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My mother died in 1995. She left behind a lot of things, a few of which were projects she was going to do “someday” or that she was in the middle of and would finish “someday”. My father got rid of most of her things and not a few of those were projects she was going to do “someday”. I collected a few and put them into a file for projects that I will do “someday”.

Dad died in 2011. I collected what was left of Mom’s projects and put them in storage in Reno, where they languished until last year.

I set out to finish three of those projects before Christmas: three little animals that I assumed were meant to be puppets (they weren’t). I wanted to include them in a box bound for grandchildren (her great-grandchildren) as a “gift from Nana and Great Grandma-You-Never-Knew”.

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Unfortunately, this meant I had to tackle the Sewing Demon. The bobbins are an example of what the Sewing Demon does to me.

Mom made it look easy. My daughters make it look easy. My cousins sew quilts with great detail and make it look easy.

I can’t even thread a bobbin without it becoming a production. (Yes, by the way, it was human error and I did figure out what I was doing wrong, so – no snickering!) (I can hear you!)

I rarely uncover my sewing machine. I avoid sewing for exactly this reason. I spend more time ripping out seams sewn in backwards than I actually spend sewing. I use iron-on tape to hem things I make. I’ve been known to leave safety pins in the hems of slacks because I don’t want to sew.

When I do sew, I can sew. I’m just not overly thrilled with the hassle I just know I am going to run into.

The bobbin thing didn’t come up until tonight, when I had to change the color of thread in my sewing machine (which I have used exactly once since I purchased it a year ago: I sewed the cover for it). In my defense, I designed the cover, did all the measurements, cut the fabric, and sewed the thing without a hitch. Then I put the sewing machine away and I haven’t approached it again for 12 long months.

And this is how it treats me.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about the three little critters my mother left pinned together and unsewn.

I don’t know who she intended them for: my children? My brother’s children? My sister only had one child under the age of 5 when Mom died, so it seems unlikely that Mom was sewing for her. There were three fully cut out and pinned together, and parts of a fourth. I discarded those.

(click images for a larger view)

The lizards can be flipped over. I didn’t put eyes on them because I like the way they change when you flip them over. Little blind 1970’s lizards. the fish (whale?) was before Finding Nemo.

They’re adorable. I had to buy batting to fill them. Sewing the fish up after it was stuffed was a challenge.

BUT I FINISHED THEM. 23 years after they were started, I finished them. They’ll probably last fifteen minutes in the hands of my youngest grandchildren, the Little Monsters named John and Nolan, but I don’t care. I think Kori will hang on to the fish a little longer, because that’s the kind of child she is. Maybe she is even old enough (6) to understand this is a gift from the dead.

You all should stand up and give me a standing ovation. Yes, yes, I sewed something. And I didn’t throw the sewing machine out the upstairs window.

Thank you. Thank you, very much.

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There are a few things I would like to say as I close out NaNoWriMo this year:

Thank you to the many followers I’ve gained, and the many bloggers who have liked most of my posts. I have checked each and everyone of you out, and some of you I have set to follow. I’d love to know how your own NaNoWriMo has gone – you don’t have to share your story with me, but please tell me how many words you managed, where you got stuck, and what your final plans are for your novel.

I got stuck on Day#27. It’s awful. I’d like to erase that entire post. In retrospect, I’ll change the setting, which will require me to go back through the entire novel. I can do that.

What about dialog? I screwed up with Madison & Dylan. They started out as great skater bunnies, but I lost the dialog as I wrote. Bad move. You need to keep your characters “in character”.

I’d like to expand my novel by exploring the other “safe houses” and how the characters got to be in those houses. I’m not certain (at this point) if that requires sequels or not. Miss Sophy is definitely someone who needs development, as well as the Beaman twins and Missy’s crush on Aric.

I really dislike violence. I couldn’t see a way around it when the teens were faced with the toad and the rats, and then the Yokai. If I can rewrite those sections without violence, I will, Sometimes, however, the story takes on its own character, and Aric was busting for some physical warfare.

I’d love to develop the crush Ella has on Dish and how he fees toward her. I need to work on why Dish is such a sallow character. I know this.

I am happy with the plot twists. But I am not happy with the overall setting: the governor closing down a state. I will be changing that scenario to something more close-knit.

This story deserves more than 50,000 words. I’ll work on revising and editing (thank you Mary!) before I decide what to do with the ms.

I truly thank you for following me. ♥♥

A black SUV with heavily tinted windows pulled up to the curb in front of the State Capitol building. Three men in dark suits and red ties got out, looking slowly around the town. Their expressions told nothing, and they walked up the wide stairs to the Capitol doors.
An old woman wearing a pink parka stepped out from behind a pillar. Her pink floral dress covered her legs down to the fuzzy mukluks she wore. “You won’t get in,” she said.
The lead man looked her over, eyeing the grey hair blowing out from under the parka hood. “Who might you be?”
“Mrs. Swainson. I come down here to complain because one of my cats got into it last night with an owl, and all the owls’re supposed to be dead. Doors have been locked since 9:ooAM, and no sign out.” She spat off to the side.
“Killing owls would be a Federal offense,” the man said.
“Keep the cat indoors,” another one of them said.
The third man walked up to the doors and pulled. He banged on the glass and waved at a teenager walking by inside. He pulled out an official looking badge and held it to the glass.
The boy was in a red t-shirt, shorts, sandals, and wore a white ball cap turned backwards. He eyed the badge and nodded. He turned the manual lock on the inside of the doors and pushed them open.
“I’m just headed up there, myself.” He held the door open for the men, but closed it on the old lady. “Sorry, Mrs. Swainson. Open later.”
The men walked past security scanners that were inoperable and security officers who were tied up with zip ties. Teenagers milled about in the hallways, gawking at paintings. The boy with the white ball cap jogged to catch up with them.
“Sorry, son, but you will need to stay down here,” the first one said.
“But I’m with Ella Peabody’s team in the governor’s office!”
They shook their heads, and Deke had to sit at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for his friends. He was furious.

