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by M. Mitchell Marmel & EOCostello
The Catto Comeback
by M. Mitchell Marmel and EOCostello
I figured I was one up on Meffit, at least as far as Franklin getting better was concerned.
(I was feeling better too. Thanks for asking.)
For one thing, Franneleh went walking around more. Quite a bit, actually. Sometimes we walked together, sometimes not. I wasn't worried. I knew that he wouldn't be going back to that ledge. Except, maybe, for the view. Especially when I was using the tidal pool.
Franklin would have the towels and robe waiting at the top of the steps (I think he kinda liked watching me shake the water out of my fur). Couldn't talk him into taking another dip there, though. "Sorry, Rosie. I think I've had enough cliff diving to last me a lifetime."
I could see his point. We DID have more Japanese baths together, though, and just enjoyed the warm water and each others' company.
I liked the Seven Springs gardens. The soil was a lot warmer than you'd think for the area. Musta been because of the springs. Natural hothouse. Even if I wasn't tempted to eat the flowers like Franklin might, they still made me feel better.
One afternoon, Frannleh disappeared for quite some time. I was getting worried, and I was on my way to the front desk to start asking around, when I spotted a pedicab parked neatly in the front walk with a familiar-looking hoof poking out of one end.
Father, dear father, come home with me now, the clock in the steeple strikes...well, five, anyway. I took a sniff. Hmmm! Berries and cream. He's got a spot of it on his nose. A full tummy and a ride must have sent him back to fawnhood. Aw, such a cute lil' Franneleh. Welp, better wake him up. Sleeping in the back of a cab will do his back no good at all.
I took the spot off his nose the yummy way. "(smooch) Wakey-wakey!"
"Fine thing, coming home reeking of berries and cream. What will the neighbours think?"
"That they serve a good high tea at the Triton Cafe."
"Do they, now?"
"Yes, I was just over there, for a...well, for a bit of a change."
"And you didn't invite me? I'm hurt."
"Sorry, beloved. Spur of the moment thing. What say I treat you in a day or two? I don't want to overdo, of course, but..."
"It's a deal."
A day or so later, I was relaxing in our suite when a knock came on the door. "Ciss!" I jumped up and hugged her. "Good to see ya, kiddo!"
"Hi, Rosie." Cissleh looked around the room. "Where's the Inspec...I mean, where's Franklin?"
"They had him soaking his hoof in a hot mud bath, earlier. He should be back any moment, now. Why? What's going on? *Something* is under your fur..."
She gulped a little, and nervously twitched her nose. (Sorta cute when she does that.) "Well, I've been ordered here..."
"Hunh. S'matter, the mamser get bored because he didn't have Stagg to kick around?"
"Ummm. Chief Pickering isn't exactly in a position to do that, anymore."
She reached into her little attache case, and pulled out a few copies of the Mirror. The photographs in the first issue left little to the imagination. Not surprisingly, we hadn't heard anything. Part of the Seven Springs' service is to keep the outside world away from the guests as much as possible.
"Nu? It's not like this will cause anyone to have a heart attack, except...maybe...Gottenu..."
Ciss winced agreement
"Ach, Gott. You don't suppose...?!"
Ciss snorted. “What do you think?” She pointed to the next few issues. They laid things out pretty bare. In more ways than one. Gotta admit, that little ewe knew her stuff. Wonder what the furs at the Lotus would have thought.
I sighed. "Well, couldn't have happened to a nicer fur. Soooo…what do we tell Franklin?"
"Tell me about what?"
Two heads whistled around fast enough to make a chiropractor grin. Franklin paused to slide the door shut, and strolled in. He looked happy enough, though he did a pretty violent double-take when he saw the bunny.
"Er? Oh. Ahrm. Good afternoon, Miss Lopp. I didn't know you were coming. Have you come to check on me?" He tilted his head a little to the side and raised one eyebrow. I couldn't suppress a snicker.
Ciss stood at something approaching attention. "No, Inspector. Well, not officially. You see. Well. The Althing has ordered me here."
"Ordered, Miss Lopp? What for?"
"It's because of the…scandal, Inspector. They want me out of the way, at least until they can get things sorted out."
