Baby’s First Noir
He had planned to go to Petey the Possum’s, but not to hurt him. He was just going to scare him and explain why it was wrong to have friends like Chipper and Chopper. When he got there though, he saw Bertie the Bunny and Wally the Weasel going in. Then he heard Petey scream.
As he ran across the opening toward Petey’s tree, he saw something he had sort of expected. Billy the Badger came running out from the bushes, gun in hand. Billy stopped when his eyes fixed on the squirrel. He looked confussed for a moment, until his old friend hissed at him.
“Wally and Bertie.”
“You stay here.” Billy said aiming his big paw at him. “I’ve got to call for back up.”
Petey screamed again, but this time the scream was cut off by a sudden sharp shot and a flash of light. The two animals looked at the tree and headed quickly for cover as Bertie was shoved out of the door, followed by Wally.
“I tolds you, nones of that on the ‘tard.”
“Just having some fun with him.” Bertie said.
“Nones of that.” Wally repeated as they walked away.
“They’d get off.” The squirrel said standing up and starting to stalk the two of them.
“You can’t.” Billy said, grabbing his arm.
“Take your hand off me Billy.” He snapped. “If you’re not going to take me in, then just leave me the hell alone.”
Billy watched as he stalked after them, wondering if he should follow.
Outside of Benny’s Dinner, Wally made a phone call.
“He went nuts.” Wally said into the phone. “Started cutting bits of the tard off.”
Had they been watching carefully, they would have seen a grey squirrel slowly moving towards them. They might also have seen the small mouse who served as owner and short order cook, coming from the other direction. Bertie stared at the ground though, and only looked when the squirrel deliberately kicked a can across the street.
“You don’ts talk.” Wally snapped.
“Fuck.” Bertie said as he saw the squirrel pull a knife from his pocket and depress the button that snapped the blade into place.
Bertie started to reach into his pocket, but there was suddenly a weight on his back. Wally turned to see the mouse, in white pants and a t-shirt, leap on Bertie’s back and wrap a length of wire around his neck twice before pulling the ends tight. Bertie made a sound like “GACK!” before all sound was cut off. The bunny reared back and the two of them smashed into the phone booth, toppling it over.
Wally watched the phone as he fell over, and the glass shattered around him. His face was cut by the falling shards and his snout was broken when the phone snapped off and crashed into his face. He was just getting to grips with the pain of this when there was a new sharp, painful stab in his side. A paw pressed his head against the glass and pavement and someone started to talk to him.
“I wasn’t going to kill Petey.” The squirrel said. “You shouldn’t have either.”
A fresh lance of pain went up from his neck, where the squirrel had slashed across the vein. He could feel himself bleeding out, and still tried to pull himself from the wreckage of the phone booth. He died before he could so much as pull himself up though, and he slumped back into the booth.
“How are you Benny?” He asked, looking at the dead weasel.
“Fine.” Benny said, putting his foot into Bertie’s back and using his full weight to make sure that the bunny was dead. He started to make a swinging motion, pulling the ends back and forth. “Just making sure.”
The thin metal wire cut in deep and the white fur around Bertie’s neck started to turn pink. Benny let one end go and made a quick knot, yanking hard to make sure the air would remain cut off and left Bertie in place. He then pulled out a pair of small wire cutters and snipped the ends away, so as to take the wooden dowels he used for handles with him.
“Been wanting an excuse to kill this bastard for years.” Benny said. “Damn Vichy collaborator gets to come over here and kill our people.”
“Yeah.” The squirrel nodded. “They killed Petey.”
“Can’t let Big Tony get away with that.” He reached into Wally’s coat and extracted the hand gun, checking the shells and replacing the one fired round with a fresh shell he found in Wally’s pocket.
“You could you know.” Benny said. “Just let it end with these guys.”
“Can’t Benny.” He said. “So long as weasels and Vichy scum can come over here, like the war never happened, and kill decent forest folk like that.”
“You think you can make Big Tony pay?”
“Sure.” He said.
“Good luck brother.”
He left Benny, and started his way to Big Tony’s. It was surprisingly close, even though Benny’s place was no dive, it was not in the better part of the forest. One would think that Big Tony could afford to live somewhere else. He slid the revolver into his pocket and went looking for him.
It wasn’t hard to get into the night club, wasn’t hard to get to Big Tony. The whole thing seemed just a little too easy, but he didn’t let that bother him. There were small red squirrels dancing on the stage, wearing far less than the Morality Board would allow if their influence could ever penetrate this sort of place. He saw Ruby, waiting the tables, as he walked in. Better not to let on he knew her though, better not to get her involved.
“Hello Tony.” He said standing across from the massive fat raccoon as he approached the table.
“You can’t talk to Big Tony.” A goonish looking stoat said grabbing his arm.
“Tell your stoat to take his hands off me, or I’ll make him eat them.” he said, smiling at the large crime boss.
“HA!” Big Tony announced. “I like that, have a seat.”
“I only came to find something out.” He said, sitting down and letting his hand drift into his pocket. “Did you send Wally and Bertie to get Petey tonight?”
“I want to have a talk with Petey.” Big Tony said. “Some friends of his have gotten themselves into some trouble with me and I want to know if he was involved.”
“Like robbing somebody and setting him on fire trouble?” he asked.
“Was it you?” Big Tony asked, merely curious.
“Damn right it was.” He said, pulling out the revolver and pointing it at the middle of Big Tony’s mass. “And why do you say talk when Bertie and Wally killed the poor possum?”
The music had died, everyone was watching the squirrel pointing his gun at the raccoon. The entire room held its breath, waiting for the next thing to come.
“All I wanted was to talk to him.” Big Tony said. “Wally called me and said Bertie got out of hand. What he did to Petey was mercy.”
“Mercy?” the squirrel asked, and fired four times into the big fat raccoon.
He then turned and fired into the skull of the stoat sitting next to him, but another gunner fired and he felt knocked off his feet. He fell to the floor, but managed to turn around and shoot the second stoat off balance. He got to his feet, grabbing a gun from one of the fallen and put to more rounds into the second stoat’s head. He started to stumble out of the club and without realizing she was there, found himself leaning on Ruby.
“You shouldn’t be here.” He told her as they stumbled out into the night. “Go home, spend all the acorns, buy a place in the city.”
“You just hush now.” She said as she tried to move him along, but the weight was too much for her.
He fell down, under the glow of a solitary street lamp. She cradled his head as he lay, gasping and trying to remember what you were supposed to do if you got shot. He couldn’t remember, bleed out seemed like the obvious answer. There seemed to be sirens, but they were far off in the distance.
