By Dougster

            Shaggy was engaged in the struggle of his life as the Mystery Machine cruised down the California highway.  It took all his concentration.  All his focus.  It was a sight to see, and Velma, Daphne, and especially Scooby watched him closely; Fred, who was driving, had to keep his eyes on the road. 

            "Zoinks!"  He batted the bottom of the empty box of Scooby Snacks he was holding upside-down.  "The last one won't come out!"

            He had tried everything: shaking, tapping, slapping it, trying to wriggle his skinny hand down in there -- nothing.  The biscuit-treasure, stuck to the bottom, still defied him.

            The dashboard telephone rang.  Fred hit the speaker phone switch.  "Mystery, Inc.  No case too baffling, no villain too frightening!  Fred speaking, how may I help you?"

            "Fred!"  The voice rang from the dashboard speaker, over Shaggy's continued batting on the box.  "It's Mr. Blake."

            "Hi Daddy!" called Daphne with a smile.

            "Hi honey!  Listen everyone, I just got a call from Terry Goggins.  Daphne, you know him -- "

            "Yes.  He still sends me Christmas cards."

            Shaggy pounded the bottom of the box, holding his hand under the open top.  "Like, is that thing stuck in the cardboard?"

            Velma shushed him.  "Shaggy, listen.  This could be important."

            Mr. Blake went on: "I'm afraid it is, gang.  For those of you not familiar with Terry, he helped me build my business, then started his own.  Well, something's happened that's got him beside himself -- it's all I can do to keep him calm.  He's on the other line, shall I patch him through?"

            Sounds like another job coming up, thought Velma, as Shaggy tried another tap on the box.

            "Sure," said Fred.

            "Okay, here goes..."

            There was a moment of silence.  Then a new voice blasted over the speakers: "Mystery Inc!  Are you there?  Hello, hello?"

            "Yes, Mr. Goggins, this is Fred.  Everyone's listening.  What seems to be the -- "

            "We need you desperately!  I have three hundred employees and an empty building.  Not one of them will go back in!"

            Everyone looked at each other.  "Why?" Velma finally asked.

            "One word: 'Cronheim.'  Cecil Cronheim.  He said he would come back to haunt us, and now it's happened!"

            Fred furrowed his brow.  "Cecil..."  He glanced at Daphne, who shrugged her shoulders. 

            "Can you get here right away?  Here are the directions..."

            Shaggy gave the box one last whack.  The holdout Scooby Snack finally dislodged and tumbled out, but Scooby snapped it in midair before it hit Shaggy's hand.

            "Scoob!" he cried.

            "Rorry, Raggy...heeheeheeheeheehee!"  The others stifled their laughter.

            Mr. Goggins was still talking.  "First, get off at the Sunshine Boulevard exit..."

            Mystery Inc. rides again, thought Velma with a grin.


            They found Mr. Goggins in a parking lot behind the building with a crowd of employees, moving from person to person, touching their shoulders, talking to them.  When the Mystery Machine pulled up, he ran toward it, and the employees followed.

            "It's Cecil's ghost!  Everyone keeps saying so!"  Mr. Goggins, six-foot-five with graying hair, wrung his hands.  "Fourteen employees have quit and gone home.  Cecil said he'd have his revenge!  Oh, heavens -- "

            Velma looked across the parking lot at the glass two-story building, a big shoebox made of mirrors.  "Mr. Goggins?"  She tapped time-out.  "Could you tell us what happened?"

            "Yes, of course."  The man mopped his glistening brow with a handkerchief.  "First, a little history's in order.  Daphne's father mentioned that I started my own company.  Cecil Cronheim and I founded Cutting Edge Unlimited ten years ago.  Cecil was the engineer, I was the manager.  We built it up from just the two of us to three hundred of the best employees a company could have.  We landed major contracts, rode the boom of the late nineties. 

            "But something kept bothering me about Cecil.  I didn't know him too well before we started our company, I only knew of his reputation for genius.  He never married, had no relatives; his career was his family.  For a few years everything went fine, and I started to think my fears were unfounded.  But then one morning he marched into my office, shut the door, and announced he wanted to sell a new invention to oppressive enemy governments.  Imagine my shock!  He said he'd been in contact with them, and they would pay him a great deal of money -- millions and millions.  I tried to reason with him, but he wouldn't budge.  Finally I threatened to call the authorities.  That was the end of it -- or so I thought. 

