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Charter Fright

Written by argonaut :: [Wednesday, 31 October 2012 10:59] Last updated by :: [Friday, 10 May 2013 09:27]

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 CHARTER FRIGHT

A Scooby-Doo Mystery

 

by Argonaut

 

--------------------------------

 

 

The cargo hold was dim and shadowy in the feeble glow of a fluorescent light. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo stood watching nervously as Daphne secured a bungee cord to a wall bracket. Velma began rummaging through the crates while Fred stood by the door, trying to pick the padlock that held the bolt in place. 

 

"Allow me," said Daphne. Fred stepped aside as Daphne grabbed the lock, snapping it apart with a turn of her wrist.

 

"Here," said Velma. "I found what you wanted." She handed Daphne four stout elastic bands, each attached to a large suction cup. "Souvenirs from the Human Fly caper."

 

"Thanks," said Daphne, slipping two of them around her wrists. Kneeling, she wrapped the other two around her shoes, then attached the free end of bungee cord to her ankle. "Better hold on to something," she told the others.

 

Her friends grabbed the brackets lining the walls of the cargo hold. Shaggy held Scooby-Doo's collar in one hand while clinging tightly to a bracket with the other.

 

Daphne faced the wide steel door and took a deep breath. "Hang on!" She slid the heavy bolt from its bracket and threw the switch. There was a grinding of gears and a rattling of chains as the door swung down with a clang.

 

A cold wind whipped through the cargo hold, scattering the loose papers that littered the floor and tousling Daphne's red hair. Outside, ragged black clouds were flying past a full moon. There was nothing but air and darkness between her and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of feet below.

 

She tugged at the hem of her minidress, reflecting ruefully that her outfit might be less than ideal for the high winds and frigid temperatures outside the plane. But there was no time to change ...

 

"Here goes!" she shouted. "Wish me luck!" Her friends watched with pounding hearts as Daphne crouched, then dove head first into the howling darkness.

 

"Geronimo!"

 

----------

 

FIVE HOURS AGO ...

 

The limousine glided through the security gate and across the tarmac. It came to a stop about a hundred feet from where a small chartered plane was being readied for take-off. The rear doors of the limousine swung open and Fred, Velma, Shaggy, and Daphne stepped out onto the runway. Scooby Doo hopped down from the back seat and stood wagging his tail expectantly as the driver opened the trunk and began taking out suitcases and duffel bags.

 

Grunting, he took out a large, expensive-looking leather suitcase, then three more. "These are pretty heavy, miss," he said, setting down the last one. "Let me get a dolly and I'll bring them over to the plane for you."

 

Daphne was rummaging in her purse. "Don't bother," she said sweetly, handing the driver a twenty-dollar tip. "I can manage."

Stooping, she took two suitcases in each hand and lifted them easily off the tarmac.

"She, uh, works out a lot," Fred explained to the flabbergasted driver as the pretty redhead strolled off toward the plane, dangling the heavy suitcases from her fingertips. He slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and hurried after her.

 

"Sheesh," muttered Velma, trotting along beside Fred. "We're only going to be in London for a week. How many purple minidresses does she need?"

 

The cargo hold was open and workers were hauling crates up the ramp. One of them handed Fred a clipboard and a ball-point pen. Signing the cargo manifest with a flourish, Fred grabbed the carbon copy and ran after his fellow sleuths, who were already boarding the plane.

 

He tossed his bag into an overhead compartment and sat down in the aisle seat next to Daphne.

 

"Well, gang," he said. "In a few minutes, we'll be on our way to London."

 

"Yes," said Daphne. "It sure was nice of the people at Madame Tussaud's to fly us over on a private plane."

 

"Just imagine!" said Velma. "An entire exhibit dedicated to Mystery, Inc."

 

" -- and some of the creepy crooks we've caught over the years," added Fred.

 

" -- wearing their actual costumes," Daphne chimed in.

 

" -- which we're bringing over with us on the plane," said Shaggy.

