“We need you to tail this guy,” said Simon with a hiss. He pushed a color photograph across the table. “He’s been getting a little too nosy for his own good.”
Ricky Rabbit picked up the photo and examined it. It was taken from afar at a weird angle. Hard to discern any features except two. A big black nose and brown fur mustache.
“Terriers are nosy by nature. Make great detectives,” said Ricky.
“He ain’t no cop. We think he’s a leg breaker for Tony Toad,” said Simon.
“Tony Toad?” asked Ricky.
“If Tony is trying to muscle in on our business, we need to know. We’ll pay the usual fee,” said Simon.
“I don’t know. If it’s Tony’s goons I’m dealing with, I might need a little more upfront. I’d be sticking my neck out for sure,” said Ricky.
“Private detectives don’t get hazard pay. Just tail the guy and tell us where he goes. You find him snooping around our properties or casing our warehouses or whatever you let us know right away,” said Simon.
Today had started like an ordinary day for Ricky. Wake up at six, start the morning with some hard orange juice, or as it’s colloquially called the dirty mimosa, and open the office to do jack until a client showed up. Well, Ricky got his wish. Simon Snake came slithering in with a standard case. Figure out who this guy was and what his motives were. Easy as pie. Except nothing was easy whenever Simon was involved. He was the head honcho of Freddy Frog’s security detail. That’s Freddy Frog, owner of Freddy’s Refrigeration. Course a few years ago, Freddy Frog had been Freddy “Bull” Frog the gangster and Simon had been his main leg breaker (not an easy feat for a snake) but now they were legit or trying to be. Some days, Ricky didn’t think they were trying very hard.
“When will the feud between Tony and Freddy be done with? Life would be a lot easier with the two of them coexisting and what not,” said Ricky.
“What are you a peacenik? You got job security cause of those two and so do I. Besides, the police don’t hire you no more. Not since the Farm,” said Simon.
“That stuff’s history, Simon. Dead and buried,” said Ricky.
“That’s the thing about history, eh? It never stays in the past,” said Simon.
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Ricky.
“Neither do I, of course of course,” said Simon.
“Where do I start with this guy? You haven’t given me much to go on,” said Ricky.
“He frequents a bar. Place called Nice Digs,” said Simon.
“Is that all you got?” asked Ricky.
“Yessss. You know what to do, so hop to it,” Simon said with a snide laugh.
Ricky wasn’t a tracker. He wasn’t good at finding people, not like a bloodhound. He was good at not being found. Prey tend to figure out how to stay below the radar. Ricky figured that was why Simon had come to him. This mystery terrier would have smelled Freddy’s boys coming from a mile away. Ricky wouldn’t have any such problem. Nice Digs was a seedy little hole in the wall on a lonely street somewhere between downtown and the docks. The rain came down in sheets and Ricky was soaked to the bone by the time he got inside. The place had been founded by someone from one of the well to do mole clans, hence the joint’s name. Ricky made himself comfortable in the back while he pondered his next move.
It was early yet, the night’s musical entertainment was still getting set up but already every patron in the bar was plastered or worse. Ricky hadn’t been to a bar in a while. Not since… well, history is history. But he’d stick out like a rooster in a hen house if he wasn’t nursing a drink so he ordered one and took the occasional sip while he waited.
He didn’t have to wait long. The terrier from the photo came waltzing in about an hour after Ricky. He sat at the bar and ordered his usual. Ricky paid him no mind but kept his massive ears alert. Through the smoker’s coughs and jangling of musical equipment and glasses clinking and fevered drinking, Ricky picked up bits and pieces of the terrier’s conversation with the barkeep. They knew each other, on a first name basis at least.
Three minutes later, the terrier finished up, paid his tab and left in a hurry. Ricky got up to follow but found his legs weren’t cooperating. He looked down and realized he’d gone through half a dozen drinks without noticing. That was going to put a damper on things. He paid the waitress and stumbled outside. The rain had let up a bit but Ricky found it hard to see even ten feet in front of his face. He picked a random direction and started walking. Along the way he saw a bull locking arms with a hen.
“Red meat shouldn’t mix with white meat,” said Ricky.
“What’d you say?” asked the bull.
