Spontoon Archipelago, 1939
Story & art by Warren Hutch
© 2010 Warren Hutch
PART 2 - BUG PROBLEMS
after eluding their shadowy pursuer, Mrs. Pearl and Miss Early
stood in a modest room in a modest hotel off of the main drag, a bit
away from the noise and activity of the dock. The somberly clad feline
stood and took in the details of the room with her glittering eyes.
It was a smallish room, with slightly mildewed
stucco walls painted a sea foam green. Long banks of wooden shutters
lined the wall across from the small foyer she and her companion now
stood in, built of native wood stained a dark brown and hinged at the
top, meant to be propped upward by a hinged spar that attached from the
bottom edge of the window frame. Currently they were closed, with bars
of the harsh Spontoon sunlight coming into the dark room between the
slats. She noted that the shutters had very simple locks comprised of a
hinged plate that could be held in place with a wooden peg. Rattan
blinds hung in tight rolls from the upper part of the window frame,
with a long wooden pole hung from the wall supporting long curtains of
colorful native cloth on wooden rings, which were currently drawn back
to either end of the room.
A long shelf ran the length of the wall beneath the
window, deep enough to sit on, and for that purpose a few threadbare
green velvet cushions were scattered along the length of the polished
native wood. A low teak tray with a light blue glazed water pitcher and
two yellow glass tumblers rested next to a cracked leather room service
menu with a stylized pelican, the hotel's name and logo, on the cover.
In the corner at the far end of the shelf, a few
pink and white seashells and a dried starfish with a broken arm
accented a white and blue glazed ceramic pot that contained an
arrangement of livid red and orange native flowers and dark green fern
fronds. The pot was of a much copied far eastern design, with a picture
of an elegant snow leopard in flowing robes playing a flute among pine
branches on a mountainside.
Mrs. Pearl's eyes narrowed a bit as she peered
inside to see a silvery microphone, with a thick wire snaking out
through a hole in the base of the pot and out through a hole in the
wall where the shelf made a corner with the wall and window frame.
All the furniture in the room lined the wall
opposite the windows. Two twin size beds with their headboards against
the wall were neatly turned out with linen sheets, each bearing a
comforter of colorful native woven cloth. Carefully patched mosquito
netting hung from a flimsy looking frameworks that hung from the
ceiling over each bed.
Between the beds was a dark stained mahogany night
stand with a cheap slip-cast ceramic lamp in the shape of a curling
seashell coated with a runny aqua blue glaze and a rice-paper lampshade
decorated with pressed fern leaves. There was nothing but a couple of
dead silverfish inside the lamp, which plugged in behind the night
stand to a cracked outlet plate.
A scuffed black telephone sat off to the side,
accompanied by a small wooden picture frame with a yellowed sheet
containing a directory of numbers to dial in various languages beneath
the fingerprint-marked glass. She looked through the shell of the
phone and noted the telltale signs of a crude tap in the receiver, its
wire woven in with the normal phone line that snaked into the wall.
Beyond the beds, a couple wooden suitcase stands
leaned folded against the wall in the corner next to the door into the
adjoining bathroom, which stood slightly ajar. She looked through the
wall and noted the wooden floor gave way to checkered aqua and white
tiles, with sea foam green fixtures. No tub, she was disappointed to
note, but rather a shower stall with a green canvas curtain, suspended
from a similar contraption to the hangers for the mosquito nets. A
molded glass light fixture with a seashell motif hung from the ceiling
with one burnt out bulb, the glass shell drilled with tiny holes and
concealing yet another microphone.
Someone had gone to a bit of trouble.
The brown furred tabby snapped back into focus as
her lapine companion picked up their luggage from where the grinning,
bobbing Spontoonie bellhop had left them and laid them on the beds,
then turned to face the feline expectantly.
Mrs. Pearl met her eyes, holding a finger to her
lips for quiet as she walked into the room and began speaking with a
casualness that belied her pensive expression. "This is nice. We
definitely have to thank somebody on Mister Frankenthaler's staff for
setting us up with such a nice room."
The rabbit doe nodded and cracked her knuckles with
a scowl. "Yeah. I'm durn happy t'see they got their mosquito nettin' in
good shape. I hear tell th' bugs 'round here are a caution..."
