I have a lizard. He likes to ride on my shoulder…”

“Well, don’t even think about getting a cat, or I’ll know you lied. I think that’s enough questioning, so scram!”

“Give me a tank. I’ll swim away.”

Officer Kelso laughed villainously. “Then you’ll escape before I can prosecute you. Gosh, I’m not stupid!”

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Segment Eleven

 

“Josh claimed he was volunteering at an animal shelter,” Officer Hyde explained, “but I called them. They have no records of it. The lady I spoke to said something about if he had shown up, she would remember because she’s ‘not that old’. She was pretty grouchy.”

 

Then Officer Hyde raised his eyebrows. “Even more suspicious, someone got a phone recording of Josh saying, and I quote,” he lifted his phone.

 

Josh’s voice filled the room. “If they don’t stop jostling me, they won’t live to regret it.”

 

Officer Forman sucked in an audible breath. “That does sound bad,” he agreed. Smirking, he added, “But that’s probably just the static coming from his voice.” He put Josh’s name on the Suspect pad and jotted a couple of notes. “Anyone else, Hyde?”

 

“One more. Oddly enough, this is the guy who turned in the recording.

 

“His first name is The, last name Flash, and he makes you call him by his last name. He’s a cool guy, but he claimed he was at the party at the time of the murder. He vanished beforehand, according to various sources. His hotel roommate said he got in at three a.m.”

 

Officer Forman scribed notes. “Next?” He glanced at Officer Kelso.

 

“I have one,” Officer Kelso stated. “He has a decent alibi, but he calls himself ‘Shark’. Something fishy is clearly going on here.”

 

“What was his alibi?” Officer Forman inquired, poising the pencil over his notepad.

 

“He was sleeping. And no one can confirm that,” Officer Kelso drilled in proudly.

 

“Then Shark is Suspect Three. Anyone else?”

 

“I guess. This Mkw guy wouldn’t give me an alibi, but English isn’t his native language. But Shark did it!” Officer Kelso rubbed his chest with his fist. “I have a gut feeling!”

 

“I’m putting Mkw down too…but I have a more promising lead. His name is Sith.”

 

Officer Kelso grinned. “I see where this is going. He’s your secret love child! With Jackie Burkhart.”

 

“Ew,” Officer Forman breathed. With a sigh, he shook his head. “Kelso, if I have a love child stashed away, I promise, Jackie isn’t the mom. I didn’t join your club.” He winked at Officer Hyde. “Fez should be here instead of me.”

 

“Fez got kicked off the squad.”

 

Raising his eyebrows, Officer Forman replied, “Kelso, I know. I haven’t lost my mind. I know it’s hard to tell, considering you never had yours. So, anyway, this Sith character dislikes The Big Bang.”

 

When he said nothing else, Officer Hyde countered, “And…?”

 

“She was wearing a BBT sleep shirt.”

 

“But you don’t like BBT either,” Officer Kelso trumpeted. “Does that mean you killed her?”

 

“For once, Kelso has a point.” Officer Hyde gave Officer Forman the expression he normally reserved for Officer Kelso. “Would you like to wear the Stupid Helmet?”

 

Folding his arms over his chest and slumping down, Officer Forman shrugged. “Someone killed her,” he uttered stubbornly.

 

“It was Shark!” Officer Kelso gestured emphatically. “Duh.”

 

Officer Hyde narrowed his eyes at him. “We’ll see. Hopefully, our investigation will successfully clear the mystery.”

 

“Who do you think it is?” Officer Forman asked.

 

“You know me, Forman. I think the government arranged her death to shut CT down and turn everyone into mindless zombies who eat each other’s brains. But I’ve never been right about that so far, so we’ll see.”

 

“So we have five suspects,” Officer Forman clarified. “Josh, Flash, Shark, Mkw, and Sith. Tomorrow, we begin our investigation.”

 

“Wait.” Officer Hyde stared accusingly at Officer Forman. “You never mentioned Sith’s alibi.”

 

“He said he was at the party, but CoolGuy, Jwool, and Champ claim he left before Mkw.” Officer Forman fanned himself with a stack of papers. “So methinks he lied to cover…the murder.”

 

“Please,” Officer Hyde snorted. “He probably just went to the shooting range to kill baby bunnies. He didn’t think you’d want to hear the gory details.”

 

“I have a hunch that it’s something else,” Officer Forman disagreed nonchalantly. “He’s Darth Vader reincarnated, right?”

 

Officer Hyde stared at the ceiling. “You have quite the imagination there, Forman. You probably ought to hang out with Sith sometime. I bet you’d inspire him to make the next Classic Film Trilogy. The Films of the Century!”

 

“At the least,” Officer Kelso fantasized, stretching lazily over his chair, “he’ll discover you’re his father.”

 

“Nuh-uh. I’d know if I had a stray kid. And according to his file, Sith has a father.”

 

Officer Kelso perked up. “Is he anything like Red? Can we station him here to kick your—”

 

“Kelso,” Officer Hyde scolded, pointing at Officer Kelso. “No. Too far.”

 

“I’m sixty years old, man!” Officer Forman grumbled. “No one is going to pull that on me.”

 

“Don’t you kinda, just a little, miss it when Red used to?” Officer Kelso asked helpfully. Then he yelped, for Officer Hyde kicked him.

 

Using his keys, Officer Hyde distracted Officer Kelso. To Officer Forman, he said, “What say you tomorrow we make CT Forums accounts and delve into the world of crime?”

 

“Hey!” Officer Kelso pushed Officer Hyde’s key-flashing arm down. “That was my movie title! The World of Crime.”

 

Officer Forman quipped, “Kelso, no one is going to make a movie on you. Unless it’s called How to Find Your Way Out of a Bomb Shelter…While the Bombs are Still Exploding.”

 

Officer Hyde grinned. “Yeah, but Kelso is so special he wouldn’t get hit!”

 

“I know! It’s like he has an indestructible bubble around him, protecting his precious life. It’s so sweet. I think I’m morphing into Gollum.”

 

“Haha,” Officer Kelso remarked dryly.

 

Officer Forman grinned. “You’ll live to be three thousand. Hades and Zeus have to quit arguing over who gets you eventually.”

 

Patting Officer Kelso’s back, Officer Hyde murmured, “You can make that your screen name. The World of Crime.”

 

Officer Kelso perked right up. “No, you know what my movie title should be? World’s Most Handsome Cop.”

 

“World’s Dreamiest Cop,” Officer Forman ejected tonelessly.

 

“That’s even better!” Officer Kelso relished, posing at imaginary cameras.

 

Clearing his throat, Officer Forman finished his notes while asserting, “Tomorrow, we scope out the forums. Meeting adjourned.”

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A looooong one. Hope it's fun to read.

 

Segment Twelve

 

 

“Hey, guys,” the poltergeist said. “The fun has arrived! Sorry I’m late. I was creating mayhem at Buckingham Palace…” GothsCanSmile’s voice trailed off. “Why so somber?”

 

“Someone died,” replied Mkw.

 

“Been there, done that,” GothsCanSmile threw up her hands with a shrug.

 

“This is different,” Ike enlightened. Everyone knew the story of GothsCanSmile’s death. When she was twenty-four, she accidentally ate something containing peanut butter while camping. She died five minutes later. “This girl was murdered. And she was your friend.”

