Pet Shop of Horrors belongs to Matsuri Akino, not to me. No copyright infringement is intended or implied.

Flowers and the Undiscerning Detective

It was four-thirty p.m. when Leon Orcot once again opened the door to Count D's pet shop. He didn't even knock first, hoping for once to catch the Count unaware or disheveled.

The shop's owner was sitting on the couch wearing a striking garment in dark blue satin. He looked up brightly. "Why Detective Orcot; I didn't expect you back so soon. But I can call Chris out to see you."

Leon crossed his arms. "It's not him I'm here to see. I heard you have a delivery scheduled for today."

Count D fluttered his eyelashes slightly. "Why Detective, are you still keeping tabs on me?"

"It's all because of my work, Count D,"

"Oh I see, so you're here on official police business," said Count D, nodding regally.

"Not exactly," replied Leon a bit uncomfortably.

"But you're on duty, so I won't offer you a drink," he went on.

"I'm not on duty!" snapped Leon. He didn't even want a drink; he just wanted Count D to stop haranguing him about why he was here. And to stop looking at him in that sidelong way that Leon could never quite figure out.

D clasped his hands together. "You've come to see me in your spare time! I'm completely charmed! Do you want tea then?"

Leon didn't like hearing that. He did not want to be charming to Count D. And he especially did not want Count D to attempt to please him in return. The Count probably thought he looked so alluring in that satin dress, didn't he?

"Stuff it. What kind of dangerous animal are you delivering today, Count D? And who are you delivering it to?"

"I'm afraid you're going to be awfully disappointed, Detective Orcot. This is not one of my usual deliveries at all. But why don't you come along and find out for yourself?"

Leon thought a moment. It would be more than adequate detective work to just ask to see the delivery and go home for the night. But he decided to accept Count D's invitation, simply in the interest of the investigation of course. As soon as he could get to the bottom of what was going on he could stop wasting time on the Count.

"All right. Where is the animal?"

"I've already told you it's not an animal," said D as he disappeared into the back of the shop.

He came out a few minutes later bearing a large potted plant. It looked like a conglomeration of thick tendrils that grew upward slightly before they fell over the edge of the pot. Here and there a white flower peeked out from the green tangle. The pot itself was white ceramic with Chinese writing on it.

"What the heck is that? And since when are you running a nursery?"

"It's a very rare flowering vine plant, imported from New Zealand. And I love plants almost as much as animals; haven't I given you flowers before, detective?"

Leon was certain that if the Count batted his eyelashes one more time he would throttle the man.

"Does that thing eat insects?" he asked. "It looks mean."

"Not at all, it's not a Venus flytrap or a pitcher plant. It just needs a little sun and water and someone to talk to it."

Leon put his hands over his ears. "If you talk to plants, please don't tell me about it!"

Sometimes Leon was nearly frightened of the Count, and other times he wondered how such a dreamer lived from day to day. They got into Leon's car, and Count D sat in the passenger seat with the plant on his lap.

"It looks like if it gained strength, it could take over the world," muttered Leon.

"You've seen too many movies, Detective. Stop here."

They stopped in front of small home and D exited the car. Leon followed and stood beside him as he rang the doorbell. A gray-haired woman with a lined face wearing blue jeans answered the door.

"Oh, Count D, you've brought me my plant! Thank you so much! Come on in!"

She beckoned them in and Count D put the plant on the coffee table and said, "Mrs. Lasko, this is Detective Leon Orcot."

Mrs. Lasko beamed. "Oh, your boyfriend is a detective. How nice!"

Leon nearly shouted, "I'm not his boyfriend!"

She winked. "Now, now, there's no need to be that way with me. I'm a woman of the world!"

Leon made a snorting noise. As the Count began instructing her in the care of the vine plant, Leon wandered the small living room, looking at the cheap art prints on the wall. No wonder this woman couldn't afford a real pet; she must have saved for a long time just to get a plant from D's shop.

Finally D called to him that they were leaving. Mrs. Lasko walked the door and waved as they left.

"Have fun you two!"

Leon was about to yell that they weren't a couple when the Count pulled him toward the car. When they reached it however, Count D began walking back toward the house. Leon followed, but when he started to ask what was going on D only shushed him. Together they around the side of the house to the back yard, and D stood looking in her window.

Leon spoke up. "We can't just peek into this woman's--"

"Shhhh... she'll never notice us right now."

Leon reluctantly walked up and began looking also. The woman stood before the coffee table, looking down at the plant and holding out her hands. Leon suddenly heard a faint echo of a flute being played, like a snake charmer's music in a movie. He stared disbelieving as the plant's tendrils swayed with the music, then found that he himself was swaying slightly as well. As he watched, the vines began to slither up Mrs. Lasko's arms.

He could hear her laughter, but the expression on her face was far more sexual than amused. Her face was flushed, and her eyes were closed in ecstasy. Under the table he could see other creeping tendrils. He turned to D.

"What the hell kind of plant did you sell this old lady!"

Count D put a finger to his lips and Leon saw that he was staring in the window, his expression of rapt fascination matched Mrs. Lasko's in its frank overtones. Was this something that excited Count D? Leon was trying not to think about it. And he couldn't stand to watch any more of this. He began to pull him toward the car and the Count reluctantly complied.

When they got in the car Leon started it and began yelling again.

"What kind of pervert are you? Selling old women plants that... that... I can't even say it! And watching! You're a... a... voyeur!"

D had a gleam in his eye very unlike the man who had been waiting in the shop earlier this afternoon.

"Does that offend you, Mr. Police Detective?"

Leon didn't answer his question. "Does that turn you on or something?"

"Do you really want to know what... turns me on, Leon Orcot?"

There was something about him even asking that out loud that disturbed Leon intensely.

"Yes! I mean, no, no, no! Save it. Leave me alone."

Leon hadn't felt this confused since he was a teenager. There were no words to ask the Count what was going on, with plants or with people, and no questions that had answers he wanted to hear. He dropped the Count off at the pet store and drove home, knowing that tonight he would dream of tangling vines and D's face.