| Story © 2000-2004 by Keith Dickinson.
All rights reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel,
Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen Shiela Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel
© Eric W. Schwartz. Character Thomas Woolfe © Michael Higgs. Characters
Chris Foxx, Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk,
Mr. Canis, Dexter Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy
Vixxen, and Wanda Vixen© Chris Yost. Character ZigZag © Max BlackRabbit.
Character James Sheppard, Doug and Kelly Granitz © James Bruner. Character
Mark the cheetaur © Mark White Eric W. Schwartz © Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz.
Michael Jones © Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge © Keith Dicinkson.
All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners.
‘Nice office’ was Sheila’s first thought as she stepped into the room. Glancing around, she saw a lot of very expensive-looking wood everywhere. The walls had a deep, rich paneling that was complimented by the ornate if not comfortable-looking furniture in the room. Immediately Sheila spotted what she took to be ‘the couch’ with a chair and table sitting near by, though it wasn’t what she expected. It was a large, fat, comfortable-looking couch that you’d expect to find in someone’s living room. There were also a pair of chairs facing a chessboard that appeared to be in play, as well as a couple more chairs that sat in front of a large, imposing desk. Behind the desk sat a large, black, leather chair that screamed, “I’m important!” for whatever person sat in it. She chuckled to herself at the height of the back compared to the orangutan that sat in it, and wondered if it was some Freudian thing.
The orangutan stood and stepped around the desk to greet the female. “Good morning, Miss Vixen. I hope you slept well?”
“Eh,” Sheila replied with a shrug, still looking around. “I guess it was OK.”
“That’s good to hear,” the doctor replied, leaning backwards against the desk. “I think that a good night’s sleep is always the most important part of a person’s day.”
“Really?” the vixen replied, wandering towards a wall that was covered with framed degrees. “I always thought a good orgasm was the most important for me.” She gave the doctor a sideways glance before looking back at the degrees. “I guess different people have different priorities.”
The doctor nodded. “That’s quite true. If everyone were the same, we’d live in a very boring world.”
Sheila laughed as she turned to face the doctor. “I wouldn’t say that. I think the world would be a pretty fun place if there were more people like me.”
“Oh?” The doctor cocked an eyebrow in her direction. “Tell me, have you ever dated someone who was a lot like yourself?”
The vixen thought about it for a minute before nodding. “Yeah, I guess I have.”
The doctor crossed his arms and nodded. “Who was it?”
“It was Zig Zag,” Sheila replied, moving further along the wall to read more of the degrees. “It was right after I started working for her. We did pretty much just about everything together there for a while.”
“Really?” The doctor asked, uncrossing his arms. “How long did you two date?”
“About three or four months,” she responded.
The doctor nodded. “And why did you break up?”
Sheila shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess it just kind of petered out.”
“Exactly,” the doctor replied, chuckling at the vixen’s expression. “You two were alike enough that although your relationship was fun to begin with, the same things that drew you together soon became passé. It’s not only the interests we have in common that draw people together, but also their differences. If everyone were the same, then what would be the point of dating?”
“Hmmm…” The vixen mulled that over for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, I guess your right.” She turned and nodded to the wall. “Think you have enough degrees? Yeesh. It looks like you have the entire alphabet here!”
He let out a chuff of laughter. “Something like that, though I don’t think I have anything with a Z in it yet.”
Sheila chuckled. “And when they do, you’ll get one, right?” She leaned forwards and squinted at one. “Mathematics?” she asked, giving the doctor a curious look. “Why do you have a masters in mathematics?”
“You’d be surprised how useful that can be. The world is comprised of mathematics. Everything can be described or predicted in some way using math,” he stated. “It’s quite intriguing.”
Sheila frowned, remembering back to a conversation she’d had with Arden. He’d once said that everything was math. She shook her head at the thought, remembering that he’d said that magic was built on math. Frowning deeper, she mentally kicked herself in the ass, realizing that the memory was from her delusion.
“Is there something wrong?” the doctor asked, noting the vixen’s expression.
“Eh?” She glanced up at the doctor and shook her head. “Not really. Just thinking.”
“About?” the doctor prompted.
Sheila frowned again, not wanting to discuss it. “Nothing, really.”
“All right then,” the doctor replied with a nod. “What say you and I get down to business, eh?” He waited for her to nod before continuing, “Fine, just take a seat and we can begin.”
Sheila walked over to the couch and sat down. “This good enough, or do you want me to lie down?”
“It makes no matter to me where or how you sit,” he said, stepping away from the desk. “You can sit, lie or recline in anywhere or in any manner you wish, just as long as you’re comfortable.”
