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The Catto Comeback
by M. Mitchell Marmel & EOCostello
(January 1937)
*  Update 18 May 2010: Art by SusanDeer added  *

The Catto Comeback
by M. Mitchell Marmel and EOCostello

Part 11

    Major Geoffrey O'Dour (ret.), Minkerton's armorer, looked at me sharply.  "Now, pay attention, Fawnsworthy.  I've put together some devices for your next mission which MIGHT just help you make it back in one piece.
    "Now THIS looks like an ordinary fountain pen, but when you press and release the clip, like so, it fires a dart the size of a phonograph needle...like so.
    "The range, Miss Fawnsworthy, is forty feet...and keep in mind that this weapon is only effective if used against an opponent's vital organs...and despite what your mother may have told you, the way to a buck's heart is NOT through his stomach.
    "Now, have a look at these boots.  The soles are designed for good traction on the roughest and muddiest terrain.  Hidden inside the heel rim are a pair of folding blades, like the blades of a pocket knife.  They are placed, rather ingeniously if I do say so myself, so that in the event you are captured and hogtied, you will still be able to reach them and cut yourself free.
    "Bruining P-35 HP nine millimetre pistol.  Fires the same rounds as your Starr, but it has a fourteen shot magazine.  Bulkier, but twice the capacity.
    "Grappling hook and belt reel.  Make absolutely certain that the shaft is pressed down in the barrel of your pistol.  It's designed to be propelled by the exiting bullet.
    "Now...here, an ordinary artist's paintbrush, yes?   No...concealed within the wooden handle we have a dagger of tempered steel.  Rather narrow, but what it lacks in breadth it makes up for in length.
     "Um...I do fail to see the humour, Miss Fawnsworthy.
    "High grade miniature binoculars.  Note the large lenses for better light gathering.
    "And Miss Fawnsworthy, you are expected to return these items.  In ONE piece.  I am not a jigsaw puzzle afficianado, as you seem to think."
    "Is it my fault that electric detonator was so powerful?"
    "Yes, as a careful reading of the instructions *that you should have read* would have told you."
    "Say, are these binocs x-ray binocs?"
    "Miss Fawnsworthy, I do not order my equipment from the back pages of comic books, please."
    "Your loss.  I think sneeze powder is very useful."
    "You would, Willow...Willow...Willow..."
    "Huh?  Oh.  Reggie.  Sorry, just...woolgathering."  I looked ruefully down at my scarcely-touched dinner.  It had been...a disturbing day.
    "I can't do nothin' 'bout it, see?  Can't put no const'bles on guard, and no Guides, neither.  Catto ain't th' Althing's problem.  They got a helluva time cleanin' up after Pickerin's mess.  They ain't gonna be able t'focus on no t'ret, not when we ain't got nothin' on them guys."
    "Does Mrs. Catto know anything?"
    "Hell, no!  Ain't no use rilin' her up."
    "But the Wise One said it was going to hit close to home..."
    "Yeah, an' that's got *me* riled up, see?  I yiff this up, I don't give a damn 'bout th' Althin', I gots issues wit' my kin.  I don't want nonea that, see?"
    I saw.  "You going to do anything?"
    "Lookit.  This is just 'tween youse, me 'n th' four walls, see?  I'm puttin' a Wise One on th' job.  Not the same one you seen here, onea my other sisters-in-law.  They ain't th' gov'ment, but they gots stuff all th' same, iffen ya know what I mean."
    "Stuff that Hillerich & Bradsby, or Smith & Wesson, can't beat?"
    "Yeah, sorta.  I just gotta rely on th' fact that them two mooks gonna stand out like a sore t'umb on th' Main Island, mebbe we can stop 'em, iffen we get some luck."
    "Well, call me the minute something happens."
    Brush looked at me.  "Yer gettin' heavy inta this case.  How come?  Catto ain't yer outfit's client, izzit?"
    "I have my reasons, and so does my boss.  Just call it....pro bono publico."
    "Pro bunny what?"
    "That's fancy Latin for the public good."
    "Heh.  Whackin' them two mooks is th' whatchamalit public-oh, awright.  Oh-keh, soon as I hears somethin', I'll either buzz ya, or sends a const'ble over."

