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The Eniripsa Odile Bile was being uncompromising: "No! Mr. Mystheur cannot go to Frigost in this state!" Thanks to her, he therefore got one more week. So, Agent Skelet had gone to scout the Zaap in the Snowbound Village. Was the Office of Frankly Bizarre Affairs going to finally get to the bottom of the temporal anomalies?

Snowbound Village Zaap
Frigost
8:57 p.m.

The sun was already setting over the cotton-like lowland. The branches of the fir trees and snowdrops were swinging in the slight breeze. There was a Snowfoux scampering around in the snow. It stopped when a luminous spiral started swirling at the heart of the teleportation portal. Momentarily captivated by this fascinating phenomenon, the creature decided to run off. Three hooded figures came out of the arch. After a few steps in the snow, one of them uncovered his head to get a better look around:

"Wow… So pretty!" Agent Mystheur commented naively.

"Calm down!" Agent Booya Bay Smisse cut him off. "I couldn't wait to get through Astrub Zaap. What a waste of time, that waiting line!"
"We're here, that's what matters," Assistant Director Renniks interrupted. "Let's not hang around. Agent Skelett has already been waiting for us for a few hours…"
"The redhead's going to be seeing red…" Agent Smisse said mockingly.
"Look! It's starting to snow!!!" Agent Mystheur said excitedly.
"Come on, come on… You sometimes make me feel like I'm babysitting…"
"Huh, that's not true…"

As the snowflakes grew before their very eyes, they advanced toward a weather station. On the way, Retlaw Renniks explained to his two companions that the premises belonged to the Office of the F.B.A.: It was a research unit specializing in analyzing trails in the sky. With the approval of the agent in charge of the premises, Fay Renheit, Agent Skelet had already been staying there for a few days. She'd brought all the active case files to study them again quietly while keeping an eye on the Snowbound Village Zaap. Recently, a newspaper article about the Black Crow dating back to 981 had been found nailed to the portal! Fake? Or a real clue? Hard to say, but the most recent apparitions had always been preceded by such signs.

"Most of all, go easy on Agent Skelet," Renniks warned them at the door, "she's been holed up here working for several days now, and we're very late, so…"

The door opened abruptly. The three agents stood there, petrified, each wearing a forced smile.

"Please, come in. You must be cold!"

Her voice was warm, her smile charming. They did as they were asked without hesitating.

"I made you some Kokokonut milk cookies!"

Agent Mystheur spoke:

"Wow… Tell me who you are and what you did with Nada!!!"

(She laughed before placing her hand on the Xelor's cheek.) "Even your jokes escape me here, Mystheur." (Then, addressing the group) "Did you bring all the evidence that was left in the office? I made some new discoveries, but first, follow me – I need you to meet someone…"

Free of their fur coats, they followed Nada's lead and went into the refectory. A beautiful Huppermage with glasses welcomed them:

"Agent Fay, at your service! Tonight, the weather won't be pleasant. There will be violent flurries of snow and temperatures will drop," she announced with the greatest joy.

"Are you sure?" Agent Mystheur said, astonished. "There were only a few snowflakes just two minutes ago…"
"There will be gusts as early as 9:12 p.m.," Fay Renheit added. "Tomorrow morning, you'll probably get a 'white-out'!"
"A what?" asked Booya Bay Smisse.
"A 'white-out' is an optical effect. In short, you won't be able to tell the ground apart from the sky – everything will be perfectly white! Brilliant! Haha!"
"All right," said Agent Smisse. (Then, turning to Fax) "What have they been smoking!?
"Maybe loneliness gets you more in the zone, Booya," Agent Mystheur whispered before he jumped.
"COOKIIIIES!!!" Agent Skelet chanted when given a dish.

 

*****

 

Agent Mystheur's Room
Weather Station
11:59 p.m.

Voices resounded in Fax's head:

"Fake, Mystheur, fake – even my grandmother knows it."

"That's what happens most often when you die. It's… over."

"Are you suggesting we're dealing with a Drheller, Mystheur?"

"You're just saying that because he's old and his feathered headgear makes him look senile."

"Hold me in your arms, Fax!"

"We're going to spend a little time together, mischievous little Xelor, hahaha!"

"Am I the only one who thinks it's lousy?"

"AAAAAAH!!!"

