Love: the Spies of Life
TaleSpin and its characters are property of Disney. All other characters are mine and cannot be used without permission.
Saturday, June 11, 1938
Stained with muted yellows, oranges, and violets, the sky suspended over Pearee intensified the beauty of the historical city by hiding dingy corners and softening harsh outlines in fleeting twilight. Normally, Mother Nature's pre-nocturnal handiwork was available for brief admiration, forgotten as soon as the stars emerged. This particular sunset, however, was to be forever immortalized due to the efforts of a sidewalk artist.
She, seated on a high stool before her easel, her smock splattered with paint, deftly swirled colors on her pallet together to achieve precisely the right shades. Beneath her brush, the sunset emerged in all its transient glory. Then, interposed upon the sunset was a shadowy skyline consisting of buildings that had seen many years' worth of sunsets. In the foreground were a row of old-fashioned iron lampposts just beginning to blaze forth with light, illuminating a boulevard lined with pear trees. In the far distance, above the trees and century-old buildings, the lace-like top of the Eyeful Tower stretched towards the sky.
"What do you think of it, Marcel?" the artist asked the mime who had paused on his way into the Jardin de Lucksembourger, one of the city's major parks, to peek over her shoulder.
Marcel cocked his head to one side, considering the painting. Then, with a broad smile on his white painted face, he applauded enthusiastically.
"Merci. I hope the customers will agree with you," the artist murmured, darkening a shadow on the canvas.
On the other side of the park, a few blocks from the artist's perch was a six-story building. Like many buildings in Pearee, the exterior had been preserved exactly as it had been when it was built over a century before. However, the inside had been remodeled to house one of the most modern physics labs in the world - Le Laboratorie d'Atomique.
At this late hour on a Saturday, the building was deserted save for a few scientists and the janitor, who was doing his customary scheduled mopping.
Dr. Bonet, one of the world's most eminent nuclear physicists, paused in writing in his laboratory notebook when he heard the squeak of the mop bucket entering the room. He peered over his half-moon spectacles, across the room at the janitor, who was stacking stools on top of the lab benches to clear the floor space.
The rhino scientist chuckled good-naturedly. "All right, Georges, I can take a hint." He closed the notebook, slipped his fountain pen into his lab coat pocket, and rose from his stool.
The heavy-set janitor grunted and started to mop one corner of the room industriously.
After exchanging his lab coat for his jacket, Dr. Bonet said a cheerful, "Bonsoir. See you on Monday," and left.
When the scientist's plodding footfalls had faded away, the janitor plunged the mop into the mop bucket, causing a sudsy spray to hit the tile floor. He made a beeline over to the lab notebooks and started to rummage through them. Every so often, he glanced over his shoulder at the door.
Dr. Bonet popped his head into the room and snagged his fedora from a hook just inside the door. "Me again, Georges. I forgot my..." Dropping his hat, he exclaimed, "Sacre bleu! What are you doing?"
The janitor was tearing a handful of pages out of a notebook.
The physicist was so stunned that he didn't have time to react before he was knocked out by a single, well-placed blow to the face.
Georges vaulted over Dr. Bonet's prone body, the notebook pages crumpled in his meaty fist.
At that moment, another scientist entered the room, asking, "Is everything all right in here? I heard a...whoa!" the small rabbit squeaked, crashing to the floor as the janitor tripped him with the mop handle. "Help! Help! Police!"
"Shut up, big mouth," Georges growled, shoving the mop head in the scientist's face.
The janitor sprinted down the stairs and out into the street, hastily shoving the papers in his overalls pocket.
When he was halfway down the block, the rabbit scientist emerged from Le Laboratorie d'Atomique, face and hair dripping with soapy water. "Help! Police! Thief!" he yelled, running over to two policemen standing on the street corner. Breathlessly, the scientist squeaked out, "Thief! Stole Dr. Bonet! Knocked down papers! I mean, stole papers. Knocked down Dr. Bonet! Help! Help!"
Officer Marin bent his long giraffe's neck towards the small scientist, who was bouncing up and down in agitation. "The thief is still inside?"
"Non! There he goes!" he said, pointing at the swiftly, yet calmly, retreating janitor. "Please, catch him!"
Officer Larousse, a poodle with closely-cropped hair, put a whistle to his mouth and blew a loud, shrill note.
Noticing that he was being pursued by the police, Georges the janitor put on a surprising burst of speed despite his hefty bulk and short legs. He tore across the busy park with the cops just behind.