            "First Cecil accused me of trying to 'keep him poor,' even though he made a handsome living already.  That was just the beginning.  He got edgy, eyes darting around, thinking I'd turned everyone against him.  I kept reassuring him, but he wouldn't listen.  People started hearing him use words like 'revenge,' 'haunt' and 'payback.'  Finally he lunged at me with a letter opener, and we had to have him committed.  That's when he pronounced the curse."

            Scooby pricked up his ears.  "Rurse?"

            Mr. Goggins nodded.  "I remember it word for word.  'So you think you've gotten rid of me?  Ha!  Think again.  Your company is cursed, Goggins.  I'll come charging out of your nightmares!  You'll be sorry!'"  Mr. Goggins shook his head.  "That poor man.  I saw him in the hospital just days before he died of heart failure.  He'd always had a weak heart, you know.  He just smirked at me beneath his graying eyebrows, and all he would say was 'Remember the curse' and 'I'm coming back.' 

            "And now -- !"  His voice rose to nearly a shriek; Shaggy cringed.  "Everyone here is convinced he's done just that."  He leveled a shaking finger at the building across the parking lot.  "Cutting Edge Unlimited is haunted!"

            Shaggy grinned.  "Like, 'haunted' is just business as usual for us, right, Scoob?"  Scooby nodded.

            "Oh, how good it is to hear that!"  Mr. Goggins managed the closest he'd come to a smile since the gang arrived.  He wrung his hands; Velma wondered if he'd have a stroke.  "If you heard what my employees saw in there just an hour ago!  One man said he saw a swarm of something like hand-sized spiders -- "

            Shaggy's eyes got a little wider; so did Scooby's.

            " -- a woman said she saw a giant snake coming up the basement stairs, with a mouth big enough to swallow her -- "

            "Rallow?" Scooby gulped.

            " -- and I myself saw something like a figure made of lightning, though I didn't get a clear glimpse of it before I ran -- huh?"  He stopped.

            "Scooby!" everyone cried.

            For the pooch had passed out, and now lay paws-up on the pavement.


            After reviving him with a couple of Scooby Snacks, the gang interviewed employees, and Velma spoke with Mr. Goggins.

            "One minute it was just business as usual; the next, all pandemonium broke loose and everyone flew into a panic.  Then the power failed and we were thrashing in the dark.  Thank heavens everyone made it out okay.  Here's a floor plan of the building, and a pamphlet with an overview of our company.  I hope these help."

            "Thank you."

            The gang regrouped and headed across the parking lot.  Velma studied the pamphlet.  "Cutting Edge Unlimited.  Specializing in new innovations.  Instrumental in developing or improving digital communications, propulsion systems and data processing.  I'd like to work for a place like this."

            "Looks like you're the only one right now."  Fred glanced back at the crowd that was staring after them.  The gang rounded the corner of the building and headed for the glass front doors. 

            "Like, how many ghosts are there?"  Shaggy looked the quiet building up and down.  "Giant mouths, spider-things, lightning -- did this Cronheim guy bring a whole troop back with him?"

            According to the employees, the ghosts had spoken, all in Cronheim's unmistakable rant, all claiming to be the man himself, free of the grave and out for blood.

            "Shaggy," Fred said.  "How did all the rest of our cases turn out?  There's never really a ghost." 

            Shaggy did not look at all reassured.

            Velma studied the map.  "This two-story building was built in 1992 and leased by Cutting Edge Unlimited in 1999.  Regularly inspected by the fire department, well-kept.  No past record of anything strange, according to Mr. Goggins."

            "That's a relief," said Daphne, clinging close to Fred.

            They reached the front doors.  They were locked and chained shut, and phrases like WARNING!  DANGER!  KEEP OUT, LIFE OR DEATH! and ABANDON HOPE, ANY WHO ENTER HERE! had been marked on the glass by some of the braver employees.  Fred jingled a ring of keys given to him by Mr. Goggins. 

