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by M. Mitchell Marmel & EOCostello
The Catto Comeback
by M. Mitchell Marmel and EOCostello
I went to see my father off at the Air Terminal today.
I wish to Christ I hadn't.
It was safe enough, I suppose. Even with reduced winter schedules, there was enough bustle and crowd around so that a slightly frowsy doe secretary could loiter in one corner, apparently going over schedules for her boss, who wasn't supposed to be flying himself, without attracting attention.
The rumble of radial engines outside announced the arrival of the Tillamook Clipper, and passengers were standing up, getting themselves and their luggage ready to board, when a stretcher was brought in through the swinging doors.
I mean, I knew he was sick, but so pale, so drawn. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be breathing all right, but goddamnit, I could HEAR my heart breaking.
Rosie followed the stretcher. She looked almost as drawn and pale. The two attendants moved over to the gate; apparently they were going to load Da on before letting the passengers off. Guess they didn't want him to be out in the terminal any longer than necessary, Can't say as I blamed them; there were already a couple of shocked whispers about 'that poor buck'.
The gate lowered, and the stretcherbearers moved across. I moved up and touched Rosie's arm. "How-?"
A brief headshake from Rosie. "Stable. He actually looks worse because he's doped to the gills for the trip."
I nodded miserably. "You holding up okay?"
Rosie gave me a quick squeeze. "I'll be fine. And so will he."
My eyes started leaking. "You cable me. Collect. Anything happens. You hear?"
A quick smooch to my forehead. "'Course." A pretty stewardess was touching Rosie's sleeve.
Rosie turned. "Be right with you." Back to me. "We'll be okay. I promise."
I nodded miserably. "You cable me. For anything."
A sad smile from Rosie. "I promise. Love ya."
"Me, too," I sniffed as Rosie turned and boarded the plane. I sighed and moved back a bit, dabbing my eyes with a hanky.
The few arriving passengers started debarking and heading for Customs. One pair of mels looked kinda funny. One was a little feline with his sandy hair done up in a pompadour. "That poor buck looked just awful, Mr. Wynt!" His companion, a tallish hound with a receding hairline and a bushy mustache, nodded. "Guess the Islands didn't agree with him, Mr. Katt." As they passed by me, I caught a whiff of their perfume. Pyramid Patchouli. There were only two jokers on Spontoon sensitive enough to wear that scent...and I had to find out who they were!
REQUEST ID SUBJECT ONE MALE CANINE A2 WYNT OR WINT BALDING MUSTACHE SUBJECT TWO MALE FELINE A2 KATT SHORT BLONDE SUBJECTS HEADED TO ULTRA PRIVATE GENTLEFUR EMPHASIS ONLY RESIDENCE CLUB NEED SOONEST THX
SUBJECTS WYNT KATTRIDGE DEERTROIT MAUVE GANG SUSPECTS NUMEROUS HITS CONFIRM GENTS ONLY ARMED EXT DANGEROUS NOTIFY LOCAL COPS IMMED NO REPEAT NO IND DUCLEDS THREAT BUT MAINTAIN CLOSE WATCH ON PRINCIPAL WILL SEND POSS TARGETS ASAP GOOD LUCK
The rocking of the cabin changed to a smooth hum and an elevator feeling in the pit of my stomach as the Clipper broke free from the water and started its climb upwards. I sighed and patted Franklin's paw as I settled back in the comfortable bench seat across from his bunk.
It had been one helluva week.
Franklin had, of course, been an absolute angel.
The sort that chases folks out of the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword.
It was almost a relief to put him under for the trip. While he wasn't spitting up blood anymore, he was still behaving in a manner that would cause most three year olds to shake their heads ruefully.
The easiest part of the whole thing was packing his things from his room. Nothing to pack. Literally. This was a man who was a classic use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without type. Gottenu. Toothbrush, couple of furbrushes. Clothes? Couple of shirts, couple of sets of drawers, couple of ties, no other suit, must sleep in his boxers...on that camp bed? Mein Gott. I'm sorry, boychik, but this is no way for a mensch to live. Frau Nerzmann, who was helping me pack, caught my despairing gaze with a sad look of her own. "We try," she said with a sigh. "We try and put nicer things in, he just leaves them outside the door. "
I sighed too, looking down at the pitiful cardboard suitcase with its pitiful contents. "This has to change. I'm simply not going to permit it."
Frau Nerzmann gave me a sad smile. "I hope you can change it..." Her tone implied that I was going to have a rough go at it.
