“You have got to be kidding me,” Shego muttered as they walked into the factory. Science crap was everywhere and it wasn’t just chemicals. “I thought you said this was a chemical factory, Princess.”
“It is,” Kim replied, “but they also sell a lot of other stuff.”
“Like nerd shirts, apparently,” Shego answered, holding up a rather lurid specimen that had the phrase “Geneticists do it in a sequence” emblazoned across the front.
“Festive wear for the discerning scientists is one niche of the many that we fill here at the N-Bohnrium,” a new voice informed them. All four of them turned to look at the newcomer, a perky, sharply-dressed man with a killer smile. “Our parent company Biofun is determined to increase our sales in more than just what is considered to be normal in the sciences.”
“Yeah, thanks for that,” Shego said, raising an eyebrow. “I assume you contacted us about a theft?”
“Yes, and thank you for coming so quickly. I am Benjamin Zene, and it so nice to make your acquaintance,” he said sincerely.
“So, Mr. Zene, what was stolen?” Kim asked, jumping right into mission mode.
“Only two items, and not much of either,” he answered. “It makes the whole thing rather strange.”
“What exactly did they steal?” Kim prompted.
“Ten liters of one Molar hydrochloric acid and ten liters of one Molar sodium hydroxide,” he replied. “The retail value is less than $250.”
“What about mischief value?” Kim asked. “What kind of damage could this stuff do?”
Shego unexpectedly answered for him. “Not much,” she said flatly. “You are only looking at like two and a half gallons of each. That isn’t much of an acid bath.”
“You could blind someone or kill them with it,” Kim pointed out.
“You could, but it would like be one someone,” Shego countered. “That is not much mischief.”
“Then why steal only ten liters of each?” Kim asked.
“Stupidity? Lack of forethought? I dunno, Princess,” Shego shrugged.
“Crap. More questions than answers,” Kim muttered. She turned back to Mr. Zene. “Did the thief leave any clues?”
“We caught the perpetrator on the closed circuit video, but that, along with the footprints that were left just add to the strangeness,” Mr. Zene answered. “Come, I’ll show you.”
They all politely followed him to the back room, a portion of which was roped off with yellow caution tape. As they got closer, Shego noticed something immediately and knelt down to get a better look. “No way in hell those are what I think they are,” she muttered. “Mole rat! Front and center!” she commanded. Rufus popped his head out of Ron’s pocket and chittered up at her, making Mr. Zene aware, for the first time, of his presence. Mr. Zene yelped and pointed at Rufus in shock.
“That’s the thief!” Mr. Zene gasped in shock.
Shego sighed. “I guess they were,” she decided. “Come here a sec, Roof,” she said, and Rufus amiably left Ron’s pocket and ran over to her, cautiously making his way around Mr. Zene, who was looking at his mole rat self as though he were the spawn of the devil.
“You think Rufus is the one who stole your stuff?” Ron clarified incredulously.
“He looks just like what we saw on the security tape,” Mr. Zene said, but as he studied Rufus carefully as Rufus ran to Shego, he grew less and less convinced.
When Rufus drew near to her, Shego grabbed him by his midsection and hoisted him so that all four of his paws were pointed toward the floor and gently lowered him over the yellow tape until he was hovering over the set of footprints that had been made in the spilled crystal violet solution on the floor.
“Not me!” he insisted even though the footprints in the dye matched the size and shape of his own feet perfectly.
“I know, dude,” Shego assured him. “It wasn’t our mole rat, Mr. Zene,” she announced matter-of-factly. “His paws aren’t purple, which they should be if the theft was recent. When was the break in?”
“About ten this morning,” Mr. Zene answered. “And you are right; crystal violet wouldn’t have faded that quickly.”
“Could we see that video now?” Shego asked.
“Of course. Right this way,” Mr. Zene replied, glancing at Rufus with a puzzled look on his face.
“How did you know that stuff stained so badly?” Kim asked. “How did you even know what it was?”
