Announcement to the World



        Ralph Oxner Still Missing.  FBI Takes Over Hunt.  That was the big, bold headline on the New York Times' front page a full three months following the sympathetic fugitive's hell-raising antics which resulted in a dead genius, a hospitalized cop, and a traumatized queen.  The feds were focusing on Ralph's older brother, Harold Oxner, as a person of interest.  They'd already begun conducting surveilance on him.  They were monitoring his every move and recording his telephone conversations.  Obtaining his fingerprints from a doorknob was on their short-term agenda.  Since he had no criminal record, they had to get his prints from somewhere.  Of specific curiosity to the FBI agents investigating the case was his affiliation with an obscure, esoteric religious organization called the White Light Liberators, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


       Frances Queen Prescott had just returned from the library.  After closing the front door behind her, she placed the four books she'd checked-out on the end table beside the couch.  They all pertained to the subject of Gypsies and Gypsy lore.  The previous day's incredible experience ignited in her a burning interest in the peculiar race.  She could hardly wait to begin learning about them.  So, she sat down, flicked on the overhead lamp, and opened the book she chose to read first: Strange Tales of Gypsy Customs and Practices by Rafael Laraedo.

        "... ... ... and are consummate wanderers.  If the Gypsies are anything, they are a furtive and clandestine people!  None of them conform to society's standards.  They don't own homes, neither do they enroll their children in public schools, nor pay income taxes, though many tribes have obtained fortunes via unknown means.  They often drive big, black Cadillacs.  Their personalities are primarily said to be very aloof, although some are reported to be at the opposite extreme -- overly friendly." [Gayle definitely fits into THIS category, thought Frances.]  "A number of very bizarre legends about them abound!  They supposedly possess magical powers and have a penchant for crystal balls.  Even more shocking is the claim that they are in league with supernatural beings.  Throughout recorded history, they've been rumored to act on the commands of these unearthly entities in carrying out their wishes, whatever those wishes may be at the expressed time.  The Gypsies believe this to be their role as the 'chosen race of the Gods,' say inside sources.



        It is a commonly accepted fact amongst scholars who've thoroughly researched the Gypsies that 'high magic' is a major component in their religious experience.  There are two forms of magical ritual: black (antagonistic) and white (benevolent).  The black magicians conjure up demons, whilst their white counterparts summon angels.  Investigators believe that the Gypsies themselves are split amongst tribal factions in this key area.  Some tribes indulge in the black arts.  Others are on the side of the 'white light.'  The black magicians desire to keep the soul of man enslaved, while the 'white lighters' strive to liberate it from bondage.

        The late Elian Hobgood was nearly killed by a Gypsy Chief, whose tribe he attempted to infiltrate.  Mr. Hobgood was utterly fascinated with the Gypsies.  He spent a lifetime studying them and probing into their secret world.  It was undoubtedly a worthwhile endeavor, for he accumulated a vast amount of information about the people.  He was considered to be the foremost authority on Gypsy life and culture in his day.  The following is what he wrote in a 1954 magazine article: During specific times of astrological significance, including, but not limited to, Halloween, Gypsies meet on hilltops at night, mainly in the Balkan countries of Eastern Europe.  There, they purportedly conjure up, and converse with, disembodied spirits who assume a physical form solely for the designated ritualistic occasion.  Supposedly, these strange beings are invited into this world from another dimension.  Their mysterious habitation has often been characterized as the 'astral plane.'  The astral plane, as well as the life forms on it, is not of the same material substance which exists here on Earth.  Things there are of another essence, the atoms of which vibrate at a different frequency.  Thus, they are invisible to the human eye.  Yet, that doesn't make them any less real!  Therefore, the purpose of 'materializations' would be to bridge the perceptual gap between the two worlds."

