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30 June 2005
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
"Anyone for Venison?"
by M. Mitchell Marmel
"Anyone for Venison?"
by M. Mitchell Marmel
Additional Dialogue: E.O. "Don't Call Me Elvis!" Costello
From the Diaries of Willow Fawnsworthy
September 17, 1936
Dear Diary: This has been a crappy week so far. Literally.
"LOOKOUT!" I shrieked, yanking on the control yoke, killing the carburetor heat and slamming the throttle to "Full". Beside me, Leslie DuCleds, scion of the DuCleds chemical empire, my client and occasional idiot, looked puzzled as he released the controls of the Ercorsair. "What?"
I pointed down. "Runway."
Les blanched. "Oboy. And we're on floats."
I nodded firmly, banking the Ercorsair over to the seaplane landing lane nearby. "That would have been...embarrassing."
"Potentially fatal," Les nodded, sighing. "Sorry. I was going over our visit today."
I grimaced. "If I never set foot on that..."
"Pile of crap?" Les smiled thinly. "Don't blame you. However, that pile of crap has potential for our Asian operations."
"I wouldn't trust those little sneaks as far as I could belt one with..."
Les sniggered. "Fifteen feet, if it was an inch. At least the guano broke his fall. What do you have in that purse, anyway?"
I essayed a wry grin. "Oh, the usual feminine stuff. Lipstick, compact, 9mm automatic, quarter inch steel armor plating..."
"Hee! Wil, you slay me..."
The thing is, I wasn't kidding. I have a fair number of purses, all of which, from small clutch to beach bag, are made to my custom order by Ambercrowie and Finch in Gnu York. And all of 'em feature three things in common:
1) A hidden compartment for my Starr 9mm (a 3/4 sized version of the Army .45 automatic)
2) Steel woven straps through the handles running down under the lining and riveted to:
3) 1/4 inch of steel armor lining the bottom.
Suffice it to say that someone wanting to snatch my handbag is going to have to work at it, as the little jerk on Gull Island who tried to cut my purse straps found out, much to his dismay.
As they say, make a note of this. It will come up later.
Anyway, Les and I had visited Gull Island, about 75 miles west-southwest of Spontoon, with an eye to supplying DuCleds Chemicals (Asia) with nitrates for their blackpowder operations (China, in particular, still used tonnes of the stuff for their fireworks industry). The place stank to high hell, and the proprietors...well, one of 'em tried to go after my purse and is now nursing a (hopefully) broken jaw for his troubles.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting a little too violent. Then I think back on all the creeps I've dealt with in my Minkertons' career and marvel at my self-control...
I opted to keep the controls and landed the Ercorsair smoothly on the seaway, politely declining the services of the crashboat (but giving Edy Loddis a friendly wave as we passed. She looked at Les, nodded wisely and waved back.) I taxied up to the floating dock, a low slung affair, and killed the engine. Les unbuckled and slid the curved window panel down. "Thanks, Willow," he said to me, climbing onto the wing before lightly leaping off. "You kept me from making a total fool of myself!"
Unfortunately, he neglected to notice that I'd tucked the wing over the dock on my side.
Fortunately, it was a nice day for a swim.
= = = = = =
"...You found a WHAT?"
"This native chap, here, has offered to guide us to the caves of the followers of the dread Kali!"
"Is true, pretty lady, Rimu-Raga show you secret ceremony! Ten dollar each!"
I regarded the native sourly. Long unwashed-looking black hair over his eyes, skinny, raggedy tail sticking out the back of his lavalava, and I didn't even know that coyotes and weasels could interbreed. I sighed. "Well, our shots are up to date. Your nickel, Les. Lead on, MacDuff!"
A somewhat longish trek up and down jungle paths, over rope bridges and through thickets later, we found ourselves entering an appropriately spooky-looking cave. "Hurry! Hurry! Ceremony start soon!" Through a maze of darkened corridors we crept. The pounding of native drums grew louder and louder...
