Chapter 2

The rain continued to pour down as Hawke staggered up the cabin steps, supporting an extremely unhappy and soggy deputy director.

Dominic stared in astonishment as Hawke deposited Archangel on the couch, at the opposite end from the senior pilot. "Well, howdy, Mike. You an' String looked like you were tryin' to tango there."

"Michael slipped on the dock."

"Funny, so did I," said Dom.

"You slipped on the dog, Dom. Michael slipped on the dock."

"I slipped on the dog, on the dock," said Dominic, obviously wanting to make sure there were no misunderstandings. "Didju slip on the dog too, Mike?"

Michael closed his eyes and hoped the vision of Dominic Santini sitting three feet from him would go away. He was not in the mood for cheerful badinage or witty repartee.

Dominic continued happily. "Anyway, pull up a sofa. Me an' String were just talkin' about how many kids he's gonna have when he grows up. Lots an' lots. . ."

"And lotsh," muttered Archangel, correctly attributing Dominic's excessive cheerfulness to the large, almost-empty tumbler in front of him.

"That too," agreed Dom. "Starting with Dom Junior an' Airwoofala. I'm gonna have me at least a dozen grandkids, an' I've promised to pay for their college education. Ain't that right, String?"

Michael cracked open his good eye and saw Hawke turning an interesting shade of crimson. "Why, Stringfellow, I had no idea you were among the ranks of men that considered fathering children to be an Olympic sport. Or is Airwoofala a member of some other species altogether?"

"Shut up," growled Hawke.

"That's one of the things I love about you, Hawke. Always ready with the cutting reply, the mot juste. . ."

"You wanna sit outside in that rain?"

Undeterred, Michael said sweetly, "And who's the lucky lady to be that's going to help you with your bid to make the American sex maniac team? Someone with a lot of stamina, I hope."

"We ain't quite worked that part out yet," said Dom. "Shouldn't be too hard to find somebody, good-lookin' guy like him. All he needs is somebody cute, healthy, likes kids, can cook . . . Hey, String! I got it! How about Cait?"

Hawke did an excellent impression of a man who wanted nothing more than for the earth to open up and swallow him. Dominic happily burbled on, "She sure qualifies on th' firsh three, anyway. I dunno about cooking, though. Hafta ask, soon's I see her."

"No!" yelped Hawke.

"Oh, sorry. Guess you'd rather ask her yourself, huh?"

"Nobody's gonna ask Cait anything," snarled Hawke.

"I think you should leave it to Dominic to arrange everything for you," suggested Michael. "He certainly seems to have given the matter a fair bit of thought. Although you might want to reserve the right to name the kids yourself."

"You want this bandage around your ankle, Michael, or your neck?"

"I'd really prefer some ice."

"No ice," grunted Hawke.

"No fish, either. All gone," said Dominic sadly. "If I'd known you were plannin' to break your leg, Mike, I'd of asked String to save you a trout."

Michael looked suspiciously from one pilot to the other, wondering if fish was some weird kind of natural remedy Hawke was espousing for injured limbs, but Hawke was busy being silent, as usual. He was also applying far too much pressure for Michael's liking as he wrapped the length of bandage around the injured ankle. "If I apologize for my somewhat crude remarks, Hawke, will you leave me just a teensy bit of circulation in that foot?"

"Some people are jus' never satisfied," Dom observed.

"Gotta have it tight. Stops the swelling."

"Fine. Whatever. When gangrene sets in due to lack of blood flow and my foot falls off, I'll leave it to you in my will. Along with any other body parts you want. If you're going to have a dozen offspring, you'll probably need a few spares of some things."

Hawke gave him a filthy look.

"Besides, I'll sue you for everything you've got."

"Hey, you were the one that came to see me, remember? If you hadn't been rushing around in those stupid dress shoes - "

"What did you come t'shee him for, anyhow?" asked Dominic, managing to come up with the only sensible remark Michael had heard since he'd gotten there.

Michael sighed. "I suppose my briefcase is still outside in the rain."

"I suppose it is."

"Any chance I could prevail upon your better nature to go out and bring it in?"

"Nope."

"Hawke, there are documents in that briefcase that are vitally important to the security of the nation, and they're getting soaked!"

Hawke shrugged. "They'll dry."

Michael rolled his good eye at the ceiling. "Pretty please? With a crate of the missiles of your choice on top?"