 

GothsCanSmile’s translucent face pinched. “Boy. You do know how to make a girl long to throw something.”

 

Birdman stared solemnly at her. “Fight it.”

 

Holding her right elbow in her left hand, GothsCanSmile flourished her hand. “No worries. I threw enough stuff in London to keep me good and calm for six months. I even let them arrest me so I could sift through the bars when they were looking the other way…”

 

“How’d they handcuff you?” CoolGuy wanted to know.

 

“They didn’t. I came ‘quietly’. They only handcuff those who resist arrest.”

 

“I bet they had a cow when they found you missing.” Champ’s eyes took on a faraway glimmer. “A cow that can speak and dance like Clarabelle.”

 

“I bet they tore up the jailhouse, limb from limb, trying to find me,” GothsCanSmile imagined.

 

Twinkling, Deepcanyon flew close to GothsCanSmile and seconded, “I bet they did.”

 

GothsCanSmile looked around at thirty-two people whose faces she’d seen on a computer screen or not at all. (Toon had only been in Florida for five hours; he’d boarded an airplane before anything untoward happened.) “Who was the victim?”

 

Terrie volunteered, “It was Random CT Member #1.”

 

GothsCanSmile squeezed her eyes shut. “Really?”

 

“It was a tragic loss for us all,” Sith uttered soothingly. “We’re all as stunned as you are.”

 

Josh tried to put his arms around GothsCanSmile, but they went right through. “Okay, this is weird. You can throw things, but I can’t touch you?”

 

GothsCanSmile started giggling wickedly. “Tears you up inside, doesn’t it? I can also fly super fast. I’m faster than an airplane. Sure beats paying the terrible fees. Do they think ghosts are made of money?”

 

BTVKIDS replied, “Humans think everyone is made of money. Dogs are scheduled to work to support families in 2052.”

 

Prebs trumpeted agreement. “I’m looking forward to goldfish suing owners for not cleaning their water enough so they can have their own houses.”

 

“What would you do if you couldn’t fly?” Flash inquired.

 

“Make myself invisible until the plane is reaching for the sky. Phantoms have no money. We don’t work. The government isn’t idiotic enough to make a funding for dead people. Anyway, we don’t eat; we merely make mischief. We don’t need dollar bills.”

 

Terrie ran her fingers through her hair. “I’ve been alive—or undead—for three hundred years, and I still work. I get bored every fifty years and swap jobs.”

 

“It’s okay,” Shark insisted. “Soon the only jobs in existence will be virtual jobs. We’ll go to the grocery store artificially through our computer screens. The pills will be transported through a machine like in The Jetsons. Real food will be extinct. Skinny pills will be the only form of exercise. Our only babies will be robots because no one will be attracted to anyone anymore—”

 

GothsCanSmile covered her ears. “Boring. If this happens, I’m forcing someone to perform my exorcism.”

 

“I know a guy,” BTVKIDS chuckled. “I’ve been avoiding him for a week.”

 

Terrie cheered in agreement. “And I’ll tell someone how to eliminate me as well. I can’t stay indoors forever. If people don’t socialize, I’ll die of thirst.”

 

Prebs strutted up to her. “Mummies will take over the world!” He pretended to flex his rockets.

 

Flash mused, “If people really stop socializing, my plan to glow like a firefly can be put into effect.”

 

Jwool had human legs. He was sitting on a chair, studying Josh with curiosity. “What’s hurting?”

 

Josh’s eyes widened slightly. “N-nothing. I mean, it’s just…smashed my leg running into a wall…”

 

“You’re not limping,” Jwool remarked, “yet your face keeps squelching like you’re in pain.”

 

“I’m fine! How long can you stay out of the water like that?”

 

“Two hours.” Jwool reached for his drink and gulped. “And only if I keep filling my tank with water. I still have gills, you know.”

 

CoolGuy touched his arm on purpose. “You still feel strange.”

 

“Of course I do. I might have human properties, but I am still a fish.”

 

Shark licked his chops. “Mm. Fish.” He sniffed hungrily and edged closer to Jwool. “I wonder how you’d taste fried.”

 

“I was kidding,” Jwool backtracked. “I’m mostly human, but I have gills. Jeez, Shark. I’m one of your fellow CTians, one of your pals. Don’t even think about coaxing me on a skillet.”

 

“I like sushi,” Birdman enlightened. “No skilled required.”

 

“I know you guys think you’re funny,” Jwool paused for another large gulp of water, “but you’d miss me if you ate me.”

 

“It’d take thirty minutes to kick in,” Random CT Member #3 insisted. “My stomach would be bursting by then.”

 

Jwool’s lips twisted downward. “You’re cold-blooded.”

 

“No,” Shark corrected. “You are.”

 

“Do you have a waterproof laptop?” Sith asked Jwool.

 

“Yes. And deskto. They’re mermaid-made though. Nothing like what you humans make. They have seashell exteriors…and they’re oval-shaped, not rectangular.”

 

“Wow. Do you have a picture?”

 

“No. It’s too dark in my cove for things like photos. We also don’t have camera devices. My eyes adjust based on lighting, or I wouldn’t be able to see right now. Our computer screens are as dark as if there’s no light in your house, and the surrounding water is way darker.”

 

“But you have TVs?” Sith prodded.

 

“Of course. We only have human channels though. You guys can be entertaining…or hopelessly dull.”

 

Shark knuckled his aching neck. “Do you merfolk ever get eaten by sharks?”

 

“No. You know how you humans like to amuse yourselves? We have this shark game, a bit like your rodeo. Bucking shark-riding. Sharks are our horses.

 

“Baby orcas are like our cows. We show them off and have something similar to calf-roping. But we have to let ‘em go before they’re teenage versions of orcas, or they’ll destroy our coves and gulp down our food supply. And you have to let ‘em go before they’re adults or they will eat us.

 

“But sharks don’t think we’re food,” Jwool continued. “Since the dawn of our people, we could swim right next to a hungry shark and feel no fear.”

 

Shark studied Jwool’s poker face. “You’re bluffing, aren’t you? To keep me from tasting you.”

 

“I’m dead serious.” Jwool glanced nervously at GothsCanSmile, who beamed at him. Then he sighed. “Okay, no more dead cracks. We have lost a valuable CT member. A member with such a creative username. Random CT Member #1…”

 

“We should make a tribute thread for her when we go home,” Sith suggested softly, sadly. “She belonged, you know?”

 

“I can’t believe this is real,” Ike murmured. “I just sold her a couple of cToons a week ago. She was so young, so vibrant…”

 

“So alive,” CoolGuy threw in.

 

“Why would someone want to kill her?” Champ blurted.

 

They all looked at one another in confusion.

 

Had she discovered some huge secret that someone was scared to have leak? Was their sweet Random CT Member #1 the kind to make another person feel threatened enough to take a life-crushing swipe at her? Or was one of their own a cold-blooded murderer?

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Total Segment count is 43 or 44.

Segment Thirteen

 

 

A grey and white fuzzball of a kitten sat on a sidewalk, cleaning herself. Her tongue was pink. She was healthy and had just consumed half a can of cat food left at someone’s back door. Her belly was bulging.

 

All of a sudden, she stopped and sniffed the air. A pathetic growl arose from her throat.

