by E.O. Costello
©2006 E.O. Costello
Gwladys Buckhorn, Josslyn Buckhorn, Reggie Buckhorn, Thomas Buckhorn, Pierre duCleds
are characters created by E.O. Costello
Willow Buckhorn/Grace Stagg characters by M. Mitchell Marmel and E.O. Costello
Mark French courtesy J.T. Urie
April 23, 1940, 6.52 a.m.
The Private Suite
Bellevue Stagford Hotel
Broad and Walnut Streets, Fillydelphia
Truth be told, Gwladys Buckhorn had not been sleeping heavily, so the gentle knock on her bedroom door was sufficient to bring her to full consciousness.
"Pardon, Madame, le petit dejuner. Puis-je entrer?"
"Of course, Celestine, just a moment."
A quick shrug into a dressing gown, and a few flicks of the furbrush, and the Rt. Hon. the Dowager Viscountess Buckhorn was presentable, at least to her maid. Considering the latter had worked for her for getting on twenty-seven years, this was perhaps unnecessary, but certain standards had to be met.
The breakfast tray was duly brought in and efficiently laid on the table, the silver covers whisked away, and in an instant, the maid had shimmered away, as only someone in her profession could. Breakfast was an acorn omelette and a pot of tea. The tray was surveyed with a small smile of satisfaction. Management had taken some extra trouble with the silverware and the china, knowing that the part-owner of the hotel was going to dine off them. Even that morning's Inquirer had been ironed. Not, as some think, to get a snappy crease in the paper, though that helps, but to fix the ink so it does not get on paws.
Normally, the Dowager Viscountess would not dirty her paws with the Inquirer (ironed or not); she was an Evening Bulletin reader to the core (and she viewed Moe Annenbyrd, the publisher, with some secret distaste). But the Republican Inquirer was, after all, preferable to the Democratic Record, and she was interested to see if there had been overnight developments in Norway (the Allies allegedly captured a number of Germans about 25 miles from Narvik).
It was the other headline, however, that made her smile. It was the one she had been looking forward to for nearly three years.
"PHILLIES NEW PARK TO OPEN TODAY"
"Radical New Design Opens Season, Era"
Quietly laying the paper aside, and taking a sip of tea, Gwladys Buckhorn corrected herself. No. This was not a question of three years. It was more like thirty-nine.
May 14, 1901
1926 Delancey Street
The coroner ruled the cause of death was a burst blood vessel in the brain. A white lie. Yes, it was perfectly true, of course. Peter Ritterherz had died of a burst blood vessel in his brain.
The death certificate failed to mention that the burst blood vessel was caused by one bullet from a .22 caliber revolver.
Gwladys Ritterherz stayed in her upstairs bedroom, while business was being conducted downstairs. The usual phalanx of Fillydelphia Lawyers was present. Their post mortem would be conducted by paper, not by a scalpel.
While her parents were under the impression that she was a fresh young doe, untrammeled by the hustle and bustle of the world around her, they did not know that she was a keen reader of the daily newspapers. This was a fact that would have, most likely, earned the headmistress of her school a stern rebuke, but this lady fur was one of the new school, who felt that bright young lady furs needed to know more than what was in Mrs. Beeton's book on how to run a household. And she took a great deal of pleasure in her star pupil. Two languages spoken fluently, with two more conversant, and a pithy prose style. There was much that showed promise. If it could be allowed to flower.
Gwladys paced the floor of her room. She knew full well that in the last few weeks, a titanic battle had been brewing on Wall Street. Control of the mighty Northern Pacific Railway was at stake. With only a small floating supply of stock, prices had risen, unofficially, to over $1,000 per share. Which meant certain ruin for anyfur that had sold the stock short. Something else that Gwladys Ritterherz knew full well: her father was an inveterate plunger in the market. Sometimes his hunches were right, sometimes they were wrong. The deathly quiet in the house in the last week told her all she needed to know about her father's latest hunch. His last hunch.
It was almost nightfall by the time there was a soft knock on the door. On the doorstep was the widow Ritterherz, already dressed in black. An old Main Line doe, she was made of stern stuff, so no tears flowed when the news was broken.
"Gwladys, I am afraid we shall have to sell the house. There is no other alternative. Mr. Percheron has shown me the figures for your father's losses, and we have to economize in every way, which means..."
"No more school, Mother?"
"I am sorry, Gwladys. That is how it must be. We cannot rely on anyone else in the family, not after what your father has done. It will not be a public scandal, but enough furs know. And..." Little more needed to be said on that score. Doors would be silently closed. Regrets would be sent. Correspondence would end.
"Never mind, Mother. I will take care of myself. And you."
"Gwladys, this is no time to be dreaming."
"I am not dreaming, Mother. I will find a way."
"But Gwladys, think of the..."
"Scandal? Do you honestly care what anyfur thinks anymore, Mother? You've just implied we're as dead as Father is, socially."
The mother shuddered at this. Perhaps a poor choice of words, even if they were the truth.
"Mother, Mrs. Castor has many connections. And you know I'm one of her favorites. I'm willing to trust her. Why don't you?"
The elder Ritterherz tightened her jaw and clasped her paws.
"Damn your father, anyway. Why on Earth did he have to put us through...?"
"Mother, listen to me. I'm going to fix things. Mother. Look at me, Mother. I'm going to fix things."
The two does looked at each other. One was determined to do what she said. The other knew it. She gave her daughter a deeply reluctant embrace of assent.
April 23, 1940, 7.24 a.m.
The Private Suite
The Bellevue Stagford
The rest of the breakfast was given its due justice, as the Dowager Viscountess made a mental note to compliment the chef. Honest praise cost little, but usually bought much goodwill.
The morning routine was adhered to, and the bath had been drawn. Before entering it, Gwladys Buckhorn paused to look at herself in the mirror. Fifty-seven years old be damned, she still looked good. More than enough to get a passing glance or two. She knew her chauffeur was hoping that one day, the old stereotype would assert itself, and she'd have a fling in the backseat of the Packherd. She would let him go on thinking that. It made for a docile employee.
As she settled into the warm water, and began to apply the loofah, she did smile to herself. It was, after all, her body that had made her what she was today. Not in the standard fashion, of course...
October 9, 1901, 10.26 a.m.
Office of the President
Minkerton's National Detective Agency
The Consolidated Gas Building
37 Wall Street, Gnu York City
She had seen the name dozens and dozens of times before. There were dime novels featuring his adventures, real or imagined. His name struck fear in the hearts of criminals, stimulated penny-dreadful writers, and stoked rage in the hearts of socialists. And yet, there he was, sitting across the desk from her.
Dribbling cracker crumbs on his vest.
Allan Minkerton, Sr. was now well into his seventies. His office was sparsely furnished, save for a portrait of his Civil War patron, and a holographic copy of the Gettysburg Address, which would likely be worth a pretty penny at auction.
A younger, nearly identical mink stood off to the side, swishing his tailfur. His attention was somewhat divided between his father, on the one paw, and the fact that there was a well-shined and well-turned hoof within his view.
A staccato cough broke the silence, as the younger Minkerton discovered that his father had finished reading Gwladys Ritterherz's letters of introduction. The elder mink was glowering over the top of his pince-nez at his son.
"If you're *quite* finished looking at Miss Ritterherz's...qualifications...perhaps you can give me some guidance."
"Well, Father, we need all of the different tools we can get to serve our clients. Miss Ritterherz is well-spoken, well-read, speaks three languages..."
"And has a well-turned hoof." A blush from the younger Minkerton. "I'm not crazy about the idea of hiring young ladies, Junior. God knows this firm catches enough hell as it is without being accused of running something out of the Arabian Nights."
"Bottom line, Dad. It works." Gwladys was fascinated by this conversation, which was taking place as if she wasn't in the room.
"For whom? I've been hearing rumours about Trip and that other young lady we hired...what's her name...Victoria somethingorother."
"van Pelt, Dad. You remember, the one who figured out who was leaking that information for the U.S. Steel flotation."
A grumpy snort from the elder mink acknowledged the fact, but he still looked displeased and not terribly convinced.
The eyes swiveled over like the business end of a battleship turret. "Yes, Miss Ritterherz?"
"Surely you have no objection to the use of young ladies. Didn't you run an operation all throughout the war using couriers to pass and gather information? I seem to recall you even designed a special attachment for the inside of a hoop skirt..."
"Don't believe everything you read in dime novels, Miss."
"Or autobiographies? It's in chapter 27 of volume I, at least as far as it goes for the Peninuslar Campaign."
Allan Minkerton, Sr. narrowed his eyes, and snorted again. "Not proper reading for a young lady, in this day and age. All right, damnit. But she's *your* responsibility, Junior. If there's any scandal that comes out of this, it's on your tailfur, got me?"
A few minutes later, going down the hall to his own office, the younger mustelid chuckled. "Never mind him, Miss Ritterherz. The gout means he can't chase 'em like he used to. I'm sure you'll do just fine."
April 23, 1940, 8.19 a.m.
The Private Suite
The Bellevue Stagford
Celestine had laid out her mistress' clothes on the stand, and they were carefully inspected. A great deal of black, as befitted a widow. But, as her couturier smilingly opined, wearing black need not mean one looked gloomy.
Certainly not the underthings (not that anyfur would see them) Certainly not the smart skirt-suit ordered from Paris, which had arrived the other week along with a few other items. Gwladys had a feeling that that would be the last reinforcements from Paris for her wardrobe for some time. At least if the Evening Bulletin's analysts were right.
Very little jewelry. A strand of pearls, a small pearl pin, and her wedding band. Looking at that, she mused. The only widows she saw that still wore their wedding bands were all cervines. Not something that one would guess from stereotypes.
Time for inspection in the mirror. Yes, just one or two small adjustments, and everything passes, ready for parade. And how often has this been done?
March 29, 1903, 11.26 p.m
Suite 1295, The Waldorf-Castoria Hotel
33rd St. and Fifth Avenue
Gnu York City
For a secret agent, Gwladys Ritterherz decided, this fur was awfully loud.
Indeed, the jaguar had been a continious whirlwind of activity since he had hit town. Rather a pity that almost none of it had to do with his employment by the Republic of Mexico.
Well, that might not be true, necessarily. The various firms that were attempting to sell Mexico all manner of modern firearms, weapons and assorted artillery were doing their best to keep their would-be client in a good mood. This meant hitting the best "lobster palaces" in Gnu York, and picking up the cheque. (Of course, this would later be added back into the overhead for the sales, so it would be the campesinos of rural Mexico that would ultimately be paying for the lobster and White Star champagne.) Cheques were not accepted at certain other establishments that the jaguar gave business to. Those were strictly cash.
Tonight, however, Don Felipe was in a mood radiant. He had insisted on buying champagne for the two lovely young senoritas sitting at the table next to him. And why not? Certainly the young minkess and the young doe were not of a species he would see back home, and their natural scents were exotic to him. This was not going to be a working dinner, as the gentlefur from Colt had planned. It was a deeply irritated Morgan quarterhorse that saw the two young ladies lead the jaguar back up to his room.
For the next few hours, the champagne flowed in two directions. One, down Don Felipe's gullet. The other, into strategically placed potted plants. Don Felipe was getting more and more cheerful as the night wore on. His paws were also getting a little more active, too, to the expressed giggles (and hidden disgust) of the minkess. Perhaps it was her caramel-and-black colouration that appealed to the jaguar. Who knows?
It was with some alarm that she saw him begin to unbuckle his trousers, and shrug off his pants. This was not quite in the plan, and she really would rather not expose the fact that she was wearing a knife in a holster underneath her skirt. Or expose anything else, for that matter.
With a giggle, her companion, the doe, offered another round of champagne to all three, winking at the jaguar as she flicked her flag. This provoked a booming laugh, and a swift downing of the glass. Followed by a swift downing of the jaguar, as the knockout drops took hold.
"Damnit, Gwladys, did you have to cut it so fine? Another minute or so, and this dress was going to be history."
"Have to make it look real, Vicky. Romeo will wake up with a splitting headache, and without his clothes. He'll think he had a great old time, even if he didn't. Mels. Anyway, help me toss the room, here. He's bound to have something."
The jaguar did. A very nice steel deed box, with a combination lock. Rather large, too.
"Any guesses at the combination, Gwladys?"
The doe was already fiddling with the dials. In a few seconds, the box clicked open. She winked.
"5-0-5. Very patriotic of our little gallant. And my, hasn't he been a busy little boy. Here, you take half, and I'll take the other half."
The two femme furs quickly scanned the letters. It looked like there were a few more elements in the overhead, namely substantial bribes being paid to the confidential agent of the Republic of Mexico. Quite a few firms, domestic and foreign, would be more than a little concerned if these letters fell into the wrong paws. Such as those of the President of Mexico, who had had the foresight to hire Minkerton's. It was rumoured that El Presidente was an avid reader of dime novels.
The minkess was on the verge of leaving with the refilled deed box, when she turned and saw her partner was busily stripping Don Felipe, tossing his clothes around the room. As a final touch, a heavily scented silk pawkerchief was thrust into the snoring jaguar's paw. Victoria van Pelt admired the theatrical touch, and was mildly jealous she hadn't thought of it herself.
Ten minutes later, the two femmes snuck into a horse-drawn carriage, which sped off downtown.
February 29, 1904, 11.19 p.m.
McGurk's Suicide Hall
Gnu York City
No less an authority than the Messrs. Howe & Hummell, attorneys extraordinary to the criminal underworld of Greater Gnu York, had labeled McGurk's Suicide Hall the worst dive in that fair city. Part of this reputation came from the fact that this fabled establishment was nearly the last stop on the express train to hell for prostitutes. Many got off the train at McGurk's, which accounted for both its name and the rubbernecking tourists who stopped by in the hope of seeing something gruesome to discuss in their native hamlets.