"Must be silent from here on!" Rimu-Raga warned. As we rounded the last corner, flickering torches could be seen as we reached a vantage point overlooking a cavernous room filled with native worshippers. An elaborately-garbed high priest was holding a spherical object before a fearsome-looking statue of a fierce goddess...
"Good Lord, Miss Fawnsworthy!" Les whispered, gasping. "Is that...a head?"
I squinted. "Looks more like...a canteloupe?"
From below, the high priest started singing:
"Here's a melon
Cuddle up and don't be blue..."
It would appear that the natives have reached new Loew's in getting customers for the 12:30 "Native Sacrifice Show".
Popcorn was good, though. Fresh melted butter and all.
= = = = = =
"...and the nitrate content of the Gull Island product has, after testing, proved to be..."
Yawn. The worst part of this assignment: Dictation. It's one of the problems of posing as a secretary. Another is the invariable sniggers and "Yeah, right" attitudes. It's one reason that I affect a very mousy persona on duty; I find that the hair in a bun and the big glasses tends to deflect that sort of talk. Not that Les has been anything like a pest; he made a polite pro forma pass at me when I first started the assignment, I deflected it equally politely and we've gotten on famously ever since. He seems to rather consider me the older sister he never had, which, considering I do have a couple of years on him...
"...Concentrations in parts per million reveal that..."
Funny part is, the briefing I got from Minkerton's is that Les was supposed to be a wannabe Frank "Bring 'em Back Alive, If Not Exactly Intact" Sawbuck. While we've had our share of adventures (nobody is going to believe the one about the Giant Gnat of Sinatra), Les has actually taken to the family business in a semi-competent fashion...
Les took a moment to compose his thoughts, and I glanced idly around the room.
Hello! What's this? Niiiice. Good looking young buck over there. Uh-oh, he's smiling at me. Oboy, I'm actually blushing! Control, girl, control.
"...The Gull Island deposits have the potential for..."
Dammit. Back to work.
"...anticipated yields on the order of..."
What the hell is that noise?
Damn it all, I'm flagging against the wicker chair. Stop that, tail!
"...have a potential in sales of approximately..."
I glance over at the buck again. Nice smile. He raises an eyebrow. Down, tail, down.
"Could you read that last line back, please?"
I cleared my throat. "Taking world market values into account, the Gull Island nitrates would have a potential in sales of homina homina homina homina."
Les raised an eyebrow. "Homina homina homina homina?"
I nodded miserably. "Isn't that what you said?"
"Nooooooo..." Les shook his head, glancing around and glowering at the handsome buck, who tried to look innocent and failed miserably. "Come along, we'll finish this later." We finished our drinks and left. On the way out, I gave Handsome a flick of my flag. A promise for later? Maybe.
Outside, Les glared at me. "Miss Fawnsworthy-"
Oboy. He's annoyed.
"-We have been working together for nearly a year now-"
Oh, crap. What am I going to tell Allan?
"-and I have yet to see you fail in your duties. Particularly because of flirting."
"I am relieving you of your responsibilities-"
Well, I should have some vacation time coming. Might as well spend it here with Handsome.
"So that you can get your butt back to the hotel, change into some respectable evening wear and go after that buck in there!" Les grinned.
I was speechless, then a slow smile spread across my face. "You so-and-so..."
Les bowed. "Guilty as charged. Good hunting, kiddo-OOOF!" I may have bruised a rib or two hugging him.
And so, back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes.
Which took until well after sunset.
Now, a common complaint of the male of whatever species is that the distaff side seems to take forever to get dressed of an evening, usually coupled with disbelief that the lady's wardrobe seems to expand at an incredible rate. There are, believe it or not, practical reasons for this. See, the average male outfit consists of: a) trousers; b) shirt; c) jacket (optional); vest (likewise); socks and shoes (as needed); and ornamentation (tie, cravat, boutonniere) (also optional). The main decision a guy has to make is white tie or black, and what color jacket and pants to wear.
