A Whateley Academy Story
Imp 5: Head over Tail
Dunn hall, Friday afternoon, Sept 28th, 2007
It was Friday afternoon and I was in the middle of teaching Art Appreciation, my last class of the week. Or at least, this was my last official class.
My students were all in the middle of taking a test, so I was sitting at my desk, trying to remain quiet, so that I didn’t distract them. This wasn’t easy, because I kept thinking about how funny it would be if I pulled out my air horn and made them all jump, or just used my Nerf gun to test their reflexes. However, no one had ever said that being a teacher would be easy.
I slowly looked across my classroom, with my eyes settling on Rusty, who sat in the front row. Rusty, or Iron as he was officially codenamed, had been a real pain in my tail on the first day of school, actually attacking me, not only once, but twice. Ever since then, though, he’d behaved himself in class. No more attacks, and not even a single class interruption or good heckle. Boring. Still, he occasionally gave dirty looks at me and the GSD kids in class, when he didn’t think I noticed, so I retained a little hope that he’d do something else interesting.
And as for interesting, my attention drifted to Ayla Goodkind, who was focused on her test. It was hard to believe that I actually had a Goodkind in my class, much less one who was polite, respectful, and one of my most attentive students. She hadn’t done anything exciting, except for actually showing knowledge and interest in art history, but her family connections made up for that.
Of course, some of my most interesting students were actually in other classes. Monkeywrench was always amusing and good for a chuckle or two, though he couldn’t quite match up with Dino. Who knew dinosaurs had such a good sense of humor? And then, there was Melissa, who was my apprentice and a little more.
Just then, my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the timer on my desk going off. “Alright,” I called out. “Test time is over. Drop your tests on my desk on your way out the door. Starting Monday, we’re going to go into yackity schmackity, blah blah blah.”
A few seconds later, the students all began rushing out of the classroom, leaving their tests on my desk to be graded. I stared at the tests with a sigh, thinking of how unfair it was, that the kids got to take the weekend off, but I still had to work, just to grade their tests if nothing else. Of course, that was probably why teachers were allowed to drink and students weren’t.
Once all the students had cleared out, I began the boring task of cleaning up my classroom. Most of the work was pretty quick and easy, because the janitors normally took care of things like vacuuming and emptying the trash. However, there was one thing that I always made sure to take care of myself.
I began humming the Mission Impossible theme song to myself as I went into a desk drawer and pulled out a bug sweeper, a small devise, which I’d bought from one of my best contacts. Then, I continued humming as I swept the room for listening devices, finding only two of them this time. However, one of them was actually on my desk, which seemed just a little ballsy to me.
“Only two this time,” I mused. “Those meddling kids must be running low.”
With that, I went into another desk drawer and pulled out a small box, which was completely insulated and acted as a faraday cage. I opened the lid and stared at the contents, my collection of bugs and listening devices, all of which, I’d found in my classroom or on my person, in the last month. So far, my collection wasn’t very large, only consisting of a couple dozen bugs, but it was steadily growing.
“This is starting to get old,” I said as I dropped my two latest additions into the box.
But after a moment of consideration, I changed my mind. I dumped the contents into a pile in the middle of my desk, then reached into another drawer to pull out a small radio. I set it to a polka station, cranked the volume up to max, and placed it right beside the pile of bugs. If someone wanted to listen in on me, they could listen to this instead.
“And that should do it,” I commented with an evil grin. I remained there for a few seconds longer, swishing my tail back and forth in time with the music, before I turned and left my classroom, with the polka still playing.
Normally, when my last class of the day was over, I’d hang around my classroom for a bit longer, just in case any students showed up some questions. I could frequently count on a visitor or two, with Melissa being the most common. However, since Melissa had detention due to a food fight incident in Crystal Hall, I knew that she wouldn’t be making an appearance today.
I started to walk across campus, in the direction of the Village, the faculty living area, and I gave a few polite nods to students as I passed them. But then, I saw Barney in the distance, walking in the same direction. The sight of that man was enough to bring me to a complete stop.
Roland Williams, or Barney, as I preferred to call him, was a large and stocky man in his fifties, with red hair and a beard that were streaked with gray. Though Barney was currently a history teacher here at Whateley, he used to be a superhero called T Rex. That was how I met him. Years ago, the two of us had done the whole archenemy thing, but he had to ruin it all by taking it personally. I wouldn’t have minded that so much, but he crossed a line that made me take it personally as well. Very personally.
For a brief moment, I just stood there, caught between two dueling urges. One, was the temptation to run the other direction and simply try forgetting that Barney existed, which might be possible if I had enough booze. And if I wasn’t a regenerator. And then, there was the other temptation, which was to follow Bob Barker’s advice. Always spay and neuter your T Rex. Somehow, I didn’t think that Carson would approve of the second option. Instead, I decided to compromise, by flipping Barney off with both hands, then turning to go in another direction.
A few minutes later, I realized that I was nearly at Doyle. That was fortunate, because there was someone here I’d been meaning to talk to. With a grin and a swish of my tail, I rushed into the building and towards the right office. It didn’t take me long to find my destination, a door with the name Dr. Alfred Bellows on it. And to my relief, it was actually open.
Bellows was one of the Whateley shrinks, but I didn’t hold that against him. He was a pretty decent guy for a head-shrinker. In fact, if I didn’t like him, I wouldn’t have come to see him. At the moment, he was sitting behind his desk, working on some kind of paperwork. The poor guy probably needed the kind of distraction that only I could provide.
“Hey, Doctor Scratchasniff,” I exclaimed as I walked right into the office.
“Imp,” Bellows responded in surprise.
I walked right past him and plopped myself down on his comfortable looking couch. A moment later, I was stretched out and laying down.
“What are you doing?” Bellows asked, sounding more curious than annoyed.
“It all started when I was a wee little Implette,” I started. “My mom was a bearded circus fat lady, and my dad was the chainsaw juggling clown…”
Bellows gave me a vaguely amused look. “Imp… You aren’t one of my patients…”
With a roll of my eyes, I sat back up and responded, “Well, not if you’re gonna treat me like that…”
“Why are you here?” he asked me patiently.
“Well, Scratchy, it’s like this,” I said, standing back up and grinning at him. “You never RSVPed for tonight…”
“RSVP?” Bellows asked, looking confused. Then I saw the understanding flash into his eyes. “Oh… I’m afraid that, I’m not particularly interested…”
“But you’ve gotta come,” I urged him with a grin. “Everyone is gonna be there. All the cool people are doing it. You don’t want to be left out. You…”
“You aren’t seriously trying to manipulate me with peer pressure, are you?” Bellows asked me with a chuckle.
I gave him my best innocent look. “Maybe.”
