Spontoon Archipelago, 1939
Story & art by Warren Hutch
© 2010 Warren Hutch
PART 5 - THE UBIQUITOUS JANE EARLY
There was a commotion at the
Pelican hotel as the tabby and her rabbit doe companion came walking up
the crushed coral path from the main thoroughfare. As they entered the
lobby, Mrs. Pearl's luminous eyes darted back and forth beneath her
veil, taking in the scene.
The hotel lobby was all dark wood paneling and white
stucco, decorated in a tropical take on Art Deco stylings, with
cleverly designed wall sconces designed to look like stylized pelicans
with their bulging beaks holding the lightbulbs. Up above, large
ceiling fans lazily spun, circulating the air in from the open veranda
out front. A woven rattan mat covered the floor in front of the front
desk, with it's banks of guest mailboxes and glinting brass keys
hanging from a hook in front of each one, flanked on either side by
large ceramic pots containing lushly curling fern plants, and painted
with flying, large billed sea birds. A cracked leather couch
accompanied by a long, low coffee table strewn with aged La Vie and Worldview magazines and fresh
tourist brochures was tucked into an alcove next to the well worn
stairs leading up to the rooms. A blue and yellow parrot perched on a
large brass ring by one of the open windows facing out on the veranda,
muttering "Do you have a reservation?" again and again to itself
between squawks and bobs of its head at the turmoil that surrounded it.
There were several uniformed Spontoon constables in
evidence, mostly doing crowd control as a gaggle of curious tourists
and locals milled about, discussing the goings on as if they were at a
A constable came rushing up to the feline and Miss
Early with the hotel's manager, a thin, white furred fox of Tundric
extraction who dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief he pulled out
of the breast pocket of a dark jacket monogrammed with the hotel's
He turned to the uniformed Spontoonie police dog and
nodded at the brown furred tabby. "These are the occupants of the room
in question, Constable. Both of them."
A puzzled look crossed the canine's face as he laid
eyes on Miss Early. "Didn't we just run you in?"
At this, the rabbit's ears drooped, and she cast a
rueful glance at her feline cohort. "Aw crap..."
She shook her head and composed herself and then
looked impassively at the law officer. "Uh... y'all must be mistaken,
officer. I was out all afternoon on Casino Island with my friend here."
Mrs. Pearl flicked an ear, her gaze intensifying as
she looked the constable in the eyes. "Would you care to explain what's
going on? What about our room? Who got "run in", as you put it?"
The constable's brow furrowed as he felt an urge to
tell her everything he knew. "There was a violent confrontation in your
room, ma'am. A burglary gone bad, by the look of it. We're not sure how
many more there might have been, but we've got a fox, a dog, and a cat
in the hospital and we've got a female rabbit in custody who's the
spitting image of your companion there, and who claims to have been one
of the occupants of the room."
She broke eye contact with him, leaving him blinking
uncertainly and shaking his head distractedly, as she looked over at
Miss Early in alarm. The rabbit pursed her lips and let out a curse
under her breath. The feline turned her attention back to the constable
with a serious look on her face. "Can we go to up to our room?"
With a distracted blink, the dog cleared his head
and looked at her gravely. "I think that would be a good idea. I'm sure
the Detective would very much like to talk to you."
Their quaint tropical hotel room was a shambles when
the constable led them through the door, causing both females to stop
and gasp. The mosquito nets were torn down, their hangars dangling
ragged shreds as they hung at odd angles over the overturned beds. The
colorful curtains had shared a similar fate, ripped off of the rings of
the cracked shaft of the curtain rod. The lamp and vase were smashed,
the shade trampled and the flowers scattered and crushed. The suitcase
and duffel bag were turned open and their contents scattered across the
scene. The night stand smashed to splinters. The bench shelf by the
windows had been swept clear, the cushions torn open and the cork
pellets filling them scattered across the savaged rattan mats on the
floor. There were several dents in the walls, with cracked indentations
in the plaster.
