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Scooby-Doo!: Paranormal Instincts: Beware the Beast from Below!

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Author's Note: I have to say that after reading EauDeDream's ongoing Scooby story  Nocturnal Instinct  on FanFiction , I've felt inspired to come up with another reworking of Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated.

Since this series is another reworking of SDMI, the events of this series also takes place in Dimension Three, which as you all know consists of my ongoing reboot of SDMI.

Given that Paranormal Instincts is a different series on its own with SDMI as its major inspiration, this series takes place in a different timeline than the ongoing SDMI reboot, with the reboot placed in Timeline One while this series is placed in Timeline Two.

Anyways, like the ongoing reboot, entries of this series would have their titles taken from the corresponding SDMI episodes. However, that being said, the entries would have completely different storylines than the episodes of which it has taken its title from.

For instance, this first entry has its title taken from the SDMI series premiere, however it features a completely different storyline, along with a different setting.

In this series, Coolsville is now a small city that's the administrative centre and largest populated city in Crystal Cove County.

I don't own Scooby-Doo. Hanna-Barbera Productions and Warner Bros. does.

Chapter 1: Prologue and first day of school

October 19, 2009

The alarm clock on the nightstand beside his bed went off at the usual time, and the 16-year old dusty brown shaggy-haired teenager groaned as he slammed his hand onto the alarm clock and shut it off.

Rubbing his eyes, the boy got up his bed and glared at the time. It was only 7:00 for crying out loud!

"Ugh." The boy groaned as he sat on his bed and yawned once more before he made his way out of the bed and stumbled towards the washroom.

He went through his usual routine in the washroom before stumbling back into his room to get changed.

His room was a complete junk yard, and sometimes he really doesn't know how did he managed to find the clothes he was going to wear or whether or not those clothes are cleaned.

Putting on his green shirt and belting up a pair of brown pants, the boy then grabbed his school bag and shuffled his way out of the door.

On his way to the dining room, the boy walked past several photos on display, several of which depicted a man wearing the uniform of the United States Marine Corps, in addition to a display board showcasing several medals.

The medals were surmounted by a name plate that said, "ROGERS", along with a golden oak leaf.

Beneath the medals was a larger photo of the man from the earlier photos, who's in his full service dress uniform, and the photo was accompanied by a caption that says:

"USMC Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Chastain 'Slamming Sam' Rogers
July 24, 1960 - March 22, 2009
You will be greatly missed by the 1st Recon Bn"

His thirteen-year old sister was already at the dining table eating her breakfast, and she looked up when he started walking into the dining room.

"Mom's already gone to work on base, Norville." She said to her brother. "She said that we need to get some stuff at the supermarket after school, and in the meantime, it's your turn to take Scooby out on a walk."

Norville grunted and went into the kitchen without another word, where he prepared himself pancakes and toast.

Hearing her brother grabbing the maple syrup from the refrigerator, she asked, "How's the arm?"

"It's fine, Maggie." Norville responded back as he reached deeper into the fridge to find another bottle of maple syrup after finding that the one he took out was already empty. "Like, don't worry."

"Are you sure, Norville?" Maggie asked. "The doctor said that you needed six months of relaxation, especially since you were in rehab during most of that time, and I don't want you to end up-"

"I'm fine, Margaret!" Norville cut in crossly as he pulled out a new bottle of maple syrup from the fridge. "Like I said, don't worry about me. Everything's alright considering what we went through the past couple of days."

Her brother rarely uses her real name unless he was serious or was trying to make a point, and Maggie was about to say something when she thought better.

"Okay, if you say so." She shrugged. "I'm just worried about you, Norville. You haven't been yourself since that accident and learning the news about Dad..."

Maggie abruptly stopped herself as a surge of emotion flooded her thoughts, and her brother immediately rushed over to comfort her.

Norville embraced his sister as she began to sob at the thought of their late father, and he heard Scooby whining and looked down, seeing the Great Dane snuggled at Maggie's legs to comfort her.

"It's okay, Mags." Norville said as he rubbed his sister's back. "I miss Dad too."

A few background stories are in store regarding the Rogers', particularly regarding the siblings and their parents.

Norville "Shaggy" Rogers was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 27, 1993 to Samuel Chastain Rogers and Wendy Amon.

Sam was a career Marine Corps non-commissioned officer with 16 years of service under his belt, having had done plenty of tours of duty, starting first with Grenada in 1983 and, up until Shaggy's birth, Somalia in 1993.

In his 16 years of service, Sam had seen plenty of assignments and postings, first as a military police non-commissioned officer, then as a Scout Sniper and eventually as a tactical squad leader in FORECON.

He was also a qualified pilot and has frequently provided air transport for his fellow Marines, in and out of the deployment zone of their missions.

At the time of Shaggy's birth, Sam had transferred to inactive reserves with the rank of gunnery sergeant and was in his second year of studies at the National Defense University under a scholarship, studying material in military science and strategic planning.

By the time Maggie was born in 1996, Sam was commissioned into the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant, and he continued with his earlier assignments at FORECON and went on to see more tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Shaggy and Maggie's mother Wendy was a career Air Force non-commissioned officer at the time of Shaggy's birth with her own achievements during her seventeen years.

She specializes in combat medicine and had years of experience as an Air Force combat medic under her belt, and her assignments were mostly relegated to Special Operations.

In the year before she gave birth to Maggie, Wendy, who had achieved the rank of master sergeant and was considered for a promotion to senior master sergeant, made the decision to transfer to inactive reserves so she could take part in advanced medical training courses.

She received her M.D designation at the time of her commission as a second lieutenant four years later, and she went on to work as a medical officer in the various SO squadrons she was posted at.

Anyways, fast forward to 2008, Shaggy was on his back to school from a field trip on a mid-October afternoon in New York when the school bus he was riding on was involved in a serious accident.

The school bus was driving through the intersection when a semi-trailer carrying a heavily load and speeding down the perpendicular roadway finds its brakes not functioning properly, resulting in it colliding right into the middle of the school bus.

Shaggy was seated in the middle of the bus and checking his watch when it happened, and he would never forget the screams from his classmates as they saw the out-of-control semi-trailer speeding right towards them.

He remembered getting pinned between the body of the bus and the front end of the semi-trailer, and it took almost ten minutes for firefighters to get him out and onto a waiting ambulance.

The surgery lasted almost an hour as doctors rushed to save his life, and although he did make a recovery, the pain in his arm was unbearable, apparently due to a goof during the surgery, which forced doctors to prescribe painkillers to him.

The prescribed painkillers ended up becoming addictive, but it wasn't without any side-effects, and he ended up getting prescribed other medication to counteract the side effects of the painkillers.

Before long, Shaggy found himself dragged into a dependency cycle on the medication, and it took a nearly-fatal overdose before his family demanded that he gets another surgery to fix his arm, in spite of its heavy cost.

Following the second surgery to fix his arm, Shaggy checked into rehab in order to kick the addiction he has developed onto the painkillers, though there were plenty of times where he has experienced a relapse and found himself having to start again with his rehab.

The whole three months of his recovery put a strain on his family, and his addiction to the painkillers had resulted in Shaggy's relationship with his father becoming distant, likely owing to the stress from Sam's recent deployment and the weight of the situation of Shaggy's accident and long road to recovery.

In their last conversation prior to getting deployed to Afghanistan, Sam urged his son to not give up in his fight to kick his addiction, and it was something Shaggy had kicked himself for not taking seriously, considering the devastating news he and his family would receive just six weeks later.

On March 22nd, his mother Wendy was about to leave for work as usual when she received the devastating news from her commanding officer and two Marines.

Her husband's convoy was returning to base when it was ambushed by insurgents loyal to the Taliban, and from the accounts of witnesses, Sam bravely shielded his men and fired the shots to their attackers, even after taking three shots from the insurgents.

There was only one Marine casualty from the ambush after the Marines managed to take out the insurgents completely, and that casualty was none other than Major Sam Rogers, who was due for a promotion to lieutenant colonel on the day of the ambush.

The Marines that were part of the convoy testified that the allied casualties from the ambush would've been worse had Sam didn't make the ultimate sacrifice, and from what Wendy was told, during the military funeral at Arlington, he would be granted a promotion to lieutenant colonel and several more awards posthumously.

Sam's death came close to shattering the family, considering the difficulties they already had with Shaggy's stint in rehab, and now with the main breadmaker buried in Arlington with dozens of medals on his chest, the family had plenty of challenges ahead.

Shaggy was devastated by his father's death, and whacked with guilt over his failure to heed his father's words seriously in their last conversation, he had made the effort to shake off his addiction to the painkillers that had been of help in his recovery from the botched first surgery.

That being said, he still has a long road ahead to recovery, especially given that he had to miss out on school and as such, he had to repeat Grade 10 for this school year.

The only silver lining out of all of this recovery process was their Great Dane Scooby-Doo, who had been supportive and helpful in his efforts to shake off his addiction.

One thing to note was that Scooby was rescued as a pup three years ago, where he and several other dogs were being locked in cages by ringers of a dog fighting ring in war-torn Afghanistan.

At that time, Sam led his company to retake the strategic town and ended up liberating the dog fighting ring as the Taliban was forced out, whereupon Sam and several Marines in his company adopted the pups they rescued.

Whenever Shaggy felt stressed and feel like he was about to have another relapse, Scooby would come to his aid and get him to calm down, though it wasn't enough to help him shake off his addiction to the painkillers.

Anyways, at present, Shaggy has been clean for the past six months, though Maggie still worries that he might end up with another relapse, as from time to time, Shaggy still wakes up with cold sweat at memories of the accident in New York a year ago, and those painful memories has been another factor in Shaggy experiencing relapses during his initial stints in rehab.

While Shaggy has been calmly trying to move on from the accident and focus on the road ahead, Maggie has noticed that he has kept his mouth zipped shut or changes the topic whenever he was asked about the accident, and she has fear that those bottled up feelings inside him could end up blowing up in their faces.

At present, Shaggy and Maggie had finished their breakfast and the older sibling went to get Scooby's leash ready for the morning walk while the younger sibling moved to wash the dishes.

Walking through the morning's light fog, Shaggy can't help but take note of the dark clouds looming in the horizon.

The atmosphere looked gloomy, and he can't help but be reminded about the school bus accident he was in.

After all, on the day of that accident, the skies of New York was likewise dark and gloomy.

At the thought of the accident, Shaggy found his hands shaking uncontrollably.

Scooby seemed to detect his distress, as the Great Dane quickly moved to his side and rubbed himself against his legs.

Hearing Scooby's whine, Shaggy looked down and rubbed Scooby's head, though he can see the concern in Scooby's eyes.

"Hey hey..." He said as Scooby looked up to him in concern. "It's okay, Scoob. It's just some...thoughts. Nothing to worry about."

Seeing that Scooby wouldn't stop looking at him the way he did, Shaggy sighed and added, "Like, you honestly think I'm gonna have a relapse, Scoob? I've been clean for six months at least, and no one said that it was gonna be easy, so just..."

He raised his hands in annoyance, and Scooby nodded.

Feeling Scooby's concern, Shaggy quickly said softly, "Okay, sorry pal...listen...I didn't mean to snap at you the way I did."

Scooby looked up at him once more, and Shaggy continued, "Let's just keep walking. Maybe the walk can get us to relax more, especially since we've only moved into the neighbourhood almost a week ago and need to get familiar with the area."

Scooby nodded once more and then began to lead the way, and Shaggy whistled as he looked around the neighbourhood.

The family had moved into the neighbourhood of Dawsburg in Coolsville, Crystal Cove County this past Thursday after Wendy began her new employment at the Crystal Cove County General Hospital in Coolsville, which also came as she was transferred to the Air Force Reserve and is assigned to the 701st Combat Operations Squadron at March Air Reserve Base as the squadron's chief medical officer.

