The Other McCawber Girl

by Amanda Rohrssen

Chapter Five

When I walk, stay behind
Don't get close to me
'Cause it's sure to end in tears,
So just let me be

Some will say that I'm no good
Maybe I agree,
Take a look then walk away
That's all right with me

'Cause I'm a lonely stranger here
Well beyond my day,
And I don't know what's goin' on,
So I'll be on my way
~Eric Clapton, "Lonely Stranger"

The pavement felt cold and gritty underneath her webbed feet as Ariana neared the outskirts of the city. As dusk settled, the heavens were painted in gray and pink streaks that trailed after the fading sun like kite tails. Off in the distance the silhouette of the McDuck money bin towered over the skyscrapers, and a flicker of hope smoldered inside of her as she caught sight of a stately mansion on the block up ahead. Thick iron gates surrounded it in an unwelcoming manner, yet Ariana continued to draw nearer when she recognized the McDuck emblem on the overhang. Glancing up, she noticed two surveillance cameras positioned on either corner of the gate entrance, but neither of them moved at her approach. Thinking nothing of it, Ariana turned her attention to the intercom snugly installed into one of the brick columns and pressed the small white button. Loud static hissed and crackled for a few moments, followed by silence.

Maybe it’s broken, she thought to herself, stepping up to the gate and putting a hand around one of the bars. As she looked through the iron fence at the McDuck mansion she heaved a small sigh. It was a stupid idea to come here…he’s already done so much for me.

Then, to her surprise, the gate door she’d touched swung open easily with a soft creak. A bad feeling rose in the pit of her stomach, but she chose to ignore it. Gently she put the box of belongings from her office down just inside of the gate, hiding it behind the trunk of a tall dark green tree, and made her way up the ridiculously long driveway toward the front door of the mansion.

Just as she was about to ring the doorbell, the door swung open and a short, stocky figure plowed right into her. A sharp cry flew out of her throat as she and the person tumbled to the ground.

“Hey, watch it!” a nasally voice snapped. Then the figure looked down at his hands before frantically patting himself all over. “Where is it?” he muttered, crawling along the ground searching for something.

He was small, though not so small compared to Ariana, and wore a red shirt, green hat, and blue pants.

“Come on, Bigtime, we gotta get outta here!” cried another canine as he charged through the open doorway with a large sack slung over his back.

Ariana watched the second man disappear out of the gate until something caught her eye in the growing moonlight. It was a small silver coin.

“Is this what you’re looking for?” she asked timidly, picking it up and holding it out toward the canine.

“Gimme dat!” he snapped, snatching it from her just as a third person emerged hastily from the McDuck mansion followed by an enraged Scrooge.

“Come on, Bigtime!” the third yelled over his shoulder to the first, his arms full of food.

Bigtime tipped his hat to Ariana quickly with the flash of a sinister grin before zipping after his comrade.

“Come back here you mangy miscreants!” Mr. McDuck shouted after them, shaking a fist. The trio, however, was already gone.

Yet another figure appeared behind Scrooge. He had been tied from head to toe and a gag was shoved in his bill. He tried to say something, but Scrooge ignored his muffled grunts and instead began to shout at him.

“I leave you to go check my figures at the bin for five minutes and-!”

The bound duck shrank back slightly, looking sheepish behind the gag. Mr. McDuck scowled and yanked the gag out of his beak.

“It wasn’t my fault, Mr. McDuck, they jumped me from behind!”

“It’s never your fault, Fenton,” Scrooge retorted agitatedly. “You were supposed to be keeping an eye out!” Then he suddenly seemed to remember Ariana’s presence. “And what are you doing helping thieves like them!? If it wasn’t for you, I could have my Number One Dime back right now! Is this how you show gratitude for the job I gave you? Well, lassie, my generosity ends here! You’ll work for no company of mine! You’re blacklisted from here on out. Now get off my property! I’ve got to catch up with The Beagle Boys!”

Before Ariana could even form any kind of response to his accusations, he’d disappeared into the mansion, yelling for his butler, Duckworth.

“…I didn’t know…” she finally managed, her voice small and meek.

Fenton looked at her sympathetically, having been the victim of Mr. McDuck’s temper numerous times himself. She turned and slowly made her way to the front gate - pausing to look back and flutter her fingers at Fenton - gathered up her box of things, and walked away. Fenton blinked, noticing the ropes were suddenly loose, and shrugged them off, his eyes following Ariana curiously until she was out of sight.

She stood in front of the “welcome” billboard for a few long minutes, thinking through the day’s events and wondering what she could do now.

