There was a layer of spray-webbing over the doorway, so Clarissa gently lifted it and stepped through into the darkened restaurant. Candles flickered about a foot apart down the entire length of the front counter of the store. A ghost hung on the wall, and the spray-webbing had been abused further on the interior with wispy strands hanging from nearly every corner.

In one distant corner, a pirate and a ninja stood discussing something quietly and chuckling. Clarissa waved, not remembering the names of the two nighttime-crew members. She quickly hurried past before they started talking to her and she was found out.

Next in line was Denise, standing quietly alone, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was thirty years the senior of anyone else attending the Cliff’s Halloween party. Clarissa saw that her green-clad right arm was stretched upward and prayed the old woman was wearing deodorant.

“Hello, Denise,” Clarissa said, tipping her big red hat upward to show herself more clearly in the dim light.

“Clarissa! Dear, you look… stylish,” Lady Liberty said.

“You too! You’ve certainly gained a lovely patina with age, and that look never goes out of style.”

“Oh, thank you, lovely girl.” Denise smiled, her teeth standing out in the black light.

“Anytime. However, since I’m not tired, poor, or huddled, I’m going to move along. Have more people to say hi to.”

Denise nodded, and Clarissa moved deeper into the restaurant.

Turning and heading back into the staff section, she found Clarence’s drive-thru section marked off with police tape and labeled CONDEMNED, which made her smile. Sitting on the counter past the tape, however, were Rorschach and the Comedian.

“Kevin, for the love of God, close that bathrobe!” Clarissa said, quickly averting her eyes before covering them.

The Comedian blinked and pulled his legs together. “I have underwear on! God! And… Clarissa, is that you?”

Rorschach would have looked stunned if his face had been visible behind the inkblot mask. “Holy shit. It’s Carmen Sandiego.”

Clarissa grinned, striking a dashing pose and tossing the straps on her trench coat loose, but there was no breeze for them to flutter in.

“From the Red Sea to Greenland they’ll be singing the blues,” the Comedian said.

Clarissa stopped and pointed at him. “No. Dammit, I had that song stuck in my head the whole time I was making the costume. Don’t you dare get it stuck in there again.”

“Fine. Can I plunder your treasures, at least? You already stole my heart.”

The master thief slumped. “That was so clever I’m going to throw up.” She summoned her confident stance back, then tipped her hat back downward and turned her back.

Past intertwined orange and black streamers was the storage room, where a half-dozen teenaged night- and weekend-crew employees huddled in a circle. One girl, dressed in as good a Paris Hilton costume as can be made without requiring antibiotics, had a flashlight pointing up from beneath her chin.

“So the boy runs all over his school, asking everyone about this picture of the girl in the red dress holding up a peace sign. But no one’s ever seen her before. And when he gets home, he asks his mom and his dad if they’ve ever seen the girl in this picture holding up a peace sign. And they haven’t.

“So he’s sad, and he goes to bed. At midnight, he’s awakened by this… tapping. He sits up, turns on the light, and looks around, but he can’t find anything. He looks at the picture of the girl on his nightstand, but it’s just the same, of course. He shuts the lights off, and goes back to sleep. But about fifteen minutes later, it happens again. Only this time, there’s soft, feminine laughter with it. And again, he turns on the light and looks around, but finds nothing.

“He tries to go back to sleep, but the noises keep coming, and he finally gets out of the bed – grabbing his picture of the girl in the red dress holding up a peace sign – and going downstairs and outside to look for whatever’s tapping on his window. There’s nothing there, but he hears a rustle in some bushes across the street and goes to look at it. But just as he’s crossing the street, BAM! A car hits him.

“The driver gets out of the car and goes and performs CPR on the boy, but it’s too late. He’s dead. But the driver notices the picture in the boy’s hand. He picks it up and looks at it in the light from his headlights. It’s a picture of a girl in a red dress holding up three fingers.

Someone screamed, and even Matt, the stocky football player, shook in his Spartan outfit. A couple kids tried to laugh it off. Clarissa shivered a bit. The flashlight was passed to the right, taken by a yellow, cupped hand that brought it to a rectangular body, where it shone up onto a large, cylindrical head with a peg on the top.

“It’s the near future,” the face on the round plastic head said. “The year 2015. And President Palin–”

At this, each person there screamed, and all of them bolted upright and out of the confined space, leaving Clarissa alone with the storyteller.

Carmen Sandiego looked down. “Hello, Twinkie,” she said with a smile.

The Lego minifigure looked up, smirking. “Hey.”

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