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 Dickson. All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners.

Identity Crisis
Act IV
Chapter 16

Of Mice and Plans

Sheila lay curled up on the bed, her arms and legs wrapped around the oversized body pillow that Wendy had brought her, hugging it tightly. She was mad. Mad at Anatol for having caved into Zig Zag’s demands that he distance himself from her. Mad that he’d lied and tried to take responsibility for it rather than tell her the truth about Zig Zag. Most of all, she was mad at Zig Zag for having spied on them while they were in the commons.

Her anger turned to another bout of tears at the thought of not seeing Anatol again. Sheila just knew that Zig Zag would have him banned from the hospital or worse yet, threaten him somehow to make him leave town. The thought of not seeing him again tore her apart. It made her furious!

Thus the cycle continued. Trapped within a vicious circle of anger and loss, Sheila clutched the pillow as if it were an anchor for her feelings. Her ears twitched at the sound of a knock at her door. “Go away!” the vixen shouted.

The sound of the latch turning preceded the opening of the door, causing Sheila to growl. “I said, get the fuck out!”

“If that’s the way you feel,” Anatol replied, allowing the statement to trail off as he turned away.

Sheila couldn’t believe her ears. Her head snapped around to look at the priest standing in the doorway. “Anatol!” she cried, leaping from the bed running into his arms. She buried her muzzle into his broad chest as she sobbed. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

Startled by the vixen’s action, he hesitantly returned the vixen’s embrace. “It’s all right,” he said stroking her head fur. “I’ll be here for you when you need me. I promise.”

“No,” Sheila said, pushing away. “Don’t say that. You can’t promise something like that.” She turned away, hugging her self as she walked slowly back towards the bed. “When Zig Zag finds out, she’ll make sure you don’t come back.”

Anatol put a hand on the vixen’s shoulder and gave her a reassuring squeeze.. “Zig Zag doesn’t control me, Sheila,” he said quietly. “Besides, I had lunch with her today and I think we’ve put some of her issues to rest. I don’t think you have to worry about her trying to keep me from seeing you again.”

“Yeah. You’ll be able to see me now,” Sheila said in a low, dejected voice. Turning, she sat down on her bed, her hands clasped in her lap, looking down.

“Sheila, what’s wrong?” Anatol asked, taking a seat on the bed next to her.

“I don’t want us to be just friends,” the vixen complained, finally looking up at him with pleading eyes. “You love me and I love you. Why can’t we be together?”

Now it was Anatol’s turn to look away. “Being a priest is my life’s work. I’ve dedicated everything towards it. Would you really want me to throw away everything I’ve worked for like that?”

Sheila shook her head. “You sound just like Arden.”

“Well, I’m not Arden,” he said, standing suddenly. “I’m sorry, Sheila, but I can’t replace him. Nothing can. Even if I gave up the priesthood, I don’t think you’d be truly happy with me. Sure, you’d be happy for a while, but eventually you’d realize that you’re not truly happy. What you feel for me isn’t real and it’s not fair to either of us if I take advantage of that.”

“I know,” she replied, sniffing back tears. “But it feels so real to me. I just feel that if you and I could be together, even for a little while, everything would be all right. But that’s a lie, isn’t it?”

Squatting down in front of Sheila, Anatol took her hands in his. “We each have our own destinies, Sheila. I’m afraid that this time around, we just weren’t meant to be together.”

“I’m not ready to give up on that,” she replied, shaking her head, “but I promise to not push you so hard. OK?”

“I think that’s a reasonable compromise,” he said, giving her a reassuring smile. Standing, he let go of her hands. “Listen, I’ll be back to visit you soon, OK?”

“But you just got here!” Sheila complained as she, too, stood up. “Why don’t we go downstairs and watch a movie or something? You could hang out and we’ll eat dinner together.”

Sadly, the priest shook his head. “As much as I’d like to, I’m afraid I can’t. I borrowed Father Francis’ car and I really should be getting it back to him,” he explained.

