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INCIDENT ON THE ROAD
“Scene of the Accident”
PATROLMAN SVEN SVENSON – Canoe Cop
Get into the car, Gustav! I’ll explain along the way.
And hang on!
“Whoa! No need to floor it, Sven! What’s important enough right now to risk a car wreck?”
Car wreck… Ha! Funny you said that, Gustav, ol’ chum, ’cause that’s exactly what it’s about—or how it started, anyway.
So I was driving home, eh…
“At this hour of the evening? That’s very unlike you, Sven. While I’m something of a night owl, usually you’re up with the birds at the crack of dawn. Unless…”
Okay, you caught me, buddy. I took Rachel Evans, that little bartender from the Vista Gardens, out dancing.
“Dancing? Why Sven, you sly dog!”
You can rib me about that later, pal—okay?—but right now, I gotta tell you what I gotta tell you before we get to Canoe Cop HQ.
“Is that where we’re bound?”
Absolutely. And when you hear what I have to say, you’ll understand why.
“Do tell, then!”
So, I’m taking Rachel home after dancing, right? And I drop her off at Banning’s Boarding House all safe and sound, ya know?
“Banning’s… Is that where that ruffian Burl Shaw was killed a few days back?”
Ya. Two days ago, and the place is still a wreck. I mean, they boarded over the big hole that got knocked in the wall, but there’s still the police tape up and all that kind of stuff.
Anyway, I get Rachel there and drop her off, all safe and sound, and then meander my way back toward my own domicile. The moonlight’s beautiful tonight, so I decided to take the long route.
Nice night for a drive, I think. And maybe, I’ll admit, I do need a little wind-down time after being out with Rachel. A dish like that you don’t just set aside and go right to sleep, if you know what I mean, Gustav.
But, as I’m driving down this lonely wooded road on the northeast side of town, suddenly, I spot something:
A car wreck!
And I mean, not just any old vehicle run off the road or something. This car is flipped clean over onto its top, and it’s crunched up something fierce—though there’s no drop-offs or any kind of thing like that there—or pretty much anywhere in Phantom Lake, for that matter—that could flip a car.
Weirder still, there’s all these stray cats prowling around the automobile—I mean, like, everywhere! It’s as if they’ve got the thing surrounded. A few are even pacing on top of the car—and by that, I mean the bottom, ’cause it’s upside-down, remember?
And there’s steam coming from the Chevy’s underside, which is now the roof, and it looks like this accident—whatever it was—musta just happened just a few minutes ago. Plus—did I mention this?—the vehicle in question is a police car: PLPD’s finest.
Yeah. That’s what I thought, too. So naturally I stopped to render assistance.
First off, I chase the cats away, just so I can get to the car. And that takes some doing, let me tell you. Guess those cats must have been hungry, or something.
Eventually, I approach the vehicle, and as I do, the passenger side door creaks open, and who should tumble out but our very own Richard Agar.
In the flesh. He’s got a big scrape on his forehead, but it’s not bleeding too badly, and he looks pretty dazed.
“Nikki…” he mumbles blearily. “Nikki was driving. We gotta get her out.”
“Right, Lieutenant!” I say, and hop to it.
It only takes him and me a few moments to wrestle open the crunched-up driver’s-side door of the Chevy.
Sure enough, there she is: Acting Chief Nikki Sheridan, lying on the roof—which you’ll remember is now the floor—of the car. She looks a lot more beat up than Rich does, and she’s out cold.
“She took off her seatbelt just before the car flipped,” Rich says. “I guess mine saved me.”
“Why would she take off her seatbelt if you two were gonna be in a car crash?” I ask.
“We didn’t crash,” Rich tells me. “A mummy rolled the squad over like a barrel.”
“Pardon, Sven, but… A what?”
That’s what I said, too, Gustav, but Lieutenant Agar merely replies:
“I don’t have time to explain right now. We have to get Nikki to the hospital and then find that thing. It kidnapped Julie!”
“Right!” I respond, and we load Nikki into the back of my Dodge, as gently as we can.
Rich and I climb in, and I hit the gas.
“So, what’s this about Julie Browning being abducted?” I ask as we head for the hospital.
“She got kidnapped by some sort of mummy,” Rich elaborates. “Yeah, that’s what happened, as nutty as it sounds. And no, I didn’t get hit on the head that bad, and no, I haven’t been drinking. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.”
“Sure thing, Lieutenant,” I reply. Though part of me is thinking that maybe Dr. McDonough should check him out, too, when we get to Saint Mary’s.
“If only we could figure out where that thing is taking her…” he muses.
“The mummy?” I ask, just to be sure.
“Yeah. That’s what it looked like.”
“Like in that floating exhibit that’s opening to the public tomorrow, down at the docks?” ’Cause, you know, Gustav, to me, this is still seeming like some kind of delusion our temporary-commander-in-chief might be having.
Rich snaps his fingers. “Sven, that’s it! You’re a genius!”
“I am? I mean… I am!” I pause a moment to enjoy the compliment. Then I ask: “How am I a genius?”
“Where else would the mummy take her but to that exhibit?” Rich says. “It has to be tied in, somehow!”
“There’s only one way to find out,” he says. “The docks are almost on the way to the hospital. You can drop me off and then take Nikki there.”
“If you’re sure, Lieutenant.”
“I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”
So, when we get near the docks, I pull over and Rich jumps out.
“Do you have a paddle?” he asks.
“Sure. In back. I always carry one with me.”
“Give it to me.”
“But, Lieutenant, you don’t have a canoe,” I point out.
“I’ll improvise,” he says. “Right now, you need to get Nikki to the hospital as fast as you can. Then round up every Canoe Cop available, and meet me at the Lady Newbury!”
“Everybody,” he insists. “That’s an order!”
“Yessir, Lieutenant,” I say, saluting
And with that, he’s off at a run for the docks where the Lady Newbury lies tied up.
So, I take Nikki to the hospital, give you a call while I’m there, and grab you on the way to HQ.
And, here we are.
“That’s amazing, Sven. I don’t know whether to believe this outlandish tale or not. Though strange things certainly have been happening around here lately…”
I don’t know, either, Gustav, ol’ buddy, but I do know that the Lieutenant gave me an order, and I intend to follow it to the best of my ability.
“As you should, old friend. Ah, here we are, now! Let’s hope a few of our fellow officers are still awake enough for enlistment in this bizarre errand.”
Lars! Uli! Glad you’re here! I’ve never been so happy to see you guys!
“Look at what the cat dragged in, Uli!”
“Ya, Lars: Sven and Gustav… more cat vomit! Ha ha ha.”
We’ve gotta get out to the docks, you guys. There’s an emergency! I need every last Canoe Cop! We’ve got a job to do!
“We’re doin’ our jobs, ain’t we, Lars? We’re relaxin’ and mannin’ the phones, in case of a real emergency.”
“Ya, emergency. To Norwegians like these two, everything is an emergency, isn’t it Uli? Why don’t you nervous nellies go home and sleep it off!”
Well, if you two won’t listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to Sergeant Gustavson. Gustav, ol’ pal, I think it may be time to pull rank. Take it away…!
“This is no time for your nationalistic claptrap, you Danish dunderheads! There’s a living mummy on the loose in Phantom Lake, and we have to help Lieutenant Agar before things get completely out of hand! Now, hop to it!”
NEXT: Chaos on the Water
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