“Really?” Sheila said with a mischievous grin as she stood. “Anywhere?”
The doctor nodded and smiled slightly, wondering what she had in mind.
Sheila walked over to the large desk and ran her finger along the edge as she stepped around behind it. Slipping her tail through the hole in the back of the chair, she slid into the oversized seat and leaned backwards before putting her feet up on the desk. “This OK?”
“Perfect,” the doctor replied, taking a seat in one of the chairs facing the desk and slouching back in it slightly.
“You don’t have any problem with me sitting here?” the vixen asked, cocking an ear towards the doctor.
“Not in the least,” the orangutan replied. “Did you expect me to?”
Sheila shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess.” She examined the contents of the desk and spotted a family portrait of the doctor, a female orangutan and two young chimps. “What’s with the chimps?” Sheila asked, dropping her feet to the floor before reaching out to pick up the picture.
“My wife is unable to have kids so we adopted those two,” he replied, reaching out to turn the picture slightly so they could both see it. “The female on the left is my daughter Zira and the male is Cornelious. They’re both currently in medical school.”
“Nice pare of kids,” she commented, setting the picture back down on the desk. Looking around, she saw the usual collection of desk type items; pen and pencil, blotter, calendar, letter opener, and a pad of legal paper. Off to the right she noticed a small box. Opening it, she saw that it was a humidor, filled with cigars. Pulling one out, she smelled it. “Nice cigar. Cuban?”
The doctor nodded. “Yes, they are.”
Sheila nodded and sniffed the cigar again as she leaned back in the chair. “God, it’s been so long since I smelled one of these.” She smiled at the memory. “Bjorn used to love his cigars. He said he loved all things Freudian and you didn’t get much more Freudian than a big, fat cigar.”
“True, though even Freud once said that sometimes a cigar is a cigar,” the doctor replied, studying the vixen. “If memory serves me right, Bjorn was your fiancé?”
The smile vanished from Sheila’s face. “Yeah, he was,” she replied coldly.
The doctor sat up and folded his hands across his stomach. “He was killed shortly after proposing to you, wasn’t he?”
Sheila squinted at the orangutan with distrust. “Yeah.”
“How did that make you feel,” the doctor asked.
“How the fuck do you think it made me feel?” Sheila angrily snapped. She tossed the cigar back in the humidor and slammed it shut before leaning back in the chair. “He was murdered the same day he proposed. It was the best fucking day of my life and the worst at the same time.”
“Obviously it’s still a sore subject for you,” he commented.
“No. The question’s a sore subject. I’m sick and fucking tired of people asking me stupid fucking questions they would already know the answer to if they just spent a second and tried rubbing two brain cells together before asking!” the vixen growled, crossing her arms in front of her.
“But then I’d be projecting my emotions onto you and that’s not my job,” the doctor replied. “I’m here to help you, Sheila. My job is to work with you and help you muck through all the garbage and issues so that you can get back to living your life.”
“I don’t need your help,” Sheila declared, uncrossing her arms and leaning forward. “Yeah, I’ve got issues, but so does everyone else. Doesn’t mean I’m crazy or need to be ‘institutionalized’; it means that I’m ordinary.”
“You’ve been through a rough time this last year,” the doctor said, leaning forward slightly himself. “You’ve been kidnapped, had your fiancé and boyfriend both killed, held captive, beaten and raped repeatedly. I don’t care who you are; things like that leave scars.”
Sheila rolled her eyes and growled. “Would you people please get off of the fact I was raped!” she complained. “Look, they didn’t make me do anything I wouldn’t have done willingly given the chance, and if I got off in the process, all the better. No, I didn’t like getting slapped around or beaten. That’s not my kind of shit. But after two or three months of some random guy grabbing you and demanding a blowjob, you just roll your eyes and do it. It’s no big deal.”
The doctor leaned back in his chair again and cocked his head to one side slightly. “And yet your mind created a fantasy world so complete and detailed that once you were rescued you had trouble telling which was real and which wasn’t.”
The vixen let out a sigh of exasperation. “The first doctor said it was because of a chemical imbalance, which is why you people have me on all these meds,” she grumbled.
“And despite the meds, you had a relapse on Saturday when you were introduced to your kits,” the doctor rebutted.
“Which is why they’ve got me so doped up now it’s hard to think straight!” Sheila stood from the chair and began pacing. “I hate this. I hate these drugs. I hate being locked up in here. Last night I spent three hours---THREE FUCKING HOURS watching the electronic sign across the street flash its messages without even realizing it.” She stopped and hugged herself. “I feel like a fucking zombie.” She sighed and turned to face the doctor. “The only reason I’m here is to make Zig Zag happy. I’ve got to jump through your hoops so that she’ll be convinced that I’m a good little dog and won’t become an axe murderer.”