            Shaggy gulped.  "Like, maybe we should just do what the signs say?"

            Fred unlocked the chains; they fell clanking to the ground.  After putting them aside, he tried the door lock.  "Strange.  The key turns, but the doors still won't open.  They're stuck."  He pulled on the handles; no luck.

            Velma consulted her floor plan.  "According to this, there's a central ventilation shaft accessible from the roof.  Someone could crawl down it and try to open the door from the inside..."

            Her eyes, Fred's eyes, Daphne's eyes turned to...

            "Re?"  Scooby shrank back against Shaggy's legs. 

            Daphne held up a familiar brown chip.  "Scooby?"

            She waited till the dog's eyes lit up, then threw the Scooby Snack up to the roof.


            In a flash he scrambled up the building and out of sight.



            Once Scooby attacked and swallowed the treat, he found the flimsy ventilation grille no problem -- he clamped his jaws to it, tore it off, and crawled inside.  It led down at about a fifty-degree angle.  He scuffled down inch by inch, sniffing as he went.  Suddenly he froze -- a faint noise came from somewhere in the building, like a rush of wind.  Then it stopped.  He held his breath; still nothing.  He scrambled onward until he found an open vent, tumbled out, and found himself in a dark hallway, lit only by emergency lamps mounted here and there by the ceiling.  He looked this way and that -- no ghosts.  To his right, the hallway led off into darkness; to his left it opened into a spacious lobby, and he could see a wide U-shaped receptionist's desk with a computer terminal still on, and an empty chair.  The sun shone in through the glass doors and windows beyond.  He gave a happy yelp and skittered down the hallway, rounded the receptionist desk -- and skidded to a stop.

            "Ro no!"

            The doors stood wide open, and there was no sign of the others!



            The ghost! Scooby thought.  It had attacked, and the gang did what any sensible crime-fighting heroes would do: they ran!  Scooby started to do the same when he saw an unmistakable pair of black-rimmed glasses lying some distance from the doorway.


            And then a voice drifted over to him, as if in reply:

            "My glasses...where are my glasses?"

            She was in the grass by the side of the building, on hands and knees, picking around the flowers.  "My glasses."

            Scooby picked them up in his mouth and hurried over to her. 

            "Thanks, Scooby!  Jinkies, it happened so fast!"

            "Rhat, rhat?"

            "One moment we were standing by the door; the next moment this hurricane-wind blew the doors open and knocked my glasses off.  Then it reversed itself and sucked everyone inside.  I could feel it tugging at me, as if a window had broken in a high-flying airliner.  I managed to scramble clear of it.  But the others..."

            She and Scooby looked through the yawning doorway into the dark, and now completely silent, building.




            Fred tumbled end-over-end down the hall.  The wind pulled him along and roared in his ears.

            He had glimpsed something round through the glass door, creeping into the lobby, the moment before the gale hit.  Now the great vacuum-cleaner hose thing was slithering in reverse down a corridor, sucking him after it.

            Fred twisted around and looked ahead.  The wide mouth, perfectly round and perhaps four feet in diameter, was disappearing through an open door; apparently it wanted him to disappear in there after it.  He whisked through and bumped down a stairway.  There was a handrail bolted to the wall, and he managed to grab it before hitting bottom. 

            "Well as Shaggy would say, 'Zoinks!'  What are we up against now?"

            He looked behind him but saw only darkness, though the wind still roared and tugged at him. 

            Then he heard another sound over the gale.  He had heard it many times before, in haunted houses, spooky castles and museums.  "Ha, ha, ha...HA HA HA!"

            That's a big mouth all right!

            The gale pulled at him, trying to pry his hands from the rail.  Groping end over end, he dragged himself up the stairs.  The door at the top stood open.

            If I can just get around that door, I could slam it and shut in that wind....

            But his hands were weakening.  He started to shake from the effort.  He clenched his teeth, willed himself to hold on.

            "HA HA HA!  To the basement with you, youngster!  I guarantee one thing: you'll never come out again!  Ha!"

            Fred clenched his teeth.  Just a little more...




            Shaggy and Daphne had tumbled off in another direction, down another hallway and past a big room whose door stood wide open -- and then Shaggy grabbed the edge of the doorway and held on, for no force existed that could carry him past this kind of place without stopping.