He gave me an amused look. “And did you really think it would work?”
“Maybe,” I repeated with a grin. “Is it working?”
Bellows hesitated for a moment, and I considered giving him my ‘puppy dog’ eyes to push him over the edge, but then he let out a sigh. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll be there.”
“Great,” I responded cheerfully, swishing my tail back and forth. “Oh, don’t tell Barney about it.”
“What is it between you and Roland?” Bellows asks me.
Pretty much the entire school faculty knew that Barney and I couldn’t stand each other, though Fubar was the only one who had any idea as to why. Even Barney himself, didn’t know why I had it out for him. But then again, he was so full of himself, he’d probably never even asked why.
“Sorry, Scratchy,” I responded, giving him a grin and a wink, “but I’m not one of your patients.”
With that, I gave Bellows a sweeping bow, before turning and walking back out his door. I was pretty sure I heard an exasperated sigh from behind me, which was a pretty familiar sound.
Then, as I was leaving Doyle, I saw a nurse running through a hallway. A grin formed, and I couldn’t resist calling out, “Helloooo nurse!” She jumped in surprise, which made me grin even more broadly. Then, as my thoughts turned back to what I’d convinced Bellows to agree to, I chuckled evilly. “Tonight is going to be fun.”
Friday evening, Sept 28th, 2007
The Intelligence Cadet Corps, more commonly known as the Spy Kids, or more derisively as the Secret Squirrels, were gathered together in their club house. Ace, the leader of the group, stood in front of the others and tried to look serious and intimidating.
“She’s up to something,” Ace announced firmly, “and I want to know what it is.”
Ace gestured to a wall, where a dozen pictures of the Imp were taped in place. They’d been taken over the last month, in a variety of locations around campus, including as she was coming out of her apartment.
“So far,” A-Plus said, “the target of our investigation seems unaware that we’re watching her.”
“Good,” Ace said with a nod of approval. “The Imp is a professional thief and supervillain, and she’s obviously at Whateley for a reason. We just need to figure out what that reason is, so we can stop her.”
“Maybe she really is here to be a teacher,” Reach pointed out. “She wouldn’t be the first villain to retire in order to teach here.”
A-Plus snorted derisively at that. “I seriously doubt that someone like her, would stop stealing valuable pieces of art, just to become a high school art teacher.”
“Agreed,” Ace added. Then, he looked around the others and said, “I talked to Mister Williams, the history teacher. Some of you already know that he used to be a superhero, before coming to work at Whateley. What most of you probably don’t know, is that he and the Imp have a history, and he told me all about her. According to Mister Williams, she’s sneaky, completely insane, and definitely up to something. He just doesn’t know what either.”
“Why would Carson hire someone like her?” A-Plus asked with a scowl. “It makes no sense…”
Ace scowled as well. “Williams thinks that Imp has something on Carson.”
Everyone present began to share uncomfortable looks, wondering what someone like the Imp, could possibly have on their headmistress. After all, Mrs. Carson was also Lady Astarte, a famous superhero. The idea that she would have any skeletons in her closet that were blackmail worthy, was almost unimaginable.
“You’ve been keeping watch on the suspect,” Ace said to Kew. “What have you learned?”
Kew winced at that, and muttered, “That she really likes polka. She’s been playing it for a couple hours.”
“Well, keep listening,” Ace told her. “She might slip up and give something away…”
Kew let out a deep sigh, dreading the thought of listening to even more of that music. However, she knew her duty and nodded agreement. “Fine.”
Then, Ace turned his attention the most recent member of their club. Carrie Porter, also known by her codename of Geist, was a freshman girl, who was on the cute side of plain. She had shoulder-length auburn hair, and wore a pair of glasses on her nose, which was sprinkled with freckles.
“Geist,” Ace said.
Geist immediately sat up straight. “Yes?”
“Our suspect has been spending a lot of time with a girl named Mischief,” Ace explained. “I want you to tail Mischief, and see what you can find out. We don’t have the resources to set up a full surveillance routine on her yet, but that can change if we find reason to make her a higher priority.”
“I won’t let you down,” Geist promised with an eager anticipation.
“Good,” Ace responded as he began looking over the other club members. “Remember, the Imp is a professional, so we have to be on our A game if we want to find out what she’s up to, and stop her before it’s too late.”
Flying Blue Squirrel, Friday evening, Sept 28th, 2007
I was sitting on a barstool with a large mug of beer in hand. The Flying Blue Squirrel had some pretty good beer on tap, though it wasn’t quite what I wanted. When I’d come in, I’d originally ordered a Neon Unicorn Fart, only to get a confused look from the bartender. At times like this, I really missed the Black Mask, and Carl, my favorite bartender.
Sitting on the stool beside me, was Maria Ricardo, the youngest teacher in the entire school. In fact, she’d only graduated from Whateley herself, a little over a year ago. That meant that she probably had a better understanding of the students than any other teacher, but also that she got taken less seriously as well. In fact, the only teacher who was probably given less respect than her, was me.
“I can’t believe you helped set this up,” Maria said, gesturing around the bar, which was currently packed with faculty members.
With a grin, I told her, “Well, an Imps gotta do, what an Imps gotta do…”
“Well, I think you did a wonderful job,” Maria told me.
“Well, Imps are wonderful,” I responded cheerfully.
“I thought they were fabulous,” Maria said with a chuckle.
I grinned in response, swishing my tail back and forth. “We can be both.” Then, I hoped off my barstool and began singing, “The wonderful thing about Imps, is Imps are wonderful things. We’re bouncy and we’re trouncy. Our tails are made of springs…”
By this point, Maria was laughing, as were a few other teachers who were sitting nearby. Fortunately, Barney hadn’t shown up yet, and I hoped that he wouldn’t. That party pooper would ruin everything, or at least, he’d ruin it for me.
Maria took a long sip of her drink, a glass of ginger ale. Being the youngest teacher at Whateley, she was also underage to drink. As it was, she was just lucky that she was able to get into the bar at all.
“I’m feeling kind of left out,” Maria admitted, holding up her drink, and then gesturing to everyone else who was drinking. Of course, she overlooked the fact that she wasn’t the only one who wasn’t drinking alcohol, just the only one who didn’t have the option of drinking it legally.
“I offered to hook you up with a fake ID,” I pointed out cheerfully.
Maria chuckled at that. “That doesn’t do much good when the bartender and everyone else, knows my real age.”
I just shrugged. “It doesn’t hurt to try.” Then, I told her, “The next time we’re in New York together, I’ll have to take you to one of my usual watering holes.”
Maria gave me an amused look. “Yes, I imagine that supervillain bars wouldn’t care much about carding.”
