“What? NO Pickles? I can’t eat a hamburger without pickles and extra pickles too!” KFC was hopping around the small kitchen like he was stepping on hot coals and wildly waving his arms around. “My life is ruined.” He yelled and stormed outside and stomped off toward the barn.
Gracie sighed and Susie shook her head; their brother was having one of his days where nothing was going right – according to him. First, he couldn’t find his favorite ball that he practiced kicking soccer goals. Second, he tore his KFC cape on a nail and couldn’t wear it until Mother had time to sew it and there was only two weeks until Halloween. Their brother was going to the masquerade party as none other than KFC or Kung Fu Cat. “Everyone will know who you are,” the girls tried to explain to him, but that didn’t change his mind. Then third was the pickle crisis, there were no pickles for their lunch of hamburgers and fries.
Mother had explained to them that the grocery truck had not made a delivery in over three weeks and they were running low on lots of things. And this was the reason she took her purse and shopping bag and early this morning hopped a ride on the old wagon. She would be back that afternoon when Farmer White returned from selling the farm grown vegetables in town.
The girls spent the afternoon planning their costumes for the big Halloween party. They were excited; it was always a special event on the farm. All the animals came in costume and the big barn would be decorated like a scary haunted house. There would be lots of food and candy to eat and games to play and everyone’s favorite activity – bobbing for apples. The girls wanted to go as Disney princesses this year and were trying to decide which one. Susie’s favorite movie was The Little Mermaid so she would be Ariel. Gracie loved Sleeping Beauty and decided to go as Aurora.
KFC was plopped down on the ground behind the large barn and had spent the past few minutes grumbling out loud. He kept repeating, “No pickles. Why no pickles. I may just starve to death without pickles.” “You may have to wait for those pickles young kitten.” A low raspy voice startled KFC and he quickly jumped up and turned around until he made a complete circle. There was no one behind the barn, just himself. Great, he thought, now he was hearing voices. He leaned back against the barn still mumbling out loud about no pickles. “There is something strange going on in town. I’m waiting for the farm wagon to return to get an update.” That voice again. KFC’s eyes became large and he crouched and spun around in a full circle again. Seeing no one he stood up and asked, “Who and where are you?” KFC waited for a minute, after no response from the raspy voice he bravely added, “You don’t want to mess with KFC.”
The air crackled with laughter, but KFC still could not see who belonged to that voice. “You are one brave kitten from the stories I hear about you and your sisters.” The voice said and then told him, “Come inside the barn and I’ll show you. I don’t like to go out during the daylight.” Then it became quiet, no voice or sounds at all. Hum, KFC thought hard, who or what could be in the barn that he didn’t know about. He knew all the farm animals and was always the first to know when anyone new came around. And what animal didn’t like to go out during the day? Owls and bats were the only ones he could think of and there were none of them living in the old barn. Then he had one big scary thought, Halloween was almost here and maybe it was the voice of a vampire or ghost or some other frightening monster in the big old barn.
KFC took a large gulp of air and ordered his legs not to shake and slowly walked to the front of the barn. He hesitantly stepped inside the big dark barn and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark. The barn was empty; all the animals were outside in the yard or grazing in the pasture. He crept toward the back of the barn where the strange voice had come from. It wasn’t that KFC was being particularly brave, but he had to find out about the strange things going on in town. Mother had gone to town that morning on the farm wagon and now KFC was concerned.
KFC was about as far inside as his feet were going to take him. He could still see the open barn doors from where he stood, just in case he needed to run for his life from a vampire or something worse. “Over hear.” The low voice came from the back wall. KFC was trying to decide whether to run for his life or not. “I’m not going to eat you little cat.” The voice chuckled. KFC wasn’t sure if he believed that or not. “Why don’t you come out where I can see you?” KFC squinted hard at the back wall of the barn.
“Just a few more steps, then we can talk.” The voice ordered.