Hawke folded his arms and leaned against the bar. Michael played his trump card. "Fine. Never mind, then. I'll get it myself." He levered himself to his feet with a hiss of pain and started hobbling for the door.

He'd travelled about three shuffling steps when Hawke growled, "Sit down before you fall down," and strode past him to the door. Michael complied, with an odd expression on his face compounded of a smirk and gritted teeth.

Dom shook a finger at him. "That wasn't nice."

"What can I say? You know what an evil, underhanded bastard I am." Michael leaned back on the sofa and tried to look like an evil underhanded bastard, which wasn't easy considering that he was soaking wet.

A moment later Hawke was back with the briefcase, both of them equally dripping. He slapped it down in front of Michael, then headed for the stairs to the loft.

"Don't you want to know what's in this?" asked Michael.

"I want to get into some dry clothes first. Don't want to catch pneumonia." He vanished into the bedroom.

"That would certainly be bad for your career as a professional satyr," said Michael, as commiseratingly as possible considering that he was just as wet as Hawke and had no dry clothes to get into.

Hawke reappeared a few moments later, carrying a bundle of clothing that he dumped beside Michael. "Sorry I don't have anything white. You'll just have to dress like the rest of the world for a change. Or stay wet." He strode into the kitchen, pulling Dom's glass from his hand in passing. "Bar's closed. Hope you want coffee."

"My, aren't we in an accommodating mood," said Michael pleasantly.

"Only other thing I have to drink around here is water, and that's self-serve. Walk outside and open your mouth. You want coffee or not?"

For the sake of the mission that he planned on revealing to Hawke if he could ever get the man to stay still long enough to listen to him, Michael said meekly that coffee would be fine, thanks.

Eventually the coffee was ready, with no such fripperies as cream or sugar. Michael took a long, scalding-hot mouthful and opened his briefcase. What he saw inside made his heart leap into his throat. "Oh, my God," he croaked.

"What's the matter?" asked Hawke curiously.

Michael lifted the manila folder on top of the pile of documents and stared at it in horror. "Marella was supposed to take this back to Knightsbridge with her. Oh God. I'm doomed."

"What is it?"

"Nothing," he replied hastily, shoving the folder to the bottom of the pile.

Hawke raised one of his abnormally mobile eyebrows – the man could say more with one eyebrow than most people could with an entire speech, reflected Michael – but kept his mouth shut, while the spy produced the correct set of vitally important documents and went over what he needed from Hawke and Airwolf.

"We need to have Pietr Voznietstiatov and his secret formula out of Russia in three days," he concluded. "Preferably sooner."

Hawke shrugged. "Piece of cake."

"I don't understand how you can be so sanguine about this. The installation is protected by all the latest in surface to air defenses. Guns, rocket launchers, missiles. . ."

"Getting past all that is gonna be a lot easier than trying to pronounce that guy's name."

"If you say so," said Michael dubiously. In spite of Hawke's deadpan expression, the man was obviously joking. Maybe.

"Now, thank you very much for your hospitality and your first aid, but I need to use your radio. I've got to get Marella back here to pick me up."

"Are you crazy? It's nearly dark, it's still pouring rain, and there's a bad thunderstorm. You can't ask Marella to come and get you in this."

"There's no thunderstorm – "

A vast blaze of lightning lit the sky, and almost simultaneously came a deafening crash of thunder. All the lights in the cabin went out.

Hawke went over to the door and opened it a few inches. In crept a very wet coonhound, who took one look at Dominic and shot up the stairs to Hawke's bedroom. Hawke closed the door again. "You were saying?"

"It's vitally important that I get back to Knightsbridge as soon as possible. Hawke, I'll pay you whatever you want to take me there."

"Forget it. That's Dom's helicopter out there, not the Lady. I don't fly little eggbeaters in weather like this."

"Ten thousand dollars."

"You tell me you got my brother in your briefcase, I might consider it. Otherwise, get those dry clothes on, put your foot up, and get ready to spend the night here." Hawke marched over to the fireplace and began to kindle a fire.

"The night?" yelped Michael. "I can't stay here for the whole night! It's – "

"Vitally important, yeah, I know. Michael, everything with you is vitally important. Loosen up. The world will still be here in the morning."

"Maybe it will be for you," muttered Michael. If he didn't get that folder in his briefcase to its destination by midnight, come morning he might wish the world would just blow up.