The doctor stood and moved to his chair behind the desk and sat down. “Do you really believe that’s why she has you here?”
“She thinks I’m crazy,” Sheila declared in a soft voice.
“I don’t think so,” the doctor replied. “I believe that she’s concerned about you and wants to make sure that you’re well.”
“Same thing,” the vixen complained.
The doctor leaned back and clasped his hands over his stomach. “Tell me, Sheila, what do you think is the fastest way for you to get back to your old life?”
“Walk out the front door,” the vixen replied, taking a seat in a chair.
“Then what’s keeping you from doing that?” the doctor asked.
Sheila looked up at him and frowned. “Because you’d probably send the furs in white coats after me.”
The doctor shook his head. “We’re not your keepers,” he declared. “You could walk out that door and all we’d do is notify Miss Zumbrowski that you didn’t return for curfew.”
“Right,” the vixen said, “And then she’d send out the furs in white coats to get me.”
“That’s always a possibility,” the doctor said. He paused for a minute to study the vixen before leaning forward and resting his arms on the desk. “I’ll tell you what. Give me three weeks. We’ll have sessions in here twice a day. You can talk about anything you want or not say anything at all. It’s your choice. If at the end of that time, you don’t feel that we’ve made any progress at all, I’ll recommend to Zig Zag that you’re ready to leave. Deal?”
Sheila sat up and looked at the doctor for a moment before nodding. “OK.”
The doctor nodded back. “In return, I ask only one thing from you.”
“Oh?” the vixen grunted. “What’s that?”
“If at any time during those three weeks anything happens that upsets you, makes you scared or nervous, any hallucinations or anything related to your delusion occurs, you’ll tell me. I want your solemn word on this, OK?”
Sheila considered the offer closely before nodding. “OK.”
“Good,” he replied, leaning back again. “So, what should we talk about?”
“Eh?” the vixen grunted.
“We’ve got another,” he paused to glance at his watch, “fifty two minutes to go in this session. So, what should we talk about?”
Sheila let out a long breath and leaned back in the chair. It was going to be a long hour.
Zig Zag fought with the front door of the studio to keep it open while trying to get the doublewide stroller through the door. She was saved when Maurine came to the rescue, holding the door open. “Thanks.”
“Oh! Are those Sheila’s kits?” the receptionist cooed, bending over for a closer look. “They’re adorable!”
Zig Zag chuckled. “They’ll be even more adorable once they start sleeping through the night.”
Maurine straightened up and smiled. “The joys of motherhood, eh?” she said, walking back over to her desk. “I was beginning to wonder if you were going to make it in at all today.”
“Yeah, I know,” Zig Zag muttered, pushing the stroller over to wards the desk. “James had a hell of a time getting the car seats into the back of the Benz, and then we had to drop off the rental and pick up his car before I could come in.” She sighed and leaned heavily against the desk. “To be honest, I was tempted to turn around and go home.”
“I know the feeling,” the raccoon sympathetically said. “I was the same way after I had Josh.”
Zig Zag nodded as the receptionist handed her a stack of mail. “Anything urgent waiting for me?”
“Nope,” Maurine replied. “You had a few calls from the press, but nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Sounds good,” Zig Zag replied, tucking the mail into the pouch on the back of the stroller. “Do me a favor, track down Hazel and have her meet me in the Unit B producer’s office, please.”
“Sure thing, boss,” the raccoon replied, buzzing her boss through the inner door.
Wheeling the stroller down the hallway, she passed by her office and turned into the Unit B director’s office that sat right next door. Turning on the light, she pushed the stroller over by the wall and turned it around just as Hazel walked in.
“You sent for me, Boss?” the young girl asked.
“Yep,” Zig Zag replied, turning around to face her. She pointed over towards the chair behind the desk. “Have a seat over there,” Zig Zag said, taking a chair in front of the desk.
The squirrel nervously sat down behind the desk and warily looked at her boss. “What’s up?”
“Comfortable?” Zig Zag asked.
“Um, yeah. I guess so,” the young female responded.
“Good. Get used to it,” Zig Zag replied, hefting the diaper bag up on to the desk. “This is your office now. You’ve just been promoted to kitsitter, diaper changer and chief bottle washer, though I guess it’s not really a promotion since you’re not getting a pay raise, but still. Your job is to keep those brats quiet so I can get some work done.”
