The Wandering Feather
Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh
About the time Drywall arrived back at the workshop following his somewhat successful infiltration, Philippe was informed that his studio had a close encounter of the weasel kind.
"Ow could you let zat weasel escape?!" Philippe hollered at his amphibious minions, "And not only zat, e took ze design for my pump!"
"But," interjected one of the frogs, "you zrew out zat design when you, in your genius, devised one even better."
"Zat eez not ze point!" the rat screamed as he picked up the frog and shook him violently... before letting him drop like so much garbage. "I saw zat weasel wiz zat chipmunk who was asking about ze belching at ze celebration," Philippe began to explain, "Eef e already suspects my involvement in zat, e may conclude I intend to use such a pump to impregnate ze water supply wiz my formula, and in his uncultured ignorance may attempt to prevent me from completing my masterpiece!"
"Then we must stop him first," sniveled a bug-eyed frog in a sinisterly eager manner, "Stop him, permanently!"
"IDIOT!" Philippe cried out, back-handing his subordinate across the studio, "I do not have time for such foolishness! Eef I kill him I would have to kill those who would continue his actions, zen zose who follow zem! All of zat would keep me distracted from my duty to my art! Zerefore, I must complete it before zis chipmunk and is companions can interfere!"
"But, can you steal all ze parts you need to finish ze pump before zen?" another frog asked.
Philippe bellowed, throwing the poor frog in frustration, "OF COURSE NOT!! Zat eez why I am so furious at your failure to stop zat weasel!" Hitting, throwing, or otherwise acting out his anger on the frogs about him, he continued his tirade, "Because of your incompetence, ze world will be denied my GREATEST MASTERPIECE EVER!!"
"What if several of us went out to steal the parts simultaneously?" one of the battered amphibians offered weakly.
"Do I look like ze fool?" Philippe inquired rhetorically, "All of you togezer do not have ze skill, ze subtlety to steal wizout ze notice of ze public eye!" For suggesting something he felt was so ludicrous, the rat treated the frog to a one way flight across the studio. Hitting the far wall, he slid down into a tub of bright yellow paint. Seeing the frog pull himself out of the colored liquid, Philippe was struck with inspiration. "Zat eez eet!" he screamed as he began hurling frogs into different tubs of brightly colored paint. As they crawled out, he explained, "Now you look like ze poisonous toads! You can take what you will right in front of ze people and zey will not stop you out of fear of being poisoned! Now go!" As brightly colored frogs streamed from the entrance to Philippe's studio, the rat cried out, "Cry havoc and let slip ze frogs of war! Or, at least, ze frogs of theft." Turning to the rest of his admirers, he decreed, "Zere eez work for ze rest of you! Allons y!"
A knock at the door was answered by William, the others in Dee's workshop being preoccupied with other things. A female rat, looking a little bewildered, was waiting outside.
"May I help you?" William asked politely.
"Well, I don't know," she started, trying to order her thoughts, "Is Doohickey here?"
The squirrel showed the lady in and led her to his employer. Dee was still discussing the filched pump plans with the Rangers when her attention was diverted by the arrival of the newcomer. "Excuse me," William began, addressing Dee, "but a Miss..." he turned towards the rat.
"Uh, oh, Rhea," she stated.
"A Miss Rhea wished to see you," the squirrel finished.
"What about?" Dee laconically asked.
"Um, well, I, uh," Rhea muttered, "See, I was wondering if you had something, a spray, device, or something, that could keep poisonous toads away?"
"Planning a vacation in the tropics, are you?" Monty inquired.
"No," the rat returned, "Planning to keep them out of my place."
"Here, in town?" Dee asked. Rhea nodded readily. "But there aren't any native to this part of the country," Dee explained.
"Well maybe they're the ones on vacation!" Rhea replied in an exasperated tone, "But the depot is crawling with them... They're grabbing things out of people's paws, even going into people's homes and taking out," here she paused as she though back on what she saw one of the toads carrying out of her neighbor's residence, "push-pins..."
"Sounds like a crime wave!" Dale promptly concluded.
"The depot over here?" Dee asked, motioning in the general direction of the depot within the same abandoned rail yard as her workshop.
"They're all over the place!" Rhea confirmed.
"Golly, maybe we should check this out," Gadget suggested.
"Are you sure they were poisonous toads?" Chip asked, reflecting on the fact that the only large group of amphibians he knew of were Philippe's following, "Maybe they were frogs."
"I know what frogs look like!" Rhea snapped, "They're not red, yellow or blue!"
