Whispers in the Dark
Maybe splitting up was not the best idea she put in practice today, especially since that seemed to have led Olivia crawling through the tight empty space in the walls of one old human house (not the cleanest place in the world either, not even for a mouse).
She studied her new environment closely. Exposed bricks, dirt, dust and spider-webs became quite common around here. Olivia sighed in annoyance. She really hoped that by some miracle she was heading in the right direction. This place was so… dirty! And she felt so alone.
"I wish Mr. Bumbles were here…" But of course, he wasn't.
Some time ago, when she and Thinker got to the villa, the first thought that sprang to Olivia's tiny little head was that the place was simply huge. How were they to find Basil in there? She didn't even know where to begin! But Thinker seemed to, and tugging on her scarf as to not let the mouseling get sidetracked, led them towards the last place the bee saw its master. It was a wonder no guards noticed them yet, but small things did tend to go unnoticed most of the times. Still, once they arrived at their destination the place was deserted, and all 'Mr. Bumbles' seemed to know at the time was that Basil went 'out'. Or at least, that's what Olivia managed to make out.
That certainly wasn't enough to go by, but then Olivia came up with the brilliant idea of splitting up and search for Basil individually (she either failed or chose to ignore 'Mr. Bumbles'' protests at the idea). Right now, she found that she regretted doing so. Oh, why couldn't she remember that she had a natural tendency to get lost? It was still a wonder how she got here in the first place. Did it happen when she almost ran into the lizard? Or when she ducked from those drunken mice?
"I'm not sure the' boss will like it, Cook." Olivia froze. She knew that voice. That was Fidget! But, didn't her father say that he fell in the Thames River?
"He doesn't like many things, Fidget."
Curious, Olivia pricked up her ears and waited for Fidget's voice to ring up again. She did not have to wait long.
"I know that, Cook. Me don' want him to get mad at me again." That was it. Keep on talking you silly old thing. "Last time I gave the' boss bad news he fed me to that stupid cat of his." There. That was it, a tiny crack in the wall. A few more mouse feet and… Bingo!
Taking a peek through the crack, she saw Fidget, fidgeting away like the bat normally did. And there was someone else there as well. Moving a bit to get a better view of said 'someone else', she noticed that it was a mole. Or at least, she supposed it was a mole. She never ever met one before. But it looked a lot like the ones illustrated in her school books, so it had to be a mole. And judging by said mole's attire, it appeared to be a cook.
"He won't get mad, my boy." The mole said. "Trust me on that one."
"Cookie, you no know boss like me do." Fidget said, still staying true to his name. "He has no problems with you. You've known him for long. But we don't. He's no fair!" Fidget didn't seem to hear the kitchen door opening. "I mean, how was it my fault that Basil was there? He's bigger and stronger than me and smarter too, so it can't be my fault. And he even outwitted the boss back then so…"
"Were I you, Fidget, I would choose my next words very carefully." Olivia watched from her spot as Fidget suddenly went stiff, then started to shake almost uncontrollably. Only one could make the cheeky, fidgeting Fidget act like that.
"It must have been just a fluke! That it was: a fluke! You's so many times better then tinny-winny Basil. All strong and smart and – and –and – and …"
"Oh, do shut up Fidget." Turning a bit to see better, Olivia finally had the sewer rat in view. He certainly looked as mad as his voice seamed to say.
"Yes, boss!" Fidget shrieked with fright before launching into an apparent never ending narration of past events that he was aware of. "Well, you see boss, me's been moving around, listening in on coppers and asking around like you's said, but so far, nothing's been happening around town. Just a killing or two here and there, but when aren't there killings in London? Lots of humans own cats and dogs and mouse traps as well as ra-… I's mean, you knows how it is. But apart from that, nothing been going wrong at all. All's pretty quiet and all, but you's gave me a job so I went to do it. So, I though to myself, that I did: why not go snoop around them coppers nesting place? It's not like I's can't go unnoticed, ya' know. So me went and met up with my source there. He's been having lunch, so me got there just fine. Me source down at the station, a friend of an uncle as I's said once before, that is, a man we trusts and all that. Heard he about to be married with Harry's sister. You know, Harry, your wine guy. He always finds ya' the best kind of wine there is. All human made."
A low growl was heard right then and Olivia shifted to get a better view of Ratigan. The larger rodent appeared to be massaging his brow. Then, drawing a deep breath, as if he was trying to steady himself, said: "You're getting side-tracked, Fidget…"
The voice he used when speaking was soft, but that was just why she didn't like how things were going for Fidget. If memory served her right, then sweetly voices coming from that rat were never a good sign. It's not like she sympathized with the bat or anything, but last time he angered Ratigan she clearly remembered that he ended up being thrown in the river.
