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by M. Mitchell Marmel & EOCostello
The Catto Comeback
by M. Mitchell Marmel and EOCostello
"You heard the fox lady. Play nice."
"Lookit. In th' first place, that's a Wise One, so show a lil' respec', see? Wouldja make funna Fadder Merino? Didn't think so. Secondly, just 'cause I gotta work witcha -- an' believe me, if it weren't my sister-in-law tellin' me, I'd gotta few suggestions fer ya fer vacation spots -- means I don't gotta LIKE ya. Third, what's wit' dis "Durian Face" crap?! Mebbe I ain't gonna be gettin' no calls from no Hollywood agents..."
"Don't be too sure. Universal likes to do horror flicks."
"Oh, yeah, yer a real laff riot, ain'tcha, toots?"
"Yeah, well, MY name isn't Blondie, Toots, Sugar, or Honey, and I'm not a skirt, frail, moll, or peeper. If you can't remember that, I'll give you a copy of Fowler's English Usage across your chops to see if that'll help. Or I'll ask your mate to do it."
This got a baleful glare, and a slow cracking of knuckles that drowned out something he muttered under his breath.
"Lookit. Howzabout we figgers on keepin' an eye on them two mokes? Special-like as yer sweet patootie..."
"MISTER Buckhorn to you."
"I ain't workin' wit' him, so I'll calls dat hatrack what I pleases. Now, I'm first gonna have a word wit' th' mag'strate on duty, 'cause I gots me an idea 'bout howta keep an eye on our two lovebirds."
"Gonna have th' Club bag up th' garbage from th' rooms."
"All of it? I don't think you're going to like what those two are producing."
A look of nausea crossed his face. "I don't gotta like it, see? I just gotta do it. And I ain't 'bout t'hang out at that place."
"Not your crowd? I'm sure there's a few that'll smack you around if you asked."
Another baleful glare. I was starting to get a few ideas that this was a subject not far under the fur.
"I gots my reasons fer not hangin' 'round that joint, which ain't gonna be botherin' you none. C'mon, we gots t'head over t'th' courthouse..."
The magistrate on duty was named de Pathe. Reggie had described him to me before; evidently, he and Reggie had met each other professionally many times. Dapper rooster, glossy black feathers and Oxbridge accent. Looks like the Spontoons had done most of their recruiting from the old mother country, between Poynter (just retired, apparently, alas. A nice fur. Rosie liked him.), de Pathe, Cockerel (another rooster), and our old friend Spaniel.
The magistrate heard us out. Mostly me, as I gave him the low-down on Wynt and Katt.
"Good Lord, gangsters *again*? You would think they would have learned their lesson from the last time they tried to take their little squabbles here. Revolting. But see here, are you sure they're here professionally and not for...ah, personal reasons? I'm led to believe...second-wing of course...that the Chanticleer Club is quite the refuge for furs who wish to pursue their interests in privacy."
"See, yer Honour, dat's what we needs t'keep an eye on. It's surveillance-like. An' I figgers if dem guys trash somethin', it ain't like they gots no expectations of keepin' it secret, see?"
de Pathe rubbed his beak. "Well, point well taken, Sergeant. It seems to be a rather loose type of surveillance, though."
"Well, your Honour, I'd also like clearance for some on-scene surveillance. At arm's length, of course."
"Did you have somefur in mind, Miss Fawnsworthy?"
I explained. Both Sergeant Brush and Magistrate de Pathe raised eyebrows, but the judge nodded.
"Well, assuming you can get the fur or furs in question to agree, I think that's reasonable. But mark you, I'm not giving permission for you or anyone else acting for you to break into the rooms of Messrs. Wynt and Katt, and search their belongings. There's not enough probable cause for that. I'll have my clerk forward you the warrant for examining their refuse, though, and the warrant will also allow for surveillance. If anything else develops, call me or one of the other magistrates."
The SIC launch let me off at Casino Island. But instead of heading back to my hotel (or Reggie's), I headed to the nearest ricksha rank. The rather muscular canine at the head of the rank gave me the address of the ricksha drivers' union hall, which was a block or two away.
There was quite a line at the union hall, but it went quickly, with each fur managing to get their business done in a minute or two in the room. Brisk efficiency. Sort of ironic that a union hall could be Taylorized. I wondered who was the brains behind the operation...and found out when I got to the head of the line.
