“Ol—Olga!?” I stammered.
“It’s pronounced Ool-yah,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Not that you ever cared, Fitz. You been doing some serial killing?”
“I know how it’s pronounced,” Ronnie volunteered. “Anyway, yeah. Serial killing.”
“We have you outnumbered,” Olga said. “What were you expecting, Harold Fitz?”
“Did your father tell you?” he asked.
“I figured it out on my own. You suck at this,” she said, tossing her shimmering golden ponytail.
There seemed to be some invisible fire burning around them, blocking Ronnie and me off. I looked from Olga to Fitz, and from Fitz to Olga. I had no idea what was going on.
“That was what Eric said,” Mr. Fitz said, smiling widely. Too widely. “He’s back in the office. I was so offended that I almost let him go, but then I realized he would go to the police.”
“Huh?” I tilted my head. Ronnie shushed me.
“Always a perfectionist,” Olga said. “You never actually liked Eric or Tracy, did you? You just liked the idea of them.”
“They were my favorites,” Mr. Fitz said through his gritted white teeth. “That was why I had to keep them from disappointing me. Roger, too. He was so smart. Smarter than me, even. Such—”
“But asking about bone preservation isn’t smart at all if you’re a serial killer!” I interrupted. “Couldn’t you have been a little subtler, at—”
Ronnie shoved her hand over my mouth. “Jimbo’s tired,” she said. “Detention drains a boy.”
“Anyway,” Mr. Fitz said. “Now I must kill all three of you, too.”
Ronnie made a sort of uncomfortable groan. “I think maybe you should wait on that,” she said. “I mean, there’s a lot of us at once, right?”
“Yes,” Mr. Fitz said. “But I have a gun.”
He pulled a six-shooter out of one of the many pockets of his cargo shorts.
Somebody who wasn’t Ronnie did use those pockets!
“Wait!” I said. “You wanted Ronnie especially, right?”
She looked at me, wide-eyed, and opened and closed her mouth like a fish. I shook my head quickly at her. I was not doing what she seemed to think I was doing.
“…Yes,” Mr. Fitz said, narrowing his eyes. “Why?”
“Why. That’s the question,” I said. I realized I was involuntarily hugging the wasp container. It must have been a nervous reaction. “Why Ronnie? What’s so great about her?”
Ronnie looked deeply offended.
Mr. Fitz smiled, a little less psychotically. “Well, she always turns in her homework, even when it’s late,” he said.
“I do that!” I said. He scowled at me.
“I’m right here! Stop talking about me in the third person!” Ronnie complained.
Mr. Fitz completely ignored her. “She only comments when she has something substantial to say,” he said, shooting a dirty look at Olga. She rolled her eyes.
“I like her general attitude, the way she dresses, and I think she looks kind of like me, except younger and cuter,” he said, shrugging. “I wish I was cute like that.”
“What?” Ronnie asked.
“You are pretty cute,” Olga said.
“Do I look like him?” Ronnie asked, distress rising in her voice. “Is that what I look like? Jimbo, am I gonna look like Fitz when we get older?”
I looked her over. She did have a similar hair color, but the texture was much softer. They both had long noses, but hers was a little upturned at the end, and his seemed almost to droop. Her brown eyes were much clearer and more intense, and her eyebrows were thicker.
“You’re way cuter, and you’ll stay cute,” I said decisively. “Don’t listen to what he says.”
“I have a gun!” Mr. Fitz said, pointing it right at Ronnie. “No more interruptions!”
“Wait!” I said, yet again. “I have something worse than a gun!”
“What’s worse than a gun?” Mr. Fitz asked. “This thing has, like, six bullets in it. It kills people.”
“I’ve got wasps!” I said, and with a primal scream, I unlatched the plastic-and-mesh lid of the bug house and fling it at Mr. Fitz. The already aggravated wasps bore down upon him like stripy avenging angels with knives on their butts. He fell to his knees, dropping his pistol. Tracy’s skeletal hand and ribbon fell to the ground.
“Damn the wasps!” Mr. Fitz cried, covering his eyes in a vain attempt at self-defense. “Why didn’t I consider that they could be used against me!?”
“You don’t consider anything, Harold Fitz,” Olga said. “You suck at being a serial killer.”
“I’m—great—at—it!” he said, scrabbling for his gun.
I dove forward to get it, but it was covered in yellowjackets. I tucked my hands up into my sleeves and grabbed it awkwardly. The wasps buzzed and crawled over my sleeves, looking for any bare skin to attack. Luckily, I was wearing an awful sweatshirt that was at least as thick as a comforter, so I was safe.
“Confiscated,” I said. “Two demerits.”
“That’s not funny,” Mr. Fitz said.
“It’s a little funny,” Ronnie said.
“It’s very funny,” Olga said.
Suddenly, something blotted out the sun. I felt a great wind, like a storm rolling in. I saw glistening gold-green scales, and a flash of a catlike eye. The vast creature glided down on his outspread feathered wings, flapping every now and then to maintain his angle. Each flap made the trees at the edge of the field tremble.
The dragon landed, and his massive claws left deep scrapes in the soil behind them. He was at least sixty feet long from nose to tail (though the tail made up at least half that length), and his shoulders were as high as a man’s head. His tail was plumed, and its shining horns pointed forward, like a bull’s. He tossed his horse-like mane, then cleared his throat.
“Mulberry County Police,” he rumbled. “I have a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Harold Fitz on three counts of homicide.”
“Papa!” Olga said, rushing to embrace the dragon around his neck.