by Debra Hicks
I woke up in a bad mood, which was not surprising considering the circumstances. First of all I hate waking up early on the rare day off the Cow gives us, secondly I hate waking up alone and lastly I was immediately worried since the reason I woke up alone was that Ray wasn't in bed. I turned over, listening, trying to figure out where the little sod had got to. The reassuring sound of his soft voice carried in from the main room.
That changed my bad mood into confusion. There was only the one voice, which meant that Ray was on the phone. I may sleep heavy after a rough op but not heavy enough to miss the phone or the R/T. Curious as to who Ray had called at this obscene hour of the morning I got out of bed, slipped into a bath robe against the too early chill and went into the main room. Ray was not on the phone. He was leaning, knuckles down on the breakfast table, shaking his head at...
I blinked and looked again. Ray was leaning over the table, green bathrobe tied tight around his slender body, talking very softly and calmly to a mouse. Not just any mouse either, a white mouse to be precise, wearing a white jumper, white slacks and a black eye-patch. He stood about six inches high, standing as he was on his backlegs, had his arms (Paws? Legs?) crossed in front of him and was obviously trying to talk my mate into something he wasn't too thrilled with.
Just then the mouse glanced in my direction and said quiet clearly, "Oh, my."
Ray spun around, hit the nearest chair with the back of his knees and fell into it. He's so graceful sometimes. He and the mouse exchanged a look that was mostly embarrassment allied with horror. It was, not surprisingly the mouse who recovered first. He looked over at Ray, put his hands on his hips and said matter-of-factly, "This is him, then?" Doyle managed to nod. The mouse looked me over very carefully. "Yes, well, he is handsome enough, but I think I'll stick with the fairer sex all the same."
"Thank you," I said, just as calmly. I wasn't about to be upstaged by a mouse, even one in an eye-patch.
"Oh, crumbs!" A high pitched voice with a slight whistle sounded from just behind the sugar bowl. "He's a big one, boss."
A hamster moved up next to the mouse. He was wearing a tweed suit, tie and round, dark framed glasses. Even when going off my head I notice details. I sat down, with a little more of a thump then intended.
It seemed to me I had three options at this point; beat Doyle to a pulp for getting me involved in whatever the hell this was, shoot the hamster on the general principal that no one should have to deal with a talking hamster in a tweed suit or go back to bed and hope the whole thing was an exhaustion induced nightmare. I gave up on the first idea since there were things I had planned for Ray later on that required him to be at least semi-conscious for us to enjoy. I dismissed the second idea because I happen to like hamsters, even ones in ugly tweed suits and stood up to take action on my third option.
"Bodie?" Ray had found his voice. "Where you going?"
"Back to bed," I explained patiently. "When I wake up this is all going to seem very silly."
Ray smiled, as if he were just seeing the sight he and his furry guests presented. "It's not a dream, Bodie."
I pointed at the mouse. "Ray, my love, you are talking to a mouse and a hamster. There's nothing else it can be but a dream."
"I can see you picked him for something other that his brains." the mouse said with heavy sarcasm clear in his voice.
"I will not stand here and be insulted by some strange one-eyed mouse in my own home," I said tightly.
The mouse stood a little straighter. "There is no need to get personal."
"Personal!" I demanded, "You were the one..." I snapped my mouth closed, wondering vaguely why I was arguing with a figment of my imagination. Gazing at Doyle I said, "Goodnight, Ray."
If Doyle didn't laugh soon he was going to do himself an injury. And he had a very familiar, always trouble-causing, mischievous glint in those lovely green eyes. Ray knows that there is no way in heaven or earth that I can resist whatever he has going when he gets that look in his eyes.
"Sit down, Bodie and I'll do introductions." He smiled at me, the sort of smile that begs indulgence.
I sat down with an exaggerated sigh. "Okay, but it had better be good."
"This should prove interesting," the mouse said. He sat down on the edge of the table, the hamster joined him.
"Bodie," Ray sounded serious, the laughter showing only in the curl around his lips, "I'd like you to meet Dangermouse and his partner, Penfold."
"Pleased to met you," the hamster said with that too cute whistle.
"Always honored to met a colleague," the mouse seemed sincere, sarcasm gone. "Please, do call me DM, seeing as how we will be working together."
"Working together?" I imagine I squeaked a little like the hamster.
That was too much for Doyle, he started laughing. A second later the mouse and hamster joined him, all three finding my reactions very amusing. Fortunately for them I was enjoying listening to Ray's laughter so much that I decided I'd simply wait for the noise to wake me up rather than telling all three where they could go.
Ray choked to a stop then said, completely straight, "I owe DM a favor, Bodie. He saved my life once."
