They ran down the hall towards the loft, Andre, Shakespeare, and Diego, who was dialing her phone.
"Henry, can you hear me?" Diego said, holding the device against the right side of her head, the side with the ear. "Henry, we heard a large thud in the loft. We're on our way over there now, me, Andre and the Little One."
"Okay, but you know my thing about blood, Diego. If there's any blood, I'm leaving."
"What do you mean, Henry? I am trying to comfort you."
She returned the phone to her pocket, removing a package of chewing gum as she pushed the device in.
Andre panted out, "Diego, you do a lot of stuff while you run."
"What can I say, I am a mutli-tasker."
"Multitask this," Shakespeare snapped, "if she's dead so are we."
Andre cried, "SHAKESPEARE, will you, please, we didn't even get to the door yet."
"This is a freaking long hallway," Diego breathed.
Photos of Clarissa in various stages of growth on the walls flew by as they passed.
"The hallway could use a paint job," Diego said and sighed, "would be nice in forest green."
"Like I said, we're gonna be in Forrest Lawn if that crazy giant bug is dead."
Andre's eyes arched. "ENOUGH, Shakespeare we are almost at the door."
Out of breath, they stood in front of the door. Andre began to shake, while Diego rummaged through her pockets for another stick of gum.
Shakespeare stood directly beneath Andre and Diego, facing the door. "So are we ready to go in?"
"Wait, wait just a second, "Andre said. His hands trembled as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
Diego turned to Andre and said, "You sure are a nervous nellie."
"I am so sorry. I get worked up. It is part of my nature. It is what makes me me."
"It is what makes us cringe," Shakespeare snapped.
"Okay, Okay," Andre said, trying to steady his hand, reaching for the door knob. "I am ready to open it."
Diego knocked Andre's hand out of the way and pulled the door open.
And they saw it: Clarissa hunched across the floor, the tail of a beagle sticking out of her mouth.
"Oh my God," Diego said, "She ate Maria's dog!"
Abruptly, Henry charged through the doorway crying, "Is she all right?"
Diego turned toward him and said, "She's fine, but Maria's beagle isn't doing too well."
It was then that Andre fainted.
"Neither is Andre," Shakespeare snapped.
Henry grabbed Diego's hand and said, "I didn't even know Maria had a dog."
"It was a secret," Diego said, and then she rolled her eyes, "until now."
Suddenly, they saw Clarissa's thin tongue roll out and slide under the beagle's tail, and then it slipped into her mouth.
"It's a good thing Andre didn't see that," Diego said, glancing down at Andre, watching his nose, ears and eyes twitch.
At once they heard her buzz, "Aren't any of you people going to give me a hand? I just need a little push, please."
Henry cried, "Mother, why did you eat Maria's dog?"
Her black eyes darted. "I didn't even know Maria had a dog."
"It was a secret," Diego repeated.
Clarissa's black eyes rolled, and then she buzzed while her tentacles began to slither across the floor. "Anyway, the dog somehow got in here and started barking at me like a lunatic, so I ate him. He was tasty, too."
That's when Andre began to stir. His eyes fluttered and he said, "But he couldn't be as tasty as my cooking, now can he, Clarissa?"
Shakespeare suddenly stammered, "You are all sick. We are talking about a cute little beagle here. That crazy bitch ate a puppy!"
Henry scowled at Shakespeare and cried, "It's not like she's a human, and that dog was harassing her!"
Diego breathed, staring at Henry, "You need to calm down, honey."
"WHATEVER," Clarissa buzzed, stretching her body across the floor. "Will you people PLEASE help me up?"
Andre stood and began to walk over toward Clarissa's back. "C'mon people, let's help her up."
Henry and Diego scurried over to Clarissa, too, and the three began to push.
"She is so big. I never realized how big she was before," Diego said, straining and pushing hard against Clarissa's spine.
Clarissa's black eyes rolled again, and then, like a shot, she rose from the parquet and stood tall again in the center of the main room of the loft, her head nearly touching the skylight.
Right then, Maria came running into the loft. Looking down at the floor she scurried across the room, searching as if she had misplaced her glasses.
Clarissa's head arched and she buzzed, "Lose something, Maria?"