Strange Cases: Behemoth - Part Eight
KIKO LAKE, 4TH DAY OF SLEEPING, YEAR 9, 17:12 PM
It took twenty long, strenuous minutes for Steele to recover enough strength to stand, five more to be up and about as if nothing much had really happened at all, other than the odd betraying cough now and then.
“He’s big, Tanner, and strong. We’re not going to be able to draw him out... by... force.”
The Junior Agent caught his distracted look. “What is it, Steele?” he asked as he followed Steele’s line-of-sight. When he thought he saw what had caught the Scorchio’s attention, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “Lanterns?” he exclaimed in sheer disbelief. “But, I thought that would be the last thing we wanted... what happened, did some water get into your brain, or something?”
“Smart alec... and, now, I’m absolutely fine, for your information... and we don’t need the lanterns, but the fire inside them... well, no, we don’t – at least, not yet.” Steele was already walking toward the hanging lanterns. “Right now, what we need,” he paused, opening the steel cap in one and taking a deep sniff, “is the oil these babies are burning on, and a lot of it.”
“Oil, ye say?” asked a fisherman sitting under the next lantern down. “We got oil, alright, mister... barrels of it, in fact, about four dozen sitting in that shack over there, collecting dust... question is, what do ye plan to do with it?”
“Have you ever heard of the term, ‘smoking out the prey’?” Steele asked, turning to face the other two people present with a cunning smile. They both nodded slowly, exchanging odd glances. “Well, I think we have no choice but to flame big old Marco...”
They were back aboard the Flamboyant Seashell (“Mad as a Buzzer stealing Meepit Juice, that ‘un,” grunted the trawler’s captain as he spied Steele coming back up the gangplank). Even as the boats were out on the lake, carrying out Agent Steele’s plan, his Junior Agent partner was still having doubts.
“Steele,” Tanner began, for what was probably the fifth time already. “What you’re suggesting could kill Marco Vincette, if it worked at all!”
“Well, then that’s a chance I’ll have to take.”
“It’s not your choice to make!”
“Oh, and what, you want me to go down and ask him for his permission?!” Steele spat angrily, rounding on the cloud Kougra by his side. “Because, unless you’ve forgotten, I didn’t do so well the last time I visited!”
Tanner was stunned into silence, a silence that made Steele feel all the more guilty for shouting at him, after all the young Kougra had been through, on his first day, of all times.
“Whoa... hey, I’m sorry, Tanner,” he said, placing his hands on the Kougra’s shoulders. “I’m sorry, it’s just... I don’t have any choice. You know that, don’t you? I can’t put one man’s life over the safety of countless others, can I?”
“No... no, of course not,” Tanner sighed, “it’s just... you almost died, Steele! And now you’re acting as if nothing happened! Does this sort of thing happen to you all of the time, or something?”
“More often than you’d think, that’s for sure,” Steele muttered grimly as he watched the fishing boats dump the numerous barrels of oil onto the surface of Kiko Lake, where it floated and spread until it became a filmy layer that completely covered the surface. When he was sure not a single inch was uncovered, he nodded to the remainder of fishermen standing on the land nearby.
As one, the three groups of fishermen moved to their respective bonfires along the lakeside, lit their torches and thrust them into the base of the woodpiles.
The initial flare-ups from the brand new fires looked and felt like a sunrise to the two NSB agents standing expectantly a few yards out in the lake.
The response was almost immediate, and surprisingly close to where the two agents sailed. Bubbles rose and broke on the oily water’s surface, something of a roar audible with every bubble that burst. These bubble-roars became louder, larger and more frequent as the thing that used to be Marco Vincette swam up to the surface.
Then it broke the surface, the Behemoth, the towering sponge Blumaroo who had nearly killed twelve fishermen, and had almost taken Agent Steele along with them. It was truly gargantuan, its arms and legs the size of tree trunks, its head brushing the very clouds...
... And every inch of it was covered in oil.
“Hope your theory works, Max,” Tanner murmured uneasily at the sight of their target. “Because I sure wouldn’t want to get that angry for nothing...”
But, this time, it was Agent Steele who was stunned. “You... you called me Max,” he said, more to himself than to his partner. “I thought I said you could only call me by my first name when – and only when – we had gotten to know each other a little more.”
“You drowned; I revived you, saving your life. Doesn’t that count for anything with you?”
They stood in silence as, in the lake, the Behemoth stood still, trying to wipe off the black, sticky oil, to no avail. All it managed to do was rub it deeper into its porous body.
“I... I guess it counts for a lot... kid,” Steele answered finally, ruffling the cloud Kougra’s hair. “And thanks again, you know, for...”
“Yeah, I know.”
“ Okay... OKAY!” Steele yelled to the three groups by their bonfires. “This is it, guys – do it!”
