Chapter 3: Blue Helmet Shaggy
Before they could react Daphne grabbed a handful of Velma's hair and yanked her head back, pulling her to her feet as she did so. Daphne was just about to deliver a tirade of verbal abuse when a voice called out from behind her "Velma dear, oh thank goodness you're safe! I was so worried." Velma's mother came rushing past Daphne to embrace her daughter, Velma was on the verge of tears again, Fred could see in her eyes the hurt Daphne had caused.
"She won't be safe for long," growled Daphne quietly, the presence of Velma's mother being the only thing preventing her from dragging Velma out by the hair, beating her to a pulp then throwing her on the compost heap. Daphne turned to vent her anger on Fred but paused when she saw the fury in his face.
"Daphne!" though he had whispered the anger in his voice caused her to step back "I can't believe you just did that! Some thugs just tried to kidnap Velma." Daphne felt the bottom fall out of her world, but before she could say or do anything Velma spoke up.
"I, I need to be, somewhere else," sobbed Velma she took hold of her mother's hand and held out her hand to Fred, he paused for a second then took it and left. Time slowed for Daphne, Velma gave Daphne a brief, but bitter glance, in that instant Daphne could read the story of the betrayal Velma felt, Fred's face was one of indignation. As they left she looked at Fred and Velma, he was still holding her hand in his as their arm swung forward but as they sung back; their fingers were now firmly entwined. Daphne stared at the strands of Velma's hair in her hands what have I done she cried to herself trying to hold in the tears.
Shaggy headed over to the diner as soon as he had finished his demonstration, he was keen to check on Velma and to see what had really happened, Fred's message had been brief but it sounded like something had gone down. He walked in and stopped in his tracks trying to work out what had happened. Daphne was sitting at a table and looked in a terrible state; hiding under the opposite table was Scooby peeking out from behind his paws. He sat down opposite Daphne, it took a few moments before she finally she noticed him.
"Daph, like what happened?" he held her hands in his, stroking her hands with this thumbs.
"I made a terrible mistake; I really lost my temper with Velma."
"Like you've lost your temper with Velma loads of times, especially when shopping so what's the big deal?"
"I mean really lost my temper," Shaggy followed her gaze to the strands of auburn hair in her hand
"Is, is that Velma's hair?" Shaggy asked quietly his voice rising with surprise, he looked up, Daphne nodded, her eyes brimming with tears.
"Oh," there wasn't much else he felt he could say.
Shaggy was on the phone to Fred, Daphne could just about make out his voice as he described what happened. Suddenly the voice changed, Velma was on the line, Daphne cringed inside when she heard Velma break down in tears, Fred came on for a few seconds then the call ended. Shaggy put his phone away, closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he planned what to say.
"Shaggy? So it really happened?" Daphne knew for Velma to be that upset something bad had to have happened.
"Like its true Daph, I saw some shifty looking people asking after her and sent Scooby to keep an eye on them then called Fred as I knew he was nearby."
"Just how close was it," asked Daphne quietly. Shaggy looked at the floor and shuffled his feet
"Scooby and Fred got to her just in time, they were about to take her to their car. Literally a minute later and we would now be scratching our heads wondering where Velma is."
"And that's why Fred was holding her that way?" snapped Daphne, there was still bitterness in her voice as if she was trying to justify her actions, even if only to herself. Shaggy was confused the 'that way' remark. Fred had comforted Velma many times in the past and Daphne had never freaked out before, even when they had been dating, hell Fred had even comforted him when Scooby had been ill.
"She was utterly petrified Daph. They're a real nasty bunch by all accounts; they slapped her round the face a couple of times and threatened to keep her for days even after they had got the orchid. Man it took Fred ages to calm her down."
Daphne stared out of the window in despair and shame as she realised her little tantrum in the diner had probably all but ruined her friendship with Velma, plus scuppered her chances of getting back together with Fred for the foreseeable future. Time for anger management classes Daphne old girl, she thought.
"Daph," said Shaggy quietly as he sat next to her and put an arm round her shoulders to comfort her "Velma doesn't bear grudges; she won't stay mad for long."
"But, Fred, how he was holding her, she was just letting him..." Shaggy shook his head.
"But you're not seeing Fred anymore; you can't treat him like he belongs to you. That's won't win him over for sure. Anyway aren't you obsessing over him a bit I mean when you were dating you never seemed to be that happy. You seem much happier as friends and there are plenty more fish in the sea." Shaggy wrapped his arms around Daphne; she tensed for a second then rested her head on his shoulder. Daphne sighed, Velma always said Shaggy was one of the best huggers she knew and again she was right. She knew he was right about Fred, she'd been told for so long that they were perfect for each other that she'd believed it. Daphne relaxed and let herself be wrapped up in his arms, it felt so good and was just what she needed right now; she wondered why she hadn't done this more often.
