Earl Chips Jr. was making his rounds. After many years of bouncing around from job to job, he had finally settled on the role of night watchman at the Museum of History. His bright flashlight cut through the darkness like a knife. It was, he had come to discover, an uneventful little job. His night consisted of sweeping over the museum to make sure nothing was wrong (and nothing ever was wrong) and reporting to his partner, Dexter. Every hour he would check in with the old man to see that there was no kind of disturbance or, as Dexter was so inclined to put it, “funny business.”
Earl let out a sigh. Another night of patrolling half of the building and not a thing to show for it. Just once he’d like to find some punk lurking around and, well, he might just go all Dirty Harry on them. Of course, he didn’t have a gun, but that wouldn’t stop him from showing a few of his best karate moves. Earl had gotten to the end of the corridor of Egyptian history and turned back round. He touched the radio pinned to his shoulder.
“Nothing to report over here, Dexter. Anything on your end?” He waited for a moment, running his fingers through his ginger beard. Then he clicked the radio on again. “Dexter, do you read me? Any…” he rolled his eyes, “any funny business?” There was no reply over the radio, which was quite unusual as Dexter was always quick to respond. Sensing that the old man may be in some sort of danger (or maybe he was just asleep,) Earl turned around and dashed off toward the East Wing of the building, in which Dexter was supposed to be patrolling.
He arrived at the guard station first and, entering the code on the keypad, rushed inside and looked around. There was no one present. He had expected to find Dexter napping away as he was watching the monitors, but was met with nothing but silence. He looked up at the screens displaying each room in the museum. There was no sign of Dexter.
“Now where the heck did he go?” Earl asked himself, chewing his bottom lip. He looked from monitor to monitor nervously. Then, as he looked to the far right TV, he saw Dexter dash across the screen.
“There he is.” He said to himself, jabbing a finger down on the table before him. But as soon as Earl had pinned down his partner, Dexter was on the move again, appearing on the next monitor. Earl noticed that Dexter’s radio was no longer pinned to his shoulder. He leaned in and squinted his eyes.
“What are you running from?” Earl asked. Then a flash of red smeared itself across the screen, causing Earl to jump back.
“What the Hell was that?” Earl yelled. He swallowed hard and tucked his cap tight onto his head. Whatever it was, it was chasing Dexter, and though Dexter was a peculiar sort of man, he wasn’t a bad guy. And thus, Earl Chips Jr. Decided it was his moment to be a hero. He ran out of the doorway toward the East Wing, headed for the Medieval Europe exhibit.
“I’m coming, Dexter!” He cried, tightening his grip on his sole weapon, a flashlight. He rounded the corner and heard a yell. He picked up his pace. There was a loud crashing noise, it sounded like a suit of armor falling to the ground. Earl swished the flashlight around, trying to locate the source of the noise. There, laying in a heap, was Dexter. He knelt down to examine his partner.
“Dexter.” He whispered. “Dexter?” he said again, raising his voice. He placed his hands down on the man’s shoulder, only to feel that it was hard, hard as stone. He turned the light onto the man, examining him. To his horror, shock, and amazement, he found that the old guard had been turned to stone. Solid stone. And etched upon his face was a look of horror. What had he seen? What could have done this to him. Something had literally petrified this man to death.
“Oh, Dexter.” Earl said in a hushed tone. He lowered his eyes, incapable of believing what they were seeing anyway. Then, remembering there was something out there in the darkness, he whipped his head up and swallowed hard. He listened, still for a moment, but heard nothing. Then, after what seemed an hour, but was only a few seconds, he heard another crashing noise. Earl threw up the flashlight beam, looking desperately for the cause of the noise. A loud gasp escaped Earl’s mouth as a trail of bright red seemed to retreat from him. Two red dots, just like tail lights. They zipped away as Earl squeezed his eyes shut tight. He threw his arms up to shield his face, hoping, praying, that whatever it was would leave him alone. Then, after a moment, he cautiously opened one eye and looked around. Whatever had been in the room with him was now gone. He sank down and sat on the floor, trying to catch his breath.
