by Debra Hicks
Funny thing about visiting hospitals....
Actually, there's nothing funny about visiting hospitals. Especially when the person being visited is your partner, best friend and only lover, who did his mother-knows best to die on you.
Not that I blame Ray for trying to die....
Actually, I do blame Ray.
The alarm, which I knew was about to go off, went off. I took my hatred of hospitals out on the alarm clock, sending it several feet to meet an untimely end against the wall. Unfortunately, it was the phone that was ringing.
"Bodie," I growled into the phone.
Bad to worse, it was the Cow.
"Sir," I replied in as civilized a voice as I could manage given the first several minutes of the day. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"You're on assignment, Bodie. Meet...."
I sat up. "But, sir, I'm off today. Ray's expecting...."
"Doyle has put up with your visits every day for four weeks, Bodie. Your absence will probably speed his recovery," he said sarcastically. "1499 Baker Street. Your contact will explain the case."
He hung up before I could tender my resignation. There was nothing to be done about it, the old sod was right. It was time to earn my keep. I thought briefly about calling Ray but knew the nurse would never ring through at this hour. Hesitantly, I climbed out to face the day. I would have to call Ray later.
The house reminded me of three things....
Actually, the house didn't remind me of much of anything, attracting no more attention than a busty barmaid would after several hours of Ray's loving. Not that we'd had, or would have a chance for romance for a while. I sighed. Stupid sod, getting himself shot.
"Good morning, Mr. Bodie!"
I wasn't surprised. Not with the way my luck was running. Penfold was sitting on my side mirror. (Ray would have a stitch when he heard this.)
"Good morning, Penfold."
"Ah, Bodie," Dangermouse said from atop the other mirror. "Glad to see you could join us. Should be a straight forward mission. Seems that...."
"Bloody hurrah," I said blandly. "Then you go ahead and have a wonderful time. Call me if you need me."
My lack of enthusiasm didn't phase the old so and so one bit. "Sorry, old son, can't let you miss this one. Cowley's orders."
I sighed. "Look, mate, I've had a hard couple of weeks. Ray went and got himself...."
"Oh my, yes," Penfold said sympathically, "we heard about the unfortunate happenings."
"We were given to understand that Mr.Doyle is well on the road to recovery," DM said.
"Yeh. But I'm not in the mood to go chasing Greenback across...."
"Cor, Mr. Bodie," Penfold whistled. "We're not after that slimy, no good, shifty...."
"Penfold," DM interrupted as usual.
I straightened in the seat a bit. "We're...you're not? Who are you after?" It was out before I really wanted to ask.
"The Cronk," DM intoned solemnly.
I had to know. "What is a cronk?"
"A who," Penfold corrected. "He's a mean spirited, nasty, rude, smelly, slimy...."
"Used that one on Greenback," I remained him.
The mouse leapt, bounced on the seat, landed on the dashboard and whipped out a huge folding map from behind his back. "Here's the plan."
"I do hate to keep repeating myself," I started. "But no one's told me what the Cronk...."
Remembering the last answer I got, I stopped. Sighing, I resigned myself to the inevitable. Maybe I could still make the afternoon visiting shift.
"What's the problem?" I asked reluctantly.
"Monsters," Penfold said with a wise nod.
"If you ask me," I whispered for the fourth time, "this is unnecessary."
"No," Penfold corrected in that ridiculous voice. "This is un dungeon."
That set him off and he began to giggle uproariously.
"Penfold," the mouse said with Job's patience.
"Good one, huh, Chief, un-dungeon." He burst into another attack.
"Penfold shush!" DM insisted, inching forward with his high beam lantern. "You'll give us away."
There was something in the way he said that made the hairs on my neck stand up like um...well, like the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up.
"Give us away to what?" I questioned in a little higher than normal voice.
"The monsters," Penfold repeated.
"If the Cronk is only seven inches high," I argued. "How big can his monsters...."
Now, all things considered, it really wasn't much of a growl. I mean, I've heard lions, apes and Ray on a good night do better. But, it was definitely a growl and it was definitely a growl somewhere in the dark in front of us. I raised my trusty gun; the rodent raised his trusty lantern.
It was the ugliest it I've ever seen, Nessie and werehamsters not withstanding. It was two meters plus, covered in long black hair and smelled like a three week old sausage sandwich. It also had big mean nasty teeth, all pointed in my direction.
"Yuck!" (So it's not Byron, sue me.)
A waltz with this thing was right out of the question. I started to back up, raising the gun as I did.
"Don't do that, Bodie," the super nuisance yelled. "If you shoot it you'll just make it mad."