    Reggie looked concerned.  "What's wrong, darling?"
    I managed a sickly sort of grin, toying with my cigarette lighter.  "Oh..."
    "Fwnswrthy?  Jrrry."
    "Jerry?  You sound like hell."
    "No s'prise there.   I'm tanked to the gills on painkillers."
    A bitter snicker across the transPacific line.  "Yeah."  A pause as he spat something out.  "Yer boyfriends play rough.  Caught Charlie and me outsida Pakololo's.  We *thought* they were having cocktails an' playin' kissyface.  We learned different.  Real Brooklyn stompn'.  Eighty percenter."
    "Huh.  Forty aches and a mewl, hunh?"
    Jerry growled.  "Stuff it.  We got problems.  YOU got problems.  The Dover Boys are vamoosed.  No forwarding address, and damfino how they got offa Hawaii."
    "Couldn'ta put it better myself.  Best get the locals to put out an APB.  They're armed..."
    "...dangerous and out for blood."
    "You got it.  For all we know, they may be there already.  They had enough time while Charlie an' I were outta it.  Sorry about the lack of warning, but I'm still spittin' teeth."
    I sighed.  "Thanks, Jerry.  You did real good."
    "You owe me, Fawnsworthy."  I could practically hear Jerry's crooked, painful grin over the phone.  "But that bastich Katt owes me for a broken nose."
    "Don't sweat it.  By the time I get through with him, he won't have one left to pick."
    "Attagirl.  Whazzat?  Oh...oh, yeah.  Charlie says he wants ya to clip 'em, so help him he wants ya to mow 'em down."
    "Two torpedoes, mash 'em, side of toast.  You want juice with that?"
    "Heh.  Jus' go get 'em."

    Amazing how much Brush can express with a grunt and a growl.  You could tell what was on his mind.

"...unh, business matters."
    A shrewd grin from across the table.  "Minkerton's business?"
    What the-?  "Uh-?"
    Reggie nodded across the table.  "You've been playing with your lighter all evening.  And the last time I saw one like that, my mother was lighting a cigarette..."
    Damn.  The Ritterherz genes sure picked a swell time to come busting out.  "Um..."
    A charming, boyish grin.  "Oh, don't worry, darling.  I think it's marvelous.  You're just like Marjorie Fleece."
    "Marjorie Fleece?"
    Reggie nodded enthusiastically.  "She's the heroine in a book I'm reading, "You Can't Die Twice."  See, she's assigned to be the bodyguard for this rich chappie, only he's not supposed to know she's his bodyguard, but he does know she's his bodyguard, and she's trying to figure out if he knows she's his bodyguard, or he doesn't know she's his bodyguard, but is only assuming that she's his bodyguard, rather than knowing, so she has to act as if he assumes she's his bodyguard, but doesn't know she's is bodyguard.  Unless, of course, she knows that he knows that she's really his bodyguard.  Unless, of course, she's wrong.  Or he is."
    "Reggie?  Honey?"
    "You're making my head hurt."
    "Oh.  Righto.  Sorry."  He grinned.  "No wonder you and Mum are thick as thieves.  Must be like Old Home Week."
    I nodded.  "Among other things."
    Reggie raised an eyebrow.  "Such as-?"
    I winked.  "We both think you're adorable."
    Reggie grinned.  "Can't argue with the truth, I daresay."  He leaned back and looked at me.  "So to reiterate, what's the trouble?  Owl Capone going to knock over the Casino?"
    I sighed.  "Something like that."
    "H'm.  A matter for the authorities, surely?"  He reached to capture my paw in his.
    As we touched, a strange current thrilled between us.  I gazed into his eyes.  "I...Reggie, I love you, you know.  Very, very much."
    "I love you too, darling.  Very, very much."
    "In sickness and in health?"  I smiled.
    Reggie straightened and crossed his heart.  "Until death do us part."
    I drew his paw to my muzzle and tenderly kissed his engagement ring, the mate to mine that he'd ordered from Honolulu.  "Let's have our …cocktails upstairs, shall we?"
    At the door to the suite, Reggie fumbled a bit for his key, fitting it to the lock.  I trailed my fingers down his spine.  I got a kick out of Reggie giggling and snorting at the same time.  I noticed that he stopped himself from dragging his hoof.
    "Yes, beloved?"
    "You have two choices."
    "One, get the damned door open now."
    "Or I tear your clothes off right here in the hall."
    A little voice piped up in the back of my head.  Sounded like Grace.  (Good heavens, what ARE you doing?)
    (Damned if I'm gonna get my tail shot off without having gotten any.)
    Reggie's eyes widened as he turned to face me.  One look in my eyes told him I was serious.
    "Oh, I SAY..."
    One of the nice things about modern ladieswear is the fact that you can get out of it real fast when you want to.  I'm afraid the buttons on Reggie's clothes are never going to be the same again, though.  If Lodge can find them.
    By the time we moved from the living room into Reggie's bedroom, all I had on was a string of pearls around my neck, the silk stockings on my legs, my engagement ring and my purse.  I always carry protection in there. 
    And I don't mean the 9 millimeter kind.
    At least, not in this case.

