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Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn

Chapter 40:
The Hitchhiker

Talon aimed his small, gun-like weapon at the kids and Cordelia again. He started shouting at them, "Do you simpletons really think that you can escape from me?" Feo started cackling, but stopped when Talon gave her a sharp look -- apparently he didn't like the sound of her laugh either.

Talon asked Feo, "Where do you think we should take them to die?"

"The rainforest, of course," replied Feo.

"You're far too predictable," snarled Talon.

Feo gave him a nasty look, and snapped, "Just get rid of them. We got our time machine back -- what are you waiting for?"

"Gertrude, go back to the house and finish that program you were working on," ordered Talon. After Gertrude left, Talon pointed the weapon at the kids with one hand and he started pressing buttons on the time machine with his other hand. He said gleefully, "Gather close, one and all, for you are about to die."

Talon forced everyone together into a huddle. The familiar white mist swirled around them, and Charlie's dining room disappeared. When the mist cleared, Charlie saw that they were back in the rainforest with its blinding tropical sunlight, withering heat, suffocating humidity, and continual animal noises. They were standing on an exposed, sandy riverbank; a dense forest was nearby. Dozens of half-submerged crocodilian eyes peeked out of the muddy brown river, judging the speed and tastiness of their potential meals.

Charlie, George, Alice and Cordelia were very worried. Feo said happily, "You chose a marvelous location, Talon. This place is absolutely teeming with crocodiles; they'll be eating very soon."

As Feo talked, she backed away from the water to put some distance between her and the swimming crocodiles, which she both despised and feared. After only a few steps, she slipped on a wet rock and fell onto the soggy sand. Feo cut her leg in the fall; she sat on the sand and used her handkerchief to clean the sand out of the bloody, jagged wound. Only a few feet behind her, a crocodile emerged from the forest and ran awkwardly towards Feo. It had smelled the fresh blood; wounded prey was its favorite. Feo never even saw the crocodile coming.

The crocodile grabbed Feo by her right foot. She struggled to escape, but she was no match for the crocodile. She screamed to Talon, "Help, it's going to eat me."

Charlie, Alice and George started to go towards Feo to help her, but Talon waved the weapon at them and said, "Don't move, or I will kill you right now."

"You can't just let her die," screamed Charlie,

"Yes, I can," said Talon, laughing sardonically. "And I will." He suddenly turned serious and said, "She has been a drag on the organization for years. And I'm tired of her superior attitude."

The crocodile dragged Feo into the river. All along the way, she pleaded with Talon for help between yelps of pain, but Talon just grinned cruelly and turned his back on her. "Good riddance," he snarled when her screams stopped. Feo had been dragged underwater for the last time. All that remained of her was a deep red spot in the muddy river, and it quickly began to dissipate as a group of hungry crocodiles fought over dinner.

"Now it's your turn," said Talon. He was looking directly at Charlie. Talon continued, "I'm certain that it's a very unpleasant way to die. I wish I could stay to watch, but I've suddenly grown very hungry."

Talon started typing on the time machine; he was preparing to leave and strand the others in the rainforest. A grunting noise behind him distracted him for a second -- it was a crocodile and it was running towards Talon. When Talon turned around to look at what had made the noise, Charlie took advantage of the opportunity and rushed at Talon, grabbing the time machine. George, Alice and Cordelia were right behind him; Cordelia grabbed Talon's weapon as George and Alice tackled Talon, knocking him to the ground.

Charlie quickly typed on the time machine, trying for a quick escape. He had to work fast because the crocodile was almost there. When Charlie finished typing, he, Alice, George, and Cordelia huddled together and Charlie began the time travel process.

Charlie was relieved when the familiar white mist began to form. He then noticed that they had a hitchhiker - Talon had traveled with them.

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