"Blazing Saddles, 1974," I identified the quote, still backing up. "Then what the hell should we do?"
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1974," DM said firmly. "Run away!"
I can take a hint. Spinning around I sprinted down the narrow hall and up the stairs. Halfway up the stone steps, I glanced down to see DM and Penfold racing ahead of me. We made the top of the stairs, slammed shut the solid door behind us. We all three leaned against it, for all the good it would do.
"Now what?" I demanded.
"We split up," DM ordered. "You take Penfold...."
"No go, mate," I said.
"Why not?" DM asked.
"The monsters always show up when you split up."
"Old sod," he said in that haughty British lord accent, "the monsters are already here."
Had me, didn't he? When found out, make it sound like it was your idea.
"Right, Penfold and I will distract the beast. You go for the lab."
With that definitive statement, I jerked open the door in a fine macho manner.
The monster growled. I slammed the door.
"Er, um, Chief," Penfold stammered. "Is it such a good idea that I go with Bodie? I mean, perhaps, I should go with you."
That really was just too much! Here I was, worried about Ray in hospital, with only a few inches of flimsy wood between...me and this big, exceptional ugly, monster...
...while being insulted by a hamster in a tacky suite...
...who wanted to go with his six inch high, super spook boss...
...while we chased a six inch high something with a big metal schnoz...
...called the Cronk...
...which wanted to take over the world....
Ray was going to be fine!
Now, when a hamster in a bad suit is telling the above mentioned bleached spy guy that you should be the one to distract the monster may not seem like the best time to go round the twist. But at the moment I couldn't think of a better time. I mean, Ray was going to be fine!
"I say, Penfold," I declared in my best John Wayne/Randolph Scott impression. "Follow me!"
"Wha..." was all DM managed to say. Super spy? Ha! He hadn't seen anything yet.
The monster was still there but when he/she/it growled at me this round, I did the only logical thing--I growled back. It really wasn't much of a growl, tinged as it was with a trace of hysteria but it managed to surprise old ugly enough for me to shove by.
"Oh crumbs!" he squeaked.
He shot under the beast's overly hairy legs and we were off (in more ways than one.) Would have been nice if we'd known where the hell we were going. But at the time we didn't worry about it. There were two doors at the top of the twenty seven steps (I counted) and I slammed into the left one. The door bounced me back several feet.
Penfold zinged by my foot and hit the door in a fair (if short) impression of Bruce Lee.
The door popped open.
"Arrghhh!" Penfold and I yelled together.
This big ugly hissed instead of growling. Without waiting for introductions I whirled gracefully around and hit the right door. This one (thankfully) popped open at once. Even more thankfully there was nothing behind this door but....
I grabbed Penfold by his really bad pinstripped collar, hauled him in and slammed the door.
Taking a deep breath, I smiled at Penfold. "He's gonna be okay, Penfold!"
Not only that, but I had actually managed to beat the world hopping rodent to the punch. I'd found the lab first! Well, my statement managed to confuse his furry sidekick for a bit. He gave me the look of a person (hamster) waiting for the men (hamsters) in the white suits. Before I could explain anything this silky, Halloweeny kind of voice filled the room.
As much as I hate that nasal challenged frog's croak, this voice was just as bad.
"Where is that annoying boss of yours?" it questioned.
I just love being ignored by small, megalomaniacal amphibians, noses, whatevers. Needing a shot of security, I drew my gun and aimed for the area where the voice had come from.
"Alright," I ordered. "Bring your mini-arse out here where I can see it."
The problem with requests like that is they frequently get results. The Cronk stepped out from behind a lab table. He stood about DM's height with a long black robe and hood which covered everything--except the nose. As his name testifies, it was an outstanding (outsticking?) feature. It stood out to half his height. I didn't see how he could see around it.
Cracking up when arguing with a white clothed, super spy rodent, while standing just outside a door holding a six foot monster is not very smart--cracking up when confronted by a six inch by three inch, steel schnozed villain is even dumber. But Ray claims I've never been good with my timing, except in bed.
I started laughing. Hard. Which gave the Cronk a chance to slink away. (Villains always slink.)
"Cor, Mr. Bodie!" Penfold whistled. "He's getting away."
I lunged for where the villain had disappeared and the strangest thing happened. (Strange being a relative term when involved with the rodentia duo.) A green glow filled the room (I really hate green) and before I could decide which way to jump, the table jumped me. Only it wasn't exactly a table. It was sort of a snake. Unlike Indiana Jones, I have no problem with snakes. Except when they're the size of a Volkswagen.