“Nope,” I responded with a grin. “If you’re old enough to rob a bank or do time, then you’re old enough to drink.”
Then, while taking a sip of my beer, I turned my attention to the ‘stage’ which had been set up in the corner of the bar. Bellows was currently there with a microphone, singing a bad rendition of ‘Stand by Me’. However, when Bellows was finished, I clapped for him, simply because someone had to.
“Ah,” Fubar said as he appeared beside me. “The highs and lows of karaoke night.”
“You know,” I said with a grin, “Karaoke Knight sounds like a cheesy hero name.”
“I thought it sounded more like a villain name,” Carson said with an amused look. I hadn’t even noticed her coming up until she’d spoken, which meant that I really needed to start paying more attention. I might be retired from my old business, but it didn’t pay to let my guard down and get sloppy.
“And sadly,” Maria added with an almost pained look. “Probably a siren.”
I nodded agreement, then glanced towards the empty stage. Then, with a broad grin, I announced, “Well, it looks like it’s my turn…”
A minute later, I was standing on stage, grinning with anticipation. Then as the music I’d selected began to play, I started singing, “Twenty-four, twenty-four hours to go, I want to be sedated. Nothing to do, no where to go, oh, I want to be sedated…”
While I sang, I danced around on stage, snapping my tail back and forth in time with the music. I loved to cut loose with a little dancing, and was having a blast. If I hadn’t been such a brilliant artist and thief, I was sure that I could have made a great rock star instead.
Once the song was over, I did a sweeping bow and enjoyed the clapping. I hopped off the stage, where I was quickly replaced by someone else who wanted to show off a bit.
“You were pretty good,” Maria told me, looking just a little smug. “But I can do better.”
I stared at Maria for a moment, remembering that she was a siren, so her power was actually based off singing. In fact, her codename was ‘Songbird’, which gave a nice clue as to her singing ability. However, that didn’t intimidate me. Instead, I grinned and told her to prove it.
While Maria was getting in line for her turn, I spotted Elyzia Grimes, who was sitting off to the side with a glass of wine. After a moment, an idea came to me, and I nearly burst out laughing. Then with an eager grin, I grabbed one of the books, which listed all the songs that were available, and rushed over to Grimes.
“You’ve got to sing this,” I told Grimes, pointing to one of the pages. “It’s perfect for you…”
Grimes just gave me a flat look. “Surely, you’re joking.”
“I’m not joking,” I told her with a grin. “And don’t call me Shirley.”
Grimes didn’t bite and continued to give me that flat look. “I. Don’t. Sing.”
“But ‘Witchy Woman’ is the perfect song choice for you,” I continued to urge, but her expression didn’t change.
I was considering what tactic I should try next, to convince Grimes, when the next singer got on stage. The voice that sang out wasn’t Maria’s, like I’d expected, but it immediately caught my attention nonetheless.
“I put a spell on you,” came the sultry voice, “and now…you’re mine…”
I snapped around to see who was singing, and was a little surprised to see that Circe was the one on stage. Circe gave me a faint nod of acknowledgement as she sang, doing so in a way that could almost have been professional. I hadn’t expected that kind of singing from THE Circe, but I probably should have. After all, she’d been around a long time, which meant that she’d probably had a lot of opportunities to practice.
When Circe finished, she got a standing ovation, and I clapped nice and loudly. Then, Maria went up and began singing a fantastic version of a Pat Benatar song. After Circe’s performance, I’d doubted if anyone present would be able to match her, but Maria managed to do so. It was no wonder her codename was Songbird.
I watched Maria perform, then made my way over to the side, where Carson was sitting down and enjoying a drink. She nodded to me, and said, “That was a nice performance.”
“Thanks,” I responded cheerfully. I remained there for half a minute, before saying, “You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…”
While I talked with Carson, King, the music teacher, got on stage and sang ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ even doing some trademark Elvis dancing in the process. He was followed by Fubar, who did a classic crooner routine, and he even dressed the part, much to my approval.
Karaoke night was a rousing success, and before it was done, I’d gone up two more times, singing ‘Devil Woman’ and ‘Ooops I Did it Again’. I also learned that Quintain’s singing voice is much better than his lecture voice. When it was done and over, I was in a great mood, and determined to do this again sometime.
Dunn Hall, Saturday late morning, Sept 29th, 2007
There is an ancient and sacred tradition, which dictates that Saturday mornings should be honored by sitting on the floor in your pajamas, while watching cartoons on TV and eating sugary cereal. Sadly, my own cartoon time had been cut short due to the necessities of my new profession, and those poor unfortunate souls, who were crying out for my expert tutoring in all things art.
I was standing in my classroom, where a dozen students were spread out, working on their individual projects. This wasn’t an official class, but the open classroom period that I tried to hold on most Saturday mornings. I opened the doors to my classroom, so that any student who wanted, could come in and work on their art projects, while I provided materials, advice, and some one on one instruction.
Three girls were huddled up together, making their own jewelry. I didn’t have any of the beads or materials that they used, and they’d brought their own, but they seemed to like working in my classroom, and I had no problem with this. Though I didn’t have much experience with making jewelry, I was still able to offer a few pieces of advice, which they seemed to appreciate.
A couple students were working with clay, which, while not my specialty, was something that I was more familiar with. They were having fun with their sculpting, so I left them to it, except for when they had questions for me.
And then, in the middle of my classroom, was Razorback, or Dino, as I preferred to call him, since he actually looked like a dinosaur. A velocirator to be specific. Dino had several large sheets of paper spread out around him and was in the middle of doing some finger painting. And toe painting. And tail painting. He was making a bit of a mess, but really seemed to be enjoying himself.
When I went over to see what Dino was working on, I caught a whiff of a rather strong scent and gave the boy a curious look. “Did you dump a whole bottle of cologne over your head?”
Dino made some weird barking and chirping noises, which I couldn’t understand, and then switched over to the voice box around his neck. “No,” he said, with the digital voice. “It’s my natural manly scent…” Then, he burst out in his strange dinosaur laugh, which made me grin.
“Then it’s a good thing your natural manly scent smells like Old Spice,” I pointed out with a smirk, “and not Chanel.” That earned me another dinosaur laugh.
Next, I went over to a couple students who were just doing a little drawing. One of them seemed to be working on some panels for a comic book page, with a fight scene between some hero and villain, both of whom, I recognized. After looking it over, I chuckled.
“Nice shading,” I said, pointing to a spot, “especially on this panel here…”
“Thank you,” the boy responded with a grin.
“I’ve met Captain Cactus though,” I said, indicating the hero in his comic piece. “His belt buckle is even bigger than this. One thing you’ve got to remember about those Texas heroes, they do everything big, even their overcompensation.” The young comic artist burst out laughing at that, while those nearby snickered along.
