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by M. Mitchell Marmel & EOCostello
The Catto Comeback
by M. Mitchell Marmel and EOCostello
Normally, Les is bursting with energy and ideas, wanting to go places and do things and such. Ever since Cupcake de Ciervos had got various parts of his anatomy in her grip, though, he'd been pretty quiet.
No real need for me to babysit him while he tinkered with his new toy airplane, either. If he needed help, he could always get Baron von Kojote to help him out. He'd just have to remember to wash the tools afterward.
This left me a good chunk of time in our suite...allegedly doing duCleds paperwork. Les was a little bit behind in his paperwork to Delahare. I suspect it's mainly because he wanted to avoid giving any hints of what personal news he had in the offing.
I'm biased; I think there's nothing wrong with marrying a doe. But you wonder how a high-bred canine family is going to take it. Makes dinners awkward when one party is a vegetarian.
Anyway, this allowed for a lot of stuff to be done quietly. Like deciphering Minkerton's cables. Les, bless his oblivious soul, has never quite caught on as to my real day job, and I'm sure that the long cable from Los Antelopes would have puzzled and worried him. Deciphered, it would have worried him even more. Hell, it worried *me*.
I won't bore you with the actual text, which was written in that sort of terse language you use when you're saving money on urgent international cables. The gist of it was this: Minkerton's had sent a few ops to the Hollywood actor who was "hosting" Wynt and Katt at the Chanticleer. Representations were made to same that if he didn't come across with full and complete particulars, certain columnists would be provided with details as to his various club memberships.
The spilling commenced immediately. It seems that not only was the actor a switch-hitter, if you follow my meaning, but he was living beyond his means and doing his damnedest to live beyond the means of a few loan sharks. Loan sharks connected with the Carpanini family in Los Antelopes. Who, for some reason or other, needed a big favor in having certain fellows put up in high style at the Chanticleer. All expenses reimbursed, plus a little relief from impending 30% interest payments.
Okeh. All well and good. But that raised a few more questions. Just why were the Carpininis so hot on sending a pair of torpedoes to the Spontoons? A pair of torpedoes that weren't even theirs, but were hauled all the way in from Deertroit? The boys in the black suits and white ties don't exactly trade their guys for cash and a player to be named later. And if the Mauve Mob wanted something in the Spontoons, they would have done it direct, without having to go via Los Antelopes.
Locking up the cable in a strongbox, I pondered. We now had a situation where the Carpaninis were putting their fat, greasy thumbs directly in the Spontoons. But for what? Drugs or other types of smuggling? Could be. But why send two torpedoes here, and not on a hit-and-run to Krupmark? High-risk to be sure, but that's why you get top hitters. Not to whack some low-level flunkie in a Krupmark organization. Kidnapping? You wouldn't send hitters for that, necessarily. Wynt and Kidd were hitters, and their relationship with their victims seemed to be pretty short-lived.
I'd have to think about it some more.
All I can say is, thank God for those couple of extra blinis.
The nice thing about dropping to one knee in supplication is that if you lean forward a little bit, you're in a near perfect runner's crouch. With one really swift motion, I was sprinting to the cliff's edge, shucking the kimono as I went.
Now for a physics lesson. Few extra pounds plus cheetah high speed equals a fair amount of momentum. Divide by underweight buck and, instead of buck go splat...well, I caught him by the back of the knees before he had a chance to fall, but there was no way in hell I was gonna stop. So, I gave an extra push from the edge of the cliff, twisted in midair so I would take the impact instead of Franklin... and I hoped like hell that was soft water down there.
To quote Butch and Sundance, "Ohhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-"
Well, the water was just barely deep enough, and our forward momentum ensured that we semi-skipped instead of plunging straight in. As it was, my bottom touched bottom. Soft sand, thank God. But this little cheetah was going to have black AND blue spots on her back, for a change.
We both broke the surface, coughing and spluttering. Frankin looked a little farshimmelt. Go figure. "You filthy heathen..."
At this point, my right fist decided that it had had just about enough with Detective Inspector Franklin Junius Stagg, LL.B, already.
Specifically, with Detective Inspector Franklin Junius Stagg, LL.B (SO.B?), and his tantrums, already.
My right fist decided the best way to show its true feelings was to start moving at a cheetah-fast rate of speed, winding up at the point of the chin of the aforementioned Detective Inspector, et cetera, et cetera.
This worked great. Stopped the tantrum dead in its tracks, and, as a bonus, knocked Franklin two feet closer to shore. Less distance for the poor buck to travel, you see. It was a mitzvah.