Chip thought for a moment. "Monty, you've had more experience with poisonous toads than the rest of us," the chipmunk assumed, "You stay here with Dee and Gadget and come up with some kind of deterrent." Turning to the Rhea, he continued, "Take me back to the depot, I'd like to see these toads for myself." The lady hesitantly consented.
"Hey, Chip, can I go too?" Dale piped up.
Chip sighed, "Sure, c'mon."
"Me too?" Foxglove then intoned, "I can get a bird's eye view... well, bat's eye at least."
Chip nodded. "Anyone else?" he asked, looking towards Raven.
The young mouse shook her head innocently. However, once Chip and party had left the workshop, she grabbed Fangs by the wing and exited the building.
"They were here!" Rhea protested when she and the others arrived at the abandoned depot, a site now completely devoid of amphibious activity. But the throngs of residents congregating out in the open without any other apparent reason for the assembly made it evident that something out of the ordinary had indeed happened.
"Dale, I want you to go around and ask people what, if anything, was stolen. Try to get a description of the perps," tuning to Foxglove, he continued, "Foxy, I want you to get a look from the air, see if you can spot anyone suspicious, toad or otherwise, leaving the area." As the others departed, Chip addressed the rat, "Rhea, I want you to take me to one of your neighbors you know was stolen from, I'd like to speak to them."
As Chip was initiating his investigation, Raven and Fangs were already on the hunt for the croaking crooks themselves. "We should have told someone we were doing this," Fangs protested as they left the rail yard, "just in case something goes wrong."
"Where's the fun in that," Raven replied lightly, "Keep your ears open for anything that sounds like trouble."
The pair hadn't gone very far, were even still within site of the depot Chip and the others were investigating, when trouble' was heard. "THAT CREEP STOLE MY CANE!" a lady hollered. Both Raven and Fangs turned towards the apparent origin just in time to see a yellow amphibian frantically hop around the corner of the building and head in their general direction.
The young mouse, clad in her black cloak, didn't hesitate to charge the suspected thief. "Hold it right there slime ball!" Raven shouted as she approached. Her quarry came to a screeching halt upon realizing someone wasn't in the least deterred by the lethal secretions of a poisonous toad, turned and prepared to flee in the opposite direction. However, Raven closed the distance before he could get up a good head of steam. "Gotcha, you thieving bastard!" Raven declared triumphantly as she locked her arms around him.
Finding himself restrained, the criminal began howling like a fiend and thrashed about in a mad panic. Raven planted her feet and held tight as her captive wiggled and wailed. Feeling a sudden coolness on her legs, the mouse peered down as best she could, given the situation, and noticed she and her opponent were standing in a puddle. It took a moment for the realization to set in. "Eeww!" Raven spouted in revulsion as she discovered just how terrified her captive had become. Feeling his captor involuntarily release him, the panicked amphibian made good his escape. Dropping his loot, and still screaming in fear, he hopped like the wind. "Get back here you disgusting freak!" Raven angrily hollered after him.
Regarding his love as she waddled awkwardly out of the puddle, Fangs commented, "Unless you grabbed an extra pair of jeans before heading out on this little adventure, you're probably going to have to explain this to the others."
"Any luck?" Gadget asked when Chip, Dale and Foxglove returned from their expedition.
"Yes and no," Chip replied, "There were poisonous toads stealing things left and right..."
"Foxy even spotted a couple from the air!" Dale interjected sprightly.
"But by the time we got to the site they were long gone," Chip finished, "I really wanted to get a look at one of them myself."
Before Chip could continue to commiserate the lost opportunity, Raven and Fangs returned from their respective outing. "Well hey there, pardner," Dale drawled in an overly Western accent, inspired by the way Raven sauntered in like a cowboy, "Just get back from the cattle drive?"
"Oh, shut up," the mouse growled.
"What happened?" Dee asked.
Before Raven could answer, Fangs declared, "She grabbed one of those toads."
"He stole someone's cane," Raven proceeded to recount, "I chased him down, grabbed him... and the coward wet himself in fright."
Dale adopted his best Charlie Chan accent as he sagely advised, "Confucius say, frogs and toads sit around all day drinking water just in case someone pick them up."
"That was Hobbes, you dummy!" Chip pointed out.
"Did you bring an extra pair of jeans?" Dee asked her daughter.
"They're back at the mill," Raven glumly explained.