 

A massive German shepherd strutted up to her. She hissed and swiped. He leered as she missed. Arrogantly, he licked her ear.

 

This time, her scratch marred his nose. He barked furiously at her.

 

She ran with all the power of her tiny, young legs. He followed her and scooped her up by the scruff of her neck in seconds. He carried her writhing form off to an alley and sat her on a pile of trash acting as a pedestal. He positioned himself to bite her neck and make her body fall limp.

 

As he reached his muzzle down, he transformed into a mouse. He released a surprised squeak. The fear fled the kitten’s body and excitement swept in.

 

Sith put his wand away.

 

“You saved her!”

 

Sith glanced behind him and caught CoolGuy’s gaze. “You saw nothing.”

 

“That was heroic.”

 

“I’m no hero. Do you need me to wipe your memory?”

 

“No, but…”

 

“Look, you would’ve done the same if you could. It’s not your fault you can’t do magic.”

 

“I probably would’ve done a Stunning Spell. This was…”

 

Sith silenced him by removing his wand. CoolGuy mimed zipping his lips shut. Sith gave him a thumbs-up and hid his wand again.

 

“Isn’t it weird to think,” CoolGuy murmured, “Random CT Member #1 won’t be posting up the Cartoon Network code toons on the Trade Board anymore?”

 

“I know,” Sith replied. “She mostly only liked Nickelodeon shows.”

 

“And Big Bang. She had 100 of each of them and wouldn’t sell ‘em.”

 

“Yeah, okay,” Sith muttered, not knowing what else to say.

 

“I wonder who the suspects are,” CoolGuy mused. “Officer Forman said he was going to announce it tonight.”

 

“Yeah.” Sith’s shoulders shook. “I wonder…”

 

CoolGuy noticed Sith’s worried expression. He noticed the way Sith’s eyes drifted as if he were lost in thought. He noticed the way Sith unthinkingly wiped his clammy hands on the hips of his Hogwarts robes.

 

He wondered somethng he never thought he’d wonder, especially after what he’d just witnessed.

 

Is Sith the murderer?

 

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The tension increases! We have a new character/suspect/Vampire....he was there at the time of the murder but when he comes in, he acts like he just arrived....something peculiar is happening! Evidence shall be planted, new windows opened! Our newest character: @OrphanMaker

And now on to Segment Fourteen. (Final segment count is currently unknown)

Segment Fourteen

CT Forums > New Users/Welcome

Topic Name: So Much Better

Topic Starter: WorldsDreamiestHunk

Hi! I’m new to CT. I’m the biggest stud the world has yet to meet. Therefore, I’m probably 95% more attractive than your previous hottest stud.

WorldsDreamiestHunk: Who was my competition anyway?

CT User: How should we know?

WorldsDreamiestHunk: Don’t you have contests for this type of thing?

CT User: Not really, no.

WorldsDreamiestHunk: I see I’m in the wrong section.

CT Forums > Official Contests

Topic Name: Show Your Stuff

Topic Starter: WorldsDreamiestHunk

I invite you to post your hottest pics! Males only.

Only one person can win. Whoever wins received 6 thousand dollars.

Administrator: Please read our rules [LINK]

WorldsDreamiestHunk: No.

CT Forums > Mod Board

Topic Name: Worlds Most Delusional

Topic Starter: Mod 1

I say we ban him.

Administrator: In most cases, I’d say not to be so harsh, but he’s breaking 15 rules AND refuses to read them?

Mod 2: He doesn’t have a CT account.

Administrator: Doesn’t he? You can’t sign up for forums without one.

Mod 2: He just used his forums sn. There isn’t a WorldsDreamiestHunk on CT.

Administrator: I banned him.

Mod 1:You gotta admit it takes a special person to get banned their first day. He’s either admirably brave or admirably stupid.

Administrator: How about both?

Mod 2: I think we’re lucky we didn’t get an inappropriate picture before we banned him.

Mod 1: If he had, we would’ve caught him quickly. There’s 7 of us on right now.

Administrator: There is something wrong with that guy’s ego. Is it possible we banned the first living, breathing robot?

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Segment Fifteen

CT Forum > New Users/Welcome

Topic Name: Star Wars Lives On

Topic Starter: Luke Skywalker

Hi! @NeverSayNo and I are new to CT. We hope to enjoy our stay here. In the meantime, I’m glad to see you already have quite a few Star Wars cToons!

NeverSayNo: Hello, all.

CT User: You like Star Wars? You should definitely P.M. @thelastsith  when he returns from CT Vacation! You two will have tons to talk about!

Luke Skywalker: Can you tell me more about this Sith character?

CT User: He’s really nice. And smart. And quick with the fingers. He’s awesome at trivia. A lot of fun to chat with. A joy of a member.

Luke Skywalker: Do you have a crush on him or something?

CT User: Lol, no, I’m a man. I was trying to sell him to you. You can have him all you want.

Luke Skywalker: Very funny.

CT User: But seriously, you two need to talk! Also, welcome to you and NeverSayNo! NeverSayNo, what would you like to collect?

NeverSayNo: Points.

CT User: Umm…what shows do you like?

NeverSayNo: I guess Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, Steamboat Willie, and The Simpsons?

CT User: Sent you an offline.

NeverSayNo: What happens if I accept this? Will it glitch my laptop?

CT User: sometimes…just playing! It’s a Welcome to CT package. We’ve been running for ten years now, since 2008. Actually, this is July. CT began in October. If you keep coming, you’ll get our Year 10 code toon…or whatever CT staff decides on.

NeverSayNo: Can I sell it?

CT User: If you wanna.

Luke Skywalker: Thanks for the Star Wars stuff!

CT User: You’re welcome, Luke. Also, speaking of glitches, our most glitchy service is Smackdown. It works 90% of the time though! Also, the glitches only stop you from playing and/or morphing. They don’t infect your computer.

We just had an SD contest last month. CT Vacation, which is new, is half a reward for that and half just because.

We have a ton of fun contests on CT year-round. Please read these forums rules [link] and try to follow them.

Administrator: You guys have the same IP as that Worlds Dreamiest Hunk. I’m sorry, but to be on the safe side…

Administrator IP bans NeverSayNo and Luke Skywalker.

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Segment Sixteen

Officer Forman shut down his laptop. “This is just great. How are we supposed to investigate?”

“Kelso, you chump,” Officer Hyde growled. “You got us banned when we only played for ten minutes! I just won a trophy! I was going to crown myself King of CT, and you blew it.”

Officer Kelso snorted. “So much for Mr. Zen. Anyway, jeez, why did they ban me?”

“You broke a lot of forums rules,” Officer Forman replied. “And you chose not to read them.”

“That’s a stupid reason,” Kelso grouched.

“It is not,” Officer Forman disagreed. “You were too arrogant to make a CT account.”

“Okay, fine. Blame me for being a dreamboat!” Officer Kelso paused. “How did people investigate before the internet?”

“That’s not the problem,” Officer Forman retorted. “These guys live in different states. We can’t exactly stroll up to their moms and ask, ‘Have you ever found a dead body in your backyard?’ Huh, huh? Kelso, I swear, if we ever do this again, you won’t be joining us.”

“You don’t even have six thousand dollars,” Officer Hyde told Officer Kelso. “How were you going to pay the winner?”