However, as they arrived in Crystal Cove County, Shaggy felt unnerved by the welcome sign.

"The Most Hauntedest Place in America" He remembered the sign saying as they drove past it at arrival.

Anyways, after moving into their new house, the family spent Friday getting the kids registered to their new schools, unpacking their boxes and driving around Coolsville to get familiar with the city.

Shaggy sighed as he and Scooby returned home after walking the block, at which point Maggie already had her stuff ready to go.

He pulled the olive green van out of the garage and onto the driveway, where Maggie then got on and fasten her seat belt.

"Ready?" Shaggy asked his sister.

Maggie nodded before he shifted the van into reverse and pulled the van out of the driveway and onto Maple Street.

He drove the van to the end of Maple Street, whereupon he then made the left turn onto Riverdale Road at the green light and continued on straight for three blocks before they arrived at Daws Butler Middle School.

Maggie grabbed her school bag and before opening the door, Shaggy leaned over to kiss her in the forehead.

"Have fun at your first day at your new school, Mags." He said.

"Same to you, Norville." Maggie nodded before she got off the van and made her way towards the school building.

Watching his sister disappearing into the crowd of students, Shaggy sighed before shifting the van back to drive and pulled out.

Noting that it was 8:03, Shaggy made the right turn from Riverdale onto Union Avenue and drove down a couple of blocks before reaching his destination: Coolsville Central High School, one of the two high schools in Coolsville, the other being Crystal Cove High School located in the city's east end.

He sighed as he pulled the van into the students parking lot, and he grabbed his school bag and made his way to the school building, locking the car as he went.

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Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Fred and Daphne

Fifteen-year old Daphne Anne Blake sat at her seat in her English classroom that morning in Coolsville Central High School and was diligently taking notes as she listened to Mrs. Brandt outlining the class assignment for Shakespeare's Othello.

The redhead, dressed in a purple dress and wearing a green scarf and a purple hairband, glanced around the classroom when her eyes settled onto the blonde-haired Frederick Jones, Jr., who nodded at her.

Daphne smiled back, and her thoughts floated away from the class lesson and towards a few things that were occupying her mind, things that are of personal nature.

She and Fred had been good friends since middle school, when they were in the same homeroom in Grade 7 at Iwao Takamoto Middle School, and Fred has proved himself to be the source of fun and excitement from an otherwise dull but at times stressful home life.

Born on August 24th, 1994 in Manhattan, New York to George Robert Nedley Blake and Elisabeth Porsche, Daphne is the youngest in a family of eight.

Her father George was a businessman and entrepreneur who is the owner of Blake Enterprises, a multinational conglomerate specializing in several portfolios, which had started out as a real estate management company, he had inherited from his father, who had made a mark in New York's real estate market through his ownership of dozens of condos across the Big Apple.

Prior to taking over his father's company, George had enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after finishing high school in 1975 and had spent 16 years taking part in several assignments and postings, starting out as a logistics non-commissioned officer, then as a Scout Sniper and eventually as the quartermaster at the Headquarters & Service Company of the Combat Logistics Battalion 7 under the 1st Marine Logistics Group of the I Marine Expenditure Force.

George was discharged in 1991 with the rank of staff sergeant shortly after he returned home from the Gulf War, upon which he began taking over prominent duties at Blake Enterprises, together with his brother Matt, who was key in getting the company into agricultural research and owned dozens of ranches in the southern and western states, mainly in Texas and California.

He had met Elisabeth while taking part in a corporate party at his father's company, during which Elisabeth, a child prodigy, was managing the real estate portfolio of a major corporation headquartered on Coney Island who had frequently retained Blake Enterprises' services as a consultant company.

The two married in 1980, which was then followed by Elisabeth giving birth to a pair of twins a year later.

Donna Blake was the first born of the pair of twins, and as the oldest of the Blake sisters, she frequently comes to the defence of her younger sisters, particularly Daphne, who she considers to be the baby of the family.

At present, Donna is enjoying her full-time work at NASA as an aerospace engineer, specializing in trouble-shooting the aerodynamics of new spaceship designs and working to increase fuel efficiency while improving payload, particularly for the Space Shuttle, and is currently engaged to a colleague.

Doctor Daisy Blake, the second born of the pair of twins, has recently completed her master's degree in psychology and has specializes in the research of behavioural science, in addition to working as a counselor.

Like Donna, Daisy is currently engaged with her fiance working as a dentist.

The twins were soon followed by First Lieutenant Delilah Blake, who was born two years later in 1983 and is actively serving in the United States Marine Corps, where she is currently assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st Marine Division as a platoon commander.

Her assignment to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion came after she spent the first year following her commission in 2005 as a second lieutenant assigned to the FORECON company in the division, a company that was under the command of one Captain Sam Rogers.

It was Captain Rogers who took note of her talent early on during her first tour of duty in Afghanistan, and the captain was the one who recommended her to be transferred to the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

Anyhow, Delilah was taking part in her fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan when her convoy was dispatched over to help repel a Taliban ambush in the March of 2009, an ambush that ended with the Marines turning the tables against the ambushers, though at the cost of the life of the now-major who had recommended her transfer to the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in the first place.

Anyways, at present, Delilah is serving her third tour of duty in Iraq, and her family has frequently prayed for her safe return home in one piece.

Delilah was then followed by Dorothy Blake, born three years later in 1986 and is currently working as an intern mechanical engineer at a major multinational engineering firm headquartered in Montreal, Canada.

After Dorothy's birth, a gap of four years came before Elisabeth gave birth to Dawn Blake in 1990.

Dawn is currently the only Blake sister to be taking part in her post-secondary studies, at present in her second year at Darrow University studying opera at the Hoyt Curtin School of Music, where she's training to become a soprano with the goal of debuting at the Metropolitan Opera in New York by the time she reaches 30.

It was during the year of Daphne's birth that George's father handed control of Blake Enterprises to him and stepped down due to poor health, and following the old man's death a year later, Blake Enterprises underwent some restructuring following the company's board of directors voting to install George as the company's CEO.

One of the changes made as a result of the restructuring was the relocation of company headquarters from New York to a new facility across the continent in Coolsville, California.

At the time of the restructuring, the company's existing headquarters was getting out of date with the building itself dating back to the 1960s and has been experiencing mechanical issues as of late at the time of the move.

However, the move also came as the landlord owning the building that had housed the old headquarters, whom Blake Enterprises has done business with in the past regarding real estate, raised the rent of the building as a result of a feud stemming from a major contract.

The contract in question was regarding Blake Enterprise's work in helping that building's owner, who specializes in real estate management and has also owned a number of properties worldwide, including casinos and golf courses, in renovating dozens of its properties in Manhattan from 1988 to 1990, with the owner of the company owning the building boasting that the guys at Blake Engineering does a tremendous work in their field.

Trouble is, although the real estate company's owner had assured George and his father that they will get the payment in time for the services rendered, when it came down to Blake Enterprises issuing its final bill to the real estate company in 1990, the company owner later said that due to financial problems, it was not able to pay the final $400000 to Blake Enterprises.

When George inquired the company about the "financial problems" the owner spoke of and pointed out that owner was still living a life of luxury, the owner charged that the work done by the engineers, interior designers and architects of Blake Enterprises wasn't satisfactory, though the owner assured Blake Enterprises that the company will still consider their services for future projects.

However, George was clearly not hearing any of the owner's assertions, and his meeting with the owner went south when he brought up the payments for the other services the company has owed Blake Enterprises.

Shortly after that meeting, the owner raised the rent of the building housing the headquarters of Blake Enterprises, and while the company was able to remain financially afloat, even with the $400000+ owed and the raise in rent, the experience gave George the resolve to shake up the company and move it to new headquarters.

That was also the year the company owning the building entered a financial crisis, a crisis that saw the owner and the other companies he owned owing an estimate of $3.4 billion, and at the news of the landlord's troubles, George remembered conferring to his father that it would be a perfect opportunity to restructure Blake Enterprises and relocate its headquarters.

The old man agreed, and George assembled a team of real estate managers from Blake Housing to make the search for a suitable property for their new headquarters.

Blake Enterprises soon found its answer in the form of a vacant lot across the continent in Coolsville, California.

The lot in question, located across Terminal Way from the city's train station, which is located right in the middle of nowhere in the city's former industrial district, has been vacant ever since a fire in 1985 destroyed an abandoned industrial warehouse sitting on the lot, with the remains were torn down a year later.

At the time of the discovery, Coolsville's former industrial district, located in the city's north end, has shared the traits one would associate with the derelict industrial districts in the Rust Belt - filled with abandoned, closed down industrial sites that tells the story of a once-thriving manufacturing sector at the turn of the century America.

As a matter a fact, Industrial Yards, of which the former industrial district of Coolsville was called, has been a pastor boy for urban decline, not to mention that travellers that uses the train station frequently warns others not to take the late night trains to Coolsville, owing to the large number of homeless inhabiting the abandoned warehouses, which have also become a favourite hangout for gangs.

The problem, combined with lack of public transit connection to downtown Coolsville, has become so bad that Coolsville Station, located on a spur line that is served by Amtrak's daily Coast Starlight train, was downgraded to an unstaffed flag stop, where trains would only serve the station if requested ahead of time by passengers.

George Blake had read about the situation regarding the former industrial district and the status of Coolsville Station, which has been designated as a flag stop even though the station, which is located between Martinez and Sulsun-Fairfield stations, sees more passenger volumes than Paso Robles Station down the line.

Knowing that the former industrial district deserves a new opportunity and seeing how cheap the lot really is, George then dispatched a team of surveyors and geotechnical engineers to the site to survey the land.

Turns out, decades of industrial usage had rendered much of the land to be contaminated with the cost for the cleanup estimated to be in the millions, where the cleanup of the contaminated soil is essential for the area to be suitable for an office environment.

In spite of the heavy costs, George convinced the board of directors to approve the high budget for constructing a new headquarters in Coolsville, which then came the negotiations with the City of Coolsville and Crystal Cove County, whereupon the city agreed to rezone the former industrial district for mixed-use purpose.

Under the plan, Blake Enterprises would construct a seven-storey building across Terminal Way from Coolsville Station, in addition to redevelop the land surrounding the headquarters for mixed-use buildings and thus redevelop the area surrounding the train station.

As part of the first phase of the redevelopment of Industrial Yards, the railway station front was redeveloped as the construction of Blake Enterprises new headquarters commenced in 1993, where George hired a consultant firm to do the decontamination and construction works.

Although the project ran into difficulties, the work was completed in the spring of 1995, two months ahead of schedule, and George Blake moved the family and company across the continent to their new home in Coolsville.

Today, Industrial Yards in Coolsville looks radically different than it was in the late-1980s. The vacant lots that once scattered throughout the neighbourhood was now filled with mixed-use buildings with residential housing, shops, small businesses, wide sidewalks and parks.

Several of the remaining former industrial warehouses were converted into cultural and community centres, and with buses now serving the neighbourhood, Coolsville railway station has seen more passenger volumes and has since been upgraded back to staffed station status.

It came as the railway spur line was upgraded into a railway mainline where the Coast Starlight and Capitol Corridor now frequents, and as such, the developments has seen Coolsville's Industrial Yards reaching new heights.

Anyways, being from a successful business family and with older sisters who have achieved a lot, Daphne has felt a great deal of expectation weighing down on her, and she frequently confided with Fred about the stress she has felt at times at home.

Fred was quite the understanding chap, which is more one can say when his own family background enters the picture.

Unlike Daphne, Fred's an only child, though his father has shared a few traits with George Blake when it comes to family background.

Frederick Jones, Sr., a middle-aged man in his mid-40s, was the youngest in a family of famous and high-achieving people.

Fred Senior's father is the second cousin of a famous archeologist who became famous for discovering historic artifacts that were deemed too dangerous to fall into the hands of the Nazis and later the Soviets.