Turns out Lodge really DOES think of everything.  And the things were sitting on the bedside table to boot.  The little guy is kinda scary sometimes.

    (Shameful.  Brazen.)
    (You are SUPPOSED to wait until your wedding night.)
    (Get out of it.  Saying the word in front of Father Merino just a formality.)
    (It most certainly is not!)
    (Aw, give it a rest.  You can't stop me.  And won't.)

    “Yes, beloved?”
    “Are you…I mean, dash it all, are you quite sure mmmmfffff.”
    Oh, yeah.  Quite sure. 

    Little bit of pain.
    A lot of pleasure. 
    Just like Mummy said it would be.
    (On your wedding night.)
    (Will you give it a REST, damnit?  Go off somewhere else.  I'm busy.)

    We lay together afterwards for quite a little while.  I looked up at the ceiling and gave a happy sigh.  “Reggie?"
    "Mmmmmm?"  A loving look from half-closed eyes.
    I lightly kissed the tip of his nose.  "Thank you.  I needed that more…than I thought."
    An ironic chuckle from my...mate.  Yes, my mate.  An indescribably warm glow spread through me at the thought.  "Errr, ahh-herm, well...."
    I cuddled next to my big, strong buck.  I actually didn't really get a good look at him the first time.  I did now, and rather liked what I saw.  Reggie did the same, and was obviously of the same opinion.  Motion carried, unanimously.

    The second time was even better.
    (I have nothing to say.  We shall discuss this LATER.)

    I was awakened by a shaft of sunlight making its way through the clouds and through the sheer drapes of Reggie’s bedroom.    Our combined musks made a sweet perfume indeed.
    I found myself held gently but firmly in Reggie’s arms, nestled close by, my head tucked neatly besides his under his rack.  The general situation was, I felt, definitely improved, though I fancied I could feel a slight chill from one corner of my body where Grace was sulking. 
    While I’d be content to simply drowse away enternity in Reggie’s sweet embrace, certain biological impulses, alas, made themselves known, and, reluctantly, I disengangled myself in order to visit the little doe’s room. 
    My eye fell on an easy chair near the bed.  Two floofy terrycloth robes were neatly folded there, one with masculine blue stripes, the other in a delicate shade of peach.
    God bless Lodge.

    “Morning, dearheart,” I said, leaning over to wake my beloved with a smooch.
    Reggie’s eyes fluttered open.  “Willow!  I had the most marvelous dream…” His eyes widened.  “It…it wasn’t a dream, was it?” 
    He’s adorable when he blushes.
    “Well, dreamy, at any rate,” I grinned, slipping back under the sheets and cuddling up to him. 
    Reggie grinned back.  “Be back in a jiff, love.”  He rose and stretched.  Yum.  Grabbing the other robe, he paused for a moment, taking in my robe for the first time.  “Hum.  Memo to self, generous bonus to Lodge.”
    I giggled as Reggie headed into the bathroom, flagging proudly.