Some of the yokels were entranced by stories like the one concerning Blonde Madge Davenport and her partner, Big Mame. In October, 1899, they decided to end it all, and to that end they bought carbolic acid, the elixir of choice, at a drugstore a few doors away. Blonde Madge was successful in gulping her final cocktail down. Big Mame hesitated and wound up spilling most of hers...so all she got for her pains was a scarred face and a permanent ban from McGurk's. And this was one of just six suicides that year. Most of the femmefurs who killed themselves were teenagers between 16 and 18. Waiters came to recognize persons who might attempt suicide and formed flying wedges to eject the aggrieved parties before the deed could be attempted or completed. This gives one an idea of the piquant flavour that was McGurk's in this era.
There was a gay and festive air at McGurk's this night. An improvement over the usual air of cheap tobacco, stale beer and staler urine that customarily assaulted the discriminating palate (not that McGurk's habitues boasted such as a rule). One of the idols of the Bowery, the Paoli Kid himself, was in the house. He of course was recognized, as garishly tinted lithographs could be found in nearly every barbershop or dive for hundreds of miles, courtesy of the National Police Gazette "Hall of Fame." The Kid's fame largely rested on his splendid handlebar mustache and bulky physique, far more than his technique, which largely consisted of rushing his opponent and pummeling him as hard and fast as he could.
Watching all of this was a blowsy doe in the corner, who had already had to fend off four offered transactions in the last hour; the last one required a discreet stein to the ear, not that anyone noticed, not at McGurk's. (Well, strictly speaking, not true. The unlucky fur was quickly dragged off to be stripped of everything he had on him, such as it was. Bad luck for him when he woke up the next morning in some vermin-infested alley. Good luck for him that he woke up at all.)
The doe had one eye out for would-be offers (to be rejected), and the other eye out for her target. For once Minkerton's was on the side of the angels, at least as far as the working class was concerned. One of the organizers of the furriers' union had been furnapped by a group in the pay of a manufacturer who had an interesting notion of labour-management relations. The manufacturer had also been dismissive and contemptous of Minkerton's. The union, having been on the receiving end of more than one defeat at the paws of Minkerton's, knew better And for Minkerton's, father, son and grandson, a fee was a fee.
The word on the street was that the organizer would be passed from one arm of the gang to the other, tonight. The recipients were notorious for their tastes in "play," and it was evident that it was now or never to get the client to safety. A number of Minkerton ops were scattered over the Bowery, seeing which dive would be the pass-off spot.
The doe was getting anxious, irritated and itchy. She really didn't want to think about what was making her itch, but her guts told her that McGurk's was the place, if at all. The Paoli Kid, and the furore he was creating, was ideal cover.
Sure enough, while the Paoli Kid was in the middle of a long-winded anecdote about how he "administered the sleeper" to Ratso Wyre in the ninth, the door opened, and a group of four furs, all bulk and scowls, pushed a smaller mouse before them. Hardly anyone noticed. That is, except for the doe, who had memorized the photograph.
Heavy odds. How to even them? There was only one way. Slipping a bit further into the darkness, and disguising her voice, she propounded a question to the Paoli Kid.
"Hey, ya big baboon! How much didja pay Ratso t'take a dive?!?"
The Paoli Kid's train of thought, such as it was, was derailed, his face a twisted frappe of confusion and growing rage, especially when it became clear that not everyone at McGurk's was a Paoli Kid partisan.
"Who sez dat?"
To the doe's surprise (and relief) at least two other patrons demanded answers. A few other habitues took offence, and expressed their disagreement with fists. That fine old Bowery institution, the brawl, began to erupt. For once, the waiters were caught off guard. It seemed that the Paoli Kid, in his haste to get at his tormenters, cold-cocked two of the burly waiters and accidentally hit a few others. In short order, the chairs and tables were flying. And so were some of the patrons..
The four escorts' retreat was foiled, largely by the crush of battling patrons and airborne furniture, some of which began connecting with harsh force. The mouse, now even more astonished and frightened, was suddenly yanked off his feet into the crush and shoved under a (still standing) table.
"Izzy sent me," the mouse was informed by the doe. The mouse barely had time to digest this fact before the doe, looking around, grabbed the mouse by the scruff of the neck and began expertly weaving her way through the milling mob of brawling patrons.
Mercifully, the unknown patron who threw the horse through the plate-glass window in front had poor aim, missing rescuer and rescuee by about a foot, covering them with shards of broken glass, but otherwise causing no harm.
The tom-tom thrum of police nightsticks beaten against the pavement began to be heard, as the two weaved through the darkened streets.
"Where are we going?"
"The Consolidated Gas Building on Wall Street. You need safety. I need a bath. And...damnit!...some flea powder."
September 12, 1904, 10.42 p.m.
Outside the Dakota
Gnu York City
The old gag had been that the luxurious apartment building had been built so far north in Manhattan (and thus far from civilization), that it might as well have been built in the Dakotas. The owners of the building defiantly adopted the name, and it stuck.
One of the current residents of the Dakota had in mind another parallel: he had the uncomfortable feeling that he was a marked fur. Messages had been received. Notes left. Near-accidents barely avoided.
Even if they were expensive, Minkerton's seemed the only answer. But for all the money he was paying, the nervous fur couldn't see anything Minkerton's was doing. He had a good mind to go downtown to the Consolidated Gas Building and give them a piece of his mind. In fact, he was going to do it the very next morning, he resolved. If he lived.
The street was empty, except for one or two nicely dressed furs. Perhaps back from an evening at the theatre. Sanctuary was almost at paw when the moving shadow caught his eye. The gaslight caught the glint of the knife in the paw as it was quickly raised to be thrown.
The gaslight caught another glint from a few feet away. One of the theatre-goers had removed her paw from a muff, revealing a most unlady-like accessory: a strange-looking pistol with a bulbous top. At a range of no more than 20 feet, she could hardly miss. And didn't, catching the would-be killer square in the chest, with an eerily silent shot. The knife fell to the sidewalk with a clatter far louder than the pistol.
The doe had slipped her paw back into the muff, and quickly padded off into the night, with merely a quick nod at her astonished client. Who was now of the view that the agenda for his meeting tomorrow had changed. Memo to self: bring chequebook.
April 23, 1940, 8.53 a.m.
The Private Suite
The Bellevue Stagford
Chequebook. Chequebook. Damn, her mind was slipping. Of all things, on all days, she couldn't forget that. Neither Mr. Leowey nor Mr. Croark would take kindly to a promise of final payment later. An excuse of "I forgot my chequebook" on a $15,000,000 project would hardly past muster. Not after all the work they had put into it. The fees were enormous, but the paw that wrote the cheques wasn't shaking. Things would come out in the end.
The antique desk overlooking the window on Broad Street was a model of organization. Everything to its assigned place, as per the Minkerton's Manual for Operatives (1899 edition, on the bookshelf nearby). Gwladys Buckhorn smirked at the thought. Her daughter-in-law had once accurately guessed where everything was in the desk; evidently, some parts of the Manual had not changed in over a quarter-century.
Which is to say that the desk occasionally didn't yield a surprise. Pulling out the chequebook for the Giraffe Bank (a good, old-fashioned Fillydelphia Bank with a beautiful head branch), another chequebook caught her eye. A closer examination revealed it was for Lloyd's Bank, with the familiar portrait of its equine founder. In small, nearly worn-away gilt lettering on the leather cover was a name: Josslyn M.G. Buckhorn. The last cheque counterfoil was dated January 13, 1939 (Thos. Pink & Sons, for two shirts, 13 guineas).
Quietly replacing the chequebook, and closing the desk drawer, the Dowager Viscountess brooded. Even in death, the figure of her late mate still loomed large, with constant reminders of his presence making themselves known. A tie here, a furbrush there, a book with annotations (some printable) marked in the margin.
Of course, what was today but the dedication of an enormous memorial to Joss? Complete with life-size bronze statue, glowering at home plate from 463 feet away in dead centre field. And in play, too. Such an appealing target for any slugger who dared. Probably few, if they had a notion that a brass cervine golem would exact a painful and loud revenge on them.
There was, Gwladys recalled, a ruler of ancient times who had fashioned a bull of bronze, into which he pitched those to be done away with, and heated it up, the yells of the executed sounding very much like the bellows of the bull. On second recollection, Gwladys remembered the ruler being done away with in his own bull. Still, the notion was there. A loud, echoing snort from a bronze replica of her deceased mate would be appropriate. It would match the first things she had heard from him...
March 3, 1905, 10.06 a.m.
The Day Room
St. Peter Churchford, Bucks.
"Phhhhhhnort. I don't NEED any bloody secretary."
Indeed not, thought Gladys Ritterherz. What he needed was a tailor to attend to a waistcoat that was increasingly under strain, a dermatologist to look at the acne on the muzzle, and someone to take care of that squint. A secretary did come rather low on the list of priorities for Joss Buckhorn, at least if she had anything to do about it.
But she didn't. Minkerton's clients, in this case, were George and Fionna Buckhorn, the buck of the duo being the owner of F.R. Buckhorn & Sons, the Anglo-American firm that supplied vast quantities of tinned goodies to herbivores around the world, Gwladys herself included. George Buckhorn had many things: a whole lot of money, an army of workers around the world...and a buck-fawn that seemed to be a bit on the disputatious side.
"Now Joss, old man. Of course you need a secretary. After all, you'll be taking on responsibilities soon with the firm."
"Right now, you have me sweeping out a warehouse."
"Oh, for God's sake, father, I saw the rota sheet. You signed it yourself."
"Did I? Bless me, don't remember it. I say, awfully sorry, you know. Well, look on the bright side..."
"There IS no bright side. IT'S A BLOODY WAREHOUSE!"
Well, that might explain the acne.
The other whitetail doe in the room spoke up. It was a little hard to understand her at first, largely because of the cigar she was smoking, and a rather noticeable Pittsburgh accent.
"Joss, yer gettin' a secretary, an' that's it, see? Unless you like sweeping out warehouses."
"No, I don't, and..."
"Good. Miz Ritterherz here comes recommended."
"From whom, may I ask?"
"None of yer business, an' don't give me no lip, boy, or I'll put you across my knee."
"Oh! I say, Fi, that's a bit..."
"Quiet. Or I'll put YOU across my knee."
"Oh. Er. Right-ho."
What a family. Still, Gwladys could see the logic behind hiring her. All talk of dictation and filing aside, there was the matter of keeping an eye on the sole heir to the Buckhorn fortune. Joss hadn't exactly made friends at Oxford (or so the file said), and there were probably a few who would take a poke at him. Of course, upon closer examination, given the way the buck-fawn was balling up his fists and glaring at his sire, taking merely one poke might be a bad idea.
"Besides, boy, it's high time you were around does your age."
"WHAT'S THAT BLOODY SUPPOSED TO MEAN?"
"Oh, I say, er, Joss?"
"Don't you...er...like does?"
George Buckhorn was a very likeable client. The pay was very good, even generous. A good chunk of her father's debts would soon be retired, thanks to him. Free room and board in a very nice English country house that, unusually, seemed up to date. The downside was that the head of the family, behind his pale blue eyes and sheepish grin, didn't seem to have all of his wires connected. This last question, while asked in perfect innocence and a desire to know, may well have been ill-timed, given her presence. It certainly provoked a steam-main explosion of wrath from the buck-fawn, who indicated what he thought of the insinuations of the question, followed by an angry stomping out of the room (and a puzzled trotting after by the sire).
The silence in the room was broken only by the older doe puffing on her cigar. After a while, she examined it critically, and tossed it into the grate.
"Takes after my old man and his brothers, with that hot head of his. I'm sure he likes does, but it'd take a cervine a' steel to hang around that hard one. So, howdya think th' Pirates will do this year?"
July 12, 1906, 6.24 p.m.
On board an LNER train, bound for London
As Josslyn Buckhorn's secretary and all-purpose Doe Friday, Gwladys had to go nearly everywhere he did. At least the parts required for business.
F.R. Buckhorn & Sons' main British plant was in Liverpool, so there would be train rides up for inspection trips, with memoranda and letters dictated along the way.
At meetings, Josslyn Buckhorn would politely raise his paw to be recognized. If his sire was present, often he would not be called on, because the elder buck would be rambling on about an esoteric topic. On the rare occasions where his father managed to actually notice him, often a chance remark by the younger buck would set the older one off on yet another tangent.
In a way, it was worse when George Buckhorn was not present. The chair then passed to an elderly grand-uncle, who had no truck with "book learning." The way to learn to run an enterprise was by getting one's paws dirty, was his motto. He had little patience for his grand-nephew's work, and would glower at the younger buck over his pince-nez. If this didn't work, a series of chuffing snorts would erupt. And if Josslyn was still stubborn enough to persist, as he often was, a frank comment would be made about "cleverness," and the next item on the agenda would be moved to, with a bang of the gavel.
There were train rides back down to London. These in dead silence, punctuated only by the drumming of hooves against the walls of the railway carriage.
January 17, 1907, 10.51 p.m.
All work and no play would make for a dull buck, so there were social occasions, both at Monongahela House and in London during the "Season," where parties and balls would be attended.
At least initially, Gwladys had little idea of how the London parties went, since, as a quasi-servant, she would not be invited to them. Not that it mattered; there were occasions she thought that habitues of the Bowery were the superior of some elements of the British aristocracy, and she would have loved to have matched one Bowery b'hoy against a few aristos. The imagined results brought a smile to her muzzle. The only guess as to what was happening was the sound of Josslyn Buckhorn returning home around eleven, and slamming the door to his room.
At Monongahela House parties, she could get a closer look. Josslyn's smallish size and increasing girth made him a somewhat awkward dancer. For some of the taller does, his muzzle would be more or less at chest height, something that she could see gave him acute embarrassment. When the dance was over, the partner usually made a quick excuse, and departed for refreshments or other dancers. Many dances were sat out, in the dark, with hooves drumming against the floor.
August 12, 1907, 4.12 p.m.