Every fisherman grabbed their torch, relighting it in the fires and, as one, touched the tips of them upon the surface of the lake.
The oil caught fire in an instant, sweeping across the lake like a rolled-out blanket of embers. When it reached the Behemoth, the fire rushed up its legs and engulfed its entire body with alarming speed until all that could be seen was a roaring, fiery giant.
Just when Steele and Tanner feared their plan was about to backfire with the worst possible result for everyone involved, a blessed sound met their ears.
“What’s that sound?” Tanner bellowed over the deafening noise. “Sounds like some sort of geyser... what’s happening?”
“It’s working, is what’s happening,” Steele told him excitedly. “He’s drying out!”
In the extreme heat created from the burning oil that covered it, the Behemoth’s porous body quickly started to dry, and when there was no more water to evaporate, it was the potions’ turn to be drawn out, and what a sight that was!
Slowly, under a cloud the same shade of orange-yellow as its sponge body, the Behemoth began to shrink as the Ultra Supersizes were drawn out first, closely followed by the sponge potions, its – no, his – skin turning from spongy orange, to pockmarked blue and, finally, to unblemished blue.
Luckily, before he could burn to death, Marco had reverted to normal size in mid-air, his legs shrinking up from under him, and he toppled into the water with a scream, all the oil burnt up and that what was left on his body instantly dowsed and washed off by the plunge.
As everyone began to cheer and celebrate, Steele turned to Tanner, clapping him heartily on the back.
“Well, Francis?” he asked, beaming. “How do you feel after completing your first assignment?”
Looking out across the lake to where Marco Vincette – no longer the Behemoth, although his sanity was still in question – was being pulled aboard the nearest fishing boat, Tanner thought back to everything that had happened.
“Great,” he admitted finally, sharing the Scorchio’s broad grin. “I feel just great, Max.”
“Good, because you’re still writing the report when we get back to HQ...”
NEOPIAN SPECIAL BRANCH HEADQUARTERS, 5 DAY OF SLEEPING, YEAR 9, 10:57 AM
Steele hadn’t backed down from his promise and, before he knew it, Tanner was back in the small office of the Strange Cases Division, pen in hand.
“The Behemoth was, as Agent Steele had surmised, instinctively protecting itself from the campfire when it attacked the three campers. It also turns out that the footprints we had found farther up ahead from the campsite were from when the Behemoth tried to leave the lake – some part of Marco’s memory thinking of home, perhaps – before realizing that it needed the copious amounts of water in the lake to survive.”
The young cloud Kougra paused at this, grabbing another sheet of paper as he wondered whether Steele would want him to include the encounter with the mysterious Blackjack. Finally reasoning that the more people who were made aware of this Grarrl, the more people would be able to identify him, the Junior Agent went on.
“Agent Steele informed me of a potentially new informant, who apparently goes by the alias of Blackjack. Without the help of this Grarrl, we wouldn’t have known about the potions factory, or the incident that occurred there.
“If there is any information about this ‘Blackjack’ character, it would be greatly appreciated.”
Tanner took a moment to take a sip of the cocoa Steele had been kind enough to make for him before continuing.
“When we dried out the Behemoth, it reverted back to Marco Vincette, the blue Blumaroo factory worker. Marco is now fully recovered from his ordeal and has returned to work. The potions factory has now issued full-body protective clothing for all their employees.
“Mr. McNulty’s campsite has been reopened for business.
Satisfied with his finished work, Tanner collected the sheets of paper and delivered to the Head Agent’s office next door.
“Thank you, Tanner,” Head Agent Leonard Fuller took the report in its finished form and gave it a quick once-over. Unsurprisingly, eyebrows were raised. “This is all true?” he asked, finally.
“You recruited me for my deductive skills and my open mind.” Tanner smirked. “Not my imagination... so, yes, Sir, it’s all of it true.”
“And yet it doesn’t amaze you?”
“Oh, I’m amazed, Sir,” the Junior Agent replied, turning to leave. “I just know I haven’t seen anything yet.”
“Good haul, Jake?” one fisherman asked another, pulling his net in as their trawlers passed one another.
“Can’t complain, Silas, can’t complain...”
As the Flamboyant Seashell set sail for the nearest shore, it left behind in its wake a disturbed surface and white foam...
... And a big, round bubble that rose to the surface, breaking with a loud, dull pop.
Author’s Note: So ends the very first Strange Cases story! Did it leave you with more questions than answers? GOOD!
If you liked this story, then I’d love to hear from you! If you didn’t like it (and, let’s face it, after reading eight parts can you REALLY say you didn’t like it if you carried on reading til the end?) then I’d STILL love to hear from you! I have many more ideas for future Strange Cases, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself if they’re not being enjoyed. I write these because I love these kind of stories, and because I know no one else writes them, but I don’t want to submit them if no one likes them... the last thing I want is to waste people’s time.
Peace, and take care!