Mrs. Pearl nodded as she walked up to the shelf and
plucked one of the tumblers up off of the tray and filled it with
lukewarm water, then continued down the length of the shelf to the
flower pot. She leaned in and inhaled the soft perfume of the freshly
cut native blossoms. "Mmmm. These are gorgeous! They're looking a
little wilted, though."
With that, she poured the glass into the pot, and
was rewarded with a faint crackle and snap, accompanied by a smell of
smoke. Setting the glass down next to the seashells, she crossed over
to the bathroom, motioning for her cohort to follow her. Pushing the
button on the wall caused the light above to come on, with one bulb
doing little to brighten the dimness of the room and the other throwing
no light at all.
The tabby pointed upward to the glass dome and
twirled her finger, giving her companion a meaningful look and
receiving a curt nod in response. Miss Early reached into the pocket of
her coat and produced a set of wire cutters, which she handed to her
companion. The rabbit doe crouched down, wrapped her arms tightly
around the feline's stocking clad legs, and lifted her up with a faint
grunt, holding her up toward the light fixture with her booted feet set
wide to balance their awkward position.
brown furred she cat unscrewed the dome as quickly and quietly as
she could and pulled it down and away from the bare light bulbs. With a
deft flick of her wrist, she snipped the wire from the dead bulb, and
then replaced the glass dome as Miss Early held her steady and nodded
in approval. When the corroded brass screws were back in place, Mrs.
Pearl was gently lowered down to her feet.
The rabbit doe leaned in and gave her a
conspiritorial smile. "Y'all been eatin' regular, darlin'? Seems like
y'all've lost a l'il weight."
At this, the tabby rolled her eyes and beckoned her
companion to follow her back into the room. "Well, we've been pretty
busy lately, not a lot of time for a good meal. Maybe you ought to give
room service a call."
She cocked her head towards the phone and pointed at
it, handing the wire cutters back to Miss Early. With a nod, the tan
furred doe sat down on the bed, turned on the lamp, and picked up the
receiver, gently unscrewing the black plastic mouthpiece.
As she shook the receiver disk into the palm of her
hand and studied the wires trailing from it, the sound of a phone
ringing on the other end was heard, and a female voice with a slight
Far Eastern accent answered. "This is the operator. How may I connect
The rabbit doe inclined her long ear toward the
handset and affected a casual tone as she noted an extra wire trailing
from a blob of fresh solder on the back of the metal disk. "Hmmm. Yeah,
uh..." She glanced across the room at Mrs. Pearl as the feline raised
her hands behind her head to unpin her hat, then shrugged. "uh... gimme
There was a brief pause before the operator replied.
"One moment, please."
As the click of the call being connected cut through
a brief hiss of static, she nipped the extraneous wire, then gently
replaced the works of the phone and screwed the black plastic cap back
Another voice, this time male, came over the phone
as she winked at her feline companion and raised it to her ear.
"Kitchen. What would you like to order?"
At this, the rabbit doe placed her palm over the
mouthpiece and called across to the tabby as she laid her hat carefully
on the shelf by the window. "Would y'all like me t'order somethin'
t'eat, Missus Pearl?"
The feline shrugged noncommittally as she began to
unbutton her jacket. "I'm not really too hungry. It's too hot for me to
have much of an appetite."
Miss Early gave her a concerned look and turned her
attention back to the phone. "Uh.. How about y'all send up some fresh
fruit, and somethin' cold t' drink."
The voice on the other end of the line replied
briskly. "We've got casaba and honey melons in season right now, and
we've got a fine range of wine, beer, and soft drinks. I recommend
either Nootnops Blue or Nootnops Red, which are bottled locally."
The rabbit twitched an ear and glanced at her
companion. "Uh, nothin' hard fer us. Jest send us up some o' them sodee
pops and some honey melon."
The voice on the other end replied with a
confirmation. "All right. That'll be some honey melon slices and two
bottles of Nootnops Red, for room three-eleven. It will be up shortly.
Thanks for your order."
The tan furred doe nodded in satisfaction."Yeah,
thank y' kindly. Later."
As soon as she'd hung up the phone, Miss Early
shrugged out of her jacket and tossed her cap onto the bed next to her
duffel bag, followed almost instantly by her shirt and tie. With her
suspenders hanging down over her hips, she began to unwind the sweat
stained cloth binding wrapped tightly around her chest.