“Yeah, OK,” the vixen replied, giving him a rather dejected nod.

“Yeah, well…” Anatol said as he gave her a small shrug. “I guess I’ll be going then.” Turning, he reached out and opened the door.

“Wait!” Sheila cried out, running over to him.

“Huh?” he grunted, turning around just in time for Sheila to grab him by the ears and give him a full on kiss that pinned him against the wall. He was tempted to give into the emotions and return the kiss. Instead, he gently pushed her away.

“I love you,” she declared in a hoarse whisper.

Anatol reached out and cupped her muzzle gently in one hand before turning away. Walking to the elevator, he nodded casually to the nurses in passing. Once the doors had closed behind him, he virtually collapsed against the wall, dropping the pretense of normality for a moment. He glanced down at his frock, grateful that it covered more than just the clothing he wore underneath. The ding of the elevator reaching the first floor was a sign to again regain his composure.

During the short drive back to the rectory, his mind was a whirlwind of conflicting thoughts, all centered on Sheila. His tumultuous emotions and the pitfalls they presented were too numerous to count, and he’d have to be careful not to stumble.

Enjoying the late afternoon breeze that had tempered the day’s heat, the mouse casually walked down the sidewalk, taking his time as he savored the day. He nodded cordially to the armed security guard who drove by, while at the same time muttering a charm to ensure he wouldn’t be remembered.

His walk soon brought him to the home of Daniel Khansman where he turned and, without hesitation, walked up to the front door. He lightly tapped the door with his cane, causing it to unlock and silently swing open. He paused as he stepped in to the house to listen. The sound of the television came from the living room, followed by the sound of someone repositioning themselves on the couch.

Smiling to himself, he silently moved through the house towards the living room, cautiously looking and listening at each doorway and intersection to insure nobody else was home. He poked his head around the corner and saw a leopardess reclining on the couch while watching the TV. He gestured with his cane in her direction and smiled as she fell asleep.

The mouse took no chances as he moved through the house, continuing to check every room to ensure nobody else was lurking who might interrupt him. Satisfied that the house was reasonably secure, he moved into the DA’s private office. Behind the large, antique desk and leather chair sat a much older antique desk with a cabinet top. The cabinet doors had locks that had to be over a hundred years old.

Gently, he pulled on the doors of the cabinet and found that they were locked. A brief examination of the locks showed them to be corroded and rusted closed, which suited his needs perfectly. A brief tap of his cane on the lock broke the corrosion, allowing the mechanism to move freely under the influence of the spell. Opening the door, the mouse saw that there were some old documents lying inside, covered in a light layer of dust. Picking them up, he leaned them sideways inside of the box to make room for several jars, which he removed from the small leather briefcase he’d been carrying. Making sure not to make a sound, he wiped any fingerprints from the jar before he placed them inside and then closed the door. Once again, he tapped the lock, this time to re-secure it.

Satisfied that everything was in order, he made his way back to the front door. Glancing out the window to ensure nobody was watching, he stepped outside and quietly closed the door behind him, giving it a tap to lock it just as he had the cabinet.

Whistling a light ditty to himself, he walked back towards where he’d parked his car, satisfied to have removed another item from Lucifer’s little list of things to do. Half a block later, a car driving by splashed through a puddle, covering him with muddy water. The mouse paused for a moment, frowning at the soiled suit before continuing on to his car. Such bad luck was inescapable for one such as himself.

Hazel sat on the couch in the living room with her feet propped up on the coffee table, kit carriers on either end of the table. The young squirrel smiled in contentment as she glanced away from the TV to see that both the kits were asleep. She’d had a heck of a time getting them both to settle down. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until she’d turned on MTV2 that they’d stopped fussing. Apparently that old adage about music calming the squalling kit was true.

Her ears perked up at a grinding sound coming from the other end of the house. She turned down the music enough to identify it as the garage door opener. Glancing over at the clock, Hazel frowned noticing that Zig Zag was early. Considering who she’d gone to visit, an early return meant that she’d be in a bad mood.