If only he’d come out sooner, she thought wistfully, he would know I didn’t realize…If he’d only come out sooner, he wouldn’t hate me.

Losing her job and Krysten in the same day had been a harsh blow, but having Mr. McDuck – the man who had put faith in her when no one else would – angry at her…it was nearly unbearable. She felt so guilty her heart ached with each breath she took. Had she known they were stealing from Mr. McDuck she most certainly wouldn’t have helped the crook find the coin he’d been searching for. She wondered what was so special about such a small piece of money. It had looked like any ordinary dime to her, but Mr. McDuck had referred to it as his “Number One Dime”. What significance did it have? It was obviously very important to him, as he didn’t seem too upset about anything else The Beagle Boys had taken. The thought of seeing Mr. McDuck again, though, terrified her because of what might happen and what he might say to her. Even if he truly hated her for the mistake she’d made, she knew she couldn’t leave town without trying to reconcile somehow. A moment’s indecision was all it took. She knew how she was going to do it. Setting her belongings near the billboard behind some brush, she squared her shoulders. She would go after The Beagle Boys herself.

Closing her eyes and putting her fingers to her temples, she whispered the words to a location spell she’d learned at the academy. If she thought of a person hard enough while repeating the spell, it would lead her to where the person was at that moment. Slowly her feet began to rise off of the pavement a few inches as she chanted, and the magic pulled her toward town.

It wasn’t until she got to the other side of Duckburg that the magic suddenly vanished, and Ariana fell heavily to the pavement. But the spell hadn’t ended because she’d reached her destination. Something had distorted it. Ariana now felt a very powerful presence directly across the street, so powerful that it made her breath catch in her throat. Thoughts of Scrooge’s Number One Dime fell second to the sudden, intense desire to find out what it was she was sensing. She turned in the direction the feeling was strongest and found herself facing a winding hill that sloped backward, and on top of that hill sat a rickety, aged house, its wooden siding gray and weatherworn. The high gothic roof was sharp and angular, slicing into the dark blue sky like the jaws of a viper. She tried to swallow, but all of the moisture seemed to have evaporated from her throat and mouth. While the house itself was nothing new to her – architecture like that was quite common among her relatives – the aura she was sensing gave her an overwhelming feeling of fear. Her mind was reeling with orders to flee, but even though she felt threatened by the presence, she was also captivated by it. She’d never felt anything like it before.

Almost as if of their own accord, Ariana’s feet moved slowly up the base of the hill, her eyes never leaving the house even to blink. The slamming of a heavy door broke the silence that had surrounded the house, and Ariana stopped dead in her tracks upon recognizing the three silhouettes now making their way down the drive toward her. Quickly she ducked behind an enormous, dead oak tree and pressed her back against it, the bark digging into her shoulder blades. As they passed she could clearly see the white numbered plates attached to the collars of their shirts.

“Boy, she sure was happy ta get that dime. Whaddaya t’ink she’ll do wid it, Bigtime?”

“Who cares? We got our money – now we can rip off da bin. Come on, we gotta bust Ma outta the slammer. She’ll wanna see the look on ol’ Scroogie’s face!”

With that, The Beagle Boys scurried out of sight. Ariana exhaled loudly. She hadn’t even realized she’d been holding her breath. Apparently the spell had both worked and been interrupted. Tentatively she peered back around the tree at the house. Whoever it was in there now had Scrooge’s Number One Dime, and she knew she had to at least try to get it back no matter how much dread the mere sight of the manor gave her. The presence was much, much stronger here, and the feeling of fear returned with equal intensity, yet she forced herself to keep walking toward the house until she’d reached the front door. Just as she was about to put her hand on the knob, it turned and the door swung open wide of its own accord.

“Come in, dahlink,” a slithery Hungarian voice beckoned. “I have been vaiting for you.”

A dense cold washed over Ariana, and her throat suddenly went dry. Against her better judgment she stepped inside, and as soon as she did the door slammed shut behind her. Ariana let out a gasp of surprise and jumped away from the door, looking around herself warily. Whomever the voice belonged to was the one she had sensed as having great and evil magical powers; she just knew it. And she was terrified.

Suddenly, in a puff of green smoke, a short, black-haired duck wearing a black dress appeared in front of her.

“I am Magica DeSpell! Greatest vitch dis side of de vorld! Who are you?”

It was difficult for Ariana to find her voice, but eventually she succeeded.

“A-Ariana…McCawber,” she said.

“McCawber…?” Magica’s eyes grew considerably wider, then recognition filled her face. “Ah! I can see it now. You are daughter of Moloculo, yes?”