 

"Good exposition, gang," said Fred. "Now let's sit back and enjoy the flight."

 

"Speaking of crooks we've caught," said Velma, squinting at her iPad, "did you guys know that Clyde Barlow has been released from prison?”

 

“Clyde Barlow?” said Fred. “Of Barlow and Baylor's Flying Circus?"

 

Daphne nodded. “The Barnstorming Banshee, right?"

 

“I remember him,” said Shaggy. “Wasn’t he the stunt pilot who dressed up as a spook to scare his partner into selling his share of the business?”

 

“That’s him,” said Velma, putting away her iPad and taking a London guidebook from her carry-on bag. “He was granted parole last month.”

 

“Well,” said Fred. “Our job is to catch them. What happens then is up to our judicial system.”  

 

"So what are you guys planning to do while we're in London?" asked Daphne.

 

Velma looked up from the pages of her book. "I want to see all the historical sights," she replied. "The Tower, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum ... What about you?"

 

"Me? I can't wait to go shopping in those Carnaby Street boutiques!"

 

"Swell," Velma muttered. "Maybe you can pick up a few more purple dresses. And some new ascots for Fred."

 

"Scooby-Doo and I can't wait to sink our teeth into some of that famous British cuisine," said Shaggy, rubbing his stomach. "Yorkshire pudding ... bangers and mash ... toad-in-the-hole ... "

 

Daphne wrinkled her nose. "Eew!"

 

"Relax, Daphne," said Velma. "It's just sausage baked in batter."

 

Scooby-Doo licked his chops. "Rum-rum!"

 

"What about you, Fred?" asked Daphne.

 

"Well, the folks at Madame Tussaud's arranged a private tour of Scotland Yard for us." Fred held up some brochures. "And I want to check out the Sherlock Holmes Museum. And I think we should all go on the Haunted London walk."

 

"H-h-haunted London?" quavered Shaggy.

 

"Oh, yes," said Velma, flipping through her guidebook. "London is full of ghosts. The ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots is supposed to walk the Tower of London at night, carrying her head under her arm. And there's the Cripplegate ghost, and the Highgate Park ghost, and the ghost of the highwayman Dick Turpin -- "

 

"Man. oh man," wailed Shaggy. "Just once, can't we go somewhere that's not crawling with ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night? I hear Peoria is nice this time of year."

 

"Oh, come off it, Shaggy," said Velma. "When have we ever encountered a real ghost?"

 

Shaggy crossed his arms and shook his head stubbornly. "There's a first time for everything."

 

Scooby-Doo nodded in agreement. "Rat's right."

 

"Oh, well," Shaggy said resignedly. "I guess we can be glad for one thing, Scooby old pal. We've been on haunted ships and haunted trains, but I've never heard of a haunted airplane."

 

Velma smiled mischievously. "Not unless you believe in gremlins."

 

Scooby-Doo's ears pricked up. "Remlins?"

 

Shaggy rolled his eyes. "I know I'm gonna regret this -- but, like, what's a gremlin?"

 

"Don't worry," said Velma. "It's just aviators' folklore. Back in the early days of flying, pilots would blame mechanical problems on mischievous creatures called gremlins. And during World War II, gremlins were supposed to sabotage fighter planes. But nobody ever took the stories seriously."

 

Shaggy took little comfort from Velma's words. "As if we didn't have enough to worry about, huh, Scoob?" He began counting off on his fingers. "Ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves -- and now gremlins ... Scoob?"

 

The window seat next to Shaggy was empty.

 

"Zoinks!" Shaggy jumped up, pointing to the empty seat with a trembling arm. "Scooby's, like, disappeared! The gremlins must've got him! Scooby-Doo! Where are you, old buddy?"

 

Velma rolled her eyes. "Calm down, Shaggy. He's just hiding under the seat."

 

Shaggy chuckled as Scooby-Doo crawled out from under the seat, grinning sheepishly. "Like, you had me worried for a moment there."

