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12 December 2005
Illustration by L. Frank added: 8 August 2010
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
"The Bells Are Ringing, For Me and My Doe"
by E. O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
"The Bells Are Ringing, For Me and My Doe"
by E.O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn, Lodge, Inspector Stagg, Sergeant Brush (c) E.O. Costello
Willow Fawnsworthy, Rosie Baumgartner, Leslie duCleds (c) M. Mitchell Marmel
"Okay, Lodge," I said. "I think we have all the arrangements in place. The only thing remaining is me."
Lodge raised an eyebrow. "Indeed?"
I nodded. "I need to be able to do the old cavalry rescue at the end of the party without winding up in the hoosegow myself." I sighed. "Dammit, wish I could GO to the party, but that'd tip off the nutmuncher. So...I need an excuse to be in the lobby. Ideas?"
Lodge paused for a moment. "H'm. Would you be interested in a social engagement, Miss Baumgartner?"
"A date, Lodge? I'm flattered, but the timing's a little off-"
"That is not quite what I had in mind," the little beaver smiled. "It seems that Chef Joseph was quite the admirer of your form during the tennis portion of the recent duel."
"Which form would that be?" I enquired.
Lodge coughed discreetly. "The one on display in the Mirror, Miss Baumgartner."
"Ah," I nodded. "Short skirt plus clean underwear equals a winner, at least in the PR department. Now that I think about it, I seem to recall receiving an admiring note from him at the time."
"Just so," Lodge nodded. "Now, Chef Joseph informs me that his pre-dinner break is approximately 2.30 to 4.00..."
"...and what could be more appropriate than a little rendezvous with a good looking gal in the lobby, right?"
"I suggested wine and cheese, " Lodge agreed amiably.
I nodded. "I'd best head over to the Grand, then, and pick up a little something suitable for a midafternoon date AND bailing out a roomful of revelers."
Lodge nodded. "I shall so inform Chef Joseph."
I turned on my way out the door. "Oh, and Lodge?"
"Yes, Miss Baumgartner?"
A quick peck on the nose. "My looks, your brains. Our children shall rule the world." I swished out the door, the little guy blushing red.
Funny thing is, I was about half-serious...
Over at the Grand, I stopped in to check on Willow. Po'na was seated on the couch, quietly thinking. He gave me a wordless shrug, and pointing with his thumb, he indicated a sleeping motion and shrugged. Translation: all was quiet on the Cervine Front. I figured Willow had other things on her mind, so I let her be.
Back to Chez Lover Boy for a costume change.
In passing out the invites, I had given the girls some marching orders. Nix on the smashing up of plates and glasses, nix on the smashing up of the furniture, nix on leaving stains and such. Napkins and tablecloths were fair game, since they could easily be replaced. Lodge had passed word that Chef Joseph was to leave out a large selection of prepared vegetables and other finger food, and that the girls were to keep the fun out of the kitchen, so dinner preparations could be made. Some of the girls were a bit put out that they couldn't have a good old fashioned food fight, but others wanted to play with their food. Not quite in a manner their mothers expected, but...
I put the finishing touches on myself. Frilly blouse? Check. Large ribbon-tie? Check. Mannish skirt-suit? Check. Heeled shoes? Check. Hair done back in librarian fashion? Check. Pince-nez? Check. I submitted myself for approval to the Baronin. She gave her approval. The Baron gave his enthusiastic approval without being asked for it. Deutcher Doggie collected a vase on his head for his pains.
"Rosie' Baumgartner in a business suit
Art by L. Frank - http://www.furaffinity.net/user/wom-bat/
(Larger file here - 965 KBytes) - character by Mitch Marmel
2.25: Elevator to the lobby. Chef Joseph greeted me effusively and waved me to a remote corner of the lobby well out of the line of fire. The closed doors of L'Etoile d'Argent had the sounds of a quiet but merry party going on.
2.30: The first subdued whoop came from L'Etoile d'Argent.
2.45: Chef Joseph and I were engaged in a pleasant debate about Bordeaux grapes versus the grapes of the Galilee when a strangled squirrel cry was heard from L'Etoile d'Argent . The whoops and happy cries grew louder.
I raised my glass. "À votre santé."
Chef raised his. "L'chaim."
3.00: The deskman walked by the glass doors of L'Etoile d'Argent, glanced inside, turned pale and rushed off.
