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The Spy Who Loved Monty
By Indy and Chris Silva
Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine -- To the Victors...

       With the frivolity of the day over, everyone retired to bed. When dawn broke anew, Agnes decided to take a morning jog. The fresh morning air the park provided was a nice change of pace, and Agnes found that she was finally feeling at ease again. She had just finished and returned when she looked through the window and saw Dale. He was alone outside and looked thoughtful with his elbows resting on the wooden protective guardrail. She’d been meaning to talk with Dale—he’d been a little distant, and she knew that despite his initial joy there was something bothering him.
       **I suppose there won’t be a perfect time. Eh bien, I had better make it now than later.** Agnes strolled over and Dale’s eyes turned to meet her. He smiled slightly but his overall demeanor didn’t change. "I see you still have your love for the outdoors, Dale. I remember seeing you and little Chip when you both were young. Nothing could stop either of you--you’d climb as high as you could!"
       Dale shrugged. "Well, you know how the two of us are. Chip’s always been a great friend." Agnes sighed. It wasn’t going to be that easy. "I wish I did know. I have been so long away. I have missed so much."
       "Well, I’ve missed you too. Sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound critical," Dale said. Agnes looked down at the ground. "I know you did not, my nez cerise. But I still sense it marrying Monzy? I know it must be strange for you to think of your aunt suddenly coming back and immediately wanting to marry someone you work with daily."
       Dale chuckled. "We Oakmonts never did anything the normal way." Agnes smirked and looked up at that. "That is certainly true. But even if you are not my closest living relative, I think it only right to put the question to you--do you give us your blessing, Dale Oakmont?"
       Dale hugged Agnes. "Aunt Agnes, nothing on earth would make me happier than to see you and Monty being happy!" Agnes knew she could count on him. "I am grateful, Dale. I want you to be happy as much as I am!"
       Dale jumped up and down. "That’s good, ‘cause I’m pretty happy! Aunt Agnes, you and Monty have been apart for most of my life. You two deserve to be together. You fought the villain and now you get the happily ever after!" Dale said.
       Agnes walked to the railing where Dale had stationed himself only a short while ago. "Well, life is rarely that simple. I know there will be adjustments for Monzy and I--for all of us. But if I can be as happy as I am now, then any price will be worth it."
       Dale had a funny thought. "One big adjustment, Monty sleeps in a hammock."
       Agnes giggled. She’d always appreciated his humor. "I’ve slept in hammocks, in railway cars, on camels, and in igloos. I expect we’ll manage to find a happy medium."
       Dale stood on his hands. "And I sleep hanging upside down from the ceiling with Foxglove. We’re all a little weird!" Agnes bent down kissed Dale on the nose, causing him to fall over. "Well, if we were all the same, life would be boring, n’est ce pas? Now come, we must take our eccentricities inside. Monzy is making a ‘special’ supper for us all and will likely need help."

       Dale was back on his feet at once. "Well, it will be interesting to see how Monty cooks now that he’s off the cheese kick." Agnes and Dale opened the door and found the room is filled with the scent of garlic and cloves. Agnes breathed in the wonderful aroma. "Perhaps I should not be so hasty to settle down. With food that smells that good, I may lose my figure!"
       Dale inhaled deeply and jumped into his seat. "I think we’re all going to have to look after our figures!" Monty poked his head from the kitchen. "I’ll be more than glad to look after yours, luv...."
       Agnes laughed and threw a small pillow at him. "Oh, you! Get back in there where you belong!" Monty smiled childishly and began humming as he prepared the evening’s meal. It took all day, but when Monty came out, everyone agreed the effort was worth it. Monty brought out a sumptuous meal--all Agnes’ favorites of course. He’d managed to call Jeff and get some pointers in the right direction. The main dish was walnuts served creole style with the garlic and cayenne pepper in the shell. They also had a huge salad and fresh breadsticks, and for dessert a piping hot French chocolate mousse.
       Agnes was overcome. "Oh, Monzy! You should not have gone to such effort! But I am glad you did."
       Monty was pleased at the compliment, and that he’d taken his mother’s advice and learned to cook. It sure had paid off for him. "The last meal we shared together were nothing but cheese, biscuits and coffee. You deserved something better this time."
       Agnes digged in. "And it is certainly that! I feel like I am sitting in the bistro in Paris! You have the culinary flair, cherie." Agnes kissed him in gratitude.
       Dale was enjoying the exchange almost as much as the walnuts. "Wow, you two are just so great together. Made for each other."
       The kids were as eager to start eating as the adults, and Mercy had eyes for only one thing. Gadget grabbed her hand before she could reach the tempting dessert. "No, Mercy, you have to eat that last," she said firmly. Agnes was amused by the child, and even more when she noticed who was using the diversion. "And you are just made for that mousse au chocolat, eh Dale? I see you eyeing it..." Dale drew his spoon back with a sheepish look on his face. The kids all laughed at him as he blushed a bit.

       Monty decided to have a little fun. "Better watch it mate--don’t want me future nephew to get into trouble..."
       Barbara was sitting between Dale and Foxy. She wasn’t much of a talker, but when she got an idea in her head, she had to say it. "Hey, Daddy! Daddy...Daddy..." Dale gave her his full attention. "What is it, Barb?" Barbara giggled and pointed at Monty. "Uncle...Uncle Monty’s your uncle too!"
       The group laughed kindly, as all grown-ups do at the things kids say. Foxglove laughed at first, then she stopped and looked seriously at the other Rangers.
       "Foxglove, what’s the matter?" Gadget asked. Foxy’s face was the epitome of confusion. "That..that means Monty’s going to be my in-law. Does that make Dale my....cousin? Monty is going to marry Dale’s aunt. And Chip is Dale’s unofficial brother who is married to Gadget. That means...that means that we’re practically all part of the same family! We’re all related now!"
       "Wow, you’re right Foxy! It’s incredible!" Chip said.
       "Well, we’re almost all family..." Monty had a sympathetic look on his face as he nodded toward Zipper, who was looking downtrodden. Foxglove noticed Monty’s sympathetic look toward Zipper. "I’m sorry, Zipper. I didn’t mean it to sound like that..." Foxglove said with sympathy.
       "You’re practically one of the family, Zip," Gadget said. "It’s just that flies don’t tend to intermarry with other species. Not that they couldn’t if they wanted to. I mean, flies are people too, after a fashion....."
       Monty kept his patience in check. "What Gadget’s tryin’ to say is, you’re part of our team family if not by blood mate." Zipper nodded but it was evident he didn’t feel any better.
       Dale jumped up. "Yeah! And I have a solution to the dilemma." Dale looked around and pointed to a butter knife on the table. "Squire, my sword!" Chip looked at him for a moment, but handed the knife over. Dale stood before Zipper. "As King Dale of Oakmont, I have decided to bestow on you a title. Kneel." Zipper looked strangely at Dale, but complied.
       "Sir Zipper, you have always shown yourself to be a fly of uncommon valor and bravery and you would be a worth addition to any family. I hereby bestow on you the new name Zipper Oakmont. So that now all the Rangers may be of one family, now and forever. Do you accept this title?" Dale asked, that broad smile filling his face.
       It’s a rare thing when a fly cries, but Zipper cried at this. He was so choked up, all he could do was nod. The others all smiled in their agreement. Dale shook Zipper’s hand.
       "Well, I guess I have another brother," Dale said with satisfaction. Chip came over and patted Zipper on the head. "I guess we do."
       "Hear, hear! Welcome to family, pally!" Monty said.
       Gadget was crying again. "Golly, this is such a great moment!"
       Monty came over to his little pally. "And since we’re all being mushy and whatnot…Zipper, I want you to be best, bug at me wedding." Zipper flew up and hugged Monty and squeaked out that he was honored to be chosen.
       "Glad ta hear it, mate. I wouldn’t want to have it any other way," Monty said.
       Agnes was reveling in the love she saw. "Monzy, this is the family that I had missed for so long. I am pleased to be here with all of you--it’s like a dream come true." Agnes started to cry, and then Foxy cried and soon there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

