I stepped out of the shower and onto the VapoMat.
“What are you doing in here?” I scowled at the Cat. The VapoMat was seconds away from vaporizing the last of the water that clung to me.
“The queen called,” he spat the last of his Nip into the Dispos.
“Aren’t you usually lazy,” I put on a robe.
He pointed to his collar. He was wearing his Curiosity tag.
I swore. “You’re coming with?”
He tipped his hat and bowed.
I Zap-U-Blasted my teeth, HairDid my hair, put on AproprosPriate clothes and dashed out the flat. The Cat followed close behind.
I was presented to the queen nearly immediately.
“Her majesty will see you now, Lady Bruisemella,” a jazzed up Squirrel announced.
I walked in.
“Your majesty, I was summoned.”
“Adelaide, I require a new bedmate.”
I felt the heat of my cheeks rise.
She proffered a worn-out plush. Its last eye had fallen off. Recently, if I wasn’t mistaken. The thing had always been hideous. Now that it was missing all fifteen eyes, it was less fearsome.
I sighed silently. I was the queen’s greatest bounty hunter and assassin. It just so happened the current queen believed the best period of life was somewhere between five and nine. I preferred twenty-three. The queen’s actual age, coincidentally.
“Of course, your highness.” I extricated myself.
The candy-colored streets were dark and malevolent. The clouds threatened a gumdrop downpour. I wasn’t wearing my sugar-proof galoshes and my three piece suit had been to the cleaners three times that month already.
I swung around. It was the Cat. “Yeah?”
He stalked up to me and put Nip and a lighter in my hand. I lit the Nip and held it out for him.
He waved it off. “We gotta talk.”
“We are talking. What’s the subject?”
“Stuffed creatures,” he emphasized.
I hoped our negotiations were coming to a close. “K. What about ‘em?”
“The queen’s last several have been the many-eyed sort. I’m thinking something more like three this time. Possibly with many-limbs instead of many-eyes.”
“You stopped me in the middle of the street to talk about stuffed creature aesthetics?”
“Alright. Where should we start?”
Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at a semi-used semi-antique store in a less sanitary part of Capitol City. A ceramic-headed Glam Thing with golden fibre for hair was prominently displayed. I had my doubts.
The place was a little too retro. The weirdness of the 1920’s was a sick sanitized several. I turned around and walked.
The Cat put a paw across my knee. “Hold on. You haven’t seen anything yet.”
I turned back. “I don’t think a hand-knit horror snake is going to do it for our benevolent monarch, Cat.”
“The Cat,” he said. “And I wasn’t suggesting a horror snake. C’mon.”
He led me to the store’s darkest corner and we sifted through a pile of fuzzy dross.
I almost tossed the very thing the Cat had suggested earlier. A three-eyed blue octo-squared with short fauxfur. Not especially well-loved, but used enough to lack the obnoxious chem smell typical of pristine retro plush. “The Cat,” I whispered.
“Yeah,” he didn’t.
“Look at what’s in my hand.”
“Infernal dog feces. You found it. Non-chalant’s the word.”
We walked to the register and paid cash money for the creature. When the cashier handed over the receipt and we had declined the plastic bag in the traditional manner,* a shot rang out.
* Mock indignation.
I ducked and the Cat ran out the alley. My heart thundered. I scampered over the counter, tossed the squigapalous in my purse, and waited ten breaths.
I pulled the Bully Gun from my purse and attached the sight to my left eye. With the gun raised above the counter, I could see through the sight. There was no sign of the shooter.
I set the sight to 30% opacity so I’d have depth perception again and stumbled out the back of the shop.
“What? Where are you?”
“Krabbit darn it, the Cat. I’m not going in the rubbish. Come out here.”
He climbed out of the bin and we started the long walk back to the palace with the gun muzzle over my shoulder. We didn’t pick up a tail until three blocks away from the palace.
It was a coon’s tail and it shot at us almost as soon as I noticed it. I spun around and fired three times. The Bully Gun spat abuse and the coon soon fell.
I ran to it and searched for papers or clues.
“Uh, doll,” the Cat said.
“I don’t have time for this, the Cat. Help me pillage.”
“Fudge muffin your cleanliness fetish, get your mittens over here!”
The sound of a scram gun pump echoed behind me.
“Boston,” I swore. “Massachusetts!” I dropped my gun and threw my hands up.
“That’s right, pinstripe lady,” the seething breath of a Malclom breathed down my neck. “I want the doll.”
“Stuffed creature,” I muttered.
“Doll. Hand it over.”
I put one hand in my purse, pulled out my StickyTickBrick and blind-mashed it at his jewels.
He cried out in agony and dropped the scram gun. I grabbed it up with my gun and spun around. The brick ticked and the man writhed on his back. He made a frustrated grab for the brick and then his hand wouldn’t come off.
“Release the goon,” a woman in red said. She was held the Cat hostage. It was clear she was the real brains behind the operation. Also the beauty. Five seven, blue hair, and more than ample wow.
“No thanks, sugar planks.”
“We can do this two ways, fedora. With you and your partner eggs over easy on the pave, or me walkin’ away with the doll.”
“You were the one, weren’t you? That plucked the old plush’s eyes? You cruel thing, you.”
“I ain’t gonna play your game, slender. Drop the candy cannons before I pump your friend fulla plums.”
I dropped the guns. I could always get a new plush.
“Gwendolyn Genivive Chrynsanthinum! How could you?!” the queen’s disappointed shrill sounded out over the street.
“Mushrooms,” Gwen muttered. “Baby, just go back home. I’ll take care of this.”
“No, you won’t,” the queen said sternly. “Let the kitten go and quit threatening Addie.”
Gwen loosened her grip on the Cat.
“What’s this all about, anyway?” the queen asked.
“You spend too much time with that saccharine doll,” Gwen exaspered.
“Oh, Gwennie, that’s silly.”
So, that’s the whole sad story. I got paid, the queen got her doll, and Gwen was in the metaphorical dog house.
Another sorry day in the Dark Chocolate City.