A knot of constables stood around a tall,
dark-haired male feline with his hands crossed behind his back over his
pensively waving tail, talking among themselves and looking out the
gaping hole left in the bank of windows. Several of the room's shutters
were smashed out, the broken fragments hanging from the wooden hinges
over the crumpled shreds of the rattan curtains.
Mrs. Pearl nodded do herself as she noted the
kindred of the male in charge and continued scanning her surroundings
with her uncanny vision, her icy eyes gleaming beneath her veil. The
fact he was a cat would make it much easier for her to clear things up.
As the constable crossed the room
to speak to the plainclothes detective, Mrs. Pearl's glittering gaze
fell on something incongruous on the floor in front of her. She
crouched down and plucked a glass eyeball up off the floor, looking at
it quizzically as it looked back.
She was jarred out of her reverie by a polite voice
calling from across the room. "Excuse me, ma'am. That's evidence you're
She looked up at the feline detective and met his
warm amber eyes as he turned, caught off guard by how handsome he was.
The tabby stood there, her mouth slightly agape and her eyes glimmering
as he walked across the room to where she and her lapine companion
Before her gaze his light colored linen jacket
vanished into nothingness, followed by his olive brown slacks, his
subdued native patterned shirt and dark tie, his cotton tank top, his
native patterned boxer shorts, garters and black socks, and finally his
neatly polished oxblood-colored shoes, the leather wallet in his pocket
containing his brass Spontoon Detective's badge, and the shoulder
holster tucked under his left armpit that cradled a .38-Special with a
tiki figure carved into the rosewood grip, each item of clothing
becoming insubstantial and quickly ablating into the air, leaving every
inch of his chiseled, ginger furred frame deliciously exposed to her
before she realized what she was doing.
A hot blush spread across her
faintly striped face as her tail began to lash back and forth in tight
curls behind her, her glittering eyes unable to pull away from his
physique. So... long. It had been so
Jane cleared her throat and nudged her elbow. "Uh...
Missus Pearl? Earth t' Dorothy, are y'all still with us?"
The detective let out a warm chuckle as he held out
his hand. "While you're busy making eyes at me, I'll just take that one
from you, please."
The brown furred tabby shook her head, causing his
clothing to reappear before her, and stammered out an apology, as she
pressed the milky white sphere into his palm, her touch lingering for a
moment before she pulled her hand away. "Oh... oh my. I'm sorry,
He took the glass eye and slipped it into the pocket
of his jacket, giving her a nod in greeting. "It's Detective. Mike
Tillawei, Spontoon Detective Service."
As he reached up to pull out his badge and flash it,
Mrs. Pearl's faintly luminous eyes caught the glint of a gold band
around his left middle finger. Her ears drooped slightly in
embarrassment, tinged with an uncomfortable sense of disappointment, as
she gave him a halting nod in greeting. "My name is Dorothy Pearl. I
was renting this room with my traveling companion, Miss Jane Early."
As she indicated the rabbit doe standing tensely
beside her, the handsome cat did a double take, and interrupted the
brown furred feline with an exclamation, staring at Jane with an
expression that was equal parts confusion and suspicion. "Wait a
minute. What are YOU doing back here so quickly?"
The tan furred doe shoved her ball cap back on her
head and gave him a cagey look. "I ain't got no idea what y'all're
talkin' about, mister. I was with my compadre here th' whole dang day."
Mrs. Pearl cleared her throat and interjected before
the ginger furred cat could reply. "Can you tell me what happened here,
Detective Tillawei? We've been on Casino Island all afternoon, and only
just got back a few minutes ago."
The male feline's brow
furrowed as he looked at them with narrowed eyes. "Is that so? Both of
A quizzical look crossed the female feline's face.
"Of course. Miss Early has been with me the whole day. If you need
corroboration, you can talk to the hotel's concierge, or the water taxi
drivers who took us out and back. Their names were Mister Kapua and
Mister Palaulu, boat numbers: Two-oh-three-seven-oh-four and
five-seven-five-five- seven-oh-two, respectively."