In a family dominated by lawyers and businessmen, Fred Sr. grew up in a privileged background, though it can be argued that he was brought up in a more privileged background than George Blake did, as Blake Enterprises was still a small business in the process of expanding when George was growing up.

At present, Fred Sr. is a member of the six-member Crystal Cove County Board of Supervisors, having had served in the Board since 2007.

Prior to that, he represented California's 11th congressional district as a Republican before he decided to run for the Board of Supervisors at a time when his popularity in the district is as low as the current senior U.S. Senator representing Kentucky.

His district as a member of the Board of Supervisors encompasses the mostly-rural eastern half of Crystal Cove County, where support for the conservative cause and the interests of Corporate America is high.

While Fred Sr. has been pushing Fred Jr., who inherited his blonde hair from his mother Peggy, to follow his footsteps and enter politics, the younger Fred would hear none of it, preferring to focus his energies on his hobbies, namely him taking part in the school's football team and the Rube Goldberg Machine Club.

Father and son hadn't been particularly close, and the distance that engulfed them widened following Peggy's untimely death in a car accident in 2008.

Fred deeply valued his friendship with Daphne, and given that they both had their issues with their respective families, they find the friendship a great way to escape the boredom and stress at home.

In fact, one can argue that there's more to the friendship than meets the eye, though so far, in spite of inquiries from their friends, Fred and Daphne had continued to insist that they were just good friends.

A short while later, during lunch period, Daphne and Fred sat together at the same table with a few friends as usual having lunch.

They were mostly discussing the usual stuff friends talk about, such as pop music, homework, tests and assignments.

Fred did most of the talking out of the duo while Daphne mostly ate silently, slowly savouring the taste of her salad.

As she finished her salad, the redhead peared around and noticed that Fred's sandwich was half-eaten.

Not that it should be surprising, considering that Fred was the one who did the most of the talking as they chatted with their friends, and as such, he frequently talks more than he eats.

She shrugged, given that she has gotten used to the routine, and she sipped on her water bottle.

After school, she's due to take part in a rehearsal in her drama club, and she made a mental note to herself to review a section of her lines as Hippolyta as part of the club's upcoming production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a production that would also feature orchestra music in the background.

The redhead then turned around the cafeteria and observed a number of students passing by, hanging around and eating their lunches.

It was then that her attention was drawn to this one particular shaggy-haired boy, alone at his table and slowly munching away at a garden salad.

He looked pretty lonely, the way he was seated alone at the table, Daphne observed, and she can't help but notice the anxious look on the boy's face.

The boy must've been new to Coolsville, as she's never seen him in the cafeteria before.

It was then that the boy looked up from his salad and for a brief moment, the two made eye contact with each other.

The boy didn't seem to mind the way Daphne was staring at him, though it could be due to the distance between them and he couldn't really tell if Daphne was actually looking at him.

As far as the boy is concerned, Daphne's likely simply sharing looks with one of her friends at her table, and the friend happened to be seated right on the line of sight between her and him.

Daphne looked on as the boy shrugged and resumed eating his salad and taking a sip from his water bottle.

The redhead shrugged to herself before taking another sip from her water bottle, in time to see Fred finishing the last of his previously-half-eaten sandwich.

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Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Afternoon classes and the discussion

That afternoon, Major Wendy Amon arrived at the usual time at the main entrance to March Air Reserve Base not long after finishing her daytime work at the County General Hospital.

The airman on duty at the guard shack nodded as she approached the shack with her military ID shown, and she stiffened.

"Afternoon, major." The airman said.

"Afternoon, Staff Sergeant Ward." Wendy nodded back as she noted the nametag on the airman's combats. "Nice weather, isn't it?"

"You can say that again, ma'am." Ward nodded. "Heard that there will be a 40 percent of precipitation later in the evening."

"Uh-huh." Wendy nodded again. "Typical November weather, I see."

"You can say that." Ward replied. "Heard that New York's usually much colder than here at this time of the year."

"It is." Wendy said. "I do hope that I don't end up getting too used to the warm weather here in California by the time I get posted back to New England or the Midwest or even Alaska for the matter."

"I'm sure you wouldn't, ma'am." Ward chuckled.

Wendy chuckled back before making her way towards the main hanger, only for the staff sergeant to stop her.

"Uh, Major Amon?" Ward called out.

"Yes?" Wendy asked as she paused and turned towards the staff sergeant.

There was some silence between the two airmen before Ward finally said, "I know about your late husband, and from what I've heard, he sure is one h*ll of a fighter, the type that exceeds the expectations of a typical Marine."

Wendy inhaled as Ward continued, "I know this is seven months late, but my condolences on your loss, Major. I know how it feels to lose someone close to you on the battlefield."

"Any siblings, Staff Sergeant?" Wendy raised an eyebrow.

"An older brother served in FORECON and was deployed as part of the first wave of the allied forces invading Iraq in '03, ma'am." Ward answered somberly. "I was two months out of Lackland, having had finished BMT, when I got the news that Rob was killed by a sniper shot."

Wendy placed her hand on Ward's shoulder.

"I'm sorry about your loss." She said. "Your family must've been devastated."

"They were, and truth be told, given what we've seen in Iraq today, I still wonder to this day whether or not Rob's sacrifice was worth it." Ward replied.

Wendy sighed before she said, "I honestly felt the same thing regarding my husband's sacrifice in Afghanistan."

"Is this why you've become a medic, ma'am?" Ward asked. "To help save lives."

"Yes, in addition to helping people." Wendy nodded. "Being involved in a job that makes a difference in other people's lives was always something I've wanted to do since I was young."

"I understand, ma'am." Ward nodded thoughtfully before noting the time and added, "I suppose you should be off now."

Wendy nodded again. "It's good speaking with you, Staff Sergeant."

"Likewise, Major." Ward replied. "See you around and have a nice day."

"You too." Wendy smiled before she took her leave and made her way into the main hanger.

Under her new position at the 701st COS, Wendy's Primary AFSC is 40C0, denoting a medical commander, while she retains her previous Secondary AFSCs of 43HX, 44DX, 45SX, 48GX and 48VX.

Meanwhile, back in Coolsville, following lunch period, Shaggy had Civics class.

The teacher, Ms. Jennifer Forey, was receptive when Shaggy first arrived at the classroom with his class schedule in hand, and she was quite good in teaching the class, as Shaggy had observed.

While Ms. Forey was discussing the political spectrum and going into detail on where the Democrats and the Republicans fit in the spectrum, Shaggy glanced around the classroom like he did in his earlier classes.

He noticed Fred Jones seated at one side of the classroom, diligently taking notes as Ms. Forey talked, though Shaggy noticed the boredom on the blonde's face.

Not that he blamed Fred for feeling bored in class, as he himself felt that civics was a boring class topic in school.

But then again, maybe it's a good idea to get a good lay on the land on politics so he can fully grasp the decision-making behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the wars which has been responsible for claiming the life of his father seven months earlier.

Shaggy sighed and shook his head at the thought of his late father, really wishing that he had fully heeded his words on their last discussion before he was deployed to Afghanistan.

It was then that he felt something hit him on the neck, and he paused and looked down and saw a paper ball on the floor.

Not noticing a particular red-haired jock seated next to Fred chuckling, Shaggy picked up the paper ball and uncrumpled it.

The paper ball only had one word written on it, though it was enough for Shaggy to know that it was just another attempt to intimidate him.

It's only the first day of him attending his new school, and already, he was becoming a magnet for troublemakers and school bullies.

Shaggy simpled crumpled the sheet of paper before tossing it towards the paper recycling bin next to him.

The paper ball dropped into the bin at first shot, something that was the result of him developing a habit of disposing such paper balls into the bin next to his seat whenever he received one during class in school.

It was probably a good thing that Shaggy had developed a habit of seated close to the front of the classroom, near where the garbage and recycling bins are located at, as he can swiftly dispose such intimidating messages with ease.

Unbeknownst to him, a particular auburn-haired girl wearing a thick pair of glasses had witnessed the act, and she shook her head in disapproval.

Fourteen-year old Velma Dinkley sat at her seat in her civics class, shaking her head in disapproval as she witnessed the school bully Randolph "Red" Herring toss a paper ball towards the new student in class and chuckling afterwards.

Being a frequent target of Red and his gang, Velma felt sorry for the new student having to go through Red's bullying ways on his first day at Coolsville Central, no less.

Red Herring and his gang frequently resorts to knocking over her pile of books, calling her names and demanding her to help them do their homework during the time when they see her in her usual habitat - the school library.

Velma had complained to the school staff about Red's behaviour countless times, though so far, Red and his gang have continued to persist in their bullying ways.

While it might be a relief for her that Red and his gang have found a new potential target to pick on, which therefore takes the heat off her, Velma felt that she can't just sit by and let someone else take the heat from Red and his gang in her place.

She rolled her eyes over as Red made another paper ball and threw it towards the new student, and she sighed as she watched the new student tossing the paper ball into the paper recycling bin as if he had crumpled up the notebook paper himself.

Shaggy found himself sharing chemistry class with the red-haired girl that he had noticed in lunch period for the last period of the day, though he wasn't sure if he can go through the entire class without dozing off as a result of the teacher's constant ramblings.

As usual, Mr. Emmanuel Raffalo, the chemistry teacher, was going through his usual ramblings about the importance of lab safety, relating a tale from long ago from his days as a research assistant at Darrow University, and Shaggy almost groaned inwards.

He could've sworn that he had just heard someone dozing off, and he wondered just how does one teacher make chemistry a boring subject in class.

Science isn't exactly one of his strongest suits, but even then, he couldn't recall the last time he had felt bored in a science class, whether be the chemistry class or the biology class he had enrolled in back at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.

The thought of Abraham Lincoln High School almost immediately reminded him of the fateful school trip he took part in a year ago, and it was then that he had some flashbacks to the time he was trapped in the wreckage following the T-bone collision.

Shaggy almost immediately felt his hands shaking anxiously, though the boring and yet soothing voice of Mr. Raffalo as he continued on with his class allowed him to calm down.

He then resumed taking his notes, only to realize that in the time he had a flashback to that serious accident from the past year, he had unknowingly let go of the pencil he was holding with his right hand and that it had rolled off his desk and landed on the floor.

His cheeks flushed a bit when he noticed a few faces were glancing at him, and he swiftly reached down onto the floor to pick up his pencil.

Unbeknownst to him, the redhead happened to have taken notice of his hands shaking during the brief moment Mr. Raffalo rambled about lab safety and related a tale from his past days.

Daphne wasn't sure if she should reach over to ask the new student she noticed in the school cafeteria during lunch period if he's alright.

She sat at her usual spot in her chemistry class and when Mr. Raffalo began rambling about a past tale like he always does in class, she groaned internally.

The chemistry teacher sure has a habit of rambling, and Daphne silently cursed herself for not following through with Fred's suggestion to take Mr. McDabble's chemistry class.

She wasn't sure which of Mr. Raffalo's chemistry class made her feel bored - the plain, white walls with the windows facing towards the foggy skyline of Coolsville, or the chemistry teacher's boring voice as he rambled.

Daphne was about to rest her head on the palm of her left hand when the boring atmosphere was shattered by a pencil dropping onto the floor.

Her eyes darted towards the source of the noise, whereupon they settled onto the pencil laying of the floor and the desk of which it had rolled off from.

Glancing towards the desk, she soon recognized the new student who she briefly had eye contact with during lunch period in the cafeteria.

Seated further away from the front of the classroom than him, she couldn't see his face, though her eyes soon noticed the way the boy's hands were shaking.

It wasn't the type of shaking associated with not wearing enough clothes in a cold setting, rather, she thought that the shaking seemed more anxious in nature.

Daphne narrowed her eyes as she pondered whether or not she should reach over to ask him if he's alright.