By mid-afternoon Daphne had gone home leaving Shaggy and Scooby at the festival. They still had another demonstration plus they had some chilli-peppers to harvest. They would have gone home after that had it not for them receiving a summons from the chairman of the Country Club. Ever nervous, fearing that someone had got sick eating a sample of the their food, they went to the board room only to be presented with formal framed letter of thanks, an offer of a free meal at the Club and a large box with a thank-you card attached. It transpired that Fred had told the committee of Shaggy's quick thinking and Scooby's bravery 'in the preservation and defense of the dignity and person of Miss Velma Dinkley' said the letter, written in copperplate which made it look even better. After handshakes and a toast of brandy which was older than Shaggy's father, the pair carried the box down towards a seating area on the side of wide tree-lined avenue of grass which lead up to the members-only area. They sat down and opened the box to reveal the reward to end all rewards.
"Mmmmmm," Shaggy sighed as he finished off his forth box of Scooby Snacks "Ten boxes each," Shaggy again read the note attached to the boxes "'A token of our thanks, Love Fred and Velma.'"
"Reah," replied Scooby "Ren roxes reach."
"Man what a day Scoob." said Shaggy as he sat next to Scooby on the bench "The fewer of those we have the better. Snacks or no snacks, I'd rather this day hadn't happened." He stretched out to relax, it was now early evening and as the festival was over for the day, they were taking the opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet before heading home.
"Reah. Ris Relma rok?"
"Yeah Scoob, I had a quick chat to her and Fred, she's doing OK. I think she's at home now having a rest. Fred took it quite badly as well, we've had some close calls before, but that was like, the closest."
"Rou red rit. Raphne and Relma?"
"That was just nasty. Velma's almost as upset with what Daphne did as with what nearly happened to her. Daph, well she can't believe she did that." he sighed "I think they'll make up but it will take a bit of time for things to settle down..."
"Hi guys," said a couple of voices behind them.
"Aaaah!" both Shaggy and Scooby leap into the nearest tree and hung there clinging to a branch. Shaggy looked down to see Fred and Velma standing together looking up at them with amused expressions on their faces. Velma was holding onto Fred's arm for support, trying not to laugh too much.
"Come on down you two, it's only us," called Fred.
"Errr hi Velma, Fred. What are you two doing here besides creeping up on a harmless chief and his dog then scaring them?" replied Shaggy still clinging to the branch.
"Reah, raring rhem," agreed Scooby sticking his head out from the leaves.
"Fred and his parents are taking my parents and I for a meal at the country club. My parents and I will take you two out for a meal to thank you when the festival is over."
"Like no worries Velma, but thanks we'll be there."
"Can you come down out of that tree Shag my neck is starting to hurt; I need a quick word."
"Like OK," as the pair half climbed, half fell out of the tree, Velma drew Shaggy to one side then almost squeezed the life out of him with a bone-crushing hug.
"Thank you," They'd known each other long enough that she didn't need to say any more.
"Like anytime Velma," said Shaggy stroking her hair.
"There's one more thing, can you keep an eye on Daphne please, I'm as mad as hell with her just right now but I guess she feels awful at the moment. If I spoke to her now I know I'd only make things worse so please make sure she's OK I don't want to see her doing anything stupid, understand?"
"Will do Velms, Scoob and I will head over there now."
"Thanks Shag. I really appreciate it."
Together they cleared away the rubbish and packed the unopened boxes up. Shaggy and Scooby headed for the car-park, Scooby looked behind for one final wave. He glanced back again to see Velma re-join Fred, take his hand and walk off towards the country club.
Soon they were at Daphne's house, some lights were on but he wasn't sure of anyone was home, Shaggy was convinced that he'd wear-out his doorbell pressing finger, finally Daphne opened the door; she was dressed for bed wrapped up in her dressing gown.
"Oh Shag. I, I didn't expect to see you at this hour."
"Yeah, thought you might want some company," Velma was right, Daphne looked awful. He resolved that she wouldn't be alone tonight and he wasn't going to take no for an answer.
"I, I'm not sure."
"Well I know you have some hot chocolate that needs some company so can I?"
"Sure." It was only a little smile, but his heart was warmed by it.
They went into the den, it was clear that Daphne had been trying to fall asleep here in front of the TV, rather than in her bed where the only company would be her thoughts. There were empty pizza boxes and ice-cream tubs; she'd obviously been self-medicating on comfort food. Shaggy sat on the sofa and held out his arms, Daphne didn't hesitate to take up the offer and allowed herself to be wrapped up in his arms again. It was just as good as last time.
"What's eating you Daph?" he said softly.
