by Lucky Ladybug
Opening: Charlie's and Itchy's pad. Charlie's in front of a shortwave radio turning the dial.
"Come in, Sasha!" Charlie said into the radio. "Do you read me?"
In a few minutes, Sasha's voice came over the radio. "Yes, Charlie, I read you loud and clear!"
"This shortwave radio is really going to come in handy!" Charlie said mischievously.
After a few more minutes of conversation, Sasha signed off. Charlie turned to Itchy. "Why don't we fool around and see what other ham operators are saying?"
Without waiting for a reply, Charlie began turning the dial. He ran into an airplane conversation, the local police frequency, and then something ominous.
"Did you get it?" he heard someone say.
"Yeah!" another voice replied.
"Wharf 33, midnight," said the first voice.
"Charlie, I think that's supposed to be a private conversation," Itchy said.
"Oh, Itch! If they really didn't want anyone to hear them, they could always scramble the messages," Charlie replied.
"Charlie, I think you'd better turn the radio off," Itchy insisted.
Charlie's eyes had that mischievous gleam. "Wait a minute, Itch."
"Wharf 33, midnight," the second voice repeated. "Alright. I'll be there. 10-4, over and out."
Charlie switched off the radio. "Interesting," he said, heading toward the door.
"Charlie, what are you doing?" Itchy asked in horror.
"I think I'll go out to Wharf 33," Charlie replied.
Itchy rushed forward and grabbed Charlie's tail in a futile effort to stop him from going. "Charlie! Don't! Something's fishy about that conversation! I don't think you should go!"
"Aw, what's the worst that could happen?" Charlie shot back, opening the door. Itchy found himself being dragged along with him.
"Charlie, I don't think we should be here," Itchy said, glancing around nervously.
"Will you stop worrying already?" Charlie said good-naturedly. "The only thing that's happening is those two guys are having a meeting here at midnight."
"But, Charlie---" Itchy started to protest.
"Everything will be just fine." Charlie opened a magazine and waited for midnight.
Charlie and Itchy snapped to attention and peered around the crate.
"Just five minutes," said the other voice.
There were two dogs wearing trenchcoats and panama hats pulled low over their eyes.
"Charlie, they look creepy!" Itchy said. Charlie immediately hushed him.
"Well, where is it?" the first voice asked impatiently.
"Right here." The second one held up a briefcase. The first one grabbed it and opened it, searching through it.
"Wonderful!" he said. "Now, gather Bucko and T.C. and the others and---you know what to do! Meet you back here Thursday at midnight---and that's midnight, not 12:05!" With that, the two parted.
"See, Charlie?" Itchy said. "I knew we'd get into some crazy thing! They must be crooks!"
Charlie didn't look the least bit worried. "Yeah! Criminals! Espionage! Beautiful women! Hey, this is great!" He rushed off down the wharf.
"Charlie! Wait up!" Itchy called after him. "This is serious! We could be in big trouble!"
"Oh, Itch! They didn't see us!" Charlie scoffed. "We'd only be in trouble if they knew we'd seen the transaction take place!"
"Yeah, well . . . How do we know they didn't?" Itchy muttered.
"How so?" Itchy asked suspiciously, looking around the room.
The two dogs walked around the room, but didn't see anything strange.
"Must've been my imagination," Charlie concluded.
He went over to the couch, where he lifted up the cushion. "Good. It's still here," he said in relief.
"What?" Itchy asked.
"That juicy T-bone I found," Charlie replied.
He emerged a few minutes later, minus the baseball. Instead he held a sparkling rock.
"What's that, Itch?" Charlie asked. "Where's the baseball?"
Itchy turned the rock over in his paws. "It looks a sparkling rock, Charlie," he said, handing it to the German Shepherd. "I don't where the baseball went. This thing was here and the baseball wasn't."
Charlie investigated the rock, then said, "It's definitely a sparkling rock, Itch."
"What're we going to do with it, Charlie?" Itchy asked.
"I think I'll give it to Sasha," Charlie replied. "I'll hang it on that gold chain I found in the alley a week ago."
"That's a good idea, Charlie," Itchy said. "I bet Sasha would love it!" More to himself he added, "But what in the world happened to the baseball?"
Charlie and Itchy looked at each other. Then Charlie turned to the ninja. "Why? It's just a rock that I was going to give to a friend of mine."
The ninja brandished a machete. "Drop it!" he repeated.
"Charlie, better do what he says," Itchy said to the German Shepherd in a monotone.
"No way, Itch!" Charlie replied. To the ninja he said, "Look, pal, I'm not giving it up and that's that." With that, he and Itchy turned around and walked away.
"Come back here!" the ninja yelled, chasing after them.
"Charlie, I think he really wants that rock!" Itchy said.
"Finders, keepers!" Charlie replied, breaking into a run.
"I warned ya!" the ninja yelled, throwing the machete.
"Charlie! Duck!" Itchy yelped.