 

The cockpit door opened and a pretty brunette in a blue uniform stepped into the cabin, shutting the door behind her. "Good evening," she said. "My name is Vanessa, and I'll be your flight attendant. If there's anything I can do to make your trip more comfortable, please don't hesitate to let me know. The captain says we'll be taking off shortly, so you should all fasten your seat belts."

 

She walked down the aisle, checking the overhead compartments. "Nice ascot," she said, smiling down at Fred.

 

Fred blushed. "Thanks," he said. "It was a present from my mom."

 

"You must be Fred. I’ve read about you -- how you travel all over the world, solving mysteries and setting traps for criminals." She fluttered her eyelashes. "It sounds so exciting.”

 

"Well," said Fred modestly, "I do have a way with traps."

 

"I'd love to hear about them."

 

"Sure," said Fred, oblivious to Daphne's jealous glare. "Always happy to meet a fellow trap aficionado."

 

Fred turned round in his seat, watching appreciatively as the pretty stewardess walked on down the aisle. "She seems nice, huh, Daphne?"

 

"Hmpf!" Pouting, Daphne pretended to be absorbed in a magazine article.

 

"Would any of you like something to eat?" Vanessa asked. "We have a well-stocked galley."

 

Shaggy's eyes lit up. "Like, you just said the magic words. Scoob and I will have a corned beef sandwich on rye."

 

"Coming right up." Vanessa headed for the galley, but Shaggy went on.

 

"With sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, peanut butter, anchovies, guacomole, and chocolate syrup. Am I forgetting anything, Scoob?"

 

"Rickle."

 

"Oh, yeah. Like, don't forget the pickle."

 

Vanessa looked dazed. "I'll, uh, see what I can do," she said as she stepped into the galley.

 

Four hours later ...

 

The cabin lights were turned down low. Fred and Daphne were dozing in their seats, while behind them Velma had nodded off over her guidebook. Across the aisle, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo were snoring contentedly, replete after the enormous sandwiches Vanessa had prepared for them.

 

Suddenly, Scooby-Doo's ears pricked up. He shook himself awake, listening alertly. Was it his imagination, or was something making a noise outside the cabin window? He reached out with a paw and lifted the shade, casting an oblong of pale light along the wing ...

 

"Rikes!" Scooby-Doo jumped into Shaggy's lap and threw his forelegs around his friend's neck, quivering in terror.

 

"Oof!" Waking up with a start, Shaggy struggled to extricate himself from his canine comrade. "What is it, Scoob?"

 

Scooby-Doo began miming frantically as Shaggy interpreted. "Outside the window ... uh-huh ... pointy ears ... big eyes ... sharp teeth ... What are you trying to tell me, ol' buddy?"

 

"Remlin!" Scooby-Doo barked. "Remlin!"

 

"You saw a gremlin?" Shaggy craned his neck to peer through the window into the darkness outside. "Like, there's no gremlin out there, Scoob." Shaggy chuckled. "You must have been dreaming. Maybe that sandwich gave you a nightmare."

 

Scooby-Doo regarded Shaggy reproachfully. "Raggy!"

 

Shaggy chuckled. "I know, I know. Like, when did food ever give us nightmares? I was just kidding. Now go back to sleep and forget about -- zoinks!"

 

Reaching around Scooby-Doo to lower the shade, Shaggy found himself staring into a pair of malevolent yellow eyes on the other side of the pane. Below them, an evil grin gleamed in the darkness, revealing two rows of long, sharp teeth ..

 

Shaggy was on his feet, frantically shaking his friends awake. "Fred! Velma! Daphne! Wake up! There's a gremlin out on the wing!"

 

"Knock it off, Shaggy," Velma grumbled. "I told you -- gremlins aren't real. You must have been dreaming."

 

"No way! Scooby-Doo saw it, and then I saw it, too -- just outside the window -- "

 

"Well," said Fred, shading his eyes with his hands and peering out the window. "I don't see anything."

 

"What did I tell you?" said Velma. "Now quit clowning around and let us get back to sleep. We'll be landing in a few hours."