"I just can't sleep, when I close my eyes all I can see is Velma's face. I've never seen her so hurt we've been friends since we were tiny, I can't believe it's all over now." Daphne voice was one of resigned sadness.
"Daph, it was Velma who asked me to make sure you were OK, sure she's angry at the moment, but she doesn't hate you." I don't think he added silently, it was hard to quickly read Velma's moods at the best of times, but when she chose to play her cards close to her chest it was all but impossible.
"She, she did?" Daphne looked up. Shaggy nodded, running his fingers through her hair and stroked her head in a soothing manner. Normally if someone did this to Daphne they would soon be on the floor looking for their teeth but Shaggy's hands were calming and soothing. Things were now more right in the world than wrong.
"Now, how about that hot chocolate?"
Many hours later saw the pair on the floor; Daphne was resting against the sofa with Shaggy lying on a thick fluffy rug next to her.
"Like shouldn't you go to bed, the floor here is OK for me."
"No Shag, I don't think I can move after so much hot chocolate."
Daphne lay down and rested her head on his stomach. A potentially foolhardy move an a stomach capable of digesting just about anything. Shaggy stroked her head.
"Don't worry Daph, I'll be the go-between with you two. But let Velma make the first move, then you'll know she'll be ready."
Daphne managed to reach up and pull couple of throws off her sofa to cover them up with and a scatter cushion for Shaggy's head. Soon both were asleep with Daphne using Shaggy's stomach as a pillow. Her dreams though peaceful were filled with strange rumblings and cacophonous gurgling noises.
Chapter 4: Discomfiture
Daphne awoke with a slight crick in her neck so grabbed a pillow and lay down next to Shaggy. She stared at the ceiling and wished Velma was here, she was sure that with Shaggy's help they could get things sorted out, well not here just right now as that would be a bit creepy. She wondered what Velma would think if she could see them now, after all they'd just slept together not slept together. She knew exactly what it would look like to Velma or anyone else walking in on them, they'd jump to conclusions, just like I did with Velma and Fred. What would Fred think if he saw them now, certainly not lay into Shaggy the way she had with Velma… just don't go there. But admitting to herself that Fred wouldn't have done anything, aside from nudging Shaggy in the ribs and make some dumb sporting themed innuendo, made her realise that this was all one-sided. She finally grasped what was going on; she'd been told that Fred was the only one for her so often that she couldn't think of anyone else. It wasn't fair on her or Fred, but especially on her. Time to get out there and see what's on the Y-chromosome menu where Y is for yummy, she looked at Shaggy speaking of yummy he looks so adorable when he's asleep. Jeepers where did that all come from?
Shaggy awoke to find Daphne looking at him, she briefly cast her eyes downward in a shy almost bashful gesture before returning to meet his "Morning Shag sleep well?" her voice was soft and gentle.
"Like yeah but more importantly what about you?"
"Oh I slept like a log; I've only just woken up."
"Man that's good, things are usually better after a good night's sleep."
"True, thanks for staying over; it would have been a horrible night otherwise."
"No worries Daph. So Scoob you ready for another day of cooking and eating amongst the flowers?"
"Reah," said Scooby.
"How about you Daph?"
Whilst Shaggy had an industrial strength digestive system she didn't "Nope, you go ahead Shag, I still feel a bit icky from all that hot chocolate. I'll join you later; let me know about Velma if you see her."
"Will do, like I think some toast will help you feel better."
They sat in the kitchen to have breakfast, Daphne turned on the radio to get the local weather report and the news. The headline news item wasn't concerned with the flower festival or the attempted abduction of Velma, earlier that morning a glowing meteorite had landed in the grounds of the Country Club.
"Jinkies," whispered Velma as she lay in bed listening to the same news bulletin, she rolled over in bed.
"Freddie, wake up and listen to this, Freddie? Oh."
She closed her eyes remembering that phones worked better when you called the person you wanted to speak to first, there again Dinkleys worked better when they'd had some coffee inside them why can't life be more like Star Trek? She reached out for the speed-dial button but the phone rang first.
Shaggy and Scooby arrived at the Country Club; Shaggy got out of his car and sucked in a lungful of air.
"Ahhhh all the smell of the country without the smelly bits," he said as he and Scooby began to walk to the festival area. He stopped and turned around at the sound of a car pulling up.
"Shaggy, give Daphne a call then you and Scooby follow us, we've got a case," called Fred as he got out of his car, Velma was just parking up in hers.
"One of the gardeners has just been attacked by a giant plant creature that grew out of the meteorite crater from this morning," said Velma as she walked towards him.
"Oh, one of those cases," he said wretchedly, Scooby cringed he pulled out his cell phone "Like Daph, time to get your game-face on."