One function she heard about only second-paw (to her vast irritation, but she had her orders from Minkerton's). Josslyn had been at one social gathering when a quintet of rowdy Cambridge furs cornered the buck, whose Oxford loyalties were at least known in society (being the first Buckhorn to go to University). The leader of the high-spirited scholars began an earnest enquiry, a tutorial even, on how many settlers the "wild Yankee" buck had scalped, and where his fur-paint and feathers were. Eventually, words were exchanged, and the younger buck was, in time-honoured tradition, "de-bagged" of his trousers (5 on 1 not being conducive to an effective defence).
The news quickly made the rounds. A garbled version got back to George Buckhorn and the aforementioned grand-uncle, and a drumhead court-martial was convened with Gwladys present. The sire was puzzled and confused as to why his fawn would take off his trousers and run around half-naked. The grand-uncle referred to his grand-nephew as a, quote, still-spotted limp-hooved limp-antlered little butterball, endquote, with the suggestion that he start hitting a punching bag instead of the books, and it would make a buck out of him, instead of a doe.
It was at that point that Josslyn began writing memoranda only for himself, and began to sit in moody silence, both in the boardroom and at the dinner table. The social invitations dried up, but did not seem to be missed all that much. There would be sotto voice mutterings regarding "social butterflies" and "pointless and wasteful frivolity."
Pity, Gwladys mused. Much of what was said in the memoranda was quite cogent and correct. Josslyn had an organized mind, and (grand-uncle's advice notwithstanding) continued to read heavily. And given what Gwladys saw of Edwardian society, she thought Josslyn was probably right, too, about the pointless and wasteful frivolity of the social butterflies.
She did notice that Josslyn was, increasingly, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. She resolved to treat him with politeness and courtesy. After all, he was the client. How this deference was received was hard to say.
July 23, 1908, 9.45 p.m.
Congrats on finishing up that railroad case. That took some work, figuring out they put the false bottoms on those railcars. At least you're having fun with a fellow species member. Trip sounds like a real charmer. I wish I could say the same for my boss. I don't let it bother me, God knows I saw worse on some of our Bowery gigs. I saw him in high form today, getting a metal supplier to knock 3/4d off the price of each gross of cans. By the end of it, the guy was lucky to be getting out of it with fur and sanity intact, if not pride. Interesting character, though. I've probably learned more in the last few years watching him than I would have at Penn, or King's, or Collegiate. If they let us in, that is. Which reminds me, what are they writing back home about the suffragettes? There was one case here that's been hushed up, get a load of this: a femme chained herself, not just to a fence, but..."
A quiet cough startled Gwladys out of her train of thought. Standing in front of her was the boss referred to in the letter to Victoria van Pelt, in white tie from dinner. There had been one or two improvements. A monocle had taken care of the squint, and a transfer to a desk job had cleared up the irritation that caused the acne. The antlers were now a little more balanced for the head, as well.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Buckhorn. I thought you had dismissed me for the day. Shall I fetch...?"
"No, no, Miss Ritterherz. Thank you for asking."
The quiet and polite tone of voice was a surprise, especially since that same voice had barracked a footfur for dropping a platter of steamed carrots not more than an hour ago, in a voice that thundered through the house. There was an altogether confused look in the buck's eye, but no scent of port on the breath. He shuffled a hoof in embarrassment.
"Errrrr. I'm sorry, Miss Ritterherz, if I frighten you and all..."
"You don't, Mr. Buckhorn."
The buck looked up, even more confused. "Eh?"
"I'm not afraid of you, Mr. Buckhorn. I've seen enough of you the last few years. Granted, that's probably because I've lasted longer than most of the furs who serve you," (at this, the buck flushed a bit) "but all the same, I do see beyond your temper."
A twitch in the buck's ears indicated he was listening. "I know enough about your affairs to judge that you may be a very hot-tempered buck, and an extremely hard competitor, but you are, after all, at least honest in your dealings. More than can be said for some furs. And I've typed up enough of your memoranda to know their value. It's rather a pity that almost no fur decides to see the positive side of your character, Mr. Buckhorn."
The buck's ears twitched straight up. "You...errrr...see a positive side in me?"
"Well, yes. But I've probably talked too much, Mr. Buckhorn. If you'll excuse me, I'll go to my rooms." Gwladys collected her unfinished letter, smiled warmly, and turned to leave the room.
The sound of a hoof scraping the carpet was the first thing that stopped her. A long, drawn-out snort that sounded like "PHHHHHROOOOONNNNGGGG" was the second thing that stopped her. A pair of buck paws gripping her about the waist was the third thing that stopped her, and by far the most effective.
Situations like this did come up in the novels written for the lower-class femme set, but Gwladys Ritterherz was mildly surprised to see it in action. She had considered whether this situation would ever come up, and what she would do if it did. A paw across the muzzle? A scream?
A brief thought passed her mind: it *would* be nice to see this house from the upstairs. If she worked for Minkerton's for the next 35 years, it was somewhat unlikely she'd ever see the like, top-ranked and profitable op or no. Gwladys felt a little ashamed at the mercenary nature of her thoughts, but...it was a hard world, after all.. The paw was in fact used, not on the front of the muzzle, but the back of the ears. The other set of paws pushed the newspapers off the long table, and then set to other work.
Matters were interrupted about an hour later, after the significant work was done, by a wreath of cigar smoke from a corner.
"CONFOUND IT, MOTHER! WHAT ARE YOU...?!"
"For gosh sakes, Joss, it isn't like it was a secret. They could hear you Downstairs, with that snort and bellow of yours. It didn't take no genius to figger out what you was doing, or a cracksman to come in here without disturbing you. Don't worry about the scratches on the table, kid. I'll take 'em outta Joss' allowance."
"I've *told* you since you were a fawn, you break something, it comes out of your allowance."
"Don't you give me that sass, boy. You may be 25, but house rules are house rules. Now be a good buck and give Miss Ritterherz back what's left of her clothes. I'll see you back to your room, dear, so none of the servants see you like that."
"WHAT ON EARTH...!?!"
"And your father and I will see you in the Day Room tomorrow, Josslyn. You have an important matter to attend to. Thank God, I thought...well, the *day* would never come. I was beginning to wonder if those antlers were just for show."
Gwladys Ritterherz felt a strange glow of satisfaction as she was led back to her room. Maybe it was the fact that she was being led, very gently, by the paw and being treated with the respect someone of her position -- or pending position -- deserved.
September 4, 1908, 9.03 a.m.
Office of the President
Minkerton's National Detective Agency
The Consolidated Gas Building
37 Wall Street, Gnu York City
Allan Minkerton, Sr. did not have as much volume as Josslyn Buckhorn did. But his connections with the Grand Army of the Republic had given him a fluency in expletives that far surpassed any fur Gwladys knew. He was capable of going three minutes without once repeating a blasphemy or scatalogical reference, a capability vividly demonstrated.
Victoria van Pelt wasn't making things any better with her presence. A sunny, beaming presence. They say expectant mothers have a glow. Perhaps, though the way she brushed her fur, it was rather difficult to say if that was the sole source. The happy occasion was infectious for Gwladys, though not for anyone else in the room, including a deeply enraged Allan Minkerton, Sr., and a deeply embarrassed Allan Minkerton, Jr. Allan Minkerton III, for his part, had a sheepish grin on his face, fixed there in part because his fiancee had just pinched him below his tailbase.
The elderly mink finished up his discourse with a thunderous opinion of femme furs who got themselves pregnant on the job, and he heartily wished damnation on the lot of them. Femme furs didn't act that way when he was their age.
Allan (Trip) Minkerton III chose to intervene at this point. "That's not what Gran'ma says."
"Out. Out! OUT!" Followed shortly after by a slammed door.
"But it's true, Pop. She says..."
"I know the full story about my conception, thank you very much, Trip. It's now going to take me twice as long to see to it that neither your fiance, nor Miss Ritterherz, is fired, merely placed on the "inactive" list."
"Thank you for taking the trouble, Mr. Minkerton."
"Well, Miss Ritterherz, after all you and...errr...Vee have done for Minkerton's in the last years, it wouldn't be fair to treat you like this."
"And it's not like I'm leaving the family, Mr. Minkerton. I'm adding to it." The minkess rubbed her belly, and purred.
The older mink rolled his eyes, shook his head, and gently went back into the President's office. The sound of shouted obscenities, interspersed with soothing words, could soon be heard. Trip Minkerton gave his fiance a quick kiss, and padded off to his office.
The two femmes eyed each other with ill-concealed glee.
"Drawing room sofa?"
"Nope. Library table. Office desk?"
"Well, what do you expect? It *was* Wyoming."
April 23, 1940, 9.05 a.m.
The Private Suite
Bellevue Stagford Hotel
One of the privileges of a grand-doe is that there are never set visiting hours for the grand-fawns. Nearly any time one wishes to pick up and nuzzle a grand-fawn, it is permissible. The Dowager Viscountess Buckhorn was never slow to exercise her grand-doe rights.
The eldest of her two grand-fawns was likely out with Nanny, having a bit of a stroll (with Minkerton's guard close by). So this left a visit to the younger of the two grand-fawns.
This one was still small; after all, it was barely three weeks old. It had a vivid splash of spots up and down its back, a tiny friz of blonde headfur, and a remarkably powerful set of lungs, as had been demonstrated the Sunday before, when Mary Rose Buckhorn was christened. Evidently, the water in the baptismal font had been quite cold.
The mother was holding her fawn, and gently rocking it from side to side. Gwladys stood by and watched, partly enjoying the scene, and partly giving her doe-in-law her rights. It was a warm and friendly relationship, and Gwladys knew that sooner or later she would be asked to hold little Rosie. And she was, while the mother restored the circulation in her arms.
Rosie was a beautiful little doe-fawn, with pale blue eyes underneath her headfur. She fussed a little as she was handed over, but gradually settled down to the nuzzling that her grand-doe gave her.
"Rosie and Tommy-buck are coming to the opening, aren't they Willow?"
The doe-in-law smiled and nodded. "It's a good day for a family outing. Even if there's a threat of rain. Won't stop the festivities, will it?"
"Nice of the gods of weather to allow us to show off the roof on its first day. I'm sure Mr. Leowey and Mr. Croark are busy testing it right now. I want to show off my grand-fawns, as well as my new toy."
With that, Rosie got another nuzzlling. It brought to mind another April day, long ago...
April 1, 1909, 7.43 a.m.
The Blue Room
"Well, then, Mrs. Buckhorn. You've done well on the milk. The little buck comes in at a very healthy nine pounds, seven ounces."
The doctor, a chubby, jolly country squire of a sawbones, was filling in the birth certificate at the table near the window. Name: Reginald Patrick Roderick Buckhorn. Mother: Gwladys Buckhorn. Father: Josslyn Buckhorn. This last entry brought something to his mind.
"Has the sire been told yet about his buck-fawn?"
"Oh. Well, where is he?"
"He was filling a glass from the whisky decanter when I left him, Doctor."
"Surely, he is."
"Not at the rate I saw him drinking, Doctor."
"Piffle. Mrs. Buckhorn? Shall I send for your mate?"
The sire was duly sent for, while the buck-fawn was very carefully rubbed down and diapered. It was thus a highly polished child that was presented to a startled and nervous father.
The fawn opened his eyes. Sire gazed upon fawn. Fawn gazed upon sire. And the fawn let out a thunderous bleat of pure terror and began squirming frantically in the nurse's paws.
The badly shaken father trembled. "GOD'S TEETH! What is that?" Said with shaking finger and trembling chins.
The nurse was unamused. "Now, now, none of that."
"Hold your blasted tongue, woman. YOU'RE not the one that's responsible for this specimen of gawdhelpus."
The fawn, having caught his breath, looked at his sire again and began to bleat with all the force at his command, which was a surprising amount.
"Don't you want to hold him, sir?"
"HOLD HIM? GREAT SCOTT!" The father fled the room, in search of some restorative brandy. The fawn was restored to his mother, and quieted down instantly, particularly because his ears were being stroked.
"Never mind, Reggie. Your sire's just nervous. He'll change his mind."
April 23, 1940, 9.28 a.m.
Bellevue Stagford Hotel
Gwaldys Buckhorn exited the elevator that was reserved for her exclusive use. Ouf of the corner of her eye, she could see one of the bellhops flashing a sign with gloved paws: two paws held against the chest in the shape of cocked pistols. Signal: very big shot in the lobby. The signal went around like wildfire, so it was not surprising that the hotel's concierge materialized by her side.
"Good morning, my lady."
"Your car awaits, ma'am. Mr. Lodge telephoned half an hour ago to have it ready."
Of course he did. Lodge knew everything.
"Your morning courier arrived a few minutes ago, ma'am, I have had the material placed in your car."
"Thank you very much. That will be all I require."
"Thank you, ma'am."
She was about to head out to the (again, reserved) exit to the driveway when some action on the far side of the lobby caught her eye. A small raccoon, in knee pants, was gleefully sliding across the marble floor. Eventually, nemesis in the form of his mother caught up to him, and the fun was brought to an abrupt halt. Pity, in a way...
January 4, 1918, 8.23 a.m.
The Dining Room
"Have you seen my frog?"
"No, darling, I haven't. When did you last see him?"
"A few minutes ago. He was in his usual box, but he's escaped, somehow."
"Never mind, darling, he'll turn up. Eat your oatmeal like a good fawn."
The buck-fawn began to eat his oatmeal. Unlike a lot of things in this time of war, it was not rationed. The herbivores were somewhat lucky in the war, in part because their menu was a little more diverse, and in part because of the efforts of F.R. Buckhorn & Sons, whose worldwide resources had been brought to bear in the Allied cause. The war had swollen the family bank balance. It had also, somewhat less happily, swollen the temper of the harried head of the family, who was coming down to a somewhat latish breakfast after a long night before. Judging from the loud crashing and banging, his descent seemed to be a bit more rapid and dramatic than planned. It was a slightly disheveled buck that hove into view.
"Who's the blasted idiot that left a marble on the landing?" This directed at the fawn; the question seemed to be rhetorical in nature.
"Blue or red marble?" came the answer, said in wide-eyed innocence, with a thirst for practical knowledge.