So, I went shopping. One nice thing about the off-season, you could pick up nice things cheap. More boxers, couple of sets of pajamas, a robe, all in silk. Silk was cheap these days, Must be hard times for the Japs, too. Oh, well, they got their troubles, I got mine. Got a decent suitcase, too. Franklin would likely kvetch about the cost. Tough.
*****I sighed and looked at the pajama-clad figure under the sheets. Sleeping like a baby. Poor wretch. Well, it's okay. Mama Rosie is here, and you don't have to worry anymore...
*****The other major chore before I left was Luchow's. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. Not that the Lotus was anything bad, but working for yourself is a whole lot better than working for someone else, you know?
'Course, if I was going to plunk down the shekels I had earned shaking my moneymaker for the marks, I wanted to make good and sure I wasn't going to be buying a pig in a poke, you should excuse the expression.
Problem was, I didn't know any lawyers. I mean, I helped out the girls after the Lotus Christmas bash myself, if you'll recall. And, touch wood, this little kitty has been reasonably good ever since she came to the Islands. Well, good in the sense that I've only had to sit for a happy snap with my name and a number on a card in front of me once, and that was only because the furshlugginer clock at Shepherd's wasn't built better...
As a matter of fact, the only one I even knew in the legal biz, at least from the briefcase toting crowd (Franklin and Durian Face don't count), was one of the customers at the Lotus, Phillippa. Not much to look at; why she doesn't do up her hair better, or get a good dress, I dunno. Good kid, er, kitty, and, from what I hear, she's actually worth getting to know better. Legal secretary, had a quick one (drink, that is) at the Lotus around lunchtime, so the next time she came in, I made sure I was there.
Sure enough, she made it in that day, and I managed a little tete-a-tete at one end of the bar. I put it to her straight: I needed legal advice on a business deal. Who was good for that?
Phillippa gave me a dreamy smile. "Ooooooh, you'd want my boss! She's really smart, and really good, and she's got such good taste. Why just this morning..." I was then treated to a detailed description of her boss' outfit, which showed that Phillippa paid *very* close attention to how her boss looked.
The dreamy look in her eyes told me something else, too.
I let that pass. "And your boss is...?"
"Hmmmm? Oh! Kara Karoksdottir. Well, at least that's the Euro name she uses professionally."
Something about the handle rang a bell. "Vixen? Kinda small, speaks English with an accent?"
"Oh, no! She's very tall, about 5' 11'', and has the most beautiful brush you've ever seen. And she speaks beautifully, just like those actresses in the Hollywood pictures. But she's better looking than any of them..."
I could see where this was headed, but time was short. "Okeh. I gotta see her ASAP. Can you fix it up?"
Phillppa looked thoughtful. "She's not due in court today, so her docket should be pretty clear. Let me finish this drink, and we'll head on over."
"Take your time. I wanna pretty up a little."
Turns out Phillippa works at Vison and Partner. Him, I knew. Hell, everyone on the Islands knows Thomas Vison. He's the guy the rich boys hire when they get in trouble, or need some other things fixed up. My heart sank. Getting a "good morning" out of this crew was probably going to cost me the equivalent of a week's salary. Still, I made the best of it, while Phillippa went into an office to chat with her boss. A minute or so later, she opened the door, and waved a paw at me with a big grin.
I could see why Phillippa might not have her mind on her work alla time.
Some specimen, this Karoksdottir. Pinstriped skirt-suit, cost me a year's salary at the Lotus, easy, silk shirt and all. And her brush was a tail fur's dream. And a low, purring voice...With an effort, I forced my tail to behave. After all, it was freshly out of its cast. Locking sideways would probably be bad for it. Absently, I suspected she did right smartly in front of old man Poynter.
The vixen vision leaned back in her chair and lit up a cigarette in a long silver holder. "So. What can I do for you, Miss Baumgartner?"
I beat back the first fifty responses, most of which involved whipped cream, and tried to look businesslike. "Well, it's like this. I'm interested in taking over Luchow's..."
This got her attention. "Oh? Someone's going to reopen the place after all? Well, that's good news. Outside of Luchow's, the food is lousy on Meeting Island, and even the greasy spoons are further away from court."
I grinned and nodded. "That, I know. In any event, I need someone to do, well, you know, look at the books and papers and stuff..."
"Yeah, that's what I mean. I'd do it myself, but I'm going to be off-island for the next month or so."
She raised an eyebrow and took a drag. "Odd time for a vacation."
I sighed. "This is confidential, right?"
She looked at me for a moment. "Give me a shell."
"What?" A light dawned. "Oh." I dug in my purse and pulled out a bill.
Karoksdottir nodded. "Okay, I got a retainer, now you're a client, it's all legal. Pray continue."