Sitting up, the squirrel turned off the TV just as Zig Zag opened the door. “Hi,” she said quietly, giving her boss a hopeful smile.

Zig Zag glanced over at the pair of kits sleeping on the coffee table before carefully setting down her purse and keys, making sure the keys didn’t clink too loudly. “Hey, kiddo. How’s it going?”

“Not bad,” Hazel replied, standing up from the couch to walk over to where Zig Zag stood. “I finally got the dynamic duo to fall asleep a few minutes ago. How did you visit with Sheila go?”

“Good and bad,” Zig Zag replied, giving the squirrel a shrug before heading to the kitchen. “Anatol was there when I showed up.”

Hazel’s brows furrowed. “That priest she’s got the hots for?”

“That’s the one,” Zig Zag replied, nodding as she opened the cabinet. “You want some tea?”

“No thanks,” the young squirrel replied, opening the fridge and grabbing a soda.

“Yeah, Anatol was there,” Zig Zag repeated as she set a kettle on the stove to boil. “Unfortunately, things didn’t go too well. Sheila was pretty pissed off when I left.”

“Ouch,” Hazel replied, popping the top of her soda as she sat down. “You really think that guys trying something funny with her?”

Zig Zag looked thoughtful as she sat down. “I don’t know,” she finally replied, leaning both elbows on the table. “Every time I see him when he’s around her, he’s got this look like some kid with his hand in the cookie jar. I don’t know. Maybe Anatol’s right and I’m holding on too tight. Whatever it is, I just wish all this was over so we could all get back to having a normal life.”

“That depends on what you consider normal,” Hazel replied, setting the soda can on the table. “Things are never going to be exactly like they were, no matter how much you might want them to be. I guess at this point all you can do is try to figure out what you’re willing to make the new normal and what you’re not. Once you figure that out, you can work on getting on with your life.”

“I don’t believe you just said that,” Zig Zag declared in an astonished voice. “Since when did you get so wise?”

“What?” Hazel angrily demanded. “You think you’re the only one who’s had a screwed up life?” Slumping down in her chair, Hazel brought one foot up and rested her heel on the edge of the chair as she hugged her knee. “My father left us when I was nine. I remember it. He headed out the door like he was going to work and just never came back.”

Looking down at the ground, the young girl gave a deep sigh. “No explanation, no calls to let us know he was OK. He just left.” She looked up at Zig Zag, frowning. “How fucked up is that?”

“Yeah,” Zig Zag agreed, nodding. “That’s pretty screwed up.”

“Like life wasn’t bad enough, a couple of years later my mom brings home this wolf she’s getting it on with.” Frowning, Hazel looked away and shook her head. “Next thing I know, she’s getting remarried to this guy who isn’t even the same species. Do you know how screwed up that is for someone like me? All of a sudden I’ve got a wolf for a father!” She bit her lip for a moment before glaring at Zig Zag. “You know what it’s like. After we moved here, everyone figured I had to be some half-breed because my old man is a wolf. Me! Pure bread red squirrel and everyone thinks I’m some half-breed that’s just passing pure.”

“Gee, my heart bleeds for you,” Zig Zag said sardonically.

“Yeah, I can tell,” Hazel replied, giving her a small, derisive snort before the anger faded. “Anyway, I was all pissed off at Tye because of it until one day one of my teachers took me aside and pointed out that I could either learn to live with the situation and make the best of it, or I could keep acting like a complete bitch and loose what few friends I still had.”

Zig Zag’s ears twitched as she heard the kettle start to whistle. Rising from the chair, she turned off the stove as she lifted the pot of boiling water. “I take it from your statement that you’ve come to terms with your stepfather?” She poured herself a cup of hot water, before replacing the kettle on a cold burner and sat back down.

“Oh yeah. Tye wasn’t such a bad guy once I got to know him,” Hazel declared before taking a drink of her soda. “He’s not the problem any more. Now it’s my mother.”

