© 2008 by Walter D. Reimer
(Art by Seth C. Triggs)
(Rosie Baumgartner and Chauncey Fleetik courtesy of M. Mitch Marmel. Thanks!)
(Inspector Stagg courtesy of Eric O. Costello. Thanks!)
(Keith Lawton and the Chang Brothers courtesy of John Urie. Thanks!)
The message had been received, and a reply had been sent on to the Maha Kahuna, setting a date, time, and venue.
No Boyz Allowed, the sign in front of the Double Lotus read in the tropical twilight, and the big tigress standing outside was there to make certain that the rule was followed. Fang looked her over, and was met with the same challenging stare.
“Think you can take her?” Shin asked quietly in Chinese as they walked up to the door.
“Probably,” he admitted. “I’ll be waiting out here if you need me, love.” They kissed and she went inside, leaving the two tigers looking at each other.
Wo Fang smiled. “Nice night, eh?”
The tigress smirked. “Is that the best pickup line you’ve got, guy? You couldn’t get any in a brothel with patter like that.”
He grinned despite her jibe. No sense in starting a confrontation. “You’d be very surprised, I think. Besides, I’m married.”
“To who? That little scrap of panda?” she asked, her eyes widening.
“How did she – “
“Again, you’d be very surprised. So, you’re the bouncer?”
“Yeah, and what’s it to you, big boy?”
“Nothing, just being complimentary. I used to be a bouncer. Still am, when I need to be.”
“Oh yeah? Where?”
Her eyes gleamed with professional interest as she asked, “What’s your favorite trick for some drunk with a knife?”
Shin started grinding her teeth the instant she entered the bar. Several of the women noticed her come in and word spread very quickly as she fended off several advances (trying very hard to be polite, and trying harder not to lash out) and walked over to the bar.
The canine behind the bar, her muzzle and paws marked with darker fur than the rest of her, smiled. “Hi. What can I do for you?”
Taking a breath, the red panda said evenly, “I’m told there’s a portrait – “
The Malinois grinned. “Oh, that’s you then? It’s through there, in the back,” and she pointed toward an open doorway. “Nice tailfur, honey,” she called out as Shin stamped off in the indicated direction.
Art by Seth C. Triggs http://www.bibp.com
The painting was very good and the artist was obviously talented.
Shin recognized her own face, but the rest of her . . . a model, Fleetik had absolutely had to have used a model. There was only one photograph of her in her fur, and she had the only negative to that.
Fang had the photograph.
Some little model or whore on Casino Island, she thought, and she idly entertained the notion of tracking her down and killing her herself.
While irritating, the painting itself wasn’t a major problem. Painted very meticulously on green baize felt, it formed the surface of the pool table in the Lotus’ back room, and she was forced to concede that it was a good idea.
And a great way to get back at her.
But the unwanted attention she was getting from the Sapphic community on Spontoon was getting on her nerves, and that did pose a problem.
Particularly if she wanted to get certain things done.
“So, you like it, nu?” and at the sound of the voice Shin turned to see a taller, slightly chubby cheetah femme grinning at her. The canine bartender and a number of the customers were at her back, smiling. “Did you honestly think I’d just let you put up that old painting, little shikseh?”
The red panda glowered. “From what I heard, you liked to show yourself off.”
“Voluntarily, sweetheart. Kind of different if someone else shows you off.” She pouted. “Makes a girl feel cheap, nu?”
Funny, Rosie thought. Never thought red pandas could growl like that. “Tell you what, Wo: Why don’t we sit over there and have a chat about this?” and she pointed to a nearby booth.
“So it’s a deal you want. Okay.”
They settled in facing each other, and the bartender took orders for drinks – pink gin for Rosie and straight whiskey for Shin. “You first,” the cheetah said after the drinks were delivered.
“Okay,” Shin said finally after taking a swallow of her whiskey. “Fair trade – your picture for this one.”
Rosie shook her head, the gesture echoed by several of the customers. One of them placed the cue ball on the painting’s nose. “You probably got that painting for an old song, and you made a profit off of selling those postcards. I had to pay for your painting, and to have the pool table resurfaced.”
“You? Paid? Why not Stagg? Or . . . is he enjoying being kept?”
A collective “Ooooo . . . ” as Rosie popped a pawful of claws.
Shin sneered. “I’ve seen worse. Oh, and you need a manicure.” Her expression turned businesslike. “Now, I’m a bit low on funds at the moment, so how about a percentage?”
“No deal.” Another billiard ball, this one the #3, was placed on one nipple. “You have heard of fair business deals, I trust. In this case, the full amount is the only fair deal.”
Shin gauged the room. Rosie had the crowd on her side, including several Songmark students, past and present. Obviously, a quick cut and run with the green baize wasn’t in the cards.