Federal agents arrived at the different police stations in town, and a S.W.A.T. team roared in to surround the building being used as a detention center. Detainees were set free, and officers in charge were arrested, in a wide-spread reversal of fortune. It was all very professional, and like a scene out of some movie.
Phoenix Peabody snatched the cage in which a yellow parakeet was held, much to the objection of the newly-arrested Officer Conley, who had grown fond of feeding the bird (and thinking it was Miss Sophy).
“I am afraid it is Goldie, and Miss Sophy is most likely worried to death about where her parakeet has gotten to,” the doctor told the young officer. He added, “Did you really think you could capture a master wand maker?”

The public confession of Governor Eric Hicks was held on the courthouse steps at precisely 0100 hours. Federal Agent Jack Peabody informed the public that the perpetrators of this reprehensible act of dividing the public had been brought to a close by the heroic actions of a group of teenage wizards and two adult wizards who had guided them, and who had connected all the dots behind the scenes. The method in which it was brought to a close was never mentioned, and the wise never asked.
The body of the Yokai was presented to the Press, along with the three tails, and a brief explanation by one retired librarian, Richard Nagasaki. It would seem that the only way to destroy a Kitsune fox was to cut off all of its tails. No one knew the whereabouts of the missing press secretary, Fred Gist. (Mrs. Collins wept a little then: she had always imagined Fred as sweeping her off of her feet. She was a widow, of course.)
The skill and talent of the youths who had so brazenly broken into the Capitol building and disabled all communications and security was lauded, in particular, the pair of previously delinquent Goths who had disabled the entire electronic system of the building and over-ridden the automatic doors.
Parents were reunited with children, bus drivers were acclaimed as heroes (or not), and Ella skipped out on the limelight with Aric, Gran, Dish, Billie, and Twerp in tow. Someone was interviewing Kyle about his role in saving the teens in the woods and in saving young Tito after his head injury. Not once was being an animal mentioned, as Kyle was a very good story teller.
“Come on,” Ella whispered. “Let’s get to my house before my folks do! We’ll surprise them!”
It was not to happen: Richard informed the parents of the teens about the plot to surprise them, and he told the Peabodys about where they might find the contents of their attic. The teens were surprised by a reception at the Peabody house – a reception which included Uncle Jack and his two FBI counterparts, all wizards. Uncle Jack revealed the truth of the rescue in the privacy of the Peabody house, and Ella was forced to make a speech.
“Um. Yeah. Just so you know, magic didn’t solve this,” she said. “Logic and a little sleuthing did.”
Everyone groaned.
“But, magic did play a good deal into it, and I want to thank my friends for opening my eyes to the possibilities of something outside of what can be easily explained away. I mean, Twer- er, Deacon – managed to transform us all into mice and we overcame a lot of weird things as mice. Aric even killed the governor’s own familiar, an evil toad named Venemo, or Vennie.
“We met Kyle, and caught up with Dylan and Madison. Dylan’s mom protected us. Richard – Mr. Nagasaki – was key in keeping us safe. And I will hate rats for the rest of my life.”
Everyone laughed.
Champagne and sparkling cider were served. Mrs. Peabody waved a wand and created a buffet of wonderful hors d’oeuvres. Miss Sophy arrived with the three Beaman children: Missy, and twins Mike and Tito. Kyle’s mother and father wandered in, and a round of hugs and celebrations went out.
Kyle was forced to explain what happened both in the woods when he saved Ella and crew, and why he was inside the walls after Tito had been severely injured.
“We couldn’t perform any magic, just yet.” He was humble and shuffled his feet. “But I know something about concussions, and I helped Miss Sophy keep Tito awake. We had to get ice from the ice maker to put on his head, and she sneaked through the war zone and back with an ice cube. Must have froze her fingers off.”
She waved it aside. “Point is, young Kyle was a hero.”
“Oh, and she gave me my wand before everything happened,” he said proudly. He pulled it out to show everyone. There were a few tut-tuts. But most accepted that Miss Virginy Sophy had known what she was doing, with or without the boy’s parents.
Deke told how he battled the cat with Horace and Natalie, and perhaps he exaggerated his role a little (Natalie merely smiled). He sniffed when he related the tail end of the tale, especially since everyone now knew Mrs. Swainson’s cat had returned home wounded, but very much alive. Horace was a good owl, familiar, and friend.
There was also the tale about how he came to be in possession of the wand that had belonged to Fred Gist, and how Ella had solved the cryptogram using just logic. Deacon attributed the ability to turn everyone into a mouse to the fact that he had found the wand. A toast was made to the missing Fred, and his generosity in leaving the wand for someone to use for good.
Ella, Gran, Dish, and Billie caught up with Aric, Kyle, and Deke in the kitchen.
“We should all sneak up into the attic and see if everything really is back up there,” Gran suggested.
“We could get our cell phones back, too.”
They went up the stairs as if they were going to Aric’s bedroom, but turned down the hallway where the attic ladder dropped out of the ceiling. Gran pulled it down and they all climbed up.
“So much easier than the first time I was up here,” Dish play-shoved Ella’s shoulder and winked.
Everything was back in place, even the mannequin and the old mirror. The wands were hanging above the trunk in the same order they had been before Gran took them down. It seemed a disappointment. Nothing had changed, and yet – everything had.
Ella walked over to the mirror and stared at it. She saw nothing more than her own reflection, and the reflections of everyone in the room looking over her shoulder. Even after they turned the mirror around, it reflected nothing that was not there. Ella touched it. “I guess it doesn’t want to talk right now.”