       At that moment, the door burst open. Everyone spun around in surprise.
       "Ma! Dad!" Monty shouted. Cheddarhead Charlie and Camembert Kate walked right in "G’day, son! That Jeff bloke’s cable caught up with us in Cairo! Katie and I here were about to enter the camel tossing tourney!" Cheddarhead said.
       Kate rushed up and hugged Monty. "Oh, my boy! My Cheeser!" Monty looked embarrassed. "Crikey! Mum, dad! Didn’t expect to see you here so soon!" Monty said.
       Cheddarhead whopped his son on the back. "When we heard our boy was gonna be hitched, we hopped the first plane back--good thing fer us it was the Concorde! Now who’s the lucky mouse?"
       Cheddarhead gave a wink to Gadget, who suddenly got chills. "Gadget, congratulations, Monty ‘ll make you a fine husband! He’s a right gentleman all the way, just like me. And yer little ones will be fine ones too."
       Gadget blushed and looks helplessly at the others. "Well...."
       "Now, don’t you fret lass! You’re worthy of ‘im!" Cheddarhead said. "Uh, I’m already married...." Gadget answered. Cheddarhead drew back. "Married? Who’s the bloke you’re leavin’ to marry my boy? You’re not the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, are ya?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.
       Chip cleared his throat. "Gadget’s married to me, Charlie." Cheddarhead looked over at Chip. "And she’s leavin’ you? Son, I told ya the last time you should be more take-charge. Now yer losin’ yer wife!" Cheddarhead leaned into Monty and whispered, "Maybe you should get with another outfit son. This lad don’t seem very with-it."
       Monty had all he could take. "Dad, please! I’m not marryin’ Gadget! I’m marryin’ Agnes here, she’s Dale’s aunt and a mighty fine woman she is!" Kate and Cheddarhead looked at Agnes who was already blushing and then back at Monty. Kate was astonished. "Yer marrying......a chipmunk? Jeff didn’t say anything about this! Cheeser, you’ve got explainin’ to do...."
       Monty got a bit haughty. "What’s there to explain? She’s the love of my life and I’m the love of her life! That’s about the size of it."
       Gadget could see that there was a lot of explanation needed, and they were in the way. "Guys, we’d better go on to bed. It’s been a long day. We’ll see you in the morning, Monty!"
       Monty put his arm over Agnes’ shoulder. He glanced that his teammates. Other than Gadget it appeared the others wanted to stay. He glared at them. "Goodnight, everybody!"
       "Awwww....well, you’ll like my aunt once you get to know her, she’s tops!" Dale said. Chip grabbed Dale’s collar and started dragging him off. He saw the desperation in Monty’s eyes and couldn’t help feeling sympathy for him.
       "Good nite, Monty. Good luck!" Chip said.

       After the others had left, Monty turned his attention back to his parents, as they did to him. "Monty, there’s got to be billions o’ lady mice in the world," Cheddarhead started. "You can’t find just one that you liked enough to get hitched too? Why didn’t you marry that cute bit you work with, Gadget?" Monty was put-out now. "Crikey, Dad! I couldn’t ever have romantic type feelin’s fer Gadget--I held her in me hands the day she was born and now that her dad’s gone, I love her like me own daughter."
       Cheddarhead grimaced. "I admit we’re open-minded lad, but a chipmunk--never thought that!" Agnes had remained silent through this, but now she came over. "Say were you in Nairobi that time they had the giant anteater races?"
       Chedderhead pulled on his lapels. "I should say I was! Never miss it! I’d have won last year, but some spunky lass edged me out!"
       Agnes smiled calmly. "That was me." Cheddarhead did a double-take. Cheddarhead always respected someone who can back up their talk with actions. "Say, I remember you now! Well, anyone that can say they’d got the best o’ Chedderhead Charlie’s good enough fer me!"
       Kate’s expression hadn’t changed the whole time. "Cheeser, outside." Monty gave Agnes a "I’m in for it now" look and went with her. Agnes watched them go and then turned her attention to Cheddarhead. "So, how are you at wrestling?"

       "Mum, I’m in love and I’m marryin’ Agnes. So start likin’ it and we’ll all get along fine!" Monty said. Kate stared him down. "Now Cheeser, she seems like a nice girl. But are you marryin’ the girl, or your dream from a long time ago?"
       Monty knew she’d say that. "Mum, stop calling me Cheeser and she always was a dream, then and now, near and faraway. She’s everything that I could ever desire! And what’s really unbelievable is that I’m actually the man o’ her dreams. If this be a dream then I don’t ever want to wake up."
       Kate put her hand on his shoulder. "That’s what I’m afraid of, Chee...Monty. You’re gonna marry her and then both of you will find out what reality is. Love is easy to talk, it’s not so easy to live. You’ll understand that someday."
       Monty hugged his mother. "Mum, it’s reality that made us both see just how much we love and need each other. Reality showed us how lonesome we both were all these years without each other." Kate hugged him back. "I guess it has been hard on you all this time. As long as you take a step back and look before you dive in, I’m for it. But you know that means you’re going to have to shape up a bit, boy. No more sloppy room, no more runnin’ off on a whim. You’re a family man now."
       Monty knew that was coming too. "Yeah, that’s right. But only ev’ry other week." Monty winked at her. "That line on cleaning up didn’t work on your father either," Kate said, shaking her head.
       Monty gave his mother a stern look. "Mum, promise me yer not goin’ to give yer future grandkids any nicknames!" Kate reached for the door. "I won’t insist, but your father will. ‘Son, you’ve got to carry on the Erskine traditions’ he’ll say,"
       Monty looked a bit confused. "Uh, what traditions might they be?" Kate put her hands on her hips. "Now what ‘ave you just asked me about? The nicknames! Adopted or not, he’ll want ‘em named just like you were named in the family tradition," Kate said. Monty shuddered at the thought of inflicting cruel nicknames on another generation of his family. "How about we just give ‘em cheese names and skip the nicknames? How about Brie fer a girl and Colby fer a boy?" Monty suggested.
       Kate sighed. "Well, if you can work it by your father...but you know how he is." Kate and Monty went inside and stopped short. Cheddarhead and Agnes were fighting!

       Agnes laughed out loud. "Is that the best you’ve got?" Cheddarhead was having the time of his life. "Hah! I haven’t even brought out me first-class moves yet!"
       Monty was taken aback. "Dad, Aggie..." Cheddarhead flashed a look to him. "This is personal, boyo. Bonsai!" Cheddarhead leaped at Agnes and she parried his attack. They went on for a minute or so until they both were tired from the effort. As Cheddarhead got his breath, he started to laugh. "What a gal! Well, lad, she’ll keep ya on yer toes." He patted Agnes on the back.
       "Then I take it we have yer blessin’ in this marriage?" Monty asked hopefully. Cheddarhead whopped his boy on the back again. "You’d better grab this one before someone else does, boy! She’s a bloomin’ spitfire!"
       Kate came over and took Agnes’ hand. "What my husband is saying is we’re all for you, dearie." Agnes hugged her kindly. "Thank you, Kate, Charlie. I’ll look after Monzy and keep him out of trouble."
       Kate laughed at the idea. "Ho, ho! I told ol’ Chedderwheel’s parents the same thing when I married him! But you might just be up to the task."
       Monty perked up. "I’d fergotten about them! How’s grandma and grandpa doin’ these days? Last I heard they were in the Amazon wrestlin’ alligators." Cheddarhead held his belly and laughed. "Let’s jus’ say the purse and shoes business is booming!"

       The next morning, the phone rang in Ranger Headquarters. Monty reached it first.
       It was Jeff calling. "Hello, it this Monterey Jack?"
       "The one and only, mate!" Monty said.
       "Could you and the Rangers come tonight to the R.A.S.? Agnes and Percival will be there as well," Jeff said.
       "Well sure, but what’s it all about?" Monty asked.
       Jeff paused a moment. "Let’s just say it’s unfinished business. See you at seven! It’s a formal, by the way."

       Monty hung up the phone, not sure what to make of that. The Aussie called everyone together, and at six-thirty that evening the Rangers, Agnes, and Monty’s parents set out in their best attire to the international headquarters for the Rescue Aid Society. Percival was waiting for them at the main door. "I say, do any of you blokes have the foggiest what this palaver is over? They wouldn’t breathe a word of it to me!"
       Monty shrugged his shoulder. "Percival, mate, I don’t have a clue."
       Dale was looking everywhere at once. There were big cars and people all dressed up. "It looks like it’s going to be a big party!" Percival pursed his lips. "I have it’s not some kind of ruddy testimonial dinner. I don’t like publicity, and never have."
       Chip looked at the crowd filing in. "Dale, people don’t dress this formal to go to a party, they dress this way to go to a gala!" Agnes walked up the steps. "Oh, Percy! I’m sure it’s got to do with the magazine’s debut. Now let’s get inside."
       Percival led the way in. The main chamber was filled with tuxedos and dresses. On a raised platform, two large tables were covered with the R.A.S. and R.A.S.C.A.L.S. insignias, with several dignitaries present. Jeff spotted the honored group as they came in. "Ah, there you are! Come on, I’ve got seats for you down front. Monty, Agnes, Percival, you’ve got places at the table to the left of the podium, where the R.A.S.C.A.L.S. symbol is"
       "I knew it. Testimonial," Percival said.
       Monty was rapt up in the spectacle. "Too-Ra-Loo. Somethin’ interesting is gonna happen here. And we got front row seats!" Agnes turned a suspicious eye on Jeff. "Jeffrey, what is all this?"
       "As I told Monty this morning, unfinished business. You’ll find out in a few minutes," Jeff said slyly.