After what felt like eternity, the school bell rang and all of the students grabbed their stuff and made their way out of the classroom.

Shaggy wasted no time making his way to his school locker, though as he exited the classroom and turned left onto the main hallways, he felt someone tapping on his shoulder.

Ignoring the tapping and thinking that someone might've tapped on his shoulder by mistake, Shaggy continued on.

"Hey." A female voice called out to him just as he felt someone tapping on his shoulder again, and the shaggy-haired boy sighed before he turned around.

It was the red-haired girl he saw in the school cafeteria, who is also in his chemistry class just earlier, and Shaggy arched his eyebrows.

"What is it?" Shaggy finally asked the girl as she stood in front of him.

There was an awkward silence between the two before the redhead finally said, "I hope I'm not bothering you, but are you alright? I can't help but notice that your hands were shaking when we were in...chemistry class earlier."

Shaggy glanced down onto his hands as the girl continued, "And it wasn't just some shaking as a result of the cold air conditioning, but rather, a shaking associated with anxiety, and I just wanna be sure that you're alright."

Shaggy studied her a bit as she asked him in concern. Her long red hair reaches down to her shoulders, and with her thin frame face, purple eyes and red lips and wearing a purple dress, purple heeled shoes, purple hairband and a green scarf that matched his own green shirt, the redhead looked quite attractive.

Her future husband's gotta be the luckiest bloke in the world. Shaggy thought to himself just as the redhead asked if he was feeling alright.

Putting on a brave face, Shaggy quickly said, "Like, don't worry about me...uh...I guess I'm just...a little anxious about my first day in a new know?"

Daphne gave the boy a questioning look as he continued, "My family and I...we just moved into town from New York last Friday."

Ah, so he arrived from the other side of the continent. Daphne thought to herself. Probably the jet lag from the change in time zones.

She nodded and relaxed as she said, "Ah, I see. It must've been quite the journey across the country."

"Yeah." The boy nodded. "We drove all the way here from our old home in Brooklyn, so yeah, you could say that it was quite the journey."

Daphne smiled before extending her hand and added, "By the way, my name is Daphne Blake."

"Like, the name's Rogers." The boy introduced himself. "Norville Rogers, but call me Shaggy."

"Will do." Daphne nodded. "And you say you were from Brooklyn?"

"That's right." Shaggy nodded. "Grew up there most of my life, as my family does move around a bit due to both my parents both serving in the Armed Forces."

"Ah, I see." Daphne's eyes brightened. "My father used to serve in the Marine Corps, and he had settled down to work at his father's company, which he now owns, in Manhattan when I was born."

"Like, wow." Shaggy remarked. "Me Brooklyn and you Manhattan. Small world, isn't it?"

"You can say that." Daphne chuckled, though she can see the shadows forming on Shaggy's face when she mentioned the word "father" and then she frowned.

Shaggy noticed that Daphne's mood changed, and he was starting to feel a little uneasy.

Catching the look in his eyes, Daphne asked, "Are you okay?"

"I...uh..." Shaggy was about to continue before he instinctively looked at his watch and added, "Oh, sorry. I gotta go now. I need to pick my sister up at Daws Butler and get home before our mom finishes work, so talk to you later."

With that, Shaggy quickly took off down the hallway before Daphne could get a chance to stop him.

As he hurried down the hallway, glancing back to make sure the redhead wasn't following him or trying to catch up with him, his mind was racing.

He could've sworn he had heard the Blake name somewhere, though it wasn't until after he grabbed his stuff from his locker, slammed the door shut, raced his way to the main entrance, unlocked his van, started the vehicle, backed out of his parking spot and made the turn onto Union Avenue that he realized where he had heard the Blake name before as he drove past an advertisement sign.

It was a Blake Enterprises advertisement sign with the company owner George Blake's face on it, and Shaggy could've sworn that the businessman looked rather fierce in the sign.

Noting the man's red hair and his resemblance to Daphne, it didn't take long for Shaggy to connect the dots and realize that Daphne is George's daughter.

However, the Blake name wasn't exactly why his mind was racing as he turned the van onto Riverdale.

He noticed that Daphne was quite observant, and Shaggy doesn't feel exactly comfortable about the fact that she was already starting to make observations on him the minute they started to get acquainted.

He also wasn't feeling comfortable about the potential of Daphne asking some difficult and uncomfortable questions to him as she noticed that he wasn't exactly feeling okay at the mention of certain words.

By this point, he had pulled the van into the driveway of Daws Butler Middle School, whereupon his sister Maggie, who was seated on the front bench with some other kids, got up from the bench, said goodbye to the kids she was seated with on the bench, and rushed her way to the van.

Daphne was puzzled by the way Shaggy abruptly rushed away when she began to inquire about his well-being.

She had observed the change in his behaviour when she mentioned her father serving in the Marine Corps, and she can't help but wonder why exactly did Shaggy began feeling anxious when she mentioned that.

Those thoughts clouded the back of her mind as she took part in drama club and then resurfaced as she arrived home after a ride on the late school bus, which had passed by Daws Butler Middle School on its way back to her home.

Eventually came dinnertime at the Blake household, which at present consisted of herself, Dawn, George and Elisabeth.

As usual, the oldest of the four first with through with how did the day went for them, and then it was Daphne's turn as Jenkins, the family butler, served their dessert after the main course.

"So how was your day, Daphne?" Elisabeth asked her youngest daughter as Jenkins placed a plate of freshly-baked apple pie in front of her.

"Oh, it was the usual, Mom." Daphne shrugged. "You know, with drama club and the practice for A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"Uh-huh." Elisabeth nodded as she take a sip of her water. "Anything else, dear?"

"Well, there's a new guy transferred in from New York." Daphne continued. "He seemed quite nervous whenever I see him, and during our chemistry class, while the Buffalo went through with his usual ramblings, I noticed that the new guy had dropped his pencil and that his hands were shaking."

"Oh?" Dawn raised an eyebrow as she looked at Daphne. "Could it be the cold air conditioning in the classroom?"

Dawn, in talking about the cold air conditioning in the classroom, was referring to the fact that she had Mr. Raffalo as a chemistry teacher while in Grade 11 and that she, too, had went through the ramblings from the teacher they had came to nickname as "the Buffalo" in classes.

"No." Daphne shook her head. "I would've noticed goosebumps on his arms, plus the air conditioner is shut off due to the mild weather. Anyways, I later checked on him to see if he was alright after chemistry class, and he did mention that he had recently moved here from Brooklyn this past week and that his parents both served in the Armed Forces, though he got apprehensive when I mentioned that Dad had served in the Marines and then took off before I could inquire further."

George was mostly silent during this time as he finished his apple pie and took a sip of water, then he turned and looked towards Daphne.

"Does the guy you speak of has a name, Daphne?" George asked. "And what does he look like?"

"His name is Norville Rogers, though he goes by Shaggy." Daphne answered. "And as for looks, well, he does look a bit skinny and tall, in addition to having a thin frame, brown eyes and dusty brown hair."

Then, with a shrug, she continued, "He also wears a green shirt that matches my green scarf."

George grunted as he nodded understandingly, only to pause before asking, "Wait, you said Rogers. As in Lieutenant Colonel Sam Rogers, who was Delilah's CO when she graduated from Quantico?"

"He mentioned that both his parents served in the military, so I would assume yes, unless you know another Lieutenant Colonel Rogers that isn't related to Shaggy, Dad." Daphne replied.

"And you mentioned that he seemed nervous and got apprehensive when you mentioned me having had served in the Marine Corps." George added.

"That is correct, Dad." Daphne nodded.

"In that case, I may know why he behaved the way he did when you mentioned that." George said. "Before you girls and Dorothy came along, I was a Scout Sniper serving with Rogers, and together with a gunny named Gibbs, we were known as the 'Three Sarges' in our unit before I moved to combat logistics. Anyways, Rogers was a very good man and do you girls remember the reason why Delilah and I had to fly to Washington this past March?"

Daphne and Dawn shared looks with each other before they shrugged.

"You said that you had some business in Washington to take care of." Dawn offered.

"Yes, well, that wasn't the only reason I was there this past March." George said. "You see, a few weeks before that business conference, Delilah's battalion was dispatched from their camp in Afghanistan to help repel a Taliban ambush, an ambush that ended with the ambushers all killed while we only suffered a single casualty."

Daphne and Dawn noticed the hardening look on their father's face, getting an idea on where the story was going.

"Now, one thing to note is that the allied casualties would've been much worse had a FORECON major didn't step in to shield his men and made the ultimate sacrifice as he launched the counterattack against the ambushers, and the major was due for a promotion to lieutenant colonel on the day of the ambush." George continued. "In fact, word has it that the major managed to take out seven of the ambushers even though he had taken four hits, and eventually, by the time medics arrived, he had drew in his last breath."

Seeing the somber look on their father's face, Daphne and Dawn both nodded understandingly.

"Delilah was deeply affected by the death of her first CO, who was the one that recommended her transferred to the light armoured recon battalion." George said. "And having had served with Rogers back in the day, I decided to join her in Washington and pay my respects as they buried him with full honours in Arlington."

There was some minutes of silence between the family after the remark.

"I suppose I should offer my condolences to Shaggy when I next meet him at school." Daphne finally said.

"As well as offer him the support he would need." George nodded. "He most certainly misses his father, and I'm sure he would deeply appreciate having someone outside his family that understands him well."

Daphne nodded thoughtfully in agreement, and the rest of the evening consisted of the family going through their usual after-dinner routines before bedtime.

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Chapter Text

Chapter 4: In the library and the grisly discovery

October 23, 2009

Several days has went by since Daphne has made her first encounter with Shaggy. Since that first encounter and the subsequent conversation with her father later that night, Daphne has resolved to set things straight with Shaggy in hopes that he doesn't get certain thoughts in his mind.

Interestingly, although she still sees Shaggy in the school cafeteria and in their shared classes (Chemistry and Math), he never approaches her, and when the class is finished, he is usually one of the first students to make the quick exit out of the classroom before she could have a chance to catch up.

Daphne was hoping that Shaggy would eventually understand that she didn't mean to push right into his personal space, though she figured that he needed more time to keep himself calm and not think too much about the way she may have pushed him.

With Halloween a week away, the school has been preparing some Halloween-related spooky festivities for the following week, a week that would end with the school staff and faculty all wearing costumes.

Daphne hasn't decided what she would wear on the following Friday, as she found herself choosing between a number of costumes.

She wasn't sure if she should dress as a witch, a cowboy, a fairy princess, a goth girl or a vampire.

Daphne shrugged those thoughts off as she made her way into the school library with her English binder and a copy of Shakespeare's Othello. The costume party is still a week away, and she figured that she should be able to come up with a decision on his costume choice by that point.

The plan was for her to spend the after school hours in the library, getting a head start on the assignment that was assigned to them this past Monday.

It was a habit she has acquired since her freshman year at Coolsville Central High School, and she has came to enjoy working in the quiet atmosphere of the school library, which is located at the basement of the school building.

As she walked through the library doors, the school librarian, who was at present quietly chatting with a social studies teacher who she recognized as Luis de Portrillo, nodded at her in greeting, and Daphne nodded back.

She didn't quite understand what Mr. de Portrillo and Mrs. Gales, the librarian, were talking about in their discussion, as they were both speaking in Spanish, though Daphne shrugged it off and made her way towards the study area.

Fred was seated at one of the long tables and working on some schematics for his Rube Goldberg Machine Club when he saw Daphne approaching the table and smiled.

Daphne smiled and waved at him as she took her seat, during which she turned and noticed Velma Dinkley typing on her laptop.

The redhead knows for a fact that Velma's quite the genius, as she's only a sophomore and already she's in the school's advanced calculus and chemistry classes, the type of classes that would normally see seniors rather than sophomores in attendance.

"Working on the Othello assignment, Daph?" Fred whispered as she took her seat.