He could have sworn he heard Billy’s voice, asking what happened, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. Nothing matters, just let it go. All the pain is over, all the struggle is gone. Ruby will be fine, she’s a rich squirrel now. She won’t even be able to enter her tree for all the nuts stuffed in there, she and just leave for the city tonight and find a nice safe place. He could feel a comforting coldness, and there was some kind of music, and a warm dark coming in. He closed his eyes, and embraced the darkness.
“So it’s over.” Owl said. “Big Tony is gone, and the whole thing is wound up in a nice little package.”
“It’s not.” Billy said. “There’s all the nuts that Ruby had, there was some situation that the group was in dutch with Tony about.”
“She just happened to get them.” Owl said, while stuffing his pipe. “Who cares how? If we find out those were Chopper’s nuts, what good does it take to give them back? Let this one close, and let nice people get away to the city.”
“But…” Billy said. “The Law.”
“The law is an ass.” Owl said, lighting a match. “Listen, take your retirement. I’ll shuffle the books a little, make it that your time is up. I think this forest has gotten to you. You deserve time away. Take it.”
Billy left Owl’s office, left the tree, and thought about just leaving the forest entirely. He felt like a fraud, like a shadow puppet of a police officer. There was no law, no order, just a level of corruption that some animals felt comfortable with. The corruption was so endemic, that it was just a question of who was it corrupt for?
Billy took Owl up on the offer, taking his retirement soon after that. He left the forest and soon got a nice place in the city. It even had a pond, where he could go fishing on occasion.
Some time later, he happened to look Ruby up and went to have a look at her. She was living in a swanky hi-rise, with her daughter, a young red and gray squirrel. He didn’t talk to her, just had a look and left. They looked happy and he had no reason to interfere.
Baby’s First Noir
When the sun came up, it was on a forest that was different than the one that it had seen when it went down. For one, it had gone down with Reddy the Rat all snuggled up in bed, and when it came up, he was tired to a sunflower’s thick stem. He’d been there most of the night, while his captor took most of his personal stash away. It was more than his cut of the squirrel’s stash, more than they’d originally taken from him in fact. By this point though, the squirrel had decided on a new plan. It was hours before he came back with the shillelagh that Reddy had brought with him from Ireland. After that, he’d just paced back and forth, as if trying to decide what to do with him.
“I can see you’re angry.” Reddy said for the fifteenth time. “I understand that, but look, it was just a job for hire. Chirpy and Chopper took it too far, that can’t be denied, but I was just along for the acorns.”
“Uh huh.” The squirrel said, walking back and forth, waving the cudgel.
“Smacking my head in with that shillelagh isn’t going to fix anything.” Reddy said, for only the eighth time.
“Uh-huh.” The squirrel said for the fifty-third time.
“I’m just making the point boy-o.” Third time.
“Yeah.” The squirrel said, for a change of pace.
He looked at the cudgel in his hand. He’d be damned if he’d use the name Reddy used. It was mostly a walking stick, but it had a large round knob of a handle that could be used as a club to kill an animal if needs be.
“Won’t you talk to me?” Reddy demanded.
“You know how cold kerosene is when it soaks into your fur Reddy?” He asked suddenly loquacious. “And you know it’ll be so damn hot when it lights. And you stood there and handed Chirpy your lighter.”
“Not me, me boy-o.” Reddy demanded.
“Yes.” He said, and swung the stick.
Reddy’s head snapped hard to the left, and as he lifted his head to look, another blow smashed against his head again. And then another, followed by another. That fourth blow was all that Reddy was aware of, but the blows continued until the stick broke. As that point, the squirrel picked up the end of the stick and finding it had a sharp point, rammed it into Reddy’s neck.
Blood only gushed a little, which meant that Reddy was probably already dead when the stab was made, but he had to be sure. He went down to the river and washed himself off, as he did every time, making a little ritual out of it. He cleaned his fur carefully, wiping his face and paws off, then he dipped into the river and shook around in it before getting out and shaking himself off vigorously.
He wasn’t sure about going back to Ruby’s at first, because she didn’t like this, but it was cold and he needed warmth. He was also afraid of Billy watching her place. Billy might talk about the one day when they’d take care of Big Tony, but that was just the one day that’d never come and they both knew it. He decided to risk going to Ruby’s though.
She wasn’t home when he got there though. She was still at work and as such, wasn’t able to see the huge pile of nuts he’d procured. He laid down on part of the pile and after such a hard night went to sleep.
Billy the Badger sat in Ollie the Owl’s office, looking at his superior. Chief Owl was probably the wisest and most sensible animal in the entire forest, so Billy always came to see him when he we troubled. Ollie was so revered, almost everyone simply called him Owl.
“Tell me the problem.” Owl said, stuffing his pipe carefully.
“There’s an old friend of mine.” Billy said, feeling small under Owl’s gaze. Owl was probably the only animal in the forest that could make Billy feel small.
“The squirrel?” Owl asked. “His name was…”
“Yeah.” Billy said. “Chopper’s crowd beat him up, stole his acorns, tried to burn him alive.
“And we know this because of the reports he filed?” Owl asked, striking a match and lowering it towards the bowl.
“Would this be why Choppatansky and Chippering were all killed by someone while Chintzertella was killed by someone else?” Owl asked simply, managing to keep accusation out of his voice. “Because of their attempt to kill your friend?”
“You could say that.” Billy nodded, noticing that he was knotting his hands in his lap and trying to force himself to stop.
“Well, we know that Bit Tony had Bertie kill young Chintzertella.” Owl said, leaning back and drawing on his pipe. “So it could be that he heard about how the situation got out of control and took corrective action.”
“No sir.” Billy said shaking his head.
“Really?” Owl asked, setting his pipe down on the pipe stand at his elbow.
“My friend the squirrel killed the two of them.” Billy said. “But we fought in the war together Ollie.”
“Ah.” Owl said, nodding his head and picking the pipe back up. “Do you know how many crimes are committed in this forest everyday?”
“Sir?” Billy asked.
“One hundred and forty-two reported crimes. Everyday William. Most of them are tiny things. Traffic citations and so forth. Less than a third are actually serious, and even them fully a half of those are somewhat petty. Is a mouse stealing some bread to feed his family really committing a crime?”
“Yes.” Billy said.
“Maybe, but then there are those that fall into that sliver.” Owl formed his wings to show a small wedge. “That’s where violent crime exists. And you see, Billy, even there we have poor souls who have just made a mistake. Someone comes home early and finds their wife in bed with their best friend, or are driving too fast, or driving drunk, these things can happen. But in that sliver is a smaller sliver, where the repeat offenders live. Choppatansky and his bunch. They hurt people over and over again, for fun and profit. They are not civilized animals, not like you or me.”
“What are you trying to tell me?” Billy asked.
“That the forest is better without that sort.” Owl said. “And if your friend is doing what comes naturally to him, then it saves us the trouble of getting that sort.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.” Billy said.