            "Like, it's the cafeteria!"

            Daphne caught the doorjamb too, and the two flew in place like human pennants.

            "Shaggy, what'll we do?  Wait a minute...maybe I can..."  Kicking and squirming, she tried to work her way into the cafeteria.


            Shaggy, already inside and out of the current, pulled her through and slammed the door.  "Whew."  He shook his head.  "Like, I've heard of the Windy City, but never a windy building!"

            Daphne squinted to see in the dim room.  Her hair, mangled by the gale, stuck out in all directions.  "Most of the tables are still set.  Everyone must have gotten up and ran in the middle of lunch."

            "That must have been one scary ghost, to make them do that!"  Then: "Daph?  Do you hear something?"

            "I think that's your knees knocking, Shaggy."

            "No, besides that!"

            They listened.

            Daphne shrieked and pointed.  "Look!"

            Something was stirring on the other side of the cafeteria -- many things.  Where they came from could not be discerned in the near-darkness.  The movement increased, and a sound rose up like a dozen, a hundred, a thousand fingernails clicking the floor, growing louder and coming closer.

            "Zoinks!"  Shaggy hid behind Daphne.  "I never thought this could happen!  Food everywhere, and I don't even have an appetite!"

            The two inched backward.  In the darkness, the floor itself seemed to ripple and stir with hand-like things, scuttling on five fingers.  Shaggy sprang to the door and opened it.  The storm still howled in the corridor, and it almost snatched him away before he banged the door shut again. 

            "Up on a table!" Daphne shouted. 

            They clattered up.  Five-fingered things swarmed around their table, skittering like fast crabs.  The creatures climbed up on the chairs; Shaggy and Daphne kicked the chairs away.  Then a new sound made itself known: "HA HA HA HA!"

            "Like, at least this ghost has a sense of humor," Shaggy moaned.

            The voice was just getting started.  "So you escaped the wind, youngsters?  Well.  Let's see how you like my pets!"  Giggles.

            Then the two saw that they had missed a chair -- five-fingered things had crawled up and were spilling onto the table.  Daphne, who still had her purse, swung and batted it at the swarming creatures.  Shaggy stomped on one, then another.  Soon the table was littered with smashed things.

            "Daph, look!  They're mechanical!"  He snatched one up; tiny wires and a microchip showed in its wreckage, as well as piranha-toothed razor jaws where a hand normally joins to the wrist.  Then it twitched, and Shaggy dropped it as if it had turned red-hot.

            "Whatever they are, they're gonna get us if we don't do something!"  Daphne whipped her purse at another one, swiped it off the table.  Then she saw something across the room and pointed to it.  "Look!"

            Shaggy looked.  a CO2 fire extinguisher mounted on the wall, not far from the door.

            The two jumped from table to table, crossing the room, until Shaggy could grab the extinguisher and pull the pin, spraying white fog at the skittering things.

            "They're slowing down!" Daphne cried.

            The laughter kept blaring: "HA HA HA -- "

            Another extinguisher hung not far away.  Daphne sprang to the floor and dashed to it, plowing through creatures and batting them with her purse.  Soon a second white spray joined the first, and the hissing filled the cafeteria.

            "Daph, it's working!"

            The creatures finally stopped coming.  The smashed remains of their casualties littered the floor, and the ones nearest the sleuths lay immobilized, dusted with white frost.

            The ghost vanished; its laughter died away.

            "Thought that would never stop."  Daphne squinted at her extinguisher's pressure gauge.  "Empty."

            Shaggy had clunked his extinguisher to the floor.  "Like, Scoob's in here somewhere!  We gotta find him!"  He ran to a ventilator grille, wrenched it off, and climbed into the air duct.

            "Wait."  Daphne picked up one of the smashed things and dropped it into her purse.  Then she scrambled in after Shaggy.




            "Scooby!"  Velma tried and failed to hide her exasperation.  "Come on!  Our friends are in there!"

            Scooby had not moved since finding Velma by the door.  Now she stood in the doorway, trying everything to coax him inside short of Scooby Snacks, which unfortunately she lacked.  "Ro, ro!"  He shook his head, although actually his entire body was shaking.