"Yeah, I thought that I wanna get a head start on the assignment." Daphne whispered back with a nod before noting the schematics Fred was working on and asked, "Rube Goldberg Machine Club?"

"Uh-huh." Fred tapped his pencil on the sheet of paper in front of him. "Right now, I'm still trying to figure out how to get that skateboard pushed towards the pedal without the use of a ramp."

Daphne paused her lips as she glanced at the schematics, then she turned to the blonde as she whispered, "I'm sure you can figure it out, Freddie. I know you can."

Fred nodded. "Thanks for the faith, Daph. I might do a little brainstorming for the assignment later on, so if you've got some questions, I'm right here."

"Sure." Daphne nodded back before she turned towards her own assignment and started flipping through the book.

Several minutes went by before the library door opened again, and when she paused briefly and looked towards the door, there was Shaggy Rogers, walking right through the library door with his binder in hand.

He was shaking his head in annoyance as he walked through the door, pausing only to nod at Mrs. Gales.

Shaggy was shaking his head in annoyance as he entered the library, which came after a rather tense encounter while passing through the main hallway.

On his way to the school library, he happened by a crowd of reporters, photographers and people holding election signs that read, "Elect Representative Jeff Dudley!"

Shaggy paused just in time to catch a glimpse of Dudley waving and finishing his speech, to the cheers of the crowd present.

At present, State Senator Jefferson Dudley represents the 7th State Senate District, having had been first elected to the seat in 1998, and is currently campaigning to fill the vacant seat of the 11th congressional district in this upcoming Monday's special election.

The special election came after the incumbent Congressman, a Democrat, resigned from her seat to fill a senior-level position at the Department of Labor, which triggered the special election campaign.

A Republican, Dudley has shared many conservative views, and although he is considered a moderate like his fellow Republicans from New England states, he shares the neoconservative stance of the previous President.

The state senator had attracted notoriety for his unwavering support for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and with a rather colourful reputation who uses salty language, it came as no surprise to anyone when he referred to anti-war protestors as "f**king traitors who doesn't know what's good for the country" during an interview.

He never apologized for those remarks and has continued to stand by the war in Iraq, even as it has become clear that the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction intelligence sources spoke of never actually existed.

Since the new President took office this past January, Dudley has been relentless in his criticism of the President, going as far as to say that the country made a colossal mistake in "electing a black socialist" to the White House.

Dudley has also been a vocal critic of the current state Governor, denouncing him as a "Republican in Name Only" and a "closet socialist", particularly with his initiatives in trying to combat climate change and working with Democrats.

In his campaign for the House, Dudley has promised that he would fight for the people of the 11th District.

His visit to Central, was in fact, a hallmark of his promises of improvements to the country's education system.

However, while Shaggy wasn't exactly fond of civics class, he knew enough politics to know that Dudley's promises were nothing other than window-dressing.

Several things to note was that Dudley has frequently voted against increasing the state's education budget, citing the state's debt as reasons for his opposition and questioning whether the extra funds to the school system would really make much of a difference, particularly in Crystal Cove County.

Dudley was also a proponent of school vouchers and chartered schools, initiatives he touts as being of great help in offering efficiencies to taxpayers, even though those initiatives involves the use of public funds to fund for independent schools whose curriculum may not necessarily be on par with what public schools are required to teach.

Shaggy also couldn't understand the logic behind intelligent design or creationism, finding himself to consider evolution as a more logical scientific theory.

Either way, what Shaggy figured was that Dudley's promises wouldn't do much to improve the already-decaying state of the Crystal Cove School District, where the lack of funding has resulted in the schools being overcapacity, a situation not helped by the delays in the construction of new schools across the county.

In addition, since his father's death, Shaggy has came to view neoconservative war hawks, those that advocate for increased military roles abroad, with deep disdain.

Anyways, Shaggy was about to continue on to the library when he got pushed by the crowd of students wanting to meet and shake hands with Dudley.

Unable to move out of the way in time, Shaggy paused when he found himself face-to-face with the State Senator.

The state senator, wearing a smile that is frequently attributed to politicians that makes false promises, smiled cheerfully to him as he extended his hand.

"Looking to vote for real change, I reckon?" Dudley asked him.

Shaggy glanced down at the state senator's offered hand briefly, then he looked up at Dudley, who was looking at him with expectation of sorts.

In spite of the anger and resentment inside him, Shaggy hold firm, though he narrowed his eyes into a glare of sorts.

In a calm voice, he replied, "Unless you're promising to lower the voting age to 16, a promise I highly doubt you will keep, I don't see how can I vote for real change when I'm not even at the voting age."

It was clear to Dudley that Shaggy had no intention to shake his offered hand, though he continued to wear the smile on his face.

There was some awkward silence before one of the men, who has black hair, dressed in a suit with a dark red tie and wearing a pair of glasses, accompanying Dudley stepped in.

"I'm sure the boy's had enough, Jeff." The man stepped in. "He's probably in a rush to the library or something."

Dudley, still wearing the smile on his face, nodded before turning away, but not before saying to Shaggy, "Vote Dudley for the House and vote for real change!"

With the attention taken away from him, Shaggy scoffed before he squeezed his way through the crowd and continued with his way to the library.

He was still shaking his head in annoyance as he thought about the encounter he just had, and it was clear that he had no regrets refusing to shake the state senator's hand.

There's no way he intends to shake hands with someone who supports something that is responsible for the death of his father, especially when that death is in a war that has been dragging for far too long and has not been making any productive progress.

Shaggy doesn't believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are worth the effort and sacrifice of the lives of troops, lives that include that of his fathers.

Daphne perked up from her writing as Shaggy made his way into the main study room of the library, where without hesitation, he took a seat right across from her and Fred, sat down and spread out his stuff.

She noticed that he was shaking his head as he entered the library, and it made her wonder what exactly was he thinking about.

From her conversation with her father that past Monday, Daphne figured that he must be thinking about his father.

By this point, the librarian Mrs. Gales have finished speaking with Mr. de Portrillo, who has left the library.

A few minutes of silence went by before the librarian walked over towards the four, who were presently the only students inside the library, and gently knocked on the table they were all seated at.

The gang all looked up, and Daphne asked, "You need something, Mrs. Gales?"

"Yes." Mrs. Gales nodded. "I need to leave the library for a couple of minutes to help an after school class out, and normally, I wouldn't leave you kids here alone in the library and would've had an assistant to cover for me."

The group all arched their eyebrows as the librarian continued, "However, due to recent budget cuts and the recent transfer of my assistant to Watson's Pass, I'm going to need to trust you kids in not wrecking this place while I'm gone."

"We won't, Mrs. Gales." Velma paused from her typing. "We promise."

The other three at the table all nodded, and Mrs. Gales nodded back.

"I should be back in around ten minutes." The librarian said as she made her way to the doors.

As the librarian made her way through the doors, there was an awkward silence between the four students before Velma was the first to resume what she was doing earlier as she resumed typing on her laptop.

Slowly but surely, the other three at the table followed suit.

Several more minutes went by, during which Shaggy continued on writing on several notebook pages while Fred has moved on from the schematics and is helping out on the English assignment with Daphne.

As the silence continued, there was an eerie feeling in the atmosphere and Shaggy began to pause from his writing.

He looked around and got up from his seat to take a walk around, though as he glanced towards the library door, which is within the line of sight of the closest door to outside, Shaggy noticed that it looked little gloomy and cloudy outside.

It was the same gloomy and cloudy setting that he remembered seeing when he and his classmates boarded the school bus for the trip back to Abraham Lincoln High on that fateful day, and he felt that he was going to shiver again.

Shaggy immediately shook his head and turned towards the reception desk in the library, during which he noted the time.

16:30. Shaggy noted and frowned, as he recalled that his watch said 15:55 when Mrs. Gales walked out of the library.

Returning to his seat, he sat down, looked towards the others and remarked, "Like, it's been half an hour since Mrs. Gales left and she said that she should be back in around ten minutes."

Velma was the first to respond to his observation as she paused from her typing and looked up to him.

"Maybe the help took longer than anticipated." She offered.

"Yeah, I'm sure that maybe the students in that after-school class had plenty of questions for her to answer." Fred nodded.

"I wouldn't know about that, though." Daphne joined in. "In the past several times Mrs. Gales had to leave to help out at an after school class, she's usually back within the ten minutes she said that she will be back in."

It was then that the group heard some rumbling coming from outside, followed by a sudden flash of light and then some thunder.

"Huh." Velma remarked as she checked the weather on her laptop. "The forecast said that an afternoon low pressure system is due to arrive within the next hour."

The others all furrowed their eyebrows and nodded, though the atmosphere grew more intense when the lights suddenly went out.

The gang all jumped in shock as the lights went out and turned towards the door. Apparently, the power outage has affected the school building itself, as they all saw that the hallway lights are also off.

As they shared looks with each other, a lightning strike, followed shortly by thunder, accompanied a faint shriek.

"Jinkies." Velma held a hand up. "Did you guys hear that?"

"Yes." Fred nodded and frowned. "If I'm not mistaken, whatever we just heard, not the thunder, came from the gym lockers."

"Gym lockers?" Shaggy asked.

"It's down the adjacent hallway and is also where the school swimming pool entrance is at." Fred explained.

Then, turning to the girls, the blonde continued, "I don't know about you girls, but I think we should head out and take a look around and see what just happened."

"Do you think that Mrs. Gales got held up by something at the gym lockers?" Daphne asked as they grabbed their stuff and started walking towards the library door.

"That's what we're about to find out." Fred nodded towards the direction of the gym lockers.

Along their way out of the library, the gang stopped by the emergency supply box at the entrance for Fred to grab a flashlight.

"Fred, are you sure that we can take that flashlight from the emergency supply box?" Daphne asked as they pushed through the doors.

"Well, seeing that the power is still out, if we don't have a source of light that's strong enough to last through the next hour or so, then we will have more problems to worry about when we stumble through the dark." Fred replied.

"You guys could've used the flashlight function on your cell phones." Velma countered.

"No luck with mine, I forgot to charge it this morning and left the charger at home." Fred said.

"And I left mine at home." Daphne added.

"Like, I don't even have one, so we will just have to use the flashlight Fred's grabbed from the emergency supply box." Shaggy said as they followed the glow from the flashlight, then noting the dark setting, he swallowed. "Though this place sure is creepy without the lights on."

"The place is frequented by the school faculty, not to mention that school property is off limits to members of the public outside of school hours, so I'm sure that there's nothing to be afraid of when it's just us in the hallway..." Fred was about to continue when the flashlight shined towards several large claw marks on the floor, and he trailed off.

Seeing the claw marks and what appeared to be signs of blood on the floor, the gang paused as Velma knelt down.

"As you were saying?" Daphne asked as they looked at Velma.

Rubbing her hand on the claw marks and the blood, Velma's eyes widened before she turned towards the others. "Jinkies! These marks comes from something huge."

"Something?" Shaggy swallowed.

"Like a bear but larger." Velma responded. "And it's blood on the floor."

"Jeepers..." Daphne trailed off as some of the colour began draining away from her face.

Looking around, they saw that they were just at the reception area leading to the gym and the gym locker room doors.

Noting that the claw marks originated from the stairway door across the hallway and leading into the gym locker room, everyone tensed.

Wordlessly, Fred motioned them to follow him as they followed the trail of claw marks into the gym locker room, and then through the door that led them to the shower area separating the locker room from the swimming pool.

Following the claw marks, the gang then saw that they disappear in one of the showering booths, which is also where a large drainage manhole cover is located in.

"Hmmm..." Fred remarked as they peeked into the shower booth and looked at the manhole cover.

"I wonder what was that." Velma said. "Clearly, those claw marks came from some wild animal that's bigger than a bear."

As she made the remark, she frowned before adding, "But there's no animal in the area that is bigger than a bear. If there is, then the local ecosystem would be knocked out of balance."