“Crime is a plague on this city William.” Owl stated. “It has to be stopped by every mean. We’re not able to live valiantly, we can’t fight the good fight, we can only hope to keep the top of the pot from popping off and exploding. If something like this happens, and it scares a few of the local punks, all the better. It’s a filthy old forest William, and we can’t keep our hands clean even if we try. So why try? Every tool at our disposal William, every tool.”
“He’s got no back up.” Billy said.
At that moment the phone rang, and Owl reached over to answer it.
“Yes? Yes, he’s here.” He held the phone out to Billy.
“Hello?” Billy asked.
“It’s Stout, Billy.”
“We found Reddy.” He said simply. “You think we should put some protection on Petey?”
“Yes.” Billy said. “I’ll be there in a little while.”
“Well?” Owl asked, sucking on his pipe.
“Someone killed Reddy the Rat.” Billy said.
“Marvelous.” Owl nodded, “Then it’s all done.”
“I only wish it was.” Billy said, getting up.
Baby’s First Noir
The squirrel was sitting at the counter of Benny’s café with a cup of coffee in front of him. Billy sat down on the stool next to him and waved to Benny behind the counter. The mouse behind the counter, nodded to Billy and poured him a cup of coffee. He set it down, looking at the empty counter, all those empty chairs, and then looked at the two animals sitting next to each other. Benny was a bright fellow, having gotten through the war by being smart, and went to the back to make some eggs.
“Haven’t seen you around for a while.” Billy said.
“Haven’t been around.” The squirrel said.
“I heard what happened to your place.”
“And what did you do about it?”
“Looked for you.”
“Did you find me?”
“You didn’t want to be found.” Billy stirred some sugar into his coffee.
“You’re staying with someone?”
“A nice little red.” The squirrel said. “She’s too young for me, but she doesn’t seem to know that.”
“That must be nice.” Billy said.
“I heard what happened to Betty.” He commented. “Sorry.
“Well, that happens sometimes.” Billy said,
“You part of this?”
“You know I should take you in.” Billy said as he watched Benny cooking the eggs.
“I know.” He said. “But you won’t.”
“I can’t cover up for murder.”
“I know.” The squirrel said.
“You want some Billy?” Benny said as he came from the kitchen with a plate of scrambled eggs.
“Yeah.” Billy nodded.
“Right back.” Benny told him and left for the kitchen.
“You could just say it was Big Tony, cleaning house.” The squirrel suggested as he sipped his coffee.
“He is.” Billy said. “You want to talk about it?”
“They did this,” he said, turning on his chair so Billy could see the side of his face. It was the first time Billy had seen his left side, and it looked bad.
“That’s pretty bad.”
“Looked worse before. They took my stash, burned my place. They would have killed me if I wasn’t so damn fast.”
“And you decided to get even.”
“Just getting my stuff back.” He said.
“You know a cut went to Big Tony.” Billy told him. “If you want it all, you’ve got to go after Big Tony.”
“I am aware of that.”
“I’ll probably have to give Big Tony a miss.”
“I don’t remember you talking like that back in the day.”
“You want me to go after him?”
“No.” Billy said “There’s no army to back us up this time.”
“Wasn’t really an army backing us up back then either.” He said as he forked more egg into his mouth. “Just a lot of numb nuts sitting around waiting for someone else to do all the work. It could be done, but you’d have to have make it so that his empire would fall collapse into factions and blame each other for it. Make it look like a hit.”
“That’s not easy.” Billy said. “And I’d have to take you in.”
“You telling me that they don’t deserve it?”
“I’m still a cop.” Billy said. “And we’re no where near as corrupt and you think we are.”
“Hmm.” He said.
“Yeah.” Billy said. “I can’t pin anything on you now, and maybe I don’t have to try too hard, but don’t make me have to come after you. You could go to the city or something, take that cute red with you.”
“And let them do it to someone else?”
“How many where there?”
“You gonna kill all five?”
“Can’t.” he said. “Wally and Bertie got Chintzy.”
“You know that for a fact?”
“Come in and testify, we could take down a bunch of them.”
“No we can’t.” He shook his head. “Bertie is too useful to Big Tony, and I’m just some no body that can be rubbed out.”
“Oh come on.”
“No.” He shook his head. “Besides, they’d go after Ruby.”
“I think the DA is on Big Tony’s payroll anyway.”
“We’d have to do it ourselves.”
“Can’t.” Billy said. “Cop.”
“We could though.” Benny said coming out from behind the counter. “How many are left?”
“Two.” The Squirrel said. “Reddy the Rat and Petey Possum.”
“You can’t go after Petey.” Benny said. “He’s what you call it, not right in the head. His attic ain’t furnished. They probably just brought him along because they wanted someone who would smack you without asking questions.”
“Petey was part of it.” He said.
“We can take care of Pete.” Billy said. “I can’t talk you into swearing out a complaint for Reddy? We could take him in.”
“Yeah.” Benny said brightly. “Have him fall down some stairs or something.”
“It’s occurred to me in the past.” Billy said.
“And you a cop.” The squirrel said.
“Gonna retire soon.” Billy said. “Might not even loose my pension.”
“I’ve gotta go.” The squirrel said looking at his watch.
“Remember what I said.” Billy told him. “I don’t want to have to come after you.”
“Yeah.” he said pushing his way through the door. “I’ll remember.”
“That was fun to talk about.” Benny said. “But you better be careful, he might be thinking you’re serious.”
“He knows the parts I’m serious about.” Billy said taking out a cigarette and lighting it. “This is filthy, the whole thing. There ain’t a part of this that’s right.”
“Be nice to make something right once though.” Benny said.
“Don’t you start.” Billy said as he left.
Baby’s First Noir
Billy the Badger felt that all of this was unfair. He was too near retirement, too tired of the forest, too ready to go to that little place in the city. He had a nice place picked out, and he was going to get it with his retirement bonus. A nice, quite place where the lights were always on and he’d been told the garbage was left unlidded all night long. That was the sort of life for him, the easy life. He could just sit back, munch on the occasional stale pizza crust, and live out his remaining years learning all about cars.
Looking at the remains of Chintzy the Chipmunk was not on his agenda. Or rather, it was and that was the problem. The other problem was that no matter how methodical Tully the Turtle was as a coroner, he was a damn slow talker and frustrating to have to listen to. Not so slow as to be comical, just slow enough to be frustrating.
“It’s Bertie the Bunny’s work alright.” Tully said as he gently turned the remains of Chintzy’s head. “If only all artists signed their work so diligently.”
“But he didn’t do the other two?” Billy asked.
Tully looked up, and then blinked his eyes. He was so damn slow, but if you decided to rush him, he could go fast enough. That was when he’d complain though, and he’d scuttle off to his office and not come back out. You had to just wait until Tully was ready. He turned the head back and placed a claw under Chintzy’s jaw to close his mouth. He then looked up at the detective.
