Steve sat in Oscar’s office. “We have a very serious problem Steve.” His face wore a somber expression
“What is it Oscar? You sounded almost frantic on the phone.”
“Steve, Punxsutawney Phil has been kidnapped. Oscar withdrew a file from his desk and handed it to Steve.
“Punxsutawney Phil?” Steve’s eyes wrinkled as he tried to place the name. “Is he that Russian scientist who defected last month?”
“The American Ambassador to France?” Steve continued to guess.
“No Steve I’m afraid it’s a little more serious than that Steve.” He removed his glasses and came around the corner of the desk. “There is a picture of him on the first page of that file.
Steve opened the file and stared at the picture. “Oscar is this a gag?” Steve asked.
“I only wish it were pal.” Oscar’s face remained serious.
“Come on Oscar.” Steve gave a slight chuckle as he continued to stare at the photo in the front of the file. Oscar this is some kind of joke, right?”
“I wish you could take this seriously.” Oscar chided. “Steve tomorrow is Ground Hog’s Day. If we don’t find Punxsutawney Phil we may never know if we are going to have six more weeks of winter, or an early spring.”
“Do you have any leads?” Steve broke up laughing.
“Only one.” Oscar handed Steve a slip of paper that contained the ransom note.
“What does the kidnapper or maybe I should say hognapper want, a life supply of tree nuts?” Steve was laughing so hard tears were flowing down his face.
“They want ten million dollars for his safe return.” Oscar’s tone remained serious.
“Ten million…” Steve whistled slowly taking his newest mission more seriously.
“That’s right Steve ten million dollars.
“Well I better get to Pennsylvania then.” Steve took the file and left Oscar’s office.
“Steve!” Oscar called before he got to the elevator. “I want you to take Jaime with you.”
“Why?” Steve spun around. He and Jaime hadn’t been on a mission together for months.
“There may be trouble.” Oscar stated. “I’m afraid if we don’t meet their demands they may resort to something drastic.”
“Ok I’ll pick her up. Just call and tell her I’ll explain everything when I get there.”
“I’ll do that, and thanks Steve.” Oscar ducked back into his office relieved that the situation was in good hands.
As Steve drove to Union Station Jaime read the file and the ransom note. “Oscar isn’t taking this seriously?” She asked.
“I’m afraid he is.” Steve smiled. “I thought I knew Oscar better than this, but he wants us on this mission.”
“Well ok. I’m not real sure I understand why. I mean can’t they use any ground hog?”
“Apparently not I guess Punxsutawney Phil is the ground hog.”
“Well then I suggest we do our best to find him.” Jaime opened the car door and they headed into Union Station to catch the noon train to Punxsutawney PA.
“Why do you suppose someone would want to kidnap a rodent?” Jaime wondered once they were settled into their seats on the train.
“I must say I don’t know.” Steve gave a smile. “I think this is probably the easiest assignment Oscar has ever sent us on.”
“Where do we start?” Jaime asked.
“I suppose at the scene of the crime.” Steve gave a chuckle.
Jaime couldn’t help but laugh as well.
They arrived in Punxsutawney, PA, a few hours later. The people of the town were very upset. Steve and Jaime headed straight for the scene of the crime. They met with the Sheriff of the small town.
“I’m col. Austin. This is Jaime Sommers. We are from the government. Our boss sent us to help with the investigation. Mind telling me what happened?”
“Sure Mr. Austin.” The Sheriff began. “Tomorrow is the big day here we have a huge celebration. People usually line up the night before to see if Punxsutawney Phil is going to see his shadow or not.”
“I understand that much.” Steve tried to keep from laughing, but the people of Punxsutawney were very upset. “Please go on.”
“Well this morning David Wheeler came out to make sure all was ready for tomorrow. He walked into the cave where Punxsutawney Phil lives only to find the ground hog missing and the ransom note you’re holding.”
“I see.” Steve bit his lip to keep from laughing; he could tell Jaime was doing the same thing.
“How many people besides yourself have access to this cave?” Steve asked trying to sound concerned.
“Just me and the park ranger” The Sheriff responded.
“Has anyone been in here since you discovered the note?” Jaime stepped up to the plate.
“Not that I’m aware of.” The sheriff escorted them into the cave.
Steve and Jaime began searching the cave for any clues. “What’s that Steve?” Jaime pointed to a white object on the floor of the cave.
Steve walked over and picked it up. “It looks like another note.” Steve unfolded the paper and slowly read the note which read
“If you want to see Punxsutawney Phil again
you must follow this instructions. Go to phone
booth on Fourth and Maine. On page 25 of the
phone book you will find more instructions.
“Well. Steve commented. “I guess the chase is on.”
Steve and Jaime informed the sheriff and his men they were taking over. Then headed for the phone booth on Fourth and Maine.
Steve quickly thumbed through the book till he came to page 25. This time the note said.
Now go to Ryan’s gas station. There you will
Find the next note. You will find it written on the
Paper towel dispenser in the woman’s bathroom.