“I wasn’t! Because I was going to win—duh!”

“You can’t enter your own contest,” Officer Forman pointed out.

“Yes I can,” Officer Kelso uttered smugly. “It’s my contest, so I make the rules.”

“I bet that Ashton Kutcher actor plays CT,” said Officer Hyde. “And I bet he would have beaten you. He’s younger than you are, so ha!”

Officer Kelso’s mouth dropped open. He let out a horrified gasp.

“Too far, man,” Officer Forman sighed. “Poor guy only has his looks.”

“No, Kelso,” Officer Hyde murmured soothingly. “You have us too. We’ve been your friends since elementary school. We admire your bravery. It’s like you have no idea you’re mortal.”

“I am not mortal! Apology unaccepted!”

In a bored voice, Officer Hyde allowed, “Okay, Kelso, honey pie. You’d beat Ashton Kutcher.”

Officer Kelso nodded sharply. “That’s right, and you know it!”

“So insecure,” Officer Forman whispered.

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Segment Seventeen

He arrived with a bang, the vampire with a pencil moustache and goatee. OrphanMaker, who was wanted dead, strolled through the hotel lobby with his midnight-black cape swishing at his heels.

“Hey, I’m here,” he said to the gathering of CoolGuy, Champ, Shark, Flash, and Prebs, who were yakking about Game of Thrones. “What’d I miss?”

CoolGuy studied him. “Who’s you?”

“OrphanMaker.”

“Oh. We thought you died.”

“No. I’m undead.”

“Well,” Champ uttered tactfully, “you were supposed to be here on Sunday, and there was news of a hawk killing a vampire on Friday night. In your town. We assumed.”

“Nah, that was my friend, Ricky. He deserved it. He liked to drink hawk blood. Karma was going to get him eventually. It was a huge monster hawk from hell. It pecked his eyeballs out first for vamping its female.”

“Ah, Ricky,” CoolGuy mused. “Bless his evil soul.”

“Yeah, he was evil,” OrphanMaker admitted, “but fun. Anyway, I’ve been at his funeral. As a tribute, we drank hawk blood.”

Shark said, “I like your cape.”

OrphanMaker glanced down. “Oh, yeah, it’s new. I thought I brought my favorite blood-red cape. Apparently not. It’s stained with blood from my feedings, so it smells fresh.”

CoolGuy made a face.

“I’m sure it smells how Game of Thrones would,” mused Champ.

“Blood and ashes,” muttered CoolGuy.

“The bloodier, the merrier!” trumpeted Prebs.

“Dadblood it,” joked Flash, lifting his baseball cap off his head, twirling it around his finger, then replacing it exactly as it had been before—backwards.

“Blood makes me hungry,” Shark growled.

“You guys are hysterical,” OrphanMaker uttered without a smile.

Shark eyed OrphanMaker. “You’re looking mighty pale. When was your last feeding?”

OrphanMaker sighed. “December of 2016. I’m not doing too well.”

“The hawk blood didn’t help?” Flash inquired suspiciously.

OrphanMaker’s eyes shifted guiltily. “We-e-ell…you see, animal blood isn’t invigorating like human blood is. It’s like having water instead of milk, if you know what I mean? Hydrates you, sure! Gives you nutrients, no.

“Us vamps who seek animal blood do it for the challenge, the hunt. Humans are easier game. Except I’ve been having issues getting them alone lately. Maybe it’s my hairstyle? Guys, who you go alone in a private room with me if I change my hair?”

They all goggled at him. CoolGuy finally stammered, “Y-you sh-should try What a Man Wants…it’s a new club. I think it’s in your area. But put some makeup on first.”

“Thanks for the tip,” OrphanMaker uttered absentmindedly.

With his arms folded over his chest, Shark asked, “Did you know Terrie is a vampire too?”

“Yeah. She was married to Dracula. Before that bolt of lightning destroyed him. R.I.P., Drac. Shouldn’t have poured gasoline on himself. His sanity was gone. But yeah, you can’t be married to Dracula and expect him to not turn you into a vampire. It’s either that or kill ya.”

Shark shook his head. “What if a vampire marries a werewolf?”

“Then you’d have a werewolf-vampire bride,” offered OrphanMaker. “One of my friends did that.”

“I’d like to meet your friends someday,” Prebs decided. “I have nothing to fear.”

“We have vampire conventions. There are 99 vampires right now on earth. We usually kill, which is why our number is so few, considering we’re supposed to feed every seven months to be healthy. I’m not healthy.” OrphanMaker barked a laugh.

“How long can you survive?” Champ wanted to know. “Without human blood?”

OrphanMaker rubbed the back of his glistening fangs against his bottom lip. “Depends on the vamp. Probably six years, probably ten. Takes a while. Slow, painful death. Technically, if I’d get off my high horse and try, I don’t know, a dog? I’d be fine another twenty years. Except animals always sense when you’re targeting them. Hence why humans are easier…”

Shark gaped. “I thought you had hawk blood at Ricky’s funeral.”

OrphanMaker’s black eyes shifted. “I don’t like animal blood. I meant the other punks.”

CoolGuy murmured, “There’s a hundred of you now. Terrie turned another. On the flight here.”

“Oh. Yeah. You can’t kill out in the open. The victim has to feel unsafe to die. I’m so thirsty!”

CoolGuy offered his neck. OrphanMaker ogled it longingly then shook his head, closed his eyes, and slumped against a wall. “I can’t. I don’t do it to friends. It’s very painful. For the victim.

“And,” he continued, “after the feeding, the victim is in extreme pain for six weeks nonstop. Unable to sleep. Able to walk, sure, but not suavely. The neck is the most painful part. So loud it blots the other aches…” His voice trailed off.

“So would your kids be vampires?” Flash inquired.

OrphanMaker’s eyelids darted open and eyes widened. “Are you insane? We can’t have kids! We’re undead. A dead thing can’t create life.”

“Even with a human?” Champ challenged.

OrphanMaker snorted. “That’s like asking if a corpse can have a baby with a human. I am sure,” he added with a downward twist to his lips, “there have been writers who made that happen. But no…way.”

“Who turned you into a vampire?” asked Flash.

“Terrie. I invited her to CT after I forgave her. Then I realized she already had an account. Her and Deepcanyon being so close, they’re practically sisters…”

Looking at his drowned watch, CoolGuy murmured, “I’m sure it’s beach time by now. You guys coming?”

They rose to their feet. OrphanMaker watched them then said, “Yeah, I’m going to sit this out. Vampires and the sun.”

“Terrie comes with us,” CoolGuy pointed out.

“She has special sun block. Deepcanyon put fairy dust in it. I don’t like sunshine, even if she shared. See ya punks after my nap!”

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Segment Eighteen

The beach was breathtaking. The sand was yellow-orange and brightened by the sun’s golden rays. The sky above was the sweetest shade of blue. The ocean, however, was what kept stealing Sith’s attention.

It was as wild as Jwool claimed. It was free, yet its mate was clearly the sky above it, which enhanced its beauty, occasionally fought with it, and could calm it with the slightest tilt of the moon.

The way the waves leapt at the shore. The unique way it smelled. It enamored Sith.

It wasn’t much wonder that the core of his wand was gillyweed.

