PART 30 - UNPLEASANT DUTIES
Presently, the roving Jane returned with Heywood Cord in tow. The otter carried a hinged metal case marked with a red chalice on the chipped paint of its lid. He stopped to take in the carnage in the room, a stern look on his battered face, before he turned and called over to Dorothy, who stood beside Zoltan, gently stroking his broad back as he sat slumped in a wicker chair by the bookshelf.
His voice held a slight edge of tiredness to it. "I managed to raise the R.I.N.S. on the radio. The light cruiser RSS Bindlestiff is en route and should be arriving sometime after Morning Song... excuse me, after sun-up tomorrow morning."
Dorothy nodded to him, her tail gently waving behind her. "Did you mention the submarine, and the Palomino Bay?"
The otter pursed his lips and nodded. "The priority alert code has been sent with the information you provided, although I'll need to compose and encode a more detailed message to follow, with your kind assistance. They'll pass the word on to the Westies and Sylvanians, although I'm afraid you won't be seeing any immediate results, I'm afraid. Navies can only move as fast as their ships, you understand."
He raised the medical kit and jerked his head toward the corner where the pair of Janes were working on the stricken Marta. "And regardless, it seems we have more pressing concerns at the moment."
With that he hurried over to kneel at their side, setting the dented white case down and flipping it open. Both his and the two identical rabbits' faces fell when they beheld the contents to be a small, mouldering box of band-aids and a nearly empty bottle of cheap Eight Kingdoms distilled gin.
Heywood slapped his broad, webbed hand on his face and hung his head with a heavy sigh.
Jane looked up to her double still standing by the doorway. "Yo, darlin'! Go see if'n y'all can rustle up some signal flares or somethin' and git Gwen n' Loretta. I'd bet my bottom nickel they got a better medical kit than this travesty here."
The doe cradling Marta's head in her lap reached down and grabbed up the gin bottle, scrutinizing the label. "They got better taste in booze fer sure."
Heywood turned and called to her as well. "There's a flare gun and a signal lamp up in the wheelhouse. Do you know signal code?"
The tan furred doe flashed him a thumbs up and darted out the door. The Jane applying the compress eased back on her haunches and peered underneath. "Hmm. I reckon th' bleedin's stopped. I don't wanna move her 'til I can clean out that wound proper n' git a compression dressing on it."
The otter nodded over to her. "Well then, I suppose I should make myself useful. If you'll pardon me, Miss Early."
With that, he stood and turned to face Kaleia, speaking warmly to the young vixen in Spontoonie. She perked up, replying in hushed, half-stunned tones as the Jane sitting next to her squeezed her hand reassuringly. The otter nodded gravely, and replied gently in the lyrical tongue.
Then he turned and explained to the trio of rabbit does what he had said. "I have assured the young lady that the R.I.N.S will arrange her safe transit back to her village and family, and that the Spontoon Constabulary would like a statement as soon as she is recovered enough to give one. I also informed her that the criminals who have wronged her shall face the full force of the law for their crimes. She said that she was glad to hear it, or something to that effect. I'm afraid the poor thing is still rather shell-shocked."
He gave an apologetic shrug. "It's the best I can offer, I'm afraid. It's times like this that make me glad I went into the intelligence service rather than the constabulary. I'd much rather head these situations off than clean them up afterward."
Dorothy gave him a gentle smile from across the room. "I know what you mean, Mister Cord. I know exactly what you mean."
The otter took a deep breath and stood, his expression becoming hard and distant as he looked across at what lay on the desk. "Indeed. And speaking of cleaning up, there's another unpleasant task that I should see to."
With that, he crouched down beside Jane and Marta and picked up the ornate dagger, slipping it into his belt as he rose back to his feet. He crossed over to the desk, and stood, looking grimly down at the sprawled figure before him.
Zoltan looked up and made to rise, but was stopped by Dorothy's firm, gentle hand on his broad shoulder, and settled back into his seat without a word.
The muscular otter crossed around behind the desk and hooked his webbed
hands under the armpits, and proceeded to drag the body away through
the side door into the bedroom beyond. His face an impassive mask, he
closed the door behind him with a soft click.
Gwen Riley and Jane Early emerged from the grove of trees at the northwest end of the pair of large islets that dominated the Nobikini Atoll, and made their way down the rocky trail. They had clothed themselves in fatigues from the stock of supplies that the vixen and raccoon had had the foresight to lay up in the Mermaid's Cave, and Gwen carried a tommy gun with a straight clip in her dark-furred hands.
The two females made their way down the beach, where the bright blue fuselage of the Glass Goose lay beached, its retractable wheels lowered onto the pristine sand, well away from the dock with its deadly hidden mines.
Loretta sat in the shade of the seaplane's wing, the bipod of her machine gun propped up on the wing float and trained on a bedraggled row of sea raiders, who lay side-by-side on their bellies in the broiling sun with their arms pinioned behind their backs by stout rope. A row of divots beyond their heads indicated that the raccoon's weapon had been fired a few times.