“I got it on my clothes once. Don’t ask, Pink,” Shego ordered. Kim grinned but said nothing, knowing she could get the information out of Shego later if she really really tried. Puppy-dog pouts worked on everyone, it seemed.
The surveillance video showed them what all of them expected to see. A small naked mole rat-looking creature was shown to have come creeping in to the warehouse, to have loaded up the pilfered chemicals on to a wagon-like thing, to have spilled the crystal violet and walked right through it and finally to have made a hasty exit pulling the stuff out on the cart. Everyone looked at Rufus and he glared back. “Not me!” he repeated emphatically.
“No one really thinks it was you, Rufus, and we can prove your innocence,” Kim assured him. “Mr. Zene, do have any other bottles of that stuff around?”
“We have cases of it,” Mr. Zene answered and ran off to fetch a bottle. He returned quickly and handed the bottle of hydrochloric acid to Kim, who set it on the floor.
“Try lifting that, Rufus,” she suggested.
Rufus gave her the what-are-you-nuts? glance, shrugged and tried lifting it. He failed miserably, of course, and Kim and Shego simultaneously frowned. They glanced at one another, eyebrows lifting as they both wondered who would try to frame a naked mole rat. “We are sure that it wasn’t Rufus, sir,” Kim said, and Shego nodded in agreement.
“No, I don’t think it was,” Mr. Zene agreed with them. “But why would they want us to think so?”
“Even mole rats have enemies,” Shego said cynically. “Was there any other evidence?”
“No, that was about it,” Mr. Zene replied. “Would you like to look around to see if you can see anything else I might have missed?”
“I think that would be a good idea,” Kim started to say, but was interrupted by Shego’s wrist kimmunicator going off once more.
“Yeah?” she inquired.
“We just had another hit on the site,” Wade told her. “Now there has been a break in at the Rhapsodizing Rutabaga.”
“The tree-hugger food factory in town?” Shego asked. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. They were broken into last night and just discovered it when they came in today,” Wade answered.
“All right. I’ll tell Kimmie and we’ll see if we want to pack it up here and head over there,” Shego told him.
“I’ll let them know. Bye, Shego,” Wade signed off.
“Princess! Stoppable!” Shego called out to Kim and Ron, one of whom was looking for evidence and the other of whom was playing with the Biofun DNA-in-a-box kit. “We got a call about another break in.”
“Where this time?’ Kim asked, putting down her carefully-crafted double helix.
“Closet nerd, I’m telling ya,” Shego muttered before answering. “The Rhapsodizing Rutabaga,” she said.
“Another factory?” Kim questioned. “We should check it out. That’s odd.”
“Yup, it is,” Shego confirmed. “Come up with anything yet, Stoppable?” Shego asked Ron. Ron looked up and shook his head. “Do you want to stay here and keep looking or do you want to come with?” she asked him.
“I don’t think there is anything to find, SG,” Ron admitted. “Even Rufus can’t find anything.”
“All right. Let’s go then,” she suggested.
“Sounds good,” Kim agreed and she turned to Mr. Zene. “If you are okay with it, we are going to check out this other robbery, Mr. Zene,” she said. “I have a weird hunch that they are connected somehow, and what we find there might help here.”
“Of course, by all means you should go,” Mr. Zene assured her. “I think I have told you everything that I need to tell you and other folks need your help.”
“Cool,” Kim replied. “We will be in touch as soon as we know anything,” she promised.
“Fair enough,” Mr. Zene said. “Thank you and good luck with the next one.”
“Thanks,” Kim said sincerely.
They all piled into Shego’s car and took off for the next burglarized factory. They were met at the door by a smaller woman dressed in a long flowing skirt with long flowing hair that left an olfactory wake of patchouli everywhere that she walked. “Welcome to the Rhapsodizing Rutabaga,” she said spacily, and it unnervingly reminded Shego of Stevie Nicks. And not the coherent, good musician Stevie Nicks of the seventies, but the spaced-out, odd-lyric writing, Klonopin-popping Stevie of the eighties. The image made Shego want to chuckle, an urge she had to suppress further when the lady introduced herself. “I am Beatrice Tnick,” she informed them dreamily.
