LESLIE HAD BEEN ALL the way up to Chapter Four when the call had come in.

She loved the Mary Kotter books. So much so that when the final book in the series had been released this past midnight, she had been one of the first in line. She’d even worn her robes and had brought along her custom made ash wand, just like the one Talmadge, Mary’s brilliant best friend, wielded to combat evil.

To her regret, she hadn’t been able to jump into the book immediately after purchase, no matter how much she had wanted to. And she had certainly wanted to.

After all, following the adventures of Mary, Talmadge, and Sue as they attended Clamstaff High, where they learned the art of magic (and a little about themselves) had been Leslie’s obsession for the past decade. It didn’t matter to her that she was in her mid-forties and reading about high school students. She could recall what life had been like in high school, she could still relate, despite her age. And hey, magic was involved. How could she ignore that?

Regardless, she hadn’t opened the book right away. She had a job to go to bright and early and needed what little sleep she could get. Besides, there were always countless opportunities during her work day to pull in behind some building and read.

Which was precisely what she had been doing when the radio on her dash crackled.

“Four Adam Two, Four Adam Two. Are you receiving? Over.”

Leslie sighed before taking up the mic.

“This is Four Adam Two. I copy, over.”

“Four Adam Two, possible civil disturbance at city hospital, please respond. Over.”

“That’s a copy, dispatch,” Leslie said. “Four Adam Two en route. Over”

“Roger, Four Adam Two. Details coming to your screen now. Over and out.”

Like Mary Kotter, Leslie Tonks had dedicated her life to ridding the world of evil. The only difference was that Leslie used a badge and a gun rather than a wand and a book of spells. She would have preferred to be a sorceress, all things being even, but she rather liked being a cop. And though it meant leaving Mary and the gang for now, she knew that in the end she was doing what Mary would do: Her job.

So she set the book aside and gave the tablet screen attached to her dash a few taps. Just as dispatch promised, there on the screen were the particulars of the call. A civil disturbance at the hospital. More specifically, some yahoo in a horse costume shouting about crabs from the hospital roof. It was going to be one of those nights.

The hospital was just a few blocks away and within minutes Leslie had parked her squad car out front.

She took one last look at the screen and then stepped out the car. There, at the top of a gentle concrete ramp that led to the sliding glass entry doors to the City Hospital, two men in suits and sunglasses stood side by side, practically blocking doors.

It was almost as if they were guarding the entrance to the hospital. But that was ridiculous.

Yet, as she approached...

“Hospital’s closed,” one of the men said, side-stepping to bar her way.

“Closed? Who closes a hospital?”

The two did not respond.

“Look, fellas,” she said. “Maybe you can’t see, what with the sunglasses and all, but I’m a cop.” She tapped the badge on her uniform. “We got a call about a possible civil disturbance on the roof and I’m here to check it out.”

The two men ignored her, each one trying to outdo the other in some sort of statue competition.

“So I’m just going to go on in and check it out,” she said.

When they didn’t respond, she moved toward the doors.

Once again the two closed ranks and barred her way.

“Hospital’s closed,” the one repeated.

“On who’s authority?” Leslie asked.

“The Pope,” said the other.

“The Pope?” She said. “Did I hear that right? What, like the real Pope? Dress? Funny hat? Rides around in a big bubble? That Pope?”

“There’s only one Pope, ma’am,” said the first guy.

“The Pope has closed down the hospital?” She tried to think that through. “This hospital?”

The two men did not respond.

“Seriously guys, come on. The Pope? The Pope?”

The two men continued to do nothing but stare straight ahead.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” she said. “But that’s ridiculous. The Pope doesn’t go around closing hospitals. At least not in America. And even if he did, I would like to think that I’d know about it.”

“We can’t let you through, ma’am,” said one.

“Pope’s orders,” said the other.

“Pope’s orders?” She said. Then laughed. “You realize how stupid that sounds, right?”

She got nothing in return but silence.

“Okay,” she said. “This is dumb. I’m coming through.”

She stepped to the doors and once again, the two men barred her way. But this time Leslie pushed them aside. They weren’t expecting that. The one to her right lost his balance and nearly fell over. The one on her left, on the other hand, recovered much quicker and took hold of her arm.

He pulled her back and for a moment the two struggled. She put the flats of her palms on the man’s chest, preparing to push him aside, but he got there before her, pushing her back with such force that she fell. She reached out, her hands involuntarily grasping for something to keep her upright. One of them found the man’s shirt and dug in.

But it was too late, she was going down. It was like slow motion, yet before she knew it, she was on her bottom a few feet down the concrete ramp. In her hand was a piece of fabric and she looked at it in confusion.

It took only a second for her mind to recognize what the fabric was. It was a piece of the guy’s shirt. She’d tried to cling to him to stay upright, but the shirt hadn’t been able to hold up to the pressure. She looked from the fabric to the man and could see the hole in his shirt, just above the left breast, where the piece had been just seconds before. Through the hole she could see some sort of badge.

A blood red crab on a field of white.

“What the—” she began. But stopped when a woman appeared between the two men.

She was clad from the neck down in red leather. She too had a crab insignia on her left breast. And if that wasn’t odd enough, she wore a cape that hung to her ankles. It wasn’t a normal cape, however. The end of it had been shaped to resemble a lobster’s tail. Yet, as much as Leslie had wanted it to, the strangeness didn’t end there. The woman’s hands were claws. Like those of a crab or lobster.

They weren’t deformed. No, she wore some sort of prosthetic claws, like plastic gloves or something.

The woman herself, beyond the leather lobster thing she had going on, was quite striking. Her skin was so pale that it was like the belly of fish. In contrast her hair was a black so deep that it could have been a hole in space and time.

It only took a second for Leslie to take it all in, and even less than that for her brain to filter through all of the unexpected data that had been forced into it. Once finished with its computation, it had no choice but to spit out the only logical conclusion regarding the pale woman in red.

“Vampire lobster,” Leslie said out loud.

Leslie thought of going to for her gun. She had been assaulted after all, but shock had set in.

“Kill her,” the vampire lobster woman said.

That’s all Leslie needed to hear to shake herself free from the bonds of confusion and go for her gun. But the two men were quicker. Each had drawn an automatic from under their suit jackets and both opened fire.

Leslie rolled, hoping that she chose a direction with something to hide behind. Luck was with her as she rolled behind a mailbox without being hit. She sprang to her feet and pulled her service pistol. Using the mailbox for cover she returned fire.

One of the men went down, taking a hit in the meat of his right thigh. The other guy, along with the vampire lady scrambled for cover.

Leslie used the lull fall back and put the squad car between herself and the others. She peeked up long enough to see that the two had found cover, leaving their friend on the ground out there in the open.

“Drop the gun and come out with your hands behind your head,” Leslie shouted over the hood of the car. “And claws too, lady!”

The woman only sneered as six people, men and women both, in red uniforms marched out of the hospital and lined up before the doors. Each held an assault rifle.

“Kill her,” the vampire lobster said once more and the soldiers opened fire.

It was only as the bullets tore into her car and whizzed over her head that Leslie decided to call in for backup.

  • Will Leslie survive her harrowing ordeal with her crabby assailants?
  • Is there anything scarier in life than a vampire lobster?
  • Who else wants to know more about Mary, Talmadge, and Sue?

Find out the answers to one of these questions in the next exciting installment of: The Mighty Piñata!

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