The party broke up, and everyone drifted off to their own homes to clean up and restart their lives. Tomorrow would be another day, and with just a little magic, everything would return to almost the way it was before. Ella sat by her window, staring out into the night and listening to an owl hoot.
But I will believe in magic in the morning.

Aric went to bed and stared at the ceiling for a long time.
I was born to be a warrior.

Kyle curled up in bed and smiled.
I have friends who like me.

Dish went home and hugged his father. They played cards into the night until Dish fell asleep on the sofa, dreaming of the girl he wanted to ask out: Ella.

Billie walked home with Gran, and Gran asked her to go to the winter dance with him. She said, “Yes.” She wasn’t worried how she’d tell her former crush, Mike.

Deacon walked out into the backyard and stared up at the moon. Somewhere, an owl hooted, and he hoped it was Horace. He reached into his pockets and pulled out the magic wand left to him by Fred Gist. It was beautiful.
It was not the only thing he’d found in the street the day that Fred Gist disappeared. He hadn’t wanted to show anyone, because they were always making fun of him for his collections, and this was just one more thing. It wasn’t magic; it wasn’t special; it was just pretty to look at, and right now it glowed slightly in the light of the full moon. Deke held it up and studied it.
It was a perfect blue sapphire crystal.

50,009 words

Upstairs, Mrs. Collins fainted. The security guard, who had his gun drawn, expecting to find a room full of hooligans, slowly dropped the weapon, and stared at the mice. A cheer went up from all the mice in the room, but what strange mice they were: half of them were dressed in tiny little clothes! And more of them poured in through a hole in the wall behind the governor’s desk. The governor sat behind that desk, a strip of packing tape across his mouth and his eyes bulging, whether in fury or fear, the guard didn’t know.
“I’m getting back up,” the guard muttered, backing slowly out of the room.
Mike ran forward top embrace his brother who was leaning heavily on Kyle’s shoulder. “Are you Okay?”
“Yeah. Kyle’s my hero.”
“He’s got a bad lump on his head. Probably a concussion.” Kyle handed Tito over to Mike, but not before Mike hugged him.
“You’re my hero, too,” Mike said.
Miss Sophy signaled her group, “Come on, now. Phase Two is about to begin. We need to be in the hallway.”
They scarcely made it to the hallway before they turned into themselves, again. The last one through shut the door to Mrs. Collins’ office.