Unlike most females of her kindred, she was all
hard, lean muscle, with almost no fat at all save for two notable
deposits that bounced free when she cast aside the last of the bindings
and stretched with a luxurious sigh, cracking her neck and shoulders
with a blissful expression on her face.
Across the room, Mrs. Pearl rolled her eyes and half
turned away, laying her dark jacket on the bed and crossing to the
window bench. Dark leather straps crisscrossed the forearms of her grey
blouse. With a casual flick of her wrists, the spring loaded devices on
the inside of each arm flipped a compact automatic pistol into each
hand, a matched set that fit her delicate grip nicely.
She double checked the safety catches, popping the
magazines loose to engage the disconnect, and laid the tiny pistols out
on one of the faded green cushions, where the sun gleamed through the
slats in the shutters across the royal blue metal surface and pearl
handles. A hint of silver glistened in the top of each grip, a stylized
eye emblem, with a sapphire accented teardrop beneath it.
The feline became engrossed in unbuckling the
hideout rigs, only half hearing when the springs on one of the beds
creaked under Miss Early's sleight weight, followed by the clunk of her
hobnail boots hitting the floor, then a soft rustle of khaki and the
rattle of suspender buckles.
The sound that finally grabbed Dorothy Pearl's
attention was the creak of one of the shutters, followed by the rustle
of palm leaves on a salt and hibiscus-tinged gust of wind that rushed
unexpectedly into the room, banishing the slightly dank stuffiness that
had lingered there.
She spun on her heel, tail frizzed to twice its
normal diameter with alarm, to see the tan furred rabbit doe leaning
forward over the window sill, with nothing on her taut, athletic body
save for white gym socks and a pair of flimsy cotton boxer shorts. An
appreciative whistle sounded from the street below, to which Miss Early
smiled wryly and replied with a wave that transitioned smoothly into an
upraised middle finger.
Jane at the Window - by
Warren Hutch (larger file here - 908
hot blush spread across Mrs. Pearl's cheeks beneath the faint tabby
stripes. "Holy Mackerel! What... What are you doing? Don't stand by the
window like that! People can see you!"
It was Miss Early's turn to roll her eyes as she
allowed the tropical breeze to ruffle her sand colored fur and close
cropped, orange hair. "So whut? I saw plenty o' folks wearin' not much
more n' this on the way over." Her voice took on a mock sinister tone.
"What happened to "The Gaze sees
Mrs. Pearl stood rigid with flaring eyes and fists
clenched down at her sides, as the rabbit doe casually reached around
back, slipping her fingers beneath the elastic waistband of her sole
garment and scratching down beside her fluffy tail.
The flustered she cat drew herself up imperiously.
"I don't know how it is where you come from, Miss Early, but these days
a lady doesn't... put herself on display like that."
The tan furred rabbit snorted and turned to fix her
companion with a laconic gaze. "Where I'm from, darlin', gals got
enough sense t' not drop dead from heat stroke wearin' a black suit in
a hundred degree tropical zone. Seriously, y'all better shuck them duds
fer somethin' lighter 'fore y'all keel over."
The tabby's eyes flashed in anger. "Not until you
close that shutter, thank you very much!"
At this, the rabbit heaved a sigh and reached up,
releasing the blind and allowing it to drop down over the window, The
porous screen billowed in the tropical gusts but shut out the outside.
Under her companion's glare, Miss Early proceeded to brace up the
shutters and lower the blinds in front of them.
When the last shade was in place, she crossed her
arms in front of her and stared back at the feline with lips pursed
impatiently. "There, y'all happy now?"
The tabby stripes between the she cat's ice blue
eyes deepened as she sullenly averted her gaze. "I've got two more
fu... T-two more years before I can even LOOK happy. If I'll ever
actually BE happy, well who knows?"
The rabbit's expression softened as she reached up
and laid her hands on Mrs. Pearl's shoulders. Her voice took on a
soothing tone. "All right, Dorothy. What's REALLY buggin' y'all?"
The feline sniffed and wiped her moistened eyes with
the back of her hand. With a sigh, she shrugged out of her companion's
gentle hands, crossed over to her jacket, its dark charcoal outline
making a silhouette against the bright native cloth of the bedspread,
and pulled the photograph from one of the inside pockets.