    “So,” Reggie said hesitantly over scones and orange juice,  “did you, er, sleep well?  Errr, wait, that's an awkward question-“
    I patted his paw.  “I wouldn't use the word "awkward" with you, ever. You’ve had some lucky girlfriends in the past.”
    Reggie blushed beet red.  “Er…well…”
    I smiled mischeviously.  “Big strapping buck like you, must have had dozens of girls at school.”
    “Half a dozen?”
    “Um…”  Reggie’s voice trailed off and he grinned weakly.
    I raised an eyebrow.  “You’re kidding.  You mean you’re a-“
    Reggie smiled quietly.  "Past tense." 
    I leaned back, exhaling a puff of cigarette smoke.  “I’ll be damned.  So we broke each other in?”
    (Vulgar expression.  One would think you were a baseball glove.)
    (Oh, we're up, are we?)
    (Good.  So shaddap and have some juice.  It's fresh-squeezed.)
    Reggie flicked an ear, smiling from ear to ear.
    There were some whispered compliments over the juice.
    “You’re absolutely ravishing this morning,” Reggie said.  “Much better than last night-  He looked concerned as my expression turned wistful.  “Dash it all-“
    “No,” I shook my head, “you more than helped, my beloved, and I thank you for it.” I sighed.  “Doesn’t make the problem go away, unfortunately.”
    Reggie took my paws in his.  “How can I help?”
    I pulled back and sighed, slumping back in my chair.  “The only way…”  I made a sudden decision.  “Is to begin…at the beginning…”
    I stuck out a paw.  “Good morning, Reggie.  My name...
    (STOP!  Good heavens, take care what you're doing!!!)
    (I know what I'm doing.)
    "... is Grace Victoria Stagg…”

    “Dear God in heaven.”
    (Okeh, your turn on stage.)
    (Thanks awfully.  Dear God, the poor buck.)
    Watching Reggie go from an embarrassed blush to deadly pale as Grace told the story was interesting.  In a ghoulish sort of way.
    (I shall omit Rahksov for the moment, as Reggie is already looking rather shocked.)
    (So I’ve noticed.  We’ll save that for later.)
    “…so, the local authorities aren’t going to be able to help Mrs. Catto.  It’s going to be up to Sergeant Brush and myself, er, myselves.”
    A nervous chuckle from Reggie.  “Ye-es.  Indeed.”
    “So!”  I said brightly.   “What do you think, beloved?”
    Reggie gave a half-grin.  “Well…if half of what…Grace…says is true, we’d best get married quickly.  If for no other reason than they won’t be able to make me testify against you…”
    I laughed.  “Reggie, we’ll make a scoundrel of you yet!”
    The grin broadened a bit.  “Heh.  Tempting, really.  Jolly well better than, er, flying a desk, as it were.”    A sly look in his eye.  “But, if there are, er, well, TWO of you…  well, dash it all, isn’t that bigamy?”
    “Soitenly,” I shot back, wiggling my eyebrows and waving an imaginary cigar.  “It’s big ‘o me, too.  It’s big of all of us.” 
    (Do you take anything seriously?)
    We collapsed, giggling, into each other's arms.  The giggles turned into a deep, heartfelt smooch.  Yum.

    “Blast it all, Willow, I want to come!  It’s not right.”   I should have figured Reggie would cut up rough.  It’s only natural to want to defend one’s mate, after all.
    I sighed.  “I know, darling, but I’ve been trained for this sort of thing and you haven’t.  Professional bodyguard, remember?”   Reggie nodded miserably.  I quirked a grin.  “Let me show you a trade secret.  Hand me my purse, would you?”
    “Righto.  My, but these things are heavy.”
    “This one’s heavier than most.”  With a quick motion, my pistol was in my paw.
    “Good heavens,” Reggie said, eyebrows raised. 
    I stowed the pistol, grinning.  “In addition, the bottom of the purse is steel plate, with steel cables bolted to it running through the straps.  Remember the night we met?”
    Reggie nodded.  “I took care of one blackguard, and you apparently managed to dispose of the other.  Didn’t give the matter much thought at the moment, as I was a little…dizzy.”
    I grinned and nodded.  “I had to retire that purse, ‘cos the steel plate got dented on that moron’s thick skull.”
    Reggie grinned.  “Jolly good show.”  He sighed.  “Dash it all, I still feel bloody useless-“
    “Not in the least,” I said firmly.  “You are going to be vital in keeping the rest of our little circle thinking all’s well.  Which means keeping that twit Phlute occupied.”*
    "Oh, I know, I know.  But I wish there was something else I could do..."
    "Well..."  I waggled my eyebrows.  The little box on the nightstand wasn't depleted quite yet.
    (And that's ANOTHER thing I want to...)
    (I know, I know...talk to me later, okeh?  Or leave me a memo.)
    Oh, MY.
    So THAT'S what's meant by a 'soldier's farewell'.