He woke up startled. He sometimes still had a fever at night. He sat in his bed and blindly grabbed the glass of water on his bedside table. Suddenly, he saw a hairy head watching him in the blizzard through the window.

"Skeleeeeet!!!" he screamed without thinking.

In a flash, the Sram entered the room with an oil lamp to comfort him.

"Did you have a nightmare? There, there… It's over."

"Mystheur, I need to talk to you!" Agent Smisse said intimidatingly, who then entered with his lamp.
"In a few minutes, Booya, I'm… in bad shape!" the Xelor answered with a wide smile, his head nested against his partner's chest.
"NOW!!!" the Rogue shouted impatiently.
"Alright, alright…"
"I'm not far, if you need me," Nada reminded him before leaving the room.
"Mystheur, there's something fishy going on…" said Agent Smisse.
"I don't know what you're talking about…"
"… About Skelet!!! She's usually a real Gobbette-skin! Now, it's as if she's a strawberry jelly… dripping with honey!"
"Hmm…" sighed Fax, thinking.
"Wake up, won't you!?"

Suddenly, someone screamed: "FIRE!" It was Renniks. Fax jumped out of bed and ran toward the call for help. He went down a long corridor that snaked through entire station, before discovering a bright light coming from Agent Skelet's office. He went in. A breath of intense heat enveloped him. Renniks tried to smother the flames with a blanket, but the fire surrounded him, devouring boxes and stacks of files on the shelves. Burning pages were swirling all over the room. It was chaos. Agent Smisse came in all guns blazing:

"Put that away, Booya – water's what we need!" yelled Assistant Director Renniks.

Smisse and Mystheur did a u-turn to leave the room and screamed in unison – a young short-haired Ouginak in a fur coat looked at them sternly, his tongue hanging out and his ears pricked:

"Well… You're already useless enough when it comes to evidence…"

 

*****

Refectory
Weather Station
0:36 a.m.

Once the fire was extinguished, a court-like meeting was organized by the Assistant Director of the Office of Frankly Bizarre Affairs. All the protagonists were sitting in a circle, with their hair ruffled and their faces somewhat blackened: Retlaw Renniks, Booya Bay Smisse, Fay Renheit, Nada Skelet, Fax Mystheur, and even the little spotted canine, who drinking from a bottle of Cocalane using a bamboo straw.

"Partners… (he turned to the kid) guest… (the Ouginak stuck out his tongue) this is serious. All the evidence, all the witness statements, all the records, all the findings from our investigation into the temporal anomalies… went up in smoke tonight. We're gonna try to figure out what happened, starting with you, kid. Who are you? What are you doing here? Where are your parents? I mean… there's a storm outside!"

"My nickname is Troolic. (He drank noisily) I'm on vacation at my grandparents' place in Astrub. I was walking around when I recognized Agent Mystheur in the waiting line for the Zaap. I wanted to see how you were gonna botch your investigation even more, now that he had returned (he drank some more) So I got closer to listen to you and find out where you were going. When I got home, I asked my grandparents if I could sleep at my friend's next door, and I went out again a little later with my big coat on. You were still standing in line, so I snuck in so I could take the Zaap, not long after you, and then I looked for you…"
"Was that you at my window?" Mystheur questioned him.
"Yep! You screamed like a little girl." (he drank some more)
"Are you responsible – perhaps accidentally – for the fire in Agent Skelet's office?"
"Why would I do that?" (he drank some more)
"To see us 'botch this investigation even more', for example?" Nada didn't fail to point out.
"Agent Renniks, could we stop going around in circles and get to the point?" Agent Smisse said impatiently. "Could we just skip to the fact that two minutes before the fire, I ran into Agent Skelet with an oil lamp?"
"Well, that doesn't prove anything!" the Sram defended herself.
"Except we found a broken oil lamp at the bottom of a stack of shelves in your office," Renniks added.
"Wha… That's ridiculous!" Fax interjected. "You might as well accuse Fay while you're at it!"
"Why don't we question you first? Where were you when the fire started?"
"I… I was in my laboratory," the Huppermage said hesitantly. "I was running tests."
"What kind of tests?"
"Uh, testing… the rain and the good weather… the density of the snowflakes… well, okay! I confess! I went back to the kitchen to finish the rest of the Kokokonut cookies… There!"

The group let out a cry of amazement.