Ella felt herself change. She looked around at all of her friends, and Richard. “I guess we have to explain it to him, now.”
Billie stepped forward and removed the packing tape. “Be careful what you say, I still have the whole roll.
“My magic pills,” he muttered. “The ones Fred gave me…”
“You mean these?“ Richard held up the bottle. “We saw the Yokai putting them in your desk. They are poison pills, and he expected you to die in two days.”
Mrs. Collins sat up and stared at the room full of teenagers. She managed to say, “Where is Fred Gist?”
They pointed at the dead fox.
Mrs. Collins held fast to the door frame. “I need to call the police…” She backed out of the room and hurried to her desk. The lights on the phone console were out, and her computer screen was blank. She tapped buttons, and tried to get anything to work. Madison followed her.
“It won’t work. We disabled all communications, and we’ve secured the Capitol. You might as well have another cup of coffee.”
Mrs. Collins slowly lowered her head onto her hands. This wasn’t happening…
The governor shook his head. “What just happened here?”
Ella came forward. “That Yokai – the fox on the floor there that almost ate me – he killed Fred. He‘s been putting poison in your pills. He most likely stole your family mirror.”
“He stole my -” The governor frowned. “Young lady, I will have you know that my mirror is right there. It has never been missing.”
The teenagers looked at each other. “But what family heirloom did get stolen, if it wasn’t your other mirror?”
He sighed. “It was a sapphire crystal paperweight that my great grandmother handed down through the family. It gave me the ability to look into the mirror and to perform a little bit of magic. Then someone came in and stole it. The only way it could be removed was by someone using the Dark Arts. It didn’t take a genius to know one of your kind took it, and I want it back. Just because you think you saved me… Why am I telling this to a room full of children?”
“Yes, why are you? I believe you have a one o’clock press conference where you can explain the truth of all this,” Dish said.
Ella took a seat in the chair most recently vacated by the false Fred Gist. “I would like to know more about a ‘family heirloom’ that allows a non-wizard the ability to ‘use a little magic’.”
“Especially a non-wizard who was so ready to imprison the entire wizarding community,” Gran growled.
“I don’t even know the truth of it,” he grumbled. “But one of you stole my heirloom!”
“The one that allows you to do dark magic?”
He glowered at Ella, “It required Dark Magic to remove it. I have imprisoned those who use…”
Ella pulled a burner phone out of her pocket, wrapped inside of a clear plastic bag. “Let me tell you what I think, and you can nod or shake your head. See, when we were getting ready for this, I found this burner phone in your desk. Yes, in the locked drawer.”
The governor squirmed in anger. “The phone isn’t mine! Never seen it before.”
Ella shrugged. “It was password protected, ‘was’ being the key word here. See, I may have been a fool about my own ability – and other’s – to actually perform magic, I am a pretty good nerd, and I figured out the password. There’s photos and texts on this phone, and they tell me that the Yokai isn’t the only one in this room who was planning a major coup.”
“Proves nothing,” the governor spat out, again. “Not my phone. And my heirloom is still missing! You kids will pay as soon as the police get here.”
Billie muffled him with tape, again. She spoke softly into his ear, “They won’t be coming any time soon. Communications are disabled there as well as here. El’s not the only cyber-geek in the mouse world.” She winked.
“I’m guessing this photo of a blue amethyst crystal wouldn’t be one of the missing ‘family heirloom’? Is that it?” Ella was looking at the notes on her lap and held up a rough sketch.
He nodded, looking furious.
She returned to her notes. “There’s text on this phone that confirms it was stolen, but it also says that you suspect someone high up in the wizarding community has gotten drift of your plan to establish the Dark Arts? And that you think that person may have stolen the item and hidden it somewhere in town.”
He shook his head.
“I know, I know. The phone is not yours, you just had it in your locked personal drawer, along with some other interesting items, like a wand.”
Dish held up the wand in question. “Don’t worry, Miss Sophy made it, and she neutralized it last night. World class wand maker.”
“Anyway, let me go on. You don’t sign your texts, but the person texting you back signs his. Sheriff Blake. And he calls you, ‘Gov’.”
Mrs. Collins entered the room slowly. Her jaw was slightly agape. “No wonder he’s been so buddy-buddy with you, calling on your direct line…”
Richard held his hand up to the bewildered secretary. “I think we should hear Ella out.”
“Thank you.” she scanned through the notes. “Some of the texts are encrypted, but it’ll be easy enough to figure out how to de-encrpyt them. The ones that are not encrypted are damning enough:
‘Fred has agreed to contact Team C. He’s not happy 2 have 2 talk 2 ny1 magic. Told him 2 send msg by crow 2 vennie.’” She looked up to see how she was doing.
“It gets better: ‘vennie confirmd DOA. Natural causes.’”
The governor’s eyes were bulging, and he struggled against the zip ties as his face turned beet red.
Aric said, “Gee, El, he looks like someone I met.”
She nodded. “A bit – toady?”
Aric nodded. “Can’t be certain without Deke here, but… yes. Very toady.”
Ella nodded. “Here’s another text, from someone else. Different number. I did a reverse directory search and it came from a Senator Flax. Want to hear it? I thought you did.
“’Confirm nomination. Just get rid of Peabody & crew. Find those kids, Gov. They must have crystal.’”
The governor sat back in his chair, still red-face, but no longer struggling.
“The only thing is, we don’t have the crystal. Yokai, dressed as Fred Gist, must have taken it. He killed the real Fred, you know. One of us found Fred’s wand, and the inscription on it says that if Fred was dead, the power in the wand would go to the one who found it, as long as he was not a practitioner of Dark Magic.”
“Do we have enough to call the authorities and release our parents?”
The governor nodded.
“Do we have enough for a proper news conference at one?” Ella asked.
The governor nodded.
“Oh, one last thing. I found a business card in your business card holder. My uncle, who works for the FBI. I sent him screen shots of these texts last night, anonymously. Did you know they didn’t know about the martial law you imposed here? I’d love to hear how you pulled that off.”