        Suddenly, a deep drowsiness came upon the pretty reader.  So, she closed the book and laid it on the end table.  Then, she got up off the couch, shuffled into her bedroom, changed into her pink pajamas, and flopped down on her queen sized bed.  Before long, she was on a grassy hilltop amidst a forest of pine trees during the dark grey hours of dusk.  There she sat, 'Indian style,' linked in a hand-holding circular chain comprised of thirty-two beautiful Gypsy maidens.  The one directly across from her looked a bit more Native American than Gypsy, and somewhat familiar.  They all had long raven hair, big brown eyes, smooth olive skin, and prominent cheekbones.  Anglo Frances was the anomaly.  But one thing she did share in common with them was her 'birthday suit.'  Although she was normally socially conservative, and somewhat prudish, being buck naked, and seeing the other ladies the same, felt completely comfortable to her in this dream.

        "Come to us!"; "Come to us!"; "Come to us!"; "Come to us!"; "Come to us!"; "Come to us!" they sang in shrieky, high pitched chants -- the likes of which would've spooked a ghost!  But Frances wasn't in the least bit fearful!  Her inborn sense of excitement and adventure was stimulated as she joined in the witchy chant.  Furthermore, despite her racial distinction, she felt a close sisterly bond with the tribe.  She squeezed each hand as her adrenalin surged!

        Immediately following the thirteen ritualistic group chant of "Come to us," a flaming fire suddenly sprang up.  The flames shot up ten feet high.  However, it was actually contained within the center of the 'human circle.'  Then, making a grand appearance in the blaze was a being so freakish and horrific that it'd have to be seen firsthand in order to be believed!  He (or was it a "she"???) stepped forth out of the inferno, entirely intact.  Not one burn could be seen on its entire body!



Long horns extended from the sides of its goat-shaped head.  Its eyes were gleaming red and ferocious.  A long, scraggly, white goatee hung down from its pointy chin.  The creature's body was half masculine, half feminine: The ample, rounded breasts of a woman protruded from its hairy chest, and a long, thick penis hung down below.  Furthermore, it had hoofs instead of feet.  And if all this wasn't odd enough, a bright, shinning light beamed from the thing's forehead.

        Frances remained unafraid.  Her excitement escalated.  She was fascinated and aroused by the bestial humanoid creature in her midst.  In form, he defied demarcation, and united polarity.  To her, that seemed to qualify him as the 'ultimate rebel.'  He was the sublime epitome of ambiguity: human AND beast; male AND female; hideous AND beautiful; profane AND sacred.

        The thing turned to face Frances.  He stared at her with penetrating intensity in his eyes!  Then, he slowly lifted up his forearm, and pointed his long, bony, clawed index finger at her and wiggled it as if to say, "Come here, you!"  Frances was thrilled that he'd selected her as his 'woman!'  It was better than winning a beauty pageant.  Without hesitation, she let go of her Gypsy sisters' hands and immediately responded to his summoning gesture.  She quickly stood up and advanced on her bare feet toward him with raging emotions of liberation, freedom, and abandonment.  The towering flames continually shot up and ebbed behind him.  Frances walked toward the outrageous creature.  But before she physically came into contact with him, the fantastic dream was intruded upon by her awakening.  Frances remembered it fully, and felt as if the episode had really transpired, even though it was technically "just a dream."  If only it could have continued a little while longer, she thought!


       The next morning, Frances read a small newspaper write-up headlined: Police Release DNA Findings to Public.  It followed a longer article entitled: Reigns Turned Over to FBI in Oxner Case.


Police Release DNA Findings to Public

        In its third month now, the quest for Ralph Oxner drags on.  Evidence has, however, piled up in the process.  After obtaining a search warrant for the abandoned car that Ralph Oxner stole and drove across state lines, Florida detectives took fingerprints, as well as particles of skin and hair follicles (to yield DNA), from the interior.  The DNA swabs reportedly matched three people: Ralph Oxner, the owner of the vehicle, and another, as yet to be identified, individual.  The latter is the authorities' primary interest in this case.  Anyone with information is asked to call Fort Lauderdale police at (954)782-4382 or the National Crime Prevention hotline: 1-800-628-7649.  Tips can be made anonymously.


        Since the article indirectly alluded to her (in stating "the owner of the vehicle") it was of special interest to Frances.  However, what she read wasn't news to her, since she'd already been filled in on the details.