Po'na was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. He flattened his ears a bit, and looked out into the hall, where there were still a dozen or so furs waiting curiously. He motioned with a paw to a side room. Guess he wanted to hide the Euro. At least for appearences' sake. Suited me just fine.
Through a slighly cracked door, I could see Po'na transact business. Some furs got little forms filled out or signed. Others either got disbursements from a little tin box in the bottom drawer of the desk, or made payments into the little tin box. One or two got their names shifted around on a little board with wooden name-tags on hooks. The last supplicant was a small ferret, who seemed rather irritated at Po'na and was squealing shrilly in Spontoonie at him, jumping up and down and waving his tiny fists in circles over his head. Po'na listened to all of that with an air of quiet boredom, and then went around the side of his desk, picked the ferret up by the scruff of his neck and tail, and drop-kicked him out of the office, followed by a slamming of the door.
I had the uncomfortable feeling that Po'na and Sir Josslyn Buckhorn would have much to discuss if they ever met again and the subject of management techniques somehow came up.
"Po'na Willow-doe assist?" Said with a deferential tone. I looked somewhat ironically at the desk-plate, which had Po'na's name on it, and some title or other in Spontoonie. Po'na diplomatically turned the desk-plate face down.
"Po'na, I need you for a job."
"Ah. Difficulty is. Reggie-buck Po'na self full-time employ. Po'na-self Reggie-servant." This said with a slight smile and shifting of the eyes. Oh, yes, he enjoyed the joke all right.
"Well, look, Po'na. You seem to have some sort of clout in this little outfit of yours." I turned the desk-plate back up. "Such as in giving orders and such to your union's members, right?"
"Po'na self being is...errr, hmm. Euro-speak for Althing, is "Second Vice President and Treasurer," the assembly ricksha drivers is."
"Uh-hunh." I tapped the bottom of the desk with my hoof. "He who has his paws on the tin box, Po'na..."
Po'na simply shrugged his shoulders, and repeated his offer of assistance.
"Look, I'm helping Sergeant Brush on a case."
This didn't exactly go over well, as Po'na's ears flattened, and he muttered something in Spontoonie. There was probably a history somewhere that I wasn't aware of. Before things got out of paw, I flashed my Minkerton's buzzer.
"Look, Po'na, I'm what you call a law-guardian, too, in a way. My job, up until recently, was to look after Mr. duCleds. And no, Reggie doesn't know I'm a law-guardian, and you're going to keep it that way. I'll provide details on that in a minute. There are two evil furs on the Islands, Po'na, and a Wise One told Sergeant Brush and myself they're up to no good. We need some discreet furs to keep on eye on those two bad furs."
Po'na frowned, but nodded. "Evil furs, Willow-doe speak of, Casino Island staying?"
"No. They're staying over on Moon Island. At the Chanticleer Club."
Po'na's ears quivered right up, and a look of alarm came over him. "*Ahrum*. Chanticleer Club? Place being is gentlefurs...ah...er..." Po'na was lost for words, so he made a few subtle paw gestures. I nodded.
"Yeah. That's the place. Or at least that's the impression I get, anyway. But listen, they could probably use a ricksha driver over there. Any chance of getting one assigned there for, say, a week? I'll pay for their time, and your memory loss..."
I reached into my purse, and courtesy of duCleds Chemicals, laid out a decent ration of Spontoon pounds. After all, Les *was* a potential target, even if they'd have to cut a path through Inocenta de Ciervos to get to him.
Po'na eyed the stack of notes, and quietly shoved them into the tin box. He then looked at the order board, with the wooden name tags. After a minute or so, an evil grin crossed his face. He opened the office door, and made a beckoning motion.
The ferret made a return appearence. The sulky look on his face turned to horror as Po'na, in Spontoonie, gave him his orders. There was a shrill squeal of protest, until Po'na went over to a file cabinet and pulled out a small card, and waved it in front of the ferret's face. The ferret gulped, shivered, and nodded. Looks like we had a volunteeer for eyes-and-ears duty. Hopefully, that's all of him he'd have to use.
"So, nu, Rosie, how's tricks?"
"Eh, you know, Frenchie, you gotta cut a little."
"Don't I know it," the elderly dog said, measuring Franklin's inseam.
Stagg looked confused. "Er...Miss Baumgartner? You and this gentlefur are-?"