After this, I demonstrated a few tricks for drawing and shading, which these students paid close attention to. The comic book artist was especially interested and even asked me for more advice on how to get his characters to come out better.
Then, I went to check on the last group of students, ones who were at the easels I’d set up, and doing a bit of painting. The first one I approached was Alicia Thacker, whom I’d first met in New York, last spring. In fact, it was my encounter with her, and the lessons in painting that I’d given her at that time, which eventually led to my being recruited to teach at Whatley.
“What are you painting?” I asked, looking at what appeared to be a landscape picture.
“This is the bayou, back home,” Alicia answered proudly. “But ah’m havin a hard time gettin it quite right.”
“What exactly are you having a problem with?” I asked her curiously.
A minute later, I went to another easel that I’d reserved for myself, just so I could do demonstrations. I showed Alicia a few tricks and techniques that could help, while the other painters watched me.
“And see,” I said, channeling my inner Bob Ross as I made a few more strokes with my brush. “Here’s a happy little tree…”
“Where’d you learn how to do this stuff?” one boy asked curiously.
“College,” I answered cheerfully, which earned me a couple skeptical looks. “Yep, I took a course in art forgery. I even had my own professor and everything.”
“Bullshit,” Darquehart responded.
“It’s true,” I replied with a grin. “I apprenticed to a master art forger, and went to college to earn my art degree at the same time.” Then, I gestured to my demonstration and explained, “A forger needs to know all the tricks and techniques that the original artist uses, so they can copy the painting more accurately. And as a benefit, you can use those same techniques when making your own original pieces.”
Once I was finished with my oil paint demonstration, I went to Darqueheart, who was working with water color. Darqueheart wasn’t actually in any of my classes, but had come in this morning, to experiment a little and see if any particular type of art caught her interest. It had taken me nearly two weeks to convince her to do so.
“It’s just a smear,” Darqueheart said defensively when I looked over her painting. It was pretty obvious that she didn’t know much about this kind of painting, but that was what I was there for.
“What is it that you want to do?” I asked her gently.
Darqueheart crossed her arms and glared at the painting that she’d been working on, before admitting, “I don’t know…”
“It usually helps to have at least some idea of what you want to do,” I said. “Even if all you want to do is project a certain emotion or feeling…”
With that, I went back to my demonstration easel and changed it to a fresh sheet of paper. Then, I went to work, using water color to paint a scene, where the ocean met the shore. I mostly used shades of blue and gray, but I did throw in a few other touches of brightness for contrast. I took my time while doing this, explaining each stroke and why I was doing what I was. Darqueheart watched me carefully, as did some of the other painters.
“I can’t do that,“ Darqueheart started to say.
However, I cut her off. “Of course you can. Sure, you don’t have my experience, but you can paint, and a little practice will just make you better at it.”
“But I’ve never really painted before,” Darqueheart protested.
“Well,” I said with a smile. “You can try it this way.” I pointed to the oil paints, “or that way.” And then, with a broad grin, I pointed to the center of the room. “Or you could do it Dino’s way.” Dino waved to us, though his claws were covered with blue paint. Darqueheart giggled, though she quickly covered it back up.
Soon, Darqueheart was back at painting, this time a little more confidently. I remained close by, offering encouragement and advice when she needed it. Her painting certainly wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a good start.
Eventually, my open classroom period ended, and I had to start ushering the students out the door so I could clean up. “You’re more than welcome to come back next week,” I told Darqueheart. “If you want, you can try your hand with oil paints…or sculpting.”
“I think I want to try this again,” Darqueheart said self-consciously, as she indicated her water color painting.
“I’ll see you Monday morning,” I told Alicia as she left, and gave nods of acknowledgement to the other students as they made their way to the door too.
Once the students were gone and my classroom was once again clean and orderly, I sat down at my desk to work on a part of my job I didn’t like, grading tests. Unlike most of my classes where art is subjective, the Art Appreciation test was a little more black and white, with clearly right and wrong answers. Still, I zoomed through that, then stuffed the tests back into my desk until Monday afternoon. It was with a deep sigh of relief that I finally dashed for the door.
I left Dunn Hall and started back towards the Village, where I could kick off my shoes and relax in my Imp Lair, but I didn’t get far before noticing that someone was following me. It was one of the kids from the Secret Squirrels, the meddling kids who’d been spying on me for the last month. I even recognized her as a girl named Rez, who wasn’t nearly as sneaky as she thought she was. And of course, like some of the others, she had a camera with her.
“How many pictures of me do they need?” I mused aloud. I’d already let her friends take a few pictures of me, even posing for a few, but it didn’t seem to be enough for them. “I know the fabulous Imp is a natural target for the paparazzi, but this is starting to get annoying…”
For a moment, I considered the idea of doing the old ‘ninja vanish’ routine, which had worked so wonderfully on countless heroes over the years. However, I quickly discounted that. After all, she knew where my classroom was, along with my apartment, so there wasn’t really any benefit to disappearing like that. Instead, I suddenly stopped where I was, turned and looked straight at her. I posed for a picture, giving her a good dose of ‘blue steel’ and a wink, which sent her running in the other direction.
“Well, what do you know?” I exclaimed with a laugh. “That worked out even better than vanishing…”
A few seconds later, I realized that I might have chased off that girl, but I still had the feeling that I was being watched. I wasn’t psychic, but I had a very well developed sense of paranoia, and had long since learned to listen to my instincts. I didn’t know if some student was watching me out of curiosity, if those meddling kids had another person tailing me, or if it was actually someone dangerous. What I did know, was that someone was there.
Normally, I was the one who hung around without being seen, and I really didn’t like this turnabout. Whoever it was, I could call them out, which would make me look like a stooge if they remained hidden. Or, more satisfying for me, I could pull my vanishing act, then simply wait until they revealed themselves. Then, I could surprise them. A faint smile formed as I decided on which option would be more fun.
However, before I could enact my brilliant and cunning plan, a figure suddenly leapt out of a tree, about thirty yards away, and then began walking straight towards me. This newcomer was an attractive woman, and most likely an exemplar, with long black hair that was pulled back into a ponytail. She had a black and white, fur-trimmed bustier and panty-style costume, with thigh-high boots, elbow-length gloves, and this was all topped off with a utility belt and domino mask.
And though I’d never met this woman before, I knew who she was. After all, it always paid to stay aware of who my potential professional opponents were.
“Tabby Cat,” I said in greeting, keeping my voice light and cheerful, though I was tensed and ready to act in an instant. “We’re a bit out of STAR League territory.”