The others shared looks with each other and nodded thoughtfully, which was then that the lights and ventilation resumed, and everyone felt relieved at the return of the lights.

"Oh, thank goodness." Daphne remarked as Fred shut off the flashlight. "I was getting worried that we would be dwelling in the dark for much too long."

"Which could also provide whatever left behind those claw marks a good opportunity to attack us in the dark." Fred nodded.

"Since these claw marks had disappeared into the manhole cover, I think it's safe to say that whatever creature that was here earlier and leaving behind these claw marks are gone now." Velma said.

Fred and Daphne both nodded, though it was then that the latter noticed that Shaggy wasn't with them.

"Say, where did Shaggy go?" Daphne asked as she looked around.

Fred and Velma paused and then followed suit in looking around, during which the redhead continued, "He was with us here a minute ago."

It was that moment that Shaggy's voice came from the other side of the opened door leading to the swimming pool.

"Uh...guys?" He shouted, and the trio can hear the uncertainty and horror in his voice. "I...think we've got...a bigger problem..."

"What's the matter, Shaggy?" Daphne asked as they quickly rushed through the opened door and joined Shaggy, who was standing over the edge of the swimming pool.

The trio stopped and seeing that his face was as white as a sheet of paper, they looked at him worriedly.

"What is it?" Fred asked.

Shaggy shuttered as he pointed directly downwards towards the swimming pool area directly under his finger, and as the others followed suit and looked towards the swimming pool, they all noticed the red-ish colour of the pool water.

And when they saw what Shaggy was pointing at, their eyes all widened as the remaining colour drained away from their faces.

"...Jinkies!" Velma gasped.

"J-Jeepers!" Daphne covered her mouth with her hand in horror.

"Oh my Holy G-!" Fred said in horror.

As the gang looked on in horror, the scene shifted towards the swimming pool where a man dressed in a suit was looking up towards the ceiling as he floated on the surface of the shallow water.

His body was horrifically scarred with claw marks all over, and it was clear to them that the man was dead without the need to check for a pulse.

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Chapter Text

Chapter 5: The aftermath

Sheriff Bronson Stone, the Sheriff of Crystal Cove County, silently sipped on what seemed to be his ninth cup of coffee as he sat in his office behind his desk.

The 44-year old sheriff frowned as he saw a reflection of himself on the dark computer screen, where he noted that some of the brown hair was giving way to the grey, mostly in the area close to his ears.

It was clear that he was not getting any younger as the days passed, and then he turned and looked at a certain photo on his desk.

The photo was of him in his early-20s, as a young Marine, standing together with his squad mates following their completion of the Scout Sniper Course at Camp Pendleton, and the sheriff sighed as he noted how young he looked in the photo.

He remembered that the photo was taken in 1986, four years after he had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where by the time of his enrollment in the Scout Sniper Course, he had attained the rank of lance corporal.

In his nine years of service with the Marine Corps, Stone was mainly assigned to the Force Reconnaissance Company of the 1st Marine Division, where as a Scout Sniper, he served in the platoon under the charge of one Sergeant (later Staff Sergeant and eventually Gunnery Sergeant) Sam Rogers.

Stone scoffed at the thought of his former platoon leader, thinking the man to be a little nosy who, in his words, doesn't have the chops to do what it takes to get the job done.

The sergeant, in turn, find Stone to be reckless and at times arrogant, and the two men have clashed at times while on assignment.

It was during his time as a Scout Sniper that Stone became acquainted with the man who he has also credited in getting into law enforcement, leading him to where he is today.

Mayor Louis "Lou" Strickland was a fellow Scout Sniper in the Marines, who at the time of him getting acquainted with Stone, had just transferred from the 4th FORECON Company at Alameda.

Strickland and Stone served together in Staff Sergeant Rogers' platoon, where both men soon began sharing the same views of their platoon sergeant.

It took an incident while the squad was taking part in Operation Just Cause in 1989 for the two men to face disciplinary action, an incident that saw Stone and Strickland, both by then at the rank of sergeant, getting into a fight with another sergeant from a different platoon over the decision to not execute a Panamanian pirate they had captured in the course of a raid.

By this point, their platoon sergeant, the now-Gunnery Sergeant Sam Rogers, had enough of their antics and had them written up for disciplinary action.

Although the two sergeants were cleared of any wrong-doing, as a reprimand for his actions, Strickland was transferred to another platoon and into the charge of one Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs, while Stone remained under Sam Rogers' charge.

It was reasoned that the two men won't cause as much trouble when they're separated from each other and assigned to different platoons, and their platoon sergeants begrudgingly agree to the arrangement.

However, that disciplinary action wouldn't be the last for the two men.

Two years later, while taking part in a battle during the Gulf War, Strickland, Stone and a squad of Marines under their charge, got into bigger trouble when they engaged in an unsanctioned raid that saw the deaths of countless civilians.

It was Gibbs and Rogers that had them written up, which then lead to an investigation, followed by a court-martial.

This time, although the court-martial found the duo to not be criminally responsible for the deaths, the evidence and testimony, particularly from their platoon commanders and the platoon sergeants that wrote them up, was enough for them to get discharged from the Marine Corps in 1991.

Stone snorted when he remembered the details of the court-martial, though he remained relaxed when he thought about what happened when he returned home from the war.

One thing to note was that during their service with the Marine Corps, both Stone and Strickland had joined the police forces in their respective hometowns.

As he began his service with the Marine Corps, Stone had also enrolled in the police academy in Los Angeles, which ended when he received his badge and was sworn in as an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department two years later in 1983.

Outside the time Stone was busy butting heads with his platoon sergeant in the Marine Corps, he worked his way through patrol and was eventually made sergeant by the time he was deployed to serve in the Gulf War in 1990.

Although the firestorm over him and Strickland's actions during the Gulf War remained the talk in the military, it barely dented their respective law enforcement careers and when they were discharged from the Marines in 1991, the two men resumed their full-time work in law enforcement.

By this point, Strickland, who had gotten his badge in 1981, was made lieutenant and is placed in charge of the detective bureau of the much-smaller Coolsville Police Department, while Stone was assigned to the night shift at the 77th Street Division.

Stone was on duty on the night of April 29 just as the fallout from the Rodney King beating hits the fan, following the acquittal of the four officers involved in the beating, and the department's flat footed response resulted in the whole thing blowing up as South Los Angeles become engulfed in a series of riots and civil disturbances in the days that followed the not-guilty verdicts.

In the days that followed the riots, questions were raised about the conduct of the 77th Street Division's efforts to contain the riot.

In particular, Stone was on duty when the initial riots began and the severity of the rioting that came from the lack of measures from the division was attributed to the lack of communication on Stone's part.

In spite of the questions raised, Stone was cleared of any wrongdoing and was later made lieutenant in 1997.

That was the year Strickland, by then at the rank of captain in the Coolsville Police Department, was appointed by the Coolsville City Council to be the city's next chief of police.

With his friend's reaching the top position in the small police department, Stone was considered for a transfer to Coolsville and serve as Strickland's chief of staff, though ultimately, Stone decided to stay put in Los Angeles.

However, in 2001, as Stone was promoted to captain and took command of the Rampart Division, clouds began forming in the horizon regarding their law enforcement careers.

Stone was placed in charge of the division at a time it was recovering from another damaging scandal, this one the Rampart scandal.

His leadership and the effectiveness in his rehabilitation of the division were questioned by civil rights activists, and Stone soon found himself clashing with the department's top brass at Parker Center following the appointment of a new police chief in 2002.

The department's agreement to the consent decree was the last straw for Stone, and he promptly quitted the department just before the Christmas of 2002.

In that same time, Strickland was having problems of his own as he commanded the Coolsville Police Department.

A series of controversies and accusations of corruption tainted the department's reputation, and following a year-long federal investigation that revealed corruption within the ranks of the Coolsville Police Department, Strickland found himself with his job on the line.

To make matters worse, Crystal Cove County has been battling budget deficits and in the county's 2001 budget, it was decided that in light of the federal investigation, the county would request Coolsville City Council to hold a vote to disband the Coolsville Police Department.

In spite of Strickland's pleas, the city council voted overwhelmingly 10-1 in favour of the measure, and as a result, the Coolsville Police Department was disbanded in the new year, where policing functions in the city were taken over by the much-larger Crystal Cove County Sheriff's Department, whose main roles in the city, up until then, was providing courtroom security and at the Office of the County Board of Supervisors while policing outside the city.

A man scorned, Strickland decided to enter politics and make a run for mayor.

His timing to declare his candidacy for the 2002 Coolsville mayoral election couldn't have come at a better time, because it was at a time where the previous Mayor, who was determined to serve another term, was under investigation for fraud and breach of trust.

With the threat of getting impeached by the City Council, the Mayor declared his intention to not run for another term as Mayor, which left the door wide open.

Running as an independent, Strickland campaigned on a promise to further enhance change and get the city's finances back on track, and in spite of questions regarding his tenure as police chief, he was nonetheless popular with the voters and he subsequently won the election that March.

When Stone confided that he has quitted the LAPD, Strickland advised him to come to Coolsville and throw his name in the hat as an emergency recall election for the position of Sheriff heats up.

The recall election came after the then-incumbent Sheriff was accused of unnecessarily butting into a high-profile murder investigation, where a wealthy businessman was accused by the Sheriff of orchestrating the murder of his daughter.

The move triggered a strong rebuke from the wealthy and influential community in the county's east, who then used their influence to trigger a recall election.

The recall election couldn't have come at a worse moment, as the Sheriff's Department came under scrutiny for mismanaging its finances and misplacing hundreds of confiscated firearms seized from drug raids.

Stone campaigned for Sheriff on a promise to tackle those challenges and set them right, and he subsequently won in a landslide in the 2003 recall election.

After he took office, Stone proceeded to shake things up in the sheriff's department, though as the months went by, questions were raised regarding Stone's leadership and approach in running the sheriff's department.

Shortly after Stone took office, the sheriff's department arrested the perpetrator of the high-profile murder case that triggered the 2003 sheriff's recall election in the first place, and Stone himself took credit for acting on an anonymous tip and making the arrest.

However, the ousted sheriff questioned Stone's assertions, especially when word has it that the arrested perpetrator was coerced into confessing to the murder by sheriff's investigators.

Also, in the months that followed, further questions were raised regarding Stone continuing the controversial practices of the sheriff's department, where its practices were reminiscent of that of the LAPD's Rampart Division during the peak of the Rampart Scandal and during Stone's leadership.

Civil rights activists continued to criticize the sheriff's department for continuing to engage in racial profiling, and the take-down of criminal suspects has often led to accusations of police brutality.

There were also increased cases of investigators planting evidence and using questionable tactics in obtaining evidence and confessions, and Stone has also been increasingly seen as a bureaucrat who concerns himself of the fact that he's the Sheriff of Crystal Cove County rather than the roles and responsibilities that comes with the position.

In spite of the relentless and mounting criticism, Stone retained his popularity over the fact that across the board, crime did take a dip in Crystal Cove County since he took office, and he rode on that fact as he successfully won reelection in 2006.

Stone grunted as he gulped down the last drops of his coffee, and then he got up from his chair to walk over to the adjacent table to pour himself another cup of coffee, during which he walked past a display board showcasing his various achievements.

The board had several medal awards he had won over the years, his community college diploma in management, a certificate of achievement from his completion of Scout Sniper Course, the various medals he has earned during the course of both his service with the Marine Corps and with the LAPD, accompanied by his old Sergeant rank badges and nameplate from his Marine Corps days.

There was also a portrait photo of him in his Marine Corps full service uniform, complete with the badges, medals and his sergeant stripes.