Kim noticed the barely suppressed grin masquerading as a smirk and she wondered briefly about it before turning her attention to the reason why they were here. “You contacted us about a break-in, ma’am?” she asked politely.
“Oh, yes, of course, you must be Kim Possible,” she enthused. “Oh, do please come in. We need your help immediately.”
“So what exactly was taken, ma’am?” Kim asked as they went into the factory. Nothing seemed to be out of place and seemingly everything was running smoothly.
“It was nothing here in the factory proper; it was in the storage area,” Ms. Tnick answered. “And please call me Bea. Everyone else does.”
“Um, sure thing, Bea,” Shego chimed in, deciding to talk now that she was sure she wouldn’t giggle.
“Why hello,” Bea said, really noticing Shego for the first time. “I didn’t notice you standing there. And what is your name?”
“Shego,” Shego said promptly before Kim could chime in with “Sheila”, or worse and more likely, “Junior.”
“Shego. What a lovely and unusual name,” Bea said happily. “And what a lovely organic shade of green your skin is. How ever did you accomplish it?”
“A fantastic mineral treatment,” Shego answered sardonically, but Bea didn’t pick up on the sarcasm.
“How divine,” she sighed. Kim, Ron and Shego looked at one another, but she roused herself from her inner musings before anyone could say anything. “Please, let me show you what was taken,” she said, ushering them into the back room. “It wasn’t much, in terms of material goods,” she said. She picked up a clipboard and began to read off a tally that someone had written. “They took almost our whole supply of vegan gelatin, as well as several sacks of sugar and salt. They also stole several cartons of brewer’s yeast, brewer’s yeast extract, baking soda, caked soybean extract, twenty gallons of vinegar and twenty gallons of organic whole milk.”
“Sounds like someone just didn’t want to stop at the Whole Paycheck,” Shego said as an aside to Kim. Bea overheard and answered her, completely unfazed by the unflattering terminology used for one of their biggest customers.
“No, it wouldn’t have been for an individual’s use,” she objected. “They took enough for a whole commune or even a co-op.”
“You don’t say,” Shego replied sarcastically before she could help herself. Kim gave her a sideways glance and Shego smirked.
Bea, fortunately, was still immune to sarcasm. “I do say,” she affirmed, and Kim really had to glare at Shego to prevent another wisecrack or a full out chuckle from escaping.
“Do you have any kind of surveillance equipment?” Kim asked, hoping that if they had one, it could at least give them a direction in which to start looking.
”Only in the main factory,” Bea replied. “We had no camera in the storage area. The thief, however, did leave some things behind.”
“Could we see them?” Kim asked.
“Certainly,” Bea said without hesitation. “We left everything like we found it so that you might be able to glean something.”
“Perfect,” Kim nodded and Bea led them all into the other room. Kim stopped short when she entered, recognizing what was on the floor immediately. “No way,” she breathed. She grabbed Shego’s hand, or more specifically, her wrist and fired up her kimmunicator. “Wade,” she said when his questioning face appeared, “I need you to contact my Kimmunicator.”
“Sure thing, Kim,” Wade said. He frowned, thinking. “But isn’t your Kimmunicator at home?” he asked.
“That is what we are checking,” Kim said grimly. “Because it looks like it could be here on the floor.”
Wade did as he was asked, and everyone but Bea jumped when four chimes rang out. “Cool. Roof and I will have company in the Pen,” Shego deadpanned. Kim looked at her, angry. Shego winced. “Keep my shirt on, Pumpkin,” she said, backpedaling. “I was only joking.”
“No one is going to jail,” Kim said firmly. “And when I find out who has been in my room, there is going to be a price to pay.”
“The expression is ‘hell to pay,’ Pink,’ Shego corrected her.
“I don’t like to swear,” Kim countered. “Anyway, let’s go check it out and see if they left anything else behind.”
Shego strolled over and squatted down, looking at the scene carefully. “You still there, Nerdlinger?’ she asked.
