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by M. Mitchell Marmel & EOCostello
(events in January 1937)
The Catto Comeback
by M. Mitchell Marmel and EOCostello
Time for a vocabulary lesson from your Tante Roseleh:
1. (Yiddish) a constant complainer
2. (Yiddish) a nagging complaint
1. express complaints, discontent, displeasure, or unhappiness; "My mother kvetches all day!"; "She has a lot to kvetch about!"
Antonyms: cheer, cheer up, chirk up - become cheerful
Synonyms: complain, kick, plain, sound off, Inspector Franklin Junius Stagg, Spontoon Islands Constabulary Service Detective Bureau
"Are you trying to ruin me?!"
I looked at him speculatively. "If you mean ravish, certainly, once you're in slightly better health."
Ol' Frankie is CUTE when he blushes. "That most certainly is NOT what I meant, MISS Baumgartner!!"
I shrugged. "Well, it's what I meant. What did you have in mind by 'ruin'?"
"Well...this!" He held up one silk-clad arm. "What's the meaning of this?"
"Your hairshirt must have been at the laundry, so I made do. 'Course, you could always go for the open-air approach." I leered. "I wouldn't mind. Honest."
Franklin snuck a glance outside, where that same panda was strolling around in the fur Yahweh gave him. He (Franklin, that is), shuddered and snorted.
"PAH! I'll have you know I've done just fine sleeping without pyjamas for quite some time."
I nodded. "Yep. Nothing like sleeping in your shorts for your two hours a night of beauty sleep."
"How I sleep is-"
"My concern, now." I cut him off in a no-nonsense tone. "And speaking of shorts...your wardrobe, what there was of it, was hopeless."
"In case you've forgotten, I'm a police detective, not a Hollywood actor," my patientleh replied crossly. "My wardrobe is quite sufficient for my needs, thank you very much."
"The hell it is. Your curent wardrobe is just rags."
"An over-dramatic exaggeration."
"Nope," I grinned. "The literal truth."
"WHAT?! GOD'S TEETH...!" came the explosion from the tatami
"If my instructions have been followed to the letter, that is," I said evenly. "They'll make dandy cleaning cloths for Frau Nerzmann."
Franklin gripped his ears and gritted his teeth. "Everything?!"
"Well," I said contemplatively, "not your hat. I figured I'd put the poor thing out of its misery once we got back-"
Franklin looked up with a glare that could open an oyster. "The. Hat. Shall. Not. Be. TOUCHED. End of discussion."
I shrugged. "As you like. It's back in your room on Meeting Island. I picked you up new silk undies and silk jammies-"
"...which make me look like some blasted Cuban gigilo."
I gave my reluctant patient a speculative look. "H'm. Grow a pencil moustache...lemme hear you say 'Babaloo'." A deadly silence from the bed. I shrugged. "Anyhow, that's all you have, at the moment. Other than a few silk neckties. I know some places around here require a tie for gentlebucks, but they might draw the line if that's all you're wearing."
More ear-gripping, and then a glare at the ceiling. "I DO not need silken clothes. It's a needless extravagance."
I grinned. "There, you're wrong. The stuff's cheaper than linen these days."
"For God's sake, I'm not a wealthy buck!"
"Hrmph. You got an advance on a month's salary, courtesy of Ciss Lopp. And it ain't hay, neither. It's in the resort's safe, at the moment, unless you'd prefer to have it under your tatami." That got a glare. "Seriously, though, what DO you spend your money on?"
A petulant look. "Not blasted fripperies!"
I rolled my eyes. "Being careful with your money is one thing, but-"
Franklin pointed a shaking finger at me. "Lose your family, and everything you own, and wind up in a ditch with nothing more to your name in the world than a pair of ragged trousers, and we'll see-who's-careful-then!"
"There's a difference between being careful and being..." I sighed. "What, you scared Pickering's gonna fire you or something? Kick you out on the street?"
Franklin slammed his head back on the pillow, closed his eyes, and began to shake a bit. Hmm. That one hit a bit close to home, I think. I softened my tone a bit. "Look, get some rest. Tomorrow, we got the tailor coming in-"
"-you'll get a couple suits, some nice shirts-"
"You're either trying to drive me insane, or to the poorhouse!"
"Nu, he's the manager's cousin, I got a good deal-"
"Out. Out! OUT!"