"GOD'S TEETH, BOY, DON'T YOU BLASTED WELL START WITH ME AT THIS HOUR OF THE..."
"Your tie is crooked."
"OF COURSE MY BLASTED TIE IS CROOKED. I JUST FELL DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS!"
"Well, do watch where you're going."
"I...IT'S...BLAST IT, I...GAAAAAAH!" A pair of hooves stomped off to the cold part of the buffet, in search of some soothing stewed fruit. The lid on the dish was lifted, followed by another bellow of surprise.
"There, darling, I told you he'd turn up."
"WHO PUT THIS BLOODY FROG IN HERE? NO, DON'T TELL ME. GET OVER HERE, BOY!"
"You'll do no such thing, Reggie."
"It slipped my mind. *I* put him there, for safekeeping."
"IN THE FRUIT?"
"Good heavens, you can't expect me to put a frog in hot oatmeal, Josslyn. That would hurt it."
The sire at this point turned three different shades of purple and red before bolting out of the dining room, flagging, in search of his car. London was much safer. It had only zeppelin raids, not frogs in the breakfast.
April 23, 1940, 9.34 a.m.
Bellevue Stagford Hotel
"Good morning, my lady."
"Good morning, Phillip. We're stopping at the Giraffe Bank, the main branch this morning, and then it will be to the opening."
"Very good, my lady." The wolf, in his grey chauffeur's uniform, was standing stiffly at attention. All of him, Gwladys Buckhorn noticed. She smiled graciously at him as he opened the door for her, and gently took his paw to assist her into the backseat.
Yes, he has on the frisky uniform this morning, Lady Buckhorn noted. Phillip obviously harboured the fantasy of being ordered to perform certain personal services for his employer, and was not particularly shy about his qualifications for the job. Indeed, he was in fact well-qualified for the job.
A year ago, she had overheard him talking to another chauffeur, gossiping about their respective employers. She was amused, not angry, to hear a rather detailed appraisal of her virtues, and her purported needs. She did not let on that she had heard this survey, though Phillip did get a raise shortly after.
Which was all that Phillip was ever going to get from her. It had been a long-standing policy...
October 13, 1927, 10.43 p.m.
La Salle des Jeux
Frankly, Monte Carlo was a queer place for Sir Josslyn and Lady Buckhorn to be. Even in his rare good moods, Sir Josslyn had a marked distaste for gambling. The only attraction Monte Carlo had was the various four-star restaurants, nearly all of which used substantial quantities of F.R. Buckhorn & Sons products. All of which were extensively tested by Sir Josslyn. In the name of quality control, of course. As for Lady Buckhorn, she was given a sum of money, a surprisingly generous amount, and somewhat distractedly shooed off toward the roulette wheel.
While there were many furs enjoying the chemin de der, baccarat or roulette tables, other furs were here to hunt. An amazing assortment of royalty and nobility (some of it even real), ablaze in jewelry (some of it even real), was present on the floor. Some were in it for the medium-term, to land a mate with wealth. Others were simply in it for the sport of one night.
Certainly, no worries need trouble the mind of Lady Buckhorn. Even with his substantial wealth, his general air of belligerence would deter even the hardiest of gold-diggers. Gwladys knew of only one attempt that had been pressed vigorously, involving a particularly lissome chamois who had gone so far as to secrete herself in Sir Josslyn's bedroom. Unhappily, she had chosen to do this on the night that their son Reginald had been "sent down" from Eton, and she had been treated to a mighty blast of suggestions as to where she could put her feminine charms, and once there, what she could do with them. The chamois had tearfully confessed all to Lady Buckhorn a short time later.
"Eh bien, you must wish to give me your hell."
"Certainly not, my dear, I wish to give you my condolences."
The anecdote proved a popular one in society circles, much to the absolute rage of Sir Josslyn Buckhorn. The reflection on him was bad enough. The fact that it reflected his mate's cast-iron virtue was enough to make him grind his teeth. Not once had he ever been able to find even a shard of evidence to suggest that she was behaving in anything less than a totally above reproach fashion. He, of course, had to behave in the same way, as he was damned if he was going to give *her* the pleasure of enjoying moral superiority.
How, then, did she go about life without going totally insane? The fancy men from Vienna have equally fancy, multi-syllabic Germanic expressions for Gwladys Buckhorn's tactics. These involved the use of, inter alia, the full benefit of a careful diet, headfur brushed and cared for until it shone, an ability to use cervine eyes with precision, and an extremely generous wardrobe and jewelry allowance. On first glance, this last item might prove puzzling. Lady Buckhorn was known for wearing very little in the way of jewelry. Her dress was also conservative. Very conservative.
Therein lay the secret. As a well-known burlesque performer once said, "it's not what you show, but what you don't show, that counts." Gwladys Buckhorn dressed in a manner that would be welcome in the most strict of four-star hotels and restaurants (which she frequented), but caused the imaginations of mels to overheat. Playing a meek and quiet doe set the bait quite nicely.
She had had any number of offers. Most could be turned down quite easily and politely, with a few gracious words. Some would involve some gentle flirtation before an equally gentle let-down. Two-thirds of her mel friends came in this category, mels who thought Lady Buckhorn was "dashed decent," and would cheerfully chat away with her. A source of much useful information.
One suitor was diffiult to turn down. With a rack that made his height well over seven feet, and a phyisque that was ideally suited for a kilt and Scottish evening dress, the Marquess of Roxborough, scion of an old Border clan, was enough to make any femmefur's blood sizzle. Add to it a distinguished war record (DSO with bar, MC, mentioned in despatches seven times), and few femmefurs could resist him, let alone a deer. Except, of course, for Lady Buckhorn. His Lordship, with a keen cervine eye, ear and brain, figured out the game, and gallantly played his role. He was getting as much fun out of being the tempter, as she got out of being the temptee. Their relationship was altogether strangely charged and carried out.
As she was walking across the floor, Gwladys Buckhorn flagged, and her ears stood straight up in alarm. Her natural instincts had not failed her: indeed, danger was in the room, and present at the bar in the form of the ranking peer of Scotland, Josslyn Hay, the Earl of Errol, and the ranking blackguard of the Scottish nobility, Colin, Duke of Strathdern. Both were as brilliantly lit as the chandeliers in the salon. They also seemed bored, until they spotted their quarry. Canine nudged equine, and vice versa. The game was afoot.
For her part, Gwladys slipped into the crowd, and hid as much as she could, given her relative height. She didn't have long to wait. Around the seventh turn of the roulette wheel (Gwladys had placed no bets), there was a waft of whisky, and a paw rather insolently thrust underneath a flag.
Josslyn Hay was much better looking than Josslyn Buckhorn. And had a much fouler imagination, as a stream of whispered comments and questions began to show. After the last question hung in the air a moment, the lady cervine paused, contemplated, and reached into her purse, extracting a small silver pencil and a square of paper. She jotted down a few lines, and beckoned one of the elegantly dressed attendants.
"Ca ne fait rien, Madame. Puis-je vous assister?"
"S'il vous plait. Conaissez-vous ma marie?"
"M. Buckorn, Madame?"
"Oui. Dites-lui ca, je vous prie."
The attendant bowed as he was handed the note and a few discreet chips. As he glided off on his duty, Gwladys Buckhorn favoured the Earl of Errol with a sly smile. The peer, whose canine instincts were dulled by a prodigious intake that night of single malt, blinked in puzzlement. That is, until a roar of pure rage rolled out from the dining salon some yards away. Comprehension slowly dawned on Josslyn Hay's face, about a half-beat before the purple-visaged form of Sir Josslyn Buckhorn thundered into the salon. He had not even removed his napkin.
At this point, Josslyn Hay made a tactical blunder. He smiled and raised his fists. Perhaps he expected, given Josslyn Buckhorn's tubby physique, that fun was in the offing. First, he would gave the buck's guts for garters, and then he would have a different part of Lady Buckhorn's anatomy afterwards.
Unfortunately for him, the Earl of Errol could not possibly have known that Sir Josslyn Buckhorn, against all odds, had won a boxing blue at Oxford. Even worse for the foxhound, Sir Josslyn was of the "stand hoof-to-toe, trade blow-for-blow" school of boxing, and a skull with the density of concrete had allowed pure rage and hostility to triumph over style and technique.
The battle, such as it was, lasted a bare ten seconds. Josslyn Hay landed no punches. Josslyn Buckhorn landed three, the last one on the chin. Satsified at the (surprisingly bloodless) carnage he had inflicted, he waddled back to the dining salon, his appetite whetted anew and his mate huffily ignored. Or was she? He walked by her rather slowly.
His Grace the Duke of Strathdern removed the fallen from the field of battle. The somber effect was somewhat undercut by his laughter, and the fact that he dropped his good friend twice. It was also undercut by an exchange caught by sensitive cervine ears:
"Splendid technique, old man. Loved how you blocked that punch with your chin."
"Oh, SHUT UP, Colin."
Gwladys Buckhorn headed back to her bedroom.
The night had been altogether successful.
April 23, 1940, 9.52 a.m.
The Giraffe National Bank
116 South 3rd Street
The Giraffes got around Fillydelphia, Gwladys Buckhorn mused. There was the Giraffe Trust Company, over at 159 Chestnut Street, and then there used to be Stephen Giraffe's Bank. Part of the reason the Dowager Viscountess gave her business to the Giraffe National Bank, rather than any of the other myriad of banks in the city, lay before her as the Packherd limousine glided to a stop.
The building had, once upon a time, been the First Bank of the United States. A very good idea killed by political obtuseness, in Gwladys' opinion. Some things never change. Giraffe had bought the building, and until he had died in 1831, this is where he had his private bank. The building was a graceful and elegant one, and very much to her taste.
Somewhere, a small clock discreetly chimed ten as she was led into a pleasant boardroom. Yes, such things exist. This one was furnished in old mahogany and leather, and a table that was as solid and substantial as the bank itself bore some small stacks of papers, each with a numbered card on top.
Paws were shaken all around. The Fillydelphia lawyers all knew each other, of course. This particular project was quite toothsome, as it was one of the largest mortgages that would be issued this year to a private entity. The Insurance Company of North America, as well as a pawful of the other major banks in the city, had quietly arranged to take tranches of the project. A $10 million mortgage. Only a fifth the size of the mortgage that John D. Rockefeller took out on his massive project in the heart of Gnu York, but one that promised to be almost as profitable to the financial institutions, who would boast of it in traditional Fillydelphia fashion, with plain, unadorned "tombstone" ads in the Evening Bulletin.
The meeting started. A small feline, no doubt an associate for the Giraffe Bank's law firm, began reading from a list of documents. As each item was read off, it was presented to one or more furs, who affixed their signatures. A number required the signature of the President of the Fillydelphia Exposition Company, who sat patiently by with some tea and cookies. (Some fur had thoughtfully remembered to place a selection of Zepps on the tray.)
The proceedings were quiet and dignified, with hardly more noise than the soft voice of the associate, and the shuffling of papers and the scratching of pens. It was only at the end that there was a slight unbending in decorum. The representative of the Insurance Company of North America, with a flourish, presented Gwladys Ritterherz Buckhorn (or, rather, the Fillydelphia Exposition Company, whose name was on the cheque) with the sum of "Nine Million, Eight Hundred and Ninety-Four Thousand, Seven Hundred Sixty and 53/100 Dollars."
While some bank employees quickly took copies of the mortgage off to be recorded with the City and County of Fillydelphia, Gwladys Buckhorn looked at the cheque in her paw. It was by far the largest amount of her own money that she had ever seen in one place. Previous rations of lucre came in smaller increments.
June 4, 1931, 8.12 p.m.
The Bellevue-Stagford Hotel
The bath was a long and leisurely one. Fillydelphia could get dreadfully hot, even so early in the summer (or late in the spring, if you went strictly by the calendar). As it was unlikely that her mate was in any mood to venture out for dinner (likely due to the fact that he'd have to dress up), it would be room service. Catch as does can, but no matter. Gwladys could eat her dinner at her own pace, and at her own choosing.
The Depression was now in its twentieth month, and looked to be held over indefinitely, though it was hardly due to popularity. Indeed, the factories of F.R. Buckhorn & Sons were some of the few busy places of industry in the entire city. Tins of Buckhorn's Baked Beans, at nine cents the can, were a popular menu item.
Still, even if it was a buyer's market, her mate's mood had not improved any. On top of having to deal with suppliers and customers that were in trouble, there was the issue of Reggie, their fawn. Not long before, after he had received his degree from Wharton, he had cheerily presented himself to his sire's office. On horseback. This was the result of an ill-considered remark from the sire as to how his only fawn should show up for his first and, as it turned out, only day of service at the North American headquarters of F.R.B.
The fallout from this incident involved a great deal of thunder from one corner, and lightning, in the form of expertly thrown china and glassware, from the other. Gwladys disliked that kind of display -- it reeked of "Bringing Up Father" from the funny papers -- but it seemed to be the only thing to penetrate her mate's resolve. After a week of sleepless nights, an armistice was reached. Reggie would be sent on a lengthy tour of the F.R.B. facilities in Asia and the Pacific. Gathering knowledge on operations, Gwladys was told.
The day had been marked with assorted explosions of wrath, starting with the breakfast, continuing to the driving of the chauffeur, both to and from work, the state of Fillydelphia roads, the weather, Fenwick Foods, the quality of lunch, the weather again, the cleanliness of the factory making Bubble Cud, and the likely quality of dinner. Mercifully, Gwladys' only involvement in the day was the receipt of a hastily scribbled cheque in the amount of $18,750, representing her monthly allowance for whatever it was she liked to spend her money on. Her mate neither knew nor cared what, as no books were ever kept.
So he thought.
One element of the Ritterherz pysche had come through from her sire. She had a fascination with the market. The financial sections of the newspapers were read very carefully (often after being thrown with great force across the room by their original recipient). Josslyn Buckhorn was in the habit of throwing aside, with loud snorts of disdain, the prospectuses and other materials sent by hopeful brokers looking for an easy commission. Note we say: thrown aside. Not away.