“Sure am, Shego,” Wade responded. “What do you need?”
“There are some red strands of hair and some cloth fibers over here,” she said. ‘Do you have the means to analyze them? You know, DNA, fiber matching, bullshit like that?”
“Sure do,” Wade said. “Use your wrist kimmunicator to scan it.”
Shego did as she was told and waited. Wade did his thing, and within a few minutes, he had one of the answers. “The hair is not Kim’s,” he told them. “It’s her mom’s.”
“My mom’s?” Kim asked, skeptically. “But she was on duty at the hospital last night.”
“Whoever stole the Kimmunicator grabbed the wrong hair out of the brush, Pumpkin,” Shego stated. “What about the fibers?”
“I need something to match them up against,” Wade answered.
“It’s a bit of my turtleneck,” Kim decided after crouching next to Shego and getting a better look at it. “I can’t be 100 positive, but I am like 98 sure.”
“And just when did you acquire microscopic vision?” Shego inquired facetiously.
“Stuff it, Junior,” Kim retorted.
“Boy, someone gets cranky when she is being framed,” Shego noticed. “Was there anything else left behind, Bea?” she asked the distractedly listening Bea.
“No,” Bea answered. She looked at them languidly. “Did I hear right?” she asked. “Does the evidence we found point to Ms. Possible?”
“Yes, it does,” Kim admitted. “But I swear I didn’t do it.”
“Of course you didn’t, my dear,” Bea replied soothingly. “You have no cause. It is obvious that this is all a setup by the Man.” Kim and Shego looked at one another with identically quirked eyebrows. “Fight the power, little sisters,” Bea said, raising her fist slightly in salute.
“Um, yeah, thanks,” Shego said hurriedly. “Could we take this stuff back?” she asked, indicating the items on the floor.
“Of course,” Bea answered, reaching it over and picking it up. “Here you are.” Kim accepted the items from her. “Do you think you will be able to find the real thief?” Bea asked.
“Yes,” Kim said determinedly.
“How splendid,” Bea replied. “We will be waiting to hear what you find out. In the meantime, you don’t need to worry about us calling the fuzz or anything.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it,” Kim said honestly.
“I think we are done here, Princess,” Shego said, glancing around.
“Yup, I think we are,” Kim agreed. “We will let you know when we find something,” she told Bea.
“Thank you, Ms. Possible,” Bea said mellowly. Kim nodded, looked at Ron and Shego, both whom also nodded and together they went back out into the parking lot.
“You guys really interested in going back to school or would you like to come with me?” Shego asked as they stood by her car.
“Why? Where are you going?” Kim responded.
“I want to go check out the Middleton Botanical Gardens and the Space Center,” she said. “I would like to see my supposed crime scenes.”
Ron and Kim looked at one another and shrugged. “Class is almost over,” Ron pointed out.
Kim consulted her watch. “Yeah, it is,” she said. She looked at Shego. “All right then. Let’s go.”
“Shotgun!” Ron called out and Kim glared at him from the back seat all the way to botanical gardens.
“Ya know, you would think since I supposedly robbed the place that I would know where in the hell we are supposed to be going,” Shego grumbled as they walked by yet another greenhouse.
“May I help you young folks with something?” a kindly older voice asked from behind them. They turned to see an elderly man standing behind them in overalls, a sunhat and gardening gloves.
“Yes, please,” Kim said. “We heard about your break-in and we came by to ask you some questions about it. My name is Kim Possible and this is Ron and Shego,” Kim said, indicating each one of them in turn.
“Ah, the famous Kim Possible! How nice to meet you,” the man said. “I am Dr. Ara Bidopsis and I run the garden. Forgive me, but we already called the police on this matter and they assured us that they would have the miscreant in custody in short order. Has the case not been resolved?”
“No,” Kim admitted. “They thought that Shego had been the one to rob you, but she had an alibi. We think that someone was trying to frame her, so we are here to see if we can gather any clues as to whom that might be.”
“Ah, I see,” Dr. Bidopsis said. “Well, the greenhouse is this way and you are welcome to take a look.”