On the other hand, a well-dressed lady has to have formal gowns, informal gowns, dresses, skirts, blouses, dirndls, a variety of footwear for all occasions (as needed again), accessories, and so on. In addition, she needs all of the above in different colors and styles for different occasions! Getting dressed requires knowing the weather, the event, the level of formality, what the other women are wearing and a host of other factors. Hell, sometimes I'm surprised
we manage to get dressed at all.
In my case, my troubles were compounded by the fact that, as a mousy, meek secretary, I didn't have my usual "dress to kill" wardrobe with me. Les, bless his heart, stepped in with the duCleds charge account, and I soon had a neat little dark blue suit which would be attractive without being too overwhelming. Then, a hot shower, then to the salon for a conservative but cute braid piled atop my head, then to the tailor shop to make sure the alterations looked right,
then back to the hotel to change...
And so it was that one Willow Fawnsworthy headed out into the moonlight, hunting for buck...
Only it would appear that I was the hunted.
I was so preoccupied with thoughts of Handsome that the cat and gray wolf combo didn't enter into my consciousness until the cat's knife was nearly under my nose.
Dammit. How'd those two get the drop on me? And who did they work for? I'd made some enemies in my years at Minkerton's. Red Fist? The Deertroit Mauve Gang? Hanoi Xan(1)? Or just common or garden variety muggers?
I decided to play timid and raised my paws, smiling wanly. They sneered and moved forward, cold steel flashing in the moonlight-
A figure stumbled into view. The hunk from this afternoon! Looked much the worse for wear. I sighed to myself. Doubt I'd get help from that quarter.
Handsome spotted me, his eyes traveling upwards and his face lightening up. Oh, my. Even under these circumstances, that was nice.
Kitty growled, apparently miffed, and gave Handsome a poke with his knife. Handsome turned, a look of annoyance on his face. "Look, I'm sorry, but as regards this doe, here, I have this dance. I never allow anyone to cut in." This was probably the wrong thing to say, as Kitty took a swipe at Handsome, barely missing his nose.
Either Handsome was well trained, used to close quarters combat or just lucky. In any event, his fist connected with the point of Kitty's chin, causing the cat to yowl and drop his knife. Wolfie growled and grabbed Handsome as Kitty pummeled the buck's ribs. Not sporting, that. Whammo! Oh, man, that was gonna hurt Kitty in the morning. Handsome, too. I decided he was a talented amateur; a pro would know that using antlers was a desperation move. 'Course, Handsome was still standing, and Kitty was close to no longer being a consideration, so...
Okay, time to go to work. I came up and brought my paws sharply together over Wolfie's ears. He yelped, cursed and then screeched as buck hoof met wolf paw (to Wolfie's detriment), flinging Handsome over to Kitty. Bad news for Kitty, as Handsome decided to start using him as an Olympic throwing hammer.
Meanwhile, Wolfie looked ready to grab Handsome again. Sorry, buddy.
We shall now pause this fight to do a little basic physics.
Loaded 9mm automatic pistol = approximately 1.5 pounds.
Armor plating in bottom of purse = approximately 1.5 pounds (You DID remember we'd be seeing this again, didn't you?)
Other miscellaneous purse goodies = approximately 1.0 pounds.
Total weight = approximately 4.0 pounds.
Distance of swing = approximately 3 feet.
Time of swing = approximately 0.25 seconds.
Terminal velocity = approximately 12 feet per second.
Mass times velocity = approximately "Good night, sweet wolf."
About the time that Handsome was bouncing Kitty off a handy light post, I was depositing Wolfie into a convenient trash can (dustbin to our British readers, 'bachelor apartment' to certain feral types), humming "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" under my breath. Whistles and billy clubs meant the approach of the Law, and since it would be tough to explain why an ostensibly meek doe secretary was packing a slightly dented purse with a pistol inside, I blew Handsome an unobserved kiss as he adjusted his cuffs (gotta love a guy who can do that after a tussle) and did a quick fade into the night, pausing in a nearby shadow to watch as he took off as well. So much for a date that evening.
Tra la-la-la-la la-la.
= = = = =
"Oh, Mr. Desk Clerk?" I was back in my mousy persona.