“No sir.” Tully said, “Someone else killed them. The method is entirely different.”
“Who ever killed Chirpy and Chopper had decided to hurt them, but didn’t take a lot of time doing it. Chopper was stabbed, and made to bleed out. These were hard deaths, lengthy in Chopper’s case, but they only required a little effort. An animal could have stabbed Chopper twice and left before he even knew what had happened to him. Burning Chirpy was nasty, but it only required a moment of effort.”
“And this took effort.” Billy stated, rather than asked.
“Yes.” Tully confirmed. “They tortured Chintzy. Beat him into unconsciousness and waited for him to come back to start beating him again.”
“Okay.” Billy said and turned to walk out.
“You can’t get near them though.” Tully said to his back. “Bertie the Bunny still exists because he’s useful to Big Tony. This had to be an order.”
“I know.” Billy said over his shoulder as he walked out.
There was dirt and leaves and stones as he walked from Tully’s log and headed back to his office. It was monstrous to contemplate. Beating an animal like that, right out in the open forest. A hundred mice, ants, bats, roaches and whatnot must have seen, but no one bothered to report it. It wasn’t until a patrol bird happened upon the body that they were even notified. That was the worst thing about this forest, no one looked out for each other.
Billy wanted a cigarette, but they said that if he didn’t quit, he wouldn’t make it to retirement. He took the pack of toothpicks from his pocket and selected one, chewing it slowly and methodically. He had to get out of this city, or get rid of animals like Big Tony. Big Tony was barely an animal though, he was almost a person. He was that bad, that vicious. Billy’s teeth clamped down on the toothpick, needing it and hating it.
He didn’t like Tully’s facts either. He didn’t argue them, but he didn’t like them. There were two killers, possibly with different motives, killing animals who had been associated with each other. It wasn’t a nice thing to think about, and the weight was pulling Billy down, possibly to his death.
He felt like running, trying to get away from it all. Take the early retirement, just walk away, get away from this filthy case, this filthy forest, go to the nice clean city. He didn’t want to think about it anymore, he didn’t want to be part of this forest. He wanted that place in the city.
“Detective?” The voice was soft, small, and feminine.
He turned and saw an attractive red squirrel looking at him. She looked a little shabby, but sort of beautiful in that was that red squirrels often have. She looked worried and maybe even scared.
“Can I help you?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” She said. “A friend of mine is in trouble.”
“Those chipmunks that got killed.” She said. “They burned him out of his place, took his nuts, tried to kill him.”
“And that’s put him in trouble?” He asked.
“I don’t know where he goes.” She said. “I think he may have done something. He might be part of it. I don’t know anything though, I can’t help you.”
“Okay.” He said.
“I’m afraid he might get himself killed.” She said.
“What’s his name?”
“I’m sorry,” She said shaking her head. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
She started away, but her face had been filed in his brain. She wasn’t rich, she looked like someone from the south side, which would make her easy to find. They don’t come beautiful like that on the south side. He would be able to find her easily, and then he could find her friend.”
He tracked her down, almost not needing to ask a single question. Her path was easy to find in the dirt, another good reason to move to the paced streets. He found her home, and then saw him as he emerged from the hole a few minutes later. His blood froze when he saw him emerge, and it didn’t thaw as he walked towards him.
Baby’s First Noir
Chintzy the Chipmunk was scared, because the pattern had clearly emerged to his mind. He sat in front of Big Tony and pled his case to the massively fat raccoon, but he could see he was getting no where. Big Tony had barely expended the energy necessary to listen to this story, much less do anything about it. After he was done talking Chintzy watched as Big Tony began to speak.
“What should I do about this Chintzy?” Big Tony asked. “I will agree, that it is unfortunate that two of your colleagues got what was clearly coming to them in such a spectacular fashion. However it was coming to them and we don’t even know that this is related.”
“I don’t think we can arjue that this are is-oh-latted ink-adents.” Chintzy said.
It took Big Tony a while to process this, because he always had to translate everything Chintzy said in his head. Chintzy wasn’t a stupid animal, you couldn’t say that he was at all, but he clearly wasn’t smart enough to look up a pronunciation guide. Big Tony looked at Wally the Weasel and nodded his head very slightly. He then signaled toward the door.
“You’ve gotta do something Tony.” Chintzy said as Wally lead him out.
“You don’ts tell Big Tony what he gots to do.” Wally suggested as he gripped Chintzy’s arm tighter.
“Listen.” Chintzy started, but the grip of Wally’s claw stopped him.
“Just keeps it quiet.” Wally said. “You just keeps it quiet.”
Wally helped Chintzy out the door and shoved him into the street. Chintzy fell down, his face scrapping against the dirt and stones beneath him. He looked over his shoulder at Wally as he started to get up.
“What gives Wally?” He demanded. “Ain’t we been friends forever?”
“You stays away from Big Tony.” Wally said, cracking his knuckles. “Big Tony don’t wants to see none of you bums no mores.”
Chintzy picked himself up off the ground and brushed his clothes off. He looked at the door as it slammed, echoing down the empty street. Chintzy realized to himself that he was totally alone now, not just on the street, but entirely. He’d been cut loose, and that scared him worse than anything. He was smart enough to think that maybe Big Tony was making it look like he was cut loose, so they could follow him and lure whoever had killed Chopper and Chirpy out.
The problem was, news would have to get out first, which meant that they’d wait a while and Chintzy didn’t have that kind of time. The first thing he heard was something smack a tree. Probably a heavy stick, maybe a rock. Then something smacked another tree, making another noise. The sound became rhythmic as it approached. No one was going to come help him. Chintzy looked over his shoulder and in a sudden rush of panic, began to run.
“No good Chintzy.” He heard someone say and turned just soon enough to bang into Wally the Weasel’s chest.
“Wally!” He said gratefully.
“It’s no good Chintz.” Wally said pulling his hand out of his pocket.
There was the snap of a flick knife opening and then the sound of the banging resumed. Chintzy looked behind him and saw Bernie the Bunny with a length of pipe. He was banging it against everything he came near, to make a noise as he walked.
“Wally!” Chintzy demanded. “Wally, no!”
“Big Tony says he can’ts have none of you bums talkings.” Wally said as he plunged the knife into Chintzy’s stomach.
“Wal…” Chintzy managed before Bernie smacked his left knee with the pipe, which caused him to fall and scream.
“You talks too much Chintzy.” Wally told him and then looked at Bernie. “Make it last a while, he don’ts needs to die right now. Teach him about talking.”