The cat pursed his lips, a pensive look crossing his
face as his tail waved sinuously behind him. "You'll excuse my
skepticism, ma'am, but you seem awfully glib with those license
Mrs. Pearl's eyes glittered as a faint smile came to
her lips. "I've got an eye for detail."
The detective crossed his arms in front of him.
"Well, the details and the numbers aren't adding up here, Missus
Pearl." He looked at the tan furred rabbit with searching eyes. "A
rabbit doe who looks exactly like you and who also happens to answer to
the name 'Jane Early' was arrested in this very room for assault and
battery, destruction of private property, and disturbing the peace,
several hours ago."
He began to slowly rock back and forth on his heels
as he looked them both over. "The only possible explanations are either
you somehow smuggled an identical twin sister in past the hotel staff
and the customs officers on East Island."
He paused, his amber eyes
focusing on Miss Early as she fidgeted. "Or else you got on the water
taxi with your friend here this afternoon, jumped off somewhere in the
middle of the lagoon and swam back, slipped into the hotel and trashed
this room whilst beating the tar out of three full grown males, then
waited around for the constables to show up and turned yourself in, and
THEN somehow escaped from the holding cells down at the station, found
a change of clothes and met up with your friend, then came back here."
The feline and rabbit glanced at one another, then
Miss Early spoke with a resigned tone to her voice. "Well, I guess th'
only thing t' do is t' git on over t' the station with y'all and count
The cat stood for a moment in thought, stroking his
chin as he considered the two females.
He gave a nod. "Yeah, I suppose that'd be the
quickest way to settle this."
He turned crossed the room, snagging a short brimmed
fedora up off of the emptied shelf beneath the bank of windows and
turned, calling out instructions to the uniformed constables in
Jane leaned in and whispered to her cohort. "Y'all
okay thar, Missus Pearl. Y'all seem a l'il... distracted right now."
The feline pulled her gaze
away from the ginger furred detective and cleared her throat, looking
at her companion with a furrowed brow. "Not... not at all, Miss Early.
Just thinking about my... um... our next move."
The rabbit doe gave her a wary look, her voice
dubious as she spoke. "Uh huh..."
Her expression became conspiratorial. "Y'all gonna
work yer mojo on this feller?"
The brown furred tabby drew herself up and spoke in
an outraged whisper. "MISS Early, I would never even THINK of..."
She caught herself, her ears levered back as a
thoroughly nonplussed expression crossed the tan furred doe's face. She
lowered her voice. "I... I mean... I'll have to see. I haven't looked
at his aura yet. I don't like to use The Gaze on the good guys.
Hopefully we can get you out of jail without..."
She stopped as Detective Tillawei approached them,
settling his hat on his head. "All right, the boys will straighten up
here. You ladies ready to go?"
Mrs. Pearl cast a glance at Miss Early, sighed and
nodded. "Please lead the way, Detective."
They walked down the thoroughfare toward the docks,
striking west toward the rapidly setting sun. The crushed coral gravel
of the road gave way to the broad planks of a boardwalk that overlooked
a long stretch of beach along the island's north coast, its churned-up
sand covered in the footprints of throngs of tourists who'd spent the
day enjoying the pleasures of sun and surf. Now the teeming crowds had
narrowed down to the barest scattering of lingering couples and
solitary beachcombers. Come the high tide, even their traces would be
wiped away to a blank slate, ready to be drawn upon by more cavorting
feet the following day.
As the electric lights began to cast their warm
light in pools down the darkening boardwalk in response to the lights
of the resorts twinkling to life, Mrs. Pearl took the opportunity to
study the Detective's aura as she and her companion walked in step
Her regard for him went up as
she saw patterns familiar to her eyes. Those of police detectives she
had known in Vale, the loyal, tenacious, hard working, dependable foot
soldiers of justice who worked so tirelessly under her husband's
guidance in the war against organized crime. The ones who never took
payoffs from the mob. The ones who'd stand between an innocent and a
hail of bullets without blinking. The ones who had turned up in the
pouring rain with hats in hand at the funeral, each one wishing in his
heart he could have been standing there to do just that on that
terrible day in June.
