“Like, noooo way, José. I am not going in there. I can’t do this anymore, man.”
The rusty chains on the gate of the old carnival rattled in the breeze. The parking lot lights hadn’t been turned on in at least a year. There was no way of telling if power was still running to them. The old van’s headlights bathed the four teens in a soft, yellow glow.
The gang wasn’t used to seeing Norville this stressed and irritable. None of them had seen much emotion out of him other than hunger and trepidation. He got spooked on occasion, but they all got creeped out at different times.
“Will you do it for a Scooby snack?”
“Are you mocking me? This is breaking and entering, man! If we go through with this, then we’re no better than Jenkins.”
“Who?” The incredulous look on Fred’s face made Norville wonder what he had ever seen in these people.
“Gerald Jenkins, the former assistant manager of the park. He’s the one who started spreading rumors about the haunted house actually being haunted, hoping to draw in a big end-of-season crowd on Halloween. It backfired when a ride braked too hard and gave someone whiplash. It resulted in a lawsuit that didn’t leave the carnival enough money to start back up the next season. Jenkins was out of a job, and his failed marketing plan haunted him. My guess is that he couldn’t settle for a retail management position, and he wanted to renew interest in the park, so he could get his old job back – maybe buy it from the previous owner, Thomas Pumblechook.”
“How—when did you put all this together?” The resident nerd asked as she cleaned her glasses, clearly incredulous that someone else, especially Norville, could have possibly solved this mystery before her.
“It really didn’t take much work. I went to the library to read up on any news articles related to the park. There weren’t many, but Jenkins’ name came up more often that it probably should have. He was the only one to really push to save the park. Then I went to town hall to check out records. I slipped Bev twenty bucks—”
“Who’s Bev?” The red hair should really have been blonde.
“Seriously, Daph? Bev’s the record librarian. She’s actually got a really impressive filing system. Anyway, it all checks out, and I have a stack of evidence back home. Literally, all we have to do is bring it to the police, and they’ll put out a warrant for his arrest.”
“But we just set up the trap. It’s our best work yet.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Fred! Enough with the traps! Rube Goldberg machines are fun to watch but they don’t make you a genius. It just means that you have way too much time on your hands. You ever wonder why they always fail? It’s because you suck! Have you tried a fucking net? And why do your traps always need bait? And I’m always the bait! Is that all I am to you? A target? What if Jenkins has a gun? And do you even understand the process of filing a citizen’s arrest? It’s not like—”
“Norville,” Fred spoke slowly and gently, measured. “Have you been taking your meds?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Are you seeing him? Is he here with us now?”
“No! I haven’t seen him since I stopped taking those meds. I’m finally feeling well and seeing this more clearly than ever.”
“Norville,” Velma’s voice was as soft as her sweater, “you should really take your meds.”
Norville looked each of them in the eye, their faces pressed into masks of false concern. “None of you actually care about me. You just want a zombie with munchies to be your puppet to go along with your asinine plans, so Fred can try to impress you two into a three-way.”
The group stood silently in the wake of such brutal honesty.
“Fine, I’ll give you what you want.”
Norville reached into his backpack, pulling out his bottle of pills. He popped a pill, swallowed it, opened his mouth, and made a show of moving his tongue around like they made him do in the hospital to prove he wasn’t faking it.
“Feel better, Shaggy?” Fred smugged.
“Give it a minute, ass-douche.” Norville closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them, he saw the Great Dane, brown with black spots, at his side. Norville looked down as he felt the dog nuzzle his leg. Fred smiled.
“It’s okay, Shaggy. We got a plan in place to catch Harry the Happy Hound. We just need to look around the haunted mansion ride for any evidence we can find.”
“Like, no way, José.”
“Would you do it for a Scooby snack?”
Shaggy and Scooby looked at each other, then at Daphne, and nodded, accepting another pill.