The problem with her sire, Gwladys reasoned, was that he acted with his guts, and not with his brains. Sometimes this worked. Other times, as with the Northern Pacific...well. The nice part about her training with Minkerton's is that it had honed her ability to read between the lines of reports, trying to figure out what was being said, and more importantly what was being left out.
Her mate, in the early 1920s, had refused to lay in stocks of sugar, predicting that the price would collapse in short order. He blamed shifty-eyed traders. Lady Gwladys, who knew where to get Cuban newspapers, had other information that said the same thing, for different reasons.
Her mate, in the mid 1920s, reluctantly began to sponsor radio programmes. His view was that, more's the pity, radio was going to become a clap-trap incessantly yowling in any damn fool's ear, and it was better that Buckhorn got there first before (BAH!) Fenwick Foods. Lady Gwladys, talking to some engineers at work on new types of broadcast microphones, came to a parallel conclusion for different reasons.
Her mate, in 1929, angrily sold off all of his publicly traded stocks. This might have been the result of an ill-timed telephone call by his broker, who woke him up from a badly-needed Sunday afternoon nap to tell him about the latest sure thing in R.C.A. stock. The broker soon found his office had a great deal of "sell" work, never a good thing. Lady Gwladys' broker, too, soon had a great deal of "sell" work. Short sale work, to be precise.
The silk robe had just been tied about the freshly washed cervine body when an enraged bellow erupted from the main room of the suite. The 8.15, Gwladys mused, was running slightly early tonight.
Instead of room sevice, though, the purple face and shaking fist of her mate was directed at a hapless messenger-fur, who was getting an earful instead of the hearty tip he had hoped for.
The practiced eye of a former Minkerton's op surveyed what had caused the eruption: a rectangular piece of paper with intaglio engraving.
"...AND JUST YOU TELL EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOUR DAMNED EMPLOYERS, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE DAMNED BLOTS, MERRILL, PIERCE, FENNER AND BLOODY SMITH, THAT IF THIS IS THEIR IDEA OF A BLASTED PRACTICAL JOKE, THEY'VE GOT ANOTHER BLOODY THINK COMING!!!"
"I DIDN'T PUT IN ANY ORDERS FOR ANY BLASTED STOCK, AND THE ONLY ORDERS I'D LIKE TO GIVE YOUR BLASTED HELLSPAWNED BOSSES RIGHT NOW IS AN ORDER TO FIRE AT THEIR BLASTED HORNS!!!"
"THINGS HAVE COME TO A DAMNED FINE PASS WHEN A FUR CAN'T CONTROL HIS OWN BLASTED MONEY WITHOUT HAVING SOME WALL STREET HALF-WIT DECIDE HE KNOWS BETTER!!!"
"THIS IS WHAT I THINK OF YOUR BLOODY OFFICE'S ACTIONS..."
A flurry of paw actions, and there was shortly some nicely engraved confetti littering the floor.
"WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT, EH?!?"
"Do you know what I say, Josslyn?"
"NO, BLAST IT, AND I DON'T CARE!"
"You should. You just tore up *my* certificate."
"FOR THE LOVE OF MER---what?"
"I think, if you piece that stock certificate back together, you will find that it represents something like 46,129 shares of the preferred stock of the Bellevue-Stagford Corporation."
"The Bellevue-Stagford Corporation. The owners of this hotel. The one whose walls you're shaking with a misguided fit of temper."
"BUT I DON'T OWN ANY BLASTED 46, 129 SHARES OF BLASTED PREFERRED STOCK IN THIS BLASTED HOTEL."
"Josslyn, you are not listening. I didn't say *you* owned it. I just said *I* owned it. Young man, pick up these bits of paper and have them issue a new certificate. Have them deliver a certificate of accidental destruction as well, and I shall sign that, too."
The fur, grateful for some orders given in a normal tone of voice, accomplished his duty and had vanished inside a few seconds.
Gwladys Buckhorn lit a cigarette, and opened a tin of cookies.
"Great Scott, woman, don't expect me to finance your blasted lunatic speculations."
"In the first place, Josslyn, it is not a lunatic speculation. The stock is already trading at only 5 percent of par, and has passed its dividends twice..."
"And you consider that a good investment?!"
"I do, when one also owns around 40 percent of the first mortgage bonds."
"The combination of the two will, in all likelihood, give me the largest interest in the hotel when the dividends are passed again later this year. I imagine there will be some sort of plan of readjustment, giving control to the bondholders."
"And how much is this little venture into hotelkeeping costing you?"
"Yes, blast it, with commissions."
"In round figures, probably about $1.1 million."
"GREAT GOD, WOMAN...!"
A sigh and an exhalation of cigarette smoke followed. "You don't think I have the money, is that it?"
A choked, purple-faced nod indicated assent.
"Oh, very well. I'll show you my books and my latest balance sheet."
"Surely, Josslyn, you know the value of keeping good records."
In short order, a letter from Toucan & Co., independent accounts, was produced, indicating a net worth for Gwladys Ritterherz Buckhorn, d/b/a Delancey Street Investments, of approximately $18,211,409.61.
The mate goggled, and then looked suspiciously through his monocle. "Where'd you get this money?"
"Indirectly? From you."
The redoubled repurpled face of her mate showed some suspicions as to how that could be.
"And no, Josslyn, it's limited to your allowances that you've given me for the last twenty-two years."
"I haven't given you anything NEAR this...this..eighteen million!"
"Indeed not. About one and a half million dollars, all told. Some of that spent on my clothes and jewelry. Some spent on Reggie..."
Perhaps not a wise thing to say, but the choked, spluttering silence this caused allowed for further words.
"...but most of it invested."
"You don't know how to bloody invest."
"That's not what that balance sheet says."
An audible sneer across the cervine muzzle. "And how much were you worth *before* the Crash?"
"Only four million. In retrospect, I should have shorted R.C.A. much more."
The blinking astonishment this caused allowed the report to be retrieved before more confetti resulted. Further words were interrupted by a knock at the door. Entrance was allowed to a fur in formal dress, who blanched somewhat at the informality of Gwladys Buckhorn's dress, but proved to be game.
"The management has received your letter, madame."
"Yes, well, the directors will give your proposals prompt attention. It is to be hoped that we can resolve this matter quickly and to every party's satisfaction."
"Oh, I quite agree."
A discreet cough. "The directors have also asked me to inform you that the Private Suite has been placed at your disposal for an indefinite period."
A winning smile. "I'm delighted to hear that. Send some bellhops to collect my things and have them brought up there."
"Immediately, Lady Gwladys. Errrrr...and Sir Josslyn's things, too?"
"Hmmmmm. What do you say, darling? Do you wish to be in the Private Suite with me?"
Words failed Sir Josslyn, for once.
April 23, 1940, 11.19 a.m.
The Giraffe National Bank
116 South 3rd Street
Viscountess Buckhorn was startled out of her reverie by the deferential cough of the bank official.
"Oh. I do beg your pardon. Yes, please deposit this at once. Have you cut the two other cheques I have ordered?"
"The cashier has them in his office, ma'am. I shall have them sent for right away."
April 23, 1940, 11.37 a.m.
Outside The Giraffe National Bank
116 South 3rd Street
"Where shall I drive now, ma'am?"
Gwladys Buckhorn thought, flicking her flag. After a minute or so, she realized she knew the answer.
"1926 Delancey, Phillip."
April 23, 1940, 11.53 a.m.
Outside 1926 Delancey Street
The house, indeed, the entire street, had changed little in three and a half decades. Only the motorcars were an indication of the passage of time. The neighbourhood in the late spring morning reposed comfortably in its own sense of well-being.
In a way, the solid brick house was a memorial. Peter Ritterherz was not buried in consecrated ground, as a suicide. No matter what the coroner said, that was the truth, and Frances Ritterherz was never one to challenge God. She herself had quietly spread the ashes in the Schulkyll.
Gwladys had promised to do the same when the time came, to unite buck and doe once again. In spite of it all, the Ritterherz family was loyal, and if word was given, acts were done...
December 24, 1931, 11.12 p.m.
St. Peter Churchford, Bucks.
Some years before, the small house had been a gamekeeper's residence, back when the estate had been owned by a land-rich, cash-poor noblefur. A good chunk of the estate had been sold off to Fred Buckhorn for the building of the first Monongahela House, later the site of the steel-reinforced house that Josslyn had built shortly before the Great War. The Oaks had come with the estate, but without the gamekeeper, whose services were no longer required.
It had been empty for a number of years, but for its present tenant, it had been aired out and furnished in simple good taste. One room for the tenant, one room for the nurse.
On this particular clear, frosty night, the loudest sound that could be heard outside was the soft crunch of hoof on snow as Mrs. Buckhorn came to pay a call, using her own key, as befitted the lady of the manor.
The house was quiet and dark. It smelled vaguely of pine, from the imported pine-cone wreaths that hung in a few places inside the house. There was also a faint smell of warm cracked oats, sitting in a bowl of hot water in the buttery in the middle of the hallway.
At the end of the hallway, what had been the sitting room had been converted into a bedroom. There were two occupants, a stolid badger sitting by the fire, knitting, and another figure, hidden in the shadows of the bed. There was only the faint click of knitting needles, an occasional crackle from the fireplace, and the noiseless meeting of snow flurries against glass that had just started.
The nurse, upon seeing the visitor, rumbled to her feet, collected her things, and whispered a rustic, gruff and quiet returns of the season, which was warmly returned in a whisper. Upon the closing of the door, the snowflakes were contemplated for a minute, before the gaslight was turned up slightly.
The doe in the bed was frail, with paws spotted not like a fawn's, but like one at the other end of the life span. The headfur and the muzzle were greyed, and the face quite drawn. But the headfur was combed neatly, the nightdress buttoned up just so, and the air was of burning logs in the fireplace, not the sadder and more distressing smells of old age.
A burst of colour revealed itself when the gas was turned up. It was, of all things, a tropical flower, pressed between two small glass plates and set in a frame with primitive carvings. A small handwritten note was propped up against the display: "Gran: the snacks grow bigger out here! A jolly '32 to you. Love, Reggie."
A stirring from the bed made the younger doe turn around. Frances Ritterherz was awake, her eyes focused on her doe-fawn.
There was a seat by the bed, and it was taken, as well as the old doe's paw.
"Merry Christmas, Mother."
A silent, faint squeeze of paw in return. No sound came from the lips. There was a faint gleam of spittle, which was gently wiped away.
"I finally did it, Mother. Minkerton's tracked down the last one from Daddy's list. He'd retired about twenty years ago and had moved away, so he was very hard to find..."
The elder doe's eyes flickered.
"With thirty years and six months of interest. They say the old fellow was surprised. He'd forgotten all about it. Even if I...we hadn't..."
The paw was let go for a moment, and Gwladys open her purse, searching for something. Eventually she found it. A document, folded in three lengthwise, and bound with red ribbon. In re the estate of Peter G. Ritterherz, deceased in bankruptcy. The document was opened, and the last name on an eleven-page list was crossed off, before the document was refolded and retied. A few steps to side, and the document was inserted in between two logs. The paper flared brilliantly for a few seconds, and then slowly crumpled, consuming ink and history.
The gaslight was turned down low again, revealing that the snow was coming down a little harder. The younger doe lingered for a while in the comfort of the room, holding her mother's paw. There wasn't any need to rush now.
April 23, 1940, 12.00 p.m.
Outside 1926 Delancey Street
The noon bells from the local churches toned in a grave, dignified manner, as only a Fillydelphia church bell would. They startled the Dowager Viscountess out of her reverie, and she reflexively looked at her watch.
"Phillip? We'd better head off to the PSFS Building. We shouldn't be late for Mr. Leowey and Mr. Croark..."
April 23, 1940, 12.09 p.m.
On 12th Street
Phillip had very thoughtfully and discreetly obtained the early edition of that afternoon's Evening Bulletin. There was a special colour section dedicated to Opening Day. While the Athletics had had their own Opening Day some days before, they didn't rate this kind of treatment, even in an American League town. But then again, this wasn't any Opening Day.
Flipping randomly through the insert, Gwladys discovered a page or two devoted to the history of the Phillies. "A Colorful Past For Fillydelphia's Senior Circuit Entry." She quietly chuckled. The most colourful thing about the Phillies was the language its long-suffering fans had applied to it. One World Series appearence, and that was a quarter-century ago.
The story ran through the lists of the owners, through to its present one. ("Noted Fillydelphia Figure") A few paragraphs were given to her predecessor, too, she noticed. Summarized as "Owner Shepherded Phillies Through Dark Years."
October 31, 1936, 8.04 p.m.
The Savoy Grille
Sir Josslyn Buckhorn had been behaving very oddly since the return from the Spontoons. The brief interlude of sharing the same bed had passed, as Gwladys knew it would. The general air of purple-faced belligerence toward all and sundry had returned, as Gwladys also knew it would. But there was a certain spark missing in the tirades, and the colour had not quite returned to her mate's face, as if he had still not wiped all the clotted cream from his muzzle. There is something about a hurled eclair impacting against your monocle that will shake the spirit of even the toughest buck.
Even an over-polite enquiry after Sir Josslyn's health and the health of his family, which necessarily included his buck-fawn, could barely raise the colour in his face, and he gloomily ate his asperges aux buerres avec des pommes de terres (double portion).
In a way, Gwladys didn't like the change. She had grown used to having fight in (and sometimes fights with) her mate.. (Never paw-to-paw: only hurled insults and chinaware.) What her mate needed was something to stir his blood. Granted, it would be hard to top the news about his future doe-fawn-in-law, but there was something in the old college try.
"Josslyn, I've decided to buy the Phillies."
"Mmmmrph. I s'pose you'll be getting a matching handbag."
"Handbag. Isn't that what you get with a dress, eh? Or whatever you femmefurs natter on about."
"*You're* the one nattering, Josslyn. I said: I've decided to buy the Phillies."