"There he goes, Mr. Bodie!"
Much to my surprise, Penfold, in a fair imitation of my athletic ability, leapt across the room and grabbed the Cronk by the back of his black robe. Unfortunately, the Cronk didn't notice. The snake however, did. It spun toward the two of them. Three things happened at the same time (a rather ridiculous statement, since nothing ever happens at the same time); the snake slithered sideways, I tripped (gracefully) over the it's tail and Penfold tripped over the Cronk's robe. That caused two different things to happen; I landed in front of the Cronk and the snake missed Penfold, hitting the wall with a considerable bang instead. That led to one thing, me grabbing the Cronk.
Unfortunately, this started a whole new round of numbers. One, I stood up, holding the squirming Cronk between thumb and forefinger. Two, the snake turned around. Three, the snake tangled around my ankles. And four, I fell through the window.
I have, on more occasions than I care to remember, found myself plummeting. On every occurrence, one thought has hit me--shit! Right behind that several things flashed through my mind--I was plummeting thirty feet to land flat on my back; I was plummeting twenty feet to land flat on my back; Ray was going to be okay and I was plummeting ten feet to land flat on my back.
I hit--something--and started back up!
"Bodie!" I heard DM call. "Drop the Cronk!"
I reached the height of the window I had fallen out of. Penfold was leaning out, smiling.
"I say, good job, Chief!"
I started back down. Since I was already defying several of Newton's Laws, I rolled around in mid-air and looked down. A small white speck was standing next to an air bag painted like the Union Jack. Descending rapidly, the white speck became the white agent.
"Drop him, Bodie."
I did, giving the Nose a little more of a throw than I needed to. I hit the rubber bag face first, sank into it--and started back up.
Coming up on the window, I said, "This is..."
Laughing again (real men don't giggle), I said, "My clock...(Up.)...untimely demise...." (Down.)
"Cor, Mr. Bodie...."
(Up. Guffaw.) "Ray's gonna be okay."
"I say, Bodie."
"...monsters...." (Down. Chuckle.)
"I'm going to let the air out slowly," the bizarre mouse said.
(Up.) "Is a mouse that spies....
"...really a mole?" (Down. Alright, that one got a giggle.)
On the next bounce I didn't go up quite so high. The giggles were also starting to subside.
(Up.) "Hey, Penfold, how about, my hair stood on end...
"...like a red shirt in a Star Trek episode?" (Down.)
On landing I forced the remainder of the air out of the rubber bag with a sound that polite company would not approve of. That started another, shorter round of guffaws. After a minute I raised my head to find myself being very closely observed by the mini-James Bond and furry version of Tonto.
I must confess the hamster actually looked a little concerned; the resident super spy just looked annoyed.
"I say, Mr. Bodie," Penfold asked, pushing his glasses up on his non-existant nose. "Are you okay?"
Sitting up I smiled. "Never better, Penfold." I glanced at my watch. "Quick, to the batmobile! We can still make the hospital."
"...then, I fell out the window."
"You fell out..." Ray stammered.
"Ah," DM interrupted, "not to worry. I was, as usual, on the job and had an air bag waiting."
"And Mr. Bodie did manage to hang onto the Cronk like a real trooper," Penfold chimed in.
Just what I needed, recommendation from a hamster in leftover gangster apparel.
Ray shook his head, curls bouncing. "Can't trust you out without a keeper, can I, love."
The bell sounded. "Ah, well," DM stood up. "Must push off, worlds to save and all that."
Smiling, Ray held out his arms toward me. I think I must have blushed.
"Well, don't just stand there," DM said impatiently, tapping his foot.
"Oh, my yes, Mr. Bodie," the hamster whistled cutely. "Kiss him."
You really shouldn't argue with super spies and trusty sidekicks, so I did, with meaning. And since it was the first time I'd done more than peck Ray on the cheek in four weeks, I did it again. With more meaning. Until Penfold applauded. I leaned back and bowed in the duo's direction.
"Take care, Mr. Doyle," Penfold waved.
"Yes, best wishes, old son," DM said gallantly.
"I say, DM," I asked in my best Cary Grant accent, "do you think you can find that rather quaint bar again? The drinks are on me."
Stunned is probably the best way to describe everyone's reaction, Ray's jaw dropped down to his chin, Penfold's eyebrows jumped over his forehead and the extraordinary short British agent looked...uh, like he always looked.
I smiled, starting out without looking back. Some detective, my Ray. I wonder how long it will take Ray to figure out that I had seen the smiles and winks between he and the mouse as we came in.
-- THE END --