3:15: The cops and firemen showed up.
3.30: Chef Joseph turned out to be very pleasant company. 'Course, that might have at least partially been due to the Beaujolais. The fact that acorn-breath was getting his didn't hurt, I'll bet.
Detectives Stagg and Brush, on the other hand, were eyeing the lobby entrance to L'Etoile d'Argent less than happily. Someone had covered over the door with a sheet and had put a chunk of wood in the handles. Guess they didn't want the party to go mobile. Chef Joseph and I decided to wander over from our remote corner.
Stagg saw us and gave me a professional look-over. So did Brush. The little fox narrowed his eyes suspiciously, and swished his tail.
"Well, someone ain't dressed fer clock-tower climbin', sir."
Stagg shrugged his shoulders. "No doubt Miss Baumgartner had other plans for the day in mind." Turning to me, he raised an eyebrow. "And those plans would be...?"
I gave him my nicest Wall Street smile. "Been having a nice little snack with Chef Joseph. Not so quiet, though. Nice crowd you've got here..."
Stagg fiddled with that stick he carries. "Well, we did get a report that M. d'Arbres was under seige by the party-goers..."
Chef Joseph snorted at this. "Pfui. The bushy-tailed salopard, he no doubt turn and run for the safety of the wine-cellar. I for one am not having the doubts he has been making inroads on the supply of the Remy Martin. Coward. He not stand up for himself."
I looked wide-eyed and innocent, which may not have fooled Stagg and certainly didn't fool Brush. "Why? What happened?"
The chef took a sip of wine, and chuckled nastily. "Les femmes s'amusent."
I was about to ask for particulars, when the piano inside the restaurant started up. A deep, penetrating voice that could only be Toni's was giving out thirteen to the dozen:
"You gotta give me some, oh give me some
I crave your round steak, you gotta give me some
Sweet as candy in a candy shop
Is just your sweet sweet lollipop
You gotta give me some, please give me some"
Yeah, they were having fun all right. Nice to see they kept close to the Ancient Roman theme of the party, at least in spirit.
I asked Staggsy if he was going to go in. "Noooo...I think I'm going to let it burn out. Some of them should be getting tired, by now."
So we waited companionably. Stagg and Brush passed on the Beaujolais. I nursed mine.
4.00: All you could hear was the occasional giggle and happy moan.
Stagg sighed and moved to unblock the doors.
I raised an eyebrow. "Time to put the girls to bed?"
Brush mumbled something to the effect of things being too late, but Stagg nodded, and made to open the door. He hesitated, and then, perhaps a tad over-politely, murmured "Ladies first?"
I cracked the door open. Good Lord. "Er, Inspector?"
"Um. How many paddy wagons do you have?"
He rolled his eyes. "One. Seats six."
I nodded. "We're going to have to go with Plan B, then." I shouted through the door, "Okay, ladies. Party's over. Apres-orgy over at Casino Island stationhouse." A chorus of awwwws. "C'mon, now. We have to (phew!) let 'em air the place out for the six o'clock seating. Throw something on and come on out, single file. We'll have to walk, but it's only a couple of blocks away..."
Chef Joseph wandered over to the door, and inhaled deeply. The pong of pheremones was obviously appealing to him. "Ehhhhhh bien, Paris au printemps. Ca, c'est bien bon!" The other males were standing well back. Guess they didn't want to have to do any explaining to their wives and sweeties why they smelled so funny.
As the participants, semi-draped and chattering away, filed out of what was left of Andre Arsloch's kingdom, I noted Sergeant Brush eyeing me suspiciously. "*YEZ* seemsta have this organized pretty good, dontcha?."
I shot Durian-Face a bright smile. "Fortune favors the prepared mind, Sergeant."
He was equal to it. "Yeah? How 'bout th' dirty one?"
Eventually, we got all the participants safely herded down to the stationhouse, damned near overflowing the drunk tank and the holding cells. Not that most of the girls were in any state to really care. In fact, a few of the more hardy ones simply took up where they had left off, much to the mortification of the turnkeys. As for acorn-breath, we left him to be dealt with by the wine-captain, now trying to get into the wine-cellar with the help of Chef Joseph (whose idea of 'help' consisted largely of taunting his enemy through the door).