            "Fine, then.  Stay here."  She took a step through the door.  "But when the rest of us catch the ghost, and unmask the culprit, and he goes on about how he would've gotten away with it if it hadn't been for us -- Fred, Shaggy, Daphne and me, that is -- I'll just bet that Mr. Goggins will throw a feast for us.  All we can eat!  Yes, M&M's salad, horseradish casserole, hamburgers piled to the ceiling, and enough Scooby Snacks to stock a supermarket...but if you want to miss it, that's up to you..."

            "Scooby-dooby-doooo!"  Instantly he was at Velma's side.

            She patted his head, beaming.  "I knew I could count on you, Scooby!  Now..." she stroked her chin.  "Which way?"

            The lobby branched into two hallways, and a spiral staircase led up to the second floor. 

            "Raircase!"  Scooby scrambled up the stairs, and Velma followed, looking around as she went.

            She froze at the top of the stairs.  Something was moving in the gloom ahead.  Scooby saw it, too; she knew this when he gave a yell and leaped into her arms, nearly knocking her over.  "Scooby!" she hissed.

            The figure ran toward them.  Velma recognized it.  The hair was all mussed and the ascot was gone, but...

            "Velma!  Scooby!" 

            "Fred!"  She sighed with relief, and Scooby dropped to the floor.

            "That thing tried to drag me into the basement, but I just barely got away -- "

            Something crashed out of an air vent by Velma.  Before she had time to yell, two bodies crashed into her and they all clattered to the floor, knocking her specs loose again.  Through her spinning head she heard a voice: "Like, are we glad to see you!"

            "Raggy!" Scooby barked.

            "Daphne!" Fred said.  "I'm -- here are your glasses, Velma -- I'm glad you're okay!"

            "We found a clue!  Look at this."  Daphne held out the smashed five-fingered thing.  Velma took it, examined it, found its tiny silicon chip.  The others gathered around to see.  After squinting in the gloom, holding it up at different angles, she said: "If my information from Mr. Goggins is correct, this chip is the invention Cronheim wanted to sell to the highest bidding dictator."

            "Ris rip?" Scooby sniffed at it.

            Velma nodded.  "It's a super-thinker.  Makes the latest artificial-intelligence breakthroughs look like dinosaurs.  You can program your whole mind, character and thought processes into one of these, and it instantly analyzes information and plans the best way to attack -- "

            "THAT'S RIGHT!"

            The voice boomed like a thunderclap.  It shook paint from the walls and jarred plaster loose from the ceiling to rain around everyone.  Then a twenty-one inch square of light flashed onto a wall, dazzling Velma's eyes; then another, and another, until a checkerboard of brilliant squares arrayed the walls and ceiling.

            Daphne squinted at them.  "Television screens!"

            All blank, save for the one directly in front of them.  This showed a man with neatly combed salt-and-pepper hair, wearing a white shirt and a red string tie.  Yet his eyes blazed in his thin face, and his voice blared as if a great fury was pent up in that business-executive's body, straining to burst loose. 

            "The famous Mystery, Inc!  I thought Goggins might enlist your help against me.  It'll do him no good.  Though he schemed to do away with me, yet here I am!  Though he might have silenced my voice, yet I speak -- so loudly it's impossible to ignore!  Ha ha!"

            Shaggy covered his ears.  "That laugh again," he groaned.

            "Yes, Mr. Rogers.  I can hear you even when you whisper -- or groan!  So that's the sum total of your opinion of my accomplishments?"

            The gang drew closer together.  "Where could he be hiding?" Fred whispered.  "I thought he died.  Velma.  The map -- "  But she wasn't looking at it; instead she stood still with specks of plaster in her hair, thinking.

            The screen went blank, and the mad face flashed onto a screen on the opposite wall.  The gang whirled to face it.  "Ha!"  Cronheim looked smug now, which was a slight improvement over before.  "Miss Dinkley?  I'll bet you've figured it out!"

            Everyone looked at Velma who stood chewing her lip, holding the smashed five-fingered thing in her hand.  "It must be true," she murmured.