Fidget seemed to be thinking much along the same lines, for he started shivering almost uncontrollably. Gulping down, he summoned up all his courage to mutter these next words: "Well, this mouse said that the guys at the top have something going. Something big he says, very hush-hush. Nobody knows just what it is. Just that he's been hearing things. Rumors. Well, thing is, he heard that some poor guy died in jail. Burned to a crisp he said."
There came a crash from the side. The mole, whom apparently had taken to washing some dishes (in… soup if here eyes were not playing tricks on her) during Fidget's report, was gathering the broken pieces of a plate. He must have dropped it – moles were never pretty handy creatures, or so she had heard. That mystery out of the way though, Olivia shifted in her place once more to fully take in Ratigan's expression. To her, the rat appeared puzzled. Yes, puzzled and – dare she think it – worried? But over what? It couldn't be because of the plate, even if he did seem to be looking at the mole. But then… why?
"How did he end up being burned?" Ratigan asked suddenly. For a moment, Fidget looked taken aback, as if he did not expect such a question. That, or the mole's clumsiness distracted him.
"I no know. He not said. Papers say nothing either. Me nicked a few, but nothing there but boring things. But me source said that some big guys are on case. One of them is French guy – erm… Vel-something and that new guy – Claw or something like it…"
Ratigan's eyes widened at the size of dinner plates. "Detective Chief Inspector Vole and Detective Inspector Clawes?"
"Yes, that them!" Fidget cried almost cheerfully. Ratigan yanked him up by the ears.
"You fool! Those two are the best of the Yard. If they're on this case together then it has to be something big!" He dropped the now petrified Fidget to the floor. "And what's more: Vole is known to ask for Basil's assistance whenever he stumbles upon a very difficult case… Hmm…" Ratigan now adopted something Olivia would call a typical 'thinking pose'. It was clear that his brain was working a mile a minute, but regarding what, Olivia was not certain. But then again, she was too busy watching to think properly at the moment.
"Fidget, tell me –" Ratigan began after a pause. "– Did your 'contact' mentioned Basil's name in your little conversation. Think hard!" He cautioned when Fidget started to shake his head. "The slightest mention. The very slightest mention of our detective. Did he mention anything at all? Even in passing."
Fidget was ready to shake his head again, but then he paused. Something clicked in his usually empty head. "Oh, 'e mentioned something about Basil. 'E said Basil came – yesterday morning. Came in and spoke with V-guy. Didn't see Basil go, though."
"CURSES!" Ratigan screamed, making both Fidget and Olivia jump in fright. "That nosy good for nothing thorn in my side is everywhere! He- he- he…" Ratigan looked close to having a seizure, but then he went completely still, face reddening, then exhaled deeply, now much calmer. "No matter. There will be little consequence. I'll just have to have a nice long chat with Basil on the matter and sort things out." Olivia piped up at that. Then Basil really was here! "Now Fidget, what about the spiders. Have you heard anything about that?"
"Not much. Old lady filed complaint though. Scared her, it seems."
"Are you certain?"
"How can I be? Sorry boss. Not mean to be bad. But why ask 'bout spiders? Is not like they're not everywhere."
But the message was no longer reaching Ratigan. The large rodent was pacing the kitchen almost furiously, his mind working a mile a minute. The cook too, appeared to be deep in thought. Cookie touched the wooden spoon he had tied to his belt, deep in thoughts as well, before asking: "You think he's back, don't you."
Ratigan stopped for a moment in his pacing to dismiss Fidget (who was more than happy to oblige) then took a seat on a nearby chair, burying his face in his hands. He didn't answer.
"I would have hoped it all ended now 13 years ago." The mole carried on, taking a seat besides the rat. Beside him, Ratigan snorted. "I just don't understand who we could have missed. We left nobody alive for him to use and coming back without the possibility of finding a host is useless." Ratigan still said nothing. "James, why would he come back? It makes no sense…"
"Sense?" he muttered. "Sense?" he repeated, standing up. "Sense you say?" this time, he chuckled, yet said chuckle held no humor. "My friend, after all these ears you can still speak of sense when we're discussing him? Becky would be doubling over in laughter were she to hear you now."
Cookie frowned. "Well, you're one to speak. You were the one who made the list –"
"Which was perfect, I might add." Ratigan growled back. "And I made sure to cross down every single one. We eliminated everyone who could serve as his host. I even double-checked the background of every single woman in the country, for Pete's sake! Terra's family is now extinct."
"And it seems that still wasn't enough." Cookie snapped. "I told you it wouldn't be enough. Becky told you it wouldn't be enough. When will you understand that it was impossible for a mere set of murders to be enough?"