In addition, the display board had an old newspaper article from the Crystal Cove Gazette depicting his 2003 election victory with the following headline:

Former Los Angeles police captain emerges as the winner in the county sheriff recall election"

Stone nodded as he saw the photo of himself in the front page of the newspaper, which was dated March 20 2003, and it was that minute that the desk phone rang.

With a sigh, the sheriff walked over to his desk and answered the phone.

"Yeah, Bucky, what is it?" Stone barked as he answered.

The response to the 911 call from the sheriff's department was swift. Within minutes, the parking lot of Coolsville Central High School instantly transformed into a sheriff's field command centre as investigators sealed off the crime scene.

As investigators dig into their work, the gang sat by on the main stairs, still trying to process what they had just spotted.

Although some of the colour has returned to their faces, Daphne's face in particular remained pale by comparison.

Fred noticed the discomfort on her face and placed his hand on her elbow.

"Hey." He said softly.

Daphne turned to him as the blonde continued, "You okay, there?"

The redhead nodded. "I'm fine, it's just that what we just saw..."

Daphne shuttered at the thought of the man's body they had discovered earlier, just as the medical examiners arrived and the personnel making their way into the school at the direction of a deputy, and then she continued, "...that...was unexpected..."

"I know what you mean by that, Daph." Fred agreed as he noticed that her hands were shaking.

Swiftly, the blonde held Daphne's hands softly and rubbed them, enabling her to slowly calm down and catch her breath.

Daphne then looked up towards Fred as he asked, "Feel better?"

The redhead smiled. "Much better."

She then turned her head towards Shaggy, during which she saw an investigator asking him questions and jotting down stuff in his notebook.

Daphne frowned as Fred turned his eyes towards Shaggy, upon which the redhead remarked, "Though the investigator seemed interested in what Shaggy has to say."

"I can see that." Fred nodded. "Though I suppose that since Shag had the pleasure of discovering the body first, it's likely that only he had the answers the investigator wants."

"Perhaps." Another voice said, and the duo paused and turned, only to relax a bit when the voice was revealed to be from Velma as she walked towards them. "However, I won't hold my breath on that."

Fred and Daphne both turned again, in time to see the investigator dismissing Shaggy and making his way into the school building.

Shaggy simply stood on the stairs and placed his hand on the handrail, and he turned his head towards the main parking lot and sighed.

Sharing looks with each other in concern, Fred and the girls walked towards the tall shaggy-haired boy as he sighed.

After the investigator dismissed him, Shaggy sighed as he turned towards the school parking lot and watched the sheriff's deputies walking around, doing what law enforcement does at a command post does.

His mind continued to flash back to the minute he made the grisly discovery at the school swimming pool, and as he stared into the distance, he can't help but feel a familiar sense of déjà-vu.

The scars on the body reminded him dearly of several of the scars he still had on his arm from the T-bone collision he was involved in, and the bloodied look on the man's face reminded him of the last things he remembered seeing on the school bus before passing out.

The discovery was reminding him of the classmates that were seated around him at the middle of the school bus, with their faces covered in blood and eyes completely still.

The thought of those made him feel uneasy, and he felt that his hands were starting to shake.

"Shaggy?" Daphne's voice cut him loose from those thoughts, and he quickly paused and turned.

Fred and the girls were standing beside him, all of them looking at him in concern.

"Are you alright?" The redhead continued. "I mean, that was quite the scare we all had, isn't it?"

Shaggy studied the looks on the trio's faces. It was clear that he wasn't the only one who had quite the scare since they made that grisly discovery, though he noticed that Daphne in particular didn't look comfortable, while the colour has since returned to Fred and Velma's faces.

"Like, I suppose that seeing a dead body for the first time could do that, and by that, I mean one that wasn't seen during a funeral." Shaggy replied.

"You can say that again." Velma nodded. "Though are you sure you're alright, Shag?"

"Yeah, I mean, you seem awfully calm even after that investigator dismissed you the way he did." Daphne agreed.

Shaggy drew in a breath, though before he could answer, their attention was drawn towards the parking lot as another car pulled in, came to a stop, and then out came the sheriff.

"Oh, look who decided to join the fun." Velma deadpanned at the sight of the sheriff.

"That's the sheriff, eh?" Shaggy asked as he pointed at Stone.

"Yeah, though he's a sheriff by title only." Daphne narrowed her eyes.

"A bureaucrat is a more accurate description to describe Bronson Stone." Fred agreed. "He may be the sheriff of Crystal Cove County, but he spends more time concerning himself of the fact that he's sheriff than the roles and responsibilities that comes with the office."

"I'll say." Shaggy nodded thoughtfully as they watched Stone conferring with a deputy. "I won't be surprised if he had spent his day eating and drinking mostly, deflecting questions away from the press and others, because he sure can use a crash diet."

The girls both chuckled briefly at Shaggy's remark, though their faces all returned to seriousness as the sheriff made his way towards them.

"You kids the ones who discovered the body?" Stone demanded.

"That's us, sheriff." Fred replied just as the medical examiners exited the school building with the body on a stretcher.

Nodding at the stretcher, the blonde added, "Found him in the swimming pool with scars all over."

"Any word on what could've caused the man's death, Sheriff?" Velma asked.

"Well, from what my men has gathered, I'd say it was nothing more than an accident." Stone said dismissively.

"Even though there are claw marks at the crime scene?" Daphne asked.

"It is suspicious-looking, though I'm sure it was because the victim was not handling an animal properly." Stone glared. "Don't you kids have anything better to do?"

"Not until you give us a good explanation on why exactly someone would be handling an animal on school property?" Shaggy said challengingly.

Stone paused as Shaggy made the remark, and he turned towards him, studied him and frowned.

"You know, there are always serious consequences to those that stick their noses at where it doesn't belong." Stone finally said as he studied Shaggy. "Though since you're a Rogers kid, I can't say I'm surprised by the fact that you're a chip off the old block, considering the fact that you just stuck your nose at where it didn't belong at."

Fred and the girls looked on in surprise when Stone made the remark, though Shaggy, whose hands were shaking earlier, didn't seem intimidated one bit.

"And I can't say that I'm surprised that you're not interested in doing your job properly, because you sure look like you could use a crash diet and get out on the street more often, sheriff." He said defiantly, and the way he said the last word sounded like it was synonymous with useless.

Stone was taken aback by Shaggy's words, and he narrowed his eyes further.

"You better not be challenging me, son." He glared. "Because if you do, then you would realize some uncomfortable truths about your old man."

"Like how he didn't have the chops to push people to get the job done?" Shaggy asked. "Just like how I wished he sounded more convincingly when he urged me to kick my relapse."

Before the sheriff had a chance to retort, the scene shifted when the school doors opened and out came a group of men in suits.

One of the men was the school principal, Sheldon Deedle, and the group recognized the men accompanying the school principal.

Stone turned his attention away from Shaggy just as State Senator Dudley followed Principal Deedle out of the school building, the former accompanied by his chief of staff.

Dudley nodded when he saw the sheriff, and Stone nodded back.

"State Senator Dudley." Stone said.

"Sheriff Stone." Dudley nodded as he shook Stone's hand, during which Shaggy scoffed in disgust. "A shame we have to meet in such circumstances."

"I'll say." Stone agreed. "Though what seems to be the matter? You guys could use some cheering-"

"There's nothing cheerful when you have learned that your deputy chief of staff, who was last seen heading to the washroom, was found at the school swimming pool and butchered up like that." Dudley snapped.

"Oh." Stone paused. "My condolences."

The four students present at the scene all nodded thoughtfully as Dudley revealed that his deputy chief of staff was the victim.

"Holy moly." Fred remarked, though the scene shifted once again when another man emerged from the school building.

This time, it was the blonde's turn to tense, though he quickly forced the frown on his face into a smile as the man paused.

Shaggy immediately recognized the man as the one who had stepped in to defuse his awkward encounter with Dudley just as the man walked over to them with a smile on his face.

"Fred." The man said. "How are you doing?"

Shaggy and the girls all turned towards the blonde as he smiled forcefully.

"Hi, Dad." Fred said as his father smiled at him warmly. "What brings you here?"

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Chapter Text

Chapter 6: At the medical examiner's office

The younger Fred tensed the minute he spotted his father emerging from the school building, and when Senior spotted Junior, the blonde quickly forced himself to smile as the older Fred joined them.

Since Fred, Jr's mother Peggy died in the car accident the past year, he and his father barely spoke to each other outside of school and work.

Most of their time at home was mostly spent with Fred, Sr. either working late or on phone calls, leaving Fred, Jr. to have the freedom to do whatever he wants.

Given that father and son rarely spoke to each other at home, it wasn't a surprise that the times the duo did have a conversation has often find itself attached with the descriptions of "awkward silence".

Fred, Sr. has often made no secret of his desire for Fred, Jr. to enter politics, not to mention that he never hid his disdain towards Junior taking part in the school's Rube Goldberg Machine Club, especially given that many times at home, Senior has find himself getting caught in the various machines Junior was testing out.

It was clear that the encounter was going to be an awkward one, and it would've been filled with some awkward silence had Daphne not decided to step in and repeat the blonde's question.

"As Freddie was asking, Mr. Jones, what brings you here to our school?" The redhead asked.

Fred, Sr. paused before turning towards Daphne, and he arched his eyebrows higher as his smile glowed.

"Ah, if it isn't Ms. Daphne Blake." The older Jones smiled. "My dear Fred sure has spoken a lot about you, particularly about your drama club and your interests in pop music, detective fiction and fashion."

Seeing the questioning look on Daphne's face, the politician then added, "And as for what brought me here, it's to support my dear friend State Senator Dudley as his election campaign winds down."

"Figures." Shaggy, who was mostly silent up until that point, muttered under his breath.

"I take it that you were acquainted with the victim, eh?" Velma asked the older Fred.

"I am." Fred, Sr. nodded somberly. "He was Christopher Elliot, Dudley's deputy chief of staff. Elliot used to be my congressional chief of staff back when I was at Capitol Hill, and when Dudley was running for the State Senate, I recommended him to Dudley's campaign where he then became his main campaign manager."

"And after I was elected, Elliot was of great asset in assisting Sue and I in our transition from campaigning mode to governing mode." Dudley interjected with a nod.

Shaggy scoffed at the remark, and he kept his arms folded as he leaned on the railing and listened.

"In this case, State Senator, can you think of any particular reason why someone would wanna harm Mr. Eliiot?" Velma asked.

"Not particularly." Dudley replied with a shrug. "I mean, in politics, in order to excel in the game, you do have to get dirty from time to time, which also means that you may rub some people up the wrong way in the process."

"And Mr. Elliot was of no exception." Daphne folded her arms.

"Of course." Dudley nodded. "Even so, the threats he had received and processed were mostly empty threats, so there's no reason why exactly would he end up like that."

"Which is also why I said earlier that this was nothing more than an accident, likely caused by the victim's careless handling of an animal..." Stone added as he glared at the gang, only to pause as Dudley's chief of staff cut in.

"There's no way in h*ll Chris would be anywhere near an animal, Bronson." She snapped. "Chris has fur allergies that prevents him from getting close to animals with fur, not to mention those with claws."

"And besides, unless you've got a service animal, all other animals are off-limits at school property." Velma added.

Stone was briefly taken aback by the comments, and he quickly adjusted his sheriff's hat.

"My apologies." The sheriff said, though the chief of staff scoffed.

It was Fred, Sr. who stepped in and broke the brief awkward silence.

"Anyways, Fred." The elder Fred turned to his son. "I'm sure you've got plenty of homework to do, so how about you and your friends head straight home?"

"Uh..." Fred paused briefly as he turned towards the rest of the gang, then he turned back towards his father and added, "Sure thing, Dad. We were just about to head home from the library anyways..."

Fred, Sr. nodded, then he said, "You going somewhere tonight, son?"

"No, Dad." Fred, Jr. shook his head. "For dinner, you wanna the usual stuff?"