************

Insulated from Dominic's snoring by the fury of the storm, Hawke slept the sleep of the righteous that night, while Michael, three feet away from ground zero, clad in a shirt of Hawke's that was too big and a pair of jeans that were uncomfortably tight, with a throbbing ankle, and lacking Hawke's tolerance of thunderstorms, tossed and turned in an armchair all night long.

At least the storm, which had hovered obstinately overhead for most of the night, had finally trundled off by the morning. The first thing Michael noticed in a stray beam of watery sunlight was the amazing shine to the dining room table. Somebody had obviously put a lot of elbow grease into polishing it, and just recently too. Who on earth would have done such a beautiful job? Hawke?

Nah.

Come to think of it, though, everything in the cabin seemed to have been freshly polished or scrubbed. He ran a finger across the base of the lamp on the table next to him and inspected his fingertip clinically. No dust. He was impressed. How much did Hawke have to pay a cleaning lady to come all the way out here? And how had he managed to find one that was so good at her job?

From outside came the rhythmic thunk of wood being split. On the sofa, Dominic still looked comatose. With the coast temporarily clear, Michael opened his briefcase and took out the folder that he'd thought was safely on its way to Knightsbridge. He scanned the contents ruefully. He'd put so much work into it this time, and the results were impressive if he did say so himself. Everything was so pertinent, so useful. . . and all for nothing, now. Too late. He'd missed the deadline.

"What's that?" said Hawke's voice at his elbow. Michael jumped six inches in the air. Before he hit the chair again he'd shoved the folder back in the briefcase and slammed it closed. "What the hell do you think you're doing sneaking up on me like that? You could have given me a heart attack!"

Hawke shrugged. "Good morning to you too. How d'you want your eggs?"

Michael got to his feet and limped to the kitchen after Hawke. Surprisingly, his ankle didn't hurt nearly as much as he'd expected. Either Hawke's rudimentary first aid had been effective, or the circulation had been cut off to such an extent that he'd lost all feeling. He took a belated peek at his foot. Still there, and not turning black.

"Eggs?" repeated Hawke, holding a cast iron skillet as if he was debating whether to cook with it or use it as a weapon.

"Uh – scrambled is fine." He took a discreet glance around the kitchen area as Hawke busied himself with the skillet, noting the gleaming stove, dust-free, well-scrubbed countertop and complete absence of dirty dishes. Hawke followed his gaze and gave him a suspicious look. "What are you staring at?"

"Nothing, nothing. Just thinking what a nice place you've got here."

"Why? You planning on moving into the neighbourhood?"

"No, no! No, no, no. Of course not. Not at all."

Hawke gave him an even more suspicious look. "You sure?"

"Oh, absolutely. I don't think I'd care to have bears for neighbours."

"No bears around here." Hawke scowled at the eggs in the pan.

"I'm not so sure about that," muttered Michael.

At that point the radio squawked. "That's probably Marella, wanting to know if you slept well," said Hawke, handing a spatula to Michael and heading for the instrument.

"Knightsbridge calling Stringfellow Hawke," said Marella's voice. "Come in, please."

"Go ahead, Marella."

"Is Michael still there?"

"Yup."

"Well, will you tell him that his boss called, and he's fired. He's missed his last deadline. And you can also tell him, by the way, that I am not his secretary. Knightsbridge out."

Hawke stared at the radio, then at Michael. "What was that about?"

"Oh, nothing. Just a little misunderstanding that I'm sure I can clear up as soon as I get back to civilization."

"Well, you're gonna have to wait a while, because there's another storm coming."

"Oh, come on! The sun's shining."

"Sorry, Michael. Wrong again."

Off in the distance, Michael could clearly hear a grumble of thunder.

"Now, what's Marella talking about? What is this about being fired?"

"It's nothing you need to worry about. As I said, it's just a slight misunderstanding that will in no way affect you or Airwolf."

"Michael, if you've just lost your job – "

"I have not lost my job!"

"Oh yeah? That's not what Marella just said."

Michael glared at the stovetop, stickhandling the eggs around in the skillet.

"Fine. You don't want to talk, I'll put you in that chopper and take you back to Knightsbridge, storm or no storm, and let Marella chop you into little pieces. She didn't sound very happy with you."