Bernie said nothing, simply nodded and swung the pipe, which connected with Chintzy’s other knee, shattering it. Wally watched as Bernie worked, because he loved to watch Bernie Work. Bernie could make a simple pipe job last an hour, and this was a masterpiece. When he finally decided that Chintzy was comatose, two hours into the beating, he finally smashed the head open with the pipe and kicked the scattered remains of Chintzy’s brain into the leaves. Ants were upon the gray matter almost immediately.
“We should probably leave him here.” Wally said.
Bernie said nothing, simply nodded and slipped the bloody pipe into his coat. Bernie sort of scared Wally a little, because he didn’t act like a bunny should. He was silent, and that was all right, but the rest of it was all wrong. Bernie killed with relish, and he seemed to enjoy the feeling of some animal’s blood matting into his fur.
Bernie bent down, grabbed Chintzy’s ear in his teeth and ripped it from the head, then proceeded to chew it like a hunk of tobacco. A shiver ran through Wally as he watched this. Even for a weasel, there were lines. He watched as Bernie happily chewed on the ear and pulled out a cigarette. As he lit it, he had the feeling of being watched, but he ignored it, because who would be in this deserted part of the forest at this time of night?
The answer of course is that anyone who had followed Chintzy to Big Tony’s would be in this part of the forest at this time of night. Anyone who had watched as Bernie and Wally killed Chintzy would be here. Any one who had held his cigarette between his teeth, waiting for them to leave so he could just light up, would be here.
He didn’t need to examine the body, he could tell Chintzy was dead, now it as just a matter of getting over to his place and getting what was his before anyone else. He lit his cigarette and made his way quickly. He didn’t bother trying to separate, he merely grabbed as much as he could carry, which was probably two or three times what Chintzy’s cut of what they’d taken from him had been. It didn’t matter now though, he just had to grab what he could and go.
What really worried him, was that in order to get all of it back, he’d have to go up against Big Tony. As he scrapped more acorns that a reasonable animal would need into the sacks, he wondered if revenge was really all that important. After all, he had almost everything back now, almost more than he started with really. After Louie, he could just walk away. That might be the wisest option after all. Going against these little punks was one thing, but fighting a psychopath like Bernie was more than he thought he needed.
And yet, he couldn’t help but think that there was a reason for all of this. That it was time someone put a bullet into Big Tony’s brain. He could get the other two members of the group and go after Big Tony’s whole crew. He could at least get Wally and Bernie for cheating him out of the pleasure of killing Chintzy. Then he could go make Big Tony disgorge his cut of the money and shoot him too.
Nice as that fantasy was, it wasn’t realistic. Big Tony was too big, as it were. He couldn’t just be killed with impunity. Everyone would come after him for the rest of his life if he even so much as spat in Big Tony’s direction. He would have to give that one up, unless he could think of a way out. Or at least a way out that didn’t involve the bloody maw of one of Big Tony’s dogs.
But still, the image of the clubs came back to him. The sock across the jaw, the boot in the side of the head that made his ear ring and ring until there was just a dull buzz. The way they’d tossed the place, smashing everything as they went along to his store room. The clubs in his side that they kept hitting him with, demanding to know where the rest of it was. The savage smashing his face received when they realized that they’d been tipped wrong and those meager supplies really were all that he had.
That was when they’d gotten inventive. It was Chirpy who threw the kerosene on him, then pouring out more to make a line of fuel so they’d be far away from the blast. He looked at the lighter in Chirpy’s hand as the others laughed at him. The fuel had soaked into his fur, he wouldn’t be able to get clear if the fire once touched him. Droplets formed on his whiskers and dripped off as they laughed.
He got up and ran towards the window, smashing through it as the ball of fire chased him. He landed against the dry leaves and rolled away as his tree began to blaze. It was an old tree, a dead tree, and it went up fast. He did his best to scramble away, cut from the glass and battered by the blows though he was.
They chased him out of the house, guns firing pot shots at him, but he dived into a ditch and managed to hide in a hollow. They looked for him, but not very hard. There was no one to help him out here, after all. Even if he could get the police interested, he’d never last through the winter and a dead animal can’t press charges. The forest took care of squirrels that didn’t store up for winter in the simplest and more efficient way possible.
He managed to crawl to Ruby’s managed to talk her out of going to police, who he knew to be corrupt almost to an animal, and managed to get his strength up enough to get back what was his. And now he was having to consider whether or not to take on the biggest criminal in the forest. This was not an easy thing for one old, gray squirrel to have to decide on his own.
I just need to post this so I don’t forget tomorrow morning and disappoint Mrs. Smethwick…
Baby’s First Noir
He looked at the small pile of acorns and nuts that sat in the whole in front of him. There wasn’t much there, but that was okay, he had a few more calls to make. He would have to get it done though, no good waiting around. He had to get this one before the snow started falling, or he could find himself a squirrel with no nuts.
It’s the worst part of forest. The forest is a nasty place to be no matter what, but in the winter, when every door is shut, it’s even worse. The darkness, the cold, all you can do is curl up in a ball in your hole with a bottle and wait it out. The problem is that he didn’t have enough nuts to make it though the winter. He reflected that if he’d taken the full stashes that Chirpy and Chopper had stacked up he could have just filled his hole and forgotten about the whole thing.
That wasn’t the point though, that wasn’t even a percentage of the point. The point was that they had decided to kill him, and he wasn’t going to put up with it. It was one thing to have to deal with the foxes, or even the weasels, but to be robbed like that. Someone was going to have to pay for that.
He looked in the broken piece of mirror he’d found a couple of years ago and examined his eye. It looked a little better, when he patted his left ear though it was still the buzzing sound. He could hear things, but it was like having cotton shoved in there. If he’d been able to hear properly, he’d have heard her approaching.
“You’re back.” She said.
He turned and saw Ruby as she walked into the hole. Her red hair glistened on her small body as she moved towards then two sacks. She looked good, tight and lean, but tired. She touched one of the sacks with her toe, just enough to see what was in there, and then folded her front paws across her small but perfect chest.
“You did it?” She asked simply.
“Had to.” He said. “Winter is coming.”
“I told you, we you can have my stash.” She opened her arms and started to walk towards him.
“We won’t make it on your nuts.” He told her as she touched his arm, wrapping her tiny claws around his bicep. “We try that, it’ll kill us both.”
“It’s not that though.” She shook her head.
“No.” He admitted, “I don’t like being jumped. I don’t like having to be dependant on you.”
“I don’t mind it” She said, stroking his whiskers gently.
“But I do.” He told her, moving his nose closer to hers. “You shouldn’t have to put up with an old grey like me, you should get yourself a young red and have lots of babies.”
“I don’t want babies.” She told him. “I want you.”
They kissed, which is quite frankly too complicated to describe here. What they did after she led him to the other, smaller room in the hole is also far too complicated to discuss, but for different reasons.