KFC knew that to be a true super hero that you had to face your fears and KFC was no coward. He puffed his fur out as big as he could and crossed his arms in one of his kung fu fighting stances and took one giant step and said, “I’m here, now let’s talk. Who are you?” “You can call me – hum – Shadow.” The voice replied. KFC still couldn’t see any shadows not even his own so he asked, “Where are you?” “I’m up on the rafter above your head.” The Shadow answered. KFC jumped back in a defensive move and looked up and still could not see The Shadow.
“What did you mean about strange happenings in town? Our Mother left this morning on the farm wagon.” KFC had to get the facts about what was happening in town. “That’s too bad. Let’s hope she returns safely with the farmer. I’ll have an update on the situation then.” The Shadow told him. “How will you get this update?” KFC was puzzled. “Someone is sending me a message in the wagon. When I get it, I’ll let you know but here is what I’ve heard. There has been a new store open that sells groceries, feed, and farm supplies and since it opened strange things started happening to the old store’s deliveries and their food and feed orders have stopped. The old owner is very worried and the new store is taking away all his business.”
“Do you mean Mr. Jones’ Feed and Food Supply? Mother says Mr. Jones is the best person in town?” KFC was shocked when he heard what The Shadow told him. “Yes. Mr. Jones may be in serious trouble.” The Shadow’s tone was serious. There wasn’t anymore to learn until Farmer White returned and KFC ran from the barn toward home; he needed to tell Gracie and Susie what he learned from The Shadow.
KFC ran like wild goblins were chasing him and he skidded and slammed into the front door. Panting hard he hung onto the door for support and yelled, “Mother may be in trouble.” Gracie and Susie were busy making their Halloween costumes and jumped when KFC crashed into the house startling them. “What trouble is Mother in and who told you this?” The girls asked, not sure whether to believe their brother or not, because he always seemed to be involved in one crisis or another. “The Shadow.” KFC’s breathing was returning to normal. “Who?” They asked sounding like owls. “The Shadow in the barn.” KFC tried to explain.
Both girls started laughing, thinking their brother was getting an early start on Halloween tricks. “What’s wrong with you two?” KFC shouted, “This is serious.” He glared at his sisters. “You’re saying a shadow in the barn told you. WWWOOOOO. Spooky.” Susie made a scary face and wiggled her fingers and Gracie giggled at Susie’s antics. KFC was becoming upset with his sisters and said, “Okay, come to the barn and I’ll show you.” He turned and started toward the barn stopped and motioned to them, “Come on.” The girls looked at each other, shrugged, and decide to humor their brother and followed him out of the house.
Inside the old barn Gracie and Susie watched as KFC called, “Shadow. Shadow. Shadow.” He waited and then called again, still no answer from The Shadow. “Good try little brother.” Gracie said and both girls turned and headed back to the house to finish their costumes. KFC stood alone in the barn confused, wondering why The Shadow didn’t answer him. The girls reached the porch when they heard the farm wagon coming down the road. They turned and hurried back to the barn, just to make sure Mother made it home safely. KFC waited by the barn and with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. He was upset with his sisters and upset with The Shadow and he didn’t want to talk to anyone ever again.
When the large wagon stopped, Mother jumped from the back and it looked like she had been in a tug of war with a pile of dirty pigs. Her hair was messy, her dress torn and rumpled, and dirt stained her face. “Oh, I am so glad to be home.” She cried when she was the girls waiting for her. “It was terrible. I almost missed the wagon. Thank goodness Uncle Smokey was there to help me. That big mean dog tried to have me for his dinner.” Mother rambled all the way home, her words not making a lot of sense to Gracie and Susie, and once inside their house she collapsed in her favorite chair and dropped her purse. “Just look at my dress. And NO groceries either.” Mother looked like she was going to cry and Gracie and Susie didn’t know what to do or say and just stood there staring at her. They had never seen Mother this upset or this messy before.