“So why can’t you adapt to her?” Zig Zag chided, dunking the teabag in the hot water.

“It’s not me who can’t adapt. It’s her,” the squirrel complained. “She insists on treating me like I’m still nine years old.” She looked up at Zig Zag expectantly. “Do you know that she still tries to lay out my clothes for me every morning? I’m eighteen for God’s sake. Why can’t she treat me like I’m an adult?”

“You don’t know how good you have it, kid,” Zig Zag replied, stirring the water with her spoon. “I would have given anything to have parents who loved me or even gave a damn about me.”

Before Hazel could answer, one of the kits in the other room began crying. The young squirrel waved Zig Zag down as she stood up. “You enjoy your tea. I’ll take care of the kits,” she said before heading back to the living room.

At the kitchen table, Zig Zag sat and stared at the swirling tea as she thought about the day’s events.

“All rise for the honorable Judge Harcourt Fenton Mudd,” cried out the bailiff as he stood at attention.

The judge, a plump looking wolf with an oversized waxed mustache that curled upwards on both sides, briskly entered the courtroom turned and took his seat. Taking a moment to make himself comfortable, he adjusted his robes before turning to the waiting bailiff. “What’s first on the docket, Tom?”

“James Zetti,” the bailiff replied, handing a rather thick folder to the judge.

Judge Mudd’s eyes got wide as his ears folded back against his head. “Zetti?” he snarled, glancing towards the defense table and noticing the defendant for the first time. “Why do I have him? I thought he was on Judge Tripp’s docket.”

“Apparently Judge Tripp found out that her niece was one of the females arrested at the time of the raid and had to recuse herself,” the bailiff explained, giving the judge a grim frown.

“God I hate Mondays,” the judge groaned. He turned to the bridge officer and nodded. “All right. Call it.”

The bridge officer picked up a sheet of paper and read from it. “Case number 2001-10143. The people verses James Zetti.”

The bailiff escorted James Zetti out into the middle of the courtroom to stand before the judge. His lawyer took up position next to him as the prosecutor took up position on the opposite side.

The bridge officer nodded to the prosecutor. “Do you waive the reading?”

The prosecutor, a middle-aged rabbit dressed in an off-the-rack suit nodded, “Yes.”

“All right, then. Let’s take a look at this,” the judge said as he opened the case file. His eyebrows rose at the list of charges contained within. Looking back up at the prosecutor, he nodded and asked, “Do you have any notices?”

“A one-nine-fifty and a four-fifty-ten, your honor,” the rabbit replied.

Making a quick note on a pad, the judge looked back up at the prosecutor. “OK. State your case.”

The rabbit cleared his throat before speaking to the judge. “Your honor, considering the egregious nature of the charges combined with the defendants known ties to organized crime and the fact that most of his liquid assets are held off shore, the state considers him to be a substantial risk for flight and therefore requests that no bail be set.”

“OK,” the judge absentmindedly responded as he wrote down more notes. “Defense?”

The defense council, a young, well-groomed raccoon wearing a very expensive tailored suit glanced at the prosecutor before replying. “Your honor, Mr. Zetti is a well respected businessman who has numerous enterprises here in the states which are his primary form of income. He owns three multi-million dollar estates not counting the one the government seized during the raid. The man is a respected member of the community who contributes to charity and just recently had the new MRI wing of the county hospital named after him for his contributions. His past record consists of no serious offenses and does not offer sufficient reason to suggest that he would be considered at-risk for flight. Combine this with the fact that the only witness to these so-called heinous crimes he’s been accused of has been declared mentally incompetent and is currently in a private psychiatric facility I believe makes the state's case a farce. We request that Mr. Zetti be released on his own recognizance.”

Judge Mudd stared blankly at the defense attorney for a moment before grunting. “OK.” Looking down at the folder, he glanced through the list of charges before looking up at the defense attorney. “It says here that he’s being charged with possession of narcotics. Any comment?”