That managed to dent my disbelief. Ray knows better, even in a dream, than to ever, ever joke about that. Before I could get too upset about it though several scenarios, mostly from old B-westerns flashed through my mind. I smiled. My partner; 5'9, 150 pounds of solid muscle, deadly fighter, whiz at deduction, expert with a handgun, had, at some point in his career been saved by 6 inches of white fur with an eye-patch. I loved it. If I played it right he'd never live it down. For the moment, since this was too good a chance to miss I decided to believe that I really was sitting there talking to a mouse with an eye-patch and a hamster in a tweed suit.
"Okay, sunshine," I managed to ask, "let's have it. What'd he do? Crawl down the jailers shorts and make him drop the keys? Chew through your ropes?"
"No." DM corrected. He whipped out something from behind his back. A blinding blue flare shot up from his hands. "Lasered through a pair of handcuffs, then several inches of plate steel." He put the tiny laser back in his belt. "But we don't have time for reminisces. We have to stop Greenback."
Without stopping to think about whether I really wanted to know or not I asked, "What's Greenback?"
"Not a what," Penfold chirped in. "Greenback is a despicable, mean, nasty, overbearing, monstrous..."
"They get the point, Penfold." DM tried to quiet his companion.
"...no-good, cold-blooded, slimy, thoroughly obnoxious..."
"Penfold!" DM commanded.
Involuntarily I glanced from the agitated hamster to my curly-haired partner, suddenly identifying with DM. Ray looked up in time to read the thought that was passing through my mind, the one that said I had been in similar situations. The frown and glittering eyes promised several days worth of retribution.
"Now then," DM began. "The Colonel has discovered..."
"The Colonel?" I questioned.
"That's their boss." Ray supplied.
"Gerbil?" I guessed.
"Terrier," he answered flatly.
"Should have thought."
"He's the one responsible for sending us on our dangerous and exciting missions to save the world," Penfold said enthusiastically.
"Sounds like the Cow," I said. "Maybe we should introduce the two of them."
Ray said, very straight faced, "Cowley probably already knows him."
Up until this point I felt I had done a good job of not giving into the situation. But the image of George Cowley and a terrier in serious discussion about the world terrorist situation was more than I could handle. I started laughing, hard, and didn't even try to stop.
I heard the mouse ask Ray, "Is he always this way?"
"No. Sometimes he doesn't take me seriously."
I was still laughing when Ray employed the best method he knows to quiet me when I'm on a roll. He came purposefully across the room, sat himself down in my lap and kissed me. It was the kind of kiss that left absolutely no doubt as to what he intended doing once everything was over. I stopped laughing, responding on pure, animal lust and returned the passion.
I heard the hamster say, "Crumbs! Boss, they're..."
"Yes, Penfold, I can see what they're..."
"But Chief, can they do that? I mean they're both..."
"Don't be a prude, Penfold. Takes all kinds. I knew a seagull once..."
"Enough!" I pulled away from the embrace. I was not going to sit still and have my love life compared to that of a seagull. Also, besides having the desired effect of stopping my merriment, Ray's kiss had also reminded me that it was our day off and that we had better ways of spending it than following one-eyed mice and suited hamsters on secret missions. "What's the assignment?"
We went to the table, Ray leading the way, naturally. On the table Dangermouse (silly name) had started pacing as he explained the situation. "Baron Greenback has dognapped her Majesty's Corgi and replaced it with this." He pulled out a blueprint looking document from behind his back and spread it out. "This is an exact mechanical replica of the dog, controlled by the Baron."
"What's the Baron?" I asked Ray quietly. "Gerbil?" I figured if I guessed it long enough I might get it right.
That surprised me, I mean so far they had all been cute, little furry things, not that I had anything against frogs but it was different. DM kept talking, pointing out things on the diagram. The list of weapons was impressive, besides a laser in the collar, (which wasn't all that impressive since it took ten minutes to re-charge), there was a continuing electric shock in the tail and the claws could be extended to three inches long.
"Now," DM concluded, "your part of the job is simple. Penfold and I have rescued the real Corgi. You and Doyle have to get the fake animal out of the way so we can put the real one back."
"Greenback," Penfold explained, "won't be expecting humans to be helping us."
Ray nodded, looking very serious. "We can use our ID to get pass the guards and get closer to the dog then you can."
"Hold on." I'm a little slow sometimes but I eventually catch up. "You expect us to use our ID to get pass the guards and dognap her Majesty's Corgi?"
"I believe that was what Doyle just said," DM pointed out.
"Oh, that's just wonderful." I ignored him. "I can see it now, after Palace Security calls the Cow - 'Yes, sir, we got pass the guards under false pretenses. Yes, sir, we grabbed the dog. No, sir, not on your orders. Well, under Colonel..."
