Basil's American Tail

New York City, 1886

Puffing upon his wooden pipe, Basil of Baker Street, England's premier mouse detective, exited the gangplank of the ship docked at Castle Garden carrying a large suitcase, careful to dodge the feet of the much larger human immigrants and tourists from London. Basil wasn't here as an immigrant of course, he fancied jolly ol' England just fine. Nor was he here on vacation either; he had very little time for such extravagances when there were criminals lurking about. No, it was a case which had led him to take the long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

The case, as it were, involved several valuable items stolen from the British Museum by Ratigan and his thugs, including jewels, a collection of antique Italian mirrors from the Renaissance era, and an ancient Greek statue of the goddess Athena. Ratigan had managed to slip right through Basil's fingers once again, unfortunately, but he did capture one of Ratigan's underlings during a police raid of Ratigan's hideout. The mouse revealed during an interrogation with police that what items hadn't been recovered during the raid had been sold to an eccentric cat in America, who by his accounts had brown fur, a gold tooth, spoke in a New Jersey accent, and was obsessed with "culture". It was now Basil's job to find and apprehend this feline for purchasing stolen items off the black market, and to retrieve the items and make sure they got back to England safely. Although the crime largely concerned stolen human items, and felines were normally out of Basil's jurisdiction, he was the only detective for the job. The only other detective nearly as good as he was, Sherlock Holmes, wouldn't be able to, being a human who had little if any idea of animal society, so far as Basil knew.

"Greetings…(hic), Basil of Baker Street…" came the voice of a large, mustachioed mouse in a top hat, who by the looks of things had had far too much to drink, "Welcome to America!"

Basil raised an eyebrow, "And who may I ask are you?"

"Honest John's the name," he said, taking his hat off for a bow, "I run things on this side of town."

"Ah yes, an elected official. I was told I'd be meeting you at the docks," Basil said, "Good to see democracy is working out so well here in the States."

Basil was being sarcastic of course, but he knew it would go right over Honest John's head in his drunken stupor.

"Oh of course! Y'oughtta try it sometime over in England," Honest John said in his slurred Irish accent, drinking some more beer, "Anyways, come with me to Tammany Hall, we'll talk with the police chief and discuss yer livin' arrangements while yer here with us in New York."

"Ah yes, indeed. I do hope you've been searching for potential suspects in the crime," Basil stressed.

"Well we found a cat who might know another cat. Best t'have the police chief explain it to ye, laddy. (Hiccup!) Excuse me."

Honest John led Basil out of Castle Garden, where immigrant mice faced their first disillusionment with America by having their names changed. 'Wait until they find out there really are cats here,' Basil thought. It was a shame the uneducated masses fell for such an obvious ploy to get immigrants to come to America. Most in England were savvy enough to know better.

Outside there was a carriage parked on the street, a human-sized one of course, pulled by a horse. The smaller one made for mice was mounted onto the bottom. Honest John and Basil climbed inside, and after a wait the humans who'd ordered the carriage got in and it got moving. Basil didn't speak much during the ride, and as Honest John continued to guzzle booze he stared out the window, taking in the surroundings and observing every detail, his deductive mind soaking everything in like a sponge in case he'd need to navigate these streets later. Basil also kept an eye out for any suspects. New York was a dirty city, at least downtown was. The impoverished mice who'd come from horrible conditions in Third World countries fared little better here. The streets were not paved with cheese; there was more horse manure to be found in the streets than cheese. Crime wasn't hard to observe even from his window. His keen eyes noticed shoplifters and pick-pockets, all before their victims knew what had hit them.

Once they got to Tammany Hall, the wagon stopped, and Basil and Honest John had to quickly hop off before it moved again. Honest John led Basil as he carried his suitcase toward the doors and they entered Honest John's office, where a group of police officers were waiting to meet with him.

"Well then, I take it this is New York's best?" Basil asked.

"Chief McBrusque at yer service lad," said the Chief, a rotund mouse with long red sideburns and a Scottish accent. He carried a wooden club and tapped the end of it in the palm of his other hand, "We'll make sure yer well taken care of during yer stay. Any mouse so much as looks at ya funny, and whap!"

He swung his wooden club in the air.

"That probably won't be necessary, Chief…" Basil replied. My what ruffians cops were in the States!

"Well just in case, we hired ye an assistant to go with ye while yer investigatin'," said McBrusque, "His name's Officer Bob Rodentstein. He's new on the job but he won't let you down. Or else."

The policeman in question stepped forward. He had a long beard, and jasmine-green eyes. Basil looked the cop over, suddenly wearing an amused smirk.

"I assure you, the help isn't necessary," Basil said.

"New York ain't like London, Basil. The mice can be just as dangerous as the cats," Honest John said, "I think you better take the help."

"Oh very well then. This policeman can carry my luggage on the way to my living quarters," he said, putting an odd emphasis on the word 'man'.

"Oh yes, about that. We got ye a nice apartment over on Hester Street. Second floor, away from the cats," Honest John said.

"Very nice," said Basil, "And you said something about a potential suspect? Or someone who knew this suspect?"

"Our volunteer will tell you all about that," said McBrusque, "As for me, I got some more skulls to crack out on the streets. Be seein' ya."

McBrusque led his men out of the room while Officer Rodentstein stayed behind.

"Charming," Basil said, clearing his throat, "Right then, I'll check back here or with the police the moment I have a new lead."

"See to it that you do," Honest John replied, "Now if you'll be excusing' me, I have some wakes to attend. These cat attacks just aren't stopping, no matter how much we pay that scoundrel Warren T. Rat."

"Is there some sort of protection racket going on?" Basil asked.

"Warren is one of the 'community leaders' in New York. He's a rat who negotiates with the cats. Every mouse pays him to keep the cats away. Been doin' us no good lately."

Basil stroked his chin. Things were worse than he feared in New York. But, it probably had nothing to do with his case. He was after a cat, not a rat.

"Alright Officer Rodentstein, my suit case," he said, handing it to the cop, who let out a grunt at its heaviness, "You'll need to show me around, I've no idea where Hester Street is."

"Will do, sir. It is…within walking distance," said Rodentstein in a voice Basil could tell was being forced lower. He opened the door and they left Tammany Hall, staying close to the walls of buildings to avoid the shoes of humans.