Michael sank down on one of Hawke's tall stools and buried his head in his hands. "You're right. She'd probably shoot me if I walked through the door right now. Oh, damn, damn, damn. Just when I thought everything was going so well." He looked up at Hawke. "It's not like it was an easy job. I worked hard at it. I don't think anyone realized how much time and effort I put into it. But I knew I was helping people, and as saccharine as it sounds, that really made it all worth while. But the ones in charge, they think they can just toss me out on my keister, just because I couldn't always work to their schedule."

"That Zeus was always a bastard," muttered Hawke.

"Zeus? Who said anything about Zeus?"

"Huh? Wasn't it Zeus and the committee that fired you?"

"Them? Oh, no. This has nothing to do with the Firm."

Hawke stared at him blankly. "Then what the hell are we talking about?"

Michael heaved a huge sigh. "This." He got up from the stool and hobbled across the room to the table where he had left his briefcase. He brought the case back to the kitchen, opened it, removed the manila folder and tossed it down in front of Hawke. Hawke pulled out several sheets of typewritten paper and began to read. His eyebrows rose higher and higher until they were threatening to disappear into his hairline.

"If you want to save some money and still have sparkling clean floors, tubs, tiles, and woodwork, here are a couple of recipes to try:

"Stir half a cup of ammonia and a third of a cup washing soda into a gallon of warm water. If you're planning on cleaning several floors, you'll probably use it all.

"An even easier mixture is two tablespoons of trisodium phosphate (you can find this in paint and hardware stores) in two quarts of warm water.

"Or you can try a quarter cup of white vinegar and a quarter cup of washing soda mixed into one gallon of warm water. If your floors have a wax buildup, you can remove it with three tablespoons of washing soda in a quart of warm water."

"Next week, I'll tell you all about the miracle cleaner that you probably already have in your cupboard – baking soda! Plus, metal polish you can make at home."

Hawke looked up from the paper and stared at Michael, who was concentrating fiercely on spooning egg onto plates. His face had turned redder than the plaid shirt he was wearing.

"I don't believe this," said Hawke, almost to himself. He looked back down at the paper.

"I'm out of space for now, but as always I welcome comments. If you have any handy household hints you'd like to share with other readers, you can write to me care of this newspaper." He looked from the paper in his hand to Michael and back again.

"I don't know what to say," he stuttered. "Michael – you're. . . ?"

Michael nodded. "Yeah. I'm Mr. Clean."

*********

"I don't believe this," said Hawke, for about the fourth time, as he shovelled scrambled egg into his mouth. "You're nationally syndicated in dozens of newspapers. I've read your column every week for months."

"You have?" said Michael, stunned.

"Well, not really," he backpedalled. "I mean, sometimes the paper just kinda opens to that spot, so I just look, ya know, if I don't have anything better to do. . ." He gave up. "Hell, yes. I read it all the time. That recipe for upholstery cleaner that you did a couple of months ago works great. But I gotta tell you, that thing about using mayonnaise for furniture polish just made an awful mess. Plus I had Tet licking the tabletop for days."

"I didn't write that with people who own scenthounds in mind," Michael pointed out. "Besides, it's an easy thing to find in the kitchen on those nights when you just can't sleep and it seems like a bit of furniture polishing might help."

Hawke stared. "Sure. I always polish my furniture at three in the morning. I may be strange, but I'm not that strange."

"That's about the only time I have to do housecleaning," retorted Michael. "And I have to try this stuff before I hand in my copy. I used to try to get Marella and the other girls to help, but for some reason they just weren't willing to work with me on this. Did you try any of the other furniture polishes? I kind of liked the two parts olive oil and one part lemon juice. Did a good job, and it smelled nice, too."

"Yeah, but I still like plain lemon oil. I'm a traditionalist, I guess."

"Hey, did you try leaving cloths to soak overnight in soapy water with some turpentine mixed in – hang 'em up to dry and they'll do a terrific job dusting and adding a shine at the same time. . ."

*************

Dominic Santini woke slowly. It took several minutes before he remembered why he was sleeping on Stringfellow Hawke's sofa and why his head was hurting so badly. Oh God, had that really been him telling Hawke that he should get married and have a whole brood of kids? And had he really promised to pay for college education for all of them?

It was some time before he started paying attention to the two voices. ". . . pint of hot water and half a cup of lemon oil. That works good too."

"Really? I'll have to try that next time. Now, I've found that a bit of your lemon oil added to a paste made of rotten stone works well for getting rid of alcohol rings. Very handy if your friends aren't as careful about your tables as you are."