The two dogs separated and got out of the way just in time. The machete stuck into a piece of rickety wood, which splintered all over the place. The ninja poked around looking for them but after ten minutes, gave up and went away, calling, "I'll get that rock yet!"
Charlie and Itchy cautiously peered up from the trash cans they'd hid in. "Charlie, I know you don't want to hear this," Itchy began, "but I think that rock has something to do with the conversation we heard last night."
Charlie laughed. "Itchy! How could it?" But then, after contemplating for a few minutes, he said thoughtfully, "Why wouldn't it? You know something, Itch, I bet this isn't just a rock. I bet it's some kind of gem!"
Itchy gasped. He hadn't thought of that. "Wow! Charlie, you're probably right! That's why the ninja wanted it back so much!"
Charlie grinned mischievously. "You know what, Itch? I still want to catch those crooks!"
Itchy looked horrified. "Charlie! We should leave that up to the police!"
"Why?" Charlie said defensively. "We can catch 'em as well as any policeman! Besides, they wouldn't listen to dogs!"
"Charlie, how are we going to catch criminals?" Itchy asked. "They're dangerous! And crafty! And sneaky!"
Charlie looked thoughtful. "I think I've got a plan."
"Please, Sasha," Charlie pleaded. "I just want to use the Flea Bite Cafe as bait to lure the criminals here. All you have to do is wear this." He held up the rock which was attached to the gold chain. "Itchy and me'll do the rest. If we can just get 'em here, then we can catch them!"
Sasha sighed and shook her head. "Alright," she consented, taking the necklace. "But I'm not doing this for you, Charlie Barkin. I'm doing it to keep San Francisco safe from these smugglers or whoever they are."
"Hey! Got a tip that the stone you're lookin' for is at a place called the Flea Bite Cafe," Charlie said, imitating the second voice.
"Really?" the first voice said. He sounded happy about that. "Well, good work, Fresno!"
"Fresno?" Charlie thought. "What an unusual name."
"Alright!" the first voice went on, "I'll round up Bucko and the other guys and meet you there at seven p.m. tonight. Be on time!! 10-4, over and out." Charlie heard a click and turned off his radio.
"What're you going to do, Charlie?" Itchy asked.
Charlie opened the closet and pulled out a trenchcoat and panama hat. "I'm going to impersonate Fresno, Itch."
"Charlie! That could be dangerous!" Itchy exclaimed. "What if they discover it's you and not Fresno?"
"Danger is my middle name, Itch," Charlie replied. "Now, you watch what happens tonight."
"Charlie, how are just the two of us going to catch desperate criminals?" Itchy asked. "I don't like this idea at all!"
Charlie paused a minute in thought. "Round up some of the town dogs, then, Itch. There actually might be quite a lot of gang members."
Itchy gulped, thinking of tangling with gangs, then hurried out the door to get reinforcements.
"What are you talking about, wiener dog?" asked a familiar voice. "And what're you trying to do? Attract attention?"
"Huh?" The fog was getting worse every minute, but Itchy could see Killer staring at him, looking puzzled. Sheepishly the dachshund realized that the sharp thing he'd clanked into must've been a spike on Killer's collar. "Uh, oh, hi, Killer . . . It's a long story." Suddenly he got an idea. "Hey, how would you like to help catch some smugglers?"
"That depends," Killer replied. "What would I have to do?"
Quickly Itchy explained about the crazy mystery up to the present time. "So," he concluded, "Charlie wanted me to get some reinforcements."
Killer nodded. "Uh huh. So, we're supposed to just hide and watch what goes on until those guys grab the stone, then try to catch them?"
"That's the idea," Itchy said.
The mongrel considered this for a minute, then consented. "Alright, wiener dog."
Sasha walked back and forth across the stage, waiting for her cue to start singing. The stone hung around her neck.
Charlie was just inside the door in the trenchcoat and panama hat. When he saw the dog gang coming, he signaled to Sasha to start singing. She started with an old hit, "I've Got You Under My Skin."
The lead dog came up to Charlie. All dogs were wearing trenchcoats and panama hats like Charlie's. "So, Fresno, you say the stone's here?"
Charlie nodded. "The dame up on stage has it," he said, pointing to Sasha, who made a big point of showing off the stone.
"Okay . . . how do we get it from her?" the leader asked.
Before Charlie could answer, he saw the real Fresno heading for the Cafe. "Uh oh!" he said under his breath.
"Hey, Bisko!" he said to the leader. "What's going on here?"
Bisko, who was watching Sasha and thinking what a lovely dog she was, wasn't really paying attention and said, "What a silly question, Fresno!" Suddenly it dawned on him that something strange was happening. He, and the other gang members, who were also watching Sasha, whirled. "Fresno! You . . . him . . ." Bisko looked from the dog in the doorway to Charlie and back again. His eyes narrowed and he turned back to Charlie, teeth bared. "You're not Fresno!" he realized. "Boys, we've been tricked!"
Fresno looked puzzled. "What's going on around here?"