"I'm going, I'm going, already." I patted his cheek. "Get some sleep, try and count some nice shiny nickels..."
So, anyhoo, Miss Minkerton's 1937 an' me, we tries t'figger out why th' Deertroit mob would send a pair o' torpedoes t' th' Spontoons. I mean, it don't make no sense. Ain't hardly nobody 'round here, this time a year, that them mooks would wanna knock off. I mean, who's rich, an'...oh, oh.
"Hey, I don't mean t'sound, y'know, alarmin', but y'know where yer sweet patootie's at? I mean, has his old man put his hoof up th' backside o' same guy who offered him accident insurance, knowwhutImeans?"
Blondie folds her ears right against her head. I don't thinks she wanted t'hear that idea, lemme tellya. Sugar's got a blind spot a mile wide when it comes t'her boyfriend. Not that it's surprisin'. I means, when she's wit' him, I'll bet she ain't got her mind on much else but his...
"I'll keep that in mind, Sergeant. Minkerton's does security work for F.R. Buckhorn & Sons, so a quick check will run that down." She then changes th' subject. REAL fast, if ya gets my drift. Few other year-round folks, like that crazy Baron, an' that even crazier buncha Spanish deer. Me, I'd put five shillin's on that young doe t'drive them two torpedoes nuts, but that's me.
So we hashes out a list of mebbe-targets that th' Deertroit boys might have an interest in. I can't shakes th' feelin' that there's somethin' queer 'bout Deertroit boys showin' up in these parts. I means, queer other than these two bums.
Now see, I'm kinda lost in thought, so I doesn't hear somethin' 'till I sees Blondie perk her ears right up. I turns around t'see th' door open, an' in pads in somefur.
I gotta 'splain somethin' at this point. See, I'm Catholic. I goes t'Mass, see? Hell, I wuz even an altar cub fer Father Merino years 'go. But what's Spontoonie ain't far from th' surface. On top o' that, my ma, she had t'ree sisters who wuz or is Wise Ones, an' Kiki, my mate, *she's* got t'ree sisters who is Wise Ones. So that's one helluva lotta oomph fer the native pantheon in my life. An' th' way my ma ran her house, an' th' way Kiki runs her house (it ain't my house, it's *her* house, see, she's th' boss there), I ain't allowed t'ferget it. So when I sees a Wise One in gen'ral, I shuts up. Iffen I see a Wise One that's gonna have words wit' Kiki, you betcher bottom shillin' that I'm gonna lissen.
Anyhow, this one's come t'town in the full furpaint an' feathers job. Plus, she ain't on th' Main Island. Now, don't get me wrong, Wise Ones go all over (well, 'cept Casino, where dumbass Euros think they're photo bait). But seein' a Wise One all kitted up *an'* offen Main Island or Southie, that's like Father Merino in his full Sunday Mass gear. You sits up, an' pays attention.
(Peace unto thou O Wise One deferential.)
Ma'la (that's this one's handle) sorta blinks at me real slow. Drives me nuts, 'cause she knows she makes me nervous. She turns her head, an' sees Blondie, an' does a sorta slow double-take, an' looks her over good before turnin' back t'me.
(Unto thou peace, Karok-son-Karonk. Message myself important thou relate.)
This was something of a new one. In all the time I'd been in the Spontoons, I think this was the first time I'd actually set eyes on what they called a Wise One. Seeing as how I was rarely off Meeting, Casino or Eastern Island, I suppose that isn't surprising. If the fur paint and feathers were meant to impress me, they worked. They certainly worked on Sergeant Brush, who was standing, and looking very nervous and deferential at the same time. The Wise One noticed I was in the room, and looked me over very carefully. She didn't say anything, but just raised an eyebrow, before turning back to Durian Face and returning his greeting in Spontoonie. In fact, all of their conversation was in Spontoonie, which made it very hard for me to figure out what was going on. Life never supplies subtitles when you need them.
(Query, Karok-son-Karok, name additionally species creature this feminine room standing.)
(Myself negative intentions dishonourable O Wise One...)
(Witnessing-Gods, Karok-son-Karok. Myself knowledge heart-thou, additionally maleness-thou property Kiki is. Weary myself negative guiltly feelings thou. Additionally, feminine-creature this negative large tail, additionally bushy possessing. Repeats myself: name additionally species creature this feminine room standing.)
