"It's A Wonderful Mystery"
For Mlle Dinkley, John Likeglass, MJBivouac, and all Scooby Gang Fans
Velma Dinkley wanted to kill something…or at least commit some sort of crime. This was not what she wanted…some Christmas Ball at Frump Towers in Urbania, the big city an hour from Coolsville. It was all Daphne's idea of course. She was into that kind of formal party, where folks would dance, donate to charity, and bestow some special honor to the "Belle of the Ball," like that would ever be a plain Jane like Velma. It would be someone like Sharon Wetherby, Beth Crane, Suzie Chan, or…of course…Miss Daphne Blake herself. That's why she wanted me to go, to be someone who would coo over the triumph of the redhead.
Still, she had been able to strong-arm Shaggy into coming along, although he insisted on bringing Scooby-Doo. It was hard for her to ever remember that she once actually liked that loveable Great Dane. But that was before he came between her and her secret love for Shaggy.
At that moment, she was walking by their hotel room, when she overheard the two of them in quiet conversation. Since they were whispering, it naturally triggered her suspicions. Why else would these two need to keep it hush-hush?
"Of course she can't know about it."
"You saw how she got during prom…and when I watched the all-night Vincent Van Ghoul Marathon with you instead of going on that double-date with Fred and Daph on Valentine's Day."
Oh great! Now she'd be a wallflower at the dance…again! And on Christmas….the second most couple-centric holiday of the year.
She stormed down the hallway, muttering to herself. How humiliating it would be for every gal in town to be paired with some guy, while she would be sitting alone, during which time the blond and redhead would be slobbering all over each other. And with New Year's around the corner, would it be Scooby and Shaggy watching the Dr. Phibes trilogy at home while she cried into her pillow as the clock struck midnight? She just couldn't bear it this year!
Why was she alone? She had solves so many mysteries, and what had it got her? She was single, lower-middle class by socio-economic status, with years of valuable research time down the drain.
She went over to knock on Daphne's door….maybe she would help, or at least let her have a good girl-cry. But all she could hear were a gal's giggle. "Won't she be surprised when she finds out?" Fred's voice chuckled.
So those two were in on it! When were they going to tell her…or were they going to wait for her public humiliation at the ball? It was like something out of the movie "Carrie."
She stormed toward the observation deck, pushing open the glass door. A cold blast hit her, making her wish she had on one of her patented orange turtleneck sweaters. But at least she was alone with her own miserable thoughts, free from the annoying lovebirds, that relationship-wrecker dog and two-faced EX-boyfriend.
Alone….again. Nothing to show for life, except for crazy parents and being the butt of jokes this holiday season. Why I wish….
"I wish I had never been born," Velma muttered.
"I said, I wish I had never been born!" This time she shouted.
At first, she thought she was hearing things. But she heard it distinctly this time…like a small cough or throat clearing.
Velma whirled around "BEN RAVENCROFT! How did you….never mind…I'll put you in prison yet for what you did in New England!"
The bearded ex-author of horror novels wiped his glasses, before inserting them on his face, beneath that thick wavy hair that made her heart skip a beat that Halloween when then met for the first time…and never revealed that little tidbit to anyone, even Daphne.
"How can you, when I'm not here in some physical form?"
She stormed over to grab his wrist, only to have her grasping hand pass through it. "Okay," Velma stammered. " …so you're some sort of holo-holographic projection, designed to…"
Ben Ravencroft laughed. "I'm not of this world, my dear. But I am here to grant your request."
At this point, Velma surprised him by cackling. "I get it! You're some kind of ghost…the Ghost of Christmas Past, or something like that. You've come to show me how bad I was, how mean I'm being now, and how I'll wind up in a grave! Who's the Ghost of Christmas Present…Captain Cutler? Is the No-Face Phantom the Ghost of Christmas Future?" Velma laughed like someone had spiked her Egg Nog.
At last, she finally composed herself. "You know that apparitions from the spirit world do not exist…"
"And yet, you're talking to me," a thin evil smile crept across his face.
Velma looked unsure of herself for a change, until the grin returned to her lips. "I get it…it's that movie that always makes Daphne cry at Christmas….'It's a Wonderful Life' or something like that."
"Ever seen it?" Ravencroft replied in an off-handed manner.
"That schmaltz? I never bothered. You hear enough about it through spoofs that you don't need to know about that formulaic, predictable…."
"Well, you see, it's like this," Ravencroft smirked condescendingly. "Your wish came true. YOU were never born."
Velma spun on her heel and walked out the door. "Ha! See if that makes any difference."
As Velma headed down the hallway, she noticed it was eerily quiet. Where were all the people? It must be the recession. Had the dance been canceled? Who cares….I'm not going to that ball anyway, she thought. It was time to find a cab.
"Take me to Coolsville," she told the driver.
"Where?" the cabbie shot back in a raspy voice. "I nevah hoid of dat place."
