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Re: HOUSEPETS! THE SERIES Official Thread
HOUSEPETS! THE SERIES
Episode 17 – Dealing with it
Florence House, Babylon Gardens
The black-furred paws gently grabbed the red silk tablecloth’s corner and folded it into a neat triangle. Then the cloth went into a box, completing the neat pile of the last object to be moved from that house: fifteen different tarot cards decks, a zodiac panel, a book on coffee tables that could be used as coffee table (the only sign that its owner had a latent humor sense) and, inside a blue velvet box, a necklace with an eye of Ra tag.
“This is the last, boys,” Sabrina said, closing the box and sealing it with brown tape.
“And make sure you used only neuter colors to seal them and mark them,” said another voice from the room. “Last thing I want is the warehouse to get covered with ectoplasm.”
Peanut and Fido came out the room. Peanut was carrying a heavy box, grunting. “I can’t believe she could keep all that stuff in one room!”
Sabrina marked the box with a deep brown marker, then let Fido took it. “Are you sure you didn’t own…something else?” he asked. With that last box, the house looked as if the burglar had had the time of his life in it.
The black cat pecked her dog’s nose. “I guess that this is a good moment to rediscover a normal life. Consider it a sign of renewal, just like the imminent births.”
Peanut was coming back in that moment. “Hey, guys, I put my last box awa—“
“There was this too!” Fido said, giving, or rather almost throwing the last box into the other poor dog’s arms. Peanut ‘oomphed’, but managed not to drop it.
Fido took Sabrina’s paws in his. “Listen, there is a thing I wanted to ask you. But you must promise me not to get worked up, okay?”
She raised an eyebrow. “And what would that be, my love?” Fido had acted strangely since his return from that mission in another timeline. The way he was looking at her, like he was scared to speak out… “Fido, you know you can trust me. Tell me.”
“Would you consider adopt a kitten? Or a puppy?”
She had the curious sensation that it wasn’t her Fido, but the doppelganger.
Fido wouldn’t ask her about…adopting. He had two mates, her and his job.
Sabrina wasn’t simply at a loss for words, she was at a loss for thoughts. Fido was holding paws with a Mme Tussaud’s statue.
“That would be such a nice idea,” said Tarot from her room. “This place surely needs new life, not echoes of the past ones. *tch* It will take a lot of work to properly exorcise it…”
“Sabrina?” Fido asked. “Are you all right?”
“Ah, sorry, guys,” Peanut said at that moment, walking up the stairs. “The tape got stuck in my paw fur, Sab! Can you help me?” He was trying to pull it away, but all he had managed to do was to curl the tape into a sticky ball. “Owchie,” he said every time he pulled.
Fido sighed, though he was happy for that interruption –what the fur had gotten into him?! He couldn’t drop such a bomb out of the blue! Stupid, Fido, stupid!
He let go of Sabrina. “Give it one pull, instead of little ones. It’ll hurt only a moment.”
“Thank you.” Peanut grabbed the tape ball and pulled.
“Wait! I forgot to tell, use a glove on the other paw, or—“ too late. Peanut had pulled, and the tape stuck to his other paw, and the paw went against Sabrina’s chest.
Peanut blushed. “Err, whoops?”
“I’ll go take some water,” Fido offered.
“Ah, don’t worry, this time I’ll take more care!”
“No, wait!” both dog and cat said.
RRRIIIPPP! Came from Florence House. Just as if a wall had been cleaned with one stroke from a year worth of wallpaper.
Then, Peanut’s voice. “Er, whoops. Uh, I got some krazy glue home for your fur? Don’t look at me like that, guys, it was an accident! Hey, Sabrina, what big teeth you have…”
Lucky Charm Grove for the Abandoned and the Ferals
Evelyn Sunman was nervous. Even moreso than when she had dealt with the social assistant. That was the easy part, convince her peers that she was fit to adopt two dogs, and she wasn’t exactly in her prime.
But she was sure this visit would go fine. That, or she was going to hit the nearest bottle… Okay, no need to be so drastic, but she wanted a family of her own so much! She had always been envious of every single human being who walked out the shelter with a child! But she had also vowed to give her best to the shelter, to help more innocents…
Okay, relax, girl! Now you’re officially retired, that nice Bill will take your place and you’re gonna enjoy your well-deserved family time!
And if they said they were not interested, she’s kidnap them and go live in Cuba!
“I hope you like Samba…” Evelyn knocked at the door. “May I?” she asked, opening it.
“Miss Sunman!!” Her name was Mirai, Japanese for ‘future’. But it had revealed a cruel joke, for Mirai, a mixed breed pup with the most colorful fur you could see on a dog, suffered from a disease that made her vulnerable to many common illnesses. Her life expectation was short, about half a normal animal.