“Dexter,” he said, finally looking at the body of his former partner, “Dexter, I think this counts as funny business.”
“And that’s the story as it happened.” Earl Chips Jr. said, staring at the man across the desk from him. Earl drummed nervously on the surface before him as the old Detective locked his fingers together, resting them on his head.
“I see.” Said the old man at last. “That’s quite a story.”
“And it’s all true!” Earl cried, sinking back into his chair. He cleared his throat after a moment. “See, I’ve read about you in the papers. The famous Detective Dandy. You deal with things like this.”
“I have solved a mystery or two in my day.” Dandy said with a smile.
“And I came because…whatever happened to Dexter, there was…there was a monster involved. And you’re the only one who has the experience with that sort of thing. The only one that I’ve ever heard of, anyway.”
“And you’re convinced it was some kind of…monster?” Dandy said, leaning forward into the desk before him.
“It had horrible, glowing red eyes. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. If it had gotten closer, why, I wouldn’t be here right now, I know that much for certain.”
“Yes, you’d be stone, like your coworker. That’s the part that puzzles me the most.”
“Whatever it was scared him to death. Turned him into a statue.” Earl said, shivering. “And it was coming for me, but something stopped it. I…I guess I just got lucky.” Earl swallowed hard. Dandy could tell that, in the mind of Earl Chips Jr., all he could see was glowing red eyes coming at him.
“Well, I’ll certainly look into the matter. It could be what you say is true. After all, I’ve seen stranger things. But the museum is such a public place, where would a monster hide, you think?” Dandy stroked his thick white mustache as he was thinking.
“Oh there’s all kinds of places that you could hide in that building. What the public sees is just a fraction of the whole thing.” Earl said.
“Interesting, very interesting indeed.” Dandy said. He stood from his desk and crossed the room toward the coat rack situated next to the door. He picked up his white Panama hat and placed it on his head. Opening the door, he motioned towards Earl.
“After you, Mr. Chips.” He said with a smile.
“You mean I’m coming with you?” Earl asked.
“Well, I imagine no one knows the museum quite like you. The ins and outs and what not. It would be handy to have a guide, don’t you think?” Earl thought for a moment and then reluctantly stood up.
“Well, if you insist. But I’m out of there at the first sign of trouble, be it glowing red eyes or not. After last night, I’m done with that museum!” Earl shuffled out the door and Dandy followed him.
“Perfectly understandable, Mr. Chips.” Dandy said with a smile. “But I think we owe it to Dexter to try and find out exactly what’s going on inside those walls, don’t you.” The two settled into Dandy’s silver car and rode off toward the museum.
When the pair pulled up to the Museum of History, there was a small crowd forming. Getting out of his car, Dandy would soon see why. In front of the steps leading to the main entrance stood a thin blonde reporter and her cameraman.
“That’s Stacy Stars!” declared Earl as he stared in awe. “She’s a big deal around here.” He concluded.
“Oh yes, we’ve met.” Dandy said, folding his arms. She had been covering the news for a handful of years now, and had risen quickly to the top. She had even covered some of the cases that Dandy had solved. She had a habit of being sensational, so they sent her to cover sensational stories. It made perfect sense that she would be the one to cover this new monster story. The pair made their way through the crowd after a bit of struggling.
“Oh, and here we have the appearance of famous monster hunter and detective John Dandy.” Stacy said with a large smile. “Mr. Dandy, any comment on the occurrence at the Museum?” She shoved the microphone in Dandy’s face. He tipped his hat at the camera.
“Just looking into it now.” He said calmly, and moved past the reporter and cameraman, into the building.
“Wow, we’re on TV!” Earl said with a grin.
“That’s just going to draw all kinds of attention that I don’t want or need. They’ll be snooping around for any incredible details they can find and in the meantime, might I mention, they’ll be getting in my way.” He paused for a moment at the inside of the entrance. “She found out about this monster angle pretty quick, even for her.” Dandy said, rubbing his chin. Earl looked at the ground.
“Gee, I didn’t tell anybody but the police. And of course Mr. Grant.”