Georges roughly pushed his way through a small crowd watching Marcel the mime pretending to climb a mountain near the fountain in the middle of the park. Grabbing Marcel by his arm, the janitor swung him into the path of the oncoming policemen, causing both the mime and Larousse to splash into the fountain.
"Twee...cough, cough!Twee...!" Officer Larousse spluttered as Marcel mimed the motions of a fish for the audience's amusement.
"Don't see anything like that in Attlanta, right, Lester?" a hippo tourist drawled.
"No, Elmira dear," Lester, her crane husband, replied absently, rapidly snapping a succession of photographs.
"Why, even the Pearee police promote the arts," Elmira said, clasping her pudgy hands in delight as she watched Larousse assist Marcel out of the fountain.
With one policeman still on his tail, George slipped into a crowded stamp fair, dodging and weaving around booths and stamp collectors.
"Pardonez-moi. Excusez-moi. Official police business. Everybody move!" Officer Marin said impatiently, nearly tripping over a little boy holding a bagful of stamps.
When he emerged from the stamp fair, Officer Marin plucked a stamp from his nose. "Zut! Worthless things, stamps." Standing head and shoulders above most of the park patrons, the giraffe's sharp eyes scanned the bustling park, which was filled with people of all ages. Finally, he spotted the pea green overalls on the broad back of the janitor bouncing towards the park's perimeter. Breaking into a run, he shouted, "Stop, thief!"
Seeing that he was still being pursued by the persistent policeman, the janitor emitted a low, menacing growl. He had planned and plotted too long to be caught now. As he ran by the artist putting the final touches on her painting, he snatched the canvas right from under her brush.
"Monsieur, I am not finished with that!" Seeing the policeman approaching, she waved her paint brush. "Officer! Officer!"
Officer Marin hurried over to her. "Oui, mademoiselle?" he said hastily, jogging in place.
"A man ran by and stole my painting and my..."
"A big man? In green overalls?"
Marin's black eyes gleamed with excitement. "Which way did he go?"
The artist pointed to her right. Before she had a chance to file a complaint, he was gone. "No one appreciates fine art," she sighed sadly, gathering up her paints and brushes. "Oh, well. Another day, another sunset."
Officer Marin sprinted down the sidewalk, past apartment building after apartment building. To his left, he was screened from the street by a row of pear trees.
When he rounded the corner, something hard and wet and smelling of oil paint unexpectedly slammed into his face, stopping him in his tracks. It was the artist's stolen painting.
Marin batted it aside in time to see the janitor disappear behind a short wall. The officer, his face streaked with every color of the rainbow, scrambled over the wall. Dropping to the ground on the other side, he found himself in a narrow alleyway between two apartment buildings, which was crisscrossed with clotheslines. Between the towels, linens, and unmentionables, he could catch glimpses of the janitor, running towards the other end of the alley.
Drawing his gun, Marin started after him, but found it difficult going. The tall giraffe had to bend nearly over double to duck under the clotheslines.
At the opposite end of the alley, there was another wall. As the janitor was about to scale it, Marin shouted, "Stop! You're under arrest!"
Georges froze in his tracks with his hands on top of the wall.
Marin approached the thief slowly, cocking his gun. "Now turn around."
Chuckling sinisterly, Georges said, "As you wish." He quickly spun around, simultaneously squirting two tubes of paint at the officer's face.
"Aaaah!" Marin cried out in pain. He furiously clawed at his burning eyes.
"You asked for it," the janitor muttered with smug complacence. As he ran past the cop, he knocked him into a clothesline.
Marin was still wrestling with the clothesline when he heard the familiar voice of his partner, Larousse, ask, "What happened? What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Marin snapped.
Larousse unfastened the clothesline from the wall, causing Marin to topple to the ground.
"Did you see the thief? Which way did he go?"
"Je ne sais pas," Larousse shrugged, stifling a laugh at his partner's appearance. Marin, his eyes watering, his face smeared with paint, was a frightful sight. "No one is here but us." He picked up an empty tube of red paint. "Ingénieux."
"Unfortunately..." Marin muttered morosely, swiping the tube of paint from Larousse. "First criminal I've ever lost. Bah!"
"Can you see to walk?"
"Oui," Marin spat. He crumpled the empty tube and tossed it aside before getting to his feet.
"We must get back to headquarters and fill out a report."
"He's probably halfway to Mustgo by now. Zut! I hate art!"