She nodded and swallowed. Did everybody know her father?

“He show me photograph of you, but it has been years since I last talked vith him. He spoke very highly of your abilities. Ah! But vhere are my manners? Come in! Sit down!” Magica beckoned her into a small lounge where a modest-sized cauldron was bubbling in the fireplace. Noticing Ariana’s gaze had drifted that way, she explained, “Is only my laundry.”

They sat opposite each other at a small round table in the middle of which sat a crystal ball.

“You said you were waiting for me?” Ariana ventured, not fully understanding.

“Vhat, you tink dis is just for show?” the witch retorted, motioning to the crystal ball. “I knew somebody vould come, but I vas not sure who. And now you are here. Moloculo has sent you for apprenticeship, yes?”

Ariana blinked, pondering Magica’s assumption quietly. What apprenticeship? If she said “no,” there was no way of telling how Magica would react and what Ariana’s chances would be of finding and retrieving Scrooge’s dime. If she said “yes,” however, Magica might begin to trust her. She just hoped Magica wouldn’t ask any more questions after that. Ariana was a terrible liar.

She nodded finally.

“Vonderful! Is perfect timink. I have just received final ingredient to perform spell maykink me kveen of Duckburg! All normals vill bow to my vill! Especially Scrooge McDuck, for I have his Number Von Dime!” Magica laughed maniacally, pulling a small silver coin from her pocket and holding it aloft triumphantly.

Immediately, Ariana’s eyes locked onto it. But how to get it away from Magica…

“May I see it?” she asked the witch, indicating the dime.

Instantly Magica had it clutched tightly in her palm like a precious jewel. “Sorry, but dis baby is stayink vith me! No von touches it, not even another vitch!”

Ariana had to struggle not to retort that she was no witch. She was a sorceress. They were completely different things.

Instead she simply nodded respectfully.

“First duty as apprentice is to gather up everytink I need for spell. Book is in other room to tell you vhat to get. Ve vill see how vell you mix potions. I vill be in here finishing my laundry.”

There was nothing to be done at the moment, so Ariana did as Magica bade her. Once safely inside the next room, she leaned against the doorway to think. How was she going to get Scrooge’s dime away from that witch?

As her eyes drifted over the open spell book and the many, many containers of potion ingredients, an idea hit her.

“Vell? Is everytink ready?” Magica demanded as she entered the room a while later.

“Yes,” Ariana nodded. “I’ve already mixed everything for you…all that’s left is to add the dime.”

Before Magica even had time to be suspicious, a duck in a robot suit crashed in through a nearby window.

“Ah ha!” said Gizmoduck triumphantly, pointing at the two women across from him. “Caught you red-handed!” He paused, seeming to recognize Ariana. “You…?”

“You’re too late, duck!” Magica shrieked, throwing the dime into the brew. It bubbled and fizzed nastily, before going unnaturally still. Before Gizmoduck had time to stop her, Magica scooped a goblet hastily into the potion and gulped it down. Once finished, a sinister, cunning grin crept across her beak.

But it wasn’t there for long.

Magica raised her arms and started to chant a spell, her fingers glowing green, but she didn’t get more than three words out before her eyes suddenly rolled back into her head and she collapsed to the floor, snoring loudly.

Ariana breathed a sigh of relief. Her plan had worked.

“What happened to her?” Gizmoduck asked curiously, putting a finger to his bill as he looked down at the sleeping witch.

“I made a sleeping potion instead of the one she wanted,” Ariana explained meekly. She tipped over the brew, and as it spilled and thinned out over the floor, she saw something small and silver flicker in the dim light. Scooping it up, she held it out toward the hero. “Here…please tell Mr. McDuck that I’m sorry. I never meant to betray him. I won’t trouble him any longer.”

Gizmoduck took the dime, but stared at Ariana grudgingly. “But shouldn’t you be the one who gives it to him? You did all the work, and I know for a fact that you didn’t mean to help The Beagle Boys.” As he spoke he heaved the unconscious Magica over his shoulder.

Ariana lowered her eyes. Even though she knew she was innocent, she still felt strangely guilty. She shook her head, not even pausing to wonder how he could know all of that.

“I don’t want to face him. I let him down.”

“But I’m sure he’ll get you your job back once –"

“Thank you,” Ariana interrupted softly, “for being kind to me. I’ll be all right. Maybe one day we’ll meet again.” She rested both of her hands on one of his mechanical arms and looked up into his visor. Even though she couldn’t clearly see his eyes beneath the purple eyeshade, he could feel her gaze lock on to his for a few moments before she turned and made her way quietly out of Magica’s house.