“Ignore him. He’s drunk,” said the hen with a haughty huff.
“Hey, listen lady don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind change. Change is good. Some things just shouldn’t change, you know?” said Ricky. They kept walking. “Some things shouldn’t change…”
He woke up hours later in the gutter. Lost track of his quarry. Damn. He returned to his office and slept the drinks off. He awoke to the sound of a knock on his door.
“I paid you last week, Johnny!” Ricky slurred.
“What about me?” asked the dame who walked in. A black cat. Ricky had the misfortune of crossing her path one too many times in the past.
“Selina. How’d you get in? Door’s…”
“Wide open. You drunk, Ricky?” she asked.
“Not since last night. Urp.”
Ricky grabbed his waste basket and unloaded the previous day’s entrees. Then he went to get a mop and bucket because his wastebasket was the wicker kind. Gift from his grammy, don’t you know?
“You’re gonna kill yourself,” Selina said matter of factly.
“Shotgun or shot glass. I prefer it this way,” said Ricky.
“Anyway, I came calling because I heard you were working a case,” said Selina.
“What gave you that impression?” asked Ricky.
“Word travels fast. Especially when it involves Freddy and Tony. I came to warn you.”
“Job’s a job. I know the dangers,” said Ricky.
“No, you don’t. That terrier they have you keeping an eye on is bad news. He knows you’re following him, it’ll be over for Ricky Rabbit.”
“Now I’m wondering if someone’s been paying you to keep tabs on me,” said Ricky.
“He works for the city. One of the mayor’s special investigators,” said Selina.
“I thought they were all gators,” said Ricky.
“The muscle is. This guy’s a different story all together. Fought in the war. Won a Silver Paw for bravery on the front and saving a dozen lives. Been spending his days in the civil service trying to help the common man.”
“How do you know so much?” Ricky asked.
“There are other interested parties at work here. The terrier is digging into things that said interested parties would like left alone. So my warning to you is don’t get involved. Leave him be and this mess will sort itself out sooner or later.”
“In what way?” asked Ricky.
“Let’s just say, Freddy and Tony are the least of this guy’s problems right now.”
“Doesn’t he deserve a fair shake?”
“I mean it. He’s a war hero. What’d he do to deserve this? I fought in the war. I knew plenty of boy scouts. Very few made it back the same as they left. If he’s still trying to do his part, even after that, then maybe he should get a chance to get out.”
“Ricky, Ricky, please. The less you have to do with this, the better. He’s one terrier.”
“And I’m one piece of crap rabbit. The world don’t need less of him and more of me. It needs… the other way round,” said Ricky.
“Your mind’s made up?” asked Selina.
“Fraid so,” said Ricky.
“Nothing a girl can do to persuade you?” Selina asked, the top button of her blouse coming conspicuously undone.
“I’m sure,” said Ricky.
A while later, Selina was doing her post coital cleanup, licking the entire length of her leg at the moment, while Ricky lit a cigarette.
“I’ve always loved that trick,” he said, taking a long drag.
“I’ve got plenty more,” Selina said, licking that hard to reach spot just behind her ankles.
“You gotta show me sometime,” said Ricky.
“How does now sound?” Selina asked. Ricky thumped his leg on the bed, the universal rabbit signal for ‘heck yes.’ He put the cigarette out and made room for Selina on the bed. The sound of a hammer clicking almost lost in the sound of the bed creaking. Almost.
“Get down. Someone’s at the door,” said Ricky.
“I know,” said Selina. She pulled her own piece out from a holster that Ricky had somehow missed, though he wasn’t sure how.
“It’s going to be like that, huh?” Ricky asked.
“I tried playing it the nice way, but I should have known you were going to make it hard on everybody. But, since I have a reputation to keep, I have to make it look good for the boys. So it’s going to get loud in here. You’ll have ten seconds to get out before they make it in here.”
“I guess I owe you,” said Ricky.
“Consider us even after this,” said Selina. Ricky covered his ears as Selina aimed at the ceiling and fired. Ricky grabbed his stuff and leapt out the window, landing in a heap in the alleyway. Seconds later he heard the door to his office get kicked down.
It was going to be one of those days.