            "Rhat's rat?"  Scooby was shivering again, looking around at all the screens.  Cronheim vanished again and reappeared on a ceiling screen.

            "Cecil Cronheim...the real Cecil Cronheim...did die in the hospital.  This is all his creation.  He installed and programmed it before he was committed, so that when he was gone, his brainchild would wreak havoc for him, now that he's no longer around to be punished for it."

            "Bravo, my dear!  Bravo!"  The cackling apparition on the ceiling applauded.  "My heart was failing; I knew I didn't have much longer to live.  I told no one.  At first it tormented me to no end, thinking of how Goggins would rejoice after I was gone!  But then I got the idea.  And what an idea!  I thought about it, planned it out; yes, I could do it.  I rigged everything up, set it to activate in one year -- "

            "And then you attacked Mr. Goggins with the letter opener," Velma finished.

            "It's not polite to interrupt!"  He glared at her.

            Fred said, "So everything we ran into..."

            "Yes!" Cronheim thundered, popping onto another wall screen to their right.  "Do you understand now what you've walked into, thinking this was just one more costumed charlatan you could catch and unmask?  No!  I came here in secret every night -- the alarm system was easy enough to disable, since I'd installed it myself -- and little by little, rewired and programmed this building into a killer extension of myself.  The basement turbines are my mouth!  The five-fingered things, my hands!  The screens and microphones, my eyes and ears!  The loudspeaker system, my victory trumpet!  Do you understand now, youngsters?  THIS ENTIRE BUILDING IS THE GHOST!"




            Velma hoped that the hearts of Fred, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby weren't pounding as hard as hers.

            Cronheim was still talking.  "And now, here's what I want you to do.  Call Goggins' cell phone and propose an exchange.  He's the one I want.  Tell him to return to this building.  He has a lot to answer for.  I offered him the payday of a lifetime, and he threatened to turn me in -- how's that for gratitude?  Oh, I would have fixed him and all his precious employees earlier if the power hadn't blown!  I must have underestimated the power drain.  Fortunately I also control the backup supply, but by the time I made the adjustments and had everything back online, they'd all escaped.  Curses!"  Cronheim flashed from screen to screen, gnashing his teeth.  "But I knew justice would provide another way for me to get him.  Your lives for his, youngsters!"

            Shaggy and Scooby were clutching each other, shivering.  "Like, who wants to make the call?" 

            "Shaggy!" Velma and Daphne snapped.

            Fred spoke to Cronheim, who was on the ceiling again.  "You're asking us to betray an old family friend of Daphne's.  We'll have to think about this."

            The scientist's face twisted into a leer.  "You have to think about saving your lives?"

            "One minute?"

            Cronheim mumbled something that Velma took to be an agreement.  Fred motioned everyone into a huddle, like he had done so many times on the football field as Coolsville High's quarterback. 

            "Velms," he whispered, "I hope that blueprint showed where the power breakers are."

            She nodded.  "They're on the first floor, toward the back.  Down this stairway, through the central corridor, on a big wall panel.  It controls the backup supply, too."

            Shaggy was shivering.  "Like, what if that hurricane starts again?"

            "Hurry up!" Cronheim's voice growled from unseen speakers.

            Fred said, "We'll be ready for it this time.  We'll just have to hold tight to the rails going downstairs, and get to it fast."

            The huddle broke.  Fred turned to a screen just below the ceiling, where Cronheim was looking less patient every moment.  "Just another thirty seconds?"


            Fred shrugged.  "Well, all right then...coming, gang?"  They filed down the stairs in single file, clutching the hand rail. 

            "Why are you going downstairs?"  Cronheim squinted.  "You think there are no phones up here?"

            "Keep going," Fred said out of the corner of his mouth, and moved a little faster.


            Everyone bounded down the remaining stairs.  Cronheim shouted and raved, distorting the speakers.  The gang hit the lobby floor together, ready to make the fifty-yard dash of their lives down the corridor, when they heard a great woosh, and Velma felt the wind tugging her clothes and hair.  She grabbed her glasses before they could fly off.

            "Jinkies!"  She dove between the reception desk and the doors, grabbing Fred by the hand, who seized Shaggy by the arm, who fastened onto Daphne's wrist, who grabbed Scooby's tail just as the gale swept him off all four of his feet.  They dragged each other behind the desk where the wind, while tousling their hair, lacked the strength to pull them away.