“I told you something wasn’t right in town, but you wouldn’t listen.” KFC reminded his sisters from the front door. The girls hurried to the kitchen and brought Mother a cool drink and a washcloth for her face, then sat down beside her chair as she told them about her trip to town. “Mr. Jones is in trouble and there is no food or supplies left in his store. He hasn’t been getting his orders for weeks because the delivery truck never makes it to town. No one knows what is going on. There is a new feed and supply store in town and they have plenty of food and feed but the new owners won’t share any of the broken feed bags or food scraps with the animals. Their prices are so high that the farmers can hardly afford to buy feed let alone groceries. The new owners only gave Farmer White half the price of what he gets from Mr. Jones for his vegetables. Farmer White could only afford a portion of the feed needed for our farm and if the farmers complain to the new owners, they are told to go somewhere else, but there is no where else to go.”
Mother shuddered when she told the part about the mean black Doberman guard dog that sits outside the new store and shows his teeth and growls at everyone and won’t let any of the town animals come near the store. He chased me down the street until Uncle Smokey rescued me. Mother finished her drink and handed the empty glass to Gracie and then continued. The new owners are two brothers that recently moved into town and opened their feed store right across the street from Mr. Jones’ Feed and Food Supply. She sighed again and then said that the brothers are mean and rude to all the nice town folks too.
After telling about her harrowing trip to town, Mother decided to lie down and take a nap and once she was asleep the three cats slipped outside and headed for the barn. They needed to do something about the food situation in town or everyone was going to starve. It wasn’t just the farm animals that Mr. Jones helped but also the town animals. They walked into one of the empty stalls and jumped on a bale of hay. Gracie brought her pencil and pad to make notes. “First. We need to get to town and find out exactly what is going on. I bet these new owners are behind all the trouble for Mr. Jones.” Susie and KFC agreed with her. “We can ride the milk truck in the morning, but how are we going to get in the new store to investigate with that guard dog on duty?” Susie asked.
“Maybe I can help.” The girls looked around for the sound of the raspy voice. KFC folded his arms and grumbled, “Now you show up.” Then he added, “Susie, Gracie, meet Shadow.” “My pleasure.” Shadow replied and then he told them, “The animals in town don’t have enough food to eat and some of them are my relatives. I received an update that the situation is becoming serious.” Susie wasn’t sure where the voice came from and continued looking around, she asked, “How can you help us?” Shadow explained, “I can get into the new store and find out what you need to know without alerting the guard dog.” “If we are going to work together then you should come down here and join us.” Gracie’s voice was firm, who was this intruder, this Shadow. From one of the large wood beams overhead out stepped a very large gray rat and looked down at them and said, “Cats and rats aren’t the greatest of friends and there are three of you and only one of me. I’ll trust my instincts and join you.” Shadow jumped down on the hay bale and nodded to the three cats. He was large for a rat and had sharp pointed nails, a long tail, and two very big front teeth.
In a short time their plan was made. The four of them would catch the milk truck in the morning, ride it to town, and Shadow would sneak into the new store to find out what was going on. They would determine their next steps when Shadow reported what he learned. It was too early for them to contact Master Sleuth and the NGA Club without more information. The cats said good night to Shadow and agreed to meet him by the milking shed at dawn’s early light. Later that night after KFC had gone to sleep, Gracie mended his red cape and placed it on his bed; then the girls took down their Rescue Girls outfits and wrote Mother a note telling her not to worry, they would be back from town as soon as possible. They gave each other a high five and chanted, “Rescue Girls are the best. Rescue Girls pass the test.” Then they climbed in bed.
The Rescue Girls and KFC had been waiting for two hours for Shadow to return. They were hidden across the street in the empty storage room in Mr. Jones’ store. They had lots of room to hide as all the shelves where empty. A few bottles of water and some stale bread was all there was to eat. A big juicy apple or orange would taste great right now. KFC wasn’t good at waiting and had been jumping around practicing his Kung Fu moves, happy that his red cape had been mended. Gracie and Susie wore their Rescue Girls uniforms of blue jeans, long sleeved green shirts, and boots that laced up. The Rescue Girls were worried that the Halloween party would have to be cancelled if the food shortage problem wasn’t solved.
The girls did not hear Shadow return and were startled when he jumped down by KFC and said, “Things are worse than I thought. Those new store owners are bad news. No wonder Mr. Jones is having trouble and may have to close his store. Those brothers are behind the delivery truck not getting to town and have threatened the supply people to only sell to them so they can raise the prices. That guard dog is one mean animal and just waiting for the chance to attack someone.”