"Enough with your preaches, Cookie! I hate it when you play the saint. And what I told you now twenty years ago still stands; you are no longer a priest, cook! You ceased being one when you first covered your hands with blood."
"I was saving that child's soul!" Cookie cried, jumping to his feet. "The creature was possessing her! She was twenty-three! He was about to destroy her!"
"Which is why you did what you did, Cookie. What we all did, time and time again, every time, for all those years. Me, Becky, later off you – we all did what we had to do to ensure that that devil would be stopped. I never said it was easy, but it was something we had to do." Ratigan said, not in a very friendly manner. His anger seemed to have died down however, the instant he caught sight of Cookie's tears behind those incredibly large glasses. "It was too late for her, either way, and she was definitely not strong enough to resist him… Terra was not strong enough to resist him…" He never meant to bring her up. Not again, and definitely not today.
Cookie, tears now dry, stepped closer to his employer. He seemed uncertain as of what to say, then shook his head. He then turned back to his sink, quickly washed a glass (in water this time) and filled it with milk. He then handed the glass to Ratigan whom had yet again occupied a chair.
"I like people to think that just because I am a mole and don't see well that I am blind to most things." Cookie confessed when Ratigan took the glass. "But you don't need eyes of an eagle to tell that you're still hurting, James."
For a long moment, Ratigan said nothing, before: "Can't really lie to you Cookie…" he gulped down the contents of the glass. "Yes, I still miss her. I miss her more and more every day." A sigh. "Sometimes, I feel that I can still see her - a flicker color here and there, her gracious moves… Sometimes I even swear that I can hear her voice, calling me…" He frowned "Though for some reason she insists on calling me 'Ratigan'." He shrugged. "It's like she's still lurking around here someplace, playing hide and seek with me, but I know I'm merely fooling myself. Terra died and nothing can bring her back."
"I know, my friend."
"Terra died… but she didn't have to die. She was still so young… so full of life… so bright and kind and… I lost her because I was stupid enough to 'do the right thing'. Pah! If I wouldn't have been playing the buffoon for those idiots I could have prevented it! It should have been there, Cookie! I shouldn't have left her there alone!"
"It was just a lapse of judgment of your part. You were a professor, not a psychic. You had a job you had to do and you did it, just like Terra said. Regardless of that one hour you spent trying to get back, there was nothing you could have done. And there's nothing you can do now. One can't change the past."
"No, but it will help me decide on what needs to be done for a better future. First, there are those 'laws' the government had placed. They need to go. It's easy to see that they are obsolete. Always where, always will be. Then there is that whole monarchy nonsense! I was so close to make things all better… But then that miserable second-rate detective failed my plans! Again and again and again!"
Ratigan was once again furious with the detective. It was certain that thinking too much about the detective wasn't healthy for his nerves. Rising to his feet once more, he resumed his earlier pacing. But just like last time, it failed to calm him, so he proceeded by doing the next best thing: he lit himself a cigarette (briefly wondering where he had misplaced his lighter).
"The simpleton doesn't even try to understand why I do what I do. He just thinks of me as the 'big, bad wolf that wants to kill red-riding-pants'. He doesn't pause to think and see the bigger picture. In fact, as brilliant as he is, he's like all the rest; never thinking outside the box."
Cookie couldn't help the grin from forming. "Oh, I don't know about that. The impression your detective gave me was by far one of the best. And one actually seemed to have some manners."
"Ha! Basil and manners in the same sentence! Now that must be new. Especially after he so gracefully invaded my privacy three times just today, insulted me – repeatedly – and took joy in my pain, the sadist. Not to mention that were I anyone else I would have surely died during the fool's attempt at freedom early today. Also, I swear he must have some obsession with Terra's painting!"
"The one you paint–"
"Yes, that is the one, and I would appreciate it if you would cease commenting on my artistic skills."
"That doesn't change the fact that your Basil gave me a fine impression. And little Midget seems to have taken a liking to our guest."
"Then I shall proceed by wringing the idiotic bat's neck." And Ratigan seemed honest about it. "I sent him to guard Basil, not befriend him! He's the enemy!"
"He's our guest now, James."
"He's nothing more but a spoiled brat who turned up to be just a little more clever than most. And he's not even as bright as you might see him. Calls himself a master of disguise but I can see trough them just fine, thank you very much." The grin on Cookie's face intensified.
"I for one like your detective." Cookie said. "And I think that you should tell."
Ratigan was now confused "Tell him that you like him?"
"No silly. Tell Basil what happened between you and Terra."
"You're mad, mole."