“And who is Mr. Grant?” Asked Dandy? Just then a voice came from behind the two of them.
“That would be me.” Dandy turned to see a portly bald man, probably in his late 50s, well dressed and smiling, walking toward them. The man stuck out his hand.
“Detective John Dandy.” The old Detective said, accepting Grant’s hand.
“Baxter Grant.” There was a moment of silence between the two, then Grant cleared his throat. “See, our mutual friend, Mr. Chips here, filed a report with the police and naturally I became involved. I am in charge of the museum.”
“Involved how?” asked Dandy, a grimace spreading across his face without his control.
“I alerted the media of course. At first I thought that this sort of thing might keep the public away, but then I began to think that maybe, just maybe, the morbid curiosity of the general pedestrian would get the best of them and they’d come to see if they could catch a glimpse of the ‘monster’.” Dandy shook his head.
“Well Mr. Grant,” cut in Earl, “isn’t that sort of taking advantage of Dexter’s Death?” Grant flashed a smile.
“I’m simply doing business, Earl. You know the attendance has been down here at the Museum recently. I just saw an opportunity and took it.”
“Sounds like you took a gamble there, Mr. Grant.” Dandy said finally.
“Well, I have been known to be a betting man.” Grant said with a grin. Dandy coughed after a minute. “I’d like to see the scene of the crime, if I may.” He said. Grant nodded his bald head.
“Right this way,” he said. Both Grant and Earl led the way, silently. The typical yellow tape was up, blocking off the Medieval exhibit and it appeared everything had been left the way they had been on the night of Dexter’s death. There was, laying in a heap, several parts of armor all mixed together, but not much else looked disturbed.
“That’s where poor Dexter fell.” Earl said with a shudder. Dandy knelt to look closely at the destroyed artifact. There didn’t seem to be anything amiss to his eye, but of course that’s how it always started.
“And you say that the, er, monster, went in which direction? Dandy asked, standing back up. Earl pointed toward the south entrance leading toward a room full of massive paintings. The three men entered the room together.
“This is curious.” Dandy said, turning around. “There’s only one entrance way into this room, and that’s the way that we came in. But you’re sure that this is the way that the…thing went?” Earl nodded his head.
“I–I swear, this is the way it disappeared. Dandy stroked his mustache for a moment. He was about to make a remark when Grant cut in.
“Maybe whatever you saw was a ghost,” he said with his eyes wide.
“Gee, I never thought of that.” Earl stuttered.
“It wasn’t any ghost.” A deep voice came from behind them. “It was an evil thing that lives within these very walls.” The trio of men spun around to see a tall, dark man pushing a mop. Grant pulled at his tie.
“Oh, Mr. Clyde.” He motioned to Dandy. “Detective, this is Mr. Clyde, he’s one of our janitors. Mr. Clyde, this is John Dandy.” The two men shook hands.
“What were you saying, Mr. Clyde?” Dandy asked.
“Something in this museum is cursed. And someone here knows it and is using it to kill! Mark my words, this is just the beginning.”
“How do you know anything, Clyde?” Grant asked, a curious expression upon his face.
“I know every inch of this museum. And only after we got last month’s shipment of artifacts did anything start to happen.” Clyde leaned against the mop in his hands. Dandy turned to Grant.
“Do you have the paperwork for the last batch of items you received?” Grant nodded his head.
“Of course. I’ll just go to my office and retrieve it for you.” Digging into his pocket for a set of keys, the man walked away. It was a few minutes before anyone said anything.
“So, Mr. Clyde, how long have you worked–” Dandy began, but was cut off by a scream.
“Why, that sounded like Mr. Grant.” Earl said. The three men dashed off in the direction of the noise.
“Take us to his office.” Dandy said to Earl. Earl nodded quickly and dashed off in the direction of Grant’s personal office. When they got there the door was wide open. Dandy ran in first, looking frantically around. There, laying on the desk, body turned to solid stone, eyes wide open, mouth agape, was Mr. Grant. The door slammed shut behind Dandy, cutting him off from Clyde and Earl. There came an ominous hissing noise, and then Dandy saw it. Coiled up behind the door was a giant green and black serpent, and most striking of all, its glowing red eyes. Moving from behind the door the giant snake opened its mouth and struck out toward Dandy, who rolled around the desk and remained crouched. He could hear the serpent getting closer and closer.