She felt a twinge of guilt in her
heart at the memory, ruefully cursing her weakness at so brazenly
ogling him back at the hotel. She could see he was an honest cat, and
deeply devoted to his wife. She fought to keep her eyes from misting
over at the thought of what similarities she would have seen in her
Edison's aura. There were too many painful ways Detective Tillawei
reminded her of him.
She blinked out of her reverie and perked up her
ears as Miss Early cocked an ear of her own and called out to the back
of the male feline's head. "So Detective, who're these other fellers
whose tails, me (or my shadow), allegedly kicked?"
Tillawei turned and looked
thoughtfully at the rabbit doe for a moment, then shrugged. "No harm in
telling you, I guess."
He shifted the shoulders of his
jacket and began to describe them. "One of them was a fellow I've had
some dealings with before, none of them good. He's a fox with a glass
eye who goes by the name 'Aggie'. Sells dope down at the Red Light Dock
on Casino Island." He shook his head. "I can't help but feel sorry for
the miserable little creep, though. I've never seen anyone as badly
worked over as he was when we found him at the scene."
He sniffed as if expelling a bad odor from his nose.
"The other two I don't know. One's a neko.
He had the tattoos and docked pinky that says he's one of those yakuza scumbags who get dumped off
the boat from Kokoro with the rest of the trash once in a while. We
couldn't tell where the tattoos ended and the bruises began on him."
The two females gave each other a sidelong glance as
he continued. "The third male was a Stepplander, one of those poor dogs
with the docked tails and collars that you see in the newsreels,
marching in the wolves' big parades behind the horses." The detective
let out a pensive breath. "He's big as Mount Kiribatori and twice as
solid from the look of him, but even then, before the two of you showed
up the biggest mystery of the night was how he could still be breathing
after getting tossed through a wall and hitting the pavement three
He looked searchingly over his shoulder at them.
"Any of that ring any bells, ladies?"
Miss Early gave the Detective an impassive shrug.
"Cain't rightly say. Y'all got any idea what a bunch o' sidewinders
like that'd be doin' in our hotel room?"
The feline detective shook his head, his lips pursed
and his brow furrowed suspiciously. "Can't say. We'll make sure to ask
'em when they regain consciousness."
Miss Early smiled as he looked away, cracking her
knuckles before jamming her hands into her pockets, casting a smug
glance over at Mrs. Pearl, who rolled her eyes and shook her head,
softly tsking to herself.
Eventually the boardwalk gave way to more crushed
gravel paths, leading around a hooked span of land that pointed back
around toward Casino and Meeting Islands as they glittered with light
across the lagoon. A cluster of low buildings lit with electric lights
could be seen in the distance, tucked into the small bay formed by the
curving peninsula. The path they walked was lit by guttering lanterns
hanging from bamboo poles, much more dim than the lights of the
sprawling main drag that ran along the row of resort hotels but still
attracting clouds of fluttering insects.
The rustling silence was broken by the faint sound
of a solemn church bell that rang in the far distance over the hush and
rush of the tide, its trailing last note superseded by the sound of
several clear, melodious female voices that were raised on the night
air as the sun vanished over the horizon.
Mrs. Pearl cocked an ear and listened, a wistful
look on her face. "That's beautiful."
At her side, Miss Early nodded. "Yeah. I normally go
fer stuff with a more drivin' beat, but that's right purty."
expression became reverently thoughtful as he perked up his ears.
"That's the Wise Ones singing the Evening Song. They're saying goodbye
to the sun, until it comes back in the morning. They'll sing a song to
welcome it when it returns."
They all paused, none of them wanting the crunch of
their feet on the gravel to intrude as the melody rose from scattered
voices, some near and some far, twining in sweet harmony until the last
note trailed off as the last smudge of crimson faded from the dark
Tillawei sighed, then resumed his businesslike
expression and waved them along. "It also means it's getting rather
late, and I'd like to wrap this up and get home to my wife before she
starts to worry about me. So if you please, ladies."