The mustachioed clerk with slicked back hair turned to me. "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeees?"
I tried to look winsome. "I'm looking for a rich, handsome buck."
He sneered. "Most girls are, these days."
I stamped a hoof. "Now cut that out!"
Various other hotel personnel provided a name, if not much else:
"Reggie Buckhorn? No, he isn't staying here, thank God."
"Ask over at the Marleybone. They'd know which hotel has had him inflicted on it."
"Just follow the trail of empty bottles."
"Why? Are you a process server?"
"Are you the outragee, or the outragor?"
After asking at the Marleybone, I approached the desk clerk at Shepherd's hotel, an unlikely looking mountain lion with his fur apparently dyed a bright pink. His nametag read 'A. Nittany Lion'...
"Mr. Reginald Buckhorn, please?"
The lion's eyes lit up. "Heavens to Murgatroyd! You're looking for a Penn deer....a *Qua-ker*, ev-en." He grinned. "Mr. Buckhorn is engaged in a conversation, a tete a tete if you will, with a representative of the local constabulary. Tell me, would you like to take a num-bah, a ducat, ev-en?"
I smiled grimly. "I'd better see him now. It's about the constabulary matter..."
An understanding nod. "You'll find Mr. Buckhorn taking his ease in the penthouse suite. Exit, stage right, through the elevator doors, ev-en."
"A Miss Willow Fawnsworthy to see you, sir."
"Willow? Like unto the tree, slim and supple?"
(Oooh. That British accent. Ooooh.)
"I suppose that would be accurate, sir."
"Fawnsworthy, like unto the Fawnsworthy, whatever that may be?"
"Look, it's a doe, sir. Do you want to see her, or not?"
The answer, apparently, was affirmative, as the beaver gestured me into the room. Handsome was sitting there in silk pajamas, holding a glass of ice to his head. Poor thing.
"Please excuse me, Miss Fawnsworthy, for my rudeness in not standing up to receive you. The room is still spinning somewhat."
I smiled at Handsome, er, Reginald, then stiffened a bit to see the detective questioning him. The last time Sergeant Brush of the Spontoon Island Constabulary and I had met was during the Rahksov affair a few weeks previously...and the Sergeant was giving me a very interested look. I blushed a bit under his gaze.
"You know this guy, miss?"
I was winsome again. "Um, well, we weren't formally introduced last night. You see, two males tried to rob me, and Mr. Buckhorn here took care of them."
"Howdja know who he wuz?"
"I, well, I had to ask around at one of the other hotels. They seemed to recognize Mr. Buckhorn when I told them I was looking for a deer who fights in white tie and tails."
The fox's eyes narrowed. "So two bums tried t'jump ya last night."
I nodded, trying my damnedest to look innocent.
The fox sighed. "Awright, gonna have t'ask ya t'come down t'HQ an' pick out th' bums from a lineup."
I nodded again, meekly. "Very well. I'll follow you."
The sergeant shut his notebook with a loud snap, and turned to Reginald, no, Reggie.
"Lissen, you. Ya wanna mix it up after a few, you go join a gym, hear? I don't wanna have t'slap th' pawcuffs on ya, but if youse don't keep on th' side of th' angels, I'm gonna do it, see?"
The suggestion of a nod from Reggie. Poor thing, his head must be killing him.
I followed Sergeant Brush out the door. At the door, I glanced at Reggie over my shoulder and waved my flag at him. Twice. Hopefully, that would make him feel better.
As we headed for the elevator, I decided the best defense was a good offense. "Golly, Sergeant, what with that poor Russian fellow drowning and these muggers and all, you'd think that Spontoon wasn't safe or something..."
Sergeant Brush spent the next hour or so extolling the safety of th Spontoon Islands in general, expediting me through the lineup process, assuring me that I probably wouldn't have to testify and generally not asking embarrassing questions about coincidences.
I have a date with Reggie tomorrow.
Y'know, Diary, maybe this week wasn't so crappy after all.
(1) Special "No-Prize" to any of our readers that get the reference.