Stagg snorted. "Scandal?" He saw the copies of the Mirror, his face went dead white, his eyes bugged out, and his jaw opened and closed soundlessly a few times, before he caught his breath and managed a hoarse whisper, clutching his stick with a shaking paw. “Oh, dear Lord. Not again. Please, not again!!"
I almost thought that days of work were about to go down the crapper…but my heart soared as Franklin set his jaw. Attaboy. He was still very pale and trembling, though.
Ciss hastened to reassure him. "It's all right, Inspector! It's all right. Mr. Sapper...I mean, Chief Sapper, he has everything under control, and he's working just fine with Sergeant Brush. Really, he is!"
After a moment, more control returned. "You mean to tell me that the Althing stepped in and appointed…the Patrol Chief as the new Chief Constable?"
Ciss nodded. "Yes, Inspector. It happened very quickly."
Franklin breathed in slowly and deeply, frowning a bit. “…Just so. Well. Thank…God for that." A sudden, faintly sheepish grin "Would you ladies care to join me in the garden? I think some fresh air would do us some good."
There was a small stone bench beside a tree overlooking the koi pond which could seat two comfortably. I hesitated a bit about grabbing the second space, and looked at Ciss. Bless her, she quietly nipped off, fetched the newspapers, and came back, sitting neatly at Franklin's hooves.
Franklin didn't look much at the pictures, but he paid a lot of attention to the stories, reading some of them over twice. Eventually, he gently tossed the last of the papers to the grass, leaned back against the tree, and sighed.
For once I was speechless.
Ciss let out a shrill squeak. "Poor fur?!? Franklin, he was a horrible, mean, rotten, crooked fur!" Franklin gave Ciss a curious look. This outburst wasn't like her. She kept going anyway. "If it hadn't been for the fact that I needed the job, and the respect I had for Mr. Sapper and...well, you..." Here, she blushed a deep red, and just shut up.
There was dead silence for a minute. Franklin looked down at his hooves, and then, quietly, took a paw and scritched Cissleh's ears. She scooted a little closer, and rested her head against his legs, holding them while she got something, I think, she'd been looking for for a long time. I nodded my approval. After all she'd gone through, she deserved it.
After a while, Franklin cleared his throat, and sighed.
"Ladies, I want to apologize. I'm very, very sorry for worrying you just now. The news, you see..."
Ciss looked up. "But you hated Pickering, didn't you?"
A long sigh. "I had a deep resentment for Chief Pickering and his attitude toward me, to be sure. The subject of many a long confessional in St. Anthony's. But in the end, you know, it does sadden me, as a professional, to see a career self-destruct in so brutal a fashion. God help any fur who has to endure that sort of experience."
This puzzled me. "But Franklin, why would the whole meshugas nearly put you over the edge, again? I mean, I'd expect you to be happy."
A slightly shaking paw pinched his eyebrows, and there was another long sigh. He leaned back against the tree, opened his eyes, and stared at the branches above him, like he was trying to will the cherry blossoms open.
"I thought it was happening all over again."
"What was happening all over again?" Hey, I’m a cat. We’re curious, remember?.
Franklin sighed. “Oh, I had thought…this put me in mind of how I became Chief of the New Haven State Police, and, naturally, I had, well…
"It seems so long ago, and yet it has only been about seven and a half years, going by the calendar. It might as well be about Ninevah and Tyre for me, for all that's happened since then."
He reached out with his paw, and began stroking Ciss' ears.
"Back in 1929...before all of the bad things happened...I was the number five man in the New Haven State Police. There was the Chief, his deputy, the Watch Commander, his deputy, and then myself. It was like today, really.”
I shot a glance at Ciss. Really?
She pursed her lips and gave a negative shake of her pretty little head. No way.
Oblivious to this, Franklin continued his tale. “I was the Chief Inspector, in charge of the detective force. Rather larger command, of course. I had twenty furs working under me, not just one. Redoubtable as Sergeant Brush is, I had more at my pawtips, then."
"And they were a wonderful crew, too. I'd personally hired a number of them, and I had trained all of them they way *I* had wanted them trained. And we got results, too. We were under a lot of pressure to catch the furs who had killed Governor Nutella by grenade fire. It took us quite some time, and it was highly dangerous, but we managed to round up nearly all the gang, and they were sent off to prison in April of '29."