"Well, I've got a washer and dryer set up here, it'll take less time than going all the way there and back" her mother explained, "If you don't mind wearing a washcloth for a while." As Dee led Raven to a suitable changing room, the younger deposited her cloak on a workbench as she passed. Once Raven had a washcloth to wrap herself in she entered the changing room with her mother remaining just outside. As she waited, Dee inquired into an issue that troubled her, "What, exactly, possessed you to attack what could very well have been a poisonous toad?"
"He stole something and I was trying to stop him," Raven proceeded to answer, "It's not like the poison could have hurt me while I was wearing my cloak."
Dee felt compelled to point out what she deemed a flaw in her daughter's logic, "That cloak is meant to protect you from weapons meant to harm you, not naturally occurring secretions."
"Put it on the end of a toothpick and stick it in a straw and it's suddenly considered a weapon," Raven countered, "Why should it be any different if it's still on the toad?"
As the back and forth continued in the time honored tradition of protective parents and reckless offspring the world over, Gadget took a scientific interest in the girl's mystical garb, pondering methods of determining what its limits really were. Inspecting it closely she discovered that it appeared to be covered in yellow speckles. "Monty," Gadget proceeded to inquire, "Do poisonous toads shed?"
"What's t' shed?" the Aussie replied, "It's not like they have fur, feathers or scales."
Chip wandered over to see what Gadget had found so interesting. Seeing her delicately remove a yellow flake with a pair of improvised tweezers, he interrupted the mother-daughter discussion that was growing increasingly heated. "Raven, what color was that toad you attacked?" Chip asked.
"Yellow," answered the young mouse before diving back into the argument with her mother.
"Check to see if that's paint, Gadget," Chip suggested to his future sister-in-law, who was already making ready to do an analysis of the mystery flake.
After some moments Gadget reported, "It's definitely paint, Chip!"
"That's what I thought!" he declared, "I bet those were Philippe's frogs carrying out that looting!"
"See? Painted frogs, perfectly harmless," Raven remarked to her mother.
"That doesn't matter," Dee fired back, "You didn't know that at the time so they could have been poisonous, in which case you could have gotten yourself killed!" Not giving her daughter a chance to interrupt, she continued with barely a breath, "I've already lost one child and I don't want to have to go through that all over again, and if I have to resort to grounding you to keep you from getting yourself killed that's exactly what I'll do!"
Raven was only a moment away from declaring I'd like to see you try!' knowing full well it was unenforceable with someone who could become invisible, but realized it would unnecessarily strain their relationship. Given the disastrous results the last time they had a falling out, she decided to let it go. Walking out, wrapped in a washcloth and carrying her clothes, she simply stated, "Mom, I've been peed on by a frog... I think I've been punished enough."
As Dee left to launder Raven's clothes, the focus returned to other matters. "Why would Philippe send his frogs out to steal things?" Gadget wondered.
"Some kind of performance art?" Monty ventured.
"I don't know for sure," Chip replied, "but they're still stealing and on the verge of causing a general panic on top of it... It has to stop. We have to tell the local authorities that it's perfectly safe to detain these poisonous toads'." When Dee returned, Chip inquired, "Where's the headquarters for the city's non-human police?"
"It's in the old city hall, where Dry- I mean, where Snoop's trial was held," Dee answered, "You can talk to the city police, I'll get in touch with the tribe's Chief."
"Maybe you should pass on word that someone might be trying to poison the water supply while you're at it," Monty suggested.
"I think things are bad enough with people afraid that poisonous toads are looting the city," Chip countered, "I don't think we should risk word getting out that the water might be poisoned when we don't know for certain when, or even if it'll happen." As he and Dee prepared to depart, he added, "After we let the authorities on to the truth about these toads we can pay Philippe a visit... we may not have to worry anybody about the water depending on how that goes."
"Ah, Ms Hawkfeather, I'm glad I finally haff a chance to meet you!" the Chief warmly greeted his visitor as he rose from his seat and crossed the office, "We were all a little concerned when you didn't turn up after you were named the new Clan Mother."
"Yeah, I heard," Dee responded blandly, still not comfortable with her new status. "Are you aware there are poisonous toads rampaging through the city?" she asked, wanting to get right down to business.
"Haffent heard that," he answered honestly, offering Dee a seat as he returned to his own, "Didn't know we had poisonous toads around here."
"We don't," Dee confirmed, "but that's not the point, they're just frogs painted to look like poisonous toads. Apparently it's an effort to get away with stealing things without anyone interfering... I'm just here to tell you that the tribal police shouldn't hesitate to apprehend them since there's no danger of being poisoned, my fiancé is informing the city police as we speak."