Moments after the policemen had vacated the alley, the thief emerged from a second story window and stepped out onto the fire escape landing. He cautiously listened and looked around before climbing down the creaking, rickety ladder. He then grabbed a blue cloak from the clothesline and draped it over his broad shoulders. Pulling a grey fedora from his overalls pocket, he put it on and pulled it low over his eyes.
He calmly stepped out into the street, the epitome of a respectable citizen and strolled down the block, towards a waiting car. Upon passing the artist toting her easel and painting supplies back home, he politely tipped his hat. When he did, lamplight glinted off a large, gold signet ring on his right hand.
Georges stepped into the car, and it sped off through the peaceful Pearee streets.
A Remote Island Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean
Sunday June 12, 1938
If there's such a thing as a tropical paradise, Rebecca thought, this is it.
The petite brown bearess paused in pouring water into the coffee pot to admire the scenery. The palm trees silhouetted darkly against the sunrise. A cluster of cottony pink clouds drifting on the warm breeze. The ocean waves lazily slapping against the shell-studded beach. The serene whoosh of the nearby waterfall. The overlapping chattering of birds. Not to mention the intermittent sightings of the local whale frolicking in the surf.
I have to hand it to Baloo for choosing a romantic place for our honeymoon. Who knew he had it in him?
As she hung the coffeepot over the campfire, Rebecca glanced up at the Sea Duck bobbing on the waves. Through the open back hatch, she could hear the sonorous snores of her new husband.
For once, his snoring didn't annoy her.
At least, not much.
She poured herself a cup of coffee, then leaned back in her lawn chair. Mysterious smiles flitted across her face as if she knew a wonderful secret.
Her smile widened when the object of her thoughts - a large grey bear - emerged from the seaplane and lumbered across the beach to her. Despite his rumpled hair and wrinkled shirt, not to mention his uncouth habit of scratching his belly, he'd never looked more handsome to her.
With a shy grin, Baloo sank into the lawn chair beside hers and murmured, "Mornin', Honey Lips."
"Good morning, Butterball." She quickly got another cup out of the picnic basket and filled it with coffee. "Sugar and cream?" she asked more from out of habit than from necessity.
"Mm-hmm, an' a kiss."
After sharing a lingering kiss, Baloo draped an arm around Rebecca's shoulders. She, in turn, leaned her head against him. They sat there, sipping coffee and gazing out over the ocean..
Following a long, comfortable pause punctuated by happy sighs, Rebecca said softly, "Baloo, I've been thinking."
Baloo chuckled and tenderly caressed her shoulder. "How's my Becky gonna get rich this time?"
"Nothing like that." She looked up at him with mock annoyance. "We have two and a half whole days to ourselves. No kids."
"No work," he pointed out, finishing his coffee in one gulp.
"I'd thought it would be nice to go somewhere, just the two of us. Who knows when we'll have another opportunity like this, and with the Sea Duck we can go anywhere we want."
"But I was plannin' on spendin' our honeymoon here. This is the best fishin' spot this side of the other side."
"Please, Baloo, for me?" She batted her eyelashes coquettishly.
After a moment's consideration, Baloo shrugged. "Oh, all right, sweetheart, but there's one very important thing we gotta do first." He cupped her chin in the palm of his hand and gazed deeply into her eyes.
"Yes?" Rebecca whispered expectantly, her heart thumping with wild exultation.
"Eat breakfast," he replied, dropping a kiss on her nose. "I'm starvin'."
Exasperated, Rebecca playfully whacked him on the chest. "Oh, Baloo!"
Baloo caught her in his arms with the low laugh of a triumphant lover.
A police car pulled over to the curb in front of Le Laboratorie d'Atomique. From out of the car stepped a stocky canine of medium height. Like all the Pearee police, he wore a navy blue uniform with a double row of brass buttons on the coat. However, his buttons were polished to a perfect sheen. He thoughtfully gazed up at the building, twirling the tip of his thick, luxuriant moustache and sniffing the air. There was the distinct scent of crime. His nose was never wrong.
He plucked a pear from a tree and walked into the building swiftly. As soon as he entered, the policeman who had been examining the floor with magnifying glass stood at attention.
"At ease, Larousse."
The poodle's arm dropped to his side and his manner clearly relaxed. "Find anything at the thief's apartment, Inspector Deuseau?"
"Just three empty rooms and a bath. He didn't even leave an incriminating fingerprint."
Astonished, Larousse exclaimed, "What did he do, wear gloves all the time?"