"K," Ray volunteered.
"Colonel K's orders. No, sir, he's a terrier, sir. Well, sir, you see the mouse and the hamster said..." I stood up and started back toward the bedroom.
"Bodie," Ray called very softly. "I'm going."
"You'll have to leave within the hour to reach the horse show grounds on time," DM told Ray, making it clear that he had given up on me.
"Right." Ray went pass me toward the bedroom. He paused at the door, glanced back over his shoulder, green eyes veiled. "If I'm not back by ten, do start without me, mate. In fact, why don't you finish without me too."
The little bastard. He knows how to get me every time. I sighed, dream or not, at this point there'd be hell to pay if I didn't go. No, not hell, I only catch hell when Ray is really pissed. Like if I get hurt. This would earn me the cold silent, celibate treatment. I absolutely hate that because we both know that within two days I'm so randy I'll grovel to gain his forgiveness. I shrugged, what the hell, it was only a dream. I might as well go.
"That was easy enough," Doyle whispered softly.
He was right on that count. Security was woefully lax, something that I would have loved to have reported to Cowley but that would mean explaining what we were doing there so I immediately forgot it.
We were standing about fifteen feet from the royal family, including the fake royal dog. DM and Penfold, with the real royal pooch, were hidden in among the Mercedes and Rolls behind us on the field. The plan was simple. Doyle and I were to get the dog to follow us into the parked vehicles, bag the him at the same time as they released the real mutt to return with tail wagging happiness to it's loving owner. The major hitch being that we didn't have the foggiest idea as to how to get the damn fake dog to follow us.
The R/T Doyle was carrying beeped and a tinny voice carried over it. "I say," it was the mouse, "what seems to be the hold up, gentlemen?"
Doyle and I stood in embarrassed silence for a second before I gave in and said, "How do we get the bloody dog to follow us?"
There was an audible sigh, very clear, which made me wonder how the little rodent had gotten on our frequency to begin with. "Do hold on and I'll take care of it. Just keep your eyes on that dog."
He was sounding a lot like the Cow just then. I realized I was going to have a lot of trouble taking orders over the next few days. We waited, keeping the dog under close surveillance. Then, for no reason that either of us could see the dog got up and trotted toward the car park. No one paid any attention assuming, I guess that even a royal pet has to go to the tree once in awhile. I nudged Doyle and we followed at a fast walk.
"If it's this easy," I complained, "why the hell do they need us?"
"We've still got to grab the dog," Doyle reminded me.
Just as the mutt disappeared under the first car another Corgi, lead by a hamster and a mouse appeared going back toward the grounds. As they passed us DM called back, "I'll be back. Don't let him get away."
"We'll do our best," I said sarcastically. I drew my gun, more out of habit then any real intent to use it.
"Bodie," Doyle said reasonably, eyes wide open. "You let off a shot and we'll have every MI6, Palace Security and local cop down on our heads. Then that dialogue with Cowley might became a reality."
I shuddered at the mere thought, holestered the gun quickly. With the other hand I pointed left, motioned for him to go right. I moved around an ugly hot pink Rolls, wondering briefly why anyone would drive a car that color and caught a glimpse of the south end of a north bound canine. "Doyle, the woods!"
The dog, robot, whatever disappeared into a stand of trees that stood between the road and the grounds. I was surprised at how fast the beast was. I heard Doyle running up behind me.
"I'll cut him off," He yelled as he circled toward the road.
I went straight after the creature, in, as Americans say, hot pursuit. I had forgotten one thing, I wasn't chasing a dog. The next thing I knew the tree branch nearest my head was suddenly sheared off by a bright blue light. Cursing loudly I dove for the oak to my right, and drew my gun. I figured it didn't make any difference now since the laser blast would draw guards like solicitors to an accident. Luck was with us though for Prince William took that moment to imitate his father and fall off his pony. No one was paying the slightest bit of attention to anything else.
The underbrush wasn't thick but it was enough to make seeing one small Corgi difficult. From the other side of the woods I heard Doyle coming through the brush. There was a flash of brown from almost under my right foot and the dog was moving again.
"Doyle!" I could just make out that Doyle was carrying some sort of net with him. Good thinking that. I would have to ask him whose idea it was, his or the mouse. I know who I'd put my quid on.
It is with complete modesty that I can say the Three Stooges at their best could not have staged a better chase. I went right, the dog went left. Doyle went left, the dog went right. I tripped over a branch, Doyle tripped over me and the dog ran by both of us. We played cat and mouse, or cat and dog, or dog and mouse, for what seemed like hours but was really only several minutes before Doyle finally let out a loud, "Got ya!" And went head first, net out before him into a stand of brush. The move was immediately followed by a sharp yell of surprise then, "Bodie!" I moved.