       Dale was already getting bored having to be in a suit at in a formal setting. The group—minus the three Jeff took to the main table—found seats at a large circular dining table down front. As they all sit down, a mouse known to R.A.S. members and countless others throughout the world stood up from the R.A.S. side and a spotlight followed her to the podium. Bianca Râboga signaled the applauding crowd to settle down.
       "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have been gathered here today to give long overdue credit to three brave heroes. Heroes who risked life and limb to save us all. The mission that they took part in had been so secret that it was known only to a handful, even with the intelligence community. But now the truth can be told and at last we can honor those who so richly deserve it. Monterey Jack Erskine, Agnes Oakmont and Percival Montgomery. Their accomplishments are even more remarkable in light of the newly discovered fact that one of those involved in the mission was a spy for the organization known as R.O.D.E.N.T.S. So, we are all here today that we may honor each of you for your heroism and award you the R.A.S.’ highest honor awarded to our personnel, the Gold star of valor," Bianca said.
       Cheddarhead stood up and clapped. "My boy! That’s my boy!"
       Percival sighed. "Well, at least it’s not a French medal ceremony where they kiss you on both cheeks..."
       Monty looked around, embarrassed, and sank down into his chair. At Bianca’s summons, the trio stood and came to the podium. Another old mouse brought the medals. The National Mouse-O-Graphic photogs were everywhere, snapping pictures.
       Jeff was stationed next to the podium and rubbed his hands with glee. "What a cover this is going to make!" Agnes gave Jeff a mock angry glance while she waited her turn. "So, Jeff, this was your sneaky idea...thank you."
       Jeff beamed at her. "Of course it was! What good are connections if you don’t use them? Plus it makes a wonderful end to all this. Now you can finally settle down and write that book you’ve been promising me you’d put out for the last ten years." Agnes looked uncomfortable. "Well, I’ll try. I just hope it doesn’t turn out dull." Jeff looked at her in mock astonishment. "You? Dull? Perish the thought! Now give us a big smile for the cover."

       Bianca took center stage again as she prepared to give out the medals. "For bravery above and beyond the call of duty, for gallantry in the face of danger, and for averting a disaster that would have meant the end of our existence as we know it, I hereby award each of you these medals. They are not sufficient to express our thanks, but we know that for heroes like yourselves, the duty is what matters most."
       Flashbulbs popped everywhere in the room as Percival stepped forward first. Bianca kissed him on the cheek and slipped the ribbon bearing the medal around his neck. "Thank you. Thank you all. This is a great honor, but I wish to give equal recognition to Ms. Oakmont and Mr. Erskine. They both paid a heavy price to keep the world safe. Let all three of us then be known as ‘the rodents that saved the world’!"
       Applause erupted in the room, and Cheddarhead stood on his chair and whistled. Monty blushed a bit, but retained his composure. Agnes came forward next.
       "Zowie! Go get ‘em, Aunt Agnes!" Dale shouted.

       Agnes’ hand brushed against Monty’s as she passed him going up to the microphone, she gave him a coy smile. "Greetings to you all, my friends. It is a great honor to receive this medal. But we are no more worthy of it than of anyone who is willing to fight and die for what they love. Let us not forget all those who fought and died to end the reign of terror that R.O.D.E.N.T.S. represented—their sacrifices now lost to history. It is the responsibility of all of us to keep the memory of all those brave souls alive." Agnes indicated that the audience should stand and everyone bowed their head in a moment of silence.
       "And now, something to lighten the mood again," Agnes started. There were murmurs of surprise in the audience. Agnes grabbed Monty’s hand as he was trying to find a way off-stage. "I want you all to know the heroic heart of Monzy. He would go to the ends of the earth for anyone in this room without asking. So it is that I will go to the ends of the earth with him. Monsieur Monterey has asked me to marry him, and I have accepted!"
       Flashbulbs went wild as Agnes kissed Monty, and he turned three shades of embarrassed. Jeff grinned. "Pulitzer, here we come....." Cheddarhead gave them both the thumbs-up. "Always knew that girl was the right one fer my son!"
       "Whoo-hoo! What a gal!" Dale said.
       "She’s a Ranger, through and through!" Chip said.
       Dale elbowed Chip kindly. "Of course, she’s an Oakmont! For a little while longer, anyway. It runs in the family!"

       As the tumult died down, Bianca called Monty up to the podium. Monty felt more than a bit embarrassed. "Uh, Miss Bianca? I’m right honored, but I was never an official member o’ R.A.S.C.A.L.S. I jus’ happened to be in the right place at the right time." Bianca gave him a comforting smile. "Monterey, we have someone here who has asked the honor of decorating you, and will explain the reason for your decoration. Sir, will you come forward?"
       A middle-aged mouse limped his way up to the podium. Monty didn’t know him right off, but something was familiar. The audience hushed as the mouse entered the spotlight. The newcomer saw Monty’s confusion, and turned to address the audience.
       "Before introducing myself, I would like to tell about Monterey Jack and an act of heroism he performed. However, this is not the one for which he is being honored tonight. Still, it means just as much—to me at least. A short time before he joined up with his two other companions at Brie, Monty came upon a fight between a R.A.S.C.A.L. agent and an agent from R.O.D.E.N.T.S. He could have passed by, but instead he risked his life to save the R.A.S.C.A.L. agent. He took the vial which contained the deadly ebola virus and saw it safely to friendly hands. And he saved my life," the mouse said.
       Monty did a huge double take. "Nighter? F. X. Nighter?! You’re alive!" Monty shouted.
       "Yes, thanks to you my friend. I returned to active service with the R.A.S.C.A.L.S. Now as you know, this award has only been given to one person outside our organization. And no one but the President of the combined groups can approve a non-member for our highest decoration. So it is with my whole heart that I, Arthur Trebold, approve and affix our highest honor to Monterey Jack Erskine," he said.

       The crowd stood as one, and the applause was thunderous. Monty was astonished by it all. The bloke he’d saved became the President of the R.A.S. and the R.A.S.C.A.L.S.! As Arthur motioned him forward, Monty had to force his limbs to obey. The cameras flashed everywhere as Trebold hung the ribbon around his neck, and then hugged Monty.
       "Thank you, Monty. You’re tops in my book," Arthur said, shedding some tears. Monty patted his back. "You’re welcome, mate. I’d do it again, in a heartbeat." Kate and Charlie had never been so proud of their son, nor had the Rangers. Agnes’ look was splendid, and Percy shook his hand heartily. Then all the delegates came forward to shake his hand, and Agnes got to him and kissed him again.

       As the warm expressions of thanks and the applause finally died down, Monty walked up to the microphone and tapped on it. "Is this thing on? Okay, right...Uh, I’m really touched by gettin’ this award. It’s good to know that good things come to those who wait. Some bad things came out o’ that mission, but some real good things too." I met the most wonderful woman in the world there, her eyes are like emeralds, her hair’s red as the sunset. Her character is as solid as a rock and a heart o’ gold...Oh, wait, the medal...I’m much obliged."
       Monty blushed a bit, but the warm laughter and applause showed the audience’s approval. The trio was called together at the podium, and their group picture ran in all the major animal presses the next day. Finally, the centers of attention were allowed to join the others. Cheddarhead shook his son’s hand heartily. "Son, you did the Erskine name proud! I’ll spread this story from one side of the globe to the other!"
       Jeff had come down from the podium as well. "You’ll have to race me for that honor, Mr. Erskine. The I-M-G will have a full issue on this one!"