48219 words

The cat trotted out into the open. It gently dropped the little creature onto the lawn and waited. The little creature did not immediately move, but the cat expected that. When the thing did move, it was slowly. The tabby expected that, as well. The cat wasn’t worried. The little thing would provide entertainment soon enough.
The cat batted at its new friend: no claws, that would be most uncivil. It just wanted the little thing to wake up and shake it off.
Deacon shook his head. He had his magic wand, but did he dare use it? It would probably alert someone, and the mission would be lost. He needed to think. He rolled over when the cat prodded him, and found himself looking up into its whiskered face.
“Can’t you just be a familiar, like Horace?”
The cat blinked.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.” A tinny voice called from behind, and the cat turned to look. A little beacon of light crossed the cat’s face. The cat knew this game: chase the little light.
It looked back at the little creature, considering options: little light game? Or new friend?
“Kitty, kitty.”
New friend wasn’t moving very quickly, so the cat turned its attention on to the little light.
Deacon stood up as soon as the cat turned around. He saw the light in the grass as well, and could hear Natalie calling the cat.
They’d come to save him! Simultaneously, he wondered: what about the mission? How many others were out there?
The cat pounced in the direction of Natalie, but the light went dark before it landed. The light popped on, again, off to the left, and another voice called, “Kitty, Kitty.” The light danced in the grass, which made it more fun, and the cat danced along with it, waiting to make a final pounce.
Deke could make not out the capitol building He didn’t know how far the cat had carried him. He just needed to make it back to the building. He ran, zig-zagging, through the grass. The cat landed in front of him.
“KITTY KITTY KITTY” Natalie shouted and flashed her light in the cat’s face again. Natalie had also moved closer to the capitol building.
Before the cat turned, it flipped Deke up into the air, caught him as he tumbled back down, and batted him overhead into the branches of an azalea. Deke’s arms helicopter out as he tried to gain purchase on the stems of the little evergreen. He caught himself just above the ground.
The cat abandoned Deke (for the moment, Deke, knew), and pounced playfully after the little beacons of light in the grass. Deke saw one light fly over the cat’s head and go off.
Natalie called. “Run toward my voice, Deacon!”
Deacon dropped to the ground, dusted himself off, and called, “I lost my flashlight!”
“Just run toward me!”
He dashed. The cat dashed. Horace jumped up in front of the cat. The cat caught Horace with both paws and landed on top of him. Horace squealed in terror.
“Nooooo!” Deke changed directions and ran at the cat. “No, no, no, nooooo!”
Natalie tried the distract the cat, but now it was fixated on the little creature running at it. It held the mouse under its paw, and waited.
“Deacon, you must follow me!” Natalie ran forward, to intercept Deacon. “Horace can handle this!”
“It’ll kill Horace!” He cried as the older mouse caught his arm.
“Yes, and it will kill you. It’s a cat. That’s what they do.” Natalie pulled Deke back. “We have a long way to go, to get back to the rest of the group.”
“But – Horace!” He looked over his shoulder in time to see Horace transform into an owl, and push the cat off.
“I’m telling you, Horace can handle this. Come on!” Natalie pulled Deke in the direction of the capitol building.
The cat jumped back in alarm when the mouse changed shapes before its eyes. It hated the big birds, and knew them to very dangerous. It arched its back and hissed, all thoughts of play abandoned.
Horace opened his wings and hissed back, hopping forward with great yellow claws open.
The cat fought back with a strong swipe of sharp claws, and a long, drawn out growl.
Deke could hear them fighting as he ran, tears streaming down his face. How could Horace hope to win over a creature so naturally evil as that cat?! The sound of the battle followed the pair of mice all the way to the capitol building, when it ceased altogether. Deke turned and stared out into the dark lawn. The sun was beginning to come up, and he was a long way from his friends, and from Horace. He slumped his shoulders and followed Natalie.

“Who goes there?” A light shone in Natalie’s eyes, then Deke’s.
“You guys have clothes on,” the voice added. “I thought we were supposed to be real mice.”
“We are real mice,” Deke grumbled. He bet the other voice had never been down a mouse hole, and he had.
“I might ask who you are,” Natalie replied, cooly. “Turn the light off, or you’ll attract the cat.”
The light flipped off. “Th-there’s a c-cat?”
“Who are you, again?”
“Oh. My name’s George. I’m with the front door patrol. We’re supposed to take down Security at 0900 hours.”
“George? Not Gran’s brother, George?” Deke peered around Natalie.
“Is that the Twerp?” George grinned. He was dressed in camoflage, right down to his hunting cap.
Natalie intervened. “Natalie Woodhouse. Deacon and I were way-laid by a particularly hungry feline.” She stressed Deacon, and Deke thought he could hug her. “We lost our group. Where is yours?”
“Oh, this way.” George led them behind a tall plant with sword-like leaves. “We’re digging out our entrance so we can get into the building and hack the security system. I’m on sentry duty. Hey guys!” he called ahead. “I found some more allies!”
Natalie glanced at Deke. “Some sentry,” she whispered.
Deke grinned, the sting of having lost Horace temporarily gone.
The leader came forward when George called out.
“Goodness. Natalie Woodhouse! So good to see you. We’ve just broken through and we’re going in. Where is your group?”
“Long story, Sharon. May we join you?”
George’s group consisted of two more senior high school boys; a pair of Goths; two girls from the high school girls’ basketball team; Mr. Howard, the art teacher; and Sharon, the public librarian. Sharon had a last name, but she’d never used it, and Deke couldn’t remember what it was.
They climbed into the duct work and everyone squeaked, “What now?”
“You climb.” Deke grabbed an Ethernet cord. “Tell me where we’re going?”
The rest followed him, dubiously. “Have you done this before?” complained someone from far behind Deke.
“A time or two,” he answered, irritated.
The plan, Mr. Howard explained to Deke’s tail, was to get into the main security office, and lock all the doors into and out of the building at precisely 0900. They needed to disable all computers and telephone lines.
“Server room,” Deke muttered. Where his own team had been headed, according to Ella. He hoped they would make it in time.
They came out inside of a cabinet. Deke could see footprints in the dust.
“Okay, we’re clear,” Natalie peered out of the cabinet into the darkened room.
The first mice up the server tower were the two Goths. George and his friends explored the top of the cabinet, relaying the information they found on the schematics. The rest fanned out to take up positions in case someone came into the server room. The basketball girls found a conference room chair in poor condition. This was shoved by group effort into place under the door handle, to keep anyone from breaking is easily.
Deke wandered off by himself, looking for tracks from his friends. He needed to think, to devise a way to rejoin them. He felt terrible that Horace and Natalie had followed him out into the grass, and now Horace was gone. He’d let the team down!
He sniffled, once. If only he could have used his wand! But it was safe in his pocket.
“What’s this?” squeaked Sharon. “It looks like someone got caught in a sticky rat trap!”
Deke ran. Sharon, Natalie, and Mr. Howard were standing over one of those traps Aric’s dad used in their old house. Only this trap held a surprise: a very dead rat with a safety pin stuck in the side of its head, and its nose between a pair of black lace-up boots in the shape of mouse feet.
They all looked at each other.
“We stick to the plan, and hope they got past the rat,” Natalie said, decisively.
Deke sank in a heap, wondering whose boots were stuck in the green goo, and who had thought to use a safety pin as a weapon. He hoped it was the same mouse, and that mouse had made it to the governor’s office.