"I'm very disappointed, Fay," Mystheur admitted, shaking his head.

"Hey! The gire, guys?" Agent Smisse interrupted to get back on topic.
"And you, Booya?" Nada asked. "Everyone knows you like to spark things off. Why wouldn't you be responsible for this? All that cold. The lack of action. You had to set it all off! Confess!"
"I was with Agent Mystheur when it happened. Unlike you, my hot-haired little Sram… Besides, since when do the disciples of the god of deviousness make cookies that aren't poisoned? Or that are simply… nice? Hm?"
"Well, Booya, why would she destroy the evidence she was very much involved in gathering?" Mystheur pointed out.
"Because she's not Agent Skelet."

"Everyone turned to look at the puppy-smarty-wuppy.

"What are you saying?" Assistant Director Renniks asked.

"I'm saying that's not Agent Skelet." (He drank loudly to the last drop in the bottle, turned it upside-down to make sure it was empty, then threw it over his shoulder.)
"You aren't going to take that squirt seriously, are you?" Nada protested.
"Hey, are we getting all Gobbette-skinned again?" Agent Smisse said gleefully.
"Why do you say that, my boy?" Renniks continued.
"Because I found Agent Skelet tied up in the cellar."
"But… Why didn't you say so?" asked Mystheur as he got up hastily before rushing to the stairs to go check what he was saying.
"Because you didn't ask me."
"And why didn't you untie her?" asked Renniks.
(The little puppy put his paw next to his mouth as if he were telling a secret) "I don't like her!"

Agent Mystheur came back up from the cellar holding Agent Skelet. Booya Bay pointed a revolver at the Nada in the circle. She lowered her head. She started to laugh an evil laugh. Her hair turned blue. Her skin turned pale. Her legs came together as one, ending up looking like a Snapper's tail!

"She looks like a mermaid…" Renniks mumbled.

"No, Retlaw. It's the Shuccubus!" Agent Mystheur affirmed.

Two striped horns protruded from her skull. Where there would have been ears, two sharp fins protruded. She suddenly raised her head to reveal her dark look. Okay, it was the Shuccubus.

"Get her!!!" shouted Agent Smisse.

A commotion turned the refectory upside down, with everyone trying to get their hands on the slimy, vivacious creature. Only the sweet little Ouginak had remained in his chair, scratching behind his ear with his hind leg. A window broke. The wind blew into the room. Snowflakes pour in. The Shuccubus took the opportunity to escape from the station. Fax and Booya chased her into the storm.

Outside, it was almost impossible to see anything, let alone move. The force of the wind was such that the two agents fell backward several times.

"We won't make it, Fax!"

"We've got to try…"
"Look!"

In the snow, a few kameters away, two horns and two sharp fins stuck out… Suddenly, they headed straight for the pair at top speed! Both agents dived sideways to avoid them. The Shuccubus emerged from the snowy mass and jumped on Agent Mystheur. With her hand on his cheek, her face as close as possible to the Xelor's, she said these final words:

"Goodbye, Faxy!"

Then she disappeared into the blizzard.

*****

 

Snowbound Village Zaap

Frigost

8:08 a.m.

Agent Renheit wasn't mistaken. That morning, everything was white. Even the teleportation arch. Only six small dots could be seen on this blank page. Moving closer, the expressionless faces of the various witnesses to that sleepless night became visible. Downcast. Probably because they'd failed to solve the mystery of the temporal anomalies. They were starting over. Well, almost. Agent Mystheur put one hand on Agent Skelet's shoulder. They exchanged a knowing glance. Fax pulled a long, gray feather out of his pocket. It was slightly blackened, partly burned. Nada was surprised. Silence hung over the cotton-like lowland. Until a sweet little pooch decided to break it: "You still botched it…"

 

The End

Episode 1: THE CASE OF THE BUTCHER OF BRAKMAR
Episode 2: THE CASE OF THE GRIMACING KING
Episode 3: THE CASE OF "THE UNEARTHED"
Episode 4: SADIDA'S FAVORITE
Episode 5: THE AVENGER FROM ANOTHER TIME
Episode 6: THE CRIMSON DAWN CHAMPION
Episode 7: THE CLOCKMAKER
Episode 8: RUSHU'S LARVAE
Episode 9: THE BLACK CROW
Episode 10: THE SHUCCUBUS