“Thanks,” Kim replied and they followed him up the hill. The greenhouse they were looking for stood at the very top of the hill, and when they got there, they saw that is was still cordoned off with police tape. An inspection of the outside of the building showed that the door had been ripped off its hinges. Inside, scorch marks could be seen along the tables, support posts and several of the plants, and along those marks were copious amounts of law enforcement fingerprinting powder that revealed numerous sets of the same fingerprints.
Shego scowled when she saw all of the damage. “I never would have caused this kind of damage for a cream-puff job like this,” she scoffed. “I would have just picked the lock, grabbed what I wanted and split. It would have been days before they even realized something was missing.” Grumpy, she stalked over to one of the tables and lit up her right hand. Dr. Bidopsis took a step back in surprise, but she ignored him and used her right index finger to make a small mark in the wood. It looked very little like the rest of the marks, and even after subsequent tests with varying intensities of plasma, she could not get her marks to look the same as those already there. “Pfft,” she sniffed. “Amateurs. They didn’t even know what my scorch marks should look like.”
“But it looks like the Lieutenant wasn’t lying about the fingerprints,” Kim put in.
“Yeah, but my guess is that they couldn’t match them to anyone,” Shego hypothesized. “I think this is all I wanted to see,” Shego said to Kim. “You wanna hit the Space Center?”
“Might as well,” Kim agreed. “Thank you for your help, Dr. Bidopsis.”
“Not a problem, young lady,” he said with a smile. They all left the greenhouse, and Dr. Bidopsis bid them farewell. “Please come back if you need anything else,” he admonished them, giving them all a smile before he turned and shuffled off to see to the rest of his duties.
Shego looked after him, quirked an eyebrow and turned toward her car. Determined not to be in the back seat again, Kim yelled “Shotgun!” and bolted for the car. Shego glanced at her in amusement as she flew by and looked back to see if Stoppable was giving chase. He wasn’t; in fact, he didn’t even looked like he cared. Shego frowned. If she didn’t know any better she could swear he was moping.
“Why the face, Stoppable?” she asked.
“It’s nothing, SG,” Ron replied dejectedly.
“Bullshit,” Shego retorted. “What is it?”
“Everyone in Team Possible has been framed except for me! Even Rufus!” he pouted.
“Well, not everyone,” Shego countered. “Wade isn’t wanted yet.”
“He stays in his room most of the time; he doesn’t count,” Ron sulked.
“Maybe,” Shego allowed. She looked at Ron’s downcast face, rolled her eyes and decided to fulfill her “nice” quota for the next few months. “I think they are just saving you for last, Stoppable,” she told him with absolute conviction. “In fact, if we don’t get a call today about another robbery and it doesn’t have bits of you all over the place, then I will treat you to Bueno Nacho every day, every meal, for a week.”
Ron perked up, both at Shego’s prediction and at the mention of Bueno Nacho. “What happens if we do get a call?” he asked.
“You owe me five bucks and a week of no Bueno Nacho,” Shego offered.
“You’re on, SG,” he said with a smile and ran to the car. Shego rolled her eyes, sighed, and wondered what in the hell had happened to her.
“Shego!” came Kim’s bellow from the car. “Wade called about another robbery!”
“Well, at least I won’t have to buy Bueno Nacho for a week,” Shego muttered as she strolled back to the car. “Where now, Pink?” she asked as she got in.
“Middleton Equestrian Center and Stables,” Kim answered. “Someone stole a cow.”
Shego quirked an eyebrow. “A cow,” she repeated.
“Yup,” Kim confirmed. “And that’s not all. The guy left a note this time.”
“Really,” Shego said. “And what did it say?”
“Wade said they didn’t mention what is said,” Kim replied. “They only said that it was signed ‘Zorpox’.” They looked at each other and then in the backseat.
“I have been with you guys the whole time! It wasn’t me!” Ron protested, but Shego could hear the hint of pride in his voice.
“You owe me five bucks, Stoppable,” she informed him as she revved up the car and peeled out the parking lot.