That didn’t make her less lively, as she proved by running to the elder human and jumping in her arms without that the woman had to bend down to pick her up. The pup was smiling excitedly and her little fluffy tail was in overdrive mode. “Otis and I were studying the solar system! Did you know that one of Mars’ moons will fall on its surface one day? Our Moon, instead, will be far, far away from us. Did you know?”
The Doberman Otis was looking at them from the desk, where the computer was running the educational software. As usual, his expression was one of expectation and anxiety. That poor creature had bet everything and lost everything just to save her, thinking her owners were mistreating her... And the pup, hungry for affection, had immediately developed a strong attachment to Otis.
Evelyn nodded, while ruffling her head fur. “I was a school teacher, dear, I taught a lot of things like that. Heh, all my pupils wanted to be astronauts, at a time or the other. And you? Wanna be an astronaut too?”
She nodded eagerly. “I’ll be just like Laika, I’ll orbit around the world and drink cupfuls taken from the Milky Way!”
Evelyn kissed the pup on her head. “You’ll do just that, brave astronaut.” Carrying her, she went to the bed. She sat down, then used her free hand to pat on the mattress, inviting Otis to join them.
Frowning, the Doberman went and sat beside the woman. Evelyn handed the pup to him, and Otis wrapped her protectively. His gaze still showed doubt, threw silent questions.
The woman said, “I have resigned from the position of Director of this Shelter. I am going to get a temporary job of running a sort of mixed species community at a nearby farm. It’s a big house, there will be lots of animals, and you’ll have an occasion to start anew. As part of my family.”
That made the two dogs’ ears perk up. Otis was going to speak, when again Mirai started wagging crazy. “You’re going to be our new Mommy?! Yay!” Her expression turned suddenly blue. “I mean, sorry, ma’am. Can we call you Mom?”
Evelyn stroked her chin with a finger. “Dear, I expect no less of you.”
Mirai beamed up again. *thump thump thump thump* went her tail against Otis’ chest.
Evelyn said, “I also expect you to be playful with the other animals, to study, to be a nice girl, and to eat your food… And I expect you, Otis, to be her guardian angel just like you are being now.”
The big dog seemed doubtful. “Are you sure? I mean, I—“
“I know you’re a good boy,” she interrupted him, stroking his thigh. “During my years as teacher, I met so many young humans who had their own…bouts of misfortune. And if they deserved a chance to redemption, so do you. Mirai needs you, you’re more family to her than everyone else.”
“You will come with me to the farm, will you Otis? We’ll play together and do school together and know the farm animals…” she nuzzled against him. “You won’t leave me, right? Do you like to be with me, right?”
The Doberman ran a claw along her back, ruffling her fur. “Of course I like to be with you, lady. Remember? Together forever, just as I promised you.” He looked at the woman. “Will be there any work for us, at this…farm?”
Evelyn shook her head. “If you two really want, something may be found. We’ll see. For now, all I want is to take care of you children. So?”
Otis scoffed. “Heh, I’m a bit too old to be called ‘child’, but hey, as long as I can stay with this fuzzball…” He held out his paw to shake. “Thank you, ma’-Mom.”
Appearances could be deceiving, and so was young age.
Robin Keaton, magna mack truck laude, Ph.D., could still look like a freshman, and his degree at Yale was so fresh that one could stain his hands with its ink, but his papers on Pet Psychiatrics was destined to become a best-seller in that field. Keaton was Martin Foster’s first choice for the head of psychiatry at the shelter.
Robin’s educational curriculum reflected his devotion to the animal world. But that devotion had its price…literally. The young doctor was heavily indebted, just like many peers in his position. When he got out of the university, he was a conflicted man: he could easily start to work for rich clients, pay up his debts with a couple of years of work, sell his thesis and make extra money, work to apply for a teaching position…
But Robin wanted to help the helpless, put his thesis to work on the traumatized strays, the creatures who desperately needed a family instead of being put down. But he couldn’t do that without money to open his own study. And in these times, banks weren’t keen on helping out young indebted vets, especially psychiatrists.
Foster’s offer for a well-paid job and a chance to publish his thesis was like the proverbial manna. Robin had accepted without hesitation, finding in that guy not a rich, spoiled man, but one who wanted to make money count!
Right now, Robin Keaton felt a lot of frustration for the challenge awaiting him.
Zeke and Quincy Jones, two Dalmatian brothers, ex-police dogs, didn’t look like they would break their vow of silence and defiance.
They had worked as double agents, at the same time feigning to be PETA infiltrators and collecting information for their real masters –people who had undoubtedly trained them well. If these dogs were humans, it was doubtful torture would break them.
The DA’s office was working night and day to fathom the nature of those information, but to no avail. In the age of Internet, Zeke and Quincy had worked the old fashion, using only paper trail and voice. And any compromising paper would be burnt.
On top of that, not even the certainty of being put down for their misdeeds could shake them. Analyses showed no signs of physical trauma, old or recent. Their trainer had worked in a very professional manner with them. And it took time, and a high degree of specialization, to make a pet dog to work against the system from within.