“Yes, your honor,” the raccoon confidently declared. “Those belonged to Alex Modanti, who is an employee of Mr. Zetti. He has already signed a confession stating that the drugs belonged to him and that Mr. Zetti had no knowledge that they were in the house.”

The judge cocked an ear at the rabbit. “A signed confession, Bob?”

The rabbit shrugged. “Mr. Zetti is the head of household and thus legally responsible for all illegal narcotics which were on the property.”

“Oh-kay,” the judge replied, drawing the word out. “What about this statutory rape?”

“Mr. Zetti has been having an affair with a seventeen year old felocanid for the last six months,” the rabbit stated.

“Really?” Judge Mudd said, his ears perked up as he looked to the defense attorney. “Council?”

“Your honor, the female in question had presented herself as being nineteen years of age and was in possession of a false drivers license indicating that,” the raccoon replied. “The identification was of such quality that the FBI didn’t spot it as being fake until after they’d run a background check on her and determined that she was only seventeen. If the FBI didn’t spot the forgery, then surely it’s unreasonable to expect Mr. Zetti to do so.”

Letting out a long sigh, the judge shook his head as he finished reading the list. “The rest of this is pretty mundane stuff so I think we can skip the specifics,” he commented. Looking up at the defendant he affixed him with a stern look. “Having taken into account your strong ties to the community and the questionable quality of the state’s evidence involving the two primary charges, I’m sufficiently convinced that withholding bail is uncalled for. However, I’m not willing to simply let you walk out of here without something to insure that you’ll appear for your trial, therefore I’m setting bail at five million dollars cash or one million on bond.” Striking his gavel against the block on his desk, he closed the folder and handed it back to the bailiff.

Jimmy Zetti gave the prosecutor a smug look as the bailiffs escorted him back to the pens. He’d be free within the hour and there was nothing more they could do about it.

“Here you go,” the young buck said, setting a tall Roebucks coffee on the desk next to the stallion. “One large Toffee Nut Latte for you and a good old coffee for me.”

“He’s out,” the stallion grumbled.

“What?” the buck asked, momentarily taken aback. “Who’s out?”

The buck frowned and leaned back, ignoring his drink. “Zetti. The Judge let him out this morning.”

“Damn,” the buck replied, taking a seat next to the desk before sipping on his coffee. “Well, it’s not like we didn’t expect it, right? So what’s the plan?”

“I’ve already put in a request for enhanced security on Miss Vixen, but I’m not sure how much help we’ll get on this. There’s talk of completely discounting her as a potential witness due to her delusional state when found. If that happens, it’s going to cripple the case.”

“Like James is going to care about that?” the buck shot back. “He’ll do just like he’s done with all the other witnesses. They’ll just disappear into the night, never to be seen again or have some ‘accident’ that winds up killing them. We’ve got to put her back in protective custody.”

“We can’t,” the stallion grumbled. “The head office believes that the facility she’s in now is secure enough that we should be able to keep an eye on her with minimal assistance.”

The buck rolled his eyes. “Great. So what do we do now?”

“It’s not what we do,” the stallion replied as a sly smirk appeared on his muzzle. “It’s what you’re going to do.”

“Huh?” The buck grunted, suddenly worried about the look in his partner’s eyes. “What do you mean, ‘I’m going to do’?”

“I think the stress is getting to you, Carl,” the stallion said, now openly smiling as he sat forward in his chair. “All those sleepless nights and bad dreams from that shooting last month must really be taking their toll on you.”

“Stress? Lack of sleep?” the buck echoed as he shook his head. “No way, Mac! Not me! You want someone to go under cover, how about you do it? You know how I feel about hospitals!”

“Exactly,” the stallion replied, slamming his fist on the desk. “And while you’re inside, you can talk to a shrink about that irrational fear of doctors, too.”

“Doctor Livingston?” the receptionist asked, getting the mouse’s attention. “Mrs. Lamstead can see you now. If you’d care to follow me?”