       At this point, Jennifer and Roger Maplewood came over and joined the congratulations. They’d been at a nearby table, and had clapped as hard as anyone when Agnes came up. The large group sat down and soon everyone was swapping stories. Then two more chipmunks showed up.
       "Mom! Dad!" Dale shouted.
       Anne and Duncan Oakmont hugged their son hard. "We heard what was going on and decided to cut our vacation short a few days! Wow, it’s great to see everyone!"
       Everyone was introduced to everyone else and soon the story-swapping began. Agnes turned out to be as good a storyteller as Monty was. "...And were they competitive, especially over a handsome boy! It was funny to watch Jennifer and Anne try to outdo each other to win the young man’s attention. Like the time they both took up clog dancing to impress Gunar, the champion clog dancer!" Agnes said, laughing.
       "And Roger and Duncan weren’t much better...two young men acting like children to impress a girl. As it turned out, the four ended up all in love with each other. Roger was dating Anne and Duncan was dating Jennifer. But everyone was secretly in love with everyone else and getting jealous. They hatched all kinds of wild schemes to win each other. It was so funny to watch them, but in the end, Roger and Jennifer got each other and Duncan and Anne married each other."
       The Maplewoods and Oakmonts both sank low in their seats as Agnes continued her story telling. Dale had a mile-long grin on his face. "Clog dancing, mom?" Chip’s equaled it. "Wild schemes, dad?"
       Roger Maplewood was looking defensive. "Well now Agnes is exaggerating things! We didn’t get into that much trouble!"
       "Only every other day, Roger..." Jennifer added. Her husband surrendered. "Well, okay, maybe Duncan and I did get into trouble...often. But you and Anne were also up there too. Remember the community center talent show?"
       From the look on Jennifer’s face, she remembered. She sank a little lower in her seat.
       "Mom, what happened?" Chip said with bated breath.
       Jennifer Maplewood’s breath wasn’t so bated. "Well, She was dating Roger at the time and I was dating Duncan. We both wanted to date the other’s boy friend. So as it turns out we both sabotaged each other’s act…Anne was giving a fencing demonstration and I was her opponent. Mix a fencing foil and a small concealed container of ketchup, well let’s just say it was a show stopper." She chuckled, and Chip and Dale was laughing hard already "But she got back at me during my act. Oh, did she ever! My number was the classic dance from the theme of ‘Singing in the Rain’. Well, my friend Anne decided my performance wasn’t real enough, so...."
       Dale had a wide grin on his face. "Mom! I never would have guessed you were a master prankster, like me!"
       Anne Oakmont crossed her arms. "Oh, she’s exaggerating it all!"
       "Aunt Anne, mom...I’m having a hard time believing all this," Chip said.
       Jennifer was just managing to contain herself. "Would you believe she turned the sprinkler system on me? And when it started to ‘rain’, would you believe my umbrella just happened to be slit all along the spines?"
       Anne threw up her arms in an accentuated move. "The audience loved it! They said they’d never seen a more realistic rendition!" Jennifer pointed at her. "The orchestra didn’t love it. Those sprinklers flooded the whole pit! And guess who never showed her face to claim responsibility?"
       Anne rolled her eyes. "Genius is never appreciated in its own age!"
       Dale burst out laughing, while Chip sat there in stunned silence at the mental image of the scene. Anne poked her unofficial nephew. "Chip, ask your grandparents for the pictures, I’m sure they still have them."
       "Oh, I’m sure mom and dad kept them," Jennifer said. "They’d never throw those away! Don’t you remember how they grounded me for a week after that?"
       Anne started on dessert. "Yes, I was grounded too. For two weeks."
       Jennifer laughed as she replayed the time in her memory. "And then you had to do my chores too! I can still remember you grumbling, mopping that kitchen floor!"
        "Yeah! But only because you said you’d go the dance committee and tell them! I had the awfulest time explaining that to your folks!" Anne retorted.
       Jennifer took on a look of smug satisfaction. "But you never pulled a stunt like that again, did you dearie?"
       Anne blushed. "Of course not, except for...I mean, no." Chip laughed and beat the table with his hand. Gadget was smiling at the thought of it. "Golly, I didn’t realize it ran in the family."
       Anne entered the fray. "Oh Jennifer, that was nothing! What about the time you tried to set me up with that exchange student? You said, he was an ‘aristocrat’. Little did I know, but he was from the Middle East and ‘aristocrat’ was the only English word Abdullah could say!"
       Agnes was laughing so hard she couldn’t stand it. "Oh, you two were impossible!" Jennifer pointed a finger at her. "Well, you were a little trouble maker too, young lady! Remember the time you tried to mail yourself to the White House to get an interview with President Ford?"
       Agnes held up her head proudly. "And I would have made it, if not for the Secret Service opening all mail! They were certainly surprised to see me. I met the Ambassador to Korea over that--nicest mouse you ever could imagine. He laughed the whole time I was telling him my plans! But what about you and the grapefruit episode?"
       Duncan broke in, pointing at Agnes. "Or the time that you sneaked into the Metropolitan Museum of Art when the Tutankhamen treasure was there and you set off all the alarms?"
       "Or when you convinced everyone that the municipal pool was full of acid? Agnes said, pointing back at Duncan.
       Duncan shifted nervously in his seat, showing where Dale got his uncomfortable look from. "No one has ever produced one shred of evidence that I was involved in that unfortunate, but cunningly brilliant scheme that only a mastermind of mayhem could have conceived of and executed! It’s amazing what the power of suggestion can accomplish, especially when combined with a few Alka-Seltzer tablets…"
       Agnes stared him down. "Uh, huh. And when I tell my side of the pie-throwing contest in the book I’m going to write, I’ll be sure to include a sentence or two on your suggestive abilities."
       Dale was eating up every second of this, not to mention his dessert. "So, it seems that Chip and I are chips off the old block. Keeping the family tradition of chaos and mayhem intact. YES!" Chip leaned his head on his hand, positively giddy. "Well, this is certainly a side of mom and dad I never would have imagined."
       Cheddarhead slapped Duncan on the back, knocking him over. "Bonzer times, mate! Reminds me ‘o me days in the outback when we went dingo wrestlin’. Right love-muffins?" Kate gave him a hard glare. "I seem to remember you did most of that. But I do remember when we got caught in that hurricane trying to beat your old rival Billie Blue Bobbins around the Cape of No Hope. Barely managed to do it too!" Cheddarhead took exception to that. "Aw, had ‘im beat by a mile!"
       "Golly, it seems all the Ranger parents are adventurous! Guess we know where ours comes from," Gadget said.

       Agnes decided it was time to pick on her favorite mouse. "Monzy, were you adventurous as a boy?" Monty drew himself up. "Of course I was! I was a tiger foamin’ at the mouth, ready to tear into any adventure that came my way."
       "Now Cheeser, that’s not exactly true!" Kate countered. "What about all the coaxin’ we had ta do to get you to go outside?" Cheddarhead laughed. "The lad loved it indoors, and didn’t wanna go out for anything. I can still hear him, ‘but ma, it’s scary out there!’"
       Kate chuckled. "I finally had to arm ‘im up and set ‘im outside. But no stoppin’ him after that. Well, until he found that wombat." Monty rubbed his hand on his posterior, remembering. "One of the first lessons I learned in life. Never turn yer back on a angry wombat."
       Cheddarhead tried to hold back a laugh and failed miserably. "Still one of the funniest things I ever saw! The lad ‘ad jest seen some of the local bucks out on their horses herding up a mess of sheep. He had to try to be like ‘em, and what should he pick for his mount but a wombat? I’d jest given him a pair o’ spurs and boots for ‘is birthday, and he let into the flanks o’ that wombat with ‘em!" Cheddarhead started crying he was laughing so hard.
       "T’warn’t so funny on my end! It took us all night to find him!" Kate said. "That wombat went plumb loco and ran out of sight with ‘im! We searched and searched, and finally found him on the low branch of a tree quivering for his life."
       "Remember Buttercup?" Cheddarhead asked.
       Monty smiled at the name. "Buttercup, she was somethin’ else."
       Agnes pushed him playfully. "Monzy! So, your heart belonged to another once?" Monty blushed. "Well, it was just a crush, nothin’ more. She was a Tasmanian Devil, a fine girl, until she got hungry and tried to eat me. Nearly took me right arm off ‘fore I could get away."
       Dale laughed, picturing it. "Sounded like love at first bite!" Chip struggled with all his might to refrain from bonking Dale. He had to grab his wrist with his free hand and hold it back. Agnes chuckled and kissed Monty lightly. "I have enjoyed getting to talk over old times. It means so much to share the thoughts of the past with those who remember."
       Dale agreed. "Yeah, I’d hate to think that all these great stories would be forgotten. Now they can be passed on to a new generation!"
       "Like they need to be..." Roger mumbled.
       "Aw, c’mon dad!" Chip kidded. "What’s the good of stories if they’re not told?"
       Duncan pointed to Jeff. "Ask your editor friend there. I’m sure he’s got a few reasons." Jeff saw an opening. "Actually, I was thinking of doing a follow-up story at the wedding."
       Agnes folded her arms in determined defiance. "Non, Jeffrey. The wedding is private, I insist on that. But you are invited of course."
       "We’ll make the reception a bonzer blowout. But just close friends and family for the big event," Monty added. Jeff held up his hands. "Okay, okay. But I foot the bill for the reception. My treat."
       Monty thanked him. "Well, that’s mighty generous of ya. And just wait, we got a surprise already waitin’ for ya at the reception." Jeff looked at them curiously. "A surprise? Does it involve anything I can turn into another best-selling story?" Agnes kissed Jeff on the cheek. "No, but it might help you to see that there is more to life than news."
       Jeff’s eyes narrowed a bit. "Now just what is going on in that sneaky little mind?"
       Agnes gave him a kind look. "You’ll just have to wait for the reception, won’t you?"
       The clock in the large room tolled ten. "Crikey! Three hours already? Guess we’ve said all the important things there are to say," Monty said. Agnes hugged him. "Except the most important, mon petit chou. But we shall say them soon enough," Agnes said and winked at Monty—he caught the meaning.