With a nod, they fell into step behind him, the
crunch of their shoes providing a counterpoint as the insects of the
nearby palm forest began to creak and chirp.
Soon, they found themselves walking through the
white-plastered halls of the Constabulary's Offices on South Island,
with Mrs. Pearl's patent-leather shoes and Miss Early's hobnail boots click-clacking on the polished
concrete floor. The subdued sound of a police station at night hummed
around them as the Detective Tillawei led them past the front desk.
He gave a nod to it's sole occupant and tugged the
brim of his hat as he strode past. "Evenin', Kono. Quiet night tonight,
The burly sea otter with sergeant's stripes on his
khaki uniform sleeve looked up from his solitaire game, his drooping
whiskers fluttering as he replied. "Evenin', Detective Tillawei." He
gave a start as he looked at the handsome cat's female companions.
"Hey, what gives? Shouldn't dat bunny be down in da tank?"
Jane bristled and set her hands on her hips. "Who're
y'all callin' bunny,
y'oyster- crackin' desk jockey?"
The feline detective raised a hand for calm and
pointedly cleared his throat. "This isn't the same doe, Sarge."
The desk sergeant's whiskers flared as he narrowed
his eyes. "You sure? She sure sounds like da same bunny to me."
Tillawei straightened his tie and glanced at Jane,
then smiled to the sergeant. "If she was, that'd mean you and the
matron let her slip past you."
The rabbit doe snorted, her voice dripping with
sarcasm. "Yeah, and I kin tell jest by lookin' at y'all that yer waaay
too on th' ball t' let any suspicious characters git by."
The otter's face creased in a scowl. "Especially
when dey make dat much noise."
Mrs. Pearl stepped up and laid a hand on her
cohort's shoulder before the fuming doe could give an angry retort,
fixing her with a glare from beneath her dark veil. "Now Miss Early,
this isn't the time or place for this. I'm sure the sergeant just
didn't realize your kindred take that word as an insult where you come
Her eyes flickered as she leaned in and lowered her
voice. "Lets not get ourselves any deeper in trouble, okay?"
The tan-furred female rolled
her eyes and huffed, crossing her arms with petulantly hunched
shoulders. "Naw. I don't reckon we oughta. One o' me in jail's more n'
She glared over at the otter as Mrs. Pearl turned to
Detective Tillawei with a bright smile. "Speaking of which, shall we,
The ginger furred feline nodded with a look of mild
relief crossing his handsome face, and beckoned them forward. He gave a
conciliatory shrug to Sergeant Kono, who stared after the receding trio
with a furrowed brow.
The burly sea otter shook his head and turned his
attention back to his game, lifting a queen of diamonds from the center
stack and laying it on a king of spades, revealing a two of clubs
beneath it, which he lifted free and laid on its waiting ace. After a
moments bored consideration of a dead end layout, he scooped up the
cards and began to shuffle them.
An exact duplicate of the tan-furred rabbit doe
looked up through the bars of the station's holding cell as the trio of
Detective Tillawei, Mrs. Pearl, and Miss Early came down the stairs. A
burly Spontoonie she-bear in a uniform sat in a rocking chair by the
door and glanced up from her needlepoint with a respectful nod to the
feline as he walked by.
The identical Miss Early was looking a bit worse for
wear, with a handkerchief full of ice propped over her eye and a cut on
her lip. She was dressed in a loose khaki shirt and a pair of boxer
shorts, with her muscular, tan furred legs folded up to her chest as
she perched woefully on the bench in the otherwise empty cell.
She set aside the ice pack, revealing a black eye
and bruised cheek, then stretched her legs and stood, crossing over to
them as they walked up to the bars. "'Bout time y'all got here. My kiester was goin' numb on that
The Miss Early on the outside
nodded. "'Side from that y'all okay darlin'? That's quite a shiner
y'all got there."