Folding the magazine he’d been reading closed, the mouse set it aside on a nearby table and picked up his briefcase and hat before standing. He followed the receptionist down a short hallway to a large, tastefully decorated office where a female arctic fox sat behind the desk.

“Doctor Livingston, I presume?” the fox said, giving him a broad smile as she stepped out from around the desk. “I apologize, but I couldn't resist saying it, though I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times by now. I’m Karol Lamstead, the head of the agency.”

“That’s quite all right, Madam. I’m more than happy to allow people such a simple pleasure without taking offense to it,” he replied, taking her hand briefly. “Doctor Bryant Livingston, at your service.”

“Please, have a seat,” the vixen directed as she took his coat and hat. “Is there anything I can get you? Something to drink, perhaps?”

“No, thank you,” the mouse replied, taking a seat in one of the two chairs in front of the desk and crossing his legs.

The vixen took her seat and leaned back slightly. “I’m afraid my receptionist misheard you over the phone when you called earlier. Can you believe she said that you were interested in interviewing for a job?” she asked, giving a light laugh.

“Actually, she heard me right,” the mouse replied, showing no emotion.

Karol’s eyelids narrowed slightly as she studied the mouse, all traces of humor gone. “Really,” she said, leaning forwards slightly. “I’m afraid that our agency has no openings for anyone in the medical profession. We don’t offer those kinds of services for our clients.”

Opening his briefcase, the mouse removed a folder and leaned forwards to hand it to the vixen before setting the briefcase back on the floor. “As you can see,” he remarked while the vixen opened the folder, “I’m not a medical doctor, but rather a child psychologist. You’ll also note that I have my certification from the Whitehampton Agency in London, England and was employed by them for almost ten years before returning to the US. I was originally trained as a Butler at the James Thomas Butler School on Hayling Island in the UK.”

“According to this, you became a butler four years before becoming a nanny,” she commented before looking up to give him a curious look. “Why the shift?”

“I was first employed as a butler to Mr. James McEldowny who was married and had two children. Mr. McEldowny and his wife were in an automobile accident requiring an extended stay in the hospital.” Uncrossing his legs, he shifted his body so that he leaned forwards slightly. “As they had no immediate family in the UK, they requested that I take temporary charge of their children. I enjoyed the experience so much that later looked into becoming a nanny full time.”

Leaning back in her chair, the vixen folded her hands over her stomach. “I presume they made a full recovery?”

The mouse leaned backwards in his chair and shook his head. “The missus did. Mr. McEldowny’s injuries were much more severe and he passed away shortly before I left their service.”

“And where does the child psychology come in? What made you take that?” she asked, captivated by his story.

“That would be my parents’ influence,” the mouse replied. “They insisted that I attend college and get at least one degree. I chose psychology as it looked to be an interesting field of study. Once I’d decided to become a nanny, I supplemented my original education by specializing in child psychology.”

“Well,” she said, leaning forward to pick up the resume, “I must say that’s a most intriguing story, but unfortunately I’m afraid I can’t help you. I seriously doubt there’s anyone in the Columbus area who could even begin to afford you.”

The mouse gave her a thin smile. “Can I be brutally honest with you?”

Flipping closed the document the vixen leaned on the table with her elbows again and clasped her hands. “Sure.”

Leaning back slightly, the mouse folded his arms across his chest. “In a few days, Zig Zag will come to your agency in search of a nanny. I want you to give her my resume.”

“And why in the world would I do that?” the vixen said with a laugh.

Reaching into his jacket, the mouse removed a small envelope and tossed it across the desk. “That’s why.”

The vixen stared at the envelope for a moment as if she were afraid it was going to attack her. Cautiously she removed it from the desk, opened the end and extracted several pictures. A shocked gasp escaped her lips at the images that had been captured. Her ears laid back, she glared at the mouse and snarled, “Where did you get these?”

“Where I got them is of no consequence,” the mouse replied, unfolding his arms. “What does matter is that the male in those pictures was only fifteen at the time they were taken, and should the authorities get hold of them, your career would be over and your business bankrupt.”