“So, you’re the Imp,” Tabby Cat responded, moving towards me with a feline grace, that gave me the feeling that she was going to try pouncing on me, as if I was a mouse. However, if she did, she’d find that this little mouse wasn’t exactly helpless. As a wise mouse once said, ‘Arriba! Arriba! Andale! Andale!’
I flashed her my own predatory grin, then took a sweeping bow. “The one and only, genuine, original, fabulous Imp.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” the hero announced as she came at me. “And now I have you.”
Arena 77, Saturday afternoon, Sept 29th, 2007
I was standing in the middle of the oldest and smallest arena on campus, laughing maniacally. At the moment, I was dressed in my working outfit, my old working outfit, which consisted of a black and red catsuit rather than the slacks and blouse that I’d been wearing for the last month.
Set up in front of me, was a large and complicated contraption, which was basically a Rube Goldberg machine. I’d made this thing as a pet project, but hadn’t expected to use it nearly this soon.
It was with a broad grin on my face that I dropped the marble down the tube and began the entire process. The marble rolled down the pipe, then came to stop by slamming into a domino. That set off the small domino chain, which triggered a lever and released a bowling ball that started to roll down some rails.
As fun as it was to watch the chain of events, I still found myself looking to the last step of the machine. There was large container which clearly had the words ‘ACID’ written on the side. And to make sure that this was clear, there were also several skulls painted onto the side of the container as well. It looked positively gruesome.
Then, my eyes lowered, to where the superhero Tabby Cat was tied-up, right beneath the container of acid. When the machine had run its course, the contents of that container would be dumped, right on top of my captive.
“Imp-ressive, isn’t it?” I called out gleefully. “In less than a minute, you’ll be done for, and your tail will be over. Escape is imp-ossible.”
“This isn’t over yet,” Tabby Cat called out. Then, a moment later she gave the line that I’d been waiting for. “You’ll never get away with this, Imp.”
Just as I was about to give my response, I heard someone call out, “Mom? Are you in here?”
I snapped around and saw a girl entering the arena. She was short and svelte, with black hair that was pulled back into a ponytail. I recognized the girl as one of Maria’s theater students. If I remembered right, she was Wallflower, part of the STAR League Junior, training team.
“Oh,” I said in realization, doing a facepalm. “And here, I thought they were just ripping off the STAR League name…”
Then girl froze and stared at the contraption, gasping. “Mom?”
“Stay back, Lily,” Tabby Cat called out.
Wallflower, or Lily as her mom had called her, hesitated a moment, obviously caught between her mom’s order, and the desire to save her from certain doom. However, it looked like she took after her mom, because she began to rush forward to the rescue.
“You’ve arrived too late,” I yelled as my contraption hit the final stage and the container began to tip.
Suddenly, Tabby Cat slipped loose of her bindings and leapt out of the way, right before the green liquid poured down into the spot where she’d been. However, some of the liquid splashed on impact and got onto Tabby Cat’s leg.
“Are you all right?” Lily demanded of her mom, who stood there with an amused look on her face.
“I’m fine,” Tabby Cat assured her, while rubbing her hand against her wet leg. She licked her finger, then gave me a curious look. “Gatorade?”
“Lemon lime flavored,” I replied with a broad grin.
Lily just stood there, looking confused. “What’s going on?”
“That was great,” I exclaimed with a laugh. “I was in the business for thirty years, and not once, did I ever get to put someone into an easily escapable death trap. I mean, it’s like I was missing out on the complete supervillain experience. Thanks for humoring me.”
“That was actually kind of fun,” Tabby Cat responded with a grin of her own. Then, she turned to her daughter and explained, “The Imp and I were just doing a little training.”
“If you say so,” Lily responded, giving the contraption and then me a suspicious look. She finally looked back at her mom and said, “Fubar told me that I could find you in here, but he didn’t say anything about this.”
I smirked at that, realizing that Foobar might have been playing his own prank, though on who, I wasn’t really sure. I’d have to ask him the next time we talked.
“I can’t believe you already had this thing already built and set up,” Tabby Cat said, gesturing towards my contraption and giving me a suspicious look of her own.
With a shrug and a grin, I responded, “I was planning on using it as a training tool…and for a little fun.”
Tabby Cat shook her head at that. “I’m not sure I want to know.” Then, she gave me a serious look. “We had a deal, and I did my part…”
“We have a deal,” I agreed cheerfully, swaying my tail back and forth behind me. “Why don’t we both change and get cleaned up, then meet at the Squirrel afterwards. If I’m gonna be answering your questions, I’d prefer to do it over drinks.”
“All right then,” Tabby Cat told me. “I’ll see you there.”
With that, I gave a sweeping bow, then turned and left the arena, leaving Tabby Cat behind, to explain what was going on to her still confused daughter.
The Flying Blue Squirrel, Saturday late afternoon, Sept 29th, 2007
“Barkeep,” I called out as I stepped into the Flying Blue Squirrel. “I’ll have a glass of penguin juice.”
The bartender gave me a blank look. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I’ve never heard of that one. Do you know what’s in it?”
“Um…penguin juice,” I answered with a roll of my eyes. “Fine, I’ll have a beer.”
“I’ll have one too,” Tabby Cat said as she stepped into the bar.
I was a little surprised to note that Tabby Cat was in civilian clothes, and without even so much as her mask. She obviously wasn’t worrying too much about her civilian identity, perhaps because it would be so easy to track down now that I knew who her daughter was, and what her daughter’s name was. Not that I actually cared what her real name was.
Of course, I’d shown up in my comfortable ‘day off’ clothes as well, and not even my pajamas. Still, I was wearing tight black jeans, with a hole cut out for my tail, and a long sleeved shirt. If I was just hanging out in my apartment, I might have worn a T-shirt with a snarky logo or a cute cartoon character, but I always wore long sleeves when I was out of the house.
“And we’ll have an order of nachos,” I announced as I picked a table that was a little out of the way, and out of easy eavesdropping range.
Tabby Cat sat down at the table with me and sat in silence for nearly a minute, just sipping on our drinks and watching each other without looking like we were watching each other. It wasn’t often that I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to an active hero over drinks, and I imagine that she probably didn’t get a lot of friendly conversations with criminals.
Finally, Tabby Cat broke the silence by saying, “We nearly gave my daughter a heart attack.”
“She’s young,” I responded in amusement. “She’ll recover.”
“True,” Tabby Cat said with a chuckle. “But I’m probably going to hear about this for awhile.”
I took a long drink of my beer, then said, “Okay, we had a deal. You humored me with the deathtrap, so I owe you some answers. Fire away.”
“I want to know about the Kube,” Tabby Cat stated with a surprisingly intense look. “I want to know how you pulled that job off.”