My fist, along with the rest of me, sighed and grabbed a handle to tow Franklin to shore. His rack came in handy for this.
I kept his head above water all the way back to shore.
Things had been quiet...way TOO quiet...on the Wynt and Katt front, so I decided to buttonhole Po'na in the ricksha rank. It was pretty well-known that Po'na worked for Reggie, and that I was Reggie's fiancee, so a little chat wasn't going to raise any eyebrows.
Turns out Po'na was just on his way to see me. Our little lovebirds had, apparently, called for our friend the ferret. The ferret was duly sent, no doubt with the aid of Po'na's foot, over to Moon Island. Fortunately for the little guy, the only thing they needed was help moving their stuff into a watertaxi, and then moving it out again at Eastern Island, where they were waiting for the Honolulu Clipper. Apparently, the ferret got a generous tip, which helped his mood somewhat. Until Po'na pointed out that all gratutity-generating activities other than ricksha driving, while done under orders, were subject to a 50% tax by the union. Bitter words apparently resulted, the final resolution of which was still to come.
Some more bitter words seemed to be in the offing, too. Po'na had finished his report to me, when from behind him came a distinctive comment:
"Oh, yeah. An' how mucha dat "tax" is gonna make it t'yer lil' tin box, hanh?"
Po'na whirled, muzzle cresting, to meet the sneer of Sergeant Brush. Po'na began a brisk series of high-pitched snarls in what started out as Spontoonie, but seemed to evolve into a more primitive canine show of anger. Durian Face's response was to blow a cloud of cigarette smoke in Po'na kisser. I stepped in between them, much to their mutual disappointment.
"Sergeant, Po'na was just telling me about Wynt and..."
"Yeah, I knows. *I* had a const'ble watchin' th' water taxi. An' two more watchin' our queers at th' terminal. Gonna give 'em a nice goin' 'way party. A goin' far, far away party. Wit' any luck, won't come back, neither."
Po'na muttered something under his breath.
"Yeah, same t'youse, Po'na-son-Wa'la. Y'gonna translate whatcha just said fer Miz Fawnsworthy's benefit, or wouldja likes me t'spoil her nice image of youse?"
Po'na growled something, showing a little more tooth, and stalked off. Sergeant Brush called after him.
"I'll give yer love t'Kiki!"
This was met with an eloquent paw gesture, without even stopping.
"Well, that was unnecessary."
"Sez you. Dat bum's gettin' too damn big fer his britches. Needs a kick up 'em now 'n 'gain t'show him whose boss."
"Well, still, he was telling us something important."
"Yeah, yeah, just c'rob'ratin, dat's all. Th' SIC's onnit. Y'figger dat's all?"
"Not by a longshot. This was a recon, a scouting patrol. This was no holiday with fun in the sun."
Brush growled, looked at his cigarette butt accusingly, and tossed it in a puddle.
"Y'know, I wantcha t'be wrong. Don't take no offence at dat. I really wantcha t'be wrong. But yeah, I sees yer point. Have yer guys give us the lowdown on them bums as they're headin' back."
"Oh, yeah. I'm cabling them right now."
The less said about the trip back to the inn, the better.
If you think that half carrying, half dragging a semiconscious sopping wet buck deer up umpteen flights of steps is any fun at all, particularly when you're waterlogged and sore (back, fist, heart and soul) after a fifty foot cliff backflop...
No fun at all.
The only redeeming feature of the whole mess was that, once we got within sight of the inn, a coupla employees saw us and helped us back to our rooms. And Mr. Flopsy (I was in a particularly uncharitable mood towards Franklin at the moment, though I didn't call him that to his face) very meekly submitted to being bathed, dressed in his jammies and tucked into bed. By the employees, not me.
With an icepack tied to his jaw, which kept it shut.
When that was done, I dragged my tired tuchas back to the clifftop (Brrrr.) to retrieve Franklin's walking stick and my kimono, thinking unkind thoughts about the stick's rigidity and whether I should demonstrate the same in a highly personal manner before returning it to its rightful owner.
Willow's disapproving face hanging in front of me stopped me (just barely) from using the carved ebony in a way its carver never figured on (I think), and I settled for a nice, long, hot soak and a rubdown from the spa masseur (turned out to be the pudgy panda! Who knew?) before turning in and trying to get some sleep, my abused body already starting to scream protest.
The next two weeks were gonna be looooong ones...