“I see,” the vixen replied, growling slightly. “I give her your resume and say you’re the perfect candidate, and in return you won’t give these to the police, is that it?”

“Oh good heavens no!” the mouse replied with a laugh. “If you only gave her one resume she would just dump it and find another agency.” Leaning forwards he rested his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands. “You’re going to give her a stack of at least six resumes of which mine will be one. Make them all good resumes, too. I don’t want to find out that you showed your third string people to her otherwise she’s going to notice that you’re trying to stack the deck.”

“What if she doesn’t choose you?” the vixen asked, putting the photographs back into the envelope.

“That’s my worry. Simply make sure that I get an interview with her and I promise that you’ll never have to worry about these pictures again,” the mouse declared, giving her a sinister smile.

Zig Zag rolled over and groaned as she looked at the clock, which read 12:15AM. It wasn’t quite time for the kits’ feeding so she rolled back over, determined to squeeze in as much sleep as she could before they woke up. The sound of something clinking somewhere in the house brought her wide-awake. She sat up with her ears scouring the air for any unusual noise. A moment later, the sound was repeated, only much quieter than the first time she’d heard it.

Slipping from her bed, she made her way over to the closet from which she extracted an aluminum baseball bat. Slowly she opened the door to the bedroom and peeked out into the hallway to try and see if she could see or hear anything more. Another indistinct clink came from the living room area where she also saw the faint traces of a light.

Cautiously she tiptoed her way down the hall, pausing every so often to listen for more sounds. Every so often, she’d hear clinking coming from what sounded like the kitchen. Coming to the end of the hall, she could see that the light in the kitchen was on as well as hear someone moving around in there. “What the hell is someone doing in my kitchen?” she asked, as she quickly stole across the living room, coming to a stop by the door.

Tightening her grip on the baseball bat, she sprung around the corner and shouted, “All right you! What the hell…” Her voice trailed off as she saw James standing by a sink full of suds with his arms submerged up to his elbows in water, looking at her with a rather surprised expression on his face. “James?” she asked, lowering the baseball bat, “What the hell are you doing?”

Pulling a plate from the sink, he gave it a quick wipe on both sides with a sponge before rinsing it off and then setting it in a drainer, where it clinked against another plate. “Doing the dishes,” he responded with a smile. “And what about you?” he asked, wiping his hands on a towel, “Are you pretending to be the Naked Avenger?”

Zig Zag glanced down and then chuckled, realizing that she hadn’t bothered to grab a housecoat when she’d gotten up. “Something like that,” she replied, leaning against the bat in such a way as to strike a provocative pose. “Do you know any dishwashing villains who need to be vanquished?”

James chuckled. “I don’t know about any villains, but I’m sure Housekeeping Guy might be available to take advantage of your services.”

“Housekeeping Guy?” Zig Zag echoed with a chuckle as they wrapped arms around each other. “That’s a pretty wimpy super hero name.”

He gave her a hurt look. “I don’t know. It may not be as flashy as the Naked Avenger, but it sure beats The Dishpan Avenger or The Silverware Sanitizer.”

“Oh, shut up and kiss me,” she ordered. She relaxed into the kiss, leaning body and soul into him as their lips merged. Every muscle in her body practically melted as they kissed, sending a warm feeling racing through her body.


“Shit!” Zig Zag yelped as she pulled back from James.

“What the hell?” James asked, turning around to see the aluminum bat Zig Zag had been holding lying on the floor, rolling slowly towards the table in the breakfast nook. A moment later his ears folded back against his head as at first one kit started yelling, followed almost immediately by the second.

“So much for our romantic interlude,” Zig Zag grumbled.

James glanced at the clock and saw that it was nearly time for their feeding. “I’ll warm up some formula. You try and get them calmed down,” James directed, turning towards the refrigerator.

Zig Zag turned and trudged towards the room where the twins’ cribs were, her tail dragging across the floor behind her. She grumbled, “Note to self: Hire a goddamned nanny!”