Josh sidled up to Sith. “You really like the ocean, don’t you?”

Sith averted his gaze from the waves. “I really do.”  Noticing Josh’s harsh grimace, Sith asked kindly, “What’s hurting?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Well, if you ever do, I’m all ears.”

Josh stared silently at the vast blue sky, watching a fluffy white cloud inch along.

Champ came up to them with a glass of soda in hand. “Great party, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Sith agreed. “It’s relaxing.”

“We’re going back to our old lives as carefree as if we all spent an hour in a Jacuzzi,” Champ marveled.

Josh’s eyes were shadowy when he mumbled, “I doubt that.”

Sith privately agreed. With the murder case hovering, he wasn’t about to feel like a man with a good massage until it was over.

Regardless, he was enjoying this party. He wasn’t thinking about the unhappy things out here. If not for his friend’s troubled expression, he would have completely lost memory of them.

Most of the guys were wearing shirts. Ike, Flash, Jwool, and a couple of others were not. Josh not only kept his shirt on. He stayed out of the ocean when everyone else leapt in to splash each other.

Sith was curious, but the expression on Josh’s face plainly articulated, “Don’t ask.”

What was going on with Josh?

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Segment Nineteen

Before finding out the suspects, all the CT members were having an early dinner at 4:30 p.m. They split into groups based on what they wanted to eat. Champ, CoolGuy, Josh, Mkw, and Sith picked Italian food.

At their chosen restaurant, a waiter escorted them to an elevated area. Mkw was the first to crack open his menu.

“You know what we should do? Order pizza!”

“If we wanted pizza,” Champ rebuked, “we would’ve stayed at the hotel with Flash and them. I don’t want pizza. I want lasagna.”

“I agree with Champ,” Josh uttered vaguely, scanning his menu. “I’m in the mood for calamari.”

“Don’t tell Jwool,” CoolGuy cautioned. “You might be eating one of his best friends.”

Josh paused. Sith looked up from his menu, turned to Josh, and consoled, “I bet it’s only an acquaintance.”

It was as he was slowly revolving his gaze back to his menu that he noticed something that appeared to be out of place. He squinted uncertainly then turned his whole body toward the other table—toward Josh—as he realized what it was.

There was a table that was clean and barren, except for a really cool blood-red cape draped over the back of a chair.

Sith wanted that cape.

When the waiter returned for their drink orders, Sith cleared his throat. “Excuse me?”

The waiter gave Sith his attention.

“How long has that cape been sitting there?” Sith pointed.

The waiter glanced at it then scowled darkly at the piece of clothing. “Since Sunday afternoon, sir.”

Sith’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree strung with sparkling lights. “So you don’t think the owner is coming back for it?’

“Absolutely not! It smells awful. I have no proof, but I believe the owner was a vampire. He came here while his friend was having lunch. He slung that piece of junk over the back of the chair, talked fast, then scooted off.

“Furthermore, if you want it, you are welcome to remove it from the premises. No customer will sit at that table, and none of the staff wants to lay a pinky finger on that thing—it reeks! Not the assistant manager, not the lowliest of busboys, and certainly not any waiters.” He stalked off, glanced at his notepad, then returned to stiffly inquire about Sith’s drink order, plainly thinking the whole while, You have terrible taste.

As soon as the waiter stepped off the elevated area, Sith was up and rushing for the cape.

He’d already put his hands on the collar before he inhaled. The scent of blood was strong. Sith didn’t mind. Reverently, he carried it back to the table.

As the others chatted idly, Sith ran his fingers along the underside of the cape. Finding an inscription where it would touch a man’s collarbone, Sith said aloud, “Property of OrphanMaker…”

CoolGuy and Champ turned to stare at him. “That can’t be our OrphanMaker,” CoolGuy deduced after a split second, dropping his neck to return to his menu.

Champ agreed. “I’m sure there are at least three vampires named OrphanMaker.”

“…who is wanted dead,” Sith finished.

Both of them turned to gape at him. “That little liar!” fumed Champ.

“What’s going on?” Josh wondered.

“OrphanMaker came, acting like he just got here,” explained Champ.

“And that’s the cape,” CoolGuy marveled, “he thought he forgot to bring. His favorite.”

“If it’s his favorite,” Mkw mused, “he clearly has a horrible memory. I betcha he’s been trying to figure out where this is.”

“But why the lie?” pondered Josh. “Why not just admit he was here?”

“Can I keep it?” Sith inquired hopefully. “Since he’s a lying scumrat?”

“He deserves it,” Champ growled, “but no. We need to take it to the cops. Now. And explain everything.”

“We need to eat first,” CoolGuy argued.

“Why do we need to say anything to the cops?” Josh wondered. “He told a little lie, so what? That’s not illegal.”

Two heads swiveled to face him. “Josh,” Champ uttered, his voice strained. “If OrphanMaker got here Sunday afternoon…”

“…he’s a suspect for the murder,” CoolGuy finished.

“Holy f—” Josh breathed.

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Segment Twenty

Donna had brought their youngest child to the station. Melanie was twenty-three and had just finished college. She was only visiting for a couple of hours due to a hectic work schedule and wanted to see her father before she left.

When she was born, Fez had joked, “You should name her Laurie 2. I see Satan’s second daughter.” He moved his arms like a ghoul and moaned, “Wooo…spooky…”

In truth, Melanie was a sweetheart. Her two older brothers were protective of her. She was quite popular with her peers. She had Donna’s mouth but otherwise looked a lot like her father.

Like Laurie, however, she was Daddy’s Little Girl. His opinion meant a lot to her, and nothing could potentially shake her more than to bear her father’s disappointment.

Officer Forman’s smile was still frozen on his face from her brief visit when he turned around and came nose-to-nose with an angry man. He swallowed, the smile vanishing.

“You have one more suspect.” The man shoved a nauseating cape in Officer Forman’s hands. It smelled like years of blood. Officer Forman gagged.

“Do you know how disgusting this is? Who are you anyway?”

“I’m Champ. Officer Hyde questioned me. Now, sir. This is your next suspect.”

“Son.” Officer Forman put his arm around Champ. “This can be a murder weapon but not a suspect. Only Arcanine can be both.”

CoolGuy smiled hearing that. “Officer Forman, sir, he’s in shock. OrphanMaker came to see us, you see…” He stopped, ran his fingers along his jaw. Thought a moment.

“Yes?” Officer Forman encouraged testily.

“He said he just got here. Then we went to a restaurant…”

“And the waiter said this has been at his restaurant since Sunday afternoon.” Champ pointed to the inscription.

“Oh,” Officer Forman muttered. He handed the cape back and used the hand sanitizer on the counter behind him. “Maybe it’s a different OrphanMaker.”

“The waiter said it was a vampire, like our OrphanMaker. There are only one hundred vampires.”

“Okay. But…Maybe…Maybe…there are two.”
 

“Our OrphanMaker,” CoolGuy enlightened, “lost a blood-red cape and is wanted dead.”

Collapsing in a chair, Officer Forman wiped his face. “We have another suspect.”

“Told you,” Champ pointed out. Then he sighed and dropped his hostility. “It’s just that I could tell he was lying, but I didn’t expect to find actual evidence.”

“China could tell he was lying,” CoolGuy asserted, “but no one could predict that he had arrived in time to murder. That was sketchy.”