The effect of yesterday was obvious when Daphne arrived, they stood around in the car-park not sure what to do, a difficult silence hung in the air. Velma sat back against her car with her arms folded; Daphne leant against her car not making eye contact with either Velma or Fred. Fred and Shaggy scratched their heads wondering how to proceed. To everyone's surprise Velma spoke first.
"Daphne, I know you are upset about what happened, but… I'm not sure where we can go as friends just right now, let's just take one step at a time, we'll get further that way. But we are still a team, we've been through rough times before, we will get through this one."
Daphne, not Daph, that subtle change in tone of how Velma addressed her cut Daphne to the core, deeper than she could ever have imagined. Velma stood up and held out her hand to Daphne "We have a case to solve, let's go do what we do best together, together." Daphne took her hand and smiled slightly, the bridge building had begun.
"But first we have to wait," said Fred.
"Who are we waiting for?" asked Shaggy.
"My parents, ah here they are," Velma waved at her parents as they walked towards the gang.
"Why?" asked Daphne.
"Well they're the closest Coolsville has got to astrobiologists so they've offered to advise us on this case," said Velma. Velma's parents arrived and greeting were said. Immediately Velma noticed that something was amiss, her parents seemed unusually excited about something.
"Well, we know a lot of what you kids do from Velma, but…" said Harold.
"Secretly we have always wondered what it would be like to actually be on one of you investigations," smiled Marilyn, Velma looked mortified by the prospect.
"Yes to join you at the coalface of detecting as it were, sifting for clues and the like," said Harold.
"You want to join us?" said Velma, both of her parents nodded eagerly "If you really want to but, emmm but what I tell you is like watching football highlights, you just hear the good stuff, not the hours of standing around doing nothing."
"But this way we get to spend more time with you dear, will with you and your bo…"
Yes mother, fine," interrupted Velma who continued in a gentler tone "but it isn't as easy or as fun as it sounds."
"As we're now on the case we've just got to go and get something from our car," with that Velma's parent's walked off, the gang all looked at Velma who just shrugged but she couldn't shake the premonition that something bad was about to happen. While they were waiting a couple of coaches pulled up and disgorged their passengers, cars began to arrive. The new arrival at the flower festival was already bringing in the crowds.
"Co-eee Velma dear!" Marilyn's voice cut through the hubbub of the crowd. Like the Red Sea before Moses the crowd parted to reveal Velma's parents, both wearing deerstalker hats and carrying large magnifying glasses. Velma didn't need to look to know they had also brought a deerstalker for her and that it would be slightly too big, so that despite all evidence to the contrary there would be room for her to grow into it. She held her head in her hands and wished for the world to end as her parents walked towards them looking at the ground through their magnifying glasses.
Velma dutifully donned her deerstalker which immediately slipped down to rest on her glasses.
"Here let me fix that for you," said Daphne and before Velma could react Daphne had secured the hat in her hair using a couple of hair grips and slides.
"Thanks Daph," replied Velma, Daphne felt her insides unwind like a spring, Shaggy was right, Velma wasn't one to hold grudges or stay mad for long. There was still a lot of work to do to repair their friendship, but now it was her turn, Velma had made two steps; the way was now clear for her to respond, but how...?
"Alright gang time to do out thing," said Fred, he proceeded to take them to where the meteor had landed.
The crater was to be honest a bit of a disappointment for all concerned. Smaller than a child's paddling pool it sulked near some singed shrubbery in a generally unvisited part of the Country Club. Right next to the crater was a hole in the ground where a shrub had once been.
"More of a splat than a crater I was expecting something more impressive," said Daphne while Velma and her father measured its width.
"Yeah like Scooby's done better when digging for fun," said Shaggy.
"So how big was this meteorite then?" asked Velma rolling up the tape, she rolled her eyes when she saw her father take a slide-rule out of his pocket.
"Size of a grapefruit by all accounts, it's been taken off to the Coolsville Technology College for safekeeping," said Fred.
"Man how big does it have to be before you get anything impressive?" said Shaggy
Harold looked up from his slide-rule "Let me put it like this, a three foot diameter meteor made of iron would have left a crater wider than a football pitch. This was probably a stony meteorite."
"You still use a slide rule?" said Daphne.
"Quicker than a calculator, plus it stops me letting the computer do the thinking; dangerous thing that, letting other people do your thinking for you."
"Yet you let mother pick all your clothes for you," whispered Velma to no-one in particular.
If the crater was a let-down what was leading away from it was not. There were clear marks on the ground where something had been dragged, or dragged itself along away from the crater towards the closest wooded area. A set of long undulating indentations each a few feet long, several inches deep with a semi-circular profile all heading in the same direction.
"Look at these marks on the ground," said Daphne. Harold and Marilyn each put one arm behind their back then bent over to look at the ground through their magnifying glasses.