"I think the lady means Wicklestown," said a voice behind her. It was Ben Ravencroft, entering the cab from the other side. "Care to share the ride with me, Velma?"
"Can I stop you?"
All along the way, the snowy fields and farm houses were replaced by factories, smokestacks and smog. Wonder if the cabbie was going the right way.
"Wicklestown Square, just ahead," the cabbie barked, thick cigar smoke blowing from his lips. "Hurry up now…gotta pick up some TV exec back there who needs a lesson in Christmas cheer!"
Velma stepped out and looked around. The Emporium, Rialto, library and Coolsville High School were gone. In their place were a series of businesses she had never seen before: Magnus Shipping, Pietro's Puppet Theater, Zeb and Zeke's Gumbo Restaurant, A. Fong's Oriental Art Gallery, and Carlotta's Fortune Telling. Oh no…what had the town turned into? All of these businesses were run by villains she had once put away.
Around the corner was the biggest of all the buildings: Carswell's Bank, Building and Loan. Inside was a light above a table. Seated there was Carswell the Creeper, Elias Kingston, Harry the Hypnotist, and Old Man Wickles himself, glasses replaced by a monocle, wearing the finest suit money could buy. All were toasting something that could only mean something nefarious, based upon all the crimes these men committed.
"You weren't around to solve the mysteries and stop them," Ravencroft explained. "So now they run the run the town…into the ground!" He laughed. "At least for everyone not part of their evil little clique."
"What are you, some kind of angel?" Velma inquired.
"More of a 'fallen angel,' my dear," he shot back. "And if I was an angel, would I be so nice?"
Velma shook her head. "I don't know what kind of game you're playing at, but it wasn't just me who solved all those crimes. I had friends, you know! They could've taken down these guys without me."
"Well," she offered. "There's Fred, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby. And don't forget my younger sister Madelyn…"
At that moment, a pile of rags below the building window started to stir. To her surprise, she saw that it was a man, reaching for a bottle."
"I'm William Bailey, but most folks call me 'Uncle Billy.' You knew Madelyn?" he said with a slight slur.
"Know her," Velma corrected. "I'm her older sister."
"Madelyn was an only child." Now Uncle Billy's Irish brogue was getting a little more understandable.
Velma rubbed her chin. "Why do you keep referring to her in the past tense?"
"Cause she drowned after falling through the ice, chasing after the Snow Ghost over by the ol' sawmill, trying to solve a mystery."
Velma gaped. "Wha-that's impossible! She went to magic school. She…"
"The whole town turned out for the funeral, my dear."
"B-but the others…Mystery Inc…."
"Ahhh…that poor group of college kids…" the wino with the bottle shook his head.
"Tell me what happened!" Velma found herself snarling.
"Uncle Billy" paused, as if trying to rid himself of a terrible nightmare. "Miss Daphne Blake was abducted in a swamp, never to be seen again."
"Fred would never let that happen," Velma sounded bolder than she realized. "He'd never stop looking until he found her. He loves her more than even…traps!"
The former lump of rags moved its mouth, as if trying to find the right words. "Some say he wanders the swamp still, pushing his dugout canoe with a pole, calling her name, though his words hardly make sense. Some say he's all bald, wearing rags like me," Uncle Billy managed a laugh.
"That's a lie. That's the witch's zombie…."
The Irish brogue interrupted. "I wouldn't even think it was him, if it weren't for that tattered orange ascot."
"But why not ask about your beloved Shaggy, and his friend Scooby-Doo?" Ben Ravencroft added, as if knowing the answer.
"Shaggy left to join a band in California," the Uncle Billy managed haltingly. "He wasn't around when Buck Masters' Pound picked him up. That poor pooch…"
"He came back, but it was too late."
"The last anyone saw of him was that crazy green van jumping off the pier at full steam," the drunk's hands waved around, as if reenacting the terrible tragedy. "He's buried up in Potter's field next to Scoob…"
"It can't be!!!" Velma screamed at the top of her lungs.
At that moment, the men looked up from around the table. Carswell stood up and yelled out "Hey…those three are violating the dusk curfew!"
"Call out the enforcers!" Old Man Wickles bellowed.
Down from each street came several figures. From the left came the Miner 49er. From the right side emerged the Witch Doctor.
"Run for it!" Uncle Billy yelled, than stumbled down an alley, a large bear with the head of a Jaguar in pursuit. Ahead of them stalked the Ghost of Vasquez Castle.
Velma looked both ways, and then ducked into the alley. Uncle Billy was nowhere to be seen, but a fire escape presented itself.
"Ben…let's climb up to escape."
"After you," he grinned evilly.
"There's no way I'm letting you follow me up those steps. You first!"
"If you insist," he said in mild displeasure. He started up, followed by Velma as the Witch Doctor and Miner 49er entered the alley.
Once they reached the top, Velma paused to catch her breath. But they weren't out of the woods yet. They couldn't be safe while hiding on the roof of Carswell Bank, Building and Loan, with who knew what monsters were climbing up the side.