She then walked back to the rabbit doe and gravely
handed it to her. "Just this. Brought back some memories is all. It was
taken at the Spring Cotillion in thirty-five, just after Eddie
She averted her eyes, the ice blue irises softening
in the lingering tears. "I try to set it aside and stay focused on the
task at hand, but I still miss him, sometimes so bad I can't stand
Miss Early nodded solemnly. "I know it, darlin', and
I'm sure that wherever it is he's lookin' down on y'all from, he know's
y'all're keepin' him deep in yer heart."
The tabby female nodded and let out a heartfelt
sigh, and began to undo her cravat, taking care to remove the
glittering jewel brooch and lay it carefully on the cushion next to her
When she turned back to face her tan furred cohort,
she gave her a melancholy half smile as her delicate hands
reached up to unbutton the onyx buttons down the front of her grey
blouse. "There are times, though, where I really want to strip out of
these damn widows' weeds and run down the street as naked and carefree
as those Spontoonie girls posing for photos down by the docks."
Her smile faded a little as she looked down at her
open blouse. "And it makes me feel sort of guilty for thinking that
way. Like I'm... letting him down..."
The rabbit doe gave her a lopsided grin as she
turned and laid the photograph down next to her cohort's brooch and
pistols. "Well, I'd also be willin' t'bet that wherever yer husband is,
it's air conditioned. I'm sure he wouldn't want y'all walkin' around
broilin' like y'all were down in the other place."
Mrs. Pearl gave her companion a fragile smile as she
slipped the silk blouse down off of her sweat matted shoulders,
revealing a lighter, dove grey slip underneath that was dampened with
her perspiration. Miss Early stepped forward and took the blouse and
draped it in the crook of her arm, walking around behind to begin
undoing the eye hooks on the taillet
of her companion's charcoal colored skirt. The tabby took hold of the
span of dark lace running along the slip's décolletage, peeled the grey
satin away from her chest, and lightly shook the sodden fabric to send
some air down her front.
She cast a rueful glance over her shoulder to the
rabbit doe. "As usual, when you're right you're right, Jane. I was
positively roasting out there. I guess in all the rush I didn't really
prepare too well for this trip."
The dark skirt slid down the grey satin of the slip
and to the floor in the tan furred rabbit's hands. The feline stepped
lightly out of both it and her patent leather shoes.
The athletic doe gathered up the skirt and cast a
grin up to her companion. "Maybe we can find y'all one o' them
Spontoonie sarong thingies in black."
The feline cocked an eyebrow with a wry smile as she
looked over at the cushion cradling her brooch and pistols. "Tempting,
but I don't think I'd have many places to hide things."
Miss Early let out a chuckle as she stood, folded
the skirt neatly, and crossed the room to lay it atop of the jacket on
her cohort's bed. "I reckon that's the idea, darlin'."
She shrugged as she crossed over to her valise and
began rooting around inside. "But I s'pose it wouldn't be practical.
We'll have t' do a l'il shoppin' while we're here."
She pulled out a tightly rolled bath towel, which
she unfurled and draped across her shoulders as she headed toward the
bathroom. She paused at the door with a cocked ear, giving Mrs. Pearl a
nod. "I'm gonna hit the shower. Just y'all relax and unwind fer a
spell. Be out in a bit."
With that, she stepped inside and closed the door
The brown furred tabby gave her an absent minded nod
as she shrugged the spaghetti straps of her slip off of her shoulders.
She let it cascade down to the floor, and stepped out of the resulting
pool of sodden, dove grey cloth, stretching a slender body crisscrossed
by black lace and satin with a grateful sigh. She unbound her dark hair
and let it tumble down over her shoulders.
Just then breeze caused the rattan blinds to billow
and rattle in the muted sunlight they provided, causing the feline's
shoulders to bunch up as she ran her fingers through her flowing locks.
A low, rumbling purr sounded from her chest as her faintly striped tail
waved sinuously behind her.
After basking in the gentle, soothing wind for a few
moments, the tabby crouched down and gathered up her discarded slip,
shaking it out and throwing it across the foot of her bed next to her
suit in hopes that it would dry out a little. She leaned down and
flipped the latches on her suitcase.