46,772 words

Mrs. Collins, secretary to the governor, was mulling over what video to watch when Fred Gist knocked and entered her office. His face looked more like a fox’s face today than ever before, and she felt a cold shiver down her spine. He did not greet her, but tapped on the governor’s door himself, and let himself in. Fred never did things like that before, she thought. He had always been a pleasant, if not timid, little man.
A mouse jumped up onto her keyboard.
“Oh!” She jumped up and ran out of the office, looking for someone to ask to help her get rid of the rodent.

Fred Gist closed the door before he noticed the governor had his back to the desk and was apparently reading one of the books on government that he kept in the heavy bookcase at the back of his office.
“Are you ready to go over the speech I wrote for your press release about the executions this evening?”
The mayor nodded, but did not turn around. Fred walked up to the desk, assumed his beaten-down look, and asked, “Mind if I sit down?”
The governor shook his head and made an unintelligible, “Uh-uh.”
Fred frowned. He heard the secretary’s office door slam shut. That was odd: he suspected the woman of eavesdropping and leaking tidbits to wizards who had not yet been rounded up. “Well, I am here to talk about executing the leading wizards. I think we should plan on disabling all of the wizarding community, and you should retire and hand the reins of the office over to me.” He coughed and stared at his hands, waiting for the governor to get angry. “You did say I was more conniving these days.”
The governor’s chair slowly turned around.
Ella peered over the foot of the mirror. She could see the Yokai clearly. His three tails hung out behind the chair. I can do this. She grasped the box cutter.
Fred started with a shock. “What in blazes is going on here?!”
Ella raced forward, jumped onto the chair and slid the box cutter open. She sliced hard at the closest tail. The Yokai jumped up in pain, howling, but she hung on and sliced again. The tail fell off, and Ella grabbed the second tail.
The Yokai felt a sharp pain on his head as Aric lobbed a push pin downward. A barrage of rubber bands flew across the room before the Yokai could feel around to his tail. Ella climbed upward and made a deep cut on the outside tail.
The first group of boys, led by Mike, charged out from behind the small shelf unit and stabbed at the ankles of the little man who was batting at rubber bands and push pins flung at his head. Ella was sawing at something invisible behind the man. A single fox tail was on the floor, and the girls, led by Billie, swept it off to the side.
The man twirled around, trying to shake Ella off, but another fox tail landed on the floor. Madison led the second group of girls forward to sweep it off the floor. The second group of boys charged from behind the credenza, buoyed by a shout from Dylan as he charged: “Cowabunga!” Aric and Missy let fly two more well-aimed push pins.
Ella sliced into the third tail, but the Yokai managed to get a swat off in her direction, and she lost the box cutter. Mike’s group of boys charged in and stabbed with their paperclips. Richard jumped off the governor’s desk and ran to the boxcutter.
“Keep him busy! Don’t let him get out that door!” he cried.
Another barrage of rubber bands came from the shelf above the governor, and more push pins flew from above the large painting. Dylan’s boys charged in.
Billie let a group of girls forward and pushed a chair between the hopping mad Fred Gist and the door.
Richard jumped up onto the tail and handed the box cutter to Ella. “You must do this quickly, before he comes to his senses!”
Ella popped the cutter open and set to work, once again, hanging on for dear life. Another barrage of rubber bands and pushpins, another charge by one group of boy or the other. There was a loud banging going on now, too.
Mrs. Collins had returned with a security guard. They could hear the yells and howls of someone in the governor’s office, and fearing the governor was in trouble, they were now banging on the door.
The shouting at the door brought Fred out of his tortured mind set for just a moment, long enough to howl, “I am Kistune Yokai!”
Mrs. Collins and the security officer breached the door. Fred’s transformation happened right under Ella’s desperate cutting: Fred’s clothing disappeared, and she was hanging onto the back of a magical creature, a pale-colored Yokai. The fox turned and snapped at her with its white teeth. She screamed and pushed hard on the box cutter. The fox caught her hoodie in its sharp teeth and whipped her around in front of it. The box cutter clattered to the floor, once again.
Ella stared into the fox’s green eyes. It no longer reacted to the pushpins and barages of rubber bands, and the boys with the paperclips had stopped to stare.
Dish jumped from his perch onto the governor’s head and back flipped onto the desk where the cup of pens and the still-bloody letter opener waited. He grabbed the letter opener and flung himself onto the Yokai’s back.
“You do that,” the Yokai growled, “And I will eat this delicious mouse, clothes and all.”
“Do it!” Screamed Ella with all her strength.
Dish finished severing the tail. He turned to see the fox flip Ella up in the air and open its jaws to catch her. “Ella!”
A long shiver went through the Yokai as Ella did a slow somersault over its waiting jaws. Its eyes turned white, and its legs gave out. It landed in a heap, and Ella landed on its shoulder, and not in its mouth. It gave one long shuddering breath and breathed no more.