"Mphrphl." Some more large mouthfuls of asparagus, butter and potato ensued, until the penny dropped, and the spluttering began.
"Great God! You're going to do *what?!*"
"Josslyn, do I have to say it for a third time?"
"I don't care how many blasted times you've said it, woman, out with it again."
Ah, this was more like it. "I am buying a baseball team, Josslyn. The Fillydelphia Phillies."
This earned an incredulous look through a monocle. "Phillies? Phillies?! Are they still in the whatchamalit, the Federal League?"
"National League, Josslyn."
"Whatever bloody league they're in, I thought they were out of it."
Gwladys had to admit that Josslyn wasn't the only one who was probably of this opinion.
"What th' devil d'ye want to buy a baseball team for? Why don't you buy, errrr, whatsit, the team that Arab plays for."
"Arab! Arab! You know, the Sultan of Swat, or whatever. Why on earth he has to play professional sports, I'll never know. Probably got tossed out by Communists."
"That's the Yankees, Josslyn."
"Whatever. Buy them."
"They're not for sale. The Phillies are. Besides, I'm from Fillydelphia, remember?"
The motion of wiping some butter off the chin with the back of his paw allowed Sir Josslyn to mutter something sotto voice. Gwladys was secretly pleased.
"Gwladys, you're insane. This is something that idiot buck-fawn of ours would do."
"I don't know, Josslyn. That might depend on what team Willow fancies."
The mention of the doe-fawn-in-law-elect caused a shrill, whistling snort that brought a squadron of waiters over to clear the plate, which Josslyn had not yet finished.
During the ensuing row, Gwladys Buckhorn pondered.
Was she insane?
November 18, 1936, 9.47 a.m.
The Giraffe National Bank
116 South 3rd Street
"Lady Gwladys, you are insane."
Unusual words from a Fillydelphia banker, and Gwladys Buckhorn said so.
"Buying five tons of stale manure for 50 cents might be viewed as a bargain, Lady Gwladys, but one must consider what one is up against when the sale is done."
"Are you comparing the Phillies to five tons of stale manure, then?"
"In one sense. The Phillies stink more."
"Am I? They lost 100 games this year, and finished dead last in the National League by thirteen games. They had two pitchers that lost twenty games, and had no one with a winning record. They drew about 250,000 last year, dead last, like they have for eight of the last nine years."
"Any team can have a bad year."
"They're having a bad decade, Lady Gwladys."
"You sound like an expert on the subject."
"I am. I have season tickets. Which reminds me: have you seen where they play?"
"The Baker Bowl, isn't it?"
"The bastard offspring of a cigar box and a litter box. The only good thing about the home runs the pitchers have been giving up is that maybe one will be lucky enough to knock down the place. They had some stands collapse a few years ago, you know."
"Nevertheless, I'm sure the owner wishes to sell."
"For God's sake, Lady Glwadys, don't let on you're so eager to buy. He'll think you're a live one."
"I've done some research. Mr. Nugent is in financial difficulty."
"I'll say. He's sold off everything that isn't nailed down. He'd probably sell his mother, too, except his mother can hit the curve, and half the team can't."
"I am sure we can reach a satisfactory arrangement. You will make an initial offer of $175,000, plus the assumption of all debts."
The deal was consummated within the week, for $196,000 plus the assumption of all debts, bringing the total sale price to approximately $400,000.
November 26, 1936
Headline in the Fillydelphia Inquirer:
"PIGEON BUYS FILLYDELPHIA'S BIGGEST TURKEY"
Gwladys Buckhorn cancelled her subscription that very morning.
December 11, 1936, 2.19 p.m.
The Baker Bowl
Broad Street, 15th Street, and Huntingdon Street
Granted, on a wet, raw, December afternoon, hardly any ballpark is going to look its best. Emerald green grass has usually given way to manure-brown mud. The paint job that looked crisp and clean in April now gave the ballpark the impression of a rather unfortunate skin condition. The presence of a large, decidely non-anthropomorphic rat that was busily cleaning itself in the home dugout was the last straw. Or nearly so.
The nervous, cigar-smoking canine standing behind Lady Buckhorn didn't know what to expect. He was glad, in a way, the mortgage had been lifted, as he wasn't too sure about the load-bearing capacity of either the box-office, or the steel beams holding the stadium together. He was about to open his mouth when a gust of wind blew a small portion of the left-field roof off, sending a shower of dirty water and pigeon droppings onto the seats below.
Lady Buckhorn surveyed the Niagara in miniature, and gave an irritated whistle-snort.
"Um, ma'am? Is there anything you're going to do for the old ballpark?"
"Yes. Give it a decent funeral. We will move five blocks down Lehigh. Call Mr. Mack and arrange for a lease on Shibe Park for next season. I want it done by the end of the year."
Lady Buckhorn gave one last, disdainful look at the condemned. There was a large billboard in right field. "The Phillies Use Lifebuoy" was the official text. Unofficially, an ambitious vandal had scrawled a rejoinder on the bar of soap held high: "And They Still Stink!"
Change was needed, the sooner the better.
April 23, 1940, 12.17 p.m.
The PSFS Building
12 South 12th Street
As the Packherd pulled up, conditions were just right for a view, if from close up, of what furs were already calling the "building of the century."
The sun was darting in and out of the clouds, catching the building every so often in a burst of light. The cool, gleaming reflection lit up the otherwise dull-hued part of Center City. Old Man Depression, you are through, you've done us wrong, indeed.
Glancing at her watch and hurrying on, Viscountess Buckhorn smiled. This was the very sort of effect she wanted for *her* toy...
December 15, 1936, 9.53 p.m.
The Presidential Suite
301 Park Avenue
Gnu York City
Sir Josslyn Buckhorn was not in a good mood. God rest ye merrie gentlefurs, let nothing ye dismaye be God-damned. He'd been the victim of foul and insidious blackmail.
He ruled out his buck-fawn. The blockhead was far too stupid to come up with such a subtle scheme of self-advancement. By God, even *he,* Josslyn Buckhorn, probably couldn't have done it, and most furs on Wall Street crossed the avenue across traffic when they saw him coming.
This had the paw-prints of does all over it. That blasted blonde that had latched on to Reggie -- God knows why -- was the prime suspect. Never, never, never, never cross another Minkerton's doe again. Never! This was twice in his lifetime a Minkerton's doe had crossed him up.
Exhibit B was neatly seated on a sofa, looking at some glossy magazines. Women's rubbish, probably. No, a second glance showed...an industrial design magazine?! Sir Josslyn got a brief, pleasant image of his mate done up in cellophane and placed on sale in one of the posh stores downstairs, off Peacock Alley.
The doe sensed a baleful look, and met it cheerily. "Have you made Reggie's travel arrangements yet? After all, he's only a few days away, now."
Didn't he know it. Sir Josslyn would prefer a tonne of Blue Coal in his stocking to the sight of his buck-fawn gawping at him. An involuntary shudder.
"Well, let me ask you a more pleasant question, then..."
"No, I'm not going out tonight."
"Not that, dear. Have you ever heard of Raymond Leowey?"
A crisp, snarled response caught in the throat. Sir Josslyn Buckhorn was many things, but oddly enough, a truth-telling buck was one of them. As he got older, and felt the shortness of breath, he had of late begun to eye church steeples with apprehension and foreboding.
"Errrharph. Yes, well, I have. Industrial designer. His firm has a lot of big clients. FRB had him do the redesign of the Zepps packages last year. And he's been working on the Broad Way Limited for the Pennsylvania Railroad...oh, no you don't!"
"You will most certainly not."
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Josslyn, what?"
"You're not touching Monongahela House, d'ye hear?"
"I wouldn't dream of it, Josslyn. In any event, with all the steel you've got in the walls, it would take a freight train to even shake the house, let alone move anything. You said Leowey does work for the Pennsy?"
"Pennsylvania Railroad." Sir Josslyn was a stickler in this case. The Pennsylvania Railroad had his respect and a great deal of his business.
December 16, 1936, 12.43 p.m.
The Waldorf-Castoria Hotel
Pierre duCleds was in the middle of his third martini, and was in mood radiant. They had little effect on him, other than to put a shine on his eyes.
"Don't lets talk of railroads, Gwladys my pet. They bore me. I have to endure long and dreary directors' meetings every month."
"Now, Pierre, that's exactly why I want to bring it up."
"Oh, heavens. Don't you and Joss already have a train with them? In fact, I think I saw it on the siding under the hotel, when my limo came in."
"Yes, you did. But you're a director, Pierre, and I need you to find out how to get a hold of somefur in particular. Two, actually."
The canine gave a theatrical sigh of exaggerated weariness. "Egad. Pierre duCleds, the canine Rolodex. Well, I can't refuse you anything, Gwladys. Who is it you want to meet?"
"Raymond Leowey, for one."
"Oh, him? Marvelous chap. He did the GG1 for us this year. The word in the boardroom is that we're going to get him to redo the Broad Way Limited. All hush-hush of course, my dear. If the Central thinks they're going to get the drop with the 20th Century, they've got another think coming. You mark my words, Gwladys, the boys down the street..." here he waved with a paw in the general direction of the nearby Gnu York Central building "...won't know what hit them. No problem, my dear. I'll have my office ring his up tomorrow morning. I'll give 'em the works and glowing recommendation." This was followed by a broad wink.
"Behave yourself, Pierre."
"Why? It's so boring being good. Got into the habit when the wife was still alive, and I'm finding it hard to break. Delahare can be so un-bracing."
"Let's get back to the subject at paw. I know your Rolodex of which you speak. I need another fur."
"Name him, my dear, name him."
The martini glass paused at the lips, a sure sign of great surprise. "Good Lord, did you say Howard Croark?"
"He's supposed to be batty, you know. Difficult to work with and all. Has strange ideas. You should have seen the design he did when we had the DuCleds Building in Wilimington up for bid. Don't get me wrong, it was a real eye-catcher. The directors didn't know whether to make horn or tail of it, though. All fine for academia, my dear, but for real buildings...why don't you get that fellow Tod, the chap who's working on Rockefeller Center?
"He's a braggart."
"My dear, now that you own a baseball team, you should be aware of a recent piece of wisdom: it ain't braggin'..."
"...if ya can do it, yes, I know. Don't be mean, Pierre. Make a telephone call for me."
"Oh, very well my dear, very well. By the way, I hear Reggie got engaged. I might be seeing him in a few days."
"Yessss, going to the Spontoons to have a chat with my nephew Les. I may not be getting any less handsome, but neither am I getting any less youthful."
"Stop this idle flattery at once, Gwladys. You'll turn my head."
"Well, do look Reggie and Willow up when you're there."
December 24, 1936, 3.06 p.m.
The University of Pennsylvania Club
12 West 44th Street
It was probably just as well that Gwladys had an unusual Christmas Eve appointment. Her mate, she discovered, had regained his mid-season form upon receipt of a telegram from their son. The message had to be literally pieced together, and read simply: RATS TO YOU FATHEAD. This in response to a brusque set of orders meted out with the back of a paw. The sire at the moment had a sore head, and an equally sore hoof, the latter coming from a savage kick directed at an unexpectly resilient bureau, which, owing to a resulting lack of balance, caused the former.
As the sire of Reginald Buckhorn, Wharton '30, Lady Gwladys had been able to get a membership in the Club for Sir Josslyn, largely without his knowledge, the bills being sent to a trustworthy intermediary. A very recent word with the Club's president, and the promise of a block of advantageous season tickets at minimal cost, ensured that while a doe on the premises (outside of the restaurant) was a rather significant violation of the Club's rules, there would be no repercussions.
Awaiting her, in the pleasant confines of the library, was a dapper lion, and a tallish, vaguely abstracted raven. The lion was amusedly toying with a tin of Buckhorn's Zepps cookies: he had designed the logo on the tin. The raven was staring impassively at a black and white photograph of the Fillydephia Museum of Art. It was difficult to tell what he was thinking.
"Thank you both for taking the time to see me." Raymond Leowey put down the tin, and gave an amused bow. Roark turned briefly, nodded quietly, and then resumed his study of the photograph.
"Your time is valuable..."
"Some would not think so." The raven's voice, contrary to stereotype, was quiet and measured. Leowey shrugged and helped himself to a Zepp.
"It is valuable to me, Mr. Roark. I will come straight to the point. I wish to build a new stadium in Fillydelphia."
"And for this you need both an industrial designer *and* an architect, Mme. Buckhorn?"
"You've heard of the stadium the Fillydelphia Phillies play in, now?"
Roark turned again. "The one with the railroad tunnel under the outfield?"
"Yes. The Baker Bowl is, or I should say, *was*, the laughing stock of baseball. I have engaged Shibe Park for a few seasons. Until I have a stadium of my own. And gentlefurs, I want a stadium that will make the rest of baseball *choke* on its words about Fillydelphia."
Roark turned once more, this time to face Gwladys fully. He put his wings behind his back and tilted his head.
"A lot of what I see about current stadium design I want on the rubbish tip. I want clean lines unobscured by support beams. I want the ability to use the stadium for more than one sport without have to shoehorn a field in at crazy angles. I want the facility to be not just available to fans, but *accessible*, *welcoming*. And there's one more thing...
She had their attention.
"...I want a retractable roof."
April 23, 1940, 12.29 p.m.
Offices of the Fillydelphia Exposition Company
The PSFS Building
The office was actually deserted, as the employees had been given the day off, and tickets (naturally) to see Opening Day. Thus, the two creative forces behind Buckhorn Field were alone, save for a deferential beaver in formal clothes that was serving tea. He faded, almost literally, into the shadows as the Dowager Viscountess.
Raymond Leowey was mildly surprised by the way the meeting was conducted, but cared comparatively little, as he had had the pleasure of reading an article in the Gnu York Herald- Tribune about his work. This, and the generous cheque handed to him by Gwladys Buckhorn, put him in a radiant mood. At least on the outside. Inside, a portion of him was concerned about what was happening across the Atlantic.
Howard Croark was standing with his wings behind his back, staring impassively at a pair of objects lovingly framed on the wall.