“You mentioned that earlier,” I commented. In fact, after she’d confronted me a couple hours ago, she’d practically demanded that I tell her about the Kube job, which confused me a little. “That was over ten years ago, so why are you interested in it now?”
Tabby Cat hesitated for a moment before answering, “Professional curiosity.” At my curious look, she let out a sigh. “When I was a student at Whateley, I spent most of my time here as a member of the Masterminds.”
“The Masterminds?” I asked in surprise, giving her another look. The Masterminds were supervillains in training, and Tabby Cat was a hero.
My companion gave me a wry smile and admitted, “I wasn’t always a hero. In fact, I spent a lot of time training to go into your line of work.”
“You wanted to be an art teacher?” I teased, though I knew that wasn’t what she meant.
“I pulled a few small jobs when I was still a minor,” Tabby Cat told me with a gleam in her eyes. “But if anyone else asks, I’ll deny it.”
“Of course,” I responded with a grin.
Tabby Cat took a long drink of her beer, then said, “Back in those days, I had a dream job…one that I did a lot of research on. The Kube. It was going to be the big job where I broke into the business and made my reputation, but I couldn’t find a way past the security. And then, after I went into my current line of work, I continued working on it…as a hypothetical exercise.”
I nodded in understanding. “And then I came along and pulled it off.”
“Exactly,” Tabby Cat responded. “I want to know how you did it.”
For a moment, I considered her request, trying to decide how I was going to answer. Of course she’d want to know about the Kube job. I was just amused that she wanted to know about it out of professional curiosity, rather than because she was trying to bring me in for it. Of course, she might still be playing me, but I had a feeling she wasn’t. I was pretty sure that she was being honest about her reasons.
The Kube had been a high security vault, named for the square shaped building that housed everything. Their entire business was based on leasing out vault space and safety deposit boxes for certain wealthy individuals, which included a few heroes and villains. Because of that, the security was top-notch, consisting of highly-trained personnel, cutting-edge technology, and even some magic. For nearly four decades, they bragged about being impenetrable.
“Security was pretty tough,” I admitted. “And they thought of nearly everything.”
“That was my impression,” Tabby Cat said.
“They did have one weakness though,” I pointed out with a faint smirk. “They got TOO clever with their security. The Kube itself was nothing but the front door and a decoy.”
Tabby Cat gave me a curious look. “What do you mean?”
“Their vault wasn’t actually in the Kube,” I explained with a grin. “They had some kind of wormhole gateway thingy, that you step through in the Kube, and stepped out of in the real vault, about twenty miles away.”
“And you went there?” Tabby Cat asked in surprise. “You broke into the real vault…”
I just responded with a grin, swishing my tail back and forth. Then, for the next fifteen minutes, I regaled Tabby Cat with my brilliant plan, which consisted of me sneaking a tracking devise into the vault along with someone’s prized goody, then tricking an overzealous superhero into attacking a ‘supervillain base’ at that location.
“The real vault wasn’t nearly as protected as the Kube,” I explained cheerfully. “They relied on being underground, where nobody knew about them, and with the only entrance being through the wormhole thingy…”
“But the vault would still require ventilation,” Tabby Cat mused, proving that she really did know how to think like a thief. My opinion of her went up another notch.
“Captain Blowhard,” I said, though that wasn’t the hero’s official codename, “tore through their outer security and exposed an opening in the ventilation for me.”
“But where does the Black Maestro come in?” Tabby Cat asked. “His name came up in my investigations on the heist, but he was never actually seen anywhere near the Kube.”
“Yo, barkeep,” I called out, holding up my empty mug. “Another beer.”
“Another for me, too,” Tabby Cat added.
Once I had a fresh drink in front of me, I said, “I let the Black Maestro find out where the real vault was, and when there would be an opening in security. He showed up to break in, found Captain Idiot already there, and the two of them began going at it. While those two make such a nice distraction, I slipped on in, grabbed what I wanted, and then got my tail out of there before anyone ever saw me.”
“And you left the Black Maestro holding the bag,” Tabby Cat said thoughtfully. “Along with the hero.”
“The Black Maestro once murdered a good friend of mine, who was henching for him at the time,” I explained with a deep scowl. “So, I really didn’t mind throwing him under the bus.”
Tabby Cat nodded. “I’d imagine not.” Then, she stared at me for a moment. “This answers a few questions that I’ve had for awhile.”
It was no surprise that Tabby Cat hadn’t heard much about what really went on, because Captain Moron had spun things like crazy to cover up his own part, and the people in charge of the Kube had muddied the waters even more, since they were trying to hide the location of their real vault. Officially, they blamed the Black Maestro for the break in, so the heroes went after him. It wasn’t until later that a piece of video, which showed me inside the vault, emerged. By then, the scapegoat had already been captured.
“Thank you for answering them,” Tabby Cat said. She took a sip of her beer, then mused, “Now, if I can just find someone to answer some questions about the Hauptman jewel heist.”
“The Hauptman heist?” I asked in surprise.
“It was in nineteen-eighty,” Tabby Cat explained. “Mad Cow Cowan, who you may have heard of, pulled the job with his crew. I’d like to know how they pulled that one off, but unfortunately, none of the people involved are still alive.”
I burst out laughing at that, which earned me a glare. “Frank is still alive,” I explained a few seconds later. “He’s retired, but still alive and well.”
“Mad Cow Cowan is still alive?” Tabby Cat asked, now giving me a look of surprise. “How do you know?”
“And he’s not the only one,” I responded with a smirk. “There’s still one more member of that crew running around.”
Tabby Cat’s eyes gleamed with excitement and interest. “Who?”
With that, I puffed up a little and answered, “You’re looking at her.”
For a moment, Tabby Cat stared at me, clearly trying to decide if I was telling the truth or simply stretching it. She finally asked, “You were in Mad Cow Cowan’s crew?”
“Yeah,” I responded taking a long drink of beer. “Frank was my mentor, the guy who introduced me to the business and taught me most of what I know. Hell, he’s the one who gave me my name, the first person to ever call me the Imp.”
“And you were involved in the Hauptman job?” she said, her catlike eyes gleaming with interest and questions that demanded be asked.
“Involved in it?” I said with a smirk. “I’m the one who planned the thing. It was my final exam, so I could graduate from my apprenticeship. And by the way, I passed with flying colors. Frank gave me an A on it.”
“Now, you just have to tell me all the details,” Tabby Cat insisted.
I grinned in response, swishing my tail back and forth. “On one condition.”
Tabby Cat let out a sigh. “Another death trap?”
“Nope,” I responded cheerfully. “I got that out of my system…for now. I heard about how you once snuck into Armorgeddon’s base, so what I want from you, are all those juicy details…”
For a moment, the heroine stared at me, then she broke into a broad smile. “Deal.”