Fueling the plane was easy. Loading the plane: not so easy. There was a design flaw in the Ercorsair: the planners had not counted on deer antlers being part of the cargo, particularly when attached to an agitated six-foot two buck. Eventually, by getting Reggie to sit at a somewhat awkward angle, I managed to slide the canopy closed, even if this did result in the rack being pinioned a bit. I got Reggie a treat to keep him quiet, at least for the first part of the flight. It sort of worked.
An hour into the flight:
"Are we there yet, Les?"
An hour ten minutes into the flight:
"Are we there yet, Les?"
An hour and fifteen minutes into the flight:
"Damnit, I'm gonna turn this plane right around and head back to Honolulu if you don't watch it! Now shut up and eat your ice cream."
Blessed silence ensued for another half-hour. It was too good to last.
"Bloody hell, you mean you and Willow flew to the Spontoons in this thing?"
"No, we swam."
"What, all the w--"
"I'm being sarcastic, Reggie. God's sake..."
"You mean you and Willow were cooped up in this cramped space for all those hours, this far apart?"
"Yes. Now shut up, I need to do some navigation."
I had almost completed my calculations when I heard a low, rumbling snort and the sound of a hoof being scraped against the floorboards. I thought back to the conversational thread, and paled.
"Reggie, I don't care what thoughts you're having about Willow right now. You go into rut, and I'm going to make you WALK to Casino Island."
An embarassed silence ensued, which held for the rest of the flight. At one point, I turned to check on him. He was staring out the window,eyes closed and lips moving. It seemed too long and too complex to be a prayer, so I just let him be.
It took the better part of about four hours or so to get things sorted out at the stationhouse. Lots of paperwork to fill out, reports to be typed, and such. Luckily, I was able to supply names and addresses for the downstairs durance vile gang. None of them were wearing anything with pockets, you see.
Sergeant Brush was holding the receiver of the detective bureau's phone a few feet from his ear. An angry yapping was issuing from it at high volume. The magistrate on duty evidently wasn't all that happy to have a full dance card. Brush looked relieved to hang up.
Stagg looked up from his desk. "Who's got the duty on the bench tomorrow?"
Brush winced. "Chuck Spaniel. God rest ye merrie vulpines, let nothin' you dismay. Sure I can't get ya t'switch shifts t'morra?"
"I have a good reason, Sergeant. Frau Nerzmann is making Christmas breakfast for me tomorrow morning. I also have a real reason, in that I know Magistrate Spaniel thinks I'm a fussy, cranky, queer old thing."
I purred. "Oh, that's not true, Inspector."
Staggsy shrugged. "The truth is a complete defence to libel, Miss Baumgartner. There seems to be a current of opinion in these islands that my species isn't the world's most sane."
"Well, I don't know if *everyone* thinks that way, Inspector..."
The only thing less sane that a love-struck whitetail deer is the IDIOT canine who actually volunteers to ferry him back by plane. In the dark. And with the pawful of instruments that the Ercorsair manufacturers had chosen to give me. I swore a mighty oath (to myself) that after tonight, I was going to find a way to spend at least a week without seeing a deer looking goo-goo eyed at me.
I made preparations to land at Eastern Island. It certainly caught the tower there by surprise. The guy on duty seemed like was about to enjoy a quiet evening with the crossword puzzle in the Mirror. His bad luck. Current conditions were relayed (mercifully, nothing serious), and the lights were turned on. I prayed that the Althing had paid its electric bill.
Running through the landing checklist, I realized that the most prudent thing to do, given the current circumstances, would be to jettison the floats on the Ercorsair and lower the landing gear for a ground landing. The floats are used, of course, for water landings, but they're also designed as extra fuel tanks, and I had used them as such tonight. Still, I didn't want anything that had av-gas fumes in it that wasn't totally necessary.
Owing to the somewhat cramped layout of the cabin (and for safety reasons), the release switch was on Reggie's side of the panel. Normally, I'd hit the release myself, but deer rack from some source or another was sort of in my way.
I flipped on the arming switch on my side of the panel. A light shone green on Reggie's side. I gritted my teeth. I radioed the tower that I was preparing for landing, and went into a holding pattern around Eastern Island. It was then I took my courage in both paws, and began to deal with the impossible.
"Don't 'what ho' me, you nuisance. Now look, do you see that panel in front of you?"
"There's a whole bunch of blinking and glowing lights in front of me."