December 24, 1936, 3.39 p.m.
The University of Pennsylvania Club
12 West 44th Street
The only indication that Croark was even alive was that the membrane over his eye occasionally flickered. He was seated at the far end of the library, at one of the desks.
Leowey, for his part, was quietly sipping some tea. The task at paw was intriguing and, more to the point, was for something that was going to be different, different even that the streamlined trains that he was already sketching out in his brain. Of even more intrigue was Croark, who had an interesting reputation. He was alleged to be an egomaniac. Leowey had little concern for this; in his view, it was the nature of architects to be so. He was alleged to be difficult to deal with. Eh bien, that was why one had assistants. He was also alleged to favour ideas that bore no resemblance to currently accepted practice. *That* is what whetted his appetite. Leowey hated to be bored.
Croark bent forward, and began to draw on two pieces of Club stationery (the letterhead being torn off; Leowey surmised that this would interfere with the purity of the sketch). While he had thought for some minutes, the drawings came fluidly, as if poured out of Croark's mind. Eventually, he returned to the table, where the others sat.
"All of the other elements you want, Lady Gwladys, are secondary. The seating, the playing field arrangement, how to place advertisements, all of that is not as important as the roof. The roof is what is going to drive your stadium."
He placed the first drawing on the table.
"What you want *can* be done. Put rather simply, the parts of the room nest into each other, at each end of the stadium. The interior lights, for when the roof is closed, fit into each nesting part. Both halves are run on rails: you can make them either stepped, or internal, as I've shown here. If you use a metal like duralumin, and use one of two designs, you can have a lightweight roof that will furnish the necessary support."
"This is another view, which would be from the side, showing both ways you could "stack" the roof elements when the roof is open, and how the roof would look when closed."
Lady Gwladys noted, with a great deal of interest, that Croark had taken the trouble to sign his drawings.
"Mme. Buckhorn? Out of curiousity, where are you to build this stadium in Fillydelphia?"
"I will be building it on the site of where Municipal Stadium is now. It's an ideal spot: it's not far from one of the Pennsylvania Railroad's yards, and I have a notion that it would be possible to build a combined subway station and train station to feed the stadium."
Croark blinked his eyes slowly. "Do you own this site? Will the Pennsylvania cooperate?"
"If both of you can work together to give me something to show to the City and the Pennsy, I will."
April 23, 1940, 12.38 p.m.
Offices of the Fillydelphia Exposition Company
The PSFS Building
Someone had asked Croark what would have happened had either Viscountess Buckhorn or Raymond Leowey had attempted to interfere with his design for the stadium.
"I would have blown it up."
Most would have thought this mere egoism, though the furs that worked closely with Croark knew otherwise. Raymond Leowey knew it, one reason he made sure to co-ordinate his thoughts with Croark's, for his part of the brief. Leowey was used to working with demanding customers; indeed, he had worked with the previous Viscount Buckhorn, a fur that, while he would not have blown up a building, would have made a game effort to knock it down with his rack.
Croark accepted his cheque quietly, Leowey graciously. Leowey discreetly noticed that the cheque was a degree larger than legally required, quite deliberately so. He pocketed his cheque, and turned to leave. Near the door, he stopped, hesitated, and turned back. He walked up to Croark and offered a paw.
Croark looked down at his feet for a moment, and then looked his counterpart in the eye, nodded, and offered up his wing. The two shook, eyed each other, and the moment passed.
April 23, 1940, 12.44 p.m.
The PSFS Building
Leowey paused, and looked up at the sky, which was clearing. The temperature was in the low sixties. He had a relatively unimportant meeting in Gnu York in approximately four hours. On the other paw, he had a ticket for the game.
Leowey felt a sudden craving for a hot dog, and laughed to himself. He was becoming American, indeed. Holding up a paw, he whistled for a taxicab.
April 23, 1940, 12.49 p.m.
Outside the PSFS Building
Gwladys Buckhorn left Howard Croark to himself. A bit of a relief, really. Geniuses can be somewhat unnerving. Also, the ceremonies were set to begin in just under an hour, and she wanted to make sure she was there in good time.
A trio of motorcycle policefurs were waiting, flanking Phillip and his Packherd limousine. Someone had taken the trouble to remember to make sure she could get there on time, and had even tracked her down. Lodge, probably. He knew everything.
April 23, 1940, 12.52 p.m.
On 12th Street
Getting into the back of the limousine, the Dowager Viscountess noticed the package that had been mentioned by the concierge back at the hotel. As the car moved into the early afternoon traffic, she unwrapped it.
It was quite impressive: the souvenir programme for Opening Day. The price was surprisingly low: only 90 cents. Flipping through the programme, it was easy to see why. There were a number of lavish, full-page advertisements in colour that in all likelihood subsidized the print run.
KYW, "the voice of the Phillies"...Tastykake...Giraffe National Bank...Standard of Rhode Island...multiple different pages for various Buckhorn products (thank you, Reggie)...W3XE (Gwladys wondered how many televisions would be tuning in to watch the game)...
Gwladys paused at a two-page layout. "Fillydelphia's NEW beer, the exclusive beer of Fillydelphia's NEW stadium!" Miss Odenwald 1940, a rather striking Palamino, was shown with two pilsner glasses, nearly life-size in the illustration. The artist had even managed to capture the beads of condensation running down the glass.
Gwladys looked out the window, but was seeing something other than Fillydelphia.
June 18, 1937
Odenwald Brewing Co.
The spring had been a hectic one. Gwladys barely made two of the most important dates on her calendar: her first games as Phillies owner, and her buck-fawn's marriage.
Q: Why do the Phillies sell so little beer at their first home game?
A: Because they always lose the opener.
Gwladys Buckhorn was now becoming something of an involuntary expert on the art of maligning the Phillies. The fact that they dropped the opener, 4-3, to Brooklyn didn't help matters all that much. Attendance, at least, was up. And quite a lot of beer was sold, thank you very much.
The question of beer was something that was very much on her mind, during the hurried cross-country train trip, Fillydelphia- Chicago- Los Antelopes, and then Los Antelopes- Honolulu- Spontoon. Not that she was thirsty, mind. Gwladys preferred a good gin and tonic. (A bad thing to sell to Fillydelphia sports fans, she mused.)
Being the tenant at Shibe Park meant one thing: whatever beer Connie Mack liked was the beer that was going to be sold. Valley Forge Beer by Scheidt.
Ordinarily, she wouldn't have cared, except for the fact that F.R. Buckhorn & Sons was North America's largest contract grower of hops and barley. And except for that portion which went into Buckhorn's Barley Soup (one of her favourites), it all went into hopper cars for Odenwald Brewing.
It was always hard to say precisely how much of what was written about "Katie" McArran was lies cooked up to entertain the readers of the Sunday supplements, and how much was real. At any event, at the very worst, she didn't seem to be like her brother. Faint praise, to be sure; it would be like noting that one was an improvement over a certain class of pirate. She wasn't present for Joss' investiture into the House of Lords. Just as well. From what little she knew, the Duchess of Strathdern had a vivid sense of humour, and Joss' appearence in robes would have been a perfect target for jibes. He looked, in his scarlet robe, like a tomato given antlers, a monocle and a temper.
In any event, Josslyn had looked at the Valley Forge billboard at Shibe Park with unease, and had been dropping unsubtle hints...that is, when he had not been flagging in alarm over the stadium.
Being informed that your mate is spending $15 million for a building complex is something. Being informed of it via a Fillydelphia Evening Bulletin lying casually about Monongahela House is an entirely different kettle of, well, barley. Given his already brittle frame of mind about the impending dread prospect (for him) of grand-fawns, it was easy to see how this would trigger a massive, panic-stricken flagging attack.
The only thing that had managed to get his temper (and heartbeat) under control was a promise to put *all* the stadium contracts up for bid. Including the beer contract. Even though the negotiations for the purchase of Municipal Stadium had not yet been finalized, the promise of a brand-new stadium was proving popular. Admittedly, not as popular as the idea of about two years' worth of construction work. Bethlehem Steel had already been making promises regarding steel prices. And a number of Fillydelphia brewers were eager to land the business. Many had gone four-paws-in-the-air in the last few years, and baseball fans were known to be a thirsty bunch.
Still, Odenwald wasn't generally sold in Fillydelphia. The nearest market was Gnu York, and even there, Rheingold, Schaefer, Knickerbocker and Ballantine were the big sellers, with the ties to the various teams. To Josslyn's whistle-snorted alarm (and urgent questions), Odenwald had not been on the initial list of breweries.
Thus, it was a slight surprise that the stiff envelope postmarked Burlington came Gwladys' way. Mr. Mark French, the head of Odenwald, in rather ponderous, formal prose, was extending an invitation to Viscountess Buckhorn to take a tour of the brewing facilities in Vermont.
What was more interesting was a small slip of paper that fluttered out of the envelope when it was opened. It was a sheet of crested notepaper (along with a block in Chinese lettering -- Gwladys thought it was called a "chop"), and it was unsigned. It didn't need to be signed.
"Don't worry about the formal tone," it read "that's just his style. I have faith in Mark. He knows what he's doing." Given the source, one had to take the endorsement seriously.
And so it was that a number of workers were looking curiously at a well-dressed doe who was, somewhat incongrously, wearing a protective hardhat, something that it is doubtful Coco Chanel would have considered. Eventually, after the tour was through, French himself escorted her to the boardroom, where all (including Gwladys) sipped at some fresh Odenwald.
"I'm well aware, Mr. French, that the brewery is a major customer of our family firm, but there's a large problem with giving the beer contract to you. Sports teams are almost invariably connected with local brands. Going to an out-of-town brewer wouldn't be popular, especially when so many workers have lost their jobs in Fillydelphia. I'm not sure how well it would be received. You know how Fillydelphia sports fans can be. They'd boo Santa Claus, if they could."
French seemed oddly cool, and it was probably not merely the result of quenching his thirst. An assistant handed him a folder, which he passed across the boardroom table.
"The photo on top is of a small brewery we purchased in Fillydelphia last year. We are in the process of renovating it, which will take some time, as it had fallen into a bad state. We expect it will be ready for full operation by some time next year."
"You're expanding into the market?"
"This," French said, pointing at the photograph, "is our beachead. If you look below it, you'll find some architect's renderings of a larger brewery we will be constructing in South Fillydelphia. Groundbreaking is due in the fall. It will be a state-of-the-art facility, enough to supply the whole region, from Gnu York south to Baltimore, and Atlantic City west to Harrisburg."
"Quite a few paws needed for that operation."
"Indeed. The point being, ma'am, that we can supply fresh, locally-brewed beer for events at your stadium. We believe we can have the smaller brewery produce the requirements specifically for the stadium, whereas the larger brewery will take advantage of the additional demand generated by the local publcity. All of which, of course, will increase our requirements of raw materials..."
An argument to warm her husband's heart. And wallet. The deal was concluded speedily, rather to the alarm and distress of the Valley Forge furs.
April 23, 1940, 1.09 p.m.
On Broad Street
Warming her mate's heart. Under the circumstances, perhaps, not the most appropriate way of putting things. And for that matter, while he thought hard about his wallet -- and heaven knows, she benefitted from that and still did -- there were other motivations that drove him, sometimes. As she was reminded in looking at the ad for scrapple in the souvenir programme...
January 5, 1939, 6.21 p.m.
The Day Room
"Most certainly NOT."
"But my lady, surely you're mistaken. I mean, this decision is without precedent..."
"So is having a roofed stadium."
"Indeed, my lady, but think of how many furs won't be welcome."
"I don't care HOW many do, I will NOT have meat sold in my stadium. End of story."
"A baseball stadium without hot dogs?"
"There will be plenty to eat there. Corn on a stick, peanuts, popcorn, and such. The song does go, if I'm not mistaken, "buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack." You will note no reference to cooked *flesh*.
"But my lady..."
"If we were interested in that, I am sure my husband would have gone into selling tinned meat many years ago. We do not. I find the entire concept of selling meat distasteful. As should you. For heaven's sake, you're a deer, too."
"But my lady..."
"If I hear that phrase once more, I will get VERY cross, and I will lose my temper..."
"I don't recommend it, dear."
Gwladys turned from her lecture, as did the lecturee, who seemed grateful for the interruption. Both were surprised to see Josslyn, Lord Buckhorn, in a dressing gown. Both were even more surprised to see him without his monocle, and his headfur ruffled. Both were decidedly out of character as the fact that he had stayed home, in bed. It may well have been the first day in years he had not worked. He also had deep black circles under his eyes, and his paws were thrust moodily into his dressing gown.
The other deer murmured his excuse, and hurriedly trotted out of the room, leaving buck and mate to themselves. Josslyn quietly shuffled over to the sofa were Gwladys sat, and looked at her briefly, before addressing his hooves, quietly.
"If you want some advice on the subject...well, I was on my way to fetch something to get me to sleep...and...well, I'm sorry if I listened in and all..."
For some beats, the loudest sound was the ticking of the clock on the mantlepiece.
"Look, Gwladys, in many ways I've been a rotten mate. I certainly haven't given you much support or encouragement. I'll say this, though. I've seen the stadium going up. It looks like it's going to be something important. If you're going to name it, you should name it for yourself. They tell me a lot of furs who own teams do that in America. I don't think any of them probably deserve it as much as you do."
The buck looked far older than he was, and began rubbing his eyes and muzzle. "Damne, but I wish I had ten years back. First time in a very, very long time I've actually stopped, and thought a bit. Very quiet in this house, when I'm not yelling or making a fuss."
Gwladys blinked. This was a level of introspection she had not seen before. On the other paw, she had noticed of late her mate was slowing down. The sight of his grand-fawn might have had some effect. Hiding from his doe-in-law might have had another effect.
"Eh?" The buck paused from rubbing at his eyes again.
"I'm listening. Tell me."