“Yeah, but,” Champ allotted, “it’s not highly likely he’s our killer. He stabbed the girl. She doesn’t have fang marks. And he desperately needs to feed. Even if he killed her first, why wouldn’t have have drunk her spare blood?”

“Because,” suggested CoolGuy, “it needs to be fresh? Maybe he lost control. We weren’t there.”

Bleakly, Officer Forman mumbled, “I should’ve known that was too easy. Five suspects. Only a few days to cross each name off the list? I believe this is a Mother Nature Burn.”

“Middle fingers come in all shapes and sizes,” Champ inserted.

“Yeah, well,” Officer Forman stretched while planting his palms on his knees, “Mother Nature is going to get a phone call from my mother.”

“You want to come with us?” Champ invited. “Back to the hotel?”

Officer Forman held his hand up like a stop sign. “Nah. I’m not ready to leave yet. And now I have to add a new suspect…”  He massaged a brand-new knot in the back of his neck.

How was he going to crack this case in time?

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Segment Twenty-One

Everyone sat in a chair, facing the front of the meeting room. Whispering anxiously to each other.

Officer Forman strolled in with Officer Hyde and Officer Kelso at his heels. Everyone grew quiet and waited for him to speak.

“We have three to four days to solve this mystery,” Officer Forman began as he stood at the head of the room, “so if any of you knows of even the slightest oddity that may be of some help to this case, please let us know. You friend deserves justice.

“In the meantime, there were six of you whose alibis weren’t solid. It is possible none of you are the culprit, but to be on the safe side…at least four of you hid your true whereabouts for a lesser reason than to commit a felony.

“These six are: Suspect Shark, Suspect Flash, Suspect Mkw, Suspect Josh, Suspect OrphanMaker, and Suspect Sith.”

At each name, everyone in the room swiveled their heads to stare, flabbergasted, at the name-bearer. Shark didn’t move a muscle when their gazes swept over him. Flash met the others’ stares then flinched, blinked, and became fascinated with the ceiling. Mkw lowered his gaze to study his hands.

Josh fidgeted uncomfortably. OrphanMaker let out a whistle as his gaze shifted from Flash to Shark to CoolGuy to Champ to Prebs then bounced back through the faces. He looked neither shocked nor surprised. Only curious and frail. Sith turned white as a sheet and his heart pounded hard. He’d hoped no one had noticed him leaving…

Officer Forman said a few more things. Sith’s head was buzzing; he heard nothing after his name.

From the cloudy expressions all around, Sith doubted he was the only one who’d tuned out. Shark was one of the nicest guys—how could he be on the list?

As Officer Forman finished speaking and headed out, his gaze locked with Sith’s. The buzzing in Sith’s head broadened to roaring. From the stark accusation in Officer Forman’s eyes, Sith could tell who his prime suspect was.

Officer Kelso, however, wouldn’t stop glowering at Shark.

Officer Hyde didn’t lose composure for a split second, even as his gaze traveled over the suspects. Sith wondered if he thought they were equally guilty or if he was a rational person.

Sith’s legs were unsteady as he rose to his feet.

Would his secret get out?

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Segment Twenty-Two

Everyone was in Shark’s hotel room. Sith was unusually quiet. Fifteen out of thirty-four sat around the edge of Shark’s king-sized bed. Sith, Terrie, Champ, and Birdman were a few of them. Deepcanyon was zooming across the room. Shark sat on his bed in the center. Jwool was sitting in a chair. The remaining sixteen stood, too restless to sit.

“Shark,” Sith asked finally, looking behind him. Shark’s arms were folded at his chest. He didn’t look frightened but old. Tired. Weary. “How could they accuse you?”

Shark didn’t say anything, though he glanced at Sith.

CoolGuy enlightened, “Shark left the party to go to bed. Since he didn’t have anyone to vouch that he was sleeping…” He waited for Shark to step in, but he didn’t. CoolGuy sighed.

Deepcanyon flew to Shark’s arm. “We know you didn’t do it.”

Josh laughed dryly. “That’s awful sweet of you, Dee. So who do you think did it?”

Deepcanyon blinked. Then she thought about how each of the accused must be feeling. The innocent ones. “Alright. I guess one of us is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” She flew off Shark’s arm.

“Whatever you guys do,” Mkw mumbled, “please leave the investigating to the police. Don’t start, Well, it can’t be him because… They know what they’re doing.”

Champ interjected, “Don’t you guys trust us enough to tell us what you were up to?”

Josh ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah right. And endure a round of teasing?”

“Josh?” GothsCanSmile grinned devilishly. “Did you marry a stranger?”

“No.”

“Go roller skating?” BTVKIDS asked silkily.

“No!”

“Give birth to a wild hog?” CoolGuy suggested.

A few people giggled, but Josh remained tense.

“It has something to do with his back,” Jwool mused. Before Josh could stop him, Jwool stood behind him and yanked up his shirt. “Whoa!”

Josh was tense and immobile, frozen stiff.

“Whatcha got back there?” Champ wondered.

“I bet it’s a dragon tail,” challenged OrphanMaker.

Flash snorted. “Nah, it’s just Josh’s second head.”

 

Random CT Member #12 took a wild guess. "It's Jafar's magic lamp!"

Jwool whispered, “Josh got a tattoo.”

Seeing no way out, Josh slowly pivoted so everyone could glimpse it.

“A phoenix!” gasped Champ.

“It’s very detailed too,” marveled Ike.

“”It looks amazing!” Sith blurted.

Indeed, it did. The massive gold and red phoenix covered Josh’s back. It was clearly done by a true artist.

“It took four and a half hours,” Josh enlightened.

He was still braced for laughter, but instead, he received a bunch of hugs. He began to relax after the third one.

“You daredevil,” Ike chortled.

“That’s the best tattoo I’ve ever seen,” GothsCanSmile announced. “And my existence began twenty-six years ago, so I would know!” She winked.

After everyone finished exclaiming over Josh’s tattoo, the air was less tense. Everyone who’d been sitting fell back down, and some of the standing CTians either sat on the floor or a friend’s lap.

GothsCanSmile floated above everyone and did a back soar. “How’d she get discovered?”

“Random CT Member #1?” clarified CoolGuy.

GothsCanSmile nodded.

“Her hotel roommate found her after the party. None of us found out until the next morning. She called the cops immediately.”

Random CT Member #2 nodded, her jaw tightening.

“And how,” GothsCanSmile wondered, “did he get in?”

“Or she?” someone piped up. GothsCanSmile raised an eyebrow in response.

Random CT Member #2 slowly, softly replied, “The door was forced open. While she was bathing, as the evidence led us to believe.”

“Wet bathtub, eh?” GothsCanSmile tilted her head inquisitively.

“And the smell!” Random CT Member #2 gushed. “They said she was the cleanest-smelling corpse they’d had since some girl tried to use a hair dryer in the shower.”

“You should’ve sniffed everyone’s hands as they left the hotel that night,” GothsCanSmile enthused. “The person with the cleanest hands and bloodiest shirt did it.”

Champ nodded enthusiastically. “She should’ve sent him flying out her balcony by tripping him with her hair like Rapunzel!”

“Her hair was too short for that,” Terrie muttered, “being a bob…but if she could’ve, that would’ve been cool.” She licked her fangs thoughtfully.