Sunday morning, Sept 30th, 2007
It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, it was mid-morning, on a fairly clear day, and I was currently deep in the bowels of my new Imp Lair. The Imp Cave. The Fortress of Sol-imp-tude. Whatever name I settled on, this was the new classroom for my special topics classes, and by special topics, I meant ones that were legally questionable.
The classroom itself was subterranean, and located just off one of the main tunnels connecting to Dunn Hall. I’d recently acquired the space from campus security, and had put a lot of work into cleaning it up and getting it ready for my classes. So far, only campus security, some faculty, and a small handful of students knew that I’d set up here, and that was just the way I wanted it. After all, if everyone knew that I was teaching classes on lock picking, pickpocketing, and general larceny, they’d all want in on it.
I took a sip of my coffee, which I drank from a mug that said ‘World’s Greatest Teacher’ on the side. Melissa had given it to me as a lair warming gift, after I finally had this classroom cleaned up and ready to go. This was now my favorite coffee mug, and I liked it even more than the one I stole from the Empire City Guard’s break room. I was pretty sure that one used to belong to Captain Quantum.
With a smile, I slowly looked around my classroom, which was comparable in size to my official classroom up above, where I taught all my art classes. Of course, this one was decorated in a somewhat different manner. For one thing, I didn’t have rows of desks, because I didn’t have a lot of students signed up for this class. In fact, I currently had only one student, my apprentice Melissa.
The floor was concrete, but covered with some nice decorative rugs. One wall had my logo painted on it, in black paint. It was a large circle, with horns and a squiggly devil tail. I had the same logo painted on another wall, though I’d put eyes and a mouth inside the circle, so as to make it into a smiley face with horns and a tail. The former version was my official Imp logo, but sometimes I liked to play with it, to make it just a little more friendly looking.
Along the walls, I had a rack full of locks and handcuffs, shelves and lockers which contained various tools of the trade, and there were even a couple work benches and tables set up as well. And then, there was a teacher’s desk in the front corner. Even though I was only teaching my apprentice here at the moment, it was still a classroom and needed the basics.
Just then, the tinkling of some bells distracted me from my thoughts and drew my attention. I looked to the side, where a dummy was set up, and was covered with bells. Melissa stood back, glaring at the dummy in annoyance.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“I can’t do it,” Melissa blurted out in frustration. “These stupid bells keep ringing…”
“That’s okay,” I told Melissa as I went to join her. “It takes awhile to learn how to pick a pocket right.”
It also took a lot of practice, but my apprentice didn’t have much patience for it. I couldn’t blame her, because I wasn’t any different at that age. And since Melissa often had the attention span of a goldfish, I’d been forced to figure out ways to keep her from getting bored with my lessons, and that often meant changing lessons in the middle of them.
“I gave you some homework last week,” I abruptly said, changing the topic. “Did you do it?”
“Oh yeah,” Melissa exclaimed, suddenly grinning excitedly. She ran to her backpack, which she’d left by the door, and pulled out some papers which she rushed over and handed to me. “I followed him around, just like you said.”
“Did he see you?” I asked.
Melissa shook her head emphatically. “No way. I can turn invisible, so he couldn’t see me, but I could see him…” The she gave me a curious look. “But why’d you want me to follow another student?”
I just grinned at that. “Because he’s up to something, and knowing what his specialty is, I thought I should find out a little more.” I looked at the pages that Melissa had given me and nodded in approval. There were a few pictures she’d taken, along with hand-written notes, and even a small map with an X drawn on it. “And this was good practice for you. Good job.”
“Thanks,” Melissa responded with a broad grin. “It was fun following him around and seeing what he was up to, but kinda hard, because I can’t stay invisible for very long…”
“So, you’ll need to practice not being seen, even when you aren’t invisible,” I told her with a grin of my own. “You can’t always count on your powers working, especially when there are so many ways around them.”
“I know,” Melissa said with a disappointed sigh, almost seeming to deflate a little as she did. Then she suddenly brightened up again. “But he didn’t see me, and that’s the important thing…”
I chuckled at that. “Yes it is.”
Melissa grinned proudly, then her expression shifted again. “I think someone has been following me around yesterday…”
“Oh?” I asked, giving her a curious look.
“Yeah,” Melissa said, nodding her head vigorously. “I did what you said to do, if I thought someone was following me and I wasn’t sure. I went around a corner, and turned invisible, and waited…” Then, in an almost conspiratorial voice, Melissa added, “And I saw her following me… Then, yesterday after dinner, I caught her doing it again…”
“Who?” I asked curiously.
“Geist,” Melissa answered, looking around as if she expected the girl to suddenly appear in my classroom. “She’s a girl from a couple of my classes, but we aren’t friends or anything. Her powers are sorta like mine, but I don’t like her, cuz she’s a total tattletale.”
I smirked at that. “And let me guess. She tattled on you.”
Melissa nodded agreement, looking annoyed. “She told Miss Devlin that I put a whoopee cushion on her chair, before she even got to sit on it. She ruined my whole joke…”
“That’s horrible,” I gasped sympathetically. That sounded like a complete waste of a good gag. Sure, whoopee cushions were old school slapstick, but they’re a classic for a reason.
“She probably wants to get me in trouble again,” Melissa grumbled, almost pouting as she added, “And I don’t want more detention…even if some of those Thornies are pretty funny. One of them, named Achoo, tried throwing a snot blast at me, but I turned intangible, so it went through me and hit Aegis instead. That was totally funny…” She burst into giggles at that.
I chuckled at Melissa’s excitement, as well as her story. I just might have to ask Fubar about what happened, since he lives in Hawthorne and would have the inside scoop.
After a few seconds, I asked, “Does Geist know that you know that she was following you?” Melissa shook her head. I just grinned at that. “Then, here’s what you do…”
For the next couple minutes, I gave Melissa some good advice, which came from my many years of experience. She giggled almost the entire time, which had me smirking and swishing my tail back and forth excitedly. Though I would have liked to get involved a little more directly, Geist had picked this fight with Melissa, so Melissa would be the one to deal with her.
“This is gonna be awesome,” Melissa exclaimed with another giggle. “I can’t wait to tell Monkeywrench.”
“Then, why don’t you tell him now?” I asked, holding out Melissa’s cell phone.
Her eyes went wide and she felt her pockets, confirming that it was gone. “How did you do that?”
“Do you want me to show you?” I asked with an evil grin.
Melissa nodded emphatically, nearly bouncing in place. “Yeah…”
I just smirked and pointed at the bell covered dummy. Commercial break was over, so it was time to get back to our regularly scheduled lessons.