"Hmmmm interesting," they said in unison, Velma just sighed.
"Something heavy was here, but these are no animal tracks," said Fred.
"A clue?" said Harold.
"'Fraid so," said Shaggy.
"Does that mean we can say jonkies now dear?" asked Marilyn looking up at her daughter.
"If you really have to, and it's jinkies," muttered Velma through a forced smile.
A few minutes later the Secretary of Country Club arrived with a gardener, Shaggy and Daphne nodded in recognition to the gardener, Wolfie Smith, as the Secretary shook hands with Fred.
"Mr Jones we are most reassured by the speed of your response to our request for help from you and your colleagues. This is Mr Smith our head gardener who was the unfortunate victim in this affair."
"So Mr Smith can you describe what you saw of the creature?" said the Secretary.
"It was dawn, not the best time to see things in detail…" began Wolfie.
"Why's that?" asked Shaggy quietly.
"The eye can't deal with the difference in contrast between the light sky and the dark land," said Velma.
"The most I can say is that is that it was big, fast, it just knocked me out of the way oh and there were a lot of tentacles," said Wolfie wriggling his fingers.
"Tentacles, tentacles, tentacles, it's always tentacles, why can't it be something nice like…" complained Shaggy.
"Ringuini," Scooby suggested.
"Yeah like linguini or some other carbonara based life-form, man that would be one alien we'd love to eat I man meet," said Shaggy dancing with excitement at the thought of meeting such a creature.
"Shaggy's been touched by his noodly appendage," said Velma quietly as she moved behind Fred to keep out of the way.
"He'll be touched by the end of my boot if he steps on my toe again," said Fred "Mr Smith did it make any nose?"
"Yeah, oh call me Wolfe by the way, yeah like wood creaking with a low rumbling sound in the background."
"As you can see Mr Jones not the sort of guest we would want around the grounds of this establishment," said the Secretary "there are rumours that some sort of radiation has caused the plant to mutate as one is indeed missing."
At that Velma and her parents made the same sceptical face and sound, Shaggy had to bite his lip to stop himself laughing out-loud at the sight.
"Can you show us where it went Wolfie?" said Daphne.
"Yeah sure it's this way, like Shaggy man your shoes untied." Shaggy bent down to retie his shoe while Wolfie guided the rest of them away towards the trees, the Secretary caught Velma's eye just as she was leaving so she stayed behind to find out what he wanted. Velma's mother also hung back with them.
"It is a pleasure to meet you again Miss Dinkley I trust you have recovered from your recent ordeal?" Shaggy had finished fixing his laces but hung around so he could walk back with Velma.
"Yes thank you Mr Secretary, it would take a lot more than that to stop me investigating this."
"That is just the kind of attitude we expect here, I look forward to receiving your application for full membership," said the Secretary shaking her hand "I will not impede your investigations further so I bid you good hunting."
"Thank you Mr Secretary, Fred will keep you updated on our progress," said Velma. With that she and Shaggy hurried off to catch-up with the others while Velma's mother remained behind to speak with the Secretary. The wind carried a snippet of the conversation to Shaggy and Velma.
"…as one is a member and the other a candidate there would indeed be a reduction in cost for hosting both the wedding and reception; did you have a date in mind Mrs Dinkley?"
Velma cringed and flushed a deep red, she gave a furtive look at Shaggy who appeared not to have heard what had been said or at least not grasped the significance. She wondered if you could actually die from embarrassment.
Thankfully they made it to the gang without any more revelations drifting in their direction. Wolfie showed the gang where the creature had entered the trees. The damaged undergrowth testament to the weight of whatever it was had passed that way. About twenty feet into the trees the tracks stopped in front of an area of disturbed ground about five feet wide, Velma and Wolfie examined the soil while Shaggy stood nervously in Daphne's way preventing her from getting close to the area. Fred, Harold and Marilyn looked around but the tracks did not go further than disturbed ground.
"Shaggy why won't you get out of my way?" whispered Daphne none too pleased at his unexplained behaviour.
"Like my Shaggy senses are tingling…"
"Unconsolidated, looks like someone has been digging here," said Velma, she slowly made her way to the middle of the disturbed ground.
"Deep B-layer soil," muttered Wolfie kneeling near the edge down and running his fingers through the earth.
Velma screamed, Wolfie cried out as the ground they were on began to give way. Wolfie was close enough to the edge to fling himself onto solid ground. Fred leapt across and plucked Velma from disappearing into the collapsing soil.
"Make that very unconsolidated ground," said Velma holding onto Fred "right let's try that again."