            "Like, we're just a few feet from the door, and we're trapped!" Shaggy cried.

            Velma's mind raced.  "Wait.  The chairs, the potted trees -- they're all still here.  They're nailed down.  Tear them loose!"  She crawled away from the desk, the wind tearing at her skirt and sweater.  Reaching a chair, she grabbed and tugged at it.

            "Velma!"  Fred hurried after her.  "This is a man's job!"  He seized the chair and worked it loose.  It tumbled off down the left-hand corridor.  "Shaggy, come and help!  The wind's not so strong by the floor!"

            Shaggy gulped.  "Like, it's been nice knowing you all..."  He shook Daphne's hand, then turned to Scooby.  "And you too, old buddy..."

            "Oh for goodness sake!"  Daphne hastened to join Fred and Velma.  Shaggy and Scooby looked at each other, then followed.

            Daphne pried loose a potted palm, Velma uprooted another chair, Freddy kicked free a metal lamp stand, and Shaggy and Scooby tore a big throw rug from the floor and sent it flying down a corridor like a magic carpet twisting in the wind.

            Soon a metallic shrieking sounded from a distance.  The wind died down and stopped.

            Velma smiled and sprang to her feet.  "Turbine propulsion -- one of the company's specialties.  To a speeding jet, even catching a bird in its intake could mean big trouble."

            "Well done, Velms!"  Fred beamed at her so brightly it might have made Daphne jealous.  "Now let's get to that power panel -- "

            Crash!  Lightning struck the lobby floor, once, twice, a dozen times.  Arcs of electricity, blue-white, sizzled and writhed from ceiling to floor, forming a line between the gang and the door, and another line blocking the hallways. 

            "Not so fast, upstarts!"

            Velma looked up toward the ceiling; Cronheim's red face dominated a huge monitor that spanned the ceiling, wreathed in lightning.  "You're beaten!" he screamed.  "You understand that?  Beaten!  I've got you clutched firmly in my hundred-thousand-volt fist.  You see that phone on the reception desk?  It's in perfect working order.  Use it!"  He turned his bulging eyes on Shaggy.  "Mr. Rogers.  You look like you might have some sense."

            Shaggy gulped.  "Well..."

            The others looked at him.  Fred put a hand on his shoulder.  "Would you really do it?"

            "Daddy and Mr. Goggins grew up together," said Daphne.

            "Rat's right, Raggy!"  Scooby wagged his tail.

            Shaggy looked around at them all.  Finally he straightened up and jabbed a finger at the leering face on the ceiling.  "Like, nuts to you, man!"

            The gang cheered!  Velma gave Shaggy a squeeze.  "I always knew you were a hero, Shaggy!"

            Cronheim just sneered; the real Cronheim might have turned purple, but this was a programmed simulation.  "So be it.  If I can't get Goggins, then the famous Mystery Inc. can die in his place!"  He burst out laughing.  "After all, why should I care about murdering anyone?  I'm dead myself, remember?  Look me up in the afterlife, you can congratulate me on my crowning achievement!"

            Suddenly the lobby was swarming with five-fingered things.  In the light from the electrical arcs, Velma could read messages painted in red on their backs: DEATH TO GOGGINS.  TO GOGGINS WITH LOVE.  CRONHEIM LIVES!

            "Everybody up on the desk!" Fred yelled above the crab-skittering of the things and the buzzing of the arcs.  Scooby had sprang up already, and now trembled on top of the computer monitor.  The others clambered up and stood on the desktop, facing in all directions.

            "Well now!" boomed the voice above them.  "Do my electric eyes deceive me, or do I have you right where I want you?  Don't think that standing on higher ground will help you.  Look at my creations, trying to climb up the desk.  Oh, yes, they may be sliding back down now, but they're persistent; they'll keep trying.  See, they're making progress already.  Little by little, they'll reach the top.  I'd say you have about five minutes.

            "What's your plan, fearless leader Fred?  How are you going to trap the ghost when you're inside of it?"