Later, the two of the leaned against Ruby’s pile of nuts and smoked cigarettes. He admired Ruby’s body, stretched out on the bed of acorns as it was. She looked fabulous in the low light, her firm and taught muscles gripping firmly to her bones and the skin and fur draped carefully over that. He turned slightly to watch her as she smoked her cigarette and rolled onto her front, to allow her tail to lash back and forth.
“You’re too good to me.” He said, watching the swish of her red tail.
“You haven’t been too bad to me either.” She giggled.
“I’ve got get back out there.” He told her, looking at his watch. “There are three more of them.”
“You don’t have to.” She said, resting her hand on his arm.
“Yes I do.” He told her. “I’ve got to.”
He sat up and started to pull on his pants.
“Why can’t you just let this go?”
“Because we won’t make it through the winter.” He told her. “If I don’t do this, neither of us will make it. You’ll give me all your nuts, while you waste away. Then we’ll both die before January is over. Besides, if we let this go, they’ll do it to somebody else next year. Hell, they might even decide to do it to me again next year.”
“You can’t go on killing like this though.” She complained. “What is it doing to your soul?”
“I killed a lot during the war.” He told her as he put on his shirt. “Any stain on my soul is permanent and no detergent is going to get it out. These will be just a couple more details. If anything, it might improve my balance on the ledger to get rid of these bastards.”
“I’m trying to make you into a better animal than that.” She said.
“You do make me a better animal.” He told her, kissing her quickly. “But I’ve got to do this.”
“What about after though?” She asked.
“I don’t know.” He said, putting on his tie. “Maybe we can move to the city, live the easy life like Sam. He keeps saying we should move out of this dirty old forest. He said that even winter is easier out there. We could get a nice tree in the park. One with a little white fence around it.”
“And I could wear a lacey apron?” She asked. “Meet you at the door after a hard day at some office?”
“So long as you don’t wear anything else.”
She threw one of the pillows at him and laughed. It was a nice idea though, even if it sounded like some dream a million miles away. Sam worked in a big law firm, was able to afford a place in the city, far away from all the corruption of the forest. It was a nice idea though. Ruby would do well in the city, she would dazzle them.
He pulled on his coat. His shoulder felt stiff and hard as he tried to rotate it again. That was like his ear, not healing fast enough. Still though it was time to go see Chintzy, and get back what was his. As he walked out, he looked over his shoulder and saw Ruby standing completely naked in the doorway to her nut room. He felt like rushing back to get her and forget this whole thing, but it had to be done.
He walked out of the tree and started down towards the forest again.
Baby’s First Noir
The forest hadn’t been warm all day, with the clouds and the winds picking up every few minutes. It was fully into autumn and all the animals in the forest were rushing around, trying to get their nuts and other supplies together for the coming winter. There was a rush of activity all about as they ran to and fro.
Chopper the Chipmunk had been busy all morning, but that was just by coincidence. He was trying and trying, in vain as it turned out, to fix his motorcycle. The problem was that he couldn’t seem to find where the rattle was coming from. That was actually a secondary problem, when compared to the larger issue that he only had a vague sense of what he was doing. He’d driven a bike during the war, but those were ugly and simple things compared to this. He hadn’t been prepared for the complexity of this bike when he’d stolen it three days ago and it had given him nothing but trouble since. If the owner was still alive, he’d have demanded to know how to fix it. He wished he actually knew more about bikes, then he could really justify his name.
He looked away from the bike when he heard the approach of a Heron sedan behind him. He prided himself on knowing so much about cars that he could identify one just from the rumble of the engine. He guessed that it was a black number, by how the color reflected in the chrome of the bike next to him. He turned, and found that it was Packard roadster, and it was a dark blue. Dark blue, he told himself, was quite close to black. At least he could recognize the animal who was getting out of the car without trouble.
Chintzy the Chipmunk wasn’t hard to identify. As his name would suggest, he was a great lover of chintz cloths. His pants, waistcoat and jacket were all made from different varieties of the stuff and each clashed with the other. His tie, a large floral print with a massive embroidered flower on it would have been the final insult around anyone with any sense of fashion whatsoever. However, as he spent a great deal of his time with Chirpy, Chopper and their other companions, he was seen as the natty dresser of the bunch. Chopper, after all, contented himself with just a leather vest and nothing else. It wasn’t like he was going to get cold while his fur was intact.
“Chopper.” Chintzy said as he approached.
“Chintzy.” Chopper nodded to him.
“You’ve heard about Chirpy I supp-use?” Chopper wasn’t the smartest member of the group, but he always thought he heard a false note in how Chintzy talked. Like he’d looked these words up in books but didn’t know how to say them right.
“You haven’t been up near the farmhouse reek-ently, have you?” Chintzy asked guardedly, his voice taking on an even more annoyingly nasal quality.
“What do you mean?” Chopper asked, grabbing his crowbar and brandishing it.
“Now, now my good fellow.” Chintzy raised his paws and waved them back and forth. “No need for that. I wasn’t act-using you, I was murr-ly asking.”
“You think I’d have killed Chirpy?” Chopper asked, still offended.
“Chirpy might have had it coming.” Chintzy suggested. “Rather, allow me to state that Chirpy did have it coming. He was no para-goon of honesty. One might suggest he was in fact the epi-tome of a back stabbing little so and so.”
“He’d never have the guts to stab.” Chopper said tossing the crow bar back to the ground. “Not even in the back.”
“You didn’t kill him then?” Chintzy asked.
“Did you?” Chopper asked.
“No.” Chintzy said, without a hint of offense. “If I had dek-ided to kill him, I wouldn’t have done it in that way.”
“Burning him to death is pretty nasty.” Chopper agreed. “So who did it?”
“I don’t know.” Chintzy said. “Did you pay Big Tony your port-shun of the score?”
“Sure did.” Chopper said. “After what happened to Bumpers the Bunny…”
They both took a personal moment to try not shuddering over the memory of what Big Tony had done to Bumpers and how long it had taken him to stop screaming. It had seem harsh at the time, but they all agreed later that Big Tony had indeed made his point about holding out on him. Chintzy rubbed his whiskers nervously and adjusted his jacket. Chopper wasn’t so sophisticated, and just shivered slightly, letting his fur stand up slightly. There was a breeze at that moment, cold and brisk.
“Winter’s coming.” Chintzy said, “Going to be a cold one.”
“Yeah.” Chopper said. “Cold.”
“I’m going to go talk to a few of the others.” He said. “See if anyone knows anything.”
“Yeah.” Chopper said, looking around him as the breeze picked up again. “I’ll see you around.”
“He’s right you know.” A voice said behind Chopper. “Winter is coming.”