"I was feeling on top of the world. My pension would kick in the next year, and I could retire and do what I always wanted to do. Write, perhaps lecture a bit. Allan Minkerton, God bless him, had a standing offer to take me on to train his lads. Nice salary, all expenses paid. It would have been wonderful."
He began to rub the back of Ciss' neck. He was wrapped up in his memory, so I doubt he felt her paw against his thigh.
"Stupid, really, the whole mess. Just another one of those spoiled brats with too much money and not enough brains. Son of a real estate speculator, chap who'd made money building some of New Haven's first skyscrapers. Big, fat allowance for high living, and he managed to overspend it. Well, one afternoon, he'd taken some young femme to a hotel room. A little champagne, and then a little proposition. She wasn't aware that saying "no" wasn't a part of the game, and he wasn't aware that she meant "no." Anyway, a shoving and hitting match broke out, with the result that he lost his appetite. He opened the door to his room, and threw her out into the hallway, without her clothes."
"Misfortune one: he happened to throw her out at the hooves of one of my men, who had been interviewing someone down the hall. Misfortune two: right across the hall, the night editor of one of our major newspapers was also engaged in an interview, for a new secretary. This one knew how to say yes. Still, journalistic reflex prevailed over baser instinct, and he poked his head out to investigate."
"My lad knocked on the door, and the young hellion answered. That was about the only civil answer that he got, too. Eventually, said hellion decided the time for talk was over, and he took a rather drunken, wild swing at my subordinate. Being a raccoon, it was difficult to see which part of the black around his eyes was natural, and which was induced by a pair of equine fists. The issue was never in doubt."
"The father, of course, had no intentions of letting his son and heir languish in jail for a second longer than he had to. There was little question the girl would be paid off handsomely to keep her muzzle shut, and she was. The rape charge wouldn't stick. There was, of course, the question of the charge of assaulting a detective."
"My subordinate was offered a handsome cheque in order to, quote, lose the paperwork, endquote. It thrilled me to find out that he told that bounder where he could shove the cheque, and that he was going to have a father and son team in the dock if he could help it. I'm proud to say I taught him well."
"The old man didn't give in, though. He knew better than to try to ask me. The reputation of St. Frankie was well known in the Force in those days. So he went above my antlers, to the Chief and his deputy. A pair of handsome cheques, much bigger than the one offered my lad, passed across the desk, and very shortly afterward, a memorandum came down ordering the detective to hand over the file. He refused."
"That was when I was called in. The whole situation was explained to me, and I was requested to assist in resolving the matter. I knew what the matter involved, and I wanted no part of it. Tables were pounded, and fingers were shaken in my direction. There was only one thing I could do. I took out my badge, and placed it on the Chief's desk, and walked out."
"We must now add a third unfortunate coincidence. You will recall the newspaper editor and his new hire. She turned out to be a highly resourceful femme, with a sister who worked at the bank where the Chief and his deputy both had accounts. Incredibly, they deposited the checks. Stupidity, perhaps. Arrogance, more likely. In any event, she "borrowed" the checks and called her sister, who promptly told her lover, who equally promptly got a photographer."
"Well, the editor put two and two together, fast. He'd held the story, but he now had enough for a nice, juicy story. It made the bulldog edition of the next morning's papers. Plenty of time for the General Assembly members to read it over their morning coffee."
"New Haven was either blessed with, or cursed, depending on your point of view, with a whole series of feckless, revolving-door cabinets. Needless to say, a juicy scandal like this was tailor-made to bring down the government of the day, and the Prime Minister knew it. Quickest thing you know, the Chief and his deputy were fired."
"The Watch Commander was called in. He refused the job, and hurriedly turned in his resignation, as did the deputy. All very mysterious, until it developed, a few days later, that both had magic tin boxes in their offices, filled with generous contributions by not just real estate developers, but the owners of various legal and illegal establishments in New Haven City."