Sunday afternoon, Sept 30th, 2007
I was in the tunnel system that ran beneath Whateley Academy, crouched down in a tunnel junction, where I was hidden by my chameleon field. I’d been in that position for nearly an hour, waiting for my target to appear. Waiting was never easy, but I’d had a lot of practice at it, and had become pretty damn good.
This morning, Melissa had given me some information about another student that I’d asked her to follow. That information wasn’t anything new, since I’d already done my own snooping, but she’d needed the practice and experience. But now, after she’d confirmed everything for me, it was time to act on that information.
I didn’t have to wait much longer before my target appeared, coming out of a secret doorway that had been hidden across the hall. He was a lanky boy, with a mop of unruly sandy-brown hair.
With a grin, I waited until my target wasn’t actually looking at me, then I dropped my disguise and stood up. “Bobby Earl Fields,” I said, making him jump in surprise. “Or would you prefer Shine?”
“Either is fine,” Shine responded, giving me a wary look.
“Let me guess,” I mused, gesturing to the door he’d just come out of. “That is where you have your still set up…” Then, I quickly added, “And don’t bother to deny it, because I already know.”
“How much trouble am I in?” Shine asked in an easygoing tone, though there was a gleam of defiance in his eyes.
I just chuckled. “None, as far as I’m concerned. I just heard about your product and thought that I should check it out.”
That statement was enough to make Shine grin. “What kinda product are you lookin for?”
“I’ll tell you what,” I responded with a grin and a swish of my tail, thinking about how lucky I was to have learned about a devisor, who specializes in booze. If Shine could make booze as good as I’d heard, then he’d be a good contact to have. “Give me a bottle of your strongest hooch, and one of your best…assuming they aren’t the same.”
Sunday afternoon, Sept 30th, 2007
“This is the door,” Geist announced. “This is where Mischief went this morning.”
Ace looked back and forth down the tunnels, then at the door in front of him. For as long as he’d been at Whateley, this door had been locked and sealed shut. But now, the lock that campus security had placed on it, was gone.
“We knew that the Imp was building a secret lair in the tunnels,” A-Plus announced. “I think we may have found it.”
Ace smiled faintly at that, then turned to Geist. “Did Mischief see you following her?”
“No way,” Geist responded with a shake of her head. “I was using my powers, so there’s no way she could have seen me…”
“Good,” Ace said, carefully trying to open the door. He wasn’t surprised to find it locked. The external lock and seal that security had placed there might be gone, but the door still had its own lock. “Geist, can you walk through the door?”
Geist hesitated for a moment before admitting, “My powers don’t work that way…” Then she quickly added, “I can send my image in if you want, but I don’t think it would do any good…”
“Of course not,” Ace responded with a sigh.
He pulled out a lock pick set, which had previously belonged to a famous magician and escape artist, then went to work on the lock. Because of his powers, he could ‘borrow’ some of the skills of the previous user, and he immediately put those skills to work on the lock. It didn’t take long before it clicked open.
“Geist, keep watch out here,” Ace instructed.
“I won’t let you down,” Geist exclaimed excitedly.
Suddenly, Geist vanished, only to reappear fifteen feet further down the hallway. But in spite of that, Ace knew that she hadn’t teleported. In fact, she was probably right where he’d last seen her. Geist’s powers, or at least one aspect of them, was to displace her image. She could bend light around herself and project her image to another location instead. As a result, the real Geist was invisible, while an illusion of her remained nearby as a decoy.
Ace carefully stepped through the door, making sure that it was clear before A-Plus, Kew, and Interface came in behind him. He paused for a moment to look around, immediately spotting Imp’s logo on the wall.
“This is it,” Ace announced. “We found her hideout.”
“Look at all those handcuffs,” A-Plus blurted out, pointing to where a dozen pairs were hanging from a rack. “Is she planning on taking prisoners?”
“Hostages,” Ace stated with a growl.
“Or maybe her plans are a little kinkier,” Interface suggested with a chuckle, earning a glare from both Ace and A-Plus, while Kew blushed and looked away.
“This isn’t very impressive for a supervillain lair,” Kew said as she looked around.
“This is probably just a temporary headquarters, for while she’s pulling this job,” Ace said thoughtfully. “She probably doesn’t intend to keep it much longer.”
A-Plus nodded agreement. “Then we need to find out what she’s up to, before it’s too late.”
“Agreed,” Ace said, gesturing around the room. “Okay everyone, search for clues. I’ll take the desk.”
Ace quickly found a rubber chicken, a carton of plastic Easter eggs, all of which were painted green, and a large container of grease. He even found several Dr. Seuss children’s books. However, he found no clues about what the Imp was planning.
But then, Kew called out, “Over here. I found a safe.”
Kew was in the far corner of the room, where she’d moved a stack of boxes and revealed the safe that had been hidden behind them. It was a large and sturdy looking safe, which rested on the floor and stood about five feet tall.
“Jackpot,” Interface announced.
“And I saw some safe cracking tools over there,” A-Plus pointed out, before adding, “What kind of an idiot keeps safe cracking tools, in the same room as their safe?”
“Mister Williams said that the Imp was insane,” Ace pointed out. “And I’ve heard she’s a total ditz in class.”
Kew held out a devise that looked like her cell phone and said, “I bet my safe cracking devise is faster…”
It only took a couple minutes to open the safe and reveal the contents, though there didn’t seem to be a lot there. There was a small stack of folders, and what appeared to be a bag of candy.
“Who puts candy in a safe?” Kew asked as she pulled out the bag and gave it a closer look.
“No one,” A-Plus said with a triumphant smile. “There must be drugs or poison in there…”
“Take it as evidence,” Ace said, pulling out the folders. “We’ll get it tested.” Then he paused, looking at the contents of the first folder, his eyes going wide. “It’s pictures. Of us.” He held out the pictures, which seemed to be of all the members of their club, including their latest recruit. “Imp has been following us and taking pictures…”
“Why?” Kew asked in surprise.
A-Plus scowled. “She knows we’re onto her…”
“She has dossiers on us,” Ace said, his expression turning into a deep scowl as he flipped through all the folders. “She has folders on all of us…”
“But how’d she know we were investigating her?” A-Plus asked.
Ace froze, staring at the last folder with his mouth dropping open. “I…I know how.”
“How?” Kew asked expectantly.
For several long seconds, Ace just sat there, silently staring at the pages inside the folder. Then, he took a deep breath and explained, “These are letters between Imp and someone she calls Morocco, where she promises to give them twenty thousand dollars, in exchange for them informing on our activities…”
“WHAT?” A-Plus exclaimed in stunned disbelief.
“We have a mole,” Ace stated in a grim tone. “One of us is working for the Imp.”