They all carefully approached the sunken area of ground. Fred kept hold of Velma while Harold had picked up a branch and stood ready to defend his daughter from dangers unknown. The area had sunk several feet and looked more broken-up and blocky than before. Shaggy prodded it with a stick but nothing moved. Daphne stood behind him and looked over, her hands on his shoulders ready to pull him out of the way but was soon distracted by the feeling of his lean muscles moving under her hand.
"Wait here I'm going to get a spade," said Wolfie heading off for the nearest tool shed.
Wolfie soon returned and set to work digging a few test-holes to see what was going on, carefully examining the soil he dug up.
"Looks like a collapsed badger set," he said leaning on his shovel "I guess something dug up the top which weakened the structure enough so that when we walked in it the whole thing caved-in."
"I agree," said Marilyn "however let us assume that the creature in question does exist, what does this mean?" she pointed to the patch of ground.
"Like it's like gone to ground big time," said Shaggy.
"Shaggy means the creature came here and decided to bury itself to take shelter, find food or some other activity, as it was sunrise we could consider the possibility that it is nocturnal in some way," translated Velma for her mother.
"Not necessary dear I've been reading up on the language of the streets so I can work with you homeboys. You get me blood? Phat, safe and above all I believe 'tis well wicked innit!" Marilyn paused and walked over to Velma "Are you feeling well dear you seem to have gone a little pale? Don't worry dear I just happened to turn on to one of those music channels to try out some rope music and thought I'd try out some of the language."
"Rap music mother its rap music." said Velma is a strained voice.
"Right gang lets form a line and walk through the trees to look for more clues," said Fred trying to get the focus back on the case.
"I need to mark this hole out so no-one falls in," said Wolfie.
"Shouldn't we be splitting up?" said Harold.
"Don't encourage him dad, that'll happen soon enough," said Velma relieved that they were doing something else.
For several hours they searched the grounds, every so often they found tantalising clues, tracks, areas of disturbed ground, disturbed and flattened shrubbery. It was near midday and they were examining a good set of tracks left in some soft ground. It was turning out to be a pleasant morning and Velma in particular was enjoying herself studying the tracks. Marilyn stopped examining the ground and looked at her daughter, totally absorbed in what she was doing.
"This is just like what Velma used to do when she was small, hunting for clues to her birthday or Christmas presents. Do you remember Harold?" said Marilyn happily.
"Yes she'd toddle about the house with her toy magnify glass and shout 'jikies' every time she found something interesting."
"Remember when she found a big bag of candy, every item got a jikies though each jikies was quieter and more muffled than the last due to the amount of candy in her mouth."
"Ahh then she'd have us sit down while she drew up on her easel all the clues she'd found and explained why it meant she was getting a particular toy she liked."
"Unless it was at Easter time when you could tell by her chocolate covered her face that she'd already been 'examining the evidence.'"
"I think I uploaded a photograph of that to my phone. In fact I uploaded all the photographs we have of her as a child to my cloud storage account last week, who wants to see?"
"Where's Velma gone? I'd just die if my parents did this to me," whispered Daphne to Shaggy as they headed over to look at the photographs, he pointed to Fred. An extra set of legs emerged from the back of his sweater, above which was a Velma-shaped bump. Hidden under Fred's sweater Velma put her arms round his waist and vowed to redouble her efforts at de-skilling her parents, and wiping their memories.
There was one area in which Harold and Marilyn memories were appreciated by the gang, even Velma, they had remembered to pack some food. A picnic in a shaded glade was a welcome change to their usual meal-breaks. They had even remembered to pack Velma's favourite sandwiches, mercifully without the crusts removed. Velma pulled her deerstalker down over her ears as her parents regaled them with the epic tale of a five year old Velma on her first real 'case' that of her disappearing toy rabbit or 'Looking for Mr Boing-Boing' as they titled it.
The picnic was the high-point of the day, even for Velma, as after that the clues came thin and slow. Aside from the notion that whatever it was seemed to be heading in the direction of the main greenhouses there was no evidence of what it was they were looking for. It appeared that their quarry had, possible literally, gone to ground. They did split up to look for clues, Harold with Marilyn; Fred with Velma, Shaggy, Scooby and Daphne. Aside from the elder Dinkley's who seemed to have a limitless supply of optimism and enthusiasm the rest of the gang could feel that they had found pretty much all that they would find but knew that they couldn't leave just yet.
Scooby walked behind Daphne and Shaggy, it was safer as the pair kept drifting closer together then when they noticed that they were right next to each other they would drift apart only to begin the process again. Things certainly were getting rather tactile; there was a lot of helping over logs, twigs and leaves going on. Occasionally they caught sight of the others and each time they shared a shake of the head, still they kept on looking. Much to Scooby's relief Shaggy and Daphne stopped drifting apart so Scooby could walk alongside them. As the light began to fade they headed for the rendezvous point to meet up with the rest of the gang.