"Apparently." Deuseau looked the pear over carefully before biting into it. "We're dealing with no ordinary criminal. The man is absolutely untraceable. As far as we could discover, he had no vehicle registration, no bank accounts, and his landlady said that he always paid his rent in cash. She said that he was very quiet, kept to himself, and, in the three months he lived there, he never had a visitor. He didn't even have a telephone. If it hadn't been for the landlady and the fact that he worked here, it would be easy to say that Georges the janitor never existed. In fact, 'Georges' is probably an alias. Any developments here?"
Larousse, processing all that he had been told, slowly shook his head. "Nothing, Inspector. Nothing except that scrap of paper."
"What scrap of paper?" the inspector asked around a bite of pear.
"I believe Marin has it."
"Marin?" The inspector swallowed and smiled knowingly. "Naturellement. He is eager to make captain. As you were, Larousse."
"Yes, sir." Saluting, Larousse returned to inspecting the floor while the inspector went in search of Marin.
Following the sound of voices, Inspector Deuseau quickly found Marin, who was interrogating Dr. Bonet in his office.
As he stood in the doorway, listening, Deuseau had to stifle a chuckle at Marin's appearance. There were still traces of paint in the fur of the normally impeccable giraffe.
Under the close scrutiny of Officer Marin, Dr. Bonet acted as jumpy as a puppet on a string. "It's like I told you before. The only thing Georges, the janitor - at least I thought he was a janitor - stole was the top-secret plans."
Marin flipped through his notebook and nodded. "What were in the top-secret plans?"
The scientist glanced past Marin at Deuseau, who was apparently engrossed in the pear he was eating. "Well..." he stammered, "they're top-secret. No one is supposed to..."
Frowning with frustration, Marin drew himself up to his full height until the crown of his cap brushed the ceiling. He shouted, "Do you want me to lock you up for the obstruction of police business?"
The rhino scientist shrank in his seat.
Deuseau, who had seen enough, tossed the pear core into a trash can just inside the door. "I'll handle this, Marin."
Startled, the giraffe spun around. From his expression, he was obviously surprised and flustered at his superior's presence. "Inspector Deuseau...I didn't see you there. I was just..."
Deuseau jerked his head towards the door, gesturing for Marin to leave. As the giraffe sidled past him, the inspector held out his hand. "The scrap of paper, s'il vous plait."
"Mais oui." Marin willingly handed over a crumpled half-sheet of paper, saluted, and scurried out the door.
Deuseau studied the clue as he took a seat opposite the scientist. "Curieux.Trés curieux," he muttered under his breath. Hearing the clatter of the scientist's spectacles hitting the floor, he looked up and smiled disarmingly. "You say that the thief dropped this, Monsieur...?"
"Dr. Andre Bonet," the scientist supplied, hurriedly retrieving his glasses from the tile floor. "And, yes, I believe Georges - the thief - dropped that. It certainly isn't mine. Makes no sense whatsoever."
"What can you tell me about what was stolen, Dr. Bonet?"
The scientist shook his head. Sotto voce, he said, "Top-secret."
Deuseau got up, closed the door and drew the blinds. Then, drawing his chair close to Dr. Bonet's, he whispered, "What if I promise that what you tell me won't go beyond this room?"
Dr. Bonet, who was nervously fiddling with his glasses, merely shrugged his huge shoulders.
"I'm assuming that the project you were working on was dangerous, non?"
"Oui. Extremely dangerous."
Leaning back in his chair, his eyes focused on the scrap of paper, Deuseau said matter-of-factly, "It will be easier to catch the thief if we knew what he stole. It will help to narrow down what he might have done with your papers. In other words, it will help us to retrieve them."
After a long pause, Dr. Bonet donned his glasses and hesitantly asked, "You promise that you won't reveal it to anyone?"
"I promise." Deuseau leaned forward to catch the scientist's whispered words.
In a voice barely above a murmur, the scientist said, "I and three others were developing a weapon so terrible that it could completely destroy a city the size of Pearee."
"Mon Dieu! A force like that must be of massive proportions."
Once again, Dr. Bonet shook his head. "Non. In fact, it used something minuscule, invisible to the naked eye. The atom."
"Atom?" Deuseau twirled his moustache as his mind raced to recall his high school science class. "Are there other scientists who knew about this besides you four?"
Dr. Bonet nodded.
Concealing his eagerness, Deuseau asked nonchalantly, "Who? Can you tell me?"
"Some of the finest minds in nuclear physics. I will write their names down for you."