Chopper spun around on his heel, intent on grabbing the crowbar again. However, among the many talents he thought he had, but didn’t, was an ability to tell how far someone was by the sound of their voice. Chopper actually spun himself right into the knife that plunged itself into his belly. He gasped from the surprise as much as the pain. A paw grabbed his shoulder and the weight of his stabber suddenly leaned on the blade and sank it deeper into his normally soft and loveable belly.
“Where is your stash?” his stabber asked.
“What?” Chopper asked.
“I see.” The knife with drew from his stomach and then plunged back in, pulling out and stabbing in again before his attacker knocked him to the ground and dropped his weight on top of him. “Do I have your attention Chopper?”
“Yes.” Chopper weezed, the pain was really quite something now.
“Okay then, listen.” His attacker said, their muzzles only half an inch apart. “You’re going to die. If I leave you as you are, it’ll take you a couple of very painful hours to slowly bleed out. If you tell me where you keep all the nuts you’ve stolen, I’ll cut your throat before I leave.”
“You’re crazy.” Chopper said. “Crazy.”
“Possibly.” His attacker pulled the knife out and stood up. He could see now, it was a squirrel, and a familiar one at that. “But an animal that thinks he’s not going to have enough nuts for the winter is likely to do some crazy things. You can die now, only slightly hurt, or you can die in a couple of hours and it will hurt the whole time.”
“Back of the garage.” Chopper gasped, holding his stomach, the soft fur of his belly now matted with blood.
“Thank you.” The squirrel walked away and came back with only a small sack of nuts.
“Got lots more than that.” Chopper suggested.
“Yes.” The squirrel said. “But this is all you took from me.”
“That’s where I know you.” Chopper said smiling slightly and pointing a blood soaked paw at him. “We took your whole stash.”
“Yes,” The squirrel nodded. “I remember.”
“We beat you up so bad.” Chopper laughed, despite the pain. “I kicked you in the eye, bet it still hurts.”
“Yes.” The squirrel nodded again. “It does. Good bye Chopper.”
“You just gonna leave me like this?” Chopper held up his paw, covered in the red gore that matted the fur on his stomach.
“Yes.” He said as he started to walk away. “Just like you left me, crawling along the ground looking for help. In fact, let me even the score up.”
The squirrel gave him a savage kick in the face, and something snapped in his head. There was a second kick on the other side and something else felt like it tore. Chopper could only see out of one eye after that, and could only see a blur with the other. It was then that the wounds in his guts really started to hurt and he realized that he didn’t have the strength to stand up anymore. He didn’t have a watch he could check, but he guessed that it didn’t take him hours. In fact, he was dead in a little under an hour.
The Squirrel had been right about one thing though, it had hurt the whole way down.
Baby’s First Noir
Billy the Badger had been on the force longer than he cared to remember. He had seen some horrible things in his time, even worse than the site that was before him now. That hadn’t made it any better, remembering the things that were worse than this. The smell was the worst part, particularly when it was a furred animal like this. If one of those stupid toads smashed their cars and got burned to death, that was bad, but at least there wasn’t the stench of burning fur.
“You I.D. him yet?” Billy asked one of the officers, a small bird of some variety.
“It’s Chirpy the Chipmunk sir.” The bird chirped. “We found his wallet, but the M.E. wants to make a full examination of teeth before making a formal say.”
“Yeah.” Billy said, stroking his long snout. “He should.”
Someone had called it in, to complain about the screaming. That was disgusted Billy the most. The screams had to be pretty terrifying, the sound of an animal being burned to death, but they had only called to get someone to tell him to shut up. It was one of the things Billy hated about this forest. He was counting the days until his retirement, when he could move to the city and live like a sensible animal. He hated this forest, and its rotten heart.
“We have a motive yet?”
“Well, it’s Chirpy sir.” The bird said. “What sort of motive do you want? He was going to end up dead at some point.”
“Enlighten me.” Billy said. “I’ve worked homicide my whole life.”
“Right sir.” The bird nodded.
Billy realized as the bird told him a story about petty crime and repeated visits to several pens that he had no idea who this officer was. Billy was going to have to check the marking to even know what kind of bird this was and the hat prevented that. He couldn’t even tell if it was a male or female officer. He knew he was too old, and he shouldn’t think like this, but all these little birds looked more or less the same to him.
“So you see sir,” The bird, who probably has a name like ‘Nibbles the Nitwark’ or something wrapped up the tale, “Someone probably got mad at him for something.”
“Burning an animal alive is pretty nasty though.” Billy said.
“He’s dealt with some pretty nasty animals, sir.” The bird shrugged.
“Evening Billy.” Capt. Stout the Stoat said as he approached. “Hello Farley. What have we got?”
He was an old stoat, no longer able to wriggle down narrow holes because of his current waistline, but a thoroughly sensible animal. Billy liked him because he had served on the force for as long as Billy had, and they had seen some things together during the war. He also liked that Stout had a cup of coffee in each hand and that he handed one over to Billy. The fact that it was one cream and on sugar was simply icing on the cake of friendship.
“Black one sugar, right Farley?” Stout asked as he handed the other cup the bird.
“Right.” Farley said. “Thank you sir.”
“Farely?” Billy asked.
“Farley Finch sir.” The bird saluted. “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself before.”
“It’s fine.” Billy said. “I’m just relieved it wasn’t Foamy or Fluffy or something.”
“No problem sir.” Farley said.
“Anything stolen from the victim’s home?” Stout asked.
“Hard to say Captain Stout.” Farley answered quickly. “His place was a hell of a mess to begin with, his parole officer is up there looking around now.”
“It seems that there is a lot of nuts in his place that didn’t belong to him.” Billy added. “The chipmunks have been active most the autumn as I understand it.”
“Yeah, but they’re rarely your problem.” Stout said lighting a cigarette. “Someone must have disliked him a hell of a lot.”
“You think it’s Big Tony?” Billy asked, looking at his captain with a sidelong glance.
“Nothing big happened recently.” Stout said. “Or is that the point?”
“I’m just thinking out loud.” Billy said. “But the last time we almost got a hold of him because we got that ferret just as the job was done. Maybe he’s trying to clear up the workers before the job’s been pulled.”
“Or Chirpy screwed Big Tony on a job? Maybe he didn’t pay him off enough.”
“What about that sir?” Farley asked, looking at something near the toadstool. “Someone left an acorn. Might be a sign for someone.”
“Or it could have just dropped.” Stout suggested.
“No good to think like that.” Billy said picking up the acorn and having a look at it. “Just a normal acorn though.”
“Might be a clue.” Farley said.
“Maybe.” Billy said, more to himself. “You say it looks like nothing was taken from Chirpy’s place?”
“I said it looks like nothing was taken, but it’s hard to tell.” Farley said, sipping at his coffee.
“What are you thinking Billy?” Stout asked.