A patter of running water sounded from behind the
bathroom door, soon accompanied by the muffled tones of one of the
incomprehensible songs about "throwing elbows" in the "pit" that her
rabbit cohort would sometimes sing to herself in unguarded moments.
The feline smiled bemusedly to herself as she
unsnapped the garter clips on her stockings and opened the clasps on
her girdle, unwrapping it from around her slender torso and tossing it
into the case, followed soon after by her black lace brassiere. She
grabbed up a dusky purple satin dressing gown from among the tightly
packed garments and shook it out, slipping it on over her
Before she drew it closed, she looked down at
herself and took stock. Miss Early had been right about other things,
she had been losing weight. Her ribs were beginning to show, her skin
stretched a bit tighter, her fur a bit duller, a bit darker.
As she had progressed into the strange, shadowy
world she now inhabited, when she paused long enough to look at herself
in the mirror, she noted that the soft, pampered curves of a Noreaston
socialite had given away to the hard, sinewy edges of something she
didn't know the name of. Definitely not as pronounced as her rabbit
cohort's amazing physique, but striking in its difference from the girl
in white she had been on the morning of that terrible day, with its
afternoon in red that had left her a female in black by nightfall.
And there were scars now, unbrushable flaws, bare
patches, and blemishes in the former sleekness of her fur. Here, where
a bullet had grazed her left shoulder from the gun of a panicked mob
torpedo. There, where a gangster's moll in mortal terror had slashed at
her with a switchblade across her collarbone. Around back, where some
shotgun pellets had lodged and had to be dug out by her lapine cohort
with an Alpine knife sterilized over a burning sterno can in the back
of a deserted speakeasy, while the feline nearly bit through a rolled
napkin to keep from screaming.
She sighed, and tied the dressing gown loosely
closed, shaking her head. She planted her foot on the bed to roll her
dark colored stocking down her thigh and over her knee, noting another
spot of discolored fur where some sulfuric acid had dripped off of a
table and burned through both skirt and garter before she'd slipped the
ropes that had bound her to a nearby chair. Her drooping ears perked up
as a knock came to the door.
She stood up, absently rolling the stockings into a
ball and tossing it into the suitcase, and crossed over to the cushion
on the window shelf where her weapons lay. Plucking the eye shaped
brooch up and palming it, she turned back toward the door with a
swishing tail as another knock softly broke the silence.
Her glittering eyes narrowed as her gaze
extended through the door. A male canine stood expectantly, dressed in
a lava lava, deck shoes, a
round cap, and a white, high collared coat with the hotel's pelican
logo embroidered on the lapel.
In his hands he carried a tray with a covered plate,
a couple of sweating bottles of a mellow red soft drink with a red and
white label, a church key with a tiki-face handle, a couple of
tumblers, and a stainless steel bucket full of ice. She looked through
the dull metal of the cover and saw succulent green slices of melon
arranged on a plate with some purple black native berries scattered
She studied the male beneath the clothing, again
decorously stopping herself from peering beneath his loincloth. It was
embarrassing enough for her to be standing there staring at him wearing
little more than a dressing gown. His hide was mottled in brown and
white with long drooping ears that were pierced for earrings but lacked
any adornment, probably since he was on the job. His fur thinned over
his belly and inner thighs, the skin beneath a deep tropical tan, with
a tattoo of stylized ocean waves around his protruding navel in dark,
black ink. He wore sea urchin spines decorated with tiny glass beads
pierced thru his nipples, which struck the Sylvanian female as seeming
like a rather uncomfortable fashion statement.
The feline's ears flattened slightly as she noted
needle marks running in tracks under the fur of his forearms, although
overall he was still youthful, and his physical conditioning was sound,
marking him as having just started down the addict's path to self
Her glittering eyes shifted focus and concentrated
on the dog's aura. At his core he was a cocky young idiot who's life
was slipping more and more out of control without him even being aware
what was happening. She noted hints of nervousness and deception at the
forefront, deep undercurrents of superstition and blithe ignorance,
with the cravings of his new, to him urbane, habit ever present, but
not so relentless yet as to make him the sort of hollowed out ghost
she'd seen more than she would have ever cared to in her battles with
the criminal underworld back in Sylvania.