“This is proof enough to get help. KFC and Shadow wait here; Gracie and I are going to find Master Sleuth. Uncle Smokey lives the next street over and he can take us to the NGA Club.” Susie explained, knowing they would need the NGA club’s help to take on those mean brothers and the large guard dog and solve the food shortage problem. Gracie and Susie were glad to be back in the NGA Club and see all their friends again. Master Sleuth had wasted no time in calling an emergency club meeting after he heard what Shadow had found out. Sergeant called the meeting to order and Master Sleuth explained to the club members the reason for the food shortage in town.
A sheep dog named Fetch that lives with Mr. Jones told them that his owner was fixing his truck as the brakes had been cut so he couldn’t drive to deliver feed orders, if he had any feed to deliver. “We need to place a 24 hour watch on that truck and if anyone comes near it, call for help.” Master Sleuth said and Fetch volunteered to stand guard and would bray the secret howl for help if anyone came around. “Does anyone know when the next feed and food delivery is scheduled for Mr. Jones?” Master Sleuth asked the club members. A large white rooster answered, “Early tomorrow morning. I heard one of the hens say she is hoping the delivery gets through to Mr. Jones as there is no feed for the chicks.” Sergeant stepped forward and growled, “We need to make certain that delivery truck gets through to Mr. Jones.”
“Correct.” Master Sleuth agreed and thought for a minute then he ordered, “Sergeant, select a commando squad to go meet the supply truck and make sure it doesn’t run into trouble and send for Old Thunder; we may need him.” “Yes sir.” Sergeant saluted, then started pointing out the club members he wanted in the commando squad to go with him in the morning. “Master Sleuth, we still have the problem of the guard dog. Shadow said he is one big mean dog.” Susie spoke up. “We are going to need a special treat for him.” Master Sleuth grinned and Susie and Gracie wondered what he was thinking of for a treat. Master Sleuth dismissed the NGA Club and reminded everyone to meet in the morning behind Mr. Jones’ feed store and be ready for action.
Before the sun came up, Sergeant and the commando squad headed out of town to meet the supply truck to make sure it made it to Mr. Jones’ store. Fetch reported in that it was quiet during the night and no one had come around Mr. Jones’ delivery truck and the brakes had been fixed. The NGA club members were all waiting behind Mr. Jones’ store. KFC introduced Shadow to Master Sleuth and the other club members. Master Sleuth thanked Shadow for the information on the new store owners. Susie watched Master Sleuth and Hip and Hop huddle in a corner, then the two rabbits hopped away. She puzzled what they were up to.
The sun was bright in the sky, when across the street the two brothers came out of their store, climbed into their truck and drove out of town, following the same road Sergeant and the commando squad took early that morning. The large black Doberman guard dog was in front of the store, pacing back and forth and snarling showing off his large white teeth. The girls saw Master Sleuth, Hip and Hop, and Fetch leave and Fetch was carrying a bag. They heard Master Sleuth say to Fetch, “Be very careful and make sure he bites hard into the bag.” Not wanting to miss out on any of the excitement, the girls followed Master Sleuth.
When they were in front of Mr. Jones’ store, Hip and Hop started loudly yelling at each other, “It’s mine.” “No. It’s mine.” They shouted while grabbing at the bag. Suddenly Fetch runs up and snatched the bag and carries it into the street. All the commotion caught the guard dog’s attention and he leaped into the street and blocked Fetch’s escape. “Give me that bag and you won’t get hurt.” The guard dog growled at Fetch. Fetch backed away from the snarling dog, pulling on one end of the bag. The guard dog lunged forward and grabbed hold of the bag with his large mouth. Fetch gave the bag one more tug and the guard dog bite down harder sinking his large teeth firmly into the bag. Fetch let go of the bag and ran back to Mr. Jones’ store and stood on the porch beside Hip and Hop.