"It would be for the best, you know?" Cookie persisted, ignoring Ratigan's growl. "You say that this Basil doesn't understand. Well then, why not make this Basil understand? Who knows? It could help you deal with this."
Ratigan glared at him. "Cookie, Basil would help me do one thing and one thing only, and that would be to get me behind bars. He hates my guts, and I hate his, and he'd be the last person alive I would tell about my relationship with Terra. Plus, I might traumatize him."
"But the detective might already suspect something. After all, you did say 'I swear he must have some obsession with Terra's painting!' and if you weren't exaggerating when you ranted about Basil's deduction abilities, then I can deduce that your detective may very well suspect a great deal. You'd just be confirming."
A snort. "If, and I say if I was to do so, what would I get out of it apart from humiliation and probably the satisfaction of watching the horror on Basil's face?"
"James." Cookie began, his voice serious. "I truly believe that you should tell your detective about this. No, let me finish. If he is back, then you'll need all the help you can get. And I'm sure Basil could see past your… charming means of communication and personal feelings for you. After all, this is more then another one of your petty little thefts."
Ratigan slapped a hand to his forehead. "Oh, Cookie, why are you insisting so much on the matter?"
The mole didn't answer immediately. "You remember when we first met? I was…" a pause. "… thirty-something, I think - still rather young and extremely naïve, when I was summoned to the baker's home. His daughter was ill and he believed that after the doctor could do no more for her, he should call me in. I was, after all, the village's priest at the time. But then, you and Becky came barging in and attempted to kill the child. I had no way of knowing it was the only way to stop the devil from doing the opposite… but still even a more horrendous thing to her. Either way; you told me afterwards that these girls this devil targets have three things in common: they have green eyes, are brighter then most and are related to Miss. Terra.
"They've all been rather bright as well." Ratigan added. "They've all had Terra's blood in them, so wits would be something we should be taking for granted. Terra was a genius among fools, even if she was never allowed to learn how to read. Even if now things are not quite as absurd as before, They still stop them from getting too smart." Ratigan concluded, crushing down his cigarette. "Women often prove themselves to be wiser than men, even when they receive very little education. Terra was a very fine example of that…"
"Still –" Cookie interrupted, causing Ratigan to frown. It wasn't like Cookie to interrupt him. "– The fact that they all seems to take after Miss. Terra doesn't change. That is why I've always felt like I've seen a ghost each time we meet another."
"That's why I never looked them in the eye and… What is your damn point, mole?" Ratigan finally snapped. Cookie hesitated.
"What if I were to tell you that I've seen a ghost today?"
And for the first time in decades, Professor James P. Ratigan was unable to properly process the information that he was given. It was then that little Midget came bursting trough the kitchen door, his cousin in tow.
"Boss!" Midget cried, running up to Ratigan and even tugging on his cape. "Boss! It's Basil sir! Basil's –"
But Ratigan's mind was elsewhere.
"No!" he told Cookie. "This is NOT possible! Yes, the bastard may have eyes like Terra, but Basil is most definitely NOT a woman."
Cookie was not intimidated. "Have you checked?"
The rat became absolutely livid. "Of course I haven't bloody checked! What the hell you do you take me for? A rabbit in heat?"
Midget never had a chance. "Shut it, bat boy, you're in enough trouble as it is and I'll deal with you later." Ratigan threatened, pulling his cape out of the bat's hold. "Mole, I trusted you all these years to be a good judge of character, but I know my enemy far better then you do and trust me when I say that there is no possible way for Basil to be what you think he is. Because, Cookie, Basil is –"
"Is not breathing!"
Midget's outburst, one most of the people in that room would have ignored altogether, had the greatest impact imaginable. Everything seamed to stop, silence was now supreme… until Ratigan finally recovered from the shock.
"WHAT?" And though it did little to no help at the moment, most of his henchmen would later claim that his cry of incredulity could be heard all the way down to Buckingham Palace.
"Me went check on Midget and me found him running to get yous." Fidget began, yet Ratigan was long out the door, Midget taking flight and off in hot pursuit. With a cry of "Wait for me!" he too was running. Cookie was about to leave too when a gasp that seemed to come from within the walls captured his attention.
In the meantime however, Ratigan ran faster then he believed was possible. Midget was screaming after him, telling him that one minute everything was fine, then Basil started coughing, had a heard time getting air in and then simply stopped breathing altogether. But Ratigan wasn't really listening. The pipsqueak just ran himself to the ground; that was it. Basil never took his health seriously, and Cookie was just imagining things. He… just choked or something. It was nothing else. Nothing else at all. Basil was not… Basil was NOT… Cookie was mistaken. Cookie must be mistaken. He knew Basil for years and the detective had not shown any signs of anything that would indicate…
But if he was wrong… What if he was wrong and Cookie was right? Well, what if! He would just shoot a bullet trough the detective's head and be done with it! It was simple. All he had to do was ignore those blasted eyes…
All his places were forgotten at the sight which greeted him upon entering his private quarters. His body acted without thinking, his brain too numb to think, and Basil will never know that the cool, collected and often cruel Ratigan would even act on impulse.