       One week later, the morning of the wedding was the busiest the Rangers could remember. A million details had to be taken of, and well-wishers from across the planet were constantly calling for either Monty or Agnes. Alex, Mercy and Barbara had already been picked up by their grandfathers. Chip came into the main room in headquarters, where Anne Oakmont was serving as interference for anyone coming in person. She straightened the tie on Chip's tuxedo as Jennifer Maplewood finished taking down yet another message. "I had no idea you’d met so many people, son! Monty’s been getting messages from everywhere!" Jennifer said.
       Jennifer pointed to an ever-growing stack on a table where wedding gifts were being displayed. Dale walked in and caught the scene. "If one of them is ticking, it’s from Fat Cat."
       Foxglove came in with a pretty pink dress on. "Oh, I’m so excited! Dale, I wish we were getting married again. It was magical!"
       Anne took one look at Dale and had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. He was wearing his classic technicolor suit. "Dale, where’s your tux?"
       Dale put his arms around his ‘classic’ protectively. "Aw, do I haveta wear it?" One look from his mother made it clear he did. Dale grumbled off to his room.
       Chip’s heart raced as he saw Gadget enter the room in her pink bridesmaid gown. "Gadget, you look...stunning." Gadget blushed a bit.
       "You look good too, Chip," she said.
       Suddenly, two hands covered Chip’s eyes. "Guess who?"
       Chip turned around, and Tammy had on a light blue dress that contrasted nicely with her hair. "I made it myself! Whaddaya think?"
       "It looks great, Tammy! Your tailoring is impressive," Chip said. Tammy was all revved up. "Thanks, Chipper! Hey, where’s Bink? She was supposed to be right behind me!"

       "Is this the young lady you’re referring to?" Percival came in the door in his tux, with Bink riding on his shoulders. She was wearing a pastel pink dress for her role as flower girl, and was enjoying the ride. Donna Chesnutt was with him, in an emerald green dress that made her look like a duchess. "I saw them coming up as I was and decided to escort them in."
       Bink giggled, looking up at Percival. "He talks funny!"
       "Now Bink, that’s not polite," Donna corrected.
       Dale wiped a tear from his eye as he returned in his tux. "Our little Monty’s all grown up. It seems like just yesterday he was old enough to be our fathers and stood a full head taller than us and today, well, he’s still just like that. But he’s getting married as well."
       Gadget took Chip’s hand. "Golly, you’re right, Dale. It feels like we’re getting a stepmom." Chip put her arm around his. "It’s amazing how a little time changes things. Just a few months back, I was thinking that Monty would never marry. Now we’ve got a new member of the Rangers!"
       "Good thing I planned for additions. The tree’s starting to get filled up," Gadget said.
       "Hey, the more the merrier!" Dale piped up.
       Foxy joined him. "More kisses, perhaps?" Foxy snuggled Dale.
       Percival had enjoyed the exchanges as much as anyone. "I’m glad Monty has such friends as you. He certainly deserves them."
       Donna looked at the group and smiled, but there was a little sadness mixed with it. Weddings were a wonderful thing—you think that you and your mate have a long full life together, but that’s not always the way it worked out
       Tammy came over to her mother. "Are you okay, Mom?"
       Donna hugged Tammy. "I’m fine, sweetheart. Just took a little trip down memory lane to my wedding." Donna turned back to the Rangers. "Thank you for inviting Tammy and Bink as well. But I am confused as to why you invited me.."
       Gadget left Chip and took her hand. "Donna, you’re a great friend. You helped Foxglove and I prepare for when we brought our children home. You’re always there for us when we needed you! This is our way of saying thanks."
       "I’m grateful, and not just for inviting me. You’ve also been such good friends to the girls. Well, are we ready to go?" Donna asked.
       "Yeah, let’s make like a tree and leave!" Dale said. "Make like a log and split. Make like a bread truck and haul buns."
       "Make like a monk and be quiet!" Chip chided.
       Dale giggled. "Good one!"
       "Now, boys, play nice," Jennifer said. "Let’s get everything ready."

       The group assembled and made their way to the city chapel. Monty and Agnes were already there in separate rooms. The ladies went off to check on Agnes and the guys invaded Monty’s room. Monty was already nervous and the door flying open didn’t help things.
       "Hey, Monty! Only 30 minutes to go!" Dale said.
       Monty was shaking a little. "I know, Mate. I know. I’m just a mite nervous."
       Dale was confused by this. "Monty, you loved Aunt Agnes for almost fifteen years, so this should be the easy part!"
       "I’ve wrestled dingoes, ridden snakes, fought bloodthirsty assassins and I was never nervous. Crikey, I’m skakin’!" Monty said, looking at his unsteady hands.
       Percy patted him on the back. "Nothing strange about that, old bean. Happens to the best of us. I was a quivering mass before mine."
       "I was never a bit nervous!" Chip said.
       "Was that why I had to pry your fingers apart to give you the ring?" Dale asked pointedly.
       Zipper buzzed a question to Monty. "Crikey, good thinkin’ Zipper. The ring, who’s got the ring?" Monty asked.
       Dale rummaged in his pocket. "I’ve got it! Here, Zipper...." Dale fumbled the ring and it starts rolling on the floor.
       "Grab it!" Monty shouted. The door burst open and Cheddarhead Charlie entered. As he moved his foot forward he kicked the ring across the room.
       "Follow the bouncing ring!" Dale said with gusto.

       Across the hall, the ladies wondered what was causing all the commotion from the room the guys were in.
       "Those boys! Listen to them having fun! Men will never change," Agnes said.
       Gadget shrugged. "Well, I’m sure Dale is doing his best to keep Monty distracted. Monty’s got to be terribly nervous."
       "Sounds like Dale’s playing keep-away with the ring," Foxglove said, listening. "Why do they do things like that?"
       Donna shook her head. "Men never grow up, Foxy. They just do their best to pretend they know everything!"
       The girls all giggled at that. The ladies heard struggling and the sound of furniture breaking. "But then again, they’re probably saying the same thing about us," Jennifer said.
       Kate came in the door as they were about to check things out. "Oh don’t worry! That’s just Cheeser and ‘is dad playing around with the boys."
       "Who has the ring?" Agnes said.
       Tammy looked back from the door. "I do...uh, I think..." Tammy started searching her pockets. She brought the ring out and it slipped. "Whoops!"