Master Sleuth purposely walked to the middle of the street and stopped directly in front of the large guard dog. It was a funny sight, one very large black dog and one very short brown dog glaring at each other. Master Sleuth didn’t move an inch as the guard dog crouched, ready to attack him. In a firm voice he said to the growling dog, “You’ve pushed your luck as far as it will go in this town. You have exactly one minute to get out of town and never come back or you will suffer the Rat’s Revenge.” Susie and Gracie were frightened for Master Sleuth standing face to face with the mean dog and now the threat of the Rat’s Revenge, whatever was that?
The guard dog was mad and foam dripped from his mouth, he was ready to make mince meat out of Master Sleuth. He tried to open his mouth to take a bite out of the shorter dog, but all he could do was shake the bag back and forth. The angry dog furiously shook his head, but the bag was stuck tight in his mouth. Then Shadow appeared leading an army of rats from behind Mr. Jones’ store and they all had large teeth. The Rats Revenge marched directly toward the guard dog, all stepping in unison, all making loud chomping sounds with their teeth. Chomp, chomp, chomp the Rats Revenge marched forward. The guard dog started to panic and whimpering sounds came from behind the bag stuck tightly in his mouth. Shadow was the first to reach the panicking dog; he barred his large teeth at the dog and said, “BOO.”
That was all it took for the large black Doberman to take off running down the road, shaking his head from side to side trying to free the bag stuck in his mouth. As soon as the dog was out of site, Master Sleuth and Shadow started laughing. “Good work team.” Master Sleuth saluted the army of rats. He turned to Shadow and said, “That was great acting Shadow; you could have a career in the movies.” Shadow laughed and answered, “The Rats Revenge were happy to help.” Susie and Gracie hurried over to Master Sleuth; they had to know and asked, “What was in the bag?” Master Sleuth smiled and told them, “Just a big ole bag full of super glue.” Susie and Gracie laughed out loud at the trick the NGA Club had played on the big mean guard dog.
Cheering from the rat army caused everyone to look down the road. Escorted by Sergeant and the NGA commando squad came the supply truck with one grinning driver. The driver stopped in front of Mr. Jones store and stepped out and looked around at all the animals and scratched his head in amazement. Hearing the supply truck drive up, Mr. Jones hurried out of the store and exclaimed, “Please tell me you have all my orders.” The driver answered, “Sure do and you can probably have that other store’s orders too. I don’t think those guys will be coming back any time soon.” The driver pointed across the street at the bothers’ store and continued to explain to Mr. Jones, “It was the darnedest thing I ever saw. Here comes those brothers in their truck to intercept the supplies, like they’ve been doing for the past month, and out of nowhere jumps all these animals, dogs, goats, and believe it or not, I thought I saw a buffalo. The animals wouldn’t let those brothers get out of their truck. Every time one would get out, the dogs would chase him back in the truck, and then this old goat would bang on the truck door until it wouldn’t open any more. Next this huge hairy animal, I swear it was a buffalo, ran up and started pushing their truck off the road and down the hill. Those brothers got that truck started and were hightailing it out of the large beast’s way on down the road. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever saw.” The driver kept repeating ‘craziest thing’ and shaking his head.
A couple of men in town hurried up and asked Mr. Jones if they could help him unload the supplies and in no time all the shelves at Mr. Jones’ Feed and Food Supply were stocked full. “Well, it looks like our work is done.” Master Sleuth announced to the NGA Club. “I would like to thank our new friend Shadow, The Rescue Girls and KFC for helping to solve the food shortage problem. All the animals cheered and then headed home with their arms full of food anxious for a good dinner tonight.
Sergeant and Fetch escorted the Rescue Girls and KFC to the road by the farm; Shadow had stayed in town to visit his family. “Mother will be happy to know that we will get a grocery delivery tomorrow.” KFC said as the three cats walked arm in arm the rest of the way home. “Yes. And we won’t have to cancel the Halloween party.” Susie happily added.
The following morning when Mr. Jones’ packed the delivery box for Farmer White’s farm, he placed a jar of dill pickles on the truck with a tag that read ‘For Pickles’. Then he turned and took a second jar and put it on the truck with a tag that read, ‘Extra Pickles’.