But then again, she was a bit busy struggling to wake up…
First thing Basil was aware of was that she was under water. She did not know how, but every single portion of her brain was telling her that. She could feel the water in her fur, feel it as she tried to move her hands, but she couldn't see it. It was too dark to see. Only a few flickers of light seemed to penetrate… These were very dark waters, she concluded, very dark waters indeed, and she found that she was being pulled in, deeper and deeper with each passing moment.
She was drowning.
Her self-preservation instincts now fully kicking in, she pushed her feet to paddle towards the surface, only to find that they wouldn't budge. She tried again. Nothing. It was like they were simply missing! But then she felt it, like a tug on her left foot, gentle at firth, then stronger, and stronger, and it was pulling her, deeper and deeper into the water. She started to panic.
Do not panic, little one. Let go and there will be no pain.
And there was that voice again! No. She tried to kick again, to head for the surface, to get out of these waters. But which way was up again? She did not even know how she got here! No, this was not real!
No, no, no, my dear. You'll only make this harder on yourself. No, please, calm down, dearest. Trust me, I'll get you out. You only have to be here for only a little while…
No, no, no, no, no, no… Last time, that voice told her to fall asleep in the snow. She'd be damned if she listened to it now!
Oh, no my dear. Don't think for one moment that I'm trying to harm you. Perish the thought! Now all those others… they don't deserve my protection. They're just… cheap copies, only shadows to chase on the water.
This was a dream… This had to be a dream! This couldn't be real! But then, why didn't she wake up? And why did everything feel so real? Why wasn't she breathing! Dear gods! This was no dream!
"Come one, you annoying little pipsqueak! Breathe!"
Definitely not a dream. No, this was a nightmare! Why else would she be hearing Ratigan's voice?
"'Tective! Wake up! 'Tective!"
… But then, why was she hearing Midget's voice too.
Ignore them, my dear. They're not real. Not like you and me, they're not… Sure sounded real… But they are not. Listen to me, my sweet, just stop struggling. Enjoy water… and earth… and fire…
What the hell? The elements? And what of air? She needed air… But wait: she wasn't breathing, was she? Then… how was she still…
"Basil, so help me, if you die on me NOW I'm going to kill you!"
Die? No, she wasn't dying. She was waking up. This was all in her head. All she had to do was wake up… Reach out towards one of those small rays of light, rays that seem to glow brighter and brighter, and wake up! They were not moving like they seemed to be; she was. She only had to stop trashing around and… reach out.
Deciding on that one fact was the easy part. Opening her eyes was the hard one. They felt so heavy, as if they were made out of lead. But she was determined to do it. These creepy dreams could not be healthy for her, not when they seemed so damn real; because this had to be real. It was too damn strange to be anything else. Plus, if this wasn't a dream, then surely she would be asphyxiated by now…. Right?
That line of thought was rudely interrupted when the real world slowly came into focus. Her eyes could not see more then a great blur of color, yet her nose felt the smell of cologne, and she felt something being pressed to her lips. Frowning slightly, she forced her eyes to focus. The blur was getting clearer, she could see fur… gray fur… someone was hovering over her… She had her nostrils pinched shut and it was rather uncomfortable, but there was something even more so…
She froze, her eyes wide, and she found acting before her brain was even able to formulate a proper scenario. But that would be understandable, and it's like she was given much choice. After all, all she knew was that Ratigan was leaning over her… and was bloody kissing her!
"GUAAA! What's your blasted problem?" Ratigan cried, now seated a couple of feet away. "You almost dislocated my jaw, you miniature psychopath!"
Basil was ignoring him. In her book, trying to clear her mouth was a bit more important. "Rat drool! Yuck! This is disgusting!"
Back a couple of feet away, Ratigan felt his brain stop. This creature had stopped breathing almost inexplicably, was on the verge of death, and after he had taken the time to pump air back into those lungs… What the hell!
"I just saved your life, you ungrateful pipsqueak!" Ratigan hollered. "And that is all you're going to say?" Basil was still ignoring him, muttering things along the lines of 'will be scarred for life'.
In the meanwhile, Midget, Fidget and Thinker were watching the exchange in silent disbelief.