 

"Hold on," said Daphne. "Shaggy and Scooby may be a couple of fraidy-cats -- "

 

“Hey!” protested Scooby-Doo.

 

“We resemble that remark,” Shaggy declared indignantly    

 

" -- but they've been right before."

 

Fred was rummaging about in his duffel bag. "Well, there's one way to find out." Taking out a portable searchlight, he raised his voice. "See, Shaggy? There's nothing out there. Go back to sleep."

 

"Huh? Oh -- yeah." Shaggy winked. "I guess you're right, Fred," he said loudly. "My bad. Sorry to wake you guys up."

 

"That's okay," Fred shouted. "Here -- I'll just lower this shade."

 

Fred and the others stood waiting, tense and expectant. "Do you hear anything, Scooby-Doo?" Fred whispered.

 

Scooby-Doo shifted his ears this way and that, listening intently, then nodded.

 

"Now!" shouted Fred. Swiftly, Daphne lifted the shade. Fred turned on the searchlight, sending its powerful beam along the wing ...

 

"Jinkies!" exclaimed Velma.

 

A crouching figure with large pointed ears was kneeling at the end of the wing, starkly silhouetted against the searchlight's beam. Startled, it turned to glare at them with its round yellow eyes. One of its arms was raised, and they could see that it was holding a monkey wrench in its claw-like fingers.

 

"Man, oh man," wailed Shaggy. "What did I tell you? There's a gremlin out there -- and he's tearing the plane apart."

 

"We'd better tell the captain," said Fred. He looked around. "Say -- where's Vanessa?" Daphne and Velma hurriedly searched the cabin.

 

"She's not here," said Daphne, peering into the galley.

 

"Or here," said Velma from the ladies' room.

 

"She must be with the captain," said Fred. Stepping toward the cockpit, Fred pounded on the door. "Excuse me, captain, sir. This is Fred Jones. I thought you should know there's a gremlin on your left wing."

 

He stood listening for a moment. "Huh. Maybe he didn't hear me." He pounded harder, raising his voice. "Captain?" There was still no reply.

 

Fred turned the handle and pushed, but the door didn't budge. "It's locked. Maybe I can -- "

 

"Step aside, Fred," said Daphne.

 

"Huh? -- Yike!" Fred jumped back just as Daphne's shapely leg shot past him. Her foot struck the cockpit door, crumpling the steel plates,and the door swung open with a bang.

 

They peered into the cockpit. It was empty.

 

"The plane's on automatic pilot," said Daphne, casting an expert eye over the instrument panel.

 

"But where's, like, the real pilot?" quavered Shaggy.

 

"And Vanessa?" added Velma.

 

"Well, gang," declared Fred, striking his palm with his fist. "It looks like we've got a mystery on our hands. Let's split up and look for clues. The girls and I will -- "

 

"Uh, Fred?" said Velma. "We're on a chartered plane. There aren't many places for us to look."

 

Daphne was striding resolutely toward the cargo hold at the rear of the plane. "Besides," she said, "the mystery will have to wait. We've got to stop that gremlin before it causes any more damage to the plane. Fred, get a bungee cord from your trap kit. Velma, I need you to find something in those crates of costumes. Shaggy, Scooby -- "

 

"That's okay," said Shaggy hastily. "Scooby-Doo and I will, uh, stand guard right here."

 

"Right," growled Scooby-Doo, standing at attention and saluting.

 

"Suit yourselves," said Velma. "You two can stay by yourselves in this cabin -- all alone, with that gremlin lurking just outside the window -- "

 

Shaggy gulped. "Er -- on second thought ... " He and Scooby hurried after their companions, who had already stepped into the shadowy interior of the cargo hold.

 

--------------------

"Geronimo!"

 

Daphne plunged into the darkness, the wind roaring in her ears, the bungee cord trailing behind her. She felt a sudden lurch. For an instant, she hung upside down, buffeted by the wind, thousands of feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Then the cord began to contract, pulling her back up towards the plane. Twisting round, she stretched out her arms, watching as the underside of the aircraft drew closer ...