“That’s not how I want to die,” Sith joked. “Being flung off a balcony and splattered on the concrete ten stories down!”

“Are you kidding me with this?” Shark demanded, sticking a toothpick between two teeth. “We all know I killed her.”

“No.” Josh cracked open a soda. “I killed her. With my artist’s needle.”

“I destroyed her,” Flash corrected. “I tied a phone cord around her neck.”

“Nuh-uh!” Mkw declared. “I found a gargantuan table and flipped it down her throat.”

“You’re morbid.” GothsCanSmile swirled a ghostly finger in Mkw’s ear. “And, please. We all know I pelted her to death with a pile of bricks.”

Deepcanyon spoke next. “I used poisonous fairy dust.”

Terrie countered, “I opened her neck veins instead of changing her into a vampire.”

OrphanMaker smirked. “I convinced my would-be assassins she and I switched bodies.”

Sith jumped right in. “I used my light saber.”

Birdman coyly rebutted, “It was my solar rays.”

Champ eased up on the bed. Lifting his hands so they were in front of his shoulders, he swiftly brought them together in front of his stomach then slashed them apart. “I used Moana’s spear, of course.” He beat his chest like a warrior.
 

Prebs tossed in, “I blew my horn in her ear so hard her head split open.”

“I yelled, ‘Boo!’” BTVKIDS explained. “She jumped out of her skin then found she couldn’t go back in.”

Ike scratched the base of his neck. “I ripped her up and took off with her heart and lungs.”

He was gawked at.

“Ike,” Random CT Member #3 breathed, “that is not like you at all.”

Ike shrugged. “I’m not into murdering. Unless you count moose. They’re fun to kill with a wolf pack and mighty delicious.”

“She annoyed me,” CoolGuy sneered. “She got mad when I wouldn’t pet her cat. So I gave her this cute teddy bear that had no soul. It smothered her in her sleep.”

Jwool gulped thirstily. “I listened to the mermaids and drowned her.”

Champ slapped him a high-five. “Peter Pan, my man!”

They all turned to Shark, who deadpanned, “She went swimming with a fresh cut. What was I supposed to do?”

The Random CT Members burst in with their methods of killing.

By the time everyone left Shark’s room, they had laughed so hard and long their stomachs hurt and smiles felt permanent.

Even Sith forgot to worry. The thirty live CTians, each snug in their exclusive hotel beds, synonymously fell in peaceful, dreamless sleeps.

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Segment Twenty-Three

 

Champ awoke at the crack of dawn. He decided to head to the beach and enjoy the sunrise.

 

Along the way, he met Ike having a cup of coffee in the café. “Care to join me?” Champ invited.

 

Ike nodded and gamely followed. Both of them were stretching their legs as they walked. As they exited the hotel, Ike stopped strolling sleepily behind and began ambling beside.

 

“How’s work?”

 

“Pretty good,” Champ replied. “I just got promoted a few months back. And now I’m on paid vacation. Definitely not in the mood for complaining. How about yours?”

 

“It’s fine.” Ike reached his fingers up over his coffee cup. “Look at that guy on the surfboard. How is he staying on?”

 

The guy he was pointing at was moving the surfboard in a flurry of amateur-appearing turns.

 

“He’s hanging ten, I guess?” Champ shrugged.

 

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the surfboard flew upwards, smacked the guy on the nose, and deposited him in the ocean.

 

“That’s something you won’t see on Baywatch,” Champ predicted.

 

The guy was too far out for them to save. Ike stared out and beyond, trying to make out the surfboard in the dim sunlight. Wondering if the man could swim back to shore by himself.

 

Champ atted his back. “Hey, Ike, you do what you can. You can’t save them all. You’re not a Man of Steel.”

 

Ike couldn’t stop himself. He sat down his cup, ripped up his shirt, and lifted his arms to dive in the ocean…just as Jwool broke the surface, pushing the man on the sand.

 

“Give him H2O!” Jwool ordered. “I can’t.”

 

Ike dropped to the beach and performed CPR.

 

“Alright, Fish Boy.” Champ dug his toes in the wet sand. “No H2O, eh? Or is that an excuse?”

 

Jwool stuck his tongue out.

 

“Are mermaids as pretty as Ariel?”

 

Jwool splashed his blue-green tail. “Some are prettier. But we have some complexion problems, just like you humans. For instance, kelp face…which isn’t actually kelp. It’s where green fungus mars even the prettiest mermaids or handsomest mermen.” Jwool puffed out his chest. “All of us get it. Comes at about our tenth nameday and goes away on our twentieth.”

 

Then he added, “But we’re not particularly superficial. We’re not perfection-mongers. We can see beauty beyond physical imperfections. Therefore, we have no need of things like ProActiv, makeup, wigs…”

 

Champ gasped. “You’re bald?!?”

 

Jwool gave him an affronted scowl. “Of course not.”

 

It was that moment when the surfer regained consciousness. Spitting out a mouthful of water, he bleated, “My surfboard!” He was shaky and weak.

 

Ike started smiling. “It’s gone. You can always get a new surfboard, but you can’t get a new life.”

 

Quivering, the surfer moaned, “I was getting so good!” Ike raised his eyebrows, wondering how bad the man had to originally be for what he’d witnessed to be an improvement. “That surfboard is lucky. Some leprechauns sold it to me.”

 

Champ, Ike, and Jwool exchanged glances. Clearing his throat, Champ offered, “Tell ya what. If that surfboard is lucky, it’ll come back to you. Why don’t you stand on shore, waiting for it to return?”

 

“I should swim for it—”

 

“No,” Ike uttered sharply. “It’s not worth it.” He yanked his shirt back over his head.

 

Champ and Ike walked on with Jwool swimming alongside them, leaving the surfer behind.

 

“I can’t believe I was going to risk my neck for that guy,” Ike muttered.

 

“I told you,” Champ said out of the side of his mouth, “you can’t save them all. Wait until they matter to you, is what I say. Only save the ones that make you think of Disney.”

 

“Who do you think you are?” Jwool teased, tossing a broken seashell at Ike’s stomach. Ike caught it effortlessly. “Harry Potter? Some skins aren’t worth it.”

 

Ike snorted. “Says the man who did the hard part.”

 

“Uh, no. I have gills. The hard bit for me would’ve been CPR.”

 

Champ glanced behind him. “Ugh, he’s going in…oh. Never mind. What do you know, that troublesome board came back!”

 

The three of them gawked. And they watched the surfer stand on his board.

 

“He really should practice somewhere safer,” Champ groaned. “This is too much like seeing a train hit a car.”

 

“He’ll learn,” Jwool smirked. “Or die trying.”

 

“I bet he’s like Homer Simpson,” mused Ike. “Immortal.”

 

“Tonight’s the full moon, right?” Champ realized abruptly.

 

Ike nodded. “I’m transforming tonight.”

 

“Does it hurt?” Jwool wondered.

 

“Turning into a wolf does, but turning back is painless. It’s something I can’t avoid though. Some people have migraines, I turn into a wolf.”

 

“On a scale of 1-10,” Champ inquired, “how painful is it?”

 

“An eight. I’ve had worse pain. Highest was a nine. Haven’t had a ten yet.”