“You know,” she remarked in a conversational tone, “old places like this burn real good – “
“And so do Krupmark bitches,” a voice in the audience remarked. The 9 ball was placed on the other nipple as the audience tittered.
Shin looked unimpressed. “Very well then, in full. An installment plan?”
Rosie nodded judiciously, but stopped nodding when Shin added, “At no interest.”
“Tuchis arine,” the cheetah sneered. “You’re talking to a Yiddische Tochter here, maideleh – I know something about finance. Are you really that short of money?”
“Yes.” The word was forced out, and looked like it left a bad taste in Shin’s mouth.
Rosie thought a moment before favoring the group of her supporters with a smile. “Well then, I think I have the solution to the problem. I give you this masterpiece – “ and she waved aside the complaints of the others, who were clearly disappointed “ – and you give me back my picture. Any difference – profits, resurfacing the table - can be paid off in trade.”
Shin’s eyes went wide in shock as several of the women in the back room whooped, and Rosie waved for silence. “Not that kind of trade. Sorry, girls,” she said, her gaze intent on the red panda. “You pay it off by working.”
“That’s what I said. I need another waitress at Luchow’s for Speed Week, part-time. I think that’d pay off – “
“Absolutely not. Work for you, lao ji bai? Not happening.”
Rosie scowled. “The alternative’s working part time here at the Lotus.”
“You’ll love it, Shin!” one girl yelled enthusiastically. “Uniforms are optional.”
“Along with clothes,” another sniggered.
“And if I just walk away right now?”
Rosie grinned. “You’re really cute, you know. You’d better get ready for about a dozen more marriage proposals.” She winked. “Some of them are what you’d call a little spicy.”
What followed was a gradually rising tirade in several Chinese dialects, some of the language enough to make the ears of those who understood her blush. Finally Shin sighed.
The ‘Damn you’ was unspoken but understood.
The audience cheered.
“Good. My place, Monday, five a.m. sharp. No uniform, just dress neatly. Oh, and one more thing,” and she glared at the younger woman, “I may not understand Chinese, but I do know an insult when I hear one. So. Rules. Civil tongue in yer head, and English only. Capice?”
She grimaced sourly. “Capicio.”
And the #8 ball was placed on a part of the painting’s anatomy that elicited a cheer from the assembled women.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold the happiness,” a voice was heard from the crowd. “There’s one more thing, Rosie.”
“The deal ain't gonna work," a blond Labrador said as she came up beside the Malinois and slipped an arm around her waist. "Before we give up our table, we wanna see how good the likeness is."
There was a collective nod of agreement. "We want to see some fur!" one caroled, and the others started to chant the word "Fur!" over and over. A few were more specific in their demands.
Shin sat back in her seat and sulked, arms crossed over her chest. Rosie said in a cajoling tone, "C'mon, just a look - let's see how close the model is to you."
This suggestion was met by cheers, indicating that the motion was seconded and passed by acclamation.
"Take my word for it," Shin muttered.
This was met by a loud and raucous chorus of "Proof!"
The red panda grumbled. "All right, damn you all," and she tossed back the rest of her drink and started to climb up on the table.
At least, she thought, they're not the guard dogs.
As she climbed up on the table three women started to chant:
“Take it off, take it off, came the cry from the rear;
Down in front, down in front soon was all you could hear.
But she's always a lady even in pantomime,
And she stops - but always just in time.”
Matter-of-factly, Shin unbuttoned her shirt and took it off, holding it in one paw as she stood still. "Well. Happy now?"
Everyone cheered, and even Rosie had to privately concede that the red panda was really rather cute.
"Fine. I'll be going now," and she put her shirt back on, jumped off the table and made her way through the crowd to the door.
The crowd parted reluctantly with a collective "Awwwwwwwwww."
“So, you like the overpaw method of throwing people?” Fang asked. “I prefer the underpaw toss – less strain on the shoulders that way.”
“Yeah, I can give ya that,” the tigress said, “but ya know, for good intimidatin,’ there’s nothing beats hoisting a guy over your head and throwing him.”
The two tigers laughed, and turned as the door banged open. “Shin!” Fang said.
“Come on, Fang, we’re going home,” she growled, using the dialect from around Tientsin where she had lived as a child.
The Manchurian tiger’s ears flicked. Shin was angry.
“Got to go,” he said absently to the tigress, and walked off, catching up to his wife in a few long strides. “Care to tell me what went on?” he asked in the same dialect.
His ears laid back as she told him. Shin was perfectly tolerant of lesbians – so long as they didn’t directly make passes at her. He was amazed at her restraint.
The trip back to the Maha Kahuna gave Shin time to cool off and think. Finally she turned to Fang and asked, “What were you doing while I was busy in there?”
“Oh, Eglantine and I were comparing notes. She’s pretty talented as a bouncer.”
The red panda stared, and shook her head. “’Eglantine?’”