Just to cool down his murderous intentions, he tried a different approach: "Well you didn't have to hit me THAT hard!"
"Well what would you expect?" Basil shot back, finally giving him some attention. "You were hovering over me like some damn murdering lunatic! How else would you think I would react?"
Count to ten man! He tried to tell himself. Count to ten and try to ignore the ungrateful bugger. It's not worth it. It's not worth it… It's just not… That's it! I'm going to murder him!
"Basil, you fine?" Midget's question interrupted the forming of plans that would lead to the detective's ultimate demise. Also, a quite small bumblebee had positioned itself between the other two and himself. Said bee must have been reading his mind, for the look on its face clearly said 'I'd like to see you try.'
He cursed the seven heavens. Why he even bothered to save the damn fool, he didn't know! One thing was certain; he could not concentrate in this madness! And it certainly didn't help that his thoughts were constantly trailing back to the fact that he rather enjoyed the feeling of his lips on…
NO! That was forbidden territory! He refused to go there! He simply refused! This was not the proper way to think. Especially not when the subject was one cursed mouse going by the name of Basil! Yes, that's it! This was Basil, not Terra. He shouldn't confuse them. He would not confuse them! They weren't even all that similar to begin with. Terra was a kind, loving creature… Basil was the bane of his very existence! Terra he loves… Basil he despised! For the love of Terra's memory, Basil was male even! And Ratigan was rather certain that he did not swing that way!
… Could Cookie really be right?
He looked at Basil (still complaining about 'rat drool' from what he could determine) and tried to really see. Cookie must have noticed something, and he was half blind as it was. If he could see it, then so could he. Hopefully, it would have been a simple trick of the eye… But then he saw it: a slight curve here, a less manly voice there… Even on one's hands and knees Basil still seemed to hold a more 'feminine' air. Far too graceful for any man… And if he would look hard enough…
He too was seeing a ghost.
"Basil, what the hell are you?" There. He asked it. He just hoped this migraine wouldn't get worse because of it.
Basil seamed taken aback by the question. For once, he seemed to drop the theatrics, and second, he turned to watch him, a curious, yet skeptical expression on one's face. "What?" Basil asked, but Ratigan also heard the 'have you gone slightly senile, old rat?'
Ratigan decided that it was best to be blunt. "Are you ore are you not a man?"
Basil stared. "I'm a mouse." Ratigan felt the need to massage his temples. This was not working.
"Are you a woman?" Basil stared, eyes wide. "My cook seamed to have the fantastic idea that you were one. I'll admit that the idea simply fascinated me. It's not everyday that you get to hear such spectacular things." Basil's hands started shaking. "So, since you now know the reasons of my troubles, be a dear and strip."
"WHAT?" Well, at least he was sure the mouse was listening now. And now the pathetic creature looked even frightened. Now that felt nice… being feared again… But the bee that attempted to attack him didn't.
"You heard me, detective. Off with the drag. There's something I need to check."
The effect was instantaneous… and rather painful on his part. That lamp would certainly leave a bruise.
"What the hell?" Ratigan cried as various items were now heading his way. "Calm down already!"
"Stand back, you sick pervert!" Here came the collective worlds of William Shakespeare, rodent audition. How Basil managed to even lift the thing was a mystery for him.
"Who are you calling a pervert?" He now dodged the encyclopedia. "I may have murdered widows and orphans, but that does not qualify me as a pervert." Now he dodged a statuette. "And put that down!"
"No! And you stay back!" Ratigan sighted in exasperation. "I'm warning you Rats, using a chair to defend myself is by no means below my dignity. Now back!"
And the bastard sure sounded serious about this. Better try and get the situation back under control. Miserable pipsqueak or not, Basil still had a rather good aim, and that chair could do quite a lot of damage…
"Detective" he started, in the sweetest voice he could mutter "as much as I rejoice in seeing you break down and give into your animal urges, I'd appreciate it if you were to lower the chair and calm down… preferably before I lose my temper and shoot you! Ow! What in the –?"
He felt something kick him in the knee. Looking down, there stood Midget, the bee he so ungracefully shooed earlier sitting on his head. "You no hurt Basil!" The little bat said before Fidget had the chance to stop him. This was mutiny!
"Fidget! Get your cousin and that bee out of my sight! And you!" he turned back to Basil. "Cease this foolishness at once! You're behaving irrationally!" Basil had yet to move a muscle. "For heaven's, sake, man, you act as if I'm about to attack you or something. Oh I'll admit: I may daydream about your death on many occasions, but do use your head. Why would I go into so much trouble keeping you alive if I were to kill you afterwards? Not too practical of me, now is it? Now be a dear and put that down. HA!" Ratigan had taken his time to get closer to the slightly hysterical mouse, and using his voice as a distraction, grabbed her 'weapon', hoisting it out of her reach.