"Don't be downhearted," said Harold "what we didn't find is as important as what we found. If we visit the areas again we will notice any change."
"I need to give them an update on where we've got to," said Fred indicating in the direction of the Country Club.
"OK Freddie, we'll have one quick look near the trees then we're done," said Velma. While he set off the rest scouted around the edge of the trees. Part way through this Velma got a message on her phone, she quickly read it.
"Right gang I think we're done for the night," she said putting her torch away.
"That's a good idea Velma, we're getting tired. We need an early night if we're going to join you tomorrow," said Harold.
"Sure you don't want to keep looking?" whispered Shaggy to Velma.
"Don't tempt me," she replied quietly then spoke in her normal voice "Good idea, so we'll see you two tomorrow." Velma hugged her parents and whispered something in her mother's ear. Shaggy, Scooby and Daphne then said their goodnights to Velma's parents.
"Like Velma what do you want… Velma?" Shaggy started to speak but Velma wasn't with them anymore. They looked around to see her disappearing into the woods where they had just been searching.
"Where's she off to?" said Daphne "Jeepers Shag you'd better follow her and see if she's safe especially with that invisible space tentacle plant creature whatever it is on the loose."
"Like anything for you Daph, I'm on it."
"While Scooby stays here to protect me," Daphne leant over and gave Shaggy a peck on the cheek.
"Knew they'd be a catch," muttered Shaggy as he walked off.
Chapter 5: Dry Cleaning
Twilight was descending over the Coolsville Country Club, the surrounding woods were becoming gloomy and the shadows were lengthening. A small figure was moving as stealthily as possible through the woods, taking advantage of the shadows to conceal her movement, their burnt-orange and green clothing beginning to blend in with the orange light of sunset. Velma quickly became aware that she were being followed, she knelt down near a bush and quietened her breathing then moved her head from side to side listening for the sounds of the person tailing her, trying to determine their location and direction of travel. Quietly she set off, deciding to circle back on herself then wait a while. She knew her pursuer well and understood how to lead them a false trail. Velma was determined not to be found, too much was at stake and she would be hard-pressed to talk her way out of trouble if she was caught. Velma smiled slightly, she had the advantage of knowing where she was going and having learnt many lessons from the Chippewa tribe on tracking (and hence how not to be tracked) when visiting her uncle, a forest ranger in their territory. She would have some questions to answer tomorrow, but by then she would have a plan to deal with them. Velma got to her feet and began to circle back the way she came.
Some distance behind Velma the person tailing them was becoming increasing lost and disorientated. First Velma was in front of them, then she had disappeared and now it sounded like she was both behind and in front to them. They wished they had brought a torch, they wished they had brought a compass but above all Shaggy wished he had brought Scooby along. He stopped and looked around; he could just about see the way out but knew he would get lost if he tried to follow Velma. She obviously knew where she was going whereas he hadn't a clue. He looked around for a bit longer but finally he had to admit to himself he had lost Velma's trail, it was getting late and he had to head back before he became lost. Shaggy trudged back scratching his head. He was beginning to doubt what had just happened, he had been convinced it was Velma, they'd seen her walk into the trees with their own eyes, but now despite the evidence of his own eyes he was unsure. If it had been Velma then she sure was behaving strangely. But who would disguise themselves as Velma? No, Velma had been behaving strangely for the past couple of months; he and Daphne had spoken about a few days ago before all that diner business got in the way. He decided that he would talk to her tomorrow, as long as she was not in any trouble or danger he would he happy. What Velma did in her own time was up to her but he was getting worried, her behaviour was too out of character for him to just let it slide. Still at least with Fred keeping a watchful eye over her he could keep his worries in check.
"Ratch rup rith Relma?" asked Scooby as Shaggy emerged from the wood, Shaggy shook his head.
"Nope. Dunno what Velma was up to Scoob, man she was sure acting strange sneaking off like that. And trust me; she did not want to be followed."
"Rivate Rystery?" asked Scooby.
"Not that I know of so beats me Scoob. This is just odd."
"Not regular Velma odd either, just odd," said Daphne, there was a strange growling sound which caused her to look around.
"Yeah, let's get something to eat. Chasing after Velma sure makes me hungry." Shaggy patted his stomach as he spoke.
"There's a short-cut that way," said Daphne pointing to a tree covered hill. Only when they were sure they were well out of earshot did they shout 'jikies' and laugh at about the photograph of Velma's chocolate covered face. Their laughter was tinged with an edge of anxiety as each knew the terrors that lurked in their own parent's photo albums. The ground was uneven; Shaggy insisted he held onto Daphne's hand to make sure she didn't fall, at some point changed to walk with an arm round each other. As they walked they talked about nothing much while putting the world to rights.