Fred, Sr. paused his lips as he thought for a while, then he nodded. "Since I won't be having any meetings tonight, son, then sure, get me an order of the usual stuff before I get home."

The blonde nodded, and then he turned and said, "Talk to you later, Dad."

Fred, Sr. simply raised his arm in reply, then he resumed his discussion with the State Senator and the sheriff.

There was another awkward silence between the gang as they made their way out towards the school parking lot, during which Fred, Jr. and the girls shared looks with each other as they digested all the information that was provided.

"What do you girls think?" The blonde asked as he turned to the girls.

"I don't know." Velma shrugged. "Clearly, Mr. Elliot was attacked by something near the swimming pool, something that's no regular animal."

"Like a monster, perhaps?" Daphne offered.

"Perhaps, but there's no way a monster could've done this." Velma frowned. "I mean, there's no such thing as monsters, for crying out loud!"

"Then, how do you explain how did Mr. Elliot ended up the way he did?" Fred questioned.

"Good question." Velma replied. "Perhaps we could get our answers if we get a close examination of his body in the morgue."

"And how do we do that?" Fred raised an eyebrow. "The morgue's located across the city, none of us have our driver's license yet and with all the construction going on, by the time we get there by bus the morgue would be closed by then."

As Fred made the remark, Daphne looked around and saw Shaggy had broken off from them and approaching an olive-green van.

"Shaggy?" Daphne asked, and it was then that Fred and Velma turned towards where she was looking towards.

The trio looked on as Shaggy took out his car keys, approached the driver's door and unlocked the van.

Fred and the girls shared looks with each other before they decided to rush over towards Shaggy and the van as he closed the door and started the engine.

Inside the van, Shaggy buckled up and looked at the dashboard, checking the fuel gauge, engine temperature and various warning lights.

After disengaging the parking brake, Shaggy pressed on the brake and was in the process of shifting the car to drive when he saw the gang running towards him.

Seeing the urgent looks on their faces, Shaggy sighed as he shifted the van back to park before rolling down the passenger window.

"What?" He asked.

"Shaggy, would you happen to know how to get to Avery's Corner?" Fred asked as he panted.

Shaggy studied the looks on their faces, and then he shrugged, "Maybe. Why?"

"Ah, perfect." Velma said. "We were thinking of checking something out at the medical examiner's office, and since you're the only one with a driver's license, we were thinking that you can drive us all."

Shaggy widened his eyes. "Like, is that about the body we saw at the swimming pool?"

"We just need to take a closer look at the body and see what could've caused Mr. Elliot's untimely demise." Fred explained.

"And besides, you've heard the sheriff." Daphne added. "He claims that Mr. Elliot's death was an 'accident', and you said it yourself. Is there any particular reason why someone would be handling an animal on school property?"

Shaggy looked at the trio, then he shook his head. "No, there is not, not unless it's a service animal, but even then, like, I'm sure service animals wouldn't go crazy and attack their owners."

"So are you willing to drive us to the medical examiner's office?" Fred asked.

Shaggy considered the plan for a brief moment, though it was clear that he was reluctant to do so.

Noticing the reluctance on his face, Daphne added, "We won't take too long, I promise."

Shaggy paused his lips, then he sighed.

"Very well, then." He said. "The doors are unlocked, but let's make sure we don't get caught."

"We won't get caught, not if we move fast." Velma said as they all climbed onto the van.

After twenty minutes of driving, during which Fred had to direct Shaggy to make turns at certain roads he wasn't familiar with and driving through the confusing streets typical in an automobile suburb, the gang had arrived at the Crystal Cove County Office of the Medical Examiners.

"Now that we're here, what should we do?" Velma asked as they all got off the van.

"Don't worry about that." Fred said as they made their way towards the building. "Dad may have bored me with his details, but there are some things that I've learned about from him that can help us get through with the mess."

The others nodded thoughtfully, except for Shaggy, who stayed put at the van.

Noticing that Shaggy had stayed at the van, Daphne turned towards him.

"You not coming with us, Shag?" She asked.

"No." Shaggy shook his head. "You guys go ahead, like, I'm running late in picking up my sister Maggie at Daws Butler."

"Aren't you interested in getting to the bottom of this?" Fred asked.

"I don't know, to be honest you guys." Shaggy shrugged as he climbed back onto the van. "If there's one thing I've learned about, it's that there are grisly details that are sometimes best left unknown, as I've figured the hard way when my family and I got the news about my father."

Fred and Velma shared looks with each other in confusion, then the latter said, "But you said it yourself to the sheriff that he's not doing his job properly."

"I know." Shaggy nodded. "I was saying that to take a jab at him, considering the way he treated me earlier in our first encounter, not that I should be surprised, since this town has given me quite the screwed up impression."

Then, to himself, he added, "I honestly wonder who in their right mind would wanna settle down in a town like this? 'The Most Hauntedest Place in America'?"

Just as the dusty-brown-haired boy was about to climb onto the van, Fred said, "And it's going to stay that way unless someone enters the fray and seeks the truth for justice, something the sheriff's investigators has been negligent in doing."

Shaggy paused, then he turned towards the gang as he asked, "Are you suggesting that we do the sheriff's job for him?"

Fred and the girls shared looks with each other, then they shrugged.

"Pretty much." Velma said.

"And besides, it would be satisfying to outsmart someone who's in cahoots with the state senator who supports countless disastrous wars overseas." Daphne added. "Wars that has claimed the lives of thousands, if not millions, of troops. Troops that included that of your fathers."

Shaggy's eyes widened a bit as he looked at the redhead, during which Daphne added, "My condolences, by the way."

Fred and Velma looked at each other, now fully understanding the context behind the remark about his father, while Shaggy and Daphne stared at each other.

After what felt like hours, Shaggy sighed.

"Fine." He said. "But first, let me go pick up my sister Maggie. Then I'll be back to pick you guys up once you guys are finished."

The girls turned towards Fred, then the blonde sighed.

"Very well, then." Fred nodded. "Don't take too long, Shag."

Shaggy nodded. "I'll try, especially when the streets around here are like a freaking maze."

After Shaggy had left, Fred and the girls managed to get to the autopsy suite under the pretext of Fred, Jr. getting the belongings that were on Mr. Elliot's person on Fred, Sr.'s behalf.

Mr. Elliot's remains laid on the autopsy table, completely motionless, while the attending coroner was in the process of writing observations on a clipboard.

"Freddie boy." The coroner said as Fred and the girls entered the autopsy suite.

The coroner then put down the pen and clipboard before turning around and added, "And I see that you've brought a couple of friends here."

"Good seeing you, Doctor Jasperson." Fred nodded back in greeting. "How's our guy coming along?"

"Can't complain, really." Jasperson shrugged.

"You know the medical examiner, Fred?" Velma asked as she and Daphne turned towards the blonde.

Fred nodded. "Dr. Jasperson owed me a favour after I've managed to help get his son off drugs and assisted in getting the drug gang he was tangled with busted up by the sheriff's."

"A drug gang that was for sure gonna cause Bill trouble had Fred not stepped in." Dr. Jasperson nodded. "Only time I've seen the sheriff doing his job properly."

"I figured." Velma rolled her eyes while Daphne shook her head.

"So anyways, I take it that you're curious about what happened to Mr. Elliot here, aren't you?" Dr. Jasperson asked.

"That's right, Doctor." Daphne replied. "The sheriff claimed that Mr. Elliot's death was an accident, even though the victim's got scars all over him that would suggest some sort of beast attack."

"Which wouldn't be possible, since animals are off-limits on school property, plus there's no way a wild animal would've wondered into the school building without getting detected." Velma added.

"Figures." Dr. Jasperson scoffed at the mentioning of the sheriff. "Stone was never the brightest bulb in the box, and most of the guys here participated in the usual cut and cover stuff when it comes to their reports establishing the cause of death for the sake of toeing the narrative set forward by the sheriff's."

"You're the only medical examiner that we can count on here, Doc." Fred nodded. "I'm surprised you've lasted long in the office even after you've constantly butted heads with the sheriff over your reports."

"Only because the other guys are too busy concerning themselves about their next paycheque to pay any attention to me, plus the sheriff can't do a d*mn thing about me and my work as long as Dr. Fitzgerald has my back." Dr. Jasperson said. "Especially since Dr. Fitzgerald knows where many of the bodies are buried."

Velma and Daphne shared looks with each other, during which Dr. Jasperson continued, "But enough of my ramblings. Based on the body temperature, I can tell you kids that Mr. Elliot died approximately no later than 16:30."

Fred and the girls all paused their lips as the doctor continued, "At this moment, it's too soon to rule out any other cause of death, even at the presence of the obvious where the victim was completely scarred, though his back showed signs of bruising that was applied post-mortem."

"Which means the swimming pool isn't where Mr. Elliot was killed." Velma interjected.

"Exactly." Dr. Jasperson nodded. "We would be looking at the culprit moving the body after the killing strike."

The doctor then frowned as he looked at Fred and added, "Does your father happen to know that you're here, Fred?"

Fred and the girls shared looks with each other, and they all shook their heads.

"I did tell the receptionist that Dad dispatched me to pick up Mr. Elliot's stuff on his behalf, considering that he's quite busy at the moment." Fred offered. "But no, he doesn't know that I'm here."

Dr. Jasperson nodded thoughtfully. "Let's keep it that way, because call this a hunch, I feel that there's something dodgy about your old man, and I'm not sure if he would accept what I'm about to discover."

Then, looking at the trio, he added, "And considering that this guy was a deputy chief of staff for a State Senator running for a vacated seat at Capitol Hill, we're in for very high stakes where there are gonna be people who wouldn't like the thought of someone digging around."

"What do you mean by that, Doc?" Daphne folded her arms.

"If asked, you kids didn't hear this from me." Jasperson said. "Call this an observation, word has it that there's been an internal feud going on within State Senator Dudley's campaign, a feud that would sure hurt his chances of getting elected to Capitol Hill."

Fred and the girls shared looks with each other.

"And since this is someone running for a seat at the House, it's inevitable that national politics is gonna get dragged into this." Velma offered.

"Exactly." Jasperson nodded. "While I continue to try to establish a firm cause of death, you kids need to trend carefully with all of this."

The coroner then frowned again as he looked at the trio and added, "Though I wonder if you kids are gonna be what the victim's family needs in clearing this case, since no offense, but you three are just a bunch of high school students with no formal investigative experience."

"I did help get Bill out of drugs and stopped the drug gang from retaliating against him, Doctor." Fred offered.

"True." Jasperson nodded. "Either way, you kids need to be careful."

Then, noticing the time on the clock, the coroner then continued, "And I'm sure you kids need to get going as it's getting late now, before your parents get worried."

"Oh, we're on our way out now, Doc." Velma said as they turned towards the doorway.

As the trio made their way towards the door, Dr. Jasperson said, "Aren't you kids forgetting something?"

The trio stopped and turned back towards the coroner, who then nodded at a red bag on the side of the table.

"Mr. Elliot's possessions." The coroner said.

"Ah, yes." Fred nodded understandingly as he walked over and took the red bag. "Thanks, Doctor."

"Don't mention it." Dr. Jasperson replied as he returned to attending to the body.

As Fred walked back towards the doorway, the coroner continued, "For the time being, I'll be writing in my report that Mr. Elliot was mauled to death, likely ambushed while on his way to find the restroom during the election rally. Unofficially..."

Fred and the girls all arched their eyebrows, and the coroner looked at them.

"I will help you kids get to the bottom of this." Dr. Jasperson said as he held up a notebook. "My notes here would detail my discoveries for you kids, and you kids just drop by to borrow notes from me to help with your studying."

Fred and the girls all shared looks with each other and nodded understandingly.

"Appreciate your help, Doc." Velma said as they walked out of the suite.

Dr. Jasperson nodded back before resuming writing stuff down on the clipboard while Fred and the girls took their leave.

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