Vanya had her borrowed coveralls rolled up over her knees, and was keeping quite busy traipsing into the surf and scooping up bucketfuls of the crystal-clear water, bringing it back to the beach to splash on a random sailor's head, then skipping away laughing with glee while the hapless thugs spluttered and bawled curses after her.
Junko and a duplicate Jane sat on the steps of the sleeping hut. The tan-furred doe had her arm around the pale usagi, who sat despondently slouched with her ears drooping, dabbing at her almond eyes with a bandana. Gwen and her companion exchanged concerned glances and walked over to join them.
The Jane comforting Junko looked up at them. "Hey thar. Did I pull through?"
Her duplicate nodded. "Ayep. By the skin o' my teeth." She tapped on her chisel incisors with a finger. "It's a durn good thang I got a couple big 'uns."
Her expression softened as she looked down at Junko, and she crouched down before the pale furred usagi, taking her delicate hands in her own, speaking in halting Usagineko to her. The shapely doe surged to her feet and threw her arms around the newly arrived Jane's neck, burying her face in her shoulder and hugging her tightly. "Ohhh. Jane chan! I amu s-so happy you arive!"
Jane kissed her on the cheek and looked down on her duplicate. "We spent some time teachin' each other some words n' phrases in each other's languages." Junko let out a sob, and began to weep into the khaki of the tan-furred doe's shirt.
Gwen gave her a searching look and glanced down at the seated duplicate. "She doesn't seem that happy. What's the matter?"
Jane let out a sigh and jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the doorway. "Them sidewinders ransacked th' place purty good. Grabbed everthin' they could git their grubby mitts on, includin' Junko's li'l box o' cash n' memories."
A sympathetic look crossed Gwen's face. "Aw geez. That was her life's savings and all her papers. The cash we can replace, at least, once you and Missus Pearl pay us."
She turned and spoke to the usagi in Spontoonie. Junko disengaged from Jane with a sigh and gave her a dispirited bow.
The tan-furred doe rubbed her back and looked over at the vixen. "I reckon she's more upset about th' pitchurs n' keepsakes. I'm sure them scumbags jest dumped anythin' they couldn't spend or hock fer booze money."
Gwen pursed her lips and turned to stare across the lagoon at the profile of the tramp steamer. "Well, we can do a thorough search of the boat once you and Dorothy take care of the rest of 'em."
Jane nodded. "Yeah, jest give a hundred or so o' me a little time t' work and I'll turn up every needle thar is t' find in that floatin' haystack."
The vixen cocked an eyebrow and looked over at her. "A hundred? You're kidding."
Jane gave her a wink. "They'd love me out at Clipper Field. I could fill every seat in th' stands t' cheer on th' home team."
The vixen snorted. "Sure, but you'd only be paying one fare, am I right?"
The rabbit chuckled, and was about to reply when a corkscrew trail of smoke suddenly shot up from the superstructure of the Hei Long and burst in the air, a glowing white fragment drifting down toward the ocean.
She nodded towards the ship. "Speakin' o' th' home team..."
The vixen's ears perked up as she turned and peered across the lagoon, shading her eyes with her free hand as she rested her gun on her shoulder. "Huh. Somebody's got a signal lamp... D... T... A... D Tails... Whupped... Em..." She stole a quick glance at Jane. "I guess that's you over there. Okay... O... U... N... Wounded? Bring... medic... medical... kit. Oh golly!"
With that, she turned and took off in a run toward the plane as Junko and the two Janes exchanged an urgent glance and went running after her.
The rabbit doe nodded with satisfaction at the bundled canine female, and looked across to her duplicate."Okay, darlin'. Take a side, n' lets git her to th' boat."
The quartet of females looked up at the sound of a low, soft voice coming from the looming figure of Zoltan as he stood looking down at them. "I vill carry her, if you please, rabbit."
The tan furred does looked uncertainly at one another and back up at him. "Uh... whut, by yerself?"
The hulking dog gave a terse nod, and without further ado, crouched down and lifted the pallet as effortlessly and carefully as someone might pick up a tray full of teacups. He looked over Marta's inert body with a steady gaze at Jane. "Show me vhere I must go."
The rabbit pursed her lips and exchanged a look with her duplicate then gave the dog a lopsided grin. "Okay, pal. I ain't gonna fight y'all 'bout it. I reckon th' both of us had our fill o' that back at th' hotel, didn't we?"
The towering canine returned her gaze impassively. "Show me vhere I must go."
Jane let out a sigh and turned, beckoning over her shoulder. "Right. No time fer small talk. Follow me."
She walked out the stateroom door, pausing to carefully and respectfully help Zoltan maneuver his burden through the hatchway before releasing the stretcher to his sole care once more. Loretta tucked the black leather bag under her arm and fell into step behind him, still marveling a bit at the canine's sheer size.
Gwen spoke some soft words in Spontoonie to Kaliea, and she and Jane helped the weary young vixen to her feet, half carrying her as they joined in the little procession toward the upper decks and the freighter's remaining motor launch.