The cell's occupant shrugged. "Eh. Ain't nothin' we
cain't fix with a l'il reshufflin'. Y'all shoulda seen th' other guys."
The rabbit does both turned
simultaneously as Detective Tillawei haltingly cleared his throat. He
was looking a bit incredulous at the nearly perfectly matched rabbits
standing on either side of a row of iron bars in front of him. "So...
so I take it you ladies DO know one another."
Both does glanced at Mrs. Pearl, who nodded to them
before the one on the outside gave a lopsided grin to the feline
detective. "Know each other. Mister, we ARE each other."
Tillawei's brow furrowed. "That doesn't make any
sense at all. Nobody can be in two places at the same time." A wry
smile crossed his handsome features. "It'd certainly make my job a lot
harder if they could."
The bruised rabbit on the left crossed her arms in
front of her and gave him a cagey grin. "Well, I'd be happy t' explain
it t' y'all."
Her double nodded pointedly at the she bear stolidly
working on her needlepoint by the door. "In private, if'n y'all don't
A suspicious look crossed the feline detective's
face. He turned as he felt a soft touch on his shoulder, and found
himself raptly gazing into the ice blue eyes of Mrs. Pearl, who had
raised her veil past the brim of her hat. She gave him an earnest smile
as his jaw went slightly slack and his pupils began to widen. "Please?"
After a moment's slightly dazed consideration,
Tillawei turned toward the uniformed guard. "Missus Kahelekapoakuna,
would you be so kind as to give us a moment alone please."
The she bear nodded and stood, walking out and
closing the door behind her.
He looked back to see the Jane Early standing
outside the cell step up to the bars, as the tan furred doe on the
inside also stepped forward and vanished, her suddenly vacated shirt
and boxers dropping to the floor with a soft, crumpling sound.
Rabbit who remained outside winced and rubbed the
side of her face as a black eye and bruise appeared, although half as
pronounced as it was on the one inside the cell. "Ow. Tarnation, that smarts. That
sumbitch sure had a mean left hook."
Detective Tillawei's tail bristled like a
bottlebrush as he intoned an oath in Spontoonie and drew his pistol,
pointing it with a shaking hand at the tan furred doe who stood before
him, her knees tensed and her fists tightly clenched as she dropped
into a combat ready stance. Both his logical detectives' training and
the down-to-earth traditions of his upbringing had never prepared him
for something like this. A surge of fear running up his spine caused
his finger to tighten on the trigger.
He froze in place as the brown furred tabby female
interposed herself between them, his muscles going rigid as he found
himself tumbling into the gleaming depths of those ice blue eyes.
She took a step toward him, her tail lashing behind
her, and spoke to him in a low, steady voice. "Relax, Detective. Lower
your gun. There's nothing to be afraid of."
He felt his arms relax as the suddenly heavy pistol
hung loosely in his slack fingers. Through a supreme effort he pushed
words out of his mouth. "What... what did you... how did she..."
The tabby replied in a soothing tone. "Nothing
unusual happened here. The real Jane Early was the one with a credible
alibi that put her nowhere near the riot at the Pelican Hotel. You took
our statements and let us go. Do you understand?"
The detective nodded dreamily as he slowly
reholstered his pistol. "I understand."
As she stared at his handsome face, the brown furred
tabby bit her lip. Oh, the things that she could do with a male like
him completely in her power like this. It had been two long years, and
two more years to go. Too long.
It was all she could do to keep her glimmering eyes
steady as she banished the thought, furious at herself for even
considering it. She would never be able to meet her own gaze in a
mirror ever again if she bent to that temptation.
She gave a soft, shuddering sob as she spoke to the
dazed feline with a crack in her voice. "G-good. I'm sorry to have to
do this to you, Detective. You're probably going to get into a bit of
trouble for this, but our mission is too important to let anything get
in the way. The little bit of grief I'm causing you now is worth
preventing the grief of hundreds of wives, mothers, and children." A
sad look washed across her faintly striped features. "When you finally
get home, I want you to make sure you show your wife how much you love
her, every day for the rest of your lives." She bit back another sob.