“Well Jaime looks like this one is yours as they pulled into Ryan’s gas station.
“Gee thanks.” Jaime gathered up her purse and headed into the gas station. “Yes.” She asked. “Where is the ladies room?”
“In the back and to your right” The clerk pointed not looking up from the customer.
Jaime stepped into the dirty restroom and found the paper towel dispenser, as well as the third note.
Now you must go to the park on East Fifth Street.
Go to the picnic shelter. On the first table you will find
the fourth and final note That one will tell you where to
leave the money.
Jaime headed back out to the car. “Now we go to the park on East Fifth Street. The note said this one would give us directions as to where to leave the money.”
“Ok.” Steve sighed. “I’m getting a little tired of this. You have the brief case with the ‘money’ in it right?”
“Yea it’s in the trunk.” Jaime replied.
“I’m glad this is such a small town.” Steve noted as they pulled up to the curb at the park. They stepped out of the car and headed for the picnic shelter.
“Here’s the note Steve.” Jaime pointed to the table where the note was scratched into the table.
Walk over to the playground and leave the
money in the wading pool then leave you are
being watched. We will return Punxsutawney Phil
once we have the money
Steve and Jaime glanced at one another “Why so out in the open?” Jaime whispered.
“I have no idea.” Steve whispered back, but we better do as the note says.” He went back to the car and took the case out of the trunk. Then the two of them walked over to the wading pool that was empty for the winter.
Jaime placed the case with the phony money in the pool. Then she and Steve headed back to the car. Steve started the car and they pulled away.
“Ok.” Steve turned to Jaime as he again stopped the car. “Let’s walk back.”
Jaime nodded. “I’m anxious to see what we are dealing with.
They slipped back into the park to stake out the pool. They watched from behind a row of trees.
They were only there a few moments when much to there shock a small girl of about nine stepped out of the woods not far from where Steve and Jaime stood. She looked around and waked over to the wading pool. She bent over and picked up the brief case and dashed across the street.
Steve and Jaime followed. The girl dashed into a small ‘cabin’ in back of the house.
“Come on Jaime let’s see what this is all about.” They headed for the backyard and stepped up to the ‘club house’
“Do you hear anything?” He whispered.
“Just a bunch of kids…”
“A bunch of…”
“Shhh I’m trying to listen.” Jaime interrupted.
“Is that the money?” The voice of a small boy asked.
“Yea I think it is Ben.” A young girl’s voice sang out.
“I can hear them too.” A smile crossed Steve’s lips.
They continued to listen.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have done it Taylor.” The boy’s voice came back.
“I suppose you’re right. But I want to be the first to know if we are going to have six more weeks of winter.” The girl’s voice continued.
Keeping an eye on the ‘club house’ Steve and Jaime stepped to the side. “I don’t quite know how to handle this one Jaime.” Steve spoke softly.
“I know. Steve it’s a bunch of kids in there.” Jaime looked up at him.
“I say we go in after them.” Steve suggested.
“Well our job was to find Punxsutawney Phil and we did.” Jaime told him
“You mean he’s in there?”
“Yea I can hear him.” Jaime explained.
“Ok then.” He reached over and turned the doorknob. The door creaked open and the two children turned toward Steve and Jaime.
“Uh oh.” Taylor sighed. “I guess we’re caught.”
“Did you think you would get away with it?” Jaime asked.
“We were going to give it a try.” Ben piped up.
“What about the money.” Taylor asked. “Not real, huh?”
Steve nodded as he walked over to pick up the brief case and the ground hog. “We better get him back to where he belongs.”
The children started pulling on him “No mister. Please don’t. We want to be the first to know if we are going to have…”
“I know.” Steve tried to reason. “But we need to return him.”
The children continued pulling on him.
“Steve?” Steve heard Rudy calling from somewhere in the distance. “Steve?”
Steve opened his eyes. “It’s about time.” Rudy spoke “We’ve been pretty worried about you.” Rudy smiled with relief that Steve was now awake.
“What’s going on?” Steve asked.
“That mission I sent you on Steve.” Oscar moved into the light. “Your legs were injured. You’ve been out for sometime. Rudy was getting very worried about you.”
Steve thought for a moment “assignment?” He turned toward Oscar. “What assignment?”
“You were going after that Soviet spy. Remember?”
“I think I do. Wow, what a wild dream I had.”
Steve told Oscar and Rudy about the strange dream he had just had.
“That’s pretty good Steve.” Rudy laughed “rescuing the weather ground hog.”
“Yea I know.” Steve turned back to Oscar “how bout the spy. Did we get him?”
“You sure did. You just relax. Jaime is waiting want me to send her in?”
Steve nodded “if you don’t mind.”
Jaime also laughed when Steve relayed the dream to her.
“That’s funny Steve.” Jaime smiled.
“Yea. Say I’m rather tired. I’m going to catch forty winks.”
“I’ll be here when you wake up.”
Thanks Jaime.” Steve drifted back to sleep.