The discarded black bookend, the head of the stylized raven cracked off and lying to the side by the dent it had caused in the plank floor when dropped. The shattered cogs, keys, and gears of the typewriter-like device, glinting on the floor like scattered coins around it's dented, battered case. The wadded up rags that remained of Marta's uniform, tossed hastily under the settee after Jane and Loretta had cut the blood-soaked garments away. The white porcelain washbasin with it's pink water and floating flecks of black ash. The bent wire cage and dented sheet-metal casing of the electric fan, its twisting black cord tangled among shards of glass from a gilded picture frame hanging above it, a star of shattered lines radiating from inside the crook of an aristocratic wolf's elbow, his chin haughtily raised as if he were making a show of ignoring this affront to his image. Another portrait depicted a proud looking she-wolf of similar vintage, her amber hair draped in lace and a brooch bearing a rune at the throat of her high starched collar.
The tabby found herself pondering the blood that flowed in the veins of these painted nobles, the same blood, in all probability, that made irregular dotted lines around the desk as a dark crimson pool of the stuff flowed over the angles of it's surface and dripped to the floor.
She closed her eyes and rubbed them with the heels of her hands. Now that things had settled down she felt a heavy wave of exhaustion seeping through her limbs. Dorothy desperately wanted to curl up and sleep for a long, long time, but there was still so much to do.
She gazed through the cloth in the otter's webbed hand and saw an assortment of personal effects: a wallet, an engraved cigarette lighter, a cigarette case, cufflinks, a signet ring with an 'R' rune, a watch on a chain, a passport, some keys, the intimate trinkets that orbited one's life, whose only purpose now was one of identification.
The otter crossed to the cabinet, carefully laying the pillowcase within the small safe that sat open on the middle shelf and closing the door with a muffled clank.
He turned and gave her a weary smile. "If you don't mind my saying, Missus Pearl, you look like you've been run through the wringer."
Her ice-blue eyes flicked across his battered, cut, and bruised features and she returned a wry grin. "And if you don't mind my saying, Mister Cord, you look like you got jammed between the rollers when they sent you through."
The otter let out a chuckle as he walked unsteadily over and leaned against the book case. He replied in Spontoonie, prompting Dorothy to cock an eyebrow at him. "Pardon? I'm afraid I don't speak the lingo, Mister Cord."
A slow, puzzled look settled across the otter's face. "Oh, I'm sorry, Missus Pearl. I seem to be suddenly having <the fog that causes the wayfarer to paddle his canoe the wrong way.>"
The tabby rose quickly to her feet as Heywood took one more step towards her before his eyes rolled back into his head and he fell forward onto his face with a soft thud on the ruined carpet. Dorothy looked down at his sprawling body, a bit of blood flowing from some of the cuts in his back.
The feline let out a tired sigh, turned and rushed to the door, leaning out and cupping her hand to her muzzle as she called to her companions. "JANE! WE'VE GOT AN OTTER DOWN!"
They found Dorothy crouched down by the prostrate otter, looking up at them urgently. "He just passed out."
The rabbit doe nodded as she crouched down beside him, grabbing him by the arm and rolling him over. "Not surprisin', poor feller had a heck of a night. And runnin' 'round this tub all afternoon prolly didn't help much."
She leaned in and gently lifted the eyelid on his good eye, showing the barest edge of his iris over a field of bloodshot veins.
Loretta cocked her head toward the settee. "C'mon, lets get him up onto that couch." She set down the valise and took his webbed feet as Jane hooked him under his arms and lifted, laying him out gently, face down on the brocaded cushions. With deft hands the rabbit doe unbuttoned the taillet of his trousers and pulled them down to his knees.
Cord let out a low moan and stirred back to wakefulness as Loretta and Jane set to work cleaning and bandaging the network of welts and cuts that extended down his muscular back, buttocks, tail, and legs. He raised his head groggily and blinked at the trio of females crouching over him, then craned his neck to look back past his shoulder at the matted, bloodied fur of his backside.
He gave them a wan smile, propping himself up off of his belly on his elbows."Well, this is certainly an embarrassing position to be in. I guess I was a little more knackered than I thought."
He stiffened as Jane gave him a smack next to his tail. "Jest relax n' let us take care o' y'all, darlin'."
The otter let out a rueful sigh and pillowed his cheek on crossed forearms, while the raccoon and rabbit doe expertly administered the stinging disinfectants and taped bits of gauze where needed.
Presently, they finished his back and helped him up to a sitting position, where they busied themselves administering first aid to the cuts and contusions on his face.
Once that was done, Loretta extended a dark-furred hand. "You do look like you could really use a hot meal, a cool bath, and a warm bed. Can you stand?"
The otter nodded and accepted the raccoon's help, climbing painfully to his feet as a couple of Janes steadied him, then gave them a weary grin, bashfully pulling up his ragged trousers. "Standing's much preferable to sitting right now, Miss Pike. I think I can manage."
The raccoon picked up the valise and beckoned him to follow. "All right then, if you'd care to come with us, Mister Cord, we can show you the hospitality of Nobikini Atoll, such as it is."
The Spontoonie agent smiled and made his unsteady way forward with the
tan furred rabbit does supporting him. "Ladies, I'd be more than
delighted to accept your invitation."