Carolyn Dixon, Girl Detective, fidgeted on the three legged stool in the Mayor's private study.
Outside the nearby window, Carolyn could see yet another beautiful summer day magically unfolding itself over the sleepy little city of Hudson Corners. She yearned to be out in it, face upturned to the sun, reddish blonde curls blown back by the wind, expertly driving the streets in her little blue roadster, seeking out fraud and conspiracy wherever it might try to hide itself. Because Carolyn had learned that a Girl Detective's work was never done, and even in a quiet, shady, sleepy little town like Hudson Corners, secret evil seemed to lurk everywhere.
In front of her, the Mayor of Hudson City sat behind a broad and polished walnut desk, a brass plaque with his name and title set forthrightly at the edge closest to the intrepid Girl Detective. He steepled his fingers together on the desk in front of him and beamed at the bright, pretty youngster sitting in his office, his every feature the very semblance of patriarchal pride.
"Now, Carolyn, my dear," he said, "you've kept me and Police Chief Billings rather busy this summer, cleaning up after your escapades, young lady. Could you possibly let a couple of old men have a few weeks rest, before school starts up again?" His eyes twinkled merrily as he said it.
Carolyn's eyes, however, flashed with determination. She had indeed had a summer full of adventures... in June, she'd uncovered that ring of counterfeiters who had foolishly set up shop in the abandoned windmill on Tricorn River. In July, she'd solved the mystery of the Haunted Cove, revealing that in fact, it wasn't haunted at all... a gang of smugglers had been operating out of a big, concealed cavern at the cove, dressing up as ghosts to frighten people away so they wouldn't be discovered. And only last week, her intrepid amateur sleuthing had revealed that dashing bachelor Stan Winthrop, the talk of the Gazette's society column, was actually the renowned international jewel thief known only as... the Owl!
"Daddy, I'd love to rest and relax, but evil never does," the plucky young Girl Detective chirped, leaning forward urgently. "And that's what I've come to talk to you about today. These strange symbols that someone has drawn in Old Man Hopkin's upper pasture... the bizarre rituals my friend Sheila and I saw from the woods while camping out nearby last night... Daddy, I think there are Satan worshippers in Hudson Corners!"
Carolyn's father, Walter Dixon, who had been Mayor of Hudson Corners for as long as anyone alive could remember, sighed and shook his head. And then, he chuckled, in a paroxysm of fatherly indulgence. "Carolyn, oh, Carolyn," he said, indulgently. "You're such a little spitfire! Please, my dear... proceed with caution."
Once again, the young girl's eyes glinted. "Oh, I will, Daddy. But I'm not going to let anyone get away with anything unsavory! Not in our town!"
Mayor Dixon rose, shrugging off his pinstriped suit jacket, turning his back to the young girl to hang the garment on a nearby coat rack. "Well, my dear," the fellow said, back still turned to the plucky young sleuth, hands loosening his necktie now, "Every town has its secrets... every family too, for that matter. I happen to know one that concerns you directly. Would you like to know what it is?"
Now Carolyn's eyes blazed. There was nothing she loved better than solving a mystery. But what possible secrets could her painfully straightforward middle aged father be concealing? He was an incorruptible public servant and an all American family man. His life had been spent in public service, his personal history was an open book, his character was unquestionable... "Of course, daddy," the chipper and determined young Girl Detective beamed. "Tell me!"
Still, Mayor Dixon kept his back turned. Beneath the fabric of his starched and immaculately creased white shirt, strange bulges seemed to come into being. The expensive linen stretched, tented... and then, tore itself to tatters, as two great black leathery wings unfolded from Mayor Dixon's shoulder blades.
The Mayor turned back to the young girl, his neck tie hanging from one reddish, hairy, taloned hand, the shreds of his human visage hanging from the other. Blazing red eyes, slit like those of a cat with glittering golden pupils, fixed avidly on the intrepid young sleuth, whose face had gone the color of cottage cheese as she sat there now, sparkling blue eyes nearly bugging out of their pretty little sockets in terror and horror.
"Well, Carolyn, the truth is," the slavering demon being said, out of a maw lined with rows upon rows of razor sharp fangs, "you're adopted."
With an inhumanly long, oddly jointed arm, the Mayor of Hudson Corners reached across his desk to sink his claws into the delightful young girl-morsel's neck.
Carolyn screamed... briefly.