Hazel gaped at her boss for a moment. “You want me to kitsit?”
“I didn’t come to work for you so I could kitsit!” the squirrel complained. “I want to act.”
Zig Zag glowered at the squirrel causing her to cringe. “Your job is to do whatever the hell I tell you to. If you don’t like it, you can quit!”
“But why me?” Hazel whined. “Surely there has to be someone else around here who can do it.”
Zig Zag stood. “You’re the only one not involved in production so you can be spared. Everyone else has a job that’s mission critical to the production of our next movie, and I don’t want them trying to juggle two kits while working which makes you the best person for the job right now. I know you used to kitsit when you were in high school, and nobody ever complained about you that I know of. That makes you perfect for this.”
“I also got paid a lot better,” the squirrel griped.
“You also didn’t work nearly as much, nor did you get health and dental insurance,” Zig Zag growled angrily. “Look, if you don’t want it, then leave. I don’t need an employee who’s going to whine and bitch about her job. You either do it, or just up and get out.”
“OK, OK!” Hazel replied, holding up her hands. “I’ll do it. Jesus! You don’t have to bite my head off!”
Zig Zag let out a long, tense breath as she got her anger under control. “I’m sorry, that was a bit harsh.” She said, taking another deep breath. “Look, it’s only for a couple of weeks until I can get these two into daycare, OK?”
“Daycare?” the squirrel asked, surprised. “You sure you want to do that?”
Now it was Zig Zag’s turn to look surprised. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Are you kidding?” Hazel asked incredulously. “These are Sheila’s kits! She was kidnapped by gangsters, not all of whom have been caught! What if they decide to snatch the kits or something? Or maybe some wacko fan of hers decides he wants to kidnap them or maybe something worse!”
Zig Zag chewed on her lip for a moment as she considered what the squirrel had just said. “I see your point,” she grudgingly admitted. “Looks like you get to do this for the next eighteen years.”
“WHAT?” the squirrel shrieked, causing the kits to stir but fortunately not wake.
Zig Zag shushed the squirrel. “That was just a joke!” she said quietly, glancing at the kits to make sure they weren’t about to start yowling. “I’ll figure something out, OK?”
“OK,” the squirrel replied. She leaned back in the chair and stared at the pair of kits, wondering just how long her time in purgatory would really last.
The mouse sat at a small, private table in the ornate dining room of the hotel, sipping on a cup of tea as he perused the local newspaper. A bellhop approached holding a silver platter with an envelope on it.
“Doctor Livingston, I presume?” the bellhop asked.
Folding the paper, the mouse set it aside and faced the young fur. “Yes?”
“This is for you, sir,” the bellhop said, offering the platter.
The mouse picked up the envelope and examined it, noting the postmark from Brownsville, Texas, before tucking it inside of his jacket. He removed a bill from his pocket and dropped it on to the platter. “Thank you,” he said, dismissing the bellhop.
Standing, he left the restaurant and made his way up the wide, sweeping staircase that let up to the second floor where his room was. Making sure the door was closed behind him, he removed the envelope and tore it open. Inside were several sheets of blank paper wrapped around a single typewritten page. He discarded the typed page and laid out the blank pages on the table.
Closing his eyes for a moment, he concentrated on shifting his sight. When he opened his eyes, they were no longer blue, but rather slit black pupils carved into yellow irises, floating in a pool of blood red. He examined the pages and picked out the one with the magical inscriptions. He read the text and nodded. Hecate had obtained a solid lead on their quarry and was headed into Mexico.
Leaning back, the mouse allowed his sight to return to normal as he considered the news. Things were progressing according to plan so far, but that didn’t mean they would continue to do so.
Reaching out, he picked up the phone and called the front desk, informing them he would be checking out in the morning. He would catch a plane tomorrow and make sure that nothing happened before all the pieces were in place.
Maurine poked her head into the door and said, “Zig? Time for the meeting.”
Zig Zag opened her eyes, yawned a wide, toothy yawn while stretching her arms wide. “Thanks, Maurine,” the skunk replied as she wiped the sleep from her eyes. Yawning again, she stood and made her way next door to the Unit B Directors office. Looking in, she saw that Hazel was busy surfing the Internet on the computer. “Hey, kiddo. Grab the twins and follow me.”
Hazel closed the window and turned to face her boss. “What’s up?”
“Meeting time,” Zig Zag replied. “Now move it.”
The young squirrel jumped to her feet and raced around the desk to where the twins slept quietly in their stroller. She wasn’t sure what she might need if they woke up, so she stuffed everything back in the diaper bag before pushing the stroller out into the hall. She followed Zig Zag down the corridor and around the corner to where the studio’s theater was. When they passed through the door, Hazel saw that most of the seats had been taken.