Willow Fawnsworthy (O Wise One. Species being is creature with horns outlander feminine. Creature with horns outlander feminine negative horns have...)
(Witnessing-Gods, Karok-son-Karok. Think-thou myself brains bereft? Myself knowledge have creatures with horns outlanders feminine negative horns have. Query knowledge-yourself certain name is creature with horns outlander feminine this. Emphasis negative myself give answer simple-brained.)
(Knowledge affirmative, O Wise One.)
(Peculiar is, Karok-son-Karok. Aura is, creature with horns outlander feminine this truth-telling, yet not truth-telling. Truth hidden is.)
(Knowledge-myself, O Wise One. Creature with horns outlander feminine this employee, errr, outlander law-shield firm. Existence confidential past tense. Creature with horns outlander feminine this myself tell sun-day this.)
(Ah. Truth deeper that emphasis. Myself knowledge relate, Karok-son-Karok...)
(Witnessing-Gods, silence-thou emphasis, elsewise myself Kiki tell negative paw-smack thou.)
(Expression contrition, O Wise One.)
(Vision myself have moon-death previous, Karok-son-Karok...)
At this point, the Wise One stepped forward and administered a series of rather vigorous paw-smacks about Sergeant Brush's ears and nose, followed by a swift kick to his shins. Durian Face's mixed look of contrition and terror was almost enough to make me burst out laughing.
(SILENCE-THOU, brains-bereft! Understand-thou?)
(Affirmative, O Wise One emphasis deferential.)
(Vision myself have moon-death previous. Evil is, additionally danger is, islands these. Danger specific. Outlanders two. Death-bringers.)
(Query death-bringers, O Wise One.)
(Query see-thou death-bringers these vision yours.)
(Negative, Karok-son-Karok. Myself hear speech death bringers. Speech flat is, negative musical. Myself negative target knowledge have. Know myself solely this. Witnessing-Gods, Karok-son-Karok attention myself give. Evil stalking is hearths close.)
Something the Wise One said made Brush's eyes open wide. I wondered what the hell she had said to frighten him like that. And how I could learn how to say it.
(Affirmative is, Karok-son-Karok. Guidance-myself thou, negative additionally. Regret-myself. Myself Pantheon appeal guidance additional.)
(Expression gratitude, O Wise One.)
Ma'la gives th' once-over t'Blondie again.
(Myself-thou task alongside work creature with horns outlander feminine. Negative argument thou myself, Karok-son-Karok. Myself-spoken. At peace being, Karok-son-Karok. Creature with horns outlander feminine this talents have task this. Myself speak) Fawnsworthy (this. Translate-thou.)
My name popping out of the mouth of the Wise One was a bit of a start She had my full attention as she began poking him hard on the nose and giving him orders. She folded her arms across her chest and watched me as the translation was given.
"She says yer gonna help me find out what th' hell these two mokes are up ta. She's had a whatchamacalit, a premonition, see? They ain't up t'no good. She don't know what, but sez it's gonna hit close t'home, and I ain't gonna like that, neither. That my addition. Anyhow, I gotta work with youse, else I'm gonna catch hell from my mate, her, an' she's gonna get th' other five Wise Ones in th' family t'make my life a livin' hell I don't stay on th' straight an' narrer...."
Another brisk bit of Spontoonie, plus a finger wag in my direction. Brush's eyes went wide, and he gave me an irritated look as he translated.
"She does say ya gotta show me some respect as a cop. Fer one thing, don't call me "Durian Face" behind my back, see? An' when things start t'happen, youse gotta lissen t'my orders, see?"
What the-? How the hell did she know- I mean, I'd been THINKING "Durian Face" just now, but... Anyway, I gave a nod.
The Wise One nodded. She saw, out of the corner of her eye, that Brush gave a quiet sigh of relief and an eyeroll, and promptly gave his nose a hard smack, before stalking off in a swirl of tailfur. Brush saw this departure, and promptly opened up the bottom drawer of his desk, took out a Pan-Nimitz sized bottle of pineapple brandy, and drained it in one pull. Eloquent gesture, that.
I raised an eyebrow. "But I don't take dictation, Sergeant."
A growl and a glower at me. "Yeah. I'll. Just. Bet. You. Doesn't."