“I’ve been waiting,” Olga said, pouting a little. “These are my friends from school, Ronnie and Ja—”
“Not now, Pumpkin,” the dragon said in a voice as deep and ancient as a mountain. “Papa’s working.”
“Jonathon Reinhardt,” Mr. Fitz scowled. He was still covered in yellowjackets.
“You have the right to remain silent,” Mr. Reinhardt said, pinning Mr. Fitz to the ground with one claw. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
“I’m not saying a word without my attorney present,” Mr. Fitz said as the dragon deftly handcuffed him using only his beaky mouth.
“Your dad is a police officer?” I asked Olga. “You never told us that!”
“I’ve got a lot of secrets. In fact, I’m a police officer, too,” Olga responded. “I’ve been tracking Harold Fitz for months now. Before he moved into this town, his wife accused him of both cheating on her with and murdering his secretary.”
“That’s terrible. Wait, how can you be a cop? You’re sixteen,” Ronnie said skeptically.
“Yes,” Olga said. “And?”
Ronnie looked at me. I looked at Ronnie. We both shrugged.
“You and your friends did an impressive job stalling,” Mr. Reinhardt said. “Even I, the chief of the Mulberry County Police, could not have done such a fine job.”
“I’m good at wasting time,” Ronnie said.
“Well, we should probably take the suspect to the station,” Olga said. “Oh, right. Papa, there’s a severed hand on the ground, but it’s covered in wasps. I think forensics should look at it. Also, a ribbon.”
“Puny insects mean nothing to me,” Mr. Reinhardt said. “Only a blood-cursed dwarven sword could penetrate my mighty hide.”
“Oh, Papa,” Olga giggled.
I heard sirens squealing in the distance.
“Are other cops coming?” I asked.
“I am only one beast,” Mr. Reinhardt said. He looked mournfully to the side, his mane blowing in the wind. “I am not a full team of forensic investigators.”
“His sense of smell is better than a human’s, but not as good as police dog’s,” Olga explained. She was hugging her father’s giant leg. They seemed to have a very affectionate relationship.
“In the meantime, let us take him into custody,” Mr. Reinhardt said. He carefully lifted Fitz up by the back of his polo shirt. However, rather than taking off immediately, he left his neck low to the ground. Olga carefully climbed on top of it. I braced myself for the inevitable blast of wind that would come from takeoff, but she looked at Ronnie and me quizzically.
“Come on,” she said.
“You want us to sit on your dad?” Ronnie asked.
“Flying to the precinct is way faster than walking or driving. And he doesn’t mind, he’s a dragon,” Olga said. “He carried all the materials to build our house. You guys weigh less than two tons, right?”
“Of course we weigh less than two tons!” I said. I’m kind of scrawny. I mean, take good care of myself. I jog every morning, almost. I eat kale. Ronnie’s heavier, but that’s just because she lifts. She can pick me up like I’m a carton of milk.
Ronnie enthusiastically stumbled onto the dragons’ neck and wrapped her arms around Olga’s waist.
“It’s for security,” she explained.
“Sure,” I said, joining her.
Mr. Reinhardt was off the ground with two flaps of his great wings. Mulberry looked tiny from above. The lights of the police cars looked like dots from laser pointers, and the forest looked almost like bulgy fur. As we rose higher, everything began to become abstract blocks of color with lights that sparkled in the blossoming darkness of the evening. The creek looked like a ribbon. I thought mournfully of Tracy. At least now, her murder had been solved and her killer was on his way to jail.
“This has been a weird week,” Ronnie said. She was almost inaudible through the rushing wind.
“Lots of murders,” Olga agreed. “This is the most gruesome case I’ve ever handled.”
“How many have you done?” I asked.
“Classified,” Olga responded. “A world with a contained Fitz is a safer world. I think we did well.”
“Now, he won’t be able to hurt anyone ever again,” Ronnie said. “We’re not going to have to deal with any more murders, or wasps, or stupid assignments. No weird unnecessary restrictions, no unreasonable deadlines. None of that, ever again.”
“I mean, as long as our next English teacher’s cool,” I said.
“I bet they won’t murder people and keep their hands in bug houses,” Ronnie said.
Mr. Reinhardt roared jubilantly and sent a blast of gold-green flame into the air, then dove through his own cloud of smoke. It was terrifying, but exhilarating. I’d always been too cowardly to ride roller coasters, even with Ronnie, but I decided then and there that I was ready for them.
I looked over my shoulder. The trail of smoke was taking shape, maybe. It could have just been my mind. I could have just been seeing what I wanted to see.
In the sky behind me, against the blinding blue, a white cloud of smoke was shaping into the perfect form of a human hand, middle finger extended proudly in the air. It was stunningly beautiful.
“Do you see that?” I asked Ronnie.
“Huh?” she asked, finally looking away from Olga’s hair, which was flying in her face. “Hey, it’s flipping us the bird.”
Ahead of us, the sun was setting in a kaleidoscope display of pinks and yellows and oranges, casting its colors across the distant tiny city. Behind us, a giant middle finger scorned the tragedies of the past week. I was with my best friend, and together, we’d managed to save the school. She’d grown closer to a person who’d seemed unattainable, and a deadly criminal had been apprehended. At the same time, I’d grown in confidence. Perhaps I was finally becoming a real man.
That glistening moment would be cradled and treasured in my heart forever.