       At last the battered and disheveled Monty held up the ring. "Well, now we’re ready to start this thing right." Everyone fell silent as they hear the commotion coming from the room where the ladies were.
       Dale put his ear to the door. "Girls, they’re crazy, but you gotta love ‘em!"
       "Yeah, or we’re crazy about them," Chip said. "I wonder what they’re up to?"
       Monty shook his head. "No tellin’ with womenfolk. I’ll just put this in me pocket for safe...whoops!" The ring rolled under the door and out into the hall.
       In the girls’ room, the mad scramble resulted in precise the same effect. "Get it!" Foxy said. The doors opened simultaneously and two group tackles ended up in two piles outside. Then the girls and guys realized they were both outside.
       "Quick, back inside! The bride and groom can’t see each other before the ceremony!" Donna shouted.
       Dale slapped his hand over Monty’s eyes, and the girls blocked Agnes as both groups scrambled to get back in their doors. The girls reached their room, breathed hard and then general laughing broke out. As the guys rushed for it, Monty walked into the doorframe with a loud thud because Dale forgot to take his hands off his eyes.
       "Is he all right?" Percy asked.
       "Is the doorframe all right?" Chip kidded.
       Monty rubbed his head. "Yeah, I’m all right, did ya get the ring?"
       Dale held up his thumb. "Sure did! It’s right here on my fin--ger...." Dale pulled at the ring, but it won’t budge. "Uh, Houston, we’ve got a problem."
       "Dale, what did you go and put in on your finger for?!" Chip demanded.
       "I wanted to put it somewhere it wouldn’t get lost!" Dale countered.
       Percy looked the problem over. "Well, he certainly achieved that. I think some cold cream would get that off. Do I hear a volunteer for the mission?"
       Zipper buzzed and saluted.
       "Good lad. Don’t let them take you alive, young fellow," Percival said.

       Zipper proceeded to the door and knocked as politely as one can under the circumstances. Gadget cracked the door open a bit. "What is it Zipper?"
       Zipper quickly summed up what had happened.
       "Sure, no problem! Agnes, hand me that container of cold cream," Gadget said. Gadget handed the container over to Zipper and he left gratefully. Gadget turned to the others and started laughing. Agnes was all attention, as were the others. "What is it, Gadget? What did he tell you?" The ladies were all laughing before Zipper got back inside the guys’ room.
       Chip placed a glob of cold cream on Dale’s finger and slowly worked the ring loose. "There, now I’ll hang on to it, Dale you can be so clumsy at...whoops!"
       "Oh, no--not again!" Monty said.

       The laughing in the ladies’ quarters had not died down totally when another knock came. "That had better not be Zipper again! We’re running out of cold cream!" Agnes said.
       Duncan Oakmont stood at the door. "They’re ready when you are in here. Foxglove, Gadget, you need to get ready to join Jennifer and Anne in the procession. Just give the signal."
       Agnes calmed herself down. "Okay, give us a moment to finish preparing." Agnes did a final check--everything was in order. "Well ladies, shall we?"

       Anne Oakmont tapped on the boys’ door. "Ready in there, Monty?"
       "Uh, just a minute!" Monty shouted. Monty cracked the door open. We’ll...slip out in a minute."
       "Got it!" Chip said inside.
       "Well, it wasn’t my fault this time!" Dale shouted.
       "But it was your toe!" Chip countered.
       Anne covered her face out of politeness. "Straighten up and let’s go, boys."
       Percy brushed Monty off and straightened his clothes. "Stout heart lad. Show no fear on the field of combat."
       Monty’s shakes started to return. "Easy for you to say, mate..."
       "Just remember, Monty—’I do’," Dale advised.

       In five minutes, the opening organ music started. Agnes’ father and Dale’s grandfather Dirk Oakmont stood at the rear of the church. He was showing his age, but his eyes still had the old Oakmont shine. "Hello precious," Dirk said, "are you ready?"
       "I have been ready for fifteen years, Papa," Agnes replied. Dirk looked at her sidewise. "Maybe I should have come sooner and given that lad a swift kick! Then he’d have proposed sooner!"
       Agnes laughed as Dirk took her arm and led her forward, left foot first. Bink led the way as flower girl, with Foxglove, Gadget, and Jennifer escorted by their husbands. Anne was maid of honor, escorted by Zipper. Then the organ playing increased its volume, and the audience turned to see the bride. The procession was short, yet it seemed to last longer than it did for the betrothed. Agnes and Monty stared into each other’s eyes as the distance between them shortened. Agnes was radiant, in a white lace wedding gown and Monty was shined up in special white tuxedo he’d had made for the occasion.

       As Agnes began her approach, three pairs of eyes peeked over the front pew on her right. Barbara was looking everywhere at once, while Mercy was watching Agnes with the others. Alex was bored and getting restless
       "Man, what’s taking so long? Why doesn’t she walk faster?" Alex mumbled.
       Mercy was caught up in the splendor of it all. "Oh, it’s so ‘mantic! Maybe momma will let me get married if I ask her!"
       Alex sneered at Mercy. "No one will wanna marry you, ‘cause you’re a girl!"
       Mercy crossed her arms and lifted her head. "I’m purty! Aunt Agnes said so!"
       Barbara was mystified by the goings-on, trying to look everywhere at once. "Why is everyone cryin’? They sad that Aunt Agnes is gettin’ married?" Alex ignored Barbara’s question and continued his argument. "She just said that ‘cause she’s a girl too!"
       "What music is that? Sounds old," Barbara said. "They must like it ‘cause they’re all real old too," Alex replied.
       Mercy was determined to get the upper hand in her little argument. "She did not! Aunt Agnes is a spy, an’ a ‘venturess,’s neat!" Alex tried to think up a clever retort but he couldn’t find one. "Well, maybe she’s sorta really neat..."
       Duncan leaned forward and whispered to the kids, "Keep it down’re not supposed to talk loud during the ceremony." The kids continued their discussion in whispers. As the music ended, the crowd turned and faced the Reverend Granville D. Smythe, a kindly-looking old badger.

       "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here...." the reverend began. Cheddarhead blew on his handkerchief. "My boy..."
       "Our boy!" Kate countered.
       The Reverend continued on. "…If anyone knows any reason why these two should not be joined, let them speak now or forever hold their peace..." the reverend said. Symthe waited the rhetorical moment
       "Get on with it! We’re ready ta celebrate!" Cheddarhead shouted. Alex pointed at him. "No fair! Uncle Monty’s dad gets to talk real loud!"
       "That’s ‘cause he’s growed-up," Barbara said matter-of-fact. "They get to talk loud when they’re old so they can hear themselves..." Duncan shushed them, and Alex crossed his arms and sunk into his pew. "Hurumph! Grown ups get to do all the fun stuff."

       The reverend composed himself, and continued. "Do you, Monterey Jack Erskine, take Agnes to be your lawfully wedded wife?" Monty looked deep into her awaiting eyes. "I been waitin’ fifteen years to say it—I do."
       Reverend Smythe smiled in kind and turned to Agnes. "And do you, Agnes Jeanette Oakmont, take Monterey to be your lawfully wedded husband?" Agnes contentedly looked at Monty. "I do take Monzy to be my love and soul mate now and forever and a day," Agnes sighed.
       Foxy was crying her eyes out, and Gadget was shedding some as well. The reverend took Monty and Agnes’ hands. "Then, by the authority vested in me as reverend of lower Manhattan, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife! You may kiss the bride, Mister Erskine!" Smythe said with relish
       Monty stepped closer to Agnes and gently lifted her veil. She was still every bit as beautiful as she had been all those years before. He took her chin in his hand and he leaned over and they kissed.
       "Way to go, son!" Cheddarhead shouted. Monty and Agnes were still too involved with their kiss to notice the response of those attending

       "It’s so...beautiful!" Foxy cried, returning to her handkerchief. Dale was the soul of satisfaction. "You couldn’t have done better Aunt Agnes and...Uncle Monty."
       Gadget leaned on Chip’s arm. "Golly, I never thought I’d see Monty get married."
       "Two lonely, restless spirits parted by cruel fate, but reunited at last. Two broken hearts united as one complete. Proving that true love never dies," Chip said.