It was Ben Ravencroft who spoke first. "Strange how one person's life influences so many others."
"I…didn't…realize…" Velma panted, still out of breath from the arduous climb.
"And you were so willing to throw it all away, because you didn't have a date for Christmas," the last lines from Ravencroft dripped with sarcasm. "And I though YOU were the smart one."
"Ben…please…I know we stopped you from getting the witch's book…but can you return me to my life again?" Velma squeaked.
At that, Ben Ravencroft cackled with insane laughter as fog rolled over the roof. She could hear the clamoring on the fire escape, no doubt from an army of monster. From the building doors, she could hear a loud banging.
Velma dropped to her knees, and her glasses flew off from her face, blurring everything. "I'm sorry I wished I had never been born. I want to live. I…want…to…live…."
As she grabbed for her glasses, the banging from the building continued.
"Velma? Velma!" a lady's voice shouted.
"Da—Daphne?!" Velma gulped.
"Of course, Velma. Lose your glasses? Here they are." The redhead helpfully handed the spectacles to her brunette friend.
"You…you weren't abducted in the swamp?" Velma stammered, as if unable to believe it.
"Of course I was," Daphne responded cheerfully. "I was kidnapped, bound and gagged by the Witch and Zombie. But you and Fred rescued me, don't you remember?"
"Uh…I…." without warning, Velma threw herself arms around Daphne, giving her a bear hug. Daphne hesitate, as if unsure of what was going on, then replied "Okay….er…thanks Velma. I like you too." She gave a sisterly hug in reply, then said "Shouldn't we get to the start of the Christmas Ball? Fred, Shaggy and Scooby will be waiting for us."
"Fred….Scooby…Shag!" Velma exclaimed with relief. "You're ah-ali—all here!" Alive was what she meant to say, but would they understand?
"Yeah…let's not keep them waiting," Daphne managed to extricate herself from Velma's grip. "Can we go down? You're never going to believe what's about to happen."
Velma paused, then pulled her friend back. Where's all of this going, Daphne wondered. Were those rumors Red Herring always used to spread about her actually true?
"Look, I overheard things…I know about Shaggy and Scooby…."
"What about them?"
"I also know that you and Fred know too."
"I don't know what you're talking about, but you've got to come downstairs RIGHT NOW! It's really important!"
Velma shrugged, as Daphne eagerly pulled her back inside the building from the observation deck of Frump Towers, and dragged her enthusiastically down toward the elevators. Sure Shaggy had picked a dog over her for a best friend, but was it really so bad. They were still friends, as well as that mutt, the blond, and the redhead eagerly bouncing up and down like she just got a new mink for Christmas. And she wouldn't trade that life for any other.
"C'mon!" Once the door opened, Daphne gave her friend a shove toward the ballroom. "You can't miss this!"
Upon opening the doors, she saw the crowded gala, hundreds of couples, all of her friends and family…almost everyone in Coolsville.
"And the winner of the Belle of the Ball contest is…." Fred held the microphone, his voice reaching a crescendo.
A spotlight swung to her face, nearly blinding her. But from the balcony, she could recognize the silhouette of Scooby-Doo. All eyes swung to her at the door, mouth gaping in shock. The applause was defeaning. Daphne placed a tiara on her head, and a sash across her gown.
"Who else saved our town so many times, never asking for anything in return?" Fred continued into the mike, though barely audible as well-wishers ran to her.
"Actually, I have favor to ask," a familiar voice managed to be heard over the cacophony. As if the Red Sea was parting, the crowd around Velma opened to form a direct line to a gangly man in a tux. The noise fell to a hush.
"Velma, may I have this dance?" Shaggy pleaded.
Unable to speak with the weight of the surprise, Velma nodded. The applause returned as he walked forward to take her hand.
At that moment, Daphne walked up to the stage, taking the microphone from Fred. "A Merry Christmas to Velma Dinkley, the richest woman in Coolsville."
The band struck up the song "Buffalo Gals won't you come out tonight?" Fred took Daphne' s gloved hand, and joined them, along with all of the others partygoers.
At that moment, Ben Ravencroft looked down from above smiling.
"You did a good job tonight, Ben," the angel patted his shoulder.
"Thanks Clarence," the horror novelist said offhandedly. "Now how about reducing my sentence and letting roam back on Earth?"
"As the big guy said, you can do that…after satisfying another 1,998 more wishes," Clarence added.
Ben Ravencroft shook his head. It was going to take forever to get out of her and back to Earth, and that book! At least Velma wouldn't be around to thwart him then, or so he hoped.
At that moment, a small bell gave a tiny ring.
"You know Ben," said a small puppy resembling a miniature-sized Scooby. "Whenever a bell rings, an angel gets its wings."
"Oh shove it, Scrappy-Doo," said an exasperated Ben Ravencroft.