For the first time in awhile, I gave a genuine grin. "Okay. It's this. Franklin...Inspector Stagg, I mean, is very sick..."
This got her attention. "What?! What happened?"
"Well, Doctor Meffit said he had some sort of stress-related stomach thing..."
Karoksdottir frowned prettily. "Hoo-boy, that isn't going to be good for Karok. He's on thin ice with Chief Pickering as it is."
The penny dropped, and I remembered. "You're related to Kar...I mean, Sergeant Brush?"
A slow, deep chuckle, and another drag on the cigarette holder. "Karok's my little brother. And I *do* mean little. At least he's smarter than my two youngest siblings, who are as dumb as a hod of bricks. That's why I use Karoksdottir as my professional name. And why I do mostly civil and not criminal practice. Helps me keep out from under his footpads, and vice versa. He's a good little brother, but I'd rather not have to cross-examine him on the stand. Even if I do know what buttons to push on the little one." This accompanied by another chuckle, and then a slow, slow drag on the holder.
She leaned forward, looking at me a little more closely. "So, you're looking out for Inspector Stagg? Ahhhhh. There'd been a few rumours around the courthouse that he'd been seen with someone. You?"
I looked proud. "I'll tell the world."
"Hmp." Karoksdottir snorted. "I'd keep Pickering out of the loop, if I were you. 'Course, the way he...well, glass houses and all that. Enough said."
I grinned. "As you say, Miz Karoksdottir."
"Kara, please...Rosie." The vixen settled back in her chair. "Anyway... Karok, bless him and his Headache Maker, he thinks the world of the old Inspector. What's good for Stagg is good for Karok, which is pretty good for me. I may not fear our mother as much as he does, but I know she'd be pretty upset if I didn't help him out, even if indirectly."
Kara swiveled around and stared out the window, propping her feet on a table nearby. Whoa. Her legs were just as good as her chest...
Just as well she didn't visit the Lotus. I'd be sweeping up broken hearts all night.
She seemed to come to a decision. "Right. Here's the deal. I'll take care of the Luchow business. You looking to lease or purchase? I'll tell you now that, as a Euro, a longterm lease will be much easier to swing for you."
I nodded. "Lease for now, we can look into a purchase later on."
"Good," Kara nodded. "Okay, if this works out, I want fifteen hundred shells in trade for the office once you reopen Luchow's. Lot of folks here work long hours, and we like our meals. Even if some of us go easy on them."
I smiled to myself. This one's never had a day of dieting in her life. "No-brainer. Done."
Kara grinned wide. "Great! I'll have Phillippa type up a quickie retainer letter, and a power of attorney, and then you can leave the matter in my paws. And believe me, I've got every incentive to win this one. Even if I did grow up in the Uplands, I think stewed breadfruit is yucky."
I raised an eyebrow. "No offense, but I can't see you in the Uplands looking like that."
Another chuckle. She had a good sense of humor. Bless Phillippa, anyway.
"Well, from Monday to Friday, I'm the good little Euro lawyer, dolled up in my uniform, like this." She ran a paw over her outfit. "Most of this, of course, paid for by my todfox friends."
(Crumbs. So much for the Lotus.)
A last drag on the cigarette, and then it was unscrewed. "No, on the weekends, I go back home, hang up my lawyer duds, and stroll around in a little loincloth."
"Weather permitting," I grinned, hoping my voice wasn't squeaking.
Kara nodded. "Keeps me sane. Even if the image would drive others totally insane." This said with a knowing wink, nod and glance beyond the office door. I nodded gamely, hoping like blue blazes my bra was concealing MY sudden interest. As it was, keeping my tail under control...well.
Kara looked reflective. "I've got three aunts who are Wise Ones, you know. I've learned more from them about tactics that I ever did in law school. Helped me a lot in front of the magistrates. Except for Poynter, of course. Never lost a case in front of that old sweetie. Tommy, my partner, decided if I was going to have that kind of a winning record, it was better to be with me, than against me."
"Oh," I breathed, "I can certainly understand THAT."
Kara grinned as we stood and shook paws, then turned a bit serious. "Look. About Stagg. Keep an eye on him. Even if he drives Tommy nuts, he's a good one. I can respect a cop who's got his head screwed on straight. I'd much rather have him on the force, than off it. So try to bring him back in one piece, okeh?"
"You'd better believe it," I said firmly.
I managed to keep my composure long enough to get back to my room at the Lotus, then...well, personal relaxation exercises were in order, if you catch my drift.
*****To my amusement, Franklin learned a new trick, as he began snoring in perfect pitch with the seaplane engines. I patted the figure. "You hang in there, love. Mama Rosie's gonna take good care of you from now on..."