       Finally, they separated.
       "Hello, Mr. Erskine."
       "And Mrs. Erskine."
       Agnes had a wild look in her eyes. "Oh, Monzy! Only one thing could make this any better!"
       "You mean?"
       Agnes pointed to her nephew. "Dale, go to it!" Dale winked and ran behind the curtain behind the altar. In a moment he returned with the Victrola. The music of the tango soon filled the place
       "May I have this dance?" Agnes asked. Monty bowed low. "Now where we before we were bothered? Oh, yeah." Monty took Agnes in his arms and they began to dance.
       Dale suddenly got an idea and ran over to the still-crying Foxglove. "C’mon Foxy, let’s go!" Before Foxglove can argue, they are dancing the tango as well.
       Cheddarhead stood up. "We gonna let ‘em show us up, Kate?" Kate took his arm. "Let’s show ‘em where Monty gets his dancing talent, cheddar-wheel..." Kate said, taking his arm.
       Chip stood arm and presented his arm to Gadget. "Well, when in Rome..." Gadget took the corner of her dress. "We’re not in Rome, Chip. And I’ve never danced the tango," Gadget said. Chip smiled and shrugged. "It’s not stopping me!" Soon the room was alive with couples dancing the tango.
       Monty only had eyes for Agnes. "Some time, that orchestra’s got to learn a new song..." Agnes tilted her head towards the other couples. "Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we’re starting a trend." For two full plays of the record the happy couples danced along. Monty and Agnes kissed again at the end of the dance. "Agnes, I’ve dreamed of this day for so long. I still can’t believe it’s real," Monty said. Agnes took his arm as they left the main chapel. "Oh it’s real, mon petit chou. Don’t you know that good things come to those who wait?"
       "Well, for how long we had to wait, we both must be really, really good!" Monty said.

       The reception was already warming up when the group walked in. The twenty-piece orchestra that Jeff had hired played a welcoming tune, and photographers snapped what were really too many pictures. Agnes and Monty kissed each time a photographer asked.
       "I’d kiss ‘er even if there weren’t film in the blinkin’ cameras!" Monty joked. Agnes laughed and blushed a little. "Oh, Monzy! You are without shame!"
       "I know it, luv. But it’s too late--we’re married now," he said, winking.
       "Very true. We have over fifteen years of kisses to make up for," Agnes said, pulling him to her.

       The kids had taken their places at the reception long ago, enjoying the freedom of walking around. They’d just taken seats at the big dining table when Monty and Agnes arrived. It had the expected effect on them.
       "Lookit! They’re kissing, gross!" Alex said. Barbara was fascinated with the whole spectacle. She repeatedly asked people the pointless questions that four-year-olds inevitably ask. Then she spotted Monty and Agnes
       "Maybe they got married so they could kiss like that. Maybe I should marry Daddy...I like kissing him!" Barbara said. Alex rolled his eyes. "You would like kissing, you’re such a girl."
       Mercy couldn’t take her eyes from the newlyweds. "It’s all so purty! I wish I could get married now." Alex took on the air of authority—after all, he was a full seven months older than the others. "You have to wait till you’re really old before they let you do that."
       Barbara was caught up in the marriage idea now. "It’s silly ta wait! I wanna get married now too. I could marry you, Alex..." She reached for him, and Alex’s eyes grew wide with horror. He leaped off his seat and ran for his life. "MOMMY!!!!!!!!!" The onlookers laughed at the cute scene as Barbara began chasing Alex until he finally reached safety.

       Flashbulbs captured the scene from every angle. Queenie had attended the ceremony, and now Zipper had left the others to dance with her. Jeff introduced Monty and Agnes to some of his guests and soon everyone found a seat at the large dining table. Monty poked Agnes slightly and winked as Jeff sat down next to Donna Chesnutt. The squirrel had on a sparkling green dress and had her hair done up elegantly.
       "Oh uh, hello there. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Jeff--Jeff Turner," the editor said. Donna was intrigued by his face. "Uh...hello. I’m Donna Chesnutt. It’s a pleasure to meet you."
       Jeff looked at her and smiled a bit, wondering if this might be a set-up. Then again, the lady was pretty and had a green dress on... "That’s a fine dress you have on. It brings out the color of your eyes so well." Donna became very flustered. It had been years since anyone had complimented her about her appearance. "Why thank you, Jeff. You look very...handsome in that suit."
       "Oh, this old thing? I wore it last year to the Ace Awards. We editors don’t get much. What do you do for a living?" Jeff asked. Donna looked down sheepishly. "I’m a homemaker. Nothing exciting."
       Jeff chuckled. "Nothing exciting? I bet you spend your days heading off 100 different disasters just like I do! I deal with children all day too--just children who expect to get a bonus for a big story. Tell me about your kids."
       Donna was amazed that he was even interested in her. "Well, there’s Tammy, she’s the oldest. She recently started working for the Rescue Rangers as the nanny for their children and then my younger daughter is Binky. She’s a handful, but they are both wonderful girls."
       "I bet they’re a couple of spitfires--girl squirrels always are. I’ve got a sister, Louise, and she was a terror growing up! She was always after a boyfriend!"
       Donna tried not to blush. "Well, Tammy used to be a little...attracted to Chip. He didn’t encourage it, but she just had a very large crush on him. It took quite a while for her to get over it. Bink’s still too young for that sort of thing."
       Jeff looked over at Chip. "I bet he had a time handling her! Louise did all right for herself, though--got married to the British consul for the R.A.S. So do you have interests of your own, Donna, or have you been too busy to indulge like me?"
       Donna was silent for a few moments as she reflected on her life. Married as soon as she was able, took care of home, had kids, took care of husband and kids, widowed, raised kids alone. That was her life in a nutshell. She never had time for interests or hobbies. Her life was taking care of others. "No, Jeff. I’ve been too busy raising my family and looking after my home."
       "That’s refreshing," Jeff said. "So many people are trying to make careers for themselves these days. I’m only forty-three, but I’m already ‘out-to-pasture’ material in the journalism game. I expect that in the next few years I’ll retire and let the next young marvel take over. Say, does your area have good news coverage?"
       Donna hadn’t expected that question. "News coverage? Gossip is the only way information gets around in our area. Thanks to Gadget we’ve had phone service for a couple of years at the park so that makes it a little easier getting information around."
       Jeff’s mental wheels began clicking. "Y’know, what you need is a newspaper--not a daily perhaps, but a weekly would be good. I remember running one with my dad near Lake Bewoegone in the early days. It was a great little operation." Donna was intrigued by the idea. "Well, Central Park is a wonderful place. Especially since the Rangers moved in, it’s the safest it’s ever been. Good people, and if I don’t say so myself, good food. Not this city stuff. Good old fashioned home cooking."
       Jeff beamed a bit at that. It had been years since he’d heard the words "home cooking" in a sentence. "Well, I tell you what. I’d like a sampling of that cooking, and I bet it’s the best around. In exchange, I’ll take you out to Sorvino’s next weekend and we can discuss the idea of a newspaper. What do you think?" Donna dropped her fork in surprise. Sorvino’s was the best restaurant in town! "I, uh...sure! That would be wonderful."
       "I hope I’m not imposing--it’s only that, well, I don’t have many friends and most of them don’t look or speak half as nice as you. A copy editor is a lone wolf and gains the rep of being tough, and it’s earned. I’m rough around the edges, I admit it. But even we need friends that know what decency is. I’ll pick you up next Saturday and after Sorvino’s we can catch the new play opening at the Grand," Jeff said.
       Donna’s heart was racing. She hadn’t been on a date since before she was married and had Tammy. She was terrified at the thought of going on a date, but just enough of the Ranger’s sense of adventure had rubbed off on her to make her take the chance. "That sounds great, Jeff. I’d really like that."
       She hoped the Rangers wouldn’t mind babysitting Bink that night. They had said that Bink and Tammy gave them no trouble whatsoever when they had watched them that first time, so it probably wouldn’t be much of an imposition. Jeff smiled again, and took her hand as he stood. "Come on. I’d like you to meet a few friends." In the next few minutes, Donna was introduced to every high roller in New York. Her natural charm worked wonders on them and Jeff noticed that several of his business partners gave him far less trouble when she was around.