Still, signs indicated trouble, and he would have to
be dealt with. Gently, if she could manage it, because he was just a
pawn. She glanced at her pistols. No need for the Widow's Tears to weep
today. Just the power of the Eye of the Guardians glittering in her
hand would be sufficient.
She sighed to herself and muttered under her breath.
"So much for relaxation..."
Having taken the intruder's measure, she glanced
back at the bathroom door, straightened her dressing gown so that
modesty was satisfied, and assumed a nonchalant expression. Another
knock, a bit more impatient, came to the door.
She sashayed across and answered it, slipping the
brooch into one of her pockets and peeking out tentatively with an
innocent look on her face. "Yes?"
A broad grin spread across the canine's features.
"Room service, Miss!"
At this, the feline opened the door and stepped into
view. When he met her piercing gaze, the smile on his face faded. Hers
stayed firmly in place. "Oh good. I hope you didn't have to go to too
Her ice blue eyes began to glitter as the canine
began to talk, his own brown eyes rivited on hers and growing wide and
white around the edges at the torrent of words coming out of his mouth
unbidden. "N... no trouble at all miss. It's an easy job, really.
Almost not like work at all. The cook makes it up and gets the ice and
drinks out of the ice locker and gives them to me and I take them up to
the rooms. I hope you give me a good tip and aren't cheap like most of
the tourists who come here and act like they own the place. Of course,
I already made a good fifty shells profit from a pal of mine who poured
something on the melon slices from a little vial he had in his pocket.
He told me it was just something to put you and your friend asleep and
I hope that's true and it's not poison 'cos I'd probably feel bad about
that, and even though you're a cat and a stuck up foreign tourist
you've got a nice body and I can kind of see your melons through that
fancy robe of yours and it's all I can do to keep my other tail from
wagging if you know what I mean and I hope you don't because I don't
want to get slapped on the face or even worse kicked down below because
I can't quite believe I'm telling you all of this and I'm kind of
getting frightened that you're a witch."
He stopped, pale and shaking, as the feline clasped
the front of her robe tighter and held up a hand for silence. Her
chilling eyes bored into the hapless canine. "This... 'pal' of yours.
Who was he? Describe him, please."
The waiter's knuckles went white beneath the mottled
fur of his fingers as another stream of uncontrolled speech escaped
him. "His name's Artie Shaw, but they all call him Aggie. He's a fox.
He's got a notch in his ear and one of his eyes don't look anywhere but
straight ahead. Don't know where he comes from but he's not a
Spontoonie. Hangs around down by the Red Light dock on Casino Island
and sells heroin and opium to the night girls and gamblers. He supplies
the sailor who sells to me and my friends."
The scowling feline glanced down at the bottles of
soda on the tray then returned her glare to the sweating dog's brimming
eyes. "Did he do anything to those bottles?"
The canine shook his head, unable to avert his gaze
from hers. "No miss. They're sealed at the bottling plant. There's no
way we could tamper with them without it being obvious."
At that, Dorothy gave a curt nod and reached up to
pluck the bottles off the tray, causing the shaken dog to flinch back
from her. With his tail tucked tightly behind, he began to back away as
she glared at him, looking like he was ready to run, but still riveted
by the chilling effect of her eyes.
She cocked a hip, allowing the bottles to hang down
between her fingers as she clasped her robe tightly shut with her other
hand. "Wait a moment. I do have a tip for you."
He paused, tentatively raising an ear as the tray
with its unclaimed plate rattled in his hands. "Y-yes, Miss?"
A smirk came to her faintly striped features. She
took a step toward him. "Stop taking drugs, and stop associating with
dealers. If you talk to him again, I will know it. If you tell anyone
about what happened here, I will know it. If you ever let anyone slip
something into anybody's food again, I will know it. If you ever take
another hit, I will know it..."
A sob of terror escaped the cringing waiter's throat
as shreds of darkness coalesced around the terrifying female,
transforming her before his eyes into a looming outline of infinite
blackness, the icy blue of the eyes carving fear into his heart.
A throaty growl rumbled from the depths of the
apparition. "... and you will suffer."
The ineffable figure seemed to bunch in on itself,
as if preparing to pounce. Suddenly, it surged toward him, the eyes
flaring like frozen suns.
Service - by Warren Hutch (larger file here - 1.1 MBytes)
waiter let out a yelp, tossing the tray down with a clatter and
running for dear life down the hall without looking back.