        While Frances was driving to M.U.S.T.H., her radio came on automatically, like the horn did previously, apparently a result of faulty wiring, in both instances.  Ralph Oxner, as usual, was the topic of discussion on the morning talk show.  She enjoyed hearing it, but she was also concerned that the radio now had a "mind of its own."  Frances was thinking that if her recovered car kept malfunctioning, she'd have to take it to the shop for repair.  However, she was mostly thinking about that amazing crystal ball Gayle called 'Siren.'



        At 9:13 a.m. Gayle Rosedale was busy sweeping her store's floor.  She was also waiting for her first customer of the day.  She decided to take a break to read some of the morning paper.  Another Ralph Oxner article, she murmered to herself after chuckling.  She read it, along with some other pieces in the National and Local sections.  But she knew she shouldn't spend too much time on the paper, and she returned to her sweeping chore.  Keeping her pride and joy, MUST HAVE shop maintained seemed to be a constant task.  Although she regularly got tired, she never complained.

        A whole week and one full moon had elapsed since Friday, February 6th, 2009 when her rare carelessness gave a snoopy patron the opportunity of a lifetime.  Regrettably, at least for Gayle, Frances took advantage of it -- being unwittingly transported to the scene of a bygone time.  Naturally, that unworldly adventure was nearly all she thought about each day since it happened.  But, re-experiencing it was not the motivation behind her rapid reappearance inside Magical Universe Supply Thrift Haven.  Though she knew for sure that Gayle would be unyielding in her prohibition of Siren, perhaps, she hoped, the fascinating Gypsy sorceress would allow her access to the old books she'd seen inside the trunk.

        With a jingle of the improvised, door-hanging bell, Frances enthusiastically entered the wonderful thrift store.  Apart from the tangible treasures she'd stumbled upon, MUST HAVE exuded an aura of enchantment in and of itself.  There was something truly magical about the place!  Frances hoped she'd be welcomed back following her mischievousness.  An aroma of burning incense met her nostrils.  She savored the sweet scent of the exotic fragrance, inhaling it deeply.  The little bell's alert caused Gayle to discontinue her sweeping motion in the rear section of the store.  She proceeded to walk along the narrow alleyway to greet her first customer of the day.  Yet to see her, she called out, "I'll be right with you" as she started trekking toward the front of the store.  With the broom handle still gripped in her hand, she spotted the familiar face: It was that pesky patron, Frances Queen Prescott!

        Mrs. Rosedale had mixed emotions about seeing her in the store again.  On the one hand, the girl knew enough Gypsy secrets for the Sovereign Judicial Gypsy Council to authorize her execution.  And, by casting her non-Gypsy eyes upon the sanctified crystal ball, she had prompted her to breach the hallowed 'Gypsy Code of Silence.'  On the other hand, despite the trouble that she had caused, there was a pure and magnetic quality about the perky young lady, which Gayle admired.  Perhaps it was her wholehearted innocence and joyful sparkle.  So, therefore, she alternatively felt like saying, "Glad to see you again," AND "Get out of here!"

        "Well, well, well... if it's not the return of the crystal ball gazing menace," she acknowledged in jest.  Frances turned around, after not spotting her at first, and chuckled. 

        Gayle was still holding onto the broom, which provided Frances the opportunity to submit a teasing joke of her own: "Shouldn't that broom be between your legs instead of in your hand?"

        "Yeah, well, sometimes it is.  The other night there was a full moon and I flew... but not in an airplane."

        "Really???" exclaimed Frances, very excitedly, her eyes suddenly widened.  She was seeking confirmation that it was NOT a joke.  But it really WAS a joke.

        Gayle just smiled and laughed, sadistically denying her the satisfaction of receiving a definite answer.

        "Ever hear of Curious George?  I should call you 'Curious Queen,' you little monkey.  I've got my trunk well hidden and double padlocked, so I guess that means you'll have to find something else to get your nose into today, honey."



        "Actually..." began Frances, timidly, "I've been curious about those books I saw in the trunk.  Would you possibly mind letting me look through them??"

        Gayle didn't offer an immediate reply.  Instead, she took five seconds to ponder the request.  She was a bit taken aback by it.  "What is it you're looking for in the books," she tested.