"Oh! Sorry, Inspector. Frenchie, this is Inspector Stagg, Spontoon Island Constabulary-"
Frenchie grinned over his snowy moustache. "Sam Barks, Inspector. A pleasure."
A raised cervine eyebrow. "Barks? Any relation-"
"Their papa," Frenchie said proudly.
Stagg looked even more confused. "Then what are you doing-"
An eloquent shrug. "I should sit around Los Antelopes all day and rot?"
"I...suppose not," Stagg said, a tad dubiously.
"Frenchie, er, Sam came out here for the hot springs, too," I offered.
Frenchie shrugged. "Yeah, but you can't sit around on your tuchas all day, you should excuse the expression, Roseleh."
"True enough," I agreed. "Anyhow, Inspector, Toni and I opened for Julius and the boys a few times when we were on the Minksky circuit, so Frenchie, here, spotted me and it was old home week."
A grin from the elderly tailor. "They were such nice girls, like angels they sang." A wry grin. "I guess hoochie-coochie paid better. nu?"
I smiled wryly. "That it did. And Julius and the boys aren't starving, either."
"True enough," Frenchie agreed. "They just finished shooting some fercachter horse race picture, should be out later this year." He finished marking a cuff. "Hokay, all done, Inspector. Should have the suits ready, end of the week, no problem."
And lo, the suits were delivered by the end of the week.
And lo, as might have been expected, the trousers had drooping crotches and cuffs which covered the tips of Franklin's hooves.
The coat and vest, they fit the best.
The lining was nice and strong.
But Sam, he made the pants TOO long...
Things were quiet on the Wynt & Katt front.
Yeah, Wynt and Katt really COULD be on holiday, I suppose. I mean, shooting and garroting and knifing and otherwise handling the labor-management issues of the Deertroit Mauve Mob could, I suppose, get to be something of a grind after awhile.
But I wasn't buying it.
Not for a Gnu York minute.
Not that I was gonna criticize their mode of rest and relaxation...much.
Grace Stagg, good little Catholic doe that she was, would have turned her nose up and given a disdainful sniff.
Willow Fawnsworthy, having seen a bit more of the world, and, perhaps, having been influenced by Rosie Baumgartner, is less likely to take such a censorious view.
Yeah, I'd heard about the Chanticleer Club. Never been there, natch, as it's a real "no gurls allowed" kind of place. Rosie was there once, told me it makes Shepherd's look like Hooverville. I'll take her word for it. Apparently, the natives have a 'live and let live' attitude towards the place, though I suspect there are some who'd just as soon not venture near the Club.
What I didn't get was Brush. Okay, he's Catholic and all, but the way his ears lay back at the mere mention of the Chanticleer...there's something going on deeper under the surface. Not that I had the time or inclination to dig further right now.
Knowing the Lotus like I did, though, I had some suspicions about why Po'na's little pal was kicking up a fuss about being assigned there.
And I was right.
A few days after we met with Magistrate dePathe, the fruits of our warrant were fragrantly tied up in some garbage bags on Brush's desk. Good ol' Durian Face (I figured it was safe to THINK that without the Wise One present) started to pull on a pair of surgical gloves, and silently offered up a prayer to the heavens, looking for some sort of deliverance, when he got it.
In banged the door to the Detective Bureau, and in stomped my old chum the ferret. He immediately pointed a finger at Brush, and began a shrill lecture in Spontoonie. Brush patted him on the shoulder, which seemed to calm him down a little, but he still gave the wastebasket a nasty kick. He noticed me, and was figuring on repeating the gesture with my kneecap. Brush steered him away toward Da's desk.
"What's eating him, Sergeant?"
Brush looked a bit shifty-eyed. "Ehhhh. He's mouthin' off 'bout what a punk Po'na is fer sendin' him on this job. He sez Po'na's tryin' t'do him down, 'cause he don't jump when Po'na tells him t'jump."
"You don't seem like you're arguing."
More shifty-eyed looks. The ferret, for the first time, spoke some English.
"Po'na excess clever is, additionally anger Karok directed is. Karok-mate Po'na Tailfast formerly was."
Brush put a sooty finger in the ferret's face. "Hey! None a'that. Zip it."
"True being is!"
"I sez ZIP IT! Th' dame here, she don't need t'know that." Strictly speaking, that was true, but... "Now lissen, what th'helldja come bargin' in fer? Ya gots th' dope fer me, or what?"