“Park ‘em in there,” Zig Zag said, pointing to the projection booth on her way up to the podium.
Hazel opened the door to the projection booth and backed in, bringing the stroller with her.
The lone, male fur sitting at the controls turned and frowned at the squirrel. “Hey! What the hell am I supposed to do with those?”
“I don’t know,” Hazel replied, putting the bag on the ground. “Zig said to park them in here. If they start yelling, I’ll come take care of it.” Closing the door behind her as she left, Hazel stood at the back of the room and looked around for an open seat.
“Up here,” Zig Zag called out, pointing to a seat in the front row.
Hazel, a bit self conscious at the attention, made her way up to the front row and sat down between a couple of good looking male furs. “Hi,” she cheerfully said to her neighbors.
“All right! Quiet down!” Zig Zag said, putting an end to the various conversations. “Good. Now, I’m going to make this short and sweet. As you all know, Sheila’s back in town. James and I dropped her off at the hospital yesterday where she’s currently being checked over to make sure everything’s OK. Visiting hours are from eight in the morning to nine at night. Let’s not all try to visit at once. Also, whatever you do, please do not mention her kits. She’s got some issues to work out and I don’t want anyone mucking things up.
“Second item. As most of you know, I’m taking care of her kits, which means that as of today, Hazel is taking care of the kits,” she said, pointing down to Hazel. “Stand up, kiddo. Let everyone take a good look at you. All right. That’s Hazel. She’s in charge of the kits. Everyone can feel free to come ogle the kits, but she’s got the last word about it. I don’t want to hear them screaming their head off because one of you couldn’t resist picking them up. That happens, and I’ll be using your fur to reupholster my chair. Understand?”
Zig Zag waited for the general murmur and nodding to come to an end. “All right. Third up is production on Hairy Slotter. As you all know, Jim Vulpine was supposed to play Sicko Malefem. I just learned that he broke his leg skiing so he’s out. Fortunately for us, Ricardo Panteras is available to fill in.” She paused to lean on the podium before continuing. “Now I know what y’all are thinking and I agree. The guy’s too slick for his own good. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many hermaphrodites running around in the industry, so we gotta take what we can get.”
Straightening up, she folded up the paper she was reading from and put it in her pocket. “That’s it for now. We’ll have a regular end-of-week meeting on Friday like normal. Anyone who wants to pitch in and get Sheila a gift basket or something should talk to Maurine. That’s it. Go home!”
Stepping down off of the stage, Zig Zag motioned for Hazel to come over. “I need you to hang out for another half hour if you can then help me load up the kits and take ‘em home. OK?”
Hazel nodded. “Sure. Do I get overtime?”
Zig Zag laughed. “Yes, you’ll get overtime.”
“Cool!” the squirrel declared.
Zig Zag watched as the young female turned and started pushing her way back towards the projection booth only to stop next to one of the males she’d been sitting near. She watched as the squirrel chatted with the actor for a few minutes before ending the conversation and heading finally towards the projection booth. Zig Zag followed the rest of the crowd out of the small theater and headed towards the front. She managed to catch Maurine before she left. “Maurine! I need to talk to you for a second.”
The raccoon turned and paused, waiting for Zig Zag. “What’s up, boss?”
Zig Zag pulled the receptionist aside and spoke in a low, conspiratorial voice. “I need you to spread the word tomorrow that Hazel’s out-of-season.”
“Why?” Maurine asked, confused by the orders. “She got a bug we don’t know about?”
Zig Zag shook her head. “No. She’s my neighbor’s kid, and I don’t need the kind of trouble that I’ll catch if she gets knocked up by one of the boys.”
“Oh,” the raccoon replied, stretching the vowel out. “Gotcha. I’ll pass the word.”
Somehow, though, she knew deep down that that wasn’t going to happen.
The doctor leaned back in his chair. Both sessions with Sheila had been trying at best. Although she would talk about virtually any subject, she avoided anything to do with the events of the last year. Even though it was still only the first day, he had the sneaking suspicion that he’d never break through that wall unless they could find some common ground or interest.
Reaching over to the phone on the desk, he hit the intercom button. “Lucy?”
“Yes, Doctor?” the intercom replied.
“Would you please ask Nurse Ratched to have the nurses keep a discrete eye on Sheila and let me know what she does to pass the time, please?”
The orangutan let go of the button and leaned back in his chair. Steepling his fingers, he replayed the conversations they’d had during the two sessions, looking for some clue that would let him in.