        "Knowledge," Frances replied without hesitation.

        With that one-worded answer, she passed the test -- inducing a wide smile to break out on the Gypsy's wrinkled face.  And her eyes lit up in approbation.  She was impressed by the answer.  "Aah!  You come in search of more light!  Who would I be to deny it to you?!  I think that thirst for knowledge is a wonderful thing, honey!  So many people in today's society are only concerned with the banal, creature comforts of the world: money, sex, power, and material possessions.  They're temporal.  You can't take any of that with you when you die, but spiritual knowledge can be carried by the soul to the afterlife realms!  Yes!!  I'll allow you to read my books... but under one condition."

        "What's that," inquired Frances.

        "I get to select which books you are to read, as well as when you're spiritually qualified to advance on to the next book!  My plan is to start you off on the basics -- what I would term 'elementary spiritual principles.'  Although to you it would probably seem real deep and mystical.  You'll work your way up to more sophisticated studies based on your level of spiritual progression."

        "Hmm, that's an interesting concept," remarked Frances, after thinking about it for a few seconds.  "This idea you put forth sounds sort of like school -- like passing a test, or like passing one grade and moving on to the next one."

        "Yeah, that's a good analogy," complimented Gayle.

        "Sure, I have absolutely no problem with that deal, teacher," agreed Frances.

        Gayle extended her right hand and they shook on it.  Frances felt her hand being clasped in a rather unorthodox manner, but she didn't think too much of it.  Just a quirky handshake, she assumed.

        "What's my first assigned book going to be," Frances queried with abundant eagerness in her voice and eyes.

        "Well, let me think about that a little while, okay.  Next time you come in, I'll have your curriculum prepared for you.  But for now, how about just finding something to buy, for heaven's sakes!  I mean, that IS how I make my living, ya know.  It sure as heck ain't by educating non-Gypsies!"

        "Sure thing!  That's what I came here for," said Frances, matter of factly.

        "MmmHmm," Gayle murmered skeptically.  She doubted that 'Curious Queen' was really there solely for that purpose.  For the time being, teacher and student parted ways.  They went in different directions as Frances commenced shopping and Gayle resumed sweeping.

        Frances noticed an eye-catching painting hanging on the wall.  An Egyptian Queen was holding a golden-eyed, black cat in front of her bare breasts.  The topless beauty had long, straight, black hair and vivid green eyes.  The queen and the feline seemed to be spiritually yoked in a mysterious way.  Frances greatly admired the exotic painting. 

        Mrs. Rosedale was sweeping twelve feet from where Frances was now standing.  "Excuse me, Gayle.  How much does that painting cost," she inquired, pointing up at it.

        Gayle stopped moving her broom and gazed up at the portrait.  "Oh, that's not for sale, darling.  My son painted that a long time ago," she informed her.

        "Wow!!  He's a great artist!  I'd like to meet him some day," exclaimed Frances.

        "You can't.  Lawrence died in a car crash; killed by a damn drunk driver!"

        "Oh, my Gosh!!!  I'm so sorry to hear that, Gayle!!!" shrieked Frances, her voice exuding sympathy.

        "It's okay, honey.  I know he's in a better place," said Gayle in a quiter voice, looking down.



        Fifteen minutes later, after she was all done shopping, Frances approached the check-out table and rang the bell that was on top of it.  Gayle heard it from the back, and began to advance toward the cash register where Frances stood waiting.  She was pleased to see that the consumer had a push cart full of merchandise, including: stuffed animals (one of which 'just happened' to be a goat), a gargoyle-stylized lamp, an old-fashioned wooden radio, music CD's, and VHS VCR tapes.  Gayle stepped behind the counter and inspected the items as Frances displayed each of them for her to see.  Then she entered the prices into the register and added up the grand total.  "That'll be sixty-two dollars," she formally stated in a business-like tone.

        Frances swiped her credit card through the slot.  Then, Gayle took a second glance at the radio, and remarked in a perplexed tone, "I don't remember bringing that thing into this store."  She then inquired as to where, exactly, Frances found it.