“Well,” he said to himself, “this is a pickle.”
Dandy sat crouched behind the desk, hugging it tightly. He could hear nothing but the savage hissing of the giant snake across the small room from him. Then, suddenly, violently, there came a smashing sound. He peered over the desk and saw that Earl had busted in the door.
“Don’t worry, detective, we’re coming!” But then, upon seeing the giant serpent he leapt back into the hallway.
“Er, maybe not.” added Mr. Clyde. The snake reared its head and opened its jaws wide, letting out another terrible hiss. Earl swung away, placing his back against the doorway. But Clyde stood there, still, staring at the snake.Dandy popped up from behind his hiding spot and yelled.
“Move, Mr. Clyde, move!” But it was too late. The giant red eyes lit up and the snake bobbed back and forth. Clyde stared up at the glowing eyes and let out a cry of pain, clutching at his chest.
“Clyde!” yelled Earl, as the janitor fell back with a loud clang noise, another human body turned to stone.
“Earl, cover your eyes, cover your eyes!” Dandy commanded. The security guard quickly followed the instructions. The snake, seeing it had claimed another victim, slithered out of the office quickly. After a moment, Dandy adjusted his pale gray suit jacket. He looked at the desk where Baxter lay sprawled out. Then he turned his head and saw the stoney remains of Clyde laying on the floor. After a minute or so Earl walked through the doorway.
“He didn’t even do anything. He just looked at Clyde and it…it turned him to stone!”
“That’s why I told you to cover your eyes, Earl.” Dandy said, shaking his head. “I’ve read myths about this sort of creature before. Basilisks. They can kill a person just by looking at them. Turn them straight to stone.”
“Where’d you read about that?” Asked Earl in amazement.
“You think those books in my office are just for show?” Asked Dandy, looking at the bodies around him.
“How did it get in here?” Asked Earl.
“Perhaps the same way it escaped the other night.” Dandy said, rubbing his chin. “There must be some hidden way in and out of here.”
“What, like a secret passage or something?” Earl asked, stroking his ginger beard.
“I begin to suspect as much.” Dandy said, carefully looking about the room. He began to feel around the walls, looking for any sign that there may be more than met the eye. Behind the desk sat an old oil painting of a man fighting a bull. Dandy ran his fingers over it, there was a slight raise, a very narrow gap between the frame and the wall. “Aha.” he said, moving the painting aside. In the recess hidden in the wall was a single button. Dandy pressed it and the wood panel before him slid aside. Earl looked on in amazement.
“You mean that this whole time that’s just been here in Baxter’s office? He must be behind this, right?” The guard asked.
“Dandy squinted at the passage before him. I suspect he did have something to do with the snake but now…” he glanced at the body on the desk behind him. “Now I think he was working with someone, and whoever that someone was is trying to tie up some loose ends.” He looked back at the entrance way behind the painting once more. “However, I think there’s only one way to find out.”
Dandy and Earl slowly crept through the secret passageway. It was a narrow, straight corridor that only led in one direction: ahead. Every so often Dandy would stop and listen.
“We better be careful, we don’t want to get trapped in here with that snake. If we hear any movement, we better double back.” Earl said nothing but swallowed hard and nodded his head.
“Maybe we should double back just in case.” He said finally.
“You can go back if you want, but I think we’re close to solving this case.” Dandy said.
“I suppose I owe it to Dexter to see this thing through.” Earl said after thinking it over for a moment. The pari continued onward until they came to another room, a central chamber that led off in four directions.
“You could probably get anywhere from here.” Dandy said, looking around. “I suspect that one of these will lead to the room of paintings in which the snake disappeared originally.”
“So you think whoever’s behind this is using this corridor to get the snake through the museum?” asked Earl.