Velma checked the GPS on her phone to confirm that she was at the right spot but there was no-one there. Her phone beeped, it was a message from Shaggy wondering where she was. 'Gone for dinner at the Country Club' was her reply, enough of the truth to allay suspicions for the time being. She took a few steps back; out of the darkness a figure appeared behind her.
Suddenly a hand went in front of her eyes; an arm snaked gently around her waist.
"Guess who?" a male voice whispered next to her ear, a huge smile broke over her face, the hand was removed from her eyes and circled round her waist to complete the embrace as she turned around.
"I knew it was you," she whispered, an impish smile playing across her face as one of her fingers twirled over his chest
"But is it you?" he asked smiling
"There's only one way to be sure" she said as she reached out and guided his lips to hers, they separated after a brief kiss "sure now?"
"Nope, not yet," he replied "I need more convincing."
"Good answer," she smiled as they resumed kissing.
In another part of the grounds Scooby had fallen asleep while waiting for Shaggy and Daphne to finish saying goodnight to each other. Scooby's stomach was growling he hadn't had any food; Shaggy had stopped feeling hungry the moment they had got to the car park. Had they not previously arranged to meet up with Wolfie to pick up some more peppers he was sure they would have gone with Daphne. Scooby was glad they hadn't as the time was not yet right plus Wolfie had said he was going to give them a recipe for vegetable cobbler and it was up to Scooby to make sure Shaggy kept his priorities in order.
With a bag full of peppers in one hand and the recipe in the other Shaggy and Scooby headed for spot they went to yesterday confident that this time no-one would sneak up on them. Shaggy wanted a few minutes in peace and quiet to mull things over, today had gone much better than he had expected, Velma and Daphne were beginning to rebuild their relationship, he'd had a nice time with Daphne, they hadn't seen anything of the creature, he'd had a great time with Daphne and they hadn't even had dinner yet, then there was the time he'd spent with Daphne... Daphne.
"Man this is a nice place," he said to stop himself thinking.
"I should have guessed Velma was heading off to have dinner at the club. I don't blame her taking advantage of her parents being judges at the festival or Fred and his parents being members, I mean did you see the menu? Man I can't wait to eat there."
"Reah, rou raking Raphne?"
"Like, you mean me, take Daphne there? You want me to ask Daphne, like using words and stuff and take her there you mean like on a date?"
Yes thought Scooby and I never mentioned a date.
"Come on Scooby do you think, I mean do you really think there's anything going on between us?"
Yes nodded Scooby while looking Shaggy directly in the eye.
"Like you do think there is?"
Scooby nodded again.
"I mean just because we've been seeing each other most days, and playing around, and cuddling each other and holding hands that, that means there's something going on? I know we took a bit longer than normal to say goodnight, I mean neither of us wanted to leave; that's like totally normal. Sure I think she's hot, and her eyes, oh man those eyes are just sooo like I could just look at them forever and she's just fun to be around and I can't wait till I see her tomorrow but like how does that mean there's something happening?"
The gentleman doth protest too much; methinks thought Scooby.
"I mean look at Fred and Velma, sure they're spending a lot of time together, he's barely let her out of his sight since those creeps tried to grab her." Scooby nodded, he didn't blame Fred; that had been nasty but again Shaggy was missing the point. Once more it was time for the gang's resident expert on human affairs to ask the blindly obvious.
"Rred and Relma?"
"What about Fred and Velma?"
Scooby rolled his eyes "Rred and Relma rogether?"
"Dunno Scoob, that's what Daph flipped out about in the diner. Sure they are good friends but I'm not convinced..."
Shaggy stopped talking he was distracted by movement in the corner of his eye, in the distance he could see what looked like two familiar people walking together against the edge of the woods on the opposite side of the avenue. The same woods he had followed Velma into earlier. He kept watching, not sure of what his eyes were telling him until they eventually walked into to an area where there was enough light, there as clear as day was Fred and Velma, walking hand-in-hand up the hill towards the country club.
They paused standing in front of each, taking advantage of the slope to even out the difference in their height, he slowly put his arms round her waist, gently pulling them together, her arms wrapped themselves round his neck, their faces met and stayed together for a long time; Velma's hand moved up into his hair and held his face against hers. They were sufficiently far away that Shaggy thought that it was possible, just, that they were doing something else other than what they were obviously doing. But when Fred began to caress Velma, prompting her to press herself harder into him and for her hands to do likewise, Shaggy could have no more doubts.
"Did you see that? They were like, man, like no way did I see that coming."
Despite the smug satisfaction that came from knowing you were right all along Scooby understood that with this knowledge their lives had just got a lot more complicated and should a certain red-head not be handled correctly potentially dangerous.