        "It was upstairs on the bottom shelf of a rack that was against a wall by a corner," she precisely answered.

        "Hmm," murmered Gayle, holding and looking at it with a scrunched brow.  "Looks pretty old!  I wonder if this thing even works.  Let's give it a try," she proposed.  Then, she plugged it into the nearest outlet and turned on the rotary power knob.  Halfway expecting it wouldn't function at all, she was pleasantly surprised to hear the audio as clear as a crystal.  Gayle smiled, and so did Frances.

        "Two balls, one strike here in the sixth inning.  Sanderson digs in to the plate.  His last at bat was a ground-out to the second baseman.  Cooper's reading the catcher's signals.  He goes into his windup, delivers the pitch.  Ball three, high and outside."

        "I don't guess you're a baseball fan," Gayle presumed.

        "No, I'm not," Frances confirmed. 

        Right as Gayle was about to switch it off, they heard the following: "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special bulletin."  The two lone women in the thrift store listened intently.  "Ralph Oxner's older brother, Harold Oxner, was apprehended today by federal authorities in connection with his brother's disappearance.  He is charged with 'aiding and abetting a fugitive's unlawful flight from prosecution,' as well as 'obstruction of justice' and he is currently being held in the Broward County penal system on $3,000,000 bail.  Ralph Oxner still remains missing at this time.  Captain Norman Blackman is scheduled to hold a press conference later in the day, which will be broadcast on this station in its entirety.  In international news, twelve Israeli citizens were killed when terrorist bombs exploded in the town of..."  Gayle reached over and turned off the radio.

        "It sounds like they're closing in on Oxner," she speculated.

        "Guess what... I'm connected with the Ralph Oxner drama, Mrs. Rosedale!  He hijacked my car after he beat up the cop and escaped out of the resthome," Frances informed.  Or, so she thought she'd informed! 

        Fully expecting Gayle to react with surprise, SHE turned out to be the one that was surprised when Gayle phlegmatically stated, "I know."

        "What??!!  How did you know???" asked Frances in a state of mystified bewilderment.  "The authorities never released my identity to the media," she explained, simply clueless as to how Gayle already knew.

        "Following your last visit here, Siren showed me a rerun of the episode.  I saw you getting out of your car and having that gun pointed at you right afterwards.  Then, you handed Oxner your keys, and he hopped in your car and sped off.  I'm sorry that happened to you, honey.  I'm just glad you didn't get hurt!"

        "Whoa!!!" exclaimed Frances.  "Do you know what happened to Ralph Oxner," she eagerly inquired.

        "I do," Gayle simply replied, without elaborating.

        "What happened to him???  Where is he now," Frances wholeheartedly beseeched.  She was dying to know!  But Gayle was wisely tight-lipped, much to Frances's frustration.  All she got out of the old woman was silence.

        "Where is he???" she ardently repeated, louder and more desperate sounding, with mounting frustration.

        "That's not for you to know now.  You'll find out exactly what happened to him along with the rest of the world, in due time."



        "Is he alive or dead," Frances pressed.

        "He's one of the two," retorted Gayle with a smirk.

        "Why can't you just tell me," Frances tenaciously whined.

        Gayle had grown tired of Frances's incessant chivvying, and raised her voice: "I CAN tell you!  But I choose not to because if I told you, I'd be making a cheap use of Siren's powers.  And I don't do that!  It would be highly unethical.  The knowledge and revelations she kindly bestows upon me is just between the two of us!  It's none of anyone else's business!  That includes past episodes and future events, as well.  It's all strictly confidential.  That's why I felt so outraged when I spotted you gazing into her sphere!"

        "Oh, I understand," Frances conceded.  "I guess I'll just have to await the outcome along with the public, since I'm definitely not going to hear it from your mouth."  Disappointment mixed with resignation was in her soft voice.

        Gayle smiled and said, "Patience is a virtue."

        "Whatever," Frances slurred in an enervated tone.  She considered the maxim nothing but a useless platitude.  Then she bid her Gypsy friend farewell and departed the store with the four bags of merchandise she'd just purchased.