Shocked and angry with herself for not seeing past the rats tricks, Basil attempted to run, but ended up tripping on her bad leg. She prepared herself for the fall, for her body to connect to the floor's hard surface, but surprisingly enough, that did not happen. Instead, two strong arms caught her… one gripping a certain part of her body she really didn't want anyone to touch. She looked at Ratigan, whom for some reason had turned scarlet, and for a long time, could do nothing more then stare.
One could not say that the slap that soon came was not unexpected.
"Having problems, James?" Trust Cookie and his perfect timing. And what was that thing he held by the hand? No, sweet Jesus… This was too ridiculous to be happening. "I found this young lady hiding in my kitchen, even if she wasn't technically in the kitchen." This was not happening… "I wanted to ask what we were to do with her, but since you're already so busy…" He pointed at his now slowing cheek. The girl, the Flaversham kid if he remembered well, ran from the cook's side and practically jumped into Basil, clutching her middle section.
"Cookie, may I talk with you for a moment?" Ratigan asked with as much dignity as he could mutter. At Cookie's nod, he led the mole as far away from the others as possible. Trying very hard to ignore the glares Basil was still sending him, he whispered. "You were right, Cookie."
"I'm always right."
"Basil's… He's… He's a…"
"I know." But then Cookie frowned a little as something seamed to come to mind. "How did you get yourself convinced?" Cookie and Ratigan both turned to look at Basil, whom still was throwing daggers at Ratigan with hi – her eyes. Oh, if only looks could kill…
"That's not important right now. Let's just say that I know, for sure. But what is important right now is this: what are we going to do?" Cookie smiled.
"I think the question is more like what are you going to do?" Ratigan's jaw fell. "Well, I'm just a poor cook; you're the leader of this operation so the decision should be yours."
Ratigan bit down on what he was about to say. The old mole did have a point. He looked at Basil once again. Putting a bullet through that head would be very easy indeed. The detective was fully out of her element and… He had no guarantee that Basil had anything to do with this.
"Basil looks… a lot like Terra, Cookie... But it may very well be a coincidence."
"But what if it's not?"
He snarled. "Then I'll do what needs to be done. Now, you take this problematic meddler out of here and let me look over our records. Keep Basil occupied, but just to be on the safe side, don't let her sleep. He might be whispering tonight."
"And the child?"
"Do what you wish!" he shouted before storming out of the room, not caring in the slightest about the odd looks the other occupants of the room where giving him. The archives were calling him after all. And going trough his criminal archives, searching up names and dates was never one of his favorite past-time occupations. There were always so many, sometimes too many… And Terra's file was always the last one he liked to look.
Let's see… McCarter? No, too far off… Fay, Fel- Flaps! There it was. Flaps. Yes, that was Terra's file. Or at least, her family's file… All dead.
Oh, don' get him wrong. He was not a stranger to death. Not one for decades. But also, Ratigan was not always a mad murdering psychopath. No. Once, long ago, he was a teacher. Teaching people what his calling, transforming them into the country's new idols. And he had loved once, long, long ago – he loved, and liked to think that he was loved back…
Now over 200 years ago…
"Welcome to England, James!" he had said to himself when the ship docked. Life in Ireland was a hard one back in the 1660's, especially when one chose to become a scholar. Irish people didn't hold much respect for educated people, at least not outside the major cities. And also, they didn't seem to hold much regard for educated rats for that matter ether. Ever since the spreading of the Bubonic plague all around Europe, rats had become outcasts, parasites of the rodent society (and human one as well), everyone thinking them responsible for it. So of course, finding work was becoming particularly difficult.
He had hoped that traveling to England would have helped. Rumor went that they saw scholars in a different light, that they were searching for progress, innovation, and maybe – just maybe – if he were to impress them, then maybe they could overlook the fact that he was a rat.
He was right… to some extent.
Finding work proved itself to be remarkably easy. Rich mothers and fathers were always on the look-out for capable teachers to transform their offerings into respectable members of society. Of course, they were not ones to wish for their children to learn profound literature or mathematical equations – exact sciences were not pleasant materials for most… but he was asked to teach them arts: how to play an instrument, how to paint and how to sing, things he (thank God) also knew.
But despite all that, his fee was not always as impressive as he would have hopped, and more often then not, he would find himself unable to pay his landlord. That was pretty much what happened that faithful night, in the beginning of winter 1664, when he met young Terra Flaps.