The lecture came all in Spontoonie. The first part of it appeared to be some greivance relating to the ferret's clothes.
"What's his beef?"
Brush made a face. "Sez some of th' Club's members made him change, iffen he was gonna be a Club servant."
"Oh? What's the uniform?"
"Well, that hardly sounds so..."
"Just. Black tie."
"Oh. Sure they weren't pulling his leg?"
"I ain't gonna ask that question. I might not like th' answer."
Brush continued to quiz the ferret, who calmed down some, and began ticking off a few points on his paws. Brush took some notes, and the end of the recital, fished into his pocket and pulled out a couple of bills, which he handed to the ferret. The ferret nodded, clapped Brush on the arm, and left the room, not before giving another nasty look at me.
"Well, as far as he can tell, Wynt & Katt didn't budge from th' Club. They ain't members, neither. Some Hollywood type back in Los Antelopes has 'em as his guests. Funny t'ing, he ain't at th' Club. Whaddya spoze some actor's doin' hostin' a pair o' torpedoes? On his dime, no less?"
"Minkerton's in L.A. can find out pretty quick."
"Yeah, well. Do it on th' cheap, see? Th' Chief is kinda stingy about my budget, an' I gots a feelin' th' hammer's comin' down, sooner or later. Scuttlebutt has it he's kinda scrapin' 'round fer bucks t'run t'ings."
I nodded. "I'll pull a few strings. So...our boy find out anything else interesting? I mean, relevant?"
"Yeah. Katt asked our boy a whole buncha questions. Like how t'get t'different islands and such."
"Casino, Eastern, South and Meeting?"
"Not Sacred, I trust."
"No, but youse left out one."
"Main Island? Isn't that off-limits for Euros?"
"Yeah. An' dat's what they was told, too. Didn't bother Katt none. Our boy just got a tip, that's all."
"Hmmm. Vague, but disturbing." I sighed and wrinkled my nose. "Well, this garbage isn't getting any fresher."
Brush wrinkled his nose as well, sighed and handed me a pair of surgical gloves as well.
Outside of a few, ahem, medical wrappers, the garbage was pretty discreet, and what you'd probably find in the garbage at any high-class hotel. Only a few things stood out.
I showed the Sergeant a matchbook from the Chateau Marmoset. "Hey, I hearda that joint. Th' Mirror reprints Hollywood gossip. Real ritzy joint, they gots some private bungalows dere. An' huh, here's a dinner check from anodder joint I hearda. "Chessie's." A whole lotta folks go t'that joint in white tie an' gowns. Easy terms fer a dinner there, I'll bet. Lessee. Phew! $98 fer dinner fer t'ree. Outta my budget."
"Yeah, t'ree. Wonner who t'other fur was."
"Another good question for the LA office. Half a dollar says the fellow who's hosting our duo at the Chanticleer knows this other fur REALLY well."
"Yeah. When he's doin' up his fur in th' mirror after his bath, I'll bet. Who else would hang 'round dem bums?"
I grinned ruefully. "You'd be surprised. Hum. Telephone number on the matchbook. WIlshire 5-3000. Wonder what the story is, there. Add it to the checklist."
"Yeah. Pee-yew! What th'hell's this reek?!"
"Pyramid Patchouli, Sergeant. It's all the rage among Wynt and Katt's set."
"Jeez. Glad I ain't movin' in dem circles."
I hesitated. "Um. Sergeant? Was that ferret right about your mate? I mean, Po'na being her ex-sweetheart and all?"
Brush glowered at me. "Yeah. It's true. They was Tailfast an' all, but Kiki figgered I was th' better todfox. Which I am, too. She didn't renew them vows, an' she took up wit' me. Married me, too. Her sisters, an' my aunts, they puts th' whole blessin' on it. Po'na don't like t'lose none, an' I seen him, he's allus figgerin' out all sortsa ways t'do me down. I gots my eye on dat punk, t' be sure."
I nodded. "And...how is Kiki taking all this?"
"Hey. Listen. Yer gonna be lucky if yer sweet patootie's as good t'youse, as Kiki is t'me. I'd chop off my own tailfur, 'fore I'd let someone hurt her. An' be good an' damn careful how youse talks about my Kiki when I can hears ya. Got it?"
"Yeah. I got it." And how.