“I believe so.” Dandy replied. He stared around. “Let’s take one of these doors and see where it leads.” Earl took a deep breath and followed the Detective. The old man spun around a few times and finally picked a door at random. They opened the door and shuffled through. The door before them slid open and they squeezed out into a new exhibit.
“Where are we?” Asked Dandy. Earl looked around. “We’re in the West Wing,” Earl began, “Eastern History.” Dandy looked around him.
“Grab that,” he said, pointing toward a samurai sword. “We might just need it.” Earl grabbed the sword and held it out before him shakily.
“I’ve never carried a weapon before,” he said.
“I hope it’s only for show.” Dandy said with a weak smile. Suddenly there was a sound behind them, the pair turned quickly. “Well, that’s not what I wanted to see.” Dandy said, dashing off to the side. The Basilisk was once again upon them. “Get cover, Earl.” Dandy commanded, but the guard stood still in his tracks, frozen with fear. The snake began to hiss, its red eyes glowing like rubies.
“Close your eyes, then!” Dandy yelled. Earl shut his eyes tight and in doing so, tensed up, dropping the sword with a clatter on the floor. The serpent rose up, tongue flickering in the air.
“Face it, it’s all over, Detective.” said a soft voice. Dandy spun around to see Stacy Stars behind him.
“As I began to suspect.” He said with an air of confidence. “Always the first one on the scene, and you knew things about this case before anyone could have. All to get a story, huh?” He asked, spitting out the last words.
“Preciscely.” She responded with a grin. “I’ll do anything to get a story, even if I have to make them up myself. And things were getting a little slow around here.”
“Detective, can I open my eyes yet?” Asked Earl, who seemed relatively unphased by the revelation of the murderer.
“Not yet, just stay still.” Dandy replied.
“So,” Dandy began, eyeing Stacy, “You and Grant were in on it to drum up business for both ends, huh?” He asked.
“Well, we were, but it turns out he couldn’t stomach the death. He was having second thoughts and we couldn’t have that.” She shook her head. “And after all, this beautiful creature came all the way from Asia. Trapped in a chest from Mongolia for who knows how long. It was a gift for both of us. He got the numbers, and I got the story.” She smiled. “And speaking of stories, I’ll have a new one to cover soon, namely the murder of a famous private detective.” She motioned toward the snake. “Strike, my darling, strike!” The snake opened its jaws wide and began to close in toward Earl. Dandy, quicker than he imagined he could be at his age, spun and grabbed the sword, the weapon glistening. He held the weapon high, reflecting the gaze of the snake in the blade, the red eyes bouncing off the immaculately polished iron. The snake recoiled at the sight of its own glanceIt let out a horrid cry of pain and stiffened up, turning to stone in seconds.
“What are you doing? You can’t do that, stop!” yelled Stars. But it was too late for the mighty basilisk.
“What’s happening?” yelled Earl. Dandy dropped the sword once more and the snake toppled over to the floor with a loud banging noise.
“I’ll be damned.” whispered Dandy. “I didn’t think that was going to work.” Earl reluctantly opened one eye.
“You…killed the snake?” he said, opening the other eye.
“The snake itself took care of that. I guess that anything that beholds its glare meets with a grizzly fate. Even itself. And now for–” but Dandy couldn’t finish his sentence.
“Don’t move.” Said Satcy. The pair turned around to find that she was pointing a gun at them. “That thing was my ticket to the top. And you…you just ruined it, so now you die, old man.” She raised the gun. But before she could fire, there was a terrible whirring noise, like a mighty wind rustling.
“Don’t tell me the snake is back.” said Earl with a frown.
“No snake here, just me.” Said a familiar voice. From behind the reporter appeared the pale form of Dexter.
“Dexter!” cried Earl in surprise. “But you’re dead!”
“As a doornail.” Said Dexter with a smile. The reporter spun around in awel.
“A ghost?!” she screamed. Just then Dexter passed through her body as if she wasn’t even there. She seized up and dropped the gun. Dandy knelt over and seized the weapon from the ground. He pointed it firmly at the reporter, who was now on both knees. The two men and the ghost all looked at each other, then down to Stacy, who had begun to shiver.
“No funny business.” They all said together in unison.