 

“I’ve had a twelve,” Jwool joked. “An orca bit off one of my fins once. It grew back though.”

 

“You are too much,” Ike decided, smiling.

 

“How do you think I got to be CT’s President? Not by being ‘too little’, I promise you.”

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Segment Twenty-Four

He didn’t want to do it, but he knew he had to. The villain-lover doing the right thing. He could almost roll his eyes at himself.

Of course this was OrphanMaker’s favorite cape. It was the best-designed cape Sith had ever seen. It wasn’t only the color but the shape of it, the inside pockets (which were large enough to hold a wand and zipped shut), and the lightweight feature. It could provide warmth on cold nights yet wouldn’t add heat on hot days, thanks to an unfading spell placed on it. Or perhaps it had bathed in a potion.

Sith decided to ask OrphanMaker for the designer’s name as he eyed himself wearing it in a  mirror.

Champ had tossed it at him when he and CoolGuy returned from the police station. “You do what you want.”

Sith had floated to the hotel’s laundry service and dropped it off, intending to pick it up after the suspects were announced. However, he’d felt too crummy and had to wait until he woke up this morning.

It smelled so much better now. Like an ocean breeze. He inhaled greedily.

Removing it, he draped it over his arm and strode out of his hotel room to find OrphanMaker.

OrphanMaker was buried in a mass of pregnant women in their early twenties, cooing over how frail he looked. While he certainly did look frail, he also had a wildly predatory expression on his face. Like he was trying to decide whose neck to feast on.

“OrphanMaker.” He didn’t hear Sith, so entranced with the neck before him. Louder, Sith called, “OrphanMaker!”

He’d just opened his mouth to bite her when he turned in Sith’s direction. “Give me an hour.”

And then Sith watched him clamp his fangs on her. At first, she laughed, as she high-fived her friends over OrphanMaker’s shoulder. “This is so cool!” They stared with open jealousy at her, happy envy. A mixture of of-course-she-was-picked and why-couldn’t-it-have-been-me. “You’re lucky!”

Within two minutes, she was crying and pleading for him to stop. Her friends, growing uncomfortable, abandoned her.

When he released her, there was a circle of blood pooling at their feet. It covered their shoes, stained their clothing, and the radius was so wide, OrphanMaker couldn’t get out of it without stepping on more blood.

“What did you do?” Sith asked when OrphanMaker approached him. The woman was holding her neck and very within herself, unaware of her surroundings.

“I fed,” OrphanMaker replied.

Sith shook himself, swallowing his horror. Hogwarts had had a demonstration of Fenrir Greyback, but they’d used projection screens, and the lighting was poor. He had laughed then. “Could you have…stopped yourself?”

“I did, for a while. I’m not an ogre. But she kept pushing her neck practically on my fangs. She wanted it bad, poor thing. Clearly been fed romantic fantasies of vampirism.”

“Well, I’ve got something for you.” Sith handed OrphanMaker his cape.

“What’s this?” OrphanMaker wrinkled his nose at the piece of clothing. “It reeks.”

“Your cape.”

“It’s been washed,” OrphanMaker stated with disgust.

“I thought you’d like that.”

“No. The smell was my favorite part.” OrphanMaker tossed the cape at Sith. “You can have it.”

“But it’s engraved with your name.”

OrphanMaker held up the cape. “Use your wand.”

Sith removed his wand and cautiously attempted to remove OrphanMaker’s name. It vanished without fuss.

“I denounced it mentally,” OrphanMaker enlightened, “or that wouldn’t have worked. And yes, there’s a countercurse.”

Sith waved his wand again. The cape now read: Property of thelastsith, also known as thelastSCYTHE.

“I take it a witch made this for you?”

“Yes. Before Terrie vampirized me, I was an ordinary human but a bit of a lawbreaker and a real charmer. The most famous witch fashion designer was my fiancé.

“She left me when I was transforming from human to vampire—those awful endless weeks. Said I wasn’t fun anymore. That’s not true—I’m way more fun now! She is missing out, shacked up with a prude in a puny cabin in Alaska somewhere. I’ve seen her Facebook.

“Anyway, she made this cape just for me. It’s time for me to pass the torch on. You have fun with it!”

Sith pulled the cape around his shoulders. “Well, thank you, OrphanMaker! You just made my day!”

“Sure, it’s a great cape. But if I were you, I wouldn’t have returned it.” OrphanMaker grinned greedily then wondered, “Where’d you find it anyway?”

“In an Italian restaurant.”

“What?”

“The waiter said you chatted with a friend. Around lunchtime.”

OrphanMaker slammed the belly of his palm against his forehead. “For two minutes, jeez! I forgot all about that. Been retracing my nightly steps over and over until I’ve almost gone ballistic. I don’t have great memory in the daytime.”

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Segment Twenty-Five

“Alright, guys,” Officer Forman hummed, glancing down at his notes. “Since Kelso got us banned, we need a new plan to get to the core of the remaining suspects’ characters.”

“We could build a spaceship!” Officer Kelso encouraged. “And use it to go back in time to meet the murderer in person.”

Both Officers Forman and Hyde stared disbelievingly at him for a few silent moments. Officer Hyde had his hands tucked under his arms. At last, he said, “Kelso, you doofus. You’re thinking of time machines.”

“No,” Officer Kelso insisted stubbornly. “It’s a special spaceship! It can fly us many galaxies away in ten seconds without a spacesuit. And it can freeze time and take us back to the dinosaur era…”

Officer Forman held his thumb up. “Good going. Build an exclusive, superior spaceship and let a Brontosaurus stomp on it.”

“Kelso,” Officer Hyde crooned, “I confess the limitless quantity of your mind amuses me, but we have three to four days to solve this case, including today. We don’t have time to…hmm. You know what? You should do it!”

“Hyde,” Officer Forman began, but Officer Hyde interrupted him.

“Forman and I will be doing other things though.”

Officer Kelso swiveled his head from one policeman to the other, frowning suspiciously. At last, he decided, “I’m with you guys. I’m a partner. You may not leave me out.”

“Crud.” Officer Hyde knuckled his forehead, yet he couldn’t stop the amusement from creeping on his mouth. “We almost gave him a distracting instrument.”

“You’ll never get rid of me that easily.”

“Okay, Kelso,” Officer Forman uttered in a bored voice. “We get it. You can get struck by lightning seven times in a row and live to tell the tale. That’s not going to sign your paycheck. I don’t know about you, but Donna and I are not living in a trailer.”

Cracking his knuckles, Hyde smirked. “You have Donna and your parents to thank for that. Donna for paying most of your bills, your parents for leaving me your basement in their will.”

“Haha,” Officer Forman snarked dryly. “Who bought us the mew bed? That’s right.” He flexed his muscles. “Donna’s macho man! If not for me, she’d still have a crick in her neck.”

“It definitely wasn’t your massages that saved her.” Officer Kelso bubbled over with glee.

“Enough chitchat,” Officer Forman ordered. “I think we should call their moms and co-workers and ask questions. Hyde, you do co-workers; I’ll take moms.”

“Wait a minute,” Officer Kelso whined. “What do I get to do?”

With feigned enthusiasm, Officer Forman announced, “You get the most important job! You get to tailgate Shark.”

To claim that Officer Kelso was excited would have been equal to claiming the sun is as bright as the moon.

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