Terra was not a particularly beautiful woman, not even by lower class standards, but she was stubborn, determined, perceptive, and as he later came to learn, a girl brighter than even the wisest of scholars. She could tell the difference between a butcher and a baker when they were dressed in their Sunday best, could tell who was seeing who and where they went by just looking at them, and she could tell that he needed a room to stay, and a room to stay she gave him. She asked no pay. Her grandfather earned a decent living as a baker, like her family did for generations, and she needed little more to get by. All she asked of him was to teach her – teach her everything he knew and more, for he had soon found that she was also a curious little creature.
In two years time, Ratigan had come to realize that Terra was indeed a unique woman – one of a kind in practically everything. She absorbed all the information he was giving her like a sponge would absorb water. She was brave, and strong, and smart, and beautiful in her own simple way, yet alone because of her eccentrics… and also, he found that he loved her, and for some reason, he knew that she must have loved him back.
He promised to always be with her, and to protect her – now and forever. Not because she needed it, but because she deserved it.
Things have never been better for him, and in the summer of 1666, he was offered a desk at University of Oxford. Terra urged him to go, to become a real professor, to teach real smart children how to be even smarter, that he could come and visit when he wished.
For the first time, he regretted listening to her.
He knew for months that Terra had fallen ill for some time now, yet he listened. He knew that more then enough mice were being murdered in London, yet he agreed to go. He knew he shouldn't have agreed, yet he did, and by the time he was at the gates of Oxford, he heard of the 'evacuation'.
The situation in London had taken a turn for the worse, and he cursed himself. Why did he not bring Terra and her grandfather with him? Why couldn't he foresee such an outcome? How could he have been so naïve?
The road back to London suddenly seemed so long… and he arrived too late.
"Damn you... You and all of your kind!" Ratigan chanted, recalling Terra's last words to him… "I shall not kill you, I shall not even hurt you. You will be the only rat leaving this city unscathed, but for your betrayal, for your... audacity! I will curse you with the life of every single one of your kind you will now leave to die!" The words had stuck with him and no amount of time would make him forget them. Later he learned it was because of the curse she had bestowed upon him that night, but he doubted he would ever forget even if it weren't for that.
"Forgiveness and compassion will give you death" Were her very last words to him and he had lived his life from that point on with those words ringing in his ears. One, lone tear fell from his eye. He quickly brushed it off, and looked at the documents in his hands. There were so many names on that list, so many names of people that had to die, just so they couldn't suffer the same end such as his dear Terra. So many deaths… so many young women, all of the same blood with his beloved… they all had to die. The Flaps in Sussex, then the stray sheep that married with an Alvey… They had them all.
Who could they have overlooked?
Then a file caught his eye. It was dated now almost 13 years ago. If memory served him right then that was around the time he, Cookie and Becky were on their last searching party. The names of one Elisabeth Basil nee Tops and youngest daughter Brynna Basil were on it. And near the child's name, was a notice.
"Twins?" Ratigan read out loud. "Brynna Basil, sister of… Sherrignford Basil? But isn't that…?"
He looked back on all that had happened mere hours ago (gods, had it been that long already?). Basil falling unconscious … not breathing… yet even after such he-… she refused to break down, protected herself against him… He tried to lie to himself earlier, did his best to ignore just how much his enemy was like his beloved, tried to convince himself that this was just a trick of his eyes, that it was just a coincidence.
But he couldn't believe that anymore… not when the answer was right in front of him. The blasted devil who made Terra's life a living hell right under his nose was back, all because he made a mistake, all because he had been soft that once… Gods, he remembered that night! He remembered being there, and he remembered the child he had left without a mother and a sister… that be, without a brother. Was that really Basil?
It was settled then. Basil had to die before that bastard's whispers became too intense, before she could give in. But how could he do it. How could he kill someone who looked so much like his Terra? It never was a problem before though…
"I truly believe that you should tell your detective about this"
"No Cookie…" he said at last. "This is one piece of advice I can't take. It's not like I could tell her all that…" But something needed to be done, but what? Then, it hit him. "I must talk to Becky."
But then how do you find a Hungarian red squirrel with a French accent in the middle of London when the wretched creature didn't want to be found?
Now beta-read by the wonderful Crazy Laughter !You're awesome!
And just because I love you all, think of you as some of the most awesome people on this planet and I feel awfully bad for missing yesterday's update AND because this chapter must be full of grammatical errors, this chapter is extra long with extra goodies and extra info! Now, I am awaiting your take on it. What will happen next? What will Ratigan do? And do you know who "Becky" is? (and come on, that's an easy one!) And to keep author from falling into writer's block again, I NEED YOU OPINIONS!
For the answers to these questions and more, stay toned for the next update!
Reviews are - as always - welcomed and greatly appreciated!