That was the most important clue, to Keaton: why send highly trained dogs in a covert mission to the precinct of a suburban pet-friendly community? Foster was a target, and so were the Milton ferrets, but both had even published a book with their biographies. Foster had made a courageous step, admitting he had abandoned his brother and pets to his abusive family, but the books also illustrated his path through that hell and to redemption in vivid details. The ferrets proved that ol’ Milton was an eccentric guy but a honest mogul at heart –a rare oxymoron.
In other words, police held no records of misbehaviors from the Foster or the Milton family.
Robin Keaton helped himself to another cup of water. A good tactic was to make his interlocutors believe he was getting nervous rather than the other way around. It gave them confidence. “Do you think they will come to set you free?”
Robin drank a couple of sips. “Do you actually think they will come to rescue on a limo? Guys, you are expendable.”
Which brought him and the DA to the owners: Mr. and Mrs. Jones had disappeared into thin air, provided they existed at all. Few contacts, they were said to be working on night shifts. And of course no one knew what was their job. If they had had a computer, it was gone with them. All payments had been made with cash –small amounts, to make sure they’d leave no trail.
Again, pure professionals at work. You didn’t cover up so good just to hack into the police’ database. And there was literally no one with records worth such attention –or so Foster had confided him, and Foster had ears and eyes like CIA’s. That guy scared Robin, sometime…
“So what?” Zeke said, talking for the first time since they had been deported to the shelter. “This is such a nice place, not bad as a death row. Even if they put us down, they’d do it in the most humane way possible. Not so bad a deal, after all.”
Robin shook his head. There were three chapters, in his thesis, dealing with this kind of attitude. A part of him wished he had had subjects like these two Dalmatians while writing it. They’d make a movie out of these spy dogs! “In one week you will be dead. What’s worth it? I am pretty sure it’s not hate that motivates you: why risk it all?”
Zeke and Quincy Jones didn’t answer.
At the shelter’s main entrance, a minibus with the colors and the logo of the LCG came to a halt.
Joel Foster had the task to welcome the new guests to their new (hopefully temporary) home. It wasn’t an easy job, but he had specifically asked for it: if he wanted to be in the business, even if he still didn’t share his older brother’s devotion for animals, he had all intentions to earn his seat in this place. He was honestly tired of being a lowlife.
The bus’ door opened, and out came one single dog. Thank Lord for small favors.
Animal Control had tried to give the pup a scrubbing, but that young mixed breed still needed a thorough one. The silvery striped medium fur still showed gasoline stains, it showed old scars from brawls, and he definitely smelled like street.
The file from AC said his name was Elias ‘Tommy’ DiLero. Five years. The chip had been ripped off in a fight, tattoo had become unreadable. But with Elias’ help, they could trace his owner, a Mattias DiLero, dead two years earlier in a car wreck.
Which left a question open: why a dog perfectly capable of going to Animal Control and ID himself would waste two years wandering in the streets? Joel decided it was worth a check –and perhaps he’d climb a couple or three steps up the ladder, here…
Joel extended his hand to the dog, introducing himself.
The dog shook hands. “Charmed. You can call me Tommy. Like the gun, you know. Do you like my scarf? Dad regalata me.”
Was that an Italian word? “Nice stuff,” Joel said, though it was difficult to see the original green tissue – wool or cotton? – under all those stains. “Before we do the checkup, though, I’ll have to see it washed, okay?” If Doc Stanwick saw that thing in his uberclean room, he’d take two scalpels and make a cross with them, chanting in Latin to exorcise the filthy presence.
“Since you came back from the Shelter, you started lavishing Tarot with attentions,” Grape said. “Bad doggie, are you already looking for a new wife only because I look like the Hindenburg, now?”
“You said it, not me,” Peanut said, while brushing the cat’s tail. He loved so much that tail. He really needed to get back to work to his Christmas present but he also needed some cuddles.
“You’re doing it again, love.”
“Hmruf?” Only then the dog realized he was holding the tail around his neck like a scarf, his expression dreamy in bliss. He blushed slightly. “Err, softy?”
Grape sighed. “Just don’t do that when the birth comes. I’d like it to be a solemn occasion, not the memory for the World’s Funniest.”
“Promise,” Peanut said, but kept nuzzling the tail-scarf.
The doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it!” Peanut said, already on his way to the door, the cat’s tail still hanging for a moment in the shape he had left it.
“Max, you know the rules, this is not the mo—“ Peanut was saying before the door was even completely open.
He stopped dead in his track. His eyes went pinpoint, really not expecting this guest.
Not one who looked like a reflection of his old self in a time-distorting mirror.
“When you’re finished gawking like a groupie before Rin Tin Tin, would you like to introduce me to my daughter-in-law?” Budweiser said.