 

One .. two! She pressed the suction cups on her wrists against the smooth metal. She hung from the plane's underbelly for a moment, catching her breath and shivering slightly as the frigid slipstream tugged at the fabric of her dress. Her enhanced metabolism would withstand the cold temperatures and thin air of the upper atmosphere. Still, she needed to hurry.

 

Moving swiftly but methodically, clinging to the plane's metal surface with the suction cups attached to her hands and the soles of her shoes, she crawled up the fuselage and onto the roof. Cautiously, she rose to her feet, bracing herself against the high winds, and peered down toward the wing, where the gremlin crouched in the light from the cabin windows, toiling away with its wrench, oblivious to Daphne's presence.

 

Daphne cupped her hands around her mouth and raised her voice against the howl of the wind. "My, what big ears you have!"

Startled, the gremlin turned, glaring up at Daphne with its luminous yellow eyes. It stood up, regarding her for a moment, then knelt down again and began tugging at a bolt with its wrench, working faster now. Even above the wind, Daphne could hear a metallic shriek as the bolt turned.

 

Daphne leapt from the roof of the plane, landing on the wing with balletic grace, secured by the suction cups on her shoes. Her friends were staring open-mouthed from the cabin windows. She gave them a reassuring thumbs-up, then turned to confront the gremlin. The creature was advancing toward her along the wing, brandishing its wrench, a menacing growl rising from its throat ...

 

"Hee-yah!" Spinning on one leg, Daphne swung the other up and around in a wide arc, striking the gremlin on the wrist with the toe of her designer shoe. The gremin clutched its hand, howling in pain, as the wrench flew from its grip and disappeared into the darkness below. For a moment, Daphne wondered how long the wrench would fall before plunging into the ocean. But there was no time to think about that. The gremlin was rushing toward her, its long sinewy arms reaching for her throat ...

 

Daphne grabbed the gremlin's arms just as it hurled itself against her. The impact knocked her back against the fuselage, and for an instant she swayed precariously over the side of the wing, still holding the creature tightly by its wrists. Recovering her balance, she began grappling with her adversary. The gremlin was preternaturally strong, but soon Daphne was forcing it back, step by step, toward the tip of the wing ...

 

Suddenly, with a strength born of desperation, the gremlin broke free of Daphne's grip. Casting a baleful glance over its shoulder, it crouched, then jumped off into the darkness ...

 

"Oh, no, you don't!" Daphne sprang after the creature, stretching out her arms and catching it round its chest. The gremlin snarled and squirmed, trying to shake her off as they fell together, blown about by the wind, until they came to a lurching stop, swinging like a pendulum from the bungee cord attached to Daphne's ankle.

 

Now what? thought Daphne as she swung back and forth through the darkness with one arm wrapped round her subdued adversary. Looking up, she could see her friends staring down at them from the lighted squares of the cabin windows. "Pull me up!" she mouthed, using her free arm to mime tugging on a rope. Fred nodded, and a moment later she could see her comrades hurrying toward the rear of the plane.

 

Minutes later, Daphne was scrambling into the cargo hold, hauling the gremlin up after her. She dropped the creature against a crate, then stood smoothing her dress and tidying her tousled hair as Fred closed the door of the cargo hold.

 

"Good work, Daphne!" said Fred.

 

"Thanks, Fred," said Daphne. "And now let's see who our gremlin really is."

 

She unmasked the creature with a sharp tug at its large pointed ears. A pair of sultry brown eyes glared at them from a disheveled mane of brunette hair ...

 

Fred's jaw dropped. "Vanessa?"

 

"Hmpf!" Daphne snorted. "What a surprise!"

 

Shaggy was scratching his head. "But why?"

 

Velma stepped forward, peering at the screen of her iPod. "I believe I can answer that," she declared. "Gang, meet Vanessa Barlow -- Clyde Barlow's daughter."

 

"The Barnstorming Banshee?" said Fred.