    While my buck napped, a silly, lovely, adorable grin on his face,  I grabbed a quick shower and faced the inevitable problem of going out in public from the boyfriend's place in last night's clothes.
    Except I didn't have to.
    A smart, trim safari dress, just my size and in a subdued shade of medium tan, was laid out just outside the bath, along with my unmentionables and my evening dress, spotless and neatly hung in a garment bag.
    Lodge really IS a marvel.

The next order of business was to get some correspondence done.
    Two letters.  One to Reggie, filling in the details.  The other to Da.  What I would have told him had we had the chance.  And giving him the solution to the Rahksov matter.  Took about an hour, longhand.  Didn't want to wake Reggie darling with typing. 
    Lodge shimmered in with a tray of tea and cookies.  I looked up.  "Lodge, you're a gem, you know that."
    A bow.  "It is, as always, my pleasure to be of assistance."
    "I would like to express my deepest appreciation as well, Mister Lodge."
    The minutest raising of one eyebrow.  "Indeed, Miss...?"
    Of course.  They hadn't been formally introduced, though I had no doubts that Lodge had discreetly overheard at least some aspects of our post-pillow talk.  I stood and Grace extended a paw.  "Grace Stagg, Mister Lodge.  A pleasure."
    "Please, Miss Stagg.  Just...Lodge.  And the pleasure is all mine."  If Lodge thought I was nuts, he kept that to himself as he gravely shook my paw.
    I grinned wanly and sat back down, munching a cookie without much enthusiasm.
    "Is  something..."
    I nodded.  "Things are breaking out all over."
    A shimmer of whiskers.  "Indeed, Miss Fawnsworthy?"
    "Remember that conversation we had some days ago, Lodge, about Mrs. Catto?"
    Lodge apparently decided to answer to the voice, and responded to my mid-Atlantic twang (as opposed to Grace's New Haven accent, which sounded more Louisburg Square).  "Yes, Miss Fawnsworthy."  A worried look furrowed his brow.  "Mr. Buckhorn is most disturbed by this situation."
    My ears dipped.  Lodge caught the signal, and merely nodded.
    "Well, I am certain, Miss Fawnsworthy, that Sergeant Brush has matters well in paw, and..."
    "Lodge, those two gentlefurs...and I use the term loosely...played punchball with the skull of my immediate boss in Honolulu and one of his other ops.  These guys are playing for keeps, Lodge."
    "Alarmingly evident, Miss Fawnsworthy."
    "Lodge, it's my...our...OUR responsibility to do what we can to stop this.  Like it or not, this is a case of returning with my shield.  Or on it.."
    "I find the historical allusion deeply disturbing, Miss Fawnsworthy.  Miss...Stagg.  If you will forgive me for venturing an opinion?"
    I sighed and nodded.
    "I fear greatly what Mr. Buckhorn's reaction would be, should you come to harm or worse.  Mr. Buckhorn is not used to tragedy, especially in matters of the heart."
    I closed my eyes.  "Tell me something I don't know, Lodge."
    "I have been his gentlefur's gentlefur for some years now, Miss Fawnsworthy.  No gentlefur is a hero to his own valet, but I will say that I have a level of fondness for Mr. Buckhorn that is unusual in my profession.  He may have many faults, but as with the curate's egg, parts of him are excellent.  Any catastrophic shock could have the most terrible and heart-rending consequences..."
    I cut Lodge short before I heard any more.  He was starting to make my resolve waver.  I held out the envelopes.
    "Lodge, do you have a strongbox?"
        "Indeed, Miss Fawnsworthy.  I keep Mr. Buckhorn's passport, vaccination certificates, and other valuable documents in there.  Including..." here he coughed, "...some missives from yourself that he wanted to preserve on the grounds of great importance."
    I had to grit my teeth.  "Lodge, this is tough enough as it is.  Stop it."
    "I am sorry, Miss Fawnsworthy.  You were saying?"
    "Fetch the box, Lodge."
    He did so, and unlocked with a key from his key-chain.
    "Lodge, these are some very important letters.  The main letter is for Reggie.  And a letter for my father.  See to it that they are delivered if, and ONLY if, the worst comes to pass."
    "I shall do so, Miss Fawnsorthy, Miss...Stagg."
    I looked down at my paw, at the ring Reggie gave me.  As of right now, the most precious tangible thing I had.  Mooks like Wynt and Katt wouldn't flinch at looting their victims.  With a sigh, off came the ring, and with a lingering smooch, in it went, into the strongbox.  I slammed the lid shut.  "Remember your promise, Lodge."
    "I shall not forget, Miss Fawnsworthy.  Miss Stagg."
    I turned to leave, and I had my paw on the door when there was a discreet cough from right behind me.  I turned again, to see Lodge's face looking very grave.  He gave a concerned bow.
    "Good hunting, Miss Fawnsworthy.  Miss Stagg."
    Grace shook his hand equally gravely.
    I hugged the breath out of him.