The Chief nodded thoughtfully. "I'll get the word out," he agreed, "We'll probably haff to work out with the city prosecutor whose jurisdiction they fall under for trial purposes... I guess it depends who they stole from." Dee gave a nod and stood to leave, but before she could even get all the way up the Chief spoke up, "Now, I don't know whether you were aware of it or not, but your predecessor neffer offered her endorsement for my being Chief..." He intentionally trailed off, hoping his guest would get the message.
"And you want mine?" Dee inquired somewhat annoyed. The last thing she wanted was to get caught up in tribal business' when she hadn't even decided whether or not she intended to keep her office.
"I would appreciate it," the Chief replied, a little surprised by her tone.
"Do you need it?" Dee inquired further, looking for a way out.
"Well, no," the Chief answered awkwardly, "I already haff the endorsement of most of the Clan Mothers so it's not a necessity."
Dee thought through things quickly and replied, "Well, since I've never met you before today and this meeting has only lasted a minute or so I think it's a little early for me to make such a decision."
As the lady turned to leave, the Chief began speaking again, "Maybe we could arrange some time to discuss matters then, get to know each other, give you an idea of how my administration has contributed to the well-being of the tribe?"
"I'm a little pressed for time," Dee pointed out, turning back around. Crossing her arms in a way that made it impossible to miss the engagement ring she wore, as she felt the Chief's interest was more social than professional, she explained, "I'm meeting up with my fiancé and his friends to go speak with a rat about his drawing smutty pictures of my sister."
"You have a sister?" the Chief inquired as much out of surprise as interest. Dee rolled her eyes and proceeded to leave. "Esgöge:ae'," he called after her as she left.
"Yeah," drawled the reluctant Clan Mother as the door closed.
Carol, who had been waiting outside the Chief's office for the latter part of the meeting, had made herself scarce when matters came to a close. Waiting for her niece to be well out of sight, she proceeded in to meet with the Chief herself. For the Chief, she was a welcome site, especially after the rather chilly back and forth he had just had with the newest Clan Mother... Carol never failed to be friendly to him in a good way. "Hae'!" she chirped, hopping up to sit on the corner of his desk.
"Good efening, Ms Halfshell," the Chief greeted his new visitor with a broad smile. "How can I..." he became distracted momentarily as Carol crossed her legs which, considering the rather short skirt she had made sure to wear for this visit, gave him a rather good view of her thighs... which weren't bad for a mouse of her years, "h-help you?"
"I wanted to talk to you about some poisonous toads," she opened.
"Ms Hawkfeather already spoke to me about them," the Chief pointed out, "I was about to issue an order for the tribal police to apprehend them if they're found stealing anything... they're apparently just painted frogs."
"That's what worries me," Carol said, "How do we know all of them are? Some might be frogs trying to take adfantage of the situation by slapping some paint on themselfes in hopes of getting in on the looting." As Carol playfully kicked her foot in the air, she continued to state her position, "I mean, are the worldly possessions of our citizens worth the lifes of our tribe's peace officers? Would you want to haff to explain to their families, Well gee, I thought they were just painted frogs'... Possessions can be replaced, lifes can't." Carol regarded the Chief as he rolled the matter around in his mind. She decided to bring up another purpose for caution on his part, "Can you imagine the reaction on the part of our people if our officers start dropping like flies? The kind of outcry there would be, the kind of pressure we, the Clan Mothers, would be under to find a replacement for the person who needlessly sent so many of our officers to their deaths?"
"The city officers are being told the same thing concerning these toads'," the Chief countered, "The city's likely to act on this information pretty quickly."
"If the city officers all jumped off a bridge should ours do it too?" Carol asked rhetorically, "If their officers wind up dead that's their problem, not ours. You've shown that you always put the good of our tribe first... Is this really worth the lives of our citizens?"
"I guess you're right," the Chief conceded, "I'll inform the officers to hold back and to tell the people to secure their homes but not risk their lives over this."
"Oh, nya:weh!" Carol cooed, hopping off the desk, bending down and giving the Chief a peck on the cheek. "Esgöge:ae'!" she waved as she sprightly walked towards the door.
"Oh, uh, dinner this Friday at 7? Red Garter?" the Chief asked before Carol could make her exit.
"I'd luff to!" she squeaked, "See you then!" As Carol made her way from the Tribal Administrative offices, she shook her head, "If the other Clan Mothers were male I'd own this tribe."
What will happen next? You'll have to wait and see.
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