"The only thing that matters now is that we were tricked!" Bucko spoke up.
As Sasha's song ended, she came down from the stage. Realizing the jig was up but still hoping to patch up whatever damage had been done, she turned flirting eyes to Bucko. "Hi, big boy," she purred.
Bucko was almost taken, but Bisko yelled out, "Don't fall for it, you fool! She's part of the trap!"
"But that's the real stone!" T.C. yelled. "That's no fake!"
Without warning, Bisko suddenly reached out and grabbed for the stone. The chain snapped and the stone was in the gangsters' hands (paws?).
"Stop them!" Sasha and Charlie yelled in unison. "They'll get away!"
All the dogs gave chase. Everytime the gangsters reached the door, a group of dogs would already be there and chase them back into the cafe.
As Bisko rushed by with the stone, Charlie rushed by him and grabbed it back. Bisko stopped abruptly, looked down at his paws, and realized that Charlie had grabbed the stone.
And so it went. Bucko or T.C. would grab the stone back from Charlie, but then he or one of his reinforcements would grab it back.
"What're we going to do?" Itchy exclaimed.
"I think there's a crowbar in the storage closet," Killer replied. "I think I remembered seeing it that time when Carface tried to take this place over. Why don't you go get it?"
Itchy hurried off to the storage closet.
Then Charlie accidentally hit Fresno as he dashed by and the gangster got mad and started throwing punches at the German Shepherd. Before long, they were duking it out in a corner of the cafe.
Sasha watched them for a few seconds, then shook her head and rushed after Bisko, who had possession of the stone.
She grabbed it from him and tossed it to Killer. The mongrel turned and ran for the kitchen.
Itchy, in the meantime, had found the crowbar in the storage closet and was hiding behind the cupboard to conk the criminals. He saw a flash of fur zipping by. "Well, here goes," he said, and raised the crowbar. He brought it down and heard a yelp. He peeked out from behind the cupboard and gasped. He'd caught the dog with the stone, only it wasn't one of the criminals . . . it was Killer.
"Oops," Itchy said meekly. He came out from behind the cupboard and over to the mongrel, who was sprawled on the floor. "Killer?" Itchy whispered. No answer. "Oh brother," Itchy thought to himself.
He took the stone from the mongrel and looked for a place to hide it. "Of course!" he said, hiding it under his hat. Then he glanced out into the main room. Charlie delivered a knockout punch to Fresno. Bisko and Bucko were chasing Sasha and Gerta and the other town dogs were chasing the two gangsters. Gerta was waving a fake stone around. Itchy had an idea that Sasha and Gerta were leading the gangsters into a trap they'd set up.
Itchy turned back to Killer. "I've got to be more careful with those crowbars from now on," he thought. "What a disaster!"
The mongrel's eyes flew open. He blinked to clear his vision and exclaimed, "What happened?"
Itchy started to blush. "Well, um, Killer, I don't know how to say this, but . . ."
Killer looked down at the crowbar and then back up at Itchy and figured it out. "Next time, wiener dog, knock out the criminals instead."
Just then there was a loud crash out in the main room, following by angry yelps.
"What's going on?" Killer exclaimed. He and Itchy went over to the door. All the gangster dogs had been trapped in a large cage. The town dogs, Charlie, Sasha, and Gerta looked at them in satisfaction.
Then Charlie headed to the door and barked. Two police dogs came in. "Are those the smugglers?" the first one asked Charlie.
Charlie nodded. "I'm sure they've got a lot of jewels on them."
Sasha glanced around. "Where's the stone anyway?"
Bisko flashed them an evil grin. "I have it," he said, holding up a blue stone.
Sasha and Gerta laughed. The gangster dogs were puzzled. "What's so funny?" they demanded.
"You don't have the right stone," Gerta stated. "That's just a plain rock I painted up with glitter."
The gangsters looked at each other and then Bisko rolled over on the floor of the cage in a fit.
"Where's the real stone?" Sasha asked. "I gave it to Killer."
Killer and Itchy came out of the kitchen. "Itchy has it," Killer said.
Itchy took the stone out of his hat and handed it to the police dogs. They turned it over in their paws. "This is the Sapphire Star," they told Charlie. "It was stolen from the San Francisco museum a couple of weeks ago. It's very rare and valuable. Thanks for keeping it out of the clutches of these smugglers. They were going to send it overseas to Italy where a friend of theirs would pick it up."
The police dogs carted the gangsters away in their cage.
Itchy nodded. "You're probably right, Charlie." He paused. "Charlie? I have one request to make."
"And that would be . . .?"
"Let's not get involved in any more smuggling mysteries!" Itchy yelled.
Gerta turned on the transistor radio. "And now," the announcer said, "news bulletin: Ike Malconi, internationally-known hoodlum, has escaped from the Nevada state prison and is headed for California!"
"Wow!" Charlie said, his eyes glinting mischievously.
"Charlie!" everyone said in unison.