    Back at the Grand, Les was mercifully nowhere to be seen.  Hopefully, still asleep.  I thought I caught a hint of doescent and smiled gently to myself. 
    Time to go.  
    I added a few deadly toys from the safe, slinging the Bruining under my armpit and depositing the Starr into one of the pockets of a special bush jacket which complemented the safari dress perfectly. 
    The jacket also featured extra layers of silk, carefully sewn in with the woven layers offset in a radial pattern.  Wouldn't necessarily stop a bullet, but it'd give it something to think about. 
    My special boots were next, and an Aussie-style bush hat completed the ensemble. 
    Shortly after I got to Meeting Island, I could hear the bells start to ring from St. Anthony's. 
    (Oh, for the love of....NOW what?)
    (Early Mass.  AND confession.)
    (I have nothing to confess, except my genius.)
    (Very droll.  Now march yourself into St. Anthony's.  NOW.)
    (I don't have time.)
    (You are making time.  Right now.  I can make things very difficult for you, you know.  For example...)
    (Jesus Christ.)
    (Don't ADD to your issues.  Just go, d'ye hear?)
    It was a Low Mass, very quiet and business-like.  Not much of a crowd, just Father Merino officiating, plus three elderly femme canines dressed from head to toe in black.  The femmes took no notice of me, other than to give me a curious look on their way out after mass.  Perhaps they were expecting another deer.
    (Confession booth.)
    (We don't have time.)
    (You have time for a Field Mass.  Explain that you have committed fornication with Reggie...)
    (The hell I did.  I yiffed him good and...)
    (Will you STOP using that vulgar language?  You won't be able to do that when you're Lady Buckhorn.  IF you live that long.  And I don't care about you, but I am NOT running the risk of dying without the sins I've been dragged into being forgiven.)
    (If I get another dose of six weeks out of this, I'm gonna make your life hell.)
    (I should think Father Merino has seen worse on this Island.  March.  Oh, and after confession?  We have a bit of further business here at St. Anthony's to take care of...)
    (Oh.  Yeah.  You're right on that, Gracie.)
    (I am always right.)
    (No comment.)
    Well, Grace called it.  For some reason, Father Merino seemed...oddly relieved?  Maybe it was because this was a relatively normal sin.  For me, at any rate.
    'Course, the penance showed a little flash of cynical creativity.  For the sin of using contraception, I was directed to go do a service for a mother.