       On the grounds of the Fort Lauderdale police station swarmed reporters, photographers, and videomen -- just to name a few!  Like an automobile avalanche, media crews had scurried to the scene in vans, jeeps, and SUV's.  A nationally televised press conference focused on addressing the status of America's most wanted fugitive, as well as the recent development concerning his brother, was scheduled to begin in mere minutes.  In response to the widespread intrigue in the Oxner saga, every major network was covering the event live.  It was billed, The Announcement to the World -- and rightly so!

        Standing before video cameras with microphones held up to their moving lips were local and national commentators galore.  They were giving a recap of the events that led up to this day, and explaining what was about to transpire as they awaited Captain Norman Blackman's emergence.  Everyone was anticipating the substance of the imminent disclosure.  It was reminiscent of the typical dialogue preceding an important Presidential address.  However, the atmosphere was much more intense, and the public interest far greater!

        Suddenly, dozens of high-tech cameras began flashing and clicking.  Captain Blackman's uniform-clad image was on everyone's TV screen!  He unhurriedly walked toward the dais.  Looking straight ahead and exhibiting a stiff, upright posture made him appear formal and serious.  His austere bearing unintentionally served to heighten the suspense!  The flashing and clicking continued, but the murmuring insects got silent in unison when he stepped up to his perch atop the podium.  The 'man of the hour' lowered the adjustable microphone that was affixed to the lectern to accomodate his 5'7" stature.  Then, his hardened, pale blue eyes surveyed the myriad of spectators.  They waited for him to speak with bated breath.

        "Hello everybody!  I think I speak for the citizens of Dade and Broward counties when I say that we've been pretty high strung and basically living in fear for quite some time.  I understand that the thought of a lunatic armed with a gun amongst us is quite disturbing, as his psychiatrist eloquently expressed on a popular television show.  However, I have some good news which I hope will calm everyone's nerves: We have reason to believe that Ralph Oxner no longer poses a threat to our citizens!"



        A flurry of unintelligible voices surged, and one belonging to a female, in particular, cried out above them all.  "Is Ralph Oxner dead," she loudly, and assertively, inquired.  Predictably, she was disregarded by Captain Blackman, who was simply waiting for the hubbub to sufficiently ebb, at which point he would resume his pontificated oration.

        Two and a half minutes later, he considered the noise level lowered enough to warrant continuance of his all-important speech to the nation.  "Ralph Oxner's brother, Harold Oxner, was apprehended by federal agents this morning.  He's charged with 'aiding and abetting a fugitive' and additional charges are pending.  It's unnecessary for me, at this juncture, to discuss in detail the circumstances surrounding his arrest.  However, what I can say is that Harold Oxner has been fully cooperative with the FBI during intensive interrogation proceedings.  And if you've ever been interrogated by the FBI, you'd know why!"  The bulk of the crowd laughed at his impromptu joke.  It was designed to lighten the mood and, in that sense, it was effective, albeit distasteful.  Many Americans watching at home considered it flat-out inappropriate for the occasion, on top of his blatantly offensive "lunatic" label earlier.  Captain Blackman was not coming across too well.  Thinking the contrary, he continued.  "The information he has provided thus far is substantial enough for me to officially declare with absolute confidence that no one in Fort Lauderdale, nor the surrounding areas, are in any danger, whatsoever, from the person of Ralph Oxner," he reiterated.

        Captain Blackman dropped his head of white hair and lifted it up again, following a calculated pause.  Then, he continued in a contrived solicitous voice: "A tragic event transpired on November 11, 2008 when one of our own fatally shot a man whom he misidentified as Ralph Oxner.  At this time, as a supplement to the signed letter I sent, I would like to publicly offer my sincere apology to his family for our grievous mistake.  My heart goes out to you, and I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what happened.  This concludes my speech to the nation.  Thank you, and God bless."

        The mob of reporters simultaneously shouted indecipherable questions to Captain Blackman in vain as he descended the platform.  The numerous cameras began clicking and flashing again, this time upon his departure.  For the first time in his fifty-two years of living, he felt like a real V.I.P.  Surrounded by security personnel, he gradually made his way to the police station from whence he came, savoring the limelight every step of the way.