Doyle had him - it, more or less. More less actually. He had managed to get the net over him, and yank the collar off, thereby removing his major weapon, and had him pinned firmly to the ground. The problem was that the tail, complete with electric charge was swinging dangerously close to the golli's ribs. And the extra sharp claws were making a real mess of the netting, parting it like wet spaghetti.
I stood still for no more than a second looking for the best opening. But that second was a second too long in Doyle's opinion. "Are you bloody well just going to stand there?" he demanded. "Do something!"
At that moment Penfold decided it was time to enter the fray. "I've got him, Chief!" He zipped pass my foot.
The tail swung away from my partner right for the hamster. Hamster or not, bad taste suit or not, one does not just let a colleague, no matter what his size, get killed. So I stuck my hand down between Penfold and the tail. The thought of just knocking Penfold out of the way never occurred to me, which is too bad because that was just what happened to me. I got knocked. About ten feet. Right into a very large, very solid oak. (Actually it could have been a larch.) Not that it mattered much. I hit the tree, then hit the ground arse first then everything sort of fuzzed out.
"Bodie." Ray was very gently patting my cheek. I keep my eyes closed, waiting for him to employee his other method of waking me up. A second later he kissed me very softly. One of these days he's going to catch on to me. Of course if he did I'd still keep doing it and so would he. Could be he already knows.
I smiled, what a hell of a dream. I couldn't wait to tell Ray. When I got my eyes open it was to find myself in the middle of a stand of trees with a concerned partner kneeling next to me with a one-eyed mouse and a bespeckled hamster standing on my knee. "Shit," I commented.
DM frowned, obviously not liking my profanity. But he asked sincerely, "How are you?"
Before I could answer Penfold chimed up. "Crumbs, sir, you saved my life back there! If there's ever anything I can do for you, you just name it. Anything at all, if I can do it, it's yours. Just name..."
"Penfold," DM quieted him. "Do control yourself."
I glanced around. "Where's the dog?" Having never been very fond of canines anyway and seeing as how this one was mechanical, I saw no reason for not giving it a headache to match the one I had.
"The 'dog' is well taken care of." DM smiled. He pulled some sort of remote control from behind his back, (Where did he fit all that stuff?) pressed a button on it and from above me a small bright orange and green car dropped down out of the trees. Flying cars. Why not. The dog was safely suspended beneath it in a steel net. It's tail was missing.
The dog's jaw dropped open and this very creaky, very nasal voice said loudly, "Dangermouse, you may have foiled this plan but you'll never hold me. I'll be back."
"Don't be so certain, Baron." DM lowered the car a little more and he and Penfold jumped in. "The real Corgi is back were he belongs, and we'll take charge of this brute." He looked over at me. "And by the by, thanks ever so much for saving Penfold. Good partners are incredibly hard to find."
I smiled. "Yeah, I know."
Ray tugged at my arm. "Come on, sunshine. Let's go home."
"Hang about." I suddenly knew how Penfold could repay me. "Penfold, how did DM save Doyle's life?" I could hear Ray cringe beside me. Surprisingly enough, he stayed quiet.
"Oh, crumbs, that was early part of December 1975, Mr. Bodie. Doyle..."
"Penfold!" DM barked, well, as much as a mouse can. "That's classified information."
"Class..." My jaw dropped. There is no justice in the world. I caught Doyle winking at DM then he waved and they were gone.
Ray was tugging at me again as I tried to get over the fact that after going through whatever it was I had just gone through I still didn't have the story.
I fell asleep on the drive home so the next thing I knew Ray was shaking me awake. (Kissing in the car in broad daylight being right out.) But once inside he made up for it. Just before shoving two aspirin and a glass of water in my hand.
"Take them, then to bed with you," he ordered gently.
The look I gave him was menacing enough so that he knew that once we were in bed I intended to have the story out of him, one way or another. He only smiled challengingly back. This could be fun. As he took his jacket off he pulled a very small piece of paper out of a pocket and handed it across to me.
"Here. Put this some place safe. It's DM's private number. He gave it to me while you were out." He smiled again, a pleased sort of smile. "He really was very happy you saved Penfold. He just didn't want to show it too much. Reminds me of someone I know. Said to tell you that the favor was more than paid and if you ever needed him to just call."
I took the slip. "Oh, goody, just what I need, a phone number for an imaginary mouse."
Ray shook his head in exasperation, threw his hands up, and vanished into the bedroom. I looked at the paper, then at the wastebasket, then back at the paper, then at the number book by the phone. I slipped the paper under the letter D. Well, after all, you never can tell.
-- THE END --