Cenotaph (medium) (Inspector Stagg's memorial to his wife & children) - art by SusanDeer; characters by E.O. Costello & Mitch Marmell
"Cenotaph" - Art by SusanDeer   (larger file here - 2.2 MBytes)  *


    When they had all gone, I slipped into the lady chapel, where the Cenotaph was.  I leant forward, kissed my fingertips, and pressed them once against the images of Mummy, Helen and Margaret.
    "I won't let any of you down.  Or Da,"  Grace murmured.  "There's one child who isn't going to lose the most precious thing he has."
    I knelt down in front of the little altar.  The cushion still smelled of Da.  Made sense, as much time as he spent here.  Grace said a long prayer, which had a whole lot of dependent and subordinate clauses in it.  Hopefully, He could keep things straight.
    The first drops of rain had started as I headed into HQ.  The desk sergeant looked up.
    "Hey!  You Fawnsworthy?"
    "That's me.  Sergeant Brush in?"
    "Yeah.  You'd better go on back.  He's been looking for you for the last hour or so."
    I headed back to Durian Face's office, fast.
    "Jeez, where th' hellya been?  Things been happenin' crazy-like last few hours or so..."
    "Sorry.  I had to get the decks clear before the spraint hit the fan."
    Brush cursed as a gust of wind carried some rain in through a broken window.  He moved some papers out of the way, and jammed a copy of yesterday's Elele into the gap.
    "They're here."
    I used a few words that made Grace blush.  "How do we know?"
    "Night watch-fur over on Eastern saw the hound.  At least, saw him brief-like 'fore he gots clobbered a few."
    "When was that?"
    "'bout twelve-t'irty this mornin', best as th' guy remembers.  No sign of his buddy, but I figger they ain't travelin' separate, see?"
    "Not damn likely, yeah.  Any ideas how they got off Eastern Island?"
    "Yeah.  Sucker-punched a water-taxi driver, grabbed his rig.  These guys ain't exactly bein' subtle, y'know.  An' that's got me wonderin'..."
    "Whether they've got their escape all figured out, and they don't have to worry too much?"
    "Un-hunh.  Got it in one.  Anyhoo, th' water-taxi, they finds it atta beach on th' Main Island.  Guide spotted it 'bout an hour ago."
    "You put out an APB?"
    "Best as we can.  Ain't too many phones on Main.  We gots th' SIC shacks, an' we're usin' Guides as runners.  Problem is, th' goddamn weather ain't cooperatin'.  Not good goin' fer footpads."
    "Where's Mrs. Catto?"
    "Shifted her a village over.  My native village up in th' Uplands.  Hard t'get there, less'n ya know th' place..."
    "Or you're real determined."
    Brush's ears dipped.  "Yeah.  Anyhoo, my sister-in-law, she's gonna look after her, which is somethin' or other.  C'mon.  Let's get our tails in gear an' get over t' Main, see what he can finds out."
    The news went from bad to worse.  Winds had knocked out phone service to the village Catto was stashed in.  We had to disperse the Guides over a lot of Main to watch for every path we could think of for Wynt and Katt.  And the weather was starting to get worse.
    "I'd feel better, Sergeant, if we headed..."
    "...up ta th' village an' pull guard duty ourselfs?"
    "I'm witcha.  I don't likes th' looks a this, nohow, lemme tellya."
    We'd gone through three villages, getting up toward the higher part of Main Island, when Brush ducked into one of the SIC "shacks" on the Main Island.  The shack was occupied by a telephone and a cot.  The constable on the cot was moaning and holding a badly bleeding leg.  From the looks of his face, more that one means of persuasion had been used.
    Brush dropped to his knees, and began whispering frantically in Spontoonie at the constable.  Some questions had to be repeated.  He didn't like the answers.
    "Our guys, all right.  One of 'em threatened t' chop a finger fer each question he didn't get no answer fer."
    "What were Wynt and Katt looking for, specifically?"
    "They wuz lookin' fer directions.  T'my village.  Where Catto's at."
    A Guide poked his head into the shack and nearly lost his breakfast.  Brush snapped something at the Guide and pointed at the Constable as we passed them at a near run.  Up towards Mrs. Catto's sanctuary...


*See Valentine’s Dazed
       To "The Catto Comeback"