 

"That's right," said Velma. "When he was released from prison last month, he and Vanessa began plotting their revenge against Mystery, Inc. Our trip to London gave them the perfect opportunity. Like her father, Vanessa is an expert pilot and wing-walker. She disposed of our flight's captain and stewardess -- "

 

"D-d-disposed of?" stammered Shaggy. "You mean -- ?"

 

"Oh, they'll be fine," muttered Vanessa. "They should be waking up in an empty hangar back at the airfield by now, none the worse for wear -- well, except for a hangover from the tranqs I drugged them with."

 

"Anyway," Velma continued. "She also smuggled a costume onto the plane." She held up a crumpled sheet of paper. "Fred, if you'd bothered to read the cargo manifest before you signed it, you might have noticed that it listed five crates of costumes instead of the four we'd packed."

 

Blushing, Fred tugged at his ascot. "Hey, I was in a hurry -- "

 

"I must say, her costume is an impressive piece of engineering -- insulated against the cold, with an exo-skeleton for enhanced strength, goggles for night vision, magnets for sticking to the wing, and an oxygen mask for breathing."

 

"Like, where did she get hold of a high-tech Halloween get-up like that?" asked Shaggy.

 

Vanessa sneered. "I was an engineering major, you gluttonous lackwit. Georgia Tech, Class of '08."

 

"It was Vanessa who handled the plane's take-off," Velma went on. "Once we were asleep, she put the plane on automatic pilot, slipped into the cargo hold, put on the gremlin costume, and went out onto the wing to sabotage the plane."

 

"It was a perfect scheme," said Vanessa defiantly. "The plane would have fallen into the Atlantic Ocean -- and your disappearance would have been an unsolved mystery for all time."

 

"I don't get it," said Shaggy. "Wouldn't she have died along with us when the plane went down to Davy Jones' locker?"

 

"I doubt it," said Velma. "I'm guessing you'll find that the suit also contains a parachute -- "

 

"And an inflatable life-boat," Vanessa interjected. "Plus a GPS beacon so that my father could pick me up in his yacht."

 

"Man, oh, man," said Shaggy. "That is, like, one crazy plan, huh, Scoob?"

 

"R-r-right!"

 

"And I would have gotten away with it, too," snarled Vanessa, "If it hadn't been for you interfering adolescents!"

 

Five minutes later ...

 

Fred escorted Vanessa to a seat at the rear of the cabin and handcuffed her to the armrest.

 

"So," he said hopefully. "Do you still want to hear about my traps?"

 

Vanessa gave him a withering look. "Get real, ascot boy."

 

Fred sighed. "Too soon, huh?" He turned to join his comrades at the front of the cabin.

 

 "Well, gang," he said. "I guess that wraps up another mystery."

 

"I still don't get it," said Shaggy, scratching his head. "Why didn't she just cut the engines and bail out before the plane hit the drink?"

 

"I believe I can answer that," said Velma. "You see -- "

 

"Later, Velma," said Fred. "Right now we have to figure out how we're going to land this plane."

 

"Don't worry, guys," said Daphne, stepping into the cockpit and sliding into the captain's seat. "I'm a licensed pilot, remember? As soon as we're within radio range, I'll have the air traffic crew at Heathrow talk me through a landing."

 

"Well, that's that," said Shaggy, heading for the galley. "All this excitement has made me hungry. I'll just grab a snack and then sit back and relax for -- zoinks!"

 

He staggered back, white-faced and trembling..

 

"Shaggy!" said Fred. "What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost."

 

"W-w-worse than that," Shaggy stammered, pointing toward the galley with a trembling arm. "L-look!"

 

Cautiously, Fred pushed open the door and peered inside.

 

The refrigerator door stood open. Its shelves were bare. And Scooby-Doo, smiling blissfully, lay on the floor with a bulging belly amid a litter of food wrappers.

 

"An empty fridge," wailed Shaggy. "Like, that's the scariest thing I've seen all day!"

 

THE END

 

Halloween, 2012