"All of this was academic for me, of course. I'd 'phoned Allan the night I quit, and told him I was taking him up on his offer. It was going to be a job and a half to clean out my office, of course. Then as now, I tended to accumulate books and papers. I was involved in this job, and passing on the paperwork to my successor, so I didn't see the newspapers. The ones that reported my resignation before everything blew up, and why I had resigned. I also missed the editorials in most of the newspapers regarding my future. I knew that the paper my family owned, and for which my second-eldest brother was the publisher, would say nothing. On the surface, conflict of interest. In truth, because he had a hearty distaste for me, and thought I was a prat. Be that as it may."
"Gracie...my eldest, God rest her soul...had just finished up at Collegiate, and she was on her way to study law there in the fall. She wanted to be like her father..."
He wasn't the only one to gulp at this. Ciss rubbed at Franklin's thigh, giving him moral support, until he could continue.
"Well. She was helping me clean out my office. We'd almost finished the job when Harvey Bullock came in. Nice fur. Apple farmer from Killingworth, had represented the town for years in the General Assembly. When Nutella was blown apart, he was the consensus choice, one of the few things anyone could agree on. If we'd had more honest furs like him, things wouldn't have gone to hell like they did."
"Anyway, he sat down on my now-empty desk, and offered me the job of Chief. I turned him down flat. He tried to reason with me, but I turned him down flat again. Finally, he pleaded with me. If the government couldn't get a fur that would instill confidence in the Chief's job, the government was going to fall apart, and even with the Red Fist mostly in jail, that wasn't going to be a good thing for anyone."
"I was going to turn him down flat, for the third and last time, when Gracie pulled me aside. She always knew me best, in some ways, even better than my late wife. We were alike in a lot of ways..."
More than you know, kiddo.
"...she knew which buttons to push. She said I had to do it, that I was the only one who had the strength of character, and the will, to turn around the State Police, and make them what they should be. She said I'd done it with the detectives, and I could do it with the force as a whole. She didn't want me to run, not from a fight, but from a challenge. It was how I could prove that I was the best."
Franklin paused here, and began to absently rub the back of my neck. It was getting a little hard to concentrate.
"Well. It was always hard to refuse Grace anything. And she did know me best, and how to appeal to me. It was she who pinned the little silver badge on my lapel. And it was she who claimed the right to be the first to congratulate me. Bullock, God rest his soul, was never the type to stand on his position, and cheerfully took second place."
Scheiss. I'd heard about this before, but still...
Small wonder Willow wanted to change her name and her personality. ‘Course, how was she to know what would happen because she noodged her daddy? Lesson here for you, maideleh.
"So that's how it was that I became Chief of the New Haven State Police. Just in time for the Wall Street Crash about a half-year later, and all the layoffs, bankruptcies, and ineffectual diddling of the General Assembly, until that morning in '31 when the Red Fist, having busted out their colleagues, led a mob to sweep out the government, such as it was, and send them off to jail, including their Chief of Police, who refused to fire on the crowds."
The loudest sound for the next minute was the scritching of my neck by Franklin, and Ciss shuffling a little closer to hug his legs.
I was about to nuzzle Franklin's shoulder when he dropped the ten ton brick.
"So when you told me about Pickering, I had a horrible feeling of deja vu."
What the hell?
"I saw it all happening again. Everything."
I looked at Ciss. He's kidding, right?
A bewildered glance from the bunny that quite clearly said I think the silly so and so is serious.
"Up to and including the destruction of people I love, all because of me..."
Franklin's voice trailed off as he looked back and forth into the faces of a pair of fems wearing very skeptical expressions.
I sighed and pinched my eyes together. "Ciss?"
The bunneleh shook her head. "Inspector, you know full well you're behind Sapper in the chain of command. In any event, they wouldn't have dreamed of dumping the job on you-they know better than to do something like that to you!" Ciss dabbed the tears from her eyes.
I sighed again. "Franklin?"
"Er, yes, Rosie?"
"You've been taking yourself too seriously again."
A tentative "Bah."
"And working Ciss and me over in the process."
"Um...I did say I was sorry..."
"Not good enough." I sighed, pulled back and put my hands on Franklin's shoulders. "Ciss. Ready?"
Ciss locked her arms around Franklin's knees. "Let's do it."
"Now, wait one bloody moment, ladies. Ladies? LADIES!"
I'm not sure who was more outraged, Franneleh or the koi in the pond.