"Oh. Errr. Well. I think, my dear, you may be confusing preference with principle. It's in our nature not to want to eat meat. I confess I've never liked the smell of cooking meat, and these days it makes my stomachs upset. But you can't simply close off an entire group of furs because they're carnivores. Being a carnivore isn't something that's taught, y'know. It's one of those things that happens naturally."
"But you've never sold meat."
"Gwladys, when I put my sire aside..."
(Gwaldys here was astounded. This was the first time she'd heard Josslyn admit that he'd ousted his father.)
"...when I put him aside, the firm was already locked into place. Trying to go into meat, or even fish, would have required a great deal of risk in a highly competitive business. Just like the furs over at Fenwick would find it risky to challenge us on a broad basis in things like soups, or tinned fruit, or vegetables. Put another way: I've never gone into meat, because I think the rewards aren't worth the risk, and we're better off spending our money to make sure we're the very best at what we are."
Gwaldys nodded, interested in her husband's thinking. She had never had an insight into it before, not in this way. Her mate sighed, and rubbed his eyes again.
"What you are doing, darling, is imposing your preference on others. Yes, you're right. It's your stadium, and you can do as you please with it. But don't lose sight of the fact that you're running a business. You're asking furs to come and watch a sporting match. Beer and food sales are important, but they're secondary to the need to have tails in the seats. Certainly, some carnivores won't care, but some will. If they can't enjoy a tasty snack, they might not go to the game at all. Or, worse, go across town to watch that other team, the whatsits."
Josslyn looked down at his hooves again, and then gently reached with his paw for his mate's knee, and squeezed it. At this point, he had his mate mesmerized, though he may not have known it.
"If you want my advice, set aside a portion of the stands for herbivores. Don't advertise it as such. Just put a number of concession stands that *we* would like very close by. Roasted nuts, popcorn, corn on a stick, and such. Our type will naturally go there, and be quite happy. The carnivores, well, you can put concession stands so that they have spots they'll naturally go to. So you'll have happy customers."
Gwladys nodded, and gulped. Party because her mate was talking some clear, common sense. And partly because he had gently squeezed her knee again, before letting go.
"I'm going to get something so I can sleep. Let me know what you decide, darling, if you feel like it."
In getting up, Josslyn almost lost his balance. His mate caught him, and steadied him. He mumbled his thanks, and didn't resist as she put his arm around his waist and led him out of the room.
"I'll help you get that sleeping powder, Joss, and then I'll put you to bed..."
April 23, 1940, 1.20 p.m.
1001 Pattison Avenue
In a few days, her mate was dead. The heart attack, the doctors said, killed him instantly. Ironically, while one of his best customers, the Duchess of Strathdern, was laying into Earl Baldwin on the floor of Lords. She had wondered why one of her allies had not been responding to her speech.
The Dowager Viscountess wondered if her mate ever really knew how she felt about him. Maybe he did, and that's why he gave her the advice. In any event, she had made a gesture, post-mortem, that she hoped would appease his spirit.
"We're here, ma'am."
"Here" was announced by the lettering alongside the edge of the stadium, underneath the roof:
JOSSLYN BUCKHORN MEMORIAL FIELD
April 23, 1940, 1.28 p.m.
By the 483-foot marker
Centre Field, Buckhorn Field
Approaching the stadium on hoof, the Dowager Viscountess could see that it was going to be a packed house. From the south, a crowd of furs was exiting Buckhorn Station, where the streetcars, subway and Pennsylvania Railroad each terminated and discharged passengers. The station was sleek and rounded, with parallel bands of glass and stainless steel drawing the eye up. It was three different levels, she knew, the subway two levels below ground, the trains one level below, and the streetcars at ground level. It had taken a great deal of work to design a traffic pattern that would move the thousands of furs exiting the station, across the pedestrian bridge, toward the station's big brother, which had already been tagged as "The Buck."
Going toward the stadium, the glass sides at the various levels showed the furs, in all manner of species, walking along the ramps to the different levels. Unlike a lot of the older ballparks, the Buck had not one gate, but eight different gates. Croark had strongly suggested that to make moving the crowds more efficient. He was right, of course.
Gwladys paused, her eyes drawn up by the parallel bands of glass and steel, past the lettering of the stadium, to the roof, which was presently closed. The roof did not end the theme: soaring and angled above the roof were towers of stainless steel that bore the light standards for when the roof was open, and night games were played. The Buck was the first major stadium that had been designed with lights from the very start, without retrofitting. Indeed, some ballparks either did not have them at all (like Griffith Field or Wrigley Field, and *neither* Boston stadium had lights), or had just put them in this very year (like the Polo Grounds in Gnu York, or Forbes in Pittsburgh). Croark was able to design the lights so that they harmonized and complemented the stadium, and didn't seem like birthday candles stuck on a cake as an afterthought.
Gwladys was able to use the entrance, discreetly tucked away, that was reserved for the players and Fillydelphia Exposition Company employees. Above the entrance was an inset of Pyrex blocks, showing a muscular batsfur taking a healthy cut at a ball. At night, the displays could be backlit, giving yet another modernistic touch to the Buck.
Even though the public would never see this part of the stadium (it was watched over by polite but well-muscled securityfurs), it had been finished, and was well-lit. There were no hoof sounds, as the concrete was overlaid by a runner with rubber backing. Gwladys had been advised to lay in a good supply of this product, since it was likely that rubber would soon be used for other purposes.
The walls had tiles set in that had arrows pointing to various areas of interest; it reminded her of the way the IRT in Gnu York had directions on the walls of the subway stations. The biggest arrow pointed toward her destination: the playing field.
Gwladys emerged from the concourse that led to the clubhouse, and stepped onto the field. The crowd was milling among the seats, creating a pleasant hum of noise, mixed with the smells of the ballpark. Most of all (and pleasing to her), the smell of freshly mown grass.
The playing field stretched out before her. It was vast. 483 feet from where she stood at the moment to home plate. She knew by heart many of the other dimensions: 440 feet in the right field and left field corners, the "shoulders" of the field, where the bullpen mounds were. Just 290 feet down the foul lines.
The Buck had been modeled on the Polo Grounds to a certain extent. It was clearly designed to comfortably take a football gridiron as well as a baseball diamond. But Croark had lectured her on some of the shortcomings of the Polo Grounds, which he had corrected. The depth of the seating area along the foul lines was minimized, bringing the spectators a little closer to the action. The grandstand behind home plate was brought in much closer, as well. There was far less foul ground there than at the original, and the fans were much closer to the action.
Gwladys' thoughts were interrupted by a louder hum that drowned out the crowd's noise. The roof was being opened.
Unlike a lot of furs, she had seen this before when it was being extensively tested. She knew it would work, but still, the sight of the ceiling segments carefully folding back into one another, like a Russian nesting doll, made her flag. The crowd cheered, partly from the novelty, but also from the fact that the roof was now letting in the sun, which had decided to come out in full force.
The Dowager Viscountess headed toward the owner's box, but paused at the plinth that was in play just at the 483 foot marker. Rising above the plinth was a life-size bronze statue of Josslyn Buckhorn, paws behind back, monocole firmly in place, and glowering at the distant homeplate, as if daring anyone to hit a home run over his rack. She had been right, earlier: the only thing missing was a whistle-snort.
Gwladys patted the plinth with quiet emotion, and began to pad across the outfield grass.
April 23, 1940, 1.34 p.m.
Near the home dugout
Gwladys paused in her journey to look up at the stands. The parallel band theme had been carried into the stadium's interior, and formed the dominant view of the stadium. Unlike a lot of stadia, there were very few advertising signs. Both Croark and Leowey had been in firm agreement that these detracted from the eye appeal.
So it was that instead of billboards, there were "zippers," like one saw in Times Square, that spelled out information for the fans during the game, and advertisements between innings. (And, as the Commissioner sternly warned her, was NOT to be in motion during play.) The zippers were set off by four very simple Standard of Rhode Island anchors.
The only other major display was in deepest centre field, where the main electric scoreboard, in-game and out-of-town, was located. Above that, there was an electronic billboard for Odenwald Golden Lager, showing a very cheerful filly holding a frosty tankard of the brew in question. A home-team home run, Gwladys knew, would cause the filly to swish her tail and raise her tankard.
Gwladys also knew that there were a few comedians who had pointed out that Lord Buckhorn was in almost a perfect position, were he so inclined, to look up the filly's skirt. She (Gwladys, not the filly) would have been offended had the notion been not so comically absurd.
A small crowd of reporters and photographers were gathered at the owner's box. The television and newsreel camera crews were making final preparations, or taking crowd shots. Croark had pointed out that one advantage of making the stadium more intimate (or as intimate as any stadium that sat 50,000 could be) was that it made the televised games more intelligible Certainly, the press corps seemed to be happy with the air-conditioned press box (and free Orca-Cola and Odenwald). Craning her neck slightly, she could see her son leaning against the railing, casually chatting with the media. With his general good nature, and Saville Row suit, the current (and second) Viscount Buckhorn was good copy.
Some of the attention was going to the small fawn that was standing in front of him, holding his sire's paw. It is somewhat hard to resist taking a photo of a buck-fawn that has dark-black headfur and violet eyes, even if the buck-fawn was being made a little nervous by all of the attention.
Better get used to it, Thomas. You'll like it eventually, especially when it's a doe asking you questions.
April 23, 1940, 1.38 p.m.
The owner's box
"Lord Buckhorn? Any prediction as to how the home team will do this year?"
"Oh, I think Penn will top the Ivy League again this year. What? Wrong home team?" (laughter) "I think I'll leave that prediction to the experts."
A more aggressive reporter, and one who didn't seem like he was a sports-desk habitue, pointed a pencil at the buck.
"Lord Buckhorn, how do you feel being here, in Fillydelphia, far away from where your country is at war?"
Reggie flicked an ear, and rubbed an antler, before answering.
"Well, you know, I really have two countries. My mother, of course, is from this city, and my family has had long ties with Pennsylvania, back from when my great-grandsire founded the firm out in Aliquippa. So I can't really say that I'm a stranger to this country, or this city. Certainly, there are a lot of bars that remember *me* from when I went to Wharton." (laughter) "Of course, there's a practical reason for being here, in that my home, Monongahela House, was taken over by the government for the duration, and that was the only residence I had in England. Given the pressing need for housing in London and other areas, it would be difficult, not to mention wasteful, to find another place. More to the point, nearly two-thirds of F.R. Buckhorn & Sons' production is here in the United States, and almost one-fifth of our world-wide production is here in Fillydelphia. More than ever, the countries that are fighting against totalitarianism need what our firm produces, and it makes sense that I, as the chairman and sole stockholder of my family firm, be right here in Fillydelphia. My best contribution to the war effort is not to get underhoof where I'm not needed, but to be where I am needed, which is where we actually produce the materials that will play its role in ultimate victory."
Followup questions were forestalled by the young buck-fawn who, upon sight of his grand-doe, gave his sire's paw an urgent tug or two. Sire leaned down to fawn, and the news was passed.
"I'm sorry, gentlefurs, but my advisor tells me that the short subjects are now over, and the main attraction is about to begin. And if I steal the spotlight from my mother, I'll be in terrible trouble when I get home." (laughter)
Like a Red Sea in miniature, the press parted to allow Gwladys Ritterherz Buckhorn access to the owner's box. The small gate was opened, and an usher helped her, as well as her son and grand-fawn, to their respective seats. Some photographs were taken, and then the reporters headed to their designated areas.
April 23, 1940, 1.45 p.m.
Another Croark design element was the careful consideration given to acoustics, and where the public-address system would be located, so that all could hear announcements. Such as that to rise for the national anthem.
The sell-out crowd of 50,000 and more furs rose, as the mighty Wurlitzer, hidden behind the Odenwald billboard, thundered into the opening bars of the "Star Spangled Banner."
The Dowager Viscountess sang the words without a trace of irony, flagging as the flags were raised on their wires, one on either side of the Odenwald billboard. She noticed the incumbent Viscountess was bowing her head in respect, her eyes closed.
"...and the hooooooommmmmmeeeeeeee...of theeeeeee.....braaaaaaaaavvvve!"
April 23, 1940, 1.50 p.m.
"Your attention please, ladies and gentlefurs. Throwing out the ceremonial first ball for the the inagural game here at Buckhorn Field will be the owner of the Fillydelphia Phillies, Gwladys Ritterherz Buckhorn."
A great deal of cheering; and, in typical Fillydelphia fashion, a handful of boos as well. The President of the National League handed Gwladys a baseball with a flourish, and the massive bovine form of the Phillies catcher set up a few feet away from the owner's box, ready to receive the throw.
The doe posed for the newsreel cameras, television cameras, and still cameras, and then turned to face the catcher. A motion out of the corner of her eye got her attention.
It was the flag of her grand-fawn, which was busily moving up and down in excitement. He was looking at his grand-doe with unconcealed glee.
Gwladys paused, and then bent down to the level of Thomas Buckhorn, and beckoned him a little closer, so that only he could hear her.
"Darling, would you like to help Gran?"
The little buck-fawn nodded vigorously. He'd do anything for his Gran.
"Get your mummy to hold you up on the seat."
Willow Buckhorn stepped forward, and gently lifted her fawn so that he was standing on the seat, and held him firmly about the waist. Gwladys placed the ball firmly in a small paw. The catcher, chuckling, moved in to the railing, just a few feet away, having no illusions as to Thomas Buckhorn's throwing arm.
"Now darling, take the ball, and toss it to the big gentlefur right there."
The buck-fawn nodded, as the cameras clicked away furiously. He was very nervous, but his mummy's paws around his waist were comforting. A small arm reached up, and the ball made a somewhat erratic arc, though the catcher, skilled at catching the erratic throws of Phillies pitchers, caught it easily. He made a presentation of the ball to the heir presumptive of the Phillies, shook paws with his boss, and waddled back to the diamond, where the other Phillies, and the Giants batsman standing just outside the batter's box, were awaiting the decades-old call to action.
The squat bulldog in the flat cap, bowtie and black suit provided it. Slipping on his mask, he bellowed the words that had been eagerly awaited.