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Aric found himself face to face with a house mouse. Dish and Dylan crowded behind him, and Dylan flashed his flashlight into the mouse’s face. It covered its eyes with a paw, and beyond it, in the remaining light of the flashlight, the trio could make out a crowd of regular mice.
“We go the other way,” Dish whispered over Dylan’s shoulder. “If we back up, maybe they’ll just go down the hole and leave us be.”
“Where’s Ella when we need her?” Aric moaned. He was, for once, completely unarmed.
“Put that infernal light down,” a shrill voice scolded. “I can’t see with it in my eyes.”
“Maybe we don’t need Ella. I understood that perfectly,” Dylan stated. He lowered the flashlight.
The mouse scrutinized them. “You would stand out less if you didn’t wear clothes.”
“Yeah, but we’d be naked,” Dish shot back. “Come on guys, back up.”
“Hey, I know who they are!” Another voice, much younger sounding and female, piped up from behind the forward mouse. “That’s Aric Peabody.”
Aric blinked. “Who are you?”
“Missy Beaman,” the voice went all shy.
“I am Miss Sophy. Now, would you kindly lead me to where Mr. Nagasaki is waiting? And turn the flashlight off.”
“Yes. Yes, ma’am.”
The flashlight went off. The teen mice turned around and led Miss Sophy, and whoever was with her, toward the hole in the wall that led into the still-dark governor’s office. They found Richard, Gran, Kyle, and the girls waiting by the foot of the big mirror.
Ella ran forward and hugged Aric and Dish at the same time. “It sounded horrid down there! Did the rats really attack again?”
Richard bowed to Miss Sophy. “You made it!”
She bowed back, and told him, “I must say, I never thought of reducing ourselves to mice and wearing our human clothing. It must be quite awkward to be so anthropomorphized.”
“Not at all. Pockets have come in quite handy, as well as flashlights.”
“It was how Deke changed us,” Aric muttered, defensively.
If she heard him, Miss Sophy ignored him. “How many are there of you, did you say, Mr. Nagasaki? You look somewhat less than a dozen.”
“Aw, yes. We had an unfortunate scrape with a cat on our way here. Three of ours went off to do battle with the cat. And you? Ten, you said?”
“How did you know to come here as mice?”
“Who all is with you?”
“Gran the man, is that you?”
The questions shot out as mice overcame their initial shyness and manners were lost altogether in the small reunion. Miss Sophy and Richard commanded silence after a few short moments of hugs, high fives, fist bumps, and gleefully exchanged names.
“We have wasted too much time,” Richard said. “We must get our implements of war, and take up our stations before someone comes into the office to work.”
“Right. Hide those poison pills.”
“Scissors, staplers, anything we can use.”
“Zip ties!” Madison had been carrying them on her back like a backpack.
The mice jumped into action.
“I really fail to see the usefulness of clothing,” Miss Sophy reiterated.
“Aric carried the paperclips in his pockets. The paperclips saved us when the rats attacked.” Dish replied. He was trotting by with an armful of rubber bands.
“What do you intend to do with those, Dustin?” She snapped.
“Rubber band gun. I just have to figure out where to launch them from.” Dish passed his load up to Gran, who scrambled up the face of a bookshelf.
“There’s a couple bronze statues up here that I think we can use,” Gran replied.
Dish ran back for more rubber bands.
Aric showed the little mice (for many of them turned out to be fifth and sixth-graders) how to bend the larger paperclips into little spears and where to hide them in the room. “Your role is to try to stay out of the way,” he explained. “But if one of us gets into trouble, you run out and poke and run back away as fast as you can. Be really annoying.”
Mike and Tito grinned at each other, “We can do that!” They started arming them selves with paperclips.
“We don’t want to hurt the governor. But we need to zip tie him to his chair, and we need to keep him from yelling for his secretary.” Madison showed the younger girls how to work zip ties while Billie searched the desk for packing tape or something similar.
At last, everything was as ready as they could make it. The light from the window told them it was nearing daylight, and they needed to hide. Gran and Dish cowered behind the bronze statues of long horn cattle and elk, making themselves as flat as they could. The younger boys and Dylan hid on either side of the room, behind a credenza and a small bookshelf. The girls hid behind books on the lowest level of the large bookshelf, while Madison and Billie hid behind the books on the next shelf up, a red packing tape dispenser between them. Aric hauled a box of push pins up to the top of a large painting with an ornate frame he could set them on, and hide on by laying as flat as possible. Missy joined him. Aric watched the mousehole from his vantage point, hoping that at any moment, his best friend would swagger through with Natalie and Horace, Richard and Miss Sophy took up positions on either side of the door.
Ella, armed with the still-bloody letter opener, and a pair of scissors, lay flat on the floor behind the large mirror. Her heart was thumping so hard and so loud that she thought surely someone would hear her when they walked into the room. She tried to calm her breathing as she mentally cheered herself on.