“Not sure sir.” Billy said absently as he slipped the acorn into his pocket. “Just have a feeling, that’s all. Let’s run any active case where Chirpy was suspected, maybe we can turn up someone with a serious grudge.”
“That could take all week sir.” Farley said. “And I’ve got to be on my way south soon.”
“Yeah?” Billy asked. “Oh, right, winter. Well, you didn’t become a cop for the money or the sex, you became a cop so you could wade through piles of paper work. So let’s do that.”
“Right sir.” Farley saluted and flew away towards police headquarters.
“This is going end up being nasty.” Billy said to Stout. “Mark my words.”
“You’re sure?” Stout asked.
“If there’s anything I know about this dirty old forest, it’s that a crime is always about to happen, and that things can always get worse.”
“That’s why I like you Billy.” Stout commented. “You’re like a shaft of sunlight that breaks through clouds of despair.”
This is the story of a poor little squirrel, that lost all his acorns. And winter is just around the corner. I know, only about 10 billion of those around right? Well, this one has a minor twist in that I set it in a Hard Boiled context, because Captain B.J. Smethwick (in a white wine sauce with shallots, mushrooms and garlic) (Mrs) was complaining about having to read them for her job as an editor. I decided to see if I could make one Mrs. Smethwick would enjoy reading.
It was late and Chirpy the Chipmunk was walking home from a night of carousing with his fellows. It wouldn’t be a complete lie to say that he was quite drunk, having sampled many of the soured grapes in the old hollowed out tree that the weasels ran. He checked his pockets, looking to see how much money he had left. Totally unaware that he was being watched, he drifted from tree to tree, trying to find his way home. He stumbled past the rats who were swinging their purses and waiting for customers. He looked threateningly at a mouse, who was trying to sell late night sausages beyond all reasonable hope of profit.
Behind a large raspberry bush, a figure watched as Chirpy snarled something at the mouse. A small warm speck of light shown as the figure took a drag on its cigarette. A cold breeze passed through the forest, reminding everyone just how late in the seasons it was. Three weeks, there was only three weeks before the first snows of winter could be expected. The figure’s silhouette became obscured and then settled into a sensible shape as the figure adjusted its overcoat. As Chirpy got closer to his personal tree, it was becoming time to have a word.
Chirpy looked up at his tree and wondered if it was worth all the effort to climb to the top where his room was located. Besides, with all the nuts he had stolen recently, it would be hard to get in there and get comfortable. He’d be comfortable when winter finally came, but it was still warm enough to lie in a drunken stupor here at the roots of the old hickory. He was just about to make up his mind when it was made for him by a large smooth rock that grazed the back of his head. He sank to his knees and before passing out he felt a pair of paws on him. Had he been capable of thought at that moment, he would have thought that he was in deep trouble.
When Chirpy came to, he was tied to a toadstool. He looked around, but he couldn’t see much in the dark besides an indistinct shape. Absently, he began to wonder how much he’d actually had to drink. His head hurt a lot and he was in a strange situation. He began to think that maybe he was in some kind of trouble and began to think who he had ripped off recently. There were so many though, and his head hurt so much. He figure approached him and he tried to focus on the face that was coming through the gloom in the dim light.
“What you want?” Chirpy asked before something splashed in his face.
For a moment, he thought it was water, and then he got a sniff of it. He was in trouble all right, big trouble. Someone had gone to the effort of stealing some gasoline from the farmer’s machines. The only person he knew who could do that regularly was Big Tony, and he’d always kept on Big Tony’s good side.
“What’s this?” He asked as the figure turned the can up and splashed more gas onto his head. The smelly stuff started to soak into his fur, it would take days to get the smell out. “Look, you’ve made your point. Whatever it is, we can work it out huh?”
The figure looked at him and then reached back into the gloom, dropping a sack in front of him. The bag spilled slightly and a few nuts scattered onto the ground in front of him. A grey paw swept out and scooped them back into the bag. He recognized the bag, it was one of the bags he used for robberies. The gang had stolen a load of nuts recently, and that was his cut.
“You want the nuts?” He asked. “I got loads. Here, let me out of these ropes, huh?”
The figure picked up the sack and pulled it back into the gloom. Chirpy was starting to get nervous, the fact that whoever this was kept silent was getting on his nerves. He was starting to panic, animals who don’t talk are animals you can’t talk out of things.
“SAY SOMETHING, WILL YA?” He finally shouted, the panic jumping past his brain and leaping out of his throat.
“Winter’s coming.” The figure said, flicking a lighter and showing his face. It was a squirrel, Chirpy could see that right away. It wasn’t just a squirrel though, it was that squirrel they’d beat up and robbed a week ago. He was covering his face with his hat, but it was hum. “Gets cold in the winter.”
“Look, we can work this out.” Chirpy said, panic making his voice shake and shudder.
“Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be warm again,” The squirrel said, “You know, in winter? You want to be warm, don’t you Chirpy?”
“Don’t do this?” Chirpy begged.
“Winter is coming and I don’t have enough nuts stored up.” The Squirrel said. “I did my hard work and you guys robbed me.”
He came close and waved the lighter at Chirpy, who screamed an incoherent stream of profanity and please. He took a step back and closed the lighter, killing the flame and winking the light out of existence. The only point being the red glow at the tip of his cigarette. Chirpy could smell the tobacco as the squirrel blew smoke into his face.
“We can work this out.” Chirpy said. “I’ve got lots of nuts. We can split them right down the middle.”
“I just want what’s mine.” The voice said, laced with menace. “My nuts. Any other nuts in there belong to someone else and I don’t take what’s not mine.”
The red glow of the cigarette came close and touched Chirpy’s blue cotton vest. The squirrel blew on the tip and it glowed brightly for a few seconds before the gas soaked garment burst into flames. Chirpy screamed immediately, even though it was actually a few seconds before the heat and pain actually struck him. He screamed a lot then, but the squirrel had already thrown the sack of nuts over his shoulder and started away. It wouldn’t be true to say that he couldn’t hear Chirpy though. For one thing, Chirpy was very loud and got much louder before he got quiet and squirrels are renowned for having very good hearing. Even if one ear was badly damaged when a pack of chipmunks cracked him across the head and kicked him in the ear so that everything from his left was just a buzz of vague noises. Still, Chirpy’s cries followed him into the night, distinct and clear as he took his sack of nuts home.
He had to find the rest of them, get the rest of his nuts before winter came. It wasn’t revenge he had told himself. He just wanted to get what was his. Retrieve the things that belonged to him and maybe a little more to make up for the lost time. He couldn’t gather nuts while he was getting his stores back, and he wouldn’t be able to work as well with his ear and his eye messed up like this. He was worried about that, but maybe a winter’s rest would help them heal.
All that was for later though, for now he had to get this sack home and find the next one in the group.