"All right, what does the panel on the fourth switch from the left say?"
"Errr...one, two...drat it...one, two...hang on."
Not exactly an advertisement for the educational prowess of the University of Pennsylvania.
"Ah, here we are. It says...uhm...'tank jettison.'"
"See the light above it?"
"A little green one. Rather festive."
"Stuff the festive nature of the light. Now listen carefully, and for God's sake, pay attention. When I say "pull," I want you to pull the switch. Don't ask damnfool questions, just do what I tell you."
"But Les, the switch doesn't pull, it sort of goes up and down."
I gritted my teeth again. "Just do what I tell you Reggie, and pull the switch?"
"Pull the switch?"
"YES, DAMNIT, PULL THE SWITCH!" A set of sharp cracks (duCleds "Lil Blammo!" Explosive Bolts! Work every time!) and a sudden lightening of the plane later, I had cause to regret my choice of words. I looked out the window, and as far as I could tell, we were over water to the north of Eastern Island, which at least, in theory, should work to keep the damage down.
In theory. About twenty seconds later, there was a bright flash on the water, an audible "whoompf," and the sight of a smallish barge going up in flames.
I turned around to where Reggie was looking goggled-eyed at the result.
"We are going to speak of this no more."
The suite was dark when I blinked awake around 9.45. Po'na was not in, but there was a small covered plate containing some lemon grass and nuts on the table. Someone had overestimated my appetite. I really wasn't all that hungry. Perhaps a good long soak in the tub would make me feel better, if not hungrier.
Was it worth the bother to go to Midnight Mass at St. Paul's? I debated it. I decided that Reggie or no Reggie, I still had to live up to my bargain with Father Merino as best I could, and Midnight Mass was the last milestone in the Six Weeks. I'd make the effort. I picked out a simple white dress. Black would have suited my mood better, but I didn't feel like advertising my spirits more than my face already did.
I put a bottle of whiskey aside for after Mass, to ring the holiday in and ring consciousness out.
I also laid out some black lacy underthings. Reggie was gone. Might as well give Rosie her Christmas present fancily wrapped.
I gave a blood-and-thunder lecture to Reggie, the gist of which was that if he opened his fool mouth at any point during the landing, I was going to tie his rack in knots around his neck and hang him with it. Blessed silence, except for a few murmured words that I assumed were prayers. At least I hope so.
The tower gave me a rundown on the landing conditions. Wind, visibility, and obstacles.
"Yeah, just watch out. When we turned on the light, some stupid seagull got attracted by it. He's been cracking open clams on the runway."
I kept a weather eye out for any wild fowl, so that the Ercorsair wouldn't demonstrate any laws of physics. You know, the one about mass meeting force and such. All clear, though, and I lined up the plane straight with the runway, and began the descent.
We touched down smoothly, and I glanced down to hit the flaps. If I hadn't been focusing on that, I might have spotted what I was told later was a large clam sitting square in the runway. You'd think something that small couldn't possibly be hit by a largish plane. What are the odds? In the case of Leslie duCleds, the odds are even. This fact was brought home to me by the following:
(a) the sound of a tire bursting with a loud snap;
(b) the Ercorsair skidding along one side of the runway, shedding sparks and assorted small parts in its wake;
(c) said Ercorsair hitting a pile of haybales some fool had left along the side of the runway.
The last point had one advantage, in that it brought the Ercorsair to a more or less safe
stop. The principal disadvantage was that this safe stop was created by leaving the plane at a rather undignified angle.
The most I suffered was a seriously bruised ego and a badly shredded temper. The sight of a virtually unscathed Reggie Buckhorn (save for some canopy panels impaled on his rack) was about all I could bear, in my tired and frazzled condition.
As I shut off the magnetos, electrical system and fuel, my look at Reggie was murderous. "Say anything. Just *ANYTHING*. I swear I'll do twenty to life for cervinicide."
Reggie gulped. "Errrr...drinks are on me?"
The lucky bastard had picked the one thing he could have said that was guaranteed to keep me from killing him. We collected our luggage and headed toward Casino Island. I promised the aeroport officials that I'd be around for the post mortem on the Ercorsair in due course.
A seagull, gulping down the remains of what appeared to be a large, succulent clam, perched on Reggie's rack.
Neither of us had the heart to shoo him off.