       **Maybe this is the start of something,** Jeff thought. Then he led Donna over to Agnes and Monty. He whispered a couple of words to Donna as they approached.
       "Ace, this was all your doing, wasn’t it?" Jeff asked. Agnes put her hand to her face in mock surprise. "Jeff, how could you say such a thing? It was Monty’s idea."
       "Aggie, you know you had as much to do with it as I did!" Monty said. Jeff patted Donna’s hand. "Well, I want to say thanks. It’s been one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. Donna’s a great person."
       "Okay, it was our idea," Agnes said. "You’re both our friends and as much as you love the work you’ve both dedicated your lives to, you have been alone long enough. We wanted you to meet and hopefully, you would have some things in common."
       Donna blushed and nodded in understanding. Jeff took on a bit of his practiced gruffness. "Well, you know this old bushytail really well, don’t you? As I told Donna, I’m a copy editor most of the day. But I wouldn’t mind having a lovely friend to spend some time with. Speaking of time, how long is your honeymoon going to be? You know work starts on the new issue of I-M-G next month!" Donna was too stunned by Jeff’s compliments to say anything. She’d forgotten what it felt like to complimented
       Agnes was glad things had gone so well with their little idea. "Well, we’ll see about the next issue. I see that perhaps a novel looms in my future." She turned to Monty and nudged him. "And maybe a few other little things may be in our future."
       A flash of concern came over Jeff’s face. "You’re leaving us? Forever, Ace?" Agnes shook her head. "Never forever, Jeffrey. But a break. This lone wolf has finally found a home. Perhaps I’ll start doing more work stateside or at the office even," Agnes said.
       Jeff breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, you’ve certainly earned a break. And a novel? You mean you’ve finally going to take my advice after all these years and put your experiences together?" Agnes gave a coy look to her new husband. "Yes, I’ve waited till now because the story finally has a happy ending."
       Jeff could see that everything had turned out well. "And you deserve it too, Ace. Oh, that reminds me. I have something for you." Jeff escorted Donna back to the table and Monty and Agnes followed him. Jeff opened an attaché case and pulled out a magazine-sized package in a brown wrapper.

       The proud editor handed it to Agnes. "Open it, Ace. I wanted you to be the first to have a copy of the initial run." Agnes took the bound copy and opened it. The bright colors of the International Mouse-O-Graphic shone with the brand new cover. In the foreground was the full-color picture of her, Monty and Percy with a background showing the R.A.S.C.A.L.S.’ insignia. Across the top of the picture, a banner-sized title read "The Rodents That Saved the World"
       "Oh, Jeff! You’ve outdone yourself!" Agnes said. Jeff enjoyed the compliment. "Hey! Look at the material we had to work with."
       Agnes flipped through the pages as the others looked on with her. There were many period photos from the organization’s operations in the eighties and a picture of the warehouse where Agnes and Monty had spent those glorious, dangerous days. There were also bio pieces on the three heroes, all in-depth including interviews of Agnes’ and Monty’s family members. Monty remembered how eager Cheddarhead was to give Jeff a few quotes (and more than one embarrassing story) about Monty. The Oakmonts and Maplewoods had also volunteered for interviews concerning Agnes--as had many contacts she’d had around the globe. One in particular caused her to laugh.
       "I can’t believe you got an interview with that Prince Ratkin in Siberia! Listen to this—’If only I had been so lucky as to have kept her in my presence. She would be a queen today in my icy empire’. That big-headed egotist!" Agnes laughed.
       Monty looked through the pages with satisfaction. "Well, that issue is a keeper. Of course I’m gonna have a word with me folks for tellin’ that particular story about me to the press." Jeff pulled another copy for Monty. "We wanted the stories to be as complete as possible. Now check out the last story," Jeff said.
       It was the tale of how Ramrod had kidnapped Agnes and of how Monty and the Rangers had tracked him down. A full bio of Ramrod was included as well. They’d learned that Ramrod’s real name was Georg Lietschien Udet. He had infiltrated British operations using the name Justin Parnival and was accepted just like any other recruit into the R.A.S.C.A.L.S.. He had constantly fed information to enemy intelligence and gave bad or outdated information to his supposed comrades. His defeat at the hands of Monty in Brie was the end of one of the most notorious spy careers of the cold war era.
       Monty was flabbergasted. "Crikey! If he hadn’t been crazy for ya Agnes, we might have had animals and humans dropping off everywhere!" Agnes nodded, reading the bio. "Lucky for both of us, you mean. I did not realize that Ramrod was so high in their spy network," Agnes said.
       Monty stared at that face that had given him so much trouble. "It’s amazin’ how one little thing can change the course of history." Agnes looked up and took on a tone of mild annoyance. "I do not consider it little! It changed both our lives and kept us apart fifteen years. But maybe it was all worth that price for a free world," Agnes said.
       "True, we fought for others first," Monty said with a level of satisfaction. Agnes hugged his neck. "That makes it all the more satisfying now. And special." Monty returned the hug and kissed her. "We saved the world and we still got each other. I call that a fair deal."
       "As do I, mon petit chou," she whispered. She kissed him again.

       The kids had reconciled after Barbara’s humorous chase and now they were getting their turn at seeing the story about Monty and Agnes. "Look at the picture of that place with the roses! It’s purty!" Barbara said.
       Mercy was reading everything her level of education would allow. "I’d like to be a writer and have my picture in a magazine too."
       "Me first! Me first!" Barbara said.
       Alex was still cross from being the victim of the chase. "You could be on ‘stupid girl’ magazine." Mercy couldn’t resist a chance to poke fun at her brother. "An’ Alex could be on there with her when they get married!" Barbara and Mercy started to giggle, and Alex just sat back and pouted at his sister’s stinging retort.
       Gadget had seen this last exchange and took Alex and Mercy off to one side. "Mercy, you shouldn’t tease your brother like that. He’s very sensitive. And Alex, you shouldn’t egg them on. Now apologize to each other."
       Alex didn’t feel like apologizing. "I’m sorry you’re a girl..." Gadget’s voice took on a forceful tone. "Alexander Sean Maplewood...."Alex sighed—he knew his mom meant business. "I’m sorry I was mean, Mercy."
       "So am I, Alex. Sorry," Mercy said.

       Percy, who had been notably absent during all this, approached the main table with Zipper at his side. He raised a glass and tapped it with a teaspoon to gain everyone’s attention. "Excuse me? Excuse me everyone, but in cooperation with Zipper here I would like to read a few words that he has asked me to read in honor of Monterey and Agnes’ wedding."
       Percy adjusted his glasses. "I would like to say a few words in honor of my friend and constant companion, Monterey Colby Jack Erskine. We met what seemed to be such a short time ago. He befriended me at once and made me feel wanted. We made our way through every port and cheese factory on all seven continents. I enjoyed every moment, just seeing all the different sides of the world, and also how many helpings of cheese Monty could handle at once."
       After the appreciative laughter, Percival continued. "I must admit that I was not prepared for what would happen next. We found new friends in the Rescue Rangers. They took us in and made us a family--well, practically that is until just recently my good friend Dale officially made me a part of his family and thus a part of Monty’s as well. That was the best day I’d ever had, so I also have a debt of gratitude to pay to Agnes Oakmont for coming back into Monty’s life. Now I am part of both their families and richer for the day I met them both. May they continue to be as happy as they are right now and, whatever the future holds, I will be honored to remain a true and loyal comrade as I have ever been to him and now to them."
       Monty hugged his friend gently. "Zip, I’m touched. You’ve always been the best friend to me."
       "Zipper, that was wonderful," Agnes said. Zipper hugged them both in return. "I too wish to thank you, Zipper," Agnes added. "You have been such a good friend to Monzy and I want you to know that I always want you to be with us. You are a special little fly, mon ami."

       Monty looked at his gathered friends and family. He couldn’t believe he’d ended up this happy or content. Monty picked up his glass in salute. "To all of us, each and everyone here. Yer all the best friends and family a guy could ever have."
       As one, the group found glasses and returned the salute. Then Agnes tugged on Monty’s shoulder. She looked over at the musicians. "Perhaps this orchestra would know something besides the tango, eh Monzy?"
       "Yeah, maybe the chicken dance," Monty said. Monty took her arm and the proceeded to the center of the dance floor. Monty directed a look to the orchestra, the conductor nodded and the music began.
       "Ah, a waltz! How refreshing," Agnes said. The mystic strains of "Roses From the South" filled the room. Monty took Agnes in his arms and soon Strauss led them and the others into the dreamland of music.

       Two weeks later, Monty and Agnes were dancing again. They had decided to spend their honeymoon in France and had returned to the site of the old cheese warehouse. The building was no longer there, but the roses were. Still, they didn’t mind--the old victrola they’d brought along played merrily as they danced among the roses. The orchestra of their minds played the perfect tango as they looked lovingly into each other’s eyes. The rose and the brie were together again, and no dream could have compared to the reality they now shared as one.

Agnes Oakmont is a creation of Chris Silva and Indy. The Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.

Go to:
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight

Fan Fiction
Sound Stage


Chip, Gadget and Dale, Monterey Jack, Zipper, Tammy, Foxglove, Fat Cat, and Nimnul are copyright Disney. All photos are used without permission. Dale appears courtesy of Aaron's Disney Clipart Collection. The Ranger audio is what the site designer (Indy) has recorded off of television. The Ranger audio is copyright Disney and used without permission.