The black shadows dissipated again around the
slender form of Dorothy Pearl, as the muffled sound of yips and cries
accompanied by the sound of a body tumbling and crashing into a wall
came from the stairs. Glancing warily down the hall, she crouched down
over the scattered contents of the tray and plucked the church key up
from the ground, then hastily retreated to the room and slammed the
door behind her.
Miss Early came ambling out of the bathroom with the
towel wrapped around her svelte, muscular frame, her roughly dried fur
and hair coming to dampened points all across her body.
As Mrs. Pearl casually used the church key to pop
the cap off of one of the bottles of Nootnops Red, she cocked an ear
and glanced quizzically past her feline cohort toward the door,
"Was that room service jest now?"
The feline threw back her head and took a long pull
from the bottle before she answered, gazing offhandedly at the label.
"Mm. Good..." Her striking eyes rose to meet her lapine companion's.
"Yes, it was room service. I'm afraid the melon was a little off, so I
sent it back."
At her cocked eyebrow, the tan furred doe gave her a
searching look. "So... I reckon' we prolly wanna eat out tonight, huh?"
The tabby nodded and handed her the other bottle of
soda from the shelf ledge by the windows, then walked back over to her
A shabbily dressed, drab furred fox lingered at the
back entrance of the hotel by the bamboo screened garbage heap, leaning
against the wall with a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips as much
to keep the flies away as to soothe his nerves.
He absently rubbed something spherical on one of the
cleaner areas of his faded, tropical pattern shirt as he peered down
the alley with one squinting eye, while he kept the other screwed
tightly shut. After pausing to examine the object, he cupped it in his
palm and shoved it into his clenched eye socket, blinking to settle it
into position before resuming his vigil with both eyes open.
He let out a shout of alarm and leapt aside with a
frizzed tail as the door slammed open beside him and the young
Spontoonie waiter stumbled out and stopped to frantically look around
the shadowy back alley. His white cap was gone and his formerly slicked
back hair disheveled, and a line of blood trickled down from a welling
bruise on his forehead.
A moment later the fox recovered his wits and
growled at the canine, settling his battered porkpie hat back on his
head and glaring at him with one bloodshot grey green eye. The other
was looking sightlessly off toward another corner of the alley.
"Aslan's aching tail, Laffi! You scared the ever lovin' crap outta me!"
At the sound of his voice, the young dog turned and
let out a shrill yelp, bounding backwards until he slammed into a
nearby row of rubbish bins, making their tin lids crash loudly and
nearly toppling backward over them. With terror widened eyes, he
cowered back from the puzzled vulpine, who took a step toward him.
"What the hell is wrong with you? Did you slip those dames the mickey
like I told you? Hey?"
The shabby fox let out a stronger curse and ducked
as the panicked dog grabbed one of the trash cans, hurled it at him and
then fled pell mell down the alley. As he ran, he tore open his
disheveled uniform jacket, stumbling off balance as he cast it off of
his mottled shoulders and left it lying in the alley behind him,
followed shortly by his lava lava and shoes, before vanishing around
the corner at a desperate run clad only in a loincloth.
The lurker's ears levered back as he stared, jaw
dropped, after the fleeing Spontoonie youth. He cast a nervous glance
up at the hotel, then crouched down and plucked his smoldering
cigarette up off of the ground and took a pull, furrowing his brow in
At the sound of a commotion from inside he hastily
stood and ducked out of sight, pressing himself against the bamboo
screen as a stocky Spontoonie otter in a chef's tunic with a dew rag on
his head leaned out the door, calling in the native lingo after the
waiter. After futilely calling a few times, the cook shrugged and went
back inside shaking his head, muttering to himself. The disreputable
tod lurking behind the screen knew enough relevant Spontoonie to
recognize their phrase for "junkie" among the otter's epithets.
The fox relaxed his tense posture as the door
slammed behind the receding chef. He finished his cigarette and tossed
it down at the ground, crushing it out under the heel of his sandal
with a sour look on his face made slightly comical by the odd angle of
his false eye. "Better tell the boss..."
With that, he cast one more glance around the alley,
jammed his hands into the pockets of his baggy, threadbare slacks, and
hurried away in the opposite direction to Laffi's panicked flight.