            Velma leaned over the edge of the desk.  The five-fingered things were storming the desk, climbing up, sliding down, climbing up, getting a little higher with each try.

            Cronheim raved on: "Miss Blake.  The one who always manages to get captured.  Well, at least this time you're not alone -- everyone's caught!  Ha!"

            One five-fingered thing managed to reach the desktop; Daphne gave it a kick, and it sailed into an arc to shatter with a clang.

            "Mr. Rogers, the human garbage disposal.  And his faithful pet.  How ironic that you should end up as dinner yourselves, for my electronic flesh-eaters to feast on and fight over!"

            The things were halfway up...

            "And Miss Dinkley.  A mind is such a terrible thing to waste, after all.  You could have used your talents to develop hydro-powered missile defense systems for NASA...or invent perpetual motion...but you threw it away on ghost-chases!  For shame, Miss Dinkley, for shame!"

            Three quarters of the way up.  The things gnashed their metal jaws.

            "Like, any ideas?"  Shaggy crowded on top of the monitor with Scooby.  The lightning danced in blue-white arcs; the smell of ozone filled the room, to mingle with the clicking of a thousand furious insect-feet.  No one answered the question.

            Velma pulled out her floor plan, looked it over...

            "Jinkies!" she cried, so loudly that Shaggy and Scooby nearly toppled from their monitor-perch. 

            "What?" Fred and Daphne yelled.

            She jumped to the dog's side.  "Scooby!  I need your help!"

            "Ry relp?"  Scooby was looking at the advancing things, his teeth chattering.  He took a deep breath and tried to blow them back down.

            Velma whispered in his ear.  His eyes opened wide.  Velma pointed, and Scooby looked in that direction, as did everyone else.  "Rokay!"  The dog nodded furiously.

            "Can he make it?" Fred yelled above all the buzzing and insect-clicking.

            Shaggy got off the monitor, crouched down on all fours.  "Here buddy!  Use me as a launch pad!"

            "Hurry!"  Daphne swiped away another two things with her purse.

            Scooby tensed, jumped on Shaggy's back, and sprang.


            And sailed through the ozone-choked air toward the wall, reaching out a paw, and slapping the fire alarm to life!

            HONK!  HONK!  HONK!

            Showers burst from the ceiling sprinklers.  The lobby drowned in a monsoon.  The rain sprayed, gushed, electrocuted the five-fingered things in a din of sizzling and popping, shorting out the electrical arcs, and drenching the cheering, dancing gang!

            "You did it, Scoob!" Shaggy yelled, wet hair plastered to his brow.

            "Way to go, Velma!"  The others smothered her with hugs.

            The screen overhead died last.  Velma looked up at it.  She would not have expected Cronheim to record any expressions of dismay, surprise, or shock; but his face showed all three.  And as the screen went blank, she could barely hear a "Noooooooo...!"




            "Well, Scooby?" said Velma the next night.  "Aren't you glad you came with me?"

            Mr. Goggins had thrown open his mansion, and Mystery Inc. joined him at his banquet table as guests of honor.  Employees packed the house, chattering and laughing.  Servants in white jackets weaved through the crowd, balancing trays piled with food for all.  Right now Scooby's face was buried in a big china bowl full of Scooby Snacks, and his only reply was a good deal of crunching.

            "Like" (chomp-chomp) "this is" (chomp-chomp) "the grooviest, man!"  Shaggy shoveled down his third green onion sundae, face glowing with rapture.

            Fred smiled, cutting up his steak.  "I have to admit that in all the excitement, I never thought of the fire alarm."

            Velma was nicely putting away her Chinese chicken salad.  "I should have thought of it sooner.  It was out in the open the whole time, like the Purloined Letter."

            "And thanks to all of you," said Mr. Goggins, "Cecil Cronheim will terrorize us no more.  We're ripping out everything he installed, drying the building, repainting, remodeling, and opening it new for our employees.  We are forever in your debt!"  He raised his glass high.  "To Mystery Inc.!"

            The people all followed suit; goblets sparkled in the chandelier light.  "Hear, hear!"

            Daphne put down her yogurt spoon and covered her face.  "I'm blushing!" 

            Blushing, yes, but smiling.  So was everyone. 


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