"Bien." As Dr. Bonet turned on the lamp and opened a desk drawer to retrieve a pen and paper, Deuseau caught sight of something imprinted on the rhino's leathery cheek. "That mark! Where did you get it?"
Dr. Bonet put a hand to his face. "This? This was where Georges hit me. It still stings."
"Come closer to the light."
Squinting, Deuseau peered at the mark on the physicist's cheek: a faint, yet distinct, outline of a flyswatter imposed over a circle. Almost imperceptibly, he growled low in his throat. "Swatzis."
Both the inspector and scientist looked up when there was a knock at door.
"Come in," Deuseau said.
Larousse stuck his head in the room. "Inspector, two witnesses have just shown up."
"Tourists who claimed they snapped pictures of the thief as he was making his escape."
"Bon! Show them in."
"Mr. and Mrs. Thompson," Larousse announced. A pudgy hippo dressed in a loud fuchsia dress sprayed with yellow flowers carrying an oversized teal purse barged into the room. Trotting meekly behind her was her husband, a crane in a polo shirt, shorts, knee socks, and penny loafers. Three cameras were slung around his skinny neck.
"Isn't this exciting, Lester?" the hippo gushed, eagerly taking in her surroundings.
"Yes, dear," Lester replied.
"We've never been inside a real laboratory before, though we've seen them in the movies, isn't that right, Lester?"
After offering his hand to the tourists, Inspector Deuseau began, "About the photographs..."
"Lester just can't take enough photographs," Elmira said, heartily pumping the inspector's proffered hand. "It's his hobby, you know. He has five cameras, two with telephoto lenses. Isn't that right, dear?"
"Yes, dear." Lester held a camera to his eye and fiddled with the focus.
"We're tourists from Usland," Elmira said, shaking the very confused-looking Dr. Bonet's hand.
Dryly, the inspector said, "I never would have guessed."
"First time we've been in Pearee. It's so exciting!" In a confidential aside, Elmira murmured, "And so romantic."
Deuseau quirked his eyebrow. He had a hard time imagining this odd-looking couple being romantic, but to each their own. "Oui, madame. After all, Pearee is the City of Love."
Elmira squealed with delight and jumped up and down, which sent the inspector and physicist scrambling to find something to hang onto to retain their balances. "He called me madame. How French-i-fied. Say something else."
Impatiently, Deuseau said, "We really need those photographs of the thief. It is most imperative that we get them developed tout de suite."
Elmira sighed happily. "Tout de suite. Just like a Moorice Chevalier movie. He's one of my favorite stars, isn't he, Lester?"
"Yes, dear," Lester said, snapping a photograph.
Blinking the spots from his eyes, Inspector Deuseau turned to Lester. "If I could be permitted to have the film? The film with the pictures of the thief."
"Depends," Lester drawled, winding the film to the next frame. "Just have to figure out which camera I took those pictures with."
The ever-helpful Elmira said, "They should be on the same roll with the cute little mime, dear...or was it the roll with the Eyeful Tower?"
The inspector, ready to tear his hair out with frustration, gritted his teeth and said with forced politeness, "Why don't we develop all the film? That way we will be sure to find them."
Lester considered for a long time. "Okay."
"Enfin, if you will come with me. I will personally escort you to police headquarters."
"We've never been in a Pearee police station," Elmira exclaimed. "How exciting!"
After Lester and Elmira had left the room, Inspector Deuseau told the physicist quietly, "I will keep you updated on any new information, Dr. Bonet."
"Oh, Inspector!" Elmira sang. "We're waiting."
"Tourists. Bah!" Deuseau muttered under his breath.
The Sea Duck
One Hour Later
With her forehead pressed to the glass, Rebecca stared out the passenger side window at the forest-clad mountain range speeding by below. "There's the Swizz Yalps, Baloo!" she said excitedly. "Aren't they pretty?"
Baloo grinned at her enthusiasm as well as the sparkle in her big brown eyes. "Yup. They're pretty pretty as far as mountains go."
"And look at that little village down there." She clasped her hands together and sighed with contentment. "It's just like a storybook."
"One storybook village comin' up," Baloo said, scanning the terrain for a place to land. Spotting a clearing in the green valley far below, he banked the plane to the left.
Feeling the sea plane descend, Rebecca leaned back in the well-worn, well-padded co-pilot's seat. She watched her husband's piloting skills with unconcealed admiration. "Now admit it. My idea was good."
Baloo flipped the switch to deploy the landing gear, then reached over to give her hand an affectionate squeeze. "This is going to be one heck of a honeymoon, honey."
End of part 1