"You never know how many chances you're going to get..."
After a long pause, she let out a sigh as she
assumed a businesslike expression. "Now please stay here a while to
give my companion and I, a head-start. We'll show ourselves out"
She cocked an ear towards the tan furred rabbit doe
behind her, who'd been neatly folding the clothing vacated by her
double and rolling it into a bundle that she tucked under her arm. "Are
you ready to leave, Miss Early?"
The athletic rabbit stepped up beside her cohort and
nodded. "Ayep. Lets blow this popsicle stand, Missus Pearl."
Ignoring yet another
confusing metaphor from her partner, the tabby reluctantly broke eye
contact, leaving the male cat weaving slightly on his heels as he
stared vacantly into space.
She turned and proffered a hand to Miss Early. "Come
As the tan furred doe took the feline's delicate
hand in her sinewy grasp, Dorothy took one last longing look at
With that, she tightened her grip on her rabbit
companion's hand, and the two of them faded into thin air as her eyes
glittered over her jeweled brooch. The faint click clack of patent
leather shoes and hobnail boots sounded across the concrete floor. The
door to the holding cells area creaked slightly as it opened and
closed, followed by the click clacking receding down the hallway.
Detective Mike Tillawei was jarred
out of his reverie by the screech of a police whistle exploding in the
doorway behind him. He spun on his heels to see the heavyset form of
the ursine matron, puffing out her expansive chest to loose another
blast as she pointed past him into the room, her normally stolid face
lit up with excitement.
He spun around again, his ears laid flat against his
head and his profoundly frizzed tail trailing in an arc behind him, and
goggled at the locked, empty cell. He ran over to the barred door and
gave it a shake. It was solid as it ever was. Where had the prisoner
gone? He clutched at his temples. What had happened?
As the sound of running feet came up the hallway
outside, he removed his hat, leaned his forehead on one of the cool
iron bars, and let out a weary sigh. It was going to be a long night,
and there was nothing he wanted to do more right now than go home and
wrap his sweet wife up in his arms and kiss her repeatedly.
A pair of female figures materialized out of the
rapidly cooling night air over the sound of feet crunching on coral
gravel as a tumult struck up in the low slung, concrete and stucco
police building in the distance behind them. The brown furred feline
took a final glance over her shoulder with luminous eyes, and beckoned
the rabbit doe at her side onward.
Miss Early gave her companion a searching look as
they walked back through the twilight, into and out of pools of lantern
light that lay at intervals in their path.
She spoke to Mrs. Pearl in a gentle tone. "That
Detective feller was really gettin' under yer skin back thar, wasn't
he? I don't blame y'all, he was awful cute, fer a male o' th' feline
She noted a droop in her companion's ears, tail, and
shoulders as the tabby replied. "He was also awfully married, and I'm
still awfully… awfully in mourning."
She flicked her tail and straightened her posture,
making a fist with her swinging free hand as she cradled her pocketbook
in her other arm and marched forward resolutely. "Well, we can't let
ourselves get distracted from our mission anyway. This isn't a
vacation, Miss Early."
The rabbit doe let out a sigh. "I know, darlin', I
know." She cocked an ear toward her companion. "But if'n y'all don't
mind me sayin', it ain't healthy fer y'all t'keep yerself so bottled up
all the dang time. A vacation might be the best thang fer y'all after
this business is all is said n' done."
The dark suited tabby twitched an ear and gave a
shake of her head. "Maybe. But for now I wish you'd just drop it, all
right? I'll be fine after a good night's sleep."
Miss Early opened her mouth to reply, then let out a
sigh as her shoulders slumped. She dug her hands into her pockets and
gave a weary nod. "Sure, darlin'. Whatever y'all say. I could use some
shuteye myself, specially since I didn't git a whole nap this
With that, the pair subsided into
silence, walking along the dimly lit gravel road through the cool
velvet of the tropical night, lost in their own thoughts.