Huh? That sounded like String and Michael. But – comparing notes on furniture polish? Dom decided he must be in some hangover-induced purgatory.

"Tell me about it. I've spent too much time trying to take out cigarette burns with fine sandpaper and then touching it up. Man, that's a finicky job."

Dominic finally got his eyelids parted enough to see that Stringfellow Hawke and Michael Coldsmith Briggs were the only other people in the cabin, and yes, those bizarre remarks really were coming out of the mouths of two of the men he would have thought were among the least likely on the planet to be concerned about domestic details. Well, after the weekend's earlier revelations, he supposed he couldn't count String in that group. But Archangel? What was the world coming to?

Hawke looked over and realized he was awake. "Hey, Dom, how're you feeling?"

"Oh – uh – well, I'll live. I think." He started to struggle to his feet and discovered they would both bear his weight. That was an improvement over yesterday, at least. Hawke had started to come over to help him, but Dom waved him away. "Think I'll just go have a shower." Maybe that would help him stop hallucinating.

"You want any breakfast? There's still some bacon left."

"Nah, just coffee," said Dom weakly. "Wouldn't want you to mess up your nice clean stove on my account." He hobbled over to the stairs, groaning softly.

Hawke went to check the coffeepot. By the time Dominic returned, showered and shaved and somewhat more awake, they were deep in a discussion of the relative merits of different brands of dish soap. ". . . want to try making your own, you can mix washing soda, borax, and a bar of grated soap in boiling water," Michael was saying as Dom limped back down the stairs. "One of my readers sent that to me."

Hawke blinked. "Actually, that was me."

Both Michael and Dom stared at him. "You?" yelped Michael. "You were 'Hostile Householder in Hemet'?"

"You were?" repeated Dom in total disbelief.

Hawke ducked his head modestly, turning crimson. "Yeah."

Michael slapped his leg. "That was a terrific recipe!"

Dom looked longingly out the window to where he could see his helicopter still parked on the dock and wondered if he could make a break for it. Bum ankle or no bum ankle, he desperately needed to get back to the real, sane world, where people lobbed bullets and missiles at each other instead of soap recipes. But even as he watched the rain started to fall again in solid sheets and thunder growled ominously. Hawke dashed outside and brought in another armful of firewood, along with kindling for the stove, and put on another pot of coffee. He and Michael settled down cosily. Dom considered just leaving anyway. If he got hit by lightning, that couldn't be as much of a shock as discovering that Archangel was leading a secret life as an expert househusband and newspaper columnist. It would sure be more exciting than sitting here and listening to him and String yammering on like this. He looked over at the cello. Even listening to String caterwauling on that thing would be preferable to hearing about a thousand and one uses for baking soda.

Somewhere around the third cup of coffee of the morning, Hawke said, "But Michael, if you've lost your column in the paper, what are you going to do now?"

"Yeah," said Dom. "The Firm doesn't have enough scope for a guy with all Mr. Clean's talents."

"Dominic," said Michael pleasantly, "just keep in mind that when Hawke here finally settles down – as no doubt he will do eventually – and has all those children, I'm his witness that you promised to pay for college for little Airwoofala and her eleven brothers and sisters, all of whom will no doubt want to go on to graduate school."

Dom harrumphed and looked longingly at the bar, wishing he could drown his sorrows – or drown out the conversation of the other two – in something stronger than coffee.

Michael turned back to Hawke. "Well, actually, I've got another project on the go at the moment that I'm really excited about. You know, how'd you like to help me with it? I'm writing a book called "A Hundred And One Uses For A Vacuum Cleaner" and I'm only up to seventy three."

Hawke's eyes lit up. "Sure."

"Mamma mia," muttered Dominic. He looked over at Tet, who had snuck downstairs at some point and was now lying on the floor by Hawke's chair. The gaze of man and dog met. Tet gave a cavernous yawn, then sank back down with a groan that dwindled into a heavy sigh.

Dom knew just how he felt.

***********

"How about putting that smelly dried stuff – whaddaya call it. . ."

"Potpourri?"

"Yeah. You could put it in the vacuum bag and have the smell blown around the house as you cleaned."

"I've already got that one. Number sixteen."

"Hell. This is harder than I thought, Michael."

"Well, we've made some progress. We're up to. . ." Michael checked his notebook. ". . . eighty-one."