I know what to do. I can do this. Mom and Dad and everyone needs us to do this. The Yokai doesn’t suspect. He doesn’t know I can see his true self. I can do this.
The clock on the governor’s wall ticked slowly forward. The girls on the first shelf fell asleep, despite their best efforts to stay awake. The boys behind the furniture were restless, and kept crawling forward to peer out, despite Dylan’s threats. Madison nodded off, and caught herself.
7:30 on the dot, they heard the door to the secretary’s office open. The footsteps on the carpet were light and feminine. The secretary moved around the office, opening blinds and putting on a pot of coffee, the aroma of which drifted under the door and into the sharp noses of the waiting mice. Her chair squeaked when she sat down in it, and the computer powered on. The next time the secretary got up was to pour herself a cup of coffee. The mug she carried clinked against the coaster on her desk. She started typing and clicking the computer mouse, sounding busy.
The governor arrived shortly after 8:00. He exchanged a word with the secretary as he poured himself a cup of coffee (or maybe she poured it for him). He opened his office door, turned back to the secretary, and said, “News conference at One. Please hold all my calls until then. And tell that weasel, Fred, to be up here by nine a.m., sharp.”
He closed the door. He took off his outer coat and hung it on the coat tree in the corner after setting his cup of coffee on the desk, then walked over to look at himself in the mirror. He muttered at the reflection, “I look as old as I feel. This had better work to get my charm back. I don’t know how much I trust Fred, anymore.”
He finally sat down and opened up his lap top.
Billie and Madison came out of hiding, and climbed the back of the chair quietly, holding the packing tape between them. They waited, but the younger girls were still napping.
Tito was the closest. He dashed out from behind the credenza and made for the book shelf. He jumped onto the books and dove behind them just as the governor turned his chair.
“Huh. Thought I saw a mouse. Memo to self: have Mrs. Rice order an exterminator.” He turned back, with Billie and Madison hanging on tightly.
Tito shook the girls awake and grabbed a zip tie himself. “Arms first, he whispered, Then feet. We need to time this perfectly.”
Embarrassed, the girls gathered the zip ties between them and teamed up. The arm teams went out first, staying directly behind the governor’s chair. The feet team readied themselves.
Each arm team consisted of two mice: one with the fastener end, and the other with the tip. They would have to move quickly: jump up onto the chair where the fastener mouse would hold steady. The tip mouse had to scurry up and over the governor’s arm, and jump down with the tip to run through the fastener. Both mice would then pull the zip tie tight while Billie and Madison raced around the governor’s head to tape his mouth shut. The feet team had to tie the governor’s legs tight. This was the trickiest part of the plan, and if anything could go wrong…
Tito and the other team leader, a girl name Chloe, nodded at each other. They led the charge up the side of the chair and executed a perfect jump over the governor’s resting arms, connecting with their partners at almost the same moment. Zip! the ties were pulled, and they dove off of the chair.
“Wha?!” The governor started to yell, but Madison scrambled around his face, her hands and feet pummeling along across his chin, while she pulled the clear packing tape around and pressed it against his face, silencing him. Billie used her teeth to cut the tape and pressed down the other side of the tape. The red roll dropped to the floor and clattered.
The secretary paused in her typing. “Everything all right, Governor?”
The governor tried to stand up with his chair. Tito grabbed the zip tie end from one of the girls and raced forward, jumping onto the left shoe. Madison grabbed the other end and raced around the back side of the governor’s right leg. He kicked her, and she rolled under the chair. Dylan rushed forward and pulled her out of harm’s way just as the rolled on the chair came down where she had landed. Billie raced in and picked up the fastener end. Chloe led the girls with their zip ties, and the ends met. It took a group effort to pull the ties tight, and Tito was kicked upward, into the corner of the desk. He fell and did not move.
“Oh!” Miss Sophy ran forward, but not before Kyle appeared from his hiding place and lifted the still mouse away to the safety of the mouse hole. Miss Sophy followed them through the hole.
Richard left his post and jumped up onto the governor’s desk. He walked past the cup of coffee and bowed to the balding man who was now tied to his own chair and muffled with clear packing tape. “We regret to do this to you, but you must know you have been under a very evil spell. We are here to protect you and to release you from the evil that has been done. Cooperate, and you will not be harmed.”
The governor’s eyes bulged, whether from fear or anger, Richard could not tell. “Turn him around, so his back is to the door,” he told Billie and the girls.
Outside the office, the secretary had resumed her typing. She shook her head, and glanced at the clock. 8:35. Time for a second cup of coffee before Fred arrived. She considered getting a cup for the governor, but he hadn’t been very nice the past week, and she decided against it. Let him get his own cuppa.