"How about using the cord to tie people up with and gagging them by stuffing the brushes in their mouths?" said Dom caustically. "Maybe beating 'em with the hose?"

Michael gave him a pained look. "Dominic, please. These are legitimate uses for a vacuum cleaner. I don't want to get into any S&M stuff. That's just sheer sensationalism. A blatant appeal to the mass market."

"Trust me, you're not gonna hafta worry about the masses with this thing," muttered Dom.

As usual, he was ignored. "Now, Hawke," continued Michael, "what do you think about attaching a bag of microwave popcorn to the back of the canister? I wonder if there'd be enough heat to pop it so it would be ready to eat by the time you were finished cleaning."

"What's wrong with just putting it in the microwave?" demanded Dominic.

"Saves energy. You're already running the vacuum, you don't have to have two appliances going."

"We should try it and see if it works," said Hawke. "But I don't have any popcorn, and anyway the power's still off."

He and Michael both contemplated Hawke's vacuum and all its attachments, which were spread on the floor in front of them. They were both clearly salivating for a chance to try the eight uses for it that they'd managed to come up with in the past two hours.

"Thank God for small mercies," muttered Dom.

He'd always worried that by flying Airwolf for the Firm, there would come a time when they'd be so ensnared in the dubious morality of most of Archangel's shenanigans that Hawke would be forced to either severely compromise his principles and integrity, or give up on his last hope of finding his brother. Now, it seemed there was a way in which Archangel's influence was even more pernicious. Before his very eyes Stringfellow Hawke had gone from a lean, mean piloting machine to some strange creature obsessed with vacuum cleaners and baking soda. Both he and Archangel, it seemed, had come out of the broom closet.

Phooey on 'em. He struggled to his feet, intent on finding something behind the bar that would take the edge off all this pain.

"Hey, Dom, we're not boring you, are we?" asked Hawke, sounding genuinely contrite.

"No, no, don't you worry your little head about me," said Dom, grimacing. "I just want to see if there's any anaesthetic left in that bottle. Don't let me interrupt all this – this work of literary genius." Ignoring the flash of Hawke's scowl, he limped over to the bar and began to rummage through his host's depleted stocks of alcohol. Who the heck had drunk all the beer?

Suddenly, through the noise of the rain pounding on the roof, his ears caught the sound of an approaching helicopter. Peering through the front window, he could just make out the approaching shape of the Firm's white Longranger. "Saved by the Bell," he muttered.

The helicopter landed neatly next to his own. A moment later the white-clad form of Marella came sprinting through the rain and burst through the door. "Come on, sir. We've got a window in the storm for just a few more minutes. You need to get back to the Firm ASAP. We've got a Situation in South America."

"Excellent," said Michael, rubbing his hands. "Thank you, Marella. Hawke, bring the vacuum and come on. We can try everything out as soon as we get to Knightsbridge."

"Hold on a minute," said Hawke. "Dom's injured. He should be the one to go back. He needs to have that ankle looked at."

"There's no time for Hawke to come back to Knightsbridge with us, sir," said Marella. "He should be leaving to go pick up Voznietstiatov."

"Nonono, don't you worry about me," said Dominic hastily. "You and Michael just go off and play with your vacuum cleaners, String. I'll be fine by tomorrow. Tet an' me can keep each other company tonight, and I'll leave first thing in the morning to find your Mr. V."

"You can't take Airwolf to Russia on your own!"

"Oh yeah? What happens if we're halfway back with this guy and you suddenly get an urge to start DustBustin' the insides of the Lady? That Russian'll probably jump right out at thirty thousand feet. Come to think of it, I might be right behind him."

"But – "

"Get going, all of you." Dominic hobbled around the bar and bent down to pick up one of the vacuum attachments, brandishing it in Michael's face. "Unless you want me to add a final chapter to your book. A Hundred Uses For A Vacuum Cleaner – And One For The Crevice Tool."

The End (really!)

Note: Mr. Clean is a registered trademark of Procter & Gamble. DustBuster is a registered trademark of Black & Decker.

"Hostile Householder in Hemet" refers to the fact that Hawke's Eagle Lake is, in real life, apparently Lake Hemet in southwestern California.

The author does not endorse any of the cleaning methods mentioned in the story (although they all came from either a "household hints" book or ancient newspaper clippings, so are probably legitimate). The author has not tried them, and therefore can't vouch for their effectiveness, or lack of same. The author really, really hates housecleaning.